Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series for Finger Lakes - Gewurztraminer

On Wednesday April 18th, I participated in the first 2012 Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series for Finger Lakes white wines, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. And not Riesling white wines, but a mixture dominated by Gewurztraminer but including other grape varieties that demonstrate they diversity of the Finger Lakes region.   There was the Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Alsace Pinot Blanc, and staples such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The samples were also representative of the three largest lakes: Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka. And, most importantly, all the wines sampled are low in alcohol and priced until $20. Earlier in the week, I discussed the non-gewurztraminers here - so now its time for the Gewurz.

Apparently this is a popular grape among the Finger Lakes wineries and is becoming just as prevalent as Riesling. This is perhaps a bit of an over-statement, but a guess of 50 producers in the region was thrown out. It is produced in all lakes, and I asked the winemakers if there are any lake-induced differences. The consensus was that there is a difference between wineries - as is the case with Riesling - but this difference results more from production methods and not "terrior". And these production methods create both dry and semi-dry versions.

Started with the dry, the grapes for the Sheldrake Point Winery 2011 Gewurztraminer were not harvested until mid-October. This allowed the fruit to gain traction and the final product is balanced with nice acidity. The aroma falsely imply sweetness, but there's actually only 0.4% rs.
Vibrant yellow gold in color, with a sensuous and silky weave of acid and mineral on the palate. Flowered perfume of rose and passion fruit flow to silky red grapefruit on the finish. – Winemaker’s Notes

The grapes for the Seneca Shore Wine Cellars 2010 Dry Gewurztraminer were harvested a full month earlier and made to a similar 0.43% rs; but is a completely different wine. It portrays more of the grape's inherent spiciness.
This big, unctuous and full bodied white wine has a thick, creamy texture and fruit galore. The nose is reminiscent of fresh tea roses with a palate filled with juicy lycee fruit, finished with spicy pepper. – Winemaker’s Notes

Moving to the semi-dry styles, Gewurztraminer contains enough acids to balance this style. The Rooster Hill Vineyards 2010 Estate Gewurztraminer was my favorite gewurz for the evening. It is produced from a single vineyard - Catherine Vineyard - on the east side of Keuka Lake. Even with 1.8% rs, this is a refreshing wine, lycee flavors and spice. Very nice.
This single vineyard Gewurztraminer from the Catherine Vineyard is aromatic with soft, pretty rose petal, accented by hints of citrus, grass and Asian spice. A bright and refreshing wine with a delicate spicy finish. – Winemaker’s Notes 

The Wagner Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer Semi-Dry contains similar sugar levels (1.75%) and the grapes were grown surrounding Seneca Lake.  This wine also portrays how extra sweetness imparts more flavors than the dry versions; with enough acid to generate a balanced mouth feel. 
A mouthfilling wine, full of spicy fruit flavors & an orange blossom bouquet. – Winemaker’s Notes 
It's time to plan a trip to the Finger Lakes Wine Country. There is a diverse wine world that we need to check out. And here's the link to the recorded live stream. Cheers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series for Finger Lakes Whites

On Wednesday April 18th, I participated in the first 2012 Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series for Finger Lakes white wines, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. And not Riesling white wines, but a mixture dominated by Gewurztraminer but including other grape varieties that demonstrate they diversity of the Finger Lakes region.   There was the Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Alsace Pinot Blanc, and staples such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The samples were also representative of the three largest lakes: Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka. And, most importantly, all the wines sampled are low in alcohol and priced until $20. 

