Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Tale Of Two Spanish Garnacha Wines

You may know Grenache, or Garnacha as it is known in Spain, as a luscious red wine. But what about the lesser-known white Garnacha? We open two bottles to explore.

If you are a wine lover, chances are you’ve tasted Grenache, a red grape that’s grown around the world, most notably in France’s Rhône Valley, California, Australia, Italy (where it is called Cannonau), and Spain, where it is called Garnacha (or Garnatxa in Catalonia). It’s also widely used in rosé.

Red Grenache is used in the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend in France, regional blends (with Cariñena), and in the GSM (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah) blends popular in Australia and around the world. The red grape is known for its red berry, white pepper, and spice flavors. The final product can depend on the vessel in which it is aged (steel, oak, or cement).

Grenache Blanc (or Garnacha Blanca) is a more elusive creature. The grape originated in Northern Spain but is strongly associated with France’s  Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. In Spain, the grape is found in Priorat, Aragon, and Terra Alta. You’ll also find the grape in Italy and in California’s Paso Robles AVA.

I consider Grenache Blanc a gem. It is a full-bodied white with low acidity and higher ABV than your average white wine. Whenever I see a bottle, I usually buy it. In this case, it provided a perfect opportunity to compare red and white Garnacha from Spain.

Chapillon 2018 Cuvée Paul, DO Calatayud

Cuvée Paul is a winning wine made with 100% Garnacha grown on 70-year-old gnarled vines in the Calatayud region. Calatayud is in the northeast central part of Spain in the Zaragoza province. It is in the Ebro River valley and is crisscrossed by many of the Ebro's tributaries. The soil is stony and loose.

Christophe Chapillon grew up in a winemaking family based in the Loire Valley, and he recognized the potential in Calatayud’s rocky soils years ago. He founded Chapillon Wines in 2006 in partnership with César Langa Gonzalez, whose vineyards have been in their family since 1867.

The 2018 Cuvée Paul is a plump wine rich with blackberries and candied cherries enhanced by spice and fresh mint flavors. It gets oak aging (12 months in American oak), so there is more body than some Rhône-style Grenache finished in concrete. This wine is a blast and should be paired with hearty red meat dishes, stews, or poultry. ABV is 14.5% and it is priced at about $15.

This bottle is perfect for those who love bold reds, especially those from France's Rhône Valley.

Herència Altés 2022 Garnatxa Blanca, DO Terra Alta

Herència Altés is a family-owned winery in Terra Alta, a DO located in the province of Tarragona in Catalonia. They speak Catalan, which is a distinct language from Spanish -- hence the different spelling of Garnatxa. As the name Terra Alta indicates, the region is in the mountains. Years ago I visited Tarragona. My hotel was a short distance from a Roman amphitheater and, indeed, the first grapes were planted by Romans centuries ago.

Experiences growing up among vines and a passion for the world of wine and this landscape encouraged Núria Altés and Rafael De Haan to start working in the family vineyards in 2010 and develop the project we now know as Herència Altés. Their focus is the Garnatxa varieties and Garnatxa Blanca is considered their flagship wine.

The south-easterly Garbí wind brings freshness from the nearby Mediterranean to the vineyards, which feature chalky soil and low rainfall. Garnatxa Blanca is drought-resistant and is the star variety in the region.

The grapes for the Altés Garnatxa Blanca are harvested by hand. They undergo a wild fermentation and only the free-run juice is used. Stainless steel tanks are used and the fermented wine stands on the lees for three months and gets regular stirring (batonnage) to add creaminess and structure to the wine.  This is a fresh wine with notes of salinity and citrus mingling with peach and apricot flavors. It’s a bright refreshing wine perfect for tapas including squid. ABV is 13% and the cost is about $17.

We love Grenache/Garnatxa in its many iterations. From red Grenache aged in concrete with subtle flavors to white Garnacha that recalls the Mediterranean breeze, there is a bottle for every taste.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Marqués de Cáceres Wines, Spanish Cuisine Highlight Dîner en Blanc

Wines from Rioja and Rueda featured at fashionable dinner.

