Gems in My Glass . . . October 2014

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

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

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

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery; www.bellago.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L. Mawby Winery; www.lmawby.com

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

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

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

Shady Lane Cellars; www.shadylanecellars.com

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

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

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

Brengman Brothers Crain Hill Vineyards; www.brengmanbrothers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2014

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

Willamette Valley Shines Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archery Summit Estate (www.archerysummit.com)

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

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

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

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

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

Ponzi Vineyards (www.ponziwines.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2014

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

2014 Mid American Wine Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Charles Krug Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

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

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

Corley Family Napa Valley 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

 Louer Family Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Taplin Cellars 2009 Taplin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Parry Cellars 2010 Parry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Pellet Estate 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Ehlers Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

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

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

Raymond Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Titus Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel

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

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

Robert Biale Vineyards 2010 Thomann Station Petite Sirah

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

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

St. Helena Winery 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Sequum 2009 Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2014

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

Monterey Wine Competition 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2014

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

A taste of South Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2014

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

Sbragia Family Winery 2009 Home Ranch Chardonnay; Dry Creek Valley, California: Aged in 50% new and 50% used French oak, this inviting, rich chardonnay showcases fresh stone fruit and spicy aromas which lead to flavors of tree ripened white peaches and fig compote upon entry. Expansive, balanced and full bodied on the palate with vanilla spice and butterscotch highlights joining the decadent fruit at the core. This gem finishes beautifully with good length and pretty, well integrated oak notes. SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

Sbragia Family Winery 2011 Gino’s Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California: Whoa! Hold on for a scrumptious fruit focused, spice laden mouthful of pure goodness in the glass. Here is a stylish Zin boasting earthy, spicy elements interlacing with bright raspberry, black cherry and blackberry flavors that drench the palate lavishly. Candied berry and vanilla notes chime in on the succulent, satisfying finish; more please! SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

Sbragia Family Winery 2009 Home Ranch Merlot; Dry Creek Valley, California: A touch of Cab Franc (5%) was blended into this delectable Merlot that is chock full of blueberries, plums and spice. Nicely weighted and structured with floral notes joining the savory spice-accented fruit that richly fills the mouth. The balance is precise and the vibrant acidity really enlivens the palate. Deliciously pure with well integrated tannins and a finish that is long and memorable, a very classy wine. SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

La Folia 2011 Sangiovese; Sierra Foothills, California: Inviting aromas of red fruit, cedar and floral notes greet the nose. The entry is juicy with its bright red cherry, strawberry, and cranberry flavors accented by a sprinkling of dried herbs. The enticing flavors broaden further on the mid palate, interweaving with subtle vanilla and oak notes. This wine is streamlined and pure with a graceful sway about it; finishing bright and clean. A very impressive new world Sangiovese. SRP: $32 www.lafoliawine.com

Carol Shelton 2011 Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel; Mendocino, California: This aptly named Zinfandel is a delectable blend of 77% Old Vine Zin, 9% Old Vine Carignane, 8% Primitivo, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Syrah, 1% Barbera and 1% Petite Sirah that will knock your socks off! Concentrated flavors of brambleberry, blackberry and blueberry interweave through the palate with allspice and vanilla bean notes that keep delivering through the persistent lip-smacking finish. SRP: $19 www.carolshelton.com

DeLorimier Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; Smith Orchard, Dry Creek Valley, California: Enticing dark fruit aromas rise from the glass with this complex Cab Sauv that was aged 30 months in French oak. Expanding broadly on the palate are layers of cassis, blueberry, licorice, earthy, forresty notes and subtle oak overtones that meld together in harmony. Precisely balanced with velvety tannins, this wine drinks well now and also promises ageworthiness. SRP: $30 www.delorimierwinery.com

Peche Merle Winery 2010 Cuccio Vineyard Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California; That classic Dry Creek Valley spiciness oozes out of the glass before you even get the wine to your lips, simply devine. The juicy boysenberries and black cherries at the core are accented deliciously by the alluring spice elements, and subtle, well placed oak notes add another dimension. A nicely crafted Zin that is enchanting from the tantalizing first taste to the long, lingering finish. SRP: $29 www.pechmerlewinery.com

