2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition

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

I’ve got the fever!   This well run wine competition, under the direction of Chairmen Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue (owners of the Great Northwest Wine news and information company), is quite unique and compelling.  Judges are asked to nominate 100 wines to be blind judged; all of which must come from grapes grown in the great northwest; including Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Idaho.  Here are a few personal favorite noteworthy wines among those that my panel judged at the 2015 competition held at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel this month:

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2014 Old Vines Auxerrois; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada:   A stunning interpretation of this delightful grape (more widely grown in Alsace).  Displaying worthy varietal typicity, its white peach, pear, grapefruit and lemony flavors intertwine in harmony on the palate.  This beauty is mouth filling and well balanced, with good acidity accompanying the fruit through the enduring aftertaste.  SRP: $13 www.gehringerwines.ca

Sparkman Cellars 2012 Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Aromas of tobacco leaf and black fruits get the juices flowing, and prepare you for more delight.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is appealing in its depth and power.  Broadly expanding on the palate are layers of cassis, blackberry, Italian spices and smoky oak nuances.  The acidity zips through the dense fruit, and the tannins are smooth and reined in; extraordinary.  SRP:  $62 www.sparkmancellars.com

Tenet Wines 2013 The Pundit Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The floral component, wildly expressive and pleasing, implores you to dive into the glass.  Once the wine glides past your lips, the juicy mouthful of purple plums, orange-tinged boysenberries and dark chocolate syrup unfolds, and toasty oak spice is well situated in the background.  Smartly balanced and simply delightfully.   SRP:  $25 www.tenetwines.com

Maryhill Winery 2014 Chardonnay; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Alluring on the nose, this snappy Chard opens with pretty fragrances of citrus blossom and tropical fruit wafting from the glass.  On the palate it is pure and refreshing, with flavors of crisp apple, candied pineapple wedges, stone fruit and subtle spiced oak notes; finishes bright and clean.  SRP: $15 www.maryhillwinery.com

Seven Hills Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The hue is luminous and the aromatic delivers perfectly ripened fruit, a sprinkle of sweet oak and vanilla spice to the nose. Tasty black currant, red cherry, pipe tobacco notes and brown spices wrap around firm tannins.  This wine is nicely weighted as it swells to a finish that is polished and persistent.   SRP:  $30 www.sevenhillswinery.com

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Estate Vineyard Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  The enticing aromatic bursts forth with herbs and black fruit.  The palate reveals underbrush, black plums, black cherry, mocha, fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns and a suggestion of sautéed green bell pepper.  Black licorice accents come forth on the satisfying finish; a well-crafted, cellar worthy Syrah.   SRP:  $40 www.wallawallavintners.com

Reininger Winery 2011 Mr. Owl’s Red; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  This blend of 55% Sangiovese, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 4% Syrah with an earthy edge is agile and compelling.  Softly fruited with black cherry, and raspberry fitting hand and glove with anise, orange peel and a suggestion of angostura bitters.  It is focused and clean, and the racy acidity fits its spry personality to a T.   SRP:  $34 www.reiningerwinery.com

Columbia Crest Winery 2013 Grand Estates Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Hints of Crayola crayons and dark fruit on the nose meld into jammy black and red berries on entry.  Delectably rich and creamy in texture, the flavors of black cherry, blackberry, toffee and herbal notes linger through the pleasing aftertaste.  Easy to quaff, and a terrific value, too!  SRP:  $12 www.columbiacrest.com

Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 Albarino; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Spicy and edgy from the endearing aromatic, to the mouthful of spiced peach/pear compote, lemon-lime and crystallized pineapple, to the rocking acidity that never misses a beat.  The components are well orchestrated and the wine flows elegantly as it makes it way to the celebratory finish line.  SRP: $22 www.coyotecanyonwinery.com

Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  Alluring floral and damp earth scents wow the nose.  In the mouth it’s ethereal and silky smooth, with notes of fresh chopped herbs, dusty cherry, black raspberry, anise and hints of toasted oak.   Smartly composed, it is lively and graceful with a long lasting, memorable finish.  SRP:  $33 www.anamcaracellars.com

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Earthiness, hints of herbs and fragrant dusting powder greet the nose.  Orchard fruit, wet stone, citrus notes and dried apricot flavors swirl in the mouth, with racy acidity providing a wonderful backbone.  Vintage after vintage this value priced wine shines with vibrancy.  SRP:  $10  www.ste-michelle.com

Airfield Estates Winery 2014 Rosé of Sangiovese; Yakima Valley, Washington:   This vivacious dry Rosé offers up spiced cranberry sauce, juicy cherry, orange zest, and mineral notes on the nose and through the juicy, fruit filled palate.  Balanced and bright with good acidity, it shimmers all the way through.    SRP:  $15 (Sold out; don’t miss the 2015 vintage upon release). www.airfieldwines.com

Karma Vineyards 2011 Méthode Champenoise Pink; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This expressive, full bodied sparkling wine leads the way with aromas of reds fruits and fresh flowers.  Magnificent on the palate with its stream of tiny bubbles and gorgeous acidity supporting flavors of fresh cherries and strawberries, watermelon candy and toasty biscuit notes; a divine bubbly.   SRP:  $39.99 www.goodkarmawines.com

Palencia Wine Company 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Enticing herbal aromas invite you into the glass and keep you stimulated as juicy white grapefruit, sweet fleshed peaches, crisp pears, and lime zest take center stage on the vibrant palate.  The wine gains dimension with a touch of dried herbs as it marches toward a brilliant finale.  SRP:  $18 www.palenciawine.com

Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Yellow Bird Vineyard Merlot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Warm blueberry tart scents upfront join red berries, chocolate kisses, blueberries, spice box and subtle oak notes exploding onto the palate.  The well-defined firm tannins and accompanying finely placed acidity provide the perfect framework for this absolutely charming Merlot.  SRP:  $38  www.wallawallavintners.com

Sperling Vineyards 2012 Old Vines Riesling; Okanagan Valley; British Columbia, Canada:  Here is a fresh, meticulously balanced Riesling that really stimulates the senses.  Stone fruit, quince jam, minerality and citrus accents entwine and flow with ease across the palate.  Bright and satisfying with an aftertaste that lingers on and on.  SRP:  $32 www.sperlingvineyards.com

Mercer Estates 2012 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This irresistible Merlot struts out with a confident air and never retreats.  Appealing cherry, savory spice, blueberry and fresh leather aromas and flavors are enhanced by a velvety smooth texture and refined tannins.  Polished and elegant through the long, heavenly finish.  SRP:  $24 www.mercerwine.com

Rocky Pond Winery 2013 Clos Cheval Vineyard Riesling; Lake Chelan, Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a sleek and balanced wine with a petrol aroma that clearly shouts out Riesling.  Peach skin, sweet nectarine, fresh squeezed lime juice and slate accents that flow onto the palate are pure and vivacious, leaving a lasting impression.  SRP:  $18 www.rockypondwinery.com

At the conclusion of the competition, Eric and Andy announced names of the judges who captured the most Gold and Double Gold awards from his or her list of 100 wine nominations.   It was a very pleasant surprise to hear that I had captured first place honors!  Check out details regarding all the award winning wines at www.greatnorthwestwine.com where you’ll find results from the 2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, as well as results from the 2013 and 2014 competitions.  The fall season is here in all its glory, and now is the time to stock up on all YOUR favorites!

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2015

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

2015 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition

Judging the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition this month was invigorating, stimulating and clearly reinforced the bountiful goodness, or better said, greatness, of Sonoma County wines.  The highlighted wines below were among the Double Gold Award winners from my panel.  A Double Gold (GG) award goes to wines receiving a Gold vote from each of the judges on the panel.  Many GG and Gold medals were awarded.  You can view the full medal tally by visiting www.harvestfair.org (click on the Drink tab, and then Award Winning Wines).

