Archived entries for Riesling

October Wine Round-Up

Now that the weather has cooled down in Texas, I’ve been lucky enough to get a number of wine shipments coming my way.  Those shipments led us to another #TipsyTuesday with a group of work colleagues.  Sometimes you have to kiss many frogs before you find your prince, but this time we had a great line-up of wines from around the world.  We tried 15 wines, one was corked and one didn’t make the cut, but the rest were solid wines.

White

In the spirit of full disclosure, these wines were supposed to be part of Natural Chardonnay Day #ChardDay and I ended up having to go out of town for work.  I gave notice to the folks coordinating and they were nice enough to tell me to save them for a rainy day.  Favorites are below (as mentioned, one of the Chardonnay’s was corked, so I won’t talk about that wine).

  • 2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay – full of tropical notes, vanilla, orange blossom and floral notes.  This was a great representation of a chardonnay.
  • 2012 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay – I also got tropical, but there were some notes of spice to this wine along with honey and vanilla.  A totally different chardonnay but also very nice.

The other favorite whites included:

  • 2013 Domaine Begude Sauvignon Blanc – lots of minerality, citrus, lemongrass and grapefruit.  This was a great everyday wine.
  • 2013 Carmel Road Unoaked Chardonnay – notes of citrus and pear.  This was a very crisp Chardonnay.
  • 2013 Carmel Road Unoaked Riesling – notes of orange blossom, honey, floral and apricot.  It was really interesting and I kept coming back to it.

Red

  • 2009 Cune Reserva 2009 Rioja – definitely one of my favorites of the tasting.  Big notes of rich berry, spice and great terroir. 
  • 2007 Montecilla Gran Reserva Rioja – earthy with notes of smoke, pepper, cedar, raspberry, spice and leather. I thought this opened up nicely over the time of the tasting.
  • 1998 Vina Albina Rioja – this wine was full of dried cherry, spice and vanilla.  It was an interesting expression of aged rioja and I enjoyed it.

I always have to call out Cornerstone Cellars wines whenever I am lucky enough to receive them as there is a line out my door whenever they appear and with good reason.  We tried the 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah, which was full of leather, coffee and notes of blackberry.  You could almost taste the intersection of the fruit of the earth with the skill of the winemaker who brought it all together like a conductor’s crescendo.  The second wine was the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which continues to ‘hands down’ be one of my favorite Napa Valley Cabernets (just do a Google search of Cornerstone and Dallas Wine Chick and you can follow my love affair with these wines).

Rose

  • 2013 Anna de Joyeuse, Camas, Pinot Noir Rose – Lots of red cherries, raspeberries and a freshness and minerality that I really enjoyed.

Dessert Wine

  • Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port – this was a treat for the group.  It was balanced with red fruits, cherry and had a nice finish at the end.  

Wine Blogger Conference 2015 Preview: Get Your Riesling On

As a follow up to the announcement that the next Wine Blogger’s Conference will be in the Finger Lakes area, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance asked me to participate in the 2013 Vintage Riesling Launch on Twitter #FLXRieslingHour. 

Nineteen wineries participated to virtually celebrate the release of the 2013 Finger Lakes Rieslings.  The four wines sent to me came from Sheldrake Point Winery, Knapp Winery, Heron Hill Winery and Boundary Breaks Winery.  More than 50 bloggers engaged in spirited conversation and learned all about the diversity of the Finger Lakes region in New York.

Contrary to popular belief, Rieslings are not just sweet white wines – they can be bone dry to sweet and the taste profile can be very different.  In fact, the International Riesling Foundation came up with a taste profile with the help of wineries who voluntarily rate their wines to help consumers navigate wines produced after 2008.

The wines that I tried were diverse – one was very dry with lots of minerality while others were much sweeter.  The soil of the region, the shale that these grapes are grown in, diverse elevations and distance from water, result in very different wines.

The first was the 2013 Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling, which had notes of lime, petrol, stone, peach and tropical fruits.  The family-owned winery has been making wine for 15 years and is located in a very unique microclimate next to Cayuga Lake.  This was the driest Riesling of the bunch and it was the group favorite.

The second wine was the 2013 Knapp Winery Dry Riesling, which also had notes of peach and apricot.  It begged for an Asian food pairing. I really liked this, but I think that food was necessary to bring out the true complexities in this wine.  The winery is also located near Cayuga Lake and has been around since 1984.  It is the first winery in this association to plant Cabernet Franc.

Our third wine was the Heron Hill Winery 2013 Classic Dry Riesling.  This was a nice wine with hints of orange blossom, floral notes, minerality and stone.  The winery is located near Keuka Lake and has been around for 35 years. 

