A few month ago I got an email from Trione winery offering me a gift. Not just any gift – wine. Free wine. Words “free” and “wine” put together sound almost magical for the anyone who drinks wine daily (I refuse to take the calculator out – don’t ask). But the word “free” in the email usually means danger. After careful consideration, and actually looking at the winery web site, I decided that it was not a scam or phishing attempt, so I answered that I would be happy to get a free wine. The only caveat in the follow up response was that they can only ship wine to the limited number of states. Connecticut not included (of course). But New York was. And so my friend Emil became a recipient for the wine.
When Emil called me that he got the wine, he mentioned that the box looks very small. Well, okay – it is what it is – free wine, whatever the package is. And then some time later, the package made it to my house. A small black box, probably half of the shoebox in size. But there was actually wine inside. And this is how it looked like:
Trione Winery, which I never heard of before, is a new venture of Trione family who was growing grapes in Sonoma for 35 years. Here is what you can read on the front page of their web site:
“For over three decades, the Trione family has raised premium grapes that have been the foundation of many award-winning wines. Now we bring our grapes to you in wines bottled under our own label, Trione Vineyards & Winery. It is the culmination of our family’s long commitment to Sonoma County.”
Here are few more views for you (just trying to build up the anticipation here):
Another interesting detail – it appears that this tasting set consisting of the tiny bottles is actually a concept called Tasting Room. While web site provide literally no information, the card enclosed with the package explained the concept:
The wines are bottled in the small bottles using special technology which preserves all specifics of the wine, so it is exact same wine which will go into the regular bottles. The only exception – the wine in small bottles is not intended for aging (as you can imagine), so as the card says – drink up!
And with this, let me share my tasting notes. Well, not only mine – in majority of the cases we drink wine together with my wife, especially when we are looking at the interesting and unusual experience – so I’m including her tasting notes too.
2010 Trione Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc (14% ABV) – “Pear Grove” my wife said. Some fresh grass on the nose with a bit of grapefruit, but mostly earthy and herbaceous, Earthy and herbaceous on the palate as well, lots of residual acidity, but not “in-your-face”. Food friendly. Interesting. Drinkability: 7+
2010 Trione Russian River Valley Chardonnay(14.3% ABV) – nice butter on the nose, vanilla. Nose is very promising, but palate is not good, very acidic, no fruit, kind of flat. I’m sure it needs time or at least different serving temperature, therefore it is not rated.
2008 Trione Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (14.2% ABV) – Nice nose of dark fruit, tobacco, touch of roasted meat flavor. Nice palate of dark fruit, raspberries, plums, tobacco, pencil and sage undertones. Good palate, good balance. Very good overall. Drinkability: 8-
2008 Trione Russian River Valley Syrah (14.8% ABV) – Wow color – very dark, intense, almost black. My wife’s notes were “oh, this is good” , “great potential”, “very promising” (disclaimer – my wife loves Syrah, probably her favorite wines). Dark roasted fruit, silky smooth, perfect balance, perfect acidity, cherries, earthy notes. Definitely very promising. Very good overall. Drinkability: 8-
2007 Trione Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5% ABV) – absolutely beautiful nose – perfectly classic, with mint and blackcurrant – textbook flavors. Coffee showed up later on the nose. Wife’s notes: “overpowering , but very yummy”. Big, powerful, silky smooth, noticeable tannins – but excellent balance. Touch over-extracted on the palate, but only in terms of power, not sweetness. Needs time. Drinkability: 8
2007 Trione Alexander Valley Red Wine (14.5% ABV) – Dark chocolate, coffee, blackberries on the palate, nice complexity. Beautiful, round and open fruit. Needs time. Drinkability: 8-
As you can see, it was a very enjoyable experience (it’s too bad that the bottles were that small) – next time you see Trione wine in the store, don’t just stand there, grab a bottle…
That concludes my special tasting report, folks. Until the next time (hopefully someone will send me good and free wine soon) – cheers!
Disclaimer: the wine was provided by Trione Vineyards and Winery free of charge. All opinions are my own.
Have you heard this expression before – Rutherford dust? This is the terminology often used to describe mouthfeel of the wines made in the Rutherford AVA in Napa Valley. Some say it is the taste, some say it is the texture – it seems that Rutherford dust means different things to different people. But as a common ground, people agree that wines of Rutherford AVA have some qualities which are not found among the wines from other areas of Napa Valley.
Andre Tchelistcheff, legendary winemaker of Beaulieu Vineyards and one of the founding fathers of California wine industry, is usually credited with coining the term “Rutherford dust”. Interestingly enough, according to this article, Tschelistceff only referred to the Rutherford dust as a terroir, but – you will need to let your taste buds to guide you to argue that point.
About a month ago, during one of my trips to California, I had an opportunity to visit Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) in Rutherford, where Andre Tchelistcheff worked as a winemaker from 1938 until his retirement in 1973. As you enter tasting room at BV, Andre Tchelistcheff himself greets you:
BV makes a number different lines of wines, starting from introductory BV Coastal, going to “Maestro” series, which is available only at the winery or through the club, and continuing to the Reserve line.
