Hank Beckmeyer and his wife, Caroline, are committed to farming their Somerset vineyard utilizing the Masanobu Fukuoka’s ‘do nothing" natural farming philosophy. The four major tenets of Fukuoka's methods are:
No Cultivation: The soil is not disturbed at any stage by ploughing or tilling.
No Fertilizer: Neither chemical fertilizers nor prepared compost is used.
No Weeding: Non-crop plants are not pulled out of the ground.
No Pesticides: Insects are controlled by natural predators.
The result is delicious wine with a clear sense of place. The Beckmeyers have attracted the attention of many wine luminaries including Eric Asimov of the New York Times who had this to say about La Clarine Farms:
“La Clarine Farm makes wines that are alive in the glass… I love their minimalist approach in the vineyard and the cellar, and I’ve loved all their wines.”
From the producer:
This year's bottling (70% Grenache and 30% Mourvedre) comes from the same vineyard as last year's, a knoll-top of brown loam soils sitting over yellow slate. The vintage differences are, to me, quite apparent. This vineyard seems to speak it's terroir very loudly, maybe more than other vineyards I work with. Like in 2012, the wine is pretty up-front about itself, showing loads of earth in its aromatics and finish. Unlike the '12s, the '13s seem much more complete and harmonious at this stage than the '12s.
This is not to say that the 2013s will not age. In fact, I'd say they will age as well as the seemingly “tougher” 2012s, and they are going to be more fun to drink over the short term.
For this harvest, we picked in three passes – the first pass was for most of the grenache, and the second (about 10 days later) was to finish the grenache at a slightly higher ripeness level. We wanted to see how ripeness affected the expression of the terroir. The answer? This vineyard shows its terroir markers at both lower and higher ripeness levels, which will make subsequent picking decisions a little easier (hopefully).
The last pick was for the mourvedre, on September 16. All three lots ended up being fermented separately, but combined in tank as they were pressed. All lots were whole cluster fermented and no yeast or sulfur was added. Aging was in a combination of tank and some large (158 gallon) neutral oak puncheons. The wine was racked twice, and a small dose of SO2 was added just before bottling.
Dark plum in color, the wine shows a compelling combo of tea leaf, candle wax and graphite in its aromas. Dark fruits and an underlying chalky note (grenache from slate soils!) show up in the finish, along with a refreshing acidity. It's quite agile on its feet for a wine this size. Drink it now to experience its virility (give it an hour or so of air first); age it a bit to let the tannins resolve for a mellower take. It pairs wonderfully now with heartier winter fare.
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