The non-profit group Hospice du Rhone endeavors to educate about and promote the Rhone grape varietals. Rhone varietals include Grenach, Mouvedre, and today’s topic, Syrah, along with other lesser known grapes such as Bourboulenc and Camarese. Syrah is a grape that offers many expressions, from the peppery Shiraz you’ll find in Australia, to the round and fruit focused Syrah you’ll find in California. It’s a grape that takes on the characteristics of the terroir, the earth that the grapes come from, and will be different whether from France, California or Washington. A group of wine writers received four Washington Syrah samples from Hospice du Rhone, and taste the wines together, using twitter to discuss our notes. I fired up the grill, cooking some mild Italian sausage and some hamburgers, and set out to taste the first two of the four wines.
Gramercy Cellars 2007 Syrah
The first wine of the night was from Gramercy Cellars which was founded in 2005 by Master Sommelier Greg Harrington and his wife Pam. The 2007 Lagniappe Syrah is co-fermented with 2% Viognier, which will add floral notes to the wine, and is then aged 15 months in neutral French oak. It’s made with fruit sourced from neighboring vineyards in Columbia Valley, while their own two vineyards mature. Initially tight on the nose, displaying some “meaty berry” notes after about 30 minutes of air, the palate was subdued black fruit with some leather and pepper. However, paired with grilled Italian sausage, the wine began to shine, showing additional complexities including layers of mocha under the fruit. With food, the pepper finish eased and the berry and mocha flavors come through, and the wine became a well balanced accompaniment to the meal.
The team at Gramercy indeed specifically makes their wines with a food pairing focus, and I found it all too easy to enjoy another sip after a bite of grilled hamburger or sausage. At $38, the wine not only complimented the meal, but it stood up well the next day. On the second day, the Lagniappe Syrah’s bouquet opened a bit more, showing dark fruit on the nose. The palate seemed a bit rounder, with a jammy berry focus, similar to grabbing handfuls of fresh blackberries and shoving them in your mouth, until it overflows. The finish, however, retained it’s white pepper component and was still screaming for some food to help tame it. All in all a nice wine which is definitely made with food in mind.
DeLille Cellars Doyenne 2007 Syrah
Next up was DeLille Cellars2007 Doyenne Syrah from Yakima Valley, WA. This Syrah was blend with 2% Viognier as well, though aging and fermentation information were not available. The nose was not very fragrant after being open 45 minutes, and it could have decanted over an hour and a half to reach full potential. It had that “meaty fruit” bouquet, but nothing stood out as “wow”. The palate was dark fruit and cocoa, similar to the Gramercy, with a soft silky approach and a powerful finish. However, the Doyenne Syrah really screamed when paired with food. Sipping after a bite of the grilled sausage brought out a cascade of flavors, especially spicy chocolate.
The second night found the Doyenne still smooth and silky, as the wine opened up in the bottle. There were great blackberry and black raspberry flavors, with the oak showing a little bit on the finish. At $50, I would have a hard time just plunking this wine down on the table to sip on. However, with a meal, such as grilled meats of any sort, I wouldn’t hesitate a second to pop open this bottle! I’d like to see how this wine matures over 3-4 years, and the DeLille Cellars website has an aging chart for their wines, which noted this Syrah as a “Hold”.
Have you had a Syrah from Washington, or anywhere, that really stands out? Let us know about it, leave a comment below. Next up, we’ll talk about the other two Syrah we taste that evening, including one from Charles Smith, the Food and Wine 2009 Winemaker of the Year.
I am not naive enough that you hadn’t been introduced to organic wines or biodynamic wines before we (digitally) met. I’d like to think that after watching my short segment from CBS Daybreak above, and reading the information here, you’ll go forward into the wine world a tad more enlightened about the methods the grapes are grown, and wines are made. Three minutes was hardly enough to scratch the surface of this topic, plus tell you about the three fantastic wines I brought on the show, so please read on.
