Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day Two's Star: LedgeStone/Parallel 44's Frontenac

GREEN BAY, Wi. Area – An early Saturday morning car trip to Northeast Wisconsin was rewarded with a taste of some fascinating wines made with cold climate grapes.

From Madison, the trip to the region just south of Green Bay is about two-and-a-half hours. I started the day at LedgeStone Vineyards in Greenleaf.

Tim Abel has strong opinions that Wisconsin’s wine future is the native cold weather grapes like LaCrescent, Frontenac, Marquette, Frontenac Gris, Edelweiss, La Crosse, St. Pepin, and Swenson Red. These cold-weather grapes were the work of University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center’s Elmer Swenson.

I had heard about Frontenac before my two-day Wisconsin visit but had never tasted the wine. I’ll unabashedly admit I became a fan after tasting the grape in several different styles during my Saturday wine stops.

Abel has a modest operation with limited vineyards, but he's growing all cold climate grapes. He buys some fruit and even uses his tasting room as a bit of a retail outlet for wines of the world.

My first-ever sip of Frontenac was Tim’s 2008 Frontenac Reserve, grown in the LedgeStone Vineyard. The bone-dry red wine has really nice acid and a tart black cherry flavor I’ve not had in any red wine before.

LedgeStone also offers a Rose of Frontenac that had a little more pronounced fruit and even bigger tartness. I loved it.

My first taste of LaCrescent, a white varietal, was equally impressive. The wine had lemon and apricot flavors, a long finish, and big acidity. But the wine was well balanced.

LedgeStone has a little higher price point than the other three visits. Tim’s Reserve is $28 at full retail while the LaCrescent is $22.

A stop an awesome cheese shop not far from Greenleaf split my two winery visits. I bought some artisan Wisconsin cheese at Nala's Fromagerie. Great stuff!

See photos from my Saturday stops here.

Then it was off to visit Steve Johnson and Maria Milano at Parallel 44. The winery is a handful of miles off the Lake Michigan coast near Kewaunee. It is a Tuscan-themed winery that sets down a county road with a 10-acre vineyard out back.

The two are former lawyers taking their case to the consumer wine court with the cold varietal grapes. Steve was more outspoken than any of the other three winemakers about getting these unique wines outside the state. He sees the state’s future resting on the unique varietals and growth outside of Wisconsin.

Parallel 44’s Glacier White was a nice grapefruit flavored, crisp white wine made from Swenson and LaCrosse grapes. It was quite dry with pronounced acidity, but still balanced for $18. The winery’s $13 Tundra White is a combination of Frontenac Gris and La Crescent that was semi-sweet with some peach and honey hints. It’s easy to see new wine consumers scooping this one up.

And being so close to Green Bay, Steve and Maria had to have fun with the region’s cultural history. Yes, they have a wine called “Frozen Tundra!” The iconic moniker most associated with the Green Bay Packer’s Lambeau Field becomes a Frontenac Rose at the winery. The wine is a big seller with sweet cherry and a nice tartness.

I tasted a few other wines and did some extensive interviews. I’ll be doing an over-all story about Wisconsin wine for Palate Press in the coming weeks. I’ll also have a newspaper column or two about this visit and more for the blog.

Here’s a little shout out to Becky Rochester at the Wisconsin Grape Marketing Coordinator for the Wisconsin Grape Grower’s Association. She helped arrange my visits and shared a lot of helpful information. Also, I will post a big photo album from both day's visit Sunday or Monday - so check back!

Send comment or questions to:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Frenchman's Wollersheim Wines Set Bar for Wisconsin

Note: Please note a couple of corrections on statistics regarding Wollersheim. I double checked those with Philippe Coquard Monday morning.

MADISON, Wi. – Wollersheim Winery is a must visit for any wine fan in the Midwest. I had done my homework before visiting the Wisconsin icon and had seen photos, but I wasn’t prepared for the size of the operation and estate.

The first vineyards were planted on the site in the mid-1800s. Bob Wollersheim took over the property in the 1970. The state’s biggest winery is now run by Beaujolais native Philippe Coquard, who married Wollersheim's daughter.

