Friday, August 5, 2022

Quartet Of Wineries Featured in #NC Wine Summit Tour

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It hardly seems possible. I just attended the Fifth Annual #NC Wine Digital Media Summit. I attended the summit back in 2019 and had a blast. The last two have been virtual, and while it was a good program, there’s just no replacing a face-to-face meeting with real, live people.

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For me, the highlight of the event, organized by the NC Wine Guys, is the pre-summit winery tours exploring North Carolina wine. This year  we visited Shelton Vineyards, Hidden Vineyard, Haze Gray Vineyards, and finished off with a dinner at Golden Road Vineyard. We were transported in style by Van In Black.

Shelton Vineyards

Shelton’s vineyard is one of the largest on the East Coast. There are 10 varieties grown at Shelton and heading to the tasting room, we passed row upon row of carefully pruned vines. Grapes grown on the 1,000-acre estate are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng.

We were treated to a spectacular tasting of their reserve wines in the tank room. Winemaker Ethan Brown led us through the tasting of seven different wines that ranged from sparkling rosé to Yadkin Valley Port. The range of their wines is dazzling, with more than 20 different wines available. Of special note are the Petite Manseng, Sparkling Rosé, Franklin, and Yadkin Valley Riesling. The Petite Manseng is one of the best white wines in North Carolina and this one has vibrant tropical flavors with limestone and acidity. The Franklin is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Tannat. The Tannat gives Franklin a kick in the pants with robust dark fruit, oak and cherry flavors. We capped our visit with a delicious lunch in the intimate setting of the barrel room.

Shelton is one of the leaders of the North Carolina wine industry, and with good reason.

Shelton Vineyards

Hidden Vineyard

From one of the largest wineries in the state we next travelled to one of the smaller ones. Hidden Vineyard has a well-tended nine-acre vineyard that yields eight different grapes including some of our favs: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Chambourcin. Located between Dobson and Pilot Mountain, this secluded  boutique winery is well worth finding.

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The tasting room was built in the industrial farmhouse design with stylish contemporary touches as well as barnwood. It is compact, but if it fills up, there is plenty of seating and picnic areas outside. You can also stroll down Pilot Path amongst the vines. The path is so named because you get a perfect view of Pilot Mountain during your walk. The vineyard and tasting room are on the site of a former tobacco farm and a restored tobacco barn is now available to rent as a cabin.

Owners Tim and Lisa Sherman aim to produce quality Bordeaux-style wines and we tasted some outstanding ones. The wines have whimsical names and Lunchbox is a tasty barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Call Me A Cab is Cabernet Franc with tart berry notes, earthiness and some herbaceousness. 131 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot aged in French Oak. Claus is barrel-aged Chambourcin that has flavors of vanilla, cocoa, and black cherry. A first-time visit for us and we’ll certainly be back.

Hidden Vineyard

Haze Gray Vineyards

I’ve heard the name of Haze Gray Vineyards many times. Uneducated person that I am, I assumed Haze Gray was a person, perhaps an early settler of Yadkin Valley. But no, turns out that haze gray is the color of US Navy ships. Haze Gray is a veteran-owned and operated vineyard and winery that displays the Homegrown by Heroes brand. It certifies ranchers, farmers, and fishermen of all military eras to sell their product as veteran owned and produced. Owners Deane and Becky Muhlenberg both were raised in military families and Deane served for 30 years in the US Navy as a flight officer.

The tasting room opened in 2019. One of the focal points inside is a wall that features a large wooden propeller and dozens of photos of veterans. Photos from veterans or family members are welcome to be displayed in this area, just one way Haze Gray salutes veterans. Their nine acres of grapes produce some outstanding wines, including Aviator Red. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Tannat and Chambourcin. It qualifies as a “party in your mouth” and one dollar from each bottle sold is contributed to the USO.

As far as white wines go, three are offered: a stainless steel Chardonnay, a barrel-fermented Chard, and a dry Traminette. The 2019 Stainless Steel Chardonnay has crisp flavors of pear and apples. Another excellent wine is the 2021 Dry Traminette. Traminette is related to Gewürztraminer and is an aromatic wine with floral scents and apricot and stone fruit flavors. Beautifully done!

