2017 Michigan Wine Competition and Winery Visits, Part 2

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan, Tasting Notes

Noteworthy Red Wines, Rosé Wines, Fruit Wines and Dessert Wines

Part 2 of my 2017 Michigan Wine Competition and Winery Visits article focuses on noteworthy red wines, rosé wines, fruit wines and dessert wines.  Those noted are among the judges favorites at the competition, and  wines I tasted while visiting the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula AVAs after the competition concluded.  Gold and higher award notations are included for those wines entered in this year’s Michigan Wine Competition.

Rosé Wines

Chateau Fontaine 2016 Laughing Waters Rosé; Leelanau Peninsula:  This wildly expressive, well balanced dry Rosé crafted of Pinot Noir is chock full of red fruits.  Raspberry, strawberry, cherry and watermelon join tangerine accents and a dash of herbs creating a rainbow of flavors on the palate.  Lively and easy to quaff, with crisp acidity giving it lift and beautiful balance.  SRP:  $16 www.chateaufontaine.com  (Double Gold/Best of Class)

Black Star Farms 2016 Pinot Noir Blanc; Old Mission Peninsula:  The delicate pale pink tone of this engaging Rosé resulted from a direct-press right off the skins, shares Winemaker Lee Lutes.  This blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc reveals beautiful aromas, and juicy primary fruit on entry. A dazzling mouthful of strawberry, tart cherry, melon, and a splash of citrus enlivens the palate.  Exotic spice kicks in, and lingers through the persistent finish. SRP: $21 www.blackstarfarms.com (Double Gold)

Free Run Cellars 2016 Pinot Meunier Rosé; Lake Michigan Shore:  The brilliant pink sapphire hue is glittering.  Aromas and flavors of berries and spice grab your attention. In the mouth, it is fresh and provocative, with layers of red cherry, blueberry, savory spice, blanched almonds and subtle smoky nuances.  Racy acidity carries this zesty wine to a vibrant finish. SRP: $16.99  www.freeruncellars.com (Gold)

Red Wines

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery 2006 Pinot Noir; Leelanau Peninsula:  Wow, this Burgundian style Pinot Noir has aged beautifully.  The varietally spot-on aroma is absolutely mesmerizing. Multi-dimensional and refined on the palate as layers of black cherry, dried cranberry, licorice, wild mushroom, toasty oak, hints of sage, and forest floor elements unravel.  Silky in texture and precisely balanced, and the finish goes on endlessly!  www.bellagowinery.com

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery 2006 PN is likely sold out, but seek out current releases.  The spicy, earthy and elegant 2012 North Vineyard PN, the spicy, uber expressive 2013 North Vineyard PN, and the black cherry, mushroom-dusted 2012 Moreno Vineyard Reserve PN, (wines I tasted with owner/winemaker Charlie Edson) are each equally compelling, and clearly promise cellar worthiness.  I’ve tasted several vintages of Charlie’s PN over the years and continue to be impressed. Not only when the wines are released, but after many years of aging, they are exquisite. SRP:  $30 (North Vineyard 2012), $35 (North Vineyard 2013), $46 Moreno Vineyard Reserve www.bellagowinery.com

Black Star Farms 2013 Leorie Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc; Old Mission Peninsula: This sophisticated blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc broadcasts generous blueberry fruit and mocha on the nose.  Pure and complex with layers of blackberry, blueberry preserves, toffee, roasted coffee bean, and a touch of graphite.  Firmly structured and precisely balanced with firm tannins, and the aftertaste lingers long after the last sip.  This star declares cellar worthiness, too.   SRP:  $42  www.blackstarfarms.com

Mari Vineyards 2013 Bestiary Red; Old Mission Peninsula:  This exemplary red blend, crafted of 60% Blaufränkisch, 30% Zweigelt and 10% Lagrein, offers up an enticing aroma.  Seductive and well balanced in the mouth, as black cherry, blackberry, plum, dried cranberry, earthiness, and savory spice notes interlace.  Skillful aging in neutral French barrels places the understated oak perfectly in the background, and the finish is smooth and long.  SRP:  $24  www.marivineyards.com

Chateau Fontaine 2015 Woodland Red; Leelanau Peninsula:  Aromas of a warm berry pie rise from the glass as you take the first whiff of this palate pleasing dry red blend (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cab Franc, 12% Merlot and 8% Syrah).  Co-owner Dan Matthies shared that he and his wife Lucie began planting grapes in 1987.  They were the first to grow Syrah in Michigan, and the first to grow Cab Sauv in Leelanau.  This blend is round and luscious with flavors of blackberry, plum, nutmeg spice, blueberry, and earthy notes coating the mouth.  Smoothly textured with firm tannins and a gratifying finish.  SRP:  $36  www.chateaufontaine.com

Hawthorne Vineyards 2012 Bruce’s Blend Pinot Noir; Old Mission Peninsula:  This elegant Pinot Noir, aged in 60% new French oak barrels, opens with hints of violets and cherry cola on the nose.   Complex and nicely structured, it broadens on the palate with cassis, black cherry, Asian tea spices, hints of earthiness and cloves. Silky tannins and toasty oak nuances add further dimension as it makes it way to a charming finale. SRP:  $45 www.hawthornevineyards.com

Brengman Brothers 2013 Crain Hill Vineyards Right Bank; Leelanau Peninsula:  Reminiscent of an old-world style Bordeaux, this stunning blend is crafted of 75% Cab Franc and 25% Merlot.  Deep and complex with well delineated flavors of black fruit, earthiness, cassis, hints of roasted meat, tobacco, graphite and leather.  Exactly balanced with firmly structured tannins and a core of solid fruit speaks clearly to its ageworthiness.   $50 www.brengmanbrothers.com

Brengman Brothers 2015 Cabernet Franc; Leelanau Peninsula:  This 100% Cab Franc wows with its classic aromas of lead pencil shavings and cassis, and flavors march to the same tune.  In the mouth, finely grained tannins frame black currant, dark cherry, roasted red bell pepper, tart cranberry, cedar, roasted beets, graphite and crushed herbs.  Impressive depth and complexity; decant if enjoying now.   $50 www.brengmanbrothers.com

Walloon Lake Winery NV North Arm Noir; Tip of the Mitt:  Here’s a richly textured, highly aromatic dry red wine; a blend of 75% Marquette and 25% Frontenac (French American hybrids). Aromas of forest fruits waft from the glass.  This bold wine delivers delectable layers of blackberry jam, Bing cherry, fresh ground peppercorns and mushrooms to the palate, and hints of caramel linger on the finish. SRP:  $17.99 www.walloonlakewinery.com  (Double Gold/Best of Class)

Lemon Creek Winery NV Pleasant Run Red; Lake Michigan Shore:  If you favor a bit of sweetness in your red wine, this fanciful semi-dry red will please your palate!  Crafted of 80% Chambourcin and 20% Chancellor (French American hybrids), it boasts a deep purple hue and is pleasantly aromatic.  Soft and round on the palate, with bountiful ripe berries and sweet red cherries at the core accented by earth and cedar notes.   SRP:  $10 www.lemoncreekwinery.com  (Gold/Best of Class)

Fruit Wines

Chateau Grand Traverse NV Cherry Reserve; Michigan:  This decadent “port style” wine is brimming with red and black cherry aromas and flavors.  Wonderfully textured and rich on the palate, with notes of caramel, blood orange and chocolate-covered roasted coffee beans joining the dense cherry goodness.  Lovely acidity keeps this gem exactly balanced and you’ll soon be reaching for another pour.  SRP:  $19 www.cgtwines.com  (Double Gold)