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Brut NV; Russian River Valley, California:  Alluring aromas and a dynamic tiny bead will have you hovering over the glass as if in a dream before the wine meets your lips.  Crafted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this precise and vivacious sparkling wine showcases creamy pears, spiced lemon bars, crisp apples and crème brûlée melding harmoniously through the persistent finish; let the celebration begin! SRP:  $28   www.jwines.com

Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards 2006 Extra Brut Reserve Cuvée; Carneros, California:  Wow; floral and yeasty aromas join well delineated layers of freshly baked bread, apple pie, brown spices and a zesty splash of lemon zest dancing on the palate.  This wine teems with purity, complexity and fine balance.  An exhilarating stream of tiny bubbles lingers from the first sip to the memorable last one.  SRP:  $47 www.gloriaferrer.com

Balletto Vineyards 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Scents of a delicate rose bouquet fill the senses with this elegant dry Rosé.  Delighting the palate are pretty flavors of strawberries and Rainer cherries, citrus blossom and a touch of herbs.  Perfectly balanced and crisp, with brisk acids keeping the wine remarkably bright and refreshing.  SRP:  $18   www.ballettovineyards.com

St. Anne’s Crossing Winery 2014 Zinfandel Rosé; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Here is a brilliantly expressive, unabashed dry Rosé that completely engages the senses.  Layers of red raspberries, succulent red plums and savory spice accents fill the mouth.  Well balanced with lively acidity, this savvy wine is every bit as juicy and full flavored as one could desire from America’s sweetheart grape.  SRP:  $18   www.stannescrossing.com

Kelley & Young Wines 2014 Robert Young Vineyards Nuit de Young; Alexander Valley, California:  This very sophisticated dry Rosé boasts elements of fresh cherries, blueberries, cranberries, a tinge of graphite and tea spice on the nose and through the flavorful palate.  Crafted of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it is complex, well structured and beautifully food friendly.  The texture is smooth, the balance spot on, and the engaging finish leaves you wanting more!  SRP:  $32 www.kellyyoungwines.com

Kobler Estate Winery 2014 Bacigalupi Vineyards Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  An intensely aromatic Chard opening with tree fruits and hints of vanilla exciting the senses.  Spilling onto the palate are delectable flavors of spiced apple and pear compote, warm buttered toast and vanilla bean accents.  Full bodied and well composed with a lasting aftertaste.   SRP:   $46 www.koblerestatewinery.com

Pezzi King Vineyards 2013 Reserve Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  This well balanced Chardonnay broadcasts perfumed floral aromas.  It fills the mouth with flavors of delectable creamy lemon custard, caramelized bananas, a touch of oak and citrus blossom accents.  Nicely structured with a smooth texture, it remains lively through the long finish.  SRP:  $36 www.pezziking.com

Kunde Family Winery 2014 Reserve Chardonnay; Sonoma Valley, California:    Full bodied and confident, this dazzling Chardonnay draws you in with aromas of fresh picked apples and a kiss of citrus.  Creamy and well crafted, it is brimming with pear, apple and key lime pie flavors that interlace with brown spice and underlying cedar notes.  The captivating finish is bright and extended.   SRP:  $45   www.kunde.com

Gustafson Family Vineyards 2011 Heritage Tree Vineyard Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Aromas of licorice and ripe berries engage the senses with this mouthwatering Zinfandel.  On the palate are well defined layers of wild berries, chocolate covered cherries, vanillin, anise and cloves that entwine in harmony.  There is a purity about this wine that shines, and it offers good lift throughout.  SRP:  $32 www.gfvineyard.com

DeLoach Vineyards 2013 OFS Zinfandel; Russian River Valley, California:   Here’s an enticingly aromatic, firmly structured Zin that tantalizes the senses.  Rich and lip-smackingly delicious, it is chock full of juicy boysenberries, warm, cinnamon-scented blackberry pie, savory spice and oak nuances.   Lush, dense and smartly balanced with a persistent aftertaste.   SRP:  ~$35 www.deloachvineyards.com

Matrix Winery 2013 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  This generously fruited wine opens with aromas of a mixed floral bouquet and wild berries.  It’s plush, velvety and full of black cherry, spiced marionberry pie, toffee and boysenberry jam at the core.  Underbrush, tinges of herbs and oak spice weave deliciously on the palate.  A full bodied, well balanced and mouth filling Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $52 www.matrixwinery.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2012 Vine Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Deeply hued and complex, this aromatic Pinot Noir is lush and juicy.  Sweet black cherry and black raspberry fruit meld with earthiness and exotic spices, and hints of toasty oak provide a complementary underlying note.  Well placed acidity keeps it bright, and the finish is focused and satisfying.    SRP:  ~$46  www.sonomacutrer.com

MacMurray Estate Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Block Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  In this glass a classy Pinot Noir awaits.  Provocative forest floor aromas set the stage for the burst of flavors exciting the palate.  Black cherry, raspberry, exotic tea spices, licorice and subtle oak spices integrate like a finely woven fabric.  Silky refined tannins and lively acidity keep the wine in precise balance. SRP:  $60 www.macmurrayestatevineyards.com

Congrats to each and every Sonoma County producer who earned medals from this year’s competition.  I encourage all to take advantage of tasting these well made award winning wines before they sell out!


Gems in My Glass . . . August 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mid-America No Comments

Hybrid, native American, fruit wines and more at the 2015 Mid-American Wine Competition

The 2015 Mid-American Wine Competition in Des Moines, Iowa once again opened the eyes and minds of judges as to the merits of wines crafted from native American grapes, hybrid grapes and other fruits.  If you have not delved into wines of this ilk, it is high time you did!  And that’s not all; Gold medals were also awarded to wines produced in mid America from vinifera vines.  The competition is open to commercial wineries of Arkansas, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Those that spoke gratifyingly to my palate included:

Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery 2013 Geisenheim; American AVA, produced in Iowa:  This highly aromatic wine, crafted from the spunky white hybrid grape Geisenheim (a cross of Riesling and Chancellor), unveils a satisfying dose of sweetness.  Lovely floral scents lead to tangerine, apple and stone fruit laced with fresh squeezed Meyer lemon and a sprinkling of herbs elegantly caressing the palate.  A texturally smooth, smartly balanced wine.  SRP:  $16 www.calicoskieswine.com

Easley Winery 2014 Traminette; American AVA, produced in Indiana:   Traminette (a cross of Gewurztraminer and French American hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416) can be gloriously expressive on the nose, like this one with honeysuckle and spice that mesmerize you before the wine graces your lips.  Guava, pineapple and orange zest entwine with spice components titillating the palate, and the wine continues to captivate through the lifted finish.  Bright, breezy and simply delectable.    SRP: ~$15   www.easleywinery.com

Soldier Creek Winery 2014 Brianna; Iowa:  Imagine collecting a basketful of fragrant flowers, setting out a tray of tasty bites and sipping wine in the backyard on a sun-speckled summer afternoon.  Refreshing and pure with loads of juicy tropical fruit at the core, this sweet Brianna (a cold climate hybrid grape) with a lively personality and delicate floral notes is a wise choice for your picture perfect afternoon; yummy.  SRP:  $20 www.soldiercreekwinery.com

Wollersheim Winery NV Prairie Blush; Wisconsin:  Reminiscent of a French dry rosé, this semi-dry blush crafted from 100% Marechal Foch grapes boasts a brilliant, electrifying rose-colored hue.   Flavors of strawberry pie, raspberry sorbet and hints of pink grapefruit fill the mouth.  Pure and refreshing with lively acidity; a lovely pairing for a relaxing Sunday brunch.  SRP:  $10 www.wollersheim.com

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery NV Valvin Muscat; Kansas:  Holy-Field Winery has captured the essence of this fragrant grape. Showing off exotic aromas and flavors of a fresh floral bouquet, summer peaches and creamy Bartlett pears, it is mouthwateringly delicious.   Satin smooth with lively acidity and nicely sweet without being cloying, it makes for a divine summer sipper lazing out by the pool.  SRP:  ~$10 www.holyfieldwinery.com

