Palate Pleasing Gems <$20

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

Looking for an affordable, easy to quaff wine? Give these a try! You can find them, and other wines to tickle your taste buds, online at www.wineinsiders.com.

Three Wine Men 2017 Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($14.99):  Ripe dark berry aromatics clearly speak Zinfandel.  Flavors of sweet plums, raspberry-filled hard candy, boysenberry preserves, subtle spice, and fresh squeezed Sunkist oranges meld, smoothly coating the mouth.  Jammy while being well balanced, it finishes fresh and clean.

Monarch Glen 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, California ($13.99):  This snappy Sauvignon Blanc, broadcasting Granny Smith apples on the nose, brims with vibrancy. On the palate, flavors of white grapefruit, kiwi, lime soda, and a suggestion of herbs join complementary acidity.  The finish is bright and uplifting.

Hayton Family 2018 Reserve Syrah, California ($15.99):  The concentrated fruity aroma of this medium bodied Syrah is inviting.  Ripe blackberries, spice-infused plum jam, and cherry-vanilla pudding cake meld on the palate. Backed by gentle tannins and a smooth texture, flavors linger through the succulent close. 

Lone Vine 2019 Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Grigio, California ($14.99):   Fresh lemon-lime scents waft from the glass.  Lemon splashed Golden Delicious apples, pear sorbet, honeycomb, and a touch of salinity unfold onto the palate. Crisp and refreshing through the lime-accented finish.

George Phillips 2017 Reserve Selection Merlot, California ($17.99): A perfumed nose of forest berries and savory spice opens the door to this fruit forward Merlot.  Round, mouth filling and nicely balanced, it shows off notes of juicy blueberries, Bing cherries, vanilla, a dash of spice, and hints of cherry red vines on the satisfying finish. 

Napa Valley’s Peju Province Winery in the Limelight

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

Napa Valley’s Peju Province Winery in the Limelight

It’s been a few years since my last visit to Peju Province Winery, which was quite delightful.  I’ve been a fan of Peju wines for more than a decade.  The current releases I recently tasted confirm the family owned winery clearly remains on track, with talented VP of Winemaking and Operations Sara Fowler, their certified organic Rutherford Estate Vineyard, and sustainably farmed Persephone and Tess vineyards in Pope Valley, and the Wappo Vineyard in Calistoga.  

Peju 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley:  The tropical aroma knocks your socks off.  Pure and varietally spot on, the grapefruit, fresh spring herbs, pineapple, guava and lime zest flavors intertwine, exhilarating the palate.   It remains bright and snappy with bracing acidity and a focused edge of minerality throughout, and the zesty finish lingers on and on. SRP:  $25

Peju 2016 Merlot, Napa Valley:  Fragrant forest berries and subtle floral notes engage the nose.  Composed of 95% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petite Sirah, it shows elegant structure and fine balance.  Layers of blueberry, blackberry, savory notes, well-integrated oak and a hint of cherry vanilla cola unfold in the mouth.  Velvety smooth from first sip through the cinnamon-laced memorable finish. SRP:  $48

Peju 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  Deep, dark black fruits and savory spice at first whiff speak clearly of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cassis, bittersweet chocolate, fresh olallieberries, black plums, a touch of tobacco and star anise entwine with skillfully managed toasty oak.  Complex with a solid backbone of tannins and balancing acidity, and the velvety texture is divine.  Decant if opening now, or hold; this gem promises years of enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $60

Peju 2015 “The Farm” red wine, Napa Valley:  This spirited blend of  80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese offers up vivid blackberry and cherry aromas and flavors.  Light on its feet and charismatic, it boasts black currant, Bing cherry, hints of dusty earth, savory notes, and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.  Easy to quaff with good depth and balance, and the finish is long, bright and fresh.  SRP:  $80

Peju 2013 Petit Trois Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley:  Wildly expressive, fresh picked cherries and crushed herbs on the nose drive you into the glass.  Vivacious and lively on the palate, where delectable layers of black raspberries, Satsuma plums, cranberries, pomegranate, graphite, and spice elements meld in harmony.  Precisely balanced and silky smooth all the way through. A delicious example of stand-alone Cabernet Franc.   SRP:  $75

Peju 2017 The Experiment Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  This tightly wound Cab Sauv is complex and deeply layered.  Aerate to release the aroma more fully if opening now, or exercise patience, this is an ageworthy wine.   Cassis, black plum, blackberry fruits at the core are accented by anise, fresh tobacco, a suggestion of leather, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and toasty nuances from aging in French, American and Hungarian new oak.  Intensely built with firm tannins and immaculate balance, and the finish is everlasting. Extraordinary, and one for the cellar!  SRP :  $110

These beautifully crafted wines give me compelling reason to visit Peju (along with sister winery Calmére Estate) and taste the additional wines offered, and you may want to include them on your “must visit” list as well.   

