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Monday, July 27, 2015

Ballparks & Brews: Harrisburg Senators

This past week we enjoyed more Minor League baseball with moon bounces, Monkey Rodeo, and Pennsylvania beer at the Harrisburg Senators Metro Bank Park. Although it's $2 Coors night on Thursdays, I found myself gravitating to the Appalachian Brewing Company beers located in the right field food court. Look for the Hershey signs. The Mountain Lager is a solid, refreshing beer. Troegs Brewing is also available at this stand as well as a couple others on the upper left field beer stands.  Cheers to #pabeer and minor league baseball.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge: Norfolk - O'Connor Brewing Co. (#23) & Smartmouth Brewing Co (#24)

While returning from the Outre Banks, we decided to spend the night in Norfolk, with the Virginia Zoo in one mind; the #VABreweryChallenge in the other. The Zoo is rather impression, primarily from it's botanical gardens, as our the two breweries we visited afterwards. Both are in located in the same proximity in the Ghent and Chelsea neighborhoods which made travel between the two very easy with theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery Locator. O'Connor Brewing Co. is the larger and older of the two; with owner/brewer Kevin O'Connor learning the brewing and wholesale side of the trade at St. George Brewing Company and Specialty Beverage. I've been a long time fan of their El Guapo Agave India Pale Ale as I've been able to aquire a bottle here and there. Just enough agave to make it interesting. For a summer ale, the Green Can is a solid light bodied ale; as is the Norfolk Canyon Pale Ale - the medium hops provide a mellow finish. For a stronger beer and a bit of history try the Great Dismal Black IPA - I remember riding on the outskirts along Route 17 long ago. 

Smartmouth Brewing Co opened two years after O'Connor in 2012 in the Chelsea neighborhood. The brewery hits a range of styles from German to Belgium to American and the first I saw was a low 2.5 % abv Berliner Weisse. Tart and refreshing. On the other side of the spectrum was the Hive Mind Barrel-Aged Honey Saison. Aged in used Chardonnay barrels, the beer has a creamy texture, with a slight sweet spot balanced by some spice. Quite nice. For the less adventurist, the Safety Dance Pilsner is slightly hoppy and refreshing and the hops head will like the Bandwagon 4.0 IPA single hopped with El Dorado. They joined the bandwagon. Well played Smartmouth. Cheers.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Milwaukee, Still the Beer Capital of the World -> Thanks to Craft Beer

With a rich brewing history as the home of Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz, Milwaukee is often sited as the Beer Capital of the World. Whereas some of these giants still remain in different forms, it's the city's craft beer movement that helps maintain that exalted title. During a recent trip to the Brew City, I visited several craft breweries and saw how the Pedal Tavern was making trips to various establishments easy for consumers. No need for theCompass while pedaling these moving bars.

Our first stop was to the Milwaukee Ale House, the satellite brewpub of the city's oldest micro brewery, Milwaukee Brewing Company. Located adjacent to the Milwaukee River and the Riverwalk, this pub brews several of the house beers onsite and offers numerous guest beers - this week Surly Brewing Company was in the house. Obviously I had to go with that brand's Todd The Axe Man IPA, but also sampled several of the MBC beers that were quite nice like the Increase WheatAnti Matter (Imperial Schwarzbier), Snake Oil (Coffee Stout), and . No need to worry about ABV on this trip - no driving. Throughout the weekend, my go to beer at restaurants was the readily available Outboard (Cream Ale).

The second stop during the trip was to Brenner Brewing Company, where I had first sampled their Bacon Bomb Rauchbier at SAVOR a week earlier. I love this beer, smoky, but not overly so with a light body. On the other extreme, their Summer Blonde was nice as was the Butterfly Farts Saison. My favorite was their Oak Aged Anxious, a Porter aged in oak. Smooth, some heat, complex flavors. This was also our introduction to the pedal tavern, as several groups migrated in and out of Brenner during out visit. Wonder if they pedal back to our hotel?

The Milwaukee Brewing Company's main facility is located only a few blocks from Brenner, but unfortunately that hour's tasting was sold out. Tours are conducted on the hour and is quite the experience. For $10, you get a tour and unlimited beer for that hour; no wonder tickets fly fast. Fortunately however, the Central Standard Craft Distillery is located within the brewery and not only pours several MCB beers, but offers samples of their three spirits. I started with the Vodka, 100% Rye which gives a slight, slight spice character to this otherwise smooth spirit. Smooth, as in zero burn. I enjoyed their Gin, more than most because they go easy on the juniper and instead there's more of a floral, even slight tropical profile. Finally, there's the White Whiskey, with a predominately oat mash bill and aged in uncharred and unused oak.  This one, does have some bite, but also sweet, complex flavors. Also, look out for their Bourbons currently aging; expect a young 6 months version as well as a maturer 2 year version.

