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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Give Mom Something Delicious For Mother's Day!

With Mother’s Day just days away, many of us are scrambling for the right gift. If your mom is like most, she likes a glass of wine every now and then. I just tasted through a lot of different offerings and found a diverse group that, depending on your mom’s tastes, will each hit the right spot. Whether she likes aromatic whites, reds (gentle or bold), or delicious bubbles, here are some great options. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest

Cantina Andriano 2012 Gewürztraminer / Cantina Tramin 2012 Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer

The Alto Adige region of Italy is home to a fairly wide array of grape varieties. However what stands out with conviction are the great aromatic whites the area produces. They also tend to be focused wines of purity and expression, loaded with character that embodies their place. Here’s a look at two current releases of Gewürztraminer. The Cantina Andriano 2012 Gewürztraminer is a DOC wine from the Alto Adige region of Italy. This offering is composed entirely of Gewürztraminer. The fruit was picked by hand and individual blocks were fermented separately in temperature controlled stainless steel. After spending approximately 6 months on the lees it was bottled. This selection has a suggested retail price of $15.99. The nose of this wine is remarkably fresh and vibrant. As soon as you take a sip, fruity and spicy characteristics kick in. Stone and tropical fruit flavors both play a role and provide good body. Limestone and other minerals are prevalent on the lengthy finish along with a copious amount of spice. This Gewürztraminer is crisp and refreshing. The flavors have depth and complexity but there’s an inherent lightness here that allows this wine to gently envelop your senses. This is a very solid value in Gewürztraminer that will work well with a wide array of foods.

The Cantina Tramin 2012 Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer is a single vineyard wine. All of the fruit came from the well regarded DOC Alto Adige Nussbaumer vineyard. The plot of land is in close proximity to Lago di Garda and enjoys breezes from it as a result. After the fruit was picked, fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. After 8 months of aging it was bottled. A bit more than 5,800 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $22.99. Fruity, floral and spicy are words that describe the inviting nose of this single vineyard Gewürztraminer. The palate here is deep, powerful and loaded with fruit flavors such as apricot and Lychee. A hint of salinity leads the long, lingering and lusty finish which is honeyed and also shows off a treasure trove of minerals. This wine is incredibly delicious and impressive all by itself but is a revelation when paired with spicy foods.

Here are two fine examples of Gewürztraminer each of which represents significant values in their price categories. As importantly they are distinct wines, loaded with varietal character, each showcases one of the many sides this grape has to offer. Both of these wines are well worth seeking out.

Dinner With Helfrich Winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy dinner with Helfrich Winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin and taste current releases of his wines. Helfrich is a family owned winery that was founded in 1934; it sits in the northern part of Alsace. They farm the Steinklotz vineyard which is one of only 51 in all of Alsace that has Grand Cru status. Additionally they source some of their fruit under long term arrangements with trusted neighbors. Amazingly Nicolas’ family has had a winemaker in every generation dating back to 1560. Prior to his time back home in Alsace Nicolas studied and worked in Burgundy and then spent a six months in New Zealand. It was a pleasure tasting wine with Nicolas and witnessing his passion for his work. Helfrich’s portfolio includes a carefully considered array of wines that share commonalities of quality while they are also each distinct. What follows are my thoughts on a trio of my personal favorites from the evening. The Helfrich 2012 Gewurztraminer was produced entirely from fruit sourced in Alsace. This wine is composed entirely of Gewurztraminer. After harvesting the fruit was destemmed and placed in a horizontal press. The juice was then passed into stainless steel tanks for fermentation. It was settled and racked on the lees to help round it out. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $14.99. This wine opens with a gloriously big nose that shows off tropical fruit aromas in abundance. The palate has apricot and Lychee fruit was well as white cling peach flavors. The finish is long and lusty with bits of mesquite honey and spice closing things out. The Helfrich Gewurztraminer is a gorgeous wine that I simply wanted to keep drinking.

The Helfrich 2012 Pinot Blanc was produced using fruit sourced within Alsace. This offering is 100% varietal. After harvesting the fruit was fermented at cold temperatures for about a week and a half. It was then racked on the lees. It’s bottled and closed with a screw cap. This Pinot Blanc has a suggested retail price of $14.99. Subtle hints of petrol emerge first on the nose of this Pinot Blanc. Fruit characteristics emerge next and dominate. Peach, wisps of nectarine and papaya are all part of the palate. Copious spice notes and a continued mélange of fruits make up the finish which has nice length. This wine is crisp and refreshing, perfect for warm weather sipping.

The Helfrich 2011 Pinot Gris Grand Cru was produced from fruit sourced at their own Steinklotz Vineyard. This offering is 100% Pinot Gris. The fruit was hand harvested and then destemmed. Whole grape membrane pressing followed. Fermentation was accomplished at cold temperatures in stainless steel tanks. This Grand Cru offering has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Bright stone fruit aromas burst from the gorgeous nose of this Grand Cru Pinot Blanc. The palate here is dense and layered with delicious, rich fruit flavors speckled with spice characteristics. Wave after wave of fresh and unctuous fruit flavors keep coming as this wine envelops your senses. The finish is substantial and lingering with spices, bits of honey and fruit flavors reverberating impressively. This Pinot Blanc was a sublime match with Pork Confit and side of sautéed Brussels sprouts.

What I love most about this trio of wines and the Helfrich portfolio in general is the great bang for the buck they represent. Alsatian wines, at this level of this quality, that we typically find on our shelves in the US often sell for much more. These are delicious wines that work wonderfully on their own and paired with food. In some cases they work well with cuisine more substantial than you might anticipate. These are well made wines that are affordable for everyday drinking and substantial and interesting enough for special occasion drinking as well, particularly in the Grand Cru tier. If you enjoy complex, aromatic whites with substance, do yourself a favor and look for one of the offerings from Helfrich.

The State of Chilean Wines Today: Quality, Value, and Diversity

The State of Chilean Wines Today: Quality, Value, and Diversity

Cabernet Sauvignon was king when I first started drinking Chilean wines some 20 years ago. And not just Cabernet in general, but specifically bargain priced Cabernet. Most wine drinking folks I know rifled through bottles of $6 or so Cabernet Sauvignon looking for gems; we found quite a few. And for many people that’s the lingering impression of Chilean Wine. The trouble is it’s no longer a valid image. Sure you can still find a bargain and some of them are Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is so much more Chilean wine on U.S. shelves deserving your attention and your dollars that it would be a real shame to limit yourself. I knew this before I went to Chile last week. So one of my goals in visiting was to verify it and see what they had going on that might be less obvious from 5,000 miles away. So I’ve compiled a handful of strong impressions of Chilean Wines gleamed from the trenches.

Argentina gets the attention but Chile makes some ass kicking Malbec: It’s Argentina’s signature grape so they should be at the forefront. In some ways they are, the general public thinks about Argentina first for Malbec. Some of them are terrific, but unfortunately way too many examples are made in an overtly fruit forward style with a lackluster body and no finish to speak of. I was a little surprised with the number of Malbecs I got to taste in Chile. While I knew it was there, its presence is larger than I would have guessed. More importantly the ones I tasted where almost all uniformly well made. By and large they were elegant, balanced and well proportioned. Often times they were made from old vine fruit. I hope we start seeing Chilean Malbec on our shelves in reasonable numbers soon.

Tiers baby: I’ve often written about wineries like Rodney Strong in Sonoma County whose tiered approach to their portfolio is consumer friendly. This is true in a very large percentage of Chilean Wineries. They often have 3 or 4 tiers of wine. Often the entry-level wines retail for around $10 on our shelves and they have a top-level that might reach into the $30’s and $40’s, as well as occasionally higher. In between are wines in the teens and $20’s. What’s remarkable is that there is more often than not quality, value, and diversity to be had at each tier. In Chile wineries that produce what we view as very large quantities of wine often do so at a high level. One of the main reasons for this is simple: estate fruit. By owning the vineyards outright or having fruit under long-term contract they have a say in precisely how the vineyards are maintained. This can (and often does) lead to high quality in the bottle at each price point. The intent of a producer’s $8 Sauvignon Blanc and their $20 one are often quite different as are their appeals and projected end user. But what's important is getting value regardless of price; in Chile that is often the case.

