25 May 2011
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most planted wine grapes (second to Spanish grape Airen). A major component in Champagne (and other sparkling wine), Chardonnay is known as a winemakers grape because of the ability for the winemaker to impart their stamp on the overall outcome. Chardonnay is crisp and clean in Chablis and has a reputation for being thick and buttery in California, although many wineries are moving away from this trend.
In Washington, Chardonnay is still king with nearly 6,000 planted acres (Cabernet Sauvignon is a very close second). While producing predominately red wine, a handful of Spokane wineries showcase the best qualities of Washington Chardonnay.
2010 Arbor Crest Chardonnay
Sourced from two quality vineyards (Connor Lee and Bacchus) the 2010 Chardonnay sees moderate time in new and used French oak. The malolactic fermentation gives a nice full round mouth feel that is accompanied by hints of oak and honey. Light aroma and moderate acidity make this a good Chardonnay for the price. At $14 retail 3+/5
2009 Arbor Crest Connor Lee Chardonnay
Sourced from Conner Lee vineyards this premium Chardonnay is barrel fermented in new French oak with malolactic fermentation. Enjoy big flavors of apple cinnamon crisp and toasted walnuts. The touch of sweet honey and good acidity are reminiscent of many traditional American Chardonnay. $20 retail 4/5
This nearly naked Chardonnay is 75% stainless steel and 25% eastern European oak providing a great balance of crisp and clean with a hint of toasted almonds. Enjoy the green apple and pear flavors with smoked salmon or fruit salad on a summer day. $15 retail
100% Preston Vineyards fruit. The wine spends six months in 50% new French oak. Very impressive with thick juicy flavors. A subtle effervescence greats the tip of your tongue and then gives way to an abundance of fruit. Lots of subtle layers in this full bodied white wine with honey, crisp pear, vanilla, and peaches. The finish on the wine has moderate acid and dissipates quickly. At only $12 this wine outperforms many at twice the price. This is a strong recommend and a definite re-buy for any food appropriate dinner or Chardonnay lover. 4/5
Fruit from Conner Lee Vineyards; full malolactic fermentation and 2 months in French oak. Mild nose with hints of pear and honey. Big and rich butter, vanilla and pear. No oak to speak of. Felt thick and meaty. Finished with a beautiful acidity that washed across the back of my mouth. At a retail price of $12, this is a very well made Chardonnay. I score it a 4+. So far this is one of the best “value” Chardonnay’s that I’ve had. Kudo’s, Mike!
“Sweet lemons, pineapple, & Golden Delcious apple aromas. The entry is exotic and hedonistic with more apple, banana, & lemon custard flavors, balanced by a remarkable tartness that targets your cheeks.”-WinePressNW 2010
This stainless steel fermented and lightly oak aged wine has scents of lemon, pear, honey-dew melon with a hint of cinnamon and flavors of baked Granny Smith apples sprinkled with nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon. $9.99
2011 Chardonnay Day
Celebrate the second annual Chardonnay day (May 26) with any of these fantastic Spokane Chardonnays. Join the conversation by tweeting about your experience. Add the hashtag #chardonnay and do a Twitter search and you can see the tweets from thousands of people worldwide. For tips on how to participate, visit here.
Nectar Tasting Room is joining the celebration. Stop by all day for ½ price glasses of Chardonnay from Terra Blanca and Northwest Cellars. Order a full bottle and get your appetizer plate ½ price (open 2-8pm).
19 May 2011
“Once you go Gamay you’ll want it no other way.” This might be a good slogan for the Beaujolais region of France (www.discoverbeaujolais.com). Or, “Beaujolais, a little fruity, but there is nothing wrong with that.” Beaujolais is in the east central area of France and predominately produces wine from the grape Gamay Noir. Chardonnay and Alitoge make up the bulk of the remaining 2%. Many of you may be familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau which is a wine released shortly after harvest in conjunction with Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau tend to be very light, grapy, and tart; showing their obvious lack of age.
Beaujolais is made up of 12 growing regions (AOC), and are classified in the following tiers, Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages AOC, Cru Beaujolais (divided into 10 distinct types), and Beaujolais’ Blanc and Rose. The wine tends to be light in color (similar to a Pinot Noir) and lower in alcohol, 9-13%. About 1/3 of the wine produced in the area is sold under the Beaujolais Nouveau label.
