Get to Know Your Wine Fast!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

What can you tell about a wine in six minutes? More than you think. This is almost of test of skills for winery and wine blogger alike as we try to form opinions, ask questions, taste, communicate, blog and tweet. You saw my tweets and blogs in when the speed dating was happening.. Now you can see how I gathered my information.

Now we are tasting the Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon from Louis M. Martini (I forgot the M. in the video, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).

Btw, that guy you keep seeing in the background adjusting video is Michael Wangbickler of Caveman Wines… stop by and say hi to him!

Louis M. Martini
254 South St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94575

The Wines of Langworthy Farm

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Sitting on the deck overlooking the vineyards - a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon

I had intended to get this posted yesterday but, as usual, life intervened.  Given my track record of late, though, 24 hours delay is rather timely…

I spent a lovely hour with Joe Sharry and six of his wines that beautiful Saturday afternoon.   I had my choice of five of the 10 main wines, and then for an additional $2 each could add either of the limited production wines to my tasting.  After careful perusal of the menu, I opted for 2 whites and 3 reds and Tom encouraged me to also try the red Cuvee, a suggestion I found impossible to resist.

My first selection was the Shelter Harbor Chardonnay.  Pale gold color with a soft, lightly citrus nose.  In the mouth, the wine is dry and buttery with soft tannins on the finish.  The predominant note was grapefruit, but it was light and subtle.  Served chilled, the wine is crisp and refreshing and would work well with seafood, grilled vegetable dishes, or on its own.  A very nice wine.

My next choice was the Winnapaug White Merlot.  I discovered white merlots a few years ago, and have become a real fan, generally preferring them to their red counterpart.  I like the heartier character of the white merlot (as compared to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc) and the often earthy character I find in them.  I also don’t see a lot of them, at least not among local vintners, and so always make a point of trying them when I do.  Langworthy Farm’s White Merlot didn’t wow me, but it also didn’t disappoint.  It’s a pleasant wine, peachy in color with a pretty, slightly floral nose.  In the mouth, however, the wine is more earthy with notes of grass and green pepper, and there’s a slight bitterness on the end that might soften with aging or perhaps more breathing time.  The most interesting thing I found about the wine is that there were no dominant notes throughout – I found myself having to search for the individual notes.  That’s not to say it had no flavor, just that no one note shone through.

With that I rinsed my glass and turned to the reds, bypassing Langworthy Farm’s two Merlots and heading straight to the Charlestown Cabernet Franc.  Aged for 14 months in a combination of French and American oak, the result was one of my favorite of all the wines I tasted that morning.  A lovely purple color with a soft nose with rich notes of cherry, the wine has is dry and earthy, with light notes of pepper and cherry and tobacco on the finish.  In addition to the tobacco notes, the oak provides a light smokiness which I found very interesting.  The Charlestown Cab Franc recently won a medal in the Finger Lakes Regional Wine Competition.

I know many people who aren’t fans of Cabernet Franc, finding the grape and the wines, pale imitators of their more robust Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir cousins.  I, as regular readers of Vino Verve will attest, have become a big fan.  Particularly here in the Northeast, the grapes seem to grow very well and produce some really nice, robust reds.  Not as “big” as a California or European Cabernet Sauvignon, but strong enough to stand up to hearty foods and cold winter evenings.   Langworthy Farm’s Cabernet Franc definitely made it into my collection of Cabernet Francs.

After the Cabernet Franc, I moved on to the Napatree Cabernet Sauvignon.   Aged for more than 12 months in French oak, the Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the better of it’s kind I’ve found among southern New England wineries.  Like other local wineries, Langworthy Farms brings in their grapes from Long Island; I’m sure it is no surprise to anyone that ours is not a climate conducive to growing Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is a lovely garnet color with a rich plummy nose.  I really loved the nose on this wine.  In the mouth the wine is very smooth; I was a bit surprised at how smooth, as so many of the “bigger” reds I’ve tried here in the northeast have felt “young.”  The wine is lush and rich with strong earthy, grassy notes and notes of leather and smoke from the oak.  I also detected light notes of blackberry which contributed to the overall richness of the wine.  Very nice wine, and one of the better Cabernet Sauvignon’s I’ve had here in Southern New England.

I finished up the main tasting with the Pawcatuck River Red, a stainless-steel fermented blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Not a bad wine, and people who like slightly sweeter, lighter wines should really enjoy this.  But I found it almost too clean, particularly coming after the Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  I missed the smokiness and the earthiness I found in the other two wines.  Garnet colored, with a fruity nose, the Pawcatuck River Red is a fruitier wine with strong notes of cherry and blackberry.   The tasting notes indicate this would be great with pasta and salads, and for a lighter summer red it’s not bad.  However, compared to the other two I found it to be not as complex and interesting.  Perhaps if I had tasted that one first before either the Cab Franc or the Cab Sauvignon, I would have been more impressed.  Still, despite my preference for the other wines, it’s a nice overall table wine, and I think more people will prefer this one to the Cabernet Franc.

Because I was the only guest that morning, I was able to chat with Joe throughout the tasting, learning about the history of the winery, the house/bed & breakfast, and the surrounding area.  Because I usually can only hit the wine trail on the weekends, it’s not often that I have the luxury of having the winemaker all to myself.  So at the end of the tasting, when Joe suggested I try to the Ward 3 Cuvee, his limited production red, I certainly wasn’t going to turn him down.

The Cuvee is a Bordeaux-blend of the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was fascinating to taste this immediately after the Pawcatuck River Red, a blend of the same grapes.  Darker in color, more of a dark garnet, with a strong earthy nose, this is a lovely wine.  Both rich and subtle the flavors and notes of the wine blend together beautifully.  The predominant notes are earthy, almost loamy.  I detected notes of tobacco and leather, and the finish brings forth notes of warm spice, cumin among others.  There are also very soft, subtle fruit notes that provide a depth and richness that opens up the earthiness beautifully.  I also found the wine built over time – each subsequent taste layering on the previous one.  A very impressive wine.

That concluded my tasting for the morning.  There are an additional five wines, 3 whites and 2 reds, on the main tasting menu and a limited production Reserve Chardonnay that I did not have the opportunity to try.  However, there is at least one winery in Southeastern Connecticut still on my list, so I think a return trip to Langworthy Farms to try the rest of the menu will be on the schedule soon.

The Inevitable Red Hills Map

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I am nothing if not predictable. After discovering that there was a Lake County in California, it was all but certain that I would have to prepare a map of it….

So… Voilà

The Red Hills Lake County is one of five AVAs located in Lake County, California including Clear Lake, High Valley, Benmore Valley and Guenoc Valley. Red Hills is located on the southwestern shore of Clear Lake. It is located at the foot of Mt. Konocti, an extinct volcano between Excelsior Valley, Big Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. The appellation was designated in 2004 and consists of 31,250 acres of which 3,000 are under cultivation. The soil is volcanic and is full of shards of obsidian that was formed as the magma from the Mt. Konocti cooled quickly due to the waters of the lake. The elevation of the area is betwen 1,400 and 3,000 feet and receives between 25 and 40 inches of rain per year. The region is perfect for Bordeaux and Rhone grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre and Zinfandel.

Wineries and vineyards located within the AVA include:

Sol Rouge
Fortress Vineyards
Ferrel Ranch Vineyard
Red Hills Winery
Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Fore Family Vineyard
Becht Vineyard
Eden Crest Vineyard
Roumiguiere Vineyards – Red Hills Ranch
Snow Lake Vineyard

Juicy Girls

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

When I bring home wine, it is generally white. Not because I don’t like red wine, but for during the week, I tend to avoid red wine because sometimes the tannins wreak havoc on my head. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I came home with a bottle of red wine on a Tuesday. Better yet, a California Cabernet Sauvignon which I generally view as too big a wine for most occasions (California wines generally get too much publicity).  After he had a sip, he understood.

The wine, The Girls in the Vineyard is silky smooth, intense and fruity.  The wine makers, Rob and Kat McDonald and Matt Stone believe in bringing “wines from the vines to you without any fuss and where possible do a good deed along the way”.  To that end, they do not have a fancy tasting room, waste money on advertising or excessive print materials.  What they do provide is wine produced from sustainably grown grapes from the Amber Knolls Vineyard, the bottles are made near the winery to lower to carbon footprint of the process and the capsules are recyclable.   Additionally, the winery makes a $2.50/bottle or $30/case donation to the non-profit of your choice for those customers who purchase directly, but it is available locally if you aren’t looking to buy in bulk. Check Good Grapes for instance.

