Thursday, February 2, 2023

Winephabet Street: H is for Hondarrabi Zuri

Have you heard of the Txakoli region of Spain and/or the Hondarrabi Zuri grape? First, let me tell you how these words are pronounced.

Txakoli is pronounced chah-kuh-lee and Hondarrabi Zuri is pronounced ohn-dah-rah-bee Zoo-Ree.

In our January episode of Winephabet Street we explored the Txakoli region of Spain and the Hondarrabi Zuri grape with special guest Rick Fisher, Spanish Programs Director at the Wine Scholar Guild.

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.

Txakoli is a unique wine-growing region located in the Basque Country along the northern coast of Spain. The region is known for producing a distinctive and refreshing white wine made from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape.

The Hondarrabi Zuri grape is an indigenous variety that is well adapted to the cool and damp climate of the Txakoli region. The grape produces crisp and zesty wines that are high in acidity and low in alcohol.

The Txakoli wine-making process is also unique, as the wine is often bottled before it has completed fermentation. This results in a naturally carbonated wine that has a lively and effervescent character. The wine is traditionally poured from a height into glasses to create a frothy head and enhance its flavor and aroma. Rick demonstrates this during the webinar.

In recent years, Txakoli and the Hondarrabi Zuri grape have gained international recognition and become increasingly popular with wine lovers. Despite this popularity, the Txakoli region remains small and traditional, with many vineyards using sustainable and organic methods of production.

On this webinar, I was sipping on Zudugarai Bodegas Txakoli Malda from the Getariako Txakolina D.O. Made with 100% Hondarrabi Zuri grapes. Aged for only a few months on fine lees prior to bottling.

Tasting Notes: lots of green apple, lime zest, salinity, crisp, high acid and a minerality finish.

Watch the Webinar 

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Tasting of Primus Wine

If you're a fan of Chilean wines, you've probably heard of Primus. This small winery, has quickly gained a reputation for producing some of the finest wines in the region. Founded by Augustin Huneeus, who is the proprietor of Quintessa in Napa Valley. He was born in Chile and entered the wine business in 1960 with Concha y Toro. He started Veramonte Winery in Chile before selling the controlling interest to Gonzalez Byass. As Veramonte, today Gonzalez Byass has a controlling interest in Primus.

Primus - meaning “The First Among Its Peers.”

Primus, is dedicated to producing high-quality, handcrafted wines that showcase the unique character of the terroir of the region. Their vineyards are located in Apalta, Colchagua Valley, and Alto Maipo, Maipo Valley.

The winery's focus is on producing three wines; Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, and The Blend a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

What sets Primus apart from other Chilean wineries is its commitment to sustainability. The winery uses organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard, and all of its wines are made with minimal intervention in the cellar. This means that the wines are a true expression of the terroir the grapes were grown on.

I had the opportunity to try the three Primus wines and you won't be disappointed! Honestly, these are some of the better Chilean wines I’ve tasted. Elegant and balanced with no green notes. All sell for an SRP of $20.99. You can’t go wrong bringing these to the table.

Primus Red Blend 2018 - A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenère, 10% Syrah, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Each of the grapes provides their own personality to the wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon the structure, the Carmenère the density and smoothness, the Syrah the spice, the Cabernet Franc the elegance and the softness of the Petit Verdot.

Primus Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2018 - This spent 12 months in French Oak with 18% of the oak being new. Nose of cigar ash, blackberry, vanilla that leads to a palate that is soft and silky. Notes of blackberry, cherry, a little forest floor. A very nice elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and one of the nicest Cabs I’ve tasted from Chile.

Primus Carmenère Apalta, Colchagua Valley 2018 - This also spent 12 months in French Oak with 18% of the oak being new. Aromas of a mix of red berries, cedar with a plate of dark fruit, little pepper on the finish. Silky tannins with a hint of chocolate and rosemary.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Exploring the Hidden Gems of Oltrepo Pavese

The Oltrepo Pavese is an area of the Province of Pavia, located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, 40 minutes from Milan. The Oltrepo Pavese region is a hidden gem that is often overshadowed by more well-known Italian wine regions such as Tuscany and Piedmont when it comes to wine. However, this region has a lot to offer and is home to some of Italy's most beautiful and delicious wines.

