As I mentioned in my previous post, grape called Norton was on my “to try” list for the long time ( ever since I started with The Wine Century club). Finally, during my visit to Chrysalis Vineyards, I got an opportunity to try it in the different versions (Estate 2005, Estate 2006, Locksley Reserve 2005 and Sarah’s Patio Red, a semi-sweet wine). As I also shared the bottle with friends, I decided that it would be appropriate to share this post between daily glass and treble journey.
Talking about whole line of Norton wines I happened to try during the tasting, they were all good wines, or to use the previously given definitions, they were all “pleasant” wines. Not to say that I’m very judgmental, but this would not be my average experience of visiting the wineries. So I’m happy to repeat that I was pleasantly surprised. Now, looking at all those Norton wines, I have to say that while Norton Locksley Reserve 2005 is designated “best” by the winery (if price, $35, is any indicator), and excluding Sarah’s Patio Red, as semi-sweet wine to me is a “special occasion” wine, my favorite was Norton Estate 2005 ($19).
This Norton Estate 2005 wine was very round and supple, with good amount of red fruit, like blackberries, and hint of spicy cedar notes. Soft tannins, fruit and acidity are well balanced, and finish is lingering for a very long time.
My only wish at this point is that the rest of the 55 grapes I still need to get through in my Treble journey would be as good as the grape #245 – Norton, The Real American Grape.
While traversing wine blogosphere, I came across a post about the book called “The Wild Vine” by Todd Kliman. This sparked my interest because of the two reasons – for one, it was talking about the grape called Norton, which was for a long time on my “to try” (of course partially due to the Wine Century Club and my Treble Journey). Another reason was that on the very first page the book was talking about Virginia, and Virginia already was set as my vacation destination for a coming week. To my full delight, Chrysalis Vineyards, located on Champe Ford Road in Middleburg, was the place where The Wild Vine book started, and it happened to be just around the corner of our intended destination in Virginia, which made visiting it very easy.
When visiting wineries in some “well developed” areas, like Napa Valley in California, you usually drive along a big road, simply making turns into short driveways. Coming to Chrysalis Vineyards was pleasantly different – mile and a half on the narrow unpaved road, surrounded by luscious greens. Somehow you get this real rustic feeling, which sets you in the right mood for tasting the wines ( and probably affects the way wines taste, but I guess this will be a subject for another post ).
There was a great line up of wines at the winery. There were simply no wines which I didn’t like (has something to do with the road and right mood, huh?), and all the wines were of a very good quality. The selection of grapes which are used at the winery also was very unusual – being accustomed to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from the West coast, and then Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir from the North East, seeing Viognier, Petit Manseng, Albarino, Petit Verdot and Tannat (and of course Norton), was exciting.
The tasting included 12 wines, out of which 2009 Viognier (exceptionally perfumed and vibrant), 2005 Norton Estate Bottled (80% Norton with addition of Petit Verdot and other grapes, very balanced with silky tannins and long finish), 2005 Petit Verdot (80% Petit Verdot and 20% Tannat, very soft and round) and 2005 Norton Locksley Reserve (again, very balanced and soft) were really shining, I would rate them all at 7+ and 8 (Viognier definitely deserves an 8).
All in all, if you have a chance to visit Chrysalis Vineyards – don’t miss it, go discover the Real American Grape for yourself – and let me know your opinion!
Gigondas is a small appellation in Southern Rhone in France, which produces the wines somewhat similar in style to the famed Chateaneuf du Pape. Absolute majority of the wines are red, and main grape is Granache (up to 80% in the final wine based on AOC laws), with Syrah and other grapes adding up. Grenache is a very versatile red grape, used in a wide range of wines all over the world.
