Archive for the ‘Marsanne’ Category

Of Ancient Vines and Rhone Varietals – #winechat with Cline Cellars

May 9, 2014 11 comments

ClineCellars CorksThink California wines, think California grapes – what is the first grape which comes to mind? I would guess that Cabernet Sauvignon would be the first. Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will trail near by (not in this exact order, of course). Are those the best grapes making the best California wines? Yes, before you beat me up, “best wine” is highly subjective, so let’s not drill on that. But – what else is there in California? Ever heard of Rhone Rangers? In the 1980s, a group of California winemakers made a significant effort to popularize Rhone varietals – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne and many others. While this group of winemakers didn’t have any set structure,  they became collectively known as Rhone Rangers. As the result of the work of this group, Syrah and Grenache became prominent players on the California wine landscape, with the other traditional Rhone varietals taking more on the supporting roles.

Fred Cline, the founder of the Cline Cellars winery in Contra Costa County, was one of the original Rhone Rangers. While Cline Cellars is most famous for their Zinfandel wines (7 different bottlings are produced), it also makes a number of wines from the traditional Rhone varietals. On Wednesday, April 30th, the worldly virtual tasting room, called #winechat, opened its doors to all the wine lovers, coming in to experience and to talk about the Cline Cellars Rhone-style wines. While Cline Cellars winery was officially founded in 1982, the family owned the vineyards since 1800s. After founding the winery, Fred Cline spent a lot of time and efforts to preserve and where necessary, to restore the ancient vines (some of the vines are 80 – 120 years old), hence the name “Ancient Vines” which you can see on the labels of many Cline Cellars wines. Today, Cline Cellars uses sustainable farming methods and it is Green String Certified winery. Wonder what it means? As explained by the @ClineCellars during the #winechat: “Since 2000, Cline Cellars farms the Green String way: naturally & sustainably &avoid chemical pesticides, fungicides & fertilizers”

ClineCellars Wines

So, how were the wines, you ask? During the #winechat, we had an opportunity to try 3 different wines. We started with 2012 Cline Marsanne Roussanne Sonoma Coast (14.5% ABV, 66% Marsanne, 34% Roussanne). Every time I say “these are some of my favorite grapes/wines/etc.”, I feel a bit uneasy. The reason is simple – when it comes to the wines, I like them all. Every time I talk about the subject, I can come up with the new list of favorites, so using that “some of my favorites” moniker feels almost like lying, just a tiny bit. Oh well. So yes, Marsanne and Roussanne are some of my favorite white grapes – the wines from Marsanne and Roussanne, both are core Rhone white grape varietals, are quite rare, no matter where they come from, so every opportunity to taste such wines is always very exciting.

When it comes to Marsanne and Roussanne wines, the interesting thing is that those wines should be consumed at the room temperature. I tried chilling various Marsanne/Roussanne wines, and it never worked for me. This wines works the best at the 18°C – 20°C/64°F – 68°F. Here are the notes:

Color: Light golden
Nose: Minerality, white flowers, touch of honey, touch of white peach, white grape aroma as the wine opened up.
Palate: Touch of sweetness, caramelized sugar, minerality, very complex.
Verdict: This is one delicious wine, which you can enjoy on its own or with some chicken and mushrooms dish, for instance. Drinkability: 7+

Our next wine was 2013 Cline Mourvèdre Rosé Contra Costa County (13.5% ABV, ~100 years old vines), another traditional Rhone varietal. I tried to play with the temperature on this wine, but it really didn’t work – this wine should be only served well chilled.

Color: Intense pink
Nose: Fruit forward, with lots of ripe strawberries
Palate: Strawberries, cranberries, nice acidity (when well chilled!). Very classic and supple Rosé.
Verdict: Ahh, it pairs so well with the strawberries! Serve either as an Aperitif, or with the fresh light salad (like kale and strawberries), or with the fresh fruit after a meal. Very refreshing. Drinkability: 7+

Last, but not least was 2012 Cline Cool Climate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (14.5% ABV, aged for 9 month in oak) – yes, not a Rhone varietal, but a California classic, coming from the classic area as well. The climate conditions of Sonoma Coast, with the fog settling down and cooling off the grapes every evening, allow grapes to ripen slowly and to build up a structure and nice acidic core. This wine was very much on par with the good California Pinot Noir expectations:

Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Smoke, minerals, touch of cherries, mushrooms, forest floor, roasted notes
Palate: Minerality, plums, nice acidity, well balanced.
Verdict: Very versatile wine. Perfectly enjoyable on its own, also paired well with wide variety of foods – fresh strawberries (!), roasted chicken, and believe it or not, but bacon cheddar (cheddar cheese with pieces of bacon) was the best pairing! Drinkability: 7+

As an added bonus, this wine even comes with the recipe attached to the back label – very clever idea!

