Showing posts with label Traminette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Traminette. Show all posts

Monday, August 21, 2017

Virginia's Barboursville Vineyards

James Barbour initiated the vineyards that carry his name today. He was a Governor, a Senator and the Secretary of War, but he is best remembered for his contributions to Virginia's agrarian heritage. He, like his neighbor Thomas Jefferson, struggled to buck the tobacco trend and grow rotated crops that didn't use up the soil. An Italian bought the parcel in the 1970s, Gianni Zonin, whose name you have probably seen on bottles of Prosecco. Zonin, also bucking the tobacco advice, planted grapes and made wine. The Zonin family still owns the vineyards, and wines are produced by winemaker Luca Paschina.

Scheduling changes on my trip prevented me from trying the restaurant at the estate, Palladia, but it gets raves from all over. Next time. I was able to make the half hour or so drive out of Charlottesville for a tasting of the Barboursville wines. Here they are.

Pinot Grigio 2016 -A very refreshing wine, although the grape is not one of my favorites.

Vermentino Reserve 2015 - Lovely acidity and the mark of the earth on it.

Viognier Reserve 2015 - Very nice acidity, but the wine was not a favorite.

Chardonnay Reserve 2016 - It's the only white they make with oak, and it's Hungarian wood. Quite a show that oak makes, if you ask me. A little too much in the wood.

Vintage Rosé 2015 - Rich pink, made from Petite Sirah, Barbera and Merlot. The acidity is great and the palate brings beautiful, light fruit with herbal touches.

Barbour’s Reserve 2015 - Fantastic red fruit and mocha
are a real kick.

Sangiovese 2015 - Big, earthy, smoky. Love it.

Merlot 2015 - Another earthy red.

Cabernet Franc 2015 - This is really good, with great acidity, white and bell pepper notes.

Merlot Reserve 2013 - This is what I want from Merlot - big smoke, earth and a savory coffee
expression.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - Tons of earth that reminds me a bit of Paso
Robles Cab.

Cabernet Blanc - A sweetie, with 2% residual sugar.

Rosato - Even sweeter, with 4% residual sugar.

Phileo - Sweet Traminette, Vidal Blanc and Moscato blend, 10% residual sugar. This is a lovely dessert wine with floral notes, good with cheese.

Paxxito 2013 - The sweetest, with 12% residual sugar. It's simply beautiful, made in the passito process in which the grapes are air-dried over time. You get raisins and caramel, and since when it that not a great dessert?


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, August 4, 2016

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wine Country Kansas: Holy-Field Vineyard And Winery

German immigrants brought grapes and winemaking to Missouri in the early part of the 19th century and, by the latter part, wine had crossed the Missouri River into Kansas.  The two states made up a winemaking powerhouse which provided more wine than any other area in the US at that time.  The story went sour quickly, though.

Temperance leader Carrie Nation hailed from the Sunflower State and the relentless work of her movement resulted in Kansas becoming the first US state to adopt a statewide prohibition of alcoholic beverages in 1881 - predating the national era of Prohibition by nearly four decades.

It has been noted that around the beginning of the 20th century - despite the state's prohibition - there were still thousands of acres of grapevines which served Kansas bootleggers and the booming wine industry in neighboring Missouri.  National prohibition killed off the wine industry in Kansas - Missouri, too - and recovery would not begin until the 1980s.

Kansas is known for its fertile soil and long growing season, particularly in the eastern half of the state where most of its 30 or so vineyards are located.  The Holy-Field Vineyards and Winery website waxes poetic about making wine in Basehor, Kansas: "The bounty of the vines springs forth on fourteen beautiful acres tended under the personal touch of owners Les and Michelle Meyer. Holy-Field's ten grape varieties ripen to produce fifteen distinct wines."

The name of the vineyard and winery is inspired by its location at the intersection of 158th Street and 24-40 highway in southern Leavenworth County Kansas.  In bygone years 158th street was named Holyfield Road, and the name offers a tip of the hat to that era.  The vineyard is filled with Native American and French Hybrid varieties

Holy-Field Cynthiana

Also known by the more masculine name of Norton, Cynthiana grapes are thought by many to be America's great lost grape.  It flourished in Midwestern vineyards for many years until Prohibition pulled the carpet from beneath its feet.  The wine industries in these states literally died at that time, taking Cynthiana with them.  The grape - by both names - has undergone a great resurgence and is now grown in several states, Kansas among them.