Haze Gray Vineyards

Golden Road Vineyards

Golden Road is another Homegrown Heroes winery. It’s owned and operated by Chad and Christa Guebert. Chad served as a submarine officer in the US Navy and became interested in wine while stationed in Italy. They purchased Golden Road in 2017 with the goal of converting a vineyard that sold grapes to other wineries into one that produced its own wine. The tasting room opened in 2019. As part of the pre-summit activities, we enjoyed a rollicking good catered dinner at the winery paired with some wonderful wines.

We first tried the Emergency Blow sparkling Traminette. I was first introduced to this by good friend Arthur Barham. I wondered about the name, but it turns out that it’s a submarine maneuver that forces compressed air into the ballast tanks to blow out the water. This causes a rapid rise to the surface. Emergency Blow is the first sparkling Traminette that I’ve tasted. It’s light, lovely, and packed with flavor.

The tasting room is small and beautifully furnished. One wall is finished with wine barrel staves. Outside there are comfortable chairs with a perfect view for sunsets. Our favorite red was the 2018 Go With The Flo’, which is a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Petit Verdot grapes were harvested under the gray clouds from Hurricane Florence. This is rich, smooth, and flavorful.

Golden Road Vinehyards

And this only covers the action-packed day before the #NCWine Digital Media Summit began. the summit itself, held at the Surry Community College NC Viticultural Center, was stuffed with great educational sessions, networking, food and – yes – wine. Many thanks to the sponsors, speakers, and Matt and Joe of NC Wine Guys (our organizers).

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tarima 2020 Mediterráneo, Alicante

Tarima Mediterraneo

A project to reinvigorate heirloom Spanish grapes results in a delicious summer wine.

A Pair of Rare Grapes

Tarima is a project of enologist and winemaker Juan Cañizares and a brand of his winery Bodega Volver. It is designed to reposition Spanish quality wines and recover old indigenous vineyards. I’ve had the Tarima Monastrell. In Spain there are many different names for grapes. Not only do the names differ from other countries, but sometimes from regions within Spain.

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The Tarima Monastrell (also known as Mourvèdre) was delicious and rocked a crazy low price. So when my friend Arthur (of Merlot to Muscadine fame) had a bottle of Tarima Mediterráneo to try, I was scrambling to get out the wine glasses.

The Alicante region is located in Southeast Spain. In this locale, the reds are made with Monastrell and Garnacha grapes. The white grapes are even less familiar, Merseguera and Moscatel.

Tasting The Unknown

Arthur was charged up about this bottle for good reason. He and Mary recently fulfilled their qualifications for the Wine Century Club, where you have to taste and document 100 different grape varieties to earn recognition. (I’m a proud member too!) They have eclipsed the century mark and continue to seek out exotic and strange grapes.

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The blend of Tarima Mediterráneo fills the bill splendidly. It is a 50-50 blend of Merseguera and Moscatel Alejandria. Merseguera is a little-known grape variety that grows along the southeastern coast of Spain. The grape is rarely seen outside of Spain and since it is lacking in acidity, it is primarily a blending grape.

After I unmasked the second grape, I realized that I had it previously on a trip to South Africa. Moscatel Alejandria is also known as Muscat of Alexandria. Muscat is a family of grapes that has hundreds of different varieties. Muscat of Alexandria has high sugar content and is often made into sweet golden wine.

The Tarima Mediterráneo was a magnificent taste! In the glass it is pale gold. Aromas of orange blossom and white flowers burst from the glass. This is a balanced sipper, with just the right touch of sweetness. On the tongue this is a joyful and expressive wine. Peach is the primary flavor for me with a good mix of apricot with a touch of herbaciousness. Give a light chill to fully enjoy Mediterráneo (about 50oF ).

This gets two-thumbs up, especially with a price of $10 to $13.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Umani Rochi 2020 “Podere” Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Podere Montepulciano

Here’s your go-to wine for casual Italian dining.

The Full Monty?

In the past six months, we’ve had more Montepulciano than ever before. It’s been a tasty experience. The homeland of Montepulciano is central Italy’s Abruzzo region. The grape has found fans in different spots around the globe and, in fact, there’s some good “Monte” produced right here in North Carolina.

