Crushing and pressing Chardonnay grapes at Shinn Vineyards.
Monthly Archives: October 2009
Yes it’s true there is a sparkling house on the North Fork of Long Island. Not that making sparkling on the North Fork is odd, there are actually a lot of good Method Champenoise sparklers being made on the island. The fact that they employ a sparkling only model is the odd/brave part. We visited Sparkling Pointe about 4 hours after they opened there doors this past Sunday and were greeted by a sparkling white facility complete with a VIP room with bubble chandeliers and an elevator (it was required for code). The idea of a sparkling only winery isn’t new, many reside in California (Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Chandon) it is just a new concept for the East coast.
We met with owners Tom and Cynthia Rosicki as they gave us the grand tour or their new facility, and tasted us on their wines. Wine maker Gilles Martin makes three different sparklers, a Brut, a Rose (Topaz Imperial), and Brut Seduction (an aged cuvee).
2005 Brut ($29) – baking biscuits, apple pie, sweet toast, and hazelnut. Full body, nice tight bubbles.
2005 Topaz Imperial ($33) (52% Chardonnay/48% Chardonnay) – black cherry, toast, dough, very tight bubbles. Full body with hints of strawberry and watermelon.
2000 Brut Selection ($50) – slight hints of wax on the nose with beautiful apple and pear, hints of summer hay, and toasted almonds. Creamy mid-palate, and extremely long finish.
I was super impressed with the selections but Sparkling Pointe doesn’t need my accolades as they have won many of their own. The beautiful setting and the wonderful bubbly are a great addition to the North Fork wine community, I wish Tom and Cynthia all the best in their sparkling endeavor.
I spent Sunday and Monday touring around Virginia Wine Country with Dezel Quillen of My Vine Spot and Frank Morgan of Drink What U Like, meeting with wine makers and vineyard managers, exploring what was in bottle as well as the newly pressed ’09 vintage. You know it’s awesome when you meet wine makers who inspire you. The ones that truly craft wine they believe to be great, and have a palpable love for the grape, both on the vine and in the bottle. I met a few such wine makers this weekend touring the Monticello wine trail, some of whom I met before, others for the first time. (not that I haven’t met many others over the years)
One of the new wine makers that I met was Kirsty Harmon of Blenheim Vineyards. I have been to Blenheim before but not since Kirsty took over last year. Not that I disliked like what was being done at Blenheim before, I was actually a big fan, but I must honestly say I really love the new approach and the wines are fabulous.
A little background on Kirsty:
“Kirsty developed an appreciation for wine through a job that allowed her to apprentice for famed Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse.
After making wine for several years in Virginia,(for Kluge) Kirsty moved west to pursue formal training at the University of California at Davis, where she graduated with an M.S. in Viticulture and Enology in 2007. After graduation, Kirsty spent six months at Domaine Faiveley in Nuits St. Georges, France as a recipient of the 2007 Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Scholarship. In Spring 2008, she worked as a harvest intern at Craggy Range Winery in New Zealand as recipient of the Doug Wisor Memorial Scholarship.”
As I stated her passion is palpable, and a lot of her inspiration comes from the time she spent in Burgundy and New Zealand which can be seen in the style of wines she crafts. The first thing you might notice while tasting at Blenheim is that all of their wines are screwcaps, the only winery in Virginia to bottle all their wines with that closure system. It was pretty shocking actually! She believes that it is a much better closure for two reasons, cost and safeguarding of the wine. She quoted numbers on what she is saving per bottle with the screw caps and it is quite impressive, a cost savings that she is directly relaying to her bottle prices. I did question on her on how she thought the closure would affect the aging potential of her bigger red wines and she said that they should still age very well. When I pressed a little more, questioning the polymerization of tannin molecules without the assistance of micro-oxygenation through a cork she quickly told me that the molecules don’t need oxygen to do that. That is something I did not know! I guess only time will tell! 🙂
On to the wines…
2008 Blenheim Chardonnay- $15 – (fruit from Honah Lee Vineyards and Mt. Juliet Vineyards, 35% barrel fermented in French, American and Hungarian oak) – lots of fruit, full of apple, ripe pear and hazelnut. Medium to full body with bright acidity and a clean finish
2008 Blenheim Farm Chardonnay – $20 – (all estate fruit, 100% barrel fermented) – Slightly tropical in nature, with apple, ginger and tangerine with notes of melon and almond at the back of the palate. Full body, again great balanced acidity.
