19 Apr 2010
Ford, Chevy, Dodge. Ted Nugent, Motown, and Eminem. Tigers, Red Wings, Lions. Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Blue Franc. If we were playing the game “one of these things is not like the other,” some would quickly call out the last group as not representing Michigan. With 71 wineries (and growing) Michigan is making quite a statement with quality wine. Still young, the region is expanding acreage and seeing improvements as the vines continue to age. Really, Michigan wine?
When approached by blogger friend Shannon Casey of Michigan by the Bottle to participate in a Twitter tasting event, I didn’t hesitate in saying, “yes.” I’ve been following Shannon and Courtney’s blog for several months and as ambassadors of Michigan wine he and his wife, Courtney, have had me intrigued by the wines produced in Michigan. Due to absurd wine shipping laws, Michigan wine is hard to come by, so any opportunity to taste what I’ve only seen and heard on their pod casts became top priority.
Shady Lane Cellars was the featured winery for this taste and tweet event. Producing over 7000 cases from 52 acres of estate vineyards in Northern Michigan, Shady Lane planted grapes in 1988 and produced their first wine in 1992. Located on 150 acre 100 year old fruit farm, Shady Lane’s Adam Satchwell is “committed to producing the highest quality fruit with the lowest impact upon our surroundings.” Their wine line-up consists of dry and semi-dry Riesling, sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, and more!
A Taste and Tweet event is a showcase of all that is awesome about social media. People who would have otherwise never met, share a glass (or in this case 3) of wine for education, entertainment, and awareness of something new. With more than 50 tweeters, even more participating in group gatherings, Michigan was spotlight for the night. The tasting line up consisted of the three wines reviewed below (also shown in the video).
Twitter tasting events show the power of social media. Brand impressions and marketing awareness all lead to increased sales and market presence. The next tasting event is #Chardonnay on May 6. Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #Chardonnay or share your experience through Facebook at Community Wine Tastings on Twitter.
2008 Shady Lane Dry Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling, 142 cases, no residual sugar, 12.2%abv
- The Swirl: Light straw, slight honey color with a ton of bubbles in the glass, but not a sparkling wine
- The Sniff: Very lively floral aromas with yeast and tart apple being predominant. Hints of honey undertones round out the sniff.
- The Sip: A dry crisp apple with medium tart finish. The acidity is nice but the minerality is slightly off on the finish. Beautiful representation of a new world dry Riesling.
- The Score: At $16.50 this is a fantastic deal. I score it a 3+ (out of 5) and would recommend this as a great food wine with spicy food, sushi, and veggie driven pasta dishes.
Great tweet description from @farlanewastaken “Sharp, definitely brash. I think that you’ve got a bombastic hussy on your hands.”
2007 Shady Lane Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Pinot Noir, 752 cases, no residual sugar, 13.8%abv
- The Swirl: Very translucent (70%) with tawny port rusty purple tones. Solid color out to the edges.
- The Sniff: Bright candy cherry with hints of sour fruit. Slight pepper and cocoa on the undertones.
- The Sip: Slight cranberry, cherry fruit and rocks; powerful acidity. A slight earthiness throws off the finish. Medium tannin indicates that this wine would cellar well and improve with 1-3 more years in bottle.
- The Score: At $22, I score this a 3 (out of 5). The price is great for a well made Pinot Noir and definitely showcases the potential of Michigan Pinot
Great tweet on the Pinot from @aschie30 Pinot Noir is the one varietal (so far) where I really sense a distinct MI terroir in color, the nose & palate. #ttmi
2008 Shady Lane Blue Franc
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Blaufrankish (Lemberger), 483 cases, no residual sugar, 12.3%abv
- The Swirl: Bright purple and about 50% translucent. Edges turn clear and watery
- The Sniff: Mellow aromas of blueberries and moss. Swirling generates a little more pepper aroma.
- The Sip: Round mouth feel with a bitter undertone defined by black tea and blueberries. A gentle punch of tannin and acidity finish out the sip.
- The Score: At $22, I score this a 3- (out of 5). I’m comparing this score to my previous experiences with Blue Franc / Lemberger.
NOTE: Some of the tweeters considered this wine their favorite. This shows the complexity and diversity that occurs among tasting.
Great tweet on the Blue Franc from @winegenie Blue Franc (aka Lemberger & Blauufrankish) Palate: velvety texture, soft velour tannins, grapey, smooth, rich warm blueberries.