Whenever I receive a group of wines to review, we usually gather friends and hold a wine dinner. That was the case with wines we received from the well-known Spanish winery Marqués de Cáceres. My wife, the Green Dragon, decided to add a twist, “We’re going to make this a dinner in white!”

Dîner en Blanc is a worldwide event spanning six continents in which people have a meal dressed in white in a temporary dining setup in a public space. Diners are required to provide their own food, tables, chairs, and tablecloths. So, I guess we properly should have called our event  Dîner en Blanc-ish, because we certainly weren’t going to ask our guests to sit outside in January.

This sent me on a quest for things not normally in my wardrobe, like white shoes, white pants, and a white belt. I’m sure our guests faced a similar sartorial dilemma.

Our wine lineup included a Cava, two whites from the Rueda region, and a rosé and two reds from Rioja. Guests at the dinner were asked to choose a wine and prepare a small plate to pair with it.

Marqués de Cáceres was founded by Enrique Forner in 1970. He was exiled to France during the Spanish Civil War and founded a wine business in the Rhône and Loire valleys. He later purchased two chateaux grand cru classé in Bordeaux.

Under the guidance of daughter Christina Forner, who took over the winery operation in 2007, the winery expanded into Rueda and later expanded into Ribera del Duero. Today, the wines can be found in 120 countries, and 50% of the production is exported.

As the crowd gathered and oohed and aahed over the white outfits and the stunning table decorations, we popped open the Marqués de Cáceres Brut Cava. Cava is one of my favorite sparkling wines because it is made in the traditional method, just like champagne. The energetic bubbles and creamy froth added to the festive mood as we munched on delicious Belgian endive and radicchio stuffed with either brie cheese, walnuts, and drizzled honey, or whipped feta scattered with capers and red pepper flakes. Thanks to Ronda and Joe, who traveled from Savannah to attend, for this dish.

The next course featured grilled shrimp atop a citrus salad of naval and blood oranges, shallots, olives, thinly sliced fennel, and red onion. This provided an ideal pairing for the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda. Rueda is crafting some of the most interesting white wines in Spain. The rocky soil forces the grapevine roots deep below, digging through sandy, stony soil for water and nutrients. This results in delicious minerality in Rueda wines.

The Sauvignon Blanc is rich and herbaceous with notes of peach and pear. If you are a Sauvignon Blanc fan, give it a try. Alison created this tasty salad.

Verdejo is by far the most planted variety in Rueda. The 2022 vintage we sampled was youthful and tasty with lime and mineral notes with a slight floral accent. The grapes are harvested at night to preserve the fresh flavors. Our next dish, Salmorejo, is a traditional chilled soup made with tomato and bread and has a thick texture. Our dish was topped with chopped egg and Serrano ham. The acidity and refreshing flavor of the Verdejo were perfect to cut through the creaminess of the soup. Gracias to the Green Dragon for this dish.

Expect the unexpected with my good friend Arthur Barham of Merlot 2 Muscadine and his wife Mary. They transported us to the Spanish seaside with a show-stopping paella of saffron-infused rice cooked with chicken, chorizo, and shrimp. The dish was presented in individual cast iron pans. This popular Spanish dish was matched with the 2022 Rioja rosé. The wine is a delicate pale coral color with intense red berry flavors and great acidity. This was a truly inspired pairing.

As Rueda is known for its white wines, Rioja is recognized around the world for its red wines. The region is a DOCa, the highest quality category in Spanish wine regulation. The harvesting of wine in the area dates back to the time of the Phoenicians. The preeminent grape is Tempranillo with Garnacha a distant second.

The 2019 Rioja Crianza is mostly Tempranillo with small amounts of Garnacha and Graciano. It is aged for 12 months in oak barrels and another year in the bottle. I was pleasantly surprised by its silky texture. It was a grand match with the Ibondigas en Salsa de Almendras, tender pork meatballs poached in a creamy almond sauce accompanied by an assortment of vegetables. Diane and John made this masterpiece that melts in your mouth.

