Showing posts with label Vermentino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vermentino. Show all posts

Monday, August 1, 2022

Vermentino Wine - Herbs, Minerals, Salinity

The Frescobaldi history stretches back to the Middle Ages, but winemaking in the region was already old hat by then. If you have been doing something for more than 700 years, you must be doing it right. 

Today, the Tuscan landscape is studded with properties which reside under the Frescobaldi umbrella. The Ammiraglia Estate is in southern Tuscany, Maremma, near the ocean. The warm climate is cooled by the breezes coming in from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The 2018 vintage featured a lot of precipitation, even snow early on. All that water helped out a lot when the hot summer season arrived and rainfall dried up.

The Massovivo 2018 wine is all Vermentino grapes, aged for four months in the stainless steel tanks where it was vinified, on the lees, and another month in the bottle. Alcohol rests at 12.5% abv and the retail price is $24.

This Italian white has a most interesting presence in the glass. The pale yellow liquid has a nose which is quite herbaceous, showing notes of sage, anise and oregano. The palate brings forth some citrus fruit - Meyer lemon - and a boatload of minerals and salinity. There is quite a racy acidity, too. Like a good Vermentino should, the wine leaves a sense of the seashore on the finish. 


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Monday, July 25, 2022

Rosé From - Where Else? - The South Of France

Chateau des Sarrins took its name from the Saracens, who ran this part of southern France in ancient times. A Saracen big shot is said to have died on what is now this estate. They say that somewhere on the property he is buried in his gold suit of armor. 

The 2021 Les Sarrins Rosé is made from grapes that were, maybe, grown right next to that burial site. It makes a nice backstory idea, at least. The grapes in this wine are 60% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 10% Rolle (Vermentino) and 5% Mourvèdre. It is imported by Terlato Wines, hits 13% abv and retails for $25.

This product of Provence delivers as expected from the region. The light pink color gives way to a nose of strawberries and cherries with a hint of lemon peel also showing up. The palate shows all the ripe red fruit, citrus minerality and a damn fine acidity. Salads for sure, but get some oysters for this one. 


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wines Of The Earth, Pink And Red

 

With Earth Day approaching, it would be remiss of me to not tap out a few words about a collection of "wines of the earth," from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Bonny Doon winemaking partner Randall Grahm said in an email blast that the year 2020 was an "annus horribilis" for most of us, and that includes winemakers.  He notes that the "Biblical plagues of Smoke, Covid-19, Social Isolation and somewhat more prosaically, Business (and Life) Interruption" appear to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror, which we hope is not just a trick of the light.

In the spirit of getting back to business, Graham and his new partners at WarRoom Ventures sent over a collection of their current releases for my opinions.  Graham says that production winemaker Nicole Walsh "was very clever and proactive in dealing with any suspected smoke taint issues before they could eventuate.  Skill, yes, but luck played a part, too."

Vin Gris de Cigare 2020 

Bonny Doon's "pink wine of the earth" - Vin Gris de Cigare - is described by Grahm as a pink wine made from the lightest pressings of red grapes.  However, the 2020 vintage has three red grapes and three white grapes in the mix.  The blend is 71% Grenache, 11% Cinsaut, 5% Clairette Blanche, 5% Grenache Blanc, 4% Mourvedre and 4% Vermentino.

Graham says the mostly southern Rhône grape varieties came from cool-climate sites in California's Central Coast region, mainly Monterey County.  Some 20,000 cases were made, with alcohol at 13.5% abv and a retail price of $15.

The beautiful salmon-colored wine displays a nose of cherry, red currant and an herbal hint of spearmint.  The palate has a zippy acidity - Grahm says zippier than in previous vintages - and an abundance of red fruit, a citrus peel angle and a touch of tanginess.  Salads and seafood, sure, but even better if you’re having them on the deck and can afford to have a few more glasses after lunch.


