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Parent, Secret Power, Unsung Hero

December 10, 2017 3 comments

You just read the title of this post. What do you think we will be talking about? Of course, it can be a story about a person who had all those great qualities – but this is the wine blog, right? Can all those qualities belong to a grape?

Let’s see. Parent – this is simple. When two grapes are crossed, they will give birth to the new grapes, and, of course, we can call both of the original grapes parents. Unsung hero? This is typically someone who can quietly come to the help of others and solve the big problem or save a life. Apart from saving a life, a grape can be very instrumental in assisting others to do their best, bringing out their best qualities while remaining literally unknown. For example, helping to make delicious wine as part of the blend. Now, the secret power? Every once in a while a person can be on a secret mission and save the world, all alone, “solo” – James Bond meets Wonder Woman, anyone? Okay, okay, I’m only talking about making delicious wines, all by itself, solo.

Now, as we are talking about the grape, can you think of one which would fit this description? There are thousands of grapes used in winemaking, so theoretically, there is more than one grape which will fit this profile, but I would dare to say that one grape might stand above others in all these roles. Know what I’m about to say? There is a good chance you do – you probably guessed it already – I’m talking about Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

It is hard to tell when Cabernet Franc became known as a grape variety. It is definitely old, probably not as old as Chardonnay, which can trace its history all the way to the 11th century, but still older than most other grapes. While Cabernet Franc is typically associated with Bordeaux and Loire, it appears that it originated from the Basque Country in Spain, from where it spread through the south of France and reached Bordeaux.

How Cabernet Franc is a Parent? Based on DNA research, Cabernet Franc was a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère – a good group of kids, isn’t it?

How is it an unsung hero? Cabernet Franc ripens at least one week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It can reach phenolic ripeness in the years when Cabernet Sauvignon will not, and thus in the blend, it will be a savior – this is why it was always so loved in Bordeaux, an insurance policy of sorts. While the tasting profile of Cabernet Franc is somewhat similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, it is typically softer and less tannic than its more famous offspring, so it makes the blend more approachable.

The Secret Power? When used in European wines, it is often unknown that the wine is made out of Cabernet Franc. For instance, Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the most famous Bordeaux wines, is made predominantly out of the Cabernet Franc – but this is not widely known outside of the circle of wine aficionados. How about Olga Raffault Chinon? Chinon, a region in the Loire, is one of the best sources of delicious Cabernet Franc wines, but you have to simply know that. Coming to the new world, Cabernet Franc is not so secret anymore, as you can see it on the label, but I still can let you in on one little secret – this is one of the most versatile red grapes you can find. Talking about the United States, for instance, it is practically the only red grape which can consistently deliver delicious red wines both in California and in New York – and we don’t need to be so confined – Washington and Oregon are doing quite well with the Cabernet Franc, and so do Massachusets, New Jersey and even Rhode Island. And let’s not forget Canada, where the grape goes beyond dry reds and offers some of the most stunning dessert wines – Cabernet Franc Ice Wine.

Cabernet Franc AutoCollage

December 4th is when we celebrate this unique variety with the #CabFrancDay. The whole Cabernet Franc extravaganza is a product of obsession of one person – Lori Budd, who singlehandedly started this grape holiday in 2016. Lori expresses the love for the grape not just by talking about it – she also makes her own Cabernet Franc wine in Paso Robles under the Dracaena Wines label. This year I was able to try the Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc at the wine bloggers conference, and I can tell you that while I’m very particular about Cabernet Franc wines (prefer more old world style than new), I really enjoyed Lori’s rendition.

Grape holidays are always fun – you have a good reason to open a special bottle which was stashed in the corner, and share your love for the grape with the world. Cabernet Franc’s celebration is important beyond that simple joy. Take a look at Wikipedia article – it says that Cabernet Franc is “principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone”. The Vins de Bordeaux website says that Cabernet Franc “is the ultimate complementary grape variety”. While this is true, Cabernet Franc is great for blending, this is also the grape which is excellent by itself, and we should recognize and acknowledge that, and change that perception of a “blending grape”.

This year, I had a great experience with beautiful Cabernet Franc wines from all over the world – 1982 Olga Raffault Chinon, Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Franc from Argentina, Lieb Cabernet Franc from Long Island, New York, Dracaena Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles and many others. But to celebrate Cabernet Franc Day in style, I had an opportunity to open 3 more wines especially for the holiday – for one, representing both coasts of the USA – and, surprisingly enough, representing both styles of Cabernet Franc, the old world and the new world.