Our final wine was the 2013 Boundary Breaks Vineyard’s #239 Dry Riesling, which was another great expression of the Riesling grape.  The winery property, which was a farm from 1850 until purchased in 2007, had its first vintage in 2013.  Very shortly after, The New York Times rated it in the top ten Finger Lakes Rieslings.  It was delightful – notes of peach, apricot, stone and flowers. 

If this experience was an indication of what I’ll get to experience at the #wbc15, I’m looking forward to getting my Riesling on.

 


WBC Pre-Trip: A Glimpse into the Soul of Santa Barbara Wine

Larry Schaffer, Tercero Wines

Our WBC journey began with bread.  And yeast.  And really good wine.  What I found about the Santa Barbara region is that it has a soul.  It’s real, it’s eclectic, it’s quotable and it’s incredibly real.  It’s something that you can’t get with a cursory look, which is why I am so glad for the experiences that were planned outside the conference – because by the time I got there, I got it.

We started first with Larry Schaffer, the winemaker and owner of Tercero Wines, who began the week a stranger and ended as up in our circle of friends.  Larry’s got a fun background – he started out as a financial analyst in the music industry and evolved into a role doing sales and marketing for a publishing company.  In 2001, he wanted a change and became intrigued with the grape to glass concept.  Fast forward to a degree from UC Davis, a job at Fess Parker for six years and then to his own label.

Larry’s personality is larger than life and he held his own with our group … and then some.  He kept his comedic timing and composure until https://twitter.com/marcygordon asked him, “If he had always been interested in all things yeast?”  At that point all bets were off and we officially were added to his chalkboard of funny and snarky things people said. 

Tercero (“Third”) was named because Larry is a third child and he has three kids.  His wines were incredible – I took home a mixed case of the 2012 Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Grenache.  He talked about the similarities of a winemaker to an artist.  “Wine should be like art,” he said.  “Every wine reflects the unique vintage, vineyards and experience of the winemaker.”

Mikael Sigouin, Winemaker for Beckmen and Kaena

We also went to Beckmen where we met Hawaiian native Mikael Sigouin, the winemaker for both Beckmen and Kaena.    Mikael talked about Grenache being like a guitar riff – he has eight different compositions of Grenache from seven different places.  We went through the elements of each of the Grenaches – and it was amazing to see the differences.  In the wines, we experienced music – from Bruno Mars to Michael Jackson to Prince.

We ended our evening with a group dinner at the Hitching Post and a stay at the same Day’s Inn featured in the movie Sideways.   Very old school, very fun and yes, we did drink f’in merlot.

The Texas Bloggers Get ‘Photobombed’ by Photographer George Rose

The next day we were invited to a very special tasting seminar “Santa Barbara: Drinking in the Differences” at Star Lane Winery, to truly experience Santa Barbara wines.  I can’t tell you how thankful I was to be included in this special day underwritten by the San Francisco Wine School and the wineries.   Fred Swan, Master Sommelier David Glancy and more than 20 winemakers and owners took us through the different Santa Barbara Country AVAs. 

The Central Coast is an incredibly diverse region made up of 250 miles of coastline and is comprised of ten very diverse counties – from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  It’s California’s largest AVA with four million total acres in which more than 100,000 are under vine and with more than 360 wineries.  And the sense of place is very different – there’s no standard climate, temperature or soil.  In the last three years, 200 new wineries have opened.   Two river valleys – the Santa Maria River and the Santa Ynez River Valley are the two binders.

The region has a storied and long history beginning in 1782 when Junipero Serra planted the first vines.  Four years later, the Santa Barbara Mission was established.  Sadly this came to a screeching halt in 1920 with Prohibition and the wineries didn’t begin producing again until 1962.  Today the region has five AVAs (with more in progress), has 50 varieties of wines and is incredibly diverse by regions/AVAs due to the temperature.

We tried 22 wines from the different AVAs – everything from sparkling wine, dry Riesling, Riesling, Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, white blends, chardonnay, pinot noir, grenache and syrah from Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA (which must be spelled this way due to the Chilean winery), Ballard Canyon AVA, Los Olivos District AVA and Happy Canyon AVA.  The wineries that participated included Riverbench, Fess Parker, Municipal Winemakers, Dragonette, Presqu’ile, Star Lane, Brander, Jonata, Solomon Hills, Clos Pepe, Melville, Bien Nacido, Chanin, Foxen, Tercero, Qupe, Samsara and Stolpman.

My observations, which continued to be reinforced during and post conference, were as follows:

  • This is an underappreciated region.  The wines are diverse. The wines are unique.  The wines are amazing.  The wines have a true sense of place.  You need to seek out these wines.
  • The people here were great.  Wes Hagen, the winemaker for Clos Pepe said it best, “wine is liquid humanism.  We need to inspire the imagination of the people that drink own wines.”  I have never met a more down to earth group of people that have gathered together in their sense of place – it’s collegial, it’s fun and most importantly, it’s real.  You can see it as the winemakers helped each other go through the AVA application process to the banter about terrior, climate and grapes.  These are people that you want to party with later.

As Larry said at the end of the day, “we want to tell the story of our wines not by talking, but by what is in the glass.”   Tyler Thomas, the winemaker for Star Vineyards, added, “this region features great wine made by great vineyards and great people.” 


World Cup 2014 Recap: May the Best Wine Region Win

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the 20th annual FIFA World Cup, a tournament for the men’s soccer (or football) world championship, is currently happening in Brazil and the United States is shockingly still in the game. A total of 64 matches were or are being played in 12 cities across Brazil and this is big stuff. The World Cup is live or die for most sports fans around the world and has been for decades. In the US, we’re far behind the curve in having only a brief, passing interest in previous years but finally, in 2014, we’re catching up! Football fever/ soccer sickness has struck Americans and it may never be the same again for us.

So it’s only fitting that when a mutual friend of ours, Guy Courtin, posted a reference on Twitter to wine and the world cup, copying both of us, we had a great idea for a blog post!

We’ll deem it “she said, she said” with our perspective on what you should be drinking from each country still in the finals.  In some cases, we’ll recommend our favorite wines or the most appropriate ones for the tournament.  In some cases, we’ll tell you to drink something else.  It may be a stretch to find some bottles for the teams you’re rooting for, we’re not seeing Costa Rican wine lighting the import market in the US on fire…

And for you REAL soccer fans, please keep in mind that this is meant as a fun analysis of a game we both admit we know almost nothing about!

 

Argentina

Argentina

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Argentina’s signature wine is Malbec, a red wine originally from the Bordeaux region of France. Argentina has been growing Malbec grapes for 150 years, but these wines gained mass appeal in the last 20 years.  Argentina now produces more than 70% of the world’s Malbec.  The price point is great and the wines are usually consistent.  Grab a wine from Riccitelli, Es Vino, Finca Las Moras or Remolinos Vineyards, crack it open and enjoy the game.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

No offense my dear friend but…yeah, yeah – Malbec, Malbec, Malbec.  I’m not going to argue that it’s at a height of delicious here. But to really show Argentine passion, I’m going to suggest the other grape of Argentina: the white Torrontés. Why? It’s a hybrid of Muscat d’Alexandria and Argentina’s historical grape, Criolla Chica, a red that was brought to South America by the conquistadors.  This highly floral, honeyed, peachy, and acidic white is best when it’s from the province of Salta, which boasts vineyards at 10000 feet or more! Refreshing, delicious and sort of native to Argentina, you gotta do it.

 

Belgium

 

Belgium

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Drink beer.  That’s all.

She Said  (Wine for Normal People):

I agree on that Belgian beer is awesome, but it turns out that they after poking around, I’ve discovered that the Belgians do grow grapes and that it’s a growing industry there. Who knew? While Chardonnay is their big gun, I’m not sure you’ll be able to find a bottle so may I suggest some fine Belgian chocolate with ruby Port? Portugal’s not in it now anyway, so it’s not like you’re being disloyal with this pairing, right?

Brazil

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not had a wine from Brazil.  Just a lot of coffee.  But Bento Goncalves is a wine town in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, and is known to be the wine capital of Brazil. The country has a few things going for it — 150 years of wine heritage and the area’s strong Italian-German heritage.  Drink a sparkling and watch Neymar, he’s been deemed as the next David Beckham.  You’re welcome.

Brasil

She Said (Wine for Normal People)

They’re the host country. They’re favored to win. And they could theoretically celebrate with Brazilian wine (although, like Melanie, I’ve never had it). The far south of the country is making some good efforts at Cabernet/Merlot blends, so if you can snag one, do it. If not, you could always get a Portuguese wine from the Douro that’s massive, brawny and powerful – kind of like Neymar’s leg.

 

Colombia

Colombia

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Another region that I thought primarily produced coffee, carnations, and James Rodríguez (thank you Colombia), has two regions that produce wines – in tropical Sutamarchán known for Riesling and Pinot Noir and Consorcio del sol de Oro, where European specifications are followed to produce Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines.  I haven’t had the chance to try Colombian wines yet, but the country appears to be progressing with the wines that it offers and I’m hoping they make it to Texas so I can.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Didn’t know about the carnations — cool fact DWC! For me, aguardiente (made from sugar and anise) is the way to go. That firewater will put you on your a** but is well worth it! Wine just isn’t their forte so I’ll go for the stuff that is.

 

Costa Rica

June Wine and Costa Rica 084-2

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I spent a week last Summer with my family in Costa Rica and asked the locals if there were any local wines that were worth trying.  They told me that I should drink the widely available Chilean wines … or coffee … or beer.  Okay, I trusted them and anyway I always bring a case of wine on vacation.