The Oltrepo Pavese region is located in the heart of the Po Valley and is known for its rolling hills and beautiful countryside. The region is home to a number of small, family-owned wineries that produce some of Italy's most sought-after wines. The most famous of these wines is the sparkling wine Brut, which is made using the traditional Champagne method. The Classic Method for Oltrepo Pavese DOCG Wines is a minimum of 70% Pinot Noir then Chardonnay and grey Pinot up to 30%. When the word Pinot appears on the label the wine has no less than 85% Pinot Noir.

In addition to its sparkling wines, the Oltrepo Pavese region is also known for its red wines, which are made using a variety of grapes, including Barbera, Croatina, and Pinot Nero (Noir). These wines are known for their intense flavors and robust tannins and are often paired with hearty Italian dishes such as risotto and braised meats.

The soil in the region is composed of ancient rocks called Terra Rossa. The Terra Rossa brings rich humus and clay to the soil for the vines. The soil also contains a lot of iron which intensifies the red color in the grapes. The climate is Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters.

If you are thinking of traveling to the region, many of the wineries offer tours and tastings and are happy to welcome visitors who are interested in learning more about their wines. In addition to visiting wineries, there are also several other activities to enjoy in the Oltrepo Pavese region, such as hiking, biking, and exploring the beautiful countryside.

Here are some wines to seek out.

Francesco Quaquarini, Sangue di Giuda dell Oltrepo Pavese 2021 - This is a low alcohol wine clocking in at 6%. It’s a blend of 25% Barbara, 65% Croatina and 10% Ughetta di Canneto. It’s a sweet red wine that is frizzante. A bit sparkling. With notes of cherries, olives and some floral notes.

Travaglino Pinot Nero dell Oltrepo Pavese 2021 - Nice garnet in color with aromas of red raspberry. Leads to a light palate of red fruit and baking spices that explode on the finish and then dissipates quickly

Campo Dottore Riesling Mon Carul Oltrepo Pavese 2020 - Nice petrol notes on the nose along with some floral notes. You can taste hints of the petrol on the palate with some lemon notes and white nectarines. It’s soft with a tinge of acidity on the finish.

Gua Rini Cera Unq Volta La Bonarda Frizzante Oltrepo Pavese - Hints of wood and dark fruit on the nose. Leads to a palate of dark cherry, black raspberry with a touch of fruitiness. It’s light and refreshing.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Discovering Virginia Wines: A Wine Tasting With Neighbors

If you're a fan of wine, you'll definitely want to put Virginia Wine Country on your list of places to visit. I have visited the region twice but have not been recently. (It is on my to-do list). I was in possession of a case of 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Winners and invited my neighbors over for a wine tasting. None of them even knew Virginia had wines, let alone the fantastic quality of these wines.

Located just an hour outside of Washington, D.C., Virginia's wine country is a hidden gem that is quickly gaining recognition as one of the best wine regions in the country.

Virginia has a long history of winemaking, dating back to the early days of colonization. Today, the state is home to more than 300 wineries, producing a wide range of red, white, and sparkling wines. Virginia has something for every wine lover from dry whites and fruity reds to bubbly sparkling wines.

Its diverse terroir sets Virginia wine country apart from other wine regions. The state is home to a range of micro-climates and soil types, which means that winemakers can grow a wide variety of grapes. As a result, Virginia wines are known for their unique character and complexity.

Each of the wineries has their own unique character and style. During the tasting, that showed. When asked what wines they liked best, Mike said “They were all really good. Some stood out more than others because that was my taste.”

For 2023 put Virginia Wine Country on your list. No matter where you go in Virginia wine country, you'll surely find some amazing wines. Watch the above video to get views on the wines from first-timers tasting Virginia Wines.

Here are tasting notes from the wines we tasted.

Trump Winery 2015 Brut Reserve, Charlottesville, Monticello AVA SRP $75 - 100% Chardonnay. The wine had nice bready notes and fresh acidity accompanied by minerality. Nice hints of green apple ad citrus on the palate.

