Williamsburg Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

Tobin Logo via JohnMorrell.com

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

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

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

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

Other wines produced by Williamsburg Winery include:

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

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

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

5800 Wessex Hundred
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Cheers to Dalice Elizabeth Winery – Connecticut’s Newest Winery

Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I have to say it was hard to tell who was having more fun at Dalice Elizabeth Winery’s Grand Opening Celebration last weekend – the guests or the owners.

Gretchen had received a news alert on Thursday afternoon, which she promptly forwarded over to me, announcing the opening of Connecticut’s newest winery, The Dalice Elizabeth Winery in Preston.  The festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon with a ribbon cutting and brand unveiling ceremony beginning at 4:30 and continued until 8:00 with Italian cooking demonstrations, live music and the star of the event, the wines.   On Saturday afternoon, when I arrived, people were still talking about how successful Friday had been, and how they had had to force people to leave because everyone was having such a good time.

Saturday afternoon the party was still continuing.  Inside the tasting room John Wilcox, owner and winemaker, greeted guests, poured tastings and answered the myriad questions people brought with them.  Outside there was a large grill going making marvelous steak and bruschetta appetizers.  Chairs and tables were set up around the lawn for people to sit and enjoy the wines, the view and the company.   The overall atmosphere was casual and relaxed; people mixed and mingled and took turns at the tasting bar so everyone got a chance to sample all the wines.

Grand Opening Celebration, Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT / Photo: Marguerite BarrettThe Dalice Elizabeth Winery is owned and operated by John and Mary-Lee Wilcox and their grandson, Blaze Faillaci.  The trio are owners of a gourmet food distribution business, Sumptious Selections, a business that Mary-Lee started with her daughter, Dalice Elizabeth.  Eleven years ago, the pair were days away from opening a winery and retail store when Dalice Elizabeth died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The family put the winery on hold, resurrecting the plans a few years ago.

The Wilcoxes have a long history of winemaking; Mary-Lee’s father, Raphael Blaze Faillaci, immigrated from Italy bringing with him the wine press still used by Dalice Elizabeth today.  John, Dalice Elizabeth’s winemaker, has been crafting wines for years, and he and Mary-Lee also run a wine-making school.  Their formerly private-label Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have garnered a number of awards and critical acclaim over the years, but until now, have not been available to the public.

Grand Opening Celebration, Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT (1)Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT - The New Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

The current Dalice Elizabeth vintages are all made from grapes brought in from California and Washington, although the entire winemaking process is done here in Connecticut.  They’ve planted both Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc on the Preston property, but it will be another three to four years before those vines are producing grapes ready for pressing.  In the meantime, John continues to produce well-crafted artisanal wines from his west coast grapes, including two whites (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) and six reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Old Vine Zinfandel).

John Wilcox (Winemaker) and Blaze Faillaci pour tasting at Dalice Elizabeth Winery's grand opening celebration

John Wilcox (Winemaker) and Blaze Faillaci pour tastings at Dalice Elizabeth Winery's grand opening celebration

Only the reds were available during opening weekend; the whites will be released shortly after the first of the year.  And of the reds only four were available as they had sold out of both the Sangiovese and the Syrah before I arrived.  But the remaining four made up for any lack.  All were rich, complex, smooth wines that practically melted in the mouth.  The Cabernet Franc had lovely notes of cassis and raspberry, and I made a friend in Mary-Lee when I exclaimed “oh this is lovely” after the first sip.  The Merlot is a brighter wine, with strong notes of cherry.  The Old Vine Zin is rich and mellow with notes of plum and chocolate that linger in the mouth.  And finishing the tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon, rich and complex with notes of black currants and a hint of chocolate on the finish.

Dalice Elizabeth's School of Winemaking / photo: Marguerite Barrett

I will definitely be going back; already Christy (who was out of town and couldn’t make the grand opening) and my cousins Bobbie and Andy have volunteered to take a return trip with me.  In the meantime, I purchased a bottle of each to bring home with me – just to be sure I had a “good enough” sample to truly assess each wine.

Congratulations to John and Mary-Lee Wilcox, Blaze Faillaci and the Dalice Elizabeth Winery.  Here’s to great wines and a great afternoon!

Dalice Elizabeth Winery

6 Amos Road, Preston Ct 06365


info@ DaliceElizabeth.com

Dalice Elizabeth is open year-round for wine tastings and sales.  Current hours are Thursdays and Sundays, 11-5; Fridays and Saturdays, 11-8.  Hours may change during the winter; check the website for details.

