My mission this year is to help you discover new and fun wines to try, as well as continuing to make wine less intimidating, more approachable, and ultimately, more enjoyable! You’ve given me some great feedback on the first post of 2010, where I introduced some of you to Albarino and Carmenere. Today, we take a trip to Clarksburg, CA and talk about a white wine from Lange Twins, their 2008 Viognier.
Happy New Year!
Though I didn’t make many resolutions this year, one of my goals is to finish my journey into the Wine Century Club, as each member has drank 100 different wine varietals. I started logging the wines I drank, cataloging each different grape the wines were made from, back in October 2008. Sadly, I stopped recording names and just focused on reviewing, writing, and discussing them. I have 50 written down so far, so there’s only another 50 to go. While I won’t blog about each grape I try, I may mention them, such as the Greek wine made from the Assyrtiko grape I had at the Epcot Food & Wine festival. I hope you come with me on the journey, and discover new and fun wines with me.
One question that I’m asked quite frequently is “Do you need to decant all red wines.” I’m sure you’ve been told by your English teachers that “All” and “Never” are bad, bad words. There are, however, several reasons to decant wines. First, as wines age, sediment will settle in the bottle as part of the natural process. Decanting gives you the opportunity to pour the wine carefully, leaving the sediment in the decanter while the wine makes it to your glass. Another reason to decant wines is to allow air to mix with younger wines, opening them up and bringing out the bouquet and palate.
I love sharing great wine information with anyone who’s interested. Today I was on CBS 12, WPEC, in West Palm Beach, and spoke about four wines that I think work for almost any holiday party. While we only covered two of the four wines on the segment, I’ll tell you about all four right now.
First up was Gougenheim Chardonnay, from Mendoza, Argentina. This delicious white wine costs less than $9, and is versatile enough to go with a range of appetizers, as well as a holiday ham, seafood or chicken. It’s light, fruit driven flavor will go well with most anything you serve. A lightly oaked white wine, the pear and apple fruit flavors show nicely, and are balanced with just a hint of toast and spice from the oak aging.
Just down the road from Hartwell Vineyards and Winery stands a stone winery that was built in 1886 by Barnard Ehlers. That stone winery became the cornerstone of 43.8 acres of vineyards that were pieced together by French entrepreneur and philanthropist Jean Leducq in 2001, which he had began acquiring in 1985. Jean Leducq’s vision was to put together a Napa Valley estate capable of producing Bordeaux style and quality wines. He realized this vision when the winery’s inaugural 2000 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon was released.
Just a hop, skip and mountain or two away from the three wineries I visited in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma lies Napa Valley. This time, my travels took me specifically to St. Helena, and my first stop was Hartwell Vineyard and Winery. With a history of producing wine that in 2005 was given a 95 point rating by Wine Spectator, I was sure the Hartwell family would not only wow us with their wines, but offer a great visit. I was right.
We met with Linda LaPonza, Hartwell’s General Manager, and daughter of proprietors Bob and Blanca Hartwell, who provided us with not only a rich history of Hartwell, but a fabulous tour of their estate and tasting of their wines. Linda also introduced us to Hartwell’s winemaker Benoit Touquette, who discussed the process of making their fantastic wine. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of their oak aging the Sauvignon Blanc, when many people age in stainless steel vats.
We started the visit off watching a test of a new berry sorter, which worked based on computerized specifications to select the perfect grape. This test was just one part of the technology Hartwell employs to create fantastic wine. A tour of the winery introduced us to the ceramic egg shaped vats that Hartwell recently installed. My understanding, which of course is limited, is the egg shape causes the wine to constantly be moving around in the vat, so that pump overs are less frequent. A pump over is the process to circulate fermenting juice of red wines from the bottom of the tank over the skin cap that forms during fermentation to ensure optimal extraction of color and flavor and prevent bacterial spoilage. Hartwell does also have several regular vats, and Benoit was doing a pump over and punch down while we chatted.