There are some delicious small production wines being made: Sure there are lots and lots of excellent Sauvignon Blancs coming from Chile and some tasty Pinot Noirs now too, but that’s not all. I had the opportunity to taste a delicious and marvelously dry Gewürztraminer made by Nimbus (part of the Santa Carolina Family of wines), as well as a lovely sparkling wine from Cono Sur to name a couple.  Viognier is making some ripples in Chile too and hopefully before long we’ll see a greater number of them available in the US as well. I've mentioned a few whites but the same can be said for reds. More than one example of varietal Petit Verdot I had was lovely as were a couple of tastes of Carignan. In some cases these wines aren't on our shelves in the US yet, but they’re important to mention for the coming diversity and quality they represent.

Blends will set Chile apart: Almost every winemaking culture has some blends. In places like Bordeaux they’re everything. In a lot of other places, well quite frankly they’re doing their best to mimic Bordeaux. Certainly Chile works to make great wine and learning lessons from places like Bordeaux or Napa to name two examples is part of the equation. But I also got the very strong sense that Chile is happy to be writing their own rule book when it comes to blends. Sure some of them contain the usual suspects of Bordeaux varietals. However grapes like Carménère that have been marginalized or fallen by the wayside in Bordeaux often steal the show in Chile. Additionally with red blends Syrah often makes a mark too as well as some others. Some of the most impressive wines from Chile I’ve tasted over the last 5 years have been blends. This remained constant on my trip last week where I tasted lots of delicious blends. It’s important to note that with blends like with varietal wines there are values at many price levels.

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon can still be a great value: While there are no longer boatloads of awesome deals on $6 Cabernet Sauvignon there are still many deals to be had. Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile when it’s grown in the right spot and treated properly in the winery can blow away a lot of countries on QPR. What I found on this trip is that the Cabernets in the $15-$25 range were particularly noteworthy in terms of value. These are balanced wines that are often perfect for everyday enjoyment as well as drinking over the next few years. At a higher cost there are some truly age-worthy wines. One example was the Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Rita. We tasted both the current release (2009) and a 15 year old bottle (1997). Jameson Fink, a fellow writer who was on the same trip wrote about this particular experience and it’s well worth a read.

Diversity is King of Chile now: Everywhere we went there was something unique to taste. In some cases it was a Sparkling Rosé made from an almost lost grape. Sometimes it was a Moscato that stunned us all by how lovely and dry it was. On one occasion it was an Old Vine Sauvignon Gris. These are just a couple of examples. Chilean winemakers are experimenting in the vineyards with new farming techniques as well as plantings of new varietals or the reclamation of abandoned old vineyards. In the Winery they’re also experimenting with how they utilize oak, what they blend together and frankly just about every decision they make. What that means to us is we’re going to get to taste a wide swath of different wines from Chile.

In short I was pretty knocked out by what they have going on in Chile. I’ve really enjoyed drinking the wines from there for a long time now. But in 2012 instead of thinking of them for one thing, I think of Chile for an ever widening variety of different varietals, blends and more. Grab some Chilean wines and taste the quality, value and diversity I was lucky enough to witness firsthand.

Visiting Balletto Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma County

It’s a good thing I keep lists. In this case it’s a list of Wineries in Sonoma County I keep meaning to get to but haven’t yet. Thankfully I can now scratch Balletto Vineyards & Winery off of that list. A couple of years back someone had poured one of their wines for me and It had left an impression. Subsequently a few people whose opinions I trust had mentioned them to me as well. But I kept running out of time on previous trips and never made it there, until last week. I’m quite glad that I did. Balletto Vineyards sits at 5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa, CA and their phone number is 707-568-2455. Balletto is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. Balletto started out as growers and farmers and they still are, selling off roughly 90% of their fruit in most years. The tasting room has a country charm which instantly brings to mind classic Sonoma County. The day I visited they had roughly ten wines they were pouring. Overall, both whites and reds left a very good impression as did the welcoming nature of their tasting room and operation as a whole. Here’s a look at a few of the wines that stood out the most on my visit.

Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Gris is the 9th vintage they have made of this particular release. All of the fruit came from their own vineyards. This wine is 100% Pinot Gris. Just fewer than 2,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18. A welcoming nose shows of bits of Lychee as well as vanilla bean. The palate shows an impression of sweetness in the droves of stone fruit such as Apricot and White Peach. Lemon Zest rounds things out and leads to the finish which is clean and crisp with zippy acidity. This is perfectly suited to pair with spicy food and light meals; it’ll also work perfectly as a welcome wine.

The Balletto Vineyards & Winery  2009 Russian River Valley Estate Gewürztraminer is the 5th vintage they have produced this wine. This is a single vineyard effort with all of the fruit coming from their Piner Road vineyard. It’s 100% Gewüurztraminer. Just over 500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18 but when I visited they were selling it for a bit less. White rose petal aromas emerge from the nose of this wine along with loads of fruit and hints of spice. Stone fruits, pear and bits of white pepper and vanilla are present on the palate which is gentle and layered with plenty of complexity. The finish here is lengthy as well as spice and mineral laden. This is a really beautiful example of Gewüurztraminer, something a bit too rare in California. Whether you drink it on it’s own or pair it with light foods, this wine is a sure fire winner.

The Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2011 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at 5 different vineyards within the winery’s Estate holdings. It’s all Estate fruit and this is the 11th year that they have produced this offering. It’s 100% Pinot Noir. Just fewer than 3.900 cases of this brand new release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29. Bits of tea and strawberry emerge on the slightly reticent nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. This is a new release a bit on the young side and some additional time in the bottle will be a benefit. Cherry and cranberry lead the palate which has good depth as well as being gentle and proportionate. Nutmeg and clove as well as white pepper emerge on the finish along with bits of mineral characteristics. This is a really nice Cuvee style Pinot Noir that you should decant for an hour or two if you’re going to drink it soon. Otherwise hold it for another year or so and it’ll be immediately approachable.

The Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2009 Russian River Valley Estate Syrah is a Single site effort with all of the fruit coming from their Estate BCD Vineyard. This is the 5th vintage they have produced this wine. A mere 210 cases were made and it has a suggested retail price of $24. Aromas of smoked meats and black fruits fill the deep, dark nose of this Syrah. Dark, brooding fruits continue on the palate along with spices that include both white and black pepper. The smoked meat characteristics continue on the lengthy finish along with bits of dark, dusty chocolate. This wine, which is a killer example of how well Syrah can be made in CA when it’s grown and treated right, will pair well with a host of bold meat dishes.

I highly recommend Balletto Vineyards & Winery as a stop to anyone visiting Sonoma County. The wines are well made, delicious and quite reasonably priced. The folks manning the tasting room are friendly, welcoming and informative. In short it’s a great place to while away some time, tasting excellent wine. The day I visited they had several wines on sale which made those particular wines nothing short of a steal. It took me awhile to get there, but I’ll be back, on my very next trip.

Bodegas Sumarroca - 2010 Temps de Flors

The Bodegas Sumarroca 2010 Temps de Flors was produced from fruit sourced in the D.O. of Penedès near Barcelona. This offering is a blend of Muscat (40%), Xarel-lo (48%), and Gewürztraminer (12%). Xarel-lo is a local indigenous grape that is often utilized in the production of Cava, which Bodegas Sumarroca is recognized for. This wine widely available wine was named for the Temps De Flors that occurs in Girona Spain over nine days each May. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99. The Temps De Flors has an impressively expressive and aromatic nose that is loaded with Apricot and Lychee Fruit characteristics. The plate is impeccably balanced and shows off sweet fruit flavors such as peach and apricot as well as zesty citrus and sour white fruits. Hints of white pepper and subtle wisps of cardamom emerge on the finish which has good length.