Considering that Robert Parker gave 2007 vintage in Southern Rhone a 98 rating ( of course this rating is generalized for the whole region and nobody expect all the wines to achieve the same rating), I had good expectations for this wine as well ( as I had already a number of great generic Cote du Rhones from 2007 vintage). Unfortunately, that didn’t play out. The problem with this wine was related to alcohol. Yes, yes, the wine is alcoholic beverage, duh, of course. But it is the balance which I’m looking for in wine. While at 14.5% ABV it doesn’t stand out in today’s wine world as super-loaded, somehow the alcohol in this wine was not integrated at all. Burning sensation of alcohol was overpowering all other smells on the nose, and burning sensation of alcohol was absolutely prevalent on the palate, even on the second day. While it was possible to catch a glimpse of leather and pepper, which is a characteristic of Southern Rhone wines, this wine didn’t achieve great deal of balance. So the rating is:
Well, I guess I have to keep trying…
I think it is time to explain mysterious “treble journey” posts, before I will be fully declared “boring crazy wine geek”. Starting from the beginning: about 3 years ago I came across something called Wine Century club. At first I couldn’t even figure out what the name means, and then finally I realized that this is a club for people who declare (completely honor-based) that they have try at least 100 different grapes. At that point, I was into wines already for a while, and due to the fact that I do my best to keep the labels from all the different wines I happened to taste, this task appeared to be somewhat simple. By the end of 2008, I was a proud owner of Wine Century Club certificate. Then in May of 2009, when the club was celebrating it’s 4th year, I found out that there is a new challenge level – doppel. In order to become a doppel member one have to try … you guessed it right – 200 different varieties of the grapes! This was substantially bigger challenge – but challenges make our lives fun, don’t they? And there I went, and mysterious “doppel journey” notes where coming out on twitter for a while (2009 for me was an active twitting year ). While challenging, the mission was accomplished, and I received my next certificate, which I believe was proclaiming doppel members somewhat crazy… Anyway, I was convinced that I’m done with those “journeys” – until another anniversary celebration… yep, in 2010, I found out that club now has 3 “treble” members ( and even one quattro, but that deserves another post, I believe). So yes, a 300 grapes challenge – I just couldn’t resist the urge…. So now you have to keep up with those “treble journey” updates ( even though I do make an honest effort to do them in the fun way)…
Why “journey”? This is how I see it – I’m moving along in the world of wine, looking for something new all the time, looking for any obscure place in search of the most obscure grape – I think calling this process a journey is well justified. Also, it is a real journey, as I’m not doing it alone. Wine is meant for sharing (my honest opinion) so I always make an effort to take my friends along in such a travel – remember, I did mention the fun part already?!
What else makes it fun? I get a chance to work as a detective, to unravel the mystery. Come again, you say? Well, let me explain. A lot of wine labels don’t contain any information about the grapes the wine is made of. For some of the wines such information is easy to find on the web sites. For some of the wines, it is a real challenge – you need to find a web site which is not necessarily in English, find the right wine, and then there is a decent chance that you will find the names of the grapes. You think mission accomplished? Not so fast… Problem is that a lot o grapes have different names in different regions, but it really is the same grape! Of course it is easy to figure out when french grape Grenache is called Garnacha in Spain. But what do you think of Aragonez, Cencibel, Tinta Roriz and Toro? Yep, all are synonyms for Tempranillo, the most planted red grape in the world – therefore, as you can see, there is some fun work to do in order to get to the final destination.
Obviously one can spend a lot of time and effort on this (and don’t forget money!), but I think that end result is ultimately rewarding, as with any true passion. I hope my explanation make sense, and now you will be able to ignore the geek portion, and see the fun side instead – and again I promise to make an effort to bring out the fun.
And until the next treble grape comes along – cheers!
And once again this will be rather a progress report on the road to the Treble status at Wine Century Club. Three new grapes, three unusual names (well, yeah, it would be surprising to see grape #242 being called Merlot).
Domaine Du Ridge Champs de Florence 2008, Quebec, Canada
As I routinely check the grapes for the wines I drink, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this Rose wine was made out of the grape called Seyval Noir. I know Seyval Blanc, which is a popular grape choice for the white wines in the eastern part of US, but Seyval Noir is a new one. The wine, Champs de Florence from Domaine du Ridge is a nice rose wine, with aromas of fresh strawberries ( quite typical for rose), medium body and good refreshing acidity.