Maggie Malick Wine Caves 2020 Albarino, Hillsboro SRP $34 - This was a really nice Albarino, crisp and clear with the essence of tangerine, lemon and lime. Dry with nice minerality and tangy acidity.

Barboursville Vineyards 2020 Vermentino Reserva, Barboursville, Monticello AVA SRP $23 - Spring in a glass! Fermented with natural yeasts and aged on the lees for 10 months, then another 8 months in bottle before being released. Lots of lychees and lemon aromas, followed by a palate with nice minerality and notes of grapefruit and lime.

Michael Shaps Wineworks 2019 Chardonnay, Charlottesville, Monticello AVA SRP$30 - Aged in 36% new and 64% used French oak barrels. Lovely aromas of caramel apple, pear, melon and brioche. A nice full-bodied wine on the palate that is nicely balanced with hints of minerality, melon, lemon and lime zest.

50 West Vineyards 2019 Ashby Gap, Middleburg AVA SRP $30 - This wine was Nancy’s favorite. A blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon Lots of brambly fruit aromas. The palate full of black cherry, tobacco and a burst of soft tannins. Paired very well with Brie topped with raspberry jam.

Shenandoah Vineyards 2019 Reserved Red, Edinburg, Shenandoah Valley AVA SRP $38 - A blend of 38% Cabernet Franc, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petit Verdot. Fermented separately in stainless steel, then moved to 60% new and 40% used French oak barrels for 10 months .The wine is then blended and aged for 12 more months in barrel. Nice aromas of blackberry, dark cherry and cassis. A complex palate of leather and earth with hints of red and black fruit, vanilla and mouth drying tannins

Cana Vineyards & Winery of Middleburg 2019 Le Mariage, Middleburg AVA SRO $48 - A blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot 14% Malbec 14% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc.Aged for 17 months in barrels with 30% New French oak. A complex wine with lots going on. Some menthol aromas with black cherry and blueberry. The palate is soft and shows some chocolate, dark fruit and supple tannins

Stinson Vineyard 2017 Meritage, Crozet, Monticello AVA SRP $38.99 - Another blend of 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot. Aged by varietal for 6 months in 20 -50% new French oak. Blended then returned to the barrel for 15 months. Aromas of vanilla, violet, red currant and a hint of blue fruit. The palate showed nice structured tannins and well-integrated fruit.

Wisdom Oak Winery 2019 Nineteen, North Garden, Monticello AVA SRP $38 - A blend of 50% Petit Cerdot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc was aged in new Virginia oak the rest were aged in neutral oak. Notes of blue fruit, plum and cinnamon spice.

Pollak Vineyards 2017 Meritage, Afton, Monticello AVA SRP $50 - Aromas of blackberry, spice and vanilla lead to a lovely palate full of cassis and plums with a long finish.

Cana Vineyards & Winery of Middleburg 2019 Unite Reserve, Middleburg AVA SRP 65 - 65% Petit Verdot, 29% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot. The wine spent 17 months in new French oak. Lots going on in this wine. Aromas that are savory with back olives, vanilla and black plum. Complex palate with plum, blackberry, lots of dark fruit and well structured mouth-drying tannins.

Rockbridge Vineyard 2018 V D’OR, Raphine, Shenandoah Vally AVA SRP $25 - Now it’s dessert time with dessert wine. This is a blend of 39% Traminette, 36% Reisling, 19% Vignoles and 6% Vidal Blanc. It has 11% residual sugar. A nice dessert wine that is sweet, but not overly sweet with a little toffee and citrus. This paired very well with the Dulce de Leche cake and carrot cake.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Have You Heard of the Graciano Grape?

Have you heard of the Graciano grape? I didn’t until we featured it on Winephabet Street in November. Graciano is mainly grown in the Rioja and Navarra regions of Spain. It is challenging to grow, is low-yielding, late harvesting and susceptible to mildew. It is used a lot as a blending grape for its deep color, intense aromas and ability to age.

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.

In this episode, we were joined by Josh Harp, winemaker at Jada Vineyards and Winery. Jada is a small winery with a 3000 case production.

