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.

Mulling Things Over at Sunset Meadow Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Also on my New Year’s Day excursion was a stop at Sunset Meadow Vineyards, a fairly regular stop for me throughout the year, and with Connecticut Valley Winery, a particular favorite of the Sisters of the Wine Trail (SOTS).

Also a particpating winery of the Litchfield Winter Wine Trail, I headed over to Goshen after leaving Jerram Winery in the New Hartford.  Proprietors George and Judy Venice Motel have created a very comfortable and cozy space with the Tasting Room with the look and feel of a rustic, but well-appointed cabin.  When I arrived mid-afternoon, several small groups of people were already settled in enjoying both the wine and the roaring fire.  Judy Venice Motel was circulating through the room, and with the surrounding snow-covered hills and vineyards visible through the windows lining one wall of the tasting room, I felt like I had stepped into a ski lodge.

I grabbed a place at the bar and a tasting of five of my favorite of Sunset Meadow’s wines – the Riesling, the Vidal Blanc, Blustery Blend (a Cayuga, Seyval Blanc blend), New Dawn (a Malbec, Merlot, Frontenac and Landot Noir blend) and the St. Croix, all of which have been featured here at Vino Verve.

At the end of the tasting, rather than ordering a glass of wine, I was offered a small steaming mug of a mulled Merlot.  I’ve had mulled wine before – I mull wine myself several times each winter –  but this was the richest and most delicious mulled wine I’ve had in many an age.

The base for Sunset Meadow’s mulled wine is their Merlot, a 2010 Finger Lakes Wine Competition silver medal winner and a 2010 Grand Harvest International Wine Competition Bronze Medal winner.  To this they add cranberry juice and Crown Mulling Spices, a blend of spices that includes cranberry, cinnamon, and nutmeg among others.  The result was a rich, silky, fruity, robust mulled wine that was absolutely perfect for a cold, snowy afternoon.  I could have stayed there all afternoon drinking mugs of mulled wine; instead I contented myself with a sample and a mental note to order some Crown Mulling Spices and invite my fellow SOTS over for a Sunday afternoon in front of the home fires.

Note to the Motels ~ if you ever decide to bottle your mulled wine, drop me a line.  I’ll definitely be coming by to pick up a case!

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

Deadwood

Stone Faces WineryGretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Whenever I plan a cross country trip, I get a list of places that my folks think that I should. When I told them I was heading to Walla Walla, they immediately started forming the list. Wall Drug. Devil’s Tower. Mt. Rushmore. Deadwood. Deadwood was especially high on my folks list as they were lovers of the HBO series, ironic given my mother’s basic prudish nature and sheer volume profane language leaving Al Swearengen (Ian McShane)’s mouth. Nevertheless, I readily assented to that stop.

And why? Well, there is more than just gold in them there hills. There happens to be wine too.

Now, now, now… I know what you are saying… WIne in South Dakota? Well, yes. There was even a winery near the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite, wine that I didn’t get to…. this time anyway.

Anywho, I was discussing Deadwood. So, I was gleeful as I reached the Black Hills. Wall Drug was stupid and a tourist trap that makes no sense to me. In all truth, I didn’t even stop. I know myself enough to understand that crowds and crap don’t attract me, but if that is how the town gets by? Go with God. You will get no complaints from me. Just don’t ask me to visit.

Tasting Room at Stone Faces WineryAs it turns out there are five wineries in the Hills and two along my route. Stone Faces Winery, which had only been opened for a couple of months and the winery that I was originally heading for in the region, Prairie Berry. Stone Faces was so new that it had no offical signage. Not that this stops me.

I pulled into the new winery and walked in. The room was largely taken up by the large tasting bar, currently empty. But it was a Tuesday. It seems unlikely that this early in the summer that there would be a full room and during the Sturgis Rally? Well, forget about it. The place was probably packed. The winery is owned by the Nygaard Family of Valiant Winery, South Dakota’s first. In fact, Eldon Nygaard wrote South Dakota’s Farm Winery Act.

