Thursday, June 27, 2019

Navigating the Crus at the Beaujolais Road Show

Discover Beaujolais

"In 1395 Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, ordered that all Gamay vines be uprooted by the following Easter. The Duke believed the cultivation methods used in raising Gamay were damaging the reputation of Pinot Noir. Although the decision sparked such uproar among the public, the Duke’s attempts at eradicating Gamay were thorough, enforcement of his ordinance did not reach Beaujolais in the very south of Burgundy, where pockets of the grape continued to grow.", Discover Beaujolais

Discover Beaujolais
And Gamay held on in these pockets quietly, until 1937 when Beaujolais became a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). At last, Gamay was finally recognized as that region's protected grape. Gamay is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc and it was originally brought to the area from Croatia by the Huns in the 4th century. Beaujolais is located north of Lyon in eastern France and actually overlaps Burgundy in the north and Rhône in the south. The vineyards sit on mostly granite terrain that overlooks the Saône River. The soils provide minerality and structure whereas the abundant sunshine and warming influences from the river provide complete fruit maturation.

Discover Beaujolais
The region consists of a dozen appellations which include 10 Crus - the "jewels" of Beaujolais where Gamay is the heart and soul. According to Discover Beaujolais, expect fine and flavored profiles from Brouilly, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Régnié, and Saint-Amour and intense and generous profiles from Chénas, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. The two other appellations are Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages and both permit red, white and rosé wines. The Beaujolais appellation is the widest covering about 24 square miles in the south and east. Vines in this appellation grow in limestone-clay and granitic soils around 72 villages and provide 65% of Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Villages accounts for the remaining 35%, is the second widest region, and is divided into three zones. "The southern zone is near the Haute-Azergues hills and has soil that produces very fruity wine. Wines with greater structure are made in the central zone, and the northern area is known for its full-bodied wine."

Beaujonomie is the assertion that good wine should be enjoyed over a shared table with lively conversation and delicious food. And Discover Beaujolais is using 2019 to introduce this concept to American consumers through various Beaujolais Road Shows, one which just presented in New York City and Washington. Seventeen Beaujolais wineries conversed with attendees describing their operation, vineyard, the crus, appellation, and anything else relevant to the winery.

Being a warm afternoon, Beaujolais blanc (Chardonnay ) was an appropriate starting point.  At Domaine Louis Tête, current winemaker Jean Tête and his daughter Justine have a pedigree dating from the early 1800s when their family first planted vines in “Les Dépôts” (a few kilometers from Beaujeu the historical capital of Beaujolais). Thus Louis Tête is the oldest brand in Beaujolais and their 2018 Beaujolais Blanc is tart with a green apple profile and refreshing acids. In contrast, the Domaine Piron 2018 Beaujolais Blanc is more saline driven with a more citrus and pineapple profile. Granite soils seem to be in play here. This winery has an even longer winemaking pedigree as the co-owner Dominique Piron’s oldest known ancestor, a future winemaker,  was born in Morgon en 1590. Co-owner Julian Revillon is very proud of this wine as well as his cru wines and provided an introduction to Morgon (the second largest cru) and Chénas (the smallest). The decaying volcanic soils in Morgon help create elegant wines with racy acidity and solid tannic structure as evident by the Domaine Piron Morgon Cote du Py 2017. And in Chénas, granitic soils are covered with Quartz crystals providing similar minerality in the Domaine Piron Chénas Quartz 2016 that combine with floral and stone fruit notes and rounded tannins. Excellent.

Cécile Dardanelli presented several Domaine Bel Avenir wines from various Beaujolais crus including the Morgon Les Charmes 2017 and the Chénas Grand Guinchay 2107. The Morgon was very fruit forward providing fresh acids and the Chénas was juicy and solid tannic structure both in contrast to the Domaine Piron. The highlight from this 4th generation producer was their Fleurie Poncié 2017 that was silky with easy tannins. The soils in Fleurie are predominately pink granite and the vines benefit from exposure to warm morning sunshine during the growing season.

Moulin-à-Vent lies just north of Fleurie and Domaine de la Fond Moiroux showcased the cru through a vertical from 2016 back to 2009. The 45-year-old vines are planted on similar pink granite soils but differ with Fleurie due to large manganese deposits. These wines were intense with dense fruit and varying degrees of acidity that allowed the wine to remain fresh through most of the eight years.

P. Ferraud & Fils poured the best Moulin-à-Vent of the tasting in their Moulin-à-Vent La Dynastie Des Ferraud, 2015 -- very dense and intense fruit -- but the Saint-Amour, Cuvée Ensorceleuse 2017 from this 5th generation winemakers was also delicious. It had more fruit character - berries and even some stone fruit - but a nice structural backbone laced with minerals. The terrain in this most northern cru is hilly with clay and loam soils augmented with granite and limestone.

