Tuesday, October 27, 2020

New Kosher Wine Releases Display Wide Ranging Styles

Herzog Variations 2019 Be-Leaf CabernetThese three wines are perfect for holiday entertaining, special occasions, or when the mood for a great wine strikes.

Going Organic

Our tasting table recently was overflowing with great new wine releases to be reviewed, including these three Kosher wines. In case you’ve missed it, the quality of Kosher wines has shot skyward like a rocket in recent years. No particular faith is required, just a love of good wine.

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The Hertzog Variations 2019 Be-Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon is from one of our favorite Cab locations: California’s Paso Robles AVA. Not only that, but it is a certified organic wine with no added sulfites. We decided this would be a perfect wine to test drive with a fire pit on the patio.

Paso reds can be gargantuan – almost overpowering. This one, was nicely dialed-in with silky texture, flavors of red currant, blueberries, a hint of orange peel and smoke. No reason to fear this wine. A real deal at $24.99.

Going Wild

A number of years ago, we were introduced to wild fermentation by a winemaker in Ontario. Instead of adding pre-formulated yeast, the wine is spontaneously fermented using yeast that is found in the vineyard and especially on the grapes. In our way of thinking, this imparts another level of terroir to the wine, with the yeast adding a special nuance peculiar to the wine’s place of origin.

Segal 2019 Chardonnay

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The Segal 2019 Wild Fermentation Chardonnay is from Israel’s Galilee region. It’s a really wonderful Chardonnay, made all the more so because the flavors aren’t masked by going overboard with oak aging. It is aged in oak barrels, but just enough to add complexity. There are fresh flavors of apple and tropical fruit blended with a creamy, rich texture. Quite a value at $24.99

Going In A New Direction

The Tabor 2016 Revadim Vineyard Marselan is a grape we’ve never tried before. Marselan is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache that originated in France. In fact, it has been approved for use in Bordeaux wines as winemakers there try to stay on top of climate change.

We are all in on Marselan. This is a delicious wine with flavors of tart cherry and fig. There are rumbling bass notes in this wine in the form of herbal and earthy flavors.

It has a balance that keeps you reaching for one more glass. It’s really unique in that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are typically blended and Grenache typically pairs with Syrah in blends. A marriage between a Bordeaux and Rhone grape, the Marselan really shines.

Tabor 2016 Revadim Vineyard MarselanWhen I learned that Bordeaux was permitting new grapes to their wines due to global warming, I was saddened to hear it. After sipping this wine, I say bring on the Marselan. It’s a great addition – although we certainly need to take any and all steps to address climate change. This wine retails for $39.99.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hand Of God 2012 Fingerprint Series White, Mendoza

Hand Of God 2012 Finger Print Series WhiteBored with ho-hum white wines? Try this white, touched by the “hand of God.”

The Winning Hand

Hand of God is a boutique winery from acclaimed Argentine winemaker Santiago Achával and Seattle Entrepreneur Jon Staenberg. They both share a passion for unique wines of premium quality and – we suspect – a love of soccer.

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Diego Maradona is the most famed soccer player from Argentina. In the 1986 World Cup, he scored a goal that undoubtedly should have been called a hand-ball. He ended up scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over England. He later said he scored the goal “a little with his head, and a little with the hand of God.”

I met Jon Staenberg a number of years ago at a Wine Bloggers Conference and was dazzled by his wines. So when I had a chance to purchase this Fingerprint White, a grabbed it.

Wine Pairing With Vegan Fondue

Perhaps we are throwbacks, but we love fondue. During the pandemic, having a fondue party is pretty much out of the question. Or is it. When our daughter and boyfriend came in for a visit, she decided to whip up some vegan fondue. We each had our own bowls, to avoid dipping in a communal swimming pool of cheese.

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In addition to the melted vegan cheese mixture (which tasted delightfully like Gruyere) we had air-fried potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, toasted rye bread, "sausage", and fruit. A side of warm lentil salad accompanied the meal.