Wallace Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

It seems these days I am always on the road and this is a good thing. I love meeting people all over the country who love wine so much that they have dedicated their lives to it. And naturally, I enjoy tasting as well. The best part of wine lovers is that they are everywhere and while it hasn’t been able to said as much about wine makers they are certainly becoming more widespread. In Iowa for instance, there are over 70 wineries.

Wallace VineyardsWallace WineryOne of the common complaints that I hear from those uninitiated in travelling to wineries outside of the west coast is that any wine produced in the rest of the company is sweet. This was certainly the case with the other winery that I visited in Iowa, the Ackermann Winery. Of course, the people of the Amana Colonies would have come by their love of sweet wine naturally given their German heritage and they continued to produce wines in that style when they arrived in Central Iowa 150 years ago.

As I drove down the country roads toward the Wallace Winery, I wondered what I would find. Pulling into the parking lot, I saw that this was part of a working farm. There were grapes growing as well as corn. I entered the tasting room to be greeted two young women who had clearly been enjoying the beautiful summer day as I arrived. I asked about tastings and was greeted with this warning, “Just so you know, we don’t have sweet wines”. Clearly the expectation of the region was for those kinds of wines and she wanted to head off any disappointment on my part. But you can’t disappoint me when I get to try a new wine!

Looking around I found 10 different wines mostly produced from estate grown grapes (only the Joan’s Cuvee was produced from grapes brought in from elsewhere). I started with the wines produced from locally grown grapes. The first was a Chardonel. This varietal is a cross between the Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and is often found in northern climates as it is hardier than Chardonnay. This wine was aged in stainless steel. The wine was fruity and pleasant but very light but would be lovely on a hot summer day.  The next white I tried was their Traminette.  Traminette is a varietal that was meant to be a table grape with the flavors of Gewurtztraminer, but was ultimately found to produce excellents wines. This wine was floral and citrus and like the Chardonel exceedingly light.  Nice for sipping by the pool on a summer day, but not quite what I would serve with dinner.

Wallace Tasting RoomWallace Winery SelectionsAt this point, I tried tasting the red wines.  The Chambourcin, another hybrid is a varietal that I have come to taste often in the Midwest (and Tennessee as that is more southern) and have liked a lot.  This wine like the others was lighter than I would have liked, but still flavorful.  It was like tasting a very light Rhone.  The flavors were pleasant, just weaker than I expected.  This made me curious to taste the last wine on my list the Joan’s Cuvee.  The grapes for this wine were imported from California as whole fruit, not juice.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and was aged in oak barrels.  Unlike the other wines, this was full bodied and I was a surprised with the richness.

Other wines produced by the winery include a Blanc de Blance made from the Chardonel, ‘Iowa Barn’ White, a blend of Chardonel, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles, ‘Iowa Barn’ Red a blend of Chambourcin and Chancellor grapes, a Vignoles, the Nouveau made from 2008 Chambourcin and the River City Port which is produced from Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The prices of the wines range from $11.99 to $22.99.

The winemaker is Dr. Edward Wallace who has turned his love for wine from a hobby into a business.  (Dr. Wallace is a chiropractor in West Branch, Iowa ((Home of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)).  Dr. Wallace has been making wine for 15 years and opened his tasting room five years ago.  My conclusion after tasting his wines is that he can produce good flavors but that the quality of the local grapes must be improved to bring greater depth to the wines.  Overall, I was impressed with his desire to make dry wines in an area that seems populated with wineries producing sweeter varieties.  It appears to be a more difficult undertaking and I wish Dr. Wallace good luck in his winemaking quest.

Wallace Winery
5305 Herbert Hoover Highway
West Branch, Iowa 52358

Sharpe Hill ~ Reds and Dessert Wines

Marguerite BarrettSharpe Hill Vineyard, Pomfret, CT / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ballet of Angels may be Connecticut’s best-selling wine, but both Christy and I found ourselves much more taken with Sharpe Hill’s reds than with any of their whites.  First up was their best-selling red,

Red Seraph A blend of Merlot and St. Croix, this is a dry medium-bodied wine that will pair well with a wide variety of foods.  The nose is very spicy with notes of pepper and smoke.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth with light smoke and notes of dark stone fruits and a spicy finish.  The Merlot grapes provide body, while the St. Croix provides a crisp bite at the end which gives the wine some interest.  Not my favorite red, but I did like this wine.

