Meadowbrook (Michigan) Wine and Food Festival

Saturday, August 22

Picture perfect weather and a gorgeous location among the lawns and gardens of the Meadowbrook Music Festival north of Detroit, the 2015 Meadowbrook Wine and Food Festival didn’t disappoint… at least not with the wines.

With five large tents housing more than 150 wines from 18 regions and featuring 9 Michigan wineries there was something for everyone.

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I spent my drink tickets principally on the Michigan wines.   As expected I found a few that were sweeter than I prefer but on the whole Michigan made a strong showing.

St. Julian Winery
Late Harvest Riesling
Established shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, St. Julian is one of Michigan’s oldest and most well-known wineries.    The Late Harvest Riesling is a sweet wine yet crisp and very approachable even for those, like me, who prefer dryer table wines.   The wine is smooth on the palate with notes of peach and honey.

Fieldstone Winery
Motor City Dry Red – Syrah
The most “local” of the local wineries pouring at the festival, Fieldstone is located in downtown Rochester Hills, about 30 minutes north of Detroit and a few miles from the festival site.  A local winery in that they make their wines here in southeast Michigan, Fieldstone sources their grapes from “all over,” including bringing the syrah in from California.   A new line, the Motor City Red is lovely: soft, dry and medium-bodied, with notes of black cherry and a pleasant minerally finish.   Locapour purists will argue this doesn’t classify as a local wine, and I agree.  But with results like this I’m more than happy to support local winemakers.

Warner Vineyards Winery
2 Cab Merlot
A Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend, this wine has nice notes of dark berries without being overly jammy.    Full-bodied with medium tannins, the wine has a nice, slightly “dusty” finish.

Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
I am a sucker for a good ice wine, and Warner’s didn’t disappoint.    The wine had a silky, rather than satiny, mouth feel and lovely notes of pear and honeysuckle.

Bel Lago
Pinot Noir “North”
Located in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, not far from Traverse City, Bel Lago grows a number of cool climate grapes including Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.    Their Pinot Noir was my choice for pairing with lunch.  Smooth, with soft notes of raspberry and cherry, medium-tannins, and a nice finish.   The wine held up well against the beef brisket BBQ nachos I had for lunch, balancing the smoky sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

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And speaking of food, for a festival advertised as a “Wine and Food Festival,” the food options were very slim.   Kroger, the largest grocery chain in Michigan and a sponsor of the event, had a large tent at the entrance to the event featuring a sampling of standard grocery-store deli fare: Boar’s Head turkey or ham sandwiches, cheese and coleslaw.   There were two food trucks: The Pistons Maplewood BBQ and Chick-A-Dee.    The Maplewood BBQ beef brisket nachos were very good, but there’s no question this is NOT a food festival.

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Seven Lakes Vineyard
Cappricio
I started my day with the Seven Lakes Capriccio, and at the end of the day this remained my favorite of all the wines sampled.    Nice nose with light notes of cherry blossoms.  In the mouth, the wine is juicy rather than jammy with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has a very light pepper which balances the fruitiness, yielding a very nice wine.   Looking forward to opening the bottle I brought home.

Cabernet Franc
I finished out the afternoon with samples of two grapes I had come to love during my time exploring Connecticut Wineries.     Seven Lakes’ Cab Franc was surprisingly earthy – surprising to me who had grown so accustomed to the very fruit-forward cherry I found in Connecticut Cab Francs.   Full-bodied with lovely notes of grass and well-balanced tannins and a smooth finish.

Dizzy Daisy
Marechal Foch
Dizzy Daisy’s Marechal Foch, like the Cab Franc which I sampled shortly afterward, came as a surprise – in this case a shock… it was sweet!    I had my first encounter with Marechal Foch almost seven years ago when I first started traveling the CT Wine Trail.   Finding the grape to come across as very young and green, it took me quite a few samplings before I came to appreciate it, and even longer before I became a fan.   Like so many other CT reds it was very fruit forward, but it was always a dry wine.    As a semi-sweet wine, the fruit notes were much stronger and also smoother than in other Marechal Foch’s I’ve tried.  The additional sugars balanced out the “greenness” I often detected, and as a result I suspect Dizzy Daisy’s is more approachable to a majority of wine drinkers.   But as my preference leans towards dry wines, I found this to be less interesting.

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It’s hard to glean a lot about wines and winemakers from 1 oz samples, especially when you are sampling across a range of wineries.   With people lined up behind you, there’s not much time to chat.  But as a small introduction to the wines of my new home state it was a great afternoon.