2014 ACORN Alegría Vineyards Cabernet Franc Russian River Valley (12.5% ABV, $38, 93% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat, 18 months in barrel) was uniquely Californian in style – in many ways. Alegría Vineyards are Certified Sustainable, which is really the way now for many vineyards in California, with a lot of manual labor-intensive effort going into helping grapes to achieve their best potential. All the wines ACORN produces are made as field blends, where different grapes are co-fermented together, according to the century-old field-blend vineyard traditions. The result was beautifully balanced, fruit forward wine, boasting pure cassis flavors, supported by the medley of the red fruit and perfect acidity. The wine was clean and delicious.

Two more wines were a total surprise for me. These two Cabernet Franc wines were both made in New Jersey. I have very little experience with New Jersey wines, and that experience was not necessarily all positive, so yes, I didn’t have much expectation as I was pulling the corks, just a hope that the wines would be at least palatable.

While Unionville Vineyards were planted only in 1987 and the winery opened its doors to the public in 1993, the land where the vineyards a located was a farmland even before the 1850s. As a farmland, it went through many different plantings and such – peach orchard, apple orchard, dairy farm, grains, and horses – but returned to the fruits with the first grapevine plantings in 1987 – this is when the story of Unionville Vineyards started.

2014 Unionville Vineyards Amwell Ridge Cabernet Franc New Jersey (13.6% ABV) had dark garnet color in the glass. Intense nose, a touch of sweet tobacco, black currant. On the palate, interesting salinity first, following by clean acidity and then herbal notes. Mint, anise, a touch of blackcurrant – excellent Cab Franc rendition.

Beneduce Vineyards is located in the same Hunterdon County as Unionville Vineyards. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are the main white grape varieties at Beneduce Vineyards, and the list of reds includes Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch and, of course, Cabernet Franc.

2014 Beneduce Vineyards Cabernet Franc Hunterdon County (12.5% ABV) had dark garnet color in the glass. Fresh and crispy on the nose, with a touch of green bell pepper, dark chocolate, black currant – very impressive, Chinon-Style. Beautiful palate, with a touch of tannins, black currant, layers, well integrated, refreshing.
If there is anything I want you to remember from this post, it is that Cabernet Franc power goes well beyond blends, and Cabernet Franc wines are well worth seeking from anywhere in the world.
What is your view of the Cabernet Franc? Do you have any favorite Cab Franc wines? Do you prefer old world or a new world style? What is the best Cab Franc wine you ever had? Cheers!

Argentina Beyond Malbec with Achaval-Ferrer and #WineStudio

April 26, 2017 4 comments

Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet FrancOf course, Argentina wine industry can’t be subsided only to Malbec  – Torrontes and Chardonnay for the whites and Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon (and Bordeaux-style blends, of course) for the reds comprise an absolute majority of Argentinian wines available at any given moment. You can find some Argentinian Bonarda, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, but they don’t carry the full recognition of the 4 main grapes.

Winemaking has a long history in Argentina, starting in the 16th century and entering an international trade in the second half of 19th century. If we will take into account that most of the grape plantings in Argentina are at high altitude, with climatic conditions and terroir overall ideal for the grape growing and providing protection against many grape diseases, such as phylloxera, we will quickly realize that Argentina is home to some of the best and oldest vineyards in the world. However, it is only during the last 20-25 years Argentinian wines start receiving a full international recognition they deserve, with Malbec been the brightest shining star.

Achaval-Ferrer winery was founded in 1998, and over its relatively short history, became a leading winery in Argentina, garnering numerous awards and high critic scores for its wines. To the great pleasure of wine geeks, wines of Achaval-Ferrer were also a focus of April #WineStudio educational program, allowing us to experience some of the very best wines Argentina is capable of producing – Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blend called Quimera. But for the last April session, Achaval-Ferrer and #WineStudio took us on the trip in entirely new direction with the inaugural vintage of the Cabernet Franc wine.