Red Seraph 2006 Vintage Merlot Also a blend of Merlot and St. Croix, there is a greater percentage of Merlot in this blend making the wine smoother and richer overall than the Red Seraph.  That being said, this was my least favorite of all of the reds.  Both in the nose and the mouth I detected notes of cherry, although they are more subtle in the mouth than on the nose.  The oak is more subdued producing very light notes of smoke.  It’s not a bad wine, but in general I didn’t find it as complex or interesting as the other reds, particularly the next two…

Cabernet Franc 2006 This and the St. Croix 2006 (see below) were hands-down my two favorite wines of the afternoon.  I have been finding myself drinking a lot of Cabernet Francs lately, and this was one that made it on my list of “wines to come back for.”  Medium-garnet in color, the nose is rich and spicy with interesting notes of tobacco.  The mouth feel is lush and silky, and on the palate the wine is smooth with a smokey spiciness that balanced the light fruit notes of dark berries nicely to produce a wine with interesting character and depth.  Christy starred this as one of her favorites of the afternoon as well.

St. Croix 2006 100% estate grown, the St. Croix is the second of my two favorite wines of the afternoon.  Also a medium garnet color, the St. Croix is a fuller-bodied wine, with a soft, lush mouth feel.  The nose is soft with subtle notes of berries which are also detectable on the palate before the wine finishes with intriguing notes of licorice.  The licorice provides both a bite and a hint of sweetness that made the wine more interesting.  Our host indicated that this wine pairs well with game as well as with more traditional dishes such as beef or lamb.   While I really enjoyed this wine, Christy was less impressed, finding a lot of sediment at the bottom of her glass.

That concluded the reds but not the tasting as we cleaned our glasses and settled in to enjoy dessert in the form of the last two wines on the menu.

Select Late Harvest 2006 An estate wine made from 100% Vignole, this is a really, really nice late harvest wine.  Rich, lush and sweet, the color is a lovely orange-rose color that catches the light nicely.  The nose is subtle with soft notes of fruit which blend nicely in the mouth.  No one fruit note is predominant, and the result is a smooth, balanced wine that would be excellent on it’s own or paired with desserts, cheeses or fruits.

Pontefract 2006 This is a port-style dessert wine with rich notes of chocolate in both the nose and the mouth.  Very smooth, I found it not as rich as other ports and the mouth feel wasn’t quite as lush as I expect.  Made from 100% estate-grown St. Croix grapes, despite being a dessert wine,  the Pontefract retains that interesting final bite that one finds so often with St. Croix.

Both the Select Late Harvest and the Pontefract are produced in more limited quantities and neither are available by the case, and the Pontefract is limited to three bottles per customer.

As the tasting ended, we sat back and took stock of the afternoon: the American Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc were our favorite white and red, and runners-up in the “wines we’d come back for” category also included the Cuvee, the St. Croix, the Red Seraph and both (or either) of the dessert wines.

All in all one of the more successful – and relaxed – Win(e)ding Road afternoons.

Sharpe Hill vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

Rutherford Hill Tour

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I don’t know why so many of my adventures start with an element of panic. I sometimes think it is so I can appreciate them all the more.

picnic groveolives in the valleyAs I drove up Rutherford Hill Road, I finally started to relax and realized that the road looked familiar.. and the reason why became clear a moment later.. as I passed Auberge du Soleil, a restaurant that Kevin and I and our friend Charles visited and ate at when we were all in Napa together. As I pulled past the restaurant I reached a large parking lot at the top of the hill. Now, I had really reached my destination.

outdoor tasting roomentranceI left the car and approached a woman pulling out her cell phone. From her picture on Facebook, I immediately recognized Karen McFarland who is Anthony Terlato’s assistant in Napa Valley. We exchanged greetings as we headed toward the winery and stopped briefly to admire the view of the valley. The picnic grove and olive grove were beautiful, the olive are pressed for oil, but had recently been trimmed back so they would be another season before they bore fruit again.

tasting roomKaren in the Tasting RoomWe walked into the tasting room, walking past the outdoor tasting bar which was complete with a BBQ grill. I can imaging fun summer events there… and since it is California.. long into the fall as well. The tasting room consisted of a large u-shaped wooden tasting bar with pourers in the middle of the two sides to the bar.

