07 Jun 2011
Back in November I tried my very first Virginia wines. A quick review of the post reminds me that I was blown away by 2009 Keswick Vineyards Viognier and moderately surprised by the Kluge Brut Rose. With the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in late July, Virginia is poised to be the center of the online wine world for 3 days.
Smartly, members of the Virginia wine community are getting wine into the hands of wine writers ahead of the event. As I often teach, the blog posts that come out of the tasting will jump to the top of search engine results when bloggers and consumers start to do some research. Frank Morgan of @drinkwhatulike / DrinkWhatYouLike.com was one of the main tasting hosts in the online tasting.
The speed tasting of six wines in a sixty minute span included such world renowned bloggers as @lenndevours of New York Cork Report, @suburbanwino of Suburbanwino.com and @wineharlots of WineHarlots.com. If anyone was up to the task, it would be these guys.
As usual the tasting event bumped into a private event that was scheduled at Nectar. And, as even more usual, this post is way delayed as the event happened on May 24.
As these wines were tasted in a very quick fashion, I’ll share my brief synopsis, initial impressions and overall score. I did enjoy the wines for a few days after the online event and some of the added notes come from these experiences.
2010 Keswick Vineyards Verdejo
The first wine of the night came from the makers of the Viognier that wowed me back in November. It is great to see the Spanish grape Verdejo coming out of Virginia. The wine was cold fermented for 29 days until it was bone dry. A modest aroma of tart citrus and alfalfa come out of the glass. The mouth is very Sauv Blanc’ish’ and boasts a great acidity. The low 12.8% alcohol is a welcome site. I really enjoyed this wine, and for $18.95 it is a good price point for a crisp citrus summer wine. 3+/5
2010 Veritas Sauv Blanc Reserve
While, I’m not in the habit of paying $25 for a Sauvignon Blanc when there are many great ones to be had for under $20, the Veritas did shine a little truth into my world about the potential of this grape in Virginia. This bone dry Sauv Blanc came across very much like it’s New Zealand cousins as grassy with a little grapefruit and cat pee (trust me, not as bad as you would think). Most wine drinkers would be able to pick this out of a line up as a Sauv Blanc with the traditional tart acidic finish. At this price, only going 3/5
2010 Boxwood Topiary Rose
Ahhh, nothin’ says summer like sippin on a dry Rose! This blend of 75% Cab Franc and 25% Malbec has an extremely orange hue to it. Aromas of rhubarb, melons and herbs came out of the glass. In the mouth the wine seemed a little light overall on flavor but the mellow fruit and herbs balance made for a great experience. Like most dry Rose this wine would pair extremely well with all kinds of light summer food. $14, 3+/5
2010 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier
A very curious blend of 75% Viognier, 14% Riesling, 7% Chardonnay and 4% Petit Manseng. Three-quarters of this wine spent six months in neutral oak and an interesting aging of adding the lees (skins) of the remaining grapes back to the wine make for some very bold flavors and aromas. The plain branded label is rescued by the strong aroma of honey, guava and lemon. The mouth feel has a hint of oak but is a nice addition to the thickness of the wine. At $25 this is a fantastic Viognier, 3+/5
2010 Chrysalis Vineyards
This 100% Viognier spends 5 months in oak (95% neutral and 5% new). Very traditional flower fragrance and tropical fruit present itself in this wine. After coming off the Jefferson Viognier, this wine is a little less dramatic. The nearly $30 price tag is a big turn off for me. 3/5
This is my first experience with Petit Manseng. At first sniff the wine strikes me with apricot and a slightly sweet pineapple. After sipping the wine, I was shocked to learn that the wine had only 1% residual sugar. The apparent sweetness in the mouth made me think at least 3-4% RS. The wine had a fantastic balance of tart citrus acid and sweet peach, pineapple and apple. At $17, I can very strongly recommend this wine if you can find it. With only 150 cases produced, you may want to make a trip to Lovingston winery soon. 3+/5
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.
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
27 Apr 2011
Earlier this year I made the observation that I’ve tasted a lot of wine from Washington. While I’m a huge fan of Washington Wine, I made the comment that I needed to expand my horizons and tasting experiences. So far, I’ve been fortunate this year to enjoy wine from Bordeaux, South Africa, Beaujolais (notes coming soon), Chile, and Italy. In 2010 only 1 non-American wine made my top 10 list – a Chilean red blend of Syrah, Cabernet, Carmenere, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Mourvedre. Chile makes a lot of wine. In fact, they are the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world. In all, I’ve officially explored about 20 Chilean wines in regular tastings and Wines of Chile tastings.
I’m impressed by the focus on engaging wine bloggers to “get the word out” about the various regions of Chile. While I recently participated in a Chilean wine tasting called #redblends, the following wines were sent by Vina Santa Carolina winery. With over 125 years of history and heritage in seven Chilean wine regions, Vina Santa Carolina showcases quality wine at a value.
Approximately right in the middle of the long narrow country of Chile is the region of Maule Valley. This 100% Pinot Noir is fairly substantive in the glass with a thicker than expected crimson color. The cooler climate Pinot starts off like many of the Chilean wines I’ve had lately with hints of burnt rubber. After letting this wine sit for about an hour the magic shines through. A very soft perfumed blueberry is shy in the glass. Subtle candy aromas come out as well. In the mouth the wine is soft on the front palate but offers a touch of sweetness, light tannin and pepper on the back end and finish. The 14.5% alcohol is well balanced with the acidity. A little research shows that this wine is available online for around $10. A fantastic value even at $20. Easily a 3+/5 and a tremendous buy for any Pinot Noir lover.
- 88pts Robert Parker and Best Buy from Wine Enthusiast
Hailing from the HOT Maipo Valley is the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The weight of the muscular heavy bottle shouts strength and power. In the glass the wine is dark, thick and inky. The 12 months in new French oak help to impart a nicely balanced aroma of dark chocolate and toast. EVEN more aromas of dark red fruit jump out of the glass along with hints of holiday baking spices (think pumpkin). In the mouth this wine is a full bodied delight of fruit, cedar and oak. While lacking an evolving flavor profile the straight forward approach is tastefully done. Put Napa on this wine and you’ve got a price tag of $39. This Chilean wine comes in at under $20. 3+/5
- 88 Pts Wine Enthusiast
Chile’s flagship grape, previously mistaken for Merlot, shines bright in this wine. The 12 months in French oak are not overpowering and offer the perfect balance of fruit and thickness. After a brief decanting the wine loses the notable burnt rubber aroma and gives way to a beautiful minty blackberry aroma. Smelling this wine was almost as enjoyable as drinking it. The wine is dark and intense in the glass. A slight herbaciousness on the nose gives way to a very complex flavor of red fruit, baking spice and thick plum. A light tannin joins the medium finish on the back end. I often describe wine as being ‘one note wonders’ or just offering ‘two dimensions.’ This Carmenere is the full package of aroma and complex flavor. Again, under $20, scores a strong 4/5.
- Robert Parker 90 Pts
In conclusion, these are three wines that I will not only keep my eyes out for, they are wines I will strongly endorse in the good tasting under $20 range. Go Chile – keep up the great work!