Saturday, November 22, 2014

New World Pinot Noir Featuring Lenné Estate @lennewine


Minstrel and Muse #WineMuse Podcast 
New World Pinot Noir Show - Part 3

This month on our featured #WineMuse podcast show Linda Reznicek and yours truly, have focused on New World Pinot Noir. We have tackled the question of "What's so great about Pinot Noir?" As we wrap up Part 3 of our discussion on Pinot Noir, we had to include Oregon. We were fortunate to enjoy a tasting of three Oregon wines made by Stephen Lutz of  Lenné Estate as well as an engaging conversation with this talented winemaker and vineyard manager.

"Steve Lutz is a geinus!"
Tina Morey, Certified Sommelier, Protocol Wine Studio.

This month we have focused on New World Pinot Noir. Specifically, Pinot Noir from Carneros in California, Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and a Pinot Noir from Chile. This special podcast series is divided into three episodes. My posts with tasting notes are also in three parts.

We have explored the aesthetics of Pinot Noir and the cultivation and winemaking processes with Francois Lurton of Hacienda AraucanoMichael Richmond of Bouchaine Vineyards in California and Steve Lutz of Lenné Estate in Oregon. These three interviews are included as part of our continuing Winemaker Conversations Series.

Stephen Lutz of  Lenné Estate

We invited Steve to the show to talk about his wines and to discuss the topic of "What makes Oregon Pinot Noir so special?" He shared a tremendous amount of information about the terroir of his vineyards and his philosophy towards wine making. I was surprised to learn that Steve does not irrigate his vineyards. My intent is not to quote what Steve shared, I would rather you listen to his own spoken words, and recommend you listen to the interview.

*Listen to the podcast New World Pinot Noir Part 3, Featuring Stephen Lutz, Lenné Estate.

Glassware used in these wine tastings: Riedel Pinot Noir - link at bottom.

"It seems to me that Lenné is all about Terroir."
- William Pollard Jr.

Tasting Notes


Lenné 2008 Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton
(re-release held for several years)

Constricted by tannin, aromas and flavor were hiding, Steve decided to hold 130 cases because the wine was too closed. It started to develop aromatically in 2014. So he has re-released this wine.

Color: Red plum.
Nose: Rich, deep, plum, cherry, raspberry, Sandlewood.
Palate: Round, bright raspberry, happy palate, red fruit, very fine tannin on the medium-light finish. Quite elegant drinking at opening. Great way to start the conversation.
After 10 minutes: The nose grew in intensity, a tactile carress of aromas, ripe raspberry, ripe strawberry set on earthy tar background, focused. Full in the mouth with red and dark fruit, fine earthy tannin, almost black cherry on the finish.
After 20 minutes: Pow! Delivered a rich Pinot Noir experience, earthy, dried herbal notes, dark fruit, lovely nose, candied quality, delicious on the palate, fluid through the bigger finish. Not overly dry, background acid did not intrude.
After 2 hours. Wow. Just wow.

Day two: Earthy, funky strawberry, cinnamon, face carressing aromatics. Extreme pleasure, beautiful ripe fruit, exotic, lush layers of flavor. Big finish. Stunning. Delicious pairing with Spinach Salad - raw spinach, Feta cheese, Kalamata olive, green olive, olive oil. Wonderful.

Thoughts: This wine will make you re-evaluate Pinot Noir. A big, sensual wine of depth. Showing very well. This wine should be on every Pinot Noir lovers list. Highly Recommended.

Unfined Unfiltered
Closure: Natural cork
ABV: 14%
SRP: $60


Lenné 2011 Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton (HOLDING)

As of our interview and this posting, this wine is not available on the Lenné wine shop. It is being held until 2015 when it is expected to deliver the aromas and flavors Steve requires.

Color: Strawberry Preserve.
Nose: Strawberry skin and flesh, dusting of soil, edge of orange marmalade.
Palate: Medium-light, fresh, strawberry-orange, dry mid-palate, super-fine tannin, tingle of acid mid-palate.
After 15 minutes: More body, nice weight and viscosity, broader on the tongue, more delicate aromas on nose and lighter flavors on the palate with apple tannin on the finish.
After 30 minutes: Cherry and spice on the nose and the palate. Hint of orange on the medium finish.
At one hour: Strawberry skin, cherry flesh, light spice, orange skin, lower depth, opening nose. Almost candied, cherry-orange, a little sweettart candy action, tongue activity, dry cheeks, more going on at this point. Not subtle, lively finish. Cheeky wine at this point.
After two hours: Oh mama. Fluid, red fruit layered, dancing in the mouth, hints of spice on the periphery, focused intensity on the finish. Craved Beef Carpacio and rare Kobe Beef.

Day two: Intense strawberry, dark earth background. Medium body, lightly tart, cherry with orange cream, gentle tannin, creamy, lightly sour finish.  Craved a grilled trout.

Thoughts: Pare wisely with this delicious wine. Still young with wonderful potential. Evolving. Cool vintage. Wait another year. Strongly Recommended.

Closure: Natural cork
ABV: 13.5%
SRP: $45


Lenné 2012 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (READY)

The growing season was similar to 2008, but September changed it up.

