Monday, June 24, 2019

The Vineyards of Lodi - Historic Old Vine Zinfandel at Mohr-Fry Ranches



The next stop on the Lodi wine trail was at Mohr-Fry Ranches to get a view of the gnarled old vines that made Lodi famous. We parked on the road next to certified historical vineyard, Marian’s Vineyard. which holds 8.3 acres of old vine Zinfandel planted on its own roots. The vineyard sits on Lodi’s west side and is located in the highly esteemed Mokelumne River AVA. This historic vineyard was started in 1901. It sits on sandy soils on the Mohr-Fry Ranches property. Owner, Jerry Fry named the vineyard after his mother. It is currently farmed by father/son team Jerry and Bruce Fry.

The Mohr-Fry property consists of vineyards and orchards, along with diversified row crops. They grow twelve varieties of wine grapes, two varieties of cherries and over twenty-five varieties of dry heirloom beans. The agricultural history of the Mohrs and Frys extends back to the 1850s when Bruce Fry's great-great-grandfather on Jerry's mother's side, Cornelius Mohr left his job on a whaling ship in the port of San Francisco to move inland to become a farmer.

Bruce Fry, Jerry’s son, is a 5th generation farmer. He joined our group in the vineyard to share how Marian's Vineyard became one of the first vineyards in California to be certified sustainable under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. Stuart Spencer of St. Amant Winery and Chad Joseph, winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards, also joined us and brought wines made from the fruit of the Mohr-Fry Ranches vineyards with them.

Tasting the Terroir

Oak Farm Vineyards Block 417 Mohr-Fry Ranches Zinfandel 2017
 - This vineyard block was the first in Lodi to be Lodi Rules Certified in 2005. The 6,472 vines are head trained and own-rooted, they were planted in 1945. The block is over 14 acres with vines spaced about 10 feet apart. The soil is comprised of fine sandy loam. Only 245 cases of this wine were produced. Despite the 15% abv, the wine has a lighter, more medium bodied feel, it is well structured with fresh acidity. It has elegant floral aromas and bright red cherry/berry fruit flavors throughout the smooth, lingering finish.

St Amant ‘Marian’s Vineyard’ Old Vine Zinfandel 2017 - Deep, dark and rich, Spencer jokes that it is the “mother of all Zins” giving a nod to the vineyard named after Jerry Fry’s mother. The wine is full bodied with aromas and flavors of mixed berries with a lingering spicy note throughout the persistent finish.

Lodi Native ‘Marian’s Vineyard’ Zinfandel 2017 - Vibrant and plush with mixed berry aromas and flavors, a light floral note, followed by a hint of black pepper into the lengthy finish. I was introduced to this label on a previous trip to Lodi in 2016, I had the opportunity to taste all of the wines in the line at that time, read more about the wines tasted on that trip here at An Unadorned Taste of Lodi's Old Vine Vineyards.

All of these wine are highly recommended.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Vineyards of Lodi - Bechthold Vineyard


  
Lodi’s famous Bechthold Vineyard sits on 25 acres in what is now the southwestern Lodi sub AVA, Mokelumne River. This parcel of land is home to 133 year old vine Cinsault which was planted in 1886. The vines are head trained, un-grafted, dry-farmed, and organically grown on sandy loam soil. Bechthold has the distinction of being the oldest continuously farmed vineyard in Lodi and the region’s only known large planting of Cinsault.

Cinsault is a red grape originally from southern France primarily used in both red and rosé blends. Cinsault is valued for creating wines that have fruity aromas with a pleasant texture. The Cinsault vines at Bechthold Vineyards are believed to be the oldest Cinsault vines in the world due to the vines of Southern France being replanted in the early 20th century after the phylloxera epidemic. Kevin Phillips of Michael David Winery, has farmed the vineyard with his team since 2008 under a long term lease with the Bechthold family. 

