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2015 Hermitage Blanc from Michèle Luyton

28 Dec

Hermitage (Rhône) wines can be tough to acquire, unless you are in a specific income bracket. The most well-known producer is Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, which I have only enjoyed at tastings (Syrahs sold annually in the thousands of dollars per bottle range), or M. Chapoutier. And you may have noticed what a huge fan I am of Lodi’s Acquiensce Winery, by winemaker Sue Tipton, whose Rhône style wines are just luscious, and affordable!

So when I saw an offer to purchase an affordable bottle from a small winemaker in Hermitage, I leapt at the chance, and then waited for the wine to come to age.

Michèle Luyton 2015 Hermitage Blanc; Glun, France. 13% ABV; $48/bottle from Fass Selections.

 

The nose offers orange peel and apricot over a layer of honey. On the palate is a rich and full-bodied white with restrained acidity: quince and Meyer lemon, secondary notes of acacia flower, followed by subtle wood notes. The wine surprised my palate with the acidity approaching on the sides of my tongue. The restraint and suppleness, plus the savory quality of this white wine makes it quite genteel and gossamer, pairing beautifully with roast turkey, hot vegetables, and sweet noodle kugel. The following day, the wine was ideal with a savory vegetable omelette for brunch, showcasing the wine’s luxury and acidity, leaving the palate refreshed and delighted, with gentle apricot remaining on the finish.

 

 

So: do you need to know Hermitage Blanc? I would say it’s imperative for any serious wine-lover to taste and understand viognier, roussanne, marsanne, and Rhône style blends of the three. They aren’t hard to find but take a little extra work; shop one of the larger wine stores near you (or wine retailer who ships to your state) and ask for/search Northern Rhône, instead of simply Hermitage (which might freak out your wallet when the wines appear with $300 price tags). But that search should give you everything from Chave and beyond: you may be able to find wines in the low $30’s- and up (up, up!). It’s a small price to pay for wines that wine importer Kermit Lynch is quoted as saying is ” more unique and special than the red wines from the region”.  Personally, over the course of the last few years I’ve managed to find a few bottles (like the above) from Hermitage that are treats to find, but I find it quite convenient to purchase Acquiesce Winery’s bottles to share at tastings, as I love the reactions I get when I say “try a sip from a gem made by one my favorite female winemakers”, and keep my palate up to date with the grapes and styles of Northern Rhône.  

 

à votre santé!

Summerland Wine

10 Jul

While visiting Santa Barbara, I had an opportunity to do a tasting with Summerland Wine. Winemaker Etienne Terlinden seems to be quite busy, as they already have six wines from 2013 that include an orange muscat, a sauvignon blanc, a grenache rosé, a viognier, two pinot noir, a syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon, each of these wines is made from local grapes sourced from either Montery, Santa Barbara, or Paso Robles. In addition, they have a library of vintages from 2006-2012 that includes several single-vineyard chardonnay and pinots, a sparkling, and zinfandel. Here are some shots from my tasting, more notes are below!

grenache rose

chardonnay

 

viognier

solomon

 

 

 

Here is my hands-down favorite:

Summerland Cabernet Sauvignon,  Santa Barbara County, 2012. 

Summerland

Deep purple color with violet edging. Nose of blue and black fruit, the scent of  alcohol burns off with more exposure to air, revealing vegetation and fresh cedar. In the mouth, the cab features boysenberry, blueberry, and black cherry fruit along with notes of dark chocolate, licorice, and a hint of potting soil on the upper and back palate. The nice, lingering finish is one more element of this wine that complements food well. Note: all of the Summerland wines have high alcohol content, the cab is no exception with 14.1%ABV.

 

I was also impressed by two other wines, the 2012 single vineyard pinot noir from Wolff Vineyard, as well as their 2012 “Trio”, a mix of syrah, grenache and mouvedre grapes, which is Summerland’s take on the classic Rhône style wine. Summerland has a little of something for everyone, it seems. I’d love to see their Cab or Trio in a 3L large format bottling, which seems to be popular for their single vineyard pinots. A note for pinot lovers, I much preferred the older vintages I tasted,  -they felt settled, while younger vintages seemed like they still needed time to blend- so age may be a determining factor in your enjoyment. YMMV.

wolf pinot trip

 

à votre santé!

