Showing posts with label fruit wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruit wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Asti Sweeties For The Summer Porch

Wines with a gimmick generally leave critical wine tasters flat.  Tropical Moscato has a gimmick, and the gimmick is fruit.  The Moscato wine from Italy's Asti region is infused with real fruit, aside from grapes. 

Tropical's wines are made with Moscato grapes grown in vineyards that sit some 200-300 feet up in the hills of Santo Stefano Belbo in Piedmont.  The sparkling effect comes from the charmat method, in which the second fermentation happens in the tank.  Then comes the blending with real fruit.

The mango variety of Tropical Moscato is made from 88% Moscato grapes, 10% mango pulp and 2% passion fruit pulp, while the passion fruit is 95% grapes.  There is now also a strawberry version, which I did not sample.

Both are sweet and fruity on the nose, with a strong floral sense.  They're sweet on the palate, too, and low in alcohol at just 5.5% abv.  The passion fruit bottle shows a nose that's a bit earthier.  Honestly, I knew which was which and I couldn’t really tell the difference.  Both are sweet and simple and don't require much in the way of thought.  I'm guessing they'll be best served quite chilled, outdoors, on a hot summer day.  They will probably make a good base for a summery cocktail or two, with some gin or vodka in the mix.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Wine Trio From Southeast Texas

Texas wine is becoming more and more noteworthy all the time, but the vineyards are largely in the drier expanses of the central and western parts of the state.  The climate in Southeast Texas, from whence yours truly came, is not hospitable for growing wine grapes.  However, Bruno and George Winery in Sour Lake, Texas steadfastly keeps the wine lights burning in that part of the Lone Star State.

Shawn Bruno is a very outgoing former actor and former football star at the high school I attended a few years before him.  The school is now just a memory, a victim of consolidation, but it was named after a well-known wine lover, Thomas Jefferson.  Bruno makes wines from fruit other than grapes, mostly.  I received a trio of his wines from my family this year as a birthday gift.

Padrino Moscato
This wine is dedicated to patriarch Roy Bruno, winemaker Shawn's dad.  It clocks low alcohol at 9% abv and sits pleasingly pale in the glass.  The nose comes with an earthy bouquet and a side of white flowers, while the palate is mildly sweet with very little acidity.  It's more of a sipper than food friendly, but it’s a nice sipper.  I'd be tempted to call it a white Muscadine, only less earthy.

Candlelight Strawberry Wine
A pretty, pink blush, this one is easy on alcohol - 12% abv - and long on the fruit from which it is made.  Expect an earthy note to carry the sweetness along.  It also features more flavor than acidity, making it useful for cooling off during the long, hot, Southeast Texas summers.

Yellow Jacket Raspberry Wine
Named for the old TJ mascot, this wine has the red tint of a deep rosato, and a musky raspberry nose.  The palate is just as earthy.  A little bit of acidity plays in, but don't expect it to carry a rib eye. Again, easy alcohol at 12% abv.

Friday, January 22, 2016

California Wine Doesn't Have To Be From Grapes - Does It?

The California Wine Company was founded in 2009 by twins Alan and Brian Haghighi.  Wine fans that they were, they asked themselves, “Why should grapes have all the fun?”  There were plenty of other types of fruit around just waiting to be fermented. Never mind that grapes are what you make wine from, dammit! They figured they'd give other fruit a chance.

They started selling their batches at San Diego County street fairs and farmers markets. It caught on, and a company was born. Each wine is made entirely from the fruit on the label, free of coloring or flavoring. Their wines are all natural.

They twins employ a business model called Social Value Enterprise - they say it’s a "new form of employee ownership." In a Social Value Enterprise," they say, "the founders' shares of the business are folded into a trust. Employees are added as beneficiaries after a vesting period." This allows team members to share in the value of the asset that they help create.

