Gems in My Glass . . . April 2016

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

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 No Comments

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!

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2015

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

Wine Press Northwest 2015 Platinum Judging; Gold sings, Platinum soars!

The Wine Press Northwest Platinum wine competition treats judges to a unique experience; judging wines from an elite group.  All entries in this competition secured Gold or Double Gold status in one of many  competitions previously held around the world.  Got your attention?  I’d imagine so, if seeking out well-crafted wines is on your list of favorite activities.  Here are some of the remarkable Platinum winning wines my panel had the pleasure to judge; surely you’ll find wines that trigger a must have thought in your mind!

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cuvée; Washington: This brilliant ruby hued blend, crafted of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Carménère delivers nicely ripened red and black fruit and a dash of cocoa powder to the nose. Generous in the mouth with tasty blackberries and chocolate covered cherries interlacing with savory spice, underlying oak and tea leaf accents, it simply captivates. Nicely built with well-rounded tannins and a finish that is smooth and satisfying. SRP: $32 www.wallawallavintners.com

Henry Earl Estates 2010 Homesteader; Red Mountain, Washington: The fragrant floral aroma engages the senses as this velvety textured blend of 36% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Franc and 14% Petit Verdot lifts from the glass. Fresh and lively on the palate with luscious flavors of cranberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis, anise and cigar box accents that unfold and wrap around grippy tannins. Drinking beautifully now, and the rich fruit, precise balance and structured tannins suggest it is also a good candidate for the cellar. SRP: $40 www.henryearlwine.com

Mercer Estates 2012 Sharp Sisters Red Blend; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is a plush, concentrated blend of 40% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Tempranillo and 1% Grenache that really delivers with its juicy blueberry, cola, wild raspberry, sweet plum, toffee, spice box nuances and lovely oak integration. The tannins are finely grained, and the wine shows good structure throughout. SRP: $26 www.mercerwine.com

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2011 Pentatonic; Columbia Valley, Washington: Tightly wound and layered, I appreciate how this spunky blend, composed of 68% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 14% Petit Verdot and 4% Cab Sauvignon, provocatively opens up with aeration. Red currant, blueberries, cassis and blackberries entwine with graphite, well placed oak and savory spice as it unfolds onto the palate. This sophisticated Bordeaux blend displays refined tannins, and the finish is long and gratifying. SRP: $40 www.sinclairestatevineyards.com

Eight Bells Winery 2012 Red Willow Vineyard 8 Clones Syrah; Yakima Valley, Washington: Alluring bacon fat aromas start the love affair with this complex, precisely balanced Syrah. Satin smooth in texture, with layer upon layer of juicy plums, blueberries, anise, black cherries, spice enhanced grilled meat, savory olives and minerally notes framed by powerful tannins. Deep, dark and delicious through the lengthy finish. SRP: $32 www.8bellswinery.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington: The scent of roasted coffee beans deliciously wakes you up. Rich red fruit, bittersweet chocolate and underlying toasted oak (from 22 months aging in 60% new French and American oak) swirling on the palate offer further stimulation. One glass leads to another of this silky, well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon. The sumptuous flavors linger dreamily beyond the final sip. SRP: $36 www.ste-michelle.com

Zerba Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: Fragrant violets on the nose and the classic opaque purple/black Petit Verdot hue confidently steer this gorgeous wine onto the palate. Broadening in the mouth are multiple shades of dense blackberries, wild berries and purple plums, vanilla, cedar, earthy notes and a dusting of herbs. The flavors interlace in harmony and provide a perfect counterpoint to the vibrant acidity and firm tannins. This is a powerful, delectable Petit Verdot. SRP: $45 www.zerbacellars.com

Dusted Valley Vintners 2012 Wallywood; Columbia Valley, Washington: This blend of 52% Syrah, 24% Petite Sirah, 16% Mourvédre and 8% Grenache is deeply hued and broadcasts intense berry and herbal aromas. Chock full of blackberries, plum skin, savory spice, graphite, roasted coffee and tasty highlights of cured meats that weave through from entry, through mid-palate, to the engaging and lifted finish. The dense fruit is lush, and the acids and tannins provide a firm structure; lovely. SRP:  $42 www.dustedvalley.com

