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.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

12 Days of Wine – Day 4 Côte Bonneville

DuBrul Vineyard is one of the older vineyards in the Yakima Valley. Hugh and Kathy Shiels purchased the property in 1991 and pulled out the orchards to plant vines. This is a family business and the winemaker is their daughter Kerry Shiels.

Last summer we spent a morning with Kerry first at their Sunnyside tasting room and then in the family’s DuBrul vineyard.

Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington
Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington

The tasting room is in the historic Grandview Train Depot, on the line that connected Walla Walla and Yakima. After it’s life as a train stop and before becoming a tasting room it was home to her father’s orthopedic practice.

Dubrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels
DuBrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels

The DuBrul vineyard is a bit of a drive up into the Rattlesnake Hills. The rolling terrain has multiple aspects allowing them to grow a variety of grapes types in the micro climates. We felt the micro climates just walking across the vineyard from one side to the other.

2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling Yakima Valley

Côte Bonnevile 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling
Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling

This is the oldest block on the DuBrul. I assume it predates their purchase of the property as it was planted in 1982. These almost 40 year old vines produce fruit that Côte Bonneville turns into spectacular wine a Spätlese style riesling that sits at low 10% abv. I must share with you the beautiful quote from Kerry on the back label.

On a rocky windswept plateau high above the Yakima Valley DuBrul Riesling vines struggle to survive. Among the oldest planted in Washington State, their small truncks bear witness to the severe growing conditions. Yet their tiny berries transform into wine glowing with intensity.

On the bottle – 2018 Côte Bonneville Riesling

When we spoke with Kerry, she was in the midst of her Summer of Riesling. They had taken a cruise on the Mosel with their wine club earlier in the year, tasting Mosel Rieslings side by side with those from DuBrul. I have no doubt, that as good as this wine was, the Rieslings from Côte Bonneville will continue to get even better. I like to explore wines, and rarely keep more than one bottle of a wine in the cellar. Life is too short to drink the same wine! I’ll make an exception here. This is a wine that I want to have around all the time. Oh…I guess we should get on to the…

Tasting

Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling
Côte Bonneville 2018 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling

This wine has a light golden color. It’s a wine that I want to dab behind my ears. You get that classic petrol and then citrus and tart pear. It is rich with a bit of sweetness (it is spätlese in style after all). With the low alcohol it is quaffable, but you will find yourself wanting to savor this wine.

Pairing

Pad Thai with Tofu
Pad Thai with Tofu

Riesling with Thai food is classic right? We paired this with a lunch of Pad Thai. Lunch seemed appropriate. This wine is bottled sunlight and it felt appropriate to bask in the winter sun as it came through the window while we enjoyed this wine.

More on Côte Bonneville

We will be on to Day 5 tomorrow!

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Amphorae, riesling, Jura varieties and more with Beckham Estate Vineyard

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

Located in the Chehalem Mountains, Beckham is actually on Parrett Mountain on the south east end of the range.  We visited them in July of 2018 to hear their story.  It was a beautiful morning and Annedria set us up on the patio next to the tasting room, (which has a beautiful view), for our tasting. Andrew was busy in the studio making amphorae.

We had discussed the creation of the vineyard (you can see that in our post here).  Now we move on to Annedria telling us about planting their Riesling, expanding the vineyard, their inspiration from the Jura in France and then how the Amphorae Project began.

Planting riesling

Beckham Riesling block
Beckham Riesling block

When choosing a white grape to plant, they settled on Riesling and planted in 2013, the traditional way on the steepest, rockiest part of their vineyard.

“We had to hand pick with a pick axe every hole for each vine because it was just cobble and it’s taken a little while to come along.”

Annedria Beckham, July 2018

They had warm vintages from 2014 to 2017, so the vintage in 2016 was small with an even smaller vintage in 2017 since it is dry farmed.  Annedria was hoping they might have enough this year to do something.  She’s really looking forward to some Riesling. 

When the Riesling was planted they had 6 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Riesling on their 8 and a half acre parcel.

“I was doing my happy dance thinking we were done.  Now we were finished. No more breaks spent planting vines, pounding posts, no more catch wire. All of the infrastructure was finally in.  We were done.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

More vineyard

Beckham the new block
Beckham the new block of Trousseau Noir

But Andrew was contemplating the acreage behind them.  He spoke to the owner and made a deal to purchase a bit of the parcel. 

The parcel was covered in Douglas Fir.  The family who owned it were Oregon homesteaders and had gone through a variety of crops on the land before settling on timber.  The owner liked that they were farming and was happy to make a deal for the property.  The county, however, couldn’t parcel off the property in smaller blocks, so they ended up with the whole 20 acres.

Soon Andrew was thinking of what else he could plant and the journey of contacting the timber guys, pulling out the Douglas fir and all that follows began again.

They cleared 10 of the 20 acres and prepped it.  At this point they had a bit more knowledge on how to lay out a vineyard and had decided to go with higher density, up to 2000 vines per acre from 1200.  That makes for just a few vines…2000 vines times 7 acres…that’s a chunk of change. They were also ready to go with North American root stock.  The previous vines were own rooted, which was pretty safe up here on Parrett Mountain, as they do not share equipment.

To save a bit, they took cuttings of North American root stock and planted them.  They could get the vines going and when they were ready, purchase bud wood to graft in place.

Falling in love with the Jura

Around this time, they also managed to take their first real vacation in years and and visited France.  They visited Burgundy, which Annedria said was wonderful, but they had enough Pinot Noir planted.  When they visited the Jura, they felt completely at home. This region is one of the undiscovered areas of France for many people. 

“it wasn’t a monoculture there yet.  There were still farms, there were still animals, there were still other crops.  It wasn’t just row after row of vines and hillside after hillside of vines.  And the people…you know, dirt under their fingernails and they were doing it like we were doing it”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

They visited cellars and garages in the Jura and decided that these were the varieties they wanted to plant.

Planting Jura varieties and testing some Italian varieties

There were a couple of vineyards that had planted Trousseau Noir, so it wasn’t completely new, but in around May of 2018 they grafted over 2 acres to 3 or 4 clones of Trousseau Noir, including the Bastardo clone.  They also grafted an acre to Sauvignon Blanc and an acre to Aligote. While they don’t anticipate getting Poulsard, they are looking to add Savagnin.