Every time I’m lucky enough to come across the wine from Switzerland, I regret that it is almost impossible to find them in US – both traditional ( Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay) and indigenous grapes (Gamaret, Diolinoir, Humagne…) produce very good results there – but the wines are literally unknown outside of Switzerland. This particular white wine is made out of the grape called Heida. I would like to note that every “unknown” grape forces me to do quite a bit of research (and it deserves a separate post) – and based on information available on internet, Heida is a close relative of another grape coming from Jura in France and called Savagnin – however, the information is not strong enough to declare Heida and Savagnin to be identical, so please let me consider Heida a grape on its own for now.
Going back to wine, it has very pleasant nose with aromas of white peaches and hints of white flowers, medium body and nice rounding acidity, all in all making it great wine for summer day. Interesting to note that wine didn’t have enough aromatics to stand up against Asian food, but should work better with mild cheeses ( well, I wish I had another bottle to try it with ).
#244, Raboso Piave
This wine comes from Vigna Dogarina winery in Veneto region in northern Italy. Veneto is well known for its traditional Valpolicella, Amarone and Bardolino wines, though grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also produce very good results. Ros de Plana is a very good example of that – this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Raboso Piave is unmistakably Italian wine – dense and earthy on the palate, somewhat of a middle ground between Barolo and Brunello, two of very famous and powerful Italian wines, it opens into a very nice and balanced wine, with spicy oak, walnuts and sour cherries and great midpalate density. This balanced wine will also continue to age very nicely. Just to comment on what seems to be a wine-geek talk, “midpalate density” (essentially the feeling of the liquid weight in your mouth) is a term I recently learned in the article by one of my favorite wine writers, Matt Kramer, regular contributor to the Wine Spectator magazine. Matt Kramer uses midpalate density as a main factor in determining age-worthiness of the wine. One more comment on a comment – to open an article from the link above you might need a subscription to the Wine Spectator online (if you like wine – this is one of the best investments you can make). Anyway, talking about Ros de Plana – here is the rating:
I just hope that I didn’t overwhelm my readers with the wine speak and geek – and if I did – please feel free to slap me…
So, what do you think – is there a such thing as dangerous wines? Let’s leave all the issues of addiction outside of this conversation, as this is not worth debating – addictions are bad, no matter what the subject is, so let’s leave it at that. So let’s start again – when would you call the wine “dangerous”?
First, of course, there are all the forms of the wine faults – wine can be corked ( smells like musty basement, not pleasant to drink at all, because no flavor left), wine can be oxidized (again, no flavor left), wine can be “cooked” ( this is usually the result of of prolonged exposure to the heat, like transporting the wine for a day or two in the trunk of a car during hot summer), and so on. If you actually interested in learning more about wine faults, here is very good Wiki article.
Then the wine can be simply not made well. This is the case when you try the wine and you just want to spit, and then you declare a bottle “not good even for cooking”. Not sure if this is the case of “dangerous” we are looking for, but this is definitely the case of wine we don’t want to drink.
And now, let me explain what I call a “dangerous” wine. To me, dangerous wine is the one you can not put down. You take a sip, you say “wow”, you take another sip, your glass is empty, and then in a while you don’t understand what happened with the bottle? Where this all go? Did I spill half a bottle? Is my dog walks suspiciously – but, hey, she couldn’t reach that bottle, right? So what just happened here??? Yep, the wine was so smooth, so round, so it went down so easily that now you completely astonished – but it’s all gone… This is what I call dangerous .
Recently, I was lucky to come across such a dangerous wine, thanks to my friend Zak from Cost Less Wines and Liquors in Stamford – this is the wine called Carchelo:
Carchelo 2008, Bodegas Carchelo, Jumilla, Spain
This wine comes from the Jumilla region in Spain, and it is a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has very deep purple color, beautiful nose of dark fruit, plums, sweet cherries and blackberries, silky smooth tannins and good acidity, so all together comes in a “dangerously” balanced package. Final verdict:
Try is today, and tell me if how dangerous it was for you!