Ardon Creek Vineyard & Winery NV “Commission Man Red” Noiret; Iowa:  I often tout this spunky grape variety which has long been a favorite of mine, and here is a terrific, well-knit example.  Classic multi-colored peppercorn aromas tell you plenty up front.  That dramatic spice component and subtle oak nuances meld with fresh blackberries, plums and raspberries at the core, building on the palate to a wildly flavorful finale.  SRP:  $12.99 www.ardoncreek.com

Apple Barn Orchard and Winery NV Strawberry Jewel; Wisconsin:  Summertime in a glass!  Engaging flavors of ripe, sweet strawberries (from their homegrown patch) with highlights of juicy tangerine and a squeeze of lemon juice refresh the palate.  Pair this gem with a fresh mixed fruit salad atop tender butter lettuce for a tasty mid-day treat. SRP:  $13.95 www.applebarnorchardandwinery.com

Oliver Winery and Vineyards NV “Soft Red”; Indiana:  This semi-sweet, juicy wine, made from the native American Concord grape, is well named.  It is lush, round, and soft on the palate with a bucket load of flavor.  Grapey and satisfying with pretty fruit at the core, it simply shines with purity and balance.   SRP:  $7.50 www.oliverwinery.com

L. Mawby “Tradition” NV Cuvee Brut; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Yeasty aromas greet the nose and pave the way for a most enchanting Methode Champenoise sparkling wine produced from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.  Crisp Anjou pear, fresh lemon-lime and sautéed apples flecked with cinnamon dance with spirited acidity on the palate.  The impressive tiny bead of bubbles entertains the eye and the tongue through the persistent finish.  SRP: $21 www.lmawby.com

Cedar Ridge Vineyards NV LaCrosse; Iowa:   Pretty floral notes peak your interest as this snappy LaCrosse (a light skinned hybrid grape) assuredly shows its stuff.  Flavors of creamy pears, green apple skin, a touch of herbs, nectarines and hints of vanilla taffy are ever so fresh in the mouth, and the balance is spot on.   SRP:  $13.99   www.crwine.com

Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery 2013 Frontenac; Iowa:  Here is a cool climate Frontenac that offers up black currant, black cherry and dried cranberries on the nose and through the spice driven, oak-nuanced palate.  Texturally round and lush mid palate, it displays an easy to quaff quality about it all the way through the final sip; very nicely made.  SRP:  $18.95 www.calicoskies.com

If your wine tasting portfolio hasn’t expanded beyond vinifera varieties (such as Cab, Chard, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Riesling, among others), why not reach out and give hybrid, native American varieties and fruit wines a spin?  You’ll most likely be intrigued, expand your wine knowledge, and don’t be surprised if you find a few new favorites!

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2015

Australia, Gems in MY Glass . . . No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 3

Yalumba Family Vineyards has been in the Smith family for five generations; their first vines were planted over 165 years ago in 1849.  Yalumba means “all the land around”, and an enchanting land it is.  History shows colorfully at the property upon which sits a stately historic home, the warm and inviting tasting room, and the fully equipped winemaking facility.  Kevin Glastonbury, winemaker at Yalumba for the past 15+ years, provided us with an extensive tour and tasting.  We enjoyed sampling wines from multiple vintages, which offered an opportunity to gain insight from various harvests and a glimpse of their ageworthiness.  My favorites include:

Yalumba 2013 Roussanne; Eden Valley, Australia:  White flowers on the nose make way for a juicy fruit-packed mouthful of stone fruit, fresh apples, lemon-lime juice, shades of herbs and a pretty sweep of minerality.  Energetic and streamlined with bright acidity carrying the succulent fruit to a vibrant, clean aftertaste.  SRP:  $24

Yalumba 2013 Viognier; Eden Valley, Australia:  Aromas of stone fruit really get the juices flowing.  This phenolic driven Viognier easily wins you over, as fresh apricot and ripe peach notes spill onto the palate.  Round and mouth coating with a smooth texture and pretty balance, the wine finishes with a pop of peach schnapps.  SRP:  $24

Yalumba 2008 “The Tri-Centenary” Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Here is a deeply fruited, cohesive wine from the engaging bouquet to the palate pleasing flavors.  Raspberries, strawberries and red cherries link delightfully with savory spice accents.  Hints of vanilla and caramel join in on the back of the palate, and the nicely integrated oak peaks through on the satisfying aftertaste.   SRP:  $60

Yalumba 2009 Steeple Vineyard Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  From a well-developed vineyard dating back to 1919 comes this lush Shiraz.  Savory aromas join blackberry, boysenberry, dark chocolate shavings, spice and a touch of fresh mint cascading onto the palate.  The rich fruit is offset by lively acidity.  This Shiraz is completely engaging as it picks up steam and finishes with pizazz.  SRP:  $60

Yalumba 2010 Paradox Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Tightly wound, decant this beauty for full enjoyment.    Patience is rewarded, as aeration reveals a wonderfully complex wine.  Concentrated black plum and cassis at the core interlace with underbrush, fresh earth elements, and sweet oak spice framed by firmly structured tannins.  Remarkable purity through the persistent finish.  SRP:  $43

Yalumba 2011 Cabernet/Shiraz FDR (Fine Dry Red); Barossa Valley, Australia:  Intense yet pleasing and approachable now, this wine is oh so easy to quaff.  Layers of cassis, spiced black plum compote, wild berries and herb-dusted meat weave in harmony as the backbone of tannins and vibrant acids provide splendid framework.  This vintage may have been a challenge, but you’d not deduce that after tasting this savory, well put together wine.   SRP:  $43

Yalumba 2012 “The Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  In the glass you’ll find a classic example of just how well Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz can play together, wow.  Precise and elegant, the alluring aromas just begin the irresistible attraction.  Multilayered and captivating, black cherries, cassis, black plums, eucalyptus, black peppercorns and crushed herbs unwind with exceptional depth and complexity on the palate.  The finish explodes with brilliance.  $60

Yalumba 2009 “The Octavius” Old Vine Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Here is a powerhouse of a wine that speaks confidently of its terroir.  Expressive up front with winning aromas of dark fruit and a persuasive entry, the wine builds provocatively on the palate.  A multifaceted, intensely built Shiraz with black plum and boysenberry at the core harmonizing with accents of spice encrusted roasted meat, eucalyptus, well integrate oak and a hint of mint lingering through the long finish. I would have no qualms about cellaring this Shiraz for a decade or more.  SRP:  $100

Yalumba is another Barossa property I highly recommend for a visit; there is plenty to explore here.  Until then, check out their website at www.yalumba.com.  The beauty and history of the Barossa Valley with all its charm, delicious sips and bites, and engaging personalities is guaranteed to please; certainly a region to add to your bucket list!

