Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference

Live Wine Social Red at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Red Wine Social. It’s organized chaos. Go ahead, look at the video first and see what we are up against! 10 wineries, 5 minutes each. For them: 5 minutes to give us the elevator schpiel on their winery and wine and pour for a table of 5 to 10 people. For us: 5 minutes to get photos, details, hashtags, taste and post on social media! Are you friggin’ kidding me! Watch the vid…

Did you have time to read the descriptions? Nope? Well I barely had time to write them!!!! (Yes, my voice was raised a bit on that last sentence). I did my posting on Instagram under #wmc19 (at least I think I got them all in!)

Okay…now time to give those wineries and winemakers there due. Here is the breakdown with more details than 5 minutes will allow.

First Creek

First you get the actual post.

“Greg from First Creek wines poured2017 winemakers shiraz! They deal with 300 tons of fruit a year. Of course they do around 300,000 in contracted fruit for others. @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
First Creek Winemaker's Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley Red Wine Social
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley

Ok…let’s break this down. “Greg” is Greg Silkman. He oversees all of First Creek’s business. Greg was honored in 2019 with the Hunter Valley Wine Legend award (you will hear more about the Legends). He and a business partner bought Tambulaine winery back in 1986 and turned the place around. He then established First Creek Wines.

First Creek Wines is family owned and operated (go to the about us page on their site and you will notice many members of the team are Silkmans). They do around 300 tons of fruit each year to make their own wines, like the Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz we were tasting. They are also a custom crush facility First Creek Winemaking Services, and it is there that they handle around 300,000 tons of contracted fruit for other wineries.

First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz Hunter Valley

This wine is aged in French oak for 8-12 months. It sits at 13% abv and has potential to age for 10-15 years. SRP $60 au

de iuliis

I barely got a note out for this wine poured by winemaker Mike De Iuliis from de iuliis wines

“The Touriga adds floral notes “the gewurtraminer of reds” 70 30 blend” @visitnsw @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines Red Wine Social
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines

What?! Okay, here’s the translation of that criptic IG post.

So Mike De Iuliis made this Shiraz and was experimenting to create a bit of elegance. This is 80% Shiraz with 20% Touriga National which adds complexity and lifts the aromas of the wine. He said that aromatically he finds Touriga to be the “gerwurztraminer of reds” (gerwürztraminer is a German white wine well known for it’s aromatics).

We were lucky enough to get to know Mike a little better on the Dinner excursion on Friday night as he took our bus all terraining into a vineyard under threat of rain to meet a bunch of winemakers with their semillons and oysters. You’ll get more on that later.

de iuliis 2018 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga Hunter Valley

de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard Red Wine Social
de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard

LDR? That is the Lovedale Road Vineyard where they have 3.5 acres of Shiraz and 1.5 acres of Touriga National planted. You get cherry, and blackfruit with spice on the nose and plum, blackberry with soft tannins on the palate. This wine drinks well now, and will age for at least another 5 years. The wine sits at 14% abv and SRP is $40 au. (James Halliday gave it 95 pts)

Audrey Wilkinson

My note on this was

“One of the most beautiful views in the country! This shiraz was beautiful! #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Audrey Wilkinson 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Audrey Wilkinson's 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Awards Red Wine Social
  • Giving us the details on "The Lake" from Audrey Wilkinson Red Wine Social

Well I had a chance to chat with Daniel Byrom from Audrey Wilkinson the night before and learn all about their amphitheater shaped vineyard and the varied soils. We also got out to get some sunrise shots. They really are well known for their views. Locals tell us that even if they can’t go for a tasting, they always take friends and visitors for the view.

Audrey Wilkinson The Lake 2017 Shiraz

This wine is an award winner “97 points, again….” says their brochure. This wine takes it’s name for the large spring fed dam on the property. 2017 they recorded the hottest year on record (we’ve talked about climate change right?). In the Hunter Valley this was a great vintage. This wine has a nose with florals (violets?) and fruit with a bit of spice. It sits at 14.9% abv (holy crap!) sees a bit of French oak and will set you back $120 au a bottle. This is a definitely a reserve wine for this winery.

Briar Ridge

“Alex one of the winemakers at Briar Ridge #wmc19 @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10

Oops! Didn’t get much out with that one. But I did get a bottle shot and a photo of Alex.

  • 2018 Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Alex from Briar Ridge Red Wine Social

We did however have a few minutes afterwards to speak with Alex about Briar Ridge. You will have to wait until later for that.

The winery is located in Mount View in the Southern part of the Hunter Valley and they are the largest vineyard holder in this area. Soils here are red limestone. They keep yields low (1 to 2.5 tons per acre).

