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.
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.
Tasting Hartwell Grapes
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.
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?
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.
Paolo Feeding Sheep at Montemaggiore
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!
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 absolutely love the tremendous amount of variety and diversity there is in the wine world. I love how the same grape, grown in the same area, perhaps even at neighboring vineyards, can taste so different. The influence of the methods the winemaker uses to ferment and age the wine as well as the care and growing conditions the vineyard manager employs can change your perception of a varietal magically. I haven’t reviewed many Syrahs on the blog, and the ones I did review previously really didn’t trip my trigger, so to speak. It was, therefore, with a tad of reluctance that I accepted a sample of James David Cellars 2005 Syrah from proprietor David Cole, whom I networked with on twitter. I am happy to say that my excited video review is indeed an indication that James David Cellars put out some nice new world Syrah.
Though their family has been in the California farming and wine industry for some time, David and Kathleen Cole have only been at the helm of James David Cellars for a few years. However, their goal to create a wine that is easy to share with friends and family, good during a meal, or a good conversation, seems to be one they’ve already achieved with the Central Coast Syrah. A blend of grapes sourced from two vineyards, one in Monterey, the other in Paso Robles, only 350 cases of this easy drinking red wine were produced. Grapes from both Paso Robles and Monetery are said to exhibit true characteristics of the varietals. Grapevines there tend to bud a week or two earlier than other regions, and are harvested a week or two later than other regions due to the cool growing season. This means the grapes are on the vine longer, and develop an intense flavor. Wines from these areas tend to have the peppery characteristics you find in Syrah from France (or Shiraz from Australia), and I enjoyed that very much on this wine.
I chatted briefly with David about this wine, and he said that his favorite food pairings for the James David Cellars Central Coast Syrah would be pizza, or red sauce dishes like lasagna or spaghetti. Thea, a follow wine blogger and friend, agrees with David that this is a nice pizza wine. I’m not sure if $21 is in everyone’s budget for a pizza wine, and I think this wine is a tad more versitle than that. The pork roast that Robin made in the crock pot went very well with it, as would a nice salmon dish. The wine is light enough that it would pair favorably with the fish, and even chicken. Yes, I’m debunking the myth that chicken and fish only go with white wines! I’m not sure how this Syrah will pair with a steak or lamb. David Cole mentioned that of the two samples he sent, this and the Eagle Point Ranch Syrah, the Central Coast wine was more “French style” with a lighter nose and body than it’s big Californian brother. I’ve decided to review them separately, so check back soon for that Eaglepoint Ranch review.
In summary, for $21, I am happy to recommend you try the James David Cellars Central Coast Syrah. It’s well structured and versitle enough to pair with a decent range of foods. It also is easy drinking, and will do fine on it’s own, helping David and Kathleen achieve their goal of creating a wine that compliments conversation, as well as drive it. I believe this wine appeals to the “Old World” Syrah lovers, while still having some of the characteristics the “New World” Syrah lovers look for. However, don’t just take my word for it. Find yourself a bottle of this wine, pour yourself a glass, and leave some comments below about your experience!
-Disclaimer- This wine was provided as a free sample from James David Cellars for me to review on the blog.
Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007
With October just finished, and people already planning their 2010 Oktoberfest parties, I thought it would be a great time to review a German Riesling. If you haven’t had a Riesling before, or only have had Rieslings from California or Washington, I recommend you find and enjoy a German one soon. There are many great Riesling producers in the Mosel region of Germany, or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as it was previously named. I’ve reviewed this wine’s cousin before, another Riesling from the same producer, but this one is a bit more elegant and refined. I’m talking about Dr Loosen 2007 Riesling Spatlese from the Erdener Treppchen vineyard in Mosel, Germany.
The wines produced by Dr Loosen come from various vineyards, which impart their characteristics on the wine. The Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling is actually made from grapes purchased from other growers in the region. However, the wine we’re discussing today is produced from all estate grapes, grown in the Erdener Treppchen vineyards, the little staircase of Erden vineyards, as the name translates. The E.T. vineyard is comprised of iron rich red slate soil, which creates rich, complex wines and imparts the mineral qualities I describe in the video. This wine is described on the Dr Loosen website as more muscular and rugged, where as wines from their blue slate vineyards of Wehlener Sonnenuhr are described as more graceful, like a ballerina.