The Holy-Field Cynthiana shows extreme earthiness on the nose, which is somewhat obscured by the aroma of alcohol, more than the 13.5% abv number would suggest. The taste is brimming with tart - bordering on sour - cranberry, raspberry and cherry.  Spice is abundant, a result of the 12-16 months aging in American oak which the wine undergoes.

Here is a nice article giving a brief history of the Norton/Cynthiana grape.

Holy-Field Amitie

This refreshing white wine blends two French hybrids grapes - Chardonel and Traminette.  The former claims Chardonnay as its parent, while the latter hails from the Gewürztraminer grape.  The wine is done completely in stainless steel, with no oak used to color the beauty of the fruit.  It hits only 12% abv on the alcohol scale

This wine's light golden color suggests a light and refreshing quaff, and the nose adds a hint of sweetness to the expectations.  Aromas of apples, white peaches and a sweetly herbal note are inviting.  The flavors deliver on what has been promised.  Sweet fruit and a slightly spicy edge are wrapped a delicate acidity that tingles just right.  There is just a hint of earth underlying all this, and it stays on the finish.  I am reminded of an off-dry Riesling, which is a good thing to be reminded of now and then.


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Monday, August 13, 2012

Wine Country Tennessee: Grinder's Switch Winery


Tennessee's wine industry - like that of so many other American states - thrived until Prohibition killed it. Today, a rebirth is underway, with 33 wineries listed by the Tennessee Winegrowers Alliance.  Grape growers in the Volunteer State have turned to French hybrid grapes, since they are resistant to grape diseases common to humid climates.

Grinder's Switch Winery is located in Centerville, southwest of Nashville and a little south of Interstate 40.  The town is more famous as the birthplace of country music great Minnie Pearl, but Joey Chessor is working on making wine as famous in Centerville as "How-DEEE!"

Joey Chessor is the owner and winemaker for Grinder's Switch Winery.  He named the 110-acre estate after a nearby stretch of train track.  He explained to me, "Grinder's Switch is nothing more than a railroad siding on a country road.  Minnie Pearl made Grinder's Switch famous when she was alive, through funny tales about an imaginary town named Grinder's Switch.  Although the switch is about 3 or 4 miles away, we thought it was a neat name and used it for ours.  So we decided to go with the train theme for our estate labels.  Besides, my 5 year old grandson, Jack, LOVES trains."

The labels for Grinder's Switch wines are very retro black and white drawings of train locomotives.  I mentioned to Chessor that I remember a classic rock group named Grinderswitch, too.  He remembers them as well.  "We have couple of albums that were given to us by a customer framed and hanging on the tasting room wall."

Chessor's wines are award-winners, including the prestigious "Wines of the South" competition.  He told me that "2010 was a very long hot summer, so keep that in mind as you taste the reds.  2011 was much better as a growing season.”

Dixiana Tennessee Traminette 2011
The estate grown Traminette is new - it should be released by the time you read this.  There's an easy-drinking 12% abv number on it.  In the glass, it shows a straw color with green highlights.  Aromas of dried apricots and limes highlight the aromatic bouquet.  A very strong minerality also is present on oth the nose and the palate.  That earthy taste is joined by apricots, lime zest and grapefruit.  The acidity is razor sharp - its a powerfully refreshing sip, which demands food.  Raw oysters, calamari and lobster should pair nicely.  $16

Three Eighty Two Tennessee Chambourcin 2010
This red wine is slightly higher on the alcohol scale, although moderate at 13.3% abv.  The grapes are estate grown.  I expected a more translucent appearance from a Chamboucin, but this one is inky black.  The nose is striking - tarry blackberry fruit with vanilla notes and a hint of eucalyptus.  The aromas put me in mind of Cabernet, not Chambourcin.  It's fruit-forward on the palate, with an intriguing minerality riding close behind.  I can taste the oak influence, but it's a welcome addition, not overdone.  The tannic structure is good - toothy, but it doesn't bite.  This wine needs a pork chop or a plate of baby back ribs for full expression, but the pleasure of sipping it is not diminished in the absence of food.  $20.

Zephyr Tennessee Red Blend
This red table wine carries a lightweight 12.2% abv number, even though it's a blend of two grapes one expects to see at higher alcohol levels - Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional.  The Portuguese grape is really a surprise - there's little enough of it grown in California, so I didnt expect it from Tennessee.  It's a medium-dark wine with oak aromas plain enough and fruit that puts me in mind of Napa-meets-Port.  This wine really tastes great.  Juicy fruit and mouth-watering acidity is always a good combination.  Again, I'm wishing for a pork chop, but a steak would pair quite well.  The tannins are a little softer than in the Three Eighty two, but they are strong enough to do their work.  $20

If 2010 was an off-year for Tennessee grapes, I can't wait to taste what 2011 has to offer.


