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What We're Tasting

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What We’re Tasting is a weekly podcast from Wine Enthusiast. Three highly rated wines are the focus of each episode, providing a jumping off point for deeper discussion of a country, region, grape, producer, and style. Our expert guests will entertain and educate, adding personal insight and experience to help you increase your wine knowledge. We’ll also go beyond the bottle to discuss food pairing, wine country travel, and trends.

Read more

What We’re Tasting is a weekly podcast from Wine Enthusiast. Three highly rated wines are the focus of each episode, providing a jumping off point for deeper discussion of a country, region, grape, producer, and style. Our expert guests will entertain and educate, adding personal insight and experience to help you increase your wine knowledge. We’ll also go beyond the bottle to discuss food pairing, wine country travel, and trends.

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30 Ratings
Average Ratings
26
1
1
0
2

Fun and Informative

By Grape Chic - Jun 27 2018
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Fun, informative but not overbearing! Loved listening on my commute home from work. Great for people who love wine and also for those just getting into it! Looking forward to exploring more regions.

iTunes Ratings

30 Ratings
Average Ratings
26
1
1
0
2

Fun and Informative

By Grape Chic - Jun 27 2018
Read more
Fun, informative but not overbearing! Loved listening on my commute home from work. Great for people who love wine and also for those just getting into it! Looking forward to exploring more regions.
Cover image of What We're Tasting

What We're Tasting

Latest release on Sep 03, 2018

Read more

What We’re Tasting is a weekly podcast from Wine Enthusiast. Three highly rated wines are the focus of each episode, providing a jumping off point for deeper discussion of a country, region, grape, producer, and style. Our expert guests will entertain and educate, adding personal insight and experience to help you increase your wine knowledge. We’ll also go beyond the bottle to discuss food pairing, wine country travel, and trends.

Rank #1: 1:4 You Should Drink Rosé from Provence this Summer and Forever

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast European Editor Roger Voss about rosé from Provence. Its color and flavor are the epitome of summer wine. But there’s more to rosé from Provence than its looks and taste. Explore the surprising diversity surrounding this pale pink charmer and find out why it should be enjoyed all year long.

Wines Discussed:

@3:15 Château la Vivonne 2017 Les Puechs Rosé (Côtes de Provence)

@9:28 Commanderie de la Bargemone 2017 Rosé (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence)

@13:58 Gassier 2017 Château Gassier Cuvée 946 Rosé (Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire)

Transcript 

Jameson Fink:       00:08          Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink.

Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines, and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, I'm exploring rosé from Provence, with contributing editor Roger Voss, who covers and reviews wines from the region. So if I was able to go back in a wine time machine, maybe 20 years or so, when I was first starting to drink wine, I was certainly drinking rosé and enjoying it, but I never, ever would have expected rosé, and particularly, rosé from Provence, to be so incredibly popular as it is. It just seems like it's beyond a trend. It's its own category, it's continuing to grow, doesn't seem like it's going to slow down. It seems like rosé is just a part of our life, like red wine, and white wine. Which is great, but I wanted to explore it a little further, and get to know the world of Provence rosé with Roger Voss. Roger, welcome to the show.

Roger Voss:          01:14          Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jameson Fink:       01:16          It's delightful to talk about rosé. It is almost tropical here in New York. It seems to be a theme that I'm exploring, it's really hot out, it's really humid, and luckily, we're talking about wines that fit this season. Of course, rosé fits every season, but Roger, what's your take on ... I mean, are you surprised at how popular rosé from Provence has become? Does it surprise you?

Roger Voss:          01:39          Well, yes, because when I first got to know the American wine scene, rosé was sweet. It was called blush, and it was sweet. So it's astonishing to me that we've moved on from there, to drinking dry. That is really where Provence comes in. Because Provence, to me, is the perfect dry rosé. I always think, you combine sun, sand, sea, and summer with the sophisticated bars and restaurants beside the Mediterranean. That, to me, is the image of Provence rosé. And that's obviously gone down in America.

Jameson Fink:       02:16          That's a good point, too. How much is that lifestyle, too, that's part of its popularity? Do you think that's tied in? It's sort of aspirational. Like, "I'm drinking this rosé, and pretending I'm transported to Provence"?

Roger Voss:          02:29          Well, there is something about it. There's a little story, which I heard from one of the top producers. He spent a lot of time trying to sell Provence rosés, but he knew he'd arrived, when he got a phone call from one of the major yacht builders in the Mediterranean, saying, "Can you tell me the size of your double magnums? Because I need to ensure that the iceboxes, the fridges on my yachts, are big enough to take your double magnums." He knew he'd arrived.

Jameson Fink:       02:59          I wish I had that thought going through my head. I wonder if my fridge is big enough to fit double magnums of rosé. I'd probably have to take out a couple shelves, but I think I could do it. But, really, I'm fortunately living more of a 750 milliliter standard bottle lifestyle.

Let's talk about the first wine. I would like to attempt to pronounce it, Roger, but I think that would be a crime scene, and an affront to all things French if I did. I could sort of say it phonetically, but it would be awful. So I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind introducing the first wine?

Roger Voss:          03:33          Sure. First wine is Château la Vivonne. It's 2017 vintage, because that is what rosé is all about. Young, and ready to drink now. And its cuvée name is Les Puechs.

Jameson Fink:       03:46          That's from the Côtes of Provence, and that's 91 points, Best Buy.

Roger Voss:          03:49          Yes, indeed. I reviewed it in March, and the review was published in July.

Jameson Fink:       03:56          One of the things I'm interested about in your review is you talk about the wine, that it has a certain perfume, from the Mourvèdre. I'm wondering, what's the typical blend? Is that something that you see in a lot of these Provence rosés, that you're getting some Mourvèdre poking out, or is it, the blend vary?

Roger Voss:          04:16          Well, Mourvèdre is a very specific grape to a certain part of Provence, which I'll explain in a second. To answer your first question, the general blend is Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Those are the three which, in fact, they are the secret behind really good Provence rosé, which is why rosé from France is so good, 'cause it has Grenache in it.

But Mourvèdre, to move onto this wine, is from a region called Bandol, which is on the coast, near Toulon. It's a very mountainous set part of Provence, and the Mourvèdre grape seems to have settled there, and loves it. So most of the Bandol wines have Mourvèdre in them. This wine comes from a producer who's actually based in Bandol, he just happens to have vines outside in the Côtes de Provence area, but he's also using Mourvèdre in his rosé.

Jameson Fink:       05:15          So is it fair to say, this is, maybe, for Provence, kind of a heartier rose? Is that accurate?

Roger Voss:          05:22          That's a fair word to use, yes. Slightly richer than your standard Provence rosé. And certainly to say, as I say in my note, more perfumed.

Jameson Fink:       05:31          That's interesting too, because a conversation about Provence and its rosés is that of is ... there's certainly a lot out there that's sort of one-note, and so pale, it's almost watery, and nondescript. What's the variety? Am I painting Provence with too broad a stroke? Is there, within Provence, a lot of diversity of rosé?

Roger Voss:          05:54          There is, yes. First of all, we have different appellations. de Provence is by far the biggest. But we've also got a wine, we're going talk about later on, from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is slightly further to the west, and is Bandol, which, this wine comes from next to Bandol. Then there's other areas as well, within Provence. Now, you mentioned the color, and I think it's been very funny, because I review these wines every year. I've been noticing the color getting paler and paler each year. Until this year. Because, really, some of them were absolutely white. But this year, I've noticed they're actually ... a little bit of color's crept back in to even the palest of the rosés. So you naturally see it's rosé, rather than a white wine.

Jameson Fink:       06:48          Do you think that's a product of vintage, or is it winemakers saying, "You know what, maybe we went a little too far with the pale, and it needs a little more color and flavor"?

Roger Voss:          06:59          Well, I did say in my notes last year, they were just stupidly white, in some cases. So maybe they read those, I don't know.

Jameson Fink:       07:08          They could've. They could have taken it to heart.

Roger Voss:          07:11          They could've taken it to heart. But just, the problem you see with stripping out color, is you also strip out flavor. So, the paler the wines, very often, the less actual taste they had. So if you're drinking rosé really chilled, fine. But I taste rosés not chilled, because then I taste the wine complete. I was noticing with these really pale rosés last year, that they were getting less and less taste. So I'm glad to see they're stepping back from that really, really pale, almost white trend. Pale is fine, provided you can also have taste.

Jameson Fink:       07:50          Yeah, and that's something interesting to talk about rosés, you think about Tavel, or something like that, that's a really deep, dark, rich rosé. But is it always mean that, oh, because its pale colored, it's going to be lighter, or that kind of thing? Can it be still pale, and still have a lot of oomph or structure?

Roger Voss:          08:12          Well it can do, yes, and that's obviously, it's just up to the skill of the winemaker. The thing about rosé, all rosés, is lot of it to do with winemaking. Because of the use of the getting the color just right, and how long you macerate the skins of the grapes to get just the right color that you want and so on. So, rosé is probably the most, they say in the wine business, it's the most technical wine.

Jameson Fink:       08:38          I think that's something that people would be surprised to hear about. I think people maybe think because, "Oh, rosé, it's summery, it's light, it's pale," people don't think that it takes a lot of skill and effort to make a rose like it does. They might think a red wine, or even a white wine, would need, necessitate.

Roger Voss:          08:59          Yes, it actually takes even more skills than ... white wine's more difficult than red, and rosé's more difficult than white. You need to have a lot of skill, and you need to actually dedicate yourself to making a rosé, rather than just saying, "Oh, I've got some red juice, let's drain it off red grapes and macerating, let's drain them off, and we'll have some rosé." That doesn't work with good rosé. Provence has understood this, and so that's why their wines are good, even if, as we said, some of them are too light in color.

Jameson Fink:       09:32          Well, let's move on to the second wine, so if you could go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger?

Roger Voss:          09:36          Sure. This is from the Commanderie de la Bargemone, and as I said, this is from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is west of the Cote Provence main part of the region.

Jameson Fink:       09:48          That's a 91-point editor's choice, from you, the editor?

Roger Voss:          09:52          A 2017 vintage, again. Now, this is interesting estate, founded by the Knights Templar, who were one of the crusading orders. So it was founded as a place where they lived, as well as making wine, the Knights Templar. And it actually got its name, Bargemone, because a few centuries later, there's a family, called Bargemone, bought it.

Jameson Fink:       10:25          I'm familiar with this rosé, because I think it was one of the first rosés from Provence, or rosés ever, that I saw in a three-liter box, and I was really excited, and I started buying a lot of it, because I love that three-liter box. Is that something, I mean, you're in Bordeaux right now, correct?

Roger Voss:          10:37          I am, yes.

Jameson Fink:       10:38          Do you see rosé when you're traveling around? Is that alternate packaging for rosé popular, or is it more of, just, export market?

Roger Voss:          10:47          No, the French love boxes. They're very happy with boxes, and particularly, at this time of year, they'll be buying ... If you walk through the aisles of the supermarket, and look at people's trolleys, which is always fun. There will be boxes of rose in those trolleys. Particularly vacationers, but also the locals.

Jameson Fink:       11:06          That's good to hear. I'm glad to hear I get the approval from the people of France when I'm drinking a box wine in my Brooklyn apartment. Good. I also thought it was interesting, packaging-wise, too, that ... I was reading some things you wrote about last year's rosés on winemag.com, and more, I listened about the vintage, but you're seeing all this different kind of bottle shape and packaging. What do you think that is, with these rosés from Provence?

Roger Voss:          11:30          Rosé is also a marketing thing. I mean, I started off by telling you that little tale about the guy and his double magnums. But, really, rosé, particularly Provence rosé, has a definite marketing bling to it. You're quite close to the Riviera. People like to be seen to be drinking from a fancy bottle, so there's a lot of that that goes on, as well, introducing these rosés.

Sometimes, these bottles are so bizarre. I get ones that look just like gin bottles, and the wine inside is fine, but what it is, a lot of packaging is very important, so you can put it on your table, and make it look good. You can show off with your bottle of rosé. Otherwise, it's just a pink thing in a glass.

Jameson Fink:       12:22          Well, I wonder, also, if that's part of, sort of this thing, with a lot of these rosés looking the same, like, the same pale, pink color. I mean, maybe that's also another way to kind of stand out on a shelf. A different bottle shape, or graphics, or things like that.

Roger Voss:          12:35          Absolutely. It's all, it's obviously all to do with looks, and Provence has really understood the idea. Because you're dealing with a product that's, as I say, it's very bling. It's here today, gone tomorrow. You got to make something to distinguish it, and bottle shape is a very good way of doing so.

Jameson Fink:       12:53          To move from bottle, to more of a terroir type of conversation, I think it's interesting that, when I think of rosé from Provence, I just think, "It's Provence. It's rosé." But we're looking at a couple wines from more specific appellations, and the bigger Côtes, smaller than the Côtes de Provence region. Is that something where there's rosés, and you can be like, "Do you have specific qualities, that come from where the grapes are from?" Like, terroir. Is that the next step in rosé?

Roger Voss:          13:25          Well, it has already happened. Certainly with Aix-en-Provence, which is where this Commanderie de la Bargemone wine comes from. One of the reasons is, they also blend in Cabernet Sauvignon. And that obviously makes a difference. Gives more structure to a wine, because, as you know, from drinking Cabernets … there's always a lot of tannin in Cabernet.

So, even if it turned into a rosé, it certainly gives more ... Not just actually tannic character, but certainly, structure to the wine. Which is why a wine like this one, the Commanderie de la Bargemone, is probably more structured than the first wine, or the third wine, that we'll be talking about.

Jameson Fink:       14:08          Yeah, let's move right on to the third wine. Go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger.

Roger Voss:          14:13          Okay. This is from the Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire appellation, Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946.

Jameson Fink:       14:24          What does the 946 refer to? Is that a mystery, or is there something to it?

Roger Voss:          14:31          946 is actually, is meters.

Jameson Fink:       14:32          Oh, okay. That's right. Well, in your review, it says, "It's a vineyard at a height of 3,000 feet."

Roger Voss:          14:42          Which is a rough conversion of 946. The thing about Sainte-Victoire, the mountainous Sainte-Victoire, which is why it has an appellation, is that it creates a microclimate, if you like. Which is very sheltered. It's drier, just a bit drier, because the mountain protects it from any rain that might arrive. It is, it gives wines with ... let's say, extra richness, and certainly, they do have weight to them, which some other Côtes Provence wines don't have.

So Sainte-Victoire's seen as an appellation apart, and it is because of the Sainte-Victoire mountain. Which is, I have to tell you, it is a scary mountain, just to look at.

Jameson Fink:       15:31          Scary, how?

Roger Voss:          15:32          Because, you're in the vineyard, and you're looking face, and there's this sheer rock face lowering over you.

Jameson Fink:       15:42          It's ominous. I don't think of rosé when I think of threatening and ominous, so there's kind of, there's some kind of dissonance there, but I'm sure, when you drink it, it's a glorious wine. I should also mention that this wine scored, that you scored at 93 points, and this ... So this rosé, when I'm hearing you talk about it, and reading it, and some of your notes that you can wait awhile to drink it. Is this an age-worthy rosé? Is this something you can age for a year, two years?

Roger Voss:          16:05          Yeah. So, I mean, this particular one, which is actually, had a bit of wood, with aging, certainly could be aged longer. And I said, I'm just reading my note now: "Wait until late 2018, but you could certainly drink it in 2019, and probably 2020."

Jameson Fink:       16:23          Is oak something common in rosé from Provence? Is there this, kind of, making it like these super rosés, if you will, and with some oak on them? Because I would think most of them are stainless steel, correct?

Roger Voss:          16:36          Absolutely. Stainless steel, or cement tanks. Neutral, neutral containers, but there is a trend, where two or three ... well, more than two or three. There's several wines, which I taste, which have been aged, not much. Just lightly, in big barrels, not little. Not little Bordeaux-type barrels, which rounds them out a little bit, and certainly makes them age-worthy. And, of course, means you can put their price up.

Jameson Fink:       17:05          What's the oldest rosé you've ever drank? Like, if you had one that was five, 10, more years old? If you had a really old rosé that made you stand up, and you're like, "Wow, this is really surprising"?

Roger Voss:          17:17          Yes. I mean, five years, maybe six, is as old as I've tasted, and that was still very good. I mean, it was no longer a fruity fresh wine that we think of as rosé. It was more like a, actually, it was more like an aged red, in a curious way. Because the structure would come forward, but the fruits are falling away.

So it was an interesting wine. I wouldn't say it was a stand up wow moment. But it was very interesting, but I think that "interesting" is not necessarily the word you want to hear, when you're talking about a wine you want to drink.

Jameson Fink:       17:54          Right, I'd rather, "delicious," or things like that. But it just makes me think, kind of, what we talked about earlier, about the skill it takes to make a great rosé, versus white wine and red wine. Are we getting to a point, where ... I mean, rosé is a serious wine, but are people striving to say, "Hey, I can make a rosé that will reach the heights of the greatest red wines"? Is that possible?

Are we selling rosé short, or it is just something, that, "Hey, you know what? Let's enjoy it, and its youthful properties." Are people reaching for the stars with rosé?

Roger Voss:          18:28          Well, I mean, the wine we're just talking about, the Cuvée 946, is certainly, got serious intentions, ambitions.

Obviously, I liked it, because I gave it a good score, and there are others like that. I mean, there are some which are more expensive than this one, which retail at $50, but there's one which retails for $100, and they exist, and they are actually wines you can look at seriously.

To go back to your original point about aging. I don't think you can age even these really expensive wines for very long. But you can certainly age them for longer than, "Buy it now, drink it this summer," which is what most rosé is.