Dunham Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is an irresistible Cabernet with an intense, alluring aromatic of fresh tobacco and black fruits. Well defined and complex, the focused flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plums commingle with black olive, a pinch of multi-colored peppercorns and understated toasty oak. Powerful in structure and finely balanced with a firm backbone of tannins, this gem is approachable now, and promises to be age-worthy as well. SRP: $45 www.dunhamcellars.com

Desert Wind Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Wahluke Slope, Washington: This snappy Cabernet Sauvignon opens with notes of eucalyptus, ripe berries and herbs on the nose. Round and mouth filling with oodles of sweet boysenberry jam, spiced cherry pie, tart huckleberry and a touch of roasted green bell pepper melding with earthy elements. Nicely balanced, full flavored and easy to quaff through the pleasing finish. SRP: $18 www.desertwindwinery.com

L’Ecole No. 41 Winery 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: This tantalizing Syrah offers up a handful of violets deliciously sharing the aromatic stage with dark berry fruit. Compelling and precisely balanced on the palate with roasted meat, notes of sizzling bacon, ripe blueberries, olallieberries, black plums, spiced black tea and a tinge of earthiness. This smartly crafted Syrah displays lovely purity, and the subtle oak provides a nice backdrop through the persistent finish. SRP: $36 www.lecole.com

Visit these wineries and/or their websites, or check with your favorite wine shop to pick up a bottle or two of the award winning wines from the Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging. You can also find information about additional award winners in this month’s issue of Wine Press Northwest, or the website www.winepressnw.com. Cheers!

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2015

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

Laird Family Estate 2014 Red Hen Chardonnay; Oakville, Napa Valley, California:  This lean, mineral laden Chardonnay displays enticing tree fruit and citrusy aromas.  Vivid and energizing as layers of crisp green apple, clementine, fresh herbs and a subtle touch of oak unfold deliciously on the palate.  Decant to fully appreciate, or cellar for future enjoyment. SRP:  $35 www.lairdfamilyestate.com

Laird Family Estate 2012 Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a generously fruited Pinot Noir broadcasting juicy Bing cherries, wild raspberries, black tea and spice box notes from the engaging aroma through the rich, satisfying palate.  Well balanced and mouth coating as it makes its way to the buoyant, lingering finish.  SRP:  $55 www.lairdfamilyestate.com

WineSmith Wines 2005 Mangels Ranch Reserve Syrah; Suisun Valley, California:  Floral and dark berry aromas provide a pretty introduction to this stunning Syrah.  Flavors of blueberry compote, purple plums, and huckleberries meld with earthiness, saddle leather and creamy chocolate notes.  Rich and intense with a striking backbone of tannins.  Splendid now, yet also promises many years ahead.  SRP:  $50 www.winesmithwines.com

Artesa Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Spicy aromatics wrap around fresh pear, apple skin and floral notes that delight upon entry.  Bright and bracing with Anjou pear, Honeycrisp apple, a dash of clove, and lemon-lime citrus notes that expand exquisitely on the palate and mingle with a thread of minerality and subtle oak.  Energetic and well defined through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $35 www.artesawinery.com

Artesa Winery 2012 Tempranillo; Alexander Valley, California:  Abundant black fruit and hints of spice tempt the nose with this dense yet lithe Tempranillo.  Brambly and rich on the palate with oodles of juicy boysenberries, blackberries, sweet black plums and brown spice creating a marvelous mosaic of flavors on the palate.  Full bodied and pure through the commanding, uplifted finish.  SRP:  $45 www.artesawinery.com

Trojak~Knier 2014 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  The tantalizing, flinty nose of this Burgundian style Chardonnay paves the way to a gorgeous silky entry.   Stimulating the palate are layers of creamy pear, minerality, hazelnut and flaky, buttered croissants melting in your mouth.  Focused and well balanced with spiced barrel notes and lively acidity, this wine lingers well beyond the last graceful sip.  SRP:  $44 www.trojakknier.com

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 The Expedition; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Earthy, wild blackberry notes rise temptingly from the glass as this juicy red blend approaches the nose. A blend of 34.5% Merlot, 26.6% Syrah, 24.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14.4% Grenache, here is a wine with copious fruit showcasing blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that entwine with a twist of pepper, anise and allspice.   Perky and fresh, and a great value too. SRP:  $15 www.canoeridgevineyard.com

Ayoub Wines ??? Vineyards Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Red fruit and mushroom aromas jump from the glass with this vibrant Pinot Noir.  The entry explodes with brightness and flavor.  Flavors of wild cherry, juicy strawberry, hints of pepper spice and the essence of forest floor wrap around finely grained tannins, exhilarating the palate.  Finishing with elegance; this wine shows off wonderful depth and purity.   SRP:  $55 www.ayoubwines.com

Ayoub Wines 2013 Mojo; Dundee Hills, Oregon/Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California:  This unlikely pairing of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir delivers a celebratory homerun.  Rich, full bodied and deeply structured; dark berry and graphite components of Cabernet Franc and black cherry, earthy, minerally elements of Pinot Noir mesh like a meticulously woven tapestry. Complex and precise in balance, with a memorable, lasting finish.   SRP:  $75 www.ayoubwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Afleet Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Alluring forest floor aromas draw you into this tightly wound, complex wine.  Cherries, pomegranate seeds and a suggestion of sautéed mushrooms exhilarate on entry and charm the palate, with exotic tea spice and oak nuances chiming in on the extended finish.  Velvety smooth in texture and oh so lively with vibrant fruit and acidity.   SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Hawkster Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Aromas of sun ripened cherries and a hint of fresh mint stimulate the senses as the wine approaches the nose.  Cola, a touch of earth and herbs, purple plums and sweet black cherries offset by upbeat acids saturate the palate.  A smooth, mouth filling wine that broadcasts well integrated oak and a hint of vanillin through the refined finish.  SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Stormin’ Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Decant for full enjoyment now, or cellar for couple years to fully appreciate this intense, full bodied Pinot Noir.  With aeration, it delivers savory spice, earthiness and dusty berry aromas upfront.  On the palate it is powerful and tightly structured with dark cherries, black raspberries, cardamom, anise, and firm tannins.  SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Domaine Serene 2011 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   From the cool 2011 vintage comes this impressive, zesty Pinot Noir.  Florality, dried cherry, exotic spice, earthy notes and skillfully integrated oak come together in harmony as this ethereal Burgundian style Pinot glides across the palate.  Beautifully restrained in alcohol at 13.1%, this is a chic and graceful Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $75 www.domaineserene.com

Domaine Serene 2013 Clos du Lune Vineyard Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Oregon:  From their highest elevation Chardonnay vineyard, this cellar worthy Chardonnay begs to be decanted, and you’ll be finely rewarded by decanting if you choose to open it now.  Simply exquisite in structure, texture and balance, this Chard sings with crisp green apple, lemon zest and minerality. Complex and layered, with skillfully managed oak positioned nicely in the background.  SRP:  $70 www.domaineserene.com

Domaine Serene 2012 Grand Cheval; Willamette Valley, Oregon/Walla Walla Valley, Oregon: This blend of 66% Syrah (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley) and 24% Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley) is available from the winery only and well worth seeking out.  Deep black fruit, roasted meat and bacon notes upfront are enhanced with tobacco spice, cherry licorice, savory spice and shades of oak.  Confident and full bodied, it’s a robust, intensely structured wine.  SRP:  $80 www.domaineserene.com

Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris Late; Los Carneros, California:  Incredibly aromatic, this vivacious late harvest Pinot Gris really delivers, completely satisfying the sweet tooth.  Snappy, bright and in no way cloying, layers of citrus infused poached pears, honeysuckle, caramelized nuts, gingersnaps and crème brulee notes entrance the senses from the first whiff, to the irresistible rich and lively palate, through the elevated finish.  What a way to end the night!  SRP:  $24 (375ml) www.robertsinskey.com

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2015

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

2015 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Australia, Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . May 2015

Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judgment of Geyserville II: Riesling

Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Additional wines poured in January on board the Crystal Serenity:

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

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

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

My favorite South River Vineyard wines tasted include:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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