I already touched on the subject of the “best wine” in my previous post, which can be defined as “the one you like the most”. Continuing the subject, I would also like to refer to the great teacher, author and wine guru Kevin Zraly, who taught tens of thousands of people (myself included) to understand and appreciate wine in his Windows on the World Wine School. In the words of Kevin Zraly, the best wine is the one which gives you pleasure. As simple as that. Why do I bring it up? Because today I want to talk about wine called Sauternes. Sauternes is a white dessert wine which comes from Sauternes region in Bordeaux in France and typically made out of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes in various proportions. And if you ever tasted any of the Sauternes (and if you didn’t – please do it as soon as possible), you would agree, that this is one of the few wines which can be consistently associated with pleasure, which is also proven by the fact that Chateau d’Yquem (one of the very best, Grand producers in Sauternes) wines received a perfect score of 100 points (absolute max) from Wine Spectator literally more often that any other rated wine ( you can check for yourself at Wine Spectator web site).
Enters Haut Charmes 2007, Sauternes, France.
As with any wines from any regions,of course not all of Sauternes are created equal, and there are always ups and downs. Luckily, Haut Charmes 2007 belongs to the “up” side. This wine comes beautifully clean on the nose and palate, with white fruits like peaches, and honey being prominent in the taste, all complemented with very good minerality and acidity. The wine presents itself in a very ethereal fashion, and doesn’t leave sweet residue on the palate, which many of its cousins would do, finishing with desire to reach for the glass again and again and again. I have to also mention that rumor has it that it is declassified d’Yquem – you can find this information in a number of places on Internet, but not at the Chateau d’Yquem official web site, so we have to take it as is. With or without any relationship to the actual d’Yquem, this wine is 10-fold less expensive that the actual d’Yquem – assuming you can find it ( in one of the near future posts, I will write about wine stores I shop at, so you will learn about the right places for that). And talking about rating:
Make an effort – find it and try it, and then let’s talk about wine and pleasure!
When tasting the wine, there is a lot of factors which will affect the perceived taste ( like/don’t like). Some of those factors are objective, like temperature (chill the wine, and some flaws will disappear), some of the factors are rather subjective, like your mood. I want to talk about another factor which is hard to categorize, but it can greatly affect what we think about the wine. It is one and the same factor which comes in many forms – label, producer, cost, rating, and wine critic in the end of the day. Of course there are exception to this rule, there are best of us who can simply disregard all the known facts, and simply taste the wine for what it is. However, majority of us (myself definitely included), will be influenced by what we know. Ah, Robert Parker rated this wine 93, it must be really great… This bottle of wine cost $100 – it must be great…
Well, there is a good way to eliminate this factor – it is called blind tasting. Considering this is summer, we decided to try a lighter red grape in the blind tasting format – so we chose Pinot Noir. Great thing about Pinot Noir is that it is grown in many different regions, and while the grape is the same, the wines from the different places will taste quite differently.
How do you run a blind wine tasting? Very easily. Each person brings a wine bottle in the paper bag and then opens it. All the bags are assigned random numbers. Then the wines get poured into the glasses which are standing on the mat with the numbers. Voila! Now all the wines can be tasted and independently assessed – no intimidation by any of the factors we mentioned above – in the glass they all look [almost] the same (oh, boy, I can be bitten up by professionals for such a lame claim, but oh well…).
We had 6 Pinot Noirs and went through them one by one, assessing color, smell and taste of each, exchanging thoughts ( like “I think this is California” or “I can’t smell anything”), but not enforcing opinions. Here are my short notes as we went along (you can actually see the picture of all 6 wines and then see how funny my notes are):
#2: New World, California, 2007/2008?(Actual Wine: Sea Smoke Southing 2007, Sta. Rita Hills, California)
#3: Not bad, needs time, Chile? (Actual wine: J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir 2007, Arroyo Seco, California)
#4: Bright acidity, fresh fruit, Oregon? (Actual wine: Terra Noble Pinot Noir Reserva, 2009, Casablanca Valley, Chile)
#5: Classic – perfect smoky nose (Actual wine: Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2008, South Africa)
#6: Young and reminding of Monastrell. Very nice (Actual wine: Wine by Joe Pinot Noir 2008, Oregon)
Once we tried all 6 wines, it was the time to tally it up and proclaim the winner, after which all the wines were revealed out of their bags. I would think that considering the title of the post, you already guessed that something unusual is coming. True, though for me it was way too unusual. So the two winning wines were tied up – #3 and #5, both got the same number of votes. I can understand the wine #3, J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir from Monterey county, California. California is known as the place for Pinot Noirs, especially with the help of movie Sideways. But the wine #5, which I thought had all the traits of the classic Burgundy – please tell me honestly, how many of you heard of ( never mind trying) Pinot Noir from South Africa?! Of course there are great wines from South Africa – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, but Pinot Noir? And nevertheless, wine #5 was Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from South Africa.