Jameson Fink:       19:09          Well, I think you just mentioned $100 as a ... I think if we ever had any doubt that rosé from Provence, and rosé in general has really skyrocketed, I don't know if any of us would have predicted we'd see a $100 bottle of rosé awhile ago, or maybe even not that long ago.

Roger Voss:          19:25          I know. That's an exceptional wine, and an exception to the normal rule, which puts Provence rosé as a very drinkable $20 bottle. Really, I mean, we can talk about these fancy cuvées, and these more serious wines.

But let's not forget, that at the end of the day, rosé is meant to be drunk with pleasure. You got hot weather in New York. I've got hot weather here, this is when I've got a bottle of rosé sitting next to me, ready to be drink, and, as soon as we finish talking.

So, there is, that's definitely what, rosé, we should think of rosé. That's really how we should look at it.

Jameson Fink:       20:10          Also, the pleasure of rosé has to do, I think, with, it's probably one of the most food-friendly wines, too. I mean, there's certainly classics, especially in Provence, but what do you like to enjoy, food-wise, with rosé? Are there some things, people might be surprised, that you think is a good match?

Roger Voss:          20:27          Well, pretty much everything, actually. You've sort of indicated that. Rosé is a versatile, I mean, it definitely goes with fish. It goes with things like gazpacho, or it even goes, it certainly goes with chicken.

I've even had it with red meat, and it's fine. Black truffle, if you can afford it, is a great match, cheeses. You name it, pretty much, rosé goes with pretty much anything. Especially if the weather's hot. You'd much prefer to have a rosé, than a red wine. So, in the summer, we drink a lot of rosé, with pretty much anything we're eating.

Jameson Fink:       21:06          I like drinking it in the winter, too, I think. I mean, for the big holidays here, like Thanksgiving. With turkey, it's such a great match. Then, also, when I think it starts getting cold and dreary, especially here, when you have a bottle of pink wine, that can make, it just sort of brightens up your day.

Just like how it's emblematic of summer. It's like, it's December, or January, there's a blizzard in New York, and you open a bottle of rosé, and pour it in your glass, and it's this beautiful pink color. And you're like, serenity now. At least, that transportive property that is has.

Roger Voss:          21:40          Yes. I know, exactly. You're absolutely right with Thanksgiving turkey. It's a brilliant match. I've certainly done that. Yes, I mean, it reminds you of the summer that's just passed, and gives you hope for the summer that's about to come. I think that sets another great thing that rosé can do.

Jameson Fink:       22:00          Well, Roger, thank you very much for this little tour of Provence rosé. I think it's interesting to note that there's a lot of one-note rosé out there, but when you dig a little deeper, there's really interesting, different grapes being used, different locations, different prices, and different styles. So, thank you very much for this in-depth look at rosé.

Roger Voss:          22:21          You're very welcome. I enjoyed talking to you about it, and now, I'm going to have my glass of rosé.

Jameson Fink:       22:25          All right. You have more than earned it. You could have had it while we were recording, too, and I would have been delighted, as well.

Roger Voss:          22:30          I do point out, it is seven o'clock in the evening here.

Jameson Fink:       22:33          Oh, yeah, yeah. You're overdue.

Roger Voss:          22:37          Okay. Nice to talk to you, Jameson.

Jameson Fink:       22:38          Okay. My pleasure.

And thank you, for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino: Wine Made Easy.

The three wines we talked about today are:

Roger Voss:          22:48          Chateau La Vivonne, 2017, Les Puechs, rosé, Côtes de Provence.

Second wine: Commanderie de la Bargemone, 2017, rosé, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.

Third wine: Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946, rosé, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire

Jameson Fink:       23:10          Perfect. Thank you so much. You saved me from grave embarrassment of pronunciation.

Roger Voss:          23:16          Oh, come on. I'm sure you can do it.

Jameson Fink:       23:17          Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Googeplay, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today's episode, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 16 2018

23mins

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Rank #2: 1:6 Embracing Lodi Wines, Unique Grapes and Ancient Vines

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast contributing editor Jim Gordon about how Zinfandel reigns supreme in the eyes of many, but Lodi wines are astonishingly diverse. 

Wines Discussed:

@4:48 Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño (Lodi)

@8:08 Scotto Family Cellars 2017 Dry Sangiovese Rosé (Lodi)

@14:18 Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane (Lodi)

Transcript:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at the wines of Lodi, with wine enthusiast contributing editor, Jim Gordon, who covers and reviews wines from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, including lots from Lodi. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So while I was doing some reading on Lodi, doing a little reading up, a little research, a little due diligence, I came across this phrase, and this is the phrase: Something subversive is afoot in the vineyards of Lodi, California.

When I read that, the first thing I thought about was actually Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the part where they say, "Something strange is afoot at the Circle K." But this is not about Bill and Ted. We're here to talk about wine in Lodi, and actually, my guest Jim wrote that line, not about Bill and Ted, but about Lodi, and I think it was really great because a lot of people still consider Lodi ... they look through the lens of bulk wines, mass produced wines, nothing but jammy Zinfandels, etc. etc. But that's really ... I mean, it's part of the story, of course, but what's really exciting about Lodi is what's going on there with what we might call underdog grapes, and people doing really interesting and exciting things.

So, I'm excited to have Jim here to talk about Lodi and get to know it a little better, and sort of that hidden, subversive, underdog Lodi that's happening right now. So Jim, welcome to the show.

Jim Gordon: Thank you, Jameson. Happy to be here.

Jameson Fink: And you know, when I was ... I was in Lodi two years ago, and that was my first time there, and I was at a wine reception for the wine blogger's conference. It was 100 degrees there, not surprising, it's pretty hot there, and I was seeking out well-chilled white wines. And I was really impressed with ... I had a Grenache Blanc and a Vermentino there, and I didn't expect to have either of those wines. Maybe I was naïve and I had a lot to learn, that wouldn't be surprising, but I thought it was a really exciting tasting that I discovered all these interesting new white wines.

Can you kind of just talk about the breadth and depth of grapes that are being grown there besides the usual suspects? Just give me a few. Start me off with a few to tantalize me.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, sure. You know, the region has been known for almost commodity level Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc. But, there's Albariño, there's Vermentino as you said, there's Kerner, there's Teroldego, there's Cinsault from 120 year old vines, Carignan. Some of those have been there forever, you know, decades if not a century, but many others have been planted in the last several years to make Lodi a lot more interesting place.

Jameson Fink: And why do you think winemakers are attracted to these grapes in Lodi versus Cabernet or Merlot or Chardonnay? What's the appeal in your mind?

Jim Gordon: I kind of think they're trying to go 180 degrees from what people think of Lodi. People think of it producing sort of fat, lazy Zinfandels or big Chardonnays that are kind of soft and buttery. I think a lot of them are trying to do something the opposite of that, like crisp or tannic or biting or more vivid, not just a big softy like the mass market ones, but something more artisanal, more interesting, more intellectual in a way.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I guess I want to back up. I don't know if a lot of people even know where Lodi is. It's not far from Sacramento, correct?

Jim Gordon: True, it's south of Sacramento, and almost due east of Napa. I live in Napa, and it's an hour and a half drive roughly to Lodi. It's an interesting place. It's in the northern ... basically the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley. It's just on the edge of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta, where it's kind of a bayou area of California, where it's basically at sea level.

So, even though it's inland and it does get hot, but it has the water. When you have water and hot land, you have breezes, so it's not as hot as you would think. It's nothing like the southern San Joaquin Valley, more like around Madera or Fresno. This is quite different than the northern part.

Jameson Fink: So you mentioned earlier Albariño, and the first wine I wanted to talk about was the Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño, which you gave 89 points to. Can you talk about ... I mean, I know Albariño from Spain mostly. Is the grape similar there in Lodi? Is it producing a similar style of wine, something different, or is it a little bit of both?

Jim Gordon: This one is more similar to what you would find in Spain or Portugal I think, than most would be, which is why I liked it. It's refreshing, it's crisp, there's low alcohol, relatively, 12.8%, and that's why I liked it. I think I described it a lot like one would describe some Albariños from the Iberian Peninsula.

So I think they purposefully picked the grapes early enough so it didn't get too high in alcohol, too full in body, and they got something that's really refreshing, mouthwatering.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, you said it's a great antidote to rich and oaky wines.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, perfect.

Jameson Fink: Although, I do like rich and oaky wines. I have a soft spot for those. But I am a liberal. I like light, crisp, fresh, rich and oaky, everything in between.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, me too. I like some of each. I want crisp and fresh on a hot summer day, and depending on the weather or the food, I like fat and buttery as well.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I'm gonna make this a podcast feature where I complain about the heat, because it's like 85 degrees here today, so that wine sounds really, really good today. I think that's also interesting about the lower alcohol levels. Like you said, it's under 13%, which maybe you probably wouldn't associate with Lodi. I mean, I might think, oh everything's gonna be 15% or 16% or something crazy outrageous, but is there a movement ... I mean, just in general in Lodi or beyond, are you seeing people sort of ... wine drinkers saying, "Hey, I want something lower in alcohol." Or winemakers are saying, "You know what? I'm gonna pick a little earlier and make a wine that's less alcoholic."

Jim Gordon: Yes. I think people are demanding it, some people are, and I think winemakers in general in California, which is where I live and where I cover wine for Wine Enthusiast, have backed off on the high alcohol that they were doing five to 10 years ago. Not radically ... so, let's say a typical vintage now is a few tenths of a point lower in alcohol than it used to be, plus, wineries, many of them, like this Albariño there, are producing new wines that are more crisp and lower in body.

So, it's partly what they've done to the line of wines, say, well, we've already been making, but also coming up with new varietals or new styles.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, absolutely. So, Albariño is definitely a grape ... I mean, we're looking at Lodi, there's a wine region I think in the Columbia Gorge, bordering Washington and Oregon always says we have everything from Albariño to Zinfandel. And I want to talk about another grape that maybe is a little unusual to see in Lodi or really in the United States as much as say like, Italy, and that's Sangiovese. And I thought it was really interesting to see a Rosé made from that.

The second wine that I wanted you to talk about was the Scotto Family Cellars' 2017 dry Sangiovese Rosé, which you gave 88 points to.

Jim Gordon: It was a really interesting, dry Sangiovese in the Rosé mode. It was relatively low in alcohol for California, 13%, but I liked it because of the sort of grip that Sangiovese gives you. I mean, in the Chianti or super Tuscan blends that have Sangiovese as a red wine, it's known for tannin and acid and kind of a really grippy feel on your palette. And a little touch of that comes along with the Rosé, which I appreciate the ... Rosé is so popular now, and in California, practically every winery is making a Rosé or two, but it hasn't really settled into a style for this valley or that valley. Everybody's using different varieties. Some are darker reds, some are light reds, some are crisp, some are fat like barrel fermented even Rosés.

This one I liked because it's crisp, it has a sort of tangy, slightly tannic mouth feel, and to me that's palette cleansing and refreshing.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, you talk about a Rosé, I mean, it's just such a ... the category has just exploded and it's still growing. How prevalent is Rosé in Lodi, and is it something that's just happened over the last few years? Or have they been making Rosé in Lodi and we just didn't know about it?

Jim Gordon: It's relatively new in terms of today's type of Rosé. I'll bet you in the 70s they were making Rosé in Lodi, but it would have been something quite different.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, like a white Zinfandel ... sweet.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, exactly. That was the commercial mainstay of Lodi for some years, providing grapes for white Zinfandel. You know, they've had a revolution there in wine making since that period, and I guess this Rosé is just one example of the stuff they're doing now.

Jameson Fink: One of the things that you talked about briefly was the abundance of old vines in Lodi, and I think when I visited, that was the thing that blew me away is to see these vines from the 19th century, these grizzled, gnarled ... they're almost like supernatural looking, like hobbit forest or something ... Well, hobbit forest would be friendly, these are a little more mysterious and sinister looking.

I think one of the best vineyard visits I've ever had is we went to the Bechthold Vineyard, and to see these old Cinsault vines, really amazing. Can you talk about the old vine heritage in Lodi? Is that in danger? Because I keep hearing that wineries are having to pull out these old vines to plant things that are more profitable. Is there a drive to save these old vines?

Jim Gordon: Yeah, it's an interesting issue right now. Lodi does have lots of old vines, you know, hundreds of acres I would say, if not a thousand or more of vines probably older than 50 years. I don't know the numbers offhand, but intermixed with much more recently planted vineyards that are more commercially profitable and make sense for the people.

One thing to mention here is that so many of the grape growers in Lodi are family farms, and they're like in their fourth, fifth, or sixth generation. So, their ancestors came in the 1860s or 70s, maybe they tried panning for gold in the Sierra hills and mountains, and then they came back down to Lodi and became farmers. So they're there. They own the same properties in many cases that their families have been farming for generations.

So, they have old vines, they've kept some of them, and they've kept them on the places where those vines grew well and produce a good crop and make high quality wine. So, the old vines in many cases have been preserved because they were special. The ones that made so-so wine have probably been ripped up or replanted with other varieties.

I know what you're saying too about just the presence of being in the old gnarled vines, and many of the vineyards in Lodi, they train ... the older vines were trained up higher than you would see in most of California or Europe, so they're almost ... they're the size of a person with all these arms hanging out, and they're a little bit scary, but they're a little bit comforting, like the Ent who saved the Hobbit. They're more like that, I think.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, well I guess I was on the right path when I said ... when I brought Lord of the Rings and Hobbits into them. It's more of an Ent thing.

Jim Gordon: Right, right.

Jameson Fink: That's true, they are taller. They're not like those ... I mean, you look at vines [inaudible 00:12:54], and they're really low to the ground. I guess that's also because of the windy conditions there too that they would just sort of ... it's more protected the closer to the ground it is.

Jim Gordon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it is basically pretty fertile soil in most of the Lodi area. They could grow other crops there, and they have over the years, but now the emphasis has really been on wine grapes for a couple, two or three decades.

But regarding the ... maybe a threat to the old vines, there is an economic threat because these families who run the farms need to make enough money to pay the bills and have a decent life, and when you're harvesting old vines, the yields are very low. So on an acre, maybe you get a ton or two tons of grapes, but on the vineyard next to it that's being farmed ... it could be organic or sustainably even, but they can get much higher yields with newer vines and new training methods for the trellis and all that.

So you know, they could get eight tons next door, and wineries don't really pay a lot more for the old vine fruit. It's kind of a bargain. That's why I think a lot of smaller, as I said before, artisanal wineries are seeking out these small blocks of old vines from Lodi to make something interesting with.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, that's why for the third wine I chose the Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane, 90 points, that ... you know, just to focus on one of these wines that the old vine stock that they have.

Can you talk about this wine and as far as your feelings on these really old vines, what kinds of wines do they make? Is it just romantic, or do they really give something special in the glass?

Jim Gordon: They do, they often do. You can't always taste it, but sometimes you can. I just think it's a purity of fruit. I think smart winemakers doing old vines don't put much new oak on the wine to mess with it. Just let the quality of the fruit come through.

What the growers say is just that the old vines are very stable. They have deep roots, they've been growing for years, if there's funny conditions in the weather one year, it doesn't affect them as much as it would a new vine that's shallow rooted, etc. So, they're just steady producers. I just find a purity, a fruit, a focus, kind of a seamlessness in the flavors and the texture, to make a very broad generalization.

Jameson Fink: And I know out there there's certainly a lot of old vine Zinfandel there, and I feel like maybe I've painted it with too broad a stroke, but can you talk about ... is Zinfandel changing in Lodi? Is there a diversity of styles and flavors now or do I just have a bad stereotype of monolithic Zinfandel?

Jim Gordon: Well, it is changing. I mean, on the one hand, you have Michael David Winery making these fabulous, showy wines out of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, like the Earthquake Zin and the Seven Deadly Zins, and those have been great. They're dramatic, they use a lot of new oak, but they're really well done. And they've sort of created a category of high quality Lodi Zinfandel, which is helping a lot of growers because they buy from a lot of growers to make Michael David Wines. So, that's really been a good engine for Lodi in terms of making a good livelihood for the growers.

But on the other hand, you have the Lodi native Zinfandel project, which is a handful of mostly small production wineries making these really pure, straightforward, no new oak, wild yeast, no water addition, no acid addition really elegant, cool wines. They label them as Lodi native, and they all have a similar label. That's real exciting. And those wines are terrific without being super showy.

So, you've got real showy on one end, you've got more elegant and native on the other.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I got to try the native wines when I was out there, the Zinfandels, and yeah, they were definitely an eye opener. I think also the interesting thing was all the winemakers were there and they were talking about when they were being approached for this project and sort of the way they had to work was a way that they weren't used to working, or some of them were kind of candid like, you know, I didn't think this would work, or I think I would need to use this or pick then or use this oak or X, Y, and Z. So, I really appreciated hearing their stories and kind of the candor they had about, hey, this idea ... like everyone wasn't just like, "This sounds great. Let's change the way we're making Zinfandel."

So, I thought that was a really interesting bellwether for the region.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, I sat with a group of them when I wrote an article for the Enthusiast a couple of years ago about the Lodi native wines, and they were telling the stories. Some of them were not confident they could make a really good wine without intervening more, and they had to pick it earlier than they had ever perhaps, so the alcohol wouldn't be too high, and it was a learning experience for them, kind of learning by doing, and they more or less proved to themselves that they could do it.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and that article about Lodi native Zin and also the underdog grapes of Lodi, those are both at winemag.com too, and they're both well worth reading because they're both a story of Zinfandel and of Lodi and grapes in general that I think people haven't heard of from the region.

And I had sort of a ... you know, when I was back in New York, I had sort of a Lodi eye opening moment too. This might come as a shock to you, I was at kind of a hipster, natural wine bar, and-

Jim Gordon: No way!

