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Daily Glass: California Gamay? How about it!

May 30, 2014 9 comments

The process of selecting of the bottle to open sometimes can be very daunting – may be this? But I just had it few days ago. Than that? Well, today is not special enough day? Then what about that one? Nope, doesn’t feel right. In the end of the day (not literally), you just bite the bullet and say “this is it”. So the end result of my nerve wrecking selection process today was a bottle of … California Gamay from Field Recordings.

Now, class, who had the opportunity to taste California Gamay – raise your hands. Yep, I thought so. It is not that often that you hear about California Gamay. It is not even too often that you hear about Gamay been grown anywhere in US. Beaujolais? Of course, Gamay is one and only. Loire? Sure, also quite popular. Switzerland? Lesser known outside of Switzerland, but still – yes, it does quite well there. But California?

Field Recordings Gamay

Well, so as they say, there is a first time for everything. Today was my first time to taste the California Gamay. 2013 Field Recordings Gamay Noir Rancho Real Vineyard Santa Maria Valley, California (13.9% ABV, 100% Gamay Noir, 6 month in Neutral Puncheons, 50% carbonic, 50% destemmed, 140 cases, Bottled: 04.19.2014) – very interesting. The nose was reminiscent of the Beaujolais Nouveau, but with the fruit being more mature and restrained, not as grapey. Very delicious and pronounced, similar to all other Field Recordings wines I had so far. And the palate… The palate was puzzling. It had a lot of fresh, ripe raspberries, good acidity and good balance, but there was something else which took me a while to figure out. And then it came down to me – the wine was still coming together. It was very similar to the Chenin Blanc which I had directly from the tank at the winery. Fermentation or not (I’m not a winemaker, so I can’t tell you exactly what it is, I can only describe to the best of my abilities), but this wine still needed time. This is why I highlighted above the date when the wine was bottled – so I was having the wine which was bottled only a bit more than a month ago – and it was noticeable. The wine was not bad by all means – but it would be very interesting to know, how would it taste when it would finally come together as a whole. Note to self – for the young wines, try to read the labels before, not after. Anyway, it was an interesting experience, and I will have to go with Drinkability of 7+, as the wine was still pleasant. Oh yes, of course it was my one and only bottle.

Have you had California Gamay before, or any US Gamay for that matter? What do you think? Also, have you had the wine which wwas not done yet? Comment away and cheers!

Month in Wines – March 2014

April 4, 2014 7 comments

And the time has come to summarize another month in wines. March 2014 was quite wine eventful, especially from point of view of discovering of the new and unique wines. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2005 Seven Hills Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington (13% ABV, 88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 18 month aging in French and American oak) – in a word, spectacular. Yes, I like my wines with a little age – decanters and all are nice, but can’t compare with the wine actually having a chance to age slowly and gracefully. This wine was phenomenal from the moment the cork was pulled. On the nose, it was an aroma exuberance, with lots of different flavors going on – plums, cassis, sweet oak, herbs – everything was happening. And palate followed the lead – silky smooth, with layers upon layers of mature fruit, soft tannins and perfect acidity. Exquisitely balanced, this was a pure pleasure in the glass. I think we got this wine at its peak – and it was my only bottle. Sigh. 9

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – Field Recordings never cease to amaze. Powerful and delicious. 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month) – This was very interesting ( in a good sense), and will wait for a while to see it evolve. 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – Delicious, refreshing – and age worthy. Will get back to it in a few years. 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Powerful and different. Unique flavor profile, unique grape. 8-

2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – One of the very best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Coffee, dark chocolate and a fruit, all weaved elegantly together in a tight, firmly structured body. 8-

2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – Clearly outstanding, with the flavor profile rivaling best Cabernet Sauvignon. 8+

2011 Bodrog Borműhely Lapis Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary (13% ABV, 100% Furmint) – A pleasure in every sip. Different and delicious. 8

2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary (14.5% ABV, 100% Olaszrizling) – Another case of absolutely unique wine. Flavor profile is fascinating, with explicit minerality and balance of herbs and fruit. 8

2008 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussilon Villages, France (13.5% ABV, blend of Grenache, Syrah , Carignan) – This is consistently one of the best wines for the money – in the $16 range, it is almost unbeatable. Besides, this wine can age very well – this 2008 was spectacular and it could go on and on and on. 8

