Warm Wednesday Whites

Man, is it hot! As we sweat through a record-breaking summer in which 95 degrees is considered cool, we decided to sample some summer sippers sent to us by Kluge estate Winery and Vineyard. The package included the 2009 Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Albemarle Viognier, and the 2007 Kluge SP Rose. On this warm Wednesday, we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and the Viognier; we’ll save the Rose for our “back to school” special review.

Our summer menus tend to be fairly light, and this afternoon we snacked on white cheese and crackers as we sipped a glass of the 2009 Albemarle Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose we noted lemongrass and melon with a refreshing minerality with similar attributes in the mouth. It was perfect on a hot day and paired well with our cheese and crackers.

As the sun began to set, Paul prepared a simple supper that consisted of herbed chicken with aromatic jasmine rice. Our wine pairing with this meal was the 2009 Albemarle Viognier. It offered the floral aromatics that reminded us of summertime honeysuckle blossoms, and we both observed flavors of mango and apricot. It finished with a very subtle toasty edge reminiscent of a Condrieu-style Viognier. As the sun began to set and temps lowered to a more comfortable 91 degrees, the 2009 Albemarle Viognier was the best way to end a hot summer’s day.

Stay tuned for our upcoming review of the SP Rose. In the meantime, plan to purchase some summer sippers from Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. Be sure to mention,though, that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Linden Barrel Tasting

So we’re behind in our postings, but we promise to get caught up. (Darn those 9-5 things called jobs!)  Anyway, we did attend the Linden barrel tasting held on May 2 and wanted to post about the event.  We love all things Linden, and this barrel tasting confirmed for us that Jim Law is an incredible winemaker.  Of course, he does get phenomenal support from superb fruit cultivated from the Avenius and Boisseau vineyards, and these wines all prove this theorem to be correct—great wine starts in the vineyard.

Our cellar tasting began with the cult-favorite 2009 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc paired with mussels.  Is there another word for “divine”?  Please let us know!  Classic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics prevailed here with the signature minerality associated with the Avenius Sauvignon Blanc.  In fact, we met up with Shari who presented her 2009 Chardonnay at the Concrete Egg.  Yes, a concrete egg.  This storage device could well pass for an atom bomb, but indeed it does house evolving Chardonnay wine that would otherwise ferment in a stainless steel tank.  Shari explained to us that this is not new technology and the egg does provide a more stable environment for wine to develop.  We await the final results, of course, since this sample was quite young; however, we do anticipate a more French-style offering.

And so on to the red wine barrel samples.  Which were the faves?  We reached a split decision, but it a tough decision. Paul’s nod went to the 2009 Boisseau Cabernet Franc due to its fruit-forward presentation.  I gravitated toward the more complex 2009 Hardscrabble barrel with its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Jim’s father poured from this barrel, and I appreciated the story behind the blend—a difficult spring that gave way to a remarkable summer that will produce a cellar-worthy Bordeaux-style wine.

From there we proceeded to the special release room where upcoming releases were being tasted.  Here again we reached different conclusions.  I held my ultimate gold star for the special release room, and it was presented to the 2007 Hardscrabble Red. The composite here was similar to the barrel sample but included Petit Verdot and splash of Carmenere.  Dark fruit, pencil shavings, and a spicy edge defined this one; given that it’s from the stellar 2007 vintage, count on a cellar-worthy offering to boot.  Paul preferred the more accessible 2007 Avenius Red which was dominated by Petit Verdot but supported by a generous splash of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Drink now or later, this pour offered blackberries, raspberries, and a bit of nutmeg to complement grilled fare that may include a dash of barbeque sauce.

With our barrel tasting done, we enjoyed a glass of the 2009 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc with a baguette.  It was a lovely spring afternoon, and Jim Law’s tasting room offers spectacular mountain views which aw appreciated as we sipped and nibbled. Remember, the cellar tasting is offered to case club members; so, visit Linden to try their current releases and you might be tempted to purchase a case in order to enjoy the benefits.  Be sure to mention, though, that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Lovingston Reserve Merlot

Just a quick post about the 2006 Reserve Merlot from Lovingston Winery. We had this tonight with filet mignon and rice. It was amazing. First of all I was upset that we even opened it so soon after getting it. This one could have laid down for several years.

The color is beautiful. I think it might have a splash of petit verdot to give it the rich color but I can’t be sure. Warren disagrees. However, Warren believed this merlot benefitted from decanting thanks to the convenient Soiree aerator. I noted extremely smooth tannins. Warren noted dark cherry and plum with a dry earthy/herbal quality. It complimented our steaks well. Koodos to Riann.

Closing In On 100 Virginia Wineries Visited!

A recent visit to Sharp Rock Vineyards brings our count to 98, a feat that has taken us five years to accomplish.  With so many new wineries opening up, we predict that #100 is in our sights.  However, we were quite pleased with our first experience at Sharp Rock Vineyards, and we enjoyed meeting winemaker Jim East in the process.

Located at the foot of Old Rag Mountain, Sharp Rock offers a stunning mountain view.  As we approached the tasting room, we were greeted by a couple of lovable dogs who were eager to give us a handshake.  The tasting room itself is a renovated 100 year old barn, and we were greeted by winemaker Jim East as we entered the room.  Four white wines were available for tasting, and my favorite was the Burgundian-style 2008 Chardonnay Reserve.  It presented notes of pear, toasted almonds and vanilla with a honeyed texture in the mouth which comes from aging in French oak barrels. Paul favored the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, a perfect summer wine with citrus and mineral characteristics.  Speaking of summer pours, don’t miss the dry 2009 Rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon; it’s crisp and offers refreshing strawberry and melon flavors.

Of the reds, Paul and I both preferred the light-bodied 2008 Synergy, which is a blend of Petit Verdot and Merlot.  Cherries and plums were noted here with some subtle aromas of cinnamon spice.  This one can be a sipper with cheeses and a baguette but can be offered with summer grilled fare.  Look for the fall release of the 2008 Malbec which promises to be a rich, fuller-bodied wine just in time for the fall menus that include heavier roasted meats and game.

In the course of our tasting, Jim shared with us his commitment to producing small quantities of quality wines.  His twelve bottling are made from estate-grown fruit that include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  Since the winery opened in 1998, Sharp Rock’s wines have won numerous national and international awards, but the best commendations come from customers who visit Sharp Rock Vineyards to enjoy nice wines and lovely scenery. 

After our tasting, we shared a glass of the Chardonnay Reserve and took in the gorgeous mountain views. Our friendly greeters returned to make us feel at home (and to hope that a stray cracker might accidentally fall from the table.)  As we sipped and savored, we were glad to add Sharp Rock Vineyards to the growing list of wineries visited, and we pondered which future visit might push us closer to the 100 mark.  Of course, we know that we will return to Sharp Rock Vineyards for a second time, but readers may want to visit sooner—be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

An Argentine Wine Excursion Part 2

The next stop was at Bodega Renacer. This winery specializes in Malbecs also. Here wines are made from a blend of regional grapes which give their Malbecs a different taste and variety. The producers use precision vinicultura or horticulture to know precisely when to pick the grapes.

mendoza5

At the time I was there, the first grapes for the Enamore Syrah had arrived and the workers were putting them through the de-stemming process. In Mendoza, the harvest is from March – May. The grapes go through a cold maturation process four to12 days at 8° C (about 40° F) to begin fermentation with the naturally occurring yeasts from the grapes. Renacer bottles 500,000 liters per year and exports to 37 countries.

At this winery, we had the opportunity to become wine mixologists. The hostess set before us liquids from different grape varieties and allowed us to mix them to form a Malbec. Of course, I did not mix anything worthy of remembering, but some of my fellow travelers have potential second careers in the wine industry.

1. Punto Final Clásico- a smooth, light Malbec. It was very clear, but had a slightly bitter aftertaste.

2. Punto Final Reserva – this Malbec was aged 10 months in oak barrels and is a mixture of 60% Lujan and 40% Yuca Valley grapes. It has a strong blackberry smell and tastes of cherries with a little spice mixed in. It would be wonderful with chili.

3. Enamore, this is a blend that has a light, minty taste and heavy fruity smell.

mendoza6

At this point in the tour, it was time for lunch. The tour group was treated to an exquisite food and wine pairing at the Clos de Chacras winery and restaurant. The unique thing about the meal was that it was prepared with vegetables grown in a garden the winery owns. The four-course meal was better than anything I’ve experienced in Washington, DC. It would easily rival some of Washington’s finest like the Inn at Little Washington, 2941 or Equinox. We drank four wines from the winery:

1. Cavas de Crianza 2005, a merlot from the Yuca Valley which has a bold, but smooth taste.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, has a strawberry, blackberry, cherry taste

3. Malbec, spicy, nutmeg taste

4. Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, made with a different variety of grape than the first Cabernet and has a spicy, peppery aftertaste.

The last winery the tour group visited was Bodega Bonegas. The main building of this winery is more than 100 years old. It was sold away from the original family during the 1971 economic crisis and very recently came back to the family. The new owner is Federico Bonegas whose grandfather is credited with bringing the Malbec grape to Mendoza.

mendoza7

This winery ages its wines for 12-18 months in French oak barrels, which are used only two times then sold. Once bottled, the wines are aged for another 12-18 months before being shipped off to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Approximately 150,000 liters (around 15,000) cases are bottled per year; however, the winery has the capacity to bottle a million liters per year.

1. Syrah 2005, this inky colored wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, Malbec and other grapes and has 15% alcohol content. It has a spicy, minty taste and smells of cherries and blackberries. It becomes bolder after breathing.

2. Chardonnay 2007, aged two years and has a good flavor that reminds one of pears and lemons. It has a strong peach smell.

3. Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, aged 18 months in the barrel and 18 months in the bottle. It is very dry and becomes bolder after breathing.

After a full day of eating and drinking, I was ready to return to the hotel for a nap. I was glad that I completed a mountain bike ride the day before because I would not have been able to even sit on a bicycle after the tour. This was by far one of the best wine excursions I had ever been on. The wine and food pairing was exquisitely done and the service at the other wineries was sharp and focused. I definitely recommend to all wine connoisseurs that a visit to Argentina would be worthwhile.

To set up your own personal tour of Argentina contact:

Nelo Morichi at Unveiling Argentina

Argentina: Nicolas Rodriguez Pena 877
(5501) Godoy Cruz
Mendoza, Argentina
nelo@morichi.net
011-54-261-4524269

Washington: 1363 Meridian Place, NW
Washington, DC 20010
202-536-5908

An Argentine Wine Excursion

By Michael Tyler

Our good friend Michael Tyler took a trip to Argentina and was able to visit a few wineries and taste the wines. Here is a post about his experiences.

By no means am I an oenophile. I just like good wine and have spent years trying to convert my humble palette to distinguish the differences between a good $20 bottle of wine and a bottle of two-buck chuck. Early last fall, I knew I would suffer from the winter blues in Washington. You know that time in mid-January-February when you are sick and tired of being cold and long for just one day without a coat and gloves. Knowing this would happen, I planned a winter vacation somewhere warm. As a result, I decided that sunny Argentina might just be my cure. I spent a marvelous 10 days there last winter on a vacation that exceeded my expectations. Argentina has a long history of wine production; so of course, I could not have ventured to the country without visiting the western province of Mendoza, which is the wine capital of the country.

Mendoza is sunny almost 365 days of the year, very arid and is located in a high altitude climate, all of which combine to form the perfect conditions for growing grapes. There are more than 200 wineries in the province but, unfortunately, I only was able to visit a few. This means I have to return again. Perhaps a 2010 winter vacation…hmmm.

The Ampora Wine Tour Company in Mendoza provided my tour group with a wonderful tasting experience. I must note that visiting wineries in Argentina is different from visiting them in Virginia. One must have an appointment to visit. Without an appointment, one will encounter locked gates and armed security. The only way to avoid this problem is to work through a third-party intermediary like Ampora. We toured four wineries in the Lujan de Cuyo valley.

mendoza1

Argentina is known, of course, for its Malbec. When we think of Malbec, we usually think of a heavy red wine; however; the Malbec grape comes in many varieties and can be blended nicely. Argentine wines are a minimal 12-13% alcohol like many in the United States. The increased alcohol content is due to the strong mountain sun in that high altitude, which causes the grape skins to thicken and ultimately produce wines with lots of tannins. Also, the deep roots of the vines in the clay soil give the wines many minerals.

mendoza2

The first winery we visited was Belasco de Baquedano. It is 1,000 meters high in the mountains. The lodge itself is fairly new; however, the vines are over 100 years old. The Belasco family has four other wineries in Spain, but only one in Argentina that produces Malbec. In 2008, it produced 65,000 liters of wine with 98% of it for export to 27 countries. Being that the winery is so new, it uses a modern, digital process to age the wine. This process consists of several 24,000 liter, digitally controlled tanks for fermentation and then aging in computer controlled climate rooms in 100% French oak barrels Depending on the type of wine, aging can take six, 12 or 18 months.

mendoza3

We tasted four Belasco wines. I must mention that the tour group was invited to walk through the smells room before we actually sampled any wine. The smells room is a one-of-a kind room where different smells associated with wine have been trapped in airtight containers. A person walks up to a container and turns a dial to smell fresh pine, cherries, lemon, orange, bark, coffee, apples, blossoms, nutmeg, and a variety of other things that one might experience when sampling a good wine. The tour group enjoyed it tremendously.

1. Rosa, a rose which smelled of rose petals and tastes of strawberries, caramel and raspberries. It is a young wine and should be consumed in the year it was bottled.
2. Loan, is a Malbec which has a nice body and a spicy bite. For my palette, it was a little bitter.
3. AR Guentota is another Malbec that is very bold and spicy; one could smell some tobacco and a little of the barrel.
4. Swinto, a concentrated, big and bold Malbec. This product was aged 15 months in French oak barrels and bottled for 18 months.

mendoza4

Stay tuned for part two of Michael’s trip to Argentina!