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!

 

 

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

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

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.

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

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

Geology Term of the Day: Terrane

Terrane, not Terrain. More specifically a tectonostratigraphic terrane

In geology terrane is a block of the Earth’s crust from one tectonic plate that get attaches (accretes) to another plate. A piece of the earth’s crust that differs from the surrounding material, and is separated from it by faults.

Where are they found?

All over California, dude. All over.

Example? Part of Ben Lomond Mountain in California is part of the Salinian Block that is found parts of Santa Cruz County, the Monterrey Peninsula, Bodega Head, Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands. The source of these rocks? The Sierra Nevada Mountains… at least 150 miles to the southeast of the Bodega Bay. How did they get there? After being sliced off the Sierra Nevadas they moved along the San Andreas Fault guided in part by the Big Pine and Nacimiento Faults.

Farallon Islands photo by NOAA

Why does this matter? Ben Lomond Mountain is an AVA which is located on this geological intrusion. Kinda makes the area different from the surrounding terrain, doesn’t it?

The Big Woods

Little House on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere....Where are the big woods? Well, they really aren’t there anymore. Heck, the Little House isn’t really there anymore. Just a wayside on a hill near where the house used to be. In all fairness? It hasn’t been there in over 100 years.

What happened to the woods?  I blame bears.So I went to look at the site. It took a bit longer to find than I anticipated. Sigh. Typical. The cabin was tiny. A loft, a big hearth, a table. But it reminded me of being a girl and imagining what it was like. And the it was the sounds. Wind through the trees and the grass. Birds and insects chirping away….The description of what sounds surrounded the Ingalls family was always pretty descriptive in the Little House books. So I listened. and recorded. I ate lunch at a table on the grounds and watched people come and go.. Mostly people my age or older. In Jazzy’s and wheel chairs, some wandering around the site, others just in and out of the cabin. We all acknowledged each other sheepishly, but didn’t speak to each other…

That's a lake? well, maybe if you are 6Then I went down and took a look at Lake Pepin. I remember reading about Laura taking a trip into the town of Pepin. In the book it is seven miles drive to town and the horses periodically get bogged down in the spring mud. The going is easier now. The roads are paved… It still is seven miles (or so). Laura experienced awe when she saw the lake and the town. For me, Pepin isn’t the biggest place I have seen. Even at age five. Lake Pepin is less a lake and more of wide spot in the Mississippi River. But the lake glistened in the sun and I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Laura and Mary to run along the beach. I imagined that the location of the local Laura Museum was the the store.

That is Holly Hobbie, amirite?By the way? Museum people? Your Laura looks like Holly Hobbie…. imma just saying…

Villa BellezzaNow the original plan was to stop at wineries along the way, This is part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA after all, but… I killed too much time dealing with construction and getting lost and I still needed to make my way to Minnesota. So, I wandered along the town and noticed that there was a winery there. Villa Bellezza is a bit grand a space for Pepin, Wisconsin and very Italian looking but they were growing Foch, Frontenac, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, Marquette, Prairie Star and St. Pepin on twelve acres of vineyard located in and around the region. Interesting…. It was Saturday afternoon though and late at that. Ugh. Same deal with the Maiden Rock Cidery that I had looked up. So I resolved to avoid the tasting room crowds and stock at an area liquor store.

Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the United States!!!  You know what happened. Nothing from those places were being sold. But there was Wisconsin wine there. Cranberry wine from Spurgeon Vineyards which is in Western Wisconsin but more than 150 miles away. sigh again. Not about the wine being made from Wisconsin. That makes sense as Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the U.S. (The More You Know!!!). Still. I was expecting something a little more local. Perhaps tomorrow.

The Ohio River Valley AVA Meanders

Map of the Ohio River Valley AVA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like the great river for which it is named, the Ohio River Valley AVA has changed its course. I alluded to this over the weekend when I mentioned the new Indiana Uplands AVA. But because I wanted to focus on Indiana Uplands and the also new Elkton AVAs, I didn’t get to the revisions the Ohio River Valley.

Today this has changed. As a reminder, this is the original version of the map:

Map of the revised Ohio River Valley AVA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the new? Well, I assumed that the variation between the two maps would represent the original map minus the territory that would have crossed over into the new Indiana Uplands AVA. So, I am including both maps here so you can judge for yourself. I feel fairly satisfied that I guessed correctly.

Map of the Indiana Uplands AVA

 

 

 

Now, what the variations are and what they mean? That will be discussed on another day.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Busy Week for AVAs

Map of the Indiana Uplands AVA

If you are interested in new American Viticultural Areas, then this has been the week for you as the TTB created two new wine regions and amended a third.

But first the two new appellations:

Indiana Uplands is located in the Hoosier State along the Ohio River. Unlike the old Ohio River Valley AVA, this new region extends further north to Bloomington.

The next new appellation is in Oregon. The Elkton AVA is located within the currently existing Southern Oregon and Umpqua Valley regions. The area is located near the confluence of the Umpqua River and Elkton Creek.

Map of the Elkton AVA

As for the amended Ohio River Valley AVA, well, I haven’t gotten around to figure out what has changed, but am guessing that the Indiana Uplands portion of that map is out. But that is just a guess. You will have to check back sometime next week to find out for certain as well as to find out why these new appellations were designated.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor