Tag Archives: Viognier

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.

Piccini Memoro Bianco

AG Pick: Piccino Memoro Vino Bianco

Take a trip around Italy in just one bottle with the Piccini Memoro Vino Bianco, a non-vintage white blend that brings together different grapes and regions for a fun, easy to drink wine.

The history of Piccini dates back to 1882, when Angiolo Piccini started the winemaking estate in Chianti with 7 hectares. Today the fourth generation of the Piccini family runs the operations, which have expanded to four separate estates.

Piccini Memoro BiancoThe compass rose on the Memoro label signifies the four varietals, each a typical expression of a distinct Italian region. The Viognier (40% of the final blend) comes from Sicily; the Chardonnay (30%) is from Trentino in the north; the Vermentino (20%) is from Maremma in Tuscany; and the Pecorino (10%) is from the Marche on the eastern coast of central Italy.

The Memoro, a product of thorough research and experimenting, offers balanced fruit and acidity. There’s pear, apricot and golden apple from the Pecorino and cool climate Chardonnay, soft honey and white flowers from the Viognier, and additional delicate floral notes from the Vermentino. The wine is silky in the mouth, with a lingering finish that has a hint of bread and dried herbs.

Pair the wine with creamy sauces, poultry and seafood.

For more information visit www.tenutepiccini.it.

$9.99, 14% alcohol by volume

It’s Time for Wine: Napa for 2013

By Monty and Sara Preiser

February is a great time for us to slip in and out of Wine Country destinations and then fill you in on what is new, and what remains fantastic. These same places will be ultra-crowded come season, so advance planning is highly recommended. Don’t forget that you can now download the Preiser Key to Napa free to your iPhone or iPad from the AppStore. The magazine is still the only complete and accurate guide to wineries and restaurants, and also contains educational pieces and other useful information (if you don’t mind, please remember to mention the Preiser Key when you make reservations).

Wineries: One New, One Re-Emerges at the Top of its Game, & One Under the Radar

The New: Though making wine for a few years now, Bello Family Vineyards has recently opened one of the more impressive tasting rooms in the Valley. It is just the place to sample the superb wines being crafted by A-List wine maker Aaron Pott, who came aboard in time to finish the 2007 vintage and has had his brilliant hand in the mix ever since.

A true family winery, proprietor Michael Bello has three loves: his construction business, thoroughbred racing, and fine wine. It was only natural for him to parlay his business into producing both a champion filly, Megahertz, and a champion wine brand.

2010 Bello Chardonnay ($45): A kiss of Viognier proves to be a splendid addition to this 20 month barrel aged wine. We detected a soft, buttery flavor from start to mid-palate, and a panna cotta white chocolate finish. Quite the profile for a Chard.

2009 Bello Marsanne ($38): When Marsanne is good, as it is here, it is very, very good. Though it is the most widely planted grape in the northern Rhone Valley, it has not yet made the desirable impression in the U.S. that the Bello version shows it can. A full wine with great acids abounding with nuts and honey awaits you in this bottle.

2009 MEGAHERTZ Cabernet Sauvignon ($50): Given its production and cost, we think this may ultimately be the flagship wine that defines Bello in the eyes of the mass public. Few wines of the price offer such a rich chocolaty nose, as intense a bright black cherry mid-palate, the significant “chew,” and a 10+ second finish.

2008 Bello Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($100): This is a big and bold bottle of wine with black fruit and coffee immediately prevalent, and some serious secondary characteristics (forest floor, smoke) just emerging. Aaron’s first creation from start to finish at Bello.

2009 Bello Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($100): Concentrated yet approachable, describes this beautiful wine. Layers of black fruit, blue fruit, tar, and earth treat the palate. Perhaps the best recommendation? A Double Gold Medal last month from the American Fine Wine Competition, one of the few places you can find the tasting being performed in a totally blind manner by judges of no bias who all have accomplished palates.

2009 Bello Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($250): A word to the many fine and super expensive Cabs being produced in Napa Valley – move over and give the Bello Reserve some room, as it is closing on the rail. It is so good that at first we might think it a lucky hit, but with the knowledge that Aaron is at the helm, he will most likely produce such opulence in the years to come. The wine immediately impresses with its juicy full mouth that trickles down the tongue and itself drives you back for more. But an impossibly long finish following earth, smoke, anise, and spice keeps you in the game as well. This one belongs in the winner’s circle.

Appointments are not necessary, but having one can never hurt. Rick Healy, long experienced in the hospitality field and known to many of you, is now holding court at Bello along with a fine staff. The creatively elegant surroundings will only add to your enjoyment here.

