Qorkz.com – For Hidden Wine Gems

Do you wish you were in Napa or Sonoma right now? (Don ‘t we all?)

Want to find that winery that is a hidden gem that is off the beaten path? The ones that have such a small production you have the upper hand with your friends and family? Especially when they rave about the wine you are serving?

Well, I, your VinoVerve Editrix has been working secretly to bring these kinds of wines to you. Welcome to Qorkz Wine.

These wines are made by passionate winemakers who want to share their craft with you.

We are scouring California (for now and eventually around the country and maybe even the world) to find these treats for you!

You all know how much I enjoy looking for these treats… so please, enjoy!

We will have more choices to come!

 

 

Moon Mountain District Sonoma County

Frontispiece of Jack London's Valley of the Moon

Frontispiece of Jack London’s, “Valley of the Moon”, 1913, The Macmillan Company, Ny

Now that I am out and about again, I wasted no time high tailing it out of town to visit some new wineries. The first on the list was Repris Wines in the Moon Mountain District.  This post will explore this eerie landscape and I will discuss the winery in the next.

Moon Mountain District is located within Sonoma Valley across the eastern ridge from the Mt. Veeder AVA (or the Sonoma-Napa border, if you will…). The name of the area is based on the mistaken belief that the local indigenous peoples referred to Sonoma Valley as the “Valley of the Moon”.  At least the last Mexican governor of the area did, as well as Jack London, who wrote a book with that title.  While there was a “valley” of the moon, there was no associated mountain.  That has all changed.  After asking the USGS  nicely to designate a “Moon Mountain”, the people were finally rewarded (57 years later).  The peak is located east of Mt. Pisgah and south of Bismark Knob.

The appellation ranges from 400-2,200 feet above sea level and is known for its series of medium sloped hills that build upon one another. This leaves the terrain with little pockets of terroir that receive different amounts of sunlight and different airflows.  The majority of the region faces the west to maximize the amount of sunlight that the vines receive as well as maximizing the intensity.  Cool day time temperatures from the Pacific have warmed up by the time they reach Moon Mountain and night time fogs roll down the mountain to keep the  vines from freezing.  The temperatures in the area provide almost double the growing degree days in the area making it a perfect location for growing Zinfandel and other long hanging grapes.

image of lava outcrop, Moon MountainThe geology of the area is a mixture of andesite and basalt lava flows from the Sonoma volcanics that have been mixed with gravels.  The resulting soils are brown and shallow and very well drained allowing the grapes to grow deeply into the  hillside.  This gives the area a sometimes eerie look from these flows that are visible in places at the surface (thus the name Moon Mountain, perhaps?).  The brown soils are largely of the Goulding series are volcanic and very well drained.

There are currently 11 bonded wineries and 40 commercial vineyards operating around Moon Mountain.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Umpqua Valley AVA

One man’s basin is another man’s valley.

The Umpqua is formed by three mountain ranges:  The Cascades, the Coastal Range and he Klamath, but often the area is often known as the 100 valleys of the Umpquas.  The Umpqua River runs through the valley but is no way responsible for the formation of this appellation.  The soils are a diverse mixture of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks with alluvial and clays dominating the valley floor and clays.  In fact, the contains at least 150 separate soil types.  The climate of the region is also varied with the northern areas being cool and  moist, the southern being warm and dry and the central area transitional.

Viticulture has been active since the 1880s when German settlers left California and headed north.  In the modern era winemaking was established in the early 1960s and has grown to at least 60 vineyards and 12 wineries.  The appellation also distinguishes itself by being the first place in the U.S. growing Grüner Veltliner.  Other varietals being produced include:

  • Albariño
  • Baco Noir
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminers
  • Grenache
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Kadarka
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot noir
  • Pinotage
  • Riesling
  • Roussane
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvigon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Valdiguie
  • Vermentino
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Southern Oregon AVA

While over time the focus has been on smaller and smaller wine regions, in 2004 the TTB went completely the other way, creating a super-AVA in the form of the Southern Oregon AVA. This region consists of the Umpqua, Rogue and Applegate Valleys and Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVAs as well as additional territory linking the regions together. The idea for the super-sized AVA was that of H. Earl Jones of Abacela and his son, associate professor of geography, Gregory V. Jones of Southern Oregon University. (editor’s note: See? I am not the only person with a degree in geography!) They evidence cited to justify the designation includes historical, cultural, climatic, geologic and geographical justifications for the creation of the viticultural area.

Historically, the region has been a wine producing area since the 1850s with modern viticulture restarting in the 1950s. From a cultural perspective, they cite the “physical and cultural” divisions of the state of which Southern Oregon is an example. The region is located south of Eugene to the California border largely within the Umpqua, Rogue, Applegate, Illinois and Bear Creek Valleys. The petition indicates that the soils in the area, while varied are older than those in the Willamette to the north or the coastal zones to the west and contain fewer silts from ancient oceans and lakes. The temperatures in the area are on average the warmest in the state which allows for the cultivation of warmer climate grapes as well as allowing for select microclimates that are perfect for colder acclimated varietals. Additionally, the elevations in the region are higher than the surrounds areas and it receives less rainfall.

The appellations is home to over fifty (50) wineries and produces wines from varietals including:

  • Albarino
  • Bastardo
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petit Verdot
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Cellardoor Winery ~ The Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Logo from Cellardoor Winery's website

I took my time over the tasting menu, and it was hard to settle on just six.  Some of the choices I passed up this trip included Celladoor’s Pinot Gris and Syrah, and some interesting red blends.  But I decided to go for wines that I, perhaps, don’t encounter quite as frequently, starting with the

Viognier Pale yellow in color, with a lovely, rich honeysuckle nose.  In the mouth the wine is dry and crisp with a really nice bite of acid on the finish.  Initially the wine is very smooth on the tongue, with light notes of peach in the front.  The wine is lightly oaked, providing a slight smokiness that gives it just a bit of bitterness with subsequent sips.  The smokiness should mellow slightly when paired with food, and this should be a very versatile wine for pairing.

Cellardoor’s website features a wine & food pairing section, providing some very specific suggestions and featuring recipes for some of those suggestions.  For the Viognier, they suggest pairing it with “wild mushroom risotto, mussels in white wine sauce, spicy Thai peanut chicken, or camembert cheese topped with apricot morstada.”  An interesting range…

Vino DiVine I only chose 2 whites that afternoon, and for my second selected Cellardoor’s Vidal Blanc, Vino DiVine.  The color is also a very pale yellow, although it is slightly darker than the Viognier.  The nose surprised me a bit – very light, very subtle with the barest hints of citrus.   Unoaked, the wine, while dry, was a bit sweeter than than the Viognier, which is what one would expect from a Vidal Blanc.  Citrus notes predominate across the palate with light sweet/tart notes of grapefruit and the rich, but slightly bitter, notes of orange zest/orange pith.  There’s a higher level of acid in this wine, and I found it hit the tongue in the middle rather than in the back, where I’m more used to finding it.  As a result it gives the wine a bit of tanginess that worked well with the citrus notes.  There also were subtle notes of earthiness from some light mineral content that balanced the wine, toning down slightly the brightness of the citrus.  A very interesting wine, and of the two whites, my favorite.

Cellardoor’s recommended food pairings include “fresh chilled shrimp dipped in a spicy pepper sauce, lobster salad with a mango dressing, soft goat cheese with tarragon, or fish and chips.”