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2013 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California: The brilliant hue of this sassy Grenache Rose dazzles the eye, and as the glass approaches your nose the gloriously expressive aromatic will have you fully captivated before your first sip! Fresh strawberry, raspberry and ripe watermelon flavors with a hint of spice interlace gracefully on the palate and the acidity keeps it vibrant and impeccably balanced, wow. SRP: $16 www.lavenderridgevineyard.com

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2013

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

Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay; Gold Ridge Hills, Sonoma Coast, California:  Here is a charming, well-crafted Burgundian style Chardonnay.  Crisp green apple and subtle toasty notes enchant the nose.  Layers of minerals and savory spice join apple and sauteed pear notes all converging in harmony on the palate.  The structure is regal and elegant, and the creamy texture and bright acidity persist  through the lively finish.  SRP:  $30; www.sonomacoastvineyards.com

Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2009 Balistreri Vineyard Pinot Noir; Sonoma Coast, California:  Aromas and flavors of violets, black cherries, wild mushrooms and exotic spice notes intoxicate the senses with this impressive, mineral laden Pinot Noir.  Reminiscent of a French Volnay, it is complex and impeccably balanced, finishing with beautiful lift and purity of flavors.  Drink now or cellar; I expect this finely structured wine to age well for several years.   SRP:  $75    www.sonomacoastvineyards.com

Frecciarossa 2011 Gli Orti Oltrepo Pavese, Riesling; Lombardy, Italy:   Riesling is a vibrant, expressive wine made in many regions around the world.  This is the first I have tasted from the Lombardy region and it is captivating.  The fruit and wet stone aromatics draw you into the glass.  Unfolding on the palate are white peach and hints of apple surrounded accents of minerals, lime peel and a touch of herbs.  A refreshingly crisp dry Riesling.   SRP:  ~$22  www.frecciarossa.com

Copain Wines 2011 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  The dazzling dark pink jeweled hue and engaging spicy nose pave the way for this delectable, palate pleasing wine.  Earthy notes weave through juicy red cherry, raspberry, savory spice and sweet oak nuances.  This nicely crafted Pinot Noir is smooth, well balanced and deliciously easy to quaff.  SRP:  $28 www.copainwines.com

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004 Brut Rose; Reims, France:  Popping the cork on this Champagne IS the celebration, no need to wait for a special occasion.  Revel in the eye catching tiny persistent bead that tickles the nose and palate with verve.  This impressively structured Champagne displays layers of freshly baked bread, quince paste, crisp apples, citrus accents, roasted nuts and minerality that fill the palate expansively.  The quintessential yeasty quality persists from first sip through the lifted, forever finish.  SRP:  ~$125 www.veuve-clicquot.com

Marqués de Riscal 2007 Rioja Reserva; Spain:  This delightful wine, made primarily of Tempranillo (with a bit of Graciano and Mazuelo blended in) is harvested from 15 year old vines.  The entry is vivid and juicy, and broadens on the palate with red plums, sweet raspberries and black cherries melding with pretty dried herb notes carrying nicely through the finish.  Aged in American oak, the vanilla and hints of toasted coconut are apparent but not over the top; well integrated.  SRP:  ~$18    www.marquesderiscal.com

David Fulton Winery 2003 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Densely packed aromas of black plums and berries wake up the senses with this superbly aged Petite Sirah.  On the palate a plush, concentrated blast of blackberry, plum, fig jam, and pepper spice interweave with a thread of cocoa exploding with brightness and density.  Rich, viscous and powerfully built with firmly structured tannins; lovely now and still has years ahead to be savored.  SRP: ~$40  www.davidfultonwinery.com