Cheers, and Happy New Year to all!   

Wine Press Northwest 20th Annual Platinum Judging, Part 2

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

Red wines from regions across the Great Northwest judged by my panel in the 20th annual Platinum Judging included the following Platinum (P) and Double Platinum (PP) winners:

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($32):  Feminine and elegant is this well-balanced Pinot Noir, that awakens the senses with a eucalyptus and earth driven aroma.  Savory cranberry sauce, shitake mushrooms, wild red raspberries and exotic spices engage the taste buds through the lengthy finish. (PP)

Melrose Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, OR ($28):  A delicate, light ruby hue catches the eye, and this gem blooms in the mouth.  Strawberry preserves, pomegranate seeds, earthy tones, red cherry soda entwine gently, and a touch of caramel graces the finish. (PP)

Carlton Cellars 2015 Roads End Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, OR ($45):   Violet aromas segue to a bowlful of fresh strawberries on entry.  Nicely complex, it builds gracefully on the palate with black raspberry and cherry fruit, earthiness and licorice drops, and finishes with a note of sassafras. (P)

Panther Creek Cellars 2016 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, OR ($50):  Forest floor and a whiff of dried flowers on the nose.  Red raspberries, chai tea, damp earth and wild mushrooms are framed by silky tannins and precise balancing acidity.  Finishes with verve. (P)

Cathedral Ridge Cellars 2016 Dampier Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve, Columbia Gorge, OR ($48):  The fragrant lavender aroma of this intense yet lithe wine is intoxicating.  Red berries with subtle herbs, cherry candy, spice box nuances and the essence of earth mingle deliciously. (P)

Cubanisimo Vineyards 2016 Rumba Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, OR ($25):  The black truffle aroma entices you into the glass.  Satin smooth with a rich mouthfeel, black tea, Bing cherries, and a hint of soy swirl on the palate.  Finishes with a touch of vanilla.  (P)

Left Coast Estate 2016 Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($24):  Berries and cherries on the nose are echoed on the palate with this fruit focused Pinot Noir.  Deep and fully flavored with juicy purple plums, sweet black cherries and a pinch of spice.  (PP)

Northwest Cellars 2014 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($24):  High-toned fruit shows forth on the aroma and entry.  Rich, layered and full bodied on the palate with plum, blueberry, spice box and licorice notes.  Well balanced with bright acidity and plenty of depth; a Cab lover’s Merlot. (P)

Finn Hill Winery 2015 Merveille Merlot, Columbia Valley, WA ($30): Highly aromatic, this fruit driven Merlot bursts with concentrated black fruits. A melding of forest berries, roasted green bell peppers, and mocha tantalize the palate, and the kiss of oak finishes it off in style. (P)

Milbrandt 2016 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, WA ($27):  Wow, the perfumed nose completely captivates!  Finely grained tannins support juicy blackberries and spiced blueberry preserves interlacing elegantly with accents of cocoa powder and tobacco.  Finishes with elegance.  (PP)

Market Vineyards 2012 Acquisition Cab Sauv, Red Mountain, WA ($55):  Deep, dark fruit and saddle leather on the nose engage the senses.  Intense and beautifully balanced with bright fruit, it unveils black currant, juicy plums, a hint of caramel, pipe tobacco, and underlying oak wrapped around refined tannins. 

Andrew Januik Wines 2016 Lady Hawk Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($50):  The beckoning scent of earth and fresh picked berries draws you in.  Cassis, blackberry, blueberry, and black raspberry fruits meld with savory elements, tobacco, and understated oak.   Finishes long with a twist of orange. (P)

Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2015 King’s Ransom Cab Sauvignon, Okanagan Valley, BC ($96):  Scents of fresh turned earth and ripe fruits will have you lingering over the glass.  Black raspberries, cassis, fresh tobacco leaf, black cherry and cocoa powder weave a fine tapestry of flavors. Complex with finely structured tannins and extended length; cellar worthy.  (P)

Woodward Canyon Winery Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($99): The intense, all-about-Cab nose is simply irresistible.  Cassis, fresh tobacco, spice tinged black plum chutney, hints of cedar, anise, black cherry, olive tapenade and well managed oak wow the palate.  Immaculately balanced, and the tannins are firm and taut through the lifted finish; ageworthy.  (PP)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA ($46):  The heady aromatic fills the senses with dark fruit and spice.  Delivers consistent qualities on the palate, as boysenberries, huckleberries and black currants, herbs de Provence and oak spices fill the mouth. Well-structured and balanced, with a persistent finish. (P)                                                                                            

