Monday, September 29, 2014

The #FLXWine Alliance celebrates the release of 2013 #FLXRiesling

This past Saturday was the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance celebrated the release of 2013 Finger Lakes Riesling by hosting a #FLXRiesling twitter tasting. In total fifty-five media representatives received wine from a pool of nineteen wineries. In case you are not familiar with New York's Finger Lakes, it is a cool climate region specializing in many grape varieties; but Riesling is King. The region also follows the International Riesling  Foundation (IRF) Riesling Taste Profile which is designed to make it easier for consumers to predicate the taste they can expect from a particular bottle of Riesling. Below are a few facts on Finger Lakes Reisling as well as my notes and tweets as well as the winery's theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator profile. Cheers.

@DrFrankWine: If we had to describe #flxriesling in three words: "sunshine, stone, fruit"
@FulkersonWinery We prefer higher butterfat content cheeses with dry rieslings. Sharp cheddars with semi-dry
@flxhosmer The west side of Cayuga Lake tends to produce more tropical fruit flavor profiles.
@LakewoodWines we had an unusually cool summer but an unusually dry fall so far. Could be one for the ages but to early to call.

Finger Lakes Riesling Quick Facts
  • 850 acres of Riesling
  • 220,000 cases of Riesling
  • Strong, regional aromatic whites with a focus on Riesling.
  • The average producer makes 2-3 styles of Riesling wine a year.
  • The Finger Lakes is home to over 200 Riesling brands

Heron Hill Winery  2013 Classic Dry Riesling ($14)
.23% R.S.; 12% alcohol

  • @HeronHillWinery 2013 Classic Dry Riesling .23% R.S.; 12% alcohol; grapes from 4 lots  #FLXRiesling
  • @HeronHillWinery 2013 Classic Dry Riesling spiced pear aroma, silky creaminess kiwi lychee flavor, citrus finish #FLXRiesling
  • @HeronHillWinery operating for 35 years on Keuka Lake @ KLWT; winemaker Bernard Cannac from Languedoc, France #FLXRiesling

Sheldrake Point Winery 2013 Dry Riesling ($16)
0.7% R.S.; 11.4% alcohol

  • @SheldrakePoint 2013 Dry Riesling - soft peach & lemon aroma leads to citrus cream, minerals, and nice acids #FLXRiesling
  • @SheldrakePoint Home location on @cayugawinetrail with satellite tasting room on @senecalakewine #FLXRiesling
  • @SheldrakePoint 2013 Dry Riesling 0.7% R.S. 11.4% alcohol #FLXRiesling
  • @SheldrakePoint 15 years of operation; 44 acres on @cayugawinetrail #FLXRiesling

Knapp Vineyards & Winery 2013 Dry Riesling ($17)
1.1% R.S.; 12% alcohol

  • I spy a #Nomacorc with the @Knappwinefan 2013 Dry Riesling #FLXRiesling
  • @Knappwinefan 2013 Dry Riesling 1.1% R.S.; 12% alcohol #FLXRiesling
  • @Knappwinefan 2013 Dry Riesling peaches and lemon, fruit driven, nice acids #FLXRiesling
  • @Knappwinefan located in @senecalakewine with vineyard in @cayugawinetrail #FLXRiesling

Boundary Breaks Vineyard 2013 Dry Riesling #239 ($20)
0.9% R.S.; 11.6% alcohol
  •  @bndrybrx seems the most Germanic of the Rieslings: elegant - cream and acids mingle nicely #FLXRiesling
  • @bndrybrx 2013 Dry Riesling #239 0.9% R.S.; 11.6% alcohol; Geisenheim clone #239 #FLXRiesling
  • @bndrybrx 2013 Dry Riesling made by Peter Bell of @foxrunvineyards; estate located on @senecalakewine #FLXRiesling

Friday, September 26, 2014

#WineStudio Session XVII – Rinascimento Rising with Italian Wine

For three weeks in September PROTOCOL Wine Studio featured Justin Gallen, owner Rinascimento Wine Company, an importer of Italian wines. We learned about Justin during the first #winestudio session as well as Eric Guy's podcast interview of Justin here. The second and third week's we continued to learn about Justin as well as sampling a few of his imports.

Many of the wines I work with are farmed either organically or biodynamically and are naturally fermented using only native yeasts, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically good; the wines are good because of the blood, sweat and tears that are shed by the producers working with nature to make something great.”

