Gems in My Glass . . . November 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes No Comments

The recent 2014 The Great Northwest Wine Invitational Wine Competition unveiled numerous Gold and Double Gold Medal winning gems.  High points of judging blind include uncovering beautifully crafted wines that may have previously been outside of one’s radar, and also discovering some great values.  Here are a few favorites that my panel of judges scored G or GG at this year’s competition:

Chateau St. Michelle NV Brut Rose; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Enticing fruity aromatics with hints of freshly baked bread are fully engaging.  Flavors of fresh strawberries, cherries, a touch of earth and citrus accents swirl on the palate.  Beautiful acidity and a lively bead persist through the finish.  SRP:  $13 www.ste-michelle.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2011 Cold Creek Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Lovely floral scents make way for delectable dark berry, cherry and tobacco spice building intensely on the palate and finishing long.  This dense, pure and marvelously structured Merlot shows both elegance and impressive depth.  SRP:  $30 www.ste-michelle.com

Seven Falls Cellars 2012 Chardonnay; Wahluke Slope, Washington:  Aged in American and French oak barrels, buttered toast and oak notes fill the nose with this plush Chardonnay.  Flavors of creamy pears and spiced apple pie notes entwine with the toasty oak saturating the palate.   Finishes clean with a nice lift.  SRP:  $15 www.sevenfallscellars.com

Ambassador Vineyard 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Red Mountain, Washington:  The captivating aromas are wildly expressive, luring you into the glass. This Cab is complex and richly flavored with cassis, dark berry, tobacco spice and hints of cedar interlacing deliciously on the palate and persisting on the lengthy finish.  SRP:  $35 www.ambassadorwinery.com

Northwest Cellars 2011 Madrigal; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This blend of 62% Mourvedre, 24% Grenache, and 14% Syrah showcases fresh black and red raspberries on the nose. The berries persist through the delicious palate, joining flavors of cranberry chutney and freshly cracked black pepper spice.  The texture is silky smooth and the acids are energetic, nicely offsetting the juicy fruit.  SRP:  $24 www.northwestcellars.com

Funnel Family Cellar 2008 Lia; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Aromas of fragrant violets lift from the glass with this blend of 42% Mourvedre, 32% Grenache 18% Counoise, and 8% Syrah.  The entry is resplendent with bright fruit and dynamic acidity.   Flavors of olallieberries, blackberries and spice-accented wild berries continue to unfold deliciously in the mouth.  The tannins are refined and the finish is long-lasting.  SRP:  $36 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Aromas of a fresh bouquet of white flowers fill the nose with this vivacious Dry Riesling.  Pure and refreshing from entry through the bright finish with flavors of peaches and nectarines taking center stage, laced with minerally highlights and a trace of fresh cut herbs.  SRP ~$10 www.ste-michelle.com

Walter Dacon Wines 2009 C’est Syrah Beaux; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Aromas of ripe berries and a hint of bacon fat open the door to a dense, fruit packed Syrah with powerful tannins.  Rich and intensely built with black cherries, blackberries and savory spice broadening fully on the palate through the bold finish.  SRP:  $38 www.walterdaconwines.com

Abacela Vineyards and Winery 2010 Estate Syrah; Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon:  This elegant Syrah showcases aromas and flavors of sizzling bacon, ripe red cherries, raspberries and plums entwined with meaty notes and fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns.  It is perfectly balanced with exceptional purity and a finish lasting well beyond the last sip.  SRP:  $32 www.abacela.com

Colene Clemens Vineyards 2012 Margo Pinot Noir; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  Forest floor and dried cranberry aromas are reminiscent of a fine red Burgundy.  Ethereal and irresistible on the palate with layers of red raspberry, cherry, licorice and coriander spice filling the mouth.  This elegant quaff is well-defined and the finish is striking. SRP:  $36 www.coleneclemens.com

Colene Clemens Vineyards 2011 Margo Pinot Noir; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  Here’s woodsy, dramatic Pinot Noir showcasing red cherry, strawberry and cranberry chutney elements highlighted with hints of smoke, allspice and subtle underlying oak.  A fine vein of acidity streams across the palate through pleasing aftertaste.  SRP:  $27.20 www.coleneclemens.com

Abacela 2012 Garnacha; Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon:  Gorgeous floral aromas draw you in, and the juicy red spice-accented raspberries, blueberries and huckleberries bursting out on the palate will keep you fully enchanted.  The texture is velvety smooth, the balance is steadfast, and the tannins are refined.  SRP:  $29 www.abacela.com

Two Vintners 2012 Stone Tree Vineyards Zinfandel; Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington:   This high-toned Zinfandel screams out jammy fruit on the nose.   Juicy purple plums and ripe blackberries are lush and pure on the palate, melding with a generous dusting of black pepper spice, and the lively acidity keeps the wine vivacious.  SRP:  $28 www.twovintners.com

To view all the results of this well executed competition, visit www.greatnorthwestwine.com.  To further engage with this highly acclaimed wine region, plan a fall or winter adventure, and experience the scents and tastes of the Great Northwest for yourself; there is plenty to discover here!

 

Gems in My Glass . . . October 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan, Tasting Notes No Comments

Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula, Part 2

Part 2 focuses on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, which holds an abundance of charm and talent throughout the AVA.  The following are among the gems that I was impressed with during my recent visit:

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery; www.bellago.com

2012 Pinot Gris Reserve; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Welcoming ripe tropical fruits and leesy notes will fully awaken your senses with this intensely fragrant Pinot Gris.  Layers of delicious tropical guava, sun drenched pineapple and vibrant citrus wrapped around a solid backbone of acidity unfold on the palate.  A skillfully crafted Pinot Gris that is impeccably balanced and finishes long.  SRP:  $22

2012 Pinot Grigio; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Sur lie aging gives this tasty wine depth and sophistication, and the marvelous aromatics show off vivid florality.  It is bright and balanced on the palate, where flavors of fresh kiwi, green apple notes and a flaky crusted mandarin orange tart entwine.  This Pinot Grigio impresses with significant complexity through the extended finish.  SRP:  $17

2012 Auxerrois; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  This dry white wine (crafted from a grape widely grown in France, and planted by Bel Lago in Michigan back in the 1980’s) is lively and focused, from the citrusy aromas to the juicy fruit at the core.  Melon, pineapple and apple drench the palate with lemon zest and flecks of herbs and spice chiming in, and the mouth feel is exquisite.  SRP:  $19

2010/2011 Gewürztraminer; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Here’s a sexy, spicy Gewürztraminer for you.  Rising from the glass are gorgeous aromatics of rose petals, spice and honeysuckle.  Coating the mouth are sweet grapefruit, lychee nut, and ginger spice with colorful orange and lemon accents.  The hint of sweetness is well placed, and the vibrant acidity flows smartly through the juicy fruit.  SRP:  $18

2011 Chardonnay; Lake Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  You’ll swoon at first whiff of this intensely structured Chardonnay, aged in 100% French oak.  The enticing butterscotch aroma leads to flavors of baked apples, honeydew melon, pie spice and vanilla bean highlights that richly coat the palate.  The oak presentation is subtle and well integrated, and you’ll find a striking counterpoint of acidity, remarkable depth, and purity from start to heavenly finish   SRP:  $22

2012 Moreno Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  I tasted this stunning gem from the barrel and was thoroughly engaged and inspired.   Enticing aromatics lead to a flavorful wine showcasing dark cherries, warm earth, raspberry, tobacco spice and a pretty touch of oak.  I expect this complex Pinot Noir to age well with its density of fruit, finely tuned acidity, and firmly structured tannins.  SRP:  ~$42

2010 Reserve Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Tempting scents of dried cherries and spice lift from the glass.  Building provocatively on the palate are mouthwatering layers of cherries, forest floor nuances, hints of anise and cranberry/raspberry compote with a squeeze of orange.   Complex and precisely balanced with nicely integrated tannins, this wine finishes with good length and verve.  SRP:  $35

2007 Bel Lago Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Expressive aromas of wild mushrooms and red berries wow the senses.  It is equally seductive on the palate with fresh strawberries, cranberries, cherry pie notes, sautéed mushrooms and sweet oak spices interlacing sublimely.  This Pinot Noir is deep and complex with a lovely texture and fine grained tannins.  It has aged magnificently thus far, and promises additional years ahead.   SRP:  ~$35

2005 Bel Lago Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Love the woodsy aroma that captures your full attention with this exquisite wine, which has aged elegantly.  Ethereal on the palate with flavors of wild mushrooms, hints of tobacco, dried cherry and savory spices that mesh in fine synchronization.  Deftly integrated oak is displayed from first sip through the finish; one that is long lasting and memorable.  SRP:  ~$35

 Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery; www.fortyfivenorth.com

2013 “45″ White; Michigan:  This medium sweet blend of Vidal Blanc Cayuga White, La Crescent and Riesling delivers an appealing walk in the garden floral bouquet to the nose.  Coating the mouth are palate pleasing sun-kissed fruits.  Fresh pineapple, ripe melon and juicy peaches team up with a clear-cut level of acidity.  If you lean toward sweetness in your wine, this one will surely hit the spot.  SRP:  $16

