Tag Archives: 2010

Seduce Your Senses with Fifty Shades of Grey Wine

Want to add some spice to your Valentine’s Day? Or maybe something sweet is more your style?

Titillate your taste buds with a glass of Fifty Shades of Grey White Silk or Red Satin, wines inspired by the sensual series.

As Anastasia Steele would say, “oh my!”

50 Shades of Grey wineAuthor and wine enthusiast E.L. James drew inspiration from the romance between Anastasia and Christian for the white and red wines. She collaborated with winemakers in California’s North Coast region to craft each blend.

The White Silk 2012 is mainly Gewurztraminer with some Sauvignon Blanc. Cold fermentation and stainless steel aging were used to preserve the fresh fruit characters. The wine is gently sweet, with floral aromas and flavors of white grapefruit, tangerine, honeysuckle, orange blossom and lychee. Jasmine and sweet citrus linger on the delicate finish.

The Red Satin 2010 is a blend of Petite Sirah and Syrah that was aged in new and seasoned French oak barrels. Seductive aromas of blackberry, cocoa and spice lead into flavors of black cherry, plum, clove, smoke and leather. Well balanced with good acidity and velvety tannins, the wine will appeal to even those who haven’t read the books.

Enjoy the wines with aphrodisiacs like oysters or foie gras with the White Silk, and filet mignon or dark chocolate with the Red Satin.

Each bottle costs $17.99. To find out where the wines are sold or to order online, visit www.fiftyshadeswine.com.

With Fifty Shades of Grey wines, there’s no tastier way to tell your Valentine –

You. Are. Mine.

13.5% alcohol by volume

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Cultivate Wines: Socially Responsible Sipping

Sharing a bottle of wine has long been a social activity. The team at Cultivate Wines believes it should be a socially responsible activity as well.

Cultivate WinesCultivate’s founders Ali and Charles Banks believe that with this mission, for-profit companies have the potential to impact the world. For every dollar in sales, Cultivate gives ten cents back to local communities. Since its launch in 2011, Cultivate has donated more than $400,000 to charities that help fund opportunity and hope.

The Banks have decades of experience in find wine — as the former owners of Screaming Eagle and owners of Terroir Selections, whose profile includes Sandhi, Mayacamas, Mulderbosch and Leviathan.

While the wines for Cultivate come from all over the globe, they share qualities that make them approachable and easy to drink. Director of Winemaking Nat Gunter searches for vineyard sites and growers with unique stories or personalities. The winemaking team tastes thousands of juice samples to ensure quality and variety.

Cultivate WinesFor an introduction to Cultivate Wines, the Amateur Gastronomer suggests the Dream Walking 2010 Chardonnay or the Copa Cabana 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère.

The Dream Walking Chardonnay comes from Mendocino and Santa Rita Hills in California. It’s a classic California Chardonnay, with aromas of apple and tropical fruits introducing a palate of Meyer lemon, pineapple, golden apple, chamomile and marzipan. The wine is smooth and round in the mouth, with lingering notes of citrus and sweet almond.

The Copa Cabana is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenère and 10% Syrah from Curicó in Chile’s Central Valley. It’s a ripe and juicy red, with a crowd-pleasing mix of fruit and spice. Flavors of boysenberry, blackcurrant, plum and blackberry jam mingle with black pepper, clove and leather. Smooth tannins give the wine a nice texture and finish.

Cultivate Wines are wallet-friendly too. The Dream Walking Chardonnay costs $18, and the Copa Cabana costs $12.

For more information on Cultivate Wines visit www.cultivatewines.com.

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Chimney Rock: Showcasing Stags Leap

Driving along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District, you can’t miss Chimney Rock’s bright white Cape Dutch-style estate. Though the building was influenced by architecture in South Africa (where the original owner worked as an executive at Pepsi Cola), the wine has always been true to place.

Chimney Rock“Our wine should paint a picture of the appellation,” said Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock’s winemaker. Elizabeth visited Atlanta in June and shared the winery’s history and a taste of their current releases.

