Friday, July 29, 2016

Wine Country Oregon: Troon Zinfandel

You may have noticed, like I did, that Craig Camp has moved. The longtime partner in Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Wines is pursuing his "vision of winemaking" in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon at Troon Vineyard. He wholeheartedly touts Troon’s "natural wines from this unique terroir."

Camp reports that the Troon property was planted in 1972 by Dick Troon, so the roots go deep. He also says that winemaker Steve Hall was a recent hire - two years ago - and that the team is looking ahead with vision. Camp knows a thing or two about terroir, and he wastes no time in lauding Troon’s "high-altitude, granitic soils" of their "benchland vineyards high above the Applegate River."

Camp compares this Oregon Zinfandel to a Côtes du Rhône for its value and simple pleasures. He says, "One of the great failures of the American wine industry is that most wines under $20 are boring industrial wines." He feels European wines offer better value for the price.

He calls Troon's Red Label Zinfandel, Applegate Valley 2014 "Zesty and full of brambly zinfandel fruit," and says it "is quite distinct from most California versions. Burgers, pizza and sausages are just waiting for this zinfandel." And at $18, it stays under the $20 barrier. Winemaker Hall says there is a tiny dollop of Carignane in the mix and, once co-fermented, they aged in French oak for nine months. Just over 500 cases were made.

Vineyard image from Troon
As a big fan of Zinfandel, typically a California grape, I was excited to try the Oregon version. It strikes me as a little tamer, a little less rowdy, but just as fruity and spicy as the Golden State variety. It’s a dark ruby wine purpling at the rim and smelling of black cherry and raspberry, with a memory of holiday pies cooking. A touch of nutmeg and cinnamon is always a welcome aroma. The wine sits well in the mouth, full and rich and not too tannic. Fruit forward but not simplistic, it shows an almost Cab-like elegance but carries a playful palate at its heart. The spices really come out in the flavor profile with a mineral-laced earth note that I imagine to be the expression of the cooler climate, as well as the dirt. There's a lot of "black" in here, but it's lightened by a touch of "red."


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Picnic Wine: Lambrusco Al Fresco

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wine Country Oregon: Vermentino From Troon Vineyards

It was more than mildly surprising to open an e-mail and find that Craig Camp had moved. The longtime standard-bearer for Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Wines, Camp announced that he had decided to pursue his "vision of winemaking not in the Napa Valley, but in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon at Troon Vineyard." He went on to explain that the opportunity to tout Troon’s "natural wines from this unique terroir" was an offer he couldn’t turn down. He looked forward to "making wines with indigenous yeasts, trodding by foot, using almost no new oak and working with exciting varieties like vermentino, tannat, sangiovese, malbec, syrah, roussanne and marsanne." Even though his former company had a stake in Oregon for Pinot Noir, this was going to be full immersion.

Camp reported that the Troon property had been planted in 1972 by Dick Troon, so the roots go deep. He also reported that winemaker Steve Hall was a recent hire - two years ago - and that the team is looking ahead with vision. Camp knows a thing or two about terroir, and he wasted no time in lauding Troon’s "high-altitude, granitic soils" of their "benchland vineyards high above the Applegate River."


Troon Blue Label Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2014

This wine is an 80% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc blend. The grapes were picked and pressed together and fermented sur lie. The act of fermenting the wine in contact with the lees, or spent yeast cells, gives the wine a fuller, rounder mouthfeel. The alcohol is a very restrained 12.5% abv - Camp says only very warm vintages will go much higher - and a scant 167 cases were made.

The nose offers a good deal of tropical fruit, but not the usual suspects.  Guava and a gentle lemon note are joined by a mild sense of lanolin and stones. An extremely earthy aspect layers just underneath.  On the palate, there’s a zippy acidity that’s really bracing, and really craving some oysters.  Actually make that a plate of grilled calamari and scungilli, if you can find such a delicacy where you are.  I’m in L.A., and that request is generally met with "Huh?" Camp suggests seafood fritto misto.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Wine At The Hollywood Bowl

Having wine at the Hollywood Bowl is not mandatory but, c’mon. It’s basically a picnic with a concert thrown in. How can you not want some vino to go with the experience?

The Bowl, squeezed in between Hollywood and the 101 Freeway, is an outdoor amphitheater with wooden benches for seating and restaurant markups on wine, by the glass or bottle at the concessions stands. People really like to bring their own food - yes, you are allowed to BYO - and that goes for wine, too.

We got a group together for an appearance by Brian Wilson at The Bowl, during my wife’s birthday month. Life is short - we celebrate for 30 days, not one. We organized a dozen-and-a-half friends to join us for the event, which is no small trick in Los Angeles. At one time, we lived two blocks away from some very good friends and saw them twice a year. It's tough to coordinate with one couple, let alone eight.

Whether the draw was the former Beach Boy or the promise that we would bring wine, I couldn't say, but it fell together easily. The tickets were bought and distributed and a sandwich tray was ordered from the fabulous Rocco’s Deli in Los Feliz. The hardest part was lugging the food and bottles up the street from the parking lot. It's uphill all the way.

