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Monday, November 30, 2015

Montes 2008 Star Angel Red Wine, Paso Robles

Montes Star Angel

Montes is best known for their Montes Alpha and Purple Angel wines, but their reach goes beyond their native Chile into California.

A Love That Knows No Boundaries

Montes is the foremost producer of Syrah in Chile. Chief winemaker Aurelio Montes felt an instant attraction to Paso Robles, where the grape grows magnificently.

This love of Syrah has culminated in the Star Angel red wine. The wine is 100% Syrah from California’s Paso Robles region, known for its spectacular Rhone varieties.

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An Earthy Approach

Star Angel CapSyrah can have a brambly, rustic nature – which we love. It can also have a light touch, especially when blended with Grenache. This is more the former – with the emphasis on dark flavors.

We aerated this wine, but it could have used the recommended hour in the decanter. That is to say, this is a highly structured wine. It could age for another seven or eight years, due to the sturdy tannins.

The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Some Paso Robles wines are high in alcohol, and Star Angel is in that club with 15% alcohol.

The aroma of the wine was a jammy delight. First sip showed a “hot” wine that was tightly wound. Second and third glasses, and the passage of time, allowed the wine to soften. At that point it became a much more enjoyable sip.

Beams of earthiness, spice and dark fruit were radiating from this star. The body is medium, but the heavy tannins need to loosen up before you can appreciate it fully.

We like this wine for a couple of reasons: Montes is a stellar winery and is to be commended for launching a California project, and, Paso Robles is becoming one of our favorite wine regions. We paid $20 online for this and are interested in trying the other wines from Montes USA operation. We recommend a nice red meat entrée to fully appreciate Star Angel.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tasting Wine & Cheese: Finally A Book That Gets It Right

Tasting Wine & Cheese

Is there anything better than a great wine and cheese pairing? You might enjoy a
robust cabernet with the sharp, aged cheddar, or perhaps a crisp Sancerre with a
tangy, creamy chevre.

A Cheesy Book That Isn’t

As you might suspect, we taste a lot of wine around here. It can range from rather elaborate meals or parties to a casual after dinner drink. One of the joys of wine drinking is finding just the right food – or cheese – to accompany it. Cheese is often the go-to appetizer, easy to prepare, available in a range of textures and flavors and conveniently sized for munching and swirling.

Finding the right cheese isn’t as easy as you might suspect. What’s the right cheese to go with Gerwurztraminer? How about with Malbec or Sangiovese?Questions like these often prompted me to pore over the internet hoping for a nugget of wisdom.

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Direct Advice, Beautifully Illustrated


Adam CentamoreTasting Wine & Cheese by Adam Centamore and published by Quarry Books is as enjoyable as it is indispensible to the wine lover.  Centamore is a Maitre d’ Fromage who also knows his way around a corkscrew.

The book first guides you through how to taste wine and cheese separately. Then he shares his insights on pairing cheese with white, red, sparkling and dessert wines.

Although he confesses to liking  “a plain ol’ wedge of pepper Jack cheese and cheap-o Pinot Grigio” like everyone else, it’s obvious that he has a wealth of knowledge about taste, flavor, aromas and the science of food and wine. He keeps tasting notes on cheeses much like most of us do for wine.

He dispenses capsules of wisdom on how to taste wine, how to create a “rock star” cheese plate, what makes “stinky cheese” stink and the storage of wine and cheese. There is even discussion of the benefits of cork versus screwcap closures. Some interesting factoids:

  • Generally, freezing cheese isn’t a good idea.
  • Honey and marmalades are great condiments with cheese.
  • The temperature of cheese is as important as that of the wine. Keep it room temperature.

Mastering Wine And Cheese Pairing

I found the book fascinating to leaf through. It is one that I know I’ll continue to use regularly as a reference. Tasting Wine & Cheese is beautifully illustrated with mouthwatering photos of wine and cheeses. It is also logically organized like a wine list.

The strength of this publication is its depth. You can get general guidelines for picking cheese to go with Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet – but Centamore tells you about pairings for Trebbiano, Torrontes, Gamay, Barbera and even Zweigelt and Primitivo!

Also appreciated is that he gives general suggestions as to the type of cheese, then gives a number of examples from which you can choose. Assyrtiko, which is a Greek wine, for example, pairs well with soft, creamy cheeses. He also provides guidance as to whether a goat, cow or sheep milk based cheese would be the best choice.

Each section has a passage about the wine, a section on “the cheese that loves it” and a “match made in heaven.” There’s a wealth of information and he pairs it well with a comfortable, concise writing style.

We recently hosted a wine dinner focused on Bordeaux style wines from Colorado. Using guidance from the book, I opted for a mild cheddar (rather than my first urge to grab a super sharp cheese) and the wine and cheese melded wonderfully. The book has a price of $24.99 US and you’ll recoup the cost, no doubt, with your first pairing. It is available on Amazon.

Full Disclosure: We received this book as a review copy.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ferrari 2007 Perlé, Trento DOC

Ferrari Perlé

In Italy, they call the effervescence of sparkling wine “perlage.” The perlage is caused by carbon dioxide that some experts say can create up to 49 million bubbles in an average bottle.

Premium Bubbly From Italy

Over the course of the last month we’ve had the chance to enjoy three sparkling wines from the Ferrari. The Italian winery from the Trento DOC was named European Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. They specialize in sparkling wine using Chardonnay grown in the high mountains.

Perlé is a vintage sparkler, something that is noteworthy in the wine world. Most Champagne houses blend wines from different vintages to create the blend that matches their style. Only in the best years are vintage wines produced.

Ferrari is a pioneer in the use of Chardonnay in Italian sparkling wines. Founder Giulio Ferrari was the first to make substantial plantings of Chardonnay in the country. We’re awfully glad he did. Select Chardonnay grapes picked by hand in vineyards 1,300 to 2,200 feet above sea level are used for Perlé.

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An Explosive Drinking Experience

Perlé Ready To Pop

We knew this would be a memorable sipping experience when I opened the bottle. I’ve gotten past the “shoot the cork at the ceiling” phase with sparkling wine and now twist out the cork with an enjoyable “pop.” The Perlé had other ideas.

After I removed the foil and wire basket, the cork launched itself! Well, that was easy.

I’m learning that the mark of quality with sparkling wine is the bubbles. If your bubbles peter out too quickly or are seldom seen – you miss out on a good experience.

Perlé was a dynamo of effervescence. The bubbles frothed into a nice mousse and then just kept streaming.

Elegant Flavors And Texture

Beautiful Bubbles of Perlé This wine has style. You first “drink” this wine with your eyes, enjoying the yellow and gold highlights with the streams of fine bubbles. Upon sipping, the wine explodes in your mouth.

Flavors of citrus, apples and almonds are wrapped in a creamy texture. Some wines are heavy and ponderous. Perlé energizes you and brightens any occasion.

The wine is aged for at least five years and it is time well spent. The final wine is worthy of a grand celebration and is capable of elevating a mundane event into something memorable.

Sparkling Wine From Italy's FerrariPerlé has a SRP of $38 and certainly is a great buy at that price. This is one of the most enjoyable wines we’ve had this year. I see that it is also available in large format magnums. That would be spectacular for a New Year’s Eve party. But then again, we probably couldn’t wait!

Full Disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Colorado Wine Industry Captures Nationwide Attention

Canyon Wind CellarsThe first recorded wine production in Colorado was 1890. Today there are more than 125 licensed wineries – but chances are you’ve never tasted a wine from the Centennial State.

Colorado Wine Dinner

High Altitude Grapes

Four years ago while exploring the Rocky Mountains and visiting family, we had a chance to visit some Colorado wineries. The trip was eye opening.

The winemaking in Colorado is quite sensational, thanks to the high desert climate and unique soil. Even though Colorado’s grape growing regions range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet, the highest in the Northern Hemisphere, their wine still flies under the radar.

We recently hosted a Colorado wine dinner with the assistance of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, giving our group a chance to dig into the wines of this mountainous state.

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Bordeaux Varieties Take Root In Colorado

Wine from Scenic ColoradoTo accompany our meal, we had four wines from three different Colorado wineries:

  • Bookcliff Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc
  • Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot
  • Canyon Wind Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot
  • Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

We began our meal with an assortment of puff pastries accompanied by the Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot. We also had some mild cheddar cheese, that paired well. Petit Verdot is a grape most often used for blending in Bordeaux style reds. For a single varietal wine it can be spectacular – but Petit Verdot is much more commonly a bit player (3% to 5%) in a blend.

For our guests, who were unfamiliar with Colorado wine, the Creekside Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot was a revelation. It was an instant favorite with deep, rich flavors of cranberry and raspberry. The wine spends 22 months in French oak and can age from five to seven years.

The Ultimate Test – Beef Bourguignon

Kale Cauliflower SaladMy wife, the Green Dragon, determined that this special dining event called for a special dish. Once before she had made Beef Bourguignon and she decided this was time for an encore. This was more than a 24 hour process that involved marinating overnight with a full bottle of Pinot Noir. Her challenge was cooking the dish – mine was figuring out how to spell it!

Our next dish was a lovely Kale Cauliflower Salad by our friend Maria. There must have been a dozen different ingredients all topped by a honey mustard dressing.

The Bookcliff Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc led off our dinner wines. This is smooth with cherry flavors a a subtle flick of white pepper. The wine has 3% Merlot.

It is aged for 18 months in French oak and the tannins are nicely integrated. Tasting Team Member the Cabinator ranked this as his favorite of the tasting. Bookcliff operates on 37 acres and has 14 different varieties of grapes.

Getting Our Francais On

The Beef Bourguignon arrived with a flourish from the kitchen and settled at each place among a sea of glassware and wine. The dish is a beef stew marinated in a wine-based sauce. In short, it is an ideal match for red wine.

Beef Bourguignon Stars At Wine Dinner

Next in progression was the Canyon Wind Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot. The contrast between this take on PV and the Creekside Cellars version was immense. While the Creekside PV was lush, the Canyon Wind had smoky flavors of tobacco and vanilla. The nose was distinctive and the tannins made it a very structured wine. It was a more rustic take on Petit Verdot.

Last in the quartet was the Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab is a challenging wine to produce in Colorado – but this version satisfied. The flavors of black cherry were concentrated and woven together with herbal notes. It was a knockout combination with the dark chocolate truffles (thanks, Stephanie!).

Cheers to Colorado Wine

The consensus? Colorado wines are high in quality and the Bordeaux varieties combine elements of Old World rusticity with fresh fruit of New World wines.

The Colorado wine industry is showing annual growth of about 16%. While we don’t mind visiting the wineries in beautiful Colorado, wine lovers would love to see greater distribution outside the state. If the grape crop can keep pace with the demand, the brilliant blue sky is the limit.

Full disclosure: Thanks to the wineries and Colorado Wine Industry Development Board for these marketing samples.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cleveland’s Fabulous Food Show Has Star Power Plus Wine

Michael Symon

For a decade, the Fabulous Food Show has been the premier culinary celebration in the Cleveland area. It features some of the top chefs in the world, educational sessions, vendors galore and plenty to delight wine lovers and foodies alike.

Michael Symon’s Lessons From Around The Dinner Table

We returned to the Fabulous Food Show for our third time. For the first two we volunteered as pourers in the Wine Pavilion. This time, we decided to skip the booth duty so we could fully enjoy the event.

Fab Food ShowA high point of the event for us was Michael Symon. Symon is a hometown favorite, having grown up in Cleveland and is the owner of several successful local restaurants. He is know to millions through his Iron Chef status and his shows on the Food Network.

Symon mentions that although he has now found a degree of success, his upbringing was very modest. It centered around the delicious homecooked meals that his mother would make. Even when opening Lola, his first restaurant, he had to make economical meals at home.

“Opening Lola took every penny we had – and there weren’t many pennies,” he said. Even now he says his family doesn’t want to wait for four hours while he prepares a gourmet meal – so being practical as well as delicious is important. As he whipped up a carrot vegetable salad and vinaigrette salad dressing, he shared quips about the Cleveland Browns as well as cooking wisdom.

“Learn the techniques and not the recipes,” was a nugget of wisdom that struck home. He said people may be polite if you say you don’t use salt, but “if you don’t cook with salt, your food sucks.”

His appearance was delightful, engaging and informative. We also were able to see Aaron Sanchez and “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro.

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There’s Fabulous Wine As Well

Fab Food Show WineFor lunch we noshed on some barbeque brisket (me) and shrimp and grits (Green Dragon) from a couple of food trucks. Then we entered into the Wine Pavilion area armed with souvenir glasses and a handful of tasting tickets.

Once again the Finger Lakes Wine Country booth was a center of attraction. Standing Stone Vineyards, Glenora, Hazlitt 1852 and Wagner were featured wineries.

From Standing Stone we particularly enjoyed the Dry Chenin Vidal and the Riesling Ice. Glenora’s Cabernet Franc and Wagner’s Cabernet Sauvignon also hit the mark.

Laurie Poland, of Finger Lakes Wine Country, and Katie Roller from Wagner Winery presided at the Finger Lakes wine pavilion, which had some great programming focused on the cool climate wines from that region.

Ohio Wines In The Spotlight

One of our new favorite wineries in Ohio is M Cellars. Their Meritage is outstanding and we love their focus on dry wines. How many other Ohio wines produce Rkatsiteli? For the first time we sampled their 2013 Terroir Red,which is a blend 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Noiret, with some additional Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Lovely tastes of cranberry and earth!

Apollo RieslingAt the Wine Buzz pavilion we sat in on a presentation by the Grand River Valley Winegrowers. We got a sip of the St. Joseph Cask wine, which is a nice complex red. Joel Fink of Fantasy Candies provided chocolates for a pairing program. The Ferrante Grand River Valley Riesling and his truffle were a divine match!

We sipped and savored wines from around the globe and came away with two more favorites: the Von Schleinitz Apollo Dry Riesling from Germany and the Ghostrider red blend from Lodi, California.

Our tastings were interspersed with tours down the aisles to look at kitchen gadgets, taste samples and chat with foodies. We capped the evening with dinner at AMP 150, one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

Mark your calendars now for next year’s Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland. You won’t go away hungry – or thirsty either!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: November 18-21, 2015

2nd Anniversary TWAV Party 013Wednesday, November 18

The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Wines for the Feast, Part Two: 1. Jakob Schneider 2013 Riesling Trocken Melaphyr (Germany), 2. Monseran 2013 Garnacha (Spain), 3. Bonny Doon 2013 "A Proper Claret" (California), 4. Kim Crawford 2013 Pinot Noir (New Zealand), 5. Mark West 2013 Carneros Pinot. Nominal fee per sample or $8 per flight.

Molly Dooker vs. Michael David Winery, at Barr’s Public House, 3355 Briarfield Boulevard, Maumee (419) 866-8466. 6 PM. Two iconic wineries duke it out over a four course dinner. $85 per person (tax and gratuity included). Price includes a complimentary post-dinner tasting of additional allocated wines. Call for reservations.

Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.

Thursday, November 19

Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. Thanksgiving Wines: 1. 2014 Wolfberger – Pinot Blanc – Alsace, France, 2. 2014 Pink Pegau – Rosé – France, 3. 2013 Rodney Strong – RRV Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley, 4. 2012 Patricia Green Cellars – Balcombe Pinot Noir – Dundee Hills, Oregon. Nominal fee per sample or $9 for flight.

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Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM.Elegance. Many wines can be rich, powerful, tannic and gushy. Then there are elegant wines with balance, sophistication, subtlety and fascination. Tonight’s tasting will feature some terrific wines with impeccable elegant qualities. 1. Domaine Chantemerle Chablis Premier Cru, 2. Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, 3. Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay, 4. Lioco Pinot Noir, 5. Fin Amour, 6. Domaine Michelas-St.Jemms La Chasseliere Crozes-Hermitage, 7. H Allamand, 8. Ramey Claret. Nominal fee per sample.

WineTastings_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumCorks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. Thursday Wine Tasting: Beaujolais Gems and Interesting Whites. 6-9 PM. $12.

Noir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.

TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.

Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. Beaujolais Tasting – All Day. Beaujolais is a French wine made from the Gamay grape. Nouveau is the most popular wine released the third week in November, to celebrate the harvest. This is “Beaujolais Nouveau Day.” You may see the French traditional slogan, “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive’.”

Friday, November 20

Toledo Museum of Art – (419) 255-8000 Ext. 7448. 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine By The Glass Pavilion:  Give Thanks: Wines To Accompany That Special Dinner. Enjoy four wines and light snacks during It’s Friday! at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. Tickets are $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers.

Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting – 3:00 – 5:00 PM. (Note special time this week.) Highly rated new wines.

24th Annual Wine Affair – “007 License to Thrill” – 6:30 PM, Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza, Maumee. To benefit the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio.

Saturday, November 21

Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.

Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. Hearty Wines for the Fall. Full-bodied wines taste better with the change in weather with cooler fall days and nights. Featured wines that are big, bold and loaded with flavor. Nominal fee per sample.


  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville.

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Up & Coming:

Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines. Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar).

Last Thursday of Each Month, 6-8 PM – Monthly wine tasting. Maumee Wines, 2556 Parkway Plaza, Maumee – (419) 893-2525. Wine and appetizers. $40 per person.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ferrari Brut Rosé, Trento DOC

In the mountainous north of Italy, outstanding Pinot Noir is grown. Here it is called Pinot Nero and it is a delicious addition to this sparkling rosé.

Ferrari roséA Sparkling Rosé For All

Years ago hearing “pink Champagne” or “sparkling rosé” would send me rushing in the other direction. My, how times have changed.

We continue to love Champagne and sparkling wine. As we’ve gained our sensibilities and had a chance to sample a wide range of wines, we realize that rosé wines – and rosé sparklers in particular – are fantastic food wines and just plain fun.

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Nero Fiddles While Rosé Sparkles

Emperor Nero has earned his place in ignominy by fiddling while Rome burned. We’re happy to say that his namesake grape is making a much more positive contribution.

Ferrari bubblesFerrari Wines, which was founded in Trento in 1902, is Italy’s leading producer of traditional method sparkling wines. Ferrari uses 60% Pinot Nero and 40% Chardonnay in this brut (dry) rosé bubbly.

From vineyards at almost 1,000 feet above sea level, grapes for the Ferrari Rosé are picked by hand. The wine is made in the traditional method (just like Champagne).

A Lively Experience

After the delightful sound of the cork popping, we poured the rosé into flutes. We’re been told that tulip-shaped glasses are becoming popular for sparkling wine, but we enjoy watching the bubbles stream to the top of the elongated glasses like pearls in a necklace.

Ferrari Brut rosé with berriesIn the glass the wine is a salmon pink color. The bubbles are lively and long-lived.

We opted to go with some light appetizers for this wine. We enjoyed stuffed portabella mushrooms, a selection of berries with cream and some Gruyere cheese. This allowed us to spotlight the wine and sip without being distracted by the kitchen.

The flavor was tart grapefruit with a cranberry twist. At 12.5% alcohol, it is light and delicate. Perhaps the best verdict on the wine quality came from the frequent smiles as we sipped and refilled.

This is a solid bottle of enjoyment for about $36. The quality is quite high and the price reasonable. We have found that a good value strategy is to look for undiscovered gems. Everyone knows about Champagne and so it commands a hefty premium. The sparkling wines of Ferrari are not so well known in the US, allowing you to celebrate the “Italian art of living” for a song.

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Full disclosure: We received this bottle as a marketing sample.

Monday, November 16, 2015

J.R. Dill 2010 DeChaunac, Finger Lakes

20151105_201113-02Hybrid grapes are the product of crossing two or more species of grapes. Hybrids often have greater tolerance for disease and cold climates. They also deliver a unique drinking experience.

Walking On The Wild Side

During a recent visit to the Finger Lakes, we made our first visit to the J.R. Dill Winery. We were impressed with the tasting room and the wines.

We are always on the lookout for something unique and we came home with this bottle of DeChaunac. DeChaunac was developed by Frenchman Albert Seibel in 1860. It was introduced in Canada in 1947 and in the 1950s began plantings in the US. Today it is planted in the Northeast US, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Some wine lovers look down their nose at hybrids. Not us – we have several favorites that deliver offbeat flavor profiles that we enjoy.

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J.R. Dill – A Rising Finger Lakes Winery

We stopped into J.R. Dill a few years ago. We took a walk from our B&B where we were staying, which is on the east shore of Seneca Lake. It was a few hundred feet away and we popped in.

Finger Lakes 2013 B 092

One of the coolest aspects of J.R. Dill is the bar, which features pieces of Seneca Lake glass, found on the shore and smoothed by the friction of the water.

The winery was founded in 2009 by Jeff Dill. It offers an interesting lineup of wines, including three that feature DeChaunac (one is a blend of Geneva and DeChaunac and the other blends Cab Franc and DeChaunac).

Digging Into DeChaunac

I noticed this bottle on the rack the other day. With a 2010 vintage and no idea how long DeChaunac might age, I thought it was high time to pop it open. I had another bottle on standby in case it had “jumped the shark.”

The aroma was the first clue that this wine was still going strong. A nice fruity aroma signaled smooth sipping ahead.

In the glass the DeChaunac is garnet in color. Nuances of earth mingled with the light red fruit flavors. The Green Dragon proclaimed a flavor of Sweet Tart and there is indeed a tartness.

Like many hybrids, this DeChaunac is not a “tannin monster” but is on the lighter side of the spectrum. It offers a great drinking experience and is a perfect casual sipper.

I’m tempted to check out the Cabernet Franc and DeChaunac blend. That could be like a pepper mill explosion. Cab Franc is know for its pepperiness and the DeChaunac has a dash of pepper as well.

At $14, this is an excellent value. If you like to zig when others zag, consider DeChaunac.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rain Keeps 2016 Vintage On Track In South Australia

Heavy November rain in some of Australia’s leading wine regions has the 2016 vintage on track for a strong harvest.The Barossa and Clare valleys in South Australia received up to 80mm of much-needed rain last week – more than has fallen in the regions in the past two months.

South Australia Vines

Australia’s 2016 Vintage Promising

Barossa Grape and Wine Association viticultural development officer Nicki Robins said the rain, which ranged from about 1 to 2 inches in her region, had the vines booming.

“Things are looking really good, most people have just finished flowering so things are looking on track. It was certainly lovely to get that good bit of rain, it really helps a lot,” Robins said.

Things are on track for a very good season

“Because we had such a cold winter the vines went very dormant and then we had a few patches of heat which really made the vines push so the amount of canopy growth is quite good compared to the overall amount of rain we’ve had.”

Robins said while many vineyards were irrigated, good winter and spring rainfall was crucial. “You just can’t beat it,” he said.

“The vines are looking very healthy especially after the recent rain and there’s no disease pressure at the moment so things are looking really nice.” 

The Barossa Valley produces world renowned brands such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass. Harvest traditionally begins with the picking of white wine grapes in late January and finishes with the completion of red grape harvest in late march or early April.

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South Australia Produces Half of Country’s Wine

442537485_bae6d27435According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, Australia was the world’s seventh largest wine producing nation in 2015. Italy, France and Spain topped the list.

South Australia is consistently responsible for almost 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production.

Clare Valley Wine Grape Growers Association President Troy van Dulken said vineyards in his region received between 2 and 3.3 inches of rain last week, which was “spot on timing”.