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Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC wines must be at least 85% Montepulciano grapes with the remainder being Sangiovese. The wine is known for being a very approachable with low acidity and rounded flavors.

We took a bottle of Umani Rochi 2020 Podere Montepulciano D’Abruzzo out for a test drive and decided to pair it with a nice Italian entrée. The Green Dragon whipped up some eggplant parmigiana with pasta.

What Grows Together, Goes Together

This proved the truth of one of our favorite adages: What grows together goes together. Wine and food from the same region usually is a great pairing. No sense having a German Riesling with an Italian pasta dish, for example. Our eggplant dish was also prepared with basil from our herb garden, which fit beautifully with our wine.

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Podere means “farm” in Italian and these vines come from Chieti and Teramo regions. The wine is fermented and aged in steel, resulting in delightfully fresh flavors. The wine also undergoes malolactic fermentation for a rounder, fuller mouth-feel.

This is a great easy-to-drink wine with soft red berry flavors, herbal notes, and a touch of smoke. This was an flawless pairing with our eggplant and it is also a great pick for pizza.

The SRP for this wine is $13 and you can find Montepulciano for affordable prices at almost any wine shop.

Full disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Divine Llama Vineyards: North Carolina Winery Visit

Fun at Divine Llama Vineyards

Critters with four hooves steal the show at this North Carolina winery.

A Nice Glass Of Wine Plus Llamas To Boot

We were enjoying a nice lunch in North Carolina Wine Country when the Green Dragon (my wife) mentioned that she had heard of a winery with llamas. We’ve visited a good number of wineries in Yadkin Valley, but never Divine Llama Vineyards. A quick check of the map showed we were just a short hop away, so off we went.

Divine Llama, located at 4126 Divine Llama Lane in East Bend, has dual attractions. First, it has an enjoyable tasting room with great outdoor space for picnicking with a nice glass of vino. Second, it has llamas galore. We decided to explore the wine first and then visit the llamas.

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We settled into the covered outdoor tasting area to enjoy a flight. There are a variety of seating areas: rocking chairs, picnic tables near the vines, sofas and more spread around the grounds. We opted for the outdoor bar because it had ceiling fans and this was one of those humid North Carolina days.

Divine Wines

Divine Llama has a wide range of wines, including Traminette, Chardonel, and Chambourcin, three French hybrid grapes that do particularly well in the soil and climate of Yadkin Valley. Traminette has spicy notes akin to Gewürztraminer while Chardonel many characteristics of Chardonnay. Chambourcin is a red wine that simply shines in North Carolina.

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There is a wine for every palate at Divine Llama. Some are semi-sweet, some sweet and some even have a touch of berry or fruit juice added. If you visit Divine Llama you’ll be served in plastic cups unless you buy glasses or bring your own – so come prepared.

For our flight we opted for a nicely chilled Pinot Gris followed by the Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Chambourcin. The Pinot Gris was a great refreshing sip that dispelled our clammy summertime blues. It has flavors of pear and green apple. The Cabernet Franc was light-bodied but delivered scrumptious flavors. It gets 20 months of oak aging to develop added complexity.

Petit Verdot is a grape variety that has been crushing it (pardon the pun!) in North Carolina. This was a winner with nicely developed tannins and rich blackberry and cherry notes. For me, the Chambourcin was the highlight. The profile is fruit forward with a healthy dose of raspberry and vanilla flavors. Each bottle we tasted was $24, with the exception of the Petit Verdot, which is $28.

Up Close And Personal – With Llamas

Fortified by wine, it was time to visit the llamas. The on-site Four Ladies & Me Farm is a family-run North Carolina llama farm and the largest llama farm in the Southeast. If you come only to visit the llamas and not enjoy the wine, there is a $10 charge. Otherwise, you can head down the gravel road to visit the featured guests.

Divine Llama

If you are planning a visit, we suggest checking the weather first. While you can enjoy the wine tucked nice and dry in the tasting room, it is a 10-minute walk to the llamas. While we walked down, we kept one eye on a billowing thundercloud that luckily didn’t spoil our fun. The walk down the gravel road also won’t be fun in high heels or uncomfortable shoes.

