Wines for All Seasons

As the weather and seasons change, consumers seize the opportunity to enjoy what wine experts call seasonal wines. However, I am of the belief that wines do not have to be seasonal in nature. I enjoy food-friendly, versatile wines that fit all seasons. From classic varieties like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling to less familiar varieties like Malagouzia, Pinot Blanc, and Xinomavro, there’s something for everyone: both still and sparkling wines at varying price points, all highly rated by some of the world’s renowned wine critics. Below are eight of my favorite selections to enjoy year around.

2016 Alpha Estate Malagouzia, Turtles Vineyard, Florina PGI, Greece, $18
Many of you may not have heard of Malagouzia, a white wine grape native to Greece, but it’s more readily available than you think and so flavorful. A combination of sweet floral and fruit aromatics leads to tangy citrus and green apple flavors on the palate. Sur lie aging adds a more complex mouthfeel. This combination of tart fruit and texture makes this wine the perfect accompaniment to Greek mezé, cheeses, pasta, seafood, and vegetable casseroles.

2016 Alpha Estate Rosé of Xinomavro, Florina PGI, Greece, $15
Another Greek variety you may have never tried is Xinomavro, a higher-acid black grape known for its tannic qualities and ageability. The rosé from this grape is more delicate, with aromas of freshly cut roses and a palate that is reminiscent of a bowl of wild strawberries. The sur lie aging adds a bit of creaminess to go along with its acid, thus this wine complements fatty seafood like crab cakes and salmon, as well as gazpacho and pizza.

NV Ferrari Brut Rosé, Trento DOC, $25
Made from 60% Pinot Nero (the Italian name for Pinot Noir) and 40% Chardonnay, you can’t go wrong with this highly-acclaimed, Italian take on brut rosé, with its abundant, fine bubbles, floral notes and tangy red berry flavors cradled in biscotti. Enjoy this traditional method sparkling wine on its own or with sushi, fried foods, or pink shellfish such as crab, lobster, and shrimp.

2014 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $55
This Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied and voluptuous, rich and round. Black cherry and crème de cassis share the palate stage with cinnamon and chocolate. From start to finish, this wine goes the distance and then some. Pair this beauty with hearty grilled meats such as lamb, filet mignon, New York strip, and ribeye.

2015 Lieb Reserve Pinot Blanc, North Fork of Long Island, New York, $22
The lesser known variety of the Pinot family, Pinot Blanc, is a specialty of Lieb Cellars. Spending only six months in stainless steel, its fresh mélange of citrus and stone fruits and delectable acidity are begging for clams, lobster, oysters, and scallops. Pair this not only with food, but with windswept, coastal days with family and friends.

2015 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc, North Fork of Long Island, New York, $30
A blend of 85% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot, and aged for 10 months in Hungarian oak, this medium-bodied, lower-alcohol, Bordeaux-style blend really shows off its earthy, Long Island heritage. Juicy acidity, red berry flavors, and spiciness are begging for fatty, red meats like barbecue baby back ribs, burgers, and beef stew.

2014 Matetic Corralillo Chardonnay, San Antonio Valley, Chile, $16
The 2014 Matetic Corralillo Chardonnay is mostly fermented in French oak, 35% in stainless steel. Sur lie aging, bâtonnage, and malolactic fermentation add heft to a palate replete with flavors of cooked apples, baking spices, and vanilla. A wine this substantial pairs with buttery shellfish, salmon, and creamy chicken dishes. My ideal pairing with a Chardonnay like this is steak, so break the “red with red meat” rule and give it a try, if you dare. Don’t forget the classic guilty pleasure pairing: hot, buttered popcorn. Delish.

2016 Meli Riesling, Maule Valley, Chile, $13
Riesling is for all seasons and this example is no exception. With just the right balance of citrus and stone fruits aromas and flavors, zesty acidity, and weighty mouthfeel, the 2016 Meli Riesling is all at once mouthwatering and luscious. Drink this wine with Asian cuisine, ceviche, and ají pepper seasoned Peruvian dishes.

My September Sips

Seriously, where has September gone? Where has this year gone? September has been another whirlwind month for me, with a new career and writing opportunities unfolding before my very eyes. My time has become a hot commodity and I feel like I am playing catch up most of the time. However, as has become tradition, below are some of the interesting wines I’ve tasted this month. The two Pennsylvania wines were gifts and the wines from Chile and New Jersey were samples provided by the producers.

Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée
Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée

Blair 2010 Wedding Cuvée
Blair Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery located in Kutztown (Berks County), Pennsylvania that primarily focuses on cold-climate, European grapes like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Riesling. Ten different grapes varieties grow on 23 acres. The red cuvée is a proprietary, Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which was originally made to be served at the weddings of two of the Blair family children. It is a medium garnet color and medium bodied, with flavors of black cherry and vanilla and firmer tannins than I expected from this five-year-old offering. I paired this with steak, which brightened the fruit flavors. $19.99 at the winery. This was a gift from a friend.

Galen Glen 2013 Zweigelt
Galen Glen 2013 Zweigelt

Galen Glen 2013 Stone Cellar Zweigelt
Galen Glen Winery, located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley AVA and owned by winegrower and winemaker Galen and Sarah Troxell, is the culmination of six generations who have farmed this land. The winery is named after Galen and the property’s shape, a glacially-formed, narrow valley, a glen. Galen Glen produces cold-climate grapes on 20 acres, including Cayuga, Chambourcin, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, and Zweigelt. The Zweigelt is a nice, light-bodied transitional red, perfect for late summer and early autumn.  Its crisp and fresh combination of cranberry, black cherry, raspberry, and black currant delights the nose and palate. $16.99 at the winery. This was a gift from a friend.

Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile
Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Apaltagua Colección 2013 Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile
The grapes for this limited production Pinot Noir from Viña Apaltagua come from a vineyard that is only 12 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean, a Mediterranean, maritime-influenced climate that is cooler than other grape growing areas of Chile. The wine is a rich garnet color. On the nose, the first scent I detected was cinnamon. While very fruit forward on the palate, a mélange of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, red currant and blackcurrant fruit flavors, it is also cinnamony, spicy and smoky, with good tannin structure and lively acidity. It is quite young, so I recommend decanting for a short while. Approximately 1392 cases produced. SPR $25. (SAMPLE FOR REVIEW)

My cat, Einstein, is always ready to taste
My cat, Einstein, is always ready to taste

Every couple of months, I participate in a Twitter tasting sponsored by Old York Cellars, accompanied by a YouTube video that serves as a good introduction to the wines being discussed. In July, I was unable to participate because it was too hot to ship wine samples. However, they graciously welcomed me back into the Old York Cellars fold for their September tasting. This month’s samples were a couple of their best since I started participating, especially for the price point.  A tasting package of the two wines is available for $27.20.

Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc and 2014 Malbec
Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc and 2014 Malbec

Old York Cellars 2014 Vidal Blanc, New Jersey
According to winemaker Scott Gares, Old York Cellars produces Vidal Blanc, a hybrid variety comprised of Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Toscano) and hybrid Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986), because it is more tolerant of cold climates, is disease resistant, and yields about seven tons per acre in New Jersey. Because of its higher sugar levels and acidity, Vidal Blanc is often used to make ice wine. However, Gares crafts the variety as a dry wine. This vintage was harvested at 22 brix. Gares fermented the wine at colder temperatures in stainless steel, using Premier Cuvée yeast, which enhances the wine’s citrus aroma and flavor profile. The wine is a clear, pale yellow-green color. It has a weightier mouthfeel than some whites.  On the nose and palate, it is all citrus and mouthwatering acidity, primarily grapefruit, lemon, and lime. I paired this wine with shrimp.

Old York Cellars 2014 Malbec, New Jersey
Malbec has its roots in Bordeaux as a blending grape and in Argentina as a single-varietal wine. Gares uses Pasteur red yeast and malolactic fermentation to create an approachable style of Malbec that even white wine drinkers may enjoy. The wine is medium garnet in color. Softer tannins and acid yield a rounder mouthfeel.  Berry flavors such as cherry and raspberry dominate the palate, while oak plays more of a supporting role with regard to structure and mouthfeel, rather than imparting flavor and tannin. Suggested pairings include aged cheddar, lean red meat, and dark chocolate, although this wine is easy to drink on its own. I paired my sample with tri-tip sirloin, which brought out the wine’s darker fruit side.

