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White Wines for Hot Summer Days

A refreshing glass of white wine!

A nice cold glass of white wine is perfect for these hot summer days. There are so many different white wines out there and so many different styles that it can get a little overwhelming and confusing. We hope that this will serve as your summer white wine guide and will help you to choose a varietal and style that perfectly suits your taste.

Sauvignon Blanc

In each region where Sauvignon Blanc is grown, the grape and resulting wine expresses a unique set of flavors and styles.  Sauvignon Blanc thrives throughout France, and especially within Bordeaux, where it is the prominent grape varietal in Bordeaux Blanc blends and the coveted dessert wines of Sauternes . The climate of Bordeaux allows the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to ripen more slowly than in other areas, giving a wonderful balance between acidity and fruit. The climate is also an important factor in the development of the wine’s aromas.  The flavors in these wines are fruitier than those from other regions in France. These wines can also age a bit more than the Sauvignon Blancs that are produced elsewhere.

The Loire Valley is the home of Sancerre, producing some of the most celebrated Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Sancerre is considered an elegant wine that is vibrant and crisp. Sancerre has good fruit and minerals, which combine to make a deep and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit flavors that are typically present in Sancerre are from the citrus family, including lemon, lime and grapefruit. However, when the grapes are really ripe you can taste pear, quince, and apple.  The wines that are produced in Sancerre have a good acidity, making them among the most refreshing wines out there.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

California Sauvignon Blanc is made in a variety of styles, some of which were inspired by the regions of France.  Fume-Blanc is a “French look a-like” that came into being when Robert Mondavi  began using oak aging to remove some of the grassy flavors that were showing up in his California Sauvignon Blanc.

The flavors that are present in Sauvignon Blanc/Fume-Blanc, grown in California, tend to be minerally, grassy, and tropical. The wines that show more tropical fruits tend to be mixed with Semillon, which helps add ripe and aromatic fruit flavors. In addition, there are wines produced in California that offer citrus fruit aromas, showing notes of passion fruit, grapefruit, and lemon.  On the other hand, the Fume-Blanc style shows melon flavors, as well as some other tropical fruits.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very tropical and refreshing when the weather is really hot. There is also something about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I really enjoy in general, but especially in the summer. Just like all Sauvignon Blancs that I have covered here, they are bright, refreshing, and crisp. Marlborough is the most well-known area in New Zealand where this grape variety is grown and produced.

A typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very aromatic with tropical notes of pineapple, passion fruit, grapefruit, melon, gooseberry, and other citrus flavors. Some of these wines can have grassy and floral notes too. The cool climate that the grapes are grown in allows for these flavors to be quite intense, but also gives a good balance between sugars and acidity. Moderate to high acidity is typical for these wines.

View all Sauvignon Blanc available on our website.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the white wine grapes, having a variety of expressions depending on the region and the winemaker’s influence.   Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Chardonnay is a native grape varietal to France’s Burgundy region.  Consumers always get confused when it comes to Burgundy – red or white. It seems confusing with the different appellations within a village, the many different growers within the same vineyard, and then of course you sprinkle in the negociant.  When it comes to White Burgundy, the first thing you need to know is that 95% percent of the time, the white wines produced there are made from Chardonnay! And Burgundy produces some of the finest and most age worthy Chardonnays in the world.  Depending on the area of Burgundy, the flavors that can arise range from citrus fruit to licorice and spice notes, and can be rich and creamy in style or very racy and brisk.   Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive expression of Chardonnay within Burgundy.  View all White Burgundy available on our website.

Chablis will always be 100% Chardonnay, no blending of any kind. Because of the cool climate that the grapes are grown in, Chablis is always refreshing and very crisp, but don’t let that fool you, Chablis can be aged.  Expressing a deep mineral character in its youth, the wine tends to softens with age and develop floral and honeyed notes.  Another typical characteristic of young Chablis is a green apple-like acidity, as well as a flinty-mineral flavor.

California is another popular Chardonnay producing region.  California Chardonnay tends to be fuller-bodied in style, filling the palate with rich flavors and textures.  Chardonnay is wonderfully versatile, which is why it works so well for all seasons!

View all Chardonnay available on our website.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris/Grigio Grapes

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio is a mutant form of the Pinot Noir grape.  The grapes can actually have a purplish hue, although the wine produced is light in color. This is a wonderful warm weather wine and is sure to cool you off on a hot summer afternoon.  It tends to be light to medium-bodied in style and is usually very pale in color. It is extremely bright, crisp, and refreshing.  Pinot Gris thrives in Alsace, California and Oregon, while Italy is known for Pinot Grigio.  View all Pinot Grigio available on our website.

Italian Pinot Grigio is very bright and clean. It is very light in color and in body. Sometimes there is an effervescent feel to an Italian Pinot Grigio. This makes the wine elegant and delicate, which means you want to drink it in its youth.

Pinot Gris is a major grape varietal in Alsace, and is very different from the Pinot Gris/Grigio that is found everywhere else. These wines have very intense flavors, because of the long autumn season, which allows for the grapes to ripen very slowly. The Alsatian Pinot Gris is medium-bodied and can be aged for longer than those of Italy and the United States.  Alsatian Pinot Gris can have a nice spice flavor to it, which is unique to this variety.  In general, Pinot Grigio makes a great cooler for the hot weather!

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Summer Wines 2013!