They also have a test block of a couple of Italian varieties, high alpine Nebbiolo, Montuni and Albana.  These last two from the Emilia Romagna region.  With global warming they are testing the waters to see what might start to grow well.

Making the cool climate style of Pinot Noir that they like is becoming more of a challenge without doing things like making additions, adding water, reacidulating etc in the winery, with the multiple warm vintages that they have been experiencing.  They’ve been doing it, but it is tougher.

A vineyard, a winemaker and an artist with clay – The amphorae project

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road with it’s amphorae

Back to 2013.  They planted the Riesling, bought the new property, started clearing and one night,  Annedria has half a moment to flip thorough a Wine Spectator and comes across a piece on Elizabetta Foradori.

“I was flipping through waiting for my computer to load and I see this photograph of this stunning Italian woman in her underground cellar and row after row of these beautiful terra cotta vessels.  And it was Elizabetta Foradori in her cellar.  And I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew, because I knew him well enough that I didn’t want him to get this crazy idea that he needed to start making amphorae, because we had enough on our plate.  But I showed him the article and said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.”  And he flipped through and said “I can make those”  I said “ I know you can dear, but that’s not the point.  How ‘bout we try the wines first?”  And he ordered clay the next day and started working on shape and size.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

This was in his wheelhouse.  Andrew’s pottery had always been large scale, now it had a purpose.  They tried to keep this quiet.  I mean… it was an experiment.  But friends found out and soon there was quite a bit of interest. At this point they just had the amphorae, but they did not have any wine made in it.

Beckham Amphora and barrels
Beckham Amphora and barrels

Trials for amphorae – the experimentation

Andrew worked with a chemist trialing clay.  They searched for an Oregon clay, but the closest they could find was from Sacramento in the delta.  Most terracotta is used for pots for plants, so there are things like barium and color stabilizers in it that would not work for making wine.  The clay body has changed over the years as he trialed the wines.  As the potter and the winemaker he can look at a vintage and see where he might like to tweek the vessel or adjust firing temperatures.  It’s all a big experiment, which, like anything with wine, takes time.

He was scientific in his testing.  The first year they used their estate pinot noir and just did primary fermentation in the amphorae, then pressed and aged in neutral oak.  There were just 24 cases of this wine.  They did not additions other than a touch of sulfur before bottling to keep the variables down as they tested. 

After ferment was complete, he had this empty amphorae just crying to be used, so they picked up some Pinot Gris that another winemaker had and did a little skin contact Pinot Gris.  This first year was 2 weeks skin contact, the next 30 days, the next year 40 days and now he does 10 months.

A summer spent creating amphorae

So in 2014, happy with the initial test, he spent his entire summer break making around 30 amphorae.  The clay body was slightly different this time.  They took a little more of their Estate Pinot Noir fermented it in the amphorae, pressed and then separated half to amphorae and half to neutral oak for aging.  These were later bottled separately as Creta for clay and Ligna for wood. 

“ It was really fun to pour those wines side by side because it was split 50 50 down the middle between what people liked.  Because the ligna wasn’t too far off the beaten path.  You could tell there was a difference.  There was this textural component, this purity but it wasn’t so different to be too far out there.  Where as the Creta in 2014 was very different, was very iron driven, there was a I don’t want to say a “blood character” . There was a very clay textural component.”

Annedria Beckham July 2018

But the point wasn’t to taste the clay, the point was to get a purity of place.  So he tweeked the clay body again and settled on one in 2015 that he has moved forward with.  He know feels that you get that textural component, but it’s not so overt that the clay is what stands out.

On to the Winery and fields of amphorae

The Beckham Winery through the vines
The Beckham Winery through the vines

At this point Annedria pours us a little of their Syrah/Viognier and we head up to the winery and studio. The Winery is modest, with the views they have the majority of tastings are done in the tasting room or on the patio, but they can do tastings in the winery. The building was filled with barrels and amphorae in multiple shapes.

  • Tasting in the Beckham Winery
  • Tasting in the Winery at Beckham

Annedria spoke to us about the amphorae, the progression and the process, going through Andrew’s experiments with firing temperatures and how they change the oxygen exposure and can even impart reductive qualities to the wine if fired very hot.

She also mentioned some other vintners who were using Andrew’s amphorae. We had seen a couple of these amphorae when we visited Montinore and spoke with Rudy Marchesi. I also remember seeing later that Ross & Bee of Maloof wines had picked up an amphorae, and I look forward to tasting the wine they make in this.

We continued on and met Andrew in the studio where he was in the process of making another amphorae. I think that you can look forward to tasting many wines aged in his amphorae in the future, from winemakers around the region and beyond.

Visiting Beckham Estate Vineyard

Beckham Estate Vineyard is located at

30790 SW Heater Road, Sherwood, OR 97140

Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains
Wine tasting at Beckham Vineyard with a view of the Chehalem Mountains

You can reach them at 971.645.3466 or by emailing Annedria at [email protected]

They are open typically for drop in tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Outside of that time you can feel free to contact them in advance to schedule a tasting by appointment.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

The 7th day Pizza & wine in your PJ’s

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza

On the 7th day…well we rested! Eating Pizza and Sucking Glass with Maloof Wines.

Eat pizza, suck glass.

The Mantra from RossandBee at Maloof Wines

 We have been cooking a lot lately, and these 12 Days of Wine are keeping us busy.  Today on the 7th day of Wine, we rest. We pick up a white pizza, make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie, thanks to the recommendation of Ross & Bee of Maloof Wines.

We met them this summer and tasted their wines while in the Willamette Valley.  You can read the piece we wrote on them here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/ross-bee-maloof-wines/

2017 Where Ya PJ’s at?

This wine is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, they consider it their version of a rosé.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

Ross Maloof at the 2018 Uncommon Wine Festival

Pairing Suggestion

So what to pair?  On the Maloof site they suggest”

Serve chilled or at cellar temp with white za pies or with a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusak movie.  Ours is Grosse Point Blank.

