Thursday, October 16, 2014

Drink Local Wine Week: Wollersheim Winery

Wollersheim Winery 2013 Prairie Fumé

It's the national Drink Local Wine Week! Sitting as we are at the junction of three states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, with Michigan not far), we feel like the local wine scene has quite a bit of variety, though we're not so sure of the quality every time. However, it's still important to support the locals, and this week was a nice reminder to do just that. After plans to visit some local wineries fell through this past weekend for sundry reasons, it was off to the local wine shops to explore their offerings. Unfortunately, slim pickings. I wasn't really in the mood for fruit wine (snobby, I know), nor a holiday-themed flavored wine (Halloween wine anyone?), but happily I spied one bottle of wine from Wisonsin's Wollersheim Winery. I've tried a red from them and was pleasantly surprised, so a white made from a hybrid grape we've enjoyed before from other producers seemed like a safe bet.
"In 1972, Robert and JoAnn Wollersheim purchased the winery farm property from Peter Kehl’s great grandson with the intention of restoring it to a working family winery. The hillside slopes were again planted with vineyards, the underground wine cellars were refurnished with oak barrels, and the main floor of one of the buildings was converted into a store to make Wollersheim wine available for visitors."
Tasting Notes

2013 Prairie Fumé: 100% Seyval Blanc; cold fermented, stopped fermentation to maintain residual sweetness; super light yellow color; white floral, lemon, and subtle green melon aromas; bit of green apple, green melon, and lemon flavors into a honeyed stone fruit finish; nicely balanced, with some acidity to counter the sweetness; 10% ABV; twist-off closure; SRP $15, paid $12 at the local wine store. Inspired by crisp Sauvignon Blancs, this wine made from a hybrid grape that is slightly sweeter than a typical Sauvignon Blanc is a very nice effort, well done.

After some further research, it turns out that the grapes for this wine were grown in New York state, so while the winery is local, the grapes are not. This was not noted on the bottle labels, though "American Seyval Blanc" could have been a clue. A real bummer that Midwest wineries are still doing this.

How did YOU celebrate Drink Local Wine Week?!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago

Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago

Last week, I was thrilled to be able to attend the Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago, presented by the Soave Consorzio Tutela and Full Circle Wine Solutions. Helmed by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, with color commentary by Giovanni Ponchia of the Soave Consorzio. The educational seminar was held at Nico Osteria, a quite beautiful restaurant in the Gold Coast of Chicago, always a fun and swanky area to visit. This was my first visit to the restaurant and I cam e away impressed by the design, the service and, of course, the food.

The seminar started, after some introductory remarks, with a blind tasting of 10 wines - we were left to our own devices to taste and take notes, before being brought back together as a group for the big reveals. Some of the wines I liked, some not so much, but there was a definite sharing of several characteristics across most of the wines: bright acidity, lemony overtones, as well as plenty of almond smells and flavors. The most shocking thing, perhaps, was that these wines, from current releases to three dating back to 2001, 2005, and 2009 respectively, were all available within a range of $9-29. Very nice QPR for the group as a whole.

Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago

After a brief break to sip on a Soave Spumante (who knew they made sparklers?!), it was back to the grind and more facts about the area. Soave is delineated by soil types, with the East and Central area siting on volcanic and basaltic soils, and calcareous or limestone soils in the West and South. The average age of the grapevines is 35 years old, brought down only by a few misguided attempts to "freshen" the vineyards (Soave now educates its winegrowers to leave in the ground as long as possible, if they are healthy). Garganega is the principle grape, with a small percentage of Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave also represented. Amazingly, Soave is responsible for 4% of all Italian wine production, spread across 13 municipalities and over 16,000 acres.

Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago

Then, what we had all been waiting for, food and wine pairings! A beet salad was the first course, with a mint component that wowed many of us, bringing out new and tasty components of the wine. A second course of Rigatoni with Mushroom Ragù and Lemon Breadcrumbs showcased yet more flavors and aromas - Soave is classically paired with lemon or other citrus-based dishes, so that was no surprise. The earthiness of the mushrooms went beautifully with the wines, an unexpected pairing that was spot on. For the final course, I got a special plate of hanger steak, as I don't eat fish - I didn't expect much from this pairing, as most white wines would be overshadowed by the meat. No problem for the Soave Superiore, though, much to my amazement. I will say that in most cases, both the food and the wine improved when enjoyed together, compared to eating or drinking on their own. The wines ranged from 12%-13.5%, perfect for the dishes we were served.

This really opened my eyes to both the quality of wines coming from Soave and their incredible food friendliness. These are wines that could be enjoyed as an aperitif, but should, when possible, be allowed to shine when paired with food. And don't be shy about pairing these with just about anything - we had beets (with mint!), mushrooms, and (for me) beef, and the wines handled it all with great aplomb. I wouldn't hesitate to put these on the table at any time, including holidays, when the food gets more varied and perhaps a bit fancier.

This seminar was provided for media purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

WineChat: Old York Cellars 2013 Vidal Blanc

Old York Cellars 2013 Vidal Blanc

This is Drink Local Wine Week, but last week I was treated to my first New Jersey wine, the 2013 Vidal Blanc from Old York Cellars. While not located in one of New Jersey's three viticultural areas, they are members of the Garden State Wine Growers and Vintage North Jersey. Old York Cellars boasts 25 beautiful acres of preserved farmland and 13 acres of rolling vineyards framing scenic views of the Sourland Mountain range. The vineyard was first planted in 1978 when the farm was known as Amwell Valley Vineyard, which operated as a winery from 1982 to 2005. Old York Cellars opened to the public in 2010. Nothing is wasted at the winery: skins, etc, are ground up and mixed with local manure and put back on the vineyards as compost. Vidal Blanc is a white hybrid grape variety produced from the Vitis vinifera variety Ugni blanc and another hybrid variety, Rayon d'Or and is one of approximately 15 grape varieties used to make wine at Old York Cellars.

Tasting Notes:

Very clear light yellow in color; subtle pear, white peach, and melon aromas; lemon, melon, and subtle apricot flavors; satiny mouthfeel into a tart citrus and acidic finish; 12.1% ABV ; synthetic cork closure; SRP $17.

I definitely preferred this as it warmed, the initial somewhat closed impression gave way to a softer, more expressive expression the closer it got to room temperature. Paired with a cauliflower crust sausage pizza, the wine's acidity was a nice foil for the varied tastes and textures of the pizza.

A truly surprising wine, one that changed my mind about what I expect from NJ wines in the future.

This wine was provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Year in Burgundy [Film Review]

'One year with the people who make wine like no-one else in the world'

A Year in Burgundy

I'm not much of a theater-goer, and, for the most part, most wine-related movies (documentaries) are not being shown in the local multiplex anyway. It's great when I get the opportunity then to see a wine documentary at home. This week, over several evenings, I watched "A Year in Burgundy," a film that follows an importer of Burgundian wines, Martine Saunier, her producers, and the grapevines and wineries they oversee.

One year in the life of a winemaker is full of peril and success - the film follows the 2011 vintage, starting in the winter with an extremely early Spring that stretches into hot and dry weather. New vines are planted, but as Burgundy does not allow irrigation (first time I've heard that!), rain is needed and finally received. But rain can be an enemy itself, if it descends as hail, which can lead to widespread devastation or just destroy a single vineyard's crop. It's interesting to see the people who come out for the harvest and the preparations necessary by the winery.

A Year in Burgundy Trailer [video]

Overall this is a pleasant and beautiful movie - the scenery is amazing and the people featured are appealing. To me, however, there is not a coherent storyline and the segues across the year are somewhat abrupt and uneven. This is an editing problem and nothing to do with the content. I think it may have been a better movie if it had followed a single winemaker (or just several), to really focus on a single year without distractions.

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