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Australia, Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 2

Anyone who has imbibed Shiraz from Australia is likely well attuned to Penfolds.  This winery was established in 1844 and is going strong more than 170 years later.  The meandering drive to their property in the Barossa Valley was delightful.  After a warm welcome by Matt Woo (responsible for red table wines and Penfolds fortified collection), we relaxed comfortably around a private table to engage in a lively discussion and tasting.  Matt grew up in New South Wales in a family passionate about food and wine.  He earned a Wine Science Bachelor Degree, and is dedicated to continuing the long tradition of Penfolds wines for years to come.  There is plenty of goodness to shout about here, so without further delay, let’s dive right into the wines:

Penfolds Vineyards 2014 Bin 51 Riesling; Eden Valley, Australia:  Stony minerality permeates the nose and palate with this intense, mineral driven Riesling.  Spot on varietally correct, this wine comes from a vineyard planted in the 60’s in the Eden Valley, a richer soil than what is typical in the Barossa, Matt explains.  The entry is eye opening with its vibrancy.  The stream of minerality remains constant, with flavors of white peach and citrus peel at the core, elevated by a steadfast level of acidity.  SRP:  $30

Penfolds Vineyards 2013 Reserve Bin A Chardonnay; Adelaide Hills, Australia:  This whole bunch pressed Chardonnay is tightly wound with impressive complexity.  Aged 9 months in 40% new and 60% one year seasoned French oak barriques with every new and seasoned French oak barrique its own unique 225-litre ferment, the quality of the oak program is clear. Layered and elegant as it flows from the glass, I appreciate the Asian pear, toasted oak undertones, hints of lemon verbena, a suggestion of butterscotch and the solid thread of minerality gracing the palate.   Dynamic, well-structured and perfectly balanced through the polished finish; without question an ageworthy Chardonnay.   SRP:  $100

Penfolds Vineyards 2013 Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay; Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Victoria, Australia:  This Chard opens with enticing tropical aromas.  The palate shows off guava, pineapple, citrus and exotic spices that are spun together like an intricate, handwoven fabric.  The mouthfeel is divine, and the wine remains rich yet uplifted with vibrant acidity through the tasty, lasting finish.   SRP:  ~$50

Penfolds Vineyards 2011 Bin 28 Kalimna Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia:  Aromatic flowers on the nose linger as this red fruited wine hits your lips.  Raspberry, red cherry licorice whips and pomegranate juice flavors swirl on the palate with pretty herbal accents.  The tannins are velvety smooth; a striking Shiraz from the challenging 2011 vintage.  SRP:  $40

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  The exquisite aromatics exude the wow factor, and it doesn’t stop there. This wine is multilayered in the mouth, where bright red and black berry fruits, spiced meat and minty accents interlace with style, beautiful richness, and purity.  Complex and deep with silky tannins; a magnificently crafted wine.  SRP:  $80

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon; a multi-district blend, including fruit from Bordertown, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Robe, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully and Margaret River, Australia:   Black licorice drops and wild blackberries on the nose remain focused on the palate, with layers of sweet tobacco spice, eucalyptus, cassis, black plums and well integrated oak adding further dimension.  Firm tannins provide a solid backbone for this noteworthy Cabernet.  SRP:  $80

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Magill Estate Shiraz; Adelaide, Australia:  This elegant single vineyard Shiraz enthralls the nose, delivering scents of cured meats and wild berries.  Unraveling on the palate are focused flavors of raspberries, red plums, cola, savory spice and tinges of earthiness wrapped around smooth, refined tannins.  Aging 15 months in 65% new French oak, 30% new and 5% seasoned American oak contributes spicy vanilla notes that linger on the persistent finish; a focused and delicious wine.   SRP:  $130

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon; Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Australia:  Black currant and spice rise from the glass of this American oak aged Cab Sauvignon.  Complex and deliciously mouth filling as distinct layers of blackberry, cassis, vanilla bean, caramelized sugar and plums meld with exotic Asian spices delighting the senses.  Marvelously cohesive, and the precise balance of fruit, acids and firm tannins promises many additional years of enjoyment.  SRP:  $350

Penfolds Vineyards 2010 Grange; Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Magill Estate, Australia:  Crafted every year since 1951, Grange is highly acclaimed around the globe, and deservedly so.  Penfolds again knocked it out of the park with this intensely weighted, extraordinary 2010 vintage.  Perfumed floral and dark fruit aromas could not be more enticing.  Tightly wound and complex, this classy wine exhibits well defined tiers of raspberries, purple plums, black licorice, olives, hints of smoke and eucalyptus, and fresh baked pastry flowing across the palate around a solid backbone of tannins.  Finishes deep, dark and incredibly long; unquestionably ageworthy with decades of life ahead.  SRP:  $785

Penfolds Vineyards Great Grandfather Rare Tawny:   One to linger over in front of a roaring fireplace.  You can’t go wrong with this expressive Tawny, sourced from the Grandfather Solera (average age above 20 years).   Scents of caramelized nuts and fig jam on the nose prepare the way for the rich palate of chewy caramel, roasted figs, orange peel and almond toffee.  Made for 75 vintages, this wine is a longtime favorite of many; simply heavenly.   SRP:  $350

Decades ago I tasted my first Penfolds wine, and a visit to the Barossa Valley has been on my bucket list for years.  It was well worth the wait, I highly recommend it!  Meanwhile, you can visit their website at www.penfolds.com for additional info about their history, the property, and their wines.

Gems in My Glass . . . May 2015

Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 1

My visit to the Barossa Valley wine region could not have been more enlightening and enjoyable.  A big thank you to good friend Daryl Groom for providing personal introductions to winemakers and vintners he worked with for years back in his homeland.  It is no surprise Daryl, his wife Lisa, and their children still carry strong ties and a deep fondness for this beautiful countryside, and Daryl continues to produce stunning Barossa Valley Shiraz and Sauv Blanc from Adelaide Hills.

On a sparkling day under sunny skies, we meandered through rolling hills and arrived at Whistler winery.  A family operation, the Pfeiffers have been grape growers for four generations.  It all began with Albert Heinrich Pfeiffer whose passion was carried on by his son Hubert Irving Pfeiffer, his grandsons Martin and Chris Pfeiffer, and now his great grandchildren.  Whistler winery began when Martin and his wife Sally purchased “The Block” in 1982. (Martin had previously managed vineyards for Penfolds).  Martin took care of the vineyards, and Chris handled the administration side of the business.  Now, the next generation is carrying on the tradition, including Matt in finance and distribution, Mel managing the Cellar Door, events and marketing, and Josh tending to winemaking and viticulture.

They have 35 acres planted to vines, including Semillon, Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvedre (Mataro).  Their picturesque property is where you’ll find their charming cellar door (tasting room), surrounded by their winemaking facility,  shade trees and picnic tables where family and friends spend relaxing, fun filled days with great sips and tasty bites.  Their charming pups BJ and Cooper, and their pet kangaroos are a stone’s throw away as well.  They generously provide shelter for rescued kangaroos.  The serene, spacious grounds are groomed and ready to welcome guests each week.  About 70% of their wines are sold on the premises out of their Cellar Door.    Josh, winemaker and viticulturist, is in the process of taking the vineyard fully organic and biodynamic.  As we headed into the tasting room, Martin enlightened us about the 2015 harvest.  After quite a dry season, they completed an extremely early harvest this year (all the fruit was picked by March 5).   Their wines are precise and pure, showcasing the Barossa Valley terroir beautifully.  Among my favorites include:

Whistler 2014 Riesling; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Inviting mineral notes rise from the glass with this snappy, expressive Riesling.  Lean, palate pleasing and nicely dry, it boasts juicy peaches and nectarines, hints of lime zest and lovely acidity while maintaining focused minerality from start to satisfying aftertaste.  SRP:  $25

Whistler 2013 Reserve Semillon; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Flinty stone notes shine with Whistler’s Reserve Semillon.  Layers of fresh picked apples and pears, hints of spice and a creamy texture entwine with vibrant acids make a memorable statement on the palate.  Dry and streamlined on the finish, it is complex and well structured.  SRP:  $23

Whistler 2014 Mathilda Louise Rose; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Named after Martin’s and Chris’s great grandmother, this spunky Rose, a blend of Grenache and Mataro, displays abundant scents of red berries and cherries on the nose.  Spirited with bracing acidity, you’ll find delicious flavors of sweet summer strawberries, raspberry sorbet, and a splash of lemonade enlivening the palate.  A trace of herbs kicks in on the bright finish.  SRP:  $20

Whistler 2014 Get in My Belly Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Here’s a rewarding quaff that opens with aromas of black licorice sticks, wild berries and a warm raspberry tart captivating the nose and mouth.  Spicy and deeply fruited with a fine balance and confident air about it.    (Sold out)

