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

Gems in My Glass . . . October 2013

Tasting Notes No Comments

Pech Merle 2010 Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  Inviting aromas of stone fruit and minerality on the nose lead the way.  Expanding on the palate are layers of citrus adorned Bosc pear, crisp pineapple and a hint of buttered toast with mineral notes weaving throughout.  Impeccably balanced with French oak aging adding nice spice notes; elegant through the long finish.

Pech Merle 2011 Pinot Noir; Laguna Santa Rosa Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California:  Dense, concentrated red fruit rises from the glass with this alluring Pinot Noir.  Round and lush upon entry with sarsaparilla, juicy red cherries and warm berry cobbler nuances and sweet oak spices swirling lusciously on the palate.   Velvety smooth with bright acidity offsets the pretty fruit,  and the finish is lifted and persistent.

Jean-Maurice Raffault 2012 Chinon Rose; Loire, France:   Aromas of strawberries and melon entice you into the glass, where you’ll find a delicate, bright and balanced dry Rose.  Flavors of watermelon, fresh strawberry pie, a splash of citrus and a touch of tart red cranberry unfolding elegantly on the palate.   Brilliant purity and plenty of length; well crafted.

Trojak~Knier 2012 Pinot Noir: Napa Valley, California:  Alluring aromas of mushroom, subtle earth and woodsy spice is captured in this beautifully balanced wine.  Bright red cherry, strawberry, cola, savory spice and mineral notes converge on the palate, wrapped around smooth, finely grained tannins.  Here is beautifully food friendly, focused and energetic Pinot Noir.

Trojak Knier 2012 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California:  This 2012 vintage stays true to Trojak~Knier’s impressive Burgundian style Chardonnay they have crafted for years.  irresistible spice accented pear aromas captivate the senses.  Butterscotch notes and a thread of minerality add complexity.  Immensely flavorful, finely tuned and elegant with a silky texture and a dazzling kick of acidity.

Ayoub 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  This darkly hued Pinot Noir is deep, rich and concentrated.   with black cherry at the core, enveloped in savory spice and cola notes that fill the mouth harmoniously.   Powerfully built and complex with    SRP:  $60

Domaine Drouhin 2010 Cuvee Laurene Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Forest floor and dried cherries waft from the glass with this deftly crafted Burgundian style Pinot Noir.   Bursting with cherry fruit, spice and minerality, this sleek wine is deliciously mouth filing, polished and complex with refined tannins and lingers memorably on the long finish.  SRP:  $65

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Riesling; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Enticing tree fruit and floral aromas wow the senses with this sassy, precise Riesling.  Juicy nectarine, peach and apple flavors entwine with citrus notes and a hint of spice.  A lovely mineral edge persists from start to uplifting finish and the balance is spot on; simply delicious.  SRP:  $14

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2013

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

Wines from the Eastern Seaboard Take Center Stage (Part 2)

As promised (continuing from Part 1 posted a few weeks ago), here are additional impressive wines from the USA’s Eastern Seaboard, crafted from vinifera, hybrid and native American grapes:

Robibero Family Vineyard 2012 Traminette; New York State:  Magnificent floral aromas greet the nose and draw you straight into the glass, wow.  This deliciously fruit forward Traminette interlaces apricot, lychee and orange Muscat flavors with exotic spices, and the well-honed acidity creates the perfect balance.  A skillfully crafted wine with lovely brightness and enduring length.  SRP: $16.99 www.robiberofamilyvineyards.com

Thirsty Owl Wine Company 2012 Chardonnay; Finger Lakes, New York:  The nose knows what’s in this glass; a clear expression of oak-aged Chardonnay is captured in spades.  Fresh Bosc pear, red delicious apple, lemon verbena and hints of spice, toast and vanilla are showcased from the aromas through the creamy textured palate to the persistent finish.  Well balanced with the oak nicely integrated throughout.  SRP:  $12.95  www.thirstyowl.com

Boordy Vineyards 2010 Landmark Reserve; Maryland:  Here is a tempting blend of Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon that displays power and marvelous density of fruit.   Deep, dark berries on the nose with concentrated cassis, blackberry, plum and herbal accents exploding vivaciously upon entry.  Intensely structured with plenty of muscle wrapped around the dense fruit, and gentle oak nuances intermingle throughout.  Finishes long with savory, toasty notes; a cellar worthy wine.  SRP:  $40 www.boordy.com

