French Wine…where to begin? #Winophiles

Map of French Wine Regions

This month the French Winophiles are diving into a French Wine 101.  It’s timely as we all enter our comments to the government in opposition to proposed 100% European wine tariffs.  (If you have not heard about this, I’ll post some links at the bottom for more information.) We have done a bit of writing on French wines and you will find links to those pieces. Many of these pieces were written in conjunction with the French #Winophiles, which means there is the extra bonus, of each of those pieces having links to other articles written by the rest of the #Winophiles! If you are interested in French wine, you will have plenty of reading available!

French Wine 101

I’m here to rally for French wine.  If you are new to wine, French wine can be a bit overwhelming so let’s start at the beginning.

Old World vs New World

To be sure, when we say “Old World” in reference to wines, we think first of French wines.  But what does “Old World” mean?  From a scholastic point of view: Old world wines are dominated by terroir, they are defined by place.  Typically these wines are more restrained and elegant.  New World wines, on the other hand tend to be reflective of the winemaker’s style and are often more fruit forward and bold.

That is a really broad definition of the differences, and doesn’t always hold true, but when people say “Old World” and “New World” this is what they are thinking.

French wine names

In France, wines are named for the region they come from, not by the variety of grape as we do in the new world.  This takes us back to that idea of “terroir” which is a sense of place, with soil, and climate.  So rather than speaking about Chardonnay in France, you would speak of Chablis or White Burgundy.  Both of those wines are made with Chardonnay, but the wine is named for the region.

When we think of Bordeaux, we think of age worthy reds.  These are typically Cabernet or Merlot based, depending on which bank of the river the region sits.  And you will notice that I said “based”. These wines are blends of the different varieties of grapes that grow best in this region.

There is one exception to this. In Alsace, the white wine region on the German border in the North East of France, wines are often labeled with the variety.  This comes from the German culture and this area throughout the ages, has bounced back and forth between French and German control.

Without going too deep into the wine labels (that’s a rabbit hole best saved for another day), let’s talk about some of the most well known French Wine Regions, and I’ll give you a translation for what varieties you will see from each.

French Wine regions

Map of French Wine Regions
Map of French Wine Regions

I love maps.  It gives you a better sense of the geography and influences on a region.  I could dive into the climates and soils in each of these regions (I do love to get geeky on these things), but this is French Wine 101!  So let’s put together some dots for you, on what varieties you will find in each of these regions and what you might want to eat with each of these wines!

Loire Valley – Val de Loire

Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

This is white wine country!  You will find a bit of red, but the white wines are likely to be the ones you have heard of.

Muscadet

On the West end of the Loire Valley closest to the Atlantic Ocean. Melon de Bourgogne, which you will hear called Muscadet, is most prevalent here. This is a dry white wine that pairs really well with seafood. You will get citrus, and green apple and pear along with a lovely note of salinity. Go for shellfish with this wine

Chenin Blanc

Moving east Chenin Blanc begins to shine. Vouvray and Saviennières are well known Chenin Blancs from the regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur respectively. The two can be very different. Vouvray can be made from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, and you will find you need to do a bit of research to determine which sweetness level you are getting. Saviennières has been called the “most cerebral wine in the world”. These wines have depth of flavor, great acidity and minerality.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, is mainly found in the Upper Loire, the area furthest east and inland. Here you hear of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are crisp and high acid. Pair them with fish or poultry. With cheeses these are wonderful with goat cheese or other creamy cheeses (think brie).

Cabernet Franc

Not to be overlooked is Cabernet Franc which in this region is the primary red wine. Chinon or Bourgueil in the Touraine region produce elegant Cab Francs. These wines can be slightly spicy with raspberry and violet notes and are a favorite at Parisian Bistros.

For more…

Champagne

Popping a champagne cork!

Well you know what Champagne is!  This region and it’s soil and climate produce some of the world’s finest sparkling wines primarily from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

These wines, while often looked at a just for celebrations or just with the hors d’oeuvres at the top of the meal actually are perfect during a meal. The bubbles and acidity clean your palate making every bite taste as amazing as the first.

There are plenty of classic pairings, but try potato chips, buttered popcorn or fried chicken! The bubbles and acid with the fat and salt are heaven.

For more…

Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France
Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

This region sits on the German border and as I mentioned earlier has bounced back and forth between French and German control. The names and architecture here reflect that mixed heritage and the wines do as well.

These bright aromatic white wines are perfect to keep your nose in all day or dab behind your ears. But…if you must move on to drinking them, pair them with fish, aromatic cheeses, schnitzle, salads…there are so many great pairings. These are also wines known for pairing well with spicy foods like Thai! You will find riesling, pinot gris, muscadet and gewurztraminer lead the pack on varieties.

For more…

There are a few other varieties including Pinot Noir, but you are less likely to run into them.

Chablis

Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse

Chardonnay

This is Chardonnay land, but not those big buttery California Chardonnays that your Aunt might drink.  These are sharp and bright with great mineral quality! Pair with fish or chicken, oysters or other shellfish, mushrooms or cheese (think goat cheese or Comté). The sharp acid makes this great with creme sauces.

For more…

Burgundy (Bourgogne)

Vignoble de Bourgogne
Vignoble de Bourgogne

Chablis, above, is in Burgundy sitting 80 miles northwest of the rest of Burgundy.  Burgundy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

The Côte de Nuits is the Northern part of the Côte d’Or and is the region that Pinot Noir calls home. It ventures further afield, but this is it’s homeland and you will find some of the most expensive Pinot Noirs on the planet, hail from here.

Pinot Noir is perfect for red wine with fish. It is the go to wine to pair with salmon. Many Pinot Noirs also have earthy notes and pair beautifully with mushrooms.

Chardonnay

The Côte de Beaune is dominated by Chardonnay. These are likely to be aged in oak. They will be richer and more buttery than those lean Chardonnays from Chablis, but they are still dry. Try this wine with pasta, chicken, risotto, shellfish or salt water fish and with cheeses like gruyere.

There is more to the region, the Côte Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, but we will leave those for another day.