 CostaRica

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Coming up with nothing for this. Besides coffee. And it’s almost tasty enough to forego vinous pleasures for.

 

France

France

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Known for its incredible wines and being the largest producer in the world, France has a history of making wines since 6th century BC.  Bordeaux.  Champagne.  Alsace.  The Rhone Valley.  The Languedoc-Roussillon. The Loire Valley.  Provence roses.  Choosing my favorite would be like shooting fish in a barrel, but if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Champagne from Pierre Peters or Billecart Salmon.  If I had to.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

This isn’t really fair. The wine world is your oyster if you’re a Francophile. Any region really will do. You can’t lose. But my suggestion: go bold and get yourself a wine from Cahors. Mostly Malbec, brawny and bold, and obscure enough so you’d have to really love France to know about it, I’d get one of these dark fruited, coffee, and earth flavored gems. But I agree with Melanie, there’s no beating Billecart Salmon…great stuff!

 

Germany

Germany

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

For me, Germany personifies what a good Riesling wine should be.  It’s floral, fruity and elegant and can range from dry to sweet.  Dr.  Loosen, a family wine dynasty that has been producing wines for over 200 years, makes world class wines.  If I can find one, I reach for the Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett. Why?  Because it rocks – lots of apple, pear, minerality and a flintiness that makes up this wine works perfectly for my palate.  But, I think we were talking about soccer … Germany is good, but the U.S. did well against them.  I remain hopeful.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Ok, I’m with Melanie on this one. Riesling is the obvious choice and it’s one of my favorite wines (check out these podcasts with Riesling expert Stuart Piggott to hear a dorkfest on it), so I’ll say an off-dry Mosel Riesling with bone-rattling, jaw clenching acid and beautiful lime, peach, and jasmine flower flavors, this will keep you awake and your mouth watering while you’re waiting for that elusive GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!

 

Netherlands

Netherlands

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The Netherlands – specifically Amsterdam – is known for a perfectly legal substance sold in coffee shops.  What does that have to do with football?  Well nothing.  Except maybe you’ll chill out a bit in the rest of the country (where it is illegal) knowing that you won’t be actively prosecuted as an individual user.  As for wine … well … let’s just say the focus is elsewhere.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Yeah, they make wine in the Netherlands but I think it’s best we stick with their historical ties and one of their awesome contributions to the wine world: draining the Left Bank of Bordeaux so those gravel soils could grow kick ass Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. If you’re rooting for the Dutch, you’re going to be drinking well with this suggestion!

 

Switzerland

Switzerland

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I didn’t know much about Switzerland other than chocolate and fine watches.  But there are over 40 varieties of grapes that grow in Switzerland.  I have tried none of them.  Valais, which produces approximately half of the country’s wine, is known for having good pinot noirs and is the most widely planted grape. As for recommendations, my experience has been buying several Swiss watches (future family heirlooms) and eating my weight in chocolate.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

I too am a fan of Swiss chocolate and watches (although I have the cheap Swiss Army ones so they will NOT be heirlooms!) and I did have wine when I was in Zurich but it wasn’t memorable. There isn’t a ton of Swiss wine makes it outside the country’s borders, but that’s changing as import regulations have relaxed and producers need to find markets for their wines. Although most is white, bland, and neutral, there are a ton of native grapes that may make some cool stuff in the future. For now, I’d go for Dôle, a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend that’s light and fruity and can help you maintain a neutral disposition while watching the Swiss play for the win! If you can’t find that, try a northern Italian wine (Switzerland borders Germany, France, and Italy and the Italians are the only ones out) like the sparkling and delicious Franciacorta, from the Lombardia region that borders Switzerland!

United States

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The fact that we are still here and so many Americans actually have tuned into the game is shocking, but pretty cool.  Through my own research and several Wine Bloggers Conferences, I’ve had the chance to try wines from all over the United States.  Choosing would be very hard, but I can tell you that my most recent favorite comes from Larkmead Vineyards, an off the beaten path winery near Napa, where the Solari red blend scored a total GOOOOAAAALLLLL. Sorry – caught up in the moment….

US

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

America is a wine powerhouse and we’re working on becoming a football/soccer powerhouse too. Although it’s American by way of Croatia, I’m still saying Zinfandel is the way to go if you’re a US fan. It’s so American – big, bold, loud, and spicy. Nearly 10% of California’s vineyards are planted to Zin, and if you’re looking for a quick buzz, these are usually pretty high in alcohol too. For nuance and style, I’d stick with one from Mendocino County, where the layers of flavor tend to make wines that are more than just showy fruit bombs.  I love Navarro Vineyards and I’m not afraid to say it!

