Showing posts with label Petit Manseng. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Petit Manseng. Show all posts

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tasting Wine at Jefferson Vineyards

There’s been much wine-related writing about Thomas Jefferson over the past decade or so. His love of fine wine, his travels through Europe to feed that love and his own desire to make a great American wine have been well documented. However, it’s hard for me as a modern-day person to overlook the obvious flaws that a man of his stature exhibited in those Colonial days. I'm talking about slaves.

The man for whom my high school was named, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the country's third president - he had issues that were pervasive at the time. He owned people, had them living in squalid rooms on his beautiful estate, had them do the work that the sprawling grounds required while he sat back and enjoyed life. They didn't spend a whole lot of time addressing that at Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Texas. They didn't spend any time addressing it, as I recall. Perhaps it’s worth noting that the school no longer exists, that a predominantly African-American town still has a school named for Abraham Lincoln, but TJ bit the dust in favor of a more generic name, Memorial High.

So, when I recently visited Monticello in Virginia, I was rather surprised at how matter-of-factly the tour guides deal with the slavery issue, among other shortcomings of Jefferson the man. I was also surprised that his wine obsession wasn’t more thoroughly documented by the docents. I wouldn’t have heard a word about it had I not asked a question during the garden tour.

Down the road from Monticello, a little off the beaten path - or, with a beaten path of its own - lies Jefferson VIneyards. The estate is situated near Charlottesville on land that was given by Jefferson to an Italian viticulturist from Tuscany named Filippo Mazzei. He was reportedly drawn to the U.S. by no less than Ben Franklin and John Adams, and Jefferson wanted him as his neighbor. Jefferson even copped a line from Mazzei for a paper he was writing. I think it went something like, "all men are created equal."

The cozy, wood beamed tasting room at Jefferson Vineyards features a rack full of wines, some of which are estate grown, some of which are not. Here is what was on the tasting menu in June 2017 when I was there.

Chardonnay 2016 - Mostly stainless steel fermentation and aging, with only 5% done in oak. Tropical fruit and apples, with a slight effervescent quality.
Viognier 2016 - White flowers and summer fruit. Nice acidity, aged in oak and steel.
Rosé 2016 - Light salmon color, the result of only six hours of skin contact. An unusual mix of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc with some Merlot.
Vin Rouge 2015 - Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very light - earthy, yet sweet, 0.9% residual sugar.  It has an almost tart, plum and pinot noir taste and weight. It sure takes a chill well.
Cabernet Franc 2015 - Nine months aging in 80% neutral oak. It's a little light, with the expected pepper notes somewhat diminished. I was surprised by how unimpressed I was by it..
Merlot 2014 - Very light in color, slight smokiness, nice light cherry palate. A pretty good summer red.
Petit Verdot 2015 - This is a heavier red, deeper in color and not as tannic or bold as usually found n the variety. Cherry notes are a hit with chocolate.
Meritage 2014 - Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dirty earth, nice savory angle. Rich, but would work with pork. 22 months in oak.
Vin Blanc - This dessert wine has only 4% residual sugar. It's a fairly earthy blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Petit Manseng and other grapes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Wine Country: Georgia

The West Coast of the United States gets most of the attention for domestic wine production, but wine is made in all 50 states.  The “Wine Country” series is my effort to taste wine from all the states.  The recent series on Norton wines got me started, with fine efforts from Missouri and Virginia - so fine, we may revisit those states along the way.  This isn’t an alphabetical journey, nor is it ordered geographically. 

Today, we kick off the official “Wine Country” trail where the Norton series ended - in the state of Georgia.

I sampled a Norton wine from Tiger Mountain Vineyards, in Tiger, Georgia.  You can see the article on their Norton wine for more on the vineyard.

Tiger, Georgia is a tiny burg of just over 300 people.  The town sits at about 2,000 feet above sea level at the foot of Tiger Mountain, a 2,856-ft peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Tiger is in Rabun County which has a slogan - "Where Spring Spends The Summer" - indicating a place where the average temperature in January is about 49F and just under 80F in August - very pleasant.  An annual rainfall of over 70 inches no doubt helps the flora along.

One of the treats I’m looking forward to in this series is the opportunity to sample grape varieties which are not readily available to me in California.  The Norton grape is a prime example.  Tiger Mountain also throws a little winemaker love on the Petit Manseng grape.

Tiger Mountain Petit MansengPetit Manseng 2008 

The white Petit Manseng grape originated in southwestern France.  It is said the wine of this grape was used to baptize Henry IV.  This particular Tiger Mountain wine was entered into the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it took a silver medal.  Tiger Mountain’s Petit Manseng has won 11 awards, 5 of them gold.  It sells for $35 from the winery.

Sitting in the glass with a rich, golden color, the smell of this Georgia white wine’s bouquet immediately put me in mind of Chardonnay, then Viognier, then Albariño.  The aromas lean toward green apples, with a nudge toward some tropical fruit which is never fully realized.  There is also the scent of vanilla spice and a trace of nutmeg!  On the palate, a vegetal flavor comes forward first, with spiced apples following; a hint of pepper lingers on the finish.  It’s a full-bodied white wine, with a lively mouthfeel.  The 13.5% alcohol level is moderate and the nearly bracing acidity makes this a wine that pairs well with food.  I had it with a holiday feast of sweet, brown sugar ham, bourbon pecan mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts on the side.  The Petit Manseng paired well with everything on the plate, especially the ham and the chestnuts.

The next scheduled stop on the Wine Country express is Alabama.  We’ll try some Muscadine from the Deep South.