Coyote Canyon Winery 2016 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Big John Cab Sauv, Horse Heaven Hills, WA  ($42): Tightly wound and full bodied, decant this gem for fuller enjoyment now, or hold for future rewards.  Cassis, touches of earth and graphite, wild forest berries and chopped herbs align with full on tannins and good acid structure, and the oak adds toasty spice. (P)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Louis Delsol Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewis Clark Valley, ID ($32):  Purity of fruit that shines at first whiff, and continues to impress through the palate.  Black currant, dark-skinned plums, savory olive paste, dusty earthiness and crushed tobacco leaves blend harmoniously, and the bright finish sings.  (P)

Antolin Cellars 2015 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley WA ($30):  The fruit dominant aroma presents concentrated sweet berry cobbler.   Deeply fruited in the mouth as well, with cassis liqueur and spicy  boysenberry jam filling the palate concluding with a showy finish.  (P)

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2016 “Swimmer” Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, WA ($31):  This broad shouldered Petite Sirah captures a rich red and black fruit aroma, which is echoed on the palate. Multilayers of red raspberries, savory notes, blackberry reduction sauce, and juicy blood orange combine in harmony.  (P)

Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, WA ($60):  Wildly aromatic with tantalizing mint and spice notes.  Beautifully integrated tannins, fine balance support the dense berry and plum goodness at the core, and the oak sits neatly in the background.  Bold and strong while preserving elegance and purity. (P)

Valcan Cellars 2015 Syrah, Willamette Valley, OR ($30):  Earthy notes and wild berries lead to a brilliant palate that brims with Bing cherries, red and purple huckleberries, and freshly crushed herbs.  Roasted meat notes add complexity on the lingering finale. (P)

Vanessa Vineyard 2015 Syrah, Similkameen Valley BC ($45):  Charcuterie meats on the nose join brambleberries, black plums, cinnamon spice and roasted coffee beans unraveling onto the palate.  Savory qualities continue to deliver through the satisfying finish.   (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Cuvée Syrah, Umpqua Valley, OR ($32):  Pure and deeply flavored, this Syrah opens with an inviting aroma.  Blackberries, grilled meat, well-integrated oak, a trace of smoke, and black pepper entwine, extending beyond the lifted finish. (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah; Umpqua Valley, OR ($42):  Full bodied and complex, this Syrah is tightly wound.  With aeration, layers of dark berries, black cherry, roasted meat with savory herbs begin to unwind.  Smooth as silk with a firm backbone of tannins. (P)

Colter’s Creek Winery 2017 Skookumchuck Reserve Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley, ID ($25):  This intensely built Syrah starts off with aromas of sliced, cured meats.  Lithe and nicely balanced with juicy plums, chocolaty tones, oak spice and a pinch of herbs adding complexity. (P)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Cab Franc, Columbia Valley, WA ($27):  Aromas of fresh plums and tobacco leaf on the nose.  In the mouth, pencil shavings, Damson plum preserves, espresso, cassis and spiced oak nuances are supported by approachable tannins and fine balance. (P)

Orenda Winery 2016 Cab Franc, Columbia Valley, WA ($37):  Wafting from the glass are fragranced aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon.  Raspberries, strawberry jam, pie spice, olallieberries, hints of graphite and fresh cut herbs join firm tannins and nice underlying oak through the persistent finish. (P)

Weisinger Family Winery 2016 Malbec, Rogue Valley, OR ($32):  Deep, dark and delicious is this well-structured and elegant Malbec.  Blackberry, and black cherry fruit at the core meld in harmony with accents of dark chocolate and spice.  Balanced and pure all the way through. (P)

Zerba Cellars 2016 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($45): Aromas of dark fruit and hints of toast lead the way to boysenberry jam, nutmeg spice, raspberries, and a smoky  oak underlay.  Supple and mouth coating as it heads to a smooth finish. (P) 

Rocky Pond Winery 2016 Malbec, Columbia Valley, WA ($42):  Fruit dominant from the fragrant berry aroma to the opulent blueberry, blackberry, plum flavors saturating the palate.  Nicely integrated oak, brown sugar, and a dusting of sweet herbs completes the lovely package.