From the Maloof website http://rossandbee.com/wines/

We pulled out the “Where Ya PJ’s at” and donned our PJ’s for pizza popcorn and wine (no lounging in your underwear here).  We could enjoy the tree, the lights, a movie and rest a bit.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

The pizza I will give a shout out to Blaze Pizza

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

This was quick, easy, and just the right size to pair with our bowl of popcorn.  We ordered the “White Top” signature pizza, which is white cream sauce with mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and fresh arugula, which they add at the end after it has baked for all of 3 minutes in the high heat pizza oven, while I watch.

Trust me there was plenty of garlic! (they people making the pizza are generous with toppings and always check to be sure if they’ve added enough or if you want more!) 

We popped up some buttered popcorn to go with the ‘za, popped the bottle of “Where Ya PJ’s At?” and curled up on the couch with a movie.

The wine

The Where Ya PJ’s At? is coppery in the glass from that pinot gris with skin contact. The pinot gris gives it a rich nose also. There is a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle (which I kinda like).  The flavors are rich and the bit of effervescence tickles your tongue and your taste buds. 

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

The pairing

We actually watched Sofia Coppolas “Marie Antoinette”and the wine channeled that everyday luxury kind of feel for me. It was a day of lounging about, enjoying tasty bits and wine, like lounging at court. Overall the food and wine pairing was perfect. The movie…hmmm. (maybe we should have gone with a Cusack film)

Want some?

Want to find a bottle of this stuff?  Well, they don’t yet ship, but if you are in one of the lucky areas where their wines can be found… here’s the list

Perhaps there is a bit of the 90 cases of this wine that they made, left out there in the universe. You can hope!

Maybe you should drop by and see them?

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

If you want to visit them…drop a note from the website where you can join the Maloof Tang Clan

Or drop them an email at [email protected]

You can find them at Day Camp

 21080 N Highway 99W, Dundee, OR 97115

Tastings are almost anytime by appointment only.

From the Maloof Site http://rossandbee.com/contact/

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

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Montinore Estate – About the wines

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Continuing our conversation with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

 After looking over the Willamette Valley AVA map and having Rudy give us some background on the soils and the impact of the Missoula floods we sat with him to talk about how these soils influence the wines at Montinore Estate.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very expressive and Rudy told us that pinot grown in the windblown loess here tend to be brighter, with berry flavors rather than the cherry notes that are so often associated with pinot noir. The pinots here also are very spicy with baking spices.

They produce several different Pinot Noirs here.  Here is a sampling.  I can’t promise that I have not missed one.

  • “Red Cap” Pinot Noir:  This is a blend from all the vineyards giving you multiple areas and soil types blended into one bottle. 
  • Reserve Pinot Noir:  Again from multiple sites but all within the estate. These are the best blocks and lots. They ferment and age separately and then blend the best.
  • Parsons’ Ridge Pinot Noir:  This vineyard block sits on a part of the vineyard where the vines face two different directions.  The lots, as they are different, are fermented separately and then blended.
  • Keeler Estate Pinot Noir:  This is a 25 acres Biodynamic vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills that they source from.  This gives you another opportunity to taste and compare the terroir.
  • Windy Hill Pinot Noir: This comes from the Southern part of the Valley and is influenced by the winds of the Van Duzer Corridor.
  • Cataclysm Pinot Noir: Comes from their Block 1 which has mineral rich soils.  They pick the most expressive barrels from this block to make this wine.

Pinot Gris

 He finds the white wines to actually be more distinctive.  Pinot gris grown in the Missoula flood loess, is very complex.  Rather than apple and pear, they get citrus and herbal notes. In warmer years there will be tropical notes.  Always he finds pinot gris here to have lots of texture.

Riesling

The riesling he find distinctive, but without as much difference although he feels sure some might disagree.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is new here.  They had quite a bit planted early on, but it was the clone brought up from California.  This clone was a late ripener and had tight clusters which were prone to rot.  It was a great clone when there was good weather in a vintage, but that was about 1out of every 4 years.

They have now planted the new Dijon clone, which has looser clusters and is an earlier ripening clone.  They are back in the Chardonnay business in a small way.  He is encouraged by the quality, but it’s too soon to know what they will get stylistically from the vineyards with these clones.  They will need a few more vintages to figuring this out.

Bubbles

They are currently producing a prosecco style bubbly, and have a Traditional Methode Champenoise Sparkling wine of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which is yet to be released.

Other Varieties

In addition they are growing bits of Teroldego and Lagrein, Gerwürztraminer and Müller Thurgau.

Blends and specialty wines

You will find Rosé, Orange wine, fortified wine (Ruby), Ice wine (Frolic) and Verjus also on their wine line-up which is very diverse, having something for every palate.

Everything here is done on site, and they try to be as Estate as possible.  The 2016 Pinot got away from 100% Estate because they had too much demand and had to contract a couple of other growers.

Speaking with Rudy and walking the winery, you can see the pride they take in making the best possible wines here.

You can learn a bit about the estate with our posts.

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-estate-a-recent-history/

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-the-deeper-history/

And check back here as we will next talk to Rudy about Biodynamics before heading with him to the cellar for a tour and barrel tasting.

If you are in the Willamette Valley stop by and give the wines a taste for yourself.  You can find them a:

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
503.359.5012

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Ross & Bee – Maloof Wines

Ross & Bee Maloof

The brains and the brawn, the science and the passion…the perfect pairing for making wines.  Ross and Bee consider themselves to be a “true yin and yang team.”

Ross & Bee Maloof exude joy when you speak with them.  They are truly excited, bubbling to tell you about these wines that they are so passionate about.  And it’s contagious.  When we spoke with them at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, they were multi-tasking, pouring glasses and keeping up multiple conversations at the same time.

Their story, while not easy, is kind of dreamy.  Bee is an aerospace materials engineer, rooted in science, while Ross comes from a hospitality background, running Food and Beverage programs on the east coast in Phili.  Ross had this urge to get into production and got into wine doing an internship with Brianna Day of Day Wines.  Brianna runs Day Camp, a wine cooperative and home to 11 small producers, one of which is now Maloof.

In 2015 they made a single barrel of wine, while living a bi-coastal life, just coming to Oregon for harvests.

