Showing posts with label Arneis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arneis. Show all posts

Saturday, July 6, 2019

New Mexico Wine Toasts Feminist Artist

A New Mexico winery is toasting feminist artist Judy Chicago with a wine bearing her name.  Jaramillo Vineyards is releasing the wine this month in New Mexico's Middle Rio Grande Valley.

Owners Robert and Barbara Jaramillo met when he was stationed with the Navy in Long Beach, California.  After a career as an airline pilot, Jaramillo decided to grow grapes and make wine, continuing a family precedent.  His father was a home winemaker, but his grandfather had been the largest producer of wine in the area before Prohibition.

Jaramillo Vineyards has plantings of the Norton Cynthiana grape, which has reportedly not been grown west of Missouri until now.  Norton is considered to be "America’s grape," and was championed by Thomas Jefferson.

Judy Chicago's art will be shown on July 20-21, 2019 at the opening of the Through the Flower Art Space in Belen, New Mexico.  Chicago and her husband have lived in Belen for a quarter century, and the town is also the home of Jaramillo Vineyards.  The art space is right across the street from the tasting room. 

The winery plans to release the Judy Chicago red and white wines on July 21st.  Both will feature a label and bottle design conceived by the artist herself.  She chose a cobalt blue bottle which she feels compliments her label design.  Chicago was personally involved in selecting the final blend for each wine.  I haven't tasted them, but I'm told the Judy Chicago red will be a Petit Verdot blend and the Judy Chicago white will be a dry blend of Chenin Blanc and Arneis. 

You can read more of the Now And Zin effort to taste wine from all 50 states in the Wine Country series.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

White Wines Of Santa Barbara County

It was so nice to be included in the #winechat on July 17th, 2013, the subjects of which were some amazing white wines of Santa Barbara County, wines that are perfect for helping to beat the heat of the warm weather of summer.

For the uninitiated, #winechat is a weekly gathering of wine lovers on Twitter, directed by Protocol Wine Studio.  You don’t need an invitation for this affair, simply search “#winechat” and you are seeing the live stream.  Join in if you like, or just drop in to see what people are tweeting about on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. PT.

On this particular #winechat, moderator Bill Eyer (@cuvee_corner) was joined by Morgen McLaughlin (@sbcwinelady).  She is the recently installed Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association.  The SBCVA was kind enough to provide me and about ten other wine writers with a battery of six white wines from Santa Barbara County for the purpose of the event.  Further disclosure: I am a huge fan of Santa Barbara County wines and love having such a great and diverse wine region in my backyard.

Santa Barbara County gets a lot of attention for its Syrah and its Pinot Noir, but there are some world class whites there, too.  All four of Santa Barbara County’s AVAs got into the act.  Represented on the #winechat were Chardonnays from the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, Sauvignon Blancs, Viognier and Arneis from the Santa Ynez Valley and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.

Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

The SBCVA was established in 1983 and currently has over 100 wineries and more than 20 vineyards as members.  Sporting over 20,000 acres of vineyards and 65+ varieties, Santa Barbara County's wine industry has gone from next-to-nothing to a billion dollar business in less than 35 years.  As you might expect from an organization of wine people, the SBCVA has a big heart, too.  They have helped raise more than $40 million to aid folks around the world.


What makes Santa Barbara County unique among California wine regions are the transverse mountain ranges which make for distinct microclimates.  The ranges run east and west, rather than north and south, so the cool marine influence of the Pacific Ocean is channeled inland across the county.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are the three top varieties in SBC, particularly in the western part of the region closest to the ocean.  In the eastern part of the county, Rhône and Bordeaux varieties do quite well.


Winemaking in Santa Barbara County began in 1782 when Father Junipero Serra brought for planting cuttings of what would come to be known as Mission grapevines from Mexico.  Sacramental wine was the impetus, but Spanish rancheros also grew grapes and made wine for less lofty purposes.

In 1884 Justinian Caire imported vines from France and planted a 150-acre vineyard on Santa Cruz Island, just off Santa Barbara's coast. He made award-winning wines there until 1918.  Prohibition ended his efforts and stymied the entire wine industry in California and the rest of the US.

After Prohibition, a couple of UC Davis viticulture professors tabbed SBC as one of the state's potentially great grape-growing areas.  It was not until the 1970s that grape-growing and winemaking really took off in SBC. Through the '80s, experimentation pinpointed which grapes did their best in which locations.

The Wines

Here is what all the fuss is about, the beautiful and varied white wines of Santa Barbara County.  This selection of six wines shows the diversity of SBC's terroir.