In keeping with a loose “Italian” theme - my wife is of Italian heritage, the food was made in that style - we brought a couple of Italian Lambruscos, one that was languishing at home and the other we picked up on the way to the concert.

The Manicarti Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Vigne Cà Del Fiore (that’s a mouthful) is subtitled, “Vino frizzante secco, sparkling red.”  It has an easy-drinking 11% abv number and hails from  the “sunny hillside vineyards” called Vigne Cà Del Fiore.  It is frizzante, or just a little bubbly, in the glass and it dissipates quickly.  Deep purple and grapey-smelling, there is an earthy note to it that is absolutely alluring. It comes from the Emilio-Romagna area of Italy, which also brings us such delights as Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Chilled, it’s exactly what I would like my summer to be.

I felt a bit like a Lambrusco missionary, as one in our group, probably the most wine-centric other than myself, had never HEARD of Lambrusco. She loved it, and I was happy to have done my job and produced one more Lambrusco drinker

On a side note, Rocco’s Deli, On Vermont Avenue in the Los Feliz area of L.A., has been hiding over there for some 40 years.  My wife and I had been going to a pizza place called Rocco’s for years, run by a guy from Staten Island, only to discover we had the wrong Rocco. The aromas and attitudes in the place brought my wife right back to her northeast Pennsylvania roots. She had been looking for a place like this for decades, only to find it right under her nose. The eatery so completely addressed her homesickness that it actually made real tears appear.  Their sandwiches are, indeed, to cry for.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. This is one of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Pdm Moncayo 2013

Located in the Aragon region of Spain, Campo de Borja, in the foothills of the Sierra del Moncayo, Pagos del Moncayo relies upon traditional techniques in winemaking. The grapes - from their estate vineyards - are crushed by foot, then subjected to a more modern crush after vinification has begun.

The '13 PdM Garnacha is a 100% varietal wine, aged for ten months in American oak barrels. Alcohol comes in at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $26.

This Garnacha is brawny and very dark in the glass, with a nose exhibiting blackberry, blueberry and spice galore - allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg are predominant. The palate is fruit forward, with dark berries, sage, thyme, and tons of savory spice showing. Great tannins and a super acidity lend to food pairing.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. We are presently examining some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Garnacha Centenaria Coto de Hayas 2013 $15.99

This is Campo de Borja wine made from 100% Garnacha grapes taken from 100-year-old vines. The wine experienced just four months in French oak, and hits 14% abv on the alcohol scale.

The nose on this wine is subtle, but expressive. Dark berries and oak spice sum it up, but to leave it at that doesn't do it justice. The fruit points toward savory while the spice shows a sweet side. Vanilla, soft and gentle, mix with the sort of cinnamon you put in oatmeal. The cigar box is the one you kept lemon drops in as a kid.

On the palate we find that everything is all grown up. It's a lovely and elegant sip, a grape effortlessly shirking off the criticism that it isn't pretty enough. But even though it's pretty, it can still fight dirty. Don't expect it to punch you in the nose, but don't let your guard down, either.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

A recent "Twitter Tasting" brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next week we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Pirineos Seleccion 2013

From the Somontano area of Aragon, the land flows from the foothills of the Pyrenees into the Ebro Valley in Spain's extreme northeastern corner.

This wine is extremely full of minerals and loaded with an oaky essence that, while a bit heavy-handed, plays right into the rustic sensibility that I love in a wine.  The oak blasts through with tobacco, clove, cinnamon, allspice and a wisp of vanilla. It’s a big, dirty red - it smells of the dirt and rocks and it tastes of it ,too. Beef, please. It has an easy-to-swing $15 retail price tag.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Santa Barbara Wine On An L.A. Wine List

When I see a Santa Barbara wine that I am not familiar with on the menu, I'm sold. Tatomer is a label I had not seen before, but it was the Summer of Riesling inside Kali. I tried. I liked.

I had the Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling 2013 at Kali in Los Angeles, where sommelier Drew Langley watches over an immaculately curated wine list. Does "Summer of Riesling" do it for you? It does for me, especially when they are such good examples. My wife had a German Kabinett, but I had this Vandenberg example from Santa Barbara County. They listed it as "dry and medium bodied," which is good advice for a Riesling. This one, though, has a nice touch of petrol - I mean, why order Riesling unless it has that? - along with some surprisingly extreme minerality and a muted citrus note. I paired it with the Niçoise salad to great effect. It was also a hit with the wife's roast pork, Pennsylvania native that she is.

Winemaker Graham Tatomer got one taste of Austrian Riesling and signed on to work there, anywhere. He brought his obsession with Riesling - bone dry Riesling - to Santa Barbara County. He says,  "The sites that excite me have been the coldest ones, lending to wines of lighter weight, nuanced flavors, and bracing acidity. Riesling is the ultimate grape to pursue these characteristics. No other grape conveys its region's character and varietal flavor with the power, focus, and beauty the way Riesling does." Amen, Graham. 

His Vandenberg Riesling - so named for the nearby Air Force base - comes primarily from the Kick-On Ranch, and the grapes are selected for their infection with botrytis, the rot that makes grapes a bit sweeter. I did not notice any unusual sweetness at all in this wine, but that’s okay. 



