Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chateau Talbot 2005


Chateau Talbot 2005 - This dry, velvety smooth, medium-body red was still youthful with fruity aromas and flavors of cherry and black currant along with tobacco and licorice notes in the rich, slightly spicy, lingering finish. Delicious right now though you can certainly continue to hold it.

I bought this bottle a few years ago but it is still available in limited quantities at Spec's in Houston as well as on-line. This Grand Cru Classe wine comes from the prestigious Saint-Julien commune of Bordeaux from an outstanding vintage.


Consumed at a family dinner on 12/24/16 and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve is a dry, fuller bodied sparkling wine with sweet aromas of tropical fruit, cherries and brioche with a creamy texture and a light toasted almond note in the lingering finish. A recommended wine for $65.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve is 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier. This wine has been blended with 40% reserve wines with an average of ten years of age from the Charles Heidsieck cellar.


Media sample for review purposes.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ca' Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Franciacorta Brut


Ca' Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Franciacorta Brut is a dry sparkling wine with sweet citrus aromas with baked pear and apricot and a lingering mineral note in the slightly savory finish. A recommended wine for approximately $35. 

Ca' Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Franciacorta Brut is made from 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Nero and 10% Pinot Blanc in Lombardy, a small wine-producing area in northern Italy. The region is famous for its high-quality sparkling wines made in the same way as Champagne. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Beaujolais Masterclass with Geoff Kruth, M.S.

Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth hosted a GuildSomm Beaujolais Masterclass in Houston last month where he discussed the wine region of Beaujolais, the crus and presented tastes of what he considers to be some of the best wines from the region.

Beaujolais is located north of Lyon in eastern France. It is known for its granitic-based soils and fruity red wines made from the Gamay grape. It has ten crus that run from north to south.

The Wines:

  • Beaujolais-Villages Blanc, Dufaitre 2015 - The only white wine of the day, this dry Chardonnay-based wine had an interesting oxidized nuance with a slightly savory finish.
  • Beaujolais Dupeuble 2015 - Kruth called this red "a good, straight basic Beaujolais" made in the classic style with some structure and typical fruity and floral aromas with a banana leaf nuance.
  • Chiroubles Daniel Bouland 2015 - This red wine showed strawberry aromas and flavors and was a bit more tannic than is typical which Kruth said was vintage driven. He believes this wine will be even better next year. The higher elevations and pink granite sandy soils of this smaller cru typically contribute a more delicate floral note to the region's wines.

  • Brouilly Dufaitre 2014 - Dried cherry with a bit of a green walnut nuance due to some slight oxidation chosen by the winemaker created a texturally interesting wine that was less fruity than I was expecting.
  • Régnié "Grain & Granit" Charly Thévenet 2014 - The youngest of the crus, Régnié is known for producing more concentrated wines. In the glass, this biodynamic wine had mixed berry aromas and flavors with some earthiness and green notes.
  • Saint-Amour Pascal Berthier 2015 - This is the most northernly of the crus. This wine had the typical cherry liquor, cherry fruit, slightly spicy cherry deliciousness for which the area is known.

  • Fleurie "L'Alchimiste" Anne-Sophie Dubois 2014 - More complex with dark berries and peach and a bit more savory with a hint of a green or vegetal note.
  • Juliénas "Beauvernay" Domaine Chignard 2015 - From a riper vintage, this wine is fruitier and a bit more tannic than is typical from this mid-sized cru.
  • Côte de Brouilly Château Thivin 2015 - Spicier with white pepper notes over cranberry aromas with blackberry flavors, a bit more structured, more tannic. My favorite of the line-up.

  • Morgon "Vieilles Vignes" Guy Breton 2014 - From the second largest of the crus, this wine was an earthier style with a sour beer note.
  • Chénas "Aux Pierres" Granger 2013 - Kruth noted the "length and tension" on the palate with this wine. It is from the smallest of the crus and the wines are considered to be some of the best for aging in the region.
  • Moulin-à-Vent Château des Jacques 2013 - De-stemmed fruit, made more like a traditional Burgundy, this wine was decidedly different in style to the other red wines. Kruth felt this wine had the most age-ability. I liked the spicy notes.


Wines were tasted on Monday, October 24, 2016. All are recommended!
Follow this link to learn more about Beaujolais wines.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wines from the Country of Georgia

Wine production is believed to have begun in this region over 7,000 years ago. There are over 500 indigenous grape varieties in the country grown across ten major viticultural areas. The industry is dominated by small, artisanal winemakers.

