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!

 

 

Yamhill-Carlton AVA

You know that you have found a special place, when I can’t think of anything snarky or smart-assy to say about it.  This is truly the case with Yamhill-Carlton.  In fact, I have genuine affection for the people of the region for the kindness and enthusiasm that they showed to a bunch of wine bloggers.  But more on that later…. This is a discussion of the appellation as a whole.  Yamhill-Carlton was created originially in 2004 as the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA but was amended in 2010 to remove the word District from the official name.  Why?  Well, the assumption had been that district was pretty much implied by creating an AVA in the first place and that there was just so much real estate available on a wine bottle label.  Either way, the justifications for the creating of the viticultural area remained the same – elevation, soils and climates.

The soils of the area are ancient ocean sediments mixed with basalts from the sea floor which are capable of holding moisture much longer than others. The two most predomininant types are the Willakenzie which is well drained with medium permeability and  Peavine which are found at higher elevations and contain more clays which allows for slightly slower drainage.  Elevation is also a differentiating element for the appellation.  The requirements under TTBs rules require that the elevation for qualifying wines must be between 200 and 1000 feet.   This is important as lower areas are subject to frost, while higher sites do not get enough warmth to allow grapes to mature.  Additionally, the climate is overall warmer and dryer than the surrounding areas which include the Coastal Range to the west and the Van Duzer Corridor to the south which allows cool damp air from the Pacific to move eastward into the central part of the state.

Currently there are 60 vineyards and 30 wineries producing from the following varietals:

  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Early Muscat
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Meunier
  • Pinot Noir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Willamette Valley AVA

It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways).  Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot.  The climate is perfect for it.  Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions.  And what do you know?  They got them.  Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods.  The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.

While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s  when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California.  From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence.  And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:

  • Auxerrois
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cascade
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Melon
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tocai Fruiulano
  • Viognier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Walla Walla AVA

A town so nice, they named it twice!

Well, not so much the town in this scenario as the entire appellation. This seems only fair as the this AVA is located in two separate states – Oregon and Washington. The justifications for the establishment of the viticultural area are historic, geologic, geographic and climatic.

Walla Walla translates at “rapid stream” or “many waters” in the Sahaptin language that is shared by the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Tenino peoples. Western settlers moved into the area beginning in the 1830s when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came as missionaries to the Walla Walla people but were murdered by the Cayuse following outbreaks of measles that the indians believed were caused by the whites (they were, but they didn’t do it on purpose as no one was aware of germ theory quite yet).  Viticulture began informally with French fur trappers in the 1840s in an area previously known as Frenchtown, now called Lowden.

The geologic basis of the creation of the appellation is based in part  on the similarity of the river plain of assorted wind blown loess soils well drained by smaller streams that cut through the area.  Being located  between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains along the Washington, Oregon and Idaho border means that the area is blocked from the moderating temperatures nearer the Pacific but also in a rain shadow as well.  This means that the climate is more intense with warmer days with cool evenings and semi-arid which requires irrigation for cultivation.

Modern viticulture (i.e. post-(the dreaded) Prohibition) began with Leonetti Cellars in the 1970s with Woodward Canyon Cellars and L’Ecole 41 coming along in the 1980s .  The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 and amended to extend the territory in 2001.  Varietals produced in the area include:

  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carmenere
  • Chardonnay
  • Cinsault
  • Counoise
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Marsanne
  • Merlot
  • Mourvedre
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Rousanne
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
Oh, and I have actually been to this viticultural area!  The Wine Bloggers’ Conference in 2010 was in Walla Walla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Umpqua Valley AVA

One man’s basin is another man’s valley.

The Umpqua is formed by three mountain ranges:  The Cascades, the Coastal Range and he Klamath, but often the area is often known as the 100 valleys of the Umpquas.  The Umpqua River runs through the valley but is no way responsible for the formation of this appellation.  The soils are a diverse mixture of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks with alluvial and clays dominating the valley floor and clays.  In fact, the contains at least 150 separate soil types.  The climate of the region is also varied with the northern areas being cool and  moist, the southern being warm and dry and the central area transitional.

Viticulture has been active since the 1880s when German settlers left California and headed north.  In the modern era winemaking was established in the early 1960s and has grown to at least 60 vineyards and 12 wineries.  The appellation also distinguishes itself by being the first place in the U.S. growing Grüner Veltliner.  Other varietals being produced include:

  • Albariño
  • Baco Noir
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminers
  • Grenache
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Kadarka
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot noir
  • Pinotage
  • Riesling
  • Roussane
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvigon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Valdiguie
  • Vermentino
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Southern Oregon AVA

While over time the focus has been on smaller and smaller wine regions, in 2004 the TTB went completely the other way, creating a super-AVA in the form of the Southern Oregon AVA. This region consists of the Umpqua, Rogue and Applegate Valleys and Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVAs as well as additional territory linking the regions together. The idea for the super-sized AVA was that of H. Earl Jones of Abacela and his son, associate professor of geography, Gregory V. Jones of Southern Oregon University. (editor’s note: See? I am not the only person with a degree in geography!) They evidence cited to justify the designation includes historical, cultural, climatic, geologic and geographical justifications for the creation of the viticultural area.

Historically, the region has been a wine producing area since the 1850s with modern viticulture restarting in the 1950s. From a cultural perspective, they cite the “physical and cultural” divisions of the state of which Southern Oregon is an example. The region is located south of Eugene to the California border largely within the Umpqua, Rogue, Applegate, Illinois and Bear Creek Valleys. The petition indicates that the soils in the area, while varied are older than those in the Willamette to the north or the coastal zones to the west and contain fewer silts from ancient oceans and lakes. The temperatures in the area are on average the warmest in the state which allows for the cultivation of warmer climate grapes as well as allowing for select microclimates that are perfect for colder acclimated varietals. Additionally, the elevations in the region are higher than the surrounds areas and it receives less rainfall.

The appellations is home to over fifty (50) wineries and produces wines from varietals including:

  • Albarino
  • Bastardo
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petit Verdot
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

With Thanksgiving over, the inevitable slide into the Christmas holidays has begun. Usually in the weeks before Thanksgiving, this depresses me. However, this year I got the opportunity to taste a wine that made me wish for the arrival of holiday and mistletoe.

The Biltmore Estate has been producing wines since the 1970s and presently producing wines from both estate and contract grown grapes. VinoVerve had its first taste of wines from the estate when Marguerite Barrett first tasted the Century White on 2009’s Open That Bottle Night.  Besides good wine, I love the sense of history that comes from the Biltmore Estate and their wines.

The Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II a scion of the great Vanderbilt family.  Being the youngest of his father’s eight, the bulk of his father’s wealth went to his older brothers, but G.W. was not left penniless.  He build the Biltmore with the plan to pursue intellectual pursuits which he did, including experiments with horticulture, animal husbandry and silvaculture.  Unlike many intellectuals of his time, his goal was to make the estate self-sustaining.

In furtherance of this goal, GWV’s grandson began the winery.  Starting with French-American hybrid grapes, the estate is now growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Viognier.  The wine makers are using North Carolina grapes as well as those from California and Washington to produce award winning wines.

The Christmas at Biltmore® White Wine is the perfect wine for a holiday meal or party.  It is fruity and off-dry to semi-sweet which will match perfectly with spicy foods.  It is lovely for sipping in a crowded party and if sweeter wines aren’t your thing, you probably have an Aunt Rita who drinks nothing but.  The flavors of orange, spices with a touch of mint scream Christmas and the bottle label with a holiday tree seals the deal.

This wine is available at the winery, online and in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Enjoy your holiday season!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
December 1st, 2011

 

Disclosure:  I received this wine as a sample.

 

 

Diamond Hill Vineyards ~ The Grape Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Diamond Hill produces 10 wines, five grape and five fruit, of which seven were available for tasting on Saturday.   The tasting moves from dry to sweet, which at Diamond Hill means we started with the Pinot Noir.