Tanks behind the WinerySetting Up For HarvestKaren introduced me to the folks working in the tasting room as poured me a glass of wine (I think I suggested Rose, just to break my Sauvignon Blanc habit from the weekend :-) )  Karen started telling me about the history of the winery.  The winery was established in 1974 and specialized in producing Merlot.  When the Terlato family purchased the winery in 1996, the first thing that they did was REDUCE production in order to concentrate on a higher quality of wine.  The family also invested money in state of the art winery equipment such as fermentation tanks that had glycol sleeves to heat or cool the wine to the appropriate temperature to adjust for changes in the environment.

Caves at Rutherford HilBarrel MarkingsWe began our tour looking at area behind of the winery that was being set up in preparation for the coming harvest.  Of course, the winery had previously been state of the art, when the original owners built the cave system at the winery.  The original cave was constructed from 1984 to 1986 and the additional space  was completed in 1989.  The caves extend for almost a mile and allow the wine to be aged in their oak barrels at a consistent 59o F with 98% humidity.

Wine DisplayMeeting RoomWhile we walked through the caves, we stopped occasionally at the displays that were located along the path.  A sign at each location would describe a type of wine or winemaking process and taste a different wine.  Additionally there is room set aside for meetings or other events. In fact, the caves themselves can be rented for special events and has often been used for special celebrity chef dinners hosted by the Terlato family.  The caves include plaques commemorating these special events.

The WineryTasting in the WineryAs we left the caves and headed back into the winery and continued the tour.  The winery is a state of the art winery within a winery facility.

At this point my tour of the winery returned me to the tasting room.  I had already tasted some of the selections from the Terlato Wine Group, but there would be more to come….

Chamard Vineyards ~ The Reds (Connecticut)

Marguerite BarrettChamard Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

For 2009, Chamard has three reds, the 2005 Merlot, the 2005 Cabernet Franc and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2007 Rosé.  Only the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc remain on the tasting menu; as of my visit in early July only 2 cases remained of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

I began the Reds with the

2005 Merlot A blend of 80% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Pinot Noir,  this is a lighter-bodied wine than either a California or European Merlot.  The nose is earthy, but still has that “tang” that I’ve discovered is very typical of Northeastern reds, particularly Merlots.  It’s almost as if the wine has a touch of salty sea air that comes out in the nose.  The wine itself is smooth and dry, with subtle notes of dark chocolate and raspberry.  The finish has interesting notes of pepper, and the wine lingers at the end.  It’s an interesting wine, and of Connecticut Merlots, one of my top five.  This should age nicely and will definitely benefit from decanting.

Chamard Vineyards - back vineyardsThe last wine of the tasting was the

2005 Cabernet Franc 80% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 2% Pinot Noir, the Cab Franc is a lovely wine, and with the Estate Reserve Chardonnay, my favorite wine of the afternoon.  The color is a lovely rich garnet, and the nose is soft with light notes of spice and berry.  In the mouth the wine is smooth, rich and complex with notes of both chocolate and raspberry that linger on the palate.    Like the Merlot, the Cabernet Franc will age well, and will pair well with a variety of foods.

Chamard also produces an Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc, which had sold out shortly before my visit.   They do keep bottles of every vintage and often have older vintages available in the cellar.  If interested, and if the tasting room isn’t too busy, ask the Staff and they’ll root around downstairs and try to locate a bottle or two for you.

Chamard, like most wineries, offer a 10% case discount.  Purchase of your first case enrolls you in Chamard’s VIP Membership, which provides you with complimentary wine tastings, a 10% discount on all future purchases, and invitations to special VIP Only Events.  Chamard’s wines can be purchased from the winery, through their website (they ship to most states), and in wine shops throughout Connecticut.

Chamard Vineyards, July 2009 Tasting Menu / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

Ventimiglia Vineyards ~ The Reds (New Jersey)

Marguerite BarrettVentimiglia Vineyards ~ vineyards behind winery / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Gene Ventimiglia, patriarch and principal winemaker of Ventimiglia Vineyards, is a third-generation winemaker, having learned the craft from his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy in the early part of the 20th century.   In the 1920s, the elder Ventimiglia, a member of a local Italian-American Club, produced wine for the club throughout the Prohibition era.  With the demise of Prohibition in 1933, Ventimiglia continued to produce wine, albeit legally now, and passed the traditional hand-crafted winemaking methods he learned in Italy down to his grandson, Gene, who after growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, opted to continue the family traditions here on the East Coast.