Dairy Hill Shiraz Hunter Valley 2018

This wine is single vineyard on a SE facing slope with a warm maritime influence. It was 20% whole cluster with the remainder crushed and destemmed. It ages in 500liter large format barrels for 12-14 months with a couple rack and returns. Then they hold it 3 years before release. We were tasting the 2018. If you go to their website, the current release is 2014 (which recieved 96 points from James Halliday).

1813

“Double oaked Shiraz. The governor from @1813huntervalley @visitnsw @huntervalley #wbc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • The Governor Shiraz from 1813 Red Wine Social
  • Pouring and giving us the details on the 1813 "The Governor" Red Wine Social

Okay, I was typing fast, I harkened back to the previous conference name (wine bloggers conference wbc). But let’s get on with the details on this winery. 1813? What does that mean?

1813 was the year the first coin was created in Australia. It was called the “Holey dollar” because it was a Spanish coin with a hole in the center. The owner of the winery has a finance background.

2017 The Governor Hunter Single Vineyard from 1813

This wine is double oaked (French and American). What does that mean? During fermentation it is rolled into oak, then after malolactic fermentation it is rolled into oak again. It is only released in the best years. This is all estate fruit and they only made 1500 bottles (not cases, bottles). This is their flagship reserve. SRP $68.00 au

Wombat Crossing

“This wine won a trophy for the best shiraz in the Hunter Valley. This is a 2009! @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Wombat Crossing 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Ian Owner of Wombat Crossing pouring the 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social

Okay…Wombat Crossing? You know right off that they are an Australian Winery right? Click through to their page…go ahead…now you know that they are also Beatles fans! LOL!

Ian Napier is the vineyard owner. He came from a successful career in Sydney and post career decided to open a winery. Their first vintage was 2005. They are the smallest vineyard and winery in the Hunter Valley and plan to keep it that way.

The winery shows it’s support for the Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue & Hospital. Driving rural inland roads we saw many dead kangaroos and wombats. This rescue helps orphaned joey wombats and gives medical attention to adult wombats who have been injured. The roadsides have signs to call if you hit wildlife. Wombats are declining due to road hazards, loss of habitat and disease. Roz Holme founded the rescue and treats animals that might otherwise have been euthanised.

Wombat Crossing Vineyard Hermit’s Block Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley 2009 Shiraz

Ian brought us a 10 year old Shiraz to taste and see how well the wine ages. The 2009 vintage from Wombat Crossing one the trophy for the best Shiraz in the Hunter Valley. they have just 8 cases left (7 now!) They believe in cellaring and holding back wine. He told us that the current release was their 2014.

Whispering Brook

“A touriga shiraz blend from Whispering Brook. From Susan Frazier @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Okay…this is not the photo that was on IG, but there is a link below so you can see that.

Our video as posted on IG

This is another blend of Touriga and Shiraz (like Mike de Iuliis). Great minds thinking alike. We did have a chance to speak with Susan after the event…again…you get that later!

Whispering Brook is located in Broke on the West side of the Hunter Valley. The property is bordered on one end by the Wollombi Brook and it is from this that the winery takes it’s name. They make Sparkling wines in addition to their Shiraz, Chardonnay and Touriga National as well as olive oil.

2017 Whispering Brook Shiraz

This wine received 97 points from James Halliday. There is a bit of a story to this wine. In 2008 they grafted over 1 block of their Shiraz to Touriga National. In 2017, they had just pressed the Touriga, when the Shiraz came in. The Touriga skins looked great, so they tossed them in with the Shiraz. They did a wild yeast ferment, which is not normal for them (well, she did say that there was probably still cultured yeast on the Touriga Skins). This wine ages in 30% new french oak for 16 months.

Tyrrell’s

“Lovely shiraz from Tyrrell’s #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tyrrell's 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Pouring wine and sharing the story of Tyrrell's vineyard Red Wine Social
  • Red soils from Tyrrell's Vineyard Red Wine Social

Well that didn’t say much! Guess I was getting tired by then. (this was exhausting, trying to do so much so fast!)

Tyrrell’s is a 5th generation winery that can trace it’s roots back to Walter Tyrrell who arrived in England with William the Conqueror! Last year in 2018 they celebrated the 160th Anniversary of the founding of Tyrrell’s Wines!

We had an opportunity to get out to the winery and taste and will share more on that with you later!

Tyrrell’s 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz

2017 was a good year in the Hunter Valley. This wine is in their “Hunter Valley Range” an affordable range at $25 au per bottle. Vines here average at about 50 years old and the wine is aged in large format Foudres (2,700 litre). They did bring a jar of soil so we could see the red soils from the vineyard.

