Sunday, December 4, 2022

German Wines Offer New Choices For Holidays

Looking for creative choices for your holiday wine? Here are two winning bottles from Germany.

Bocking Pinot Blanc Beurer Trollinger

Picking up Cabernet and Chardonnay for your holiday entertaining? It’s time to color outside the lines and dazzle your guests with some lesser-known wines from Germany.

Try setting your table with German wines. For red consider this tasty bottle of Weingut Beurer Trollinger Trocken. Trollinger wines are meant to be enjoyed while they are young and fresh. This bottle is jubilantly fruity yet dry. The wine is certified biodynamic, following the winery’s goals of purity, minerality, liveliness, tension, complexity, and expression. Perfect for poultry and it can be lightly chilled too.

Pinot Blanc is also known as Weissburgunder. This bottle from Weingut Richard Böcking has delicate fruitiness and fresh acidity, Pinot Blanc is an ideal food wine. It opens with minerality and then rounded apricot and pear notes. The grapes for this wine come from the steep hillsides of the Mosel River, where the Böcking family has been making wine since 1624.

The prices for these wines are deliciously affordable. The Pinot Blanc goes for about $18 while the Trollinger retails for about $25.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Shelton Vineyards Hosts Special Event

Iconic North Carolina winery hosts wine writers and media.

Shelton_Vineyards-125

Shelton Style And Quality Wines Impress

Story by Dave Nershi, CSW  -   Photos by Corrie Huggins

Eastern wineries have long labored in the shadows of their West Coast counterparts. We get it. As much as we appreciate bottles from Napa, there are stellar wineries on the other coast, right under our noses. One such gem is Shelton Vineyards, one of the largest vineyards of the East Coast. It’s located in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley and shares a growing season and climate similar to the best winegrowing regions of Europe.

Shelton_Vineyards-234

Shelton recently threw open the doors to the winery and tasting room during a special event for wine bloggers, writers, and influencers. The event featured a dine-around throughout the winery. We wound our way from the crush pad, to the tank room, and to the barrel cave before ending in the tasting room. All the while we enjoyed selected wines crafted by winemaker Ethan Brown with tasty small dishes by Executive Chef Mark Thrower.

Shelton Cabernet and Lamb

The winery was founded by brothers Charlie and Ed Shelton in 1999. Today, a wide-range of grapes are grown on the Shelton estate, which has more than 400 acres. Varieties include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng.

The wine and food pairings were:

Crush Pad: Sauvignon Blanc & Joyce Farm’s Chicken Napa cabbage roll with lemon and basil

Work Room: Cabernet Sauvignon & Slivered peppered “Naked” duck breast, cherry-cab gastrique, Farro salad

Tank Room: Tannat & Lamb lollipop, Danish blue stuffed Castelvetrano olives, roasted tomato coulis

Barrel Cave: Sparkling Riesling & Poached shrimp on Lavosh, honey-lime mascarpone, pickled golden beet, pepper jelly

The food pairings were delicious. Chef Mark oversees the on-site restaurant, the Harvest Grill. We’ve dined at the grill on several occasions and were dazzled each time. My favorite pairing was the lamb lollipop with their smashing Tannat. Of special interest is the sparkling program. Still in its infancy, it’s making some nice strides. We finished the formal program in the cool barrel cave with a toast of sparkling Riesling.

Ethan and food - 1

Many thanks to Summer Baruth, Shelton marketing director, for putting together all the wonderful pieces, and to my blogging friends and colleagues. Shelton is a destination winery in North Carolina’s wine county that should be on you next itinerary.

Shelton 2 - 1

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Angela 2015 Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton 1.5 L

Angela Pinot Noir 2015

I felt so guilty. For many years I have only patronized two on-line wine retailers (as we’ll as my favorite local shops). An ad from WTSO (Wines ’Til Sold Out) caught my attention and I was hooked. Like some other sites, they offer a showcase deal several times a day, where you can snag a $100 Napa Cab for $29.99. They also have some “last chance” and premium wines so you always have a selection. The event that put me over the top was the Magnum Marathon.

For 24 hours, magnums were going to be offered at cut-rate prices with new bottles being offered every hour. I was locked in I also tuned in my wine tasting buddy Arthur, who is now known as the Wine Bandit. I scored four magnums including this single vineyard Pinot from Willamette Valley. This was the most expensive at $43. I also purchased a Sonoma Cabernet from a favorite AVA (Moon Mountain, a Rioja, and a Provence Rosé. The last two bottles were $27!

So this certainly endeared me to WTSO. The Angela 2015 Pinot Noir  is a single vineyard bottling from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Willamette Valley. I took it on a weekend reunion with friends in the Asheville area.

This is a real beauty that still is holding together, perhaps it is in a magnum. The magnum has twice as much wine as a normal bottle but exposes about the same amount of wine to air. So, the aging potential is better.

To me this was deliciously smooth with delicate red cherry and strawberry flavors. The body is medium-light with a tad of earthiness and notes of cherry cola. Angela is a project of Ken Wright and Antony Beck, son of Graham Beck, a South African winery owner and business magnate. The value of this magnum is sky high!

Since I have you thinking about magnums, let me share the main reasons you should love magnums:

  1. Bring on the party! Magnums are impressive and perfect for entertaining.
  2. Right sized. For a dinner party of six to eight people, a magnum is just the right size. For larger parties, it means fewer bottles to open.
  3. Better aging. As mentioned above the greater wine to air ratio means better and longer aging than 750 ML.

Magnums can be pricey, but there are bargains out there! Poppppppp…. That’s the sound of me opening another magnum. Cheers!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Little Rock Marriott Wine Tasting A Pinnacle Event

Wines of the world explored at Little Rock landmark.

Marriott Tasting Crew - 1

 

By Dave Nershi, CSW

A Tip-Top Location

For the last several years I have hosted a wine tasting at the southern Management Association conference. This year the conference was in Little Rock AR, a wonderful small city overlooking the Arkansas River. The headquarters hotel was the Little Rock Marriott.

PXL_20221020_191700716

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

The Marriott has a wonderful location just steps from dozens of great restaurants and shops as well as the capital and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Standout restaurants include Flying Fish, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill and @ The Corner. Of course, the Marriott has its own pub, which was a great location to grab a cold beverage.

Adjacent to the hotel is Riverfront Park, which encompasses 39 acres in the downtown Little Rock on the south bank of the Arkansas River. The park is a stroller’s delight with a semi-formal arrangement of walks, terraces, plazas, and sitting areas. Right outside the Marriott’s Riverfront Room is the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden which uses landscape architecture to showcase more than 90 works of art from sculptors in Arkansas and across the country.

Begin With Bubbly

PXL_20221021_213309299My tasting took our group of about 25 to the tip-top of the hotel: The Pinnacle Room, which provides a 360-degree view from the 20th floor. The staff did an outstanding job setting up for the event. I began arranging and icing down bottles.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

I was delighted to see six bottled of chilled Josh Prosecco marching in the door. Although he couldn’t be with us for the event, the Little Rock Marriott GM David Lang is a wine afficionado and he sent the bubbly to start the event on a festive note. Thanks, David!

Josh is a well-known brand, but I didn’t realize they made Prosecco. In fact, I learned, they partnered with Italian winemaker Daniele Pozzi to launch their own Prosecco in 2019. Much like Champagne, the only Prosecco comes from a specific region, in this case, Italy.

This wine was frothy, with a touch of sweetness and apple and pear flavors. Our group raised a grand toast to the Marriott!

The tasting had a Wines Around the World theme. The lineup was

· Gassac “Folie” - NV - France (Pet-Nat style sparkling)

· Verus 2019 Furmint - Stajerska, Slovenia

· Netzl 2019 Zweigelt Classic - Caruntum, Austria

· Noble Hill 2019 Estate Reserve—Simonsberg, South Africa

Folie means madness and it’s also a French sparkling wine with a crown cap. This is in the style of a petulant-natural wine. This wine is bottled before fermentation is over and finishes in the bottle – resulting in fine bubbles with white flower flavors and fresh aromas. The flavor is also more robust that a typical sparkler.

Famous In Slovenia

 PXL_20221021_213314764The Furmint grape has been present in Slovenia for more than 1,000 years. The Slovenian name for Furmint is sipon. Supposedly comes from the times of the Illyrian Provinces, when Napoleon’s soldiers, upon drinking the wine, exclaimed “c’est si bon” – which was interpreted as ‘šipon’ by the locals. Furmint is the grape used in Hungary's famous Tokaji dessert wine. The Verus version has a palate of tropical fruits like quince and kiwi. The finish is waxy and almost floral.

Zweigelt is a beautiful Austrian grape. The Netzl 2019 Zweigelt is ruby-garnet in the glass, typical cherry-fruit in the nose. This is a young and charming wine with a smooth, elegant palate and some spice note.

It comes from a blend of several vineyards that enjoy the moderating influence of the River Danube and the Lake Neusiedlersee on their climate. This results in very ripe grapes with good tannins, high ripeness, and intensive and fresh aromas. This winery is in the village of Gottlesbrunn, known for its idyllic taverns offering local foods and wine. It’s a popular destination for day trippers from Vienna

Key To A Great Wine

PXL_20221021_211451743The 2019 Estate Reserve from Noble Hill comes from the Simonsberg region of South Africa. It’s a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc. South Africa represents a blending of the best of New World flavors with Old World winemaking. It truly excels in Bordeaux-style blends. We stayed in the Simonsberg area during our visit to the country and each winery surprised us in a good way.

The label is adorned with four keys, one for each of the varieties used in the blend. The wine has tastes of blackberries, plum, and a wee bit of mint. The oak is light, and the tannins are smooth.

We did have another surprise wine, Pol Solanelles brought a bottle of Spanish Macabeo from his family’s winery. What a treat! Cheers to the Little Rock Marriott for being a great venue and to our guests who made it special.

Monday, October 31, 2022

A Wonder-Fall Wine Tasting

Ready for wonder-fall tasting

A quartet of wines to greet the changing colors of Autumn.

Bubbly Albariño

My tastings with friend Arthur Barham always have a few surprises. During my recent visit, Arthur greeted me with a first for me: sparkling Albariño. The wine was the 2020 “Octopus” from Carboniste, a California winery specializing in unique sparkling wines.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Octopus is made with grapes grown on Andrus Island in the Sacramento River Delta. The grapes are pressed whole-cluster and four months on the lees.

The pressure and fizz of the Octopus are closer to Prosecco than Champagne. It’s sealed with a crown cap and is fresh and fun once opened. There are notes of green apple and kiwi with a flavor that is more pronounced than any other Albariño only 2% of California vineyards are planted with Albariño.

Carboniste Sparkling Albarino

Sauvignon Blanc From Chile

We then uncorked the Brisandes 2021 Sauvignon Blanc from Colchagua, Chile. The winery is part of the far-flung Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) winemaking dynasty. I bought a number of bottles for our daughter’s birthday and had a couple left over. This wine is intriguing to me because it has a different flavor profile than Sauv Blancs from New Zealand or California.

Vegan ceviche with Brisandes Sauvignon BlancKeep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

The acidity is dialed down and while the grassy notes are present, there is a beautiful salinity along with lime and herbal flavors. Perfect for seafood and also (and I later found out) for a vegan ceviche with cauliflower steaks (and chimichurri sauce) and Chilean rice. This dish was prepared by my vegan chef daughter.

A French Crus Bourgeois

The reds were rolled out by Arthur. First, we sampled the elegant 2018 Château La Valière from Médoc. This is a Crus Bourgeois bottling. This quality level stands just below the Cru Classé but is recognized for its quality all over the world.

Annabella TastingThis is a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon playing the lead role with plentiful Merlot. Silky smooth with fine tannins, it has a medium body with blackberry and currant flavors and juicy cherry. It’s a refined wine purchased at a steal from WTSO.

Silky Cabernet Sauvignon

Ending with a velvet punch, Arthur popped open the 2020 Annabella Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Annabella (we’re on a first-name basis now) is rich and powerful with blueberry notes and whiffs of leather. The layers include chocolate and hints of spice. This wine eases to a persistent finish with a touch of vanilla.

Thanks to Arthur for sharing his hospitality and his wine.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Grandfather Vineyard 2019 Appalachia Red, North Carolina

A high-elevation wine inspires us to tackle the highest mountain in the East.

