Tag Archives: red wine

Finger Lakes wine

Cabernet Franc and Lemberger: Red Wines of the Finger Lakes

Riesling is the undisputed signature white wine grape of the Finger Lakes. But as for the signature red wine grape of this region in upstate New York, should it be Cabernet Franc or Lemberger? The answer isn’t as clear.

The question was posed to a panel of winemakers and winery representatives during a virtual tasting of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and Lemberger, organized by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

I joined other wine writers and bloggers in tasting, talking and tweeting about the red wines.

First up was the Cabernet Franc.

Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc

The wines tasted were:

Heron Hill Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.
Aged for 20 months in French, Eastern European and American oak barrels. Aromas of clove and toasted wood with flavors of jammy cherry and plum with a subtle hint of eucalyptus.
heronhill.com

McGregor Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Vineyards located on the east side of Cayuga Lake.
Aged for 13 months in oak barrels. Berry aromas and flavors, with notes of sweet oak and black tea and smooth tannins.
mcgregorwinery.com

Damiani Wine Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Cayuga Lake and east side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels (16% new American oak). Aromas of stewed berries and wood spice, with flavors of dark plum, blackberry, cocoa and cigarbox.
damianiwinecellars.com

So why should Cabernet Franc be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes?

As the panel explained, Cabernet Franc is well suited to the Finger Lakes climate. Wines produced there have good acidity and are very food friendly. They are more fruit driven, with crisp, clear flavors. In the Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc is also excellent as a rosé.

The panel recommended pairing Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc with grilled steak, anything with mushrooms, or a dish that is earthy and charred. One winemaker suggested enjoying a glass with a beet and goat cheese salad.

Next it was time to taste Lemberger. Also known as Blaufrankisch, this grape is grown across Central Europe. Most wineries in the Finger Lakes have chosen to use Lemberger, not Blaufrankisch, on their labels.

Finger Lakes Lemberger

The wines tasted were:

Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 10 months in 50% New York oak, 40% other American oak and 10% French oak barrels. Aromas of raspberry and blueberry with black pepper, cocoa, toast and a touch of spice.
lakewoodvineyards.com

Fulkerson Winery 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for one year in French oak barrels. Sweet cherry, plum and smoky oak aromas with flavors of ripe berries and a silky finish.
fulkersonwinery.com

Fox Run Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry and freshly ground black pepper with flavors of black cherry, plum, sweet vanilla and spice.
foxrunvineyards.com

So why should Lemberger be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes? The first and most obvious reason is that there aren’t a lot of other wine regions in the United States that are focusing on growing Lemberger. In addition to doing well in the Finger Lakes climate, it is an easier grape to grow. It consistently ripens, and neither the deer nor the turkeys like it (apparently turkeys love Pinot Noir).

Wine produced from Lemberger grapes has a rustic and wild character to it, and really benefits from oak. Without oak, the wine lacks a persistence of flavor and length. In the Finger Lakes Lemberger blends the fruit-forward New World style with the food-friendly nature of an Old World wine. The wines are lower in alcohol and have good acidity.

The panel suggested pairing Finger Lakes Lemberger with beef and hearty pasta dishes like lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs.

At the end of the tasting the vote on which should be the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes was still split.

The verdict that anyone could agree upon – pick up a bottle of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc or Lemberger and taste them for yourself!

For more information visit fingerlakeswinealliance.com.

Patel wines

Patel: Small Winery with Big Taste

When Robert Parker awards your first wine a 95, you know you’ve made something special.

But don’t let that number bias you toward Patel Winery. It’s more of a treat if you taste the Napa wines without any preconceived notions. That’s how I came to meet owner Raj Patel, at last year’s High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. His wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon and the Red Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend – were among my favorite discoveries at the event. When I found out that Raj was returning for this year’s auction, I couldn’t wait to meet with him and taste his current releases.

Patel winesRaj founded Patel Winery in 2006. He secured fruit and a custom crush facility in 2007, and made some wine in 2008. In 2009 he joined the Napa Valley Vintners Association and submitted his Cabernet for review with Robert Parker. More recently he brought on Luc Morlet, one of Napa’s top winemakers. Patel Winery sources its grapes from six vineyards and makes the wine at Luc’s winery.

I could go on for several paragraphs about how the Patel wines are intense yet elegant, with layers of fruit and earth notes that end in a long finish. But here’s all you need to know: Patel wines are really really good.

Over breakfast the morning of the 2015 High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, Raj and I spoke about Patel Winery, what makes the wines unique and what’s next. Continue reading

Codorniu Raventos

Rioja vs Ribera del Duero: A Tale of Two Tempranillos

Can you taste the difference between Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in a blind tasting?