Color: Red plum, clear.
Nose: Chalky cherry, strawberry background, graphite.
Palate: Nice weight, lovely texture, super fine tannin, nice dry bite mid-palate, creamy slide, dark cherry, slate, tingle on the finish.
After 15 minutes: Action was on the palate. Creamy, cherry cream, fine tannin, bright on the finish.
After 30 minutes: Strawberry action on the nose, walking through a strawberry patch at sunset, caramel and vanilla on the breeze. Strawberry, vanilla-cream, luscious mouth feel, wonderful tannin on the tongue, roof of mouth and lower gums, nice brightness on the finish. Poetry.
After an hour: Drink me.

Day two: Expressive. Strawberry-raspberry, boysenberry, perfume with cola/sasparilla on the nose. Tantalizing aromas, feminine. Palate creamy strawberry, textured, tart raspberry, edge of earthiness, fine tannin on the medium flavorful finish.

Day three: Wow. Creamy strawberry preserve. Delicious sipping wine. Lovely.

Thoughts: Drink or hold another year or more. A tempting tease, promising ever greater pleasure. Strongly Recommended.

Closure: Natural cork
ABV: 14.1%
SRP: $45

Lenné Estate
18760 NE Laughlin Road ~ Yamhill, OR 97148 ~ 503-956-2256
Tasting Room open Thursday - Sunday.

I invite you to listen to our interview with Stephen Lutz - he's a truly talented vineyard manger and an inspirational winemaker. I find his passion for wine expressive. It seems to me that Lenné is all about terroir. It's possible you have never experienced such concentrated expressions of Pinot Noir. Sincere thanks to Stephen Lutz of Lenné Estate.

About Lenné Estate

Lenné was born in 2000 when Steve and Karen Lutz bought a 21 acre site near the town of Yamhill, Oregon. They planted 15 acres of Pinot Noir on the site beginning in 2001. The vineyard is managed and farmed by Steve and the wine is made by Steve at Owen Roe with the help of their crew. Lenné takes its name from Karen’s late father Lenny, an Englishman and farmer whose spirit lives on at Lenné.

Lenné  Estate 20 acre vineyard is on sedimentary or Willakenzie soils called "Peavine" which is considered the poorest soil type in the WillametteValley. The Lenné vineyard shares a ridge with Willakenzie Estate, Deux Vert, Shea, Solena, Roots and Penner-Ash. The vineyard was planted between 2001-2004 at an elevation of 375-575 feet, with 2084 vines per acre. Clones Pommard, 115, 114, 777 and 667.

Steve shared that when he first tasted his bottled Lenné in 2004, he told his wife "Don't worry we are going to be okay." More than okay Stephen, well done, bravo!

*Note: I used the Riedel Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass for the wine tastings featured in our New World Pinot Noir series. The shape of this glass enhanced the aromas and flavors of the Pinot Noir I was tasting. Pinot Noir is a delicate wine with delicate aromas and flavors. The Vinum XL glass enhances the sensory experience of Pinot Noir. Strongly Recommended.


Thank you for listening and reading about New World Pinot Noir!


Friday, November 21, 2014

New World Pinot Noir Featuring Bouchaine Vineyards @BouchaineWines


Minstrel and Muse #WineMuse Podcast 
New World Pinot Noir Show - Part 2
"The uncertainty of life is there in front of you in the glass." 
- Michael Richmond, winemaker Bouchaine Vineyards

This month we have focused on New World Pinot Noir. Specifically, Pinot Noir from Carneros in California, Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and a Pinot Noir from Chile. We are dividing the podcasts into three episodes. My posts with tasting notes are also in three parts.

We are exploring the aesthetics of Pinot Noir and the cultivation and winemaking processes with Francois Lurton of Hacienda Araucano in Chile, Michael Richmond of Bouchaine Vineyards in California and Steve Lutz of Lenné Estate in Oregon. These three interviews are part of our continuing Winemaker Conversations Series.

This is Part 2 of our featured #WineMuse podcast show. Our discussion of New World Pinot Noir had to include California. We were fortunate to enjoy a tasting of three Napa Valley Bouchaine Vineyards wines from the Carneros region as well as an engaging conversation with the winemaker, Michael Richmond.

* Listen to the podcast New World Pinot Noir Part 2, Featuring Bouchaine Vineyards.

Bouchaine Vineyards is a 40 year pioneer in the California wine industry, Michael Richmond founded Acacia Wines in the Carneros district of Napa Valley and now makes wine for Bouchaine. He brings the history and his love of wine education, experience, and adventure.

I invite you to listen to our interview with Michael Richmond - he's an inspirational winemaker and I find his passion and philosophy for wine contagious. Sincere thanks to Michael Richmond and Bouchaine Vineyards.

*Note: Glassware used in these wine tastings: Riedel Pinot Noir - link at bottom.

"...depths that only a winemaker of his skill and experience has divined."
- William Pollard Jr.

Tasting Notes

When we interviewed Mr. Richmond, we asked him in what order we should taste these three wines. I followed his suggestion and have listed the wines in order of tasting. 

1. Bouchaine Napa Valley Carneros 2012 Mariafeld Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir

*Note: The Bacchus Collection is intended primarily for wine club members. They make many wines exclusively for their wine club. Worth checking out.