Michael Klouda, viticulturist for Michael David Winery, joined our group to explain how the vineyard is managed. Klouda shared that twelve wineries pick grapes from specifically allocated rows in the vineyard. Some of these winemakers are coming from outside of Lodi to purchase this unique variety. Due to a bit of variance throughout the field, most of their rosé clients pick from vines closer to the river which accounts for about 20% of the grapes. The vines from that area display more vigor and the grapes tend to have less color. Twenty rows in from the river is where the vines for red wine production begin. The grapes from this part of the vineyard tend to display both a deeper color and a richer flavor. 

Klouda reiterated that the vineyard is organically farmed. He pointed out some tags that were hanging from the vines and shared that these were pheromone disruptors designed to help control a mealy bug infestation. The pheromones that are released from the tags confuse the male mealy bugs preventing them from finding mates. He said they have noticed a decline in the spread over the course of their use. Klouda also noted that rotating the cover crops on every other row provided the vineyard with a natural 15-30 lbs of slow release nitrogen throughout the growing season.

We were joined by Bob Colarossi of Estate Crush and Ryan Sherman of Field Family Wines to taste their selections that contain the Cinsault grapes from the Bechthold Vineyard alongside the offerings from Michael David. 

As the tasting began, Randy Caparoso (not pictured), resident editor for the Lodi Winegrape Commission Blog, shared his thoughts on the common element of the wines made from the Cinsault grapes from the Bechthold vineyard. He describes them as having a strawberry rhubarb pie characteristic. If you've never had a rhubarb pie, this is a great way to describe the light note of pleasant tartness that seems to always accompany all of the lively red fruit aromas and flavors of the Bechthold grapes in the glass. I would add that the wines also seem to share a familiar freshness and elegance, a lighthearted acknowledgement to the drinker that they do, indeed, come from a special place.
All of the following wines are highly recommended, 

Tasting the Terroir:

Estate Crush Rosé of Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard Lodi 2017Dry, fresh and fruity with strawberry and watermelon notes throughout the lingering finish. "We like restraint," said Colarossi when asked to describe his wine making philosophy as he poured, "by that, I mean we like good acid and lower alcohol." 
Michael David Winery Cinsault Rosé 2018 - Crisp and dry with light floral aromas over strawberry and peach ending with a slightly tropical finish. Klouda shared that this vintage spent less time on its skins than the previous year, creating a lighter, more easy-drinking style for 2018.

Fields Family Wines Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault 2017 - Vibrant floral notes combine with an explosion of pomegranate to create a zippy, yet juicy red with a pleasantly persistent and slightly spicy finish. Sherman said that the Fields Family had changed their style a bit over time as they became more familiar with what the vineyard offered, they now do whole cluster, semi-carbonic fermentation with native yeasts to showcase both the grape and the terroir.
Michael David Winery Ancient Vine Cinsault 2017 - Raspberry and pomegranate happily slow dance with white pepper throughout the lengthy finish. Klouda shared that this wine spends 10 months in neutral oak which contributes to the round feel.

Later in the week, we would also have the opportunity to taste two vintages of Bechthold Cinsault from Turley Wine Cellars along with their fantastic line up of Lodi Zinfandel with winemaker, Tegan Passalaqua. There will be more on that here later but I wanted to include those wines in this post. Passalaqua shared that he has been picking from Bechthold since 2008. He had traveled through Southern France and had fallen in love with the grape there and that was the style he was hoping to make from the grapes from Bechthold Vineyard. He selected his rows before he knew exactly what the vineyard would offer, he has stayed in the section he originally chose because, "It tastes the best," he said with a smile.

Turley Cinsault 2017 - Light, fresh, and elegant with bright floral aromas and red berry flavors with a pleasant tartness in the finish.
Turley Cinsault 2013 - Fuller bodied, lots of structure, grippy tannins and a beautiful purity of fruit. Passalaqua described 2013 as "a phenomenal year."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Visiting Casa da Passarella


One of my favorite visits during my recent to trip to the Dâo was to Casa da Passarella located in the Serra da Estrela subregion. Casa da Passarella is a historic wine house which began producing in 1892. The estate was instrumental in the creation of the official Dâo wine region demarcated map in 1908. The Dâo region is the oldest for still wine in Portugal. The Cabral family now owns the estate and has worked hard to maintain the traditions and the stories of those who were there first, their slogan is "Stories written in wine." Fortunately, while some of the history has been lost to the past, fanciful legends now fill in the blanks.

