Monday, June 19, 2017

New Chile Pequeños Tasting - Houston

"Long and thin it will always remain, 
but Chile is packing a lot of excitement into such a confined space." ~ Tim Atkins, M.W. 

The quote above summarizes the message from the Wines of Chile seminar at the New Chile Pequeños Tasting in Houston last month delivered by Master Sommelier candidate Steven McDonald. 

The excitement stems from Chile beginning to more fully utilize its  diverse range of soils and climates to push the country's viticultural limits. If you think the country only produces wines from its signature grape,  Carménère, it is time for you to rethink Chilean wine. 75% of all the grapes grown are red but there are a range of different varieties being produced. 

This tasting focused on site specific artisan wines from cooler high elevation terroirs.  These unique growing areas support specific varieties more easily and contribute to the purity of style.

The wine:

Aquitania Sol de Sol 2014 - This 100% Chardonnay wine was sourced from a cold southern vineyard area in the Malleco Valley which has a climate similar to Oregon with clay and granite soils. It spent 8 months in French Oak barrels with twice weekly lees stirring and no racking. Interesting, refreshing, creamy with medium body, medium + acidity with lemon, mushroom and a light mineral finish. SRP $35

Casa Silva Los Lingues 2014 -From the Colchagua Valley, this 100% Carménère wine is sourced from 14 year old vines planted at an elevation of 1475 feet on stony clay soil. Each vineyard block is vinified separately with aging in oak barrels for 10-12 months for 80% of the wine. McDonald discussed the careful farming required to get the most out of what he referred to as "a tricky grape." Spicy and fruity with raspberry jam, pink peppercorn and a bit of leather with a medium + body and medium acidity and tannins with a smooth red fruit finish. SRP $20

Garcés Silva Amayna 2013 - This sustainable  100% Pinot Noir from the Leyda Valley was grown on decomposed granite with alluvial stones and calcium deposits. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and was aged for 12 months in French oak, of which 15% was new. Blueberries, blackberries and a bit of an oxidized quality on the nose with a cranberry and licorice flavor and a slight nuttiness in the finish. SRP $35

De Martino Gallardia 2016 - This Cinsault is from the Itata Valley where it was dry-farmed on its original rootstock on granite soil. It underwent a short semi-carbonic maceration and was fermented with native yeasts. Fresh and fruity with a medium body, medium + acidity and pomegranate aromas and flavors, McDonald commented "it has a naturalness, a crunchy underripe quality that I like." SRP $19.99

Maquis Franco 2010 - From the Colchagua Valley, this 100% Cabernet Franc is sustainably grown on alluvial soils over a layer of gravel. The wine is then aged in French oak barrels for 14 months creating a full bodied ripe red with medium + fine grained tannins, medium acidity with raspberry aromas and flavors, a slight minty note and a lingering finish. SRP $85

Calcu Futa 2010 - This sustainably produced 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from granitic and clay soils in the Colchagua Valley. It spent 18 months in French oak barrels creating a fresh, structured, well-balanced full bodied red with floral aromas, blackberry and raspberry aromas and flavors, chewy tannins, medium + acidity and a light touch of vanilla in the long finish. SRP $65

All the wines are highly recommended; they are unique, delicious and reflective of the diverse terroir of Chile!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Notes from a Santenay Tasting and Seminar

Last week at the Texas Wine School, Guy Stout shared his knowledge with Houston wine professionals on the village appellation of Santenay located in the Côte de Beaune growing area in Bourgogne, also known as the Burgundy wine region of France.

Santenay is situated in the southern portion of the Côte de Beaune on limestone based soils which receive ideal morning sun exposure. The area primarily produces well structured red wines from Pinot Noir but they also produce some elegant white wine from Chardonnay as well.

Santenay earned AOC status in 1937. Wine wasn't the only liquid of interest at the time, a hot springs spa was a major attraction in the area until 1998 when it was closed. The wines of the region, however, have maintained their attraction through their reputation for quality and charm.

There are twelve Premiers Crus Climats within the Santenay appellation. In Bourgogne, Climats are plots of land that have been delimited by winemakers for generations, some as far back as the 7th century. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste them all. The sample we did enjoy, however, has inspired me to seek more wines from Santenay in the near future.

