The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo

Rosé has come a long, long way in America. When I first started writing about wine, it was a depressed category in this country. It needed its own advocacy organization to help wash the (dis)taste of White Zinfandel out of America’s collective imagination, and let people know just what a delicious and versatile wine it could be.

These days we have everything from #roseallday to the Rosé Mansion, and it seems like any pale pink wine with the word Provence on the label somewhere can make you a fortune in sales. America is firmly in love with rosé. And that’s a great thing.

But that doesn’t mean that most wine lovers truly understand the vast and varied world of pink wine that exists out there. In fact, there are all manner of rosés that still fly well below the radar of most wine consumers, even those that are dedicated pink wine fans.

Serious wine geeks have likely heard of Valentini’s famous Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, but other than that one famous name, one of Italy’s most charming and delicious wines remains quite unknown.

The word Cerasuolo (pronounced chair-ah-swolo) means cherry-colored, and while the shades of this rosé style wine vary from producer to producer, it often ends up more red than pink, and sometimes looks dark enough to be mistaken for a light red.

Make no mistake, however, this wine offers all the delights that folks have finally started to love in rosé, thanks to the long tradition of the grape used to make it, which I would claim achieves its finest expression in Cerasuolo.

The rugged landscape of Abruzzo

The Magic of Montepulciano

For wine lovers beginning their education on Italian wine, one of the most confusing facts they will come across is that a relatively famous wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is not made from the Montepulciano grape and that the grape called Montepulciano is not grown (and may never have been grown) in the town named Montepulciano.

The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
Location of Abruzzo. Via Wikipedia.

Instead, Montepulciano has a long and storied history as the primary grape of the Abruzzo region of Italy, which sits on the country’s eastern Adriatic coast directly opposite Rome.

According to Ian D’Agata, whose exemplary tome Native Wine Grapes of Italy should be considered the most authoritative word on the subject, Montepulciano has been grown in Abruzzo for at least 250 years, and as best as anyone can tell, originated in the region.

You could say that Montepulciano is the perfect grape for the coastal foothills of Abruzzo that sit between the craggy Apennine mountain range and the Adriatic sea. Or you could say that this dynamic and beautiful landscape has spent the last 250 years perfecting Montepulciano. Both are true. The net result being that Montepulciano is not only the primary red grape of the region, it makes up more than 50% of all the planted acreage in the region and possesses even greater mindshare.

In fact, Montepulciano is Italy’s 4th most-planted grape variety, having expanded from its Abruzzo roots to be grown in Lazio, Marche, Molise, Puglia, Umbria, and has even spread into some areas of Tuscany.

A late-ripening variety, which also tends to ripen unevenly even within a cluster, Montepulciano is also quite sensitive to oidium (aka powdery mildew), though thankfully much less sensitive to both downy mildew and botrytis. Despite some deficits, when farmed carefully, Montepulciano can be quite a dependable grape, provided that you stay within its tolerances for heat (it likes warmer weather, in general) and take care of its water needs.

Abruzzo has figured out how to do all this well, making vast quantities of red wine from the 42,000 acres of Montepulciano grown within its 4 provinces, but mostly in Chieti, which holds nearly 80% of the plantings.

For the last 40 or 50 years, Abruzzo’s 10,000 grape producers, 35 cooperatives, and 250 independent wineries have been best known for producing inexpensive reds (and whites from the Trebbiano grape). With a couple of notable exceptions, the region hasn’t really been thought of as a producer of truly fine wines.

Often called a “workhorse grape” Montepulciano is described in the World Atlas of Wine as “rarely overpriced even if it is highly variable” which might be the perfect definition of damning with faint praise. My experience with bottles of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has personally borne that out. Other than the spectacular Valentini or the very good Emidio Pepe bottlings, very few have turned my head, and a great many have seemed simply ordinary.

The same cannot be said for Cerasuolo.

The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
The famous Santa Maria della Pietà church in Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo

The Apotheosis of a Grape

Somehow, when made into a rosé, Montepulciano goes from being a soft, mouth-filling, pleasant grape to being something much more exciting. I’m hard-pressed (pun intended) in the moment to think of another red grape of Montepulciano’s popularity about which I can say with as much confidence is almost always better as a rosé. But that is certainly my experience with Montepulciano.

Because of its rich pigmentation when ripe, Montepulciano requires little or no maceration with the skins to make a rosé. Some producers choose to do that anyway, yielding the more carmine shade of Cerasuolo, while others simply press, and end up with a paler wine, but never quite so pale as the rosés in fashion today. Saignée versions are much less common, most wines having been picked deliberately to become Cerasuolo instead of relying on juice pulled off of fermentations destined for red wine.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo was given a DOC status relatively recently, in 2010, despite the fact that farmers in Abruzzo have been making rosé for as long as anyone can remember.

Cerasuolo can be made anywhere in the area delimited for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The regulations for being labeled as such are simple: the wine must be at least 85% Montepulciano, it must have been grown below 500 meters of elevation, or 600 meters for a south-facing slope (same as its red sibling), it has to have at least 12% alcohol, and can’t be sold until the first of January following harvest. When wines contain less than 100% of Montepulciano, the remaining 15% can be made up of other local red grape varieties.

Though made in much smaller quantities, the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Superiore DOC also exists, the only legal differences between it and the normal Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo are a slightly lower yield in the vineyard, a minimum alcohol level of 12.5%, and a prescribed two additional months of aging. In practice, however, this designation is often used for wines that have seen some time in (usually old) barrels.

Most Cerasuolo d’Abruzzos continue to be fermented and aged in steel, though newer (and some older, innovation-minded) producers are beginning to use concrete and even terra-cotta amphorae on the wine, with some very interesting results.

The best of these wines have a wonderful juicy berry quality and an excellent acidic backbone that is often accompanied by a light tannic grip. Flavors of cherry and pomegranate are common, and while producers will tell you that it is a typical signature for Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, I only occasionally pick up flavors of almonds or marzipan in some wines.

Presumably because of their excellent acidity, tannins, and the anthocyanins that come with their deeper colors, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzos can age beautifully, letting the primary berry flavors transmute into herbal, preserved citrus and more savory notes. The Abruzzi typically give a four- to seven-year drinking window for these wines, but I suspect that is quite conservative. I’ve certainly had Valentini’s Cerasuolo with 15 or more years of age, but in all things, Valentini can be an exception.