The wines:

  • NIKI ANTADZE, Rkatsiteli 2014 - This dry, white wine is made from organic Rkatsiteli grapes fermented in qvevri with no skin contact. It is yeasty with a Belgian beer nuance; it has a creamy texture from lees contact and good acidity.
  • NIKI ANTADZE, Rkatsiteli 2014 - This dry, white wine is made from organic Rkatsiteli grapes with some left in whole bunch clusters which were then fermented in qvevri with six months skin contact. This wine has a richer texture, it is more mouth-filling with aromas and flavors of dried fruits and walnuts with a light black tea note.
  • OUR WINE, Tsarapi Rkatsiteli 2013 - This dry, white wine was made from biodynamically- farmed Rkatsiteli grapes fermented in qvevri for six month. This wine has a very unique smoky nuance with apricots and citrus with a lingering fresh, flinty mineralty in the finish. My favorite of the white wines.
  • SHUMI, Tsinandali 2014 - This dry, white wine is from the Kakheti region which is located in the east. It was fermented in oak barrels and it is dry, citrusy and slightly oaky.
  • GIORGI REVAZASHVILI Chinuri 2014 - This dry, creamier feeling white wine is derived from organic Chinuri grapes from the Kartli region also located in the east from a high elevation vineyard. It has tropical notes with chamomile and lemon pith and a fresh finish.
  • PHEASANT'S TEARS, Tsolikouri 2015 - One of the most well-known Georgian winesinternationally, this dry, white wine is made from organically grown Tsolikouri grapes which were fermented in qvevri with minimal skin contact. Dry and crisp, this wine had notes of honey and yeast with a slightly earthy minerality in the finish. Fresh and interesting.
  • ORGO, Kisi 2013 - This small organic winery sources the Kisi grapes from 50 year old vines in the Kakheti region and ferments them in qvevri for six months with skin contact throughout. This dry, unfiltered wine is aromatic with apricot, pine and black tea, complex and fuller bodied.
  • AMIRAN, Otskhanuri Sapere 2014 - This rustic red wine is made from the Otskhanuri Sapere grape variety from the Imereti region located in the west. The wine was fermented with the skins in qvevri for nine months producing a high acid with dusty tannins and a mineral finish.
  • KINDZMARAULI MARANI, Kindzmarauli 2014 - This off-dry red is made from Saperavi grapes from the Kakheti region which were fermented in stainless steel. This wine is smooth with pronounced mixed berry aromas and flavors through the long finish. 
  • ORGO, Saparavi 2014 - This dry red is also made from old-vine Saperavi grapes from the Kakheti region which were fermented in qvevri, then aged in a combination of qvevri and stainless steel. This wine was fresh with pomegranate and berry aromas and flavors, velvety smooth tannins, fresh acidity and a lingering finish. More elegant, my favorite of the red wines.
  • PHEASANT'S TEARS, Saparavi, 2015 - This organic red wine was also made from Saperavi grapes from the Kakheti region which were fermented in qvevri. This wine was very dry with a bigger structure with pronounced aromas of peanut butter and blackberry jam on toast with a light savory note in the long finish.


Notes from the Georgian Wine Expedition, a lecture and tasting held in Houston on October 18, 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé is a sparkling wine from California made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in the traditional method. It  has aromas of mixed berries with yeasty notes, fresh acidity and a clean finish. Recommended at approximately $18.

I have found this affordable pink sparkler to be a guaranteed crowd pleaser for many years. It makes an excellent party wine and will work with a wide array of menus. It's easy to find, always consistent and perfect for the holiday season.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Astoria Prosecco DOC Treviso

Astoria Prosecco DOC Treviso* has light fruity aromas and flavors of peach and pear with a  touch of sweetness in the fresh citrusy finish. 

This traditionally made Extra Dry Prosecco comes from a four generation wine-making family. This wine is recommended and is a bargain at approximately $14.

*Media Sample

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Notes from an Austrian Wine Tasting

Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, was recently at Camarata at Paulie's to teach a seminar on the 7 Elements of Uniqueness in regards to Austrian wine. He said the wines of Austria are defined by an aromatic freshness combined with full physiological ripenesss. David Keck, M.S. was integral part of the discussion and shared his thoughts on the wines as well.

The unique elements that help make Austria an exceptional producer of wine are: 
1) The cool climate which helps to create the crisp, aromatic style.
2) The land which sits at the same latitude as Burgundy and has, in addition to the typical river valley and hillside growing areas, vineyards in the capital city of Vienna. They also boast a diverse range of soils to suit the array of grapes.
3) A signature grape, Grüner Veltliner, which has become a by-the-glass restaurant favorite. In addition to this, they have a number of other grapes, both indigenous and international, that can be made in diverse styles.
4) A wine culture that has existed and evolved for 2,000 years. The quest for quality is showcased not only in the wines but in the innovative and modern new wineries.
5) The typical smaller winery still prevails, information is passed through family members who have worked together for generations. In addition to a quest for quality, the people just enjoy what they do, says Willi Klinger. 
6) An overriding respect for nature exists not only in the wine industry but throughout the country. 10% of the vineyards are organically farmed and 3/4 of them are part of a government supported minimum intervention program.
7) The food friendliness makes wine pairing easier. The wines of Austria typically maintain good natural acidity and work well with a variety of cuisines including from China and other Asian countries that often conflict with more mainstream varietals. 