Le Cigare Volant
2019 

This is the second vintage of Bonny Doon's flagship wine since the varietal makeup was jiggled around by Grahm.  He lost the Mourvèdre and increased the Cinsault, leaving a recipe of 56% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 13% Syrah and 1% Petite Sirah.  Grahm says, "This wine is a bit more restrained than the '18 Cigare and one that might easily confound. Initially, quite reticent and seemingly light in body, the wine grows dramatically in volume and in depth with air and time. Most remarkable is the seamless fusion between fruit and stone, evoking the mysterious synergy one finds in certain Old World wines we so greatly esteem.  Originally inspired by the Rhône Valley, Grahm says the wine now seems to reflect Burgundy.  Production was 7,700 cases and alcohol hits 13.5% abv, while the retail price is $15.

This 2019 vintage of Bonny Doon's long-running flagship wine is medium garnet in color and tint, but it smells much darker.  Aromas of black cherry, licorice, tea and a bit of earth pave the way for a palate which is fruit-driven, yet minerally-blessed.  The acidity is refreshing and the tannins are gentle.


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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

White Wines Of The Earth

 

With Earth Day approaching, it would be remiss of me to not tap out a few words about a collection of "wines of the earth," from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Bonny Doon winemaking partner Randall Grahm said in an email blast that the year 2020 was an "annus horribilis" for most of us, and that includes winemakers.  He notes that the "Biblical plagues of Smoke, Covid-19, Social Isolation and somewhat more prosaically, Business (and Life) Interruption" appear to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror, which we hope is not just a trick of the light.

In the spirit of getting back to business, Graham and his new partners at WarRoom Ventures sent over a collection of their current releases for my opinions.  Graham says that production winemaker Nicole Walsh "was very clever and proactive in dealing with any suspected smoke taint issues before they could eventuate.  Skill, yes, but luck played a part, too."

Bonny Doon Vineyards Picpoul, Monterey County, Beeswax Vineyard 2020

Picpoul means "lip stinger" when translated from the French, as pictured on this wine's label.  The promise of a tingling acidity is delivered in full, making this one of the food-friendliest wines you'll find.  Try it with oysters on the half shell or cold crab claws for a real treat.

Graham heralds his 2020 Picpoul as coming, once again, from the "redoubtable Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County."  He says the white wine is "definitely super-savory, nay almost waxy/salty, perhaps even a bit more unctuous than in vintages heretofore."  He also likes the floral notes, which he says are often missing from Old World versions of Picpoul.  1800 cases were produced, with alcohol at 12.5% abv and the retail price of $15.

This wine is tinted light yellow and puts up a magnificent nose which is driven by citrus and salinity.  I don't get much of the floral note mentioned by Grahm, but there is a waxy or soapy element in the package of aromas.  The palate seems a bit heavier, oilier than bygone vintages, and the salinity comes across in the mouth as well as the nose.  Meyer lemon flavors are abundant, and while the acidity may not actually sting the lips, it is nice and racy and it awaits some crab cakes or grilled calamari.

Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Blanc 2020

The white version of the winery;s flagship "Cigare" line is the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc.  This wine underwent a radical change in the previous vintage and is now made from 60% Grenache Blanc grapes, 32% Vermentino and 8% Clairette Blanche.  Graham explains that it's the Vermentino which now leaves its mark most noticeably and the Clairette Blanche which sustains its length.  "Dusky, almost mentholated, doonright balsamic, in fact; it is an aromatic riot" of a wine which also sports a creamy texture.  

Bonny Doon made 5,200 cases of the 2020 Le Cigare Blanc, which carries alcohol at 13.5% abv and a retail sticker at $15.

The wine does indeed have quite the nose, with Meyer lemon, minerals and a fine salinity to its credit.  The palate brings a saline sensibility to the stone fruit and minerality, and the mouthfeel is fairly hefty - especially for a white wine.  The finish keeps the minerals in mind, with a hint of apricot


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Monday, April 5, 2021

Two Sardinian Vermentino Wines

A recent series of virtual wine tasting experiences took a host of wine writers on a trip through Italy, thanks to Gambero Rosso International.  The wine guide provided wines for the tasting to which they awarded the status of Tre Bicchieri, or three glasses, their highest honor.  Today, two fabulous Vermentino wines from the Italian isle of Sardinia.

Pala Vermentino di Sardegna Stellato 2019

The Sardinia Pala wine estate was founded in 1950.  Mario Pala is the third generation of the family to tend the vines, with the help of his wife Rita and the fourth generation of the family: Massimiliano, Elisabetta and Mariantonietta.

The Vermentino grapes for this wine were grown in a single 60-year-old vineyard.  The wine was fermented in steel and aged there for five months on the lees, the spent yeast cells.  This gives additional heft to the wine and a fuller mouthfeel.  Alcohol gets up to 14% abv and the wine sells for and average price of $18.

This Vermentino delivers what I love about the grape, especially those from Sardinia.  It is a smell that is more than simple salinity, it is the ocean.  With flowers floating on it.  The palate brings a savory smattering of citrus, along with a gentle acidity that lets us know that it is there without ripping a gash in our tongues.  Seafood time.


Surrau Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala
2019

Vigna Surrau is also located on the Italian island of Sardinia - Sardegna, if you prefer.  The isle is mainly mountainous, and the winery says there is plenty of unspoiled wilderness and forests of oak and cork trees.  

Their 2019 Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala comes from Sardinia's jagged coastline, the part in the island's northeast corner, called Costa Smeralda - the Emerald Coast.  Gallura - which means "stony area" - is the first and only Sardinian DOCG.  The 100% Vermentino grapes were grown in that region's granitic soil.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and the average price for a bottle is $24.

This wine has a floral nose, but that does not shortchange the minerality.  There is a good bit of lemon and salinity in the mix, too.  The palate shows the citrus and minerals strongest, with a very nice bit of acidity.  Extremely nice, actually.  I should have had some seafood with it, but it was cream of mushroom soup day at the house, with some rice on the side.  It paired quite well.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Pink In Provence: L'Excellence Des Muraires

 

Most of the wine made in France's Provence region is pink.  It's what they do - they make wonderfully dry and crisp rosé wines.  I was recently supplied with several examples of Provencal pinkies, and this is one of them.

The Bernard Magrez L'Excellence des Muraires 2019 is a great example of what you get when you seek out a Côtes de Provence rosé wine.  Magrez is mainly known for his four grand cru châteaux in Bordeaux, but this pink wine comes from his estate in the south of France, Chateau Des Muraires.

Made from three grapes - 46% Grenache, 41% Rolle (Vermentino) and 13% Syrah - the wine was fermented in concrete and aged in huge oak barrels, on the lees.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv  - a little higher than a typical Provence rosé - and it retails for about $35.

This wine shows a very light color in the glass, sort of an onion skin shade.  The nose offers minerality first, a flinty aroma with strawberry and cherry notes more subdued.  The sip is beautiful, with minerals again leading the way and a fresh acidity that is softened by the creaminess of the lees.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Bonny Doon's Pink Wine Of The Earth

From Bonny Doon Vineyard comes the 2019 Vin Gris De Cigare.  The winery's flagship pink wine is named for the reported alien spacecraft "banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape." The flying cigars may not be allowed to land in France, but they land in my place a lot. They are welcome visitors from another appellation far, far away. Well, just a bit north of me, anyway.  Their rosé is a favorite of mine.

The grapes for Vin Gris De Cigare were grown in Central Coast AVA - 79% Grenache, 5% Grenache Gris, 5% Grenache Blanc, 5% Vermentino, 3% Cinsault, 1.5% Picpoul and 1.5% Clairette Blanche.  Vineyards include Rava, Loma Del Rio and Alta Loma of Monterey County, Steinbeck of Paso Robles and Beeswax of the Arroyo Seco AVA.

Winemaker Randall Grahm says "the Grenache dominates this blend."  He continues the practice of leaving the wine on its lees post-fermentation.  Grahm feels that the spent yeast cells give a "wonderful creaminess and length" to the wine.  This rosé is not made in the saignée method, where juice is bled off in the process of making red wine.  The grapes were selected and used specifically for this wine. The iconic label art is from an 1855 edition of Bordeaux Chateau, with a spaceship courtesy of Jules Verne, circa 1870.  The wine hits 13.5% abv and sells for $15.

This pink wine's nose is dominated by strawberry, melon and tropical notes.  Graham says a suggestion of cassis and grapefruit is possibly a function of the cooler 2019 vintage.  On the palate, the wine has heft, a discernible weight I don't usually find in rosés.  There is a creaminess, too, owing to the time it spent sitting on its expended yeast cells.  The savory hallmarks of Graham's wines shine through, but the fruit is the star.  Despite the full mouthfeel, acidity is quite fine.  The finish is lengthy and somewhat citrusy.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bonny Doon's Flagship White Wine

Bonny Doon Vineyards' Le Cigare Blanc is the white counterpart to the always awesome Le Cigare Volant red blend, named for the alien spacecraft which was "banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape." The flying cigars may not be allowed to land in France, but they land at my place a lot. They are welcome visitors from another appellation far, far away. Well, just a bit north of me, anyway.

Bonny Doon's 2019 Le Cigare Blanc is crafted from California Central Coast grapes - 46% Grenache Blanc, 34% Vermentino and 20% Clairette Blanche.  The fruit came mostly from Arroyo Seco’s Beeswax Vineyard, with a smidge from Creston Ridge Vineyard in Paso Robles.  Randall Grahm says the Vermentino really shines through in this beverage, which he describes as "Delicious, refreshing gulp of wine, perfect with seafood and more delicate fish."

Grahm feels lucky to be able to blend in Clairette Blanche in the cuvée for the first time.  He says it helps contribute additional length to the wine.  Alcohol tips 13.5% abv and it sells for $20.  By the way, the label art is from an 1855 edition of "Bordeaux Chateau," with the spaceship courtesy of Jules Verne, circa 1870.

Le Cigare Blanc's nose carries a whole bunch of tropical fruit with a touch of savory coming from the Beeswax Vineyard grapes, no doubt.  The acidity here is a ripping affair, so seafood is a must.  Lemons burst forth on the palate, with traces of pineapple, grapefruit and mango also showing.  The finish is long and and lanky and leaves the memory of Meyer lemon behind.


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Monday, October 21, 2019

Tuscan Vermentino

Lunch in Los Angeles is a beautiful thing, when the weather cooperates.  That's not a lot to ask in a city where the main export - behind entertainment - seems to be sunshine.  Those days right at the beginning of autumn, when the temperatures barely crack 70 degrees, are the best lunch days.  A calamari and scungilli salad at our favorite place at the top of the Hollywood Hills is made for those times.  Oh, and a glass of Vermentino.

Antinori says they began producing Vermentino from the Guado al Tasso vineyard in 1996, just a year after the Bolgheri DOC was approved.  The wine resulted in an effort to reintroduce an indigenous grape variety from that part of the Tyrrhenian coast.

The 2018 Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino shows great salinity, for a Tuscan Vermentino.  The savory nose and palate are a delight, as are the wonderful citrus notes.  The acidity is a bit light, but there’s enough there to allow for pairing with salads or pasta in oil.


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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Bonny Doon Cigare Grape Shakeup

One of the California wine world's constant beacons is undergoing a major facelift after 34 vintages.  Bonny Doon Vineyards winemaker Randall Grahm (left) has made some significant changes to his flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant, and its white counterpart, Le Cigare Blanc.

Grahm says the way he made the Cigares previously kept the wines in the cellar for too long, at a time when people are saying that they want the world's finest wines, they want them here and they want them now - to paraphrase from "Withnail and I."

To make wines which are approachable earlier, Grahm dropped Mourvèdre from the red blend and increased the presence of Cinsault, a grape he considers to be greatly underappreciated.  He doesn't see "rock-stardom" in Cinsault's future, but he does feel the grape is "soon to achieve its moment."

Le Cigare Blanc has also undergone a shakeup, with Vermentino replacing Roussanne in the white blend.  Grahm calls that switch a "tectonic shift," saying that while Vermentino "might not have the gravitas of Roussanne ... I've found Roussanne to often be quite ponderous, and we are seeking elegance (and intelligence) above all." 

Grahm has given the new versions of his wines the subtitled name of Cuvée Oumuamua, after a cigar-shaped space object discovered by astronomers on Maui.  The changes are reflected in the label picture, which shows a UFO shining a beam of light upon an unsuspecting vineyard.  Colors have been added to the image, which Grahm says shines "a clarifying, and revivifying light on what had been a somewhat sepia-toned reality."