I’m called upon to do quite a bit of food and wine pairing, but this is the first time I’ve had to come up with a wine for vegan fondue! Reviewing the wine collection, I decided on the beautiful bottle of 2012 Hand of God Fingerprint Series White Blend, Mendoza.

The wine first grabs you by the eyeball. It has a luxurious golden-tone.

It is a Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne blend. This isn’t listed on the bottle, because the Argentine government doesn’t yet recognize these varieties. So, this is a rare bottle indeed. The wine undergoes 10-month aging in seasoned oak.

Opening the bottle was a bit of a challenge. The cork wouldn't budge and then tore apart. To avoid serving chunks of cork, we used an aerator with a strainer to enjoy this robust white. I’m a fan of Rhone whites and this VRM wine displayed rustic flavors of peach, apple and oak. It’s a substantial, not whimpy, white wine. It’s available on the winery website for $35. This was truly a spectacular wine and game-winning meal.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Chateau La Tour Carnet 2000 Grand Cru, Haut-Médoc

Decanting Chateau La Tour Carnet 2000Special occasions call for very special wines – like this 20-year-old Bordeaux.

Off To The Fires

The middle of a pandemic isn’t the best time to travel across the country. We’ve been to Oregon many times, but when COVID-19 struck, it cancelled two engagements that were circled on my calendar.

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So, I was surprised when the Green Dragon said she had to fly to Oregon. She’s a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer and was asked to deploy to help those who were burned out of their homes.

The Beachie Creek fire grew from a 10-acre fire to one of the most devastating in Oregon history. It burned more than 193,000 acres and displaced thousands.

The Green Dragon flew into Portland and from there went to Salem. She only wished she was going there to taste some of the exquisite Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

Instead she was driving a Red Cross ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle). Each day she would leave the central kitchen and take meals to those who had to abandon what was left of their homes.

Chateau La Tour Carnet Haut Medoc 2000A Homecoming

When I finally got word she was returning after two weeks, there was jubilation. My days of scrounging around in the refrigerator for leftovers with our dog my only companion would soon be over.

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The late-night pickup at the airport didn’t have our usual reunion. We each had masks and she rode in the back seat on the way home. With four plane flights and exposure to scores of people, the first order of business was a COVID test. The next morning we were able to get a rapid COVID-19 test at an urgent care center (appointment needed). Before noon, we had the negative (which is good!) results and were on our way.

Green Dragon was worn out from her trip and didn’t feel like cooking. Luckily I noticed that we had a frozen bag of Jim’s spaghetti sauce in the freezer. This is a sauce my wife made with the recipe from a famous restaurant in Huntington, West Virginia. With some whole wheat and lentil pasta and some simmering sauce, we had a gourmet meal.

My pick for the wine was the 2000 Chateau La Tour Carnet Grand Cru Classé from Haut-Médoc. Sometimes you just need to go big. Château La Tour Carnet is one of the oldest Bordeaux wine producers in the Médoc. Château La Tour Carnet is one of the few Bordeaux estates to have a moat and drawbridge. Some parts of the main building date to the 11th century. It was part of the original Grand Cru classification of 1855.

Haut-Médoc or Upper-Médoc is a left bank Bordeaux appellation, where the soil favors Merlot. To the best of my research, this wine is primarily Merlot at 70% and Cabernet Sauvignon at 30%. The 2000 vintage is considered one of the best.

Uncorking History

Popping open a two-decades-old wine can lead to a feeling of suspense. Will this be a wine that has “jumped the shark” or one that has gained finesse? As a back-up I had a bottle of Cotes-du-Rhone standing by.

While final preparations were being made for dinner, I poured a small taste to make sure the bottle was good. Was it ever! My small taste turned into a full glass. The Cotes-du-Rhone was forgotten.

