28 Nov 2012
I’ve been told I’m trouble. I wouldn’t classify myself as a troublemaker but I certainly like stirring things up a bit. The Austin Hope Troublemaker blend is my Wine of the Week (#wowwine on twitter). If you’re looking for something that breaks a few rules and creates a bit of trouble. I highly recommend this Rhone(ish) style blend.
NV Austin Hope Troublemaker
Producer: Austin Hope
Region: Paso Robles
Cooperage: Multi vintage; older vintages see about 8 months in oak
My Suggested Food Pairing: Chopped Lamb Steak With Garlic and Spinach
The Troublemaker was a gift from a friend for my 40th birthday. I think he was trying to tell me something in relationship to my life. Dark in complexion, the outer rim shows a lighter gentle plum color. The multi-vintage blend is 55% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache and 5% Petite Sirah all from the Paso Robles region in California. Love the soft aromas of licorice, banana peel and game. The flavor profile is also very soft (surprising for the amount of Syrah) with flavors of vanilla, pepper spice and black cherry. The wine is fruit forward enough without being overly fruity like many inexpensive California fruit bombs. I like the attention to detail on the complexity of the palate. $20
Austin Hope did a fun ‘Office’ parody when releasing the first vintage of the Troublemaker.
05 Jul 2011
Wawawai Canyon Winery is in the heart of wheat country and colleges in Pullman, WA. Among the wheat, David and Stacia Moffet planted the first commercial vineyards in Whitman County since the prohibition. With a hot climate (one of the hottest in the state), and fertile soil, the results have been spectacular for this small winery.
On a previous trip to Pullman I had the pleasure of visiting Wawawai Canyon and Merry Cellars. The facility has modern clean lines and showcases various art exhibits for visitors to enjoy while wine tasting.
For today’s wine review the familiar ACDC Thunderstruck returns for my first video blog in 5 months. Between opening Nectar Tasting Room and having the worlds slowest laptop (which finally gave up the ghost), I’ve not been able to get any videos done. With my new laptop in tow, I’m hoping to be able to deliver more regular videos again.
This proprietary blend contains fruit from the three growing regions that Wawawai Canyon uses in their wine. The blend is 62% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, and 13% Petit Verdot. In the glass the wine is very dark and has shimmering jewel tones on the outer rim. Immediately aromas of cedar, campfire smoke, dark raspberries and licorice jump out of the glass. This is one of those wines where the aroma is as intoxicating as the drink. In the mouth the wine is very elegant and thick. I get immediate flavors of dark chocolate covered raspberry fruit, hints of smoke, a black licorice and anise spice as well. The finish is smooth and lingers for several seconds. At $29, the Ittero ali Rosse is a beautiful blend that delivers on all levels. Once the bottle was empty, I found myself wishing I lived among the wheat fields of the Palouse. 4/5
Every once in a while I receive wines that surprise the heck out of me. They are sometimes at low price points that provide a consistent and approachable tasting experience, some are amazingly vibrant and full representations of the grape varietal, and other times there are small wineries who send samples that truly impress me across the board. This shipment of Benessere wines from Napa, California fits into that last category. The winery sent two of each wine which gave me the opportunity to share with Ben Hilzinger, my main wine slinger at Nectar, as well as with a few friends.
Benesesere (ben-NESS-seh-ray), Italian for prosperity was founded in 1994 by John and Ellen Benish and produces about 5000 cases of Italian varieties and Zinfandel. Benessere farms 36 acres surrounding the winery, predominately Sangiovese and Merlot (27 acres). Winemaker Jack Stuart brings his 36 years of experience to the St. Helena winery where his approach of “not overripe, not over-alcoholic, but graceful flavorful and balanced,” is displayed.