I tend to shy away from marketing hype, and feel all too often people will toss words on labels to influence your buying habits. Make it “Eco Friendly” and suddenly you switch everything from vegetables to dish washing soap, regardless of it being a better product or not. I shied away from organic wines for that reasons, and one other; historically organic wines were lousy. Whether it was just poor choices on my part, the lack of sulfites to qualify for the organic labeling, or my disposition to the hype, up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t consider recommending an organic wine. Actually, I still rarely recommend organic wines, but rather recommend wines made from organically grown grapes.
For a wine to be labeled an “Organic Wine”, it must be made from grapes that are grown organically and have no added sulfites. The sulfites act as a preservative, prohibit fermentation in the bottle, and allow for production of consistent wines over time. The Organic Wine label doesn’t mean sulfite free, however. In fact, all wines contain sulfites, and though most people tell me they have “Red Wine Headaches” from sulfites, white wine contains a slightly higher amount of sulfite than red. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process, and can’t be eliminated (practically) from wine. Speaking of wine, lets cover those first, then the details on the growing practices.
Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
In Marlborough, New Zealand there is a winery making wines via organic and biodynamic principles that rock. The Seresin Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from their two certified organic vineyards, Home and Tatou, and is made from 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon. I positively disagree with the winemakers tasting notes, who says it displays grass on the nose with chalky mineral complexity. This wine is quite straightforward, taking a tangerine, and sprinkling it with lemon juice. It’s bright, flavorful, with a bursting bouquet to match the palate. I think of sunshine in a bottle, and promise you a bottle of this on your spring and summer table, with a few different types of goat cheese will have your guests thinking you’re a wine guru! The Seresin Estate 08 Sauvignon Blanc is about $21.
Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling
Globe trotting over to the US from New Zealand, we land in Oregon, where we are enjoying Montinore Estate 2008 Almost Dry Riesling. Labeled as grapes organically certified by Stellar Certification Services as well as Demeter Certified Biodynamic grapes, this bottle delivers a wide range of wine experiences. The nose has an incredible petrol scent, laced with sweet apricots. The palate is semi-sweet stone fruit, but crisp, not cloying. It has a medium mouth feel, and also sings when paired with goat cheese, but this wine can be paired with salads, seafood, or drank on it’s own quite nicely. This delicious white wine is available for under $15.
Odfjell - Orzada - Malbec
The last leg of our World Wine tasting takes us to Chile, which I’ve written about often. I firmly believe South America offers some fantastic values on great wines, and think Chile leads that charge. Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipping magnate, settled in Chile after falling in love with it, and began planning vineyards about 15 years ago. Odfjell makes a number of different lines on their 85 hectacres, and have vineyards in the Colchagua and Maipo Valley where their Carmenere comes from, as well as organically farmed vineyards in Cauquenes and Curico, where the Orzada Malbec comes from.
Malbec is typically an Argentine grape, but Odfjell does a great job with it. This wine has a bouquet of violets, and a palate of berries with the violets coming through as well. It’s a medium mouth feel and dry, while being delightful to just sip as the tannins aren’t too firm. Pair the Odfjell Orzada Malbec with some roasted or grilled meats, steaks or lamb chops for example, and it is fantastic. Definitely give this wine a good 30 minutes to decant and open up, or it’s a bit jammy on the palate and not it’s true potential. You can find the Odfjell Orzada Malbec for about $20.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets talk about the three types of “green” winemaking, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic.
Kris O’Connor, Executive Director of the Central Coast Vineyard Team pointed out that Sustainable farm practices “look at the whole farm – energy, water quality, habitat, water conservation, integrated pest management & people. Several of these issues aren’t necessarily specifically addressed in organic or biodynamic certification standards.” Some Central Coast Vineyard Team member vineyards are “Sustainability in Practice” certified, who’s wines I’ve enjoyed and written about such as Hahn Estates, Baileyana-Tangent, and Paraiso Vineyards.
