Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The United Grapes of America - New Jersey - Tomasello Winery Rkatsiteli

From the plans of the southern Caucasus in the Republic of Georgia Tomasello Winery.  The winery is one of the country's oldest, opening right after Prohibition was repealed (license #68). Three generations of Tomasellos have operated the winery, producing an assortment of vinifera, labrusca, hybrids, and fruit wines - can you say New Jersey blueberries. And Outer Coastal Plain Rkatsiteli ($12). We had hoped to share this wine during our Discovering Georgian Wines for #winechat tasting, but the
to the outer coastal plain of New Jersey, the ancient Rkatsiteli has found a home at
logistics of online ordering failed us. Oh well. This wine starts with typical floral aromas, and continues with some apricots and spice on the palette. The wine seems drier than the Horton Vineyards and Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars - although the sugar levels are similar.  Not as acidic either, but just enough to balance the equation. Kudos to Tomasello Winery for producing a truly unique wine.
The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America

Saturday, January 26, 2013

2006 Bennett Family "The Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon

After the Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay, we finally opened our next wine from the Wine Chateau, the 2006 Bennett Family "The Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon. We were excited about this wine because we tend to shy away from  Napa Valley cabs, primarily due to budgetary constraints. However, this one is definitely within our means, on sale for $20 at the online retailer. And what a QPR - particularly now that  the wine has been able to mature in the bottle. The wine starts with a big aroma as dark cherry and chocolate engulf the nose. I thought my face was going to get stuck in the glass; I couldn't get enough of this sensation. Dark cherry continues in the palette, combined with bits of earthy dirt and a creamy texture that ends with subtle tannins and a little spice; but a smooth, smooth finish. This is an easy drinking wine where the 14.5% alcohol is barely apparent. Not bad from a family of whisky distillers. Cheers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

North American Wine Trails & Regions

Karen Batalo Marketing & PR
Ready for Spring yet. We are and that entails researching wine regions to visit. And as you should know by now, there is wine being produced in every state and almost in all Canadian provinces. To make our planning easier, and perhaps yours, here as a compendium of wine trails and regions by state. This information, including maps, is available at WineCompass.com. Let me know if I missed any. Cheers and be safe hitting the wine roads.

Baja, Mexico

British Columbia 





New Hampshire

New Mexico

New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Nova Scotia


Rhode Island
South Carolina

South Dakota


Friday, January 18, 2013

Wine 101: Corot noir

Corot noir courtesy of
Double A Vineyards
Is Corot noir, the new Pinot Noir for cold climate vineyards? Of course not; but this cross between hybrids Seyve Villard and Steuben has its converts. Developed  at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, its wines "are free of the hybrid aromas typical of many other red hybrid grapes, and can be used for varietal wine production or for blending. The distinctive red wine has a deep red color and attractive berry and cherry fruit aromas." This in the words of grape breeder Bruce Reisch. And according to Double A Vineyards, a New York nursery,  "The wine has big soft tannins with a structure that is complete from the front of the mouth to the back, suitable for a varietal wine or for blending. Pairs well with beef, game, and other hearty dishes."

Hunt Country Vineyards
Classic Red
Diane Forsee of Forsee Vineyards and Winery (Coffeen Illinois) is one convert: "it just happens to be one of our best sellers here at the winery". The grape handles the Midwest winters well, the hot humid summers, and even poor clay soil. The negatives, do not over-crop and "you have a very small window within which to harvest, because the 'numbers' are perfect for a short time. Otherwise, the acid is too low and the wine becomes the perfect blender." But in the winery, the grape is versatile. They produce a dry red aged in American oak; a fruit forward semi-sweet blush; and a semi-dry "Chianti" styled wine blended with Leon Millot.

In Branchport, New York, Al Hunt of Hunt Country Vineyards grows Corot Noir to keep his wines competitively priced. His customers demand wines below $10 and their Classic Red fits that bill. Plus this five varietal, medium bodied blend has won several Golds, including a recent one at the Florida International Wine Competition. We need to get our hands on this one.