2006 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand (14.5% ABV) – beautiful, simply beautiful. Perfectly clean and delightful Pinot Noir profile. 8+

2007 Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Chardonnay Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – had a very interesting experience with this wine. I had two bottles, and when I opened one recently, I didn’t like it – was too much of the malolactic processing, to me the wine acquires that strange and specific taste. But then I had a second bottle a few weeks after, and it was excellent – balanced, a bit of vanilla and butter, just right, very pleasant. The temperature might be a culprit, or just the difference between the bottles. 8-

2010 Turley Zinfandel Heminway Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.6& ABV) – Turley rarely disappoints, but this wine clearly needed more time… Dark, powerful, concentrated, balanced. 8-

2005 Quinta Ste Eufemia Porto LBV, Portugal (19% ABV)  – classic, with round sweetness of figs and prunes, good acidity, fresh and delicious. 8-

2004 Hobbs Barossa Frantignac, Barossa, Australia (10% ABV) – delicious. Perfectly balanced sweetness and acidity, very fragrant and easy to drink. 8

And we are done here. What were your wine highlights from the past month? Cheers!

Daily Glass: Few Wines, Beautiful and Interesting

March 11, 2014 5 comments

Disclaimer: this blog post is not an attempt to create the new rating system. It is rather an account into the emotional escapades of the oenophile tasting wine.

Here I’m again with the super-indescriptive descriptor – beautiful wine. I wonder if the phrase “beautiful wine” gives you a mental image. I’m not talking about the exact image of an object shaped in the form of a bottle, but rather a mental anchor you can relate to “ahh, I understand”. Let me deconstruct this “beautiful wine” term as the following:

1. The wine is perfectly balanced – fruit, acidity, tannins, texture, structure – all together.

2. Drinking this wine is a pleasure

3. The wine is memorable

4. “Beautiful wine” designation is totally spontaneous and emotional. It usually happens after the first sip and the subsequent uncontrollable “wow”.

When it comes to the term of “interesting wine”, that happens when I’m puzzled, like “hmmm, interesting, I’m not sure what to think of it”. Please understand that it is very different from “ouch, it needs time”, “what is it???”, “crap” and “this is disgusting”. “This is interesting” simply means that I can’t put a handle on what I’m tasting, where, for instance, the initial sensation of round and silky is followed by something harsh and unbalanced. “This is interesting” usually ends up being extended into “hmmm, this is interesting, let’s give it some time”. From this point on, the wine can be put aside to be drunk at another day, or it might go into the decanter if I feel that it would be sufficient to change it.

Here are the few wines we had last week, some beautiful and some are … interesting.

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – believe it or not, but every time I open a bottle of Field Recordings wine (which is easy – just twist off the screw top), I have a moment of trepidation – will it be as good as everything else I tasted before from Field Recording? You could’ve noticed in this blog that I have a lot of happy reviews of the Field Recordings wines, thus it creates that uneasy moment with each new bottle opened. Luckily, this bottle of “Neverland” didn’t deviate from the trend at all – beautiful nose of cassis and blueberries, open, bright and concentrated, followed by more of cassis, sweet oak and blueberries – but nothing over the top, soft and delicious fruit with perfectly refreshing acidity, soft tannins and overall impeccably balanced. This was a beautiful wine – and equally dangerous (“dangerous wine” = disappears before you notice it). Drinkability: 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month)  – this wine is the result of collaboration of Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones and Curt Schalchlin of Sans Liege fame. Different presentation of the bottle (yes, I know, that giant cricket on the label can be off-putting), and the bottle is enclosed with the actual cork and not the screw top as all of the Field Recordings wines. The nose was more restrained than the previous wine, but still showing cassis with some earthy  overtones. On the palate, this was that exact “interesting wine”. It was showing nice fruit and structure, but was somewhat fluctuating on an off in terms of being round, or not. So this was an interesting wine to put aside, which I did. As you can take a hint from the cork enclosure, this wine is intended to age – and on the second day it came together, showing cassis with the addition of espresso and earthiness – I think that Tempranillo was holding it away from becoming Bordeaux-like, so this was the wine on its own, well balanced, restrained, and craving for food. I have another bottle and I definitely intend to give it a few years to see what it is capable of. By the way – a mini quiz for you – care to guess what 373 stands for in the name of this wine? Drinkability: 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – the oldest white wine brand of Spain, produced since 1915. Fresh citrus and herbs on the nose, impeccably balanced and restrained on the palate, with the notes of lemon and green apple, clean acidity, very pleasant to drink. I have a few more bottles, and I’m keeping them. Drinkability: 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Another case of the interesting wine, this time due to a number of factors. First of all, this wine contains a new grape – Chenançon Noir from France. Second of all, the initial impression from this wine was more reminiscent of the big body, brooding Spanish Grenache – Shatter by Dave Phinney or Alto Moncayo come to mind – and it was not round enough and was asking for decanter – which was provided. After about 40 minutes, it showed plums and ripe sweet cherries, still powerful and big bodied, but more round and balanced then from the get go. Considering the price of $15.99, if you like big and powerful wines, this might be the one for you. Drinkability: 8-