Tulloch

“Matt from Tulloch poured the 2017 Pokolbin dry red shiraz! Only available in the tasting room #wmc19 @visitnsw @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tulloch 2017 Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • The quick version of the Tulloch Wine history Red Wine Social

Tulloch Wines is one of the early wineries with 122 years and 4 generations of winemaking experience. Tulloch went through a bit of time where the vineyard was owned by other companies, and even a short bit (8 years or so) without a member of the family being part of the operation. In 2003 the family bought the brand back from Rosemount and is now again family run.

2017 Polkolbin Dry Red Shiraz

This wine is part of their Heritage Range. It sits at 13.5% abv SRP $30.00 au.

Tintilla Estate

“The 1st vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago! Bob and James Lusby poured it for us! #WMC19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tintilla Estates 2017 Saphira Sangiovese Red Wine Social
  • Bob & James Lusby telling us the story of the Saphira Sangiovese

Tintilla. The name is an Old World term for red wine. Bob Lusby sat down next to me while his son James poured. It was their last table, and our last winemaker. So yes, Tintilla was the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago. They pulled in the Davis clones.

While we were talking Bob mentioned the idea that more phenolics in the grapes keep pests away. I was fascinated by this and he suggested that I read some of the work by Dr. Richard Smart, including his book “Sunlight into Wine – A handbook for winegrape canopy management”. Looks like I have more fascinating geeky wine reading to do!

Tintilla Estate Saphira Sangiovese 2017

The Saphira Sangiovese gives you plums and cherries with a bit of earth. It runs $35.00 au.

Harvested in the early morning, the cool grapes were destemmed and passed through the crusher The resultant must was cold soaked, fermentation followed in open vats, the temperature controlled to about 22 degrees C. Hand plunge of the cap ensured good mixing of the skins with the juice. The wine was aged in 20% new & old 300L French oak barrels for 12 months.

https://www.tintilla.com.au/shop/saphira-sangiovese/

More to come!

Oh yeah. We did a white/rosé tasting like this also. You’ll get that later.

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

Corsica – An Island and it’s wines #Winophiles

Famous pine tree on Palombaggia beach with azure clear water and sandy beach on the south part of Corsica, France

Close your eyes. When I say Corsica, what comes to mind.  Cliff side villages, overlooking the bluest of waters, sea breezes, perhaps a crisp white wine to take the edge off the heat?

Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side
Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side

This island sits closer to Italy than France, but…it is French, although the people consider themselves decidedly Corsican.  The culture blends Italian and French foods and language.

Map of Corsica
Map of Corsica

Red from the Mountains, White from the Sea – Wines of Corsica

Vermentino, the leading white grape of the island, may be called Rolle as it is in France or Vermentinu as it was on the bottle I picked up. Sangiovese is the prominent red, known here as Niellucciu.

Corsican wines are not so easy to come by, but can be really affordable when you find them.  We searched around town, to no avail with our local wine shops and ended up picking these up at Total Wine, who had a selection from 3 producers.

Alba di Diana Corse

Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica
Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica

This wine from Domaine de Terra Vecchia is 100% Vermentinu (or Vermentino). $14.99 srp

The Estate is on the East Coast of Corsica facing the Tyrrhenian Sea that sits between Corsica and Italy. On the map above you can see the city of Aleria where you will find Domaine de Terra Vecchia. Vineyards here are between the mountains and the Etang de Diana, a lagoon where they harvest mussels and oysters.

Vines were planted here in the 19th century on a little property on the edge of the Etang de Diana. Jean-François Renucci acquired the Domaine, replanted with Corsican grape varieties and converted the vineyard to organic farming.

Clos Sulana

Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016
Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016

The other wine we found is from Clos Sulana in the Centru di Corsica. Clos Sulana is located in the mountains around the village of Morosaglia in the Central part of Corsica. Vineyards here enjoy high altitudes at the foot of a chain of mountains with wide temperature variations.

Clos Sulana is produced by Domaine Vico. Their vineyards were originally planted in 1901 by Jean Vico. The family now has 49 hectares with soils of schist, basalt, granite and pebbles that sit between 850 and almost 1200 feet at the foot of the mountains.

The Clos Sulana Rouge is a Red wine made of 40% Niellucciu (the Corsican name for Sangiovese), 40% Sciaccarellu and 20% Syrah.  Okay…”Sciaccarellu”, you ask? Well, it is a dark skinned grape grown primarily in Corsica, although you will find it in Tuscany where it is known as Mammolo. This grape has soft tannins, red fruit and a peppery note. The wine sits at 13.5 abv. $11.99 srp

Foods of Corsica

Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,
Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,

Meats & Cheeses

Corsica is well known for its sheep and goat milk cheeses and cured meats. The cured meats here are made from the meat of free range pigs who live the life feeding on chestnuts (another important product of the island) and acorns.

