Showing posts with label Valdiguie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valdiguie. Show all posts

Monday, May 29, 2023

Scouting Around For A Good Rosé

Every now and then, the wine world reveals a surprise to us. The bottle of rosé I opened boasted nothing more than a "California" appellation on the front label. That is usually a red flag indicating that the grapes were grown in subpar regions. On the back label, though, was a note that it was bottled in Santa Maria, CA. That happens to be one of my favorite growing regions in the state. I let my hopes get up. 

Scout Wild Rosé was founded by former lawyer Sarah Shadonix out of North Texas. Scout Wild Wines is located in Santa Maria. The wine tastes so good that I just knew there were Santa Maria grapes in there - I just knew it.

A bit of research revealed that the grapes were - as the label touts - sustainably grown, vegan friendly and gluten free. They were harvested from a place called L&P Ranch - which I could not locate - and Joe Soghomonion Farms, of Fresno. 

It was a downer to find that this wine was made from Central Valley grapes, only because I like to think I can make deductions about wines like the big sommeliers do. At least I pinpointed one of the grapes - the wine is 48% Grenache. The 48% portion of Merlot escaped me completely and the 4% splash of Valdiguié - which they call Napa Gamay - never entered my mind. Alcohol rests at 13.9% abv and it sells for $19.

This wine is a pretty light pink in the glass and has a nose which shows ripe red strawberries and cherries. A slight savory note floats in and out on the sniff. The palate is delicious - full of bright fruit - and has a bit of heft to it, along with a good slap of minerality.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

A Wine From The Hitching Post

If you have ever dined at one of the Hitching Post restaurants in Santa Barbara County wine country, you may be familiar with their line of wines.  They are cellared and bottled by Hartley Ostini Vintners in Santa Maria (fisherman Gray Hartley and chef Frank Ostini).  

Their Gen Red 2019 is a Central Coast beauty, made up of 31% Merlot grapes, 31% Valdiguie, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Sangiovese, grown in several Central Coast vineyards.  The grape varieties and the blend seem to change from vintage to vintage.  Alcohol sits at 14.1% abv and the price tag of $17 makes it the least expensive wine in their line.  I got mine at a Los Angeles specialty market.

The wine shows a medium dark ruby color in the glass.  The nose sports blackberry, black cherry, earth, spices and coffee grounds.  On the palate, the full mouthfeel is abetted by a wonderful freshness and firm tannins.  The finish is long.  I used a portion of the bottle to bring another dimension to my red beans.  The wine added such a layer of complexity to the dish - I don't know how people manage to cook without wine.  Even if it never makes it into the food.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chillable Red Wines For Summer

Summertime's warm weather and outside gatherings always leave people throwing a case of beer into a washtub of ice.  Red wines typically don't translate well to a backyard barbecue.  However, here are a pair of reds that take a chill very well.

They are made by Thacher Winery and Vineyard, a boutique producer in Paso Robles' west side.  Winemaker Sherman Thacher and Assistant Winemaker Daniel Callan are working with an admirable collection of grapes, from Chenin Blanc to Cinsault, from Négrette to Nebbiolo, from Viognier to Valdiguié.

The Thacher 2019 Cinsault was grown in the Glenrose Vineyard in Paso's Adelaida District.  Those Cinsault grapes came from a cutting taken off of a vine that was in an old UC Davis experimental station, a vineyard which had fallen from university ownership in the early 1900s yet was rediscovered in 1961 and found to be thriving.

The grapes were foot trodden and fermented whole cluster.  The wine was allowed to achieve malolactic fermentation in neutral oak barrels for four months, then racked into large concrete tanks where it aged for a year.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $36.

This wine has a medium garnet tint to it, but is full red, not rosato red.  The nose is amazing - there is a bit of raspberry, a touch of redwood and a hint of cinnamon.  I don't recall ever smelling a wine like it.  On the palate, again, amazing.  Red berries of some sort dominate - like the kind we would pick along the railroad tracks in East Texas - and there is a mild tartness and peppery quality.  The tannins are firm enough for those burgers from the grill and the acidity is refreshing.  Chill this for your backyard barbecues and everyone will want to know what it is, and where they can get some.

Thacher’s 2020 Valdiguié Nouveau hails from the Paso Robles Highlands District, the Shell Creek Vineyard.  For a century, Valdiguié was thought to be a clone of the Gamay grape, grown in Beaujolais.  It was known as Napa Gamay.  Growers and winemakers love it, but most of the vines were ripped out when Cabernet Sauvignon became the grape of the day in California wine.  It is almost extinct today.

The grapes were fermented as in a Beaujolais Nouveau - carbonic fermentation in a tank, whole cluster, and spent seven weeks on the stems and skins.  The wine was then racked to neutral oak, where malolactic fermentation happened.  The wine stayed in oak for five months.  Alcohol is low, at 12% abv and it retails for $28.

This wine is medium dark red in the glass and has a nose of strawberry and cherry, with an earthy element added to it - sort of a Beaujolais feel.  The palate offers up brilliant cherry notes and a racy acidity, along with rather firm tannins.  The oak treatment - only five months neutral - make this a great choice for backyard cookouts this summer.  Don't be afraid to ice down this unusual grape.  Valdiguié is almost extinct, I'm told.  It was once called Napa Gamay.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

CA Négociant Delivers Great Rosé At A Bargain

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 sustainably farmed grapes for the 2017 Cameron Hughes Lot 639 Rosé were grown in California's Central Coast region, specifically the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County.  Hughes says the pink wine was made by "perhaps the most famous producer on the entire Central Coast," without giving up the identity.  Hughes claims he's selling the wine for nearly half its original price.  The grape is Valdiguié, which not commonly found outside of the south of France.  Alcohol tips in at a reasonable 12.8% abv and the wine sells for $13.

