Masia de Yabar has a stunning location for a winery on the De Portola wine trail. Wilmer and Silvia Yabar came from Peru with ancestry in Spain and have wine-making in their blood. In 2004 they planted vineyards in Argentina with about 50 acres of Malbec and Torrontes and family members take care of the vineyards there. In 2007 they purchased the property in Temecula and planted Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Muscat, Cabernet Franc and Syrah Rose de Peru. The patio wraps around the property showcasing the stunning view. There was live music in the tasting room on the Saturday that we stopped by and the tasting room was busy but not completely full with lots of people out on the patio. They do have quick deli snacks available also. I did a tasting of their Rose, Tempranillo which had strawberries on the nose and the fruit warmed up in your mouth. The 2011 Tempranillo had tobacco on the nose and a touch of sweetness behind it. The tobacco rolls downs the side of your mouth. The 2008 Garnache had a lighter more floral nose with a warm influence and a hint of licorice, which was different and hard to pinpoint. I also got hints of herbs and white pepper and it had a medium soft finish. We then did a vertical of their Merlot’s. The 2011 was very smooth with herbs on the nose. This wine tasted young but has potential. The 2009 was richer darker and jammier. These seemed like 2 very different styles of Merlot. They also had sangria available by the glass. This is the perfect spot to return to in the summer and enjoy some sangria on the patio. Check them out at Masiadeyabar.com
There are only so many hours in the day and there is only so much wine one can drink. Well at least when you are driving. So our visit to Lorimar’s new winery and tasting room did not include a tasting. This Temecula California property is beautiful and is conveniently located on Anza road off of Rancho California road across from the South Coast Resort, it was all dressed up for the Christmas Holiday. They have a tasting room in Old Town also but just opened the winery facility this year. These folks are big into music. The Old Town Tasting room often features music in the evening and stays open later than your typical tasting room. It is no different in wine country where they have music every weekend. They label themselves as “A Fusion of Wine, Art and Music”. Both tasting rooms have art galleries and the winery has additional events all the time. We got here around dusk and the place was packed. After strolling a bit it got dark and the winery is all lit up for the holidays. We stopped back early the next morning and were told that we had just missed all the hot air balloons over head. So, while I cannot yet rave about wines we tasted, we will share with you some great photos of this stunning winery and we will look forward to getting back, tasting, viewing the galleries and enjoying some music here with Lorimar.
I love to research wine country. Before a trip my planning stages can take more time than the trip itself. I’m a bit obsessive about this. Now don’t think that I’m also a control freak. I tend to also build in multiple options and once we are in wine country I go with the flow. Well in my research, one of the wineries that I have really wanted to stop by was Doffo. Last year when we were in Temecula they were only open for tastings on weekends, so they were a definite stop on my list this trip.
Doffo is a family owned winery that is almost the last winery as you head east on Rancho California Road in Temecula. This is a newer winery that was founded in 1997 by Marcelo Doffo. The family decends from Italians who immigrated to Argentina in the early 1900’s. Marcelo grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Pampas Argentina. In the 80’s he traveled to Italy to the northern part of Turin and found his great uncle still making estate wines. In 1997 he bought the property in Temecula. The logo is an homage to the schoolhouse that used to be on the premises. If there is one thing Marcelo loves as much as wine it is motocycles. Be sure to stop by on weekend mornings to get to see the MotoDoffo exhibit in the barrel room.
We strolled the grounds a little when we arrived, they have a beautiful covered patio next to the tasting room and the residence. The tasting room was busy and lively and just the right size. It had a really warm feeling that is the essence of their motto “Visit us once and you are family forever.” We did a basic tasting and look forward to going back for a reserve tasting. All the wines here were beautiful and well balanced. We tasted their beautiful 2011 Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc as well as the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Petite Verdot.
On the wall behind the tasting bar was a shelf filled with wines in gorgeous bottles. These are the higher end reserve wines. The Library reserve Zinfandel and the reserve Syrah both of which go for $150 per bottle. These were made it very small lots. We also tasted some of their chimichurry sauce and left with a jar.
After our tasting I asked for a map for their self guided walking tour. This lovely stroll around the property was relaxing and informative and is well worth the time. The tour takes you out of the tasting room past the residence and patio where some of Marcelo’s motorcycles are on display. You wind around and see the Doffo windmill some of the beautiful terracing they have done then stroll through the Malbec to the front of the property the original stairs to the old school house and the olive tree on the corner of the property before heading back up to the tasting room. They also make olive oil and infused chocolates.
This beautiful tiny winery has terrific wines and a great atmosphere. Next time you find yourself in Temecula be sure to stop by!
The Cougar Property is in the midst of lots of change with construction surrounding the winery, but they are still open and happy to take care of guests in the tasting room.
The winery is owned and operated by Rick and Jennifer Buffington. 17 years ago while in Texas the Buffington’s began making wine. They later moved to Seattle and continued making wine in Washington and labeled under the Cougar Mountain Winery label named after Cougar Mountain in Belleview Washington. After moving to southern California they eventually purchased the winery property in Temecula planting Sangiovese, Aglianico, Montepulciano and Vermentino. At La Vigna e Destra they also have Primitivo, Arneis, Malvasia Bianca and Pinot Grigio. They are making estate wines as well as some wines with purchased grapes that they do not grow. They do beautiful Italian wines.
The last time we were here we did not taste but drove up to see the winery. It was a large metal warehouse that held their winery and tasting room. Situated on an a hillside on the De Portola Wine Trail they have a great view. Since our last visit they have begun their expansion. They are siding the current building as well as building out for a new tasting room. Upon entering the building you are greeted by the life size cougar sculpture and then the tasting bar to your right.
