Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The memorable complexity of a 1982 Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune

If a good friend of yours has a 27-year-old bottle of wine and is unsure whether he should open it or not, don't linger any longer, invite him for dinner, cook something good to accompany the wine, and savor the moment!

In the case of my friend, the bottle was a 1982 Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune Fruitière Agricole de Château-Chalon, a wine from the Jura, a mountain range located between Burgundy and Switzerland. The wine is produced with late harvest Savagnin, a native grape of the region, related to the Traminer family. Like Sherry, The Vin Jaune or Yellow Wine is matured in barrels under a film of yeast on the surface of the wine, but unlike Sherry, it is not fortified. The wine ferments and ages in small 228 liters barrels that are not topped up. This creates a air gap above the wine permitting the formation of a veil (voile) of active yeast at the surface of the wine. Traditionally, Vin Jaune is bottled in special 62 cl bottles because at the time of bottling, only 62% of the original wine has remained after several years of barrel ageing.

Poularde aux Morilles et au Vin Jaune (Chicken with Morels and Vin Jaune) is the wine's classic pairing in the Jura but to tell you the truth, I was not ready to sacrifice a bottle of Vin Jaune just for that recipe. So on the website of a Jura producer, I found a chicken curry recipe that called for coconut, apple, banana, and tomato, and looked pretty tasty.

Chicken Curry with Coconut, Apple, Banana, and Tomato

The wine was extraordinary. It showed a deep yellow color and an assertive nose of dry fino aromas. On the palate, the first impression was silkiness and roundness. And then, the mouth was filled with rich flavors of walnut and almond, followed by more layers of multi-dimensional complexity. After a couple of sips, the wine would leave a lingering aftertaste of curry spice, just like my chicken dish. This was amazing!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wine Club Tasting: Drink Local

Drink local was the theme of our latest wine club event and for the occasion, we tasted a selection of wines from Santa Cruz Mountains and Carmel Valley wineries.

From Half Moon Bay in the north, to Mount Madonna in the south, the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to more than 70 wineries, including some of the oldest in California. The acclaimed 1971 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon participated in the 1976 Judgment of Paris and placed 5th between Château Haut-Brion and Château Leoville Las Cases. And just 70 miles south of San Jose, there is Carmel Valley, in Monterey County, 12 miles east of Carmel-by-the-Sea. There are several wineries located deep into the valley, nestled in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Carmel River .

Here are the wines that we tasted:

• 2008 Kathryn Kennedy Sauvignon Blanc California: Kathryn Kennedy, who recently passed away at 82, took up winemaking in her 40s and was among the first women in California to estblish a wine label in her name. She has been well known for her Bordeaux style wines including her estate Cabernet and Lateral, but this California Sauvignon Blanc is the winery's first green wine. Blended with fruits from certified organic vineyards in Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties, the wine is made in a clean no oak style and fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures. My notes: pale yellow color, fresh nose of citrus, tanguy on the palate and slightly herbal.

• 2007 Storrs Chardonnay Stu Miller Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains: Steve and Pamela Storrs, founders and owners of Storrs Winery, bought 50 acres in 2001 on the southwestern slopes of Mount Madonna in the Santa Cruz Mountains and began converting the estate to sustainable and organic farming practices. Their goal is to preserve the wildlife corridors and habitats on their farm. They've incorporated bat boxes for bats which are a natural predator for the Apple Codling Moth; barn owl boxes and raptor perches for barn owls which are natural predators of gophers and ground squirrels. They do cover cropping to build up the fertility of the soil and have removed non-native invasive plants. The wine is sourced from the southwest facing Stu Miller Vineyard, which overlooks Monterey Bay at a 1050 ft. elevation. My notes: medium yellow color, subtle nose of peach, apple, and grapefruit, crisp and full-flavored on the palate, long finish.