They say their wines are fruit forward and not sweet. They advise chilling the wines - the colder the better. They say the cold won't mute the characteristics, but I found that they did mute the aromas quite a bit. They also advise any type of glassware you like - from Champagne flutes to Mason jars.  They advertise that their wines are great with food, so snack away. Just don’t get bogged down trying to find a "perfect pairing."

I have tried wines made from fruit other than grapes on a number of occasions as I sample the wines of the 50 states.  The Now And Zin Wine Country series has brought me wine made from blueberries, apples, pineapples, berries I’ve never heard of - even honey. I have found these different styles of wine to be pleasant at the least, extraordinary at best. Complexity is an issue - usually fruit wines are not complex at all.

Pineapple Mango Sangria

Since sangria is a fruit punch with grape wine as its base, this is not a true sangria. In Europe, the name sangria is only allowed in wine and fruit concoctions made in certain places, like Spain and Portugal.

This pale fruit wine, made from pineapples and mangos, comes as advertised on the nose and palate. The fruit takes the spotlight - it is not complex and tastes just like juice. Acidity is minimal, and it is slightly frizzante in glass. Produced in San Diego County, the wine is recommended by its makers to be chilled before serving - the colder, the better, they say. They also say not to bother swirling and sniffing. "Just drink and enjoy." 11% alcohol, as are the other two.

Pomegranate Wine

This wine is beautiful to look at. It’s a light shade of red that sits between rosado and Pinot Noir. Aromatically, things are not so beautiful. It doesn't really smell like pomegranates, which is alright with me. I don't care too much for pomegranates. The label promises “fruity and tart” but it comes off more as sour to my taste. The palate is slightly more agreeable, but not by much. Acidity is pretty good, but that’s about the highest recommendation I can make. Follow the winery’s advice and serve it very chilled.

Pomegranate + Cherry Sangria

After the experience with the pomegranate wine, I was not too excited about his one. Happily, it hit my palate much better. Again, it’s simple. But it is a very refreshing drink and pretty tasty, too. The cherry comes through much stronger, and the pomegranate only adds an earthy quality to it. It’s about the shade of a Pinot Noir, but there the similarity ends.

Fans of off-the-beaten-path wines should get a kick out of these fruity offerings, but if you are looking for wine, you should probably stick to those made from grapes. If you don’t mind a little alcohol in your fruit juice, these are for you.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wine Country Texas - Bruno And George Winery

On my recent trip to Southeast Texas, I had the good fortune to meet winemaker Shawn Bruno at his winery and tasting room in Sour Lake, Texas - just 13 miles west of Beaumont.  Bruno is a very outgoing former actor and former football star at the high school I attended a few years before him.  The school is now just a memory, a victim of consolidation, but it was named after a well-known wine lover, Thomas Jefferson.

When the keeper of the old school mascot passed away, Big Buzz the yellow jacket was entrusted to Bruno.  Alumni will be happy to note that he had it completely restored and is ready to loan it to all class reunions.  You have to pick it up and return it yourself, but that's not a problem in Texas, where everybody seems to have at least one pickup truck.  If you are without one, it's your good fortune that in Texas, everybody wants to help.

Bruno decided to follow his heart and continue his family tradition of making raisin wine.  His great-great-great grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily, made it and Bruno's father and uncles passed the tradition to him.  It was not an easy path for Bruno, though.  He quickly found that it was against some Prohibition-era law to make wine from dried fruit in Texas.  Not one to be defeated easily, Bruno worked for two years to have the law changed to allow raisin wine.  Then-Governor George W. Bush signed the bill in 1999 and Bruno has a declaration of it hanging in his tasting room, along with a treasure trove of family memorabilia.

Bruno and George Winery opened in 2000 and is distributed well in Texas.  Bruno bought out his partner and the wine labels now show "Bruno Collection," although the winery's name still has George in it.  The big liquor/beer/wine chain Spec's carries his product, as do other locations.  The tasting room is not open all the time, but Bruno is more than happy to schedule a tasting by appointment.  Call 409-287-1212 or 409-963-8235 to schedule your trip today.  Don't go in thinking that the tasting will be over in a half-hour or so.  That was my mistake.  Our tasting was a three-hour affair.  One of Bruno's favorite expressions is, "I've got a story about that, too!"