Summer is finally here, which means that it’s time to fire up the grill and break out the best of summer – light, bright, refreshing wines!  There are several good summer wines that I would like to recommend. I would also like to briefly mention what makes a good summer wine! These wines have been selected, because I feel that they are great for summer BBQs and fun low key gatherings, but they are also great for other times in the year as well. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have so far this summer!

The summer white wines that you want to buy for BBQs and gatherings are light, crisp, and refreshing.

Refreshing glasses of Sauvignon Blanc being served on a hot summer day!

The white wine recommendations are fruitier, but are not sweet. This style of crisp white wines is light and refreshing, especially when served well-chilled. These white wines can be great for a typical summery BBQ or party meal, like chicken or seafood, or they can be great for pre-main course snacks and appetizers!

Sauvignon Blanc is a great white wine for the hot days ahead! Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for summer, because it is typically a refreshing, crisp white wine variety. It can be a fruity white wine, but it can also be minerally and dry; there is a style out there for everyone.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown in various regions across the globe, including Bordeaux in France, Napa Valley in California, South America, South Africa and New Zealand.  Each of these growing regions lends a different character to the grapes and the finished wine, offering a lot of variety in Sauvignon Blanc flavors.  One of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs this summer hails from Napa Valley, the 2011 Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($15/btl).

The 2011 Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose, this spectacular wine offers aromas of fig and exotic floral notes.  The flavors on the palate are of summer fruits including citrus, honeyed grapefruit, melon, and quince! Don’t let all of this fruit turn you away though, because there is good acid present as well, which places this amongst the best dry white wines.  This is really a great white wine and a great value, I would say that this is one of the best sauvignon blancs under 20!

Our second white wine recommendation for summer 2013 is the 2011 Chateau Cantelaudette Graves de Vayres Blanc ($15/btl), a blend of white Bordeaux blend, which includes semillon, sauvignon blanc, and muscadelle.  This is a wonderful dry white wine type considered a fantastic Graves “look alike”, and Graves produces the best white wines in Bordeaux. This is not only a dry white, but a fruity white wine as well, which are two typical characteristics of Graves. The aromas consist of citrus and some florals. The palate is long and has flavors such as melon, citrus, and fig, with a touch of wood and minerals. This white wine will go perfectly with summer salads, seafood, lobster, and any kind of appetizer that you would typically have in the summer.

Once the BBQ gets started, a glass of red or rosé is perfect! The types of rosé wine that we are offering are perfect summer wines! ‘Do you chill rosé wine?’ is a commonly asked question, and the answer is yes. Also, I find that the more chilled a rosé is, the more uplifting it is on a scorching day. Rosé wines are light, crisp, refreshing, and can be a bit more full-bodied than some whites. Rosés are great for everyone, but they are also great for the person who loves red but wants a cooler drink on a hot day. There are many spectacular rosé wines that we are offering for the summer…two of them are mentioned below!

For a softer wine that still packs a punch, 2011 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros ($15/btl) is wonderful. It is a medium to full-bodied, refreshing pink wine made from Pinot Noir.   The wine offers zesty aromas and flavors of plum, apricot, raspberry and blood orange. On the palate, the wine is vibrant with bright fruit, but not overly fruity, and a touch of acidity to make the wine perfectly refreshing. The finish is satisfying and lasts long. After one sip, you’re left wanting more.

Food pairing for the 2011 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros is easy, because it goes with almost anything, with the exception of heavier red meats. You can serve this with your snacks or appetizers at your BBQ or party, but you can also serve it with the main course of chicken, fish, or burgers. The 2011 Saintsbury is truly a good summer wine that is crisp and refreshing and is a great value under $20.

For a crisp, lighter rosé wine, 2011 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley ($15/btl) is among our best wines for summer. Strawberry, orange zest, spices that build over time, and white flowers appear on the nose of this pink wine. This is a dry rosé wine on the palate, but it also has plenty of fruits and other surprises as well.  On the palate, red berries and citrus fruits make an appearance, followed by a good clean finish with some floral notes at the very end.  Ponzi Vineyards Rosé is a lively and fun rosé for any occasion during the summer and it is a great value too.

Your typical light summer fare will go particularly well with the 2011 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé. For example, I would recommend any kind of summer salad, like potato salad or a roasted vegetable salad tossed with citrus vinaigrette. Other salads that are ideal rosé pairings include baby spinach and arugula with a summer fruit and nut blend, tossed with a light summer vinaigrette. Risotto with fish and veggies is also a great summer dish to pair with rosé.  Chicken or seafood dishes will go spectacularly as well. Mediterranean style food is perfect since you want to keep it light and simple when serving a lighter style of rosé.

Any wine with bubbles makes a great summer wine.  Bubbly is always so versatile and you can have it before, during, or at the end of a meal! However, not everyone wants to spend the money for true champagne, which is why Prosecco is a great bubbly option.

The Prosecco grape originated during Roman times and is one of the oldest grapes in Italian history. Its origin and name can be traced back to the town of Prosecco in Trieste.  Prosecco grapes are transformed into sparkling wine using the Charmat method in which stainless steel tanks and yeast are utilized to produce a natural second fermentation. The process takes approximately 60 days depending on acidity, residual sugar and pressure. The Charmat method allows Prosecco to preserve its original flavors and perfumes longer. Prosecco is traditionally a dry wine with hints of apple and citrus.

NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($16/btl) is a great bottle of Prosecco. It has notes of white peach, lemon zest, and smoke on the nose.  For the palate it offers great flavors of granny smith apples, sweet spices, and floral notes. The finish is long, which leaves your mouthwatering and wanting another sip! It is dry, crisp, light, and oh so refreshing for these hot summer days ahead. Also, if you like a good dry white, then you will love this bubbly.

Pink bubbles are always fun for a celebration, but in the summer time, there is just something extra nice about them. If you want a sparkling Champagne rosé for a great price, NV Champagne Laherte Freres Brut Rose ($38/btl) is a wonderful choice. The red fruit and strawberry flavors are really what make this rosé Champagne the finest summer bubbly!

The best red wines for the summer are elegant in style…wines such as Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.  Today Beaujolais is a wine that has depth, concentration, great structure, good balanced acidity and length. These wines are more like Burgundy than ever before. The days of carbonic maceration are practically gone. Today the serious producer treats the Gamay grape just like its counterpart, the Pinot Noir. The result is a wine that has wonderful fruit (but not too fruity), structure and length.

2011 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle Vieilles Vignes ($14/btl) is, in my opinion, one of the best wines under 20, for its variety. It has such interesting flavor combinations that really get your taste buds excited. There are flavors of Middle Eastern spices, plum, red licorice, and black cherry. The nose is quite different than what you would expect with the flavors though. On the nose you smell woodsmoke, cherries, raspberries, and the minerals from the soil. This red wine is definitely vibrant and playful with good minerality, a fine core, and a finish that will impress you.

As a red wine lover, finding a good red wine for summer is a must for me!  Finding a great red wine like the 2011 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle Vieilles Vignes is a real treat!  I recommend trying this great red wine under 20 as soon as possible.

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Ideal Wine Storage Conditions

Posted By: Gretchen Dec | In: Dated: June 6, 2013 | No Comments »

You have carefully chosen the wines in your collection, devoted your precious time to researching producers, vintages and styles, and invested your hard-earned money.  Now that you have those coveted bottles, you want to give them the best home possible and insure that they live up to their full drinking potential. Some wines will age gracefully for decades given the right environment, while others should be consumed sooner, rather than later.  It is important to evaluate your collection and may be helpful to organize it based on whether you should “drink sooner” or “drink later.”  Here are five main principles and tactics to integrate into your wine storage plan…

1. Keep It Cool – Temperature is supremely important to the longevity of your wine collection.  Just like the food in your refrigerator, wine is perishable and keeps for much longer when in a cool environment with a constant temperature between 50 and 59°F (10 and 15°C).  Fluctuations in temperature can cause permanent damage to your collection.  Keeping wine in too warm a room, or in a room that changes in temperature, such as a kitchen, will literally cook the wine.  Keeping wine too cold can cause the corks to shrink and harden, allowing air into the bottles and resulting in stale wine.

2. Limit Light Exposure – Keep your wine in a dark place.  Wine is as sensitive to light, as it is to heat.  Sunlight and artificial light are equally damaging and will heat the wine, causing premature aging, unpleasant aromas and off-flavors.

3. Movement Agitates – Allow wines to lie peacefully.  Frequently moving your wines will disturb their aging process.  Keep your collection in quiet place that is free of vibrations.

4. Lie Them Down – Keep your bottles on their sides so that the corks are always in contact with the wine.  This will keep the cork moist and prevent it from drying out and letting in damaging air.

5. Humidity Is Huge – Controlling the humidity in your wine storage space is of the utmost importance.  A constant humidity level around 60% will keep corks from drying and, in turn, minimizes wine evaporation.

Whether you are installing a wine cellar in your home, already have a cellar and looking for ways to improve it, or are searching for the perfect wine storage facility, these rules of thumb will keep your collection in the best possible condition.

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A Visit to Chateau Latour-Martillac

Posted By: lars | In: Tags: , , | Dated: August 6, 2012 | No Comments »

With Tristan. Empty white wine Barrels waiting for 2012 vintage

On August 2, 2012, I visited Chateau Latour-Martillac in Pessac-Leognan  for a tour and tasting with Tristan Kressman, one of the principals of the Chateau, the other being his brother Loic. The Kressman family has owned and operated the vineyard since the 1930’s.  The Chateau first appears to be a fairly compact physical structure with the singular exception of a large “Tour” or tower at the front.  From this vantage point,  the interior of the Chateau grounds and production facilities are hidden from the eye.  As one rounds the structure and turns into the interior courtyard , a much larger production/warehouse facility or “chais” is revealed.  It is a charming spot on a slope with a nice look-out to the Pessac hills sloping toward the river.

Chateau Latour-Martillac is one of my favorite Chateau because their wines represent to me the essence of the Pessac-Leognan terroir at a reasonable price.  The reds display the classic Pessac flavors of cedar, charcoal, cigar-box and powerful dark fruit.  The whites are often  flinty and tightly wound but are bound up in wonderful melon and fig fruit flavors and aromas.  In top vintages, the  whites have the structure to age up to 20 years.

The wines have not found a huge press or consumer following in the U.S. and this has helped keep the prices down to earth.  It is a friendly and welcoming Chateau with a  very nice visitor’s area that features the history of the Chateau and sells the wines to visitors.  The wine is made under the direction of the two Kressman brothers, a full time oenologist (Valerie Vialard)  and Denis Dubordieu.  Dubordieu was the white wine consultant for Chateau Latour-Martillac for ten years and is now involved with the red wine as well since the 2006 vintage. Annual production of the grand vins is about 15,000 cases  from 42 hectares.  80% of this production goes into the red wine and 20% into the white wine. The red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  The white is usually about 65% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the wine is made with Semillon.