The warehouse is segmented by barrel racks, with one section for public tastings, a separate section with tables for club members and music on the weekends and then of course their production facilities. There was a steel drum artist playing the day we were there and while we couldn’t see them (they were in the member area playing) we could enjoy the music as it filled the building. We found a place at the tasting bar next to the free coffee and Dani set us up with our tasting.
We began with the 2011 Vermentino. This was a dry wine, a little dusty on the palate with a little effervescence. You get lime, light minerals and lime leaf. It is a refreshing white that leaves your palate clean. I am a Vermentino lover and I enjoyed this wine. They actually use this for a white sangria base as well as for bloody mary’s here in the tasting room.
We continued with the 2010 Miscuglio de Circulo, which is a blend created by their wine club members. This blend was a light red blend that would make a great summer wine. It had pepper on its long lasting finish.
The 2009 Estate Bella Rossi is a blend of 25% each Aglianico, Primativo, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. You get pepper on the palate but the nose is light and fruity with a medium mouth feel.
The 2009 Aglianico had pepper, eucalyptus and mint on the nose. The cool mouth feel accentuated the mint taste. There was a little underlying metallic rusty taste that was not unattractive. Medium tannins hit the top of my teeth. This was considerably lighter than the Kenneth Volk Aglianico that we had. I have tasted very few of this varietal and this was a new interpretation of this grape for me.
On to the 2008 Montepulciano which they have called “The Full Monte”. This red had big smooth tannins. This was filled with strawberries and had a little heat on the finish.
I finished off with some of their mulled wine. It was beautifully done with the spices not overcooked (my home mulled wine making experience did not turn out so well). The spice on the nose was perfect and the warm wine filled my mouth with gorgeous warm fruit. It was really lovely.
This winery is old school and the owners are hands on. We saw Jennifer in the tasting room, picking up bottles for the wine club members area.
I look forward to returning to see the new tasting room when construction is complete. Check out the blog on their website to see the construction updates! The new tasting room will have beautiful views as well as views into the winery itself. They also have tours and classes available by appointment.
We have been to Temecula several times and I have done lots of research on the area and one of the wineries that our radar just kept missing was Baily. As you drive on Rancho California Road from Temecula it is on the left just past Europa Village.
The grey stone building is dotted with vines and houses the tasting room as well as Carol’s restaurant. This is one of Temecula’s oldest wineries and produces all Estate grown wines.
Walking in you notice the sculptures, the angels and gargoyles and then walking into the restaurant are greeted by a big warm fireplace, suits of armor and tapestries. It’s a little medieval. They also have a patio outside for al fresco dining, but the fire looked much better to us on this slightly chilly day. I had a lovely Sangiovese rose with lunch. They have Dog Day Sundays where they encourage you to bring your well-behaved pooch to enjoy lunch on the patio. They have music as well as a doggie menu! Decorated for the holidays the tree was up and some of the gargoyles were wearing Santa hats. They have a small stage in here for music. After lunch by the fire we headed into the tasting room.
I had no expectations here. I had read brief descriptions on their website and other than that all I knew was that they had been producing wines here for 25 years. We were welcomed to the tasting room and Bill took care of our tasting. Bill is full of great information on the Temecula Valley and the winery so we chatted it up during our tasting.
The Baily’s bought this property in 1982 and they mostly grow reds. All the grapes are estate grown and their wines tend to be dry. They produce about 5,000 cases each year. They do age in small oak barrels typically for 30 months which is a pretty long time. The wines were smooth and well-balanced without being fruit bombs or being over-oaked. We tasted the 2010 Montage which is 56% Sauvignon Blanc and 44% Semillon. This medium bodied white wine was rounded on the palate with a nose of lemon and lime and crisp granny smith apple. This had been used in my pasta sauce at lunch and was very nice. The Malbec is from newer self rooted vines planted in 2004. This wine gave you berries with deep flavor and a long finish. The 2009 Cabernet Franc was long and smooth and very well-balanced. Lighter than most Cabernet Francs it had a hint of chocolate. The 2009 Merlot was especially good and with a $20 price tag is a steal. The atmosphere the information and the wines will definitely bring me back here. We will also try to stop by their other restaurants downtown. Their son and daughter in law run Baily’s Elegant Dining and the Front Street Bar & Grill in Old Town.
So put Baily on your radar, these are wines worth stopping for.
We visited the winery earlier this year in February (see our previous blog post on Ponte here) and enjoyed lunch on the patio at the restaurant and then Fred gave us an astoundingly informative tour, and then a tasting with Michel in tasting room. We recently planned a trip to Temecula, which we will be posting on shortly while researching our trip we came upon some lost information that we learned from our tour with Fred, an we though we would share.
Ponte Winery is in Temecula California, just northeast of San Diego. The vineyard is located where it directly receives the maritime influences of the coast from the Rainbow Gap. The soil structure here is coarse and poor. This is ideal because you can then control exactly which nutrients you feed the vines. This nutrient mix is provided through irrigation once each year in March and the blend is different for each vineyard depending on the variety. With poor soil you don’t have to be concerned with nutrients already in the soil so it doesn’t interfere with the ideal nutrients for each grape. Grape vines have an aggressive root structure, burrowing deep searching for ground water. The water table at Ponte sits at 50 feet deep. Falker (a winery down the road) did measurements to see how deep some of their 25 year old vines roots went and found that they went about 17 feet deep. On the Ponte property are 10 acres 2 blocks of 5 acres each of Zinfandel and Sangiovese that were planted in 1960. The roots on these over 50 year old vines go down 30 ft. Eventually these roots will hit the water table and they will self irrigate. Irrigation in wine country is not like in farm country, you are not looking for big juicy grapes. Rather than watering daily they stress the vines by doing one 18 hour drip irrigation session once every 2 to 3 weeks. This keeps the grapes small and intensely concentrated.
