26 August, 2013

Quarters - The Wine Show: South African Chenin Blanc

Quarters the Wine Show is an idea cooked up by Tanisha Townsend (@girlmeetsglass) Lauren Mowery (@chasingthevine) and me while at WBC13.  We were inspired to create a fun, shareable way to make us study more different kinds of wines from places we would love to visit someday. 
Of course, first on our collective bucket list was South Africa.  Since we knew the hard travelling Lauren would be out of the country, Tanisha and I started with a wine we were curious about: Chenin Blanc.  

Thanks to the wonderful Ina Smith who manages the South Africa Chenin Blanc Association (follow her on facebook here) my research was easy.  Surprising for "New World" wine, Chenin Blanc arrived on the Cape in 1655.  Its journey from cutting to vine continued over the years.  This variety  known by the French, as Chenin Blanc - had approximately thirty other names in South Africa. In 1963, the then Head of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor C.J Orffer, matched Steen and Chenin Blanc leaves and finally pronounced Steen, Chenin Blanc.  A rose, by any other name, etc--- or in this case and important green grape, which ends up being delicious. And age does matter, as the South Africa producers find older vines, 40 years or older, produce the best fruit. 

The climate matters too and most of the premium Chenin Blanc is grown in Stellenbosch.  Its location at the foot of the mountains and with access to cooling breezes is importantnt as the variety tolerates heat, but needs a cooling element to be successful.  Stellenbosch has a great website with handy tips for visiting.  You can find out more here and dream of visiting in person.

We also tried some samples.  I had one that I found for my BrixChicks South Africa cuisine throwdowm, where we paired wines with Amawele South African Kitchen's Bunny Chow a spicy stew with heat to spare and exotic flavors of curry leaf, turmeric and coriander seed served in a cooling fresh white bread bowl.  My Little J from Joostenberg actually came from old unirrigated Chenin Blanc vines in the Paarl region.  5% Viognier boosted the peachiness.  Three months on the lees also helped with stonefruit aromas.  The wine retained nice acid and just  a touch of residual sugar(3.3 g/l) to tame the heat. Success once again from my "grows with/goes with" philosophy.  The producer recommends curry and it worked well.  More about Joostenberg here
During the Quarters episode, I try a Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc.  This winery was started in 1689 and is still producing delicious wines today.

According to the CBA, the most popular styles of South African Chenin Blanc are:
[1] fresh and fruity, often with citrus aromas and flavours and bright acidity and always unwooded;
[2] rich and ripe unwooded with lees contact, rich aromas and flavours, often of ripe stone fruit
[3] rich and ripe oaked wines that are usually rich in ripe, almost honeyed fruit, although some put the emphasis on minerals
 [4] sweet wines 
So Tanisha and I tried 3 of the four and are still looking for more.

I attached the link to Quarters - The Wine Show Episode One

Tonight : August 26th we will have Episode Two: PINOTAGE
We will tweet out the link at 5:00 Pacific. Hope to see you there!

22 August, 2013

Cheese. Rhones. And The Devil in Miss Jones... - Napa Rhone Tasting With the North Coast Rhone Rangers

Well, I got your attention, didn't I? When Craig Camp talks, I listen. So when I got his email about a fabulous event coming up next week, I had to share.  Sadly, I am working that evening, however, as always, feel free to tweet me to brag when you go @Brixchick_Liza


Tuesday, August 27, 2013 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM (PDT)

Wineries that make very small productions and 100 case lots, from veteran icons to new and emerging, will be pouring at the Napa Valley Museum. In addition to the wonderful wine, visit the current exhibit  in the Museum’s main gallery where visitors will be surrounded by Date with the Devil, a juried exhibition of new work by 19 regional artists based on the legend of Faust. 

Wineries include: Anaba, Maclaren, Cornerstone, Two Shepherds, Meyer Family Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Kale, Kieran Robinson, Wesley Ashely, Carica, Euclid, Truchard Vineyards, Petrichor, Donelan Family Wines and Campovida.
Taste multiple wines from 15 producers for less than the price of most Napa tasting rooms, $20 in advance. ($25 at the door.) And the Oxbow Market is bringing along some delicious cheese!

Napa Valley Museum
55 Presidents Circle YountvilleCA 94599

When you taste the wine, you will want to sell your soul.  But don't.  Just don't.  But do.....