Color: Clear, pale ruby.
Nose: Soft cherry, pomegranate, orange peel, edged with spice, after 10 minutes smoky rose petal and dried cherry appeared.
Palate: Nice acid backbone, surprisingly dry on the tongue, cherry tart, medium bodied, spicy leather on the finish. After 10 minutes a finesse of body and flavor, acid and tannin toned down, nice tingle on the gums, strawberry lingered on the medium finish. At 20 minutes good weight and supple body, candied black cherry, fine tacky tannin on the tongue. Desired a serving of Beef Carpacio or a lightly seasoned rare New York steak.
1.5 Hours: Little changed.
2 hours: A little more fruit mid-palate, not as dry.
2.5 hours: A little earthy.
3 hours: This is Pinot Noir, what I think of as Pinot Noir. Hint of mushroom, red fruit, graphite, bacon fat, orange twist and a sense of depth to the nose. Nice weight, rounded, savory red fruit, tannin and acid provided a happy finish of earthy raspberry with an orange twist.

Day two: Orange rind, melon, graphite, dried raspberry and rose petals on the nose. Fluid, cherry, very dry with dried strawberry, tacky tannin on the gums, cheeks, tongue and the top-palate. Enjoyable big finish with red fruits, a nice juicy steak or slice of roast duck would be lovely. Begging for food and to be consumed. Recommended.

Vineyard Name: Estate Block 23
ABV: 14.1%
Closure: Natural cork
SRP: $40
Production: 266 cases
Sample provided by the winery

2. Bouchaine Napa Valley Carneros 2012 Gee Vineyard Pinot Noir

*Note: The Bacchus Collection is intended primarily for wine club members. They make many wines exclusively for their wine club. Worth checking out.

Color: Pale, earthy plum.
Nose: Earthy strawberry, note of cream,
Palate: Pleasing palate, sophisticated mouth feel, strawberry, delicate earth, friendly acidity, fresh finish. Good opening wine before food or pair with mild, soft, creamy cheese and fresh bread.
After 20-30 minutes: Strawberry, fluid, gently dry, tingle on the gums, with orange skin, a lingering delicate strawberry finish.
35 minutes: Bigger nose, candied cherry, cola, pencil shaving, coffee, tobacco. Solid mouth feel, sour cherry, orange, fine tannin on the tongue, nice spike of acid mid-palate, fresh strawberry in to the bright finish.
After one hour: Tantalizing nose, layered, red fruits, candied quality rolled out of the glass and caressed my cheeks, fresh tobacco wrapped in Mandarin orange peel in the background, a pleasing earthiness tied it together. Pinot lovers nose. Red fruits, rich back-palate along the cheeks and below the ears, fresh creaminess, cassis with rose water, dry mid-palate, roof of mouth and tongue happy raspberry and orange zest with a little gravel into the finish.
At 2.5 hours: Drink me, please.

Day two: Sour cherry, raspberry, strawberry, tasty and lively with modest tannin on the tongue, root-beer and spice with raspberry cream on the finish. An enjoyable contemplative quality. Good pairing with fried steak. Recommended.

Vineyard: Gee
ABV: 13.9%
Closure: Natural cork
SRP: $60
Production: 272 cases
Sample provided by the winery

3. Bouchaine Carneros 2010 Pinot Noir

Color: Blood ruby.
Nose: Soft black cherry, raspberry background, hint of celery, white pepper.
Palate: Cherry slide across the palate, fine tannin, fresh back palate, satisfying in the mouth into the finish. Integrated and tasty at opening. My speed.
At 10 minutes: Integrated and tasty, fluid, red fruit finish. Drink me. Pairing with Shepherds pie.
20 Minutes: Color is bloodier/darker, focused nose with spicy cherry/raspberry (very cool), lovely flavors and texture, cherry pie, raspberry compote, fine tannin, bright top palate. Delicious.
At 1 hour 10 minutes: Candied black cherry, licorice, spice and crème brulee on the nose. Candied, creamy down the palate, cherry torte, licorice, focused and delicious, long finish. "Drink me now."

Day two: Rich earthiness, focused nose with strawberry, candied cherry, gingerbread and pepper mill. Fluid with savory fruit, cherry, boysenberry, raspberry, fine tannin on the tongue, some liveliness on the finish. Wonderful sipping wine and agreeable with lightly seasoned rib-eye. This wine was finished on day two, because it tasted so good.

Thoughts: This 2010 Bouchaine Pinot Noir would be a wonderful and positive experience for first time Pinot Noir drinkers. Also wonderful wine for people who want a sophisticated, layered, bigger red wine experience. An excellent choice for restaurants as well, since the wine was wonderful at opening all the way through the second day. Great QPR. Strongly Recommended.

ABV: 13.8%
Closure: Natural cork
SRP: $35
Production: 9,798 cases
Sample provided by the winery

Bouchaine Vineyards

1075 Buchli Station Road

Napa, CA 94559

(800) 654-WINE
(707) 252-9065

*NoteI used the Riedel Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass for the wine tastings featured in our New World Pinot Noir series. The shape of this glass enhanced the aromas and flavors of the Pinot Noir I was tasting. Pinot Noir is a delicate wine with delicate aromas and flavors. The Vinum XL glass enhances the sensory experience of Pinot Noir. Strongly Recommended.

What did I learn? 