For more…

Beaujolais

Gamay grapes in Beaujolais
Gamay grapes in Beaujolais

Just south of Burgundy you find Beaujolais.  This is a wine you will know better by the region name than by the grape, Gamay, that it is made from.  Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine released each year on the third Thursday in November.  These early release wines are fresh and fruity, but the region does have other Gamay’s that are meant to be deeper and more age worthy.

Beaujolais Nouveau will be fruit forward and downright perky! Sometimes you will hear people say that they smell bubblegum or bananas in addition to raspberries and cranberry.

Aged Beaujolais might have notes of forest floor, mushroom, violet, tart cherry and smoke.

These are lighter wines and can pair across the spectrum from salmon to barbeque. Visit the Beaujolais site for a great graphic to assist with pairings for all the varied wines from this region.

The Rhone Valley

M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl' Hermitage Rhone valley France
M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl’ Hermitage Rhone valley France

I am a lover of Rhônes. Guaranteed…many of mine come from the Rhône Rangers that you find in California, and many of which were brought from Chateauneuf-de-Pape in the Southern Rhône.

The region is broken into the Northern and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is the land of Syrah and Viognier and typically very pure and expensive versions of these.

Syrah

The Côte Rotie is known for some of the most amazing Syrah on the planet. I’ve heard it described as bacon and violets. Which sounds pretty amazing to me.

Viognier

Condrieu is well known for 100% Viognier. This white wine is full bodied and round with notes of apricot, pear and almonds.

There are other appellations like Crozes Hermitage above and Cornas, there is more to explore here, if you have the budget.

The Southern Rhone is warmer as it heads down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and you will find blends of multiple varieties.  The famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape is here with blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more. Wines here lean toward blends.

Red Rhône Blends

These will have berry notes (think raspberry and black berry) baking spice, and maybe some garrigue (think underbrush), lavender, dried herbs. The more Mourvedre, the more likely you will have meaty notes to the wine.

These go well with mediterranean foods, like olives and red peppers, and herbs like rosemary or sage (or herbs de Provençe).

White Rhône Blends

Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier make up the body of most white wines in this area. These blends are medium bodied and have notes of beeswax (I love that), as well as moderate citrus, like a meyer lemon, then stone fruits like peach and apricot.

Pair them with richer dishes with white meat (chicken or fish or even pork) and perhaps with fruits that are stewed or roasted. Dried apricots are a definite must on a cheese plate with these wines.

For more…

Bordeaux

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

If you have heard of any region in France other than Champagne, it will be Bordeaux. This is the region that Napa Valley wants to be. It is the big daddy of French wine with bottles that can be very pricey and many that need considerable aging. When people pull out dusty bottles from their wine cellar, typically they are Bordeaux wines.

Left Bank Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon based)

Red wines here are classified by which bank of the river the vineyards sit on. Left bank wines are west of the river in Médoc and Graves. The reds here are Cabernet Sauvignon based.

Right Bank Reds (Merlot driven)

The Right bank wines are on the other side of the river in the Libournais. These wines are Merlot driven. The Entre-deux-mers, the area in the middle between the two, has much more fertile soil producing less concentrated (but more affordable) wines.

The bold reds of Bordeaux are perfect with rich meaty dishes, like a big steak.

Sweet wines of Sauternes

Down in Graves you find the region of Sauternes. These are my friend Corinne’s favorite wines. These are sweet wines made from grapes with “Noble rot”. The botrytis fungus takes hold of the grape and dries them out considerably. They are pressed into tiny amounts of wine that when fermented becomes sweet and delicious. These are wines to pair with bleu cheese or with desserts.

For more…

Provence

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration rosé from Provençe
Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe

Rosé

This is Rosê country, more than 1/2 the output of wine from this region is rosé. The mistral wind that whips down from the mountains keeping the vines in this Mediterannean region dry and free from disease. The landscape is dotted with lavender fields. It’s pretty dreamy.

In addition to those delicate ballet slipper pink rosés you will find Bandol, which is a rich red wine from Mourvedre.

Pair pink with pink. It’s delicious and pretty. Smoked salmon, ham, prosciutto, crab, lobster….you get the picture.

Yes…these wines are great in the summer. Their high acid and bright flavors are perfect to help you cool down on a hot day. But don’t overlook them at other times.

For more…

Other regions

Is there more to French Wine?  Why yes…so much more, there is the island of Corsica, the black wines of Cahors, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Rousillon…and then there are the wines that I have yet to discover!

Oh and did I mention Crémant? That would be sparkling wine from any region outside of Champagne! You want bubbles and value? It’s your go to!

Dive deep into the links and the links in the links and take a little vacay to France sans airfare!

For more…

More from the Winophiles!

There are so many ways to dive into French Wine, I have only scratched the surface. Why not check out the other #Winophiles and their approaches to the subject! You can join us for the conversation on Twitter on Saturday Morning January 18th (8 am PST, 11 am EST) by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Remember I said I would include more about those potential tariffs.

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12 Days of Wine Day 7 – Quady North

Where in Washington is this winery you ask? Nope, we finally stepped out of Washington. Quady North can be found in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. The Applegate Valley AVA is a nested AVA within the Rogue Valley AVA. This region is way south in Oregon, just above the California state line. In the State of Jefferson…well that’s a story for another day.

We discovered Quady North when we were speaking with Leah Jörgensen a couple of years ago. She pulls Cabernet Franc from his Mae’s Vineyard and spoke highly of Herb Quady. So when we were visiting the Applegate Valley this past summer, we stopped in and met Herb at the vineyard. You can see a bit of our visit in The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North .

Herb Quady

Herb comes from a wine family. Quady is known in Central California for their sweet wines. Then he fell in love with Rhônes and headed North to Southern Oregon, convinced this was the perfect place to grow those varieties.

Cabernet Franc is not a Rhône variety, but Leah had spoken so highly of his Cab Franc…so…

Quady North 2014 Cabernet Franc

Panorama of the view from Mae's Vineyard
Panorama of the view from Mae’s Vineyard

Most of the Cab Franc for this wine comes from Mae’s Vineyard, named for his daughter which they planted in 2006. We walked the vineyard with him when we visited. The views from the vineyard are pretty spectacular.