2013 Unoaked Chardonnay; Michigan:  This bright Chardonnay captures the fruity essence of the Chardonnay grape.  Two lots were fermented separately and left on the lees for four months, adding good depth and complexity.  At the core are delicious citrus flecked apples and pears with hints of fresh herbs and spice peeking through. It is crisp and streamlined through the uplifted finish.  SRP:  $19

2012 Cabernet Franc; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Floral aromas captivate the nose with this lively, well-crafted wine.  It is deep and satisfying as it flows onto the tongue with sweet blackberries, tart wild berries and spiced blueberry compote flavors linking with violets and attractive oak notes.  A subtle suggestion of roasted green bell peppers shows through from mid to back palate, and the aftertaste lingers delightfully.   SRP:  $38

L. Mawby Winery; www.lmawby.com

L. Mawby Talismon NV Brut; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  The distinctively expressive nose will knock your socks off. This whole cluster pressed field blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Vignoles is alluring with its yeasty, leesy characteristics up front.  Dancing on the palate are flavors of freshly baked pie crust, sautéed apple slices, almond butter, lemon curd and a splash of lemon-lime.  Creamy in texture, complex and properly balanced, this buoyant bubbly finishes with a vibrant lift.  SRP:  $37

Sandpainting NV Extra Brut; Michigan:  Yeasty scents and floral notes waft enticingly from the glass.  Here is an inviting sparkling wine that displays a lively stream of tiny bubbles.  Crafted of 50% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay and 23% Vignoles, this wine made in the Methode Champenoise traditional method is aptly named.  It is beautiful with racy acidity balancing the rich layers of flaky croissants, dried apricots, tinges of roasted nuts and quince paste that weave artistically on the palate; charming and energetic.  SRP:  $29

L. Mawby 2005 Mille Brut; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  This enrapturing Methode Champenoise sparkling wine brags a beautiful tiny bead that lives on forever.  Fashioned from 100% Chardonnay fruit, this jewel, kept on the yeast for seven years, is deep and complex.  Intoxicating aromas of brioche and hints of honey wow the senses.  It is rich and creamy in the mouth with layers of freshly baked bread, warm apple crisp, spicy poached pears, a twist of lemon peel, and butterscotch notes that unravel amidst invigorating acidity; a triumphant bubbly.  SRP:  $50

Shady Lane Cellars; www.shadylanecellars.com

2012 Gewürztraminer; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  This well composed Gewürz with just a touch of sweetness opens with an alluring floral nose.   The expressive, jazzy palate is brimming with varietally correct layers of guava, orange blossom, lychee and fresh tangerine with a generous thread of spice. Well balanced and lively with an aftertaste that lingers gracefully.  SRP:  $20.95

2011 Blue Franc; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Here is a juicy, spicy red wine that is nicely balanced and pure throughout.  Red and black cherry and berry fruits entice the nose and expand fully on the palate with cedar notes and alluring spicy elements remaining focused and persistent.  The aging in 100% French oak (25% new) is well integrated and adds a toasty note to the pleasing finish.  SRP:  $28.95

2011 Franc ‘n’ Franc; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Making quite a statement with its darkly fruited, intriguing aromas, this wine is a blend of 57% Blaufränkisch, 36% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot.  It has a serious side with its depth and solid structure, and shows off an elegant side with its balance and smooth texture.    Black currants, blueberries, tobacco spice and wild berries meld with a fine level of acidity and flow smoothly into the enduring finish.  SRP:  $19.95

Brengman Brothers Crain Hill Vineyards; www.brengmanbrothers.com

2012 Artist Series Unoaked Chardonnay; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Aged in the growing in popularity concrete egg-shaped tank, this beautifully textured Burgundian style Chardonnay opens with wildly expressive Chablis-like minerality on the nose.   Crisp apple, citrus fruit, pineapple and notes of herbs and minerals converge on the palate in harmony.   A complex, well-structured wine with zesty acidity and a finish that is long and memorable.  SRP:  $32.95

2012 Artist Series Barrel Aged Chardonnay; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Provocative aromas of roasted nuts and orchard fruit engage the senses with this compelling Chard, aged in French oak.  Interlacing flavors of butter-accented baked pears, spiced apple cobbler, Meyer lemon and hints of clover honey take center stage, merging with toasty oak elements and minerality that add further dimension.  Intense in structure with an exact balance, this wine is pretty in its youth, and should age handsomely for years.  SRP:  $39.95

2012 Dry Riesling Reserve; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Fragrances of wet stone, minerals and stone fruit (just what sings Riesling to me) jump out of the glass.  The flavor profile is vivid and intense with white peaches and hints of dried apricots joining stony minerality, lime zest and a touch of herbs flourishing on the palate.   Lean and crisp with bracing acidity, the wine finishes on a bright note with plenty of length.  SRP:  $21.95

2010 Med-Sweet Riesling Reserve; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Here’s an appealing sweet Riesling that perks up the senses with notes of cinnamon stick on the nose.  It is streamlined from start to finish with minerally, ripe stone fruit, hints of white flowers and a touch of herbs unfolding delectably in the mouth.  Well balanced and pure through the lively finish.   SRP:  $24.95

2013 Gary’s Reserve Gewürztraminer; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  This mouthwatering, highly aromatic Gewürz dances on the palate with spicy, mineral laded lychee and apricot flavors intermingling with pretty citrus notes.  The texture is silky and the wine remains snappy as racy acidity cuts through the sweet citrus-backed fruit.  A kick of gingerbread is highlighted on the lip-smacking finish.   SRP:    $24.95

Nathaniel Rose Wine  2010 Syrah/Viognier, Domaine Berrien, Abigail Vineyard; Lake Michigan Shore, Michigan:  Here is a full bodied Syrah co-fermented with Viognier in the classic Cote Rotie fashion. This is a well defined, complex wine.   Floral characteristics engage the nose and lead to a spicy mouthful of black fruit, hints of roasted meat, herbs and spice.  Deep, dark and delicious with full on tannins suggesting ageworthiness.  SRP:  $50

Nathaniel Rose Wine  2012 Left Bank; Domaine Berrien, Abigail Vineyard; Lake Michigan Shore, Michigan:  This extraordinary blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 3% Cab Franc proudly boasts an intense, black fruit, spicy aroma converging with flavors of plum, blackberry, fresh tobacco, cassis and espresso bean.  Tightly wound and complex, it was aged in neutral French oak; the subtle oak nuances are appreciated.  Powerful in its intensity and structure with a precise balance and firm tannins, this wine is impressive in its youth.  You’ll be handsomely rewarded by practicing patience, too; a cellarworthy wine.   SRP:  $250

2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine, Wooden Fish Vineyard; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Here is a delectable dessert wine with an outgoing personality.  Enticing aromatics lead to layers of dense, juicy raspberries, olallieberries, savory rhubarb pie components, a trace of roasted nuts and a drizzle of honey captivating the palate.   This gem is fully flavored and well balanced with hints of toast and caramel on the richly satisfying finish; a perfect nightcap.  SRP:  $75

Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula wine regions offer a wealth of beauty, charm, passionate personalities and noteworthy wines.  You too should take the time to explore these wineries, and additional producers who are also crafting beautiful wines in these regions (wineries that I did not have the opportunity to visit this time.  For example, Chateau Fontaine comes to mind).   I will continue following these AVA’s to keep my eye and my palate on future developments and vintages respectively, as they continue to raise the bar and further position themselves as significant players in the world of wine.

 

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2013

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan No Comments

Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula, Part 1

The Michigan wine country is one that always leaves me with pleasant memories and wonderment.  With each visit, I find this growing region continues to elevate the quality level, unveil new producers, and present remarkably crafted wines, and this year is no exception.    My recent trip encompassed visits to properties in the beautifully scenic, hopping with activity Old Mission Peninsula and Lake Leelanau Peninsula AVA’s.  Among my favorites were:

Chateau Grand Traverse Winery and Vineyards; www.cgtwines.com:

2012 “Laika” Grüner Veltliner; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  This tantalizing Grüner, aged 100% in stainless steel, is lean and minerally with melon and spice notes on the nose and entry.  Joining in mid palate are flavors of chopped herbs, citrus fruits and white pepper accents framed by vibrant acidity.  Nicely weighted and balanced through the bright finish.  SRP:  $17

2012 Ship of Fools; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Engaging and well balanced, this blend of 70% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris and 5% Pinot Noir broadcasts a beautifully expressive tropical aroma.   Layers of guava, ripe melon, dragon fruit and lemon verbena flourish on the palate.  A lush, round texture carries the fruit and acidity brilliantly through the quenching finish.  SRP:  ~$15

2013 Whole Cluster Select Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Lovely minerality greets the nose with this medium dry Riesling.   Vivid flavors of white peach, green apple, fennel, allspice and mineral notes unravel onto the palate with style.  I love the purity and liveliness of this Riesling, and the hint of sweetness is well placed.  SRP:  $15