Juliénas lies adjacent to Saint-Amour but provides heavier wines than its neighbor. "The terroir of Julienas is often considered to be the most variable in the Beaujolais region. The soils are transitional, ranging from granite further up the hills in the west to more sedimentary and alluvial in the east nearer the river". Chateau de Julienas dates from the 14th century when it was a winemaking estate owned by the Lords of Beaujeu. In 1907 Claude Condemine bought and restored the Chateau and improved the vineyard and today it is managed by his grandson Thierry. Their Chateau de Juliénas- Juliénas Tradition 2016 is a well-balanced wine starting with tart red cherries transitioning to a rustic pepper character and finishing with fresh acidity.

Régnié is the youngest cru, gaining that status in 1988 after being part of the larger Beaujolais Villages appellation. It is known for lighter wines, fragrant and structured, with refined tannins. The cru shares the common pink granite soils but at some of the highest terrain within Beaujolais. Chateau de Durette is also relatively new, with Marc Theissen crafting the first wines a decade ago. The vines for their Régnié Les Bruryeres 2018 are 60-70 year-old vines planted next to the winery and Theissen utilizes a new regulation allowing for the labeling of single vineyards. Thus the home vineyard of "Les Bruyères" is proudly displayed.

Like Régnié, the Chiroubles cru is a cooler climate because of its higher altitudes and provides lighter and fresher styles of Gamay. The granite soils come into play in Chiroubles reflecting heat that warms the grapes in cooler conditions.  Fabien Collonge is a young winemaker (23 years old) but in terms of the Domaine Fabien Collonge Chiroubles L'Aurore des Cotes 2017, crafts wines worthy of more established producers. This wine is noted for its savory fruit and a rounded mouth-feel finishing with refreshing acidity.

Brouilly is the southernmost cru and is known for their robust and full-bodied wines characterized by the Domaine Ruet Brouilly Vielles Vignes 2016. There is a range of mesoclimates and soils composition in the vineyards of Brouilly so there is plenty of differences of wine profiles within the cru. Domaine Ruet is now on its 4th generation winemaker and this one comes from 60-100-year-old vines planted in pink granite soils of Voujon, Les Grands Bruyères. This is an elegant wine, candied cherries and raspberries, with traces of minerality and chewy tannins.

Côte de Brouilly is surrounded completely by the much larger Brouilly appellation and is known more concentrated wines with less earthiness than those from its neighbor. The soils contain diorite, a blue stone that results from ancient volcanic activity. These thin, stony, and occasional clay soils are well drained and lack water and nutrients which result in small but highly concentrated berries. Wines like the Cave du Chateau Des Loges, Côte de Brouilly Prestige 2017 provide dense fruit, tannic structure, and in this specific case, once again stone fruit.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Missouri Wine: Excelsior Springs is a Craft Beverage Destination

In 1880, what is now downtown Excelsior Springs was a wheat field. Yet, within the end of the decade, Excelsior Springs was a vibrant town with transportation links provided by stage and rail and with a resort hotel – the Elms Hotel. The discovery of healing mineral springs instigated this growth and eventually more than 40 mineral water wells and springs were identified. In fact, “there are more groupings of mineral springs in Excelsior Springs than anywhere else in the world”. (1)

Over the next several decades the town expanded fueled by healing tourism and a water bottling plant. The current Elms Hotel was completed in 1912 (the first two were destroyed by fire) and the Hall of Waters was completed in 1938. This facility was built as a Federal Public Works Administration project and at its “height was the most completely outfitted health resort in the state”. (2) President Franklin Roosevelt was a visitor and most likely used a wheelchair enabled ramp to bath in the mineral waters. And only a few years later, President Harry Truman was residing at the Elms Hotel when it was declared he won the 1948 presidential election. Since that heyday, the mineral water industry and spa tourism faded so that the Hall of Waters is now occupied by government and business organizations. Only the Elms Hotel operates in its past grandeur.

Recently, however, tourists are starting to return to Excelsior Springs partly attracted by the growing wine industry surrounding the town. This industry is anchored by the Willow Springs Mercantile, a bistro craft beverage shop that houses the largest selection of Missouri wines in the Show Me state. In addition, they sell a large assortment of Missouri craft beer and spirits as well as other items. The Mercantile is also the start of the Excelsior Springs Chamber Trolley which through various tours safely transports visitors to the area’s three wineries: Van Till Family Farm Winery, Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery, and Four Horses and a Dog Vineyard. And for craft beer lovers, two microbreweries are located within walking distance of both the Elms and the Mercantile.

Van Till Family Farm Winery
This winery is celebrating its 10 year anniversary as Cliff and Debbie Van Till established the winery after first planting a vineyard in their Rayville property. This small vineyard includes several grape varieties well accumulated to the local climate such as Norton, Chambourcin, Vignoles, Traminette, Brianna, and Edelweiss. Because they offer 36 wines, they augment this fruit from other Missouri vineyards and attempt to “create the highest quality wine that we are able to do”. That’s a lot of quality control and expect plenty of intriguing options. They provide three versions of Missouri’s signature grape Norton with a Van Till Estate, Missouri Reserve, and Missouri Special Reserve. Also try the Missouri Vignoles and the Van Till Brianna and Van Till Edelweiss in order to compare and contrast the tropical notes from the Brianna with the stone fruit of the Edelweiss. Before setting down for a glass and wood-fired pizza, don’t forget the Norton Dessert Wine or Chocolate Rose.

Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery
Also celebrating 10 years of operation, Fence Stile is located just a few miles southeast of town and also creates wines from estate and Missouri fruit. Six grape varieties were first planted in the estate in 2007 with two more added in 2016. Chambourcin and Norton are the predominant red grape varieties and are often blended together like in the Backpack Red. This wine is fruit forward with plenty of cherries, spices, and a noticeable friendly acidic finish. Vidal and Vignoles are the primary white wines and the Missouri Vignoles is particularly delicious with its pineapple dominated flavor and textured fresh finish.

Four Horses and a Dog Vineyard
This partnership is situated north of town and is run by two couples, Mike + Cheryl Jennings and Stephen + Jeanine Stubbs. Their joint love for wine enticed them to plant grapes in 2008 and release their first vintage in 2013. For red wines, they feature Chambourcin, Noiret, and Chancellor, with the Original Cin Chambourcin particularly interesting with its dark fruit, spices, and easy tannins. As expected Vignoles is a popular white option but seek out the Missouri Sunday Ride Viognier if available. The grapes are sourced from a vineyard in Missouri’s boot (far southeast corner) which must have a suitable micro-climate for this finicky viniferia grape. The wine itself well represents the grape with soft peaches and vibrant acidity.

Atlas Saloon Brewery
Atlas Saloon first opening during Excelsior Springs’ major expansion in 1894 and served as Schlitz bar even through prohibition – illicitly of course. In 2009 Jim McCullough, owner of nearby Walbash BBQ, purchased the saloon and in July 2018 introduced a brewery. He hired Keith Hudson as the brewmaster who continues to brew in the German tradition with beers that would make Joseph Schlitz proud. In fact, the Atlas Special Brew is a replica of the original Schlitz lager, fermented using Bohemian yeast that is similar to what Schlitz used in the 1860’s and six row barley in the German tradition. Crystal Lithia Kolsch and Maurer's Munich Helles are two other excellent German-inspired beers with the portfolio rounded out with two Scots-Irish: a Siloam Irish Stout and McCleary's Scottish Ale.

Dubious Claims Brewing Company
The brewery is named after the reports from national media on the “dubious claims” of healing mineral water. So, “forget the water and drink the beer”. The facility is located within eyesight of the Elms Hotel and actually a block away from the boundary of the original hotel. The pub-kitchen microbrewery offers a balanced beer menu so don’t be shy descending to the dark and heavy brews listed at the bottom. The Elixir Stout is made in the German Dry Stout style with hints of chocolate and coffee. The Embalmer Milk Stout provides more coffee – this time with cream and the Whiskey Barrel Aged Milk Stout feels like you spiked your morning coffee. Finally, try the Chocolate Cherry Delight Porter if available it’s just what its name suggests.

(1) Visit Excelsior Springs Missouri - Our History

(2) Visit Excelsior Springs Missouri - Hall of Waters

See other posts of the trips at Missouri Wine.

Friday, June 21, 2019

River Hill Wine and Spirits - From Moonshine to Bourbon to Country Wine

I couple years ago I started purchasing the River Hill Distillery Corn Whiskey as it provides a clean, textured, sweet corn flavor with little burn. Hard to do that at 100 proof, but old family recipes have their secrets.  An opportunity occurred this month while driving past Lurey Caverns and suddenly realizing we were close to River Hill and theCompass Craft Beverage Finder provided quick navigation. That's when I discovered that the distillery had re-branded to River Hill Wine and Spirits since they also produce a range of country wines.

Proprietor Fred Foley greeted me when entering the tasting room and we discussed the origins of the operation and the distilling process during a short tour. He and his wife Ann board horses, raise beef cattle and grow corn to feed these cattle. After a few years of excess corn in 2013, they spent a year applying for a distillery license and in 2014 started distilling corn whiskey.