2008 Viognier – ( fruit from Honah Lee Vineyards and Mt. Juliet Vineyards, 40% barrel fermented for 5 months) Honey and fresh flowers on the nose, followed by honeysuckle, fuji apple, and more floral notes. Round full body with a touch of spice.
2008 Seven Oaks Merlot – $18 – (fruit from Seven Oaks Vineyards) – loved the nose, full of black tea, black cherry and cranberry. Palate was a little awkward, hints of candied fruit. Medium body with nice leathery tannins.
2008 Blenheim Farms Cabernet Franc – $22 – (estate fruit, not sure of oak program) – cherry raspberry and red currant and notes of dried herbs on the nose. Similar flavor profile with the addition of black pepper notes.
Kirsty took us down to the winery, and had us taste some ’09 samples out of the barrel and tank as well as ’08 Petite Verdot that has been bottled yet. As I stated in yesterdays post I was very impressed with what we tasted from the ’09 vintage. The baby Blenheim wines were showing great fruit and structure and Kirsty is working with some interesting Rhone varieties that show some nice promise.
Thanks to Kirsty for her hospitality, we all had a great time.
Check out Blenheim Vineyards
31 Blenheim Farm
Charlottesville, VA 22902
This weekend (Sunday & Monday) the wife and I met up with Frank Morgan of drinkwhatulike.com and Dezel Quillen of myvinespot.com for some Monticello wine tasting. We went to Mountfair Vineyards, Pollak Winery, King Family, Delfosse and Blenheim and had a fantastic time. We met with winemakers and/or vineyard managers at all places and got a good taste of how the ’09 vintage went. Tasting many barrel and tank samples of ’09 juice, we were all quite impressed with what is in store for the vintage, and frankly I can’t wait for it to be in bottle.
I’ll have some posts soon with details of each visit but I wanted to put up a picture montage in the mean time.
Last night I had the opportunity to taste 12 Finger Lakes Rieslings, as part of Taste NY, organized by Lenn Thompson of The New York Cork Report. I’ve actually been sitting on these wines for a while and finally got off my butt and organized the tasting. In attendance were some of my wine geek friends, 2 of which are wine distributors, a co- worker at my shop, and a manager from another wine shop in town, as well as my wife (six in total). I assembled this group, one, because I knew they would take it seriously, and two because we all enjoy Riesling. In addition to the 12 from the Finger Lakes, I threw in one from Virginia to mix things up. The wines were all tasted blind, and we used the 20pt scoring system.
2008 Stick Dog Riesling – VA
2008 Billsboro Dry Riesling – FL
2006 Red Newt Cellars Reserve – FL
2008 Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling – FL
2008 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard – FL
2008 Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve – FL
2006 Sheldrake Point Reserve – FL
2007 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling – FL
2006 Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling – FL
2008 Fox Run Vineyards – FL
2007 Wiemer Vineyards Dry Riesling – FL
2007 Atwater Vineyads Dry Riesling – FL
2005 Heron Hill Old Vines Riesling – FL
As you can see the Virginia wine won, but only by a nose, which was a HUGE shocker. Before tasting, I honestly thought the NY wines would blow it away. Plus the top 5 were not separated by much, here are the scores for the top 5, based on the 20pt system.
Overall the wines that scored highest were the ones that showed a balanced presentation of fruit, acid and body. The ones that didn’t show well had out of balance acidity, creating bitter, chemical tasting off-notes. A general comment that went around the table was as if the wines had been manipulated with acid, in an exaggerated way. I don’t know enough about those vintages but understand ’08 was a pretty good one for Finger Lakes Riesling and shouldn’t have required acid additions.
We all had fun, and enjoyed the opportunity to taste so many wines that we don’t see here in Virginia too often.
A special thanks to Lenn for including me in Taste NY and to all the wine makers who sent samples of their wines for me to evaluate. Stay tuned for a future post on some specific tasting notes for some of the wines!
So last night for dinner I went to my sample rack to catch up on some things and pulled out the Macari Vineyards Sette ($17) from the North Fork of Long Island. It intrigued me because it was non-vintage (or at least not labeled) and no grapes were listed. So before whipping out the laptop to look up this wine I tasted it, and guessed that it must be predominately Cabernet Franc. Well I was right, it is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot, as well as a new wine for Macari.