The question was posed to a group of wine professionals last week. We had gathered at St. Cecilia in Buckhead for a lunch and tasting with two Spanish winemakers: Diego Pinilla of Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja and Jorge Bombin of Legaris in Ribera del Duero. The wineries are part of the Codorníu Raventós group.

Both winemakers offered a glass of what they felt was the characteristic Tempranillo of their region. They then offered a brief history of their winery and how the location affects the Tempranillo grape, to assist us in guessing each wine.

Spain wine mapBodegas Bilbainas is located in the city of Haro in Rioja Alta (within the darker shaded portion in orange on the map). It was established in 1901, and was the first bottler in Rioja. With the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles to the north, the vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic climate. Clay soils give the vines water little by little, and mountains protect the vineyards from getting too cold.

Legaris is located along the Duero River in the Ribera del Duero region (within the darker shaded portion in yellow). It was established in 1999, bringing together tradition and innovation. The vineyards are planted at an average elevation of 2800 feet, and are influenced by a harsh continental climate with hot summers and low rainfall. Pebble soils reflect the sunlight back towards the vines.

Based on the terroir and growing conditions, Tempranillo from Rioja is typically higher in acidity with floral and red fruit notes. Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is typically higher in alcohol content with black fruit notes.

Then it was time for the blind tasting. After knowing what differences to look for in the wines – acidity, alcohol and fruit – it was clear that the wine on our left was from Rioja, and the wine on the right was from Ribera del Duero.

The wines were revealed: Viña Pomal 2010 Reserva from Bodegas Bilbainas and Legaris 2011 Crianza.

Continue reading

Kalfu Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

AG Pick: Kalfu Kuda Chardonnay & Sumpai Pinot Noir

The Pacific Ocean is important to the wines of Kalfu. From the Leyda Valley in Chile, these wines are influenced by the cool coastal climate. The ocean is also reflected in the name — Kalfu, meaning “blue” in the language of the indigenous Mapuche, is synonymous with the vast body of water.

The vineyards experience cool breezes and early morning fogs that help to slowly and steadily ripen the grapes. This is captured in the wines, which exude bright and refreshing characteristics.

Kalfu Chardonnay and Pinot NoirThe 2013 Kalfu Kuda Chardonnay is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes from estate vineyards in the Leyda Valley. The soil is a mix of granite and clay. This wine is unoaked; stainless steel fermentation preserves the freshness of the fruit.

At first sniff you might think this Chardonnay is actually a Sauvignon Blanc because of its citrus aromas. Crisp flavors of yellow grapefruit, tart pineapple and golden apple make it a wine you’d want to sip on a hot day. ($18.99, 13% alcohol)

The 2013 Kalfu Sumpai Pinot Noir is light in body with delicate acidity. Think more Washington State or Finger Lakes rather than California. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir from estate vineyards with stony alluvial clay soil in the Leyda Valley. It was aged for 10 months in 20% new French oak.

Cherry, fresh strawberry and yellow plum mix with white pepper and sarsaparilla, and end in a clean, crisp finish. ($23.99, 13.5% alcohol).

Kalfu wines are produced by Viña Ventisquero.

Brunello glasses

Brunello of Montalcino: A Taste of the 2010 Vintage

By Maxine Howard

Montalcino, a small town in the southern part of Tuscany, is the only place winemakers can produce Brunello. It was the first to receive a DOCG designation guaranteeing the origin of this product. The grape from which Brunello is made is not unique: it is the Sangiovese grape grown around Italy and in other countries around the world. But this variety is Sangiovese Grosso, and the grapes are larger than those of the Sangiovese used in Chianti.

To be called Brunello, a Sangiovese must be:

  • Grown in Montalcino
  • Aged in oak two years
  • Aged in the bottle four months
  • Bottled in the production area
  • Beleased no sooner than January 1 of the fifth year following harvest

In addition, the wine must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, although most are over 13%.

The terroir and climate vary through the growing area. The ground characteristics run from loose to rocky, the slopes have varying orientations, and the mild Mediterranean weather will have differing impact based upon placement of the vines. But there is one unifying characteristic to the Brunellos: they age slowly and retain their fruit and structure for many years.

The 2010 is said to be the best vintage in recent history, surpassing the previously revered wines of 1997. A major reason for the success of the 2010’s was the longer-than-usual growing season.

At a tasting of seven representative bottles from 2010, the strengths of Brunello and the variations among producers was on full display.

A bottle from Sassetti Livio Pertimali displayed what I considered classic traits for the wine: it had a pronounced aroma of dark fruit. On first taste rich, dark fruit came forward tempered by a wonderful earthiness. It displayed both roundness and length. The tannins were well controlled, but remained at the finish. This wine is aged for 36 months in Slavonian oak (from northeastern Croatia) and 6 months in the bottle. The alcohol content is 14%, and it retails in the US for $65.