Having limited experience with Beaujolais, I went into this tasting with very little preconceptions. I knew, from reading, that the wine would be light, slightly fruity, low in alcohol, and moderately acidic. The wine was tasted during an online wine tasting hosted by Discover Beaujolais (@discoverbojo on Twitter).
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Chateau du Chatelard
This 100% Chardonnay comes from Vieilles Vignes (old vines) up to 95 years old. The color of the wine is very pale and light with moderate tones of wheat. The aromas in the glass are distinctly fresh linen and ocean breeze with hints of lemon. A very pleasing profile that makes me pause to think of reading a good book on the Oregon coast. The sip gives way to an slightly viscous oily texture with pear and citrus acid on the palate. The price point is good ($15) but the flavor profile lacks anything significant to make it overwhelmingly memorable (not that all wines need to be). Solid 3/5
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Terres Dorees, Jean Peal Brun
100% Chardonnay is slightly golden in the glass with aroma buttered bread and an apple orchard (think of that smell when there are several apples on the ground, everything is ripening and has that overripe sweet earthiness to it). In the mouth the wine seems to lose its focus and gets slightly disjointed in flavor from front to back. The fruit comes across as slightly watered down and light and a strong rocky mineral flavor jumps out on the back end. At $15, 3-/5
2009 Beaujolais-Villages, Christophe Pacalet
100% Gamay, made in the traditional carbonic maceration style using whole cluster native yeast fermentation; unfined and unfiltered. This is a truly beautiful wine to look at in the glass with shimmering garnet jewel tones and bright purple colors; moderately translucent. A sweet raspberry candy, flowers and anise (yes the spice). In the mouth the wine is tart (like a raspberry or cranberry) and slightly thin on flavor. There is an undercurrent of banana peel and rocky minerality as well. At the price of $12, this is not a sipping wine but certainly would pair well with a lot of food choices ranging from fish to game and veal. Nicely done combination of playfulness and tartness. 3/5
100% Gamay, medium to full bodied tones of ruby and plum in the glass. Tangy strawberry jolly rancher aroma mixed with a little dirt on the nose. The wine is much more full bodied in the mouth than previous Gamay wines I’ve tasted. An elegant front palate with darker cherry and blackberry fruit provides a nice preview to the pencil lead and medium tannin on the finish. Very well made and enjoyable wine. Never would consider pairing Beaujolais with steak or pork, but this wine certainly would deliver the goods and provide a nice contrast in flavor as well. At $19, very deserving of a taste or try. 3+/5
Interested in the whole Twitter conversation with the opinions of over a dozen wine writers and tasters? Check out the Discover Beaujolais web site for a replay of the tasting.
18 May 2011
Going wine tasting is one of my favorite past times. I love experiencing new wines. There is something very intriguing about how each wine offers its very own unique expression of place, people, and process. As a tasting room owner, it has been fun seeing all sorts of people come through. We’ve enlightened the palates of new wine drinkers and destroyed the preconceptions of many staunch snobs. In a previous post, wine slinger Ben shared some Wine Tasting Tips for Newbies. In today’s installment, I would like to share five things NOT to do while wine tasting.
The following tips come from recent experiences and believe it or not, they are ALL true. Wine is an alcoholic beverage and can be known to turn an otherwise normal person into something very different, as evidenced by the following list. I’m sure every winery owner or wine tasting room owner could add at least five more to this list too…
“Wine – How Classy People Get Trashed”
- Don’t pour your own wine.
I realize that during large tastings this could be tempting. After all, the wine is sitting on the counter just begging to be caressed and emptied. The guy behind the bar is busy pouring another wine. You just can’t wait and the magnetic pull of the bottle to your glass is overwhelmingly strong. DON’T DO IT. In addition to being against the law, it’s just a little rude. Yes, I realize we are friends and the space is cozy and you’re feeling pretty relaxed and at home. Be patient, we’ll get to you. I promise, we won’t run out.
- Don’t destroy my property.
Now this sounds simple enough and hopefully this isn’t a regular occurrence. When cleaning up after a large wine weekend recently, I noticed some weird dots on our nice paper flower centerpieces at one table. “Hmmm, this feels weird,” I thought. “Oh, my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me…GUM!” Who, in their right mind decides it is okay to decorate a paper flower with a little gum stigma? That is all I have to say about that.