The final noteworthy stop was to Lakefront Brewery, a highly recommended establishment also on the Milwaukee River. Their outside area is a peaceful setting to enjoy their beers, particularly when the German style bier hall is crowded. Their IPA was everyone's favorite, with the Extended Play Session IPA not far behind. The Riverwest Stein (American Amber\Red Lager) was smooth with a strong sweet, malty profile. A nice selection of beers.

On the not so nice beers on the trip were a couple from Leinenkugel's 10th Street Brewery. The stadium was selling some form of overly malted beer trying to pass as an IPA, and the Shandy, well, I'll leave that one alone. There was also a Rock Bottom Brewery near our hotel and their beer was in the minor leagues as compared the others. But these were the exceptions, not the rule. Milwaukee is still running as the "Beer Capital of the World". Cheers.

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#WineStudio Online Session XXVI – An Exposé of Viña Montes and Dry Farming

July's weekly #WineStudio chat focuses on the popular Chilean winery Viña Montes; specifically their sustainability program and their venture into Argentina with the Kaiken brand. Montes has been operating since 1988 (founded by Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre, and Pedro Grand) and soon became the "benchmark for premium Chilean wines".

Eventually the owners determined that a more sustainable farming approach was needed and designed a vineyard management program to satisfy this desire. The program consists of five primary goals or areas:  Integrated Management, Maintaining Plant Cover, Less Water Use, Composting, and Use of Grazing Animals. The most discussed area was the winery's ability to decrease water consumption by dry farming - basically letting mother nature water the vines through rain instead of costly and energy intensive irrigation systems. Obviously, dry farming is most advantageous on soils with high water retention. Montes states that "we have decreased water consumption by 25% in Marchigüe and 10% in Apalta—a savings equivalent to the amount of water used by 3,200 families each year".  An added bonus is that the lower yields more clearly express the terrior of the area as the vines dig ever deeper to find more sources of water.

For the first part of this session we received two wines from Montes that represented the North-South axis of Chile. The Carmenère was grown on the above mentioned "Dry Farming" philosophy and includes a designation on the label.

Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($14, 12.5%) - grapes harvested from the northern Leyda Valley, located just 8 kilometers from the Pacific, and area with abundant winter rainfall, with the vines planted in granite and clay soils. Because of judicious canopy management, the grapes were harvested in early spring, which in Chile translates to late February. The result is a fantastic wine, particularly for us acid lovers. There is abundant stone and tropical fruits, some mint and lemongrass, and plenty of acids.

Montes Alpha Carmenère 2012 ($20, 14.5%) - 90% of Carmenère & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - grapes harvested from the El Arcángel Marchigüe estate, located at the western end of Colchagua Valley, in a more southern locale. The site is further east as well, 18 kilometers from the coast, with clay soils, and a cooler climate enabling later ripening. After fermenting, the wine was aged 12 months in French oak. My first suggestion is to decant. Then enjoy the cherry pepper aroma; dense, dusty, smoky blackberries and dark chocolate; and definite tannic finish. An excellent example of Carmenère.

Monday, July 20, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge #22 Big Ugly Brewing Company

So far the coolest spot we've visited for the #VABreweryChallenge has to be Big Ugly Brewing Company. The brewery is located off Battlefield Blvd, just south of Chesapeake, on the route to the Outer Banks; a perfect growler filling station. That was our purpose as we spent the night in Chesapeake on our way to Ocracoke and visited during Thirsty Thursday trivia night. Upon arriving its hard not to notice the unique benches out front or the retrofitted Big Ugly mobile and once inside the motorcycle seats, van seating area, and wall decor. Pretty much worth the trip in itself. But also, the beer is rather tasty; particularly when I can start off with the Steady As She Gose. This gose is different, brewed with a dash of pepper in addition to the expected salt to provide a little heat and spice. The Sunbeam Blonde was a table favorite as was the Ghost Rider Porter. For a clean hoppy bear try the Mango IPA. I can guarantee another stop next year during the drive to the beach. And for history buffs, the Battle of Great Bridge park is only minutes away. Learn about the first land battle of the Revolutionary War in Virginia. Cheers. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge: Culpeper's Far Gohn Brewing Company (#20) & Beer Hound Brewery (#21)

After countless trips to Charlottesville, I finally skirted off Route 29 and headed into downtown Culpeper. theCompass app had alerted me that the railroad town hosts two new breweries, so another stop on the #VABreweryChallenge. Far Gohn Brewing Company was our first destination and founder Steve Gohn poured our first round and discussed his beers. The brewery specializes and German styles, augmented with a few British and American styles. I started with the Aesel Kolsch, clean, a tad salty and refreshing; and followed with a flight of the Yager Mountain Pale Ale, Ferhoodle Hefe, Dunkel Dimmel Porter, and Heva Hava Milk Stout. The later was another favorite: chocolate cream.