Isenhower Cellars 2016 À Bloc Malbec, Columbia Valley, WA ($38):  Forest berries on the nose are mirrored on the palate.  Velvety smooth and round in the mouth, with brambleberries, tayberries and olallieberries accented by vanilla extract and fresh ground black peppercorns.  Elegance in a glass! (P)             

Structure Cellars 2017 Foundation Mourvedre, Snipes Mountain, WA ($35):  The plummy, berry aroma is engaging.  Entwining flavors of black raspberry, wild strawberry, savoriness, and a pretty smoky note delight the palate. Lush, well balanced and refined, with good length.  (P)

Cooper Ridge Vineyard 2015 Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley ($36):  Reminiscent of an old-world Rioja up front, with its earth driven nose.  The earthy elements join classic new world juicy black fruit on the palate.  Boysenberry, plum preserves, moist earth and hints of vanilla prevail all the way through the long-lasting finish. (P)

Stone River Vineyards & Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon ($28):  Irresistible floral and berry aromas lead to burst of flavors dancing across the palate.  Juicy dark-fleshed plum, fig jam, dried herbs, and a touch of vanilla meld in harmony.  (P)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, Oregon ($36):  Rich, dark-fruited aromas lift from the glass with this deeply flavored Tempranillo.  Black currant, boysenberry and fruitcake notes at the core, with a thread of exotic spice from bright start to lingering finish.  (P) 

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Winemaker’s Reserve Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley ($42):  Old world meets new world with this precisely balanced, refined wine. Rubyqueen plums, blackberry,  black currant, earthiness and tobacco join spice accents and nicely integrated oak, and the finish simply sings.  (P)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Pained Hills Tempranillo, Yakima Valley ($38):  Provocative floral aromatics guide you straight into the glass.   Expressive and bright, with layers of blackberry, marionberry, and huckleberry fruit, hints of toast and leather, and savory spice.  Elegant through the long finish.  (PP)

Dumas Station Wines 2016 Cow Catcher Red, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($24):  The aroma of a bowlful of fresh berries is engaging.  On the palate, spiced berry compote, blueberry pie, milk chocolate, black raspberries and hints of pipe tobacco coat the palate.  Fresh and lively throughout. (P)

Spangler Vineyards 2016 Claret, Southern Oregon ($28):   Fresh picked wild berry aromas and flavors on the nose and entry are bright and tasty.  Layers of huckleberry, tayberry,  graphite, and toffee flow seamlessly across the palate.  Finishes with a pinch of orange zest. (P)

Cellardoor Winery 2015 Aurora, American ($32):  This deeply structured Syrah dominant blend boasts an irresistible aroma.  A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauv and Cabernet Franc, the layers of black cherry, cassis, and black raspberry are accented by vanilla bean, allspice, and hints of warm maple bars.  Finishes on a long and savory note. (PP)

Belle Fiore Winery 2015 Estate Icon Souspire, Rogue Valley, Oregon ($37):  This firmly structured, black-fruited Syrah-dominant blend is rich while being elegant at the same time.  Lush and smooth with blackberry and  black cherry fruit joining notes of toast, black licorice drops, and hints of earth; delectable.  (P)

Brian Carter Cellars 2015 Takahashi Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($38):  Here’s a sophisticated Bordeaux-style blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Subtle eucalyptus notes on the nose pave the way for gorgeous flavors of black currant, Bing cherry, blueberry jam, nutmeg spice, a subtle roasted red pepper note, and underlying cocoa powder, well built. (PP)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Renaissance Red, Lewis-Clark Valley, ID ($23):  This blend of Malbec, Cab Franc, Syrah, Cab Sauvignon and Merlot is loaded with personality.   Intense and alluring on the nose, it kicks off with a dark berry, meaty nose.  Black cherry, blackberry, spice-scented blueberry sauce,  caramel, and toasty oak nuances meld in harmony, a delicious quaff. (P)

INTRINSIC Wine Company 2017 Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA ($22):  This well-balanced Malbec blend weaves aromas and flavors of dark plum and black cherry compote, spice box accents, raspberry jam and crushed herbs.  Round and full with supple tannins and balancing acidity, and a drop of vanilla extract shows through on the finishing sip.  

Thurston Wolfe Winery 2014 The Geologist Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($50):   This Cab Sauv based  red blend engages with its perfumed nose of violets and spice followed by a generous berry entry.  Raspberries, marionberries, hints of cocoa, a whisper of campfire smoke, and savory spice parade across the palate. Full bodied with firm tannins and a lingering finish. (P)

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2015 Rusty Red Reserve, Columbia Valley, WA ($44):  Juicy plums fill the senses with this confident red blend.  Black currant, spearmint, plum jam, a twist of mixed peppercorns, and  earthiness abound.  Firm, well defined, and smooth  through the powerful finish. (P)

Hightower Cellars 2015 Red Mountain Estate, Red Mountain, WA ($45):  Wild berries and a suggestion of flint rise as this dry red blend approaches the nose.  Dense yet lithe with berries and plums melding with savory olive tapenade and warm toast notes.  Well balanced with a trace of orange peel on the finish. (P)

