Thursday, May 11, 2023

A Look into the Indigenous Grape Variety from Crete the Kotsifali Grape

The Kotsifali grape is an indigenous red grape variety from the Greek island of Crete. This grape is an essential component of many Cretan wines and is highly prized for its unique qualities.It is known for producing wines with medium to full body and moderate acidity. The grape is often blended with the Mandilaria grape to create wines with a deep ruby color and notes of dark fruits, herbs, and spices. The Kotsifali grape also produces rosé wines with fresh fruit flavors and floral aromas.

The winemaking tradition of Crete dates back to ancient times, and the island has a long history of producing wine. In the Middle Ages, Crete was under Venetian rule, and during this time, the wine industry experienced significant growth. The Venetians introduced new grape varieties and modern winemaking techniques, which helped improve Cretan wine quality.

Last month during Winephabet Street we explored the Kotsifali grape with Evan Turner the Wine Director/Sommelier at Krasi Meze + Wines restaurant in Boston. During the webinar, Evan shared his knowledge and experience with the Kotsifali grape, providing insights into the winemaking techniques used to create these unique wines. We also discussed the history and culture of the island of Crete and how it has influenced the region's winemaking tradition.

Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm (but does change depending on our schedules) and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. It is sponsored by Dracaena Wines and Trio North Wildwood.

Grab a bottle of wine and watch the webinar or listen to the podcast.



Thursday, April 20, 2023

Earth Day, Veramonte Winery, and the Power of Organic Grapes

Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, is dedicated to increasing awareness of our planet's environmental issues and promoting positive change. The event, first celebrated in 1970, has since become a global movement. Every year, people worldwide come together to participate in various activities, from planting trees and cleaning up litter to discussing climate change and advocating for sustainable living. One of the key areas where sustainable living can make a difference is in the production and consumption of our food and drink.

Earth Day is an important reminder that our actions directly impact the environment. Climate change, deforestation, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources are all problems that require our immediate attention. Earth Day provides a platform to raise awareness about these issues and motivate individuals, communities, and businesses to take action to pursue a greener, more sustainable future.

One area where we can make a difference is in our consumption habits, particularly in the food and drink industry. By supporting environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, we can help to reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier planet.

Veramonte Winery in Chile is an excellent example of an organization promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Veramonte Winery is a pioneer in sustainable and environmentally friendly winemaking practices in the Casablanca and Colchagua Valley of Chile. With a deep understanding of the need to preserve the environment for future generations, Veramonte Winery has focused on organic farming practices to cultivate their grapes. These practices promote biodiversity, protect the environment, and produce healthier, more flavorful wines.

Veramonte Winery's commitment to organic farming means that their vineyards are free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Instead, they utilize natural pest control methods, such as cover crops, insect predators, and organic compost to maintain healthy vineyards. This commitment to organic farming extends throughout the winery's production process, from planting and cultivation to harvesting and winemaking.

By using organic grapes, Veramonte Winery is able to reduce the environmental impact of their wine production while also preserving the natural characteristics of their terroir. The result is a range of high-quality, environmentally friendly wines that reflect the unique qualities of the Casablanca and Colchagua Valley.

Celebrating Earth Day with Veramonte Winery

As Earth Day approaches, it is essential to recognize and support businesses like Veramonte Winery committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. By choosing wines made with organic grapes, we can celebrate Earth Day and contribute to the global effort to protect our planet. As we raise our glasses in a toast to Earth Day, remember that every small action, like choosing sustainable products, can make a significant difference in the world around us.

So this Earth Day, explore the diverse and flavorful world of organic wines from Veramonte Winery, and let's toast to a greener, more sustainable future! 

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Casablanca Valley $13.99 Sauvignon Blanc is harvested at night so it will maintain fresh and bright acidity. The 2022 vintage began great but took a while to ripen. It hung on the vines a bit longer than usual to reach its maximum aromatic potential and concentration of flavors we all know and love from this region. A beautiful spring and summer Sauvignon Blanc. Its fresh with juicy white grapefruit and a hint of lime and salinity with puckering acidity.