The wine we sampled during this webinar was Jada’s 2019 Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a blend of 55% Syrah, 17% Graciano, 15% Grenache and 12% Tannat from the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles. Aromas of cassis, plum and leather escaped the glass. The wine is serious but exciting. Nice expression of tannins, dark fruit, black currant with a plum pepperiness and a touch of earth on the finish. Very easy to drink!

I will add I did have a bottle of Ser 2018 Graciano in my cellar that I drank recently. Ser is women-owned and located in Santa Cruz, Ca. The grapes for this wine that was 100% Graciano came from Bokish Vineyard in Lodi Ca. It had lots of cherry aromas with hits of violets. This led to a soft, not complex palate, with silky tannins and black cherry. There was a wonderful black pepper spice that is soft and lingered on the finish. Very easy drinking.

Listen to the webinar or podcast and hear what Josh has to tell us about the Graciano grape and Jada Vineyards and Winery. If you drink a glass or bottle of Graciano, please let me know what you think.



Thursday, December 15, 2022

Josh Cellar's Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon Benefits Volunteer Firefighers

When you purchase wine, and you know that a portion of the sale will benefit a group or Not-For-Profit organization that is special to you, it makes the wine taste better.

Josh Cellars is the second label for Joseph Carr. The label is to honor his father, Josh. Josh was a volunteer firefighter. Joseph goes one step further in honoring his dad’s legacy by donating $1 for every bottle sold from his Josh Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi to the National Volunteer Fire Council or other local firefighter charities throughout the country.

This donation provides direct assistance to volunteer fire departments. Helps in programs for training, recruitment, retention, health and safety, and more.

Volunteer firefighters give their time to save you. They go through the same kind of training a paid firefighter does only it’s their expense. It’s their equipment, their gas that is coming to put the fire out at your home, save you in a car accident and sometimes rescue your cat. My brother-in-law is a volunteer fighter who took it to the next level and became an FDNY and is now retired.

These guys put their lives on the line for you. The least you can do is purchase a bottle of Josh Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi and know that $1 goes to supporting the volunteer firefighters. Josh will not disappoint.

Josh Cellars 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi $21.99 - Sourced from the Lodi region of California and aged in 25% new French Oak, this wine has aromas of cigar box, oak, coffee, and black cherry. The palate is soft and full of blackberry, blueberry, and dark berry with hints of vanilla that lead to a finish of coffee notes and drying tannins. Honestly, it’s a great everyday Cab.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Love Me Some Cabernet Franc

Sunday was Cabernet Franc Day. A day when we celebrated Cabernet Franc. It was created by Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines for her love of Cabernet Franc. Why did she pick December 4th?

Well, December 4th is the anniversary of Cardinal Richelieu’s death. Who is Cardinal Richelieu? Besides being the inventor of the table knife (yup), Cardinal Richelieu is responsible for bringing cuttings of Cabernet Franc from the Libournais region in Bordeaux to the Loire Valley.

Lori does such a great job in the promotion of this grape/wine. The Cabernet Franc grape is used for blending, but it is so good on its own. It is more than a blending grape.

I spent all last week drinking Cabernet Franc. Here are two California Cabernet Francs that are new to me.

Blue Victorian Cabernet Franc 2018 - Located in the Suisun Valley, Blue Victorian is a special project and second winery of the Frank and Liz Vezer of Vezer Family Vineyard. Blue Victorian produces a Cabernet Franc that is soft and luscious with lots of black cherry fruit.

Tessier Cabernet Franc 2019 - Kristie, a scientist turned winemaker, is following her appreciation of Burgundian and Loire Valley wines in producing small lots of wines. Annual production is about 1400 cases and includes Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Pinot Gris, Gamay Noir, Riesling, Syrah and Mourvedre.

Kristie’s 2019 Cabernet Franc is sourced from the El Dorado wine region. Aromas of bright red raspberry and violets escaped from the glass. The wine was full of black cherry, pine, hints of forest floor. I turned on the suggested music paring on Spotify - Laura Veirs "Drink Deep." As I sat sipping my wine, listening to the music, the wine got softer and began to all blend harmoniously together.