Someone apparently figured out how to bottle summer. This wine will work perfectly as a welcome wine and it will also pair well with lighter spicy foods. Indian Cuisine would be a terrific match. The low alcohol (12%) also makes this an easy choice to drink without worry about your palate tiring. This is precisely the sort of well made, light, refreshing and fun wine that's perfectly suited for summer gatherings with friends or just a casual meal on your deck any night of the week. You’ll find this wine for closer to $10 if you shop around and it represents a very nice value for such an appealing and fun to drink blend.

Gustave Lorentz - Cremant d’Alsace (NV) / 2009 Pinot Noir Le Rosé / 2007 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim

Alsace France is a region that can certainly inspire tons of passion from wine lovers. White varietals rule the day here. When they are from excellent vineyards and made with care they can be nothing less than amazing. I recently tasted through most of the portfolio from Gustave Lorentz. This Alsatian family has been making wine since 1836. It was a pleasure and an eye-opener to samples these wines. As is typical of Alsace the majority of their offerings are white with a few reds in the mix as well. Both still and sparkling wines are part of the mix. I’ve liked each of the selections I’ve tasted from this producer but here are three diverse ones that really set themselves apart.

First up is the Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace (NV). This sparkling wine is composed of Chardonnay (33%), Pinot Blanc (33%) and Pinot Noir (33%). This offering was produced using the classic “Methode Champenpoise.” 4,500 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99

The nose of this non vintage Sparkling Wine is remarkably fresh and lively with apple and green melon aromas of particular note. Brioche, juicy orchard fruits and bits of stone fruit are all part of the palate along with spice and mineral notes. The finish shows an inherent creaminess along with touches of candied lemon zest. This is a really nice sparkling wine for the money. It drinks well on it’s own but will work even better paired alongside light foods.

Next up is the Gustave Lorentz 2009 Pinot Noir Le Rosé. The grapes for this wine were picked as ripe as possible. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. The fruit was sourced from vineyards that feature clay and limestone heavy soils. 2,000 cases of this Rosé were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Fresh, ripe Bing cherry aromas drive the nose of this 2009 Rosé. Strawberries, cherries and vanilla characteristics are all at play through the palate. These are joined by hints of darker berry fruit and a touch of candied cherry. The darker fruit elements emerge a bit more forcefully in the finish along with a touch of white pepper. This wine is light and refreshing as most well made Rosé should be. But it also features more depth, weight and complexity than the average example. This wine will pair really well with light foods. A fruit and cheese plate would be perfect. Of course it should be chilled, but resist the temptation to over-chill this beauty.

The final wine in this trio is the Gustave Lorentz 2007 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim. The fruit for this wine comes from the namesake classified Grand Cru site. This offering is all Gewürztraminer. The soils there feature heavy clay and limestone components. The vines average between 30 and 50 years of age. Fruit for this offering was hand picked and the whole grapes were pressed and this juice was separated from the free run juice. Fermentation took place with select and native yeasts in mature oak vats. It was aged in these vats for 11 months prior to bottling. 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $59.99.

Aromas of apple, yellow melon, vanilla and a touch of crème fraiche fill the expressive nose of this 2006 Gewürztraminer. Apricot and yellow peach notes are in abundance throughout the palate. A nice spice component featuring white pepper, cardamom and nutmeg is present as well. Lot’s of sweet yellow and white fruits continue through the impressively long and persistent finish which shows off a bit of a honey. In addition to the lengthy finish the purity of fruit is what strikes me as most impressive about this Gewürztraminer. This wine is delicious now, both on its own and paired with spicy foods in particular. However don’t hesitate to lay it down for the next 8-12 years.

This is a delicious trio of wines from Gustave Lorentz. That said don’t hesitate to try others with their name on the label either. I’ve sampled quite a few and each has been a winner.