After the tour, we tasted a vertical of the red and the white. Below are my notes and few Parker numerical scores.

Grand Vin Rouge

2001 Chateau Latour Martillac Secondary flavors of cedar and cigar now becoming more pronounced in this wine. Ready to drink now.

2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Still displaying the brute force of the vintage.  Mouth tightening concentration and tannins envelope this wine in a package bound for long-term development.

2006 Chateau Latour Martillac Pleasingly concentrated and well put together for the vintage.  The first vintage under Dubordieu.

2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Excellent freshness and concentration.  A value vintage since it was released during a difficult economic environment.

2009 Chateau Latour Martillac A beauty.  Sweet and perfectly integrated tannins bound up in glorious fruit.  A great wine from this estate and meant for long term cellaring. RP 94

2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Bottled in May and showing it.  Has the fruit  concentration of 2009 , one  will have to see if the tannins and oak round out as nicely as the 2009. RP 90-92

Grand Vin Blanc

2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Just coming out of its shell now.

2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Powerful acid and fresh fruit but  less complete than the others whites.

2009 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Packed with great fruits characteristics and framed in wonderfully intense acid. Will age for a long time. RP 94

2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Similar to the 2009 but with perhaps a touch less fruit.  Also build to age. RP 90-93.

-Lars Neubohn

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Champagne Coquillette : Quite a Charmer

Posted By: Celine Della Ventura | In: Tags: , | Dated: August 2, 2012 | No Comments »

Champagne Stéphane Coquillette Carte D'Or Premier Cru Brut

With such a charming name, it may be hard to turn down a chilled flute of Stéphane Coquillette’s NV Carte D’Or Premier Cru Brut $45/btl. Located in Chouilly, a Grand Cru classified village in the Cote des Blancs, Champagne Coquillette is run by fourth generation winemaker Stéphane Coquillette. Stéphane’s grandparents established Champagne Saint-Charmant (see, it’s all about the charm) in 1930, which Stéphane’s father, Christian, then took over in 1950. When it came for Stéphane’s turn, his father sent him off to start his own brand, hence, Champagne Stéphane Coquillette.

To fully appreciate and understand Champagne Coquillette, it is crucial to go back to the roots…literally. The vineyards are planted in limestone soil and chalky rock, stretching tens of meters deep. This type of rock, called “roche mère” is capable of soaking up water in order to supply the vines with adequate hydration during dry spells. This particular soil is key to contributing specific aromas and flavors of the wine.

Coquillette offers several excellent champagnes, but our favorite is the NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte d’Or Premier Cru Brut, a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Pinot Noir (about two thirds) and Chardonnay (one third). This pale yellow bubbly exhibits citrus-rich aromas of lemon and grapefruit, blackberry fruit and hints of smoke and vanilla. Some of the lemon and citrus notes carry on over to the palate which brings a refreshing flavor to the taste buds. Also present are floral notes, which carry through to the energetic and pleasant finish.

The great thing about champagne is that in can be enjoyed in accompaniment with almost anything: various appetizers, desserts, cheeses, or nothing at all! For Coquillette’s Champagne, we have chosen a stellar match: crab cakes topped with a mango salsa. This duo is one you don’t want to miss out on, so check out the simple recipe above and grab yourself a bottle of NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte D’or Premier Cru Brut to charm away any dinner party!

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Vincent Dampt Chablis: A Cool Companion

Posted By: Celine Della Ventura | In: Tags: , , , | Dated: July 20, 2012 | No Comments »

Chilled Chablis: you can't go wrong!

Picture this: you are sitting outside; it’s hot but not unbearably humid. You have a chilled glass of white wine in your hand which reveals an occasional sweat bead dripping down the smooth crystal of the glass. What do you have in your hand? A fabulous Chablis. More specifically, Vincent Dampt’s 2008 1er Cru Chablis Vaillons $25/btl.

When you give this glass of Chardonnay its first little swirl to lift those aromas to your nose, you get a fresh and cool bouquet with florals, spice and some earthy tones. Now take a sip. There is balance and purity in the wine showcasing lemon zest notes, with the finish lingering in a pleasant mineral explosion.  Hopefully, as you are sitting outside with that glass in hand, you just happen to have some pan-seared scallops, pepper and garlic marinated prawns, or oysters with a fresh shallot sauce. Really, any type of shellfish is quite a treat with this Chablis.

The origin of this wine and its namesake, is the famed Burgundy town of Chablis. Vincent Dampt’s estate, producing solely Chablis wines, makes up slightly less than 3 hectares and lays along the left bank of the Serein River. The vineyards are planted in Chablis’ famous Kimmeridgian soil; a mix of clay, chalk and marine fossils which provide the wines with their beautiful minerality.

Born into a family of winemakers, Vincent developed an interest in the wine industry at the young age of 14, when he enrolled himself into a Beaune wine school. Vincent was able to broaden his wine knowledge by training in the Jura, working with Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, and travelling overseas to work in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. He then returned home to France and began producing wines with his father in 2002, until 2004, when he inherited some pieces of land. At that point, he began producing wines under his own name, Vincent Dampt.

