Perhaps the largest craft brewery to be putting all their eggs in the “lager” basket
by Dave Marks
According to the Brewers Association, craft beer made up nearly 13% of the beer industry in 2016. That is an estimated 23 billion dollars in retail worth, which is especially impressive when you consider that craft beer was less than 5% of the market back in 2010.
Founders Brewing has grown exponentially, producing 450,000+ barrels in 2017 compared to just 24,501 in 2010. A small portion of that is made up of their small-batch beers, but a whopping 70% is one beer: All Day IPA, a beer that didn’t even exist in 2011.
In 2012, they invested in a trend. They predicted that the need and desire for an “easy-drinking” session IPA would spike. So they put their eggs in that basket and watched it take off. All Day is now right beside Sierra Nevada Pale and Brooklyn Lager in almost every beer store and grocery store in the nation, which is no small feat.
Fast forward to 2018: We are all getting tired of IPAs, or at least that is what everyone is predicting. The beer industry has been catering to the consumers’ desire to drink all things hoppy while, at the same time, patiently waiting for the trend to change.
Is 2018 the year? Is this the year that everyone jumps ship and says “I think I just want a nice, refreshing, easy-drinkin’ pilsner” to their bartender? That is what Founders is banking on. Solid Gold will tap into an old genre with a new approach. The snappy, crisp, light malt lager will appeal to craft drinkers who seek quality. At the same time, this “premium lager” has potential to reach the mass-market drinker.
What this means for Provisions: Founders Solid Gold will sit on our shelves next to Budweiser and PBR. 15-pks will run $13.49 and 6-pks for $5.99 (same price as Budweiser). It will likely be one of the best sellers of the warmer months, and we encourage you to give it a try! Come by the shop, we’ll crack a can.
A dazzling New York riesling for any season
By Abe Loomis
New York wines can be hit or miss, but their stars are on the rise. Among the long hills and pristine Mennonite farms of the Finger Lakes region upstate, winemaking gems sparkle at the edges of deep, cold lakes with names like Keuka, Cayuga, and Canandaigua. (In the water itself, you’re more likely to find the small, gray, runic fossils that litter the lakebeds in surprising abundance, like fragments of alien pithoi.) These downward waters — Lake Seneca plunges 618 feet — rarely freeze in the winter, moderating the bitter cold, and their emanations cool the vines in the summer. This is the kind of climate a rising riesling rootstalk could get used to.
Born on Seneca’s shores, the 2016 Boundary Breaks No. 239 Dry Riesling is a wine of unusual length, extraordinary concentration, and intriguing complexity. Like most of its German cousins (the unchallenged standard-bearers of the varietal), it has never touched oak. The acidity is pretty and succulent one moment, tart and forceful the next: a glittering slap of spray from the water’s edge, supporting flavors of key lime, green apple, and even the tang of apricot. A glimmer of spice decorates the nose.
It is the concentration of fruit, though, that is most exceptional. “Fruit,” of course, in wine-speak, doesn’t mean sweetness. The residual sugar in the No. 239 is just .8%, according to Boundary Breaks’ technical sheet. But the experience of this wine on the palate is intense. The flavors are generous and lively, suggestive and shape-shifting. As when you sip the juice of freshly pressed apples, there is a sense of the presence of the living essence of the fruit.
Bruce Murray, owner of Boundary Breaks, connects the wine’s quality to the vineyard’s proximity to the lake and, critically, to the careful management of water.
“I hate to say it’s the drain tile, and not my genius,” he says with a chuckle. “But it’s the drain tile.”
Too much moisture in the earth can make life too easy on a vine. Its roots remain shallow because they don’t have to dig deep to drink. The fruit it bears will be bloated, watery, and sullen — noble grapes turned to naughty princes. To prevent this sort of dissipation, farmers bury drain tile, perforated pipes that let water in and carry it away, forcing the plants to work harder and reach further. (Such systems have been so important to agriculture in this part of the world that there is a whole drain-tile museum in Geneva, N.Y.) At Boundary Breaks, the drain tile is four feet down.
Less water in the environment also means the grapes get to spend more time in the sun.
“Drainage tile keeps the vineyard dry,” Murray says, “[especially] in the fall, when mold begins to be a problem for grapes. By having a very dry vineyard, we can keep our grapes out longer, they get riper, the juice is richer, and the wine tastes better.”