2013 Lot 49 Riesling “Cuvee Molly Devine”;  Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:   This fragrant single vineyard block bottling of Alsace Clone #49 Riesling showcases citrus accented apricots, peach skin, wet stone nuances, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a splash of tangerine melding together in harmony from first sip.  Sleek with lively acidity and leesy notes underlining the core of bright fruit, and the finish is long lasting. SRP:  $21

2011 Gamay Noir Reserve; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Dense, dark fruit aromas with a hint of oak drive you into the glass, where you’ll revel in the rich texture and dense blackberries, cherries, ripe plums and a hint of strawberry jam melding with a generous twist of fresh cracked peppercorns dancing on the palate.  Immensely satisfying with just the right level of toasty oak, this complex, well structured wine finishes with an aftertaste that carries on and on.  SRP:  $20

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery; www.brysestate.com:

2013 Naked Chardonnay; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  This pure, fresh Chardonnay comes from a blend of clones 809, 96, 76.  Heady scents of citrus blossom and honeysuckle engage the nose, and flavors of succulent, fresh papaya and pineapple spears spill out upon entry.   Mid palate it is vibrant and juicy with crisp pears and a splash of citrus and herbs mingling with the lush, tropical fruit.  Thoroughly refreshing through the buoyant finish.  SRP:  $24

2013 Pinot Blanc; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  This impressive Pinot Blanc proudly announces its presence with a gorgeous floral nose.  It is equally compelling in the mouth with layers of Asian pears, passion fruit and fresh pineapple bursting forth with accents of lemon lime, stony minerality and tisane herbal tea.  The wine is rich and tactile with impeccable balance; a magnificently crafted wine.  SRP:  $25

2012 Pinot Noir; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:   Here’s a wildly expressive Pinot Noir that hits the jackpot with its subtle oak, red cherries and exotic spice aromas lifting from the glass.  Crafted from vines planted to Dijon clones, the wine continues to unfold on the palate with warm earth, pomegranate and citrusy notes adding further dimension.  Love the restraint in alcohol at 12.9%, too.  Elegant and pure through the uplifted finish.  SRP:  $32

2011 Cabernet Franc; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  This intensely flavored Cab Franc is deeply fruited with raspberry, candied berry, plum, cherry and orange zest flavors caressing the palate, making way for cinnamon stick, eucalyptus and earthy highlights to peek through.  The aging in 20% new, 50% second and 30% neutral barrels keeps the oak nicely in the background, and the tannins are firm yet velvety smooth.  SRP:  $50

Bowers Harbor Vineyards, www.bowersharbor.com:

2009 Cuvee Evan Blanc de Blanc: From their Old Mission Peninsula estate Block 1 comes this sassy sparkling wine, chalk full of yeasty aromas.    A spirited, tiny bead tickles the tongue and the wine explodes with vibrancy upon entry.  Flavors of crisp pear, brioche and a touch of butterscotch wrapped around a nice backbone of acidity swirl on the palate with spice notes joining in on the glittering finish.   SRP:  $30

2012 “2986″ Langley; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:   Aged 18 months in French Oak barrels, this deep blend of 69% Cab Franc, 30% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon intertwines subtle oak with black plum, cassis, blackberry, a touch of roasted bell peppers and savory spice.  It is tightly wound with firm tannins supporting the generous flavor profile.  Decant if you pop the cork now.  If you have the time and patience, this wine is also one to hold; you’ll reap rewards in cellaring.  SRP:  $75

 Black Star Farms Winery; www.blackstarfarms.com:

2013 Arcturos Dry Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Here is an exquisite Riesling that tempts the senses with stony mineral and fresh sun-ripened peach aromatics.   Bright and precisely balanced, it opens with high notes that set the stage for focused minerality framing juicy, citrus backed stone fruit and lemon verbena accents.  The finish offers a touch of lime zest and persists with plenty of verve.  SRP: $15

2013 Arcturos Pinot Blanc; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Enticing tropical fruit aromas waft from the glass with this smooth as silk Pinot Blanc. Bracing acidity is a beautiful counter balance to the juicy pineapple, guava and apple fruit flavors with bright lemon zest highlights richly unfolding on the palate.   A stylish wine that shows depth and purity from start to lip-smacking finish.  SRP:  $18

2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir Rosé; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:   Scents of a garden-fresh bouquet and juicy strawberry shortcake start the mouth watering.  The delectable melding of red cherries, strawberries and raspberries with a splash of citrus simply delights the taste buds.  The fresh fruit enveloped in lively acidity flows in a steady stream on its way to a vivacious, uplifted finish; a chic dry rose.  SRP:   $13.50

2011 Arcturos Pinot Noir; 60% Grand Traverse County, 40% Leelanau County, Michigan:  This mesmerizing Pinot Noir awakens the senses with aromas of violets and cherry cordial.  Nicely structured and distinctive with layers of a spiced cherry compote, anise seed and hints of beet root elegantly displayed on the palate.  The essence of toasty oak spice from 10% new French oak aging is subtle and well integrated.  SRP:  $25

2007 A Capella Pinot Noir; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Forest floor aromas capture your attention and keep you further enraptured with each sip.   Deep and complex with flavors of black cherry, licorice drops, pipe spice and a sprinkling of fresh dill unraveling heavenly in the mouth.   The fine balance and firm backbone of tannins suggests this Burgundian style Pinot Noir will continue to show well for years.  SRP:  ~$27.50

2004 Arcturos Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  I’m a huge fan of truffles in any form, and this divinely aromatic Pinot Noir really oozes black truffles on the nose!   Dark cherry and raspberry fruit thrive with the tantalizing earthy, truffle notes and hints of sage, and the management of underlying oak is well executed.  At ten years of age, this wine is drinking fabulously; smartly crafted.   SRP:  ~$25

Left Foot Charley Urban Winery; www.leftfootcharley.com:

2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Leelanau County, Michigan:  I really appreciate the grassy style of this energetic Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s well balanced and fully flavored with gooseberry, kiwi, and quince paste engaging the nose and decorating the palate with aplomb.   Fresh and vibrant with an attractive highlight of fresh chopped herbs on the sassy finish.  SRP:  $20

2013 Old Orchard Vineyard Kerner; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Here’s a fascinating wine made from this under the radar grape, a cross of Riesling and Trollinger (more widely grown in Germany).  The entry is delicate and easy, with pretty perfumed citrus blossom notes.  The wine gains momentum on the palate with tasty lemon curd, nectarine, apple skin and tropical notes weaving with a touch of herbs, and it finishes with a kick of lemon-lime; provocative.   SRP:  $20

2012 Seventh Hill Farm Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Intense aromas of sautéed pears, peaches and gobs of minerality arouse the olfactory receptors.  This Riesling is powerful and pure, with the citrus infused tree fruits entwined with steely mineral notes reaching every nook and cranny in the mouth.  The pleasurable aftertaste continues with plenty of spirit and good length, too.  SRP:  $23

Watch this space for additional impressive Michigan wine recommendations in Part 2 of Michigans Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula”; soon to follow.

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes No Comments

Willamette Valley Shines Again

A return visit to Oregon’s Willamette Valley unveiled more gems, from producers I have engaged with in prior years as well as producers I had not personally met with in the past.

One of the latter, Stoller Family Estate (www.stollerfamilyestate.com), is a property producing beautiful wines from 100% estate grown vines in the Dundee Hills appellation (a sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley) in Oregon.  Bill Stoller was born on the property, having acquired it from a family member in 1993, believing (rightly so!) that the rocky, well drained Jory soil and the south facing slopes were ideal for growing wine grapes.  Not a novice to the wine world (co-ownership in Chehalem Winery) he planted his first ten acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Stoller Family Estate in 1995 and the rest is history.  Their drive for sustainability earned Stoller the first ever LEED Gold certification in North America. Vineyard Manager Robert Schultz says “it’s an honor to farm this land” and he certainly is doing a fine job at that.  Spending time with President Gary Mortensen and additional talented team members at Stoller was enlightening.  The following Stoller wines were among my favorites:

Stoller Family Estate 2013 Stainless Steel Chardonnay:   Mouthwatering aromas of fresh tree fruits wow the senses.  Cascading onto the palate are bright flavors of green apple, crisp pear, lime zest, a trace of herbs and minerality.  I love the elevated level of acidity and the purity of fruit that truly captures the essence of the Chardonnay grape.  I also appreciate the restraint on the alcohol level (12.5%) of this sleek, delicious wine.   SRP:  $20

Stoller Family Estate 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay:  If a rounder, fuller bodied Chardonnay is more to your liking, you’ll delight in this well structured beauty which was aged in 20% new and 80% neutral French oak barrels.  The nose offers up a pretty toasty aroma without being over the top, and the body of the wine is rich and deep, reminiscent of a French White Burgundy.  Flavors of apples sautéed in brown sugar, fresh pear cobbler, sweet oak spice, citrus accents and nutty toffee bar notes interlace harmoniously on the palate and linger heavenly on the long lasting finish.   SRP:  $35

