Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Beautiful, Delicate Rose of Pinot Noir

One of Oregon's most renowned wineries is the hilltop, state-of-the-art, operation of Lynn Penner-Ash.

The incredible winery and tasting room sit atop a hill with beautiful views of the Willamette Valley. You must travel a long road up the side of a hill to get to the incredible facility.

Lynn Penner-Ash had worked for long time Oregon icon Rex Hill before opening her own operation. I visited the tasting room in early April and was blown away by the beautiful facility and the incredible wines.

Her wines have a feature I can only describe as delicate. I brought home a bottle of her Pinot Noir which I'll open in the future. But tonight I opened her Roseo - a dry Rose' from Pinot Noir grapes.

This is a very light, "delicate" wine. Some wine drinkers might find it 'thin' but I didn't at all. It's very light but structured and satisfying. I got a little light strawberry on the nose but on the palate this wine is satisfying. Just know going in its a light glass of wine.

Penner-Ash is distributed in Ohio and Illinois. (Note below, a reader has found Penner Ash in Indiana. I usually check such things! Thanks for the heads up!)

P-A is a premium Pinot Noir producer. If you find her wines at all, buy a bottle.

I love Rose during the summer and this was the lightest I've ever tasted. Still, there was a structure and balance that made it very enjoyable.

Penner-Ash Pinot Noir falls into the same $30-$65 range as most Oregon premium Pinot Noir. So I was shocked to learn the Rose sells for ten bucks! The 2008 has jumped to $15, but still an incredible bargain.

This is a fine glass of Rose for those who like a lighter touch.

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It's Hard to Beat those Oregon Pinot Gris Wines

Every time I open a really great bottle of wine I am like a kid at Christmas.

Saturday night I wanted some shrimp and a crisp white wine to go with it. I went to the rack and searched for one of my "better bottles" of white.

I grabbed a 2007 Willakenzie Estate Pinot Gris I had purchased during a 2008 visit to the Willamette Valley. While not usually a big white fan, as I've noted on many occasions, this white is spectacular.

This wine has a pedigree too! Since 1997 its never scored lower with Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast than an 87. Nearly half of those ratings of the past decade were 90 or higher. It's easy to see why with this fruity and crisp white wine.

It has a beautiful nose of pineapple and melon and even some floral that so many wine geeks will rave about. It had a rounded mouthful of fruit on the front of the palate and a nice acid on the finish.

I took those shrimp and drizzled some olive oil, sea salt, cracked black pepper, some garlic powder and one full fresh lime and grilled them. It was to die for with this well-made Pinot Gris.

If you find the wine it can range anywhere from $15-$20. It seems like I've seen the wine in Indiana, but I'm uncertain. They can't ship direct here, but may have a distributor. If you see it on a restaurant menu or in a wine shop - pick some up. This is great juice!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Pretty Good Dry Rose from Virginia!

A good friend recently spent a week's vacation in the state of Virginia and visited one of its state's wineries - Valhalla Vineyards.

They have an interesting lineup of wines and he tasted several which he enjoyed. Once again this proves, there are states outside of the west coast producing good wine!

He brought me a bottle of their Dry Rose, made from 100 percent Sangiovese. I've had Sangiovese-based Rose from Old World countries before and liked it - not as much as the grenache-based rose, but good wine nonetheless.

This Rose didn't have a lot of the strawberry nose and flavor of most. It was dry and it was a very dark red, not the usual blush or strawberry red color. Without any offense, it was much like Chianti Light. Think of light beer and you'll get the reference.

I should quickly add that I'm not being negative about the wine. I had it with some guyere cheese and crackers and it was quite good. It is different from most of the Rose I've tasted, but I'd drink it again. It's very true the varietal which is the mark of any good wine.

I should add that it did not hold up well over 24 hours, but was fine the night I opened it. That's not unusual. I find most wines change substantially over 24 hours even when stored correctly. There is a great blog on that topic. Take a look at 2 Days Per Bottle, written by another Hoosier!

I've long said don't be afraid of trying new things. I guess I should amend that to don't be afraid to try new things and familiar things from new places!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Huber Cleans Up at Indy Wine Competition

Two newspaper columns ago I wrote about my favorite 'day trip' to Huber Winery at Starlight, in the Southern Indiana Hills abover Jeffersonville and Floyds Knob, Indiana.

