In between my exploring and tasting wines from South America of late, I made an “imagined” pit stop in Germany over the weekend.
While dining at a friend’s home, I was served a 2013 Dr. H Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany. The Mosel wine region is the most famous of Germany’s 13 official wine regions and the 3rd largest in the production of wine. This region is best known for its Riesling wines. The first vineyards were planted along the Mosel River by the Romans around the second century.
I’ve had the opportunity to drink Berncasteler Doctor over the years and have never been disappointed. This was no exception. The aromas of apricots, peaches and pineapple made me swoon. The palate was rich with juicy fruit, hints of spice and had a silky texture. The finish was long with more tropical fruit and lemon zest tickling the palate. Alcohol: 9%
To quote from their website: “The legendary Berncasteler Doctor vineyard is located behind the village Bernkastel and is one of the most famous vineyards in Germany. This 100% steep site with a South-South-West orientation consists of medium deep, stony, loamy weathered argillaceous schist. Planted with up to 80 year old vines, full-bodied, spicy wines are grown here.” Visit the website at:
My plane is leaving and I must run!
This is a brief look at Chile and its wines.
Chile is a long and narrow country bordering the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east. It spans 2700 miles of land running from north to south and is only 100 miles wide. Due to the expansive range of terroirs, the style of wines made has an equally wide range, with most of the climatic variations in the wine-growing regions running from east to west due to the influence of the ocean and mountains.
There are numerous wine regions in Chile that are then divided into sub-regions. Rather than listing them all, the map on the right should be helpful. Maipo Valley is home to most of the country’s wineries and is Chile’s most-established wine region. It is considered the birthplace of Chile’s wine production. Curicó Valley is one of the oldest and largest wine regions with Maule being the oldest wine region. Chile has a long viticulture history dating back to the 16th century. There were only 12 wineries in existence in 1995 and today that number exceeds 476 across six regions.
With over 20 varieties of grape grown, the Carménère grape has become the “signature” grape of Chile. Originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, it was thought to be extinct after the European phylloxera outbreaks in the 19th century. However, the grape was rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s. The Carménère grape is known for it’s deep red color with flavors of blackberry, cherry and spice. Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for more than one third of Chile’s grape production. In addition, Syrahs, Malbecs and old vine Carignan from Maule are among the more popular grapes grown. White wine grape varieties grown in Chile are also important such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Felipe Ortiz, Chief Winemaker of Casa Donoso Winery. Felipe has worked in France, USA, and Australia and has now brought his talents to Casa Donoso. The winery has four vineyards located in the Maule Valley. La Oriental Estate located in the heart of the Maule Valley boasts plants of more than 60 years of age. San Vicente Estate has plants that are more than 50 years old. Las Casas Estate is on the coastal zone of the Maule Valley and Fudno Pencahue is located on the coast. To quote Felipe with regard to Maule Valley’s “multiplicity of characters”; “White wines with very fresh and mineral traces, in particular our Sauvignon Blanc. Red wines with short maturity cycles showing a very good balance between alcohol and acidity, like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. And above all, a nice and silky Carménère, is a tricky and demanding variety which is hard to mature properly in other valleys”. It was a pleasure conversing with Felipe and I look forward to visiting Casa Donoso in the near future and getting a first hand tour!
The first wine Felipe poured for me was Sucesor Romano Limited Release 2015. It is 85% Cesar Noir and 15% Carignan and is made from the grapes in La Oriental Estate. Ruby red and wild berry aromas give way to juicy blackberry and spices. The wine is sophisticated with medium tannins and a long finish. Alcohol: 13.5%
The next pour was “D” a 2011 Limited Edition blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carménère, 20% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. This unfiltered estate bottle’s origin is La Oriental Estate. The wine is elegant with dark fruits, oak and spice on the nose seguing into a balanced and silky finish with just the right touch of pepper and licorice.
The last wine I tasted was the 2012 Perla Negra, “a selection of grapes from the oldest and best musts of the domaine.” The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carménère, 20% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. Aged in French oak barrels, the wine has heady aromas of berries, spice and herbs. The palate offers a rich array of ripe berries, spices and a hint of cocoa. Tannins were chewy, and needs time to open. This wine is a gem. Alcohol: 14%
I have more Chilean winemakers to talk about and will do so over the next few weeks.