We started the tasting with the non-gewurztraminers, appropriately with the Dr. Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars 2011 Gruner Veltliner. Dr. Frank's pioneered the growing of vinifera grapes in the Finger Lakes and the GV is the latest in their portfolio. This was an enjoyable wine, balanced between fruit and acids, plus a nice texture that guides you from the head to the tail.
The 2010 Grüner Veltliner fits perfectly within the Dr. Frank family of wines. The wonderful nose is a treat of floral, melon and honeysuckle while the mouth has subtle herbal notes and balanced layered textures in the background that finish off with the typical Grüner Veltliner white pepper heat. It is food friendly wine and pairs well with everything from scallops and roasted vegetables to grilled pork tenderloin.” – Winemaker’s Notes

The Glenora Wine Cellars 2011 Pinot Blanc was lighter, but had a similar balance and hits home when paired with food. The wine was barrel fermented, but the oak adds texture and doesn't overshadow the fruit.
Pinot Blanc shows finesse and elegance, with a full, lingering finish. Barrel fermentation allows a balance of oak and fruit on the palate. – Winemaker’s Notes

The King Ferry Winery 2010 Reserve Chardonnay Cayuga Lake was produced in true Burgundian style, inoculated with yeast and malolatic cultures, then barrel fermented, and finally aged "sur lees". For my palate, this processed introduced too much oak and butter into the wine which seemed to overwhelm the fruit. I know its a style many enjoy, just not my taste

Aromas of fresh-baked bread, cheese, and honey, followed by a smooth yet substantially oaked body with a creamy texture and hints of vanilla. Finishes long with toasted almond and a tahini tang.  – Winemaker’s Notes 

I normally avoid Pinot Grigio as much as possible, basically being extremely indifferent to this varietal wine. Why drink it when there are so many other more interesting whites available? That thought process was shaken by the Goose Watch Winery 2011 Pinot Grigio. There was nothing boring about this wine, it had flavor, texture, and yes, some creaminess. The secret may be that the wine is not 100% Pinot Grigio, but 75% - enough to label the wine as a single varietal. In addition, it contains 10% Riesling and Chardonnay as well as 5% Vignoles. Maybe this 25% adds the necessary attributes to elevate the Pinot Grigio above dullness.
Ripe yellow apple and pear aromas with a hint of dried fruit and clove. Broad mid palate with hint of cream in the finish.  – Winemaker’s Notes 
I will follow up later with my thoughts on the Gewurztraminer, but in the meantime, here's the link to the recorded live stream. Cheers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Are You Ready for Some Colorado Wines During DLW12?

The 4th annual Drink Local Wine Conference is almost upon us, scheduled for Saturday April 27th at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. After stops in Texas, Virginia, and Missouri the conference will focus on the wines produced by the 100 wineries in The Centennial State. Not familiar with Colorado wines, then check out the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board as well as this historical briefing on the industry.

The Drink Local Wine conferences and the associated Regional Wine Week results arose in order to compensate for the lack of coverage by the larger wine media outlets on locally produced wine. We all have access to local wine - even those living in Florida. And the goal isn't to encourage people into drinking local wine exclusively. No, the goal, is to encourage everyone to educate themselves about the wines made in their own backyard and at a minimum include local wine in your overall wine consumption. So, how are they doing?

DENVER (February 1, 2012) - Wine enthusiasts who want to explore Colorado terroir and learn more about the state's signature grape varieties are invited to attend the fourth annual DrinkLocalWine Conference on April 28 at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Open to the public, the conference attracts top national and regional wine writers who regularly cover local wines and “locapour” trends. Colorado’s approximately 100 wineries that grow European-style, cool-climate varieties, such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Franc, will be center stage showcasing their wines during the all-day conference, which includes sessions, tastings and competitions.

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board is the conference’s primary sponsor; the conference kicks off at 9 a.m. with three seminars: Colorado’s Terroir and the Challenges of High Altitude; Local Food, Local Wine and Why They Don’t Like Each Other; and Consumer Perception of Colorado and Regional Wine. At lunch, guests will participate in the Colorado Blind Challenge, a blind tasting between Colorado and California wines.

Confirmed speakers include Wayne Belding, Master Sommelier; Horst Caspari, Colorado state viticulturalist; Rene Chazotte, Pacific Club; Dave McIntyre, Washington Post; Richard Leahy, East Coast wine consultant; Stephen Menke, Colorado state enologist; Jeff Siegel, freelance wine writer and the Wine Curmudgeon; and Kyle Schlachter, Colorado Wine Press.