Stoller Family Estate 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé:  This dry Rosé’s brilliant hue dazzles the eye, and the wine continues to impress with its engaging floral notes wafting from the glass. Nicely balanced and full of vivacity with juicy fresh strawberries joining flavors of cranberry sauce, red grapefruit and a touch of watermelon.  The acidity is spot on and the finish is vibrant and uplifted.  SRP:  $20

Stoller Family Estate 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir:   The evocative aroma simply screams Pinot Noir; wow.  Scents and tasty elements of dark cherry and raspberry fruit, forest floor nuances, cinnamon, nutmeg spice and creme brulee notes swirl on the palate with ease.  If you’re not yet a Pinot Noir aficionado, this one should swing you over.   Complex and Burgundian in style with a finish that continues to heighten and linger beyond the last sip. SRP:  $45

Stoller Family Estate 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir:  Here’s a splendid wine that will please your pocketbook too, it is an outstanding value.  Proclaiming varietal correctness through and through with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit accented by pleasing cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spice and a trace of cola, this Pinot Noir will stimulate your sensory receptors and leave you with a smile.  The acidity balances the elegant fruit, and a pretty touch of oak peeks through from mid palate through the pleasing finish.  SRP:  $30

Stoller Family Estate 2011 Helen’s Pinot Noir:   Crafted from estate Wädenswil clone vines, Helen’s 2011 PN pulls out all the stops.  Aromatically it is wildly expressive and the entry displays intense flavor with forest floor notes in the foreground.   Deep, complex and Burgundian in style it is oh so palate pleasing with the earthy nuances, spice and minerality weaving among cherry, raspberry and pomegranate notes provocatively coating the mouth.   Streamlined and solidly built with the acidity, fruit and fine grained tannins in precise balance.  They have hit the nail on the head with the beautiful oak integration too; clearly a cellar worthy wine.    SRP:  $70

Archery Summit Estate (www.archerysummit.com)

This was my 3rd visit to Archery Summit Estate over the past 7 years, and vintage to vintage their wines continue to impress.  Their property encompasses more than 100 acres of planted vines in the Dundee Hills appellation, and they employ a combination of organic and biodynamic farming methods among their six estate vineyards.  My favorites this visit included:

Archery Summit Estate 2013 Vireton Rosé:   This lively dry Rosé was crafted in the Saignée method (combining saignéed juice from their six vineyards).  The vivid hue glistens like a sparkling pink gem, and displayed on the nose are fragrant orange blossom and raspberry aromas.  A delicious medley of watermelon, strawberries and cherries splashed with fresh citrus accents swirls on the palate, and lingers nicely on the bright, clean finish. SRP:  $24

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Renegade Ridge Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir:  This enticing Pinot Noir crafted from their eastern facing Renegade Ridge Estate Vineyard opens with attractive floral, earthy aromas.  Flourishing in the mouth are layers of deep red cherry, pomegranate and cola notes highlighted by a pinch of herbs and forest floor nuances.  It is immaculately balanced with a highly focused vein of minerality and a backbone of firm tannins.  On the extended finish, hints of orange zest add further dimension, a compelling wine.  SRP:  $85

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir:   Expressive aromas of red berries, violets and wild mushrooms will have you swooning before the first sip touches your lips.  This PN is full bodied on the palate with concentrated fresh cherry and strawberry fruit joining exotic spices, a nice touch of oak, minerally notes and an attractive mushroom component carried over from the fascinating aroma.  Masculine in style, the balance is spot on with well integrated tannins and racy acidity playing off the rich fruit.  A complex, structured wine built to go the distance.  SRP:  $85

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir:   A bowlful of brown spice infused black and red berries and tinges of forest floor fully engage the nose on this artfully crafted Pinot Noir.  Mirrored on the palate are concentrated blackberry, black cherry and plum jam flavors that interweave with dusty forest floor characteristics, chocolate drenched cherries, minerality, cola and sandalwood notes wrapped around beautifully structured tannins.   Nicely integrated oak underlines the 12 month aging in 44% new French oak barrels, and the finish is everlasting.   SRP:  $100

Ponzi Vineyards (www.ponziwines.com)

Ponzi Vineyards has been producing wine in the Willamette Valley for more than 40 years. This was my first visit to Ponzi, at their new tasting room and winery in Sherwood which opened last year.  Their modern, savvy tasting room which overlooks a northwest facing Chehalem Mountains slope is surrounded by their magnificent Avellana Vineyard.  Ponzi’s Estate Vineyard is located at their original historic winery site.  Their Abetina, Madrona, Avellana and Aurora Vineyards are all situated on the North slope of the Chehalem Mountains appellation.   They remain committed to sustainability; back in 2008, they became one of the first Oregon wineries to be recognized as LIVE Certified Sustainable. Among my favorites from Ponzi were:

Ponzi Vineyards 2012 Arneis:   This energetic, well-crafted wine (from a grape that grows widely in the Piedmont region of Italy and translates as “Little Rascal” there because it can be a challenge to cultivate) suits that translation to a “T”.  It is bright and playful with the delicate florality on the nose expanding to a bigger than expected flavors and textures draping the palate.   At the core you’ll find crisp, tart apples, lemon curd and Bosc pears topped with slivered almonds, all of which are framed by a nice backbone of acidity that leaves you wanting more.   A fresh, clean and delicious sipper.  SRP:  $30

Ponzi Vineyards 2012 Tavola Pinot Noir:  This pleasing, moderately priced Pinot Noir displays leafy green herb and tart cherry aromas on the nose and entry.  Spicy red and black cherry flavors with dried herbs and a hint of pepper spice flesh out on the mid to back palate.  The finish highlights almond and vanilla extract accents; a nicely balanced and easy to quaff wine.   SRP:  $25

Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Avellana Reserve Chardonnay:  Rich and intense on the nose, this impressive Burgundian style Chardonnay brings buttered croissants to mind.  Full bodied and complex with minerals and brisk acidity cutting through the delectable richness of spicy poached apples, pear chutney, a touch of caramel and butterscotch pudding saturating the palate.   A nice leesy quality is welcomed, and the aging for 18 months in 25% new and 75% neutral French oak followed by 6 months in the bottle before release speaks volumes to the lovely oak integration.  SRP:  $60

Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Abatina 2 Pinot Noir:   Vividly aromatic with violet and lavender scents teasing the senses, this wine shows its feminine side up front.  Earthy, dark red cherry and currant notes are unveiled on the entry, and the 20 month aging in 50% new French oak barrels starts to make its presence known here.  The wine builds on the palate with truffles, dried cherries, a suggestion of black licorice drops and sandalwood joining the forest floor and red cherry elements that hold through the lengthy finish.  This wine promises to age nicely for several years to come.  SRP:  $100

Among these and additional extraordinary wines now being crafted here, it’s clear that the Willamette Valley AVA continues to raise the bar and craft world class Pinot Noir that can stand up to wines from any region around the globe.  Pinot Gris has also made its mark here.  What’s most surprising to me after tasting a good number of Willamette Valley Chardonnays from a variety of producers over the past several years is how this region is really hitting its stride now in producing outstanding Chardonnay, as well.   Cheers and congrats are in order!

 

 

 

 

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mid-America, Tasting Notes 2 Comments

2014 Mid American Wine Competition

It was my pleasure to judge the 2014 Mid American Wine Competition in Des Moines Iowa, and there was plenty to brag about when the judging was done.   Grapes that have long been grown here, as well as more recently planted hybrids that have further developed over the past several years, delivered in spades.  The following were among my favorite gold medal winners:

Snus Hill Vineyard & Winery NV Blushing Claire; Iowa:  This 95% La Crescent and 5% Chambourcin Rose blend earned the Best Rose Wine Award and the Dick Peterson Best Iowa Appellation Award at this year’s competition.  Aromas reminiscent of strolling through a field of fresh strawberries electrify the senses and get the juices flowing.  Flavors of sweet, fresh strawberries and raspberries and a dash of spice merge together on the palate with lively acidity.  Precisely balanced and vibrant through the focused finish; simply charming.  SRP:  $15  www.snushillwine.com

Illinois Sparkling Company NV Dollface Rosé Hieland Hills Vineyard; St. Anne, Illinois:  The brilliant deep pink hue and tiny stream of bubbles capture your eye; here is a dazzling Methode Champenoise Sparkling Rose crafted from Frontenac.  The alluring aroma pulls you into the glass and your palate is rewarded with bright pomegranate and sweet, cocoa dusted cherry flavors interlacing with pie spice and citrusy accents.  This is an energetic and well balanced elixir with a deft touch of sweetness.  SRP: $32   www.illinoissparklingco.com

