Monday, March 27, 2006

A nice bouquet of Wood Chips

A month or so back an agreement was reached between the European Union and the US on wine shipments into and out of the EU. Many things were discussed and agreed upon among them that within a certain period of time the US would stop using Burgundy, bourgeoisie or Port on their labels since those are place names and not wine names. Another item that was agreed upon, and one that I initially didn't pay to much attention to was that the EU would allow US wines that used wood chips instead of aging their wines in barrels. I really didn't know if this practice was wide spread in the US, until I came upon this article today. Now this article was repeated in numerous places around the web, so its not just one place reporting. A fairly well known and well liked winery admits to using wood chips instead of barrels, stating expense and space as the biggest issues. Mr. Runquist of McManis, states that you can not tell the difference between a wine aged in true oak barrel's and one that was aged in metal tanks with wood chips. That may be true, but that's not the point. As a consumer if I read on the wine label that a wine is aged in oak my assumption right or wrong is that it was aged in oak chips, and I will pay for the expense that the winery went to, to age their wines in new oak barrels. However if a wine is aged in only oak chips then the label should say that.
The bigger problem is the use of Wood Alternatives, what ever that means....True toasted oak does give the wine hints of esspreso, vanilla, and mocha, things that we love to taste. But putting those "flavors" on wood alternatives. One of the companies that creates these alternatives prides itself in developing flavors such as vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, nuttiness and toast without barbecue smokiness. Sweet, freshly baked bread characters for its wood alternatives. This is where I start to have some issues, I mean at what point to draw the line? Are we creating ways of getting flavors into our wines? What's wrong with using actual toasted oak? Where is the craftsmanship of toasting the oak and then the wine maker carefully aging the wine the appropriate amount of time as it seeps the flavors creating a wonderful experience of flavors on the tongue. At what point does this become wine processing instead of wine making?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

2002 De Loach Zinfandel

De Loach vineyards started in the mid 70's as direct shipping only, starting with their first wine a Zinfandel. They are a somewhat small winery, but you can pretty much find them anywhere. They make wines that are estate bottled and others from grapes around the region of the Russian River Valley They have also converted 22 acres of their estate vineyards to Biodynamic farming, a trend I hope will continue to the balance of their estate.
This wine is estate bottled at weighs in at a comfortable for Zin 13.5% alcohol. It was aged in small oak barrels, which should impart a more oaky taste than that of French or larger barrels would.
The wine pours into the glass a dark ruby red, not quite the purple ink that I am used to. It smells of dark chocolate raspberry jam with hints of Vanilla and oak with maybe a little cocoa. In the mouth its rather dry which I attest to the oak and unfortunately not as fruit forward as I like my Zins to be almost astringent along the walls of the mouth. I have had De Loach Zins in the past and while I think this one is OK I would mark it somewhat of a disappointment. I'd grade it a B-.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

2000 Castle Pinot Noir Los Carneros

Castle Vineyards has been around for about 13 years or so, owned and operated by winemaker Vic Williams. His story is one that is familiar to the Napa and Sonoma world, he was a professional in another industry in this case he was a pharmacist. He got into making wine slowly, a barrel at a time starting in the mid 70's but it wasn't until the early nineties that Castle had its official first vintage and was designated a commercial winery. Castle works a lot of small family own vineyards and Williams manages somewhere around 40 acres of vineyards throughout Sonoma and Los Carneros. Williams believes in a minlimalist approach which I appreciate, minimal interference, minimal oak, which creates VERY fruit forward wines. I have had a number of Castle wines in the past and have been pleased, by not only their taste, but their prices as well.
This particular Pinot Noir is from the Sangiacoma Vineyard in Los Carneros and weighs in at about 14.2% alcohol.
A nice light red or a dark Rose if you prefer when poured.
In the nose you can actually smell the alcohol which was somewhat disconcerting at first, along with that was hints of strawberry and earth. Tastes slightly acidic which took away some of the alcohol in the mouth, there was nice layers of strawberry, cherry, rhubarb, and a little bit of that cola flavor that Pinot is so well known for, even mildly sweet aftertaste.
A nice wine, one that I would give a grade of B.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday

Its that time again, WBW is back upon us. For those that don't know Wine Blogging Wednesday is where all participating Blogs have a virtual Tasting Room, where everyone tastes something from the Theme. This months theme is White Wine, but not just any white wine, it has to be something out of the big three, i.e. not Chardonnay, Savignon Blanc, or Riesling.
Some suggestions? Gewurztraminer, Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner, Roussanne, Marsanne, Torrontes, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Ribolla, Soave, Prosecco, Muscat, Zibibbo, Semillon, Pedro Ximinez, Fernao Pires, Colombard... etc. etc.
This month is hosted by Wine for Newbies.
Check back around April, this is my first time to participate so I'm pretty excited.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Next Napa

An interesting article on the CNN travel page. The author writes about the great Texas Hill Country. The author tells the reader about the great scenery, rolling hills, blue bonnets blossoming during spring and of course the wine. It even reports something I didn't' know, that the Texas Hill Country AVA is one of the fastest growing wine producing regions in the country and that many think that it could be the "next Napa." While I support the enthusiasm, I have to agree with Richard Becker (of Becker Vineyards) that may be over stepping things a bit.
I will say this, its a very interesting and delicate time for Texas wine makers. I think for the most part and from my experience of visiting Texas Wineries, that we have learned how to make decent and in some cases pretty good wines. However I don't know if any winery has made GREAT wine and its still to be determined if someone will. I think a lot has to do with the varieties that was originally chosen to be grown in Texas. I don't think you can grow great Cab in the heat of South Texas, same with Chardonnay. It makes to vegetable of wines. However I am excited to see them branching out into Syrah, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel even. I think that to make great wine, Texas Wineries are going to have to come up with unique that doesn't mean planting new varieties, but taking a grape and making it its own and making it in the Texas Style. This is the time when Texas is going to need to experiment and find what suits the Texas soil and weather patterns the best. Now is the time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

2004 Novy Grenache

Novy Vineyards is owned by Adam and Diane Lee of the Pinot Noir Famous Siduri Vineyards. They trace their family history back to Czechoslovakia, and Novy is Czech for New. The coolest thing.....they are fact they owned a bottle shop down in Austin. The Lee's have made quite a name for themselves in the field of Pinot Noir. They make numerous vineyard specific Pinots. They have used Novy to make Cabs, Merlot, some amazing Syrah and a Grenache, but never ever a Pinot Noir. As with their Pinot Noirs though the Novy wines are mostly Vineyard specific, which really shows the terroir of whatever Vineyard they get their fruit from. This specific Grenache comes from the Judge Family Vineyard in Bennet Valley. Now I have never had a pure 100% Grenache, as most of my experience with the grape is in the great Rhone wines of Chatenaeuf du Pape and Gigondas. This was my first and what an experience it was!
The pour in to the glass was a BRIGHT cherry red. The nose was full of musty, earthy scents along with blueberry, chocolate, and cocoa. In the mouth there was tons of jammy fruit, blueberries, plums, blackberry, along with some clove, and white pepper. Very Jammy and almost thick on the tongue. A very nice wine that could possibly get better with some age.. I'd grade it an A-.

Monday, March 13, 2006

2003 Strangeland Pinot Gris

Strangeland Winery is located in Williamette Valley, Oregon. Oregon, uniquely I think is becoming somewhat world reknown for its Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio). Its a small family owned (the Millers) winery that utilizes old world techniques. A cool climate vineyard it has grown acclaim for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. The first vineyards were planted in 1978, with additional plantings in 1986.
The 2004 Pinot Gris was picked on September 28 2004. The alcohol is a somewhat suprisingly high 14.2%. A golden almost effervescence coloring and texture. Rich and spicy on the nose with hints of citrus. In the mouth you get lemony taste with mineral undertones kind of like sandstone. The acidity helps balance out the higher alcohol content. A very nice wine that I'd grade a B+.

Red Wine good for your Teeth?

Yes we all have read the studies....Red wine is good for your heart. Now comes a new study that touts red wine helps your teeth. The study was done by a university in Canada investigates:
"polyphenols, including those from red wine, in scavenging free radicals
released by immune cells stimulated with components of bacteria causing
periodontal diseases."
In short, by drinking red wine we have healthier if we can only do something for those red stains on our teeth.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More Freedom for Wine Drinkers

Its been fascinating to watch the last year or so as more and more states adopt the laws that allow for direct out of state wine shipments to consumers. In short we in Texas can order a Wine from K vintners in Washington and receive it in our homes. To me this is key because if I have had a chance to enjoy this wine, it my be difficult, or in the case of K Vintners impossible to get a lot of their different types of wine in the area I live in. These laws open us up to even more great wine experiences.
Now comes news that retailers are joining in on the fun. Large wine retailers would also like the ability to ship directly to consumers. What this does is allow us the consumer even more freedom, to now order multiple different wines, from multiple different wineries at one time. Also, I believe this will give us more access to international wines, whether from France, Italy or Australia, IF the retailer carries it, we would be able to order. This is an exciting time to be a wine consumer as laws are being created every day to give us better access to that which we desire.