14 Apr 2010
Viognier and Semillon may not be grapes you are very familiar with, but I can assure you that with summer coming, consider these worthwhile reasons to stray from your Sauv Blanc and Rose. A Southwest oasis in the desert of central Washington, Desert Wind Winery was born out of a need for more fruit variety at Duck Pond Cellars (Dundee Oregon). In the early 90’s Duck Pond began planting the 480 acres located on the Wahluke Slope, East of Yakima and West of Tri-Cities. In 2001winemaker Greg Fries presented the first release of Desert Wind Winery. Seeing the phenomenal grown of the corridor between Prosser and Yakima, WA, Desert Wind set out to open a premium tasting room, event facility, restaurant, and retreat center. Considered the highlight of his career, Greg and team opened the Desert Wind Winery in 2007. You have to check out their web site, the space looks amazing! I wonder if Greg and Amber are going to invite me out (wink)?
I previously reviewed the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and it walked away with my March value wine of the month. At just $15 the wine was alive with tropical fruits and a balanced flavor.
For those that skip the videos and just read the text, you’ll want to check out the final minute as I actually pull the guitar off the wall and play it (yes @clivity, I do play the guitar).
- The Stuff: 94% Semillon, 3% Chardonnay and 3% Sauvignon Blanc; aged six months in neutral oak. 100% barrel fermented; 14.5%ABV; 568 cases
- The Swirl: Bright golden wheat color, with honey tones, seemingly thick viscosity
- The Sniff: Light undertones of lemon, vanilla and pear. Subtle but pleasing
- The Sip: Great mouth-feel, velvet and soft with mild fruit flavors of pear or apple and hints of lemon shavings. Reminiscent of light lemon shortcake.
- The Score: At $15 this is a mellow wine that provides simple flavor profile. Would definitely recommend with creamy shellfish pasta or smoked salmon. I score this a 3 out of 5
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 91.5% stainless fermentation 8.5% new French oak fermentation for 60 days; 14.5%ABV; 414 cases made
- The Swirl: Light, nearly clear with hint of lemon lime soda coloring
- The Sniff: I think Don Ho came up singing Tiny Bubbles bringing aromas of lychee, peaches and other tropical fruits. Reminded me of some mixed drinks I got in Florida last year.
- The Sip: The tropical fruit was mild on the front palate with good zing of lemon zest and minerality on the mid palate. Amazingly strong acid finish was perfect for palate cleansing. The finish was beautiful and balanced
- The Score: At just $15 this is another winner from the desert heat of Desert Wind. I score this a 4 out of 5. A strong recommend for summertime pleasure or served with spicy foods.
Cellar Tracker scores (none for 2009, 1 at 84 points for 2008)
*These wines were provided as industry samples with the intention to review
12 Apr 2010
Finding good trustworthy wine under $10 can be a challenge. Some people question my reasons for pursuing this series. I believe people need help in this range. Generally speaking wine over a certain price is going to be well made. They may have different characteristics but there is a higher percentage of quality wine. Wine under $20 has become more attainable as well. I believe there are more people out there that are looking under $10 for daily drinkers. Economic conditions should not keep people from enjoying wine. The challenge is finding trustworthy wine that, while not exceptional, is drinkable with good flavor.
This brings me to my challenge. Every few weeks I try out new wine in the hope to field a team of nine starters and a few subs. Each team should be stocked with key reds (Cab, Zin, Merlot, Syrah) key whites (Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sparkling) and some alternates (other miscellaneous grapes). Below is the nearly complete team.
At this rate the Seattle Mariners should win about 47 games this year. For those that don’t know, that’s bad…very, very bad. It’s no secret that along with opening weeks of Football season, April is my favorite time of year. For us Spokane folk we finally start to see warmer weather, the snow has melted and all the brown is replaced with green grass and budding flowers. Crockpot dinners transform to grilling and hanging out on the deck. Steak, burgers and hot dogs become a regular part of the nightly routine, and the calming voice of Dave Niehaus invades the kitchen (he’s the voice of the Seattle Mariners for those who don’t know).
Today’s tryouts include a mystery Cabernet Sauvignon, A well known Syrah, and a controversial Pinot Noir.