Beer Hound Brewery makes it's home just a few blocks away right off the railroad tracks. It is larger and older than Far Gohn, having evolved from from Kenny Thacker's original 2012 operation. Their beers are named after famous hounds in movies and history like Teddy, the brewery dog. This beer nails the American Cram Ale as the Teufelhunde does with a Belgium Tripel. The Belgium Wit Wyte Fang was also spot on. Food is not served at either location, but feel free to being in your own. They are both worth a sit down meal. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Old Soul Wines from Lodi's Oak Ridge Winery

Last month I received samples from Oak Ridge Winery, specifically four wines focusing on their unique Old Soul brand. I say unique in the sense that this brand focuses on non-Zinfandel grape varieties and as the oldest winery in Lodi, these grapes have an "old soul".  Oak Ridge's Zin is rather tasty, so was excited to get started.

Old Soul 2013 Lodi Chardonnay ($14, 13.5%) starts with tropical and stone fruits on the nose and palate, but then the buttery oak starts to dominate the wine. The butter almost overwhelms the favorable lemon pepper spice finish. Would love to try an unoaked version of this wine.


Old Soul 2014 Lodi Pinot Noir ($14, 13.5%) - blended with Zinfandel and Merlot. Plenty of sweet red fruits on the nose; dark blackberry fruit on the palate; easy finish with subtle spice and tannins.Very approachable, although comes across on the sweeter side. 


Old Soul 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($14, 13.5%) - blended with Zinfandel and Merlot. Jammy throughout, dark cherries on the nose then blackberries on the palate. Slight spice on the tail. Like the Pinot, feels slightly sweet.

Old Soul 2013 “Pure Red” Blend ($14, 13.5%) -  a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah.  Cherry spice on nose, deep blackberry fruit, easy chewy tannins for a savory finish.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nelson County Virginia Adds a Distillery to their Portfolio: Silverback Distillery


One of my favorite wine country destinations in Virginia is Nelson County, located just southwest of Charlottesville and encompassing the Blue Ridge Parkway. Initially it was the county's mountains and wine that attracted me to the area, then a few breweries like Blue Mountain Brewery and Devils Backbone opened, then Bold Rock Cidery. Now there's another excuse - Silverback Distillery, with a new spirits brand available throughout the Virginia ABC system.

The distillery is owned and operated by Christine and Denver Riggleman and they produce three spirits: Beringei Vodka, Strange Monkey Gin, and Blackback White Grain Spirit. In order to provide tastings at the distillery, state regulations require that consumers be limited to 4 ounces of spirits over a 24 hour period. Rather crazy considering a person could then travel to nearby Blue Mountain or Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery and drink unlimited quantities of beer or wine. In order to make this restriction bearable to visitors, Silverback created a few cocktail flights which serve a dual purpose. Not only do they provide customers enjoyable libations during their visit, but they also provide future recipes after purchasing a bottle or two.

Samples also are provided neat which gave me a clear representation of their spirits. The Beringei Vodka ($30 750 ml, 80 proof) is made from predominately winter wheat and is very clean, slightly sweet, with absolutely zero burn. The Blackback White Grain Spirit ($17 750 ml, 90 proof) has a high percentage of corn in the mash bill augmented by winter wheat. Thus, on the one hand the corn provides sweetness and spice, on the other, the winter wheat mellows the profile. This moonshine styled spirit is sweet with a minor burn. Be prepared for an aged version of the white grain that is currently residing in American Oak barrels. The biggest surprise was the Strange Monkey Gin ($30 750 ml, 80 proof). Not particular fond of gin, this version was rather tasty as the distillery held back on the juniper. This was worth the price of admission alone. As for the cocktails, the Moscow Mule (vodka) and London Mule (gin) were my favorites with the spirit mixed with ginger beer and lime juice. And both grain cocktails were nice, the Fruity Baboon (blood orange soda and lime juice) and Mango Monkarita (house mango mix). Cheers and safe travels while using theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge #19 Charlottesville's South Street Brewery