I have to admit I didn’t share this wine. The blend of 49% Zinfandel, 41% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot is made from the run off juice that is drained from the main tanks of what becomes their intensely dark red wines. With only 12-18 hours of skin contact the juice is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks to make this fairly dry “pink” wine. With less than 1% residual sugar the slightly tart wine demonstrates nice balanced flavors of raspberry and spice. At only $16 per bottle this is a winning wine for summer barbeque or hanging out on the boat. 3+/5
2009 Benessere Pinot Grigio
In the glass the nearly colorless wine gives off aromas of lemon zest, and peaches. During the winemaking process the juice spends a few months in neutral oak barrels before bottling. An added depth of complexity is added to the palate of the wine. Boasting flavors of citrus and mild tartness the soft medium acidic finish lends me to believe that the wine will pair well with an array of food. The $22 price tag is a little much for me on this wine. I would encourage a trip to the tasting room to see if it fits in your flavor profile. 3/5
2007 Benessere Sangiovese
The 100% estate Sangiovese comes across slightly darker than its Tuscan counterparts. At 14.4% alcohol by volume the wine is also more alcoholic than the Italian versions. Aromas of wet leather are merged with soft red fruit and spice. The flavor profile is medium bodied and consists of subtle spicy leather, mint, and earthy raspberry. There is a modest amount of acidity and tannin on the back end giving the wine more structure and depth than what I was expecting. In all, a very well made Sangio that gives the characteristics of the grape variety while providing the strength of Napa Valley. At $28 retail, this is a nice wine, 4/5.
2008 Benessere Zinfandel “Black Glass Vineyard”
The 100% estate Zinfandel is 14.7% ABV and spends 18 months in French and American oak barrels. The color is noticeably lighter than many California Zins that I’ve tried. Smells of freshly laid tar are interwoven with the traditional dark strawberry and black pepper. In the mouth there are indications of leather, meat and herbs that nicely accompany the moderately jammy fruit. This is an approachable wine but at the $28 price point reminds me more of something I would find at ½ the price. 3/5
2007 Benessere Zinfandel “Old Vine”
With vines planted in 1923 from Collins Vineyards this Zinfandel lives up to what California Zin is known for. The grapes undergo an 23 day extended maceration to slowly extract the flavor before lumbering for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. With a deep color and flecks of jewel toned purple at the rim, the Zin is moderately robust with aromas of blackberry and earth along with tobacco. The palate reminds Ben of cherry Shesha and me of flowers and strawberry jam. If you like fruit forward Zinfandel then this is a wine you will definitely enjoy. The modest price point of $32 makes this an attainable treat too. 4/5
2006 Benessere Phenomenon
An estate super Tuscan blend of 56% Cabernet, 37% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 2% Syrah. The dark bold colored wine went through a gentle handling wine making process with careful attention paid at each step. The flagship wine was bottle aged a full 12 months before being released in 2009. When sharing this wine with a friend, she said, “WOW, this is an amazing wine.” This statement was said before revealing anything about the blend, price or geography. Full complex flavors invade every portion of the palate including oak, olives, sweet vanilla, tobacco and dark red fruits. Every aspect of the wine continues for an eternity on the finish providing an incredibly enjoyable experience. So far, for 2011, this is the best wine I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. 4+/5 ($50)
07 Apr 2011
I’ve never been more compelled by a winery brochure and web site than when I started thumbing through and surfing the pictures of South Coast Winery. The grounds are breathtaking and the whole concept of a relaxing get away weekend with spa, pool, and Tuscan villas had me immediately daydreaming and planning my escape. A previous review included tastings of their GVR white blend, 06 Meritage blend, and Ruby Cuvee sparkler. Each wine showed very well and at attractive price points too. Voted California winery of the year (twice) and 2010 Winery of the Year, South Coast Winery, you may very well be the little slice of Italian heaven that I need right about now.
2010 South Coast Winery Sparkling Pinot Grigio
Want a pop of pineapple in your mouth? Pop open this amazingly crisp sparkler. The head of foam overwhelmed the glass on the pour and I had to do a double take as it looked like strands of hair dancing in the glass as the bubbles swayed from bottom to top. The aroma was bright and full of minerals, yeast, and lemon lime. On the sip, the wine was perfectly Pinot Gris with loads of citrus (specifically pineapple), and hints of wet stone. Chill this way down. When the wine starts to warm up, the tart finish throws it slightly off. The natural 2.2% residual sugar is nicely balanced with the bright acidity. At only $18 this is a perfect pairing with spicy sushi, lemon cake, or citrus chicken. 4/5 (based on value, flavor, and uniqueness).
