Juneteenth Salute: Raising a Glass, Raising the Bar

Juneteenth is a day of freedom and celebration, so that's what we're up to this week, celebrating the Black producers who have raised the bar in terms of flavor, ethical production, and honoring the past, even as they inspired us to raise a glass with friends and loved ones. Vibrant, unique, and expertly crafted, you’re going to want to break out the good glasses for these beauties.

Whose House? Maison Noir 

Maison Noir is the par for excellence when it comes to Oregonian wines. Founded by sommelier André Hueston Mack in 2007, his personal style, perspective and knowledge of the wine world shine through brilliantly in all his products. Originally designed for premier New York restaurants there is a rugged almost counter-culture elegance to the wines he produces. His philosophy revolves around making ‘garage wine’ (literally made in a garage based out of McMinnville, Oregon) that is approachable, honest, transparent, affordable and full of personality.  He was named Best Young Sommelier in America by the well known Chaine des Rotisseurs in 2003 and his career has skyrocketed from there. For Mack, winemaking has always been the dream and the pure joy that comes with his realization of this dream is a driving characteristic of the wine.

Love Drunk Rose 2020

Much like new love, this blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir clouds the brain, causes eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker with provocative aromas of strawberry and raspberry, followed by refreshing flavors of wild strawberry, watermelon rind and a hint of kiwi. It is a staff favorite here at Wine & Spirits, and we’re so happy to have it back.

Oregogne Pinot Noir 2014

Blended from two single vineyards at different elevations in Eola-Amity Hills, this luxe red wine offers a taste of Burgundy, but much closer to home, with notes of ripe cherries, blueberry bramble, fresh earth and forest leaves, with impressive minerality from the first taste to the lengthy finish. 

B. Stuyvesant Champagne: Homegrown Excellence

Marvina Robinson’s love affair with Champagne began during her college days. She and her friends would often pool their limited funds to purchase a bottle from a local shop not far from her childhood home in Brooklyn. They would toast each other and proudly sip out of their plastic cups. The cups may have changed, but Marvina’s love for the juice continued. After working in finance for some years, she launched the critically acclaimed Stuyvesant Champagne, becoming one of the few African American women to do so. Salmon-colored, dry, and crisp, this bubbly is made from about 58% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. Hints of cherry blossom and raspberry on the nose give way to fleshy red currant and cherries on the palate, with a long and refreshing finish.

Correcting History: Uncle Nearest

Uncle Nearest has burst onto the whiskey scene in a really exciting way, and it’s thanks to the efforts of the Fawn Weaver (CEO and Co-founder) that most of us know this name at all. The brand is named for Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green, a former slave who grew to become Tennessee's premiere master distiller in the years leading up to and following the Civil War, and who is credited with teaching Jack Daniels himself how to make whiskey. 

According to legend, Green was first a slave and then an employee of Reverend Dan Call, a Lutheran preacher in Lincoln County, Tennessee, who operated one of the finest local whiskey stills just down the road a ways behind his farmhouse, thanks to Uncle Nearest and his unique method of charcoal filtering that he had learned back home in West Africa. Eventually, Call’s congregants complained that a man of God shouldn’t indulge in an unholy enterprise like making hooch, and eventually he sold the farm―along with its popular whiskey operation―to a young farmhand named Jasper “Jack” Daniels, who hired Nathan Green as his very first the master distiller and operator of the most sought after still in the area. Green’s method of filtering whiskey through sugar maple tree charcoal became known as the Lincoln County Process and is still used today to make Tennessee whiskey. 

Globally lauded as one of the best whiskies in 2020―with Master Distiller of the Year Victoria Eady Butler at the helm―Uncle Nearest 1884 Tennessee Whiskey and Uncle Nearest 1856 Tennessee Whiskey are packed with flavor, serving aromatic waves of honeyed toast, fresh butter, spice, and smoke. Everything about this whiskey is warm and comforting, an unparalleled addition to any whiskey lover's shelf.

Fairvalley: Feeding the Soil, Feeding the Soul

“The hands that work the soil feed the soul”―powerful words that pretty much sum up the ethos of the Fairvalley Cooperative. Founded as the Fairvalley Workers Association in 1997, and set up by the employees of Fairvalley Wine and Cheese Estate as a socio-economic empowerment venture for the previously disadvantaged and exploited employees, the cooperative has transformed the way many view South African wines and employee-owned businesses To this day, the mission statement remains the same, to create amazing, sustainable, wines that tell the story of South Africa and its people, and accurately reflect the effort and talent of the those who work the land. The profits from the business go directly to developing homes on the Fairvalley Farm, which not only creates a place for generational wealth to accrue but also keeps generations of knowledge accessible to future generations. Now that’s a cause we can raise our glasses to!  The 2019 Fair Valley Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromas of green fig and freshly cut grass that transform into fresh apples soft tropical fruit on the palate. The wine is refreshing, crisp and full of sunshine, making it a fantastic casual sipper or partner for everything from grilled sea bass to shrimp and grits, and hearty salads. 

Karim Vionnet: The King of Cool

Born in Lyon to North African Arabic heritage, Karim Vionnet was adopted by a family in Morgon, Beaujolais. After working as a baker for several years, he decided to follow his passion to become a winemaker. He worked for 10 years to learn the craft, studying for 5 years under Guy Breton (one of the famous Beaujolais “gang of four”  Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard and  Jean-Paul Thévenet) before establishing his own domain in 2006 in Villie-Morgon, also his birthplace. From his 5-hectare domaine, Karim’s aim is to "make a wine that is simple and natural." Unnecessary intervention and artifices, both in the vineyard and during fermentation, are avoided, emphasising high quality and terroir driven wines. He's also a genuinely cool guy, who imparts his unapologetic, carefree spirit into everything he does, including this Chénas. Complex, juicy, and just darn sexy, this wine is full of flavor and lush aromas of cherry, fresh thyme, and chervil. It slays on its own or alongside roasted chicken and aged cheeses.