Once you visit Dutton-Goldfield Winery in the Russian River Valley, you understand the significance of the phrase ‘cool climate’ with regard to winegrowing and winemaking. It is indeed quite chilly in the mornings, with moderating breezes throughout the day. I must confess that if I were not living in the Napa Valley, I would love to call Sebastapol and the Russian River Valley home. *CLICK HERE TO READ*
As a wine and travel writer, I am often asked to visit wineries and accept wine samples. I say yes to samples, but I try to specify exactly what I want. That does not always work, because wineries and public relations people want to get their wines out there for some media love. Therefore, I end up with more than I had planned. This could not be more true than this fall, where I literally can’t keep up with all of the samples I am receiving and trying not to feel guilty that I don’t have enough time to taste them immediately. (I don’t get paid to write this blog, I have one full-time job and two part-time jobs in real life.) Because of this, I thought it would be a good idea to share random wine samples with you incrementally, now and in future posts. I believe all of these I requested.
The first random wine sample is the 2014 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. I visited this winery for a wine dinner as part of the Wine Tourism Conference in 2013. Oddly enough, I had just read about this wine in Wine Enthusiast, one of America’s Best Value Pinot Noirs. Sixty percent of this wine is fermented by carbonic maceration. If I had blind tasted this wine, I think I would have thought it resembled a Beaujolais (made from the gamay grape). It is very light bodied and light in color, easy drinking, fruit forward, and shows soft acid and tannin. If you are new to red wines, this might be a good entry point. SRP $22.
I’ve said it time and time again: Gewürztraminer and Kung Pao Chicken is one of the best wine and food pairings ever. The 2013 Cave de Turckheim Gewürztraminer ($28 SRP) possesses heady, floral and citrus aromas; a soft, textured mouthfeel; rich, ripe tropical and stone fruit flavors and a near-perfect integration of sweetness and acidity. Combined with the warm, spicy brown Kung Pao sauce, it’s euphoric on the palate. This wine is imported to the United States by Magnum Wines International, for whom I used to work in 2013 prior to moving to Napa.
The 2014 Banfi Wines Centine Bianco is a white blend of 30% chardonnay, 30% pinot grigio, and 40% sauvignon blanc. It really shows off the trifecta of grapes with its freshness and aromatics, as well as its dual treatment in both stainless steel and French oak. It has a fuller body than I expected, perhaps due the partial oak treatment, the time spent on lees, and/or the percentage of each grape variety used. Tree and stone fruits dominate the nose and palate, with a touch of smokiness from the oak, and a hint of residual sugar (3.4g/l), which is balanced by moderate acidity. The sauvignon blanc component really shines on the back of the palate, with flavors of lime and lemon. This is a lot of wine for only $11-$13/bottle. I paired this with shrimp.
If these weren’t enough to whet your palate, I have two or three more cases in my closet to taste during the upcoming months, so stay tuned. As always, if you are in the Napa/Sonoma area and you want to taste, let’s get together with samples.
Yes, I know it’s June already, but these are some of the wines I tasted last month. Oh, and if you have a better title for my occasional collection of wine reviews, please post it in the comments. I could use some help with blog post titles.
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve Napa Valley California Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (employee allocation, $75.00 at the winery; Robert Parker 93-95 points)
This wine is super young, but oh, so delectable. The mouthfeel is incredible and the succulent, black fruit aromas and flavors leap from the glass. I just hope I can hold a bottle or two for later. This is going to develop quite nicely.
Passaggio Wines Pinot Grigio 2014 (tasting room sample, $25.00 at the winery)
This Pinot Grigio, whose grapes are sourced from Lodi’s Manna Vineyards, is fermented in all stainless steel. It has floral aromatics on the nose, a mélange of tropical and tree fruits on the palate, and finishes with good acidity.
Cuvaison Estate Napa Valley Carneros Syrah 2012 ($38.00 at the winery)
I promised myself I wasn’t going to write tasting notes about this wine, but I couldn’t help myself. The 2012 Cuvaison Syrah expresses concentrated dark berry flavors right out of the gate. This wine is textured and lush on the palate. The fruit lingers on the finish, the curtain call being a burst of peppery spice.
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2011 ($50.00 at the winery) Bottle Shock aside, I love this Chardonnay. Fresh apples and citrus explode on the palate, accompanied by a juicy mouthfeel and a hint of smokiness from the oak. The finish is long, with lively, lingering acidity.
Thirsty Owl Wine Company Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2014 (sample, $14.95 at the winery)
If you’ve never tasted an example of Finger Lakes Riesling, this is a great one to try. It’s pale yellow, crisp, and dry, barely a hint of sweetness, with loads of juicy citrus flavors, and vibrant Finger Lakes acidity.
Red Newt Cellars Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2013 (sample, $15.00 at the winery)
This wine is floral, dense, spicy, with a round mouthfeel, sumptuous aromas and flavors of honey, lemon, and orange. It packs a lot of punch for the price point. My go-to pairing with Gewürztraminer is a spicy, Asian dish like Kung Pao Chicken.