After lunch, more than two dozen Colorado wineries will pour wines during the Colorado Twitter Taste-Off, where guests will taste and share their thoughts on Twitter, eventually selecting their favorite wines in various categories.

The conference costs $35 for the seminars and lunch, and $35 for the Colorado Twitter Taste-Off, or $65 for both.

Colorado’s modern wine history dates to the late 1970s, when the forerunner of Colorado Cellars opened. The number of wineries has increased 20-fold since 1990, reflecting the surge in enthusiasm for regional wine in the state. Colorado’s two AVAs include the Grand Valley, in and around Grand Junction, and the West Elks, along the North Fork of the Gunnison. However, the largest concentration of wineries is along the Front Range in and around Denver, expanding to many other parts of the state.

DLW 2012 follows the success of the first three conferences -- in Dallas featuring Texas wine in 2009, in Loudoun County featuring Virginia wine in 2010, and in St. Louis featuring Missouri wine in 2011. DLW also holds an annual Regional Wine Week in October, in which more than 40 wine bloggers, writers and columnists from the U.S. and Canada write about their favorite regional wines, ranging from Ontario to New York to Florida to Texas to Colorado.'s goal is to spotlight wine made in the 47 states and Canada that aren't California, Washington, and Oregon. It's the brainchild of Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre and wine blogger Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon.

Other conference sponsors include the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology, Metropolitan State College, Westword, Colorado Tourism, Amtrak, Visit Grand Junction, and Delta County, Colo.

Registration for the conference opens February 1. Go to to buy tickets.

To reserve a room in the hotel block, contact the Sheraton Denver Downtown at (303) 893-3333.
For information, call (469) 554-9463 or go to

Media Contact:
Denise Clarke

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Provence in the City 2012

In late March, 17 producers from Provence descending on Washington, D.C. (as well as other U.S. cities) to present their signature dry rosé wines. I was fortunate to be on the invite list and sampled almost all of these, as well as a few white and red wines produced in southern France. For those who have followed our coverage of Languedoc and Rhone, Provence is located east of the former and south of the later. Just look for Marseille and Toulon on the map. It is a classic Mediterranean climate with on average 2,900 hours of sunshine per year, mild winters, and little rainfall. Prevailing winds and cooler night time temperatures cool the grapes - with more pronounced cooling at higher elevations.

Provence is an ancient wine growing region. Although the region was the first Roman province outside of Italy (Provincia Romana); it was Greek sailors who introduced viticulture and wine making to Provence. The "birthplace of the French vineyard". The Greeks at the time specialized in pale rosé wines which continued even when the Romans introduced red wines. Today Provence is the only wine region worldwide that specializes in rosé - a 2,600 year old tradition.

In France, rosé wines are generally created using one of two processes. In the first, rosé wines are produced by the Saignée method or bleeding of red wine grapes. During maceration, the crushed grapes soak on their skins, which impart color into the juice. After maceration or when enough color has been imparted, some of the juice is bled off in order to add concentration to the reds. The run-off juice is then fermented into a separate rosé wine. Two wine styles for the cost of one. The second method is direct pressing of the grapes. This technique results in a lighter colored wine because the grapes have less contact with the skins.

In Provence, the grapes used to produce rosé wine are usually Grenache, assembled with other varieties into the final wine. At this tasting the blends included usually Grenache with Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, or Mouvedre; and sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon, Tibouren, and Rolle (Vermentino). The later two add fragrance and aromatics to the final blend "lending rosé a particularly rich bouquet".

At the Washington DC tasting, I started with an old friend, Caves d'Esclans. Four years ago I tasted my first d'Esclans and have been hooked since. Due to budgetary constraints I stay with their "lower" end wines but today I was able to sample their higher end portfolio such as the $90 Garrus and $70 Les Clans. The grapes for the Garrus were harvested from a single vineyard and 80-year old vines. The two wines consist of both Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino) and show how rosé wines can have texture and creaminess. A little oak goes a long way. Their mid-price Chateau d'Esclans ($35) is just as nice. Hard to move on from here.