Mackinaw Trail Winery NV Blueberry; Michigan:  If you are a fresh blueberry fan, put this on your shopping list!  Pure, balanced and lively, with the essence of blueberries on the nose. This wine also displays a glorious expression on the palate, as it delivers gobs of sweet blueberries, mixed-berry gelato, a touch of candied cherries, and a trace of spice.  A yummy afternoon quaff.  SRP:  $13.50 (Double Gold/Best of Class) www.mackinawtrailwinery.com

Dessert Wines

St Julian Wine Company NV Solera Cream Sherry; Lake Michigan Shore: This heavenly, potent elixir is richly textured and mouth filling, without being cloying.  So seductive is the aroma, you’ll want to linger over the glass before taking the first sip.  Savor the scrumptious tastes of butterscotch pudding with a dollop of orange zest scented whipped cream, cinnamon-dusted almonds, roasted pecans, and crème caramel. Striking acidity keeps it balanced to a T.  SRP:  $15.99  www.stjulian.com (Double Gold/Best of Class)

Black Star Farms NV Sirius Raspberry Dessert Wine; Michigan:  Crafted from estate grown raspberries and fortified with Black Star Farms grape brandy, this port style wine is seriously excellent!  The sheer deliciousness of fresh raspberries takes center stage, with accents of fig jam, orange marmalade and a drop of honey.  Warm and rich on the palate, a simply delectable dessert in a glass.    SRP:  $27.50 (375ml) www.blackstarfarms.com (Gold)

For a full list of the 2017 Michigan Wine Competition results, visit www.michiganwines.com, and for further details check out the individual winery websites.

There are now five AVA’s in Michigan.  In addition to Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula located in the northwest, you’ll find the Fennville AVA and Lake Michigan Shore AVA in the southern part of the state, and the most recently declared AVA (designated in 2016), Tip of the Mitt, located in the north central area of Michigan.  I’ve yet to visit all five, but based on the quality of wines I’ve tasted from Michigan, you can be sure I’ll be planning to so, hopefully in the not-to-distant future.  You may wish to do the same, you’ll be glad you did!

2017 Michigan Wine Competition and Winery Visits, Part l

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Michigan, Tasting Notes

Michigan hits a Grand Slam on 2016 White Wines

Judging the Michigan Wine Competition is always enlightening, this year being no exception!  A total of 380 wines were evaluated, and judges were excited about the quality of wines entered this year.  Of particular note was the significant number of Gold Medal white wines (51) sent to the Sweepstakes rounds.

My ensuing trek to the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula reinforced what was suggested at the competition; 2016 was indeed one impressive vintage in this cool climate wine region.  The sparkling and white wines noted are among the judges favorites at the competition, and wines I tasted while visiting these two picturesque AVAs after the competition concluded.  Gold and higher award notations are included for those wines entered in this year’s Michigan Wine Competition.

Sparkling Wines

Mawby NV Grace Brut Rosé; Leelanau Peninsula: Produced in the traditional method, this dazzling bubble is a blend of 98% Pinot Noir and 2% Regent (a dark-skinned hybrid grape). Aromas of fresh baked pie crust lead the way, followed by red raspberry, red cherry, wild blackberry, blood orange, and a sprinkling of spice. A brilliant thread of acidity caps off the lively, lip-smacking package.  SRP:  $23 www.lmawby.com  (Gold/Best of Class)

Mawby NV Talisman Brut, also from the Leelanau Peninsula AVA, has long been a favorite of mine.  This sparkling wine, a blend of Vignoles, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay is one I’ve followed year after year.  Opening with classic yeasty aromas on the nose, it bursts onto the palate with vibrancy.  A stream of tiny bubbles transports crisp apples, star fruit, brioche, citrus, hints of toasty oak, and blanched almonds to a lifted finish.  SRP: $37 www.lmawby.com

Black Star Farms NV Delighted; Leelanau Peninsula:  This charismatic sweet sparkling Rosé bubbly is aptly named, it will keep you delighted!  Crafted of Frontenac Gris, it’s crisp and fresh, and the sweetness is balanced by a good level of acidity.  Floral aromas drive you into the glass, and succulent strawberry, raspberry sorbet, and watermelon flavors accented by sweet Meyer lemon and a touch of spice simply dance on the palate.  SRP: $15.50 www.blackstarfarms.com (Gold)

Shady Lane Cellars 2016 Estate Sparkling Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula:  Bright and lean, this Sparkling Riesling showcases a steady stream of pinpoint bubbles and a lovely Riesling fruit profile, pleasing the eye, the nose and the palate.  Loaded with juicy sun-ripened peaches, nectarines, crisp pears, a touch of minerality, crushed herbs and lime zest, it engages from first, to last refreshing sip.  SRP:  $25 www.shadylanecellars.com

White Wines

Verterra Winery 2016 Dry Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula:  Delightfully expressive aromas and a bright entry completely wakes up the senses.  Perfectly balanced and lively as white peach, pear sorbet, lemon verbena, and wet stone minerality entwine on the palate.  Racy acidity provides a solid backbone, and the well-defined flavors extend from the moment it hits your lips, to the prolonged finale. SRP: ~$16 www.verterrawinery.com (Gold/Best of Class)

Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery NV Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay; Leelanau Peninsula:  This snappy dry white blend, crafted of 75% Pinot Grigio (2015) and 25% Chardonnay (2016), really hits the spot.  Fresh and bright with green apples, Asian pears, tropical fruits, subtle oak nuances, and lemon-lime accents enlivening the palate.  Well balanced and shimmering through the final drop.   SRP:  $14 www.bellagowinery.com (Double Gold)

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery 2016 Gewurztraminer; Leelanau Peninsula:  A stellar new world Gewurz that broadcasts a captivating floral aroma.  Energetic flavors of lychee, papaya, fresh guava juice, minerality, a touch of spice, and orange zest create a kaleidoscope of flavors from the minute this wine hits your lips.  The balance is immaculate, the mouth feel is satin smooth, and the aftertaste lingers on and on.  SRP:  $18 www.bellagowinery.com

Black Star Farms 2016 Arcturos Semi-Dry Riesling; Michigan:  The inviting aroma of fresh picked peaches and cream entrances the senses.  The palate echoes the fresh peaches on the nose, which intertwine harmoniously with nectarine, minerally notes, honeysuckle and citrus-flecked Gala apples.  Bracing acidity keeps it meticulously balanced through the polished finish, and the silky texture is divine.   SRP:  ~$18.00 www.blackstarfarms.com (Gold)

Brengman Brothers 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay; Leelanau Peninsula:  Focused and steely with razor sharp acids, this sleek Chardonnay shows off the purity of the grape.  Crisp Granny Smith apples laced with bright lemon citrus notes, beeswax, a suggestion of brioche, and honeysuckle caress the palate.  The balance is spot on, and the flavors linger well beyond the last sip.  Watch for the 2016 vintage soon to be released, it should be another beauty.  SRP:  $30  www.brengmanbrothers.com

Brengman Brothers 2013 Estate Crain Hill Vineyards Riesling Spatlese; Leelanau Peninsula:  Wet stone aromas remind me of a walk along a babbling brook.  This elegant, medium sweet Riesling is multi-layered, with nectarines, crisp pears, tree ripened peaches, and candied orange lifted by racy acidity. Lean and well balanced with a persistent, mouthwatering finish.   (Their 2016 Riesling Spatlese is not yet released.)   $24.95 www.brengmanbrothers.com (Gold)