River Hill now produces three whiskeys, the clear 100 proof 100% corn whiskey mentioned above and two bourbon whiskeys. Each is double distilled, once through a new still and the second through their original still where the condensation coils are threaded within a copper pipe. Very ingenious.

The original River Hill Bourbon Whiskey ($25) is produced from a corn-dominated mash bill with the addition of roasted barley that Foley smokes himself in an outdoor smoker. This is a very smooth whiskey, cut to 90 proof,  with a slight smoky and spicy profile due to eight months aging in new American (Minnesota) oak barrels. And recently they released a new bourbon, the River Hill 100 Bourbon Whiskey ($39) -- 100 proof and 100% corn aged in new oak barrels. This was a first - there's some burn but it's toward the front with the sweet corn blending with vanilla notes from the oak  Very interesting.

Ann handles the wine tasting as they must separate both endeavors within the same facility. Each wine sells for $15, resides around 10% r.s., and except for the Pineapple is sourced from the farm or locally in the valley. The sugar doesn't seem to come into play as the individual fruit character dominates each wine. The grape wines are a traditional Concord and Niagara; the fruit an Apple (Golden Delicious), Peach, and the Pineapple. And as a special offering, they produce a Sweet Potato wine after a neighbor had an abundant surplus. The potatoes had to be shredded and boiled with the resulting juice fermented. But it works and is very intriguing. Cheers to River Hill.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Silver Branch Brewing Company - A World of Beer

As downtown Silver Spring Maryland revitalized it is also becoming a craft beverage destination with three breweries and a winery within a two-mile radius. Silver Branch Brewing Company opened in February 2019 as the latest addition and is well worth a visit. Proprietors Christian Layke and Brett A. Robison produce a wide selection of Central European, British Isles, Belgium, and Americas styled beers that will impress most visitors. They also pour wine - including those from Austrian grapes - and offer German sausages. But on the beer.

During our visit, we tasted through their entire lineup finding several immediate standouts. On the Central European side, the Killer Castle Kellerbier is basically an unfiltered version of their Czech Pilsner Glass Castle and is more refreshing with enhanced minerality. Our group split on The Oracle Speaks Weizenbock disagreeing on its powerful banana character but returned to an agreement on the Fashion Killer Altbier. The two Belgians were solid particularly the Sacred Table Abbey Single Pale Ale. The spices were adequate to entice but not overwhelming. The Americas provided the greatest enjoyment as well as the great disappointment. Everyone disapproved of the Down w/ The Raj sour IPA but loved the Sisyphus hazy IPA and all three volumes of the Quantum Shift East Coast IPA. IPA lovers rejoice. Finally, the British Isles were a solid trio of the Chronicle Tropical Stout, Ruby Dragon Mild Ale, and the Cheshire Grin ESB. The last two were completely enjoyable particularly to those of us accumulated to the room temperature of the beers.

theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to Silver Branch Brewing Company or take Metro's Red Line and walk across the street. Cheers.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Old Westminster Winery, Burnt Hill Farm, & The Summer Solstice Festival

“We’re going to challenge current beliefs with unique and transparent wines – wines that offer balance, nuance, and character. We’re going to farm thoughtfully, using biodiverse cover crops, biodynamic principles and incorporating animals. And then, in the winery, we’re going to craft wines with a light hand, ferment with indigenous yeast, and bottle it all without fining or filtration. These wines will be made without makeup – a pure reflection of the time and place where they’re grown and the people who guided the process." Drew Baker.

Photo Courtesy of
Old Westminster Winery
This is the guiding principle behind the next phase of Maryland's Old Westminster Winery as this accomplished and innovative winery attempts to challenge contemporary winemaking through The Burnt Hill Project. The Baker family has been very successful in their previous endeavors, first by immediately impressing consumers and critics after an initial launch of Old Westminster Winery, being the first to can and successfully market Maryland wine, and creating a custom crush facility for other aspiring winemakers.  So there's little reason to conclude this next phase will not be as successful.

Burnt Hill Farm is located in northwestern Montgomery County and its name comes from the late 1800s, when the owners "despaired of growing crops in the nutrient-poor soils and made money by burning trees and brush to make charcoal, potash, and lye". The farm has the ideal gradient and clay-limestone soils congruent for Gamay and Pinot Noir, grapes normally not planted in the Free State. But why stop there. They are also planting "90 experimental varieties bred by Cliff Ambers, an iconoclastic viticulturist who pollinates native grape vines with pollen from European vinifera varieties” Dave McIntyre Washington Post.