Whistler 2012 GSM; Barossa Valley, Australia:  A delightful blend of 52% Grenache, 26% Shiraz and 22% Mataro, this wine impresses with its smooth texture and rich, dense fruit displayed from the very first sip.  Succulent purple plums take the lead and join cured meats, blackberries, allspice and earthy nuances that meld in harmony as the wine richly coats the mouth.  Tannins hold firm through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $30

Whistler 2012 Hubert Irving; Barossa Valley; Australia:  Named in honor of Martin’s and Chris’s father, this blend of 41% Merlot, 37% Grenache, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Mataro is a wine to please any red wine aficionado, and easy on the pocket book, too.  Brimming with blueberries, boysenberries and Bing cherries, it is juicy and approachable now, a perfect sipper for a meal around the barbeque grill.  SRP:  $20

Whistler 2012 Merlot; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Strikingly hued with an aroma that will charm the socks off any red wine lover, here is a polished, smooth as silk Merlot.  Lush and buoyant with blackberries and blueberries joining graphite, a touch of earthiness and a generous sprinkling of spice.  Well integrated oak and supple tannins top off the superb package.  SRP: $27

Whistler 2012 Reserve Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  The glistening entrance, jam-packed with heady fruit and freshly ground black peppercorns, is mesmerizing.  Intense in structure, you’ll revel in delicious layers of anise, cocoa-dusted berries, spiced oak and tinges of roasted meats saturating the palate.  This ageworthy Shiraz is complex and thoroughly balanced with the unwavering flavors lingering far beyond the final drop. SRP:  $70

Whistler Wines 2012 Estate Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:   Full bodied and intensely structured, you’ll find power in the glass without an over the top sense of alcohol.  The plummy, dark berry, spicy entry expands in the mouth with pretty toffee accents and vanilla notes from aging in second year seasoned American oak.  This well-crafted wine is approachable now and also promises years of further enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $40

Whistler Wines 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Fresh cut herbs and underbrush on the nose meld with black fruits, licorice drops and savory spice.  Hints of fresh earth and well integrated oak play a nice supporting role in the background.  Ethereal as it floats across the palate, this savvy Cab finishes bright and lifted on the memorable finish.  SRP:  $30

Put the Barossa Valley on your bucket list and don’t miss the chance to hop on over to Whistler.  Pack a picnic, sip their delicious wines, and meet this engaging family.  Chris and his wife Jayne also own and operate their charming Whistler Farms B&B, you’ll want to check that out too.  Visit Whistler’s website at www.whistlerwines.com.au

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . . No Comments

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2015

Twomey 2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Napa/Sonoma, California:  A beautiful aromatic expression and the jazzy entry brimming with fruit sets the stage for this well balanced, energetic wine.  Mineral notes entwine with crisp apple, fresh squeezed sweet Meyer lemon and hints of fresh cut grass.  The light touch of oak stays nicely in the background and the finish shines with brightness.  SRP:  $26 www.twomey.com

Twomey 2012 Monument Tree Vineyard Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Scents of fresh harvested mushrooms and a bowlful of cherries shout out Pinot Noir on the nose.  Layers of red cherries, raspberries, the essence of forest floor, and subtle oak converge on the palate with bracing acidity supporting the juicy fruit.  This complex wine is focused and precise with a firm structure, elegant tannins and a texture as smooth as satin.  The divine aftertaste lingers forever; simply gorgeous.  SRP:  $68 www.twomey.com

Te Motu 2013 The Strip; Waiheke Island, New Zealand:  The deep hue and irresistible aromas draw you into the glass with this engaging blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.  Floral notes steer the way to pure raspberry and wild blueberry fruit highlighted by tobacco spice and a pinch of herbs.  Intensely structured and balanced with silky tannins carrying the wine seamlessly through the vibrant finish.  SRP:  $45 www.temotu.co.nz

Te Motu 2005 red blend; Onetangi Valley, Waiheke Island, New Zealand:  Aromas of mixed cherries and berries, and leathery notes rise from the glass.  This brilliantly developed blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cab Franc is rich and dense in the mouth with flavors of black cherries, blueberries, cassis, dried cranberries, and earthy nuances melding in harmony.  The tannins are refined, and tinges of spiced oak add further dimension as the wine progresses to the memorable finish.  SRP:  $125 www.temotu.co.nz

Te Moto 2012 Kokoro; Waiheke Island, New Zealand:  This red blend composed of 43% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec and 7% Syrah shows off aromas and flavors of red currant, tart huckleberry and tasty cranberry chutney with a thread of earthiness throughout.  It is rustic and full bodied with good balance, and the finish contributes a delightful dash of spice.  SRP:  $75 www.temotu.co.nz

Stonyridge Vineyard 2012 Larose; Waiheke Island, New Zealand:  From the north facing slopes of this low yielding vineyard comes Larose, an exquisite, powerful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.  This intensely structured wine opens with a heady, floral aroma.  The entry broadcasts flavors of blackberry and savory spice.  The wine broadens on the palate with plum compote, cinnamon, nutmeg, shades of tobacco and well integrated oak skillfully wrapped around a solid backbone of tannins.  Tightly wound now, this wine promises to thrive for decades.  SRP:  $290 www.stonyridge.co.nz

Craggy Range 2013 Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc; Martinborough, New Zealand:  Whiffs of fresh flowers and tropical fruits on the nose lead to a delectable mouthful of lime zest accented nectarine and passion fruit interlacing with brisk acidity.  The neutral oak aging adds an understated element without taking away from the vibrant fruit.  Clean and refreshing with a bright, buoyant finish.  SRP:  $23.95 www.craggyrange.com

Craggy Range 2012 Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir; Martinborough, New Zealand:  This well balanced Pinot Noir offers up an enticing aroma that quickly captures your attention. Tobacco and dried cherry nuances join savory spice, hints of sandalwood and warm cherry cobbler flavors mesmerizing the palate.  The texture is silky and the spot on level of acidity lifts the wine steadfastly from entry through the extended finish.  SRP:  $42.95 www.craggyrange.com

Craggy Range 2011 Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah; Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  Scents of white pepper and dark fruit lead to a concentrated palate deliciously full of blackberry, black plum, fresh ground pepper spice, cured meats, and black licorice.  Rich in texture with a pretty backbone of tannins, this Syrah is approachable now, and should continue stimulating the palate as it further evolves with age.  SRP:  $31.95 www.craggyrange.com

Craggy Range 2011 Sophia, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  Another beauty from Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, this impressive blend is composed of 60% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.   Concentrated blueberry, plum and boysenberry fruit join hands with tobacco spice, hints of graphite and beautifully integrated oak.  Complex and precisely balanced with firmly structured tannins, I envision decades of aging potential with this gem.  SRP:  $72.95 www.craggyrange.com

Vidal Estate 2014 Riesling; Marlborough, New Zealand:  Vivid aromas of white peach and steely minerality pop from the glass at first whiff.  Melding on the palate are bright flavors of gooseberry, passion fruit, juicy peaches and a squeeze of lime.  Crisp and refreshing with bracing acidity from the first sip through the dazzling finish.  SRP:  $16 www.vidal.co.nz

Vidal Estate 2014 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:  Citrus laced tropical fruits wow the nose with Vidal’s striking Reserve SB.  Luscious layers of guava, lemon curd and passion fruit interlace with lime zest, fresh chopped herbs and a persistent thread of minerality, enlivening the palate.  This vibrant wine is complex and pure with meticulous balance, and climaxes with a lingering aftertaste.   SRP:  $20 www.vidal.co.nz

Vidal Estate 2012 Reserve Series Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon; Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  This blend of 50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Malbec is a smoothly textured, easy to quaff wine.   The enticing aromas and flavors of blueberry compote, wild berries, red currant and savory spice interlace with gentle oak nuances, and the wine finishes upbeat and clean.  SRP:  $20 www.vidal.co.nz