I spent nearly two hours with Philippe Friday morning touring the winery, the buildings from the 1800s, and tasting his wines. The gregarious and opinionated Frenchman was extraordinarily generous with his time and knowledge.

See a photo album from the Wollersheim visit here.

Wollersheim produces 52 percent of all the wine produced in Wisconsin. He does have distribution into Northern Illinois and more recently Chicago. One of many interesting points about Coquard’s winery is a single wine caused the explosive growth.

Philippe’s signature Prairie Fume, a Seyval grape wine, has won a list of awards the envy of any winemaker in any state. Prairie Fume has an interesting contrast of orange and grapefruit on the palate. It has a unique richness you don’t normally find in that wine at other Midwest wineries where Seyval is grown.

Wollersheim’s business is dominated by one wine. When he first started making the Fume he bottled about 500 cases. Today the Prairie Fume makes up 32,000 of his 94,000 production. You read that right!

“Our business has grown because of the Prairie Fume,” Coquard said. “Without Prairie Fume, we wouldn’t have anything.”

He also makes beautiful wines from the often-funky Marechal Foch grape. Except Philippe’s Foch has no funk – and that’s a good thing. He is making some great port and a very nice, also award-wining, Rose.

My second stop of the day was a nice drive to Mount Horeb, Wi. The town of 7,000 is known for its Norwegian heritage and charming downtown. But watch out, there are Norwegian trolls everywhere!

A quick aside, I had lunch in a small diner called Schubert’s that has a 100-year history in Mount Horeb. They served freshly breaded, deep-fried cod with Swedish rye bread. I wanted the pie – it was beautiful – I resisted.

Back to the wine. Alywn Fitzgerald’s Fisher King Winery is about to become bonded and take off in a downtown Mt. Horeb location. It will be an urban winery in a small, tourist-heavy little town. It’s interesting because his small effort follows much bigger ones in cities like Portland, Or.

See photos from my Mount Horeb visit here.

Fitzgerald served up a glass of 60 percent Millot (mill-oh) and 40 percent Marquette that he had made at home. It was remarkable in that I’d never tasted the grapes and couldn’t really compare it to any other flavors. The wine was balanced, with smooth fruit and a rich feel on the palate. It was initially quite acidic, but really opened up with just a little time.

The two stops today show Midwestern states can grow different grapes and make very nice wines consumers are going to enjoy.

I learned in just one day Wisconsin is different than Indiana or Michigan, which I visited last summer. The industry here isn’t as mature. Wisconsin hs more than 50 wineries, but like most Midwestern states the growth has occurred over the last decade.

Lots more to come on these two visits in the future. I’ll be doing a piece for Palate Press on Wisconsin wine and will have plenty of material for a newspaper column or two and certainly the blog.

Tomorrow morning it’s up early and off to northeast Wisconsin for stops at LedgeStone Vineyards and Parallel 66 out near Lake Michigan.

In photos, top to bottom: The Wollersheim historic and new buildings. Coquard talking about the bud break in his vineyard. Alywn Fitzgerald with his unique Millot/Marquette blend.
Send comment or questions to:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Heading to Wisconsin to Check Out State's Wine

Watch out Cheeseheads - I'm ready to rock some Leon Millot, St. Coix, and Frontenac.

Obscure 70s rock bands - or are those really grapes? I'm about to find out.

I'm headed Thursday to Madison, Wisconsin for a quick two-day visit to Wisconsin wine country. I've gotten more excited by the day about the visit as I researched this interesting area.

My two stops Friday feature one of the state's oldest wineries and one of the newest. Wollersheim Winery has such a great story as an institution and an even better story with its current winemaker Philippe Coquard. Philippe grew up in the Beaujolais region of France.

I'll drive down to the picturesque village of Mount Horeb in the afternoon and visit with Alwyn Fitzgerald of Fisher King Winery. He is constructing an urban winery right downtown. It's a big trend across the country and I'm anxious to see the Wisconsin version, which is now under construction.

