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American Pleasures

November 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Yes, you read it right – we will be talking about American pleasures.

But don’t worry – this is still a wine blog. Yes, we will be talking about wine. And as the title suggests, we will be talking about wines made in the USA. As for the pleasures – this is what the wine is for. The wine should give you pleasure. If it does not, I don’t know what is the point of drinking it. For sure I don’t see it for myself – if I’m not enjoying the glass of wine, I’m not drinking it. It is the pleasure we, wine lovers, are after.

Lately, I had a number of samples of American wines sent to me. Mostly California wines, to be precise. And to my big surprise, I enjoyed all of them. I’m not implying that the wines I tasted were better than I expected, hence the surprise. While I pride myself with the willingness to try any and every wine, it doesn’t mean that I equally like any and every wine – I’m rather a picky (read: snobby?) wine taster. At a typical trade tasting, my “likeness” factor is about 1 out of 10 or so. And here, wine after wine, I kept telling myself “this is good!”, and then “wow, this is good too!”. Is my palate getting cursed or just old and tired? Maybe. But, as I still trust it and as I derived pleasure from every sip of these wines, I would like to share my excitement with you, hence this post, or rather, a series of posts. Let’s go.

First, let’s talk about the old. “Old” is a very respectful word here, as we will be talking about the winery which had been around for more than 40 years in Napa Valley. Back in 1976, Ron and Diane Miller purchased 105 acres vines on in Yountville, which is now known as Miller Ranch. Two years later, they acquired 226 acres in Stags Leap District, which was the vineyard called Silverado. Initially, the grapes were sold to the other wineries, until in 1981 the winery was built and the first harvest was crushed – the was the beginning of Silverado Vineyards as we know it. Today, Silverado Vineyards comprise 6 vineyards throughout Napa Valley, all Napa Green certified, which is an established standard for sustainable farming. Silverado Vineyards wines are exported to 25 countries and have won numerous accolades at a variety of competitions – and Silverado Vineyards garnered quite a few “winery of the year” titles along the years.

Two wines I tasted from Silverado Vineyards were Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. I like California Sauvignon Blanc with a little restraint, not overly fruity, and with a good amount of grass and acidity – Honig Sauvignon Blanc and Mara White Grass would be two of my favorite examples. California Rosé is somewhat of a new category, still scarcely available in the stores on the East Coast – this is mostly wine club or winery tasting room category at the moment. Again, for the Rosé, restraint is a key – nobody needs to replicate Provençal Rosé in California, but the wine still should be light and balanced.

Silverado Vineyards perfectly delivered on both – here are my notes:

2018 Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc Yountville Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, $25)
Straw pale
Beautiful, classic CA Sauvignon Blanc – freshly cut grass, a touch of lemon, all nicely restrained. Nice minerality.
An interesting note of salinity, lemon, lemon zest, a touch of pink grapefruit, just an undertone with some bitterness. This is a multidimensional wine, with a good amount of complexity.
8-/8, a thought-provoking wine. Great with manchego cheese and Hungarian salami.

2018 Silverado Vineyards Sangiovese Rosato Napa Valley (14.5% ABV, $25, 100% Sangiovese)
Light Pink
A touch of strawberries, light and elegant
Strawberries and lemon on the palate, elegant, balanced, good textural presence, very refreshing.
8, and excellent Rosé overall, with its own character. And I have to tell you – I’m duly impressed with Californian Sangiovese, for sure when it is made into a Rosé – seems to be a complete winner here.

Another wine I want to talk about here, is definitely from the “new” camp – only 5 years ago, Oceano winery was not even an idea. The winery has a great story, which you better read on the winery website. The story has everything – the love at first sight, the encounter with the seahorse, a wine label drawn on the napkin.

Oceano wines are made from the fruit coming from Spanish Springs Vineyard in San Luis Obispo – the vineyard which is closest to the Pacific Ocean not only in the Central Coast appellation but in entire California. Cool climate helps Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to mature slowly and to accumulate great flavor. Not only Spanish Springs Vineyard provides ideal conditions for the grapes, but it is also SIP (Sustainable in Practice) Certified vineyard, which is considered a higher status than Organic due to the stringent requirements throughout the whole process of winemaking up to the point of bottling of the wine.

I had an opportunity to taste the second release of Oceano Chardonnay, and was simply blown away:

2017 Oceano Chardonnay Spanish Springs Vineyard San Luis Obispo County (13.6% ABV, $38)
Light golden
Vanilla, a hint of honey
Vanilla, a touch of butter, hint of almonds, nice golden apple and brioche, let’s not forget the delicious, freshly baked brioche – with tons of acidity on the long finish, tons and tons of acidity.
9-, outstanding rendition of the Chardonnay, worked perfectly well with a variety of foods – beef roast from Trader Joe’s, Brie, Spanish Cheeses (Manchego and San Simone) – this was totally an unexpected surprise. If you are looking for a delicious and versatile Chardonnay, this might be the wine you are looking for. It might easily be a star of your Thanksgiving wine program.

Here you are, my friends. These wines delivered lots and lots of pleasure, and these are the wines worth seeking. We are done for today, but we are very far from done seeking more wine pleasures. To be continued…

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC5 Vote, Peter Mondavi Turns 99, The Oldest Wine Cellar?, and more

November 27, 2013 7 comments
While not Carménère, this gives you an idea of color

While not Carménère, this gives you an idea of color

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #83, grape trivia – Carménère.

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

Q1: Explain the name of the grape Carménère

A1: The name Carménère originates from the French word for crimson, carmin that relates to the fact that the leaves of Carménère turn beautiful crimson color in the fall.

Q2:Similar to Merlot/Carménère confusion in Chile, the discovery was recently made in one of the well known old world wine producing countries – the grape they thought was ___, actually happened to be a Carménère. Name the grape, the country, and the region within this country where confusion took place.

A2: For the long time, winemakers in Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy thought that they were making the wines from Cabernet Franc – only to find out that it was actually a Carménère!

Q3: As the sequel to the previous question – the confusion also spread into the New Wolrd winemaking country. Name the grape been mistaken and the country.

A3: New Zealand imported Cabernet Franc vines out of all places, from Italy – oops? Yes, It was actually a Carménère!

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

A4: False . A number of Chilean wines from Casa Lapostolle got the 96 rating, and they are a Carménère-based blends

Q5: Name three grapes, often blended together with Carménère.

A5: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are often blended together with Carménère.

“We had rather a low participation in the quiz, but – we do have a winner” – was my opening line here. Now, with the last second entry, we have two winners! Patty from P’s 2013 photo project and Namie from Eat with Namie both  correctly answered all 5 questions, and they both get the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

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

The next article I want to bring to your attention is from the Wine Spectator, and it is dedicated to the Peter Mondavi – the older brother of Robert Mondavi. As amazing as it sounds, Peter Mondavi turns 99, and he still actively runs his winery, Charles Krug in Napa Valley. You can find the article here – definitely an interesting read, very relevant to the past and present of California wine.

How old do you think the oldest known wine cellar is and where do you think it is located? An archaelogical excavation in the norther Israel unearthed a cellar, which is estimated to be 3,700 years old. I think this is a very respectful age. No, the wine didn’t survive for that long, but nevertheless, I think this is a fascinating find. Here is the link for the Wall Street Journal article with more details.

Thanksgiving, an American holiday we will celebrate on Thursday, prompts lots of conversations about wine, and American wine in particular. I want to bring to your attention a very interesting article written by Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist blog, where he is talking about American wines. When we say “American Wines”, we actually don’t mean the wines made only in California – the wines are produced in all 50 states, and 12 of those states have more than a 100 wineries each! I find this information very interesting. Also from Mike’s article you can jump to the web site called Wines and Vines, which seems to offer a wealth of data regarding the wine industry – check it out.

Last but no least – don’t forget WTSO Gift Marathon on December 2nd (full details can be found here). WTSO just announced some of the wines which will be a part of the marathon – Beringer, Insignia, Philippe Prie, Caymus – I think it will be a very interesting event, so point your browser to the WTSO on Monday, December 2nd and happy hunting!

Ahh, and before we part – Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!

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!

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