Fish & Seafood

The east coast of the island, as I mentioned, has oyster farms. Other fish you find locally include anchovies & sardines, red mullet and langoustine. The island does have fresh water fish in it’s rivers so trout and eel can be found.

Stews & Pastas – Herbs, fruits and veggies

Soups and stews are popular with wild boar, chesnuts and fennel or veal, olives, tomatoes and herbs, always with a splash of wine in the pot.

Pastas are also popular (I mean…this is a stones throw from Italy). When it comes to vegetables, think mediterranean with tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. You can readily find fruits like peaches, clementines and figs. Olives and olive oil of course are staples. They have a group of herbs called “maquis”. This blend is of thyme, juiper, myrtle, oregano, basil and different types of mint. This is the scent of the island. They also have an AOC for honey, which carries the notes of the “maquis”.

Food Pairings

I searched locally for Brocciu, a non-lactose cheese that is a common ingredient in recipes. No luck. This is a fresh cheese and is similar to ricotta, so I used that instead. You will also find Tommette de Chèvre (a strong goat milk cheese), Corsu Vecchiu 9a semi-hard sheep milk cheese, Niulincu (a tangy cheese from the middle of the island) and ….Casgiu merzu (stand back, this is like Sardinia “rotting cheese” and comes complete with insect larvae).

Oysters

In my research on the Etang de Diana found that both oysters and mussels were farmed here. So it seemed a no-brainer to pick up 1/2 dozen oysters on the half shell to pair with a wine from a vineyard with a view of the Etang.

Oysters on the half shell
Oysters on the half shell

Sturzapreti

I found a delicious sounding recipe for Sturzapreti, a gnocchi like dumpling, with chard and brocciu cheese. The dumplings called for chard, brocciu cheese (for which I subbed ricotta), a potato, an egg, fresh mint and parsley. These ingredients get mixed up and then par boiled. I’ll admit, my first batch made soup! It all disintegrated in the water. I was more careful with the rest. They then went into an oven dish, and I used beef stock to half cover them and topped them with emmental cheese. This baked until brown. The mint and cheese really was lovely and went well with the Vermentino.

  • Ingredients for Sturzapreti
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings

Gnocchi with roasted zucchini, eggplant and sausage

We mixed the pasta and stew idea and did gnocchi with roasted zucchini and eggplant, tomatoe, thyme & sausage.

Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zuchinni and sausage
Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zucchini and sausage

Our charcuterie platter

We tied in the olives, wild boar sausage and peaches and added a bit to round out the platter with other things in the fridge and cupboard.

Cheese & Charcuterie platter with olives, peaches, blackberries, strawberries, emmental, wild boar sausage & almonds.
Cheese & Charcuterie platter

All in all this was a pretty nice tasting! The wines we picked up were Vin Corse. These were the most widely distributed of the wines from these producers and I would love to dig deeper into the higher quality wines from the island. The Vermentino was good with the food, but uninspiring on it’s own (I must admit to being very spoiled with good Vermentino). The Red wine, again was good, for opening a bottle and having some food, but I am sure that this producer has some wonderful wines that have more depth and detail and I look forward to exploring those in the future.

The French #Winophiles!

This is just the tip of the island! The French #Winophiles have gathered to talk about the wines of Corsica this month. Head to twitter and follow #Winophiles to join the conversation! We will be live on Saturday September 21st at 11 am EST!

You can also dive into the pieces below for lots more on Corsican wines!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Friday Night Pizzas + Domaine Poli Niellucciu Rosé 2018”
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares “Wines from Corsica? Of “Corse”  (#winophiles)”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Mixiote de Pescado Paired with Domaine Petroni Corse Rosé”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Spaghetti and meatballs for a Corsican wine (#Winophiles)”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Corsica Rose with Salmon Crespelle and Currant Clafoutis #Winophiles
Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Corsica: The Maquis, The Mountains, The Sea (#winophiles)”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Corsica; French with a lot of Italian Influence”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Drench Yourself in the Sunshine of Corsica with Domaine Petroni Rosé Corse 2018 and Provençal Vegetable Gratin”
Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Corsican Happiness: Domaine Giacometti Sempre Cuntentu Sciaccarellu with a Flavorful Seafood Stew”

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

The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 2 – Southern Oregon Applegate and Umpqua Valleys

Day 3

Southern Oregon & the Applegate Valley

Day 3 had us up early and traveling back the way we had been the afternoon before. The Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon established in 2000, is actually a sub AVA of the Rogue Valley AVA. From California’s border runs north 50 miles to the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.