We started with 2009 BV Carneros Reserve Chardonnay, which was beautiful, round and clean, with just enough of vanilla and butter to maintain balance. Next we tried 2010 BV Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir. Actually, I had no idea BV even makes Pinot Noir- but now I know, and I will look for it. This wine was beautiful, round and polished, with restrained fruit, silky smooth tannins – very balanced and very drinkable. 2009 BV Tapestry Reserve – a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec – was outstanding, perfectly Bordeaux style, but softer, more approachable.
Then we tasted 2009 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – and it was the moment when “Rutherford dust” went on like a light bulb in my head. I only heard the expression before, but never experienced it – and until I tasted this wine, I had no idea what the Rutherford dust is. This was probably single best Cabernet Sauvignon I tasted throughout this year (well, almost – keep on reading). It had everything the Cabernet should have in my opinion – mint, eucalyptus, black currant, supple tannins, perfect balance – and the texture of the tiny particles on my tongue. This was my “Rutherford dust” moment – I don’t know if Andre Tchelistcheff was talking strictly about the terroir – this wine had something which I never tasted before, so for me it was that “Rutherford dust”.
And then there were clones:
Again, I learned something new here. Yes, I had various encounters with grape clones before – Riesling clones, Sauvignon Blanc clones, such as soliloquy, Wente Chardonnay clone – but I didn’t have an experience with Cabernet Sauvignon clones. It appears that there are a number of the clones (here is a good link if you want to learn more about that concept of clones), all originating from the different places and thus bringing some unique characteristics to the resulting wine.
We tasted 2007 BV Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 4, where the vines were originally from Bordeaux, then found home in Mendoza, Argentina, and now are officially known as Mendoza clone. Clone 4 is a primary foundation of the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and has similar characteristics to the wine I described above.
Then we tasted 2007 BV Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6, which was just something else.
Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from abandoned and then rediscovered plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in Jackson, California. This wine was simply amazing, with the nose of dark roasted coffee, mocha, a touch of bitterness, silky smooth and perfectly balanced, giving you an absolutely luxurious mouthfeel. For me, this wine was definitely rivaling Georges de Latour Private Reserve we tasted before, and I already claimed that the first one was the best Cabernet of the whole year… Tough choice, huh?
And then there were older vintages.
2000 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon had more pronounced acidity than the 2009, and fruit showed a bit tame, but overall the wine still had perfect balance and was very enjoyable.
1997 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon had beautiful fruit, the same Rutherford dust texture as 2009, and it actually needed time to open up, as the bottle was freshly opened.
Just to share a few more pictures with you – here is a beautiful Holidays-ready display at the winery:
And if you ever want to make me a present, this box will make me happy – very happy, I have to add:
There you have it, folks – we had an amazing time at Beaulieu Vineyards. This was my second visit to BV – last time I discovered Maestro series wines, which were also great, but tasting through the Private Reserve collection was just an outstanding experience. If I would be able to afford it, I think Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cab would be my every day wine – at $125 (winery price), this is not happening any time soon. Of well, but then there are holidays …
Our next stop was for lunch, and we simply had to walk across the parking lot – to the Rutherford Grill. I heard the name before, but never visited it, so it was very exciting to try one of the Napa Valley well-known restaurants. To give you a quick summary, the food, service and atmosphere were all great – you should definitely put it on your destinations list if you will be in the area. Here are few of the food pictures.
Warm Focaccia bread with olives:
Chili (perfectly spicy and delicious):
I had a burger:
To tell you the truth, I have another “first time” experience to add here – it would be vineyards in the fall. I always admired beautiful pictures of the vines in the fall with all the colorful leaves. These time, I found some to claim my own:
After lunch, we made another stop for tasting – this time at Provenance vineyards. We tasted through the whole portfolio of Provenance and Hewitt wines – and while some of them were good, overall they were not anywhere close to the BV experience, hence I will skip the write up.
Last experience of the trip was quick stop on the way back at a small town of Yountville. We didn’t do much there, just walked around for a few minutes, and I snapped a picture of one of my dream destination (I will let you guess what it is, but you will read the answer right on the picture below:
That’s all folks – this was my experience with the Rutherford dust. Have you tried the wines from Rutherford or may be even the same BV wines – what do you think? Did you taste the dust there? Cheers!
This post was supposed to be written at least 2 months ago – but it is only coming out now. Well, the experience was great, so want to share it. And I will also skip a traditional Wine Quiz for the next two weekends, and will start it anew next year.
Ahh, all those “firsts” – aren’t they the best, most memorable experiences of your life? First step (well, nobody remembers those, I guess), first kiss (hope now I’m talking about something more memorable), first… well, whatever makes you tick, insert it here. I have somewhat of the extensive experience around wines, but I still have my “firsts”, and plenty of it.