The White Wines:

2015 is considered to be an excellent vintage in Austria and the first three wines were from this year.


  • Ott Bernhard "Am Berg" Grüner Veltliner 2015 - Sourced from Niederösterreich or Lower Austria, this wine is a lighter style of Grüner Veltliner from a biodynamic producer with only 11.5% abv with typical white pepper notes and a savory finish. SRP $18
  • Christ Wiener Gemischter Satz 2015 - This wine is a field blend of grapes, co-fermented into a refreshing, light wine perfect with assorted hors d'oeuvre. SRP $ 24
  • Tinhof Neuburger 2015 - From a biodynamic producer in Burgenland, this Neuburger wine is a medium-body, softer wine with fresh aromas of apricot and raw almonds with a lingering mineral finish. SRP $24
The next three wines were all Grüner Veltliner from the Kremstal DAC. They all had a similarity, showing classic Grüner Veltliner characteristics and according to David Keck M.S., they all share a "pretty, filigree character."

  • Malat Höhlgraben Grüner Veltliner 2013 - White pepper, green almond with a light savoriness. SRP $27
  • Stadt Krems Wachtberg Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Reserve 2013 - This wine is sourced from the rocky Wachtberg vineyard on the Danube, it has white pepper aromas and flavors with a savory note and a pronounced nuttiness in the lingering finish. SRP $40
  • Stift Göttweig Gottschelle Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Reserve 2012 - Also sourced from a single vineyard on the Danube, the Gottschelle, this wine was a bit softer and rounder due to the slightly warmer year. It has white pepper aromas and flavors with green almond and a savory finish. SRP $40
Dry Riesling from two different areas and vintages and one Sauvignon Blanc. Willi Klinger named 2013 as the classic vintage in Austria for Riesling. 

  • Müller-Grossmann Steiner Point Riesling 2015 - Light, fresh. Dry, clean, linear, very floral. An elegant wine. SRP $24
  • Holzapfel Vorderseiber Riesling 2011 - The Vorderseiber vineyard area is at a higher elevation in Wachau. This was a warmer year for the area. This was a riper style, a rounder, richer wine with some petrol minerality. SRP $50
  • Sabathi Hannes Kranachberg 2013 - Sourced from the Kranachberg vineyard in Südsteiemark, the only Sauvignon Blanc area in Austria, this wine has apricot aromas and flavors, beautiful balance and a saline minerality in the finish. SRP $55

The Red Wines:

  • Umathum Zweigelt 2013 - This was a cooler year for reds resulting in a light, fruity red with an herbal sage note and a touch of smokiness in the finish; fresh and easy-drinking, this would make a great Thanksgiving Day wine. SRP $21.50
  • Rosi Schuster Sankt Laurent 2012 - An excellent year for reds, this wine is very dry with cherry aromas and flavors, somewhat pinot noir-like but more robust. SRP $ 24
  • Markus Altenburger Leithaberg Blaufränkisch 2012- A lusher style red wine, David Keck M.S. described this Reserve wine as "a fleshy, richer style' of the variety from a monumental vintage. SRP $ 35
  • Iby-Lehrner Mosso Cuvée 2012 - This dry red is a blend of Blaufränkisch, Merlot and Syrah. SRP $16

The Sweet Finale

  • Wenzel Beerenauslese Riesling Eiswein 2006 - Fresh ripe peach aromas with a lingering honeyed finish, an elegant ending. SRP $ $38

Wines tasted on October 13, 2016.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Rooted in Cabernet - A Tasting of Iconic Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

Tasting Notes from a Wines of Chile Masterclass taught by Fred Dexheimer, M.S in Houston on October 11, 2016.