Stanburn Winery 2011 Meadow Breeze; Patrick County, Virginia:  This 100% Vidal Blanc white hybrid offers up extraordinary aromas of fresh white flowers and sweet tropical fruit.  Generously coating the mouth are palate pleasing flavors of candied pineapple and ripe stone fruit with citrus peel highlights.  The acids are in balance to keep the 16% residual sugar from being cloying, and the texture is silky smooth.  A sweet wine lover’s delight.  SRP:  $15 www.stanburnwinery.com

Waltz Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania:  An enticing Sauvignon Blanc with a tantalizing hint of jalapeño dancing lightly among tart and sweet citrus notes upon entry.  Kiwi, passion fruit and lemon meringue pie flavors burst out creating a brilliant display of tastes in the mouth.  Well balanced with racy acidity that further enlivens the palate, and underlying minerality adds another dimension; beautifully crafted.  SRP:  $20 www.waltzvineyards.com

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Riesling Reserve; Finger Lakes, New York:  Heavenly aromas of delicate flowers, lime zest and stone fruit waft from the glass with this precisely balanced, immensely appealing Riesling.  At the core an impressive structure frames yummy flavors of a fresh diced peach and apricot salsa adorned with a light touch of spice.  The pleasing thread of minerality is evident from the first dazzling sip to the delicious, long lasting finish.  SRP:  $24.99    www.drfrankwines.com

Barboursville Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc; Virginia:   This highly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc fully captivates with citrus blossom and fresh herb notes delighting the senses.   A subtle dusting of herbs at first sip melds with pretty layers of juicy melon, pear, lemon curd and ripe kiwi unfolding across the palate with ease.  Acids are in perfect balance with the lip-smacking fruit, and the aftertaste is clean and pure.    SRP: $15.99 www.barboursvillewine.com

Sunset Hills Vineyard 2012 Estate Vineyard #1  Chardonnay; Purcellville, Virginia:   Inviting aromas of sun-ripened peaches, nectarines and fresh herbs from the garden coerce you into the glass.  As soon as the wine hits your lips, juicy stone fruit, crisp green apple laced with lemon, chopped herbs and a splash of tangerine explode onto the palate.  A gorgeous unoaked Chard; pure and elegant with superb freshness and vibrancy.  SRP: $27   www.sunsethillsvineyard.com

Fall is a great time to travel the Eastern Seaboard wine regions.  If the fall time does not fit your schedule, don’t hesitate to brave the invigorating winter, or plan an adventure in the beautiful springtime or sunny summer months.  You’ll certainly discover plenty to suit your palate with the wide range of grape varieties grown here.   Add to that the multitude of sparkling, white, rose and red wine options offered, from dry to semi-dry, semi-sweet to sweet and oaked to unoaked, there awaits something special here for every wine aficionado to savor!

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2013

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Wines from the Eastern Seaboard Take Center Stage (Part 1)

Fall is just around the corner.  It’s a great time to visit the USA’s east coast and take in the mesmerizing change of colors dotting the serene hillsides, mountains, valleys, and forests that abound.  Additional highlights you should not miss are the many wineries producing beautifully crafted wines from vinifera, hybrid and native American grapes grown on the Eastern Seaboard.  Here are several favorites I have recently discovered (Part 2 will follow soon in September):

Arbor Hill Grapery and Winery NV Griesa “Iona” Rose; Finger Lakes, New York: This fanciful, sweet Rose with an expressive nose is made primarily of Iona (blended with 7% Vincent).  The sparkling hue is eye catching.  Pleasing the palate are juicy raspberry and black cherry flavors that meld with savory spice accents and vibrant acidity.  Clean and fresh with a satisfying aftertaste.   SRP:  $10.95  www.thegrapery.com

Ingleside Plantation Vineyards 2007 Merlot; Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA, Virginia:  Blueberries and black cherries wow the senses with this juicy, nicely balanced Merlot.  Savory spice and a touch of toasty oak join in mid palate as the wine broadens.  This easy to quaff Merlot fully coats the mouth with delicious flavors and a velvety texture leaving a pleasurable impression from start to finish.  SRP:  $17.95 www.inglesidevineyards.com.