Jameson Fink: ... I know, I know. It's crazy ... with a couple friends, and the Turley Cinsault was on the list. I had had it before in Lodi, and it was served chilled ... well, first of all 'cause it was 100 degrees, so it was a really smart move anyway, because I wanted nothing to do with any red wine at all.

So it was served cold, pretty cold actually, and I was like, wow, this is really lightweight and kind of almost see through, and really delicious. I was with two of my friends who love drinking lighter style wines, natural wines, you know, and I said, "Hey, let's get a bottle of the Turley Cinsault," and they looked at me like, "What?" 'Cause I think they figured it would be ... whatever, 16% alcohol Zinfandel or something like that. And I said, "Hey, and also bring an ice bucket." We had it chilled, and they were just blown away by it, and that was another thing too, where you think a region is monolithic and it's only about one thing, but when you look a little harder, there's lots of little pockets of people doing really interesting things.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, I've had the same experience, similar experience, with the Cinsault. Are you speaking about from the Bechthold Vineyard?

Jameson Fink: Exactly.

Jim Gordon: Yeah. And a few different wineries use that fruit and make their own Cinsaults, and several of them, they're almost like Pinot Noir. They're elegant, they're kind of ethereal, they're not very dark colored ... even though it's a Roan grape variety. They made something kind of beautiful out of it.

Jameson Fink: What do you think about Lodi as far as visiting? You know, you're in Napa. What's the Lodi experience like when you visit? It must be a lot different than obviously what Napa's like.

Jim Gordon: It is. There are a lot of visitors now. There are ... I'm making it up ... 35 wineries you can visit, tasting rooms, something like that, and the town of Lodi itself has a cool district with cafés and bars and restaurants. It's big open farmland, these great old farm houses sitting on 400 acres down a long lane surrounded by trees to keep cool in the houses.

So, it's a bucolic americana landscape, kind of different from lots of Napa and Sonoma that are very gentrified. It's just a little slower paced and relaxed.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, that reminds me, I forgot, sort of my biggest wow wine when I was at the wine blogger's conference there a couple years ago was a Lucas Winery Chardonnay from 2001, and you know, we were at lunch and all these wines were going around. I was like, wow, the 2001 Chardonnay from Lodi, I just thought that was like audacious and bold to pour. But it was great. I just couldn't believe how good it was. To me, that was ... and also, you know, I'm kind of whatever, chasing weird grapes like ... well, not weird, but a little more unusual like Grenache Blanc, and so like Chardonnay ... and it was really good.

I mean, it just shows that you kind of ... That's a great reason to visit a wine region is that you kind of have an idea in your head of what it's about or what's available around you, and then you go there and you try things that aren't maybe commercially available, certainly an old vintage like that, or you discover wineries like Fields Family Wines or Uvaggio making all these really interesting things, and all of a sudden you're like, wow, my Lodi view has changed.

Jim Gordon: Uvaggio is a great example. They make this really spectacular Passito, dessert wine, and I think it was from Vermentino, which was fabulous. On the other hand, they make a dry Muscat, and you expect Muscat to be sweet, Vermentino to be dry. They turned it around and really two interesting wines from whit grapes.

Jameson Fink: The Vermentino and the Muscat are great.

So Jim, thanks for joining me and talking about Lodi, the diversity of grapes there, and also the fact that, hey, there's Zinfandel there too, and it's also worth paying attention to even though they make a lot of it. There's people doing really interesting and exciting things, and my only regret is when I visited that you weren't around in town and we couldn't hang out for a little bit. I was disappointed by that, Jim.

Jim Gordon: Well, we did get together afterward.

Jameson Fink: We did, we did. Thanks again for joining me today, Jim.

Jim Gordon: My pleasure.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we talked about today are: The Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño, Scotto Family Cellars' 2017 dry Sangiovese Rosé, and Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at WineMag.com

Jul 30 2018

24mins

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Rank #3: 1:3 The Charms and Challenges of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Christina Pickard about how Sauvignon Blanc put New Zealand on the world wine map. But is it a one-trick pony or are there new discoveries and surprises when it comes to how, and where it’s made?

Wines Discussed: 

4:07 Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

11:17 Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

17:53 Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Central Otago)

Transcript

Jameson Fink:       00:04          Welcome to Wine Enthusiasts, What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass.

 This episode I'm exploring New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with contributing editor, Christina Pickard, who covers and reviews wines from the region. What we're tasting is sponsored by Vivino. Vivino is the world's largest online wine marketplace, powered by a community of 30 million thirsty wine drinkers. Use the Vivino app to engage with 2 million wines, including loads of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, every single day.

Many countries have established themselves on the world wine stage through one grape that caught the imagination of everyone. I can think of, in recent times, Shiraz from Australia, Malbec from Argentina. Today, I'm most interested in, of course, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and how it's captured the world's imagination, and taking a closer look at the grape.

Christina, thank you for being here. I'm gonna start a little philosophically with a question. What is the appeal, do you think, of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Why has it become such a worldwide phenomenon?

Christina P.:          01:23          I think there was a critic, and I can't even quote this critic specifically because I don't know who it was, but one critic said, " Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand was like having sex for the first time." That might sum it up.

Jameson Fink:       01:34          Wow, I did not expect that answer.

Christina P.:          01:40          Another one described the experience of drinking it as being strapped naked to insert super model of your choice, while bungee jumping into a bottomless pit of fresh gooseberry leaves.

Jameson Fink:       01:53          I did not expect that either. That is not the direction I thought this would go. What would you say is the appeal of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          02:02          I mean, look, I think it is crisp. It's zippy. It's really, pretty aromatics. It's just really likable, and in a fairly obvious way. In a super gluggable way. Right now, it's 85 degrees and humid, as we're recording this, and I'm thinking about a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I'm like, "Yeah. That would hit the spot right now."

It's great in the heat. It's great for hot weather. In the summer, you can chill it down as much as you want. I think, it's just that that combination of being incredibly outgoing as a style, and a grape variety. An incredibly likable. It's a gateway drug, in a way, for a lot of wine lovers. I know for me it was. A lot of people tell me the same thing. "Oh yeah. I started my wine journey with Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc."

Jameson Fink:       02:58          That's funny, my mom is a red wine drinker, but she looks at New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as her lawnmower wine, like a lawnmower beer. Once a year when she ... she doesn't have a lawn anymore to mow, but when she did, that would be her wine of choice. It had that thirst slaking appeal.

Christina P.:          03:17          Totally. It's also really grassy, that's one of it's main flavor profiles. I feel like mowing the lawn while drinking a really grassy wine is incredibly appropriate.

Jameson Fink:       03:27          Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. I don't think she was doing it simultaneously, but definitely fresh cut grass is very New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Yeah, maybe that was part of it. She was overcome by fresh cut grass aromas, and the only thing-

Christina P.:          03:39          She just needed to run in the kitchen and grab a glass.

Christina P.:          03:46          I was picturing her, like one hand on the lawnmower, a glass in the other hand.

Jameson Fink:       03:47          We encourage two handed lawn mowing, and not wine drinking. Even on the riding mower, too. Keep both hands ... keep both hands on the mower.

Christina P.:          03:54          Yeah.

Jameson Fink:       03:55          Public service announcement. Speaking about the first wine I wanted to talk about is, I guess, a classic textbook example of what we're talking about. It's the Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough Region, 90 points. I guess, you can't talk about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, without talking about Marlborough. Can you talk about that region's place in the history of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          04:23          Absolutely. I mean, yeah, Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc, I think, are completely synonymous, as you said. It is, by far, the region that produces more Sauvignon Blanc than anywhere else in New Zealand, and actually produces more wine in general. Sauvignon Blanc makes up ... I don't want to quote exact stats, 'cause they're changing all the time, but it's something like 75 or 80% of their production is Sauvignon Blanc. It's a huge, huge product for them, from an export perspective, you know, domestically as well.

At the heart of that is Marlborough. They are producing the wines here, by far, of this great variety and this style. Really, Sauvignon Blanc, as we know it from New Zealand, really started from this country, so, if you're going to start anywhere with this grape variety, I would say this is the perfect place to start. It's certainly the easiest to get a hold of from this region, as well.

Jameson Fink:       05:20          Geographically, Marlborough is the northern tip of the southern island.

Christina P.:          05:25          Exactly. The northeast tip. It's really split into two valleys. The Awatere Valley, which is cooler, there's more stonier soils, a little bit more maritime influence there. Stylistically, it's not huge difference, but you do tend to see a little bit more of a herbaceous style. Maybe a little crisper. Maybe a little more detectably higher acids.

It's often compared to Sancerre, a little bit in style. I think it's like Sancerre on steroids. Kind of like, New World, a little bit more bold, brash flavors there. Definitely the more herbaceous, I think, of the two.

Then, you get the Wairau Valley, which is just really wide river valley following the Wairau River. That's really split with ... it's separated between the Richmond Mountains, and that separates it from Nelson, which is another wine region that produces a lot of Sauvignon Blanc. That's a bit sunnier, a little bit warmer climactically. Then the Wither Hills in the south, that protects it from those harsh weather systems coming out of the southeast, and off the ocean, as well.

Jameson Fink:       06:41          You call this wine, the Nautilus, a wine for oysters, if there ever was one. What else do you like food pairing wise, with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          06:53          I mean, everything. Every kind of seafood under the sun, basically. Any kind of fish. Smoked scallops. Salmon is great with it. Then, I also love asparagus. Again, this is a flavor that you actually see in the wine, as well.

Asparagus is often one of those flavor characteristics that comes up a lot in describing Kiwi Sauvignon. Asparagus, I like more of a buttery or a creamy sauce, 'cause all that acid from the Sauvignon Blanc seems to cut through that. Just salad, you know, summery salads with berries, or green beans. You could also do it with a little bit heavier food, too, like seafood risotto or paella or something. Watermelon gazpacho is one that seems to get paired with it a bunch. That sounds really good right now.

Jameson Fink:       07:42          I'm also glad you mentioned asparagus, because I feel like when I was learning about wine, and you still read this kind of stuff, like "Asparagus is impossible to pair with wine." I actually had that written down. Asparagus in all caps, in bold. I think Sauvignon Blanc, and especially New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful with asparagus, and it's not impossible to pair. Strike that from your wine rules.

Christina P.:          08:06          Yeah. Oh yeah. Totally. I mean, 'cause asparagus has got a pretty strong flavor, so I could understand it would overpower a lot of wines. I think that this, particularly Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is so, so brash and bold, in it's flavors, that I think it holds up really well. Actually, a geeky side note, a lot of those asparagus and bell pepper flavors that are detectable in this style of wines, come from this methoxypyrazines. Pyrazines are these aroma compounds, and you find them in a lot of the Bordeaux family grapes, like Loire Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. When they're done well, it's all about canopy management and pruning.

Viticulturists can actually control how much of those flavors that are gonna end up in the final wine, hopefully, assuming the vintage is good, by pruning, and by controlling the leafy part of the vines to tweak those aromas. When they're done well you get, like I say, the bell pepper, asparagus, the mint, and basil. When they're done badly, you start to get this mushy, mushy asparagus, or overripe peppers, that's not really that pleasant. I think it's a quality in the line that I really like, personally.

Jameson Fink:       09:16          Yeah, I really ... I'm pro-pyrazine. I'm a big fan of pyrazines. Not like an overload of them, I don't know how I would measure that, but I like those kinds of flavors in my wine. I know they can be very outputting and polarizing for some people.

                                             In fact, Sauvignon Blanc, it's funny, there are a lot of people I talk to who are wine pros, work in the business, and they don't like Sauvignon Blanc at all. It seems like it's like the most polarizing white wine grape I can think of.

Christina P.:          09:41          I think because as a style, it's fairly obvious. I don't necessarily mean that to be a derogatory statement. I just think it's ... that's why I call it a gateway wine, because it's, for a lot of wine lovers, it's a wine that you start with because of its obviousness. It's because it's so out there. It's such an extroverted style, that in the beginning it's really charming and it really draws you in.

Then, I think for people who really get geeky about wines, that style can start to just be a little zany, and a little boring. Then, of course, there's just this added snobbery of, "Oh, I've moved on from that. You know, I like much more sort of toned down, restrained wines." As we're going to talk about one of the wines today, they're not all like that, and they're certainly not all cut from the some cloth.

I mean, I have the good fortune of tasting a lot of them, these days, and there certainly is a style that screams, "New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc" and more specifically, "Marlborough." Then, there are a lot these days that are working out, a lot producers working outside the box, and trying new things, and working with more leaf contact. Aging in oak, or picking at different times. Going less for the pyrazines, and maybe more for a riper style. I really think now, there's a Sauvignon Blanc out there for everybody.

Jameson Fink:       11:03          Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned outside the box, because if you go to winemag.com, you wrote a great article about exploring New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc outside the box. Go check that out.

On that note, I do want to talk about a wine that's included in there, or a producer at least, the second wine, which is the Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, also from Marlborough. Now, this is an organic and biodynamic producer, correct?

Christina P.:          11:27          They are, yes. They are, Clos Henri is actually owned by the Henri Bourgeois family in the Wairau Valley. They have really ... they started their New World Winery in Marlborough, and their, Damien Yvon is their general manager, and their winemaker. He is also from Wairau, so, this is very much French wine making, and French philosophy, transplanted into Marlborough. I think that a lot of what you think of as being really tradition, old school French winemaking, Terroir being the number one focus, really carries over into this winery, and therefore, into these wines.

The Petit Clos is what you, I guess, what they would call their entry level. It's $18, which I think is an incredible bargain for how ... they're fairly small scale, they're definitely small scale compared to some of the really big well-known names. I think that $18 for what is a really, really delicious wine, and is very Terroir expressive, and all of those things, and need. With very minimal intervention, and biodynamically grown fruit, I think is all ... it's a really great package for that price.

Actually touching on that, just a side note, I do think this style is one where if you put in a bit extra money, you really get rewarded. I think all the wines we're talking about today are ... the last one we're going to talk about is a little bit pricier, but Nautilus is I think $17 or $18, this is $18, the Clos Henri. If you put in that ... go into that $15 to $20 range, I think you get a much more ... a huge step up in quality, and a much more interesting wine. This is a really great example of that.

The Petit Clos is a blend of three ... they have three vineyards, with three vineyard sites with very distinctive soils. This is a blend of the Greywacke River Stone, and then they have these clay soils, Broadbridge, and with their clays. This is a blend of those three, and they use things like, a lot of leave stirring, where the leaves being the yeast. They leave the wine in contact with the leaves for a fair amount of time, to get some texture in there. With their top line of Clos Henri wine, which is a single vineyard, they use some oak aging in there, too.

It's a much more subtle line. It's a much more toned down line. I think for people who aren't maybe as into as bold a flavor as some of the more well-known styles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is a really great example of one that is more French in style, but with a little more sunshine, a little more of that New World vibe going on.

Jameson Fink:       14:19          You mentioned oak, which is something I think is interesting in Sauvignon Blanc. Is that something you come across a lot? Like New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that use oak, and if they do, what kind of oak are they using? What kind of program and what does it add to the wine?

Christina P.:          14:32          You see some where they want the oak to be a contributing factor. With Sauvignon Blanc, it's such a bold, crisp wine. It's high acid. It's considered to be a relatively easy summer drink. If they're wanting ... they don't often want a lot of the oak to shine through, 'cause it just clashes with that crisp, summery style. It's not Chardonnay, right? They're not going for that wheatier texture, and they're not trying to get the flavor, 'cause Chardonnay's a relatively subtle grape, in terms of flavor profiles.

The oak would really shine through in a grape like Chardonnay, whereas, I feel like Sauvignon is so extroverted in it's personality already, that to try to add a lot of oak in there, would just fight with the wine. Most people who are using oak, would just be using it more as a textural thing, and just trying to get a little bit more of that creamy mouth weight. Maybe make it more like medium bodied spectrum versus light bodied. It's not typical, so most of the wines you find out there, you won't really see oak at all. It would just be in stainless steel. It'd be just a young, crisp style of just fruit driven, and driven by those herbaceous notes, and not with any of that oak.

Actually the Nautilus, interestingly, going back to that, they use oak in a lot of their wines. I consider them to be pretty classic Marlborough producer. They've been around since 1985. They've been doing it for a long time. They use oak in a way that is, again, just adding texture, and contributing to that fruit concentration. I think that they are not afraid of those secondary, tertiary characters that add complexity. I think that's why i generally, consistently, really like Nautilus, and have liked their wines for a long time. I tend to be a little drawn to wines with a little more weight texture.

Jameson Fink:       16:24          Yeah, when you talk about weight and texture and freshness, and things like that, I think of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as something you drink right away, super fresh. Is it? Is it a wine that can age, if you had aged examples of it, where you're like, "Wow." Like that ... with three or plus years, or something like that. That it's a wine that can development at a certain level?

Christina P.:          16:45          Yeah, for sure. Going back to Clos Henri, I mean, their top wine is one that, for sure, it's just called the Clos, Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc, that is a really good example of one that could definitely age. I mean, you're not going to age them as long as you would age a Cabernet, for example. I think seven to 10 years, some of them could go, the majority are not though. I would assume that they're meant to be drink now wines.

Yeah, certainly some of them that have had a little bit of an oak regime, and again, maybe some leave stirring, trying to go for that texture and restraint. Maybe more of a mineral drive in there. They can age, for sure. They go a little more honeyed, and those really bright fruit flavors start to get a little bit more dried fruit, for example. Or some nutty characteristics in there, as well. Yeah.