Veramonte Chardonnay 2022 Casablanca Valley $13.99  The Chardonnay grapes are harvested first thing in the morning and whole clustered pressed. Some of the wne is barrel fermented in neutral oak with wild yeasts, while the rest is put in stainless steel tanks. Thirty percent of the wine goes through spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Nice minerality and silky on the palate, hint of salinity with great expression of the grape.

Veramonte Pinot Noir 2020 Casablanca Valley $13.99 The Pinot Noir grapes are harvested at night. Fifteen percent goes through whole cluster maceration and fermentation to achieve greater structure. The grapes are fermented in small open tanks with native yeasts. With hot summer and less precipitation during the winter months led to an earlier harvest. The grapes had lower yields but were very expressive and aromatic. Aromas of vanilla, hint of ashtray and earth escape from the glass. On the palate nice strawberry, vanilla, hint of acidity, silky mouth feel and tannins. 


Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Unique and Rare Jampal Grape: Exploring Portugal's Hidden Gem

The Jampal grape, also known as Jampel or Malvasia Fina de Jampal, is a unique and rare grape variety native to Portugal. It is believed to have originated in the Douro Valley region. It is predominantly grown in the Terras do Dão region, located in the country's central northern part.

The Jampal grape is a white grape known for its high acidity and aromatic qualities. It is said to produce wines with a rich, full-bodied flavor that is often described as having a mineral quality with notes of citrus, green apple, and stone fruits.

Jampal grapes are known for their thick skin, which helps protect them from the intense heat and sun the region is known for. They are also known for their resistance to disease, making them a popular choice for growers in the region.

Despite its unique and complex flavor profile, the Jampal grape has remained relatively unknown outside of Portugal. This is partly due to its rarity, as it is only grown on a small number of vineyards in the Terras do Dão region. In fact, as of 2021, only around 200 hectares of Jampal grapes were known to be cultivated in Portugal.

March edition of Winephabet Street we explored the Jampal grape with Special guest Direu Vianna Junior MW. a renowned Portuguese wine expert, who will share his insights on the near-extinct Jampal grape. 🌟  Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm (but does change depending on our schedules) and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. It is sponsored by Dracaena Wines and Trio North Wildwood.

Watch the webinar or listen to the podcast and you will:

🔍 Discover the history of Jampal

🥂 Learn about its unique flavor profile

🏞️ Explore winemaking techniques & regions

🎤 Hear firsthand accounts of reviving this rare grape




Thursday, March 16, 2023

Exploring Victoria's Wine Regions: From the Cool climates of Yarra Valley to the Rich Reds of Heathcote

Victoria is one of the most diverse regions in Australia, and it is well-known for producing some of the best wines in the country. Victoria has 800 wineries in 21 different wine regions, each with unique characteristics and wine styles. Swiss, French, and German immigrants established many of the first vineyards.

One of the most prominent wine regions in Victoria is the Yarra Valley. Located just an hour's drive from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is a cool-climate wine region producing some of Australia's most elegant and refined wines. The region is characterized by mountains on either side, rolling hills, lush greenery, and a moderate climate, which makes it ideal for growing a wide range of grape varieties. The Yarra Valley is home to over 80 wineries, each offering a unique wine-tasting experience.

The Yarra Valley is best known for producing exceptional cool-climate wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. These wines are renowned for their delicate, complex flavors and ability to reflect the region's unique terroir. The region is warmer than Burgundy but cooler than Bordeaux. The Yarra Valley's cool climate produces wines with higher acidity levels, which gives them a bright, refreshing taste that is perfect for pairing with food.

Another notable wine region in Victoria is the Mornington Peninsula, just south of Melbourne. The Mornington Peninsula is also a cool climate wine region, producing elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The region's maritime climate and sandy soils produce wines with crisp acidity and refined flavors. The region has over 9% of Australia’s Pinot Noir plantings and is the third Pinot Noir wine region.

Moving to central Victoria, we have Heathcote's warm-climate wine region. Heathcote is known for producing rich, full-bodied red wines, particularly Shiraz. The region's red soil and warm climate produce wines with intense fruit flavors and firm tannins.

In the northeast of Victoria, we have the warm climate wine region of Rutherglen. Rutherglen is famous for its fortified wines, particularly Muscat of Rutherglen. Also grown here is the Durif grape, which produces a spicy, intensely flavored, full-bodied wine with intense color and mouth-drying tannins. (a purple teeth wine) The region's hot summers and cool nights produce wines with rich, complex flavors and aromas.