And that concludes my post. Any beautiful or interesting discoveries you care to share? Comment away! Cheers!

Month in Wines – February 2014

March 3, 2014 3 comments

Here we go again – a summary of the best wine experiences of the February 2014. Reminder – I rate the wines on the 10 points scale, with pluses and minuses, so the wines typically included in this summary post are those starting with 8- ratings (yes, there can be exceptions). Here we go:

2013 Paumanok Chenin Blanc North Fork of Long Island, New York (11% ABV) – I had an interesting experience with this wine. I had it earlier in January, when it was not at the proper temperature (a bit too warm), and then later on another bottle which was properly chilled – and it was outstanding. Bright, refreshing, perfect acidity, white fruit notes with the touch of minerality, medium to full body, with pleasant creaminess. Very enjoyable. 8-

1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir (12.5% ABV) – incredible. Finesse, elegance, clear profile of a classic Pinot Noir – complete surprise and complete delight. 10

2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) – fresh meadows on the nose, perfectly elegant and balanced wine, with clean acidity and medium-long finish. 8+

2012 Contrada Santa Croce Casteltermini Sicilia Cuvée Artisanale Chardonnay Grillot (13.5% ABV) – very unique and different wine. Finesse, balance, apricot and apricot pit, clean acidity. 8+

2011 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (13% ABV) – vanilla, butter, hint of toasted oak – all perfectly elegant and balanced in effervescent, cleanly structured package. 8+

2011 Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon AOC (12.9% ABV) – excellent earthy profile, good red fruit, good acidity, very enjoyable. 8-

1998 Ceretto Monsordo Langhe DOC (13% ABV) – Mature fruit, round, inviting and seductive. I think ‘sexy wine” will go fine as a descriptor. 8

1999 Philippe Prie Cuvée Love Flowers Champagne (12% ABV) – Great example of the vintage champagne – fresh bread, yeast, toasted apples, acidity – all together. 8

2011 Peter Lauer “Senior” Fass 6 Riesling, Saar, Germany (12.5% ABV) – A treat from our fellow Riesling guru, Oliver – perfect Riesling, balance, acidity, sunshine in every sip. 8

2008 Dr. Hermann Erdener Heremberg Riesling Eiswine (7% ABV) – Another treat from Oliver – and my first encounter with the actual German Eiswein (had only NY and Canadian wines before) – perfect complexity, perfect balance, good acidity – great finish of the meal, with or without desert. 8+

2009 Fat Cat Rotie Red Wine, California (13% ABV) – this is 100% Syrah, and it is nothing short of spectacular considering the QPR ( it retails for $17.99 is you can find it). Core of dark fruit with earthy profile, mocha and espresso, very balanced. 8+

2004 Carlisle Judge Family Vineyard Syrah Bennett Valley (15.9% ABV) – This is Carlisle – need I say more? Dark, concentrated, but elegant and perfectly balanced at the same time ( don’t even think of the ABV – you wouldn’t notice it unless you read the label). 9

2010 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.2% ABV, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – classic. Cassis on the nose and palate, touch of espresso, medium to full body, perfect balance. 8

2008 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda DO, Spain (13.5% ABV) – one of my very favorite Spanish white wines. In general, it beats Chardonnay hands down, 9 times out of 10 – buttery complexity on the palate, roll-of-your-tongue goodness, round and perfectly balanced. 8+

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I also want to mention separately few of the rare grapes I added this month.