2014 is one of our best vintages to date.  It was warm and even with good set in the vineyard. In the winery, we took advantage of our new facility to improve our winemaking with gentler handling and reduced exposure to oxygen.  The result is a vibrant, balanced Franc with notes of loam and red pepper.  

QuadyNorth.com

He goes on to give lots of wonderful geeky notes about fruit handling, aging, lees stirring etc…you should visit his site if you are into those. The wine sits at 14.3% abv and runs $35.00 per bottle.

The Tasting

Quady North 2014 Cabernet Franc
Quady North 2014 Cabernet Franc

I found this wine to be medium intensity with notes of earth, coffee, black cherry and red pepper, plus there was a bit of spice on the nose. I am a Cab Franc lover and this wine has found it’s way into my heart. (much like that corkscrew on the label).

The Pairing

While it was suggested that we pair with coffee and ancho chili rubbed skirt steak (which I think would be awesome with this)…that was not in the cards for this evening. We paired with bleu cheese and gouda and with some strips of red pepper (just wanted to see…) and all worked really well. We paired with bbq and some creamy gnocchi and it made for a great dinner.

A little more…

Herb is also exploring other ways to get his wine to the people, other than bottles that is. We did a piece on his canned rosé a while back, and talked with him about cans, bags and kegs when it comes to wine. You can check out that piece here Cans and kegs – packaging sustainability with Quady North

Quady North Rose blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is bright and fresh and packaged in a can which is great for sustainability.
Quady North Rose blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is bright and fresh and packaged in a can which is great for sustainability.
  • The Quady North Tasting room in Jacksonville Oregon
  • Herb showing me around the Mae's Vineyard at Quady North in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley AVA
  • Happy vines at Quady North's Mae's Vineyard
  • Vines and a view at Quady North's Mae's Vineyard in the Applegate Valley

Tomorrow is Day 8!

Can you believe it? We are sailing toward the holiday at high speed! Come back as we pop yet another bottle!

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Cabernet Franc Day – Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

It’s Cabernet Franc Day! So we are celebrating by pulling a bottle out of the cellar. Our Cabernet Franc today comes from the Yakima Valley in Washington and is made by Owen Roe.

Sunset at Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley
Sunset at Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley

Who is Owen Roe? Well….

Owen Roe O’Neill was a seventeenth century Irish Patriot, who dedicated his life to upholding the highest principles of political equality and freedom. His commitment to great things makes him an ideal model for us at Owen Roe, for we share his dedication to principle in our work to produce the wines of Owen Roe.

Owen Roe Winery
  • David O'Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery
  • Jackie Evans, Owen Roe Winery, Winemaker
  • Owen Roe Winery, in Yakima Valley Washington
  • Owen Roe Winery, Grapes in Fermentation Bins
  • Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State Union Gap Cabernet Franc
  • Yakima Valley Flavor Camp Wine Dinner
  • Dinner in Yakima Valley at Owen Roe Vineyards

We visited Owen Roe in October of 2018 when we attended the Wine Media Conference in Washington. It was harvest and Wine Yakima Valley had provided a pre-conference tour that included a dinner with a sunset view in front of the Owen Roe winery. Before dinner we had the opportunity to do a vineyard tour with then owner David O’Reilly and I even managed to tour the winery, filled with fermentation bins with David and meet winemaker _____.

You can read more about those adventures:

We visited the Yakima Valley again this summer and did a wonderful tasting with Brandon. Owen Roe sources grapes from both Oregon and Washington, so you will find Oregon Pinot, Washington Reds and white wines from Chardonnay to Gewurztraminer to Oregon Pinot Gris.

Wine news (a bit of wine politics)

There is a bit of news since our visit. Vintage Estates of Santa Rosa California, purchased Owen Roe in September 2019. These are the same peeps that purchased Qupé in Santa Barbara a while back. I’m always a bit of a skeptic when a large company purchases a winery and adds them to their “portfolio”. David O’Reilly stays on directing operations at Owen Roe. He also gets a new title as regional winemaking director for Vintage Wine Estate. So….we shall see.

So… on to the wine we are drinking today!

Owen Roe 2017 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc

This Cabernet Franc is from the Yakima Valley and sells at $28. is at 14.1% abv. The fact that it says Yakima Valley and does not have a vineyard designate, tells us that this fruit source from multiple locations in the Yakima Valley, blended together. It aged 16 months in French Oak.

2017 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc from Owen Roe Winery Yakima Valley

The first thing that catches your eye is the label. This black and white photography by David K. Brunn, is haunting…I guess a little mystical (hence the name). Here’s what the winery has to say about it:

The image on the front label was captured by photographer David K. Brunn. The ancient Drumlane Abbey in County Cavan, Ireland served as a place of refuge for almost one thousand years until it was destroyed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Here the great patriot Owen Roe O’Neill sought solace until he too breathed his last, also at the hands of Cromwell in 1649.

Owen Roe Winery http://www.owenroe.com

This Cabernet Franc – In the Glass

The color of this Cabernet Franc leans toward Ruby. Deep enough in the glass that while I can see light through it, it is not transparent enough to read through. The nose first hits you with cocoa powder. Another breath finds wet tobacco and brambles. Then you find cooked strawberries, stewed on the stove with maybe a bit of herbs. Finally comes the spice, baking spice and a bit of vanilla.

A sip finds the wine dry. While it smelled hot on the nose right after it was opened, indicating high alcohol, on the palate it is smoother, lighter, feeling medium on tannins, alcohol and body. The acid while not high, it high enough to pair beautifully with food. This feels old world, in it’s lightness. While bigger on the nose, than on the palate, I did get more in the way of black fruit on the palate. We paired this with grilled sausage today, which went nicely.

