Qorkz.com – For Hidden Wine Gems

Do you wish you were in Napa or Sonoma right now? (Don ‘t we all?)

Want to find that winery that is a hidden gem that is off the beaten path? The ones that have such a small production you have the upper hand with your friends and family? Especially when they rave about the wine you are serving?

Well, I, your VinoVerve Editrix has been working secretly to bring these kinds of wines to you. Welcome to Qorkz Wine.

These wines are made by passionate winemakers who want to share their craft with you.

We are scouring California (for now and eventually around the country and maybe even the world) to find these treats for you!

You all know how much I enjoy looking for these treats… so please, enjoy!

We will have more choices to come!

 

 

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Cherry Creek Winery @ The Old Schoolhouse – Brooklyn, MI

After seven years in New England, I relocated to southeast Michigan in December 2014.   Despite having been born and raised in Detroit (proud graduate of Cass Tech High School!), Michigan hasn’t been home for more years than I am willing to admit to.

Relocating in winter while also working 100% from home is not conducive to exploration – my first several months’ experiences were limited to weekly grocery store runs, babysitting for my sister, and an occasional weekend movie with cousins.

So with a few days vacation in late May I decided it was time to learn my new home state of Michigan the way I learned my last – one winery at a time.   With a full tank of gas and a randomly chosen winery on Michigan’s Pioneer Wine Trail, I headed out for what turned out to be an auspicious start to my latest Win(e)ding Roads adventures.

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Cherry Creek Winery @ the Old Schoolhouse, Brooklyn, MI

Housed in a beautifully restored 1870s schoolhouse in the heart of the Irish Hills, only a few short miles from the Michigan International Speedway, Cherry Creek Winery and Vineyards is a great find – neither the winery nor the wines disappoint.

Founded more than 15 years ago by Denise and John Burtkas, Cherry Creek Winery has two locations, the original in Albion, MI and the Old Schoolhouse, which opened about 10 years ago.   All wines are 100% Michigan grapes sourced from the Burtkas’s vineyards in southeast Michigan and through partnerships with vineyards along the Lake Michigan coastline.

With a menu that includes reds, whites, rosés and a fruit wine (Michigan Cherry, of course),    picking only five for this first tasting was the hard part…

Wood Duck White (Dry Riesling)
I’ve found myself more interested in Rieslings recently, particularly as I’m finding more local wineries making a dry Riesling, instead of the often too sweet versions that seemed to be everywhere only a few short years ago.

The Wood Duck White is a really nice wine.   Light, crisp, with just a hint of grapefruit on the finish, I found it soft in the mouth and very drinkable.  The fruit and acid are nicely balanced, and the wine has a nice full body which gives it structure.   A great wine for a lazy summer afternoon.

It was one of the bottles I brought home with me, and we uncorked it last night pairing it with grilled Lake Superior whitefish and fresh Michigan corn.   The wine complimented the fish beautifully, and the corn’s sweetness brought out some of the wine’s lightly floral notes.

Gewürztraminer
I loved the nose on this wine – notes of citrus, honeysuckle (perhaps?  I am not as good differentiating florals as I should be), the nose evoked light spring breezes.   In the mouth, the wine was sharp, but not tart, with citrus notes that hit the edges of my tongue.   The wine also evolved in the mouth, starting out smooth and somewhat quiet in the front of the mouth only to open up on the finish.

Tasting Room bar was made from reclaimed wood from the original structure. Jenna, my host for the afternoon, is an enthusiastic ambassador for the winery.

Merlot
Moving on to the Reds, I started with the Merlot, which came highly recommended by my tasting room host, Jenna, as one of her personal favorites.   The nose was fruity, predominately cherry, very reminiscent of the red wines I found in Connecticut (in fact, I once participated in a blind tasting of Merlots at McLaughlin Vineyards in Connecticut and was the only person to correctly identify the McLaughlin Merlot, which I did solely from the nose).

In the mouth, the wine is more subtle than I expected – I think the nose misled me, and I expected a more fruit-forward wine such as the ones I had been drinking in Connecticut.    I found this wine to be more herbaceous than fruity, medium-bodied with mineral notes and an interesting slight chalky finish.

Montage
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chancellor Noir, this was my favorite of the afternoon.    Deeper nose than the Merlot but with similar notes of cherry, the wine is smooth and rich.   In the mouth, the wine has notes of stone fruits but not so strong that the wine becomes “jammy.”   Brought a bottle of this home as well, and am looking forward to opening it later this summer, perhaps paired with grilled steaks or lamb chops.