There are many more wine regions in the State of Victoria. As your home base, a trip to Melbourne will give you access to the different wine regions.

I attended a tasting at the Australian Embassy in New York City of wines from the Victoria region. Here are some standouts.

Giaconda 2017 Estate Vineyard Chardonnnay, Beechworth Region - This wine was incredibly nice! Nicely balanced with soft and delicate oak. Balanced acidity and a beautiful finish. It just glided on your palate. A small boutique winery all estate-grown grapes.

Jasper Hill Vineyard 2019 Riseling, Heathcote Region Nice petrol notes, clean and bright acidity.

Yarra Yering Vineyard 2017 Shiraz Underhill, Yarra Valley - Exciting Shiraz, medium-bodied with expressions of dark cherries, plums and a kick of spice.

Yering Station 2019 Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley - Yering Station is Victoria’s first vineyard, planted in 1838. Nice, fresh medium-bodied, showing red fruit with a hint of vanilla, cinnamon bark, and a hint of spice on the finish.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Winephabet Street: The Isabella Grape

In this episode of Winephabet Street, we learned about the Isabella grape with Stephen Casscles, a viticulturist and winemaker from New York's Hudson Valley. His project is Hudson Valley Heritage Wines where he works with indigenous, native or historically notable grapes and re-introducing them and a national audience to bring these grapes back.

Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm (but does change depending on our schedules) and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. It is sponsored by Dracaena Wines and Trio North Wildwood.

The Isabella grape is a “Chance Hybrid or Chance Seedling” grape, according to Stephen. Horticulturist George Gibb planted the grape in his garden in Brooklyn, New York and Nurseryman William Prince from Flushing, New York, went to Gibb’s house, like the grape and got cuttings from it. Date, 1819. He began selling it out of his nursery and named the grape Isabella after Gibb’s his wife. Today, Isabella is grown in Brazil, India, Moldovia and Ukraine, covering over 70,000 acres.

Learn more about Isabella from Stephen who is so knowledgeable in this grape and may others by listening to the podcast of watching the webinar.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sample any wines during the webinar. If you do find and taste an Isabella wine, please let me know.

Watch the Webinar

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Merlot: The Forgotten Grape, LET"S GIVE IT SOME LOVE

Have you heard about Merlot lately? I look for it on winelists and don’t see it. It’s not prominent in wine stores…So I ask, “what has happened to Merlot?

Merlot has been around for centuries. I think it’s not as popular for one due to the success of Sideways and the focus on Pinot Noir and dissing Merlot. But also the rise of the popularity of bold tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvingon. People might perceive Merlot as soft or mellow, which I don’t agree with after seeking out and tasting a bunch of Merlot. Merlot can be smooth and approachable but also complex and full-bodied, definitely not light on the palate.

Used as a blending grape, it is the key component in Bordeaux blends. Known for its juicy fruit flavors of black cherry, plum, blackberry and a hint of blue fruit. It can have soft tannins and velvety mouth feel. When used as a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot can round out the tannic structure of the wine.

A relatively adaptable grape variety that can grow in a variety of climates and soil types. However, the best quality Merlot is grown in regions with moderate to warm temperatures, such as Bordeaux in France, Napa Valley in California, and the Columbia Valley in Washington. It is also grown in New York, Italy, and other places throughout the world.

Let’s get geeky about the grape. Merlot thrives in well-drained soils with good water retention, as it is susceptible to both drought stress and waterlogging. Merlot is a mid-season ripener and prefers a long growing season to fully mature and develop its characteristic fruit flavors. The best quality Merlot is grown in regions with moderate to warm temperatures, well-drained soils, and a long growing season. Growers must also take care to manage the grape’s vigor, as excessive leafy growth can negatively impact the quality of the fruit.

My personal feeling is that Merlot is that middle child and suffers from middle child syndrome. Older brother Cabernet Sauvignon is bold and bossy, while little sister Pinot Noir can be an overachiever (have to keep up with your older siblings) and sassy. With the middle child, Merlot feels excluded, ignored and neglected because of the birth order. Even though Merlot is great, it feels overshadowed by its older and younger sibling and needs to compete for everyones love.