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery 2016 Pinot Blanc; Old Mission Peninsula:  This extraordinary Pinot Blanc immediately engages the senses with its captivating aroma. Mouthwateringly delicious from the start, with passion fruit, guava, sweet tangerine, minerally notes, crisp apples and citrus blossom accents cascading onto the palate.  Fresh and fine-tuned with exacting balance and a long, memorable finish.  SRP:  $25 www.brysestate.com

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery 2016 Dry Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula:  Crisp and bright with a fine thread of minerality, this stunning Riesling displays classic cool climate Riesling.  Lean and pure with flavors of white peaches, nectarines and dried apricots harmonizing with the minerality.  A kick of citrus on the finish adds just the right touch.  Beautifully structured and balanced from start to finish.  SRP: $22 www.brysestate.com

Tabor Hill Winery 2016 Gewurztraminer; Lake Michigan Shore:  An inviting perfumed aroma greets the nose at first whiff with this thirst quenching Gewurz.  Bright, and true to variety with flavors of lychee, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, mango, and apricot preserves joining minerality and honeysuckle notes flowing across the palate.  A brilliant finish caps it off perfectly.  SRP:  ~$12 www.taborhill.com (Double Gold/Best of Class)

Chateau Fontaine 2016 Pinot Blanc; Leelanau Peninsula:  Fresh sliced pineapple aromas wafting from the glass get the juices flowing. This well-crafted Pinot Blanc is lush and layered, with banana chips, grilled pineapple, hints of toast, sautéed apple, almond paste and crushed herb accents flowing across the palate, pure and finely balanced.    SRP: $18  www.chateaufontaine.com  (Gold)

Left Foot Charley 2016 Le Caban Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula: Intense aromatics and flavors confidently proclaim Riesling here!  Stone fruit and minerality abound, with a razor sharp level of acidity that catapults this wine to great heights.  Finely structured with well delineated peach, lime-accented nectarine, Honeycrisp apple and subtle herbs, it is clear-cut and spirited all the way through.  SRP: $18  www.leftfootcharley.com (Double Gold)

Left Foot Charley 2016 OMP Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula:  Wet stone minerality on the nose lays claim to what’s in the glass.  Peach, nectarine and lemon-lime soda join minerally notes that are echoed on the palate.  The succulent fruit meets up with striking acids creating a colorful explosion of flavors on the palate; and the finish is long lasting.  SRP:  $20 www.leftfootcharley.com

Left Foot Charley Hard Cider:  I would be remiss not to mention the delicious hard ciders crafted by Winemaker/Cidermaker Bryan Ulbrich, as well.  Favorites include The Cunning Ham, a rustic, dry hard cider; Antrim County Hard Cider, a juicy and fresh hard cider with rockin’ acidity; and their spicy Cinnamon Girl Cider, that will take you back to Grandma’s warm, spiced apple pie! www.leftfootcharley.com

Hawthorne Winery 2016 Pinot Blanc; Old Mission Peninsula:  Tasting this, another magnificently crafted Pinot Blanc, got me thinking that this variety may be just as ideally suited to plant in Michigan as Riesling and other aromatic whites that stand out here.  This stylish Pinot Blanc is delicately floral on the nose, with broad flavors of Golden Delicious apples, tropical melon, hazelnuts, citrusy elements and underlying minerality.   SRP:  $18 www.hawthornevineyards.com

Chateau Grand Traverse 2016 Block Twelve Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula:  Aromas of crushed stone arouse the senses with this juicy, medium dry Riesling.  Sun ripened peaches, grapefruit, candied citrus peel and minerally notes entwine seamlessly.   Nicely weighted with zippy acidity, and refreshing crushed herbs peeking through on the engaging finish.  SRP:  $19  www.chateaugrandtraverse.com (Gold)

St. Julian Winery 2016 Braganini Reserve Traminette; Lake Michigan Shore:  Heavenly aromas of tropical fruit lead the way with this sassy semi-dry Traminette (French American hybrid). Mouthfilling flavors of melon, sweet peaches, fresh apricots, lychee, a pinch of spice, and lemon meringue pie are offset by a firm backbone of acidity.  SRP:  $14.99 www.stjulian.com  (Gold)

Shady Lane Cellars 2016 Hennessey Vineyard Pinot Gris; Leelanau Peninsula:  Winemaker Kasey Wierzba conveys that the grapes for this gem are from the southern facing slope of their estate Hennessey Vineyard. Velvety in texture and deliciously dry, it bursts with aromas and flavors of stone fruit, honeydew melon, mango and a pinch of herbs, finishing with a pleasing note of chamomile tea, a sunny, flavorful Pinot Gris.   SRP:  $16 www.shadylanecellars.com

Mari Vineyards 2016 Gruner Veltliner (pre-release tank sample); Old Mission Peninsula:  Gruner is one of my favorite white varieties, and this sample assures me I’ve found another winning example.  Zesty and fresh with classic white pepper on the nose.  On the palate, grapefruit, guava, fresh pea shoots and chamomile flavors are unveiled, with a clear thread of minerality. Aging on the lees adds texture, spice and complexity.  Already uber expressive, watch for this wine’s release, soon.  Winemaker Sean O’Keefe also crafted Sezession, the first sparkling Gruner Veltliner I have ever tasted; another superb gem!

Stay tuned for the continuation of this article:  Part 2, Noteworthy Red Wines, Rosé Wines, Fruit Wines and Dessert Wines, to be posted shortly.

Meanwhile, for a full list of the 2017 Michigan Wine Competition results, visit www.michiganwines.com, and for further details, check out the individual winery websites.

 

 

 

 

From the Depths of the Cellar

Gems in MY Glass . . .

Notable wine journalist Dan Berger, his wife Juliann, fellow wine judge Tom Bohr, his partner Etha, and I recently dug into our wine cellars and pulled out a few aged bottles to share with friends over dinner at Ca’Bianca restaurant in Santa Rosa.  Admittedly, my cellar is not nearly as deep as Dan’s, nor Tom’s, but each bottle represented had been stored in ideal conditions, a must for properly aging wines.  The wines selected from the cellars of Dan and Tom, aged for decades, included a 1970 Napa Cab Sauv, a 1975 Napa Cab Sauv, a 1970 Margaux Bordeaux, and a 1976 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany) Riesling, among others.  My mature wine contribution was a 1998 Napa Cab (a mere 18.5 years aged).  Travel vicariously with me through the years:

Freemark Abbey 1987 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  If you are one who thinks new world Chardonnay isn’t ageworthy; think again.  This elegant ~30-year-aged Chard displayed the color of a golden sunrise, and a bouquet that captured notes of honey-drizzled baked apples.  In the mouth it was velvety smooth, as layers of buttered toast, nuttiness, hints of earth, applesauce, creamy pears and citrusy accents were revealed.  The delightful finish was persistent.

Van Loben Sels 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Dan recalled this wine released at ~$12, and BV Reserve in those days was selling for ~$9 per bottle.  Imagine that!  The grapes were grown on the property across from Robert Mondavi Winery, which the Van Loben Sels’ then owned (now the site of Opus One Winery).  A pleasing earthy aroma set the stage for aged leather, spice box notes, tobacco leaf and dried currants on the palate.  Resolved tannins and nice oak nuances added further dimension.