Jameson Fink:       17:46          Cool. For the first two wines, they're both from the Marlborough region. I want to move to the third one, which is, we're gonna travel a little in New Zealand, it's the Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Central Otago. I think Central Otago is best known for Pinot Noir. If you could just start by telling me where is the Central Otago in relation to Marlborough, and is it unusual to see Sauvignon Blanc from there?

Christina P.:          18:14          Yes. First of all, Central Otago is southwest of Marlborough, so, we're still on the South Island, here. New Zealand's North Island, South Island. There is wine made on both islands, and unlike here, I know we're conditioned as you go south it gets warmer, we're in southern hemisphere, of course, so going north is where you see the warmer grape varieties, like Merlot, and Cab, you seem them a little bit more, Shiraz up in the Hawk's Bay area, for example.

Down in Central Otago, we're going cooler. You're going south of Marlborough, so, you're going into a little bit cooler climate. It's sort of its own microclimate, and you're right to say that Central Otago is more well-known for Pinot Noir, for sure. This wine is ... most of the fruit is coming from Bendigo, which is sort of a subregion within a subregion. It's one of the warmest, so you will get more of those[pineapple-y, passion fruit flavors from this area. Then a lot of that gunflint mineral, those mineral notes, the herbaceousness as well.

You'll see it occasionally, but definitely Central Otago is more Pinot. This one is, I think, $29 a bottle. They're going for a more premium style. They also farm organically. Yeah, this is a female winemaker, Nadine Cross, who is really talented. She's worked in France, and California, and all over the place.

There's a gram of residual sugar, if you wanted to know that. That's something that you see in Sauvignon Blanc a bit, they'll leave just a little bit of sweetness in there, because the acidity can be so high. Like they do with Riesling, and that gives the perception of more fruitiness, and maybe, softens the acidity a little bit.

Jameson Fink:       20:09          Huh. I didn't ... I'd never knew there was 1% RS in some of my New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. I guess, like you said, it's such a racy grape that it can handle a little touch. We're not talking about sweet.

Christina P.:          20:23          Yes, a tiny bit.

Jameson Fink:       20:23          We're talking just mellow out the zippy acidity.

Christina P.:          20:27          Exactly. It's tiny. Even I often will not detect it, and I might look at the technical notes and just go, "Oh, okay. There was a tiny bit in there. That's probably what's sort of contributing to, maybe a little bit of that feeling of wheatier fruit, or something."

Jameson Fink:       20:42          Then, one last thing I wanted to mention about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is, not necessarily about the wine, but the packaging, as far as screw caps, they wanted to know, New Zealand's been such a pioneer and I think almost all the Sauvignon Blancs you'll see are sealed under a screw cap, and I think their popularity certainly had a lot to do with people accepting screw caps. At least on wines that are more of a drink now, refreshing style of white wine.

Christina P.:          21:07          Yeah, absolutely. Australia, New Zealand, both have been really ahead of the game with screw caps. Now, I mean, I couldn't give you a percentage, but the vast, vast majority are under a screw cap. I think, here in the States we still, a lot of people maybe still have that misconception. I think it's changing a lot, but most of the wines here are still under cork. There's still a little bit of that misconception that if it's screw cap it must not be good quality-wise.

Now, keep in mind that if you're drinking a wine from New Zealand, I could say the same for Australia, that that really doesn't make a difference at all, as a quality. In fact, some of the top wines, even Penfold’s Grange now is doing a lot of their wines under screw caps. That really is not a sign of quality anymore. It's just been a shift, a stylistic shift. I think it's easier. From my perspective, I love it.

Jameson Fink:       21:57          Yeah, I like not even ... you don't need a specialized tool. I mean, corkscrews are great. Love 'em, but I love to use them, but it's nice when you forget one, or don't need one or are traveling and you can just, you know, unscrew it.

Christina P.:          22:08          Your mom could even do it one-handed with the lawnmower.

Jameson Fink:       22:11          She could. You gotta ... My mom mowing the lawn. Thanks for listening to this episode of My Mom Mowing Her Lawn. I'll be sure she listens to it, now.

Christina P.:          22:21          Actually, I'm not at all promoting drinking while using heavy machinery.

Jameson Fink:       22:26          No.

Christina P.:          22:26          We're really that you could open a screw cap with one hand. Actually.

Jameson Fink:       22:29          Right. Right. We're just trying to illustrate the ease of opening screw cap wines.

Christina, thanks for joining me, and talking about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It's nice to talk about it as more than single note, that people are doing interesting things with it, and not just in Marlborough. In other regions, too. It's something you can drink now. It's something you can hold on to, and there's just ... I think it's a more diverse wine than a lot of people have been exposed to. So, thank you.

Christina P.:          22:56          You're welcome. It's been a pleasure.

Jameson Fink:       22:58          And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. Buy the right wine.

The wines we talked about this episode were the Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, the Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, and the Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. If you'd like today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes. Leave a comment. And tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 09 2018

23mins

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Rank #4: 1:5 Why Vermouth Demands and Deserves Respect

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Vermouth is having a revival and getting the respect it deserves. In this episode we speak with Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast's spirits editor. Find out why it belongs as a featured ingredient in your home bar, the diversity of styles and flavors available, and tips on mixing it up.

Vermouths Discussed: 

@3:00 Routin Dry Vermouth  @7:30 Lustau Vermut Blanco  @15:12 Imbue Sweet Vermouth

Transcript

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass.

This episode I'm talking about vermouth with contributing editor, Kara Newman. Kara covers spirits for Wine Enthusiast. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, and it's also got vermouth, which is a wine too.

Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So, I was recently at a bar, not surprising, and I was thinking about vermouth because the person I was with ordered a martini, and the bartender made a big show of pouring a cap full of vermouth, and putting the cap full of vermouth into the glass, swirling it, and then dumping it out, and just said, "This is the most important step in making a martini." So, I wanted to talk to you, Kara, and welcome to the show, about vermouth because I feel like it's still even in this day in age, it's underappreciated, and people aren't enjoying it as much as they should. They're just dumping it out, and that was a criminal, that was a traumatizing moment.

So actually what I want to ask you, Kara, is how do you like vermouth in your martini? What's your play there?

Kara Newman: Well, my go-to is actually a 50/50, so that means equal parts gin and vermouth, and that's actually a lot of vermouth. That's a pretty wet martini. Although, I just like to have it in the martini at all. It's funny that happened to you. The same thing happened to me in Rome. I was appalled to order a martini, and they poured in the dry vermouth and made a big show of shaking it, and then pouring it all out. I was like, "Oh my god, what are you doing? Are you crazy?"

Jameson Fink: It's such a waste. I do like the 50 ... another great thing about a equal parts 50/50 martini too is that you can have a lot more of them, and that's another thing that's nice about vermouth as more of a starring role. And then you've got sort of like the ultimate expression of that, which would be the reverse martini, which would be-

Kara Newman: Right, that was Julia Child's play.

Jameson Fink: Oh really?

Kara Newman: Yeah, I think she was the first person I ever heard of doing a reverse martini, yeah where lots more vermouth and just a splash of gin. Very civilized.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and that's a good drink to have while you're in the kitchen cooking too.

Kara Newman: You know it. She would know it.

Jameson Fink: She would know it, she would know it.

Kara Newman: If Julia says-

Jameson Fink: Yeah. And also the thing with vermouth is that we're seeing kind of an explosion of small batch crafted type of vermouth's from all over the country and all over the world, and I think we have so many more available to us now, and also with different flavors and types.

So, the first wine I wanted to talk to you about, and vermouth is a wine, it's just fortified-

Kara Newman: Correct. Fortified, aromatized, correct.

Jameson Fink: Aromatized and fortified. God, that sounds so cool. It's a French vermouth. It's the Routin dry vermouth, 91 points, best buy, and what are people doing with vermouth in France? I mean, I don't even know what's the tradition of vermouth there? Are there certain ingredients that they use that's kind of like a signature? Or is it just kind of it's anything goes, whatever you want to use?

Kara Newman: Well, traditionally you only heard about French vermouth or Italian vermouth and there were no other vermouth's out there in the universe for years and years and years. And recently we've had more of an explosion where we've seen vermouth, as you said, from all over the world.

But the Routin, the one that you mentioned, that one's more of an alpine vermouth and it has more botanicals, more of those beautiful herbs and flowers, and they even have bitter almonds listed in their botanical list. They really have this beautiful alpine sensibility.

Jameson Fink: Now is it rare to ... I think like a lot of those things it would be like a closely guarded secret-

Kara Newman: Oh, you know it.

Jameson Fink: ... do you see, like obviously there's some things that they're not listing, but do you find more people are just like, "Hey, we're gonna let you know what some of the flavorings we use to make this vermouth."

Kara Newman: Every now and then you see ... You're absolutely right, it's definitely held close to the vest. I mean, sometimes I think it's because it's a secret, sometimes I think it's because they change it pretty frequently, and it might be based on what's available.

But I'm not sure that there's really a ... I'm trying to think if there's anyone who's really giving their full list of botanicals. Usually you just see a number if they talk about it at all.

Jameson Fink: Right, like the secrets herbs and spices.

Kara Newman: Exactly. Very KFC.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. And then this vermouth is a dry vermouth, and you mentioned in your review that it's martini material, so what is ... I mean, there's different kinds of vermouth, but so if I'm shopping, do I want to look for like, okay, I'm making martinis, I want a dry vermouth?

Kara Newman: Well, for martinis, I would usually go for a white vermouth as opposed to a red vermouth. I think dry vermouth is lovely in a martini and can be very crisp. It goes really well with gin. I'm also a fan of Blanc vermouth, which are a little more oxidized. They have a bit more of like a honey note, and there certainly are a growing number of Blancs and Blancos out there. But yeah, dry would probably be my go-to for that perfect classic martini profile.

Jameson Fink: And what about too, we've talked a little bit about oh vermouth, you mix it, you put it as ingredients in things, what about drinking vermouth solo, like just on the rocks with a twist? Is that something that's becoming more popular or do people still look at vermouth as like, oh vermouth is just, it's an ingredient, it doesn't stand on its own?

Kara Newman: I'm seeing a lot of vermouth and tonics.

Jameson Fink: Oh okay.

Kara Newman: Yeah, that's sort of a Spanish tradition, and every now and then I'll see a vermouth tonic. That's very refreshing. Vermouth, tonic, a nice curl of citrus peel. Oh, it can be so good. A little tapas on the side-

Jameson Fink: And then that's kind of too with this trend of ... which is great about vermouth, it's got so much flavor, but it doesn't pack the punch alcohol-wise that vodka or gin or something like that would too. Is that also maybe helping revitalize vermouth that people are trying to make these more kind of culinary cocktails or things that are ... you can have a few more of them rather than just one giant stiff martini that's 100% vodka?

Kara Newman: Well, we are definitely seeing a trend toward lower alcohol cocktails, what people call session cocktails. You can hang out and have them over a session. And vermouth forward cocktails are definitely a huge part of that. The Bamboo, the Adonis, those are two cocktails that are literally nothing but vermouth, like two different kinds of vermouth. Vermouth, sherry, all kinds of lower alcohol cocktails are definitely on the forefront right now.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, no doubt. And then actually, this is great because we're not just talking about vermouth, we're drinking some vermouth, and the second wine I found really interesting because I know Lustau is a great sherry producer, and I was really excited to see that they now have a vermouth, at least it's new to me, and this is the Lustau Vermouth Blanco, 94 points, and it's a sherry-based vermouth made from fino and sweetened with Muscatel wine. It's really good. And is this more of that oxidized style that you were just talking about?

Kara Newman: Yeah, this one's definitely Blanco. This is actually two of my favorite trends of vermouth right now.

Jameson Fink: Uh-huh, in one bottle.

Kara Newman: In one bottle. Because I mean, I love the Blancos, and those I will drink straight up. Just a little ice is really all I need. But there's also a trend toward ... trendlet, toward more sherry-based vermouth's. There are I think three or four on the market right now, and this one, Lustau was actually the first one out to my knowledge ... and it's so good.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it's really delicious. I mean, it's really ... I mean, you can smell sort of the beautiful grapes, but then it's got that kind of oxidized character too. I mean, it's really good. It's just good. I mean, we're just drinking this on its own and it's pretty damn good.

Kara Newman: No, it's nice. I mean, it's got that honey, it has floral characteristics. I mean, a bit of chamomile. It's just really pretty and drinkable.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes, it's pretty and drinkable, absolutely. So it seems like the dry vermouth is the classic martini vermouth, but what do you like to do besides just enjoying it on its own or with maybe a little soda or something like that? What do you like to do with this as far as cocktails go?

Kara Newman: I think Blancos are really nice with anything that has a bit of citrus to it. I was playing around with kind of a gimlet martini mashup over the weekend, and I was trying to make a lemon cordial that I then combined with some gin and some Blanco vermouth, and it was really quite nice.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kara Newman: You're looking very skeptical.

Jameson Fink: Oh no, no. I'm just thinking, I'm just imagining you in your home ... like I'm thinking of this like drinks lab, and you kind of like, "Oh, today I'm gonna make a cordial." It just sounds really charming and intriguing. I mean, yeah, a lot of work goes into this stuff, right?

Kara Newman: Sometimes. This was ... let's call it a quick cordial. It was not exactly high maintenance. It was more or less simple syrup with lemon, and it was nice. It was very sunshiny, it was yellow. It went really well with the blanco and a little gin. I think next time I do it I might even do it with vodka. We won't tell.

Jameson Fink: Okay, no, not at all. And so cordial is, what is a cordial?

Kara Newman: It's just a sugar syrup. It's just a fancy word for that.

Jameson Fink: Oh, okay, it's like simple syrup, but it has fancier name.

Kara Newman: Yeah, you hear a lot about lime cordial for gimlets.

Jameson Fink: Uh-huh, cordial, well it sounds so cordial.

Kara Newman: No, but it was fun. Personally, I think you can do just about anything with a blanco. It's so versatile. I think it works well with whiskeys as well. Usually that's just the province of sweet vermouth, but I think that blanco really just spans categories, defies categories.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So when you walk into bars, I mean, we're in New York, it's an amazing city for cocktails. Are you seeing a lot more selection and variety of vermouth's on the shelf, or is it still just like we have the sweet vermouth and we have the dry vermouth, and that's it? And you don't know how old the bottles are.

Kara Newman: Well, it depends where you are. I think we're seeing a little more variety than we used to. Every now and then I'll see an amber vermouth, and those are quite good too. They're even more oxidized. Once in a blue moon I'll see a rosé vermouth, and I get very excited about those.

Jameson Fink: I would think, yeah, I would think there would be a ton of just ... 'cause there's rosé everything now. The popularity of rosé wine, there's rosé cider, there's rosé gin?

Kara Newman: There is. There is, yeah.

Jameson Fink: Okay, yeah, I think I've seen that too. Yeah, and cider ... if anything can be made like with a pink, pale Provencal color, it's being done. But that's pretty cool with vermouth. What do you do with a rosé vermouth?

Kara Newman: I think it probably would work very well in any kind of ... I mean, I keep going back to gin just 'cause I want everything with gin. That's just my go-to this time of year, but I think it probably would be really lovely on its own. It really wouldn't need much embellishment at all. I think it would be really nice with anything with kind of a grapefruit, I think kind of a tequila would be really nice, a rosé vermouth tequila grapefruit concoction, like a Palomaesque kind of thing.

Jameson Fink: Oh, I love a Paloma. I had a Paloma yesterday.

Kara Newman: Nice.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it's one of my favorite drinks.

Kara Newman: Oh, okay, cool.

Jameson Fink: All these flavor notes of vermouth, especially blanco vermouth, I mean, does it kind of remind you of gin in a way, botanically? Or do you think there's similarities?

Kara Newman: here can be. I'm nodding, no one can see me. I think that a lot of the language is the same. You talk about botanicals in both of them, and I think there are definitely some common botanicals in both of them, like we were talking about the Routin, I know they use juniper, which is also typically a gin botanical. But they also are ... in vermouth there are bittering agents that you don't find in most gins. It really would be just too intensely bitter I think to drink.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kara Newman: And that gives vermouth a nice gently bitter undertone, that would be really unpleasant I think in a standard spirit.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, the other thing I want to talk about is your books. You've written a lot of books.

Kara Newman: Yeah, it's a compulsion.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, so your most current one is Road Soda, which I think is really fun. Actually, can you just explain what Road Soda is about?

Kara Newman: Yeah, yeah, sure. It is all about drinking well on the road, so good things to make and drink in hotel rooms, on planes, on trains, on camping trips, the great outdoors.

Jameson Fink: Like what's a good example of something, like one of your favorites that's really innovative or fun ... or I guess it's all about being resourceful. Like what are some resourceful ways to make cocktails on the road when you're not at a bar?

Kara Newman: Well, one of my favorite chapters in the book is all about drinks to batch and put into flasks.

Jameson Fink: Okay.

Kara Newman: I think the flask is definitely an underrated cocktail tool-

Jameson Fink: Underrated.

Kara Newman: ... and I definitely love being able to pre-batch drinks, like Negronis or a gin and tonic, or any kind of vermouth drink.

Jameson Fink: Like to take to the movies or the park or all of the above?

Kara Newman: All of the above.

Jameson Fink: Of course, you're obeying all the laws of drinking in public and bringing things-

Kara Newman: Of course, of course.

Jameson Fink: ... but yeah, no that's really fun. What's a good drink to batch?

Kara Newman: I think anything in the old fashioned family works really, really well. Anything that doesn't include citrus I think works particularly well. So any kind of combination ... For me, the Black Manhattan I think is the ultimate. So, whiskey, sweet vermouth, some Amaro in there, maybe a drop or two of orange bitters or Angostura bitters, and then just cap it up and toss it in the freezer.

Jameson Fink: That sounds really good, and you worked vermouth into it, which I think is really great.

