Through the wine glass…and other tales of wine tasting

August 5, 2010

There is often a lot of discussion controversy about the use of specific wine glasses in wine tasting; does a wine glass make a difference in how a wine tastes?  Does size really matter?  Or in this case, does SHAPE matter more?  Personally, I think that size and shape are critical for discovering the nuances in some of the finer wines, and particularly good Pinot.  Different shaped glasses aim the wine at different points in your mouth, therefore highlighting flavors more strongly than others.  All this with the shape of a glass.

But what do you do when you don’t want to have 17 individual wine glasses?  Is there really ONE glass that you can use for ALL red wine?  Or all white wine?  Not that I drink that much white wine these days… Personally, I have many all purpose wine glasses, but I still ensure that all of my Pinot Noir is served from Pinot specific glasses because I want to make sure that the subtleties of the wine are captured when I take a sip. I have often been in the situation where all wines are served in hotel type glassware, or “occasion” glassware – the kind you get at a wine festival for example, and not enjoying the wines I was recently at a bar having a glass of Pinot that was served in a small Chianti type glass, and it just left something wanting.  I know the wine was better than that.  Enter a different wine glass, and the expereince can dramatically change.  So, fo rthat purpose, I have many generic, mostly Bordeaux shaped glasses that I use for every day, a few different shapes of Pinot glasses, and a lot of event glasses that I avoid except for parties.

Andrea Robinson, wine expert and master sommelier, has developed a new wine glass called “The One” that promises to be the only wine glass you need.  There is one for red wine, and one for white one, and the red glass closely resembles some of the lesser known Pinot glasses I have seen.  To determine if I would be able to use just ONE glass for all of my red wine needed, I selected two control wines:

A Pinot Noir, because that is what I drink most of right now.  A Syrah, because that is the thing I drink when I’m not drinking Pinot Noir or Rose.

To control the taste test, I chose a Pinot Noir that I knew I liked.  I did that because I didn’t want to run the risk of opening a sample or a wine I wasn’t familiar with.  I also selected a Riedel Pinot Noir glass, the large classic Burgundy balloon, and a generic Pinot Glass that I got at Pinot Days last year.

I sipped.  I sniffed.  I tasted.  I sipped some more.

First:  The Riedel, my go to Pinot Glass, actually accentuated to omuch of the bitter spiecde and wood characteristics of the wine.  I was a bit mifed at this since I knew I loved this wine.

Next, I tried the generic Pinot Days glass.  mmmm there was my old friend, the rich spicy juicy raspberry Pinot.  That was more like it.

Finally, I tasted the wine out of Andrea’s glass.  Ok it was good, but the cherry berry cola accents were too strong for my taste.

Ok, let’s let the wine sit for bit.

Same thing.  So, score one for generic, zero for Andrea.

Next, my sample set was a syrah.  Again, a wine I know and love.  This time I selected a generic event glass, with the basic Bordeaux shape, but smaller.  I also selected a Cost Plus Connessieur stem, which is made by Spiegulau, which is now owned by Reidel.  Pretty much the same line up as the Pinot Noir blind sample.

For this wine, The One faired just as well as a generic tasting glass.  The wine was lovely, and the nuances of flavor were showing through.

One thing that I really love about these glasses, all shapes and sizes being said, is that they are tough.  I am really hard on my glasses.  I knock them over (frequently).  I bang them in my sink.  I crash them against

dishes.  The One did NOT break!  For that reason alone, I would buy some for general use.  At $50 for a set of 4, they are reasonable, especially if they last through a party or bashing them around.

The verdict:  If you are a Pinot Noir snob, I’d make sureyou have a couple of specialty glasses on hand for that purpose.  I am picky about my Pinot Noir glasses, and I do believe that different shapes impact how you percieve the flavor of a wine, particularly if you have  a developed palate.  the reason this happens is that different shapes target the wine on different centers of taste buds in your mouth.  There is a lot of controversy abuot these tounge maps, but I find that for me – it’s true.

If you’d like to try The One by Andrea Robinson for yourself, I have a set to give away, 1 white, 1 red.  Just leave a comment and tell me why you need a new wine glass!  I’d love it if you wrote about your opinion as well, but that’s not required.