Sustainable winemaking means that growers don’t use man-made chemicals to fertilize the vineyards to improve crop results. The growers will use natural fertilizers, composting and other cultivation methods to attract beneficial insects to the vines while feeding the plant. Additionally, sustainable farming practices will enrich the surrounding habitat, such as providing grazing areas for animals away from the vineyards so they don’t eat the crops, or restoring nearby streams or rivers to enhance the entire local ecosystem. There are of course standards to be met, and upheld, to be certified sustainable by organizations such as SIP, much like in organic wine making.
Organic winemaking takes the basic premise of sustainable farming, and goes a step further. Organic vineyard management eliminates the use of not only chemical fertilizer, but any chemical pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide in the growing process. The vineyard will employ natural methods of controlling pests and vine threatening diseases, as well as promoting vine growth and health. However, just because the grapes are grown organically does not allow a wine to be labeled as organic. As I mentioned previously, the wine can have no added sulfites in addition to having organically farmed grapes to earn the “Organic Wine” label. Additionally, many wines will be produced organically, but not mention it on the label. Rather, they just let the quality of their wine speak for itself. There was an interesting piece on wines labeled as Organic, or Eco-Friendly, which sell for less.
Biodynamic winemaking takes sustainable, and organic farming to the next level. That next level does include a little bit of voodoo and witchcraft, with burying a cow horn full of cow manure on the Autumn equinox, and digging it up six months later on the Spring equinox to spread the contents in the vineyard. No, really. Biodynamic farming has it’s roots back in the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Quite a complex science and way of thinking, I can only summarize the biodynamic farming ideology by saying that it takes into account the spiritual forces of earth, animal, plants and brings them in line through a holistic, and natural approach to keeping them all healthy and in sync.
The crux of the methodology is the vineyard is a living system that is closed, and self-sustaining. It shares many of the attributes of organic farming; no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers or other chemical preparations in the earth or vine. Grapes are harvested by hand, and much if not all of the vineyard work is done manually without the use of powered machines. It then takes into account the rhythm of the universe, such as the use nine types of preparations to dynamize soil quality and stimulate plant life. The preparations are a mixture of extracts from minerals, plants, or animal manure. Furthermore, the farmers only sow and reap harvests according to principles they believe control the cosmos. For instance, wine is only racked under a new moon because sediment is at its most compact at this time. The tidal pull of a full moon causes it to puff up, insiders say. I could go on forever, talking about wines that are Demeter certified Biodynamic and what that means, but I think we’ve gotten the jist of it all.
What do you think about organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines? Do they impact your buying decisions? Now that you know about the differences, will it impact your buying decisions? Leave a comment below, I’ll be sure to reply, and possibly follow up via email! Cheers!
In addition to introducing you to new grapes to try in 2010, I’d like to help make wine more fun and approachable. A great opportunity to do that was the wine event I went to in Miami, where the wineries of Bordeaux were showcasing delicious wines that were great for every day. I hope the below write up helps take some of your fear of France away.
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was probably the worst storm in 2009, but nothing would keep me from making the trip from West Palm Beach to Miami. The almost two hour drive during a torrential downpour was worth it, as I was on my way to one of the most hottest parties of the year. Part of the “Life Goes Better with Bordeaux” campaign, an effort to educate people on the quality and value associated with wines from Bordeaux, France, this event was going to be spectacular.
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.
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.
Peter Kight at the sorter
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?
While the American Viticultural Area, or AVA, of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma is synonymous with Zinfandel, there’s a lot of great wine coming from this area that you shouldn’t miss. To raise your awareness of what wines you can enjoy from Dry Creek Valley, I took a trip to three wineries in September, filming television segments for the nationally syndicated morning show Daytime. Our first stop was Michel-Schlumberger, where we had not only the opportunity to meet with President and General Manager Judd Wallenbrock, Wine maker Michael Brunson, and Director of Retail & Direct to Consumer Operations Jim Morris, we got to tour the vineyard, meet all of the staff, and enjoy a night of music at the winery.
