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#winechat Finger Lakes Wine Tasting – An Interesting Experience with Happy Ending

June 5, 2014 5 comments

Here we go again – another #winechat experience. Lots of wines and lots of talking – with your fingers. The subject of this #winechat – wines of Finger Lakes region in New York.

Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes is a picturesque area in the upstate New York, very close to Canada, consisting of multiple lakes – technically, Finger Lakes consists of 11 lakes, but most of the people will be able to name only 3 or 4. Outside of being a popular tourist destination, Finger Lakes is actually one of the very first wine making areas in the US – the first winery was established in 1836, and by now the region has well over a hundred wineries.

Despite such a long history, the wines of the Finger Lakes region are still considered up and coming. For the most of the cases, consumers might be familiar with Finger Lakes Riesling, a bit of Gewurztraminer and some of the Icewine, with the Finger Lakes wines mostly available only in New York and some of the neighboring states. As of late ( last 2-3 years) the situation is slowly changing for the better, both in regards to quality and availability of the Finger Lakes wines. It is also important to note that the improvements I’m talking about concern both white and red wines, with the wineries such as Fox Run, Ravines and Charles Fournier delivering full spectrum of wines worth drinking and talking about.

When I got a note about #winechat dedicated to the Finger Lakes wines, I was hesitant at first regarding my participation. The reason was simple. Yes, the quality of the Finger Lakes wines is improving. However, about 4 years ago, when my daughter was going to Ithaca college, located right by the Seneca lake, I visited few of the nearby wineries, and was quite disappointed with the wines I tasted. Therefore, the prospective of tasting bunch of wines and not being able to write anything about them, was rather daunting. After the internal back and forth, I decided okay, let’s give it a try, and signed up for the #winechat. A few weeks later, the box arrived, containing the 8 bottles – 3 different Rieslings, 3 Chardonnays and 2 Gewurztraminer. From the whole set, I only recognized the name of Dr. Konstantin Frank as a producer I heard of before ( I never tried Gewurztraminer which was included in the tasting set).

Finger Lakes Wines

About a week later, it was the time to taste the wines. I freed up the space in the fridge and put all the bottles in to get them ready.

Talking about an “interesting experience”, let me explain what I mean (yes, I know – somehow, when you read “interesting”, you don’t expect anything good). The #winechat usually starts at 9 PM. But of course it would be quite challenging to taste 8 wines in the real time, take notes, and support many simultaneous “finger” conversations at  the same time. Therefore, I decided to start an hour before, so I would have enough time to taste all the wines in the thoughtful fashion. I invited my friend Zak to share the tasting with me. We started from the Rieslings, then moved on to Chardonnays, and finished with Gewurztraminers. The first Riesling was okay, but then everything went downhill – the wines were simply from the series “nothing to write home about”, with the exception of Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer – that was one and only highlight of the tasting. We kept looking at each other with Zak in disbelief, as this was definitely not expected from the set specially selected for the tasting. Needless to say, at the end of the tasting (I managed to participate in the chat, albeit not as enthusiastically as I normally would), I was rather disappointed. And I had 8 wines to finish or dump. What I decided to do, is to put them aside, and give them another chance, one by one. I used the gas canister (not sure I had much gas left though) to replace the air in all the bottles and put the corks back. One bottle went into the fridge, and the rest were standing, waiting for their term.

Now, for the really interesting part. The next day or a few days later, all, yes all the wines (okay, exclude Dr. Konstantin Frank from here, as it was good from the beginning) tasted better! I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t understand it – but they did. Better fruit, better balance, softer, smoother – all of them. Well, thinking about it, the Rieslings only improved a little bit or not at all, but the improvement was very noticeable for all Chardonnay wines. Giving it another thought, I think I’m finally starting to “get it”. When I open a bottle of wine, taste it and decide that it is not ready because it is too tight and closed, I’m generally not surprised, I ofthen expect it, and I put it aside to give a day or a few to open up without any commotion. In case of this Finger Lakes tasting, I had multiple wines opened at the same time, and especially all of the Chardonnays had the nice oak treatment, thus required time to open up – this is not my typical case, hence the issues I had. So bottom line is that I was [again] humbled around wine, and still have lots to learn. Well, not the worst problem to have in life, isn’t it?

I will let you decide how “interesting” my experience was. Below you will find tasting notes, both the initial ones, and those I added after re-tasting the wines in a few days.

Here we go:

2012 Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling (11.5% ABV)

C: practically clear

N: Initially: golden delicious apples, a bit grassy; 2/3 days later: white fruit

P: Initially: high acidity, not enough fruit, tropical fruit, mango; 2/3 days later: white flowers, hint of sweetness on the palate with nice acidity and addition of minerality.

V:nice, simple, 7/7+; Final: 7+/8-

2012 Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars Round Rock Riesling (12.7% ABV)

C: practically clear

N: Initial: candied walnuts, Later on: light, delicate, good white fruit

P: Initial: white fruit with grassy notes, minerality; Later on: a distant hint of Petrol, clean and fresh acidity, elegant, well balanced.

V: Initial:  7+, Final: 7+/8-

2011 Boundary Breaks Riesling Reserve #198 (8.9% ABV)

C: practically clear, almost transparent

N: Petrol (hint of)! white fruit, apricot, honeysuckle.

P: sweet (spatlese or may be even auslese level), needs more acidity, but not bad

V: needs savory food, 7/7+

2012 Knapp Barrel Reserve Chardonnay (13% ABV)

C: straw pale

N: Initially: closed, practically nothing. Later on: nice apple notes, touch of vanilla, pleasant and inviting.

P: Initially: touch of pineapple, white apples, neutral – drinkable, but not fully enjoyable. Later on: nice, cutting acidity, backbone of white fruit, touch of herbal bitterness, but quite round and refreshing. Minerality on the palate, like a limestone. Medium finish,

V: 7, Final: 7+/8-

2012 Lakewood Vineyards Chardonnay (13,9% ABV, 617 cases produced)

C: straw pale

N: Initially: minerality, pretty closed otherwise. 3 days later: very classic nose, with vanilla and toasted oak, nice and clean.

P: Initially: flat, malolactic obvious, touch of vanilla. After 3 days: excellent flavor concentration, good acidity, butter and vanilla, medium to full body, good balance.

V: initially: 6-, final: 7+/8-

2012 Swedish Hill Winery Reserve Chardonnay (13% ABV)

C: straw pale

N: Initial: hint of gunflint, minerality, white fruit. Later: Vanilla and oak, very inviting, with Chablis-like gunflint

P: Initial: oak, vanilla, flat, needs more acidity fruit, opened up reasonably , improved with time, butterscotch, still needs more acidity; 3 days later: great concentration of vanilla, apple and butter, nicely balanced with very persistent depth.

V: 7+, Final: 8-

2012 Hector Wine Company Gewurztraminer

C: Golden color

N: Initial: Beautiful, concentrated fruit; Later: Very pleasant nose of tropical fruit with some spiciness – guava, mango.

P: Initial: Lots of green notes, bitter, biting, not balanced. After 3 days: bitterness subsided, with only a hint left.

V: 6, Final: 7-

2012 Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Dr. Frank Gewurztraminer (12.5% ABV)

C: golden

N: beautiful fruit, inviting

P: perfect balance, fresh fruit, touch of spiciness, best of tasting

V: 8-

There you have it, my friends. To tell you the truth, I had a different take on the events in the tasting initially, but I’m glad I was able to figure it all out. And this story did have happy ending, as practically all the wines showed very well. Lessons learned – be humble, and give your wines a chance [to breathe].

Before we part, I would like to thank Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for providing the sample for review. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Don’t Forget to Vote!, 2013 Harvest Started in France, and more

August 21, 2013 3 comments
Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #70, grape trivia – Gewurztraminer.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about white grape called Gewurztraminer. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Where Gewurztraminer was supposedly originated? Name the grape which was a precursor of Gewurztraminer

A1: Gewurztraminer is a result of genetic mutation of the grape called Traminer. Traminer grape takes its name from the town of Tramin, located in the South Tyrol in Northern Italy (Alto Adige).

Q2: Explain the meaning of the name Gewurztraminer

A2: “Gewurz” means spicy in German. But the “spicy” reference here is for the extreme aromatics of the grape and not to taste of the grape itself, so in the direct translation Gewurztraminer stands for Spicy Traminer.

Q3: Unlike many other grapes, if the French wine is made out of Gewurztraminer, you can easily know that just by looking at the bottle. Why is that?

A3: Alsace, unlike any other AOC in France, requires the name of the grape varietal to be shown on the label. While most of the Alsace wines are typically bottled in the tall narrow bottles called vin du Rhin, one look at the label will tell you exactly the type of the grape the wine is made out of.

Q4: Which area in California produces best Gewurztraminer wines:

a. Monterey County, b. Alexander Valley, c. Russian River Valley, d. Anderson Valley

A4: Anderson Valley (“best” is subjective, but I seem to find a number of sources pointing to Anderson Valley)

Q5: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Gewurztraminer wines with Classic rating

A5: False. There are couple of Gewurztraminer wines with 98 ratings, and in excess of 30 wines overall in the Classic rating range.

Now, when it comes to the answers, we have an interesting situation. All the respondents answered all the questions correctly, except for the Q3 – typical answer was based on the unique shape of the bottle, but the problem is that most of the wines from Alsace share the same bottle shape – however, nobody pointed to the label and the major difference in the labeling laws between Alsace (based on the grape) and the other AOCs (based on geographic location). Thus we don’t have a winner in this weeks’ quiz – but hey, there is always another quiz.