 

Refreshing Wines for Hot Summer Nights

16 Jun

Ah, summer. The mere word brings joy to our minds. Recall the childhood years when you couldn’t wait until you could escape school. These days, you might relive those moments over again for (or with) your children. And we can’t forget the activities of summer, such as beachgoing, ballgames, hiking and camping, the list goes on and on.

What about the wines of summer?  Some people try to drink the same wines they enjoyed the rest of the year. I suggest you broaden your horizons and try some of the refreshing wines that can open your eyes and palate all summer long.

While pinot grigio, chenin blanc and chardonnay are popular and easy to find, I can’t begin to tell you the joy  you’ll have in finding something delicious and new to add to your repetoire! These are especially ideal for late afternoons and those early evenings on long, sultry, summer nights.  While the pictures may be of specific brands and I have blogged about many of these, today I’ll simply suggest the grape and wine type you look for in your local wine store, and see what you can find! When I’m shopping locally, I like to pick up a bottle (or three) of something new to try at a neighborhood store to drink in the next few days, and order by the case the wines I want to cellar for the future.

 

Albariño– fruity aromas, pear, apple and passion fruit with bright acidity

martin_codax_rias_baixas_albarino_2006

Moscato– honeysuckle and orange blossom help make this gently sweet wine a delicious aperitif.

bartenura-moscato

Riesling– a year-round staple in my home. Simple two to three note wines with gentle fruit, excellent minerality and crisp acidity.

2009-Trimbach-Riesling

Rosé– this pink wine made from the red grapes (but without the skins, this can be an incredible ‘bridge’ wine that will work with salads, seafood, soup and steaks.

Roses

Vino Verde– a touch of fizz with citrus, green apple, and pear.

verde

Viognier– peach, apricot, honeysuckle, and nectarine flavors are common in this grape.

viognier-lineup

Please let me know what you try this summer, and how you liked it!

à votre santé!

Conundrum White Blend 2010

16 Aug

Conundrum White 2010

This is a ‘proprietary’ white blend from Rutherford, California’s winemaker Jon Bolta. 

 

The color is pale yellow. As a blend, I expected it to have some depth but the nose is not only complex but slightly confusing: chamomile, honeysuckle, citrus, and hints of ginger and jasmine pour forth from this delicious-smelling mixture. The palate matches the name perfectly. The first sip provides a touch of sweetness with some acid bite, a little rich, savory buttery quality which finishes with a touch of sweet bitterness. I had to stop and begin my tasting again to pick out a few elements from the palate: pear, apple, grapefruit, lemon peel, honeysuckle, fresh cut hay. I sensed little minerality, -not because it’s not there-, but because the floral and tropical flavors masked more subtle elements in the mix.

My fourth reaction to this wine after grasping the forward elements, was that this wine IS a blend of delicious grapes: I suspected they are semillion, chardonnay, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc- to me, it tasted like a Semil-Charda-Grigio-Sauv. I only came to this conclusion based on the experience of the mouthfeel, with these notes:  “sweet, acid, a tiny sour, a little bitter aftertaste, yet there is a sense of some new oak, some buttery fullness that is offset by the crisp acidity. Hmmm. This is like a painting that needs to be seen again, taken in again by multiple viewings”.

Going over my tasting notes, I recall that the first time I tasted this wine a few months back for some reason it identified as part of the Caymus family of wines.  I did a little research, and it IS part of that group of wines (Wagner), and while Conundrum has traditionally kept the grape blend a secret, they now post it on their website. What I thought was pinot grigio is actually viognier and muscat. From their website (linked below) I quote: “five white grape varietals- Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Semillon- sourced from Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties”

Wow. This is an unusual and impressive white. I think Jon Bolta and Jason Moore of Modus Wines would have an amazing conversation over their favorite blending techniques and approach.

Something I noted as we enjoyed this wine with baked tilapia: I felt the bitter aftertaste was more prevalent as the temperature increased, so I’d serve this wine very cold and I returned the bottle to the freezer between serving half-glasses. I did enjoy Conundrum a great deal, and feel the blend is one that would appeal to a wide variety of both people and pairings, so it might be a perfect wine for Thanksgiving, or a great choice for a restaurant meal when you need a white to pair with several different main courses. 

I purchased at $16/bottle in a grocery store, and have seen it online from $12-22/bottle. The white lists at $22 on the Conundrum website. Over 90,000 cases of the 2010 were made, so you should have no problem finding this locally.

Conundrum’s website is linked here;

The Wagner website is linked here.

and a cool youtube video on Conundrum wine is here!

à votre santé!

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