While some fine wines lose their superpowers as time marches on, the La Tour Carnet tasted vibrant and young. My Cellartracker drinking window listed 2020 as the final year. However, I know this baby could go another five years with no problem. It drinks like a fresh, vibrant wine. Of course, this was kept in optimal storage conditions.

Drinking this 20-year-old Bordeaux was a true luxury wine experience. It is a deep midnight purple in color. The texture is silken, soft and coating. There were multiple layers of flavor with blackberry and expresso. Fresh berries mingled with lovely minerality. I decanted this for about 30 minutes in order to catch any sediment that might have formed – there were some scattered flecks, but not much at all.

Normally I’d reach for a Chianti Classico or another Italian wine to pair with our pasta and red sauce, but the night demanded a special wine. We chatted with friends during this Zoom dinner and sipped the dinner away into a wonderful reunion night.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Small Wineries Lead The Charge In Craft Wine Movement

Layton’s Chance, Lewis Station, and Tranquil Heart are small, family-owned operations producing limited runs of surprisingly unique wines.

Craft Wines from Layton's Chance and Lewis Station

Craft Wine Gains Momentum

Two years ago when we first covered the Craft Wine Association, it was just started to bud. The group had less than a dozen wineries, but unlimited enthusiasm from CEO and founder Carole Lawson. The CWA has now blossomed with more than 55 wineries in locations from coast to coast in the US.

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“Craft wine is distinctly American wine,” said Lawson, who took part in a recent webinar hosted by the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. “Wines we make here in the US are different from wines made in Argentina, South African or any other place considered Old World.”

Arthur Barham participates in Craft Wine webinarCertified Craft Wine is a small-production wine made in runs of less than 5,000 cases.For a wine to achieve the designation of Certified Craft Wine, the winemaker must lead production from the process of grape selection through fermentation. Certified Craft Wine must also be produced using grapes from an identifiable vineyard or identifiable vineyards. Wineries whose entire production is most commonly less than 5,000 cases and meet the other criteria qualify as Certified Craft Wineries.

Lewis Station Winery

Rob Lewis was bitten by the wine bug after tasting the perfect glass of Zinfandel. He became a certified sommelier took courses from UC-Davis on winemaking and tried to determine his place in the wine world. He opened Lewis Station in what used to be an old, empty gas station in downtown Lake Mills, Wisconsin. After finding the Wisconsin climate too challenging to grow his chosen vines, he decided to source grapes from vineyards in premium California locations.

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Lewis Station has won many awards, but the best story is the one that got away. We tasted the Dry County “Rejected” Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in used Jack Daniels whiskey barrels. This is considered the best wine from Lewis Station and so Rob was puzzled when he was informed that the wine didn’t earn a medal at a prestigious wine competition. In fact, it didn’t even get rated.

It turns out the “pre-judge” smelled all the Cabernet and determined that since it smelled different than the others, it must have spoiled. All four bottles went down the drain. It’s a terrible waste, but a great story. This wine has rich, sweet oak flavors mingling dark cherry and toast. The finish is pure velvet.

Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery

Jennifer and William Layton also hail from a state not typically associated with wine: Maryland. Jennifer is the general manager of Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery and her husband William, is the winemaker. The family grew corn and soybeans for generations until Jennifer and William took over. Layton’s Chance is the first Certified Craft Winery in Maryland.

In 2010 Jennifer and William took a chance and planted grape varieties suited to the climate of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The gambit paid off and the winery in Vienna, Maryland, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. They grown Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Traminette and Norton at their estate vineyard. We poured the 2018 Vintner’s Reserve, a delectable blend of three of our favorite grapes: Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, and Norton.

This wine punched all the buttons for us, warming raspberry flavors from the Chambourcin, some peppery attitude from the Cab Franc and the stout backbone from the Norton. It retails for $26 and is a blend I’ve never scene before. Indeed, to find Chambourcin and Norton both grown at the same vineyard is quite rare.