At the beginning of the week I had a belated birthday celebration with a fellow wine enthusiast. My gift was dinner and a shared bottle of a very special wine.
Having had the opportunity to drink a 59’, 69’ and 94’ vintage, I was very excited to try the 1981 Château Haut-Brion, Premier Cru Classé (First Growth) that my friend brought. The cork was removed intact and the wine was decanted. The color was more russet than red. We patiently waited for the wine to open, but had to take just a little sip first. As to be expected, it was heavy with must and earth, but we could detect the fruit that was buried beneath it. We waited. As the wine opened, gentle flavors of non-descript fruit emerged mingled with hints of tobacco. It was soft and quite pleasant. Although its plateau of maturity has long faded, the wine was enjoyable to the very last drop. http://www.haut-brion.com
I wrote an article on the history of Château Haut-Brion along with a review of the 1994 vintage in Sept. 2015. So rather than repeat myself, please click on this link to read about it. http://thewineknitter.com/1/post/2015/10/day-369.html
I have a 1961 and 1969 Château Haut-Brion still waiting to be opened!
Last week I attended the Descorchados (uncorked in Spanish) Wine Tasting in NY. Seventy-three wineries were represented from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. In addition to tasting some outstanding wines, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with many of the winemakers one on one. There were stories to be told and wines to be shared. Many of the wine labels were quite whimsical, capturing the history and stories of the wineries.
So…let me start with Argentina and one winemaker.
When one thinks of wine from Argentina, Malbec is usually the first wine that comes to mind. Mendoza, Argentina is considered the “heart of wine growing” in this country. Over 70% of all Argentine wine comes from Mendoza, which includes about 85% of its Malbec! In addition, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Syrah and a small amount of Cabernet Franc are among the grapes that are grown there. The Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc are eye openers, as well as the recent comeback of Semillón.
At the wine tasting, I “toured” around Argentina from north to south and in between. The most significant wine valleys of Argentina are The Calchaquies Valleys, La Famatina Valleys, San Juan and of course, Mendoza. Each wine valley produces a particular grape, style and flavor. Depending on the terroir, a grape can have completely different or distinct characteristics when grown in just a slightly higher or lower elevation.
Matias Riccitelli is the proprietor and winemaker of Riccitelli Wines, located in Mendoza. Born and raised in Argentina, he is the son of renowned Norton winemaker Jorge Riccatelli. Using traditional techniques as well as the newest technology, Matias has created some exceptional wines.
He poured four unique wines for me, starting with “Hey Malbec!” a 100% Malbec grown in Luján de Cuyo. It was soft, juicy and pure. He then poured “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree”, another 100% Malbec harvested from three different vineyards. This was more complex, yielding a richer palate and more pronounced tannins. And I quote from his website “Just as an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, a wine cannot be made without a story. My winemaking reflects what I was taught by my family and reflects the passion that characterizes each one of us”. The third 100% Malbec he poured was República Del Malbec. The grapes were grown in Vistabula and Luján de Cuyo. The wine was concentrated and smooth with lush berries and spices. “We made this wine in honor of all those immigrants who planted, worked and taught us, gave us the blessing of our flagship varietal who for over 100 years lives in this land, which has taken a unique identity in the world.” The last wine Matias poured was a 2015 Old Vines Semillón that is a new addition to his portfolio. The vineyards are located in Rio Negro and are said to be around seventy years old, which is key to the quality and natural balance of the wines. The wine was lively, fresh and had just the right amount of “sweet”. It was a treat to taste it. Matias’s enthusiasm and passion for his wines is contagious! I look forward to trying more of his wines soon! http://www.matiasriccitelli.com
As I was leaving the event, I was given a copy of “Descorchados 2016 Guide to the Wines of Argentina, Brazil, Chile & Uruguay”. Written by Patricio Tapia a noted wine critic, this comprehensive 960-page book (weighing 4 pounds) is the 17th edition.
I will write about more of the Argentine winemakers I met in future posts. There is also more to come with regard to Chile, Brazil and Uruguay!
A few days ago I tasted Hard Wired Nitro Coffee Porter from the Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont, Colorado. The name alone conjures up all sorts of intriguing images and implications! Being a “beer” novice, the terms “Nitro” and “Porter” had me running for the books to decipher their meaning.