While there is frost protection with fans and misters for the citrus groves that surround many of the vineyards, the vineyards are not concerned with frost protection as the season for frost is short enough that the vines are always dormant at that time. Bud break happens in March. Winemakers and Vineyard Managers can tell which vine is which by the flowers in bud break. By testing the flowers and leaves they can see how much nickel etc. is in the vine and that in turn helps to determine how to mix the formula for nutrients.
We tasted a Dolcetto that was exclusively Temecula. This juice is being staged for blending with material with Paso and Santa Barbara. This was a tank tasting from of the stainless steel tanks out on the crush pad. It was still decidedly grape juice and was very tart, but you could taste the potential in it!
At Ponte they harvest during the night. Sunlight affects the sugar levels of the grapes, causing the brix level to change throughout the day. To avoid this variable and have a uniform brix level you harvest at night. After the grapes are harvested they go through the destemmer, are crushed twice and then the skin seeds and all are put into the large stainless steel tanks. At Ponte they only process one type of grape at a time. After this comes the settling process where the grape juice settles for 3 to 5 days. During that time skins rise to the top and seeds sink to the bottom. The winemaker then checks the acidity etc to see how much yeast to add. Then yeast is added and here begins the chemical reaction changing sugar to alcohol. This generally takes 7-10 days for fermentation to be complete. The winemaker stops at the alcohol level he has predetermined and then pumps off. All of the skins and seeds sink to the bottom and workers scoop out this “must” which is then put back into the soil.
The barrel room is kept at 60 degrees. All the red wines are aged here as well as the oaked Chardonnay’s. The Ponte Viognier is not oaked. 95% percent of the barrels Ponte uses are French oak that either come from Vosges near Alsace or Burgundy which is noted for it’s perfect white oak wood. They have been experimenting with white oak from Hungary and Bulgaria and some American oak. The difference between French oak and American oak is that the staves in Europe dry for at least 3 years, whereas in America they only dry for about a year and a half. This creates a coarser product and more intense flavors. The more aged the staves are the more subtle the flavors.
French barrels are expensive currently running $850 per barrel new. Each barrel will be used for about 3 agings. The wine maker earns their pay by also knowing which wines to age in new, medium and late oak to impart the exact flavors they are looking for. You can tell a late oak barrel in the barrel room by the stain and seepage (angels share). After the barrels have run their lifespan they are sold at $75 each to wine club members. Each barrel weighs 100 plus pounds empty because the staves are so thick. The majority of Ponte’s barrels are done at medium to light toast. Their Syrah is done with a heavier toast and is probably their smokiest wine. About 80% of their barrels have light toast the rest are at medium toast and then winemaker blends. Each barrel holds 288 bottles or 24 cases of wine.
As the barrel room is kept at 60 degrees people often ask about how they can do events in there? When the barrels are backlit the room is really stunning. They can warm the room for 1 night to 75 or 80 degrees and it won’t really affect the wine. If however, it was held at that temperature 4 or 5 days….then you might have a problem.
We tried the 2008 Port out of the barrel. This will be aged another year and it will release as a reserve port. It is a Zinfandel port as most of their ports are, but they have made a Cabernet port in the past. The port had a bit of a bite from the alcohol content, but with an additional year it will be stunning. A port of this quality should run $85-$90 per bottle. But only their wine club will be lucky enough to get a shot at it!
The reserve room at Ponte is reserved for wine club members and is open on Saturday and Sunday to give wine club members a place to get away from the crowd. They also do small plates menu.
The restaurant is open Friday and Saturday nights for dinner. With the Tasting room closed at that time it’s quiet, you can see the stars and enjoy the noise of the romantic frogs.
In addition to the winery, tasting room and restaurant they recently opened the Ponte Vineyard Inn so you can stay in comfort right in the heart of Temecula Wine Country.
If you are in Temecula, I highly recommend both lunch and a tour. Plan ahead and book a room at the Inn!
I had the opportunity to go to a Sparkling wine tasting last month. Michael doesn’t do the sparkling wines so off I went on my own. The tasting was seated and set up like a class and I did my research ahead of time to brush up on sparkling wines and learn a bit more. I was prepared to travel the globe tasting Espumante from Portugal, Cava from Spain, Franciacorta, Trento and Asti from Italy, some Champagne and Cremant from France and maybe even some Sekt from Germany or Austria! This tasting however drifted only briefly outside of France with the start being a Cava, the well known Rondel. Not what I was expecting, but pretty spectacular none-the-less and as a result I probably tasted a great deal more champagne than my ticket price allowed for!
So…some sparkling wine basics to start with. The bubbles were first looked at as a flaw, but the Brits got a taste and liked it! During the 17th century the English glass production used coal ovens rather than wood like the French and were able to create a more durable bottle that could better withstand the pressure in sparkling wine. Prior to this it was not unusual for a cellar to loose 20-90% of their bottles to instability.
How did it get to England and hook the Brits you ask? Well Champagne is a cold region and sometimes the fermentation process would be prematurely halted due to the cold temperature leaving dormant yeast and some residual sugar in the bottle. They would box up the wine and ship it to England, where it would warm up and begin a second fermentation in the bottle and thus when opened in jolly old England it would be bubbly!
