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Happiness-Inducing Wines of Lieb Cellars

March 29, 2017 4 comments

Lieb Cellars wines“Rising tide lifts all boats”.

As the wine growing in popularity all over the United States (still does, I hope), we witness the “wine countries” appearing everywhere – not just singular wineries, but the actual aggregations of the wineries, often presented as “wine trails”. While Napa and Sonoma definitely paved and continue leading the way to what the “wine country” is, you can find wineries all over the country offering not only wine tastings, but live music, concerts, dinners, special events and lots more.

Long Island wine country is the one closest to the New York City, making the wines for about 40 years by now. There is a very good chance, however, that even if you live in the USA, you never tasted Long Island wines – same as it is practically impossible to find the wines from Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona or Michigan anywhere outside of those states. So if I will tell you that Long Island makes world class Riesling, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Merlot, you will probably have to take my word for it.

Over the past 10 years or so, visiting Long Island wineries on more or less a regular basis, I witnessed those wineries perfectly learning from Napa – both the good and the bad. On the good side, more and more knowledge is accumulated as to which vineyards  and grapes do best, which individual plots do best, and the winemaking becoming more precise and resourceful. The bad side is in the fact that as the wines are getting better and better, it is less and less possible to enjoy the wines in the wine country itself, as it becomes more and more touristy – and visitors often get this “tourist special” treatment… Oops – no, we are not going into the rant, nope. Let me get to what I actually wanted to talk about.

When I was offered to taste some of the wines produced by Lieb Cellars, I had to do a bit of a research first. It turned out that despite visiting Long Island wineries every year, I never made it to Lieb Cellars and was pretty much unfamiliar with their wines. Therefore, I was looking at the best case – the wine country was coming to me, without any additional tourist distractions, yay!

Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc with the glass

Now, I would like to finally explain the title of this post (after almost falling for a rant, yeah). When the wines arrived and I started taking them out of the box, the first thought was “wow, I love these labels!”. There is really nothing special about those labels, except that they are very clean and simple, and all of them use bright, cheerful colors. We eat with our eyes first – everybody know that – and it works for me the same with the the wine labels. Of course, what’s inside the bottle is far more important than the label itself, but good label makes you anticipate good wine – works for me every time.

In case of Lieb Cellars wines, the happiness-inducing labels were also perfectly supported by what was in the bottles, as you can tell from my tasting notes below. Few comments before I will leave you with them.

Lieb Cellars produces two different lines of wines. The first line, Lieb Cellars, is being produced since 1992. You can see those wines identified on the labels as Lieb Cellars, and today those are the Reserve wines made only from the estate-produced fruit. In 2004, Lieb Cellars started new line of wines called Bridge Lane – named after the farm road adjacent to one of the Lieb vineyards. While Bridge Lane are called a “second label” wines, there is nothing “second” about them – sustainably  farmed, small crop, hand harvested wines, available in 3 different formats – standard bottle, 3L box and 20L kegs – whatever size your heart desires. You can even see those three available sizes pictured on the Bridge Lane labels.

Time to talk about the wines – here are my notes:

2016 Bridge Lane Chardonnay New York State (12.5% ABV, $15, 100% Chardonnay)
C: straw pale
N: lemon with distant hint of rosemary
P: lemon, tropical fruit, mango, Granny Smith apples
V: 7+/8-

2016 Bridge Lane Rosé New York State (11.9% ABV, $15, 49% cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot, 16% Malbec, 4% Pinot Noir, 2% Petit Verdot)
C: light onion peel
N: strawberries all the way, ripe strawberries, clean, inviting, fresh, touch of yeast Inessa which makes you smell it for a long time
P: strawberries on the palate, clean lemony acidity, firm and present. It would happily compete with any Provence Rosé
V: 8, wow, what a treat!

2016 Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc New York State (12.0% ABV, $15, 100% Sauvignon Blanc)
C: literally non-existent, straw pale extra light
N: fresh cut grass, medium intensity
P: lemon, tart fruit, cut through acidity. More of a Sancerre style – less fruit than California, less intensity than NZ. Clean acidity on the finish.
V: 8-, very enjoyable.