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

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

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

The Wines of Hardwick Vineyard & Winery

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Hardwick uses no oak, fermenting all their wines, including the reds, in stainless steel.   The result is a menu of lighter-bodied, crisper wines that are clean, refreshing and quite charming.

The menu kicks off with the

Giles E. Warner White Like all the Hardwick wines the Giles E. Warner is made from locally grown grapes, in this wine Seyval Blanc.   The color is a medium-straw that has a bit of sparkle when the light hits it, which happened often that afternoon as the bar is well positioned in front of a wall of large open windows which let in a lot of natural light that afternoon.   It was one of the few tasting rooms where I felt I the light was ample enough to allow me to get a true sense of the color of the wine.   But I digress; back to the wine.   The Giles E. Warner is the driest of all the Hardwick wines.   The nose is very subtle with just a hint of citrus.   In the mouth the wine is crisp with light notes of pink grapefruit.  The finish is very smooth and doesn’t linger on the palate.   This would pair well with seafood and lighter chicken dishes, or work well as a sipping wine on its own.

Yankee Boy White The second wine is a blend of Cayuga and Niagara grapes and the result is a smooth and somewhat sweeter wine than the Giles E. Warner.  The color is pale/medium yellow.  The nose is soft but not sweet with light floral notes and as a result I was not fully prepared for the fruitiness of the wine in the mouth.   The mouth feel is very smooth and silky.  The predominant notes are pear and a hint of sweet apple, although both are subtle and hit in the middle of the tongue, rather than at the front where I expected them.  Because of this the wine comes across as more complex than it might otherwise do so; it develops through the mouth, starting out very quietly in the front and opening up as it progresses.   Described in the tasting notes as being in a “riesling-style” this wine should appeal to many people and would pair well with a wide range of foods.

Yankee Girl Blush The first thing you notice about the Yankee Girl is the color, an absolutely gorgeous golden-orange.  Not honey, not deep gold, a true orange.  I think my first reaction when it was poured was “Wow!”   A blend of Seyval Blanc, Niagara and Pink Catawba grapes, this is a departure from what I normally think of as a “blush” in more ways than the color.   The nose is soft and fruity with notes of nectarine and strawberry.  In the mouth the wine is drier and crisper than I anticipated, given the color, the sweet fruitiness of the nose, and my general expectations of blush wines.  In the mouth the wine is lightly sweet with notes of strawberry and peach, but it also has a bit of a bite, particularly on the finish, with just a hint of citrus to balance out the sweetness in the front of the wine.   A charming wine, and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear this was one of Hardwick’s more popular wines.

Massets Cranberry One could also call the Massets Cranberry a blush wine – the color certainly is more what I anticipate from a blush wine with a lovely pinky-cranberry color.   A blend of 90% Seyval Blanc and 10% locally grown cranberries from a neighboring farm, the wine is crisp and lightly tart.  I personally found myself more charmed by this wine than the Yankee Girl Blush, I think because of the tartness – as much as I have a sweet tooth (and trust me, I do), I will always gravitate toward the savory and definitely prefer tart, more acidic flavors.    The cranberry provides a nice complement to the citrus of the Seyval; the sweet-tartness of the fruit softening the citrus acidity of the grape.  Described during the tasting as a nice Fall wine, there’s no doubt this would be a very nice complement to a Thanksgiving dinner.  However, I found myself thinking it would make a really interesting sangria, chilled on a warm summer afternoon.   Definitely worth a try…

Hardwick Red I was excited to see that Hardwick’s red was a Marechal Foch, a grape which regular readers of Vino Verve know is one I’ve grown to really like since I started on the New England win(e)ding roads.  Lighter-bodied than a number of the Marechal Fochs I’ve sampled across Connecticut, no doubt a result of the stainless steel fermentation, the wine is smoother and feels more “mature” than many of the other wines I’ve tried.  Marechal Foch tends to be very sharp and the resulting wine can come across as very young – in fact the first few times I tasted Marechal Foch that was impression – these were young wines that needed more aging to “soften the bite.”

The Hardwick Red, however, doesn’t have that “in your face punch.”  It still has a very dry finish with the tart bite on the end which is a hallmark of the grape, but the wine is smoother and feels more finished.  Fruit forward – another hallmark of the grape – the predominant notes are dark berry and plum, both of which are somewhat subdued so they tease the palate rather than overwhelming it.   You can probably tell from my description that I really liked this wine, and I think it will appeal to quite a few people.   Even if you’ve tried Marechal Foch wines elsewhere and haven’t been a fan, give Hardwick’s a try.