I guess it is time to reveal one of my (no, not darkest) deepest wine secrets – I have “a thing”, an obsessive passion for the Cabernet Franc wines. I can’t explain to you why or how. I don’t know how it happened that out of most grapes, the words “Cabernet Franc” make me literally jump. No matter how tired I am at the end of the large tasting, say to me “let’s go try Cab Franc” and I’m ready to run. Thus you can imagine how excited I was at this opportunity to try a new first release of Cabernet Franc.

There was a lot of excitement around this wine, seems everybody really enjoyed it. As for all the wines of Achaval-Ferrer, the grapes for this Cabernet Franc came from the high altitude vineyards (3,280 ft above sea level) in the Uco Valley, mostly sustainably farmed. Here are my tasting notes:

2015 Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Franc Mendoza Argentina (14.5% ABV, $24.99, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 months in 3-year old French oak barrels)
C: Dark garnet
N: intense, baking spices, dark fruit, mint, dark chocolate
P: medium-full body, fresh cut-through acidity, mint, hint of cassis, touch of white pepper on the finish, smooth, long finish with tannins kicking in at the end and lingering.  Needs time…
V: 8, nice, can be drunk on its own, will be great with the food, and will evolve with time – at least 10 years. The wine opened up more on the second day, and I’m sure will further improve on the 3rd.

Definitely an excellent wine which will be hard to find – 1,400 cases total production, and a lot of this wine went to Morton’s steakhouse (so if you plan to visit Morton’s keep that in mind) – but it is well worth seeking. If you will score some of these bottles, lay them down in the cellar and let them evolve. At least this is what I would do.

This wine concluded a delicious #WineStudio experience with the Achaval-Ferrer wines, and to sum it up, I want to leave you with the twitter quote from Tina Morey, the host of #WineStudio:

I can fully sign under every word here – beautiful, expressive wines, well representing what Argentina is capable of. Salud!

WBC16: Day 2 – Speed Tasting, Reds

September 4, 2016 Leave a comment

A few days ago I told you about the live blogging session at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2016, dedicated to the White and Rosé wines. On the second day, we had a similar session, only now dedicated to the red wines. The same format – 60 minutes, 19 (or so) tables, 25 (or so) wines, 5 minutes to taste, take pictures, ask questions and share impressions in the social media, of course. Also with the higher chance of damage – clothes damage, it is, as we were dealing with red wine and time-pressed pourers. But this is part of fun, isn’t it?

Same as before, I would like to offer to you my twitter notes. Just to make it even more fun, you can compare my notes with Jim Van Bergen’s, a fellow blogger we had a pleasure of sharing the table with (alongside other great people – I think we had the most fun table in the house).

Here we go:

Wine #1: 2014 The Federalist Zinfandel Lodi ($17.76 MSRP) – very nice start for our Reds extravaganza

Wine #2: 2013 Windrun Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills (100% Pinot Noir, blend of 5 clones from Lafond Vineyard) – nice and classic California Pinot

Wine #3: 2012 Corner 103 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County – clean and varietally correct

Wine #4: 2012 Prie Vineyards Zinfandel Lodi – another excellent Zinfandel

Wine #5: 2012 Trione Vineyards Henry’s Blend Alexander Valley (35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 13 % Petite Verdot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec) – a welcome deviation from Zinfandel, a classic Bordeaux blend. I also realized that my tweet didn’t have the picture, so picture is now included:

Trione Vineyards Henry's Blend

Wine #6: 2013 Peirano Estate ‘The Immortal’ Zin Old Vine Zinfandel (120 years old vines!) – if anything, the age of the vines commands utmost respect. Note that my tweet incorrectly puts the vintage as 2012, where it is 2013 (I blame it on the speed).

Wine #7: 2013 Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah Lodi – an excellent rendition of one of my most favorite grapes

Wine #8: 2013 Abundance Vineyards Carignane Lodi (90% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah)

Wine #9: 2014 Oak Ridge Winery OZV Old Vine Zinfandel (Zinfandel/Petite Sirah blend) – Number one selling Zinfandel in California and a great value at $10.99

Wine #10: 2013 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard Lodi  – one of the best Zinfandels in the tasting

Wine #11: 2013 Michael David Winery Inkblot Cabernet Franc Lodi – in the land of Zinfandels, we finished tasting with an absolute standout of 100% Cabernet Franc – you have to taste it for yourself

Here we go, folks. As you can tell, I can’t even count – we had 11 wines and not 10 during these 60 minutes, but yes, it was lots of fun. And I’m far from being done talking about Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 in Lodi.

