Monday, September 23, 2019

NZ Sauvignon Blanc Shows Tamer Side

The New Zealand winery Duck Hunter is a partnership between ex-restaurant man Mark Wilson and former bank manager Rosie Mulholland.  Their wines are made by their winemaking team in Marlborough at NZ Wineries and Zorro Wines.

The label bears an eye-catching image of a duck hunter - that is, a duck dressed camouflage with a rifle slung over his feathered shoulder.  He's the hunter, not the hunted.  The image was done by New Zealand artist Joanna Braithwaite.  Co-founder Wilson discovered the painting and instantly knew that it would be the ideal face for his wines.  Wilson describes the duck in the label art as "the keeper of the estate, protector of the vines and calm champion of the wines."  He also points out that no ducks were harmed in the making of the wines.

The grapes for Duck Hunter’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc were grown mainly in Comely Bank Vineyard, down Waihopai Valley Road, in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley.  The winemakers eliminated much of the extreme grassiness that marked New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for years, and gave it a riper, sweeter appeal.  Alcohol hits 12.7% abv and I see it selling online for $19.

This is NZ SauvBlanc with the edge taken off of it.  The grassy nose is only slight, showing more herbs than cat pee.  The sip is remarkably restrained as well, with trademark citrus sharing the stage with melon, cucumber and peach.  The wine is not very tart, by SB standards, but it's not sweet, either.  It's a Sauvignon Blanc for people who normally shy away from it. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Italian Grapes Via Lake County

Prima Materia doesn't sound at first like an Oakland winery, but it is.  Winemaker and owner Pietro Buttitta grows his grapes two and a half hours to the north, in Lake County's Kelsey Bench AVA.  He focuses on Italian varieties - from Sangiovese to Barbera to Refosco to Negroamaro.  Buttitta says he planted most of those grapes himself and has worked the vineyard for the last eleven years.  He claims to find a clear Lake County voice for his minimally handled wines, one that maintains a "distinct Old World finish and feel."

The Prima Materia 2016 Sangiovese is made from four clones of the grape, grown in the volcanic soil of the region.  The winery claims that it reflects the growing area and respects its Italian heritage.  The grapes were nearly dry-farmed, with no pesticides used.  Buttitta refers to the 2016 vintage as "almost boring," but the fourth consecutive drought year brought just enough rainfall.

The Sangiovese is abetted by 8% Aglianico grapes.  The wine was vinified and aged 18 months in neutral barrels of French and Hungarian oak.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv, a little heftier than most Italian Sangioveses, and it sells for $25.

This Cal-Italian grape expresses itself well.  The effect of the oak barrels is apparent on the nose, with delicious vanilla, clove and spice notes wafting upward.  Red fruit shows up, too, but it's the accessories that draw attention first.  The palate brings the cherry flavor forward in a dramatic presentation, elegant and a bit rustic at the same time.  The oak may be a bit overplayed, but it's an attraction, not a distraction.  The wine finishes fresh, clean and fruity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

This Willamette Pinot Gris - Just Wow

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He buys already produced wine from established makers on the down low, with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club, which he calls a wineocracy, bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

The 2017 Cameron Hughes Lot 631 Pinot Gris is Hughes' first such varietal in nearly ten years.  It has been on the competition circuit and has collected awards along the way.  The grapes came from an unnamed, family-owned Willamette Valley estate, and are certified biodynamic.  The wine was made in stainless steel tanks and rested on the spent yeast cells for four months, gathering weight and creaminess in that time.  Alcohol is restrained, 13% abv, and the wine sells for $12.

The pale wine has a beautiful salinity on the nose, draping itself over the citrus flavors.  It smells like the ocean, almost like a Sardegna Vermentino.  The palate is just waiting for shellfish.  Great acidity, great fruit and all the sea you can drink.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Steel Sangiovese Shows True Colors

Citra Vini covers a lot of ground in the Italian Chieti region - about 15,000 acres.  The winegrowing group - an association of unified wineries in Abruzzo established in 1973 - is located between a limestone massif in the Apennine mountain range and the Adriatic Sea.  Some 3,000 growers contribute grapes to the Citra effort. 

Their website explains a bit of the storied history of the Montepulciano grape.  Hannibal gave the wine to his soldiers for its supposed restorative powers, and Ovid praised it in a poem.

The making of the 2017 Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti was overseen by renowned enologist Riccardo Cotarella.  The wine was vinified and aged a bit in stainless steel tanks, not oak vats.  Alcohol hits a moderate 13% abv and and this would appear to the Citra bargain brand, as it sells for about ten bucks.

This Sangiovese is a lightweight wine with an appealing nose and palate.  Aromas of cherry and raspberry are fresh and cheery.  The red fruit flavors are bright and natural, owing to stainless steel vinification and aging.  No oak.  The finish pales quickly, but it's an enjoyable sip.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Awesome Albariño

The folks from the Spanish wine region Rias Baixas have a great product to push.  Albariño is not only a delicious white wine on its own, but it's one of the more food-friendly grapes you'll find.  In fact, Albariño seems to crave a food pairing so it can show its best.

A recent Snooth-sponsored virtual tasting event had wine writers gathering together online to sample a few selections.

Other writers commented on the great pairings they were having during the event.  A Spanish omelet, chicken and waffles, bouillabaisse, roasted fish with citrus and turkey are just a few of the inspired pairings that sprang from the tasting.

Wine writer Lyn Farmer notes that the Rias Baixas region in Spain's northwestern corner  has a sense of tradition, but is not bound by it.  Half of the area's winemakers are women.

One of the best of the offerings of the event was the Marqués de Frías Albariño 2017.  Winemaker Carlos Blanco vinifies this 100% Albariño wine in stainless steel to 12.5% abv.  It sells for a super-low $13, a steal considering the high quality.  The estate vineyard is composed half of granitic soil with the rest divided between clay and sand.

This wine has a rich, golden tint and shows not the fruity, flowery nose one expects from the grape, but a savory salinity more often found in Roussanne, Marsanne or rare Pinot Gris bottlings.  The palate follows suit - salinity carrying the apricot and pear notes - with a wonderfully food-friendly approach.  The acidity is zippy and the finish falls barely on the tart side.  If all Albariño wines tasted like this one, I'd drink more Albariño.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Italian Scores With Spanish Sherry Cocktail

Courtesy Tio Pepe
Spanish wine company Tio Pepe sponsors a yearly contest to see which bartender around the globe can come up with the best cocktail utilizing their Tio Pepe Jerez Xérès Sherry.  I'll admit, I was sort of pulling for the barkeep from Las Vegas, who made it to the finals.  In the end, Europe took the honor.

Italian mixologist Marco Masiero, left, was proclaimed the winner of the International Final of the Tío Pepe Challenge 2019.  Masiero's signature cocktail is called "El Beso de la Flaca."

The Bodega Gonzalez Byass has been in Jerez - southern Spain, the Andalusia region - for nearly 200 years.  Tio Pepe Jerez Xérès Sherry is named after the founder's uncle Pepe.  The vineyard soil in Jerez is chalky, all the better to hold moisture during the long, hot summer.

Tio Pepe is made from 100% Palomino Fino grapes, and is fortified to 15% alcohol.  Any higher and the flor could not form, the yeasty layer that covers the wine while it's in American oak barrels and prevents oxidation for the four to five years of aging.  The Solera method is used, with wines blended from vintage to vintage.  The types of sherry and their production is much more complex than my limited knowledge.  If you're interested, please read up online.  You'll be glad you did.  The sherry sells for $20.

This sherry has a golden-yellow tint and a forceful nose.  That wonderful resinous sherry smell is there in spades, along with walnuts and anise.  The sip offers similar wonders, with a completely savory approach.  It's as dry as a bone, provided the bone was lying in the desert sun for a while.  There's not a lick of sweetness, so it's not Grandma’s sherry.  The chalky vineyard soil seems to speak through what these Palomino Fino grapes have wrought.  There are notes of hazelnut, lemon and the all-important yeast layer - flor - that sits atop the wine in the barrel for five years.  The acidity is decent, but not too forceful, and afterward, the finish lingers with anise lasting the longest.  Wow, is all.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Rias Baixas Albariño Celebrates Women

The folks from the Spanish wine region Rias Baixas have a great product to push.  Albariño is not only a delicious white wine on its own, but it's one of the more food-friendly grapes you'll find.  In fact, Albariño seems to crave a food pairing so it can show its best.

Albariño wines tend to show up online a lot, in virtual tasting events where wine writers gather together with a sponsor - in this case, Snooth - to sample a few selections.

Other writers commented on the great pairings they were having during the event.  A Spanish omelet, chicken and waffles, bouillabaisse, roasted fish with citrus and - yes - Thanksgiving turkey are just a few of the inspired pairings that sprang from the tasting.

Wine writer Lyn Farmer notes that the Rias Baixas region in Spain's northwestern corner  has a sense of tradition, but is not bound by it.  Half of the area's winemakers are women.  Wine writer Dezel Quillen says if your wine shop doesn't carry Rias Baixas Albarino, they need to.  He says, "These Spanish wines are quite versatile and extremely food-friendly—especially with seafood dishes."

Nai E Senora Alabarino Val Do Salnés

From the Terra de Asorei winery comes Nai E Señora Albariño, a beauty of the Rias Baixas region.  The winery explains that the name derives from Nai e Señora - Mother and Lady - an expression used by poets in the early 20th century "to pay homage to working women who guaranteed the independence of the family and the Galician society and their motherland: Galicia."

The Salnés Valley is located on the left bank of the estuary of Arousa.  Winemaker Jorge Hervella works with Albariño grapes grown in rocky clay soil studded with pink granite.  The apparently non-vintage wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, carries alcohol at 12.5% abv and sells for less than $20.

This yellow-gold wine has aromas that are more herbal than floral, with savory dill bolstering the citrus and stone fruit.  The palate carries much citrus along with savory balsamic notes.  Acidity is great, and makes for a lively pairing with a variety of salads and seafood.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Pinot Noir From Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula

The locals call it paradise on a peninsula.  Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula wine region sticks out of the northwestern edge of the state's main body into Lake Michigan.  Situated on the 45th parallel, about the same latitude where you find Bordeaux, it's a 19-mile spit which juts northward and forms the east and west sides of Grand Traverse Bay.  It's only four miles wide at its broadest point. 

They grow wine grapes there.  The blue waters surrounding the land are some 600 feet deep, that produces what they call a "lake effect" which I am told protects the vines with snow in winter, slows bud break in spring to avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.

There's a thriving wine AVA on the strip of land, along with breweries and distilleries.  I had tasted Michigan wines before and found them to be of very high quality, so I had high expectations when the OMP reps sent some of their wines to me for review.  I was not disappointed.

Brys Estate Pinot Noir Reserve 2016

In a story heard over and over again, Walt and Eileen Brys (sounds like eyes) caught wine fever in the Napa Valley and decided to get out of their retirement rockers.  They ended up leaving Florida to start their careers as vintners less than a mile from the shores of Lake Michigan.

Their 2016 Brys Estate Pinot Noir Reserve is made entirely from grapes grown on the cool climate estate, the first ones picked at harvest. For the technically savvy, Brys grows Dijon clones 91,115, 667, 777 and 828, planted on rootstock 3309 and 101-14.  Winemaker Coenraad Stassen employs fruit grown on the 80-acre, one-time cherry orchard, which was reworked as a vineyard beginning in 2001.  The wine was barrel aged in French oak for 12-14 months, tips 13.7% abv and sells for $32.

This medium-ruby Michigan Pinot Noir has a savory nose featuring cassis and coffee, with a touch of smoke wafting up.  The bold palate shows blackberry and white pepper in force.  The lively mouthfeel is more tannic than expected in a Pinot, making this a great pair with a meat dish, from pork to bolognese pasta.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Lodi Cab Is Quick On The Draw

The Delicato family named their Three Finger Jack Cabernet Sauvignon after an outlaw from California's Gold Rush days.  The Lodi wine's label proclaims that the juice inside is "outlaw by nature."  There's no confirmation that Jack Dunlop had a three-fingered hand, but it's true that the former Texas cowboy found robbing banks and trains to be more lucrative than corralling dogies.  It also proved to be his end, as he died from a gunshot taken in his last heist.

There appear to be no outlaws in the Delicato family tree, though.  Their website says the winery's founder, Gaspare Indelicato, "came to America more than a century ago and planted a vineyard just south of Lodi," which reminded him of Sicily, his grape-growing home.  The family still runs the business, now training a fourth generation to take the reins. 