The Bakers will continue the viticulture philosophy from their Home Vineyard in Westminster, all work done by hand, sustainable farming, minimalist winemaking, and fermenting with native yeast. They have also incorporated bio-dynamic vineyard practices at Burnt Hill Farm  -- starting two years before planting their first vines - in order to create a living organism. Biodynamic farms generate their own fertility through composting, integrating animals, and cover cropping. This effort at Burnt Hill includes rotating cover crops like wheat and daikon radish, planting manure filled bull horns that will eventually fertilize the vineyard, and introducing sheep next year.
"We choose to think of our farm as a living, breathing organism. Like a human body with a system of organs, our farm is a complex system of interacting substances and processes...> biodynamics." Drew Baker
Consumers can discover Old Westminster's minimalist approach to winemaking as well as taste a preview of what should come from Burnt Hill at their Summer Solstice Festival on June 22, 2019. Under a circus tent at Burnt Hill Farm, low-intervention winemakers from across the globe will pour 100+ unique wines. The lineup includes Broc Cellars, Hiyu Wine Farm, Zafa Wines, Floral Terranes, Margins Wine, Methode Sauvage, Iapetus Wine, Wild Arc Farm, Inconnu Wine, Johan Vineyards, The Scholium Project, Fable Farm, Purity Wine, En Cavale, Fausse Piste, Old Westminster, Lightwell Survey, Liten Buffel, Maitre de Chai, Old World Winery, Les Lunes, Ruth Lewandowski, Brooks, Art+Science, Native Selections, Zev Rovine, Williams Corner, Plant Wines, MFW, Domestique, Wines of Georgia, Revel Wine, and more...

And to learn more about the festival and Old Westminster Winery tune to #Winestudio on Twitter Tuesdays in June at 9PM E.T. Cheers and hope to see you at the Summer Solstice.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Villa Maria's First Sip Of Summer

This week Villa Maria Estate presented their seasonal #FirstSipNZ witter campaign and this chat featured a trio of ready for summer wines.  The winery is one of New Zealand's most famous having operated for six decades starting as a one acre - one man shop in 1961 and growing to where founder George Fistonich is inducted to Restaurant and Hospitality Hall of Fame.  Fortunately, these wineries are widely distributed across the United States so here are some tweets why you may want to pick up a bottle or two...

Villa Maria 2018 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough ($14)

The grapes were sourced from the Awatere and Wairau Valleys - spreading from coastal Wairau to a higher altitude in Awatere (900 feet). This provides a  mixture of warmer and cooler vineyard sites which showcase the herbal and tropical notes.

Villa Maria 2018 Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay ($15)

This blend is predominately Merlot, which is the most widely planted red variety in Hawkes Bay as this region is a much warmer climate than Marlborough.

Villa Maria 2015 Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough ($26)

The grapes for this wine also derive from diverse sites in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys with the 2015 vintage considered a strong year. As the Cellar Selection label designates this wine offers more aromatics, weight, and complexity.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this wine free from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Villa Maria as part of their First Sip Of Summer Twitter Tasting. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Missouri Wine: Reviving American Heritage Grapes at Vox Vineyards

Albania, America, Brilliant, Carman, Cloeta, Delicatessen, Favorite, Lenoir, Lomanto, Marguerite, Muench, Wetumka
These are winegrapes that were once grown in Missouri and middle America prior to Prohibition. They are just a handful among the many grapes developed in the rigorous breeding programs of viticulture pioneers Thomas Volney Munson, Hermann Jaeger, George Husmann, and Isador Bush. Each of these gentlemen received commendations from the French for rescuing that wine industry as mentioned in The Basics and between them developed hundreds of new wine grapes and rootstocks. The Show Me State is a prime grape breeding region as several diverse climates merge (eastern woodlands, western plains, Ozark Highlands, and the Mississippi Delta). Across the globe, there are about 79 different species of grapes in the genus Vitis (grapevines); but 27 of those are native to middle America. Thus Missouri has historically hosted many of these species: labrusca, aestivalis, riparia, rupestris, cordifolia, among others; and in fact, it was vines and rootstock from the riparia and rupestris species which were eventually grafted to French vines.

Post-prohibition, many of these vines have been lost, but there are groups of individuals who are dedicated to maintaining the legacy of the early grape pioneers. Jerry Eisterhold became one of these converts after reading Thomas Volney Munson's, Foundations of American Grape Culture in 1978. Inspired by Munson, in 1996 Eisterhold did what any reasonable person would do, he chartered a plane to scout topography and being a soil scientist by training (Agronomy at the University of Missouri and the third-best soil judge in the Big Eight) discovered a site in the Missouri River Bluffs. He also "reached out to Grayson College, a small university near Munson’s original vineyard in Denison, Texas. With their help, Jerry acquired cuttings from over sixty of the native varieties Munson had been developing for wine production". In 1996 this property was planted with two acres of vines in which Eisterhold just extended to six acres and judiciously, consulted with viticulturist Lucie Morton while planting specific rows.