Hugel et Fils - 2007 Pinot Gris / 2009 Riesling Classic / 2008 Gewürztraminer

Hugel et Fils is a name that should be very familiar to US wine lovers. Their offerings have been on our shelves for many years. At a time when there were less Alsatian wines on ours shelves then there are today they were a friendly face that provided consistent quality. Even today, when our options have increased dramatically, they’re still providing solid wines vintage after vintage at competitive prices. Today I’ll look at a trio of their current releases. The Hugel et Fils 2007 Pinot Gris was produced using fruit sourced in Estate vineyards in Alsace. This offering is 100% Pinot Gris. Fermentation took place in a temperature controlled environment. This offering has a suggested retail price of $14.99. Aromas of dried white flowers fill the nose of this Pinot Gris along with hints of tangerine and orchard fruits. Golden Delicious apples are prominent on the palate and accompanied by lemon ice. Nutmeg, tart green apple, white pepper and a hint of cream are all part of the finish which shows off good length. This wine has an elegance that belies its price-point and that’s particularly evidenced by the balance and proportion it shows off. The juicy fruit flavors that fill your mouth when you taste this are balanced by solid acid and a crisp finish.

The Hugel et Fils 2009 Riesling Classic was produced from fruit sourced at Estate vineyards and parcels of land under long term contracts. All of the fruit is from vines surrounding the village of Riquewihr in Alsace. This selection is 100% Riesling. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled vats. This wine has a suggested retail price of $24.99. Apple and grapefruit aromas emerge from the nose of this Riesling. The palate shows off Asian pear, peach and continued citrus notes. Granny Smith apple emerges on the finish along with minerals and a solid spice component. Overall this wine is lean and slightly austere. It’s a lovely wine that most importantly shows off good varietal character. Personally I would most often serve this a welcome wine when guests arrive.

The Hugel et Fils 2008 Gewürztraminer was made from fruit sourced at Estate vineyards in Alsace. The fruit is hand picked and transported to the winery in small vats. This selection is 100% Gewürztraminer. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled barrels. Filtering occured just prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $24. Lychee Fruit, apricot and hazelnut aromas each emerge prominently from the engaging nose of this 2008 Gewürztraminer. White cling peach, apricot, and nectarine are part of an explosion of stone fruits that dominate the palate of this offering. All of those rich, beguiling fruit flavors give the impression of sweetness, but this is a perfectly dry wine. Hints of tropical fruit and spices kick in as well. They lead to the finish which shows off fleshy white plum, citrus and continued wallops of spice. This wine has a long, lingering finish whose flavors persist on your tongue well after the last sip is gone. This is a really terrific example of Gewürztraminer. It’ll pair well with a wide array of foods, but is incredibly engaging and delicious all by itself.

This trio of wines represents a look at three distinct varietals that flourish in Alsace. Their flavor profiles vary greatly as do the situations they will each perform best in. While each of them represents a well made wine and a solid value the Gewürztraminer is my favorite from this trio. It’s the one I couldn’t stop drinking. Hugel et Fils continues to turn out classically styled wines from Alsace at reasonable prices. They’re also widely available across the country. These are all reasons to look to them as one of your go to producers for Alsatian wines.

