Browsing the blog archives for December, 2009

Varietal Voyage No.12 – 2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier

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Varietal Voyage

Alas, we’ve come to the final white wine on our varietal voyage.  The third viognier on the list comes from Yalumba in South Australia’s Eden Valley. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. Founded in 1849, Samuel Smith started with just 30 acres of land near Angaston. He named this small parcel “Yalumba” – the aboriginal word for “all the land around.”  One hundred thirty one years later Yalumba planted 3 acres of viognier in the Barossa Valley, the first commercial plantings of this variety in Australia.  Curiously, the Eden Valley region, shown on the label, is an eastern extension of the Barossa Valley. They now have access to over 70 acres of viognier from a range of regions, giving the winemakers the ability to select the best qualities of each area. The Eden Valley viognier is just one of the 5 viognier based wines that Yalumba produces.  The others are the Y Series, Virgilius (Yalumba’s outstanding benchmark viognier), and 2 sweet dessert-style viogner’s.

For this particular wine, our opinions were split.  Sue was not all that impressed with the selection, on the other hand, I found it to be quite enjoyable. It’s moments like these that illustrate how subjective the wine tasting process can be. Each person’s palate is differnet and the way we perceive aromas and flavors varies tremendously.  What is important is it to try new wines and to form your own opinions.  This is the only way to find out what you really like.  As long as you get to try new things and enjoy the experience, that is all that really matters.

With that said, this is my review.  As mentioned earlier, I found this wine to be quite good.  Emanating from its golden yellow color is a bouquet full of rich peach and apricot mixed with peppery spices.  Flavors range from succulent peach and melon at the start to luscious apricot and citrus laced with spice throughout the long finish.  In addition, there are complex, creamy notes of honey and toasted biscuits (from 10 months resting on lees) that tie it all together.

2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier ($19)

Well that’s it for our twelve white wines.  Now we go over to the dark side to experience twelve red wines from around world.  Next up Cabernet Sauvignon!

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Ten for 2010 – Sparkling Wines on a Budget

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News and Events

The economy has effected all of this year in one way or another.  Job losses and pay cuts are commonplace, but that is no reason to stop your next holiday celebration.  We can still embrace the new year and celebrate the promise of a brighter future, even if we find ourselves on a limited budget.

My recommendation this year is to buy domestic!  As much as  I enjoy French Champagne, there are plenty of American sparkling wines that a just as enjoyable at a fraction of the price. Let’s create our own stimulus package by supporting the wineries and vineyards here at home!

The following are ten budget-friendly sparkling wines (all under $25) that will fit in nicely at your next celebration.  Enjoy!

Korbel Brut Rose ($10) – From California’s Russian River Valley, this is a light-tasting and crisp, strawberry-flavored bubbly has just a hint of sweetness.

Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine ($14)- This is one of the more unusual wines on the list. Not because of how it is made or how it tastes, but where it is made – New Mexico!  This brut style sparkler is crisp, and full-bodied with fine bubbles and sophisticated apple and citrus flavors.

Domaine Ste Michelle Non-Vintage Blanc De Blanc ($15) - Blanc de Blancs are made from chardonnay and this one shows it off beautifully, with gorgeous pear and pineapple aromas and crisp green apple flavors.  A very affordable choice from the Columbia Valley in the state of Washington.

Domaine Chandon Brut ($15) - This wine scored highly with both the Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.  It has rich and intense flavors of pear and citrus with a fine texture of crisp bubbles.

Gloria Ferrer Brut ($15) – Listed as one  Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009, this is a lively sparkler with soft pear and citrus aromas.  Yeasty flavors of apples, spice, and minerals dance on your palate.

Piper Sonoma Brut Non-Vintage ($16)- This brut is crisp and bright, with distinct yeasty character. Packed with rich pear and apple flavors, it has a little more acidity than its peers.  This blend is primarily pinot noir, giving this wine nice body and good aging potential.

