Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a lovely Roussanne from Truchard Vineyards in Napa’s Carneros district. Roussanne is not typically what you’d expect to be grown in this cooler region of Napa, but Truchard has long produced one, and this particular vintage is excellent.

Speaking of Carneros, the Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir was a wonderfully pleasant surprise — a wine that anyone looking for a moderately priced Pinot Noir will enjoy. Yes, these days, moderately priced California Pinot Noir ends up around $30.

I also opened two more bottles of Riesling from Finger-Lakes producer Bellangelo, and really enjoyed both. At less than $20 per bottle, they’re steals if you can find them.

Finally, anyone looking to expand their California wine horizons would do well to pay attention to the wines of South Coast Winery in Temecula Valley. These two bottles, their un-oaked Chardonnay and Viognier are both quite good, and amazing values besides, though they are made in small quantities and may be difficult to track down.

All these and more below!

2011 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green bell pepper, crushed herbs, freshly mowed grass, and pipe tobacco layered over a hint of red fruit. In the mouth, very herbal flavors of green bell pepper, mint, and crushed herbs dominate any red fruit that is present in the wine, and counterpoint the wet-dirt bass note of the wine. A nice forest floor and minty note lingers in the finish, along with fine grained, tacky tannins that coat the front of the mouth. Excellent acidity. roussanne_tuchard.pngWhat you might expect from a very cold, rainy year on the mountain, but perhaps more vegetal than many will appreciate. 14.3% alcohol. 1070 cases produced. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2010 Weingut Franz Keller Schwarzer Adler “Franz Anton” Pinot Blanc, Baden, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon juice and lemon pith. In the mouth, juicy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a bright simplicity to them that is quite disarming. Juicy and pleasant, without being over complicated. An easy-to-drink wine. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: ??

2012 Gundlach Bundschu “Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of beeswax and lemon curd. In the mouth, bright lemon curd vanilla, and pineapple flavors have a juicy silkiness to them. Excellent acidity and very well integrated oak presence make for a quite pleasurable mouthful. Decent finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2012 Truchard Roussanne, Carneros, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of candle wax, white flowers, and asian pears. In the mouth, juicy asian pears, a hint of that waxy note, a faint sweetness, and a beautiful chamomile and dried flower quality pervades the wine. An aromatic sweetness lingers in the finish. Quite pretty and quaffable. Excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2012 Bellangelo “Gibson Vineyard” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, asian pears, and mandarine oranges. In the mouth, juicy mandarine orange zest and asian pear flavors have a wonderful delicate acidity and juiciness over a slightly stony underbelly. Lightly to moderately sweet. Nice, crisp and clean. 9.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9 . Cost: $20. click to buy.

2012 Cuvaison “Estate” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry and cherry flavors have a faint sweetness to them as they mix with a faint herbal note. Very pretty and juicy, thanks to excellent acidity, the flavors are quite pure and wonderful. A crowd-pleaser of a Pinot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2012 South Coast Winery “Carter Estate Vineyards Sans Chene” Chardonnay, Temecula Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream with a hint of yeastiness. In the mouth, notes of buttered popcorn mix with lemon curd and candied lemon rind with a hint of floral overtones. A faint yeasty note lingers in the finish. Fairly rich for no oak usage. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2012 Stoller Family Estate “Reserve” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and lemon juice and lemon pith. In the mouth, the wine is quite lean, with lemon pith and grapefruit pith flavors mixing with a pure lemon juice zinginess that is very compelling. Sourish grapefruit notes linger in the finish. This is a wine built for the long haul. Apropos of nothing, I find it odd that this wine has no geographical indication on either its front label or back label, other than the address of the winery, which I don’t think qualifies. Mystified how this got through TTB approval if it is indeed the commercial label. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27. stoller_Reserve_chard.jpgclick to buy.

2012 South Coast Winery Viognier, Temecula Valley, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright green apple and white peaches. In the mouth, the wine is bright and juicy with green apple and unripe peach flavors. Had I not read Viognier on the label, I wouldn’t necessarily peg this wine as being made from that variety, as it lacks the heavy apricot and peach notes, as well as the often unpleasant thickness on the palate. This is crisp, refreshing and bright. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: ??.

2013 Bellangelo “Sem-Dry” Riesling, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York
Palest blonde in color, this wine smells of honeysuckle, pears, and a hint of paraffin. In the mouth, crisp flavors of asian pear and white flowers have a faint sweetness to them that adds a very pretty complexion to this silky-but-crisp mouthful of fruit. Juicy and well balanced with filigreed acidity. 10.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2012 de Coelo by Benziger “Quintus” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe raspberry and cherry fruit and wet stones. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and cherry flavors mix with a stony underbelly and a hint of dried herbs. Juicy and bright. Faint tannins and a long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2010 Tin Barn “Coryelle Fields Vineyard” Syrah, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of white pepper, black cherry and strawberry. In the mouth, beautiful strawberry, cherry, and white pepper flavors have a nice bounciness thanks to excellent acidity. Muscular tannins grip the mouth and linger with hints of oak in the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: ??

2010 Dierberg Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy cranberry, raspberry and cherry fruit has a very sharp acidity to it, and a sandpapery blanket of tannins. The fruit is pure but the wine is a bit angular at this point. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

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Credit: Vinography: A Wine Blog


Tackling Climate Change on the Wings of a Drone

California is leading charge in the current movement to monitor vineyards by air rather than by hand.


This past week National Public Radio highlighted the use of the winged watchers in a story in which the news outlet visited Sebastopol, California., winery DRNK Wines to gain perspective on the importance of drones in the future of winemaking in California and across the world.


The winery’s mission is, according to NPR, “to one day collect aerial images that will help determine the vines’ vigor, ripeness, flavor and harvest dates, which due to rising soil temperatures have inched up in Sonoma County the past few years.”


These measurements will provide winemakers a better sense of how their grapes are doing in the moment, but also will provide them a yearly accounting of detailed information about weather patterns and climate changes.


These bits of information are important, NPR pointed out, because a 2013 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences revealed there’s a possibility that around 60 percent of California’s vineyards could be rendered unusable by climate changes.


The report, approved for publishing in February 2013, noted that 25 to 73 percent of the world’s winemaking regions may see decreases in suitable viticulture areas.


Vineyards in the Western United States, in particular, may have to adapt by moving their vineyards to higher elevations, the report said.

DRNK Wines told NPR that all the data they collect will help them understand how to “reduce the amount of fertilizer, water or energy that is used to grow grapes”, and in doing so finding ways they can lower their greenhouse gas emissions and help slow down climate change.


DRNK is just one of many wineries or organizations using drones to monitor their crops. Additionally, the winery is representative of overall interest in learning how to respond to future climate changes.


Australia is home to “Vineyard of the Future”, an Adelaide University project in which scientists and grape-growers are studying the effects of various climate changes on their vines. 


The aim of the technology used at the test vineyard is similar to that of DRNK and other vineyards across the world.


In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Adelaide University professor Steve Tyerman said the drone techniques will monitor, among other things, how much water the vines are using and how much photosynthesis is taking place.


“Professor Tyerman says having all this information will make grape growers better decision makers,” the vineyard’s blog reported. “It will also allow them to respond quickly to extreme weather events that may spoil the wine.


Origin: Snooth – Articles

Dance Pizazz Launches Wine Tasting and Professional Dance Events – Broadway World

Dance Pizazz Launches Wine Tasting and Professional Dance Events
Broadway World
There will be a selection of 6 wines total and they will all be presented with history, facts, and enthusiasm. After every 2 bottles Mike and Nikki will perform one of many of their professional dance numbers. This is the 3rd wine tasting experience

and more >>

Source: wine tasting – Google News

Port Wine Brings You Closer to Christmas Past

Port wine. Is it what your granny might drink? Well one of the many charms of Port is that the last bottle I tasted was harvested, vinified and put in a barrel way before my granny (may she rest in peace) was even born. Actually, I’m not sure my great-great grandmother was born either. To find out would require referencing some very stuffy, dusty old books. There was nothing, however, stuffy about this wine.