Having the winery pretty much to myself, I looked over the list and decided to try four options (my limit when I am on the road)

First up was the up was the Dakota’s Best Chardonnay. This wine had a light oaky flavor, but was generally too bland for me. I find that small wineries often have a harder time producing a full bodied dry white and this was true at Stone Faces. More impressive was the Canyon Lake White. This wine is semi-sweet and more like a Gewurztraminer though it is a predominantly Seyval blend. Still, a nice choice for spicy food or fresh caught Walleye or Catfish as is recommended by the winery.

Dakota's Best ChardonnayCanyon Lake White

Full Throttle Wine

Next up was the Sturgis Merlot. This wine had the proper body and juice but fell a bit flat at the end for me as there a smokiness that I wasn’t expecting.

The final wine that I tried was also related to Sturgis. The Full Throttle Wine is the Black Hills answer to Port. It is a fortified wine made exclusively for the Full Throttle Saloon. This was the best wine I had at the winery. I brought home a bottle for my Dad which we shared later.

So, yes. There is wine in the Hills. So get out there and start prospecting.

Stone Faces Winery
12670 Robins Roost Road
Hill City, South Dakota, 57745
Phone:605-574-3600
Fax:605-574-9555
Email: wine@stonefaceswinery.com

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

Greenvale Vineyard ~ The Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

We kicked off the tasting with the 2008 Rosecliff Pinot Gris. Like all Greevnale’s wines, the Pinot Gris is estate-grown and these vines are about 10 years old.  The color is a medium yellow-gold, darker and richer than many of the whites I’ve encountered here in New England.  The nose is soft with light notes of honey.  Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the result is a crisp wine that starts cleanly and finishes on subtle notes of green apple.  There’s a nice balance of acid that works well with the tangy slightly sourness of the green apple for a refreshing experience overall.

2007 Chardonnay The Chardonnay, as opposed to the Chardonnay Reserve, is produced from the younger Chardonnay vines, and aged in a combination of French Oak (52%) and Stainless Steel (48%).  The color is a medium yellow, and the nose is soft and creamy with very light floral notes and just a hint of vanilla.  In the mouth the wine is really lovely, soft, smooth and creamy on the front with a light touch of acid on the finish providing a nice balance.  Light citrus notes, primarily lemon, play with notes of creamy butter and vanilla for a rich, satisfying experience.  This will pair very well with a wide variety of foods, but also stand up on it’s own.  Definitely one of the stars of Greenvale’s current line-up.

2007 Chardonnay Select. The Chardonnay Select is made from older Chardonnay vines, planted in 1983.  It’s 100% oak aged, but in older French oak barrels to ensure a softer, more subtle oaking.  The color, while still falling within the medium yellow range, is lighter than the previous two wines, and the nose is earthy with hints of grass.  In the mouth, the wine, while still rich, is much sharper than the Chardonnay.  There are notes of cream and vanilla which indicate it’s moving toward that lushness I found in the Chardonnay, but it’s not there yet.  The citrus notes, again primarily lemon, are stronger in this one as well, although I also detected notes of grass which I didn’t pick up in the Chardonnay.   The acid is also much stronger in the Select than it was in the Chardonnay, and somewhat overpowers the finish.   Given 6-9 months, this will be a really beautiful  wine, but it’s not quite there yet.  That being said, it was educating to taste it now, particularly juxtaposed with the Chardonnay, and be able to see the potential in the wine.  If you’re looking to start a wine collection, I would definitely add this to list of wines to pick up now.