The short video here is just one part of the experience we had at Michel-Schlumberger. It will take you on the first of two virtual tastes and tours of this 30 year old winery. The second part is the television segment airing on Daytime Monday, November 16th, 2009. If Daytime isn’t available in your viewing area, I’ll have a comment below with a link to the segment online shortly.
*Disclaimer* The wine discussed in this post and in the video were provided to me at no cost by Michel-Schlumberger.
I know that I started this post by saying Dry Creek Valley and Zinfandel were synonymous, but in 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for 2,316 acres of vines planted, topping 2nd place Zinfandel which had 2,251 acres under vine. Michel-Schlumberger produces various Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Pinot Blanc, Syrah and Chardonnay. The wine tasted in the video, the Deux Terres 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, is their top non-reserve offering and was an enjoyable wine. It didn’t need much time to open, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes.
Right out of the bottle the nose was dark fruits, black cherry and blackberry, with a mocha and spice component that was very inviting. The palate was dark cherry fruit with medium to firm tannins, giving that dry, almost astringent feeling on the inside of my mouth, similar to black tea. I enjoyed the finish of pepper and spice, and while it wasn’t extremely long, it was quite nice. Robin loved the wine to just sip on, though she didn’t feel it complimented her pasta and red sauce. I thought it was nice enough with my eggplant parmesan hero, but really feel it needs a rich beef, veal or lamb dish to compliment the flavors and structure.
The vineyard is farmed organically, as I mentioned in the video, with an eye towards sustainability and the environment. Not only does the team at Michel-Schlumberger care about the land they farm to bring you delicious wines, they care about Dry Creek itself. Together with other wineries in the area, they’re working to restore Wine Creek and keep the Steelhead Trout population strong and preserve an integral part of the ecology. A visit to Michel-Schlumberger will allow you the opportunity to walk the vineyards that were established in 1979 by Jean-Jacques Michel. Jacques Schlumberger joined the team as a minority partner in 1991, and took over the estate as majority partner in 1993. When Michael Brunson joined the team as assistant wine maker in 1993, Fred Payne was the head wine maker. The Deux Terres we talked about tonight was one of Fred Payne’s wines, as Michael Brunson took over the wine making role in 2006.
Hopefully you’ll visit Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma and Michel-Schlumberger soon. When you do, call the winery before your visit, and be sure to allow enough time to not only tour the grounds but taste their wines. Oh, and tell them mmWine sent you!
Be sure to tune in to Daytime and see our tour of the vineyards and winery, as well as the tasting with Show co-host Lindsay MacDonald.
I’ve had a hard time writing this wine review for several reasons. My opinion of this wine disagrees with both Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate reviews. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that WA and WS are the end-all-be-all of wine information, but it causes me to pause and reflect on the wine. I often hesitate to recommend a wine that isn’t varietally correct, because I know some wine geek out there will blast me for it. However, Robin’s opinion of this wine was identical to mine, so without further ado, lets talk about Marco Real Garnacha from Navarra, Spain.
Garnacha, which is called Grenache when it comes from areas outside of Spain, such as France or the US, is a very widely planted red wine grape. It usually produces wine that has dark berry fruit flavors, and a great backbone of pepper and spice that make it a very enjoyable red wine, in my opinion. It’s a red wine I love on it’s own, or paired with steak, lamb, or cheeses, and have served at dinner parties frequently. When I was offered the chance to try the Marco Real 2005 Garnacha from Navarra, Spain, I jumped at the opportunity. To find out what I thought of this wine, watch the short video review, then continue on to see my summary of the wine.
As you can see, the issue I had writing this review is is not if this is a good wine. For the price, which is a suggested retail of about $11, it’s an easy drinking, nice red wine. However, if you’re looking for varietally correct, where the dark berries give way to pepper notes on the palate, this is not the wine for you. This is more of a jammy, berry focused wine that is very easy to drink, a nice evening back-porch sipper. I think it would be great with food, and had it with ravioli with a red marinara sauce, and it went very nicely. As a matter of fact, I purchased quite a bit of this wine from Zsazsa and Company, and plan on having it with friends over pizza soon.