Ingleside Plantation Vineyards 2007 Merlot Reserve; Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA, Virginia:  Plenty of depth and complexity with their Reserve rendition of Merlot.  The black cherry and berry focus remains pure and dense with a delightful jammy quality.  A touch of molasses, pipe tobacco and spice add further dimension.  Well defined oak nuances speak to its aging in 62% French, 25% American and 13% Virginia oak barrels; and the tannins are integrated and refined; beautifully crafted.  SRP:  $24.95  www.inglesidevineyards.com

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve; Montgomery County, Maryland:  If I had to choose one red vinifera variety from the Eastern United States that really stands out, it’s got to be Cabernet Franc.  This fine CF example supports my thinking, as here is another Eastern Seaboard Cab Franc with distinctive varietal character that is simply spot on.  Earthy, dark berry, black cherry and graphite meld harmoniously with a subtle hint of herbs and bell pepper notes weaving throughout.  The precise balance and lovely texture impress, too.  SRP:  $24.95       www.smvwinery.com

Coyote Moon Vineyards and Winery 2011 Marquette; New York State: This hybrid (developed at the University of Minnesota) has captured my attention ever since my first taste several years ago (thanks to Dr. Murli R. Dharmadhikari).   With this splendid cold climate dry red wine crafted by Coyote Moon, floral scents join dark berries on the nose.  Flowing onto the palate are flavors of fresh cherries and olallieberries mingling with pretty oak highlights, black pepper and a dash of herbs.  The wine boasts a creamy texture, medium body, noticeable firm tannins and good acids that keep all the elements on an even keel; well made.   SRP:   $24.95  www.coyotemoonvineyards.com

Cooper Vineyards 2011 Norton Reserve; Louisa, Virginia:  Here is an expressive example of this sassy native American grape.  Citrusy, tart cherry and berry aromas and flavors excite the senses and paint a warm, fruit laden mouthful of tasty goodness.  Pretty spice elements are highlighted from mid to back palate and there is a pleasant brightness on the clean, appealing finish.  SRP: $25   www.coopervineyards.com

Presque Isle Wine Cellars 2011 Dornfelder; Lake Erie, Pennsylvania:  If you have not had the pleasure of tasting a new world Dornfelder (a red wine grape widely grown in Germany), here is one that will impress.  Enticing aromas of dark forest fruits rise from the glass.  Wild berry and blueberry compote flavors saturate the palate, interlacing with savory spice and well integrated oak; a palate pleasing, deliciously balanced wine.  SRP:  $14.99  www.piwine.com

Turdo Vineyards and Winery 2011 Turis Sangiovese; Cape May County, New Jersey:   Enticing aromas of a bowlful of fresh cherries and a thread of earthiness wow the nose with this delightfully colorful 100% Sangiovese.  Lush and round in the mouth with unabashed acidity offsetting the spice infused cherry and berry fruit at the core.  A captivating and elegant Sangiovese that finishes with a nice lift.  SRP:  $27  www.turdovineyards.com

Rosemont of Virginia 2010 Kilravock Red Blend; Virginia:  The 450 acre Rosemont Estate has been in the Rose Family since 1858.  After tending to a variety of farming operations they began planting grapes in 2003.   This Bordeaux blend is crafted of 46% Merlot, 27% Cab Franc, 23% Petit Verdot and 4% Cab Sauvignon.   Aromas of fresh picked bell peppers and black fruits entice the olfactories.  On the palate, flavors of cassis, black cherry and blackberry fruit dusted with a subtle hint of dill and savory spice coat the palate. Nicely crafted with a firm backbone of tannins.  SRP:  $27.95 www.rosemontofvirginia.com

Frogtown Cellars 2009 Propaganda; Lumpkin County Georgia:  From the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, Frogtown Cellars offers this blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Cab Sauv, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec that is deep, dark and delicious.   Scents of black plums and blueberries join layers of black currant, blackberries, tobacco and savory spice that unfold generously across the palate and persist through the long finish.  Firmly structured with velvety tannins, and the subtle oak notes are well integrated.  SRP:  $33.99  www.frogtownwine.com

Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery NV Cabernet Franc; Eden Maryland:  The attractive aroma of sautéed bell peppers waft from the glass and clearly scream Cab Franc.   Mouthwatering and pure with dark berry flavors interweaving with herbs and hints of cracked peppercorns through the juicy, full flavored palate.  Silky tannins and a lingering finish keep the wine fully captivating throughout.  SRP:  $18   www.bordeleauwine.com

Cherokee Cellars NV Trio;  from Vineyards in Yadkin Valley North Carolina and Georgia:   A lively and unique blend of 70% Cab Franc, 20% Norton and 10% Sangiovese captures the senses with aromas and flavors of bright berries, dried cherries, and roasted green bell pepper spilling generously from the glass.  Racy acidity plays off the juicy fruit creating a wonderful balance, and this unique blend finishes with good length.  SRP:  $18.95  www.cherokeecellars.com

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon in September!