 ________________________________________________________

You can drink your way around the world with our ideas and if your team gets eliminated, you can move to the next best option and maybe drink even better. The parallels of soccer/football to wine is striking – as the world has become more global, we’re getting exposure to the great wine and great sport traditions the world around.

What did we miss? Drop a comment and let us know what you would have included for your favorite team!

Elizabeth Schneider, who remains one of my favorite winos, is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators, internationally followed wine blogger and podcaster (both can be found on: winefornormalpeople.com and the podcast is available on iTunes), and owner of the wine education company Wine For Normal People, that specializes in teaching interactive, live online classes. She is also author of the forthcoming book, Wine For Normal People. Elizabeth has an MBA and has lived in Northern California and worked for the largest winery in the world doing marketing and training programs. She has toured wineries around the country and the world from California, to Italy, to France, to South Africa, to her native Long Island, and appears as a wine expert in publications and other media channels. Despite the credentials, Elizabeth considers her most important accomplishment to be the fact that she has managed to remain a normal person, despite her exposure to lots of wine snoots! Follow Wine for Normal People on Twitter @normalwine and on Facebook.

 


California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


A Quick Twitter Trip around Italy, France and Wines for the Holidays

Exhibit A of what not to drink after a Bordeaux tasting

November was the season of Twitter tastings and I was asked to be a part of three tastings – one from #planetbordeaux, the second from #Franciacorta, and a Whole Foods Top Holiday wines under $25.  Lesson learned #1 – if you really want to enjoy the next morning, don’t invite your girlfriends over, taste all the wines and then plan a crazy night out.  Lesson learned #2 – and I should know better – even if you are spitting the wines, tasting eight of them in one evening leads to palate fatigue.

You may remember that I was blown away by the sparkling wines from Franciacorta during the last Twitter tasting.  Let’s just say that “the blush is not off the rose.”  I continue to be blown away by the versatility, complexity and individuality of these sparkling wines.  We tried four during the tasting and they were delicious:

-          Antica Fratta Brut ($25 retail) – notes of green apple, flowers; citrus; bread and a nice minerality.

-          Bellavista Cuvee ($35 retail) – pear, apple, fresh baked biscuits and ginger made this blend in my top #2.

-          Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut ($40 retail) – it was complex with minerality and savoriness; notes of almond, fresh baked bread and pear.  I loved it.

-          Contadi Castaldi Rose ($25 retail) — notes of berry, spice, flowers and bread.

The other tasting scheduled the same night was the Whole Foods: Holiday Wines Under $25 Tasting.  We tried several wines with other bloggers around the country including the following:

-          2011 Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling – notes of peach and green apple with spiciness that would be perfect with a holiday dinner – especially turkey.  This was in my favorite two.

-          2012 Tablao Navarra – notes of stewed plum, tobacco and cherry. A nice tempranillo for under $10.

-          2008 H&G Priorat – nice balance with notes of black cherry, vanilla and black pepper.  This was my favorite of the tasting.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux Rouge – notes of raspberries, blackberries, violet and black pepper.

The final tasting was for “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays.”  This is #Planet Bordeaux (shout out to Duran Duran’s Planet Earth).

There I said it as it goes through my mind every single time I see the hashtag. We had a line-up of six wines that were all priced under $15 and all were ready to drink today although some may benefit from decanting.

-          2011 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux – red fruit, herbs and oak.

-          2011 Chateau de Camarsac Bordeaux – spice, berry, cassis and plum.  This was one of my favs.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux – cranberry, herbs, spice and blackberry. Definitely one of the top ones from the tasting for me and many of the participating bloggers.

-          2011 Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur – plum, soft berry, cedar and mocha.

-          2010 Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur – plum, vanilla, mocha and toast.  This is a fantastic wine for the price (under $14).

-          2010 Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur – oak, berry, plum, chocolate and a touch of anise.

To read more about these Bordeaux wines, visit www.planet-bordeaux.com.

 


Summer BBQ: Jekel and Bonterra Style

 

It was in the midst of Summer BBQ season and the weather in Texas was hitting the 100’s when I received my blogger’s sample of Bonterra and Jekel Vineyards wines.  I knew that Bonterra was organic and biodynamically farmed as I had tried some of the wines prior.  I knew nothing about Jekel Vineyards from Monterey, who was a key pioneer in creating the AVA for that area.  I also received the Extreme Grilling Guide from Bonterra Chef Lia Huber that looked fantastic, but we were already heading to a friend’s house for dinner so I was hoping the wines would work well with what they were grilling.  The theme was Cajun and the wines were a great match.

We tried the following wines:

·      Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc – crisp with notes of grapefruit, citrus, melon and grass. It had a nice acidity and worked really well with some of the appetizers including a fantastic crab dip.

