Friday, January 31, 2014

Howell-ing At The Mountain With Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

If you follow this space much, you may have noticed that an article about the Cornerstone Napa Valley Cab appeared a little while back.  They released another Cab along with that one, the Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2010.  Cornerstone’s managing partner Craig Camp says the Napa Cab and the Howell Mountain Cab "are very different wines telling two distinct stories,"   adding that each expresses different aspects of Napa Valley.

As mentioned in the previous article, while other Napa winemakers may be complaining (privately, anyway) about cool vintages, Camp and Cornerstone winemaker Jeff Keene rejoice in them.  "By Napa Valley standards 2010 was a cooler vintage, which means by Bordeaux standards it was a a very good year," says Camp.  "The problem vintages in Napa are the hot ones, not the cooler ones.  The cooler weather helped us towards our goal to make balanced wines.  While the "big wine" folks struggled with 2010, we loved it."

Here’s a glimpse of what grapegrowers go through during the growing season, from Camp’s notes on the 2010 vintage:

“The Napa Valley experienced an unusually cool, damp summer which delayed ripening by a good 3 weeks. These cooler temperatures, coupled with a stubborn coastal cloud layer that seemed never to break up, caused the vineyard growth cycle to move along slowly.
“Then we got SLAMMED...third week of August, a heat wave sent triple digit temperatures across the state and any exposed fruit succumbed to sunburn damage. When it came time to pick the crews had to first make a pass through the vineyard and remove all the sunburned or shriveled grapes. They then went back through to pick the clusters that were optimally ripe. This is a textbook case of ‘precision farming’, it can be very time consuming, but the results are worth all the extra effort.
“Cooler than average temperatures returned again in early September, but gave way to a welcome and consistent Indian Summer, bringing concentrated flavors and tannin development at lower sugar levels allowing us to make elegant, structured, impeccably balanced wines.”

So, the Cornerstone folks are happy making a balanced wine, but they they aim a lot higher.  They still want high aromatics, a bright palate and a big finish, and this wine hits all three pitches out of the park.

The grapes for the 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from the organically farmed Ink Grade Vineyard.  This spot, 1,800 feet up on Howell Mountain's eastern side sports powdery, white, volcanic soil, not the red clay soil found in many of the vineyards on Howell Mountain.  A 10% splash of Merlot - sourced from Stewart Ranch Vineyard in Carneros - is used in the blend.

Camp notes that the wine is firmly structured, and that it's made to express, not hide, its tannic character.  "This is a wine born and made to age", he continues, recommending you wait "five or more years to let the many layers in this wine to expand and integrate."  Cornerstone's notes suggest a wait of twenty years wouldn't be out of order"

The wine aged for 22 months in French oak barrels, three-quarters of them new.  It hits 14.7% abv and retails for $80 per bottle.  Only 470 cases and five dozen magnums were produced.

This Cab is dense and dark, with no light coming through it at the midpoint.  The nose is amazing, with blackberry, black currant and a whiff of blueberry holding down the fruit basket.  Spices galore come through in the form of vanilla, clove and nutmeg, with some sandlewood wafting up, too.  The palate is just as lush, with more dark fruit and great spices joined by firm tannins and a riveting acidity.  A bit of mocha and cocoa add to a delightful smorgasbord of flavors, while the long finish is satisfying and delicious.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Zealand Wine: Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012

Allan Scott Family Winemakers was founded in 1990, but Allan Scott's presence in Marlborough winegrapes goes back a couple of decades before that.  He was involved in Marlborough's early days as a wine region and eventually decided to bottle his estate grapes.

For the Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012, winemaker Matt Elrick and senior winemaker Bruce Abbott put together a 100% Pinot Noir that is only 13% abv and is contained under a screw cap, not a cork.  The original vineyard was planted in the mid-1970s, but today's Pinot vines on the Scott estate came along in the '90s.  Whole Foods Market featured this wine as one of their 12 holiday wines, and was priced - I guess that it still is - at $15.  It was supplied to me for review.

The wine displays a medium brick tint rather than a pure ruby-red hue.  The nose comes on strong with dark raspberry and cranberry aromas.  In the mouth, this Pinot has smooth tannins, nice acidity and big fruit flavors with tea and cola notes in background.  It's not a light and delicate Pinot, it's very dark and bold.  Minerals play a big part.