This rosé is a rich salmon pink, a really beautiful hue.  The nose shows ripe cherry and melon aromas, while the palate brings strawberries and apricots to the table.  It's a very complex pink wine.  The acidity is gentle, so it's a great sipper.  However, you can pair it with a salad, light appetizers or white meat with no problem. 

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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, May 27, 2013

Hitching Post Gen Red Cabernet Franc Blend 2010

Hitching Post wines are created in California's Central Coast by owner/chef Frank Ostini and former fisherman Gray Hartley.  Gen Red is a Cabernet Franc blend made from grapes grown in several Santa Barbara County vineyards.  The Cabernet Franc, some Merlot, and Syrah are from Alisos Vineyard, there's Merlot from McGinley and Buttonwood Vineyards and Cabernet Franc and Valdiguie from the French Camp Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County.

As the website decribes, "The Cabernet Franc adds the intense aromatics, the Merlot adds body and roundness, and the Syrah and Valdiguie add color, richness, and fruitiness."

The wine is medium-ruby in color with an extremely fresh nose showing brilliant cherry fruit and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  The palate is full to bursting with bright cherry flavors, some cedar notes and a great acidity, which lends this wine its freshness.  I'd love to get this for the holidays and right now I am going to write myself a note reminding me to do so.

Gen Red was on the wine list at the Westside Tavern, which is the best excuse to see a movie at the mall on Pico.  The restaurant is just down the escalator from the theaters, so it's great for grabbing a bite or a sip before or after a film.  The wine cost $10 by the glass and $32 by the bottle, and both are pretty good prices in the realm of Los Angeles restaurants.  Westside Tavern's wine program is one of the better efforts in L.A., and the food is out of this world.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


Whole Foods

lovers in Southern California love their wine from Santa Barbara County.  Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Italian grape varieties from the Santa Barbara area are plentiful on wine shelves in Los Angeles, and the Santa Barbara wine country experience is just a short trip up the 101.

My eye was caught recently when I spied a collection of wines from Santa Barbara County at Whole Foods Markets in West Hollywood.  Whole Foods is known for their "locally grown" stance in food, and now we see they have the same sort of regionalism in the wine department.

The wines go under the name "A Collaboration," and feature different wines of several different Santa Barbara County winemakers under the same label.  These wines are made exclusively for Whole Foods Markets, and are only available in Whole Foods' Southern Pacific Region.  They can't be ordered, either, as Whole Foods West Hollywood store only ships wine near Christmas.  Southern California has these wines all to themselves.

Whole Foods throws a much-deserved spotlight on Santa Barbara County's climate, soil,terroir and winemaking talent in hopes of raising awareness of the wealth of wine located there among the everyday grocery shopper.  To that end, the displays of "A Collaboration" wines are placed prominently in the stores with descriptive material - like large-format shelf talkers.

The winemakers involved in this collaboration are Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine andCimaroneJim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley, the team behind the Hitching Post label.

Six blends are featured in the line, each with its own appeal, and all six should tempt any Southern California wine lover strolling the aisles of Whole Foods.  They retail for between $15 and $17 a bottle.  The chain describes the wines of "A Collaboration" this way:

Hitching Post, Central Coast Red Wine

"Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley of Hitching Post Winery created a 22 barrel selection that includes a blend of 73% Valdiguie and 27% Syrah.  The selection was handcrafted for Whole Foods Market to feature the bold aromas of flowers, red fruits, dark berries, spice and a touch of bacon.

Hitching Post, Central Coast Rose Wine

Perfect for a warm, sunny, California afternoon, the 60% Valdiguie and 40% Pinot Noir handcrafted blend is a versatile dry rose that pairs well with a variety of foods.

Margerum Wine Company, M5 Red Blend

Owner and winemaker, Doug Margerum, crafts world-class wine, stressing individuality with connotations of nature.  The first wine in the series is a five-grape, six-vineyard, 18-barrel selection blended from six Santa Barbara County vineyards and displays aromas of blackberry and blueberry backed by hints of violets, anise and leather.

Margerum Wine Company, M3 White Blend

A carefully crafted blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Riesling and 25% Old Vine Chenin Blanc is lively, bright, refreshing, clean and complex.  Capturing the essence of spring in a bottle, the wine is perfect for outdoor dining and picnics.

Clendenen Family Vineyards Red Blend

With peak harvest season prolonged until fall, this wine benefits from a gradual ripening that allows the acidity to become softer and the flavor development to heighten; all made possible by the special relationship between the climate, site and grapes.

Au Bon Climat, Pinot Blanc

While the Santa Maria Valley is noted for its ChardonnayPinot Noir, and Syrah, the most distinctive grape in the valley is the Pinot Blanc—a more concentrated, rich and elegant varietal.

Cimarone Wines, Sangiovese Blend

Grown on the steep hillside of the magnificent Cimarone Wines estate, the Sangiovese has been a standout throughout Cimarone Wines’ rich history.  This proprietary blend of SangioveseSyrahSyrah NoirPetit Verdot and Mablec is a wine that truly drinks well now but will reach its peak with bottle ages.

Cimarone Wines, Syrah Blend

Happy Canyon is one of the warmer Santa Barbara County wine regions for Syrah, producing wines that are rich and supple with long flavors.  The dense, lean flavors of the other varietals, including Cabernet FrancPetit Verdot and Malbec, perfectly complement the Syrah to make an unparalleled wine that showcases the future of the Cimarone brand.

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