Closeup of Marco Real Garnacha Label
Wine Spectator gave this wine an 86, and Wine Advocate gave it an 88. Both reviewers noted the spice, typical of Garnacha, which I felt was lacking. Now, you’re asking, “Matt, what does that mean?” It means if you’re looking for a perfect bottle of Garnacha, this isn’t it. I’ll work on finding one for you! However, if you’re looking for an easy drinking red, one to sip alone or with food, then for $11, you can’t go wrong with this wine. I plan on opening a bottle of this wine over the next few days, and re-tasting it. I also plan on reviewing a slightly more expensive California Grenache, and seeing how the two compare.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve had Garnacha, or Grenache, lately. If so, what did you like, or not like about it? Have you had the Marco Real, and if so what was your opinion. I’ll update this post when I re-try the wine with other foods, so check back often.
Do you enjoy wine? When was the last time you had a Petit Verdot? How about Petit Sirah? If the answer is anything other than “Last week”, watch this video wine review of Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards 2007 Generations Petit Verdot Petit Sirah blend. You’ll be surprised at how delicious and drinkable this $20 wine is! There’s no doubt that this purple teeth stainer will be a wine you look to have again, and again.
The Lange family has been farming in California for 5 generations, starting with Johann and Maria Lange’s 1870 immigration from Germany, where they settled down in Lodi. The Langes started their farming history beginning with melons, the crop of choice back then. They moved into farming grapes in 1916, then in 2006 twin brothers Randall and Bradford Lange, Winery General Manager and Viticulture General Manager respectively, founded the Lange Twins winery, and incorporated the winery in their business of grape growing. There are multiple generations of Lange family members working at the Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards today, making it a true family business.
Joe Lange provided a bottle of their Generations Petit Verdot Petit Sirah 2007 to me before the summer started as a sample for review. I am grateful to Joe, and Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyard for the opportunity to taste this wine, and discuss it with you. Please take two minutes to watch the video review below, then read the rest of my tasting notes and comments.
As you can see from the above quick video wine review (you did watch it, right? Seriously, 2 minutes!), this wine falls into the “Drinkable” and almost “Gulpable” category. It’s only $20 from the Lange Twins website, and by my measure, that makes it a very affordable, bordering on every day wine price wise. Of course, price is not the only measure of selecting wines, so taste has to be there, and in my opinion, Lange Twins Petit Verdot Petit Sirah has it.
I find this wine very approachable. That means, it’s easy to drink, and doesn’t require too much care & feeding, or work, to enjoy it. A good friend of mine on twitter mentioned she is not a fan of wines that require a lot of “me” time, and prefers the ability to just open a wine and enjoy it. While I decanted the wine for an hour, I believe this wine would do well as a “Pop and Pour”, where you can just open it and drink.
Decanting red wines has two purposes. First, for older wines or perhaps wines that are not filtered, it helps separate the sediment that occurs normally in bottles of wine by allowing them to settle to the bottom of the decanter. Second, it allows younger wines time to “breathe”, allowing oxygen to interact with the wine. This can allow the wine to open up, the bouquet and the flavors can show well, and you can enjoy the wine. Some wines may not need any decanting, others may need one, two or even four hours to open up.
As you saw in the video, there was nice fruit on this wine, with just a little hint of baking spice mixed in. I could discern beautiful blueberry flavors mixed in with darker fruit flavors as soon as the wine hit my tongue. It definitely opened up and became even more enjoyable with each minute we drank the wine. Also as mentioned in the video, we paired the wine with steak. It was a great pairing, the delicious grilled steak dancing gracefully with the luscious wine. Sadly, the wine was finished before the steak was gone, which was a testament to how easy drinking the wine was.
This wine definitely plays well with others, pairing it with beef dishes or other gamey dishes (hmm, venison stew or Cornish game hens perhaps) works wonderfully. It also plays well by itself, making it a great sipping wine. Open a bottle of this Lange Twins wine, take your better half, or your best buds, to the back yard or the porch, and watch a great night with a nice wine unfold!