The 2017 Rioja Reserva is a bold wine made only in the best vintages from vines between 45 and 50 years old. The wine is aged for 20 months with an additional two years of bottle aging. The result is a superior wine with solid tannins yet smooth ripe fruit flavors. This wine required something bold, and Green Dragon served up smoky lamb chops with Patatas Bravas (grilled potatoes with a spicy sauce). The strong flavors of the lamb were balanced nicely by this big Spanish red.

Thanks to all our friends for making this a truly fantastic event!

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Blindfold 2021 Blanc de Noir White Pinot Noir

You may need to do a doubletake on this photograph. Yes, it is a bottle and glass of Pinot Noir, but it is a glowing, platinum gold color.

This is the Prisoner Wine Company’s white Pinot Noir, Blindfold. It is also labeled Blanc de Noir, meaning a white wine created from red grapes.

I picked this up from the closeout section of a local grocery. They have some very good wines so I usually swing by the wine section to look for bargains.

Red wines derive their color from contact with the grape skins (maceration). For white wines, the grapes are pressed and the skins are removed before fermentation.

My experience with white Pinot Noir is mixed at best. While it is cool to have a Pinot Noir that is white, I’m still looking to sip a great wine. Blindfold falls short of that mark.

Let me explain. The SRP for this Blanc de Noir is $35 but I picked it up for half price. For under $20, you can pick up a lower-end Oregon Pinot Noir that will satisfy you in every way and deliver a wine that checks all the varietal hallmarks.

Blindfold isn’t a great white wine and certainly isn’t a great Pinot Noir. For that matter, it isn’t 100% Pinot Noir. It has small amounts of Viognier and Gewürztraminer.

I opted to chill the wine, but let it warm a bit more than I would for, say, a Sauvignon Blanc. The aroma gives no hint that it is mostly Pinot Noir. Instead, there are citrus notes.

This isn’t a wine that tastes like a red but simply looks white. It drinks like a white wine with notes of white blossom and peach. Also, the wine is lacking in the texture and depth that make Pinot Noir a special wine.

Blindfold isn’t terrible, but it is a disappointment at $35. If it weren’t a white Pinot Noir, it would be a non-descript white wine. To amuse dinner guests, you could serve this and have everyone try to guess the variety. Instead, I would suggest picking up a nice French Chablis or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

These Italian Wines Make Any Occasion Special

The new year is underway and the holiday scene has passed by in a blur. But here are three reasons you can enliven any day to a special occasion.

We recently sampled three delightful wines from Italy. They run the gamut from a refreshing white to a Piedmont red to an Asti sparkler.

Riva Leone 2021 Gavi DOCG

The Piedmont region, in the northwest region of Italy, is best known for dynamic reds like Barolo and Barbaresco which are based on the Nebbiolo grape. It also produces a couple of my favorite whites, Gavi and Arneis.

We were pleased to pop open the 2021 Gavi from Riva Leone. Gavi is made from the Cortese grape and is crisp and floral.

It’s a classic wine with racy and fresh flavors with notes of pear and the aroma of pears. We opened it to accompany a light vegan Indian-inspired meal. The price is as refreshing as its taste, $15 SRP.

Riva Leone 2021 Barbera DOC

The reds of the Piedmont region have plentiful acidity which gives the big reds longevity and makes the lighter styles nicely refreshing. I find myself looking for Barbera when I’m tired of big, whomping, Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Its lighter body makes it well-suited for lighter entrees or casual sipping. Bringing out a bottle of Italian Barbera has much more panache than pulling out an uninspiring domestic wine.

For about $12, this Riva Leone Barbera is certainly a value leader. In the glass, it is a deep ruby color. On the nose enjoy whiffs of black cherry and spice. On the palate enjoy dark fruit flavors and accents of spice. There is plenty of rich fruit on the finish.

Acquesi Asti Spumante

We have enjoyed Acquesi on a couple prior occasions. Asti is traditionally a semi-sweet to sweet wine. It’s a fully sparkling wine, unlike Moscato, which is frizzante (lightly sparkling). This is a perfect wine for those who enjoy sweeter wines.