The last part of wine geekery I’ll mention is the racks that Hartwell uses. I believe they were called oxo racks, but that could be wrong. These racks allow the barrels to be turned during the aging process using rollers, rather than having to lift and turn the racks using brute force. All of these advancements in wine making technology are used by Hartwell to continue to make delicious wines for you to enjoy. So, lets go to the video of my tasting the Hartwell Estate Reserve 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Hartwell Tasting Room manager gave us a phenomenal walk through of the wines, food pairings, and made the experience quite elegant. He advised that when you plan on visiting, call for availability and reservation. You can reach Hartwell toll free at (800) 366-6516 to find out about tours, tastings and options.
After the tasting, Linda took us on a tour of the estate. I was enamored with the beautiful views from the hill atop which Hartwell is perched. Linda’s ability to make the land come alive, as she grew up on it, was spectacular. We had the opportunity to see where Bob and Blanca Hartwell live on the estate, as well as drive around the water reservoir, and through the vineyards.
No visit to a winery would be complete without walking through the grape vines. I’ve had the opportunity to visit vineyards during winter, when the leaves (canopy) are cut back and only the vine itself is there to see, and it’s a wonderful visit. However, being able to pluck a grape from the vine,during harvest of course, and taste the fruit as always a special treat. I would say there’s never a bad time to visit a winery, but the best time is definitely harvest in my mind. Of course, there’s something to be said of the gorgeous colors you’ll see on the grape leaves after harvest, during autumn. So what are you waiting for, get on the phone and call the great folks at Hartwell. I assure you, it’ll be a good time with wine.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to join my fellow wine writers for the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, where many had the opportunity to walk the Quivira Vineyards. I was, however, fortunate enough to visit Quivira and two other wineries as part of a Visit Dry Creek series of wine segments for Daytime, a nationally syndicated morning show. We had a great time visiting first Michel-Schlumberger, and then Montemaggiore, and knew that our time at Quivia would be equally as enjoyable.
Upon arriving at Quivira Vineyards & Winery, you are greeted by a beautiful landscape, and a very serene waterfall. This sets the stage for your visit, where you’ll learn about their biodynamic farming practices, take a self guided tour through their organic garden, and of course sample their wines made from their biodynamically grown grapes. Check out the short video of my discussing Quivira and their 2007 Grenache, then continue down to more information about my visit.
Though they have many wines to sample, from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel, Syrah, and Mourvedre, Quivira is one of only a handful of wineries in Dry Creek making Grenache, which is why I wanted to discuss it with you. Grenache, or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain, typically has flavors of berries with a nice spicy component that lingers on the finish. As I mentioned in the video, I noticed a nice dark but still red berry bouquet and palate, and the spice on the finish was beautiful. We had some of the wine left over the next day, and it’s palate smoothed a bit, the tannins that dried my mouth during the video tasting weren’t as firm, and it was drinking wonderfully. The 2007 Grenache was aged 15 months in 90% neutral oak, 10% new oak, and boasts a hefty 14.9% ABV (Alcohol by volume).
In the video I mentioned the typical fatty meat pairings for this wine, as the Grenache would pair well with lamb, veal, and beef. I also wouldn’t hesitate to put this with a nice smoked or bbq rib or pork, or game birds. It’s a fairly versatile wine that doesn’t need a lot of fanfare to drink. While I believe it would benefit from some time decanting, it was quite fine right out of the bottle with no air.
When we visited Quivira, proprietor Pete Kight was sorting through the grapes, working hard to ensure that the quality of grapes going into his wine was up to standards. We didn’t have the opportunity to chat with Pete, but did have a chance to sit with winemaker Steven Cantor as well as farm manager Andrew Beedy. From Andrew, we learned about the organic garden and farming practices, the various livestock on the property, and his thoughts on Biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming is a step above organic farming in terms of caring for the land, farming sustainably, and not using chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. However, Andrew makes it sound easy, saying “Basically, I give plants water. That’s what I do. The plants do all the hard work, we just make sure their environment is as healthy as it can be.”
