Thursday, January 21, 2021

WIYG – A Cavalcade Of Wine Reviews

WIYG? That’s a question we are often asked. Here’s a look at what's in our glass.

What the heck is a cavalcade and what’s it doing in my wine blog? Well, if you must know, it is defined as a formal procession of people walking, on horseback, or riding in vehicles. Many years ago there was a variety TV show called Jackie Gleason’s Cavalcade of Stars. I never saw the show and my introduction is veering into the weeds quickly, so I’ll simply say that I’m proud to present a cavalcade of wine so that I can catch up on wines that we’ve tasted but haven’t yet been reviewed. So, ta da, here is the cavalcade…

Nadia 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Nadia 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard

Although we carefully cellar our wine, when you dip back 10 or more years, the quality can be hit or miss. With Nadia, it was a big hit. We love Napa Valley, but it is nice to explore Cabernet Sauvignon from other regions.

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We were rewarded with a rich, rich, body. The wine has lovely notes of caramel and plum. This is a single vineyard Cab from Santa Barbera County, a wonderful – and less explored – part of California wine country.

2007 Long Shadows Wineries Syrah Sequel, Columbia Valley

Cavalcade of Wine Jan. 2021This is a wine from one of the coolest wineries around: Long Shadows. Long Shadows pairs international winemakers with the fantastic vineyards of Washington State. The winemaker of Sequel Syrah is John Duval, the former winemaker for Penfolds Grange in Australia.

We purchased two bottles, drinking one in 2013 and the last seven years later. Alas, the wine didn’t hold up. The wine is still broodingly dark, but the fruit has all but disappeared with some olive notes and faint blueberry left. Time to get a new vintage.

Winemaker Selection 2018 Pinot Noir, Hawkes Bay

This wine goes into the “why not” category. I picked this up for less than $8 at the Lidl grocery store. Hawkes Bay is perhaps New Zealand’s best known region for red wine. We weren’t expecting much based on the price, but were pleasantly surprised.

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The Winemaker Selection isn’t complex, but is varietally correct and quite satisfying. Notes of smoke and raspberry carry this medium-light bodied wine. Low price but super high QPR (quality price ratio).

Gran Corte 2015 Red Blend, Valle de Colchagua

This wine comes from the southern reach of Chile and sounded like a winner with a promising blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, and Syrah. Gran Corte, in Spanish, designates an assemblage of high quality wines. This wine weighs in at 15% ABV and the bottle has a bit of heft too.

This is another wine from Lidl and I thought I’d opt for quality by spending a few dollars more. This cost about $13. However, it was a bust. The wine was grapey, which is a funny thing to say about a product that is entirely made of grapes. It had no refined flavors – strictly one dimensional with weak bleary flavors.

Beaux Frères 2014 The Upper Terrace 2014 Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge

The Upper Terrace rocked it from first drop to last. The wine comes from the uber-cool Ribbon Ridge AVA, which is part of the beloved Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. The wine is unfiltered, unfined and unparalleled. On the nose there are sour cherries. On the tongue there are earthy plum notes and black tea leaves. It has a divine, lush texture and finished with a touch of spice.

Beaux Frères was one of the earliest wineries in Oregon, founded in 1986 by Michael G. Etzel, and brother-in-law (Beaux Frères in French) wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr.

Cavalcade of Wines Part 2

El Viejo del Valle 2019 Chardonnay, Central Valley

El Viejo del Valle means Old Man of the Valley. This Chilean Chardonnay, with 1950s-style Chilean street graffiti on the label, was a sub -$10 buy on sale at Great Grapes in Cary. The wine, imported by the French company Boutinot, is unoaked with pure notes of apple and pear. It is lively with a crisp finish. Fruit for this 2019 vintage comes from the Central Valley and an old vines vineyard beneath a volcano.

Chilean wines represent great value. Many of the white grapes take on different flavor expressions in the unique Chilean climate.