Along the way, you’ll see ponies and a working farm. We found one friendly llama grazing near the fence, but most were concentrated in two buildings which had hay bales and fans to keep them cool. The Green Dragon was over the moon spending time with the llamas.

If you want to go “all in” with the llamas, you can do a llama trek. The treks cost $50 per person. You must make reservations and – unfortunately – they are not available in the summer. The treks are about two miles long and follow a path over rolling hills and along Miller Creek. About half-way it is time for a water break beside the creek. This provides a perfect spot for pictures with your llama while feeding them treats. Treks begin and end near the wine tasting facility where you can finish your adventure with a bottle of wine. Allow about two hours for your trek.

Looking for a wine trip that offers something extra – look no further than Divine Llama.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Gourmet Lunch Highlights Unique White Wines

Artistic layered tuna stack

A rare grape, wine from Uruguay, and a special dessert treat highlight our opulent meal

Wine – It’s What’s For Lunch

Lunchtime on a Friday isn’t usually anything special. We’re usually trying to finish up dangling to-do items from the workweek and looking forward to the weekend. That changed recently when we received a lunch invitation from Arthur and Mary Barham. Arthur is the man behind Merlot2Muscadine.

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Arthur also has considerable flair as a gourmet cook. Last week he decided to treat the Green Dragon and I to a truly memorable meal prepared by him at his house. Of course, the dishes were carefully paired with some unique and delicious wines.

A Rare Rhone Grape Appears

The memorable afternoon opened with Lemonade Mimosas. As Arthur explained, he likes to “experiment” on us. This drink was Champagne with a dash of lemonade. Interesting – but it couldn’t hold a candle to what was about to come.

Acquiesce Bourboulenc and charred Romaine Salad

The first course required a trip to the outside deck, where Arthur put crispy grill marks on Romaine lettuce. This was a prelude to the scrumptious Charred Romaine Caesar Salad with creamy Caesar dressing, shaved parmesan, and croutons. The salad alone would have been delightful, but the wine pairing of a 2020 Acquiesce Bourboulenc propelled it to the next level. Acquiesce is  a Lodi winery that focuses on Rhone-style white wines. I was introduced to Acquiesce wines a number of years ago at the Wine Bloggers Conference held in Lodi. I was thunderstruck with the quality and variety of the Acquiesce wines.

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The aroma of the Bourboulenc smelled of lemon zest. In the glass it is a light golden color and has a medium body. This hard-to-find French grape has green apple on the palate and rollicks with bold citrus. The wine is nicely textured and wrapped with nice acidity. It was just perfect for the dish.

The Meal Is Stacked

The main course was Seasoned Tuna Stack with red onions, tomatoes, celery, radish and ranch dressing. This was Arthur’s first foray using a mold to prepare a dish. It all hung together nicely, and, in fact, was a foodie-photographer’s delight.

Not just any wine could be paired with this tower of culinary art. The wine was a 2020 Bodega Garzón Single Vineyard Albariño. I’ve had Albariño from many different regions including Rias Baixas in Spain, but this was my first from Uruguay. The tuna stack continued the theme of light, tasty summer fare, while the Garzón amped up the white wine goodness.

With a few exceptions, Albariño has a nice groove with lime, peach notes and occasional salinity and much of it tastes the same. Garzón is quite different, packing much more of a punch (14% ABV) than a typical Spanish or California Albariño. It has some nice floral touches, tropical fruit notes and good minerality.

Linville Falls Late Harvest Riesling and Sorbet Trio

Liquid Gold

We had a sweet finish to the meal, a Sorbet Trio with Lemon Girl Scout Cookie paired with Linville Falls Late Harvest Riesling. Linville Falls is a North Carolina winery tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The elevation of 3,200 feet allows it to grow grapes that would fail at lower and hotter elevations. They call their Late-Harvest Riesling “liquid gold.” Late harvest wines get more “hang time” on the vine and start to dehydrate, concentrating the sugar in each grape.