Quabbin Native The last of the six Hardwick wines, the Quabbin native is described as a dessert wine.  100% Pink Catawba, the color is a lovely pinky/peach rose color.  The nose is lightly sweet with soft raspberry notes.  In the mouth the wine is sweet and juicy, although not as sweet or satiny as the vidal dessert wines.  The sweet fruitiness of the wine is lightly floral in the front; I picked up hints of strawberry and melon but strawberry blossom rather than full-on strawberry.  The wine finishes with a slight bite and a hint of raspberry which balances the initial sweetness of the wine.   I’m told the wine also responds well to mulling, and I’ll definitely have to give a try come the holidays.

I found myself hard-pressed to choose which wines would come home with me – I’ve pretty much run out of room to store wine, so I either need to stop buying wine or throw a party.  I’m thinking the latter…  In the meantime, I limited myself to three bottles, the Giles E. Warner white, the Yankee Boy White and the Hardwick Red.

I also made a note to return in December when the restored, historic mansion is decked out for the holidays.

Too Much Travel Edition – Alexis Bailly Vineyards

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I have traveled nearly 2,000 miles in the last ten days. That is far enough to get to the Arctic Circle, assuming that I was inclined to do such a thing in March and April (which I am not).

So, now I have a dilemma. Where do I start on telling the tales of my journeys. I have decided to work backwards. Why? It is as good as anyway to begin… plus have I have fewer photos to dig back through….

so that means…

On to the Alexis Bailly Vineyard.

There were a couple of things that I knew about this winery before I got there. A. It is the oldest winery in Minnesota. 2. It is in the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA which is one of the newest and definitely the largest appellation in the U.S.

The winery was established in 1973 by David Bailly and is named after the City of Hastings first permanent resident. David selected grapes varietals for his 20 acre former winter rye farm winery less on their cold weather heartiness and more for their flavor. The intent was not to just make a Minnesota wine but a superior Minnesota wine. Using the French adage that the vines must suffer to produce good wine, David Bailly believed that Minnesota was a place where the grapes would receive the requisite punishment.

Lately my wine journeys have been more of the solo variety but on this day, I had my Mom with me. We had travelled to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in order to attend the Mizuno Northern Lights Midwest Volleyball Qualifier. Which meant that we were in for three long days of volleyball. Oh, and it was Mom’s birthday. I am not going to tell you which one. Let’s just go with 19th (my mother’s traditional age) or as we learned at the winery “Plenty-nine”. Sophie wasn’t due to start playing until 3:00 so Mom and I headed out of the Minneapple and headed to Alexis Bailly.

We found the winery easily enough (sometimes directions out in the country can be tricky) and when we pulled into the lot we were greeted by the winery dog, who barked at as we headed into the tasting room. The funny thing was that the pooch stopped barking the second we walked into the building… He just headed over to his rug and plopped down. His job was finished.

Mom and I headed into the tasting room and were greeted by actual people! We decided to do the full tasting which included the special ice wine for $7.00 Being really early in the season (which opened April 1) and early in the day 11:30, we were the only folks tasting. The staff was getting ready for the winery’s first event of the season, their Chocolate, Cheese and Wine Tasting. Despite this, everyone was friendly and knowledgable. Perfect for Mom’s first time out with me!

We started with Seyval Blanc which was bright and crisp with green apple notes. Fermented and aged in stainless steel to maintain the full force of the fruit flavors this wine surprised me. Why? Mom LOVED it. And she is a dedicated red wine lover. She loved it so much that she bought some to take home. A real recommendation.

Next we tried the Country White. This wine is a blend of Seyval Blanc and La Crescent and is designed to be an easy drinking vins de pays. Perfect for everyday, though not terribly complex or aged.  This wine is off dry with a good burst of fruit and would be perfect for dishes with some spice or creaminess to them.

I bought a bottle of the next wine and am waiting for the proper weather to drink it…  The Golden Gris reminded me of Lillet Blanc.  Rich and full with an slight orange flavor.  Made of a  blend of La Crescent (90%) and Frontenac Gris (10%).  I am planning to use it on the first hot day of the season with a slice of orange and topped with bit of seltzer.

