Where does it come from:
The origin of Altesse has been the subject of some debate. It has been suggested that it's identical to Furmint, the noble Hungarian variety used to make the great sweet wine Tokaij. However others suspect that it is indigenous to the hills of Savoie. Today there are fewer than 1,000 acres under cultivation, mostly in France, though there is a small quantity in Switzerland.
What's it like for the farmer:
Altesse needs gentle care, as it is quite to susceptible to the most common forms of grape rot.
Calder Wine Company, Riesling, "Rachel Rossi Vineyard,"
Napa Valley, CA, 2013
Distributor: David Bowler Wine, 119 West 23rd Street, Suite 507, New York, NY, 10011
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Over the past several years, the "New California Wine" movement has flourished with drinkers around the nation, as a younger generation of growers and winemakers increasingly look eastward to Europe for inspiration. Their wines favor freshness over richness and precision over power, rejecting the 1990's trend toward extreme ripeness and extraction. However what is sometimes left out of this narrative is that these "new" California wines are really old California wines: the work of people who recognize that such bottles were once commonplace in their state.
Rory Williams, owner and winemaker at Calder Wine Company is one example. The Williams family and the wines they produce at Frog's Leap in Napa Valley are well-established among lovers of an older, leaner style of California Cabernet and Zinfandel. They are equally known for their commitment to organic viticulture without irrigation.
Though only 28 years old, Rory has clearly spent his time wisely, absorbing the lessons of a family fully invested in their land and their work. He has gone out of his way to find old vines that have been cared for by growers whose approach mirrors that of his parents, and to let the fruit and soil speak clearly and quietly in the wine.
The Calder Wine Company Riesling, from the Rachel Rossi Vineyard in Rutherford is a lovely expression of this variety, which was once common in Napa but now exists in just a few odd pockets of the Valley. It's completely dry, but full of peach and apricot fruit and earthy, almost smoky mineral flavors. There is plenty of acidity (always the backbone of great Riesling) and a transparency that can only come from hard work in the vines.
As I've said before, at Blue Ribbon we always seek out wines that represent a clear honest expression of their place of origin. What Rory and countless other young winemakers are doing deserves recognition. We hope you will join us all this week to share a glass!
Wine Director, Blue Ribbon Restaurants