The sweetness was balanced out by a trio of sherbet (I still continue my campaign of telling people it is “sherbet” not “sherbert!”). Joining the sherbet was a Girl Scout Lemon Cookie. Who knew what a great combination this would be? 

Thanks to Arthur and Mary for a magnificent meal.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Iris Vineyards 2020 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Iris 2020 Pinot Noir

A good value Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is always a reason to celebrate. During a recent webinar with the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association, we explored the 2020 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Iris Vineyard. It has a $24 SRP and over-delivers with soft fruit notes balanced nicely with an underlying earthiness. Winemaker Aaron Lieberman explained that 2020 was a tricky vintage, which was marked by wildfires. This caused some adjustments to the picking and fermentation decisions, including extra time in oak barrels.

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Iris is a family-owned estate winery in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range, in southern Willamette Valley. The tasting room is 30 minutes southwest of Eugene, Oregon. It is located on the 870-acre estate, with almost 50 acres of vineyard framed by restored woodlands.

This wine uses grapes from five different vineyards that span the Chehalem Mountain, Eola Hills, McMinnville and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs in Willamette. Despite a challenging harvest, we’re happy to say the end result is a highly enjoyable wine that can pair with everything from a nice stew to a charcuterie board.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Willamette Whites Gaining Critical Acclaim

Willamette Whites 

By Dave Nershi, CSW – Vino-Sphere Publisher

With more than 700 wineries and picturesque scenery, there’s a lot to love in Willamette Valley. It is Oregon’s leading wine region, and two thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards are located there. Then, of course, there is the Pinot Noir, recognized as some of the best in the world.

If you assume that Willamette Valley is strictly Pinot Noir, you’re in for a delicious surprise. In fact, 30% of Willamette Valley’s grapes are those other than Pinot Noir. The quality of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and lesser-known white grapes is capturing the attention of wine critics with their balance, elegance, and higher acidity. We tasted six Willamette whites from premier wineries. To round out the picture, we contacted three Willamette Valley winemakers to get their perspectives on the rise of white wines in the region.

Aaron Lieberman with bottleIris Vineyards is a family-owned estate winery in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range, in southern Willamette Valley. It's located on an 870-acre estate, with almost 50 acres of vineyard framed by restored woodlands. Winemaker Aaron Lieberman’s philosophy is to create bright, fruit-forward, wines that honor their source with crisp acidity and low alcohol. Aaron is approaching his 13th vintage as winemaker for Iris Vineyards.

“There are white wines produced in other parts of the world that are very similar to Willamette Valley wines,” said Lieberman. “For some white wines produced here, the combination of the climate and soils derived from volcanic parent material does make these wines unique.

“My focus for the Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is to respect the varietal (varietal character) and end up with a balanced, easy-to-drink wine. Cultural practices in the vineyard, picking decisions and grape handling in the winery all contribute to this,” said Aaron. “All of the above applies to the Blanc de Noirs and Sweet Amalia. An additional focus for the Blanc de Noirs is persistence and quality of mousse (foam). Additionally, for Sweet Amalia, we strive to create a product that appeals to tasting room visitors and club members who demand a sweet wine. At the same time, I want this wine to have a complex flavor profile and to improve with age.”

Youngberg Hill is a 50-acre estate with 20 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards in Willamette Valley. Proprietor/winegrower Wayne Bailey and his family are the modern-day stewards of a property that has been a family farm since the 1850s. The first vines were planted on the McMinnville property in 1989. The estate is among the Willamette Valley’s westernmost vineyards and experiences significant maritime influence.

Wayne Bailey“Our white program includes Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and sparkling wine,” said Bailey. “However, our focus is on Chardonnay. I believe, like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is best grown in cooler climates and reflects where and when it's grown. My goal is for the Willamette Valley to be known just as much for its Chardonnay as for its Pinot Noir. And when that happens, you will finally see Willamette Valley Chardonnays on retail shelves and restaurants across the country.”

Dave Specter is the owner and winemaker at Bells Up Winery, a micro-boutique winery he operates with his wife Sara. Dave is a former corporate tax attorney who won two national amateur winemaking competitions, encouraging the couple to purchase a former Christmas tree farm north of Newberg, Oregon, to establish their vineyard. Today the winery produces about 600 cases annually.