Tranquil Heart Vineyard And Winery

Bill Shinkle, owner of Tranquil Heart Vineyard and Winery, has unwavering determination. How else can you explain how he has launched a successful winery in the most unlikely place, hot and dusty Hemet, California? Bill’s background is horticulture and he grew many of the plants we all bought at places like Home Depot and Lowes before starting his winery.

He spent months studying the climate and soil and which grapes are best suited for the environment. The winery has 15 acres, shaped in a heart, and the climate is Mediterranean. He chose an eclectic mix of mostly Italian varieties: Barbera, Teroldego, Aglianico, Muscat Canelli, Fiano, and Viognier.

Tranquil Heart (and who can’t use that these days?) is a private membership club and isn’t open to the public. The award-winning wines are available via wine club membership or online purchase.

The Craft Wine Association provides a variety of services and support for small wineries. Perhaps the best is Nxtcrush.com, a site where you can purchase bottles from any member of the CWA. The transaction is handled as if the purchase were made directly from the winery.

Feeling crafty? Craft wineries may be small, but the Craft Wine movement and the quality are huge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Union Sacré 2017 Le Clandestin, Central Coast

Union Sacre Le ClandestinOh, we love bargains. Here’s one of our latest, and tastiest!

Super Blending

Blending succulent and smooth Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t a conventional move. It’s something you might find in an Italian Super Tuscan, but don’t expect to see stateside. That’s what initially attracted me to this bottle from Union Sacré.

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The winery is a partnership that joins friends from two different continents. Xavier Arnaudin is the winemaker, originally from France. Philip Muzzy is the “creative brain” who hails from Michigan.

The Secret Sauce

The wine is a limited production run with 748 cases made. The blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese. The grapes come from the Santa Barbara Highlands and Pomar Junction vineyards.

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For me, the elevating element is the Sangiovese. The main grape in world-renowned Chianti, it adds a lush texture and rich cherry flavor to the wine. The flavors are rippling blackberry and blueberry awash in silky tannins. The aging regimen is 40% French oak for 10 months. That deft move adds a layer of interest without making the wine bulky and ponderous.

It’s a wonderful wine. What is also wonderful is the price.

This is one of my top QPR (quality price ratio) wines. It retails for $45, but I scored it for $19 on Invino. After tasting it, I immediately got online to purchase more. Alas, it was all sold out. Take heart. The Union Sacré website has several interesting wines, including a Le Clandestin Cabernet Franc.

Union Sacré scored a hit with their Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend. Our advice is to seek out and stock up.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Michigan Wines Continue To Surprise With Quality Offerings

Are you wine-curious? Check out the exciting wines coming from Michigan.

That wines from Michigan continue to land top awards is surprising to many. In a domestic wine scene dominated by the Big Three of California, Oregon and Washington, Michigan isn’t top of mind when fine wine is discussed. As the quality and recognition continues to ascend, that will change.

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We’ve been tasting and enjoying wines from Michigan for decades. We spent more than 20 years in the Toledo, Ohio, area and enjoyed short drives into Michigan to take in the scenery and visit wineries. That drive is a lot longer now that we’ve relocated to the Raleigh area. We were, however, able to savor the greatness of Michigan wine during a recent webinar hosted by the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association that featured the Michigan Wine Collaborative.

Yes, There Is Life Beyond California

Michigan is the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country and its wineries attract more than 800,000 visitors annually (in non-pandemic years, that is!). While you can find delicious fruit wines and great bottles using hybrid grapes, 70% of grapes grown are Vitus Vinifera, these are the noble, well-known international varieties.

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Top Michigan grapes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. How does a state with temperatures that can freeze your toes manage to grow grapes for fine wine? Most of the vineyards are within 25 miles of a Great Lake, most notably Lake Michigan. On a smaller scale, the lake provides to Michigan what the Pacific Ocean does for California. The large body of water moderates the temperature – keeping it warmer during the cold winter months. Michigan’s wine region is between the 42nd and 48th parallel, sharing the zone with other great wine regions around the world like Burgundy and Willamette Valley.

St. Julian Braganini Reserve Riesling

Riesling To The Rescue

Wow. All these facts and figures can make a person thirsty.

We sampled a Michigan red and white in order to see what the excitement is all about. The wineries covered the spectrum, from St. Julian Winery, the oldest in the state, to Rove Estate, a relatively new winery in the Traverse City area.

St. Julian has been run by the same family for four generations and has been producing wines for almost 100 years. Their line encompasses spirits, cider, and wine that ranges from budget-friendly quaffers to reserve wines to please the aficionado. We opened the 2019 Braganini Reserve Mountain Road Vineyard Riesling with a meal of grilled teriyaki shrimp.

I love bone-dry Riesling, but have come to appreciate off-dry Riesling since it allows a fuller spectrum of flavors. The St. Julian Riesling has notes of peach and green apple with a puff of sweetness. The sweetness is balanced by crisp acidity. This is a single-vineyard wine.

The ABV is 12%, nice and low, which means food-friendly. The residual sugar is 0.5% – just enough to provide a round, balanced flavor. St. Julian has wines that will delight any taste, but we’ve always focused on the Braganini Reserve range. We also hope to sample the BLK line at some point in the future.

Grace And Beauty From A Michigan Pinot Noir

I must admit I missed this trend completely. I never really thought of Michigan as a producer of top-notch Pinot Noir. The next bottle caused me to do some recalibration.

Rove Estate Pinot NoirRove Estate is located on Leelanau Peninsula, up in one of the most beautiful areas of Michigan Traverse City. You can combine hiking, off-road adventures, jet skiing, and a climb up Sleeping Bear Dune with a visit to the Rove tasting room.

Creighton and McKenzie Gallagher established Rove Estate to preserve their family’s farming legacy. The Gallagher farm has been part of Traverse City history for nearly 130 years. The highest point in Leelanau County at 1,165 feet, the site has slopes with southern exposure and perfect conditions for premium estate-grown grapes.

We opened the Rove 2018 Pinot Noir, Leelanau Peninsula, to go with some scrumptious pork chops that I grilled to perfection. The wine gets 18 months of aging in French oak, that lends complexity you might not expect. There are flavors of candied cherries, vanilla and herbal notes.

It simply is the best Michigan Pinot Noir we’ve tasted and surpasses the lower-tier California Pinot by a mile. We were delighted with this wine.

Don’t be fenced in. We encourage you to explore beyond your wine boundaries by opening a bottle of Michigan wine. If you can’t find any at your local wine shop, it is readily available online.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

WIYG? We Answer The Age Old Question

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

WIYG 092920Vaughn Duffy 2018 Rosé, Mendocino County

We scored this rosé from Underground Cellar for $20. It is 100% Carignane and is whole-cluster pressed. That means more subtle, shifting layers of flavor than you’d expect from your typical rosé. Herbs and strawberry dance with a zippy finish.

Balgownie 2017 Black Label Cabernet Franc & Syrah, Bendigo Vineyard, Australia

This wine traveled back with us from Australia as a prize from a visit to Yarra Valley. Yarra is know for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While visiting the winery, we were most impressed with this stylish take on Cabernet Franc and Syrah. We enjoyed it with Herbed Chicken from the grill with garlic mushroom couscous and butternut squash. Silky, savory, superb!

Elevation Cellars 2011 Monolith, Columbia Valley

Yes, of course we love Washington wine! We picked up this gem a couple years ago in Woodinville from Elevation Cellars. It’s 75% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Merlot and a skootch of Malbec. Was the wine getting long in the tooth? Nope. We caught it just before the Monolith began to topple. There are flavors of earth and black fruit and a playfully long finish.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Vino-Sphere Publisher Named To Top Wine Writer List

PrintWe’re proud to announce that Dave Nershi, publisher of Vino-Sphere, has been named to the Top 101 Wine Writers list by Corking Wines. Corking Wines are a leading online wine merchant and retailer, based in the city of York, UK.