At the beginning of October, while in Austin, I tasted my first “just blended” Viognier (here is the link if you want to read about it). This time, I managed to come across my first harvest. No, I didn’t actually cut, sorted or stomped the grapes. But our visit to Paumanok winery on Long Island in New York coincided with an actual harvest of Merlot which was taking place on exact same day.
For a number of years by now, it is pretty much a tradition – at the beginning of October, we visit Long Island wineries with the group of friends. The weather is usually beautiful – it is so called “Indian summer” in New England, so it is typically warm and sunny, but not hot by all means. We drive all the way down the North Fork of Long Island, stop at a few wineries on the way, taste bunch of wines and then select a few bottles for lunch.
So far we didn’t find a better location for lunch than the outside deck at Paumanok winery – you get to eat outside and enjoy a view of the beautiful sun-filled vineyards:
This time our experience had an interesting twist – we managed to hit the harvest day. I called the winery a few days before and talked to winemaker, Kareem, to see if he will be able to spend some time with us – he said “may be, but unlikely. as we probably will be harvesting Merlot”. That is exactly how it was – the harvest was in a full swing by the time we arrived. Before we will talk about our “harvest experience” (mostly in pictures), let’s talk about the wines, as we started from the tasting upon our arrival.
We tasted pretty much through the full line of wines offered at Paumanok. Started with 2011 Paumanok Festival Chardonnay – unoaked and simple, showing clean white fruit and good acidity.
2011 Paumanok Dry Rose was a bit too austere to my taste – I liked 2010 more, but we still took a bottle for lunch.
2011 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc was very good, a New Zealand style wine, with bright fruit, grapefruit notes, fresh grass and perfect acidity.
Continuing the line of whites was 2011 Paumanok Dry Riesling – perfectly done in classic style – good white fruit, touch of honey and perfect acidity (also was one of our lunch wine choices). Finishing up the whites we had 2011 Paumanok Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, which I liked a lot more that the unoaked version.
And now, to the reds! We started with 2011 Paumanok Cabernet Franc – nose of fresh berries, somewhat similar to the nose of Beaujolais Nouveau, only with more intensity, medium body, cherry notes on the palate, together with earthy notes and gentle tannins – very good wine. Next wine was 2011 Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon. It was not bad, but too perfumy for my taste. I honestly think that Long Island makes much better wines with Merlot than with Cabernet Sauvignon. Last wine in this flight was 2008 Paumanok Merlot, which was perfect – medium to full body, good amount of fruit, good acidity and tannins – very balanced.
We finished tasting with Grand Vintage Flight. 2010 Paumanok Cabernet Franc Grand Vintage was produced for the first time since 2004 in the quantity of 156 cases. This wine was perfect – full body, ripe cherries, sweet oak, soft tannins – I put “full package” as a summary of my tasting notes.
Next wine in the flight was 2010 Paumanok Assemblage – a blend of 35% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot and 11% Cabernet Franc. Even bigger than the previous wine, this wine showed some additional dark chocolate notes and great overall balance (as you know, balance in wine is one thing which can push my buttons).
We finished our tasting with 2007 Paumanok Merlot Tuthills Lane Vineyard – which was a great wine – dark fruit, dark chocolate, hint of tobacco, supple tannins and fresh acidity – very tasty.
As we were finishing the tasting we met Ursula, who happened to be the winery owner. She works at the winery together with her three sons, who are in charge of all operations – wine growing, wine making, harvesting and everything else which goes into production of Paumanok wines. Seeing our keen interest in wines, Ursula happened to be the most gracious and welcoming host, and we got really an inside tour of winery and what was happening on that day – which was a Merlot harvest.
Ursula showed us fermentation tanks and barrels, as well as state of the art bottling line:
But most importantly, she gave us a taste of just fermented Chenin Blanc, which was incredible! Freshly fermented juice was something I never tasted before, so it was my first encounter with inside magic of winemaking – and it was delicious.
To add up to that experience, she also took us to the backyard, so to speak, where the fresh grapes were arriving.
Merlot grapes at Paumanok are harvested using the machine. Salim, another one of the three brothers was operating the machine and he gave us all the explanations. This machine can’t be used for all the grapes – only for those where whole cluster doesn’t have to be harvested – for instance, it is not used for Chardonnay, as whole clusters are fermented as part of Chardonnay production.
The machine is positioned such a way that the row of the vines happens to be right in a middle of it. As the machine moves forward with the vines all being inside, all the branches are getting a gentle shake from the side rods:
As the result, grapes are falling down into the receptors, which are all moving as a conveyor belt, bringing the grapes up into collection bin.
So the result looks like this:
And then the grapes get to the sorting table, where minimal processing is done to remove big branches and spoiled grapes:
From the sorting table the grapes are transferred directly into the fermentation tank. By the way, do you see that juice coming off the sorting belt? We had a chance to taste that too – it was absolutely delicious – not that I hold any grudge against Welches, but this juice is something I would gladly drink any time (Welches – sorry, can’t do).