Port wine has a long history which is not just in the region where it is grown (Douro Valley of Portugal), or vinified (in the city of Porto).The history is directly present in bottles you can buy off the shelf today. Neither exorbitantly priced or reserved for collectors, Port with significant age can be enjoyed sip by sip while contemplating the time that has passed since the grapes were foot trodden, fermented, fortified and placed in barrels. The Taylor’s 1863 Single Vintage Port I sipped a thimbleful of might have been one perky 151 year-old, and perhaps more of a mental experience than a sensory one. The roughly $3,000 price tag for one of the 900 bottles in existence might be on the steep side for most wine lovers – but you can give yourself the generous gift of a wonderfully aged Port (think twenty to forty years), and you will have everything you need for sitting by the fire, in your favorite chair, and contemplating the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Port wine comes in many styles, from the wood aged to the bottle aged, from the deep purple, tannic and fruity to the unctuously sweet, nutty and golden. All are made by adding grape spirits to the wine while it ferments, which stops the fermentation process before all the natural grape sugar has been consumed. The resulting high alcohol level (19% to 23%) gives Port its ability for extreme aging. While the style is impacted by which of the grape varieties go into the wine, its influence is secondary to ageing and final blending methods.  This is what can make Port confusing for the casual wine drinker, but you don’t need to know the difference between Crusted Port, Colheita, Vintage and Ruby to enjoy a bottle. But in case you do wish to know the difference, here are some basic definitions, and some of my favorite ways to enjoy Port during the holiday season: 


Crusted Port: The winemaking style causes sediment, or “crust” to form in the bottle. It will need to be decanted before serving. 


White Port: Non-vintage Port made with white wine grapes aged for short periods of time, sometimes in wood. 


Ruby Port: Deeply colored, fruity, non-vintage Ports which are generally ready to drink at bottling.


Colheita: The grapes contained within the bottle are of a single vintage and have been aged for a minimum of eight years (if not more) in wood until just before release.  It is sold when the producer feels it is ready to drink and should be consumed in the following year, so look for the bottling date on the label. The well-aged Colheita is divine when paired with a mild milk chocolate truffle. You know, the best one in the box.


On a recent international flight, I was served a 1974 Kopke Colheita. Fork up about $100 and you can delight in 40 years of history. It’s still more than I spend on an average wine bottle but for a wine older than myself, and one that can last me through a whole snowy holiday week, it was well worth it. 


Late Bottle Vintage Port (LBV):  A type of Ruby Port that uses grapes from a single, specific vintage. It is aged four to six years prior to bottling. It brings red and black fruit aromas of fig, plum, cassis and coffee and a round, sweet mouthfeel.  The 2009 Niepoort Late Bottle Vintage is my current choice. Niepoort is one of my absolute favorite Port wine houses. Led by the charismatic character Dirk van der Niepoort, fan of minimal intervention winemaking, this house has a solid following among young sommeliers at top restaurants around the world. Dirk’s still wines might sometimes show up with comics on the label but the Ports, these heavenly Ports, are nothing but serious. They are also attractively priced. 


Tawny Port: Made from lighter colored, less extracted wines and thus paler and more amber as compared to a Ruby Port – hence, “tawny”. They are sometimes matured under warmer conditions, or blended with a touch of White Port.  The bottle will state the average minimum age of the wines in the blend, but not the exact age. When a break from the Christmas frenzy is called for (which is pretty much every day this time of year), I take a small glass of Tawny Port, steal a couple of sweets – butterscotch, salted caramel, candied nuts – and set myself down by the fire place.  The classic house Taylor’s makes my go-to Tawny Port.  Ten years of age reveals the first layer of butterscotch notes. For me, the sweet spot between price and style is always to be found in a twenty year-old bottle. For around $40, these bottles offer a lot of complexity, nuance and enjoyment without an exorbitant price tag. 


Port allows us to think about past, present and future. It’s a drink that encourages reflection, which is what so much of the holiday season is all about. What kind of port will you ruminate with this year?


Hat Tip To: Snooth – Articles

Scripps Research Institute: Believe the Hype About Resveratrol

Quackery or quantitatively correct, red wine wonder-ingredient resveratrol has seen its fair share of headlines this year for its sometimes lauded, sometimes laughed-at powers to fight a myriad of conditions. 


Earlier this week, however, a team of scientists from Florida and California-based The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found what they believe to be one of the core functions of the controversial compound: human stress response. 