NV Distant Bay Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine began as a mystery and ended as a disappointment. The investigation started with a brand that some of my blog friends and I did not recognize. The label mentions being made in Patterson, WA. The main winery in Patterson is Columbia Crest (a Chateau St. Michelle company). Sean Sullivan and I were chatting about it on Twitter and the next morning I woke up to an email that solved the mystery. A retired librarian named Don had been watching our tweets and decided to do some research. He discovered an old Chateau St. Michelle web site referencing the brand and buried deep within the current web site you can find some older tech sheets. Mystery solved!
- The Stuff: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cab Franc from Columbia Valley, 13.5% abv – The guess is that it’s an off brand to dump some excess or inferior juice without tarnishing the main brands.
- The Swirl: Very light in comparison to most Cabs. Watery toward edges, leathery plum color
- The Sniff: Not very aromatic. The heat of the alcohol comes through toward the end with some moderate oaky cherries
- The Sip: Earthy cherries with hints of white pepper. Not overly flavorful but no off flavors either. Very little tannin and low acidity
- The Score: At only $7, this is not a terrible wine but there are other wines out there for $10 that perform much better. I score this 2 out of 5 and send it back to single A ball to work on its form.
See the WAWineReport review
Cellar Tracker scores of 84 (with 8 reviews)
2007 Duck Pond Syrah
- The Stuff: 96.3% Syrah and 3.7% other reds, aged 11 months in French and American oak, 13.5%abv, 5900 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dull thin plum color
- The Sniff: Moderate nose with hints of oaky vanilla and only a whiff of dark berry fruits. Very little spice or fruit as you would expect from a Syrah (even a lower priced Syrah)
- The Sip: Very hollow on the palate with only hints of fruit. A mellow mouth fell with a smooth finish that trails off quickly.
- The Score: At $12 retail, I score this 2 out of five. While there is nothing wrong with this wine, it doesn’t provide much to make it stand out even at $10.
Cellar Tracker scores of 81.5 (with 4 reviews)
2008 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir
With a label that is banned in Alabama due to the naked lady artwork I had high hopes for this wine. Who couldn’t use more naked ladies in their life? Web Site
- The Stuff: 100% California Pinot Noir, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Very light, typical Pinot, with slight rusty brown tone, extremely translucent
- The Sniff: I get a woodiness on this wine (and it’s not the naked lady) along with a bright candied cherry. Pretty good nose for the price of the wine. Earthy funk that is found on a lot of Pinot
- The Sip: A good cherry candy cola flavor with slight earthy dirt on the mid-palate. The finish is slightly off balanced with some bitterness.
- The Score: At just $11 this wine scores a 3 minus out of 5. A pretty good Pinot Noir for the price considering that most under $20 are suspect
Wine Enthusiast 85 points
Cellar Tracker Scores of 83 (with 3 reviews)
I’m always looking for good under $10 (on sale counts) recommendations. I carry around a rec’s book when I head to the store. If I can find it, I’ll buy it and feature it on a future episode. Leave a comment.
Side Note Addendum
After reviewing game film, I decided to add the Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir to the bench with the potential to become the starting Pinot Noir. Other considerations brought in the 2006 Kiona Winery Lemberger. At $12, this wine is a little over budget but with the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing I decided to up the budget to bring this wine in as the starting pitcher. Here is my Cellar Tracker review.
My previous Under $10 Tryout featured my American League MLB predictions. Below are the National League predictions for the 2010 season. Disagree? Bitch and share in the comments J
NL East: Florida Marlins 94 wins
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals 101 wins
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks 89 wins
Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies 91 wins
07 Apr 2010
Big wine, small lot, Napa vineyards, small price. Looking at the Smith brothers, you might mistake them for iron workers in Pittsburgh or mine workers in West Virginia. One sip of their wine and there is no mistaking that Stuart and Charles Smith are definitely wine makers!
Planted in 1971 Smith-Madrone Vineyards sits on 200 acres of steep hillside on top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The vineyards consist of 13 acres of Chardonnay, 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 acres of Riesling. With less than 5000 cases of wine made each year, attention to detail stands out with these wines. Brothers, Charles Smith (the winemaker) – former school teacher and international croquet player – and Stu Smith (vineyard manager) – graduate of enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis, make wine that showcases the beauty of their vineyard.