Looking for good food and a good sour (after all I am moving to the sour side), Charlottesville's South Street Brewery was a fitting stop on our #VABreweryChallenge. And why not? The brewery is owned and operated by Mandi and Taylor Smack of Blue Mountain Brewery fame, who purchased their old employer (Taylor was the brewer from late 2001 until early 2007) last year. Located adjacent to the Downtown Mall, the brewpub provides a broad portfolio of beer options including the Slippery When Wit. This Gose\Witbier hybrid was both tart and spicy - combining the pleasant characteristics of both styles. Quite good. I also enjoyed the El Jefe wheat beer and for dessert the chocolatey and heavy Anastasia's Chocolate Fantasy. This is one powerful beer. Of the lagers, the Classic Lager was pale and refreshing whereas the Virginia Lager was more malt forward in an amber ale style. We preferred the Classic. The food was also enjoyable (Pot Roast Grilled Cheese), particularly paired with a Virginia wine, in which they have several on the menu. The Pollak Vineyards Viognier was a favorite with our group. Our group was sad to leave, but fortunately the next day I found the Slippery When Wit in the can. Happy days. Cheers and safe travels while using theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App.

Friday, July 3, 2015

#VABreweryChallenge: Tyson's Corner & Gordon Biersch Brewery (#18)

Ironically, the Tyson's Gordon Biersch Brewery is not far from my home, yet I only seem to visit once a year. Probably a general aversion to the Tyson's Mall, or any mall really.  That's a shame because brewer Justin Damadio brews really good German styled beer. My go to is the Export Export lager, decently hopped and clean. It's a good indicator of the brewery's quality since you can't hide many defects in a light lager. I usually avoid the Marzen and Maibock because these styles are too sweet for my tastes, so move to the banana rich Hefeweizen or the dry Schwarzhier. On this visit, Damadio had brewed a Rye Lager, which is both spicy and hoppy. If you care for even more hops, there's also an IPA and a new Belgium Pale Ale, less IBUs than the Rye Lager, but the hops are more prevalent on the palate. I'll most likely be back on a Tuesday in July since the brewery is hosting special events this month on those days. Check out their events pdf.


Across Route 7 from the mall is another brewpub, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse. We visited this establishment and learned that the beer is not brewed onsite, it is shipped from their facility in Texas. Thus, they won't be included in the #VABreweryChallenge, but there are a few decent offerings on tap. The seasonal Nit Wit was fresh and spicy as one would expect from a wit and the Harvest Hefeweizen is another summer option.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another Unique #WineStudio Featured Rosé: Y. Rousseau 2014 Rosé of Tannat

"I don’t follow trend, I make wine of conviction. I make wine I want to enjoy myself." ~ Yannick Rousseau

The final Protocol #WineStudio Rosé series features Yannick Rousseau and his "one of a kind" Rosé of Tannat. Yannick was born in the Gascony region of South-West France and was introduced to wine making at an early age from his grandfather's homemade wine. As an adult he worked at various French wineries before relocating to Napa Valley in 1999 where he interned for Newton Vineyard and consulted at VGS Chateau Potelle Winery. In 2007 he set out to create his own brand, focusing on varietals from his native South-West France; first  with Colombard and then Tannat. Whereas Y. Rousseau Wines base of operation is in Napa, for this rosé he sourced fruit from Saralee’s Vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River Valley. During the tasting, Rousseau mentioned that producing a rosé using Tannat is very challenging - particularly with such a bold, dark grape. He also said his approach with Tannat is different from those produced in Madiran.  He wants his Tannats to be enjoyed early but also to age well.


Y. Rousseau, 2014 Rosé of Tannat Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($24, 13.5%) - 100% Tannat from Saralee’s Vineyard – Matthew's Station; 75% pressed, 25% saignée; fermented in stainless steel; aged for 5 months on the lees with no stirring. The wine starts with a watermelon aroma moving towards strawberries on the elevated palate, finishes dry and acidic.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Winemaker José Moro Discusses Emilio Moro Winery Ribera del Duero Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)

Through the power of web technology, last week I participated in a presentation by winemaker José Moro of Emilio Moro Winery on Ribera del Duero and a trio of their Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wines. The video exchange started with Moro discussing the family history of the winery that his Grandfather Emilio Moro Sr. started almost a century ago. He selected the best sites on his land in Pesquera de Duero and grafted a unique clone of Tempranillo called Tinto Fino. This clone had several advantages which included smaller berry size and looser clusters. In 1932, Jose's Father Emilio was born and was the same year that Emilio Sr. planted the Finca Resalso vineyard. José was raised in the vineyard and the winery and in 1987-1988 he and his brother Javier, invested to create the Emilio Moro brand. Since that decision, the winery has received numerous awards and 90+ ratings.

