|Took a while to get the color right|
taking the photo. It's all about
the lighting. Note: this is not a 750ml
bottle (also oddly shaped) but 1.5 liters.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful …..” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Reading Goethe as a high school student decades ago wasn’t exactly a beautiful experience. But fast-forward to the 21st century and I think he was on to something. This wine is a sense of the beautiful. Just its color shimmering through the glass on the store shelf was seductive. Rose water. Petals with their essence extracted. Pure essence. If you cook Indian dishes and use rose water, you have an understanding of this color. So I bought it, years ago, albeit reluctantly. I don’t like “celebrity” wines. Wines with photos of long dead movie stars on the label; stars that had never worked a vineyard and whose only association with wine was that they could afford to drank too much of it. There is a chasm between marketing and winemaking, though I understand the need to bridge it if the business is to continue. But when a company indifferently relies more upon the skill of its marketing than upon its winemaking, they fail to attract me. Labels with offensive double entendres, labels with photos of sports stars whose light has long diminished and never shined upon a vine anyway, singers…. oh, just spare me. Count me out.
But I bought Miraval years ago and have been buying it every year since my first taste. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought the estate in 2012 for an estimated cost of $60 million. Learning that actually discouraged me from buying the wine. Would this become just another wine whose appeal was its connection to movie stars? I don’t follow their lives in fan magazines; don’t care about whom they marry or what they do off-screen. And the bottle is oddly shaped making storage difficult and the label contains no information about the wine. Was this another example of more attention being paid to marketing at the expense of making a good wine? Miraval was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2013 and the first 6000 bottles were sold out in five hours. Oh, oh: the heard was being moved, it seemed, by stardom not quality. Even worse: the wine had previously been released (pre Pitt-Jolie) under the name “Pink Floyd” after the rock band that recorded “The Wall” in Miraval’s recording studio. This had the markings of stardom fancying itself for an encore.
But then I learned that the Perrin family was involved. Perrin on wine is like the words “Gold Note” on older paper currency. It adds value. Wine Spectator ranked the first vintage of Miraval at 84 out of the year’s Top 100 wines of 2013. It was the only rose wine included. Decanter described its elegance and its mouthwatering finish. Turns out grapes for Miraval are selected from the best parcels: Muriers, Longue, Romarin and selected also from the best terroirs of Provence with clay and limestone soil and from elevation of about 1,247 feet: cool temperature vineyards with large diurnal swings. Turns out too that grapes are harvested in the early morning to preserve the fruit’s fresh character, and they’re sorted twice.
Grapes used are Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Syrah, the
latter being partially
vinified using the “saignee” method. Similar to “drawing off,” “saignee”
involves removing only a portion of the juice from its skin contact, the
remainder being retained for use in red wine production. Rose made in this
method will have higher acid, though it’s important to remember that in
Miraval, only the Syrah is vinified this way and only a portion of it is so used. Rolle may be better known as
Vermentino, a light skinned wine grape made famous from Italy. As in so many things of beauty, the
composition is greater than its individual parts. Call it teamwork. In the case of Miraval,
call it experienced expert winemaking.
Only 5% of the juice sees wood (with batonnage). The rest is vinified in temperature controlled stainless, or what I personally think qualifies as the greatest advance in winemaking since yeast was first discovered. The result is a wine that speaks freshness with delicate aromas of white flowers. Mineral notes with a sense of salinity. Lovely balance and seamless integration of raspberry, wild strawberry (I grew them, but then were they no longer wild?), cherry, pear, white tea and rose water. As with all wines of quality, for me, it’s not the individual taste notes (which can be discerned), bit how those notes play together. In Miraval, it’s a symphony of finesse.
Marc Perrin has said that Angelina and Brad have been intimately involved in the wine making process, attending “rose blending sessions” and helping to design a new shape and label for the bottle (the latter being something obviously successful but of which I’m not a fan). But as for the wine, I am a fan though I must disclose that when it comes to Rose wine, I have a preference for those of Provence.