Other Great Cabernet Francs

Cabernet Franc is so underrated! It’s more than just a blending grape..the 3rd in the line of Bordeaux grapes. It is being grown in Virginia, where it is making some luscious juice. We had a terrific one a while ago from Veritas. You find it in California and Oregon (it’s doing great in Southern Oregon…check out the Cab Francs from Leah Jorgensen Cellars, or Quady North. And of course Washington is growing some great Cab Franc in the Yakima Valley! Where ever you find it, it’s worth picking up. I suggest pairing it with a big juicy burger like we did.

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On the 8th day…a Cabernet..well a Cabernet Franc…a Blanc de Franc at that.

Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc

Day 8 of our 12 Days of Wine found us doing a late night pairing.  We met Leah Jørgensen of Leah Jørgensen Cellars this summer and had a wonderful conversation with her about her wines and so many other things.  You can find all that info here.

Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc,
Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc,

One of the unique wines that she makes is a Blanc de Cabernet Franc.  She had run into one of these in the Loire Valley and decided to make one from Oregon.

What to pair?

We searched and found a recommendation thanks to Opening a Bottle https://openingabottle.com/blanc-de-cabernet-franc/ 

Tasting notes: A most unusual white wine that first comes across as quirky, but then mellows into a truly distinctive beauty. Offers aromas of lemon, rosemary,beeswax and gradually gives way to deeper fruit aromas as it is exposed to air— ripe nectarine, blood orange and honey. There is even a note that recalls lilacs. Ultra-smooth texture and medium body, with some minerality on the finish. A wine with a lot of grace. Drink young.
Recommended for: Summer sipping on the back patio. With food, I’d aim for roasted chicken or cedar-planked salmon.

Opening a bottle – What is Blanc de Cabernet Franc Like? May 11, 2016

While it wasn’t summer, we wanted to enjoy this bottle young.

I had to work, but when I returned at almost midnight, Michael had a feast set with a cedar-planked salmon in maple and spices, rosemary bread with goat cheese, and a fruit and cheese plate complete with two goat cheeses, one honeyed, the other herbed, gouda, grapes, prosciutto, blood orange slices and some of that lovely gooey haymarket goat cheese.

Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, with Cedar planked Salmon
Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, with Cedar planked Salmon

The wine

This wine is really fascinating.  You put your nose in the glass and you get tart citrus and pith.  It was blood orangey, but after tasting my blood oranges, it was a little more tart, drifting toward pink grapefruit. And then you get peppers, green, but not bell. It really is that a roasted pickled poblano pepper.  On the back there was a bit of salinity, and there is that touch of tannins.

This is a wine that starts like a white and ends like a red with a lingering finish.

The pairings

Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc,
Leah Jørgensen Cellars, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, with goat cheese and blood oranges

Maybe it’s just channeling the Loire Valley traditions, but I found that this wine went spectacularly with all the goat cheeses most especially the honeyed goat cheese.  With the gouda?  Not so much. With the salmon it was great, holding it’s own against the heavy spices on the salmon, the wood, with the maple helping to round and soften each bite. 

Want some?

You can find her wines available on her squarespace site

And this beautiful bottle will set you back only $30.

Or check out her page with her distributors to find a place near you.

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

2017 Rosé of Cabernet Fran

We’ve been talking with Leah Jørgensen of Leah Jørgensen Cellars about her wines.  Today’s discussion is about her 2017 Rosé of Cab Franc.  If you know Leah Jørgensen, it will not surprise you that her rosé is made of Cab Franc.  She is kind of putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.  As they poured us a glass of this beautiful light pink/copper wine…I’ll let her tell.

2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Asa pouring the 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

This is our Rosé of Cab Franc and you notice it’s very very light pink.  Ballet slipper pink is what I call it.  If you do a saignee, you’re going to get a darker color.  I don’t.  In the Loire Valley they do more whole cluster and that’s what we’ve done here and so when you just dump it right into the press, you’re gonna get a very very fine pale pink.  When you have Loire rosés from Cab Franc, they are always going to be this sort of onion peel skin, just a very light ballet slipper.

I love it, it’s coppery, it’s pretty and it’s very savory, it’s very dry and it’s….pink grapefruit and then savory, like herbal.  Sometimes I get a  little tarragon on it or elder flower, lime blossomy, orange blossom I guess, marmalade? I don’t know, it depends on my mood, what I’m tasting.

So you say that this is full cluster?

Yes, whole cluster, just dump it right in the press.

So with that, is it a really gentle press.

Yes, we do a white wine press.

So you are really not getting off of the whole clusters that way.  Not a lot off the stem inclusion.

No and the truth is, red wine gets it’s color from the skins and that’s really from fermenting and getting deep extraction and doing cold soaks. So the berry is getting macerated slowly and naturally and you are getting more extraction.  We’re not doing any of that, so we’re not fermenting on any of that.  So we are literally pressing it to get this salmon color pink juice and then we basically rack into a tank that we chill for about 24 to 48 hours and then we rack back into, with the rosé, another tank, a stainless steel, this is all stainless steel and then it ferments in that tank.  So you’re letting things just settle out but you’re still retaining a little color and it tends to get just lighter and lighter when fermentation completes.

Buxton Vineyard in the Rogue Valley

So what is special about that vineyard for you?

While the other vineyards that we work with in the Rogue have inter-marine shellfish this particular place is on a different part of the Rogue Valley it’s closer to Del Rio Vineyards, it’s on the other side of I-5 basically.  It used to be under the Rogue River, so there’s River stone everywhere.  It looks like Bordeaux basically, there’s just smooth river stones throughout the vineyard, but it’s still that clay, silty loam, river bottom soils.

Buxton Ranch and Vineyard sits just Northwest of the Rogue River near White City and Eagle Point.  In addition to the 25 acre vineyard, they are a ranch and raise grass fed Angus/Wagu beef.

The winemaker’s description from her site

What is this lovely ballet slipper colored pink wine like? My first Rosé of Cabernet Franc! Coppery, Renaissance pink, Degas dancer, Cape Hatteras sunset, Valencia heirloom rose petals… smells like pink grapefruit meets cotton candy, marshmallow, marzipan, and ripe apricots, tastes that way, too, plus orange marmelade, green strawberries, summer fruit salad. Deeelightful! Pairs with anything, really.

2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

More than just delicious

The 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc runs $22 and this is a wine with a mission.  Leah donates a portion of the retail sales of this wine to women’s academic scholarships.

Want to find a bottle?  Head to Leah Jørgensen Cellars squarespace or look for one of the smart establishments that carry her wine.  There is a list here.

We are going to continue our chat with Leah Jørgensen.  Next up is her 2016 “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge And check out our previous episodes with her Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess & Winemaker, Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen, Southern Oregon Sauvignon Blanc with Leah Jørgensen, and Blanc de Cab Franc…What?

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

“Tour Rain” Vin Rouge – Leah Jørgensen Cellars

2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge

“Tour Rain”

It’s a play on words and a bit of an inside joke on the label.  Note the rain, the umbrella, the boots… Tour Rain speaks to the Touraine region of France as well as to Oregon Climate and Tourists. The ladies on Leah’s labels may look the same, each is really individual.   It’s all about the details,  just like her wines.

2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge

2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge

2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge

Leah was graciously pouring us through her entire lineup and sharing so much information on her wines and philosophies.

“This is actually the first red that I made it’s a blend of Gamay and Cab Franc.  It’s based on, or inspired by wines from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley around the city of Tours. It’s a little play on words.  You’re in Oregon, you know, you might encounter some rain and Oregonians, we know don’t use umbrellas, that identifies a tourist, so we are being a little tongue in cheek, a little whimsical.

But not tongue in cheek about what’s in the bottle.  For me, the Touraine, especially Clos Roche Blanche were my wines that I would always take to a dinner party.  Clos Roche Blanche particularly was 40% Gamay, 60% Cab Franc and anytime I would go to someone’s house I would either grab a Morgon Beaujolais or I would grab a Touraine Clos Roche Blanche, because, it goes with everything, roast chicken, pasta, you name it.  It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s got great acidity, amazing fruit.  I wanted to make Oregon’s first version of that kind of wine, that blend.

So this is 40% Gamay Noir from Haviland Vineyard which is in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor. And the Cab Franc is from the Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. And that’s the same vineyard where the White Cab Franc is from and it’s farmed by Herb Quady of Quady North.

You get a lot of those bramble berries, I love that fruit character to it.  Gamay always has that white pepper on the finish.  Just the two together I think are just really so complimentary.”

The Vineyards

We spoke before of Herb Quady and Mae’s Vineyard with the Blanc de Cab Franc.  That vineyard is in the Applegate Valley.

Havlin Vineyard sits in the Willamette Valley in what will soon be the Van Duzer Corridor AVA (this AVA is just waiting for final approval).  The area is known for it’s marine soils, and the corridor’s diurnal shifts in the summer due to the marine breezes.  On her site, Leah says “Planted in 2011 with cuttings from Seven Springs Vineyard, this site has a south-west aspect planted in Dupee soils, which is a down slope Willakenzie soil series.  This vineyard is dry farmed and LIVE certified.”

From the Winemaker

Here are some extra notes on this vintage from the winemaker on her site.  Leah’s descriptions are so lush and vivid they must be shared.

“Perhaps the prettiest profile of our red wines (and especially the gorgeous color!), this blend is always a lovely balance of floral, red fruit, and a hint of pepper and sweet wood – with aromatics of ripe cherry, raspberry, cassis, hibiscus, rose petals, cedar, cigar box, vanilla bean, black puerh tea, and pink peppercorn, and then flavors of bing cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry, cocoa powder, clove, and roasted bell pepper – this wine has bright acidity and is juicy with rich, soft tannins – it’s light, lithe, flirty and bright. Enjoy slightly chilled (cellar temperature/58-64° F). Serve with pasta; spicy, rich Asian dishes (noodles); smoked salmon; charcuterie and cheese boards; beet salad; brick oven thin, bubbly-chewy crusted pizza; and skewers/kabobs.”

Want to find a bottle?  Head to Leah Jørgensen Cellars squarespace or look for one of the smart establishments that carry her wine.  There is a list here.

We will continue our chat with Leah Jørgensen tomorrow.  Next up is her 2015 Malbec. And check out our previous episodes with her Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess & Winemaker, Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen, Southern Oregon Sauvignon Blanc with Leah Jørgensen, Blanc de Cab Franc…What? and Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen

Leah Jorgensen Pirate Princess

Leah Jørgensen makes wines from grapes in southern Oregon, primarily from the Rogue and Applegate Valleys.  In our previous post (link here) we discussed the soils of the region.  Now we get into the grapes she is growing and why the climate in Southern Oregon is good for these grapes.

Oregon-Wine-Map-Southern-OR-AVA Courtesy of Oregon Wine Board

Oregon-Wine-Map-Southern-OR-AVA
Courtesy of Oregon Wine Board

You’re making wines that are mostly from Rogue River Valley?

Rogue and Applegate, correct.

So much further south than this.  How is the climate different there?

Well for one thing, there is this perception that it is so much hotter down there, but you just have longer days of heat, that’s the biggest difference than when I compare it to the Willamette Valley.  And then the other thing is, the elevation, the valley floor starts at around 900 foot elevation, so by the time we get to some of our vineyards  you get some decent elevation right?  So that means in the evenings it cools off quite a bit in the vineyards.  So when we think of things like acid and sugar ripening, you get the long days you want for ripening that is necessary for grapes like Malbec and Cab Franc, but then you also get these cooler evenings that give off this wonderful balance of acidity with the fruit.  So when we pick we get…Cab franc just naturally has high acidity, so we’re just getting everything we want out of this particular fruit in Southern Oregon.

Are they growing a lot of Cab Franc in Southern Oregon?

There is not a lot of Cab Franc grown in Oregon in general, but it is still one of the most widely planted varietals in the world.  I even have some statistics in here from a report, the first official Cab Franc report* I’ve seen that we’ve been mentioned in and she kinda gives every question you’ve ever wanted to know about Cab Franc, about the plantings, including the plantings that are, I think it was based on 2010, so I know there has been more planted since then.  So when they do the next grape consensus I guess in 2020 they will see a bit of a jump. But there is not a lot of it to be honest.  I have to search for what I want to grow, but the growers I work with are also onboard with what I’m doing so they will plant more for me.  Which is great.