Paolo Nunez, the winemaker at the property since 2008, greeted us in the courtyard. He shared that he was born in Douro where he studied enology. He had tasted Dâo wine and liked the more refined style from the region. He wanted to make this type of wine rather than fortified Ports so he came to the region in 2003 to work as a consultant before taking over at Casa da Passarella.

It was a sunny yet cold morning as he led us out to see the vineyards. He shared that it is always cold in this part of the region, even in the summertime, and they often got snow in the vineyard in the winter. The 100 hectare property sits at 800 meters above sea level and the climate is influenced by the cool winds coming from the Serra da Estrela mountains for which the subregion is named. They have 45 hectares under vine where they grow Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Verdelho, Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro along with small amounts of Baga, Alvarelhâo, Tinta Pinheira, and Tinta Carvalha which are used for the red field blends. The vines grow in granitic low fertility soil and Nunez shared that due to the seclusion of the property, it was fairly easy to grow organically though they had not sought certification. We headed back to the winery for some warmth and a wine tasting.

The Wine:
Casa da Passarella O Oenologo Encruzado 2017 - The grapes for this wine are treated to a pre-fermentation maceration before being fermented in used wood casks. This white had  aromas and flavors of tangerine citrus with verbena, a medium body, vibrant acidity, and a long citrus finish, very pleasant and drinkable. This wine comes complete with a story of twin brothers, one good and one less so. Which one deserves the Nobel Prize in wine making?

Villa Oliveira Encruzado 2015 - This smaller production fuller-bodied white wine aged 9 months in 600 liter oak barrels. More complex, displaying lychee, pear, and citrus with an elegant, fresh, mineral-laced finish. This was bottle number 320 of 2417. The Villa Oliveira label was original to the estate, they have a bottle dated from 1893 on display.

Casa da Passarella Colheita Tinta "A Descoberta" 2015 - This violet-purple colored red blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, and Jaen. Ripe red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry and pomegranate was fresh and balanced with moderate tannins and good acidity with a medium length finish. There is a box pictured on the label that had been hidden in the walls of the house by the former owners. It was found in 2010 during renovations piquing great interest before it was opened and found to be empty, or was it? It, too, has a story written in wine.

Casa da Passarella Enxertia Jaen 2013 - This single varietal almost opaque red was fermented and aged in cement vats exhibiting spicy notes of black pepper over fresh raspberry with a light vegetal hint. It was well-balanced with fresh acidity, soft tannins, and a long mineral-laced finish. This wine's story involves grafting, levitation, and a mirror to end phylloxera, truth or fiction?

Casa da Passarella O Oenologico Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2014 - This field blend has a total of 24 different grapes which underwent a pre and post fermentation maceration before aging for 18 months in oak barrel. It was an almost opaque red color with aromas and flavors of mixed red fruit with spicy notes, a full body, moderate tannins, and a long, fresh finish.

Villa Oliveira Touriga Nacional 2015 - Also made in cement vats with pre and post fermentation maceration, this wine aged for one year in 225 liter French oak barrels. With a fully opaque red color, this wine showed bright aromas and flavors of red currants and raspberries with a hint of bergamot, it was full-bodied, fresh, and elegant with a long, smooth, spicy finish.

Casa da Passarella Fugitivo Vinhas Centenárias 2014 - This red blend of 25 native varieties come from vines that are over 100 years old which is vinified traditionally in a lager before spending one year in 600 liter oak casks and 2 years in the bottle before being released. The wine was a sheer red color with bright red fruit aromas, a vegetal hint, medium body, smooth tannins and a persistent fruit-filled finish.  This was bottle 552 of 3160 made.

