Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrate World Malbec Day with Achaval-Ferrer

Today is World Malbec Day and to celebrate I think we should all grab a bottle of 2015 Achaval-Ferrer Malbec. Honestly I’ve never met a Mablbec that moved me this much.

What exactly is Malbec? Malbec is a grape that originated in France. It is one of the Bordeaux 5. Today it is grown in Argentina, Chile, Napa and a few other countries. It’s in Argentina where it has seen the most growth and Argentina is known today for its Malbec.

Malbec is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon and is very food friendly. It makes for a great barbecue wine and I personally like my Malbec with burgers and ribs. What can you expect from a Malbec, purplish in color with a rim that is hot magenta. Malbec can be bold but not heavy. It is aged in oak anywhere from 6 months to 20 months. The longer it’s aged the more expensive it will be. It has a pretty big flavor profile. You’ll find red, blue and black fruit along with cocoa, mocha, coffee and black pepper.

During Winestudio two weeks ago I got to sample Achaval-Ferrer 2015 Malbec and the first words out of Paul’s mouth was “Wow, this is a really nice wine, complex and great mouth feel” and I hadn’t even taken a sip yet.

Achaval-Ferrer 2015 Malbec shows just how the quality of winemaking has developed over the years in Argentina. 2015 was a tough vintage with weather issues throughout the year. They had lower yields and had to adjust and do things differently in the vineyard and the cellar. You would never known based on the quality of this bottle. It just a testament to the knowledge and winemaking skills at Achava- Ferrer.

The grapes in this bottle come from three appellations in Mendoza, Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo and Medrano. All three appellations are of different altitude ranging from 2199 ft to 3478 ft. The grapes from each of these appellations all contribute different elements to this wine. The grapes from the Lujan de Cuyo area with well drained gravelly loam soil contribute elegance to the wine. The Medrano region has some heavier clay soil gives the wine structure and complexity.

The wine was fermented in cement tanks and then put directly into 2 year old French oak barrels for 9 months. What is in the glass are aromas of cherry, smoke, mushrooms and floral notes of violets and lilac. The palate is very complex and has a beautiful mouth fee. Well balanced with flavors of plum, black cherry, coffee and a nice spice finish. This wine retails for $24.99 and is a steal at that price!

This wine is available in many markets. I purchased a bottle in New York City and shared it with my cousin. Then that Friday it was on the wine list at the restaurant we went to for Paul’s birthday so I ordered a bottle and got to share it with my kids. I hope you grab a bottle and celebrate World Malbec Day or any ocassion with it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Napa by Appointment: Ehlers Estate

My first experience with Ehlers Estate was with their Rose during #winestudio Rose education and I was hooked. I ended up ordering additional bottles of the Rose because I liked it so much. When I knew I was going to Napa I made an appointment to visit.

It was our first appointment for the day and we pulled up to this beautiful stone building. The building says history all over it. As you step out of the car, and take a look around it’s beautiful and peaceful. When we entered the winery there was this sign just for us. Made me feel special and that was just the beginning of our tasting and tour. Elizabeth greeted us spent an hour and a half with us telling us the history of Ehlers, the winemaking techniques and the philosophy. After we walked the grounds and just took in the beauty of the land.

Founded by Bernard Ehlers in 1886, he and his wife owned and operated it until the 1920’s. After his death the winery had different owners until 1987 when Jean and Sylviane Leducq purchased it. They are a French couple who wanted to make Bordeaux wines in the United States. They did so at first in Virginia and founded Prince Michel Winery. They sold that winery and decided they wanted to make wine in California. They purchased the Ehlers Estate and it took them 14 years to put together the 42 acre estate and the last parcel was Ehlers Estate the original 10 acres that Bernard Ehlers built the building on.

Jean passed away in 2002 just a year after the original Ehlers 10 acres was purchased and his Sylviane in 2014. Winemaker Keven Morrisey took over the helm in the spirng of 2009 and is the General Manager as well as winemaker. He is carrying on the legacy of the Leducq’s in making terroir driven wines. Currently the winery is actually owned by the Trust.

