Thursday, September 30, 2010

2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley

I think I’ve developed a new wine love affair with Chateau Ste. Michelle. I’ve had several varieties in the past months and have not been disappointed to date. This weeks offering was the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley.
Floral notes mixed with herbs waft out of the glass. Flavors are crisp and light with green apple and a touch of banana in the finish. Finish isn’t crazy long but lingers enough for me to appreciate the subtleness.

Acidity – 0.64g/100ml
PH 3.13
Alcohol 13%
Varietal – 100% Sauvignon Blanc

2008 was a banner growing season in Washington’s Columbia Valley with full ripening crops and in check sugar levels. Grapes were sourced primarily from the winery’s Horse Heaven Vineyard located in Columbia Valley, WA. Receiving just six to eight inches of rain per year, the sandy soil’s inability to hold water allows for a more controlled vine growth. The region also benefits from the additional sunlight during the growing season. Receiving two hours more per day than California, the grapes are able to ripen fully creating exceptional aroma and flavors.

For more information on Chateau Ste. Michelle, click here.

Chateau Ste. Michelle brings a little more sunshine into my world. If only all my decisions were as hard as deciding which varietal to drink tonight.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2008 Helfrich Vin D’ Alsace Gewurztraminer

What do France’s Alsace region and Korea have in common? I don’t know all the shared commonalities, if any, but I can tell you, they make for a kick ass food and wine pairing. My latest wine sample shipment contained three wines from the Alsace region. I paired a 2008 Helfrich Vin D’ Alsace Gewurztraminer with spicy Korean BBQ and it was a match made in heaven.

A classic Alsatian grape, the color is straw yellow in the glass. Rose petal aromas and spice intermingle with flavors of honey, floral, cream and a hint of perfume. Full bodied and creamy, the finish is long with a touch of acidity.

With six generations of growers behind him, Frederick Helfrich is now at the head of the Helfrich family and on the forefront of the Alsatian revival. In Alsace the grape and vineyard location are of the utmost importance. The flavor of the grape and the terroir must come through in the wine. Helfrich’s wines represent the past and the future. The past being the centuries old vineyards and the future referrting to the Nobel Varieties line of wines. The Nobel Varieties are light in style, easy to drink and topped with a screw cap versus cork, it’s old school versus new school. Just 5,000 cases of the Gewurztraminer were produced.

Back to the food and wine pairing, the star combo was the Kimchi with the Gewurztraminer. Wow, flavor explosion from the spicy Kimchi and the creamy sweet feel of the wine, was like a tango in my mouth.

The wine is available around the country and is priced at $14.99. If you haven’t tried Gewurztraminer this is a nice one to cut your teeth on. It’s not overly sweet nor is it too acidic.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

2007 Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Have I mentioned lately what a great gig I have going. Not only do I get to sample great tasting wine (for the most part) but I get to sample wines that I may not find in my local wine store or big box retailer. This week I sampled a 2007 Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and I have to say this wine is quite a gem.
The color in the glass is deep brick red with aromas of black pepper, wild berries and spice. A flavor explosion of black berry, vanilla and plums washes over the palate. Well balanced layering of fruits, spices and oak. Tannins are moderate and create an enjoyable dry finish with a lingering fruits. A very sophisticated wine and still priced affordable.

Varietal – 93% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah
Aging – 10 mos French oak barrel, 15% new
Alcohol – 14.9%
Production – 3,900 cases
Price - $20

Located in the Dry Creek Valley, Quivira focuses on small-lot wines, matching varietals specifically suited to the terroir. Versed in the practice of Biodynamic agriculture the methods at times may seem a little unusual. Take for example the annual event where the vineyard buries cow horns filled with a Biodynamic prep material. This method is commonly referred to as preparation 500. The horns are typically buried on the Autumnal Equinox and recovered on the Spring Equinox. The material or fermented manure is thought to revive degraded soil.

Biodynamic viticulture is a source of controversy combining both agricultural and spiritual aspects. Despite the controversy in blind tastings made up of wine experts and Masters of Wine, the biodynamic wines have generally been judged as superior to other wines. I can tell you from my personal experience, this wine had personality that a lot of other wines lack.

I did some research online for this bottling and did find it available throughout the US in local wine stores as well as for online purchase. If you’re lucky enough to find, you may want to hold for a few years. I have a feeling this one will do nothing but improve with age.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designate Belloni Zinfandel

Behold the ebony raven, perhaps one of the most foreboding birds in literature, often conjuring up macabre images of gloom and doom. Just last week for some unknown reason, I found myself repeating Edgar Allan Poe’s famous line, “Quoth the raven, `Nevermore'”. It’s comforting to know not all things relating to the raven are so gloomy, as I found out from a recent sampling of 2007 Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designate Belloni Zinfandel

Spicy black pepper and a hint of oak aromas, flavors are bold with loads of blackberry, cherry and chocolate. Well structured tannins combine superbly with the generous bursts of fruit. The finish is lingering and peppered with spicy notes.

The 2007 Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel, $35, Russian River appellation, includes 78% Zinfandel and 22% mixed blacks, including Petite Sirah, Carignane and Alicante Bouchet, a field-blend co-ferment. 2007 vintage produced just 1,300 cases of this wonderful juice.

When selecting a Single Vineyard location, Ravenswood’s winemaker Joel Peterson has a few requirements that must be met; climate suited to the varietal of grape, old and low yielding vines, experienced growers and distinctive flavors that make the vineyard unique. Ravenswood has been harvesting grapes from the Belloni Vineyard since 1991. Family-owned and run by the late Ricardo Belloni’s wife Natalie, the vineyard’s old vines are now tended to by Ricardo’s descendants as a way of paying homage to their heritage.

The winery, born in 1976, takes its name from a dark and ominous afternoon on the brink of thunderstorms. Grapes recently harvested for Joel’s debut Zinfandel vintage awaited pick up. When Joel arrived at the vineyard he found the recently picked berries that were packed in a 50lb crate were now scattered throughout the vineyard. As Joel struggled to gather the grapes and haul them to his truck, two ravens cackled and Joel thought “Nevermore”.

My quoting the Raven may have been foreshadowing a great opportunity for me on the horizon. I’ll be visiting Ravenswood and touring their Single Vineyards in October, perfect time to have the raven on my side. In the meantime, stay on the look out for some more reviews on these fabulous crafted and tasty wines.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2008 Erath Oregon Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

Perusing my local big box club store, I stumbled across a bottle of 2008 Erath Oregon Pinot Noir. Normally priced around $17, this was just $13, feeling there must be some mistake in pricing I immediately snatched this little gem up before they realized the error.

Cherry and plum aromas carry over to the flavors, followed by a zesty spice. Mid-palate brings red currant and vanilla to the party. Tannins are bold and need a little refining in my opinion. The finish is a little lackluster for me but the wine is still nice. It tends to have the typical Pinot Noir feel to me, very up front and not very complex. I would appreciate this one more if it had a little more body.

Region –Oregon Willamette Valley
Total Acidity – 0.6gm/100ml
pH – 3.64
Alcohol – 13.2%

The 2008 harvest throughout Oregon was a late one. Berry development was about two weeks behind schedule due to cooler than normal temps. Luckily October was not plagued by the usual torrential rainfall but was dry and mild and harvest was completed by October 27.

While in the Portland area, my husband and I purchased a few bottles of Erath’s Estate Selection, direct from the winery. The wine sells for around $35. I can tell a huge difference between the Oregon wines and the Estate. But since my budget doesn’t allow me to buy $35 bottles of wine on a regular basis I’ll have to settle for the affordable and still very drinkable Oregon label.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

2009 Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay Mendocino County Francine’s Selection

As I sweat my way through the last few months of summer, should only be another two or three months here in Florida, time for a few more of those delicious white wines. A recent sample included a 2009 Toad Hollow Chardonnay Mendocino County Francine’s Selection.
Bright green apple and citrus on the nose, flavors are crisp and clean consisting of pineapple, citrus and mineral. Beautifully balanced between crisp flavors yet creamy mouthfeel. Low residual sugar and well balanced acidity make this a treat for all senses.