Regardless of when you drink them, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzos are a hidden gem in the now very blingy world of rosé, and I believe the finest expression of what the Montepulciano grape has to offer.

Here are a few that I tasted recently.

Tasting Notes

2020 Barone di Valforte Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of orange peel, cherries, and dried herbs with a sweet floral perfume. In the mouth, bright cherry and citrus flavors mix with a touch of almond skin. Excellent acidity. 100% Montepulciano, vinified in steel. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $10. click to buy.

2020 Nicola Di Sipio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and citrus peel. In the mouth, lightly saline flavors of cherry and citrus peel mix with a touch of Asian pear. Excellent acidity. 100% Montepulciano. Some of this wine spends time in old oak barrels. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo

2020 Olivastri Tommasso “Marcantonio” Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of apple cider, with a hint of dried cherry, raisins, and brewers yeast. In the mouth, red apple and cherry flavors have decent acidity and a hint of cream sherry and yogurt. 100% Montepulciano fermented and aged in steel.14% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $16.

2020 Tenuta i Fari “Baldovino” Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with orange highlights, this wine smells of struck match, dried herbs, and orange peel. In the mouth, the wine is quite deliciously saline, with cherry and citrus peel flavors with a touch of marzipan. The salty mouthwatering quality is enhanced by excellent acidity. Long. Delicious. 100% Montepulciano with 4-5 hours of skin maceration, fermented and aged in concrete for 6 months. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $8 (yes, $8). click to buy.

2020 Ciavolich Fosso Cancelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with orange highlights, this wine smells of orange peel, a touch of sulfur, and dirty socks that blows off quickly to be replaced with macerated cherries and a lovely floral high note. In the mouth, bright citrusy cherry mixes with tangy plum and redcurrant. Faint wispy tannins. After crushing and destemming, the grapes are left in contact with the skins for 24-36 hours inside concrete tanks, where fermentation occurs using ambient yeasts. Some of the wine is also fermented in terracotta amphorae. Once fermentation is finished, all the wine is transferred to amphorae and aged for a few months. 12.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2019 Francesco Cirelli “Anfora” Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries, acidophilus, and wet stones. In the mouth, tangy sour cherry, strawberry, citrus peel, and wet stones have a lovely brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Deeply stony, and lovely saline notes. Excellent. Destemmed grapes are put into a press where they sit for a few hours before pressing. The juice is then fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae for one year prior to bottling. The wine is then aged in bottle for one year prior to release. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $19. click to buy.

The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo

And just because you can’t write a story about Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo without a nod to the inestimable Valentini family who still make one of the world’s greatest rosés even though we lost the visionary Edoardo in 2006….

2014 Azienda Agricola Valentini Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Pale ruby in the glass with orange highlights this wine smells super funky right out of the bottle, which is why you always decant this wine. After 15 minutes of opening up, it was simply singing with aromas of hibiscus, berries, and exotic flowers. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of sweet white tea, pomegranate, berries, and dried flowers and herbs have a bright zing and zip thanks to excellent acidity. Long, silky, and regal, this is otherworldly stuff. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $150. click to buy.

Featured image at top of a vineyard in Val di Foro by maury3001, via Wikimedia Commons.

The post The Pink Wine That Isn’t: The Many Charms of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo appeared first on Vinography.

The Best Pink Prosecco for Your Fabulous Post-Pandemic Frivolity

Many of us have reason to celebrate, or will soon, as the pandemic gradually recedes from immediate concern and we all gain something of our old lives back. It’s also summertime in the northern hemisphere, and for many, that means hanging outside with friends drinking summery things, ideally chilled and cheerful.

Enter pink Prosecco, the newest, hottest wine category on the planet.

It’s not every day that a whole new kind of wine bursts onto the scene. Wine trends don’t burst at all, for the most part. They start as a trickle, driven by tastemakers and word of mouth, and if they’re extremely lucky they build over time to a torrent of interest.

But occasionally, a wine region will change its rules to allow its winemakers to do something new, and ecco! a whole new type of wine will emerge. Hello pink Prosecco.

From Past to Pink

Prosecco has been around for a long time, because it used to be the name of a grape. Believed to originate in Slovenia, it has been grown in northeastern Italy for several centuries (references to it date back to 1382).

In the modern era, however, Prosecco came to be known as specifically a white sparkling wine made from a grape of the same name. In 2009, as part of an effort to maintain protection of Prosecco as the name of a designated wine region (much as Champagne defends its name from use elsewhere) the folks in Prosecco decided to rename the grape Glera.

So now, Prosecco (technically Prosecco DOCDenominazione di Origine Controllata) is a wine region and the style of sparkling wine made from Glera that comes from the 9 different provinces spanning Italy’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. There is also a Prosecco DOCG region surrounding the historic town of Conegliano that has stricter rules for production.

For its entire history, Prosecco has always been a white wine, but given the rise in popularity of pink bubbles, the savvy folks behind Prosecco decided they ought to make a pink version, and after much discussion and debate, they announced their change in regulations in May of 2020.

Where the Pink Comes From

Prosecco is normally made exclusively with its white grape, Glera. The new regulations for producing a Prosecco Rosé require 85% of the wine to be Glera, and the rest (in practice usually either 10% or 15%) to be red Pinot Noir, leading to a nice pale pink wine that is then fermented a second time in pressure-sealed tanks to make it sparkling. This is known as the Charmat method, which is popular for being less expensive and time-consuming than having the secondary fermentation take place in the bottle, a la Méthode Champenoise.

With a strawberries-and-cream character accented with bits of citrus or stone fruit, it’s hard not to smile when drinking a glass of well-made pink Prosecco.

As with normal Prosecco, the wines get made at varying levels of sweetness. The vast majority (perhaps as high as 99%) of Prosecco Rosé will be Brut or Extra Dry, which will contain 6-12 grams or 12-17 grams per liter of residual sugar respectively. I have yet to see a Brut Nature or Extra Brut version, which would only contain up to 3 grams or 6 grams of sugar per liter of residual sugar, respectively, but the regulations do allow for them.

It turns out roughly more than half of the wineries in the larger Prosecco DOC region were already making pink sparkling wines, but selling them under more generic regional labeling laws as vino rosato frizzante or rosato spumante. So in some ways, the allowance for a pink version of Prosecco trailed the market demand for a long time.

Not everyone is pleased with the advent of the category, however, including those behind the stricter Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, who rightly point out that Pinot Noir is not a traditional grape for the region.