Perhaps a blended Pinot Noir is more my speed. Blending allows the winemaker to showcase and express greater complexity in a wine. However, if you want to understand a place and the winemaker, then single vineyard bottlings like the 2012 Mariafeld and 2012 Gee Vineyard are essential experiences. My impression is that the 2012 vintages are still young and will undoubtedly benefit from time in bottle. I would drink the 2010 now and hold the 2012 for at least another year.

I encourage you to listen to our interview with Michael Richmond, he shared a lot of his passion and philosophy about making wine. He entered the depths that only a winemaker of his skill and experience has divined. Inspiring.

Sincere thank you to Bouchaine Vineyards and Michael Richmond for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to us about his Pinot Noir.

We continue to explore New World Pinot Noir in Oregon in Part 3.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featuring 2013 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Pinot Noir #WineMuse


Minstrel and Muse #WineMuse Podcast 
New World Pinot Noir Show - Part 1 

"...the delights of Pinot Noir - without a physical confrontation."
William Pollard Jr. 

This month on our WineMuse Podcast we have explored the topic of New World Pinot Noir. Ten years ago Pinot Noir became hugely popular in the United States. You can blame the movie "Sideways" for helping emphasize this trend.

Pinot Noir is associated with the Burgandy region of France and is also a primary variety used in sparkling wine production in Champagne. Recently, other regions of the world have gained a reputation for quality Pinot noir, this includes the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River AVAs of California and the Central Otago, Martinborough and Marlborough wine regions of New Zealand.

Linda and I decided to focus on New World Pinot Noir from Carneros in California, Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and a Pinot Noir from Chile. The podcasts are divided into three episodes. My posts with tasting notes are also in three parts.

It has been exciting to explore Pinot Noir, the aesthetics, the cultivation and winemaking processes with Francois Lurton of Hacienda Araucano in Chile, Michael Richmond of Bouchaine Vineyards in California and Steve Lutz of Lenne Estate in Oregon. These three interviews are part of our continuing Winemaker Conversations Series.

Listen to Part 1 New World Pinot Noir Podcast - interview with Francois Lurton.

Why do wine enthusiasts covet Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is a difficult variety to cultivate. The grape's tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several diseases that require diligent canopy management. Thin skinned it requires careful hand picking at harvest. With low levels of phenolic compounds it tends to produce lightly colored, medium bodied low tannin wines that can often go through dumb phases with uneven and unpredictable aging. Labor intensive to cultivate, and light in color as a wine, why is Pinot Noir considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world?

Pinot Noir drinkers take their wine serious and personal. I learned this first hand when I met a Pinot Noir lover from Alaska. At the time I expressed my lack of interest in Pinot Noir and my preference for Washington wine. Heated words were exchanged and the conversation deteriorated quickly. I had to walk away before the interaction became physical. It left me puzzled. Why did he take his wine preference so personal? What's so great about Pinot Noir?

I finally had my own Pinot Noir epiphany two years ago. It surprised me and caught me off guard. With a greater appreciation for Pinot Noir, it was exciting to explore New World expressions of this mercurial grape. You are encouraged to listen to our interviews with our winemaker guests as they share deep personal sentiments about Pinot Noir. It would make me happy if I have helped guide someone to the delights of Pinot Noir - without a physical confrontation.

Part 1 - Featuring Hacienda Araucano Reserva Pinot Noir  

“Araucano” is the name given by the Spaniards to Chile’s indigenous people.

The Hacienda Araucano Reserva range consists of various varietals : two white varieties, Chardonnay and Sauvignon and four reds, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. François and Jacques Lurton found their potential vineyard site while working as consultants for the San Pedro vineyards. The first bottles of Araucano were released in 1997.

In 2000, François bought 200 hectares of land in the valley of Colchagua. The influence of the ocean climate moderates the heat that comes from the valley. The difference of temperature during the day and during the night allows the grapes to reach exceptional levels of maturity. The valley is divided into particularly varied microclimates, which eventually allows for greater complexity of wine.

Pinot Noir - François’ favorite wine.

Born and bred in Bordeaux, his passion for New World Pinot Noirs and the conviction that Chile is one of the countries with a rare potential for this variety has spurred François to experiment with producing one of his own. François has always had a passion for New World Pinot Noirs, particularly those from North America and New Zealand.

He decided to plant Pinot Noir in Chile as it shares a climate similar to that of California. This is an approach, that François wants to develop further. Pinot Noir is a very delicate variety that, in this case, produces a wine with lots of sweetness that is very fresh, fruity and easy to drink. The first bottle of Aruacano Pinot Noir was the 2006 vintage.

Map - Vineyard sites.

Pacific Influence - It was in Chile, after starting to make wines to the west of the Colchagua Valley and Casablanca, that Francois Lurton finally discovered the ideal terroirs, influenced by the Pacific, with misty mornings, very cool nights and plenty of rain in spring.

The Potential 

He noticed that by planting the vines on hillsides, he could choose the exposure he wanted and shorten the time the vines are exposed to the sun. All of this was similar to the conditions west of Napa Valley, Russian River or Carneros. The vines are still young and Chile does not yet have the same experience with fine Pinot Noirs as California or Oregon. As I learned by speaking with Francois, it does have the potential.

The intent behind this Pinot Noir is to preserve the varieties freshness and fruitiness. The result is a wine that reflects the soul of the terroir. A wealth of potential for Pinot Noirs that is yet to be discovered.