Viña Santa Carolina - Luis Pereira 2012 - Sourced from the Central Valley (Maipo, Colchagua and Maule), this wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 3% other grapes from ungrafted 70 year old vines from vineyards ranging from almost 500 to to over 2100 feet above sea level. Named after the man who founded the winery in 1875, this iconic Chilean wine has a surprisingly moderate 12.5% alcohol by volume. Classic cassis Cabernet aromas with cedar and violet with matching concentrated flavors through the long slightly spicy finish. SRP $130

Santa Rita - Casa Real 2010 - Sourced from a single vineyard Alto Jahuel in the Maipo Valley, this wine is 100% Cabernet sauvignon sourced from vineyards over 1700 feet. It also has classic cassis Cabernet aromas and flavors along with a minty note but with a grittier tannic structure and a fresher mineral finish that Fred Dexheimer, M.S. attributes to the cooler vintage, he called this wine "one of the most elegant cabs in the world." SRP $70

Carmen - Gold Reserve 2009 - Also sourced from Alto Jahuel in the Maipo Valley, this wine is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a more powerfully structured wine than the previous one. It was also more floral and contained a pronounced eucalyptus note and a spicier finish that was also attributed to the vintage and the longer aging period in new French oak. SRP $45

Cousiño Macul - Lota 2010 - Sourced from Alto Maipo Valley, this wine was crafted by Rosario Palma from 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot sourced from a vineyard situated at over 1900 feet. This wine exhibited a greater freshness than the previous 2010, it also had red fruit aromas and flavors with a cocoa note and it was more tannic, this will be a great wine to revisit, it still seemed very youthful. SRP $85

Concha Y Toro - Don Melchor 1998 - Sourced from Puente Alto in the Maipo Valley, this wine can only be called complex. A blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc from a vineyard area set at over 2000 feet, this wine is earthy, minty, mushroom-y and almost delicate seeming with silky tannins and a lingering earthy finish. It was still youthful appearing, just barely turning towards a garnet color. No price available.

Almaviva 2012 - Also sourced from Puente Alto in the Maipo Valley, this wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Carmenere, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot from a vineyard area at over 2000 feet with a higher clay component to the soil. The terroir and grape selection come together in a bold wine that shows dark berry fruit and Asian spices with a smooth, lingering finish. SRP $75

Montes Alpha M 2012 - Sourced from Apalta and Colchagua Valley, this wine is big, bold and flavorful, Fred Dexheimer, M.S. called it "a macho wine" and called the Apalta vineyard area "one of the greatest wine regions in the world. It had dark cherry/berry aromas and flavors with eucalyptus and a light toasted note through the long finish. SRP $85

Casa Lapostolle- Clos Apalta 2011 - Also sourced from Apalta and Colchagua Valley, this biodynamic wine moves away from the Cabernet-dominated style we had been tasting and into the realm of Chile's favorite adopted grape. This wine is a blend of 66% Carmenere, 19% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from 80+ year old un-grafted vines. This sophisticated red showed bright pomegranate aromas and rich flavors with an Indian spice note, silky tannins and a lingering mineral finish. Fred Dexheimer, M.S. called this wine, "Sexy". SRP $130

VIK 2011 - Sourced from Millahue, Apalta and Colchagua Valley, this wine was a big, chewy structured blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Carmenere, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. This wine has a ripe mixed berry character with a touch of eucalyptus, toast and spice in the long finish. SRP $140

All of these wines are highly recommended and worthy of the splurge!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Quintessa 2013

Quintessa 2013 has concentrated, ripe, mixed cherry/berry aromas and flavors with a pencil box nuance and a subtle dark floral note. It is dry and full bodied with a long, lush, surprisingly smooth, slightly spicy finish.  Highly recommended.

Quintessa 2013 is a red wine blend from the Rutherford AVA in Napa Valley, it is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. It was aged for 21 months in French oak barrels of which 85% were new.

Tasted on October 5, 2016 in Houston with Larry Stone, MS.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Notes from a Greek Wine Masterclass*

Greece is the 17th largest wine producer in the world. Though they have a 5000 year wine making history, their modern winemaking story really begins in the late 1970's when new investment and a quest for higher quality is initiated.

It is currently a very dynamic time in the Greek wine industry. The new generation of winemakers are highly educated and many have worked in multiple wine regions all over the world. They are bringing some of the most current thinking to some of the oldest and most remarkable wine terroir in the world.

The country has over 300 unique indigenous grape varieties to create a wide variety of wines in an array of styles. There are now over 800 wineries in Greece and they export out about 15% of their production.

Assyrtiko white wines from Santorini are some of the countries most important. The volcanic island soils create wines with an intense mineral or saline component. The grape is being planted in other more inland locations in Greece where it is creating a somewhat softer, fruitier style of wine.

Canava Chrissou-Tselepos Santorini Old Vines Assyrtiko 2015 - Sourced from 50+ year old ungrafted vines from the village of Pyrgos, this wine has lemon thyme and lime zest aromas and flavors with a saline mineral note, medium body, dry, rounded feel and a fresh citrus finish.

Koutsoyannopoulos Santorini Assyrtiko 2012 - This wine comes from the second oldest winery on the island and was made by fourth generation winemaker, Giorgos Koutsoyannopoulos. This estate grown wine has apple and peach aromas and flavors, medium body, dry, fresh and crisp with a distinct oxidative nutty note and a clean saline finish.