Until the next time  – cheers!

How About Some Cabernet Franc for the #CabernetDay?

September 3, 2015 2 comments

The time has come again to celebrate #CabernetDay. I’m really curious – when you hear the words Cabernet Day, what is the first wine (or grape) which comes to mind – is it Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc? I would bet that at least two third of the people (if not more) would associate Cabernet Day with Cabernet Sauvignon – and can you blame anyone? While the most celebrated grape in the world comes from Bordeaux, most of Bordeaux wines are blends, so it is really California wine industry which brought Cabernet Sauvignon to such a star status in the wine world, making it an object of crave and desire.

I looked through my past #CabernetDay posts – most of them talk about Cabernet Sauvignon. Meanwhile, Cabernet Franc, a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, deserves its own praise. You see, the success of Cabernet Sauvignon, especially the California Cabernet Sauvignon, created certain image, certain collective expectations of any wines which happened to have the name Cabernet Sauvignon on the label – we expect power, we expect concentration, we expect big body and silky layers. When it comes to Cabernet Franc, we still accept the wide range of expression – from spicy and light Loire or US East Coast renditions to the powerful and concentrated Bordeaux (rare) and California wines.

Cabernet Franc is still allowed to be different, without demand to adhere to the “international standard” based on the name. You can find a lot of green bell peppers, earthiness and even tree brunches in the Loire (Bourgueil, Chinon, Saumur-Champigny) or US East Coast Cabernet Franc, of course often emanating that wonderful black currant, (a.k.a. “cassis”). On another end of the spectrum are California renditions of Cabernet Franc, which try to eliminate the green bell pepper and make the wine more similar to traditional Cabernet Sauvignon. Either way, Cabernet Franc provides a bigger variety compare to Cabernet Sauvignon – I never said it is better, though.

Field Recordings Cabernet FrancFor today’s #CabernetDay celebration I’ve chosen a Cabernet Franc from California. Well, by accident, it happened to be Cabernet Franc for the second day in the row, and for both days it is a Cabernet Franc from one of my favorite producers – Field Recordings. 2013 Hinterland Vineyard Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (14.1% ABV, $18, 88% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot), and 2013 Tommy Town Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (14.3% ABV, $18, 100% Cabernet Franc) – two beautiful wines, celebrating a noble grape. The Hinterland Vineyard version was a bit more polished and round, and the Tommy Town Vineyard needed for the alcohol to blow off before it would show itself properly, but both wines had nice, long black currant-loaded finish, and I would gladly drink either one again (those were my only bottles…).

How did you celebrate the #CabernetDay? What was in your glass? Cheers!

Month in Wines – November 2014

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Here we are again – November 2014 is now a history, so it is the time to summarize the wine experiences. Here is a run down of the best wines November had to offer – most of the wines are rated 8- or higher – with the exceptions possible. Well, I have to add that this post is somewhat unique. In a typical month, this would be really a summary, often including the wines already covered in the prior posts. This time around, I will include wines which will be still covered in the upcoming posts, so the links will be actually coming afterwords (flexibility of blogging doesn’t cease to amaze).

And now, in no particular order:

2010 Michel Chapoutier Marius, France (12.5% ABV, blend of Terret and Vermentino) – bright, uplifting, touch of candied lemon, refreshing acidity, good balance. Very summery overall. 8-

2011 Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva Vinos de Madrid DO (14.5% ABV, $14.99, 50% Roussanne, Albillo, Macabeo and other varieties) – delicious. Plump and round, full bodied for unlimited pleasure. Adding new grape ( Albillo) is a nice bonus. 8

2008 EURL Gilles Bonnefoy Roussanne de Madone Loire Valley, France (12% ABV, 100% Roussanne) – another delicious Roussanne. To be honest, Roussanne is probably one of my most favorite wines. Big body, bright fruit of white plums with the touch of apple, vanilla, spices – all in a round and balanced package. 8-

2012 Willis Hall Viognier Columbia Valley (13.7% ABV, $22.99) – in a word, spectacular. Bright and perfumy nose, as expected from Viognier, and perfectly balanced, round, delicious body of the white fruit – just enough of everything, a perfect harmony. One of the best white wines ever. Period. 9