Ehlers wine is all estate grown, they don’t source any of their fruit. Of their 42 acres, 39 are planted. Now let's get tasting

2015 Sauvignon Blanc - it’s Sancerre style aged in stainless steel and a few neutral oak barrels. Soft tropical fruit,some minerality, lime and soft citrus fruit round out the wine. It’s nice and crisp with soft acidity so the flavors blend together nicely for an enjoyable wine. SRP $32

2016 Sylviane Rose - What a thrill I got to taste this just after it was released! It’s 100% Cabernet Franc picked early just for the Rose. It’s picked immediately and pressed and doesn’t stay on the skins. It kind of sparkles in the glass with excitement. Nice perfume aromas with layers of watermelon, strawberry and pomegranate. Beautifully crisp on the palate with nice acidity and will make a wonderful summer porch rose. We brought this Rose to the crab feed we went to in Daneville after our stay in Napa. Went great with the crabs. SRP $36

2013 Merlot is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5 % Cabernet Franc. Aged in 50% new and 50% once used French oak. Beautiful nose with blue and black fruit. Very complex, chewy tannins with black raspberry and red currants licorice towards the finish and a nice cayenne pepper that softly lingers on the finish.

2013 Cabernet Franc 100% Cabernet Franc. Beautiful with nice strong tannins and structure. The wine that leaves your tongue dry Flavors of cranberry, red fruit and hints of vanilla.

2013 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is going through a bottle change. Seems so many people don’t pop the cork because they want to save the bottle and they are missing out on the best part, the wine. The new bottle will be revealed soon, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, what everyone is missing out on by keeping the bottle as a discussion piece is a beautiful full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon that is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Fragrant aromas of red fruit, red current and raspberry. The wine is elegant and complex with tannins that speak to the wine with notes of black, blue and red fruit layered throughout the taste with notes of spice throughout.

Friday, April 7, 2017

In Search of New York Merlot

All the Merlot’s I tasted happen to be from wineries in Long Island. Long Island is a prime growing area for Merlot and they have an organization Long Island Merlot Alliance to educate and promote the grape. Today there are approximately 700 acres on Long Island planted of Merlot and that accounts for 30% of the total grapes grown in the region.

Lenz, 2013 Estate Selection Merlot is a blend of 85% Merlot with 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine had a beautiful nose with aromas of dark fruit and baking spices. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry and plum fill my palate with nice integrated tannins. A great everyday dinner wine. SRP $30
Winemaker Miguel Martin

Palmer Vineyards produces Merlot form 35 year old vines. Not only do they produce a Merlot, but a Merlot Rose too. When producing the Rose Merlot, Miguel use specific plot of Merlot grapes, especially grown for the Rose. Miguel pick these grapes earlier than the Merlot used for red wine because he is looking for lower alcohol, more acid and more fruit driven wines. All the vines are 35 years and older. The Merlot is harvested and whole cluster to the press and they spend 3 hours on the skins so it gets a light rose petal color and he ferments it like a white wine with a cold fermentation. 

 The Palmer 2016 Rose Merlot had beautiful expression of red fruit, very well balanced and delightful. The 2013 Old Roots Merlot come from the oldest vines in the vineyard over 35 years old. Very low yield as they go in and drop the fruit so the remaining grapes have a more concentrate flavor. Yield per acre of the Merlot is .8 tons which is low. The grapes spend three weeks on the skins to extract the flavor and color and 18 months in mix of French, American and Hungarian oak barrels with medium toast. Miguel is looking to get more of the hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate flavors that comes from the wood integrated into the wine. The hazelnut and vanilla are apparent in the aromas in the glass along with cherry and plum. The wine has elegant soft tannins and the blueberry sneaks up on the finish. A very nice Merlot and I really enjoy talking with Miguel. SRP $35

Raphael Vineyard and Winery 2012 First Label Merlot is the first label they released when they opened 25 years ago. This Merlot comes from their older vines that are about 25 year old vines. They consider this their reserve wine. Aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months, the wine is unfiltered and unfined. The wine had a little stink on the nose but a little swirling and it was gone. The wine, a full bodied Merlot with flavors of plum, black cherry and blueberry. 550 cases were made - SRP $44

