Friday, August 29, 2014

DeMorgenzon: Harmonious Stellenbosch Wines

In May, I spent a few weeks in South Africa, surfing, tasting wine and watching wildlife. I had a great time visiting wineries around Walker Bay and Stellenbosch. The last wine stop on my trip was DeMorgenzon, located in the hilly western part of Stellenbosch.

We arrived at the beautiful winery grounds one afternoon and met up with Carl van der Merwe, the winemaker and general manager. He showed my wife and I around and poured some wines from his line-up. We had a great time tasting and talking and afterward he showed us around the winery, gardens and vineyards. DeMorgenzon is located on a sloping hill with a beautiful view of the ocean on a clear day. The name means morning sun, which this area of higher elevation gets plenty of. It’s a great place to walk around and the wines are consistently delicious.

This is actually the afternoon sun, but it's a beautiful place in any light.
As we were walking around the vineyard, I noticed speakers mounted on poles around the vineyards. They were playing calming classical music. Carl explained that these speakers treat the vines to classical music 24-7. Baroque music, to be specific. The music can be heard in the vineyards and throughout the cellar and barrel rooms. The idea is that this type of music has calming and positive effects on the life of the vines, resulting in a more harmonious wine. Carl said something about the mathematical precision and rhythm of this particular style being good for living things, but it was clear the music isn’t his idea.

I’m not fully sold on the notion of playing music to grapevines, but there are some studies that show DeMorgenzon might be onto something. (Grape Collective explored the subject of vines and music further in this interesting piece.)

Regardless of the Baroque music, the unique terroir and Carl’s winemaking result in some compelling wines. No Pinotage here, but DeMorgenzon’s portfolio is a great example of the wines of Stellenbosch.

2013 De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Rich papaya on the nose, touched with lime and fresh honeysuckle. High acid, creamy, richly textured on the palate. Papaya, green apple and a very mild hint of grass. Combines freshness and minerality with some openness and fruit-forward gusto. A lot going on, but it’s balanced by lasting acid. (88 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Fresh and floral on the nose, with sea breeze and rich peaches. Very bright and attractive. On the palate, this wine is lively with kicking acid and lots of different fruit notes: green melon, lime, green apple. I also get honeysuckle, daisies and some sea salt. Creamy, nutty, but tangy. Fermented in a mix of oak and stainless steel. (87 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Aromas of saline, honeysuckle, cantaloupe and oyster shell. Tingly acid, creamy body, with flavors of papaya, cantaloupe drizzled with lime and some waxy tones. Playful, fruit-forward, fermented in a mix of stainless steel and old oak barrels. (86 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc Reserve - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Loving the depth and complexity on the nose: saline, crushed rocks, mountain streams, clover, green tea, all of it accentuates the apricot and white peach fruit. Superb balance on the palate between richness and acid. Apricot, white peach, glazed pear, add in some nougat, honey, white tea and mineral notes. A gorgeous Chenin Blanc that could develop a lot more in the cellar. All barrel fermented (25% new) the fruit comes from 40+ year-old vines planted in granite soils.  This was my favorite Chenin Blanc of the entire trip. (91 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Maestro White - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Potpourri like crazy on the nose! Tons of white flowers, yellow wild flowers, lavender, some saline on top of lemon and green and yellow apples. Creamy body, with lots of melons, apricot and papaya. Notes of hazelnut, honey, hint of white cherry. Crisp, juicy, quite complex, capable of development over the next few years. A blend of 37% Chenin Blanc, 24% Chardonnay, 24% Roussanne and 15% Viognier. (90 points)

2012 De Morgenzon Syrah DMZ - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Dark purple color. Smells rich and jammy with dark fruit, spice and deep floral tones. Black currant and blackberry jam on the palate, this is firm but fleshy, with cedar, earth, smoke and a whole lot of black pepper. Let me say it again: this is a very peppery Syrah. If you like that, this is for you. Not a ton of complexity, but a solid Syrah. (86 points)

Maestro, get it? They really like
classical music at DeMorgenzon.
2011 De Morgenzon Maestro Red - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Deep aromatic complexity: dark, chilled fruit, eucalyptus, menthol, cedar and earth. Wonderful texture on the palate, elegant but firm. A complex fruit assortment glides across the palate: fleshy plums, currant jam, fig paste and cool blackberries. I get dark chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, eucalyptus and a note that reminds me of a dry, dusty road. Graphite and cedar linger long on the finish. Gorgeous now, but lay it down and be rewarded. A blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 12 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tasting Report: Grab Bag of Languedoc Wines

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of touring the Languedoc region of France. It was an eye-opening experience, and I found many underdog wines worth rooting for. Since my last tasting report on wines from the Languedoc, I’ve tasted through a few rosés and reds and found some impressive and interesting wines. Most of them are solid values as well.