There are two methods of making Champagne or sparkling wine. The first is the Methode Traditionnelle and the second is Charmat. Let’s hit the 2nd first because it is quick and easy to explain. In this method the Champagne is made in large tanks and CO2 is added to add the bubbles. This method is used for less expensive sparkling wines. The bubbles tend to be larger and “rule of thumb”, the larger the bubbles the bigger the headache. These bubbles tend to disperse quickly also. Now onto the more complicated method “Methode Traditionnelle”
The Traditional method “Methode Traditionnelle” is much more complicated and time consuming and therefore much more expensive. After harvest the grapes are put in vats for the first fermentation which can be up to a year. Then the wines are carefully blended and may be blended with previous years wines to create the house style. This is known as assemblage. The idea for French champagne makers is to create a champagne that is consistent from year to year. After assemblage the liquer de tirage is added. This mixture of still wine, sugar and yeast is what will trigger the second fermentation. The wines are then bottled and capped (with simple bottle caps (anyone remember those?). Then the 2nd fermentation begins and can take 10 days to 3 months. After the 2nd fermentation the next step is Remuage. The bottles are transferred to “pupitres” which are rectangular boards where the bottles can rest almost upside down. This allows the lees and sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. A process known as “riddling “ is applied here. Originally “Riddlers” would slowly turn the bottles, a bit of a turn gently each day to get all the sediment to settle in the neck, now there are machines that assist with this. After the riddling the wine will be aged again on its lees for a minimum of one year for non-vintage champagnes and at least 3 years for vintage champagnes. This aging allows the lees to breakdown which is what gives Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wines their bouquet and flavor. But we are not done yet…you don’t want all that lees clouding up your beautiful sparkling wine! The next step is Degorgement where the sediment is removed. The neck of the bottle is put into a nitrogen solution to freeze it. Then the bottle is opened and the solid frozen plug of lees is removed. How in the world did they figure out how to do this? Well for this tradition thanks the Veuve Clicquot. Veuve in French is widow and Madame Clicquot’s husband died during the bottling process. Legend says that she could not figure out how to get the lees out of the bottles and in her frustration threw them out into the snow, where….the necks froze first allowing them to easily remove the lees. The final stage is to add more sugar and still wine to again fill the neck where the lees was removed. This last “dosage” as it is called, determines the wines sweetness which goes from Brut to Sec. Strangely enough, Extra dry is not as dry as Brut. The Brut labels were added later to indicate a dryer wine. So there you go the quick version of making Champagne. It is a bit of work!
This is a great sparkling wine from Spain made in the Methode Traditionnelle. It is lovely on it’s own or in mimosas and is exceedingly affordable at around $7.99 per bottle. We tasted a Brut which was lovely, but it is also available in a Demi-Sec if you lean toward sweeter wines. I picked up a Demi-Sec to take home for Michael to mix in Mimosas.
Our next wine was a Cremant de Bourgongne. So…a little explanation. As of 1985 the sparkling wine regions outside of Champagne in Loir, Alsace and Burgundy agreed to no longer use the term Champagne. This would be reserved only for the Champagne region. Instead they would now use the term “Cremant”. Cremant de Bourgogne can by law only be made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the Burgundy region and must be aged for a minimum of 9 months. The Cremant we tasted was a Louis Bouillot Brut NV. This was creamy yet dry with a nice finish. At $15.99 it is a great value.
Now we stepped into Champagne. The first we tasted was a Paul Goerg Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs. Goerg is names after a respected 19th century Mayor of Vertus. The chalky soils of Vertus lend a refreshing mineral quality to this wine. 3 years of aging adds to the wine’s complexity. I loved the bubbles in this. The bubbles were very fine and refreshing and the bit of minerality made it very refreshing. It also had a lovely floral note to the nose. Blanc de Blancs means white from whites in French, and as such this wine is 100% chardonnay (a white grape). This was the wine I took home with a sensible $29.00 price tag.
Our next venture was into Grower Champagnes. Now I have been hearing about these and was anxious to taste one! To give a little perspective on this style of Champagne it’s good to know that there are 261 Champagne houses in Champagne. There are 19,000 growers. So for a grower to produce a Champagne is a rare thing. We tasted a Georges Vesselle Grand Cru Brut. There are 17 Grand Cru Villages with 100% ratings, 38 Premiere Cru Villages with 90-99% ratings and the remaining villages in Champagne are rated at 80-89%. The ratings are depended on the Village and the soil type there. This changed the system from one where price was based on the Champagne house to one based on where the grapes were grown. This wine was a bit toastier and had a nutty creamy quality to it. This particular grower is in Bouzy and it is a small production with 42 acres planed n 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. It is a small family production. This wine sells for around $40 per bottle.
The next wine was by the same grower and was a DeMargeire Grand Cru Burt Rose. Champagne roses are like regular roses in that they can be made in two ways, you may allow the grapes to have contact with the skins early on to impart the pink color and some additional flavor or you may add pinot noir (or pinot meunier) in the final dosage. This wine uses the former method and is a light salmon in color. As with many roses you immediately get strawberry on the nose. It had a lengthy finish and more than a little toast on the nose. Roses are only about 3-5% of the Champagne Export so they are a little harder to come by. This one retails at around $43.