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2009 Parallax Zinfandel Amador County, Sierra Foothills (15.1% ABV, $5.99 at Grocery Outlet) – dense and dark, with enough smoke and raspberries. 8-

2013 Trader Joe’s Zinfandel Grower’s Reserve Paso Robles (13.5% ABV, $4.99) – open and simple, nice bright fruit – fresh raspberries and blackberries. An outstanding QPR. 7+/8-

2004 Viña Mayor Reserva Ribera del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, ~$20) – dark and powerful. Espresso, cedar box, black fruit, firm structure, perfect balance. Still young. 8

2010 Le Tourmentin Valais AOC, Switzerland (13% ABV, blend of Pinot Noir, Cornalin, Humagne Rouge, Syrah) – Delicious. Unmistakably old world, a restrained and earthy profile, but perfectly “vinous vino” as a call it – you fell like you are in a beautiful, hundreds years old cellar, surrounded by profound goodness of the great wines which lived there. I would gladly drink this wine every day… 8+

2006 Bogle Vineyards Phantom, California (14.5% ABV, Old vine zinfandel, old vine Mourvedre) – QPR of Bogle wines is nothing less of stunning. This was concentrated, dark and powerful wine, with firm structure and youthful elegance. Coffee, dark chocolate and spices taking this wine to the next level. 8

2004 Carlisle Russian River Valley Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard, California (15.9% ABV) – way too young. Smoke, raspberries, finesse, eucalyptus, menthol cigarettes – in a tight, firm body. 8

2012 Field Recordings Carignan Camp 4 Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley (14.1% ABV, 85% Carignan, 10% Syrah and 5% Cinsault) – fresh berries with a touch of cough syrup and some cranberries. 8-

2013 Field Recordings Cabernet Franc Hinterland vineyard Paso Robles (14.1% ABV, 88% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot) – delicious fruit forward wine – layers of fruit, coming in waves – blueberries, blackberries, blueberries again – fresh, just picked, plump and delicious. A distant touch of sweet oak to put everything together. Not the typical Cabernet Franc, but delicious. 8

2007 Teixar Garnatxa Vella Montsant DO (14.5% ABV, $75) – a textbook Grenache deliciousness. Dark red fruit, plums, mocha, dark chocolate, all weaved on the firm, muscular body. 8+/9-

2008 No Girls Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley (14.2% ABV, $65) – unique and different, very different. Also very unexpected for Grenache. Terroir all the way. Smoke and earth, with a good dollop of fruit and some coffee. 8

2004 Willis Hall Merlot Columbia Valley (13.6% ABV, $27.99) – menthol, eucalyptus, blackberries, touch of cassis, earthy and restrained. 8

2006 Willis Hall Vicki’s Choice v2.0 (13.5% ABV, $19.99, 50% Syrah, 35% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Franc) – probably caught at its peak, may be just the very beginning of the journey downhill. Mature fruit, over-ripe plums, still good acidity, nice coffee notes and a touch of spice. 8-

What were your most memorable experiences of the last month? Cheers!

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #CabernetDay – Tomorrow, WTSO Everything Goes Marathon, Crowdsourced Cabernet, World Wine Challenge

August 27, 2014 2 comments

wine quiz answers Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #111, Grape Trivia – Grüner Veltliner.

This wine quiz is a continuation of the trivia series, where we are talking about individual grapes and then you get to answer 5 questions as it relates to that grape. The subject of the last quiz was white grape called Grüner Veltliner.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: These flavors are usually associated with red wines, but it is not uncommon to find them in the description of the Grüner Veltliner wines. Do you know what flavors are those (multiple answers are possible)?
a. Chocolate, b. Pencil shavings, c. Pepper, d. Tar, e. Tobacco

A1: While Grüner Veltliner is a white grape, some of its aromas are typically associated with the red grapes, not with the whites – namely, pepper and tobacco can be often perceived in in the Grüner Veltliner wines.

Q2: These vegetables are notorious for been a “wine killer” – in terms of successful pairing, it is. And yet Grüner Veltliner is one of the unique wines (if not the only one) which is known to be able to pair successfully with those offenders. Do you know what vegetables we are talking about?

A2: Asparagus and artichoke are notoriously difficult to pair with the wines, and Grüner Veltliner often works very well with both vegetables.