We always have a great time at Paumanok (as I mentioned before, this is our “annual outing”) – but never before we were lucky to have such a special experience and see how the magic starts.
After lunch we decided to visit two more wineries – Bedell and Macari. And I have to mention that unfortunately, outside of the cool labels, we didn’t find a single wine from Bedell tasting which we liked – all the reds tasted very green, with lots of branches to chew on.
Oh well, at least Paumanok had being very consistent through many years, so we are definitely looking forward continuing our tasty tradition.
I hope I didn’t inundate you with pictures too much, but there you have it – my first harvest experience, and I hope not the last (and if you are into wines, you should seek that experience as well!). Until the next time – cheers!
As you know, wine is my hobby – I don’t belong to the “wine trade”, but as wine aficionado (oenophile and occasional snob), I’m eternal student of wine (luckily, the world of wine happily offers eternal learning opportunities). How do you learn about wine? There are many ways, but tasting the wines and talking to the people who make them is probably one of the best – I just had a great learning experience which I want to share with you.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is located in State of Washington, about 30 miles north of Seattle. While visiting Seattle not long ago, I realized that I have enough time before my flight back to east coast to visit the winery and (yay!) try some wines.
The place looked pretty impressive as I drove in – I visited quite a few wineries over the years, and Chateau Ste. Michelle probably was the biggest one I ever being to. Took me a while even to realize that the big door was there with the purpose and not just a part of the old mansion. Here are few pictures from you so you will get the idea:
From here on, this will be pretty much a picture report with some tasting notes, of course.
By the way, just to give you an idea of the size of this winery – look at this conveyor belt – there are between 7,000 and 9,000 cases (!) of white wine made there per day (!):
And those barrels? They all hold white wine, and there are 28,000 barrels in that room (!). And the smell alone in that room – ahh, you really should experience it for yourself – the magnificent Chardonnay aromas filling up the air – you really can enjoy this smell countless amount of time.
Wait, here are the tanks first:
And now, the barrels (no, you can’t see all 28,000 in this picture):
Now, let’s talk about the wine – no more “supporting pictures”.
The tasting was conducted in the library room, were I was surrounded by the wines I really (REALLY!!!) wanted to try – but I had to only look at them… Here are some of the wines I didn’t try:
1977 Cabernet Sauvignon:
Then I didn’t try this 1993 Meritage:
1994 Meritage? Nope, still nothing…
And I didn’t try this 1998 Meritage:
Another wine I missed on, 2000 Meritage:
2004 Meritage? I could touch…the bottle, that’s all:
Okay, that’s it. Yes, I just wanted to share some pictures with you, so it would mean that I didn’t take those pictures for nothing.
And now, let’s talk about wines I actually tasted.
The tasting started with Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut NV. As a confession of the wine snob (wow! need to patent that – should be a great name for a series of posts) I have to admit that I always passed that sparkler in the wine stores. I will not make this mistake anymore! Perfectly balanced, with the nice notes of green apple, and fresh, clean, high note acidity (and the price of $11 or so), this can be your perfect everyday bottle of sparkling wine.
On a related note I would like to also give you a mini-quiz (the answer will be at the bottom of the post) – below is a picture of the cork – what do you think those numbers mean and why are they there?
Next we moved to the 2009 Canoe Ridge Chardonnay – it had a touch of butter and toasted oak on the nose, but was somewhat green on the palate – I was hoping for a bit more round profile on the palate.
Next wine was 2008 Artist Series Meritage – 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% malbec and 1% Petit Verdot – this was actually a first year for the whole period of Meritage production when all 5 classic Bordeaux varieties had being used. The wine was beautiful, perfectly balanced and reminiscent of a classic Bordeaux.
2009 Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – single vineyard Cabernet was perfectly clean with eucalyptus and earthy notes, soft fruit and long finish. As Renee ( my host) explained, this wine is usually not really welcomed by guests from California, as it shows much less exuberance compare to the traditional California Cab.
However, Washington Merlot, such as 2009 Ethos Reserve Merlot is fully redeeming the softness of Cabernet – this wine has broad shoulders, very big, powerful, with blueberries and blueberry jam, tobacco and dark chocolate notes – very impressive wine.
Last in that line of tasting was 2006 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, single vineyards from Horse Heaven Hills, RS 17.8% – this wine was perfectly balanced, with notes of honey and apricots, and clean, fresh acidity – very nice.
You think we are done? Nope. There are few more wines to report: 2008 Stone Tree Vineyard Syrah Wahluke Slope was soft and supple, with a touch of spice:
And then there was 2008 Ethos Reserve Syrah, which I have to simply call Best of Tasting – it was a “wow” wine, perfect BBQ wine with the nose of smokey roast, perfect power, balance and beauty:
And… We are not done yet! Then I had an opportunity to try Col Solare wines, which are a product of partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori. The winery is situated on the Red Mountain in Washington, a part of Columbia Valley appellation, and the vineyards and the whole winery are resembling sun rays – you can see it for yourself in this picture on the web site.