One of the reasons that I decided to write about this particular wine is where the grapes are grown.  The Amber Knolls Vineyard is in the Red Hills Lake County AVA.  Kevin was a bit surprised to hear that there were hills in Lake County.. but only until I pointed out that this particular Lake County was located in California.  Of course, with twelve Lake Counties in the United States, it is easy enough to be confused.  This particular Lake County surrounds Clear Lake which is the largest natural lake completely within the State of California (Lake Tahoe is partly in Nevada).

“So,” Kevin asked me, “Who are the girls?  Are they the daughters of the owners?  Or their pets?”  HA!  As if!  The folks at The Girls in the Vineyard specifically promise as part of their pledge NOT to sell you a “lifestyle” to avoid showing you pictures of their pets.

The Girls, as they turn out are the vines themselves.

St. Louis Locapour List

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

While in St. Louis, I did more than drag an underaged teen from one winery to another… I went out to dinner… With grownups even!

Yes, it is true. After spending a long day in volleyball and touring Daniel Boone’s favorite wineries, the girl and I headed back to the hotel where she immediately ditched me for team related activities and headed up to see my favorite wine-loving volleyball mom. After snacking on some cheese and crackers and drinking some delicious Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon we headed down to the hotel’s restaurant, An American Place.

The room for this restaurant is beautiful with ridiculously high ceilings due to the Mezzanine being above. The ceiling seemed to have Wedgewood cameos engraved, painted, however it is done.

One of the things that I liked about the menu was that the Chef/Owner Larry Forgione sources many of his supplies locally. Unlike many chefs, he extends this policy to his list of libations which contained selections from :

Mt. Pleasant
Chaumette Estate
Schlafly
O’Fallon

Better yet, the meals were terrific. We started out with an amuse bouche of blue cheese panna cotta with a reduced balsamic glaze and chip of cured pork shoulder. Next I had the sweetbreads which were a treat I haven’t had in a long, long time and finally the hanger steak which at that point I forgot to photograph because I was enjoying the food and conversation…. Oh, and I loved the presentation of the shrimp cocktail, which I thought looked like mini versions of the St. Louis Arch!

More Washington AVAs – Red Mountain

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

At the time of this writing, the Red Mountain AVA is, indeed, the smallest appellation in the State of Washington, although if the trend of designating smaller and smaller sub-regions continues we will eventually have every block of vineyard considered unique.  The appellation is located in both the Yakima and Columbia Valley AVAs in Benton County, Washington between the towns of Benton City and Richland.  This area has 4,040 acres, 600 of which are under cultivation.

Appropriately enough given the name of the appellation, the area is known primarily for its high quality red varietals including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah.  It is believed the quality comes from the Southwest facing slopes which are warmer than typical for the Columbia Valley and cool evenings which preserve the acid levels within the grapes.  Additionally the gravelly soil with high levels of calcium carbonate and acidic soils help to balance the flavors and concentrate the berry flavors of the grapes.  Is this how the mountain got its name?  No.  It is named for the wine red color that the native cheatgrass turns in the spring.

Wine began to be produced on the Mountain in the 1970s with John Williams of Kiona Vineyards and Jim Holmes (now) of Ciel du Chaval.  There are now 13 wineries including:

The total acreage in the AVA under cultivation is 14.85% of the total… imagine the wines that could be produced from 15% or 20%!

Wine From Some Young Punks

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Sin On Wheels

I don’t think it is news to anyone that I love wine. Ok. Stop laughing already. I SAID it wouldn’t be news. And as much as I love local wine, I love trying wine from all over the world. Is this inconsistent with my locapour ways? Not at all… I refer to it as the Tip O’Neil Corollary, when speaking of politics, Speaker O’Neil once famously pointed out that “All politics are local”. And I believe that the same holds true with wine. It is local to somebody.

when I got a chance to try some wine from the “local” vineyards of the Clare Valley of Australia, I naturally jumped at the chance.

The wine is produced by Some Young Punks. Already, you know that I was enjoying this. Their name alone, indicates to me that while they love their wine, they don’t take themselves too seriously. The wine was the 2007 Passion Has Red Lips which was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend. I thought it was earthy, almost leathery. 1500 cases were produced. The artwork was taken from an old pulp fiction novel, Sin On Wheels.