Corot Noir seems to have found a home in New York and Illinois, but is also grown in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and even Colorado and South Dakota. Here is an alphabetical list.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The United Grapes of America - Arizona - Arizona Stronghold Tazi

The United Grapes of America
StarChefs.com: The United Grapes of America
Blood Into Wine, the story of Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski quest to Arizona Stronghold Vineyards is a cult winery, popular not only on the left coast but on the right. And on our coast some of their wines are available through Wholefoods by Vino 50 - such as the Tazi - Aromatic White Blend ($23). And aromatics is what you get. Orange and flowers linger on the nose, moving to citrus flavors and a crisp dry finish. Pretty impressive. The 2011 blend consists of 28% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Riesling, 18% Malvasia, & 16% Chenin Blanc; the composition changes year to year - but the results are the same. This is why they turned blood into wine.
produce world class wine in the northern Arizona desert. Ever seen the movie? Well they did it; sorry to ruin the ending. And now their

Friday, January 11, 2013

Discovering Georgian Wines for #winechat

Quick question? What is the oldest known vinifera wine grape? Muscat. Maybe. One from Greece - perhaps Agiorgitiko? Maybe. How about Rkatsiteli - where clay vessels in the Republic of Georgia have been found that contain Rkatsiteli seeds which date back to 6,000 BC (A Short History of Wine). And  Jancis Robinson The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition states that the wine tradition finds its roots in the valleys of the South Caucasus - its not far fetched to believe that Rkatsiteli is one of the first vinifera wine grapes. Yet Rkatsiteli is just one of 500 unique Georgian grape varieties; perhaps one is   even older. Moving forward, Georgian wine is mentioned in Greek literature,particularly when Jason finds "fountains of wine" there on his quest for the Golden Fleece. The wine culture is further encouraged in the 4th century AD by the spread of Christianity in Georgia by St. Nino from Cappadocia, who wore a cross made from vine stems. Being pottery experts, the Georgians mastered qvevri, clay vessels used to ferment and age wine.

My first contact with Georgian wine came through the Georgian Wine House who poured at several successive Washington D.C. Food & Wine Festivals.Then I learned that Horton Vineyards grew Rkatsiteli in their Gordonsville Virginia vineyard and that they had gotten the idea from drinking Rkatsiteli from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. This ancient grape was one of the first planted to prove that vinifera grapes could survive and prosper in the Finger Lakes. I was hooked. Needing a red partner, I naturally turned to Saperavi, the most popular red Georgian wine grape that is used in popular semi-sweet to dry wines.

When asked to host #winechat, Georgian wine and their American counterparts seemed a perfect topic. Representatives from the Georgian Wine House, Horton Vineyards, Dr. Frank, Standing Stone Vineyards, and Castle Hill Cider agreed to participate.Why the last two? Standing Stone is the only grower of Saperavi in the United States and Castle Hill is the only American user of Kvevri vessels. Before the chat we sampled ten wines and used them as a reference during the conversation.

Teliani Valley Tsinandali 2010 (SRP $10). Georgian wines are usually blends and named for the region or village so Tsinandali is the appellation and the wine is composed of 80% Rkatsiteli & 20% Mtsvane. This wine is made in the Western style so fermented in stainless steel with no skin contact. The Mtsvane provides a more floral bouquet, while the  Rkatsiteli provides structure and acidity. And at the price, a great bargain.

Vinoterra Rkatsiteli 2011 (SRP $13). This wine is produced in the traditional Georgian  method where the wine is fermented and  macerated on skins for 6 months within qvevri vessels. This skin contact produces an orange coloring to the wine which many falsely think as oxidized. Not here. The wine has a somewhat spicy, apricot aroma with a mild tannic finish. Since most Georgians consume white wine this one is made to hold up to red meats - particularly lamb. Did I mention Rkatsiteli translates to Red Horn? Interesting factoid.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2010 Rkatsiteli (SRP $15). The first Rkatsiteli produced in the United States, this wine is slightly sweeter than the previous two. It has an intriguing  grapefruit\orange aroma with a crisp acidic finish that balances the sugar. 

Horton Vineyards 2011 Rkatsiteli (SRP $15). This wine is made from estate grapes growing right in front of the winery and a full Monticello AVA wine. 2011 was a poor growing year in Virginia so this wine has more skin contact because of the condition of the fruit. It is also semi-dry at 1.8% RS and possesses a similar grapefruit\orange aroma. Very flavorful with the required acids to balance the sugar.