Q3: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Grüner Veltliner – based wines rated in the Classic category

A3: Correct answer is “false” – there are some Grüner Veltliner rates as “classic” – but literally, there are only very few, mostly late harvest Grüner Veltliner wines rated at 95 as the highest.

Q4: According to one of the well known wine critics, the Grüner Veltliner might be “the next big thing” in which wine making country:
a. Australia, b.Argentina, c. Chile, d. South Africa, e. United States

A4: Wine expert James Halliday considers Grüner Veltliner to be potentially the next big thing in Australia, so the correct answer is a, Australia.

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why:
a. Austria, b. Croatia, c. Czech Republic, d. Hungary, e. Slovakia

A5: All the countries in this list are known to produce Grüner Veltliner wines, except Croatia, thus correct answer is b, Croatia.

When it comes to the results, I’m glad to say that we have a winner! apuginthekitchen correctly answered all 5 questions, so she becomes our new champion and gets the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights! I also want to acknowledge Mario Plazio (no web site), who correctly answered 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

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

First and foremost, tomorrow, August 28th, we are celebrating 5th annual #CabernetDay – two noble grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, countless wines from all over the world. Open a bottle, enjoy and share with the world – that’s all there is to it. You can also start celebration in style by joining the #WineChat tonight with Jean Edwards Cellars on twitter at 9 pm Eastern/ 6 pm Pacific and talking about your favorite Cabernet wines.

Wine Til Sold Out (@WTSO) is doing it again! The new Marathon will be taking place on Monday, September 8th. Only this time, it will be a very unusual for WTSO “Everything Goes” marathon. Styled after the famous Last Bottle Madness Marathons, there will be all sorts of wines offered at different prices and free shipping on any quantities (no minimums). All orders will be combined and shipped after September 22nd. The Marathon will start at 10 AM Eastern, and as usual, you will get the new wine notification only on twitter. Happy hunting!

Famous Washington State winery, Columbia Crest, recently started a new project – Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can join the group of like-minded people and become an internet winemaker for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. 5 acres of vines, video cameras showing every angle of the grapes, the temperature, vine condition and all other information right in front of you  – and now you have to make the decision which will affect your wine – no pressure. I think this is a very cool project – if anything, an interesting learning experience. For more details and to become a winemaker, here is your link. Don’t delay, the harvest is about to start…

And the last one for today – a game. A wine education and trivia game it is, recently released by the Trinchero Family Estates. The game is called World Wine Challenge ( available in iTunes for $2.99), it will help you to learn variety of wine subjects in the interactive fashion, as well as compare your knowledge to the others in the competition format. I didn’t get a chance to download the game yet (plan to do it shortly), but in case you are interested, here is the link with all the information about the game and its features.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Chateau Latour, Natural Wines, Sauternes 2013 and more

October 30, 2013 7 comments

Inniskillin Cab Franc Ice WineMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #79, grape trivia – Cabernet Franc. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Cabernet Franc. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: One of the most famous wines in the world has Cabernet Franc as a major (2/3 or so) components of its blend. Do you know what wine is that?

A1: Unimitable Château Cheval Blanc uses at least 2/3 of Cabernet Franc grapes in their main wine

Q2: Cabernet Franc has a special relationship with the frost. Can you explain that?

A2: Icewine! The grapes should be frozen on the vine in order to produce the Icewine. While Icewine was typically produced from the white  grapes, Inniskillin estate in Ontario was one of the pioneers who started producing Icewine from the red grapes, namely Cabernet Franc.

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Bourgueil, b. Chinon, c. Saumur-Champigny, d. Saint-Chinian

A3: Saint-Chinian. It is an AOC in Languedoc area which doesn’t make wines out of Cabernet Franc. The other three AOCs are located in Loire, and all make Cabernet Franc wines.

Q4: This unique grape grows only in one place in the world, and it is a cross between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Do you know what grape it is?

A4: Caberlot. I admit, this was a difficult question. However, I mentioned this grape before, when I discovered it during VinItaly tasting this year (here is the link).

Q5: In Italy, Cabernet Franc is often confused for another rare Bordeaux grape. Do you know the name of that rare grape?

A5: Carmenere.

Looking at the results, we don’t have a winner today – however, both Frankly Wine and Eat with Namie get honorable mentions for properly answering 4 questions out of 5. Well done!

