Maison Joseph Drouhin ~ Chambolle-Musigny, Cote de Nuits

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’ve been remiss in not keeping up with my writing here. You’d think with all the wonderful wines I sampled during my two seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, the words would flow from my fingers onto these pages. But even with great notes and great experiences, writing, I find, is very hard work. And too often takes a back seat to work, chores, friends, and, hopefully, further wine adventures.

So I metaphorically pick up the pen again after an absence of almost three weeks (where DOES the time go?) and continue with the second flight presented in the “Taste the Terroir of Burgundy” seminar I attended at the Boston Wine Expo. The seminar had kicked off with a flight of four white Burgundies from the Chablis and Côte de Beaune regions of Burgundy.  The next flight featured reds, and in this case four wines all from the same village, Chambolle-Musigny, in the Côte de Nuits region.

According to our host, Laurent Drouhin, this is one of the family’s favorite villages, with a range of vineyards, including both Premier Cru and Grand Cru that produce wines that are subtle and rich, without too many spicy notes.  The four wines presented were, like the whites, all from the 2006 vintage.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny From vineyards classified as village vineyards (for a discussion of the differences between village, region, premier cru and grand cru classifications in Burgundy, see my post of January 25th).  Fermented in open vats and matured in oak, with a limited use of new oak, the wine is bright and easily drinkable.  The color is a bright, deep ruby-garnet.  The nose is fruity with notes of black cherry and plum.  Also, I immediately noticed the flinty “tang” that I find so often in Northeastern US reds.  The soil in these vineyards have strong limestone content, similar to that of southern New England, and it comes through in the wine.  In a seminar entitled “Tasting the Terroir,” it felt very satisfying to be able to make that connection.

In the mouth, the wine is bright, lightly dry with a somewhat chalky finish.  The notes of black cherry and plum that I picked up in the nose are very subtle and the fruit is very much in the background.   This would pair well with lighter meats, tuna or salmon, but would not stand up well to anything really spicy or peppery, or rich robust meats like roasts or steaks.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru This and the next wine in the flight were both from Premier Cru vineyards.  This particular wine I found to have the strongest affinities with a southern New England red, and interesting observation because the Burgundies are all Pinot Noir, a grape we grow very little of here in the Northeast.  What’s coming through the wines in both regions is the terroir, the mineral content, particularly limestone; these were the observations that really brought the seminar alive for me.

The color of this wine was a lovely bright burgundy red.  The nose had notes of black cherry and the hallmark flintiness that I’ve been commenting on above.  In the mouth, the wine is very bright with light notes of black cherry and stronger notes of damp earth.  The finish is really nice, smooth with silky tannins.  Laurent Drouhin recommended cellaring this for no more than 6-7 years.  I personally thought it felt “young” that day – a little too bright – and may track down a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years and sample the difference.  Perhaps we’ll see this wine featured in my 2015 Open That Bottle Night festivities.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses, Premier Cru Aged 25% in new oak, this was was very nice wine, and one of my favorites of the seminar.  The color is a darker, more matte-finish burgundy than the previous wine.  The nose is chalky and deeper, not as bright, than the previous two reds.  The notes of cherry are still present, but they are much more discreet; the predominant notes in the nose are flinty, “tangy,” granite/limestone.  Interestingly, in the mouth, the wine is fruitier and richer than the previous two, and overall the wine is more intense and complex.  The wine lingers on the palate with a long finish with the black cherry fruit notes developing into a delicate earthy, granite finish.  Only 240-250 cases of the Amoureuses were produced, and the wine can age for a long time.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Musigny, Grand Cru The last wine of the flight – and the seminar – was the Grand Cru.  The color is a very dark ruby with a matte finish.  The nose is very subtle, and interestingly, didn’t have the strong limestone/granite flintiness that I picked up in the other wines.  We were also told that the inclusion of this in the seminar was a special treat, as it was only the 3rd or 4th time in 10 years, that Maison Joseph Drouhin had included the Grand Cru in the seminar.

In the mouth the wine was very intense; deep, rich, and complex, although not a “big” wine.  Notes of black cherry were present here, as in the previous wines, although the wine is still young and the presence of the fruit was not fully developed.  According to Laurent Drouhin the wine should be cellared for 10-30 years for optimal drinking.

Better Know An AVA – Lake Michigan Shore

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Continuing my Michigan winery planning I move on to Lake Michigan Shore. Why? Well it contains the Fennville AVA and is the appellation listed on the bottles for the only winery in the Fennville AVA. And frankly, it is the Michigan appellation that is closest to home for me as it takes about 90 minutes (not counting traffic snarls) to enter into Michigan.