So  you work really closely with your growers?  So you are really in touch with what’s happening during the season.

Yes, exactly, so I’m in it.

For down there, when do you run into bud break and when do  you end up doing harvest?  Is the season longer there?

It actually usually starts earlier than up here for the whites and then for reds, just because these grapes require a little bit longer time on the vine, I make my wine at Raptor Ridge Winery so while they are bringing in their Pinot Noir, it’s great, we don’t butt heads on timing, my stuff’s coming in a little bit later.  My Cab Franc and even my Gamay, up here in the Willamette Valley is a late ripener, so that comes a little bit later.  Which is interesting, comparing the Willamette Valley to Southern Oregon, Gamay is one of our last picks, which is Willamette Valley.  It comes in after our Malbec, which would technically be our last pick.

*We happen to be big fans of Pam Heiligenthal and Enobytes and if you like getting geeky about wine The Cabernet Franc Report is an in depth and thorough look at Cab Franc as it is grown around the globe.

 

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah (Yes there is more.  Next we talk about her Sauvignon Blanc and her use of Acacia barrels for white wine)!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jorgensen Pirate Princess

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker, that’s what it reads on her business card.

Leah Jørgensen - Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

I had heard about Leah Jørgensen.  There was a post of a great wine label on Instagram by a fellow wine writer, talking about this White Cab Franc.   Yep, you read that right, White Cab Franc.  I then saw her name as one of the winemakers that would be at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills that we were planning to go to during our trip to the Willamette Valley, and I was anxious to taste this wine and talk with her about it.  I had no idea how enchanting her wines would be or that we would spend a fascinating hour talking with her, not just about her wines, but about the vineyards she sources from and the ancient seabed that lies beneath the top soil in the southern part of Oregon.

We are not alone in finding her fascinating; She was named one of “15 Women in Wine to Watch” by FOOD & WINE (March 2018) and her wines have been well reviewed by Wine Enthusiast on numerous occasions.  She is putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.

A little bit about the Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah was previously a representative for a wine distributor in Washington DC.  She worked with embassies, providing them wines from a portfolio she managed.  She is partial to the Loire Valley and many of her wines (most) are influenced by this love.

She comes from a family that has always been passionate about wine.  Her mother’s family has been making wine in Italy since the 1700’s, Her grandfather’s family made barrels in Austria.  Her father was raised on a farm outside of Eugene and her cousins own the fisherman’s market in Eugene, and are fishermen who run boats that go up to Alaska.  So creating great wines that pair with shellfish…well, that’s really in her blood.

We spent a bit of time at the Uncommon Wine Festival talking with Leah.  She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate.  Conversations with her, you just don’t want them to end.  As a result, we have a collection of 7 videos from our interview with her, discussing soils and climate in Southern Oregon, the grapes she uses, the influences of the Loire Valley and several of the wines she was pouring that day including her Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, Rosé of Cab Franc, her “Tour Rain” blend and her Malbec.

Leah Jørgensen on Southern Oregon and it’s soils

So we begin our conversation with her speaking about the Southern Oregon Soil series and how the Loire Valley influenced her wine making.

“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley, just like the Willamette Valley is not Burgundy.  We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals.  With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils and blue schist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago.  So mostly when we talk about Oregon Wine and soil series, we are often talking about the Willamette Valley and the Missoula flood, and the influence of the Missoula Flood which happened about 17 million years ago, so now we are talking about really ancient 250 million years ago.  The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World.  When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley.  So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley.  That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right?  I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish, because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories.  So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, (in the Loire Valley they call it Côt), Sauvignon Blanc.”

 

This is just the start of our conversation with Leah.  We went on to learn about the grape varieties and how they grow in southern Oregon, and then we talked about each of her wines as we dipped our nose in the glass and tasted each.

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Burgers and Cab Franc

Cab Franc and Burger

I had been craving a burger for weeks it seemed. Juicy red meat with a soft bun and lots of fun and interesting things on it. Michael had been making pickles and I had come upon a carrot ketchup recipe that I was ready to riff on. And…we had a bottle of Carhartt Vineyards Cabernet Franc that was looking perfect to go with this.

The Vegas temps had risen and we were clearly in triple digits and grilling outside was not an option. So I picked up my phone and searched for “perfect Burgers”. Bobby Flay & the food network saved the day. I’ll just leave this link right here http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/perfect-burger-recipe-1957542

So we took Bobby’s advice and went to find 80/20 ground chuck and returned to make these burgers inside, out of the heat, in our cast iron skillet. Nothing added but salt pepper and a bit of attention, but no fiddling! Heat the pan with some canola oil in it. Make the patties, salt & pepper, put a thumbprint on the top and put them in the pan, then just be patient, flip them after 3 minutes, then let them cook on the other side for 4.

We added Muenster and did the quick trick of putting the cheese on, then tossing in just a little water and sticking on the lid. 30 seconds and your cheese is perfectly melted.

burger with beet and carrot ketchup and Cabernet Franc

Top a burger with a little Muenster some arugula and some home made yellow beet and carrot ketchup and pair it with a Cabernet Franc

We topped the burgers with fresh pickles, arugula, and some of this amazing beet and carrot ketchup that I had made from farm fresh veggies

Carrot Yellow Beet Catsup

Full of umami, this yellow beet and carrot ketchup is just the thing to spice up your burger condiments

 

Beet & Carrot Ketchup Recipe

This was perfect with the cab franc and I was in burger heaven.

The Carhartt Cabernet Franc was a 2013 from Curtis Vineyard. Curtis is out on Foxen Canyon Road and is part of the larger Santa Ynez AVA.

Cab Franc seems to thrive at this vineyard, which has been around for a while and is a warmer site. This wine is dark currants, raspberries and plums with nice spice and a richness that melded beautifully with my medium rare burger.