Decanter reports that the winery is considering making a red Provence wine in the style of Italy’s Super Tuscans (labeled as IGT because they don’t meet criteria of grapes or percentages of them used in Italy’s DOC and DOGC classification. “We are planning to experiment with different grape varieties, from Syrah and Mourvedre to Cabernet Franc and others,” said March Perrin. “There are no conclusions yet, but we will be happy to use the Vins de France label if need be.”
What spring-boarded California to world attention resulted from its ability to innovate and an appellation system not based on varietals but only zone. As a lover of “old world” wine I have an appreciation of “old world” requirements: varietals must include certain percentages of particular grapes to be labeled with the appellation. Yields must be restricted to meet established standards and there are other requirements. So called IGT wines are not inferior to DOGC labeled wines; they just don’t meet the standard for DOGC or DOC labeling. Wines labeled simply as “Vin de France” (that term replaces the older “Vin de Table) allows for wines that are multi-regional and multi-varietal. Whether such a wine from Miraval will be “good” will ultimately depend upon the site decisions, the winemaker and consumers. Personally, I look forward to Miraval’s introduction.
Wine Mizer is not a “dba” because it does not do any business. Truth be told, it is a not-for-profit non-corporation, money-losing sole-proprietorship venture. Such assures you, however, that opinions are unbiased. Wine Mizer accepts no advertisements. Support this venture by “Liking” Wine Mizer on facebook.
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“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences” . Audre Lorde
Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris. Same grape. Different white wines; so different in taste that many people don’t realize both are made from the same grape. Consider Syrah and Shiraz as the same but different grape in the red category, though I think the Grigio/Gris style is even more pronounced. Here, in the U.S., the Grigio style has won the pocketbook vote of consumers. It is a light, crisp, citrusy-fruity but dry white wine that is easily enjoyed and easily affordable. A good choice in the summer outdoors, it is picnic palatable, goes nicely with seafood in restaurants and if you open a bottle with visiting friends everyone will be comfortable with it. No wonder it became so popular!
Northeastern Italy is the epicenter of Pinot Grigio viniculture
and production. Here the
cool temperatures assure grapes of increased acidity to provide the
mouthwatering finish that consumers love.
Since the grape itself is not naturally high in acid, grapes in Friuli,
Venezia, and Guila are picked early (thankfully not so as to make for an offensive
vegetative character – timing is everything) while acids are relatively high
and sugar not at its peak. Fermentation and storage is traditionally done in
stainless-steel tanks in order to preserve freshness, fruit and the “zing”
quality of Grigio. Seldom is oak used as
it would add weight and tertiary notes not consumer associated with the style. Pinot Gris, with grapes ripened, is rich and
weightier. It is heavier in mouthfeel and (for me) makes a better match for
some fish meals.
|About as far northeast as you can go.|
I enjoy both styles. Each serves its purpose. But I know from experience that success breeds imitation and over production and waves of watery thin and quaffable but overpriced Pinot Grigio have washed ashore. I wanted something different. Yes, there’s a PG or two out there that have become my “go-to” Pinot Grigios. But, tasting wine as frequently as I have comes with the potential of jading the palate and I wanted something different. It was time to experiment. Pinot Grigio, yes, but not my “go to” wine. Different, but same. Fortunately, I found what I was looking for within the glass of a bottle of Blasson Wines’ Pinot Grigio (2015). As for northeast Italy, Giovanni Blasson’s winery is only ten miles from Italy’s eastern border with Slovenia. About as far northeast in cool temperature Italy as you can go. His D.O.C. Pinot Grigio immediately commanded my palate’s attention as most PG wines have not for sometime. Yes, this was Pinot Grigio. The nose offered Meyer lemon, ripe-ripe pear, salinity and notes of white flower, but all so reserved. I know tasters that referred to a nose that “jumped” from the glass, but that was not my experience. This was refined, subtle, and artful. I was interested.