“This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked, and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations than those used in prior studies,” TSRI senior investigator Paul Schimmel said in a press release about the findings and the article’s appearance in “Nature” magazine’s online advance yesterday.


Fellow researcher Mathew Sajish said the discovery is different than others because it uncovers a process previously unknown to the science world.

“With these findings we have a new, fundamental mechanism for the known beneficial effects of resveratrol,” Schimmel said in the release.


Though dubious at first glance, “stress response” has a deeper meaning which makes the new Scripps findings all the more significant.


According to the TSRI study, resveratrol mimics a certain type of amino acid which binds itself to TyrRS, an antibody workhorse which spends its time plugging away at your cells’ genetic code.


When TyrRS is bound to the amino acid, it steps away from the humdrum and heads to the cell’s nucleus where it’s mission is simple: find the PARP-1 protein and tell it to start hitting the “on” switch for a set of genes which work to suppress tumors and prolong life. The whole process is known as a “pathway.”


The story gets better, the researchers said. 


Whereas previous studies were fairly whimsical in the sense that the amounts of resveratrol needed to see real benefits would require someone to drink impossible amounts of wine, the Scripps research shows otherwise.


“Based on these results, it is conceivable that moderate consumption of a couple glasses of red wine (rich in resveratrol) would give a person enough resveratrol to evoke a protective effect via this pathway, Sajish said in the press release. 


Schimmel believes resveratrol’s ability to mimic amino acids may be just the beginning of a new avenue of health research.


“We think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Schimmel said in the press release. “We think there are a lot more amino-acids out there than can have beneficial effects like this in people.”


Source: Snooth – Articles

2014 – Worth Celebrating

midwinter_tree_napa.jpgSome years are unarguably more momentous than others. The question is whether we can really recognise them without the benefit of hindsight. History may prove me wrong, but as 2014 comes to a close I’m prepared to declare it one of the most important years for American wine.

The last 12 months were filled with more than a few revelations, triumphs, and vindications, even as they revealed a good measure of hard truths for some.

Keep drinking America

The first wine-related news story of 2014 still lingers for American wine lovers as a warm glow of satisfaction. By the end of 2013, America had overtaken France as the world’s largest market for wine. While this statistic was forged as much through France’s declines as through America’s gains, it still represents a remarkable milestone worth celebrating. According to statistics, my (relatively numerous) countrymen still consume a measly 0.2 bottles per week on average (compared with the 1.2 per week average in France), but that continues to inch up every year, leaving some of us to make up the difference through more than our share of the good stuff…

Read the rest of the story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

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Via: Vinography: A Wine Blog

Sounds Like Fun: Kiwi Wine Bar Pairs Songs With Vino

A new wine bar in New Zealand called “The Auricle Wine & Sound Bar” is exploring the relationship between sound and taste.


“There are strong synergies between sound and taste, with recent scientific studies confirming that what you listen to when you taste something – such as a glass of wine – has a profound effect on the perception of what you’re tasting,” said Jo Burzynska, a wine writer and one of the people who helped start The Auricle.


Burzynska is a member of the Cantabrian Society of Sonic Artists, the sound-focused group who came up with the idea for a sonic wine bar. The bar is located inside The Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery in Christchurch. 


Wines are paired with specific pieces of music “in order to enhance the appreciation of both,” Burzynska said in a recent story in New Zealand’s Scoop Independent News.


When the gallery is hosting exhibitions and events, wines and music are specifically chosen to complement each other. 


In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Burzynska walked a reporter through the story and motivation behind the wine bar.


“It was basic through my own experiences and interest in wine and music and the fact that they were unwittingly regularly paired in my household. I just got the feeling something was going on and I was keen to see if was just me… or whether it was something universal.” she said in the interview. 


She started doing tests with her friends and realized she wasn’t the only one. She took the experiment to the next level by hosting an event for wine industry experts.

“I braved doing a wine and music matching workshop for a lot of industry professionals…people who think they’re impressions of wine couldn’t be changed. The effect was so powerful that I think everyone in the room joined me in being amazed at how powerful the influences are,” she said. 


Burzynska went on to talk about which wines complement the various aural and visual environment encountered at the bar/gallery.