Examining the Age Worthiness of White Wines from Alto Adige

Last week I attended a tasting in Manhattan featuring the wines of Alto Adige. This region sits in the Italian Alps. Both red and white varieties are grown with white taking the lead at 55% of planted acreage. This two-part tasting included a walk around portion that featured tons of exciting new releases from a host of producers. Both red and white wines were showcased. That was the second part of the day; I’m going to focus on the first part. That initial piece was a 90 minute, sit-down seminar during which eight white wines were presented. The mission statement of the seminar was to illustrate the overall age-ability of white wines from Alto Adige. There are few regions in the world that produce white wines with the ability or intent of aging. The ones that have that capability however can often be transcendent. I was pretty curious to see how these wines would taste and if they really did have the as advertised potential for above average longevity. What follows are some brief thoughts about each of the eight wines we tasted. Nals Margreid 2007 Pinot Grigio Punggl DOC Alto Adige. This single vineyard wine is 100% Pinot Grigio. Half of the grapes for this wine were fermented and aged in large oak barrels, the other half in stainless steel tanks. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $24. The 2009 is the current vintage of this particular wine. The 2007 features lots of yellow fruit flavors throughout a round and sweet but well balanced palate. It shows off the juicy flavors that are prevalent with relatively small production Pinot Grigio treated with care; as opposed to the vast array of anonymous Pinot Grigio that hits US shelves by the boatload.

Franz Haas 2004 Cuvee Manna. This wine is a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Traminer Aromatico and Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit was sourced from four vineyards at altitudes of 350 to 850 meters. Each lot was picked and fermented separately. The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc saw time in Barrique while the Riesling and Traminer Aromatico were fermented in steel. The blend was assembled at final fermentation and spent 10 months on yeasts prior to bottling. 50,000 bottles of this wine were made and at release it had a retail price of $40. The stated goal of this wine is the ability to pair with as wide an array of foods as possible. Apricots, and white cling peach characteristics are dominant on this wine which is driven by intense, fresh fruit flavors. There is a bit of honey on the finish. Ultimately this offering is layered with loads of complexity. For me this was one of the most interesting wines of the day.

San Michele Appiano 2006 Pinot Grigio Sanct Valentin DOC Alto Adige. This wine was sourced from vines with 25-40 years of age on them. The vineyards selected sit approximately 450 meters above sea level. This wine was aged in a combination of new (40%) and used (60%) barriques. This offering spent 11 months on yeast. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $35.99. Lilac, peach and a hint of petrol are all present in the nose of this wine. Apricots are prominent on the palate along with spices that carry through the finish along with minerals. This wine has terrific concentration of fruit and persistent, lingering and rather impressive length.

Caldro Castell Giovanelli 2007 Sauvignon DOC Alto Adige. The vines the fruit for this selection were sourced from average 5-10 years of age. This offering is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation and aging took place in oak casks. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $48. This wine is incredibly aromatic with citrus and melon fruit just exploding from the nose. The palate shows continued citrus in droves. Minerals are the story on the crisp, clean finish. This wine has racy, slightly zingy acidity.

Terlan Nova Domus 2005 Terlaner Riserva DOC Alto Adige. This wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc (60%), Chardonnay (30%), and Sauvignon Blanc (10%). The fruit was sourced from vineyards sitting between 350 and 500 meters above sea level. Fermentation took place in large oak casks (50%) and 500 Liter Tonneaux. The wine spent a year on the yeast. At release this offering had a suggested retail price of $55. Citrus and spice notes are both prominent on the finish of this wine. Stone fruits dominate the palate. The finish of this selection just goes on and on. For a 5 + year old white blend the fruit on this wine is incredibly fresh and vital. It just keeps beckoning you back for more.

Alois Lageder 2002 Chardonnay Lowengang DOC Alto Adige. The fruit for this wine was selected from vines with 40 to 60 years of age on them grown at vineyard sites sitting 260-450 meters above sea level. This was fermented using native yeasts. It was aged in a combination of new (50%) and used (50%) barriques. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $40. Apple, limestone and minerals are all present on this wine. Its overall style in many ways brings to mind aged Burgundy. The purity of fruit and length of finish are both impressive. 

Peter Zemmer 2006 Gewürztraminer Reserve DOC Alto Adige. This wine is 100% Gewürztraminer, Fermentation took place with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled tanks. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $29. This wine is gloriously aromatic with spice and dried fruit and flower aromas emerging from the glass in droves. The palate of this wine is rich and layered with flavor; it's also impeccably balanced and incredibly in focus. The finish has prodigious length that features a particularly impressive spice component.