As I mentioned before I was quite surprised to find that they were able to successfully cultivate Pinot Noir vines, and truthfully I wasn’t expecting much.  Not that I expected it to be bad, but…

 

Pinot Noir 2005 Vintage It’s nice to be proved wrong once in a while.  This is a delightful wine.  The color is a lovely medium-garnet.  The nose is soft with lightly floral notes of cherry blossom.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and lightly fruity with subtle notes of cherry.  It wasn’t the stronger cherry notes I so often find in the cabernet francs, marechal fochs and st. croix wines across the Northeast – here the notes were more delicate; cherry blossom rather than cherry.  The wine is aged in French oak for one year which provides a delicate spiciness with just a hint of heat on the finish.   A really nice wine, and a really nice surprise to find in vineyards so far away from the tempering influence of the Sound.   Kudos to the Berntsons and Diamond Hill for producing a lovely New England Pinot Noir!

Scarlet Run A 100% Merlot wine made from Northeast  grapes, usually brought in from New York, Scarlet Run is not a typical Merlot.  This is a very fruit forward wine with, surprisingly, very discernible notes of strawberry.  I first picked up the strawberry in the nose – not overpowering, but very noticeable.  In the mouth, that first sip is quite a surprise.  Used to denser Merlots with flavors ranging from earthy to darker fruits, I was almost taken aback by the brightness and fruitiness of this wine.  But don’t confuse that with not liking it – I found the wine quite charming and immediately noted it down as a wine that would be going home with me that afternoon.  It’s just not what one expects from a Merlot.

Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a lovely smooth, rich finish, with very light tannins.  Interestingly I didn’t find myself missing the oaking, which I often do in red wines.  With the Scarlet Run, I found I really appreciated the clean finish.  This will pair will a wide variety of foods, particularly beef or lamb.

Steve also pointed out the label, which features a red greyhound silhouette on a black background, and is quite different from Diamond Hill’s other labels.  4 or 5 years ago, the Berntsons adopted a greyhound and now support the Twin River Greyound Adoption society by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Scarlet Run.   If you do visit the winery, there’s a framed plaque in the room just off the tasting room which features a picture of the Berntson’s dog as well as the story of how they came to adopt her and associate Scarlet Run with greyhound adoption.

Pinot Noir Rosé This is a relatively recent addition to the Diamond Hill line-up.  In 2008, Allan Berntson, Diamond Hill’s winemaker, did a quick crush press of some of estate-grown Pinot Noir grape and produced the first vintage of the Rosé.   The result is a light semi-dry wine with lightly floral notes and a soft, clean finish.  I found the wine to be a bit light for my taste, but it will appeal to many.   The color is very interesting.  When first poured into the glass, it appeared to be a medium-gold color, however, when I held it up over the white counter, I started to see hints of pink, and found the color shifted back and forth between pink and gold depending on how you were holding the glass and how the wine was catching the light.  The nose has lovely floral notes, and in the mouth the wine is very lightly fruity – more fruit blossom than true fruit, I would say.  The wine is unoaked, and has a soft, clean finish with almost no tannins.

River Valley White A blend of Chardonnay and French Colombard, the River Valley White is a semi-dry table wine with lovely notes of buttery apricot.  The color falls in the medium-yellow range, slightly on the lighter side.  The nose is very soft with discreet notes of peach or peach blossom.   Like all of Diamond Hill’s other wines, with the exception of the Pinot Noir, the River Valley White is unoaked, and the result is a clean, crisp wine.  I picked up just a hint of cream along with notes of apricot and a light acid on the finish which balanced the fruit notes and kept the wine from coming across as overly sweet.   This wine will pair well with chicken or pork and would also be very nice on it’s own as an aperitif.

It was just about this point that two other visitors arrived for a tasting of the Pinot and the Merlot.  I used the distraction as an opportunity to take a quick break, looking around the tasting room and gift shop and giving my palate a brief rest before proceeding with the fruit wines.

Look for the Diamond Hill fruit wines on Tuesday, March 15th.

 

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.

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