Prince Valiant My first selection from among the reds was a blend of Zinfandel (46%), Mouvedre (23%), Tempranillo (23%) and Malbec (8%).  I was as intrigued by the grape combination as I was caught by the name.  The color is a medium purple, and the nose is fruity and lightly peppery.  In the mouth, the wine is definitely fruit forward with notes of black raspberry hitting right on the front.  There are strong notes of pepper and spice on the finish, and over time the pepper’s heat starts to dominate.  I found this to be an interesting wine, and I don’t think a 1 oz tasting does it justice – although one could say that about any wine.  But in this case, I think the wine is more complex than I was able to appreciate from just a tasting.  Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to bring a cooler and ice packs with me on this trip.  I think the fact that I was staying overnight threw me, and I didn’t pack as I would for a normal day on the wine trails.  As the day was pretty warm, I didn’t want to ruin the wine by buying a bottle only to have to leave it in the car on a hot afternoon, so I’ll just have to make the sacrifice of making another trip to Maine in the future.

Cellardoor’s suggested pairings: bbq pork ribs, aged cheeses, and hard salami.

Artist Series Grenache Each year, Cellardoor crafts one limited edition wine and pairs with a local artist who produces the painting featured on the label for their “Artist Series.”  20% of the proceeds of the sale of this wine is donated to the Bay Chamber Concerts, a music festival and school in nearby Camden, Maine.  This year, the Artist Series wine is a double-gold award winning Grenache.

The color is a lovely rich ruby color.  The nose is fruity with rich notes of plum and black raspberry.  In the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied, smooth on the front and strong tannins on the finish.  More lush than the Prince Valiant, the wine opens up in the mouth.  There are light berry notes and some earthiness on the front, and smoky pepper on the finish.  The heat of the pepper starts at the back of the mouth and actually extends into the chest, and one of the things I noted is that the finish hits the back of the nose as well as the throat.  It might not be to everyone’s liking, but I found the wine to be a more fully sensory experience than I often experience.  I really liked this wine, and will definitely be going back for seconds, or perhaps ordering a bottle or two from Cellardoor’s website.

Recommended pairings: “rich cheeses, duck, wild game, and salmon.”

Monti al Mare “Mountains & Sea,” my final wine of the day was a Chianti-style blend of Sangiovese (70%), Malbec (24%) and Syrah (6%).  The color is a dark, bright ruby, and those is fruity, rich, and lush with notes of black currant.  Medium-bodied, the wine has the smoothest finish of the three reds I tasted that afternoon, and lovely notes of dark berries, black cherry and plum.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a bite of heat, but note enough to overpower the wine or the smoothness of the finish.   I liked this wine, and if I had brought a cooler, would definitely have picked up a bottle for more leisurely sampling later.  But I still found that Grenache calling to me; I don’t know if I would say it was my favorite of the afternoon, but it was definitely the one I was most intrigued by.

Cellardoor’s suggested food pairings for the Monti al Mare include “baked pasta, herb-encrusted rack of lamb, and aged cheeses.”

With only one selection remaining, I left the reds and moved on to the dessert wines.  I’m a sucker for dessert wines, loving their lush, silky sweetness – and if there’s a dessert wine on the menu, it will usually find it’s way onto my tasting menu.

Serendipity Of Cellardoor’s several “Maine-inspired” wines, I opted for a dry Riesling infused with 20% pure Maine maple syrup.  To date, or at least as well as I can remember, I have only tried one other maple wine, the Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur which I found at last year’s Vermont Wine Festival.  While, obviously not as rich or concentrated as a liqueur, Cellardoor’s Serendipity is a lovely dessert wine.  Pale gold in color, the nose is almost vidal-like with a rich, sweetly fruity nose similar to an ice wine.  In the mouth, the wine is rich and smooth with a touch of apricot from the riesling balancing the dominant, but not overpowering, note of the maple syrup.  The result is very interesting – in my notes, I likened it to fruit pancakes in a glass.  Definitely worth inclusion among anyone’s tasting selections.

With my tasting finished, I made a mental note to stop again on a future Maine trip, although perhaps next time at the vineyards themselves.

More Washington Places

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I hate this time of year. I can’t hit the road and explore the way I would like to as there are too many things going on here. (Birthdays, Superbowls, etc.) So, instead? I make plans and dream of hitting the road.