Illinois Sparkling Company NV Stereo; ISC Estate Vineyard, Peru, Illinois: This La Crescent based sparkling wine is lively with enticing floral and tropical fruit aromas wafting from the glass.  Bursting forth on the palate are layers of fresh ripe pineapple, quince jam and citrus notes along with subtle earthy nuances.  The 2.3% residual sugar is well placed; an artfully crafted bubbly.  SRP:  $32  www.illinoissparklingco.com

The Winery at Versailles NV Hunter Red; Ohio:  Here’s a classic, well-crafted Concord (Native American grape) wine that showcases yummy grape jelly and candied grape aromas and flavors through and through.  It is lively and well balanced with beautiful purity and freshness and the finish is bright and long lasting; delicious.   SRP:  $9.99 www.wineryatversailles.com

Wooden Wheel Vineyards NV Private G.W.; Keota, Iowa:  This dry Marquette displays fresh, juicy fruit aromas that pave the way for the succulent cherry, plum and raspberry fruit delightfully unraveling on the palate.  Well balanced and pleasing with hints of mixed freshly ground pepper spice chiming on the back palate through the smooth, satisfying finish.   SRP:  $18 www.woodenwheelvineyards.com

Summerset Winery NV De Chaunac; Indianola, Iowa:   Here is a deeply hued French-American red hybrid wine that boasts aromas of dark fruits and a hint of savory spice.  Compelling and full flavored with succulent black grapes, wild berries and mulberry jam swirling tastily on the palate.  The alcohol level is restrained at 9.9%, leaving the wine well balanced, clean and very easy to quaff.  SRP:  $16   www.summersetwine.com

Summerset Winery NV Concord; Indianola, Iowa:  One whiff of this joyful wine leaves no doubt that Concord wine adorns the glass.   Grape jelly fills the palate and you’re taken back to your childhood memories of grape juice and grape jelly enhanced peanut butter sandwiches.  Delectably juiciness, this wine will leave you with a smile.  SRP:  $12 www.summersetwine.com

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery NV Tailgate Red; Kansas:  A sassy blend of Chambourcin and St. Vincent, this wine oozes with ripe blackberries and black cherries from the inviting aroma through the rich, spice bejeweled palate; fully engaging.  The touch of sweetness plays in tune with offsetting acidity and the tannins are refined, a satisfying, balanced package.  SRP:  $10.95 www.holyfieldwinery.com

Falling Waters Winery NV Raging River Red; Wisconsin/Michigan:  Falling Waters Winery is located in Wisconsin, and the grapes from this wine were grown in Michigan. This expressive blend of 45% Marechal Foch, 30% De Chaunac and 25% Rougeon opens with sweet ripe cherry and wild berry fruit with hints of vanilla that are echoed on the juicy palate.  Nicely crafted with an appealing sweetness that lingers on the aftertaste.  SRP:  $13 www.fallingwaterswinery.com

Oliver Winery & Vineyards 2013 Gewürztraminer; Monroe County, Indiana:  Wow, the jasmine and spice aromas of this semi-dry Gewürz will put you in a heavenly frame of mind. On the palate, layers of sweet pineapple, grapefruit, lychee nuts and hints of ginger spice unfold gloriously.  A delicate, expressive, well structured wine with a finish that lingers on and on.  SRP:  $11 www.oliverwinery.com

Wollersheim Winery 2013 Prairie Fume; New York/Wisconsin:  The grapes for this wine are grown in New York and you’ll find their tasting room in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.  This wonderfully aromatic semi-dry Seyval Blanc with a nice touch of sweetness is captivating.  The effusive fruity aromas that heighten the senses are echoed in the mouth with vibrant flavors of ripe nectarine, guava and candied citrus peel.    The wine is velvety smooth and elegant with good depth and length.  SRP:  $9 www.wollersheim.com

St. James Winery 2013 Vignoles; Ozark Highlands, Missouri:    Lavish scents of sun kissed tropical fruit rise from the glass. Abundant flavors of sweet fresh pineapple, melon, peach and mango and citrusy accents unfold beautifully on the palate.  Lovely purity and a racy kick of acidity join the sumptuous fruit, creating a splendid package from start to finish.  SRP:  $14.99 www.stjameswinery.com

Dubuque Heritage Winery NV Eagle Point White; Iowa:  From grapes grown in the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, this impressive wine earned the Best White Wine award at this year’s competition.  Crafted of La Crescent, it greets the nose with enticing citrus blossom aromas.  Frolicking on the palate are vivid flavors of tree ripened peaches, apricots, guava nectar and a splash of lemon-lime soda.  Upbeat and well balanced with the 5.5% residual sugar offset by invigorating acidity; well crafted.  www.dubuque365.com

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery 2013 Marquette; Illinois:  This sassy dry red wine crafted of 90% Marquette and 10% Pinot Noir showcases a nice earthy, spicy nose.   Coating the mouth are appetizing flavors of blackberry and black cherry with tea spice accents.  Medium bodied and carefully crafted with an attractive aftertaste that lingers persistently.  SRP:  $19.99 www.galenacellars.com

Elmaro Vineyard NV La Crescent; Trempealeau, Wisconsin: The tantalizing aroma of this La Crescent with 8% Pepin blended in reels you straight into the glass.  The elevated entry is bright and leads to juicy pineapple, guava and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice taking center stage on the palate.  The 1.5% residual sugar adds a nice touch of sweetness, the texture is silky smooth, and the balance is spot on through the elegant finish.  SRP:  $14 www.elmarovineyard.com

Crooked Post Winery NV Valvin Muscat; Kansas:  Pretty floral notes scintillate the senses and the wine enters with a spicy personality.  The palate is resplendent with flavors of sweet mandarin oranges and peaches enhanced with hints of ginger spice and lemon zest. Effectively restrained in alcohol at 8%, this is a lively semi-sweet sipper.  SRP:  $16  www.crookedpostvineyard.com

In an animated discussion over a sip or two of award winning wines, my fellow judges and I agreed wholeheartedly that the level of quality crafted from Mid American wine producers has risen tremendously over the past 7 years.  Give it a whirl, and discover for yourself which hybrid grapes suit your fancy; your taste buds and enlightened minds will thank you.

 

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

The 2014 Central Coast Wine Competition highlighted a plethora of well crafted wines, from bubbles to aromatic whites (including Grenache Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Roussanne/Grenache Blanc/Viognier blend), to sassy Rose blends to stately reds (including Syrah, Counoise, Cabernet and red blends).   The following were among my favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery 2011 Brut Rose; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This lively Brut Rose captures the eye with its brilliant hue and steady stream of tiny bubbles begging you to dive into the glass.  Tantalizing aromas of juicy strawberries and a touch of fresh baked bread please the nose.  Luminous upon entry with a dollop of citrus and subtle yeast notes accenting the fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit dancing on the palate.  A gloriously balanced and refreshing sparkling wine.   SRP:  $30  www.laetitiawine.com

Halter Ranch 2011 Syrah; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a deep, black fruit driven Syrah showcasing enticing blackberry and plum aromas.  On the palate the dark, concentrated fruit converges with meaty notes, hints of licorice and brown baking spices.  Eighteen months aging in 30% new French oak barrels contributes beautifully integrated oak notes and the finish is long and delectable.  SRP:  $32  www.halterranch.com

Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery 2013 Cotes de Pomar Blanc; Paso Robles, California: Aged in neutral oak, this well balanced blend of 40% Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier displays gorgeous aromas of stone fruit, citrus blossom and guava.  Flavors of juicy peach, white nectarine, guava juice, apricot preserves and a squeeze of lemon richly coat the palate and the mouth feel is silky smooth.  Fresh and bright, the lively acidity persists from start to finish.  SRP:  $34  www.pomarjunction.com

Bushong 2013 Pretty in Pink; Paso Robles, California:  This brilliantly hued rose is a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache.  The provocative citrus scented berry aroma arouses the senses and leads to a lively palate full of raspberry, strawberry, melon, tangelo and pink grapefruit flavors melding in harmony.     A thirst quenching wine with a nice acidic backbone pulling the package together beautifully.  SRP:   $23  www.graveyardvineyards.com

Michael Gill Cellars 2013 Counoise; Paso Robles, California:  This spicy, true to varietal character Counoise (a dark skinned grape widely grown in the Rhone region of France) dazzles with its soft magenta hue and alluring spice infused fruit aromas, and that’s just the beginning.  Expanding on the palate with good depth, balance and concentration are layers of cherry, fresh raspberry, red licorice and a sprinkling of black pepper spice wrapped around soft, smooth tannins; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $40   www.gillcellars.com

Eberle Winery 2012 Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah; Paso Robles, California:   A deep, dark wine that displays a lovely sense of both new world and old world Syrah characteristics.  Enticing earthy, black fruit aromas make way for scrumptious flavors of blackberry, wild berry, cassis, a hint of meatiness and savory spice.  It is intensely structured with well integrated oak nuances weaving through the palate, and the finish is lip smackingly delicious.   SRP:  $26   www.eberlewinery.com