It is a delicate yellow in the glass with a nice perlage. There’s a lovely floral aroma and palate notes of honey, peach, and citrus.

The bottle is beautiful and the wine is suitable for toasting and also would be a great pick to pair with desserts pastries, baked desserts, or desserts with cream. The SRP is $18.

These three wines can help you dispel any dreary winter night and transform it into a special occasion.

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

Friday, January 5, 2024

Miguel Torres Chile Targets Zero Emissions With Tasteful, Organic Wines

Familia Torres, a well-known winemaking family in Spain, has been producing wine for more than 150 years and five generations. Torres was the first foreign winery in Chile and they produced the first Pinot Noir in that country.

Miguel Torres Chile today is under the guidance of Miguel Torres Maczassek. Their wine business in Chile is built on three pillars: organic farming, sustainability, and innovation.

Their goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2050, a tall order for any winery. In 2021 they attained a 35% reduction in CO2 emissions per bottle with a goal to reach a 60% reduction by 2030.

Green practices from vineyard to bottle are helping on the pathway to net zero emissions. Three main practices include:

Waste management: The winery approaches its industrial waste by installing clean points, reducing the generation of single-use plastic and using elements for packaging that are designed for recycling. They reduced the weight of 3 out of every 4 bottles produced, becoming one of the most significant reductions in the industry, now being 38% lighter. That’s less waste produced and less fuel to ship the wine.

Renewable energy:  Two photovoltaic arrays of solar panels are installed in the winery in the Curicó Valley. One  generates power for the winemaking process; and the other for the production process, such as bottling and labeling. These projects together with the biomass boilers self-generate 30% of clean energy.

Sustainable viticulture: This involves regenerative viticulture, which seeks to imitate nature as much as possible so that vineyards can become natural ecosystems. The winery applies this practice in its vineyards to reach a new balance based on the increase of biodiversity and organic matter in a natural way, thus enabling the vineyards to absorb more atmospheric CO2.

We contemplated these impressive environmental actions while sipping three bottles from the Miguel Torres Chile “Las Mulas” label. We sampled the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, 2022 Rose, and the 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, all made with organically grown grapes. 

The rosé comes from the Central Valley and is a blend of Pinot Noir and Monastrell (also known as Mourvèdre in France). This is a cheerful wine with delicate notes of fresh raspberries and ample acidity. This is a great aperitif or pairing with a light, casual meal.

Pale yellow in the glass, the Sauvignon Blanc is subtle, with a wafting aroma of tropical fruit. On the palate, it tastes of lychee fruit, freshly mown grass, and charming citrus fruit. This is perfect for baked or sauteed fish with light sauce. It’s truly wonderful on its own as well.

Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon was a satisfying surprise. All three of these bottles sell for about $10, but the Cabernet is loaded with flavor and outperforms other wines that are double the cost. I brought this to my weekly wine tasting with my friend Arthur Barham (Merlot 2 Muscadine). The flavors are rich, with prominent red fruit and accents of spice. It’s round and elegant with tannins providing a light and easy structure. The finish was buoyant and long. This is a tremendous deal at the price.

We suggest you cheer Miguel Torres Chile on their way to zero net emissions by toasting with a bottle of their Las Mulas wine!

Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

El Coto Rioja Wines Perfect For All Occasions

The many colors of Rioja wines

If you are a lover of Spanish wines, you may save your Rioja for special occasions. These wines can be big and bold with notes of leather and American oak best suited for hearty meat-centered meals. We recently tasted three wines that smashed that stereotype.

Follow us on X, formerly Twitter

El Coto is the largest vineyard owner in the Rioja DOCa and is considered one of Spain’s best-known wine brands. We opened a red, a white, and a Rosada (rosé) and found a trio of accessible and affordable wines.