For practically twenty years Vox Vineyards acted as an experimental vineyard narrowing down to 40 grape varieties which Eisterhold would like to widdle down to 12-20. Since he wasn't producing wine, Jerry could experiment freely without the market influencing his decisions. But in 2012 that changed and Vox Vineyards released its first vintage under the TerraVox label -- the Latin "terra", meaning "earth" or ground", and the Latin "vox", meaning "voice or "speech". The goal: " let the land speak for itself through our wine, and for our wine to be a Voice of the Land".

Vox was our very first stop along the Missouri Wine tour and our group received a similar epiphany regarding these heritage grapes. After introductions and a winery-vineyard tour, Eisterhold presented a slideshow on the importance of these American Heritage Grapes and the pioneers: Munson, Jaeger, Husmann, Bush, Muench, and Rommel - the latter two Munson named grapes after. Muench was a grower in Augusta and Rommel brought the first Norton into Missouri. After the slideshow, we were intrigued; how do these wines taste? Here are my notes from the three heritage grapes plus four styles of Norton.

2018 Albania ($32)
This is a Lincecumii-Aestivalis-Bourquiniana hybrid created by Munson in 1896 and is a cross of Ten Dollar Prize x Norton x Herbemont. It is late ripening with thin, but tough, skins used for late harvest and white wines. Eisterhold considers it the most sophisticated of the Munson whites. The nose is citrus and tropical, with a tart citrus core, and medium acidity. This is a most pleasant and easy drinking wine.

2018 Wetumka ($27)
This is a Labrusca-Vinifera-Bourquiniana-Aestivalis hybrid bred by Munson in 1893 by crossing Elvira x Herbemont x Gold Coin. This is another late ripening tough-skinned grape that retains a hint of its labrusca parentage. The strong aroma bounces between floral and elderberries and the core is tart with almost a funky pear cider component. But there's also a hint of Niagara or another strong grapey flavor and with all the combinations produces an interesting wine. I brought a bottle home to let it test the senses.

NV Wetumka RePort ($42 375ml)
This is the Wetumka fortified with local neutral grape spirits to 17.6%. It is delicious. I'm kicking myself for not purchasing a bottle. The strong floral aroma is present immediately and then the wine leads to a creamy interior and finishes with noticeable acids to balance the sugar and alcohol.

2018 Lenoir ($39)
Commonly known as Black Spanish in Texas, this grape is a Bourquiniana variety that was a natural hybridization between an aestivalis species of grape with an unknown vinifera pollen donor. Modern DNA analysis points to a Jacquez cultivar such as Madeira Jacquez. It is most popular in Texas because of its resistance to Pierce's disease and produces a full-bodied red wine. The TerraVox Lenoir is medium bodied with a woodsy profile and intense acids.

2018 Sunny Slope Rosé ($27)
The wine is made from Missouri's state grape Norton (aestivalis) and is quite tasty with a strawberry creamy core. The downside is a relatively flatter finish.

2018 Norton Saignée Rosé ($32)
This version of rosé has a little less fruit character than the preceding wine, but more lifting acids providing a refreshing finish. If TerraVox could somehow blend the fruit and texture of the Sunny Slope with the finish of the Saignée.....

2014 Norton ($35)
The winery had provided some bottle aging relief so this Norton does not shock the palate with a massive dose of acidity. It is still fresh with a friendlier cherry profile, not jammy, and with medium tannins. A solid Missouri Norton.

2016 Norton RePort ($40 375ml)
Once again, this wine has the acids to complement the sugar and alcohol providing a very fluid experience with really no sense of alcohol heat. Plus it's tasty revealing dried figs and plums. A dangerous wine at 19% abv.

2018 America Pet Nat ($42)
We actually didn't sample this wine but I purchased anyway and will provide an update on the tasting notes. But what patriot could ignore *M*R*C*?  According to Eisterhold, "We planted America, a red grape from Munson’s list, in our vineyard and we were surprised at how light in color last year’s crop was. The flavor was strangely beefy, similar to how steak tartare tastes. Our winemaker, Whitney Ryan, had the idea to lean into the funky taste, color and unpredictable nature of the grape and use it to make a pét-nat, a method of producing sparkling wine by bottling the wine during primary fermentation, capturing the carbon dioxide that’s naturally released".