Paumanok 2013 Merlot is 100% Merlot is aged in neutral French oak for one year. The wine had beautiful aromas of blue and black fruit with a touch of violets. Light on the palate with boysenberry, black cherry hints of red fruit. the tannins were weathered and I felt the structure wasn’t to strong. I would drink this wine now. SRP $28

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Celebrating with Cesari

I dropped the ball on this.  I received this wine as a sample back in July and never had the opportunity to open the wine.  I feel it’s important, not just to taste the wine, but to celebrate something with a special bottle and Amarone is special.

Amarone is a special wine because of the process it takes to produce the wine.  This 2012 Cesari Amarone is 74% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella and 5% Rossignola e Negrara. These grapes are picked and put on drying racks in single layers until mid January. During this drying period the grapes lose 40% of their weight and their concentration of sugar increases. The grapes will sit on the skins for about a month then placed in steel vats to complete malolactic fermentation.  The maturation process lasts three years with it aging in 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels. The wine is then bottled and left to mature for at least 8 months. It’s this long process that makes Amarone so special.

The reason we were celebrating is because last year my son purchased a fixer upper in Philadelphia and it’s finally pretty much completed. It was a real gut job. The last time I stopped there I couldn’t even use the bathroom because there was no doors and there were a bunch of men there painting the house.  So two weekends ago I told him I was coming up to see the place and celebrate his new job and he wanted to take me to his favorite Italian restaurant. I thought this is the place for Cesari Amarone.

The evening began in his kitchen, which I must say, my husband did an awesome job designing and installing. Opening up the kitchen an making it part of the living space was brilliant!  Michael was quite the host providing cheese and crackers before heading out to dinner with us and cousins Michael and Chuck. It was super special to see items in his home that he took from my mom’s after she passed away.  I know she’s smiling down with pride knowing they have a place in her grandson’s home.

Off to dinner and I was in the mood for some good food!  We order a range of different food,chicken, fish, beef and pork. The wine went with pretty much everything (not sure on the seafood, but that didn’t stop Chuck and cousin Michael from drinking it)  The wine had layers of aromas escaping from the glass. Layers of cherry, raisin, black cherry and black raspberry.  On the palate the wine was quite complex. Flavors of warm vanilla, baking spices, cloves, bold blackberry, ripe plum and cinnamon. There was also a sweetness to the wine.

It’s such a pleasure to share wine with friends and family.  Especially when you introduce a new wine to them and they really get in the groove to understand the wine and the flavor profile.  This wine retails for around $40.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wine Review: Pizza and Chionetti

“This wine is made for food”, the first words out of Paul’s mouth with a piece of prosciutto and a sip of the 2013 Chionetti San Luigi Dogliani DOCG. The proscuitto ended up on our pizza with other Italian meats. The wine, well it was a perfect pairing.

The 2013 Chionetti is 100% Dolcetto from the Dogliani a territory of Langhe, Piedmont, Italy. The aromas escaping from the glass were that of maraschino cherries, blackberry and spice. The palate was layered with bing cherry, raspberry, black cherry, plum, blackberry pie and baking spices.

The reason why I say this wine goes so well with the pizza because the acidity of the wine really cuts into the saltiness of the Italian meats thus rounding out all the flavors in your mouth. The next time you are looking for a good red wine to have with your pizza, I suggest picking up a bottle of the 2013 Chionetti. SRP $23

Friday, March 24, 2017

Napa by Appointment: Bell Wine Cellars

I recently spent a few days in Napa before heading to the bay area for a party. Every stop we made was pre-arrange by appointment. This is a wonderful way to experience the wineries! There was no cattle call, making your way to the tasting room bar and the people taking care of us were truly interested in us and what our wine preferences were. We felt like family.