Cowhorn

Cowhorn Entrance Gate in the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon
Cowhorn Entrance Gate

We arrived early to Cowhorn to meet Bill Steele. This Southern Oregon vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and is a bucolic setting on Eastside Road that runs along the Applegate River. We did an interview with Bill in the vineyard and walked the property before heading into the beautiful modern tasting room to do a tasting with Bill. The tasting room features a large window that looks out onto the vineyard and the valley, which is reflected in the shiny white glass behind the tasting bar, allowing you the view while facing either direction.

The wines here are Rhône varieties primarily and the finese on the winemaking is pretty spectacular. Everything is done with native yeast. I have to admit the grounds were so beautiful, I really didn’t want to leave. We will dive in deep to our visit in a separate post and tell you about Bill, biodynamics, the patio, gardens and the tasting room. Their tasting room was the first in the US to meet the “Living Building Challenge”.

The Tasting Room at Cowhorn
The Tasting Room at Cowhorn

You can look forward to our in depth interview with Bill coming up soon.

We left unwillingly. We could have stayed all day (or perhaps forever). But we had another appointment and this one was a bit of a drive.

North to the Umpqua Valley

Cowhorn To Girardet Wine Cellars

We were headed toward Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley about 2 hours North. The Umpqua Valley AVA is a little older, established in 1984. We jumped back on Route 238 and took the scenic (and shorter) route to Grants Pass where we grabbed a bite and got on the 5. Yes it was freeway, but it’s Southern Oregon, so the views are still pretty spectacular.

Girardet Vineyards

Girardet Tasting Room in Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon

We exited onto the 99 around Cow Creek and then took Route 42 out to Ten Mile where Girardet Vineyards is located. Mind you….our GPS had a little trouble out here and we ended up coming into the property the back way. I suggest downloading a map ahead of time and not relying on GPS.

Girardet is one of the older wineries in this area planting the vineyard back in 1971. The Girardets (Philippe and Bonnie) got in their VW bus and drove the country looking for vine starts. They picked up some French varieties from Wente and then planted some of the French hybrids that they picked up in New York; Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga among others. Marc was born in 1975 just after this experiment had begun. He now runs the vineyard and winery and he took some time to speak to us on the beautiful covered patio with a picnic table, next to the tasting room. After our chat he took us through the winery and drove us up into the vineyard to see the views. Vines do love a view.

We finished this stop with a tasting which included some of the Italian varieties that Marc has added on the newer section of the vineyard where they found ancient marine bed shale. We made some friends in the tasting room before heading back on the road to Newburg, where we would stop for the night. This winery has a great history that we look forward to sharing with you.

  • Grapes at Girardet
  • Ancient Marine Shale at the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard at Girardet in Southern Oregon
  • The picnic patio at Girardet
  • Vines at Giraradet in the Umpqua Valley
  • Girardet Tasting room Umpqua Valley Southern Oregon
  • Pouring in the Girardet Tasting Room
  • Philippe and Marc Girardet
  • Jack rabbits at the Girardet Vineyard
  • The view of Ten Mile from Giraradet Vineyard in Southern Oregon

Coming up Next…

Next we head North, first to the Columbia Gorge to visit the waterfalls on the Oregon side, then onto the Washington side to visit Syncline winery. From there it is off to the Yakima Valley to visit with Seth Kitzke of Kitzke Cellars and Upsidedown Wine and then enjoy sunset with Jonathan and Mike Sauer at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.

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

Tasting blind – globetrotting at home

Table set for a blind tasting

We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.

The White Wines

When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.

White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc bottle shot with apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon
Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc

This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.

This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.

About Carhartt

And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.

Carhartt Hand Made Films Presents: Carhartt Vineyard

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.

2939 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Ph #: 805.693.5100
Open daily 11am-6pm
No reservations. First-come, first-serve.
Closed only on Christmas Day

White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.

Spier Wine Farm

This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…

A visit to Spier Wine Farm and Hotel

More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)

You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.

Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/

White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño

Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain with pear and green apple
Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain

We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.

Rias Baixas

The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.

Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.

http://www.martincodax.com/en/

The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.

Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.

The Red Wines

When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.

Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese with wet stones, strawberries, black tea, clove, and cedar plank
Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.

Sangiovese? Think Chianti

This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?

The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.

Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam
Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam appetizer

They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.

Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015

Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina with blackberries, plum and spice
Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina

This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!

Don Miguel Gascón Wines

This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.

The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.

http://www.gasconwine.com

You should really visit the Gascon site for great information on this winery that dates back to 1884.

This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.

Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon  with plum, blackberry, cherry, peppercorn, earth and leather.
Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

If you have visited our site before, you know we are big fans of Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery. He helped to put Ballard Canyon and their Syrah on the map. He was instrumental in founding the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County.

