2019 North American Press 'Wildcard' Dry Sparkling Wild Grape Cider, Russian River Valley
Region: Sonoma < CA
Grapes: Wild grapes + Gravenstein apples
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming, dry-farmed (Gravensteins), grapes are wild; apples were picked and whole-fruit pressed into older American oak wine barrels to ferment, then aged in for 6 months before being racked, blended with the wild grape co-ferment and bottled with zero additions, not even SO2; un-disgorged; zero-zero; 8% ABV; 55 cases
Winemaker: Matthew Niess
North American Press is a brand new project from Matthew Niess, former winemaker at Radio-Coteau who left last year to start his passion project -- learning about growing and fermenting native and hybrid wine grapes in California. And this project is one we can 100% get behind -- 10% of the profits from his project go back to local environmental non-profits -- and nothing is sprayed in the vineyard (or the orchard), and nothing is added to the wine, not even So2. On top of this amazing environmental stewardship, Matt's juice is incredible!
Like this fun pink fizz, Wildcard, a cider/wine hybrid made from Gravenstein apples and wild grapes. Gravensteins are on the Slow Food list of heritage foods unique to particular area that need preservation, and these apples in particular are grown at the Hallberg Butterfly Gardens in Sebastopol. Matt says, "I also gathered wild California grapes from along tributaries to the Russian River to conferment with a portion of the cider. As with any wild food, it is important to note that any foraging is done responsibly. These wild grapes add some unruly acidity, additional tension, texture and a lovely pink hue."
A portion of the proceeds from each bottle go back to support Hallberg Butterfly Gardens at the edge of Sebastopol, a fertile ranch sustaining berries, cherries, prunes, pears, apples and hops along with Gravenstein apples. This biodiverse environment created a habitat for the stunning Pipevine Swallowtail (illustrated on the front label), growing into the oldest butterfly garden in the country. The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens works tirelessly to conserve a wildlife habitat within Sonoma County.
And ooh, it is tasty! Nectarine. Butterscotch. Percolating bubbles of juicy apricot. Underripe Strawberry. Nice grip. Totally dry and refreshing. This cider does very well as a prelude to dinner, with our without food, in front of a setting sun as the day sinks away.