“Regionally—and broadly speaking—there is a tendency toward producing crisper, balanced white wines that showcase the minerality of the area’s soils,” said Specter. “You don’t see many oaked whites made here compared to other winemaking regions, which makes them distinctive.

Dave Specter of Bells UpFor whites, I’m trying to achieve approachability and elegance through balanced acidity with a creamy texture that comes from a few months spent stirring the wine on its lees. That gives them a fuller-bodied presence, allowing our white wines to be enjoyed solo or accompanied by a meal. We’ve seen great pairings with oysters or creamy Mediterranean lamb stew for the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, and fish tacos or asparagus with lemon for the Helios Seyval Blanc, which is the only planting of that varietal in the Willamette Valley (thereby making it a very unique white here).”

While the Willamette Valley's reputation for white wine previously has been built on Pinot Gris, the cool climate and unique soils that bring forth standout Pinot Noir are also ideal for another Burgundian grape: Chardonnay. We were also impressed with the range of whites reviewed, from Pinot Blanc to a sparkling Blanc de Noir, and a Seyval Blanc, as well as Pinot Gris, delivered in a dry as well as sweet style.

Areté 2019 Brut Blanc de Noirs

Areté is the premium range of wines from Iris. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir but delivered in a “blanc” style. We began our tasting event with this wine and the foamy perlage delighted the crowd. Wonderful crisp grapefruit notes mingled with lemon and peach. Small, refined bubbles. SRP $33.99

Bells Up Rhapsody 2021 Pinot Blanc

This wine immediately gained fan-favorite status with our group. I was expecting a more austere wine, but the Rhapsody (named for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue) delivered nectarine and lemon zest flavors in a jazzy way. The wine gets six months of sur lie aging for a fuller body without dampening the crispness. $32.

Willamette Valley WhitesBells Up Helios 2021 Seyval Blanc, Chehalem Mountains

Bells Up has the first and only Seyval Blanc planting in Willamette Valley (second in Oregon). The variety is found mostly in the Midwest and East. Tropical fruit and green apples surround a swirling minerality. There is a unique flinty twang on the finish. Very limited availability of 64 cases. $40.

Youngberg Hill 2021 Aspen Pinot Gris

Named after the youngest daughter of the winemaker, this Pinot Gris has a pleasing fruitiness perfect to pair with spicy food. Juicy apricot and floral notes mingle with tropical fruit flavors and mineral tones. This is classic Willamette Valley Pinot Gris! $35

Iris 2020 Pinot Gris

Bright citrus flavors wrapped in juicy pear. Whole-cluster pressed for additional depth of flavor. This is an easy-to-love wine with a refreshing juiciness. The acidity adds to the structure and balance. $15.99.

Iris 2019 Sweet Amelia Pinot Gris

This was one of the big surprises of our tasting. I’ve never heard of a dessert wine Pinot Gris, let alone tasted one. We had two guests who refused to leave without taking what was left in the bottle. This is a delicate wine, not viscous or sticky. There are touches of honey and orange marmalade. Even with the sweetness, it maintains balance and a crisp finish. $18.99.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Your Ultimate Rosé Guide: Our Recommendations For Summer Sipping

Ultimate Rosé Guide 3

In celebration of National Rosé Day (the second Saturday in June) we’re proud to present our Ultimate Rosé Guide. We’re sorted through dozens of different wines, styles and prices to deliver these recommendations with plenty of flavor and an abundance of value.

In ancient Greece, it was considered cultivated to blend white and red grapes. Naturally ight and pleasant, they were the talk of the Mediterranean. Later when the Romans landed in Provence, they used their trade networks to make the wine popular in the Roman world. Even today, Provence is the epicenter of rosé world.

The quality of  rosé had its ups and downs in the ensuing centuries but in the 2000s, the fortunes of rosé began to rise.Today finely crafted  rosé wines are available around the globe. Known for its versatility and food-friendly nature, these jewel-colored wines are particularly outstanding in hot weather.

We’ve curated a list of some of our favorite  rosé wines. Chill, pop, and enjoy!