The wines:

Santenay "Clos de Malte" by Maison Louis Jadot 2013 - This white wine was sourced from a seven hectare Monopole vineyard on the foot of the Montagne des Troix Croix of which only one hectare is devoted to Chardonnay. From a vintage that Stout described as "lean, for both production and style", the wine was dry with a medium body and medium plus acidity with fruity aromas and flavors of green apple and yellow plum, a nutty nuance with a bit of tartness in the fresh finish. "I like it," pronounced Stout.

Santenay 1er Cru Clos des Gravières by Domaine Bachey-Legros 2015 - From a highly respected premier cru vineyard site for red wines, this white wine was aromatically interesting with a slight musty earthiness combined with fruity meyer lemon and yellow plum flavor. Dry, rounder with medium acidity, a slightly chewy texture and juicy citrus in the lingering mineral-laced finish.

Santenay by Domaine Jacques Bavard 2014 - Stout called this village level red "a classic Pinot Noir" from it's bright ruby color to its cherry, cranberry and forest floor aromas and flavors. Dry with medium acidity and moderate tannins, Stout said this wine was both "simple and easy to enjoy."


Santenay 1er Cru Gravières by Domaine Jessiaume 2014 - Bright floral aromas with juicy cherry and pomegranate flavors, dry, medium bodied with moderate tannins and medium+ acidity, Stout referred to this wine as "a gazelle that was ready to run".

Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau by Domaine Jean-Claude Regnaudot et Fils - Stout sniffed, swirled and tasted this wine and announced to the group, "It's going to be hard to move past this one!" Bright aromas of ripe Bing cherries and forest floor, dry, medium bodied, medium+ chewy tannins and medium+ acidity with juicy plum and cherry flavors with a truffled savory note in the finish.

Santenay 1er Cru Maladière by Domaine Lucien Muzard et Fils - Less youthful seeming than the previous wines from the slight orangish tint to the rim to the slightly oxidized note on the nose but equally elegant. Aromas and flavors of cranberries, truffles and forest floor with a medium body and medium acidity and tannins, this dry red also has a touch of spiciness in the finish.

Sophisticated, energetic and full of character; the wines from this tasting are all highly recommended.

Wines tasted on May 29, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Alto Adige: Taste Italian Wines at Their Peak" - My Notes from a Seminar and Tasting

Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser moderated an Alto Adige winery panel last week in Houston with speakers Armin Gratl of Cantina Valle Isarco, Andi Punter of Franz Haas and Kathrin Werth of Muri-Gries Wine Estate and Monastery Cellar.

These are my notes from the "Alto Adige: Taste Italian Wines at Their Peak" seminar and tasting.

The Wines:

The first two hail from Italy's northernmost wine growing zone, Valle Isarco, which is home to 860 acres of vineyards set at steep elevations of 1312 to 3117 feet, they are densely planted and terraced. The mica schist and sandy gravel soils of the area add a mineral component to the wines while the Alpine influence enhances the purity. White wine makes of 95% of production, Muller Thurgau and Gewürztraminer are important grapes along with Sylvaner and Kerner.

Alto Adige Valle Isarco Sylvaner DOC Aristos 2015 by Cantina Valle Isarco -  Lively aromas and flavors of melon and apricot with a distinct mineralty that Gaiser called "classic to the area". 14% ABV

Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner DOC 2016 by Abbazia di Novacella - Fresh, elegant with green apple, citrus and a mineral-laced finish. 14.1% ABV

The next were from the central Adige Valley which is located between Bolzano and Merano and has 637 vineyard acres at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet. In this area there are grapes on the hills and apples in the valleys. The hillside grapes are on red porphyry soils, some limestone areas and sandy loam at lower levels. 63% of the production is for white wines from Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with the reds made primarily from Schiava and Lagrein.