2011 I Borboni Vite Maritata Asprinio Aversa DOP, Campania (12% ABV) – very interesting wine which Stefano brought directly from Italy (it seems to be scarcely available in US). Made from the grape called Aspirinio –  the wine had very nice acidity, coupled with a plump body and nice lemon notes. 8-

2006 Azienda Agricola Vestini Campagnano Casa Vecchia Terre Del Volturino IGT, Campania (13.5% ABV) – another great treat from Stefano. Made from the grape called Casavecchia – very nice nose of plums with more plums on the palate, medium body, round and inviting, perfect balance. 8

2012 Sant’Isidoro Colli Maceratesi Ribona Pausula, Marche  – this wine is made of the grape called Maceratino – very nice with good acidity. I tasted it at the VinItaly expo, so no ratings.

That concludes February wine report. Cheers!

Beautiful Snow and Beautiful Wine

February 9, 2014 21 comments

There was a lot of snow here in CT over the last week. Most of the snow is still here, and considering the forecast, will be lingering around for a while. Yes, the snow is nuisance and inconvenience, it is tough to shovel, and a lot of it became ice at this point. But when sun comes out, it really becomes a thing of beauty. This snow had also a very interesting characteristic – well, may be it is me who didn’t see it before, but this snow is really glowing blue, especially as you dig in and look at it. So for what it worth, here are some pictures, snapped literally just around the house. Plus, I also included a few pictures which my daughter made with her iPhone – it is pretty amazing what that little device can do. And if you will scroll all the way down, I will also talk a bit about the wine. Here we go:

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This is one of my favorites

This is one of my favorites

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That snow and that sky…

DSC_0704What makes snow so beautiful?

Image2iPhone picture by Rina – the leaf

image3The same, only black and white

And a bit of perspective

And a bit of perspective

More perspective

More perspective

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A frozen beauty

Yes, the snow was beautiful, but it got in the way. The snow on Wednesday was bad enough to affect the trains, so I had to miss the Basilicata winemakers dinner in the city, which I was really looking for. So I decided to compensate for that by opening the bottle of new vintage of one of my favorite wines – Fiction by Field Recordings. I’m sure some of you know at this point that I’m very particular to the Field Recordings wines in general, but Fiction is so unique, it is one of my all times most memorable wines ( and it was my Wine of the Year in 2011) – here is the blog post about my first experience with 2010 Fiction.

The 2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) didn’t disappoint. The spectacular nose of fresh meadows – this is the wine which you can’t put down – one smell requires another, and another, and another. The aromatics of this wine absolutely spectacular – I don’t know how that works, but I can’t put the glass down. The palate is very playful, with lots of fresh fruit, raspberries, blueberries, cherries – everything is in one beautiful medley, supported by clean acidity and perfectly balanced. The 14.9% ABV are absolutely unnoticeable – this is the wine of the pure harmony. Drinkability: 8+

That is all I have for you for my report on snow and the wine. Stay warm and drink good wine. Cheers!

Month(s) in Wines – July and August 2013

September 10, 2013 9 comments

Don’t know if you noticed, but one of the pages in this blog is designated to my Top Rated Wines – and it is actually one of my pain points, as I fail to properly maintain it. The idea behind that page was that every month I would add there best wines tasted during the month. I rate the wines on the 10 point scale, also using + and – with the numbers (so 7, 7-, 7+ are all possible). The hallmark of this rating system is 7 – wine rated 7 means “it is an okay wine, I can drink it again, but will not proactively seek it”. The wines I want to drink again start at 8-. As we drink the wine every day, I only wanted to include monthly highlights into that page, which would mean the wines rated 8- and higher.

The “table” format I have chosen for this page is missing even basic descriptions and proven to be hard to maintain (at least in the realm of WordPress.com), so I’m changing my approach. Once a month, I’m going to publish a post with the wine highlights of the past month, and link to the post from the Top Ratings page. As I’m trying to catch up here, today’s post includes best wines of July and August 2013, and I hope to maintain the regular schedule from here on.

One last thing – if you had any of the wines below, I’m curious to know what do you think.