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

Boy, what an eclectic mix I have for you today! First, just a quick last minute reminder – #MWWC4 vote closes today. If you still didn’t read and vote, you might have your last chance to do it here.

Now, how much do you know about Chateau Latour? Same as the most, you probably heard of it as a producer of one of the most sought after wines in the world, and you probably know that it is generally very expensive. Recently, Chateau Latour made a lot of press by pulling out of the En primeur (wine futures) system, where wines are acquired by consumers before they are actually released, hedging both on saving the money and availability of the wine. Here is the link to the Wine-Searcher article, where you can actually learn a lot of interesting facts about Chateau Latour. I also want to mention that Wine-searcher web site is really becoming a great source of wine information, not just the price comparison tool.

Next subject – Natural wines. How much do you know about natural wines? What do you think of them as a category? Well, the article I want to bring to your attention is not exactly a natural wines 101 tutorial, but it is rather a rant by the Europe’s Best Sommelier of 2013, Arvid Rosengren, who is based in Copenhagen. A lot of his comments are most relevant for the local food and wine scene, but nevertheless, it makes a very interesting read.

Are you a fun of Sauternes, a sweet wine gems from Bordeaux? If you are, I have a good news for you – 2013 is a great year, and you should be looking for these wines when they will be released. Contrary to the 2012, when Chateau d’Yquem, the most coveted producer in Sauternes, decided not to produce their flagship Chateau d’Yquem wine, 2013 harvest shows a lot of botrytised grapes, which is a necessity to produce sweet wines in Sauternes. By the way, if you like red Bordeaux, 2013 doesn’t look all that great. Here is the link to the article where you can learn more.

The last piece I have for you has nothing to do with wine. It is written by Kimberly at whiskeytangofoxtrot4 blog, where she is talking about the power of the words. While her post, called Word, sounds rather personal, I think it is a very powerful writing and it definitely will worth few minutes of your time.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty, but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #79: Grape Trivia – Cabernet Franc

October 26, 2013 10 comments
Cabernet Franc grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

Cabernet Franc grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, and we are back to the red grapes. Today’s subject is the red grape called Cabernet Franc.

According to many sources, Cabernet Franc is first appearing in Bordeaux in the 17th century, with a good chance of being around for much longer. From Bordeaux, it made it to Loire valley, where it is often used to produce single-varietal wines. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Franc is typically used as part of the blend together with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Today Cabernet Franc is spread out all over the world, both used in Bordeaux-style blends (Meritage) and as single varietal bottlings – Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Chile, US, Argentina, Canada are all have a good amount of plantings of Cabernet Franc. In the US, Cabernet Franc is successfully grown all over the country, with some of the best wines coming from California, Washington and New York states.

Cabernet Franc is known to be a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon ( together with Sauvignon Blanc), so the typical flavor profile of Cabernet Franc is somewhat similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon, with black currant, raspberries and green bell peppers flavors being most typical. At the same time, Cabernet Franc wines often have more earthy aromatics and a little bit lighter in the body. Cabernet Franc also buds and ripens at least a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is more resistant to the low freezing temperatures during winter, which allows it to be cultivated successfully in the colder climates.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: One of the most famous wines in the world has Cabernet Franc as a major (2/3 or so) components of its blend. Do you know what wine is that?

Q2: Cabernet Franc has a special relationship with the frost. Can you explain that?

Q3: Which one doesn’t belong and why:

a. Bourgueil

b. Chinon

c. Saumur-Champigny

d. Saint-Chinian

Q4: This unique grape grows only in one place in the world, and it is a cross between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Do you know what grape it is?

Q5: In Italy, Cabernet Franc is often confused for another rare Bordeaux grape. Do you know the name of that rare grape?

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

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.

DSC_0418

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!

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Underappreciated Regions

March 14, 2013 2 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and  even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

After spending some time looking at hard-to-find-but-worth-seeking wines (Jerez and Madeira posts can be found here and here), let’s go back to the “hidden secrets” series. We agreed at the beginning that in this “secrets” series, we are looking for great wines which will bring a lot of pleasure – but will not require one to dip into pension savings to enjoy them pretty much every day. We talked about Rioja, second labels, French Sparkling wines and wines of Languedoc. Where should we go now?

