- Wine Club
Agricola Cirelli is an organic farm surrounded by 23 hectares of land. All of its production is designed to respect the natural cycles of the olive trees, vineyards, horticultural crops and the animal breeding. Crop rotation, natural fertilization, and free range animal grazing are Agricola Cirelli’s “methods” of production. This harmonious environment creates olive oil, wine, vegetables, fruit and meats of supreme quality.
The farm grows its food and wine in total respect of organic agriculture. Nature sets the rules and it dictates the rhythm of every activity. The animals’ interaction with the land offer natural grazing and fertilization of the vines, which means there is no need to use harmful chemical substances.
Francesco purchased the land in 2003 right after his graduation from university and is now helped out by his fiancée, Michela. His favorite wine is his amphora-fermented wine. These are truly artisanal vessels as there is an obligation to only interact manually with the juice, using nothing other than one's body. If the vessel needs cleaning, someone has to go inside it with a swimsuit in order to clean it. This makes for a more personal process and requires more effort, but the results are well worthwhile.
Alessandro Viola is a very small producer located in the northwest corner of Sicily, south of Palermo.
Alessandro’s father was a vine grower, although he bottled very little of the wine he made. Alessandro was fascinated in grape growing from an early age and after a few vintages of self-teaching he decided to get a formal education and study oenology. During his university studies he steered away from the mechanical side of winemaking he was being taught, instead focusng on the science. He strongly believed that as long as the grapes, soil and winemaking were all working together, nothing needed to be added or taken away from the wine. After his university degree he worked in the north of Italy and then for a larger winemaker on Mt Etna, however he had never forgotten the wines he had made before, made by hand without anything added.
Eventually he started making wine for himself, initially with a friend, before branching out to make wines under his own name. Today, he cultivates 7 hectares of organically-farmed vines worked strictly by hand. The vineyards are located in 2 areas, the first in Pietra Rinosa close to Alcamo in the north-western tip of Sicily, where the soil is made of clay and the vineyards sit at 200m above sea level, taking a large influence from the ocean. The second asea is in Fastuchera, where the vineyards are higher, at 400 meters. The soil is calcareous, producing finer, more mineral-driven wines.
Alessandro is strictly committed to growing and championing local varieties, including Catarratto, Grillo, Nero D’avola and Nerello Mascalesse. His style is unique, and his commitment to organic and biodynamic practices with no additions is central to his winemaking philosophy.
Alfredo Maestro has emerged as one of the most dynamic young winemakers in the whole of Spain. Working far outside the confines of his vineyards’ D.O. legislation, Maestro’s wines have already reached eye-catching levels of maturity and complexity to add to their striking originality. They are
deliciously supple and refreshingly pure-fruited wines, without any use of new oak.
Working in the heart of one of Spain’s most conservative wine regions – his first vineyard was planted at Almate on the Rio Duraton near his home town of Peñafiel (Ribera del Duero) – it didn’t take long for this self-trained grower/winemaker to stray from tradition. Maestro’s many improvements include conversion to organic farming and eliminating any chemicals in the vineyard and additions in the cellar. By 2003, when the term ‘natural wine’ was still a new concept, all of Maestro’s wines were fermented off their native yeasts and bottled without filtration and in most cases without any added sulfur.
Arnot-Roberts was founded in Healdsburg in 2001 by childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts. Beginning with one barrel of wine made in their basement, the winery started small and grew slowly as Duncan and Nathan sourced grapes from some of the most remarkable vineyards in California. They grew up together in the Napa Valley and from an early age were immersed in the rhythm of agrarian life, surrounded by the vineyards and winemaking of the early 1980’s. Both of their families, while not directly involved in winemaking, were deeply rooted in the community as chefs, coopers, teachers and attorneys in what was then a small, up-and-coming wine region. After college, the duo followed their passion into the wine industry with Nathan joining his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels and Duncan pursuing winemaking in several renowned wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The focus of Arnot-Roberts is to produce distinctive, site-driven wines that highlight the nature of the unique terroirs in which the grapes are grown. The journey to this end has led Duncan and Nathan to seek out vineyards throughout Northern California and now includes sites in Napa Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Rita Hills, Clearlake and Sierra Foothills. Single-vineyard, small-production wines are the core of their production as well as a few special appellation bottlings. Some of the vineyards are old and dry-farmed, some are newer plantings but all are farmed and cared for by passionate and conscientious growers, which is paramount to the fundamental goal of Arnot-Roberts: producing the most honest and expressive wines possible.
Founded by Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano and Giusto Occhipinti, Azienda Agricola COS (the initials of their last names form the winery’s name) has been one of Italy’s most forward-thinking wineries since its inception in 1980. The owners have helped to launch a renaissance in Sicilian fine wine, particularly in elevating the standing of the island’s only DOCG wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria.
The winery itself dates back to the 1880’s during a period in which there was huge demand for Sicilian wines. Phylloxera had already devastated many of the world’s top wine growing regions but it had not yet reached the island. Sicily has a long history of winemaking, dating back to the 8th century BC when the Greeks first planted grapes in the eastern part of the Island. It is only more recently though that true top quality wines and winemaking have arrived there. It was through the hard work and dedication of producers such as COS who showed the potential of Sicily’s terroir and drew attention to the island, especially its ability to produce complex, pure and fresh wines, despite its location at the very southern tip of Italy.
COS practices biodynamic farming and was certified organic in 2007. The owners use concrete tanks or clay amphorae--the oldest vessel for aging wine--for all of their wines. In many cases, the juice remains in contact with the skins for extended periods. Giusto feels these extended macerations help the wine obtain natural preservatives which in turn allows them do the aging and élévage with little or no added sulfur until the bottling (and then there is only a small addition). The wines are fresh, vibrant and beguiling, thanks in part to the soils in the Vittoria region which are blessed with limestone substrates under 1-2 feet of red clay.
From their domaine in Dezizes-les-Maranges, brothers Marc and Alexandre Bachelet, oversee an enviable catalogue of top Côte de Beaune vineyards: St. Aubin En Remilly, the top sites in Maranges, Puligny 1er Cru Folatières, Puligny 1er Cru Referts, Batard Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, and some of the best parcels in Santenay. Since their first vintage in 2005, they have refined their approach to farming and winemaking to the point where they are now firmly established as two of Burgundy’s finest talents.
The whites go through a long press before being fermented with indigenous yeasts in larger 350L barrels and are aged for 12 months in barrel and an additional 6 months in stainless steel tank before release. The comparisons to some of Burgundy’s elites make complete sense as the resulting wines are breathtakingly layered, racy, and achingly long. The reds are of equal quality with an aromatic lift, grain and texture that makes them among the most compelling Pinot Noirs made in the Côte-d’Or today.
Luca Bevilacqua is part of that new generation of Abruzzese winemakers who have decided to deviate from making wines that are always the same, and to take roads that lead them to produce natural and genuine wines as it was done generations ago. Luca is trained as a sommelier, and after years spent recommending and opening bottles, he decided to make his own wine. Thus the LAB project was born, from the initials of its sons Lorenzo Amerigo and Leonardo Andrea Bevilacqua.
His vineyards, inherited from his father, are located in Atessa, a municipality located in the lower valley of the Sangro river, in the province of Chieti. Vineyards are mainly planted to Montepulciano, Passerina and Trebbiano, which have never seen a gram of chemicals used in farming. The grape harvest and vinification, Luca employs spontaneous fermentations, carbonic macerations and refinements of the wines in steel or fiberglass tanks. His wines are fresh, easy and very drinkable.
In the rugged mountains of Mexico’s Baja California Norte, Bichi has put together one of the most exciting projects in the world of wine. Bichi was founded in 2014 by the Téllez family, who moved to Baja from neighboring Sonora, hence the name Bichi, which means “naked” in the Sonoran Yaqui dialect. Noel Téllez left his day job as a lawyer and is now the sole proprietor of Bichi, overseeing all day-to-day operations of the winery. Noel is continuing to grow and learn and is regularly seeking out new vineyards and evolving the Bichi winemaking style.
Bichi bottled their first vintage in 2014. It was in that year that Chilean natural wine trailblazer Louis-Antoine Luyt started collaborating with the Téllez family. Originally from Burgundy, Luyt worked in notable wineries in France before relocating to Chile in 1998, where he is now known for his work with the pais grape, which so happens to be the same Misión grape that is found in Tecate. Louis-Antoine convinced Noel to seek out almost-forgotten heirloom plantings of Misión, as he had done in Chile, and produce natural wines from them. Louis-Antoine worked with Bichi until 2017, and Noel is now sole owner, operating the winery with the assistance of Beaujolais-trained Yann Rohel.
Bichi adheres to traditional methods and minimal intervention. Bichi farms 10 hectares of their own Tecate vineyards biodynamically and collaborates with a growing family of organic farmers working vineyard land in Tecate and around San Antonio de las Minas (Valle de Guadalupe). Their work with Misión is notable, but you will also find Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro), Tempranillo, and in the case of the No Sapiens vineyard a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified (possibly Carignan from the Spain, or possibly Dolcetto from plantings brought over from Italy in the 1940's). In the winery, grapes are destemmed by hand and gently trodden by foot, and fermentations are carried out by wild yeast in locally-made concrete amphorae. The wines are raised in a mix of neutral barrels and steel vats, with a minuscule 10 ppm of sulfur added at bottling to preserve the wine for travel, if needed.
Alberto Masini and his brother, Giovanni, make wine with their father, Vittorio, on what was once only a family walnut farm, Ca’ De Noci. Vittorio planted the first vines in the nineties in the rocky, limestone soil that is characteristic of that part of Emilia Romagna. From the beginning, the main idea was to bring back old, native varieties that had been lost in the rush to make sparkling, industrial Lambrusco wines using the Charmant Method (or second fermentation in covered stainless steel vats).
The Masinis planted Spergola (a very acidic white variety), Grasparossa Lambrusco (a tannic red), Lambrusco di Montericco (an acidic Lambrusco), Malbo Gentile (a sweeter red) and Sgavetta (a native red often mixed into Lambrusco wine) and used organic/natural methods from the start. They use no sulfites, no filtering and no additives in the cellar.
Antonio and Daniela De Gruttola seek out old vineyards in Irpinia, high in the hills of Campania. They champion and preserve the region’s native varietals, old vines and age-old methods of tending them.
The vines are set at altitude and are planted over the region’s vibrant volcanic soils. Grapes are grown organically, vineyard work is done by hand, and a combination of great farming and low yields results in healthy fruit that is full of character. In the cellar, Antonio takes a no-nonsense approach, with the intention of letting this terroir express itself in full. The grapes ferment naturally without temperature control and fermentation can continue for months.
Wines are aged in a combination of terracotta amphorae and large casks made from local woods, and bottled unfiltered, with no additions at all, including sulfur. The resulting wines are singular, vivid expressions of grape and place.