Ross: In 2016 I had left my job in Philadelphia and I lived in a tent behind the winery from the middle of July through Thanksgiving and Bee came out for a really good portion of that too.  She took all her vacation

Bee: and I’d been saving it for years and years and years

Ross: Spent it all

Bee: In a tent”

So they spent the harvest in a tent behind the winery to fund their first vintage.  At this point, they decided to make a go of it.  They returned to Phili, packed up the stuff they didn’t sell, put the dogs in the car and did a 33-day drive across the country, with stops along the way to visit family.

This year they will be doing their 4th vintage, but they have only been full time residents since last May.

They focus on white wine, making 6 or 7 wines each year, with only one being a red wine and even that wine is typically 30% white fruit.  Their style is

“Bright, snappy, low alcohol, high acid white wines.”

As we got into tasting the first wine Bee gave us a disclaimer.

Bee: This first one is our possibly, I don’t want to say our most boring, because it’s very classic. (But) It’s going to get weirder going forward.

2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Bee: This is our 2017 Riesling, it’s from a really cool vineyard at the top of the Chehalem Mountain Range, kinda just down the road, the Nemarniki vineyard and it is run by a female farmer, which I’m always a big proponent of.  She and her 3 legged mastiff dog, Babe, basically make the best fruit on Chehalem Mountain, it’s so good.  We fermented this super classically, low and slow over the winter, in large format neutral oak puncheons, so 500 liter puncheons and then we bottled in the spring.  And you’ll notice there’s a little sparkle to it, a little frizzante.”

A couple of extra notes:  Nemarniki is Dry Farmed, LIVE Certified, sits at 850 feet and the soil here is Loess.  The alcohol sits quietly at 10.5%, and it runs around $18 a bottle.

They suggest spicy pizza (they actually will suggest a type of pizza to pair with any wine. Pizza is kinda their thing), or Asian dishes with lots of umami.  They refer to this wine as “Stone-fruit moon juice”, which is an apt description.

2017 “Where ya PJs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

The Pinot Gris came from Johan Vineyard which will be in the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA when that is approved and the Riesling, like the Riesling above came from Nemarniki in the Chehalem Mountain AVA.  Soils at Johan are silty loam and Nemarniki is loess.

Which pie to enjoy this wine with?  They suggest a white pizza or “a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusack movie”

This wine sits at 11.5 alcohol and will set you back a whopping $21 (do it if you can)

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

We moved onto the final wine they were pouring on this particular day.

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

“Ross:  So this last one is our Gewürztraminer. This is from Beckenridge vineyard, just outside of Eola-Amity Hills. The vines here are turning 40 this year.  They are own-rooted so really old vine Gewürtztraminer for Oregon.  It’s a really lovely little place.  We take this fruit and ferment it fully dry on the skins which ended up taking about 23 days.  So that’s 23 days skin contact before it was pressed off to neutral oak for the winter and bottled in the spring.”

This wine is from Beckenridge Vineyard.  The vines here are own-rooted and dry farmed and they are LIVE Certified.  The elevation is 650 feet and the soil is Jory.

On their site they describe this wine as “rose petals and black tea” and “A brooding copper color, with nourishing aromatics of flowers and cheering alpine herbs”.  The alcohol goes up another notch to 12.5%, which still sits on the low side in the universe as a whole, and runs $20.  They suggest pairing this wine with root veggies and alpine cheeses, oh, and Pizza…always with pizza.

As I noted the rich color of the Gerwürztraminer, Ross filled us in on their approach to this wine:

“Ross:  Yeah, so essentially if we kinda think about wine in the binary of white and red, white wine you are typically pressing the grape and separating the solid matter out of the equation and just fermenting the juice by itself and that’s why white wine is bright and acidic and easy to drink.  Whereas red wine, you crush the grapes and you leave all that solid matter, the skins, the seeds, the stems sometimes, you leave that in and even kind of reincorporate it.  I think of it as steeping tea. The skin of the berry is really where all the pigment is, that’s why even with table grapes, if you go to the grocery store and you buy red grapes, if you cut one open it doesn’t bleed red onto your counter it’s white on the inside, which is why Champagne is crystal clear and it’s made of Pinot Noir.  As you increase that steeping time that contact time with the solid matter, in the fermentation, you get more color pigmentation.  So if you take white grapes and do the same thing you would normally do for a red ferment, you end up with this copper hue.  But what you also end up with is a white wine that has more phenolic bitterness or drive complexity and tannins.  So things that you might more often associate with a red wine.  There are a number of wine cultures in the world that have been making white wine that way forever.  The Republic of Georgia, parts of Slovenia, north eastern Italy, make their white wines, the same way they make their red wines.  That’s just the tradition and how they make it.”

This wasn’t the first reference to Georgian wines we had heard today and finding these “Orange Wines” made the day pretty unique.

Other Maloof Wines

They were not pouring their Syrah on this particular day, but I asked about it.  It was two weeks from bottling at that time.  In 2015 they did a classic Syrah/Viognier blend.  This year though, it would be Syrah/Marsanne.  It was planned to be a Syrah/Marsanne/Roussanne but the Roussanne was lost to a frost.

In addition they have a sur lee aged Pinot Gris that they sold out of earlier in the year, but they will be bottling again next year.

How to find them?

Yeah, not online, at least not yet.  Watch for them to get that set up in the spring of 2019.  In the mean time they are distributed in Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont.  Check out their distributor page here.  http://rossandbee.com/find-wine/

Find them online at http://rossandbee.com/

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maloofwines/

At Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maloofwines/

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out other interviews we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery , Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars , Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn, Alex Neely of Libertine Wines  and Deven Morganstern of Joyful Noise.  We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

 

Wine, Art & Hedonism with Libertine Wines Alex Neely

Libertine Bottle Shots

Libertine (as defined by Alex Neely)

Noun | lib er tine | \ ˈli-bər-ˌtēn \

“One who eschews all cultural values, pure hedonism”

On a side note Merriam-Webster tells us that the term originally meant “freedman” when it appeared in 14th-century English and evolved to include religious and secular freethinkers in the 1500s.  Freethinker…that pretty well describes Alex Neely.

We met Alex at the Uncommon Wine Festival held at Vista Hills Vineyards, an event that would seem to attract and showcase freethinkers in the wine world, so Alex was right at home.

Alex Neely, Winemaker

We spoke with Alex about how he came to wine making.