José also spent a considerable amount of time during the web meeting discussing Ribera del Duero and the family's vineyards. Today Spain consists of 70 AVAs, but in 1925, Ribera became that country's third. It has a continental climate with long cold winters; hot, dry summers; and a sharp diurnal temperature swing between summer days and nights. Ribera contains three distinct elevation zones starting with the Low Plains (up to 750 meters) leading to the Slopes (750-850m), and ending at the Plateau (850-1,600m). In fact, this Plateau region contains the highest vineyards in Spain. There are also three types of soil spread through these elevation zones. According to José Moro, the chalky soils provide elegance and complexity; the clay soils structure and character; and the stoney soils maturity and sweetness.

We then moved on to sample three wines that were provided to the participants beforehand. Notice how the unique labels honor the family's history.

Finca Resalso 2014 ($14.99, 13.5%) - 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo); aged 4 months in 100% French oak barrels.  Even though this wine is named after the vineyard, it is composed of grapes from younger vines (5-12 years old) planted throughout various vineyards and represents all elevations and soil types. The wine starts with ripe dark fruit aromas, some dustiness on the palate integrates with the fresh fruit; solid acids and  easy tannins. Very approachable and quite the value.




Emilio Moro 2012 ($24.99, %) - 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo); composed of grapes from a selection of mid-aged vineyards (15 to 25 years) representing their most important soil types. 50% of the grapes were harvested from vines planted in chalk soil, then aged 12 months in French oak; whereas the other 50% was harvested from vines planted in clay soil and then aged 12 months in American oak. Moro noted that the French oak - chalk soil combination provides finesse and the  American oak - clay soil provides more structure. The result is dark fruit - blackberries - more spice and leather on the palate; but silky texture and rich tannins & acids; a solid, complex and enjoyable wine.


Malleolus 2011 ($44.99, %) - 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo); Malleolus translates from Latin as majuelo, which is the name used in Pesquera de Duero for a small vineyard. This wine is an expression of the oldest vines (25 and 75 years old) and aged 18 months in 500 liter French oak barrels. This is an intense wine, both earthy and fruity (black fruit - dried cherries) with spices, leather, and chewy tannins. Simply fantastic.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Taste of Two Villa Maria Estate Sauvignon Blancs

This week New Zealand's, Villa Marie Estate Winery hosted a #NZSauvBlanc twitter tasting focusing on two of the winery's Sauvignon Blanc. And why not, their Marlborough vineyards are in the perfect location for this grape with low rainfall and New Zealand's sunniest region at 2,435 hours of sunshine.  This northern part of the South Island knows Sauvignon Blanc and it shows with these wines; both excellent and affordable options. 

2015 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99, 13.0%) - powerful, I'll repeat, powerful apricot - citrus aroma; creamy citrus palate; finishes with effervescence.

2014 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99, 13.0%) - more subtle aroma; followed by explosion on the palate or lemon - apricots; solid acids.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#WineStudio Rosé: 2014 Donelan Rosé Sonoma County Syrah / Grenache / Pinot Noir

The third week of the Protocol #WineStudio Rosé series features more Sonoma County rosé, this time from Donelan Family Wines in the 2014 Rosé Sonoma County Syrah / Grenache / Pinot Noir ($25, 13.3%). Now, we all enjoy a nice GSM wine, but a GSP? This shall be interesting.

But first, Donelan winemaker Joe Nielson answered our questions regarding the wine's production. It is made using the Saignee method, where the grapes are loaded into tanks and juice is pulled after short skin contact of 1 hr to 24 hrs. The extracted juice represents 5% to 20% of total volume as it serves a dual purpose of making the red wine, from the remaining juice, more concentrated and allowing for the production of a second wine - a rosé. The exact percentages in the blend is 55% Syrah, 29% Grenache and 16% Pinot Noir, with all juice fermented in neutral oak - similar to fermenting Chardonnay. Nielson believes prefers neutral oak over concrete/stainless steel because "it helps with micro-ox which keeps #rhone wine from stinkin'". The grapes were harvested across multiple Sonoma County vineyards with the lots interestingly named #babs #direstraits #DavidLeeRoth #Prince #BonJovi  - all #terroir driven personality. The one exception to the saignee juice came from the #Prince lot from Bennett Valley, which was lightly pressed.

The result is a wine where the acids comes alive providing a clear contrast to the creamy center and tropical nose. Mango and pineapple comprise those tropical attributes; the neutral oak rounds out the finish and contributes that creamy palate. The acids are key though, helped along by the Syrah harvested from the cooler Russian River Valley Walker Vine Hill and Kobler vineyards. This is a solid wine, one to savor. Well done. Cheers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Kudos Wine - Four Wines from the Willamette Valley Oregon

Oregon's Willamette Valley is the Beaver State's most dynamic, and probably, most diverse winegrowing region. Most are familiar with the extensive Pinot Noir plantings, but there's also a fair amount of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay. The AVA stretches from the Columbia River in the north to just south of Eugene in the south along the Willamette River. Thus many of the lower vineyards consist of sandy loess soils, whereas higher elevations are volcanic and even marine sediment. The Willamette Valley AVA has been subdivided into sub-AVAs: Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, and the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA.