A New Flavor Profile

Prosecco has become immensely popular in the last 10 to 15 years thanks to its reasonable price point and its cheery flavors of white flowers, pears, melons, and apples that lean slightly sweeter than other popular sparkling wines.

Just to put a finer point on what “immensely popular” actually means, Prosecco sales in the United States have gone from a few hundred thousand cases per year to several million, with sales growth averaging between 10 and 15% per year annually. In 2018 Prosecco sold more bottles of wine than Champagne did for the first time in its modern history.

I have observed that in the same way that everyday wine drinkers in my generation often casually refer to all sparkling wine as Champagne, most of the people I know in their twenties use “Prosecco” instead as their catch-all sparkling wine term.

Certainly Prosecco has taken the brunch world by storm, offering a fruity sparkling profile that can turn any meal into a celebration, and any glass of orange juice into a mimosa. The rosé version is likely to go over just as well (or even better). With a strawberries-and-cream character accented with bits of citrus or stone fruit, it’s hard not to smile when drinking a glass of well-made pink Prosecco.

Are these wines profound? Far from it. They can’t hold a candle to the complexity of a good rosé Champagne. But they are playful and pleasant, and that is what a lot of people are looking for in a $20 bottle of sparkling wine.

I recently arranged for a bunch of pink Prosecco to be sent my way so I could see what the fuss is about. Most come in crystal-clear bottles (some quite fancy) the better to showcase the jewel-like pale pink of their contents. I expect that many a patio bar will line them up like top-shelf liquor bottles to be ogled by well-dressed patrons.

Unfortunately, as pretty as they are, these clear bottles mean the wines will be exceptionally susceptible to being light-struck, so retailers and consumers alike will need to make sure to keep them stored out of the sun.

Of course, no one usually hangs on to a bottle of Prosecco for long. The time from purchase to “Pop!” probably averages less than 6 hours. If you’re interested in a bottle, or twelve, here are my notes on the wines that were sent to me, in descending order by score.

Note that many of these products are new to the US market, and don’t have full retail distribution as of yet. I have provided links for online purchase where available.

Tasting Notes

2020 Tenuta Sant’Anna Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale baby pink in color with medium bubbles, this wine smells of strawberries and cream and a touch of citrus peel. In the mouth, silky, voluminous mousse delivers flavors of strawberry, citrus peel, and white flowers across the palate. Very clean, very pretty, with enough of a savory note in there to keep it interesting. 11% alcohol. Bucking the trend with a very dark brown glass bottle (most others are clear). Score: around 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2019 Tosti Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale peach in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of strawberries and cream with hints of white flowers. In the mouth, a moderately coarse mousse delivers very tasty flavors of citrus peel, citrus pith, and just the barest hint of berries mixed with white flowers and cream. Wonderfully dry and elegant. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15.

2019 Antonio Facchin Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
A pale peach color in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet pavement, citrus peel, and white flowers. In the mouth, a gorgeous, silky mousse delivers delicate and refined flavors of citrus peel, hibiscus, and green strawberries with a nice floral note wafting above it all. Excellent acidity. Quite refined. 11.5% alcohol. Bucking the trend with a dark green bottle (most others are clear). Score: around 9. Cost: $15.

The Best Pink Prosecco for Your Fabulous Post-Pandemic Frivolity

2019 Albino Armani Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
A pale peach color in the glass with medium to fine bubbles, this wine smells of berries and white flowers. In the mouth, a velvety, voluminous mousse delivers wonderfully delicate flavors of strawberries, citrus peel, and white flowers. Only the faintest hint of sweetness. Quite pretty. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20.

2020 Astoria Vini Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
A pale orangey-pink in color with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of sweet berries, citrus peel, and white flowers. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of berries and cream, citrus peel, and white flowers are borne on a velvety mousse. Decent acidity and a nice long finish. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.

2020 Brilla! Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale baby pink in the glass with rather fine bubbles, this wine smells of strawberry candy and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine doesn’t come across as quite as sweet as it smells, with a velvety mousse that delivers strawberries and cream, citrus peel, and white floral flavors amidst decent acidity and a nice clean finish. A party-pleaser for sure, especially with its paisley-embossed bottle with a pink glitter label. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $13. click to buy.

2020 Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale baby pink in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, white flowers, and a hint of berries. In the mouth, a lovely silky mousse delivers flavors of peach and strawberry across the palate, with hints of florals and pastry cream in the finish. I would love this to be a bit sharper, with a hint more acidity, but it is quite tasty. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.

The Best Pink Prosecco for Your Fabulous Post-Pandemic Frivolity

2019 Val d’Oca Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale peachy pink in color with medium bubbles, this wine smells of candied citrus and white flowers. In the mouth, a relatively robust and silky mousse delivers faintly sweet flavors of orange peel and unripe berries. The sour hit at the end makes for a little more complexity. Excellent acidity and lift. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2019 Pizzolato Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
A pale peachy color in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of apricots, strawberries, and white flowers. In the mouth, a fairly voluminous mousse delivers silky flavors of stone fruit, strawberries, and white flowers. Good acidity and nice length. Made from organically grown grapes. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.  

2019 Voga Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale peachy pink in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of strawberry and watermelon candy. In the mouth, faintly sweet watermelon and strawberry flavors are somewhat candied with hints of white flowers and a touch of candied citrus peel lingering in the finish. A fluffy mousse and decent acidity. 11% alcohol. Comes in an embossed fishnet-patterned bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2019 Famiglia Cielo Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale baby pink in color with medium-sized bubbles, this wine smells of cherries and whipped cream. In the mouth, faintly sweet candied cherries and white flowers have a nice bright acidity to them and a somewhat soft mousse. Citrus notes linger in the finish. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.

2020 La Marca Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Light coppery pink in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of candied orange peel and white flowers. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of citrus peel and white flowers are lifted on a soft mousse. Hints of gardenia linger in the finish. Would love a little bit more acidity here. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.  

2019 Valdo “Marca Oro” Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Light peachy-pink in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of apple skin and raspberries with a somewhat unusual wet-leaves aroma. In the mouth, distinctly savory notes of apple skin, dried apples, raspberries, and white flowers move across the palate on a coarse mousse. I wonder, in fact, if this bottle is not a little light-struck, and might be much better than it is showing at the moment. Decent acidity. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.  

2019 La Vostra Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale peachy-pink in color with medium-sized bubbles, this wine smells of sweet berries in cream. In the mouth, a silky mousse delivers faintly sweet strawberry and citrus flavors but without enough acidity to really make the wine sing. Comes off as slightly flat through the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $9. click to buy.  