2011 Lieb Cellars Reserve Blanc de Blancs North Fork of Long Island, New York (12.5% ABV, $30, 48 months on the lees, 100% Pinot Blanc)
Appearance: Light golden color, fine mousse
N: touch of Apple, touch of yeast, delicious, open
P: touch of acidity, apples, lemon, restrained
V: 8/8+, the bottle can be gulped in one sitting

2015 Lieb Cellars Pinot Blanc Reserve North Fork of Long Island, New York (11.9% ABV, $20, 98% Pinot Blanc, 2% Riesling)
C: straw pale
N: white stone fruit, nice sweetness
P: beautiful, plump fruit, generous, delicious
V: 8, outstanding.

2015 Lieb Cellars Reserve Cabernet Franc North Fork of Long Island, New York (12.8% ABV, $30, 10 month in Hungarian oak, 85% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot)
C: dark ruby
N: mint, hint of mushrooms, touch of tobacco
P: fresh, open, blackberries, silky layers,
V: 7+/8-

The wines give us pleasure. It is not simple to convey that in words, but I hope I managed to share at least a glimpse of a pleasure brought by these Lieb Cellars wines. If anything, let me give you only one advice – find ’em and drink ’em. Cheers!

Remembering Last Summer – Fero Vineyards in Pennsylvania

August 20, 2016 3 comments

Fero Vineyards GlassDoes it make sense to write about a winery visit a year after? Well, I will leave you to ponder at that question, and will just go ahead with my post.

We have a tradition which we keep going for many years now – adults getaway. One weekend in August, we all get together for the two days of food, wines, laughter and simply enjoying each other’s company. These trips usually take place within reasonable driving distance (3 hours or less) for all people in the group (we all live in a close proximity to the New York city), and winery is always a good choice for the first stop.

Lucky for us, oenophiles, the wine bug caught up everywhere in the US, so there is no shortage of interesting wineries to visit along the East Coast of the United States. Our choice last year was the winery in Central Pennsylvania, called Fero Vineyards and Winery. The choice was not random – one of the grapes they use in the wine production is Saperavi. This is definitely not a common choice  – however, a rapidly (I think) growing trend among Eastern USA winemakers, in Finger lakes and other regions. Having been exposed to many amazing Georgian wines, where Saperavi is a king, I was very intrigued at a perspective of tasting the local rendition of such wines.

Had all the arrangements made to meet with Chuck Zaleski, a winery owner and winemaker at Fero. Chuck was taking time for this off his busy schedule, as he was participating in the town fair where he was pouring his wines.

Just curious – do you think everything is going boringly well, or do you expect a twist in this story?

So yes, the twist happened – in the form of a flat tire. About 70 miles down the road, the familiar sound appeared – anyone who had a flat tire knows what I’m talking about; if you never had one – keep it this way. Not a problem, I thought – while the spare tire is very awkwardly located in Toyota Sienna, under the cabin floor, right in a middle – at least I knew where it was. Next ten minutes of jumping around the car ended up in a grim realization – the spare tire was not there. Angry call to the dealer (luckily, it was Saturday) lead to a discovery – all wheel drive Toyota Sienna cars don’t have a spare tire as there is no space for it – instead, they are equipped with run-flats. To make long story short, after arriving with the smoldering tire to the closest dealership and waiting for about 3 hours, we were able to get on our way (of course I fully realize this was still a very lucky outcome).

As we were at least 3 hours behind the schedule, the decision had to be made – should we visit Fero (Chuck, of course, was not there) or forget it all together, just drive to our B&B and relax after such an ordeal. I’m glad the love of wine prevailed and we decided to stop by the Fero Vineyards first.

Fero Vineyards Sign

Fero Vineyards If you will look at the line up of the Fero Vineyards wines, you would find the closest match in Germany or Austria – of course with the addition of Saperavi. Despite the fact that we didn’t manage to meet with Chuck, he still took care of us, by leaving a bottle of Saperavi for us to taste, as the winery was sold out of their last vintage. We tasted through almost a complete portfolio of Fero wines, so here are the highlights for what I liked the most (as usual, there were too many wines, too little time):

2013 Fero Vineyards Grüner Veltliner Pennsylvania – dry, crisp
2013 Fero Vineyards Dry Riesling Pennsylvania – German style, nice minerality, good fruit
2013 Fero Vineyards Pint Noir Pennsylvania – dry, classic nose, crisp, very nice
2013 Fero Vineyards 1812 Lemberger Pennsylvania – crisp, crushed red fruit, pepper
2012 Fero Vineyards Pinot Gris Pennsylvania – nice, simple
2014 Fero Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé Pennsylvania – residual sweetness, light, balanced, excellent overall
2014 Fero Vineyards Semi-dry Riesling Pennsylvania – excellent, nice touch of sweetness
Fero Vineyards Concord Pennsylvania Table Wine – yes, this is rather sweet, but if you like Concord, this was a classic, restrained and delicious

