Friday, July 29, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge - Virginia Beach with Pleasure House Brewing (#39) & Commonwealth Brewing Company (#40)

While returning from the Outer Banks I stopped off at two local breweries Pleasure House Brewing (#39) & Commonwealth Brewing Company (#40). Both are located very close to each other, each on either side of the Route 13 Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and both provide a laid back neighborhood atmosphere. Pleasure House is located in a small strip plaza and features nearly a dozen beers on tap with many of these in crowlers. I stuck to a three beer sample of Shark Tears Gose, GLO Belgium Blonde Ale, and the Duck-In Saison of Apricot & Ginger. The Duck In was spicy, just not sure of that combination. The GLO is a solid blonde, refreshing with more uumph than others in that style.And the Gose, fruity and tart - and more than refreshing - a crowler made it home.

Commonwealth is a stand alone establishment located near the Chic's Beach neighborhood in the old Chesapeake Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue station. When visiting be prepared for food trucks, corn hole, dozens of picnic tables, and good beer. They specialize in Belgiums with eight available during my visit along with more traditional IPAs, Pale Ales, and Lagers. I chose another three beer sampler: the Cheval D'Or Belgium Golden Ale, Cheval Soleil Belgium Wit, and Romhilda Belgium Blonde on Citrus. These beers spoke for themselves, nailing the styles and providing refreshing relief during several challenging games of cornhole.  The Cheval Soleil was my favorite. And as always theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App will guide you to these breweries. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Adelsheim Vineyard Introduces Breaking Ground, a 2014 Chehalem Mountains AVA Pinot Noir

David Adelsheim feels it's time for the Chehalem Mountains to take it's place among the great grape growing regions in Oregon, "We believe it is one of the very best regions in the Willamette Valley (and perhaps the world) to produce Pinot Adelsheim Vineyard is releasing Breaking Ground, a 2014 Chehalem Mountains AVA Pinot Noir ($45).  The Adelsheim's commitment to the Chehalem Mountains started in 1971 when the family purchased their first property and established the area’s first winery. Located in the northern Willamette Valley AVA, the Chehalem (pronounced Sha-HAY-lum) Mountains AVA is 20 miles long and 5 miles in width and it's mountains and ridges comprise three major soil types: volcanic basaltic (southeast), ocean sedimentary (northwest), and loess (northeast). The grapes for Breaking Ground were sourced from LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) certified vineyards among each of these three soil types. The wine is smooth, juicy and lively as blackberries and dark cherries roll into a dusty black tea flavor. Simply delicious.

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Topa Egin Dezagun" to Basque Country Wines from Rioja Alavesa

This summer the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured Spain's Basque Country showcasing that region's unique music, language and cuisine.  In conjunction, Paul Wagner, President of Balzac Communications & Marketing, lead a trade tasting of Basque Country Wines from Rioja Alavesa, a sub zone in the larger DOC Rioja region. The geography of Rioja Alavesa is both Mediterranean and Continental, with the Cantabria Mountains sheltering the vineyards from cold wet air from the Atlantic Ocean. The proximity of the vines to the Ebro River provides additional warming. The soils are primarily calcareous clay.  

The Basque region is unique in that it's language predates all the Indo-European languages now used in Europe. The Basque name for itself is "Euskera", wine is "Ardoa", and "Topa Egin Dezagun" translates to Cheers. The region is also located in the crossroads of ancient trade and medieval pilgrimage routes bringing some influences from other cultures - grape growing and wine production being good examples. The Basque region also produces a second style of wine called Txakoli that is not part of Rioja Alavesa. These wines are "young, fruity, slightly sparkling white wine with low acidity".

As for Rioja Alavesa, Tempranillo is the favored red grape comprising 80% of plantings with another 4% dedicated to other red grapes and the remainder to several varieties of white grapes.  During this tasting, all the wines were at least 90% Tempranillo and followed the DOC Rioja requirements regarding Crianza (minimum of one year in casks and a few months in the bottle) and Reserva (aged for a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year in casks). In general these wines were very good, with the older vintages providing evidence of longevity and freshness.  Topa Egin Dezagun.
  • CVNE Vina Real Crianza 2001 ($12) - light bodied, black cherries, a little dusty with lingering tannins.
  • Marques de Riscal Reserva 2009 ($20) - very complex (creamy, spicy, some leather) with lingering tannins and acidity. Very nice.
  • Remelluri Reserva 2009 ($25) - much more tannic than the Marques de Riscal, with more leather and dirt,
  • Baigorri de Garage Rioja 2007 ($50) - a new age Rioja, fresh dark fruit then figs and green olives on the palate, finishes with dark chocolate.
  • Remirez de Ganuza Reserva 2006 ($60) -  a traditional Rioja styled Tempranillo; very smooth, depth, with a bright finis. My favorite of the group. 
  • DSL Vinedos y Bodegas DSG Phinca Lali 2010 ($68) - interesting mint characters with loads of tannins and acids - Wagner recommends 5-10 more years aging for this one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Outer Banks Distilling - Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum

The Outer Banks is the home of North Carolina's oldest micro-brewery in the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery and last year saw the establishment of the islands' first distillery: Outer Banks Distilling. Located historic Roanoke Island, the distillery currently produces two versions of rum, the Kill Devil Silver Rum and Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum. The offshore shoals known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” has led to over
 1,000 wrecks with some of this wreckage containing barrels of rum. According to the distillery, "the town of Kill Devil Hills is believed to have been named for either barrels of rum of the brand name Kill Devil or for a rum that was 'strong enough to kill the devil'”. Kill Devil Hills is also the site of the Wright Brothers first flights and ironically their father, Bishop Milton Wright, was a leader in the Temperance Movement.

This week I picked up a bottle of the Kill Devil’s Honey Pecan Rum ($30).  The honey and pecans are locally sourced from within 15 miles of the distillery, with the spent rum soaked pecans sent to local bakers. The rum is rather rich and tasty, the honey and pecans provide a mild nutty sweetness, with the finish so smooth. Go for it neat or on the rocks.

Monday, July 18, 2016

More “Wines of Altitude” with Bodega Colomé

During our previous “Wines of Altitude” post we featured Salta's Amalaya Wines. And the parent to that brand and the founding Salta, Argentina member of the Hess Family Estates is Bodega Colomé, the founding member of the Hess Family Estates in Salta - established in 1831.  The winery and Colomé Vineyard are located at 7,545 feet above sea level and operates three other vineyards ranging from 5,750 (La Brava Estate) to 10,200 (Altura Máxima Estate) feet above sea level. This last could be the highest vineyard in the world.

This altitude provides intense sun exposure as well as a wide range in thermal amplitude, ranging between 20° during day and night. Those factors facilitate the uniform and balanced development of the grapes.  According to the winery, "La Brava Vineyard sits at 5,740 feet and yields intense and ripe fruit. Colomé Vineyard surrounds the winery at 7,545 feet and lends complexity and weight. El Arenal Vineyard at 8,530 feet gives elegance and freshness to the blend and Altura Maxima at 10,207 feet gives floral and mineral notes with fine grain tannins".

I recently received two samples from the winery, one a Malbec, the region's popular red signature grape and a Torrontés, the region's white signature grape. DNA research has shown that Torrontés is a cross between the Mission grapes of Galicia, Spain and Muscat of Alexandria. And the Muscat lends plenty of aromatic qualities.

2013 Colomé Estate Malbec ($25) is 100% Malbec made from grapes grown at all four vineyards.  After fermentation the wine is aged 15 months in French oak barriques and then an additional six months in the bottle before release.  The result is a very nice wine: medium bodied, fresh red and black fruit followed by spices and noticeable tannins and acidity.  

2015 Colomé Torrontés ($15) is 100% Torrontés harvested from 30 - 60 year old vines.  The grapes are fermented slowly at low temperatures in stainless steel and then aged three months in steel before bottling. This is a nice wine, abundant floral aromas, plenty of stone fruits, grapefruit, and refreshing acidity.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Willamette Valley Summer Whites from Left Coast Cellars

Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Left Coast Cellars, produces wine from 134 acres of estate vineyards weighted towards popular varieties such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.  I received two samples for summer enjoyment and both were quite delicious with my extended family preferring the Chardonnay and me savoring the White Pinot Noir. Cheers.

Left Coast Cellars Truffle Hill Chardonnay 2015 ($24.00) is 100% Chardonnay harvested from their Truffle Hill vineyard in Willamette Valley. There's an element of creaminess as the wine aged sur lie for 9 months, but it's all chardonnay with very little oak characters to interfere with the grape's inherent flavor. The acidic citrus finish lingers and lingers, and lingers....

Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir 2015 ($24.00) is 100% Pinot Noir harvested from across their Willamette Valley vineyards. The winery limits skin contact to achieve clarity and the wine is uniquely delicious.  It combines white stone and light cherry flavors, a silky texture, and long mineral finish of acids and slate. Go for it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

“Wines of Altitude” with Salta's Amalaya Wines

The Calchaqui Valley is located from 5,500 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea level - making it one of the highest viticulture regions in the world.  The high altitude provides intense daytime sunlight and cool nights that help better retain the acidity and concentrated fruit characteristics of the grapes. The valley lies within the Salta Province of NW Argentina and specializes in Torrontés and Malbec grapes. There are three varieties of Torrontés with Torrontés Riojano (the most common), Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Each are believed to be separate crossings of the Mission grape and Muscat of Alexandria. And Salta is its main base in Argentina.

I recently received two wines from Amalaya, part of Hess Family Estates. Amalaya translates to "Hope for a Miracle" from the native Calchaqui Indians and that's how Donald Hess felt regarding his first investment in Argentina in the vineyards of El Arenal. No need for miracles as grapes thrive in the Calchaqui Valley and Hess Family expanded their acreage. Today the grapes for the Amalaya brand are harvested from the Finca San Isidro Vineyard and Las Mercedes Vineyard. Both are located in arid parts of the Calchaqui Valley with the main difference being soil types.

2015 Amalaya Blanco ($12; 85% Torrontés / 15% Riesling) Sourced from the Finca San Isidro vineyard, this is the first time I've seen this blend composition. Torrontés is generally aromatic and this blend elevates the peach characters and possibly the grapefruit flavors as well. This is a fresh, acidic wine; very refreshing and favorable at that price.

2015 Amalaya Malbec ($16; 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Syrah) Sourced from both the Finca Las Mercedes and Finca San Isidro vineyards. A quarter of the wine was aged in once-used French Oak barrels for ten months so while this wine is fruit forward and smooth there's a dusty, spicy, and vanilla character resulting from the oak. The finish is very easy, very easy.

Friday, July 1, 2016

#WineStudio Presents Sonoma’s Rosé Revolution

After a soggy May it was time to pivot to summer with June's #WineStudio Session 35: Sonoma's Rosé Revolution. And indeed the revolution has spread throughout the valley and across multiple grape varieties.Wineries are using the two traditional methods for producing rosé, either gently pressing the grapes as in Provence or using the saignée or bleed from red wine production. This session featured four Sonoma wines: Passaggio Wines 2015 Rosé Merlot SonomaEllipsis Wine Company 2015 Rosé of Pinot Meunier Sonoma CountyPedroncelli Winery 2015 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley; and Angels & Cowboys 2015 Rosé Sonoma County (Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc). I received a sample of the last two with notes below. Cheers.

2015 Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($12). The grapes are harvested from prime Dry Creek Valley fruit, the Pedroncelli estate as well as Buchnignani vineyard. This rosé is made by combining both popular methods, the free run juice from early picked grapes (60% of the blend) and 40% saignée (juice which was drawn from the fermenting tank of fully ripened Zinfandel). Because of the the fruitiness of the Zin, the wine feels slightly sweeter than dry (.4% R.S.) and  looks like cherry gummy bears in the glass. The flavor starts with candied red cherries and a side of mint, but as the wine warms strawberries evolve, with the fresh acids persisting throughout. A simple, yummy, and refreshing wine.

2015 Angels & Cowboys Rosé Sonoma County ($15). The brand is a collaboration between Cannonball Wine Company co-founders, Yoav Gilat and Dennis Hill, and Northern California graphic artist, Michael Schwab. The wine is a field blend of Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc sourced from vineyards in Carneros, the Alexander Valley and the Dry Creek Valley. The grapes are harvested early, lightly crushed and macerated on their skins as in the Provencal style. After a long fermentation at cooler temperatures the wine rests on its lees to increase the mouthfeel and texture. Unfortunately my bottle was consumed without my presence when friends visited, but here's what other participants had to say. 

Dezel Quillen ‏@myvinespot: Though sleek & racy, @aandcwines rosé carries enough weight/texture to move onto the the dinner table w/ grilled fish, bird, etc

Gwendolyn Alley, MA ‏@ArtPredator: Palette: watermelon, honeydew, cucumber. Crisp with minerals, light fruit, sage in finish. Angels and Cowboys #rose

Debbie Gioquindo,CSW ‏@hvwinegoddess: Everything is nice on this wine! The minerality, freshness, the citrus finish the violets on the nose....