Showing posts with label Blanc de Blancs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blanc de Blancs. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kosher Wines For Rosh Hashanah

If you need kosher wines for Rosh Hashanah - which begins at sunset on September 20th, 2017 and runs through sunset on September 22nd - there are some good ones and some not-so-good ones out there. Of course, if you're happy with Mad Dog and your family prefers the taste of grape juice over wine, then you're probably all set. You can get a half barrel of it for seven bucks. If you want something more like a fine wine, however, read on.

Galil Mountain Winery and Golan Heights Winery are both Israeli producers. You may not have even considered that wine is made in Israel, but it is and it's often really good and it's kosher.

Golan Heights Winery describes their part of Israel this way: "The Galilee (or Galil) is the most northern, and generally considered the best, appellation in Israel. The highest quality area within the appellation is the Golan Heights (or simply the Golan), the coldest region in Israel. The vineyards on this volcanic plateau rise from 1,300 feet above sea level to 3,900 feet and receive snowfall in the winter." The region is known as Israel’s "wine country."

The winery’s first vintage was the 1983 Sauvignon Blanc. Since then, it has been operated as "strictly Kosher" from the vineyard to the winery. Head winemaker Victor Schoenfeld leads a team that has trained around the world.  Schoenfeld says wine "has the power to embody the culture, language, scents and people of its region."

Yarden Blanc de Blancs

Blanc de Blancs is a fancy term for a sparkling wine made only from Chardonnay grapes. The Yarden Blanc de Blancs is made completely from those that were grown in Israel’s Golan Heights region. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the wine was aged for a minimum of four years. Alcohol is quite manageable at 12% abv. It retails for $31.

The wine fizzes up quite bit, but the bubbles dissipate quickly. Its nose shows tons of toast and an earthy, yeasty quality that is undeniable. The savory aromas lead to a palate that displays more of that holy soil, embedded in a vibrant, but not quite racy acidity. It has great weight and offers the kind of taste treats one expects from Champagne.

Yarden Malbec

The 100% Malbec wine is sourced in Yonatan Springs in central Golan Heights.  It's aged for 18 months in French oak, carries an alcohol number of 14.5% abv and retails for $33.

It's a wine that is dark to its core, in tint, aroma and taste. Blackberry and currant bring the fruit smells, while a savory aspect rivals it in the form of tar and spice. The palate is rich and dense, with dark fruit flavor and the mark of a year and a half in oak. The tannins are firm, but not overpowering. It rivals other popular-brand Malbecs, but comes at a higher price.

Galil Mountain Winery Yiron

Yiron is a Bordeaux-style blend from upper Galilee. The wine is Kosher, but not Mevushal.
Galil Mountain's head of winemaking Boaz Mizrachi Adam says he follows advice to "do the best you can without hurting future generations."

This wine features 56% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 32% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot. Winemaker Micha Vaadia aged it for 16 months in French oak barrels. At 15% abv, it’s wise to keep an eye on uncle Julius if he’s driving. Retail is $32.

This dark wine has aromas of cassis with a savory backbeat. Anise and leather join the fruit on the nose. The sip offers a tasty expression of the grapes involved, with an earthy element that's not quite pencil shavings and not quite olives, but close on both counts. The tannins are a bit toothy, but that brisket probably needs a good taming.

The wines of both wineries start at under $20.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Italian Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is too often relegated to "special occasions," due in part to its festive appearance and in part to its sometimes hefty price tag. This is a splashy and affordable bubbly that can be used to celebrate every day, regardless of its special nature. After all, every day is special and should be greeted as such.

Italy's alpine Trento DOC is a sparkling wine region in Trentino. Rotari, along with Ferrari and Cavit, are one of the larger producers in Trentino. They use the traditional method of making wine bubbly - Metodo Classico - and conduct a second fermentation in the bottle. There, the wine ages for 24 months. This Brut is vintage dated 2013.

It’s a Blanc de Blancs, meaning it’s made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in the Dolomites area, "in the shadow of the Italian Alps." It has alcohol at the sparkling standard of 12.5% abv and sells for under $20.

This Italian sparkler has bubbles for days. Well, at least for the good part of a minute. The pour produces a white, frothy head that looks like it won't dissipate, although it eventually does. The nose and palate both evoke crisp apples and the acidity is as fresh as the proverbial daisy. The toast note is more like a good piece of sandwich bread or boule. It paired well with my wife’s delicious autumn vegetable soup and a crusty bread.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New York Bubbles: Sparkling Wines From The Finger Lakes

Fresh off kudos as wine region of the year, New York continues to impress from the various wine regions of the Empire State.  The Finger Lakes area has probably achieved the most notice, due in large part to the work being done with Riesling grapes there.  They do more than Riesling, though, as a virtual wine tasting event showed recently.  I participated in the Twitter tasting of Finger Lakes sparkling wines, in which three different bottles showed the diversity of the region's bubbles.

To see the conversation thread and comments from the participants and winemakers, you can view that here.

@JamieGall1930 got the conversation going by asking, "Who doesn't love a little bit of bubbly especially around the holidays?"  @thewinegetter agreed, "True, popping sparklers is always great. I was tempted to saber one or two, but it's too cold outside."  Somebody always has to get out the sword!

Glenora Wine Cellars 2005 Brut Méthode Champenoise  $30

Glenora winemaker Steve DiFrancesco and vineyard manager Chris King combine as co-workers to create the impressive line of wines from the Seneca Lake winery.  The grapes - 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir - were grown during the warm 2005 vintage.  A moderate residual sugar of 1.2% makes for a clean, crisp balance and creaminess while the 12% abv should be a level that's easy to handle for anyone.  The wine got a long aging period, so the semi-dry bubbly shows some great toasty flavors.  This wine makes up only 171 cases of the 45,000 cases produced.

On Twitter, @amybcleary admitted, "I enjoyed all 3, but admit that this was the first bottle emptied."  Since we were only a few minutes into the event, she clarified, “Note: I'm at work, so had to pre-drink earlier this week. I'm not that fast a drinker."  That’s what I tell everyone, too, Amy!  @thewinegetter had a favorable review, "Seriously impressed with the 2005 @Glenorawine! Nice tart apple, some raisin aromas, and tobacco."

I find the toastiness a little subdued at first, but the earth and fruit are stunning.  After a few sips, the toasty, yeasty nature comes on a bit more.  The mark of the aging is the creamy quality of this wine.  My wife couldn't get over it - she calls it buttery - raving about the mouthfeel and the finish while pretending to cajole another glass from me.  I'm always happy to share.

The bubbles pour up festive - small and tall - before dissipating into the rich, golden liquid quickly.  The buttery, tangy Crucolo cheese is a perfect fit with this bubbly, and almost as nice with Castlevetrano olives.

Dr Konstantin Frank Chateau Frank Célèbre  $21

The sparkling winemaker at Dr. Frank is Eric Bauman, and his cause célèbre is Riesling - fitting, since he's at the place that pioneered Riesling in New York state.  It was a radical departure in the 1950s, when North American varieties were considered the only type that could be grown in the cold climate of New York.  Fortunately, Dr. Frank didn't pay attention to the naysayers and started a wine revolution.

The comments were favorable on social media.  @50StatesOfWine effused, "Love that @DrFrankWine is making a sparkling Riesling!"  @thewinegetter tweeted, "Really nice Riesling Cremant from @DrFrankWine. Residual sugar a hit with my friends. I love the liquorice aromas.  Reminds me of German Sekt."

Located on the Keuka Lake Wine trail, the winery takes grapes for this bubbly not only from the Keuka estate, but also from their estate vineyard on Seneca Lake.  The 100% Riesling is made in the cremant style, méthode champenoise.  This means it's made exactly the same way Champagne is made.  Whole-cluster pressing results in what I call a nice greenness, while the 11% abv number makes for a very drinkable wine.  The 3% residual sugar means it is definitely on the sweet side of the street.

The pale sparkler sure whips up a froth when poured.  Medium-sized bubbles come up like a skyrocket before settling down after a bit.  The yeasty aroma is plain from a distance, and the wine's nose is all Riesling.  There is even a hint of petrol amidst the earthy fragrance of pears.  On the palate, Riesling is apparent again.  Great, sweet fruit is touched with a hint of earth and sourdough bread, and the finish really takes its time.  Zippy acidity practically begs for food to be paired with it, while the sweetness says, "Make it spicy!"

Lakewood Vineyards Blanc de Noir  $30

Winemaker Christopher Stamp is the grandson of the farm's founders.  He has 25 vintages as a winemaker under his belt.  David Stamp - another grandson - oversees the grape growing in the family's 80 acres of vineyards on the west side of Seneca Lake.  Alcohol is restrained - as usual in the Finger Lakes - at 12% abv.  210 cases were produced, and the wine retails for $30.  It's 100% Pinot Noir."

Those gathered on the Twitter stream were impressed.  @50StatesOfWine asked, "First sparkler a Catawba, then a Chardonnay, now a Pinot Noir - what will @LakewoodWines do next?!"  @LocalVinacular commented, "the first 2  sparkling wines we'd have for sipping wines, but we like the @LakewoodWines Blanc de Noir to pair with food."

The golden hue is beautiful and inviting.  There is earth and yeast on the nose, with the earthy side carrying more weight.  Scents of apple, pear and a bit of apricot lay underneath the textural design.  On the palate, the flavor of crisp green apples really shines, while the earth notes take a step back to let the fruit do its job.  They do not shrink away entirely, however, so there is enough of the good Seneca Lake soil in the mix to provide a great counterpoint.  The acidity is sterling and the wine feels quite full in the mouth.  Paired with Crucolo cheese from northern Italy, nice; with our fruit and nut bread from La Brea Bakery, perfect.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Holiday Wines 2014: Riverbench

A series on wines for the holidays

October means it is not too early to start thinking about holiday wines.  I think about them all year long.  As the months pass, I make little lists of the wines I want on my holiday table, with my holiday feast.  I know I'm not alone in that little obsession.  I hope I'm not, anyway.

I have asked some wine folks to help me do a little less obsessing this holiday season by outlining which of their wines they feel are special.  The requests went out right about the time harvest was getting underway - great timing! - so I really appreciate the effort the responses required.

image courtesy

Laura Booras is General Manager of Riverbench Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria, CA.  The former tarheel moved from North Carolina to California wine country in 2004.  It was no surprise - her family has ties in the business end of wine.

Laura is a bit of an expert on pairing wine with food, so we should all pay attention to her suggestions and benefit from them.  She recommends the following Riverbench wines for your holiday feasting and entertaining:

2011 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blanc Demi Sec sparkling wine ($38)
Laura says, "Don't be fooled: this wine is anything but super sweet.  The touch of residual sugar brings out a whole different flavor profile of lime and brioche.  It's perfect for an aperitif (think blue cheese quiches) or creamy desserts (panna cotta, cheesecake, pumpkin pie)."

2011 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine ($38)
"This sparkler is celebratory and delicious - our classic and traditional take on sparkling wine, boasting pretty flavors of lemon curd, yeasty brioche, apple and pear, so it's a nice addition to the holiday table.  I pair it with cheese plates, salads, also quiche and other yummy bites."

2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22)
"Light and fresh, this wine pairs mouthwateringly well with almost any food.  It's a classic with turkey (especially our brined turkey recipe).  Rosé and turkey is one of my favorite things."

2011 Mesa Pinot Noir ($48)
"I call this my Thanksgiving wine because of its stronger clove and spice aromas and flavors. Elegant, smooth red fruit flavors coat the tongue, and the finish of earth and mushrooms adds a sophisticated tone.  It’s just lovely with stuffing and gravy, and if a little lingers for dessert, that’s ok, too."

Laura Booras
General Manager
Riverbench Vineyard and Winery

Vineyard, Tasting Room, and Mailing Address:
6020 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, California 93454

Visit us at our new location in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone:”
137 Anacapa Street, Suite C
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

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Thursday, November 24, 2011


The Massachusetts wine industry is a relative newcomer to the national wine scene - the state's first winery of the modern era opened in 1971.  

Massachusetts boasts only about 30 wineries, but they are making a name for themselves.  Several folks who know a lot more about Massachusetts wine than I do have told me it's high time that wine from the Bay State got its due.

The grapes you'll find growing in Massachusetts are likely to be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris.  They are also growing some American hybrids like Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.  Wine made from fruit other than grapes is also in the picture, and mead - wine made from honey - figures in to the winescape.

Wine Country has already visited Massachusetts - Cape Cod Winery - which gave us a chance to try a wine made from hybrid grapes.  This time, we taste some more traditional winemaking grapes.

Westport Rivers is a small, family-owned farm in Westport, Massachusetts which has been growing grapes and making wine for 25 years.  Over that time they have racked up a lot of gold medals and good press, but they are most proud of the fact that their wine has been served in the White House under two administrations.

Their website sings the praises of their "dark, rich, New England loam on well drained gravel."  The cool New England weather is tempered by the Gulf Stream, which warms the South Coast of Massachusetts.  Westport Rivers is situated in the Southeastern 
New England AVA, where most of the Massachusetts wineries are located.  They are also a member of the Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England.

The folks at Westport Rivers also sing the praises of their wines.  They point out that their wines are literally tailor-made to go with the seafood and cheeses of their region.  Westport Rivers was kind enough to provide six of their wines for the Now And Zin 
Wine Country series.

Westport Rivers Pinot GrisWestport Rivers Pinot Gris 2009 - After harvest they let the grapes sit in the press for a few hours before pressing, to give the wine some color and aromatics from the skins.  It works!  The wine has a great golden tint and the nose is bouquet of flowers - a big bouquet.  There's also a touch of minerality in the aromas which comes across more like a gentle earthiness.  The palate plays peaches against melons with a lovely herbal quality rising along with some acidity to keep things food friendly. 

Westport Rivers Pinot NoirWestport Rivers Pinot Noir 2010 - At 13.2% abv, this is much more old world than new.  Medium ruby in color, the nose on this Pinot Noir shows muted raspberry and a strong herbal aroma that smacks of greenness. It's nothing like a whiff of high octane Cali Pinot, that's for sure. The palate shows that same herbal edge, reminiscent of Cabernet Franc, and it weighs in nearly equally with the red plum and sour cherry flavors. The minerality is strong, the acidity lip smacking. It's herbaceousness and acidity show that the winemakers were thinking of the state's seafood bounty when they crafted this one.  It's a light, even delicate, framework for a wine that's more about feel than flavor. 

Westport Rivers ChardonnayWestport Rivers Chardonnay 2009 - 100% estate-grown Chardonnay, this wine is 80% aged in French oak, sur-lie.  Letting wine rest on the dead yeast during fermentation imparts a richer, fuller feeling.  That does not come at the expense of acidity, though - there’s plenty of acid to tingle the taste buds.  Big tropical aromas and spices dominate the nose, while the palate also gets the palm-tree treatment - there are traces of pineapple, guava, banana and even a little coconut in the flavor profile. There's also a trace of lemon peel and even a ginger-like quality that flirts on the palate.  That earthy minerality shows up here, too, as it did in in Pinot Gris.  It's quite a complex little Chardonnay, and - once again - not very California.  A 12.2% abv number makes for a very drinkable wine.

Westport Rivers BrutWestport Brut RJR 2006 - A traditional method sparkler comprised of 65% Pinot Noir grapes and 35% Chardonnay, the Brut has a light golden hue.  The frothy head dissipates quickly.  Its nose reminds me of earthy peaches, very ripe.  I swear I smell mayhaw jelly.  On the palate there's a distinct banana flavor and a toastiness with that earthy quality.  A light mouthfeel and a lingering sense of banana candy give me plenty to ponder while sipping. This is a singular sparkler in my tasting experience.  It's fascinating.  By the way, RJR stands for Robert James Russell, Westport Rivers' winemaker. 

Westport Rivers Blanc de BlancsBlanc de Blancs Ultra Brut 2000- This yellow-gold sparkler offers one of the most pungent noses I've ever experienced in a sparkling wine. The tropical aromas I found in the Chardonnay are here, along with a heaping helping of toasty earthiness. The Blanc de Blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is aged over seven years before finishing.  The palate is rich and citrusy, with plenty of bubbles and a bracing acidity.  There's a very intense nutty quality i find fascinating  It does wonders for a handful of peanuts!  The winery recommends you pair it with oysters, and that would seem to be an even better choice. 

Westport Rivers GraceGrace Chardonnay NV - This is their aperitif Chardonnay, one of those gold medal winners they like to brag about. Westport Rivers blends their eau de vie of Chardonnay with fresh pressed Chardonnay juice, then they age it in French oak.  Repeat for seven 
vintages and you've got Grace.  It has an alcohol content of 17.5% abv, so you'll want to go easy on it before operating heavy machinery. This wine looks terrific in the glass.  It's a rich shade tending towards amber, almost like bourbon.  Gorgeous aromas of caramel and honey just about knock me off my feet. The palate is awash with flavors of lemon peel drenched in dark honey.  After regaining consciousness, I realize what great acidity this wine has - feel free to bring on the fattiest cheese and pâté for it.

The one thing that keeps appearing in the wines of Westport Rivers is the amazing terroir, the sense of earth that permeates each of the wines I tried.  It marks each wine as a distinctive representative of Wine Country Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


With all the attention that California, Oregon, Washington and New York receive as wine producing states, it's sometimes difficult to remember that "the other 46" states also make important contributions to America's winescape.  Let's take a look at a Michigan winery in this edition of Wine Country.

In an interview with the wine blog "Michigan By The Bottle," Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, says over the past decade, the wine industry in Michigan has grown ten to fifteen percent each year.  She says Michigan is the eighth largest producer of wine grapes in the U.S.

Suttons Bay, Michigan is in the northwestern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, just east of Lake Leelanau.  The tiny town is about halfway up the eastern shore of the Leelanau Peninsula.  It sports a Farmers Market, a lighthouse, a state park, a casino and a handful of small wineries, including one that's unique, in that it only makes sparkling wines.

L. Mawby Vineyards - and their M. Lawrence label - produce 14 different sparkling wines, many of them made from the traditional grapes for bubbly: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They do produce one sparkler made from Vignoles, a hardy grape that thrives in cold weather.

Of the four Michigan bubblies I tried - kindly supplied by L. Mawby Vineyards - two bear the L. Mawby label and were produced using the méthode champenoise, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  The two wines under the M. Lawrence flag are produced in the méthode cuve close, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in a closed tank.

L. Mawby Vineyards produces 14 different sparkling wines, and all but one are non-vintage efforts.  Their top of the line entry - the 2002 Mille - is $50, but most of their offerings sell for between $13-$22.  The two L. Mawby wines received a brut dosage of 0.8 percent residual sugar, while the M. Lawrence Sex received a slightly higher brut dosage of 1.4 percent RS.  The final wine I'll mention, M. Lawrence Fizz, is finished with a Demi-Sec dosage of 3.5 percent RS.

These wines, as different as they are, are all very well made and are quite impressive.

L. Mawby Cremant ClassicThe L. Mawby Cremant Classic is made from 100% Leelanau Peninsula Vignoles from the Cremant Vineyard.  It's an impressive wine, with frothy white bubbles, sweet citrus notes and almonds on the nose, lots of nuts in the flavor profile and a pleasant lemony feel on the palate.  It shows a very pleasant sensation of ginger beer on the finish.  The grapes used in making this wine - and the other three I'll mention - are hand-harvested and whole cluster pressed.  Only the cuvée - the initial, gently pressed juice - is used in making the Cremant Classic.  It retails for $22.

L. Mawby Blanc de BlancsL. Mawby Blanc de Blancs - like the Cremant Classic - is also produced in the méthode champenoise.  It's a non-vintage sparkler of 100% Chardonnay from the Leelanau Peninsula AVA.  Only the cuvée is used and it is bottle fermented and aged a minimum of 24 months.  This wine sports a nutty nose with lemon-lime citrus notes and a yeasty feel on both the nose and palate.  It's bright and festive, and retails for $19.

M. Lawrence SexThe M. Lawrence Sex is a rosé bubbly made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay grapes.  This one is a tad sweeter, getting a Brut dosage of 1.4% RS.  Again, only the cuvée is used, but this wine is produced using cuve closefermentation - receiving its second fermentation in a closed tank.

It is aptly named, as the wine is sexy looking, with a deep pink rosato-style coloring and those frothy white fine bubbles, this time with a nose of cherry candy and strawberries.  Very fruity aromas mingle with a slight herbal edge and a bready nose.  The taste is vivid and bright, bursting with flavor and acidity.  An extremely refreshing mouthfeel sports a touch of earthiness on the finish.  It is extremely drinkable and extremely food-friendly.  You'll find it's a little sweeter than the Cremant and the Blanc de Blancs but just barely so, with 1.4 percent residual sugar.  The retail price of Sex is $15, a bargain.

M. Lawrence FizzFizz is also under the M. Lawrence label, and it's their sweetest sparkling wine.  Produced from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay grapes, Fizz differs from the other three L. Mawby wines I tasted, in that the tailles juice is used - the second fraction of juice pressed, after cuvée - and it's finished with a Demi-Sec dosage, 3.5% RS.

Fizz is honey-golden in color with a honey aroma on the yeasty apricot nose.  There's a slight taste of honey on the palate, too, but it’s not anywhere near overly sweet.  The finish is long and satisfying.  Fizz is sold for $13 retail.

The Wine Country stop in Michigan gave us four wonderful sparkling wines with ten more on the L. Mawby menu to try.  These wines are special enough to save for special occasions, but why wait?  Every day is special in its own way.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011


Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 North Carolina

The North Carolina Winegrowers Association had only about 20 members in North Carolina in 1994.  Today their membership numbers about 350, so the growth in winemaking in North Carolina has been fairly explosive.

Winemaking actually goes back to the early days in North Carolina's history, according to the NCWGA, but it wasn't until the 1970s that Muscadine growers formed an organization and got serious about it.  A decade later, interest in European wine grapes - vinifera - really brought North Carolina's winemaking efforts to the forefront.

Biltmore Estate Winery is one of the big names in North Carolina wine.  Most wine estates have grapes figuring prominently.  At Biltmore Estates - due to its size, splendor and history - wine takes a plush backseat to the mansion itself, a structure built by George Washington Vanderbilt II.

Located in the Mountain Region, in the western part of the state, Biltmore grows a number of different vinifera varieties and produces about 75,000 cases of wine each year.  Head winemaker Bernard Delille oversees the winemaking operation, which is housed in what was once the estate's dairy.  He was schooled in Lyon, France and did his internship in the Bordeaux region - pretty good credentials.  He's been with Biltmore since 1986.  Winemaker Sharon Fenchak, a Pennsylvanian, joined their ranks in 1999.

Biltmore joined the Now And Zin Wine Country series when they sent three of their wines for me to sample.

Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 North Carolina

Biltmore does make a Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes from California's Alexander Valley.  This Cab uses 89% homegrown North Carolina grapes and 11% California fruit.  The wine is composed of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Syrah and 1% Malbec.  The alcohol content is a moderate 13.9% abv.

The juice of the grapes is fermented in stainless steel, on the skins, and then transferred to French and American oak barrels, where it ages for 14 months. It retails for $19.

The color of the wine is quite dark fruit on the nose along with an herbal note.  The flavors are dark, too, with plum and blackberry riding on very pronounced tannins.  It's dry, and seems to become drier after sitting awhile.  An earthy minerality is the kicker on a very pleasant drink, which will perform well with any kind of meat you are serving.

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay 2009 North CarolinaBiltmore Reserve Chardonnay 2009 North Carolina

North Carolina fruit is 83% of the Chardonnay's makeup, while California grapes account for 17%.  Chardonnay grapes comprise 97% of the wine, with a 3% smattering of Viognier.  The alcohol is restrained, at 13.7% abv, and the retail price is $15.

The Biltmore Chardonnay is barrel fermented in French and American oak, with about half the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation.  This process is what creates a creamy texture from the more acidic malic acid.  The wine is aged for 6-8 months before bottling.

Its golden-green hue is pretty, and some fine bubbles formed on the sides of the glass.  There is a lot of oak showing on the nose, reminiscent of the big California Chardonnays.  There are some tropical notes, as well as a citrus scent.  On the palate, the fruit shows better than I thought it would, with pears and mangoes taking the lead.  The big, buttery play is there, for sure, but so is a surprising citrus zing.  I didn’t expect such a zippy acidity, and it's a pleasure to find.

Biltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de BlancsBiltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2008 North Carolina Méthode Champenoise Brut

This sparkling wine is 100% Chardonnay, with 88% of the grapes grown in North Carolina, 12% in California.  At 12.4% abv, it's quite drinkable and it sells for $35.

Fermented in stainless steel, the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle and ages 12-16 months before disgorging.  It's a lovely golden straw sparkler with a yeasty nose showing nutty aromas.  Orange and pineapple flavors on the palate are topped by a touch of yeast and a bit of toasty almond on the finish.  The bubbles are festive and plentiful, leaving a frothy beard on the glass.

The Biltmore Estate wines can be found in stores throughout the southern and eastern U.S., or from their online store.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine 2005

Great celebrations cry out for something bubbly. My wife and I celebrated a wedding anniversary recently and decided to crack open a Calistoga sparkler that had gone unused last holiday season. It was a wine we had bought for $28, if memory serves.

The Bottle: A traditional Champagne-style bottle houses this sparkling wine. The label describes the wine as 100% Chardonnay and 13% abv. It's a Brut style sparkler produced in the traditional Methode Champenoise manner of secondary fermentation in the bottle. There is some barrel fermentation employed.

The Nose
: This Blanc de Blancs pours up a very pale gold with a tall white layer of foam on top. The nutty nose shows lots of minerals and a bit of a funky side, probably a by-product of the wood.

The Taste: There's a strong sense of lime zest on the palate along with some tropical notes. It's a dry taste that frankly left me rather cold at first. I found that it grew on me, though, after a couple of of glasses. I don't normally have sparkling wine with food - I'm one of the few not that attracted to sparkling wine in the first place - but this time I had it with English farmhouse cheddar on a wheat cracker. It was really quite nice.