In doing research for this review, two things stood out:
1) The reference to wine bloggers in the tasting notes. (Joe from www.1winedude.com was referenced in the recent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon release notes)
2) This quote: “Let me make an analogy with the “Wizard of Oz” to the wine business. Like the Scarecrow, the wine industry is mindlessly making wines to achieve some vaunted number, thus the resulting wines, like the Tin Man, have no heart. I can only hope that the Cowardly Lion will find his courage and roar his defiance and independence by making wines of balance, complexity and nuance. The witch would be (wine critic) Robert Parker because he’s the cause of all this stuff.”
2007 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate Chardonnay, 11 months in oak, 754 cases, 14.3%abv
- The Swirl: Pale gold color with hints of thicker viscosity, clean and clear
- The Sniff: muted undertones of toast, pear, and citrus fruits. Pleasing and crisp
- The Sip: Slightly effervescent and very crispy pear and citrus. A good thickness indicative of a Chardonnay, but could be mis-diagnosed during a blind tasting as a Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent acid with finish of stone minerality.
- The Score: At $30, slightly more than I would pay for a quality Chardonnay, but a good score of 4 out of 5. One of the better Chardonnay’s I’ve had from the 2007 vintage.
Cellar Tracker Scores – 90 pts (3 reviews)
2004 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:82% Cab , 8% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc; 22 months in American oak, 2164 cases, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with some brilliant bright purple undertones. Nice ruby colors toward the edges, opaque.
- The Sniff: The hills are alive with bright cherry fruit, earthy evergreen trees and smoky tobacco. A bouquet that causes you to get lost in time, forgetting the final stages of sip and spit.
- The Sip: The flavor profile was slightly off balance with a good earthiness on the front end but a hollow mid-palate that lacked the fruit. The finish did show off cedar chocolate covered cherry finish with good tannin structure. The wine could show very well in 3-5 years.
- The Score: At $45, I can score this a 3 (out of 5). The sour burnt cherry and hollow mid-palate lowered the score a bit at this price range.
Wine and Spirits 90 points; No 2004 Cellar Tracker reviews
02 Apr 2010
One sip and you may understand why the name Anelare was chosen for this small boutique winery from Benton City, WA. Anelare is Italian for desire…to long for.
Producing less than 1000 cases per year, much of Anelare’s wine is only distributed through their tasting studio in Kennewick, WA. When the Alexander family pursued their passions for wine, they enlisted the help of Victor Cruz of Canon del Sol. Victor’s wine has received critical acclaim for its consistent structure and quality.
2007 marks Anelare’s third vintage. Wine club members have exclusive access to estate Syrah (Ciel du Cheval), and reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Non wine club members can purchase Nonna Viola Red Wine and Saint Helena Syrah. With PR rep, Becky Templeton from Blends of Vino on board, Spokane can now discover the longing and desire of Anelare.
2007 Nonna Viola Red Wine
- The Stuff: 50% Syrah, 25%, Cab, 25% Merlot from Milbrandt, Gamache, and Goose Ridge vineyards, 292 cases, aged 22 months in new/used French/American oak, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Bright and young with black cherry color, moderately translucent and watery out toward the edges
- The Sniff: Tight nose with hints of cherry, perfume and traditional merlot cocoa
- The Sip: Pretty light and watery on the front palate that opens up to moderate cherry and plum fruit. The finish is mellow with a hint of pepper.
- The Score: At $24, I can score this a 3 minus (out of 5). The serious wine drinker may find themselves underwhelmed but if you’re looking for an easy drinking red blend, this may appeal to you.
Cellar Tracker Score – None for any vintage
2007 Saint Helena Syrah
- The Stuff: 100% Syrah from Gamache and Goose Ridge vineyards; 222 cases, 20 months in new/used French/American oak, 14.1%abv
- The Swirl: Dark blackberry plum color, opaque with good ruby color toward the edges
- The Sniff: A little evergreen tree with notes of black berry and hints of hot sulfer (indicating youthfulness)
- The Sip: A good presentation of dark fruit, slightly jammy but has good acidity on the back end to balance out the sweetness. Lacks typical spice found on some Syrah, contains a slight woodiness.
- The Score: At $28, I think this wine is a solid 3 (out of 5). Get the price down to $24 and it could move to a 3+
Cellar Tracker Scores – None for this vintage, but 1 for 2005 vintage (91 pts)
VISIT HERE for information about their tasting room hours