Browsing the archives for the Syrah tag

Varietal Voyage No.21 – 2007 Etienne Pochon Crozes-Hermitage

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Varietal Voyage

The final syrah on the journey takes us back to France and the northern valleys of the Côtes du Rhône.

Crozes-Hermitage is the northern Rhône’s largest appellation covering almost 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of rolling hillsides surrounding Hermitage. The names may be similar, but Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage produce very different wines.  Hermitage produces some of the most sought after wines in the world, often long-lived, very tannic, and worthy of cellaring. On the other hand, the producers in Crozes-Hermitage create wines that are known for their consistent quality and approachability and intended to be consumed early.  The proximity to the Rhône River has given this region a wide range of soil types (loess, clay, alluvial sands and gravel) which vary dramatically depending if you are in the valley or on the hillsides.

For generations the Pochon family has farmed vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage, selling grapes to the local cooperative in Tain l’Hermitage.  In 1988 that all changed when Etienne Pochon began managing the domaine and started producing wine with the family’s own fruit.  Domaine Pochon produces wines that are painstakingly crafted, reflecting the terroir of Crozes-Hermitage. Unlike many producers in the region that focus on quantity over quality, Domaine Pochon creates separate wines from the best hillside plots and carefully blends them together to create this juicy and earthy syrah.

The first things we noticed about this wine were the heady aromas of blackcurrants, cherries and faint hints of earthy tobacco.  Its youthful ruby color carries prominent black and red fruit flavors with some prickly spice and the classic gamey or meaty signature of syrah.  Full-bodied and silky on the palate, it has young, aggressive tannins that build up through the lingering finish.  If you have a decanter (even a water pitcher will do), make sure to use it.  This wine will benefit from some exposure to oxygen to soften its tannic aspects.

2007 Etienne Pochon Crozes-Hermitage ($22)

  • 100% syrah
  • Crozes-Hermitage, Côtes du Rhône, France

Stay tuned for the final variety on the voyage…petite sirah!

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage No.19 – 2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah

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Varietal Voyage

The first syrah and the nineteenth wine on the Varietal Voyage is the 2005 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah ($19) made by John Giguiere and the crew at CREW Wines.

You might not recognize the Giguiere name but you’ll probably recognize many of the wines this family has made.  Before starting the CREW Wine Company in 2004, John Giguiere, his wife Lane, and brother Karl owned and operated the R.H. Phillips Winery (sold in 2000 and closed it’s doors last year) and produced well-known brands like Toasted Head and EXP.  With the addition of Dan Cederquist as partner and winemaker, CREW Wine Company produces several brands including: Chasing Venus, Mossback, Sawbuck, and of course, Matchbook.  From New Zealand to California, each brand focuses on the best wines that each region has to offer.

The Matchbook vineyard was planted in 2002 in the Dunnigan Hills region of northwest Yolo County.  Located about 35 miles northeast of Napa County in the foothills of the Coast Range Mountains, this area encompasses about 90,000 acres and is warmer and dryer than most grape growing regions. Fertile alluvial soils combined with well-managed pruning and irrigation help make this a suitable region for syrah.  Unlike R.H. Phillips which produced upwards of 750,000 cases per vintage, John and Dan are focused on reducing yields and increasing the overall quality of their wines.  As an example, the Matchbook vineyard yielded a little over 4,700 cases of syrah in 2005.  The Matchbook vineyard is young and still maturing, so it will be interesting to see how the fruit and wines develop with future vintages.

This was a very enjoyable wine and at $19 you can’t go wrong.  The Matchbook Syrah has a pleasant medium body with intense aromas of spicy ripe blackberries with maybe just a little vanilla and tobacco mixed in for good measure.  Normally syrah is a little on the tannic side and requires some aging, but the addition of some cabernet sauvignon (11%) adds some complexity and helps soften the wine making it quite delicious and approachable now.

