Better Know an AVA Video – Augusta AVA

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I did say that the second video version of Better Know an AVA would be for the Western Connecticut Highlands. But several things occurred. First, I did not anticipate how long it would take me to produce a video. And B. I forgot that I am going to Missouri in April. April 1st. So, clearly Missouri AVAs are prioritized.

First and foremost, the Missouri Win(e)ding Road page was updated as has the Augusta AVA page….

Lastly….

Well, we have video.

Exploring Bordeaux

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Picking up where I left off on Tuesday

Like any good tasting menu or flight, the Bordeaux seminar progressed along a crescendo of increasing complexity and robustness.  Unlike traditional tasting menus where the progression typically follows a change in grape, Merlot remained the primary grape through 10 of the 12 reds.  The grapes that the winemakers blended with the Merlot differed; the first half of the seminar featured primary Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Blends.  By the second half, the wines were also including Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  To my mind, it wound up being a more interesting seminar because of this, providing an opportunity to experience the range and depth of Merlot.

Château Coutet 2009.  AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru.  60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec.  This, as Jean-Christophe Calvet was quick to point out, was very much a sneak preview as the wine won’t be available until September.  Calvet encouraged us to approach it as a barrel tasting. The nose is subtle with deep rich notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is not as robust as the previous wine, although I suspect that additional aging will bring out some additional depth.  The wine is nicely fruity with light tannins on the finish.  The finish lingers, but I found it to be a bit chalky.  The wine shows a lot of promise, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out once it’s released.  Scheduled for release in September, this wine will likely retail for $26-$28/bottle.

Château Picque Caillou 2009.  AOC Pessac Leognan.  45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Another 3-star wine in my tasting notes, and one of my top three wines of the seminar.  The nose is rich and deep, but quite discreet with notes of  soil and dark cherry.   The nose hides, and you have to breathe deep to really pick it up, but to my mind that made it all the more interesting.  In the mouth the wine has a silky, smooth mouth feel.  There are hints of spice on the front of the wine, which then opens up to stronger notes of earth and dark berries (definitely blackberry).  The finish lingers for well over a minute, providing an overall satisfying experience.  This wine will be bottled in May and will retail for $25-$35/bottle.

Château L’Argenteyre 2009.  AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  35% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot.  This wine was an interesting contrast to the previous wine.  Where I found myself using words such as “rich” and “deep” with regards to the previous wine, here the adjectives that predominate my notes are “fresh” and “lively.”  The nose is loamy with subtle notes of dark stone fruits, perhaps plum?  In the mouth the notes of loamy earth are strong, but balanced with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a nice balance to the brightness in the front.  This wine will be released in April and will retail for $16-$18/bottle.

Château Trois Moulins 2009.  AOC Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  According to Calvet, this is regarded as the best wine produced in the history of the vineyeard.  It’s a lovely wine with a soft fruity nose with notes of black currant.  In the mouth the wine is rich and fruity with notes of black currant and blackberry.  The mouth feel is soft and silky and light tannins give it a nice balance and a beautiful finish.  I really liked this wine, and it definitely made it into my top five of the seminar.  Available now, the wine retails for $20-$22/bottle.

Château Mongravey 2009.  AOC Margaux Cru Bourgeois.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.  With the last two reds, the primary grape shifted to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another sneak preview tasting, Calvet described this wine as being in the “feminine style of the Medoc.”  I have no idea what “feminine style” means with regards to wine – perhaps it’s lighter, more delicate?  A quick Google search turned up several references to “feminine style” but no real explanations.  Now I’m intrigued, so the research will continue and hopefully become a post here on Vino Verve at a later point.  And if any of you know, please leave me a comment here or send me an email at marguerite@vinoverve.com

But, today is about the wine, not my research.  Another one of my top five, this one has two stars in my tasting notes, the wine is very fruit-forward with lip-licking notes of lush, ripe berries that develops in the mouth to interesting notes of licorice at the end.  The wine is very well balanced with a velvety mouth feel, and quite delicate, surprisingly so given it’s predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, which in my experience generally produces heavier wines.  This wine will be bottled in April and May and is definitely on the list of wines to add to the cellar.  When it is released, it should retail for $30-$40/bottle.

Château Fonbadet 2009.  AOC Pauillac.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Hands down my favorite wine of the seminar – four stars in my tasting notes!  The nose is subtle and discreet with notes of loamy earth and black currants.  In the mouth, the word that first came to mind was gorgeous.  Rich and silky with lush notes of black currant and earth.  Described by the winemaker Eric Boissenet as cassis-style, this wine will cellar for years.  The most expensive of the wines presented that day at $40-$50/bottle, it is definitely worth picking up as many bottles as you can afford.

