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Daily Glass: France, New Jersey, Oregon

April 25, 2015 18 comments

Old York Cellars WinesGlass of wine (or two, but who’s counting) is a standard daily routine at our house (most of the time anyway). Hence these “Daily Glass” posts, where I talk about those “everyday” wines. What I’m trying to stress here that it is really an “everyday” wine phenomenon, as opposed to the wine dinners, birthday, holidays and other special occasions.

In today’s post I want to talk about my recent “everyday” wine experiences, which included wines from France, New Jersey and Oregon. I’m sorry, what are you saying? You never heard of the New Jersey wines? Really? Okay, fine, you got me. New Jersey wines are not my everyday wines either. But the wines are made in New Jersey, and some of them are pretty good wines, I have to admit.

Anyway, let’s talk about those recent “everyday” wines – shall we?

Domaine Rolet Chardonnay Arbois AOC JuraLet’s start with the two wines from France. First, 2005 Domaine Rolet Chardonnay Arbois AOC, Jura (13.5% ABV, $20?) – yes, a pretty rare bird – the wine from Jura. I got two bottles few years ago at  the store in Massachusetts.  This was my second bottle, and while I’m sure the wine would still can go on and on, I thought that 10 years should be good enough to open it. After initial whiff of oxidation on the nose (quite typical for Jura), the wine opened into delicious, balanced Chardonnay. White fruit on the nose, touch of vanilla. Clean acidity, Chablis-like minerality, touch of lemon and Granny Smith apples, perfectly fresh and balanced. Drinkability: 8-

Chateau Lilian Ladouys Saint-EstépheNext wine was really an unexpected treat. I have to admit – I rarely drink Bordeaux. Inexpensive Bordeaux often under-delivers. And I really don’t want to experiment with $50 wines; $120+ wines are out of my league for the everyday consumption. But with this particular wine, the story was much simpler – “try before buy” is the best thing since the sliced bread, people! Stopped by my local favorite wine store, Cost Less Wines, for the traditional Saturday tasting. Lester, who usually runs the tastings, poured the wine from the decanter and warned me – “you might not like it”. 1994 Chateau Lilian Ladouys Saint-Estéphe (12.5% ABV, $15) – this is just a tasting, how bad can it be? First smell – amazing, mature wine with complex, fragrant bouquet. First sip – wow, dried fruit, hazelnut, spices, distant hint of cinnamon, fresh acidity – a perfect package. Turns out that the first bottle opened for the tasting was somewhat off, this is what prompted Lester’s warning. This wine was decanted for 2 hours, and it was perfect – I don’t know how much life it still has, but considering the way it was drinking, it definitely has a few more years to enjoy it. Drinkability: 9

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for – New Jersey wines. Let me ask you something – what would be your expectations of the New Jersey wines? Yes, New Jersey is better known for its humongous malls, Jersey Shore or evenly spaced, monotonically numbered highway exits. Wines? Not something people would readily associate with the Garden State. I also had sad prior experience with one of the New Jersey wines, which I simply deemed “undrinkable”, so when I was asked if I want to participate in the virtual tasting of New Jersey wines, my first inclination was “thank you, but no”. After a second (or a fifth) thought, there was “well, may be?” moment, so I said – sure, will be glad to.

You would understand my skepticism even better if I will tell you that the wines offered for the tasting were not anything less than the classic varietals – Chardonnay and Merlot. I’m very particular with the flavor profile of both, as from my experience, it is very easy to screw up the respective wines. Okay, so the winery in point – Old York Cellars. Vineyards at Old York Cellars were planted in 1979, and the winery was first to produce commercial wines in New Jersey in 1981. Today winery produces about 6,200 cases from the 18 different grape varieties with Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Marechal Foch been most popular among the customers. We learned these and many other interesting facts during the #VirtualVines twitter session with winemaker Scott Gares, who had been making wines for more than 20 years – “it’s the family business” he twitted.