I had a medium-sized group of family members in tow, and we had a great time tasting the wines - so great a time that a big lasagna dinner for the whole family had to be postponed until the following night.  The text that went out to other family members on the way home read, "No lasagna tonight.  Mama's drunk."  It was probably not the first time that a message like that was conveyed in the great state of Texas.

Here's the tasting menu for Bruno and George Winery:

Candlelight Strawberry - Fruit wine made from California strawberries, it shows real strawberry flavor with great earthy and herbal notes.  $12

Big Buzz
White Orchard Pear - Florida pears go into this one.  Floral aromas and the taste of full-bodied pear juice.  Refreshing.  $12

Signature Peach - The peaches come from California, and the wine hits 12-13% abv.  Schnapps on the nose with a big peach flavor on the finish.  $12

Holiday Blueberry - This is Bruno's only fruit wine currently made with Texas fruit.  A very deep blueberry flavor is impressive.  It's not like a juice at all.  Bruno pours this with the sidebar that it's "always a holiday at Bruno and George."  $12

Arapaho Blackberry - Huge blackberry flavor all the way through in this one.  $12

Yellowjacket Raspberry - Named after our high school mascot, the Yellow Jacket has a big fruit expression, and is a hit with dark chocolate.  $15

Shawn Bruno
Cardinal Cranberry - Maine fruit makes up this great holiday wine.  Big cranberry taste is just slightly tart.  A sucker for mascots, Bruno named it for the mascot at the Beaumont university, Lamar.  $12, a top seller.

Salvatore's Red Plum - Made with Italian red plums, Bruno was not allowed to state that on the label.  Alcohol regulators thought it would make people think it was an Italian wine.  Bearing an ancestor's name instead, the wine shows an excellent rosé quality.  It's reminiscent of Provence, with very nice, earthy finish.  $12

Other Than Standard Raisin - Other Than Standard is the category this wine fell into before Bruno lobbied for a change that made his raisin wine of higher than 14% legal.  It reaches 16.3% abv.  He can now claim it's a dessert raisin wine on the label.  The wine has actually won awards in the Port category. Vinified in a single fermentation, the wine is not overly sweet - it's nothing like Vin Santo.  It has a nice viscosity and is aged in a steel tank for three to four years.  Made from California raisins, it has a beautiful, rich color while the nose shows raisin, brown sugar and caramel. $12

The Bruno Collection fruit wine is non vintage, as prescribed by alcoholic beverage regulations.

One of the many stories Bruno told us during the tasting concerned an old vase.  It seems that during the construction of the tasting room, the old, green vase - adorned with grapes - was unearthed.  "They didn't hit anything else during all the digging, just that vase," says Bruno.  "I like to think it was divine intervention.  The way the raisin wine happened, there must have been somebody on my shoulder."  The vase still has a place of honor on the tasting bar, even if it is as a dump bucket.  I think his grandfather would be proud.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Wine Country Texas - Piney Woods Country Winery And Vineyard

A recent visit to my family in Texas gave me the opportunity to try some wine made in my home state.  Had I visited the Hill Country in Central Texas or the High Plains in the north, the pickings would have been more luxurious, but I was in Southeast Texas, where humidity is made and exported to the rest of the world.   That's not a good climate for vinifera wine grapes, but it's perfect for Muscadine grapes.  Muscadine and fruit wines are what they do at the Piney Woods Country Winery and Vineyard.

Alfred Flies (pronounced like "fleece") has been making his wines in Orange, Texas for 27 years.  He retired and got into the wine business, which may not have seemed like much of a retirement to him.  He recently had a stroke, but he is said to be recovering well at 90 years old.  Our pourer, Jennifer Wood, told me Flies doesn’t make it into the tasting room often, and his son-in-law handles much of the heavy lifting for him now.
Red and white Muscadine grapes grow in his vineyard in back of the tasting room, and for the fruit wines he uses only Texas fruit sourced from various parts of the Lone Star State.