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First and foremost – please don’t forget to cast your vote for your favorite post in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #2! The theme of the challenge was “Trouble”, and despite the initial troubles with the trouble, quite a few bloggers took a stub at the theme. ArmchairSommelier was hosting this month’s challenge, and she will announce the winner on August 24th. To read all of the submissions, and most importantly, to vote, please use this link.

Another interesting opportunity to “vote” for you – W. Blake Gray asked his readers to vote on what country which makes their favorite wine. You don’t have to think to hard about “the one”, as you can vote for up to 3 favorites. So far based on the voting results, the clear leaders are France, USA and Italy – but you should definitely vote and see for yourself – here is the link to the blog post.

While it sounds way too early (it is still an August!), the 2013 harvest already started in in Roussillon in France. An interesting fact is that this year actually has a late start due to the cold spring, and the picking usually starts 10-15 days earlier. Here is a link to the article where you can find all the details.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #70: Grape Trivia – Gewurztraminer

August 17, 2013 14 comments
Gewurztraminer grapes, as shown in Wkikipedia

Gewurztraminer grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, still focusing on the white grapes, and today’s subject is Gewurztraminer.

Gewurztraminer, which often spelled with umlaut, Gewürztraminer, is a very interesting white grape for variety of reasons. Even starting with the appearance – take a look at the picture – does it look white to you? Nevertheless, similar to Pinot Gris, it is considered to be the white grape, as its skin color ranges from pinkish to the reddish. Gewurztraminer has about 1000 years of history, and it is growing pretty much all over the world in literally each and every wine producing country – yet it is very seldom that any of the oenophiles would rave about their Gewurztraminer experiences.

It is difficult to grow, as it tends to have high sugar content and low acidity, which doesn’t bode well for the well balanced wines – and for that reason, it also performs better in the cooler climates. Its characteristic trait is extreme aromatics – on the nose, Gewurztraminer wine usually exhumes with aromas of white flowers, lychees, peaches and tropical fruits. Gewurztraminer wines can be made in the range of styles, from very dry to the full power dessert wine.  For the well made Gewurztraminer wines, the combination of extreme aromatics and balanced body, whether dry or sweet, creates very memorable experience – yes, this would hold true from absolute majority of the wines, of course – but I would say that Gewurztraminer wines very seldom have middle ground in their showing – they are either great, or they are really bad, with the very few which you will place into “well, it’s okay” category.

Most of the best in the world Gewurztraminers come from Alsace in France, but you can also find very good wines in Germany, Austria, Italy, California and probably some other places (in a lot of cases the wines will be made only for the local consumption and you would never hear about them). One more curious fact I want to point to before we get to the quiz is that Gewurztraminer is probably one of the most promiscuous grapes, having been used more often than most of other grapes in creation of different crosses – Flora, Traminette, Ortega, Irsai Oliver and many others are not clones, but actual purposeful crosses of Gewurztraminer with the other grapes.

Now, to the quiz!

Q1: Where Gewurztraminer was supposedly originated? Name the grape which was a precursor of Gewurztraminer

Q2: Explain the meaning of the name Gewurztraminer

Q3: Unlike many other grapes, if the French wine is made out of Gewurztraminer, you can easily know that just by looking at the bottle. Why is that?

Q4: Which area in California produces best Gewurztraminer wines:

a. Monterey County

b. Alexander Valley

c. Russian River Valley

d. Anderson Valley

Q5: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Gewurztraminer wines with Classic rating

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Wines, Wines, Wines

August 16, 2013 24 comments

A couple of weeks ago, an interesting (concerning, rather?) thought came in – this is the wine blog. I’m doing my best to keep you entertained and informed, with all the weekly quizzes and potpourri wine news (a.k.a. Wednesday’s Meritage), but I don’t do enough of the core wine blogging stuff – namely, the wine reviews.  No, I don’t have a plan to address this radically – say, but introducing a new weekly topic or so. But during the past month, I had quite a few wines worth talking about, so this is exactly what I’m going to do – write a post to review those wines. Well, yeah, I guess you are already reading this very post… The usual warning – there will be pictures,… many pictures…

It is still summer, so let’s start with super-quaffable Prosecco. It is not even Prosecco, it is pretty much a complete cocktail in the bottle. The wine is made by Mionetto, a well known Prosecco producer in Valdobbiadene region in Italy.