Brewer-Clifton Gnesa Chardonnay 2010

Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton use grapes from the Sta. Rita Hills to make their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Lompoc.  Brewer is also winemaker at Melville and has his own label, diatom.  Clifton owns Palmina Wines.

Brewer and Clifton made 288 cases of this stunning Chardonnay, which retails for $48.  Lee Gnesa (knee-sa) planted his sandy, four-acre plot in 1996.  It has been farmed by Brewer-Clifton's vineyard team since 2009.

This wine's bouquet is a beautiful example of earth and oak playing off the lemony fruit.  It appears as a lovely yellow-gold in the glass and tastes of sweet citrus, cantaloupe, herbs and spices.  The acidity is fantastic and there is a touch of chalky salinity that shows on the palate.  At 14.5% abv, it's a fairly hefty white, but the Gnesa Chardonnay does not mimic the old-line "big California Chardonnay" stereotype.  It's a lean, mean Chardonnay machine.

Summerland Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2012 

Part of Summerland's Single Vineyard Collection, these Chardonnay grapes come from the Sierra Madre Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the AVA.  The wine turns in a 14.1% alcohol number and retails for $35.

Summerland Winery sources grapes from up and down the Central Coast AVA and produces the wine in Santa Maria.  The cute little seaside cottage tasting room is in Summerland.  Owner Nebil "Bilo" Zarif and winemaker Etienne Terlinden produce some outstanding boutique wines, some of which are popping up on Los Angeles restaurant wine lists with increasing regularity - usually the Pinor Noir.

Upon first tasting, I thought, "this Chardonnay is for those who like a good deal of oak influence in their wine."  From the golden color, to the rich and spicy nose to the buttery palate, every stave of oak seemed apparent to me.  It turns out the wine didn't really see that much oak, though - fermented and aged six months in French oak barrels, one-third new.  Malolactic fermentation was not completed and the lees were stirred every couple of weeks.

The nose is bursting with pineapple, lemon and tangerine aromas while an undercurrent of vanilla oak spice carries the sideshow along.  The palate boasts tropical fruit and citrus layered with some herbal elements and a bit of oak spice.  Putting a chill on the wine reduces the effect of the oak in both aroma and flavor.  There's also acidity a-plenty, so it is definitely a food wine.

Palmina Arneis 2011

Steve Clifton and his wife Chrystal make wine from Italian grape varieties, and the Arneis grape hails from Piemonte.  Translated variously as "whimsical," "rascally" and "a little crazy," it seems to have been named as a winemaker's grape.  Not to mention that it is sometimes ornery and difficult to grow.  This Arneis is grown in the sandy soil of Honea Vineyard, in the Los Olivos district of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Alcohol registers at 13.5% and this wine retails for $20.

The Palmina website extols some of the virtues of Arneis as: "a delightful aperitif, but also a wine with enough body and personality to hold its own with a wide range of strongly flavored food – prosciutto, pesto, grilled seafood.  Arneis is also a white wine that will continue to evolve with a few years of cellar aging."

It gives a golden straw hue in the glass and smells quite interesting.  Floral?  Yes, but it's more like the flowers and their stalks.  Citrus?  Yes, a nice spray from an orange peel.  There are scents and sensibilities of herbs and spices, too, with a mineral undercurrent.  On the palate, apricots hit me first, with a dash of green tea in tow.  Minerals are even more noticeable here, and a vibrant acidity runs through the sip just like it belongs - which it does.  It finishes with a gorgeous salinity.

Imagine Pearl Paradise Mountain Viognier 2010 

The grapes are from Paradise Road Vineyard - they call it Paradise Mountain - in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  At a thousand feet in elevation, the vineyard gets three times the rain of the valley floor.  Winemaker Ross Jay Rankin began producing in the late 1990s at the lovely Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  He now operates in the state-of-the-art Terravant facility in Buellton.

This $24 wine blows a 14.5% abv number  and it experienced 100% malolactic fermentation, imparting a rich creaminess.  It was fermented in steel, then half was aged in new French oak for three months, the other half in steel.

The Imagine Viognier leaves little to the imagination.  Lovely golden in the glass, its sweetly floral nose is laced with the aroma of nectarines.  On the palate are peaches and melons.  The lovely smell and taste of the wine are supported by a delightful acidity that refreshes and makes for great food pairing.  I liked it with kernel corn and peas, buttered and lightly dusted with sea salt.

Baehner Fournier Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012 

The names belong to Dr. Bob Baehner and Vickie Fournier Baehner.  Their Bordeaux grape varieties grow on 16 acres of hillside vineyards in the east side of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Oaks, chaparral and purple sage dot the countryside.  Their vineyards are named for the natural events they both see unfolding on their estate - Sunshine, Rainbow, Moonglow, Misty and Northstar.

From Happy Canyon's Vogelzang Vineyard, these Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrives in the warm eastern end of the Valley.  They say they try for more of a Loire expression than New Zealand, but I find the reverse is true.  This Sauvignon Blanc experiences two-thirds of its fermentation in steel, then finishes in oak, where it stays for six months aging on the spent yeast cells - the lees.  There is a 13.5% abv number, and a retail price of $20.

Steve Clifton - see him in two other wines here - is the consulting winemaker at Baehner Fournier, but the label lists Nick de Luca as winemaker on this white wine.

The nose gives off a lively grassy aroma, with beautiful notes of tangerine, grapefruit and melon.  On the palate, the grapefruit comes forth in mighty fashion and carries some orange peel along with it.  The acidity is very nice, but it doesn't break out the razor blades.  It's more of a lush experience imparted by the wine's time spent resting on the lees.  The wine is as fresh as can be, with a touch of creaminess that lasts into the finish.

Fontes & Phillips Sauvignon Blanc 2010 

Another husband/wife team, Alan Phillips and Rochelle Fontes-Phillips started this Santa Barbara County small-lot venture in 2008.  Their separate wine paths crossed in the Santa Cruz Mountains - he in the cellar, she in the office.  Their Sauvignon Blanc is whole cluster pressed, steel fermented and aged, with a 13.8% abv number.   They say the wine is made to emulate the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand, using grapes grown in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Only 112 cases were made, and it sells for $18.  The only label on the bottle is a pewter tab, hand-made in South America.

This strikes me as a California Sauvignon Blanc rather than one done in the New Zealand or Loire style.  Pale gold in the glass, aromas of peaches, pears and apricots lie under an herbal blanket without a trace of grassiness.  Fantastic acidity is right up front, while the flavors are mineral-driven fruit with a melon-like herbal sense.  Tangerine lingers on the finish, with a bit of the peel.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Palmina Wines of Santa Barbara County

It has always struck me that Palmina wines are made specifically to pair with food - so much so that they might seem a little less than impressive at first sniff or taste.  Their wines are made to pair with food, meaning they are made to complement the food, not show it up.  The full expression of their wines really doesn’t occur until they have been matched with food.  Steve Clifton states on the website, “Palmina is a Californian celebration of the rich, wonderful lifestyle and attitude toward food, wine, friends and family that exists in Italy

Clifton is one of the more focused of the “Cal-Italia” winemakers in the Golden State.  He and his wife, Chrystal, specialize in making wine from Italian grape varieties grown in Santa Barbara County.  They do not, he admits, try to emulate the Italian versions of those grapes.  They do try to allow their sense of place in the Central Coast to shine through.  All the while, they keep in mind the Italian perspective that wine isn’t merely a beverage, but one of the things which helps give life its meaning.  Wine is “an extension of the plate” at Palmina.

The wines of Palmina are notable for their acidity, a must when pairing wine with food.  Their flavors are delicious without overwhelming the palate.  The food is the star in Clifton’s philosophy, wine is the supporting actor.

I had the pleasure of experiencing quite a full tasting of Palmina wines at the Wine Warehouse tasting event on April 24, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.  I don’t usually have food at large wine tasting events, but this time I found myself drifting over to an appetizer station between samples.

The Palmina whites are great sippers on their own, but the minerality and acidity found in their Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, Arneis and Malvasia Bianca almost make a food pairing mandatory.  The Malvasia Bianca, from the Santa Ynez Valley’s Larner Vineyard, is the one Palmina white that displays a nose and palate that might compete with food.  The floral element in this one is enormous and beautiful.

The Botasea Rosato di Palmina is a beautiful pink blend of Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo.  It is not produced in the saignée method, where juice is bled off in the process of making a red wine.  All the fruit for this rosé was picked especially to make this wine.  It’s nice and dry, with a light cherry flavor that could beckon spring on its own.

As for the reds, Palmina’s Dolcetto is light and breezy, the Barbera offers a light touch of smoke and the Nebbiolo is lightweight yet tannic.  Alisos is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot.  It was the first wine made by Palmina, in 1997.  The wine is produced by allowing some of the Sangiovese grapes to dry and become raisins.  They are then vinified and blended with the previously vinified wine.

If you find you really need a wine that packs its own punch, Palmina’s Undici has a big nose of smoke and chocolate-covered cherries.  The Sangiovese fruit comes from the Honea Vineyard, and there are traces of Malvasia Bianca in the mix.  The Nebbiolo from the Sisquoc Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley offers a huge expression of fresh cherries and an array of spices that would fill a spice rack.  TheStolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo has great grip and a palate based in cherry and layered with a host of other delicacies.