For those of you who have no idea what it means either, let me begin by hopefully explaining the term “Porter”. According to Wikipedia: “Porter is a dark style of beer developed in London from well-hopped beers made from brown malt. The name was first recorded in the 18th century, and is thought to come from its popularity with street and river porters. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined.” Of course, then I had to figure out what “well-hopped” meant! Left Hand explained to me that it just means the beer has significant or higher hops. That made sense!
Back in the day, Porter was a blend of 3 different styles: old, new and weak ale that was varied in the combination of blending and staleness. It was quite strong compared to today. The terms “Entire Butt” or “Three Threads” were the common names given to it.
Today, American brewers have taken the whole process and style a step further by “well-hopping” the brew, using smoked malts or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor that characterizes this style. The hop bitterness has a wide range, which brings me to another term. “ IBU” stands for the International Bitterness Units scale, a gauge of beer’s bitterness. IBU measures the parts per million of isohumulone found in a beer. Isohumulone is the acid found in hops that gives beer its bitter bite. IBU’s generally indicate how bitter the beer will be. But depending on the beer and how it is flavored and balanced, that will be the determining factor. So, a higher IBU does not always mean the beer will be very bitter.
Are you still with me? Good! Let me quickly tell you about “Nitro”. In the carbonation process of making beer, the gas used is either CO2 or nitrogen. CO2 beers have more carbonic bite whereas Nitro has a much smoother mouth-feel with a creamier texture. Enough said!
Hops: Centennial, Cascade
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Crystal, Carafa
Have a super Friday!
This week is busy with wine events and I hope to have a few interesting posts for you to read in the next week or so.
In the meantime, I just want to give a quick thumbs up to the 2014 Groth Sauvignon Blanc from Napa that I had the other evening. This is a beautiful blend of 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon. 80% of the fruit is fermented in oak barrels and 20% in stainless steel. Pale yellow in color, this wine has wonderful aromas of citrus, melon and pear. The palate does not disappoint and offers a lively array of peach, pear, citrus and light minerals. It is crisp with a velvety mouth-feel and a nice finish. Lovely balance between tart and sweet. Alcohol: 14%
Price range is $17 to $21.
It’s a beautiful day and perfect for an early evening swim and cocktails!
Here is a little geography info that is germane to the following story: Chile and Argentina are separated by the Andes Mountains.
In 2001 Aurelio Montes, Sr., a winemaker and founding partner of Viña Montes in Chile, crossed the Andes to visit Mendoza, Argentina. Impressed with the people, terroir and viticulture, he realized the potential of the region. And so, in 2002 Kaiken Premium Wines was founded with Aurelio Sr. bringing his knowledge and experience to the wine industry of Argentina. His goal was to make great wines by taking advantage of the excellent conditions of the Mendoza region and “show the best of both sides of the Andes”.
His son, Aurelio, Jr., is also a winemaker who traveled around the world working in wineries and gaining knowledge of different viticulture and enological practices. After taking time off in 2005 to pursue other interests, he returned to Viña Montes in 2007 as the Enological Director of the Apalta facility. In 2011 Aurelio, Jr. and his family moved to Mendoza to oversee the Kaiken project. Aurelio is always experimenting with new terroirs and enological practices that include biodynamics and sustainability. His passion transcends to the wines he produces.
Appropriately named, Kaiken is derived from the name of a bird called the Caiquen, a hardy bird in the goose family that is indigenous to Patagonia. These geese migrate between Chile and Argentina, criss-crossing the Andes like the Montes have.
The Kaiken vineyards are located in the heart of Mendoza and further south in the Valle de Uco. The vineyards produce 70% of the production requirements and the other 30% come from vineyards which Kaiken controls. I recently received two bottles of wine from the Kaiken Terroir Series that represent the best of each variety of grapes from a particular area.
Made with 100% Torrontés grapes, the 2015 vintage was pale lemon in color with a green hue. Citrus, grapefruit, floral notes and a hint of orange zest on the nose transferred onto the palate. A tart edge quickly segued into a lingering tropical fruit and floral finish. The wine was bright, fresh and had nice acidity. Alcohol 13.2% About $17.00
The Terroir Series Malbec is made with 80% Malbec from the Uco Valley, 12% Bonarda from Agrelo and 8% Petit Verdot from Gualtallary, a zone within the Uco Valley. Each grape brings it’s own uniqueness to the wine.