Brunello

I had a very different tasting experience with the Brunello from Le Macioche. The producer says the grapes are harvested manually before vinification in wooden vats with spontaneous fermentation by wild yeast and a 25-day maceration period. The wine is aged for 36 months in oak and 14 months in the bottle. The wine announced its distinctiveness immediately with an aroma that was both floral and herbaceous. The taste was lean, with well-controlled fruit and a slightly tannic finish. It was startlingly different from the other Brunellos, but was very tasty on its own terms. The alcohol content is 14.5%.

BrunelloPerhaps my favorite bottle of the tasting was from Le Chiuse. This property is owned by the Biondi-Santi family, which was the original producer of Brunello. Le Chiuse ages its wine in Allier and Slovenian oak barrels for three years. The aroma was of dark fruit; the first sip demonstrated a richness, intensity, and body that demanded attention. The wine had great structure. Its tannins, although controlled, were still substantial. The wine will definitely benefit from additional aging, but you can already see that this is a great Brunello. The alcohol content is 14.27% and it retails in the US for $50 to $60.

Based upon this brief survey of the Brunellos of Montalcino, it is clear that the 2010 vintage is worth seeking out and cellaring for the future. It will pair well with a fine steak or leg of lamb, but will also be a great accompaniment to your cheese course.

Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting

Join @amgastronomer and @FLXwine on Twitter Wednesday, April 29th for a virtual tasting of Finger Lakes Wine.

The tasting will feature Cabernet Franc and Lemberger from this region in upstate New York.

The wines to be tasted are Cabernet Franc from Damiani Wine Cellars, Heron Hill and McGregor Vineyard, and Lemberger from Fox Run Vineyards, Fulkerson Winery and Lakewood Vineyards.

FLX Cab Franc Lemberger

The virtual tasting is from 7pm to 8pm EST. Join us on Twitter with #FLXWineVT and watch the live web stream here.

The Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series is organized by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

AG Pick: Septima Malbec 2012

After paying tribute to Cahors, France, the birthplace of Malbec, it’s time to return to South America. The 2012 Septima Malbec is a great example of how well this red wine grape does in Argentina.

Bodega Septima was founded in 1999 as the seventh (septima in Spanish) winery from the Codorníu-Raventós family of Spain. The winery is located in Luján de Cuyo in the Mendoza region. The vines are planted at an altitude of 3,400 feet above sea level in deep sandy loam soils, and benefit from natural irrigation from the melting snow on the Andes Mountains. Hot days and cool nights are ideal for developing the flavors and maintaining acidity in the Malbec grapes.

Septima MalbecThe 2012 vintage is 100% Malbec. Half of the grapes came from Luján de Cuyo, and the other half came from the stony soils of the Eugenio Bustos district in the Uco Valley. Grapes were harvested by hand, and the wine was aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

The wine is deep purple red in color, almost black. Intense aromas of blackberries, cassis, plum and black pepper draw you in. The black fruit notes develop and expand on the palate, giving way to earthy leather, wood smoke and spice. Well integrated tannins give the wine a lush and velvety mouthfeel.

With any Malbec from Bodega Septima you get quality and consistency, and a great price. A bottle of the 2012 Septima Malbec costs $10.99.

For more information on the wines from Bodega Septima visit www.bodegaseptima.com.

14% alcohol

Related: Cahors Malbec and the South America Connection

AG Pick: Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier 2013

In honor of Australian #ShirazWeek, the AG is sharing a great new find: the 2013 Shiraz-Viognier from Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier. It comes from Victoria, an appellation in southeast Australia that is marked by its cool climate.

Terlato Chapoutier Shiraz ViognierThe wine is a partnership of Napa Valley vintner Tony Terlato and renowned French winemaker Michel Chapoutier. It’s a pairing that combines New World savvy and Rhône expertise for a crowd-pleasing and food-friendly wine.

You may be asking, what is Viognier, a white wine grape, doing in a red wine? It’s a tradition that comes from France’s Côte-Rôtie region. A small percentage of Viognier helps to soften the taste and texture of the wine, and adds fruity and floral characteristics.

This wine is 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier. The grapes were destemmed and fermented in cement or stainless steel tanks, and aged entirely in tanks. This helps to give the wine bright and bursting berry flavors. Cherry and blackberry pie mix with spicy black pepper, nutmeg and a hint of violet. Soft tannins and good acidity make it a great wine for a range of pasta, vegetable and meat dishes.

A bonus is the price tag of under $20. A bottle of the Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier costs approximately $17.99.

14.5% alcohol

Australian Shiraz Week is taking place on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from February 21st through March 1st. Join the conversation using #ShirazWeek and learn more at www.aussiewine2015.com.