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

Friday, December 29, 2023

Sweet Wine From Virginia Grapes

The Now And Zin Wine Country series started in 2011, with Virginia wine. In the dozen years since then I have sampled wines from 46 states. The last four - Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - have proven to be tough nuts to crack, for a variety of reasons. There are fewer opportunities in those states and shipping restrictions, to name two. I'll press on to find wines from those states, but when I get a chance to revisit a previous stop, I'll jump at the chance. Especially when it is Virginia. 

The Old Dominion State has 291 wineries, by Wine America's count. That's good enough for 6th place in the winery count. As far as wine production goes, Virginia lags a little more behind, in eighth place. 

Rockbridge Vineyard and Brewery is in Raphine, VA, not far from Charlottesburg, Lynchburg and Appomattox, in the Shenandoah Valley. Winemaker Shep Rouse became interested in wine while in Germany. He has a Masters Degree in Oenology from UC Davis and has crafted wines in Germany, California and his home state of Virginia.

The 2019 Rockbridge V d'Or is an award-winning dessert wine, made in the style of ice wine from Vidal Blanc, Vignoles and Traminette grapes. Alcohol sits at 13.7% abv and it sells for $31 for the 375ml bottle.

This wine has a lovely, rich, copper color. The nose bursts forth with honeyed apricot and orange aromas, with a trace of caramel. The palate has medium viscosity and very lively acidity. The sweetness is not cloying, but balanced with a beautiful tartness. It is dessert all by itself, but it pairs wonderfully with other desserts or a cheese plate.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière 2005

Besides being one of the all-around champion Rhone Rangers, Bonny Doon Vineyards’ president-for-life Randall Grahm dabbles in other grapes, too.  If Old McDonald had a vineyard, it would feature a Bordeaux here, a Spanish variety there, here a Rhone, there a Rhone, etc.  It would even feature some nice California Muscat.

I ran across this one, at large for several years among my belongings.  The Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière 2005 actually sports 98% Muscat Canelli, with a dash each of Muscat Giallo and Viognier.  The dessert wine only hits 11.5% abv, but the residual sugar is stratospheric at 17.2%.

Ice wine is typically produced, where nature allows, by harvesting frozen grapes and pressing them.  Frozen sugar melts faster than plain, ol’ ice, so you get those high RS levels needed for a dessert wine.

This VdG is produced from post-harvest grapes, but California wine makers need some help in the freezing department, as Grahm explains.  “Because we live in temperate California, we have to cheat a little when it comes to making ‘ice wine.’  …In as much as coastal California winters do not offer [a frozen] climate, we inter the grapes in a Castroville commercial freezer for a month of deep freeze.”  After that, the long pressing process begins, leading to a long fermentation.  Grahm says the fermentation for this wine went on for seven weeks before he felt the alcohol and sugar were in balance.

The wine looks almost like bourbon - just a tad lighter in color and intensity; copper rather than brown.  The nose is raisiny, with a good whiff of alcohol despite the low content.  A very good acidity exists on the palate, with flavors of apricot and apple meeting the loveliness of sugar.  Some orange peel and a caramel note are a true delight.  Fairly viscous, the wine leaves a trail along the sides of the glass.  A little brown sugar on the finish wraps up this holiday gift nicely.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wine Country Pennsylvania - Lakeview Wine Cellars

We have visited Pennsylvania before in the Now And Zin Wine Country series.  At O'Donnell Winery, Norbert O’Donnell makes due in a cold climate quite nicely with grapes taken from slightly off the usual wine grape path.  Awhile back, O'Donnell wrote to suggest I get in touch with Sam Best of Lakeview Wine Cellars in northwestern Pennsylvania.  The pair met while taking some wine classes together and they hit it off famously.

Lakeview Wine Cellars is located in the town of North East, PA, even though the community is actually in the far northwestern corner of the Keystone State.  The name refers to its position within Erie County.

Best tells me that northwestern Pennsylvania is the largest grape growing area east of the Rockies, with some 30,000 acres under vine.  The Lake Erie appellation stretches over three states, from Buffalo, New York to Toledo, Ohio.  Best proudly notes that the Lake Erie Wine Trail is the fastest-growing wine country in the northeastern US.

Best estimates there are anywhere from 150-200 grape growers within 15 miles of his winery.  A lot are growing Concord grapes, while some grow Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay,  Gruner Veltliner and Riesling.  Best says there are three major growers in his area who sell their juice to winemakers.

Becky and Sam Best
The 5,000 cases of wine produced by Lakeview each year are currently produced with juice from these growers, but Best has plans for grapes of his own.  He actually has six acres of Concord, but he is in the process of removing those vines and replanting different varieties like Noiret.  That grape was developed by the wine department at Cornell University, an institution as indispensable to winemakers in the northeastern US as Cal Davis is to California vintners.

"Noiret is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon," says Best, "with the same type of color and tannins but a little higher in acid.  It has a peppery taste and is not as fussy as, say, Pinot Noir."  The one-acre plot could take five years to start producing, and Best is looking forward to planting more varieties, too.

Best says he specializes in dry reds and dry whites, although he sells about the same amount of sweet wine as dry.  His biggest seller at Lakeview Wine Cellars is Red Sky, a blend of Concord and Niagara grapes with a 5% mark on the residual sugar scale.  He uses only neutral Pennsylvania oak for fermentation and aging.  He also makes a wine using Steuben grapes.

Only four of Best’s 13 wines are sweet, clocking in between 3.5% and 5% residual sugar.  He makes a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and a Cab Franc ice wine infused with chocolate.  The grapes for his ice wine don’t come from the freezer.  They are picked frozen right off the vine.

Lakeview's Shipwreck Series of wines tips the captain's hat to the seafarers of Lake Erie.  Best claims there are more shipwrecks on Lake Erie than in the Bermuda Triangle.  He says that's due, in part, to an average depth in the Great Lake of only 58 feet.  It's the climatic effect of that relatively shallow water that keeps things temperate in the fall and spring.

I can’t wait to taste the wines made from Best’s own vineyard, although I’m sure he’s even more anxious.  Until those vines are ready, he will continue to use grapes grown by others - the best he can find - to fulfill his passion for winemaking.  If his Lakeview Wine Cellars customers can wait, so can he.

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