From here we moved on to a Franck Bonville Grand Cru Vintage Brut. (I know there were a lot of wines to taste!). This estate consists of 50 acres in the Cremant, Aviz and Oger areas which are all classified as Grand Cru. It is 100% Chardonnay and was aged for 5 years on it’s lees before release. This was heavier on the yeast and had more light fruit. It was medium in body. More complex than the previous wines. It goes for $49.99
The last of our dry Champagnes was Mailly Exception Blanche. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. This champagne will be great through 2022. It has flavors of tangerine and almond with a hint of minerality. The bubbles are fine and the texture smooth. This lovely Champagne will set you back $70.
Our final taste (well of Champagne) was a Mailly Delice Demi-Sec Grand Cru. As a Demi-Sec it is sweeter so we finished with it. It is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It is a blend of the latest harvest with 40% being 10 years of reserve wines. It is aged 2 yeas more on the lees than the Brut NV. The extra aging makes this a fuller champagne. It runs around $45 per bottle.
We finished the night with some Georges Deboeuf As it was the 3rd Thursday of November and officially Beaujolais Nouveau day! This seasons had hints of grape candy to me. Reminded me of the tart smell of the Lik a Stik powdered candy. Fun and fruity it is a gulping wine! What a down to earth way to end the evening of sipping Champagnes!
So…I have a new understanding of Champagnes. Time to make some Bellini’s and Caviar! And Champagne and sparkling wines go with everything, so…If you don’t know what wine to take to that Thanksgiving dinner… pick up something with bubbles (smaller bubbles to make your head happier) it will go with everything and is bound to bring a smile!
So my last post was about my wine storage system and my tracking system for wines. It is a less than perfect system that is put together on a budget. So after writing that post I decided to do further research on cellaring and then look at my system and see where I could improve it. After doing some research, I became a little scared for some of my wines! Anyway, here’s what I found.
The most important things to consider when storing wine are temperature, humidity, light and vibration.
Lets start with the simplest and get it out of the way. Vibrations can cause the chemical reactions in the liquid to speed up. There’s not a lot of evidence out there of significant problems with this. Avoid storing your wine over a train station or somewhere that you find major vibrations. Probably the wine saw plenty of vibrations on the truck from the winery to the store, or in your car on the way home. So while you should be aware of this and not shake your bottles it is not much of an issue. If they do get shaken it is likely to just mix up the sediment, so decant them.
Light: UV rays can cause wine to age prematurely. This would be why wine comes in dark green bottles. If you have a clear or blue bottle, the wine is likely to degrade faster. Keep your wine rack away from direct sunlight and if possible use incandescent light near your rack to light it when you need to. Fluorescent light contains a small amount of UV that could damage the wine.
Humidity: The ideal wine cave in France will have a constant 60% relative humidity. In other places I have heard that 70% is ideal. Anywhere between 50 and 80% seem to be fine. In a wine cellar it is suggested to put gravel on the floor and sprinkle it periodically with water. In a wine closet or something similar a pan of water can help. You have to watch out for too much humidity also cause mold and you can use a dehumidifier to correct that. So why does humidity matter? Well if you are using screw top, or plastic or glass corks it doesn’t. Real cork needs to be kept from drying out. When real cork dries out it allow oxygen into the bottle and can cause accelerated aging. This is why we typically rack bottles on their sides. This storage method allows the wine to have contact with the cork and keep it wet.
Now the big one, Temperature. You don’t want it too cold, because if the wine freezes it will force the cork out and then you have oxygen exposure. On the other hand if it gets too hot you can “cook” your wine. This is the concern most of us have when waiting for a wine shipment (well at least I do in the summertime in Las Vegas with my wine traipsing in on a UPS truck at 5 pm!). In addition temperatures over 70 degrees will cause your wine to age more quickly. Ideal temperature is 45-65 degrees with a perfect temp of 55 degrees. And…you don’t want temperature fluxuations. This is why they use wine caves and cellars! Constant temperatures! This makes garages a bad plan unless you have a climate controlled garage (can’t imagine!) A basement works well…except we don’t have basements in Vegas. Ah well….now to take all I have learned and see how I can put it into practice!
My wine storage is mostly in our spare room. It is in a rack mounted to the wall in the closet. It does come close to an outside wall that gets sunlight in the late afternoon, but doesn’t get too warm. We do keep the blinds on the window opposite it open for the cat, but that window gets no direct sunlight. We keep the vent open for AC in the summer and close it so it gets no heat in the winter. We are in Vegas so it is dry. So….I will look into a curtain or door to put in front of the rack to provide a barrier to the window light. We may look into a means of keeping this room a little cooler and possibly a humidifier that can run in there at least now and then so the corks don’t dry out.
Our other storage is in the dining room in a small refridgerator. We have the temperature there adjusted to 55 degrees. These are typically white wines so we are not aging them and should be able to drink them before the corks dry in any considerable way.
On a side note, I do have a nice bottle of Dom and it is in that cooler. I will investigate better storage for that, but of course I don’t want to put it through temperature fluctuations! I did find in my research on Wikipedia that sparkling wines benefit from being stored upright. The trapped carbonic gas causes internal pressure and thus there is enough humidity to protect it from the oxygen. Champagne and sparkling wine corks tend to loose their elasticity after contact with the wine and then allow oxygen to seep in. So…I probably need to find a new storage method for my Dom to keep it from laying on it’s side!
So that’s what I’ve learned. Please feel free to share insights and updates! Goodness knows I’ve got several bottles that deserve to be aged and I don’t want to go wrong with them! Happy Cellaring!
Often we start out as wine enthusiasts by mistake. We head to wine country on vacation and come back with a mixed case, and while we were there we joined a couple of wine clubs. Then we travel to a different part of wine country and do it all over again. Before you know it we have a cellar. Well…if you call a few cardboard boxes full of assorted wines a cellar. Where do we go to from here? I mean we are members of a wine club (or two or 5 or so) and more wine will be coming. So we stick the boxes in the back bedroom. If we are lucky, we have a spare bookshelf that we repurpose for wine storage. Maybe just having a spare room is lucky! This blog post is to tell you my story of cellaring. It is not in it’s completed form. I like most of you am on a budget and can’t afford to have a special climate controlled wine cellar built into my home with the perfect temps for different varieties and electronic tags to let me stroll with my tablet and see what is ready for drinking. So…I will share with you my story. And while I’m at it, I will do a bit of research to see where I might head next with my goal to keep and preserve the wine that I have until it’s perfect apogee.
Aha! Apogee! So I searched through online systems for setting up my cellar and for doing tastings and came up with Vinocella. Vinocella has a great term that they use which is apogee. They have a place to enter what they call “advices”. These include “Maturity from” and “Maturity to” as well as “Apogee from” and “Apogee to” . In the program (which you can use on an I pad or I phone, you can sort your wines by Maturity so that you can find the wines in your cellar that are ready to drink. Those wines are “Perfect…Apogee” or at their peak. This is of course based on the noun meaning at their farthest or highest point.
So our wine cellar has been growing since our first trip to Temecula followed by the trip to Napa and the trip to Willamette OR and then back to Temecula and to Sonoma and to Santa Barbara and back to Los Olivos, a little dabble in Virginia Wine Country and then a stop in Missouri…well we got hooked. And as we got hooked we ended up with multiple wine clubs, plus many bottles that we returned home from trips with.
We were lucky enough to have a spare bedroom. It had bookshelves and we cleared one out and make it work for wine. We kept the room cool in the summer and closed the vent to keep the heat from hitting this room in the winter. As the number of wines grew, we picked up a small wine fridge for white wines and sparkling wines that we keep in the dining room and then we realized that we need additional space. Well for us a mounted wall rack did the trick and had plenty of room. So…as we moved wines and filled it and updated the Vinocella database with wine placement I realized that we had all these wines but they were really difficult to sort through. Yes, I had the iPad with the database, but would we ever keep that up to date? And did I have maturity dates for any of my wines in there? So I embarked on a project to research and find the maturity dates for the wines and to tag them, so when on the spur of the moment we needed a wine for dinner, we could choose one that we ought to be drinking! The cellar as you can see is not glamorous but it is functional!
In doing this I searched through winery websites (some of which like Tablas Creek are full of great information and gave me everything I needed). Sometimes I hit cellartracker.com to find what the drinking window was according to others who owned this particular wine. On a side note, I have spoken to many who love Cellar Tracker for keeping track of their wines. I also find that I have a need for an app that can do tasting notes.
When I didn’t find what I needed on websites I went to the wine club notes and often found great information there (like Tobin James for instance). When both of these options were exhausted I took to e-mailing or facebooking the wineries to see if they could provide me with their insights on cellaring and the perfect drinking window for their wines.
I received many prompt and very informative responses. Some of these were directly from the wine makers which upon occasion made me swoon! So now I was able to put this information into the Vinocella program and I added tags to each bottle! We had already divided our reds going from light to heavy, similar to a tasting order in our rack. So now I added red tags with the winery name the vintage and the wine with the drinking window at the bottom. So even if we didn’t have the ipad out, we could find a bottle that needed drinking!
This is just the beginning. I have completed my research on my wines, now it is time to research about cellar practices and maybe find some tips that would work for us…stay tuned!
On our last trip to Paso Robles, Michael and I stopped into the Kenneth Volk tasting room that is next to Lone Madrone and tasted his 2008 Aglianico. Okay don’t try to pronounce this without assistance or you will butcher it like I did. Let Bruno de Conciliis teach you how to correctly pronounce it. (ah-L’YEE’AH-nee-koh)
I was doing research on Aglianico to figure out how long I should cellar this and found lots all kinds of interesting information on this variety.
In many places you will hear that this grape came from Greece in the 6th century and was used to make Falernum (it’s latin name) or Falerian wine. Falerian wine was a favorite of the Romans and was said to be made with Aglianico and sometimes Grecco grapes. These grapes were grown on the slopes of Mt. Falernus and is mentioned in Roman literature. This wine was a white wine that was at 15% alcohol. The grapes were a late harvest grape harvested after a freeze (like eiswein?). The wine was aged in an amphorae for 15 to 20 years so the wine became amber to dark brown before drinking. The area these vines were grown in is now the vineyards of Rocca de Mondragone and Monte Massico. The name was thought to be a version of the word Hellenic or Ellenico the Italian word for Greek.
Okay now that I’ve given you all that rich history…DNA research shows that Aglianico is not related to the Greek varieties that were used to make Falernum. Still…great story huh?
This grape was almost completely wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century. It is a late ripening variety that has strong tannins a deep black color and a firm structure. It is said that these wines can be harsh in their youth and 5-10 years in the bottle allows the fruit profile to emerge and the tannis to soften. These wines exhibit a smooth, rich texture with aromas of coffee, leather, smoke, dark chocolate, black fruits and mineral and tend to be complex.
Jancis Robinson has a beautiful speaks of this wine which she describes as “exuding class”.
The variety is grown in Campania where it is made into Taurasi. Taurasi is mostly Aglianico, but may have up to 15% of other grapes, such as Piedirosso which is a fresher and more aromatic local grape or the Primitivo of Puglia. The addition of these grapes makes this wine mature earlier and leans toward fruity. It buds early and harvests late. In high altitudes in Taurasi it has been harvested into late November.
In Basilicata they turn this grape into Aglianico del Vulture (Vul-tur-e not like the bird!) This wine is 100% Aglianco. Both Campania and Basilicata are located in Southern Italy.
This variety is slowly being grown outside of Italy, thus my Kenneth Volk ’08 Aglianico! Seghesio is also growing it in the Alexander Valley and it is now being grown in Australia in the inland wine regions. It has been discussed that this grape could be a great alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon in California as it is more suited to the warmer climate. By the looks of the multiple vineyards that popped up on my search for “California Aglianico”, it is finding a foothold.
So after all my research I was still wondering…should I cellar this for another 5 years? So…I e-mailed Kenneth Volk and received a wonderful personal response. His Paso Aglianico is grown in Pomar Junction and as it often does not have the opportunity to be as late ripening as traditional Italian Aglianico it tends to not cellar by typical Italian standards. He suggested that the ’08 was drinking well now and will probably drink well for a few more years. Since it was drinking well now I asked for his suggestions on pairings. He did tell me that this was a food wine and suggested something protein rich like lamb, waterfowl or a rustic pasta.
Well…now my day was complete. I had two correspondences from Kenneth Volk (who I have a bit of a wine crush on) and determined what I was having with Thanksgiving dinner. Michael and I started a new tradition last year in that, since it is just the two of us, rather than cooking a whole turkey, we indulge in a duck. So….that will be my waterfowl.
And I have to say a huge thank you to Mr. Volk for personally answering my questions so thoroughly about his wine. Not only is he a genius, he’s a nice genius! Now to figure out what to pair with the duck!
I know very little about Spanish wines. Michael and I concentrate on California wines (heck they are close!) then we venture across the country and sometimes dabble in French, Italian or South American wines. But Spanish wines? Well they just don’t often come across my radar.
Last night we were heading out to see a show and as we were going to be at the Aria I decided to look up the fine dining there and see if there was anything we could fit in (both time wise and budget wise). Well to my happy surprise 3 of the major restaurants at the Aria offer early bird tasting menus with optional wine pairings! We settled on Julian Serrano and headed in to enjoy some Spanish Tapas. The tasting menu is a great deal with an appetizer, entrée and desert for $39 with optional wine pairings for $19. Michael and I both chose the lobster gazpacho for the appetizer that was served with a Marques de Riscal Rueda 2011.
Marques de Riscal Rueda 2011is a verdejo & viura blend both grown in the town of Rueda in the province of Valladolid.
So…time to research this wine! Marque de Riscal wine cellars and Vegas have something in common and that is the Canadian Architect Frank O. Gehry. Gehry designed the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, a Cleveland Clinic Alzheimer research center. Gehry who had never wanted to design for Vegas agreed to do the design only after Ruvo increased the research mandate to include Huntington’s disease that he had long been championing. In Marques de Riscal they have created the City of Wine designed also by Ghery. This design encompasses the 43-room luxury hotel and the complex as a whole is devoted to making caring and studying wine. At the heart of the City of Wine is the cellars of Marque de Riscal dating from 1858. The entire complex is located in the renowned Vinos de los Herederos del Marques de Riscal’s Vineyard in the medieval village of Elciego. So much for the place…onto the grapes
Verdejo is an indigenous grape to Spain. It is native to Rueda in the Northwest part of Spain and is now the country’s principal white grape variety. In the past verdejo was prone to early oxidation but due to cold fermentation and night harvesting as well as the use of an inert gas blanket this has been for the most part corrected. It is often compared to ta Sauvignon Blanc (a tart one, for my opinion) or a Pinot Gris.The blending grape viura is often known as Macabeo in Northern Spain. This is the most popular grape in northern Spain. They also grow this in southern France mostly Languedoc where it is typically blended with Grenache Blanc.
Now to the tasting. For me this wine was very tart, similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. I got lemons and grass on the nose and on the palate it did have a slight oily viscosity, which took the extra bite out of the acidity. This paired with the lobster gazpacho. The gazpacho came with what looked to be a bon bon in the spoon with the lobster claw meat and tiny-diced peppers, cucumbers and micro greens beautifully arranged in the bottom of the bowl. Our server said the chef suggested eating the bon bon in one bite as it was filled with gazpacho also. He then poured about one third of the individual carafe of smooth pureed tomato gazpacho over the bowl. The bon bon (which I think was an infused oil or fat frozen in a ball around the gazpacho) burst in my mouth and was a joyous way to start our meal. The gazpacho was smooth with the bits of pepper and perfectly cook lobster claw meat. The carafe allowed me to refill my bowl twice more, making the experience continue. I found the gazpacho delicious with layered flavors from added infused oils. The wine was a bit to acidic for me as an accompaniment, but…I am a bit of a wuss with tart wines.
Next on the menu was the entrée. Michael chose the fish of the day, which was a salmon on a bed of spinach, and I chose the crispy chicken breast roulade with sautéed potatoes pork chorizo and roasted red peppers. The wine with the main course was 2005 Bodegas Castano Hecula Monastrell Yecla (yeah could you say that again in English?) Okay, Mouvedre. That’s how you say it in French at least. Monastrell is it’s Spanish version. This grape is thought to originate in Spain although now it is grown all over. The wine region here is Yecla, which is a DO within the Murcia province of Spain. They are surrounded by Almansa to the north, Alicante on the east and the Jumilla DO in the south and west. Monastrell is traditionally enjoyed young but barrel aged styles are increasing as the importance of quality increases. This wine received a 90 from Tanzer. The wine is 100% Monastrell from the valley. It is fermented in steel tanks with a soft maceration of skins. It is aged in French and American Barrels for 3 to 6 months after malolactic fermentation. This is a wine that should age beautifully (thank goodness as this was a 2005!). It is inky violet with lots of deep dark fruit. The mouth feel was lighter (felt more like a Pinot in my mouth) Good tannins with a little smoked meat. We both enjoyed this wine very much on its own.
Now with the crispy chicken…first this chicken was the most moist breast meat I have ever had. It was rich and succulent and it paired gloriously with the Monastrell. The acid in the wine cut through the fat in the chicken and was heaven in my mouth. (Michael agreed on his forkful). The dish itself was lovely with the heft of the sautéed potatoes the bright richness of the roasted peppers and the heat and spice of the chorizo under the chicken. And…it was served with garlic foam. This was heaven. I giggled whenever I took a bite of the foam. The foam explodes in your mouth and you are left with guilty garlic breath. This dish was sooo good and sooo rich that I only at half and was feeling quite stuffed and concerned about my upcoming desert.
For dessert we both chose the molten chocolate cake with orange jelly and blood orange sorbet. Okay, I mean regardless of what other heaven is on the desert menu…molten chocolate cake and blood orange sorbet? How can you pass that up? No…it’s not very Spanish, but it was simply (as Spanish cuisine likes to be) and delicious. The pairing for this course was a Taylor Fladgate 10 year old tawny port.
This port is a port blend red and of course while not Spanish it’s from Portugal, which is pretty close by. To make a Red port wines multiple varieties of grapes are blended together. What’s the secret, you say? Tell us the blend, you say. Well it’s not like they are trying to keep it a secret. While everyone else was worried about varieties they were just growing grapes and making port! There are growers in Douro that quite honestly don’t know what is growing in their vineyards. Call it a field blend! (I am actually a big fan of field blends…maybe I am just picturing myself in a field of wild flowers?…whatever…I like them!). Now while it says 10-year-old port…that is really just an average. Each port is a proprietary blend of multiple vintages. If by chance the bottle you pick up reads reserve or reserve on the label that would tell you that it spent at least 7 years in barrel before they released it.
So…this was a lovely port. It warmed me up and that overly full feeling from the very rich chicken (which dammit I couldn’t pack up to take home since we were headed for a show.) dissipated. When the desert arrived it was everything I hoped for. The perfect proportions, small but filling. When you had a bite of the chocolate cake with a bit of the blood orange sorbet together it was really wonderful. The richness of the cake with the acid and gentle tartness of the sorbet, and then a sip of the port…yeah, I left there a happy woman. And…the restaurant is beautiful, it is bright and bold and engaging without being loud. I especially loved the trees (yes I know…I’m a sucker for trees). All in all a lovely experience and one I would recommend. Next we will have to try the tasting menus at Sage and American Fish!
On to Part three of the wines I can’t forget. We will venture into Paso Robles, Virginia and Oregon!
Okay it’s no secret that I have a wine crush on Neil Collins and I had done research on their winery before going there so I was extra excited when his sister was pouring for us. The grounds transport you before you ever enter the tasting room. The story behind The Will probably got to me also. The Will is a blend of Petite Sirah, Grenache Noir and Zinfandel source fromt he organic dry farmed Heaton Vineyards. It is known to stain teeth! The grapes are grown on Will’s Hill named after the Heaton’s son Will. The wine is named in memory of Will.
Here’s my Shout out to Virginia wineries! I did a wine tasting day with my two best friends from College in Virginia this year and fell in love with Virginia Cabernet Franc. My best friend found a new favorite wine in Cab Franc. It is rich without being big and fruity, and it is easier drinking than Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the last stop of our day at Veritas and after our tasting we enjoyed a bottle out on the patio. Of course the setting and the company made the wine taste better and makes me want to drink it to revisit that day, but also, Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite reds!
I happen to be a big fan of Kenneth Volk. I love the way he pushes boundaries. So going to Wildhorse was a little like a pilgrimage. It was late in the day in the middle of the week and we were the only ones in the tasting room. We had a fantastic tasting with a fabulously well informed (if not enthusiastic) pourer. I enjoyed everything, but when he poured the Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir I was enthralled. This is barnyard in the best sense. All hail to Bien Nacido for providing such incredible fruit! We left with a bottle and I will track this wine down! This is a wine that I will drink with my eyes closed.
Trisaetum was one of the last vineyards we visited in the Dundee Hills and it is WAY out on a backroad. We were there early and were the first tasters of the day. This was a departure from our Oregon tastings because they specialize in Reisling. The variety of Reisling that they create from several different vineyards is amazing. Their Coast Range Reisling stands in my memory as my favorite.
When we visited the winery we did get great service from an eager and knowledgeable pourer and once others wandered in for tastings we were able to stroll the beautiful art gallery in the tasting room. So ambience and people played a part in our initial love of the wine.
It’s fall and time for me to order some of this! We were lucky this summer to find that Khoury’s had a few bottles of their Estate Reserve Reisling so we snatched those up. And yes, compared to other Reislings that we had been drinking this was still far superior.
So…that’s the tip of my iceberg for wines that I can’t forget. Of course as I have been writing more and more wines have come to mind and I know that there are many more out there that I have yet to taste. And…did I answer the question as to why? Probably not. As usual wine is hard to pin down, the experience and the taste are connected in ways that we cannot fully understand or describe but that we can most certainly enjoy.