“No. 239” calls to mind the bin numbers used to label some Australian wines, but its meaning is more technical. Consistent with a quickening American appetite for the science behind our foods — and especially our wines — it refers to “Geisenheim 239,” a relatively recent riesling clone that was among several that Murray’s team planted to gauge their suitability to the place.
“You want to match the clone with the site,” Murray says. “The climate, the terroir, and all of it. There wasn’t a lot of experience in this region with clones, so we planted five different ones to see how they did. After eight years or so we have a feel for how the clones differ, both in the way the plants behave and in the juice, the flavor profile.”
The result is a revelation.
Provisions is honored to host a very special tasting event: Nick Mucci of Mucci Imports will be bringing six Italian winemakers to share their wines and wisdom with our shop. Mucci has an awesome group of small and characterful wineries they work with, and these six will be no exception.
For the next five weeks, we'll be telling you a little more about each one of these producers in our newsletter. Enjoy getting to know them a little, and be there on March 31 for the tasting of a lifetime!
1. Negro Lorenzo
Daniele Ferrero, the winemaker's right-hand man, will be joining us to represent this tiny Italian winery from the Roero, just north of the famous wine regions of Alba, Barolo, and Barbaresco. Daniele and Lorenzo are joined only by Lorenzo's sister and mother ("La Nanda") in the small family business.
The winery has been in the Negro family for generations, and until very recently the winemakers literally hitched the wine to a wagon to bring to local markets — it wasn't until 2006 that Lorenzo even started bottling! Negro Lorenzo's Nebbiolo is said to rival the famous iterations across the river in Barolo and Barbaresco. One stand-out factor is the soil composition -- 70% sand — which yields a softer, more approachable expression of Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo.
2, Rocco di Carpeneto
Our second highlight for the Italy Invades Provisions! event features husband-and-wife Paolo Baretta and Lidia Carbonetti, the owners of Rocco di Carpento winery in Ovada in Southern Piedmont. Ovada is known for its alluvial and silty soils as well as its clear maritime influence. Their first vintage was 2012 (and Lidia received her masters in winemaking just a few years later!) and ever since the winery has been certified organic. All the wines ferment on native yeasts and are unfiltered and un-manipulated -- the purest expression of the region. They've even planted a local varietal called Albarossa, which is a cross between the Italian Barbera and a very old French variety called Chatus.
3. La Tollara
Positioned in the hills of Piacenza in Prosciutto and Parmigiano country, La Tollara sits on six hectares and is owned and run by the three Bolzoni sisters. Federica primarily handles the wine-making and Mariolina, who will be joining us for this event, takes care of the commercial side of things.
The sisters had the idea to start the winery in the early 2000s, learning everything from scratch, including which vines to plant and where. Out of this greenness came one of their most innovative and risky ideas: creating an "Amarone-style" Bonarda. The Bolzonis have continued innovating ever since, always with a focus on the land and creating a happy and healthy ecosystem.
Owners (and husband and wife) Fabio Bottonelli and Donatella Agostini are the only two employees of Manaresi winery — Donatella is the boss and winemaker and Fabio does a lot of work in the vineyards and plays cellar assistant to his wife. The winery is located in Zola Predosa, right outside the city of Bologna — you can actually see the city from parts of the vineyard.
The property on which the vineyard sits was originally owned by Donatella's grandfather, a famous Bolognese artist. The vineyards were first planted in 1988 and by 2006 Donatella had taken full ownership. She and Fabio planted more vineyards in 2008 and by the next year had bottled their first "experimental vintage." Their focus is mainly on a local grape varietal called Pignoletto, which is Bologna's only native white varietal. It yields lightly sparkling wines that pair marvelously with the region's famous charcuterie.
5. La Sabbiona
About an hour east of Bologna is the town of Faenza, which sits about 40 minutes from the coast. It's the home of La Sabbiona winery, owned by Mauro Altini and his parents, who run the B&B and restaurant on the property. The winery sits under the famous tower of Oriolo, a landmark which grants views into Tuscany and the hills of Faenza.
When Mauro's parents purchased the property in the '60s, there was already an existing vineyard there, and they utilized it to make wines to sell in their restaurant. When Mauro took over he explored local varietals like Centesimino and Famoso, which were grown by only a handful of producers. In fact, Mauro discovered some of the last remaining vines of Famoso growing in the hills and was one of the first producers to replant this historic varietal in his vineyards. And today he bottles the only sparkling version of this aromatic and expressive white.