So here you have it – blind wine tasting, which removes all the intimidation and decision influencers, and leaves you one on one with the wine in the pure and honest fashion. No hints “oh, that should be good because…”, no pretension. Of course there can be flaps. Wine #1 was spoiled (probably oxidation), so it should really be excused from the judgment. At the same time, wine #2, Sea Smoke Southing, would probably be decided a winner, simply because it is a cult Pinot, and it cost $80+ – if you can find it. And yet in the blind setting, it didn’t generate much response. Of course there is always a happy chance that none of us has sophisticated palate – but in the end of the day, the definition of the “best wine” is simple – it is the one which YOU consider the best, so I think we shouldn’t worry about it.
To conclude – get your friends together and try blind tasting one day – you might be surprised, but you will not be disappointed! Drink the wine, and have fun doing that .
I would be nice if I can open this post with “this is a quick update on the progress”, but such a statement would be strange, as I don’t believe anyone asked for my updates. Therefore, this is a “memory knot” post for myself, just to be able to look back one day and see the path to Treble status in The Wine Century Club. (you can read more about Treble “journey” in my previous post ).
So the grape called Xynomavro happened to become number 241 on my list. The wine Boutari Naoussa 2006 was made from 100% Xynomavro. This grape is described as one of Greek’s best in terms of firm tannins and aging potential. Unfortunately, the Boutari Naoussa 2006 was not the best representation of the grape, with tannins being somewhat off and having isolated taste on a side of the mouth, and the rest of the wine being not very impressive grape juice.
If anyone wonders about the rating, you can imagine it will not be too high…
In general, I think it would be safe to state that we drink wine because it gives us pleasure (I’m absolutely NOT talking about being “drunk and happy”) – and it should be a pleasure of taste, pleasure of flavor sensation unfolding in your mouth. So when the wine doesn’t taste good, it is really a disappointment (of course nobody is talking about pain). However, when you have an additional purpose, not just a sensual pleasure, it changes the perspective – when trying to reach a next level in The Wine Century Club, even the wine which doesn’t taste great still gives you a pleasure of inching towards your goal. Having realize that, I’m feeling better already!
Let’s go to Treble!
To begin with, I would like to state that by no means I plan to become a restaurant critic and compete with Zagat. But as this blog is about wine, food and life, visiting a restaurant provides perfect mixture of all three elements.
On the way to the the airport, thanks to my another dear friend, Pablo, I was again lucky to experience great food and wine, this time at the place called Dixie Grill Bar. It might be a tourist notion, but same as in the case of Le Champa Del Mar, I believe you have to actually know about that place in order to get there. Coming from outside, it is hard to tell there is a restaurant behind the wall. Inside, the place looks simplistically stylish and has very nice ambiance. The only thing which is out of place, in my opinion, is paper napkins instead of actual cloth napkins – I would not even think that I will pay attention to something like this, but it appears that I do.
Anyway, let’s talk about wine. Based on Pablo’s recommendation, we went with wine called Yiron 2006, from Galil Mountains. The wine is a Cabernet-based blend (Cabernet Sauvignon with addition of Merlot and Syrah). It has a nose of dark berries with some cedar notes, and on the palate has a good balance of fruit, tannins and acidity. All in all, it was a very good wine which was evolving with the time during dinner, so it was actually a very good choice. For those who knows my rating system by now, I will rate it at…
Few more notes about this wine. First, it is available in US, so it would be possible (and worthwhile) to find it. I also want to mention that Daniel Rogov, famous Israeli wine critic gave this wine a 91 rating ( which is good). And on the subject of Israeli wines, Gary Vaynerchuck, a wine internet celebrity from Wine Library, recorded an episode on Israeli Kosher wines with Daniel Rogov, and you can see it here.
And for the food – as usual, a picture worth a thousand words, so here we go:
Search This Site