These wines were all received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2013 Domaine de Gournier Vin de Pays Cévennes Rosé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays Cévennes
SRP: $10
Aromas of white peach, honeydew and watermelon, some white pepper as well. Zingy and crisp on the palate, steely even. White cherries and tart strawberries mix with sea salt, white pepper and minerals. Crisp but plump with lingering minerals on the finish. Cabernet, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot and Syrah. (87 points)

2013 Domaine Saint-Antoine Vin de Pays du Gard Rosé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard
SRP: $13
A vibrant watermelon color. A burst of red apple peel, strawberries, sweet roses and a rustic, earthy, herbal quality as well, which I find very attractive. The palate is really impressive, showing a lot of concentration and depth, but the acid rips through, balancing it out. Gushing strawberries, white cherries and McIntosh apple fruit, but it’s laced with pepper, granite and there’s a lot of earth tones in this wine. I’m impressed with the complexity of this wine, and the kinds of food it could pair with, but it’s still fresh and zesty wine at its core. A rosé of Syrah, and a ridiculous value. (89 points)

2012 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères “Les Novices” - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $20
Medium ruby-purple color. Spicy on the nose, with cracked pepper and sage over top of cranberries, sour cherries and red plums. Medium-bodied with medium tannins and fresh acid. The raspberry and cherry fruit is tangy and fresh but it’s also got just a bit of a sun-roasted quality to it. This wine shows a lot of earth, like deep, loamy soil mixed in with crushed rocks. I get a nice sweet spice note as well, like clove and cinnamon. Made from the estate’s younger vines, this is a bit lighter, but it still shows significant complexity. 55% Cinsault, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. (87 points)

2012 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères La Closeraie - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $25
A bright magenta-purple color. Aromas of sweet roses, tar, strawberry, currant jam, basil-rosemary, all deep and complex. Fresh, fine tannins, juicy strawberry, cherry and currant fruit mix with earth, chestnut and roasted coffee notes. I also get some bright floral notes, and an underlying sense of minerality. Very impressive and lasting, could even use 2 or 3 in the cellar. So pure and tangy and fresh, elegant even. 35% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Carignan and 20% Mourvedre. (89 points)

This Faugeres sounds the clarion call: Take Languedoc seriously.
2011 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères Le Songe de lAbbé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $39
Dark purple color. Complex, deep aromas of blackberry, black currant, crushed rocks and pencil lead, some cedar, graphite and iron, so dark and complex. Fresh and tangy acid but firm tannins. Tart black berries and black currant fruit blends with accents of charcoal, cedar, black pepper and cocoa powder. I also get some earthy-herbal elements (Sweet basil? Eucalyptus?) Deep and very complex, profound even. This is drinking well now but could easily improve with 3-5 in the cellar. From the producer’s oldest vines in schist soils, this is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Cinsault, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, aged 12 months in new oak. I’ve tasted a ton of Languedoc wines this year, and this ranks up there with the best. (92 points)

2012 Mas des Bressades Vin de Pays du Gard Cabernet/Syrah - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard
SRP: $15
A juicy ruby color in the glass. Nose of black cherries, black currants, vibrant roses and sweet herbal tea, incense, herbal liqueur. Full bodied and velvety with chewy tannins and moderate acid. The plum cake, roasted fig and currant paste flavors are long and complex, accented by spice cake, fig cookies and some pepper sauce. Ripe and chewy but not just about the fruit. Decant or hold for two to four years. 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah. (88 points)

2012 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières La Réserve - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Corbières
SRP: $15
Bright raspberries and red currants on the nose, some underlying smoke, anise and violet notes. Tangy and fresh on the palate, with crisp acid and dusty tannins. Bright raspberries, red currants, red apple peel mix with minerals, crushed rocks and pencil shavings, and there are some underlying herbal elements. So fresh and lively, quite complex with lots of mineral and rocky-granite elements. Finishes long and fresh. I’m really surprised by how pretty this wine is. Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. Great bargain. (90 points)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Art and Identity in Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”

It’s taken me years to pick up Patti Smith’s memoir “Just Kids.” Now that I’ve finished it, I’m wondering why I waited so long. Like Smith’s poetry and music, her memoir is beautifully composed but incisive, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

The book has a straightforward structure. Smith starts with her childhood and moves from adolescence into adulthood. Growing up for Smith seems like a continuous run of artistic explorations. From an early age, Smith becomes fascinated with the individual’s ability to create art and captivate the attention and imagination of an audience. A childhood trip to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia has a profound impact on her:

But it was the work in a hall devoted to Picasso, from his harlequins to Cubism, that pierced me the most. His brutal confidence took my breath away… secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.