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Lodi Wine: The Unique, Unusual, and Unconventional

During our Snooth - Lodi Wine trip there were dozens of wonderful wines that we sampled that could keep us writing for months. But in order to conclude this Lodi Wine series, this post will focus on several wines worth mentioning - emphasizing wines made from unconventional grapes or a unique Lodi heritage.   Note also that most of the information regarding the grape varieties come from


St. Amant Winery 2017 Lodi Barbera ($18)
Barbera is a dark-skinned wine grape variety found in several Italian wine regions, including its native Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Puglia, Campania and even the island regions, Sicily and Sardinia. At the turn of the 21st Century, it was Italy's third most-commonly planted red wine grape, after Sangiovese and Montepulciano. In Lodi, Barbera thrives in its Mediterranean like climate and this wine derives from a 57-year-old vineyard. It's also one I brought home afterward.

Bokisch Vineyards Las Cerezas Vineyard Graciano 2016 ($28)
Graciano is a black-skinned wine grape from northern Spain, grown principally in Navarra and Rioja with the classic Graciano wine is moderately tannic, deeply colored and intensely perfumed, with aromas of mulberry, violets, and chocolate. Bokisch Vineyards is the leading producer of Spanish styled wine in Lodi as founder Markus Bokisch's family history is centered upon Catalonia, Spain. This wine nails the chocolate descriptor and is noted for its long silky smooth finish.

Anaya Vineyards 2016 Clements Hills Nebbiolo
Nebbiolo is the quintessential Piedmontese wine grape – the dominant variety in five of the region's DOCGs and numerous DOCs, the most notable of which are Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo wines are distinguished by their strong tannins, high acidity, and distinctive scent. Anaya is a new Lodi winery located in the Clements Hills AVA that has been growing grapes for over a decade and is now venturing into producing their own label. Besides the intense tannins and acidity, this wine is very drinkable now but these characters will allow it to age wonderfully.

Fields Family Winery 2011 Tempranillo ($28)
Tempranillo is a red grape variety which forms the backbone of some of the finest wines from Spain and Portugal. Almost every red wine from Rioja and Ribera del Duero has Tempranillo at its core, and in Portugal, the variety is widely used in the Douro Valley – under the name Tinta Roriz – both for table wines and fortified wines (Port). It is a thick-skinned red grape making deeply-colored wines with moderate tannins. The grapes for the Fields Family Tempranillo are from the Estate Vineyard Lot 13 which was planted in 1915 and is the first Tempranillo vineyard planted in Lodi. These vines' roots run deep - sometimes over 25 feet in the sandy loam within the Mokelumne River AVA. This wine explodes in the mouth, like poprocks, juicy, then structured and a pleasant finish.

McCay Cellars 2015 Grenache ($35)
Grenache (Garnacha) is a red-wine grape grown extensively in France, Spain, Australia, and the United States. It is particularly versatile both in the vineyard and the winery, which may explain why it is one of the most widely distributed grapes in the world. I believe the fruit for this wine comes from the Abba Vineyard in the Mokelumne River AVA and it is fresh and clean, fruit forward and excellent with the MSushi Tuna tartare.

Mettler Family Vineyards 2015 GSM ($35)
"A beautiful blend of three Rhone varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. All three of these varietals trace back to the Mediterranean coast and thrive in the Lodi climate. They blend poetically together, each bringing a different flavor profile. Grenache adds a fresh raspberry flavor. The Syrah brings savory dark fruit flavors and a velvety mouth-feel. Mourvedre adds a nice tannin structure and herbaceous aromas. "

Klinker Brick Winery 2015 Lodi Carignane ($25)
Carignan or Carignane (Cariñena in Spain) is a black-skinned wine grape variety, most likely native to Aragon. The variety is found in wines along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in northeastern Spain and in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is used most commonly for blending with many of the region's other key varieties – most famously Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. The grape prefers warm, dry climates when the grape can express high tannins, acid, and color. The Klinker brick Carignane is produced from a 108-year-old, single vineyard block that winemaker Joseph Smith notes that the gripping tannins accentuate the soft cherry and.earthy aspect of the wine.

LangeTwins Winery 2015 Lodi Montepulciano
Montepulciano is a red wine grape variety grown widely in central Italy, most notably its eastern Abruzzo, Marche, and Molise regions. The grape was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but, is not used in the famous wines produced there --Sangiovese is instead. Globally appreciated for their soft flavors, strong color, and gentle tannins, Montepulciano wines are typically best consumed in their youth and with food. In Lodi, LangeTwins specializes in Italian styled wines and this one is fruit forward with enough texture, tannins, and acids to lift the fruit to the finish.

Peltier Winery Schatz Family 2011 Reserve Teroldego ($60) & LangeTwins Winery Single Barrel 2013 The Eighth Vineyard Teroldego. Teroldego is a deeply colored red wine grape grown mostly in the Trentino wine region of northern Italy where it produces deeply pigmented red wines with an intensely fruity character. The wineries have already aged these wines for you so expect a structured wine with more approachable tannins than when younger.