The unoaked Chardonnay spends nine months in steel tanks, hence the unoaked, and undergoes a 100% malolactic treatment and left on the lees for eight months. Malolactic treatment is a method of fermentation where malolactic bacterial culture are able to convert malic acid from grapes (generally not used with other fruits) into lactic acid. This process is in addition to regular fermentation.

The method is used for two reasons: 1) Reducing excess acidity by converting the malic acid to softer lactic acid. 2) Adds complexity to the wine by adding a buttery or creamy component as well as additional flavors and aromas.

For years I boycotted California Chardonnays, turned off by the overly buttery and oaky flavor that seemed so prominent in the region. And I wasn’t alone. Luckily winemakers took notice and took action. Today’s California Chardonnay’s are wonderfully balanced and well crafted wines so seize the day with some Toad Hollow Chardonnay.

For more on the story of Toad Hollow Vineyards click here.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2009 Cupcake Vineyards Malbec Mendoza, Argentina

I’ve attended blind tastings in the past and sometimes I’m truly surprised at the attitudes of some wine experts. The wine they just found quite enjoyable when name and label was unknown, they quickly want to dismiss once the wine is revealed. I’m telling you now, if you do this, you’re missing out on some great wine finds. One such find is my recent sample of 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Malbec.

Nose is filled with blueberries, oak and leather. Flavors of raspberry, plum and chocolate come through in a lush full bodied wine. Well structured tannins and a smooth lingering finish make this wine all the dessert I need after dinner.

Varietal – 100% Malbec
Sugar – 24.5
Acid – 0.65g/100 ml
PH – 3.64

While the Cupcake Winery is located in Montery County, CA, grapes for the Malbec are sourced from Mendoza, Argentina located on the Eastern Foothills of the Andes Mountains. The region is relatively cool and dry with just 8 inches of rainfall per year.

The rocky soil is irrigated through a system of aqueducts running from the Andes down to farmlands. These factors allow the grape to fully ripen into dark berries with intense flavors. After harvesting, the grapes are gently crushed and undergo a long fermentation with skins on and aged in oak creating a full and intense flavor.

Cupcake Vineyard Malbec proves once more, a wine doesn’t need to have a fancy name or carry a price tag equivalent to a car payment to be a really tasty and great wine.

My rating -  We'll drink the rest tomorrow.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

A few days ago a sample of Blackstone showed up on my doorstep. So, we meet again my old friend,  Blackstone, it’s been nearly a year since we last spoke (click here for review). This time you come to me under a different cloak. Now appearing as Sonoma Reserve, my interest is piqued as I wonder, could we renew the love affair we once had but has grown estranged. Blackstone Sonoma Reserve, come on in, make yourself comfortable and let’s have a little chat….

Tempted time and time again, only to be let down and broken hearted by its indifference,

I approach the wine cautiously. The nose is filled with spices, vanilla and oak. Aromas carry over to the flavors bursting with cherry, toasted oak and plums and currants. The tannins are well structured and produce a wonderfully dry mouthfeel. As the wine temperature rose to slightly higher temp than reds are typically served, the flavors really came through.

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve was added to the Blackstone family as a way of offering different levels of wine at varying price points. The original Blackstone can be found around the country for around $10. Sonoma Reserve is priced at $17 and the difference in price shows in the higher quality wine.

Grapes sourced from premium vineyards in Dry Creek River Valley, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast and Knights Valley are hand harvested at night and shipped cold to the Kenwood winery. Skins are left on during maceration giving the wine its well structured tannins, flavors and color. The wine is then barrel aged for 20 months before bottling.

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve, you really stepped up to the palate, er I mean plate this time. I hear you have Merlot counterpart, can’t wait to meet up. This wine paired divinely with salty hard cheeses and cured meats.

My rating -  Too good to put down.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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