Château Bel Air 2009.  AOC Sainte Croix du Mont.  100% Semillon.  The seminar concluded with a lone dessert wine.  Medium-gold in color the nose is rich and lightly sweet with strong notes of honey and honeysuckle.  In the mouth the wine is soft and sweet, but not as strongly sweet as many dessert wines, and lightly floral with lovely notes of honey.   A very nice finish to an excellent – and quite extensive – seminar.  The wine is available now and retails for $12-$15/bottle.

2009 Bordeaux – In Boston

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The Boston Wine Expo seems to have become my venue for exploring French wines.  Last year it was the 2007 Chateuneuf-de-Papes, and this year the Terroir of Burgundy and the 2009 Bordeaux.

2009 was a record year for Bordeaux, hence the seminar title, “2009 Bordeaux – A Record Setting Vintage.”  The weather produced near perfect conditions that year: sunny days and cool, dry nights, a warm and relatively dry July and August followed by rains at the end of the summer produced grapes that have all the hallmarks of the greatest vintages.

The seminar was led by Jean-Christophe Calvet, President of the Aquitaine Wine Company.  Jean-Christophe Calvet is a sixth-generation wine merchant, and Aquitaine Wine Company can trace its roots back to the 18th century.  Today the firm distributes in 47 states and focuses exclusively on the wines from the Bordeaux region.  In addition to the “Classified Growths,” the superstars of Bordeaux which command the highest prices and the greatest prestige, Aquitaine Wine Company also features the “Discovery Wines,” or as they refer to them on their website, the “challengers.”  Aquitaine has formed partnerships with more than a 100 families who produce quality wines at more affordable prices.  For this seminar, Calvet selected 14 Discovery Wines, the most expensive of which was only in the $40-$50 range (as compared to $1200-$1500 for the Classified Growths); most fell in the $10-$20 range.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Blanc.  50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon.  This was the only white table wine of the 14 wines presented that day.  A lovely light yellow color which sparkled among the denser reds of the other glasses, the wine had a floral, lightly fruity nose with soft notes of honeysuckle and lemon.  In the mouth the light citrus notes continue, with the sauvignon blanc providing notes of grapefruit so common to the grape, and the semillon bringing a touch of honey sweetness to balance the citrus.  The wine opens up in the mouth, with the grapefruit building slightly to a sweet/tart finish.   This wine is available now and retails around $12.99/bottle.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a medium garnet.  The nose quite subtle.  In the mouth however, the wine was quite fruity with lovely notes of berries and plum.  Medium-bodied, the wine felt a bit young, and while nice, I would definitely cellar it for a few years to see how it develops.  Available in March, the wine should retail for $12-$14/bottle.

Château Mylord 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a very drinkable, very nice wine.  Medium garnet color with a bright, very cherry nose.  In the mouth, the wine is fruit-forward with strong notes of cherry and soft tannins on the finish.  Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a clean, smooth mouth feel that is quite charming.  The wine is definitely a “drink now” wine, but should also age well for another few years.  Also available in March, the wine will retail for $12.99/bottle.

Costes du Château Feret Lambert 2009, AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.  90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet.  From St. Emilion, “Kingdom of the Merlot,” according to Calvet, as it was one of the first areas to cultivate Merlot grapes.  The region’s wine history dates back to the Romans in the 2nd century (Source: Wikipedia).   While predominately a Merlot, th ewinemakers add the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to provide acidity to the wine.  A darker, yet still medium garnet color, the nose is earthy and quite subtle.  It was a distinct difference from the first three wines which had much stronger fruit and floral notes.  In the mouth, the wine has strong notes of damp earth, some light notes of blackberry and plum, and a lightly spicy finish.  The wine is available now and retails for $10-$14/bottle.

Château Haut Colombier 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  90% Merlot, 10% Malbec.  One of my early favorites, this is a really nice wine.  The nose has rich notes of black cherry and currants, notes which carry over onto the palate as well.  The wine has charmingly sweet notes of fruit with a nice pepper finish.  This will drink well now and also should cellar well, and I made a note to buy several bottles, some for now and some to age for a few years.  The wine was released in January and retails for $10.99/bottle.