Automatic Tasting Programs

August 3, 2010

It’s the week after the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I’m at home, recovering, and preparing for my new job to start.  As luck would have, I was invited to participate in the 2nd Blogger Tasting panel at Ridge Monte Bello, and headed on down to the mountains above Silicon Valley to see what Christopher Watkins, blogger and Chief Monte Bello Dude, had in store for us.

Christopher Watkins ponders the sanity of letting us inside...

We were greeted with a series of vertical tasting flights from the ATP series, which is the club only wine that Ridge produces.  These wines are winery direct, and are often only available to club members upon release, so this was really a special tasting.  We started with the 08 Mikulaco Chard, which is a small property on Monte Bello.  The fruit here is normally allocated to some of the other chardonnays that Ridge produces, and this is only the second vineyard select wine made from the vineyard.  There was vanilla, guava and tropical fruits, toasted caramel and a mineral finish of stone fruit, particularly peaches, and golden raspberries.  It is fermented in 15-20% new French Oak, with the remainder in 1-3 year old American oak.  I really appreciate a subtly oaked Chardonnay, and as you probably know I’m often a member of the ABC Club.  This was a bit to tropical for me, but enjoyable all the same.

Next up we move to the 02 Carignane from Buchignani Ranch. This is the northern most property Ridge sources from, and is only planted to zin and carignane, the old school field blend classics.  True to it’s nature, I tasted blueberries, blackberries, bay leaf (I know, but I swear I did!), bittersweet chocolate and an herbaceous tobacco finish.  Paired with the 02, we tried the 05 Carignane.  Again, there was a heavy herbal profile, with mint, eucalyptus, and spice box, and a bright berry bust with a tannic backbone.  It was quite spicy and showed a fair bit of earth.  Finally, we had the 08.  This was much fruitier, with smoky blackberry, bright purple color, and juicy red berries.

Next up, we went rogue Rhône - leaving Sarah Palin at home – with the Fity-Fity.  This is my pet name for the Syrah-Grenache blend from Lytton Springs, and I think they should relabel it, don’t you?  I meanr really.  With the blackberry pie and fig spice on the 06, this could be dessert.  I also tasted chipotle chocolate, coffee, and dried blueberries.  YUM!  I could drink this all day.  In fact, I need to arrange this.  Paired with the 06 we tried the older 05.  This was much earthier, with dark mushrooms, smoke, and stewed fruit.  I didnt’ care for it at first, but I left some in my glass for a bit and ti grew on me.  still, the 06 won my heart.  BUY  the 05 just needs some air so TRY

Ah syrah.  Where have you been my whole life!  First, the 03 Lytton West.  With 9% viognier co-fermented, this is an old school Rhone classic.  The aromatics of the viognier add to the loganberry and chocolate flavors with jasmine and honeysuckle notes.  It’s little sister the 05 was smokey and spicy, and much more subdued with more fruit and less complexity.  For this reason, I give the 03 a STRONG BUY and the 05 a HOLD.

Big Love means Petite Sirah.  This sneaky grape, aslso known as Durif, makes for some wild wine.  The 06 Dynamite Hills comes frmo 65 year old vines in York Creek, and I had a really hard time getting a nose.  It had some chewy smoked almond flavors, with salted plums (you know, those Asian dried salted thingys) and firm tannins.  Not my fave.  It’s 03 counterpart was more to my liking with blackberry and plum compote, with smoke and blackpepper, black fruit and spice.

Part of the joy of discovering wine is tasting the same wine, with different vintages, side by side.  I adore verticals, and you should try your own!  Wine is a living creature, and develops over time.  Something for the better, sometimes not, but how will you know unless you try?  See what happened to Dave Tong of Santa Cruz Mountains wine Blog when he tasted the older vintages?  I rest my case.

Of course, Dave's British so he's already a little crazy but...

I really love doing these pairings, and special thanks to Christopher for having us and putting out the good cheese!

EAVB_FUGBYPFPAP

Water water everywhere, and lots to drink!

July 20, 2010

It’s day 2 of the Wine Bloggers Conference, and we’re off on the little yellow school buses to explore some of the Walla Walla terroir.  Fortunately for us Bay Area folks,who aren’t used to the heat, it was a warm but pleasant day for walking around the vineyards and our bus was off and ready to go.  Armed with my trusty compatriots Lynnette, Ryan and Ward, we were joined by some new friends and headed off to taste some of Walla Walla’s wines.

Our bus was hosted by Walla Walla’s mayor, and we were off to Watermill Winery’s vineyards in Milton-Freewater.  Juts over the Oregon border, this area was first settled with orchards and vegetable farms.  Now, we were examining the hard packed cobblestone soil, which is the remnant of the alluvial fan.  With 200 feet of packed cobblestone, the soil is well drained suited perfectly for the big reds that we were tasting.  Saviah Cellars was founded in 2000, and Watermill first planted grapes in 2002.  This is a Certified LIVE vineyard, which in Oregon is Low Input Viticulture and Enology – very similar to a sustainable certified vineyard here.  They are only allowed one herbicidal spray a year, and believe that microbiological health of the soil and vineyard is paramount.

The 2007 Watermill Malbec tasted of blueberries and black berries with chewy plums and huckleberries.  There was a hint of smoke and white pepper, and we were told that growing Malbec on the rocky soil was unusual.  The result is a dense intense wine that I really enjoyed.  next we tasted the 2007 Watermill Cab Franc.  Being a girl who loves cab franc, I was a bit skeptical, but this was a lovely plummy red fruit example with spicy smoke.  the rich & smooth wine was a Tansy treat.  we also tasted the 2008 Saviah Cellears Malbec, which was a great companion to the Watermill verison.  This wine comes from the same vineyard, but showed more earth, leather and tobacco, followed by cigar box.

From Watermill, we headed over to Waters for lunch.  More on that in my next post!

I'm gone! To Ore-gon…

July 8, 2010

Being a California girl, while I have spent some time diving up the coast and meandering through Ashland, I have not spent a lot of time in Oregon.  I have spent even less time examining the finer points of Oregon wines, specifically Oregon Pinot.  Those of you who have known my taste buds know that I am a pinotphile and I usually reach for a pinot before any other red wine these days.  As a local to the Northern California, I have access to some amazing wines.  Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to do some in depth exploration of Oregon wines and have fallen in love.  Again.

It all started with a little blogger conference in Walla Walla.  Having the choice to fly in to Seattle or Portland, I chose Portland since I had several friends in the area, and I was dying to meander through Oregon wine country.  Enter my friends at Solena Estate, and a mini WBC blogger tour of Willamette Valley was born. My Oregon wine friends put together a blogger tour of the area that would seek to educate, palate tease,

and giggle our way through the area.

First, let’s just kick off the day by saying that our transportation was not your typical wine country bus.  I knew something was up when Lynnette said “you’ll know your vehicle when you see it”.  Enter Double Decker PDX, a new tour company that (poor chaps) agreed to take thier maiden voyage with us to wine country. Sitting on top of the old London Transport double decker bus, fully outfitted in leather seats, a wine cooler, and Froot Loop Donuts from VooDoo Donuts, we were off to visit the wine country in blogger style.

Our first stop was the new Grand Cru property of Solena Estate Winery.  This property is where the winery was founded, and as we took a tour around, we were treated to a bit of history from Laurent & Danielle Montalieu, the owners of this beautiful property.  Solena was founded in 2000 when Laurent & Danielle purchases the “Wedding Vineyard”, 80 acres of rolling hillside vineyards.  Instead of a gift registry, the couple asked people to buy them pinot noir vines – a novel gift idea, and one I might steal if I ever get married with 80 acres of land on my hands.  The result was 80 pinot noir vines with 6 different clones, and the Estate Vineyard was born.

Down in the barrel room, Laurent had a surprise for us in 6 barrel samples of the 2009 Pinot Noirs, from various vineyards.  Handing each of us our own personal thief (a dangerous proposition if I’ve ever seen one), we were allowed to wander free sampling six wines, with several of them having wood variations.  The barrel tasting experiences isn’t new to most bloggers, however, the ability to taste all six pinot noirs side by side, with a few extra tastings of wood variations, really gave us food for thought and interesting conversation topics.  My personal favorites were the Guadalupe and Hyland Vineyards, but we also tasted the Thistle, Kaltia, and Monks Gate Vineyards.  In the end, I performed some blending experiments and came up with some truely unique and Oregonian examples of Pinot Noir that I would be proud to bottle myself.

