Category Archives: Spicy and Smoky

Vancouver International Wine Festival Observations

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I LOVE Vancouver.  If I had to choose an international city to live in , it would be a toss up between Paris and Vancouver.  I also love talking about wine to people and the Vancouver International Wine Festival gave me the opportunity to do that in such great surroundings.  I learned several amazing things at the festival this past week.

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1) Robert Mondavi is credited with starting the festival.

Many people came up to me to let me know this fact.  He is very well respected here and one person even credited him with being the catalyst for Vancouver’s thriving wine and food scene that is has today. This further cements my belief that Mr. Mondavi was a force to be reckoned with and full of boundless energy and passion for sharing wine with people.  I only hope that I can live up to at least half of that for my career.

2) Canada has some startlingly good wines.

From the austere and crisp Benjamin Bridge sparkling wine (Light and Bubbly) to the ripe and luscious Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc (Spicy and Smoky) that we had with dinner last night, to the elegant and intense Inniskillin Ice Wine (Sweet and Luscious),  Canada has some amazing wines to offer and we rarely see them in the rest of the world. I find with most countries to which I travel the best wines are the ones that are found domestically and Canada is no different.

3) The Vancouver International Wine Festival is Fantastic!

It is well organized, well run, and has enough representation from all countries that you feel you have indeed sampled a large portion of the world of wine but not so large that one can easily be overwhelmed.  One of my MW study partners, Matt, and I had enough opportunities in between pouring to run around and work on our blind tasting skills with virtually every style of wine we would need in the room.  Ice was never too far away and rinse water was plentiful.  There were enough people emptying spittoons that they never were more than half full at any given time.  This year’s country of focus was Australia and admittedly, while I am not a huge Shiraz fan, the wineries really put on a good showing with lots of Rieslings, Chardonnays, Semillons, Cabernets, and Bordeaux blends to get a good sense of what is going on down under.

There were also non-wine related observations…

4) Leather pants appear to be back in style.

I counted no less than 15 individuals sporting leather pants.  You see one person and you assume they are quirky and perhaps a bit non-conformist.  You see two people, and you think vaguely wonder if it is protection from the still slightly chilly wind.  You see 6 people and you wonder if you missed a fashion article on how the new trend for spring is leather leggings.  You see 15 people and it is pretty certain that the leather pant/legging is here for the season.

5) There are many types of VIWF visitors.

There are those which are jaded and wander the rooms glancing above your heads at the signs, peering over the shoulders at the people currently being served at your table, with a non-interested aloof look that suggests they are wondering what they are doing among the rest of the rabble in the room.  There are the interested tasters who resolutely work the room picking and choosing from the different wines and occasionally asking questions.  There are the people with plans and are on a mission announcing at their arrival that they are ONLY tasting Pinot Noir today! There are the new to wine tasting visitors that don’t realize they are supposed to be spitting and within 20 minutes of the start of the tasting they are already weaving about and you end up spilling wine on them because they can’t hold their glass steady enough and you are trying to pour the smallest amount possible without looking like you are trying not to serve them.  There are other winery representatives, taking a break from their own booths to tour around the room. Then there are my personal favorites, the avid enthusiasts, that have great questions and generally will come with one to 3 other avid enthusiasts.  Once these types find out one is a winemaker, you’d best be on your top game! “How do you know when to pull a wine out of barrel?” “What is the meaning of neutral oak?” “What’s the difference between Napa Valley and Carneros?” “What process do you use to determine your blends?”  I love these folks.  It makes my time at the table very exciting.

I loved my time in Vancouver this week and it was a fitting finale to my time as the red winemaker for Robert Mondavi.  At the end of this week, my family, and I are driving out of Napa bound for New York.  I can’t believe it has gone by so quickly!  Don’t worry though.  I still have plenty of blogging left in me!  Stay tuned for next Monday!