Frontenac
100% estate grown at the Old Schoolhouse location, the Frontenac was the most interesting wine of my visit.    Served chilled, the wine had strong notes of cranberry – which I admit, I don’t come across often.   Fruit forward with a strong but smooth finish.   The wine wasn’t available for sale the day I was there, but it’s definitely worth a return visit later in the year for another taste.

In addition to the wines, Cherry Creek also has a small gift shop featuring locally made sauces, jams and jellies and a Michigan cherry salsa which is highly addictive!    The winery hosts local musicians from 5-8pm Saturdays through mid-September and will be opening a cafe sometime this summer.   The Burtkas have also recently launched the Grand River Brewery, in Jackson, Michigan featuring local craft beers, handcrafted spirits, and Cherry Creek wines.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

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Moon Mountain District Sonoma County

Frontispiece of Jack London's Valley of the Moon

Frontispiece of Jack London’s, “Valley of the Moon”, 1913, The Macmillan Company, Ny

Now that I am out and about again, I wasted no time high tailing it out of town to visit some new wineries. The first on the list was Repris Wines in the Moon Mountain District.  This post will explore this eerie landscape and I will discuss the winery in the next.

Moon Mountain District is located within Sonoma Valley across the eastern ridge from the Mt. Veeder AVA (or the Sonoma-Napa border, if you will…). The name of the area is based on the mistaken belief that the local indigenous peoples referred to Sonoma Valley as the “Valley of the Moon”.  At least the last Mexican governor of the area did, as well as Jack London, who wrote a book with that title.  While there was a “valley” of the moon, there was no associated mountain.  That has all changed.  After asking the USGS  nicely to designate a “Moon Mountain”, the people were finally rewarded (57 years later).  The peak is located east of Mt. Pisgah and south of Bismark Knob.

The appellation ranges from 400-2,200 feet above sea level and is known for its series of medium sloped hills that build upon one another. This leaves the terrain with little pockets of terroir that receive different amounts of sunlight and different airflows.  The majority of the region faces the west to maximize the amount of sunlight that the vines receive as well as maximizing the intensity.  Cool day time temperatures from the Pacific have warmed up by the time they reach Moon Mountain and night time fogs roll down the mountain to keep the  vines from freezing.  The temperatures in the area provide almost double the growing degree days in the area making it a perfect location for growing Zinfandel and other long hanging grapes.

image of lava outcrop, Moon MountainThe geology of the area is a mixture of andesite and basalt lava flows from the Sonoma volcanics that have been mixed with gravels.  The resulting soils are brown and shallow and very well drained allowing the grapes to grow deeply into the  hillside.  This gives the area a sometimes eerie look from these flows that are visible in places at the surface (thus the name Moon Mountain, perhaps?).  The brown soils are largely of the Goulding series are volcanic and very well drained.

There are currently 11 bonded wineries and 40 commercial vineyards operating around Moon Mountain.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

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Update

Where has VinoVerve been the last year?

Well, the answer is long. After posting about a road trip to Arkansas last year, we were getting ready to send my daughter, Sophie off to college. Some of you may recognize her as the girl who can sabre a bottle of champagne, make and bottle wine, identify floral elements when she smells a glass and generally has acted as my personal sommelier for a good portion of her 18 years.

Our plan was to get her off to college (University of Oregon) and then I would get back into the swing of writing.

Well, as Robert Burns stated, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”.

And astray would be an understatement.

Just a few weeks from our drive out to the Willamette Valley, we discovered there was a mass on Sophie’s spine. And that mass was cancer. Brain cancer. (the spine is made of the same stuff as the brain… this is how that is possible).

We spent the better part of the last year fighting this cancer. But it won.

My Sophie died.

**************

Me and Sophie

A picture of my Sophie

She had a love/hate relationship with this blog. She was proud of what she knew about wine. More than most adults. But she sometimes hated the time I devoted to it. This is pretty typical for adolescents.

But the last get together that she hosted here at the house, she tapped into my wine collection. She used the good Reidel wine glasses though she needed to use a straw. For her friends she opened a Provençal rosé, a Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio and an Oregon Pinot Noir. I should, I guess be appalled that she was drinking my wine, but really? Why bother.

