Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ohio Winery Visit: St. Joseph Vineyard

TANNENBAUM TRAIL REPORT -- Our second stop on the Tannenbaum Trail was St. Joseph Vineyard in Thompson. I knew very little about this winery -- except that it had very colorful labels on its wine. As we rambled up the driveway, we were pleased to see large bunches of grapes on the vine apparently waiting to be harvested for ice wine.

St. Joseph is a 35-acre vineyard with grapes growing in Lake and Geauga County. It is certainly a boutique operation with typically no more than 10,000 gallons of wine produced a year. It has, however, claimed its share of impressive awards, especially for its Pinot Noir.

The tasting room is a nicely decorated but small affair with a bar and a couple of tables. Glass doors lead outside to a wooden deck with a great view that should be superb in the summertime.

We started with a Riesling. This was semi-dry with flavor notes of melon. It was pleasant, but not the wine that St. Joseph is known for. We followed this with a Gewurztraminer, which we felt was nothing special.

The reds were up next and this is where the St. Joseph wines shine. We tried the Reserve Pinot Noir and it took the tasting to a new level. The grapes are hand picked late into the harvest to allow extra hang time. The gently crushed grapes go through a prolonged maceration in an open top fermenter which includes a cold soak. After pressing the wine is aged in French medium toasted oak barrels.

The Reserve Pinot is dark ruby red and was a moutful of black cherry and plum with complex layers of flavor including spice. It's easy to see why the St. Joseph Pinot Noir has won awards in California, New York and Michigan in competitions where they have gone against hundreds of entries, including those from Napa Valley, New Zealand and Washington.

For our final tasting we tried the St. Joseph Noir (12 + 1). I mistakenly thought this was another Pinot, but it actually is a proprietary blend of 12 red grapes plus one white (Viognier). This accounts for its unusual moniker. The blend includes Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Sirah, Merlot, Shiraz and Sangiovese. This was an easy sipping, enjoyable glass.

We didn't have a chance to sample the ice wine, but we'll put that on our list for our next visit.

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