Old York Cellars ChardonnayNow, let’s talk about the wines. First, 2012 Old York Cellars Chardonnay (under 12% ABV, $18). When I just pulled the cork and poured wine into the glass, the first sip was simply not good. There was lots of salinity and soap, so my first thought was “here we go again” (referring to my prior experience with NJ wine). Oh well, let’s see what will happen. 30 minutes later, it was totally different wine. Touch of vanilla showed up on the nose. On the palate, the wine opened up into a clean, classic Chardonnay, plump, medium to full body, vanilla, apples and touch of butter on the palate, excellent balance. Don’t know why the wine started like it did, but the transformation was very impressive. I was upset when the bottle was finished, would love to have another sip. Drinkability: 8

Old York Cellars MerlotNext wine was 2013 Old York Cellars Merlot (15.5% ABV, $18). From get go, this was one tasty wine. Dark fruit on the nose (without characteristic cassis though). On the palate, very interesting smoke and spice, with undertones of mudrooms and forest floor, and well present sapidity. A thought provoking red wine. Full bodied and concentrated, with excellent balance. What was also very interesting is that at 15.5% ABV, the alcohol was extremely well integrated – it was not showing on the nose or on the palate. Drinkability: 8-

So here are two wines which greatly exceeded my expectations – you know, it is the sip of the wine which becomes an ultimate truth. Perception holds a lot of power in the world of wine – but more on this later in the separate post. For now I can only recommend that if you will have an opportunity, try the Old York Cellar wines – at least I plan to continue doing that.

Brick House Pinot Noir OregonThe last wine for today – 2011 Brick House Vineyards ‘Cuvée du Tonnelier’ Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon (13% ABV, $45). Lately, I come across many wines made with biodynamic grapes – most of them are really good wines, but I’m still trying to form an opinion if those are just lucky accidents or a trend. Also, label specifically says that the wine is made with Biodynamic® grapes – Biodynamic with upper case and registered trademark symbol next to it – is “Biodynamic” like “Champagne” now? Anyway, the wine was delicious – a classic Pinot Noir nose with smoke and mushrooms, bright fresh fruit on the palate, very clean, round, perfectly balanced – a new world wine, yes, but perfect finesse and elegance. Biodynamic or what, but it was one tasty wine.  Drinkability: 8

And we are done here. Have you had any of these wines? Have you ever had wines from New Jersey? What do you think of Biodynamic wines? If you are willing to talk, I’m ready 🙂 Cheers!

Note: Old York Cellars wines where supplied as a media sample. All opinions are my own.

Passion For Jura – The Wines

April 28, 2014 3 comments

Passion For Jura Seminar winesIn the previous “Passion for Jura” post, we talked about the region – history, terroir, grapes and types of wines – but we didn’t talk about the wines themselves. “Passion for Jura” was the name of the seminar and tasting which I recently attended in New York city, where I had an opportunity for the first time to really immerse into the fascinating world of one of the oldest wine producing regions, which is really unknown in US.

During the seminar, 6 wines were presented by the winemakers themselves. The idea was to let us experience the full range of the Jura wines (for some strange reason, Vin Jaune was not presented during the seminar). Here are the wines we tasted:

NV Domaine Jacques Tissot Cremant du Jura Blanc Brut (12% ABV) – 100% Chardonnay, refreshing grassy nose, very acidic, bubbles are present but somewhat muted in the glass. Creamy mouthfeel with toasted bread and apple on the nose. Overall, not bad, but lacking a bit an overall energy of the sparkling wine.

2011 Domaine de la Pinte Jura Arbois Polsard de L’Ami Karl (11.5% ABV) – light, refreshing, cranberries with the touch of barnyard, herbs (sage), light but with the nice tannins. Very interesting and very enjoyable.

2011 Benoit Badoz Vermiel (13.5% ABV, 70% Trosseau, 30% Pinot Noir) – fresh grapey nose – not a pronounced as Beaujolais Nouveau, but still quite explicit. Cherries and blackberries show up next. Beautiful, smokey notes on the palate, a bit sharp, but fresh. Clean acidity, long pleasant finish. Somewhat similar to Oregon Pinot Noir, but more round. Also has a noticeable green component.

Compare the colors of the two red wines in the tasting:

2011 Domaine Champ Divin Cotes du Jura (13% ABV, Chardonnay/Savagnin blend) – vanilla, minerality on the nose. Delicious. Acidity and minerality on the palate, fresh apples, very refreshing

2009 Fruitiére D’Arbois Savagnin Arbois AOC (14% ABV, 100% Savagnin) – oxidation is very much pronounced, pretty much like with Sherry, both on the nose and the palate. This wine is typically made as Vin Jaune, but it requires lesser aging time. After the wine breathes, it becomes much less aggressive and comes through as clean, despite the oxidation.

2009 Domaine Pierre Richard Vin de Paille (15% ABV) – delicious nose. Palate is beautiful, with refreshing acidity, touch of bitterness, and full of fresh juicy apricots. Wow!

 

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And here is the list of some of the wines I tasted during the walk around tasting. The place was small, and got very crowded after a while, so I didn’t taste the wines from all 20 producers. As usual for the trade tasting, I’m using the “+” sign system. The wines mentioned below were my favorites, for the most cases with “+++” ratings with some exceptions (of course), such as “++-|” and “++++”.

2010 Domaine Jacques Tissot  Arbois Chardonnay (12.5% ABV) – +++, beautiful!

2012 Domaine Jacques Tissot Arbois Chardonnay La Mailloche (12.5% ABV) – +++-|, butter and balance! perfect.

2009 Domaine Jacques Tissot Arbois Savagnin (13% ABV) – +++, very elegant

2006 Domaine Jacques Tissot Arbois Vin Jaune (14.5% ABV) – +++, mushrooms and forest floor! should be amazing with savory dishes. Vin Jaune can last for 6 month after being opened.

2010 Domaine Jacques Tissot Arbois Trousseau (12.5% ABV) – ++-|, clean, elegant, light – red which more feels like white

NV Domaine Jacques Tissot Macvin du Jura (17% ABV)very unusual palate, with raspberries, almost taste like Framboise, very nice. Can last for 6 month in the fridge.

2010 Domaine Jacques Tissot Cotes du Jura Pinot Noir (12% ABV) – ++-|, very interesting and unusual for a Pinot Noir

Domaine Desire Petite

2012 Domaine Désire Petit Ploussard (12.5% ABV) – +++, smokey nose!

2012 Domaine Désire Petit Trousseau (12.5% ABV) – ++-|, dry, clean, nice

2012 Domaine Désire Petit Chardonnay (12.5% ABV) – ++-|, clean, classic, minerality!

2012 Domaine Désire Petit Savagnin Ouillé (13% ABV) – +++, 6 month in oak, very complex wine

2011 Domaine Désire Petit Tradition (12.5% ABV, 25% Savagnin) – +++, perfect acidity

2008 Domaine Désire Petit Savagnin(13% ABV) – ++-|, delicate, elegant

2007 Domaine Désire Petit Vin de Paille (14.5% ABV) – +++, prunes on the nose! perfect balance

Domaine Berthet-Bondet

2012 Domaine Berthet-Bondet Cotes du Jura Chardonnay (12.5% ABV) – ++-|, light, round

2012 Domaine Berthet-Bondet Cotes du Jura Naturé (13% ABV) -+++, good fruit

2012 Domaine Berthet-Bondet Cotes du Jura Tradition (13% ABV) -+++, delicious

2005 Poulsard La Chamade

2005 Domaine Philippe Bornard Ploussard La Chamade – Best of tasting!

2005 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard (12.8% ABV) –  ++++, wow!

2011 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard (13.5% ABV) – +++, wow! delicious, sweet undertones

2011 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin Trousseau Le Ginglet (12% ABV) – +++, delicious complexity in the back

2011 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin Savagnin Ouille Les Chassagnes (13.5% ABV) – ++-|, complex

2011 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Chardonnay Les Gaudrettes (12.5% ABV) – +++, complex, delicate!

2011 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin L’Ivresse de Noé (14% ABV) – +++, late harvest Savagnin, a touch of sweetness, delicious complexity

I also tasted 4 different Vin Jaune wines from Domaine André & Mireille Tissot, all from 2007 vintage, all single vineyard, and all delicious, with the one from Chateau-Chalon being the best – unfortunately, as all those wines were not listed in the tasting brochure, I can’t give you their exact names – but look for Domaine André & Mireille Tissot Vin Jaune – they are well worth your attention.

That concludes my report on the Passion for Jura tasting. Based on my experience, I can simply tell you  – Jura makes delicious wines, and you need to experience them. Go to your wine merchant and ask for the Jura wines by name – and let me know how you will like them. Cheers!

 

Passion for Jura – The Land

April 22, 2014 15 comments

Vignobles_juraLet’s say you are talking to an oenophile. Ask her to name the major wine regions in France. I’m sure that Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne will be first. With the small pause, Loire and Rhone will follow, and then may be (may be!) Languedoc. I wonder how many of the oenophiles will mention Jura? Next question might be even more “tricky” – how many oenophiles tasted Jura wines? And the trickiest question of all – how many of you, my readers, tasted Jura wines? No, you don’t need to answer – Jura wines are almost impossible to find in US, and very difficult to find outside of France in general, so it is not surprising that they are not winning popularity contests, and thus it is really not your fault that you are not familiar with Jura wines.

We live in the times of the dramatic globalization of wine. Not only wine is exceedingly produced in the new and unusual places, but wine availability is becoming more and more global. No, Jura is not a newcomer to the world of wine, if anything, it is quite the opposite – Jura wines had been produced for more than two thousand years. The global availability is what changed – as consumers demand more and different wines, Jura wines, which are definitely unique and different, are becoming better known and more demanded.

Few days ago I was lucky to attend the wine tasting in New York City, called Passion for Jura, which was a great learning experience. The event consisted of seminar and walk around tasting, with more than 20 producers represented. Before we talk about wines themselves, lets take a look at the Jura region and many of its unique qualities first.

Jura region is a narrow stretch of land, about 50 miles long and less than 2 miles wide, in the north-west part of France, sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland. First mentions of the Jura region go all the way back to 80 A.D. When it comes to the different aspects of terroir, climate in Jura is somewhat similar to Burgundy, with the potential for more severe cold temperatures, especially during winter time. Soils are probably the most unique aspect of Jura terroir, with some of the shale formations aging between 200 and 230 million years – so yes, you can probably find dinosaur imprints in that soil, if you look deep enough. Overall, the difference in the age of soil can be quite dramatic, tens of millions of years between the neighboring vineyards.

Jura wines were well regarded in France, with Arbois (one of the main towns in the region) wines being known for what they are since the 10th century, and Château-Chalon wines (this is where the famous Vin Jaune is made) being well known since the 16th century. Similarly to all other winemaking regions in France, Phylloxera wrecked havoc in Jura’s wine industry. Before the Phylloxera, Jura region had about 50,000 acres under the vine, with 42 grape varieties, out of which 14 were identified in 1774 as “good grapes”. Today, Jura region has only about 5,000 acres planted, and only 5 varietals are used in the winemaking. Of course everything has two sides – only the best areas were replanted after the Phylloxera epidemic, and only with the grapes which produced the best results, so yes, there is silver lining in most everything in this life.

It is impossible to talk about Jura and not to mention a few of the famous people who dramatically impacted the wine world, while living in Jura at the same time. First, of course is Louis Pasteur, whose seminal work “Studies its diseases, their causes and new preservation and aging process“, published in 1886, was really a key element of the modern oenology. While Pasteur’s name is probably familiar to many, I wonder how many people will recognize the name of Alexis Millardet, also of Jura – meanwhile, he came up with the technique of grafting French vines on the American rootstock, which allowed to restart the French wine industry after the Phylloxera devastation. And the last person I would like to mention here is Joseph Girard, a resident of Arbois, who founded INAO (National Institute of Denominations of Origin) and was instrumental in establishing the AOC system of quality, which was subsequently copied all over the world. It is probably not very surprising that the very first AOC in France, established in 1936, was … the Arbois AOC!

Let’s talk about the grapes. Now, this is somewhat of the simple task, as there are only 5 grapes growing in Jura – 3 reds and 2 whites. Here they are:

Poulsard – indigenous red grape of Jura, sometimes also called Ploussard. Most planted red grape in Jura (about 40% of all red grape plantings), and about 14% of total grape plantings. Produces bright looking wines, almost Rosé in color, which are very refreshing and age quite well.

Trousseau – another red grape of Jura, part of the Savagnin family, most likely originated in Jura. The same grape is known as Bastardo in Portugal. Has about 8% of the total planted area, and about 22% of the red grape plantings. Often blended with Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir – was introduced in Jura in 14th century. Has about 13% of the total plantings, and a bit less that 40% of the red grape plantings. Early ripening variety, thus has high degree of risk of frost damage in spring.

Chardonnay – same as Pinot Noir, was introduced in Jura in 14th century. Also known as Melon d’Arbois in the north, and Gamay Blanc in the south. Few vignerons are still growing Melon á Queue Rouge, a rare red clone of Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the most popular grape in Jura, at about 43% of total area plantings and 2/3 of the white grapes plantings.

Savagnin – most famous grape of Jura, and the only one allowed to be used in Vin Jaune. Late ripening variety with low yield. makes up about 22% of the total grape plantings and about 1/3 of the white grape plantings.

Before we get to the styles of wines and regions, let me give you a few interesting numbers. With 5,000 acres planted, there are about 300 grape growers in Jura, each taking care of about 17 acres of vineyards. There are also about 200 producers and about 100 villages in the Jura region.