Texas AVA's

Well, this news has been around for a little bit, but I ran across this article today and thought I'd mention it. A new AVA was formed in the North Texas are around the TX-OK border and the Red River. What interesting about this AVA is this is where the great T.V. Munson is from. Mr. Munson was the viticulturist that helped the French over come phylloxera using.......yup you guessed it Texas Vine Root stock. In fact, there are many wines from France today that come from grapes grown on root stock from Texas. The AVA is about 3,650 square miles, but there are very few vineyards planted in this area, hopefully that will soon change. And just for the record Texas is up to about 209 registered wineries.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

2003 Bridlewood Syrah

Bridlewood, nestled in Santa Ynez California is an interesting winery. It was originally a Stable, that was used to rehabilitate injured horses. The winery focuses on a Cab, Pinot, Zin, and a Syrah, along with a Rhone blend. One unique thing it does is it makes some small lot wines that are only available via its wine club.
Their 2003 Syrah pours into the glass as if from a quill of purple ink. Its deep, its rich and it just looks thick. Very nice berry nose with hints of white pepper and other herbs. In the mouth its full of black berries and figs. The wine is almost chewy, yet the Tannins don't overpower the wine. This is not a HUGE Syrah in terms of alcohol level at 13.6%. I really enjoyed this wine at it should be around 18.00, which isn't too bad for something this good.
I'd grade it about an A-.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Erath Pinot Noir 2004

I really enjoy Erath Winery. Its holds special significance for me. To try and make a long story short, my girlfriends, sister went up to Oregon for her honeymoon and visited some wineries. This was one of them, and she told me about what a beautiful place it was and the great people and the really good wine. Knowing that I love wine she purchased a bottle of it as part of a Christmas gift for me. I tasted it for the first time last Christmas, and I liked then, so I have buy it when I am in the mood for a good Pinot Noir, that won't break the bank. That leads me to my next point, it seems that Pinot, can only be made for expensive prices, and Oregon makes some really fine Pinot. Erath seems to consistently make very good Pinot for around 15.00, which is amazing because there are some really BAD Pinot's out there for that same price, but somehow Erath doesn't seem to fall into that category.
Its a blended Pinot with 93% coming from Willamette Valley and the rest from Umpqua Valley. A decent amount of alcohol at 13.0% it has a very nice strawberry red color. Strawberry hints in the noise with a little bit of cherry. Cherry Cola in the mouth, very smooth, slightly tart.
Very nice. B+.

Rodeo Houston Uncorked!

Well its that time of the year again for those of us in Houston...RODEO TIME. One of the traditions of the Houston Rodeo is the night before the rodeo actually starts there is a wine competition, with the following weekend an auction being held. Its a really neat competition, that I was unfortunately not able to attend this year. However I do have the winners of the competition listed below:

Grand Champion Best of Show:
Raymond Vineyards, Raymond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2001
Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show:
Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve Columbia Valley Red Wine, 2002
Top Texas Wine:
Messina Hof Winery & Resort, Liqueur Muscat/Sherry/Madiera/Tawny Port
Top Value Wine:
Hahn Estates, Hahn Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Central Coast
Top All-Around Winery:
Alexander Valley Vineyards

A couple of comments. Don't know much about the Grand champion winner, so I can't comment. Interesting win for Ste Michelle though, as I do like most of their wines, and they are usually uniquely structured.
Have to agree on the top value wine, Hahn is known to make pretty fine wines, for relatively cheap prices (along with Bogle and Smoking Loon, my favorite bang for the buck wines).
Alexander Valley famous for its Sin Zin wins best all around winery and I guess I don't have a major issue with that based on good all around wines and decent prices.
Again a caveat: I have not seen the entire list of entrants or how every winery placed.
But I welcome anyone else's thoughts.