Getting back to the glass that you are ideally still holding, I would like to pass on several tasting tips particular to Chablis wines.

-Temperature: For a Chablis Premier Cru in particular, the ideal serving temperature is 50-53 degrees Fahrenheit.

-Opening the bottle: Make sure to cut the cap under the ring of the bottle neck so that the wine does not touch the cap when it is poured.

-Glassware: Serve the wine in a specific Chablis glass which has a tulip shape with a narrower opening. This shape will allow the wine to access the palate in the perfectly precise way so that the flavors are enhanced to their maximum potentials.

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Dining with Domaine Drouhin

Upstairs at '21' Private Dining Room where our Drouhin Dinner took place

For those of you who were unable to attend our Domaine Joseph Drouhin wine dinner at the ‘21’ Club on June 26th, don’t worry, I am here to give you the scoop. I’ll take you through the journey of delicious courses created by executive chef John Greeley and a mouthwatering array of nine wines produced by Domaine Joseph Drouhin. Just a heads up, I highly recommend reading this with a glass of wine in hand.

Our Drouhin dinner took place in the private dining room on the second floor of the ‘21’ Club, strategically named Upstairs at ‘21’. As guests began to trickle in, the pleasantly chilled 2009 Drouhin Vaudon Chablis was offered, a delightful pair for the various passed hors d’oeuvres, including a fresh lobster salad in a beautiful cone cracker, delicate smoked salmon toasts, and mini burger bites.

As our final guests arrived, we were seated at our tables, each placement adorned with the proper fine dining utensils and an overwhelming set of eight wine glasses, begging to be filled.  Before our first course was served, we were greeted by our host, Laurent Drouhin, great grandson of the founder Joseph Drouhin, and one of four children at the helm of the estate. As the first wines were served, we had the privilege of receiving a mini lesson by Laurent on the Burgundy region, appellations, grape varieties, and of course, a little background on Domaine Joseph Drouhin. If only all classrooms were this way!

Our first two wines were the 2009 Meursault and 2009 Puligny-Montrachet, two delightful village Chardonnays which were paired perfectly with the fresh soft shell crab dish showcasing tender baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes and an herb-basil pesto. Both wines were crisp, with the Meursault expressing more yellow stone fruits, citrus and florals on the palate and the Puligny-Montrachet with slightly less sweetness and more spiced pear notes, lemon and minerality tones.

Next on the menu was lightly seared tuna with grilled prawns in a wasabi pea purée which accompanied the 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche and 2009 Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc. At this point in the dinner, monsieur Drouhin stood up to explain the two wines and this routine ensued throughout the rest of the evening. The Marquis de Laguiche was packed with different rich and round flavors spanning hazelnuts, ripe fruit and creamy butter. Similarly, the Clos de Mouche Blanc portrayed a blend of flavors, but with a different flavor profile, revealing a swirl of stone fruits, and firm acid and minerality that danced on the palate.

The amusement of our taste buds continued with the third course, a scrumptious pork dish lying lazily on a bed of red rice drizzled in the pork’s jus. It was a comforting dish with a genial medley of flavors, but none too overwhelming or overpowering.  Along with the pork dish, we made the transition to Drouhin’s Pinot Noir selections and said farewell to our Chardonnay glasses, though many of us chose to keep them at our place settings to revisit as the wines continued to evolve. Our two picks for this dish were the 2009 Chambolle-Musigny and the 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin. This is where I found my personal piece de résistance, the Chambolle-Musigny. It was the perfect match with the pork, intertwining its balanced tannins, and subtle cherry and candied fruit flavors perfectly with the tender meat. The 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin was also dressed to impress, showcasing a velvety texture also with balanced tannins and more peppery and spicy flavors.

Despite my elation from the food and wine endorphins, a slight sadness settled over me as I realized that we were reaching the final course of the meal. The four selections of cheeses were accompanied by the last two Drouhin Pinot Noirs: the 2009 Volnay Clos des Chênes and the 2008 Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge, each sporting red fruit aromas, but with the Volnay Clos des Chênes showcasing refined tannins with plums and floral fruity flavors that lingered on the finish, and the Clos des Mouches Rouge portraying an earthy and firm body with tart rhubarb, some spice, as well as sweet and silky fruit.

The amazing combination of exquisite wines and gourmet dishes in an atmosphere both informative and relaxing was utterly mind-blowing, and an experience to remember. Now if you’re feeling hungry, I apologize for exciting your salivary glands, but if I have portrayed the slightest notion of this delectable dinner to you, I am satisfied. If you feel that this is the kind of event and experience that you don’t want to miss out on, we host a number of events every year that you can choose from. We have several great dinners lined up in the fall, our next one on the list being the Chateau Palmer Dinner at Aureole in September. Stay posted for more events to come!

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To Mercurey and Beyond

Bottle of Faiveley's Mercurey Clos Rochette 2008

It’s not often that you get the chance to taste a Chardonnay from Burgundy’s Cote-Chalonnaise village of Mercurey, given that 90% of the village’s output consists of vin rouge. Citrus and fruit aromas are the first to tingle the nose on this Joseph Faiveley Mercurey Blanc Clos Rochette 2008 $25/btl followed by a light smokiness and wet stone. On the palate, notes of minerality and florals are distinct and crisp. The silkiness that ensues in the mouth gives it an extremely smooth finish, bringing along with it notes of pineapple and sweet apples.