Sclavos Winery Robola 2013 - From Cephalonia, the up and coming Robola grape variety does best in unfertile, rugged terrain to help reduce its yields. This wine was sourced from 40-50 year old vines and was made by a biodynamic producer. Citrus and green apple aromas and flavors with a nutty oxidative character, medium body, dry with a creamier feel and a long chalky mineral finish.

Rhous Winery Estate White 2014 - From Crete, this white wine is a blend of 80% Muscat of Spina and 20% Vidiano. It is very aromatic with jasmine flowers. It is dry and crisp with a fresh, ripe peach flavor and a medium body with a more subtle minerality than the previous wines.

Tslepos Winery Mantinia 2015- This aromatic white wine is 100% Moschofilero from a very mountainous region in the premium Mantinia area of the Peloponnese. It is very aromatic with a pronounced tropical floral quality and ripe peach and orange zest flavors; it is dry and crisp with a lighter body and a fresh, citrus finish.

Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2015 - This white comes from the Epanomi PGI and was made by Bordeaux-trained winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou, considered by many to be one of the fathers of modern Greek winemaking. This wine has fresh peach aromas and flavors with an herbal note; it is fresh, dry and smooth with a fuller body and a rich fruity finish.

Glinavos Vlahiko 2009 - This sustainably produced red wine is a blend of 60% Vlahiko and 40% Bekari from the Ioannina PGI near Mt Olympus. It is dry, soft and spicy with an earthy note in the finish, somewhat similarly structured to a Beaujolais wine.

Katsaros Valos 2013 - This red wine is made from 100% Xinomavro from a family-run winery in the Krania PGI. Winemaker Evripidis Katsaros trained in Bordeaux and has worked in Burgundy. Aged in neutral French barriques for 9 months, this wine has a more Nebbiolo-like structure with red cherry aromas and flavors, a medium body and a dry, mineral finish.

Driopi Nemea 2013 - This lush red is made from 100% Agiorgitiko that was fermented in stainless steel and then aged in a mix of new and neutral French oak barrels. It is dry, soft and round with rich, fruity red berries and plum aromas and flavors and a white pepper spicy note in the finish.

Parparoussis Nemea Reserve 2012 - This dry red is also made from 100% Agiorgitiko but it was made in a more oxidative style which accentuated the more savory and spicy character of the variety. Dried cherries and apricots with a long spicy, slightly nutty finish.

Biblia Chora Biblinos Oenos 2011 - This certified organic red wine is made from an un-named grape variety local to the Pangeon PGI in northern Greece which is the mythical birthplace of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and pleasure. It is dry, full-bodied and has rich aromas and flavors of dark berries and plums, baking spices and mixed dried herbs with a silky texture and a long finish.

Economou Sitia 1999 - This unique wine is made from 100% organically grown Liatiko grapes from ungrafted 80-90 year old vines. It has pronounced aromas and flavors of dried cherry and black plum with some cocoa and a long, dry, spicy finish.

All the wines from this tasting are recommended. Most of the wines retail in the $20-30 price range. Try them with classic Greek dishes and spicy coastal cuisine.

*My notes from a Greek Wine Tasting and Masterclass held in Houston on October 5, 2016 which was taught by local Greek wine expert Evan Turner with Elyse Lambert, M.S. and David Keck, M.S.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Book Review- A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery


Pour yourself a glass of some of Napa’s finest, then settle in to take a vicarious ride with one of the valley’s most perfect scoring couples. You will feel like you’ve joined them at their table as Kathryn and Craig Hall take turns telling their tale starting in Texas before they met on through the building of their California wine country empire. 

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery is a story anyone can savor, it is one of two hard-working, determined people who come together first in love and, then together, dream a dream big enough for wine lovers everywhere to share with them. 

Available today on Amazon or at Hall Wines.

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Unadorned Taste of Lodi's Old Vine Vineyards


I recently had the opportunity to taste The Lodi Native Project wines after an old vines tour of the area. In 2012, the Lodi Wine Grape Commission asked winemakers to make a more naked style of 100% Zinfandel wine from designated vineyard areas. These vintners were asked to create low intervention wines made with native yeasts, no new oak barrels, no fining or filtering and no adding acid or water to the wines. The goal was to give a true reflection of these special terroirs.

Wegat Vineyard sits on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA. The vines were field grafted onto St Augustine rootstock in 1958. This wine is made by Chad Joseph of Maley Brothers. The vines here produce loose clusters with an intense fruit character. This wine had a fruity blueberry/blackberry flavor with an earthy touch of mushroom.

Stampede Vineyard is on the east side in the Clements Hills AVA. The vines are on their own rootstock in sandy loam soil and range from about 80-100 years of age. This wine was crafted by Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines, it is more structured, more tannic with cherry and red berry aromas and flavors.