Claiborne & Churchill Vintners 2013 Dry Gewurztraminer; Monterey County, California: Wildly expressive scents of citrus and jasmine engage the senses fully with this energetic Gewurztraminer.   On the palate, dazzling acidity balances perfectly with succulent white nectarine, guava and hints of mandarin orange while a pretty dash of spice permeates throughout.  Finishes bright with an upbeat lift.      SRP:  $22   www.claibornechurchill.com

SummerWood Winery 2013 Grenache Blanc; Paso Robles, California:  Richly fruited and lush yet full of brightness with its pulsating acidity, this Grenache Blanc is vibrant, well balanced and full of flavor.  The juicy stone fruit and delightfully tart white raspberry expand on the palate with a thread of minerality and racy acidity and the finish is vivacious.  A tantalizing, food friendly wine for all seasons.    SRP:  $25  www.summerwoodwine.com

Rangeland Wines 2012 Mistletoe Blend; Paso Robles, California:  Here is an impressively crafted blend of 51% Cab Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 19% Merlot and 7% Mourvedre that captures the depth and serious elements of Cabernet coming from this region along with plush black fruit that Paso Robles Syrah often showcases.   This wine saturates the palate with blackberry, black currant and plum fruit laced with a generous dose of spice and framed by well structured tannins.   SRP: $25   www.rangelandwines.com

Daou Vineyards & Winery 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California: Dark fruits and exotic spice captivate the senses with this full bodied wine.  I’ve long believed this region is well suited to Cabernet Sauvignon, and here is a stunning example supporting that notion.   Chock full of blackberry, cassis and black cherry fruit with highlights of tobacco spice, graphite and precisely integrated oak, it is complex and well structured through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $56  www.daouvineyards.com

Summertime is a lovely season to stroll the thriving vineyards and meet the talented personalities throughout the Central Coast wine region, and there are wonderful venues for tasty cuisine there too.  Why not seek out your favorite gems?

 

 

2014 bASH Food and Wine Event in St. Helena – Delicious!

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Napa, Tasting Notes 1 Comment

Appellation St. Helena recently held their bASH Food and Wine Competition.  This annual extravaganza is one that wine and food lovers should not miss.  Fine wines crafted from vineyards in the St. Helena Appellation are paired with incredible gastronomic treats created by chef teams from the California Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and professional chefs representing local caterers and restaurants.   Attendees enjoy a lively, fun filled evening of sipping, tasting and voting for their favorite wine and food pairings.  Results are tallied and winners are announced at the conclusion of the well-orchestrated event.  My favorites among the many delicious pairings this year included the following:

Charles Krug Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Food pairing:  Lobster Bisque with Pickled Asian Pear and Crab Meat created by CIA Team 24; Jason Raffin (Los Angeles, CA) and Alexa Mejia (Los Angeles, CA)

This crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely quaff heralding racy acidity.  Aromas and flavors of citrus flecked pineapple, tropical fruit, tangy lime and mineral notes capture the senses.   This food and wine pairing was striking in its contrast.  The brightness and acidity of the wine cut right through the heavenly rich and creamy bisque leaving you with a keen desire for more of each.

Corley Family Napa Valley 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Monticello Braised Short Rib Tortellini with Black Pepper Cream Sauce & Pumpkin Seed Pesto created by Sweatpea Catering & Private Chef Services Chef Jeanna DeMarco

This Cabernet Sauvignon is powerfully built yet approachable now with generous cassis, cherry and black plum fruit flavors, savory spice, well integrated tannins and a nice shade of oak from its 28 months aging in new French oak.  The firmly structured wine displays precise balance of fruit, tannins and acids, which suggests good cellaring potential too.  This tender meaty tortellini with a savory sauce was a perfect match to the spicy, dark fruit components and refined tannins in the wine.

 Louer Family Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Venison Ragout with Ricotta Tortellini created by CIA Team 8; Josh Hurst (White Plains, NY) and Ryan Hatton (Maryville, TN)

This Cabernet Sauvignon is fruit forward, balanced and velvety smooth.  Chock full of blackberries and currant with accents of spice and woodsy nuances, it is bright and plush throughout.  The rich and tasty dish brought out the savory, earthy notes in the wine.  This pairing showcased complementary flavors and textures with the earthy tones in the wine matching up with the subtle gamey quality of the venison ragout and the wine’s velvety texture harmonizing with the smoothly textured tortellini.

Taplin Cellars 2009 Taplin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Slider topped with Gorgonzola Dolce and Terra 9 Cabernet Caramelized Onion Jam on an Herbed Gougère created by CIA Team 13; Kathryn Schmitz (Richmond, VA) and Bryan Owens (Hollywood, MD)

This deep, terroir driven Cab Sauv boasts aromas of eucalyptus and cassis.  It fills the mouth with black plum, cassis and savory notes interlacing with a stream of minerality that makes its way from start to elevated finish.  The wine paired deliciously with this meaty, Gorgonzola heightened slider with caramelized onion accents.  The fat content in both the meat and cheese tamed the firm tannins exquisitely.

Parry Cellars 2010 Parry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food Pairing:  Fennel Risotto with Braised Lamb created by CIA Team 3; Trisha Holguin (Los Angeles, CA) and John Pelham (Maplecrest, NY)

This Cab from Parry Cellars’ half acre Parry Vineyard is fresh and full flavored with impressive precision.  On the palate cassis and dark berry entwine with herbs and finely integrated oak nuances.  The impressively balanced wine was a perfect coupling with the tender meaty lamb and creamy herbed risotto.  The simpatico flavors flowed together in unison, lusciously satisfying the taste buds.

Pellet Estate 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Braised Oxtail with Brioche Cauliflower Crumbs created by CIA Team 12; Addison Girdner (Boise, ID) and Michael Pazan (Ventura, CA)

Here is an earthy Cabernet Sauvignon that shouts out dark fruit and heady spices on the nose.  The spicy, fruity qualities remain consistent upon entry, expanding further in the mouth with good depth, purity and complexity.  This Cab was adroitly paired with the earthy wine-braised oxtail.  The dish complemented the savory qualities in the wine while softening the firm backbone of tannins; wow, a pairing made in heaven.

Ehlers Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Food pairing:   Beurre Blanc Shrimp Salad on Toast created by CIA Team 18; Daniel de la Rosa (Los Angeles, CA) and Steven Fedalen (Los Angeles, CA)

This perky and crisp unoaked Sauvignon Blanc showcases purity of fruit from the first whiff to the refreshing palate through the elevated finish.  Grapefruit, lemon drops and fresh chopped herbs are wrapped around a lively spine of acidity.  It was a delightful match with the expressive and flavorful herb scented shrimp salad which brought out a nice creaminess in the energetic wine.

Raymond Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:   Cracked Pepper Beef Carpaccio on a Vegetable Terrine prepared by CIA Team 19; Ben Newlin (Thousand Oaks, CA) and Tom Stribling (Santa Rosa, CA)

This Cab’s alluring aroma of dark berry, plum, tobacco and spice merges impeccably with black currant, licorice, hints of lead pencil shavings and well integrated oak, richly filling the mouth.  Refined tannins frame the attractive layers of fruit, tobacco and savory spice on the palate.  I thoroughly enjoyed how the spicy flavors of this delectable cracked pepper adorned beef carpaccio bonded with this beautifully expressive, well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon.

Titus Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel

Food pairing:  Warm Smoked Duck with Radicchio Salad created by CIA Team 20; Kelly Gladstone (San Diego, CA) and Ying Chen (Taiwan)

This Zinfandel is abundantly fruit forward and lip-smackingly juicy.  The senses are filled with briary blackberry, olallieberry and chocolate-dipped strawberry goodness meshing with hints of toast, spice and vanilla bean.  Salad is often a challenging pairing and this one worked extremely well.  The savory, smoked duck melded with the wine’s lush fruit sumptuously.  The fat and richness of the duck in this dish subdued the slightly bitter note of the radicchio too, a creative and tasty pairing.

Robert Biale Vineyards 2010 Thomann Station Petite Sirah

Food pairing:  Spring Lamb Belly with Pea Puree, Black Pepper and Licorice prepared by CIA team 14; John Miller (Sioux Falls, ID) and Alex Tubero (St. Helena, CA)

This complex, deep, darkly hued Petite Sirah offers up aromatic pepper spice and black fruits on the nose, followed by intense flavors of blackberries and blueberries with hints of savory herbs and fresh cracked pepper coating the palate.  It is a richly textured, full bodied wine with firmly structured tannins.  The black pepper spiked meaty lamb belly with its layers of fat softened Petite Sirah’s power and concentration of tannins, and the consistency of black pepper spice in the wine and the dish pulled the combo together seamlessly; an irresistible pairing.

St. Helena Winery 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Cream of Mushroom Soup with Madeira Brandy created by Goose and Gander Chef Kelly McCowan

This captivating Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) draws you into the glass with its dark fruit and heady spiced tea aromatics.  Flavors of cassis, blackberry, plum and hints of earthiness weave harmoniously on the palate around a firm backbone of tannins.  This paired divinely with the rich and creamy mushroom soup.  The mushroom flavors brought out the earthiness in the wine, and the creaminess of the soup rounded out the tannins without taking away from the wine’s complexity, sumptuous.

