Showing posts with label Vidal Blanc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vidal Blanc. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2022

Canadian Sweetness

Inniskillin bills itself as Canada's original estate winery, founded back in the 1980s. The winery stakes out the breadth of Canada, with locations in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

The wine we have here is their 2017 Icewine, made from Vidal grapes. Icewine, if you are not familiar with it, is made from grapes which are harvested so late in the season that they are frozen. Nicholas Gizuk is the Winemaker at the Niagara location, and he produces several icewines, Vidal (oaked and unoaked), Riesling, Cabernet Franc and sparkling styles. Alcohol in the Vidal sits at 9.5% abv, while a 375 ml bottle sells for about $50.

This dessert wine has a lovely, rich golden tint. The nose offers candied apricot and honey, while the palate shows that yummy stone fruit and a touch of citrus, along with plenty of acidity.

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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

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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Wine Country Rhode Island: Greenvale Vineyards

Wine production in the state of Rhode Island started before it was a state. In 1663 King Charles II of England included the making of wine as one of the various uses of Little Rhody’s land as an English colony. Bless his heart! The state’s modern day wine industry - as minuscule as it is - began in 1975.

Greenvale Vineyards is located on the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. They are just five miles north of Newport, on Aquidneck Island, one of three wineries in the county and eight along the coastal New England wine trail. The same family has owned the 24-acre farm since 1863, but the grapevines didn't start taking root until 1982. The place is on both state and national historic registers, so the sense of time is tangible there.

It is, however, a sense of place that we look for inside the bottle.

Greenvale Vineyards was kind enough to provide us with two of their white wines for the purpose of this article. They also have a couple for red wine fans - a Cabernet Franc and a Meritage.

The 100% estate grown 2013 Greenvale Chardonnay is fully barrel fermented in neutral French oak - aged there, too, plus a couple of years in the bottle. 198 cases were produced and the retail price hits $18.

The pale gold tint shows a little more color than you may expect in a Chardonnay.  The nose is elegant and restrained, with apples and pineapples joining a light touch of oak.  On the palate, that oak gets a little noisier. The wine is reminiscent of an old-line California Chardonnay, buttery and a bit fat with a wonderful, creamy mouthfeel. The difference between California and Rhode Island comes in the minerality - the eastern earth is more pronounced than in those big, ol’ Chardonnays from the West.

The 2012 Greenvale Vidal Blanc is a real winner, too. Vidal Blanc is a French-American hybrid grape that makes an aromatic and fruity wine. 659 cases of this were produced and it retails for $17.

This  golden-tinted Rhode Island White offers a fruit basket for a nose. I stopped noting what was in it and started noting what wasn’t - it was a shorter list. A fairly explosive tropical fruit aroma leads the way, but it shares the stage with apricot, apple, orange, tangerine and mango. There is also a underlying sense of earthiness - not really minerality, but a softer, savory sensation. On the palate, more fruit, what else? It is a bit more defined, focused on apricot and citrus.

What a great wine to have with a shrimp cocktail or a ham sandwich, or just sipping, chilled, on a warm summer day. Count me in on that one.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Wine Country Pennsylvania: Lakeview Cellars

For a state with as much winemaking heritage as you will find in Pennsylvania, they lag far behind most states in embracing laws favorable to wine consumers.  Things appear to be shifting there, but the movement is slow.  

While tasting wine from all parts of the US for the Now And Zin Wine Country series, I have had the opportunity to sample Pennsylvania wine several times.  Some has been good, while some has been merely tolerable.  The samples from Lakeview Cellars definitely fall into the "good" category.

Lakeview Cellars is a boutique Pennsylvania winery located just south of I-90 in the town of Northeast, PA, which is actually in northwest PA.  The directional aspect of the town's name describes its situation within Erie County.  The winery offers visitors some great views of Lake Erie and a pond shaped like a wine bottle - in addition to their wines, of course.  Owner and winemaker Sam Best sent two bottles of his very popular Shipwreck Series, a red and a white, for me to sample.

2011 Shipwreck Red

This Lake Erie red blend uses five grape varieties: Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon and Noiret.  Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon you know.  The other three grapes are hybrids found mainly in the American northeast.  Baco Noir is a cross of the French vitis vinifera grape Folle Blanche and an unknown variety of vitis riparia indigenous to North America.  Chambourcin and Noiret are also hybrid grapes.