As for the Ventimiglia Reds, Gene has produced a very interesting collection of California and New Jersey table wines:

Rocky Ridge Red 2006 The Rocky Ridge Red is a bland of eight different grapes, all grown locally in New Jersey.  It is cold-fermented and aged in oak, and like all of the Ventimiglia Reds it is unfined and unfiltered.  The nose is bright and fruity, and in the mouth there are lovely notes of dark berries and stone fruits.  The wine has a slight tartness, which gives it a piquancy.

Chambourcin 2007 A Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 NJ Wine Competition, this is a very interesting wine.  Chambourcin with a slight blend of Syrah, Merlot and a little Sangiovese, this is a medium-bodied wine with a lovely deep ruby color.  The nose is bright and fruity, and the mouth-feel is lovely and full.  Aged for 16 months in French and Hungarian oak, there are notes of dark berries, particularly blackberry, in the mouth, with a light pepper finish.  95% of the grapes are grown locally in New Jersey, making this one of three of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds.

Syrah 2007 The last of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds, the Syrah is made from grapes grown in vineyards directly across the street from Jon Bon Jovi’s house.  Gene has added just a touch of Grenache to the Syrah and the result is a lovely medium-bodied wine with a delicate, fruity nose, a smooth, soft mouth-feel, and light cherry notes on the palate.  The Syrah will pair well with a wide range of food, and will also cellar nicely.

Carignane 2006 This was my first taste of a Carignane wine, as despite it being one of the most planted grapes in France, it is often used for blending rather than as the primary grape.  Medium-bodied with a soft mouth-feel and notes of stone fruits on the palate, it is designed to be a “companion” or table-wine, and is Gene Ventimiglia’s favorite everyday wine.  It shares many of the characteristics of a good European (French or Italian) table wine – interesting and lightly complex, without being overpowering, it will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Merlot 2006 Made from California grapes, the Merlot has a bright nose with notes of plum and cherry, and a lovely soft fruitiness in the mouth that is balanced by a slightly acidic finish.   A nice wine, but not as interesting as the Syrah, Carignane, Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Also made from California grapes, this is a full-bodied wine with a lovely deep garnet color.  The nose is sharp and tangy, and in the mouth the wine is soft with nice notes of plum and a smoky, spicy, slight tobacco finish.  The finish also lingers beautifully, and the wine grows more complex and interesting with each sip.

Cabernet Franc 2006 The afternoon ended with the 2006 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorites of the day.  Aged in French Oak, the wine ages an additional 3 years in the bottle.  Made in the Bordeaux-style,  this is a full-bodied, dry red.  The nose is earthy with a slight mustiness, and in the mouth the wine is rich, full, with notes of grass and berries and a strong earthiness that gives it depth and character.   Very interesting wine.

A smaller winery, tucked in the northwest corner of the State, Ventimiglia is worth a stop.  While I definitely had my favorites from among the selection, none of the wines disappointed.

Merlot Madness

Merlot Madness!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
As Dee Dee poured the first wine of the tasting, we were assured that this was NOT the ringer – other than that, we were on our own (sort of). We took our time with each tasting; Len walked us through each step as a group, so we could compare notes and learn from each other as much as from him.
Wine #1 The color reminded me of ripe figs, that lovely mild garnet color that has both depth and richness. The nose was delicate with notes of cherries, slight acidity and very low oak. In the mouth the wine was light-bodied, but very nice, light notes of cherry and a lovely chocolate smoothness with a nice finish. While not one of my top three favorites of the night, I did like this wine. My guess: Chateau de Castelneau 2005 – Bordeaux, France.
Wine #2 Another garnet colored wine, this one had almost no nose. The notes that were detectable were grass and green pepper but they were extremely light. As with wine #1, the wine is light-bodied, but very dry. I suggested it might be a young wine, and overall I was not impressed. My guess: Lindemans 2005 – South Africa.
Wine #3 This was a beautiful wine. The color was lovely deep plum color, a jewel-tone purple. The nose had notes of cherry, plum and was soft and deep. Slightly dry, this was a medium-bodied wine with lovely notes of cherry and a vanilla caramel from the oak. The wine was also soft and deep on the palate with a very lush “mouth-feel.” I starred this as my #1 favorite of the evening and My guess: Chateau Ste Michelle 2004 – Columbia Valley, Washington.