Back On Its Game: As the many people we have escorted to Turnbull Wine Cellars can attest, we are long-time fans of the wines. But as we have written many times over the years, one can become discouraged about a wine for many reasons – some as small as being treated with indifference in a tasting room.

Since the advent of our friend Peter Heitz as winemaker, we have been in a quandary. We love Peter’s wines (both the Turnbull and his private label), but there always seemed to be an administrative lack of energy that should accompany such excellent wines. We had been told that had changed, and so off we went to find out for ourselves. It proved to be a good move.

We have been around long enough to immediately know and identify the signs of a place where you want to taste wines. That we were in the right room was readily apparent, and Burroughs, Abigail, and Alex made sure the ambiance continued – not just for us but for the visitors from Oregon, Texas, Chicago, and the Bay Area as well. Of course, they had Peter’s superb wines to help them out.

While we tasted other varietals, the stars of the day here were the Cabernet Sauvignons. So many were outstanding that it was almost a gluttonous experience. Each one, which we will list below, showed individual characteristics of terroir, fruit profiles, tannins and finish. The tasting isn’t free, but it is very reasonably priced, and we can say without reservation that this should be a stop in Napa for any lover of quality Cabs.

Monty’s Favorite: 2009 Leopoldina ($75)
Sara’s Favorite: 2009 Amoenus ($75)
Great Buy: 2009 Napa ($40)
A Cellar Needs: 2009 Black Label ($100)
Lush Library: 2007 Audaci ($85)
For Discerning Minds: 2009 Fortuna (Monty liked a lot, Sara a little less so)

2011 Oakville Viognier ($30): A whiff of enticing perfume hits the nose, followed by bright apricot and nectar in the mouth. This is no wimpy Viognier, finishing long and round.

2009 Leopoldina Cabernet Franc ($60): Chewy black fruit gives way to a bright, spice finish. This is a hard varietal to get right, but it is directly up Peter’s power alley and he hits it out of the park.

Ready to Soar: Even after (“ahem”) years in Napa, little is as thrilling as driving to a private home located in the vineyards – an estate – to taste wine with the owners and winemakers. Sometimes we even glance at each other as if to empathically ask whether our hosts have invited the right people.

We have always enjoyed the wines from Allora Vineyards, yet we might like this wonderful family even more. Terry Klein is the wine serious/social comic patriarchal host, and son Chris is obviously of the generation now in daily charge of the business. We see the two daughters, Cortney and Kelly, periodically at two other wineries where they hold prestigious positions, but they too are intimately involved with Allora. Today we missed the last link in this family affair, matriarch Nancy, but her good influence on the children is obvious.

The estate in St. Helena consists of 15 beautiful acres with 10 planted to vine. All of the wines are produced here, and all are crafted by noted winemaker Rudy Zuidema, who has a penchant for making wines of structure and seamlessness that we have always liked (no, more than just “liked,” – let’s say “respected” for their excellence as well).

2010 Allora Lieta ($30): Mostly Sauvignon Blanc, yet with a healthy dose of Semillon (and a surprise ingredient), this little gem is floral with perceived sweetness which is really the significant fruit flavors of apricot and peach blossom. And in a move with which we are not familiar, Rudy has added the lees from a Chardonnay barrel for about 5 weeks to add some creaminess and dimension.

2009 Tresca ($60): Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with 12% Petite Sirah and 7 % Cabernet Franc adding earthy cedar and bright cherry nuances, this full bodied wine seems to find flavors shooting throughout the upper palate and then lingering for an extraordinarily long time.

2009 Cabernet Franc ($75): Bold, dark fruit streams from front to back, as do the dancing tannins. Many Cab Francs are a bit light in body, but the addition of over 20% cabernet Sauvignon here gives strength throughout.

2008 Petite Sirah ($65): Rich and complex with a spice on the nose, plums in the middle, and a terrific body. One of the best Petite Sirahs we know.

2009 Lusso ($125): Sometimes a wine is so well made, the fruit so well extracted, the structure so nicely attuned, the flavors so well integrated, and the finish so pleasing, that it is not necessary to over analyze the product further. This is one of those times.

