Category Archives: Sweet and Luscious

Wine Bloggers Conference 2015: White Wine Speed Dating from the Finger Lakes

Yesterday, we participated in the equivalent of speed dating with white wines of the Finger Lakes.  The notes below were on the fly with 5 minutes to taste and talk with the winemaker of each wine so it is completely stream of consciousness.  Please excuse the rambling sentences.

Lucas 2014 Semi Dry Riesling – Zesty and Fruity

Ripe peach, tangerine, apricot, medium intensity, Fresh bright acid and nice balance with about 20g/L RS from my palate (not tasting notes), med alcohol. Very nice wine.

Nice growing year. Oldest winery on Cayuga lake. Tree fruit aromas, apricot typical from Riesling on Cayuga. 3rd generation winery. 100% Riesling.

Hermann J Weimer 2009 Blanc de Blanc – Light and Bubbly

100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented, neutral oak, 4.5 years in Tirage, disgorged Jan 2015. 6.5g/L dosage

Moderate autolysis, some light brioche, bright fruit, warmth, no chalky minerality like you would see from Champagne but very similar to top cool climate new world wines from Tasmania. $40 retail so it’s a steal! Full body and very rich.

Villa Bellangelo 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling – Stone and Chalk

Very intense minerality with wet stone and lime zest. Totally different profile from the Lucas. 20% Botrytis fruit. Rich palate and intense character, very complex. Very nice balance with crisp acid and 25g/L RS. Lovely! $18 retail again a steal!

Chateau Franc Celebre Riesling “Cremant” Sparkling Wine NV – Light and Bubbly

Very minerally, slightly cheesy, moderately intense nose, Traditional method, hand harvested, Tank fermented primary and 2nd ferment in bottle around 15 months of tirage. Everything is hand disgorged so some wines see longer. Vintage wines are 4 years in tirage. Nice balance, crisp acid and more indicative of a cool climate in the acid than the Weimer above. Different profile. 30g/L RS balances a 2.9 pH. Ideal range for the winemaker is 2.9-3.1. Fine beads. $21.00 Retail.

Red Newt Wine Cellars 2013 Dry Riesling – Stone and Chalk

Slight gunflint, chalk, and wet stone. Lime zest and white peach. 6g/L RS but plenty of body for a fruity round balanced finish. Long fermentation in tank and then 6-7 months on lees after primary. $17.00.

Glenora Gewurztraminer Seneca Lake 2014 – Zesty and Fruity

Bacon fat and Rose petals. Hey don’t knock it until you try it. Very fruity on the palate, rich texture. Rounded finish as is typical of Gewurtz with 6.7 g/L TA and 3.58 pH. Overnight skin contact then settled and fermented with DV-10. Interesting mix of savory and fruity.

Hunt Country Vineyards 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine – Sweet and Luscious

Pulling out all the personalities today! Golden color and intensely fruity nose. Thick, viscous palate, and long finish. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll like this wine. Not quite as intense in character as some of the Niagara wines that I’ve tasted but very lovely and delicate flavors.

Standing Stone 2013 Gewurztraminer – Zesty and Fruity

Very savory and fruty with Lychee and ripe apricot flavors. Intense fruit on the nose and very nice palate with a slight phenolic finish that leaves a pleasant texture. Moderately low acid but not heavy. $14 price point. Again crazy low prices. Compared to Alsace it has less oiliness but just as pretty.

Fox Run Vineyards Reserve Riesling 2011 Seneca Lake – Stone and Chalk

Intense nose and very complex palate. Delicious! Chalky, ripe apricot, wet stone on the nose. Moderately sweet on the palate with fresh crisp acid balancing the fruitiness. Not cloying or heavy. Perfectly balanced. Lovely wine.

Fulkerson Winery 2014 Gruner Veltliner Seneca Lake – Stone and Chalk

Moderately intense nose of white pepper and dry herbs ending in lime zest. Slight minerality and citrusy flavors on the palate. Lovely acid balance with light refreshing body.

 

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!

What is a Dessert Wine?