Why is this area significant? Well, unlike most northern wine regions, Michigan Shores produces a good number of vitis vinifera grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, and Viognier. The reason? Something we Midwesterners* call “Lake Effect”. The water in the Great Lakes (essentially small fresh water inland seas) moderate the temperatures and the precipitation on lands west of each lake. Temperatures never become as frigid as they would on the east coast of a lake as they do on the west coast. Anyone who has lived in Chicago and Buffalo or Detroit can tell you how they differ (and this blog has a couple of gals who have experienced the difference. Chicago is much colder). This gives the grapes a longer growing season than is experienced in say, Iowa and a couple of weeks makes a big difference. The soils are a relatively uniform throughout the region, consisting of glacial moraines.

In addition to being relative close to home, there are a good number of wineries in the AVA. How many? Well that depends on who you ask and what you count. Why who you ask? Well, the folks at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail list count twelve wineries as members. Me? I count about seventeen. More is better right? Well, that leads to the what you count part, as several of the wineries have multiple tasting rooms. Tasting rooms are great in a pinch, but frankly I prefer going to the winery directly, at least if it is possible. Given the number of beachfront cottages, condos and other casual getaway places in the area, I would have been surprised if there weren’t tasting rooms trying to take advantage of the numbers of summer people.

I am planning to head out on Sunday (barring teen disasters) to visit a couple these wineries. If you have a favorite? Let me know… contact me at gretchen at vinoverve.com

Where should I visit? Email me!

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.

Tip O’Neill Would Enjoy This!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I love local wine. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t drink wine that is made more than 100 miles away from my home. Why? Well at the moment there are only 37 wineries within that boundary and I don’t love all of them (Though I do love several that I have encountered so far). Plus, I love to explore and tasting new wine and food is like taking a little vacation from your everyday life. I call this seeming paradox the Tip O’Neill Corollary. Why? Well, Tip O’Neil once famously remarked that all politics is local. And the fact of the matter is, that all wine is too. It is local to someone. So I go ahead an enjoy those wines too and sometimes I even write about them.

This last week I tried a Crémant d’Alsace , a sparkling wine from Alsace (home of my Miller ancestors). I had tried still wines from the same House, Gustave Lorentz and had always liked them. So I was really looking forward to tasting this sparkler.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The wine was wonderful with medium sized bubbles and a dry but fruity taste. The varietals used to produce this bottle were Chardonnay 60%, Pinot Blanc 20% and Pinot Noir 20%. The winemakers feel that this provides fruity liveliness (from the Chardonnay), freshness and elegance from the Pinot Blanc and depth and persistance from the Pinot Noir.

In addition to the Crémant, the Maison Lorentz also produces still wines from traditional Alsatian variatels, including several Grand Cru Rieslings, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, several late harvest wines and Eaux-de-Vie, liqueurs and an Alsatian Marc which is a type of grappa made from the skins of Gewurztraminer grapes.

The Crémant and still wines (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) are available at my favorite wine shop, Good Grapes. The Crémant is about $20.

Life Has a Nasty Habit of Interfering

Maison Louis Latour ~ Corton Grancy A Vertical Flight: 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2005

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’ve sat down numerous times over the last few months to write up this and several other posts, and each time walked away with nothing worth posting – too tired, too uninspired, too whatever…  I started out 2010 with great plans – trips to both the Boston Wine Expo and the Sun Winefest, stops at a few of the Connecticut wineries I had yet to visit, and monthly tours of local wineries with my newest wine-trail buddies the “Sisters of the Connecticut Wine Trail” (Cheryl, Deb, Jean & Melissa) fondly referred to by us as SOTs..

Ah well, it’s always nice to dream…  Truth is the past few months have been intensely busy at work, and if I wasn’t working over the weekends, I was so exhausted by Saturday that it took all I had to do housework, laundry and grocery shopping before curling up for a long nap on the couch.

I haven’t stopped by a winery since mid-January, the date of the last SOTs outing, and it appears I never actually ordered the tickets for the Winefest seminar I thought I had signed up for.   Ah, but I still had Boston…

Back in December, I signed up for two seminars at the 2010 Boston Wine Expo, “Corton Charlemagne and Corton Grancy: The Grand Crus of Maison Louis Latour” and “Alain Junguenet: A Collection of 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Super Cuvées.”  Both were expensive, but it’s not often that I get a chance to taste wines of this caliber.  And best of all, I actually ordered the tickets instead of just thinking that I ordered the tickets.