Tenet 2014 The Pundit Syrah, Columbia Valley

With all the political fireworks, we’ve just about had our fill of pundits – except when it comes to The Pundit, a Syrah from Washington’s Columbia Valley. It’s a blend of 88% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 4% Mourvedre,  and 2% Viognier.

We paired it with Beef Bourguignon and the red cherry, blackberry and earth undertones of the wine melded beautifully with the dish. The label art is captivating, so much so you’ll feel you’re being watched. It explodes with flavor and is refined by aging in French oak and concrete. A true beauty.

Cavalcade out!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Ravines Wine Cellars Dazzles With Small Production Gems

Ravines Maximilien, Cab Franc & Dry RieslingPioneering winemaker crafts European-style wines in the Finger Lakes.

Rock The Ravines

Ravines Wine Cellars was one of the first Finger Lakes wineries that captured our hearts. Setting out on a road trip from Ohio on the advice of neighbors we aimed for a wine destination we were told would perfectly suit our palates.

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In our salad days, the first wines we enjoyed were sweet white wines from Germany. For years we opted only for sweet Riesling wines and similar ilk. Perhaps it is inevitable, but as years came and went, our palates became drier and we became more discerning in our wine.

Riesling was set aside, because we believed it was only sweet (as opposed to the world’s most versatile white grape!). Then we learned of the Finger Lakes and their refreshingly dry style of Riesling. We packed up the car and headed for the promised land.

Keuka Lake was one of the first stops on that trip back in 2009 as we swept from west to east. It was there we were first introduced to Ravines, the passion of winemaker Morten Hallgren and his chef wife Lisa. The winery has since expanded to include not only the original tasting room on Keuka, but a production facility and tasting room on Seneca Lake near Geneva.

International Roots Run Deep

Morten is Danish by birth, and grew up on his parents’ winery in the French Côtes de Provence. While Lisa trained in the culinary arts, Morten gained a degree from one of France’s top winemaking school and went to work in Burgundy’s famed Medóc region.

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Wine positions in Texas and the Biltmore Winery in Asheville, NC, then led Morten to a chief winemaker position at Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes. The job allowed the couple to see the potential for crafting premium cool-climate wines in the region. They purchased their original parcel of 17 acres of land on the steep eastern slop of Keuka between two ravines and began making wine. The holding has since expanded to 130 acres.

Food Pairings with Ravines WineMorten describes his technique as transparent winemaking, striving to grow the best grapes possible while being good stewards of the land. Sustainable farming and organic methods are used in line with this philosophy.

A Taste Of Excellence

We were delighted to have the chance to taste three of Ravine’s current releases: 2017 Dry Riesling, 2018 Cabernet Franc, and the 2018 Maximilien red blend.

2017 Dry Riesling

We paired the Dry Riesling with teriyaki-glazed salmon steaks. The wine is an example of what makes Finger Lakes Riesling the best (in our opinion) in the United States.

The grapes come from the White Springs Vineyard and the 16 Falls Vineyard, one vineyard is on each side of Seneca Lake. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and aged on light lees.

The wine has delicate flavors of juicy apple and citrus perfectly balanced with light acidity. It’s all bound together with flowing minerality. It’s a perfect food wine, as we discovered with our meal. At an SRP of $17.95, this is a great bargain. Ravines also has single vineyard Rieslings, and we love the Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling.

2018 Cabernet Franc

The standout red in the Finger Lakes is Cabernet Franc, which does particularly well in cool climates. This bottle was a delight from first drop to last.

I put on my chef’s apron to whip up Shrimp & Corn Cakes with Salsa for our pairing. Fainter souls might have opted for a white wine, but I know Cab Franc can be a melodious match with a wide range of entrees. My faith was justified.

