Wine: Articles

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: California’s Central Coast Wine

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is the great travel and wine experiences we had along the way…from Washington to Oregon to California!

Next stop was California…and while it pained me to drive by Sonoma on our drive south without stopping, I was able to briefly visit two wine regions in California I haven’t spent time in…Monterey Wine Country and San Luis Obispo / Santa Barbara. (For more details on each, check out this California Wines Map.)

Monterey Wine Country is home to 85 vintners, 42 grape varieties and “The Blue Grand Canyon,” the deep marine canyon of the Monterey Bay providing the region the cooling influence and making it perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South of San Francisco with the beautiful towns of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Staying in Carmel, we stopped into Constance, The Wine Room for a tasting before dinner to try a few of the local wines. My favorite was the …

De Tierra 2008 Pinot Noir

  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Berry
  • Taste: Blueberry Cobbler
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: We tasted several reds from this region but this one was especially notable…nicely developed and a round flavor of blueberry cobbler.

Then we headed south into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara wine counties. We stopped into Santa Barbara for a quick stroll and hit the Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The Conway Family produces Deep Sea and Rancho Arroyo Grande wines. Deep Sea wines are sourced from select and notable Central Coast California vineyards that share the complexities associated with California’s maritime-influenced appellations. My favorite is from the Arroyo Grande Valley.

2009 Deep Sea Viognier, Coquina Vineyard

  • Variety: Viognier
  • Aroma: Honey and pear
  • Taste: Creamy citrus and pear
  • Price: $26
  • My thoughts: I’ve explored many Viogniers from Virginia (my home state and the official grape of the state) so was excited to see what it’s doing in this area of California. Out of all the wines I tasted, including many locals’ favorite Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed my favorite. Richer than Virginia’s offerings but quite nice.

That’s it for our wine exploring on the trip. Next up…details on a few of our travel stops in Oregon and California.

 

Tagged As:
, , , , , ,

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Sarver Winery

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) was the great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

After Washington, we hit Oregon and THE region for Pinot Noir in the U.S….Willamette Valley. Sarver Winery was our stop outside Eugene as they hosted our Oregon launch event.

We had story times and activities for the kids, and the adults enjoyed the fabulous wines and beautiful vistas at this family owned winery. It’s the perfect family destination with Erin and Chris as wonderful hosts.

Elhanan Vineyard at Sarver Winery was established in 1984 as one of the first growers of premium Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes in the southern Willamette Valley. Chris and Erin took it over in winter 2008.

At the end of our event, I was able to taste through their incredible wine line up…2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris, 2011 Estate Barrel-Aged Pinot Gris, 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé (bottle and on tap), 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, 2009 Cuvée (blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Syrah), 2011 Gewürztraminer, 2011 Estate Riesling and 2007 Porto “Syrato.” Truly all the wines were outstanding, but I had to pick a few to take home …

Sarver Winery 2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris
  • Aroma: Floral, citrus
  • Taste: White flowers, lemongrass
  • Price: $15.00
  • My thoughts: You can’t beat a Pinot Gris from Oregon and this is the perfect example!

Sarver Winery 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Summer berries
  • Taste: Strawberry, raspberry with hints of earthiness
  • Price: $19.00
  • My thoughts: This was my favorite! They were serving it from the bottle and on tap, giving it a little CO2 and effervescence…fun but I preferred it straight from the bottle. Perfect for the start of summer!

With summer coming, I went with these, but I will definitely be ordering their Estate Grown Pinot Noir for Autumn!

Special thank you to Wine Julia for the suggestion, coordination and all the promotion!

Cheers to Sarver Winery, the amazing Pinot Noir they are growing, and the Willamette Valley!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures.

Tagged As:
, , , , , , , , ,

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Treveri Cellars

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is there were great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

We started in Seattle which meant Washington wine. Just into town, a friend gave us a bottle of Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut. The same winery happened to be featured at an event Saturday night at Bottlehouse, a great little wine bar in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. This time the Trevari Cellars Sparkling Rosé.

Treveri is a family-owned sparkling wine house in Washington’s Columbia Valley. They opened in November 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map. Since its opening, Treveri wine has been served at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York.

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Petite Verdot, Mueller-Thurgau and Syrah, Treveri focuses on 100% varietal sparkling wines.

The “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut is very interesting and bursting with apple notes. But my favorite was the…

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Rosé

  • Variety: Chardonnay and Syrah
  • Aroma: Berry and citrus
  • Taste: Sparkling strawberry with hints of rhubarb
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: This is an excellent sparkling AND rosé…similar to something you’d taste from France. It was a big hit with the crowd at the event!