MIonetto Il Ugo

Mionetto Il Ugo

Mionetto Il Ugo, a blend of Prosecco with elderflower blossoms and wildflowers – bright and uplifting on the nose, touch of sweetness with a charismatic bitterness and enough acidity – it is so refreshing, you don’t want to put the glass down. Yes, I know, the purists will disagree – but this is an outstanding wine in my book. Drinkability: 8

Now, a couple of value wines for your consideration. These wines come from Chile under the brand name of the Beach Kite. While you can’t find this information on the wine label, Beach Kite is presumable affiliated with 90+ Cellars. 90+ Cellars has a similar model of operation to Hughes Wines and Oriel (at least the two that I’m familiar with), which is: find good wines which well-known wineries have a hard time selling, bottle under your own private label, and sell for the reasonable price at around $20. Beach Kite seems to be more of a “second label” to the 90+ Cellars wines, considering the price of $7.99 per bottle. But – don’t judge the wine by its price.

2012 Beach Kite Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley Chile (13% ABV) had herbaceous nose, and zesty grapefruit on the palate, a bit more restrained compare to the typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but still  fruit forward next to Sancerre. Refreshing, with good acidity. Drinkability: 7

2012 Beach Kite Pinot Noir Central Valley Chile (13% ABV) – simple, round, good red fruit on the nose and the palate, touch of plums, good acidity – perfect sipping wine for a hot summer day. Drinkability: 7

Next I want to talk about few wines, sorted by the grape.

Riesling

While this is not how I rate the wines, but I would say that I had two Rieslings which were outstanding, and one which was … just spectacular.

DSC_0594

Paritua Riesling Central Otago

2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand (11.5% ABV). I got this wine for $6/bottle at Last Bottle Wines. I was questioning myself a bit when placing an order for this wine, as I never heard of Riesling from Central Otago – a region in New Zealand known for their world-class Pinot Noir, but not Riesling. I’m glad I took my chances and got this wine, as it was outstanding. Perfect ripe peach flavors on the nose with the hint of petrol (yes, I know some people are not very happy about this flavor, but I personally love  it). Very delicate on the palate, with some honey and apricot notes, perfect acidity and very restrained sweetness. This New Zealand Riesling would rival many of the German Rieslings at Kabinett level. One night we had it with Thai food, and [as expected] it paired perfectly. Drinkability: 8

2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese Mosel-SaarRuwer (9% ABV) – what I value the most in Riesling (any Riesling) is balance. My sweet tooth is not any smaller than the one any sweets lover would have out there. But I can’t take bottomless sweetness in the wine – I need acidity to come and play it supportive and refreshing role right next to the sweetness. This Riesling is perfectly balanced, with excellent acidity – and showing no signs of age.  Just had an interesting revelation – may be I should replace my “drinkability” ratings with “quaffability”, as this wine was not just drinkable, it was perfectly quaffable. Anyway, I digress. This is not the first Riesling I had from Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg  – and it seems to be a very interesting winery – but I need to refer you to the Riesling expert Oliver TheWinegetter if you want to learn more. Here is a link to the comment Oliver left on one of my previous posts where he is talking about this winery. Drinkability: 8+

Curt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling

Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling

1999 Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling Dry Creek Valley (13%ABV) – I’m not sure I can do justice to this wine trying to describe it. In a word – spectacular. Liquid viscous dark gold in the glass, honey, honeydew, caramelized pecan, apricot notes all over, both on the nose and the palate – and perfectly balanced (I’m know I’m abusing this one), with still bright supporting acidity. Drinkability: 9

Next up – Gewurztraminer

To be honest, I don’t drink Gewurztraminer all that often. I find a lot of Gewurztraminer wines to be all over the place in terms of taste – many of them have wonderful nose, but then on the palate the wine often doesn’t appear to be “together”, it shows up quite disjointed. But – not this wine.

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Domain Zind-Humbrecht is one of the best producers in Alsace, probably best known for its Pinot Gris wines. Just to put things in perspective, 36 wines of Domain Zind-Humbrecht have classic ratings from Wine Spectator (95-100), including perfect score 100 point 2001 Pinot Gris. Well, this is not the wine I’m talking about here.

2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace (15.5% ABV) – I got two bottles of this wine at Bottle King in New Jersey on a big sale for about $20 each – this wine typically retails for $60 or so. I had a bottle few years back, and was not impressed. So when I pulled this bottle out, I was not expecting much ( it was more like “yeah,  let’s free some space in the wine fridge”). My, was I wrong! In one word, I have to use again my abused wine definition of the day – spectacular. Dark golden color, beautiful nose of candied apricot, perfect honey tones on the palate, fresh acidity, more candied apricot, perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 9

Food break

Tired of wine? Let’s make a short break for some food pictures. First, I promised to Food and Wine Hedonist that when I will make Elotes according to his recipe, I will share my impressions. Elotes is Mexican street food which is essentially a grilled corn with spicy mayo and Cotija cheese – this is precisely what I did and it was tasty! For the recipe, use the link above, and here are the pictures:

Yes, I continue admiring my “mangal”, a special charcoal grill – here are few pictures for your drooling pleasure:

You know what – I think this is enough for one post. Let’s stop here. In the next post – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and may be something else.

To be continued…

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