Château Roland La Garde 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another favorite – I have the word “gorgeous” circled next to my tasting notes – this is another lovely, very drinkable now wine.  The color is a ruby-garnet, and the nose is earthy with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is supple, rich and surprisingly robust with notes of black cherry and light notes of spice on the finish.   The tannins give the wine a nice bite of acid on the finish which gives the wine a bit of a kick that balances the velvety smoothness of the mouthfeel.  Calvet recommends bottle aging this wine an additional 3-5 years, although it is quite lovely now.  Available today and retailing for $13-$15/bottle, this is a wine that I will definitely add to the cellar.

Château Saint Andre Corbin 2009, AOC St Georges St. Emilion.  75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc.  Another favorite – this time I have three stars next to my notes, as well as notes to buy a case!  The nose is deep and rich with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is rich and velvety with soft tannins and rich, complex, but not sweet notes of cherry and dark berries.  The finish is soft and lingering.  The wine is produced by one of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, dating back to the 4th century.   Calvet recommends cellaring this wine for an additional 5-6 years.  The wine will be released in May 2011 and should retail for $20-$28/bottle.  Definitely one of the pricier of the wines featured this afternoon, but it is worth it.  I’m already making plans to order a half-case, if not a full case for myself.

Coming Thursday, 2.24 – the second half of the seminar wine list.

Win(e)ding Around Northern Illinois – The Valentino Vineyards & Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Valentino VineyardsWhile wandering my Win(e)ding Roads in northern Illinois a while ago, I drove past what appeared to be a vineyard in the suburbs.  Now there are several wineries in the area, but unless they are further out into the exurban area, there are no vineyards associated with them.  They obtain their fruit either by contracting with vineyards for fruit or must.  It took me a bit to track down the vineyard name and website but eventually, I was ready to visit.

When we arrived at the winery we were greeted by the owner and winemaker, Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso who chatted with us about the winery.  Mr. DiTommaso started as a developer who had been making wine for years.  At one point he was speaking with a friend with more wine making experience and wondered what he needed to do to improve his wine.  The answer?  Improve the grapes that he was using.  Using grapes that were available for sale to home winemakers were not the first quality.  Those went to vineyards with their own wineries or were specifically grown for them.  That is when Mr. DiTommaso decided to grow his own grapes.  The remaining land that he originally thought would be used for single family homes were converted into vineyard.

The next interesting part of the Valentino Vineyards are the grapes that they grow.  Traditionally, northern type vineyards grow hybrid or native varietals that can survive our delightful Illinois winters.  This vineyard is growing a good selection of vinifera grapes.  How?  At the end of the season the vines are buried to protect their root system.  This is a time consuming process but can be done at a small operation such as this.  Yes, hybrids are grown as well, so not all the vines need so much tending.

As a result, there are estate grown Chardonnay’s in Illinois.  Wow.  Additionally, they produce fortified wines that are among the most unique that I have tasted.  Missing is the alcoholic sting of a newer port style wine.

The downside to everything? The winery is only open April to December on weekends only.

With spring around the corner? Stop by and visit!

Valentino Vineyards
5175 Aptakisic Road
Long Grove, IL 60047
847.634.2831
April thru December: Monday – Thursday, by appt., Friday, 5pm – 9pm, Saturday, 11am – 5pm, Sunday, 12pm – 4pm

The Wines of Rosedale Farms & Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

It was pretty much the end of the season by the time Jean, Katie and I made our way over to Rosedale (although Katie, who lives down the street is something of a regular, I understand), and Rosedale’s Serendipity and Summer Blush were already sold out, which left us with four wines, two whites and two reds and a bonus wine, a new Sauvignon Blanc that the winemakers had been testing all summer.

The Tasting Bar is at the back of the farmstand, a two-sided bar that could hold perhaps 10-12 people comfortably.  The walls are decorated with posters of both current wine labels and labels of wines that have been retired, providing both art and a sense of history and continuity.  Being so late in the season it was fairly quiet that day, and we were able to find spots and begin our tasting right away.  We kicked off with the

Simsbury White, an estate-grown Seyval Blanc.  The nose was soft and floral with citrus blossom notes.  The mouthfeel was also soft, and in the mouth the wine is dry with light citrus notes and subtle notes of acid on the finish.  The predominant note was grapefruit, although it was light and somewhat delicate, and I appreciated the subtleness of the acid – anything stronger could have brought out the bitterness of the grapefruit.  As it was the wine has a light sweet/tart bite that was rather interesting.