Winemaker Steven Cantor was more than happy to discuss not only the wines he makes, but many other thoughts on winemaking, biodynamic farming, and life. Dubbed the “Philosopher Winemaker”, it was very interesting to hear his passion for the grape, and the wines he makes. He wasn’t able to single out any one Quivira wine that he’d call his Baby, despite my proding, loving each one of them for an individual characteristic.
There’s so much to see and do at Quivira, my video and post don’t scratch the surface. From their olive oils and preserves from their garden, to the farm to table dinners they do once a quarter, there’s always something new and enjoyable available at Quivira. Be sure to check out the Daytime segment which airs on Wednesday November 18th. If you can’t find Daytime in your viewing area, the segment will be online shortly at tweetmetv.com.
*Disclaimer – the wine tasted in this segment was provided by Quivira during the visit.
*Credit – the photo of Wine Creek in the video was ‘borrowed’ from Frank Morgan at drinkwhatyoulike.com .. hope the link back to your Quivia post makes up for that!
Come back tomorrow, when we journey over the hill to Napa, and start our visit of three St. Helena wineries. Are you ready?
A trip through Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma affords one plenty of opportunities to stop in to various tasting rooms and sample the wines they have to offer. However, it’s only when you travel off the beaten path that you’ll come across Montemaggiore. Nestled high on the mountainside, Montemaggiore isn’t “open to the public” per se. Rather, you need to call Lise or Vince Ciolino, owners of the vineyard since 2001, and make an appointment to take a tour of their beautiful property and taste their great wines. Our second stop on our Daytime tour through Dry Creek Valley brought us up the winding mountain road to their tasting room, and I’m excited to take you there on a virtual tour and tasting.
There are a few different wines available from Montemaggiore, from their Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah I discuss in the below video, to a Cabernet Syrah Blend named Nobile and even a Syrah Rose. Additionally, the Ciolinos offer olive oil from the olive trees on the property. So, lets enjoy a virtual wine tasting together, and find out what I thought of wine from this vineyard that’s off the beaten path.
Syrah is not a very frequently grown grape in Dry Creek Valley, with approximately 306 acres of syrah vines planted. This is a stark contrast to the 2,316 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 2,251 acres of Zinfandel, and 1,500 acres of Merlot reported planted in Dry Creek Valley in 2006. However, I believe the Ciolinos have found a grape that they are able to successfully grow and turn into a delicious wine. As I mentioned in the video, it’s not very jammy like many California Syrah’s can be. Mind you, it’s not that jammy is wrong or bad, but I prefer my Syrah to be a bit more subtle fruit wise, and the spice and oak influence a bit more prominent when I drink a Syrah, and I think Montemaggiore has captured that in their wines. The Paolo’s Vineyard 2005 Syrah was rated a 92 by the International Wine review, and costs approximtely $35. It’s aged in a mixture of 84% French and 16% American oak, of which 38% is new.
Lise, pronounced Leezah, like the tower of Pisa, and her husband Vince care very much not only about the quality of their wines, but the impact growing them has on the land. They firmly believe in organic and biodynamic farming, and don’t use chemical products, but rather employ natural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Their sustainable farming practice includes drip irrigation and natural compost, as well as several sheep that tend the grass and naturally fertilize the land. Vince will happily discuss the care they exercise in working the land they also live on during a visit. You’ll be able to hear from Vince and his farming practices at Montemaggiore during the Daytime segment.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot more to Montemaggiore than we’ve discussed here. The television segment of our visit to Montemaggiore airs on Daytime Tuesday November 17th. If Daytime isn’t on in your area, we’ll have the clip available online at tweetmetv.com shortly. I’ll update this post, perhaps put the link in the comments, and you can see Lise, Vince, and our fabulous trip to our second Dry Creek Valley winery. If you missed our first stop at Michel-Schlumberger, you will want to take a few minutes to see how wonderful that visit was!