Monday, March 31, 2014

Tasting with Mark Beringer of Artesa Vineyards & Winery

I was pleased to have the opportunity to taste the current selections of Artesa Vineyards and Winery with winemaker, Mark Beringer, while he was in town. We sat down together at Cru Wine Bar on upper Kirby to talk about not only the five years that he has put into Artesa but where he started and how he feels about where he is now and what he is doing.

Growing up Napa for Mark meant growing up as a country kid. Napa had not yet become the wine destination that we all know and love today. As a direct descendant of Jacob Beringer, the co founder of Beringer Vineyards, Mark did have many opportunities to immerse himself in all the various aspects of the wine business. He started on the low end stocking shelves and cleaning up in his parent's wine store when he was young. His uncle put him to work at his winery while Mark worked on his degree in enology in college. This was followed by a short stint at Glen Ellen and then a more illustrious career at Duckhorn from 1992-2005. After a few years of consulting, Mark joined the Artesa team in 2009. The first few years that Mark was at Artesa, he was working with the previous wine maker's wine. He had a different vision for the wine that he wanted to create. 

The current selections were all overseen by him from start to finish so he was proud to show the direction that Artesa is taking their wine. As a Napa Valley native and someone who has worked the harvests for Napa and Sonoma for almost 30 years, he has great knowledge of what the different vineyard sites are able to produce. He blends these component wines to create a consistent, easy drinking style. He uses less new oak in order to showcase what the terroir creates for the more affordable Carneros line while the more expensive and complex Estate Reserve wines spend a bit more time aging in new oak barrels.

The Tasting:


  • 2012 Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $20) - An ideal growing season, this wine delivers the bright fruit character that Mark says you should expect from Carneros, fresh aromas of honeysuckle, citrus zest and ripe peach with matching flavors, a medium body with refreshing acidity and a smooth, mineral-laced finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay (SRP $40) - A low yield year after challenging weather, the component wines were sourced from the estate's best vineyard blocks and fermented and aged in French Oak of which 50% was new. Malolactic fermentaion and aging on the lees created a rich and more full bodied wine while still maintaining its fresh fruit character and food friendly acidity. It had pronounced floral aromas of citrus flower with apricot and lemon flavors and a long mineral-laced finish from the vineyard's gravelly soil.
  • 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir (SRP $25) - The house wine at Mark's home, this had aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry with a bit of toast, medium body, smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long red fruit finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (SRP $40) - Floral aromas of fresh rose petals with raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors, this wine was medium body with smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long slightly spicy finish.
  • 2010 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $45) - Pronounced aromas and flavors of rich, ripe blackberries and cassis with a full body, smooth ripe medium + tannins, fresh acidity and a long, toffee and black fruit finish.

All Recommended! 
The Carneros line is widely available in town and you should expect to see more of the Estate Reserve selections on restaurant menus.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2010 Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay

One of my husband's business associates stopped by after work. As he is a lover of Chardonnay, we opened up a bottle of the 2010 Jordan Russian River Valley for our before dinner drink. 

It had fruity aromas of apple, apricot and grapefruit with matching flavors, a medium body, refreshing acidity and a long citrus and mineral finish. Delicious with cheese and crackers, it would be even better with broiled lobster and drawn butter.

Highly recommended at approximately $25.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2012 Ipsum

The 2012 Ipsum is a 100% Verdejo wine sourced from vines that were grown organically in a high elevation vineyard in Spain's Rueda region. The wine was fermented with the grapes' natural yeast and aged in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation for a pure interpretation of what this terroir can produce.

I really enjoyed this refreshing wine and I will be looking for more! It had fresh aromas of citrus blossoms and peach with flavors to match. It had a medium body, medium + crisp acidity with a clean, mineral-laced citrus finish. The perfect patio sipper for spring and summer, highly recommended and a great deal at $12! 

*media sample

Friday, March 7, 2014

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Tasting with Jean-Philippe Archambaud

The Houston Sommelier Association hosted another fantastic seminar and tasting. This week, members were treated to an in-depth discussion of the terroir of Chablis and how it influences the wines that are produced there. The seminar was led by winemaker Jean-Philippe Archambaud of Simonnet-Febvre.

We started with the 2012-2010 vintages from two Chablis Premier Cru vineyards, Vaillons and Fourchaume. They both have the famous Kimmeridgian limestone soil. Vaillons is located on the left bank of the Sereine River and Fourchaume is on the right. The Vaillons vineyard's history is to create more accessible wines. For both of these wines, Jean-Philippe prefers to use all stainless steel, no oak barrels in this production, he does allow full malo-lactic fermentation for complexity; he does not engage in any battonage or stirring of the lees during the 10-12 months that the wine ages with the yeast.

Jean-Philippe discussed 2012 as being a rather difficult year with a wet spring and a windy June, it ended with warm, dry weather which saved the vintage. Yields were down and the wines produced were not typical of the region but they were good.
2012 Vaillons - ripe peach aroma with fresh melon flavor, smooth, moderate acidity, fruity finish
2012 Fourchaume - slow to open, light floral aromas of citrus blossom with lemon zest flavor, citrus/mineral finish.