Best says, "The wine is finished with 1% residual sugar, and exhibits nice fruit forward and finishes with some oak tones."  Sure enough, it's a dry wine at 12.4% abv, fermented and aged in Pennsylvania white oak.  It sells for $17, when they have some to sell.  This vintage ran out in September this year, nine months after its release.

Medium-dark ruby in the glass, the nose is complex, with black plum and blackberry, a little cinnamon and allspice, cigar tobacco and even a bit of leather.  The sip reveals a beautiful, peppery raspberry delight.  It's a little bit Pinot, a little bit rock'n'roll.  The Baco Noir and Chambourcin grapes seem to shine the brightest.

Shipwreck White

Best says he aimed for crisp and semi sweet with the Shipwreck White.  He hit the mark well.  Notes of melon and citrus come through an earthy nose, while similar fruit adorns the palate.  It strikes me as having just a hint of sweetness, a little odd for a wine with 3.5% residual sugar.  Best explains, "We blended this wine to have a nice balance of fruits and acid and finish with a honeydew melon taste.  The wine was finished with 3.5% residual sugar, but because of the acid, it doesn’t come across as sweet."  

This blend of Riesling, Vignoles, Cayuga and Vidal retails for $14 and barely tips the alcohol meter at 12% abv.

The earthiness on the noise is amazing.  The way the minerals, sugar and acidity merge is equally stunning.  It goes great with almonds and a cheese plate, but it makes a great sipper, too.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Wine Country: New York - Finger Lakes Sparkling And Iced Wine

The fine folks from the Finger Lakes wine region in New York have been staging a series of virtual wine tasting events.  The wine tasters gather on Twitter - channeling the conversation through the hashtag #FLXWineVT - while Finger Lakes winemakers gather in a live UStream broadcast.  A representative from each of the wineries tasted was present on the webcast, so we got to hear a little of each winemaker’s thoughts on the wine of the moment.  We tasted and discussed the sparkling and iced wines of the Finger Lakes on October 17, 2012.

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance provided samples of the wines to the tasters across the country for this project.  The wines we chatted about this time around were formatted in two flights.

First Flight - Sparkling Wines

Atwater Estate Vineyards Cuvée Brut 2008

On the southeastern slope of Seneca Lake, Atwater’s vineyards are about two-thirds vinifera grapes and one-third hybrids, with a smattering of native varieties.  Almost 3/4 of their inventory is white wine.  On the UStream panel, winemaker Vinny Aliperti talked about his Cuvée, which is made from 66% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay.  The wine stands at 12% abv and is dry as a bone with no residual sugar.

Aliperti called 2008 a "lower brix, moderate acid" vintage, which played right into the making of this wine.  The Cuvée is made every two years, in the méthode champenoise.  The grapes are whole cluster pressed and the two varieties are co-fermented.  Aliperti noted that both grapes conveniently ripened at the same time.  He explained the méthode champenoise very well, showing the labor-intensive process and leaving no doubt as to why wine made in that way is sometimes a little pricey.  His is sold at $30.

The wine has a pale color and big bubbles which quickly retreat to the side of the glass.  A huge, aromatic nose boasts apples and citrus, with the palate quite dry and fresh.  Toasty, nutty flavors are joined by lemon peel and green apples.  They suggest a pairing with seared scallops and arugula salad with goat cheese and prosciutto.

McGregor Vineyard Blanc de Noir 2008

The vineyards of the McGregor estate are on the eastern side of Keuka Lake, 40 acres of vines that are mostly 30 years old.  McGregor’s winemaker Jeff Dencenburg uses the traditional method, too, to make his Blanc de Noir.  That designation means the wine is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes.  He also makes a Blanc de Blanc, from Chardonnay, and a bubbly Riesling.  The wine has an alcohol content of 13% abv and retails for $30.

Owner John McGregor represented his winery on the webcast panel.   "Our climate is suited to sparkling wines," he said, hitting on how the weather plays into their early harvest, minerality and acidity.

Pale in the glass, the bubble subside almost instantly.  The nose is subdued and toasty while the palate shows pronounced earthiness and almond notes.  I’d love to have this with oysters Rockefeller.

Swedish Hill Winery Riesling Cuvée 

Winemaker Derek Wilber has 25 years experience making wine in the Finger Lakes region.  His Riesling Cuvée stands at about 12% abv and has 3.4% residual sugar.  Owner Dave Peterson explained the fastidious harvesting and sorting that goes on with his Riesling fruit, and noted that  "fresh, clean grapes make for good sparkling Riesling."  Some tasters on the Twitter feed compared the bubbly to Prosecco.