2020 La Gioiosa Brut Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
Pale salmon-pink in color with medium to large bubbles, this wine smells of cherries, white flowers, and orange peel. In the mouth, the bubbles dissipate quickly, leaving the wine feeling a bit flat on the palate. Flavors of strawberry and citrus peel have a nice fruitiness to them. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $15.

2019 Perlage Winery “Afra” Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, Veneto, Italy
A pale baby pink in color with medium bubbles, this wine smells of sweet dried orange peel and candied berries. In the mouth, moderately sweet flavors of dried apples, orange peel, and berries have a very candied aspect. Good acidity, but comes across as a bit too saccharine. 11% alcohol. Score: between 7.5 and 8. Cost: $??

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 6/20/21

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

How Your Deceiving Eyes Can Change the Taste of Wine
Don’t buy those fancy colored wine glasses, says David Brown.

A Shop That Only Sells Orange Wine Just Opened in NYC
While I can’t wait to shop there, and hope she does well, this is quite……niche.

How Wine Brought Me In From the Outside
Great story of how someone fell in love with wine and found her place in it.

The One Wine of my Heart
Lovely piece.

Will Loïc Pasquet of Liber Pater turn Georgia into a fine-wine frontier?
The Georgians would tell you it’s already one.

‘We’d drink Yellowtail if the alternative was death’ says Wine Twitter
An instant classic.

The Darker Side of Rosé Wine
Come to the dark side.

Cava rules shake up could ‘massively increase consumer indifference’
Hysterical.

Cava’s Last Shot at Survival
And on a more serious note.

A Wine From Nowhere
They’re tasty (I say), but Eric Asimov says that isn’t enough.

Lord of the Gringets: An Appreciation
This is gutting news.

A Sommelier Shares Her Most Harrowing Wine Stories
Trust me, you want to read this one!

Washington Adds Two American Viticultural Areas
More names coming soon to a wine label near you.

Distorted, Bizarre Food Smells Haunt Covid Survivors
Super interesting story.

Blind Ambition: the film following Zimbabwe’s first “Wine Olympics” team
Can’t wait to see it.

Rioja can be golden too
Jancis enjoys some Viura.

A Very Affordable, Great-Tasting Substitute for Super Tuscan Wines
Chile overdelivers, for sure.

Shanghai police busts fake Penfolds and Bordeaux
News from on the ground.

The Differences Between Mountain and Valley Wines, Explained
A very quick primer for a steep learning curve.

Truce Called in Wine Tariff War
‘Bout Time.

Wine Industry Benefits From Resolution Of The Airbus, Boeing Trade Dispute
Even made NPR.

Celebrating Black-owned wineries and Black winemakers, a true rarity in the world of wine
Names to know.

Food & Wine Game Changers
A cool set of profiles.

Everyone Is Talking About Piquette—But What Is It, Exactly?
The PBR of wine.

How This Armenian Wine Company Is Disrupting the Wine Industry
Dunno about disruption, but they have some good wines.

Coravin launches preservation system for sparkling wine
They’ve been working on this for a long time. Cool to see it launched.

Does fugu sperm wine help men be ‘stronger’ and celebrate Father’s Day?
I honestly didn’t know this was a thing.

Napa wineries report off-the-charts demand for $500-plus tastings
Even the $950 ones.

What tourism downturn? Napa wineries report off-the-charts demand for $500-plus tastings
Esther has a more in-depth look.

Meet the youngest professional winemaker in the UK
Cool profile.

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/5/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of wines from an organic and biodynamic producer outside of Barcelona in the Penedes region of Spain. Better known for the Spanish sparkling wine Cava, Penedes has long produced some still wines, but is seeing something of a renaissance in the use of the traditional Cava grapes to make terroir-driven, very interesting white wines. These two from Pares Balta, a family operation with dual sinter-in-law winemakers, are perfect examples of why there is more to Penedes than Cava. Made from Xarel-lo, they sing a beautiful stony song.

Closer to home, the Beacon Hill Riesling from Oregon shows that variety continues to hold promise in the region, while the Wester Reach Chardonnay from DuMOL delivers pretty, lemony goodness for those who enjoy California Chardonnay on the leaner side.

I’ve got two pink wines to share this week, and my favorite of the two was the shockingly pale Raeburn rosé from the Russian River Valley. California winemakers are rarely brave enough to make rosés this pale, but when they do, it pays off, as it does with this wine and its tangy strawberry and watermelon flavors.

Beacon Hill sent along a couple of their single vineyard Pinots this week, both of which were excellent, but even the incredibly tasty Beacon Hill Vineyard bottling didn’t match the spectacular zing of their La Sierra Vineyard Pinot, which was a crystalline wonder of red fruit that would set any Pinot Lover’s heart aflutter.

Last, but not least, I’ve got one more wine from Fattoria Valentina in Abruzzi. Named “Spelt” this entry-level Montepulciano comes with a screwcap closure and perhaps a slight surfeit of wood, but if you like your wines smoky, then this might be for you.

Tasting Notes:

2019 Pares Balta “Calcari” Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of star fruit and white flowers backed by wet pavement. In the mouth, delicious white flowers and wet chalkboard minerality take on a citrus pith and faint unripe apple quality as the wine cuts a linear path across the palate. There is some weight here, silky textured and slightly voluminous, leaving the impression of a beautiful mineral fog moving across the palate. Excellent. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2019 Pares Balta “Cosmic” Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of melting snow, white flowers and green apple. In the mouth, green apple and white floral flavors are welded to a deeply mineral, wet chalkboard quality that extends to a faint drying, tannic texture as the wine finishes with hints of pomelo pith and chamomile. Gorgeous. Includes 15% Sauvignon Blanc. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Beacon Hill “Beacon Hill Vineyard” Riesling, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of Asian pears and citrus zest. In the mouth, ever-so-faintly-sweet flavors of Asian pear and mandarin orange have a nice snap thanks to excellent acidity. Beautifully balanced and delicious with notes of orange pith lingering in the finish. 12.9% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $26.

2018 DuMOL “Wester Reach” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and Meyer lemon curd. In the mouth, floral notes of cold cream, lemon curd and white flowers have a wonderful silky texture and a nice acidity to them, with the oak making itself felt solely in the texture of the wine. Supple and delicious. 14.1% alcohol. 3352 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $57. click to buy.