As a young woman from South Jersey, Smith makes the common trek to New York City. When she arrives, in 1967, she can hardly contain her stoke. She visits lots of bookstores and hangs out in parks and coffee shops in Greenwich Village, just like I did when I first moved to NYC.

It’s during this wandering period when Smith meets Robert Mapplethorpe. The two become inseparable, each inspired by the other to explore different artistic themes and media. Their relationship is the crux of this memoir, which works because their enduring connection is a beautiful thing.

When Smith meets Mapplethorpe, he’s struggling to accept his own sexuality, struggling to find a place in the world for his artistic expression.

He wasn’t certain whether he was a good or bad person. Whether he was altruistic. Whether he was demonic. But he was certain of one thing. He was an artist. And for that he would never apologize.

Together, Smith and Mapplethorpe weave their way through the thriving art rock scene of late 60s/early 70s New York. They move into the Chelsea hotel together, which Smith describes as being, “like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe. I wandered the halls seeking its spirits, dead or alive.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Three Terroir-Driven Rieslings

Riesling is endlessly fascinating for its diversity and ability to translate different vineyards into flavors. A transparent grape, lovers of terroir never tire of Riesling’s complexity.

I recently tasted through three Riesling from three different regions: Germany’s Rheingau, Austria’s Kamptal and France’s Alsace. They were all exciting wines, offering entirely different takes on this one grape, showing the complexities of their unique terroir. The wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. I had fun chatting with industry reps at @AustrianWineUSA@DrinkAlsace and @GermanWineUSA using the #winechat hashtag.

My notes on the three Rieslings…

Much more floral and honey-driven on the nose, with some riper white peach and mango nectar, lots of potpourri. Creamy and fresh on the palate, a great balance of body and acid, a hint of sweetness. White peach, caramel apple and mango, drizzled with lime. Hints of dusty earth, white flowers and clovers. The finish shows interesting notes that remind me of tonic and pencil lead. Quite complex, this could develop well over the next 3-5, probably more. I like the nerve of this wine. 9.5% alcohol. From loam, chalk, marl and sand soils. (89 points)

2011 Weingut Brandl Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
Very stony on the nose, it reminds me of mountain stream rocks, ocean jetties and crushed chalk. The fruit aromas tend toward the green apple and kiwi. Full bodied (14% alcohol) and bold but clean with fresh acid. The apricot, kiwi and green apple fruit are ripe but tart, laced with lots of chalky, crushed stone elements. Wow, really chalky, with some seashell and sea salt and jetty rocks and a whole lot of saltwater. As a surfer, I’m loving this oceanic streak. It’s tangy and mineral-driven but a full and big wine that could use some age or a decant. The chalkiest of the three, I even get some earth and library dust. I dream of drinking this with some steamed mussels, but it’s strong enough to balance out a variety of strong cheeses. Every time I’ve tasted a Heiligenstein, I’ve been excited, and this is no exception. From sandstone and siltstone soils. (91 points)

2010 Paul Blanck Riesling Schlossberg - France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
SRP: $34
Bright gold color. Gorgeous nose of chamomile tea, clover honey, apricot jam, candied orange peel, lamp oil, some dusty notes. Crisp acid, I love the balance of tartness and richness in this wine. Clean, medium+ bodied, just a hint of sweetness. A whole fruit salad of apricot, green apple, kiwi, green melon, drizzled with honey and crushed rocks. A deep and pervasive sense of smoky minerals in this wine. Long finish with screaming acid. Age-worthy for sure. Aged on the lees in oak for a year and aged two to three years after bottling. From the granite soils of Alsace’s Grand Cru Schlossberg vineyard. 13% alcohol. (92 points)

I’d love to conduct this same tasting three or four years from now, because I’m sure these three Rieslings have many more stories to tell.

Drink any good Old World Riesling lately?


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oregon Chardonnay Offers Something for Everyone

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

If you love Chardonnay, you have to love Oregon, right?

Every time I taste through Oregon Chardonnays, I become overtaken with joy. The combination of ripe fruit and zesty acid makes these wines easy to enjoy with food and pleasing to all sorts of palates. With the grilled veggies and seafood dishes I tend to cook during summer, Oregon Chardonnay is always welcome on my table.