Michael’s background is in geology and he is an invaluable resource for discussing the soils of the entire Santa Barbara Region. He is passionate about the region and it’s wines, most especially the Syrah from this little corner of the universe.

This wine is all Estate grown fruit that is aged 22 months in 33% new French oak and 8% new American oak (the rest is neutral oak).

  • Larner Vineyard Syrah
  • Larner Fête 2016, Larner Vineyard
  • Larner Vineyard Sunset

Aromas, flavors and pairings

This wine was the biggest we served at 14.9%. With a complex nose, we set out scent jars of blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper corns, leather and earth. We paired this with our favorite bite with syrah, bacon wrapped dates.

Visit Larner

If you want a bottle of this wine, or to taste his other wines, head to Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. You can find the tasting room at the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Ave next to the Los Olivos General Store. Grab a tasting and a sandwich from next door and sit at a table in front in the shade, behind the historic gas pump.

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Email: [email protected]
T: (805) 688-8148

Open Daily 11-5

It was a fun evening and hopefully everyone discovered a new wine that they enjoyed! We got up today to 85 dirty glasses! I have a new appreciation for tasting room staff who deal with this, and then some, daily! Was it worth it? Damn straight! We got to explore the world with wine while sitting in the living room with friends. What could be better?

85 dirty wine glasses
A sampling of the 85 dirty wine glasses after last nights tasting.

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Wine with friends – A California tasting & pairing

After our trip to the Central Coast, my friend RuBen asked if we wanted to do a wine & cheese party with him at his house.  Well of course!  RuBen is the hostess with the mostest and has a beautiful backyard.  He also knows wonderful people, who are always a joy to talk to.  So….RuBen planned the decor, the people and the over-all menu and I planned the wines and pairings.  I spent several days going through and picking wines from our cellar and then finding interesting facts about each and pairing ideas.  Here’s what I settled on…

Laetitia Brut Cuvee

We needed to start with something bubbly, so we pulled out a bottle of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery Brut Cuvee.  The winery is in the Arroyo Grande AVA which is just south of San Luis Obispo. We had recently done an Interview on their beautiful property  with Heather Muran of the SLO Wine Association.  Starting with bubbles is always a great celebratory way to start any event and it’s a great palate cleanser.  This wine is made in the Champenoise method and the winemaker says his favorite pairing with this is potato chips!  So…that’s what we paired it with.  It was fun to talk to people about this wine and have people share with me their knowledge of sparkling wines.

Tablas Creek 2014 Vermentino

Next we moved onto a white wine, but I didn’t want to do a typical Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  Instead we did a Vermentino from Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles.  This winery is known for their Rhone Varieties, and while Vermentino is a little out of the Rhone (although it is grown there under the name Rolle) it is a variety of grape that thrives in the soils and climates you find at Tablas Creek.  It is bright and minerally and we put a jar of wet stones next to it for people to smell.  It was amazing to see people dip their nose into the glass then into the jar and watch the look of realization and surprise come across their faces.  People always think that tasting notes sound so snooty with the wild things sommeliers say they can smell in a wine.  Having it right there and smelling it opened their noses to trying to smell other things in the wines!  Vermentino pairs great with many things, but unlike so many other wines, it is great with green vegetables, so we paired this with a pesto.

Margerum 2014 Riviera Rosé

Onward now to a Rosé.  Rosés are coming back into vogue and you find them popping up everywhere.  While you can find rosés made from Pinot, Zinfandel,  and even Merlot…I love a Rhone or Grenache Rosé best, with a little watermelon and strawberry on the nose, but dry.  That is what we got with the Margerum Wine Company 2014 Riviera Rosé. This Rosé is Grenache with a little Counoise and Cinsault.  The Grenache for the most part is done in the saignee method, then a bit of Counoise and Cinsault are added as well as a little barrel aged Grenache.  As Rosés notoriously go well with anything pink, we paired it with a prosciutto.

Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir

It was time now to go a little darker.  We pulled out a 2012 Pinot Noir from Carhartt in Santa Barbara. The Carhartt’s are the same Carhartt’s you think of with work clothes. The family owned a ranch in Santa Barbara where they raised cattle for years.  Mike Carhartt and his wife Brooke planted grapes on the land and now it is a family affair with son Chase studying wine making and assisting in the process. This particular wine is not grown on their estate but comes from Riverbench Vineyard up in the Santa Maria Valley where they grow some amazing Pinot Noir.  We paired this with cheeses; goat cheese, gouda and baked brie!