Both the 2018 Le Cigare Volant and Le Cigare Blanc retail for $20 and carry alcohol at 13.5% abv. Grahm produced 20,000 cases of the red, but less than 300 of the white.  He feels, however, that the new Blanc is a "stylistic harbinger of LCBs of the future."

The 2018 vintage of Le Cigare Volant was made from 52% Grenache grapes, 35% Cinsault and 13% Syrah.  They were harvested from Monterey County vineyards including: Alta Loma, Loma Del Rio, Mesa Verde, Zayante, Rancho Solo and Lieff.

The medium ruby colored wine gives off a fruity nose, a bit of a departure for Bonny Doon bottlings. The savory is not forgotten, but a healthy dose of raspberry, blackberry and red currant comes forward in unbridled fashion.  On the palate, there's a tartness, but also a juicy acidity at play.  To me, it drinks somewhat like a cru Beaujolais, only from Monterey County.  The semi-lengthy finish carries the fruit well.

The 2018 Le Cigare Blanc was made from 54% Grenache Blanc grapes and 46% Vermentino from the Central Coast vineyards Cedar Lane, Paragon and Beeswax.

I'll admit, I miss the Roussanne, a favorite grape of mine.  Fortunately, I love Vermentino, too, and it delivers enough salinity to be a worthy replacement.  The nose threw me, because of its strong fruit'n'floral aromas.  After a few minutes, the salinity came through and even more savory notes appeared on the nose.  As with Le Cigare Volant, the Blanc is probably much more approachable in its new form.  That may be great for sales, but it doesn't make me like it better.


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Friday, April 19, 2019

Rosés For Spring: Vin Gris De Cigare

Hey, is it rosé season already?  Maybe it creeps up on me because it's always rosé season at my place.  We are taking a couple of weeks to spotlight some worthy pink wines which will help get us in the swing for spring.

Bonny Doon, the Santa Cruz-based winery that's on a self-described "adventure to make naturally soulful, distinctive, and original wine," is heading into spring with another vintage of its beautiful rosé.  Randall Grahm calls his Vin Gris de Cigare the "pink analogue of  Le Cigare Volant," the flagship wine of the Dooniverse.

The 2018 vintage, maybe the 35th or so, is made from 38.5% Grenache grapes, 30.5% Grenache Blanc, 12.5% Carignane, 10% Cinsaut, 6% Mourvèdre, 2% Picpoul and a dash of  Vermentino.  For me, it's a rite of spring, and a rite I would love to have on Thanksgiving, too, if I could hold off that long on opening the bottle.  Grahm says the pink wine will improve in the screw-top bottle for several years, by the way.  He sorts the grapes this way:

"The Grenache for our Vin Gris came in large part from bespoke sections of the Alta Loma Vineyard, a cool climate site in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County that gives us grapes with a distinctive black currant character.  The Carignane, responsible for the fundament of the wine, derived from very old vines from Antioch in Contra Costa County.  A substantial percentage of the wine is composed of the elegant Grenache Blanc variety, adding a lovely richness and foundation to the '18 vintage.  The Cinsaut,... ah, a delicate cherry top note."  He also notes that the lees were stirred to give a creamy mouthfeel.

The '18 Vin Gris de Cigare is very pale pink in the glass, quite lovely in fact.  The nose shows red fruit and a light floral note with a savory mineral edge.  The palate displays cherries and apples, with a very light and creamy mouthfeel, yet with a wonderful acidity.


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, September 28, 2018

Salinity Rules This Paso Robles Vermentino

The Paso Robles wine region sprawls over a good part of California's Central Coast.  It sprawls so, that it was recently divided into eleven sub-AVAs.  That's a testament to the variety of terroirs in the region's 600,000-plus acres, 40,000 of which have grapes growing on them.

Hall Ranch, home of Robert Hall Winery, sports five sustainably farmed estate vineyards - 300 acres in all.  They grow 21 different grape varietals there in the neighborhood of the Estrella River.  Head winemaker Don Brady was Texas-trained, back before Texas had a wine industry of which to speak.  He's been with Hall for nearly two decades.

The winery likes to brag that they're all about knocking down barriers and exploring new frontiers, and I suppose the following wine fits right in to that mindset.

It's not that Vermentino is such a rare beast, but that variety isn't exactly everywhere you turn in California.  If you're new to the grape, see bottlings from Sicily or Sardegna to find out what all the fuss is about.

Robert Hall's 2017 Cavern Select Vermentino is only available to club members and tasting room guests.  It boasts Paso Robles grapes, from the El Pomar appellation of the broader region.  It's on Paso's east side, between highways 41 and 46.  The vineyard is behind the winery, in the hills.  Alcohol is reasonable at 13.5% abv and it retails for $28.

The 2017 vintage was difficult, with too much rain, too much wind, a blazing hot September and a frost in October.  The Hall folks like what they got for their trouble, though, as they say the wine shows "excellent maturity and depth of flavor."

This Paso Vermentino sits green gold in the glass and offers up more oceanesque salinity on the nose than I'm used to finding in a California version of this Italian grape.  There's a slant of citrus running through, but it's salty and slightly briny.  I love that.  The sip shows off the bracing acidity as well as a mineral-laden, lemon-lime flavor profile.  The savory angle plays right through with the zest of lime and tangerine on the finish.  It's time for oysters here.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Bonny Doon Wine In Cans

A fizzy, pink Bulle-Moose de Cigare is already on the loose from Bonny Doon Vineyard.  Now, two other canned quality wines join in because, as winemaker Randall Grahm says, “Yes We Can.”  Grahm is a noted trend bucker and setter in California wine, championing Rhône varieties, screw caps and honest labeling before anyone else did.  Wine in cans is his next frontier, although he's not the first to jump on that idea.

Bulle-Moose Blanche is a fizzy California Vermentino, canned for convenience.  Grahm says he also plans to make a still Vermentino in the near future.  The 2017 Fizzy White of the Earth was limited to just 800 cases of 375ml cans, which retail for $8 per can.

The White: It's 100% California Vermentino with a jolt of CO2 to get it slightly fizzy.  It's a 12% abv dry wine, which is best served cold and can age for a couple of years.

The Bulle-Moose Blanche tastes almost like Vermentino from the Italian islands.  It smells like one, too, with savory, salty aromas meeting the California citrus.  Think of it as the midpoint between Italian Vermentino and California Sauvignon Blanc.  The palate shows off a beautiful salinity - from Randall Grahm, no surprise - and zesty lemon and orange peel.  It's a refreshing wine that begs to be taken outdoors.

The Bulle-Moose Rousse is a fizzy Grenache wine in the convenient can.  The 2017 Fizzy Red of the Earth gets an introduction from the Le Cigare Volant UFOs-in-the-vineyard backstory.  Grahm says "no one is truly prepared for fizzy red wine from not around here."  Fortunately, these aliens are "known for their friendliness."  They're also good at picnics.

The Red:  A can of 79% Grenache and 21% Syrah, all Central Coast grapes, fizzed up to just below the legal limit for the sparkling wine tax.  Alcohol hits only 13% abv and it's dry.  Get it while it's cold.  It should age well for a couple of years, and some 2,500 cases of  these 375ml cans were made, which sell for $8 per can.

The Bulle-Moose Rousse pours up fun - you aren't drinking from the can, are you? - with pretty pink bubbles on top of the purple wine.  The color is actually more like medium ruby.  A nice frizzante stays after the bubbles dissipate.  The nose is deep and lean, with more earth than fruit there, and on the palate.  The savory notes for which Randall Grahm is known as present, even in an offering that’s made just for fun.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Oregon Vermentino

If Vermentino grapes were as commonplace in American vineyards as Chardonnay, maybe the ABC attitude -- Anything But Chardonnay -- would be ABV instead. They're not, though. And they probably won't be anytime soon. That's why I cherish them whenever I can.

Troon Vineyard's Craig Camp talks about two of their Vermentino wines, sounding like he's trying to choose his favorite child: "The 2016 Troon Red Label Vermentino, Applegate Valley is in the classic, richer, but still zesty style of Sardegna. The 2016 Troon Blue Label Vermentino, Cuvée Rolle, Applegate Valley was a co-ferment with 10% marsanne. It was named Cuvée Rolle (rolle is the name for vermentino in French) as the inspiration for this co-ferment comes from the richer rolle blends of the Languedoc in Southern France. As an interesting side note, there is actually more vermentino planted in France than in Italy." That should have them Rolle-ing in the aisles at the next tasting. The Red was fermented in steel tanks, while the Blue was done in oak barrels. Both were aged four months in neutral French oak.

Troon Red Vermentino Applegate Valley 2016

Camp calls the red label Vermentino a "decidedly different" expression of the grape, "grown on the granitic soils of the Kubli Bench in Oregon’s Applegate Valley."

This wine is one of three different styles of Vermentino produced at Troon. They call it their "sitting on the Italian Beach" Vermentino, made from grapes grown in Troon's sustainably farmed vineyards in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. They picked the grapes a little earlier for this bottling than for the Blue Vermentino, which was left to ripen longer. Alcohol hits only 12.5% abv and it retails for $15.

The Troon Vermentino is a light straw gold color and very clear in appearance. The nose is savory despite apple, lime, peach and tropical notes. There's a waxy, lanolin scent and some minerals, but the salinity is just what I always hope for in this grape. The mouthfeel is full, yet the acidity is racy. Sea salt tones color the apple-meets-lemon-lime fruit and an earthy element weaves its way through it all. That salty flavor stays around a good, long while, too.


Troon Blue Vermentino Applegate Valley 2016

Don't over-chill your white wines. Troon's website pleads with you to refrain from refrigerating their Blue label Vermentino. They say a slight chill "emphasizes the wine's fruitier character," but a serving temperature in the mid-60 degree range "emphasizes the wine's savory qualities as well as its lightly tugging texture." They claim that, chilled, you're looking at notes of "yellow plum, papaya-with-a-squeeze-of-lime and guava." The slightly warmer expression "favors aromas of Spanish almonds and whispers of amontillado Sherry."

In old-country fashion, they tread the grapes by foot for this old-country varietal wine. It hits 12.5% abv and retails for $22.

The Troon Blue Label Vermentino looks so delicate in the glass. The pale color made me anticipate a light-hearted wine. It's a deception. The nose has notes similar to the Red Label, perhaps a little more savory - even yeasty. On the palate, the mouth is full and has great weight, while bringing a little more salinity to the show than the Red. Despite the almost creamy mouthfeel, the acidity is zippy and fresh.

The third Vermentino in Troon's line up, the Black Label, spends a year in barrel on the lees. The 2016 is expected to be bottled in the spring.


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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?


Monday, May 1, 2017

Corsican Vermentino


Corse is a Corsican white wine made by Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift fame. His Locations label focuses on the great winemaking regions of the world. This one is a little different, as it is not adorned with the country-sticker label familiar on his other Locations wines. Also, Corsica is not a very well-known wine region.

The vineyards which produced the Vermentino grapes for Corse are on Corsica - an island which is adjacent to, but protected from, the salty Mediterranean sea spray. The vines grow on steep hillside slopes in soil of granite and red clay.

A product of France, bottled in Spain, from an American winemaker. It’s a United Nations in a bottle. The 100% Vermentino grapes were vinified in stainless steel tanks to an alcohol level of 13.7% abv. It sold online for just under 20 bucks.

This Corsican wine’s delightful nose has the sea spray mist in it that I love in Vermentino from the Italian isles. It also has a healthy scent of lanolin and a trace of orange peel. Minerals are abundant on the palate, as is a fresh level of acidity. The finish holds those savories for quite awhile. The wine is simply made for oysters or calamari or scungilli, grilled to perfection.


Friday, December 30, 2016

French Vermentino - Rolle In The Rhône

This interesting white blend is from France’s Rhône Valley. Its composition is nearly equal parts Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Vermentino, and very small amounts of Marsanne and Clairette. Vermentino - called Rolle in the Rhône neck of the vineyards - is a grape better known as a denizen of Italy, but it works largely the same when it’s grown in the Costiere de Nimes AOC. The 2014 Chateau Mourgues du Gres Les Galets Dorés costs $8 by the glass and an astounding $29 by the bottle at L.A.'s Belle Vie. In a restaurant, that counts as a huge deal.

The wine takes its name from the stones - galet roulés - that were plentifully dropped of by glaciers eons ago. François and Anne Collard run the business and make the wine in a place that belonged to the Convent of the Ursulines before the French Revolution. François tells us that Mourgues means nuns, while grès means pebbles.