2010 Sussurro ($75 for 375ml): A well made Late Harvest and somewhat unusual Cabernet Sauvignon/Late Harvest Petite Sirah blend. Black cherries and creaminess control, and the lack of cloyness, while preserving the sweet nature of the wine, is a great asset.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley and Sonoma, the most comprehensive guides to wineries and restaurants in Napa and Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

Winter Whites: White Wines in Season

White wine is in season even when the weather is cool. Here are five white wines to try tonight:

Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay 2011
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
13% alcohol
$22

If you think the only white wine that comes from New Zealand is Sauvignon Blanc, you’re missing out. Craggy Range produces delicious single vineyard Chardonnay on the North Island.

This wine comes from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand’s second largest winegrowing region. The grapes were mostly harvested by hand, and the wine spent five months aging in 12% new French oak barrels.

Reminiscent of Chablis, the Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay has citrus and white peach aromas. Lemon, grapefruit and tart white apricot flavors mingle with vanilla and a hint of almond, with lively acidity and chalky minerality giving the wine a bright finish. It’s the happy medium for people who can’t decide between a stainless steel or oaked Chardonnay.

 

Vincent Gaudry Le Tournebride Sancerre 2010
Sancerre, France
12.5% alcohol
$25

All wines tell a story, and this French wine has a dynamic – that is, biodynamic – one. Vincent Gaudry’s wines come from the Sancerre AOC in the eastern part of the Loire region, in central France. The domaine has passed from father to son for several generations; they began farming organically in 1993. Today the domaine is not only certified organic, but it is certified biodynamic too —  Gaudry cuts wood for his barrels only on days suggested by the biodynamic calendar, and the wines are bottled according to the lunar calendar. There are no artificial yeasts or additives in the wine, and the wine is not filtered. What you drink is a true expression of the place where the wine came from.

Le Tournebride, named for a small path leading to the domaine, is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes came from 30 year old vines that grow in limestone and marl soil. The wine was fermented in tanks, then spent eight months on the lees before bottling.

The nose of Le Tournebride Sancerre is a mix of citrus and tropical fruit. Flavors of lemon, peach, pineapple and tart lychee unfold on the palate, with a hint of Marcona almond on the lingering finish. Well balanced acidity and refreshing minerality make this wine a pleasant sip.

 

Barbi Orvieto 2011
Umbria, Italy
12.5% alcohol
$18

Orvieto is both the name of a region in central Italy and the wine produced there. White Orvieto can be a blend of several grapes; the Barbi Orvieto is a blend of Grechetto (40%), Procanico (30%, also known as Trebbiano), Verdello (10%), Malvasia (10%), and Vermentino (10%). These combine to make a wine that is crisp, refreshing and aromatic, with a slight touch of sweetness adding a lift at the end of each sip.

The grapes in the Barbi Orvieto were grown in vineyards that are 960 feet above sea level, in clay and sandy soil that is rich in fossils. Fermentation was stopped early to retain some residual sugar.

Melon and honeysuckle aromas introduce a palate of honeydew, green apple, yellow pear and a hint of white pepper. Vibrant acidity gives the Barbi Orvieto a lively mouthfeel and a clean finish.

 

Halter Ranch Côtes de Paso Blanc 2011
Paso Robles, California
14.2% alcohol
$25

If winter weather has you feeling down, try the Côtes de Paso Blanc from Halter Ranch. Its fragrant floral aromas will make you feel like spring is already in bloom.

Rhône grapes shine in Paso Robles, the Central California region where Halter Ranch Winery is located. This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc (33%), Roussanne (26%), Picpoul Blanc (20%), Marsanne (12%), and Viognier (9%). After fermentation in French oak barrels, the wine spent four months aging on the lees in 100% neutral French oak barrels.

Aromas of white flowers and peach expand on the palate, along with flavors of white apricot, jasmine, orange blossom and toasted hazelnut. Elegant with refreshing minerality and a satisfying finish, the Côtes de Paso Blanc is a white wine that is sure to cheer you up on a cold day.

 

Standing Stone Vineyards Riesling 2011
Finger Lakes, New York
11.7% alcohol
$14

The Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is becoming the go-to spot for new and exciting Riesling. Even the president is a fan – on Monday a Finger Lakes Riesling was served at President Obama’s inaugural luncheon.

Standing Stone Vineyards is located on the east side of Seneca Lake. The grapes for the 2011 Riesling were fermented in stainless steel tanks using three different yeasts. The final wine is a blend from the lots, which brings together the most desirable characteristic of each.

This off-dry Riesling is wonderfully aromatic with notes of ripe citrus, tropical fruits and wildflower honey. On the palate are flavors of tangerine, sweet grapefruit, guava and mango. Gentle acidity balances out the sweetness, and flinty minerality makes for a clean finish.

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick: Chateau L’Ermitage Costières de Nîmes Blanc 2010

Spring is in bloom — and the perfect pairing is a floral white wine.

For crisp, refreshing white wines that have lovely floral flavors look to the south of France. Grapes from the Rhône region (most notably Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier) produce aromatic wines that can make you feel like you are sticking your nose into a bouquet of flowers, not just your glass.

Kick off spring with a bottle of Chateau L’Ermitage Costières de Nîmes Blanc 2010. Costières de Nîmes is an AOC in the southwestern part of the Rhône region surrounding the city of Nîmes.

The wine is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc and 20% Viognier.

The Chateau L’Ermitage Blanc is a medium bodied white wine. Stone fruit and floral aromas expand on the palate, with supple flavors of white flowers, honeysuckle, peach, white apricot, golden pear and lychee. The finish is clean and satisfying.

Pair the Chateau L’Ermitage Blanc with halibut, sea bass and other white fish; salads, spicy Asian cuisine, or olive oil or cream-based pasta dishes. It’s also great as an aperitif for sipping on a warm spring afternoon.

A bottle of Chateau L’Ermitage Costières de Nîmes Blanc 2010 costs approximately $11.

13% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick: Galil Mountain Viognier 2008

Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah or are looking for a new and exciting wine, look to the oldest New World winemaking country — Israel.

A great introduction is the 2008 Viognier from Galil Mountain Winery.  It is a flavorful dry white wine that will appeal to a variety of tastes, not just to those who keep Kosher.

Though winemaking there dates back to biblical times, Israel is still considered a New World wine country.  It really wasn’t until the 1990s that their wines got recognition around the world.  Today you’ll find Israeli wines at top restaurants and at your local wine shop.

Founded in 2000, Galil Mountain Winery is located in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel.  At over 3,280 feet above sea level, the vineyards are situated on one of Israel’s highest mountain ranges.

The 2008 Galil Mountain Viognier is a rich, medium-bodied white wine with added complexity from time in oak.  Forty percent of the wine was fermented in new French oak barrels and aged on yeast lees for six months.  The remaining 60% that underwent cold fermentation in stainless steel preserves the wine’s bright fruit characteristics.

Pale gold in color, the Viognier is very aromatic with notes of tart citrus and tropical fruit.  On the palate are flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and white peach, with a touch of vanilla from the oak.  The wine is silky in the mouth with a lingering finish that has a hint of lemon peel.  It is high in alcohol for a white wine; you may notice some warmth at the end of your first few sips.

The Galil Mountain Viognier pairs well with flavorful chicken and seafood dishes or spicy Asian cuisine.  And just in time for Hanukkah, it’s a great match for potato latkes!

A bottle of the Galil Mountain Winery Viognier 2008 costs $15.

15% 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)
Austria
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!

Discover Temecula: Thornton, Wiens & Leonesse Wineries

Continued from Discover Temecula: Briar Rose Winery

After my introduction to California’s Temecula Valley at Briar Rose Winery it was time for lunch at Café Champagne.  The restaurant located at Thornton Winery serves contemporary fusion cuisine in a cozy French country setting overlooking the vineyards.  The best part is you don’t have to choose between food and a tasting of Thornton’s wines — you can enjoy a wine flight with your meal.

Thornton Winery opened in 1988 and produces a variety of white, red and sparkling wines.  I went right for the red wines and ordered the Zin Lover’s Flight.  This included the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley, the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel from Temecula Valley, the 2007 Estate Petite Sirah from Temecula Valley and the 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley.  My favorite was the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel, which was barrel aged for 22 months in 41% new American oak and 59% two year old French oak.  The wine had jammy blackberry and cherry flavors with cocoa and spice on the finish.

I also got to try the Sparkling Wine Flight which included Thornton’s NV (non-vintage) Brut, NV Blanc de Noirs, NV Cuvée Rouge and NV Cuvée de Frontignan.  All are made using the traditional Champenoise method.  I like my sparkling wines to be dry, so I found Thornton’s a little sweet for my taste.  Of the four I enjoyed the NV Brut the most.  It is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc with a small amount of Pinot Noir, with notes of golden apple, pear and creamy toast.

While the setting was lovely, the experience was marred by slow and uneven service, though there were only a few other tables filled.  Once I was able to get the attention of a server and order, the sparkling wines arrived flat.  The server was apologetic and brought out a new flight, but I found it odd that the restaurant would send out a poor representation of Thornton’s wines.  I hope I dined at Café Champagne on an off day and that this is not the norm.