Monday, July 11, 2016

Petite Sirah: Dark Mendocino Nights

Edmeades is a Mendocino County mainstay since the sixties, with grapes grown in the region's rugged coastal mountains. The Jackson Family bought the acreage in 1988 and brought current winemaker Ben Salazar into the fold in 2012.

Edmeades Petite Sirah 2013

They say on the website that this wine is as "dark as a moonless night."  It is, in fact, a deep indigo with dark purple showing around the edge of the glass. The winery folks explain that the wine is made only when the grapes are right, in select vintages. 2013 was, apparently, such a year.

This dark wine smells delicious, with dark fruit challenged by oak spice, cedar and vanilla being the most prominent. The nose is complex, with notes of licorice, cigar box, cinnamon and blackberry coming forth. Tobacco and a chocolaty mocha abet those flavors on the palate. It’s 93% Petite Sirah and 7% Zinfandel, with mostly neutral oak use in the aging. Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and only 250 cases were made. It retails for $35.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, July 8, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

The Twitterverse is full of virtual wine tasting events that are out there for your enjoyment, as well as your edification. Wineries stage them to promote their new releases and wine regions sponsor them to elevate their name recognition. Sometimes, it’s all about a grape.

The recent “Twitter Tasting” put on through Sopexa brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next couple of weeks we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha

From Aragon's Cariñena region, these old vines grown rocky soil. So rocky is it, and the minerality so pronounced, they call it the wine of the rocks. It clocks a 13.5% abv and sells for about ten bucks.
Bottle poetry features a silly snippet about a bull that kissed the wine and now runs around the world telling everyone how great it is. Hey, they should have thought of that in the Toro region.

There is a very pronounced earthy streak running through this one. The cherry aromas and flavors are there, for sure, but they are struggling to burst through a heavy layer of earthy sediment. I think of it as "dirty cherry." The rustic nature actually makes me think of rusty, as in a piece of metal covered in iron oxide.The structure is a little weak, but that makes it very sippable. The minerals will go nicely with a piece of lean beef or pork.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Garnacha: Spanish Grenache

The Twitterverse is full of virtual wine tasting events that are out there for your enjoyment, as well as your edification. Wineries stage them to promote their new releases and wine regions sponsor them to elevate their name recognition. Sometimes, it’s all about a grape.

The recent “Twitter Tasting” put on through Sopexa brought wine lovers together for the sake of Garnacha. That’s what the Grenache grape is called in Spain, and I’m always up for some Spanish wine. I was invited to play along and was provided with samples for that purpose. Over the next couple of weeks we will examine some of the great Garnachas that were sampled.

Paniza Garnacha Rosé

Bodegas Paniza is named after their town in the Aragon region of the Cariñena D.O.P. of northwestern Spain.  The limestone-based soil is sun-drenched, with a wide swing between daytime and nighttime temperatures. The late-ripening Garnacha grape is perfect for a terroir such as this. A portion of their vines are over 50 years old, some dating back to 1906.

The Panzia Garnacha Rosé is 100% Garnacha, vinified to 13% abv. It comes in a pretty pink sleeve which, unfortunately, obscures the pretty pink wine inside the bottle.  It’s a light shade of pink, between Provence and rosado.

The wine's nose comes on just like a wonderful rosé, with baskets of fresh strawberries still on the stems. There’s a fairly strong cherry note as well. In the mouth, I couldn’t really tell it was pink - it was so full and weighty it could easily have been a red. The palate offers beautiful red fruit and a laid-back acidity. It will be perfect on the porch this summer, and it will pair well with salmon or grilled pork chops.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, July 4, 2016

Uruguayan Wine: Sauvignon Blanc

Uruguay is notched between Argentina and Brazil, with the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to the southwest, right across the wide mouth of Rio de La Plata. Uruguay’s latitude puts them right in line with other wine growing areas as portions of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Wine grapes are grown over most of the nation, with Tannat serving as Uruguay’s calling card. The Tannat grape hails from South West France, the Madiran region specifically, where it produces a wild and tannic wine. The juice there is so harsh that the French are said to have invented micro-oxygenation to try and tame it. The Tannat grapes of Uruguay, while still notably tannic, are much milder and user-friendly. They also grow Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and white grapes like Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

Bodega Garzón is in the Maldonado area, in Punta del Este on Uruguay’s southernmost tip, just 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The vineyards are on thin and rocky soil which drains well and is rich in minerals.Their sustainable, hilltop winery makes nearly half its energy needs through wind and sun..

The Garzón Sauvignon Blanc 2015 carries a lively acidity at only 12.5% abv, perfect for summer sipping. The pale straw-colored wine offers a zippy and citrus-laden nose, with tons of wet-rock minerality. There is a grassy element, but not a pungent one like that found in New Zealand. It’s more of a South African-style minerality that comes across. The palate is as fresh as can be, with a fruity tartness and a suggestion of sweetness. It's a great match with a seafood salad. Crab or Shrimp Louie hits it just right, as do peel and eat.