Showing posts with label Gewurztraminer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gewurztraminer. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2023

Israeli White Wine With Great Nose, Palate And Acidity

The Sinai White M Series 2021 from Israel's Psâgot winery is made from 76% Gewürztraminer grapes, 10% Viognier, 7% Chardonnay and 7% Sauvignon Blanc, all grown in the northern part of the Jerusalem Mountains.

Alcohol tips only 13% abv, retails is $25 and winemaker Sam Soroka attests that the wine is kosher for Passover and mevushal. 

The floral and fruity nose is as sweet as could be hoped for, while the palate offers fleshy peach, pear and melon flavors with a nice acidity that begs for food pairing. I had mine with a delicious white pizza, and it was perfect.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Wente: First Family Of CA Chardonnay

Wente Vineyards in the Livermore Valley changed California Chardonnay forever.  The grape clone which is used to make 80% of American Chardonnay is here thanks to Wente.  In 1912, German immigrant C.H. Wente planted a cutting from from the vine nursery at France's University of Montpellier.  That Chardonnay plant became the Wente clone of the grape.  The Wente family was the first in California to produce a varietally labeled Chardonnay in 1936 made from their heritage Wente clones.

To get a bit geeky, In viticulture a "clone" refers to vines descended from a single plant by taking a cutting or bud.  Each vine grown on a clone is said to be genetically identical to the original vine.

Wente is the country's oldest continuously operated family-owned winery, now run by the family's 4th and 5th-generations.  A virtual tasting event was hosted recently by the family historian, Phil Wente, and winegrower Niki Wente, who walked a group of virtual tasters through five different styles of their line, which defines California Chardonnay.

The 2016 Morning Fog Chardonnay from Wente is made nearly completely from estate-grown Chardonnay grapes, with a 2% splash of Gewürztraminer to sweeten the mix.  The wine was fermented half in neutral American oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks.  The oak provides hints of vanilla and enhances the mouthfeel while the steel preserves its fruit flavors.  Aging took place over five months sur lie, or in contact with the spent yeast cells, stirred monthly and adding a creaminess to the wine.  Half of the steel portion was racked with no aging.   Alcohol content is restrained at 13.5% abv. 

The name of Morning Fog not surprisingly references the coastal blanket pushed by Pacific winds into the bowl of the San Francisco Bay and lured inland by Livermore Valley's traverse, or east- west, orientation.  The wine sells for $18.

This yellow-gold wine rings the "old-style Cali" bell in all the right ways.  A nose of apricots, mangoes and apples is helped along with the smell of buttered popcorn.  Oak treats the palate as well, draping over the tropical fruit like a sunshade.  The acidity is zesty, yet the mouthfeel tends toward creaminess due to the wine sitting on the lees for five months.  The oak is a definite part of the wine, but the effect is softened enough so that it's a pleasure, not a pain.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Wente: A Single-Vineyard Chardonnay

If you love Chardonnay, you probably love Wente Vineyards, and you may not know it.  The grape clone which is used to make 80% of American Chardonnay is here thanks to Wente.  In 1912, German immigrant C.H. Wente planted a cutting from from the vine nursery at France's University of Montpellier.  That Chardonnay plant became the Wente clone of the grape.

To get a bit geeky, In viticulture a "clone" refers to vines descended from a single plant by taking a cutting or bud.  Each vine grown on a clone is said to be genetically identical to the original vine.

Wente is the country's oldest continuously operated family-owned winery, now run by the family's 4th and 5th-generations.  A virtual tasting event was hosted recently by the family historian, Phil Wente, and winegrower Niki Wente, who walked us through five different styles of their line that defined California Chardonnay. 

The Wente family is five generations deep into the wine business and are sometimes referred to as "California's First Family of Chardonnay."  They say they were the first in California to make a varietally labeled Chardonnay, in 1936.

Wente Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2016

Six different clones of Chardonnay grapes were used in making this wine, all from Wente's Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.  There's a 2% splash of Gewürztraminer in the mix.  The Wentes say Arroyo Seco is the best place in California to grow Chardonnay due to its "cool growing season with the deep gravelly soil" which both help ripen the grapes and balance the sugar and acidity.

About 90% of the wine was barrel fermented in French and American oak, 60% new.  The remaining 10% was fermented in stainless steel.  The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and was barrel-aged on the lees for eight months.  Alcohol 14.5% abv and it sells for $22.

This Chardonnay is oaked to what I hope is the maximum point.  On the nose, a strong vanilla scent meets a Carmen Miranda hat of tropical fruit, like pineapple, mango and banana.  The acidity is zippy yet the mouthfeel is creamy, thanks to the malo.  Citrus lasts the longest on the finish, but it has to fight it out with the oak to do so.  If you're in the mood for a good ol' fashioned California Chardonnay, this is your bottle.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Drink Pink: LBD Rosé Blends Red, White Grapes

This is an unusual rosé blend, in that it is made up largely of white wine grapes. The mix is 54% Gewürztraminer, 23% Muscat, 14% Chardonnay, 5% Zinfandel and 4% other white varieties. For every time I have had a beginning wine lover ask me, "So, rosé is just red and white wine mixed together, right?" I wish I had a sip of this one, which really is one of those imagined pinkies.

The Little Black Dress folks like to say, "Confidence turns heads and sophistication is the rule," when talking about their wines. They are confident, and with good reason. Even without a fancy, single-vineyard label - actually, with only "California" to describe the wine’s origin - they manage to put a really distinctive wine in the bottle. They did it with the Chardonnay, and damned if they didn't do it with the rosé as well. Winemaker Margaret Leonardi makes good juice for this Mendocino winery.

The LBD Rosé shows only a faint salmon-pink hue in the glass. The nose is defined by the Gewürztraminer, all flowery and springlike. There's a cherry/strawberry note from the Zinfandel and a bit of apricot from the Muscat, so it's really a complex rosé bouquet. On the palate the Zin hardly shows up at all, giving way to the fancy, floral white grapes with whom it is no doubt unaccustomed to working. It's off-dry, maybe even medium, but it is no White Zin - if that has you worried. The Gewürztraminer carries the flavor profile, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More Evidence Of Lodi's Value To Wine World

Lodi, California never ceases to amaze me in its efforts to prove itself worthy of inclusion in the the Great Wine Region discussion. Generations upon generations of agriculture flows through the Mokelumne River, and the growers like to proudly stand in the delta dirt and talk about how Lodi wine has grown up. Lodi has worked tirelessly to throw off the "jug wine" perception, work that probably started when they rebranded themselves from the "Tokay Capital of the World" to the "Zinfandel Capital of the World." The Lodi wine industry stepped up so bravely that it was was recognized as Wine Region of the World by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2015.

The folks at LoCA, the Wines of Lodi, work with Brandlive to periodically stage virtual tasting events designed to get a few dozen wine writers excited about the region’s wineries. They needn't try so hard - we are already excited about Lodi. So much so that the annual Wine Blogger’s Conference 2016 is set to be held there in August.

The most recent virtual event focused on wines made from grapes in Lodi's noted Mokelumne Glen Vineyard.  In case the word looks unfamiliar to you, or even if you think you have it figured out, Mokelumne is pronounced Mo-KUL-uh-me, according to the vineyard's website. Once again, the event was hosted on a video feed by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant Winery and Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission. On either side of him were Markus Niggli, winemaker at Borra Vineyards and Markus Wine Company and Brett Koth, Vineyard Manager at Mokelumne Glen Vineyards. I was provided with samples of the wines for the purpose of the event.

Mokelumne Glen Vineyards is a small, family-owned vineyard specializing in grape varieties that originated in Germany and Austria. They are in the Lodi Appellation as well as the Mokelumne River sub-appellation.

There are more than 40 different grape varieties growing in their sandy, granitic soil, including Riesling, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Zweigelt and Bacchus. The last one, I had never even heard of until this event introduced it to me.  Their collection of vines is reported to be the largest gathering of German and Austrian grapes in the U.S.

Koth spoke knowledgeably on his grapes, while Niggli offered his take as a winemaker who uses their fruit regularly. The vineyard only sells their fruit to a handful of vintners, so Niggli feels fortunate to get his hands on some.

The grapes involved in this tasting are largely thought of as cool-climate grapes, while Lodi has a warm, Mediterranean climate.  Koth told us, however, that it’s cooler than people think where his grapes grow because of the delta effect and the proximity to the river. “Temperature fluctuation is the key, “ to maintaining these varieties, he said. That and early picking to ensure the high acidity for which the grapes are known.

Holman Cellars Uncharted Bacchus 2015  $25
An earthy white wine, what could be better? Whites need to be earthy, I feel. Terroir gives them character in a much more visceral way the with reds. Winemaker Jason Holman is based in Napa, and the Holman Cellars "micro-winery" produces wines in extremely small lots. They like to make great wines from forgotten grapes. Forgotten? As I said earlier, I never even knew about Bacchus before this.

The grape represents only 2% of Germany’s plantings, so it is apparently not that well-known even over there.  They made 45 cases of this 100% varietal wine, which is about two barrels worth. The three days of skin contact is followed by stainless-steel fermentation.

It’s a pale wine and has an earthy lanolin note on the nose. There’s a waxy quality on the palate that fits well with the apricot and nutmeg shadings. The acidity is very good in this most unusual wine. I thought it reminded me somewhat of the Symphony grape, but more muscular and not as sweet.

Markus NIMMO Lodi White Wine 2014  $22

Markus is Niggli’s own label, and the name NIMMO originated from his time in Perth, Australia. When he was new there, he remembered his way home by making a word of the first letters of the streets he needed to travel to get there. Australia plays a big part in Niggli’s career - it’s where the Swiss native was bitten bu the wine bug.

This white wine is made from 71% Kerner grapes, 13% Gewurztraminer, 11% Riesling and 5% Bacchus, all from Mokelumne Glen Vineyards. It is fermented in 60% new oak and aged there for nine months. The alcohol sits at 13.8% abv

Gewurz and Riesling in oak? Brett was shocked when he heard Niggli’s plans for those grapes, but he says the winemaker convinced him to "get on board."

Native yeast “brings higher alcohol at lower brix,” says Niggli. He says he thinks of the Kerner grape as "the unknown," and was intrigued by it enough to use it as the base for this wine. Three days skin contact before vinification gives good color, made richer by the use of oak.

The pale golden straw color is appealing, while the nose certainly isn’t scaring anyone away. Clean earth notes define the apple, papaya and lime aromas beautifully. The palate shows off-dry pear, apple and Meyer lemon flavors on a bed of acidity. Finishing long, it’s the earth and citrus that stays around after the sip. The wine’s body makes it a lot more versatile that just "salads and sipping." Niggli recommends you pair it with anything off the grill.

Hatton Daniels Lodi Zweigelt 2015  $24

Hatton Daniels Wine Cellars is the result of several wine enthusiasts putting a winemaker’s skill to good use. The website shows that winemaker Dan Fishman also creates the bottlings of the Donum Estate and Stemmler, but with Santa Rosa-based Hatton Daniels he works with small vineyards to produce elegant, focused wines.

The vintners say this Zweigelt is "vibrant and alive," and is "meant for drinking in large, glorious quantities." They also say it’s a zero-sulfur wine, which some claim prevents hangovers. They say they make "no claim in this regard, but further study is recommended." Only 72 cases were made.

This wine is a tart little blast of cool-climate German grape, grown in Lodi. The earth that shows on the nose is mind-blowing. Raspberry fruit, oh yeah. Coffee grounds? Yep. Cola? Mm hmm. Meat? There’s some of that. The palate shows just as savory and just as dark, with tart berries, black tea and pepper.

M2 Wines Belle Etoile Blanche 2014  $24

For those who didn’t take four years of French in high school, and for those who did but have forgotten most of it, Belle Etoile Blanche means "beautiful white star." The m2 wines late-harvest dessert creation blends four German grape varieties grown in Mokelumne Glen Vineyard , 35% Rieslaner, 25% Weissburgunder, 20% Riesling and 20% Gewurztraminer. This wine is naturally sweet and is not fortified. Three months fermentation was accomplished half in neutral French oak barrels and half in a stainless steel tank. Alcohol is light, at 13.3% abv and there is less than 10% residual sugar.

Layne Montgomery is the winemaker, and he had the grapes picked as late as the first day of November and whole-cluster pressed to add character to the flavor. Koth notes that it’s the only sweet wine produced the grapes of his vineyard.  The consensus seemed to be to pair this wine with any "stinky cheese" you prefer.

M2’s Belle Etoile Blanche is a delightful dessert wine that is pleasantly sweet without overdoing it. The nose is honey and apricots, while the palate shows a crisp and acidic palate that draws a line against cloying and stands well apart from it. The fruit is clean and ripe - certainly - and leaves a citrus and stone fruit finish after the sip. This will pair with cheese in a heartbeat or a fruit tart in about the same time.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tercero Wines Of Santa Barbara County

It had been a while since I stopped in on Larry Schaffer at his Los Olivos tasting room for Tercero Wines, so it was a great and pleasant surprise to see him in Los Angeles recently for a tasting event.

Schaffer uses grapes from some top-notch vineyard sites in Santa Barbara County to make his mostly-Rhônish wines. His reds seem to be what people really want to experience, but his whites are the show-stoppers, in my opinion. I love a good white wine, and the Tercero whites are much better than that.

Tercero 2013 Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley - This is possibly my favorite. It has a beautiful, savory nose and palate, with a slight funk and great acidity.  $25

Tercero 2014 Albarino, Santa Ynez Valley -  Funky and floral, the salinity comes through on the sip.  $25

Tercero 2014 Outlier Gewurztraminer - Floral to spare, but minerals make it more complex and less sweet than this grape usually turns out.  $25

2015 Mourvedre Rosé - Grapes from Vogelzang Vineyard, in the Happy Canyon AVA are footstomped and fermented, with some oak involved. The light cherry and strawberry flavors show wonderfully right now, and this rosé gets even better with age.  $25
Tercero 2011 Mourvedre Santa Barbara County - Schaffer likes the mix of warm and cool areas in a cool vintage, Larner and Camp Four vineyards being the draw here.  There is a great use of oak (nearly three years.)  He says it’s his best-selling red and he didn’t get to make an awful lot of the 2012 to be released soon.  $35

Tercero 2011 Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon - This wine is muscular and savory. Shaffer calls it, "my favorite grenache," and you just may as well.  $35

Tercero 2015 Abberation - 40% Cinsault, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre, all from the Camp 4 Vineyard in the newly created Los Olivos District. It’s a steel-aged red, and it takes a chill very well and still shows the dark earthiness of the soil.  $35

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Alto Adige Wine: Gewürtztraminer

A recent online tasting session featuring wines of Italy’s Alto Adige region was put on by Alto Adige Wines and Bottlenotes and was hosted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and acting editor-in-chief of the daily email blast, The Daily Sip. Participants tasted the eight wines and chatted in virtual fashion about their swirling, smelling and sipping experiences. 

Here are the Alto Adige wines featured during the virtual tasting event:

Castel Sallegg Pulvernai Pinot Grigio 2014 
Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013
Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 2012 
Colterenzio Prail Sauvignon 2013 
Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer 2014
Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro Pfarrhof Kalterersee Auslese 2013
Erste + Neue Mezzan Pinot Nero 2013
Abbazia di Novacella Praepositus Lagrein 2010

Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer 2014 (Alto Adige, Italy) $23

This wine, from the Andriano area of Alto Adige, is fermented in stainless steel vats and aged there on the lees for six months. The alcohol hits 14% abv and retail is $23.

During the social media event, @KMacWine commented, "The way @KellereiAndrian jumps out of the glass, how can you not want to dance along with it? Peppery, gingery, not syrupy, bright and delicious. This is the Jackson Pollock of #Gewürztraminer."

I may not know art, but I know what I like. I like this Gewürtztraminer. It is one of the best examples of the variety that I have tried.

The Andrian Gewürtztraminer is a work of art. The floral, honeysuckle nose is right up front, with great fruit aromas - apricot, pear - following behind. The palate is a delight, with zesty acidity and spicy apricot and peach marrying for a full mouth experience.

Pair this wine with pasta - it's great with a cream sauce - or a plate of cheeses and meats. In fact, this wine will be quite versatile on the table, making it a fine choice for Thanksgiving.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Sweet And Gorgeous: Lula Gewürztraminer

Lula Cellars, a small production winery located in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, spent the summer pouring the inaugural release of its 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and the latest Rosato effort. The Rosato is delightful, while the Sauvignon Blanc has yet to grace this space - it will soon, though. They do have another wine perfect those summer days - or, as we are still saying in Los Angeles, these summer days.

2014 is the sixth vintage of Lula’s Dry Gewürztraminer. The wine is made from grapes grown in several Mendocino vineyards. Mendocino is gaining more recognition lately for its cool-climate Alsatian varieties. It's a $22 wine, and only 200 cases were produced.

The Lula Cellars Dry Gewürztraminer for 2014 has a gorgeous nose - honeysuckle with sweet peaches and pears. That floral aspect is dominant, by the way. On the palate, full frontal fruitity and a mild pepper component play together quite nicely. The acidity keeps the sweetness in check, which is a big job. This wine, despite "dry" on the label, is extremely sweet.

The spiciness is interesting and opens up additional pairing possibilities. This is a natch for Thai food or spicy tacos. The wine also pairs well with seafood and shellfish. The winery recommends Dungeness crab, halibut and lemon risotto with asparagus.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Virtual Wine Tasting: Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer

The Finger Lakes Wine region recently hosted another in a series of live virtual tasting events, with a video feed and participation via Twitter.  A virtual tasting event is a great way to gain exposure to a new wine or winery, and it’s a great way to mingle with like-minded wine folks.  The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance uses the social aspect of virtual tastings to their great advantage.

In May 2014, the FLWA staged a virtual event featuring a large variety of wines, not just one or two.  Participants sipped at home and joined in during a four-hour marathon. (Most virtual tasting events only run an hour or so.)  I was supplied with several white wines to sample, and today I’ll focus on the Dr Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Gewürztraminer 2013.

The Twitter crowd fell in love with the Rieslings and Canernet Francs, but Gewürztraminer was not forgotten, least of all by @DrFrankWine: "Believe it or not we released that wine only a month ago. Imagine how good it will be with more bottle age!"  Many tweeters thought the Finger Lakes is a great spot for a getaway: "#FLXwine region makes for a perfectly relaxing and delicious vacation."  @MiddleSeatView was afraid the credit card may have been too taxed while there: "I think we may have bought too much wine in the Finger Lakes..."  A picture showing a ten-bottle lineup was attached.

Dr Konstantin Frank's vision helped lift the New York wine industry to a preeminent level, hence his nom de vin as the "Father of Vinifera in the eastern U.S."  He was responsible for the "vinifera revolution" in the Finger Lakes region, insisting that European grape varieties would grow and thrive in the cold climate of upstate New York.  It turned out that it was the rootstock, not the cold climate, that was the problem.  His persistence proved him right, and now northern European varieties are planted all over the area - Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner.  Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars now employs a team of winemakers from New York, Virginia, Austria and Germany.  

For the Dr Konstantin Frank Gewürztraminer 2013, the wine saw skin contact for 24 hours, while fermentation was stopped to retain some residual sugar.  This wine is off dry on the IRF scale, with RS at just 0.7% and alcohol balanced at 13.2% abv.  This Gewürztraminer comes bottled under a screw cap and retails for $15 per bottle.

The wine has a golden tint, and slight bubbles clinging to the glass.  Aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, peach and apricot are abetted by a citrus minerality.  The palate features beautiful fruit - peach, nectarine, apricot, lemon and lime - while minerals play a huge part and acidity is zippy.  It is completely refreshing.   This Gewürztraminer finishes clean and is loaded with citrus minerals. A little savory kick is in there on the finish, too.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Aromatic White Wines Of The Finger Lakes: Part Two

We covered three Gewürztraminers from New York's Finger Lakes region earlier.  This time around, three other aromatic whites are the topic.

Lakewood Vineyards Giglotti Vineyard Pinot Gris 2012

Located in Watkins Glen, NY, Lakewood Vineyards' winemaker Chris Stamp has been making the wine for 25 vintages.  He is the grandson of the founder.  David Stamp, another grandson, tends the vineyards.

Lakewood's Gigliotti Vineyard Pinot Gris is the first Lakewood wine with a vineyard designation, a tribute to grower Frank Gigliotti.  As we might expect, Stamp was very complimentary of Gigliotti.  He says the grower calls Pinot Gris "Pinot grief,"  and adds that, "Growers are pivotal in winemaking."  Once Stamp put the vineyard designation on the label, Gigliotti felt he should not tear the vines out, as he had been contemplating.  Crediting the grower is not a prevalent practice in the Finger Lakes region, possibly owing to the fact that there are so many estate wines made there.

The grapes are destemmed and allowed 24 hours of skin contact.  Lakewood produces 14 different varieties, mostly vinifera, but they still grow Concord and Niagara for Welches juice.

Just off dry on the sweetness scale, this Pinot Gris has an alcohol number of 13.2% abv and retails for $14.  it is made from 100% Pinot Gris grapes, the ones grown in the Gigliotti Vineyard, on Seneca Lake's west side.

The Lakewood Pinot Gris has a light golden tint with a slight frizzante in the glass.  the nose is dominated by fragrances of Meyer lemon, key lime and minerals.  On the palate, tropical flavors abound, highlighted by lemon-lime.  the wine shows good acidity and has a nice finish, where the key lime lingers.

Fulkerson Wine Cellars Finger Lakes Estate Gruner Veltliner 2012

The land at Fulkerson Wine Cellars has been in the family since the early 1800s.  106 acres of grapes on the west side of Seneca Lake, in Dundee, NY, share the land on which founder Caleb Fulkerson now rests.  They began producing grape juice for home winemakers in the 1970s and still offer help for the DIY crowd.  The winery opened its doors to a grateful public in the late 1980s.

Sayre Fulkerson, the owner and winemaker, says he planted Gruner Veltliner because he likes the wine made from this Austrian variety.  It comes from one of the oldest vineyard blocks in the Finger Lakes.  Fulkerson says, "Gruner Veltliner is a little like Riesling but not really, maybe more like ripe Sauvignon Blanc."

Dry, with only 0.2% residual sugar, the Fulkerson Wine Cellars Gru-Vee shows 12% abv and retails for $14.  253 cases were produced in this inaugural release.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, on the lees.  The contact with the spent yeast cells give a full mouthfeel.  It's bottled under natural cork.

Pale straw in color, the wine's nose shows a light aroma of orange peel and lots of minerals.  The palate is very dry with a nice acidity and minerality and flavors of apple, white peach and a faint trace of cantaloupe.  It's the minerals, though, that steal the show and stay around on the finish.  I think it's great for shellfish and crab cakes, but Fulkerson likes it with pork and sauerkraut.

Hosmer Winery Cayuga Lake Chardonnay 2012

Chardonnay vines were planted at Hosmer Winery on the shores of Cayuga Lake in 1975, making them some of the oldest vines on the property.  45 of their 70 acres of grapes are dedicated to aromatic whites.

Winemaker Aaron Roison has made wine for 12 vintages in the Finger Lakes.  Owner Cameron Hosmer is in charge of growing the fruit.  Roison says the "low vigor site" helps produce extraordinary aromatics.

The Hosmer Chardonnay clocks in at 13.1% abv and has no residual sugar.  70% of the juice is fermented in steel while 15% is done in older American and French oak and 15% in new oak.  The wine is aged for six months in barrels, where it undergoes malolactic fermentation.  It sits on the lees for three months and is bottled under natural cork.

Quite a bit of oak spice comes into play on first sniff, especially considering that only 30% of the wine sees a barrel.  A nice minerality shows, too.  Tropical fruit and lemon rind are the main fruit components on the nose, and they display nicely on the palate as well.  The acidity is quite good, even though the wine's mouthfeel is fairly creamy and full.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aromatic White Wines Of The Finger Lakes: Gewürztraminer

There are not many American wine regions that make me jealous that I don't live there, but New York's Finger Lakes region does.  I would love to be close enough to those long lakes gouged out by glaciers to visit every weekend - or every day, for that matter.  I live in Southern California, so I have no complaints - the Santa Barbara County wine country is my spiritual home.  Even so, I sometimes think I would trade my "sunny and 78" for scraping snow off my windshield - if the Finger Lakes were held in the balance.

The cool climate of this area means the wines generally have an acidity level that is best described in superlatives.  The fruit is sometimes overshadowed by the minerals, but that's OK with me.  the wines of the Finger Lakes are overall superior products, even though they are made just south of Lake Ontario.  If you are shopping around for great wines to place on the Thanksgiving table, the Finger Lakes region is a good place to start.

Billed as "North AmerIca's premier cool-climate winegrowing region," the winemakers of the Finger Lakes produce wines which are fresh, crisp, refreshing, relatively low in alcohol and given to having minerality to burn.

I was invited to join the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance Virtual Tasting series when aromatic white wines were the subject of the day.  White wines - particularly Rieslings - are the area's forte, and this selection featured a half dozen wines that showed off some of the other white grape varieties that succeed wildly in the Finger Lakes.  The wines were provided to me for promotional purposes.  You can check out the Twitter feed of comments that transpired during the event here.  Watch the event as it appeared on USTREAM here.

We will cover the three Gewürztraminers today, and in a later post, the Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Villa Bellangelo Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2012

Gentle warm breezes off Seneca Lake lengthen the growing season at Villa Bellangelo in Dundee, NY.  Winemaker Ian Barry is in his 17th vintage with the winery.  He says he got the 2012 Gewürztraminer a little riper than he did in the previous year.  This wine is all stainless steel, but they plan to produce Gewürztraminer  the same way they make Riesling beginning in 2013, with neutral oak barrels and stirring on the lees.

The 2012 Bellangelo Gewürztraminer is sourced from nearby Gibson Vineyard (91%) and Morris Vineyard (9%). 325 cases were made.  Alcohol is low at 12.9% and residual sugar nearly nonexistent, at only 1%.  It hits the "medium dry" mark on the sweetness scale and is bottled under a natural cork.

The wine shows a nice yellow-gold tint and gives a beautiful nose of flowers, pears and apricots.  On the palate, tangerines are laced with pear juice by persistent mineral notes.  The really fruity flavor has the citrus is in the forefront.  Nice acidity begs for food and a beautiful finish of citrus is marked with minerals.  One taster in the virtual event picked up an oily character, so it's fairly full in the mouth.

Barry suggests pairing it with green curry, spinach Alfredo pizza and, of course, your Thanksgiving feast.

Keuka Springs Vineyards Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2012

August Diemel makes the wine for Keuka Springs Vineyards, located in Penn Yan, NY, on the east side of Keuka Lake.  Their ten acres of grapes are home for nine white wine varieties.  Diemel thinks Riesling is the lead actor in the Finger Lakes, but cites Gewürztraminer as the big supporting player.  He says his Gewürztraminer is more like Chardonnay than Riesling, with Riesling's aromatics and the textural qualities of Chardonnay."

He had to harvest early to maintain the acidity in balance with the sugar.  "Our cool climate helps Gewürztraminer maintain its aromatics."  The grapes he used are not estate fruit, and as a Keuka Lake proponent, he refused to comment on the source.

The Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer is sweet, with 8% residual sugar and a moderate 13% abv.  It is bottled under a natural cork with a retail price of $22.  Diemel's suggested pairings for the Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer are grilled shrimp, asparagus or Thai food.  He also likes it as an aperitif.

The nose on the Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer is highly aromatic, showing dried apricots, honey and a whole floral arrangement.  The sweet palate is loaded with white nectarines,pears and a touch of tropical fruit.  Acidity is pretty good, even though the mouthfeel overall is nice and creamy.

Knapp Winery and Vineyard Finger Lakes Dry Gewürztraminer 2012

Sunset Hill Vineyard, where the Knapp Gewürztraminer is grown, is on the west side of Cayuga Lake in Romulus, NY.  It opened for business in 1984 and 32 of their 46 estate acres of grapevines are white wine grapes.  They also manage another vineyard to the north with another 14 acres of white wine grapes.  Winemaker Steve DiFrancesco has 33 harvests to his name, and he works closely with vineyard manager Chris King.

The Knapp Gewürztraminer is just off dry on the sweetness scale typically used to identify the relative sweetness of Rieslings, but it is just as worthwhile in this case.  An alcohol content of 12.5% makes it easy to drink, and the 2.2 residual sugar adds a nice festive touch.  56 cases were produced and it retails for $15.  It comes bottled under a synthetic cork.

With light straw coloring and a beautiful floral and lime nose, the wine shows flavors of pears, sweet satsuma and a little bit of spice.  It's very fruity with a nice and dry mouthfeel.  Good, crisp acidity makes it very fresh.  The finish is memorable, full of citrus and minerality.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Castello di Amorosa White Wines

Castello di Amorosa
It’s always interesting to hear which wineries people hold dear.  For folks not in the wine business, that choice often centers on a winery they visited once.  Maybe they joined the club and get quarterly reminders of their trip to wine country.

I know a fellow who talks about a particular Napa Valley winery every time I see him.  It was at least a decade since his visit, but it impressed him so much that he still relives that vacation.  Castello di Amorosa is one of those places people will talk about for years after their visit.

Dario Sattui opened Calistoga’s Castello di Amorosa winery in 2007.  The structure - built in the style of a Tuscan castle - is mightily impressive and unforgettable.  It employs brick, wood and iron imported from Italy, along with over 8,000 tons of local stone.  This wine castle was a dream for years before it actually took shape.

Today, winemakers Brooks Painter and Peter Velleno work in the cellar there with consulting winemaker Sebastiano Rosa.  There is no distribution for their wines.  If you want them, order from the winery or go pay them a visit that you'll remember forever.

Their red wines were the subject of an earlier article on this site.  The winery was kind enough to send samples of a few of their white wines for me to try.

Dry Gewürztraminer 2012 Anderson Valley, Mendocino County

This wine comes from an Anderson Valley vineyard where they have sourced Gewürztraminer for years.  They made 2,392 cases at 14.5% abv - rather high for this variety.  Stainless steel fermentation means you can expect a clean and refreshing wine.  The retail price is $25.

Pale straw in color, the bouquet comes on strong with beautiful honeysuckle, pineapple, apple and pear notes.  The palate is fruity and fresh.  Apple and pear flavors are joined by minerality, a spicy note and great acidity.  This wine will be just fine with shrimp or crabs.

Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011

The grapes come from a vineyard at the south end of the Napa Valley.  1,424 cases were made, and the wine retails for $28.  It hits 14.4% abv on the alcohol meter, is 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lie for ten months  in 50% new French oak.  Sur lie means the wine is aged with the spent yeast cells - lees - still in it.  It is stirred to re-suspend the yeast.

A beautiful golden color, the wine's nose is bursting with ripe tropical fruit and funky, buttery oak.  The palate is big, too, with similar fruit and oak spice.  Flavors of citrus and pears find comfort in the silky, buttery oak for what we could call a classic California Chardonnay.  The acidity offers a zing to complement the full mouthfeel.  Feel free to pair it with shellfish and salads.

Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2011 Santa Barbara County

From one of my favorite vineyards, this Santa Maria Valley wine was produced in a quantity of 1,344 cases.  This reserve Chardonnay sells for $38, and the alcohol is not shy - 14.8% abv.  Aged for ten months in French oak, on the lees, only 20% of the grapes went through malolactic fermentation in the barrel.  This means you can expect the wine be a little more steely than creamy.

This wine also has a lovely golden hue, and a nose which carries every bit of that ten months of oak.  Get past the oak spice, and you find lovely tropical and citrus accents.  The same can be said for the palate, which is abetted by a riveting acidity.  It's not exactly the steely wine a minimized malolactic might indicate, but it definitely has a lot of focus apart from the oak influence.  This one will be a hit with any type of seafood or poultry.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Tasting Santa Barbara County: Firestone Vineyards

A Sunday drive from Los Angeles to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail brought us to Firestone Vineyard's winery and tasting room.  Just a few minutes from Grand Avenue in Los Olivos - jammed with tasting rooms - the visit to Firestone offered a nice wine country experience with a picnic lunch in the front yard.

It was the kind of wine country trip I like - one with minimal planning.  We had planned a stop at the Trader Joe's Milpas Street location while coming through Santa Barbara, but that was about it.  A few cheeses, some avocados and a baguette later, we were fully equipped for a wine country snack.  A group consensus put us on the road to Foxen Canyon, and we ended up at Firestone.

The day was beautiful, the picnic was enjoyable and we were chillin' - some of us more than others.  Hey, it was a tough week!

All the wines on the tasting flight - $10 - are estate wines.  Firestone also offer a reserve flight for $15.

Sauvignon Blanc SYV 2011
Tropical fruit - pineapple, mainly - great acidity and a citrus finish made this a great choice for the lunch pairing.  The Santa Ynez Valley grapes are stainless steel fermented.  We bought a bottle and took it outside.  $14

Chardonnay SYV 2011
This one is aged 83% in stainless steel and 17% in French oak.  Apples and tropical flavors are touched with oak spice, a nice toasty vanilla.  It's not a big, buttery Chardonnay, but not steely either.  $18

Gewürztraminer SYV 2010
Aromatic is the word here, with floral and herbal notes on the nose and bright fruit on the palate.  It's off-dry and as fresh as can be.  $15

Riesling SYV 2011
One of several extras our pourer splashed, this Riesling has notes of petrol and sweet flowers on the nose and sweet apples on the palate.  2.25% residual sugar.

Dry Rosé SYV 2011
Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache combine with a dollop of Gewürztraminer.  There's a slight funk on the dark cherry nose and savory fruit on the palate.

Merlot SYV 2009
A bright red, spicy nose leads to cherries on the palate and a cinnamon finish.  $20

Cabernet Sauvignon SYV 2010
The nose is very light and perfumed with fruit, while palate shows a spicy angle as does the Merlot.  It's very tasty, but probably a little lightweight for me if I'm in the mood for a Cab.  $22

Syrah SYV 2010
Mostly Syrah, there is a three percent touch of Grenache in the blend.  The nose is wonderful, full of smoked meat and dark fruit.  The spicy palate is bright, not moody.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Finger Lakes Wine Month Celebrated On Twitter

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance continued their series of virtual wine tasting events on May 25, 2013, with a wine tweet-up in honor of Finger Lakes Wine Month.  Dubbed the Finger Lakes Wine Hour - really four-hours - the FLWA encouraged all to grab a bottle of their favorite wine produced in New York’s Finger Lakes region, taste it and get social about it.

The FLWA made it pretty easy on me - I was one of nearly two dozen media representatives supplied with samples.  Hundreds of other folks participated with wines which they bought with their own hard-earned money - money well spent.

New York’s Finger Lakes are a collection of long, deep, narrow lakes that were clawed out of the earth by glaciers.  Those lakes now provide the moderating influence needed to balance the cold winters in upstate New York for the growing of grapes.

Established as an AVA in 1982, the Finger Lakes region really got started in the 1950s, when Dr. Konstantin Frank set out to prove the skeptics wrong.  He figured it couldn’t be any harder to grow European vinifera grapes in New York than it was in the Ukraine.  His perseverance paved the way for all the other Finger Lakes growers to follow in his successful footsteps.

Best known for their distinctive and delightful Riesling wines, the winemakers of the Finger Lakes region also like to grow and make Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot - in addition to native and French hybrid varieties.

Wagner Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 

The folks at Wagner say they only produce this wine in top growing seasons, and they say 2010 was one of those seasons.  A lot of folks say that around the Finger Lakes, in fact.  Some say the 2010 vintage was God’s way of making up for the 2009 vintage.

The grapes for this Pinot Noir are grown in a single vineyard overlooking Seneca Lake from the eastern shore.  On Twitter, Katie Roller - @PR4Wagner - told me that “most of the wineries in the Finger Lakes region are so small that all their wines are single vineyard.”

Wagner was founded in 1979, and is one of the older wineries in the region.  There is no residual sugar in this wine, and the alcohol hits 12.8% abv.  Winemaker Ann Raffetto ages it in French and American oak for a year.

This is a spicy little number.  Notes of cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and anise join the raspberry aromas and flavors.  Hints of tea come forth on the palate, along with a ripping acidity.  It would no doubt leave a fairly delicate remembrance if it were not for its incredibly zippy freshness.

Thirsty Owl Wine Company Dry Riesling 2012 

The grapes for this varietal wine come mostly from newer estate vineyards on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, but there is fruit from some 30-year-old vines as well.  The tech numbers show alcohol at 11.2% abv and residual sugar at 0.4% - so it’s very dry.  Shawn Kime is the winemaker and vineyard manager for Thirsty Owl.

The wine is very pale in the glass and its nose smells of pears and tart apples.  In the mouth, it’s an austere Riesling, with green apple and a citrus zing on the palate and a freshness that’s bracing.  The clean, angular feel is steely and nervy.

On Twitter, @wild4wawine noticed a nice note of apple cinnamon that appeared on the finish.  The winery’s twitter feed - @TheThirstyOwl - told me, “This was bottled not too long ago. I expect the fruit to come up more over the next few months.”

Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2010 

Minerality is expected here, since the Standing Stone vineyards are planted shallow over a solid bed of slate on the eastern side of Seneca lake.  This Gewürz has only 1.0% residual sugar and 13.3% abv.

The huge, expressive nose trumpets not minerals but honeysuckle, jasmine, fresh peaches, pears and oranges.  Those notes repeat on the palate, which is abetted by some of that great Finger Lakes acidity.  The finish leaves a trace of tropical fruit behind.

Lakewood Vineyards Chardonnay 2011

Established in 1988, some of the Lakewood vines actually date back to 1952.  Winemaker Chris Stamp uses a mixture of American, French, Hungarian and 65% New York oak in the aging program for this Chardonnay, while the alcohol clocks in at 13.4% abv and there is no residual sugar.  It retails for $13.

The wine is undeniably oaky, with spiciness crawling all over it.  In addition to a creamy texture in the mouth, there is a racy acidity that doesn’t give up until well past the finish.  This is not a Chardonnay that just lets itself be sipped away.  This is a Chardonnay that takes umbrage it’s not paired with brisket and slaps the taste buds silly.

One Twitter user who seemed to wander into the Finger Lakes fray unaware - @maria_fulmer - commented, “Not a big wine drinker, but I am apparently missing out on this #FLXWine.”  That’s right, Maria.  If you are not already on the Finger Lakes bandwagon, it’s never too late to jump on.  There are plenty of hands to help you climb aboard.  Start with @FLXWine.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wine Country: New York Finger Lakes - Shaw Vineyard

Steve Shaw has the unenviable position of having a name which restricts a Google search for his product.  He is buried under a mountain of results for someone named Charles.  Shaw Vineyard and Winery, however, does not make bulk wine, and their bottles do not cost two bucks, although they do offer great value for the money.

After communicating with Steve Shaw, Jr. - the sales representative for the wine his father makes - only through emails, he came out west to pour his wares in Glendale, CA.  I finally had the chance to meet him and taste his wines in January at 55 Degree Wine, in their funky wine cellar downstairs from the store.  Shaw was there to spread the word about his family’s wines, but also to raise interest in East Coast wines in general.

The elder Steve Shaw has been growing wine grapes for 30 years.  He learned winemaking techniques during the 1990s and founded his label in 2002.  His production facility and tasting room are located on the western side of Seneca Lake, in New York’s Finger Lakes region.  He, and his son, are true believers in the Finger Lakes terroir.

The younger Shaw (at right) tells me their red wines are bottled nearly two years after their neighbors.  They like what the extra time in the barrel does for their reds.  French oak and American oak from Pennsylvania are used, along with some experimental use of Hungarian oak.

The credibility of the Finger Lakes area started with Riesling, and it’s still the region’s main grape.  But Shaw is quick to point out that they are not just a one-trick pony.  Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and even Cabernet Sauvignon also figure into the Shaw plan - along with Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc.

Shaw says all their wines are vegan-friendly, with no eggs or fish product used in the fining of their wines.  All their wines are estate - the main property is on Seneca Lake while grapes also come from a second vineyard site on Keuka Lake.

How far west do New York state wines usually go?  “Buffalo,” is Shaw’s retort.  He goes on to explain that most New York state wine is actually sold between Albany and Buffalo.  95 percent of the Shaw wines are sold in-state.

Shaw says their white wines are inspired by Alsace, Germany and Austria, while their reds harken to Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.  Here’s the tasting menu from the Shaw Vineyards and Winery tasting:

2006 Chardonnay
From a very cold vintage, this unoaked Chardonnay hails from the Keuka Lake property.  The wine sees no oak, but it does sit on the lees for two years.  All that contact with the spent yeast cells brings a creamy, full mouthfeel to the wine.  Beautiful tropical fruit graces the nose, while flavors of peaches and citrus peel are joined by a nice, easy acidity.  An earthy finish adds to the complexity.  At $15, a steal.

2007 Gewurztraminer
The Seneca Lake fruit makes for a very aromatic nose - I get the mental image of piney woods, or peaches and pears grown in a pine forest.  The palate is fresh with pineapple and guava.  Acidity is not a huge player in this wine, so it sips beautifully.  $19

2011 Sauvignon Blanc
A very slight grassiness can hardly keep pace with the fruity nose.  This is creamy, for a Sauvignon Blanc.  A soft, sweet edge shows peaches and citrus.  Again, the acidity does not figure largely, but the wine as flavor to burn.  $18

2010 Li Bella Pinot Grigio
Beautiful peaches and pears on the nose, with the same on the palate.  A medium mouthfeel and gentle acidity is wrapped in a package of slightly higher residual sugar than the other Shaw whites, around 1.4 percent.

2008 Riesling
Here’s another wine that sat on the lees, this time for three years.  The nose is very aromatic, with petrol coming through forcefully.  I pick up that slate minerality on the palate, too.  Minerality trumps the fruit, and a beautiful acidity rounds it out.

2008 Pinot Noir
This wine ages for 36 months in oak, but the effect of the wood treatment is not the least bit overdone.  The Shaw Pinot is unfiltered and unfined.  The nose displays a sackful of cherry candy, so it’s a surprise to find the palate showing tons of minerality.  Good acidity.  $30

2007 Cabernet Franc
An earthy, cherry bouquet accompanies a palate full of minerals and cherries.   Three years in oak again leaves no sign of a heavy hand - the wood is used to perfection.  $35

Keuka Hill Red Blend 
This mix of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot spends four years aging in oak barrels.  Again, the wood seems perfectly utilized.  A candy-like nose and a palate of beautiful, earthy blackberry, cherry and cola notes are topped with great acidity

It was so nice to meet some other wine geeks who attended the tasting.  Dr. Patrick Farrell is a Huntington Beach Master of Wine, while Ben Mason writes about wine under the banner of Hipster Enologist.  Wine writer and consultant Denise Lowe bills herself as the Goddess of Wine, and noted Southern California wine educator Dr. Joel Fisher stopped in for a taste of the Finger Lakes.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Wine Country: Arizona - Arizona Stronghold Vineyards

Arizona’s wine history dates back to 16th-century Spanish missionaries who planted grapes to make wine for religious purposes.  While not exactly a religious mission, Arizona’s wine industry has grown rapidly in recent years.  Six years ago there were less than a dozen wineries in the Grand Canyon State, a number that has grown to over 60 today.

According to the Arizona Wine Growers Association, Arizona wine “enjoys three established grape growing regions - Sonoita/Elgin in Santa Cruz County, the Greater Willcox region in Cochise County, and the Verde Valley in Yavapai County.  There also are vineyards or wineries in Pima, Graham, Mohave, and Gila counties, plus several urban wineries in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  The majority of the vineyard acreage in Arizona is in Cochise County.”  That's where you'll find Arizona Stronghold.

Arizona Stronghold  Vineyards was founded by industrial musician Maynard Keenan and Eric Glomski (former vegetation and landscape ecologist.)  Keenan and Glomski were both producing wines made from California grapes at the time.  They combined their assets to purchase the vineyard near Wilcox, in southeastern Arizona, which became Arizona Stronghold.  Tim White is the winemaker.

Keenan says, "this project is about reconnecting.  It's about rekindling a relationship with the Earth, to our community, to each other.”  On the label, he describes life at his high-elevation vineyards as "hot days, cool nights, harsh winds and bitter, biting cold winters."  No doubt, creating good wine takes the edge off the bad conditions that nature deals out.

"The wines express, first and foremost, Arizona," says Keenan, "and secondarily the grapes and hands of the vignerons involved ... Great wine doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t have to be pretentious; and it shouldn’t be hard to find.  It just has to be great and it has to be made by people that care.”  Keenan promises “minimally mucked-with wines that retain their natural vitality and character."

Arizona Stronghold was kind enough to supply samples of two of their wines. Both are made from Arizona grapes grown in Cochise County - from the Arizona Stronghold Vineyard and Bonita Springs Vineyard - and both are five-variety blends.

Arizona Stronghold Tazi White Table Wine 2011

Their white blend is made of 28% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Riesling, 18% Malvasia Bianca, 16% Chenin Blanc and 13% Gewürztraminer.  The wine has a 13.4% abv number and comes under under a synthetic closure.  It is aged in stainless steel and neutral oak and retails for $18.

A golden straw color, Tazi is very aromatic with an upfront floral element on the nose, with lemons, minerals and orange peel and a fair amount of oak also appearing.  The palate shows a crisp minerality, medium full mouthfeel and notes of pineapple, lemon, pear juice and minerals.  The wine is extremely fresh-feeling in the mouth despite a hefty oak effect.  The flavors really come through strongly, as does the acidity.  I would love to taste this wine without any barrel aging, but with the oak it’s a force to be reckoned with.  This is not a “salad white” - it would overpower most very light dishes.  Try this with ham or pork chops.  I’m sure you could even wash down a strip steak with it.  White wines aren’t supposed to demand this much attention, are they?

Arizona Stronghold Mangus Red Table Wine 2010

Named for a famous Apache leader, Mangus is a Super Tuscan-style blend of 71% Sangiovese, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot.  It retails on average for about $22, has a 13.8% alcohol content and is bottled under a synthetic closure.

The wine has a medium-deep ruby color, with a bright cherry nose - courtesy of the Sangiovese - which also sports a fair amount of oak spice and alcohol.  Decant for at least a half hour to minimize the heat.  The palate offers a dusty, earthy cherry flavor with clove and nutmeg in the profile.  The oak is quite apparent in those spices, but the Arizona dust keeps the rope in its leather-gloved hand.  There is a gentle bite of tannins, and the wine’s rustic character is tempered by a little pencil point from the Cab and some floral notes from the Malbec.  On the whole, the wine rather reminds me of a Zinfandel.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Wine Country: New York - Finger Lakes Sparkling And Iced Wine

The fine folks from the Finger Lakes wine region in New York have been staging a series of virtual wine tasting events.  The wine tasters gather on Twitter - channeling the conversation through the hashtag #FLXWineVT - while Finger Lakes winemakers gather in a live UStream broadcast.  A representative from each of the wineries tasted was present on the webcast, so we got to hear a little of each winemaker’s thoughts on the wine of the moment.  We tasted and discussed the sparkling and iced wines of the Finger Lakes on October 17, 2012.

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance provided samples of the wines to the tasters across the country for this project.  The wines we chatted about this time around were formatted in two flights.

First Flight - Sparkling Wines

Atwater Estate Vineyards Cuvée Brut 2008

On the southeastern slope of Seneca Lake, Atwater’s vineyards are about two-thirds vinifera grapes and one-third hybrids, with a smattering of native varieties.  Almost 3/4 of their inventory is white wine.  On the UStream panel, winemaker Vinny Aliperti talked about his Cuvée, which is made from 66% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay.  The wine stands at 12% abv and is dry as a bone with no residual sugar.

Aliperti called 2008 a "lower brix, moderate acid" vintage, which played right into the making of this wine.  The Cuvée is made every two years, in the méthode champenoise.  The grapes are whole cluster pressed and the two varieties are co-fermented.  Aliperti noted that both grapes conveniently ripened at the same time.  He explained the méthode champenoise very well, showing the labor-intensive process and leaving no doubt as to why wine made in that way is sometimes a little pricey.  His is sold at $30.

The wine has a pale color and big bubbles which quickly retreat to the side of the glass.  A huge, aromatic nose boasts apples and citrus, with the palate quite dry and fresh.  Toasty, nutty flavors are joined by lemon peel and green apples.  They suggest a pairing with seared scallops and arugula salad with goat cheese and prosciutto.

McGregor Vineyard Blanc de Noir 2008

The vineyards of the McGregor estate are on the eastern side of Keuka Lake, 40 acres of vines that are mostly 30 years old.  McGregor’s winemaker Jeff Dencenburg uses the traditional method, too, to make his Blanc de Noir.  That designation means the wine is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes.  He also makes a Blanc de Blanc, from Chardonnay, and a bubbly Riesling.  The wine has an alcohol content of 13% abv and retails for $30.

Owner John McGregor represented his winery on the webcast panel.   "Our climate is suited to sparkling wines," he said, hitting on how the weather plays into their early harvest, minerality and acidity.

Pale in the glass, the bubble subside almost instantly.  The nose is subdued and toasty while the palate shows pronounced earthiness and almond notes.  I’d love to have this with oysters Rockefeller.

Swedish Hill Winery Riesling Cuvée 

Winemaker Derek Wilber has 25 years experience making wine in the Finger Lakes region.  His Riesling Cuvée stands at about 12% abv and has 3.4% residual sugar.  Owner Dave Peterson explained the fastidious harvesting and sorting that goes on with his Riesling fruit, and noted that  "fresh, clean grapes make for good sparkling Riesling."  Some tasters on the Twitter feed compared the bubbly to Prosecco.

The wine is a pale yellow and very bubbly.  The medium bubbles hang around for a while, too.  The nose shows an earthy floral aspect with plenty of fruit to offer.  Big apple flavors and toasty notes accompany the generous sweetness here.  They suggest a pairing with fresh fruit and light meals, but holiday entertaining would seem to be right in this wine’s wheelhouse.

Second Flight - Iced Wines

Iced wine is the predominant style of Finger Lakes dessert wine, largely because of the cold weather that comes after traditional harvest time. There are very few late harvest wines from this area, according to the panel.  The grapes are pressed while frozen, giving a sweet and concentrated juice.  Frozen grapes make only half the juice of a regular grape harvest - that's one reason iced wines are more expensive than other types of wine

Casa Larga Vineyards and Winery Fiori Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2008

Winemaker Mark Patterson is Canadian, so iced wine is a sacred thing to him.  This 100% Vidal Blanc effort is only 11.7% abv, but has 18.9% residual sugar.  It retails for $45.

Poured from a beautiful, slender blue bottle, the wine has a rich, golden hue, like whiskey.  Its nose smells of apricots and pineapple upside down cake. There is a sweet floral aroma underneath the fruit.  The wine is quite viscous, with a honeyed apricot flavor that is lip smackingly sweet.

Owner Steve Richards noted that the wine has won numerous awards.  He says he likes it with savory pairings, like cashews and cheese.

Lucas Vineyards Vidal Blanc Iced 2010

Located on the western side of Cayuga Lake, Lucas Vineyards was established in 1980.  That makes it the oldest winery on Cayuga Lake.  The grapes are harvested late in the season and frozen after harvesting.  Winemaker Jeff Houck - who also moderated the webcast - specializes in Riesling and Cabernet Franc.  He talked about freezing the grapes naturally or artificially.  He likes both methods, but opts for a cold storage facility for freezing his fruit.

This Vidal Blanc dessert wine carries a 10% abv number and has a beautiful golden color, like honey.  Aromas of earthy apricot are intriguing, while the palate is loaded with flavors of apricot and pineapple layered with earthy notes.  A wonderfully fresh acidity makes this a natural for pairing with desserts, and they suggest white chocolate covered peaches, dark chocolate or fresh fruit.

Knapp Winery and Vineyard Vidal Ice Wine 2010

The winery is located close to Seneca Falls, with winemaker Steve DiFrancesco and cellar master Rich Iddings working closely.  Houck commented that “when I need to know something, I call Steve.”  DiFrancesco says the Riesling grape is not as sturdy as Vidal, and that "it won't hold up on the vine" for the extended ripening needed for a dessert wine.  He does like Riesling sweeties though.

This 100% Vidal Blanc wine has a low, low alcohol content of 9.3% abv and an enormous 23% residual sugar.  The grapes were picked in the middle of December, when it was a brisk 13 degrees Fahrenheit.  The wine has a greenish-gold color, a nose of honeysuckle and citrus and flavors of oranges that really wow me.  A candy finish leaves no doubt that you’ve just been "desserted."

Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer Ice 2010

From the east side of Seneca Lake, this is one of four ice wines produced by Standing Stone.  They also make dessert wine from Chardonnay, Riesling and Vidal Blanc.  Tom Macinski watches over the vineyards, while winemaking wife Martha handles the activity in the cellar.  She said the Gewürztraminer grapes grow over a solid bed of slate, so minerality is abundant.  The grapes are picked after the leaves are off the vines, then placed in cold storage, to be pressed while frozen.

Martha said that artificial freezing cuts down on the loss of grapes to animals.  “We got tired of seeing over half our crop go to the birds and coyotes.”  She started making Gewürztraminer ice wine when she had the opposite problem.  Too large a crop and not enough tank space resulted in the decision to freeze some of the grapes and make an iced wine.  She says Vidal Blanc and Gewürztraminer both have the acidity that makes them work well in an iced style.

The sweet Gewürztraminer has a rich, golden hue and is very aromatic, with floral and spice charging forth on the nose.  An earthy palate is laced with the flavor of dark honey, candied peaches and spices.  They suggest pairing this wine with desserts featuring ginger and cinnamon, as the spices will play right into the wine's flavor profile.  The retail price of $25 makes it a great value in this style.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone North Coast Rocks! White Wine 2011

Cornerstone Cellars of Napa Valley has branched out in recent years to offer a line of everyday wines intended for immediate consumption.  Winemaker Jeff Keene has crafted another beautiful white for the Rocks! line.  Each vintage of the line can show variations in the makeup, depending upon what grapes are chosen.  The 2011 vintage strayed a bit from the 2010 lineup of Chardonnay and Muscat.  Gewürztraminer is in the mix with Chardonnay this time around, and that wonderful, spicy grape really makes itself known.  The wine strikes an alcohol number of 13.5% abv.

The white Rocks! is golden in the glass, with a nose boasting a big floral element, some huge tropical fruit, citrus, apricot and cantaloupe.  The palate shows great acidity that’s zippy and refreshing.  Spice is up front, but the citrus and tropical flavors shine as well.  The lime zest really plays it up on the finish.

Pair it with a salad, any type of seafood, or a bratwurst, even.  It’s a good everyday wine at a suggested retail price of $18.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Wines At Monsieur Marcel

When a nice glass of wine is available for half of what it usually costs, that’s a happy occurrence.  It makes me want to do a little Gangnam style dance on the way over to the bar.  A Gangnam style happy hour dance.

Since I have had my afternoons completely free of late, I’ve had the chance to explore various versions of happy hour.  The classic happy hour is “half off drinks and the bar menu.”  That’s how they roll at Monsieur Marcel in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles.

I met a wine buddy of mine there who wanted to tell me all about his new business venture.  It was a nice, sunny afternoon and a couple of refreshing beverages were called for and delivered.

The 2010 Gentil, by the Alsatian producer Hugel, is normally $10 by the glass - $5 during happy hour.  This white blend, as the producer says, shows “the suave, spicy flavour of Gewurztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner.”  The white fruit shares the leading role with the minerals.  It’s certainly a refreshing drink, with plenty of acidity and a very pleasant finish.

From Tavel, where all they do is rosé, the Château de Trinquevedal rosè 2010 is $11 by the glass, but only $5.50 during happy hour.  It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Bourboulenc and Mourvèdre.  That’s a lot of French grape, there, and it shows.  While the wine is refreshing and loaded with Jolly Rancher flavor, there is a funkiness that is very complex.  It satisfies like a rosé, but drinks more like a red wine.  The big cherry flavor screams Grenache, but the other grapes all make their claim at being a part of the wine.  It’s a rosé one can actually ruminate upon, if one is given to rumination while sipping.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Wine: Castello di Amorosa

A man’s home may be his castle, but one man’s Napa Valley castle is his winery.  Dario Sattui - of V. Sattui fame - built Castello di Amorosa in the latter part of the twentieth century.  It looks like it belongs to an earlier time.

Sattui belongs to an earlier time.  He has spent his life fighting long odds and naysayers in order to accomplish what he wants - needs - to do.  It is compelling reading to flip through his descriptions of rebuilding his great-grandfather’s winery, traveling the world for his castle obsession and ultimately willing the enlistment of those whose help he needed.

The Napa Valley estate vineyards are planted mainly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Primitivo, but he also has vineyards in Mendocino County and Anderson Valley.

It is from these outlying areas that Sattui gets enough Gewürztraminer to produce four different profiles of the aromatic and fruity grape.  200 acres in Mendocino County and nine in Anderson Valley provide most of the fruit.  Additional needs are handled by select growers in Mendocino.  A publicist for the winery was kind enough to send samples of three Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer views.

Gewürztraminer is a great, refreshing, white wine for summer - but don't put it in a box.  Gewürztraminer is great all year round.  Kudos to Castello di Amorosa’s Director of Winemaking, Brooks Painter.

Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer 2011

This is the dry version, produced entirely from Mendocino County estate grapes. The alcohol level is 13.5% abv, 1,100 cases were made and it sells for $23 retail.

The wine has the color of light straw and an extremely floral nose - absolutely beautiful with pears in the aroma profile.  As I was tasting all three wines, Denise kept asking, “What is that?  It smells great.”  She smelled it from across the room.  The palate shows golden apples and pears with hints of spice.  There’s a great acidity and minerality package that runs from start to finish.  I’d love to have it with some enormous crab legs.

Castello di Amorosa Dolcino 2011

Dolcino means “lightly sweet” in Italian, and that’s what you get in this bottle.  At only 12% abv, it’s light to drink, as well.  1,849 cases were made from estate and grower grapes out of Anderson Valley.  It sells for $24.

The nose is laden with honeysuckle and ripe peaches.  I don’t like to gush, but the bouquets on these wines are fairly amazing.  The palate is lightly sweet, as promised, with fruit up front and herbal notes and a gentle minerality flowing beneath.  The acidity is more gentle than in the dry, as well.  The wine finishes beautifully, with floral and fruit lingering beyond the sip.

Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2011

The dessert wine expression comes from estate grapes in Anderson Valley that were blessed with the noble rot, botrytis cinerea.  The thick skins of Gewürztraminer make it resistant to the mold, so it’s a rare treat to have this bottling.  The grapes were harvested a week into November.  The alcohol is a low 11.2% abv and 2,694 cases were produced.

It shows a nice golden color, a little lighter than most dessert wines.  The nose of honeyed citrus comes on like grapefruit candy, while the palate is silky and viscous.   Rich grapefruit and apricot sweetness drapes itself over the sides of the glass, dense and seductive, with a nice level of acidity to top it off.  A lot of people like to have a few dessert wines around during the holidays, and this one would be quite welcome next to an apple pie or peach cobbler.  For that matter, the dry and the Dolcino versions would be great around holiday time.

All the wines of Castello di Amorosa are available only directly from the winery, either in the tasting room or online.

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