The wines are done in the true Super Tuscan style, powerful but reserved. I had an opportunity to try 2006, 2007 and 2008, and as a common point I can only say – these wines need more time…
And for me – here is something again which I didn’t try:
Okay, your photo-torture is done. I’m taking complains in the comment section. And I’m pretty much done with my report. Ahh, yes, almost forgot – that mini-quiz… Did you figure out those numbers on the cork? Of course you did, it is a production date. But I managed to surprise even my host Renee, who didn’t know about that date being printed on the cork (I even surprised myself as I never saw it before and only red about it) – the importance of this information is that with this date, you can know how long ago that non-vintage sparkling wine was produced. And I don’t know if you tasted a NV sparkler which was laying around for 5-6 years – it tastes very different from the fresh made version. And with the date on the cork – now you know.
Now I’m done with this post for sure. Find the bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle wine and have a glass – if you managed to read up to this point, you definitely deserve it. And if you are visiting Seattle – well, now you know what you shouldn’t miss. Cheers!
About five years ago, during one of my numerous trips to California, I had a little bit of free time. What do you do when you are in California, have a little bit of free time and love of wine? Of course, you go visit the winery!
A that time I decided to go visit Ridge Vineyards, located in Santa Cruz Mountains region, not far from San Jose. All I knew is that the winery is making wine called Monte Bello, which became famous after beating classic French Bordeaux during 1976 Judgement of Paris event. So I managed a steep 4 miles ride up the Monte Bello road, reached the winery, tasted 5 or 6 different wines and … didn’t like a single one of them. No, I don’t remember what exact wines and what exact vintages I tried, I just remember that none of the wines created any ”oompf”. I was disappointed and squarely put all the Ridge wines into ”I [really] don’t like it” category.
Holding that unhappy memory through the years, last year I even expressed my opinion in the comment to the twitter post by Jancis Robinson (she selected Ridge for a special wine tasting in Hong Kong), which caused some very unhappy reaction among her followers (to say “very unhappy” is a very mild understatement).
I can’t tell you why, but when this year I found out that I will be in San Jose area and I will have a bit of the free time, very first thought was ”I have to try Ridge wines again”. Four steep miles up the Monte Bello road and here I’m again. The air was beautiful, and so was the scenery – let me share a few pictures with you.
Ridge Vineyards is located near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. This is the “view from the top”:
These are the vineyards at Ridge (by the way, in case you recognize the picture, it gives you an answer to the wine quiz #10, Where in California – correct answer is Santa Cruz Mountains region):
Here are some beautiful flowers for you:
Can you guess what happened now? I tried 7 different wines and … I
liked loved every one of them. They all had common trait – balance and elegance, a quiet beauty, and may be most importantly, a sense of place – terroir, as French would put it. None of the wines were in-your-face, see-how-much-muscled-fruit-i-have – all of them were rather subtle, thought provoking and requiring time to reflect upon the content of your glass.
I don’t have an explanation. How come I didn’t like any wines the first time? Was that a ”leaf day”, a ”root day” or ”generally unfavorable” day? Did my palate evolved (that one I’m quite sure is true)? As you can’t enter the same river twice, I will not be able to relive that day 5 years ago and understand my reaction at that time. But I’m glad someone somehow somewhere decided that I have to go and try Ridge wines again – and discover something really beautiful.
2010 Estate Chardonnay – A little edgy in unusual way, some herbal undertones, oak is unnoticeable, except back palate burn. Opens a bit cleaner later on, long finish with hint of lemon.
2009 East Bench Zinfandel (15.1% ABV) – dry, with some dry rub spices, nice nose of blackberries, unnoticeable alcohol level, very balanced, perfect fruit and acidity on the palate.
2007 Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache (14.49% ABV) – nice fruit, touch of spice, hint of dry cherries, gentle tannins, good acidity. Perception of tannins increases going forwward.
2009 Estate Cabernet – Tremendous minerality on the nose, you can literally smell the earth. Very nice – hint of green, very Bordeaux-ish in style, restrained and balanced
2009 Buchignani Ranch Carignane – Tobacco and tar, nice bite of spice, nice simplicity. good tannins on the finish.
2006 Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah – Beautiful fruit right on top, dark fruit undertones, some cherries.
2006 Monte Bello – Beautiful fruit, perfect balance, very classic Cabernet Sauvignon blend, very long finish with tannins which are growing on you, hint of tobacco and earthiness on the palate. I’m glad this was the last wine I tasted, as the finish actually lasted at least for the next 20 minutes.
Yes, I was wrong before, and I don’t have any problems admitting it and getting over it – Ridge Vineyards makes great wines with the sense of place, and – better late than never – I’m very happy I made this discovery. Let’s raise the glass to the great discoveries of our lives! Cheers!
Continuing the “Israeli Experiences” series, I want to talk about great experience at Tishbi Winery.