El Huique Patio Portio; NV Vino Dulce Licoroso, Colchagua Valley, Chile:  I discovered this gem five years ago while visiting vineyards and wine producers throughout the Colchagua Valley.  The Cabernet Franc vineyard from which this velvety dessert wine is crafted is located on the patio of the El Huique property (hence the name Patio Porto).  Alluring aromas draw you in, and the dark, rich black cherry, boysenberry, candied nuts, mocha and sweet oak spice flavors unite on the palate with pure elegance.  Smoothly textured with lovely acidity offsetting the delicious sweetness.    SRP:  ~$45  www.elhuique.com

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2013

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

Wineries and winemakers in the Willamette Valley continue to broaden their offerings of stunning Pinot Noir from vineyards across this American Viticultural Area. It is no surprise that Oregon’s Willamette Valley  is one of the world’s top regions for this highly sought after variety.  During my last visit it became clear that Pinot Noir is not the only variety that shines here.  A few of my recent favorites include:

Ayoub Wines 2012 Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:   Aromas of baked apple, fresh flowers and a touch of spice entice the nose with this complex and richly textured Chardonnay.  Layers of minerality, fresh sliced apples, quince paste, a dash of butterscotch and well integrated oak unravel harmoniously through the palate and the lively acidity keeps the wine bright and balanced through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $48; www.ayoubwines.com

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2010 Tualatin Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  A highly expressive Burgundian style pinot noir that opens with earthy, dark cherry aromas titillating the senses.  On the palate, the silky smooth texture glides across the palate delivering delicious flavors of mushroom, black cherry, exotic tea spices and a nice thread of dried herb accents.  Compelling in its elegance and purity.  SRP:  $45; www.wvv.com

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Glorious aromatics of fresh white flowers and lemon zest rise from the glass – you can’t wet your lips fast enough!  Filling the mouth are dazzling flavors of citrus adorned pear and apple, a touch of honeysuckle, and a subtle dusting of herbs.  Razor sharp acidity keeps the wine lifted and bright throughout; an absolutely stunning Pinot Gris.  SRP:  $16  www.wvv.com

Cristom Vineyards 2011 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   Forest floor nuances rise from the glass and lead to a juicy, rich mouth full of anise spice, sweet red cherries, sautéed mushrooms, earthy notes and a splash of cola peeking through on the persistent, satisfying finish. Lively throughout with precise balance and nicely integrated tannins.  SRP:  $30 www.cristomwines.com

Bethel Heights Vineyard 2011 Riesling; Willamette Valley, Oregon:    this elegant Riesling opens with river rock and floral aromas that mesh seamlessly with the minerally notes and a hint of fresh cut herbs framing stone fruit at the core.   Bright and snappy with its racy acidity, this vibrant wine would pair nicely with shell fish, turkey or fresh sole.  SRP:  $18; www.bethelheights.com

Soter Vineyards 2011 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir; Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Tightly wound up front, give this single vineyard Pinot Noir time to open up and you’ll be handsomely rewarded!   Alluring cherry fruit and floral notes are showcased on the nose. Unveiled on the palate are dark cherry, wild berry, licorice and savory spice melding harmoniously with a nice thread of minerality.   Focused and pure with plenty of length; expect this beauty to cellar nicely for years.   SRP: $55; www.sotervineyards.com

Alexana Winery 2012 Chardonnay; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  This nicely weighted Chardonnay opens with aromas of warm buttered toast and poached pears, delighting the senses. On the palate fresh tree ripened pear and lively citrus notes converge with well-placed oak nuances, fig jam and clove spice, generously coating the mouth.  The texture is satin smooth and the richness is beautifully offset with bright acidity, a delectable, complex wine.      SRP:  $32; www.alexanawinery.com

Alexana Winery 2007 Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Provocative earth driven aromas rise from the glass with this gorgeous high toned Pinot Noir.  Dried cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors mesh with roasted coffee and savory spice notes creating a wildly vibrant explosion of tastiness on the palate that lingers long after the last sip.  A finely tuned, well-crafted wine that truly captures the sense of place.  SRP:  $45 (current release 2011 vintage);  www.alexanawinery.com

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