Once we had sufficiently mastered the art of using a wine thief, something I personally needed no education in, we went upstairs to the beautiful event space for lunch.  Here, we were treated to four courses, each paired with a Solena wine, with an extra pinot thrown in for good measure.  Yes, I was lucky – I sat across from Danielle, and once the girls get talking…well you know . Wine flows and all that.

First:  Early Summer Corn Soup / 2008 ElvenGalde Chard

The sweet creaminess of the corn and the salty smoke of the pancetta paired beautifully with the crisp minerality of this chard.  For this non chard drinker, I really loved this wine, with tons of citrus and spice.

Second:  Plank-Roasted Wild Salmon / 2007 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir (Wedding Vineyard)

This wine shows it’s true colors of cedar, earth, and mushrooms with a backbone of bright red fruit.  No fruit bomb, it’s chewy spice and cloves really went well with the fennel in the salmon.

Third:  Grilled Cascade Flat Iron Steak (or Lentil Loaf, which I’m sorry to say was the wrong choice) / 2008 Hyland Pinot Noir

Has all of the Burgundian charachter that I expect in an Oregon pinot noir.  Perfumed and delicate, it stood up to the meat (that I stole off of Melanie’s plate)

Fourth  Rosemary & Fleur de Sel Shortbread, Oregon Berries, Bellweather Farms Carmony / 2008 Late Harvest Riesling

Dessert!  Need I say more?

The pairings were simply masterful and many of us savoured each pariing wine.  Fortunately, Danielle made sure we were well stocked and that our glasses were never empty, so we were able to top off any wines that were low.  Err, well, at one point that was all of them.  My favorite pairing was the Salmon, which was simply divine, both with the Chard and the Pinot.  Kudos to Chef Matt Howard for really showing us what all the options for Pinot Noir can be – it’s not just for pork and fish!

What I learned was, the Pinot Noirs of the Willamette are varied and nuanced, and when you have a warm year, they closely resemble those wines from the Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands.  There is more in the Willamette than Pinot NOir, and there are many sub appellations that are very unique within the larger AVA.  Please go givist Oregon and discover for yourself!  Solena welcomed us with a red carpet expereince, and loved that we were all so excited to be there.  While I have tasted some of the wines before, the unique opportunity to taste so many different pinot noirs in one place really inspires me.  Solena has two tasting rooms:  One in the tiny town of Carlton, in the Yamhill-Carlton district, and the new Grand Cru property.  Please make sure you take the time to stop by if you are in the Willamette!

Stay tuned for Bloggerpalooza Part 2:  Soter Winery

High on a hill

July 7, 2010

There’s a lonely goat herd, yodeleeellooooheeho!  Or in this case, there are some horses, some cows and a whole lot of scrub brush.  Up on top of Atlas Peak, VinRoc creates micro crafted small lot Cabernet Sauvignon.  Above the fog line, overlooking the Foss Valley, where open pastures and oak trees haven’t been overtaken by vineyards, the vineyards are actually east of Stag’s Leap, which is something you don’t realize when you are driving up the hill mandering past a way of life rarely seen in Napa these days.

The estate vineyard is located between 1500-2200 feet on volcanic rocky soils, with sunny days and cool nights.  Because of the inversion layer up here above the fog, it’s actually cooler in the summer with more average hours of sunlight than the valley floor.

We first started out on the viewing platform with the Enjolie Rose, a dry Provencal style wine made from Grenache and Barbera grapes.  It was dark salmon in color, created by fermented the juice on the skins for longer than most typical roses.  It had a sweet candy nose butwas bone dry with raspberries and strawberries, with a very low ABV.  This type of rose is perfect for summer sipping on those very hot days, and at $14 a MUST BUY for summer quaffing.