Kara Newman: Oh hey, I didn't even mean to do that.

Jameson Fink: But you did, but you did. And then speaking of a sweet vermouth, the last one I want to talk about is Imbue sweet vermouth, 90 points, and that's from Oregon. I remember ... I have a vermouth story.

So, when I was working at a wine shop in Seattle, one of our sales reps, he was like ... we have this room where we taste wine, it was kind of like our break room, and he's like, "Okay, and I have one more thing for you to taste." He was like, "It's a vermouth," and we were all like, "Ew, I don't want to taste a vermouth." We were all just like wine, you know, I mean, vermouth's a wine, but you know what I mean, we were like, "I only want to taste red wine and white wine and champagne and sparkling wine."

And he was really indignant. I mean, he wasn't a jerk about it, he's just like, "All right, I'm not leaving here until all of you taste this vermouth, and I guarantee you you're gonna love it." And it was Imbue, and it was really good. We were just blown away by it. And for me also, it was an introduction to ... that people in Oregon are making vermouth too, which I thought was super cool as well.

But this is a sweet vermouth, which I think is really interesting because, I mean I guess the classic application for a sweet vermouth would be a Manhattan, right?

Kara Newman: Right.

Jameson Fink: So, what else can you do with sweet vermouth, and is it really that sweet? It's not like super sweet. It's still got some bitterness to it.

Kara Newman: I don't think it's that sweet at all-

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Kara Newman: ... I mean, sometimes I think everything should be re-categorized so it's red vermouth or white vermouth, and sometimes I deliberately try to refer to them that way, which is not standard and not done, but yeah, you're exactly right. Sweet vermouth is not terribly sweet at all. I do like the Imbue. I think they're just so sincere also. There's a certain earnestness to this particular brand that I enjoy.

Jameson Fink: It's very pacific northwest.

Kara Newman: I guess so, yeah.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it seems very Portland-ish.

Kara Newman: And they're using a lot of local ingredients. They're using ... I believe they're using Willamette Valley wines and I know they're fortifying their wine with eau de vie from Clear Creek, and they're a local producer of brandy's and other spirits. They just seem like very well-meaning and they make a good product.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I also like the Petal and Thorn. Have you had that?

Kara Newman: Yeah.

Jameson Fink: That is rosé color.

Kara Newman: Yeah, I mean that sort of feels more like a Campariesque kind of ... a [Parativo 00:17:31]. But also a wine-base, and very, very drinkable.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I haven't had the sweet wine or the red one. Yeah, I like that. Maybe we should just ban, just stop calling it sweet vermouth. I think like anything, people hear the word sweet and they automatically go to a dark place. I enjoy sweet things, chocolate-

Kara Newman: Same, same.

Jameson Fink: ... all kinds of sweets. Sweet sweets, so yeah, I agree that sweet is a ... well, it's just a loaded word, and especially in the world of wine and spirits too, that people automatically think like, "Oh, it's sweet-"

Kara Newman: Because something's been added and-

Jameson Fink: Right, or it's just for dessert or something like that. Do you look at ... I guess when you're thinking about sweet vermouth and a manhattan, but do you look at vermouth in general as a category, as like, oh it's just an apéritif wine, or does it depend on if you're having it alone or in a cocktail?

Kara Newman: I think of vermouth as being an ingredient. I don't know that I think of it as being an apéritif category. Maybe it should be, but I don't think it's typically consumed alone or as a precursor to a meal unless it's mixed into something else. Maybe that's something that should change.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I mean, I love the idea ... One of my favorite summer cocktails, along those lines, is a white port and soda or tonic with just a twist, a citrus twist. It's the same kind of philosophy. It's like, lower alcohol, it's got a ton of flavor, and it's really refreshing ... and it's really easy to make too. I think that's the nice thing about vermouth too is that it can be one small component of something, or it can just be like, hey, all you need to do is just [glug 00:19:15] some into a glass of ice, top it off with some soda or tonic, and add some citrus, and boom, you're done.

Kara Newman: Absolutely.

Jameson Fink: And you don't even need to like, oh, like X number of ounces of this and that. Just kind of, you know-

Kara Newman: No, just eyeball it.

Jameson Fink: ... eyeball it, yeah. Yeah, I think maybe it's hard. Well, you write a lot of cocktail recipes too. I mean, sometimes it's kind of a relief to just tell people like, you know, you can just kinda eyeball it, and it's not like a cocktail that requires 20 ingredients or 30 steps and eyedroppers of this, and you know, bar spoons of that.

Kara Newman: I think a vermouth highball, a white port highball, I think all of these just sound wonderful. Yeah, just put some into your glass, glug it up with a little bit of sparkling, and if you feel like some bitters, put in some bitters. If you feel like some citrus, put in some citrus.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You can be having ... it's like a hot summer day and you just have a little on the rocks with some soda, a little citrus, it can be part of a classic drink like a martini or a manhattan, and it can be a little bit of everything in between. It's an underrated ingredient, and it's really cool to explore it from all over the country and all over the world in many guises and flavors.

So, thank you for joining us, Kara.

Kara Newman: My pleasure.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we talked about today are: The Routin Dry Vermouth, Lustau Vermouth Blanco, and the Imbue Sweet Vermouth. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 23 2018

21mins

Play

Rank #5: 1:11 Chilean Wine is a Showcase of Vast Variety and Surprising Styles

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Moving beyond workhorse bottles, you'll find a country full of distinct regions and a broad range of grapes. Explore Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and find out whether or not Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile's best red grape. A Carménère conversation looks at its sometimes polarizing flavors and considers the grape's place in Chilean wine. Befitting a nation with huge coastline, seafood and its natural partner in Sauvignon Blanc get a nod as well.

Wines discussed:

@3:56 Valdivieso 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari Syrah (Limarí Valley)

@8:05 Undurraga 2015 T.H. Terroir Hunter Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley)

@15:00 Maquis 2011 Franco Cabernet Franc (Colchagua Valley)

Transcript:

Jameson: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at Chilean wines with Michael Schachner, who covers and reviews wines from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time. Including delicious Chilean wines. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites. And stock up at vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So a couple of months ago I met with a Chilean winemaker, Rodrigo Soto of Veramonte and more wineries, too. And we had an early morning conversation. Had coffee, it was very nice. No wine, it was like 8:30 in the morning. Maybe a little too early for wine, except for maybe sparkling. But that's a story for another day. But it was a really candid chat and I appreciated him talking about issues that Chilean wine faces in the United States and sort of the challenges that it has.

And one of the things I thought that was interesting that I wanted to talk about with you, Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael: Hey, thanks, Jameson.

Jameson: Chile has this reputation wine-wise of just being this like value center, like value. Like 10 dollar wines and things like that. And one of the things we talked about is the challenge of people, you know, who are gonna spend 30, 40, 50 and more dollars on a bottle of wine to consider Chile as a source of those wines, which it certainly has. Do you see it as a challenge that Chile has to face? There are amazing values there, but now it's almost to its detriment as far as people trading up.

Michael: I mean, Chile certainly built its reputation in the Western world with value wines. But that was like from a different era. More of a 1980s, especially a 1990s phenomenon, back when there really was quality wine being produced for under $10. But Chile has since then gone to probably one of the most organized and best-accessible tier systems of any of the New World producers, any of the major wine producing countries in the world. Chile I think is the seventh-largest wine producer in the world.

And while probably a good chunk, 50% or more, of what they produce is still in that value category, you can go at multiple levels on top of that. You can go to a value plus level very quickly. High teens, low 20s. You can then go to what I consider to be what they do at their best. And that's a mid-tier plus luxury minus. And these are wines in the 30 to 40 dollar price range that you just talked about. And then they have their high-priced iconic wines, which they are modeled after California, Bordeaux, Italy, places that have had plenty of success with $100 and up wines. Chile has those, they struggle to sell them.

Jameson: Well, I think that's our notion as wine drinks of value is also, value doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive, too. I mean, actually the three wines we're gonna talk about today are all in the $30 to $35 range. And I think when you start spending, you can still talk about value when you talk about wines that are over $10 or $15 or $20.

Michael: Yeah, no. One of the great things about Chile is that they can deliver superb wines. Wines that rate 90 plus in this kind of mid-tier plus range. The economies of scale work for them. Larger vineyards, a cheaper workforce than, say, in the heart of Napa or in France or in Italy. And so it works to their advantage. They're able to extract a lot of quality and hence the consumer, you, me and anybody else, can receive a lot of good value at wines that are 20, 25, 30, 35.

Jameson: So the first wine I want to talk about is Syrah. It's the Valdevieso, 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Crew Limari Syrah, it's a mouthful. The first thing I wanted to ask you ... Editor's Choice, 92 points. The first thing I wanted to ask you about that wine, is Syrah, Syrah is something that I don't really expect from Chile, or know that much about. Is this a rising star? Or have they been making it really notably for a while?

Michael: No, I wouldn't say that they've been making it notably for that long. It's a great variety that came in when I would say in the modern era. These are wineries and winemakers that have evolved from a basis of Cabernet, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère. And then there's been a lot of experimentation. Chile has a terroir and a layout that's very similar to the west coast of North America. The north is very desert like, so that would be your Baja, California, San Diego area. Then you come into the southerly lake region. That would be like the northwest. And then you have that cut in the middle. And that to me reminds me very much of California. And so the same way California has had success and the ability to grow a multitude of grapes due to very kind, sun rich weather. Chile's very much the same. Especially in its central valleys. Limari is an area up north, it's an area that was known mostly for fruit production. And maybe growing grapes that were produced into Pisco. But winemakers started to understand that there's some limestone up there. There's coastal influences, and that maybe they could produce something in the vein of a cool climate type of wine.

Chardonnay was planted up there, some Sauvignon Blanc as well, and Syrah. To try to capture a more oceanic style. Sauvignon Blanc didn't fare well, but the Syrah in Limari, although not a lot produced, I have found to be really excellent. It's a leaner, more structured style, but still gets enough son to be ripe. It's not tomato-y or green. It's more full bodied, but it just has something that gives it a unique character. Maybe it's those limestone soils. I'm not sure, but this one's an interesting one. Caballo Loco, the crazy horse. Valdivieso is one of the more traditional wineries in Chile. It's been around for a while, but they have explored different regions, they've explored different grape types, I would call them a more progressive type of larger winery.

Caballo Loco has always been there catch all type of wine. Named after one of the owners of the company, who exhibited tendencies of being a crazy horse. He was a let's do this, let's do that, we can do this, we can do that. So he always had a wine named after him, Caballo Loco. And for a long time it was a mystery blend. It was generally speaking Cabernet Sauvignon, but they would never tell you the vintage, they might blend a few years here and there.

They've expanded a little bit with Caballo Loco, to include this Grand Reservo variety thing, and it's again supposed to imply that this is a weird off the grid type of wine, not something you're going to see a lot of. There really are only a couple of producers of Syrah in Limari, and Valdivieso is one of them.

Jameson: And where, just to orient myself, if I fly into Santiago, I mean how far away are we from the Limari valley?

Michael: Limari is actually a bit remote. I would put it up in that northern quadrant of the country. It's very dry, it's where the Atacama Desert meets the ocean in it's most southerly area. You would go to the coastal city or La Serena, that's where you would go to get to the Limari valley. You can fly there, or I think it's roughly about a six hour drive from Santiago straight north on the ocean, and I've been up there once before. It's pretty remote, but it's cool, and just like the whole Pacific Coastline there, it's really quite beautiful.

Jameson: And let's move on from Syrah, and talk about a grape that's maybe more well known in Chile. And that's Cabernet Sauvignon. So the second wine I want to talk about is the Unduragga, 2015 Terroir Hunter, Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon, 91 points. First of all what is this Terroir Hunter series of wines all about?

Michael: Unduragga, I can give you a little bit of background on them as well. Unduragga, that's a very big name in Chilean wine. The Unduragga family founded Unduragga, probably three, maybe four generations ago. It was one of the early family owned wineries in the Maipo Valley. They sold to a multi faceted business man, about ten years ago. And obviously acquired the brand name, that was important. And Unduragga has continued to produce a large amount of wine, but also some really interesting wines. Their most interesting are in the Tey Hachey, TH series, Terroir Hunter. And this is where their winemaker, a really cool progressive young guy, good friend of Rodrigo Soto. And a guy that I've loved to work with a lot, love to quote, love to meet with when I'm in Chile, or when he comes to New York. His name is Rafael Urrejola. And Rafa is a really good winemaker. Comfortable in various different varieties. Makes good Pinot Noir, makes some good Syrah, has been very involved in reclaiming the old vines of the south, down in Maule and Etota, so you get some Canyon, and some Malbec's, under this series. So it's usually older vineyards from various specific Terroir's within Chile, and there giving light to this.

Going to Cabernet, is obviously the prime variety for Chile. It's what it's known for, and this wine comes from Pirque, which is a real, super good Cabernet zone. It's in the Maipo Valley, it's only about 20 miles outside of Santiago. Foothills of the Andes, can see the mountains from there. It's right on the edges of the Maipo river, and it's so alluvial, if you just go down a couple feet into the ground, nothing but gigantic rocks. And this is become the prime zone, basically call it the left bank, or the heart of the Napa Valley of Chilean Cabernet production.

Jameson: So is Cabernet Sauvignon, is that Chile's best grape? Best red grape?

Michael: Well I'm not so sure it's the best, it's definitely the one that's grown the most, it's the most prominent one. We talked about the value wines at the beginning. For Chile was able to produce a lot of pretty good, very nice, drinkable Cabernet in the $8, $10 range. It's harder for them to do that now with international pricing and just where everything's going.

Cabernet likes dry, sunny, coastal weather. Same reason there's tons of Cabernet in California. There's tons of Cabernet in Chile. But there are some really good specific areas that get away from simple, industrial production, and give you some real grapes of character. Pirque is one of them.

Jameson: And then what's up with Carménère, as far as it's status today? I know a lot of people, they've got this stereotype of, oh it's all, it's green, it's vegetal, blah blah blah. But is that the case now?

Michael: Carménère has its tendencies. Its suicidal tendencies. It's a grape that was originally from Bordeaux, never replanted after the Phylloxera plague of the 19th century there, because it was just prone to greenness. And that was in a "cool climate". Chile being a little sunnier, a little warmer, having a higher heat index, and a higher sun index than Bordeaux, has had the ability to ripen Carménère better. Carménère is a signature grape if you will, simply because I think 98% of the world's Carménère is in Chile. For a long time people thought it was Merlot. Green tasting, herbal Merlot. It just has a lot of pyrazines. And it's very difficult to get that out of the grapes. There are now ways of going for max ripeness, then trying to maybe acidify the wine back into balance. It's not my favorite style, but that's what you see. It's the big sort of here we are, iconic Carménère level. And then Carménère at that inexpensive level, large crop, high economies of scale for the winery. That's not really one of my favorite wines.

Jameson: Yeah, I like those green, herbal flavors. They're polarizing, it's like Sauvignon Blanc, some people love it.

Michael: Cabernet Franc.

Jameson: Some people can't stand it. But I like those flavors, and I think they are to me part of the grape, in trying to blow it up and blow it out. And obscure that to me does a disservice.

Michael: Yeah but the feedback in Chile, is a very feedback oriented country. Being located where they are and exporting so much of their product. It's only 17 million people in the entire country. And it's not a really huge wine drinking country, despite the fact that they produce so much, and it's one of their top six industries. So they have to export a lot, I think the feedback around the world is, your Carménère's interesting, and we understand it's your signature grape and that you do it more than anybody else, but that doesn't mean we love it. I think you're a little more experimental than the average wine drinker.

Jameson: Right, I'm the middle aged, natty wine, Brooklyn hipster drinker. So my demo isn't.

Michael: ou might a liquid weed patch.

Jameson: Yeah, exactly, I love that. Bring on the full on green pepper. Poor it into a hallowed out green pepper and I'll drink it.

Michael: You get the bell pepper surprise, you can get that. So yeah. But you know what? Even Cabernet Sauvignon, and there is this typical Chilean character which there is a lot of mint, and menthol, and Eucalyptus, and tea, and tobacco, and these types of flavors and aromas, that work there way into the grape. And true Chilean Cabernet is pretty unique too. It may have the power and the structure, the smooth tannins of a Napa wine, or may have the age ability of a Bordeaux, but it's also, if you taste it blind ... And I've done a bunch of these top Cabernet's from around the world, they stick out. And it's generally speaking a little bit of that greenness. And just must be in the water.

Jameson: Yeah. And again, those are to me, when I drink Cabernet, when I want great Cabernet, I want a little bit of those green herbal minty, Eucalyptus things. But again that's just me, and I'm an outlier. Just an outlier.

Hey we'll be back to the show very shortly, but since you're here, I know you're already a fine of wine podcasts, why don't you check out our other show called, The Wine Enthusiast Podcast, download it wherever you get podcasts.

So the third wine is a Cabernet Franc. It's the Maquis 2011 Franco, Cabernet Franc, Colchagua Valley, 92 points, seller selection. So for a herbal wine loving guy like me, is this Cabernet Franc going to make me happy? Or is it going to make me disappointed?

Michael: This one might not be your wine Jameson, but it might be again, in tune with the global pallette. It's not a green, spicy, leafy version like you might get from the Loire Valley.

Jameson: Right.

Michael: Or that you might get in a cool year Bordeaux from Saint-Émilion. Or even a left bank wine with a fair amount of Cab Franc in it. It is more, probably in tune with the "International full bodied red style". But I like it in the sense that, Chile can be a little bit cool for Cab Franc, and some of the Cab Franc's that I have tasted down there have been really leafy, really highly herbal. They could fool you for being Carménère. This one comes from a cooler vintage, in the Colchagua Valley, that's an area we haven't spoken about yet. It's a really, I would say it's probably Chile's most, prototypical contained wine valley.