Casa da Passarella Fugitivo Vinhas Branco 2016 - This full bodied, fresh white has a long slightly savory finish and comes from an old vines field blend of "all the dog grapes," per Nunez. It spent one year aging in oak casks and one year in bottle before release.  This was bottle 513 of 1970 made. A love story and an escape from a soon to be war-torn Europe accompany this and the previous wine.

All of the wines tasted are highly recommended. I was particularly taken with both Encruzados and the Jaen. This winery is on route 5 of the Dâo Wine Route and is tourist friendly with both vineyard and winery tours, wine tastings, and a wine shop.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Getting Acquainted with Salice Salentino

When two wine samples arrived from the Salice Salentino region of Italy, I quickly realized how limited I was in my knowledge of this area. Although I had met one producer from Puglia a few years ago, I had not encountered any other wines from the region besides his since then. A quick search of some wine textbooks from previous classes showed me that I was not mistaken, I really had not learned much about this area during my formal wine education at all, my WSET-3 textbook, for example, had one sentence regarding Salice Salentino in their two paragraph coverage of all of Puglia. It seemed a little research was in order.

Puglia is located in southeast Italy in what is commonly referred to as "the heel of the Italian boot" surrounded by both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The climate is sunny, warm and dry with a good diurnal shift making it ideal for many types of agriculture along with grape growing. Salice Salentino is located in the southern part of the region near the center of "the heel" or sub-penisula.

The Salice Salento DOC is named for a town located in the province of Lecce which is the main production area. There are many styles of wine produced within this region. The primary grape in the two samples I received is Negroamaro. The name translates to black and bitter in English. The grape is believed to have been brought to the region during Greek colonization of the area around the 8th century BC.

The Greeks were not the first people to arrive and they would not be the last to want to colonize or take over the area. The history of Puglia reads like Game of Thrones with one kingdom after another laying claim to its agricultural bounty and strategic location.

After the Romans ousted the Greeks, they connected Puglia to Rome with the Appian Way, an important road for the empire that would enable trade between the two areas. After the fall of Rome, the area was controlled by the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, the Normans, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Angevins, the Turks, the Aragons, Austria, Spain, and France before finally being united with the rest of the Italian peninsula during Risorgimento in 1861. After Puglia was reunited with Italy, it would continue to grow as an important agricultural region eventually surviving intense bombing during WWII as German troops were forced out.

The region continued as an agricultural and winemaking area throughout the 20th century and into the present time. Salice Salento would receive its DOC status in 1976. Regulations require a minimum of 75% Negroamaro grapes in both the red and rosato wines and a minimum of 90% if Negroamaro is included on the front label. Riserva wines must be aged for 24 months with a minimum of 6 months in oak.

The wines:

Rosalbòre Salice Salentino Negroamaro 2017 - This rosato wine is produced by Cantine Sanpancrazio, a cooperative that has been working the area since 1961. Currently there are about 400 contributing members with 500 hectares of vineyards within the Salice Salentino production area. Their philosophy is "Tradition in the vineyard and innovation in the cellar." This cherry colored rosé is made from 100% Negroamaro grapes which have been fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. With fresh aromas and flavors of strawberry and raspberry with light floral hints of rose and a touch of rosemary, this dry, medium+ bodied wine is well-balanced with food friendly acidity and 13.5% ABV with a lingering red berry finish, it is fruity, refreshing, and crowd-pleasing.

Falco Nero Salice Salentino Riserva 2013 - This reserve red wine is produced by family owned Cantine de Falco which has been operating since 1949. It is made from 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera, a blending grape that enhances aromatics and lessens tannins. With intense fruity aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, and prune with a distinct dark chocolate note, this dry, soft red is rich and juicy with a savory note and a hint of spice in the persistent finish. 14% ABV

Both wines are highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Tasting of Cabriz and Lunch at Paço dos Cunhas de Santar


Paco dos Cunhas de Santar is a 17th century manor house in Santar village in the Dão wine region of Portugal. It has an interesting history, it was originally owned by a family named Cunhas who produced olive oil, fruit, and wine. They were connected to the Spanish monarchy. When Portugal regained its independence, the local population destroyed the property in retaliation and it was left empty.

