Wine Reviews: Virginia Governor’s Cup Winners

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-18-2015

If you don’t yet take Virginia wines seriously, step up to the tasting table and get to work. Well-established and up-and-coming wineries are producing all sorts of exciting stuff.

The gold medal award winners of the 2015 Virginia Governor’s Cup are a good place to start. Since 1982, the Governor’s Cup wine competition has been highlighting the best selections from the commonwealth’s diverse array of wines. And as the top 12 wines of the 2015 competition show, Virginia has so much to offer.

One of the common threads in this year’s batch of winners is the preeminence of Merlot in the Meritage blends. When I first started tasting Virginia wines eight years ago or so, it seemed like Cabernet Franc had designs on becoming the red grape of the commonwealth. While Virginia Cabernet Franc can be very good (it certainly adds a lot of spice and savory qualities to many Meritage blends), I’ve been more impressed by how well Merlot performs in Virginia. I was recently chatting with Virginia Wine buff Frank Morgan about what grape variety is the most underrated performer in Virginia, and we agreed: Merlot.

Petit Verdot is also gaining respect, as demonstrated by two of the varietal wines in this batch. And I was excited to taste a delicious Tannat from renowned Virginia winery Michael Shaps and a Touriga from Cross Keys. Virginia is home to some stunning Chardonnay and other white wines, but this year’s winners were dominated by dry reds. A couple dessert wines were included for sweet measure.

If there’s one thing that gives me hesitation about a lot of Virginia wines, it’s an overreliance on new oak. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effect of some new oak on a wine, especially a bold Bordeaux-style blend. But some the nuanced flavor profiles in these wines can be obscured a bit by the toasted oak elements.

That said, many of these Governor’s Cup winners display a uniquely Virginian appeal. And with more and more options from all across the state, there has never been a better time to explore Virginia wine.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Jordan Harris

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 07-17-2015

Jordan Harris

Jordan Harris

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we continue our interviews of Virginia winemakers by featuring Jordan Harris, the Winemaker and General Manager at Tarara Winery.

In 1987, Whitie Hubert planted the first block of Chardonnay in the Nevaeh Vineyard in what would turn out to be the first plantings of Tarara Winery. Then, over the next three years, Whitie continued to plant more Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In Virginia, the first planting in 1987 made Whitie a real pioneer. Tarara continues to own some of the oldest Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in Virginia.

Jordan joined Tarara in the late 2000s. Despite being a young winemaker, Jordan has already built a considerable reputation. Most recently, in 2013, Jordan was named by Wine Enthusiast in its 40 Under 40 Tastemakers issue.

I recently had the pleasure of tasting Tarara’s 2010 Syrah. It only takes one wine to capture your interest in an entire category. Thanks to that wine, I look forward to Jordan’s, Tarara’s, and Virginia’s continued success.

Check out the interview below the fold!

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Daily Wine News: Burgundy & 1855

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-17-2015

Vineyard in Burgundy (Source: Wikimedia)

Vineyard in Burgundy (Source: Wikimedia)

Jane Anson explores Burgundy’s new UNESCO World Heritage status and why Bordeaux isn’t the only region to celebrate the year 1855 in Decanter.

“E. & J. Gallo Winery and Constellation Brands own half of the wine brands on the list of top 20 labels sold off-premise.” Wines & Vines reports on the most recent Wine Industry Metrics report.

“If you visit Beaulieu Vineyard’s reserve tasting room in Rutherford, you can buy Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1970s for about the same price as the current release,” says W. Blake Gray in Wine-Searcher. “This is amazing because it was one of California’s most iconic wines for decades.”

In the World of Fine Wine, an in-depth consideration of vineyard soils, chemical elements, minerals, and rocks — and their importance for wine.

Becky Sue Epstein discovers the white wines of Collio in northern Italy in Palate Press.

In Forbes, Brad Auerbach wonders if the music business is like the wine business.

In the Drinks Business, Gonzalo Pedrosa, CEO at Sogevinus, says producers in the Douro need to work more cooperatively to guarantee their future.

Will Lyons chats with cricketer Stuart Broad about the enduring link between wine and cricket in the Wall Street Journal.

In the Star-Ledger, John Foy recommends white wines from Slovenia.

Eater talks with sommelier Mark Kremper about wines that pair with lobster rolls.

Book Review: Sediment: Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs, by CJ and PK

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 07-16-2015

Book+jacket+REVSediment is the first book from bloggers CJ and PK, authors of the “nearly” award-winning wine blog of the same name.

The book is a collection of brief, three-to-four page thought pieces, written on a variety of topics and possessing all the wry humor that can be found on the duo’s blog. Seinfeldian in their astute observations of contemporary conventions in the world of wine, CJ and PK beg us to ask questions like: Why is drinking alone bad? How cheap can a bottle of wine get and still be potable? And what’s the deal with all these crazy corkscrews?

