One of my favorite things to do, especially this year is to stop at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source and pick up the monthly wine club selections. The wines are always picked for being interesting and not run of the mill. It gives the club members a chance to try some wines that might not be picked up otherwise. Most people like to play it safe when selecting wines for the house and unless they are touted to try a wine, they will inevitably go with something tried and true; it is just human nature. They were rather busy when I got there, between customers and wine representatives, so I just bided my time and kept busy. I must say that they were still very upbeat, especially considering that they also own an upscale restaurant that is completely shuttered, because of the lockdown, in Downtown Detroit. While I was there, they were packing up wine orders, either to be shipped, locally delivered or curbside pickup. I have always enjoyed observing the moxie of an independent business man, who doesn’t cry and roll over and die, but figures out a way to survive even when the local government is trying to keep him from making a living. Thankfully, he has a loyal clientele and a large wine club group.
The first wine of the month represents the Old World with a winery that does not represent the status quo in Tuscany. The Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso 2018 is a wine that I have encountered before, in fact I have a 2015 resting in the cellar. Bibi Graetz was an artist first and finally fell in love with his family’s vineyard that originally only produced wine for the family and in the mid 1990’s he began making changes and with his family estate and another twenty small organically farmed plots, he now manages seventy-five-acres to produce his wines. Casamatta is considered his house wine, and like some of his other wines, it has a unique name as it means “Crazy House.” The winery is probably his very own “Crazy House” as it his not only his home for his family and children, his studio and art gallery, but a dedicated winery as well. In the midst of what appears to be chaos to the outsider, is home to Bibi Graetz. Without any formal training, he began making wines in 2000 and started of with five-acre hillside plot and has grown, using the medieval castle that his parents acquired some sixty years ago, as he looks out onto the city of Florence. Casamatta is pure Sangiovese and uses the youngest fruit grown from his estates around Florence and Sienna. The fermentation is less than a week in Stainless Steel and then all the juice was the different plots are then blended together and aged for six months in Stainless Steel to maintain the freshness of the fruit. It is described as a fun wine with cherries and raspberries with balanced acidity and medium tannins and one of the reasons that he has become a “cult” winemaker as it is a very different glass of Sangiovese and better with lighter dishes instead of big heavy Italian dishes, actually great to start the dinner off, in my book and would get the taste buds requesting more.
The New World offering I found very intriguing as it was not from an area that one normally encounters in the shop. The owner was ecstatic that he was visited by representatives of the Canadian Wine Industry and he had a private wine tasting with them, as they were looking for new venues in the States for their wines. Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Ontario VQA 2019 was the first wine to be introduced from the shop. I told them that I know the area where the winery is from, Saint Catherines, since I was a child going there with my family to visit relatives on holidays. Three sons ages nine, fourteen and sixteen were the creators of the original vineyard that they planted shovel by shovel in 1984, while their parents were back in Toronto. The first harvest was in 1988 and they didn’t even have barrels initially for the first harvest. The wine was successful and they were one of the early wineries for the area. This fruit is grown in the Short Hills Bench of the Niagara Peninsula. Baco Noir is a Cold-Hardy hybrid that was developed for North America, especially in the North-eastern parts of the United State and Canada, but it is also found in Michigan and Ohio that I know of for sure. The grape is a blend of the French Folle Blanche and the local Grande Glabre. It is a popular grape for Northern climes as the grape matures quickly on the vine, with high acidity and the winegrowers try to extend the growing season as long as possible to tame the acidity. These grapes are grown on the original vineyard site of Henry of Pelham, and was one of the earliest known planting of grapes for Canada in 1842. The wine went through full maceration and fermentation in Stainless Steel and then aged for six to eight months in American Oak, of which twenty-four percent was new. The wine is described as a deep, dark red wine with flavors of currants and blueberries, spices and a toasted oak finish.