I recently received a care package of four wines from the popular brand, Kudos Wine. Produced by NW Wine Company, a custom wine crush facility, this brand encompasses single vineyard, sub-AVA, and Willamette Valley fruit. "Under the supervision of owner and executive winemaker Laurent Montalieu, NW Wine Company works with vineyard owners ranging from 1 acre to 200 acres in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and beyond. As an incubator for small wineries and vineyards, NW Wine Company allows producers to focus on creating a quality vineyard and wine prior to investing in a production facility of their own."

The Wines

2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($15, 13.1%) - creamy pear flavor, mild acids; a pleasant wine, desired a few more acids

2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($15, 13.0%) - light lemon nose, tad buttery, subtle acids; rather disappointing, couldn't discern the Chardonnay grape

2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($15, 13.1%) - herbal black fruit, light, smooth finish; another on the pleasant side.

2012 Kudos Pinot Noir Reserve Yamhill-Carlton District ($20, 14.3%) - subtle cherry and chewy peppery palate, easy tannins; the best of the bunch - seek this out.

Friday, June 19, 2015

#SipWithKaren Unexpected #NapaValley Wines

This week Karen MacNeil, of the Wine Bible fame and Keynote Speaker at the upcoming 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference, hosted a twitter tasting (#SipWithKaren) featuring six "unexpected" Napa Valley wines. The event was sponsored by Napa Valley Vintners and included  Bottlenotes and The Daily Sip, in which MacNeil is the Editor-in-Chief. The tasting was heavy on whites with an Albariño, a Chenin Blanc, an unoaked Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc; and for the reds and Cabernet Sauvignon, and 100% Petit Verdot.  I know what you are thinking, what so unexpected about a Napa Cab. I had the same question. Besides tasting the wines, the most informative part of the program was the tweets regarding Napa Valley by our sponsored host. I was generally aware of some of these facts; others, not so much.
  • #NapaValley was designated California’s first American Viticultural Area or AVA in 1981.
  • #NapaValley has 16 sub- or nested AVAs demonstrating the incredible diversity of our region
  • #Napa has a Mediterranean climate, which affects only 2% of the earth’s surface – characterized by sunny, dry summers
  • Within #Napa can be found half the world’s soil orders..
  • Did you know that only 9% of #NapaValley is planted to grapevines?
  • In #Napa we grow more than 3 dozen wine grape varieties – from #albariño to #zinfandel
  • #Napa’s warm, dry growing season and morning fog allows grapes to fully ripen & maintain acidity
  • Did you know #Napa’s To Kalon Vineyard was planted in 1868 by HW Crabb? To Kalon is Greek for “highest beauty".
  • Fun fact about Napa: over 60% of wineries produce less than 5k cases per year.
  • Did you know #NapaValley has about 1/6th the planted grapevine acreage of #Bordeaux?
  • Once widely planted, today only about 25 hectares/60 acres of Chenin remain
  • #SauvBlanc is the fourth most widely-produced wine grape variety in #Napa.
  • #Chardonnay is #Napa’s 2nd most widely planted wine grape (behind #cabernet) - 6,900 acres/30,500 tons in 2014.
  • Mighty #Cabernet is the king of grapes in #Napa w/ 20,600 acres planted (40% of the total 45k acres planted)
  • #Napa’s quality #Cabernet commands the highest average price per ton of all CA winegrapes – $5,500/ton in 2014
  • Lots of #petitverdot grown in #Napa (2,900 tons/2014) but very little bottled as a stand-alone variety

The six unexpected Napa Valley wines

2014 Artesa Napa Valley Albariño ($28, 14.2%) - fermented and aged 5 months in stainless steel (85%) and new french oak barrels (15%).  Starts with peach, then pineapple-lemon, then honeysuckle, with a long acidic finis. Karen MacNeil: This #albariño from @Artesa is easy to love. It’s a perfect #apéritif & great way to start the flight.

2013 Cornerstone Cellars  Napa Valley (Oak Knoll District ) Chenin Blanc ($25, 15.5%) - white fruit aroma; citrus, velvety texture, and mineral palate; finishes with plenty of acid. Karen MacNeil: Not as full bodied as #chardonnay, but not as light bodied as #pinot grigio. This #chenin is right in the middle & I love the crisp finish on this @CornerstoneNapa #cheninblanc #EasyToDrink.