She packed as much as she could into her 18 years and that included wine.

So, if you please, next time you have a glass, raise a toast to my Sophie. She would appreciate it. And I would as well.

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

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Know Your Local Wine Shop ~ Arkansas Edition

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

I love to visit wineries when I am traveling. But sometimes, you can’t get away when you are away. How do I solve the problem? Check out the local wine shop or liquor store.

But, first a word about Arkansas liquor laws.

Confusing is too simple a word. As is arcane.

First off, you can’t buy wine over the internet and have it shipped to you in Arkansas. Well, technically you probably could but because Arkansas won’t ship its liquor to you the other states won’t allow the reverse. You can go into a winery or store buy your liquor and have it shipped to your residence only. You have to have a special label from the ABC (alcoholic beverage control) agency or the special label from Fed Ex or UPS. But the winery has to pay all the taxes to Arkansas and pay for a permit. So naturally most places won’t do it. oh. And you can only have a single case.

Whew. Complicated. But it gets worse. Like if you live there worse.

Some counties are wet. Some are dry. Some are wet and have dry towns. Some are dry and have wet towns. In wet places you can get beer and wine in a grocery store. And in most wet places you can’t buy on Sunday. Because God.

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

The best way to figure out what is going on in your area is to drive around on Sunday and find out which stores have full parking lots. That’s how my dad figured it out. Luckily as a retiree, he could pick where they could move. Which is why they don’t live in Conway, Arkansas. They originally were really set on the place. And then they went to dinner at nice steak house and found out that their beverage options were Coca-Cola and sweet tea. Ugh.

So they opted for a place in Benton County.

And while they found a place that is open on Sundays (after 11am of course so the baby Jesus doesn’t weep) that wasn’t the place that they took us to during our inaugural trip to Arkansas. We went to Guess Who?.  An odd name, I agree, but a great shop, super friendly and busy too.

Organized into four sections, the store has a separated entrance for those buying liquor by the case.  And I mean a case of Tito’s Vodka.  I think this spot is mostly for the restaurants or clubs, but the lady running it was super friendly.  The other entrance is for the regular customers.  Broken down into beer, wine and liquor sections.  The beer section includes a cooler with a large section of craft brews.  Much to Kevin’s excitement it also sells Boulevard Brewing Company beers.  Technically not a craft brew anymore after being sold to the folks at Duval, it hasn’t become as accessible as Sam Adams or Budweiser, but we can’t get it at home.  As as extra special plus for Kevin, this store carries the special brews usually only available in the tasting room.  The liquor section is probably the smallest part of the store. Found in front of the registers found by type on short black metal shelves.. Liquors are organized by type.  Pretty standard stuff.

Duck Dynasty wine.  Fake as the Show... which is probably also a product of California...Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

Duck Dynasty wine. Fake as the Show… which is probably also a product of California…Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

The last part of the store is the wine section.  This is probably the largest section and is bright and airy with wines organized in wooden cases by location or varietal.  There is a good mixture of options with popular and bulk wines being found in the front.  Guess Who?  Offers a variety of classes for customers, private wine lockers and wine tasting opportunities.  Oh, and a section for local wines of which I took advantage (and will be discussed later).  The one downside?  Finding this obnoxious Duck Dynasty wine. The wines are being produced in California and have no other connection with the family other than the labeling.  The press release from Trinchero Family Wines says that the family “Share(s) the same values,” with the Robertsons. Not all of them I hope.  But as my mother has always said, “If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck…. Well, it’s a duck.”

Over all, I was impressed with impressed with Guess Who and expect that I will be shopping there  occasionally while visiting the folks.  If you are in the Bentonville area and need some wine, I suggest you visit them too.

 

 

Guess Who?
214 SE Walton Blvd.
Bentonville AR, 72712
Phone:479-268-4169
Fax:479-268-4648
Email:office@guesswhobentonville.com

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

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Arkansas. Wine.

After years of telling me that they were going to retire to Arkansas, my parents have finally done so.  Kevin and I tried to talk them into moving to Oregon, but they weren’t going for it.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.


So, Arkansas it is.  In the middle of the Walmartian capitol.
Luckily, like almost every place in the country, there is wine nearby.  Yup.  wine.  Located in three American Viticultural Areas.  Twenty-four wineries.