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2013

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

MID-AMERICAN WINE COMPETITION 2013

Take a stroll down wine trails in Mid-America to unleash some deliciously refreshing and well-made wines from the center of the USA.    I recently judged the Mid-American Wine Competition at the DMACC campus in Des Moines, Iowa, and walked away with a very positive impression of wines being produced here that you really ought to sip for yourself.  Here are some of the top scoring wines I judged at the competition, all Gold Medal Winners at this year’s MAWC:

Amigoni Urban Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Franc, Kansas City Missouri:  Here is an impressive dry red wine crafted from 100% Cab Franc grown in Amigoni’s vineyard in Centerview Missouri.  Gorgeous expression of fruit is showcased from start to finish.   Berries and underlying green pepper aromas proudly announce Cab Franc in the glass.  Round and lush on the palate with flavors of fresh cherry preserves, vanilla, and wild berries accented with savory spice.  Precisely balanced with smooth tannins enhancing the delicious package.  SRP:  $22

Mountain Grove Cellars 2012 Pink Catawba; Missouri:   This pleasantly sweet Catawba is produced from grapes grown at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station at Missouri State University.  Distinctive foxy aromas clearly shout out Catawba (an American hybrid grape variety thought to be a cross of native American Vitis labrusca and another Vitis species).  Floral notes meld expressively with strawberries and watermelon candy and a splash of citrus on the palate.  This wine is beautifully fresh with a lovely balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is bright and clean, a well-crafted, satisfying quaff.    SRP:  ~$16

Oliver Winery 2010 Zinfandel:   The winery, located in Bloomington Indiana, sources the fruit for this succulent Zinfandel predominately from Lodi, California.   A touch of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are blended in for added dimension.   A brilliant hue and concentrated ripe berry aromas capture the senses.    Sweet jammy fruit broadens on the palate with nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.  Oh so juicy through the lingering finish; this fruit driven Zin will put a smile on your face.  SRP:  $20

Hinterland Vineyards NV Happy Creek Red, Clara City, Minnesota:  This sassy semi-sweet red wine is crafted of 100% Frontenac grapes from their estate Hinterland Vineyards in Clara City and grapes from Neal Vineyards in Alexandria Minnesota. This fanciful wine offers up a pleasing cherry Kool-Aid aroma that brings me back to my childhood.  Flavors of fresh red cherries and raspberries unfold on the palate with hints of fruity tisane herbal tea highlights.  Lively, fresh and satisfying with sweet fruit nicely offset by lively acidity.  SRP:   $12.95

Stonehaus Farms Winery 2011  Strother Ridge Cynthiana, Lee’s Summit, Missouri:  From grapes grown in Lee’s Summit, Missouri comes this luscious, sweet Cynthiana with gobs of juicy berries captivating the nose and the palate.  The texture is rich and smooth and the striking acidity ensures there is nothing cloying here.  Enticing toasty notes speak to the French oak aging.  Brown spice and vanilla bean accents add depth and linger on the finish, simply delightful.    SRP:  $15

Noboleis Vineyards 2012 Steepleview Hybrid blend; Augusta, Missouri:  From grapes grown in the Augusta AVA in Missouri comes this remarkable wine crafted primarily from the French/American hybrid grape Chambourcin, blended with Vidal Blanc and a bit of Traminette.   A touch of earthiness joins the forest fruits showcased on the nose, drawing you into the glass.  Bursting vividly on the palate are fresh raspberry, plum and wild blueberry flavors and subtle dried herb notes.  This well-structured wine remains bright and expressive through the lifted finish.   SRP:  $12.99

Prairie Moon Winery and Vineyards, NV Bullhead Red; Ames Iowa:  From their thirteen acre vineyard in Ames, Iowa comes this brilliantly hued Catawba.  Opening with  fruity, musky aromas, this well-made Catawba nicely captures the essence of this grape.   Layers of sweet cherries, bubble gum and raspberries unfold delightfully with vibrant acidity, dazzling the palate. The mouth feel is smooth and the finish is equally impressive with good length.  SRP:  $11

