Thursday, August 25, 2016

L.A. Wine Trips

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Eclectic Wine From Oregon's Applegate Valley

The unusual name of this Oregon label is a literary nod to James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans," which does not refer to 2:00 a.m. in your favorite beach bar. That’s the last of the Mojitos, and it came along much later.

Cooper's hunter hero, Natty Bumppo, is also known as Hawkeye.  Further, he is also known as La Longue Carabine, or "the long rifle." He is from civilization, but prefers the wilds. He holds Indians as his closest companions, but has no Indian blood. He is eclectic, drawing from different cultures that which suits him best.

This wine also pulls disparate influences together in a fine blend. A whiff of Sicily disguises that southern Rhône feeling with the grape varieties showing the lawlessness of the frontier. The wild-eyed mix has roughly equal parts Vermentino, Viognier and Marsanne, with a swish of Roussanne thrown in.

from Michael Mann's "The Last of the Mohicans"
Troon general manager Craig Camp calls the cofermented wine "exotic," and says the grapes find "their distinctive highlights in the expansive aromatics and rich texture." And it’s all from Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard and Oregon. It has only 12.5% abv and sells for $34 at their tasting rooms.

The 2014 Troon Blue Label Longue Carabine, Applegate Valley is an appealing, golden straw colored wine that offers a great white wine nose of honeyed apricot, Meyer lemon and stones in a stream. The minerality of southern Oregon comes through strongly on the palate, and the acidity is positively bracing. There is a hint of the seashore in this wine, unusual since it grew near the mountains, not the coast. The finish is crisp and juicy. The grapes perfectly display the civilization of their heritage against the wildness of their home.


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Monday, August 22, 2016

Pennsylvania Wine: At The Casino

We put off the wine vacation in favor of seeing family. Sometimes, the family is taken better with a gulp or two of some emotional lubrication, but we didn't require too much on this trip. Anyway, I can make any vacation a wine vacation. There's always a way.

We had a vacation, the wife and I, and we spent it in lovely Pennsylvania. The mountains and forests in the northeastern part of the state - and other parts, too - are gorgeous, even if most of those living there don't know how good they have it. People, you can park in front of the business into which you need to go. Cherish that!

Crossing Vineyards has a tasting room in the Mohegan Sun Casino. If you think about it, it's a great place for good wine. You can't gamble all the time, although I know some people who would disagree with that. The Crossing Vineyards Wine and Cheese shop offers full tastings, which I have had before. this time I opted for a glass of something inviting.

The Chambourcin Reserve 2013 is billed as a "Zinfandel style red wine." It certainly features a savory nose full of spices and Pennsylvania dirt. The palate is dark and silky with a hint of cola and coffee. It reminds me more of a big California Pinot Noir than Zinfandel.

The Crossing Vineyards Cabernet Franc Rosě 2014 shows a deep red color and smells of sweet cherries with herbal hints. It's not as dry as advertised, but maybe for local tastes it is.

A young woman was at the bar with an entire entourage waiting on her to finish a glass of her beloved, sweet, peach wine. She was obviously "worth waiting for," even though no one else in her adoring group would join her in a glass of vino. She effused about her selection to me, and cheerily asked if I like sweet wine, too. "Tonight I do."


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Friday, August 19, 2016

Resonating Pinot Noir

Does wine resonate? If we mean does it "produce a deep, full reverberating sound," no. At least mine doesn't. But if we mean does it “evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions, yes. If we mean does it "meet with someone's agreement," it sure does around here.

Résonance is French winemaker Louis Jadot's first foray outside of Burgundy. It's way outside of Burgundy. In fact, it's in Oregon's Yamhill-Carlton region. The Resonance vineyard is full of Pinot Noir vines that were stuck in the ground in 1981. This single-vineyard wine hails from Oregon, but has enough Burgundian influence to make you think it took French in high school. It evokes images of Burgundy.

The Résonance Pinot Noir is medium-dark and sweet smelling. The dark plum and raspberry aromas carry a lovely influence of oak barrels and black tea. The palate is full and features mainly plum with hints of coffee and tea. It's not particularly big, or muscular. There is more of a savory aspect that wants to shine through. On the second night the bottle was open, a sense of tar began to creep in but the tannic structure stayed firm. The wine has a reasonable 13% abv number and a zippy acidity.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Picnic Wine: Jean-Michel Sorbe From Quincy

The Quincy AOC of France's Loire Valley is strictly for white wines. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were brought to the region by monks about a thousand years ago. The village is actually located on the Cher River, which feeds into the Loire. Sancerre is close by, and so is Pouilly-Fumé, so you get the idea.

Quincy - it rhymes with "Nancy", not the TV coroner - has been an AOC longer than any region except Châteuneuf-du-Pape. World War II interrupted viticulture in the region as the Cher River was a natural barrier between occupied and unoccupied France.  As a result, most of the vineyards were abandoned and not replanted until the 1980s.

Jean Michel Sorbe

It's all Sauvignon Blanc, as is customary in Quincy. It’s as fragrant as a citrus tree, too, which also seems to be a hallmark of the region. The pale wine has a nose full of lemons and limes, with a sweet floral element to balance it. Old world Sauvignon is just amazing, with so much to offer. Tons of minerality on the palate, and a softness there as well that seems almost contradictory. The acidity makes things totally refreshing and also makes one want a plate of crabs, or lobster. An avocado salad would fit nicely in the scheme of things as well.