The wine undergoes oak aging, but the accent is on balance and minerality. It's a beauty that rocks with juicy plum, strawberry, and herbal notes. The wine gets malolactic fermentation, which contributes to the soft and smooth texture. French and Slovenian/Austrian oak barrels were used. At $21.95, it’s an amazing value.

2017 Maximilien

One of my favorite reds during my first visit more than a decade ago was the Meritage. Red Meritage is the US equivalent of a Bordeaux blend and the use of the name is limited to a winery’s best red blend. I was disappointed to learn that Ravines no longer made Meritage – but I was soaring again when I learned that they had simply named their premium red blend Maximilien.

Maximilien is a 54% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon formulation. It opens with tart cherries and blackberries with a distinct savory note. Maximilien puts the focus on rich, expressive fruit. It gets 17 months in French and American oak, with 18% being new. There is a note of sweet oak and on the finish, there is an enjoyable toasted oak flavor.

This wine expresses the spirit of Finger Lakes red wine excellence. There is no need to mimic a bombastic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, the terroir and fruit lead in another direction: red wines that are accessible, artistic, and true to the grapes. This is a red wine bonanza at $24.95.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Cameron Hughes Delivers Stylish DOCG Prosecco And Carneros Pinot Noir

Cameron Hughes Prosecco and Carneros Pinot Noir

Ready to add some spark to your evening, or maybe just need a good bottle for hunkering down? Here are two great picks.

Grace And Style For Little Scratch

The train has pulled out of the station leaving the festive holiday season behind and is rumbling down the tracks toward months more of pandemic. It’s time to reach for another bottle while seeking out the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are two excellent choices.

Cameron Hughes Lot 738 Prosecco, Valdobbiadene DOCG, NV

One of the best values for sparkling wine is Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco from Italy. There’s a sea of sweet and insipid Prosecco out there, but if it has DOCG on the label that’s a mark of quality. That means someone actually tasted the wine and approved the quality. This sparkling wine comes from Glera grapes grown in the hills of Valdobbiadene, the home of stellar Prosecco.

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We enjoyed Lot 738 with a meal of tuna steak, quinoa, and roasted vegetables. The Prosecco is crystal in color with notes of white flower blossoms and citrus on the nose. The perlage is frothy, lending a great creamy texture. The bubbles are tiny and persistent. On the palate it has notes of lemon zest and green apple.

Cameron Hughes is a négociant, sourcing wine and reselling it direct to the consumer under their label at great savings. There were 750 cases were produced. The price is $15.

Cameron Hughes Lot 704 2018 Carneros Pinot Noir

Grapes for this Pinot Noir come from one of California’s top Pinot Noir regions: Carneros. The grapes are estate grown and the vines are 20- to 40-years old. We enjoyed this with a delicious roast turkey breast.

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Finding a Pinot Noir like this for $16 is a revelation. It has complex layers of dark cherry, cooking spices, herbs, and tobacco. Underlying acidity makes Pinot Noir a standout food wine, and Lot 704 displays a nice undercurrent that balances the flavors and the 14.5% ABV.

Cameron Hughes works with wineries that have excess wine and don’t want to deeply discount their own label. Cameron Hughes buys it, gives it a lot number and new label and resells it. This Pinot was priced at $35 from the parent winery, but Cameron Hughes (which cannot divulge the source) sells it at less than half price. We like deals like that – especially when they are so tasty.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Watermill 2017 Hallowed Stones Cabernet Franc, The Rocks District

Hallowed Stones 2017 Cabernet Franc SMReady to rock your world? Try wines from this small Oregon wine region.

Terroir For Perfect Wines

What’s the most exciting AVA in the US? That’s a difficult question to answer. A number of new ones were approved in 2020, even one called Candy Mountain in Washington State.

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An AVA that is opening eyes and pleasing palates is The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, established in 2015. The Rocks District is located in the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which overlaps the Oregon and Washington border, but is located entirely on the Oregon side.