Alto Adige Pinot Bianco DOC Sirmian 2015 by Nals Margreid - Clean and elegant with apricot, stony notes and a slight bitterness in the finish. 13.5% ABV

Alto Adige Terlano Sauvignon DOC Quarz 2015 by Cantina Terlano - Interesting profile for a Sauvignon Blanc, more saline minerality, subtle fruit, slightly citrus finish. 14% ABV

The next two were from the Oltradige zone where Lago di Caldaro sits in the heart of the hilly 4156 vineyard acres sitting at elevations ranging from
984 to 2297 feet above sea level on limestone and porphyry soils. The wine production here is more balanced with 56% white and 44% red wine made, grapes include Schiava, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

Alto Adige Pinot Grigio DOC Anger 2016 by Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano - The name Anger translates to "a piece of land near home". Gaiser commeneted that it was "all about the lees contact with this wine" which gave it "balance, intensity and lift." Bright, fresh aromas of green apple and pear with a light bitter note in the finish.

Alto Adige Lago di Caldaro Scelto Classico DOC Bischofsleiten 2015 by Castel Sallegg - This wine's name is due to its historic site, the former home of the Bishops of Trentino. Intense raspberry, smooth, pure.

From Bolzano's 1695 vineyard acres set at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet on primarily porphyry soils with gravel on slopes and alluvial on the valley floor, one finds more red wine, it is produced at 70% to the only 30% white. This is due to the warm sunny micro-climate caused by the protection of the mountains and the temperature moderation from the Adige and Isarco Rivers. Schiava, Lagrein, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc are the main grapes in this zone.

Alto Adige Santa Maddalena Classico DOC  Huck am Bach 2015 - This label has existed since 1919. The grapes come from the hilltops, 90% Schiava and 10% Lagrein and are co-fermented. Interesting, tart berries, lingering spice note.

Alto Adige Lagrein Riserva DOC Abtei Muri 2014 by Muri-Gries Wine Estate/Monastery Cellar - A valley floor vineyard with old vines from 1933 still trained to the Pergola System and younger vines now being trained in the Guyot method. Gaiser proclaimed it, "A great food wine that more people should be pouring." Ripe dark berries, chocolate, long finish.

Bassa Atesina is the home of the next two wines. The southern warmer zone in the lower part of Alto Adige is influenced by the mild temperatures of Lake Garda. The largest of the growing zones at 4618 acres with vineyards sitting at elevations of 656 to 3773 feet on mixed soils of limestone, dolomite, loamy rubble, along with sandy marl in the south. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are important grapes in this area though there is also Chardonnay, Schiava and Gewürztraminer continues to thrive in its homeland of Tramine.  67% of the zone's production is white.

Alto Adige Pinot Nero DOC 2014 by Franz Haas - Punter shared that Pinot Noir had been in the region since the 1860's. It is 1/3 of the production at this private estate. Fresh aromas and flavors of red cherry, forest floor with a lingering mineral-laced finish. Both elegant and pleasantly easy, it was a crowd favorite at the tasting.

Alto Adige Gewürztraminer DOC Kastelaz 2013 by Elena Walch - Modern production methods
including cold maceration, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation and cultured yeast created a dry, fresh, higher acid Gewürztraminer with all the classic aromas and flavors, lovely.

Excellent wines, all are recommended!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Beast Columbia Valley Wildebeest Red Wine 2010

Sample of the week - Beast Columbia Valley Wildebeest Red Wine 2010

Smooth and juicy with ripe raspberry aromas and flavors with a touch of dried herbs and a bit of a savory note in the fruit-filled finish. Fresh, succulent and delicious! 14% ABV

This red wine comes from the Columbia Valley in Washington state. It is a blend of 77% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc. Delicious with hamburgers fresh off the grill.

Highly recommended, approximately $30.

Media Sample.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Natura Rosé 2016

Happy Earth Day!

Celebrate this year by Rosé-ing all day with Natura Rosé 2016  sourced from Chile's Rapel Valley.

This refreshing blend of organically grown Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is fresh and easy-going with bright cherry/berry aromas and flavors and a gravelly mineral note in the lingering fruity finish. Tasty with a variety of menu items from sushi to mild cheeses, it is also easy to enjoy alone as an aperitif. With it's only 12% ABV, it makes an excellent patio sipper.

Light, pleasant, delicious and priced at only $10 a bottle, it is highly recommended as the perfect organic wine to Rosé with now and on through the summer!

*Media Sample