Illinois Sparkling Company, NV Bride of Freak of Nature: From their winery in Peru Illinois (their 2nd collaboration with Cleetus Friedman), comes this terrific Sparkling Rose.  It is creatively crafted from Frontenac grapes grown in Illinois with a Freak of Nature Oolong Tea steeped in brandy dosage.  This delicious sparkling wine made in the Methode Champenoise style really rocks.  Inviting aromas command your attention and the incredible balance of cranberry, cherry and raspberry fruit and distinctive Freak of Nature oolong tea buttery notes.   Racy acidity and a touch of residual sugar sends this wine soaring to brilliant heights, wow.  SRP:  $40

Oliver Winery NV Moscato:   Located in Bloomington Indiana, Oliver Winery dates back to the 1960’s. They harvest grapes from their local vineyards and also source fruit from other wine regions.  Fruit for this wine is sourced from California (2012 harvest).    Scents of tropical fruits and fresh flowers lift from the glass with this energetic Moscato.  The entry is slightly effervescent with a nice level of acidity that keeps the sweetness in perfect balance, and the mouth feel is joyful and bright.  Flavors of passion fruit and white peaches continue to unfold through the titillating finish.   SRP:  $10

Cellar 426 NV Uplifting; Ashland Nebraska.  Uplifting is made with 100% Traminette grapes, all grown in Nebraska.  A bouquet of aromatic roses and spice notes fully engage the senses with this beautiful Traminette (you may be more familiar with one of its parents with similar characteristics, Gewurztraminer).  Filling the palate are delicious flavors of fresh cut herbs, tangerines, lemon-lime sorbet and underlying Asian tea spices melding together harmoniously.  This lovely wine remains expressive and refreshing from first to last lingering sip.  SRP:  $16

Augusta Winery 2012 Dry Vignoles, Augusta, Missouri:   Augusta Winery was founded in the 1980’s in the scenic Missouri River Valley.  From their Estate House block comes this impressive dry Vignoles.  Aromatically rich, the inviting tropical fruit and floral notes completely embrace the senses.   It is silky and elegant across the palate with glorious flavors of pineapple, fleshy sweet star fruit and lemon and lime citrus accents.  The precise level of acidity pulls everything together in perfect harmony.  An elegant and refreshing wine with a memorable aftertaste.   SRP:  $16.42

Food and Wine Pairing

One of the unique features of this competition is the wine and food pairing that happens on the first day.  Wines, paired with sweet and savory dishes are judged on how the pairing works together.  This segment of the competition always stirs invigorating discussion.  What more fun can one have than pairing fabulous food (prepared by culinary experts at DMACC) with well-crafted wine that enhances the enjoyment of both the wine and the food?   Here are a few of my favorite pairings:

Beans Creek Winery (Manchester, Tennessee) 2008 Chambourcin Reserve paired with a Grilled Hamburger:  The fruity blackberry, raspberry, and earthy Chambourcin elements paired deliciously with the grilled hamburger.  The fat and savory qualities in the meat harmonized with the concentrated, spicy, dark fruit focused wine.  This well balanced, medium bodied Chambourcin showcased a pretty tartness that offset the richness of the meat.

Covered Bridges Winery (Winterset, Iowa) 2011 Rattlesnake Red paired with Smoked Pork Ribs:  The wafting aromas of the smoked ribs begged for a big red wine, and this powerfully built red, a blend of Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Geneva Red and Seyval really fit the bill.   This combination met an important rule for food and wine pairing; match the intensity of the food flavors to the intensity of the wine.   This delicious and immensely flavorful wine with plenty of body held up perfectly to the full, intense flavors of the smoked ribs.   Smoked meats can sometimes overpower wine, but clearly not the case here, this was a pairing that really excited the palate.

Eagles Landing (Marquette, Iowa) NV Serenity:  A dessert wine brimming with flavors of fresh raspberries, berry jam and chocolate undertones was a bright and lively pairing with the chocolaty, melt in your mouth brownie.  The wine’s focused fruit at the core and notable level of acidity was a perfect accompaniment to the rich, dense brownie.  A chocolate lover’s dream!

Wine regions in Mid-America have made great strides in grape growing, vineyard practices and winemaking over the past several years.  Why not give it a whirl; you’ll surely find a few gems that will wow your palate, too.