Harvest 2011 – Week 5 – Things REALLY get moving…

This week we’ve started seeing far more grapes than the previous week.  Our Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were joined by our first Chardonnay of the season!  Fruit quality looks really nice and acids are still staying put thanks to the more moderate day time temperatures as well as the cool nights.  The Alexander Valley reds are showing signs of the same incredible color that 2010 brought us and we should start seeing Lodi Cabernet and Merlot being harvested over the next two weeks.  For Asti it seems after a crazy end to last week, Week 6 will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb as we enter the first slump of the season.  This will give us a chance to catch our breath and take stock of how things are going.  The weather for week 6, however is forecasted to be a good deal warmer than week 5 with several days topping out around 100 degrees!  Hopefully they won’t go much above that so we can avoid the September heat spike that we saw last year. 

 

I’m playing with the first Alexander Valley fruit from this season which is a Gewurztraminer from a vineyard in Geyserville which was harvested last Wednesday.  It’s packed with flavor and did retain some acid which is fantastic for the variety that is famous for losing acid like a woman loses last season’s out of style shoes.  I’ve set it up for a long, cool fermentation so the yeast can form the beautiful terpene compounds that make up the fruit and spice notes in the final wine.  I’m also playing with some Pinot Gris from Lodi with a couple of different yeast strains so that should be interesting to see how it goes.

 

As promised here is the red variety group from Week 4’s interesting varietal tasting!

 

Latitude 50 N Sekt Trocken Rose  Germany  $14.99

Light and Bubbly

With amazing aromas of strawberries and cotton candy this wine offered fantastic quality for the price.  A medium- dry style balanced with crisp acid and intense citrus flavors.  It’s a blend of Portugeser, Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir.  A perfect bubbly for everyday drinking at a great price, all of us decided to go in on a case!

 

Studert- Prum Wehlener Nonnenberg 2008 Dornfelder  Germany ~$25.00

Elegant and Floral

I have a soft spot for this variety because it’s one of the first reds I ever worked with in Pennsylvania, of all places.  However this also showed to be the hardest variety to find in the tasting. It’s known for intense aromas of Strawberries and cherries and this wine did not disappoint.  It was dry with moderate acid, medium alcohol and smooth tannins.  It’s worth the search as this was one of the best Dornfelders that I’ve ever had!

 

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 Italy    $19.99    

Elegant and Floral

This variety makes a light and easy to drink red which is perfect for lighter fare.  Moderate aromas of cherries, bramble fruits, red plum, and figs introduce the wine which has a dry palate with medium + acid and moderate alcohol.  The tannins are firm and structured but ripe.  This is a great food wine. 

Umathum 2008 Zweigelt Burgenland Austria    $16.99

Spicy and Smoky

This was a dark brooding wine with smoky gamey notes complemented by black cherry and plum.  The palate is dry with medium + acid, moderate alcohol and strong structured tannins.  Zweigelt may be a good alternative to Merlot or Syrah for those seeking something different.  This one was really nice.

 

Montebuena Rioja 2009   $9.99

Power Punch

Made with 100% Tempranillo this wine is true to form with aromas of cherries, raisins, lemon zest and vanilla.  The palate is dry with medium acid, moderately high alcohol, and strong, textured tannins.  Right now Spain is offering some great value for the money.  Anywhere else this would easily be an $18-20 quality wine.

 

Quinta das Maias Tinto 2004 Dao   $11.99

Power Punch

Another value to be had currently is dry reds made from Port varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Jaen, 25% Touriga Nacional, 10% Alfrocheiro and 5% Tinta Roriz.  The nose is intense with aromas of coconut, almonds, vanilla, and cherries.  American oak is clearly a favorite with this producer.  The palate is dry with moderate acid, medium + alcohol, and a full body filled with flavors of cherries, dried dates and raisins.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011; A Winemaker’s Perspective…

Last Friday I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011.  This was one of those events that really brought out why the wine industry is so amazing! So many people in one room that were all excited to learn about and discuss topics pertaining to wine.  Unfortunately I was only able to attend the Friday sessions but they were really amazing.  I always enjoy hearing Jancis Robinson speak as she’s played such a HUGE role in my own wine education through her books and website.  Her call for bloggers to see themselves as wine writers was thought provoking and reaffirmed my commitment to be a winemaker who blogs, not solely a blogger! 

 

The marketing to Millennials session was fun and informal with lots of good information.  As a Millennial myself, I wholeheartedly agreed with some of the generalizations but others I think can be applied to any generation.  I do agree that Millennials are more likely to use the internet and social media to find out what their friends are drinking and what might be new and interesting.  However, I don’t agree that only Millennials have a highly tuned BS radar.  I think that as a society we have become so over run with advertisements on TV, radio, in print, and now on the web that we have become desensitized to it.  I largely ignore and actively avoid advertisements in most traditional media and the internet and from a producer standpoint I understand how frustrating it must be for marketers to know that.  One point that was raised is that Millennials care about companies that care about them.  This is another thought that can probably transcend generations.  Most people care about other people or companies that care about them.  That’s why the bar in “Cheers” was so popular.  We all want to give our business to someone who “knows our names” or in other words…cares about us and our needs. 

 

For the speed blogging session I had the unique opportunity to blog from the winery prospective rather than the blogger’s prospective.  As the second breakout sessions were starting my husband, Brian, our Emma Pearl PR representative, Jenna, and I were checking bottles of wine for the tasting and making sure they were at the best possible temperature to be served.  The 09 Emma Pearl is best served between 48-55 degrees F where the floral aromas can really explode.  Served too cold and that element is severely diminished, too warm and well it’s just too warm on as hot and humid a day as last Friday was in Virginia.  The speed tasting was exciting and a bit of an adrenaline rush as we had 5 minutes to explain the wine, who I was, and answer any questions that anyone may have had.  I was a bit nervous at first because our table was completely empty up until the last few minutes before the tasting started.  After that it was a bit like being on a horse jumping out of the starting gate.  By the 4th or 5th table I was starting to forget what points I had covered with which table and probably ended up repeating my self more than one time but no one seemed to mind. The truly enjoying part of it for me was visiting 12 tables of between 3 and 8 bloggers, all of which seemed to genuinely like the wine.  It was a truly gratifying day as a winemaker. 

 

Finally the dinner at Monticello was amazing.  Just being at the home of the Father of American viticulture was very inspiring and it was very educational to taste more of Virginia’s wines.  This was one part of the trip that I was really looking forward to because, being from the East Coast, I really want to see the eastern wine regions come into their own.  Overall, I think Virginia still has a long way to go.  I tasted quite a few wines with elementary winemaking mistakes and others where I couldn’t tell if it was the winemaking to blame or the vineyard.  There was one bright spot in the Virginia wine tasting for me and it was an Italian gentleman named Gabriele Rausse.  We sampled two wines from him; Vin Gris de Pinot Noir and a Nebbiolo.  The Vin Gris (Zesty and Fruity) was a very pale salmon leaning towards orange with delicate aromas of red plum, wet stone, grapefruit, and violets.  It was balanced and crisp with a moderately complex finish.  However it was the Nebbiolo (Spicy and Smoky) that really got me excited.  This was the best new world Nebbiolo that I have tasted thus far and it was exciting that it was fromVirginia.  It had pale color and the traditional flavors of licorice and rose petals that you would find in a Piedmont Nebbiolo however with lower acid and softer tannins with a finish with hints of dark roasted coffee.  I asked about his cap management techniques (how he extracted the color and tannins) knowing that Nebbiolo can represent challenges in the winery to balance the tannin extraction with flavor and color.  He responded that he punches down the skins and tastes every day.  “It’s all tasting!” was his answer. The soft tannins and balanced body were quite nice and with a limited production of 136 cases I imagine that he has no trouble selling it each year. 

 

On a West coast note I’ve been running around vineyards this week and Veraison has started on the Central Coast Pinot Noir.  We’re about 4 weeks out down there and looking like a little more than 6 weeks on theNorthCoast.  Harvest is well on its way!