Vidal Estate 2010 Legacy Syrah; Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  Perfumed aromas of violets reel you into this remarkable Syrah.  It is complex, pure and impressively balanced with layers of roasted meat, multicolored peppercorn spice, black plums, boysenberries and just the right touch of oak, all framed by refined tannins.  An elegant, deftly crafted wine that is approachable now, and promises excellent age worthiness, as well.  SRP:  ~$75 www.clearviewestate.co.nz

Clearview Estate Winery 2013 Reserve Chardonnay; Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  Spiced oak and stone fruit aromas lift from the glass with this intense Chardonnay.  Juicy nectarines, peach skin, spicy baked apples and butterscotch candy coat the mouth in a decadent fashion, while a good level of acidity cuts adroitly through the richness.  Fermented in (primarily new) French oak, this wine finishes with yummy caramel apple notes.  SRP:  $36 www.clearviewestate.co.nz

Clearview Estate Winery 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc; Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:  The senses are altogether engaged with this focused Cab Franc.  The inviting herbaceous, meaty aroma paves the way to harmonizing flavors of a rosemary/sage rubbed roast, dark berries and succulent purple plums enhanced by graphite and cigar box accents. Well balanced and palate pleasing with hints of campfire smoke peaking through on the persistent finish.  SRP:  $45 www.clearviewestate.co.nz

Clearview Estate Winery 2012 Enigma Merlot; Te Awanga, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:   This blend of 61% Merlot, 31% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in new and seasoned French and American barriques exemplifies a perfect marriage of fruit and earthy components.  Blue and red fruits with fresh herb and eucalyptus highlights leave you wanting more.  It is velvety smooth, fully flavored and firmly structured while at the same time elegant as it floats across the palate to the long-lasting, spicy aftertaste.   SRP:  $55 www.clearviewestate.co.nz

Judgment of Geyserville II: Riesling

Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes No Comments

Wine writers joined up recently for our “Judgment of Geyserville II” blind tasting.   This year’s focus was Riesling from AVA’s located in California, Michigan, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and New York.   As you might imagine, there was a good measure of stone fruit, minerality and lively acidity tickling our palates.   Yet each wine also unveiled its own uniqueness, and a sense of place was often recognized.  My impressions below are listed in the random order in which the wines were arranged for this blind tasting:

Chateau Montelena Winery 2013 Riesling; Potter Valley, California:  Earthy spice and minerality join hand in hand on the nose and entry.  In no way bashful, this nicely composed wine unfolds on the palate with layers of peach skin, juicy pear, gooseberry, lemon verbena and lime zest framed by spirited acidity.  The finish expresses itself confidently with an emphatic lift.  SRP:  $25 www.montelena.com

Wild Goose Vineyards 2012 Stoney Slope Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Aromas of a diced peach and nectarine compote highlighted by pleasing spice greet the nose.   Weaving through the palate you’ll find juicy nectarine, fresh chopped herbs and stony minerally interlaced with a potent level of acids.  Feisty and bright with a finely tuned integration of flavors through the finish.  SRP:  $20.10 www.wildgoosewinery.com

50th Parallel Estate 2013 Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Wow, the intense mineral aroma really awakens the senses.   The wet stone minerality stays focused on the palate interlacing with bright flavors of nectarine, lime peel, Asian pear and oyster shell brininess.  Impressive balance and precision throughout, with plenty of length.  SRP:  $18 www.50thparallel.com

Trisaetum Winery 2013 J&A Vineyards Estate Reserve Dry Riesling; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Inviting aromas of fresh pineapple and citrus blossoms entice the nose.  This Riesling, with flavors of just baked peach pie, tangerine and hints of lemon oil, has a nice creaminess about it.  Earthy notes evolve from the back palate through the aftertaste.  SRP:  $38 www.trisaetum.com

Jones of Washington 2013 Estate Riesling; Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, Washington:  Searing acidity out of the gate with this spunky Riesling leaves a pleasant tingle on the tongue.  Sun ripened peach, apricot and citrus flavors burst in the mouth like colorful fireworks.  Focused and luminous with tangerine and lemon zest accents throughout.  For all its flamboyance, it’s at the same time beautifully elegant.  SRP:  $11.99 www.jonesofwashington.com

Black Star Farms Winery 2013 Arcturos Dry Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Resplendent aromas of wet stone minerality and fresh cut peaches elaborately engage the senses.  Cascading onto the palate are juicy papaya, peach and nectarine flavors accented by a sunny squeeze of lemon.  The glorious fruit interlaces with racy acidity; a focused, classy Riesling.  SRP:  $15 www.blackstarfarms.com

Bitner Vineyards 2012 Reserve Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  Initially reserved on the nose, this Riesling opens with aeration to kumquat, baked pear and hints of petroleum.  It is round on the palate, where flavors of fruit cocktail abound.  The back palate broadcasts tart citrus notes that linger through the finish.  SRP:  ~$17 www.bitnervineyards.com

Chehalem Wines 2012 Corral Creek Vineyards Riesling; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  The expressive mineral laced stone fruit aroma proudly shouts out Riesling.  This wine, skillfully constructed with bracing acids outlining the juicy peach, gooseberry and apple notes, dances vividly across the palate.  The texture is silky, and the finish is both lifted and pleasingly persistent.  SRP:  $29 www.chehalemwines.com

Coiled Wines 2013 Dry Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  Reserved aromas up front, this Riesling opens with further aeration to a wide array of citrus blossom and fruit cocktail aromas and flavors that remain consistent from entry through mid to back palate.  A good level of acidity remains ever present, enlivening the package.  SRP: $17 www.coiledwines.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Demonstrative aromas of minerals and nectarines richly fill the senses with this snappy, energetic Riesling.  Spice enhanced fresh white peach, nectarine and clementine join rockin’ acidity sashaying effortlessly across the palate.  Wonderfully balanced and pure, finishing bright and fresh.  SRP:  $9 www.ste-michelle.com

Zocker 2009 Paragon Vineyard Estate Riesling; Edna Valley, California:   Displaying a fragrance of white flowers and delicate flavors, the age of this wine speaks to its subtleness. The peachy, citrus notes and minerality presented clearly confirm it is Riesling.  This vintage showcased more vibrancy in its youth, yet still displays classic components of varietal character at this age.  SRP:  $20 www.zockerwinery.com

Charles Smith Wines 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Floral aromas are entirely engaging with this succulent, easy to quaff wine.  It’s round on the palate, where waves of sweet sliced peaches, lemon drops and creamy pears join bracing acidity.  The wine is juicy and fresh, finishing with a kick of peach schnapps.  SRP: $12 www.charlessmithwines.com

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2011 Riesling; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Herbaceous on the nose and entry, here is a lean, mineral laden Riesling with flavors of sliced kiwi, tart lemon candy and a touch of earthiness.   A bit Sauvignon Blanc like in its flavor profile yet also offering up Riesling characteristics, you may think the two were blended. Dynamic acidity is displayed throughout, and the wine finishes bright and clean.  SRP: $16 www.brandborgwines.com

Tierce 2012 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  Imagine walking along a flowing stream and catching the aromas of river rock, wild herbs and fresh spring air.  That is vividly captured in this well-crafted Riesling.  Lean and exuberant, you’ll find layers of peach skin, lime zest, tart green apple, wet stone minerality and a pinch of herbs fully invigorating the palate.  Purity and elevated acids thrive through the lingering final sip.  SRP: $30 www.tiercewine.com

Fox Run Vineyards 2013 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  Earthy, floral aromas rise from the glass with this smoothly textured Riesling.  Flavors of crisp apples and peaches join stimulating jalapeno accents creating an arousing impression.  The wine builds intriguingly through the finish with a nice level of acidity keeping it vibrant.   SRP: $17.99 www.foxrunvineyards.com