In fact, the wine is so dark and bold it's rather hard to keep in mind that it is a Pinot Noir.  I have heard talk of some winemakers "juicing" their Pinot with Syrah to add color and body.  This comes across more like a Syrah juiced with Pinot!  Of course, it may just be the dark nature of New Zealand Pinot that's in play here.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Snoqualmie Naked Riesling 2010

We had a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas for Christmas - it's just not the holidays without an opportunity to double down on eleven a few times.  After a couple of successful double downs, I left the table with my windfall and headed for the 221 wine bar in Summerlin's Rampart Casino.

There, I ordered a Merryvale Starmount Chardonnay, which I was told had run out.  Okay, let's try the Hogue Riesling.  Nope.  Can't seem to find that either.  Well, gimme the Snoqualmie Naked Riesling.  At this point, I wasn't really expecting to get a glass of wine.  Sure enough, the kid behind the bar couldn't locate it, either.  After a little poking around and an admission that he was beginning to think I was looking at a wine list from some other restaurant, he did finally come up with a bottle of the Snoqualmie.

Snoqualmie Naked Riesling 2010 is a Washington state wine from the huge - 11 million acres huge -Columbia Valley.  It is produced using organically grown grapes and hits only 12.3% in alcohol, but shows three percent of residual sugar.  The wine cost $11 by the glass and retails for about that much by the bottle.
Snoqualmie winemaker Joy Andersen has done a good job with this bargain wine.

It has quite a nice golden tint for an "unoaked" wine, although the word seems to refer to the organic grapes, not a lack of oak.  The nose displays earth, petrol and plenty of minerals.  I'm happy so far.  The sip reveals off-dry shades of petrol, which are noticeable immediately. The palate is earthy with pear and peach flavors, and vibrant.  Acidity is very nice even when served too cold, as they do at 221.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

A Lodi Zin A Mother Could Love

If you are going to call your Zinfandel "the mother of all Zins," you had better make sure the wine really brings it.  The St. Amant Winery  Marian's Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 does bring it.  Oh, and it's a mother, too.  An actual mother.

The vineyard in which the grapes were grown is named for grower Jerry Fry's mother - Marian Mohr Fry Zimmerman.

It's a big, 100% Zinfandel wine - 15.1% abv big.  Only 403 cases were squeezed from the 8.3-acre block, and it retails for $24.  As for the "old vine" designation, they were planted in that fine, sandy soil in 1901.  That should justify the claim.

Oak aging took place over ten months, and 30% of the barrels were new.  Winemaker Stuart Spencer calls it "hedonistic," and that's a fair claim, too.

The wine shows a beautiful medium dark ruby color and offers up a great bundle of aromas ranging from the expected cherry and black cherry fruit with spices like cardamom and allspice to cigar notes to a surprise appearance of an almost Rhône-like bit of funk.  The palate really brings forth the spicy side of Zinfandel, mixing with some very dark fruit flavors and cola notes.  It puts me in mind of a Pinot Noir, although a very dark and hefty one.  While Zin can often be somewhat light and playful, this one means business from first whiff to the lengthy, savory finish.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Stuart and Charles Smith - brothers who attached their shared name to that of the trees from which their estate vineyard was reclaimed - pride themselves on making wines of balance.  They are also proud to price their elegant offerings so they may appear on more dinner tables than those of just the one percent.   At $45, the Smith-Madrone Cab is not exactly a bargain wine.  It is, however, a value wine - one which could easily bring much more per bottle than it does.

Other Smith-Madrone wines have appeared on Now And Zin Wine before - look here, and here, and here to see them.  I had the good fortune to receive a sample for review once again.

From Napa Valley's Spring Mountain District comes the 2009 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon.  84% of the grapes are mountainside-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, the other 16% equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  The wine is aged for 22 months in new American white oak barrels and is quite restrained at 13.9% abv.  Just over 1,300 cases were produced.  The vines are dry-farmed, which means the roots have to go deep for water and nutrients.  This low-vigor method produces small berries packed with flavor.  The cooler mountain climate helps keep ripeness, and therefore alcohol, in check.