Because my wine wackiness knows no boundries, I'll get up Saturday morning early and drive about two hour up to near Green Bay. My first stop of the day will be at LedgeStone Vineyards in Greenleaf, Wi.

The second stop will be out near the coast of Lake Michigan and a visit to Parallel 44 - yes, on the same parallel as Bordeaux and Tuscany. But being near Green Bay, wouldn't you just guess that they DO HAVE a wine called "Frozen Tundra!"

Bring on the Leon Millot, St. Croix, and Frontenac - I've never tasted the three but can't wait. I'll be tweeting throughout both days as signal permits at: @howardhewitt

I'll probably check in on Facebook. I plan to have a blog post up each night if at all possible about the visits. Hopefully, those post will be with lots of photos.

Of course, the interviews and material will be shared in coming weeks on Palate Press, my newspaper column and here!

Frozen Tundra!!!! I can't wait to try it!

Send comment or questions to:

Wine Event For College Seniors Great Fun

Sharing your passion with others is a big part of the fun for me with this whole wine thing. I led a session for 20 Wabash College seniors Wednesday night on basic wine education, protocol, etc.

The guys paid $10 each for a session organized by Career Services. We talked alot about the basics of wine, wine in restaurants, how to taste and evaluate wines for your palate, wine/food pairings, and took lots of good questions.

The wines I poured for them were Ortman 2009 Chardonnay, Sauvion 2008 Vouvray, Cloudline 2008 Pinot Noir, Ortman 2008 Cuvee Eddy, Spellbound 2008 Petite Sirah, and B.R. Cohn 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

It's always interesting for me at the end of any group tasting to learn the group's favorites. There was no clear cut winner Wednesday night but a good number of guys suprised me by picking the Vouvray. The biggest winner was probably the Ortman Cuvee Eddy, which is a Syrah, Grenache, Mouvredre, Petite Sirah blend.

A freshman photographer on the college newspaper, which I advise, shot photos for me. Check out Ian Bamgardner's great photos here.

Send comment or questions to:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Can a Single Bottle of Wine Change Your Life?

American wine icon Robert Mondavi wrote in his autobiography that wine is passion.

“It’s family and friends,” the California wine legend wrote. “It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living.

“Even more importantly, it’s wine, food and the arts. Incorporating those three enhances the quality of life.”

One might expect such pronouncements from the man who was a key figure in making Napa Valley a major player on the world wine stage. But Mondavi lived his ideas and talked throughout his long life about wine as an important lifestyle issue. His voice simply echoed the words of others.

"In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and wellbeing and delight,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote. “Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary."

For some people, columnist included, wine can be transformational. Once wine drinkers move beyond the normal or the givens of Cabernet and Chardonnay and open their palate to the world, they are often transformed in the way they look at culture, agriculture, food and drink.

While this all might seem a bit gooey or tad too philosophical for a wine column, a single bottle of wine changed my perspective and many others writing about wine and marketing wine have similar tales.

Most wine drinkers start with grocery wine. A certain age group will remember Fetzer, Inglenook, Gallo, and many others as the staple of American wine. In some ways it’s not too different today. The brand names have changed but it’s now the grapes – Cab,Chardonnay, Merlot, and maybe Pinot Grigio or Riesling. For some people it was Riunite Lambrusco with pasta.

The constant message of Grape Sense has been to branch out, try something new, ask your wine or liquor store service people to recommend something different.

A single bottle of Spanish Tempranillo, in many ways, turned me into a wine writer and wine enthusiast. That happened about five or six years ago. Sharing the story always seemed a bit self-indulgent but I’ve heard it too many times from others.

I asked a wine shop owner to recommend something different. “Have you tried Spanish wines,” he asked. “Tempranillo?”

If I couldn’t pronounce it, I was pretty sure I had never tried it.

A single bottle of Montecillo Crianza red wine from Spain made me go ‘wow.” I don’t remember much of the detail other than it was rich, smooth, and delicious. And it was cheap. It’s available today at a range of about $9.99 to $12.99.

Spanish wines are great values because they are aged in oak and/or the bottle before being released. There are hundreds of great Spanish wines under $15. Tempranillo is the key grape for many Spanish wines. Tempranillo often combines the taste of dark berries, plum, vanilla, and herbs for a full-bodied wine. It is a great match for beef, pork, even a steak off the grill.

A bottle of the 2007 Montecillo Crianza, the latest release, arrived to my office recently. It was a media trade sample – yes, I get wine sent to me frequently for tasting. It brought back a lot of memories. I had never quite realized until that day, then reflecting on stories heard from others, that the Montecillo was my transformational wine.

After tasting that wine a few years ago I wanted to try other wines. After tasting it just a few days ago, I had to share the story. Find your transformational wine by asking for something different.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Testa Vineyard Great Wine, Even Better Story

When you hit the road and visit a good number of wineries in just a day or two palate fatigue can be an issue. In other words, some wines aren't as good back home as you remembered them - or vice versa.

I toured Mendocino County in California for a couple of days in January with a group of wine journalists and we kept a pretty hectic pace and tasted a lot of wine.

One of the most charming stops was at Testa Vineyards. Here is a link to the blog entry I wrote that day after visiting Jeriko Vineyard, Testa, and Frey winery.

The photo above is essentially Testa's tasting room. It's a great old working barn where we enjoyed Testa's Black and White wine and had a crazy good lunch. Maria, the wine maker, is in the white blouse and black vest. Her husband sits to her right while I'm seated to her left.

I brought back two bottles of her Black wine. Black is how her ancestors described their red wine. The current Black blend is 89 percent Cabernet, 8 percent Carignane, and 3 percent Petit Verdot.

I opened the wine up Thursday night, it was just as good if not better than I remembered. It's unique in that it's big and bold as you would expect with the Cab and Petit Verdot. Perhaps its the Carignane that gives the wine a big shot of fruit. You get a hint of vanilla on the nose from the oak but beautiful balance throughout.

It's just beautiful wine. It sells for $20 but its nearly impossible to find outside of California. But Maria, husband, and teenage sons intend on growing the little winery started by her ancestors. I have little doubt after meeting them that one day Black could be on a shelf near you.

In the meantime, remember our consistent advice - try new things and seek out those small wine producers for some of the best juice you'll ever drink!

Send comment or questions to:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Weekend Indy Event, More on Calendar

I like writing occasionaly about great restaurants, food events, and festivals. Indiana, while perhaps not known as a cultural hotbed has more such fun events than many might expect.

Over the weekend the first-ever Indiana Artisan Marketplace was held at the state fairgrounds on Indianapolis' northside. The Indiana Artisan group is a juried group featuring traditional artists but also food and beverage artisans. You can check it out on the link above.

I had a great time Sunday with a friend. We had persimmon-based cookies, several great Indiana wines, fabulous chocolates, homemade noodles, Tell City prezels, fudge, soup mixes and more. And oh, the art was pretty cool too.

I took a few photos you can see here.

I got to thinking after Sunday's event that quite a few of these great shows are coming soon. So if you're a Hoosier, or going to be in Indiana - check these out.

Story Inn Indiana Wine Fair, April 30 - The historic Story Inn annually draws more than 20 Indiana wineries to pour their wines for this one day fest. If you haven't been to Story, it's worth the trip. It is quite an interesting drive into southern Brown County. I've attended this event a couple of times and really enjoy it. A note of caution though, on my last visit two years ago the size of the crowd was a bit overwhelming.

Broad Ripple Art Fair, May 21-22 - This is the first big outdoor art festival of the season in Central Indiana and a good one. It regularly features more than 200 artists along with plenty of food and music. The Broad Ripple Art Fair is sort of the kickoff to summer!

Vintage Indiana Wine Fest, June 4 - It's hard to believe this year will be the 12th Vintage Indiana fest in downtown Indy. I went to the first or second one ever held! I've had a work conflict the past few years which keeps me from attending. I'm hoping to get down before the festival closes out this year. There are approximately 25 Indiana wineries participating this year. It's a great chance to get a good taste of Indiana and appreciate the differences of the state's best vintners.