In bestowing the award, Corking Wine's founders David Beswick and Yvonne Holmes said, "We're proud to award Dave Nershi with our Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020 award, in recognition of his highly engaging writing style and insightful articles on the world of wine.

"Dave has an incredible knowledge of the wine industry, which he translates in a regular series of entertaining bitesize posts, each of which are so well illustrated and never fail to raise a smile ."

The Vino-Sphere blog was founded in 2009 as Toledo Wines and Vines. It was rebranded as Vino-Sphere in 2016. The blog has received numerous awards, including Top 100 Wine Blog by Excel Wines, and Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blog of 2020.

Nershi is a Certified Specialist of Wine and a member of the Wine Century Club.

Friday, September 18, 2020

FireClay Cellars: North Carolina Winery Visit

FireClay Cellars VineyardsNorth Carolina wineries have reopened, providing a delicious diversion.

Fire Alarm

This is an odd location for a winery, I thought to myself as I pulled into a parking lot in downtown Siler City. To my left were the city’s police cruisers and to the right a shiny fire engine.

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“Are you certain this is the right address?” I asked the Green Dragon. My wife doublechecked her phone. Oops! She had use voice recognition to set our coordinates and instead of heading us to FireClay Cellars in Siler City, we ended up at the Siler City Fire Department!

We speedily turned around and zipped back down the highway. Soon we were surrounded by vines and eased our SUV into a parking spot at FireClay. Our friends Arthur and Mary Barham and Natalie and Kyle Hampton were already on the front porch with filled wine glasses.

Andrei Mitran, FireClay Co-OwnerRocking The Porch

In the days of COVID, you are left guessing when visiting a restaurant, store or winery. Will there be a lot of people? Is there enough space? Is everything safe?

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At FireClay Cellars, any pandemic anxiety quickly dissipated. The inside of the tasting room is spacious, with a soaring ceiling and plenty of room for social distancing. There are a number of tables out on the deck with a great view of the vines. We staked out the front porch, which not only offered a sturdy roof (it was a rainy day) but comfy rocking chairs.

The days of squeezing in, elbow to elbow, at the tasting bar are over for the time being. Instead many wineries are offering flights, which minimizes face-to-face interactions and the handling of wine glasses. At FireClay, you can get a flight of four wines for $8 or a glass of white or red for $7 and $8 respectively.

Wide-Ranging Wine

We were greeted by co-owners Andrei Mitran and his wife Sue. Their son Erick is the winemaker as well as being a co-owner with another couple, Steve and Bonnie Thiedke. The winery grows an interesting mix of vinifera grapes and hybrids, which are well suited to the North Carolina climate. The wines on the tasting list include those made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. Hybrid grapes include Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, and Chardonel.

FireClay Cellars 1Andrei says that FireClay wants to eliminate “chemical warfare” by minimizing the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. That means using sustainable farming practices and also planting varieties that do best in the unique red clay soils of the vineyard. A good case in point is Chardonel, which is a hardy hybrid grape that derives from Chardonnay. We tasted two versions, a 2019 Chardonel with pleasing green apple notes, and an oaked Chardonel, which could easily pass as a Chardonnay. The wine is aged in a combination of French and Austrian barrels.

Tasting Notes:

  • 2018 White Blend – Made with Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, and Traminette, this is a zippy, dry white wine.
  • 2019 Rosé – This was a refreshing glass, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. For $19, this is the equal of just about any domestic rosé you can find.
  • 2016 Red Blend – My favorite taste of the day! A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Chambourcin. The Chambourcin gives it a nice twist. This is fresh and fruity. SRP $20.
  • 2016 Chambourcin – We love this grape, which produces wine with a lovely raspberry flavor. It gains complexity from 18 months in French oak barrels.