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut ($19)- Northern California’s soil and cool climate are well suited for sparkling wine, good reasons for French champagne house, Louis Roederer, to expand operations to the US. Roederer’s style of sparkling wine offers rich apple aromas with hints of yeast and spice.  Complex flavors of vanilla and strawberries are laced with minerals and firm acidity.

Schramsberg “Mirabelle” North Coast Rosé ($20)- One of California’s oldest estates, started in 1862, Schramsberg make numerous styles of sparkling wine.  This rosé sparkler has a delicate pink hue with floral aromas of strawberry and spice. Crisp flavors of raspberries and apples, match well with undertones of toast and creamy vanilla.

2005 Domaine Carneros Brut  ($20)- Domaine Carneros, like Roederer Estate,  is also operated by a famous champagne house, Taittiger.   The brut style sparkling wine is a sophisticated blend of apple and raspberry aromas.  Crisp flavors of lemon and lime finish with lingering notes of yeast and minerals.

J Vineyards“Cuvée 20″ ($22) - Cuvée 20 was made in celebration of J Vineyard’s 20th anniversary.  Aromas of  lemon peel and honeysuckle  fill out the bouquet. Crisp green apple and tart grapefruit flavors are followed with notes of toasty almonds and finishes with a great balance of fruit and acidity.

2006 Clérotstein Crémant d'Alsace – Symphonie en "P"

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Tasting Note

I know you are probably looking at the title, shaking your head and saying – What??!!  In short, this is a tasty and affordable sparkling wine made in the Alsace region of France.  Clérotstein is the producer and “Crémant d’Alsace” says it is a sparkling wine from Alsace.   Crémants are sparkling wines made in the traditional Champagne method.  France’s strict wine and food laws (AOC) only allow sparkling wines made in the Champagne region to be called “Champagne.”  In terms of quality, the AOC laws are just as strict for crémant, but the producers are allowed to use different grapes along with some other variations. Real Champagne’s usually command a hefty price tag ($40-$100 or more).  Crémants offer a wide array of affordable wines from many different regions of France.

Tasting Notes:

Symphonie en “P” is made from a trio of grapes that are well adapted to the cool Alsatian climate: pinot noir, pinot gris, and pinot blanc.  The final result is an effervescent blend of floral and citrus aromas combined with flavors of minerals, lemon peel, and toasty biscuits.  The idea of toast and biscuits in a sparkling wine may seem strange, but it is quite common and desired in Champagne and crémant.  These yeasty flavors come from the time the finished wines spend resting on lees. The cool climate keeps the acidity in the grapes high and it shows in how the bubbles and flavors dance around in your mouth for a lengthy finish.  Although this wine is labeled as “brut” or a dry style of wine, it still carries a little sweetness, but not at all unpleasant. Very good for $28.

If you are looking to find this wine, your best bet is to try Cinega Imports (DeRose Vineyards). They have several other Clérotstein wines that you may find interesting. Due to our pesky and antiquated shipping laws, call ahead or check their website to make sure they can ship to your location.

1976 Maison Leroy Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru

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Tasting Note

 I’ve finally managed to pull myself away for from the office to enjoy some much needed vacation time.  I went to pick up my Christmas present at the Waterford Wine Company- 6 bottles of 2006 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve! Sue must really love me.  After I picked up the wine, Ben asked if I wished to sample a few wines he had open for his customers. Much to my surprise, one of the offerings was a bottle of 1976 Maison Leroy Vosne-Romanée, a Premier (1er) Cru Burgundy, from the Côte de Nuits!

This is the oldest, most prestigious (definitely the most expensive) wine I have tasted to date. With that in mind, I had no idea what to expect. Would tasting this wine be a life changing event or just another pricey pinot noir? Recognizing my limited experience in this arena, I have to say this is a really good wine.  It was not life changing, but still very good nonetheless.