Trulux Vineyard is located on the west side of the Mokelumne River AVA. The vines were originally planted on St Augustine rootstock in 1940's and were head trained and are now over 6 feet tall. The vines produce long loose clusters. The wine is made by Michael McCay of McCay Cellars and also has red fruit flavors but is more savory with dried herbs and a spicy nutmeg note in the finish.

Marian's Vineyard was planted in 1901 and the vines remain on their own roots. It is also located in the Mokelumne River AVA. It is currently farmed by father/son team Jerry and Bruce Fry, the vineyard was named after Jerry's mother. The wine is produced by Stuart Spencer at St Amant Winery. The well draining sandy soil helps to create a bolder Zinfandel with more concentrated dark fruit flavors. This wine was more floral with a slightly peppery finish.

Soucie Vineyard is also located in he Mokelumne River AVA. It is the most western and enjoys more of the cooling effects of the Delta Breeze. Sourced from a vineyard block planted in 1916, the vines are on their own roots in a fine silt soil. This wine was produced by Layne Montgomery of m2 Wines, it was a bit more lush and a little earthier.

Schmiedt Ranch is an 8 acre site located in the bend of the Mokelumne River. It was planted in 1918 and the vines are dry-farmed and sit on their original roots in deep sandy loam. This wine is by Tim Holdener of Macchia Wines, it has concentrated fruit flavors with a silky smooth feel and a long finish.

The next release is the 2014 vintage in November. A six-pack containing one of each is priced at $180 at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center. These wines are highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Notes on the Livermore Valley AVA

The Livermore Valley AVA is situated in northern California’s Alameda County and has 3,400 vineyard acres. Terroir features include well-drained gravel-based soils and wide diurnal swings. These temperature shifts are created from both the early morning fog and the evening breezes that come in from San Francisco Bay which is located only 35 miles away. The valley is also distinctly oriented laying from west to east instead of the more typical north to south. This unique placement enables it to fully enjoy these daily maritime climatic advantages.

The AVA gets its name from Charles Livermore who planted the first grapevines for commercial production in the area in the 1840's. Recognition for the region would follow when Cresta Blanca Winery, owned by Secretary of the California Viticulture Commision, Charles Wetmore, won the grand prize at the 1889 Paris Exposition. This wine was the first from California to win in a tasting competition in France. Long before the Judgment of Paris was held, Livermore put America on the world wine map. 

Two other wineries founded during this same time period managed to stay in operation throughout prohibition and have continued to remain leaders in California wine production. They are Concannon and Wente Vineyards. Family members have run these without interruption to the present day. The contribution to California winemaking from each is tremendous. Currently, eighty percent of California's Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay plantings come from these two vineyards' clones.

Although more than twenty-five grape varieties are now being grown, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon remain the most important grapes in the region.

The valley now has over 50 wineries. The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association hosts numerous events and tasting experiences for consumers to enjoy throughout the year. With less than an hour drive from San Francisco, Livermore Valley is an ideal destination for your next California wine vacation.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rías Baixas Albariño

One of the most important white wine grape varieties in Spain is Albariño. It makes a light to medium body wine that is fresh, crisp and elegant. The wines are typically a pale gold or lemon-yellow color. They are dry and aromatic and loaded with sweet fruit flavors including ripe peach, apricot, melon, pineapple and mango. They often have a floral honeysuckle element as well. They all share good natural acidity and may have a light mineral note. They are easy drinking with a light to medium body and moderate alcohol. 

The most important region for Albariño is Rias Baixas (pronounced Re-ass By-shass) which is located up in the northwestern corner of Spain near Portugal. The area is known as “Green Spain”. The climate is generally cooler than much of the country with plenty of rainfall. The Albariño variety does well in this terroir. The climate and soil are heavily influenced by the Atlantic as the vineyards lie along the  long coastal plains of Galicia bordering the ocean. 

Although the region allows twelve different grape varieties to be grown, Albariño is the most heavily cultivated. If the label says Rías Baixas Albariño then it is made from 100% Albariño grapes. Enjoy these Rias Baixas wines with simple seafood tapas or take-out Asian cuisine. Served chilled, they make a great end of summer sipper for our balmy Houston evenings.

Fulget Rías Baixas Albariño 2015* - This wine is a pale straw color in the  glass with fresh fruity aromas of citrus, apple and melon with dried herbs and a light honeysuckle note with crisp acidity and a long fruity finish. This family owned winery has some of the oldest Albariño vineyards in the region dating back to the 1970s. 