In no particular order, here we go:

2006 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, Israel – pure Cab Franc expression, luscious wine. 8+

1996 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release Nape Valley – Claret style Cab, still going strong but starts sun-setting. 8-

2005 Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz, Australia – spectacular – young, fresh and velvety. 9-

2011 Rio Madre Rioja DOC – 100% Graciano, soft, open and balanced. 8-

2009 Odisea Veritable Quandary, California – touch of barnyard, spices and herbs – very balanced. 8

2009 Odisea Devil’s Share, California – round and [too] easy to drink. 8

2011 Shatter Grenache Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France – perfectly balanced despite 15.9% ABV. Great power. 8

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand – outstanding classical version, with vanilla and apples and perfect balance. 8+

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes – spectacular nose, perfectly clean and balanced on the palate. 8+

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County – classic example of California Pinot Noir, clean and round. 8-

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey – raspberries, cranberries, cherries and a little smoke. Perfect balance. 8+

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara – spectacular bright fruit and balance. 9

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT – dark fruit, pepper and tobacco notes, very elegant. 8

NV Mionetto Il Ugo Prosecco Blend – incredible aromatics, very playful and refreshing. 8-

2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand – clean, refreshing, perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, plus a hint of petrol. 8

2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – clean balance and perfection. 8+

1999 Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling Dry Creek Valley – spectacular. Honeyd apricot, perfectly clean and fresh acidity. 9

2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace – candied apricot, honey and balancing acidity. wow. 9

2012 Williams Selyem Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley –  strawberries, cranberries and perfect acidity. 8-

2010 Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja – luscious dark fruit, eucalyptus, balance. 8

2008 Cruz de Alba Crianza Ribera del Duero – power, cherries and structure. 8

NV Result Of A Crush Red Table Wine – bright, sexy, uplifting, cherries and cranberries. 8-

2007 Magnet Pinot Noir Sonoma County – dark, concentrated, smoky. 8-

2003 Swanson La Ti Da Estate Red Wine, Oakville, Napa – mature wine with still enough of fruit and acidity. 8

2010 Anakena Indo Sauvignon Blanc D.O. San Antonio Valley – grapefruit, lemon zest, bright acidity. 8

2007 Thelema Chardonnay South Africa – vanilla, white apples, touch of butter, perfect balance. 8-

2004 Coume Del Mas Quintessence Banyuls Red Dessert Wine – perfect balance of dark fruit and sweetness, soft tannins, very unique experience. 8+

2011 Tenute Loacker Valdifalco Vermentino Maremma Toscana – bright white fruit, medium to full body, hint of sweetness. 8-

2004 Viña Mayor Ribera Del Duero – dark, dense, concentrated, lots of cherries plus some dark chocolate. Soft tannins. 8-

Wines, Wines, Wines – Part 2

August 18, 2013 15 comments

As promised, here is the second part of the Wines, Wines, Wines post. In the first part, we talked about great Riesling and Gewurzrtraminer wines, with some extra value wines and Prosecco. Let’s continue our “memorable wine extravaganza” with a couple of Chardonnays.

Chardonnay

It is so interesting how things work in life. You might walk past say, a picture, every day, and never notice it. And then all of a sudden you say “what is it? Was it always here, or is it something new??”, and people around you look at you like you have two heads or something. Where am I going with this? Give me a minute, I will make my point.

Couple of month ago I got a bottle of Chardonnay, accompanied by the words “try it, it is pretty good”. I’m a sucker for good Chardonnay (yeah, true, you can substitute “Chardonnay” with any other varietal – I’m just a sucker for any good wine, but this can be a subject for a different post). But this Chardonnay was from New Zealand. And New Zealand in by book is the land of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – but not really a Chardonnay. So I finally got the bottle opened and … wow.

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Seresin Chardonnay

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand (13.5% ABV, 11 month in oak).  The symbol of the hand on the label has a deep meaning. Quoting few words from Seresin Estate web site, “The hand is a symbol of strength, gateway to the heart, tiller of the soil, the mark of the artisan, and embodies the philosophy of Seresin Estate”. Here are my tasting notes for this wine: Outstanding, classic. Perfect nose of vanilla and white apples, just right. Very balanced fruit on the palate – hint of butter, vanilla, oak, good acidity – one of the most balanced Chardonnays ever. Drinkability: 8+

Oh yes, you are still waiting for me to connect to the opening sentence about passing by and not seeing things around for the long time, right? As of very recently, as I walked in the New Zealand isle in the store, I noticed all of a sudden that almost every producer now features Chardonnay in addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. When did it happen, how long this was the case with New Zealand Chardonnays – I don’t have any idea, but based on this experience, I definitely want to try more.