And, with this group of producers, I’m lucky to have tasted such great examples of Oregon Chardonnay.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

2011 Rex Hill Chardonnay Dijon Clone - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $39
A lovely floral nose with notes of sea breeze, green melon and guava. Creamy body, the wine glides across the palate, but the tingling acid balances it out. Lovely green apple and lime mix with richer notes of guava and honey. Slight hazelnut and nougat from the wood add to the overall experience, as opposed to distracting from it, and the result is a focused and complex wine that comes off as effortless. Aged 15 months in French oak. (91 points)

2011 Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
A vibrant gold color. An explosion of aromas: peach, papaya, lemon zest, whipped honey, hazelnut. On the palate, the acid keeps the lips smacking while the rich apricot and papaya fruit rolls in. I’m thrilled by the minerality, seashell and saline notes to this wine, and the way those components mix with nutshells and slightly toasted bread. Long finish with notes of oyster brine and lime zest. Lots of interesting stuff going on here, and it all works together in a balanced package. Only 13.2% alcohol, this wine sees 18 months in 15% new oak. (91 points)

2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
The nose bursts with lemon, yellow flowers, honey, and an element that reminds me of roasted butternut squash. Rich texture on the palate but the acid is precise and cutting. Flavors of tangy green apple and lime blend in with rich yellow apple and glazed pear. I get some honey and toasted almond notes, but it’s still clean and fresh and balanced. Lingering sea salt and minerals on the finish. There’s something in here for every kind of Chardonnay lover. Aged 10 months in 53% new French oak. (90 points)

2011 Stoller Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $27
Pale lemon color. Bright aromas of lime, green apple, some river rocks mixing with sweet orange blossoms. On the palate, this is so bright and tangy, with racy acidity and lots of minerals and sea shells. Lime peel mixes with white peach, some honeycomb and orange blossom and some waxy notes. A live-wire wine but it shows a lot of concentration. Subtle nuances of nougat and hazelnut accentuate the wine. Very impressive stuff that I’m guessing could do well for three or four years. (90 points)

2011 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $50
Nose shows bright floral and honey tones on top of green melon, papaya, lime and an aroma that reminds me of a cold ocean jetty, which I love. Bright and tangy on the palate with crisp acid. Lots of white peach and melon and lime mixed together with minerals, limestone and sea brine. Notes of whipped honey and lime linger long on the finish. Tart and brisk, a leaner style, but still round enough to keep it from being too intense. (90 points)

2011 Phelps Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon/Washington, Columbia Gorge
SRP: $30
Light straw color. Lots of apple cider on the nose, nectarine, orange blossom. The palate shows a fleshy texture, big and bold, but tamed by the acid. Whipped honey and hazelnut accent the nectarine, papaya and apricot flavors. Creamy and mouth-filling, with notes of peanut shell, baked apple and minerals. One of the bigger wines in terms of body and oak, but it’s still focused. (89 points)

2012 Bergström Chardonnay “Sigrid” - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $85
Aromas of white peach, rich honey and orange marmalade, but also some fresh cut flowers and ocean spray notes. Medium+ bodied with fresh acidity and bursting fruit: lime, white peach, honeydew, green apple, all thrown in together. Some sweet honey and crushed almond notes, but they’re matched with intense minerality and some interesting oceanic elements. Deep, long, complex, a forward Chardonnay but one that offers a lot to contemplate. (91 points)

2012 Boedecker Cellars Chardonnay - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $25
On the nose: saline, white peach, lime, orange blossom, some buttered crackers. On the palate: creamy and juicy with nectarine, white peach and green apple. Tangy acid, bright mineral notes, fresh but not weak. (87 points)

2012 Chehalem Chardonnay INOX - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $19
Nose of apricot, green and yellow apples, some flowers and baby’s breath. Creamy body, medium acid, juicy apricot and yellow apple fruit mixed in with some lime and honeycomb. I get some white tea and ginger notes along with some orange marmalade. Clean, refreshing this unoaked Chardonnay is pure summer-sipping goodness, and very good for the price. (88 points)

2012 Adelsheim Chardonnay Caitlin’s Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $45
Light yellow color. Notes of crushed sea shells and chalk on top of sweet yellow apple, apricot and a touch of honey. Complex, evolving aromas. Creamy body, but the high acid streaks across the palate. Lime and green apple mix with apricot and papaya, and the fruit is accented by a whole range of non-fruit flavors: sea shells, limestone, oyster brine, minerals and gentle touches of hazelnut and honey. Long, complex, I’m interested in cellaring this for three or four years. Very pretty stuff, nervy yet full. Aged on the lees 10 months in 36% new French oak. (92 points)

