Tag Archives: Chenin Blanc

AG Pick: Fleuve Blanc Vouvray 2005

A bottle of wine tells a story.  From the makeup of the soil and the year’s weather to the age of the vines, so much is captured in each glass.  The story is continued by the people who drink the wine, with the flavors and feelings they find in each sip.

The Fleuve Blanc Vouvray 2005 from Jean François Mérieau tells a story about climate and soil.  The cool climate of the Middle Loire Valley, just southwest of Paris, gives this white wine its sharp acidity.  Limestone in the soil adds mineral notes.  So too the name, meaning white river, is sure to evoke images of a peaceful setting.

Fleuve Blanc is 100% Chenin Blanc from the southern part of Vouvray.  Pale golden yellow in color, the wine has citrus and floral aromas.  These develop on the palate, with notes of lemon peel, grapefruit, lime, Granny Smith apple, white flowers and white pepper and a slight hint of white apricot and wildflower honey on the tangy, crisp finish.

Pair the Fleuve Blanc with raw oysters, fish, shellfish, light chicken dishes, salads, spicy Asian and stir-fry dishes and fresh and semi-soft cheeses.

A bottle of the Fleuve Blanc Vouvray 2005 costs $21.

12% alcohol by volume

Great Value Summer Whites

Keep your summer going well into September with one of these great value white wines.  They’re perfect for an outdoor picnic, a day at the beach, as an aperitif or whenever it’s too hot to drink a red wine (or later on when you wish it was too hot for red).

All of these whites are $10 or less, so don’t be afraid to taste a new or unfamiliar varietal.

All have screw caps so they’re great for outings or parties — no need to remember to bring a corkscrew.

Try one of these whites at your Labor Day weekend get together.

Starborough 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($9)
Marlborough, New Zealand
12.5% abv
This refreshing white is the perfect match for a hot day.  It’s light in the mouth with high acidity, some minerality and a crisp, clean finish.  Citrus aromas give way to flavors of white grapefruit, lemongrass, sage and a hint of honeysuckle, with a touch of lemon peel on the finish.  Though this white does have some herbaceousness, it doesn’t have the strong grassy taste that other New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs tend to have.

Essay 2009 Chenin Blanc ($9)
Western Cape, South Africa
13.5% abv
This white is not as tart as the Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to the addition of Viognier (5%) that softens the acidity and adds a touch of spice.  Refreshing flavors of lemon, lime and honeydew are rounded out by notes of white flowers and guava.  Overall this white is smooth and supple in the mouth with a lingering hint of granny smith apple on the crisp finish.

La Vuelta 2009 Torrontes ($9)
Mendoza, Argentina
13% abv
If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc but want to try something different, try this white from Argentina.  Similar in taste and in body, this Torrontes has elegant floral notes on both the nose and palate.  The 2009 La Vuelta has flavors of orange, sweet lemon, a hint of honeysuckle and not quite ripe peach.  Crisp and lower in acidity than some of the other whites, this wine has a clean finish.

Niederösterreich 2009 Grüner Veltliner ($9)
12.5% abv
Grüner Veltliner is made for summer parties.  It’s an extremely versatile dry wine that can pair with all sorts of foods ranging from shellfish to spicy Asian cuisine.  If you’re looking for a crisp white, the 2009 Niederösterreich is it.  This wine is tingling with acidity, with almost an effervescent feeling in the mouth.  In taste it’s all about citrus — lemon, lime, white grapefruit — enhanced by notes of white pepper, peach, a hint of jasmine and nice minerality on the tart finish.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler 2009 Riesling ($10)
Mosel, Germany
10% abv
This off dry Riesling is the sweetest white of the group, though still light enough to enjoy on a warm day.  Its golden delicious apple and apricot aromas continue to develop on the palate, enhanced by a hint of wildflower honey.  The wine finishes clean, with lingering sweet fruit.

Cheers to a delicious end to the summer!

AG Pick Under $10: 2008 MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc

Don’t let the name confuse you.  This South African winery makes wines that both men and women will enjoy.

It’s actually women who inspired the name.  MAN Vintners was started by three men who created the name by combining the first letters of their wives’ names — Mary, Anette and Nicky.  It’s how Charles Back, José Conde and Tyrrel Myburgh were able to spend their weekends away from their wives making wine.

MAN Chenin BlancThe 2008 Chenin Blanc was the first wine I tried from MAN Vintners.  It’s bright and zippy and fills your mouth with fresh tropical flavors.  Best of all, it costs less than $10.

This white is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from various vineyards in the Agter-Paarl region in southwest South Africa, just inland from Capetown.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and is left on its lees until bottling for a richer mouthfeel.