Sequum 2009 Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Flat Iron Steak with Bordelaise Sauce, Fennel and Apple Slaw prepared by CIA team 1; Ekin Huynh (Orange County, CA) and Fangfang Gong (Chicago, IL)

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon speaks clearly and proudly of the St Helena appellation terroir.  Dark berry, black cherry and Herbs de Provence aromas and flavors wow the senses.  It is bright, complex and penetrating on the palate with velvety tannins and a kick of toasted oak on the long finish.   This wine was provocatively paired with the Bordelaise-sauced steak.  The weight of the full bodied wine and the rich dish were exquisitely in sync and the Herbs de Provence spice in the wine complemented fennel accent in the dish.

Check out Appellation St. Helena’s website at www.appellationsthelena.com, and next spring don’t forget to buy a ticket and attend this fabulous event.  I assure you it is a delicious, enlightening experience with tantalizing sips and tastes that will please even the most scrutinizing palate!

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Soars

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Santa Cruz Mountains No Comments

Megan Metz took the reins as Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association a little over a year and a half ago.  Working with the association’s board and members, Megan has been implementing new marketing strategies and together they are broadening the exposure of their vineyard practices, winemaking talent, and well-crafted wines coming from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

In conjunction with the 2014 Pinot Paradise event in April, five California wine writers came together to review selections of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages of Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  Lovely fruit and balance was showcased in all three vintages. I also picked up distinctive characteristics in each vintage, including accents of spice in 2010, vibrancy and brightness in 2011, and earthy, forest floor accents in 2012.  The tasting was enlightening, and made it quite clear this region continues to raise the bar.   Here is a peek at some of the praiseworthy wines reviewed at this tasting:

2010 Vintage

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Forest floor aromas rise from the glass with this alluring, well structured Pinot Noir.  On the palate, black cherry, and raspberry fruit intermingle with exotic spices and a splash of cherry cola. Wonderfully integrated oak brings the wine to a glorious finale.    SRP:  $60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Muns Vineyard 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The enticing fragrance of rose petals joins earthy, spicy elements rising from the glass.  At the core, the essence of cloves and cardamom spice interplay delectably with juicy black cherry and wild berry fruit. A well-balanced, smoothly textured wine with bright acidity throughout.  SRP: $40   www.munsvineyard.com

Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards 2010 Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   Scents of minerality and baked cherry cobbler warmly welcome you into the glass.  Sweet black cherry and raspberry fruit takes center stage, highlighted with exotic spices weaving from start to finish.  The mouthfeel is rich and velvety smooth and the underlying nuances of sweet oak add further complexity.  SRP:  $50 www.savannahchanelle.com

Storrs Winery 2010 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Expressive aromas of stone fruit entice the senses with this demonstrative, smartly balanced wine.  Here is a densely fruited, powerful Pinot Noir resplendent in ripe black cherry, fresh strawberry, juicy plums and hints of licorice and savory spice.  Good depth and plenty of grip through the intense, captivating finish.  SRP:  ~$36 www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The seductive aroma of this estate Pinot Noir seizes your attention and takes you for a delicious, long lasting ride.  Elegant and sassy with tasty flavors of red and black cherry and raspberry fruit, a touch of herbs and a trace of ground anise seed flourishing on the palate.  Balanced and pure through the satisfying finish.  SRP:  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

2011 Vintage

Big Basin Vineyards 2011 Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This sensuous PN opens with inviting floral aromas that leads to forest floor, dried earth and mushroom notes on entry.  It blossoms beautifully on the palate with bright cherry, raspberry and a splash of cola framed by savory spice.  Intensely flavored yet lithe and light on its feet; delicious.  SRP:  ~$40 www.bigbasinvineyards.com

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2011 Branciforte Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Aromas replete with spiced cherries and earth nuances waft from the glass.  The brightness of black and red fruit layered with savory spice, fragrant herbs and forest floor notes creates a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  The meticulous balance of flavors persists through the finish; a stylish wine.  SRP:  $39 www.santacruzmountainvineyard.co

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: Gorgeous perfumed aromas will have you swooning.  Fanciful, bright and alluring, the raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola and anise flavors fill the palate and a touch of earthiness weaves throughout.  Irresistible in its delicateness, this Pinot Noir speaks softly but carries itself with strength, embracing the palate and finishing with a delightful lift.  SRP:  ~$60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Storrs Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Lovely perfumed floral aromas with send you into dreamland.  This elegant Pinot Noir unfolds elegantly from the first sip with vivid flavors of strawberry and pomegranate intermingling with dried cherry and licorice accents. Precise integration of oak adds further dimension.  Impeccably balanced with graceful tannins and a finish that is oh so bright.  SRP:  ~$36   www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2011 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Stunning forest floor and fresh cherry aromas waft from the glass and hold your attention upon entry.  Allspice, nutmeg and a hint of cinnamon join succulent black cherry, raspberry and earth components that meld seamlessly on the palate.  This Pinot Noir is lively, well focused and structured with silky tannins and a finish that persists memorably.  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

Silvertip Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a smoothly textured, fruit forward, tasty Pinot Noir.  Juicy raspberry and wild berry aromas and flavors burst forward, flooding the senses.  The vivid, palate pleasing fruit is accented with earth nuances, exotic tea spices and a kiss of oak on the lingering finish.  Beautifully balanced and vibrant; a delectable quaff.  SRP:  ~$32 www.silvertipvineyards.com

Clos LaChance Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: This full bodied Pinot Noir showcases big brooding aromas of concentrated dark fruit with a dusting of fresh herbs.  Blossoming on the palate are bright and tasty sweet black cherries, strawberries and ripe plums interlacing with chopped herbs and anise spice.  The dense fruit is offset energetically with zesty acidity; a flavor packed Pinot Noir.   SRP:  $32    www.clos.com

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   The expressive aromatics of red cherries and toasted oak notes grab your attention. Precisely balanced and flavorful, this wine displays a smooth backbone of tannins.  There is a brilliant vibe on the palate, with layers of red and black cherries, pomegranate, raspberry and cherry cordial joining savory spice, licorice and hints of earth; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $35 www.fogartywinery.com

2012 Vintage

Mount Eden Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Wow a beautiful melding of Old World earthiness and New World juicy fruit.  The earthy, spicy components up front simply captivate the senses.  Chock full of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry fruit with subtle hints of toasty oak, mushroom and savory spice, this PN is refined from entry through the rewarding, lengthy finish.    SRP:  ~$70   www.mounteden.com

House Family Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Cherry and baking spice aromas arouse the senses with this elegantly structured wine.  On the palate, flavors of black cherry, red currant, cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh herbs seductively unfold and caress the palate. An artfully balanced, polished Pinot Noir.  SRP:  ~$54 www.housefamilyvineyards.com

Roudon-Smith Winery 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains California:  The dazzling perfumed aroma clearly proclaims Pinot Noir in the glass.  Hints of violets converge with cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors heightened with spice and earthiness, all swirling delectably on the palate. This wine leaves a brilliant impression throughout with racy acidity playing off the pretty layers of fruit; luscious. SRP:  ~$30 www.roudonsmith.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Abundantly fruity with fragrant, inviting aromatics.  Gliding across the palate are scrumptious flavors of fresh picked wild berries and cherries and a splash of cranberry soda interweaving with hints of earth and nicely integrated oak tones. Balanced and fresh through the elegant, lively finish; simply irresistible.  SRP:  $40 www.alfarowine.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Trout Gulch Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a deep and concentrated wine displaying a more powerful side of Pinot Noir.  Intensely structured and chewy with black cherry, raspberry, licorice and forest floor notes weaving together in a tightly knit fashion.  Full bodied with lively acidity keeping it in perfect balance.  Finishes with creamy, spiced oak notes.   SRP:  $35 www.alfarowine.com

And that’s not all . . . there are many more notable Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, and the region is producing high quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other varieties in addition to stunning Pinot Noir.  Wines that can hold their own among those crafted from many top regions around the globe.  Check out the association’s website at www.scmwa.com, and plan a visit soon; you’ll surely discover wines that will rock your palate, too.