Hack and Stella Wilson purchased what was then the Chimney Rock golf course in 1980. They dug up the first nine holes with the ideal of making small production, high quality estate-grown wine. Today Chimney Rock is owned by the Terlato family who, in partnership with the Wilsons in 2001, dug up the second nine holes to plant more vines. Elizabeth joined as winemaker in 2002.

Chimney Rock’s focus is on red wine, Bordeaux varieties in particular. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and a small amount of Malbec are grown on their Stags Leap District estate. Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris are grown just north in Rutherford. The goal is to grow the best fruit possible. To achieve this Elizabeth is very active in the vineyards, pruning vines and monitoring the grapes’ growth.

Elizabeth’s passion for wine and winemaking is clear when she speaks about Chimney Rock. “I think about this as abstract art,” she said, “because it’s about shape, about texture.”

Chimney Rock winesThe artistry comes in once the grapes have been harvested – blending the grapes, stirring the lees and determining the use of oak – to produce high quality wines that capture the essence of the Stags Leap District.

“I think there’s an honesty to our wines. We want to be truthful to the vintage and place.”

With the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Elizabeth aimed to showcase the purity of the fruit. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, and did not spend time in oak or undergo malolactic fermentation. There was some stirring of the lees to give the wine a more creamy mouthfeel.

You won’t find grassy notes in this wine. The 2012 Chimney Rock Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and lively, with crisp flavors of stone fruit, white peach and golden pear.

Elevage BlancRich, lush and layered are the adjectives that come to mind when describing the 2010 Elevage Blanc. The Bordeaux-style white wine is a blend of 88% Sauvignon Blanc and 12% Sauvignon Gris. New and used French oak as well as lees stirring were used to enhance the flavors and texture.

The Elevage Blanc is wonderfully aromatic and velvety smooth. Mouth-filling flavors of white apricot, nectarine and lemon meringue are layered with white flowers, chamomile and a hint of vanilla. This is a wine that can age for an additional five to fifteen years.

Elizabeth’s objective with the 2009 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon was to show off Stags Leap District fruit. The wine spent 18 to 20 months in French oak barrels, and has a small percentage of Merlot.

The 2009 Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is intense yet refined. Aromas of black cherry introduce a palate of ripe dark fruit. Blackberry, cassis and plum mix with sweet cedar and vanilla. It’s smooth and supple in the mouth, and culminates in a satisfying finish with lingering berry notes.

ElevageWhile the Stags Leap District Cabernet is all about the fruit of the AVA, the 2010 Elevage is all about the texture, according to Elizabeth. The proprietary red is a blend of 56% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot (the percentages of grapes vary each year in both the Elevage and Elevage Blanc). The wine was aged in 100% new oak barrels from Burgundy, selected because they impart more elegance to the wine.

The 2010 Elevage is a wine to plan your meal around. Soft, velvety smooth and sophisticated, it’s the most feminine of Chimney Rock’s red wines. The Elevage has delicate flavors of cassis, blackberry and boysenberry, woven together with layers of black pepper, black tea and vanilla. Big tannins are balanced by the wine’s acidity. Ending with a long finish, the Elevage is a pleasure to sip. This wine can age for an additional 8 to 10 years.

For more information on Chimney Rock visit www.chimneyrock.com.

Bottle shots of Elevage and Elevage Blanc from Chimney Rock’s website

De Martino Winery: Reinventing Chile

“Reinventing Chile” is more than just a tagline for De Martino. It’s both a mission statement and a vision – to produce wines that are not just exceptional for Chile, but truly world-class.

De Martino wines“We want to show people that Chile can produce exciting wines,” said export director Guy Hooper, who visited in Atlanta in March.

De Martino was founded in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone who came to Chile’s Maipo Valley from Italy. De Martino is still family owned and operated; today the third and fourth generations of the family work in the winery.

De Martino is committed to the environment. They began organic farming in 1998, and were certified organic in 2000. In 2009 they became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America.

Chile MapThe grapes for De Martino wines come from their 740 acres in the Maipo Valley as well as other locations in Chile. In their aim to produce the best wine, the winemaking team has sought out the best conditions for each grape. The Chardonnay comes from the Limarí Valley, a cool climate region approximately 12 to 14 miles from the Pacific that has similar soil to Chablis. The mild to warm climate of the Maipo Valley is best suited for Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Syrah comes from the rocky soil of the Choapa Valley, located at 2,500 feet above sea level. Click the map to enlarge.

De Martino Legado Reserva Chardonnay“Limarí is the future of Chilean Chardonnay,” said Guy, pouring a taste of the 2011 Legado Reserva Chardonnay. Clean, pure and authentic, the wine has elegant citrus and white flower notes. The use of older oak barrels softens out the acidic edges but does not overwhelm the crisp fruit flavors (half of the wine spent 8 to 9 months in used French oak barrels). This is an ideal Chardonnay for those who have gotten tired of the over-oaked trend.

De Martino achieves its goal to produce world-class wines with its Carmenere, as befitting the signature grape of Chile (De Martino was actually the first Chilean winery to export Carmenere).

Love Carmenere or never tasted it? These wines are for you.

The 2011 Estate Carmenere has spice and black pepper aromas, with flavors of ripe cherry, gentle tannins and a touch of sage and sweet oak on the smooth finish. The 2010 Legado Reserva Carmenere has notes of black cherry, boysenberry and black pepper. It’s velvety smooth in the mouth, with well-balanced acidity and restrained tannins that make it a great pairing with grilled meats.

De Martino’s Cabernet Sauvignon shows just how well this grape is suited for the Maipo Valley. The 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and fruit-forward with flavors of boysenberry, black currant and a touch of bell pepper. Forty percent of the wine spent 4 to 5 months in used French oak barrels, which adds an extra layer of complexity.

De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet SauvignonThe grapes for the 2010 Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon came from two vineyards – one with colluvial soil and one with alluvial soil. The first produces grapes that add intense flavors and aromas to the wine, while the second adds finesse and freshness. The Legado Reserva spent 12 months in used French barrels. This wine has flavors of black cherry, fig and mocha, with an elegant structure that makes it easy and pleasing to drink.

Great care was taken in the vineyards to ensure the grapes would not burn or over-ripen, to make sure that the wine would not have too high an alcohol content. The Chardonnay, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon are 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Guy ended the tasting with the impressive 2010 Legado Reserva Syrah. Reinvent Chile this wine does – whereas Syrah is generally grown in the warmer Colchagua Valley, the grapes for De Martino’s Syrah come from the Choapa Valley in northern Chile. Located in the Andes Mountains at Chile’s narrowest point, the Choapa Valley is dry and rocky. It gets an average of 4.5 inches of rain per year, versus the Colchagua Valley’s 23.2 inches. This results in a lower yield of high quality, high acidity grapes.

The Legado Reserva Syrah is supple and elegant, with flavors of plum, blackberry and cherry, and the faintest hint of vanilla from 14 months of aging in used French oak barrels. This wine exemplifies how world-class Chilean wine can be.

De Martino’s focus is not just on producing premium wines – it’s on producing wines that are a good value. Most of De Martino’s wines (including the wines in this article) are in the $10 to $20 range. All are intended to pair easily with food. Look for De Martino wines at grocery stores, wine shops and restaurants.

For more information on De Martino visit www.demartino.cl.

Truchard Vineyards: Wines from Carneros

By Robin Alix Austin

The Truchard story is a story about farming. Tony Truchard is a farmer, first and foremost – as described by his son Anthony, who visited Atlanta in March for the High Museum Wine Auction.

Truchard VineyardsDirt-coated fingernails, a pickup truck and long hours planting, tending and pruning – Anthony paints a vivid picture of his father. Even in his 70s, Tony is still out in the vineyards as often as possible, truly committed to the quality of his grapes.

Tony and Jo Ann Truchard were among the pioneers of grape growing in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. They purchased a 20 acre parcel of land there in 1974, and in 1989 established a winery producing wines made from estate-grown fruit. Today Truchard Estate Vineyard is 400 acres of which 270 are planted; in addition to making their own wine the Truchards sell grapes to more than 20 Napa Valley wineries. Winemaker Sal De Ianni joined the team in 1998.

Farming has always been a family affair. From the age of 10, Anthony and his brother John (who owns John Anthony Vineyards), were out in the vineyards with their father. This connection – to farming and family – is felt when you speak with Anthony. After sharing a glass of wine with Anthony and his wife Suzanne, you’ll feel like you’re a part of the Truchard family.

As any winemaker will tell you, good wine starts in the vineyard. The Truchard family puts as much care into crafting their wines as they do cultivating the grapes. Each bottle tells a story – of the terroir, the technique and the hands-on approach to making wines.

Among the many delicious Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that were tasted during the High Museum Wine Auction, the ones from Truchard Vineyards stood out.

Truchard ChardonnayThe 2011 Chardonnay is fresh and bright, with flavors of golden apple, ripe pear and Meyer lemon. Oak adds soft layers of vanilla and baking spices. The finish is crisp, with lingering citrus. ($30, 13.9% alcohol)

The 2010 Pinot Noir is supple and silky in the mouth, with berry aromas that expand on the palate. Plum, raspberry, strawberry and cherry cola mingle with flavors of black tea and vanilla, supported by gentle tannins and well-balanced acidity. ($35, 13.9% alcohol)

Following the High Museum Wine Auction, I had the opportunity to taste Truchard’s Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Truchard Pinot NoirThe 2010 Syrah has rich flavors of blackberry and boysenberry, with cedar and earthy notes adding depth. Present tannins give the wine a pleasant mouthfeel, and the elegant finish has lingering vanilla and allspice. ($30, 14.3% alcohol)

The 2010 Cabernet Franc draws you in with intense black fruit and spice aromas. Mouth-filling flavors of black currant and plum give way to tobacco, black pepper and vanilla, culminating in a long and satisfying finish. ($35, 14.2% alcohol)

Deep ties to Carneros, a passion for farming and a dedication to expertly-crafted wines – the Truchard family’s story can be tasted in every bottle.

For more information visit www.truchardvineyards.com.

Images from Truchard’s website

A Passion for Terroir at St. Innocent

To hear president and winemaker Mark Vlossak talk about the wines of St. Innocent is like listening to a conductor describe conducting a symphony. Each element in crafting a wine has its own role, whether it’s the grape, soil, weather, yeast or oak (new barrels, used barrels or none). When the winemaker brings together the melody of the grape with the harmony of all other variables, the finished wine is a true work of art.

St Innocent winesSt. Innocent Winery produces small lots of handcrafted, vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and white wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The name comes from the middle name of Mark’s father, though apparently he acted not so innocently every once in a while. Mark aims to produce wines that capture the essence of the grape and the terroir of each site, using oak only when complementary. The texture of each wine is important to Mark, as is its ability to pair with and enhance food.

St. Innocent practices sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming on its estate vineyard of Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and leases blocks of vineyards from other Oregon growers who use these methods.

Mark shared five exceptional wines from St. Innocent Winery during the High Museum Wine Auction:

St. Innocent Chardonnay & Pinot BlancThe 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Blanc is Alsatian in style. Most of the wine was fermented in stainless steel, while a little less than one-third was fermented in neutral barrels; this was done to preserve the delicate fruit flavors while adding texture. The wine spent eight months aging on the lees before it was bottled. The St. Innocent Pinot Blanc has apple, melon and white apricot flavors that mingle with white flowers and ginger. Refreshing minerality and well-balanced acidity add depth and structure. The finish is crisp and dry. The Pinot Blanc is great at lunchtime or with hors d’oeuvres outdoors on a warm evening; it also pairs well with shellfish, ceviche, white fish, salads or Asian or spicy dishes.
($20, 12.5% alcohol)

The 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Chardonnay is made entirely from Dijon clones. In crafting this wine Mark sought the fully ripened fruit and rich texture of white Burgundy while capturing the terroir of Freedom Hill Vineyard. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, then barrel fermented in used French oak barrels. The wine aged on the lees for one year. The mineral makeup of the vineyard comes through in this Chardonnay, layered with delicate flavors of golden apple, pear and lemon. The finish is clean, with just a whisper of toasted almond. Pair this wine with seafood, risotto, chicken or other small birds.
($24, 13% alcohol)

St. Innocent Pinot NoirThe 2011 Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from Vitae Springs Vineyard and grapes from young vines at Zenith, Freedom Hill and Momtazi Vineyards. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged for 12 months in 16% new French oak barrels. Red berry and violet aromas introduce a palate of fresh raspberry and cherry, with layers of black pepper and baking spice. Pair the Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir with chicken, pork, full-flavored pasta dishes, duck or sausage. ($24, 12.5% alcohol)

The grapes in the 2010 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir came from the McMinnville AVA in the northern Willamette Valley. After fermentation in small stainless steel barrels and French oak the wine was aged for 16 months in 38% new French oak. Complex and intense, this medium bodied wine has flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, cherry and blueberry. These are complemented by earthy notes of spice, black truffle and forest floor. The Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir is silky smooth in the mouth, with gentle tannins and well-balanced acidity. Mark suggests pairing this wine with braised meats, stews, sausages, cassoulet or cheese. ($32, 13% alcohol)

Like the previous wine, the 2010 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir was fermented in small stainless steel barrels and French oak, then spent 16 months aging in French oak barrels (31% new). Rich and elegant, this Pinot Noir has flavors of boysenberry, red currant and olallieberry layered with roasted fig, white pepper, allspice, dried rose petals and a hint of candied orange peel. Pair this wine with hearty chicken or pork dishes, ratatouille, lasagna, grilled lamb or filet mignon. ($42, 13.5%)

For more information on St. Innocent Winery visit stinnocentwine.com.

AG Pick: Clos LaChance Wines

Big in flavor but not in price, Clos LaChance wines are easy to drink and can be enjoyed at a variety of occasions.

Clos LaChance winesLocated in San Martin, in the northern part of California’s Central Coast, Clos LaChance is family owned and operated. Bill and Brenda Murphy focus on creating wines of distinction using sustainable winegrowing practices and a mix of modern winemaking technology and old world philosophy.

The grapes come from 150 acres of estate vineyards in San Martin and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Clos LaChance Sauv BlancThe 2011 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is 87% Sauvignon Blanc and 13% Semillon. Fresh and floral, this white wine has flavors of lemon, lime, white grapefruit and white peach, with a hint of sweet honeysuckle and subtle grassy undertones. Gentle acidity gives the wine a pleasing mouthfeel, and the finish is clean and refreshing. Enjoy the Clos LaChance Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif or with salads, white fish, shrimp or spicy dishes. ($11, 13.9% alcohol by volume)

Clos LaChance ZinThe 2010 Estate Zinfandel includes 11% Petit Sirah. The wine was aged for 14 months in 20% new American oak barrels.

Ripe berries dominate on the nose and palate. Flavors of blackberry, cherry and boysenberry are complemented by a touch of white pepper and thyme, with lingering spice on the smooth finish. Pair the Clos LaChance Zinfandel with grilled meats, barbecue or pizza. ($15, 15% alcohol by volume)

Clos LaChance CabernetThe 2009 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon includes 12% Malbec and 2% Merlot. The wine spent 16 months in 30% new French oak barrels and 5% new American oak barrels.

Bright and fruit-forward, this wine has flavors of black plum, blackberry, cherry and raspberry. Layers of cedar and tobacco add depth. Well-integrated tannins give the wine a velvety mouthfeel, and the finish is soft with a lingering hint of vanilla. Pair the Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon with beef, lamb, hamburgers or grilled or roasted red meats. ($15, 13.8% alcohol by volume)

For more information on Clos LaChance visit www.clos.com.

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Red Wines from the Finger Lakes

Regular readers know that the Amateur Gastronomer is a fan of Riesling from the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. But how do their red wines taste? We were invited to find out in a virtual tasting, sipping the wines while learning about them via a live online broadcast. As we discovered, French grapes and Bordeaux-style blends fare quite well, and some lesser-known grapes stand out.

Watch the winery representatives talk about the wines below:

The first wine was the 2011 Blackbird from Silver Thread Vineyard. The sustainably farmed vineyard was established in 1982 and purchased by Paul and Shannon Brock in 2011.

The Blackbird is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. Each variety was harvested, fermented and aged separately; the wine spent 8 months aging in French and American oak barrels that had an average age of 6 years.

Finger Lakes red winesThough 2011 was a difficult year – it rained 70% of the days in September and October – owner Shannon Brock said they were still able to harvest good quality grapes.