I've described it in my articles, as resembling a small Napa. You've got hillsides on both sides, a river running through the middle of the valley heading out to the ocean, coastal influences. Warm, warm valley. And known for red wines. Maquis has there vineyards hidden down by the river. It's one of the cooler areas of the Colchagua Valley. And so they get a little more character. The Franco, is a double play on words. Obviously it's for the Cab Franc, but it's also a wine planted on its own rootstocks. So it's Pie Franco. It's not grafted, it's not an old vineyard taken over. It's a vineyard planted several decades ago. And it was planted on it's own stocks to Cab Franc.

I think it's a ... Really, we're talking about wines that are tasted blind here. And so we're not ... When some of the characteristics that I talk about, and the point total. And the fact that, gave it an Editors Choice, Seller Selection, saying this wine can age. That's what impressed me in the tasting. Not so much it's, oh I can varietally peg this as Cab Franc.

You, as a Cab Franc lover with an affinity for green, Finks an Irish name, so.

Jameson: Yeah, Eileen Kelly, my mom. Super Irish, Jameson my first name.

Michael: Exactly, so. Being a man of green, kelly green in this case. You probably might want a little more of that character in it, just so it reminds you of a nice Bourgeois, or Chinon or something. But it's just not going to do that. It's going to be a Chilean version, warm valley, fuller bodied type of wine. But I think very interesting. And one that can actually sit nicely with Cabernet Sauvignon, or any of the better, full bodied red wines that Chile produces.

So it's one that I've always like. I think Maquis done one of the more consistently good Cab Franc's in all of Chile.

Jameson: Yeah, and I just noticed it was a 2011 vintage. So it's already got a few years of age on it.

Michael: Exactly.

Jameson: So that bodes really well, especially with your 92 point review.

And I want to touch on some other red grapes. What's a rising star, or maybe something that's been neglected, now is being revitalized, is Pais a big deal?

Michael: Pais is a big deal in the regions where it comes from. That's mostly the southern regions where the old vineyards, that are dry farmed. And have either been barely tended to, neglected, reclaimed. That's where Pais comes from. That's the old mission grape. It's the old country grape. It's grape that was used for jug wines. And wine sold at the market for filling out bulk wine in everything.

There's a movement to reclaim it. And to make it, can be done in a fun, natural way. I think for the nat wine funkster type, I think Pais is probably your very best bet. And the wineries and winemakers that are working with it tend to really fulfill that whole narrative.

But my favorite obscure grapes, also largely from the old vineyards of the south. Areas like Maule and Etota, are the two C's. Carignan and Cinsaut, all grapes that were brought over from France in the 19th century, largely forgotten and neglected. Used just for bulk wine, co-op wine, these types of things. And now people are saying wow, Priorat in Spain is known for Carignan, other areas of Spain are known for Carignan. There's Carignan in the South of France. And it's a racy, red fruit style wine for the most part. It's got good tension, can be made in a fuller bodied oak style. It can be done in a more restrained, leaner style. So I like that. And Cinsaut another French grape that you see very little, is from the South of France, used in Rosé and things like that throughout Provence, and the lower Rome Valley. Is being done in a fresh, light bodied, Bougelet style. I think you would really like it.

Jameson: Yeah, right up my alley.

Michael: Yup. I think Rafael has a TH, a Terroir Hunter Etota Valley Cinsaut. There's a couple other winemakers in the country that are making it in clay amphora, or in neutral cement eggs to try to really give the off root, all history, all terroir, no oak, very little manipulation. Interesting wines and very small production. Small distribution, but they're out there in small numbers. I really like those two oddball grapes.

Jameson: And then finally, I would be remiss if we didn't touch on white wine. I've had a lot of, I guess my introduction to Chile was probably Sauvignon Blanc, because I love Sauvignon Blanc, and I found really great Sauvignon Blanc, really tasty coastal type of wines. And I'm starting to have some really good Chardonnay's too. What's the state of white wine in Chile right now?

Michael: Well, it's an interesting question Jameson, because in Chile, hands down the best type of cuisine, food, comes from the ocean. Comes from the Pacific.

Jameson: Yeah.

Michael: 4,000 miles of coastline. Gigantic fishing industry. Shellfish, crab, octopus, you name it. Anything that's in the Pacific Ocean, they pull out, and it's much better than the steaks. You want steak, go to Argentina.

Jameson: Right.

Michael: Or go to Uruguay, even go to Brazil. In Chile eat the seafood. So what do you want to drink with good seafood? White wine. Mostly though I've found that for a long time it was about quaffability, and fitting what they thought were norms. They weren't natural white wine producers, so they were trying to match styles. Chardonnay, for a long time was lost in the Chilean forests, with poor oak, overripe fruit. So you got the flat, melonny, banana ball, with a lot of oak. Some of it real, some of it fake. Really not a great way of putting a Chardonnay foot forward.

Jameson: No it sounds very [crosstalk 00:23:06].

Michael: Sauvignon Blanc, got a lot of credit for being this coastal, fresh type of thing. I think it was a little bit premature, a little bit overrated. It led to some overproduction of Sauvignon Blanc. And also, I think just a flooding of the market. And I think it needs to be reevaluated. Made in smaller quantities, because there's too much Sauvignon Blanc competition. It's not as popular a grape type as we would like it to be. Or think that it might be.

Sauvignon Blanc, yeah everybody drinks it. No not really.

Jameson: Yeah, it's polarizing. It's a flavor profile.

Michael: Not really, and I think that it's only 2% of the wine market in the United States. So you have this impression that, "Oh, I bet everybody's drinking Sauvignon Blanc". Not so. Chile I think, they have good coastal Sauvignon Blanc, but it runs the risk of being repetitive, and this zesty, quaffable, screw cap type of wine. Chill it, kill it. But there are a few that are, again where the vineyard matters. Where the winemaker's doing more with the grapes than simply just picking and popping them into a tank. There could be some work with cement. There might be a minute amount of barrel aging going on in there. And these wines I do find interesting. I find that they drink better on the spot. And with the local food maybe than as an export wine.

But I'm glad you brought up Chardonnay, because I they're really improving it. Getting away from that over the top, blowsy, not necessarily well made, artificial style. And going with a little bit more of a Burgundian higher acid, and site specific. Trying to stay near the coastline, Casablanca Valley. You don't find hardly any Maipo, or Maule Valley. None of the internal, central valleys they've pretty much taken the white wine out of those valleys. Moved them close to the ocean. That's a good move.

Jameson: Yeah, well I think it's a good move to explore everything that Chile has to offer. Don't be afraid to get into that $30, $40 range or higher if you can. But there's still great, easy drinking wines and old vines to explore. And fuller style. There's just a little bit of everything. So I think we should all be drinking more wine from Chile. And Michael thank you for being on the show.

Michael: Good deal Jameson, great.

Jameson: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we discussed today were the Valdevieso, 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Crew Limari Syrah. Unduragga, 2015 Terroir Hunter, Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon. And the Maquis 2011 Franco, Cabernet Franc. Find What We're Tasting, on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Checkout Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Sep 03 2018

26mins

Play

1:11 Chilean Wine is a Showcase of Vast Variety and Surprising Styles

Podcast cover
Read more

Moving beyond workhorse bottles, you'll find a country full of distinct regions and a broad range of grapes. Explore Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and find out whether or not Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile's best red grape. A Carménère conversation looks at its sometimes polarizing flavors and considers the grape's place in Chilean wine. Befitting a nation with huge coastline, seafood and its natural partner in Sauvignon Blanc get a nod as well.

Wines discussed:

@3:56 Valdivieso 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari Syrah (Limarí Valley)

@8:05 Undurraga 2015 T.H. Terroir Hunter Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley)

@15:00 Maquis 2011 Franco Cabernet Franc (Colchagua Valley)

Transcript:

Jameson: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at Chilean wines with Michael Schachner, who covers and reviews wines from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time. Including delicious Chilean wines. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites. And stock up at vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So a couple of months ago I met with a Chilean winemaker, Rodrigo Soto of Veramonte and more wineries, too. And we had an early morning conversation. Had coffee, it was very nice. No wine, it was like 8:30 in the morning. Maybe a little too early for wine, except for maybe sparkling. But that's a story for another day. But it was a really candid chat and I appreciated him talking about issues that Chilean wine faces in the United States and sort of the challenges that it has.

And one of the things I thought that was interesting that I wanted to talk about with you, Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael: Hey, thanks, Jameson.

Jameson: Chile has this reputation wine-wise of just being this like value center, like value. Like 10 dollar wines and things like that. And one of the things we talked about is the challenge of people, you know, who are gonna spend 30, 40, 50 and more dollars on a bottle of wine to consider Chile as a source of those wines, which it certainly has. Do you see it as a challenge that Chile has to face? There are amazing values there, but now it's almost to its detriment as far as people trading up.

Michael: I mean, Chile certainly built its reputation in the Western world with value wines. But that was like from a different era. More of a 1980s, especially a 1990s phenomenon, back when there really was quality wine being produced for under $10. But Chile has since then gone to probably one of the most organized and best-accessible tier systems of any of the New World producers, any of the major wine producing countries in the world. Chile I think is the seventh-largest wine producer in the world.

And while probably a good chunk, 50% or more, of what they produce is still in that value category, you can go at multiple levels on top of that. You can go to a value plus level very quickly. High teens, low 20s. You can then go to what I consider to be what they do at their best. And that's a mid-tier plus luxury minus. And these are wines in the 30 to 40 dollar price range that you just talked about. And then they have their high-priced iconic wines, which they are modeled after California, Bordeaux, Italy, places that have had plenty of success with $100 and up wines. Chile has those, they struggle to sell them.

Jameson: Well, I think that's our notion as wine drinks of value is also, value doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive, too. I mean, actually the three wines we're gonna talk about today are all in the $30 to $35 range. And I think when you start spending, you can still talk about value when you talk about wines that are over $10 or $15 or $20.

Michael: Yeah, no. One of the great things about Chile is that they can deliver superb wines. Wines that rate 90 plus in this kind of mid-tier plus range. The economies of scale work for them. Larger vineyards, a cheaper workforce than, say, in the heart of Napa or in France or in Italy. And so it works to their advantage. They're able to extract a lot of quality and hence the consumer, you, me and anybody else, can receive a lot of good value at wines that are 20, 25, 30, 35.

Jameson: So the first wine I want to talk about is Syrah. It's the Valdevieso, 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Crew Limari Syrah, it's a mouthful. The first thing I wanted to ask you ... Editor's Choice, 92 points. The first thing I wanted to ask you about that wine, is Syrah, Syrah is something that I don't really expect from Chile, or know that much about. Is this a rising star? Or have they been making it really notably for a while?

Michael: No, I wouldn't say that they've been making it notably for that long. It's a great variety that came in when I would say in the modern era. These are wineries and winemakers that have evolved from a basis of Cabernet, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère. And then there's been a lot of experimentation. Chile has a terroir and a layout that's very similar to the west coast of North America. The north is very desert like, so that would be your Baja, California, San Diego area. Then you come into the southerly lake region. That would be like the northwest. And then you have that cut in the middle. And that to me reminds me very much of California. And so the same way California has had success and the ability to grow a multitude of grapes due to very kind, sun rich weather. Chile's very much the same. Especially in its central valleys. Limari is an area up north, it's an area that was known mostly for fruit production. And maybe growing grapes that were produced into Pisco. But winemakers started to understand that there's some limestone up there. There's coastal influences, and that maybe they could produce something in the vein of a cool climate type of wine.

Chardonnay was planted up there, some Sauvignon Blanc as well, and Syrah. To try to capture a more oceanic style. Sauvignon Blanc didn't fare well, but the Syrah in Limari, although not a lot produced, I have found to be really excellent. It's a leaner, more structured style, but still gets enough son to be ripe. It's not tomato-y or green. It's more full bodied, but it just has something that gives it a unique character. Maybe it's those limestone soils. I'm not sure, but this one's an interesting one. Caballo Loco, the crazy horse. Valdivieso is one of the more traditional wineries in Chile. It's been around for a while, but they have explored different regions, they've explored different grape types, I would call them a more progressive type of larger winery.

Caballo Loco has always been there catch all type of wine. Named after one of the owners of the company, who exhibited tendencies of being a crazy horse. He was a let's do this, let's do that, we can do this, we can do that. So he always had a wine named after him, Caballo Loco. And for a long time it was a mystery blend. It was generally speaking Cabernet Sauvignon, but they would never tell you the vintage, they might blend a few years here and there.

They've expanded a little bit with Caballo Loco, to include this Grand Reservo variety thing, and it's again supposed to imply that this is a weird off the grid type of wine, not something you're going to see a lot of. There really are only a couple of producers of Syrah in Limari, and Valdivieso is one of them.

Jameson: And where, just to orient myself, if I fly into Santiago, I mean how far away are we from the Limari valley?

Michael: Limari is actually a bit remote. I would put it up in that northern quadrant of the country. It's very dry, it's where the Atacama Desert meets the ocean in it's most southerly area. You would go to the coastal city or La Serena, that's where you would go to get to the Limari valley. You can fly there, or I think it's roughly about a six hour drive from Santiago straight north on the ocean, and I've been up there once before. It's pretty remote, but it's cool, and just like the whole Pacific Coastline there, it's really quite beautiful.

Jameson: And let's move on from Syrah, and talk about a grape that's maybe more well known in Chile. And that's Cabernet Sauvignon. So the second wine I want to talk about is the Unduragga, 2015 Terroir Hunter, Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon, 91 points. First of all what is this Terroir Hunter series of wines all about?

Michael: Unduragga, I can give you a little bit of background on them as well. Unduragga, that's a very big name in Chilean wine. The Unduragga family founded Unduragga, probably three, maybe four generations ago. It was one of the early family owned wineries in the Maipo Valley. They sold to a multi faceted business man, about ten years ago. And obviously acquired the brand name, that was important. And Unduragga has continued to produce a large amount of wine, but also some really interesting wines. Their most interesting are in the Tey Hachey, TH series, Terroir Hunter. And this is where their winemaker, a really cool progressive young guy, good friend of Rodrigo Soto. And a guy that I've loved to work with a lot, love to quote, love to meet with when I'm in Chile, or when he comes to New York. His name is Rafael Urrejola. And Rafa is a really good winemaker. Comfortable in various different varieties. Makes good Pinot Noir, makes some good Syrah, has been very involved in reclaiming the old vines of the south, down in Maule and Etota, so you get some Canyon, and some Malbec's, under this series. So it's usually older vineyards from various specific Terroir's within Chile, and there giving light to this.

Going to Cabernet, is obviously the prime variety for Chile. It's what it's known for, and this wine comes from Pirque, which is a real, super good Cabernet zone. It's in the Maipo Valley, it's only about 20 miles outside of Santiago. Foothills of the Andes, can see the mountains from there. It's right on the edges of the Maipo river, and it's so alluvial, if you just go down a couple feet into the ground, nothing but gigantic rocks. And this is become the prime zone, basically call it the left bank, or the heart of the Napa Valley of Chilean Cabernet production.

Jameson: So is Cabernet Sauvignon, is that Chile's best grape? Best red grape?

Michael: Well I'm not so sure it's the best, it's definitely the one that's grown the most, it's the most prominent one. We talked about the value wines at the beginning. For Chile was able to produce a lot of pretty good, very nice, drinkable Cabernet in the $8, $10 range. It's harder for them to do that now with international pricing and just where everything's going.

Cabernet likes dry, sunny, coastal weather. Same reason there's tons of Cabernet in California. There's tons of Cabernet in Chile. But there are some really good specific areas that get away from simple, industrial production, and give you some real grapes of character. Pirque is one of them.

Jameson: And then what's up with Carménère, as far as it's status today? I know a lot of people, they've got this stereotype of, oh it's all, it's green, it's vegetal, blah blah blah. But is that the case now?

Michael: Carménère has its tendencies. Its suicidal tendencies. It's a grape that was originally from Bordeaux, never replanted after the Phylloxera plague of the 19th century there, because it was just prone to greenness. And that was in a "cool climate". Chile being a little sunnier, a little warmer, having a higher heat index, and a higher sun index than Bordeaux, has had the ability to ripen Carménère better. Carménère is a signature grape if you will, simply because I think 98% of the world's Carménère is in Chile. For a long time people thought it was Merlot. Green tasting, herbal Merlot. It just has a lot of pyrazines. And it's very difficult to get that out of the grapes. There are now ways of going for max ripeness, then trying to maybe acidify the wine back into balance. It's not my favorite style, but that's what you see. It's the big sort of here we are, iconic Carménère level. And then Carménère at that inexpensive level, large crop, high economies of scale for the winery. That's not really one of my favorite wines.

Jameson: Yeah, I like those green, herbal flavors. They're polarizing, it's like Sauvignon Blanc, some people love it.

Michael: Cabernet Franc.

Jameson: Some people can't stand it. But I like those flavors, and I think they are to me part of the grape, in trying to blow it up and blow it out. And obscure that to me does a disservice.

Michael: Yeah but the feedback in Chile, is a very feedback oriented country. Being located where they are and exporting so much of their product. It's only 17 million people in the entire country. And it's not a really huge wine drinking country, despite the fact that they produce so much, and it's one of their top six industries. So they have to export a lot, I think the feedback around the world is, your Carménère's interesting, and we understand it's your signature grape and that you do it more than anybody else, but that doesn't mean we love it. I think you're a little more experimental than the average wine drinker.

Jameson: Right, I'm the middle aged, natty wine, Brooklyn hipster drinker. So my demo isn't.

Michael: ou might a liquid weed patch.

Jameson: Yeah, exactly, I love that. Bring on the full on green pepper. Poor it into a hallowed out green pepper and I'll drink it.

Michael: You get the bell pepper surprise, you can get that. So yeah. But you know what? Even Cabernet Sauvignon, and there is this typical Chilean character which there is a lot of mint, and menthol, and Eucalyptus, and tea, and tobacco, and these types of flavors and aromas, that work there way into the grape. And true Chilean Cabernet is pretty unique too. It may have the power and the structure, the smooth tannins of a Napa wine, or may have the age ability of a Bordeaux, but it's also, if you taste it blind ... And I've done a bunch of these top Cabernet's from around the world, they stick out. And it's generally speaking a little bit of that greenness. And just must be in the water.

Jameson: Yeah. And again, those are to me, when I drink Cabernet, when I want great Cabernet, I want a little bit of those green herbal minty, Eucalyptus things. But again that's just me, and I'm an outlier. Just an outlier.

Hey we'll be back to the show very shortly, but since you're here, I know you're already a fine of wine podcasts, why don't you check out our other show called, The Wine Enthusiast Podcast, download it wherever you get podcasts.

So the third wine is a Cabernet Franc. It's the Maquis 2011 Franco, Cabernet Franc, Colchagua Valley, 92 points, seller selection. So for a herbal wine loving guy like me, is this Cabernet Franc going to make me happy? Or is it going to make me disappointed?

Michael: This one might not be your wine Jameson, but it might be again, in tune with the global pallette. It's not a green, spicy, leafy version like you might get from the Loire Valley.

Jameson: Right.

Michael: Or that you might get in a cool year Bordeaux from Saint-Émilion. Or even a left bank wine with a fair amount of Cab Franc in it. It is more, probably in tune with the "International full bodied red style". But I like it in the sense that, Chile can be a little bit cool for Cab Franc, and some of the Cab Franc's that I have tasted down there have been really leafy, really highly herbal. They could fool you for being Carménère. This one comes from a cooler vintage, in the Colchagua Valley, that's an area we haven't spoken about yet. It's a really, I would say it's probably Chile's most, prototypical contained wine valley.

I've described it in my articles, as resembling a small Napa. You've got hillsides on both sides, a river running through the middle of the valley heading out to the ocean, coastal influences. Warm, warm valley. And known for red wines. Maquis has there vineyards hidden down by the river. It's one of the cooler areas of the Colchagua Valley. And so they get a little more character. The Franco, is a double play on words. Obviously it's for the Cab Franc, but it's also a wine planted on its own rootstocks. So it's Pie Franco. It's not grafted, it's not an old vineyard taken over. It's a vineyard planted several decades ago. And it was planted on it's own stocks to Cab Franc.

I think it's a ... Really, we're talking about wines that are tasted blind here. And so we're not ... When some of the characteristics that I talk about, and the point total. And the fact that, gave it an Editors Choice, Seller Selection, saying this wine can age. That's what impressed me in the tasting. Not so much it's, oh I can varietally peg this as Cab Franc.

You, as a Cab Franc lover with an affinity for green, Finks an Irish name, so.

Jameson: Yeah, Eileen Kelly, my mom. Super Irish, Jameson my first name.

Michael: Exactly, so. Being a man of green, kelly green in this case. You probably might want a little more of that character in it, just so it reminds you of a nice Bourgeois, or Chinon or something. But it's just not going to do that. It's going to be a Chilean version, warm valley, fuller bodied type of wine. But I think very interesting. And one that can actually sit nicely with Cabernet Sauvignon, or any of the better, full bodied red wines that Chile produces.

So it's one that I've always like. I think Maquis done one of the more consistently good Cab Franc's in all of Chile.

Jameson: Yeah, and I just noticed it was a 2011 vintage. So it's already got a few years of age on it.

Michael: Exactly.

Jameson: So that bodes really well, especially with your 92 point review.

And I want to touch on some other red grapes. What's a rising star, or maybe something that's been neglected, now is being revitalized, is Pais a big deal?

Michael: Pais is a big deal in the regions where it comes from. That's mostly the southern regions where the old vineyards, that are dry farmed. And have either been barely tended to, neglected, reclaimed. That's where Pais comes from. That's the old mission grape. It's the old country grape. It's grape that was used for jug wines. And wine sold at the market for filling out bulk wine in everything.

There's a movement to reclaim it. And to make it, can be done in a fun, natural way. I think for the nat wine funkster type, I think Pais is probably your very best bet. And the wineries and winemakers that are working with it tend to really fulfill that whole narrative.

But my favorite obscure grapes, also largely from the old vineyards of the south. Areas like Maule and Etota, are the two C's. Carignan and Cinsaut, all grapes that were brought over from France in the 19th century, largely forgotten and neglected. Used just for bulk wine, co-op wine, these types of things. And now people are saying wow, Priorat in Spain is known for Carignan, other areas of Spain are known for Carignan. There's Carignan in the South of France. And it's a racy, red fruit style wine for the most part. It's got good tension, can be made in a fuller bodied oak style. It can be done in a more restrained, leaner style. So I like that. And Cinsaut another French grape that you see very little, is from the South of France, used in Rosé and things like that throughout Provence, and the lower Rome Valley. Is being done in a fresh, light bodied, Bougelet style. I think you would really like it.

Jameson: Yeah, right up my alley.

Michael: Yup. I think Rafael has a TH, a Terroir Hunter Etota Valley Cinsaut. There's a couple other winemakers in the country that are making it in clay amphora, or in neutral cement eggs to try to really give the off root, all history, all terroir, no oak, very little manipulation. Interesting wines and very small production. Small distribution, but they're out there in small numbers. I really like those two oddball grapes.

Jameson: And then finally, I would be remiss if we didn't touch on white wine. I've had a lot of, I guess my introduction to Chile was probably Sauvignon Blanc, because I love Sauvignon Blanc, and I found really great Sauvignon Blanc, really tasty coastal type of wines. And I'm starting to have some really good Chardonnay's too. What's the state of white wine in Chile right now?

Michael: Well, it's an interesting question Jameson, because in Chile, hands down the best type of cuisine, food, comes from the ocean. Comes from the Pacific.

Jameson: Yeah.

Michael: 4,000 miles of coastline. Gigantic fishing industry. Shellfish, crab, octopus, you name it. Anything that's in the Pacific Ocean, they pull out, and it's much better than the steaks. You want steak, go to Argentina.

Jameson: Right.

Michael: Or go to Uruguay, even go to Brazil. In Chile eat the seafood. So what do you want to drink with good seafood? White wine. Mostly though I've found that for a long time it was about quaffability, and fitting what they thought were norms. They weren't natural white wine producers, so they were trying to match styles. Chardonnay, for a long time was lost in the Chilean forests, with poor oak, overripe fruit. So you got the flat, melonny, banana ball, with a lot of oak. Some of it real, some of it fake. Really not a great way of putting a Chardonnay foot forward.

Jameson: No it sounds very [crosstalk 00:23:06].

Michael: Sauvignon Blanc, got a lot of credit for being this coastal, fresh type of thing. I think it was a little bit premature, a little bit overrated. It led to some overproduction of Sauvignon Blanc. And also, I think just a flooding of the market. And I think it needs to be reevaluated. Made in smaller quantities, because there's too much Sauvignon Blanc competition. It's not as popular a grape type as we would like it to be. Or think that it might be.

Sauvignon Blanc, yeah everybody drinks it. No not really.

Jameson: Yeah, it's polarizing. It's a flavor profile.

Michael: Not really, and I think that it's only 2% of the wine market in the United States. So you have this impression that, "Oh, I bet everybody's drinking Sauvignon Blanc". Not so. Chile I think, they have good coastal Sauvignon Blanc, but it runs the risk of being repetitive, and this zesty, quaffable, screw cap type of wine. Chill it, kill it. But there are a few that are, again where the vineyard matters. Where the winemaker's doing more with the grapes than simply just picking and popping them into a tank. There could be some work with cement. There might be a minute amount of barrel aging going on in there. And these wines I do find interesting. I find that they drink better on the spot. And with the local food maybe than as an export wine.

But I'm glad you brought up Chardonnay, because I they're really improving it. Getting away from that over the top, blowsy, not necessarily well made, artificial style. And going with a little bit more of a Burgundian higher acid, and site specific. Trying to stay near the coastline, Casablanca Valley. You don't find hardly any Maipo, or Maule Valley. None of the internal, central valleys they've pretty much taken the white wine out of those valleys. Moved them close to the ocean. That's a good move.

Jameson: Yeah, well I think it's a good move to explore everything that Chile has to offer. Don't be afraid to get into that $30, $40 range or higher if you can. But there's still great, easy drinking wines and old vines to explore. And fuller style. There's just a little bit of everything. So I think we should all be drinking more wine from Chile. And Michael thank you for being on the show.

Michael: Good deal Jameson, great.

Jameson: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we discussed today were the Valdevieso, 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Crew Limari Syrah. Unduragga, 2015 Terroir Hunter, Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon. And the Maquis 2011 Franco, Cabernet Franc. Find What We're Tasting, on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Checkout Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Sep 03 2018

26mins

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1:10 The Finger Lakes Showcase Stunning Scenery and Serious Wines

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If you’re looking for a new wine destination, add the Finger Lakes to your list. From sublime and varied Rieslings to fresh reds, this cool-climate region in upstate New York has plenty for everyone.

Wines discussed:

@5:10 Hermann J. Wiemer 2016 Estate Bottled and Grown Dry Riesling (Seneca Lake)

@8:30 Sheldrake Point 2017 Dry Estate Bottled Rosé (Finger Lakes)

@12:40 Damiani 2016 Sunrise Hill Vineyards Lemberger (Finger Lakes)

Transcript:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiasts, What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at wines from the Finger Lakes with tasting director Alexander Peartree, who covers and reviews wines from the region. What We're Tasting is sponsored by the Vivino with the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, including bottles from New York's Finger Lakes region. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites and stock up at vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

We've talked about the west coast, visited a few places there, went to Texas, and now I think it's time to turn our attentions to wine on the east coast, and in New York, specifically the state of New York, which I live in, and shockingly to some people the state is more than just the city of New York, it's a big, giant state full of interesting wine regions, and for me one of the most interesting is the Finger Lakes. It's a beautiful region, I highly recommend you visit. I don't know if it's underrated, it's starting to get the attention that I think it deserves for a wide variety of wines. I'm really excited to have you here today, Alex to talk about the Finger Lakes. Welcome to the show.

Alex Peartree: Thank you very much, Jameson.

Jameson Fink: And I guess the first thing is, I mean, I was like my ignorant New York geography I probably need a little lesson. We're in Manhattan right now, but the Finger Lakes is a fairly, a long, not a long journey, but a journey from New York. Where exactly are the Finger Lakes?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. It's about a five hour drive from New York City. Most people don't really think beyond the greater New York City area, and they consider upstate New York, Westchester, or like the Poughkeepsie, but the state extends far beyond that, and the Finger Lakes are kind of in central New York, if you picture where Rochester, and Syracuse are they kind of fall right in between the two. Yeah. There's 11 lakes, but there's only about a few of them are pretty much the focus of the wine growing region.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. A little quick sidebar, when I lived in White Plains, a friend of mind said, "Oh, you moved upstate," and I was like, "Westchester is not upstate," but that's an argument for another show.

Alex Peartree: It's not even an argument.

Jameson Fink: But the cool thing about the Finger Lakes is I mean it's really, they're aptly named, I mean they do look like vertical fingers going up and down, it's really quite geographically fascinating.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. No. The amazing thing about the Finger Lakes, so there's 11 of them, and they were all carved by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. They range in deepness levels, but when you look at them from above, yeah, they have that distinct like long skinny finger like look, so it's definitely interesting.

Jameson Fink: As far as grapes go, I think my first introduction into wines of the region, and maybe it's the same for a lot of people is through Riesling, is Riesling kind of the Finger Lakes calling card grape?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. Riesling has definitely taken hold in the Finger Lakes, it's a cool climate variety that seems to be suited quite well to the variety of soils, and different microclimate that are available in the Finger Lakes.

Jameson Fink: How much influence do the lakes have on making it a great wine region?

Alex Peartree: Without the lakes there would not be wine there, I mean, that is like 100% true, so the lakes are actually the moderating factors, which help cool, keep the climate relatively cool in the summer, because the summers can get quite hot up there, and then in the winter it helps keep the area around the vineyards a little bit warmer, because it can get pretty cold up there. The lake's kind of soak up all the heat from the summer, and extend it through the winter, so that the vines don't die.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. When I was there, I was there in October a few years ago and it was snowing, it started snowing when we were in a vineyard, I was just shocked, I was like, wow, this weather is an extreme region for grape growing.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. I mean, I'm an upstate New Yorker, myself, I'm from Rochester, so I'm quite used to the diversity of weather patterns they have up there, and I was recently up there in probably April of last year, and you would think right about then, like it's peaking into spring and it's a lot warmer, but no there were definitely some snow storms, and it was kind of crazy.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Spring and fall you might want to bring a coat and maybe even a hat and gloves. I mentioned a Riesling earlier, the first wine I wanted to talk about is the Herman J. Wiemer 2016 Estate Bottled and Grown Dry Riesling from Seneca Lake, 92 points. One of the things that I think that's interesting about Riesling in general, and maybe specifically in the Finger Lakes is I think people still think sweet when they think of Riesling, but can you talk about dry Rieslings and what they're kind of flavor profile is? Obviously they're dry, but do you still get a lot of that Riesling, those hallmarks of the Riesling grape?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. The wonderful thing about Riesling is it can be done in a variety of styles. As you said, most people are more familiar with the sweeter styles of Riesling, just because I think they're more familiar with German Rieslings, and the more commercial Rieslings that have come out of that area. While the Finger Lakes does do Riesling from dry to dessert style wines, I really think that their dry Rieslings are quite expressive and quite different. The Wiemer, the 2016 Dry Riesling, typically, well, from year to year it has this very consistent taut minerality to it, there's nice tension through it, which makes it a really, really balanced and expressive wine, on the other end it also has pretty ripe fruit expression, so there's a lot of peach and stone fruit, a little bit of apple to kind of flush it all out, but at the end it finishes dry and crisp.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Even with Rieslings that have some sweetness to them especially in cool climate regions I think people would be surprised on how dry they drink, because they've got that great acidity, they've got that zip, too, so even though there's that sort of sense of sweetness type of expression when you kind of finish it with that acidity and liveliness that actually might even taste drier than a lot of quote on quote, dry wines made from other grapes.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. Definitely.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Don't be afraid of a little sweetness in your Riesling.

Alex Peartree: Absolutely, not. No.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. And I think, it's also that we said about the Finger Lakes is that you can find Riesling in every shape and form like from bone dry to sort of German style exquisite nectar dessert wines.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. They do a lot of late harvest wines up there, and they actually have a good production of Ice wine, because in certain years it actually does get cold enough in the winter to do a traditional Ice wine harvest where you're letting the grapes hang on the vine through December, January, and harvest them, which is not something I would ever do, but I'd totally drink the wine.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. I spent one day in a summer years ago, one day, picking grapes and it was the most back breaking work I've ever done. I can't imagine what it's like. I think you have to, do they have to take off every single berry?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. They got to weed out the specific berries, and I believe they can't really wear gloves because they need to have dexterous fingers.

Jameson Fink: Oh, my God. Yeah.

Alex Peartree: t's crazy. Right?

Jameson Fink: I don't know, maybe I'd volunteer for one day of that kind of labor, I have a lot of admiration for people who can handle that, not me. Let's move from Riesling, let's talk about Rosé, which is everywhere, which is great. I want to talk about the Sheldrake Point 2017 Dry Estate Bottled Rosé, which you gave 90 points to. Are you seeing more and more Rosé from the Finger Lakes?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. Over the years there's definitely been a Rosé boom, and I think that goes across the board for most regions, however, it doesn't mean that every region produces an amazing Rosé, and I think for the Finger Lakes, because it's a cooler climate it actually produces a really nicely balanced Rosé. The Sheldrake is a 100% Cabernet Franc Rosé, which I think is a lovely style of Rosé, you kind of get the herbalness and like the spicy kind of berry notes of Cabernet Franc, but you also blend in later stone fruit notes, and a little bit of that crisp mineral zing.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. I really like Cab Franc Rosé. One thing I was thinking about recently with rosé is when you drink a lot of sort of pale nondescript kind of watery ones you don't really get the sense of the grape that it's made from, it sounds kind of silly, and I've written about this before, like with the Cab Franc Rosé, I mean, kind of with your eyes closed you get those notes of sort of like more savory notes that Cabernet Franc has so I think it makes a really distinct Rosé that stands out from a lot of kind of watery, bland plonk.

Alex Peartree: Definitely. Yeah. Beyond Cabernet Franc, the Finger Lakes also produces Pinot Noir Rosés, Rosés from Lemberger, Blaufränkisch, so they really kind of hit the whole gambit in terms of Rosé.

Jameson Fink: When we talk about Cabernet Franc in Rosé form, and in red form, if I'm a Loire Cabernet Franc fan is this kind of my jam?

Alex Peartree: It's definitely more on the old world style. The Finger Lakes kind of has a nice balance between new world and old world, it's not going to be ultra ripe, it'll be a little bit more savory, and herbal, and spicy. A little bit lighter in profile than some of the new world offerings, so yeah, I would maybe make a case that's its more akin to Loire.

Jameson Fink: With a lot of these red grapes, and the weather there, you know we talked about snow earlier, is it a problem getting grapes ripe? Is that an issue every year?

Alex Peartree: Well, not in the past few years.

Jameson Fink: Right. Yeah.