With only 5 grapes, Jura produces a great variety of stylistically very different wines. Historically, Jura wine were very unique, as oxidation always played a very important role in the white wines of Jura. While oxidation is great, as the oxidized wine can be preserved almost forever, it doesn’t necessarily appeal to the tastes of the mass of the wine drinkers in the world. Starting in 1990, the style of Jura wines started to change, to move from oxidized to fresh, generally more acceptable style. As the result, there is a number of styles which you need to be aware of in order to make sure the wine will actually taste as you would expect instead of “OMG, what is it???”. Additional problem is that these styles are not necessarily clearly indicated on the from label, so sometimes you really need to look through all the information on the labels and outside in order to understand what type of wine it is. The oxidation is only relevant to the white wines, so the styles of the white wines are:

  • Ouillé – non-oxidized
  • non-Ouillé – oxidized
  • Naturé – Savagnin wine in the oxidized style
  • Tradition – a blend of oxidized Savagnin and Chardonnay

For what I understand, all it means is that if you don’t see the word Ouillé somewhere on the label or description of the wine, there is a good chance that the wine will be oxidized – if anyone who reads this post has better knowledge of the subject, I would greatly appreciate the comment!

Tired yet? We are almost done! Last part – let’s talk about wine styles and appellations. Before we get to the Jura details, one general note. Have you noticed the words AOP showing up more and more on the wine labels, especially on the latest releases of wine? This is because the French government, following overall EU requirements, is changing the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) nomenclature to the AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), so you should expect to see the words AOP more and more on the bottles of French wines.

Jura uses total of 6 appellation designations – 2 of them are product designations, and 4 are geographical designations. Additionally, there are two wines which can be made in different appellations but they still have very specific product requirements. Here we are:

Vin JauneCrémant du Jura AOP – this is the product AOP for Sparkling wines in Jura. Made by the traditional (méthode champenoise) method, with 9 month minimum aging on lees. The wine can be produced anywhere in Jura, using all 5 varietals. Grapes should be harvested by hand and whole-cluster pressed.

Macvin du Jura AOP – this is the product AOP for fortified dessert wines. Can be made anywhere in Jura AOPs using any of the 5 grapes. The wine is made by blending of 2/3 of unfermented grape juice with 1/3 of the local brandy, called Marc du Jura, which should be made at the same property from the grape skin pomace. The wine should be aged for at least 12 month in the oak barrels before release.

Arbois AOP – geographic AOP, the biggest in terms of production. All 5 grapes are grown and permitted in production of the wines, with all types of wine allowed for production.

Château-Chalon AOP – a dedicated geographic AOP for production of Vin Jaune. Savagnin is the only allowed grape, harvested late. If any other wines are made, they are designated as Côtes du Jura. For more details, please see below.

Côtes du Jura AOP – a geographic AOP. All 5 grapes are allowed to be used, and all styles of wines can be produced.

L’Étoile AOP – a geographic AOP, the smallest in Jura, consisting of only 4 villages. Only Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard are allowed. All styles of the wines can be produced.

Vin Jaune – Most famous wine of Jura, so called “yellow” or “golden” wine. Can be made only out of the 100% Savagnin, in any of the 4 geographic AOPs. The grape is harvested late, and vinified as any other white wine would. After that, the wine is aged in the oak barrels which are not completely filled up. The barrels are never topped off and never racked. Similar to the Jerez, the thin film is formed on the wine’s surface, which is called The Veil – it allows the wine to age gently. The minimum age of the wine before it can be bottled is 6 years and 3 month. The wine requires pre-tasting prior to the bottling, and it is produced only in the good years. Vin Jaune is bottled in the special bottles called Clavelin, which contain 620 ml – Jura winemakers had to endure a long fight with the authorities in order to keep the historical, but not EU standard size (750ml) of the bottle.

Vin de Paille – the dessert! Generally produced from Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard and sometimes Trousseau in Arbois, L’Étoile or Côtes du Jura AOPs. The grapes are harvested early and then dried up either in the boxes or hanged up in the air for 3 -5 month. After pressing, the wine have to age for at least 3 years with minimum of 18 month in the oak.

Whew, and we are pretty much done. Believe it or not, but I think this is probably the longest ever post with the least number of pictures – if not The longest, then definitely one of the longest. Jura is unique and special region, as you will see when we will be talking about the wines in the next post, and I really wanted to give you all the information together, without breaking it into the pieces. If you are still reading it – I definitely want to thank you for your patience. I hope you learned something new here. Also, if you have an experience with Jura wines, your comments and opinion will be greatly appreciated. Hell, your comments will be greatly appreciated even if you never heard of Jura wines till today. With that, until the next time – cheers!

 

 

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