2012 Lange Chardonnay Three Hills Cuvée - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Lots of white peach, guava nectar along with some lighter, fresher notes of honeysuckle and lemon tea, some sea breeze. Creamy and ripe on the palate with apricot and white peach but the acid is clean and refreshing, and I also get some key lime and margarita salt notes. Peachy with balanced nougat and honeyed tea flavors. Some quinine, pear skin and honeycomb elements on the finish. (88 points)

2012 Anam Cara Chardonnay Nicholas Estate Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
SRP: $32
Medium yellow color. On the nose, I get sea salt, lime, some grapefruit and green melon, bright dandelion and honeysuckle. Creamy palate, medium acid, I like the mix of white peach, apricot and lemon-lime fruit. A good amount of limestone and oyster shells. Bright and fresh but richly textured with balanced notes of toasted almonds and honeycomb. Minerals and sea shells linger on the long finish. Impressive in its freshness and depth. (90 points)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guest Post: A Wine and Food Tour of Santorini

This is a guest post from Winerist, a travel website dedicated to bringing unique and unforgettable experiences to food and wine enthusiasts worldwide. From staying with winemakers in California to cycling through the vineyards of Chile, Winerist believes that wine and food travel can be simple.

It’s often argued that Santorini is home to Greece’s best wines. Perhaps, we think it’s your duty as a wine traveler to head straight to Santorini and settle this debate.
With so much to do and see, we’ve narrowed down some of our favorite tours and hotels to help you along the way. And whether you agree or not, one thing’s for sure: Santorini is Greece’s little gem — a beautiful paradise for wine travelers.

Santorini Panorama and Wine-Tasting Tour
This tour begins with a stop off at Santorini’s famous volcanic caldera where you will receive an introduction to the history and unique scenery before heading to the famous Black Beach. You will then make your way to a traditional winery to learn about winemaking and sample wines as well as delicious, local appetizers. Finally, the day will end with a scenic drive to the highest point in Santorini where you can marvel at the breathtaking views surrounding you.

Cooking and Tasting Experience
So you’ve sampled the wine and food on offer in Santorini, but how about trying your hand at preparing your own Santorinian feast? You will master popular Greek dishes with the help of a local chef, using fresh, local ingredients. Discover the best techniques to bring out the most intense flavors before finishing the day off by enjoying your food with a glass of wine.

Vedema Resort
Built around a 400-year-old wine cellar, Vedema Resort is the perfect destination for Santorini’s wine tourists. Surrounded by vineyards and luscious views, this luxury hotel presents the treasures of the Mediterranean. In this beautiful villa you’ll experience a real slice of the relaxed philosophy that captivates Santorini.

Loizos Stylish Residences
Everything about the Loizos Apartments screams luxury, style and comfort. Located in Fira, Santorini’s beautiful capital, the hotel offers luxurious accommodation with stunning views of the island’s caldera. This hotel caters to its guests, so if you need advice on where to go, what to see or where to eat, the friendly staff will be happy to help.

Astrea House
If you’re planning on travelling with a large group of friends of family, this is the hotel for you. Astrea House is a beautiful villa in Fira overlooking the impressive caldera and the inviting Aegean Sea. It sleeps up to 8 people and is the perfect, authentic accommodation for wine travelers looking for a villa close to the island’s action complete with captivating views. 

Planning a trip to Santorini? Check out our Expert Travel Guide for more information.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Three Inexpensive Italian Whites for Summer

It’s easy to brush off Pinot Grigio. Most of the stuff you see on the shelves in supermarkets is crisp, clean and boring. But some of it can be quite interesting, and the interesting stuff is frequently cheaper than Santa Margherita. A lot of Italian whites bring freshness and fun for a relatively low price. The key is finding some compelling ones.

I recently tasted two Pinot Grigios and a Grillo/Viognier blend from Italy, and found all three to be enjoyable summer sippers that offer something to contemplate.

