Showing posts with label Pinot Gris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pinot Gris. Show all posts

Monday, December 19, 2022

Sonoma Zinfandel Specialists Make Four-Grape Bubbly

The small, family-run Zinfandel specialists Bella Winery make a sparkling wine, too. The Ru Blanc de Noirs utilizes a fairly standard grape recipe, with a twist. In addition to the main component of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier - 73% and 17% respectively - and a splash of Chardonnay, there is a 6% helping of Pinot Gris grapes. I don't believe I have ever had a sparkling wine with Pinot Gris grapes in it, but there is a first time for everything. All the fruit was grown in Sonoma County.

Ru Blanc de Noirs is a Traditional Method sparkler, a non-vintage bubbly from one of California's top wine regions. Alcohol sails in at 12.1% abv and the price is $48, but it is listed as being sold out on the Bella website.

This wine pours up bubbly and with a very slight copper-tinted hue. The nose offers a wealth of cherry, apricot and lemon aromas, but in a savory framework of salinity. There is a yeasty touch as well. On the palate, the fruit leads the way, but an amazing acidity really steals the show. This wine is as fresh and lively as they come. Pair it with just about anything - that's the real beauty of a sparkling wine, its versatility. 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Doing Backflips For Pink Wine

With the heat of summer digging in across much of the U.S., this is a great time to look for a cool, refreshing rosé wine. It's a great time to drink pink. And here we have a rosé over which you'll likely flip.

Made under the Foley umbrella, a California wine outfit, Acrobat uses grapes from Oregon to make their wines. This rosé combines Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes, partially whole cluster pressed and partially pressed in the saignée method. The wine was vinified then aged for two months in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol rests comfortably at 13% abv and the retail sticker reads $15.

This pale pink wine has a nose of strawberries, green parts and all. It is a fresh and lively aroma, one that invites the sip deliciously. The palate shows more strawberries, along with some stone fruit and a hint of salinity. The acidity is refreshing and will make for good food pairings across a wide range of dishes.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Whales And Wine: Waipapa Bay

New Zealand is known in the wine world for the country's unique Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  The cool, maritime climate lends a wonderful acidity, particularly to the white wines. 

Native New Zealanders Brent and Shirley Rawstron have a thing about white wine grapes, and they are currently releasing not only a Sauvignon Blanc but a Chardonnay and Pinot Gris as well.  They gave their wines the name of a favorite local surf spot, Waipapa Bay, which also happens to be a great place to go whale watching.  The area lies between their Canterbury home and their vineyards in Rapaura - on the northern end of New Zealand's South Island.

Along with the Waipapa Bay 2019 releases this month, the winery has announced a partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) - the nonprofit's first wine industry corporate sponsor. 

WDC was founded in 1985 and now spans the globe to lead the charge on protections for whales and dolphins.  A spokeswoman for WDC says, "We are excited to receive the support of sustainably-focused businesses such as Waipapa Bay Wines."  The Rawlstons are just as excited about supporting WDC's efforts to end captivity, stop whaling, create healthy seas, and prevent accidental deaths in fishing gear.

The 2019 Waipapa Bay Pinot Gris is a real charmer.  It smells as fresh as a spring morning, exhibiting  brilliant lime and lemon aromas - dripping with minerality - and a whiff of peach juice and flowers.  The palate offers lovely flavors of nectarine and tangerine, joined by a racy acidity.  Alcohol tips only 13% abv and the wine sells for $15.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

This Willamette Pinot Gris - Just Wow

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He buys already produced wine from established makers on the down low, with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club, which he calls a wineocracy, bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

The 2017 Cameron Hughes Lot 631 Pinot Gris is Hughes' first such varietal in nearly ten years.  It has been on the competition circuit and has collected awards along the way.  The grapes came from an unnamed, family-owned Willamette Valley estate, and are certified biodynamic.  The wine was made in stainless steel tanks and rested on the spent yeast cells for four months, gathering weight and creaminess in that time.  Alcohol is restrained, 13% abv, and the wine sells for $12.

The pale wine has a beautiful salinity on the nose, draping itself over the citrus flavors.  It smells like the ocean, almost like a Sardegna Vermentino.  The palate is just waiting for shellfish.  Great acidity, great fruit and all the sea you can drink.

Friday, March 22, 2019

New Zealand Wine Reimagined

Erica Crawford is best known for her work in building former brand and namesake, Kim Crawford Wines, the sale of which enabled her and husband-winemaker Kim to buy their own vineyard land.  After a contractually-mandated time away from competing, the Crawfords returned with a new take on New Zealand wine, Loveblock.  

Crawford hosted a small lunch for several wine writers in Southern California recently, and while enjoying the farm-to-table fare at Fig Santa Monica, she explained how Loveblock Vineyards came about.  

Her wild ride in the wine industry began in the 1990s, when Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc took off like a rocket and helped define the New Zealand flavor profile for that grape.  Crawford credits that unique, bold flavor with establishing the brand, and points to their use of screwcaps as a secondary factor in their success.  That sold-off brand now produces more than two-million cases annually, while the new Crawford brand, Loveblock, turns out some 28,000. 

While seemingly sailing along on the crest of a good wave, Crawford found that various family and business problems began to drag her down.  She credits a turn toward organics for improving her well-being, from the food she ate to the way she cared for her skin.  This interest in organics carried over into the Loveblock vineyards.

Crawford says she's like other people, particularly millennials, who want to know where and how their food is grown.  She says she and her husband strive to make wines that are elegant, restrained and complex.  "Elegant" and "restrained" are words that were probably used by no one, ever, to describe the Sauvignon Blanc that made them famous.  However, that was then and this is now.