Tasting Notes:

The ’76 Leroy has so many different layers of aromas and flavors it is hard to believe that there is only one grape variety in the bottle.  I was pleasantly surprised how vibrant the aromas and flavors were after almost 34 years.  In the glass, it has a gorgeous soft reddish-purple hue with a just a hint of garnet showing through on the edges.  Distinct aromas of tart cherries, smoke, and damp earth mingle together with sumptuous cherry flavors and a tart cranberry-like acidity. The finish seems to go on forever with wonderfully soft tannins that build towards the end.  I’ve tasted quite a few pinot noirs and many were very good, but this one has set a new standard!

What a great way to kick off the holidays.  Thanks Ben!

Varietal Voyage No.11 – 2008 Domaine de Gournier Viognier

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Varietal Voyage

The next wine on the list is from France’s southern Rhône valley.  Domaine de Gournier is a very small winery located near Cévennes, between Avignon to the east and Nîmes to the west. Gournier’s Viognier is classified as a vin de pays, or country wine. According to France’s classification of wines, this one is somewhere in the middle in terms of quality.  For this leg of our journey this wine is a little unusual, because it is not 100% Viognier.  It is a blend of primarily Viognier with a little Sauvginon Blanc and Chardonnay added to round things out.

Maurice Barnouin and his family started Domaine de Gournier as a nursery, growing and cloning vine stock for other vineyards. Several years ago they decided to start making their own unique style of wines.  Gournier now produces several wines including: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. The 200 hectare estate (about 500 acres) is situated on a plateau of limestone rich soil with little vegetation to prevent the warm Mediterranean sun from ripening the fruit to its fullest.

The 2008 Viognier is a good example of a simple country wine. If you are expecting a big, fruit-forward expression of the Rhône valley, think again. This is a very simple, everyday wine that doesn’t overpower your palette or your pocket book.  It has pleasing, but delicate floral and peach aromas that work together with light, herbaceous apricot flavors.  The addition of Sauvignon Blanc brings a pleasing balance of mineral flavors and fresh acidity that seems to dance around on your tongue. Serve this one slightly chilled for a great summer refreshment.

2008 Domaine de Gournier Viognier ($11)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

New Home for TOG!

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News and Events

Welcome to the new home for Tales of the Grape!  After a long search for a more usable and flexible blogging platform, I’ve finally settled on the this new format powered by WordPress.  Hopefully this will enable me to give you a better product with the latest content.  For those of you that have followed the old blog, (talesofthegrape.blogspot.com) it will remain up and running until the first of the year.

Here’s to a better and brighter future with lots of new and interesting topics!

Which Wine Goes With This Dish?…Who Cares!

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News and Events

The other night, I overheard a conversation at a wine tasting where two people were discussing which wines to pair with a particular food. It started to get more interesting as they delved into the “rules” for pairing wine and food, such as, “white wine with fish” or “red wine with meat.” Although these may seem like tried and true guidelines that may work for some people, there are just too many different wines and foods to be confined to so-called “rules.”

With that being said, try thinking of the rules as a “suggestion” or a starting point. There are numerous books, magazines, DVD’s, and websites devoted to this subject that can help get you started. Food & Wine Magazine or Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein are a couple of resources with great suggestions.

What if there was a way to make your favorite wine go with any meal? I just heard about a company that is doing just that. The Napa Seasoning Company has recently developed a line of spices and seasoning designed to magically meld your favorite foods and wines!

The idea of having rules at all seems ridiculous to me. Life is too short. If there is a certain combination of food and wine that you like, go for it!

I’m curious to hear about your favorite or unusual wine and food pairing. Send a comment and let’s break some rules!

Varietal Voyage No.10 – 2008 Rosenblum Cellars "Kathy's Cuvée"

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Varietal Voyage

Up to this point we have tasted wines made from several different grapes including: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. The fourth and final white varietal on this voyage brings us to Viognier!

This strange sounding varietal, pronounced Vee-yoh-N’YAY, is a finicky grape that is difficult to grow. Most prevalent in France’s Rhone Valley, it has been grown with much success in many places around the world. The United states is one of these places but it has only been grown here for the past twenty years.