Next, we moved on to the proprietary red blend, RTW.  Now, this could be Round the World, Red Table wine, Really Terrific Wine, or Rocking Thea’s Wine – whichever you prefer, it was really lovely.  This blend of Cab and Merlot had cocoa, bright dark red berries and dusty plums, and is made by selecting the Cab that won’t be used in the Estate Cab, and blending it with purchased merlot fruit.  The spice on the finish was just what I needed as we sat in the chilly breeze on an unusually dreary day.  This is a special red wine, and at $40 is a treat you can afford more than once a year.  BUY

Once we were inside the cave behind the newly built Japanese Craftsman house and visitors center, we talked to Michael a bit about his wine making techniques.  By harvesting one ton at a time, out of the total 15 tons in the vineyard, they are able to tightly control the harvest vine by vine, creating the best wine possible.  Each ton yields free run juice, which is fermented separately from the single pressing that occurs afterwards.  Once this process is complete, the barrels are fermented separately, and then blended with the rest of the harvest, to create the superior Cab that we tasted.

The 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had rich dark black ffruit, with figs, baking spice, and black pepper.  I tasted a ot of coffee notes as well as cigar box and cedar, followed by the rich fruit of blackberries and cherries.  It did have a hint of leather and tobacco, and evolved as we sat there talking for an hour.  With only 200-300 cases produced, every bottle is a work of art.

By providing a minimally invasive environment, these truely are handcrafted wines.  Given the abundance of $100 Napa Valley Cabernets, I am not typically a big fan of the over priced cult wine.  That said, this hand made, nuanced cab is a winner in my book.  Yes, it’s pricey, but buy a bottle and hold on to it for a while.  You won’t b e sorry.  SPLURGE

VinRoc provides visitors with a unique and welcoming hospitality experience, in the middle of literally nowhere.  You will forget you are in Napa, and think you are in the foothills of horse country in Kentucky, but with really good wine.  If you’d like to visit VinRoc for yourself, they are open by appointment only and can be reached at 707-265-0943.  Please tell Michael and Kiky I sent you!

Please excuse my dust…

June 28, 2010

Freshly back from the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington, my laptop is dead my brain is overloaded.

Stay tuned as I learn how best to blog from my iPad, and await the return of a working laptop!

G is for Pinot Blanc!

June 14, 2010

Graff Family 2007, from the Chalone appelation to be precise. Graff Familiy is from Sonoma, but these grape hail from teh Chalone region in Monterey County.  The Chalone AVA has some of the oldest producing vines in California wine country, and is composed of limestone, granite and clay.  The wide diurnal temperature swings are great for Chardonnay and other white wines

The Pinot Gris is fermented in French Oak, and tasted of honey, peaches and honeysuckle flowers with pear notes.  It had a very creamy texture with low acidity and was nicely balanced, with a hint of wet river rock and minerality.  I really enjoyed it and if I were to encounter is again I would certainly BUY it.  Pinot Gris is becoming a go to white for me, with it’s mellow smooth flavor profile and softer approach than it’s sister Pinot Grigio; try it as your new summer sipper!

F is for Fogerty

June 13, 2010

In the continuing journey through the alphabet of wine, F is for Thomas Fogerty 2007 Gewürztraminer.  This variety has several variations, from off-dry to sweet, and produces a very aromatic and exotic white wine.

This example tasted of tropical fruits, coconut, guava and pear, topped with a dusting of baking spices.  It was off-dry to dry, and the spiciness was refreshing on a warm day.  It’s a great alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, and is terrific with Thai or Indian food.

Keep drinking, keep discovering!

You shook me all morning long

June 4, 2010

Hospices du Rhône.  Day 2.  What happens when you take several hundred (probably hungover, definitely tired) wine writers, bloggers, lovers, and somms, and throw them in a conference room at 9am with eight glasses of wine in front of them ?  Lots and lots of champagne.  that’s what happens.  wait…strike that.  Reverse it.  But you can’t!  I was pretty well baked by my Cold from Hell, but to be up bright and early so as not to miss the Walla Walla sneak peak, I was given a delicious treat of several glasses of some damn tasty grower champers that Chaz brought in at his own expense to wake us all up.  YUM!

Ok enough of the 9am drinkfest.  On to the syrah.

K Vintners was started by Charles Smith, who used to manage rock bands and lived in Copenhagen for 11 years before moving to Walla Walla.  Always having passion for wine, he’s an innovator, a marketing genius, and loud.  Roll all that together with walla Walla wine, and you get a larger than life character who defies the rules.  The winery is located at the base of the Blue Mountains, and opened to the public in 2001, producing wines from Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley, primarily syrah as well as field blends.