- Keep your drama to yourself.
A day of drinking with the girlfriends can be fun. Unfortunately after about 18 little one ounce pours at 4 locations with little food and zero water, some old “she said, she said” drama can start to emerge. Come on girls, you’re too pretty to be grumpy. We’re not a bar. In our little space all the customers are in on your frequent trips to the bathroom and not so hushed jabs. There is no crying in wine tasting. Be friends and save your drama for another time, please.
- Don’t harass the other customers.
You think I’m kidding with this one, but NO – this actually happened. A group of happy people were enjoying their wine tasting recently when all of a sudden I hear, “What are you looking at b^!ch? I’ll knock your f&*king head off!” Whoa! What the heck. A quick analysis of the situation reveals a stunned group of young girls being accosted by someone from another group that just came in. Smartly the two young ladies didn’t react to the unsolicited abuse and sheepishly left. WAIT, those are my customers you just ran off. This is a winery not a biker bar. If I hadn’t been alone, I would have run off to apologize to the girls. As it was, I politely smiled to the remaining group and tried to give them the best experience I could. Not sure what happened and as the tasting progressed, the group seemed quite pleasant and we hit it off pretty well…hmmm…go figure.
- Don’t grope or kiss the owner.
I realize after a few glasses of wine and in dim lighting I can look pretty attractive, but kissing the help is generally frowned upon and usually won’t get you a discount on wine. This experience happened within the first three weeks of us being opened and I was thinking, “Oh my, what did I get myself into?” This customer and I can laugh about this now but needless to say I was pretty shocked at the time. Feel free to flirt, get sassy and bat your eyes all you want. It’s great for the ego. But it might be best for everyone if you found someone else to kiss (or spank or grope).
There you have it. I’m sure as time progresses I’ll have many stories to tell in this space. If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, don’t worry – your identity is safe with me and I only share because I can laugh about it now, hopefully you can too.
11 May 2011
Want to go to the newest wine event in Spokane? Here is your chance. Vintage Spokane needs your help in getting the word out. By simply becoming their marketing force you can qualify to win 2 tickets to the June 5 event. Details on how to participate and qualify are in the last paragraph of this post.
What is Vintage Spokane?
In 2010 we learned that the Washington Wine Commission was no longer going to host the popular Taste Washington event in Spokane. The long running event gave Spokane residents a way to explore and enjoy the wine from over 100 Washington wineries and cuisine from local restaurants. The event promoters, Varsity Communications, saw a need to continue the event for Spokane oenophiles and made the decision to host Vintage Spokane.
With the success we’ve had with Taste Washington in Seattle, we’re excited to bring an event like this back to the Spokane area,” said Varsity Communications President Dick Stephens. “Few cities in the country have a community that is as knowledgeable and appreciative of good wine as Spokane, and the sheer number of incredible wineries and restaurants that are within a short distance of the city limits are staggering. We can’t wait to put it all on display for Spokane residents to enjoy.”
Vintage Spokane is Sunday, June 5 at the beautiful Lincoln Center. 75 wineries and dozens of local restaurants and caterers are expected to participate. Ticket prices are only $60 for this year’s event (lower than previous Taste Washington events). Tickets are on sale now on their web site (http://www.vintagespokane.com) and at Nectar Tasting Room, Latah Creek Winery and Arbor Crest Winery.
Want to WIN Tickets?
Entry is easy, we need YOU to help spread the word. Post the following as your Facebook status (or as a tweet) and then leave a comment on this blog so we know you did it. One winner will be selected on May 29 and will receive 2 tickets to the event. While you’re here, go “like” the Vintage Spokane Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.
SAMPLE FACEBOOK POST:
From the producers of Taste Washington, introducing Vintage Spokane, Spokane’s newest wine event. Tickets are on sale now (June 5). Visit their web page for more info – 75 wineries and 20 local restaurants. http://www.vintagespokane.com
Learn more about @vintagespokane, 75 wineries and 20 restaurants. June 5 http://bit.ly/jGrZxa #wawine
*Nectar Tasting Room is a media sponsor of this event
05 May 2011
I thought about titling this post, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or “Mas Tequila.” There was even a little snicker as I thought about Pee Wee Herman dancing to “Tequila” in a biker bar in the movie Pee Wee Herman’s Great Adventure. Alas, none of that either happened or made sense for this post. The reason…we’re not talking about Tequila, we’re talking about Mezcal.