Appalachia Red

 

North Carolina Wines Elevate Flavor

We recently spent a long weekend in Weaverville, North Carolina, a pleasant drive north from Asheville. It was time to hang out, jam on guitars, catch up with old friends and open many bottles.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

For someone who lives at an altitude of 315 feet, Ashville is up there, at about 2,200 feet. We would propel even higher with this bottle from Grandfather Vineyard. The wine is from the Appalachian High Country AVA, established in 2016. It is a multi-state AVA, primarily in North Carolina but also with two counties in Tennessee and one in Virginia. This area has been know as High Country due to the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.

Grandfather Vineyard is located along the Watauga River in the shadow of beautiful Grandfather Mountain, which soars to more than 5,900 feet. It was the first wine-producing vineyard in High Country. I  picked up this bottle at the NC Wine Digital Summit held in Dobson back in July. Our trip to the hills of Western North Carolina was a perfect chance to open it up.

The first thing that caught my attention was the label, proclaiming Thirty-Three Hundred Elevation. That’s the elevation of the vineyard where the steep slopes, cool climate, and rocky loam soil produce wonderful reds.

Mount Mitchell

Joyful companions in this wine are two hybrid grapes: Marquette and Chambourcin. Marquette was developed at the University of Minnesota and is known for being cold-hardy. Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid first available in the 1960s. Its resistance to fungal disease makes it ideal for North Carolina.

Mountain reds of North Carolina are quite beautiful. This one is medium-light in body with black raspberry flavor and playful notes of cherry cola. The ABV is 14.5%, but this feels lithe and silky on the tongue. Just perfect as the sun set in Weaverville.

Mount Mitchell Tops Them All

We were inspired by this high-altitude wine to see Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. The windy Blue Ridge Parkway through dappled sunshine brought us to Mount Mitchell State Park. At the base, the day was shirt-sleeve sunny. It was quite a different story as we parked at the summit lot. Windy gusts and cold weather caused us to layer up for the hike to the top.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

This wasn’t an attempt to summit Everest, but the walk on a wide, paved path, is rather steep. There are benches along the way in case you need a rest or aren't used to the elevation. A number of people conked out at various points.The observatory is a circular concrete lookout area that lets you check out the 360 degree view at 6,684 feet of elevation. Four annotated photo placards show you what you are looking at, which includes many peaks and lakes in North Carolina and Tennessee. We took a nature trail from the top down to the parking lot. It was great but may be considered strenuous for some with plenty of rocks and ups and downs. It took us about 30 minutes. Food and portapotties are available at the parking lot.

The number one tip is to prepare for cool weather at the top. It was comfortable in the mid-70s below and a windy, chilly 53 degrees on top. Allow plenty of time to get there, too. You'll be driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where speeds range from 35 to 45 mph.

Friday, September 16, 2022

German Riesling, Rosé, And A Surprise

Terraces, Riesling and Rose

Think you know German wine? You’ll be surprised by the diverse assortment of grapes and styles.

If your knowledge of German wine goes no further than Riesling, it’s not a bad thing. The cold climate and its sloping vineyards  helped Germany develop world class wines.

You should know, however, that simple sweet Riesling isn’t a true representation of German Riesling anymore. Drier Riesling has increased in production and masterful winemaking has balanced acidity and sweetness to produce wines that shine with a full spectrum of flavors without swamping you with sugar.

We sampled the Eva Fricke 2020 Trocken Riesling from Rheingau. The “trocken” means dry, but it doesn’t lessen the elegance of this bottle.

Juicy notes of lemon drop and apple fill this silky wine. At just 12.5% ABV, this is a light, food-friendly wine. The finish is dry and very satisfying.

If your knowledge of German wine is limited to Riesling, it is time to expand. Here’s a good place to start. The Seehof 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé comes from Germany’s Rheinhessen, a region known as the land of a thousand hills. Pinot Noir is Germany’s most popular red grape. For rosé lovers this is great news as Pinot makes great blush wines. While prices of rosé continues to climb, this crystal-clear wine delivers everything you want for a price of about $19. Grown in limestone soil, this wine has an easy-going grace. Flavors of red apples and strawberries flow generously and keep you coming back for another glass.

Terraces Red, Vineyard Project 002 (2020) is a project of Weingut Roterfaden and the local Rosswag Co-Op. Rosswag is a small village located about 30 miles from Stuttgart. The village is surrounded by an ancient amphitheater of towering, steep, terraced vineyards. The terraces are over 1,000 years old and include 23 miles of stone walls.