This Cab Franc was rich and lush without being too heavy.  It paired with the umami of the rare grilled meat and was mellow enough that it allowed the other ingredients to shine though.  The ketchup with the little bit of Worcestershire had a nice zing that it didn’t cover up and it didn’t fight with Michael’s homemade pickles.  All the ingredients danced happily in my mouth.

Don’t be afraid to try new pairings and stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more insights and recipes for pairings.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For more recipes you can visit our sister site Floating Boats, where you will find all sorts of inspiration via recipes, art, and other inspiration.

 

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Blenheim Vineyards in Virginia Wine Country

Blenheim Vineyards Patio space

The day started as overcast.  We began with the amazing views from Monticello, without the sun, but without actual rain also.  The world was covered in the gorgeous bright green of spring.  It’s that shade that pops against the gray, turning even a completely overcast day into something bright!  It was spring in Virginia, with the ground covered in pink petals washed from the trees.  It’s especially magical for those of us who have been so long away from the green.

That changed as we drove our way to Blenheim Vineyards.  The sky started to leak.  Not a full on rain storm, just steady inconvenient rain.  But that was okay. We didn’t get to sit outside at the outdoor tasting bar at Blenheim, but wandered down into the main tasting room.  It is an A-frame building with the front full of windows as well as windows along the peak of the room. When you walk in you can also look down through the glass floor at the center to see the winery, it’s tanks and barrels.  The windows here allow for natural light even on this rainy day.

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The end of the tasting room holds the bar so you can enjoy your tasting looking out through the huge windows overlooking the vineyard.  The bar was full, so we were guided to a table.  I asked if we needed to go to the bar for our tastings and was assured that we did not.  They have pourers assigned to the tables who come around.  The staff, which seemed to be all female were helpful, friendly and knowledgeable about the wines and the vineyard.  Out came the glasses and the tasting menu.

The pours here were generous and the atmosphere was relaxed.  It was a place you could come and enjoy a tasting with friends, which was what we were doing.  Those types of tastings lean more toward conversation with your friends, and less about in-depth tasting and contemplation.  This of course is rather new to Michael and I, wine geeks who typically taste with just the two of us and take copious notes.  I did manage to scribble a few down and when I did ask about the blends, the staff were quick to pull out the vineyard map and show us where each block was located.

– A map of the vineyard blocks with all the varieties at Blenheim Vineyards

The grapes of Blenheim Vineyards

They are growing 13 varieties of grapes here.  You have the standard Cabernet Franc and Viognier which are the varieties that seem to grow best here in Virginia.  In addition they grow, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Roussanne and then surprisingly (at least for me) Pinot Noir.  Yes, I’m still two short.  They also have a block of Teroldego and a block of Garganega which are new and have only been in the ground for 3 years.  Teroldego is a deeply colored red grape from northern Italy in the Province of Trentino.  Garganega is a white grape also from Northern Italy from the Provinces of Verona and Vicenza.  It will be interesting to see how these grapes do.

The tasting at Blenheim Vineyards

I fell in love with the Rosé ’16.  It does 48 hours on the skins.  This is a blend of 46% Merlot, 31% Cab Franc, 12% Pinot Noir and 11% Syrah.  It was complex on the nose and tart on the palate. ($17)

The Chardonnay ’15 was partially (30%) aged in Hungarian and American Oak for 5 months.  While you got a little oak on the nose, the palate was clean and bright. ($17)

The 2015 Painted white has a totem on the label.  It is 58% Chardonnay, 21% Viognier, 12% Albarino, 9% Sauvignon Blanc aged for 9 months in French and Hungarian oak with 35% tank aged. ($25)

Petit Verdot ’14 was 10 months on mixed oak; 75% American Oak and 25% French Oak.  It had a yummy nose, was milder on the palate with a quick finish but was very nice. (My dear friend Mess, has discovered that she likes Petit Verdot and after searching for a term, decided that they were chewy!)($24)

The Painted Red ’15 also features a totem.  The Painted Red 2015 was 44% Cab Franc, 31% Petit Verdot, 13% Merlot, 12% Cab Sav, 76% aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian Oak. This was very nice but our favorite of the reds remained the Petit Verdot. ($30)

They also sell “growlers” here.  Yep, they have 2 wines, the Claim House White (83% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Noir and 7% Viognier (un-oaked) and the Claim House Red 84% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot (un-oaked) that are available at $6 per glass or you can buy a growler for $7 and fill it for $19. The growlers are becoming popular in this area.  You buy the growler itself once and then can return to have it refilled!  These wines are not all estate, but include fruit from some other vineyards.  Both are NV (non vintage).

Doesn’t Somebody Famous own this winery?

So here I am two thirds of the way through this post and I have just gotten around to telling you that Dave Matthews owns this vineyard.  I am a Dave Matthews fan from way back and was lucky enough to see them play on Brown’s Island in Richmond with Widespread Panic back in the ’90’s.  Dave draws the totems on the labels for the blends.

Blenheim Vineyard

The posters of the labels for the Blenheim Vineyard blends, drawn by Dave Matthews

Dave designed the winery with William Johnson and finished it in 2000.  The winery, that you see though the glass floor in the center of the tasting room is nestled into the hillside to help with climate control.  The place is made from reclaimed wood and those south facing windows mean that they don’t need to use lighting in tasting room at all in the summer.

Dave Matthews moved to Charlottesville when he was 19.  He formed the Dave Matthews band here.  Did you know their first concert was on Earth Day in 1991?  Without knowing the connection we had dinner (and great burgers and beer) at Miller’s in Charlottesville where he bartended before he started the band.

The Vineyard and Winery were meant to make good wine, not necessary to make money.  Success had hit and they had the luxury of not needing the money.  So they focused on the wine, and in my opinion succeeded.  Inspired by Farm Aid, he started out with the BOWA (Best of What’s Around) farm outside of Charlottesville that they rehabilitated and had certified organic. He planted Blenheim Vineyards on the remnants of an old vineyard that was on the property.

But why is it named Blenheim Vineyards?

Ok, while it seems like this should be an easy question, I found the answer to be a bit ’round about.