Muscular and rugged or not, this wine was delicious. The nose has that petrol scent that is often associated with quality German Rieslings. However, underneath that scent is super ripe apricot and honey suckle, waiting to be savored. From your first sip, this lush wine has a medium weight to it, and an elegant mouth feel. It’s bursting with flavors of dried apricot, peaches and honey, balanced with nice acidity. It’s certainly a bit young, and will develop in the bottle, if you have the patience to let it age. The Wine Spectator gave this wine 91 points, and said
Bright and tangy, like a brass band. The lime and peach notes gather force thanks to a vibrant, well-integrated acidity. There’s also a touch of vanilla cream and mineral. Drink now through 2032. 250 cases imported. –BS
I could see this wine ending up on many Thanksgiving tables. As I mentioned in the video, friends wanted something to go with their Cajun Deep Fried turkey they plan to make this Holiday season. We’re fairly sure they’ll go with this selection, which they purchased from Zsazsa and Company, a virtual wine store serving Florida since 2008. It will not only go well with their turkey choice, but I see it going well with any ham you put on the holiday table, as well as pairing nicely with the cheese platter you put out before the meal. This wine is versatile, and can be on your table throughout the whole meal, playing nicely with fresh fruit for dessert.
I know that a lot of people haven’t had Rieslings, and would love to hear what you think once you pick up a bottle. If you’ve been following me on twitter, you may have seen my tweets regarding the Wines of Germany virtual wine tasting events throughout October. If you took part in that, or have had some German Riesling on your own, why not let everyone know what you think of them by leaving a comment below.
The sign of a good bottle of wine is when it’s finished, you are sad that it’s gone, and lament that you did not sip slower to make it last longer. Tonight’s wine, a Chenin Blanc, was exactly that bottle. I found myself rationing my sips, and secretly wanting to pour a tad less for Robin, so I had more for myself. Though I’ve had quite a few different wines made from Chenin Blanc grapes, I haven’t reviewed one on the blog. So, we were both in for a treat when I opened a bottle of Rudera 2007 Chenin Blanc this evening.
Often associated with light to medium bodied wines from the Loire valley, France, Chenin Blanc can produce great options from sparklers to dessert type wines. The Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC, wine producing regions in France) of Vouvray produces wines that are off-dry with honeyed and floral notes, while the AOC of Anjou produces dry wines with flavors of apple and quince. Outside of France, South Africa seems to be the area Chenin Blanc is most widely planted. This wine combined the characteristics seen in both the Vouvray and Anjou wines, with flavors of honey and floral meshing wonderfully with apple and spice.
Rated 90 point by Wine Spectator, this wine definitely lives up to it’s accolades. A nose of dried apricots and reminiscent of a delicious Sauternes, this wine beckons you to sip like a siren calling a sailor to the rocks. It’s positively irresistible and enchanting. The palate is quite different than the nose, however, with honeyed fruit making a quick transition to a spice laden granny smith apple finish that goes on for days. I really don’t think my video discussion of the wine did it justice, as this wine evolved tremendously from first to last sip. The flavors of the wine changed and intensified as it sat in the glass, and I most noticed it on the finish. The mid-palate of spice began to consume the granny smith apple, and ultimately, all you would taste at the end of each sip was warm baking spice.
Tonight for dinner we had Chicken Wraps, which took pieces of roasted chicken, tossed them in a wrap with lettuce, tomato and onion, and topped with Russian Dressing. The wine paired absolutely wonderfully with this simple dinner, though it would have stood up nicely to fish, perhaps grilled trout or flounder. I also was able to envision this wine on our Thanksgiving table, going well with not only a Turkey, but also a nice baked ham. I may have to try this pairing out soon, you know, just to make sure it works.
If you’ve had this Chenin Blanc, let me know what you think. In Florida, you can purchase the Rudera Chenin Blanc 2007 from Zsazsa and Company, Inc. If you haven’t had the Rudera, but perhaps another Chenin Blanc, let me know what you like, or dislike, about the wines made from this grape