In 2019 I visited the region and was dazzled by the quality of wine and the unique growing conditions of the land. The Rocks District is a mere 3,767 acres, of which less than 350 are planted. Compare that with the Columbia Valley AVA, which also includes parts of Washington and Oregon, at more than 11 million acres of which roughly 60,000 are under vine.

The quality tops the charts: Four perfect 100-point wines were made using Rocks District grapes -- and the Rocks District is the only Oregon AVA to produce any 100-point wines. How can such a small space so captivate wine lovers?

Hallowed Stones Soil SMA Singular Soil

Other AVAs include patchworks of different soil types, but the Rocks District boasts the largest percentage of a single soil type of any AVA. What soil it is! The AVA boundaries are based upon the geographical distribution of the Freewater soil series, which comes from the cobblestone-rich gravels deposited by the Walla Walla River. The cobblestones consist entirely of basalt, a dark-colored, volcanic rock whose origins are the Blue Mountains.

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The soil would seem a very unlikely candidate to farm anything, let alone world-class wine. The fields are filled with softball-size cobblestones that seem to make any planting or tilling a gargantuan task. Therein lies the secret.

The cleared soil between rows of vines absorbs solar radiation and transmits it to the roots and low-hanging fruit to encourage early bud-break and growth. The surface stones help moderate the effects of cool weather by radiating warmth at night. The mineral elements in the weathered basalt? Well, the resulting flavors are sublime.

Finesse In A Glass

Watermill Winery is producing Rock District wines that positively shine. I enjoyed a lovely tasting and tour during my visit. Cabernet Franc is always a favorite with us, so I purchased a bottle that we opened recently.

Watermill Hallowed Stones Cab Franc and Beef Stroganoff SMAndrew Brown is the winemaker for the 2017 Hallowed Stones Cabernet Franc of which 250 cases were produced. It is 100% Cabernet Franc from the Freewater Cobble soil of the Rocks District. It gets 11 months of aging in French oak, (30% new).

In this Cab Franc creation, the vegetal notes are dialed-back in favor of a flowing minerality. There are precise chords of raspberry and blueberry with some savory notes.The ABV is 13.9%, but the wine is approachable and balanced so well we gave it nary a thought.

The wine is truly finesse and grace in a glass. We paired the wine with vegetarian beef stroganoff and it melded wonderfully with the creamy sauce.

Both the 2017 and 2018 vintages are available from Watermill at $40. I’d suggest the 2017 while you can get it. The Hallowed Stone series also features Syrah and Tempranillo. It’s time to rock out!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Top Red Wines Of 2020: An Exclusive Vino-Sphere List

Vino-Sphere Top Reds 2020Cheers to the end of 2020 and a new beginning in 2021. We’re celebrating with our year-end list of top wines.

Yes, it’s here – our annual listing of the best wines we’ve had in the last 365 days. In this  installment we look at our favorite red wines. Click here to see our list of Top 2020 whites, rosé, and sparkling wines.

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We’re anxious for that ball to drop ushering in 2021. Who wouldn’t be? Although the world faced an (yes, I’m going to use that word) unprecedented health crisis, wineries hung in there despite COVID tasting room closings, wildfires, and travel restrictions that forced wine patrons to stay at home.

We were able to do our share of Zoom wine sessions and opened bottles with friends in a socially-distant setting. This year has been memorable for many reasons, some of them good – like these bottles on our list of top 2020 red wines.

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Some of the wines are from historic producers and well-known vineyards. Others are lesser-known wines that captured our fancy. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy this list of our top 30 red wines of 2020.

Vino-Sphere Top 30 Red Wines of 2020

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Top White, Rosé, And Sparkling Wines Of 2020: An Exclusive Vino-Sphere List

Vino-Sphere Top Whites 2020Cheers to the end of 2020 and a new beginning in 2021. We’re celebrating with our year-end list of top wines.

Yes, it’s here – our annual listing of the best wines we’ve had in the last 365 days. In this first installment we look at whites, rosé, and sparkling wines.