While Tishbi family had being in the “grapes business” since 1882, the actual Tishbi Winery was founded in 1984 in the foothills of Carmel mountain in the area called Zichron Yaacov. in addition to the vineyards in Zichron Yaacov area, Tishbi also owns vineyards in North and South areas of Israel.
First we had to walk around the Visitors Center (which is brand new and modern looking), as there was huge group (about 100 people we were told) participating in the tasting. Very nice modern facility, spacious and airy. Of course the first thing we saw was wine:
Riesling (as you can see, it is called “French Riesling” to distinguish from Emerald Riesling which is another Riesling variety growing only in Israel):
Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve ( this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and it comes from Sde Boker vineyard located in Negev Desert):
Barbera/ Zinfandel (!) Port (very interesting to see Zinfandel grape somewhere outside of the US):
The next thing we noticed after all the wines was … chocolate! Not just random chocolate bar as a condiment – the shelves full of Valrhona Chocolate. It appears that Tishbi recently became one of the biggest distributors of the Valrhona chocolate in Israel. As part of the tasting, you can experience a special pairing of various “single cru” Valrhona chocolates with Tishbi’s wines.
Finally we managed to escape the Visitors Center and found out that we can have a tasting in the cafe next door, which we did. Here are some of the note for the wines we tasted:
We started with 2011 Tishbi Gewurztraminer, which was very nice, clean and simple, without strong bite which Gewurztraminer often has. 2008 Tishbi Special Reserve Chardonnay had a good body, good white fruit expression with hint of vanilla, but it was a bit too sweet to my taste.
Those were the only white wines we tried, and then we switched to red. The first red was very surprising to me – 2011 Tishbi Cabernet Syrah. What is so surprising in the Cabernet? Well, note the year – it is last year’s harvest, and this Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t spend any time in the oak barrel! Moreover, it was poured from the stainless steel tank, which was located right there in the cafe. You can bring your own bottle and get it filled with this Cabernet Syrah blend for about $5 – this is the real deal, move over two buck chuck. I also would like to note that this was a very good wine – clean, with good fruit expression and perfect acidity. After that we tried a number of Tishbi Estate wines from 2007 vintage. 2007 Tishbi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had a beautiful classic nose, but was a bit too sweet on the palate. As an added bonus I need to mention that it had Ruby Cabernet grape as part of the blend – which is a new grape for my grapes count, so I’m advancing to 361 now. 2007 Tishbi Estate Merlot was simply perfect – great balance of all the components. 2007 Tishbi Estate Syrah was also very good, with pepper notes on the palate, full body, good concentration of tannins. 2007 Tishbi Estate Petite Sirah had good dense fruit and full body, coupled with the perfect acidity.
Last but not least we tried 2006 Tishbi Barbera Zinfandel Port wine. This wine spends a year and a half in the oak barrels before it is released. The wine was excellent, with good fruit and perfect balance, not overly sweet – and it also paired very nicely with the Valrhona chocolate (which is somewhat expected from the port). By the way, below you can see the process of pouring of that 2011 Cabernet Syrah:
At this point we took a little break, and had nearly perfect cup of cappuccino:
When we went back to the Visitors Center, we noticed something we overlooked before – a full distillery! Located right there in the Visitors Center, there is a still pot which is used to produce Tishbi Brandy:
And here is an illustration which explains distillation process:
Here is the end result of the distillation – Tishbi 16 years old Brandy:
We were lucky, as we were also able to try that 16 years old brandy (typically you can try it only if you buy a bottle – considering that it costs about $450 for the bottle, you can imagine that I wouldn’t be trying that Brandy otherwise). Can’t help but to comment that I think price is a bit high (okay, way too high).
All in all, we had a great time at Tishbi – if you are visiting Israel, it is well worth a trip. Otherwise, you can find Tishbi wines in the stores in US, and I would definitely recommend them. That concludes my report, folks – cheers!
As you know, I collect wine experiences. Anywhere I go, I’m looking for wine-related experiences – locally produced wine in the restaurant, great concept bar in the airport, such as Vino Volo, or visit to a winery whenever possible.
When traveling to California, it is essentially expected that one should be able to find a winery to visit. During the last week’s trip, we decided to visit Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley together with my friend Kfir Pravda (@kfirpravda). The selection process was simple – we didn’t have much time before the meetings, Livermore Valley was close enough, and Wente was the only name I could recognize on the map.
Turns out that it was a very good decision. I was not really familiar with Wente wines before, outside of their mutual project with the Food Network, Entwines, so it was very interesting to start from scratch. By the way, a quick side note – we visited the winery at the very beginning of November, but harvest was still going on – I guess 2011 wines will be interesting…
Wente produces four different families of wines – Vineyard Selection, Heritage Block, Small Lot and Nth Degree. Only the first two can be found in the stores – Small Lot is available at the winery only, and Nth Degree is only available through the mailing list.