And with a trip to Washington State coming up at the end of the June that gives me some time to think about where I will be going. Washington is full of viticultural areas that are mostly part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. I am working on exploring the smaller viticultural areas first.. and began with Walla Walla since that is where I will be visiting.

This time, I am exploring the Yakima Valley. Years ago, Kevin and I drove around parts of Washington State and got pretty close to Yakima. It was an amazing place. Highly irrigated, the area is a fruit belt. Orchards of apples, peaches and even a town called Apricot (which we passed). The rest of the area not being irrigated looks like a moonscape. It is dry and desolate and I was amazed by the difference between the lush valleys and bleak hills.

That being said, the area is home to nearly 50 wineries and has cultivated wine grapes since 1869. The main varietals planted are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Sangiovese, Malbec, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier.

Hopefully, I will be able see some of these wineries on my trip west. Oh, and like my map of of the Central Delaware Valley AVA, I find a recognizable shape in this map. Instead of a dragon, today, I see a whale. In fact, given that I grew up on the East Coast, I see Fudgie The Whale, the beloved ice cream cake shape from Carvel. I won’t test this theory by inverting the shape to see if I can identify the equally beloved Cookie Puss. But you East Coasters will understand my drift….
Yakima Valley AVA

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

+1-860-930-9198

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.

Win(e)ding roads: Highlights from the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

THE REDS

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
Some of the more interesting finds among the Reds at the Sun Winefest included:

Greenpoint Shiraz 2005 Australia Nice smooth, earthy Shiraz. Has a slight bite at the end, but I suspect pairing it with food will do much to smooth that out.

Lot 205 Petite Sirah California Deep plum color, rich and fruity. Detected notes of berries.  One of the wines I starred for future purchase.

Alma Negra Bonarda Malbec Chile  A blend of 60% bonarda and 40% malbec grapes, this is smooth, earthy, dry wine.   It finishes with a slight bite that is a hallmark of Malbec grapes.  Interesting wine.  I also really liked the label, and when I asked about it, the distributor informed me that Alma Negra refers to “Other face,” and the label was designed to evoke that sense of mystery.
Faustina V Reserva Rioja Spain According to the distributor the Faustina V Reserva is a Rioja made in the “traditional style.”  Aged in French Oak, the wine is earthy and deep, with a slight mustiness to the nose.   We were encouraged to taste it back-to-back with the…
Condesa de Leganza Crianza Spain  A tempranillo from the La Mancha region of Spain, this is a deep, rich, fruity wine.  Very smooth, with a rich, complex bouquet, the distributor described it as being more in the spirit of California wines.  It was interesting to taste the two wines back-to-back; the rioja with its strong earthiness and the tempranillo with its bright fruitiness.  Even given the differences attributed to the grapes and the regions, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of different styles of winemakeing.
Chateau d’Aussieres Vin de Pays Ausseries D’Oc Rouge 2006 Languedoc-Rousillon A medium-bodied red with a rich, earthy bouquet.   Like the 2006 Blanc, a nice table wine.
Avia Shiraz Chile Medium-bodied, smooth wine.  Priced under $10 US, this is a nice affordable every-day red.
Avia Merlot Chile Another medium-bodied red, with nice notes of berries.  Also priced under $10 US, a nice affordable Merlot.  I used to drink Chilean wines more frequently than I have been lately.  While I’ve never found large selections of Chilean wines unless I go to a large wine specialty store, it does seem like fewer and fewer Chilean wines are available in local shops and outlets these days.  It’s a shame, because as I found with these two wines, the Chilean reds are smooth, interesting wines that are very affordable.
Windmill Estates Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi From the Michael~David Family of Wines, the Old Vine Zin is fruity, with strong notes of cherry and plum in both the bouquet and on the palate; overall a really nice Zin, but not a standout like their more recognized wine…
7 Deadly Zins  Lodi Michael~David’s “flagship wine,” this is a wine I’ve had often before.  A combination of zinfandel grapes from 7 different wineries (hence the name), this is a rich, fruity, absolutely gorgeous wine.  One of my all time favorite zins.