17 August, 2013

2012 Hawks View Pinot Gris - Roots in disaster. Delivering Delight!

I thought it would be a good idea to update my house by enclosing my little used porch and replacing my old fireplace. Soon, the space will be complete and fun, but the intervening days (weeks, months!) , while I live with various Dexter-like incarnations of plastic sheeting and promises, it's been , well...tough.

Lucky for me, while porch sipping glimmers in my distant future, I received a sample of wine to console me.  2012 Hawks View Cellars Pinot Gris, Oregon, USA ($26).

In the glass, I saw a lovely color of clear yellow with a gold cast, with aromas of stone fruit, cara cara and love.  The flavors had similar notes sprinkled with shortbread crumbs.  Meaning it had some autolytic notes and a touch of nuttiness.  The texture was delicious.  I consumed it over three days and it remained sprightly,
matching with Asian food, sandwiches and #thebitchelorette.

 Reading the notes I saw that the wine is aged on the lees to express the winemaker's intention of balancing a nice acidity with a rich mouthfeel.  Perfect!

Pinot Gris is related to our fave Pinot Noir,  Pinot Gris is a white grape but can have a darker or pinker shade than its other cousin, Pinot Blanc.  All of these have a pinconey shape to their clusters.  Thus the name as "pinot" means pinecone in French.  It is known in Italy as Pinot Grigio, still means grey, where the style of winemaking and climate make it come out differently.

Whenever I see Pinot Gris on an American label I get happy, because my connotation of the variety is tasty, balanced and super food friendly.  I have been disappointed, but definitely not with Hawks View. This wine was delicious!

Hawks View Cellars uses estate grown  fruit in Oregon's  Chehalem Mountains  It's a lovely place today that was  formed by geographic turmoil.  We're talking floods, volcanoes, Californians.   But every prehistoric disaster that befell the area, now contributes to the delicious flavors uncovered by the dedicated folks who honor the land by producing succulent wines with a taste of place.

 Xandria is dying to go there since we have found quite a few producers of exceptional wine in this area.  I agree!  And when we go it's nice to know that Alaska Airlines will let us take a case back free and has some tasting fee discounts as well.  This runs 9/10 - 11/20 But click here for more info if you are planning  your travel 

So from disaster comes delight.

I hope my home improvement project goes as well.

Something I can guarantee will go well is visiting Hawks View Cellars:
More info here:

15 August, 2013

#WBW80 2012 Clos Saron “Tickled Pink”

On this warm August night when I had just enough energy to pick and nibble various snacks for dinner, the 2012 Clos Saron “Tickled Pink” rosé was a welcome delight.  This wine was a standout when I attended the Rhone Rangers tasting in San Francisco last March, and I’ve been waiting to open this bottle since.  With a soft wax cap and a hand-numbered label (the cap made a fun little popping noise when I pulled the cork through), the bottle bore the likeness of exactly what it contained—a wine lovingly made by hand by Gideon Beinstock in the remote, cool Oregon House Valley in the Sierra Foothills.  Made with organic fruit from Lodi (50% Syrah, 50% Tempranillo), this unfiltered wine saw minimal interventions in the winemaking process.  Beinstock eschews sulfites and mechanical treatments in favor of old-fashioned winemaking methods such as foot-stomping to crush the grapes, open-top fermentation, and secondary fermentation on the lees—producing some yeasty aromas in this rosé.
                The wine is one of the prettiest, softest roses I’ve tasted—and certainly one of the most French-tasting California rosés.  With yeasty, floral, herbaceous, and berry notes on the nose, this wine is very dry with bright acid in the front and mid palate.  At the same time, the wine is also fresh, soft, and light bodied with strawberry fruit—and only 11.2% alcohol.   The finish is light and smooth.  As the wine warmed and opened in the glass, it became richer with a more noticeable orange flavor and faint honey notes.  The wine was terrific with the rosemary-asiago cheese I pulled from the fridge and it stood up to the fresh cherry tomatoes I ate plain.  This is a spectacular summer-food wine.
                Clos Saron wines are worth seeking out because of Beinstock’s commitment to cool climate, terroir-driven wines made with very few manipulations.  His estate-grown Syrah blends and Pinot Noirs are lovely, but tonight I’m savoring the balanced, soft, complex rosé and wondering when I can take a drive up to Oregon House Valley.

14 August, 2013

#wbw80 Dry Rose Luminous Hills Aura Yamhill-Carlton OR

Is there anything that recalls summer better, whether it's presently blazing or freezing, than a lovely rose?