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This has clearly been a year unlike any other – at least in our lifetimes. Normally we’d be combing the countryside and trotting the globe searching for adventure and great wine. Alas, the COVID pandemic put the kibosh on that.

We were able to savor some really great wines despite the global health crisis. To fully “test-drive” a wine, we like to share with friends. We were able to do so on a limited basis with socially-distant tastings – but big wine dinner plans were put away for a future time. The year ahead, at some point, offers hope of normalcy.

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So, we’re proud to present to you our list of Top 20  White, Rosé, And Sparkling Wines. Some are from famed producers and wine regions, others are small producers or wines that just tickled our fancy. Pop open a bottle and savor our reviews and articles with all the details. An asterisk denotes a wine of distinction.

Vino-Sphere Top 20 White, Rosé, Sparkling Wines of 2020

Monday, December 21, 2020

Fathers + Daughters Cellars Make Mark With Stellar Micro-Production Wines

Our first taste of this family winery showcases the terroir of Anderson Valley.

Fathers+Daughters Sarah's Rustic Bubbles

All In The Family

Fathers + Daughters Cellars is a boutique winery crafting wines from wines primarily from Anderson Valley’s Ferrington Vineyard. The output is a minuscule 600 cases, making each bottle of premium wine a true gem.

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The namesake fathers and daughters begin with patriarch Kurt Schoeneman, who is the owner of the storied Ferrington Vineyard. Daughter Sarah is married to Guy Pacurar. Together they have two daughters, Taylor and Ella. Together this clan has put its stamp on some truly magical wines.

We had the opportunity to sample three wines, all produced by winemaker Phil Baxter. Baxter studied enology at UC Davis and refined his skills in Burgundy before bringing his French Cellar methods and techniques back to northern California. Due to his dedication to the expression of terrier in Pinot Noir, Fathers + Daughters Cellars approached him to craft the inaugural release of their flagship wine, Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir in 2012.

2018 Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley

We were excited just looking at this bottle of sparkling wine. It is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Roederer estate vineyard and the bright gold of the wine is cloudy with sediment. It is made using the Petillant-Natural method with fermentation started in stainless steel tanks and then finished in the bottle. Unlike the traditional method, there is no disgorgement and the wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Fathers+Daughters focuses on single vineyard wines

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Rustic Bubbles is closed with a crown cap, adding to its unique style. It’s a wonderful wine with rustic complexity and texture. The flavor profile is apples and citrus and in more abundance than Champagne. The perlage creates a pleasing froth, but the bubbles are not as persistent as a traditional method wine.

We would dub this casual chic and at $21 SRP, it’s affordable luxury.

2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley

Fathers + Daughters has produced a beautiful bottle with this Sauvignon Blanc. There’s no cut grass flavor and instead of over-the-top acidity, it delivers balanced flavors of tart citrus with cooling minerality.

This is a dry wine with refreshing notes. An ABV of 12.8% and stainless steel finish makes it a breeze to pair with food. It’s perfect for a summer picnic or a stay-at-home meal of poultry or fish. A new favorite wine at $25.

Fathers + Daughters Ella's Reserve Pinot Noir2017 Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley

This wine makes us say, “Hurrah for Pinot Noir.” This is the flagship wine made by Fathers + Daughters. It’s artfully produced, made with Dijon, Pommard, and Waldenswil clones which contribute their nuanced flavors.

Thirty-percent of the grapes were fermented whole-cluster, adding interest and character. Ella’s Reserve is fermented naturally with native yeast and also undergoes malolactic fermentation. Aging is 20 months in 25% once-used and 75% neutral French oak barrels.

When the bottle is opened, it’s time to forget about the painstaking care by the winemaker and just enjoy this gem. Violet and black cherry greet you on the front end. The texture is smooth and rounded with a touch of graphite and herbs to create complexity and interest.