Carhartt 2012 Sangiovese

We continued with a little more robust red with a Carhartt Sangiovese.  This wine was estate grown and smells of cherry, fig, cola, all spice, sweet oak and rose petal.  I had a fresh burrata from the Downtown Summerlin Farmers Market that paired perfectly with this!

Tobin James 2009 Fat Boy Zin

I must admit that we don’t drink alot of big reds these days.  Most are just a bit too big to pair with a meal.  At one time we were members of the Tobin James wine club and we have a bunch of great big fat Zins from them, that I have not yet opened.  So…here was an opportunity to open one and see how it was.  Did it mellow with age or would it have gone flat and passed it’s peak?  We opened a 2009 Tobin James Fat Boy Zin.  It is an over the top Zin that Tobin says is “like the best friend you had as a kid; big brash and maybe slightly obnoxious, but always loved!”.  This is definitely big with the alcohol level sitting at 15.8%.  But indeed, this big boy was loved by many at the party.  We paired this with Smoked Gouda, but truly this big Jammy Zin would go best with bold bold BBQ.

Carol Shelton 2008 Black Magic

We ended the eveningstepping a little further north, with a late harvest Zin by Carol Shelton her 2008 Black Magic from Sonoma County.  Late harvest wines are those that are left on the vine to let their sugars develop and often they will leave them to raisin on the vine concentrating the sugars even further.  This dessert wine screams for chocolate and indeed we paired it with that, but also with a lovely Stilton. The sweet wine and the savory cheese are a perfect combination for finishing an evening.

This was an amazing evening with around 20 people just mingling talking about the wines and whatever else came up and meandering around RuBen’s beautiful backyard with little seating areas tucked here and there.  We enjoyed the wine, the company and conversation as the sun set and the stars came out.  Yep, wine with friends…what could be better?

Wine Party with Friends

Wine Party with Friends

Wiens Reflection Vertical, wine tasting and pairings

Wiens Reflection Vertical

Wine is terrific, and when you pair it with food you can take it to another level.  Learning how to taste, decant and pair can be an exciting adventure.

The journey today is with a Vertical of three vintages of Wiens Reflections red blend.  There are differences because of the actual blends (they use different varieties of grapes each year), differences because of the climate in each year and then differences because obviously the older vintages have aged longer!  We taste the wines right out of the bottle and then decanted and watch as the flavors evolve. Then we pair them with meats cheeses and other foods and the flavors change again, enhanced (or not) by contrasting or complimentary flavors in the food.  It’s an exciting journey, join us and then try a tasting of your own! See original Post.

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!

 

Frangipani, a piece of paradise on the De Portola Trail

Frangipani Winery

Frangipani…for me I immediately think of the musical “South Pacific”.  Frangipani is the word they use for plumeria the island flower that I grew up making leis with in Hawaii.  So…I envisioned a tropical paradise.  I thought, this winery must be owned by someone creating their own paradise.  Well…it’s a bit simpler than that.  The owner/winemaker is Don Frangipani.  He has however created his own piece of paradise here on the De Portola Wine trail.

We stopped by Frangipani on our final morning in Temecula on our last trip.  They had Sunday Brunch advertised on their website and it seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

Frangipani Dog Frannie

Frangipani Dog Frannie

We were greeting in the parking lot by “Franni” dog and greeter.  After getting a good scratch he led us to the door.  We were early (as usual) and it was pretty quiet when we arrived.  JoAnn Frangipani, Don’s wife set us up with Mango Mimosas with their house sparkling and pointed us to the buffet.  There were fresh muffins and pumpkin bread as well as bagels with lox. The cook made us fresh pulled pork benedicts and we enjoyed the granola fruit parfaits while we waited for that to finish.  Several groups came in while we were there.

Frangipani Patio

Frangipani Patio

They have an outdoor patio with a great view and bocce ball courts.  JoAnn says the patio stays pretty full in the summer.  We didn’t taste here as we were getting on the road to head home.  I look forward to coming back, tasting and enjoying the patio.  The atmosphere here is warm and friendly and JoAnn immediately makes you feel welcome and at home.

Frangipani View

Frangipani View

Don began working with wine in 1995 at Cilurzo Winery in Temecula.  He opened Frangipani in 2003.  He loves red wines and mixes classic French varieties of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with old world Italian styles.  They grow Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah on their estate.