Those big, New Zealand grassy aromas are not completely gone in the Loveblock Sauvignon Blancs, but they are less powerful than in previous efforts. The grapefruit and grass that her husband's wines helped establish as a profile are now muted in favor of what she terms a sweeter sense of canned peaches. That change happened in the vineyard. Crawford explains that a compound which delivers the green component is lessened by sunlight, so an alteration in crop management reduced the leaf canopy on the vines, allowing for riper fruit.

The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and 2018 Pinot Gris are sourced from the Crawfords' own Loveblock vineyard perched on top of the hills overlooking Marlborough's Awatere Valley.  Crawford says the land is "far from the agricultural bustle below ... I can almost see the end of the planet.   I have always believed this site - with its unique aspect and crazy mad wind - could create wine of extraordinary character and flavor."  The 2017 Pinot Noir is sourced from the Crawfords’ 15-acre Someone's Darling Vineyard nestled among the mountains of Central Otago.

The 2018 Loveblock Pinot Gris is a Marlborough wine, with the grapes sourced entirely from the organic Woolshed estate vineyard.  It's dry and aromatic and completely a wine with which to fall in love.  Alcohol hits 13% abv and the retail price hits $23.  The mineral-driven nose suggests a wet driveway, apples and limes, with slightly savory edge.  There are great minerals on the palate, too, and an easy acidity leading to a great savory finish  

The 2018 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc shows 12.5% abv and sells for $22.  Crawford says, "New Zealand's signature varietal tends to be bold and big," thanks in no small part to her husband.  This wine, she says, "focuses on texture rather than enhanced aromatics."  It went through 25% malolactic fermentation in order to soften the wine.  Sure enough, it’s tamer and fruitier on the nose than their previous efforts.  The minerals are still there, but the sometimes overwhelming greenness is replaced by a great fruit flavor.  The 2017 vintage is a little grassier on the nose and palate, but still mild in comparison to the earlier profile.

The 2018 Loveblock Pinot Noir is all Pinot Noir, and is one of the most restrained and elegant examples of that varietal that I have tasted from New Zealand.  The label may say Central Otago, but the wine suggests Burgundy.  It's aged eight months in used oak barrels, hits 13.5% abv and sells for $30.  The nose is light and beautiful.  Crawford seemed apologetic when describing it as an odd vintage, but I think she would have more on target to be boastful.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Wine In Cans, Right Now

Canned wine, I'm told, is the fastest growing trend in the wine industry.  No longer a fad or gimmick - well, maybe it's still a gimmick - wine in cans is a 45 million dollar business.  U.S. sales of canned wines jumped by 43% in the year leading up to June 2018.  Stupendous CellarsDavid Weitzenhoffer told Forbes that the market for wine in cans has been doubling every year, and he expects it to more than double this year.  He calls cans "the greatest democratization of wine in our lifetime."  Who's buying it?  Those millennials, I guess, with all their white-water rafting and Himalaya climbing.  They need a wine that's portable as well as potable.

If one can get past the packaging, cans really are a pretty good idea.  No open bottles because it's a single serving.  Fully recyclable along with all your other aluminum cans.  No fuss no muss getting those darn corkscrews to work right.  This is starting to read like one of those cable commercials where the person gets all flustered trying to do a simple, easy thing, then breathes a gigantic sigh of relief when the product appears that makes everything simpler and easier.

Right Now wines are sold in cans, fairly classy looking ones at that, and contain wine that's actually pretty good.  None of the four I sampled were big thinkers, but they tasted fun, and when you need wine while skiing down a black diamond run you don’t want that darn glass getting in the way.

Winemaker and Master of Wine Olga Crawford did a good job with the Right Now collection of red, white, rosé and shimmer.  They taste good, have a nice level of acidity and pair well the sort of fun food one finds at a barbecue or a tailgate party.  They sell for $24 for a four-pack

Alpine Stream White is made up of 85% Pinot Gris, 10% Viognier, 3% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Vermentino.  Alcohol lays low at 12.5% abv.  The pale gold wine has mineral driven stone fruit, nice refreshing acidity.  It's a bit earthy on the palate, which I like.

Shimmer Lightly Sweet Rosé is carbonated pink wine at 13% abv.  Zinfandel grapes account for 40% while Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot make up most of the rest.  Nine percent are written off as assorted varieties.  It has quite an interesting look in the glass, dark pink-orange, and offers a nose of slightly candied cherry and strawberry.  It tastes really sweet, Jolly Rancher cherry, with light bubbles for fun and a nice acidity for pairing.

Dry Rosé has California on the can and alcohol hits easy at 12.5%.  The grapes are 35% Zinfandel, 32.8% Syrah, 30.2% Barbera and a 0.4% dollop of Merlot.  This wine shows a nice salmon color, with a muted nose of cherry  It's earthy, tasty, not too complex and has a wonderful acidity.

Red Number 8 is labeled as California, but contains a 63% share of Lodi Zinfandel, along with Petit Verdot, Merlot and Petite Sirah.  Alcohol sits at 13.5%.  It’s very dark, with an earthy nose of brambly black berries.  The tannins are good, the acidity is great and the fruit is dark  A bit of a short finish, but it's the best of the bunch.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Pinot Gris With Pluck

The lion on the Hess label represents the winery and its founder Donald Hess.  With estates in Argentina and South Africa as well as Napa Valley, this winery really gets around.  Hess staked out a claim on Napa's Mount Veeder in the 1970s, when there was still room to move around.  He retired in 2011 and passed the torch to the 5th generation of the family to carry on old traditions and forge new ones.  Dave Guffy is only the second person to lead the winemaking team at Hess. 

For the 2017 Hess Select Pinot Gris, the winery promises the best vineyards are used in sourcing the grapes, but the California appellation means they were not all in the same region.  The Hess Select Pinot Gris was fermented in stainless steel tanks and never touched oak.  That helps keep the fruit in the forefront.  Winemaker Guffy's team stirred the lees, the spent yeast cells, periodically to add body to the finished wine.  Alcohol is pretty rich, at 14.2% abv, and the wine retails for $13, but is sold out on the website.