I am hoping to find more of it soon.

I Hope There Are No Rattlesnakes In Those Hills

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Located completely within the Columbia Valley AVA and within Benton and Yakima Counties, Rattlesnake Hills is a 16 mile long stretch of territory of basalt mountains. The AVA was created in 2006 but has been under cultivation since 1968 when the Morrison Vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling for Chateau St. Michelle. Currently there are nearly 30 vineyards in the area some of which can be found here

Grape varietals grown in the hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Semillion and Viognier.

The AVA is centered around Zillah, Washington. I am hoping given that I will be in Walla Walla which is relatively close by, that I will get to experience the hills for myself. I was especially relieved to learn that the name “rattlesnake” comes from the shape of the hills… and not for any reptilian invaders in the area. I am like Indiana Jones that way. I hate snakes.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Oh, Thank Heaven!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yosemite Road Wine

Yosemite Road Wine

I have been noticing a trend in my neighborhood. My local corner store has started selling wine. Beer, they always had…. and a fine selection of liquor in pints were available behind the counter. But the wine, is relatively new.

So I guess it comes as no surprise that 7-11 wants a piece of the action… It was announced yesterday that the Southland Corporation will start selling wine along with the beer at their stores. And not to be out done, they will sell their own brand of wine to boot! Yosemite Road will be a limited edition wine available in either Chardonnay (described as “fresh and zesty with notes of apricot, peach and honey”) and a “plummy” Cabernet Sauvignon.

It will retail for about $4.00 and is poised to compete against Two Buck Chuck.

It just goes to show that you ALWAYS pay through the nose for convenience!

Now if we could just get them to dispense it into Big Gulp cup….

Williamsburg Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

I have always wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg. It calls a nerd like me. During the Bicentennial, we Miller’s got into the Tobin Packing Company car (Dad was a salesman for the company) that looked like a skunk (it was black and white with a Tobin’s decal on the doors) and drove down south… We didn’t stop at Williamsburg because there was an argument about whether we should stop at Kings Dominion. Plus we had already stopped at Mount Vernon.

When I am visiting Nanny and the cousins in Virginia Beach, I don’t get a chance to stop either. They keep me busy catching up. What I really need is to bring the girls with me so that I can use them as an excuse to go. Not that they are interested in Interpretive History. They might have had their fill of that in Salem.

What I was able to do while in Virginia was to make a stop at the grocery store. And there I found a decent selection of local wine (NOT an option at my local Jewel). So I picked up a couple of bottles.

WilliamsburgYesterday, we opened this one. Williamsburg Winery was created in 1985 by the Duffeler family and produced its first wine in 1988. The first wine produced was the Governor’s White. It is a medium-bodied semi-dry wine with grapefruit and Golden Delicious apple flavors (or maybe apple pear, I am undecided). The wine doesn’t list what varietals were blended to create it. But the winery grows Cayuga, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Traminette and Vidal Blanc in their vineyard. Judging from the flavors I would guess that Vidal Blanc was one of the primary grapes used for this wine.

Other wines produced by Williamsburg Winery include:

  • James River White
  • Plantation Blush
  • Susan Constant Red
  • Two Shilling Red
  • John Adlum Chardonnay
  • Andrewes Merlot
  • Arundell Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Acte 12 Chardonnay
  • Burgesses’ Measure Merlot
  • Henings Statute Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Viognier
  • Merlot Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
  • Gabriel Archer Reserve
  • Virginina Trianon (a Cabernet Franc)
  • Vintage Reserve Chardonnay
  • Late Harvest Vidal
  • Blackberry Merlot
  • Raspberry Merlot
  • Spiced Wine

The wines range in price from $7.50 to $65.00 with the majority of selections in the $9.00 to $16.00 range. WIlliamsburg Winery can be ship to California, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.

Williamsburg Winery is NOT in the confines of Colonial Williamsburg but rather a couple of miles outside of the town. Along with the winery, the property is home to a hotel, Wedmore Place and the Gabriel Archer Tavern. It is located at:

5800 Wessex Hundred
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
757-229-0999
wine@wmbgwine.com