Smith believes K is about KOMMUNICATION and, bad puns aside, he says that people should use language that people can communicate with internationally; that language is wine.  Smith feels that too much of wine is making beauty where there is natural wonder; he focuses on showing off the unique fruit of Washington, and uses subtle oak influences as to not overpower the natural beauty of the wine.  He is, in some ways, the ultimate terrorist.  wine should be about a feeling, and here in Walla Walla, Rhone producers are small.  Wine is what they live for and they are passionate enthusiasts.

K focuses on syrah for several reasons; first, it has a distinctive quality that no other wine has.  Additionally, the high steep slopes in the Walla Walla area are difficult to work, which makes for more interesting wine and a challenge.  Syrah is global, with France representing the old world and ancient vines.  Australia shows us the AC/DC of the varietal, with a new world fruit bomb style (think Angus with the flaming red hair) that is indicitive of the passion and terroir of the Barossa.  Finally, when you get to Walla Walla, you have the geology of tumbled river rock, salty soils, and a long growing season o the high desert plains of Walla Walla.  There is a pioneer and rogue belief system in Walla walla, which allows them to do anything the want to with little thought about if anyone did it before them or was previously successful.

Charles Smith

2006 Syrah Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope – was a chewy caramel dusted in mocha bramble berry, with  baked plums and bittersweet chocolate.  I tasted black cherry, dried orange rind as well with just a slight hint of herbal flavors.  This is a very dense wine, but it was smooth and mellow with a plush finish.  It was quite refined and let’s just say I struggled to spit this out at 9am.  This vineyard was planted in 2000 along the Columbia River, on sandy loam and peaty gravel in the Wahluke Slope AVA.  This sandy soil makes for a more floral and herbaceous wine.

2006 Syrah The Deal – Sundance Vineyard Wahluke Slope – shows a meaty smoky wine with blackberries and tar.  The refined tannis show notes of tangerine, and while it was a bit gamey at first int he glass, that soon blew off to a smooth long finish and nice mouth feel.  The Deal is all about respect, integrity and doing what you want to do in the vineyard.  The Sundance Vineyard has a slight northerly slope which creates a cooler site, in a very warm region.  This wine tastes of cool climate syrah, and is grown in sadny loam over coarse sand which provides excellent drainage.  Only two miles from Pheasant Vineyard, it was planted in 1997 and creates a very different wine profile.

2006 Syrah Cougar Hills, Walla Walla – has more minerality than the first two wines, with lots of lavendr and orange marmalade, followed by graphite.  the Couger Hills Vineyard is located in the southern region of the Walla Walla valley, and has loamy soil with river rock and gravel, as well as a layer of volcanic ash.  This ash adds complexity to the vines which were planted in 2000 and are sustainably farmed.

2006 Syrah Wells, Walla Walla - With only 1.5 barrels made of this wine, we were in fro a rare treat.  that’s about 35 cases in the world, and it was made as an experiment in 100% whole cluster fermentation.  the Wells vineyard is half an acre that sits 1500 feet up on the south fork of the Walla Walla river, and has rocky cobblestone soil.  I tasted fresh cherries, strawberries, and vibrant red and black fruit.  This was brighter and fresher than the earlier syrahs and just lovely.

2006 Syrah Phil Lane, Walla Walla - is the estate vineyard.  Three barrels of this wine were made from 1.5 acres of grapes planted in 2001, which produces a highly aromatic wine with bright raspberries, rose petals, and flavors of mole sauce.

Chief Mutineer Alan Kropf "moderates" the champagne bottle

2006 Syrah Motor City Kitty – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley is created from a resurrected vineyard which lay fallow on the ground for years before Charles Smith rescued it.  The Stoneridge Vineyard has very rocky soils, and with six different rocky types, produces very different wines.  It is windy up there on the hill, and the the thick skinned fruit creates inky black juice with robust and smooth wines.  I found a very dense, sweet cherry wine with flavors of cough syrup.  The wine sits for 23 months in neutral barrels and is then hand bottled, to produce 50 cases of a powerful and rich wine with whole berry fermentation.