Eternal Wines 2015 Eternal Passion Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($69):  Heavenly aromas open to dark berries and allspice with this 50/50 blend of Red Mountain Cab Sauv and Walla Walla Valley Syrah.  Blackberry and blueberry fruit and grilled meat join tobacco,  vanilla custard, and baking spice accents.  Complex and smooth with firm tannins and good acids; approachable now and ageworthy.  (P)

Dunham Cellars 2016 Trutina, Columbia Valley, WA ($29):  Here’s an elegant red blend composed of 45% Cab Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 3% Cab Franc.  Blueberry, black currant, and black cherry fruit at the core are framed by approachable tannins and balancing acids.   Hints of smoke and teriyaki-marinated meat notes peek through on the finish.  (P)

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2016 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Quarry Butte Red Wine; Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($26):  A deep blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot is intensely flavored and elegant.  Blackberry, huckleberry, cherry cola, pipe tobacco, and spiced fig compote create a colorful palate of flavors from start to lifted finish.  (P)

Hood Crest Winery 2016 Super Tuscan, Columbia Valley, WA ($48):  Bold aromas jump from the glass with the savory Sangiovese dominant red blend.  Layers of red cherries,  raspberries, black currants, and fresh turned earth meld harmoniously.  A fine backbone of tannins and acids support the dense fruit, and the texture is velvety smooth as it reaches an elegant finale.  (P)

Davenport Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot, Red Mountain, WA ($30):  Alluring nose of dark fruits and herbs sets the stage for this savory Petit Verdot.  Black plum and huckleberry fruit, fresh chopped herbs and nice oak integration glide across the palate, and the finish ends with a trace of orange zest. (P)

Spangler Vineyards 2014 Petit Verdot, Oregon ($35):  Aromas of black and purple berries on the nose.  Intensely built with dense purple plum, blackberry and sweet blueberry notes cascading upon the palate.  Well balanced and full bodied, with a nice backbone of chalky tannins. (P)

Mercer Estate Winery 2015 Petit Verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($30):  Bright and sassy is this rich and smooth Petit Verdot.  Brimming with boysenberry and huckleberry fruits, hints of vanilla, tobacco and dried herbs in the mouth. Precisely balanced and juicy, with blood orange accents lifting the finish.  (P)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carmenere, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($32):   Boysenberry pie on the nose fully engages the senses.  Bright and lively with raspberries, crushed boysenberries, strawberry sorbet, and fresh chopped herbs.  Precisely balance and pure through the long-lasting finish. (P)

Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging Unveils the Best of the Best in the Great Northwest, Part 1

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

Wine Press Northwest magazine’s Platinum Judging wine competition stimulates the palates of professional wine judges year after year.  Wines achieving Gold and higher awards within the prior year vie for Platinum honors.

Favorite White and Rosé wines from my panel in this 20th annual Platinum Judging included the following Platinum (P) and Double Platinum (PP) winners: 

Trella Vineyards 2016 Gewurztraminer, Southern Oregon ($24):  Fragrant florals on the nose.  Vivid layers of lychee, spiced tisane, honeysuckle nectar and orange zest are transported across the palate with brisk acidity and underlying notes of salinity.  A bright clementine note pops on the finish. (P)

50th Parallel Estate Winery 2018 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($20):   This zesty Gewurz offer up kiwi and lemon on the nose.  A colorful display of tart and sweet lemon drops, kiwi, lychee jelly, fruit cocktail, and candied pastilles unfold and remain bright and vivid through the close. (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Green Lizard Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, OR ($32):  Wildly aromatic with a lively entry, this vivacious Gruner is classic.  Elements of stone fruit, white pepper, fresh harvested snap peas, lemon grass, and chamomile paint a brilliant explosion of aromas and flavors on the palate.  Finely balanced and the finish is long and exhilarating. (P)

Trella Vineyards 2018 Gruner Veltliner, Southern Oregon ($29):    Expressive stone fruit and citrus aromas speak clearly to the variety, and the entry is vibrant and fresh.  Flavors of nectarine, apple skin, Ruby grapefruit, citrus blossom, and a hint of white pepper are well defined, and the lingering finish is uplifting.  (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Estate Cuvee Hefeabzug Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, OR ($26):  Minerally notes at first whiff stay present through the silky palate.  Granny Smith apple, white pepper, star fruit and lemon verbena notes are enlivening, and lead to a finish that keeps on delivering long after the last sip.  (P)

Carlton Cellars 2017 Auxerrois, Yamhill Carlton ($22):  This exuberant Auxerrois is refreshing and full of flavor.  Juicy summer sweet nectarines, lemon-lime soda, apple blossom and oyster shell salinity merge gracefully on the palate.  Lovely acidity and a satin-like texture carry it to a bright finish. (P)