 

 

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes 1 Comment

Monterey Wine Competition 2014

The Monterey Wine Competition just celebrated its 21st year, and continues to showcase wines of beautiful merit from a variety of wine regions near and far.  Favorites from my panel at this year’s lively competition include:

Zocker 2012 Paragon Vineyard Grüner Veltliner; Edna Valley, California:   The initial introduction of this exuberant Gruner is the wildly expressive nose, wow.  It is equally engaging on the palate with energizing flavors of summer melon and white grapefruit dancing with minerality and a trace of white pepper weaving through the elegant layering of fruit.  The streamlined acidity keeps it fresh through the pleasing, lifted finish.  SRP:  $20 www.zockerwinery.com

Flipflop 2013 Pinot Grigio; California:  This lively Pinot Grigio really hits the spot.  Expressive and refreshing juicy pear and subtle stone fruit with vibrant citrus highlights gear you up for the warm and sunny presence of spring and summer. Well balanced with lively acidity and an aftertaste that is upbeat and clean.  SRP:  $12 www.flipflopwines.com

Eberle Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a luscious, satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon that is bright and deliciously satisfying from start to finish.   Delectable tastes of black cherries, chocolate covered raspberries and a hint of vanilla saturate the palate, and the lush fruit is smartly offset by lively acidity.  Boasting a velvety smooth texture with soft tannins, here is an ideal accompaniment to ribs, grilled sirloin or juicy burgers.  SRP:  $34 www.eberlewinery.com

Sierra Vista Winery 2013 Grenache Rose; El Dorado, California:    The rosy pink hue and aromas of fresh, sweet strawberries wow the senses. This vibrant dry rose is sleek and smooth upon entry, and continues to build on the palate with pink grapefruit and raspberry notes chiming in delightfully.  A nicely balanced wine from start to elegant finish.  SRP:  $19  www.sierravistawinery.com

Bella Sera Wines 2012 Pinot Grigio; Veneto, Italy:  This aromatic Pinot Grigio is nicely textured and full-flavored with the essence of tree ripened green apple, creamy pear and a kick of lemon-lime soda enlightening the palate.  Finishes clean and bright with a touch of lemon verbena.  SRP:  $8.99 www.bellaserawine.com

Villa Bellezza Winery & Vineyards 2012 Cotes du Pepin Red; Upper Mississippi River Valley, Wisconsin:  This delightful dry red wine opens with berry aromas and fills the palate with a rich mouthful of black plum and wild berry flavors accented with brown spices.  Round and dense with nice purity of fruit, here’s a perfect sipper for an outdoor barbecue gathering.  SRP:  $25 www.villabelleza.com

Penguin Bay Winery NV Maroon Four; Finger Lakes, New York:  This appealing dry red blend of 60% Noiret, 20% Marachel Foch and 20% Cab Franc clearly identifies the Noiret content with its lovely black pepper component.  Multiple layers of red and black fruit and a touch of earth join the savory black pepper thread weaving throughout.   Delicious and distinctive with good balance and firm tannins. SRP:  $14 www.penguinbaywinery.com

Easley Winery 2012 Chambourcin; Indiana:  This darkly hued dry red wine offers up aromas of fresh flowers and black fruit.  Tickling the taste buds is a medley of black raspberries, black cherries, a sprinkling of fresh ground peppercorns and chopped herbs.  Nicely weighted and balanced, this is a generously fruited, easy to quaff wine.  SRP:  $10 www.easleywinery.com

Niner Wine Estates 2010 Bootjack Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California: This highly aromatic Cab quickly draws you into the glass.  Flavors of freshly ground roasted coffee beans, cassis, and concentrated black cherries entwine seamlessly on the palate. Impressively balanced with refined tannins through the memorable finish.    SRP:  $35 www.ninerwine.com

La Rusticana d’Orsa 2011 Cinque; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This fashionable Bordeaux blend is lush, balanced and deeply structured, capturing both Old World and New World characteristics with panache. The earthy, leather components mesh seamlessly with the rich currant, plum, blackberry fruit and savory spice.  Eucalyptus nuances peek through on the persistent finish.  Cinque is a bold yet elegant wine with plenty of verve that drinks well now and promises ageworthiness too.  SRP:  $45  www.larusticanadorsa.com

Cholame Vineyard 2012 Summer Shade; Monterey County, California:  This vivid Grenache Blanc is compelling with floral and green apple aromas rising from the glass.  Broadening on the palate are dazzling layers of crisp apple, white peach, nectarine, zesty tangerine and mineral notes all framed by an elegant structure and racy acidity.  This delightfully dry white wine remains crisp and vibrant long after the last sip is savored.  SRP:  $24 www.cholamevineyard.com

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes 2 Comments

A taste of South Africa

I recently had the opportunity to spend a short time in two wine regions near Cape Town, South Africa.  It was a thoroughly delightful visit.  Here I found deep history, fascinating culture and people, distinctive terroir, picturesque wineries and palate pleasing wines, including:

Waterford Estate 2013 Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This delightful and refreshing Chenin Blanc is blended with 8% Viognier.  The wine is fruit focused with aromas and flavors of fresh red apples, creamy pears, ripe apricots and a splash of citrus.  Lively acidity holds through the vibrant finish.     SRP: ~$11 www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2011 Pecan Stream Pebble Hill; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  A succulent blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache, Sangiovese and Merlot, this wine opens with inviting cinnamon and nutmeg spice aromas.  Round and lush with tasty flavors of spice-accented blackberries, red currant and loganberries swirling deliciously on the palate. Finishes clean with a nice lift.  SRP: ~$13 www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2010 Kevin Arnold Shiraz; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Winemaker/Cellarmaster Kevin Arnold crafted an immensely gratifying wine that clearly shouts out Shiraz. It is nicely developed and full bodied with a satin smooth texture. Elegant and pure, it showcases blackberries, blueberries and savory spice that permeate from start to lip-smacking finish.   SRP:  ~$28  www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Earthy aromas greet the nose with this powerfully built Cab Sauv.  Wild berries, cassis and tart cherries meld with earthy, mineral notes all framed by a firm backbone of tannins.   The wine remains focused throughout with nice depth and structure, and the finish lingers with persistence. SRP: ~$27  www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate NV Reserve Heatherleigh; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This delectable sweet wine is crafted of 70% Muscat  blended with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.  Inviting floral aromas make way for layers of honey, baked apples, apricots, caramel and mandarin orange highlights on the palate.  The balance is joyful with racy acidity playing off the sweet fruit and honey at the core.  SRP ~$20. (375ml) www.waterfordestate.co.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  The essence of grapefruit and pretty herb accents blast from the glass with this sassy Sauv Blanc.   Steely minerality threads its way through a cornucopia of lemon-lime, white grapefruit, clementine and hints of fresh cut herbs on the palate.   A broad brush of lime zest pops on the finish, well balanced and refreshing.   SRP:  ~$17.50 www.thelema.co.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2011 Shiraz; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Aged in 40% new French oak (the balance 2 and 3 year French oak), here is a deep, dark, dazzling Shiraz.  Carrying its 15% alcohol well, it is powerful yet agile on the palate.  The dense concentration of blackberry, black plum and cassis liqueur is accented by an ample dash of pepper and allspice.  Lovely oak notes and velvety tannins complete the delicious package.   SRP:  ~$33.95  www.thelema.co.za

Sutherland Vineyards 2012 Riesling; Elgin Valley, South Africa:  Mouthwatering citrus and floral aromas are ever so enticing.  This racy, mineral laden Riesling offers up fresh white peach and savory spice flavors alongside edgy acidity, fully enlivening the palate.   Sleek and vibrant through the lingering finish.  Crafted by Owner/Cellarmaster Gyles Webb; Sutherland wines are bottled at Thelema’s Stellenbosch estate, from grapevines planted in the coastal Elgin region; a second label for the Webb family.  SRP:  ~$15.  www.thelema.com.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2008 Rabelais; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This impressive Bordeaux blend crafted of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 9% Merlot opens enticingly with subtle oak, a hint of earth and black fruit aromas.  Expanding on the palate are flavors of wild berry, dark cherry, tart blueberry, and sweet tobacco spice wrapped around firmly structured tannins. The precisely integrated oak shows off pretty toast and vanilla notes (aged 20 months in new French oak).  A deep, dark, complex wine that will cellar nicely for years.   SRP  ~$45  www.thelema.co.za

La Motte 2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Franschhoek, South Africa:  This SB is expressive and pure with clear varietal typicity.  Grassy aromas up front lead to vibrant mouth filling flavors of crisp green apple, lemon grass, candied citrus peel and a touch of guava  It is lively and balanced with beautiful acidity; remaining bright and fresh through the perky finish.   SRP:  ~$12 www.la-motte.com

La Motte 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Franschhoek, South Africa:   A bold and intense Cab with aromas and flavors of cassis, black raspberry, red plums, wild berries and a trace of tobacco wowing the palate.  Full bodied with plentiful tannins, this wine is approachable now and offers ageability as well.    SRP:  ~$25 www.la-motte.com

La Motte 2010 Pierneef Collection Shiraz; Franschhoek, South Africa:  Here is a Shiraz reminiscent of a Rhone style wine with 12% Viognier blended in. It is light on its feet with aromas and flavors of blackberry jam and spicy plum chutney swirling delectably on the palate.  Subtle oak nuances and a good dollop of acidity play nicely off the rich fruit.  A well balanced and structured Shiraz with an elegant finish.  SRP:  ~$25   www.la-motte.com

My brief visit to South Africa confirms one thing for certain, I must return and delve further into these engaging regions and beyond.  It will be a much longer visit to South Africa next time!

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