Flies, according to the winery's website, "has been honored four times for his contributions to the Texas wine industry, by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and has received over 70 wine competition medals. Most recently one gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Competition. Including 6 belt buckles, representing 3 International Best of Class awards and 3 Texas Best of Class awards."

Jennifer Wood
Wood, observing from several trips to Texas wine events, says that Muscadine wines are catching on with millennials, at least in the South.  Millennials are thought to be more adventurous wine consumers, more apt to try new things than their older counterparts.  Judging by what I've heard from wine drinkers in California, an adventurous spirit is necessary for fruit wine and, especially, Muscadine.

Muscadine and fruit wines are nearly always relegated to the back seat of the wine car, if not the trunk.  They are not exactly my cup of, well... wine, so it was nice to taste a few that were worthy of consideration.
Here is what the tasting lineup looked like on the day I sampled them.

Heart of Texas Noble - One of two dry wines the Piney Woods Country Winery produces - the rest are on the sweet side.  This red Noble Muscadine wine has a savory, sour nose and a savory taste with a bitter note.  Oak aged, it has been selected as a wine of the month by the Houston Post.

Texas Moon Magnolia - A semi-dry, white Magnolia Muscadine, this one has a nutty flavor which I am told goes well with turkey.  They say it's a favorite at Thanksgiving.  Flies won the award of Top Texas Wine in 2009 at the Houston International Wine Competition.  In true Lone Star style, the prize was a hand-tooled, silver-trimmed saddle.  Has has also won an armload of belt buckles and a boxful of more traditional medals.

Noble Muscadine Rosé - Semi sweet and refreshing.  I didn't have it with food, but I have found in the past that well-made Muscadine wines are greatly improved in a food pairing.

Pecan Mocca - Made from white Muscadine grown in Flies' vineyard, this is a pretty incredible effort.  With a nose of ground coffee that jumps from the glass, this intense wine tastes like coffee and caramel, with a bit of tiramisu on the finish.  Flavored, and one of their three best sellers.

Peach - This fruit wine is sweet and made with northeast Texas peaches, but it smells like Muscadine.  the palate is tart and very peachy.

Baked Peach - Another peach of a fruit wine, this one is actually baked at 90 degrees for 90 days - Flies' effort at simulating Madeira.  Spicy cobbler on the nose and palate.

Blackberry - The most straightforward of the bunch, it's tart and fruity.  Not too complex, but very tasty.

Sweetheart Magnolia - White Muscadine again, with a sweet and fruity pear-like palate.

Ports of Texas - A Port-style wine made from red Muscadine and fortified with brandy.   Oak aged with a hint of chocolate.  Only 14% abv.

Texas Sweet-Tooth Cherry Chocolate - If you like your sweet wine completely unbridled, this is for you. It's so sweet it will make your teeth hurt.  Chocolate is infused in this dessert wine which tastes like a cherry tootsie roll pop.  The nose is straight out of Russell Stover.  Billed by the winery as a "compete dessert," hat's how it strikes me.

Light Ruby Port - Not as sweet as Port usually is, but it does hit 16% abv.  The savory note works in its favor.  Aged in oak and brandy-fortified, it gives a hint of whiskey.

Amber Port - Vermouth-like and getting closer to Port-style alcohol at 18% abv, I like the citrus streak.
Texas Tawny Port - This is a fairly amazing Muscadine effort at 19% abv, blended with brandy.  Spending six to eight months in oak, the wine actually looks older.  A ring of brown shows at the edge of the glass.  The oak and higher alcohol really masks the Muscadine flavor. Caramel and brown sugar flavors are a real treat.  (Texas has tightened the restrictions on the use of "Port," I'm told, so the labeling will have to be changed this year.)