Tantalus Vineyards 2013 Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  This finely balanced Riesling is immensely enticing on the nose with floral nuances and perfectly ripe nectarine flavors flooding the senses.   It flows seamlessly across the palate with layers of fresh peach, nectarine and apple/pear compote entwined with a generous twist of lime.   Steely minerality and unreserved acidity captivate through the upbeat finish.  SRP: $34.90 www.tantalus.ca

Smith Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2013 Riesling; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California:  A bit restrained on the nose initially, minerality peeks through after aeration.   Granny Smith apples and sweet citrus fruit unfold in the mouth with lemon taffy, freshly squeezed lime and orange rind flavors playing off one another.  This is a sassy, edgy Riesling with liberal acidity from start to finish.  SRP:  $27 www.smithmadrone.com

Huston Vineyards 2013 Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  A thread of minerality engages the nose and leads to spiced peach pie and canned apricot flavors copiously filling the mouth.  Silky on the palate with nice level of acidity offsetting the bountiful fruit.  SRP:  $19 www.hustonvineyards.com

Brengman Brothers 2013 Crain Hill Vineyards Estate Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Tightly wound, this is a sophisticated Riesling.  Layers of nectarine, peach and Meyer lemon interweave with minerality, a pleasing herbal component and bracing acidity.  This complex wine is just beginning to show its potential; expect it to further develop as it matures.  SRP: ~$25 www.brengmanbrothers.com

Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  This inviting wine’s expressive aromas of white peach and hint of earthiness effortlessly charm the nose.   Sweet stone fruit, well defined minerality and a tinge of herbs flow across the palate with ease.  The fruit and acids are nicely balanced, and the finish is focused and uplifted.  SRP: $17 www.anthonyroadwine.com

Gehringer Bothers Estate Winery 2013 Private Reserve Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Tempting notes of wet stone and mango on the nose unfold fully in the mouth with lemon-lime, peach skin and guava flavors joining in mid palate.  This well balanced Riesling is sinewy and streamlined through the bright finish.  SRP:  $14.99 www.gehringerwines.ca

Chateau Grand Traverse 2013 Lot 49 Cuvee Molly Devine Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Mouthwatering aromas of fresh juicy peaches and nectarines wow the senses with this vivacious Riesling.  The stone fruit bursts forth on entry, and a trace of sweetness tiptoes onto the palate entwining with the juicy, citrus-infused fruit.  A deliciously mesmerizing wine from first sip to lingering aftertaste.  SRP: $21 www.cgtwines.com

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2015

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

In this piece I am sharing gems enjoyed while sailing the first leg of Crystal Serenity’s 2015 World Cruise.  The night before sailing out of Miami, a fabulous Celebration Dinner was served.  The first course was a delicious stone and king crab appetizer, followed by butternut squash ravioli, a main course of either sea bass or filet mignon, and a decadent chocolate cake for dessert.   Here are my impressions of the wine pairings:

The 2011 Wedell Cellars Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley, California was presented with both the crab and the butternut squash ravioli courses.  This creamy textured Chardonnay displays ripe Golden Delicious apple and juicy Bartlett pear, a sprinkling of spice and a healthy dollop of oak that, for my palate, over powered the delicate crab dish. This wine paired better with the plush and flavorful ravioli, where the weight of the dish and the weight of the wine were well matched.

The red wine, a Duckhorn Vineyards 2012 Napa Valley Merlot, naturally paired better for those who selected the filet mignon main course.  Here is a full bodied wine promising plenty.  Tightly wound in its youth, aeration brought out deep dark blackberry and blueberry fruit, fresh tobacco, cedar and underlying spiced oak notes coating the mouth.  Well-crafted with good density and balance, firmly structured tannins, and a persistent finish; this is a cellarworthy wine.

The last wine to be poured was a lovely Domaine Carneros NV Brut Rose.  A sparkling wine reminiscent of an elegant French Champagne, this gem is absolutely delicious on its own merits.  Inviting red berry and yeast scents captivate the nose and the entry is bright and vivacious.   Biscuity notes with delicious citrus-infused strawberry and raspberry fruit and quince paste cascade onto the palate.  It displays skillful balance and a dynamic bead that persists through the long, lifted finish.  The pairing with the very sweet chocolate cake drizzled with coffee syrup was far from ideal.  This elegant sparkling wine would have paired far better with the stone & king crab appetizer.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed imbibing this impressive sparkling wine, which on its own is a perfectly satisfying dessert.

Additional wines poured in January on board the Crystal Serenity:

Goblesburger 2013 Gruner Veltliner; Kamptal, Austria:  Aromas of tree fruit and spice rise from the glass. A melding of green apple, peach, celery and white pepper notes simply delight the senses.  The pretty fruit is joined by a subtle thread of minerality weaving through the palate to the fresh, clean finish.

Matsuhisa Private Selection 2013 Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California.  A steely, minerally, resplendent wine with crisp pear and citrus flavors and razor sharp acidity; delectable.   Produced specifically for Nobu restaurants including the Crystal Serenity’s Silk Road Restaurant; sorry to say this remarkable, precisely balanced Chardonnay may not be available in the retail market.  Visit Nobu to give it a try; you can’t go wrong there, with Nobu’s exquisitely prepared cuisine.

Roederer Estate NV Brut crafted in Anderson Valley, California was featured in most cocktail lounges on board ship (and available upon request in all venues).   I find this engaging sparkling wine with its tiny bead and deft balance to be a perfectly delightful bubbly, year after year.  Floral and fresh toast aromas tickle the senses.  Crisp apple, creamy pear, orange peel and a touch of spice fill the mouth, and the lively acidity balances the juicy fruit through the lifted finish.

Vina Robles 2012 Huerhuero Vineyard Red4; Paso Robles, California: Here is a succulent blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Mourvedre.  Juicy red and black berry fruit are showcased on the nose and entry.   Black cherries, raspberries and blackberries dominate the flavor profile with accents of spice, milk chocolate and vanilla bean chiming in as the wine continues to unfold through the palate.  The tannins are supple, the texture lush, and the finish is satisfying.

Dr. Loosen 2013 Satyricus Riesling:  From Germany’s Mosel region here is a vibrant, expressive and streamlined Riesling.  It is chock full of white peach and lemon lime flavors with highlights of herbs and spice.  Love the brightness here, with a good level of acidity and unpretentious wet stone notes lingering through the gleaming finish.

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2014

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

Grand River Valley AVA in Ohio producing first class wines?  Absolutely!

The Grand River Valley AVA in Northeastern Ohio is a sub-appellation of the Lake Erie AVA.   Similar to the Mosel, Bordeaux, and AVA’s in Northern California such as Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley, the Grand River Valley appellation benefits from the thermal effects of nearby water, in this case Lake Erie. If you imagine Ohio producing wines primarily from hybrid and Native American grapes, you’re in for a surprise.  Plenty of vinifera is planted throughout this appellation.  Todd Steiner (fellow wine judge, state Enologist to the Ohio commercial wine industry, and Enology Program Manager at Ohio State University) recently provided an enlightening tour around the Grand River Valley AVA.  I was impressed with the vineyards, winemakers, and wines they are crafting.

St. Joseph Vineyards is owned by Art and Doreen Pietrzyk.  Art is the winemaker, and confirms that this AVA typically enjoys a long growing season with warm days and cool nights; perfect for Pinot Noir and other vinifera grapes.    Art and Doreen have several acres planted to Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Shiraz.  Art, who hails from the world of engineering, has done an excellent job exploring and figuring out what grape varieties are best suited for the diverse microclimate of this region. Check out their website at www.stjosephvineyard.com for further info.  Among my favorite St. Joseph Vineyards wines tasted are:

2013 Sauvignon Blanc: Expressive floral aromas awaken the senses with this lively Sauvignon Blanc aged in new French oak.  It is full bodied and well balanced with bright citrus and a touch of herbs joining crisp apple and melon notes filling the palate deliciously.   The suggestion of oak remains subtle in the background, allowing the fruit to shine.  SRP:  $20

2012 Pinot Noir: Aromas of fresh berries and a hint of earth awaken the senses with this titillating Pinot Noir.  Flooding the palate are flavors of black raspberries, pomegranate and dried cherries with exotic tea spice highlights.  This pure, precisely balanced wine boasts refined tannins and finishes with elegance.  SRP:  $40

2012 Sangiovese: Here is a well structured, jazzy wine that offers up juicy red cherry fruit at the core.  Accents of cinnamon stick, a light touch of oak, and dried cranberries add further dimension.  The tannins are well honed and the level of racy acidity pulls the package together beautifully.  SRP:  $30

2012 Shiraz: Deep, dark fruit and a trace of gaminess on the nose are mirrored on the palate, along with layers of juicy blueberries, ripe wild berries, cured meat and black pepper deliciously coating the mouth.   There is a lushness to this wine giving it a superb mouthfeel, and the juicy fruit is framed by firm tannins leading to a smooth, lengthy finish.   SRP:  $30


Ferrante Vineyards and Ristorante:    Ferrante’s current production is around 60,000 cases of wine from their estate grapes.  A family run winery, when visiting Ferrante you may meet up with Winemaker Nick Ferrante, his brother Anthony who looks after the vineyards, and sisters Carmela and Mary Jo among other family members, each who exude a vibe of both passion and joy for their business.  Nick also shared some of the challenges they have faced over the years, including a fire 20 years ago that leveled most of the vines (which they replanted), to the polar vortex that devastated the 2014 vintage.   Mother Nature can be harsh at times, but as Nick said we must put these challenges behind us and continue moving forward.  Based on the outstanding tank and barrel samples I tasted, they appear to have done so quite nicely, with their talents and creativity employed.  Their released wines were also compelling, my favorites of Ferrante wines tasted include those noted below.  Visit their website at www.ferrantewinery.com.

2012 Reserve Chardonnay:  Mouthwatering apple pie aromas waft from the glass and are echoed on the palate with accompanying notes of butterscotch, poached pear and nutmeg spice.  The creamy mouth feel is rich and velvety, offset by vibrant acidity that holds through the lingering finish.  Similar impressions on the equally lovely 2013 vintage Chard.  SRP:  $24

2013 Gruner Veltliner:  True to its variety, this Gruner packs a spirited punch with a melding of passion fruit, citrus notes, garden fresh lettuces, a dash of white pepper and a pleasant touch of herbs.  Clean and refreshing from the tasty start to the upbeat finish.  SRP  $14

2013 Signature Series Golden Bunches Dry Riesling:  A bowlful of fresh sliced white peaches greets the nose and has you begging for summertime; delectable!  River rock minerality is showcased through a palate full of juicy stone fruit, vividly accented by lime zest and splendid acidity.  The tinge of sweetness is well placed, too.  SRP:  $15

2013 Gewurztraminer:  Gorgeous floral and spicy aromas vie for your attention as you hover over the glass before the first sip.  Passion fruit and clementine flavors mingle with the lovely spice notes that dance on the palate.  This Gewurz is well balanced, snappy and pure throughout.  SRP:  $15

2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine:  Wow, intense scents of honeysuckle and pineapple get the juices flowing.  On the palate a lovely glycerol texture carries bright flavors of tangerine, sugar-dusted pineapple and honey drizzled roasted nuts, mouthwateringly delicious.  SRP:  $30


Debonne Vineyards:  winemaker Edward Trebets shares that the winery was originally founded by Anton Debevc, who purchased a fruit farm in Madison, Ohio in 1916.  In the 1960’s Anton’s son Tony Sr. expanded the vineyards.  In 1971, Tony Sr. and his son Tony began their journey as commercial winemakers.  Debonne Vineyards was launched as a winery in 1972 with the construction of a winemaking facility and enchanting Chalet.  With ~175 acres of Vinifera, French American Hybrid and Native American grapevines planted, their current production is around 80,000 cases. Visit their Website at www.debonne.com to learn more.  Among my favorites tasted at Debonne are:

2012 Chairman’s White:  This bright white wine crafted from Niagara is a tribute to Tony Debevc Sr.  This wine showcases the Niagara grape brilliantly with fresh peach and floral aromas joining candied grape flavors and a hint of citrus through the palate.  Well balanced and easy to quaff.   SRP:  $8.49

NV Moscato-Riesling:  If your palate leans to sweeter wines, try this tasty elixir.  Fruity, floral Moscato is blended with vibrant, apricot and peach scented Riesling with orange candy undertones.  The result is a richly flavored, smoothly textured sweet table wine.   SRP:  $9.99

2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine: This luscious ice wine showcases juicy stone fruit at the core, with notes of clover honey, apricot preserves and candied mango accents.  Rich and pure with a gorgeous texture and a pretty touch of peach schnapps that lingers on the lip smacking finish.  SRP:  $29.99


South River Vineyard:  To many visitors, South River Vineyard is known as the church winery, as it is housed in a century old church building.  Owner Gene Siegal was intrigued by an abandoned church he observed during a drive to Kent, and after inquiring about it, he eventually moved it piece by piece to his current site in Geneva.  It has been in operating as a winery since 2002.  Gene welcomed us to a terrific tasting of his Karma and Cab Franc wines.  Learn more about South River Vineyard at the winery’s website; www.southrivervineyard.com.  You may also want to visit Gene’s Red Eagle Distillery, another fascinating property.

My favorite South River Vineyard wines tasted include:

2013 Semillon:  A beguiling herbal aroma sets the scene for a silky entry.  The fresh palate abounds with tropical fruit, fresh apricots, lemon curd and highlights of crushed herbs.  This is a gracefully structured Semillon with racy acidity and good length.  SRP:  $17

Karma 2010:  This plush blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Cab Franc and 8% Syrah is rich and smoothly textured.  Unveiled on the palate are layers of tasty blackberries, blueberries and boysenberries accentuated by savory spice.  Pure and nicely balanced through the pleasing finish.  SRP:  $17

South River Vineyard’s second rendition of Karma 2010 is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Syrah.  Here, cherry and blueberry fruit take center stage, with exotic spices and hints of cola weaving throughout.  The acidity is lively and remains elevated from the first sip to the last drop.  SRP:  $17

2010 Cabernet Franc:  This generously fruited Cab Franc flaunts dense black cherries, wild berries and roasted green pepper notes from the expressive aromas through the bright, berry packed palate.  It is richly textured and well balanced with a finish that reveals a subtle accent of toasty oak.  SRP:  $17


NV Cask 1014:  The cask project in the Grand River Valley appellation began in 2010 with five participating vintners, using a solera type blending method to create a red blend from estate grapes.  Each year one third of the wine is taken out of the barrel for bottling and replaced with the new vintage.  I had the opportunity to taste three of the cask 1014 wines during my visit:

St. Joseph Vineyards Cask 1014:  This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc boasts juicy raspberries and blackberries with a hint of roasted green pepper and soft, silky tannins.  A precisely balanced and polished blend.

Ferrante Winery’s Cask 1014:  Crafted of Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Shiraz, this blend is full bodied and intense with good depth of spice accented red and black fruit flavors and firm tannins; a fine expression of cool climate red wine.

Debonne Vineyard’s Cask 1014, composed of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, here is a wine that delivers juicy wild berries and a touch of spice; it is smoothly textured and nicely balanced, very easy to quaff.

I hope to taste the other two Cask 1014 wines, crafted by Laurello Vineyards and Grand River Cellars Winery, very soon.


The January 2014 polar vortex (frigid air) that descended upon Ohio with subzero temperatures decimated the 2014 vintage in wine regions including the Grand River Valley AVA.  I encourage you to get out there and show support for the state of Ohio’s wine industry.  The vintners will fully appreciate it, and you’ll enjoy tasting for yourself some of the well-crafted wines coming from talented producers there!

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