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

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2013

Lavender Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2012 Rolle, Sierra Foothills, California:  Citrus blossom aromas delightfully arouse the senses with this crisp Rolle (a dry white wine also known as Vermentino).  Enticing flavors of star fruit, lime-scented pears, a touch of herbs and a distinct thread of minerality grace the palate.  The texture is smooth and mouth-filling and the memorable finish is bright and lifted; a brilliantly expressive Rolle.

Lavender Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2009 Grenache Rose Sparkling Wine, Sierra Foothills, California:  Beautifully fragrant with floral, yeasty aromas captivating the senses and drawing you into the glass. Fresh sun-sweetened raspberries, cranberries, minerality and a sprinkling of spice broaden on the palate, tickling the taste buds. Elegant and balanced with racy acidity and a lively stream of tiny bubbles persisting from start to satisfying finish.

Lavender Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2012 Grenache Blanc, Sierra Foothills, California:  Fully engaging aroma of white flowers and lemon zest lead to a juicy blast of Asian pear and citrus-flecked nectarine flavors gliding across the palate.  The texture is velvety smooth and the structure well built.  This is a plush and vibrant Grenache Blanc with a beautiful sense of pureness.

Lavender Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2011 Cotes du Calaveras, Sierra Foothills, California:  This red blend crafted of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Petite Sirah is full of expressive tart cherries, fresh raspberries and wild berries all colliding deliciously on the palate.  Lean, invigorating and tightly wound with spice notes and a hint of oak adding further dimension.

ZD Wines 2011 Chardonnay, Napa/Sonoma, California:  This delightful, well balanced Chard presents mouthwatering tropical fruit aromas and a touch of vanilla to the nose.  Upon entry the wine is bright and focused with green apple, fresh melon, pineapple, caramel and fresh coconut flavors broadening on the palate.  Offsetting lively acidity keeps it finely tuned and immensely quaffable.

Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars  2011 Gruner Veltliner, Finger Lakes, New York:  The floral aromas will knock your socks off; here is a delicious, varietally correct Gruner.  White pepper, garden fresh lettuces, melon, and compelling wet stone notes mingle seamlessly on the palate.  Precise and balanced with a steely leanness from start to lively finish.

Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars  2012 Dry Riesling, Keuka Lake, Finger Lakes, New York:    As stunning as a Riesling can be, wow, exquisitely crafted.  Notes of shale and white peach scents open to minerally, citrus infused stone fruit and fresh peeled clementine flavors dazzling the palate.  Brisk acidity keeps it fresh and strikingly balanced and the lengthy finish is divine.

Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Celebre methode champenoise sparkling wine, Finger Lakes, New York: Enticing aromas of stone fruit and a touch of yeast starts your mouth watering.  A persistent tiny bead delivers wildly expressive flavors of peach schnapps, pineapple, sautéed pears and ginger spice gliding across the palate.  Creamy and savory with fresh baked bread nuances chiming in mid palate and the finish offers wonderful lift.

Shafer Vineyards 2010 One Point Five Stags Leap District, Napa Valley:  Cassis and subtle hints of eucalyptus greet the nose with this deeply structured and complex Cabernet Sauvignon enhanced with a touch of Petite Verdot.  Dark berry and black cherry fruit join black currant and tobacco spice on the richly textured palate. Well-proportioned toasty oak and firm tannins add further dimension.   Full bodied with power and finesse, this Cab carries off an elegance about it through the memorable finish. 

Milagro Vineyards & Winery 2007 Chardonnay New Mexico, This nicely crafted Chardonnay (that I reviewed years ago) is still showing beautifully with pretty fruit and pleasing minerally notes on the nose.   Spice accented fresh baked pears accented with caramel notes, take center stage on the palate framed by precisely integrated French oak.  A silky texture, impressive balance and lingering finish add to the enchanting package.