Three Sisters.  Next up was Rosedale’s Three Sisters, named for the owner’s three daughters.  This is an estate-grown Cayuga and is described in the tasting notes as “a classic summer wine.”  The nose is brighter than the Simsbury White and has some spiciness to it.  In the mouth, the wine is bright and tangy with much stronger notes of grapefruit and a nicely balanced finish.  A very nice wine, and yes, a classic summer wine, but this will pair well with a wide variety of foods and should carry through nicely all year round.  I could see this working well with casseroles and heartier fall soups.

From the two whites, we moved on to the two reds; first up…

Lou’s Red, named for the late owner of Rosedale Farms; the current owners are his children and grandchildren.  Lou’s Red is a blend of four grapes: 20% Marechal Foch and 20% St. Croix, both estate-grown, and 10% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot, both brought in from California.   In previous years, the wine was a blend of just three grapes, Marechal Foch, St. Crois and Merlot; the winemaker added the Sangiovese last year and found it  really helped round out the wine.   I really liked the nose on this wine, finding it spicy with warm notes of cumin and pepper.  Undoubtedly the influence of the California grapes, as Northeastern grown reds tends to produce fruity rather than spicy noses.

The wine was lighter-bodied than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t disappointed.  Soft and spicy with notes of dark stones fruits, plum in particular, and pepper, this is a really nice table wine.  There are notes of leather on the finish giving it a somewhat soft finish that really balances the fruit and spice.  This would pair well with heartier pasta dishes as well as lamb or veal.

Farmington River Red.  The second of the reds is an ever-changing wine; each year the winemaker selects different grapes.  For 2010 the Farmington River Red is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from California grapes.  The 2011 vintage will be a Shiraz.  Also in 2011, Rosedale Farms is considering adding a Pinot Noir from Chilean grapes to their wine list.  But that’s next year.

This year, the Farmington River Red is a medium-bodied very pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon  The nose is lightly fruity with notes of pepper.  In the mouth the fruitiness continues with notes of blackberry and a smoky finish with a hint of peppery heat.  Another very nice table wine, very drinkable with a wide variety of dishes.

The tasting finished with a bonus wine, a Kiwi/Pear Sauvignon Blanc that the winemakers had been taste-testing with visitors all summer long.  The nose is soft and fruity with very strong notes of pear.  In the mouth the wine is sweet, falling somewhere between a sweet table wine and a dessert wine.  The mouth feel is soft, light and very smooth.  The lightness is actually quite refreshing, and this wine would be great as an aperitif or with a light fruit and cheese tray.  It would be heavenly with some of the softer cheeses such as brie or goat cheese, and might work paired with a blue.  It would also pair well with lighter desserts such as fruit tarts or ice cream and berries.   An interesting wine and one I hope the winemakers have on their wine list next year.

With the wine tasting concluded, Jean, Katie and I wandered through the farmstand and then headed over to a local restaurant to relax and chat over a glass of wine and a late lunch.  Little did I know at the time that that afternoon was my last win(e)ding roads adventure for 2010.  I had every intention of heading down to southeastern Connecticut to check out one of the last two remaining Connecticut wineries on my list before they closed for the season – but didn’t make it.  And planned to head back over to the Shawangunk Wine Trail to visit a few more wineries on that list – yeah, didn’t make that either.  Looking back, I can’t figure out what I was doing all those weekends, but as I get ready for 2011, one of my resolutions is to do a better job of hitting the trail this year.

Better Know An AVA – Lake Michigan Shore

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Continuing my Michigan winery planning I move on to Lake Michigan Shore. Why? Well it contains the Fennville AVA and is the appellation listed on the bottles for the only winery in the Fennville AVA. And frankly, it is the Michigan appellation that is closest to home for me as it takes about 90 minutes (not counting traffic snarls) to enter into Michigan.

Why is this area significant? Well, unlike most northern wine regions, Michigan Shores produces a good number of vitis vinifera grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, and Viognier. The reason? Something we Midwesterners* call “Lake Effect”. The water in the Great Lakes (essentially small fresh water inland seas) moderate the temperatures and the precipitation on lands west of each lake. Temperatures never become as frigid as they would on the east coast of a lake as they do on the west coast. Anyone who has lived in Chicago and Buffalo or Detroit can tell you how they differ (and this blog has a couple of gals who have experienced the difference. Chicago is much colder). This gives the grapes a longer growing season than is experienced in say, Iowa and a couple of weeks makes a big difference. The soils are a relatively uniform throughout the region, consisting of glacial moraines.