Bell Wine Cellars is new to me. My friend Colleen Topper is their wine club manager. So how do I know Colleen? Would you believe over a wine label. Yes, way back in 1998 after a trip to Napa I wanted to join a wine club and I liked the label of their winery Goosecross and they could ship to New York. (They sold Goosecross a few years ago) When Paul and I were planning another trip out to Napa a few years later Colleen sent me info and suggestions on lodging and things to do for the area. I thought that was totally above and beyond. Then come to find out in a discussion, her husband David and I lived in New Rochelle and moved him to California, me to Wappingers Falls, NY at the same time. Small world! This is how a friendship was born almost 20 years ago.

Colleen included her business card in her Christmas card, so of course we had to visit. Right off the plane (and it was a long flight with head winds) I figured we would have time to stop at my favorite fish taco stand Gotts before heading to Bell Wine Cellars. Those head winds took care of our lunch, so we had to drive directly to our tasting, no stopping at go, no food for our belly.

Anthony and Sandra Bell began in their winery in 1991. Anthony is from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. His family owned a wine farm there and after completing his viticultural degree from Stellenbosch University he came to the states and got his Masters in enology at U.C. Davis. He began working at Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)and became their general manager that put BV on the map by conducting research into the differences and impact of clonal variations on Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The tastings take place in the barrel room and they have an outdoor area for the summer. Tastings are by appointment only and this allows them better crowd control so it’s a much better and a much more enjoyable experience all around.

One of the things I noticed is there are two different labels on their bottles. One is black one is white. Most of the white paper labels are distributed nationally while the black labels are only available in the winery and to the wine club.

Overall the wines were stellar. They are made predominantly in a european style. They are elegant with nice expression of fruit, not jammy. We were treated to the extensive tasting below accompanied by a delicious cheese platter that paired very well with the wines.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc The grapes are sourced from Mello Vineyard in Yountville. The wine has a beautiful nose of pineapple, lemon and hints of white flowers, While 62% barrel fermented for 1 month in 25% new French oak, the remaining was in stainless steel. Not overly acidic and very elegant with flavors of grapefuit, and hints of lemon and pineapple. SRP $35

2014 Chardonnay is soft yet fun and very Burgundian. The restrained use of oak, combined with the wine not laying on the lees during barrel aging brings out the tropical, melon and citrus flavors of the wine. There is a soft roundness of the wine due to 25% going through malo-lactic fermentation. With 50% of the wine aging in stainless steel, the mixture really keeps the wine fresh and lively with nice expression of the fruit. SRP $45

2014 Block 6 Syrah from the Sierra Foothills had such a deep dark color. I knew instantly I was going to get purple teeth. Paul thinks it’s the best wine we’ve tried so far. Beautiful black cherry and black currants with a hint of chocolate, soft on your palate and very well balanced. SRP $60

2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a nice Bordeaux blend 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc 3% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec hand picked from their finest barrels. Complex with nice hints of mocha and black fruit. Good integration of tannins that bring the layers together. SRP $90

Now for Anthony’s specialty, the single clone varietals 6,7,337. Clone 6 is Bell’s best acclaimed and many awards have been won for it. This clone has least amount of berries but the best concentration. A little about the what a clone is. The Cabernet Sauvignon vine has mutated over hundreds of years and as the mutate their DNA changes. The French came up with a system to call them all clones and giving them all numbers. Anthony’s undergraduate degree he did extensive study of clones. After receiving his Masters, Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) hired him to to be in charge of their vineyards and raise the quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon. Today Andy Beckstoffer owns the vineyards of BV and Bell purchase the clones from him. All the grapes are picked separately and made separately.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6 has lovely nose that shows the earth leading to a palate of rich black cherry, hints of herbs. Spent 19 months in French oak of which 85% is new. Very elegant and something you want to age. SRP $200

 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 337 a bit different from Clone 6. Slightly more fruit driven on the palate with layers of black and red fruit with a hint of anise. SRP $160

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 7 wow, what nose of black raspberry, clove and earthy notes. The palate is complex with black and red fruit layered with hints of oak throughout. Strong notes of black cherry on the finish. $150

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Handprints from the Vineyard

My UPS driver brings me many boxes with wine in it, but this box was different! It was from The Meeker Vineyard for the next #winestudio program and I opened it with the help of my 7 year old neighbor who happened to be over. Lily is seven and knows nothing about wine, and she shouldn’t. However,the expression on her face when she saw the bottle of the 2013 Handprint Merlot was priceless! She did the touchy feely thing (as did I) and admired how beautiful it its with the rainbow of colors and texture looking at the bottle with her big eyes. Come to find out the winemaker Lucas Meeker handprints every single bottle. I can only imagine the time and effort put into the bottle art, what is inside must be really good!