Talbot Street Art Fair, June 11-12 - Of the three big art fairs - Broad Ripple, Talbot Street, and Broad Ripple - this one if probably my favorite. Talbot Street runs north/south between 16th and 21st, as far as the art fair is concerned. It's just a bit more eclectic than all the others. Besides, it sits in an old, resotred residential neighborhood. And if you like people watching, nothing is better than a good art fest!

Penrod Arts Fair, Sept. 10 - In the words of the late sportscaster Keith Jackson 'this is the granddaddy of them all." First and foremost, the festival is held on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. And they seem to be one of the luckiest festivals I've ever attended. In 4-5 visits over the past few years, they always seem to have the most incredible luck for beautiful weather. Penrod is also the biggest show with more than 300 artists. I'm told it's also the toughest show to buy booth space. Folks attending Penrod seem to buy art!

Send comment or questions to:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Red Wine & White Fish! Astonishing!

Red wine and red meat, as well as white wine and fish, has served as the holy grail of wine/food pairings for decades. Well, it’s not your mama’s kitchen anymore!

The best advice anyone can offer on wine and food pairing is simply to drink what you like. But as wine aficionados get more into wine, it becomes inevitable the not-so-precise science of wine and food pairing becomes more interesting, challenging, and exciting.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of pairing rich seafood with light bodied reds (besides Pinot Noir) like our Mourvedre, Grenache and even Rhone blends,” said Terry Brady, Clautiere Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA.

“We produced the Mourvedre for several years as part of our blends,” Brady explained. “We saw the potential to do a single variety from the Mourvedre and began to make it in 2004. Stylistically, we wanted a food compatible wine, not a big fruit bomb - we picked our grapes at maturity and ripeness, but not overripe. Our Mourvedre often has the lowest alcohol of all of our wines, coming in at the low 13 percent levels.

“We like to say we make French style wine with California grapes. It became one of my personal favorites due to its distinct structure, smooth tannins and great earthy flavors. It pairs well with many different foods and I’ve enjoyed it with salmon as well as beef, lamb and spicy pastas. “

Brady poured his wine for a group of visiting wine journalists at a Paso Robles’ Italian restaurant in October. The Mourvedre was paired with a Chilean Sea Bass in lobster sauce. It was a gorgeous pairing and my first time for “fish and red wine.”

While you might not find Clautiere wines easily in the Midwest, there are plenty of the Rhone wines available in better wine shops and liquor stores with a nice wine selection.

Brady got into the wine business after building a Santa Monica restaurant. So he knows a thing or two about pairing wine and food.

“In researching a place to plant a tree nursery, we talked to a Realtor in Santa Margarita about some land and we were told there wasn’t sufficient ground water to grow there and we should look in Paso Robles - ‘where they grow vineyards!” It was an existing vineyard of about 33 acres that had been planted in 1989 with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet - amazing enough, the owner had planted some very advanced and unique Rhone varietals for that time. Other wineries were making wine from this vineyard and so we were able to taste the wines produced and we realized that this was a special piece of land for growing these varieties. “

Personal experience suggests trying a Mourvedre or Grenache, especially a wine with a lower alcohol level, with lighter foods. If that scares you, go with the tried and true combination of salmon on the grill with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. But don’t be afraid to try new things. The Clautiere Winery and tasting room is all about fun. Brady’s medium-bodied Paso Robles wines, like others from the region, really pair beautifully with food.

The food-friendly Paso Robles wines are often as rich in flavor as any from California. They are usually about half the price. Brady’s Rhone blends are $25. You can find great Mourvedre and Grenache under $15 in many locations.

Send comment or questions to:

Indiana Artisan at State Fairgounds This Weekend

There is a great Saturday/Sunday event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds this weekend. It's the Indiana Artisan Marketplace which features more than 150 juried Indiana Artisans.

There will be chocolatiers, photographers, wine makers, painters, sculptors and much more - all with Indiana roots. Check out the details here. I'm going Sunday, will try to have some photos up Sunday night!