After lunch I went to Wiens Family Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2001 by Doug Wiens and his brothers George, Jeff and Dave.

Wiens Family Cellars prides itself on its red wines.  And I could see why, after tasting some that ended up being my favorite from my visit to Temecula.  But first I started with a really nice white, the 2008 Solace.  Bright with nice floral, pear and citrus notes, the wine’s flavor matched the sun on its label.  The blend of 44% Viognier, 41% Chardonnay and 15% Roussanne was partially aged in French oak and on lees, adding creamy flavors of caramel and vanilla.

I then tried a variety of red wines including a Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and a couple of blends.  My favorite of the single varietals was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was smooth and spicy, with flavors of blackberry and plum.

My favorite red overall was the 2008 Domestique, a blend of 45% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 26% Mourvedre and 3% Sangiovese.  It was a delicious mix of black fruits and earth, with flavors of black currant, blackberries, plum, spice and leather coming together for a pleasing, lingering finish.

I ended the day with a few more whites and reds at Leonesse Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2003 and its name means “village of dreams.”  The tasting room is perched above the vineyard, offering great views as you sip.

Of their white wines that I tasted, my favorite was the 2008 Roussanne, which had delicate floral aromas and flavors of ripe lemon, apricot and honeysuckle.

On the red side I enjoyed the 2007 Cinsaut, 2007 Melange De Rêves and 2007 Limited Selection “Six.”  The light bodied 2007 Cinsaut reminded me of an Oregon Pinot Noir with its fresh cherry and strawberry flavors and a hint of vanilla and clove.

The 2007 Melange De Rêves is modeled after Rhône wines and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsaut.  It was medium bodied with flavors of ripe raspberries, boysenberries, tobacco and black pepper.

The 2007 “Six” is so called because it is the sixth release in Leonesse’s Limited Selection Series line of wine.  It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot that was aged in small French and American oak barrels.  It had spicy flavors of plum and black cherry, rounded out by violet and eucalyptus.

I went sweet for my final wine with the 2008 Late Harvest Muscat Canelli.  It was rich without being syrupy, with notes of peach, apricot and honey.

With Temecula being home to more than 30 wineries, I barely scratched the surface during my one day trip.  I definitely plan to return to discover more.


Thornton Winery
is located at 32575 Rancho California Road and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm (6pm on Saturdays).  (951) 699-0099

Cafe Champagne is open for lunch and dinner.  Reservations can be made at (951) 699-0088.

Wiens Family Cellars is located at 35055 Via Del Ponte and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm.  (951) 694-9892

Leonesse Cellars is located at 38311 De Portola Road and is open daily for tastings from 11am to 5pm.  (951) 302-7601

For more information on Temecula Valley wineries visit www.temeculawines.org.

Discover Temecula: Briar Rose Winery

Tucked away in a valley in southern California is Temecula, one of the state’s lesser known wine regions.  While it may not yet have the name recognition of Napa or Sonoma, Temecula is home to more than 30 wineries.  At just 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 60 miles north of San Diego, Temecula is waiting to be discovered.

Visitors to Temecula should bring an open mind and an open palate.  There you’ll find family-owned wineries that have fun with nontraditional blends and a wide variety of grapes.  Planted in Temecula are Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals like in Sonoma and Napa, Rhône and Mediterranean varietals like in California’s Central Coast, and a few other varietals from other parts of the world thrown in for good measure.

I started my tour of Temecula wine country at Briar Rose Winery.  The cottage that houses the tasting room is almost as charming as owner Dorian Linkogle.  Warm and welcoming, Dorian spoke about her wines with such enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but like them even before I took my first sip.

Briar Rose produces about 2,400 cases of wine.  All are unfiltered, with no added sugar.

We began with two white wines: the Estate Viognier and 2009 Gewurztraminer.  The Viognier had sweet citrus aromas with notes of grapefruit, honeysuckle and lemon zest on the palate.  If you could drink in the garden setting it would taste like Briar Rose’s Gewurztraminer, which had lovely off-dry flavors of apricot, lychee and rose petals.

As I was enjoying the wines Dorian explained the origin of our fairytale setting.  The original owner worked for Walt Disney and built a replica of Snow White’s cottage for his wife.  Dorian and her husband Les (Briar Rose’s winemaker), bought the property in the early 1990s.  After years of selling their grapes to neighboring wineries they opened up their own winery in 2007.  Briar Rose takes its name from another fairytale, the princess in Sleeping Beauty.