2019 Raeburn Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
One of the palest rosés I’ve ever seen from California, this wine is almost colorless with just a whisper of pink to it. It smells of bubblegum and strawberries. In the mouth, juicy strawberry and watermelon flavors mix with a nice citrus twang. There’s not quite as much acidity as I would like, but with a good chill on it this one will be a helluva porch pounder. A blend of 66% Zinfandel, 26% Pinot Noir, 8% Grenache. 13.5% alcohol. 13,000 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Balverne “Forever Wild” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and berries. In the mouth, citrus and unripe strawberry flavors have a bright edge to them thanks to excellent acidity. A touch of bitterness lingers in the finish with citrus and crab apple tartness. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Beacon Hill “Beacon Hill Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, wonderfully earthy notes of cherry and cranberry turn zingy and sour with raspberry brightness in the finish touched by a hint of brown sugar. Excellent acidity and nice herbal notes round out a very pretty wine. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Beacon Hill “La Sierra Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of beautiful fresh raspberries and some floral notes. In the mouth, lovely crystalline flavors of raspberry, sour cherry and redcurrant have a fantastic clarity and mineral backbone to them with hints of herbs and cedar backing up the stony fruit. Gorgeous acidity and texture, with faint, gauzy tannins. Outstanding. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2016 Fattoria Valentina “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzi, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and leather and a touch of woodsmoke. In the mouth, doused campfire flavors are shot through with black cherry and closed in a fist of woody tannins that somewhat dry the mouth. The wine gives the impression of having too much burnt wood influence from the barrel. Good acidity, but a bit too toasty for my taste. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/5/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/24/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of pretty rosés from Oregon and California. The first, from Argyle winery has a nice savory quality. The second, from relative newcomer Minus Tide Wines in Mendocino, is a really lovely rendition of Carignan in pink form that is just mouthwatering and just what you want to be drinking on a warm afternoon.

Minus Tide also offered a Pinot this week from Mendocino Ridge, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This wine wasn’t quite as pitch perfect as the rosé, but it did some some very nice qualities, chief among which was a nice forest-floor quality.

I’ve reviewed some other wines from Eden Rift recently, but this week I’m featuring their lower-end line of wines named “Valliant,” and the Pinot Noir released under this label is certainly worth seeking out, especially given its reasonable price of $26.

I’ve got a few more Williams Selyem wines to note this week, three Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel. The Pinots, like those I reviewed last week, were in excellent form. The simple Sonoma County bottling was particularly excellent for its price point (roughly 30-40% lower than single-vineyard or other named bottling). But the star of the Selyem lineup this week was their single vineyard Terra del Promissio Pinot Noir which had incredible brightness and juiciness welded to a silky-smooth texture and wonderful floral and herbal notes tinged with new oak. With a little time, hopefully the oak will fade into the fruit a bit more, but it was pretty damn tasty right now despite a woody signature.

Lastly, I received a few Pinot Noirs from Papapietro Perry this week that seemed to be made in wildly different styles, some unbalanced and ripe with alcohols pushing towards 15% while others, like the Leras Family Vineyard bottling I’m featuring here, were a modest 13.5% and very pretty and elegant.

Tasting Notes

2017 Flambeaux Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass with a slight tinge of green, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, relatively brisk lemon curd and white floral flavors have a nice complexion and excellent acidity with only the faintest trace of wood influence, mostly in texture rather than wood flavor. Pineapple lingers in the finish. A classically styled California Chardonnay. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.

2019 Argyle Winery “Grower Series” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A light baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, juicy watermelon rind and citrus peel flavors have a nice zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Bitter orange lingers in the finish. Mouthwatering, leaning a bit towards the savory side of pink. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.

2019 Minus Tide “Feliz Creek Vineyard” Rosé of Carignan, Medocino, California
A pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon rind, green strawberries, and citrus peel have a zippy, bouncy brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Lean, bright, with a pink SweetTart finish that is mouthwatering. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $ 24.

2017 Minus Tide “Mariah Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
Light to medium ruby in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of green willow bark, forest floor, and raspberries. In the mouth, notes of red apple skin, raspberry, and dried cherry have a very nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The wine has a feeling of having been well oxygenated, which makes it taste more evolved than I would expect at this young age, but all the flavors are good. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 42. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Valliant” Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry pastilles and cherries. In the mouth, the wine offers bright cherry and cranberry notes with a hint of herbal bitterness that lasts through the finish even as the front of the mouth tingles a bit. Cranberry and cherry and cedar linger in the finish.14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black raspberries and chopped herbs. In the mouth, the wine is draped in sinewy tannins that tighten around a core of raspberry and fresh flowering herbs with a touch of blueberry. Distinctive and quite unusual. Brilliant acidity and very light on its feet despite “bluer” flavors. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of redcurrant and raspberries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and citrus peel flavors have incredibly vibrant acidity that makes the mouth water. Faint tannins linger through a long finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Terra del Promissio Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and dried flowers. In the mouth, ethereal delicate flavors of raspberries and herbs mix with a hint of cedar. Faint tannins grip the edge of the palate as satiny raspberry fruit sings a sweet song through a long finish with just a hint of citrus peel, perhaps just a bit more sweetish oak influence than I’d like, but only by a hair. Outstanding. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2017 Papapietro Perry “Leras Family Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry flavors are silky-textured and have a bright zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of herbs and wood linger in the finish. Pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Williams Selyem “Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice and flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy blackberry flavors are zippy with fantastic acidity and mix with blueberry and floral notes that linger with a touch of licorice root in the finish. Wonderfully balanced, betraying none of its prodigious 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $150. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/24/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Rosé Season Is Finally Here

If you have not already, click here to view all the ways to support local businesses at this time. Keep reading to view all the new rosé releases in Woodinville Wine Country this summer!

Baer Winery

Baer has released their first EVER Rosé. It’s a 2019 Rosé of Cabernet Franc. There are only 77 cases available and has been getting great reviews from customers who added it to their spring shipment. The aromas are of kumquat and blood orange, smarties candy, and white gummy bear. In the mouth, it is very tangy and mouthwatering, bright, fresh, and crisp.