The prior year was also a difficult year with an early spring followed by a cold, windy May. This also led to lower volume production though it created a more typical Chablis wine.
2011 Vaillons - more austere, linear, lemon
2011 Fourchaume - rich lemon zest aroma and flavor with a touch of mint, longer finish

Fortunately, the year before was a more classic year for weather and wine in Chablis.
2010 Vaillons - fresh lemon citrus aromas and flavors, higher acidity with a long mineral-tinged finish.
2010 Fourchaume - more aromatic, citrus blossom and mint aromas with lemon zest flavor, higher acidity, long finish

Next, we looked at the Simonnet-Febvre Chablis from the Grand Cru vineyards of Les Clos and Les Preuses.  The Preuses vineyard is on the steepest part of the hillside on Kimmeridgian limestone with longer hours of sunshine and better drainage than other parts of this climat. Jean-Philippe feels this is the purest example of the terroir; he prefers to use only stainless steel with 15-18 months on the lees to try to achieve this expression in the wine. 
2011 Preuses - floral citrus blossom and honey aroma, lemon and mineral finish
2010 Preuses - honey, lemon and mushroom with a long mineral finish
2009 Preuses - lemon richness with a bit of mushroom followed by acidity with a long slightly saline mineral finish

Les Clos produces more powerful wines with great age ability, in fact, they need some aging for optimal enjoyment as they can be austere in youth. Because of this, Jean-Philippe Archambaud prefers to ferment half of the wine in barrel and half in stainless steel with the 15-18 months of aging on the lees.
2011 Les Clos - very closed, lemon.
2010 Les Clos - A slight reductive character that tells the winemaker that this wine is going to age well; citrus and a bit of baking spice, long finish
2009 Les Clos - lemon, dried herbs and mushrooms; rich, flinty minerality, long finish.

After three years of low yields due to the weather in Chablis, it was interesting to taste two of those vintages and see how good the wines were despite the hard growing season. The downside for consumers will be increased prices as availability decreases due to the lowered volume of production over multiple consecutive vintages, so get it now. 

Thanks again to the 
Houston Sommelier Association 
for providing these educational opportunities to our local wine professionals!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Coyam by Emiliana Organic Vineyards


Noelia Orts
 I had the opportunity to meet Coyam's resident winemaker, Noelia Orts, last week while she was in Houston hosting a tasting and lunch at Masraff's. Originally from Spain, Noelia worked for wineries there and in New Zealand before heading to Chile for the 2009 vintage. She began working for the Emiliana family shortly thereafter along with consultant winemaker, Alvaro Espinoza. Noelia talked about the vineyard and her feelings of responsibility not only to help create great wine but to help enhance the lives of the workers and the people that are involved in every facet of the vineyard and winery life.

Going organic and biodynamic not only means less chemicals, it means more work. This work requires more people for the manual labor. This labor includes planting multi-colored flower beds every five rows to draw insect attention away from the vines, it involves tilling lentils into the soil to release nitrogen organically, it means moving animals and chicken houses around for fertilization and to control insects. Noelia talked about teaching organic gardening and beekeeping to workers and other efforts taken by the winery to help uplift the surrounding community. She has felt this sense of responsibility to the people even more strongly since the earthquake in 2010 when she witnessed the spirit of the Chilean people as they worked to persevere and move forward in spite of the trying circumstances.

Regarding the wine, Noelia stated that the philosophy about the wine making comes from Alvaro Espinoza who told her, they were "not making Coca-cola", they wanted to express the year. The wine is produced in a state of the art gravity controlled winery using natural fermentations with mostly French oak barrels and they bottle on site. Each year the blend is different, there is no set recipe, the wine is a blend of the best that the year had to offer.

The Tasting: 
  • 2013 barrel sample- Clean, ripe black fruit, bit of spice and earth, dry, a bit astringent, good acidity, balanced alcohol. This vintage involved a mild winter with rain during fruit set.
  • 2010 Coyam (38% Syrah, 27% Carmenere, 21% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Mourvedere and 1% Petit Verdot) - This wine has aromas and flavors of ripe raspberry and plum with sage and a touch of graphite, it is full bodied with moderate slightly grippy tannins, clean acidity and a long herbal-laced red fruit finish. This was a colder than average year with heavier than normal spring rainfall, the warm, dry summer led to concentrated aromas and colors in the fruit and in the wine. 
  • 2007 Coyam (38% Syrah, 21% Carmenere, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17%  Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Mourvedre)- Similar to the 2010 vintage but bigger, more tannic.
  • 2004 Coyam (37% Syrah, 34% Carmenere, 14% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Mourvedere)- Rich, ripe plum, spice and earth. Balanced and smooth.
  • 2001 Coyam (36% Merlot, 21% Carmenere, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah and 4% Mourvedere) - Good vintage, however very little of this was made. Holding up well, leather, dried fruit and spice. 
  • 2007 Ge (60% Syrah, 21% Carmenere and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon) The name is Greek for Earth and the bottle depicts the moon, the sun and plants, a nod to each and the role that it plays in the making of the wine. Clean ripe aromas of red cherries and blackberries with a graphite minerality, light earthiness and bit of spice in the lengthy finish, full bodied and well-balanced. SRP $100.
The 2010 Coyam is now available at HEB, Spec's and Costco with a suggested retail price of $29.99. It is created from biodynamically grown grapes from Chile's Colchagua Valley. Recommended.