Send comment or questions to:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Indiana's Most Unique Wine? Hard to Argue!

I've written a couple of times lately about Indiana's Jim Pfieffer of Turtle Run Winery in the southern part of the state, not far from Corydon and Louisville.

Jim is a "try everything" kind of guy. We all know someone like Jim. Except his 'try everything' approach is with wine. He added a very unique "noble rot" style wine to his lineup this year and named it after his daughter - or, Catherine's Blend.

"The Catherine’s Blend is a combination of botryticized (noble rot) vignoles and chardonel at a 76 percent - 24 perent ratio," Jim said. "No sugar added, just like all of my wines…today! It really makes sweet wines taste superior to ones in which sugar is added. Customers are noticing and are appreciating how we are setting a new standard in Midwest wine. Nothing like going to the traditional and much harder methods in wine making."

Here's more from Jim in a short video I recorded down at the winery in late February.

I poured the Catherine's blend for my wine buddies - the Dudes on the Porch. They admit to not being big white fans but loved Jim's effort. "This would be nice with Chinese pork," said Alex, our former wine shop guy and food pairing expert.

Mike gave it a big "Mmmm!"

Patrick, as usual, had a little more to say. "This is nice and crisp," he said. "It has a little apricot before the finish."

I loved the mouthfeel and the richness. If you're anywhere near I-64 in Southern Indiana, find Turtle Run. You'll taste some combinations that are part Picaso and part mad scientist.

Send comment or questions to:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekly Wine Reviews - Some Good Juice!

I'm trying to stick to this Monday night routine of reviewing my recently consumed wines. It's much easier than doing a review here and there. I make some notes for myself, do a little research, and then save it on computer.

I have four wines in this group that all rate Recommended or Highly recommended. The fourth wine will be at the top of my scale, but will be a little tougher to find.

Left Foot Charley 2009 Pinot Blanc - Simply, the best white wine I've had in weeks, maybe months. I picked this bottle up during a summer 2010 trip to Michigan. Left Foot Charley is a funky urban winery set in an old mental institution at Traverse City. Could I make this stuff up?

They make a rockin Pinot Blanc. I was blown away when I tasted it and again this weekend when I opened the bottle I brought home with me.

It was pears and green apples and beautifully made dry white wine. I love the balance of mild fruit and bold but still balanced acidity. It also has a beautiful nose for a dry white wine.

A 2006 version of this wine won Michigan Wine and Spirits' competition best dry white wine award. The grapes come from the penninsula and are often narrowed down to just one acre for this wine. It comes in at a low 12 percent alcohol.

Only 200 cases of this was produced. Michigan wines are distributed in most surrounding states. Look for Left Foot Charley Pinot Blanc and their beautiful Rieslings. If you can't find LFC, take a chance on any Michigan Riesling. Michigan has been one of the most exciting discoveries during my three years of wine writing.

Gulliver 2008 Bordeaux - This very direct, simple Bordeaux wine is quite quaffable. It drinks easy and smooth.

The fruit is barely discernable and the finish is pretty short. But dont' get me wrong, it's very drinkable. It's probably a great choice to serve new wine drinkers. And the bonus is that you can tell them they're drinking Bordeaux. It's inexpensive, very balanced, and pleasant.

But if you're looking for much more you won't find it in the Gulliver. This is good table wine.

(Gulliver 2008 Bordeaux, $11-$13, Recommended)

Clautiere 2004 Estate Mon Rouge - Wow! Clautiere Vineyards and Winery delivers a gorgeous Rhone blend of 52 percent Syrah, 25 percent Counoise, 18 percent Grenache, and 5 percent Mourvedre.

Clautiere is known for its crazy tasting room - wigs provided for everyone who enters and a purple decor. But Terry Brady's winemaking is what really will turn visitor's heads.

This wine had a rich dark cherry flavor that was classically smooth. The richness from the blend made it drinkable alone and with some beef I'd prepared. Clautiere is a small-production winery and you wont' find the wines easily. When I first opened this bottle I noticed the alcohol, at 15.3 percent. But as it opened up the burn went away.