As I continued tasting, I learned more about the regions and grape varieties. At Château Gassier, I learned about the long hot growing season (325 days of sun) and what general attributes that the big three (Grenache-grapefruit, Cinsault-strawberry, Syrah-red currant) add to the wines. And their 946 cuvée ($30) was very nice, a multi-grape assembly of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault. The 946 refers to the vineyards altitude in meters.

I seemed to enjoy the maritime wines such as the Les Maitres Vignerons de la Presqu'ile de Saint-Tropez Château de Pampelonne Rosé ($19). This is a joint venture between nine producers and a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Tibouren. And the organic shoreline vineyard at Château Léoube was pouring their Rosé de Léoube - a dry, refreshingly acidic blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre that is an amazing value at $11.

Like most wine regions, Provence is populated by historical vineyards. At Mas de Cadenet, the Negre family has been tending vines since 1813, where the seven generations have survived the Phylloxera epidemic and debilitating weather. In 1956 Provence experienced three weeks where the temperature fell below -23C, not many cold climate hybrids could survive those temperatures. Today Matthieu Negrel shares the winemaking duties with his sister and father, who took over the family operation 33 years ago. And at Chateau Roubine, Valeria Rousselle has a domain that was first farmed by the Knights Templar in the 1300s. Today it is a respected Cru Classé and there rosé cuvée is produced from the saignée of their red cuvée. They also were pouring a tasty white wine made from Ungni Blanc, Sémillon, Rolle, and Clairette - grapes that are not very familiar to most U.S. consumers.

Each wine I tasted is worth revisiting and there were too many to describe in one sitting or tasting. Here are a few more wines that I had noted. Mouvedre finally came on my radar with the Saint-André de Figuière Vielles Vignes, a wine with balance from head to tail and texture. The Domaine de la Fouquette was pouring their Rosée d'Aurore that was pure citrus. Château Ferry Lacombe was pouring several wines with all composed of Grenache and Syrah. My favorite was the Cuvée Cascaï ($12) which also contained Cinsault that was harvested from some of the domain's oldest vines. This wine had a texture not found in many rosés and was simply fantastic. As was the Grenache, Cinsault, and Tibouren blend from Rimauresq Classique, Cru Classé ($20).

Make sure you visit the Vins of Provence to learn more about Provence and their incredible wine history.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Keel And Curley Winery - Blueberry Farming to Wine

While the family was enjoying Legoland, in Winter Haven Florida, I snuck out to visit the nearest winery, Keel And Curley Winery. The winery is just outside of Tampa Bay and provides residents and tourists an opportunity to taste local fruit wine as well as live music on occasion. Blueberry farmer, Joe Keel, started the winery in 2003 as a way to utilize unharvested fruit. In the blueberry industry, many blueberries remain on the bush when the cost of picking additional units is equal or less than the wholesale price received. Keel didn't want to mess with jams or pies, so he started making wine at home. As he learned and defined his craft - Keel And Curley Winery was born.

Blueberry wine is still central to their operation as they produce three styles: dry, semi-dry, and sweet. And last year they introduced two blackberry wines, dry and sweet. All these wines are made from 100%. Although the sweeter wines are their best sellers, I preferred the dry versions of both wines. They retained the fruit characters of the blueberry and blackberry and could easily pass for a medium bodied red wine such as Chambourcin.

Keel and Curley Winery also produces a series of fusion wines where grape juice sourced on the open market is co-fermented with different fruit juices. These wines are all semi-sweet to sweet, and to me are basically gimmicks marketed to tourists. And I've fallen and purchased the Key West – Key Lime in the past. Best used as a Margarita base. And my traveling partner fell for the Tangerine Zinfandel. Yes, gimmicks sell. But if you come across their wines at Publix or at the winery - I recommend the dry 100% Blueberry or Blackberry.