From these historic vineyards comes a unique blend of 55% Lemberger, 25% Trollinger, 10% Regent, and 10% Schwarzriesling. Schwarzriesling is also known as Pinot Meunier. Trollinger is little-known, but is a fragrant, late-blooming grape.

Together they make an entrancing wine with extracted flavors of cranberry, red fruit, and apple peel. Very light tannins and a low ABV keep this easy on the tongue. The wine also has a vibrant character with brambles, herbal and pine notes.

This wine is organic and biodynamic. It’s one of the most unique wines to hit our tasting table and we’re thirsty for more. It retails for about $15 if you can find it.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Dry Creek Vineyard Releases Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Dry Creek Vineyard is celebrating 50 years as a pioneering winery in Sonoma.

PXL_20220711_221420754Dry Creek Vineyard not only is located in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, it has done much to establish the standards of quality for that prestigious wine region. The history of this multigenerational family winery is full of notable firsts within the industry:

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

1972:  First winery built in the Dry Creek Valley following Prohibition.

  • 1972:  First to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley.
  • 1972:  First to label a wine as “Fumé Blanc” in Sonoma County.
  • 1982:  First to display a sailboat on a wine label, a bold and daring move beyond the popular chateau-style labels of the time.
  • 1983:  First to pioneer Dry Creek Valley’s American Viticultural Area (AVA) status.
  • 1985:  First to label a wine as “Old Vine” Zinfandel, setting off an industry trend.

     

  • 1987:  First to label a wine as a “Meritage,” illustrating the family's love of Bordeaux blending.
  • 1997:  First to release a “Heritage Clone” Zinfandel from pre-Prohibition vine cuttings.
  • 2017:  First to receive a U.S. patent for the design of printed sustainable sourcing information on a cork.
  • 2022:  First to release 50th consecutive vintage of Dry Chenin Blanc in the United States.

Here are the latest releases as the winery continues its 50th anniversary celebration.

2019 DCV Cabernet Sauvignon2021 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Vineyard really led the way for Sauvignon Blanc in Dry Creek Valley and we love their vision of this wine. It is made of 81% Sauvignon Blanc, 16% Sauvignon Musqué, and, 3% Sauvignon Gris. The Gris provides a creamy texture while the Musqué adds weight and a juiciness. The flavors are bright tropical fruit, lemon,  and melon. We love Dry Creek Vineyard’s Fume Blanc, but this is a step up in complexity and elegance. It’s also a refreshing change from the jarring acidity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

 

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley is primarily known for Zinfandel, but the AVA has almost as much Cabernet Sauvignon planted. This is a wine that delivers inviting flavors in a medium-to-full body. It’s enjoyable to sip on a summer’s night – as we did. The flavors are lush and elegant with cranberry and black cherry with undertones of coffee and leather. It displays the hallmark of Dry Creek Valley wines: floral and spice notes.

PXL_20220817_212936121.PORTRAIT

The blend is 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot with small amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. While this Cab can be aged for another five to 7 years, it’s rounded edges make it very approachable now. Also approachable is the $32 price tag.

2019 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley

The Mariner is perhaps our favorite red wine. It’s an elevated  wine created with finesse and the vision of creating the finest Meritage from the Dry Creek Valley with the five noble Bordeaux grapes. Each year the footprint is a bit different as the winemakers search for the best lots in Dry Creek Valley, including Dry Creek Vineyard’s DCV9 Endeavor vineyard. This year the blend highlights Cabernet Sauvignon (61%) with 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 11% Malbec, and 2% Cabernet Franc.

The wine gets 20 months of aging in French and Hungarian oak, 42% new. During the fermentation, the wine gets pump overs twice daily. All vines are 20+ years old. The point being, all steps are taken to make this a special wine.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Ultimate Wine Tasting: Iridium and Lineage

Dave and Steve with treasure wine

Precious and rare – top-end wine and good friends.

A Promise Kept

The Cabernetor (also know as Steve) has been my good friend for more than two decades. Through the years and miles the friendship has endured.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

One of our great adventures was traveling to Napa for a visit to Sterling Vineyards (as part of the Wine Bloggers Conference. We were joined by our spouses (my wife, the Green Dragon, and Steve’s wife Glorious T).

At Sterling we took part in the Platinum Experience, traveling to the winery via aerial tram then continuing to elevate our experience by tasting some incredible wine. Nothing could top what we experienced next: the first vintage of Iridium. Iridium is the flagship Sterling wine produced only in the best vintage years. It has also been served as the official wine of the Emmys.

To make our escapade even more astounding, winemaker Harry Hansen poured the wine and discussed the process as we sipped. The Cabernetor snapped a photo of the three of us during this treasured memory.

A couple of years ago I encountered a medical challenge that has tested me to the core. Even though we moved to North Carolina and he’s still in Ohio, Steve was there every step of the way to encourage me to overcome the problem through diet, exercise, and prayer. Some of the challenges were mind-numbing, but Steve kept me on track.

He also had leverage. He kept reminding me that he had a bottle of Iridium to open up when I finally beat this thing. That promise was brought up each time I I faced another wrinkle in my medical saga.

After months of trying to schedule a trip to Ohio to see Steve and Tracey (Glorious T), we finally finally made it. I was packing with me valuable cargo: a bottle of 2017 Lineage, the first and only 100-point wine I’ve tasted.

Tracey and KathyAn Evening With The Stars

Lineage comes from Livermore Valley, a region that we think doesn’t get enough attention. Steven Mirassou, sixth-generation winemaker from America’s oldest winemaking family, has a goal to make one of the truly great Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the world. He struck paydirt with the 2017 Lineage. Renowned wine critic Steve Heimoff, awarded the 2017 Lineage an unprecedented 100 points. Heimoff remarked that of the thousands of Cabernet blends he’d tasted over the course of his career, “None have been better.”

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

Lineage was part of an epic tasting at our house that featured Livermore Valley wines paired with gourmet bites. It was a show-stopper.

While Lineage includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc, Iridium is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sterling winemaker Harry selected the very finest lots of Cabernet from vineyards spanning Napa Valley. These grapes come from Sleeping Lady Vineyard in Yountville and Calistoga’s Frediani Vineyard, to name a couple.

Iridium is one of the rarest elements on earth and it is treasured, just like Sterling’s Iridium. Made in only the very best vintages with the finest and most intense expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Iridium is considered by many to be the pinnacle of winemaking perfection.

Iridium and Lineage Featured WinesPerfection Uncorked

Remarkable Wines We SampledTo open the evening we uncorked the spectacular Paul Berthelot “Eminence” Premier Cru Champagne. This was followed by our soup course with the 2020 Clos Bellane “Altitude” rosé as the pairing. With wonderful hospitality, conversation, and wine, we were ready to progress to the main course.

All the culinary treats were prepared by Glorious T. For the main dish we had an elevated “surf and turf” with salmon and beautifully cooked steak.

Before we poured the wines, which each had been decanted, Dragon made the comment that it would be interesting to see which was best. Oh, I thought. That’s not the point of this soiree. “This isn’t one versus one,” I said in a wine-inspired mood. “This is one plus one!”

The Lineage and Iridium are both smooth and balanced on the palate almost beyond words. The 2017 vintage of Lineage was limited to 3,984 bottles and is broad and rich with multiple layers. Oak plays its role, but doesn’t dominate the pleasing black cherry and red fruit note. There is a whisper of mint. The finish is elating.

Iridium, Iridium, what a sensational wine. The sleek bottle with a reflective top and shoulders looks like it is ready to launch to Mars or be placed in an art museum. With the first sip, it envelopes the palate like a velvet glove. Iridium has an amazing array of flavors from chocolate mint to blueberry pie. Threads of cedar, floral, and leather intertwine for a sensational experience.

The evening progressed out to the deck and then down to the OSU-themed basement. A thrashing on the ping-pong table then ensued. To maintain my self-esteem, I won’t say who thrashed who. The evening wound down with the 2018 “The Vice” Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Veeder. Alas, my tasting notes radar was malfunctioning at that point.

Who knows what the future may bring, but in this triumphant moment good friends opened wine that rocked. It will be remembered on down the years.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Quartet Of Wineries Featured in #NC Wine Summit Tour

PXL_20220717_193417123

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.

Never Miss A Beat – Follow Vino-Sphere On Facebook

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.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

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).