This is a delightful white wine.  I'm usually not wowed by fruity, floral whites.  I like 'em with salt and savory as the lead players, but this one wins me over.  Flowers burst from the nose, but there's an underlying earthiness that grabs me.  Peaches and apricots hit the taste buds with a very faint sense of citrus to hold the reins.  Nice acidity, nothing too abrasive, but very refreshing.  I had mine with a mix of roasted nuts and it was very tasty.  I was able to sip and not think about it too much, which is fine sometimes.

Monday, December 24, 2018

German Wines: Pinot Gris

German wines tend to fall beneath the U.S. wine drinker's radar.  Aside from Riesling, one could be hard-pressed to find a German grape variety or even a German version of a more familiar grape, on a supermarket shelf.  Specialty wine stores will dig deeper, but depending on their inventory they may not have a very wide selection.  With this in mind I was thrilled to be asked to participate in an online tasting event involving German wines, with Matthew Kaner, wine director and partner at several wine bars in the Los Angeles area.

Kaner says of the new world of German wine, "there’s more than just Riesling," and he went on during the event to cover a Muller-Thurgau, a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris as well as a Riesling.

Another invite appfreciated "the brightness, raciness, and lower alcohol levels in these wines," noting that "those characteristics are trademarks of Germany's refreshing, cool-climate wines. Not to mention their food-friendly nature"  That guy knows what he's talking about. 

Weinreich Basisweiss Pinot Gris 2017

Weingut Weinreich is located in a part of Rheinhessen called Wonnegau.  The owner writes that people seemed to either work at refineries or used car lots, which sounds a lot like how a friend of mine described our southeast Texas hometown.  The younger generation took over the winery a decade ago and is reportedly keeping the old ways farming organically and harvesting by hand, as grandpa did.

The wine is a Pinot Gris, known in Germany as Grauburgunder.  Alcohol is restrained at 12.5% abv and it retails for about 12 bucks.  The southwestern U.S. desert motif on the label may possibly indicate how dry the wine is.

This beautiful German Pinot Gris is only faintly aromatic with a chalky nose that features mainly limes.  The palate gets some apple in with the citrus and has a healthy dose of minerals, too.  Acidity is rippingly fantastic and the finish is loaded with fruity wet rocks. 

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris

In the 1970s, an Italian immigrant in California's Bay Area taught his grandson how to make wine. Fred Cline took the information and ran with it, starting a winery and eventually moving the operation to Sonoma County's Carneros Valley.

Cline Cellars now has sustainably-grown ancient Zinfandel and Rhône varieties in Oakley, more Rhône grapes in Carneros and Pinot Noir in the Petaluma Gap.  Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos produces wines that, according to Cline, "express the unique qualities of California fruit, and their specific sense of place."

Baseball fans may want to know that Cline partners with Wines by Design on a San Francisco Giants Pinot Gris. It's sourced from the winery's Sonoma Coast estate vineyard, and they say it’s a "hit."

The Cline Estate Pinot Gris is also sourced from the Petaluma Gap vineyards and is fermented and aged in stainless steel.  It hits 14% abv and sells for $15.

This California Pinot Gris is lightly tinted with a yellow-green hue. It smells of apples, peaches and apricots with some lemon zest adding to a complex nose. An earthy aroma underlies all else and provides a base from which the other aromas work. The acidity is fairly bracing, and will welcome seafood. Flavors of apple, lemon, and tangerine come forward with stone fruit on the finish.

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.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

FEL Pinot Gris From Anderson Valley

A great white wine is a fantastic find.  The right mix of fruit and savory needs to be balanced with a level of acidity that makes the wine fresh and ready to pair with food.  The FEL Pinot Gris 2013 from Anderson Valley hits that bullseye.  Jarvis Communications provided this wine for the purpose of review.

Lede Family Wines is the umbrella under which three wine brands sit.  Cliff Lede Vineyards and Poetry, located in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, and FEL Wines, of Anderson Valley.  This property came about when Lede bought Breggo Cellars five years ago.  Just this year he changed the name to FEL as a tribute to his mother, Florence Elsie Lede.  It was mom’s home winemaking hobby that piqued Lede’s interest of wine in his youth.

Winemaker Ryan Hodgins sourced low-yield fruit from three vineyards for this Pinot Gris - Wiley Vineyard near the town of Navarro, and Filigreen and Donnelly Creek Vineyards, both located near the town of Boonville in Anderson Valley.

The grapes were whole cluster pressed into a steel tank for 24 hours, which lends herbal notes to the flavor profile. The wine combines lots that were fermented in a 900-gallon French oak oval, smaller, neutral French oak barrels, and stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol reaches up to 14.2% abv and it is bottled under a screw cap.

The golden tint is beautiful, while the wonderful savory note and acidity prompt my lunch companion to ask, “Do they serve oysters here?”   The acidity absolutely rips, and even when chilled the wine is as dry as a bone.  Beautiful pear, peach and nectarine flavors have a spicy edge which makes this an excellent food wine. It sure did set well with my green salad and jambon beurre sandwich.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whole Foods Market: Wines Of New Zealand

Whole Foods Market is celebrating wines from New Zealand this fall, and they are taking to social media to alert the wine-loving public.  There are two virtual tasting events set - one on Thursday September 18 and the other on Thursday October 9, 2014.  Both tasting events are scheduled to run from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. CT.

To participate in a virtual tasting event, get the wines at a Whole Foods Market near you, take them home, log onto Twitter and stay ready with the hashtag: #WFMwine.  Using the hashtag in your tweets will channel your comments into the stream with everyone else's.  We always have so much fun that way!  To follow along, set up a search for #WFMwine and save it.  It's very easy to keep in the flow that way.

You can also win a trip to New Zealand in the Whole Foods wine department.  Look here for details on the contest. You have until the end of September to enter for that prize.