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes (13% ABV) – I don’t have a lot of experience with Chablis overall. I had a few bottles of Chablis here and there, but never was really impressed with it (I never had Chablis of a Grand Cru or even Premier Cru level). I don’t know what possessed me to get this wine from the Benchmark Wine Company, I guess it was in the right price range ( under $20), and somehow caught my attention. Then I read somewhere, that Chablis requires on average about 10 years of age in the bottle to really start transforming and going past the initial “steely acidity” flavor profile to get to the next level. And then I tried this Frédéric Gueguen wine – wow. Here are my tasting notes: some darker yellow color, but not quite golden yet. Amazing nose, reminiscent of Côte-Rôtie – almost a touch of sulfur (think freshly burnt matches), or even more of a smell of a hot piece of granite on a summer day, a “roasted rock”. Side note: pardon my naive definition here – I recently learned that professionals call it a “gunflint” – but I will not use this term as it doesn’t lead to any associations for me. Perfect complexity on the palate – white fruit, vanilla. Lots and lots of minerality. Full bodied and very balanced, excellent wine overall. Drinkability: 8+

Pinot Noir

And we are moving along to the Pinot Noir wines – both of the wines below were excellent:

Siduri Pinot Noir

Siduri Pinot Noir

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13.1% ABV) – perfectly clean California Pinot – good smokey nose, with a touch of red fruit aromas. Light cherries on the palate, hint of earthiness, medium body, perfect acidity, very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey (14.0% ABV) – outstanding. Bright ruby color in the glass, raspberries and hint of smokiness on the nose. Raspberries, cranberries and cherries on the palate. Medium to full body. Excellent acidity, overall perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 8+

Cabernet Franc

I have only one wine for you here, but it was mind blowing.

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara (15.9% ABV, 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 18 month in French oak) – spectacular. If you read this blog on the regular basis, you know that I’m very impartial to the wines of Field Recordings – but this is not my fault, it is Andrew Jones’ fault ( Andrew Jones is the winemaker behind Field Recordings). This wine had beautiful garnet color in the glass. The nose was clean and open, withhint of black currant and other red fruit. The palate is stunning with black currant, cherries, touch of black pepper, dark chocolate, perfect acidity, soft and supple tannins, all in the format of full-bodied wine. Perfect balance of fruit, acidity, tannins and alcohol – which is pretty amazing at 15.9% ABV. Drinkability: 9

Last, but not least – Syrah

Villa Pillo

Villa Pillo Syrah

Appearance of the large amount of Italian Syrah wines is also somewhat of a revelation, similar to the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post. All of a sudden I start noticing that there are more Italian Syrah wines showing in the wine stores, and people are just talking more about them, in the blogs and otherwise.

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT (14.5% ABV) – we got this wine when we visited Millbrook Winery in New York (this will be a subject of a separate post), as they are importing this and a number of other wines from Italy. Tasting notes: Dark garnet color in the glass. Nose of dark fruit and dark chocolate. Outstanding on the palate – hint of pepper, cherries, plums and raspberries, more dark chocolate. Full bodied, with the velvety texture weaved over firm structure. Drinkability: 8

Whew, we are done here! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, New Life at Mayacamas, Few Reminders and more

August 7, 2013 19 comments
Field Recordings Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard

Field Recordings Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #68, grape trivia – Chenin Blanc. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about Chenin Blanc grape.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: True or false: South Africa grows (area-wise) twice as much Chenin Blanc as France

A1: True. Chenin Blanc plantings in South Africa take a bit less than 25% of all grape plantings in the country, and it exceeds plantings in France by at least two times.

Q2: Do you know how Chenin Blanc is typically called in South Africa?

A2: Steen. Chenin Blanc is South Africa was traditionally called Steen, but as many wineries are improving quality of their Chenin Blanc wines, they also use the traditional “Chenin Blanc” name on the labels more and more.

Q3: Based on DNA research, Chenin Blanc might be a parent of:

a. Pinot Blanc, b. Sauvignon Blanc, c. Marsanne, d. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano)

A3: Sauvignon Blanc.

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Chenin Blanc wines with Classic rating.

A4: False. While there are only 14 Classic Chenin Blanc wines to the date (all from Vouvray region in France), Domaine Huët Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1997 scored even perfect 100 points.

Q5: One of my all time favorite Chenin Blanc wines is made by the company called Field Recordings in California. It is a single-vineyard wine, coming from the vineyard which has the same name as one of the blockbuster movies of the 90s. Do you know how this vineyard is called?

A5: Jurassic Park! I’m really curious what would give such a name to the vineyard, but hey, this is how it is called. And Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc I had was spectacular.