Tramin 2004 Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer DOC Alto Adige.  The Nussbaumer Estate Vineyards sit between 350 and 500 meters above sea level. This wine is 100% Gewürztraminer. Fruit for this wine was hand picked. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. At release this wine had a suggested retail price of $35. Nectarine, lychee and hazelnuts fill the nose of this wine. Through the palate apricot and both white and yellow peach flavors are present in droves. This wine has a rich, layered and honeyed finish that lingers persistently. This wine has incredibly appealing flavors and you’ll be hard pressed to stop drinking this once you start.

The bottom line is that each of these selections was impressive in its own right. Taken as a group they were an impressive lineup that achieved the mission statement of showcasing the eminent age worthiness of well made white wines from the Alto Adige region of Italy. Each of them was drinking well and featured fresh flavors that belied their ages. As a group they also had more life ahead of them. Given the complexity, drinkability and obvious longevity these particular wines as well as the current vintages are well worth your time, effort and money.

Angeline - 2006 Mendocino County Gewürztraminer

The Martin Ray family of wines comprises several labels, in addition to the ang_mc_gewurz_06main Martin Ray brand. One of those is Angeline. Under that label they source fruit from both their home region in and around Russian River as well as some other appellations. The wines bottled under the Angeline label generally retail in the low to mid teens; some a little lower. Today I'll look at their Gewurztraminer. The 2006 Angeline Gewürztraminer was sourced in Mendocino County. This wine is 100% varietal. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. 2,850 cases of this wine were produced. It's most commonly available for right around $10.

The nose of this Gewürztraminer is filled with apricot, lychee fruit and subtle rose petal aromas. Continued apricot, as well as mineral characteristics are prominent throughout the palate. These are underpinned by hazelnut notes. The finish of this Gewürztraminer is gloriously dry. White pepper notes are prominent and joined by additional spice reference points that linger for a nice close to this wine. This wine drinks well on it's own but will really perform well when it accompanies spicier Thai foods, as well as light summery dishes.

What I like best about the Angeline Gewürztraminer is that it's made in a dry style. That style allows its true varietal character to shine. This wine is a very good value in its price category. It's also another solid wine made from fruit sourced in Mendocino County, which continues to emerge as a region to keep an eye on. Please stay tuned for more coverage of the Martin Ray wines soon.

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Montes - 2006 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer

The last wine I'm looking at, this week, from Montes is a Dessert wine. As much as I enjoy South American wines, my experience with Dessert montes_late_harvestwines from that region is a little limited. That made me very curious and excited to try a Late Harvest wine from a producer I was already fond of. The Montes 2006 Late  Harvest Gewürztraminer is 100% varietal. Grapes for this offering are from a Montes Estate vineyard in Curicó Valley. This wine saw no oak treatment at all, and was fermented in stainless steel. The suggested retail price for a 375 ml bottle, the predominate size for late harvest wines, is $27.

Apricot and honey followed by subtle vanilla and hazelnut aromas are the most dominate characteristics in the nose of this Late Harvest wine. Gewürztraminer tends to be an exceptionally floral varietal, and this is no exception. Throughout a nicely balanced palate, apricot dominates along with honey and hibiscus notes. The joyful sweetness of this wine is balanced by crisp acidity, which keeps things in check. This offering never crosses the line to become cloying, too often the downfall of Late Harvest wines. White peach emerges on the finish along with a touch of mango, but the honey  notes keep on coming, and pleasingly coat the back of the throat. This wine will be an excellent match for a diverse array of desserts. Cheesecake and Hazelnut Biscotti are the first two that come to mind. However it's balanced enough to be dessert in and of itself.

What I like best about this wine is that's a great value. Late Harvest wines are quite often priced out of most people price ranges. Take a look at what the prices are for some better known Late Harvest Wines. You'll see that this Gewürztraminer from Montes is a bargain. Taste it and you might not care what the price is. While I've looked at four wines from Montes over the last few days, I feel it's important to mention that I find their portfolio to be loaded with well made, appropriately priced wines. I consider them a go to name for value. I encourage everyone to give them a shot.

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