This post was inspired by one of my avid readers (Thanks to Craig!).  My, off the cuff, answer to this question is a dessert wine is one which has enough sweetness to pair well with the final course of a meal, usually dessert, or be served as the dessert.  Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine also notes that in America this qualification is based on Alcohol content between 14-24 %.  Funny enough this would put a large number of dry red wines in to the dessert wine category as well.  However for the purposes of this post I’m going to stick with the stickies (wine geek term for sweet wines)!  I describe their personality as Sweet and Luscious.

For a little winemaking background, sweetness in a wine is known as Residual Sugar (or RS for short) and is usually quoted in grams per Liter (g/L) or % sugar.  The name for this sweetness is derived from the amount of sugar remaining after primary fermentation (the conversion of sugar by yeast to alcohol and CO2) has completed, hence the Residual part. However that is only one way that sugar can arrive in the finished wine.   Sugar can also be added in the form of grape juice, grape concentrate, or some other non-grape derived sweetening agents, depending on the laws of the country of production.

There are many famous types of dessert wines and I encourage anyone truly interested in wine to try them all to get an idea as to what is available.  Sweet wine does not automatically mean cheap wine or bad wine so throw the pre-conceptions out the door as we move in to the three main styles of dessert wines.

Fortified Sweet Wines

These wines are sweet because the primary fermentation was abruptly stopped by adding a high alcohol dose to the fermentation vessel.  Most yeast does not function well above 14.5% alcohol and this addition kills them instantly.  This leaves the remaining sugar in the fermentation as sweetness in the finished wine.  Port is likely the most well known of the Fortified Sweet Wines and with alcohols around 19% they are very distinctive.  True Port comes from the country of Portugal although there are many good producers of Port-style wines elsewhere in the world.  Other than dessert, Port and Port-style wines pair well with strong cheeses like Roquefort, figs and fig cakes, as well as almonds and Brazil nuts for Tawny styles of ports. Other fortified sweet wines include certain types of Sherries, Madeiras, Rutherglen Muscats, and Vin Doux Naturels.

Botrytized Wines

 

When grapes are attacked by a fungus called Botrytis (Pronounced Bo-try-tus) it can lead to one of two outcomes; a nasty rotten mess or beautiful sweet wines.  The fungus, when headed the more positive of the two ways, dehydrates the grapes while still on the vine leading to a concentration of sugars, acids, and flavors.  Botrytis also gives additional complexity to the wines through flavors such as orange marmalade, mushrooms, and honey.  My favorite Botrytized wines come from Sauternes, France where the three varieties; Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle turn into liquid gold with intense aromatics and crisp finishes.  These wines pair well with strong flavored foods such as asparagus, fois gras, truffles, strong cheeses, and dried fruits. Other notable Botrytized wines are Tokaj from Hungary (the oldest of the Botrytized wines), and the Ausleses, Beerenausleses and Trokenbeerenausleses from Germany, the Rheingau region specifically.

Ice Wines

 

These types of wines are produced when the grapes freeze on the vine and are then harvested and pressed while still frozen leaving much of the natural water content at ice in the skins and creating a very pure fruit flavored, almost syrup-like wine, typically bottled in small 375mL bottles.  While Germany pioneered this style, which is called Eiswein, my favorites come from the Niagara region of Canada.  Typically produced from Riesling or Vidal Blanc, these wines are very enjoyable in small amounts and can be easily paired with cheese and dried fruits as well as desserts.  In rare years a Cabernet Franc Ice Wine can be produced and is also worth the search if you’re interested.  Austria also produces Ice Wines from both Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, although the latter is harder to find. 

 

Dessert wines are a fun family of wines that are fairly easy to find and usually enjoyed by a wide variety of people even if they are not avid wine drinkers.  Also, there are some really great bargains to be found because dessert wines are not usually as sought after as their less sweet cousins.  However as with all high alcohol or intensely flavored foods or drinks, a little bit of dessert wine goes a long way so be sure and have a few friends to share in the discovery if you are going to open several bottles to compare.  It makes a fun wine tasting night to have some select foods and different sweet wines to discover your own favorite pairings.  To find dessert wines I’ve written tasting notes for, look for wines labeled Sweet and Luscious