2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah ($19)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Midwest Wine School Experience – WSET Intermediate Level – Class 6

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Midwest Wine School Experience

Class 6 of the WSET Intermediate Level course, led by Jessica Bell, was a foray into the world of Rhone-style wines and the varieties that make them so delicious including grenache and syrah/shiraz.  In addition, we spent a short time delving into the riesling variety, discussing where it grows best and the remarkable styles of wine it creates.

Grenache and syrah (or shiraz in Australia) are very different grapes that winemakers have been using for centuries to make single varietal wines or blended wines using variations of the two (or more) varieties.

Grenache, a large thin-skinned grape that originated in Spain (where it’s called garnacha).  It loves hot climates and does well in warm places like Spain and France’s southern Rhône Valley.  It has made its way around the world and can be found anywhere that syrah thrives.  On it’s own, grenache makes full-bodied wines with lots of ripe red fruit and spice, but it gets better when it is blended with other varieties that add some more complexity.  Syrah is just one example.

Syrah is a dark, tannic grape that makes full-bodied wines with dark fruit flavors and complex animal and vegetal chracteristics.  Like grenache, it also does well in warm regions and is usually found in a blend.  Wines from the northern part of the Rhône Valley are made primarily from syrah with grenache and many others filling out the rest of the blend.  Examples of syrah can be found in warm places around the world, inlucding the United States and Australia.  Shiraz, as it is known in Australia, is made into bold, spicy, fruit-forward wines with intense black fruit and sweet spice.

Riesling, on the other hand, is the polar opposite to grenache and syrah.  Riesling is at home in cool regions like Germany, Alsace and Austria.  It can even be found in the cooler regions of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.  But Germany is by far the premier location for riesling.  The Germans have mastered the art of coaxing this grape into ripening under some of the most challenging growing conditions in the world.  The cold northern latitude force the winemakers to leave their grapes on the vine longer so they can fully ripen (if at all).  Steep rocky vineyards along rivers like the Rhine, with their east facing slopes, are difficult to manage but necessary to capture the warm sunlight needed to ripen the grapes. Dry riesling wines can have floral aromas, white fruit and bright citrus flavors with bracing acidity and steely mineral notes.  Riesling can also be made into delicious sweet dessert wines such as beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein.

Rendell Thomas will present sparkling and sweet wines later this week

Wines Tasted (Class 6):

  1. Perrin et Fils Reserve 2006 (Côtes du Rhône, France)
  2. Domaine la Clotte-Fontane 2006 (Languedoc, France)
  3. Calcareous Tre Violet 2005 (Paso Robles, California)
  4. Layer Cake Shiraz 2008 (South Australia)
  5. Weingut Johann Peter Mertes Riesling 2006 (Saar, Germany)
  6. Buried Cane Riesling 2006 (Washington State)

2006 Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico

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Tasting Note

The Antinori family has a long history of making fine wines going back as far as 1385. Considered to be pioneers and innovators in the Italian wine industry, their methods and techniques have helped reinvent winemaking in Tuscany and have been credited with starting the “Super-Tuscan” revolution. Over the past six centuries, Antinori has developed and acquired vineyards throughout Tuscany and across the world, including the United States, Hungary, Chile and Malta.

The Pèppoli vineyards are one of the newest acquisitions.  Located in Italy’s Chianti Classico region, Pèppoli is just a few miles from Antinori’s famed Tignanello estate.  Antinori purchased the property in 1985, on the family’s 600th anniversary in the winemaking business, and released the first vintage of Pèppoli Chianti Classico in 1988.  The vineyards are planted in a protected valley on east and northeast facing slopes where the grapes can take full advantage of the morning sun.  The rocky, mineral-laden soils are perfect for growing sangiovese with lively fruit flavors and bright acidity.

Tasting Notes:

Pèppoli ($23) is a blend of 90% sangiovese and 10% merlot and syrah, creating a unique expression of Chianti Classico, with the characteristics of a young fruit-forward wine and the complexity of an oak-aged riserva.  This modern Chianti has a deep ruby color with the juicy aromas of strawberries and raspberries, amplified by vanilla and toffee notes imparted while aging in American and Slovenian oak barrels. The flavors are fruit-forward, but not sweet, with full body and soft, round tannins that play out over a long finish.