My last column was about my tasting experience at the Indy International Wine Competition.

The two have collided in a positive way for Ted Huber and his staff at the sprawling farm and winery.

Huber just cleaned up in the prestigious competition.Huber was named the Indiana Winery of the Year, Winemaker of the Year, Indiana Wine of the Year, Indiana Grown Vinifera of the Year, Indiana Grown Fruit Wine of the Year, and had six Best of Class winners in the commercial division.

Here is a complete list of their winners: Apple, Raspberry, Razzy Apple, NV, GOLD
Aurore, Lakeside White, 2008, SILVER
Blaufrankisch, , 2007, BRONZE
Blueberry, , 2008, GOLD
Cabernet Franc, , 2007, GOLD
Cabernet Sauvignon, , 2007, SILVER
Catawba, , 2008, BRONZE
Chambourcin, , 2007, DOUBLE GOLD
Chambourcin Port Style, Knobstone, 2003, SILVER
Chambourcin, Blauframisch, Cabernet Franc, Generation, 2007, GOLD
Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Heritage, 2006, GOLD
Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Heritage, 2007, SILVER
Chardonel, , 2008, GOLD
Chardonel, Seyval, Vidal, Sparkling Starlight, NV, DOUBLE GOLD
Niagara, , 2008, SILVER
Peach, , 2008, BRONZE
Pinot Gris, , 2008, BRONZE
Raspberry, , 2008, DOUBLE GOLD
Seyval, Vidal, Villard, Starlight White, 2008, SILVER
Traminette, , 2008, SILVER
Vignoles, , 2008, DOUBLE GOLD

You can click here to see all the winners in various categories at the competition.

That's impressive folks. Now are you ready for that one tank trip?

Congrats to Ted and the folks at Hubers! This was domination!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

A French Cotes-du-Rhone Past Its Prime?

I always make a big batch of pasta sauce, meat, etc. on Sunday nights. Then I eat it a time or two again during the week.

I did just that Sunday night and went to look for a bottle of wine. I didn't have any Italian wines or a Garnacha, both of which I like with Italian.

I grabbed a bottle of French wine I bought on recommendation and popped it open. The wine was a 2003 Chateau Pesquie Les Terrasses. It had a smooth flavor but nothing interesting on the front of the palate. It had a lively Grenache (French) or Garnacha (Spanish) spice flavor on the finish. But, I thought the wine was a little flat initially.

I popped open the Internet to see what I could learn. I learned it was 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah - therefore, the nice finish. Robert Parker liked this wine and gave it an 89! But then something colored my opinion. Parker said the wine would be best in 2007.

I wish I had thought of that, and it makes sense. I'm not sure my palate is experienced enough to recognize a wine just past its prime. That being said, it was a okay glass of wine - not great. I wish I had tasted it in its prime.

The winery is a storied wine-making estate in Provence. New owners took the winery over in the 80s and have made a name for themselves with these French wines. You can find this wine in the $11-$12 range.

The point of this rambling post is that some times the Internet can teach you things. I'm not sure I always agree with Robert Parker or Wine Spectator's ratings, but it's useful information to educate your palate.

And by the way, these French blends from Cotes-du-Rhone are consistently great value wines!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Great Experience as a "Judge in Training"

Because I do have readers who only follow the blog, I'm going to point you over to the blog where I post my newspaper columns.

I had a great experience on Tuesday as a "judge in training" for the Indianapolis International Wine Competition. It's the biggest wine competition outside of California.

I write about the experience and have a photo album attached.

You can see the column by clicking here. You can also read all 18 of my columns since starting this effort.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Why's It So Tough to Make Wine This Good, This Cheap?

As I freely admit, I was a journalist in a previous life and for many of those years I would enjoy using my weekly column for a good rant.

Well, I feel the same today. I have not done that much, if at all, here!

I don't really like Chardonnay. Not the big ones, the light ones, the stainless steel ones or the oakey ones - don't like em.

But friend Rob down at Cork and Cracker got me to try a light Italian Chardonnay - Agrinatura NV Chardonnay from Puglia. I found this wine online for up to about $13. But Rob and Ashley at Cork & Cracker snagged some they were able to sell for $6.99 a bottle! Go back and read that sentence again if necessary.

It's a nice smooth, rich but light flavored Chardonnay. And Chardonnay and Italy are words not normally found in the same sentence.

This is a nice soft Chardonnay.

So now the rant. Why is it I can find so many Spanish, Italian, and South American wines under $10-$13 that are well structed or balanced, nice fruit, balanced tannins and a great glass of wine ----- And ------ American wine makers in the value market still make lots of CRAP!

This bottle of wine was nice, rich and smooth. It wasn't a big bold Chardonnay but it was very drinkable. A wine like this would give novice wine drinkers a very approachable introduction to wine. Instead, they get wines made in tanks the size of grain silos with acidy, lack of balance, masked by too much oak (or wood chips) disguised as wine.

And I repeat - I don't like Chardonnay!

But I'd buy this one again.

Why? Why? Why?

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Nobilo Sauv Blanc Becomes U.S.'s Best Seller

I came across an interesting news note today. New Zealand's Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc has become the biggest selling Sauv Blanc in the United States.

Read the article here from The IRI sales survey quoted as the source is THE numbers survey in the wine industry.

I wrote about this wine just a couple weeks ago. It's a great wine for a great price at $10-$12.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

How about a nice $15 Chianti Classico?

There's nothing better than some mild Italian sausage, ground turkey, chopped seasoned tomatos, lots of onion, garlic, and I like red peppers - over pasta. Of course it's best with some rich and medium weight Italian red wine.

I made that pasta combination tonight and opened a bottle of Straccali 2006 Chianti Classico. Chianti is almost always the entry point for most of us into Italian red wines. It's a bigger flavor but pairs really well with about any red sauce pasta dish.

This winery has been around along time dating back to 1925. It's situated in the key Chianti region of Italy between Florence and Siena. Most Chianti or Chianti Classico is primarily Sangiovese. This wine is 90 percent of the classic Italian grape with a 10 percent blend of Merlot and Canaiolo.

It's a big full-flavored, medium bodied wine. It has a rich nose of dark fruit, it's a bit tart, but pairs really well with food.

And I like this wine a lot for the $12-$15 price point. I picked this up at Cork & Cracker's Fishers' store.

This makes a nice comparison to the Italian I opened earlier this week. This wine was definitely a little bigger wine than the Caldora, but it is a different grape. You can read about the other Italian I wrote about here.

Overall, a good choice if you like a nice big Sangiovese flavor at this price point!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Adding Logansport to My Newspaper Column List

I've been working on spreading the newspaper column a little this week. Recently I have urged editors to consider Grape Sense as an online exclusive.

Frankly, I'm surprised more haven't gone that route. Newspapers are pinched for space on the printed page for economic reasons I totally understand. And don't get me wrong, I love the column on the printed page.

But online I can make the column more interactive with live links. And having spent the better part of more than 20 years in the newspaper business, I know I'd be driving original content to my website if I was an editor today!

Editor Kelly Hawes of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune picked up Grape Sense today for the newspaper's website. I'm very happy to be adding the column for all those Logansport Berries (local high school nickname)!

I could rant on about the newspaper business and newspaper websites, but this is about the grape juice.

On that topic, I had a great lunchtime meeting today with David Mirassou. David is the 6th generation of his family in the wine business. You'll see the yellow and black Mirassou label in many markets and wine shops. Mirassou is a value label that makes a consistently good product.

I'll be writing about that visit in the coming weeks and I'm sure I'll have something up on this blog as well.

Meanwhile, welcome aboard Logansport!

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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Rare Soft Italian Red Wine Under $15!

I have trouble finding nice Italian red wine that I really enjoy for my pasta dishes. I picked up two bottles late last week in Indianapolis, this one from Cork and Cracker's north store bordering Zionsville and Fishers.

The Caldora 2007 Montepulciano d Abruzzo was a very pleasant surprise! I paid a very reasonable $11.99 for this bottle and found it online anywhere from $9-$14. It's 13.5 percent alcohol so the burn won't over power your dinner or knock you into the back of your chair.

It had a blackish color and a nice earthy scent of dark fruit. The acidity and finish was relatively mild. Not a complicated wine but I think it would hold up nice to big flavored dishes! It's definitely a "full-bodied" wine and well balanced. Those who like big red Italians will find fault with the soft tannins. But this bottle is something I think I'd heartily recommend for those who want to try an approachable Italian.

I enjoyed this wine with pasta and then a little chocolate. It held its own very nice to the mildly-spiced dinner dish and some 70 percent cocoa chocolate.

One other thing I definitely noticed was this wine needs some air. Some wines change very little after opening and some change a lot. This one really improved with some time out of the bottle.

I scrounged around and believe I found some information about this winery. And here is some good information on the grape.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Try Some New Zealand Sauv Blanc

The only thing tougher than getting a Chardonnay drinker to try other white wines might be getting a red wine drinker to try white.

I'd suggest to both groups they try a Sauvignon Blanc. This crisp, citrus-flavored wine often has a zip that is perfect with seafood and chicken. It's lighter than a red but not as rich or sweet as many whites.

I opened a Nobilo 2008 Sauv Blanc last night with some grilled shrimp. It's a very nice inexpensive bottle of wine. Sauv Blanc often has a lemon, line, grassy, citrus, and minerality type of flavor. Sauv Blanc can be acidic to very acidic to your taste.

This wine comes from New Zealand, a country that has really distinguished itself for value Sauv Blanc and Pinot Noir. I liked the citrus/grapefruit flavors of the Nobilo. The acidity was light in this one but the wine had a lasting finish I could really enjoy! And it has big aromatic citrus nose.

Try some Sauv Blanc with your grilled summer seafood or chicken. The acidity provides just the right balance to the sweetness of seafood.

There are great Sauv Blancs from lots of different countries. It's a good wine to explore and discover the differences from winery to winery and continent to continent!

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A Little More From My Most Recent Column

I wrote my every-other-week newspaper column Tuesday and have some things I'd like to share that doesn't fit in that particular venue.

Huber's Winery and Orchard in Southern Indiana is just one of my all-time favorite day trips. They have a huge farmers market, attractions for all ages, homemade bakery goods, ice cream, cheeses and some of Indiana's best home-grown wine.

It's nearly a two-hour drive south of Indianapolis but it is worth the trouble. Last Saturday I picked the most amazing strawberries I think I've ever seen. A friend and I started in the row assigned to us and we didn't go 6-8 feet before we picked 4-5 quarts each of big amazing and sweet strawberries. And because this year's crop was so bountiful, they were selling them for $1.25 a pound!

I took my camera along Saturday and shot some pictures you can see here. It was a fabulous day!

There is much more about Huber's and comments from Ted Huber in my newspaper column which you can always read in the link at the left labeled: Grape Sense.

Here is a link to the Huber column specifically. But I also wanted to add to this posting that it doesn't stop at the Winery and Farm Market. Just down the road, maybe a mile, is Joe Huber's farm market and restaurant. It has repeatedly been named the Louisville area's favorite family restaurant. And, trying to avoid too much hyperbole, the best darn fried chicken I've ever had in a restaurant.

Huber's wines are near the very top in Indiana wineries for taste and quality. Frankly, there are alot of Indiana wineries making good sweet wines. But there are very few making palatable dry red wine. Huber's has two blends and other varietal specific wines that are setting the pace for others in Indiana.

They are very hospitable hosts as well. You'll find the staff very friendly and the tasting room hosts quite approachable. Ted Huber is often generous with his time. We talked wine and his winery for a good 15-20 minutes. Two years ago he assisted a young man at Wabash with a research project. Here is that student-written blog entry.

It's worth a trip. They have some really crowded weekends in the fall at the height of fall apple and pumpkin harvest. I'd suggest avoiding it then unless you like big crowds. During the summer they're always busy but worth the trouble. Their berries, vegetables, and fruit is available in the on-site market. But for many of the goodies you can go into the field and pick em yourself for a cheaper price.

What a fun way to spend a Saturday!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Excited to be a Guest Judge at Indy Wine Competition

Since my full-time job is in marketing, I can usually spot a good marketing ploy when I see it. That being said, go ahead and take advantage of me!

I was asked today to be a "guest judge" at the 18th Indy International Wine Competition held annually at the state fairgrounds. It's June 16 and 17 and draws more than 3,000 wines from 12 countries.

Organizers are inviting journalists to sit with a regular panel of judges and participate in the process - taste the wines, discuss the wines, though the guests won't be doing any judging.

The idea is to bring attention to the annual competition and Indiana's wine industry. I'm all for it!

So between now and then, I'll work on spitting! It should make a fun newspaper column/blog topic - or two!

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