Gehringer Brothers Estate 2018 Old Vines Auxerrois, Golden Mile Bench, BC Canada ($14):   This crisp and mouthwatering Auxerrois shows a touch of florals on the nose.  The entry is vivacious, and the wine builds on the palate as citrus fruits, white peach, a touch of lemon verbena, and a thread of minerality meld in harmony all the way through. (P)

Gehringer Brothers Estate 2018 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley, BC Canada ($14):  The expressive, fragrant aroma of this white wine (a grape of German origin) drives you into the glass.  Juicy, bright and fresh with flavors of crisp pear, lime sorbet, star fruit, and lemon LifeSavers invigorating the palate. Finishes with verve.  (P)

Iris Vineyards 2015 Chalice Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, OR ($25):  The brilliant hue is eye opening, and a stone fruit aroma lead to notes of fresh pear, kiwi and buttered toast.   Herbs and lemon curd complement the pear notes on the palate, and citrus highlights lift the long finish. (P)

Cougar Crest Estate 2017 Albariño, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($24):  Shimmering with electricity this wine really lights up the palate.  Steely and bright with tropical fruit, lime zest and bracing acidity, and a thread of minerality holds through the vivacious finish. (P)

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard 2018 Signature Series Albariño, Red Mountain, WA ($28): Hints of minerality join white fruits engaging the nose up front. Star fruit, key lime pie, fresh apricots and mandarin orange interlace and lead to a finale that is long and lifted. (P)

Thurston Wolfe Winery 2018 Crawford Vineyard Albariño, Yakima Valley, WA ($18):  Juicy and full of energy from the fresh cut apple aroma, to the sweet Meyer lemon, Macintosh apples, hints of lychee and brilliant acidity decorating the palate, to the perky finish. (P)

Coyote Canyon Winery 2018 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($20):   Fresh and very aromatic with florals and citrus on the nose.  Sun-kissed crushed pineapple, chopped herbs, lemon sorbet, and poached pear join brisk acidity, and the wine concludes with a refreshing tangy note. (P)

Intrigue Wines 2018 “Social Sparkling” Okanagan Valley, BC ($17):  The perfumed nose of rose petals gets the party started.  Crisp apple, honeysuckle, pear and candied orange peel align with racy acidity, tickling the taste buds through the lively last sip. (P)

Cooper Ridge Vineyard NV Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Riesling, Umpqua Valley, OR ($29):  Inviting peaches and white flowers on the nose.  A lively bead carries peach sorbet, summer fresh nectarines, citrus accents and lovely minerality across the palate.  Refreshing and well balanced with extended length. (P)

Cave B Estate Winery 2018 Cave B Vineyard Cuvée Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, WA ($27):  Striking citrus and tree fruit aromas engage the senses with this Sauv Blanc dominant blend.  Crisp and bright with interlinking layers of pear, grapefruit, fresh chopped herbs and orange zest.  Rocking acidity keeps it vibrant through the last drop.  (PP)

Cliff Creek Cellars 2018 White White Wine, Southern OR ($22):  Aromas of stone fruit rise from the glass with this Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier blend.  Vivid flavors of peaches and nectarines on entry meld with apple skin and minerality mid palate, and the balancing acidity rocks.  Citrus notes peek through on the refreshing finish.  (P)

Martinez & Martinez 2017 Viognier, Yakima Valley, WA ($18):  Hints of peach tantalize the nose, and a burst of citrus explodes with vibrancy when this gem greets the lips.  Layers of pomelo, pink grapefruit, white peach and a sprinkle of fresh herbs are carried by crisp acidity.  The finish is tangy and bright. (P)

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2017 “Lighthouse” Riesling, Yakima Valley, WA ($27):  Tropical fruits with a touch of wet stone engage the nose.  Fresh peaches, guava, lime zest, a light touch of tarragon, and a clear thread of minerality flow across the palate with bracing acidity.  Bright and enlivening all the way through.  (P)

Ancestry Cellars 2017 Reminiscence Riesling, Columbia Gorge, OR ($20):  Wet stone on the nose speaks vociferously to varietal correctness, and the flavor profile lines up equally well.  Petrol, grilled peaches, sugared lime peel, green apples and minerally tones create a brilliant kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  Finishes with impressive length and energy. (PP)

Whidbey Island Winery 2018 Rosato, Yakima Valley, WA ($15):  This well-balanced dry rosé crafted of Sangiovese and other Italian varieties shows off a beautifully expressive rose garden aroma.  Juicy and bright on the palate as peach, strawberry and melon flavors interlace with lively acidity. (P)