The 2016 Three Finger Jack Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes grown on Lodi's East Side Ridge, at the foot of the Sierra Mountains, in low-nutrient soils which stress the vines and make for a more intense wine.  Part of the wine was aged in French and American oak, while the remainder was aged in steel tanks.  Alcohol hits 15% abv and it sells for $22.  The squatty bottle stands a good three inches shorter than a typical wine container, but holds the standard 750 ml.

This wine plays the outlaw image to the hilt.  Lodi Cab faces off in a dusty street against Napa Cab, the fastest gun in town.  They both shoot straight, but in different directions.  Three Finger Jack has a nose of rustic black fruit, tar, forest floor, with only a hint of graphite.  The palate leans in a more elegant direction, but still stands its ground as an "outsider."  It's a delightful drink, with plenty of pairing power and the tannic structure to prove it.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Lodi Zinfandel From Old Vines

Murphys, California is home to one of the nation's biggest wineries.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi in Calaveras County, in the Sierra Foothills.  It may be an out-of-the-way stop, but there's a better than average chance you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

The Kautz Family are fourth-generation growers, not unusual in that part of the state, and the family-run winery's corporate officers are known simply as John, Gail, Kurt and Jack.

The 2016 Ironstone Lodi Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel is 90% Zin and 10% Petite Sirah, with an alcohol level of 15% and a retail sticker of only $28.  Grapes from five different "old vine" vineyards in the Mokelumne River AVA were used to make the wine.  The gnarled and twisted vines range in age from 60 to 80 years old.  It was aged for 12 months in small French oak barrels.

This is a fun Zinfandel, if not one that bowls me over.  The nose is complex enough, with dark fruit, spice, smoke and black pepper.  The palate shows plenty of blackberry and plum with oak spice and licorice.  A long finish leaves the mouth a bit tart.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Bold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Welcome to Aotearoa - that's Māori for New Zealand - and the bold, delicious wines made there.  I'm a full-flavor kinda guy most of the time, so I've always been most intrigued by the wines of the Kiwi.

Villa Maria was founded by George Fistonich in 1961 as a five-acre vineyard in Auckland.  He and his wife ran the show themselves until he expanded in the 1970s.  They now have estate vineyards on both the North and South islands.  Sir George was knighted by his government in 2009 for his service to the nation's wine industry.  He took Villa Maria fully screwcap in 2001.

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016

Villa Maria's Taylors Pass Vineyard sits next to the Atawere River, with soils ranging from silty loam to stony gravel.  The winery claims the terroir generates an intensely aromatic Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  During an online tasting event, one participant wrote that opening this single vineyard wine is like sticking your nose into a grapefruit cut in half.  Another found a focused display of lemon ice and fleshy melon intertwined with a potpourri of minerals and spice.  Alcohol is in check at 13% and the bottle retails for $26.

The pale, golden-green wine is quite aromatic, grassy with loads of grapefruit and lemon.  The palate shows lots of grapefruit and other citrus, along with a racy acidity.  It finishes clean and bright.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Big Wine, Small Price

You'll find one of America's biggest wineries in the tiny California town of Murphys.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi in Calaveras County, in the Sierra Foothills along Highway 4 north of Douglas Flat, Vallecito and Angels Camp.  It may be an out-of-the-way stop, but there's a better than average chance that you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

The Kautz Family are fourth-generation growers, not unusual in that part of the state, and the family-run winery's corporate officers are known simply as John, Gail, Kurt and Jack.

Leaping Horse Vineyards is one of their brands, and their 2016 California Red Blend brings a lot to the table.  The mix is 46% Zinfandel, 40% Merlot and 14% Petite Sirah.  That's an interesting lineup, and a winning one.  The wine saw only four months in French oak, but the wood was new.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.5% abv and the wine sells for $10 or less.

This modest red wine punches above its weight, or more accurately, above its price point.  It's not a status wine by any stretch of the imagination, but there is quite a bit going on for a $10 wine.  The grapes combine for a nose that's magnificent - full of campfire, caramel and a rack of spices.  Dark fruit flavors keep things sweet on the palate, while that four-month smattering of oak leaves a mark, but does not obliterate what the grapes have to offer.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Warre's Ports, Ruby And White

The Symington family calls their Warre's label "the original British Port House."  Pulling grapes from several superb quintas - Cavadinha, Retiro, Telhada - winemaker Charles Symington's family has been at it for five generations.  The company itself was founded in the 1600s.  They recently declared 2017 as a vintage Port year, just like 2016.  It was the first such back-to-back declaration in the 130+ years the Symingtons have been in charge.

