From my Immigrant ancestors
to a village outside of Chablis
Last December, as I began to plan which wines would be part of our wine club releases in 2017, my wife and I had the chance to spend a week in New York and finally visit Ellis Island for the first time. As you can see from the photos, we took our wine we call The Immigrant along with us, and while there we ran into the inspiration for the artwork, based on a photo in the Library of Congress of a family standing before Lady Liberty after clearing customs (lower right corner of composite photo above).
My own great grandfather, Giuseppe Viola, as well as my great grandmother, Carmela DiMino Viola, both came through Ellis Island in 1898 and 1900, respectively. It was a lot of fun to trace the family genealogy that informed my decision to name my winery Viola, and I am thrilled to share this latest bottling with you that is intended as an homage to my own Italian roots that have motivated me in all food and wine pursuits as an adult. The Immigrant label is both named in reference to my Great Grandfather as well as to the fictional character depicted in the artwork who came through Ellis Island from Italy carrying suitcase clones of Zinfandel to throw in the ground in California and start the American winemaking tradition.
It is a bit surreal to think that a label I created 5 years ago celebrating events that took place over 100 years ago would be so topical in 2017, but there is no doubt that immigration is again in the national spotlight right now. Which of course is ironic, given that we Americans are all Immigrants, save for the Native Americans who were displaced by the intrusion of Brits & Europeans who settled here just a few hundred years ago to escape their own tyrranical governments.
At a time when a lot of questions are in the air about continued funding and support for those in need, Immigrants as a group are being singled out and likely are going to need a lot of support in the years to come, be it legal, financial or moral. While making and selling wine isn’t going to save the world, I decided we could do a little something to help.
Our first Primitivo release!
So for one of the Winter Viola Club releases, I’m including the latest bottling of The Immigrant, our 2015 Primitivo. For this wine, I was able to source the Primitivo clone of Zin that originally came from Italy’s Puglia region, by combining fruit from one vineyard in the Columbia Gorge and one in the Applegate Valley. The Columbia Gorge vineyard sits high above Hood River near Parkdale and was fermented fully as whole cluster on the stems, giving a lot of spice and pepper notes. The Applegate Valley fruit came from a site planted by the old Troon winery, and imparts a lot of richness and body to the wine. Together, they give that same brambly spice and intense blue-toned fruit that the Viola Immigrant bottles have consistently shown in the past.
The wine is $25 regular price, but those of you who are Viola Club members will of course be picking it up with your 20% discount this month – making it a great $20 bottle! And to add something to the coffer of the current generation of immigrants who will surely need assistance in the months and years ahead, we are going to donate $1 for every bottle sold between now and March 31 to the International Refugee Center of Oregon (IRCO), whose mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society. And if you all help me sell ALL of the remaining 400 bottles of The Immigrant before March 31, I’ll double the donation with another $400 personally to help the IRCO with their ongoing efforts. So please come and get your Viola Club package this weekend or in the near future, and feel free to stock up on extra bottles or cases to help us sell out of this suddenly important label in record time.
Our Second New Release is Sauvignon in Acacia!
As for the 2nd wine in the Winter Viola Club releases, the inspiration here comes from a different journey I made on a trip to France in 2012 that brought me to the front door of my favorite white wine producer in Chablis, Alice e Olivier DeMoor. During a visit with a group of customers, I stood listening intently as Alice described how their St. Bris was made. This has always been my favorite DeMoor wine, and there is always something so unique and alive in this wine that I was intrigued to learn more. It turns out that the wine is aged in Acacia barrels, a wood that imparts quite a different flavor and texture profile than Oak. Given that the Allegre Vineyard – my main white wine vineyard in Hood River – is planted mostly with Sauvignon Blanc, I decided to try my hand at emulating this wine I have loved for so long. In 2015 I bought a new Acacia barrel, fermented the early-picked old block of Sauvignon Blanc in tank, then transferred it to the new barrel to age for 6 months. The result is quite stunning with its nerve of minerality, its tones of honey and beeswax that come from the Acacia wood, and its intensity of lemon pulp on the finish. The wine has now been in bottle over 6 months and is ready to make its debut. I think you will find it quite delightful, and also quite different than the Bianco d’Allegre blend that uses the same Sauvignon Blanc but aged in oak instead. To prove the point, I’ll be pouring both side-by-side this weekend when you come by to taste and pickup the new releases. I can’t wait to introduce you to this latest creation from my cellar. The Sauvignon in Acacia is $25 regular price, and again our Viola Club members receive 20% off the bottles they are picking up. Just 25 cases produced so you will be one of the lucky few who get to enjoy this creation!
Join the Viola Club – Save 20% On These Releases!
If you’re not a Viola Club member yet, this would be a great time to join. Commit to 2, 4 or 6 bottles of each of the 6 wines we release throughout the year and you save 20% on your commitment and 15% on any other purchases you make at any time from us. Plus you’ll get first access to our limited production wines (like this Sauvignon and the new Ramato and Rosato that will be arriving this Spring). There’s no cost to join, just payment of your first Wine Club shipment and a 50% deposit on your next pickup. Please ask me for an enrollment form if you’re interested in joining our continued endeavors in urban winemaking here in Portland!
Thanks for bearing with me on an unusually long email this week. I hope you find the backstory interesting on these wines, but most importantly, I hope you will find them to be delicious. Come taste with me this weekend. I’ll be pouring the Primitivo and Sauvignon on Friday at the Tasting Room on Alberta Street from 2pm to 7pm and on Saturday at the Winery on NW Copeland Street from 3pm to 5pm. If you’re a wine club member and these times don’t work for you to pickup, just email me and we can try and arrange an alternative or you can simply join us on the next Friday during regular hours at the tasting room.
Have a great week and I hope to see you soon!