At this point we moved on to the reds, more familiar territory for Mom, though the first selection was actually a rosé, but a deep and rich one.  Aptly named Rosé Noir it is made of Marechal Foch and DeChaunac.  The color of this wine is much deeper than a standard rose but is rich with dark cherry flavors.  In another stunning move, Mom loved this wine as well…

Next we got to taste the Country Red, a proprietary blend designed to evoke thoughts of French Rhone wines.  The wine is dry, with good fruit and light, leathery tannins.  Truly, the perfect wine for a weekday meal.  The Voyageur on the other hand is a much bolder wine.  A blend of Marechal Foch, Léon Millot and Frontenac and aged 10 months in oak, this wine is inky black with deep, rich, woody flavors.  Voyageur is the most New World tasting of the Alexis Bailly’s wines.

After enjoying the biggest of Alexis Bailly’s wines, Mom and I moved on to the dessert wines.

The Hastings Reserve is a blend of grapes that are blended with vintages from several other years to create the consistency that is seen in solera aged ports.  In taste and consistency it was very much like a ruby port, though perhaps a little hot for me.  The Bailly’s Chocolate Port was a hit with Mom, who loved the richness of the chocolate essence.  I have to admit to preferring my chocolate separately from my fortified wines, but found the flavors to be much more lush than I have had in the past.  The last of the wines for the regular tasting was the Ratafia, a wine that I have read about but never had.  Ratafia  was something that I read about in Victorian novels or Restoration comedies.  Ratafias are fruit, nut and herbally flavored fortified wines that were produced in Mediterranean countries.  When checking my notes on this wine I laughed when I saw my scrawl of, “Holy Cow!”  The wine is rich with vibrant orange and spices – perfect for dessert or an aperitif.  It is totally out of the ordinary and worth a try.

The last wine that we tasted was their version of an ice wine.  Unfortunately the weather in Minnesota is so unpredictable that the winery can’t rely on the grapes freezing anything other than solidly making a real ice wine out of the question.  Instead they buy contract grown juice and freeze it, using the concentrated juice to produce the wine.  The wine is a lighter version of a German Eiswein. It was very nice.  In the meantime, the winery is working to grow grapes that will produce enough sugar to create the wine naturally at the vineyard.  I look forward to trying these wines in the future.

Sadly, at this point, Mom and I needed to head off to the Minneapolis Convention Center for six hours of volleyball.  We didn’t even get a chance to have dinner, which was a shame as it was her birthday that day.  I don’t think she minded, as she got to go to a wine tasting with me and see what I do when on the road.  I was glad that everyone at Alexis Bailly was sweet, personable and really well informed.  We even found a new way for my mother to express (not) her age.  Henceforth, she will no longer be 19, but instead will be “Plenty-nine”.

Thank you to everyone at Alexis Bailly for helping me give Mom a great birthday present!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jerram Winery 1.1.11 ~ The Reds

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

My New Year’s Resolution should have been “don’t procrastinate on filing your Vino Verve posts!”   Although given that it’s not even the end of January and I’m already behind, at least I don’t now feel the guilt of having resoundingly failed at my resolution before the year truly got underway.

So, to catch us up ~ I kicked off the New Year on the Litchfield Winter Wine Trail; first stop Jerram Winery in New Hartford, Connecticut.  Having sampled the available whites, next up were the reds, which I was particularly looking forward to.  My first visit to Jerram was fairly early into my Connecticut Wine Trail adventures.  Jerram was one of the first wineries at which I tried a Marechal Foch wine (as opposed to encountering Marechal Foch as a blending grape), and the Highland Reserve, a Cabernet Franc/Marechal Foch blend was one of my favorites of that visit.  Not having been back in almost two years, I was looking forward to the new vintages.

Before either the Highland Reserve or the Marechal Foch, however, the first red presented was Sil Vous Plait, a 100% Cabernet Franc.  The nose has bright notes of cherry and that flinty, salt-tanginess of the Northeastern Reds.  Medium-bodied, the wine is slightly tart with cherry notes on the front and a lightly smoky finish.  The mouth-feel is soft, and there’s a slight bite towards the back of the tongue that makes the wine feel a bit young.  With Connecticut Cabernet Francs, I’ve found cellaring them for six to nine months and then letting them breathe a bit really mellows them and makes for a much richer wine.

Next up was the Highland Reserve, the Marechal Foch/Cabernet Franc blend.   The nose is softer and more subtle than the Sil Vous Plait, although the cherry notes are still the predominant note.  In the mouth the wine is lightly sweet and fruit forward with bright notes of cherry, which carry through from the front to the back of the tongue.  There are light notes of smoke and leather on the finish, enough to provide a nice balance but not so much that they overwhelm the wine.  Overall a lovely wine.

And last, and certainly not least, my favorite the Marechal Foch. The nose is earthy with notes of grass; a definite surprise after the more strongly cherry noses of the first two wines.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine, like the Highland Reserve, is fruit-forward with notes of cherry, but there are earthy notes as well which keep the wine from the sweeter notes found in the Highland Reserve.  The tanginess and “bite” that is a characteristic of the Marechal Foch grape (or to be more precise the Marechal Foch wines I’ve encountered) is present but not distracting.  The wine is quite smooth and feels more robust and mature than other Marechal Foch wines I’ve tasted.

If anything could be considered Jerram’s “signature” wine, it would be the Marechal Foch.  These are the first vines Jim Jerram planted when he established the vineyards in 1982, and the first wine he produced in 1986.  Over the years he’s expanded to other grapes and wines, but the Marechal Foch maintains a place of prominence in the Jerram Winery lineup.

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.

Minnesota Nice – Carlos Creek

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

On my way back from Walla Walla and before I reached my stop at Bunbury Farm, I stopped at the one winery in the one viticulture area entirely within the state of Minnesota. Alexandria Lakes, as previously mentioned is tucked in between several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Currently there is only one winery located in this region, Carlos Creek.

I pulled into the winery’s driveway on a Wednesday morning in June to find the place packed. Maybe folks were taking 4th of July vacations early, but I got the feeling that the place was used to this kind of crowd. The tasting room was large with a rectangular bar in the center. One side of bar was stocked with the wines shelves and related tchotchkes. The other side of the bar had tables for groups to linger at including a cozy firepit.

I walked up to the bar for a tasting ($5.00 which includes a keepsake wine glass) and began to try the wines. I learned that the winery has twelve acres of vines of Frontenac, Foch, Valiant, Swenson Red, La Crescent, King of the North, Brianna, Marquette, Petite Pearl and Edelweiss and fifteen acres of apples including Honeycrisp, the Minnesota State apple. The winery also makes wine from contract grown fruit that is both local and out of state.

I began with the Chardonnay (grown in California as that is not a grape to survive the harsh Minnesota winters. The color was beautiful and tasted dry with a nice amount of fruit although the finish was a shade metallic.

The Woebegone White was pale and offsweet with the flavors of apples and pear and is produced from Frontenac Gris. This wine is part of the wineries “Minnesota Nice” line which are made entirely of locally grown fruit. It is a nice wine for a hot summer afternoon spritzer (my preferred way of drinking sweeter wines). The line also includes the Hot Dish Red, a blend of Frontenac and Valiant and the You Betcha Blush (a phrase, I sadly associate with Alaska instead of Minnesota these days) which is also Frontenac based.

Next I tried the reds. I started with the Marquette. The grape is a recent development from the University of Minnesota which has a strong viticulture program and is the Upper Midwest’s answer to Pinot Noir. It was certainly dry, with distinct tannins and smooth texture. In all fairness though, it was not my favorite as there was a distinct foxiness to the wine.

I then tried the house Chianti which is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and several estate grown grapes. I liked this wine. Like my favorite kinds of Chianti, it was flavorful and smooth to make it perfect to drink with dinner.

The last wine I tasted was the Trinity, blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and ended up being my favorite wine of the afternoon. I have to admit to enjoy trying traditional varietals from local wineries. I feel that these wines provide a baseline about a winery. I know what California Cabernet is supposed to taste like. When I try the local options, I am better able to pick up the nuances of varietals that I am less familiar with and terroir. The Trinity was cherry and peppery on the nose with a taste spiced cherries and plums.

At this point in my visit a tour of the facility was beginning, led by the wineries’ owner Tami Bredeson. We learned that she and her husband Kim became interested in wine and winemaking after he was commissioned to produce a carved mantelpiece for a woman who worked for Robert Mondavi. As a thank you, she gave them a bottle of Opus One and the Bredesons decided to learn more about wine before opening that bottle.

I have been on several winery tours and this was about the most thorough that I have seen (particularly for a winery without an extensive history). We learned how they chose the cork for their bottles (Sardinian cork) and the cooperage that they buy barrels from (Kelvin Cooperage). A nice surprise was the cave built under the winery. The Bredeson’s attention to detail is impressive.

Like most wineries, the Carlos Creek hosts a wide assortment of events in addition to the tastings and tours, including weddings, craft shows, live music, surrey bike rides, mazes for the kids, cross country skiing and dog sled rides. This is not your average country winery.

