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.