At $25 per bottle, this Chardonnay is a great pick for a warm summer night dinner or barbeque, and pairs nicely with a variety of seafood dishes. Below you can find a grilled shrimp kabob recipe from Chef Billy Della Ventura to pair with this gem. All you need to do is fire up that grill, assemble your kabobs and pop a bottle of Faiveley’s Clos Rochette to enjoy a wonderfully paired and simply delicious meal.

Shrimp Kabob recipe

Now for a little background and a brief history lesson…

Domaine Faiveley was founded by Pierre Faiveley in 1825.The Domaine’s reputation took hold in the early 19th century when many Burgundian wine producers began traveling to Northern Europe to trade their wines for textiles.Today, the Domaine rests in the hands of seventh generation Erwan Faiveley.The family owns vineyards in some of the most prestigious appellations such as Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin, Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet, among others. Several climats are owned exclusively by the family including Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos des Issarts, Beaune 1er Cru Clos de L’Ecu, and the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley Grand Cru. Not bad, right?

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Dr. Frank Wines: Gems of the Finger Lakes

Vineyard overlooking Keuka Lake

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars is a true gem in the Northeastern United States’ winemaking landscape.  Emigrating from the Ukraine to New York in 1951, Dr. Frank moved upstate to the picturesque Finger Lakes region to take a position at Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station.  Dr. Frank, a professor of plant sciences with a PhD in viticulture, would quickly revolutionize Northeastern US grape-growing and winemaking by promoting the growth of European varietals in this chilly northern environment.

Dr. Frank’s beliefs originated from his experiences while living in the Ukraine.  He knew that Vitis Vinifera (wine grapes) could grow in the Finger Lakes region if planted on the right rootstock, despite the colder climate.  Dr. Frank forged a friendship with a French champagne maker named Charles Fournier, the president of the Lakes region’s Gold Seal Vineyards.

After just ten years in the US, Dr. Frank established Vinifera Wine Cellars in 1962.  This fledgling winery swiftly gained renown for its sublime Rieslings, putting the Finger Lakes on the map as a world-class wine-producing region capable of exceptional quality.

Today, Dr. Konstantin Frank is run by the family’s 3rd generation of winemakers, led by Frederick Frank, who took over in 1993.  Fred’s sister, Barbara Frank is Consulting Winemaker and Regional Sales Manager for Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars and Chateau Frank Winery.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Barbara at several wine tasting events in NYC at which she graciously shares a wealth of information about the family’s wines.

Dr. Frank’s Wine Cellars has grown to encompass two additional labels, Salmon Run and Chateau Frank.  Salmon Run is the winery’s value label and a tribute to the magnificent salmon of gorgeous Keuka Lake.  Chateau Frank is the label under which the winery’s extraordinary sparkling wines are crafted.  These sparklers are among the best I’ve tasted from this side of the pond.  Their 2006 Blanc de Blancs is on par with my longstanding American favorite, Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blancs.

The Wine Cellarage is delighted to introduce Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars to our offerings.  Thus far, we have chosen five wonderful wines from Dr. Frank and Chateau Frank.  These are ideal wines for summertime quaffing.  The Dry Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Blanc de Blancs are delightful, crisp and oh-so refreshing.  The Cab Franc is the perfect red wine for summer, reminiscent of Loire Valley Chinon, with soft tannins, subtle earthiness and roasted red pepper notes.  Finally, Chateau Frank’s Célèbre Rosé is a delicious, red berry infused crowd-pleaser and will make an ideal aperitif for your summertime parties and gatherings!

2010 Dr. Frank Dry RieslingThe fruit was hand-harvested during the cool hours of the morning, and then cold pressed. The juice was cold settled and given a lengthy fermentation at low temperatures with special German wine yeasts.

“The 2010 Dry Riesling has a classic pale straw color with a crisp green hue. The nose shows typical Keuka Lake minerality with fresh lemon citrus and apple with an intriguing blossom aroma. The palate shows wonderful tight acid that balances out the fruity residual sugar enhancing the floral and bringing out the bright tangerine flavors. The palate also displays the slatey mineral characteristics that typify Dr. Frank’s Rieslings. Serve with all fin fish and shell fish.” – Winemaker’s Notes

2010 Dr. Frank Grüner Veltliner – The grapes were picked early in the morning to capture the strong fruit flavors. The juice was then fermented at cold temperatures in stainless steel tanks with a neutral yeast, enhancing the wine’s natural fruit flavors.

“The 2010 Grüner Veltliner fits perfectly within the Dr. Frank family of wines. The wonderful nose is a treat of floral, melon and honeysuckle while the mouth has subtle herbal notes and balanced layered textures in the background that finish off with the typical Grüner Veltliner white pepper heat. It is food friendly wine and pairs well with everything from scallops and roasted vegetables to grilled pork tenderloin.” – Winemaker’s Notes

2008 Dr. Frank Cabernet Franc – “The 2008 Cabernet Franc presents a nose of roasted red pepper and prune that lengthens with oaky and spicy tones.  On the palate, this wine displays great elegance with soft tannins and a smooth long finish.  Coming from an exceptionally hot summer this wine will benefit from decanting to reveal the depth of its character – serve with brisket and red sauce pasta dishes.” – Winemaker’s Notes

2006 Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs“Presenting typical complexity and delicate flavors, this wine exemplifies the traditional Blanc de Blancs style. A crisp acidity accompanied by rich pear and honeysuckle with citrus, lemon, and ginger makes this Sparkling Wine vibrantly pleasant. Extended lees aging (tirage) gives earthy and toasty notes with a soft vanilla finish. Serve with rich foods such as caviar or salmon.” – Winemaker’s Notes

Chateau Frank Célèbre Rosé – A festive sparkler made from 100% estate grown Pinot Meunier grapes and crafted in the French Crémant style, according to the traditional method.  This delightful, sparkling rosé offers rich raspberry and strawberry aromas, lush cherry flavors and beautiful, delicate bubbles.