Shop Baer Winery Here >>>>

Chateau Ste. Michelle

Introducing the 2019 Chateau Ste. Michelle Limited Release Le Rosé, Yakima Valley

“The Chateau Ste. Michelle Limited Release Le Rosé transforms the ordinary to extraordinary. Sip and savor the elegant aromas of light citrus and sweet red berries and be instantly transported to luxury. Enjoy!” -Lacey Steffey, Winemaker

Shop Chateau Ste. Michelle >>>>

Gard Vinters

Gard Vintners 2018 Rosé Grand Klasse Reserve received 91 pts and Editor’s Choice from Wine Enthusiast and they are offering a 6-pack Special:

Regular price: $144; Club: $100; Non-Club: $115
Case Special (12 bottles):
Regular price: $288; Club: $160; Non-Club: $180

“Very pale blush-pink color. Lovely floral lift to the aromas of strawberry, raspberry and citrus fruits. This round, dense but dry rosé delivers terrific intensity and concentration and finishes with palate-staining length.” – Stephen Tanzer, Vinous

Ships free or pick up! Order online or email them.

Shop Gard Vintners >>>>

Truthteller Winery

Spring has sprung, and they have a delightful pink deal for you. Starting in May and going through June you can buy two bottles of either TruthTeller or Miscreant Project rosés for only $20 (retailed at $29)!

Shop Truthteller Winery >>>>

Tertulia Cellars

2019 Tempranillo Rose now available! $22 per bottle; also available in Magnum size: $48 per bottle.

Curbside pick up available every Saturday 12pm-4pm or other days, please arrange pick up by calling 503-554-8995.

Shop Tertulia Cellars >>>>

Wit Cellars

Wit Cellars has released two new rosés:

2019 “Unleashed” Sparkling Rosé – We’re in LOVE with this zesty wine. It boasts bright fruit flavors such as grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, and a hint of rhubarb. The first sip feels like a sunburst on the palate.

2019 Rosé – This fruit forward wine has an intoxicating nose with notes of strawberry, grapefruit, and cranberry. It is light on the palate with a vibrant finish.

Shop Wit Cellars >>>>

Zerba Cellars

Zerba Cellars has the 2019 Sangiovese Rose in stock. It’s barrel fermented with hints of grapefruit, melon, strawberry and cream. It’s a bone dry treat!

If you’d prefer a sweeter rose, there’s their 2019 Dad’s Vineyard Wild Pink Rose. They pressed whole clusters of all 7 red varietals from Dad’s Vineyards to produce a delicate, sweet, vibrant, crisp Rose.

Shop Zerba Cellars Here >>>>

*If you are a Woodinville Wine Country affiliated business and want to be added to this list, please email us at marketing@woodinvillewinecountry.com. 

The post Rosé Season Is Finally Here appeared first on Woodinville Wine Country.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/3/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a number of interesting wines.

Let’s begin with the second vintage from a project called Monte Rio Cellars, which is one of the newest enterprises by New York superstar sommelier Patrick Cappiello. After many years on the floor, Patrick has refocused his time on wine projects and makes Monte Rio Cellars wines in a shared facility owned by Pax Mahle in Sonoma County, which was recently profiled in the New York Times.

A guy who has won nearly every award and accolade available as a sommelier could easily have shown up in Napa and begun a $200-a-bottle Cabernet project or a $80 Pinot Noir label. But Cappiello had something else in mind. “It’s a real thing, not like a project where I slap my name or label on a wine to sell it,” Cappiello told me in a conversation earlier in the year. “I’m trying to make more volume rather than jack up the price. I wanted to try to do something quality at a lower price. My goal is to make wine and learn how to make wine. My agreement was to come work for [Pax’s] winery, and start this brand which I self-funded from my retirement.”

Perhaps less surprisingly, Cappiello targeted restaurants as a prime outlet for his wines, which would have been a good strategy in any other time than this one. Now he’s scrambling to get a direct-to-consumer web site up for a brand that didn’t have a plan to go direct-to-consumer. “It’s a little scary for sure,” says Cappiello. “I don’t have anything to fall back on.”

The wines have made their way into retail channels, so you’ll be able to buy them with links below, and I have to say they’re pretty darn good for the price. Cappiello has, in addition to going against the grain with the price point of the wines, decided to focus on lesser-known grape varieties. Just how contrary is he? Well, let’s just say he’s making a dry White Zinfandel. Of his four wines, I think my favorites are the racy interpretation of French Colombard and his rendition of the Mission (Pais) grape variety.

Moving on, I have two other worthy whites to recommend — the Estate Chardonnay from Eden Rift, the snazzy reincarnation of a large wine project in the Cienega Valley. While their initial releases under a slick new brand (and new ownership) didn’t impress me, I see things in this Estate Chardonnay that suggest they may be headed towards higher levels of quality. This wine has finesse and depth to it.

I reviewed a couple of wines from Two Shepherds winery last week, and I’ve got two more this week. The first, a bright and snappy Vermentino from Yolo county, and the second, an absolutely delicious vin gris, a rosé of Pinot Gris whose pink skins, left in contact with the juice for a few days can yield great deliciousness, as this wine amply proves.

Speaking of rosé you will want to back up the truck for the Sokol Blosser rosé of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s got everything you want in a pink wine, and a very attractive price to boot.

Lastly, I’ve got two more serious reds, a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, made by a woman who has been called the Queen of Pinot, Merry Edwards, and a pricy Cabernet Franc made by Rosemary Cakebread under her small label Gallica. Both are worth drinking.