Puffin Wines 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($22): A crystal clear rosy pink hue captures the eye, and the aroma is alluring.  Sweetheart cherry, raspberry sorbet, and watermelon flavors are accented by bright citrusy notes. Well balanced with a snappy and refreshing finish. (P)

Locus Wines 2018 vintage 7 Mile Rosé, Rattlesnake Hills, WA ($15):  This sunny blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault opens with a dusty berry aroma.  Multi-layered and vivacious as raspberries, rambutan, orange blossom and lemon verbena flavors harmonize through the finish. (P)

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2019

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

While judging the beautifully executed Oregon Wine Experience wine competition, one of our excursions was an exhilirating Hellgate Jetboat ride on the Rogue River.  During our delicious lunch on the bank of the river we had the opportunity to taste a variety of additional Oregon wines.  Here are some excellent whites we tasted that I highly recommend:

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2017 Albarino; Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon ($24):  The engaging aroma of fresh citrus captures the nose.  Bright and minerally up front, this gem explodes with flavor.  Melon, lemon grass, juicy nectarine, citrus blossom and subtle salinity light up the palate.  Striking acidity pulls it all together through the lively finish. www.sfvineyards.com

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc; Umpqua Valley ($20):  Here’s a gloriously expressive Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of fresh summer grasses.  Tropical fruit, a suggestion of hay, and lemon-lime accents enliven the palate.  The contribution of neutral French oak gives it a fuller mouthfeel, and the bracing acids keep it lively and well balanced.  www.brandborgwine.com

Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2017 Broken Boulder Vineyards Pinot Noir Blanc; Columbia Gorge ($32):  Aromas of fresh tree fruits and a hint of spice is engaging at first whiff. Crisp and juicy with flavors of Asian pear, citrus blossom, Rainier cherries and subtle ginger notes harmonizing on the palate.  Smoothly textured and well balanced all the way through.   www.staveandstone.com

Quady North 2017 Pistoleta; Southern Oregon ($20):   Aromas of a bowlful of fresh-sliced stone fruits wafts from the glass, fully engaging the senses.  Vivacious flavors of nectarine, peach, lime soda, and star fruit burst onto the palate, supported by rocking acidity and a solid thread of minerality.  The zesty finish is uplifting and long-lasting.    www.quadynorth.com

Carlton Cellars 2017  Auxerrois; Yamhill-Carlton ($18):  This jazzy dry white wine is full of flavor and personality.  Scents of a summer floral bouquet lead to layers of Oro Blanco grapefruit, Bartlett pear, almond paste, lemon tisane, quince, and minerally notes melding in harmony on the palate.  Focused and finely balanced with a persistent finish.  www.carltoncellars.com

AWEN Winecraft 2017 Grenache Blanc; Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon ($30):   Notes homemade applesauce greet the nose with this full-bodied dry white wine.  Coating the mouth are focused flavors of Granny Smith apple, tropical melon, mandarin orange, a hint of toast, minerality, and a subtle anise note.  Nicely balanced with a silky texture, and plenty of length.   www.awenwinecraft.com

Cheers!

Southern Highlands, Australia

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

While cruising aboard the Crystal Serenity on the 2018 World Cruise voyage, we had the opportunity to visit the Southern Highlands wine region, located in New South Wales, Australia (120 kilometers southwest of Sydney).   There are 12 wineries and 52 registered vineyards situated here, in this relatively cool climate, high altitude region.  Time allowed for Ken and me to visit three wineries during our stop in Sydney this month, accompanied by wine aficionado and fellow cruiser, David Smith.  Ken braved the driving, which offered a few challenges!  For one, getting used to steering wheel on the opposite side of the car, and two, driving on the opposite side of the road compared to our norm, but all went well.  In this region we met delightful and passionate vintners, and discovered several nicely crafted wines.

Centennial Vineyards has vineyards reaching to 760m in altitude.  More than 80 acres are planted to vinifera grapes.  Winemaker Tony Cosgriff produces both sparkling and still wines.  Their Cellar Door is open to visitors for tasting seven days a week.  Nat greeted us with a warm welcome upon our arrival, and she provided us with a excellent introduction to the winery.  They market their wines all around Australia, as well as export to the USA, Singapore, Korea, China and Denmark. Below were among my favorites here.  Learn more at their website:  www.centennial.net.au

Centennial Vineyards Blanc de Noir:  This fruit driven, well balanced wine is crafted from 100% Pinot Noir.  Red fruits on the nose are inviting.  Tickling the taste buds are flavors of Rainier cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit linking with fresh lemon and lime accents, a tinge of pie crust, and a lovely touch of spice.  A stream of tiny bubbles carries the wine to a bright and refreshing finish.  SRP:  $39.99