Global Wines, who owns multiple properties and brands in wine regions throughout Portugal, purchased the estate in 2002. Restoring the property has been a long process with the vineyards being the top priority, all of the surrounding 20 hectares of vines have been organically grown since 2007, they launched the first organic wine from the estate in 2012. The original manor house has been restored and now includes a wine shop, event space, and restaurant. It is tourist friendly offering both winery and vineyard tours, along with wine tastings. The tastings are outside on the terrace when the weather permits providing guests with vineyard views along with a classic garden to enjoy. There is another house on the property that will eventually be renovated into a high end guest house.


Our group toured the garden and vineyards which had an old pigeon house on site. After the tour, we went inside to their event space to learn more about Global Wines and do a tasting primarily from their affordable Cabriz brand sourced from another Dão property along with some special premium selections from the Paco dos Cunhas line. We were then treated to lunch at the on-site restaurant. Our guide, Pedro Teixeira, Senior Export Manager, alerted us that the company has a few restaurants, each making a unique style of cuisine, the restaurant at Paco dos Cunhas is known for their sophisticated nouvelle approach.


The Tasting:
Affordably priced for under $10 in the U.S., these two wines offer good value for the cost.
Cabriz Colheita Selecionada Branco 2017 - Crisp, light, and easy drinking this white blend containing Encruzado, Bical, Malvasia Fina, and Cerceal Branco was aromatic with tropical fruit aromas and flavors with a citrus pith finish.
Cabriz Colheita Selecionada Tinto 2016 - This red blend contains 40% Alfrocheiro, 40% Tinta Roriz, and 20% Touriga Nacional was aged for 6 months in neutral oak barrels giving the wine a smooth, round feel with aromas and flavors of mulberry jam and a light toasted note.

These two wines are made from 100% Touriga Nacional and did not see oak, they are priced between $15-20 in the U.S.
Cabriz Touriga Nacional Branco 2017 - A very unique wine, this is the only white wine from Touriga Nacional that we tasted while in the Dão. The grapes were harvested early to preserve the acidity. The wine had tart red berry aromas and flavors with a fresh, orange citrus finish.
Cabriz Touriga Nacional Tinto 2014 - Young and fresh tasting with blackberry aromas and flavors with a hint of bergamot in the soft, lingering finish.

The Reserva wines are priced just under $20 in the U.S.
Cabris Reserva Branco 2017 - This white is 100% Encruzado, it was partially fermented in stainless steel and partially in neutral French oak with three months of batonnage. It is dry, with a medium body, floral citrus blossom aromas and citrus flavors with a hint of nuttiness on the fresh, slightly creamy finish.
Cabris Reserva Tinto 2014 - This red blend contains 40% Tinta Roriz, 40% Touriga Nacional, and 20% Alfrocheiro,  it was aged for 6 months in French oak barrels, half new and half neutral. This wine had a bigger structure and more complex robust flavors than the similar red blend in the Colheita collection, it was fruit forward with black plum and berries with notes of violet, vanilla, and baking spices with a lingering finish.

These two limited edition wines are made from grapes sourced from Paco dos Cunhas de Santar estate's premium seven hectare Contador's Vineyard. This unique area is recognized for its special sun exposure which creates an exceptional terroir for long-lived wines. These select bottles are only made in the best vintages and each are numbered.
Paco dos Cunhas Vinha do Contador Dão Branco 2014 - This dry, full-bodied white blend is Encruzado-based with some Malvasia Fina and Cerceal and is partially fermented and aged in new French oak for one year. It has tropical aromas of pineapple, mango, and coconut with a creamy feel and a persistent nutmeg-laced finish. Priced at 30 euros.
Paco dos Cunhas Vinha do Contador Dão Tinto "Grande Júri" 2011 - A red blend composed primarily of Touriga Nacional with Argonez, and Alfrocheiro aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months. Our group sampled bottle #1594. This full-bodied, dry red has rich, complex aromas and flavors of mixed berries, bergamot, spice, and a touch of dark chocolate and toast in the lengthy finish.
Priced at 60 euros in the wine shop.


We also tasted the Cabriz Brut Sparkling white blend and the Cabriz Impar Licaroso fortified wine 
at lunch, unfortunately, no notes were taken.

Paco dos Cunhas de Santar is on route 1 of 5 on the Dão Wine Route, it is a recommended stop when visiting the region, reservations are required for the restaurant. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tasting with Luís Lourenco of Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias


Luís Lourenco met our group at Quinta dos Roques, a 35 hectare property in Cunha Baixa in the Dão wine region of Portugal. He had set up a tasting of his sustainably made wines from that estate alongside wines from his slightly smaller, 25 hectare organic property, Quinta das Mais.

Lourenco's family has owned a portion of the property for generations. In addition to grapevines, they used to farm a diverse array of crops, they determined that to be more profitable they needed to specialize in wine grapes. They bought some surrounding land and the Quinta das Mais property in the late 1990s which is located nearby and continued to focus strictly on growing grapes for wine making.
Lourenco said the family made a choice to only use local grape varieties to make true Dão wines. Their main red grapes are Jaen and Touriga Nacional with some Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão. Their main white grapes are Malvasia Fina and Encruzado with some Bical, Cerceal Branco, and Gouveio. "Anyone can grow Touriga Nacional and make a decent wine. Jaen and Alfrocheiro are more difficult to grow and to work with but to forget about these other grapes which are part of Portugal's treasure is a big mistake. They are traditional in the Dão and give a good point of reference to the differences in the Dão compared to all the other Portuguese regions."

He set up our tasting to showcase both the region's traditional style blends and the more modern single varietal style. He felt this was the best way to get an understanding of what each of the grape varieties offer.

The Tasting:
Roques Colheita 2017 - This fresh, medium body, high acidity, dry white wine blend composed mostly of Encruzado with some Bical, Malvasia Fina, Cercial and Gouveio. It has fresh aromas and flavors of apples and orange citrus with a mineral-laced finish.
Mais Branco 2017 - This medium body un-oaked white blend is sourced from 600 meters up in the foothills of the Serra das Estela mountain range It is composed primarily of Malvasia Fina and Encruzado. It is dry and crisp with light floral aromas and an elegant minerality in the finish which Lourenco stated comes from the granitic sand on which the vines are grown.

Roques Encruzado 2016 - This single varietal white is partially fermented for 7 months in French Oak giving it a slightly creamy texture with light floral aromas of citrus blossom and and a fresh, dry, citrusy mineral-laced finish.
Maias Malvasia Fina 2017 - Fermented partially in Fench oak barrels and partially in stainless steel with technical battonage, this dry white was crisp with bright floral aromas and a fresh finish.

Roques Coheita Tinto 2016 - This red blend is composed primarily of Touriga Nacional with Jaen, Alfrocheiro, Tinto Roriz and Tinto Cão. It has floral aromas of violet with mulberry flavors and a slight savory note in the finish.
Maias Tinto 2015 - This red blend is composed of Jaen and Touriga Nacional. It was fresh and elegant with juicy blackberry aromas and flavors, a hint of violet, and a lingering spicy cherry finish.

Roques Touriga Nacional 2016 - Floral violet aromas with a rich blackberry flavor, full bodied, bigger tannic structure than the previous blends with good acidity and a persistent finish. This wine was aged 15 months in neutral oak barrels.
Maias Jaen 2016 - Fruity aromas and flavors of sour cherry with a soft, persistent fruity, cherry finish. This wine was aged 10 months in neutral oak barrels.
Roques Alfrocheiro 2014 - Nicely balanced with fresh strawberry aromas and flavors and a lingering fruity finish.

All of these wines are highly recommended, my particular favorites in this tasting were the single varietal Roques Encruzado 2016, the Maias Jaen 2016 and the Roques Alfrocheiro 2014. Quinta dos Roques is part of Route 2 on the Dão Wine Route. It is tourist friendly featuring vineyard tours, winery tours, tastings and a wine shop.