Orange Wine - A natch for a winery in a town named Orange, it's actually made from Texas Satsumas.  A tart edge and finish and nectar-like.  Surprisingly, there is not a great citrus play here.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Wine Country: West Virginia

West Virginia has fewer than two dozen wineries.  The number eleven kept turning up in my research, but the West Virginia Department of Agriculture lists 19.  They don’t list much more than that about wine or grape growing, though.  The state does, however, boast three American Viticultural Areas.  The Mountain State has a piece of the Kanawha River Valley, Ohio River Valley and Shenandoah Valley AVAs.  

A lot of French hybrids are grown in West Virginia, due to the cold winters, but Riesling is said to be a mainstay in the northeastern part of the state.  In the Potomac Highlands, the shale soil is compared with that of Germany's Mosel Valley.  With about 47,000 gallons of wine produced in 2009, West Virginia comes in ahead of only Oklahoma, Maine and Montana in wine production.

A big thank you goes to my friend - and West Virginia native - Jim Thornton, and his wife Sue, who were kind enough to make it their mission to find these two wines for me on a trip back to Jim’s home state. Without them, there may not have been a West Virginia page for the Wine Country series.

Daniel Vineyards is in Crab Orchard, West Virginia, in the southwestern corner of the state.  The winery and vineyard is located at over 2,500 feet above sea level, so cold-hardy grapes are a must.  Owner and winemaker, Dr. C. Richard Daniel, has experimented with over 114 different grape varieties since his initial plantings in 1990.  Presently he grows 14 varieties:

     Cornell University Hybrids (Cayuga, Chardonel, Traminette)
     French-American Hybrids (Seyval, St. Vincent, Vidal, and Vignoles)
     Native American (Norton)
     Swenson Hybrids (Brianna, Esprit, and Sabrevois)
     University of Minnesota Hybrids (Frontenac, La Crescent, and Marquette)

The doctor says his blackberry and Port-style wines are his best sellers.
Daniel Vineyards West Virginia Red Table Wine 2008
The wine is brick red color and medium dark in the glass.  Light passes through it easily, and it has the look of a delicate Pinot Noir.  The nose is very intense blackberry, lots of earthy minerality. I would guess that this wine is made from Frontenac grapes, but I don't know for sure.

The palate is loaded with true blackberry flavor as well, the kind one gets from eating actual blackberries. There is a fruity sweetness, but an earthy taste is quite prevalent.  Fennel also shows.  The wine is quite dry and has a strong tannic structure.

Acidity is also high, which leads me to believe it will pair well with food.  I'd imagine this to be a great match with sausage, pork or pepperoni roll.  As a matter of fact, I might make the latter my first choice.  Anything type of peppery or spicy meat would likely pair well.

Kirkwood Winery is in Summersville, West Virginia, owned and operated by Rodney Facemire.  Kirkwood is Nicholas County’s first winery, and Facemire makes wine from fruits and vegetables.  There is also a mini-distillery on the premises, the Isaiah Morgan Distillery.

Kirkwood Winery Royal Blush NV
This pink wine actually looks more orange, or salmon, in the glass. It's gorgeous to look at, with an alcohol content of 11% abv.  On the nose, there's a "foxy" character that is often noticed in wines made from North American grapes.  Kirkwood does make a wine from Concord grapes, but I'm told the makeup of the Royal Blush is all Katoba grapes. I have never heard of that one, and I wonder if it might be a synonym for Catawba. The foxy aroma is so overpowering, I can't determine any fruit aromas at all.
On the palate, things change.  There is a very intense flavor of orange peel, and a vegetal/herbal angle I can't quite figure out.  While the nose did not make me want a sip, the taste of the wine is actually very interesting.  Orange candy on the finish takes away the memory of the nose.  

As a "mountain wine" from Appalachia, it has a certain cachet.  I would imagine if one is accustomed to drinking this, it's quite enjoyable.  As for me, if there's a white Zinfandel nearby, I'll take that instead.