2010 Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley was completely unoaked, with good tropical fruit and fresh apples, good acidity, balanced and not overpowering. 2009 Riva Ranch Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Monterey was a bit more concentrated, with aromas of vanilla and toasted oak, all very balanced, with an excellent acidity (this wine belongs to Heritage Block collection).
Moving to the reds, we started with 2009 Small Lot Counoise, as it was a very unusual wine. Counoise is a red grape mostly used in Rhone in France where it is blended with many other grapes to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines – it is very rarely bottled on its own. This wine was very interesting – dark concentrated color, bit of a spiciness on the palate, good balance – I thought I found a winner. Well, yes, until I tries the next two wines – Grenache and Petite Sirah:
2009 Small Lot Grenache was incredible – velvety smooth, with beautiful fruit expression, a touch of coffee and chocolate, as well as hint of earthiness. If anything, it was very comparable with some of the best Grenache wines in the world – Spanish Grenache wines, such as the top wines of Alto Moncayo. This Grenache wine was definitely highlight of the tasting (Drinkability: 9-). 2009 Small Lot Petite Sirah was following the suit with more intense color and higher fruit concentration, very balanced with good acidity and tannins, easy to drink and inviting.
Wente Vineyards is also a home to a restaurant (The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards), which was outstanding. The restaurant focuses on local ingredients, and therefore serves what is in the season. Here is a picture report for you – all the food was absolutely delicious.
Smoked Sturgeon Salad (probably best smoked sturgeon ever):
Chocolate caramel cake:
and Ginger IceCream:
All the food was absolutely delicious and perfectly presented, so if you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend that you shouldn’t miss The Restaurant at the Wente Vineyards.
That’s all for the great experiences at the Wente Vineyards – I really wish though those Small Lot wines would be available in the store.
So long till the next post – Cheers!
Coming back to the memories of “ahh-so-distant-by-now” our Canada vacation (it’s being almost a month!), I need to share my wine experiences with you. You might remember two earlier posts (you can find them here and here), which I prefer to refer to as “picture reports”, which gave you visual expression of the food and some of the wines in Canada. However, we had an opportunity to spend some time in one of the Canadian wine countries, surrounding small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake – and it was an eye opening experience for me.
Until this trip, my idea of Canadian wines was very simple – Icewine. I knew for a while that Canada makes some really famous Icewines, which compete with German and Austrian Icewines. Outside of Icewine, my only reference were wines of Finger Lakes region in upstate New York (general direction of Canada). While I wouldn’t claim that I visited mass amount of wineries in Finger Lakes, in a few places we visited the only drinkable wines were Rieslings, and all the red wines were plain bad. Therefore, these were my expectations for the Canadian wines.
I decided to start from the winery with the name at least I heard of – Inniskillin, and of course the only wine I knew “of fame” there was an Icewine. As a side note I want to mention that the winery had a playroom for kids – which is very important factor in letting adults to enjoy a wine tasting, even during family vacation. The first wine we tried was 2010 Two Vineyard Riesling – very clean, good tropical fruit expression, all paired with beautiful acidity, nice finish. This was a great start of the tasting. The next wine completely blew me away – 2009 Legacy Series Pinot Gris. First, I didn’t expect Pinot Gris to be produced in Canada. But is not the main factor. Very complex, with explicit minerality and spicy bouquet on the palate, this wine still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.
After having a great start with the whites, my level of expectations increased for the reds – and rightfully so. 2009 Montague Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir was very nice, varietally correct with precise expression of smokiness and red fruit. Again, I would never expect to find a Pinot Noir of such clarity at a winery located so high up North – but I did. 2009 Shiraz Cabernet had perfect acidity, good minerality, just a right balance of dark fruit. 2009 Cabernet Franc was simply my favorite red wine – perfect, very balanced, with clearly expressed green peppers and explicit minerality (you might think that I’m abusing the term – but minerality was one of the key characteristics of all the Inniskillin wines we tasted, so I can’t help myself but to call it out).
As you might expect, sweet wines were next. We are not talking about some arbitrary late harvest wines – we are talking about Icewines, which have the highest sugar concentration out of all sweet wines, as the grapes are ripening on the vines until the frost reaches –8°C (about 17F) – then the grapes are harvested while being frozen and pressed right away – which yields tiny amount of super-concentrated grape juice – this is why the wines are called Icewine (also such a low yield explains high price of the Icewines). First we tried 2010 Sparkling Vidal Icewine, which was very light and delicate. 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine was a real star though. I have to mention that Inniskillin was the first winery to produce Icewine from the red grape. Also, Inniskillin worked together with Riedel, leading wine glass maker in the world, to produce a specially shaped Icewine glass which enhances aromatics of the Icewine.
Going back to Cabernet France Icewine, it was incredible, one of the best ever dessert wines I ever tried. Why am I saying that? Balance. Ultimate Balance was first and foremost characteristic of this wine. Beautiful balance, perfect lingering acidity and literally unnoticeable sweetness – great wine. All in all, it was an outstanding line up of wines at Inniskillin, I can’t recommend high enough each and every wine I tried.