Cheers to this great sparkler from Washington!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour’s Wine & Travel Adventures.

Tagged As:
, , , ,

The Wide World of Sparkling Wine

Champagne, Sparkling Wines … always make any occasion festive! But it is a very complicated subject. What makes Champagne, Champagne? And what’s the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

During our March Fine Wine Divas event, we set out to explore the subject. Here are some of the highlights and the group favorites.

What is Sparkling Wine?

Sparkling wine is a wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide – making it fizzy. This carbonation may result from natural fermentation in the bottle or in a tank (see “How is Sparkling Wine Made?” below), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection.

Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé, but there are examples of sparkling red wine such as Italian Brachetto and Australian Sparkling Shiraz.

Types of Sparkling Wines

  • Champagne: The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne. This wine is exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France. While many other countries produce exceptional sparkling wines, they cannot be called “Champagne.”
    • Since 1985, use of the term “method champenoise” has been banned from all wines produced or sold in the European Union.
    • Blending is the hallmark of Champagne wine – usually involving a blend of Chardonnay (finesse and ability to age), Pinot Noir (body) and Pinot Meunier (fruit and floral notes).
    • The majority of Champagnes produced are non-vintage (NV, no year or vintage listed), but vintage Champagne is produced when the producers feel that the grapes from that year have the complexity and richness to warrant being on their own.
  • Crémant: Sparkling wines designated as Crémant (or, “creamy”) were originally named because their lower carbon dioxide pressure gave them a more creamy rather than fizzy mouth-feel.
    • French law dictates that a Crémant must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for their AOC. The wines must also be aged for a minimum of one year.
    • The Loire Valley is France’s largest producer of sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region.
    • The designation “Crémant” is not limited to use within France, and other EU countries that fulfill the production criteria may use it.
  • Prosecco: Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine made from Glera grapes.
    • As opposed to champagne, Prosecco is almost always made by the Charmat, or “tank method.” Large steel tanks keep the wine under pressure to capture the fresh fruitiness of the prosecco grape.
    • Prosecco can be either Spumante (more bubbly) or Frizzante (less bubbly), but the taste is usually Dry or Extra Dry.
  • Cava:  Cava is Spanish white or rosé sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia (southwest of Barcelona).
    • Cava is produced in the method champenoise, but includes grape varieties different than those used to make Champagne.
    • In 1872, Cava was first created by Josep Raventós after seeing the success of the Champagne region.
    • Cava can be produced in six Spanish wine regions, and must be produced in the traditional method utilizing a combination of the following grapes: Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat.

How Is Sparkling Wine Made?

  • The Traditional Method: The classic way is the méthode traditionelle (traditional method), or méthode Champenoise (Champagne method), developed in Champagne, France. Wine is produced in the normal way, then bottled with a sugar and yeast mixture to sit for a second fermentation. Carbon dioxide is produced during this fermentation creating the tiny bubbles. The yeast cells die and sink to the bottom of the bottle, referred to as the lees. While the wine is aged on the lees, complexity in the flavor develops (Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months for this second fermentation). Next the sediment is removed through ‘riddling,’ the tilting of the bottle on riddling racks to allow the sediment to move to the neck. The neck is then frozen, the cap removed, the plug of frozen sediment shoots out from the pressure. The bottle is then topped up with dosage (small amount of sugar solution, amount added varies based on sweetness and dryness levels desired), recorked and wire caged. Whoosh! Quite a process. Now you know why Champagne is expensive!
  • The Charmat Method: This method, also known as the Italian method, is quicker and used to make many less expensive sparkling wines. In this process, the yeast and sugar are added to the wine in the pressurized stainless steel fermentation tanks.Then this wine is bottled.

For our Fine Wine Divas event, we tasted the following 8 Sparkling Wines:

  • Baby Prosecco Veneto IGT, Veneto, Italy ($10)
  • NV Codorníu Anna de Codorníu Cava Brut, Catalonia, Spain ($16)
  • 2008 Trump Sparkling Rosé, Virginia, USA ($29)
  • 2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut, Oregon, USA ($25)
  • J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV), California, USA ($28)
  • NV Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru, Champagne, France ($37)
  • 2006 Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Brut Champagne, France ($50)
  • 2010 Inniskillin Sparkling Ice Wine, Ontario, Canada ($70)

And the evening’s favorites were…

J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV)

  • Variety: 49% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier from Russian River Valley, California
  • Aroma: Nose of lemon peel, honeysuckle, and delicate yeast.
  • Taste: Flavors of apple, grapefruit, angel food cake and almond. Balanced acidity.
  • Price:  $28 available on www.jwine.com
  • My thoughts: Judy Jordan has developed an amazing wine here, and in the Sparkling Rosé they have. Founded in 1986, Judy started the company after working for her father’s Jordan Winery. You can taste the care put into the wine…grapes are hand-harvested and pressed in a special gentle press.