Linda and I tasted the 2013 Araucano Pinot Noir live on the podcast. You are invited to listen to our conversation with Francois Lurton and our impressions of his 2013 Hacienda Araucano Pinot Noir.

Glassware used in these wine tastings: Riedel Pinot Noir - link at bottom.

Tasting Notes


Tasting Notes 2013 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Pinot Noir

Color: Pretty candy red and purple.
Nose: Perfumed, earthy strawberry.
Palate: Initially acidic, broadened and softened over 20 minutes, yielding fresh strawberry, spice, medium body. Lovely wine at this price. Wow great value. Food ready. Think restaurants and food at home. Turkey and ham.

At one hour: Lovely fresh earth, mushroom, dark strawberry flesh, candied, pencil on the nose. Lovely. Talking strawberry, almost tart, light tannin, note of leather, lingering strawberry, hint of coffee on the fresh finish.

At 1.5 hours: Strawberry baby! Pleasantly dry, nothing over the top, hint of earthiness, cola and raspberry behind the strawberry. Relaxed, fresh and tasty. Drink me with friends and food.

Day two: Red berry, smoky, soft orange peel nose. Good mouth feel, strawberry, Bing cherry flesh, earthy note in background, soft tannin, light acid, balanced and muy drinkable.

Thoughts: Friendly fun. Ready to drink at open. Serve gently chilled with food or drink next summer. Aromatic and flavorful wine, think Salmon, Duck and especially Turkey this time of year. Terrific value at this price and Recommended. Tempted to Strongly Recommend this wine based on the shear value and pleasure it delivered. Not a sophisticated Pinot Noir, but full of New World fruit flavors and spot on finish. Buy it and you decide

Closure: Screw cap
SRP: $13
Sample provided by Winesellers, Ltd.
Made by: Hacienda Araucano

Chile and Wine FAQ
  • The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005.
  • Chile has 14 principal valley regions. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountain range to the east. 
  • Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. So far Chile has remained free of phylloxera louse which means that the country's grapevines do not need to be grafted.
  • The vineyards of Chile fall between the latitudes of 32 and 38° s which, in the Northern Hemisphere would be the equivalent of southern Spain and North Africa. However the climate in Chile's wine regions is much more temperate than those regions, comparing more closely to California and Bordeaux. Overall, it is classified as a Mediterranean climate with average summer temperatures of 59-64°F (15-18°C) and potential highs of 86°F (30°C).
  • There are four seasons in most of the country: summer (December to February), autumn (March to May), winter (June to August), and spring (September to November).
  • Chile has benefited from an influx of foreign investment and winemaking talent that began in the late 20th century. Flying winemakers introduced new technology and styles that helped Chilean wineries produce more internationally recognized wine styles. One such improvement was the use of oak. Historically Chilean winemakers had aged their wines in barrels made from rauli beechwood which imparted to the wine a unique taste that many international tasters found unpleasant.
  • Chile's 2002 census reported a population of 15 million people.
Chilean Wine Resources:

*Note: I used the Riedel Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass for the wine tastings featured in our New World Pinot Noir series. The shape of this glass enhanced the aromas and flavors of the Pinot Noir I was tasting. Pinot Noir is a delicate wine with delicate aromas and flavors. The Vinum XL glass enhances the sensory experience of Pinot Noir. Strongly Recommended.

Thank you to our show sponsor, Winsellers Ltd. They did a phenomenal job of helping us select some of their best wines under $20. Special thank you to Francois Lurton of Hacienda Araucano for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to us about his passion for Pinot Noir.

You can continue our Pinot Noir exploration in Part 2 and Part 3.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: Syncline Cellars Grüner Veltliner 2013


An Austrian Grape Shows Well in Washington.

We featured Grüner Veltliner on the August 2014 #WineMuse podcast "Getting Groovy with the Next Hot Wine Gruener Veltliner from Austria" on Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. We tasted a lovely Austrian wine on the show. As we were exploring what makes Grüner Veltliner special and how to pair it with food, I wanted to find a Washington Grüner Veltliner to compare.

Linda and I learned that there is precious little Grüner Veltliner grown in Washington. But we did find a Washington winery making Grüner Veltliner. Syncline Wine Cellars in the Columbia River Gorge AVA makes a limited amount of Grüner Veltliner.

You can listen to our podcast on Austrian wine and also taste along as we speak with winemaker James Mantone of Syncline Wine Cellars. My tasting notes for this wine follow.

The Columbia River Gorge looking west.

Tasting Notes Syncline Cellars Grüner Veltliner 2013

Color: Pale straw.
Nose: Delicate, savory, white pepper, dry pear, toasty, spicy.
Palate: Focused, spice, lime, fresh, savory lemon grass finish. Nice tingle lower gum. food friendly. Enjoyed with blue cheese spinach salad, fried rice, sautéed ginger garlic shrimp with red pepper flakes. Yum!

Day two: White pepper honey, and some funk to the nose. Savory, creamy, dry, tart spike, lime, unripe melon, herbal, acid. Dry acid on tongue, teeth and gums. Buzz-ow!

Thoughts: Intriguing wine. Paired well with green vegetables. Best with food.
Strongly recommended.