I’m glad to report that we have lots of winners this time! Emil, SheWinesSometimes, VinoinLove and TheDrunkenCyclist answered all 5 questions correctly, and they get the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights!

Now, to the interesting stuff around vine and web!

I have a few interesting things for you to read. First, an article by New York Times‘ Eric Asimov, talking about new life of Mayacamas Vineyards in Napa. Mayacamas is one of the historical vineyards in the region, originally built in 1889, and owned by Bob Travers and his wife since 1968. I experienced Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon only once, and it was a spectacular wine, done in very restrained and elegant style. Now the winery is acquired by Charles Banks, who owned Screaming Eagle in the past, and he brought in Andy Erickson, a past Screaming Eagle’s winemaker, to make wine at the Mayacamas. How Mayacamas will change is a big question for all of its fans,  so you should read the article to learn more.

Here is an interesting read for you from W. Blake Gray, on the subject of [yeah, here we go again] wine tasting notes. Before you read the article, test yourself – do you know what gunflint is? You do? Great, do you know how does it taste like? My personal answer is “no” for both questions, but you go read the article to learn something new and get entertained.

The last article for today on the subject of Georgian wines, talking about new and interesting wines coming from the “cradle of winemaking”, as Georgia often is referred to. Go find the bottle of Georgian wine to enjoy while you will be reading the article.

We are getting closer to the few important dates (deadlines, rather) so here are your reminders:

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 finally made my submission, so I sleep much better now. There is still time, get your trouble under control and write! Side note – if you are using twitter, I recommend using #MWWC hash tag for all submissions and discussions.

August 29th – Annual Cabernet Day 2013. Grab the bottle of your favorite Cab and join the festivities – here is the link to the invitation I received for this Cabernet Day, in case you want to state your participation officially.

That is all I have for you, folks. The glass is empty -but the refill is coming. Until the next time – cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #68: Grape Trivia – Chenin Blanc

August 3, 2013 20 comments
Chenin Blanc grapes, as pictured in Wikipedia

Chenin Blanc grapes, as pictured in Wikipedia

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Today we are continuing our grape trivia with the next white grape – Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is one of the oldest known grapes in the world, with the first mentions tracing back to 9th century in Loire in France. In about 17th century it made it to South Africa, where it became one of the most popular grapes, and it continued spreading around the world. In France, it is mostly growing in the Loire valley, with probably the best wines coming from Anjou and Vouvray regions.

According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, Chenin Blanc is probably one of the most versatile white grapes in the world. It has very high level of natural acidity, and also capable of accumulating very high level of sugars, making it equally suitable for production Sparkling wines and luscious dessert wines. At the time, Chenin Blanc requires a lot of attention in the vineyard, as it has a tendency to overgrow. If harvested too early, its high level of acidity makes the resulting wines simply insipid, and if it overgrows, the resulting wine tends to lose it character making dull and uninteresting wines.

Traditionally, the best Chenin Blanc wines were made in France, with off-dry Vouvray being probably some of the very best examples (if you ever experienced a “wow” Vouvray wine, raise you hand – I personally have, and at about $15/bottle, it doesn’t require you to break the bank). Overall, as winemaking techniques improve all over the world, there are more and more interesting Chenin Blanc wines coming from South Africa, California, Washington, Texas and many other places.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: True or false: South Africa grows (area -wise) twice as much Chenin Blanc as France

Q2: Do you know how Chenin Blanc is typically called in South Africa?

Q3: Based on DNA research, Chenin Blanc might be a parent of:

a. Pinot Blanc

b. Sauvignon Blanc

c. Marsanne

d. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano)

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Chenin Blanc wines with Classic rating.

Q5: One of my all time favorite Chenin Blanc wines is made by the company called Field Recordings in California. It is a single-vineyard wine, coming from the vineyard which has the same name as one of the blockbuster movies of the 90s. Do you know how this vineyard is called?

Side note: Google is your friend. It is impossible to know everything, and when you research, you learn…

Good luck, have fun and cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine Blogging Wednesday Returns, New Wine Writing Challenge Announced, And more

July 24, 2013 13 comments

ChardonnaysMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #66, Grape Trivia – Chardonnay. In that quiz you were supposed to answer 5 questions about probably most popular white grape in the world – Chardonnay.

Here are the questions, now with the answers.