Wine #4 A lovely deep garnet/medium-ruby color, this is a light-bodied wine. The nose is bright with strong notes of cherry and berry. The cherry is also noticeable in the mouth, and the wine has an earthiness to it which is nice. Others noted green notes – such as green olive – and felt it was a leaner wine than #3, with not as lush a mouth feel. As soon as I smelled the nose I told everyone that I knew this was the McLaughlin Merlot. Not only did I recognize the nose, but there’s a brightness and a bite to the nose of Long Island / New England red grapes that I recognized. No one believed me, so I told them, “you wait and see.” My guess: McLaughlin Vineyards 2004 – Connecticut (from Long Island grapes).
Wine #5 A deep garnet colored wine, the nose had strong green notes – I detected grass. It was a very light-bodied wine, slightly dry, with light notes of oak. Overall I didn’t really like this wine. My guess: Yellow Tail Reserve 2006 – Southeastern Australia

Wine #6 This was a beautiful wine, and my #2 vote for the evening. The color was dense, a deep, deep red, it was too dense to have that jewel tone quality that the ruby color often brings to wine. The nose was lush and soft with strong notes of blackberry and other dark berry fruits. Equally lush in the mouth, the wine was very smooth with notes of caramel and sandalwood with a very slight peppery finish, which I attributed to the sandalwood notes. From the first, I strongly suspected this was the ringer, as it felt heavier and lusher than Merlots, leading me to believe it might be a Syrah. My guess: The Ringer

Wine #7 Deep plum color, with a light nose with slightly grassy notes. This was a medium-bodied, slightly dry wine with delicate herbaceous notes. Not a bad wine, but not one of my favorites of the evening. My guess: Ravenswood 2006 – California

Wine #8 This was a really interesting wine. The color was a deep, deep purple with blue undertones. The nose was deep and smoky with notes of both spice and dark berries. In the mouth, the wine was rich and smooth, with notes of black licorice and dark fruits. A really nice wine. My guess: Casa Lapostolle 2006 – Rapel Valley, Chile

And finally, last but not least…
Wine #9 This was my #3 vote for the evening. A dark red color, the nose had notes of plum and cherry. The wine was smooth with lovely notes of fruit and a really nice finish. Definitely one of my favorites of the evening. My guess: Tilia 2006 – Mendoza, Argentina

As the tasting concluded, Len went through the list wine by wine and had us vote on whether or not it was our #1, #2 or #3 pick. He then assigned points (3 points for a #1 vote, 2 points for a #2 and 1 point for a #3 vote), tabulated them and revealed the winner.
So how did I do? Well, other than a bit Merlot’d out…

Merlot Madness!

McLaughlin Vineyard
Sandy Hook, Connecticut

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

On Saturday, March 7th, 2009, Christy and I headed back to McLaughlin Vineyards with a few friends for McLaughlin’s March event, Merlot Madness! Part wine event, part wine class, this was an evening dedicated to Merlots from all over the world. Hosted by Dee Dee Morlock, General Manager of McLaughlin Winery, the seminar was led by Len Gulino, the Wine Tutor.
Len began studying wine seriously in the 1980s and has studied at The Society of Wine Educators (of which he was a member) and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. He regularly tours with Vin Martoli of The Tasters’ Guild and is the only person in Connecticut who has qualified as a member of The Century Club (people who have tasted wines from more than 100 different grapes). In 2002, Len turned his expertise into a full-time business and now offers a variety of wine seminars, including a Wine 101 class, in venues across Southwestern Connecticut.
Len structured the Merlot Madness seminar as a blind tasting. Nine wines were featured, all masked in paper bags so we were not influenced by country of origin or vineyard. The seminar kicked off with a brief introduction to the history of Merlot: the most widely planted grape of the Bordeaux region, it is also the “third most planted black variety in France.” Similar in flavor profile to the Cabernet Sauvignon, it tends to be lighter and slightly more herbaceous in both aroma and flavor, and is less acidic, giving it a softer, more lush “mouth-feel.” The source material also provided a list of some of the more commonly noted varietal and processing flavors and aromas in Merlots, including fruit, floral and herbaceous notes as well as flavors associated with degrees of oakiness. (Source: Jim LaMar, WinePros.org)
Len then moved on to the five steps of wine-tasting – Color, Swirl, Aroma, Taste, and Savour – and illustrated techniques for getting the most out of each step. The Tasting technique, described by Len as “Slurp and Chew,” was the most interesting and turned out to be one of the highlights of the night. This was my first formal wine tasting seminar, and therefore my first introduction to the “slurp” (aerating the wine in the mouth) and “chew” (ensuring you experience the wine across the entire palate). While I definitely found it easier to identify the flavors and aromas in the wine when I “slurped and chewed,” I actually enjoyed the wine less than when I sipped it and just let it linger in the mouth. It was an interesting exercise, and provided unintended entertainment as watching others attempt to master the “slurp and chew” had everyone laughing hysterically within minutes.
Finally after this introduction to both the grape and the formal steps of wine tasting, we moved on to the main event. The seminar began with an “entrance wine,” the Frontera 2007 from Central Valley, Chile. Already poured when we arrived, we were encouraged to drink it throughout the introduction. This provided us with an initial baseline for Merlot – to help us distinguish some of the grape’s characteristics. We were then given a list of the wines that would be poured that evening including eight Merlots:
  • Lindemans 2005, South Africa
  • Ravenswood 2006, California
  • Yellow Tail Reserve 2006, Southeastern Australia
  • McLaughlin Vineyards 2004, Connecticut
  • Chateau de Castelneau 2005, Bordeaux, France
  • Chateau Ste Michelle 2004, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Tilia 2006, Mendoza, Argentina
  • Casa Lapostolle 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile

and one ringer, a non-Merlot red.

Our job for the evening was to taste each wine, determine its characteristics and flavors,and attempt to identify each wine as well as finding the ringer. Finally, we were asked to vote for our top three wines, and at the end of the evening Len would unveil the evening’s winning wine based on a tabulation of first, second and third place votes.
With that, Dee Dee began pouring the first wine, and the competition began…

Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09


Southern Tuscany
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
We finished the seminar – and our tour of the Frescobaldi estates – in Southern Tuscany.  Castelgiocondo, one of the largest estates in the Montalcino appellation, was originally owned by a French Investment Bank, who grew mostly Bordeaux variety grapes.  The owners soon discovered that the Bordeaux varieties did not grow well here, and the vineyard was replanted largely with Brunello (a clone of Sangiovese).  It was around this time that the Frescobaldi family assumed the management of the estate, which they purchased outright in 1989.  Today the Frescobaldis are the largest landowner in the Montalcino region, while the rival Banfi estate is the largest producer.
The region has been known for Brunello grapes and the quality of the wines they produce since the 14th century.   The region was awarded the first DOCG designation (Brunello di Montalcino DOCG) in 1980, and today the wines are some of the most awarded and prized wines produced in Italy.  (Source: Wikipedia).
The seminar featured two of the four wines currently produced at Castelgiocondo:

Despite being 100% Sangiovese, the Brunello is not a Chianti.  The wine is aged at the estate for 4 years, three of those in oak barrels.  A deep, deep red, the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of plum.  The wine is intense, rich and complex – there’s a slight acidity, but overall it is smooth with well-balanced tannins.  There are rich notes of plum and other stone fruits.  The wine would be beautiful on it’s own, but will also pair exceptionally well with food, particularly beef or lamb.   Retailing for around $60 US, this wine has limited production and fewer cases are imported into the US than other Frescobaldi wines.  It can be found primarily in the New York area.
The Lamaione is 100% Merlot.  Not a grape that traditionally does well in Tuscany, one portion of the Castelgiocondo estate has strong volcanic clay soil, and the Merlot grapes do grow well here.  A deep red color, the nose is gorgeous – rich, earthy, with overtones of both fruit and spice.  I detected notes of cinnamon and cloves.  The wine itself is full-bodied, with strong notes of spice – again clove and cinnamon.  It is not what I expect from a Merlot – it’s more “aggressive” if you will, but in a good way.  This is a wine that demands notice – smoother than the Brunelo, it is complex, rich, nuanced – overall a very interesting wine.   The tasting notes described it as a “racy Merlot.”  Retailing for about $70 US, it also has limited distribution, and can be tough to find outside of the New York area.
And with these, the seminar was concluded, and Christy and I headed over to the Grand Tasting.  By the end of the day, we both agreed the seminar was the highlight of the event, and next year, we’ll likely sign up for a few seminars and spend less time in the Grand Tasting hall.