Then came texture. Pinot Grigio is, for me, not a palate weighted wine. But this had body. It had texture like a Pinot Gris. Still, the fruit was there; all the traditional fruit so expected of Grigio: lime, lemon (Meyer), kiwi, and fresh cut red apple and with a whisper of melon (orange). It finished with a bitter green apple taste. For a Pinot Grigio, this was becoming complex. The acidity was there, but – like the fruit – melded into a tapestry of elegance and reserved finesse. Blasson juice is never oaked, but benefits from gentle lees stirring which accounts for the richness and adds elegance, while maintaining the expected fruit of the style. Found at Vin Chicago for $10 retail, it didn’t just excite my palate, it pleased my pocketbook. It was different. It was good. It was a positive palate exciting experiment I will be repeating.
Wine Mizer is not a “dba” because it does not do any business. Truth be told, it is a not-for-profit non-corporation, money-losing sole-proprietorship venture. Such assures you, however, that opinions are unbiased. Wine Mizer accepts no advertisements. Support this venture by “Liking” Wine Mizer on facebook.
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Azienda Agricola di Giovanni Blason
Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Sub Region (Appelation): Isonzo del Friuli D.O.C.
Imported by: Terraneo Merchants:
“Listen, Peaches, trickery is what humans are all about," said the voice of Maurice. "They're so keen on tricking one another all the time that they elect governments to do it for them.” -- Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
Sycamore Lane wines are not sold at retail, cost comparisons will never be an issue, so you can price this house wine appropriately.” A bottle of Sycamore Lane at the restaurant I enjoyed it at recently (with a Caprese salad) cost $24. The advertised case price to the restaurant is $68.29 bringing their cost down to $5.69 per bottle (less with large orders). Actually, that markup (321%) is not uncommon and better than the dry Muscat at 566% (though at half price, the Muscat is a great deal (233%).
ffer customers a uniquely branded wine unavailable in retail” and, perhaps most important to sellers: “Realize increased margins over nationally branded wines.”
Rutherford’s Merlot isn’t made exclusively for Starved Rock. It’s labeled for Starved Rock and is the same Merlot that Rutherford makes and labels for other outlets through their Private Label Program. At $17 retail for this bottle, it’s nicely priced and tasty enough not to cause indigestion. In the lodge’s restaurant at Starved Rock, expect to pay about $30, which should not spoil your appetite. In fact, at about 300% markup (from their cost, not retail), it was the best deal of the three examples, discounting half price bottle night in the first example. But such markups will vary from restaurant to restaurant.
“The best wines are those we drink with friends.” …… unknown
A miser could be taken to mean a person who is reluctant to spend, but it can be used also to describe someone who has a proclivity to hoard or, to be nice, – collect. So when I chose the name Wine Mizer1 for this blog, it was an acknowledgement that my actions can at times fit either definition. I have a reasonable collection, but included within it are many value wines. If you’re a longtime reader, you already know that most reviews here have been for wines with retail prices below $30. Today it is not, though I still consider the wine (priced at $60 - $120) a good value.
Now for the shocker. Remember, the French label their wine by region, not by the grape. So “Blanc Fume de Pouilly” in the name may not be helpful toward knowing the varietal. Translated, it reads “White smoke of Pouiilly.” “Domaine Didier Dagueneau” is the name of the Chateau (or “Estate” in the U.S.) Again, no help perhaps. But you may have heard of Pouilly Fume, the AOC in the Central Vineyards (which are NOT central, but at the easternmost area) of the Loire Valley. Pouilly-Fume sits across the river from Sancerre. O.K. Let me just get to it: This is Sauvignon Blanc!