Clean gold color. Refreshing minerals on the nose, some honey drizzled on top of white peaches and papaya. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with moderate acid, a fresh and peachy feel to it. A blend of citrus and tropical fruits backed up by some subtle spice. Creamy but not rich, crisp but not quite zesty, an all-around solid Pinot Grigio. 
(85 points)

2013 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Cliffhanger Vineyards
Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Trentino
Light gold color. Lemons, lime some papaya on the nose, clean laundry and sea salt. Creamy body, waxy mouthfeel, some nice concentration and weight but crisp acid. Whipped honey and orange marmalade accent the papaya and key lime. Dry, with sea shells and minerals, but plump as well. Partial maloactic fermentation and a bit of oak add some creamy-nutty notes. Impressive for the price. 
(87 points)

2012 Feudo Arancio Dalila Sicilia IGT
Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT
Bright gold color. White peach, salted lime, mango slices, orange blossom and daisies. Creamy and plump on the palate, with medium acid. Flavors of apricot, mango, pineapple and white peach, blended in together like a tropical fruit salad with lime drizzled on it. Pleasantly waxy texture with notes of dried flowers and potpourri, along with some salt  and honeycomb. A lot of fun, very food-friendly and crowd-pleasing. 80% Grillo and 20% Viognier. 
(87 points)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wine Reviews: Northern & Southern Rhone Goodies

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

I caught the wine bug from Rhone wines, and years later I’m still enthralled. The diversity of grapes, terroirs and winemaking styles is enough to keep even the nerdiest oenophile busy.

In this report, we’re focusing on some wines from both the Northern and Southern Rhone regions of France. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted as part of a report for the daily wine blog Terroirist.

2010 Michel & Stéphane Ogier Condrieu “La Combe de Malleval” - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
SRP: $86
A light gold color. Floral, bright citrus peel and a rush of limestone and mineral aromas. Some underlying clover honey and oil aromas, but this wine still needs time to open up. On the palate, a real sense of richness, like whipped honey and guava. But there’s clarity to the flavors and freshness from the acid. The mineral flavors are layered and complex, and I love the notes of honeycomb and ginger. Long finish. A real beauty of a young Condrieu. (93 points)

2012 Michel & Stéphane Ogier Viognier de Rosine - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
SRP: $30
Light cold color. Smells like a tropical fruit stand, with papaya, all sorts of melon and nectarine, sweet flowers and honeyed note. A deep aromatic plunge. Medium bodied, medium acid, a creamy-honeyed mouthfeel. Love the complex flavors of honeydew, papaya, orange slices mixed with lychee nut, nougat and honeycomb. Some mineral and floral potpourri notes as well. I’m interested in cellaring this for three or four years, maybe more. (90 points)

2013 Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel) Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
SRP: $30
Bright lemon colored. Vibrant and floral on the nose with papaya, nectarine, lemon curd, mixed in with some honeyed white tea. Fleshy and rich on the palate, with plump tropical fruits, but some medium acid holds it together. Lots of honeycomb, white tea, nougat and waxy elements, some spicy and herbal qualities as well. Quite complex but not burdensome. I’m curious about aging this for three to four years, but it’s plenty expressive at the moment. 80% Roussanne, 10% Grenache Blanc and 10% Clairette. (90 points)

2012 Mas Carlot Costières-de-Nîmes Cuvée Tradition - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $12
Nose is floral and honeyed with white peach and lime. On the palate, this is creamy but racy, with white peach, tangy lime and quince. I also get some minerals, slate, honeycomb, apple sauce and honeybutter. Impressive in its depth. A blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Such a good value. (88 points)

2013 Château Guiot Costières-de-Nîmes Rosé - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $12
Nose of strawberries, watermelon and wildflowers. Tangy and crisp on the palate with green apple, watermelon rind flavors. I get a nice mix of pepper, oregano, sage and sea shells. Juicy, clean with an oceanic finish. Yum. 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. (88 points)

2013 Mas Carlot Costières-de-Nîmes Rosé Cuvée Tradition - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $10
Bright salmon color. Spicy, peppery nose with some nettle and rose hips on top of watermelon and wild strawberry. Juicy and ripe with lots of watermelon, cranberry and McIntosh apple flavors, but I’m really enjoying the level of spice and minerals in this wine. I get white pepper, nettle, lemon verbena and some interesting oyster shell and limestone notes. Delicious, crisp and fun but showing a lot of complexity. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. (88 points)

2013 Château Grande Cassagne Costières-de-Nîmes Rosé - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $10
Light strawberry color. Bright roses and dandelions on the nose along with McIntosh apple and wild strawberries. Crisp and clean with bright white cherries and strawberries on medium-bodied frame. Some roses, white pepper and minerals give this complexity, but it’s lip-smacking and easy to drink all the way through. (86 points)

2013 Domaine de Fondrèche Côtes du Ventoux Rosé L'Instant - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux
SRP: $10
Very pale color, like tangerine pith. Lots of fresh flowers on the nose, along with some spicy white pepper and nettles, some oceanic elements. Nervy and mineral-driven on the palate with crisp green apple, strawberry and melon fruit, backed up by racy minerals. I also get some sea shells and white pepper, and the combination is working quite well. I’d love to pair this with salads or oysters. 50% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache. (87 points)

