Spending Time With… McLaughlin Vineyard’s Coyote Blue

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Hats off to Gretchen for covering for me this week.  I usually try to stay ahead of my posting – writing at least one or two posts a weekend.  If I’m really good, I can often be 3 or 4 weeks ahead, taking the pressure off if I don’t have time to sit down on a particular weekend.

Unfortunately, I skipped too many weekends recently, and the posts caught up with me.  And of course it would happen on a week when I was scheduled to be out of town at a conference.  Oh well…  I’ll get back on track for next week.

So if I wasn’t writing posts – what was I doing last weekend you ask?  Well, as it was Halloween and quite chilly here in New England, I built a fire in the fireplace, roasted a pork loin, opened a bottle of McLaughlin’s Coyote Blue wine and waited for the trick-or-treaters.

McLaughlin Vineyards was one of the first wineries I visited when I began my Connecticut Win(e)ding Road adventures just about 2 years ago.  I like their wines, the coziness of the winery and tasting room, and most importantly love hanging out with Dee, the winery host.  I find myself returning fairly regularly and often dragging friends and relatives along with me.  I’ve been back a number of times since that first trip, including attending one of their Blind Tasting events at which great fun was had by all.

On one of my earliest jaunts, I picked up a bottle of McLaughin’s most popular white, the Coyote Blue, a blend of Aurore (add another grape to the wine century list!) and Vidal Blanc grapes.  At the time of the tasting I found myself really drawn to the hint of  green apple in this semi-sweet wine.  The balance of the green apple tartness of the Aurore with the sweet Vidal grapes made for a rather appealing wine; certainly one I wanted to get to know a bit better.

I recently pulled that bottle out of the cellar where it had been for probably a good 18 months.  I’m not sure why I waited so long to open it, but now am glad I did.  The additional bottle aging softened the wine a bit; it’s lost some of the tart crispness I noted during my initial tasting, but the apple feels more integrated with the wine overall.   Keeping to my “spending time with…” protocols, the first glass was drunk on its own, not paired with food.  The nose was a bit musty with earthy notes, making me worry that perhaps I had left the wine too long before drinking.  But my fears were for naught.   The wine retains much of the sweet richness of the vidal blanc grapes which provide a nice context for the apple notes.  There’s still a touch of tartness on the finish which balances the sweetness and results in a more satisfying wine.

My second glass I paired a roast pork loin with rosemary potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.  I deliberately chose the wine because of the apple notes which, as to be expected, paired well with the pork.  Together the two were a really nice complement.  The pork and rosemary softened some of the green apple tartness of the wine, while the apple, not surprisingly, really brought out the richness of the pork.  I’ve often paired hard cider with pork, but found myself really liking the softer, yet still crisp, notes of the apple in the wine.  It’s a more delicate balance and worked well with this meal.

As that was the only bottle of Coyote Blue in the cellar, I expect next weekend will find me back on the road heading west to Newtown for yet another stop at McLaughlin.

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…