The Experimental Renegade: Channing Daughters
With Independence Day fast approaching, we figured we'd celebrate with a true American producer, a renegade who defied convention and made it. That's the American Dream, after all. No matter where you come from, or where you started, you can achieve excellence.
Nobody was "supposed" to make wine on the East Coast, let alone make wine on Long Island. When Alex and Louisa Hargrave planted their first vineyards in 1973, there were no guidebooks for planting in their Atlantic climate. There was no plan for protecting from the local birdlife, and controlling the temperature, a crucial part of the fermentation process, was often governed by us of soaker hoses wrapped around stainless tanks.
But as the years progressed and the winemaking technology became more widespread, Long Island survived as a wine region, even though many wineries, and their propensity for making big oaky sweet Chardonnay's did not.
Walter Channing wasn't "supposed" to make wine either. Born in Boston, his mother was a painter and his father was a dedicated builder. Years growing up were spent learning woodworking, doing tree surgery, and programming computers. After years in the venture capital field investing in medical technology, Channing discovered a passion for rescuing wood from destruction, and turning the woods into natural sculptures. He purchased a property in Bridgehampton, on the far reaches of Long Island that is also known as the East Coast Riviera, among some. It was here that Channing Daughters first vineyards were planted.
The estate isn't quite Gatsby-esque, but the property is populated with Channing's own sculptures, as well as 27 acres of vineyards stemming from Channing's original 1 acre plot that was planted in 1982. Though Channing still oversees the winery, most of the day to day operations are controlled by Christopher Tracy and the original Channing Daughters winemaker Larry Perrine. Under their tutelage, there are now 53 distinct offerings from the renegade Long Island winemakers, everything from red, white, orange, pétillant-naturel, and even seasonal Vermouths made from foraged estate botanical ingredients.
Lean and flavoral blends are Tracy's focal point, as he wants to take advantage of the marine coastal influence from the Atlantic ocean. He prefers minimal intervention, with only minimal sulfur dioxide added, but he does filter the end product because he prefers clarity.
Tracy has been at the forefront of both skin contact white and pétillant-naturels, beyond what most winemakers on the East Coast dare attempt. He has 10 different bottlings of pétillant-naturel alone, and we're lucky enough to have his Pétillant-naturel Rosato made with 80% Merlot and 20% Lagrien sourced from his estate. Why so many? "Because it’s fun to make them." Tracy says, "They’re really joyous wines—with their low alcohol, they’re great lunch wines. They taste awesome young; they taste great after years in the bottle.” Pétillant-naturels or Pét-Nats, as they're affectionately named, deviate from the classic méthode Champenoise by avoiding a second fermentation- that is when yeasts and sugar are added to the bottle after going a complete fermentation as a dry wine while the bottle is crown-capped. With Pét-Nats, fermentation is usually completely stopped through temperature control, and the yeasts settle down to the bottom of the bottle, only challenged when opened by the consumer. Channing Daughters deviates even from that model:
Tracy doesn’t arrest his fermentations with temperature control. He prefers to follow the lead of the wild, ambient yeasts he uses rather than keep a tight rein on them. “We monitor the fermentation until we get to just the sugar level we want,” he says. “It’s slowing down by then, but still I often go over there in the middle of the night because I have just a few-hours window to catch it.” He filters the unfinished wine through a coarse, 10-micron filter, which removes most of the solids and, he says, “knocks the fermentation back so we can bottle it.”¹
We also have the Rosato di Cabernet Franc from Channing Daughters. With only 1210 cases made, this tiny bottling is made to be a fresh, crushable, pink wine. It's full of beautiful floral notes, and a perfect raw bar accomplice.
But what's summer (or America) without a crushable red wine? That's the goal of Rosso Fresco, a vintage based varietal blend of grapes sourced from the North and South Forks of Long Island. The 2017 vintage features 76% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 8% Blaufrankisch, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Teroldego and it's a summertime dream of a red. Completely destemmed and fermented with wild yeasts, this bottle sees 4 months of old oak aging before bottling, and presents a nice balanced acidity that can even take a slight chill. A playful red wine with beautiful high toned aromas of cherry, red currant, red plum, and hints of earth and spice.
Vermouth is making a comeback. Long just the small bottle that adorned many a liquor cabinet for its necessity in classic cocktails like the good old Manhattan, smaller producers are starting to take their own spin on the aromatized fortified wine movement. Wanting to take full advantage of the local produce of Long Island, Channing Daughters sourced all of the foraged botanicals from their estate and other nearby farms. With a handful of different variations, we were able to grab their first variation, the Vervino Vermouth Variation #1 Batch # 3. Taking a base of Sauvignon Blanc, they fortified this batch with neutral grape brandy, and macerated over 30 different botanicals before sweetening the result with local honey. Botanicals include calendula, fennel, sage, nasturtium, lemon balm, rose, basil, black birch, chives and spiked za'tar, and all of the ingredients make their appearance on the custom printed label.
We encourage you to celebrate this holiday with these fantastic American wines. They'll be on sale all week.
The Fine Print:
Channing Daughters Petillant Natural Rosato - ̶3̶4̶.̶9̶9̶ $31.99
Channing Daughters Rosso Fresco - ̶2̶4̶.̶9̶9̶ $22.49
Channing Daughters Cabernet Franc Rosato - ̶2̶4̶.̶9̶9̶ $22.49
Channing Daughters Vervino Vermouth Variation #1 - ̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $26.99