Showing posts with label Gruner Veltliner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gruner Veltliner. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Austria's Gift To Wine - Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner (grew-ner velt-LEE-ner) is the most prized grape of Austria.  White wines made from the grape are widely acclaimed for their quality.  Austria is its primary home, although a handful of other eastern European nations grow the grape, too. 

The grapes for Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel came from the steeply terraced vineyards of the Wachau Valley.  The wine is called Terrassen, which means grapes from small terraced vineyards on either side of the Danube River are blended together.  Federspiel is the middle tier of qualitative classification in the Wachau region, higher than Steinfeder but not as high as Smaragd.

Domäne Wachau's Winery Director Roman Horvath and winemaker Heinz Frischengruber created a food-friendly wine from the stony earth, one that offers fabulous acidity as well as a distinct minerality.  Alcohol hits only 12.5% abv and it sells for about $15, a steal.

This wine's nose features a strong floral element, quickly joined by a peach note which is not quite ripe.  The expected minerals come next, with white pepper, lime and an herbal play following.  The palate shows minerals in high definition with a tart fruit flavor in tow, possibly quince or apricot, either one a bit on the green side.  I have tasted $15 wines that were better, but also ones which were much worse.  A bit more ripeness would benefit this one, but then it might be trying to taste like California instead of Austria.  It's just fine as is for pairing with summer salads.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Three Wineries For The Price Of One

There's a three-way wine tasting room in San Luis Obispo.  Baileyana, Tangent and True Myth all show off their wines in a little yellow school house.  There's a great view of the vineyards to one side of the old structure, and a field of sunflowers off the other side.  The Niven family planted their Paragon vineyard three decades ago, from which the lion's share of their wines are still produced.

Natalie poured for Guido and me.  It was another great trip up the 101 into California’s beautiful Central Coast.  Tasters once had the option here of doing a flight of Baileyana, a flight of the all-white wine Tangent or a mix.  Now, only the mix is offered.  True Myth was not represented on the tasting menu the day I went.  The tasting cost $15, a charge which is waived with a two-bottle purchase.

On the menu:

Tangent "Clone 530" Sauvignon Blanc 2017 smells and tastes a bit more New Zealand than Cali SauvBlanc usually tastes.  There's grass, tropical and a clean zippiness, although the acidity was not extreme.  $32

Baileyana "La Pristina" Chardonnay 2016 doesn’t come off as wildly oaky, until you sip it.  One-third of the wood is new French oak and it was in there for nine months.  There's a nice acidity.  $30

Baileyana "La Entrada" Pinot Noir 2016 is light and gorgeous.  It's an elegant Pinot, a rarity in California, where ripeness generally takes them into the heavyweight category.  Cherries, strawberries, roses, violets, all for $35.

Trenza "Mosaico" 2013 is a 60/40 blend of Grenache and Syrah.  It's made from Paso Robles grapes, while all the other wines on the list are estate bottlings.  Big and juicy, this wine shows off the best of warm-climate grapes, ripe and fresh with a great grip.

Zocker Late Harvest Grüner Veltliner 2012 is a very drinkable dessert wine which can pair with great versatility.  It's not a huge sugar rush, rather a delight with a shade of tartness that balances the wine beautifully.  $20


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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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Monday, August 19, 2013

Wine Country Pennsylvania - Lakeview Wine Cellars

We have visited Pennsylvania before in the Now And Zin Wine Country series.  At O'Donnell Winery, Norbert O’Donnell makes due in a cold climate quite nicely with grapes taken from slightly off the usual wine grape path.  Awhile back, O'Donnell wrote to suggest I get in touch with Sam Best of Lakeview Wine Cellars in northwestern Pennsylvania.  The pair met while taking some wine classes together and they hit it off famously.

Lakeview Wine Cellars is located in the town of North East, PA, even though the community is actually in the far northwestern corner of the Keystone State.  The name refers to its position within Erie County.

Best tells me that northwestern Pennsylvania is the largest grape growing area east of the Rockies, with some 30,000 acres under vine.  The Lake Erie appellation stretches over three states, from Buffalo, New York to Toledo, Ohio.  Best proudly notes that the Lake Erie Wine Trail is the fastest-growing wine country in the northeastern US.

Best estimates there are anywhere from 150-200 grape growers within 15 miles of his winery.  A lot are growing Concord grapes, while some grow Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay,  Gruner Veltliner and Riesling.  Best says there are three major growers in his area who sell their juice to winemakers.

Becky and Sam Best
The 5,000 cases of wine produced by Lakeview each year are currently produced with juice from these growers, but Best has plans for grapes of his own.  He actually has six acres of Concord, but he is in the process of removing those vines and replanting different varieties like Noiret.  That grape was developed by the wine department at Cornell University, an institution as indispensable to winemakers in the northeastern US as Cal Davis is to California vintners.

"Noiret is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon," says Best, "with the same type of color and tannins but a little higher in acid.  It has a peppery taste and is not as fussy as, say, Pinot Noir."  The one-acre plot could take five years to start producing, and Best is looking forward to planting more varieties, too.

Best says he specializes in dry reds and dry whites, although he sells about the same amount of sweet wine as dry.  His biggest seller at Lakeview Wine Cellars is Red Sky, a blend of Concord and Niagara grapes with a 5% mark on the residual sugar scale.  He uses only neutral Pennsylvania oak for fermentation and aging.  He also makes a wine using Steuben grapes.

Only four of Best’s 13 wines are sweet, clocking in between 3.5% and 5% residual sugar.  He makes a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and a Cab Franc ice wine infused with chocolate.  The grapes for his ice wine don’t come from the freezer.  They are picked frozen right off the vine.

Lakeview's Shipwreck Series of wines tips the captain's hat to the seafarers of Lake Erie.  Best claims there are more shipwrecks on Lake Erie than in the Bermuda Triangle.  He says that's due, in part, to an average depth in the Great Lake of only 58 feet.  It's the climatic effect of that relatively shallow water that keeps things temperate in the fall and spring.

I can’t wait to taste the wines made from Best’s own vineyard, although I’m sure he’s even more anxious.  Until those vines are ready, he will continue to use grapes grown by others - the best he can find - to fulfill his passion for winemaking.  If his Lakeview Wine Cellars customers can wait, so can he.


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wine Country Washington: Interview With Bob Betz, Betz Family Winery


The Now And Zin Wine Country series continues with wine from the state of Washington.  The overview of Washington wine’s historical perspective and the tasting notes of the wine sampled will come later.

I had the good fortune to chat by phone with the gentleman who agreed to supply the samples, Bob Betz, of Betz Family Winery.  The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Betz Family Winery makes a limited amount of high-quality wine using fruit from neighboring vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA.  Betz describes his focus:  “It’s all red - we don’t make any whites - and they are Bordeaux varieties and Rhone varieties.  We have Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  And from the Rhone side of it, we make three different Syrahs that are all single-site Syrahs, and a southern Rhone blend that is Grenache-dominant.  We blend Cabernets from Red Mountain, the west end of the Yakima Valley and the Horse Heaven Hills area along the Columbia River.”

Is Grenache widely planted in Washington?  “No, it’s not,” Betz says, “but we’ve been making it for ten vintages.  There was Grenache planted in the ‘50s, and in the ‘70s and ‘80s we were making rosé out of it; it was probably the best rosé in the country, with fabulous color and density and a crisp edge.  Well, we learned a lot about making red wine from it, and I am a Southern Rhone nut.  We blend in Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise with it.”

Betz confesses, “I used to whimsically say that all wine would be red if it could, and while the majority of the wine I drink is red, give me a good bottle of Gruner Veltliner or Riesling or Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  We started with all red, and never say never, but right now it’s all red.”

His love of Gru-Vee led to a bit of a oenological experiment on his property.  “We planted 150 Gruner Veltliner vines right in front of the winery, but we have yet to make a wine from them,” say Betz.  “The acid is so, so powerful that it’s not gonna happen.”  Knowing how sommeliers love acidity, I suggested he make a lot just for them.  “No, this is even too much for them,” he says.  “We make about 20 gallons of juice every year and we have to dump it.  1.2, 1.3 grams, whew, it’s heavy stuff.  Since we had no on-site vineyards, I just wanted to show people who visit that wine is a part of the earth.  You don’t just turn a spigot and get wine.  This vineyard is there to remind people where it comes from.”

I have been told that Washington Syrahs are great.  “Yes,” he exclaims.  “What we appreciate up here is the cooler growing season, especially once we hit post-véraison, [the onset of ripening] where our daytime temperatures are not so high, our nighttime temperatures are pretty low.”

Betz harvests mainly in September, but with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, he may let the grapes hang on the vine a bit longer.  “There’s not a lot of photosynthetic potential left in late October to early November here in the Columbia Valley, but we see a little increase in sugar accumulation, so we like to let them hang longer when we can.  Both of these varieties seem to like that lingering development.

“Two of our three Syrahs are from pretty cool sites.  One is from Red Mountain, a warm site, one is from the far west end of the Yakima Valley where it cools down pretty dramatically from mid-September, and then one right in between, the coolest of the sites at much higher altitude.”

I asked Betz if he thinks there is a single grape the Washington wine industry can hang its hat on.  “No” was the quick answer.  “Just about the time I get all wrapped up in Washington Riesling, or Chardonnay, or Syrah or Cabernet, I taste something really compelling and realize we’re doing a better job at deciding site/variety marriages than we were even ten years ago.  There are sites where great Riesling is being grown, some warm sites where Cabernet Sauvignon comes from, and Syrah from both types of sites.”

Since a little history is always part of tasting wine from one of the American states, I asked Betz to encapsulate Washington wine history.  “Vinifera grapes [wine grapes of European origin] were planted in Washington back in the 1800s,” he says, “but our real history starts about 1950 or so when two wine companies decided they had had enough of loganberry and olallieberry and currant wines, and decided to give vinifera grapes a try.  Eventually the two companies merged and became Chateau Ste. Michelle.  In the mid-1960s Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery began popping vinifera into the ground.”

Betz has been in the wine business a long time, and he spent a significant part of that time in the service of Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Betz says, “Having been there for 28 years, I have a great deal of respect for what they do and how they do it.  Making four thousand cases of wine is one thing, making four million is... wow, I’m in awe.”

“A guy named Walter Clore was at Washington State University, and he is really the father of Washington wine, but Ste. Michelle’s influence on Washington wine cannot be overstated.  I don’t say that as an ex-employee, I say it as a competitor.  We wouldn’t be here without them.”

He took a few seconds to muse about his time making Betz Family wine.  “This is our 17th vintage in the Columbia Valley.  We had the first winery here that was built from the ground up, specifically to be a winery.  People made wine in garages before that.”

Betz is selling the winery, and he makes it sound like he’s okay with that.   “I’ll be released from day to day operations, so someone else will worry about forklift fuel and insurance policies.  I’ll get to focus on winemaking.”  In other words, Betz is not in the market for a rocking chair.

I hope to post about specific Betz Family wines sometime next week.


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Monday, June 4, 2012

Whole Foods Wine: Summer Twitter Tasting #1


The folks at Whole Foods Market have a popular series of Twitter Tasting events designed to show off the wines offered in their chain of groceries.  The Whole Foods wine buyers and some local stores take part, but mostly the gatherings consist of a bunch of social media addicts who love wine - good people like you and me.

Their Twitter Tastings about their line of Spanish wines were quite enjoyable, and just last week the same venue was used to expose Whole Foods’ wines of summer.  They have a top ten list of summer favorites, and three of the wines were the topic of the May 31, 2012 event.  Another trio will be sipped and discussed on July 12, 2012 from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT.  If you want to take part, pick up the wines and log on at that time.  Use the hashtag #WFMwine.  We’ll be waiting for you.

There was a lot of very satisfied tweeting about the three wines tasted for the most recent event.  A lot of tweeters found all three to be of high quality at a reasonable price.

Mionetto Prosecco is made from organically-grown Glera grapes, which were known as Prosecco until a few years ago.  The name of the grape was changed to help protect the name of the Prosecco D.O.C.  The sparkling wine has only an 11% alcohol content and less than 1% residual sugar.  The winery advises serving it refrigerator-cold, which is a lot colder than I like to serve wine.  They recommend Mionetto Prosecco as a base for Bellinis and other sparkling wine cocktails.

I found the nose a little hard to reach - that happens to me a lot with very cold wine - but minerals and lemon lime did come through for me.  On the palate, the toasty aspect of the fruit was more pronounced than I had anticipated.  It wasn’t as sweet as I had thought it might be, either.  Apples and citrus are in front, with a gentle earthiness riding over the sweetness of the fruit.  Minerals abound amid a wonderful acidity.  The medium finish really holds that minerality.  On Twitter, @WineHarlots liked it a lot.  I know that @WineHarlots tend to love that which sparkles, they also have a discerning palate I can trust.

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner 2011 is another organic wine.  The Pratsch winery is in Austria, northeast of Vienna.  This wine also presents an easy-drinking abv number of 12%.  On the Austrian scale of wine quality it is Qualitätswein.  The Austrian and German quality scale is as challenging a topic as the Italian D.O.C. system, so I won’t pretend to be an authority on it.  As I understand, Qualitätswein means the grapes used in the wine were harvested somewhat overripe.  This could result in a late-harvest type of sweetness, but in this case it does not.

The Pratsch Gruner is very pale and has a nose of lemons and wet rocks.  On the palate it’s very smooth - almost too smooth.  I would like to have a little more acidity, but the smells and flavors are great.  Green apples and minerals are most notable, and the minerals are all over the finish.  Chill this wine for a summer sipper.

On Twitter, @SomeGrapes, @DeniseFraser, @joewinetraveler and others commented on how nice they found the acidity, directly contradicting my impression.  @WineFoodTravel pointed out there’s a hint of cucumber, which I had not noticed until it was pointed out.

Tormaresca Neprica 2010 is a wine from Italy’s I.G.T. Puglia region.  The grapes used are alluded to in the wine’s name:  NEgroamaro, PRImitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon.  The red blend is vinified and aged completely in stainless steel, with full malolactic fermentation.  I always love tasting a red wine produced without oak - the aromas and flavors are always so fresh and enticing.  In this wine, malolactic fermentation imparts a full-mouthed creaminess.

It’s medium-dark in the glass and has an amazing nose - big, huge black cherry, raspberry and currant notes are all wrapped in an earthy hint of allspice.  The palate is lean and fruity, showing very dark raspberry and cherry flavors, but so clean.  The nice acidity level and elegant tannins work together to make a mouth-watering quaff that is a joy to drink.  And in case you think summer wines have to be white or pink, this shows otherwise.  Neprica takes a chill quite well.

On Twitter, @sf_valerie thought the Tormaresca Neprica was like an Orin Swift Chianti, while @melanie0 was happy to find a chillable red for the hot weather ahead.

We hope to see your Twitter handle in the timeline in July!


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Monday, May 28, 2012

Top Ten Summer Wines From Whole Foods Market

The weather is heating up in the hemisphere I call home.  Summer is met with big cheers by sun worshippers, baseball fans and school children - and many of us who like to enjoy a glass of wine are opting for lighter, more refreshing fare that fits in well under the sun.

My friends at Whole Foods Market help out in that last area each year.  They have, once again, revealed their selection of Top Ten Summer Wines available in their stores.  They are also organizing a pair of “Taste and Tweet” sessions in which you can participate.

As an homage to summer, Whole Foods Market wine team has selected ten of their favorite warm-weather wines - from crisp, fragrant whites to earthy, spicy reds - all priced between $7.99 and $14.99.  That pricing will take the heat off buying every day sippers and hearty reds that stand up to grilled foods.

The Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wines include a one-of-a-kind organic grüner veltliner from Austria as well as the old favorite Bolla Soave Classico, an Italian favorite from the 1970s that has been bottled in classy, retro packaging.

Doug Bell is the global wine buyer for Whole Foods Market.  He says, “We have found some great wines that are like ‘bottled sunshine’ for our shoppers who will also be pleasantly surprised when they see the prices of these gems.  With our selection and diversity of summer wines, shoppers can easily find the perfect bottle or two for the beach, outdoor picnic and/or backyard barbecue.”

If you’d like to join the discussion of these summery wines, do so on Twitter, during two different Taste & Tweet online chats.  Go to wholefoodsmarket.com/wine for more information about the Twitter Tastings and use the hashtag #WFMwine to follow the conversation.  Here are the dates, and the wines about which we’ll be tasting and tweeting:

Summer Wines Twitter Tasting 1 – Thursday, May 31, 7-8 p.m. CT
·     Mionetto Prosecco
·     Pratsch Grüner Veltliner
·     Tormaresca Neprica

Summer Wines Twitter Tasting 2 – Thursday, July 12, 7-8 p.m. CT
·     Kyklos Moschofilero
·     Yalumba Christobel’s Eden Valley Riesling
·     Pallas Tempranillo by Jorge Ordonez

Here’s the whole list - Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Summer Wines: (descriptions, recipes and pairings are provided by Whole Foods Market.)

Mionetto Prosecco (Italy)
With golden apple and elderflower flavors, this lively and delicate sparkling wine has a clean, lingering finish – perfect to sip or pair with seafood.  Made with organically-grown grapes.

Recipe pairing: Mussels Vinaigrette
Cheese pairing: Fromager d’Affinois

Kyklos Moschofilero (Greece)
This light straw-colored white has melon, white rose, and citrus flavors with some fresh vegetable notes, providing a zingy, pleasant finish.  A great pairing with seafood, this is a fun substitute for Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

Recipe pairing: Calamari Pasta
Cheese pairing: Mahón

Bolla Soave Classico (Italy)
What is old is new again with this classic Italian white with aromas of flowers and fresh stone fruit and a clean, fresh finish.  This is an easy-drinking white that pairs well with fish.  With a new vintage label created for Whole Foods Market, this is the perfect summer porch wine.

Recipe pairing: Shrimp and Mango Ceviche
Cheese pairing: Wellspring Creamery Cranberry Orange Goat Cheese

Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay (France)
With a toasty bouquet, this white has delicious apple notes and a crisp acidity and round finish.  This is a bargain for a French chardonnay from one of the most innovative producers in Burgundy.

Recipe pairing: Waldorf Salad with Honey-Yogurt Dressing and Fresh Mint
Cheese pairing: Mons Camembert

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner (Austria)
Made with organically grown grapes, this fruit-forward fragrant white offers apple, citrus and white pepper notes paired with great acidity for a crisp finish.

Recipe pairing: Lemony Angel Hair with Crème Fraîche, Parmesan and Artichoke Hearts
Cheese pairing: Morbier

Yalumba Christobel’s Eden Valley Riesling (Australia)
With aromas of nectarine and white peach, citrus zest, tropical fruits, and some minerality, this white offers a touch of sweetness.  This riesling would be perfect paired with apple pie and cheddar cheese.

Recipe Pairing: Sesame-Peanut Noodles
Cheese Pairing: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

Hogue Late Harvest Riesling (Washington)
This dessert wine offers zesty aromas of sweet tangerine, honeysuckle and apricot flavors, with hints of mint on the finish.

Recipe pairing: Grilled Fruit with Caramelized Orange Sauce
Cheese pairing: Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese

Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir (California)
With classic earthy, cola and ripe cherry flavors, this full-bodied red has soft tannins and drinks like a gem.  It is a perfect pairing with grilled salmon and pork loin with fruit.

Recipe pairing: Firecracker Grilled Salmon
Cheese pairing: Borough Market Cheddar

Pallas Tempranillo by Jorge Ordonez (Spain)
This lush, ripe red has aromas of red and dark berries, smoky herbs and spices – the perfect pairing with barbecue, shish kabobs, and Spanish chorizo.

Recipe pairing: Spanish Chickpeas and Chorizohttp://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/119
Cheese pairing: Solé Gran Queso

Tormaresca Neprica (Italy)
A blend of negroamaro, primitivo and cabernet sauvignon, this lean red has dusty aromas, black raspberry and pepper flavors, and silky tannins.  This is a top-notch pick for pepper steak.

Recipe pairing: Skillet Fajitas with Jicama Salsa
Cheese pairing: Drunken Goat

Columbia Winery Merlot (Washington)
With black cherry and plum flavors, and mint and smoky undertones, this merlot is the perfect “go to” wine for burgers and eggplant parmesan.

Recipe pairing: Eggplant Bolognese
Cheese pairing: Parrano

Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
Rich layers of black cherry, blackberry, spice and cedar create a jammy red for pizza, barbecue and sangria with berries.

Recipe pairing: Grilled Vegetable Pizza
Cheese pairing: Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar Aged Two Years


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

AUSTRIA UNCORKED - LOS ANGELES TASTING EVENT RECAP


Austria Uncorked

Austria Uncorked, a showing of Austrian wines at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills May 2nd, 2011, promised a bevy of fabulous white wines to sample - after all, highly structured whites are what Austria is best known for worldwide.

If Austria has a national grape, it would have to be Grüner Veltliner.  The food-friendly, mineral-driven GruVee was all over the room at this event, with most tables pouring several versions.  Riesling was popular, too.  Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also popped up from time to time.  Riesling has a reputation as a sweet wine for some, but the Austrian expression of the grape is quite dry and sometimes so mineral-driven that the fruit is almost obscured.

Despite the grace and elegance shown by the white wines, it was the red wine from Austria which really shone. BlaufrankischZweigelt and St. Laurent are grapes which are all well under the radar for American wine drinkers, unheralded - if not unknown - to most.  Examples of Austrian Pinot Noir showed earthy minerality, light texture and low alcohol levels.  In fact, I don't recall seeing many wines at Austria Uncorked with an alcohol level higher than 14%.

My favorite stop was the table where Birgit Braunstein presented her wines and those of her husband, Martin Pasler.  Their vineyards were planted 70 years ago by her grandfather on land that's been in her family for hundreds of years.  Several of their wines ended up as favorites of mine from this event.

GruvyAs is the case at wine tasting events where there is a proliferation of one particular type of wine, I experienced palate fatigue and the Gruner Veltliners all started to taste the same.  I've experienced the same thing at events that were heavy on Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Albarino.  Mixing it up made for a good palate cleanser. I'd taste whites for a while, then reds, then back to whites.  I even went across the property and sampled a few Ribera Tempranillos at another event going on at the same time.  As good as those Spanish wines were, I didn't stay long. I couldn't wait to get back to Austria.

Austria is roughly at the same latitude as Burgundy, but with more dramatic temperature swings.  Hot days and cool nights help produce wines with aromatic, full-bodied character.  35 grape varieties are authorized for use in making quality wine in Austria.  About a third of the grapes are red wine, another third Gruner Veltliner.  Field blends are common in Austria, where they are called gemischten Satz.  These wines are blends in which the different grapes are harvested and vinified at once.

After the event, I retired to the SLS bar to go over my notes.  Next to me was a young couple engaged in spirited discussion with Wolfgang Puck.  They talked on a number of topics related to food and wine - I couldn't help overhearing - and it wasn't surprising to discover that Puck likes Austrian wines.  He has a soft spot for the wines of Alsace as well.

It has occurred to me before - and was brought into sharp focus at Austria Uncorked - that red wines are more about taste while white wines are more about feeling.  I'll close with a few of my favorite tastes and feelings of the event.

The event was staged by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and the Austrian Trade Commission, and event was the featured event for Austria Wine Week LA, in which a handful of tastings were staged around SoCal.

The Wines

Brigit BraunsteinAs I mentioned earlier, the wines of Brigit Braunstein and Martin Pasler were my favorites.  Their vineyards are in Burgenland, on Lake Neusiedl in the Neusiedlersee - Hugelland region.  Braunstein took over her family's winegrowing business in the mid 1990s and produced her first vintage in 1996.  She says it was "a moment of real happiness in my life."  Her appearance at Austria Uncorked constituted her first visit to the U.S.

Braunstein poured two white wines of note, a Welschriesling and a Weissburgunder.  Welschriesling has no relation to the Riesling grape and is of unclear origin.  Weissburgunder is better known as Pinot Blanc.  The former has a lovely, aromatic nose sporting green peppers and flowers, while the latter has a creamy, fruity taste of peaches and pears.  Both these whites feature great acidity, but that was not an uncommon tasting note throughout the room.

Braunstein's reds really bowled me over.  Her Zweigelt - the most-planted red grape in Austria - has a beautiful cherry nose and a huge cherry taste.  The Blaufrankisch shows its chalky, limestone soil with an earthy nose and mineral-laced strawberries on the palate.  The St. Laurent - a grape which is a child of Pinot Noir bearing the same cantankerous traits as its parent - is a complete delight.  Her Oxhoft red blend marries Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon for a wine which displays enormous red fruit on the nose and on the brilliant palate.

As if these treats were not enough, we proceeded to the dessert wines.  A pair of Botrytis-infected beauties were poured.  The Beerenauslese blends Welschriesling for acidity, Goldburgerfor the fruit and Neuburger for the sweetness.  Sweet pears and apricots show in this delicious dessert wine.  The Trockenbeerenauslese is a late harvest Pinot Noir showing the chalky limestone soil in its sultry sugar.

More Wines

Judith Beck - '09 Zweigelt shows extreme earthiness and brilliant fruit flavors at once.

J. Heinrich Winery - '08 Cuvee of Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot presents a very smokey nose and spicy red fruit.

Juris Winery - '08 St. Laurent has a dirty, funky nose, and I mean that in a great way.  Tart and dry, very interesting.

Rosenhof Winery - Four dessert wines - Beerenauslese, two Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein - that are sweet with great acidity.

Johanneshof Reinisch Winery - A 2010 Rotgipfler - have you had that grape? - is a white with a nutty salinity and citrus fruit.  Also, an $89 '06 St. Laurent which has tannins as smooth as silk.

Salomon Unhof Winery - A 2009 Gruner Veltliner Reserve from the Lindberg Vineyard is creamy and full with a citrus finish.

Turk Winery - A 2009 Gruner Veltliner from the Kremser Sandgrube Vineyard has great acidity and a spicy citrus zest taste.

R & A Pfaffl Wine Estate - A no-oak 2010 Zweigelt with bright cherry nose and flavors would be great chilled on the deck this summer.  Their '08 St. Laurent shows fantastic minerals on the nose and a dry, dark cherry taste.

Kracher Winery - They poured six dessert wines.  Tops were the '08 Cuvee of Welshriesling and Chardonnay - done in steel, but showing a smokey sweetness - and the '08 ScheurebeTrockenbeerenauslese which is viscous, sweet and clean.

I enjoyed stopping at each table at Austria Uncorked, and limiting myself to just these wines I've mentioned seems an injustice.  There were so many great tasting Blaufrankisch, Zeigelt and St. Laurent wines - not to mention all the Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings - that this piece could have gone on for pages and pages.  If you are not familiar with Austrian wines, get familiar.  You'll be doing yourself and your palate a favor.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecker Gruner Veltliner 2007


Hailed as "the next great white wine" for several years now, with the drumbeats really rolling lately, Gruner Veltliner certainly brings a lot to the table.

Some are getting so chummy with the variety they have taken to referring to it as "Gru-Vee."  I tried that at the Veranda Room at Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica  recently and felt rather foolish when the waitress registered a complete blank.  I quickly recovered, ordered "the Ecker Gruner" and got the evening back on track.

The wine is widely regarded as one of the better "cheap wines."  $10 per glass is pretty cheap at the Veranda Room, and I would imagine a bottle of the stuff goes for less than that.

I liked the stoney minerality right away, but also enjoyed a floral quality on the nose and palate that complemented rather than competed with the tartness.  A nice acidity told me this Gruner won't be satisfied relegated to the porch or patio all summer.  It will want to be up on the table, if not for dinner, at least for lunch.

Variety:  Gruner Veltliner
Appellation:  Austria > Donauland 
Vintage:  2007
Alcohol Level:  12% abv
Price:  $10/glass
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author, by the glass