Notes on all these and more below.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars French Colombard, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lime juice and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, the wine is incredibly racy, with mouthwatering acidity and lean, zippy flavors of lime and lemongrass. Quite refreshing. A porch pounder to be sure at a mere 10.5% alcohol. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, bright notes of pineapple, oak, lemon curd and melted butter have a nice silky texture and good acidity. The scent of oak creeps into the finish of the wine slightly more than I would like, but overall this is a well-made wine that has a nice balance to it. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemony grapefruit and green apple flavors have a brisk brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity and a lean, picked-early 11.5% alcohol. Not super complex, but easy to drink. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Two Shepherds “Windmill Vineyards” Vermentino, Yolo County, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of lemon cucumbers and star fruit. In the mouth, lemon cucumbers and wet chalkboard flavors have a wonderful stony quality with a faint chalky aftertaste. Aged for 6 months in half stainless, half used barrels. 11.1% alcohol. 275 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2018 Sokol Blosser “Evolution” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and lemon curd. In the mouth somewhat simple flavors of lemon curd mix with grapefruit brightness thanks to excellent acidity. A textbook Chardonnay, lacking perhaps some complexity but not pleasure, especially at fifteen bucks a bottle. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2019 Sokol Blosser Rosé of Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon rind and hibiscus. In the mouth, snappy flavors of strawberries, crabapples and citrus have a wonderful faint tannic grip and a mouthwatering juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. Delicious.12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Two Shepherds “Charbec Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Pinot Gris Rosé, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
A light coppery pink in color, this wine smells of melon and ranier cherries. In the mouth, deliciously peachy, melon and berry flavors have an exotic swirl of technicolor flavor and the faint tannins left from the skin fermentation that offer a chalky texture in the finish. Excellent. 12.5% alcohol. 375 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars “Dry White Zinfandel” Rosé, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries and raspberries. In the mouth, lean flavors of berries and citrus peel have a nice tart brightness to them that recalls pink SmarteesVinography Unboxed: Week of 5/3/20. Crisp and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Rosehip notes linger in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars Mission, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Light ruby in the glass to the point of looking like a dark rosé, this wine smells of wet redwood bark, earth, and strawberry jam. In the mouth, flavors of black tea, raspberries, and plum are wrapped in a surprisingly muscular fist of fleecy tannins that flex their muscles through the finish which has a scent of orange peel. A surprisingly substantial wine for its light color and mere 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and cranberry compote. In the mouth, riper sweetish cherry and cranberry flavors have a richness to them, but stay bright thanks to excellent acidity. Faint suede-like tannins creep around the edges of the mouth. Definitely on the more robust side of California Pinot Noir. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Gallica Cabernet Franc, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, crushed hazelnuts and chocolate. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors are shot through with faint notes of spicy green herbs and a modicum of sweet new oak. Leathery tannins persist in the mouth for some time along with the sweet vanilla of oak. I’d like this wine a lot more if its aftertaste was more wine and less wood. Includes 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Certified organic grapes. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $180.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/3/20 appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/3/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a number of interesting wines.

Let’s begin with the second vintage from a project called Monte Rio Cellars, which is one of the newest enterprises by New York superstar sommelier Patrick Cappiello. After many years on the floor, Patrick has refocused his time on wine projects and makes Monte Rio Cellars wines in a shared facility owned by Pax Mahle in Sonoma County, which was recently profiled in the New York Times.

A guy who has won nearly every award and accolade available as a sommelier could easily have shown up in Napa and begun a $200-a-bottle Cabernet project or a $80 Pinot Noir label. But Cappiello had something else in mind. “It’s a real thing, not like a project where I slap my name or label on a wine to sell it,” Cappiello told me in a conversation earlier in the year. “I’m trying to make more volume rather than jack up the price. I wanted to try to do something quality at a lower price. My goal is to make wine and learn how to make wine. My agreement was to come work for [Pax’s] winery, and start this brand which I self-funded from my retirement.”

Perhaps less surprisingly, Cappiello targeted restaurants as a prime outlet for his wines, which would have been a good strategy in any other time than this one. Now he’s scrambling to get a direct-to-consumer web site up for a brand that didn’t have a plan to go direct-to-consumer. “It’s a little scary for sure,” says Cappiello. “I don’t have anything to fall back on.”

The wines have made their way into retail channels, so you’ll be able to buy them with links below, and I have to say they’re pretty darn good for the price. Cappiello has, in addition to going against the grain with the price point of the wines, decided to focus on lesser-known grape varieties. Just how contrary is he? Well, let’s just say he’s making a dry White Zinfandel. Of his four wines, I think my favorites are the racy interpretation of French Colombard and his rendition of the Mission (Pais) grape variety.

Moving on, I have two other worthy whites to recommend — the Estate Chardonnay from Eden Rift, the snazzy reincarnation of a large wine project in the Cienega Valley. While their initial releases under a slick new brand (and new ownership) didn’t impress me, I see things in this Estate Chardonnay that suggest they may be headed towards higher levels of quality. This wine has finesse and depth to it.

I reviewed a couple of wines from Two Shepherds winery last week, and I’ve got two more this week. The first, a bright and snappy Vermentino from Yolo county, and the second, an absolutely delicious vin gris, a rosé of Pinot Gris whose pink skins, left in contact with the juice for a few days can yield great deliciousness, as this wine amply proves.

Speaking of rosé you will want to back up the truck for the Sokol Blosser rosé of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s got everything you want in a pink wine, and a very attractive price to boot.

Lastly, I’ve got two more serious reds, a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, made by a woman who has been called the Queen of Pinot, Merry Edwards, and a pricy Cabernet Franc made by Rosemary Cakebread under her small label Gallica. Both are worth drinking.

Notes on all these and more below.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars French Colombard, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lime juice and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, the wine is incredibly racy, with mouthwatering acidity and lean, zippy flavors of lime and lemongrass. Quite refreshing. A porch pounder to be sure at a mere 10.5% alcohol. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, bright notes of pineapple, oak, lemon curd and melted butter have a nice silky texture and good acidity. The scent of oak creeps into the finish of the wine slightly more than I would like, but overall this is a well-made wine that has a nice balance to it. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemony grapefruit and green apple flavors have a brisk brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity and a lean, picked-early 11.5% alcohol. Not super complex, but easy to drink. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Two Shepherds “Windmill Vineyards” Vermentino, Yolo County, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of lemon cucumbers and star fruit. In the mouth, lemon cucumbers and wet chalkboard flavors have a wonderful stony quality with a faint chalky aftertaste. Aged for 6 months in half stainless, half used barrels. 11.1% alcohol. 275 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2018 Sokol Blosser “Evolution” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and lemon curd. In the mouth somewhat simple flavors of lemon curd mix with grapefruit brightness thanks to excellent acidity. A textbook Chardonnay, lacking perhaps some complexity but not pleasure, especially at fifteen bucks a bottle. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2019 Sokol Blosser Rosé of Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon rind and hibiscus. In the mouth, snappy flavors of strawberries, crabapples and citrus have a wonderful faint tannic grip and a mouthwatering juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. Delicious.12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Two Shepherds “Charbec Vineyard – Skin Fermented” Pinot Gris Rosé, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma, California
A light coppery pink in color, this wine smells of melon and ranier cherries. In the mouth, deliciously peachy, melon and berry flavors have an exotic swirl of technicolor flavor and the faint tannins left from the skin fermentation that offer a chalky texture in the finish. Excellent. 12.5% alcohol. 375 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars “Dry White Zinfandel” Rosé, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries and raspberries. In the mouth, lean flavors of berries and citrus peel have a nice tart brightness to them that recalls pink SmarteesVinography Unboxed: Week of 5/3/20. Crisp and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Rosehip notes linger in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a technical (synthetic) cork. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Monte Rio Cellars Mission, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Light ruby in the glass to the point of looking like a dark rosé, this wine smells of wet redwood bark, earth, and strawberry jam. In the mouth, flavors of black tea, raspberries, and plum are wrapped in a surprisingly muscular fist of fleecy tannins that flex their muscles through the finish which has a scent of orange peel. A surprisingly substantial wine for its light color and mere 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and cranberry compote. In the mouth, riper sweetish cherry and cranberry flavors have a richness to them, but stay bright thanks to excellent acidity. Faint suede-like tannins creep around the edges of the mouth. Definitely on the more robust side of California Pinot Noir. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Gallica Cabernet Franc, Oakville, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, crushed hazelnuts and chocolate. In the mouth, cherry cola flavors are shot through with faint notes of spicy green herbs and a modicum of sweet new oak. Leathery tannins persist in the mouth for some time along with the sweet vanilla of oak. I’d like this wine a lot more if its aftertaste was more wine and less wood. Includes 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Certified organic grapes. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $180.