“I used to purchase wine for a fancy food store and I was a cheese monger as well.  I decided to go into wine production, so I called up the guy whose new world Rieslings I respected the most and that was Barnaby at Teutonic. So then I’ve been with Barnaby since 2014, as his assistant and helping run the vineyards, and then I’ve been making this label at Teutonic since 2015.  Started out with just some rieslings, and then just started getting some Dolcetto this past year in 2017 and I’m not too sure what the next year will hold but, we just keep adding on.“

The name Libertine Wines comes from the definition above and was shaped by his time at Reed College

“I majored in religious philosophy and mysticism and minored in hedonism”

We all laughed at that.  I was thinking back to college and figured, I kinda minored in hedonism also, but then…after reading about Reed College, I’m not sure it was a joke. Regardless, the wines he makes are an homage to that opulence.

“It’s how I live my life, I eat, drink and smoke whatever I care to and don’t worry about it.”

This stuff is new!

You won’t find this everywhere.  Alex just started releasing these wines about 3 months ago.

“I’m very new on the scene, but I’ve been hitting the market pretty hard, so we are in about 20 different places in Portland right now, but that’s it,  I just sell in Portland right now.  And then things like this, I’ve been to a couple, this is I think my 3rd group event, and then I’ve done like a whole bunch of other random tastings.”

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Art on the Labels

The labels will catch you.  They are the type that definitely draw your eye in a line-up of bottles.  Attracted to art that speaks of the wine and the story, his labels are unique and evocative.  From Carravaggios to psychedelic artists, you won’t forget these bottles.

“My wife helps me out as well she was an art history major at USC.  So I’ll find some goofy picture online and she’ll tell me what it is.”

2017 Sunnyside Vineyard Dolcetto Rosé

2017 Sunnyside Vineyard Dolcetto Rose

2017 Sunnyside Vineyard Dolcetto Rose

We started off tasting his 2017 Dolcetto Rose.  The fruit comes from the Sunny Side Vineyard down by Enchanted Forest. This vineyard in near Salem and sits off of Sunnyside Road near Rogers Creek.  The elevation is a little over 660 feet and the vineyard sits on a slight slope facing south west.  Soils here are Jory and Nekia. (Information from everyvine.com)

This rosé is foot stomped and sits in the cold room to soak on the skins for 2 days.  He then presses it off and it ferments with wild yeast.  It goes into neutral oak with just a tiny bit of sulfite as a preservative.  It’s unfiltered and unfined.

The label on this is “The Inspiration of Saint Matthew” by Carravaggio.

“And the legend has it, you’re not supposed to harvest Dolcetto until after Saint Matthews Day, so once I discovered that, I ran to my calendar and I was like s*^t, should I harvest this? Luckliy it was two weeks after, so all set.  I really like that he was the master of Chiaroscuro and I really like the contrast of the red against the black.”

The 2017 Acid Freak Rose

Libertine 2017 Acid Freak Rose

Libertine 2017 Acid Freak Rose

This wine was a bit of an accident, but a happy one.

“So I had a half barrel of Dolcetto rosé fermenting and there’s not much you can do with a half barrel once it’s done ‘cause it will oxidize.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but then I was pressing my Riesling off, it was late at night, I had filled up my holding tank  and there is still about 30 gallons left in the press pan and I said “screw it” I’ve had Riesling from Piedmont before, so I just pumped it into the Dolcetto barrel, they finished fermenting together, and then I liked it so much, I threw another barrel of each at it prior to bottling.”

With a wild yeast ferment in neutral oak, it again is unfiltered and unfined.  Just 71 cases were produced.

It is a familiar contradiction in the glass.  He says “Gentle yet rough. Soft yet hard. Strange yet familiar”.  It’s all that. I left with a bottle.

The artwork on this bottle came from him Googling “psychedelic picture”.  This picture popped up by the artist Larry Carlson.  The picture really embodied the wine for Alex so he contacted Larry and bought the rights.

2016 LaVelle Vineyard “Botrytis” Dry Riesling

Libertine 2016 Lavelle Botrytis Dry Riesling

Libertine 2016 Lavelle Botrytis Dry Riesling

This wine is a botrytisized skin contact Riesling.  It’s funny to hear a winemaker gushing over fuzzy gray grapes, but nobel rot will do that to you.

“So this particular year it came in with super pretty fuzzy gray noble rot, just perfect stuff.”

He found out about the botrytis from the guy growing the grapes, who asked what he would like to do with it.  Alex, unafraid, told him to let it go as long as it looked pretty, he was happy with it.  Botrytis has to have the right conditions, so this doesn’t happen every year and Alex was happy to have the opportunity to play with this. It hung a bit longer and developed nicely, then his wife and he footstomped the grapes and let them sit in the cold room for 5 days.  It went into the press, fermented and sat in barrel for 8 months.  At the time of this tasting it had been in bottle for over a year.

This wine has a beautiful nose and then surprising acid on the palate with a little tannic grip from the skin contact.

The artwork for both of the reislings is “The Triumph of Bacchus by Cornelis de Vos”.  Alex came across this painting right after he decided on the name Libertine.  ” I feel it embodies the true baroque opulence and pure hedonism of the Libertine. It is also a fun Rorschach Test as people tend to project their own personal views upon it. ”

2015 LaVelle Vineyard Riesling

This wine is also from the La Velle Vineyard, which is the oldest Vineyard in the south valley, 40 minutes or so North West of Eugene. The Riesling sits at the top of a hill at about 700 foot elevation.

This wine is the same vineyard, the same blocks as the 2016 “Botytis” Riesling.  2015 was a hot year and Alex wanted a slow cold ferment, but their production facility at that time was in the middle of the woods and without a cold room.  As a result it fermented outside through the winter, with Alex checking it monthly.   He definitely got a slow fermentation, it took 6 months to finish.  It then sat on the gross lees in neutral oak for another year and a half.  At the time of tasting it had been in the bottle for about a year.  It has the big rich style typical of 2015 vintage and a tiny bit of residual sugar, with great acidity.