Sipping White Rioja

Only nine percent of wine in Rioja is white, so sampling one is a unique treat. The 2022 El Coto Blanco is primarily Viura with smaller qualities of Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo. Viura wines are light with plenty of fruit flavor. This Blanco is a refreshing bottle with zesty citrus notes and a perfect pick with seafood. The SRP is an appetizing $11.99.

I truly enjoy rosé from Spain, called rosado. While is seems the world is engulfed with rosé modelled after the Provence style, rosado rewards us with deeper color and flavor.

Rosado From Rioja

The 2021 El Coto Rosado is made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha from the Los Almendros estate vineyard. Round and lovely on the palate, there are flavors of red currant and strawberry. Serve chilled at your next holiday event and you’ll see it is perfect with appetizers and all but the heaviest meals. Priced at $11.99.

Made 100% from Rioja’s signature grape, Tempranillo, the 2019 El Coto Crianza receives 12 months of aging in oak. The resulting wine is well-balanced with a silky finish. You’ll find layers of raspberry, red fruit, spice and oak.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

We paired this with homemade pizza and a nice spinach salad and expect the wine will go nicely with a variety of meats and cheeses.

El Coto is a great choice for entertaining or casual sipping. These Rioja wines are sure to please and come at a price that allows you to stock up.

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

Friday, December 15, 2023

“Eastern Promise” The Perfect Wine Book For Christmas Giving

Felix Hart is at it again. The wine buyer for Britain’s largest supermarket chain is the witty and adventurous star of Peter Stafford-Bow’s Felix Hart novels. Eastern Promise is the fourth installment and they all have been incredibly enjoyable to read.

Eastern Promise sees Felix being reassigned to the kitchen and bathroom accessories department as part of a radical reorganization by a new CEO. Along with his assignment to procure a splashback-proof toilet seat, he also receives a life-changing amount of money to investigate a billionaire suspected of wine fraud.

This is another Felix Hart romp as only Stafford-Bow can write them. World-class wine tastings descending into chaos, police chases and kidnapping. It all culminates at a showdown with a criminal mastermind.

The world wine market is about to hit rock bottom unless our hero can find a solution and escape the clutches of man-eating elephant seals. The plot is worthy of a James Bond movie and the style and wit of the author makes this a book you won’t put down.

The book is available for $12.99 on Amazon. An audiobook is also available. I recommend this highly as a Christmas gift for yourself or your wine loving friends. Read it with a fine Burgundy!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Ca’ Del Lago 2021 Lugana

With our daughter, a very accomplished vegan chef, in town. Her creation needed a special bottle, so we reached for a white wine from Lugana in Italy. The Lugana region is in the northern part of the country, on the south shore of Lake Garda and near the Dolomite Mountains.

The grape is Turbiana, thought at one time to be Trebbiano or a clone of Verdicchio. Testing has since proven it is it’s own distinct variety (although closely related to Verdicchio). The cooling winds from the Dolomites and the moderating effect of the lake allow the grapes to develop wonderful structure. The mineral-rich soils, mixed with clay, help impart a unique flavor profile.

Chef Rachel whipped up a plant-based meal that featured Caldo Verde, a Portuguese potato soup with greens and (vegan) sausage. In addition o a salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing, we enjoyed Bolhinos de Arroz, which are herbed rice cakes.

The wine has a nice structure, so much so that it might appeal to those normally favoring red wine. Tropical notes of pineapple, mandarin orange, and stone fruit give a pleasing mouthful of flavor. The fruit and acid are in good balance – no jarring acidity here, just a smooth ride. A thread of minerality gives a refreshing lift to the finish.

Subtle flavors of the vegan cuisine were a nice match for the Lugana. The 2021 Ca’ del Lago Lugana was a steal for $12.99 at Lidl. In fact, we enjoyed this wine so much I went back and purchased a couple more.

Lugana is a wine not widely distributed in the US. When you see it, don’t hesitate. Buy several and you’ll be pleased you did.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Crest Of The Blue Ridge A New Home For Top Quality North Carolina Wine

Photos and article by          

Dave Nershi, CSW

The Crest of the Blue Ridge AVA is perched on the Eastern Continental Divide. North Carolina’s newest AVA, it spans 215 acres and features seven wineries with more on the way.