• 2005 Mount Eden Saratoga Cuvée Pinot Noir: founded in 1945, Mount Eden Vineyards is a small historic wine estate located on a 2000 foot peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The Saratoga Cuvée Pinot Noir is composed of grapes locally grown from two privately-owned vineyards. My notes: medium red color, sweet and sour cherry on the nose, medium-bodied, good acidity, nice rich palate, very tasty.

• 2004 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant: founded by innovative winemaker Randall Grahm in 1983, Bonny Doon Vineyard was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals, thus Randall Grahm's nickname The Rhone Ranger. Le Cigare Volant, which means The Flying Cigar, or figuratively The Flying Saucer, is a tribute to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone Valley. The name refers to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1954 ordinance, forbidding the landing of flying saucers in its vineyards. Looking closely at the label, it shows a flying saucer beaming up a vigneron and his oxen. The wine is a blend of 38% grenache, 35% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 8% carignane and 7% cinsaut. My notes: bright red color, fruity nose, juicy with a mineral finish, uncomplicated but pleasant.

• 2004 Clos LaChance Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: launched in 1992, Clos LaChance is a family-owned and operated winery located in San Martin, 30 miles south of San Jose, California. The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced 100% from the Clos LaChance 150-acre Estate Vineyard in San Martin where nearly 20 varietals are planted. The vineyard is farmed using sustainable practices, including natural biological control, building healthy soils, recycling natural resources, and enhancing surrounding wildlife habitat. My notes: deep garnet color, nose of sweet black cherry, good acidity, with some tannins, well-balanced overall.

• 2002 Bernardus Marinus Carmel Valley: Bernadus Winery is located in Carmel Valley in Monterey County. The Marinus vineyard is in upper Carmel Valley, planted with a blend of the five traditional Bordeaux varietals. It is separated into a number of small blocks according to soil type and exposure, each block having its own unique terroir and being cared for with its own strategy to ensure its best expression. The wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. My notes: deep red color, red berries on the nose, fine, elegant palate, nice complexity on the finish.

• 2007 Ridge Geyserville: Ridge Vineyards has made a Geyserville wine for thirty-six consecutive years. The Geyserville Vineyard is located on the western edge of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and is composed of 12 acres of 40-year-old zinfandel, 15 acrs of 11-year-old zinfandel, 5 acres of 121-year-old mixed black varietals, 5 acres of 21-year-old petite sirah, 3.5 acres of 11-year-old petite sirah, and 7 acres of 111-year-old carignane. The 2007 vintage is a blend of 58% Zinfandel; 22% Carignane; 18% Petite Sirah; 2% Mataro. My notes: deep color, nose of raspberry and wild berries, snooth and rich on the palate, well-balanced, distinctive finish.

For our next meeting, and on time for the holidays, we'll be tasting Zinfandels, so stay in touch.

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Pairing wine and cheese
•  Tasting the wines of the Rhône Valley
•  Pinot Noir Tasting
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change: what's the impact on wine production?

Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event held every October 15, asking the world’s bloggers to post about the same issue on the same day. Today's issue is climate change and more than 10,000 sites have already blogged about it.

Studies show that the impact of global warming could be devastating and that fundamental ecosystems will be modified. But what are the effects of climate change on grape growing and wine production?

According to this article, over the last 50 years, growing season temperatures have increased for most of the world's high quality wine regions by an average of 2°C, and by 2049, wine regions can expect an additional growing season temperature increase of 2.04°C.

Wine industry warned on climate change

Cool climate regions will benefit the most from growing season temperature increase as fruits will be able to ripen better and more varieties could be considered that cannot properly ripen there today. However, the warmest wine regions, which includes most of the vineyard areas in California, will suffer the most. In warm to hot regions, ripening is rarely an issue but retaining acidity and developing flavor can become increasingly difficult. These regions may have to consider other grape varieties that will produce better in a warmer climate. And some of the warmest regions, including Chianti, Rioja, Southern France, the Hunter Valley, parts of Chile and the Central Valley of California, have already experienced some tangible changes due to global warming.