Before moving to the reds Dorian poured me a taste of the 2009 Fumé Rosé.  The wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc that is aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, a process that gives the wine its light pink color.  Light and refreshing it was a great sip on the hot day, with a mix of citrus flavors, dried cherries and not quite ripe strawberries.

From there I tasted a variety of reds: three vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon (2003, 2004 and 2007), the 2007 Katrina Estate Zinfandel, 2004 Petit Verdot and 2007 Cabernet Franc.

I particularly liked the Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  The first had big flavors of cherries, blackberries and plum with gripping tannins that gave the wine good texture.  The Cabernet Franc had a fragrant nose of red fruits and flavors of raspberries and black plum with a spicy finish of cloves and tobacco.

As we were enjoying the jammy red fruit flavors of the Katrina Estate Zinfandel, Les came into the tasting room with a barrel sample of the 2009 Zinfandel.  Cloudy purple-red in color, the wine had flavors of fresh raspberries that will only get better as the wine continues to age in oak.

After finishing with the traditional wines and curious to find out what exactly was a ‘wine lager,’ I asked for a taste of Briar Rose’s Talking Frog Hefe-N-Vine.  It was created by the winemaker as a mix between wine and beer — unusual, but quite tasty.  It’s made from 100% Viognier that was fermented with yeast used to make hefeweizen.  The wine lager had a head similar to beer, with small bubbles like a sparkling wine.  The sweet bread aromas and flavors of apple and honey made for a crisp and refreshing sip.

With its intimate and enchanting setting, along with a variety of enjoyable wines, Briar Rose is the perfect place to kick off an exploration of Temecula Valley.

Briar Rose Winery is located at 41720 Calle Cabrillo in Temecula, California.  Tastings are by reservation only and can be made by calling (951) 308-1098.

For more information on Temecula Valley wineries visit www.temeculawines.org.

Click here for Discover Temecula Part 2: Thornton, Wiens and Leonesse

Colorado Wine: Bookcliff Vineyards

Before I could leave Colorado I had to try some of the state’s wine.  There are more than 40 wineries in Colorado but unfortunately I only had the chance to check out one.  Fortunately it was a good one: Bookcliff Vineyards.

Bookcliff Vineyards was founded in 1999 by husband and wife John Garlich and Ulla Merz.  Their 33 acre vineyard is located in an area of western Colorado known as “the Vinelands,” a place where grapes were grown in the early 1900s.

The tasting room is located inside their fermentation and bottling facility, a relatively small warehouse in North Boulder.  When I walked inside I was greeted by Justin Jannusch, Bookcliff’s assistant winemaker who also led the tasting.  It was intimate and informal, the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a tasting.

Bookcliff grows 10 varietals (Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Black Muscat), and has an impressive range of wines for its size.  In the tasting room I had a hard time narrowing down the choice of wines to taste among the 16 offered.

I decided to start with two whites.  The 2008 Viognier ($16) was a delicious introduction to Colorado wines.  Flavors of lime and honeydew give way to a clean finish that had just a hint of spice.  Next was the 2008 Riesling ($14), sweet yet light with notes of green apple and a crisp finish.

Moving on to the reds, my first wine was the 2004 Merlot ($14).  With its fresh red fruit flavors, it reminded me of the Merlot from Long Island that I enjoyed during my trip to the North Fork.  Next I really liked Friday’s Folly ($11), an upbeat red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah), that has bright cherry and plum flavors.  It’s smooth and very easy to drink, making it a great wine for pizza or pasta.

I was almost surprised at how much I enjoyed the 2008 Tempranillo ($25).  It has lively flavors of cherry and red plum rounded out by cedar and vanilla.

My favorite of Bookcliff’s reds was the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($25).  Raspberry, black cherry and plum flavors finish with a hint of smoke and spice.  Gentle tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel.  Like all of Bookcliff’s reds, this wine is very versatile and can pair with a variety of meat and pasta dishes.

I ended the tasting with the Finali ($20), a port-style dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes.  Fruit forward with some spiciness and sweet without being syrupy, this wine goes well with dessert or on its own.

As I was savoring the wines Justin gave me a tour of the facility, showing me everything from the crusher and destemmer to the bottle labeling and corking machines.  It was nice making a personal connection to the winemaking process at Bookcliff, and it really enhanced my tasting experience.  I definitely recommend visiting the tasting room or vineyard, or pick up one of their wines if you travel to Colorado.

For more information on Bookcliff Vineyards visit bookcliffvineyards.com.

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