Somewhere, Larry David is nodding in agreement.

CJ and PK are not wine snobs. Rather they are bargain hunters, connoisseurs of the cheap. Although each seems to possess the knowledge of a well-read oenophile, they are largely self-deprecating, and relish every opportunity to render wine snobbery (or any wine drinking convention, for that matter) absurd. For instance, when it comes to the decanter, PK uses it not for aeration, but purely as an alternative to displaying the cheap bottles of wine he serves his guests.

The tasting note also figures in the two Brits’ lampoon. A bottle of Shiraz leaves PK’s mouth “resembling a cat’s anus” and CJ describes smelling “an invisible chemical gas I can’t put a name to, the kind of smell that comes out of a car body shop or the duty-free section of an airport in the tropics” in a glass of cheap Bordeaux.

But the book is not all cynicism and bashing of popular wine culture. There are some legitimate, even poignant observations. For example, I empathize with PK’s lament that not enough wine is available in half bottles. (A 375 certainly makes a night of solo drinking more manageable.) He is also rightly suspect of mixed cases of wine, calling them the “libertines of the wine world, offering carefree promiscuity over serious commitment.” CJ and PK truly appreciate and understand the “serious commitment” of consuming and collecting expensive wine; and while they can certainly mingle with the aficionados, they instead elect to dwell with (and bring empathy and education to) the average wine drinker.

What I enjoyed most about Sediment is the brevity of its sections, which makes for a convenient yet still very entertaining read. Although the reading is light, the book maintains a certain flair. Its style is distinctly British, with all the wit, colloquialisms, and turns of phrase we would expect. In a market dominated by serious wine writing, Sediment is a refreshingly different flavor.

Scenario in which I would purchase this book: If you feel like you need a hiatus from reruns of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm (and if you’re a true fan, it’ll be a brief hiatus), take a look at CJ and PK’s blog. If you like what you read there, buy the book.

Daily Wine News: Is Wine Blogging Over?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-16-2015

17th Century painting of Persian wine (Wikimedia)

17th Century painting of Persian wine (Wikimedia)

Wines & Vines tracks prices per acre of Napa Cabernet, Pinot Noir in Sonoma, and nut crops in Central Valley. “In 1973, the California grape crop totaled about $40 million, rising sharply until 2000, when it plateaued at about $1.75 billion before starting a steep rise again in 2010. It now sits at a little over $3 billion.”

According to Joe Roberts, “there actually isn’t a thing we might call “wine blogging” anymore…. There is only a spectrum of content quality and a spectrum of professionalism in the creation of that content with respect to wine.”

Aliza Kellerman discovers the history of Iranian wine in VinePair.. “As perplexing as the idea of Iranian wine might sound today, the ancient city of Shiraz was perfectly primed for growing grapes…. the wine produced was white, available in both dry and sweet varieties.”

Napa Valley’s Staglin Family Vineyards has teamed up with neighbor Suzanne Deal Booth to buy a historic vineyard, Fahrig Ranch, reports Wine Spectator.

The Drinks Business explores why Château Margaux chosen to hold its ex-cellar sale in New York rather than Hong Kong like its fellow firsts.

Jamie Goode explains why he thinks Provence rosé is like Champagne.

W. Blake Gray talks with Levi Dalton about the New York restaurant wine market, and how outsiders embarrass themselves writing about it.

Grape Collective interviews Jay Somers of J. Christopher.

The New York Times recommends tours and hikes in Willamette Valley wine country.

Daily Wine News: Winemaking Rebellions

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-15-2015

Ripe Pinot Noir (Flickr: docoverachiever)

Ripe Pinot Noir (Flickr: docoverachiever)

Harvey Steiman compares Oregon Pinot Noirs from 2012 and 2013 in Wine Spectator. “Winemakers who follow a current trend toward lighter styles pose themselves a bigger challenge, especially in a vintage that wants to be ripe, such as 2012…There are those who argue that too much fruit flavor obscures terroir, the sense of place that informs the character of a wine. I say fruit is part of terroir.”

In the New York Times, Pete Wells reviews Rebelle in Nolita. “If you’ve written off all American wines as big, galumphing, overpriced beasts, drink one or two of the lithe and inexpensive creatures Rebelle has picked up in the Finger Lakes, the Pacific Northwest or the Central California Coast. A few glasses should convince you that, following France’s lead, the United States is now going through a delicious, small-scale winemaking rebellion.”

Santa Margherita is leaving longtime importer Terlato Wines to join a U.S. marketing arm created by brand-owner Santa Margherita Wine Group, effective January 1, 2016.