2013 Fero Vineyards Pinot Gris Pennsylvania – crisp, minerality, excellent
2013 Fero Vineyards Estate Lemberger Pennsylvania – roasted fruit, good concentration, excellent
Fero Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling Pennsylvania – nice touch of petrol, good touch of sweetness, excellent overall
2013 Fero Vineyards Saperavi Pennsylvania – excellent, nice concentration, tannins, crushed blackberries, pepper notes

I’m definitely intrigued by this Saperavi wine. Fero Saperavi has a character of its own, as you can see from my tasting notes above. I would love to taste it side by side with its Georgian counterparts, of course blind. And let’s keep in mind that Saperavi grows in the Balkans (never tasted it), Finger Lakes (also never tasted it), and probably some other places I can’t even think of. Can someone please put together an exciting blind tasting? Or this might be a great subject for the #winestudio session…

Well, I still have a few bottles of Fero wines left, including 2013 Saperavi (courtesy of Chuck, yes) – but I want to give it at least a few more years. See, this is how oenophiles build their excitement…

And we are done here. If you are looking for the great East Coast wines, Fero Vineyards must be on your short list. And who knows, may be you will be lucky enough to taste their Saperavi. Cheers!

Daily Glass: Not Your Mother’s Pinot Grigio

July 4, 2016 17 comments
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Pinot Gris grapes. Source: Wikipedia

Of course I don’t know your mother, and of course I don’t know her wine preferences. But assuming a general motherly image, cue in a hot summer day, I would make a pretty safe bet that refreshing beverage in the glass in her hand is a white wine. Continuing playing it safe, I would expect that white wine to be very easy to drink, unoffensive and simple, so traditional Pinot Grigio (think Santa Margherita) would perfectly fit the bill.

Now, what do you think would happen if after crushing the grapes, the juice will be left in the contact with skins for, let’s say, 24 hours? Yes, of course Pinot Grigio is a white wine, at least typically it is. But to give you a little hint, take a look at the picture of the grapes – this are not random grapes, these are exactly the Pinot Grigio grapes – or as they are known throughout the most of the world, Pinot Gris. Gris here stays for “gray”, this is how we can perceive the color of these grapes.

With this little hint – what do you think now about that juice left in contact with the skins for 24 hours? If you said that you expect it to gain some color, you are absolutely right. Here is an example of an end result for you:

Attems Pinot Grigio RomatoIsn’t it beautiful? The 24 hours of skin contact gave this wine this orange hue, which technically makes this wine a part of the “orange wines” craze. I don’t have an intention of getting into the “orange wine” debate, but I can tell you that it is not only the color which is different here. Before we talk about the taste of this 2014 Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato Venezia Giulia IGT (12.5% ABV, $18, 100% Pinot Grigio, stainless steel and barriques), let me give you a short explanation about the name of the wine and its color, from the winery’s web site: “Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato continues a tradition of the Republic of Venice, since “ramato,” or coppery, was the term that referred to Pinot Grigio in contracts. A special vinification practice led to the use of this term: the must remains in contact with the skins for 24 hours and this practice gives the wine a very distinctive coppery hue“.

It was not only the color which was different. The wine had a nose of intense honey, but the palate was dry and crisp – if anything, reminding a lot more of a great Provence Rosé with a hint of strawberries and an onion peel. An excellent and thought provoking wine, whether for the hot summer day or for any day when you crave a nice glass of wine. Drinkability: 8.

That’s all I have for you for today, my friends. White, Rosé, Orange, Red – enjoy whatever is in your glass and happy Independence Day for those in the USA. Cheers!

Expanding My Wine Map

June 18, 2016 3 comments
Czech wine regions. Source: Wikipedia

Czech Republic wine regions. Source: Wikipedia

We all have our own versions of the wine maps. This is how we learn about wine, and this is what makes it easier to understand it. “Oh yes,of course – France makes famous wines. California? Absolutely, yes, very famous. Italy? Bellissimo! Spain? Yes, I had a few of those. Australia? I heard about Yellow Tail, right?”. I’m simplifying, no doubts, but I’m sure the picture I’m presenting here is quite fitting lots of wine consumers (no, I’m not talking about you, wine geeks and bloggers).