100% Gruner Veltliner
Closure: Screwcap
ABV: 13.3%
Production 315 cases
SRP: $20
Purchased locally

Syncline Wine Cellars
111 Balch Road
Lyle, Washington

About Syncline Wine Cellars

Syncline Wine Cellars is located in the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful location for a winery. It is closer to Portland, Oregon than it is to Seattle and worth the drive. James and Poppie Mantone are the owners and James is the winemaker.

Inspired by early efforts of Rhone and Burgundy varietals sampled from Washington wineries, Syncline’s first vintage in 1999, consisted of 76 cases of Celilo Vineyards Pinot Noir from vines planted in 1973. The next year, production was increased to include Columbia Valley Syrah and Grenache. At the same time they began working with vineyards to plant Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise and Carignan.

All grapes are hand picked and brought to the winery where they are partially destemmed, with a portion of whole clusters, into a variety of fermentation vessels. Fermentation in concrete occurs for all of their finest lots of grapes. Native or ‘feral’ yeast fermentations are primarily employed, though inoculated fermentations are used when needed. Each lot is foot trod (pigeage à pied) along with manual punch downs or pump-overs. Free run juice is kept separate for top bottlings. Gently pressed, and free run juices are separately matured in either older french oak, or concrete tanks. 

They have kept production under 6,000 cases annually to ensure intimacy with each barrel and every vine. They make truly lovely Washington wines.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Virginia Wine Tasting - Monticello AVA @VAWine


“We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good”.  
- Thomas Jefferson

The original colonies were mandated by England to grow vinifera and to make wine. They failed miserably. Even Thomas Jefferson struggled for 30 years to grow vinifera, without success. After a great deal of hard work and experimentation that has all changed.

By invitation, I enjoyed another Virginia Wine Chat wine tasting with host Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. This Virginia wine tasting featured three different wines from the Monticello AVA. Virginia is an exciting wine region, one I've grown fond of after visiting in 2011.

Jefferson's Monticello.

Jefferson’s vision has been realized by the success of 255 Virginia wineries. Virginia is now the fifth largest wine producing state in the United States. Quality is strong. Producing 500,000 cases annually, Virginia can't produce enough wine to meet demand.

The Virginia wine industry employs 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy each year. Virginia is well on its way to becoming a world class wine producing region. It may have taken a couple hundred years for Virginia to reach this point, but they are now making wines I like and wines which should be coveted and collected.

Featuring Wines from the Monticello AVA

In 1984 the counties surrounding Monticello were designated the Monticello Viticultural Area (AVA), in recognition of the region’s distinguished and burgeoning wine industry. Today the parent organization of the Monticello Wine Trail, the Jeffersonian Wine Grape Growers’ Society, is an association of the largest concentration of wineries in Virginia, with 30 wineries within 25 miles of Charlottesville producing wines of national and international acclaim.

Tasting Notes #VAwinechat Wines of the Monticello AVA

1. Veritas Viognier 2013 Monticello AVA

Veritas is a family-owned and run farm winery nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Color: Pretty medium gold.
Nose: Toasty, pineapple, stone fruit, mineral edged.
Palate: Textured, silky, with weight mid-palate, stone fruit, lively, lingering finish.

Day two: Mineral fresh with stone fruit, lemon, mango skin and toast on the nose. Peach across the palate, with lemon, grassy note, nice viscous quality. Tasty.

Thoughts: A wonderful food wine. Pair with chicken, turkey, and fresh seafood. Recommended.

Blend: 95% Viognier, 5% Petite Manseng, barrel aged in neutral oak
Note: De-stemmed, short cold soak 9-14 hrs. Lot of acid from the Petit Manseng, early harvested for liveliness.
RS: .75%
ABV: 13%
Closure: Screw cap
Winemaker: Emily Felton
SRP: $24

Veritas Vineyard & Winery
151 Veritas Lane
Afton, VA 22920
tel: (540) 456-8000
fax: (540) 456-8483
Andrew & Patricia Hodson, Owners

2. Grace Estate Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc, Monticello AVA

All Grace Estate wines are made from grapes grown on site at Mount Juliet Farm in Crozet, Virginia. The vineyards are as old as 14th leaf, are planted on various soils, and are between elevations of 750-1,000 ft.

Color: Plum.
Nose: Smoky, cherry, brambly, bacon, red berry. After 40 minutes a hint of green olive juice.
Palate: Smooth, fluid, front palate focused, red berry, friendly smoky finish. After 30 minutes, fine tannin on gums. Lighter style red. Would be lovely with lightly seasoned steak (not grilled) or with a mixed green salad with pickled vegetables. Cigar might work well too.

Day two: Bakers chocolate, earth, cherry, holiday spice, raspberry nose. Fluid, almost creamy, fine tannin, dry cherry, bright red apple skin into the finish. Relaxed on day two, tannin and brightness more prevalent.

Thoughts: I would pair with seafood and pasta dishes with red sauce. Very good with black forest ham, pork belly or a BLT with thick cut bacon would be good too. Enjoy with food. Definitely a food wine. Recommended.