It looks pale gold in the glass. The nose is bright, with citrus, salinity and the smell of wet rocks. On the palate, big minerals. Stones. Zest. It brings everything you like in these two grapes.

At Belle Vie, I paired my glass of this beautiful wine with grilled octopus, one big tentacle curling around the plate. It was perfect.

It was so perfect that I decided to try one of the reds from the wine list afterward. The 2013 Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon from Côtes De Bourg AOC, Chateau Falfas, listed at $47 per bottle.

The grapes are vinified in stainless steel after bio-dynamic farming. Smoke comes through loud and clear, with various shades of dark fruit and big minerals. There's no oak in the way, so you get all the pure fruit that went into the bottle.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Eclectic Wine From Oregon's Applegate Valley

The unusual name of this Oregon label is a literary nod to James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans," which does not refer to 2:00 a.m. in your favorite beach bar. That’s the last of the Mojitos, and it came along much later.

Cooper's hunter hero, Natty Bumppo, is also known as Hawkeye.  Further, he is also known as La Longue Carabine, or "the long rifle." He is from civilization, but prefers the wilds. He holds Indians as his closest companions, but has no Indian blood. He is eclectic, drawing from different cultures that which suits him best.

This wine also pulls disparate influences together in a fine blend. A whiff of Sicily disguises that southern Rhône feeling with the grape varieties showing the lawlessness of the frontier. The wild-eyed mix has roughly equal parts Vermentino, Viognier and Marsanne, with a swish of Roussanne thrown in.

from Michael Mann's "The Last of the Mohicans"
Troon general manager Craig Camp calls the cofermented wine "exotic," and says the grapes find "their distinctive highlights in the expansive aromatics and rich texture." And it’s all from Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard and Oregon. It has only 12.5% abv and sells for $34 at their tasting rooms.

The 2014 Troon Blue Label Longue Carabine, Applegate Valley is an appealing, golden straw colored wine that offers a great white wine nose of honeyed apricot, Meyer lemon and stones in a stream. The minerality of southern Oregon comes through strongly on the palate, and the acidity is positively bracing. There is a hint of the seashore in this wine, unusual since it grew near the mountains, not the coast. The finish is crisp and juicy. The grapes perfectly display the civilization of their heritage against the wildness of their home.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wine Country Oregon: Vermentino From Troon Vineyards

It was more than mildly surprising to open an e-mail and find that Craig Camp had moved. The longtime standard-bearer for Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Wines, Camp announced that he had decided to pursue his "vision of winemaking not in the Napa Valley, but in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon at Troon Vineyard." He went on to explain that the opportunity to tout Troon’s "natural wines from this unique terroir" was an offer he couldn’t turn down. He looked forward to "making wines with indigenous yeasts, trodding by foot, using almost no new oak and working with exciting varieties like vermentino, tannat, sangiovese, malbec, syrah, roussanne and marsanne." Even though his former company had a stake in Oregon for Pinot Noir, this was going to be full immersion.

Camp reported that the Troon property had been planted in 1972 by Dick Troon, so the roots go deep. He also reported that winemaker Steve Hall was a recent hire - two years ago - and that the team is looking ahead with vision. Camp knows a thing or two about terroir, and he wasted no time in lauding Troon’s "high-altitude, granitic soils" of their "benchland vineyards high above the Applegate River."


Troon Blue Label Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2014

This wine is an 80% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc blend. The grapes were picked and pressed together and fermented sur lie. The act of fermenting the wine in contact with the lees, or spent yeast cells, gives the wine a fuller, rounder mouthfeel. The alcohol is a very restrained 12.5% abv - Camp says only very warm vintages will go much higher - and a scant 167 cases were made.

The nose offers a good deal of tropical fruit, but not the usual suspects.  Guava and a gentle lemon note are joined by a mild sense of lanolin and stones. An extremely earthy aspect layers just underneath.  On the palate, there’s a zippy acidity that’s really bracing, and really craving some oysters.  Actually make that a plate of grilled calamari and scungilli, if you can find such a delicacy where you are.  I’m in L.A., and that request is generally met with "Huh?" Camp suggests seafood fritto misto.