My wine map would be a bit wider than that – I’m not bragging, but I seek new and different grapes all the time, and with this you are destined to try the wines from Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Croatia and many, many other not-so-well-known places. Nevertheless, my wine map has also plenty of white spaces, and I’m glad to use any opportunity to fill those up.

Last week the opportunity presented itself in the form of the tasting at my favorite local wine store, Cost Less Wines. I was told to stop by to taste the wines made in the Czech Republic. You see, to me, “wine” and “Czech Republic” in one sentence sounded almost like a misnomer. A while back, I visited the Czech Republic (which was known as Czechoslovakia back then), and I can tell you that beer is the very first thing which comes to mind when I think about the Czech Republic – Pilsner, anyone? Well, but it is a free tasting, so after all – why not?

The first wine which was poured was 2014 Templar Cellars Komtur Ekko Pinot Gris. I have to honestly admit that I became a convert after the very first sip – creamy, medium bodied, clean, well structured, with perfect balance of white fruit and acidity – it was on par with the best Oregon Pinot Gris wines, which is my personal hallmark of quality for the Pinot Gris. With such a great start, I was really eager to listen to the explanations.

It turns out that the wine had been produced in Moravia – this is how the area is called – from the beginning of the last millennium! Moravia is centrally located in Europe, for the Romans to use it as their base – and of course wine was part of the culture for them. Templar Cellars proudly shows 1248 on their label – this is when the actual cellars had been built, and this is where winemaking traditions are taking their roots. The wine, of course, is perfectly modern, but I love the medieval look of the labels and even the bottle design – you can read more about Templar Cellars here.

As you can see on the map above, the wine production in the Czech Republic is concentrated in the area down south – that is the Moravia we were just talking bout. Bohemia, up north, also has a bit of the winemaking activity, but it is of course known as a beer capital. Despite the seemingly unimpressive size of winemaking area in the Czech Republic, do you care to guess how many wineries it has? I will give you a little time to think, but whatever you think, take it higher. Yep, and higher.

What if I would tell you that the Czech Republic has about twice as many wineries as we have in the US, would you believe me? Well, it appears that the Czech Republic has about 18,000 wineries. Yes, many of those are simply “Mom’s and Pop’s” operations, but still, they are the independent wineries. Don’t know about you, but I was duly impressed with what I heard.

I was even more impressed after trying two of the red wines. 2013 Templar Cellars Komtur Ekko Pinot Noir was clearly a cold climate Pinot Noir with juicy cranberries at the core and perfect acidity. It is very different from a Pinot Noir from California or Oregon, much lighter, really crispy and crunchy, but with enough body weight to stand up to a powerful cheese or some spicy fish.

2009 Vino z Czech Ludwig Cabernet Moravia was even more interesting. Cabernet Moravia is its own grape, first created in Moravia (hence the name) in 1975, and it is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Zweigelt. It tasted like a classic Cabernet wine, with cassis, mint and eucalyptus, but also with an oversized herbal component. I actually like this line from the official description: “it incorporates all of Cab Franc’s leafy herbaceousness and Zweigelt’s tart, cranberry flavors in a refreshing wine”. Of course as an extra bonus, I’m adding a new grape to my collection.

There you go, my friends – a new region and new delicious wines. I truly love the endless learning opportunities the world of wine is offering to us. Have you ever had wines from the Czech Republic? What were your recent wine discoveries? Cheers!

New and Noteworthy: Two Classic Regions, Three Classic Pairs

June 4, 2016 4 comments

I tend to abuse certain words in the conversation, especially when talking on the subject of wine. As you might easily guess, one of such words is “Classic”. I use this word in hope that it is the quickest way to convey my impressions about the wine. For instance, the words “Classic Red Bordeaux” or “Classic White Burgundy” would most likely paint a quick and vivd picture for the most of oenophiles to imagine how the wine actually tastes. While the wine is produced all around the world, such a broad stroke reference can be only applied to the well known and well referred to regions – saying “Classic Red Bio-Bio” (wienmaking region in Chile) or “Classic White Valais” (winemakiing region in Switzerland) would be an empty sound for majority of the wine lovers.

Looking past the regions, we can also apply the word “classic” to the grapes themselves. There are probably 15-20 grapes which can be easily referred to in this way – “classic Cabernet Sauvignon” or “Classic Sauvignon Blanc”, for example, would give you quick pointers to how the wine might taste like. Yes, “Classic Bobal” or “Classic Resi” will leave most of us with no information at all.

As this is not an epistolary exercise on the applications of the word “Classic” in the wine world, let’s get closer to the subject at hand, and talk about few wines in the practical terms. Today I want to talk about 2 classic regions and 3 classic grapes – for sure for those regions. So the classic regions are: California and Oregon. Would you agree that it is easy to refer to these two world renowned winemaking regions as “Classic”? I hope you are nodding. And for the grapes, I also hope you would share my “classic” sentiment – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California Napa Valley – aha, I see you smacking your lips. And Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Oregon – need I say more?

Talking about the wines from Oregon, the Pinot Noir is of course an uncontested king of the Pacific Northwest of the USA. Commercial Pinot Noir production in Oregon started in the 1960s, and then from the beginning of the 1990s, Pinot Noir from Oregon needed no introduction anymore. With Oregon Pinot Gris, you might argue with my “classic” designation, however, today, you will practically not find a single Oregon winery which will not produce Pinot Gris. Oregon Pinot Gris has its own, easily recognizable style and character, so in my mind, Pinot Gris wines are the “classic” element of the Oregon winemaking.

Thus let me present to you the first two of the “classic” pairs – Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from two wineries in Oregon: Willamette Valley Vineyards and Pike Road Wines.

Willamette Valley Vineyards was established in 1983, planting Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay vines where blackberries and plums were growing before. The original Estate vineyard spans 53 acres at the 500 to 750 feet in elevation. Today, Willamette Valley vineyards farms more than 250 acres of vines, including one of the oldest in Oregon, Tualatin Estate, which are all LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certified. I had a pleasure of trying Willamette Valley Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines earlier in the year, so here are my notes:

2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon (12.4% ABV, SRP: $16)
C: straw pale
N: white stone fruit, touch of grass
P: hint of candied lemon, white stone fruit, nicely round, refreshing, good acidity, medium to full body
V: 7+/8-, very pleasant

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley, Oregon (13.7% ABV, SRP: $30, retail: ~$20)
C: beautiful Ruby
N: fragrant, fresh, cranberries with touch of cherries, sweet raspberries
P: wow, lots of fresh fruit – cranberries, raspberries, fresh, super-clean, touch herbal, great restrained finish
8+, one of the most delicious Pinot ever, perfect.

Our second Oregon winery takes its name from the Pike Road, which winds through the hills of Yamhill-Carlton AVA. This is the second winery for the Campbell family, who founded Elk Cove Vineyards in 1974. Pike Road takes advantage of 5 generations of the farming experience, including 40 years of tending the wines.

Pike Road Wines Oregon

Here are my notes:

2015 Pike Road Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Oregon (13.5% ABV, SRP: $15)
C: pale greenish color
N: tropical fruit, candied lemon, fresh, intense, inviting
P: crisp, clean, perfect fresh acidity and white stone fruit, creamy. Outstanding.
V: 8-/8, delicious white wine, perfect year around and superb during summer

2014 Pike Road Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon (13.5% ABV, SRP: $19, 10 month in French oak barrels)
C: dark Ruby
N: delicious. Touch of sweet fruit, open, inviting, raspberries, herbs, super-promising, wow
P: soft, layered, silky, spices on top of traditional smokey profile, triple-wow
V: 8+/9-, wow, totally unexpected and amazing. I know Oregon Pinot delivers, but this far exceeded my expectations. Might be the best QPR for Oregon Pinot Noir in existence. Love rustic labels too.

Our last classic pair comes from the classic of the classics, none less than Napa Valley, and it is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Artesa winery. Artesa winery is located in Carneros region of Napa Valley. While Artesa recently celebrated is 25th vintage, their winemaking traditions go way, way, way back – say by another [almost] 500 years. How come? Artesa winery was founded by Codorniu Raventós family from Spain, which takes its winemaking heritage 17 generations back to the 1551. Artesa sustainably farms 150 acres of vines, all Napa Green Land certified, and produces a range of wines, starting with a few sparklers and finishing with another Napa classic – Cabernet Sauvignon. Two wines which I had an opportunity to taste are the new Estate Reserve release from the winery:

Artesa Napa Valley

2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, SRP: $40)
C: light golden
N: touch of vanilla, hint of butter, white fruit, intense
P: touch of butter, green apples, good acidity, medium to full body, vibrant and balanced
V: 8-, a classic Chardonnay

2013 Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir Napa Valley (14.4% ABV, SRP: $40)
C: dark garnet
N: warm, inviting, sweet plums
P: round, polished, present silky texture, touch of smoke, more plums, minerality, restrained
V: 8-, nice, smooth and restrained

There you have it, my friends – some new and interesting wines worth seeking. And whether they will hit the “classic” note for you – it is entirely your decision. Cheers!