2012 Domaine André Brunel Côtes du Rhône - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
SRP: $10
Nose of plums, currants, cracked pepper, charcoal and some smoke. On the palate, this wine shows fresh acid and some light tannins. Juicy cherries and raspberries, all of it tart and tangy, but fleshy as well. Some earthy, menthol and balsamic glaze elements, and some impressive mineral and graphite notes. Fun, juicy, food-friendly. 75% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. (86 points)

2012 Domaine de Fondrèche Côtes du Ventoux Persia - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux
SRP: $20
Dark purple color. Dark blackberries and bright cherries on the nose along with loads of spice and some deep floral tones. Bold approach but not overpowering with medium tannins and acid. Some charcoal, spiced steak and olives, but these bold and savory flavors come across on a bright, fresh frame. Lingering minerals and graphite on the finish. Very good stuff, drinkable now but could likely develop well in the cellar. 90 % Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. (90 points)

2012 Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Nadal - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, VentouxSRP: $20Explosive purple color. Smells of raspberries, red currants and blackberries, all thrown together into a mixed berry jam, also some dusty earth, pepper and baking spices. Solid tannic grip, medium- acid. The blackberries and red currants are bold and juicy, dusted with pepper, roasted herbs and campfire soot. A big boy at 14.5% alcohol, less acid than the previous two vintages, but still delicious and well made. 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. (88 points)

2012 Domaine de Fondrèche Côtes du Ventoux Cuvée Fayard - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux
SRP: $15
Tons of fig paste, smoky berries, animal hide and pepper on the nose, a bit compact but it opens with time. The fruit is so full and juicy (black cherry, currants, plums) but I love the smoke, charcoal, peppered steak and sweet herbs. Tasty stuff, but this could do with a few years. Long finish with coffee and lavender. 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvédre. (88 points)

2012 Vignobles Mayard Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Alex - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
SRP: $45
Vibrant, deep purple color. Dense nose of blackberry, roasted plums and cassis, backed up by notes of charcoal and pepper. I also get these great lavender and sweet clove aromas. Solid grip to the tannins, but they’re manageable, and the wine shows some medium acid. I love the way the juicy cassis and blackberry fruit is laced with pepper, cedar, anise, roasted chestnut and ginger snap elements. Impressive graphite, iron and mineral tones. Long and very complex, this is a bold and young wine that shows lots of promise. From old-vine Grenache and Mourvedre grown in La Crau and Grand Coulet. (93 points)

Friday, August 8, 2014

In Praise of Pink Wine

An increasing number of Americans realize that pink wine can be awesome. They’re drinking more of it, importers are bringing more into the country and American wineries are producing more of their own. These are all kick-ass developments.

A January 2014 Nielson report found that American consumption of dry rosé (imported and domestic) grew 33.6% in 2012 and 39.8% in 2013. This is part of a longer trend that goes back at least nine years, when Nielsen first started keeping track. The U.S. is second only to France in worldwide consumption of dry pink, and Americans drink 13% of the world’s rosé, according to the report.

As a die-hard supporter of dry rosé, let me take a patriotic pause to say: USA! USA!

When I first started getting into wine ten years ago, it wasn’t as easy to find good rosé. The few available choices came from Provence, the historic home of pink wine. While these wines are great, I craved diversity. The domestic selections tended toward the sweet, Jolly Rancher style, which did not interest me. Fast forward 10 years. Now you can find crisp, clean, exciting pink wine from all over the world. It’s been a lot of fun watching these changes unfold. 

While I drink the pink year round, dry rosé is an obvious choice for summer. These wines provide tons of refreshment and pair well with summer cookout foods. If you’re even remotely interested in wine, I’m probably preaching to the choir. But if you’re still hesitant about drinking pink wine, you’ve never had a better time to jump in.

Here are some of the standout pink wines I’ve tasted so far this summer…

2013 Matthiasson Rosé - USA, California, Napa Valley
Light copper colored mixed with white peach skin. So bright and lively on the nose: wild strawberries, white cherries, chalk, crushed sea shells. On the palate, tangy acid but not too sharp, with a medium body. The strawberry and red apple peel mix with limestone and river rocks. Dry, with notes of sea salt, spring rain, white pepper, green tea and a note that reminds me of squash blossoms. The 2012 was great, but I find this vintage just slightly more complex and amazing. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. A gorgeous pink. (92 points)

2013 Glen Manor Vineyards Morales Rosé - USA, Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
Lots of strawberries and watermelon on the nose and palate. This is crisp and quaffable but showing some interesting elements of roses, saline and some subtle spices. It paired well with a variety of grilled seafood and cheeses and the friends gathered for dinner all really enjoyed it. Mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. (86 points)