The first wine was the 2013 Agricola Cirelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo produced by Francesco Cirelli. Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo is the newest DOC in Abruzzo and the grapes are harvested on a vineyard site that is "8 km from the ocean in an environment that is truly devoted to sustainable farming. They are experimenting with geese breeding, figs, olive trees and, of course, a 2.5 h of vineyards. Organic certified by IMC".  The wine itself has an interesting profile, actually two profiles. Chilled it reminds of a tart sour cherry wine with strong acids; warmer a strawberry creamsicle.

The second wine was the 2010 Musto Carmelitano Aglianico del Vulture DOC "Serra Del Prete". Musto Carmelitano is a family winery run by Miss Elisabetta Musto Carmelitano and the grapes for this wine were harvested from their Serra del Prete vineyard. Forget about oak in the already tannic Aglianic, this wine was aged 6 months in steel. The wine is smokey, with dark black fruit, leather and strong, strong tannins.

Week three consisted of two wines from G.D. Vajra, an estate located in Vergne - the highest village of Barolo. The vineyards were first planted in 1972 by Giuseppe Domenico and are currently owned by Milena and Aldo Vaira who both have worked the estate since the early 1970s. In the cellar, "Vajra wines are traditionally driven with longer macerations and use primarily Slavonian casks for aging". Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera are the grapes of choice and we started with the later in the 2011 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba DOC. This wine starts with a tart cherry chocolate-tobacco aroma, followed by a silky smooth black fruit flavor, and finishes with nice acids. This was probably my favorite of the entire collection.  The second wine was the 2009 G. D. Vajra Barolo DOCG “Albe” - pure Nebbiolo, pure Barolo di Barolo - and a bad ass wine. The grapes are sourced from three different vineyards situated at three distinct altitudes.  This one needed to sit for three days until it softened into a jammy plum and dirt with slowly mellowing tannins.

Cheers to #winestudio, PROTOCOL Wine Studio, and  Rinascimento Wine Company.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Howard County Maryland's First Craft Brewery: Frisco Tap House & Push Brewery

There are a number of breweries that have opened in the Columbia, Maryland area recently with the first being Frisco Tap House & Push Brewery. Known for providing a comprehensive craft beer menu (56 taps), the restaurant added brewing capabilities last year. On my recent visit to watch a Redskins game, they were pouring four of their Push Brewery brews: Push Meyer Lemon IPA, Push Midnight Mistress Dark Pumpkin, Push/Boulevard Mark Of The Beast, and the Push/Terrapin Dankenstein Rye IPA.

Obviously I started with the rye that is a collaboration with Terrapin Beer Company. Apparently it was inspired by Phish's two night stand at nearby Merriweather Post Pavillion. The beer starts with pine and citrus, then continues with a spicy bold flavor, and finishes with four pound of hops: Columbus, Chinook, Summit, and Simcoe. The Lemon IPA was very refreshing made from Meyer Lemon juice and finished with El Dorado hops. The Push/Boulevard Mark Of The Beast is a Pumpkin Saison in collaboration with Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing Company using Boulevard's proprietary Belgian yeast strains. Fall spices dominate, the pumpkin is subtle, the finish - long. On the other hand, the Push Midnight Mistress Dark Pumpkin is a different beast, over 100 lbs of local roasted butternut squash and 60 lbs of house-made pumpkin purée were used in this mash. This is a bigger beer with even more spices and even lactose to give a milk stout feel. Pretty interesting. Cheers to Maryland beer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#WBC14 Pre-tour: Discovering the Diversity of Paso Robles Wine in 24 Hours