The 2011 Blackbird was light to medium bodied, with flavors of raspberry, tart blackberry and a hint of spice on the smooth finish. Because older oak barrels were used there is not a lot of noticeable oak – a technique winemaker Paul Brock used to emphasize the fruit and vineyard character.
($22, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

Swedish Hill OptimusThe second wine was the 2007 Optimus from Swedish Hill Winery. The Peterson Family began planting grapes in 1969 to sell to other wineries, and started making their own wine in 1985. Today Swedish Hill is one of the largest wineries in the Finger Lakes region.

The 2007 Optimus is a blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged in small oak barrels for one year.

Unlike 2011, 2007 was a great growing year, which came through in the lush cherry and red currant flavors in the wine. A hint of vanilla and black pepper added finesse, and the finish was soft and satisfying.
($25, 13.2% alcohol by volume)

The third wine was the 2010 Cabernet Franc from Heron Hill Winery. Heron Hill planted its first grapes in 1972 and produced its first vintage in 1977.

The Cabernet Franc contains around 10% percent Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. As winemaker Bernard Cannac explained, it is a field blend, as that is how the vines are planted. The grapes were fermented together and the wine spent 14 months in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

Fresh berries abounded on the nose and palate, with flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry layered with cedar, tobacco, violet and herbs de Provence. Good acidity and supple tannins gave the wine a silky and upbeat mouthfeel.
($25, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

Damiani Cabernet FrancNext came the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Damiani Wine Cellars. Winemaker Lou Damiani and grower Phil Davis started the winery in 2004. This wine is a standout for Damiani Wine Cellars, which makes single vineyard and single variety wines only in exceptional years.

This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc from Lou’s home vineyard of one acre. Twenty percent of the wine spent 3 months in new American oak, then 6 months in French oak barrels that were one year old.

The Cabernet Franc had mouth-filling flavors of raspberry, boysenberry and blueberry jam, with gentle notes of spice and an elegant finish with lingering vanilla.
($43, 13.9% alcohol by volume)

The fifth wine was the 2010 Lemberger from Rooster Hill Vineyards. Lemberger is another name for Blaufränkisch, a red wine grape grown throughout Central Europe, most notably in Austria. A number of Finger Lakes wineries produce wine from this grape. Lemberger is similar in taste and in style to Pinot Noir, Gamay or light-bodied Merlot.

Amy and David Hoffman opened Rooster Hill Vineyards ten years ago. Their Lemberger is made from estate-grown fruit, and aged 21 months in 100% French oak barrels. Light bodied and reddish-purple in color, this wine had flavors of red and black cherry, sweet strawberry and freshly-ground black pepper, with a touch of baked fig on the finish.
($25, 12.4% alcohol by volume)

Atwater Pinot NoirThe sixth wine was the 2010 Pinot Noir from Atwater Estate Vineyards. The 80 acre vineyard dates back to the early 1900s and was purchased in 1999 by Ted Marks.

The wine is 100% Pinot Noir, made with grapes that are grown on Dijon and Beaujolais clones. The wine spent 11 months in French oak barrels, of which 10% were new.

From the first sip, the Atwater Pinot Noir was a really lovely wine. It was more Burgundian in style and flavor (rather than Californian), with notes of Bing cherry and raspberry. Subtle cedar and sandalwood flavors emerged as the wine had time in the glass. The texture was velvety smooth, the finish soft and satisfying.
($17, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

The seventh wine was the 2011 Essence from Hector Wine Company. This winery is a little less than three years old, and opened during the 2010 harvest. It is owned and operated by viticulturalist Jason Hazlitt and winemaker Justin Boyette.

The 2011 Essence is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. The wines were aged separately in small oak barrels for 10 to 12 months, then blended and bottled.

After tasting the Bordeaux blends it was interesting to see how Syrah can give a red blend added oomph. Aromas of red berries and black pepper introduced flavors of red cherry, plum, and violet, with a hint of baking spices on the silky smooth finish.
($25, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

McGregor Russian RedThe virtual tasting ended on a high note, with an unusual wine from McGregor Vineyard. Their 2008 Black Russian Red is a blend of Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni. These grapes originate from Eastern Europe; Saperavi is a main grape used to make wine in the country of Georgia, and Sereksiya Charni is an obscure variety from Moldova.