On the beauty of honoring the vintage

“So the two (Rieslings) are drastically different because of the year.  I’m very vintage driven, I’m like let’s let the year shine through, everybody is like “Let’s let the soil shine through”, but there are a lot of other components going on.  I mean I could put a bunch of additives in there to make them all taste the same year after year after year, but where’s the fun in that?  My lob would be boring as hell.”

You can find Libertine Wines online at https://www.libertinewines.com/

On facebook or on Instagram where they have a great new sexy photo shoot posted with those bottles!

While they currently do not sell their wines on their website, they have a list of places you can find it in the Portland area https://www.libertinewines.com/where-to-buy

Keep checking back as they expand their reach!

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out other interviews we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery , Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars  and Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn.  We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Sweet Potato Gnocchi paired with Alsace Riesling


When it comes to getting inspiration for a good meal there is no place better to go than the Farmers Market.   I am lucky enough to frequent the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market in Las Vegas, yes, Las Vegas and yes, Downtown.  This market is in the gorgeous old (well old in Vegas terms) Downtown Bus Station.  This is an all organic market with local farmers (yes…there are farms in Las Vegas!) as well as some from further north in the state as well as Kerry Clasby, The Intuitive Forager, who brings in gorgeous produce from small organic farms in California.  Kerry started coming to town to bring her amazing finds to the fine chefs all over our fair city.  Luckily, she started a Farmers Market so all of us foodies could get our hands on some of those fine ingredients.

With all the amazing things you can find at this market (micro greens, fresh eggs, maitake mushrooms, baby artichokes, sorrel, purple cauliflower….the list just goes on and on) sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to try to figure out what to get to make a meal.  Luckily Chef Stu is always there at the market and it ready with a recipe for anything you can find.  On this occasion he inspired me with a recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi with spring vegetables.  You can read our 4farm2mrkt blog post with the recipe here!

So of course I needed a wine to pair with this great gnocchi.  Asparagus is notoriously difficult to pair with and the sweet potato gnocchi added a twist that I wasn’t sure what to do with.  So I did some research.

I was leaning toward an Alsace Riesling or a Gruner Veltliner from Austria with back up plans of a Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley (as recommended by Food and Wine).

So we headed to Marché Bacchus, which is a wonderful little wine shop and bistro here in Las Vegas. They were very busy with lunch, but Jeff Wyatt, the owner was kind enough to take a couple of minutes to help me and make a recommendation. With the asparagus he recommended something with good acid but also a heavier viscosity and directed us to a Schieferkopf Riesling from Alsace. It was a perfect pairing.

Marché Bacchus French Bistro & Wine Shop

Marché Bacchus French Bistro & Wine Shop

The Riesling was a 2010 by M. Chapoutier who is better known for the wines he produces in the Rhone. He and 5 friends decided to try their hand at Alsace Rieslings in 2009, so this was only their 2nd vintage. This wine is biodynamic and the grapes are grown on one of the highest vineyards in Alsace. Schieferkopf means “slate topped”. They handpick and gently press this wine and mature it on lees for several months in traditional Foudres. The maturing on lees is evident in the viscosity. This wine is a deep golden color and you get that note of petrol on the nose. When you put it in your mouth it has charming acid. Charming? You say. Yep, that’s what I say. It’s acid that is tempered by the thickness of the wine which balances both beautifully.

So the acid was lovely cutting through the warmth of the gnocchi and pairing well with the spring vegetables, but then this extra viscosity in the wine wrapped everything up.  I think in the 4farm2mrkt post I waxed poetic on the gnocchi describing it: “Like the feel of a brisk spring morning wrapped in your favorite sweater”  Which is actually applicable to this wine also.

Did this post make you hungry and thirsty?  Well click on the video and see how to make it yourself!

Municipal Winemakers and the “Funk Zone” wineries

Life is Better with Wine

I have wanted to visit Municipal Winemakers for a while.  We stopped in on our last trip through Santa Barbara a year and a half ago only to find that they were sold out and had no wines to taste!  Well, if you are going to have a problem in the wine industry, I think that is the one to have.  As we planned another trip through the area I did more research on the winery.

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

They are kitschy, located in The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail’s “Funk Zone”.  Their winemaker Dave Potter wants to get the wine to the people.  He loves making wine and meeting people who want to drink his wine.  Distributors and sales…that creates the distance between the grape and the glass and takes some of the heart out of the process.  So…Dave makes his wines and sells them in his tasting room.  Small lots, high quality and it’s working if he is selling out before he can release another vintage!

This is not your average wine tasting room.  Outside you have to see the sign on the sidewalk to realize that it is a tasting room, otherwise it looks like an old dive shop near the beach in Santa Barbara.  There are picnic tables set up in an area out front.  When you walk in you first notice the wall of stacked filing cabinets.

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

As we walked up for our tasting the person pouring pulled one drawer open and pulled out two glasses and oversized index card with a typed list of the tastings!

We tasted through the list, which included a dry, Riesling (Bright White), a Rose (Pale Pink), a Red Blend (Bright Red), a Pinot (Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir), a Cab and a sweeter Riesling (Sweetness).  The bottles have great labels and each bottle has a bottle number listed.  The rose was Grenache, Cinsault and Counoise and the “Bright Red” which I really enjoyed was the same blend with Syrah.  The Bright Red was light on the palate but with big flavor.  They do also have a “Wine Fountain” where they serve wine by the glass or in 1 liter refillable bottles.

We walked the neighborhood enjoying some more of the “Funk Zone” before heading up State Street.  Next door there is an old red phone box labeled “Book Exchange” and filled with books.  I had seen these on Facebook, but this was the first I had seen close up!  Need a book, take a book, done with a book, leave it!  It is a great concept!  Lots of other wineries have tasting rooms in the area.  Anacapa Vineyards is not even listed yet, they are so new!  They have a beautiful tasting room with big windows and chalkboards on the walls filled with all kinds of interesting information on their grapes and wines.  It is a regular wine education classroom!

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery up the street has old trucks painted with their logo out front and a juke box in the garage that is part of their barrel room.  Pali, which is next to Anacapa, has lots of windows and a patio on the side.  Santa Barbara Winery sits in a white washed building covered in vines.  In addition to the wineries listed on the Urban Wine Trail site, there are more popping up all the time.  We saw a side door on a building that said “Drake”.  This new little tasting room evidently recently opened.  When we were later at Sculpterra in Paso, the person pouring for us said his friend had just opened that tasting room (the wine world is a small world).

While we only had time to taste at Municipal, we will happily return to spend a day or two tasting in the area and enjoying the beach.  There are around 11 tasting rooms in “The Funk Zone” and another 9 or 10 within the downtown area, including Conway’s Deep Sea Tasting room out on Stearns Wharf.

For now…we were off to take a stroll up State Street and find Au Bon Climat (or ABC as it seems to be known here).

Due Forni – So much more than a pizza place

Due Forni Bar

In searching for great places to enjoy wine and food in Vegas you come across plenty of list of “Best Of”.  In a list of “Best Wine Bars” in Vegas I came across a name of an off strip restaurant that I had not heard of.  Due Forni specializes in pizza.  They have 2 special ovens to create Neapolitan and Roman style pizza.  Neapolitan has a soft heavy crust, while Roman is thinner and crisper and cracker like.  So you start with amazing crusts and then add amazing toppings like bufalo mozzarella, prosciutto, black truffle, roasted mushrooms or duck confit…  yeah…this place is awesome.

And…more than pizza they have amazing salads, appetizers and a mozzerella bar.

And…it gets better.  They have a series of Enomatic wine dispensers so you can get over 40 amazing wines by the glass.

And…the music here is upbeat Italian jazz and they have TVs playing classic “spaghetti westerns”.  There is a patio, dining room and bar and great atmosphere.

So on a cool (I’d say cold but those of you on the east coast would just laugh at me) and cloudy early afternoon, we headed out to give this place a try.

Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style

Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style

We headed straight in and sat at the bar.  I find the bar at lunch the place I am going to get the most information about the wines (and I got to stare at all those bottles in the Enomatic machines.  Then we started the process of staring at the menu.  We settled on the Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style.  This pizza is topped with oven roasted duck, bufala mozzarella, fresh spinach, red onions and an over easy baked egg.  Then we turned to Annie at the bar for advice on pairing.  She suggested the Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2009 and the Cavalchina 2009 Bardolina Chiaretto Rose.  Both of these wines come from the Veneto region of Italy, the home of Amarone.  It was really interesting to try the Valpolicella a deep red wine and the rose with the duck.  The Valpolicella had a lighter mouthfeel than I had expected, but the played nicely with the duck adding a richness.  The Rose was really lovely with it, the acid cutting through the fat of the duck and the egg.  So…both were great pairings!  We finished all of that off and then went back to the menu for more.

Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi

We chose to split the Semolina Gnocchi appetizer with smoked nueske’s bacon, peas and black truffle creme.  Michael looked for a Riesling on the menu (his favorite pairing) and chose the SA Prum Blue Slate Kabinette Riesling 2007 (he got to compare it to the SA Prum Essence he tried the other day).  I opted for the Pricipessa by Banfi Gavi 2011.  Again both paired nicely.  The Pricipessa cut through the fat in the gnocchi without simply cleaning my palate.  It mixed and added to the flavor of the gnocchi.

After that we were stuffed, but I look forward to going back and trying the Mozzarella bar and more of their amazing wines!  They offer tastings on the wines at 20% of the glass price.  They also have a selection of beers and list on the menu the option of buying the cooks a beer for a dollar!

Okay…now to geek out on the wines.

Valpolicella is made in the Veneto region of north-east Italy.  It’s signature tart cherry aroma has caused it to be thought of as Italian Beaujolais.  Typically these wines are light bodied and served at room temperature or slightly chilled and often sit at about 11% alcohol.  If they are labeled Valpolicella Superiore they must be aged for at least one year in oak and reach an alcohol level of 12%.

Valpolicella is made of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes.  Corvina is thought of as the best of these grapes and produces wines with more body than is typical of a Valpolicella, when the grape is grown on warmer, well-drained slopes.

Valpolicella

Valpolicella

The Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2009 is 80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 10% Sangiovese all grown in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpoicella on a southeast facing hill. The soil here is chalky and calcareous and the vines are cordon trained and spur-pruned. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the yield is 10 tons per hectare.  Hand picked in October the grapes are de-stemmed and macerated for 10 days in stainless steel fermenters (I warned you that I was going to geek out on the wines!).  They age this in Slovinian oak for one year.  While this wine is ready to drink now, you can also age it for a number of years.

Bardolina Chiaretto Rose

Bardolina Chiaretto Rose

The Cavalchina 2009 Bardolina Chiaretto Rose comes from the Cavalchina district.  Originally Chiaretto was the by product of the Bardolino Rosso.  This was the run off after maceration with the skins.  The harvest time for the Rosso was meant to keep the wine low acid, which is not ideal for roses.  Now the wines are made separately, with the grapes for the Chiaretto harvested 2 weeks before the Rosso.  There is a 24 hr maceration period followed by clarification and 15-18 days fermentation.  They avoid malolactic fermentation and leave the wine on it’s lees until it is bottled.  This wine has a lovely salmon color.

I gave you a little background on S.A. Prum with the  A Cloudy afternoon at the View  now Michael was getting to compare the SA Prum Blue Slate Kabinette Riesling 2007 with the SA Prum Essence.  This wine is named for the blue slate soil on the very steep slopes where it is grown.

I have been a Banfi fan for a while.  Several years ago I attended a wine pairing dinner where they served all Banfi wines.  It was a great experience and probably kick started me into the more intense love of wine that I have now.  So when Annie suggested the Principessa Gavia I was anxious to try it!

Castello Banfi has it’s winery in the Brunello region of Tuscany.  The vineyard is family-owned and they have sister estates in Piedmont, Vigne Regali and Principessa Gavi.  A bit of interesting history; the company is named after Teodolinda Banfi who was the first lay person ever to head the pope’s household staff.   Her nephew John Mariani, Sr was born in Connecticut in 1895, his father died when he was nine and he, his mother and siblings returned to live with his mother’s sister, Teodolinda. In 1919 John Mariani, Sr. opened Castello Banfi winehouse in New York.

The Principessa Gavi is 100% Cortese.  Cortese di Gavi is grown in the lower Piedmont region of Italy.

Due Forni is getting ready to open another location in Austin Texas.  Austin just doesn’t know how lucky they are!