You’re thinking, “$100+ for Sauvignon Blanc?” After all, every country makes it. You can buy it for less than $10. Why oh why would you spend ten times that? All I can say in my defense is that a canned product of pork shoulder and ham with salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate is meat and so is filet mignon. And while I have enjoyed many a delicious Sauvignon Blanc (both French and non), none have matched the experience. As in so many things, it’s a question of degrees.
Soils in the Pouilly-Fume (stony, chalky, well-drained and with marine fossils) are much the same as in Sancerre but with more flint. But, unlike Sancerre, no red wines are made here. The climate is continental with severe winters and hot summers. As with Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc produced here is in a style more restrained than that of New Zealand’s.
The Dagueneaus have long worked to finesse the best from Savignon Blanc. Selecting sites, blending juice and working with top coopers using very low-toast barrels, uniquely shaped to nuance the benefit of lees contact and specific oxygen exchange, the end result is a wine that transcends both definition and your expectation. Best said, perhaps, by Eric Asimov of the New York Times in his obituary of Didier Dagueneau (who died Sept. 17, 2008): “Tasting a Dagueneau wine for the first time was a revelation. His Sauvignon Blancs had an unexpected purity and clarity to them. The flavors were intense but nuanced. It wasn’t the fruit that was piercing, as in so many Sauvignon Blancs, but the freshness and the focus. As powerful a personality as he was, his wines did not exalt the stature of the winemaker so much as the beauty of the terroir.”
Didier was survived by his son (Louis Benjamin) and daughter, Charlotte, who have maintained the passionate commitment of Didier in producing wines that bring out the natural minerality of the soil and are palate poems of balance and harmony made even more seductive by aroma of acacia.
I keep saying that all palates are personal, and they are. A little web-trolling in preparing for this review popped up one reference to “greenish, grassy aromas” and another of “underlying herbal/grassy notes” and one more of “green grass” on the nose. I didn’t get any of this and I’m glad I didn’t. In discussing why his wines never undergo malolactic fermentation, Louis-Benjamin said, “It’s no problem to wait for malic acidity to decrease when the grapes are at 12 degrees of potential alcohol. When they’re at 14 and you still feel that you have to wait for the malic, then that’s what gives you anxiety. We’d rather make a wine with a little more alcohol than we’d ideally like, rather than pick earlier and still have herbaceous flavors. There’s nothing worse than sauvignon with green flavors, like asparagus.” (emphasis mine).
Others referred to passionfruit, honeydew, guava, fresh cantaloupe. Some of these flavors are there but, for me, much subordinated to the citrus of preserved lemon, lime, quince and orange zest. Some white peach. A thread of smoky minerality weaves throughout the citrus along with a hint of salinity. Fruit, for me, was more applely than tropical, but again, all palates are personal. Along with this incredibly seamless weaving of tastes is an acidity that cleanses the palate, makes for a mouthwatering invite to another sip and is yet artfully unobtrusive. Dry, racy, complex – especially for a white – this wine is at the top of the pecking order of Loire Sauvignon. Despite all the citrus, there is a roundness and silkiness to this wine.
Another measure of quality is the cellaring potential of this wine. Most Sauvignon Blanc is meant to be enjoyed young. But Domaine Didier Dagueneau’s sauvignons are famed for their longevity. This wine (a 2010) is drinkable (easily) through 2024 under good storage conditions. If you’re sensing I’m excited about this wine, know that I’m in good company. Robert Parker awarded it 93-94 points. Stephen Tanzer gave it 92. Jancis Robinson assigned it a score of 17.5 out of 20 potential points. Those are all grades, as I remember them, of A.
Younger people today talk about the experience. Allegedly they eschew material goods, forsaking the purchase of automobiles and relying instead upon purchased rides. It’s all about the vacation to a distant land rather than a possession. It’s the memory of an event more than an item. Seems then that a Domaine Dagueneau Silex would be perfect, both for the experience and the memory of it. I know it was for me. Speaking of me, let me add that I found this bottle as an “End of Bin” in a big box store. Retail was $115. I bought it for $48. Rather Mizerly don’t you think?
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1. Ben Franklin was a strong proponent of phonetic spelling. I think he would approve.
Incidental Tech Info
Domaine Didier Dagueneau Silex is a blend from two parcels. One of hard, dense clay and flint on the upper part of the Saint Andelain hillside and the other of limestone. Alcohol ranges between 13–14.2%. Acidity is 6.2g/L. Wines are held in oak (elongated cigare pipes, barriques, demi-muids and foudres) for their first year, then transferred to vat for 5-7 months before bottling. Imported by Connoisseur Wines.
Sorry about the length. The wine deserved respect.
For every dish, there is probably one perfect wine – but for most of us, life is too short to figure out what it is.” - quote from What to Drink with What You Eat
I was pouring wines for a distributor a few years ago at an outdoor event and women kept coming back to my table asking for “the elephant wine.” Of course, they were referring to Michael David’s Petite Petit. They liked the wine, that much was certain. But they were initially attracted to it by the label design. This is not something I guessed at. They told me so. They talked between themselves, and to me, saying “how cute the label is.” Michael David winery is indeed skillful at branding, using catchy names and label designs. They also produce, for example, 7 Deadly Zins, Lust Zinfandel, Comedylicious 2, and Freakshow Cab. Fairness requires I mention they produce many wines, most with more traditional labeling and all at budget-friendly prices: nine reds (as of this writing) and with an average price under $18 U.S.
O.K., so I’m a traditionalist: not a fan of new and trendy labels. I recall one wine (from a different winery) with a name that was such a gross double entendre that, although the wine itself was pretty good, I would never buy it on principle. As with some celebrity branded wines, I resent being played by people that have more confidence in the skill of their marketing than they do in the skill of their wine making.
That, however, is NOT the case with Michael David’s Petitt Petit. The label is not offensive, just “cute.” The name also makes perfect sense (85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot). And, as for the bottle’s content, I don’t think this wine has ever gotten a bad review. Nor is it new to me. I’ve been buying it for years and consider it a staple. It’s delicious by itself and it’s food friendly too. And if the “cute” label spurs sales, and sales keep the price down, maybe it’s time I become a little less stuffy.
From its start in the glass, this squid-ink, opaque, deep purple wine alerts your senses that you’re in for a serious experience. No, not the type of wine you agonize with in viticultural psychoanalysis; the type that requires years of study to describe so that other wine “snobs” will be impressed. No, this wine is simply and immediately pleasurable. Juicy black plum, sweet black cherry and violet entice the nose. The wine is rich, luscious and mouth filling. Threads of smoke attach to the black fruit on the palate. The finish develops some sweetness and heat (14.5% Alc.), building interest. Twelve months in French oak adds tertiary notes of vanilla, toast and chocolate but weaved into and not overpowering the juice. Tannins give the wine substance but are fine. Frankly, this wine over delivers. Consistently.
Most recently, I paired this wine with grilled loin chops of New Zealand lamb accompanied by roasted potatoes and eggplant roasted then cooked with skinned tomatoes. It was a perfect pairing. But I have enjoyed this wine several times with other dishes. I don’t remember the meals, but I do remember the wine.
Grapes are sourced from the Lodi AVA in Central California and the Michael David Winery produces 80,000 cases of Petitt Petit yearly. Given that the wine is 85% Petite Sirah, that’s a serious chunk of Lodi’s Petite Sirah fruit. It’s also a seriously tasty wine and seriously in demand by consumers who know value. (I paid $16). No doubt the number of units of production keep the cost per unit down (this from an Econ guy). But it’s the quality of each unit made vintage after vintage that drives consumer demand. Drink now through the next 5-7 years.