The McGregor family established their vineyard in 1971. They planted what John McGregor called “oddball” vinifera grapes to see what would work; through trial and error they found out which grapes did best in the Finger Lakes’ climate.

The Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni grapes were harvested by hand. After undergoing fermentation and malolactic fermentation the wine spent 26 months in American oak barrels.

In tasting the Black Russian Red you can almost visualize winemaker Jeff Dencenburg taking these rugged Eastern European grapes and taming them through the fermenting and barrel-aging process. The wine was dark purple in color, with aromas of blackberry and plum. These flavors expanded on the palate, with layers of boysenberry, red and black currant and sweet oak. Smooth tannins gave the wine a velvety mouthfeel. The finish was long with a lingering hint of vanilla.
($54, 12.4% alcohol)

Some final conclusions after tasting these red wines from the Finger Lakes:

•  In these light to medium-bodied wines, the flavors of the grapes stand out. Good acidity makes them food friendly, and the moderate alcohol and low oak exposure don’t overwhelm the delicate flavors.
•  There are talented winemakers right now in the Finger Lakes who know when and how to blend multiple grapes to produce the best wines.
•  2010 seems to have been a standout year for Finger Lakes wines, and winemakers say 2012 was a good year as well – look for wines from these vintages.
•  Don’t think that Finger Lakes wines are all white or sweet – the red wines are well worth a taste!

View the wineries on a map:


View Finger Lakes Wineries in a larger map

AG Pick: Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2010

Serving ham or lamb at your Easter meal or looking for a red wine for a dinner with friends? Try a bottle of the Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2010, a red blend from Tuscany.

Tenuta FrescobaldiThis wine is what is often called a “Super Tuscan” – a red wine from Tuscany that contains Sangiovese and a blend of other grapes, most often Bordeaux varieties. The Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni contains 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Sangiovese. The wine spent 12 months maturing in barriques and additional two months in the bottle before it was released.

Red fruits dominate the aromas and flavors of the Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni. Notes of cherry, red currant, plum and strawberry are layered with gentle flavors of cedar. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ground coffee and a touch of black pepper add depth. Subtle tannins give the wine a pleasing mouthfeel, and the acidity is fresh and well balanced.

The Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni is a wine that should be served with food, rather than sipped on its own. Pair it with lamb, roasted or sautéed beef, pork or rabbit.

Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni is imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, a Michael Mondavi Family Company. For more about the wines from Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi visit www.frescobaldi.it.

$25, 13.5% alcohol by volume

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AG Pick: HB Picpoul de Pinet 2010

As the summer nears its end (at least according to the calendar), the lingering hot temperatures call for white wine. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing white to enjoy outdoors or want something to drink with lobster or other shellfish, the HB (Hugues Beaulieu) Picpoul de Pinet 2010 from La Cave de Pomerols is the perfect pairing.

Picpoul de Pinet comes from the Languedoc region in southwest France. It is a region that, while not as famous as the neighboring Rhône, is producing delicious wines from several of the same varietals.

Picpoul de Pinet is made entirely from the Picpoul (or Piquepoul) grape. The wine bottle makes it easy to spot — slim and green, Picpoul de Pinet is marked with a Cathar cross and ring of waves on the neck.

If you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, you must try Picpoul de Pinet. The 2010 HB Picpoul is fresh and crisp with racy acidity. Pale straw yellow in color, the wine has citrus and white flower aromas. Lime, honeydew, white grapefruit and green pear flavors along with a hint of Meyer lemon and mineral notes make for a lively sip. Super refreshing, the HB Picpoul de Pinet is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

Because the HB Picpoul de Pinet is lighter in alcohol it is great for hot weather — though you’ll surely want to enjoy any time of year.

Much like Albariño from Spain, Picpoul de Pinet demands to be paired with seafood. One sip of the 2010 HB Picpoul de Pinet and you will be craving raw oysters. This wine goes well with a variety of shellfish and white fleshed fish, as well as salads and light pasta dishes.

A bottle of the Cave de Pomerols HB Picpoul de Pinet 2010 costs $12.

alcohol 12.5% by volume

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