Beaulieu Vineyard 1983 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Opened with an herbaceous aroma that led to harmonious notes of dried cherry, underbrush, orange peel, savory spice, cassis, a thread of minerality and subtle dark chocolate gracing the palate.  Fully integrated tannins and slight acids held up the mature fruit, and the pleasing finish boasted notes of toffee.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac 1970 Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux; Margaux, France:  This beautifully composed Grand Cru Classé exhibited an inviting bouquet, and incredible brightness considering its age.  Cherry, currant and dried earth melded with secondary notes of smoke and well-integrated oak, followed by tertiary flavors of saddle leather, baking spice and tobacco.  The wine finished gracefully with a touch of herbs and plenty of length.

Trimbach 1979 Cuvée Des Seigneurs De Ribeaupierre Gewurztraminer; Alsace, France:  The hue presented hints of age, and the nose offered nuttiness.  In the glass, this Gewurz showcased lovely fruit elements of lychee, honeysuckle and citrus, with a drop of honey and roasted almonds, all supported by a dynamic backbone of acidity.  The mouthfeel was silky, and the wine was nicely weighted.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr 1976 Riesling Spatlese; Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany:  Wow.  A testament to the ageworthiness of this noble grape, this vivacious Riesling was wildly expressive with floral, slate and stone fruit aromas.  Sleek with a fine acid backbone, it delivered consistent flavors of peach and apricot accented by lime zest on the palate.  Minerally with remarkable liveliness through the memorable finish.

Inglenook Winery Reserve Cask 1983 Reunion Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  This engaging Cab Sauv was sourced from Napa Valley vineyards, including plantings at the JJ Cohn Ranch.  It showcased earthiness, dried cherry, cassis, eucalyptus, cedar and savory spice elements from the satisfying aroma, through the palate, to the lifted finish.  This wine was holding its own, with the fruit at the core enveloped by soft tannins and still present acidity.

Caymus Vineyards 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California: (Dan shared that this wine was crafted by Randy Dunn, who later, in 1979, founded Dunn Vineyards). This nicely aged wine opened with smoky overtones, worn leather notes, spicy nuances of French and American oak, tobacco, cassis, plummy fruit, and dusty earth accents.  Well defined with soft tannins, nice acids, and a finish that lingered on and on.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1998 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Fresh and bright, this appealing Cab Sauv enticed me into the glass with dark fruit and spice on the nose.  Full bodied with a beautiful texture, layers of cassis, plum jam, tobacco, boysenberry, anise, and underlying oak nuances filled the palate.  Supple tannins and nice acids support the pretty fruit; still youthful.

Wendouree 2003 Shiraz Mataro; Clare Valley, South Australia:  The minty, berry aroma clearly identified sense of place with this tasty, full bodied Australian red blend.  Layers of blackberry liqueur, dark cherries, red plums, oak spice and eucalyptus flowing onto the palate were buoyed by bracing acidity.  Well-structured and velvety smooth with precise balance and a vivid finish.

These gems, some of which had been bottled before some of us reached legal drinking age, were enlightening, eye opening, and a delight to sip and pair with Ca’Bianca’s delicious cuisine.  I look forward to exploring additional ageworthy wines in years ahead.  With patience over the next decade or two, perhaps some of the bottles in my cellar will still be resting, awaiting the right time to pop the cork for tasting, reviewing and sharing!

Gems in My Glass . . . May 2017

Gems in MY Glass . . .

Moët & Chandon 2006 Dom Pérignon; Epernay, France:  Wow, the yeasty, floral aroma draws me in; easy to figure out just where in the world this came from!  Rich and complex with layers of brioche, creamy pear, apricot, notes of licorice, orange zest, minerals, a touch of spice and earthiness.  Composed of 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Chardonnay, this Champagne is precise and immaculate in balance, and the tiny bubbles are everlasting.  SRP:  $180 www.domperignon.com

Weingut Prager 2012 Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein; Wachau, Austria:  Wet stone, florality and peach notes on the nose clearly speak Riesling.  This divine Riesling is equally compelling on the palate, as green apples, peaches and apricots highlighted by bright citrus elements meld with a solid thread of minerality.  Complex, vivacious, ageworthy and simply delicious.  SRP:  ~$62  www.weingutprager.at

Fratelli Revello 2011 Vigna Giachini Barolo DOCG; Piedmont, Italy:  Dusty earth, heady flowers and dried cherries on the nose open to a beautifully distinctive and flavorful classic Barolo.  Intense and extracted as bands of blackberries, tobacco leaf, anise, dark cherries, leather and earthiness are unveiled on the palate.  Full bodied, fine-tuned and deep in structure with herbs and spice lingering on the memorable finish.  SRP:  ~$55 www.revellofratelli.com

Justin Vineyards & Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc; Central Coast, California:  Demonstrative on the nose with delightful grassy, citrus aromas.  Juicy and vibrant as grapefruit, honeydew melon and lemon verbena notes enliven the palate.   Pristinely balanced with lively acidity, this Sauvignon Blanc is as pure and refreshing as it gets!  SRP: $14.50   www.justinwine.com

Dillon Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay; Yountville, Napa Valley, California:   Here is an easy to quaff Chardonnay (aged in 33% new, 67% seasoned French oak barrels) that shows off tropical notes on the nose.  Fresh and elegant with a lovely mouth feel, it exhibits notes of warm apple tarte tartin, vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon, pineapple and spiced oak nuances.  Lively acidity offers good balance to the generous fruit.   SRP: ~$24 www.dillonvineyards.com

Dominus Estate 2012 Dominus; Napa Valley, California:  Clearly still in its youth, here is one for the cellar.  Dense, dark and complex with firm tannins, decant to open the wine up (if you choose to pop the cork now).  Multilayered with black currant, dark cherry, fresh tobacco, spice box, leather, hints of earth, savory dried herbs, and underlying oak weaving a highly-structured pattern on the palate. I envision this gem aging well for decades. SRP:  $~200 www.dominusestate.com

Dominus Estate 2014 Napanook; Napa Valley, California:  This “baby” Dominus is not to be overlooked, nor underrated.  The expressive aroma proclaims look at ME!  Approachable, yet promises to age nicely as well, it engages the senses as it rolls onto the palate with confidence and grace.  Spicy and richly textured with cassis, hints of olive paste and dark plum fruit at the core, braced by a pretty backbone of tannins and lively acidity.   SRP: ~$70 www.dominusestate.com

Concha y Toro 2011 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon; Puente Alto, Chile:  Expressive berry aromas set the stage for this delightful, well balanced Cab Sauvignon.  Boysenberry, blueberry and raspberry candy flavors join savory spice and leathery notes with a nice accent of oak.  Juicy and medium bodied with silky tannins and a nice finish that lingers beyond the final drop.  SRP:  ~$70  www.conchaytoro.com

Chateau Rieussec 2009 Premier Grand Cru Classé Sauternes; Bordeaux, France:  This Sauternes is rich and concentrated while boasting a splendid level of balancing acidity.  Interlacing flavors of fresh honey, tropical fruit, roasted pecans, caramel corn and butterscotch are lifted by tangerine highlights, and the dreamy finish keeps on going; heavenly!  SRP:  ~$75   www.lafite.com/en/the-chateaus/chateau-rieussec/

Ageworthy, Bold, Captivating and Delicious – Petite Sirah! 

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Petite Sirah, Tasting Notes

I recently attended the 5th Annual Napa Valley Petite Sirah Breakfast at Robert Biale Vineyards. Talk about a wakeup call!  A delicious spread of savory quiche, breakfast potatoes, fresh baked biscuits and multiple selections of the finest bacon around was paired with this bold, intense wine. Good Morning indeed!