I had learned from previous trips to both the Boston Wine Expo (2007) and the Sun Winefest (2009) that I don’t enjoy the Grand Tastings.  I don’t like crowds in the best of situations, and very crowded rooms full of people quickly on their way to being totally smashed is my idea of a fun and relaxing afternoon.  So rather than spending my afternoon fighting my way through the crowds in the Grand Tasting, I treated myself to two seminars – and were they worth it!

Chateau Corton Grancey 1996 / label courtesy of Maison Louis Latour website

My day kicked off with the Maison Louis Latour Grand Cru.  Maison Louis Latour is one of the great domaines of Burgundy; established in the 18th century and still family owned, Latour celebrated their bicentenary in 1997.  The seminar was hosted by Bernard Retornaz, President of Louis Latour, Inc, with panelists Michael Apstein, formerly the wine critic for the Boston Globe, now of WineReviewOnline.com, and Sandy Glock, wine director for Legal Seafoods.

Together the three presented us with two vertical flights of the Corton Charlemagne and the Corton Grancey, two of the largest Grand Crus in Burgundy.  Despite being unable to hear pretty much anything the panel said (the room wasn’t miked), from the first taste I knew this seminar was worth every penny I paid for it.   It is not often that I get a chance to taste wines like these.  As I look back over my notes, I see words like “beautiful,” “lush,” “complex,” and “sublime” being used repeatedly.

Retornaz started us off with the flight of reds, Corton Grancey.  Latour is one of the largest owners of Grancey red in Burgundy, with more than 42 acres of pinot noir under cultivation.  The flight consisted of the 2005, 2002, 1999 and 1996 vintages, all made by the same winemaker, and all aged in the same barrels.  Latour is one of the few houses that still makes all their own barrels, which they’ve been doing for more than 100 years.

Corton Grancey 2005 One of the first things I noticed upon arriving was how all of the wines seemed to sparkle in the glasses.  Even the reds, rich and dark, have a jewel tone to them that catches the light.  The 2005 is a medium garnet color with just a hint of sparkle when it catches the light.  The nose is spicy and earthy, with a slight acid bite which I felt in the back of my nose.  In the mouth, the wine is bright with light notes of cherry and a nice acid finish.  Overall, the wine is very smooth with a long lingering finish and an intriguing bit of peppery heat at the end.

One of the few panelist comments I was able to hear was Martin Apstein’s initial thoughts about the Grancey wines, which he described as “expanding in the mouth.”  A very apt description.  The more I savored and lingered over the 2005, the more interesting I found it.  Palates more sophisticated than mine will undoubtedly pull out a wide variety of flavors.  As for me, other than the light note of cherry, I found the rest to be elusive – which truthfully I found more intriguing.  Subsequent tastes brought out the earthy spiciness that I had first noticed in the nose, but just as I thought I had pinned down a particular note it blended into the next note.

Corton Grancey 2002 One of the things I like about vertical flights is the chance to taste the evolution of a wine.  One of the first things I noticed about the 2002 was that the color, while also a medium garnet, was deeper and richer than the 2005.  The nose was softer with a spicy earthiness but with more of the rich earthiness and less of the sharp spiciness of the 2005.  The wine is smooth, rich and complex, and the notes of cherry develop in the mouth over time.  The wine still retains the spicy earthiness that I found in the 2005, but it’s tempered – more subtle with a long, soft finish that I found absolutely divine.

Corton Grancey 1999 Wines that are designed to be aged for years will go through both open and closed stages, and Retornaz indicated that the 1999 is currently going through a closed stage.  Also a medium-garnet color, the 1999 was duskier than the other three, it had more of a matte finish, less of the jewel-tone that I found in the 2005, 2002 or 1996.  The nose was extremely soft, although there were still discernible notes of the spicy earthiness that appears to be one of the hallmarks of the Corton Grancey.  In the mouth, the wine was bright and smokey, with much stronger notes of cherry and dark berries than I found in either of the two previous wines.  If I was doing a blind tasting, I probably would have said this was a young wine; I didn’t find it as complex or robust as either the 2005 or 2002.  It was a fascinating contrast, and probably the most educative moment of the day for me.