Acquesi Brachetto DOC

– This Italian sparkler is fresh, soft and balanced. Made with 100% Brachetto, the bottle design says “party time.” Red fruit, spices, and a pop of sweetness. SRP: $17.99

Alma Negra Brut Nature –We can’t get enough of this fresh strawberry blend of Malbec and Pinot Noir. Zingy with a dash of lime. We put this in our “people pleaser” category since everyone who has tasted it loves it. Bright and elegant. Argentina. SRP $21.99

Art of Earth Rosé 2019 – An aromatic blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah (30%) from the warm, Mediterranean influenced south of France. This wine is organic and made with old vines. A tart accent of strawberries and raspberry. Good acidity. SRP: $13.99

Fête des Fleurs Rosé 2020 – From the diverse and sometimes stoney “galet” soils of Provence, this Rosé is made in the traditional way with characteristics of tart red fruits, brioche and wild berries. You may not be familiar with all these grapes, but they are key to the world famous Provence wine style: 40% Grenache, 35% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Rolle SRP: $18.99

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Hampton Water 2020 --  Famed rocker Jon Bon Jovi and son Jesse Bongiovi have teamed with famed winemaker Gérard Bertrand for this wine from France’s Languedoc region. The blend of Grenache 60%, Cinsault 15%, Mourvèdre 15%, Syrah 10% rocks with citrus and strawberry. It gets added complexity from oak aging. $19.95.

Maison Marcel Hearts Rosé – The bottle from Provence features a “hearts” design by artist James Goldcrown, making with perfect for a gift or party. Crisp,  and well balanced, and slightly off-dry taste profile. White ripe peach, lychee and elderflower on the inside. Grenache, Merlot, Black Muscat, White Muscat. SRP $18.99

Maison Marcel “Sparkling Hearts” Rosé – The sparking version features delicate notes of white peach and nectarine.  The hearts on the outside will win your heart on the inside. This "Cuvée Provence" showcases a beautiful rose gold color. SRP $24.99

Mosketto Frizzante Rosato 2019 - Mosketto is the combination of two famous grapes, Moscato and Brachetto, both locally grown in Italy’s Piedmont region. This is mildly sweet, naturally bubbly,and low in alcohol (just 6.5%). The wines are made in the same way as the more classic Moscato D’Asti but the fermentation is stopped to retain the sweetness. Summer fun on the patio. SRP: $12.00

STUDIO by Miraval 2020 -- STUDIO by Miraval Rosé is produced with the same know-how as its sister Miraval Rosé. We find this to be an excellent buy. Named for the soon to be reopened music studio at the Château that has been the recording site of artists from Pink Floyd to Sade, STUDIO by Miraval is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle, and Tibouren. Sourced from the French Riviera, it is full-bodied, aromas of citrus, grapefruit and figs with a lovely mineral structure. SRP $15.99

La Vieille Ferme Sparkling Rosé NV – La Vieille Ferme is one of the top French values to hit our shores. The price and quality are hard to beat and chances are you can easily find the brand on your local shelves.  A versatile and delicious choice, this sparkler is crisp and acidic, thanks to the limestone soils that allow the vines to absorb water. A perfect refresher with a salad on a warm day. SRP $14.99

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2020 – A blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, this rosé offers a bouquet of red fruit, citrus highlights, and floral accents.  It offers everything you could want: fruit, freshness and beautiful color and the price is a mere $11.99. This is America’s #1 selling French wine. Perfect for dinner or as an aperitif.

Full disclosure: The wines were received as a marketing sample.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Richard Böcking 2019 Böcking Riesling, Mosel Valley

Bocking Riesling

 

Reach for Summer Refreshment With Riesling

Riesling is the most versatile white grape. It can be finished sweet or dry in a variety of styles and with different flavor profiles. The art of Riesling is perfected in Germany. A case in point is the Richard Böcking 2019 Böcking Riesling. This off dry Riesling comes from the Middle Mosel Valley, where vines have been planted since Roman times.

The grapes come from the steep Trarbacher Taubenhaus  estate vineyard. The grapes are finished in stainless steel to preserve the blooming, floral taste. It’s fresh and light. We found this Riesling interesting because it has distinct herbal and honeysuckle flavors with the light sweetness not interfering with the delicate nuances. This is a unique grape and a unique wine that we truly enjoyed.

Five thousand bottles were produced for the US.

Full disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Dynamis Prepares To Open Doors To North Carolina’s Premier Luxury Winery

Dynamis Vines

North Carolina wine lovers, get ready to take things up a notch! June 1 Dynamis Estate Wines will open their tasting room. 

Dynamis Wine Estate

PXL_20220515_164242319.PORTRAIT

By Dave Nershi, CSW

Driving up the curving roads to Dynamis Estate, the latest addition the North Carolina wine scene, the sense of anticipation grows. We are in the Swan Creek AVA, which also includes such standouts wineries as Shadow Spring, Raffaldini, and Piccione. The road to the top passes through fruit trees and immaculately groomed grapevines. Dynamis Estate Wines is located at the pinnacle, and that is the lofty place they hope to maintain both literally and figuratively.

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We were treated to a preview tasting at the Dynamis tasting lodge. The lodge is a historic building with beautiful views of the vineyard, and it will eventually be replaced by a new tasting room.

The estate is in the highest spot in Yadkin Valley, on the easternmost outcropping of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The tasting room itself sits at 1,650 feet. “To have a premium wine brand, you need to have a premium site,” said winemaker Mat Worrell. He handles winemaking duties along with Katy Kidd. Their task is an arduous one, to craft wines that are measured not against those in North Carolina, but the best in the nation.

Dynamis EmblemElevated Wine Experience

One of the reasons that the high elevation is so important, is that it allows longer hang time for the red grapes. One of the failings of some North Carolina reds is that they are unable to stay on the vine long enough to develop rich flavors. The slope provides excellent drainage, and the mountain top breeze chases the humidity which might cause early ripening or disease.

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Dynamis offers a compelling white wine, a 2020 Sauvignon Blanc that is fermented in a concrete egg. It has tastes of apricot and peach with a creamy texture. The body is somewhere between the crispness of stainless steel and the warmer tones of oak aging. In my mind, it’s a great place to be. SRP $35

There will always be at least one white on the tasting menu, but the focus is on complex red wines. The 2019 Merlot opens with a delicious flavor of jam accented with herbal notes. This is no weak-kneed Merlot, but a full-bodied wine. SRP $50

PXL_20220515_171910213Complex Red Wines

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine, made using free run juice. This is considered the very best juice that comes out of the grape press. Since no pressure is applied, you get the best expression of the wine and no harsh flavors that you get when the press presses harder and harder.

It ages is for 22 months in new medium-char French oak barrels. The first impression is, “Wow.” The tannins are really beautiful and unexpected in a North Carolina Cabernet, which is one of the most difficult grapes to grow in the state. It has a touch of Petite Verdot (4%). It's elegant and powerful with vanilla and dark fruit. SRP $100

Winemakers Mat Worrell and Katy Kidd

 

Dynamis will always have two reds blends each year. The 2019 Alpha is a blend of Petite Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet. This wine leads with red fruit. It’s a panorama of Dynamis vineyard blocks and winemaking techniques. A silky mouthfeel rolls into wild cherry, red currant, and vanilla. SRP $95

The pinnacle of Dynamis Estate Wines is the 2019 Mountain. It is the very best of the vintage with specially selected blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot grapes. It’s fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak. Aging is done in oak barrels of various sizes and toast levels. It’s powerful and focused on black fruit with blackberries and toffee flavors. Dynamis is defined as limitless power and the might of the mountain is certainly harnessed in this bottle. The commitment to excellence in every step has resulted in a complex bottle seldom seen in North Carolina. It has a rich, savory finish. SRP $125 ($150 for the gold label first edition).

Like the wines, the premise of Dynamis is audacious. It seeks to offer only the best of the best for wine aficionados in North Carolina and beyond.

The Tasting Lodge is open 11 to 5 Wednesday through Sunday. Tastings are by appointment only. A 60-minute tasting of current releases is $45 per person. A guided 90-minutes tasting with a wine ambassador is $55.