I was supplied with samples of several Warre's Ports, and they should be on your radar, especially with "Port weather" expected to arrive - at some point.  Where I live, in Southern California, it's never really "Port weather," so I drink it whenever I like.  These wines are fantastic examples of why Port is such a damn pleasure to drink.

Warre's Heritage Ruby Porto

Aged for an average of three years in used oak barrels before being blended, filtered and bottled, Warre's Heritage Ruby Porto is a beautiful Portuguese wine at a great price.  It carries 19% alcohol and sells for around $15.

This beautiful Port shows a nose of ripe, red fruit, syrup and smoke.  The palate is young and playful, boasting currant and berries with a viscous mouthfeel and a tannic structure that begs a great piece of cheese.

Warre's Fine White Porto

Warre's Fine White is produced from traditional white grape varieties grown in the Douro Valley - Arinto, Códega, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho.  The winery explains that fermentation takes place "off the skins," which they say makes for a more delicate wine.  Aging took place at lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia in a combination of oak casks and stainless steel tanks.  The white also hits 19% abv and sells for about $15.

This white Port carries a golden tint and gorgeous nose of sweet caramel and stone fruit.  The palate is sweet and fruity with almond notes and a ton of acidity.  It makes a great aperitif or dessert, and will be a fine base for a cocktail.  It even pairs well with potato dishes, cheese and guacamole.

Warre’s Warrior

The oldest mark of Port in the world, Warre's Warrior has shipped continuously since the 1750's, with the name branded on the casks.

It is made from grapes grown in quintas in the Pinhão and Rio Torto valleys.  The finest barrels are set aside by winemaker Peter Symington for aging in the lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia.

Alcohol in Warrior is a touch higher than in their Ruby, at 20% abv. It sells for  $46.

This Port wine is inky indigo in the glass.  Its nose conveys dark, ripe fruit with an overlay of leather and tobacco.  The palate is rich and dark with a firm tannic structure and a pleasantly long finish.

Otima 10-Year-Old Tawny Port

Warre's Otima 10 Year-Old-Tawny balances youthful fruit with a decade in seasoned wood.   All that time in oak turns the ruby hue to a brownish color and makes the palate more delicate.  Warre's also makes an Otima 20-year Port.  Otima 10 hits 20% abv and retails for $32.

The nose on this tawny Port is so full of raisins and hot caramel it can mean nothing except dessert.  The palate reaffirms that feeling, with a sweet taste which brings a little savory along for the ride.  There's enough acidity to make pairing possible, maybe with a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Worlds Collide In Livermore Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Winemaker Robbie Meyer took to Snooth some months ago to discuss the latest vintages from Murrieta's Well, in California's Livermore Valley, including a Sauvignon Blanc that knocked off my socks.

The vines of the Murrieta's Well estate vineyards were first planted in 1884 by Louis Mel with cuttings from Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux, says the winery.  Mel sold the property, lock, stock and wine barrel, to Ernest Wente in the 1930s, and it's still part of the Wente Family estate.  Today, Meyer personally selects grapes from all over the five hundred acres. 

He says there is "nothing quite like growing fruit in the vineyard, caring for it in the winery and crafting it into something people can enjoy."  Through the growing, the harvesting and the fermentation, Meyer says blending is where he sees the real art of winemaking.

Murrieta's Well Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine from California's Livermore Valley was fermented in neutral French oak, aged there sur lie for four months.  Alcohol tips at 14.2% abv and it retails for $35.  Thirty barrels were produced.

The wine offers a nose of soft herbal notes and a floral accent, a sort of old-world-new-world combo.  On the palate, there is a ton of acidity along with an ocean of salinity.  The citrus and mineral flavors linger long after the sip. 

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Zinfandel And 18 Months Of Oak

Bella Grace Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills region of Amador County.  Run by Michael and Charlie Havill, their vineyard sits on 20 acres in those granitic rolling hills.  The winery claims Michael is "one of the few elite female winemakers in California," while husband Charlie is credited with being the mastermind behind the vines.  The winery was named for their two grandmothers.

The Havills grow Primitivo, Zinfandel, Grenache, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre, sustainably without pesticides, as well as three types of olives. 

Bella Grace grows four clones of Zinfandel in their estate block, vines which are eight to 16 years old.  The 2015 vintage was early, from bud break to harvest, but no unusual events were reported.  The Bella Grace Estate Zinfandel Amador County 2015 was a double gold award-winner in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 

The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels, a quarter of which were new.  The alcohol level sits at 14.2% abv and the wine sells for $34.

This Zinfandel sports a nose of blackberries and plums, laced with a generous helping of clove, nutmeg, cigar box, smoke and vanilla.  Eighteen months in oak is a long time.  A peppery note lies underneath and carries through, more prominently, on the palate. Flavors of dark fruit mix with herbs and spices for a delightful sip.  The tannins are fairly forceful and the finish plays long and dark. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

California Vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis. 

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain and the U.S., as we will see.

T.W. Hollister and Company makes these vermouths using ingredients sourced in Santa Barbara County, whenever possible.  They say they’re perfect for sipping on their own over ice or in your favorite martini on a hot summer night.  They promise that American vermouth is about to have its moment.

Ashley Woods Hollister describes drinking Oso de Oro vermouth as sipping a bit of California history, sourcing the finest ingredients available and wild foraging select native botanicals from her family's historic ranch in Goleta, on the California Coast.

Their first round came out early this year and reportedly sold out in just one week, prompting an expanded production effort.  Both the red and the white are handcrafted in California, reach 16% abv and sell for $35.

Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth is made from white wine and infused with a dozen botanical ingredients, including orange peel, chamomile and rosehip.

Oso de Oro Red Vermouth is infused with 19 botanicals, some of which grow on the family homestead. White wine is infused with herbs, roots and flowers, then finished with caramel, enhancing the texture and imparting a sweetness to balance the wine's natural acidity.  Blood orange, chamomile and hummingbird sage lend fruit-forward and herbal notes to the complex layers.

The dry Oso de Oro dry (white) vermouth smells as herbal as it gets.  Juniper comes across as well as the rosehips, chamomile and orange.  The palate shows a bit more orange peel and is, as promised, dry as a bone.  The sweet (red) vermouth has an herbal nose with a caramel backbeat.  That treat comes through stronger in the sip.  It's negroni-ready. 

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Provence Is For Rosé

Provence's Chateau Roubine is one of only fourteen wineries in the Cotes de Provence region which has earned the esteemed "Cru Classe" designation.  Vigneron Valerie Rousselle bought the estate in 1994 and now grows more than a dozen different French grape varieties in the chalky, clay-limestone soil.

Their 2018 La Rose features 50% Grenache grapes, 35% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and 5% Tibouren.  The latter grape is reportedly often used in rosés of the Provence region, but I've never run across it.  The grapes were macerated for a scant three hours to give the wine its soft pink hue.  Alcohol reports in at 13% abv and the wine retails for $24.  A sample was provided to me by distributor Quintessential Wines.

This Provençal rosé has herbal and floral notes on the nose, with fennel-laced strawberries and cherries.  The palate is gorgeous, with the red fruit abetted by a savory salinity.  The acidity is somewhat tame, but the flavor and finish are a real treat.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Lodi, Sierra Red Blend Swings Both Fists

The town of Murphys, California is home to one of the nation's biggest wineries.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi , an out-of-the-way stop, but there's a better than average chance you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

Obsession is one of those brands, and the thrust of the label is a semi-sweet white wine made from Symphony grapes and a red blend.

Grapes for the 2016 vintage of Obsession Red came from estate vineyards in the Sierra Foothills and Lodi - grown in iron-rich volcanic soil in the former, sandy loam in the latter.  The wine is composed of 60% Merlot, 30% Zinfandel and 10% Petite Sirah fruit.  Only three months of aging took place in new French oak barrels.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $15.  A sample was provided by distributor Quintessential Wines.

This wine's nose gives off a blast of smoke which layers over dark fruit, such as plums and blueberries, and spices.  Most of the spice apparently comes courtesy of the grapes, since minimal oak aging was employed.  The palate suggests more oak, with plentiful spice to join the bold fruit.  It's a bit of a belligerent wine, with the tannic structure to handle a juicy ribeye steak.  Not a bad drink for the price, especially for those who like a bolder style of wine.

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