Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nothing Like Turtle Run's Dry Tortuga

Jim Pfeiffer, owner and winemaker, at Turtle Run Winery near Corydon in Southern Indiana prides himself on the unique taste of his wines.

This summer he talked about his approach never wanting to do the same Chardonnays and Merlot everyone else produces. The self-described Picaso, or mad scientist, invites winery visitors into his production area while he is mixing and blending and dreaming up his latest creations.

One of his most successful blends is Dry Tortuga. It is a non-vintage wine of 72 percent Chardonel and 28 percent Vignoles. Now, lets stop here to talk about those two grapes. Chardonel is often compared to Chardonnay, but its a grape that is heartier than traditional Chard grapes; therefore, easier to grow in Indiana. The taste characteristics are similar. Vignoles is going to be really different to those who've never tasted it. Vignoles is a hybrid grape. It makes sweet wines with a bouquet of flowers and usual low acidity.

During a July visit Pfeiffer was blending the two grapes and trying a shot of Sauvignon Blanc. At one point he added intentionally over-oaked Chardonel. He tried a pinch of sugar. He did a little bit of everything that day. Later I learned he tossed the formula he settled on and started over.

I opened the Dry Tortuga tonight and it is different, but in a good way. I found I enjoyed it with food more than alone. It has some hints of vanilla and orange but, frankly, I really struggled to put my finger on why I liked it so much. You'll be reminded of Chardonnay. It is definitely a dry wine. The description of the grapes might make you think sweet but Tortuga definitely is dry wine.

I had it with some shrimp and angel hair pasta with garlic. It matched perfectly. The Dry Tortuga sells for $15. The wines can be hard to find unless you're really close to Southeastern Indiana.

Pfeiffer's wines offer a lot of different taste characteristics than the other 42 Indiana wineries. Another example is "Red My Mind." Pfeiffer combines Merlot and Chambourcin and comes up with a red wine that has characteristics similar to Pinot Noir. Crazy? Yes! But delightfully different! A visitor might not like all the taste combinations, but all are well made and something new from an exciting young winemaker.

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