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Varietal: 85% Petite Sirah
Ratings: 92 Wine Enthusiast
90 Robert Parker
Michael David Winery
4580 West Hwy 12
Lodi CA 95242
"What is the USP of Mosel Rieslings? Sky-high acidity that links arms with the honey of ripe Riesling." … Hugh Johnson OBE, The World of Fine Wine (UK)
"German wine goes well beyond the sweet and white type, even a single region can produce a range of styles to suit everyone. " JancisRobinson, M.W. (UK)
Fair enough, perhaps you’re` not a fan of oysters on the half shell. But bear with me a moment and share a discovery apart from them. Oysters here are just a reference to something else. So if you are a fan of oysters, you’ll love the transition; and if you are not, you’ll at least enjoy a new wine that may excite your palate. With that agreement now binding, I need to explain that my traditional “go-to” wine for oysters has been Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine (Sur Lie). Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and coming from the Nantais region of the westernmost Loire Valley of France, the wine is crisply dry, with threads of gooseberry, quince and key lime melded seamlessly over a mineral base. Sometimes I think some smart oyster must have invented these wines just so people like me would enjoy eating them. Together, they are a symbiotic and joyful encounter. (I’ll talk more about Muscadet in a separate post).
Problem is, no Muscadet (remember, that’s the region, not the grape) is available at my local oyster haunt. But they do serve a Dry Muscatel from the Jumilla region (almost south but definitely in the eastern area) of Spain. There it is known as Muscatel and it’s made from the Muscat grape, of which there are many varieties. Muscatel can be vinified dry to super-sweet and the one I order is dry and also goes nicely with oysters.
Now comes another grape, one you would normally recoil at pairing with oysters: Riesling! Even more alarming: Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany! Dry Rieslings, in Germany, are commonly enjoyed, but here, in the U.S. they’re as common as hen’s teeth. Not to say I don’t enjoy Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese and other styles of Mosel Riesling. But Clean Slate’s Dry Riesling has its place too, and, surprisingly, it can work with oysters. Its value, however, is its ability to work with and without. It will work, for example, with those finding a Muscadet too dry. Although not dessert sweet, your palate will detect residual sugar in the finish (at 2.6%, it’s close to a grapefruit) making it likely more suitable for a mixed group. The sensation of sweetness is balanced by the acidity that German Rieslings are renowned for. This Walenda of balance works on the palate telling your brain the wine is less sweet than it is.
The nose is rich with scents of freshly squeezed lime juice and lemongrass softened by floral notes. Almost everyone tasting or talking about this wine enjoyed tastes of peach though, for me, this was dominated by kiwi, quince, lemongrass and lime. Crisp, mouthwatering acidity, so terroir-driven by the slate-soil and cool-climate of the Mosel, balances the fruit and makes for a mouthwatering finish. Notes of tart apple linger on the finish intermixed with lime.
Grapes are selected from throughout the Mosel. The steep, blue-slate slopes of the Lower Mosel contribute minerality. The Middle Mosel contributes spice and the notes of peach are a natural gift from the Upper Mosel. At 10.5% alcohol, this is a light weighted wine, making it suitable for oysters on the half shell. But with its stone fruit character and slight sweetness, it would pair well also with fish, particularly if accompanied by a spicy pineapple or mango salsa. It would also serve well with a pork roast or tenderloin.
|Grilled Haddock with a spicy pineapple salsa and sprouted coconut |
rice with bay shrimp and cashews.
The old saw that white wines don’t age well needs sharpening. I’ve previously given many examples of white wines that benefit from aging including Rieslings that develop notes of petrol over time. But Clean Slate is not one of them. This is 100% Riesling, 100% enjoyable, but meant to be enjoyed now. Slightly sweet, Clean Slate is aptly named per the minerality natural to Riesling grown in slate soil and in the cool climate of the northern area of Germany which assures sufficient acidity to clean the palate and provide a mouthwatering finish.
With an ARP of $10 (I found it at $9. U.S.), it’s hard not to recommend this wine just for the benefit you’ll gain from its experience. Aficionados of Muscadet may find the wine too sweet to properly accompany oysters on the half shell, yet find it excellent with spicy Thai, Chinese, Mexican or Indian cuisine. And for those finding Muscadet too dry, you may have found your spiritual, white-wine home.
Clean Slate is a product of partnership between Moselland of Bernkastel-Kues of Germany and Winebow, a top U.S. importer and distributor of fine wines around the world. Moselland is the largest vineyard owner in the Mosel and one of Germany’s top exporters of Riesling.
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“Persuasion is a strong but subdued outrider.” --- Harold Bloom
Stubborn me. Try as I do to keep an open mind, there are times even now when I’m not open to “new” ideas. They needn’t even be “new” - just experienced previously as unpleasant by me. But a one or two time experience is not a thing of always. And while it is important to learn what it is in a wine that you like, what characteristics and styles of it that you prefer, that too can be a trap. The yin and the yang of wine. Without knowing what it is you like (and why) you’re unable to venture out with any direction. Do you prefer Sirah or Shiraz? Same grape. Different wine styles. We could debate which is more elegant (an emotionally charged word) but would probably agree that Shiraz is generally fruitier, fuller bodied and higher in alcohol. Does knowing that you prefer fruitier wine become helpful when you’re shopping for Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon? Of course. That’s the “yin” of wine.
So as someone who has long preferred Sancerre or Pouilly Fume, I came to understand the preference of my palate: subdued fruit, somewhat austere and with minerality. For me, Sauvignon Blanc is all about fresh and being a little racy. Oaking Sauvignon Blanc just seemed wrong. And the more I continued enjoying my palate’s preference, and knowing why my palate preferred it so, the more set I became in my opinion. Thus was born my “yang” of wine, a restrictive trap.
|Perfect with halibut in lemon-butter-caper sauce|
All that changed during a private tasting at the winery. The winery had been moved to the top of my wish list after being unable to include it in a previous trip to Sonoma. Merry Edwards is famous for her single vineyard Pinot Noirs. And the story about her Sauvignon Blanc goes that she developed it after an invitation from the White House in which California wines were being featured with the dinner. It was suggested that a “white” wine would be more appropriate. I have no way of verifying what was relayed to me, and common sense says one doesn’t just make wine quickly. But it’s sensible that such dinners are planned considerably in advance. And as I said, that’s the story.
Fact or fancy, the story deserves to be true because the wine is unique and enticing. The winemaker’s notes explain that the rich core (54%) of the blend is sourced from vines 25-35 years old. Sauvignon Musque (at 20%) adds floral aromatics and depth not present in other types of Sauvignon Blanc. The balance (26%) is comprised of the classic Shenandoah (Clone 1) and is the more common throughout California.
In the glass, it appears pale lemon falling quickly to a watery edge; not something I expected to see from an oaked Sauvignon, and (for me) very heartening. The nose is fresh, another surprise. Whispered notes of citrus, orange blossom, gooseberry, and ripe pear invite a taste. And tasting it is where the magic begins. The mouthfeel is rich and luscious as a result of barrel fermentation and lees stirring. There’s weight to this wine, making it suitable for many food pairings, yet it magically retains freshness. Lots of citrus, but melon balancing the citrus. Gooseberry plays against pear. Lime with minerality but also floral notes. Lemon that is creamy with hints also of orange crème. A whisper of smoke adds interest. But the magic doesn’t end yet. Despite the smoke, the wine finishes crisply. This is a balancing act that has been perfected.
I suspect, but do not know, that most of the oak is neutral. Detailed information about vinification is not readily available. But then again, we don’t taste information other than what it presents itself as on our palates. There is a subtlety to this wine that intrigues. An experience that lingers and invites re-visiting while making each such revisit a fresh experience. And indeed, that is magic, perhaps best left to mystify us.
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2959 Gravenstein Hwy.
North Sebastopol, CA 95472
REVIEWS: 91-93 Points Wine Spectator, 91 Connoisseurs Guide.
"Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind..." - Robert Mondavi
Think Chianti and you’re probably thinking Sangiovese, perhaps even blended with up to 10% Canaiolo and another percentage of international varieties. But Chianti made from Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano Toscano? In Chianti? Well yes, because Chianti (in Tuscany) is also a place and within it, wines can be made that have no Sangiovese whatever. One such is Vin Santo, a dessert wine that, when made sweet, goes better with anise-flavored biscotti than a margarita pizza.
Its origin goes back to at least the middle ages and, while some changes have been made in the type of wood used (chestnut has given way to some use of oak which extracts fewer harsh tannins and is less porous), the technique used is essentially the same. Grapes are hung in bunches in order to wither (inside a ventilated environment – other producers use reed mats). The longer the grapes are allowed to dry and desiccate, the higher the residual sugar will be in the wine. Hence, Vin Santo may be made resulting in varying levels of sweetness – from bone dry, like a Fino Sherry to the moderately sweet style of this 2005 vintage Castellare Vin Santo. It is common for grapes to lose about 60% of their volume during this process. The method of drying grapes (called appassimento) is the same as that used in making the delicious Amarone della Valpolicella from the Veneto region. Other areas, such as the Greek island of Santorini, have also produced wine from desiccated grapes.
Fermentation for Vin Santo is carried out slowly in small barrels, called Caratelli (holding 50 liters, about 13.2 gallons). For comparison, a standard French Barrique will hold 224 liters (59.17 gallons). These smaller barrels are necessary because they are often stored in warm attics where heat promotes oxidation and barrel weight becomes a safety issue for people working below. The wine is then aged in these same barrels a minimum of three years, depending upon DOC regional requirements. San Niccolo’s Vin Santo is aged five years then an additional 8 months in bottle.
So what can you expect out of the bottle? If I knew nothing about these wines, but was familiar with Madera, I would appreciate a similarity while respecting differences. In the glass, the wine is amber, with thick and slow moving tears. The nose presents grape spirit high notes and the Madera like similarity. Dried apricot is evident. I also enjoyed – and this is strange – an aroma reminding me of Bananas Foster. Then I realized it was caramel as from the flambé.
Barrels of Vin Santo are not topped off, allowing a level of controlled oxidation. The oxidation adds burnished notes throughout and contributes to the wine’s complexity. On the palate, the wine offered apricot, dried fruit, caramel, chestnut, raisin, toffee, dried fig and a Grand Marnier quality of orange peel. Tongue coating, and moderately sweet, the wine is balanced against spirit and acidity so as not to be unctuous. It has a zesty acidity that finishes cleanly, thanks to the level of acidity naturally occurring in both Malvasia and Trebbiano that counter-punches the sweetness developed in the process of drying the grapes. Well-made vintage Vin Santo can last for decades under good storage conditions.
If you’re still upset that there’s no Sangiovese in this wine, take heart. Sangiovese may be used to produce a rose style known as Occhio di Pernice, but that’s another story.
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D.O.C. Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico
(Tuscany – Chianti – Vin Santo del Chianti Classico)
Grapes: Malvasia Bianca (60%), Trebbiano Toscano (40%) Both white
Age of Vines: 10/15 Years
Soil: Calcareous Clay-Loam
Elevation: 1450 ft., Southwest Exposure
Vinification: Oak & Chestnut, Small Barrel* All Neutral (20-30 years age)
· Robert Parker states aging is in 110 liter Fr & Am Oak Barrels. Producer states Oak &
Aging: 5 Years in Wood, 8 Additional Months in Bottle
Avg. Production 3000
Avg. Production 3000
Bottle Size: 375ml
ARP: $55 U.S.
Scores: Parker 94, Galloni 94, Wine Spectator 91, Wine Enthusiast 89