While attending the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Paso Robles Pre-tour. The mission? To visit six wineries and taste wines from 50 producers from the region in 24 hours.  Most of the participants rendezvoused at the San Jose Airport and were picked up by Chris Taranto, Communications Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and Sarah Wolcott (representing Zephyr Adventures & WBC14). A charter bus then transported us the hour plus ride to the Paso Robles AVA -- California’s largest and most diverse AVA and best known for their Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our first stop was Niner Wine Estates where we met the remaining participants and were greeting by a panel discussion on Paso Robles History and Terroir. The roundtable including pioneers like Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, Jason Diefenderfer of Hope Family Wines, and Augi Hug of Hug Cellars as well as our host Patrick Muran of Niner Wine Estates, Niels Udsen of Castoro Cellars, and Stephanie Terrizzi of Giornata. This tasting showcased the diversity of Paso Robles while sampling wines made from Cabernet, Zinfandel, Rhone blends, as well as Spanish and Italian varietals. The Castoro 2013 Balena White Blend (Whale Rock Estate) seemed to encapsulate this diversity being a an interesting blend of Pinto Grigio, Grenache Blanc, and Falanghina. The Giornata 2011 Nebbiolo Luna Matte Vineyard was another tasty wine and Stephanie Terrizzi painfully described her travails in growing this stubborn grape. Paso wines can also age. Jason Diefenderfer opened their 2002 Treana Red (CS, Merlot, Syrah) which had lost some acids, but was quite flavorful with a fig interior. (I had previous tasting a 2003 Eberle CS that was still youthful at Nomacorc tour.)  We also learned about the history of the region from Gary Eberle  particularly the 1970's with the rise of Cabernet Sauvignon and the first commercial Syrah vines.

From Niner we traveled over rolling hills of vineyards for our second destination: Tablas Creek Vineyard. Here we learned about the prestigious Rhone inspired brand as well as tasted wines from a few other Paso Rhone producers. A more detailed description can be found at #WBC14 Paso Robles Excursion: Tablas Creek Vineyard.

Our first day of the pre-tour culminated with the Paso Robles (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective - an organization which "strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior-quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals". Our host was DAOU Vineyards and what an amazing setting - both the winery's architecture and the surrounding views. Needless to say, there was a dozens of nice wines offered as a large majority of the collective's members participated.  There were many standouts including the wines from Red Soles Winery, J. Lohr Winery, Villa San-Juliette Winery, Vina Robles, and Sextant Wines. In fact, the Sextant 2012 X-Series Marselan Cabernet X Grenache was one of the most interesting wines of the trip. The two J Lohr Cuvees were quite delicious as well. During the evening we experienced the full diurnal temperature change that benefits Paso Robles as our shorts and t-shirts were covered with jackets and sweatshirts.

We started day two at Vina Robles and a discussion on The Paso Robles AVA. The presentation was lead by Steve Lohr of J. Lohr Winery and included Kevin Willenborg of Vina Robles, Mike Sinor of Ancient Peaks Winery, Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards, and Cris Cherry of Villa Creek Winery.  The most important fact we learned is that the Paso Robles Wine Alliance has petitioned the TTP to split the broad Paso Robles AVA into 11 separate sub-AVAs. The winemakers present discussed how each region differed based on weather (Templeton Gap) and soil. The predominate soil is bedrock derived from marine and volcanic activity - particularly oyster fossils.  If approved, 85% of the grapes must be source from that appellation and they will utilize conjunctive labeling where both the sub AVA and the Paso Robles AVA will be included. The wine in this tasting was quite delicious and centered on Rhone and Bordeaux varieties.

From Vina Robles we rode to the iconic J Dusi Wines, where Zinfandel vines brought directly from Italy were planted in 1924 by Sylvester and Caterina Dusi. The original vines are still in use, old and gnarly with holes forming at the vine's base.  Third generation Janell Dusi greeted us along with four other wineries that source fruit from J Dusi: Brochelle Vineyards, Tobin James Cellars, Turley Wine Cellars, and wines from winemaker McPrice Meyers. We tasted their wines and learned about their history steps from the very vines that provide the fruit.

At separate tents we experienced a comparative tasting of Dusi sourced 2012 Zinfandel from J Dusi, Brochelle, and Turley. The base for each wine was similar, full jammy flavors with a creamy texture, and usually differed at the tail - with varying degrees of spice and acids. For each group, Tobin James spun an entertaining tale of his entrance to wine making and apprenticeship at Eberle to the creation of his label. They poured a delicious 2011 Dusi Zinfandel as well as two reserve wines. I was particularly fond of two brands from McPrice Meyers. Barrel 27 Wine Company is his brand and he poured the 2012 Paso Robles Zinfandel as well as a fascinating barrel sample of PFP 21. Paydirt Wines was the second brand, a collaboration with Patrick McNeil, and he featured the 2012 Paso Robles Red a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah. This wine has that WOW factor, juicy, creamy, and simply delicious.