·      Bonterra Viognier 2012 – this was my favorite of the wines I tried from Bonterra.  It had a bit of sweetness from the Muscat, but was fruity and balanced with apricot, peaches, vanilla and almost a spiciness at the end.  It rocked some spicy deviled eggs.

·      Jekel Vineyards Riesling 2011 – this was such a wonderful find for me and ended up being the absolute favorite of the group.  It was funny – everyone underestimated this wine and even though it was labeled as a dry Riesling, the entire group had doubts.  Then we tasted it.  It was dry with notes of white peaches, apricot, citrus and ended up being the first bottle to disappear.

·      Jekel Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011 – with notes of black cherry, herbs, spice and earth, I was told this was a perfect wine to match the pork that was prepared.  But as many of you know, I’m allergic to pork and can’t vouch for the taste combination.

We also tried two drinkable chardonnays from each producer, but the group favorites were the ones listed above.  For a group of wines under $17, these were easy drinking, good summer sippers.


Post Conference Tour: #WBC12, Carlton Without Handcuffs

And then it was over.  Just like that.  But thankfully my post trip was about to begin.  The town of Carlton, where I had spent the #cuffedincarlton wine tour trip, was willing to have a group of us back for a two-day excursion with some of my most favorite wine bloggers.  We were picked up by the rocking party bus from the Doubletree with Motown music, couches and comfy seating where we were transported to Carlton’s “Walk in the Park” event featuring more than 30 Oregon wineries.  The event brought together some of Yamhill County’s best wineries and gave me the opportunity to spend some extra quality time with some of the people behind my favorite wines. 

 

A special shout out to Ken  Morrison from K&M, who was such an avid student on how to Tweet and was kind enough to continue the crazy chicken legacy.  BTW, he and his partner, Mauro Hernandez, make some pretty rocking Pinots that I can’t wait to receive once the weather breaks in Texas and my shipment arrives.

Lynn and Amy generously hosted us at Republic of Jam for cocktails and fabulous appetizers.  It was so fun to see the store that has become such a destination point and their vision brought to life.   I loved the craft cocktails made with so many of their products; they were just delicious. 

We had dinner at the Horse Radish, well those did that didn’t have a pork allergy (Carlton definitely loves its pork products), but they gave me a really nice salad and I was able to sneak across the street for a great turkey sandwich that I snuck into the hotel James Bond style.  I was able to share a bottle of Retour, one of my favorite Pinot Noirs who is owned by a dear friend of mine.

Marcy and I were assigned to the Casa della Valle B&B where we met Eve and Joe, the sweetest and kindest couple that treated us like dear friends.  Joe is an avid collector of some of the most classic toys and xxx has a huge collection of antiques.  Marcy and I had a blast getting to know them, learning about how they decided to start a B&B and finding more about their collections.  We were so excited to have been assigned to the B&B so we could get to know such an interesting couple (and the breakfast absolutely rocked).

The next morning, we had a private tour with Ken Wright, who in my mind is one of the “father’s” of Oregon Pinot.  Because there have been really great discussions on other blogs by attendees of WBC12 about Oregon terrior,  I have no need to recreate my version, so I’ll just talk more about Ken’s point of view from that day.  He talked about the wines doing so well because all of the conditions are right for Pinot Noir and the depth and how where the grapes are planted matter.  He called others to task who are growing Pinot grapes on the floor of the valley making poor wines and hurting the Oregon wine industry.  Ken has earned the right to have an opinion. 

He talked about how nutrition is key to making great wine and the plant is the ultimate report card.  Ken told a great story about seeking out a farmer in Washington State who was responsible for growing a specific apple for the Japanese market who had 15-acres dedicated to doing only that.  Ken and his team visited the farmer who at the beginning of their discussion peeled one of his apples and took them on a tour of the vineyard.  When they returned, the apple had not aged a bit and was “freaking unbelievable.”  This further solidified that each plant must be allowed to take its fruit to the ultimate stage.  Microbiology and protecting the fruit is so important – not only for wine, but for the fruits and vegetables that we eat daily.

We tried two of his wines – the Ken Wright Cellars Abbott Claim, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which was lush with stone fruit, cassis and spice.  Our next wine was the Ken Wright Cellars Carter, Eola-Amity AVA, which was much more mellow in nature with blueberry, cherry and plum.  Totally different vineyard, totally different terrior and elevation.  Cool experiment!