For two weeks on Tuesday evenings I spent on twitter with Lucas and Kelly Meeker and the rest of the #winestudio gang. I have to say, I felt like old friends sitting in their living room discussing and tasting their wines and talking about life.

Charlie and Molly Meeker founded the Meeker Vineyard when they purchased their first vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley in 1977. At that time Charlie was working for MGM Studios in Los Angeles and would travel up to the vineyard on the weekends to make wine and tend to the vines. In 1984 their winery was established. Their original winery was a 1664 square foot building with no tasting room but they welcomed visitors in their lab. As the trend moved towards wine tourism, they built a 40 foot tall tipi next to the winery and used it for their tasting room. Today their tasting room is located in downtown Healdsburg, CA in an historic bank that was built in the 1800s. It’s just off the square. They produce 5000 cases of wine annually and focus on elegant structured wines. They believe that each wine has it’s own personality and that should be expressed through it’s packaging.

We tasted three of their wines and the first two I tasted with the winemakers in the Hudson Valley. I share and it was after tank samples of Hudson Valley hybrid whites! I think it’s important that other winemakers see and taste what others are doing regardless of location. They had some technical questions that I asked Lucas, and answers were shared.

The 2013 Hoskins Ranch Grenache is 100% Grenache from Harold Hoskin’s farm at the south end of the Dry Creek Valley. Since Grenache has super vigorous, they pass over it three times to drop fruit. This is so the grapes that are hanging get enough nutrients to bring out their intense flavor. The wine was aged in 22 months of once used and neutral French and American oak. There are only 287 case made. The wine is delicious! It will take anyone out of a bad mood. Aromas of strawberry, cherry lead to a mouth of full of luscious red fruit, cranberries, strawberries, cherry, rhubarb very well balanced with nice acidity and an elegant finish. SRP $37

Moving onto the 2013 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc sourced from Bob Pedroni’s vineyard grown in red dirt and over 30 year old vines. They aggressively leaf pull the Cabernet Franc to give it exposure to the sun. According to Doug Glorie of Glorie Farm Winery “this Cabernet Franc is your typical California Cab Franc, ripe plum,and sweet jammy” My palate however didn’t get the sweet jammy notes. I did get some green pepper notes with violet on the bouquet, some black cherry, and cassis and lots of tannins. This wine will age for at least 5 years. SRP $45

Now for my favorite bottle and yes I would purchase this bottle just based on the design - the 2013 Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot. To achieve more complexity Lucas blended 85.72% Merlot with 7.14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.14% Syrah. This really comes out in the layers of black fruit in the wine. The wine is nicely balanced with layers of blueberry, plum, blackberry, black currant and vanilla. As the wine open up the blackberry shines through nice and ripe and there is a hint of mocha. SRP 45

It so happens two days before tasting the 2013 Handprint Merlot I was at an event at Crew in Poughkeepsie and Chef/Owner Thomas Kacherski pulled out a magnum of 2008 Handprint Merlot. I was so excited! This had great expressions of blue and black fruit with sharp tannins. This bottle believe it or not could probably go a few more years in the bottle. According to Lucas the 06 and 08 were very tannic years.

It takes Lucas and his team 1.5 hours to handprint one pallet which is 56 cases of Merlot and another 2 hours to tissue wrap each bottle. They do this at least one day a week. The larger format bottles also include the handprint of the team along with the winemakers. Here’s a video on the handprint process

This was my first time tasting Meeker’s wines and I look forward to tasting more and perhaps visiting when I’m out that way in November.