FireClay Cellars Reserve And Beyond

As if these wines weren’t enough, Andrei provided a taste of FireClay’s yet-to-be-released Reserve Red. This is a robust red that benefits from the inclusion of Tannat, a highly tannic grape. Our band of wine tasters loved this wine. It’s not ready yet for release, but when it is, we’ll certainly need to pick up a bottle or two. There are layers of flavor building that will be delightful with time.

There are other exciting developments at FireClay. They have planted Crimson Cabernet vines becoming, as far as is known, the first in the state to grow this unusual grape. Crimson is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton. Norton is a native American grape known for hardy vines. Paired together with Cabernet Sauvignon, you get vines that are disease-resistant and produce flavorful grapes. This could result in some exceptional wines.

White grapes aren’t forgotten either. While 50% of new vines are Crimson Cabernet, the other 50% are Cabernet Doré, a white grape with lineage that includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton (yes, two reds can make a white). The grape produces golden yellow wine with tropical notes. This is a rare variety and this is believed to be the first planting in the state.

FireClay Cellars is just a 45-minute drive from Raleigh and offers a great assortment of wines and plentiful hospitality. Be sure to visit soon (just check that your navigation isn’t set for the fire department)!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Petit Verdot Grape Gaining Singular Attention

Long known for its blending attributes, this Bordeaux grape is garnering fans for its single varietal wines.

Celebrating The Grape

Round Peak Petit Verdot Yadkin ValleyIn my home state, August is celebrated as North Carolina Grape Month. As part of the festivities, my friend Arthur Barham, of Merlot2Muscadine, organized a Zoom program in which North Carolina wine influencers each highlighted a favorite grape.

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I decided to elevate Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot is one of the six key red varieties of Bordeaux. (Malbec and Carmenere are the ones you might overlook!)

The name means “little green one” in French as it usually struggles to ripen until late in the growing season. Although traditionally reserved as a minor blending component, that dash of Petit Verdot can make all the difference.

Pepper On The Steak

As one winemaker put it, Petit Verdot is like the pepper on the steak. Without the pepper, it is not the same steak. Even 1 or 2 percent can make an obvious difference.

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Petit Verdot has spread to warmer climates, like North Carolina and Virginia, and winemakers are discovering that Petit Verdot can make bold, intensely fruity wines that can easily stand alone.

My first single varietal Petit Verdot was at Flying Fox Vineyard in Virginia. I came seeking Cabernet Franc and left singing the praises of their delicious Petit Verdot.

In North Carolina, the grape was introduced in the early 2000s and some of the earliest wineries to adopt it were Childress, Shelton, RayLen, and Shadow Springs. The Shadow Springs Petit Verdot I had during our last visit there was, in my estimation, their finest wine.

From Bordeaux To Yadkin Valley

A quick aside about climate change and Bordeaux grapes. Many wine enthusiasts can name the six red grapes of Bordeaux – but that number has grown. Due to climate change, Bordeaux is now allowing new grapes: Touriga Nacional, Marselan, Arinarnoa and Castets. You can expect to see these grapes be introduced gradually, but it shows the inseparable connection between climate and the ability of grapes to thrive.

For the Zoom program, I picked the 2016 Round Peak Petit Verdot, Yadkin Valley. I’ve liked this wine since we tried it at the winery in 2017 and it continues to be a tasty choice.

It has round flavors of sour cherry with a light to medium body. There are traces of smokiness and violets. This is an easy drinking, high QPR (quality price ratio) wine. SRP is $15.

I found my bottle in North Carolina, but I’ve enjoyed single-varietal Petit Verdot from Colorado, Washington, Virginia, and Sonoma too. Australia, Napa, South Africa and South America also produce Petit Verdot.

Are you in a red wine rut of Pinot Noir and Cabernet? Declare your independence with a bottle of Petit Verdot.