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This Wine Has Invisible Oak, No Magic Involved

I got two sample bottles of the 2017 Wölffer Estate Grandioso Rosé. It’s a Long Island wine. Pretty damn local for me to drink! This is the current release.

Perhaps you noticed something in that first sentence?

THE YEAR OF 2017.

That’s right, this is not a “fresh” 2018 rosé.

What the hell is going on?!?

Is this rosé mummified? Dead? Undead?

Wizard stuff? Advanced spell-casting?

photo by Mike Haufe via Flickr

The answer is none of the above.

Wölffer Estate makes a trio of still rosés (plus sparkling, cider, gin, vinegar, and verjus!), and the Grandioso is unique because it ferments in old oak barrels, spending five months on the lees. (Lees are kind of the good detritus of grapes and fermentation that add flavor/texture, and get left behind before the wine goes into a bottle.) So 2017 is the current release.

Look even if it was a “regular” rosé from 2017, you know what? It would be fine. So would you. Honestly, a lot of rosés are rushed to market and extremely unsettled. It’s like if you had to commute to work via two subways, a train, and a nauseating shuttle bus over the course of two hours. Once you got to work, would you be settled? NO! You’d need some time to chill, have a CBD latte or whatever the kids are into, do the NY Times crossword (if it was Monday through, say, Wednesday…), and ease into the day. So most 2018 rosé (particularly ones from across the ocean) really needs some time to chill the F out.

Also last year’s rosés are usually offered during a fire sale to make way for the “fresh” ones. So stock up, yo. (Actually this probably happened a few months ago. Sorry.) But the best time to buy rosé is in the winter.

Anyway, let’s get back to this wine. I am easily distracted.

Wölffer Estate Grandioso Rosé 2017

This Wine Has Invisible Oak, No Magic Involved

This pic is of the 2015 but it’s probably still drinkin’ real nice.

The wine is blend of 39% Merlot, 33& Chardonnay, 26% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Gewürztraminer. Kinda kooky, huh? Unusual, no? Unique, eh? Yes, yes, and yes.

So what does the oak do for this wine? Let me tell you this. It ain’t oaky. This is old oak (seven to nine-year-old barrels) that really adds texture and smooths out the sharp edges. It’s not one of those watery acid bomb rosés that somehow taste like nothing yet are searingly acidic. I don’t know how something so bland can be so off-putting, it’s one of wine’s/life’s mysteries.

Wine-Searcher has the average price at $29. This is fine. The info about it from the winery says to serve slightly chilled. I’m a monster so I drink it tooth-shatteringly cold but they have a good point. You can treat this rosé like red wine. Put it in the fridge to cool it down. It’s serious enough that it deserves to be venerated like you would a thirty dollar bottle of red. Wölffer also suggests to squirrel some bottles away until Thanksgiving, which is also an excellent idea. (It comes in magnums, too, which is they way to go whenever possible.)

CONCLUSION: The Grandioso offers another reason to explore rosé beyond Provence and also showcases the diversity of styles out there, via winemaking and grape blending. It’s very good!

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Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is Good Any Time of the Year

I got an email from Little Green Pickle, a PR firm in Portland, asking me if I wanted a sample of Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé. It’s “a beautiful and unique rosé the transcends the hype associated with pink wine.” I was like, did you see my VinePair article about drinking rosé beyond the pale?!?

I do not want to be the person cleaning this countertop. / Photo via Hazelfern Cellars

Calling a wine a “winter rosé” would be kind of risky if you were sitting on it…after winter. Or perhaps in the dead of summer something with the word “winter” would transport you to a cooling, snowy oasis. A counterpart to soul-crushing heat and humidity. (In all seriousness, most rosés, even the pale/watery ones benefit from some time in the bottle as they are shipped immediately and usually bottle-shocked. I’ve no doubt this rosé would survive, and perhaps thrive in winter 2019.)

I’ve even written (2012!) about drinking rosé in winter, specifically a richer/darker Bordeaux style called Clairet. Which I was apprehensive about.

How the pink wine pendulum swings.

Now I welcome a deeper color and hue. And just like pale rosé shouldn’t be pegged to a season, nor should heartier ones. The point, of course, with the Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is to plant their flag during a dead season for pink wine, making a rosé with extra richness and texture. Since it sold out (they held a few bottles back for privileged scribes like myself), obviously they are having success. From a marketing perspective, I like it, too: “Dangit, we’re so gung-ho about rosé lets stick our necks out and call it ‘Winter Rosé.’ TAKE THAT, SUMMER WATER!”

How do they do it? Let’s look at the wine.

Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé 2017 ($24)

A blend of 95% Pinot Noir and 5% Barbera, this rosé spent 10 months in neutral French oak. The alcohol clocks in at 12.9%. The back label accurately touts its versatility with poultry, winter veggies, and roasted meats.

I like what the barrel-aging and extra skin-contact bring to the wine. It’s still refreshing. Most boring rosé is closer to bland white wine, leaving you wondering how it even came from red grapes in the first place (besides the color). The Hazelfern Cellars WR definitely has that savory, fruity Pinot Noir character.

If “winter [rosé] is coming,” bring on the deeper-colored, richer, more savory rosés. Keep the White Walkers, tho.

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