Petite Sirah, also known as Durif, originated in France.  It is a cross of Syrah and the lesser known French variety, Peloursin.  I’ve been a devotee of Petite Sirah for several years, and in my opinion, it is one of the most ageworthy varieties.  I recall tasting a 1967 Foppiano Vineyards (Sonoma County) Petite Sirah in the late 90’s, and it was showing incredibly well.  Yes, that’s right – at 30 years of age!

Many of the fascinating Napa Valley Petite Sirahs I had the pleasure of sampling at this tasty event also promise years of enjoyment, into the next decade and beyond.  Here are my impressions:

Robert Biale Vineyards 2014 Palisades Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Floral and dark fruit aromas captivate, as this assertive, cellarworthy Petite Sirah approaches the nose.  On the palate, the wine exhibits impressive complexity and balance, with layers of blackberry, bittersweet chocolate, blueberry compote, anise seed, and underlying spice notes from French oak aging. It boasts a firm structure, supple tannins, and a long and memorable finish.   SRP:  $55 www.biale.com

Calder Wine Company 2014 Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California:  From organically grown vines comes this delightful, expressive Petite Sirah.  Inky in hue, it is lush, juicy and bright in the mouth, with blackberries, plums, spice, a splash of citrus, and underlying oak nuances.  Broad and intense yet elegant at the same time, with meticulous balance and fine grained tannins.  SRP:  $30  www.calderwine.com

Chase Cellars 2014 Barberis Vineyard Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  This fragrant and ageworthy Petite Sirah opens with gusto!  Well defined layers of black cherry, cranberry chutney, plum and black raspberry fruit interlace with licorice, oak spice and pleasing earthy accents.  Luxurious and round yet immaculately balanced, as approachable tannins and rockin’ acidity carry the dense fruit to an everlasting finish.  SRP:  $75 www.chasecellars.com

Frog’s Leap Winery 2014 Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California: Fresh berry fruit on the nose leads the way to a powerful display of blueberry, spiced plums, sweet huckleberries, earthiness and a subtle touch of herbs on the palate.  Oak spice (from 20% new oak) adds dimension, while firm tannins and nice acids offset the concentrated fruit; full bodied and nicely crafted.  SRP: $40  www.frogsleap.com

Switchback Ridge 2013 Peterson Family Vineyard Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  The black-purple hue sets the stage for the power and intensity of this mouth filling Petite Sirah. Enticing and confident on the nose and palate, delivering aromas and flavors of cassis, elderberry liqueur, orange-scented blackberry marmalade, mocha and savory spice. Firm tannins, depth of fruit and bright acids speak clearly about its ageworthiness.  SRP:  $60 www.switchbackridge.com

Titus Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Hints of earth and spiced berry compote rise from the glass.  This wine is smoothly textured and succulent, with flavors of marionberries, warm cherry pie, ripe plums, blackberries, spice cake, a hint of cocoa, and attractive oak accents coating the mouth.  Rich and tasty from the pleasing entry to the plush finish.   SRP:  $38 www.titusvineyards.com

Tres Sabores Winery 2012 Guarino Vineyard Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a fruit driven Petite Sirah that is far from shy.  Engaging at first whiff with red and black fruits, this on point wine expands deliciously, as spiced blackberry jam, succulent purple plums, huckleberries and hints of toast unwind on the palate.  Concentrated and deep through the persistent aftertaste.   SRP:  $45 www.tressabores.com

Stanton Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah; St. Helena, Napa Valley, California:  Deep and complex, this powerhouse opens with dark berries and floral scents.  In the mouth, layers of black plums, wild berries, a twist of fresh cracked peppercorns, and oak nuances (aged 21 months in French and American oak) join energetic acidity.  Full bodied and muscular, with a backbone of firm tannins; drink now or hold.  SRP:  $45  www.stantonvineyards.com

Salvestrin Winery 2014 Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah; St. Helena, Napa Valley, California:  This 100% Petite Sirah offers up gorgeous dark fruit aromatics.  Intense and juicy from first sip, as blackberries, melted chocolate, plum preserves, savory spice, and well-integrated oak meld in harmony.  Deftly balanced and structured with a subtle suggestion of mint on the extended finish; appealing now, with years to go.  SRP:  $49  www.salvestrinwinery.com

Neal Family Vineyards 2011 Rutherford Dust Vineyards Petite Sirah; Rutherford, Napa Valley, California:  From certified organic vineyards comes this pure, fruit driven wine that arouses the senses.  Well composed, with a velvety texture on the palate, where boysenberry, ripe plums, black cherries, vanilla bean and spiced olive tapenade interlace gloriously.  Graceful and vibrant with refined tannins. SRP:  $35 www.nealvineyards.com

Kenefick Ranch 2012 Petite Sirah; Calistoga, Napa Valley, California:  Forest fruit aromas capture the senses.  This vivid and balanced Petite Sirah, blended with 10% Merlot, broadcasts blackberries, Bing cherries, blueberries, spice, and almond paste notes. Oak treatment is perfectly managed (aged 18 months in 10% new, 90% seasoned French barrels), and the texture is satin smooth.  A long finish completes the lovely package.  SRP:  $45  www.kenefickranch.com

Priest Ranch Winery 2011 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Bright and flavorsome, this wine offers up black fruit aromas, followed by sun-kissed blackberries, raspberry jam, licorice and savory spices filling the palate.  Luscious and pure, with silky tannins, a firm structure, and finely integrated tannins.   The lively thread of acidity provides a perfect complement to the lip-smacking, dense and long-lasting fruit.  SRP:  $40  www.priestranchwines.com

Patland Estate Vineyards 2014 “D’Oro” Port style Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Here is a decadent way to cap off an evening. Concentrated flavors of boysenberry jam, roasted pecans, caramel, Kirsch, brown spices, orange zest and a trace of crushed spearmint weave a heavenly fabric across the palate.  Fortified with Germain-Robin Alambic Brandy and aged 20 months in French oak, it is opulent, multi-layered and skillfully balanced through the remarkable finish.  SRP:  $80 (375ml) www.patlandvineyards.com

Petite Sirah is grown in many appellations in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, among other areas across the country.  It is also grown outside of the USA, in countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, and South Africa.  Visit the above noted websites, schedule a visit, or check with your favorite wine merchants to pick up a few bottles to sip or cellar, and discover which wines suit your palate. Gain further information about this bold and beautiful variety, and learn about other fine producers, by visiting the Petite Sirah Advocacy Organization, P.S. I Love You website at www.psiloveyou.org.

 

 

 

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2017

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2006 Gruner Veltliner; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Seeking an ageworthy white wine?  Look no further!  I have found Reustle Prayer Rock wines to age gracefully over many years, and this is one outstanding example.  Stephen Reustle crafted this gem more than ten years ago, and it simply could not be more stunning.  Mouthwatering aromas get the juices flowing.  Elegant layers of Chamomile tea, flinty notes, honeysuckle, salinity, oyster shell minerality and subtle white pepper accents wow the palate, and the flavors linger heavenly on the persistent finish.

Garrison Creek Cellars 2011 Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a blockbuster Syrah!  Still in its youth, it is tightly wound with firmly structured tannins.  Cassis, blackberry and plum fruit meld with meaty elements, savory spice and well placed oak.  Full bodied and complex, decant if you pop the cork now, or cellar; this complex wine promises many years of enjoyment ahead.

Nicolas Feuillatte 2006 Palmes d’Or Brut; Champagne, France:  Alluring floral and citrus aromas set the stage for this gorgeous Champagne.  Titillating aromatics of brioche and fresh cut lemons waft from the glass. This complex bubble shows off a creamy mousse and flavors of fresh baked bread, citrus, quince paste and crisp apple flavors.  Exactly balanced and lively, with a pinpoint tiny bead that lasts until the final lip-smacking drop.

Dehlinger Winery 2011 Chardonnay; Russian River, California:  I’ve been drawn to Dehlinger wines for decades, and here again is a prime example of what keeps me coming back for more; the consistency and quality shows through year after year.   This is a mouth filling Chardonnay, chock full of crisp pear, spice-dusted baked apple, and Meyer lemon flavors cascading onto the palate.  A thread of minerality and precise oak management cap off the lovely package.

Concha y Toro 2004 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon; Puente Alto, Chile:  Aromas of earth and leather are entirely engaging. Gorgeous vibrancy in the mouth, with just ripe berries, wild mushrooms, roasted coffee bean, licorice and baking spices joining the earthiness that remains consistent on the palate.  Exquisite balance and depth, with beautifully resolved tannins, and the finish, well, doesn’t!

Domaine Desertaux Ferrand 2013 Cote de Nuits-Villages Les Perrieres; Burgundy, France: Flinty, earth driven aromas send you jumping into the glass.  Ethereal and flavorsome as exotic spice, fresh earth, underlying red cherry, and soft suggestions of oak unfold on the palate.  Pure, pretty and elegant with a racy spine of acidity.

Silkwood Wines 2007 Vintners Select “Satin & Silk” Petite Sirah; Stanislaus County, California; This expressive red wine is opulent and finely structured.   Aged 48 months in brand new Mireau oak (crafted in Burgundy France), it showcases magnificent oak spice. Blackberry, boysenberry, mocha, and plum jam flavors coat the mouth with highlights of orange zest, a tinge of vanilla and tobacco spice.  Deep, dark, dense and delicious.

Kosta Browne 2008 Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California: Aroma of dried rose petals and cherries delight the senses. Firmly structured, this PN is brimming with lively layers of black raspberry, wild cherry, cola, a pinch of sage, and sassafras from first sip, to mid palate, through the back palate. Full bodied and nicely structured with a touch of oak adding dimension to the long finish.

Spring Valley Vineyard 2010 Uriah Estate Bottled Red Wine; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:   Here is a spunky blend crafted of 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Malbec.  Black cherry and blackberry fruit at the core, with black licorice drop and nutmeg accents.  Oak spice from 18 months in 60% new French oak adds depth, yet stays perfectly in the background.

Prosser – the Birthplace of Washington Wine

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes

Prosser – The Birthplace of Washington Wine

Washington’s south-central city of Prosser, endearingly known as the state’s birthplace of wine, is within the American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Yakima Valley.  This AVA, established in 1983, was the very first AVA to be recognized in Washington state.  Later recognized sub AVAs, Red Mountain (2001), Rattlesnake Hills (2006) and Snipes Mountain (2009), and are contained within the Yakima Valley AVA.

Nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA (awarded the first 100-point rating for a Washington wine), established in 2005, sits just south of Yakima Valley and North of the Columbia River.  North of the Yakima Valley AVA you’ll find the Wahluke Slope AVA (gaining AVA designation in 2006), one of the warmest regions in the state.   Further north in the central part of the state is the Ancient Lakes AVA (established in 2012), one of the cooler Washington wine growing regions.   The Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs (along with Walla Walla Valley, Lake Chelan and Naches Heights AVAs) are entirely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA (established in 1984).

Three additional AVAs (wholly or partly) located in Washington are Puget Sound (located west of the Cascade Mountains, established in 1995), Columbia Gorge (located in a National Scenic Area east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, established in 2004), and Lewis-Clark Valley (situated on the border of Washington and Idaho, established in 2016).

The knowledgeable guides for Prosser Wine Network’s recent media tour created an informative excursion through this growing wine region.  Vintners, grapegrowers and winemakers exuded passion as they led us through vineyards and barrel rooms, sharing history, experiences and fine examples of their crafts.  Among noteworthy wines, my favorites included:

Daven Lore Winery 2013 Tempranillo; Snipes Mountain, Washington:   Aromas of blackberry and crème de cassis pave the way for this well-balanced Tempranillo.  Dense black fruits unwind on the palate with accents of allspice, saddle leather and hints of fresh tobacco.   Plush and tasty, it warms you right up!    SRP:  $28.50 www.davenlore.com

Daven Lore Winery 2012 Newhouse Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Snipes Mountain, Washington:  Oodles of black cherries on the nose entwine with Damson plums, wild berries, black currants, roasted coffee bean, and savory spice, creating a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  Beautifully textured with silky tannins and sweet oak nuances peeking through on the finish.    SRP:  $40  www.davenlore.com

Domanico Cellars 2013 Carmenere; Yakima Valley, Washington:  This expressive Carmenere opens with aromas of wild berries and spice.  Rich and savory on entry, it gains momentum on the palate as scrumptious flavors of clove, pepper spice and hints of toast join the lush blackberry, blueberry and red berry fruits.  Mouth filling and well balanced through the persistent aftertaste.  SRP: $40 www.domanicocellars.com

Domanico Cellars 2013 Lemberger; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Deep, dark and delicious is this spunky, full flavored Lemberger.  Generous layers of huckleberries, marionberries, fresh boysenberry jam, savory spice and shades of oak interlace and richly coat the palate.  The fine balance and smooth tannins carry the wine to a long, satisfying finish.  SRP:  $21 www.domanicocellars.com

WIT Cellars 2015 Chardonnay; Ancient Lakes, Washington:  Beautiful expression of the variety; purity of fruit in the glass!  This elegant Chardonnay is fermented in stainless steel and aged ~8 months in neutral oak.  Showcasing crisp green apple, mineral notes, lemon curd, and fresh pea shoots, it is juicy on the palate with a lovely mouth feel and vibrant finish.   SRP:  $22 www.witcellars.com

WIT Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; 98% Rattlesnake Hills/2% Wahluke Slope, Washington:  This nicely structured Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) opens with enticing aromatics and packs a punch on the palate.  Deep and complex, with focused flavors of cassis, black plum, tobacco spice, black cherry and hints of earth melding in harmony.  Approachable now with refined tannins, and promises years of ageability ahead, too.   SRP:  $50 www.witcellars.com

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Shepherds Mark; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  This well composed blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne and 20% Viognier opens with a beckoning scent of white flowers and stone fruit.  Wildly expressive on the palate with nectarine and crisp pears, lemon blossom and a striking thread of minerality.  Vibrant and refreshing with spot on acids, it finishes long, with a kick of lime zest.   SRP:  $24 www.alexandrianicolecellars.com

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Jet Black Syrah; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:   Scents of earthiness and cherry cordial drive you into the glass.  Fully engaging on the palate with layer upon layer of black cherry, loganberry, cocoa bean, anise, black pepper and dried herbs.  The underlying oak (35% new French/65% one year French barrels) adds complexity as the wine makes its way to the extended finish.    SRP:  $28  www.alexandrianicolecellars.com

Mercer Estates 2015 Culloden Vineyard Viognier; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Alluring tropical fruit aromas lure you into the glass.  Juicy and bright on the palate as flavors of cantaloupe, ripe plantains, summer melon and citrus highlights are unveiled across the palate.  A heavenly satin texture, nice acids and glorious freshness wrap up the delicious package.  SRP: $15 www.mercerwine.com

Chinook Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Citrus and fragrant floral scents pave the way to a refreshing mouthful of grapefruit and tropical melon.   Racy acids keep this gem lively, and a pretty stream of fresh picked lemon verbena creates a complementary herbaceous accent across the palate.  Sleek and zesty, with an unforgettable, mouthwatering finish.   SRP:  $18.99 www.chinookwines.com

Chinook Wines 2013 Cabernet Franc; Yakima Valley, Washington:  A radiant hue and perfumed aroma of violets and wild berries engage the senses.  On the palate, well defined flavors of black cherry, red currant, spiced raspberry chutney and an understated note of roasted bell pepper paint a masterpiece on the palate. Vivid and pure with a smooth texture, impeccable balance, and long-lasting finish. SRP:  $24.99  www.chinookwines.com

Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Traditions Sweet Katherine; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is an expressive Riesling that captures the essence of this noble grape in a sweet style (4.2% RS) without being cloying.  A generous level of acidity is ever present, keeping the wine uplifted.  Honeysuckle, juicy sweet peaches and nectarines drive the flavor profile, with a pinch of lemongrass adding a nice accent on the snappy finish.  SRP:  $12.99 www.milbrandtvineyards.com

Milbrandt Vineyards 2012 Vineyard Series Reserve Malbec; Wahluke Slope, Washington:  This powerful Malbec, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak, opens with captivating berry aromas.  Meaty notes interlace with black plums, blueberries, anise seed and savory spice.  Full flavored and complex, the firm tannins and nice acids are in perfect balance with the core of deep fruit.   The underlying oak is well placed and the aftertaste lingers forever; drink now or cellar if you can wait.  SRP:  $50  www.milbrandtvineyards.com

Gamache Vintners 2011 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Engaging floral notes waft from the glass.  This lush, well-structured Merlot is chock full of blueberry and boysenberry fruit, milk chocolate and cinnamon spice dazzling the palate from start to finish.  Rich with a beautiful velour-like texture and silky tannins; simply yummy.  SRP: $25 www.gamachevintners.com

Gamache Vineyards 2011 Heritage Collection Nicholas; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is deep, dense and delectable.   Fruit driven with black cherry, blueberry and plum at the core, it builds on the palate with added elements of fresh tobacco, cassis, vanilla bean notes.  Velvety in texture with a backbone of firm tannins, lively acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste.  SRP:  $40  www.gamachevintners.com

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2015 May Mae Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  The jewel toned color is dazzling, and as you raise the glass a lovely scent of fresh roses demands your attention.  Juicy raspberries, sweet strawberries, a hint of watermelon and tangerine notes are wrapped around a brisk spine of acidity.  Pristinely balanced, this Rose simply dances on the tongue.  SRP:  $20  www.martinezwine.com

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2011 Dominio de Martinez Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  A brilliant hue catches the eye, and dark fruit aromas entice as this well-crafted Cabernet approaches the nose.  Cassis, wild bramble berry and black plums entwine with tobacco, a touch of herbs and minerality. This gem is intense yet elegant, precise in balance, and the oak is nicely understated.  Approachable now, and cellarworthy, too.  SRP: $45 www.martinezwine.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  This robust Cabernet Sauvignon displays aromas of dark berries and leather on the nose.  Intensely flavored and complex with Bing cherries, olive tapenade, black currant, mocha and blackberries framed by firm tannins.  Muscular yet lively and expressive on the lingering, toffee scented finish.  SRP:  $32 www.ste-michelle.com

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Wine o’Clock Gewurztraminer; Lake Chelan, Washington:  This delectable and varietally spot on dry Gewurz steals the show with its rose petal and tropical fruit aroma!  Bright and perfectly balanced, it electrifies the palate.  Brimming with lychee, hints of grapefruit and passion fruit, and buoyed by a stream of bracing acidity; an irresistible quaff.  SRP:  $18 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 BDX Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon that shows off aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherry, dark plum, tinges of earth, worn leather and tobacco spice.  Multi-faceted with loads of charm, a firm structure, polished tannins and impressive length.  Drink now or hold for future enjoyment.  SRP:  $48 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

The state of Washington ranks second amidst the highest wine producing states in the USA.  There is much more than what I captured here for me (and you) to explore in Prosser.  Although time did not allow the chance to meet with all the vintners in this region, the personalities I met with, properties I visited, and the wines I tasted gave me ample reason to schedule another visit, and you should treat yourself to the same delightful opportunity!

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes

Savor your way through California’s delightful Central Coast

Heading south to Paso Robles for the 2016 Central Coast Wine Competition is always a joy, and this year is no exception.   The wines are showing beautifully, and the passion of the winemakers and vintners is palpable.  Results for this year’s competition are in!   The Best Red wine and Best of Show award went to San Marcos Creek for their 2014 Fling’s First Crush, a Grenache based blend.  Best of Class honors for sparkling wine was captured by Laetitia Vineyard & Winery for their NV Brut Cuvee.  Best Pink wine was awarded to Sexton for their 2015 Grenache Rose.  Gary and Marcy Eberle (owners of Eberle Winery) scored two Best of Class Awards, one for their 2015 Viognier (Best White Wine) and the other for their 2015 Muscat Canelli (Best Dessert Wine).

Here are my impressions of these fabulous sippers, and other Gold medal winning favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery NV Brut Cuvee; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This vivacious sparkling wine (made from 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Blanc) displays a tiny bead, and draws you in with its fragrant scent of citrus-laced stone fruit.  Flavors of crisp pears, creamy apples, and lemon zest with hints of fresh baked bread are unveiled on the palate; dazzling!  SRP: $25 www.laetitiawine.com

San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery 2014 Fling’s First Crush; Paso Robles, California:  From the enticing aroma and bright entry to the last juicy sip, this blend of 50% Grenache, 33% Zinfandel and 17% Petite Sirah is captivating.  Deeply concentrated with red raspberry, blackberry and ripe plums surrounded by all-spice and fresh cracked peppercorns.  It’s rich and mouth coating with a firm backbone of tannins, nice acids keeping it lively, and a finish that just keeps on going.  SRP:  $39  www.sanmarcoscreek.com

Eberle Winery 2015 Viognier; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a classic, gorgeous Viognier that is simply irresistible.  Aromas of delicate white flowers and a splash of citrus pave the way for a resplendent palate showcasing perfectly ripe nectarines, apricots and honeydew melon.    Hints of lemon verbena and fresh squeezed orange juice add further delight, and the wine is perfectly balanced.  SRP:  $26 www.eberlewinery.com

Sextant Wines 2015 Grenache Rosé; Paso Robles, California:  Crafted of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this seductive dry Rosé is crisp and radiant.  Strawberry, tropical melon and cranberry cocktail flavors with accents of citrus and chopped herbs enliven the palate; a lovely quaff.    SRP:  $21 www.sextantwines.com

Cinquain Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec; Paso Robles, California:  Aromas of black fruit and vanilla bean waft from the glass.  This tightly wound, complex wine offers up dense blackberry and black cherry at the core, with accents of well integrated oak, exotic coffee, and savory spice.  Beautifully structured and balanced; an extraordinary Malbec. SRP:  $60 www.cinquaincellars.com

Hearst Ranch Winery 2014 “Pico Creek” Merlot; Paso Robles, California: This smooth, finely textured Merlot (composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot) fills the palate with fresh herbs, juicy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a tasty thread of cocoa.  Shows off immaculate balance, pretty tannins, and a lifted finish. SRP:  $30  www.hearstranchwinery.com