A Cloudy afternoon at the View (Winebar not the talk show!)

View Bar Tivioli Village

I spent an afternoon with Joey at the View Wine Bar (420 South Rampart Las Vegas at Tivoli Village) awhile ago and shared with you  in my Adventures in Sauvignon Blanc blog. Well today I took Michael along for lunch at The View.  The weather was about the same, cloudy and a little windy, but the view was better because the fountain was full and working (as opposed to dry and filled with men in yellow vests cleaning it!).  The location is a little hard to find, which is why we are talking about it here and giving you directions.  You will find it above Brio at Tivoli Village. To get there, walk past the entrance to Brio and around the corner and look for LV Market!  Enter there and cross through the downstairs bistro and take the stairs to the 2nd floor. Head to the front of the building and relax in the industrial decadence of the “View”.

View from View Bar

View from View Bar

You can see the fountain out the front windows and the mix of industrial architecture with exposed ceilings and ducts and tufted couches and seats with natural woods and wine bottle light fixtures in plumbing pipes is enchanting in my opinion.  My advice is to go on a weekday mid day and sit at the bar.  Joey will be working and she is full of great advice on food and wine.  If you like a little more action, well then hit it in the evenings when Joey tells me the place is hoppin’!

Michael and I strolled up and had a seat at the bar to enjoy the view.  The menu is full of great small plate items so you can order a bunch and enjoy.  We ordered the risotto cakes (which I enjoyed last time) the tuna tartare tacos, the Tivoli wrapped dates and the Gnocchi Gratin.  Michael started with the S.A. Prum, Essence Riesling from Germany and I started with the Cloudline Pinot Noir.  The S.A. Prum is from Mosel, and the Cloudline is a Willamette Valley Pinot.  We both enjoyed the wines and felt both were good food wines.  We tasted with the Tivoli wrapped dates which are dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds wrapped in prosciutto and  then set in a balsamic reduction.  We moved on to tasting with the Tuna tartare tacos, which were mini hard shell tacos with raw tuna, avocado, fresh lettuce and a little creme fraiche.  Then the gnocchi gratin, which went surprisingly well with the Pinot! The acid cut through beautifully with the cheese and paired nicely with the risotto cakes which are breaded fried squares of risotto topped with grated parmesan and lemon zest.  The lemon zest added a wonderful fragrance!  Michael moved on to an Italian Pinot Grigio called VOGA which again paired great with the food.  We talked about European wines and how they are meant to pair with food which makes them different from many new world wines that are blended to drink alone.  As we moved on to dessert, we settled on the Dark Chocolate Nutella Cake and paired it with the Condundrum Red (which obviously is a whole lot of Zinfandel and a bit of Petite Sirah) and Joey’s favorite (that she let me taste when we walked in) Earthquake Petite Sirah from Lodi.  The Earthquake was beautiful on it’s own while the Conundrum was a little hot.  When paired with the Chocolate Nutella cake, both were stunning!

View Wine Bar Tivioli Village from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

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Wilson Creek, so much more than Almond champagne

Wilson Creek Sign Art in Oil

I will admit to a bit of snobbery.  I really had no desire to go to Wilson Creek in Temecula. I mean you find bottles of their Almond champagne in Long’s Drug Stores (well you did when they were around).  I figured how could they be creating wine I would like to drink?  Well… there is a lot more to them then the Almond champagne.

Wilson Creek is located at the far east end of Rancho California Road and it is rare that you will get there and find the parking lot not full.  While the grounds are huge and beautiful, a favorite for weddings and the buildings and event center large and impressive, this is still a family affair at heart.

Wilson Creek View

Wilson Creek View

Gerry and Rosie Wilson acquired the 20 acre vineyard in 1996 with the simple intent of running a fun family business and making great wine. With the entire family, children and grand children as well as 5 golden retrievers who can be seen often on property, they have succeeded in making this a family affair.

The Lower Garden is open to parties of 10 or less for picnicing. They just ask that you don’t come to camp!  No tents or shade covers, ice chests or animals and no outside alcoholic beverages.

The Creekside Restaurant offers a menu for lunch that can be enjoyed around the grounds.  You place your order at the Concert Stage and it will be delivered to you in the upper garden.  You can enjoy this in the lower garden also, but you will need to pick up your order.  The menu includes a variety of lunch items as well as a full wine list, beer and other beverages.

With their Event Center Wilson Creek stays busy with Corporate Events and private parties.  The Event Center includes 3 spaces that can accommodate 50-300 people each with a dance floor.  In addition they have two stages that can accommodate up to 400 guests.  Really this place can be party central for 6 or 7 large parties at time!

Bill Wilson is the son and owner.  He works with his Mom & Dad, Brother & Sister, Wife, brother in law & sister in law.  (Did I mention that this was a family affair?) Bill’s Mom and Dad can often be seen on the grounds with their two golden retrievers. They have 92 acres and grow 12 varieties on the estate and then source some grapes.  The varieties used in their wines include: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel.  They also . When you listen to Bill you know that you are not dealing with a corporation, this is a joyful family affair.  They incorporated what they loved about the wineries they visited when they created Wilson Creek.  And it’s not just about their winery, they want to promote Temecula and encourage people to come and taste, enjoy and learn.  Listen to the great interview with him at http://www.temeculawines.org/videos/ and see exactly what I mean.

I didn’t think it was possible that Wilson Creek used Methode Champenois for their almond champagne, and I was right. There is no way they could do that and sell it at that price!  What I was surprised by, was that they do use the Charmat method which is fermenting the wine in bulk in stainless steel tanks!  The final method they actually refer to as “cheating” on their site.  In this method CO2 is injected into the wine.  Typically this method causes very large bubble that can cause Huge headaches!  They do not cheat at Wilson Creek.  They do, by the way have a wonderful section of their website on wine education called Wine 101 that Mick Wilson put together with fascinating information on Barrels, Port, Champagne, Wine Varietals and much more.  http://www.wilsoncreekwinery.com/Wine-101/Default.aspx

Wilson Creek Picnic View

Wilson Creek Picnic View

The next time you are in Temecula, drive all the way out Rancho California to Wilson Creek, taste some wine, stroll the grounds and say hello to the Wilson’s.  You will know them by the golden retrievers at their sides!