Our next stop was Lemelson Vineyards, a 160 acre, carbon-neutral facility, focused on producing certified organic wines.  The winery owns seven estate vineyard sites located in Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountain.  We started with a glass of 2011 Dry Riesling, which was full of tropical notes and was very enjoyable.  We then toured “the Starship Enterprise,” the winery’s gravity flow facility designed by Steve Cornish, who also designed Palmaz Vineyards (link).  After we climbed up the ladder of this high tech wonder with our glass of 2010 Tikka’s Run Pinot Gris, I didn’t time my ladder climb with the person ascending before me and ended up covered with Pinot Gris and a broken glass.  Lesson learned – make sure you get your timing right if climbing a ladder with a glass of wine in hand. 

Anthony King, the wine maker and his wife Kara, talked about the collegial community of winemakers in the region.  We then tasted some of the same wines aged in different coopers – such a cool experience and it becomes easy to see why a winemaker pays $1,100 for a high-end barrel – aromas, flavors, smells are all different.  We adjourned to the porch and had the opportunity to taste several wines (most of which I ended up ordering – you will find that was a common theme of this day).

  • We tried the 2010 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir (which of course I had to bring a bottle to @winebratsf , that was named after Dorothy (Eric’s mom), who wanted to be called Thea.  It was earthy, cherry and full of licorice.
  • Our next wine was the 2009 Mt. Richmond Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was very floral with bright fruit.
  • The 2009 Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir was next, which needed some bottle time, but was full of rich notes and big fruit. 
  • We moved to the 2010 Jerome Reserve Pinot Noir, which is made of a different blend every year, and was my favorite Pinot.  Big depth, dark fruit and a fabulous wine. 
  • We ended with 2009 Oeneous Dessert Riesling with figs, which was a ridiculously fantastic match.

Our next stop was lunch at Cuvee, several tart flambées prepared by Chef Gilbert Henry, which happily did not contain all pork products.  The veggie and salmon ones made me very happy.  Belle Pente, Alexana and Carlo and Julia joined us for lunch and talked briefly about the wines that were paired with the lunch. 

I sat across from Felix Madrid, the owner and winemaker of Carlo and Julia, who talked about naming the winery after his twin sons (now 23!).  At five, his child smelled one of the wines and remarked, “dad, this smells like perfume.”  A child after my own heart and probably a pillar in the family business.

Then we did a speed dating of sorts with a number of wineries.  I don’t think that Carlton understood how much we liked their wines and we slowed down the schedule when we insisted on buying at every stop.  We visited Carlton Cellars, Valley Emporium, Noble Pig (loved the food/wine pairings), Terra Vina, Mouvance and Troon (super interesting and non-traditional wines like meritage, zinfandel and port).  I would have loved another hour at each place.

Thank you again to the City of Carlton, “the wine capital of Oregon” for rolling out the red carpet and making this group of bloggers feel special.  Your town has so much to offer and I can say with certainty that I will be returning as soon as possible.


Day Two, Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: 42 Hours of Wine, Key Learnings and Post Parties

Bless me father, for I have sinned.  I went to bed at 2 a.m. and needed to exercise, so I did.  And based upon what is waiting around every corner of the Wine Bloggers Conference, you’ll understand why.  Here is my roomie, Liza’s, morning breakfast of a lovely French wine and Voodoo Donuts.

While I missed the first session, I started my day with a session entitled “the winery view of wine bloggers” with Sasha Kady of Kings Estate, Christopher Watkins of Ridge Vineyards and Ed Thralis of Wine Tonight.  Sasha, Christopher and Ed are well known, well respected and well integrated wine people in the world of social media and what they had to say was a validation that my many unpaid hours spent on a passion made a difference.  The conversation was two-way; because that’s what these guys know how to do well, and why they are at the top of wineries that bloggers want to engage with in a meaningful way.

We had a very quick lunch at a food truck lot in Portland, where I had a fabulous Korean taco with extra, extra, extra spicy sauce.  As someone who usually is written off on spicy, this stand complied and I was very excited – especially for $5.50.

I attended “The Art of Oregon Pinot – A Clonal Tasting, which was a total wine geek tasting that I so enjoyed.  So basically, clones are separate organisms that are genetically identical to their predecessor, which is paramount to creating wines that reflect the qualities of different clones in Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Erath hosted our clonal tasting where we discussed the different terriors in Oregon and why the clones where so different.  We tried Pinot clones from Wädenswil and Pinot Noir Pommard as well as new Pinot Noir clones developed in France and at UC Davis to address disease problems and later to isolate vineyard characteristics such as early ripening, open clusters, and small berries including “115,” which had lots of red raspberry, red fruits and tasted of black pepper; “777,” with black fruits and vegetal notes, which was described as “slutty”; the Pommard UCD 4 clone, my favorite, which stood alone as a traditional Oregon pinot; and the blend, which incorporated  spice, but was rough at a young age. 