Here are the wines which are set to be the topic of both Twitter tastings:

Thursday September 18, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT:

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc
Oyster Bay Chardonnay
Villa Maria The Red Blend

Thursday October 9, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT:        
Sophora Sparkling Cuvée
Kim Crawford Pinot Gris
Grove Mill Pinot Noir

Get your wines, get set and get ready to tweet about what's in your glass.

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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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Friday, October 4, 2013

Santa Barbara Wine Country: Babcock Winery And Vineyards

One of the nice things about having an L.A. screenwriter as a friend is the fact that they can often drop whatever they happen to not be doing and run off to wine country for the day.  Denise and I picked up Guido and we hit the freeway for Santa Barbara County.

We had hit Los Olivos hard the last couple of visits, so we opted for a change of pace in the Sta. Rita Hills.  At Babcock Winery, we had the Royale Tasting Flight for ten bucks.

Bryan Babcock makes wine from the grapes grown on the property his father bought in the 1970s.  It was just supposed to be a hobby, but the younger Babcock left his path of higher education to make it a career.
He is not only still making wine, he’s changing the way it’s made.  Babcock has come up with a new way of trellising his vines which has lowered his farming costs.  He also has developed a clone of Pinot Noir.  You can read about both of those developments in Santa Barbara’s Independent.

The Babcock tasting room is part wine bar, part accessory shop.  The big barn door and concrete floor give the feel of a garage.  Tables and merchandise are scattered along the way to the back, where the bar is located.

Identity Crisis Syrah 2011  $12

This interesting blend of 85% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah from Estelle Vineyard, 14.5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the same place and a smidge of Pinot Gris from the Sta. Rita Hills estate.  It’s an unusual blend for a white wine - rather a rosé or blush, actually - white Syrah? - but much more complex than those terms might indicate.  The nose shows herbal strawberry while the palate has a great acidity level and mineral profile.  The wine goes through full malolactic fermentation, which gives it such a creamy feel that I asked about the oak treatment.  There is none, though - 100% steel.  There’s no maceration at all, either, which accounts for the hint of color.

Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2011  $25

This easy-drinking, easy-priced Chardonnay is labeled as SBC, although the grapes come from two vineyards in SBC - Babcock estate and Radian - and one in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County.  The wine is 100% stainless steel.  Again, however, I was tricked.  I felt sure I got some oak on the nose and a touch on the palate.  All the butter and vanilla that join the pears and apples make it hard to believe there’s no oak.  Again, we have full malolactic fermentation to thank.  The wine has a great weight.

Sauvignon Blanc 2012  $25

This wine is made of 100% homegrown estate grapes.  There is a touch of grassiness, but it’s the lime zest and pear that steal the show.  The palate is clean and full of citrus, with an easy acidity.  No oak here, and no malolactic fermentation, either.  Babcock says he picked the grapes very ripe to avoid herbaceousness - which accounts for the alcohol level of 14.8% abv.  The wine is very fresh and has an old world feel to it.

Red Table Wine  $9

This surprisingly good bargain wine is a non-vintage blend of “eight or nine varieties,” according to my server.  There’s a very nice funk to the nose, with a mouthful of cherry and red currant.  Really nice acidity, too.

Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2011  $25

It is Pinot Noir for which the Sta. Rita Hills are known, and this Pinot is all SRH - 67% from The Yard and 33% estate fruit.  The wine sees 16 months in neutral French oak, with an oak “tea bag” used during fermentation.  A nice floral nose leads to ripe berries and cherries on the palate.

Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Rock 2010  $16

The rock referenced in the name isn’t music.  The moniker is inspired by the brilliantly colored stones found in the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley.  From that region’s Estelle Vineyard come the grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose is really funky, almost oddly so, and bright red fruit mingles with an oaky note on the palate.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Whole Foods Market Debuts A New Vintage For One Wine

The local wine concept is alive and well at Whole Foods Markets in Southern California.  The One Wine label - available at Southern California Whole Foods stores - is a unique collaboration between Whole Foods Market and local winemakers.  It started with WFM’s commitment to providing their customers with products that celebrate the places and stories from which they are created.

The One Wine label started in 2011 as a partnership with two wineries in Santa Barbara County, and has since blossomed into a mutually beneficial, creative and delectable partnership between Whole Foods Market and over ten of Southern California’s best winemakers.  All of the One Wine releases are small lot wines, typifying the movement of boutique wineries in Santa Barbara County.  They are all in limited supply, and only available in Southern California Whole Foods Market stores.  They have a habit of disappearing from the shelves quickly, so don't delay in picking up the ones that interest you.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the Whole Foods Market in Venice, CA as they celebrated the five-year anniversary of that store.  The new One Wine releases were poured, with winemakers and representatives of the wineries that made them present to chat about the wines.  It was a three-hour drive down to L.A. for them, so their presence was much appreciated.

Roger Fawcett
The event was headed up by Hilary Maler, the Southern Pacific Region Associate Marketing Coordinator for Whole Foods.  Joining her was Roger Fawcett, wine and spirits buyer for the region.  Fawcett was excited about the chain's involvement with the One Wine project.  “We are thrilled to partner with our neighboring vineyards to create regional, locally produced blends for our customers,” he said.  “Our One Wine label wines showcase the world-class winemaking taking place in the foothills and valleys that surround our community, and allow our shoppers the opportunity to uncork a range of Southern California’s best wines.”

In case you are unfamiliar with the One Wine line, participating wineries include Ampelos Cellars, Au Bon Climat Winery, Cimarone Wines, Clendenen Family Winery, Fallbrook Winery, Happy Canyon Vineyards, Hearst Ranch Winery, Hitching Post Winery, Ken Brown Wines, Margerum Wineries, Sextant Wines, South Coast Winery and Stolpman Vineyard.  With names like those, you can expect high quality - and they are priced nicely, between $15 and $20 per bottle.