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Friday, June 1, 2012

Wine Country: Indiana - Turtle Run Winery


Winemaking in Indiana dates back to the 18th century, although it has only recently become a going concern.  According to the Indiana Wine Grape Council, there were only nine wineries in the Hoosier State in 1989.  Today, there are 60.  There is one American Viticultural Area in the state, the Ohio River Valley AVA. The IWGC states that Traminette is the signature grape of the state

Turtle Run Winery is in Corydon, Indiana, less than a half-hour west of Louisville, Kentucky.  If you can’t imagine a turtle running, try wrapping your head around the notion that Indiana just may have some of the best terroir in the country.

Turtle Run’s owner Jim Pfeiffer tells me his property is situated on one of the  best limestone deposits in the world.  That limestone is prized by builders and winemakers alike.  Wherever you find grapes growing in limestone-based soil, you are likely to find some outstanding mineral characteristics in the wines made from them.  “Our grapes generously provide us with incredible depth and complexity,” Pfeiffer says.

Pfeiffer also breaks down American oak to specific regions, saying that “Minnesota oak has different characteristics than oak from Ohio, Tennessee or Kentucky.”  Pfeiffer helped form the Indiana Uplands WIne Trail.

Pfeiffer proudly notes that his Turtle Run Traminette turned up on a list of best wines under $20 available in Indiana, a list compiled by wine writer Howard Hewitt.  “There were a few American wines on the list,” says Pfeiffer, “and only one outside of the West Coast.  Our Traminette was ranked as the number five wine overall.”  Pfeiffer is sure that only the lack of national distribution keeps his limestone-rich terroir from being widely recognized, and he may be right.  All four wines we sampled for this article were produced from grapes grown in the Pfeiffer Vineyard, in the Ohio River Valley AVA in Indiana.  The samples were graciously provided by Turtle Run Winery.

Traminette 2011 (blue bottle) is produced in the traditional style, 13.1% abv and 1% residual sugar.  The wine is a light golden color in the glass, with a slight effervescence upon opening which was not present on the second night it was open.  Nice aromas leap from the glass, fruity with a nice slab of minerals on the side.  The mouthfeel is medium-full and dry with very nice acidity, ripping acidity, in fact, when unchilled.  Orange peel, melon rind and lemon-lime flavors combine with that acidity to create a very zesty, zippy wine.  This is quite an impressive effort. Traminette, by the way, is a cross of Gewürztraminer and a French American hybrid.

Traminette 2011 (green bottle) is barrel-fermented, as opposed to the stainless steel treatment given the blue bottle version.  At 13.1% abv, the wine is just as enjoyable, though.  A beautiful, rich, golden color appears very pretty in the glass.  Aromas of earthy honeysuckle, apricot and tropical fruit mix with mellow vanilla notes.  There’s a slight effervescence with this Traminette, too, upon opening.  This dissipates over time and disappears completely when ice cold, so don’t give it more than a bit of a chill.  The ripping acidity also diminishes when too cold.  The oak notes support the intense pineapple and guava flavors, and a big spiciness makes a play on the palate, as well.

Vignoles 2011 appears with a lovely golden hue in the glass, just like the barrel-fermented Traminette, but it is steel-fermented.  An earthy, honey-laden apricot aroma dominates the nose, but isn’t too blustery.  The grapes for this vintage were touched by Noble Rot - Botrytis cinerea - and as a result, imparted a lovely sweet edge to this dry effort.  It’s not a dessert wine by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have just enough natural sweetness from the Botrytis to be a pure delight.  As Pfeiffer says, “one unique section of our vineyard allows for us to develop Noble Rot on a regular basis.“  How lucky he is!  The acidity is there, too, so this wine is loaded with good things.

Chambourcin 2010 carries a 13.9% alcohol number, and appears of medium density and color in the glass.  The growing season for the Turtle Run Chambourcin grapes was marked by hot weather and drought, and both elements work in favor of rich, concentrated aromas and flavors in grapes.  The nose is more fruity than spicy, and more spicy than earthy.  Aromas of black cherry and black pepper come forth in a West Coast kind of way - rather unusual for a grape one is more likely to find in the Midwest or East.  This French-American hybrid hits the palate with dark fruit, clove, a touch of leather and cocoa and a really nice level of acidity.

Terroir in Indiana?  These four outstanding wines make a good case for it.


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