Next stop we made at the Cattail Creek Family Estate winery. One of the reasons to pick that particular winery was the fact that they have a few wines with the grapes I didn’t have before, like Chardonnay Musque, or different Riesling clones. I’m glad we stopped by, as we found more great tasting wines, plus most of the wines are made in a very small quantities, so many are available only at the winery itself. First, we tried 2008 Catastrophe White, which was perfectly refreshing, with good acidity and good amount of the white fruit. Then we tried 2009 Catastrophe Red, which had very good balance, nice red and black fruit expression, soft and pleasant. It is interesting to note that Catastrophe wine series labels depict real cats who lived at the winery. Last but not least was 2009 Chardonnay Musque – very nice, with good acidity, good reflection of what Chardonnay is, good subtle tropical fruit expression, more as a hint. This was yet another great experience.
Our last stop was Chateau des Charmes. This winery had the most impressive building of all:
The wines here were also very impressive. We started with 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling (I wanted to experience “old vines” Riesling) – and to my complete surprise, this Riesling had a Petrol nose! I was always under impression that Petrol nose is a property of only German Rieslings – and here we go, Riesling from Canada with full classic German Riesling expression. In addition to Petrol nose, it also had very good fruit, medium body and perfect balancing acidity. Next were more of the very impressive Pinot Noirs. 2007 Pinot Noir had a beautiful nose, and lots of tannins on the palate – it was unusually muscular for the Pinot Noir, probably in need of a few years to open up, but still, it was very good. 2007 ‘Old Vines’ Pinot Noir was also very big and powerful, with very clean smoky nose, but also needing time as the previous wine.
Last but not least was 2008 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’, which happened to be a clone of Gamay and therefore it accounted for an additional grape for my “counting grapes” project. This wine had very unusual herbaceous nose, and was nice and light on the palate – definitely a food friendly wine.
That concludes the Canadian wine story, as we didn’t have time to visit more places. But even based on this experience, if before I knew of only Icewines from Canada, now all the Canadian wines are squarely on the “to find and drink” list for me – and I highly recommend that you will make an effort to find them and try them as well. The challenge is – I didn’t see that many Canadian wines on the shelves of the wine stores here in Connecticut. Oh well, hopefully we can change that. Cheers!
It appears to be very difficult to write blog posts while on the family vacation, despite all the desire to do so. Therefore, here is a quick report from Canada – all in pictures. I can tell you that so far I had being very happy with food, including restaurants in Niagara Falls (which was not expected considering that this is very popular tourist destination). I was also blown away by the quality of Canadian wine. Before the trip, I honestly thought that outside of the Icewine, Canadian wine would be on the level of Finger Lakes wines in NY, where whites can be drinkable, but reds are simply mediocre. Boy, was I wrong! We visited three wineries, and didn’t have a single bad wine! Well, this will be a subject of a separate blog post, so for now, here is quick report in pictures (warning – don’t look while hungry).
Nachos at Spicy Olive restaurant, Niagara Falls:
Beef Baron restaurant, Niagara Falls:
French Onion Soup:
Inniskillin (from whites to reds to Icewines – outstanding, will discuss later):
Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah and Cabernet Franc – WOW:
Inniskillin for those who can’t even drink wine:
Cattail Creek Winery, very interesting whites and reds:
Catastrophe series (note that labels depict real cats):
Chateau des Charmes – you should see that building:
Back to the restaurants:
Cora’s (Niagara Falls) – Breakfast done right!
Crepes Egg and Cheese Panini:
Crepe with Raspberries and cream cheese:
Will definitely talk more about wines in the future posts. If you are interested in reading more about restaurants, you can take a look at my page on Yelp (click here). Until the next time – cheers!
Honora vineyard and estate is located in Southern Vermont’s Green Mountains of West Halifax, only 2 ½ hours from Boston and 3 ½ hours from Manhattan and are within minutes of Mount Snow Ski Resort, Molly Stark State Park and the Harriman Reservoir.
Avigliano at Honora Winery is a very unique and unforgettable setting for your wedding, civil union, special event or corporate gathering.
Our beautiful 6,000 square foot Napa Style event center is nestled in between two of our vineyards. The French doors that surround the building allow beautiful views from every direction. It is also complete with 2 hand crafted mahogany bars, 6 wrought iron chandeliers and to enhance the ambiance of any event there is a four-sided stone cut fireplace in the center of the space.
On the grounds there are 3 traditional white gazebos or a more rustic wooden arbor on a Belgium block patio that make great locations for ceremony or cocktail areas.
Our facility will be able to accommodate parties up to 200 guests between the hours of 10am and 9pm.
We at Honora Winery & Vineyard will strive to make your event extra special and memorable by providing you with an experience that is unique to your needs. Whether it is traditional, casual or black tie we will be there to surround your guests with our family hospitality … a mix of elegance and warm familiarity.
For more information about having your event at Honora please contact:
Celine Labarre at Celine@honorawinery.com