This week’s Viognier is from Rosenblum Cellars. In 1978, Kent Rosenblum, his wife Kathy, and several friends founded Rosenblum Cellars. Using grapes sourced from several now famous vineyards, they quickly became known for top quality Zinfandels. Over the years Rosenblum has grown in size and popularity, producing numerous award winning wines. All of Kent’s successes have earned him title: “King of Zin.” Grape Radio interviewed the King of Zin recently, Click here to listen.

“Kathy’s Cuvée,” named after Kent’s wife, is one in a series of wines called the Appellation Series. This particular wine is made from a blend of Viognier grapes from three different California appellations, each with very differnet soils and climatic conditions, rendering very different aromas and flavors.

The first thing you notice is how aromatic this wine is. As soon as the cork is removed, rich floral and tropical fruit aromas fill the room. The flavors are equally as rich and even more complex. Sue’s described her first sips as “fireworks” exploding with different flavors. This is where the three appellations shine through. The cooler location (Fess Parker Vineyards, Santa Barbara) provides the structure with bright, citrus flavors and well balanced acidity, while the warmer areas (Ripken Vineyards, Lodi and Lange Twins Vineyards, Clarksburg) flesh it out with lush, ripe apricot and pear flavors. Careful aging in a variety of oak barrels and some time resting on lees offers a creamy, honey-like texture that reminds you of silk. All of these aspects blend together so well that you hardly notice its high alcohol content (14.5% ABV).

2008 Rosenblum Cellars “Kathy’s Cuvée” ($18)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

2005 Boorman Estate Pinot Noir

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Tasting Note

Boorman Vineyards is a relatively new winery located in southern California’s Temecula Valley. They are a very small operation (1,500 cases total) using state of the art equipment to craft their wines in small lots. Their focus is on creating a few unique wines with a degree of quality and finesse not found in larger operations. Boorman currently offers: Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, including a few Bordeaux-style blends. They also make a unique pinot noir.

The 2005 Pinot Noir is a huge wine! When I say “huge” I mean heavy bodied flavors with lots of alcohol (14.5% ABV). Southern California’s warm climate tends to produce much riper fruit than normally found in traditional pinot noirs. Boorman ferments their pinot noir for a longer period of time to breakdown the additional sugar in the ripe grapes, adding to the high alcohol content.

Tasting Notes:

The flavors and aromas are intense to say the least. Complex aromas of raisins, dark cherries, and pepper radiate from the glass. I compared this to a bottle of Leacock’s 10 year Madeira and the aromas were almost identical, very unusual for pinot noir. Tart cherry flavors combine with black pepper and a healthy dose of tannins. I suggest decanting or aerating this one early to help soften the tannins. The high alcohol content adds a tremendous amount of heat to the finish, making the wine seem out of balance. This is more like a tenacious young zinfandel than the delicate pinot noirs I have become accustomed to. Hopefully the 2007 is a little more balanced.

2003 Tres Hermanas Syrah

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Tasting Note

This is the second wine I’ve had from the Tres Hermanas Vineyard and Winery. The first was their wonderful sauvignon blanc that I tasted for Varietal Voyage No.1. Their 2003 syrah is equally as great!

Tres Hermanas is known for their French and Italian style red wines. In fact, the Central Coast AVA, where TH is located, has a very similar climate to France’s Southern Rhone Valley where syrah is transformed into some of the world’s most popular wines.

Tasting Notes:

This wine has all the hallmarks of a great syrah with its inky garnet color and a bouquet full of earthy and spicy aromas. The 2003 Syrah is a very complex wine that has a lot to offer, but it takes some time to fully understand and enjoy it. This one is full of jammy blackberries with many layers of smokey earth and herbal flavors. The long finish showcases its peppery spice and bittersweet chocolate. Pair this with a juicy grilled steak and you won’t go wrong!