2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut

  • Variety: 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay from Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Aroma: Nose of pear, apple, citrus and brioche.
  • Taste: Flavors pear, Meyer lemon and toasted bread.
  • Price: $25 available from Argyle Winery
  • My thoughts: With Oregon known for its incredible Pinot Noir, it’s not surprising to find this incredible Sparkler there. Argyle has produced world-class, award-winning Champagne-style Sparkling Wine since 1987.

2010 Inniskillin Sparkling Ice Wine

  • Variety: 100% Vidal Blanc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
  • Aroma & Taste: Nose and flavors of peach, apricot and honey.
  • Taste: Tropical fruits and honey.
  • Price: $80 available from Inniskillin
  • My thoughts: Ice wine is created by leaving the grapes on the vine into the winter months in order to concentrate the flavors. This wine packs a sweet punch but it’s a perfect after dinner drink.

While many in the group liked the Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Champagne, the majority of the likes went to the above three. Nice work North America!

For more on tasting of Sparkling Wine, see Around the World of Sparkling Wine. And check out this great Sparkling Wine infographic.

Cheers to the world of Sparkling Wine!

 

Tagged As:
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold: Best Wines of Virginia Named for 2013

Virginia’s top wines were named a few weeks ago with 2013 Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup top honors going to Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon 12th Edition. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 230 and 93 of the wineries submitted 377 red and white entries for this year’s competition.

Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon 12th Edition is a Bordeaux-style Meritage (70 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, 10 percent Petit Verdot, and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) that’s made in only the best vintage years. It’s the fourth Governor’s Cup that Barboursville’s won, but the first for the Octagon, which Governor McDonnell called “one of Virginia’s most iconic red wines.”

Governor Bob McDonnell presented the award at the Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup Gala. Governor McDonnell championed major changes to the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition in 2011 that made it one of the most stringent and comprehensive wine competitions in the United States.

The 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over two weeks of tasting. The preliminary tastings were held over ten days at the Capital Wine School in Washington DC, while the final round of tastings was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. The Governor’s Cup award winner was selected from the 2013 Governor’s Cup Case, the top 12 scoring wines of the competition. The other 11 wines…

Cooper Vineyards: 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards: 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery: 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery: 2010 Cleve
Pollak Vineyards: 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery: 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars: 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Rendezvous
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Lost Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard: 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery: 2008 Sparkling Rose

Accepting for Barboursville Vineyards was Luca Paschina, Barboursville’s General Manager and Winemaker. ”It has been a pleasure and a reward to follow the evolution of the 2009 vintage of Octagon. Since harvest I took notice of its promising characters, and I was not shy to share with many that it was destined to be among the best wines I will ever produce in my life,” said Luca. “The Virginia Governor’s Cup award is an honor and further validates the character of a wine that has already won 90 points at Wine Enthusiast, the Gold Medal of the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, of the Winemaker’s Challenge and Critics Challenge in California, and the Platinum Medal of the Sommelier Challenge, also in California.”

Barboursville Vineyards is located in the Monticello American Viticulture Area of Central Virginia, in and around the Charlottesville region. The historic Virginia winery is located on the estate of James Barbour, former Governor of Virginia, in Barboursville. The winery was founded in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, a prominent Italian winemaker whose family has roots in Italian viticulture going back to 1821. The Zonin Group is based in Vicenza, Italy. Barboursville is Zonin’s sole American venture.

Noticeably missing from this year’s winner list…white wine and Virginia’s offiical white variety, Viognier. There’s been much talk about it online. Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like spoke to Virginia Governor’s Cup competition head judge, Jay Youmans, MW on the topic. Jay said, “It is not that Viognier has performed poorly; it has more to do with the fact that many of the reds simply reflect the strength of the 2007, 2009, and 2010 vintages. While Viognier may perform well in Virginia, it is not as commercially important in the global market as full-bodied red blends.”

Gold Cup winner 2009 Octagon 12th Edition, along with the other 11 highest scoring wines above, will comprise the Governor’s Case, and serve as drinkable marketing ambassadors for the local industry throughout the year.

The Virginia wine industry continues it’s unprecedented growth. Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2012 with more than 485,000 cases, or more than 5.8 million bottles, sold. Virginia is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis.

For more information on all the winners, here’s a great site from Virginia Wine.

Congratulations to the 2013 winners!

Tagged As:
, , , , ,