You can get a taste of One Wine by viewing this mini-documentary.

Jim Saunders
One Wine Hearst Ranch Paso Robles Red Blend 2011, $20

Jim Saunders, of Hearst Ranch Winery, conducted a blind blending session to determine the mix for his One Wine Red Blend.  It turned out that the Whole Foods Market team, led by Priscilla Vazquez, made a more popular blend than that of the winery staff.  Saunders took it in stride and signed off on it, saying, “We get to showcase a lot of different wines in one bottle.”

Priscilla Vazquez
He certainly does.  The blend is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Petite Sirah.  The expressive nose shows big fruit - black cherry and raspberry - with a touch of mocha.  Blackberry and currant flavors dominate a palate which is both elegant and powerful.  The tannins make themselves known in this muscular wine, and the alcohol stands at 14.1% abv.  Saunders says, “We use different shades of oak for the different varieties in the blend.  We love it.  We made less than 500 cases, so it probably won’t last too long on the shelves.”

Gray Hartley
One Wine Hitching Post Red Blend 2010, $15

Gray Hartley is one half of the winemaking team at Hitching Post Winery.  He and Frank Ostini make some fairly legendary Pinot Noir, and are also doing some nice things with a grape Hartley calls a “Pinot Noir wannabe.”

The Valdiguié grape - VAL dee gee ay - was once known as Napa Gamay, due to its similarity to the grape of Beaujolais.  What it really bears a resemblance to is Pinot Noir.  The One Wine Hitching Post Red Blend is 51% Valdiguié, 42% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc, so the grape’s presence is easily noticed.  Hartley leans in and softens his already soft voice to explain how Valdiguié “acts as a conductor, tapping the baton and bringing the other elements of the wine together in symphony.  It brings out the best the other grapes have to offer.”

The wine is fermented and aged in neutral oak barrels and comes to an easy-drinking 13.8% abv.  The smoky, raspberry/floral nose and slightly tart palate immediately makes me think of a really bold Pinot Noir.
When Hartley told me how the One Wine experience has spurred sales of other Hitching Post wines, WFM’s Roger Fawcett jumped in.  "The One Wine project is a great way to showcase the region's winemakers, and the extra visibility helps move other wines in the wineries' own lines."  Hartley responded with an overly sincere, "You're in good hands with Whole Foods Market,” then the kicker: “Oh, that's an Allstate commercial!  Seriously, the friendships we've built with Whole Foods are close."

One Wine Hitching Post Rosé 2012, $15

The pink side of Valdiguié is about as pink as it gets.  It’s deeply tinted - like the salmon Hartley caught in his earlier career as a fisherman.  The mix this time is 48% Valdiguié , 47% Grenache and 5% Pinot Noir.  Hartley says there’s isn’t a lot of Valdiguié available in California.  “I dare you to try and find some!  Ours comes from French Camp Vineyard in Paso Robles.”  It has a very modest 13.1% abv number and is released to Whole Foods for One Wine before they do their own Hitching Post version.

Showing the mark of a good rosé, the wine has great acidity.  Again, the presence of the Valdiguié comes through in the flavors that are as dark as the color.  Again, Hartley lifts his imaginary baton in explaining how the grape inspires the other fruit.  “All the grapes are co-fermented, half in steel and half in neutral oak.  The fermentation of Valdiguié is quite something to see.  It really roils in the barrel.  Puts on a show."

Doug Margerum
One Wine Happy Canyon Merlot 2010, $18

Doug Margerum was one of the original winemakers involved in the One Wine series, back when it was called A Collaboration.  He showed up on his birthday with no candles awaiting him, but he lit up like one when he started talking about his wines.

The One Wine Happy Canyon Merlot blends 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.  Margerum says he used Bordelaise punchdowns to keep the grape skins in contact with the juice and sent the wine into small oak barriques for eleven months.  The Merlot was fermented in steel.  The wine offers a dusty, floral nose and is fresh in a way that is Margerum’s calling card.  Bright cherry flavor and great acidity are your reward for working the corkscrew.   This wine - as with all the One Wine selections - was subject to a blending panel.  Margerum admits that he cheated the process a bit to get the blend he wanted, but all’s well that ends this well.

One Wine Margerum White Blend 2012, $16

Margerum’s white wine entry to the One Wine line is an inventive blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Riesling.  "I wouldn't do it, but they can," Margerum says, with a nod toward the WFM crew.  "For them, all bets are off the table."  He likes more traditional blends, so something this riotous would not appear in his portfolio.  "I'd be more inclined to mix Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon."  The wine is very mineral driven, with pears and apples aplenty, but the minerals are really the story.  It's a delicious and interesting wine.  Quite refreshing, too.

Marissa Beverly
One Wine Clendenen Family Winery Italian Red Blend, $15

Representing Clendenen Family Winery was Marissa Beverly.  She tasted me through the One Wine Italian Red Blend, made of 60% Nebbiolo and 40% Barbera grapes at only 13.5% abv.  The grapes come from Bien Nacido Vineyard, a very special plot of Santa Maria Valley land, in blocks planted especially for winemaker Jim Clendenen.  It's a non-vintage mix of mainly '05 and '06 wine.  The nose shows cherries and dark berries and hits the palate with great acidity and tart raspberry flavors.

One Wine Au Bon Climat Winery Pinot Gris 2012, $18

Clendenen's Pinot Gris is a 100% varietal wine made from grapes grown in the Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.  The alcohol is quite restrained - just 12.3% abv - and the wine sees full malolactic fermentation, which converts the malic acid into lactic acid and gives a fuller mouthfeel.

Whole cluster pressed, the wine is fermented and aged six months in neutral oak.  The bouquet is full of fruit with a great mineral profile.  Soft, smoky fruit decorates the palate and there is just a touch of creamy oak on the finish.  Pair it with salmon, lobster or crabs and you'll be happy.