Markus Wine Co. 2016 Zeitlos ($39.00)
This is a Syrah-dominated blend from Borra Vineyards where the Gill Creek Ranch was responsible for 76% Syrah Clone 877 & 4% Viognier and the Church Block 12% Carignane & 8% Petite Sirah. "Petite" here refers to the small, intensely colored berries that make Petite Sirah such a distinctive grape variety. And the high tannins and acidity present in Petite Sirah make it an excellent candidate for aging. This Zeitlos is a luscious wine, structured, strong fruit, and biting tannins.

Mettler Family Vineyards 2016 Pinotage ($24.99)
Pinotage is South Africa's signature grape variety and is a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut -- bred by scientist Abraham Perold in 1925. It is grown almost exclusively in South Africa, making everything from low-quality table wines to rich, concentrated wines with flavors of black and red fruits, spice, leather, and chocolate. This wine is juicy with earthiness and a lush and fresh finish.

PRIE Vineyards 2017 Lodi Mencia ($33)
Mencia is a red-wine grape native to the northwest of Spain. It is most commonly associated with the red wines of Bierzo. Mencia wines tend to exhibit earthy, vegetal characters with berry nuances and stony minerality. The very first California harvest of the grape was at Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi and is the source for this wine.

Heritage Oak Winery 2014 Charbono ($28)
Charbono (Bonarda) is a widely traveled red-wine grape variety with a complicated history. Originally from the alpine vineyards of Savoie in eastern France, it is now mostly planted in Napa Valley, where it is known as Charbono, and in Argentina, where it goes by the name Bonarda. The variety's wines are generally medium bodied with high acidity and berry fruit aromas and some smoky characteristics. This Charbono is a lovely representation of the grape.


Oak Farm Vineyards 2017 Estate Fiano ($25)
Fiano is a high-quality, white-wine grape variety used widely in southern Italy, particularly in Campania and the Fiano di Avellino DOCG. Used mainly as a varietal wine, Fiano is nutty and textured with floral and honeyed notes, spice and tropical fruit flavors like pineapple. In Lodi, Fiano was particularly special to the owners (Panella Family) Oak Farm Vineyards because the grape and they originated in the same province in Italy.

Heritage Oak Winery 2018 Chenin Blanc ($18)
Chenin Blanc is a versatile white-wine grape variety that has been cultivated in France for nearly 1300 years. It is most commonly associated with France's Loire Valley, and its high acidity levels mean it can be vinified in a number of different styles: as lusciously sweet, botrytis-affected dessert wines, light, honeyed sparkling wines and as full-bodied, still white wines. The Heritage Oak pairs excellently with the MSushi seared Hawaiian amberjack as the lemon and pear fruit and fresh acids filet into the fish.

Klinker Brick Winery 2018 Lodi - Mokelumne River Grenache Blanc ($18)
Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca in Spain) is the light-skinned mutation of Grenache Noir. Although it is native to northern Spain, Grenache Blanc is best known for its role in southern French white wines and in particular as a member of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend.  Paired with MSushi oysters, the shellfishes' saline character blends with the citrus and light pear flavors of the Grenache Blanc.

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Lodi Mokelumne River 2018 Clairette Blanche ($28)
Clairette is a light-colored grape variety that grows throughout southern France. This Acquiesce wine follows the Lodi Rules certification for sustainable winegrowing and the one-acre lot was planted with Tablas Creek (Paso Roble) cuttings from the famous French Château de Beaucastel Winery in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. This wine is a light, refreshing, and an easy sipper.

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Lodi Mokelumne River 2018 Picpoul Blanc ($28)
Picpoul (also known as Piquepoul) is an ancient white-wine grape variety of the traditional and prolific Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. The name Pique-poul translates literally as "stings the lip", and is a reference to the grape's mouthwateringly high acidity. This Acquiesce wine also follows the Lodi Rules certification for sustainable winegrowing and the 1.3 acres are planted with Tablas Creek cuttings from the famous French Château de Beaucastel Winery in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. This is one refreshing wine, playful throughout.

Bokisch Vineyards Clay Station Vineyard Verdejo 2018 ($20)
Verdejo is the aromatic grape variety behind the crisp white wines of Rueda in central Spain. Full-bodied Verdejo wines are held in high regard, displaying herbaceous, nutty characters with balanced acidity and some cellaring potential. Once again Bokisch excels with this Spanish wine which features creamy pears and a zesty finish.

Ironstone Vineyards 2017 Obsession Symphony ($14)
Symphony is a Californian crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris developed in 1948 (but not commercially released until 1982) by the late Harold Olmo, professor of viticulture at the University of California, Davis. As its pedigree suggests, it is an aromatic variety with slightly spicy flavors.  This version is highly aromatic with a fresh and spicy finale.