One on One with the Winemaker: Luke McCollom of Left Coast Cellars, Oregon

November 5, 2015 5 comments
Left Coast Cellars Label FragmentLet me tell you something – I really liked the concept of my first “one on one” post. Which means that I will try to make it into a feature and a series in this blog. And today I invite you to travel with me to the Oregon, third largest grape-producing state in the US. Our destination is Left Coast Cellars estate, home to one of the largest contiguous vineyards in Oregon, focused on sustainable viticulture and precisely focused wines. I had an opportunity to “sit down” (yes – virtually) with Luke McCollom, Founding Winemaker, Viticulturist and General Manager of the Left Coast Cellars, and ask him whole bunch of questions. I really asked  lots of questions – and I got lots of great answers. I actually will have to split our conversation into two parts, just not to overwhelm you, my reader.

Without further ado, please pour yourself a glass of (Oregon, of course!) wine – here is our conversation with Luke McCollom:

Why “Left Coast Cellars”?
Well, we want to represent and paint a picture of our sense of place.  The “Left Coast” can be seen on our Lewis and Clark Map rendered Labels.  When you’re looking at a Map of the United States… we are on the Left Side!  Also, of course… Left Coast is Family owned and 3 of the Family members running the Estate are Left Handed.  When visiting Left Coast, coming from the closest Major city….The State Capitol Salem, you need to make Left Hand turns to get to the Winery.  The Winery and Tasting room are both on the Left Side of the Drive.  The term Left Coast not only describes our location, but our wholesome, casual style, and creative ability to artistically craft… unique, exquisite, Estate Grown handmade wines.  Not to mention, the heavy “Coast” Influence brought in daily by the Van Duzer Corridor.
[TaV comment: I asked this question rather matter-of-factly, expecting the explanation about Left Coast, but it appears that there is so much more to this name]

Your logo looks very interesting. Is there a story behind it?
The “Sun” Logo is from a large Copper Sculpture which can be seen as you enter the property.  The Sculpture was a gift given to Suzanne by husband Robert for an Anniversary.  It is a beautiful, unique piece created by a Hawaiian artist named Abe Santoro.  Santoro’s work can be seen at places like the Smithsonian.  I believe Santoro is nearly 90 years old and is referred to as a Treasure of Hawaii.
For us it represents the Founders love for each other and the commitment of life partnership which led to a beautiful family, with passion for food, and wine.  The logo is a symbol of the vision created together to Build an amazing Estate in The Willamette Valley.  This “Circle of Life” logo also represents their commitment to Sustainability, the Earth, the Sun and the cycle of every vintage of wine.

When you started the winery in 2003 and purchased the land, were there any vines planted already or did you have to start from scratch?
When the Family purchased the property there were 25 acres of Pinot Noir.  The first vintage crafted from these young Latitude 45 Vines received an 88pts. in Wine Spectator.  This was very exciting because the vines where only 3 years old!  Other than that, there was a large spring fed lake and most of the property was overgrown with poison oak and black berry bushes.  All of the extensive gardens, landscaping, buildings, infrastructure, and design were created by the Family from scratch.  Since then we have also planted another 115 acres of vineyards including 11 different types of Pinot Noir as well as some of the most extensive white wine grape plantings in Oregon.

According to the information on your web site, there are 8 distinct microclimates across your vineyards. Do your wines today already showcase the different microclimates or do you plan to expand on that in the future?
Yes, we constantly strive to showcase our different micro climates and to bottle distinct unique wines.  Probably the best example of this is in the Vineyard Designate Pinot Noirs…(Right Bank Pommard, Truffle Hill Wadenswil, and Latitude 45 Dijon Bottlings).  These Pinot Noirs are planted in locations best suited for their type of micro climate.  Each Vineyard Designate Pinot is hand made in small, open top, French Oak Wine Vats.  Each wine is made using different yeast and different dedicated barrel coopers selected to exemplify the Clone and Micro climate of each wine.  For example, the Truffle Hill is a Swiss type of Pinot Noir, grown on one of our cooler sites (sort of like Switzerland) We use only Swiss Yeast in making the wine to showcase the tradition of the clonal selection and create distinct style and flavor.  The Truffle Hill is aged using specific barrel cooperage which does not dominate the complex nuances of the Wadenswil Selection Pinot Noir.  In the future, we would like to expand our showcasing of different soil types from the property comparing Sedimentary Soils to Our Volcanic Soils.