Blend: 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot
Closure: Natural cork
ABV: 13%
Winemaker: Jake Busching
SRP: $23

Grace Estate Winery
Mount Juliet Farm
5273 Mount Juliet Farm
Crozet, VA 22932
tel & fax: 434-823-5014

3. King Family Vineyards 2012 Meritage, Monticello AVA

King Family Vineyards is a family-owned and operated boutique winery located in Crozet, just fifteen minutes from Charlottesville at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Color: Dark ruby.
Nose: Cherry, leather, orange skin, chocolate.
Palate: Well done. Drinkable, medium body, balanced, dried cherry, good texture. Chocolate on the finish. Showing well after 45 minutes. Fine tannin on dry finish. At 50 minutes showing off, lovely in the mouth, fluid, silky, delicious.

Day two: My speed, dark fruit, tar, licorice, cinnamon spice on the nose. Candied, cherry-apple, silky smooth, creamy tannin, fresh finish.

Thoughts: Impressed. Crowd pleasing style. Craved beef Carpacio and Wagyu beef. Hit all my buttons. Strongly Recommended.

Blend: Meritage 42% Merlot 27% CabFran 25% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec -
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 13.5%
10K cases total production
Winemaker: Matthieu Finot since 2003
SRP: $30.95

King Family Vineyards
6550 Roseland Farm
Crozet, Virginia 22932
tel: (434) 823-7800
fax: (434) 823-7801
David and Ellen King, Proprietors

Virginia Wine Resources:

Virginia wine country should be on every wine enthusiast must visit list. It goes without saying that when you see a Virginia wine, you should buy it. These wines would be wonderful wines to show off and enjoy at your Thanksgiving and Holiday meals.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pair the Holidays with Sparkling Wine


Meals seem more enjoyable when paired with a bottle of sparkling wine.

If you only drink Champagne, then it's time to try something different, Prosecco, Crémant d'Alsace and CAVA. With so much variety to choose from, you can select the perfect wine to entertain friends and family.

These delicious sparkling wines are perfect for pairing with your holiday meals and parties. Many of these tasty sparklers are now available at your local wine shops and grocery stores. Typically, they are reasonably priced between $8 - $20 and are great wine and food pairing alternatives. Loved these sparklers, they are a great ensemble for the Holidays.

Note: The following wines are best served chilled, between 40°F and 45°F. Warm bubbles are no fun.


Prosecco is an Italian sparkling dry white wine made primarily from Glera grapes. Principally grown in the Prosecco region of Italy, which includes Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, north of Venice in the Vento region. Under European law, only sparkling wines made with grapes grown in this region can have the name Prosecco.

Located in the heart of the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG production area, the Valdo Winery has been cultivating this unique area for generations.


Valdo Prosecco Brut

Color: Gold foil lining.
Nose: Fresh toast, yeasty pear, gentle minerality.
Palate: Mouth of pleasure, fresh, creamy toast, delicate perlage, fine fizzy bubbles, tart pear,  crisp apple, satisfying, quenching mineral finish. Enjoyable with sunset.

Not complex, not overly fruity or yeasty, not heavy, not too acidic. Balanced refreshing sparkler. Suitable to most any occasion. Great excuse to open a bottle of Prosecco, because you can. An any day, any time sparkling wine. Excellent base for Mimosa too. Priced for proper enjoyment. Recommended.

Blend: 100% Glera
ABV: 11℅
Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

VALDO Spumanti Srl
 via Foro Boario 20
 31049 Valdobbiadene (TV)


Crémant d'Alsace is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for sparkling wines made in the Alsace wine region of Northeast France. Produced since 1900, the Crémant d'Alsace AOC was recognized in 1976 by the INAO and the designation Crémant regulated by the European Parliament in 1996. Allowed varieties are limited to riesling, pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, auxerrois blanc and chardonnay. For rosé wines, only pinot noir is allowed.

The history of the ALBRECHT family as winegrower can be traced back to 1425 with Romanu Albrecht, who was settled in the town of Thann. During the fifteenth and sixteenth century, in Thann several generations of Albrecht were elected as Bangard vinegrowers. Lucien Albrecht, Jean's father, pioneered Crémant production in 1971 and helped gain an Appellation Contrôlêe for the wine and for Alsace. The wines are vinified in the classic Champagne Method from 100% free run juice.


Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut

Color: Silver gold.
Palate: Clean, fresh, oh yeah! Apple, pear, lemon zest, yeast in background, mouth satisfying firm bubbles, creamy honeyed finish. A traditional French sparkling wine experience.

A pure pleasure to drink. Wonderful when paired with dinner. Hint, hint. Recommended.

Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

Lucien Albrecht
 9, Grand'rue • 68500 Orschwihr-France •
Tel. +33 3 89 76 95 18 • Fax +33 3 89 76 20 22


Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose' Lucien Albrecht

Color: Pretty Salmon pink.
Nose: Toasty, mineral with fresh strawberry.
Palate: Fine, tight bubbles, strawberry, edged with pomegranate, floral, light citrus, nice and crisp, friendly on the tongue, tasty creamy finish. Focused front palate, creamy fruit. Yum. Fizzy bubbles behind the ears.

Enjoy this sparkler alone or with food. Loved the sound of bubbles in my ears. Pair with intimate friends at Thanksgiving and Holiday meals. Recommended.