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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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Friday, September 28, 2012

Out Of The Blue Wine Tasting: Blue Danube Wine Company

The wines of Slovenia and Croatia don't get a lot of exposure except to certified wine geeks who seek out these gems.  Blue Danube Wine Company specializes in importing wines from eastern and central Europe from their base in northern California.  We are all richer that they do.

The Out of the Blue tasting event was held on September 17, 2012 at Los Angeles wine bar Bacaro.  I'm ashamed to say I had never explored the place before, but the discovery is a good one.  The small, rustic interior has chalkboard wine menus featuring small-production wines from all over the world.  They even carry some of the hard-to-pronounce items imported by Blue Danube.  They also have a great kitchen, and I'll mention the food after we cover the wines that were poured at the event.

Frank Dietrich and Michael Newsome were pouring as fast as they could to a small, but appreciative crowd that seemed quite knowledegable about the wines.  I seemed to be one of the few who stumbled over the names of the wines and wineries.

Dietrich told me that "Slovenians like their white wines aromatic."  "Aromatic" and "floral" kept popping up in my tasting notes so much I was beginning to feel I had a tired palate that day.  There were plenty of "nutty" flavors on hand, too - sometimes going hand in hand with the floral aspect.  Grapes like Yellow Muscat and Malvasia are used quite a bit in the whites, but we also see a lot of Ravan (formerly Tocai Friulano,) Rebula (known as Ribollo in Italian,) Pinela and Pinot Gris.  Chardonnay and Riesling also turn up from time to time.  It's worth noting, there were only a handful of wines poured which sold for more than $20 per bottle.

We started with a couple of nice sparkling wines produced by Kogl, in Eastern Slovenia.  One was made using Riesling, Yellow Muscat, Chardonnay and Furmint grapes, while the other was all Pinot Noir.  Both were toasty, and the latter showed a darker fruit flavor.

The western part of Slovenia was represented by Kabaj and Batic, which poured whites that are largely nutty tasting and reds that are lean, acidic and slightly tart.  I don't know if it has been tried, but cold-climate producers in the U.S. should get some cuttings.  My favorite Slovenian white was the Batic 2008 Pinela, a funky and complex wine showing straw and guava flavors.  I was wowed by the Kabal '08 Merlot - smokey and tart on the nose with great dark fruit and acidity on the palate.  Dietrich says, "it's still very young."  The Batic '09 Cabernet Franc is showing beautifully, with red fruit and an herbal note.  It is quite expressive.

Croatia is crazy about Malvasia.  Examples from Coronica, Terzolo and Piquentum exhibited savory tendencies that are irresistible.  As for the Croatian reds, Stoka's '09 Teran provided a hard edge for the raspberry fruit.  Dingac Winery puts the minerals up front in their '10 Peljesac and throws in some spice for their '08 Postup, a single-vineyard Plavic Mali wine from high up on a hillside.

Milos scores with their '08 Plavac and '05 Stagnum, two reds with great acidity and an amazingly light touch with the fruit.  Both are extremely focused wines.

Tastes of tapas were served by the crew at Bacaro LA.  A crostini with salmon and red onion on a spead of parsley cream cheese was a hit, and so was the one with blue cheese, apple and pepper sauce.  A panini of mozzarella and rosemary honey was reordered quickly, while a morsel featuring eggplant, sea salt and basil also had many fans.

Danny was the guy in charge, and he told me they had been open there - just south of the Santa Monica Freeway near downtown Los Angeles - for about five years.  He says Bacaro has a full house nearly every night, with grad students and profs from USC joined by locals and folks from as far away as Santa Monica.  Their small plates menu is delicious, and their wines keep things interesting.  Danny says that's why the wines imported by Blue Danube are such a good fit there.  They complement the food in taste as well as spirit.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

California Wines Road Trip Tasting Event

Wine country is not a long drive from Los Angeles.  In Southern California, though, drives have a way of becoming long even when they aren't supposed to be.

Wine Institute staged a wine tasting event on September 6, 2012, that left the driving to the wineries.  The California Wine Road Trip tasting event brought the wines to Los Angeles.  Actually, to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.  The Verandah Room - with its part outside, part inside design - is a great place for a wine tasting event, even on a hot and muggy afternoon.

Different California wine regions were laid out at their own tables, so one could get a glimpse of a whole region while standing still.  Here are some highlights from my own tasting notes.

Lake County
Rosa D'Oro Vineyards Aglianico 2010 - A big, earthy, funky nose shows strong minerality.  Great flavors of red fruit, candy finish and firm but smooth tannins.

Six Sigma Ranch Tempranillo 2008 - Tastes cherry delicious, with great acidity.  Nice touch with the oak spice.

Livermore Valley

Fenestra Winery Pinot Gris 2010 - Earthy peach aromas, with minerals shading the fruit on the palate.  Good acidity.  Really nice touch of oak.

Mitchell Katz Winery Sangiovese 2010 - Smokey, rosy cherries all over the place.  Great acidity.

Steven Kent Winery Lineage 2009 - A blend of Bordeaux grapes from the east end of Livermore Valley.  Big fruit, very smooth, tart finish lasts forever.  Steven Kent Mirassou said he had been on the road for several days, and the wine was just beginning to show like he wanted it to.  It was showing very well.

Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2010 - Pears, melons and apples.  Oak just right. Great acid.  100 year-old vines.  Wente claims to have done the first bottled Chardonnay in California.


McCay Cellars Rosé 2011 - Carignane is the heart of this rosé.  It's not done in the saignée method, where the juice is bled off in the making of a red wine.  This is intended to be rosé all the way.  The Carignane is picked from an old field blend vineyard where the grapes were conveniently laid in rows, more or less.  Some Grenache, which imparts a bright cherry flavor, comes from a different vineyard.  Michael McCay talked about micro climates and how the ocean cools an area 60 miles inland with breezes through the delta.
One of my favorite wines of the event.