Vionta Rías Baixas Albariño 2014* - This wine is a pale yellow color with hints of gold. It has intense tropical fruit aromas with melon, peach and green apple, softer than the above but still with a pleasant acidity, it has a long, slightly tart peach finish. Bodega Vionta lies in the heart of the Salnés Valley. They strive to blend tradition with the best of modernity.

*Media Samples

Monday, August 1, 2016

Meeting Moldova

I was very excited to receive some Moldovan wine samples. Though I had never tasted any wines from the country, I had heard from numerous people "in the know" that these were going to be wines of interest. Moldova is located in southeastern Europe between Romania and Ukraine in the Black Sea Basin. It has a compelling story in the world of wine history.

Ancient artifacts discovered in the area prove that wine has been made in the region for over 5,000 years. Over the many centuries, a sophisticated wine industry developed including designated micro-zones for wine production by the early 1800's. Though the region was well-known throughout Europe as a source for premium wine, its history and reputation were not respected by everyone. Moldova lost numerous vineyards during Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol crusade before declaring its independence from the USSR in 1991.

For the last 25 years, Moldovan winemakers have been hard at work rebuilding and revitalizing the industry. There are now 276,000 acres of vineyards planted to both local and international varieties. Indigenous varieties include Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, Plavai and Viorica. The historic wine regions have been reinvigorated and the government is now working to promote and protect the quality of the country's wine.

I appreciated my tastes of Moldova, I will be on the lookout for more.


Tasting Notes:

Vinaria din Vale Feteasca Alba 2013 - Fresh fruity aromas and mouthwatering, juicy flavors of grapefruit, peach and pineapple with a savory note and a bit of nuttiness in the long, dry finish. Elegant, interesting and affordable. The grape's name "feteasca alba" translates to "white maiden". The grape is indigenous to the region but it is not heavily planted. The vineyards are in the historic Valul lui Traian located in the southwest of Moldova. I served it with grilled shrimp over pasta with a light asiago sauce.

Chateau Purcari "Rosé de Purcari" 2014 - This bone-dry rosé was
fresh and fruity with raspberry, apricot and grapefruit with a slightly tart but pleasant finish. It is a blend of Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Rara Neagra. This wine comes from the historic Stefan Voda sub-region located in the southeast of Moldova. Dry and fresh, Provencal in style, it is all you could want in an easy summer wine, I enjoyed it with pizza.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Loire Valley Chenin Blanc - Notes from a Lecture and Tasting

Jon-David Headrick was at Camerata Houston on Tuesday to educate local wine professionals on Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley and to participate in Houston's Loire Fest which is taking place all this month at local wine bars around town. He has a portfolio of wines called Jon-David Headrick Selections of which a portion were tasted during the lecture.

Most of his wines are organic or biodynamic. All of the grapes used in these wines were hand-harvested which Headrick says is less common in the Loire Valley than one might think. He chooses wines that have no oak treatment or were aged in neutral oak for an added textural component rather than as a major part of the flavor. He spoke of the massive diversity in the soil types of the region and how this diversity is particularly reflected in the single varietal wines.

The Loire Valley stretches from the Atlantic almost to Burgundy and the vineyards lie near the Loire River. Chenin Blanc is indigenous to the Loire Valley and is the grape used in the best white wines of the sub-regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur. It can be made in an array of styles: dry, sweet, still or sparkling. Chenin Blanc has naturally high acidity which not only lends itself to style diversity but also creates wines that age well.

The tasting began with two glasses of bubbles.
Jean-Francois Merieau "Bulles" Touraine Brut- The Touraine AOC lies along the river banks. The Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes for this sparkler were sourced from a single village during a single vintage. Drier in the Brut range, with pear and citrus notes and a light mineral finish.
Louis de Grenelle Cremant de Loire  "Louis"- This sparkling wine comes from the Saumur region. It is made from Chenin Blanc, Chardonay and Cabernet Franc in almost equal parts. It is primarily from the 2012 vintage. Strong mineral character.

From the Chinon AOC, more well-known for their lighter red wines made from Cabernet Franc, this area also produces a small amount of rosé and white wine.
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Blanc 2015- White wines from Chinon are rare in the Houston market, this was my first one to try. Dry with fresh acidity with grapefruit and crushed seashell aromas and a lemon citrus finish.

Anjou is also a large sub-appellation in the Loire Valley with a diverse mix of soils and grapes. This newer dry, white style is both interesting and elegant. The following two selections are from a bio-dynamic producer and were some of my favorites from the tasting.
Clos de l'Elu Anjou Blanc 2014 - Sweet honey aromas with a light nuttiness and a dry mineral finish.
Clos de l'Elu Anjou Blanc "Ephata" 2013 - This wine was amphora aged. Dry with more floral honeysuckle aromas with pear and a saline mineral finish.