Michael Rose Cellars 2015 Estate Bouschet Rosé; Central Coast, California:  Fragrant berry aromas draw you into this delectable Alicante Bouschet Rosé.  Lively acidity frames raspberry, blueberry, cranberry and subtle spice flavors that simply dance on the palate.  Thirst quenching, bright and elegant. SRP:  $26 www.michaelrosecellars.com

Tlo Wines 2014 Pinot Noir; Edna Valley, California:  A highly expressive Pinot Noir displaying berry and cherry cola notes at first whiff.  The palate is equally compelling with layers of sun ripened Bing cherries, fresh raspberries, a touch of spiced oak and forest floor nuances; well crafted.  SRP:  $40  www.tlowines.com

J Dusi Wines 2014 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel; Paso Robles, California: A rich and jammy mouthful! Reminiscent of a bowl brimming with juicy, ripe summer raspberries, blackberries and cranberries topped with vanilla bean scented cream.  Oh so spirited, fresh and pure, with a finish that lingers after the final sip.  SRP:  $38 www.jdusiwines.com

Brophy Clark Cellars 2014 Chardonnay; Santa Maria Valley, California: Aromas of orchard fruit and buttery croissants set the stage for a yummy mouthful of sautéed pears, pineapple, baking spices and well placed underlying oak.  Fully flavored and well balanced with a satisfying, persistent aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20   www.brophyclarkcellars.com

Eberle Winery 2015 Muscat Canelli; Paso Robles, California:  This vibrant, semi-sweet Muscat Canelli awakens the senses with a pretty floral aroma and fills the mouth with luscious flavors of gingered pears and fresh peach compote.  Striking acidity creates a beautiful balance and the finish is heavenly.  SRP: $20  www.eberlewinery.com

View all the results for the 2016 competition at www.centralcoastwinecomp.com.  For more enjoyment, spend a few days in this delightful locale to taste and purchase these award winning wines, and other delectable wines being made throughout the Central Coast wine region.

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2014 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California:  Here is a yummy dry Rose crafted with immaculate precision and purity of fruit.  The enticing aromatic draws you in, and the vibrant flavors of fresh raspberry, watermelon, lemon-lime citrus accents and touches of fresh chopped herbs entwine sumptuously.  The finish is bright and persistent.   Vintage 2014 sold out, but do not miss the newly released 2015.  It is equally compelling, and just won a Gold medal!  SRP:  $16   www.lavenderridgevineyard.com

Shadowbox Cellars 2009 Anne Katherina Vineyard Pinot Noir; Carneros, California:  I thoroughly enjoyed my last bottle of this classy 2009 vintage Pinot Noir.  Tantalizing forest floor aromas pave the way to a delicious mouthful of cherries, raspberries, exotic mushrooms, savory earth-driven spice notes and nicely managed oak (from 16 months in 45% new French oak barrels).  The wine remains beautifully balanced with good lift, and shows off a silky texture through the elegant finish.   SRP:  $56 (For the current 2012 vintage; the 2009 vintage is sold out.)  www.shadowboxcellars.com

Gramercy Cellars 2013 The Third Man; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a well-crafted red blend composed of 76% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 5% Mourvédre that captures the essence of these expressive Rhone varieties.  Black raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry and pretty spice aromas and flavors engage the senses from first intoxicating whiff.  In the mouth it is satin smooth, lively and well structured with pretty underlying oak nuances, and the finish is long and lifted.  SRP:  $42    www.gramercycellars.com

Lady Hill Winery Fons Amoris 2012 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  The alluring aroma of a fragrant cherry compote laced with herbs lifts from the glass as this remarkable Pinot Noir approaches the nose.  Elements of black cherry, cola, pomegranate and exotic tea spice really hit the mark as the wine blossoms with elegance on the palate.  Silky and well balanced with hints of anise on the memorable, earth scented finish.  SRP:  $70  www.ladyhill.net

Dehlinger Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; Russian River Valley, California:  Wow, this provocative wine has aged beautifully and still has years ahead.  Minerality, old world earthiness, black currant, plum skin, licorice and sun dried cherries create a divine kaleidoscope of flavors through the palate.  Complex with refined tannins and perfect balance, and the finish is equally impressive as it lingers on and on.  SRP: This vintage is sold out.  To be added to their mailing list for new releases visit their website: www.dehlingerwinery.com

L’Ecole No 41 2015 Chenin Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The aroma is resplendent with lovely florality and tropical fruit.  Fanning out on the palate are well defined layers of star fruit, ripe melon, honey crisp apple, juicy clementine segments, and sweet Meyer lemon notes that meld in exquisite harmony.  Lively, well balanced and vibrant from entry through last satisfying drop.  SRP: $14 www.lecole.com

Galleano Winery Old Vines House Zinfandel; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This tasty wine, offered at an incredibly reasonable price, is simply delicious.  Generous in fruit and spice, it coats the mouth with succulent blackberries, boysenberries and blueberries accented by hints of cocoa, vanilla and spice.  Perfect as an afternoon sipper, or to pair with a juicy burger hot off the grill.  SRP:  $7.75   www.galleanowinery.com

Galleano Winery Rose of Peru Sherry; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This rich elixir with a divine hue and nutty aroma is reminiscent of a fine old world Oloroso Sherry. Decadent flavors of honey roasted walnuts, dense, spicy fruit cake and candied orange peel unwind onto the palate.  The texture is velvety, the balance spot on, and the forever finish leaves you in a dreamy state of mind.  SRP:  $35 www.galleanowinery.com

Cougar Crest Winery 2009 Cougar Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla, Washington:  Setting the stage for this well built Cab Sauv you’ll find distinctive aromas of black fruits and decadent chocolate.  Multi layered with cocoa dusted boysenberry, red currant and blackberry fruit enhanced by a sprinkling of dried herbs, and savory olive tapenade notes joins in on the back palate.  Rich velvety tannins and well placed acidity shine from the initial sip through the lasting finish.    SRP:  ~$75  www.cougarcrestwinery.com

 

 

 

Judgment of Geyserville III – Scintillating Syrah

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes

Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah.  The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim.  After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued.  Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).

California

Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge:  Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma.  Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess.  Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate.   Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish.   GOLD SRP:  $45  www.drewwines.com

Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose.  This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice.  Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package.  GOLD SRP: $48 www.lagiermeredith.com

Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley:  Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff.   Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate.  This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35 www.qupe.com

Washington

Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley:  Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses.  The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents.  This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence.   GOLD SRP: $38 www.rossandrewwinery.com

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley:  Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose.   Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak.  Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley:  This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas.  On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core.  Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on.  GOLD SRP: $30 www.palenciawine.com

Oregon

Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose.  The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate.  Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste.   SILVER SRP: $29 www.abacela.com

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley:   Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah.  Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff.  Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish.    GOLD SRP:  $39 www.reustlevineyards.com

Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley:   Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose.  Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth.  Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish.  SILVER SRP: $36 www.zerbacellars.com

British Columbia

Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass.  Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate.  Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor.  SILVER SRP: $40 www.nicholvineyard.com

Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley:  This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier.  Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice.   Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries.   SILVER SRP: $39 www.vanessavineyard.com

C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley:  Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate.  Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine.   GOLD SRP: $30 www.ccjentschcellars.com

In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character.  Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews.  Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs.  In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!

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