We moved on to the “Off the Beaten Path” seminar presented by Winebow with Sheri Sauter Morano, MW, and the most humbling session of the conference.  We had a blind tasting of seven wines, which I began with confidence, but ended with the realization that I have so much to learn.  In order, we tried the following wines:

  1.  Itasad Mendi, Hondarribi Zuri 2011 – Bizkaiko Txakolina is a small denomination that covers wines in the province of Vizcaya in Spain.  The wine is full of citrus, tropical and zesty minerality that left me guessing on a new wine, grape and region.
  2. Argiolas S’elagas Nuragus di Cagliari 2010 – apple, floral, nutty, floral with stone fruit.  This Sardinian wine kept me guessing.
  3. Cousino- Macul Sauvignon Gris 2011 – Maipo Valley in Chile.  Almost candy-like with starfruit, smoky notes with a crisp acidity.  A very interesting wine.
  4. Librandi Duca San Felice Ciro Rosso Riserva 2009 – Calabria in Italy.  Earthy, mocha, red cherry, kirsch, tobacco and a bit of meat.  Lots of structure.
  5. Weingu Heinrich Zweigelt 2008 – Austria.  Strawberry, all spice, red fruit and an earthiness that was unique.
  6. Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonardoa 2010 – aka known as Charbono, but only in Argentina.  Plums, raspberries, spice and oak with lots of tannins. 
  7. Anima Negra An 2008 – Mallorca in Spain.  Meat, cedar, earth and leather. 

Key learning here – no matter what you think you know about wine, there is a blind tasting out there to make you realize you know nothing.  And with the exception of the last wine listed, this is a fun exercise with the most expensive bottle listed at $25, but many at least $10 below that price.

After that, Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, took the stage.  Here is my picture.  I’m sure someone else will dedicate ink to his discussion.  I will not.

I wish I had more time to join the reception for the Wines of Greece, but everything was running behind and I only had about ten minutes to spend to find out I need to know more about the wines of Santorini. 

There were a few folks who bagged on the wine dinner hosted by King Estate.  Shame, shame, shame.  This was a wine dinner that brought together the best of wine, food and social media and was seamlessly organic.   We started with a salad of fennel with heirloom tomato, grilled corn and duck breast prosciutto with the 2011 NxNW Horse Heaven Hills Riesling. 

Our next course was the confit of spot prawns with a cucumber, roasted peach and opal basil with the 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris, a delightful and refreshing wine that paired perfectly with the course. 

We then went to a wild Chinook salmon with garlic sausage (except for me – thank you for asking), potato gnocchi, buttered leeks and aged balsamic with 2010 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir.  Another divine match.

The next course was a roasted top loin of beef with wild mushroom, Yukon potato and shallot marmalade with the 2009 NxNW Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

The dessert course was a lemon panna cotta with summer berries and lavender syrup with a 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glace.  It was a brilliant display of social media, showcasing local farmers and sources and highlighting all that Oregon has to offer.

We quickly ducked into the International Wine Night, which unfortunately probably got shorted due to the dinner running over by about 90 minutes.  Then it was time for the after-parties, which I had opt out on some as they were too numerous to attend all of them.

  • We went to the Holy Grail of Alsace Riesling party, which featured vintages from 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001 including Trimbach’s Close Ste Hune, a great single vintage Riesling.  I was lucky enough to try everything but the 2000, and it was a nice reminder of how great Alsace Grand Cru Rieslings stand the test of time.  They aren’t called “somm candy” without reason.

  • There was a vertical tasting of Oregon magnums with some that weren’t represented at the conference, so it was fun to try some new vintages.
  •  #Get Vertical by Palm Bay Wines – this was a fun opportunity to taste verticals of international wines including Bertani (Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 1980, 1993 and 2004); Col D’Orcia (Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOG, 1980, 1997 and 2007);  Faustino (Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja DOC, 1964, 1982 and 1999); Jean-Luc Colombo (Jean-Luc Colombo “Les Ruchets” Cornas AOC, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009); and Trimbach (Timbach Riesling “Cuvee Frederic Emile” Alsace AOC, 2000 and 2001).  I really wish that this wasn’t my second to the last stop as there were some great wines that I would have liked to savor more, but thank you Palm Bay Wines for the experience.

  • Jordan – this event has brought many bloggers to their knees on Sunday morning and is always the party never to miss.  Lisa brought a wide array of Jordan’s best vintages, right off of their 40th anniversary.  These were wines to remember (or perhaps some attending did not).

I’ll end this post with a full disclosure and an introduction to “Crazy Chicken.”  I travel the world for my day job and so my seven-year-old daughter asked me to bring a toy and take pictures so she can experience my journey.  The chicken has traveled with me from London to Stockholm to Singapore and finally to Portland, where he has adventures – clearly tonight he spent too much time at the after-parties (and no, those photos aren’t shared with her).  Look for him in the return to Carlton winery post-trip.




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