2008 Chardonnay Select.  While this wine is not yet available for sale (although I believe it will be soon), Kristen did have it available for tasting.  Like the 2007 Chardonnay Select, this is produced from the older vines and aged for 9 months in the older French Oak barrels.  Another very interesting contrast to the previous two wines.  The color is deeper and more golden.  The nose is soft, deep and fruity with light citrus notes.  In the mouth, the wine is still young; strong notes of grapefruit and a somewhat strong acid finish combine to produce just a touch of bitterness on the end.  The wine hasn’t yet developed much of the creamy vanilla butteriness I found in the other two Chardonnay’s, but there is a smoothness on the front of the wine that speaks to it’s potential.  Given another year or so in the bottle, I believe this wine will mature and soften into a lovely wine.

2008 Vidal Blanc Grown from Greenvale’s oldest vines, this is another very nice wine, and while not as strong as the Chardonnay, definitely one of the brighter stars on the current Greenvale wine list.  The color is a pale yellow;  the nose is lush and soft with rich notes of apricot.   It has a bit of the vidal lushness that you find so often in the sweeter dessert wines, but the effect isn’t as concentrated.  In the mouth, the wine is more complex than I anticipated with soft, subtle notes of pear on the front which develop into the slight tartness of green apple in the mid-back range of the tongue.  The wine has a nice balance of acid which gives it a really crisp finish, but it never completely loses the faint sweetness from the pear.  This will pair well with seafood, chicken, salads, and spicier foods such as Thai.

Some of Greenvale's vineyards; the Sakonnet River is in the background

The last of the whites was the Skipping Stone White.  A blend of 90% Cayuga and 10% Vidal, from the first encounter this wine was not anything I was expecting.  The color, while still in the yellow rather than straw category, is the lightest of all the whites.   The nose, which I anticipated to be perhaps slightly floral or have citrus notes, smelled like nothing so much as grape jelly.  Yes, you read that right – if I hadn’t been told this was a Cayuga and Vidal blend, the nose would have led me to believe there were Concord grapes here.  The Concord flavors carried over into the mouth as well.  The sweetest of all the whites (although it is still a dry wine), the wine is very juicy on the front with lush notes of grape jelly.  The finish is dry although the acid isn’t as strong in this wine as it was in several of the previous wines.  Kristen told me that this was Greenvale’s most popular wine, and I’m not surprised.  Those who like their wines a bit sweeter will really like this, and I found the Concord grape notes to be quite pleasant once I got over my initial surprise.   Don’t be put off by my Concord-grape description, this is an eminently drinkable wine and will appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers.

The one red available on the menu that afternoon was the 2005 Elms Meritage. A blend of all three of Greenvale’s estate grown red grapes, the Meritage is 60% Cabernet Franc, 38% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.  The vines are some of their younger ones ranging between 11 and 14 years old.  In addition to the initial aging in French Oak, Greenvale also bottle ages all their reds for an additional 2-3 years.  The nose has that very distinctive New England “twang” or tanginess that I’ve come to know and love.  I mentioned it to Kristen, who agreed, and we spent a delightful few minutes trying to adequately describe it.  I likened it to the tang of salt air in the Fall; she countered with “chalky granite” which I also get.  The word that we eventually came to is flinty, that smell you get from wet rocky soil after a hard rain…

I’m still working on the description.

Back to the wine…  In the mouth the wine is a little like Alice Through the Looking Glass, everything was the opposite of what I expected.  The predominant notes I picked up were pepper and cherry, but the pepper is on the front and the cherry on the finish.  It shook things up in a rather delightful way.  The pepper, while strong, is not overpowering and hits you with a nice sharp kick of heat in the front before really opening up in the mouth.  That initial kick of heat quickly settles down to a warm glow throughout the mouth at which point the fruit starts to pull through.  The finish is smooth with notes of just-ripe cherries.  This wine would be best paired with stronger, heartier meats and cheeses, and Kristen mentioned that when paired with a strong, creamy cheese like a Blue Cheese, the pepper settles down considerably.

Greenvale is also close to releasing their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  All of their wines are produced in limited quantities and that combined with the 2-3 year bottle aging for the reds means they often sell out of their reds well before the next vintage is ready for release.  I’ll definitely be watching their website and planning a return visit once the Cab Franc is released.