In addition to being relative close to home, there are a good number of wineries in the AVA. How many? Well that depends on who you ask and what you count. Why who you ask? Well, the folks at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail list count twelve wineries as members. Me? I count about seventeen. More is better right? Well, that leads to the what you count part, as several of the wineries have multiple tasting rooms. Tasting rooms are great in a pinch, but frankly I prefer going to the winery directly, at least if it is possible. Given the number of beachfront cottages, condos and other casual getaway places in the area, I would have been surprised if there weren’t tasting rooms trying to take advantage of the numbers of summer people.

I am planning to head out on Sunday (barring teen disasters) to visit a couple these wineries. If you have a favorite? Let me know… contact me at gretchen at vinoverve.com

Where should I visit? Email me!

Dating the Wind

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Speaking of Desert Wind Vineyards, our next wine selection was from their winery. The Desert Wine 2008 Ruah was poured by Amber Fries. If you are confused by Ruah as I was, then I am pleased to tell you that Ruah means wind in Hebrew. This winery is different from the others that we have encountered at the conference in that it is a destination winery. In addition to the tours, tastings and special events that we have come to expect as part of winery, Desert Wind also has dining and accomodations. Each of the four rooms is distinctly decorated in a southwestern theme. The small restaurant, Mojave by Picazo is also southwestern in theme.

Desert Wind Winery
2258 Wine Country Rd.
Prosser, WA 99350
509.786.7277

Brotherhood Winery ~ The Varietal Flight

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

There were a couple surprises awaiting me during my tasting.   I opted for the Varietal Tasting, no surprise to regular readers of Vino Verve, I’m sure, as I’ve made no secret for my definite preference for drier wines.  I also will tend to select wines from local grapes before those with imported grapes, or even imported wines.  The Varietal Tasting menu included 6 wines, and our host threw in an additional seventh wine, the Merlot, because it’s so frequently requested.

The first surprise was waiting for me as I approached the tasting bar, small plastic 1oz cups.  Wine glasses were arranged at the end of the bar, but those were for people who had purchased the tour & tasting glass package.  If you just purchase the tasting, it’s served in small tasting cups.  I’ll admit, it’s practical; given the number of people they must get through there on any given day, trying to track glasses, no less wash them, would be a daunting task.  Still, I wasn’t expecting plastic.  Once the momentary flash of surprise passed, I was fine, but I know a number of people who are very particular about their wine vessels, so I warn you now – if you visit Brotherhood, order the Tasting, Tour & Glass package for $10 if you want to avoid the plastic.

The second surprise came immediately on the heels of the first, as my host for the tasting poured a sample of the Blanc de Blancs Champagne. It’s unusual to find a winery willing to include their sparkling wines on a tasting menu, and very welcome when I do find it.  The Blanc de Blancs is a 100% estate grown wine made from Chardonnay grapes grown in Brotherhood’s vineyards in Hudson, New York.  A Brut-style champagne, the wine is very dry with a nice acid bite to the finish.  There’s a pale hint of fruit in the mouth, perhaps peach, although it was tough to define from just a 1oz sip.  Overall, a nicely balanced sparkling wine which would pair well with sharp cheeses, lobster and other seafood.

First of the tables wines was the Chardonnay.  Made from wines grown in New York state, but not all estate-grown, the Chardonnay is a very nice wine with a soft nose with subtle notes of pear.  In the mouth the wine is very smooth, particularly on the front, with notes of pear and cream.  Medium-bodied, with light acid on the finish, and not heavily oaked, the wine is satisfying in the mouth.  For my palate, this wasn’t crisp enough to be a good “summer sipping wine,” but it  would pair well with lighter foods such as chicken or seafood.

The whites concluded with a back-to-back pairing of a dry and semi-dry Riesling.  The Dry Riesling is a fairly new addition to the Brotherhood lineup.  Light and delicate, the wine has a subtle nose, lightly floral with hints of pear.  In the mouth the wine is crisp yet smooth with notes of pear on the front that provide a softness to balance the acid on the finish.  There are also light grapefruit notes providing a slight tanginess that work well with the softer sweetness of the pear.  This will pair very well with food, and even non-Riesling fans should like it.

The Semi-Dry Riesling is more of a traditional Riesling.  Overall the wine is softer and sweeter with less acid on the finish.  The pear notes are stronger, both in the nose and on the palate, and the tangy grapefruit is much more subdued.   This would be a good sipping wine, and it also would pair well with a wide variety of foods, particularly spicy foods such as Thai or Indian.  I could definitely see pairing this with a really good Indian curry.    It’s also a wine of distinction, having been chosen by President Bill Clinton as the wine to represent New York state in the White House wine cellars during his administration.