The wine is a pale yellow and very bubbly.  The medium bubbles hang around for a while, too.  The nose shows an earthy floral aspect with plenty of fruit to offer.  Big apple flavors and toasty notes accompany the generous sweetness here.  They suggest a pairing with fresh fruit and light meals, but holiday entertaining would seem to be right in this wine’s wheelhouse.

Second Flight - Iced Wines

Iced wine is the predominant style of Finger Lakes dessert wine, largely because of the cold weather that comes after traditional harvest time. There are very few late harvest wines from this area, according to the panel.  The grapes are pressed while frozen, giving a sweet and concentrated juice.  Frozen grapes make only half the juice of a regular grape harvest - that's one reason iced wines are more expensive than other types of wine

Casa Larga Vineyards and Winery Fiori Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2008

Winemaker Mark Patterson is Canadian, so iced wine is a sacred thing to him.  This 100% Vidal Blanc effort is only 11.7% abv, but has 18.9% residual sugar.  It retails for $45.

Poured from a beautiful, slender blue bottle, the wine has a rich, golden hue, like whiskey.  Its nose smells of apricots and pineapple upside down cake. There is a sweet floral aroma underneath the fruit.  The wine is quite viscous, with a honeyed apricot flavor that is lip smackingly sweet.

Owner Steve Richards noted that the wine has won numerous awards.  He says he likes it with savory pairings, like cashews and cheese.

Lucas Vineyards Vidal Blanc Iced 2010

Located on the western side of Cayuga Lake, Lucas Vineyards was established in 1980.  That makes it the oldest winery on Cayuga Lake.  The grapes are harvested late in the season and frozen after harvesting.  Winemaker Jeff Houck - who also moderated the webcast - specializes in Riesling and Cabernet Franc.  He talked about freezing the grapes naturally or artificially.  He likes both methods, but opts for a cold storage facility for freezing his fruit.

This Vidal Blanc dessert wine carries a 10% abv number and has a beautiful golden color, like honey.  Aromas of earthy apricot are intriguing, while the palate is loaded with flavors of apricot and pineapple layered with earthy notes.  A wonderfully fresh acidity makes this a natural for pairing with desserts, and they suggest white chocolate covered peaches, dark chocolate or fresh fruit.

Knapp Winery and Vineyard Vidal Ice Wine 2010

The winery is located close to Seneca Falls, with winemaker Steve DiFrancesco and cellar master Rich Iddings working closely.  Houck commented that “when I need to know something, I call Steve.”  DiFrancesco says the Riesling grape is not as sturdy as Vidal, and that "it won't hold up on the vine" for the extended ripening needed for a dessert wine.  He does like Riesling sweeties though.

This 100% Vidal Blanc wine has a low, low alcohol content of 9.3% abv and an enormous 23% residual sugar.  The grapes were picked in the middle of December, when it was a brisk 13 degrees Fahrenheit.  The wine has a greenish-gold color, a nose of honeysuckle and citrus and flavors of oranges that really wow me.  A candy finish leaves no doubt that you’ve just been "desserted."

Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer Ice 2010

From the east side of Seneca Lake, this is one of four ice wines produced by Standing Stone.  They also make dessert wine from Chardonnay, Riesling and Vidal Blanc.  Tom Macinski watches over the vineyards, while winemaking wife Martha handles the activity in the cellar.  She said the Gewürztraminer grapes grow over a solid bed of slate, so minerality is abundant.  The grapes are picked after the leaves are off the vines, then placed in cold storage, to be pressed while frozen.

Martha said that artificial freezing cuts down on the loss of grapes to animals.  “We got tired of seeing over half our crop go to the birds and coyotes.”  She started making Gewürztraminer ice wine when she had the opposite problem.  Too large a crop and not enough tank space resulted in the decision to freeze some of the grapes and make an iced wine.  She says Vidal Blanc and Gewürztraminer both have the acidity that makes them work well in an iced style.

The sweet Gewürztraminer has a rich, golden hue and is very aromatic, with floral and spice charging forth on the nose.  An earthy palate is laced with the flavor of dark honey, candied peaches and spices.  They suggest pairing this wine with desserts featuring ginger and cinnamon, as the spices will play right into the wine's flavor profile.  The retail price of $25 makes it a great value in this style.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011


The Now And Zin Wine Country series continues with the wine of Massachusetts.  The wine industry in The Bay State is still in its infancy by modern standards, although wine has been produced in Massachusetts since the 1600s.  The Pilgrims had barely gotten off the Mayflower when they started making wine from indigenous grapes.

Massachusetts now has over 30 wineries producing over 160,000 gallons of wine per year.  Most of the wineries are in the southern portion of the state.

Cape Cod Winery was founded in 1994 by the Lazzari family.  The winery is located in the Southeasten New England AVA.  In the sandy, gravelly soil of their gently sloping vineyards in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, the Lazzaris grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Grigio grapes.  They also grow Seyval and Vidal, and the wine I tasted is a blend of those two white grapes.

Cape Cod Winery Nobska WhiteCape Cod Winery's Nobska White blends Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc to produce a semi-sweet white wine with only 12% alcohol content.  Both are hybrid grapes, with Seyval ripening early and well suited to cold weather and Vidal noted for its elevated sugar content and high acidity.

Nobska White has a beautiful golden color in the glass and is quite aromatic, with a candy-like aroma of guava-meets-cognac.  A honey component joins a green pepper scent on the nose as well.  The flavor is strongly tropical and finishes like a lemon-lime Sweet Tart.  The wine is well suited for pairing with seafood with an acidity level that, while not razor sharp, is crisp and refreshing.  The mouthfeel is rather full - it feels almost creamy in the mouth - and should be served chilled for best effect.

I would imagine Cape Cod Winery's Nobska White would be a perfect wine to sip on the deck during warm summertime weather.

Cape Cod Winery also makes two red blends - one of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the other a Merlot/Cabernet Franc mix.  The winery's blush is created using their Seyval grapes and organic Cape Cod cranberries.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010


Crossing Vineyards and Winery Tasting Room

After a few hit-and-miss attempts at sampling some Pennsylvania wines during my visit to the Keystone State, I was eager to try a real winery tasting room.  Our schedule did not permit any wine country excursions, unfortunately.  My luck changed at the Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs in Wilkes Barre.  Not only did I take some chips off the blackjack table, but I got to visit the Crossing Vineyards and WineryTasting Room, located in the shopping mall that encircles the gaming area.
The Crossing Vineyards winery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes from Philadelphia and an hour and a half from New York City.  The estate is over 200 years old and is less than a mile from the place where George Washington crossed the Delaware River in 1776.  Established by the Carroll family in 2000, Crossing produced its first vintage in 2002.  Winemaker Tom Carroll, Jr. envisioned the winery at age 10 when his family bought the property.  He spent time in California and returned home with his acquired knowledge to see his dream realized.  Carroll has a wide assortment of grape varieties at play and he does an admirable job with them.  I was impressed with the overall quality of his wines.
The tasting room is modern and commercial, with plenty of bottles for sale along with some gourmet food items and wine paraphenalia.  The $8 tasting fee buys samples of six wines or four wines and four cheeses.
The white wines and the blush I tried all have a nice acidity, with nary a flabby wine to be found.  The reds are very bright and fresh on the nose and palate.  Here are my tasting notes:
Blush - This pink wine is made from Stuben and Merlot grapes.  Steuben is also known as Ambrosia, and is used in making jellies as well as sweet, floral wines.  The sweet nose of honeysuckle no doubt comes from the Steuben, while the cherry soda flavor represents the Merlot.  Despite the references to sweetness, this wine has a very nice acidity.  It's one of my favorites of the tasting.
Vintner's Reserve White - A blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, this wine has a nose remeniscent of a Sauvignon Blanc.  Grassy, funky aromas lead to a fruity taste of pears and tropical fruit.
Vintner's Select White - This blend of Vidal Blanc, Riesling and Viognier has an herbal nose and is very pale in the glass.  Vidal Blanc is a French hybrid grape parented by Ugni Blanc and Seibel.  Guava and apricot are the flavors I taste, but the wine is not too fruity.
Pinot Noir 2008 - This Pinot has a peppery, spicy nose that really intrigues, but it's thin on the palate with a raw raspberry flavor.  It was not a favorite.
Cabernet Franc 2007 - I was surprised to find that even a Cab Franc doesn't go dark and brooding here.  A bright red nose is matched by cranberry on the bright, fresh palate.  Very different, but nice.
Vintner's Select Red - This red also has a bright and fruity nose.  Raspberry, clove and leather show up on the palate, but the oak does not appear dominant in the profile.  It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Another favorite of the tasting.

Tomorrow on the Now And Zin Wine Blog, a New York state of Riesling.