California it is not.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  After all, variety is the spice of life.   So what’s the deal with Arkansas wine?
Officially, viticulture began in Arkansas in the 1870s when German and Swiss immigrants settled in Altus, Arkansas.  Unofficially, there was wine in Arkansas before that.  In A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819 With Occasional Observation on the Manners of the Aborigines by Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S. (I have no idea what F.L.S. means), the author describes the vineyards and wine encountered along the way.  Tales of wine being produced at local taverns like the Hinderliter Grog Shop in Little Rock circa 1827 are likely to be true.  And prior to American settlement? Well, Arkansas was once officially part of France after all.
In addition to the Altus wineries,  Italian immigrants have made their mark in Arkansas’s wine history.  The city of Tontitown was founded by the followers of Father Pietro Bandini in 1898.  The residents, mostly from northern Italy brought their traditions with them including wine making.  Even today, the sign welcoming you to town features grape vines.  Unfortunately, for most American’s the town is more commonly known as the home as the Duggar family.

What kinds of wines are being produced?  Well, a lot of sweet wines.  Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the state and have long been used  to produce.  Muscadine is a type of grape known as Vitis rotundifolia that is native to the United States.  But Muscadine doesn’t have to produce a sweet wine and there are dry options as well.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Other grapes producing wine in Arkansas include Niagara, Concord and Delaware which are park of the Vitis labrusca family.  French-American Hybrids such as Chambourcin and Vidal are common as is Cynthiana, a Norton clone is thought to be created in the Arkansas. There are even folks producing Chardonnay and Merlot… though most of them get that fruit from California.
There are three viticultural areas in the Arkansas.  Altus is located around the German Swiss town of the same  name in the Boston Mountains.  Altus is the only appellation found completely within the state. Altus is also located within the Arkansas Mountain appellation but extends in the area from Fort Smith to Conway (another place my folks thought about moving to… but thought better of as the town is dry).  Ozark Mountain contains the Altus and Arkansas Mountain regions and is crosses into Missouri and Oklahoma as well.
Getting your hands on Arkansas wine is tricky.  The state does not play well with others, i.e. does not allow direct shipping and because of that can’t ship out of state either.  So you kinda have to go there and taste it there.

But since I am about to be spending more time in the Ozarks, I guess I will have time to explore.

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Alexandria Lakes

Do you think that wine is only made in California?  Well Skippy, you would be wrong about that.  American’s don’t live by those kinds of rules.  We make wine where we want.  For instance?  Minnesota.  Land ‘o 10,000 lakes.  And this viticultural area is surrounded by several.

Fast facts for the wino set?

  • Located in Douglas County, Minnesota
  • Established July 1, 2005
  • 10,800 Acres
  • There is only one winery in the appellation:  Carlos Creek (visited by your VinoVerve!)
  • Soil Type is Nebish-Beltrami
  • Elevation 1404 feet above sea level
  • Grapes produced:  Brianna, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, King of the North,   Marquette, Petit Pearl, Prairie Star, Sabrevois, Valiant
  • Weirdest nearby attraction:  Kensington Runestone – a 200lb slab of greywacke covered in alleged 14th century runes that is generally considered to be a hoax.  Wine lovers please note that greywacke is generally thought of as a soil base for wines in Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.

Map of the Alexandria Lakes AVA

by: Gretchen Miller Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

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It’s All About Wine – Alexander Valley Edition

I admit it has been a while since I have posted here.

But that is because I have been learning. About one of my favorite things. Besides wine.

Maps.

Naturally, I have made maps about wine too. (It is almost like you can hear one of my teens complaining)

So over the next couple of weeks expect to see maps of the American Viticultural Areas made with ArcMap.

I am starting today with the Alexander Valley. First some quick facts:

  • Settled: 1840 by Cyrus Alexander. Property was part of Henry D. Fitch and Josefa Carrillo Fitch’s Rancho Sotoyome. Alexander was granted two leagues of property as a reward for managing the Rancho for the Fitch Family
  • Established: October 24, 1984
  • Location: Sonoma County, California
  • Size: 32,536 acres; 15,000 acres under vine
  • Wineries: 45 – including Clos du Bois, Francis Ford Coppola, Geyser Peak, Jordan (a friend of the blog!), Kendall-Jackson, Murphy Goode, Silver Oak and many more!
  • Elevation: 128-2573 feet above sea level.
  • Grape Varieties Produced: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Zinfandel

Map of Alexander Valley AVA

 

by Gretchen Miller Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

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