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2013

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

The 2013 Monterey Wine Competition held in King City this month brought forth a dazzling assortment of Platinum, Double Gold and Gold worthy wines.  Among my favorites at this year’s competition include:

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2001 Carneros Cuvee (Tete de Cuvee) Sparkling Wine; Carneros, California: A magnificent tiny bead delivers an incredible blast of tree fruit, minerality, and yeasty, spicy notes to the nose. This exquisite dry sparkling wine is deep and complex with brioche, white peach, nectarine, clementine and a dash of multi-colored fresh cracked peppercorns entwining with stony minerality, gloriously filling the palate.  The precise balance, elegant structure and commanding layers of flavors lead to a memorable, persistent finish; a masterfully crafted, ageworthy wine. Platinum, Wine of the Year, SRP:  $60

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2004 Royal Cuvee Sparkling Wine; Carneros, California:  Enticing yeasty aromas draw you in and keep you captivated all the way through the delicious finish.   Juicy pears and nectarines collide gracefully with lemon curd and fresh baked bread creating quite a tasty display on the palate.  Balanced and texturally pleasing with hints of caramel peeking through on the finish.  This Royal Cuvee is fit for a queen or king indeed.  Platinum, SRP:  $32

Swedish Hill Vineyard NV Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine; Finger Lakes, New York:  This semi-dry sparkling wine crafted of Cayuga White and Riesling displays a bouquet of spring flowers at the forefront, shouting out celebration.   The florality joins lemon zest, herbs, sautéed apples and a touch of stone fruit through the yummy palate.  Nicely balanced with its pleasing level of sweetness offset by lively acidity.  Gold, SRP:  $14.99

Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Fume Blanc; Sonoma County, California:  Gorgeous grapefruit, summer melon, citrus blossom and pleasing herbaceous notes meld seamlessly, delivering a striking brightness and purity to the nose and palate; irresistible!  The bracing acidity and minerality from the mid palate through the lingering finish add further charm.  A beautifully structured and refreshing wine that will pair wonderfully with shellfish.  Double Gold, SRP:  $14

Baileyana Winery 2010 Chardonnay Grand Firepeak Cuvee; Edna Valley, California:    Enticing tropical aromas draw you in and delectable flavors of pear, pineapple and citrus glide deliciously across the palate.  Here is an elegant, mineral enhanced Chardonnay with a satiny texture and meticulous balance.  Further endearing qualities include the skillfully integrated French oak subtly displayed in the background, and the finish which is lifted and long.   Platinum, Best of Show White Wine, SRP:  $28

Scheid Vineyards 2007 Reserve Claret Estate; Monterey, California:  This exquisite Bordeaux Blend is comprised of 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 16% Malbec, and 11% Cabernet Franc.  Wow; aromas of deep, dark black fruit mesmerize the senses and continue to broaden throughout.  Cassis, plum and blackberry join savory spice, fresh earth and caramelized nuts weaving through the palate lusciously.  Stunning purity and balance, and the firm tannins suggest its age worthiness, too.    Platinum, SRP:  $60

Tangent Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Paragon Vineyard; Edna Valley, California:   Resplendent scents of citrus, kiwi and underlying herbs greet the nose and interlace harmoniously with vibrant flavors of crisp Asian pear, melon, lemon verbena and a thread of minerality delighting the palate.  Brisk acidity brings it all into balance, and the lifted finish simply soars.   Double Gold, SRP: $13

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Juicy cherry and berry aromas rise from the glass.    Black cherry, blueberry and raspberry fruits with a dash of cocoa and pie spice accents expand richly on the palate.  Medium bodied with silky tannins framing the pretty fruit, and hint of vanilla peeking through on the finish.   Gold, $28

Goose Watch 2011 Traminette; Finger Lakes, New York:   Mouth-watering spicy, floral aromas sprout from the glass and the entry is very engaging.  The spiciness persists through the mouth along with juicy pear, citrus highlights and bright, well-honed acidity.  Here is a perfect wine for Asian or Indian cuisine; the touch of sweetness will pair well with spicy food.   Double Gold, SRP:  $13

Echo Bay 2012 Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough New Zealand:   Talk about expression of terroir, this example is terrific.  You know right away from the expressive aromas you’re in New Zealand territory.  Gooseberry, grapefruit, lime juice and fresh herb aromas flavors join minerally notes all the way through the lingering aftertaste.  Well balanced with zesty acidity and plenty of vigor.   Platinum, SRP:  $13

Goose Watch NV Classic Cream Sherry; Finger Lakes, New York:  The gorgeous golden hue captures the eye, and the incredibly seductive aromas beckon you into the glass.   Crafted in the solera method of blending, this compelling wine is deep and complex.  Layers of caramelized nuts, orange zest, toffee and hints of coconut unravel slowly, coating the mouth fully and lingering with a heavenly finish.  Double Gold, SRP:  $16 (375ml)

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