You grow Pinot Meunier, Syrah and Viognier – how do you use those grapes?
Pinot Meunier is used as a base in our Sparkling wines and is also made into a Field of Dreams Pinot Meunier still red wine.  This year the Meunier was crafted into a sparkling Brut Rose and a couple hundred cases of still red wine.  Meunier of course means “miller” in French like flour miller…because the vines are covered with white fuzz that makes them look like they were dusted with flour.  Meunier is a mutation of Pinot Noir and loks like a “wild” Pinot Noir vine.  The Meunier still wine sort of tastes like a wild pinot noir with it’s firm structure tannins and distinct brambly and pomegranate flavors.
Syrah and Viognier are also made into Field of Dreams Varietal wines for Wine Club and Tasting Room.  The warm 2014 and 2015 vintages are good vintages for perfectly ripe Rhone Varietals in our climate.  These vintages also make good quantity of these varietals for potential availability in the National Market.  For 2015 Look for Left Coasts’ own Left Cote du Rotie…this is a Syrah co-fermented with up to 25% of Viognier.  The Viognier has an enzyme in the skins which creates more extraction of color and flavor in the Syrah fermentation.  Very Cool!  Northern Rhone style wines which pair beautiful with food.  We are a Pinot House, but the 45th parallel where we sit aligns exactly with Northern Rhone…this is why we grow small amounts of these varieties on the Estate.  Another small celebration of Terroir, Microclimate, and Unique sense of place.
[TaV comment: this was a really a “duh” moment for me – and a clear showcase of deficiency of the virtual conversation – I forgot that many wines can be made in such a small quantities that they will be available at  the winery only and never show on the web site, duh…]

to continue previous question – do you have any plans for single varietal Syrah wine?
Our first varietal vintage of Syrah was 2008…we recently opened a bottle to taste and the wine is incredible… still very youthful!
[TaV comment: “duh” moment didn’t stop with the previous question, right?]

It seems that Chardonnay is a rising star in Oregon – I see that you now offer Chardonnay wines for the past few vintages. What do you think of Oregon Chardonnays? What makes them unique? What is your chardonnay style?
Yes, we have committed some of our best land to growing Chardonnay.  We have some of the largest modern plantings of Chardonnay in Oregon.  The reason being, most people were ripping out Chardonnay when we were developing the vineyards, while we were planting it.  We see Chardonnay as going hand in hand with Pinot Noir.  Our 2005 Chardonnay was selected by the Oregon Wine Industry in 2010 as a “World Class Ageable White Wine” by our peers at the Oregon Wine Symposium.
We think this shows the potential of Chardonnay in Oregon and the potential of the Left Coast Estate.  We strive to create a balanced Chardonnay with equal parts acidity, minerality, fruit, and oak.  We believe we hand craft a Chardonnay which is very Oregonian in style meaning a wine which is clean, not oak dominated, will please non-chardonnay drinkers, and of course pairs well with Northwest Cuisine.  For lack of description we try to craft Oregon Chardonnay as somewhere halfway between California and Burgundy.  We love Oregon Chardonnay!!! and often ferment ours half in Stainless Steel Vats and Half in French Oak barrels.  We believe the stainless portion of the fermentation preserves the fruit and acidty and the French Oak fermented portion provides subtle oak flavors with round mouth feel and volume.  These wines are blended, married, and bottled together as one.  We also have an extremely distinct Musque Clone Chardonnay that is concrete fermented and bottled for Wine Club.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need a glass at this point, so here are two of the Left Coast Cellars wines I had an opportunity to try (as samples, courtesy of Donna White PR):Left Coast Cellars Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir

2014 Left Coast Cellars The Orchards Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Oregon (14.2% ABV, $18)
C: straw golden
N: fresh flowers, fresh white fruit, candy, bright, exciting
P: nicely restrained of the palate, quite a contrast with the nose. Lemon zest, touch of grass, medium body with nice mid-palate weight, wine is nicely present, tart finish
V: 8-, should develop interestingly with time