The 2012 Malbec was deep red with a tinge of purple. The nose was heady with dark berries and floral aromas. A hint of mushrooms and spice were present. The palate offered blackberry, plum, licorice and oak. The finish was long with bursts of pepper. Soft tannins and a velvety mouth-feel gave this wine a lot of character.
Alcohol 14.5% About $17.00
These are wonderful wines and I can’t wait to try more from this producer.
I’ve been waiting for a “cool” evening to open Soulmates Wines 2008 Zinfandel from California. The weather of late has had me reaching for wine from the refrigerator. However, last night with the temps hovering in the 60’s, I finally popped the cork!
This boutique blend culls grapes from Sonoma, Napa and Lodi. The color was deep garnet with succulent blackberry aromas trailed by herbs and earth. Flavors of blackberry jam, dark cherry, fennel and spice danced around the palate giving a soft and silky mouth-feel. The finish was long with hints of pepper and chocolate covered cherries.
The inspiration behind this wine touched my soul deeply. It is a story of motivation, courage and perseverance. Having lost a young family member recently to brain cancer, I know what true courage and determination is.
Aggie Bonpua is the founder and CEO of Soulmates Wines. This is the story of Aggie and her brother Louie, who is the inspiration behind the wine. I have copied the story from their website for you to read.
“A soulmate has often been defined as the twin soul - the other half of one’s soul. This is a story about a brother and sister with an unbreakable bond. An older brother of six years, born August 30, 1964, and a younger sister born August 28, 1970; nevertheless the six years in age did little to separate their unified vision and fervor for life; indeed, their relationship was, rather, one of twins joined in spirit and in heart. The unyielding will to assure his sister reaches the countless dreams she shared in her youth…the passion he felt, knowing she had a gift that could change the world, leaving a historical mark for generations to share – little did he know what a profound impact such qualities would have upon his sister as he entered into an unforgiving battle of life and death. Diagnosed with Leukemia with no correction after treatment, and having only the inevitable fate before him, Louie Bonpua kept a personal goal to train and perform in the Ironman Triathlon. He went on to compete and finish more than 15 triathlons, to include one Ironman triathlon throughout Northern California, with the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society Team in Training. He inspired those diagnosed with Leukemia, motivated competitors within the triathlon arena, rejuvenated his sister’s dreams, and invigorated all who encountered his presence. He realized the words “perseverance” and “endurance” beyond polite sickbed conversation, proving them as the keys to unlocking the mysteries of life’s impossibilities. He carried the torch for 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Games – a symbol of his enduring light to a world that often takes for granted its full-functioning capacities. In memory of his strength, his inspiration, and his love, we invite you to share a glass of Soulmates Wines as you partake in this wonderful gift of life. Cheers!”
A portion of every bottle sold goes to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.
Have a peaceful Thursday.
Yesterday was structured around taking a much-needed swim in the late afternoon. As luck would have it, clouds made their entrance and the rain poured down. I made the best of it and instead lined up all the wines I have yet to review!
As you might (or might not) recall from previous posts, I am not a big fan of Pinot Grigio. However, the other evening we opened a 2014 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti IGT. Located in the Italian Alps, this winery is surrounded by the Adige River and has been crafting estate grown wines since 1904. This Pinot Grigio was a delightful surprise that had more body and texture than I anticipated. Aromas of floral, citrus and pear carried through to the palate. Mid-palate offered tart apple with light mineral notes. This is a fresh and clean wine that I would not hesitate to drink again! Alcohol: 12.5%
It seems that Tropical Storm Colin is wreaking havoc in the Southeast and will be causing more rain for us today. I guess I’ll have to put off swimming for yet another day!
In the meantime…
Happy Wine Wednesday!
It was a lovely weekend of celebrating birthdays and friendship. In between feasting on food and drinking an assortment of wine, we managed to sneak in a day to visit the Degas exhibit and Impressionist collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. These are two of my favorite paintings by Degas and Picasso.
One of the many wines that were opened this past weekend was a lovely 2015 Domaine du Pere Caboche – Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Rosé. It is a blend of 30% Carignan and 70% Grenache, typical Côtes du Rhône varietals. It had a soft pink color with delicate aromas of raspberry, strawberry and a hint of melon. It had lots of ripe fruit on the palate with a subtle layer of spice. This medium-bodied wine was very refreshing, medium-dry, and had a silky finish. It was a perfect start to kick off the evening and paired well with the shrimp and mozzarella platters.
More reviews tomorrow.