Aromas of melon and guava introduce crisp flavors of honeydew, starfruit and ripe lime.  Refreshing acidity and good minerality culminate in a clean finish.

This Chenin Blanc is a versatile white that goes well with seafood, shellfish, light cheeses and salads.  Or enjoy it on its own on a hot afternoon.

The 2008 MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc costs $9.

More Highlights from the North Fork Wine Trail

If you’re planning a visit to the North Fork of Long Island, here are some more wineries I recommend visiting:

I found several nice white wines at Paumanok Vineyards.  It’s one of the first wineries you will encounter on Route 25 if you’re driving from western Long Island.

Paumanok is the only winery in the region to produce Chenin Blanc and they do it very well.  The 2007 Chenin Blanc ($28) has fresh notes of grapefruit, pineapple and melon with racy acidity and a clean finish.  It’s a great match for shellfish.

Paumanok’s 2007 Dry Riesling ($22) is another refreshing sip.  Bone dry, this wine has delicate aromas of green apple and white flowers.  Flavors of green apple, lime and a hint of white apricot are enhanced by a firm acidity.  I also enjoyed the 2007 Semi Dry Riesling ($22).  Semi-sweet notes of peach, apricot and honeysuckle culminate in a crisp and dry finish.  If you normally don’t drink sweet wines, try this wine as an aperitif or with fruit and light cheeses.

If you visit you may want to bring your lunch — Paumanok has a great outdoor deck overlooking the vineyards.

Macari Vineyards is one of the larger wineries on the North Fork with a variety of wines and two tasting rooms.  I visited the newer tasting room on Route 25 in Cutchogue.  It’s a bright and open space and also has an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards.

Macari makes all the usual varietals but I really like their early and late wines.  The 2008 Early Wine ($17) is 100% Chardonnay that is harvested early, bottled just over a month later, and released a few days after that.  Picking the grapes early makes for a crisp and tart wine that’s tingling with acidity.  Flavors of lime, green apple and honeydew lead to clean finish that has just a hint of sweetness.

At the other end is the 2005 Block E Viognier ($55).  It’s a late harvest dessert wine that is sweet without being syrupy.  Deep gold in color, the wine has notes of orange blossom, sweet citrus and spice which end in a satisfying finish.

For a less expensive dessert wine try the 2005 Block E Chardonnay, which is $40 a bottle.

A huge disappointment was Bedell Cellars.  It was recommended by the staff at several other wineries, so I was looking forward to it.  The indoor and outdoor tasting rooms are certainly very nice, but the experience was ruined by the people who worked there.  The staff were unfriendly to the point of being rude.  I almost left before the end of the tasting, it was so unpleasant.  Their wines are expensive (mostly $25 and up), and none was particularly memorable.

If you’re visiting Long Island wine country on a warm and sunny day, head all the way east on Route 25 to The Old Field Vineyards.  This winery is a nice change of pace from the other sleek and modern tasting rooms.  At The Old Field Vineyards you taste wines in a covered area between two small barns and a chicken coop.  You can enjoy the wines on the small patio, or take a bottle and sit at a table closer to the vineyards.

The miles-from-the-city atmosphere is complete with a pair of best friends who roam the tasting area — a goose and a duck.  The goose is especially adventurous and will come right up to you.

The 2006 Blush de Noir ($14) is the perfect pairing for this outdoor setting.  It’s peach colored with notes of lemon and apricot, with a refreshing minerality on the finish.  Also enjoyable is the 2006 Mostly Steel Chardonnay ($17).  Ten percent of this wine is barrel fermented.  It has crisp notes of lemon, grapefruit, green apple and a dry finish.

The Old Field Vineyard’s red wines are made with Cabernet Franc or Merlot, or a mix of the two.  The Rooster Tail ($14) is easy to drink.  It’s a medium bodied blend of 91% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc with notes of black cherry, plum and spice.  My favorite of their reds is the 2005 Cabernet Franc ($30).  Flavors of blackberries and black plum mix with fig, cinnamon and a hint of black pepper.

If you like the laid back atmosphere at The Old Field Vineyard, be sure to visit Sherwood House Vineyards in Mattituck.  The tasting room (which is more like a tasting space), is only open during warm months because it is entirely outdoors.

On the hot afternoon when I visited, you couldn’t beat the 2004 Blanc de Blanc ($37).  This sparkling wine is 100% Chardonnay, made in the traditional method like Champagne.  It has toasty notes of citrus and white pear, with fine bubbles.

My favorite of Sherwood’s wines is the 2003 Merlot ($25).  It has lush flavors of plum, red currant and raspberry with subtle notes of cedar and earth.  Well structured with good tannins, this will make you a fan of Long Island wines.