This Pinot Noir pink is consistently one of my favorites.
2013 Domaine Collotte Marsannay Rosé - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Marsannay Rosé
Another solid vintage of this wine, which consistently is one of my favorite rosés of summer. Wild strawberries, lemon verbena tea, red apple peel and roses on the nose. Crisp, clean, mineral-packed, with salted lime, watermelon and lemon zinger tea notes. Sage and minerals linger on the finish. Complex but ultimately crisp and enjoyable, surely a good call for summer cookouts. (89 points)

2013 Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Rosé L'Instant - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Ventoux
Very pale color, like tangerine pith. Lots of fresh flowers on the nose, along with some spicy white pepper and nettles, some oceanic elements. Nervy and mineral-driven on the palate with crisp green apple, strawberry and green melon fruit, backed up by racy minerals. I also get some sea shells and white pepper, and the combination is working quite well. I’d love to pair this with salads or oysters. 50% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache. (87 points)

2013 Schäfer-Fröhlich Spätburgunder Blanc de Noir Trocken - Germany, Nahe
So pale in its copper color. Fresh white cherries, rose petals and white pepper on the nose. Spicy, racy, crisp and mineral-driven on the palate. The white cherry and white peach fruit is backed up by white pepper and sage. Love the way the spicy and fresh elements fight it out. So refreshing and clean. Made from Pinot Noir, which is called Spätburgunder in Deutschland. (89 points)

Which rosés have you been drinking lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re looking for more suggestions, check out my Grab Bag of Rosés report for the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summertime Values: White Wines From Gascony

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

It’s summer and I live in DC. This means white wine. But I don’t want something merely cold and crisp, I want something interesting and food-friendly. White wines from the Gascony region of Southwest France frequently deliver in this department — and they’re cheap!

All of these wines come from the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony, perhaps better known for its spirits than its dry white wines. But if you’re in the market for value-driven, refreshing white wines to serve with salads, seafood and patio parties, I’m not sure it gets much better than Gascony whites.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. They all come from the portfolio of DC-based importer Robert Kacher.

2013 Domaine de Pouy Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne - France, Southwest France, Gascony, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
SRP: $12
Clear lemon-lime color. Bursts of white peach, lime, lemon and flowers on the nose, some sea breeze elements. Grapefruit and white peach fruit on the palate. Tangy and bright with crisp acid, clean mountain river notes, mineral, sea shell Very crisp. Solid summer sipper for sure. 60% Ugni Blanc and 40% Colombard. (86 points)

2013 Domaine du Tariquet Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Chardonnay - France, Southwest France, Gascony, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
SRP: $10
Medium gold colored. Bright on the nose, with margarita-like combination of salt and lime, also some sweet white flowers and orange zest. Bright, zippy acid, the buttery-creamy elements are very subtle. Green melon, green apple and lime fruit, all of it crunchy and tangy. Begs for shellfish and a patio overlooking the sea. (87 points)

2013 Domaine du Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne - France, Southwest France, Gascony, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
SRP: $10
Nose of white peach and grapefruit, some saline and mineral notes, sweet floral perfume. On the palate this is brisk and tangy with grapefruit and green apple fruit. Lean and fresh with some minerals, crushed shells and a hint of green onion. Easy-drinking, pleasant stuff. (86 points)

2013 Domaine du Tariquet Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Chenin-Chardonnay - France, Southwest France, Gascony, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
SRP: $10
Aromas of white peach, wildflowers (with the green stems thrown in), this wine has an interesting mix of herbal and sweet fruit notes on the nose. Creamy body but the acid is solid. Some nice honey and juicy apricot, a bit of saline and mineral notes. Rides a nice line between a mineral-driven Chenin and an apple-driven Chardonnay. 11.5% alcohol, a blend of 75% Chenin Blanc and 25% Chardonnay. (86 points)

2012 Domaine du Tariquet Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Classic - France, Southwest France, Gascony, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
SRP: $10
Medium straw color. Smells of green pears, green apples, some honeysuckle and baby’s breath. Clean, crisp and thirst-quenching on the palate, this wine has a pleasantly plump mouthfeel. I’m impressed with the depth of the fruit (green apple, pear, melon, kumquat) and the mineral and sea shell tones. A dose of honey and green herbs adds complexity. A lot of fun, a great picnic wine, but it’s also a very well-made wine with a long, mineral-laden finish. 45% Ugni Blanc, 35% Colombard, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Gros Manseng. Crazy value. (87 points)