Another negative effect of global warming is the fact that harvest time is moving to the warmest part of the year with reduced water availability and increased pest and disease burden. Moreover, rising temperatures come with an increased frequency of extreme weather events and a rising unpredictability of climates. Winegrowers, like all farmers, don't like unpredictable and unstable weather, which is often detrimental to vintage quality.

The whole article is here.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Syrah Blind Tasting

Syrah was the theme of our last blind tasting meeting. The guests brought 6 different wines from various regions, including California, Oregon, Washington State, and the Rhône Valley. As usual, the wines were served blind and in a random order, but oddly this time, we unanimously enjoyed the first three, and found that the last three were fairly flawed.

Our Wine Tasting Setup

The wines we tasted:

• 2003 Drew Syrah Six Sense Santa Barbara County: Drew Wines focuses solely on vineyard and appellation specific Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Six Sense Syrah is a blend of 100% Syrah from six different vineyards located within Santa Barbara County, and from six different grape clones. The different components of the wine were barreled separately and aged for eleven months, in a combination of French and American oak barrels, 1/3 new, 2/3 neutral. Our notes: nose of sweet cherry nectar, ripe and smooth on the palate, spices and herbs on the finish. Well balanced, food friendly. Finished in second position.

• 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West: Ridge's Lytton West Vineyard is located in the hills separating the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys in Sonoma County. The wine is 94% Syrah cofermented with 6% Viognier. According to the winery's website, “Viognier has a beautiful pungency of apricot, peach, and white flower which helps lift the total aroma of syrah which tends to be dark and gamey.” Our notes: nose of cooked fruit with notes of cinnamon and blueberry. Rich, smooth on the palate with flavors of creamy custard. Lengthy finish. Finished in first position.

• 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley: founded over 20 years ago, Columbia Crest is one of Washington State's main wine producers. The 2003 Reserve Syrah was co-fermented with 2% of whole berry Viognier whith fruits coming from two vineyard sites—one for Syrah and one for Viognier—in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Our notes: fruit forward nose with notes of green pepper and cocoa. On the palate, medium bodied, high in alcohol with a spicy, earthy finish. Finished in third position.

• 2006 Cornas Granit 30 Domaine Vincent Paris: Vincent Paris, co-president of the Cornas appellation, owns 6 hectares of vineyards located along the southeast facing Cornas slope as well as in the nearby St. Joseph appellation. He makes two Cornas designations, the Granit 30 and Granit 60, that differ in terms of soil, age of the vines, and location in the slope. The Granit 30 comes from younger vines at a lower grade slope and is made in a more “consumer friendly” style. Our notes: barnyard aromas on the nose, tannic, acidic on the palate, not consumer friendly. Finished last.

• 2005 Cristom Estate Syrah: Cristom Vineyards cultivates eight distinct vineyards in the Eola Hills area of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Plantings include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Syrah. The vineyards are dry farmed with low yield. Our notes: notes of chemicals on the nose, tight, tannic, acidic on the palate. Finished in fifth position.

• 2002 Pipestone Reserve Syrah Paso Robles: Pipestone Vineyards is a small family winery located in the Paso Robles appellation. It is dedicated to sustainable farming and producing handmade Estate Grown Rhône-style wines from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Viognier and a dry-farmed Zinfandel. The Estate Syrah is grown on a south-facing hillside in the estate vineyard. Hand-harvested, it was aged in French and American oak barrels for 24 months. Our notes: dusty nose of caramel and cocoa. On the palate, high in alcohol, dry, tannic, not so well balanced but drinkable. Finished fourth.

Previous blind wine tastings:
•  Blind Tasting of Cabernet Blends from Washington State
•  Blind Tasting of Pinot Noir from Los Carneros and Anderson Valley
•  Blind Tasting of Grenache-based Wines

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