That concludes yet another #winechat report. What is left to say is Thank You. First of all, thank you to the @ClineCellars for providing the excellent wines and enduring the barrage of questions during the intense one hour conversation. And of course, thank you to the Protocol Wine Studio, spearheading the whole #winechat program. And for you, my dear readers? Thank you for reading and come on over! See you next Wednesday on Twitter in the #winechat room. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC3 Winner, The Way You Pour, Wine and Shutdown, and more

October 2, 2013 6 comments

Meritage time!

As usual, let’s start from the answer to the wine quiz #75, grape trivia – Marsanne. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about white grape called Marsanne. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name the grape, typical blending partner of Marsanne in Northern Rhône

A1: Roussanne.

Q2: True or False: Plantings of Marsanne in Australia far exceed Marsanne plantings in France.

A2: True. Actually, about 80% of worldwide plantings of Marsanne are located in Australia

Q3: Solve the riddle and explain: Part of 8, but not part of 18

A3: Marsanne is one of the 8 white grapes officially allowed in the Rhône appellations. At the same time, Marsanne is not a part of the 18 grapes officially allowed to be used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation

Q4: Marsanne is known in Switzerland under the name of …

A4: Ermitage [blanc]

Q5: Name major wine producing country which doesn’t make any Marsanne wines of notice

A5: Italy. Yes, Italy makes no wines out of Marsanne – at least no wines which can be easily accessible or found on the internet.

I’m glad to report that we have a winner! Jeff of the drunken cyclist fame correctly answered all 5 questions, so he is our uncontested winner and he gets the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

And now, to the interesting stuff around the web and the vine!

First of all, we have a winner for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #3! The Wine Kat wrote the winning story, which you can find here. Congratulations to the winner! Now we are all eagerly waiting to learn the theme for the challenge #4 – hopefully it will be announced soon…

Do you know that the way you pour the wine affects how much you drink? Here is the link to the post on the subject. Weather you hold the glass, tilt the glass, pour red or white – all of this factors affect the amount you consume – according to this study, of course.

Wondering about the connections between US Government shutdown and wine? I had no idea there is one, until I read this post by Dr. Vino. TTB, the government agency which approves all the new labels, is part of the shutdown. On one side it makes perfect sense as it is seemingly not-essential. At the same time, as opposed to many other parts of the government, this one actually makes money… Anyway, read the article for more details.

Actually, there is another small post by the same Dr. Vino, which I want to bring to your attention. Before you read it, I have a question for you. Which country do you think might request to put the words “wine kills” on the labels? No, it is not United States. Interestingly enough, it is France, which is concerned with the fact that people drink wine, so this was one of the proposals as a way to reduce wine consumption. Another, similarly bright proposal, was suggesting to ban all the internet writing about the wine – brilliant, isn’t it? You can read the post here – it is short and interesting.

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 #75: Grape Trivia – Marsanne

September 28, 2013 9 comments

wine quiz pictureWelcome 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 grape called Marsanne.

Marsanne seems to originate near the town of Marsanne in Northern Rhône, hence the name. The grape is known at least from the 17th century (but could’ve been used in winemaking before). Marsanne is a foundation for the white wines of Northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, St.-Joseph and St.-Péray, but it is also used in the white wines throughout the whole Côtes du Rhône region and in a few other regions in France. White wines of Northern Rhône are typically full bodied and powerful, known for its great longevity (might be some of the longest living dry white wines). It is not just the longevity which matters – Northern Rhône whites also known to improve with age.

Marsanne made it to Australia in the 1860s, where it became quite popular. It is interesting that considering the fact that Marsanne wines improve with age, one of the best known Australian producers of Marsanne, Tahbilk, makes two releases per year, offering both current and older ( 6 years older or so) vintages of the wines.

Marsanne also made it to California, however, it is not very clear when. Based on some of the internet sources, Marsanne made it to US in the 1870s and was used in some of the red blends, paired with Syrah to replicate Northern Rhône wines. However, it appears that Marsanne started to be actively used in California wines some time in 1980s, and today it is offered by many producers in California and state of Washington.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Name the grape, typical blending partner of Marsanne in Northern Rhône

Q2: True or False: Plantings of Marsanne in Australia far exceed Marsanne plantings in France.

Q3: Solve the riddle and explain: Part of 8, but not part of 18

Q4: Marsanne is known in Switzerland under the name of …

Q5: Name major wine producing country which doesn’t make any Marsanne wines of notice

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

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