As a wine blogger, no one was more surprised than me when I received three trade samples of Ilegal Mezcal. My level of agave experience is limited to tequila shots, margaritas, the occasional smooth Patron and mostly memories of sickness and hangovers. Before beginning my research, I had no idea the difference between mezcal and tequila. With people consuming the agave nectar in mass for Cinco de Mayo, I was eager to do my duty to uncover the world of mezcal for wine lovers everywhere.
Mezcal vs Tequila
From what I can tell here are the basics differences between Mezcal and Tequila
- Both come from the Agave plant, but from different species
- Tequila is from Jalisco and mezcal is from Oaxaca
- Tequila is made from the crushed fermented juice of the agave plant; mezcal is made from steamed condensation of the process and then distilled.
- Tequila contains no worm, mezcal contains a worm.
- Tequila cannot be called mezcal but mezcal can be called tequila
There may be more differences but they become less important as the shots flowed.
With 3 bottles of Ilegal Mezcal and Cinco de Mayo around the corner, I decided the only way to do this review was with some authentic Mexican cuisine. I stopped by a tiny Mexican restaurant and picked up a variety of tacos (steak, beef, fish) and set out to discover the world of mezcal. Due to my lack of experience with tequila and mezcal, I won’t be giving scores to the following but will only offer my consumer based opinion.
The “low end” mezcal isn’t aged for any length of time but is double and triple distilled. The color is like water, completely clear. On the nose the wine is very pungent. At first sniff there is an overwhelming aroma of burnt plastic (like when a piece of Tupperware gets burned in the dishwasher), cheap perfume and sweet fruit. Let this mezcal sit for a few minutes and most of that offensive aroma dissipates. In the mouth I get strong smoke, pepper, and a sweet fruit that I just can’t pinpoint along with a HUGE amount of heat.
SHIVER FACTOR: (this is the score of how smooth the mezcal is – the higher the score the more smooth) – At first sip, the Joven is very tough to swallow and earns a shiver score of 3-/5
Overall, I’m not sure I could enjoy this mezcal without a mixer. The aroma off plastic was overwhelming and the hot finish left me shuddering and even coughing a little.
Reposado is aged for 4 months in new and recharged whiskey barrels. The mescal is slightly darker than the first but still a very pale yellow color. The sniff boasts a soft cedar and butterscotch aroma followed by hints of vanilla. This reminds me of a well aged scotch. Hints of burnt plastic still accompany the other aromas. The front palate is very soft with caramel undertones but immediately lead to a long strong hot finish (that’s what she said). This Reposado is much more balanced than the Joven.
SHIVER FACTOR: Much more balanced of flavor and alcohol heat with a nice sweetness 3+/5
Nicely done and full of unique flavors. The Reposado was immensely more drinkable than the Joven.
So, I started this tasting by sipping along with my tacos not knowing the price points of each mezcal. The Anejo quickly stood tall above the others for aroma, taste and finish. On the swirl the Anejo is about the same color as a corn tortilla (pictured). Since I’d already tasted a little bit, I’ll rely on my notes for memory, “oh my gosh, so buttery with deep undercurrents of smoked cedar and sweet fruit.” The Anejo spends 14 months in new and recharged whisky barrels. The mouth feel of this mezcal is very enjoyable with a ton of earthy flavors, tobacco, butterscotch, and more. There is a sweet fruit / candy flavor to the very tip of the flavor that quickly gets overtaken by the smoke, butterscotch and alcohol. DO NOT MIX THIS MEZCAL, just sip it neat or over ice.
SHIVER FACTOR: Nice and smooth with a kick of smoked hickory and heat. 4/5
Very intrigued by the complexity of aroma and flavor. As someone new to the drink, I found myself just enjoying the aromas before sipping on a glass with ice. The finish was balanced and lacked the typical hot chest burning fire.
This Cinco de Mayo enjoy a glass of mezcal. The intense smoky butterscotch may be a little overpowering for a margarita but try sipping on a shot with a few cubes of ice. Who knows, you may be singing “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or dancing like Pee Wee Herman. Here are a few videos for inspiration.
PEE WEE HERMAN “Tequila” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM