Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Getting Arrogant and Being Loved

The word arrogant has a stigma to it. I personally shy away from arrogant people, that is until I met this dapper little frog. He appeared at a gathering in October where we all fell in love with him. After all how can you resist this little frog dressed so classy.

Arrogant Frog is the creation of Jean-Claude Mas, a dapper man himself and owner of Paul Mas Domains (Domaines Paul Mas, Mas des Tannes, Domaines Astruc, Chateau de Martinolles, Chateau des Cres Richards, Domaine de la Terrandiere, Domaine Silene, Chateau Lauriga and Arrogant Frog) As Frenchman he wanted to show that wines from the Languedoc region can shine all over. Can the French shed their reputation as arrogant people? I think so, and together with Jean-Claude’s humor he decided to poke fun at the disposition and created Arrogant Frog.

Arrogant Frog was born in 2005 in the Herault Valley of Landguedoc which is located in the south of France. The Languedoc region of France is unlike the other regions where a few grapes grow well and dominate. The Languedoc is a great growing region for a variety of grapes with Mediterranean influences. The Herault Valley terroir is gravely, clay limestone hills making it a good area to grow Syrah, Grenach, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carigan, Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Chateau Arrogant Frog is located in the Limoux grand cru and has 20 hectares of which 15 are organically farmed and 5 are certified by Terra Vitis.
Around the holiday time the frog appeared on my doorstep with a bottle of 2016 Lily Pad Pinot Noir. I welcomed the Arrogant Frog into my home where he clearly made himself comfortable.

The 2016 Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Pinot Noir had a beautiful light red garnet color that shimmered in the light. Half of the wine is aged in new oak barrels for 7 months while the other half ages in stainless steel vats. After the 7 months of aging in new oak the wine is put into vats to age for 2 more months before being bottled. Escaping from the bottle were aromas of red berries, strawberries, hints of vanilla and lots of spice. In the glass ad on the palate the wine had ripe tannins and nice acidity with a nice black pepper finish. SRP $10

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bourbon Barrels and Wine

What do bourbon barrels have to do with wine? Recently there has been a trend to age wine in bourbon barrels. It’s interesting because Bob Blue, winemaker of 1000 Stories Wines said that when he began as winemaker in the 80’s they aged wine in Bourbon barrels as a cost saving method. It was cheaper to purchase used bourbon barrels than brand new ones.

Today he has a different outlook on the processes, bringing back what’s old is new again. The bourbon barrels Bob uses today are curated from an older selection of barrels to achieve more intense aromas and flavors that would be more subdued using traditional wine barrels. The outcome is balance in the wines and varietal character showing through.

Bob uses a combination of old and new bourbon barrels with the percentage weighing heavily on old. He feels the older barrels bring a real sweetness to the wines and the newer unused ones bring a unique smokiness and together it makes for a nice balanced wine. Together they bring vanilla, herbs and spice, clove and dill to the wine.

Tasting 1000 Stories Zinfandel and Petite Sirah was a first for me in tasting bourbon barrel aged wine. I really like the labels on the wines. The bison on the label is significant because 1000 Stories supports the Wildlife Conservations Society in its efforts to reintroduce bison into healthy environments so they can thrive and contribute to the ecosystems. Seems even thought there are about 450,000 Bisons fewer than 20,000 range freely.

2015 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel Small Batch No. 038 at first I thought the aromas coming out of the glass were strange. Remember this is my first bourbon barrel aged wine. Then as the wine aired the nose got complex and there was a hint of sweetness combined with red fruit, red berries pepper and coffee. The palate was just as complex. Flavors of red fruit, raspberries, cherries, black plum, black licorice and toffee. SRP $19

2015 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Petite Sirah Half Batch - this wine showed a lot of blue fruit and you can smell a bit of the sweet bourbon on the nose. The palaee was complex with boysenberry, blue fruit, blackberry, dry herbs and hot cinnamon on the finish. SRP $18.99

All the wines at 1000 are made in small batches, just like bourbon. The two above would pair real well with BBQ and smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork. Look for a release of their bourbon aged Carignan in 2018.

Have your had a bourbon aged wine? Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Not All Gondola Rides Happen On The Ski Slopes

The only time I’ve rode in a gondola is when I’ve been skiing. Never did I think I would be riding one to get to a winery, but that is how you get to Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. (They call it an aerial tram) Sterling sits on the top of a large hill and they need a way to get employees and visitors up to the winery with little impact on the hill. When you pull into Sterling there is a large parking lot where you take the tram to the top. Bring your camera because the views are incredible. Unfortunately the day I visited was cloudy and misty but still amazing view. Once I got to the top my mouth dropped open just looking at the winery operation and listening to the St Dunstan bells every 15 minutes play a different tune.
View from the Tram

St Dunstan Church Bells
As you step off the tram you are greeted in the portico area and given a glass of wine.  From there the three different tours depart.  If you are taking the self walking tour of the winery it will end in the South View Terrace.  There is an app you can download for the self guided walking tour and its available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.   The tour takes you through the production area where you can see the production without being on the production floor. The tour ends on the beautiful South View Terrace with beautiful views of Napa Valley. Throughout the tour at each segment you get to taste a different wine.

The walking tour is available with all the different experiences at Sterling. I got to experience the Platinum Experience where five wines are paired with small bites. It’s just not a wine pairing it is truly and experience. Sterling has three commercial kitchens and a full culinary staff. In this pairing we were treated to a vertical of their Platinum 2013, 2012, 2011 and their 2014 Reserve Chardonnay.

The 2014 Reserve Chardonnay was paired with house made ricotta cheese with Agramato olive oil and lemon zest
2011 Platinum paired with Duck Confit on roasted winter squash seasoned with cardamom and coriander
2012 Platinum paired with Lamb Meatball braised leek, fennel and tomato sauce
2013 Platinum paired with Braised short rib, Cabernet reduction and carrot puree

Listen here as we learn about the wines, how 2011 was not a stellar year, to how 2012 and 2013 were amazing years and the pairings. 

I don’t always have the best timing with things, but this visit happened to be timed right with their release of their Iridium. This wine is only mad during the very best vintages and in small lots that have been individually selected for quality. The grapes are sourced from three vineyards, 4 barrels coming from Rutherford, 2 barrels coming from Sleeping Lake in Yountville and one from Megs Vineyard in Wooden Valley and it’s all aged in 100% new oak.

Listen to Director of Winemaking - Harry Hansen talk about the Iridium, one of the greatest wines of his career.

Other experiences Sterling offers is the Silver Experience which is a taste of 4 wines and you can add a cheese and Charcuterie platter to pair with the wines. After the pairing end the experience with the walking tour.

A definite must visit when in Napa!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Valentine's Day Love and Bubbles

It’s that time of the year when Hallmark tells us it’s Valentine’s Day and we have to do something special. Quite frankly, everyday is special when it comes to the person you love, but Valentine’s Day is extra special to show your love. This year it a trifecta with February 14 falling mid-week, we have the weekend before, the actual day and the weekend after.

No worries, I have the four perfect sparkling wines for you to toast your love with that won’t break the bank. Celebrate the weekend before, the day of and the weekend after with Cava and Prosecco.

Vilarnau is a small artisan winery located outside Barcelona specializing in small scale production of Cava. Their aim is to make cave with as little impact on the environment. They hold the Organic Viticulture Certificate issued by the Catalan Council for Organic Agriculture which means they have reduced chemical and phytosanitary treatments by 50%.

The two Cavas below are in these beautiful bottles in the Trencadís Edition. Trencadís is a mosaic created from tiny fragments of broken ceramic tiles, or roof tiles. The technique is known as “pique assiette” in French. The bottles are so pretty you almost don’t want to open it.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva NV Made with the typical Cava blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel.lo and aged for 15 months on the lees. You’ll find bright apple and floral notes with exotic citrus and stone fruit. SRP $14.99

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé NV made with a blend of 85% Trepat and 15% Pinot Noir, aged for 15 months on the lees you get bright red fruit popping out at you once you uncork. The Cava is a beautiful pink in color dancing in your glass with flavors of bright cherry and juicy strawberry with an elegant body. SRP 15.99

We head over to Italy and celebrate with two Proseccos.  First is a Zonin Cuvee 1821 Prosecco from a the Zonin family that has been producing wine since the 1800’s. Light and refreshing aromas of white peaches and fresh picked white flowers opens to a palate showing some minerality with green apple and pear. There is a hint of sweetness on the finish. SRP $ 12.99

Rounding out Valentine’s Day with the Lunelli family brings us Ferrari Brut NV which is 100% Chardonnay sourced from grapes grown in the vineyards planted on the slopes of the Trentino mountains, made in strict accordance with the regulations of Trentodoc. This is a beautiful Prosecco with yeasty notes and toast coming from the bottle right after it’s uncorked. Pour it in a wine glass and smell the breddy aromas mixed with lemon, white flowers and chalk. One sip and the smooth and silky liquid is balanced with just enough acidity and flavors of just baked bead with melting butter, golden delicious apples and lemony citrus notes. SRP $25

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fetzer Celebrating 50 years moving toward a Net Positive Future

“What is good for the earth is good for the grape.” ~ Barney Fetzer

Fetzer Vineyards is a well known name in the wine world and I am sure you have purchased a bottle of their wines at some point. But do you really know Fetzer wines?

In 1968 Barney Fetzer began making wine in Mendocino County, a place in California many people weren’t familiar with for growing grapes. People tried to explain to Barney how the wine industry worked but he wanted no part of that. He had a different vision, one of pursuing an earth-first philosophy and became an early pioneer of sustainable farming.

“Earth-friendly practices yield better grapes. And better grapes yield better wine.” ~ Barney Fetzer

In 1981 Fetzer purchased the Sundial Chadonnay site in Hopland, California and in 1995 they completed their winery headquarters all crafted from reclaimed materials. They then installed solar on its roof and neighboring buildings…4,300 panels in all.

This is just the beginning of the course of actions Fetzer is taking to become Net Positive by 2030. What is Net Positive? It’s replacing the negative impacts you have with positive impacts that enhance and regenerate ecosystems and communities while moving forward and producing sustainable growth for business.

Starting with their carbon footprint, through sustainable farming practices they have eliminated the need for chemicals in the vineyards. They are TRUE Zero Waste certified. The goal here is divert all solid waste from the landfill, which Fetzer wants to achieve 99.9% by the year 2020. They practice water conversation by using worms, yes worms in the process of treating their water naturally. This saves electricity. (For more on Fetzer’s process of using worms to remove contaminates from the water I suggest this article written by Robin Shreeves Earthworms do double-duty at Fetzer. I promise the next time it rains you will look at an earthworm very differently.)

Fetzer was the first California winery to operate on 100% renewable energy in 1999. Taking care of people and the planet has always been a priority to Barney Fetzer. Fetzer is a B Corp Certified with a score of 95.1 in 2017. It’s about more than just environmental impact, with B Corporation certification, there is a social expectation as well as legal accountability. It’s the highest standard for social and environmental responsibility in a business. As a B Corporation you are a leader in change. That leadership awarded Fetzer the Momentum for Change award for its leadership in modeling sustainable practices in the wine industry at the 2017 United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

Every time you purchase a bottle of Fetzer wines, you are not only helping the environment, but helping move towards social change.

Fetzer 2016 Sundial Chardonnay aged in a combination of oak and stainless steel this Chardonnay has a touch of cool climate Riesling in it that ads a bit a brightness. Strong notes of butterscotch candy with ripe pear opens to a complex Chardonnay with melon and tropical notes ending with Creme Brulee. SRP $10

Fetzer 2016 Shaly Loam Gewurtztraminer is an off dry Gewurtz with notes of cinnamon, peach and apricot leading to a palate full of ripe peach and stone fruit. Served this with Amish peaches in brandy and boy did it bring out the peach flavor in each. SRP $11

Fetzer 2015 Eagle Peak Merlot notes of blackberry and plum with a hint of cocoa and black pepper on the nose. The palate is slightly complex with blackberry, plum, black cherry, coffee and a hint of licorice. SRP $10

To learn more about the history of Fetzer join them as they celebrate their 50th Anniversary through Fetzer 50th Storyteller Series

Friday, February 2, 2018

Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 8 - Horse Heaven Hills

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 8. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. .

January took us to the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the Washington State. I had so much fun researching this region because I am not familiar with wines from Washington State. The Horse Heaven Hills appellation is located in south-central Washington along the Washington-Oregon border. The area takes its name from an early pioneer who said, upon seeing hte region and its wide prairies and expanses, “Surely this is Horse Heaven!”

Two-thirds of the acreage is planted to red grapes and one-third to white grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate for red and Chardonnay and Riesling for white. The area is 570,000 acres with elevations ranging from 200 feet above sea level along the Columbia river to 1,800 feet at the northern boundary.

The wine I chose for this episode was a 2014 Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvgnon. Double Canyon is part of the Crimson Group which has 9 properties combined in California and Washington. Founded in 2007 Double Canyon has been focusing on producing exceptional Washington Cabernet Sauvignon on their 90 acre Double Canyon vineyard located in the heart of Horse Heaven Hills and 6 miles from the Columbia River.

This wine is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 2% Malbec and spent 14 months in 19% new French oak and 8% new American oak. Juicy black fruit, ripe blackberries with some blueberry notes, dry herbs and a spice burst on the finish. This is where I usually tell you how much the wine cost. In this case, I want you to watch the video or listen to the podcast because you will see a huge discrepancy in price from my local wine store Boutique Wine & Spirits to the winery’s website. (in favor of the wine store)

Listen to the video or podcast as Lori and I take you to Horse Heaven Hills as we explore the history, characteristics of the region, fun wine pairings and facts. Don’t forget to join us February 19, as we head to Chile and explore the Itata Valley. Register here

Listen to the Podcast: 

Looking for past episodes for Season 1 you can find them here:

Episode 1 Albarino  video 
Episode 2 Beaujolais video podcast  
Episode 3 Carmenere video
Episode 4 Dolcetto video podcast
Episode 5 Etna video podcast
Episode 6 Furmint video podcast
Episode 7 Gruner Veltliner video podcast   

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hudson Valley Spotlight - Millbrook Winery

Millbrook Vineyards and Winery is the Flagship winery of the Hudson Valley. I look back to 1987 when I dropped off travel documents to a former co-worker Lori, who had taken the marketing position at Millbrook and gave me my first Hudson Valley winery tour and today, how Millbrook has grown. I guess it’s good to say that I’ve seen a lot of my ‘babies’ grow in the Hudson Valley. It’s always nice to check in periodically to see what is new and exciting.

The last time I was there they had pulled out a bunch of vines in the front. Last summer they were planted with Chardonnay, Riesling, Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. This is a first planting of Gamay Noir for them. I just hope that the very cold temperatures that were experienced in January didn’t do any harm to those young vines. It will be at least 3 years before we will see anything produced from these planting, but I can’t wait for the Gamay!

If you haven’t been to Millbrook recently they’ve made some wonderful improvements to the tasting room. They have their Reserve Room which is great for private tastings for small groups. Beginning Memorial Day weekend at 4pm the Reserve Room will be hosting a wine and cheese pairing featuring Spout Creek cheeses. If you are going to be in the area, make reservations for that tasting. I have not met a Sprout Creek cheese I didn’t like, not a Millbrook wine for that matter.

Their Vineyard Taproom and Terrace if a nice cozy room overlooking the vineyard. I’ve sat in there with the fire going relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine. This winter on weekends through March you can hang out by the fire with a glass of wine and a bowl of Chile from the Slammin’ Salmon for $6. Every weekend you’ll find a different chili. Here is the schedule of the upcoming chili weekends.

Just in a couple of weeks is Valentine’s Day an if you don’t have plans yet, consider their Wine & Dessert pairing at 1pm. These desserts (can you see I have a sweet tooth!) all look so good! After the dessert pairing you can head up to the Vineyard Tap room and have a bowl of Green Chili and a glass of wine. Think of it as a backwards lunch.

Every month leading into the summer with their Decadent Delights series. March 17 is Wine & Irish Cheese; April 21 Wine & Popcorn; May 12 Wine & Sushi; and June 16 Wine &; Pate. Back by popular demand is Food Truck Friday. Start the weekend enjoying Millbrook wine and dinner from local food trucks 5pm - 8pm. Saturdays is Jazz at the Grille where you can enjoy dinner and regional jazz acts from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

If all this eating and drinking has you worried about your waistline, worry no more. You can sign up for the ‘Un-wined’ Wednesday which is an evening yoga series that runs May through September.

Other exciting things to look out for from Millbrook is their 90 point rating for their 2016 Dry Riesling Proprietor’s Special Reserve and 91 point rating for their 2016 Castle Hill Riesling in the March issue of Wine Enthusiast. Congratulations!