Paso Robles is making a name for itself in the Rhone varietals. This is a fabulous example. Look for Clautiere, if you can find it. Don't hesitate to pick up any Paso Robles Rhone blend.

(Clautiere 2004 Estate Mon Rouge, $25, Highly Recommended)

Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Reserve - Washington State wines seem to get more pub by the moment. But if you haven't tried big reds from the great Northwest, you are really missing out.

Powers is one of the state's oldest producers. This is classic Cabernet that gets 26 months in oak and has huge rich flavor. This is beautiful dark fruit with maybe a hint of floral characteristics. You will not believe this spent two years in oak.

It's a big, strong, beautiful Cabernet. Powers also makes a Columbia Valley Cab in the $12 range. If you haven't explored Washington's reds, this is a great place to start.

(Powers 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, $19.99-$25, Highly Recommended)

Send comment or questions to:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fabulous Argentinian Blend and a Mendocino Zin

I have a couple of really great wines for review this week. One is a little harder to find than the other but both are worth the effort.

Tikal 2008 Patriota - Bonarda and Malbec have long been the foundation of Argentina's winemaking. Winemaker Ernesto Catena is the son of a legendary Argentinian winemaker and he's doing some awesome wines under the Tikal label.

I've been a huge fan of Bonarda since I first discovered it in 2006 in a small wine bar on a side street in downtown San Francisco. This blend is one of the best bottles I've ever had - particularly as a blend.

It has cherry, raspberry and it's a big, supple wine. This wine would work with grilled or smoked meats. The second the juice hits your palate you'll know the richness of this wine is something special. It's one of my favorite wines in recent months. It's widely available in better wine shops.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave the blend 92 points. (Tikal 2008 Patriota, $19.99, Highly Recommended)

Claudia Springs 2007 Zinfandel - I visited the winemaking operation of Claudia Springs in January and met winemaker Bob Klindt and his wife Claudia. I came away really impressed with the Claudia Springs Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. This wine is a blend from three different Zin vineyards. There is a wonderful black pepper finish to this wine that you expect but don't always find.

On the front of the palate it has cedar, cranberry, and currant. I like the dusty feel in the mouth. They only made 292 cases of this wine so it's not going to be easy to find. They do have several single vineyard bottlings as well.

Bob and Claudia don't make a lot of wine, but if you see Claudia Springs - buy some! (Claudia Springs 2007 Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $24 Highly Recommended)

Here is a link to some material from my January trip. It includes a video with Bob talking about his winemaking.

Send comment or questions to:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jim Pfeiffer Just Won't Leave Traminette Alone

I've written several times lately about Indiana's signature grape Traminette. Just three weeks ago I was visiting family and ran down to Turtle Run Winery and Huber Winery and Orchard.

Jim Pfeiffer was busy pouring for customers at his Turtle Run winery but he took a few minutes to talk about his latest "Picaso-like" concoctions. That actually dates back a couple of years. I once called Jim a mad scientist, he said "I actually think of myself more of a Picaso." And that was followed by hearty laughter.

Nonetheless, the man doesn't rest on any laurels. He is always trying new things, tinkering with wines and such. And his 2009 Traminettes is a great example. He makes a standard stainless steel aged Traminette with nice lime and grapefruit hints. But as he puts it in the video below, had just a littel too much Traminette on his hands.

Kick in the mad scientist. Watch Jim explain:

Both Traminettes sell for $12. And Pfeiffer remains one of few, if not only, Indiana wine makers with a truly dry Traminette. It's great stuff.

I poured Jim's traditional Traminette for my wine drinking buddies - the Dudes on The Porch. "This is really pleasant, reminds me a little bit of Semillion," said Alex, who used to run a wine shop in Denver, Co. Patrick and Mike both found pear on the palate and a little bit of sour finish that worked nice with the salty crackers we were snacking on that night.

His other great recent experiment is even a bit more shocking for Indiana winemakers. I'll put up that video up in the next day or two.

Send comment or questions to: