Showing posts with label Muscat Canelli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Muscat Canelli. Show all posts

Friday, July 7, 2017

Surprising White Wine From The Livermore Valley

Murrieta's Well is a Wente property in California's Livermore Valley. They take great pride in being one of the Golden State's "original wine estates." The property was founded in the late 19th century, with cuttings from the Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux in France. The place was bought in 1933 by Ernest Wente. In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso "partnered together to revive the winery." Winemaker Robbie Meyer does a great job of turning the fruit entrusted to him into magnificent wines that tell the story of the land.

A virtual event recently put Murrieta's Well into an online tasting session, which is documented here. My thanks to those involved in putting on the show for inviting me and providing samples to taste.

Small Lot Livermore Valley Muscat Canelli 2016

The Muscat Canelli grapes for this wine were grown in the Hayes Vineyard portion of the estate. The winery says that plot features a wide array of soils and elevations. The wine was vinified in stainless steel tanks, with five months aging in same. 2016 was the fourth drought vintage in a row for those grapes, and the concentration of the fruit shows the struggle the vines went through. Only 150 cases were made, at 14.2% abv, and they advise that a couple years of waiting will reveal a wine with even more body. The body it has right now ain't bad at all. It sells for $35.

The wine comes on like a basket of flowers and Meyer lemons on the nose. The palate veers away from "sweet" and heads toward "minerals," though, with a nice streak of acidity ripping through it. Summer's here. Lobster, crab, oysters, bring 'em on.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Livermore Valley: Whipping Up A Wonderful White

Murrieta's Well is a Wente property in California's Livermore Valley. They take great pride in being one of the Golden State's "original wine estates." The property was founded in the late 19th century, with cuttings from the Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Margaux in France. The place was bought in 1933 by Ernest Wente. In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso "partnered together to revive the winery." Winemaker Robbie Meyer does a great job of turning the fruit entrusted to him into magnificent wines that tell the story of the land.

A virtual event recently featured Murrieta's Well into an online tasting session, which is documented here. My thanks to Snooth and all those involved in putting on the show for inviting me and providing samples to taste.

The Whip White Wine Blend 2015

This white is 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon, 30% Chardonnay, 7% Viognier and a splash of Muscat Canelli, all grown in the Murrieta's Well Livermore Valley estate vineyard. The wine has 13.5% abv and sells for $24.

They say they look each vintage for aromatics and food-friendly freshness. They certainly found them in this edition of The Whip. Here's what the winery writes about how the wine is crafted. "A small portion of the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc were fermented in small oak barrels over the course of approximately two weeks to add a roundness to the blend. The remaining Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the Semillon, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli were fermented cold in stainless steel tanks as individual components for approximately three weeks. This maintains the wine's natural acidity and vibrant freshness."

The nose features a complex mix of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and sweet peach. A stirring acidity frames citrus, minerals and nectarines in a food-friendly canvas that’s ready for spring and summer salads. If you’re snacking, it hits a walnut just right.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SBC Tasting Room: Tres Hermanas

We made a trip out of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County wine country recently. My wife and I, along with our good and dear friend Guido love this two-hour trip. The stop in Camarillo to have a bagel and coffee is mandatory and the Trader Joe’s on Milpas provides our picnic lunch. Usually it’s a loaf of bread, some cheese, avocados and olives. This short series will describe some of the wines we sampled in the various tasting rooms we visited.

A cattle ranch provided the beginning of Tres Hermanas Vineyard & Winery in 2001 when Marvin and Paulette Teixeira planted a small vineyard there. The name translates from Spanish as “Three Sisters,” and stands for their three daughters.

We arrived to an empty parking lot, a little unusual for a Saturday afternoon in wine country. A cow lowed in distance - the only sound around - as we looked up at the threatening sky. We couldn’t help but note that the winegrowers would love a little rain, but the wine sellers must be saying, “Did it have to come on Saturday?”

Tres Hermanas Winemaker Mark Horvath is a longtime fixture in Santa Barbara County wine. He will host a private tasting by appointment, but you are welcome to stop by the tasting room anytime. It is a little remote but easily accessible along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

I was tasting only white wines on this trip, and Tres Hermanas has quite a few good ones.

Cuvée Sadie 2009 $26 - This 60/40 blend of Viognier and Chardonnay has a great savory nose and wonderful acidity. Oak spice is well-handled and the nutty finish really is a pleasant memory after the sip..

Dos Blanc 2009 $28 - A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (55&) and Chenin Blanc, this wine has a very funky and aromatic nose. On the palate, savory almond and tropical fruit is joined by a fantastic acidity. Mango sticks around on the finish.

Pinot Gris 2009 $19 - This is a pretty damn awesome Pinot Gris. To me, it is reminiscent of some of the best examples of northern Italian Pinot Grigio. A savory dark nose with hints of nutmeg rolls out the red carpet for the completely earthy palate. Did I say great acidity? Oh, yes. Great acidity.

Cuvée Haleigh 2009 $18 - Bright aromatics mark this Riesling, which has some petrol notes coming through on the nose and palate, the age starting to show nicely.

Fume Blanc 2009 $28 - A fully oaked Sauvignon Blanc, this one shows savory nuts on the nose along with the herbal sense. Tastes of tropical fruit and a beautiful salinity are helped along by a very nice acidity. It was a great day for acidity.

Malvasia Bianca 2009 $19 - Honey flowers and an herbal green element decorate the nose, with sweet pear juice competing for attention. The palate is sweet and nutty with a floral finish.

Muscat Canelli 2011 $19 - Savory candy and exotic flowers are quite expressive on the nose, and a nice sweet palate laden with peach and touch of candy reveals the 1.5% residual sugar.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blended Wines Offer Better Guessing Games

Blended wines have more to offer than varietal wines, in my humble opinion. The fun I experience while trying to pin down the percentages of the different grapes in the blend probably marks me as a wine geek beyond hope, but that's alright with me. It's a fate from which I feel no need to be rescued.

Cornerstone Cellars' Stepping Stone brand offers a white blend called Rocks! It combines Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Canelli, but the percentages are withheld - the better to cause wine geeks to wonder what those numbers are.

Cornerstone's managing partner, Craig Camp, made a sample available to me. He always shares more than wine with a sample, citing his own love of blends - particularly field blends, in which the grapes are grown together in the vineyard with only a guess as to what percentages make up the blend.

Camp writes, "My love of interesting blends goes back to the now famous Vintage Tunia by Silvio Jermann in Italy's Fruili." He says he was among the first American importers of this wine in the early 1980's. "During the same period I was introduced to the many blended southern French wines by Christopher Cannan," he continues. "No one debated too much the exact blends of these wines they way people do now. They were just enjoyed for what they were - delicious."

On the Jermann website, there is a quote from a wine writer on the virtues of Vintage Tunia: "No one until now has ever realised it, but it is the most extraordinary meditation wine in existence. Not in the passive sense (wine to drink while meditating), but in the active sense: it is a wine that makes you meditate.” So let's meditate on Stepping Stone Rocks! North Coast White Blend 2013.

One of the numbers Cornerstone does release is the alcohol content of 13.3%, a fairly moderate number. Also moderate is the retail price of $15.

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Rocks! North Coast White Blend 2013 has a pale yellow tint in the glass, with a brilliant nose featuring a spray of floral notes with melon and a spicy, herbal twist. The palate offers very bright acidity in a wine that is sweet, but not syrupy. There is a cantaloupe note in the middle and a citrus finish. This is a natural with Japanese noodles, Pad Thai or penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes.

The floral aromas give away the Muscat Canelli, while the fruit I attribute to the Chardonnay and the vibrant acidity to the Viognier. The alcohol moderation points to early harvest and the balance to just plain good winemaking.

Kari Auringer has just replaced Jeff Keene as the Cornerstone winemaker, by the way. According to Camp, "When Kari became winemaker for Cornerstone Cellars she was, in fact, coming home as, for most of the vintages of the 2000s, Kari was assistant winemaker to Celia Welch, who made the wines of Cornerstone Cellars from 2000 through 2007. Kari's fingerprint is already on almost a decade of Cornerstone Cellars wines. Over the last decade she has contributed to the fame of some of the Napa Valley's most luminous names including Scarecrow, Lindstrom, Keever, Kelly Fleming and Corra and has been singled out as a rising star in Napa Valley winemaking."

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière 2005

Besides being one of the all-around champion Rhone Rangers, Bonny Doon Vineyards’ president-for-life Randall Grahm dabbles in other grapes, too.  If Old McDonald had a vineyard, it would feature a Bordeaux here, a Spanish variety there, here a Rhone, there a Rhone, etc.  It would even feature some nice California Muscat.

I ran across this one, at large for several years among my belongings.  The Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière 2005 actually sports 98% Muscat Canelli, with a dash each of Muscat Giallo and Viognier.  The dessert wine only hits 11.5% abv, but the residual sugar is stratospheric at 17.2%.

Ice wine is typically produced, where nature allows, by harvesting frozen grapes and pressing them.  Frozen sugar melts faster than plain, ol’ ice, so you get those high RS levels needed for a dessert wine.

This VdG is produced from post-harvest grapes, but California wine makers need some help in the freezing department, as Grahm explains.  “Because we live in temperate California, we have to cheat a little when it comes to making ‘ice wine.’  …In as much as coastal California winters do not offer [a frozen] climate, we inter the grapes in a Castroville commercial freezer for a month of deep freeze.”  After that, the long pressing process begins, leading to a long fermentation.  Grahm says the fermentation for this wine went on for seven weeks before he felt the alcohol and sugar were in balance.

The wine looks almost like bourbon - just a tad lighter in color and intensity; copper rather than brown.  The nose is raisiny, with a good whiff of alcohol despite the low content.  A very good acidity exists on the palate, with flavors of apricot and apple meeting the loveliness of sugar.  Some orange peel and a caramel note are a true delight.  Fairly viscous, the wine leaves a trail along the sides of the glass.  A little brown sugar on the finish wraps up this holiday gift nicely.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks!

The title of this piece may look like an over-the-top fanboy's reaction, but it's actually just the name borne by the line of everyday wines from Napa's Cornerstone Cellars.  The fact that I am a bit of a fanboy is completely irrelevant.

The Stepping Stone Rocks! wines - both an affordable $18 - bring high quality and low price together like they were made to be that way.  An everyday wine is good only if you actually want to drink it every day, and these wines certainly cover that base.

The grapes utilized by winemaker Jeff Keene are from California's North Coast AVA, an enormous expanse which includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and parts of Marin and Solano counties.

Cornerstone's decision to keep the blend percentages a "secret" is part marketing ploy and part winemaker prerogative.  Their web content says "we want everyone savoring the results vintage to vintage, not the statistics."

Cornerstone partner Craig Camp says, "My love of interesting blends goes back to the now famous Vintage Tunia by Silvio Jermann in Italy's Fruili, which I was among the first American importers of back in the early 1980's.  During the same period I was introduced to the many blended southern French wines by Christopher Cannan.  No one debated too much the exact blends of these wines they way people do now.  They were just enjoyed for what they were - delicious."

So the angle is, they juggle the numbers every year to be playful and fun, which is pretty much how the blends turn out and pretty much what a lot of us look for in a wine that's priced so it can be enjoyed every night.  More likely, they find it cost effective to change the makeup each vintage based on the grapes' availability.  If that brings a bottle of good wine to us for less than a twenty, it's alright with me.
The redesigned packaging for Rocks! is unpretentious and simple, and the move to bottle them under a screwcap was made with picnics in mind.

2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone North Coast Red Rocks!

Zinfandel, Merlot and Grenache mix it up in a lively manner, with alcohol at 14.1% abv.  Five months aging in stainless steel tanks gives the wine a brightness and freshness that is noteworthy.  Very dark in color, the nose invitingly displays the brambly Zin, the smokey Merlot and the fruity Grenache.  The palate is dark and fruit forward with a great acidity that is mouth watering and food friendly.  Blueberry, blackberry and oak spice mingle in the flavor profile.  Twist this one open for a backyard barbecue and everybody will be happy, even if you burn the steaks.

2012 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone North Coast White Rocks! 

The grapes are Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli, and the latter one sure does make its presence known.  The lightly green-tinted wine shows a lot of sweetness on the nose.  Aromas of sweet flowers and sweet honey burst forth with a trace of minerals underneath.  The roles are reversed on the palate, with the sweetness playing second fiddle.  In the mouth, the White Rocks! has a zippy acidity and a ton of citrus zing - the sweet notes are there, just not as pronounced as the smell would lead me to believe.  This wine is ready for shellfish or salad - or both - and can stand on its own as a refreshing sipper.  The alcohol content sits at 14.1% abv, just like its red sibling.

These two Rocks! entries are both fun, playful, everyday wines that I'm ready for any day.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Monday, June 14, 2010


Pancake Cellars Big Day White

If you are a fan of wine labels depicting funny cartoon images, cuddly pets or goofy lettering, then you and I do not share that particular sensibility.  The marketing ploy of labeling a wine with strong, identifiable imagery is understandable – it's a big wine world out there.  It's hard to make one product stand out in a crowded marketplace.  An eye-catching label is one way wine marketers hope to make their wines jump off the shelves and into your shopping basket.

I've never liked the feeling of being “worked,” and it makes me feel that way when I see a wine label decorated with a big cartoon grape stomping his way down a city street like a smiling, waving Godzilla.  The thread that ties this image to the concept described on the back label is so thin I can't even remember it now so that I can relate it to you.

Pancake Cellars Big Day White offers this ridiculous-looking label art as their way of being noticed.  The “pancake” reference goes unexplained, and for that I am grateful.

This wine is produced by Central Coast Wines Warehouse in Santa Maria, and is a blend of five different grapes: 27% Chardonnay, 24% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Viognier, 21% Muscat Canelli and 4% Pinot Blanc.  Previous vintages have included a much heavier reliance on Sauvignon Blanc that in the 2009.  It's sold in Trader Joe's markets for a scant five dollars per bottle and holds a moderate 13.9% abv level.

Pancake Cellars is designated as being located in Santa Maria, and the wine is branded as being produced from Paso Robles fruit, so aside from the tacky labeling, things are looking good before I even crack open the bottle.

Once the bottle is open, the nose of the very pale golden wine easily gives up aromas of flowers and peach syrup.  The back label states that apples, cantaloupes, honeysuckle and lemongrass are also present, although I would only allow for the honeysuckle.

The taste is succulent and deceptively smooth at first sip.  The acidity comes along fairly late, but it does come.  There's not the sort of mineral quality I expected from a Paso Robles white wine, but a slight orange peel flavor peeks out in its place.  I'd call this wine “off-dry” and recommend it for fans of “summer sippers,” although to be honest it would probably pair fairly well with light salads and seafood.  I did try it with Denise's delicious lentil and roasted vegetable salad.  Sadly, the flavors were mostly buried by the robust nature of the food.  What did come through, though, was quite a nice match.

All in all, it's not a bad wine, but it doesn't strike me as a very serious wine.  It doesn't look like one on the shelf, either.

Saturday, June 5, 2010



We have a trip to Las Vegas coming up, my wife and I.  She likes the pre-programmed entertainment value of slots, while I prefer the minute-to-minute changing of the odds with blackjack.  It's one of the great benefits of the game of "21" that you can see most of the cards in play.  Everyone plays against the dealer, so hiding one's cards is not necessary.  Not so with poker.  In poker, one guards his cards like a state secret lest one of those secrets is seen by an opponent, to your detriment.  That's where the phrase "play your cards close to your vest" comes from.  Keep your hand pressed against your chest, and no one will be able to see what's there.

Conundrum likes to play their cards close to the vest.  They'll tell you that the grapes in this white blend are: Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley and Muscat Canelli from the Central Coast, with Chardonnay and Viognier from their vineyards in Monterey County, but that's all.  They won't tell you what the percentages are.  Therein lies the conundrum.  About one-fourth of the wine is fermented in stainless steel, while the remainder is fermented in both new and seasoned oak for up to ten months.  The wine has 13.5% abv.

The nose resonates with a huge floral aspect.  There is also some apricot in there, a little citrus and some light spiciness.  It's very lush and inviting.  The palate conveys a tropical feel.  Pineapple is present, along with a little banana.  Apricot and limes follow with the wonderful acidity which makes Conundrum a no-brainer as a food wine.

I love to have Conundrum with seafood, especially rich lobster, crab and shrimp.  It also pairs well with salads, although it really hits the proverbial food homer when matched with buttery scallops.