Give Merlot some LOVE. Seek out wine made with a single varietal and says Merlot on the label. Let me know what Merlot wines you are drinking!

I recently tasted three lovely Merlot wines all from California. All will be great with food or on its own.

Ettore Merlot Zero 2019 SRP $35 - Before you begin to speculate what Zero stands for, I will tell you. Zero stands for zero sulfites added to the wine. Ettore is dedicated to maintaining pure and organic production methods. Estate grown in the southernmost town in Mendocino County, 500-600 feet above sea level, 25-27-year-old vines. This Merlot is fermented in stainless steel.

The wine…aromas of intense dark juicy berry fruit, violets and vanilla. The palate has soft and silky tannins laced with dark berry fruit, cassis, plum, a hint of chocolate and a touch of blueberry.

St Francis 2018 Sonoma County Merlot SRP $20.99- This Merlot is aged for 16 months is French oak barrels, with 25% of the barrels new oak. An excellent full-bodied wine with intense aromas of blackberry, plum and vanilla with a touch of spice. The palate is rich and silky with gritty tannins, and flavors of black cherry and dark fruit. Nicely structured and easy to drink.

Josh Cellars 2019 Merlot SRP $16.99 - Beautiful aromas of blueberry, violets, vanilla and a touch of black fruit. The palate is soft and clean with blackberries and plum. Very easy drinking.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Discover the Art of Sustainable Winemaking at Quivira Vineyards

Quivira Vineyards,located in the heart of California's Dry Creek Valley. This family-owned winery (Pete and Terri Kight) has been producing premium wines since 1981 and is well-known for its commitment to sustainable and organic farming practices.

The vineyards cover over 40 acres and they are a leading producer of Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals. Each vineyard block is farmed individually to highlight the unique characteristics of the grapes, resulting in wines of exceptional quality and complexity.

Quivira specializes in producing full-bodied and balanced red wines with a focus on Zinfandel. Their Zinfandel wines are some of the most sought-after in the region and are known for their rich and spicy flavors, with hints of black fruit and a smooth finish.

The winemaking team at Quivira is focused on balance and transparency of the terror by using low-input winemaking that spotlights the varietals and origins. They use a combination of winemaking techniques, such as blending, co-fermentation, phased harvesting and barrel aging in oak and acacia wood.

Quivira Vineyards is also dedicated to preserving the environment and promoting sustainable agriculture. Their vineyards are farmed using biodynamic methods, which minimize the use of chemicals and promote healthy soil, plants and wildlife.

In addition, since 1998, they have been working with the California Department of Fish and Game to restore Wine Creek to its native Steelhead trout and Coho salmon population. Wine Creek goes through their property on the way to Dry Creek.

Quivira Vineyards is a winery that combines the art of low-intervention style wines with the principles of sustainable agriculture. Their commitment to producing premium wines and their dedication to preserving the environment make them a place to seek out and try their wines.

I had the opportunity to sample four of their wines. All very nice!

2021 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County SRP $19 - This is 96% Sauvignon and 4% Semillon. Lovely fresh aromas of juicy white grapefruit and lemon taffy. The palate is fresh with high acidity. Notes of grapefruit pith that turns into juicy grapefruit as the wine opens with nice minerality.

2021 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc, Fig Tree Vineyard SRP $30 - Juicy pink grapefruit aromas escape from the bottle after it’s opened. Aromas of wet grass, lychee and Meyer lemon. The palate has notes of minerality with medium-high acidity. Notes of white grapefruit, lemon zest and lime. On the finish, it leaves you with a tingle of acidity on the tip of your tongue.

2021 Quivira Rosé, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, SRP $25 - A blend of 70% Grenache, 11% Counoise, 9% Mourvedre, 5% Petite Sirah and 5% Primitivo.Nice minerality in this wine. Floral aromas with hints of strawberries, raspberries and orange peel lead to a palate showing juicy strawberries, rhubarb, and nice acidity

2019 Quivira Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley SRP $28 - Everyone likes a good Zin! This one spent 10 months in oak. French oak, American oak and Hungarian oak. Aromas of brambling red and black fruit with black spice lead to a palate of plum, boysenberry, a hint of cocoa and jamminess.