If anything, we are living through a wine renaissance period right now. Wine is very popular as a beverage among people of all ages and all walks of life, everywhere in the world. Wine is also made nowadays almost everywhere in the world – from China and India to downtown Chicago (I’m serious – you can read about it here). Does it mean that you can universally enjoy wines made anywhere in the world? Of course not (not yet? May be, but I can’t predict the future). Taking out of equation exotic wines made in exotic regions, what are we left with? There are a number of well know wine making regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Rhone in France, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, Germany (as one big Riesling-making region), Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand (often taken as a whole), United States with Napa and then Sonoma being most prominent, and hopefully Washington and Oregon being also well known outside of the US, and Chile and Argentina, as still relative newcomers in the wine world. How did I come up with this list? Before someone gets upset for his or her favorite regions not being mentioned, or all 70+ regions of Australia not being accounted for, let me explain the logic here – it is simple. Each of the regions listed above (even with the whole country lumped as one) makes tens or may be hundreds of the wines which are in a high demand. How can we estimate the demand? When wine is in demand, it typically starts going up in price. Each one of the above mentioned regions has many wines priced in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle (anyone who wants to check is welcome to look for Screaming Eagle, Chateau Petrus, Krug Champagne or Vega Sicilia on wine-searcher).

Yes, you are absolutely right – not all the wines produced in Bordeaux or any other famed region cost hundreds of dollars, there are many which cost between $10 and $20. True, but in many cases consistency of those wines might be in question – meaning, you never know what you are getting for your ten or twenty dollars. Of course probability of finding very good and reasonably priced wine is getting better and better in today’s world – but you can even further improve it by stepping out of familiar circle and looking for wines from under-appreciated regions.

So what are those under-appreciated regions? As you can imagine, there are lots of them. Again, all the exotic places aside, for each famous wine region, the same countries have tens of “under-appreciated” regions, consistently making good wines for hundreds of years, with majority of those wines being also reasonably priced. In France, great wines are made in Loire, Provence, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon (we already talked about them) and many other places. In Italy, excellent wines are made in Umbria, Sicily, Lombardy, Marche and again in many other regions. Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Jumilla and La Mancha in Spain; Long Island, Virginia and Texas in United States, South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Georgia and Hungary… There is no limit to the places where now we can look for consistently good wines.

As usual, time to open a bottle, right? Let me give you a few examples from the regions which I believe are under-appreciated.

Rosso Conero Marche 2006Let’s start in Italy, in the region called Marche, which is located on Adriatic coast of Italy, near Ancona. There are a number of great wines produced in that region, which is still staying off the radar for the most of the wine lovers. Particularly, white wines made out of the grape called Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica are excellent white wines, with balanced acidity and fruit, perfect for summer day. The red wines are made mostly out of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes.  This particular 2006 Casal Farneto Rosso Conero IGT is made of the blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and it is an excellent red wine with lots of layers and luscious red and black fruit on the palate (think of blackberries and sour cherries), perfectly balanced.

VouvrayLet’s move from region Marche in Italy to France. Here is our first wine, coming from Vouvray region in Loire valley. Loire is home for many different wine regions, all producing interesting but lesser known wines, may be with an exception of Sancerre (I might be really stretching this “may be”). Vouvray wines are made out of the grape called Chenin Blanc, which produces wide range of wines from very dry to very sweet. This particular 2009 Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray AOC is very nice and pleasant, showing some sweetness (probably equivalent to Spatlese Riesling). It is easy to drink and should be great accompaniment to many summer meals.

Loire Chinon Cab FrancLast but not least for today is red wine coming again from Loire Valley, from the region called Chinon. As many other red wines in Loire region, Chinon wines are made out of the Cabernet Franc grape, with an addition of some other grapes. Cabernet Franc is typically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and California, but it also produces great wines on its own, in all the different regions throughout the world. This 2007 Epaule Jete Chinon required extensive time to open up, but after three days, finally became drinkable, showing earthiness, fruit and acidity, all in harmonious balance.

 

Not sure if I was convincing enough, but next time you are in a wine store, look for unfamiliar wines from unfamiliar places – it is possible that you will make a great discovery. As subject of under-appreciated wines is almost endless, I will give you many more examples of great wines from no-so-well-known places. Until then – let’s drink to fearless wine tasting and great discoveries.

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