Our final stop in Paso Robles was Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, named for the wild mustangs that once inhabited the region.The winery opened in 1983 selling a Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir but today produce a plethora of wines from Blaufrankisch, Verdelho, Pinot Noir, Malvasia Bianca, Rose, Merlot, Cabernet, Chadonnay, Zinfandel, Viognier, Malbec, and Syrah. We were greeted by General Manger and Director of Winemaking Chrissy Whittmann and two refreshing wines their 2013 Central Coast Floyd Rosé and 2013 Paso Robles Verdelho. The Floyd Rosé (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese) is named after their resident llama Floyd (named after the legendary band Pink Floyd) - thus a proper name for a pink wine. Over lunch we sampled three other wines with gourmet tacos the 2012 Central Coast Chardonnay, 2011 Paso Robles Unbridled Merlot, and the 2012 Central Coast Pinot Noir 2012. All three were approachable and easy drinking - nice entrance wines. In the tasting room I discovered several very nice Pinot Noirs as well as a fruit forward new world Blaufrankisch. A pleasant end that illustrates, once again, the diversity of Paso Robles. Cheers.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#WBC14 Vineyard Tour of Bien Nacido Vineyards with Qupé & Hitching Post Wines

My favorite event during the Wine Bloggers Conference is the mystery vineyard tour, where participants board random buses and are taken to a mystery winery. For this year's conference,  I was fortunate enough to board the Stripper Pole School Bus and after departing, Nicholas Miller, announced our destination: the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  Famous in that Bien Nacido Vineyard is the most widely bottled single vineyard designate wine in the world. The vineyard's high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Syrah grapes are in high demand and when wineries source fruit from the vineyard, they are obligated to produce a vineyard designate wine. The Miller family purchased the property in 1969 and planted the original vineyards on their own rootstock since the sandy soil is resistant to the louse.

When our bus arrived at the vineyard, Gray Hartley, winemaker for Hitching Post Wines, greeted us with unique Hitching Post glasses of rosé.  Outside vehicles are not allowed in the estate so we boarded their  “CHOOL BUS for a vineyard tour.  While driving around layers and layers of vines, Bien Nacido Vineyard Manager Chris Hamell discussed the region and vineyard's history. Our destination was Z Block, the source for many highly rated Syrah wines and in fact the Millers were the first in California to grow cool climate Syrah. Arriving at the hilltop we were poured wines from a few wineries that source fruit from Bien Nacido: Qupé Chardonnay, Foxen Chardonnay and Steele Pinot Blanc. Check out the labels - all labeled with the Bien Nacido name. During this period we enjoyed the view of the 600 plus acre property; walked through rows of grapes entering verasion and over recently dropped fruit; and conversed with Hartley, Miller, Hamel, and Luke Lindquist from Qupé.

Returning to the main facility, we were provided with a barbecue of grilled meats and vegetables and loads of wine. We are talking Qupé Roussane, 1998 Hitching Post Pinot Noir, and a 1997 Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir. Over dinner Mr. Hartley discussed his relationship with Qupé, Bien Nacido, and the Hitching Post as well as his part in Sideways. None of us wanted to leave. Can you blame us?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cider and Spirits Arrive in the Middleburg AVA with Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery

Middleburg Virginia was already a solid wine destination with several surrounding the old town; but now there is even more of an incentive with the addition of Mt. Defiance Cidery - right at the end of Washington Street. The cidery is the second cider operation started by Marc Chretien, who opened Vermont's Stowe Cider last year. Growing up in Northern Virginia, Chretien wanted to return to the DC area to join the growing Virginia cider movement. Currently the cidery operates in an old gas station in Middlburg, but Chretien plans to move production to a larger facility in the country to accommodate a canning line. Don't worry however, the location will then be home to Mt. Defiance Distillery. The nano-distillery is currently producing small batches of rum, absinthe, and applejack that should be available in ABC stores and the distillery this fall.

Currently at the cider, there are four ciders on tap. And I mean on tap - bring your growlers to stock up; although there are some bottles for sale. The flagship Farmhouse Cider is a traditional dry cider, very tart and refreshing. They also produce a Ginger Cider with this batch evidently higher in ginger - interesting - but not my thing. The Cider Blanc was fermented with wine yeast and is tasty with a more bready flavor than apple. Finally, their General's Reserve Barrel Aged is apple cider aged in used Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. This is delicious, only subtle hints of the whiskey that doesn't overwhelm the apples. This one is only available in growlers so be prepared when visiting. Cheers.