2006 Syrah Royal City – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley - includes some of the Stoneridge Vineyard fruit and had flavors of coffee, milk chocolate, and black cherries.  It was chewy and dense but well balanced and had some lovely spice notes on the back end.

In closing, ALL of these wines that were poured were rare and small production.  They were all amazing and each one shows a slightly different slant ont he Walla Walla terroir and what is going on in Washington wine.  I am very much looking forward to tasting more Walla Walla wines in a few weeks at the Wine Bloggers Conference!

Special thanks to the Hospices du Rhone team!



Rhône – The Next Generation

May 26, 2010

Where no WineBrat has gone before…I am the first one to admit that I am uneducated about most wines outside my sphere of influence; yes I drink them, yes I occasionally enjoy them, but I don’t know much about them.  When I was invited to attend Hospice du Rhône this year as a media guest, I jumped at the chance to attend the world’s penultimate tasting event of Rhone varietals.  I was jumping up and down for months, and then I got the cold from hell.  Suffice to say, Bratty was not amused. As I drove through the endless row of wines between Salinas and King City, and then past the oil derricks and in to Paso Robles, I was more excited about taking a nap and some Nyquil than the bowling event that would ensue later that evening.  fortunately, I was domiciled in the hotel that was across the street from the event center, and I arrived early enough in the day, that I crashed out instead of taking in a few tasting rooms.

As I rallied with a combination of Rhone medicine and bowling silliness, I was looking forward to the next day’s educational seminars. I am sorry to say that I missed the South African seminar early on Friday morning, but I rallied enough to attend the Côte-Rôtie seminar later in the morning.  Côte-Rôtie is located in the northern Rhône, where the vineyards are distinguished by their vertical slop and stone calls.  The wine is primarily red Rhône, focusing on Syrah, many co-fermented withViognier.  This area has a very different style than the southern Rhone, and winters are wet with a cold wind, as well as fog that can make ripening the grapes a challenge. Wines from Côte-Rôtie share a lot of similarities tot hose of South Africa, and are earthly, gamey and rich.

The presenting producer, Domaine Michel et Ogier, is founded on land where seven generations farmed grapes.  In 1997, the latest generation arrived after studying in Burgundy to grow Rhône grapes; prior to his arrival, the grapes were sold to a negociant, but that soon began to change.  1982 wasn’t a particularly good year in the Rhone, and the negociant didnt’ want the grapes so the family made their own wine.  Soon, the negoicant came back wanting the finished wine, and the winery was born.

2008 viognier de Rosine Vin de Pays showed lemons, necterines, peaches, apricots and honey with crisp lemon rind and peach nectar.  The vineyard was planted in 2000, with the first vintage being 2004, and marked a change or the producer.  Prior to 1997, when the next generation arrived, only red wines were produced, so the viognier (as opposed to syrah co fermented with viognier) was a departure.  It was a cold summer and a difficult year, but this has made the viognier fresh and crisp, with a nice minerality and grapefruit zing.  Ogier doesn’t believe is performing battonage, or the stirring of the lees, as this adds a certain fatness to the wine.  Viognier possesses its own fatness and structure, and he refrains from battonage to allow the wine to show it’s natural light.

2008 Viognier Condrieu shows the appellation distinctions that occur in Cote Rotie.  This example was a much darker golden yellow color, but I  had trouble finding the nose (granted I had trouble findnig MY nose but I was hopiung for more obvious aromas in the wine0.  The Condrieu is farmed in an area of 6-7 villages, where farms are on steep slopes of old granite based soil; this vineyard i 15 years old, and shows creamier slightly sweeter stone fruit, Meyer lemon, orange blossom, a hint of jasmine, green apple and pink grapefruit.  Again, in this example, new oak was avoided to show fresh clean flavors from the wine.  Aging in neutral oak with no battonage allows fresh clean wines that are very Alsatian in nature.

The rest of the wines, which were red) were lost on my cold, but it was interesting to taste the wines of the area, to compare with my baesline of New World syrah.

I attended Hospieces du Rhone as a Media guest; however, I paid my own travel expenses and lodging, as well as for most of the local supply of kleenex.


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