The final two wines in the Varietal Tasting are both reds, the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  However, as our host informed us many people ask, “but what about Merlot?”  So, he started adding in the Merlot as part of the tasting to round out the reds section of the menu.

Pinot Noir With a dusky, slight jammy nose with notes of dark berries, and cherry, the Pinot was an interesting contrast to the subtler, slightly more floral noses of the whites.  Medium-bodied, the wine has lovely notes of blackberry and dark berries along with an earthiness that keeps it from being overly fruity.  There were also notes of leather and a light pepper finish that provided some heat.   According to our host, the wine ages well for another five years, and I found myself really interested in seeing how it ages.   It’s not a bad wine right now, and I imagine it will really open up and become even more interesting when paired with food, but I found myself more intrigued than captivated by it, intrigued enough to purchase a bottle that I’m going to cellar for a few years and see how it fares.

I tried that once with a couple bottles I had picked up on a trip to Napa.  Kevin, Gretchen and our friends Richard and Charles were also on that trip (it was Richard’s 40th-birthday celebration), and despite our all buying prodigious quantities of wine throughout the trip, there was one winery that everyone but me passed on the purchasing.  I remember Kevin looking at me and asking “why did you bother, they weren’t great?”  And I replied “because I want to see what they’ll be like in a few years.”  I was a true wine neophyte then, and this was a real leap of faith for me, as I didn’t have any experience on which to base my hunch that they could be really interesting.  But my hunch paid off!  I opened them about 4 years later and found them to be rich, velvety, and quite lovely – and the hit of the backyard barbecue I was hosting that evening.  Unfortunately Kevin wasn’t there that evening, so I couldn’t pour him an “I told you so” glass.  Here’s hoping the hunch pays off again.

After the Pinot Noir, we moved on to the “bonus tasting, Brotherhood’s Merlot.  A more full-bodied wine, this is one of the better Merlots I’ve found in the Northeast.  As our host described it, “it goes in smooth; it finishes smooth.”  Made from Long Island grapes, the nose is very strong and jammy with notes of plum and cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth with nice tannins.  Plummy and rich in the mouth, the oaking is not as strong as in the Pinot, providing a light smokiness rather than the stronger leather I found in the Pinot.  Overall a nice wine, and Merlot fans should find this interesting.  As for me, I was still more intrigued by the Pinot.

And last, but never least, the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Like the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from Long Island grapes.  Made more in a Bordeaux style, rather than the hearty, robust California style, those who prefer California Cabs may be slightly disappointed.  As for me, I found the wine surprisingly interesting, particularly given that I don’t have high expectations of Northeastern Cabernet Sauvignons.  The nose is rich, deep and dark, with notes of plum similar to the Merlot, but less jammy.  In the mouth, the wine starts out with a kick, a light peppery heat on the front which provides a bite which then later smooths out to a plummy finish.  There are subtle notes of leather from the oaking, and the opens up nicely in the mouth.

I went home that afternoon with a bottle of the Dry Riesling for the near future, a bottle of the Pinot Noir to cellar for a few years, and a mental note to come back to sample the Traditional Flight – and the winery tour.

Wine and Ducks on a Speed Date

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Somewhere a duck quacked and I was poured wine.

oops. That is a little out there, but I like the thought of wine being poured with the regularity of ducks quacking. Which brings us to Duck Pond Cellars. Greg Fries, partner and one of the winemakers poured for us their 2008 Red Blend which is a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The fruit is from the Desert Wind Vineyard which is also owned by the Fries Family.

Quack. Can I have some more, please?

Duck Pond Cellars
23145 Hwy 99W
PO Box 429
Dundee, Oregon 97115
1-800-437-3213

Finally, Dating A Bachelor!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ok. Bachelor’s Buttons. Still it seemed the perfect name for a wine that was being “dated”. Denise Isenhower or Isenhower Cellars talks about the wine from her small winery. Oh, and the name? It comes from the flowers growing at their winery.. You probably guessed that because you are clever.

Isenhower Cellars
3471 Pranger Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362-7307
(509) 526-7896

Also, we here at VinoVerve would like to wish our fellow ‘Verver, Kevin Neuman a happy birthday. Feel free to stop by his Facebook page and wish him well!