Rainbows Opposed: Hiyu
I have to imagine that Black Friday sales typically feature items that are available in great, or at least decent, quantity. We don't really want to do a Black Friday offer, so we're going to offer something super limited. We'll offer a big discount (it is a day for DEALS) but the wines we present today are made more for the love of making the world beautiful than for money, so I figure why not make close to nothing on them. Some may say this makes little sense, I know, but does normalizing consumer madness make sense?
I've been reading about Hiyu Wine Farm for a few years, and their project is truly fascinating to me. Occupying a far out fringe in the world of wine, Hiyu is dedicated to farming in a way that intervenes with nature as little as possible. There was a part of me that didn't care what the wines were like, I just wanted to try them because of the work being done there. I finally know that Hiyu is not just about deep conceptual commitment, they are also about delicious wine.
Nate Ready and his partner China Tresemer started Hiyu in 2010. At that time Nate was a Master Sommelier, and had worked for some of the biggest names in the business. By June 2020 Nate had resigned from the Court of Master Sommeliers (do google "master sommelier scandals"), leaving his vaunted qualification in the dust, banking on the hope of love and hard work, speeding forward into a future of regenerative farming. Many have written about Hiyu before me, and I don't think I'll do better, so forgive me as I crib some key details about them from the importer Jenny & Francois:
Hiyu is a true mixed farm with pigs, cows, chickens, ducks and geese living among the vines during different parts of the year and helping to control the vegetation. Nate calls their vineyard management, which has been deeply influenced by Masanobu Fukuoka, “the wild side of permaculture”
The property is divided into half-acre blocks, each planted to a field blend from a different place or moment in the genetic history of the grapevine, with up to 150 different varieties and clones in total
Part of the estate’s land is being moved into “food forests”, and there’s also a small market garden; their produce is served in the on-premise wine tavern alongside their wines
The name “Hiyu” comes from Chinook Jargon, where it denotes “abundance”, “plenty” or “big party”
Nate used to work as a sommelier in various fine establishments, including the lauded Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley
China Tresemer, the estate’s co-founder and agriculturalist, is also a talented illustrator who creates all the labels.
The amount of Hiyu that came to Massachusetts, was tiny. Just a few cases. We have two wines. I've included info from Hiyu in italics, and my tasting notes below that.
Hiyu Tzum Moon Hill Farm MV - $54 net (originally $75)
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, from Moon Hill, a plot adjacent to Hiyu and farmed by them since 2015. An assemblage of wines from the same plot from 2015 through 2020 vintages. The various vintages were first vinified and aged separately and represent a kaleidoscope of styles and ways of looking at the site – some with extended maceration on the skins, some directly pressed. The wines have been assembled in the spring 2021, in a series of 500-liter puncheons to further age together, with the aim of maintaining a kind of “Solera” system for this plot in the future. Bottled by hand, unfined, unfiltered, 5ppm of SO2 at bottling.
Gorgeous peachy color, a little pink, a little cloudy. Aromas of wild flowers, crunchy stone fruits, citrus pith, alpine breeze, crusty sourdough. Vibrant on the palate, fine chalky tannins, medium-bodied, inner perfume of flowers and fruit skin/pith notes. Tangy fruity finish, with diverse herbal and floral nuances, beautiful bready and nutty lees flavors, persistent and delicate at once. Quite serious and worth saving a couple years.
Hiyu Halo Spring Ephemeral 2020 - $65 net (originally $80)
Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Halo, a tiny parcel (.75 acres) of equal parts Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris planted at the top of the hill above the winery. Since the 2018 vintage, we’ve used it to experiment with a way of fermenting wine that takes non-intervention to its logical end. The grapes are placed in the fermenter, sealed, and left untouched for several months, before being exhumed and pressed directly to the barrel. It creates a paler-colored wine, but one in which more of the grapes’ intrinsic energy is retained. It also has the effect of greatly enhancing the perfume, especially the spice components of the aroma. The name “Halo” refers to the light effects seen in all the parcels in this part of the vineyard, common because of the dramatic weather coming from Mount Hood. Unfined, unfiltered, tiny dose of SO2 at bottling.
Herbal, smoky, piney, lots of cherry and woodsy stuff, strawberry and mushrooms, a beautiful antique cabinet note too. Quite light on the palate, but intense and long on the finish. Serious despite its levity. V nice for turkey din.
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