Tag Archives: Wine

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.

 

Getting Ready for the Wine Blogger Conference 2015

At the end of this week is the biggest yearly event in wine bloggingdom (Yes, I did just make that word up!); The Wine Blogger Conference 2015.  By the end of the week, Wine Bloggers from around the world will have descended on Corning, NY located in the Southern Tier of the state!  It is hosted by the Finger Lakes which are to the north about 45 minutes to an hour.  I have only previously attended this event once, back in 2011 in Charlottesville, VA.  At that point, I was still in CA, had only been blogging a year or so, and came as a representative of a wine brand I was making at the time called Emma Pearl, complete with PR rep.

This year, I am going as a blogger only.  I am not representing a brand and while I am and will always be a winemaker, this is the first event where I’m not attending solely for that purpose.  I’m looking forward to the conference content.  I will definitely be attending the opening night reception on Thursday and the Key note speech by Karen MacNeil. After lunch it will be a toss up between the Banfi sponsored Fizziology 101 or the Ribera del Duero and Rueda session.  Spain is the front runner at this point!  The break out sessions on Saturday morning are going to be a game day decision but many look good.  Particularly the photo and video on smart phone session, since I do all of my website photography on my iPhone and need to do a video for China (I’ll get to that a bit later).

For the wine discovery sessions that afternoon, the dry wines of Alsace tasting looks exciting.   I don’t remember the conference before having such a great representation of international wines to taste!  It’s very exciting.  The live wine blogging should be interesting since I’ve only ever been on the presentation side of the table.  It’s a bit like speed dating with wine tasting.  When I presented the Emma Pearl wines back in 2011, I found myself talked extremely fast and hoping that I was making some sense to the tables to which I was presenting.  This year I’m going to be one of the ones sitting at the tables trying to listen to the winemakers and winery representatives telling their stories. We then will all be wandering over to the Corning museum of glass for a live glass demonstration and the awards banquet for the best bloggers of the year! Congrats to all who have won awards.  This is a tough media we are in and it is challenging to come up with quality posts frequently.  Those who have won awards represent the best of the best for the previous year.  After the presentations, we will head off to the various after parties of course! We’ll see how late I stay up!

The last morning there are two slightly ambiguous sessions; The secret to blogging success and the secret to writing success.  After 5 years of blogging, I’m not really sure what I would call blogging success.  I’m just enjoying having a weekly medium of interaction with those who are interested in interacting with me!  I’d love more on post comments though!  Feel free to share your thoughts.  Anyway, I’ll see everyone later this week!!!

Finally, on a completely different topic, I found out this week that I have been selected to be a part of the Ningxia Winemaker Challenge in Ningxia, China.  Sixty Winemakers from around the globe have been selected to participate.  At this point, I am one of five from the US (All 60 have yet to be announced publicly).  Starting in September of this year, I will be in China working on a single red wine which will be judged in 2017.  The great thing about this challenge is that I don’t have to relocate to China to accomplish it but will be traveling there several times a year to oversee the wine making and blending. I’ve always wanted to work an international harvest and this gives me the opportunity to do that as well as learn more about the Chinese culture.  I also get to work on my language skills while I’m there.   I’m so grateful that my family and Constellation are allowing me to take this opportunity.  We’ll see what I can come up with!  Wish me luck!

Crowd Funding a Vineyard? Randall Grahm’s Next Idea

I’ve seen quite a few things put up for crowd funding.  Start ups, charitable causes, and travel have all made their way through the sourcing sites that have made this method of raising capital famous. I even have a friend who designs games through crowd funding.  I’ve always wondered, for obvious reasons, if this type of funding would work for establishing a vineyard or building a winery.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one pondering that.  Last week, on a day most suited to planting and sowing crops according to the Biodynamic planting calendar, Rhone Ranger and maverick winemaker Randall Grahm, announced he was trying just that on indiegogo.com.  I immediately reached out to Grahm to find out more about the project which sounded incredibly unique from the press release.  The idea is to establish a “living lab” on his 400 acre estate Popelouchum near San Juan Bautista on the Central Coast of CA.  The goal of the vineyard would be the breeding of 10,000 new grape varieties on site.  I caught up with Grahm late last week to get some more information on the project.

My first thought on a project this ambitious is how on earth do you decide which varieties get planted to be the parents of the 10,000 new varieties.  That, to my viticulturist’s eye, would be the most critical of choices which may decide the success or failure of such a project.  Grahm states they are “still working out the theoretical basis for the selection of ‘worthy parents’, but in the interim we’re looking at collecting data on which varieties (or clones thereof) seem to be particularly successful on our site – as far as vine health, flavor, drought tolerance, potential alcohol/acid balance and other criteria.”  He also mentioned working with Dr. Andy Walker of UC Davis to select from his recent breeding results some of which are 97% Vitis vinifera and may offer the best of all worlds from native disease resistance to European variety wine quality.  At the moment, it seems 100% natives (such as V. berlandiari) are being considered for rootstocks but not for further crossings with the chosen vinifera stocks.  Other scientists involved in the project are Dr. José Vouillamoz of Switzerland & Dr. Carole Meredith, a well known grape geneticist from UC Davis.

The initial report of the project mentioned that Grahm wanted donators to join him “on a journey of discovery to change the way we grow grapes, to change the way we think about vineyards, to perhaps discover an entirely new vinous expression.” I asked him what he envisioned those changes looking like.  His greatest wish is “complexity in wine arising from a lot of complexity in the genetic material constituting the vineyard itself.”  His “big leap of imagination is that perhaps a big set of maybe not so interesting grapes (in and of themselves) may yield a rather unique and special wine that is far more interesting and complex than a wine grown in the same field from a smaller set of “superior” varieties.”  This would be taking a selection massal theory to an entirely new level and then adding in dry-farming, biodynamics, and something called Bio-char, an activated carbon and compost mixture, to enhance the water holding capacity of the soils as well as the biological diversity of the microbial population in the soils.

Another aspect of the project that was interesting is a “major goal of the endeavor would be to establish a 501(c)3 status which would allow for crowd sharing with the community at large, the findings of the project over  the arc of a decade’s time.” I asked Grahm what did he hope to accomplish as a 501 c3 organization and what happens to the revenue from this project if he did succeed in finding a new grand cru site?  His answer was refreshingly frank and straightforward.

“Obviously, we hope to gain the sponsorship of some larger donors through the deductibility of the donation.  Since the entire intention of the project is to leave a legacy to California viticulture, the furnishing of the new germplasm as “open code,” as well as the sharing of research, as well as the extreme long-term nature of the project, makes this a natural for a 501c(3) organization.  While there will likely someday be some revenue from the sales of wine made from grapes grown on this site, it will certainly take many years to begin to recover the level of investment made.  At some point soon, we will work out a logical way to segregate the for-profit and not-for-profit aspects of the business.”

Finally, I wanted to get to the major question.  Why crowd funding?  Grahm had two main reasons for this; 1) He wanted to get the funding going to establish the site as a 501 c3 business and 2) to start building a community of like-minded people who would be “sincerely interested in this sort of project.  Not just wine-drinking connoisseurs, some of whom might be able to appreciate the audacity of the proposition, but others with a real interest in both sustainability.”  Don’t worry though.  Grahm is not expecting the crowd sourcing to foot the entire bill.  He says he has been and plans on continuing to contribute the “largest percentage of funds for this project” however he does anticipate that the percentage may shift if the non-profit status is granted.  To attract donations, Grahm has put together special packages for all of the donation levels ranging from signed posters, books, and gift baskets to having the new grape varieties named for you or your entire family!

At the time of writing his campaign was 12% funded with 25 days left to go.  At this point it seems off to a strong start!