2013 Robert Mondavi Winery  Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($17, 15.5%): Napa Valley – 89% (61% Wappo Hill Vineyard, 20% To Kalon Vineyard); Mendocino County - 11%. Starts with lemon grass, but palate is deeper with minerals and finishes strong & long in acids. Karen MacNeil: This @RobertMondavi Fumé Blanc has beautiful focus and a lovely salinity. Long flavors of spice and bitter citrus.

2013 Alpha Omega Unoaked  Napa Valley Chardonnay ($33) - sees no ML or oak, but spent 6 months “sur lie,” which contributes to it’s creamy texture and and allows apple-tangerine-citrus notes to shine through. Karen MacNeil: I like the @AOwinery “Unoaked” #Chardonnay a lot. It’s a wine that’s effortless to drink all day long.

2012 Robert Mondavi  Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($29, 15.5%): 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec. Blackberries prevalent throughout; herbaceous and textured, some chocolate, long soft finish. Karen MacNeil: This @RobertMondavi #cabernet offers a tremendous value. Each glass would only cost you the equivalent of a Starbucks latté.

2010 St. Supéry Estate Vineyard & Winery Dollarhide Ranch Napa Valley Petit Verdot ($50, 14.5%):
97% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon; 100% French oak (50% new oak), 20 month.  Big dark fruit, spices, chocolate, lingering barnyard notes - envelop the mouth.  Karen MacNeil: This @StSupery #petitverdot is very focused and precise. There’s no static – it sings its song exactly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#WineStudio Rosé with the POE 2014 Sonoma County Old Vine Pinot Noir - Pinot Meunier

The Protocol #WineStudio Rosé series continued this week by featuring the POE 2014 Sonoma County Old Vine Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier Rosé ($22, 12%). This unique winery was founded in 2009 by Samantha Sheehan, who wanted to create a wine brand that would showcase the distinct terrior of single vineyards in California. And the name comes from her affection for the famous writer and poet - as portrayed by the wine's label. The rosé is a curious blend of 66% Pinot Noir from Olcese Vineyard and 34% Pinot Meunier from Sonoma Mountain's Van der Kamp Vineyard. The two pinots were specifically selected to mimic Burgundy and Champagne with the Pinot Noir providing "nuance+depth" and the Pinot Meunier providing "fruit+form". Old Vine is appropriate since the Pinot Noir was planted in 1974 and the Pinot Meunier in 1953. She also specifically targeted the Van der Kamp vines and fortunately a few rows became available after her inquiries.

Sheehan told the #winestudio participants that the grapes were harvested early, as in Champagne, to provide bright acids and low alcohols. The grapes were slightly pressed (no saignée) and treated the fermenting juice as a white wine - with cold fermentation and no malolacatic fermentation. For me, the wine opens with raspberry that transitions to a juicy and chewy citrus flavor. Sheehan also hinted at the orange peel and orange blossom characters. The wine finishes long and acidic. Another fabulous dry rosé; give the wine a try and decipher the label. Cheers.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ballparks & Brews: Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers

Our annual trip to an away Nationals series landed us in Milwaukee and Miller Park, the home of the aptly named Brewers. As the name suggests, the city has a rich brewing past as well as a vigorous and thriving local craft beer scene. Unfortunately this vigor doesn't apply in the ballpark. Aas the name suggests, MillerCoors products are centrally featured throughout the ballpark and that lineup includes Wisconsin's Leinenkugel Brewery. Sadly, a brewery with 150 years experience releases the awful Summer Shandy and a putrid IPA, which I believed was mislabeled. It was overly malty and sweet with just a handful of bitters and zero aromatics. Miller High Life is a better option than these Leinie beers.

As for craft beers, TGI Fridays in center field is your best option, with a range of crafts including several from local Lakefront Brewery. Their IPA rocks and the Riverwest Stein Amber Lager isn't bad. The New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale is also available at Fridays as well as a beer stand located at first base on the lower level. This stand also sold a few Lakefront products and because of this selection, had the longest lines at the park. Ironically the "craft beer" stand on the third base side sold Miller Lite and Coors Lite. That basically epitomized the craft beer experience at Miller Park.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Think Pink, Think Merlot, Think Slovenia: Erzetič Damski Rosé

June's #WineStudio concentrates on dry rosé and features several wines from regions and grapes you'd normally not associate with the style. Case in point, the Erzetič Damski Rosé ($24, 12.5%) produced from Merlot grapes in Slovenia and imported by Old World Vines. The Erzetič Winery is located in the Goriska Brda region, which is part of the larger Primorska wine region. Goriska Brda borders Italy and shares many traits with its Italian neighbors - particularly the predominance of red wines. Although the local white Ribbola would beg to differ. Wine making in the area can be traced back to the 13th century, with the Erzetič property growing grapes since 1725. The vineyards are slightly elevated on rolling hills providing adequate ventilation and the soil is composed of ancient seabed matte. Erzetič is a family business with knowledge passed to each generation; currently Aleksij Erzetič is the winemaker. Interestingly, Erzetič is one of only two wineries in Slovenia making wine from Georgian amphora vases. Cheers to orange wine; but now to the pink wine.