Corton Grancey 1996 The oldest of the four wines presented in the flight, the 1996 was also the darkest in color, a rich, dusky garnet.  The nose also differed from the previous three.  Where they had an earthy spiciness to the nose, the 1996 was richer with an almost loamy earthiness – the spice remained, but it was a deeper, smokier spiciness.  The wine has a very soft, lush mouth feel, and overall I found it to be deeper, richer and more complex than the previous wines.  It retains the light notes of cherry, but they are very subtle, and the spiciness is smoother than in the other three.  Upon tasting this wine, I realized that the other three had stronger notes of pepper – although, interestingly, I needed the contrast with the 1996 to really notice the pepper in the others.  The spiciness here was more that of cumin – a lovely smoky, earthy warmth, rather than the spicy heat of pepper.   Finally, the 1996 develops over time – unlike the previous three which really did “expand in the mouth” as Michael Apstein described, the 1996 developed with each subsequent sip, as if the layering of flavors is what brings this wine alive.

I’m still hard-pressed to choose between any of the four, but I did find myself preferring the 2002 and the 1996 over the 2005 and 1999.  Of course the best way to determine my preference would be to get several bottles of each and revisit them over time.  At $50-$90 a bottle, though, my memories from the seminar will have to sustain me for now.

Next up… A vertical flight of Latour’s  Corton Charlemagne

Chillin’ at Lake Chelan

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Wine has been produced near Lake Chelan since 1891 by Italian immigrants and that 154 acres were planted as of 1949 only 260 acres are currently under cultivation. There are fifteen wineries in the AVA (with one on the way). Grape varietals grown in the region include Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The area is unique in the Columbia Valley due to the micro-climate created by the lake which increases the amount of time that fruit stays on the vine. This allows the additional development of complexity building phenols while keeping the sugars and acids in balance. Additionally glaciers on ice-age Lake Chelan left the appellation with a coarse, sandy soil that is full of quartz and mica.

The Lake Chelan AVA is yet another subset of the Columbia Valley and was designated in April of 2009. . The AVA application for Lake Chelan was delayed for several years as Alcohol and Tabacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) froze all petitions due to a controversy related to the Calistoga designation. It was determined that any winery that included the name of the AVA or substantially similar to it must source 85% of its grapes from within the region. This required five wineries in the AVA with “Chelan” in their names to comply with the regulation.

Nothing is ever simple…

Lake Chelan AVA

Firelands Wines

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

So after all that discussion of the Ohio and the Firelands, did I finally get around to tasting any wine? Of course I did!

Firelands Tasting RoomI began with the Pinot Grigio, currently the most popular wine according to the ladies in the tasting room. I could taste green apple and grass. It was a little less crisp than some of the pinot grigios than I have had in the past, but this is a good thing… Sometimes, those wines get too bitey and for some reason that makes the hinge of my jaw hurt. (I never said that logic was my strong suit).

Next up was the Riesling. This was advertised as tasting of apples but I thought it had more of a honeyed flavor that reminded me of pears. This is made in what I consider a more traditional style, in that it was semi-sweet. I love the new modern dry Rieslings as well, but there is something to be said for the full, fruity and floral tones of the traditional method.

I even sampled the Gewurztraminer which I had tasted with Henry Bishop, Rory and Kevin (albeit not the same vintage). It is still an excellent blend of tropical fruits and rose petals. The best of two different worlds.

Home Wine Making at FirelandsAdditionally, I tasted both the Pinot Noir (a wine that I have enjoyed from Great Lakes regions, i.e., Niagara Escarpment) and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet was herbal and lightly spicy and nicely dry. The Pinot Noir was smoke with anise and cherry.

Additional offerings under the Firelands label include:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Chardonnay
Barrel Select Chardonnay
Rose de St. George
Country Estate Red
Walleye White and
Ice Wine

Additional wines from the other Lonz, Inc. labels were available including the Mantey, Dover, Mon Ami and Lonz (from grapes produced on Middle Bass Island). I picked up a Mantey Cream Sherry for my father. He has always been a fan of Ohio sherries and am looking forward to tasting it with it in the near future (most likely Thanksgiving).

Additionally, the winery is a source for homewine makers and sells juice in the autumn (until it runs out).

Alba Winery ~ The Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, September 17, 2009.

Both Maree and I prefer reds, so we carefully coordinated our selections to ensure we got to try as many of them as possible.

Under the Alba Vineyards label, the winery produces three reds: Old Mill Red, Chambourcin, and a Pinot Noir.  Unfortunately the Chambourcin was temporarily out of stock, so we each selected one of the other two.

Old Mill Red Described as a “chianti-style” wine, this is a very drinkable, pleasant red table wine.  Made from a blend of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrown in, the wine is aged in american oak for 8-10 months.  The nose is rich with strong notes of dark berries and plum.  In the mouth there are also discernible notes of plum, and the oak provides a smoky finish.  I felt the wine would definitely benefit if allowed to breathe, as it was there was a sharpness in the mouth that is often found in wines with a strong percentage of Marechal Foch, and that usually mellows when allowed to breathe for 30 minutes or so.

