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How good is Hartwell

Entrance to Hartwell Vineyard and Winery

Entrance to Hartwell Vineyard and Winery

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.

Hartwell Vineyards

Hartwell Vineyards

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.

 

Hartwell Vineyards 2006 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

View from top of Hartwell Estate

View from top of Hartwell Estate

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
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.

Is Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Spatlese Riesling your Thanksgiving white wine?

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2007

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.

Video review of Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

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.

Rudera Chenin Blanc – Delicious doesn’t do it justice

Ready to taste Rudera Chenin Blanc 2007

Ready to taste Rudera Chenin Blanc 2007

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.

Rudera Chenin Blanc 2007 – A white wine not to be missed from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

Rudera Chenin Blanc

Rudera Chenin Blanc

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

Red Wine From Navarra Spain – Marco Real – Garnacha

Video Wine Review of Marco Real Garnacha

Video Wine Review of Marco Real Garnacha

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.

Red Wine From Navarra Spain – Marco Real – Garnacha from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

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

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.