For this Wine Blogging Wednesday I got my hands on a gorgeous example from the Carlton region of Oregon, famous for its wonderful Pinot Noirs.
Rose peeks out cheekily
2011 Luminous Hills Estate Grown Rosé of Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AURA ($21) Byron Dooley coaxes magic out of his luminous hills and bottles the elixir.  Having visited I saw for myself the rolling hills with their summer greenery concealing old marine sediment typical of Yamhill-Carlton as well as, in this site, Jory volcanic soil.  High elevation in this lovely vineyard is just what Pinot Noir loves.  Byron brings together these elements with careful clonal selection to create an elegant, lively and complex rose that dances in the glass.  He recommends aging it.  I just don't have that kind of self restraint.

The color is a medium salmon pink. Aromas of medium intensity with strawberry and white floral notes.  Flavors of grapefuit and more white flowers with a hint of herbal.  Bone dry with medium acidity and a generous finish of grapefruit.  It shifted and changed in the glass standing up to the Thai spiced pork and even chocolate.  There was not even one drop left in the glasses or bottle when we were finished.

The wine was carefully and intentionally made with 70% coming from direct press and 30% saignee more info here:  Sorry to disappoint you  (I am disappointed in myself for not stocking up) as the wine is sold out. Note to self: Get on list to preorder more.

There is no more charming place to visit than Carlton.  Amazing wines. Great food and hospitality and lots to discover.  Byron hails from California having earned his degree and his winemaker stripes in Napa.  With his wife Dana, he rode the dot com bubble to Oregon where Dana established an amazing line of wine friendly chocolates.  Luminous Hills is named for the way the thick sprinkle of stars light up the night sky over the high hills of their vineyard.  They also have a delicious line of Pinots and some wonderful Rhone varieties,  Seven of Hearts. And will welcome you warmly at the Carlton tasting room;
217 West Main St. Carlton, OR 97111
Thursday - Monday
Noon - 5pm
(6pm by request)
 @HoustonWino and I almost wore through Byron;s patience when we snuck out of our event to taste and buy more wine and we are welcome back!

Curious to read about what else people tried, but this special rose of Pinot was delicious!

 Happy Wine Blogging Wednesday!

#WBW80 - Dry Rose from Provence - My Summer Wine

Strawberries, cherries and an angel's kiss in springMy summer wine is made of all these thingsTake off your silver spurs and help me pass the timeAnd I will give to you summer wine.                                     -Lee Hazelwood (as sung by Nancy Sinatra and Lana Del Rey)
For pure summer refreshment my favorite wine is definitely a dry, crisp Rose.  I drink Rose year round from all over the globe but there is nothing like an ethereal Rose from Provence and my pick is the 2012 Whispering Angel by Cave d'Esclans. This up-and-coming winery is located in the Southeast part of France in the Cotes de Provence appellation.  Whispering Angel is the entry level line from Cave d'Esclans and it has a growing presence in the US market.  Indeed all Roses from Provence have a growing presence in the USA according to www.Provencewineusa.com.   Exports of Provencal Rose increased by 41%  from 2011 to 2012 and I have played a part in that increase.  In fact, I buy Whispering Angel at my neighborhood Costco for under $20.  But what is so great about this dry style rose? 

Cotes de Provence is the lavender-colored appellation

Whispering Angel is made from a blend of Grenache, Rolle (aka Vermintino), Syrah and Tibouren. 

Imagine, if you will, dipping your toes in a cool river on a hot day while nibbling on sweet and sour fruits.  This is much like drinking  a well-chilled bottle of Whispering Angel due to its crisp character, minerality and fruit aromatics.  
When you look in the glass you see a  light almost transparent coppery salmon and when you sniff you detect winter melon, river rocks, licorice, pink lady apple, and subtle strawberry notes.

As you swish it around in your mouth you notice the balance of dryness, fruit and acidity.  And then a dose of anise hits your mid-palate followed by a long linger of barely ripe nectarine.  

For something that appears so delicate you notice that this wine has backbone and enough heft to pair with Thai food, especially the red curry chicken infused with anise.  Rose is defintely a wine to pair with a variety of foods.  

For more on this versatile wine please visit Cave d'esclans and for more on Roses from 
Provence try www.provencewineusa.com  Oh, and don't forget to google "Summer Wine" by both Nancy and Lana.  You might be pleasantly surprised.