Knapp Finger Lakes Dry Rosé 2014 (sample, $15.99 at the winery)
This rosé comprised of 85% Cabernet Franc, 15% Pinot Noir, is bone dry. The grapes for this wine were cold-soaked for 16 hours to give it a light salmon color. It displays aromas and flavors of grapefruit, melon, and strawberry, then finishes with ample, food-friendly acidity.
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars Finger Lakes T23 Cabernet Franc 2013 (sample, $19.99 at the winery; 90 points, Wine Enthusiast)
This 2013 Lamoreaux Landing unoaked Cabernet Franc is lighter in color and body, but big on aroma and flavor. Think floral aromatics, with baked cherry and cinnamon on the palate. Even my friend who doesn’t typically like red wines likes this one. T23 in the name is the abbreviation for the stainless steel tank in which it was fermented, Stainless Steel Tank #23.
Old York Cellars Pinot Gris 2013 (sample, $18.00 at the winery; Gold Medal – San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition)
This Pinot Gris from New Jersey is a pale lemon-green color and refreshing on the palate, with flavors of tropical fruits, melon, orange, tangerine, and a bright acid finish. As it warms to room temperature, the fruit flavors become sweeter, more like candied fruit.
Old York Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (sample, $21.00 at the winery; Silver Medal – San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition)
This New Jersey produced Cabernet Sauvignon has bright, red berry aromas, black fruit and spice flavors, and a tannin structure that will allow this wine to age a few more years in the bottle, although with some decanting, is drinkable now. Enjoy this with creamy, pungent cheeses or a steak.
*The two Old York Cellars’ wines can be purchased as a package with a 20% discount at this link.*
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($53.00 at the winery)
This 2010 Cabernet far exceeded my expectations for a larger production wine. The black fruits, baking spices, and mocha/chocolate flavors are welcoming and persistent throughout the palate, yet the wine finishes with bright, red fruit acidity. I wish I’d purchased more upon release.
Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2008 (gift from a friend, $31.99, currently on sale for $18.99 at select PLCB stores)
Thank you to the friend who gave me this 2008 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Rheingau, Germany! We don’t have too many German Rieslings in Napa. This wine bursts with golden delicious apples on the front of the palate, tropical fruits mid-palate, then finishes with blazing acidity. Or as he would say, “This Is f*cking good Riesling!” I paired this with red chile chicken enchiladas.
My first experience with Standing Stone Vineyards was at a wine trade show in Boston in September 2011. I was pouring Napa wines and Standing Stone co-owner, Marti Macinski, was at the table beside me pouring their wines. She gave me my first taste of the Finger Lakes, about which I knew nothing.
Marti and Tom Macinski purchased the property on Seneca Lake’s east side in 1991, the former Gold Seal Vineyards, with the intention of “harvesting premium grapes and subsequently crafting heavenly wines.” They have succeeded by creating consistently good, award-winning, and age-worthy wines since their first vintage in 1993. This year, 2013, marks their 20th anniversary vintage.
Fast forward to April 2013, my recent trip to the Finger Lakes, and my second experience with Standing Stone. I arrived at their winery on Seneca Lake just before Marti had to leave. I reminded her of our first meeting and I am not sure she remembered, as she travels far and wide showing their wines, but I’ll never forget the first, and now second, Standing Stone experience.
Marti left me in good hands tasting with a gentleman who has been involved in the wine business for 40+ years. He recommended side-by-side tastings of various vintages and varieties. We tasted so many wines I lost count. But what I do remember is that all of the wines were simply outstanding, especially the Alsatian-style white wines and ice wines.
Marti had told me before she left to take a bottle of anything I wanted with me. While I know Finger Lakes Rieslings are some of the best in the world, I was trying to vary my selections on this trip to gain a broader understanding of Finger Lakes wines. Therefore, I selected the 2010 Gewürztraminer ($14.99 at the winery).
The 2010 Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer, fermented in stainless steel, is a big one. It has lots of floral aromatics, fresh Finger Lakes acidity, a hefty dose of minerality (the vineyards rest over a bed of slate), flavors of orange, grapefruit, and spice, a bit of residual sugar (1%), and a rich mouthfeel from being left on lees for two months. It is an ideal match for Kung Pao chicken’s brown, spicy, and slightly sweet sauce with peanuts. This is one of those pairings you never want to end. You discover yourself eating and sipping until it’s almost all gone. Amazing.
If you plan to visit the Finger Lakes, Standing Stone needs to be on your list of must-visit wineries. The wines, the staff, and the view of Seneca Lake are unforgettable. If you’re interested in other pairings with their Gewürztraminer, visit this page and read the entry for 4/14/13. As you will see, it pairs with a variety of everyday foods and snacks, not just Kung Pao chicken.
On my most recent trip to the Finger Lakes, I had the opportunity to taste wines from Hector Wine Company and Forge Cellars. Assistant Winemaker and Marketing Guru, Alexandra Doniger, led me through a comprehensive tasting of their wines in the Hector Wine Company tasting room located on the east side of Seneca Lake in Hector, NY.
Hector Wine Company is a new producer in the Finger Lakes that opened during harvest 2010. It is owned and operated by Jason Hazlitt, Viticulturist and Graphic Designer, and Justin Boyette, Winemaker. According to the company’s website,
The grapes are harvested from neighboring Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Jason’s family business with a rich history of growing exceptional Vinifera and hybrids. Justin, with more than a decade of wine making experience from several Finger Lakes wineries, creates distinct, well balanced and complex wine with these grapes. All aspects of production, from press to bottle, occur on-site; fostering the ideal that a world class wine is handled by its makers from start to finish.
Forge Cellars is a partnership between the aforementioned Justin Boyette, Winemaker; Louis Barruol, Vigneron and Proprietor of Château Saint Cosme in Gigondas in the Rhône Valley of France; and Rick Rainey, the French/Domestic Brand Manager and Sales Educator for Winebow Inc., a wine importer and distributor. Forge Cellars focuses on making two wines, Riesling and Pinot Noir, and the goal is “to make the best Riesling and Pinot Noir possible from the Finger Lakes of New York.” (About Forge Cellars)
I had the opportunity to taste Hector Wine Company’s 2012 Dry Riesling, 2011 Gewürztraminer, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 pre-release Pinot Blanc, 2011 Essence (red blend), and NV Late Harvest Chardonnay, as well as Forge Cellars’ 2011 Riesling and 2011 Pinot Noir Les Alliés. We also tank tasted Hector Wine Company’s 2012 Gewürztraminer and barrel tasted the 2012 Syrah. I found the wines to be outstanding examples of the varieties, with the characteristic acidity of the Finger Lakes that I have grown to love.
My favorite white wine of the tasting was the 2012 Hector Wine Company pre-release Pinot Blanc ($20). Interestingly, not many wineries in the Finger Lakes make Pinot Blanc, but I have found it to be a variety that does well in this cool climate area. This Pinot Blanc is fruity and light with an earthy, spicy finish.
My favorite red wine of the tasting, and the only red wine I purchased on this trip, was the 2011 Forge Cellars Pinot Noir Les Alliés ($32). It is French in style and reflective of its Finger Lakes’ terroir, with aromas and flavors of dark fruits, earth, smoke, and spice.
When I arrived at Anthony Road Wine Company on a Saturday morning in November, I didn’t know what to expect with regard to tasting arrangements. A tasting room associate greeted me and I said, “I am not sure if I have a formal appointment or not, but this is when I was supposed to arrive.” The associate checked with someone else and returned with another lady and said, “You will be with Johannes (Reinhardt),” and left me with the other lady to chat. I discovered she was Ann Martini, co-owner of Anthony Road. We chatted a bit, then Johannes joined us. He invited Ann to taste with us and she accepted. Johannes didn’t tell me he was the winemaker, but I soon figured it out on my own. I must admit I was a bit star struck. I’ve only tasted with two other winemakers in the past. In my opinion, winemakers are like Renaissance men and women, as they are both scientists and artists.
We tasted 11 wines, including Anthony Road Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Anthony Road Cabernet Franc-Lemburger blend, Martini Reinhardt Selection Cabernet Franc, Tierce Dry Riesling (joinly made by Anthony Road, Fox Run, and Red Newt), Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling, Martini Reinhardt Selection Riesling, Anthony Road Gewürztraminer, Martini Reinhardt Selection Riesling Berry Selection, Martini Reinhardt Selection Riesling Trockenbeeren, and Martini Reinhardt Selection Vignoles Trockenbeeren. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted reds before whites, but in retrospect, it dawned on me that we were perhaps tasting from dry to sweet. All of the wines were simply amazing. I took photos, but I didn’t take notes because I wanted to focus on the learning experience of tasting with a winemaker.
While tasting the Rieslings, Johannes asked me what I was like growing up, and I told him I was rather shy and introverted. He opened an unlabeled bottle and we tasted what was inside. It was a “spontaneous yeast” Riesling still in development, not yet ready for release. A spontaneous-yeast (or native-yeast) wine is fermented only with yeasts native to its terroir.
Johannes observed that this wine was like me: quiet on the surface, but has a lot going on underneath. In just a short period of time together, he had discovered my personality’s perfect paring. The wine, fondly dubbed my wine, is the 2010 Art Series Riesling, set for release in early 2013. I’m excited to taste the finished product.
The tasting concluded. To be honest, I didn’t want to go to my next tasting. I was still savoring this experience and knew the next winery’s tasting wouldn’t be nearly as personalized as this one. I was correct. This was the most personalized tasting of my Finger Lakes trip. I recall it often and look forward to returning to Anthony Road in the near future.