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!

Wine Selection Tips for Thanksgiving

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News and Events
The Thanksgiving holiday is a special time for friends and family break bread together. The traditional Thanksgiving feast has a large selection of foods, all with their own unique flavors and textures. Selecting a wine or wines to go with this wide variation of dishes can be a daunting task. One thing is certain; there is no right or wrong answer. If you and your guests enjoy the meal (and the wine), that is all that really matters!

Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are a popular choice for most holiday meals. Crisp acidity, bright fruit flavors and yeasty undertones help make these wines extremely food-friendly. A good Blanc de Noir (a sparkling wine or Champagne containing Pinot Noir) pairs well with many courses, from cheeses to salads to turkey and potatoes. The bubbles, combined with the natural acidity, work to cleanse the palate for each course.

White Wines

Fruity white wines with lively acidity work well with any number of dishes. Sauvignon Blanc’s herbal aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, apples and pear compliment everything from butternut squash to the turkey and stuffing. Chardonnay, on the other hand, with its richer flavors and fuller body, goes better with creamy dishes. Gewürztraminer has an inherent spiciness that begs to be paired with cranberries or spicy pumpkin or squash soups.

Red Wines

Pinot Noir is probably one of the most versatile wines for the Thanksgiving meal. Flavors of tart cherries and strawberries, along with a nice balance of acidity and tannins, supports most courses without overpowering them. If dark meat is on the menu, consider a Zinfandel or a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre (GSM) blend from the Côtes du Rhône. Their ripe, dark fruit flavors and rich tannins work well with fat in the meats.

Dessert Wines

Selecting a dessert wine can be a little problematic. Depending on the level of sweetness in the dessert, some wines may or may not work. If the dessert is not too sweet, consider a sweet wine like Muscat or an effervescent Moscato d’Asti. If your dessert is very sweet, look for a Port (ruby or tawny) or a late-harvest Riesling. These wines are very sweet and rich and will stand up to the sugar in the dessert. Of course all of these wines could be considered “dessert” just by themselves.

These are just a few hints and suggestions to help select a wine (or wines) that will compliment your Thanksgiving meal. The best part is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes time to choosing a wine. If you like the wine, and it enhances your dining experience, that’s all that matters! The important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is about friends and family. They are the ones that truly make Thanksgiving great!

Varietal Voyage – The Beginning

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Varietal Voyage
For sometime now, I have wanted to expand my knowledge of the vast viticultural world of wine. I have tasted a fair share of wines, but always seem to gravitate to the same familiar varieties. Not that there is anything wrong with liking a few good wines, but there is so much more to experience!

I recently read in Karen MacNeil’s “Wine Bible” about a plan for expanding your knowledge of wine. She spoke of a systematic plan, sampling different wines over a six month time frame. This was exactly what I was looking for. With a little research and some consultation with Sue, the plan was hatched!

Over the next six months, Sue and I will partake in a voyage of varietal discovery. The first three months focuses purely on white wines. The following three months are devoted to reds. Throughout each trimester we will explore four varieties and three different regions for each.

Month 1-3: The Whites

  • Sauvignon Blanc (US, New Zealand, France) – VV1, VV2, VV3
  • Chenin Blanc (US, France, South Africa) – VV4, VV5, VV6
  • Chardonnay (US, France, Australia) – VV7, VV8, VV9
  • Viognier (US, France, Australia) – VV10, VV11, VV12

Month 4-6: The Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (US, France, South America) – VV13, VV14, VV15
  • Merlot (US, France, South America) – VV16, VV17, VV18
  • Syrah/Shiraz (US, Australia, France) – VV19, VV20, VV21
  • Petite Sirah (US, France, Australia)

So that’s the grand plan – twenty-four wines over the next six months. Stay tuned. This blog will be the travelogue of our adventure!