A hundred cases were produced and it’s the signature wine for a reason. It’s very, very good. SRP is $52.

These are beautiful and stylish wines. We encourage you to get to know the family!

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Consider These Holiday Treasure Wines

PXL_20201203_013914373.PORTRAITThe holidays are here. What will you pour? Check out this quartet.

Spanning The Globe

Anyone remember The Wide World of Sports? The opening had a montage of sports clips and the punchy narration: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition...”

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We don’t pretend to do all that, but we do span the globe to taste some really exemplary wines so that you too may know the thrill of victory. Here are four that we recently tasted and enjoyed, from three different continents and all at a palatable price.

Tinto NegroKara-Tara 2018 Pinot Noir, Western Cape, South Africa

We opened this around a neighborly neighbor’s firepit. This is a South African spin on Pinot Noir. The name means “deep dark shadows” and indeed this wine tilts towards the earthy end of the Pinot spectrum. The vines average five years of age and grow at an elevation of 500 to 900 feet.

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This is a more substantial Pinot with malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak lending a beautiful body. In fact, I had to doublecheck the label to make sure I wasn’t drinking a bottle of Pinotage instead of Pinot Noir. A complex and exciting bottle priced at $21.99.

Tinto Negro 2018 Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina

Talk about taking your Malbec drinking to new heights! This wine comes from the Los Arboles district of the Uco Valley, located at an altitude of 3,500 feet. The grapes are grown in shallow, sandy silt where their struggles result in a beautiful concentration of flavor.

This wine reflects the cool climate style of Malbec, with dark fruit and chocolate flavors. In fact, Tinto Negro means black wine in Spanish. There are rich flavors accented with oak, from six months in used French barrels. The complex Tinto Negro blows away the simply, jammy Malbecs but has an affordable $16.99 price tag.

Famille Perrin 2019 Nature Côtes du Rhône Blanc

This delightful white is a certified organic wine from the first family of the Rhône Valley. You are probably more familiar with the CDR reds – but the whites are intriguing and expressive.

PXL_20201216_012954432.PORTRAITThe grapes come from the northern part of the Côtes du Rhône region and are harvested in the morning to preserve their freshness. Aging in stainless steel keeps the flavors precise. The body is round and soft.

The Nature Blanc is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne – all lovely grapes with which you should become acquainted. This is a beautiful light gold in the glass with honeysuckle notes on the nose. It flows with tastes of peach and lime.

A natural partner for fish, this would also rock spicy Asian cuisine. We recommend a multi-bottle buy, or maybe a case at the ridiculously low price of $14.99.

August Kesseler 2018 The Daily August Pinot Noir, Rheingau

Germany’s Rheingau region is rightly known for Riesling, which accounts for 80% of production. What you may not know is that Germany’s number one red grape is Pinot Noir, also known as Spätburgunder. The name of this wine encourages you to make this German Pinot part of your daily routine.

This is VDP Gutswein. VDP is a collection of Germany’s leading wine estates and Gutswein is their classification for good entry level wine. The Daily August is aged in barriques manufactured in their two-story cellar, which dates to 1792.

Oak aging makes a difference as this wine has more complexity than the Spätburgunder we’ve had before. There are dark cherry and blueberry notes. This wine evolved in the glass and we found ourselves liking it more as the wine in our glasses went up and the wine in the bottle went down.

The winery suggests the following meal pairing: guinea fowl with red wine butter, parsley risotto, and porcini mushrooms. That would certainly be a feast! SRP is $26.99.

Full disclosure: This wine was received as marketing samples.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Windsor Vineyards 2017 Viognier, California

Windsor ViognierViognier offers a Chardonnay alternative – a great pick for holiday meals.

The Pronunciation Hurdle

Nine or 10 years ago, there was a lot of chatter about the next “it” grape. Malbec had its run, with consumers downing the smooth-drinking Argentinian red in mass quantities. Some sages thought that Viognier, a white grape with roots in France’s Rhone Valley, might be ready for the spotlight.