Wines from Savenniere are almost always dry. Historically, the region has been known for early harvesting before the grapes reach full maturity but some producers like the one below are now harvesting more in line with the neighboring regions and crafting wines with a riper fruit character. It was interesting to compare the two and consider how the younger vines would change.
Damien Laureau Savennieres "La Petite Roche" 2015 - From a younger vineyard with slate, clay and sand with an average vine age of 8-10 years, this certified organic wine had light tropical notes with a dry, mineral finish.
Damien Laureau Savennieres "Bel Ouvrage" 2013 - From a vineyard with a mix of sand and slate, the grapes were sourced from old vines and were aged in inert oak barrels giving the wine a richer texture and a savoriness to the grapefruit citrus nose and the dry, mineral-laced honey-flavored finish.

The wines from Vouvray are always 100% Chenin Blanc and always white but they can be found in the full range of styles. The vineyards primarily sit on soft Tuffeau, a porous chalky limestone soil that helps maintain acidity in the grapes. This high acidity can balance out the higher residual sugar which makes the wines seem fresher and more food friendly rather than dessert-like in style. It was interesting to compare the perception of sweetness to the actual amounts of residual sugar in the following wines.
Domaine du Viking Sec Tendre 2013 - An off-dry style with higher acid, savory aromas, citrus and a chalky minerality; 16-18 g/l of residual sugar.
The following wines are demi-sec or semi-sweet in style with much higher residual sugar than the wine above.
Domaine du Viking "Aurelie" Vouvray 1989 - This was a warmer vintage. The wine was matured in a combination of oak and chestnut barrels. Lime pith with rich honeyed flavors and a bit of wet wool in the finish.
Domaine du Viking "Aurelie" Vouvray 1996 - The driest tasting of the three, baked pear and sweet ripe citrus notes, mineral finish; 80 g/l of residual sugar.
Domaine du Viking "Aurelie" Vouvray 2002 - More vibrant with candied citrus, apple, and baking spice; 70 g/l of residual sugar.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Learning the Art of Living Sicilianly with Lucio Matricardi

Lucio Matricardi, the winemaker for Stemmari, was in Houston at Coppa Osteria last month to introduce the Stemmari line of wines to a group of Houston writers. He spoke passionately about the many changes that have been taking place in Sicily regarding winemaking. He explained how the generations before him focused on the easily exportable Marsala cooking wine while younger generations on the island are now focusing on making higher quality dry wines. 

He believes the climate and terroir lend themselves to more natural and sustainable vineyard practices. He says he is interested in making wines that he, himself, wants to drink.  Enjoying wine with meals is part of Sicily’s culture, it is part of “the art living Sicilianly”, according to Matricardi, and he wants his wine to be at the same quality level as the produce he would choose for his meals. 

Across the region, growers and winemakers are committed to using the most modern winemaking techniques to best showcase their indigenous varieties while still respecting the land from which the grapes were grown. 

I really enjoyed meeting Lucio and felt his zeal was reflected in the wines we tried. We enjoyed our tasting over an array of delicious shared appetizers and a selected entree. The atmosphere was lively. I recommend that you look for the wines from Stemmari and try living Sicilianly this summer, too!

The Wines:
The first two wines are made from 100% Grillo grapes grown on the sunny, sandy soils of Acate in the province of Ragusa in Sicily’s southeast. This native Sicilian variety was historically used in the production of Marsala, these first two wines show its versatility. 
Stemmari Baci Vivaci - This spritzy, aromatic wine has light floral aromas with fruity flavors and a pleasant mineral note in the finish. Served chilled, this affordable, light wine would make a great party wine. Tasty with all our appetizers and my grilled fish, it is sold exclusively at HEB.
2014 Stemmari Grillo - This wine is a dry, medium-body white with light floral jasmine aromas and rich tropical flavors. It was also very nice with the appetizers and my dinner. Available at Spec's.

Made from the indigenous Nero d'Avola grape variety also grown in the Ragusa province.
2014 Stemmari Rosé-  This wine had aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries with a light fruity finish. Easy drinking and delightful with everything on the table.

Also made from indigenous Nero d'Avola grapes, these were grown in Sambuca di Sicilia in the province of Agrigento, an area known for creating more intense reds.
2014 Stemmari Nero d'Avola - Velvety smooth and rich with intense strawberry and blackberry aromas and flavors, particularly delicious with the eggplant caponata.

Two blends-
2013 Stemmari Dalila - An aromatic blend of Grillo and Viognier, this medium body white has sweet aromas of tropical fruit, honey and vanilla.
2010 Stemmari Cantodoro - This medium body red blend is made primarily from Nero d'Avola with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon for more structure. It has pronounced mixed dark berry aromas with notes of licorice and vanilla from the longer oak aging.