Showing posts with label Vignoles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vignoles. Show all posts

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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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wine Country: Iowa - Schade Creek Vineyard (And Winery?)

Schade Creek Vineyard has appeared in the Now And Zin Wine Country series before, as have some of their recent troubles with the Waukee, Iowa city government.  The status of the winery is up in the air as of this writing, which led to the question mark in the headline.

Kurt and Jana Schade (pronounced Shady) have been battling the city council for their very survival as a business since the city embarked on a crusade to keep their winery and tasting room closed.  This article, from Waukee Patch in 2012 also highlights some of the struggles Schade Creek Winery has had with the city.

Although the Schades didn’t hold out much hope for a victory against City Hall when I spoke with them recently, I have my fingers sincerely crossed that they can get back to the work into which they have poured their life savings - the work of making people happy by way of their wines. 

In the middle of their struggle, the Schades were kind enough to supply me with some of their wines so I could revisit a few of them and taste some of their other offerings.  Schade Creek’s wines are not labeled with a vintage, but it appears these releases are new, and some are different from the previous vintage.  Their wines sell for about $12 per bottle.

Winemaker’s Reserve
The Schades' 2012 Marechal Foch is Iowa's version of Pinot Noir.  The Foch grape is a cold-hardy orb which ripens early.  That makes it a near-perfect grape to grow in Iowa.  Medium dark ruby in the glass, the wine lets enough light through to suggest a delicate sip.  The bouquet is a beautiful Pinot-like mix of flowers, cranberry, raspberry and coffee.  In the mouth, it's lively and fresh, with an invigorating acidity and great tannic structure.  The cranberry and blackberry flavors are draped in a gentle earthiness that makes it feel like a wine of the nighttime.  The Schades tell me the intensity of flavor from those small berries "is likely due to the drought we experienced last summer.”

Ghetto Fab
This rosé, called a blush in the Midwest, is made from 100% Steuben grapes.  The skins remain in contact with the pressed juice long enough to impart a medium-garnet color.  It looks a lot like a Spanish rosado, or a White Zinfandel.  The nose bears the Iowa earth, with vibrant strawberry and watermelon aromas peeking through.  On the palate, it's the same story - fruit nestled in minerality.  A citrus play arrives late and stays on the finish.  The racy acidity is razor sharp, which means you can pair this wine with a lot more than just a salad.

Soul Mates
This is a half-and-half blend of Golden Muscat and Steuben grapes.  There’s honeyed apricot on the nose, and an earthy aroma permeating it.  It’s full and a bit sweet in the mouth, and the acidity is brilliant.  The flavor profile runs from tropical fruit to peaches and back again, with a lovely Sweet Tart finish.  The Schades recommend pairing with pork and big, bold cheeses.  It also pairs nicely with avocado   They say it’s a great choice for people who love Pinot Grigio, and I think that hits the nail right on the head.

Vineyard Sunrise
Made entirely from the Schades' Vignoles grapes, the nose offers a fresh display of flowers and herbal notes, with an underlying sweetness of apricots.  On the palate, the semi-sweet wine carries lovely flavors of peaches and a terrific level of acidity.  The winemaker notes suggest a pairing with beef or lamb.  I don't know that I would go that far, but it would the perfect wine to pair with garlic shrimp or big cheeses.

Another 100% Vignoles effort, the white wine with the friendly name is crisp and semi-sweet, with a nose of earthy apricots and peaches and a tart, tangy palate.  The Schades recommend it for those who like Sauvignon Blanc.  They also say it goes nicely with salads and shrimp. 

Wine O’Clock Somewhere
This lighthearted wine is 100% Edelweiss. The Schades say the past year’s Edelweiss turned out a bit sweeter than usual.  This wine has an earthy/sweet nose, with honeyed fruit highlights.  The palate shows a great level of acidity, which makes the wine very refreshing and food-friendly.  The full mouthfeel and fruit-driven palate make this an excellent wine for sipping, or for pairing with salads or other light fare.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wine Country: Indiana - Turtle Run Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, March 31, 2011


With all the attention that California, Oregon, Washington and New York receive as wine producing states, it's sometimes difficult to remember that "the other 46" states also make important contributions to America's winescape.  Let's take a look at a Michigan winery in this edition of Wine Country.

In an interview with the wine blog "Michigan By The Bottle," Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, says over the past decade, the wine industry in Michigan has grown ten to fifteen percent each year.  She says Michigan is the eighth largest producer of wine grapes in the U.S.

Suttons Bay, Michigan is in the northwestern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, just east of Lake Leelanau.  The tiny town is about halfway up the eastern shore of the Leelanau Peninsula.  It sports a Farmers Market, a lighthouse, a state park, a casino and a handful of small wineries, including one that's unique, in that it only makes sparkling wines.

L. Mawby Vineyards - and their M. Lawrence label - produce 14 different sparkling wines, many of them made from the traditional grapes for bubbly: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They do produce one sparkler made from Vignoles, a hardy grape that thrives in cold weather.

Of the four Michigan bubblies I tried - kindly supplied by L. Mawby Vineyards - two bear the L. Mawby label and were produced using the méthode champenoise, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  The two wines under the M. Lawrence flag are produced in the méthode cuve close, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in a closed tank.

L. Mawby Vineyards produces 14 different sparkling wines, and all but one are non-vintage efforts.  Their top of the line entry - the 2002 Mille - is $50, but most of their offerings sell for between $13-$22.  The two L. Mawby wines received a brut dosage of 0.8 percent residual sugar, while the M. Lawrence Sex received a slightly higher brut dosage of 1.4 percent RS.  The final wine I'll mention, M. Lawrence Fizz, is finished with a Demi-Sec dosage of 3.5 percent RS.

These wines, as different as they are, are all very well made and are quite impressive.

L. Mawby Cremant ClassicThe L. Mawby Cremant Classic is made from 100% Leelanau Peninsula Vignoles from the Cremant Vineyard.  It's an impressive wine, with frothy white bubbles, sweet citrus notes and almonds on the nose, lots of nuts in the flavor profile and a pleasant lemony feel on the palate.  It shows a very pleasant sensation of ginger beer on the finish.  The grapes used in making this wine - and the other three I'll mention - are hand-harvested and whole cluster pressed.  Only the cuvée - the initial, gently pressed juice - is used in making the Cremant Classic.  It retails for $22.

L. Mawby Blanc de BlancsL. Mawby Blanc de Blancs - like the Cremant Classic - is also produced in the méthode champenoise.  It's a non-vintage sparkler of 100% Chardonnay from the Leelanau Peninsula AVA.  Only the cuvée is used and it is bottle fermented and aged a minimum of 24 months.  This wine sports a nutty nose with lemon-lime citrus notes and a yeasty feel on both the nose and palate.  It's bright and festive, and retails for $19.

M. Lawrence SexThe M. Lawrence Sex is a rosé bubbly made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay grapes.  This one is a tad sweeter, getting a Brut dosage of 1.4% RS.  Again, only the cuvée is used, but this wine is produced using cuve closefermentation - receiving its second fermentation in a closed tank.

It is aptly named, as the wine is sexy looking, with a deep pink rosato-style coloring and those frothy white fine bubbles, this time with a nose of cherry candy and strawberries.  Very fruity aromas mingle with a slight herbal edge and a bready nose.  The taste is vivid and bright, bursting with flavor and acidity.  An extremely refreshing mouthfeel sports a touch of earthiness on the finish.  It is extremely drinkable and extremely food-friendly.  You'll find it's a little sweeter than the Cremant and the Blanc de Blancs but just barely so, with 1.4 percent residual sugar.  The retail price of Sex is $15, a bargain.

M. Lawrence FizzFizz is also under the M. Lawrence label, and it's their sweetest sparkling wine.  Produced from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay grapes, Fizz differs from the other three L. Mawby wines I tasted, in that the tailles juice is used - the second fraction of juice pressed, after cuvée - and it's finished with a Demi-Sec dosage, 3.5% RS.

Fizz is honey-golden in color with a honey aroma on the yeasty apricot nose.  There's a slight taste of honey on the palate, too, but it’s not anywhere near overly sweet.  The finish is long and satisfying.  Fizz is sold for $13 retail.

The Wine Country stop in Michigan gave us four wonderful sparkling wines with ten more on the L. Mawby menu to try.  These wines are special enough to save for special occasions, but why wait?  Every day is special in its own way.

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