Sip Spartina, Save a Giraffe: Four Dogs sells South African vintages for a good cause
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
2019 Alvi’s Drift Signature Sauvignon Blanc
This sustainably grown Savvy is from a wine family that has been producing wines since 1928. The straw color and slightly green grass flavors reminded me of the same grape from New Zealand, but there was a freshness and zing of acidity that identified it as something unique, a bit different. The joy of these wines is the opportunity to try something new from someplace new. Oh, and the giraffes are just lovable.
Even in tough times, there are feel-good stories. Such is the case with the tale about the union of an emerging wine importer, a local wine shop and giraffes.
Beginning this week, if you stop into Four Dogs Wines & Spirits in Basalt, you can explore some great South African wines while making a contribution to support an organization working to save giraffes in Africa from extinction.
While 2020 has been a difficult time for many, if you are in the business of selling beer and wine, it has been a banner year. According to Nielsen research, sales of alcoholic beverages have grown by close to 20% since the beginning of the pandemic. Anecdotal evidence suggests that those numbers may be just the tip of the iceberg, as most shops, both locally and nationally, are benefiting from increased demand.
Against this backdrop, on a recent fall afternoon, I joined in a masked and socially distanced tasting of South African wines with some very happy entrepreneurs in the storage area at Four Dogs. Richard and Susan Myers have been operating Four Dogs since 2008 and business has never been better. “We opened at the beginning of the great recession,” Susan recalled. “And though we had our share of tough times, once we got our current team together things have been great.” Four Dogs has become a go-to for customers up and down the valley who appreciate their broad selection of beer, wines and spirits, free delivery on orders of $99 and up, and their 10% case discounts.
The Myers were joined at the tasting by Tania Van Pelt and Scott Niblack, a husband and wife team of wine lovers who have founded Spartina Imports to bring the wines of South Africa to America. Their first container of wine arrived on these shores in October and Four Dogs will be carrying a number of these wines, including those from Alvi’s Drift, a boutique producer from the Breed River Valley region.
The tasting, arranged by Aspen local Rob Leventhal who is consulting with Spartina, was more of a celebration really, to make plans for a promotion that will marry the Spartina Wines with SaveGiraffesnow.org, a nonprofit dedicated to halt the silent extinction of the lovable long–necked species. Hand selected bottles the of Spartina wines sold at Four Dogs will bear stickers publicizing the giraffe group that is a passion project of Susan Myers. “I have an infatuation with wild animals,” said Myers, who formerly sat on the Board of the Dallas Zoo. “And you could say that giraffes are my spirit animal,” she smiled as she sipped a glass of Alvi’s Drift Chenin Blanc. The organization that she founded is dedicated to preserving the natural habit for giraffes and is investing in nine African countries to create a wildlife corridor. Two dollars on every sale of the Spartina wines from South Africa at Four Dogs will be donated to SaveGiraffesnow.org and all purchasers will receive double Four Dogs points.
For Tania and Scott, the opportunity to introduce their wines to the Roaring Fork Valley and work with Four Dogs and SaveGiraffesnow.org was a natural fit. They approach their wines with a passion that mirrors Susan Myers’.
“There is something about the smell of the soil in the wine lands,” said Scott, who once worked at the Little Nell Hotel (he shared a residence here with Bobby Stuckey) about his attraction to South Africa. “They call Cape Town the ‘Mother City’ and there is just something nurturing about it,” echoed Tania about the reason for this grand foray into the wines of the region.
The pair started this venture two years ago after both had dabbled in careers in wine. “We had been traveling to South Africa for a while and it was in our blood. And then we had this ‘ah-ha’ moment over a glass of wine,” Tania related as I tasted an Alvi’s Drift Sauvignon Blanc. “We contacted about 50 producers and went to taste, then we paired a list to 13 that we thought had great wines,” Scott explained.
The focus will be on small production, minimalist intervention wines from the most significant regions of South Africa. The road has been rough as the government of South Africa initially instituted a ban on all activities in the alcohol industry this year due to the pandemic. But Spartina has finally seen their vision come to fruition as their first wines arrived. Based in Denver and Charleston, South Carolina, Scott and Tania look forward to the next steps in their quest to introduce the wines of South Africa to Colorado.
Buy some wine. Save a giraffe.
“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.