About the Finger Lakes Region

Home to over 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes region is the longstanding pillar of New York State’s wine industry.   The beautiful, narrow lakes of the region, named for their resemblance to fingers, were hewn from the land by Ice Age glaciers.  The lakes have a significant effect on the climate, keeping the air relatively warm in the winter and gradually pulling cool air down from the surrounding hillsides.  By the time spring comes, the lakes have cooled, which prevents the vineyards from budding too early, providing a safeguard against frost damage.  The major lakes of the wine region are Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua and Cayuga.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer thrive in the cool northern climate of the region, producing wines with great acidity and minerality.  Grüner Veltliner, native to Austria, is proving to be a great fit for the Finger Lakes as well, quickly gaining recognition and praise.

The wines of the Finger Lakes region are not to be missed!   They present exceptional quality and value, and for those of us living in and around New York, a lovely, local wine option.

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Oregon Pinot Noir: Treasures from a Terrific Vintage

Barrels of wine at the Domaine Drouhin Estate in the Willamette Valley.

For the past few months, all eyes have been on the 2008 vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir.  Nothing gets people’s attention like a write-up in the New York Times – Toasting a Vintage, With Few Quibbles, and when that is followed by an article in Wine Spectator – Oregon’s Natural Wonder (February 28th issue), you can be sure that wines from the noted producers will start flying off the shelves.  All of the excitement around the 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir vintage is well deserved, as these are truly terrific wines from one of America’s finest wine producing areas.  Oregon’s wine industry has been given limited time in the limelight, often overshadowed by California, but this burgeoning region has something very special, delicious success with fickle Pinot Noir.

Pioneering Pinot in the Pacific Northwest

Wine grapes were planted in Oregon in the second half of the 19th century and the industry grew steadily during that time.  Then, following prohibition, the state’s wine industry enjoyed a prosperous resurgence, but this didn’t last and advancement was slow until the early 1960s, when several pioneering winemakers entered the scene.  Many of these visionary winemakers were transplants from California who challenged the opposing viewpoints of their UC Davis professors and were united by the belief that Pinot Noir was better suited to Oregon’s growing conditions, especially those of the Willamette Valley.

Among the pioneers was Richard Sommer, who founded Oregon’s first estate winery in 1961, Hillcrest Vineyard.  Sommer, along with fellow Californian immigrants Charles Coury and David Lett, were the first to plant Pinot Noir vines.  However, it was David Lett, founder of Eyrie Vineyards, who came to be known as “Papa Pinot”.  At the youthful age of 25, with a UC Davis enology degree in hand, Lett moved to Oregon to find the perfect place to grow Burgundian grape varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  He found just that place in the Willamette Valley, in the Red Hills of Dundee, and established Eyrie Vineyards in 1966 with his wife Diana.  Along with pioneering Pinot Noir, Lett was the very first vintner to plant Pinot Gris in America.  In 1979, at a French tasting competition in Paris, the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir won first place against Burgundian counterparts, a victory that catapulted Oregon into the spotlight as a serious wine region and a producer of world-class Pinot Noir.

The Eyrie Vineyards 1979 win was followed by another triumph in 1980, this time at a competition arranged by the renowned winemaker Robert Drouhin of Burgundy.  This time, the Eyrie Vineyards Pinot came in a close second to one of Drouhin’s Grand Cru wines.  These consecutive, consistent results spurred Drouhin to establish his own winery in Oregon in 1988, not too far from Lett’s vineyards.

Cool Climate Lovers

There are several important climatic characteristics to consider when studying viticulture in Oregon.  First and foremost, it is the dampest winegrowing area in the Pacific Northwest, yet most of the rain comes between October and April, sparing the vines of damage and waterlog during the height of their growing season.  Unlike Washington, whose vineyards are shadowed by the Cascade Mountains, Oregon is completely exposed to the air currents that come off the Pacific Ocean.  This results in damp, yet mild winters and is also the cause of relatively cool summers.  It is important to note that Oregon suffered from a drought between the years 2000 and 2005, which temporarily disrupted the state’s signature wet climate.

Aside from being damp, damp, damp, there is little else that is consistent about Oregon’s weather.  Temperatures during the growing and ripening seasons vary greatly from year to year, which means that the wines are more apt to differ between vintages, especially in the past 15 years.  This talk of capricious weather brings us back to our fickle friend Pinot Noir, which happens to thrive in this cool climate, resulting in some of the best and most complex expressions of the grape anywhere.

Quality Over Quantity

Oregon’s wine industry has focused on quality over quantity, which is why it is rare to see low-priced wines from there.  Trends in Oregon winemaking include meticulous viticulture techniques, controlling grape yields, labor-intensive pruning methods and organic and biodynamic farming.  Many Oregonian vintners have chosen to grow “Dijon clones” of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  These clones produce lower yields and ripen earlier, making them a great match for Oregon’s climate.  Many producers are deeply invested in sustainability and land preservation, believing that organic and biodynamic farming methods are the best way to maintain the integrity of their soils and vineyards.  These conscientious practices certainly show through in the quality and purity of Oregon’s Pinot Noirs!