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I recall being at a wine conference in Charlottesville in 2011. Virginia had named Viognier as its signature grape and the closing meal had a four-course meal with two Viogniers for each course!

The first time I tried ordering Viognier in a restaurant I wasn’t familiar with the grape (many years ago, people!). As a result I butchered the pronunciation. The server had no clue what I was saying and probably didn’t know how to say it either.

Viognier, although being one of our favorites, never really skyrocketed.  If you have missed out on Viognier, though, that’s your loss. For the record, it is pronounced Vee-yoh-N’YAY. Accent on YAY!

The Cork Comes Out

We recently opened a bottle of Windsor Vineyards Viognier during a socially-distant tasting on our patio. Thankfully the North Carolina weather gave us a night suitable for sitting out and sipping wine.

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Windsor Vineyards was founded by wine legend Rodney Strong back in 1959. One unique facet of the winery is their custom label program, which dates back to when so many customers asked Strong to set aside their favorite bottles that he began putting their names on the bottles. Today you can design your own label or have your bottle etched.

Viognier typically has a rich and full body with delicate, floral notes. It’s not stated anywhere, but it certainly tastes like it has some oak aging.  This Windsor Viognier has small amounts of Chenin Blanc and Muscat grapes in the mix.

The wine is bright in character with more heft than your typical California white. There are flowing citrus notes and tropical fruit accents with touches of orange peel and toasted almond. The ABV is 12%, about on par with a Riesling. Lower alcohol wines, in our experience, are food friendly. This will pair nicely with turkey, chicken or spicy Asian dishes.

At a mere $16, this is a tasty Viognier for your table. Yay for Viognier!

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

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Marked Shirt 2017 Petit Verdot, North Carolina

Marked Tree 2017 Petit VerdotThink Petit Verdot is just a blending grape? Uncork this bottle and flip the script.

Not So Petite

Those who spend their time thinking or drinking wine, might be surprised with this bottle. At a recent tasting with Arthur Barham, of Merlot2Muscadine, he opened this bottle of Marked Tree 2017 Petit Verdot from North Carolina.

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Petit Verdot’s main claim to fame is as an important blending grape in France’s Bordeaux wines. It has intense color, beautiful aroma, and good tannic structure. It’s usually 10% or less in red blends – but there are some single varietal bottles out there.

So, this wine is a revelation in a couple of ways. First, it’s a 100% Petit Verdot. Second, if you are not familiar with the great wines made in North Carolina, you might be surprised at the smashing craftsmanship and quality.

Ancient Navigation

Marked Tree Petit Verdot LabelMarked Tree Vineyard is located in Flat Rock on the eastern Continental Divide. It’s in the Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA and situated at an elevation of 2,300 feet. The sloped hills provide good drainage for the vines and the warm days and cool nights allow the grapes sufficient time to develop nuanced flavor and character as they ripen.

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Early settlers in the area noticed oddly shaped trees. The trees were formed and shaped by Native Americans to point out water, hunting grounds, a locations of food. The ancient navigation system now points directly to really outstanding wine.

The vineyard’s location and North Carolina’s climate allows the Petit Verdot to ripen more so than in France. The 2017 Petit Verdot is fermented in oak barrels and is a 75-barrel production.

Arthur and I savored this during a rainy, socially-distant tasting. The wine has 12.5% ABV, significantly lower than what you might expect from a bottle of red. To me, that means it can be a great food wine. “Hot” wines with high alcohol content often overpower the delicate flavors of a meal.

In the glass the Marked Tree PV has flavors of blackberry and plum. There is a striking note of minerality that we love plus floral and herbal notes. This wine cries out for an herb-crusted lamb chop! 

We can’t wait to visit this winery and check out their other great wines, including Cabernet Franc and Grüner Veltliner.