A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards
A collage of visits: Galer Estate, Penns Woods, and Va La Vineyards

Of course, these are not the only wines I have tasted this month. If you missed my other September features, Va La Vineyards and Kemmeter Wines, please click the links and enjoy reliving my wonderful experiences. Forthcoming are reviews of Galer Estate and Penns Woods Winery, which have been submitted and are awaiting publication dates.

As to October, it’s shaping up to be another busy month, with trips to Seattle, Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina planned, along with more tasting and winery opportunities, including MacLaren Wine CompanyMagnum Wines International, LLC, and Nieto Senetiner. I hope you will stay tuned!

Thank you as always for reading and for your support!
Beth

Rios de Chile Carmenère

Rios de Chile Carmenères
Rios de Chile Carmenères

This blog post comes almost three months after my move to Napa and four weeks away from my trip to Philadelphia to take my Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Advanced Exam in Wine and Spirits. Truth be told, I am very nervous about this exam and I probably shouldn’t have tried to take on a new life, career, time zone, and advanced wine certification course at the same time. Every day I am thankful for the support and patience of my wine study partner, Uncorked Remarks, who has had to bear the brunt of this craziness since I arrived in California and committed myself to this home study version of the course.

Carmenère has experienced its own tumultuous ride and rebirth after being misidentified until two decades ago. Once it thrived in Bordeaux, France. However, after the phylloxera plague, it was not replanted there, but made its way to Chile and reappeared among Merlot vineyards. For a long time, it was thought that Carmenère was a Chilean version of Merlot until Jean-Michel Boursiquot, a French ampelographer (someone who identifies and classifies grapevines), helped discover Carmenère in Chile’s Maule Valley. Ninety-eight percent of all Carmènere is found in Chile and it is second in production only to Cabernet Sauvignon. (Reference: “The Accidental Wine” in Wine Enthusiast, March 2014 issue, pp. 34-39.)

When The Baddish Group contacted me about tasting some samples from Rios de Chile, I jumped on the opportunity to taste Carmenère for the first time and practice writing tasting notes according to WSET’s Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT). I decided to taste the two differently produced Carmenères side by side.

2011 Rios de Chile Carmenère
2011 Rios de Chile Carmenère

2011 Rios de Chile Carmenère D.O. Central Valley, Chile
Appearance/Color (in natural daylight) – The wine is clear, with a deep ruby color and clingy sheeting on the glass that leaves behind a ruby coating.
Nose – The nose is clean and developing, with medium intense aromas of dried dark berries and spices.
Palate – The wine is dry and has medium plus alcohol, medium tannins, medium acidity, medium plus body, flavors of baked blackberry and black cherry, spices, and pepper, and a medium plus finish. Due to stainless steel production, this wine exhibits an intense and very pure expression of fruit.
Quality – The wine is good. It’s young and vibrant, so drink now, not suitable for further aging.
Price – MSRP of $9.95.

Other specifications:
100% Carmenère
Vertical Espalier Vintification
Alcohol 13.5%
Residual Sugar 2.3 g
Acidity 5.08 g/l
Aged in Stainless Steel
Natural Cork Closure

2009 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenère
2009 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenère

2009 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenère, D.O. Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Appearance/Color (in natural daylight) – The wine is clear with a medium ruby color, but is starting to tend a bit towards garnet after a few years in the bottle, with sheeting on the glass, but less than the more youthful 2011.
Nose – The nose is clean and fully developed, with medium intense aromas of dark berries and fruit, mint, smoke, spices, and vanilla.
Palate – The wine is dry and has medium plus alcohol, medium plus tannins, medium acidity, medium plus body, flavors of dark berries and fruits, mint, spices, and vanilla, and a medium plus finish.  It presents itself as slightly more refined, complex, older sibling of the 2011.
Quality – The wine is good. I would drink now, not suitable for further aging.
Price – MSRP of $14.95.

Other specifications:
100% Carmenère
Vertical Espalier Vintification
Alcohol 14%
Residual Sugar 2.51 g
Acidity 4.99 g/l
Aged 8 Months in Oak Barrels
Natural Cork Closure

Both wines demonstrate how Carmenère can shine at a very good price-to-quality ratio. If you’ve never tried Carmenère, these two would be great examples with which to begin. To learn more about Rios de Chile wines, please visit them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Cheers!
Beth