2013 Left Coast Cellars Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon (13.5% ABV, $24)
C: garnet
N: typical Pinot Noir, sweet plum, violet, touch of licorice and vanilla
P: delicious. Sweet cherries, touch of eucalyptus, medium body, firm, touch of smoke, good acidity, good balance, very (very) long mouthwatering finish
V: 8, dangerous wine – once you start, it is very difficult to stop

That’s all I have for you for today. To be continued…

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, How To Make Wine Into a Cult, Interesting Videos, Few Reminders and more

July 31, 2013 10 comments

Santa MargheritaMeritage Time!

First and foremost, the answer to the weekly wine quiz #67, grape trivia – Pinot Gris, a.k.a. Pinot Grigio.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about Pinot Gris grape – here are the questions, now with the answers.

Q1: Name Italian Pinot Grigio wine which is considered a golden standard of Pinot Grigio in the United States (people really ask for it by name).

A1: Santa Margherita. In the 1979, a few cases of Santa Margherita were shipped to US by Billy Terlato, the wine importer. The marketing campaign in the 1980s happened to be pure genius ( I guess, I didn’t witness the campaign, but I can see the results) – the rest was history. In 2006 Santa Margherita alone sold 8.5M (that’s millions to you) bottles of Pinot Grigio worldwide, 65% in US. Mind-boggling, if you ask me… You can find some additoinal interesting information in this Imbibe.com article.

Q2: Name two famous regions in France which used to make wines out of Pinot Gris, but not anymore

A2: Both Burgundy and Champagne used to make Pinot Gris wines in the 18th century. Nowadays, both regions still grow Pinot Gris, but practically never use it for the mainstream winemaking.

Q3: When do you think Pinot Gris was first planted in Oregon?

a. 1947, b. 1966, c. 1978, d. 1990

A3: 1966. David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards planted first Pinot Gris vines in Oregon in 1966.

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic. True or False: there are more classically rated Pinot Gris wines than Sauvignon Blanc?

A4: True. There are quite a few Pinot Gris (no Pinot Grigio, of course) with very high ratings, including 2001 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace Clos Windsbuhl Sélection des Grains Nobles, which got 100 points. The highest of Sauvignon Blanc ratings belongs to 2005 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Pur Sang (97 points), and overall there are very few Sauvignon Blanc wines in the Classic ratings range.

Q5: During early 2000s, producers in Alsace had to change the way the Pinot Gris wines were typically labeled (you can still find the old name on the bottles from 1990s and before). Do you know what was changed and why? As an added bonus, please explain the origin of the old name.

A5: As with many grapes, the story is quite interesting. Pinot Gris originated in Burgundy, some time in 12th century. From there, it made it to Hungary, and then in 16th century it made it to Alsace, now under the name of Tokay d’Alsace. At the same time, Tokay ( Tokaj to be precise) is the name used for one of the best Hungarian wines, so in 1993 the agreement was reached in EU to phase out the use of “Tokay” in Alsace, which was completed in 2007.

I’m glad to tell you that we have the winner this time! Jeff, a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist, nailed all 5 questions – he also did it Google-free, which deserved a special commendation – however I can only offer a double amount of the typical prize – unlimited bragging rights. Double unlimited? Not sure how that should work… but great job Jeff!

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

First, here is an interesting story for you on how to make the wine into a cult wine. The story was published in the Drinks Business online magazine, so it is written more a trade article, but it makes an interesting reading nevertheless.

Now, I have two important reminders for you:

August 14th – Wine Blogging Wednesday event, #WBW80 – Dry Rosé. All you need to do is to write a blog post pertinent to the subject, and submit it to the host. For all the details please click here. Let’s make it a success!

August 16th – deadline for submission for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #2, with the theme called Trouble. You can find all the rules here. I personally have big trouble with this trouble, so I’m not sure if you will see an article from me… Oh well – I’ve seen a few submissions already, and they were worth the trouble!

Thanks to the tweet from the fellow oenophile Peter L. Zachar (@PeterZachar ), I came across an interesting series of videos about Bordeaux. Recorded by James Cluer, Master of Wine, the series is presenting some of the greatest estates in Bordeaux. Below is the first video of the series, and you can follow it from there.

And this is all I have for you for today. The glass is empty – but the refill is coming. Open something great tonight, and until the next time – cheers!