So…John Carter was the Secretary of the Colony of Virginia.  In 1730 he obtained a large parcel of land in what is now Albemarle County Virginia.  His son Edward, of Blenheim built the first Blenheim house, which was named for the Duke of Marlborough who won the War of the Spanish Succession for Britain.  The Duke’s family seat was Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  Blenheim Farm & Blenheim Vineyards are located on this property.

It is said that Thomas & Martha Jefferson stayed here when their coach had to stop nearby in a snowstorm.  The house burned down in the mid 1840’s.

The Women of Blenheim Vineyards

I mentioned that the tasting room staff was primarily women.  Well the winery staff is also female dominated, which is a rarity these days.  Their Winemaker and General Manager Kirsty Harmon, graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology in 1998.  She apprenticed with Gabriele Rausse (who has his own winery in Virginia and was the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello and is often referred to as “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry”).  She then studied at UC Davis in California getting a degree in Viticulture and Enology in 2007.  She spent a bit of time in France and New Zealand working in the industry and then became the Winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards in 2008.

The remainder of the major members of the staff are also female (I’m lovin’ the girl power!).  Tracy Love runs the Sales department, Ellen Houle is the tasting room manager, Amanda Gray is the Event Manager & Mimi Adams is the Vineyard Manager.

So if you are an environmentalist, a feminist and like good music, good people and good wine (like me) than you should definitely stop by Blenheim.  If it is a pretty day you can see the grounds, but even if it’s raining, it’s well worth the trip.

Blenheim Vineyards is located at 31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

They are open daily from 11 am to 5:30 pm, tastings are $7 per person and you can bring your dog, as long as they are on a leash and friendly.  They are on the Monticello Wine Trail

It is well worth it to make it a day!  Visit Monticello in the morning, stop at Blenheim Vineyards and have lunch at the Historic Michie Tavern.  Find another winery (there are plenty in the area) and then go for dinner downtown in Charlottesville.  We had amazing burgers the first night at Miller’s (you remember I mentioned the Dave Matthews connection there earlier) and the 2nd night we had an amazing meal at the Downtown Grill  (and a great bottle of Frank Family Pinot Noir from Carneros) followed by drinks upstairs at the Sky Bar.  This is a college town so it is eclectic and busy.  If the weather is nice I highly recommend enjoying a table out on the Downtown Mall which is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country.  It is located on Main Street and the center is set with tables for outdoor dining for all of the restaurants.

We will be posting more on our trip and of course on lots of other wine related things so stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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Sculpterra Wine & Art – Roaming the sculpture garden

Sculpterra Winery

Sculpterra is located on the East side of Paso off of Linne Road. This unique winery greets you with a magnificent sculpture garden.  Surrounded by gorgeous iron fencing by master black smith Robert C. Bentley the garden itself is filled with the beautiful sculpture work of John Jagger.

Dr. Warren Frankel bought this property back in the 1980’s and moved his family there in 1990.  Paul his son is the winemaker, a graduate of Cal Poly in Viticulture and Enology.  Paul is more than just the winemaker, he also manages the vineyards, deals with fruit and juice sales and occasionally can be found pouring in the tasting room.

As we were here on a Saturday, the winery was busy and had an accordion player playing live in the tasting room.  In addition to making their own wines, they also sell bulk fruit and juice to small independent winemakers.  They do a wide variety of wines here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines are lovely and it is a wonderful place to come grab a glass of wine and wander the sculpture garden for a little art fix.

Enjoy a virtual stroll through their amazing sculpture gardens…you’ll have to provide your own wine, I recommend a rose.

Reflection Tasting in Vertical from Wiens Family Cellars

Wiens Family Cellars was having a Vertical tasting of their Reflections red blends and we couldn’t go…so we put together a vertical of our own.  We had the 2008, 2010 and the 2011.  These are of course blends, so they are all a little different, so this a little different from a typical vertical.  Typically you would have a single variety of grape or a fairly set blend that you would be comparing from year to year.  You would get the differences in the climate and season that affect each year’s harvest.  You would also be able to see how the wine ages.  We were able to do those things, but the field for comparison was a bit more wide open.  Let me take a minute to give you the breakdown on these three vintages.

  • 2008 Reflection is 30% Sangiovese, 28% Barbera, 28% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot  with Alcohol 15.1  and Residual sugar .6%
  • 2010 Reflection is 63% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel with 14.5 Alcohol and .5 % residual sugar.
  • 2011 Reflection is 42% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 14% Zinfandel, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Primitivo, 2% Montepulciano, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Dolcetto with 12.5 Alcohol! and .2 residual sugar

So as you can see this blend is Sangiovese based, but that’s about where the similarities end.  This makes for a brilliantly exciting tasting!  At the winery they are doing “Reflections of the Decades” and they are tasting 6 of these wines, 2006-2011. We somehow can’t find the 2009 so I must have already enjoyed it!  At the winery they are doing a decade theme starting with the 60’s for the 2006.  I perused their pairings and then went back to the suggestions with the wines. We picked up some Spanish meats and cheeses (yes I know, I could have picked up Italian!).  We did a tasting upon opening and then let them breathe for a bit and tasted each with the meats and cheeses.  For the pairings we went a little out of order and cooked them for each course.  I know it sounds tough, but…we have Trader Joes.  So here’s the run down for the pairings:

  • 2010 Reflection with a goat cheese and basil pizza, to which we added a little sage and thyme.
  • 2008 Reflection with Eggplant Parmesan
  • 2011 Reflection with meat lasagna and a spinach salad.

Then we had chocolate cake for dessert and tasted it with all 3.

 

We found that the wines opened up quite a bit over the course of the evening.  I had e-mailed the winery to ask decanting recommendations.  Bob was kind enough to get back to me and suggested decanting the 2010 and 2011 straight down into a decanter on the counter top to add as much oxygen as possible.  For the 2008 he suggested carefully pouring it down the side of a tilted decanter to give it some space to gently open up.   Thanks Bob!  Unfortunately, I do not yet own a nice decanter.  So…we took the advice the best that we could.  We opened up the 2008 and gently poured into glasses and let it air.  The other two we got the aerator out and poured them through to add oxygen.  On to the tasting!