Blend:100% Pinot Noir
Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

Lucien Albrecht
 9, Grand'rue • 68500 Orschwihr-France •
Tel. +33 3 89 76 95 18 • Fax +33 3 89 76 20 22


Cava in Spain was modeled after Champagne in France. Cava is typically a blend of native Spanish grape varieties. While Cava is made in the Champagne Method, only producers in the Champagne region may use the term “Méthode Champenoise,” so in Spain it is known as the “Método Tradicional” or Traditional Method.

Giró Ribot is a family owned and operated producer of Cava. They are closely tied to the Penedès region by several generations of wine, Cava and spirit producers. They developed the Paul Cheneau line of Spanish sparkling Cavas. The “Lady of Spain” is a tribute to the elegant ladies of Bacelona's art nouveau cafes and cava bars. Giró Ribot is situated at the heart of the Appellation d'Origine Penedès. In the area of Catalonnia, halfway between the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona, bordered to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and to the north by Montserrat.


Paul Cheneau Blanc de Blanc Reserva Brut Cava

Color: Gold.
Nose: Apple, honey, mineral, toast.
Palate: Fine, firm bubbles, crisp green apple mid-palate, with Braeburn apple and kiss of yeast, touch of creaminess into the gently honeyed, tingly finish. Notes of pear the longer it was open.

This wine wanted food. Should pair with almost anything and anyone. Eminently satisfying. Well done. Put this bottle at the top of your list. Strongly Recommended.

Blend: 45% Macabeo, 40% Xarel·lo, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Parellada
Bottle aged 24 months
ABV: 12%
Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

Giró Ribot
Finca el pont s/n
08792 Sant Fe del Penedès
Tel. +34 938 974 050
Fax. +34 938 974 311


Lady of Spain CAVA by Paul Cheneau

Color: Pale gold.
Nose: Delicate pear, honey and wet slate.
Palate: Gentle foamy fizz, hint of tart, round mid-palate, nice tingle tip of tongue, pear skin, honey, short bread, almost creamy. Yum.

Very nice, think brunch, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon. Would be wonderful the next day after Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. Recommended.

Blend: 45% Macabeo, 40% Xarel·lo, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Parellada
Bottle aged 12-15 months
ABV: 12℅
Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

Note: These sparkling wines are not Champagne, they have bubbles, but they are not Champagne. I point this out because people often, mistakenly, call all wines with bubbles "Champagne." Wines with bubbles are generally referred to as “Sparkling Wine.” Because they sparkle. However, there are sparkling wines from other regions of the world with specific regional names, such as: Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and Crémant d'Alsace from north-eastern France. 

I know, it's one of my pet peeves.

Happy Holidays and be safe out there.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014



Lake Chelan Wineries Open Cellar Doors for Behind-the-Scenes Look at Winemaking.

Lake Chelan Wine Valley will kick off the holiday season with a weekend of tasting future wine releases straight from the barrel on November 28 through 30. Fall Barrel Tasting takes place each year on the weekend after Thanksgiving and offers visitors the rare chance to experience young, unfinished wines before they’re released to the public. Guests will explore the use of different oak treatments and their impact on the taste, color, tannin and texture of the wine.  Guests can visit winery cellar rooms for exclusive tastings with local winemakers and purchase upcoming vintages of some of their favorite wines.


Wines that will be offered to taste throughout the weekend include the following. For a full list and more details, visit
  • Atam Winery - Syrah & Barbera
  • Benson Vineyards - Two new 2013 vintage wines
  • Cairdeas Winery – 2014 Port-style Petite Sirah
  • Chelan Estate Winery - 2012 C E Vineyards Reserve Red
  • Hard Row to Hoe - 2013 Barbera
  • Lake Chelan Winery - 2013 Malbec, a Chelan AVA wine
  • Rio Vista wines - Tempranillo
  • Tildio Winery - 2013 Malbec and Grenache
  • Tsillan Cellars - 2013 Estate Syrah/Malbec
  • Tunnel Hill Winery - 2013 Estate Pinot
  • Wapato Point Cellars - 2012 Merlot

Shane Collins.

“Fall Barrel Tasting is such a fun way to taste wines that are so young with our customers and see them light up when something hits them as amazing only a year into the barrel,” said Tsillan Cellars winemaker Shane Collins. “It’s also great to see and chat with people who come every year and reminisce on previous wines and how they now taste in the bottle.”

Guests that extend their wine tasting visit can enjoy some of the wonderful fall recreation Lake Chelan has to offer, including golf, mountain biking and hiking. Small-town charm abounds in Downtown Chelan and Manson, with shopping and dining options for every taste.

About Lake Chelan Wine Valley

Lake Chelan Wine Valley is a thriving community of 21 wineries that are attracting attention from winemakers, grape growers and wine enthusiasts. The Valley was recognized as an AVA in the Federal Register in April 2009. Located in the heart of Washington’s Cascade Mountains, Lake Chelan is a scenic destination three hours east of Seattle, situated on a pristine 50.5-mile lake.

Don Phelps, Winemaker Hard Row to Hoe.

Throughout the year, Lake Chelan visitors tour vineyards, meet the winemakers, taste award-winning wines and dine at many winery restaurants – the perfect wine-lovers destination. Some of the varieties that flourish in the Valley include Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Viognier. Learn more at

Related PostRecipe: Oxtail Stew – Subdue Winter - Successfully paired with Vin du Lac “LEHM” Gewurztraminer.