“Wines in barrel are too closed – they need to undress themselves in order to reveal themselves,” Bierzo winemaker Raul Perez tells the Drinks Business.

Mike Dunne offers tips for home winemaking in the Sacramento Bee.

Matt Walls explores Romania’s rebirth of traditional wine culture on Tim Atkin’s site.

Jancis Robinson grills Jon Bonné on California, somms, and his new book.

Scotland has started making wine. The only problem is it’s currently undrinkable, says Tim Chester in Mashable.

Daily Wine News: The Appeal of Age

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-14-2015


Vineyards in Languedoc (Source: Destination Languedoc)

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford explores whether Languedoc wines can age. “Honesty must trump partiality: it wasn’t a resounding success…these wines would have merited higher scores, I feel, in their youth.”

Jonathan Lipsmeyer discovers the secret of Portugal. “While most of us can’t afford to buy aged wine in its prime, in Portugal, you can. You don’t need a cellar and 10 years’ patience; you just need a cheap flight to Lisbon…and an empty suitcase with enough wool socks for your bottles.”

Erika Szymanski asks is wine becoming sweeter in Palate Press. “The modern sweet tooth isn’t new, but two things are: the availability of sweetness, and the many flavors modern food science is teaching us not to like.”

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth visits Jeremy Seysses in Provence at his family’s Domaine de Triennes, where rosé fuels expansion and improvement.

Richard Hemming reviews wine label scanning apps in Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages.

Wines & Vines looks back on 30 years of progress for New York State wines.

VinePair taste tests The Fat Jew’s “White Girl Rosé.”

In Wine-Searcher, the never-ending story of Rip-off Rudy Kurniawan continues.

According to USA Today, Mexico’s “Valle de Guadalupe is poised to make a serious splash.”

Daily Wine News: Essential Expressions

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-13-2015

(Source: Krug Champagne)

(Source: Krug Champagne)

Alder Yarrow visits Maison Krug in Champagne and shares his impressions. “Krug’s wines are unquestionably luxury products, priced beyond the means of many wine lovers… Pay a fair price, however, and you will be justly rewarded. Krug Champagne represents one of the most essential expressions of the form.”

According to Decanter, “six hectares of hybrid vines in upstate New York are looking to receive American Viticultural Area (AVA) recognition.”

“Partly thanks to the exceptional quality of the 2010 vintage, Brunello is back,” says Jancis Robinson.

“A group of southern Chilean farmers is seeking government funding to help preserve their ancient Malbec vines, some of which date back to the time when Ulysses Grant was in the White House,” reports Adam Lechmere in Wine-Searcher.

Dorothy J. Gaiter interviews Sonoma cult Pinot Noir winemaker Tom Rochioli in Grape Collective.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan reviews Jon Thorsen’s book, Reverse Wine Snob: How to Buy and Drink Great Wine without Breaking the Bank.

Alfonso Cevola shares a California Drought Report and other thoughts from recent visits to California.

Jamie Goode on how not to lose your love for wine.

USA Today calls Oregon a “world-class wine and food destination.”

Dave McIntyre looks at the relationship between millennials and wine in the Washington Post.

Wine Reviews: New Zealand

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-11-2015

The waves of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have not let up, and the American market remains loaded with inexpensive offerings. Many of the wines play the same riff, but grassy grapefruit-driven wines clearly have a solid fan base.

New Zealand is home to plenty of other white wines, of course, as demonstrated in this small sampling. This lot doesn’t contain any stunners, but as a group these wines are consistent, tasty and moderately priced. I was especially impressed with the Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Pinot Noir, which is a solid bargain at $17.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Nate Walsh

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 07-10-2015

Nate Walsh

Nate Walsh

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we continue our series of interviews with Virginia winemakers by featuring Nate Walsh, the winemaker and vineyard manager at Sunset Hill Vineyards.

Sunset Hill Vineyards was founded by Mike and Diane Canney. They planted their first vines in 1999 and completed their first harvest in 2001 — six tons of Chardonnay, sold to local wineries. The Canneys have grown Sunset Hills at an impressive pace since then. In 2004, they expanded the vineyard from three to seven acres, planting Cabernet Franc and Viognier; in 2006 they purchased an adjoining farm, which they renovated into a modern winemaking facility; in 2008 they opened their tasting room to the public; and so on. Theirs is a story of successful growth.

Nate joined Sunset Hills as winemaker in 2009, after spending a few years as assistant winemaker at Horton Vineyards — where, regular readers will recall, our most recent interviewee worked and continues to work. As is typical of growing wine regions, it seems, Virginia grows itself.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Read the rest of this entry »