Unfortunately the information on the Macari website is limited as far as vinification and doesn’t go much further than the blend of grapes. Quick background info on Macari –
“Macari is on the cutting edge of viticulture and is dedicated to a more natural approach to winemaking. Joseph Macari, Jr. is recognized as a pioneer in the movement towards organic and sustainable farming on Long Island, employing principles of biodynamic farming since the vineyard’s first plantings. Extensive soil preparation, rich composts, careful cover cropping and a consideration to wildlife and terrain makes Macari’s 180 planted acres stand out from the rest. Taking into account the health of the environment as a whole, and moving away from the harmful effects of pesticides to a more natural and meticulous caretaking of the soil and plants, ultimately yields premium wines.”
Nose: mocha, plum, black cherry, red currant, thyme
Taste: red cherry, red currant, leather, oak, raspberry
Mouthfeel: spicy with velvety tannins, medium to full bodied with racy acidity
Finish: long in length with a great amount of fruit
I was quite impressed with the wine, it was varietally correct, extremely balanced and also good. Not a bad combination for $17. My only negative comment on the wine would be the presence of oak toward the back of the palate. I don’t mind oak or it’s derivatives in a wine, but for some reason this was coming off as more of a plywood taste. It was over bearing so it didn’t take away from the rest of the great flavors I was picking up.
So this week my quick sip is on Wednesday, yesterday my wordpress.com dashboard was on the fritz so I couldn’t upload a post. Oh well, the wine for this quick sip is the 2005 L’ Ecole No 41 Perigee Seven Hills Vineyard
Appellation: Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Vineyard: Seven Hills
Grapes: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 22 months in 50% new oak
My Tasting Notes –
Nose: blackberry, fig, black cherry, pencil shavings
Taste: blackberry, eucalyptus, mint, thyme, blueberry
Mouthfeel: big and full bodied, elegant with rich full tannins
Finish: long with flavors of black currant
Big and elegant all at the same time, this wine provides rich fruit flavors with hints of herbs that round out the palate quite nicely. Even with 22 months in oak it doesn’t come across oaky at all, very balanced with nice hints of pencil shavings that I don’t usually find on a Cab based blend from the US.
Virginia Wine Update from Matt Conrad of the Virginia Wine Council:
“This past Friday a circuit court judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit issued an order that could impact the Virginia wine industry far beyond the borders of Fauquier County, the locality in which Kate Marterella operates her family’s farm winery. Although the case centers on the interpretation of the Declaration of Covenants governing the Marterella’s subdivision, the judge held in the order that the on-site retail sale of wine is not an agricultural activity.
In defense of this position, the Court references Webster’s New World Dictionary, 3rd Ed. for the respective definitions of “agriculture” and “retail.” Specifically, the Court holds that “agriculture does not include the on-site retail sale of wine by the glass.” The Court analogizes that “a farmer who sells the cattle he raises on his property is engaged in agriculture, but he could not sell butchered and packaged meats to consumers on his property and still call it agriculture.” We at the VWC believe the beef cattle farmer would disagree and we know our winegrowers do too.
In its order, the Court makes no reference to the July 1, 2009, amendment to Virginia Code Section 15.2-2288.3 that declares “the agricultural nature of … activities and events” relating to the marketing and sale of wine at Virginia farm wineries.This past session of the General Assembly, the Virginia Wine Council fought hard to have that designation made part of Virginia law and it is regrettable that the Circuit Court did not take notice of it.
Take a moment to read the Order, which is linked here.”
It is October already, where did this year go? The temperature dipped below 50 degrees last night and it really feels like fall outside, a great way to usher in Virginia Wine Month. With 148 wineries currently open for business in the Commonwealth you have a multitude of choices to sample some great wine and enjoy the beautiful Virginia countryside. This year Virginia wine month was kicked off by a great event that I was unfortunately not able to attend but was there virtually via Twitter. Yeah, you read that right, via Twitter! The Virginia Tourism department organized Vintage Tweets (#vawinemonth) a Tweetup tasting event with six wineries pouring 18 wines. Following on Twitter was not as good as being there but it still gave me a “taste” of the action and I am really glad that the VA Tourism department is embracing social media.
If you need help deciding where to start your wine travels there are a couple of sites out there to help – you can visit Virginia.org for a listing of all the winery events during October, or the Virginia Wines website for a complete listing of all 148 Virginia wineries and 13 wine trails. You can also join the Virginia Wine Facebook group and follow Virginia Wine on Twitter for more ideas and updates of events.