Teliani Valley Unfiltered Saperavi 2007 (SRP $19). Saperavi is translated as dye or black (wine) and in the glass seems as dark as Norton. This wine is from the Tsinandali sub-region of the larger Kakheti region - which is responsible for a large percentage of Georgian wine production. Like the previous Teliani Valley wine, this one is made for the Western market (fermented in stainless steel; aged 6 month in new French oak).  Here we first encountered the standard sour cherry nose representative of Saperaviand the muscular tannins. This is a big wine.

Vinoterra Saperavi 2008 (SRP $22). Moving to an even bigger wine that was decanted an hour before tasting, this wine was produced using a combination of new and traditional methods. The juice was macerated on their skins for 18 days; fermented in qvevri; then sealed for six months. At that point the wine is racked into 75% new French oak and 25% neutral oak. The result is a larger sour cherry profile on the nose and through the palette. The tannins are smoother - but the oak treatment is noticeable throughout.

Vinoterra Saperavi Selection 2009 (SRP $24). Here is a 100% traditional Georgian wine made from 50 year old vines and fermented and aged in qvevri. No oak treatment. The result (also decanted one hour ) is a surprisingly fruity and earthy wine, with lower tannins and more finesse. Seems like the oak in the 2008 may have masked the earthy characteristics of the fruit. This was my favorite Saperavi for the evening.

Standing Stone Vineyards The Dark Red (SRP $30). The only Saperavi produced in the United States, the winery first thought of this grape as a side-kick to Pinot Noir.  When they learned how cold hardy and productive it was, a single varietal wine was in the cards. This wine has the traditional sour cherry nose, but with a less tannic and more fruity profile than the Georgians. This is a party fun - easy drinking.

 Teliani Valley Kindzmarauli 2011 (SRP $15). This is a semi-sweet Saperavi made in the Kindzmarauli micro zone in Kakheti. Grown at a higher elevation this wine has great acidity and all natural sugar - coming in at 2.5% RS and 11.5% alcohol. This is an easy drinking wine and is no surprise its the top seller in their portfolio. Dark chocolate, here we come.

A very nice assortment of wines - both from the Republic of Georgia and the United States. And with affordable SRPs, there's no excuse to start your Georgian wine experience. Cheers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

10 Cane Rum Review - Marketing Trumps Quality

A constant at our local ABC store is the bright orange label of 10 Cane Rum, sitting prominently at eye level on the shelf. The distillery is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton - which explains the marketing power. After several years of browsing I finally forked over the $30 to discover for myself, what the marketing buzz was all about.

The rum is produced in Trinidad using the "rhum agricole" technique - the first press of the sugar cane juice and not molasses - and allegedly requires the juice from 10 cane stalks to produce a single bottle of rum. This rum is then aged one year in new French oak and blended with a small dose of older Trinidadian rum. 

The rum pours a pale yellow and the nose, sweet alcohol.  Not a lot going on at this point - sweetness and burn. This trend continued on the palette with no noticeable flavor profile rising forth - just a general sweetness of brown sugar followed by a slow burn. Adding a few drops of water actually suppressed the sugar, but not the alcohol. Conclusion: not at all worth the price. You may ask, if the rum isn't anything special, why the almost empty bottle. The short answer - makes a decent (yet expensive) mixer for the Hemingway Josie Russell.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#winechat - Rkatsiteli and Saperavi - from Georgia to America

#winechat will reconvene in 2013 on January 9th with a focus on the birthplace of wine-making - the Republic of Georgia - where archeologists have unearthed viticulture artifacts from 5,000 to 8,000 years old. Accompanied by the Georgian Wine House, we will discuss Kvevri terracota vessels, the popular Rkatsiteli and Saperavi grapes, and counterfeit wines. Georgian wines are available through Potomac Wines & Spirits. Rkatsiteli and Saperavi have also migrated to the United States where a handful of wineries cultivate and vinify these grapes. We hope to have representatives from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars (NY), Standing Stone Vineyards (NY), Horton Vineyards (VA), Tomasello Winery (NJ) and Avanguardia Wines (CA) as well as Castle Hill Cider, who utilize Georgian Kveri terracota fermenting containers in their Keswick Virginia cidery. We are looking forward to seeing everyone online on the 9th - 9PM ET on Twitter.

Update: Facebook event describing the wine is now available #WineChat talking Rkatsiteli & Saperavi