No visit to the North Fork is complete without stopping by The Tasting Room in Peconic.  It hosts wines from several wineries that are too small to have their own tasting rooms.  It’s a great way to sample a variety of artisanal, limited production wines.

Go for the tasting and stay to talk wines with manager Charles Lazarou.  Architecture is his career but wine is his passion.  It was almost as fun chatting about the wines as it was to drink them.

At The Tasting Room I tried the really tasty 2007 Chardonnay from Brooklyn Oenology ($17).  It’s Burgundian in style, leaner and more fruit focused.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for a short time in French oak.  Flavors of pineapple, peach and orange are enhanced by gentle notes of walnut and vanilla.

On the red side, I was impressed by the Comtesse Thérèse Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 ($25).  Deep red in color, the wine has ripe flavors of blackberries, plum, tobacco and leather.  Well balanced with velvety tannins, this Cab has a long finish.

I was also a fan of Schneider Vineyards Hermitage Clones Syrah 2005 ($25).  It has refined flavors of ripe blackberries, spice and a hint of white pepper.  Fruit and acidity are nicely balanced for a sip that is both light in the mouth and rich on the palate.

The Tasting Room is open Friday through Sunday, with a tasting menu that changes weekly.

Be sure to check out my earlier articles on Shinn Estate Vineyards and Lenz Winery.

Click here for a map of Long Island wine country.

Organic Wines at Heller Estate Vineyards

It used to be that the word “organic” was associated with wines that didn’t taste so great.  But at Heller Vineyards, organic and delicious are not contradictory terms.

Heller winesHeller Estate Organic Vineyards was one of the last wineries I visited during my trip to California’s Central Coast.  It’s located in the Cachagua region of Carmel Valley, inland from Carmel and Monterey.  Heller’s wines are produced from certified organically grown grapes, grown without pesticides or herbicides.

At Heller you can indulge your sense of smell, taste and sight.  Toby Heller is a sculptor and displays her work inside the tasting room and outside in a sculpture garden.  Her sculpture “Dances on Your Palate,” a 15 foot high bronze sculpture that overlooks the vineyards, is the inspiration for the wine labels.

Heller Chenin BlancThough Heller mainly produces red wine, they do have Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.  The 2007 Chardonnay is 100% Chardonnay, with light and zippy citrus flavors that end in a crisp finish.  A bottle is $23.  The 2007 Chenin Blanc is 89% Chenin Blanc and 11% Johannesburg Riesling.  Notes of tart green apple are balanced out with a gripping acidity.  A bottle costs $25.

Heller’s red wines range from $24 to $60, with the exception of the 2003 Meritage “Celebration,” which costs $100 a bottle.

Among all their red wines, Heller excels with Cabernet Sauvignon.  I enjoyed the 2006 Cachaugua Cabernet, which costs $25 a bottle.  It’s 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  On the lighter side of the full-bodied spectrum, this wine has nice flavors of cherry, blackberry, dried herbs and earth.  Well-balanced tannins give the wine an easy drinkability.

Had my budget been bigger I would have loved to buy a bottle of the 2004 or 2003 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (which cost $40 and $60 respectively).  They were my favorite wines from my visit to the tasting room.  Both are 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and have layered notes of black fruits, spice and vanilla.

After the Cabernet Sauvignon I had a tough time picking my next favorite varietal — so I ended up buying a bottle of three different ones.

Heller MalbecThe 2006 Petit Verdot shows just how tasty this often-blended varietal can be on its own.  It’s 100% Petit Verdot, with ripe flavors of blackberry and black plum that linger after each sip.  The wine is enhanced by lively acidity and well integrated oak and tannins.  A bottle costs $37.

The 2006 Malbec is another single varietal wine.  It’s a big red that you’ll want to decant so you can enjoy it better.  Silky in structure, the wine has delicious notes of blackberry, black cherry, cedar and toasted nuts.  A bottle costs $37.

Last but certainly not least is the 2003 Cabernet Franc.  It’s 75% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Juicy flavors of plum and blackberry are complemented by youthful tannins that give the wine a lush mouthfeel.  It’s great to drink now or in a year or two.  A bottle of the 2003 Cabernet Franc costs $38.

Earthbound Farm Organic Farm StandHere’s a tip if you plan to visit Heller Estate Organic Vineyards and are driving from the coast: stop at the Earthbound Farm Organic Farm Stand on Carmel Valley Road.  It’s the hub of the 30-acre farm that you’ve likely bought produce from (I buy their lettuce all the time at my local supermarket).  My advice is to buy a salad or sandwich at the farm stand and enjoy it outside in Heller’s sculpture garden.

For more information on Heller Estate Organic Vineyards visit www.hellerestate.com.