“Things like the pinot noir are on the wine list for quiet moments,” she said. 


She then demonstrated the effects of sound and sight on wine. She opened a bottled of Sauvignon Blanc and poured it. She noted the wine’s freshness, later saying it was best suited for calmer moments. Once she and the reporter tasted the wine, they took their glasses upstairs to experience artist Bruce Russell’s “No Mean City” exhibit. 


Because louder, more coarse music was playing, Burzynska said she had a harder time discerning the freshness of the wine.


“There are a lot of things going on and I find it overwhelms the freshness of the Sauvignon Blanc,” she said. “The wine was the wrong thing for this type of music.”


She went on to discuss the wine she chose for the exhibition’s grinding, industrial soundtrack.


“The wine which goes particularly well with this exhibition is called Acoustic. It’s from Spain,” she said. “It’s Grenache and Carignan, and I think it has the power to partner with this exhibition, ‘No Mean City’…”


By: Snooth – Articles

Neapolitan Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings

Christmas in Naples is truly worthy of the word abbondanza, or abundance, where preparations for feasting are readied weeks in advance. The kickoff is always Christmas Eve, traditionally known as La Vigilia, or the vigil. In times past, in accordance with church law, this was a day of fast, so only fish dishes appeared.  It is still possible to create a traditional Neopolitan spread with wine pairings in the modern age.


It is nice to start things off with a baccala’ alla Napoletana, a delicate tasting, slow stewed salt cod with tomatoes, black olives, raisins, pine nuts, garlic and capers. A vibrant tasting dish like this would call for a Nero d’Avola, a soft red wine with moderate alcohol. An alternate first course could be a lemon and olive infused frutti di mare, a variety of marinated seafood including shrimp, squid and scallops. This calls for a refreshing, crisp, citrusy Greco di Tufo.

The table would also have such classics as Ragu’ Napoletano, a hearty taste combination of beef and pork slowly braised with tomatoes, onions, basil, olive oil and red wine. It is often served with macaroni. Aglianico wine would work both to pair with this dish as well as add it as an ingredient in the ragu.


Roast capon is the centerpiece of the Italian holiday table seasoned gently with herbs and spices and brushed with olive oil before roasting. Fiano di Avellino goes well with this delicate meat.


Peppers are a staple of Neapolitan cooking. Peperoni imbottiti, a combination of sweet red and yellow peppers that are stuffed with anchovies, black olives, garlic and fresh breadcrumbs  and baked in the oven with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil are a meal in themselves, or can be a side dish. Negro Amaro wine would pair beautifully with this dish. Sides also include insalata and insalata di rinforzo (reinforced salad). The name derives from the fact that this marinated salad could be kept for days and other ingredients could be added to it to reinforce it. It usually consists of cauliflower, escarole, green olives, anchovies and other marinated vegetables known as sottaceti misti. Falanghina is a nice balance between the vegetable flavors and the acid in the wine.


Dolci are just as important on the Neapolitan table and call for a variety of sweets from the classic baba au ruhm, little sweet cakes soaked in rum, to small balls of dough that are deep-fried and then coated in honey. Called struffoli, they are Greek in origin and Neapolitan cooks turn them out by the hundreds, piling them high into a pyramid shape and sprinkling them liberally with colored sugar and diced candied fruit. Biscotti including mustacciuoli, a diagonal shaped cookie covered with melted chocolate are also classic at holiday time and perfect with grappa or a moscato  grape varietal wine.


Mary Ann Esposito is one of America’s most beloved television chefs. Through her long-running PBS program Ciao Italia and appearances on other television programs including  The Today Show, Regis and Kelly, QVC, the Food Network, Discovery Channel, Fox, Martha Stewart Radio, RAI International, The Victory Garden, Simply Ming, and so many others, she has been able to share traditional Italian cooking with audiences around the world.


Mary Ann has worked beside world-renowned chefs like Julia Child, Todd English, Daisy Martinez, Sara Moulton, Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, and countless others who share the same passion for cooking. Mary Ann is the author of 12 cookbooks. Her most recent, Ciao Italia Family Classics, is available here. For more information visit and

Origin: Snooth – Articles