2007 South Coast Winery IL Temporale
The super Tuscan blend of 58% Sangiovese 19% Cabernet, 13% Petite Verdot, and 10% Merlot is similar to the young wild stallion gracing it’s label. The wine is big and bold but needs to be tamed by a few more years in the bottle. The grapes come from Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards and spend 14 months in 1 year old French barrels before being bottled. Hints of earth, sandalwood, and cherry softy rise from the glass. The mouth feel is rich with a strong sense of earth, peppered red fruit and tobacco. The wine boasts good overall quality and structure and will show well soon. Pair this with a hearty jalapeño flavored spicy pasta or pork. At $36, I can only give this a 3/5
Looking for a good deal? South Coast Winery is currently offering shipping for a penny and savings of up to 20% on online orders.
November 23 and 24 were the punctuation mark on a long cool growing season for Washington grape growers. With temperatures plunging from 30 degrees to -4 degrees and lower in a matter of a few days, vineyard managers were scrambling. As wineries wrapped up the 2010 harvest, doubts about the 2011 harvest lay heavy on many people’s hearts. Much of the damage will be uncertain until Spring but many areas had a lot to be thankful for over the holiday.
Washington grape growers understand hard freeze. With one coming every 5-8 years, this part of the business is nearly unavoidable. Not every region in the state is susceptible to hard freezes. Much of Washington’s grape growing region lies along the moderate temperature control of the mighty Columbia River. There are some vineyard sights in higher elevation, or away from water that can cool off quickly.
Michael Haig, of Spokane’s Whitestone Winery, manages his wineries estate vineyards off of Lake Roosevelt, an area of the Columbia River created by the Grand Coulee Dam. Michael explains the potential devastation of a hard freeze and shows how wineries check the primary, secondary and tertiary buds for damage. What makes this freeze unique and potentially damaging is how early and how quickly the freeze came. Haig says, “Over time the buds will become cold hard, which means as the temperature slowly drops, the buds can withstand colder temperatures.” Michael peels back the layers of the bud to expose a positive sign, green. The primary buds, at Michael’s vineyard, remain intact indicating a full harvest for 2011.
Many vineyard managers I contacted held similar sentiments regarding damage, “I’ll let you know in the Spring.” An article in the Tri-Cities Herald by Andy Perdue paints a grimmer picture in certain areas of the state.
“It’s not pretty,” said Rob Andrews of McKinley Springs Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. “It’s too early to tell 100 percent what is going on, but in the 30 years I’ve been growing grapes, this is the hardest I’ve ever been hit. We’re looking at a tough 2011.”
Preliminary investigation reveals little to moderate damage in most areas with Horse Heaven Hills containing pockets of greater damage. Damage will depend on grape varietal and specific topographical location for many of the vineyard blocks. The results will reveal themselves more fully with the Spring thaw.
The Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program has an informative Cold Hardiness Website that breaks down the potential damage to various grape varieties. According to the site, the more cold hearty varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The more fair weather grape varieties are Barbera, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. A mere 5 degrees can separate 10% bud loss from 90% primary bud loss.
During my visit with Michael, he was excited to announce the second annual release of the Pieces on Earth red blend. The wine is one of four wines that make up the Pieces series (Pieces of Red, Love You to Pieces, Scared to Pieces, and Pieces on Earth). The predominately Cabernet blend is available for a limited time and has a special holiday label. The medium bodied blend has a balanced structure of dark red fruit, coffee, cigar box, and moderate cedar. The tannins are well integrated and perfect for enjoying now or with your upcoming holiday dinner. At $20, this is a solid 3+/5
Whitestone will be releasing their 2007 Merlot on December 17. From Michael:
“This is our most coveted and award winning wine. In blind competition, our Merlot has won gold at every major wine competition in the United States, along with being named Top Merlot for the State of Washington. The 2007 vintage features rich textures of leather and spice adding deep texture to rich raspberry and currant. Ripe tannins find harmonious balance in this well structured wine, which finishes off with a long, smooth after taste. $26 bottle”
Whitestone’s Spokane tasting room is located at 111 S. Cedar and is open Noon – 6pm Thursday – Saturday. Watch their Facebook page for special events and live music when they‘re open until 9pm.