The wine looks very dark and rich, but the nose shows equal parts herbs and fruit.  The blackberry and blackcurrant aromas seem carried along by eucalyptus and sage.  The palate is an elegant presentation of similar notes, with the flavor of cinnamon and tobacco riding herd of that cool-vintage fruit.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Lodi Wine: A Great Place To Be Stuck Again

John Fogerty made Lodi sound like a lousy place for an entertainer to be stranded, but a grape-growing winemaking family could sure do a lot worse.  Lodi is full of generations-old farming families who have turned their farms into vineyards and their barns into wineries.

A recent virtual tasting of a handful of Lodi wines featured the Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.  The Mettlers have been at the grape thing for a while now - their estate was established in 1899.  Five generations of Mettlers have tended the vines and winemaker Adam Mettler helps carry on the family tradition.  Both vineyard blocks used in the making of this wine are organically and sustainably farmed.

The Mettler Cab has a varietal makeup of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petite Sirah and 1% Petit Verdot.  It is bottled under natural cork, aged in French oak for 22 months and strikes 14.9% abv.  7,800 cases were produced and the bottles retail for $25.  I was given a sample to review.

Some of my cohorts taking part in the Twitter tasting were mightily impressed by the Mettler wine:  "I find the @MettlerWines Cab is, ironically, very Napa's good!"  "Mint and eucalyptus nose! almost birch beer."  "Big with fruit, soft with tannic structure. very drinkable & food friendly."

Inky purple in the glass, this Lodi Cab does produce quite a sensory experience for the nose.  Aromas of blackberry, cassis and clove are major players, but the fruit stands forward.  Other herbal qualities also take turns in the spotlight.

The palate is all big, dark fruit.  The wine has great acidity and tannic structure, but it drinks very smoothly.  Cedar notes carry a little spice - the oak is very pleasantly noticeable here.  There is a hint of bramble in the finish, but the sip goes away as smoothly as it came.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

They Often Call Me Champagne, But My Real Name Is M. Crémant

This may not be looked upon by some as a great or fitting bubbly with which to ring in the new year, but I have found that inexpensive wines are often vastly underrated.  The Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve is a ten-dollar wine at a Trader Joe's, where some great deals on under-the-radar wines can be found.

This came to us in a gift basket from the mom-in-law on our holiday trip to Las Vegas.  I was not expecting a new wonder of the world here, but was hopeful upon popping the cork that it would add some cheer to the year's end.

Blason de Bourgogne is a cooperative which, as they say, "represents 800 winegrowing families throughout the region, from Chablis in the North to Mâcon in the South, passing through Beaune in the centre.  Each and every wine provides a glimpse of the character of Burgundy, thus together they paint the whole glorious picture."

This sparkling wine is called crémant, since it is not produced in Champagne.  It hails from another part of Burgundy around the village of Saint-Bris.  The Crémant de Bourgogne AOC designation was created in 1975 for the white and rosé sparkling wines of Burgundy produced in the traditional method outside of Champagne.

It's a rather unusual sparkler, in that it is made from Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes, according to the Blason website.  I have seen references to the inclusion of Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes as well.  Alcohol is very reasonable, at 12%.  Aging in the bottle lasts for one year.

This sparkler pours up very bubbly with large bubbles, settling into fine ones.  Fruit and a little yeast make a festive nose, as if the bubbles need any help in the festive department.  Pears, peaches and apples are the big show on the palate, with a touch of toast and a little blast of earthiness offering backup.  The wine is very dry and plenty of fireworks are provided by an outstanding level of acidity.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Scott Harvey Zinfandel Mountain Selection 2011

Scott Harvey makes wines that go great with Thanksgiving dinner.  That's the opinion of Sunset magazine, anyway, who named his 2010 Mountain Selection Zinfandel "the Perfect Zin to pair with a pungent, spicy, fruity Thanksgiving dinner."  It also goes great with dinner the other 364 days of the year.  Add one for leap year.

Harvey has recently released new vintages of three of his Zin's, including the Mountain Selection.  Samples of these wines were sent to me - read about Vineyard 1869 here - and I wish I had received them in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  I had a Hickory Farms Spicy and Savory Beef Summer Sausage for Thanksgiving dinner, and it would have gone great with that.  All spicy and savory and all.

Scott Harvey Zinfandel Mountain Selection 2011 is made with Zinfandel grapes harvested from Shenandoah Valley in Amador County, Syrah from York Vineyard in Fiddletown and Barbera from Golden Vineyard.  It's 88% Zin, 7% Syrah and 5% Barbera.  The alcohol content is not unreasonable, by the standard of the region - 14.5%.  19 months aging in French oak left its mark on the grapes grown in the granite soils of Amador County.

The 2011 vintage in Napa Valley has been cursed by some as too cold, praised by others as just right.  Harvey is in the Goldilocks camp.  "I have always said that when Napa has a cold vintage, Amador has a great vintage."

The wine is dark-colored with a full nose of earthy red fruit getting a spice rack of help from aromas of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  The acidity is wonderful and the tannic structure is firm.  It's a very food-friendly wine, but it tastes great on its own.  Big black cherry and raspberry flavors are caressed by oak spices.  The finish is long and memorable, with clove and cassis notes the last to leave.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

French Wine: A Sauvignon Blanc From Burgundy

The Simonnet-Ferve Saint Bris 2012 was on the Whole Foods Market list of the Top Twelve Wines for the Holidays.  Labeled as a Grand Vin de Bourgogne, the white Burgundy is from the Saint-Bris appellation in Chablis.  It rings the alcohol bell at 12.5% and is bottled under natural cork.

Chablis, the northernmost region in Burgundy, produces notable white wines made of Chardonnay grapes, but Sauvignon Blanc?  Isn't that from the Loire Valley?   It is, in fact.  But Sauvignon Blanc is one grape from the Chablis region permitted to use the generic name of Bourgogne AOC.  Also included in that group are Aligote, Cesar, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sacy, and Tressot.

Sauvignon Blanc has been growing around the village of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux since the ancient Romans were busy leaving broken pottery for us to find centuries later.  The Saint-Bris white wine appellation was created in 2003 and specifically references the area's crisp, cool-climate wines made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

The wine is a pale straw tint in the glass, with a very grassy nose sporting a big note of lemon peel and grapefruit.  Flinty minerals are abundant, as are tart citrus flavors which last long on the finish.

The folks at a Whole Foods say to pair it with creamy cheese, roasted turkey, fennel and orange salad and butternut squash soup.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blood Of The Vines: Wine For "The Third Man"

Blood Of The Vines: The Third Man
Wine Goes To The Movies with 
Trailers From Hell and Now And Zin

When we talk about wine, the talk always turns to Pinot Noir.  It’s considered by many wine snobs to be the grape that’s hardest to get into the bottle, but the most expressive of the conditions from which it comes.  If you’d like the full-length lecture, just ask the nearest wine snob.  Make sure you have an hour or so to spare.

When you talk about movies, the talk always turns to film noir.  Film buffs, like wine snobs, love to show off their knowledge a bit.  An evening with a film noir fan leads to many dissertations on how the dark shadows of film noir best express the suspicion and doubt that permeated world events from World War II into the McCarthy ‘50s.  And, if you ask me, the 1960s could have used a lot more film noir.

Pinot Noir means “black Pinot” in French, which helps differentiate it from Pinot Grigio, which means “six-dollar house wine at Italian restaurants.”  Accordingly, film noir means “black film,” a fitting name for movies that live in the shadows and usually embrace the pulp crime fiction style of writing that sprang up in the 1930s.

In “The Third Man,” Joseph Cotten admits, ”I’m just a hack writer who drinks too much and falls in love with girls.  You?”  With an opener like that, it’s no wonder he didn’t end up making the springs on the Murphy bed squeak for their lives.  What woman couldn’t resist that come on?  Even if she did live in the shadows and have a tilty camera angle most of the time.

“The Third Man” makes great use of music, too.  A score by Anton Karas playing the zither provides a creepily exotic backdrop.  “He’ll have you in a dither with his zither,” blazes the trailer.  It’s good that Karas didn’t play the ocarina.  That’s an even tougher rhyme.

Orson Welles' Harry Lime is a black market racketeer in wartime Vienna who cares nothing for the victims of his methods.  He waters down penicillin for sick people.  God knows what he does to stretch a bottle of wine to six servings instead of three.  Oh, and his markup is brutal, too.  This guy should open a restaurant.

Lime cites the war and bloodshed Italy felt under the House of Borgia, while producing Michaelangelo, DaVinci and the Rennaissance.  “Switzerland’s 500 years of brotherly love,” he says, “only produced the cuckoo clock.”  I want an exit line like that.

The Third Man Wine comes from New Zealand’s Waipara Valley, and a lot of wine snobs are hitting up the NZ for their Pinot Noir.  I don’t see a real connection here - other than the name - but the flavors in The Third Man Sauvignon Blanc include... lime.  Cut, print.

Fourth and fifth man wines:

Hoepler’s Third Man Zweigelt comes straight from Vienna - well, southeast of Vienna - I wonder what sector that is?  The label for this great Austrian grape carries an image from the film, and word is it will never remind you of a chase through a sewer.  Can I see your papers, please?

Washington’s Gramercy Cellars takes the Third Man out of Austria altogether and transplants him to the Southern Rhone with a GSM - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre - blend that’s heavy on the Grenache.


I know I’ve linked to this before, but this is a great time to revisit the ol’ YouTube of  Orson Welles for Paul Masson.  It’s still hard to watch Welles try to struggle through a TV commercial for this juice.  Masson let Welles go soon after the great one announced on television that he never drank the stuff, just shilled it.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Growing Old In Lodi: Harney Lane Winery Old Vine Zinfandel

"Old vine" is a phrase that gets bandied about quite a bit in California, sometimes with sketchy justification.  Thirty years?  Twenty?  Fifty?  There is no official standard for defining what constitutes and old vine, but if there were you'd have to think the grapes in this wine would qualify.

The source for the Zinfandel grapes that make up this Harney Lane Winery 2011 Old Vine Zin is the Lizzy James Vineyard in Lodi, CA.  It was planted in 1904, so "old vine" could not be a misnomer in anyone's estimation.  Old vines are said to give better grapes, due to the smaller berries and more developed root systems that allow better access to water.

The wine was included in a Twitter tasting a while back, which you can read about here.  Some thoughts from participants in that virtual tasting are included in this article.

This Zinfandel was just released in November 2013 and carries a hefty 15.9% alcohol content - that's getting up towards Port level.  It spent 22 months aging in French oak, and it wears it well.  443 cases were produced.  A bottle retails for $35.

Virtual tasters noted cinnamon and nutmeg traces, in advance of the holiday season.  "We're pairing the @HarneyLaneWine with Bourbon and Brown Sugar-Glazed Turkey," commented one tweeter.  Another mentioned how the "big ripe fruit balances the 15.9% abv.". It was characterized as a "hedonistic Zin, but has structure to balance out."

These notes are not far off the mark.  The oak does impart plenty of spice, especially on the palate, with a nose highlighted by sage accents on blackberry fruit.  The tannins have a pretty good bite, so you can pair it with the beefiest dishes without worry.  In fact, this wine is best when accompanying food due to its robust nature.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Monte Ducay Reserva 2009

The holidays bring all sorts of surprises with them.  Getting together with friends you may not have seen in months is one happy by-product of having everyone out shopping at the same time.  And when they bring a wine gift with them, it's even better.

One such wine-bearing friend met my wife at Wood Ranch and sent her home with a bottle for me; how thoughtful!  Produced by the Bodegas San Valero cooperative, Monte Ducay Reserva 2009 comes in a very nice looking paper wrapper over an unlabeled bottle.  The wrapper gives the wine a very high-end look.  However, knowing how the times are these days, I didn't expect that this gift was very expensive.

In the same manner one does not look a gift horse in the mouth, neither does one look a gift wine in the shelf talker.  Well, maybe just a peek.  It sells for under $10.  At that price, it's a pretty fair value, too.

The red Cariñena wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Garnacha.  Cariñena is a DO - Denominación de Origen - in the center of Spain's Aragon region.  Alcohol is quite reasonable at 13% abv and the bottle is closed under a natural cork.

The color is a very dark ruby, with light barely able to get through the glass.  A nose of dark berries, black cherry and cola provide a little more depth than I expect.  The palate is deep and luxurious, with dark fruit and notes that give away the presence of the Cab - cassis and graphite.  There is just a wisp of an herbal flavor lagging behind the fruit, a bit like sage and nutmeg.  This wine offers great value for a bargain shopper who wants some complexity with their deal.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Napa Valley 2011

In Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District, brothers Stuart and Charles Smith run the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery, established in 1971.  The winery was named for the forest of Madrone trees from which the vineyards were reclaimed.

The Smith brothers don’t make a lot of wine, but that is not their goal.  They set out to “make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and us as vintners, but above all else, are wines which bring pleasure to the senses.”The winemaking process seems more than business to them, seems more like philosophy.  “Every year our wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character. Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity.”

The Smith brothers say, "2011 was a very cool and late growing season for the Napa Valley. Late spring rains contributed to a smaller than normal crop. The summer turned out to be one of the coolest growing seasons we can remember, with the one exception of a heat spike in late August. Fortunately, patience paid off and the vintage turned out to be exceptional."

Only 13 acres of their vineyard is dedicated to Chardonnay, and the vines are about 39 years old.

The 2011 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is estate bottled, with grapes from the Spring Mountain district of Napa Valley.  Alcohol is up there, at 14.2% abv, and the wine is barrel-fermented and aged in new French oak for eight months.

Featuring a petty yellow-green tint in the glass, this Chardonnay offers a nose of apples, peaches and a touch of vanilla spice.  The palate is gorgeous, with nice oak flavors layered over lovely green apple and white peach notes.  A little citrus - in the form of lime and tangerine - lingers on the finish. The wine is not big and buttery, but the oak definitely shows.  Minerality - a hallmark of a cooler vintage - also makes itself known.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wine Country Illinois: Lynfred Winery

The Now And Zin Wine Country series is an attempt to taste 50 wines from 50 states.  Wine is produced in each of the United States, and my mission has led me to try wine from 34 states so far.  The series has been to Illinois before, and now we are kicking off the new year with a return visit to the Land o’ Lincoln for some more Illinois wine.

Lynfred Winery is in Roselle, Illinois, in the northeastern corner of the state, a little west of Chicago and a little south of Wisconsin.  Winemaker Andrés Basso works with grapes not only from Illinois, but also fruit from California, Washington and Michigan.

Lynfred’s late founder, former restaurateur Fred Koehler, started making wine at home with his wife Lynn.  The winery calls his interest in wine “a hobby that got out of hand.”  The winery was made official in the 1970s and the awards started rolling in soon after.  No less than Robert Mondavi told Koehler he should get out of Illinois and move to California.  Koehler decided to stay with his roots.

Lynfred Winery Vin De City White,  $10

Billed as American White Table Wine, Vin De City White is a non-vintage wine made from five grape varieties - 32% Viognier, 28% Chardonnay, 23% Pinot Grigio, 9% Marsanne and 8% Roussanne.  The wine is made in Illinois, but it is made from grapes grown in California and Washington.  It is aged in stainless steel for six to eight months and has a 12.5% abv number that keeps the alcohol under control.  Bottled under a natural cork, the label sports a beautiful portrait of the Chicago skyline.

The wine has a light, straw color and a very aromatic nose, both floral and fruity.  Aromas of ripe peaches and apricots mix with honeysuckle.  The flavor profile brings great fruit - apricots, apples, white nectarines - laced with an earthy undercurrent.  A vibrant acidity makes it a refreshing and food-friendly wine.

Lynfred Winery American Sangiovese Reserve 2009  $30

This 100% Sangiovese wine also utilizes grapes not grown in Illinois - they are a product of Jones Vineyard in Washington.  This wine has seen a lot of oak, 30 months worth of American and French oak.  Bottled under natural cork, the alcohol content is 13.9% abv.  It is labeled as “for sale in Illinois only,” which may be due to a state restriction on the use of out-of-state grapes.

Lynfred’s Sangiovese is very dark in color and quite aromatic.  Minty notes of clove, cinnamon and black cherry decorate the nose, while the palate shows every bit of those 30 months of oak.  A large overlay of cedar accompanies the cherry and red berry  flavor.  The acidity is great and the tannins are firm, which led me to pair some food with it.  My holiday snack of seaside cheddar from Whole Foods, Gorgonzola crackers from Trader Joe's and  beef summer sausage from Hickory Farms married with this wine quite well.

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