Centennial Vineyards 2016 ”116” Road Block Riesling:   Alluring wet stone aromas speak clearly of Riesling as this wine approaches the nose.   In the mouth, white peach, crisp green apple, lemon verbena and a thread of minerality decorate the palate.  Crisp, dry and well balanced with zippy acidity, it delights through the lingering finish.  SRP: $24.99

Centennial Vineyards 2015 Road Block Savagnin: A beautiful example of Savagnin, a grape more widely grown in the Jura region of France (a unique variety, not to be confused with the Sauvignon Blanc grape).  This finely tuned Savagnin was fermented 96% in seasoned French oak, and 4% in new oak.  It displays an attractive leesy, pastry dough aroma.  In the mouth it is vivacious, with flavors of lemon gelato, ripe pear, guava, dried apricot, and lime zest and a hint of spice.  Underlying oak is well placed in the background; delicious.     SRP:  $21.99

Tertini Wines is focused on producing premium, cool climate wines.  They grow and produce a number of varieties including Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Arneis, Nebbiolo, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.   Their Cellar Door is open for tasting seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm.  We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated our time spent with talented Viticulturist and Winemaker Jonathan Holgate.  Jonathan holds a BSc degree in Wine Science, and has been crafting wines at Tertini since the 2008 vintage.  Grapes are hand pruned and hand-picked, with a focus on harvesting the best natural flavors from the vineyards.  These below were among my favorites.  Visit their website for more info:  www.tertiniwines.com.au

Tertini Wines 2016 Arneis:  Enticingly aromatic, this snappy Arneis (a grape that originated in Piedmont, Italy) is barrel fermented.  Stone fruit on the nose is mirrored on the palate from the moment of entry.  White peaches, nectarines and creamy pear join lemon-lime notes and blanched almonds, creating a masterpiece on the palate.  Rich, expressive and texturally pleasing, with a racy level of acidity through the bright, memorable finish. SRP:  $38

Tertini Wines 2016 PCC Chardonnay:  This private cellar collection, barrel fermented Chard, from their Yarraandoo vineyard, opens with tree fruits on the nose.   Juicy peaches, red apples, lively lemon and orange citrus accents intertwine with well-integrated oak (from new and seasoned barrel aging).  Still in its youth, this wine displays excellent depth of fruit and complexity.  Approachable now, and I see years of enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $48

Tertini Wines 2015 Pinot Noir:  The delicate hue and earthy aroma could not please me more, it clearly shouts out Pinot Noir.    Sourced from their “Yaaandoo” vineyard, this gem greets the nose with captivating earthy, cherry aromas.  Red cherry compote, raspberry, dried strawberry, earthy elements and exotic spices entwine as the wine flows seamlessly across the palate.  Elegant and beautifully balanced, it boasts a silky texture, refined tannins, and a finish that persists well beyond the last drop.  SRP:  $48

Artemis Wines is a family owned winery.  Winemaking brothers Anton and Mark Balog began making wine in this region in 1996.  They were the third winery to plant Pinot Noir in this region.  They also produce hard cider and mead.  Artemis is open for tasting Wednesday through Sunday and holidays.  They, too, appreciate the cool climate, and high elevation of their site in the Southern Highlands (their vineyards sit at 660 meters).  My favorites here are included below.  More details can be found on their website:  www.artemiswines.com.au

Artemis Wines 2016 Pinot Grigio:  Expressive aromas of stone fruit and a touch of herbs at first whiff.  Peaches, nectarines, green apple, citrusy notes, hints of ginger and oyster shell salinity weave a nice tapestry of flavors on the palate.  Crisp acids complement the bright fruit, keeping it lively and balanced.   Aging in neutral Hungarian oak gives it a pleasing roundness mid palate, and the finish is vivid.   SRP:  $20

Artemis Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc:   An engaging citrus aroma sets the stage for this vivacious Sauvignon Blanc.  It is a brilliant rendition of this variety, with its layers of passion fruit, lemon drops, grapefruit and fresh cut spring grasses.  The racy acidity is divine, and the wine displays lovely purity.  Streamlined and thirst quenching from first sip to everlasting final one.  SRP:  $25

Artemis Wines 2015 Close Vine Pinot Noir:   The alluring aroma takes you to a walk in the forest with its earthiness.  On the palate it is offers up flavors of wild strawberries, black cherries, pomegranate seeds, bay leaf and black tea notes.  Pretty oak nuances (from aging in 70% French and 30% Hungarian oak barrels) are well placed.  Smoothly textured and fresh through the lifted finish.  SRP:  $45

If your plans take you to Sydney, Australia, don’t miss the chance to visit the Southern Highlands wine region and discover your favorites.  I certainly plan to return to the region, and spend more time here!

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/

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