Europa Village, at Temecula CA

Europa Village corks

Europa Village winery endeavors to take you on a quick trip to Europe to enjoy the wines of France, Italy and Spain.  The gardens here are lovely and they have added a covered patio for large groups. They have a tasting room set up in a French café style plus a room set up like a cave for events.  The wines are under 3 separate labels C’est la Vie Chateau for the French wines including Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and Savignon Blanc as well as En Vie which is a Rhone Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Bolero Cellars has the Spanish wines including a Muscat Canelli and Albarino and the Libido which is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo.  Lastly Vienza brings you the Italian varieties which include Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, a Grenache Rose, Barbera, Primitivo and the Tuscan style blend Primazia which is Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Europa Village Patio

Europa Village Patio

Cave Music Event

Cave Music Event

There are no shortage of events here at the winery with Music on Friday nights, dinner plays, art events where you can learn to paint while sipping away, culinary classes with the chef from The Inn at Europa Village and wine pairing dinners.  We stopped in to see “Lady Truth” play the last time we were in Temecula.  Due to the cold weather everything was set up in the cave and they had wine by the glass or bottle plus there was a tent outside with a Panini vendor that you could order from.  When it is warmer I am sure that the patio makes for a stunning venue!

Europa Village Inn

Europa Village Inn

The Inn boasts 10 stunning rooms named after their wines, with most rooms enjoying a view of the winery below as well as a two-course gourmet breakfast each morning.  The Inn’s patio includes a fire pit and an eight person Jacuzzi.  You can wake up in the morning to watch the balloon tours float overhead, or get up a little extra early and take one of the Balloon rides yourself as they depart from the winery each morning.

This is a great place for a romantic getaway. Watch for Video Blog Entry coming Soon!

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!

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!

Wiens, Barrel Tasting Room

Wien's Front Entrance

We have long been members of Wiens Wine Club.

Wien's Barrel Room from main room

Wien’s Barrel Room from main room

On our first trip to Temecula it was the last stop of our second day and we loved their wines.   Not trusting ourselves, we went back the next day in the morning to be sure that our consumption of wine the day before had not swayed our thoughts and were reassured that these were wonderful wines.  So…we stop by whenever we are in Temecula but of course we are always there through the week and never had the opportunity to taste in the Barrel Room whichis open exclusively for members on the weekend.  So….since we had a weekend…..

Wien's Barrel Room

Wien’s Barrel Room

The barrel room is stunning, it is warm and intimate and Susan who poured with us felt free to give us lots of information.  We began our tasting with their new sparkling wine done in the traditional medod. The Chanson de Soliel (Song of the Sun) is a beautiful Blanc de Blanc that is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and it is done in a Brut style.  I got citrus and lime and a little yeast.  This is leaps and bounds above their Amour de L’Orange in style and sophistication.

Next we tasted the 2011 Solace which is a white blend with Roussane.  It had a dusty nose and nice acid. They mention camomile and lemon grass in their description and I definitely got that.

Now on to my favorite…the 2011 Verdelho.  Another one of those wines that you hear multiple pronunciations of it’s name.  I had been pronouncing it ver-DEY-ho but Susan said ver-DEL-oh, so I guess this ranks right up there with my learning curve for pronouncing Paso Robles (it’s ro-buhls), I was getting too fancy for myself.  Maybe that was just the tricky little joke that this wine started me out with to prime me.  This wine has all the tartness of a Savignon Blanc on the nose and lots of grapefruit ont he palate and it is completely “playful” as Susan put it and unexpected.  This wine also has pear on the nose and it is not overpoweringly tart or sweet.  When you take a sip it rolls up the center of your tongue and dissipates in the back of the palate.  It was enchanting and made me giggle!  I am infatuated with this wine.

We moved on to the 2011 Pinot Noir which is loamy on the nose like soil, green and earthy with good pepper and silky tannins.  It was cool in the mouth with cranberry and tart red fruit.  Yumm…

The 2011 Tempranillo-Petite Sirah Blend was plummy with strawberries and earth.  It was very smooth but had a thick mouth feel.  This is a lovely sipping wine that is warm in the mouth without being hot.  Complex with what felt like low tannins.

Now on to the Crowded (always one of my favorites) and the Reflection.  The 2010 Crowded is a blend of 38% Zinfandel, 26% Barbera, 18% Pinot Noir, 9% syrah, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Petite Sirah.  This leans Italian and is cool and smooth.  The Reflection Michael tasted more tannins.  I really enjoyed the Reflection (and look forward to drinking the 2 bottles that just arrived with the last wine club shipment).

Even though we were already feeling very VIP (there was a cheese tray on the side for everyone and Susan was taking very good care of us) Susan then went to pull a Cabernet Franc for us to taste.  This was cool with fresh black fruit and very soft tannins.  Like a well behaved Cab Franc this wild beast likes to nestle in velvet.

When we had entered the barrel room there were just a few people, by the time we left it was full, but still quiet and thoughtful.  Filled with people who really wanted to taste the wines and learn about them.  The public tasting room outside was packed when we left filled with people, who, if they like good wines, will soon be joining us as members.