Warm days and cool mountain nights coupled with the right soils and quality water provide a favorable combination for producing quality grapes and wine. The wineries are a short drive from Hendersonville, NC, a vibrant Blue Ridge mountain town that offers a popular downtown with shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and pubs.

Follow us on X, formerly Twitter

During our recent trip we visited five wineries and enjoyed a truly elevated experience.

Burntshirt Vineyards

The curious name for this vineyard stems from a European custom of burning back vines to the ground to renew the nutrients in the soil. According to folklore, if you burned a shirt in the fire, it brought prosperity and good fortune. We visited the Hendersonville tasting room located at 2695 Sugarloaf Road (there’s also a tasting room at Chimney Rock).

At the heart of the winery are two vineyards one on each side of the continental divide. The highest is on Burntshirt Mountain, at 3,400 feet. Also at the Hendersonville location is their wonderful Vintner’s Table restaurant, where we enjoyed a superb paired food and wine tasting, thanks to the skills of Chef Clint Betts.

Keep up with the latest. Follow us on Instagram!

Standouts included the 2021 Dry Riesling paired with the pork belly, chevre fritter, and pickled red onion appetizer. Seared scallops and rosé were followed by my favorite wine, the 2021 Altitude 3400, a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chambourcin, paired with sesame tuna. A beautiful fillet and the 2021 Cab Franc Reserve was a high point on which to end our lunch.

Burntshirt offers a range of wines to suit all palates, including dry, sweet, and dessert-style wines. This is a true destination winery you’ll want to include on your next visit.

Souther Williams Vineyard

Located in Fletcher, Souther William is a 35-acre estate in Hoopers Creek valley. The farm has been in Ken Parker’s family for more than 220 years. What used to be home for apple trees, livestock, and tobacco, is now an estate winery in with a focus on grapes from Germany and Eastern Europe.

Ken spent a career in banking. Since he has a love of all things wine, it was only natural that he and his wife Angela Adams would start a winery. Souther Williams opened in August 2021 and today features 10 acres under vine including three whites, Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, and Vidal Blanc along with five reds, Cynthiana (Norton), Blaufrankish (Lemberger), Regent, Saperavi, and Cabernet Franc.

The 2021 Gruner is well-balanced with citrus and pepper notes. The 2022 Vidal Blanc has a luscious fruitiness with tropical notes. An exceptional wine is the 2019 More Shenanigans, which features 60% Cynthiana, 25% Blaufrankish as well as Regent and Cab Franc. It has fresh fruit flavors with brambly blackberry notes, with fresh cranberry and spice touches.

Souther Williams’ unique open-air tasting pavilion is in the midst of the vines and is perfect in all weather.

Stone Ashe Vineyard

Craig and Tina Little had a vision to establish an estate vineyard similar to the great growing regions of France. Today their vision has taken root at 736 Green Mountain Road in Hendersonville. Stone Ashe Vineyard is named for the soil at their site, which provides outstanding drainage. The vineyard’s steep slopes and microclimate are well-suited for growing elegant fruit.

Channeling a ski resort vibe, the tasting room is an upscale experience with a spectacular view from 2,300 feet. It’s the ideal setting to enjoy their meticulously crafted estate wines. An example is the 2020 Cabernet Franc. As Craig says, many wineries in North Carolina produce Cabernet Franc, but few do it well. The grapes are hand-picked with unripe berries removed. Three different clones are used, and picking is done at the optimal time.

The wine has a deep violet color with a ripe berry aroma and blackberry, herbs, and vanilla on the palate. All Stone Ashe wines are estate-grown. Other standouts include the 2021 Montrachet-style Chardonnay, the delicate Sauvignon Blanc, and the Provence-style rosé.

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards was the first commercial winery in Henderson County. In 2008, Alan Ward established the winery on farmland that had been in the family for centuries. The farm offers vinifera wines at the tasting room as well as Normandy-style cider at the adjacent Appalachian Ridge Cidery.

 Winemaker and cider maker Kelly Rivera Meyers has experience at Virginia wineries as well as Burntshirt Vineyards. A new production facility was opened in 2021, enabling Kelly to combine the best of old and new winemaking techniques. She shared two barrel samples of Petit Verdot, one using délestage, which provides additional oxygenation to the wine to give a lovely soft texture.

The Saint Paul tasting room is a vibrant meeting place for friends to enjoy live music and outstanding wine. It features a walnut bar and a patio that overlooks a five-acre vineyard. The quirky tubular tasting features wine served in test tubes. The 2021 Vidal Blanc has lovely notes of tropical fruit and green apple. The 2022 Nouveau Jour is a Merlot blend aged three months in neutral oak. Stop by to discover your favorite.

Marked Tree Vineyard

Marked Tree Vineyard is located in Flat Rock on the eastern Continental Divide, 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 subtle flavors and character as they ripen.

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.

Lance Hiatt and Tim Parks wanted to leave their careers in architecture and luxury retail sales. Today their stylish winery, with floor-to-ceiling windows with inspirational views of the hills and the vineyard, is the perfect location to enjoy award-winning North Carolina wine. The 2022 Grüner Veltliner is exceptional with grassy notes, stone fruit, and a peppery touch. The Chloe Rosé is a blend of Lemberger and Muscat Ottonel. It has a fruity mouthfeel of melon, citrus and strawberries. My favorite red is Watershed Red, a luscious blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger.

For more information about Hendersonville, see

Monday, November 6, 2023

Texas Heritage Wines Deliver Distinctive Fall Flavors

In the 1970s, the wine industry in Texas made a profound shift. Rather than chasing popular grapes unsuited for the Texas soil and climate, they began planting “grapes that love our state and thrive in our culture and climate,” as Texas Heritage Winery puts it.

We had a chance to sample three wines from this outstanding Lone Star State winery and came away impressed.

Viognier is a Rhone grape that has found a welcome home in Texas. It is the most-produced white grape in the state. The 2022 Wildseed Farms Viognier is delicate and crisp with notes of lemon and honeysuckle. At 11.7% ABV, it is perfect for pairing with seafood or light dishes with aromatic herbs. It is priced at $30.

We paired the Viognier with a butternut squash bisque. The acidity of the wine cut through the creaminess of the soup for a delightful pairing.

The 2020 Gotneaux Creek Vineyard Syrah is the only Syrah produced by Texas Heritage. It spends 30 months in neutral oak. “We don’t oak a lot,” says co-founder Susan Johnson. “The grapes are great enough to speak for themselves. We let the true character of the grapes shine through.”

If you haven’t tried Texas Syrah, prepare yourself for a real surprise. This bottle is smooth and expressive. Some Syrah can be too big and brambly, but this is delicious with rich blueberry and plum notes. You get a nice dash of pepper on the long finish. SRP for this bottle is $42.

Alicante Bouschet is a large-cluster, thick-skinned grape that can be somewhat of a problem child. Thankfully, the 2019 vintage saw no difficulty in the vineyard and Texas Heritage produced this outstanding 2019 Estate Alicante Bouschet from the oldest part of their vineyard. It won Reserve Texas Class Champion at the 2022 Houston Rodeo Uncorked and Double Gold at the 2021 Harvest Terroir.

Alicante is a true tenterer, a rare grape that has red flesh and red skin. This is a full-bodied wine that needs at least 45 minutes in the decanter to help tame it. It is fruit-forward with an incredibly deep and dark ruby color. There are floral notes and lush black cherry and currant flavors. This is a perfect sipping wine.

We paired the reds with a wild boar and pasta entree and enjoyed a sunny and warm fall day on the patio. The Alicante Bouschet sells for $48. In fact, Texas Heritage specializes in producing really good wines at affordable prices. No bottle is more than $50.

Texas Heritage wines are available online via their website. It’s a perfect introduction to the noteworthy wines of Texas.

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