The Damski (Ladies) Rosé is 100% Merlot harvested from estate fruit. The grapes were gently pressed until the desired color, texture, and tannin extraction was reached; fermented occurred in stainless steel.The result is a salmon pink colored wine, with noticeable acidity. Raspberries are prevalent on the nose, but the most impressive feature is the creamy mid-palate where the wine melts into the acids. Quite nice; definitely the best Slovenian Merlot rosé I've ever had. Cheers to that and to next week's WineStudio rosé . 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#SAVOR 2015 - Long Live the Sours


At next year's SAVOR event I need to attend both evenings as I determined one night is not enough time to visit with all the breweries - particularly if you attend a salon. This year it seems that I only had time for about half the beer selections for a variety of reasons.

First, I spent an hour in the Grape and Grain salon hearing Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dan Kopman of Schlafly Brewery describe their respective brewery's ventures combining fermented grain with grape must. I was particularly attracted to Schlafly's two versions of Lazy Ballerina, both made from a barley and wheat mash plus Chambourcin grape must from Chandler Hill Vineyards. The difference between the two was that the grape must in the bottled version (which was the one poured to the SAVOR participants)  was inoculated with Saison yeast whereas the second was fermented with wild yeast and bacteria - which the brewery determined was 2 types of Brettanomyces and one type of Lactobacillus. They've retained these cultures for future fermentations. That's a wise decision, since that version of the Lazy Ballerina was fantastic - funky with a little cream. On the Dogfish Head side, Sam poured samples of their 61 (the 60 Minute plus 20% Syrah) and Chateau Jiahu - a fermented beverage made from orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorn fruit based on pottery residue found in Jiahu China. Both of these are tasty in their own right.

The second reason I missed many of the breweries is that I was determined to sample all the sour and fruit beers presented. There were close to twenty ranging from Kreiks to Gose to Wild Sours. And straight up,  Upland Brewing Company (Bloomington, IN) poured two of my favorites; the VinoSynth Red and the Dantalion. The first is a red and white collaboration with Oliver Winery a blend of 50% Sour Reserve and 50% Malefactor Flanders-style Red Ale aged on Catawba grapes. The jamminess of the Catawba was balanced with the acids of the red ale to create a fine funky beer.  The Dantalion is based on the Flanders Oud Bruin (Brown) beer style where the brewery's base lampic is aged in white oak barrels for at least eight months. There's plenty going on in this beer with multiple spices, chocolate, and rye characters mingle throughout. Well done.


There were several other sours worth noting. The NOLA Brewing Lowerline is part of the brewery's Funk series. This beer was inoculated with a lactos bacteria providing a tart and very creamy flavor. There's not a lot of complexity here, but the beer is very pleasant. Locally based Mad Fox Brewing Company was pouring their Oaked Diabolik which was rich and creamy with a wine like texture. Boulder's FATE Brewing Company offered a popular Barrel-Aged Uror Gose, which was aged 10 weeks in used Arta tequila barrels. The agava flavors blend seamlessly into the tart and salty brew. Nashville's Yazoo Brewing Company Embrace the Funk Series Deux Rouges is their Flanders ale, fermenting with wild yeasts and souring bacteria, aged in used Merlot barrels. This process imparts some spiciness into the sour and mellows the finish nicely. Milwaukee's Brenner Brewing Company Maiden Opus was quite solid (as was their Bacon Bomb Rauchbier).  And Austin's Hops and Grain Brewing Volumes of Funk: Sour PorterCulture is a mash bill close to their Baltic porter recipe and then aged in barrels full of brett and lactos. Pretty tasty.

Two final beers to note are the Strange Craft Beer Company Cherry Kriek and the Schlafly Brewery Apricot Berliner Weisse. The Schlafy beer was bright, acidic, with subtle apricots which I could quaff all day. The Kriek is a World Cup Gold Award Winner and showcases a slightly tart and sweet flavor profile. Probably can't drink more than a couple, but it's an interesting beer to sample. 

Getting back to missing out sampling all the beers is that that many breweries ran out of supplies way too quickly. Funky Buddha Brewery was done an hour into the event; Country Boy Brewing not long afterwards. And there were many other early exists. That was the major disappointment of the evening; I know many of the offerings were limited productions but the Brewers Association may need to require breweries to pour a beer with more inventory. Otherwise,  SAVOR was another extraordinary craft beer tasting. Cheers.