Carlos Creek Winery
6693 County Road 34 NW
Alexandria, MN 56308
320-846-5443

Savage Oakes Vineyard ~ The Reds and Dessert Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Having finished the whites and blushes, next up were the reds and dessert wines.   On the menu that afternoon were four table wines and a dessert wines, opening with

Barn Red 100% Leon Millot, all gorwn locally, and aged in a 50/50 split of French and American oak.  This was my first encounter with Leon Millot, at least as far as I was aware.  The color is a very deep purple, and hte nose is rich, smooth and fruity with discernible notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the cherry is also present but not as strong a presence as in other cold climate red grapes, particularly the Marechal Foch.  The wine is somewhat fruit forward with smooth notes of cherry in the front and finishing with notes of leather in the back.  According to their website, this is Savage Oakes “signature red wine” – and it’s definitely worth a stop, if for no other reason than to add Leon Millot to your list of grapes.

Blue Moon A table wine, Blue Moon is 100% Maine Wild Blueberries and aged in French Oak.   The result is not at at what I expected.  Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a fruit wine; like many of the fruit winemakers here in the Northeast, the team at Savage Oakes has produced a dry table wine that has a degree of complexity that one doesn’t anticipate in a fruit wine.  The color and the nose are what I expected from a blueberry wine: a lovely deep blue-purple color and a nose that evokes late summer blueberries on the vine – it’s really a lovely nose.  In the mouth, though, the wine really surprises.  Not only drier than I anticipated, the blueberry notes were much more subdued and subtle – they tantalized the palate.  The finish is peppery with light notes of smoke, and the wine built nicely in layers over subsequent sips.  It wasn’t my favorite of Savage Oakes wines by an means, but it was more interesting than I had assumed it would be.

Come Spring Hands-down, my favorite wine of the entire Savage Oakes line-up.  Come Spring is a Beaujolais-style wine made from locally grown Marechal Foch grapes.  I’ve come a long way since my first encounter with Marechal Foch at Haight-Brown winery almost two years ago.  At the time I was put off by the “bite” I found at the end and attributed the brightness to the wine’s being young, rather than it being a characteristic of the grape; definitely was not an initial fan.  However, over time and with more chances to experience the grape, including Haight Brown’s beaujolais-style Nouveau Foch, I have become more and more intrigued.  Savage Oakes Come Spring, obviously, did not disappoint.

The color is a lovely dark purply-ruby.  The nose has the soft cherry notes that are a hallmark of the grape.  And in the mouth, the wine is lush and smooth with the Marcheal Foch bright tangy notes of cherry and notes of pepper and leather finish.

Concord The last of the reds is named, as you can image, from the Concord grapes used in it’s production.  An interesting choice as Concord grapes are used more often jams and juices than in wine.  I found myself approaching the wine with some slight trepidation – while I love lush dessert wines, particularly Ice Wines and Late Harvest Wines, I’m generally not a fan of most sweet or even semi-sweet table wines, and wasn’t too interested in a wine that probably tasted like grape juice.  But I’ve learned never to assume – always to taste.  Rather than being fermented grape juice, the wine is subtle and very much drier than anticipated.

The color is a lovely garnet color, the first surprise, as I half-expected the wine to be a dark purple similar to grape jelly.  The nose was definitely Concord, lightly jammy with lush notes of grape.   In the mouth, the wine has a touch of sweetness (the tasting notes indicate a 1.0% residual sugar) that is not overpowering.  The grape notes are present, but are more reminiscent of fresh grapes than of grape juice or jellies.  There are nice tannins on the finish providing just enough of a bite to give the wine some depth.  Overall, this is a more interesting wine than I, and I expect many people, initially give it credit for.

Blueberry Pi The tasting concluded with another 100% Blueberry wine, this one a dessert wine.  Although not fortified, this is made in the port-style, and fermented to a 17% alcohol content.  Like the Blue Moon, the wine is garnet color.  The nose, interestingly, has very discernible notes of Concord grapes with soft notes of blueberry.  In the mouth, the wine is rich and sweet.  The mouth feel is thick and lush, although not so thick that it coats the mouth.   The blueberry notes are stronger here than with the Blue Moon, but interestingly they pick up more in the back of the mouth than in the front.

In addition to the ten wines on the Tasting Menu, Savage Oakes website lists several other wines in their repertoire, including a recently released Marechal Foch Rosé and three wines which are currently sold out: Sterlingtown, made from Niagara grapes, and two apple wines, Crooked Tree and Apple Wine.