Peltier Station Winery hy.brid Vermentino 2011 - Notes of the earth rather than the ocean, as is found in the Italian version of the grape. Nice acid, minerals.


Bernardus Winery Fairview Pinot Noir 2009 - From Fairview Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Subtle tannins.

Paso Robles

Austin Hope Wines Grenache 2010 - Brilliant fruit and acidity.

Justin Vineyards Icosoles 2009 - Extremely fruity nose, big dark fruit flavors and great tannins. Steak, please.

Villa Creek Cellars Rosé -  Grenache, Counoise, Mourvedre and Roussanne combine for a smooth and refreshing wine. The acidity comes on the finish.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2010 - Fantastic minerals and salinity from a four-grape blend: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne.

San Luis Obispo County

Tangent Winery Albarino 2011 - Great floral nose.

Zocker Winery Gruner Veltliner 2011 - Floral meets mineral on the nose, more minerals on the palate.  Acidity really zips.

Saucelito Canyon Vineyard and Winery Cotes de Blanc 2011 - Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc blend shows big minerals.

Santa Barbara County

Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay 2010 - Great, smokey oak bouquet, fruit forward and brilliant acidity. What more do you want?

Buttonwood Farm Winery Cabernet Franc 2009 - Beautiful red fruit and great acidity.

Foxen Winery Syrah 2010 - Great Rhone funk shows on the nose.  Dark fruit, nice grip and a fabulous finish.

Margerum Wines M5 2009 - Doug Margerum adds Counoise and Cinsault to the standard GSM mix and gets an herbal wave over red fruit on the nose, with a tart edge to the flavors and extremely nice acidity.  Huge tannins: beware the brawn!


South Coast Winery GVR - Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne combine in a tasty mash up of flowers and nuts.  It's mostly stainless steel, with just a small portion of the Viognier fermented in oak.  Really refreshing.

Palumbo Family Vineyards Merlot 2009 - A 100% varietal wine this 2009 effort shows smokey roses on the nose, with earth and cherry cola flavors.  The tannins and acidity are fantastic.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blue Danube Wine Company At Port4lio, Los Angeles 2012

The Danube River flows through Central Europe for over 1,700 miles - from the Black Forest to the Black Sea.  Along the way are wine regions producing wines which can legitimately be called hidden gems.  The wines of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia are well worth exploring for the taste alone.  The sense of history that comes with each sip is a bonus.  You can also find an easy way to add some exotic grapes to your Century Club efforts.

The Blue Danube Wine Company is a wine distributor with a mission.  The San Francisco-based wholesaler is bent on making wine lovers of the United States aware of the fine wines they import from Central Europe, from those hidden gem areas along the blue Danube.

At the recent Port4lio tasting event in Culver City, California, I had the chance to sample from a literal smorgasbord of wines featuring producers, grapes and wine regions with which I had little experience - and even less success in pronouncing.  Fortunately, Blue Danube’s Frank Dietrich and Stetson Robbins were there to help out the tasters with pours and pronunciation.

Juris Winery is near Gols, Austria - just southeast of Vienna near the Neusiedler See.  Winemaker Axel Stiegelmar (right) was on hand to present his wines personally.

Stiegelmar talked of his four-story winery, which utilizes gravity to help make a smaller carbon footprint.  He talked of his family’s winemaking tradition, which dates back to the 1500s..  What he really loves to talk about are his grapes, mainly St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  For this event, Stiegelmar poured his red wines.

The Juris ‘10 Zweigelt lives up to the expectations held by lovers of this grape.  The smoky nose, the earthy fruit, the firm tannins and razor-sharp acidity all contribute on the way to the incredible finish.  More strong earthiness comes on the nose of the ‘09 St. Laurent, which leads to a beautiful sour cherry flavor.

The Juris reserve wines are made from older vines.  Stiegelmar says, “the vines are mature enough so the roots have reached down below the top layer of soil into the mineral layer below.”  The mineral aspect does come through significantly on the ‘08 Pinot Noir Reserve, along with raspberry and strawberry and a mouth-watering acidity.  The ‘09 St. Laurent Reserve shows great minerals and sour cherry on the palate.

A beautiful blend - the Juris ‘09 Ina Mera is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon,, 30% Merlot and 30% Blaufrankisch.  It is very clean and earthy with bright acidity.  The wine is playful in the mouth with a long, gorgeous finish.

Slovenian producer Batic - an organic estate in the Vipava Valley - covered a wide range of styles with just a few wines.  The Batic ‘06 Pinot Gris tastes like candied green apples.  The ‘08 Pinela - a grape grown only in this small area - is a refreshing white with great acidity.  The ‘09 Cabernet Franc shows dense forest fruit on the nose and a taste of tart raspberry.  As I found over and over at this event, the wine has excellent acidity.

Also from Slovenia, Kabaj - pronounced ka-bay - is located in the far western part of the country, immediately next to Italy, in the Goriska Brda region.  Two whites produced with skin contact presented intense minerals.  The ‘09 Beli Pinot is a Pinot Blanc possessing an earthy acidity, while the ‘09 Sivi Pinot is a Pinot Grigio exploding with minerals, earth and green apples.

Coastal Croatian Reds included one from Terzolo, in Istria.  The ‘09 Teran was described by Robbins as “a masochistic wine.”  It is a bit tannic, but I didn’t feel I was looking for trouble by enjoying it.

Bibich produces wine in Skradin, North Dalmatia.  Their ‘09 R6 Riservo - made of Babich, Lasin and Plavina grapes - is very old world, with high acidity and nervy, savory flavors.

Dingac Winery, from the Peljesac Peninsula of Dalmatia, poured several wines made from Plavic Mali, the Croatian version of Zinfandel.  Their ‘10 Plavac is surprisingly smooth for a grape that is known for its tannic nature.  The ‘10 Peljesac is a little bigger and shows some spiciness, while the ‘08 Postup has a big mineral display.