Q1: Name the producer of the most expensive Chardonnay wine in the world. As an added bonus, please also provide the name of the wine.

A1: Domaine Romanee-Conti (DRC), which is probably the most famous in the world producer of red Burgundy wines also makes a tiny quantity of the white Burgundy in Montrachet. This wine is impossible to find, but if you will, it will set you back by at least $3,000.

Q2: Chablis used to be the bustling Chardonnay producer in France, supplying most of the wine in Paris and beyond, until it came to the severe decline during the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. Do you know what was one of the biggest factors which led to that decline?

A2: The time periods in this question should be slightly adjusted – it should be really late 19th century, not beginning to middle of the 20th. Nevertheless, the quick answer here is … railroad. Until the railroad was built in France in 1850s, Chablis held near monopoly on Parisian wine market, being able to easily supply the wine by the river. Railroads allowed easy access for much cheaper wines of South of France to the lucrative market, which shook Chablis’ dominance. Then there were other factors, such a philloxera, but it all started from the railroad…

Q3: Name 3 main flavor descriptors of the *big* California Chardonnay

A3: Vanilla, butter and oak – read the description of any “big” California chard, and most likely you will find all these words.

Q4: Judgement of Paris of 1976 was instrumental in bringing California Chardonnay onto the world-class wine map. Do you know which California winery we need to thank for that?

A4: Chateau Montelena was the one!

Q5: As with many other grapes, various clones had being developed for Chardonnay, to adapt better for the particular region and/or resulting wine style – for example, there is a number of so called Dijon clones of Chardonnay, which can be used by anyone wishing to produce a classic Burgundy style wine. One of the clones was developed in California in the middle of 20th century, and it is still a very popular choice among many California Chardonnay producers to the date. Can you name that clone?

A5: Wente clone. It took about 40 years to create the Wente Chardonnay clone, which became a popular choice among winegrowers in California in the 1940s – 1950s. You can read this article for more details.

Looking at the results of this quiz, I have to tell you that I actually anticipated higher success rate – but it seems that outside of the question 4, which was answered correctly by all, the rest of the questions came up to be rather difficult. We don’t have a winner today, bu the honorable mention goes to Asueba, who correctly answered questions 1 and 4, and was quite close with the answers for the questions 2 and 3.

Now, to the interesting stuff around vine and web!

Well, I don’t even know where to start – lots of interesting things are happening!

First, the newly minted queen of the Wine Writing Challenge, Kirsten, a.k.a. The Armchair Sommelier, announced the new trouble theme for the 2nd Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Why “trouble theme” you ask? That’s just the name of the theme – Trouble. You can read all the details here, and start getting in trouble. Oh yes, and if you are a creative type, we are also looking for the cool loge for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge exercise – get your creative juices flowing! The submission deadline is August 17th – summer days are flying fast, don’t get in trouble and don’t miss your chance to steal the crown…

Wine-Bloggin-Wednesday-Glass-200x300Now, I have to tell you that Wine Blogging Wednesday is back!!! For those of you who missed it ( which will probably be quite a few people), this was a popular monthly wine blogging exercise. Every month a new theme was announced, like Cabernet Sauvignon, or Viognier, or Single Vineyards and so on, with various bloggers playing role of the host. This was not a competition, but rather a thematic submission with the host producing a summary blog post after the wine blogging Wednesday, or #WBW, would take place. These #WBW events stopped for almost a year – and I’m glad to see them come back. The theme for the Wine Blogging Wednesday #80 (#WBW80) is Dry Rosé, and the #WBW80 event will take place on August 14th. For all the details on the #WBW80 and previous 79 #WBW events, please visit Wine Blogging Wednesday web site.

It is hot. It is the summer. But – 31 days of Riesling event is in full swing! Nothing cools you off better than nice and refreshing glass of Riesling. The 31 Days of Riesling event is going on until the end of July – check the event web site for the participating restaurants, stores and tons of interesting stuff about Riesling.

When was the last time you tasted Chenin Blanc wines? Lettie Teague, the wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, calls Chenin Blanc a “delicious underdog” in her recent article. You might want to read it, and then may be even grab a bottle or two based on her recommendations – you might be in for a delicious surprise, as I was with Field Recordings Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc.

Last but not least, I want to bring to your attention a rant by Duff Wines about the way we taste the wines and live our lives. It will worth your time, so I highly recommend it.

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

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