Monday, August 15, 2016

"Liar's Dice" Zinfandel Sonoma County Wine

"Liar's Dice" is a game played with five dice in a cup. It sounds like it should be played while drinking, because if it’s not, it’s called Yahtzee. It could also be played as dice poker, but really, that’s just not cool. Get a deck of cards.

Murphy Goode's 2013 Liar's Dice Zinfandel was conceived, so the website says, by co-founder Tim Murphy. There were many games of Liar's Dice played while brainstorming this beverage in the one-horse Sonoma County town of Geyserville. One horse, but, like, 37 wineries. Geyserville is actually still waiting for their “cool” status. All the "cool" in the area is currently sucked up by Healdsburg a bit down the road. But Geyserville is cool enough for me, as some really good grapes are grown there.

There is nearly a full dice cup of Sonoma County Zinfandel here, 96%, with the remainder being beefed up by Petite Sirah. Winemaker David Ready Jr. has been head man in the cellar for about 15 years, so he knows his way around the barrels. The wine is a full-throated 15.4% abv and sells for $21.

It's medium dark in the glass and has a gorgeous nose, ripe and spicy. The expected vanilla and clove notes are met with brambly hints of coriander and allspice. On the palate, it's big and bouncy with rollicking cherry and cola flavors rolling over a blackberry base. Cinnamon, cardamom and a nice package of herbs nudge this wine in a savory direction, but it stays closer to the fruity side. Big tannins here, so bring tri-tip.


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Friday, August 5, 2016

Napa "Super Tuscan" Blend

Castello di Amorosa is a Napa Valley wine attraction. Not only do they make some really stunning wines there, but they disguise their facility as a castle. Actually, it is a castle, a real one from Italy reassembled stone by stone in another land of vines far away. Getting thrown in the dungeon there isn't really a very good punishment. That's where I hear they keep the wine.

The back label declares La Castellana to mean "the wife of the Lord and Master of the castle," who is responsible - among other things - for putting a great bottle of wine on the table. When wine is made at the castle, it's not that difficult to do. "Hmm. This one has my name on it. We shall have it tonight!" It’s an Italian knockoff, even wearing the name Super Tuscan, owing to its makeup of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Sangiovese and 9% Merlot.

The dark 2012 La Castellana Super Tuscan Napa Valley Red Wine - very dark - has aromas to match. The gorgeous nose wafts up from the glass with so much to offer, you might miss the beautiful black plum and blueberry notes. There’s also a hatful of spice and coffee and mocha and vanilla rising. Oh, and don't forget the tobacco and the little smear of tar that drags it all into savory land. On the palate, big, bold fruit blasts forward in a hail of tannins. Be sure to let it air out a good while and have some big, bold, red meat standing by to give those angry tannins something to work on. The blackberry flavors are most pronounced, but they wear a cedar-tinged cloak which is lined with a rack of spices. This is a steakhouse wine, to be sure. An Italian steakhouse. In the Napa Valley.


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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wine In Tennessee



From the archives: Tennessee's entry into Wine Country, Grinder's Switch Winery.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Picnic Wine: Quincy, Loire Valley

The Quincy AOC of France’s Loire Valley is strictly for white wines. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were brought to the region by monks about a thousand years ago. The village is actually located on the Cher River, which feeds into the Loire. Sancerre is close by, and so is Pouilly-Fumé, so you get the idea.

Quincy - it rhymes with "Nancy", not the TV coroner - has been an AOC longer than any region except Châteuneuf-du-Pape. World War II interrupted viticulture in the region as the Cher River was a natural barrier between occupied and unoccupied France.  As a result, most of the vineyards were abandoned and not replanted until the 1980s.

Domaine Sylvain Bailly also makes wine from nearby Sancerre. Their Quincy vines are eleven years old, on average.

Domaine Sylvain Bailly Beaucharme  2015

The nose on this white wine is beautiful. Meyer lemon and a sweet soapy essence are in front, with a sneaky lime note coming in beneath. The palate is zippy and fresh, with that same beautiful, soft lemon and lime notes and a full mouthfeel that’s borderline creamy.

With an alcohol number of 12.5% abv, this Quincy wine is drinkable and easy going. It pairs well with oysters, as it should, but it's also ready for a shrimp cocktail or crab Louie.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Picnic Wine: Quincy, Loire Valley

The Quincy AOC of France’s Loire Valley is strictly for white wines. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were brought to the region by monks about a thousand years ago. The village is actually located on the Cher River, which feeds into the Loire. Sancerre is close by, and so is Pouilly-Fumé, so you get the idea. It's a pretty good neighborhood.

Quincy - it rhymes with "Nancy", not the TV coroner - has been an AOC longer than any region except Châteuneuf-du-Pape. World War II interrupted viticulture in the region as the Cher River was a natural barrier between occupied and unoccupied France.  As a result, most of the vineyards were reportedly abandoned and not replanted until the 1980s.

Image from Polaner Selections
Domaine de Villalin Quincy Sauvignon Blanc 2015

The distributor says wife Maryline and husband Jean-Jacques Smith farm organically and still harvest completely by hand, a rarity in this region. You may also catch them working the vineyard behind a horse-drawn plow.

This Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc has fresh lime notes all over the nose, with a slight herbal tinge and an earthy side. The acidity, or level of freshness, is brisk and refreshing. The full mouthfeel is rich, though, and the citrus comes through just as strongly as it does on the nose. It's a little bit peppery, too, which adds to its food-friendliness.


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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."


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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.


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