2004 Pinot Noir The vineyard has only recently planted Pinot Noir grapes, and this is one of Alba’s first pressings.  For the 2004 vintage, the grapes came primarily from the New York Finger Lakes area and the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  The wine is a medium-bodied wine, although on the lighter side of medium.  There are lovely notes of cherry both in the nose and in the mouth, and there’s an interesting tanginess at the end.  This struck me as a young wine, and I wasn’t surprised to find that Alba has only just begun working in Pinot Noir.  For a newer wine, it is interesting, though, and I believe future vintages will grow richer and more complex.

Next we proceeded to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah of Chelsea Cellars.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon This was a lovely, very drinkable wine.  Medium-bodied with a soft dark-plum nose, the wine is rich and soft in the mouth.  On the palate the notes of plum are nicely balanced by touches of pepper and spice.  This would pair well with a wide variety of foods and should age well.  Definitely one of my favorites of the afternoon.

2005 Syrah I’ve been gravitating towards Cabernet Franc and Syrah lately, and the Chelsea Cellars Syrah didn’t disappoint.  The color is a dark red/purple – almost plum color.  The nose is smooth and light with notes of both cherry and plum.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has definite notes of plum and light notes of cherry which give it a brightness and freshness.  The finish is smooth with a nice balance of acid.  While I did like this wine, I definitely preferred the Cabernet, finding it a more interesting and complex wine.

We finished up the tasting with selections from among the Dessert wines.  Maree, who loves blueberries and had never tried blueberry wine, gave that one a whirl.  I, who have been tasting a fair amount of fruit wines lately, went with the Dolcina, an ice-wine style dessert wine.

Blueberry Wine When they say blueberry, they aren’t kidding.  The smell and taste of blueberry is predominant in both the nose and mouth.  Interestingly, though, it’s not overwhelming.  Like their Apple and Raspberry wines, Alba’s Blueberry wine is sweetened solely from the fruit and the result is a flavor that comes very close to blueberries straight from the vine.  It’s a rich, deep flavor that evokes … summer.  This will pair exceptionally well with chocolate or cheesecake as well as with fruit and cheese.  It would also be good sipped on it’s own as an aperitif.  Winner of the 2009 Governor’s Cup for Best Dessert wine.

Dolcina Described as an “ice-wine” style, the grapes are harvested late in the season (but not technically late-harvest) and cyrogenically frozen to produce that rich, velvety sweetness that one finds in ice wines.  The nose has notes of honey and apricot, and the mouth feel is soft and smooth.  In the mouth, the notes apricot and honey blend harmoniously, with neither one being predominant.  Definitely a nice dessert wine, but I found it didn’t have the depth and character of the true Ice Wines of the Niagara region or Germany.

Dead Soldiers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve, Editor

Here are some of the wines that we consumed with our Christmas feast. Before you get too judgemental, there were five adults at dinner and it was a leisurely dinner. Most of the wines that we had were red, including a Tablas Creek Syrah, a Warm Lake Estate Pinot Noir (which didn’t get photographed) but also a Riesling from Luxembourg. These wines were drunk with my homemade Turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck and then stuffed into a turkey), salad, scalloped potatoes, Cajun dressing and creamed spinach.

After dinner, it was coffee, a cranberry and orange trifle (made with pannetone) and my homemade liqueur, Fiori di Sicilia…

I hope that your holiday feasts turned out as well!

Happy Holidays!

Doesn’t it figure?

I get a chance to try something unique wine-wise and I have no camera on me. or note pad.

We were finishing up basket for the evening. One of the girls is in the midst of a tournament.. on that will continue on to next weekend…sigh.

After the game we headed over to the house of friends that live near the high school hosting the tournament. We brought them a lovely Albarino that we had had during a 777 event at David Burke’s Primehouse

We never got to crack it open though, because Tom had a bottle waiting for us. A German red wine! When it was poured, it reminded me of the German Pinot Noir’s that Kevin and I had seen at last year’s Pinot Days. But this wine held one more surprise for us.

It was sweet.

Not a cloying sweet that you sometimes get with German whites. But fruity and full with an earthy smell.

Now the bad part. Between chatting and playing with babies, I forgot to write down the name of the wine! D’oh! What was I thinking. Unfortunately, I can say that I wasn’t.

Mea culpa to you all out there! I let the fun overcome my sense wine bloggership.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!