“We’ve had really solid early growth because of the warm spring and with the rain it couldn’t be better,” he said.

“The crop load this year is probably the best I’ve seen since 2010 so where looking at probably above average crops of all varieties throughout Clare at the moment.

“Things are on track for a very good season and it looks like we are tracking towards an early vintage at this stage in the early part of February if not the last week of January.”

Further south, the McLaren Vale and Coonawarra districts have received only about 15-20mm of rain in November but growers were still hopeful of a good season.

Coonawarra Grape & Wine Incorporated President Allen Jenkins said a warmer than average October had kept potentially damaging spring frosts in the region at bay this year.

Jenkins said the warm conditions had been perfect for flowering.

He said although the flowering season had come early, cool summer winds off the chilly Southern Ocean often meant harvest of the region’s Cabernet grapes was traditionally not until early April. 

“It’s been a very nice start to the season – it’s been dry – but the lack of rain means that we’ve had no disease pressure.”

“The rain we had last week was just enough to freshen the vines a bit and settle the dust, it didn’t really have much impact.

“We’d be very happy like to see some good rain in early January just before the vines enter the ripening period.”


Early Harvest On The Way

McLaren Vale grape grower and winemaker James Hook, of DJ’s Growers and Lazy Ballerina wines, said the region was preparing for an early vintage.

“We are possibly going to be picking some grapes in January, which is much earlier than average,” he said.

He said dry conditions were unlikely to be detrimental to the harvest because the region had good access to water for irrigation.

However, he said growers would be hoping to avoid prolonged summer heat waves where temperatures topped 95 degrees for long periods.

“The mood is very optimistic,” he said. “People are seeing good potential yields at this stage.” 

Photo Credit (bottom): krossbow via Compfight cc

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rôtie Cellars 2011 North Rhone Blend, Walla Walla Valley

Rotie Cellars Northern Blend

One of the most renowned regions in the Northern part of France’s Rhône Valley is Côte-Rôtie. Here’s a Washington maker that seeks to translate the best of the Rhône with Washington State grapes.

Impressive From the Get-Go

When we taste wines it is often a waiting game. We decant the wine, we swirl, we sip and we contemplate – “Do we really like this wine or not?”

The 2011 Northern Blend from Rôtie Cellars is a different animal. From the first drop, we loved this wine. Let me explain.

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War Between The North And South

Taste of Washington Rotie Southern BlendI was introduced to Rôtie Cellars during my visit to the Taste of Washington event earlier this year in Seattle. I was attracted by the name and drawn in further by their beautiful wines.

Dozens of wines were tasted during that wine showcase, but I starred the Rôtie Southern Rhône Blend as one of my favorites. In Southern Rhône Syrah and Grenache blends predominate, while in the North, Syrah is the only red grape allowed.

During a conference this spring in Philadelphia, I was pleased to receive a bottle of the Northern Blend as a gift. As much as I enjoyed the Southern Blend, the Northern Blend is a mind bender.

Amazing Washington State Fruit And French Styling

Washington State wine is some of the best in the world and represents a true value. The reds are rich and flavorful and the region is one of the few in the US that produces quality Riesling. If you aren’t drinking Washington State Syrah, you should be.

The Rôtie Northern Blend uses grapes from the Patina and Dwelly vineyards in one of our favorite wine regions, Walla Walla Valley. The Syrah is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Viognier is an elegant floral white grape. Its inclusion with a red wine is a Rhône hallmark.

Rotie Cellars LogoThe addition of Viognier makes all the difference. The Syrah is deep, dark and velvety. The Viognier pushes it over the top – adding another dimension with a flowery touch to the bouquet and a silkiness to the body.

There were a mere 600 cases produced of this wine, which was aged in French oak. The SRP is $40, but it’s drinking like a million bucks.

In case you can’t tell, we love this wine! It has our highest recommendation. We urge you to “go North” to sample this wine. We intend to try some of Rôtie Cellars other offerings, including their white Rhône blends.