Willamette Valley AVA

The most important and largest wine region within Oregon is the eminent Willamette Valley.  This American Viticulture Area (AVA) runs west along the Willamette River, on the slopes of the Coast Range, extending for 150 miles from the Columbia River in Portland south to Eugene.  The Willamette Valley is home to over 200 wineries and more than 12,000 vineyard acres, of which Pinot Noir is the crown jewel.

The Willamette Valley enjoys a temperate climate year-round, and although damp in the winter months, the summers are warm with long daylight hours, providing the ideal conditions for growing superb Pinot Noir.  Long days of warm sunshine are followed by cool nights, giving the grapes the opportunity to develop great flavor and complexity.  Within the valley, there are six smaller sub-AVAs, which distinguish the unique terroirs within the larger area.  These AVAs, established between the years 2000 and 2006, are Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton District.

A few fun and noteworthy facts on the sub-AVAs – the Chehalem Mountains AVA has the highest elevations, including Bald Peak, which rises over 1,600 feet above sea level.   The Dundee Hills are known for their highly praised Pinots and reddish-colored clayey Jory loam soils, the namesake of the Red Hills of Dundee.  The Eola-Amity Hills AVA enjoys consistent coastal winds that sweep in from the ocean through the mountains and balance the summer’s warmth. Fittingly, the name Eola is derived from the Greek god of wind, Aeolus.  Finally, Yamhill-Carlton is the largest of all six sub-AVAs, with 1,200 vineyard acres.

Pinots to Purchase Now

Oregon’s 2008 growing season started out cold and wet, a pattern that held through the summer and was followed by late September rains.  Vintners were dubious to say the least, and then, in early October, the sun came out just in time to finish ripening the grapes.  The weather remained warm and sunny through the end of harvest, resulting in beautifully complex and impeccably balanced wines.  With all of the attention the vintage has gotten, there’s no time to lose if you want to add the best of these wines to your collection, or at the very least, try them for yourself before they sell out!  Here are some of our picks from this outstanding vintage:

From the Gerrie family’s 65-acre Willamette Valley estate, the 2008 Cristom Vineyards Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvee is a great bottle to open now.  Layered, complex aromas of red cherry, wild strawberry, herbal notes, mint, tealeaf, rose and roasted hazelnut are coaxed from the glass.  The palate fills with flavors of cherry, wild berry and sweet spice, showing vibrant elegance, impeccable balance and an enduring finish.

Paul Gerrie and his wife Eileen established Cristom Vineyards in 1992.  Paul left the east coast and a career in engineering in order to pursue his passion for terroir-driven wines, especially Pinot Noir.  The Cristom Vineyards estate is home to eight different vineyards, six of which are named after family matriarchs.

St. Innocent Winery is one of our favorites…founded by Mark Vlossak in 1988, the winery specializes in handcrafted, single-vineyard wines from prime sites in the Willamette Valley and has consistently garnering praise for its extraordinary Pinot Noir. Vlossak is dedicated to producing fine wines of exquisite texture that echo each vineyard, as well as each individual vintage.  These are excellent food wines, delightful to drink in their youth, while having great ageing potential.

The 2008 St. Innocent Winery Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard comes to us from the Willamette Valley’s McMinnville sub-AVA, located on a steep, south-facing hillside.  The biodynamic Momtazi Vineyard is warmed by the valley below during the day and cooled by the winds that blow in off the coast at night.  The resulting Pinot’s are rich, complex and intensely aromatic.

Adelsheim Vineyard is another favorite, an exceptional producer that is devoted to sustainable farming practices.  Founders David and Ginny Adelsheim shared the dream of planting a vineyard and producing magnificent wines in the Chehalem Mountains area of the Willamette Valley and they have worked diligently to make that dream a delicious reality.

The 2008 Adelsheim Pinot Noir is a gorgeous expression of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir!  Opulent, layered aromas of ripe cherry, raspberry, blackberry, violet and roasted coffee bean waft from the glass.  The palate is greeted with full, rich cherry and berry flavors, sweet spice, luxuriantly smooth tannins, and a silken finish that lingers enticingly.

Co-owned by Robert Parker, Michael Etzel and Robert Roy, Beaux Frères Winery is yet another exemplary Oregon Pinot Noir producer.  The partnership’s driving philosophy has always been to produce the very best Pinot from small yielding vines and to really convey the spirit of Beaux Frères Vineyard through their wines.  The 2008 Beaux Freres Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir Willamette Valley is a great intro to this fantastic winery, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of trying their wines!

Finally, from Burgundy transplant Robert Drouhin’s Willamette Valley estate – the 2008 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Willamette Valley is a real delight. Youthful and complex, showing notes of cherry, spice and cedar, this superbly structured, elegantly textured and lively wine is ready to drink now, but will continue to age magnificently for another 10 to 15 years.  As head of Burgundy’s renowned Maison Joseph Drouhin, Robert Drouhin recognized the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley as being a perfect place to grow Burgundy’s beloved Pinot Noir.  Further inspired by David Lett’s success with his prized Eyrie Vineyards Pinots, Drouhin established his winery and is now joined by his daughter Véronique, whose passion and talent for winemaking continue the family legacy!

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