There were some lovely sparkling wines, too.  Törley - Hungary’s famous sparkling wine producer - had four bubblies represented.  Gala blends Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Királyleányka.  Fresh apples grace the nose and palate.  Fortuna - Muskat Ottonel, Irsal Olivér and Muskat Lunel - is fabulously sweet.  More sweetness comes from Hungaria Grand Cuvée brut, a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling blend.  It captivates with a beautiful, sweet floral expression.  The Tokaji has beautiful sweetness tempered by a healthy dollop of minerality.

Kogl - from Štajerska, Slovenia - went the other way with it.  The non-vintage Albus Clasique of Riesling, Yellow Muskat, Chardonnay and Furmint grapes is a dry sparkler showing earthy minerals and toast.  The non-vintage Rubellus Clasique is made from Pinot Noir as a rosé.  It has a nice, funky, toasty nose with a beautiful and elegant on the palate.

If you want a real education in the wines of Central Europe, a visit to the Blue Danube website is an absolute must.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Wine Tasting Event: Sonoma In The City, Los Angeles

Sonoma County is a fairly long drive from Los Angeles, so we SoCal wine lovers really appreciate that so many Sonoma producers took a road trip to L.A. - and brought their wine with them.

Sonoma In The City hit Los Angeles for a grand tasting event on April 24, 2012 at The London Hotel in West Hollywood. Jordan Winery threw a little 40th anniversary soiree the night before up on the London’s rooftop, one of those swingin’ little Hollywood gatherings with stars aplenty.  The next day, the banquet room bulged with winemakers from Sonoma - Coast, County and Valley.  Dry Creek Valley was represented; so were Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley.

The Dry Creek Valley AVA poured some great Sonoma County Zins.  The ‘09 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel mixes in some Petite Sirah and Carignane for a smokey nose and bright cherry palate with plenty of refreshing acidity.  Fritz Underground Winery brought their ‘09 Zinfandel, which lays a spicy herbal lace over the tart cherry.  Gustafson Family Vineyards stole the table with their ‘08 Zinfandel/Syrah/Petite Sirah blend.  It shows a touch of barnyard on the nose, an earthy palate and great acidity.

Alexander Valley Vineyards held up their end of the Zin bargain with their Sin Zin, showing an earthy cherry nose with raspberry on the palate and the finish.

Kenny Kahn, (right) owner/winegrower/co-winemaker at Blue Rock Vineyard in Alexander Valley, was anxious to show off the fruit of his labor - and with good reason.  His ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon has a splash of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and really makes with the chocolate.  The ‘09 Baby Blue blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot into a wine that is earthy, tart and rich, and extremely easy to drink.  The unreleased Best Barrel has gentle tannins in a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend.  Blue Rock’s terroir-driven wines were among my favorites of the afternoon.

DeLoach Vineyards’ ‘09 Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain is 100% Pinot, sporting a nose very much like a Cab, complete with graphite.  It’s a very full bodied wine.  Their 2010 Zinfandel Russian River Valley is a delight, showing eucalyptus and a tingly acidity.

The Landmark Vineyards table sported two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs.  The ‘10 Overlook Chardonnay has a huge expression of lightly oaked, tropical fruit.  Its big sister, the ‘10 Lorenzo Chardonnay, Russian River Valley has a hard time beating it.  They claim it’s very age-worthy.  It should be - its $55 price tag is $30 more than the Overlook.  Landmark’s  ‘09 Grand Detour Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, is a five-vineyard blend, mostly from the Petaluma Gap, offering a very good level of acidity.  There’s a bit more oak in the ‘09 Kanzler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast - quite dark with a lengthy finish.

Inman Family Wines was represented by the grapegrower, winemaker, salesperson, accountant,  operations manager and forklift driver - all in one woman.  Kathleen Inman (left) has produced two lovely Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley grapes - the earthy ‘08 OGV Estate and the aromatic ‘08 Thorn Ridge Ranch.  Her 2010 OGV Estate Pinot Gris is gorgeous, with a nice peach flavor and a tart finish.  OGV, by the way, stands for Inman’s organically-farmed Olivet Grange Vineyard.

Martinelli Winery’s ‘07 Chardonnay, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, is a $60 Chardonnay that sure smells and tastes like one.  A very earthy nose and extremely good acidity.  Earth also speaks loudly in Martinelli’s ‘09 Pinot Noir, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  The ‘09 Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, is lush and dark, with a nice level of acidity.

Robert Young Estate Winery was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Alexander Valley, way back in 1958.  Their ‘07 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon has a nice tartness laid over the fruit expression that suggests Alexander Valley is well suited to Cab.

John Murray, at the Lasseter Family Winery table, got my attention by mentioning the 1919 field blend Zinfandel vineyard on their property.  Then he wowed me with a $24 rosé - the ‘10 Enjoe Sonoma Valley.  Syrah, Mourvédre and Grenache form a nice, dry wine with strawberry and watermelon aromas and flavors making me yearn for summer.  The Lasseter ‘08 Paysage Sonoma Valley is a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauv ignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  There’s great grip here, along with a smokey nose and some tangy blackberry.

Stone Edge Farm Vineyard is organically farmed in Sonoma Valley.  Their ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon blends 81% Cab with the remainder Merlot.  Nice fruit and pencil point grace the nose.  The ‘08 Surround Cabernet Sauvignon has 6% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in the mix, with blueberry and black cherry flavors.

Stonestreet Wines uses Alexander Valley fruit from their Alexander Mountain estate.  The ‘09 Bear Point Chardonnay is oaky and rich, rich, rich.  The ‘07 Monument Cabernet Sauvignon is very dark and rich as well.  The ‘09 Broken Road Chardonnay - say it with me - is big and rich.  Rather oaky, but a very nice effort in that style.

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