Alex Peartree: There's definitely been a lot of warming effect going on in the past few years, and in 2016, and from what I'm hearing from 2017 it's definitely been some pretty warm vintages, but even in the past with cooler vintages know it hasn't really been an issue getting the grapes ripened, it was just more of kind of a vineyard management deal.

Jameson Fink: Another wine I wanted to talk about that I've had from the Finger Lakes that I wanted to mention, too, is sparkling wine. I've started to see a lot more sparkling wines and very serious wines have spent years on the lees, and is sparkling wine coming on in the Finger Lakes?

Alex Peartree: Well, New York actually has a pretty rich history of sparkling wine, and they had sparkling houses way back pre-prohibition, unfortunately they closed, they shuttered during prohibition, and now a lot of producers are revitalizing that, and one of them is Wiemer, the other is Doctor Frank, which they produce traditional method, sparkling wines with Chardonnay, and Pinot.

Jameson Fink: Look out for sparkling wines, too.

Alex Peartree: Definitely.

Jameson Fink: Hey, we'll be to the show here shortly, but since you're here I know you're already a fan of wine podcasts, why don't you check out our other show called, The Wine Enthusiast Podcast, download it wherever you get podcasts. The third wine I want to talk about is something, a grape, that I really like, and that I kind of got most familiar with in Washington state, but when I was out a few years ago I tried a lot of blends, and single variety versions that I really like and it's Lemberger, it's the Damiani 2016 Sunrise Hill Vineyards Lemberger, 90 points. For people who don't know what is Lemberger? What is it like?

Alex Peartree: Lemberger, or as they call it in Austria, Blaufränkisch, which they're the same grape. I kind of would describe it as a similar body to a Cabernet Franc, except it's more on the darker fruit notes, maybe more like a sour dark cherry, a little bit of that spicy dark brambly notes, and definitely pepper. This one from Damiani, I really enjoyed it when I tasted it. It's from a vintage that it had a drought in the middle of the summer, so this actually resulted in lower yields, concentrated berries, so this actually has a really nice depth to it, which I wrote in my note, it's like it's showing its Hungarian oak on its sleeve right now, so it's a little oaky right now, but I think in a few years it'll all balance out, and it actually has that nice ripe fruit, very, very, grippy tannins to help it extend a few more years.

Jameson Fink: That's a good point about oak, I mean, there are a lot of people who are sensitive to oak, or really don't like sort of oak that's out there and in your face, I've been on record as enjoying oak, especially in white wines. I think that's something that people don't realize is that sometimes oak can be like you said, like it's wearing on its sleeve, but it's pretty incredible, that's one of the great things about cellaring wine you can just, I mean, even like one, or two, or three years you can really see that oak kind of integrate and then it's just more like bringing something to the party and not putting a lampshade on it's head.

Alex Peartree: Definitely. You can't just think about wine as you're drinking it right now you have to kind of have the foresight to see where it would go in a few years, and if all the components are there, but it's just not kind of hitting its stride right now, it might mean that it needs a few more years to settle out, and integrate further.

Jameson Fink: I think that's where you can start understanding like on a review, like sort of the drinking windows, I mean that's sort of taking your experience with wine, and region, and wine making styles, and saying, this is something you want to hold onto for a few years, not that it would be unpleasant now, but just sort of noting that this is why I say, drink from 2020 with this wine.

Alex Peartree: Exactly. I mean, they're all, we do try to give drinking windows, and they're all relatively subjective, but we do try to offer a really kind of honed idea of when this should be best enjoyed.

Jameson Fink: Then with Lemberger, I mean this obviously sounds like a more serious wine, like one you would hold onto, are there more sort of like, is it a grape that can be like a drink now type of style?

Alex Peartree: Definitely. There are plenty of Lemberger, or Blaufränkisch examples in the Finger Lakes and they kind of switch labeling, some do, say Lemberger, some say Blaufränkisch, and through my tastings I had plenty that were not as oaky right now, and some that might not even have any oak at all, and they're just pretty fruit forward, but still grippy, nice braid acidity, it's just a well balanced easy drinking wine.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. It's interesting when I had it in Washington, the versions I've had, have been a little more on the grippy tannic side, but they're from an area like Red Mountain, which is like the polar opposite of-

Alex Peartree: Yeah.

Jameson Fink: The Finger Lakes, like a really hot, baking region in Eastern Washington, so it's interesting to see the grape, and that's something that's really kind of fun and geeky to do is to try a grape from different regions, like a hotter region, a cool climate region, and kind of see how obviously wine making has something to do with it, but to really get sort of a handle on a region.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. Exactly. I mean, that's what wine is all about your kind of exploring a region through drinking the wine, and as you said, if you try a Blaufränkisch from a warmer region verse Blaufränkisch from a cooler region you'll definitely understand what happens in the vineyard and why one is bigger than the other.

Jameson Fink: I also want to talk about availability of the wines, because wine I was living on the west coast, in Seattle, I never saw any Finger Lakes wines, and that's one of the great things about being out here is that I can go to restaurants and there's a great support for all the wines of New York, really, and we're just talking about the Finger Lakes, but there's certainly more regions. What's your take on are we going to see New York wines more nationally? Are people on the west coast enjoying them more? Is it an issue of production, or just people haven't been exposed to them, yet?

Alex Peartree: Yeah. Well, definitely here there's a really big drink local thing going on, so you'll see Finger Lakes wines all throughout the east coast, and especially in New York City. There are a good number of wineries that distribute out to the west coast, and I would say Wiemer, maybe Red Tail Ridge, and possibly Glenora are a few that have kind of spread their distribution out there, so you should definitely keep an eye out for them. It's not really an issue of production, it's more of an issue of people wanting to explore what the Finger Lakes has to offer.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. They should just, well, I will just say, you just got to go and visit, because it's really, I mean, when you see the views of the vineyards with the lakes behind them it's really, really stunning.

Alex Peartree: Oh, God. It's gorgeous. When I used to live up there, and I was just, it was amazing driving to and from work, I used to live in Ithaca, and drive that every day, and I would come over the ridge, and you would just see this sprawling giant lake, it's like you don't have any words for it. That was awful.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. That wasn't awful. One last thing I want to talk about, too, is visiting, I love sort of visiting wine country, and food, and stuff. Have you been F.L.X. Wienery?

Alex Peartree: I actually haven't been yet. I'm dying to go and I'm dying to see Chris Bates other restaurants like F.L.X. Table, but I haven't been yet, actually.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. He's a master sommelier, and he has a couple restaurants.

Alex Peartree: He has a winery-

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Alex Peartree: As well.

Jameson Fink: And winery.

Alex Peartree: He's the jack of all trade. He actually also has F.L.X. Provisions, which is a shop that sells wines, and ciders, and all the delicious local things from the Finger Lakes. He is really doing it all.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. If you go to the Finger Lakes, F.L.X. Wienery, they make hotdogs and sausages. They make almost everything there, and what's great about it is if you bring a Finger Lakes wine there, there's no corkage fee for it, which is a great way to enjoy your day, and also he has like a fridge with a bunch of really cool esoteric wines, too, if you want to take a break from Finger Lakes wine to have a beer, too, it's a really cool place, but it's really also an exciting place for eating, and drinking, and also like you said, cider, and all kinds of, I mean, you can really spend a lot of time there visiting wineries, and eating, and drinking your way through.

Alex Peartree: Yeah. I mean, the Finger Lakes has a lot more to offer than wine. It's a really big agricultural area, as well, like for cider, for cheese, orchards, for apples, and peaches, and cherries, like it really has it all. If you wanted to create an itinerary there where you sprinkled in a little bit of wine, and a little bit of cheese, and then some hiking, and you know going to check waterfalls, it's like you could hit everything. It's amazing.

Jameson Fink: Well, I think we've made the case for visiting the Finger Lakes, and drinking the wines from the region. Alex, thanks for joining me on the show, today.

Alex Peartree: Thanks for having me.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast, sponsored by Vivino wine made easy. The wines we discussed today were The Hermann J. Wiemer, 2016, Estate Bottled and Grown Dry Riesling. The Sheldrake Point 2017 Dry Estate Bottled Rosé. And the Damiani 2016 Sunrise Hill Vineyards Lemberger. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. If you like today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com ...

Aug 27 2018

22mins

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1:9 Greek Wines Offer Ancient Wonders and Modern Flair

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It's got a long, storied history, but Greek wines still deserve more attention from today's curious drinker. Explore islands, indigenous grapes, and must-try reds.

Wines discussed:

@3:27 Gaia Wines 2017 Wild Ferment Assyrtiko (Santorini)

@11:40 Nasiakos 2016 Mantinia Moschofilero (Mantinia)

@16:16 Alpha Estate 2015 Hedgehog Vineyard Xinomavro (Amyndeon)

Transcript:

Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at wines from Greece with Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa, who covers and reviews wine from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, including wines from Greece. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

Greek wines aren't getting enough due, and I think as modern wine drinkers we should be connected to a country that has such an amazing past, so Sue, thank you for being on the show.

Susan Kostrzewa: Thanks for having me.

Jameson Fink: Are Greek wines just not getting enough due? Why aren't they more well known, or are they better known than I think they are?

Susan Kostrzewa: I don't think they're well known enough. I love Greek wines, and they've been making wine for 4,000 years. So you'd think with all that time we would have found out about them by now. But I think part of the issue is a pretty simple one. It's kind of surprising, I guess, in a way that this could hold something back, but the names. The names of the grapes, the names of the producers, they're in Greek.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, right.

Susan Kostrzewa: You know, it's all Greek to you and me. But it honestly, I think, for so many years the producers of Greek wines were labeling all of the wines in Greek. So only really Greeks in the US, so Greek restaurants, Greek people, Greek immigrants were drinking that wine. They were the ones who could read the labels. It scared everybody off, so that was one very simple thing. I think that kind of deterred regular wine drinkers from getting into it.

Then you also have the whole retsina thing, which for many years in the US, retsina, a not very well-made retsina was what was being exported into the country. So a lot of people have literal and figurative hangovers from the retsina days. There's great retsina being made now, and I'd love to talk to you about that, but I think there's still, I run into a lot of people who when I say I'm rating and reviewing Greek wine, I love the Greek wines, and were like, "Oh, I hate retsina." It's the first thing they go to, so I think there have been some starts and stops along the way that have deterred people who should know about it from knowing about it.

And thank God, like the psalms are the ones who started the trend in the US again. They were the ones tasting it. They were like, "This is amazing. You should know about it," and sort of gained momentum from there.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. I mean, I'll be guilty as charged. I mean, I remember when I was a buyer at a grocery store, we had like one Greek wine. It was a retsina, and of course I became more knowledgeable after that. I remember actually when I was still working in there, some new wines were coming into the marketplace, and they were exciting and interesting indigenous grapes, but it's sort of like, I don't know if it's maybe like Chianti with the fiasco, the straw kind of bottle that people still associate like a whole region or a country painted with that kind of broad stroke. But I don't know, nowadays, and I think you mentioned what? Sommeliers, and of course wine buyers all over are doing with Greek wines as sort of championing them and getting them in front of people, which I think is the biggest reason.

So the first wine I want to talk about is one this definitely been a darling of the sommelier scene, and maybe not to its detriment, but maybe we're not seeing enough of other wines, but it's Assyrtiko, which comes from the island of Santorini. So the first wine I want to talk about is the Gaia wine's 2017 Wild Ferment Assyrtiko from Santorini which is 92 points. First of all, can you just tell me what is Assyrtiko and what makes it special on Santorini and in the world?

Susan Kostrzewa: Assyrtiko is a white wine variety, it's indigenous to Santorini, which Santorini is basically a huge block of volcanic rock. And this is the variety that loves that volcanic rock. And even though it is being grown in other areas of Greece, I think its original and best home is Santorini. So Assyrtiko is a fresh, very linear, kind of sea salty, delicious white wine. Crisp, like I said, great with food. I think it's very unique, it's got a touch of smoke, and sea salt, and all the things you would associate with volcanic soil.

And the other thing that's interesting about it, is they've never had phylloxera on the island, so there's some very old vines on that island. They're bush vines, they're low to the ground. If you've ever been to Santorini-

Jameson Fink: Of course I've been to Santorini.

Susan Kostrzewa: Yes, of course you have. Which, by the way is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Jameson Fink:  It is, yes.

Susan Kostrzewa: Whether you love wine or not.

Jameson Fink: The bluest of blues there.

Susan Kostrzewa: It's amazing. And one of the things that's so cool about it is the first time I went I remember being with a big group of wine journalists who were all very knowledgeable and we were rolling by this sort of field. And it's super dry, and it's not a hospitable island as far as greenery goes. It's very hot and dry. And we were driving by this vineyard, and we're kinda looking at it, and we stop and we're all like, "What is this? This looks like a brush windswept field." And they're like, "This is the vineyard." And it's all these bush vines that grow their trained basically to protect the grapes from the super windy situation on the island. And it looks kinda crazy, and thread bare, and scrappy. But in the midst of this amazing vineyard are these great wines that are being made. So it's very unique.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. That was exactly my experience. Like we're gonna go look at a vineyard, and you still have in your head oh, it's gonna be manicured rows with posts and what not. But yeah, the vines are woven into like a basket.

Susan Kostrzewa: Yes.

Jameson Fink: It's like nothing I'd ever seen. I have a million pictures of wine makers picking it up and lifting it up kinda like a man hole cover almost. It's really remarkable. And yeah, it sort of recalibrates your expectation. The climate there doesn't permit having training vines like that, they just wouldn't survive the wind and the heat.

Susan Kostrzewa: Definitely, yeah. So I think it's one of the most unique places in the world as far as wine vineyards and unique wines go. So I'm a big fan. And I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly, I believe it's Gaia.

Jameson Fink: Oh yeah, I pronounced it wrong.

Susan Kostrzewa: Again, this is my beat and I still have a hard time pronouncing some of these.

Jameson Fink: I gotta stop pronouncing these wines, I gotta make everyone do it unless it's something very simple.

Susan Kostrzewa: But Gaia, the wine that you were mentioning, Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, who is the wine maker there has really, he's really championed doing these sort of unique and experimental approaches to Assyrtiko. But he's also an awesome spokesperson for Greek wine. So you asked earlier about why we don't know about Greek wine, I think the producers themselves are on the road now. And they're doing an amazing job, they're the best people to champion what is happening in their country. And he, the wine maker here and the owner, is fabulous at doing that. So all of his wines are great.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I've also had ... Interesting things about Assyrtiko, I've had some older bottles, like it can age really well, which I thought was surprising.

Susan Kostrzewa: Definitely.

Jameson Fink: And it's not necessarily a heavy wine, but it's got some substance to it, it's not a super light, I don't know like Pinot Grigio. It's got somebody to it and a little bit of richness, but still super refreshing.

Susan Kostrzewa: Yeah, I mean they're making sparkling Assyrtiko, their Assyrtiko blends with like Sauvignon Blanc that are really good. And then Retsina, their Retsina's now being make by which are made out of Assyrtiko. It's a very versatile grape. And like you say, it does have weight and complexity. It's pretty ... To me, it's again, one of the more unique wines that's being made in Greece.

Jameson Fink: And another, let's keep going about island wines, one of the things that I think I clumsily said when we started is that you see a lot of Assyrtiko on wine lists, which is great. But also it's sort of like when's the next hurdle when we're gonna see more Greek wines from other islands and the mainland too? But I wanted to talk about Crete for a little bit, what are the wines like there as far as indigenous grapes? Are they doing reds, whites, both?

Susan Kostrzewa: Crete may be the oldest wine making area in Greece. Again, I think when we talk about 4,000 years we talk about minoans , we talk about this incredible history of wine making on Crete. I was just there recently and spent a lot of time there. And everything is incredible, everything is old. Every olive tree is thousands of years old. They have an amazing history of wine making in general. But yeah, they make whites, they make reds, Vidiano and Thrapsathiri are two of the whites they make that I love that are just delicious, and refreshing, and again very unique to the island. Kotsifali's one of the reds.

How do they differ? I mean every region of Greece is quite different. There are a lot of micro-climates. Crete is hot, and the wines are a little bigger, and a little more robust than say when you get up into the north where you're talking about very high altitude, pretty high acid wines. So a little fuller bodied, still great acidity, but a little bit more of a reflection of their location.

And I actually did a piece recently on Crete for the magazine, and talked a lot about this new generation of younger wine makers, who are coming up in Crete and really pushing a lot of innovation. Because these are very old varieties, some of them were almost extinct, a couple of the producers I talk about rescued nearly extinct ancient grapes from extinction and brought them back, and are now doing all this cool stuff. So to me that's an area that's really exciting, and we haven't really seen as many of those wines in the US yet. But I think that's going to change.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and what I think is exciting too is when you have these ancient vines, or varieties and you see kind of younger people sort of rehabilitating their reputation, or literally rehabilitating them from the brink of extinction. You see it all over the world, and it's really exciting. Especially in a place with a history like Greece where you see old world wine history, and then you see people with new ideas and new energy kind of bringing them back to life instead of chasing a more faddish grape.

Susan Kostrzewa: Well I think what's really exciting about what's happening in Greece now, and I've been covering the beat, I think it's probably been about eight years. When I first started wine makers were just starting to get back into really believing in their own grapes. They were planting a lot of, they had been planting a lot of international varieties, which by the way do really well in northern Greece, a producer we'll talk about, they do a beautiful job with Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs, and Chardonnays. But what was really exciting was to see the younger wine makers, and some of the older ones getting excited again about indigenous grapes. And that to me was the beginning of the real quality story with Greek wine, is these are the varieties that are in their sort of blood. And they really know, it's the perfect place for these to be grown, and they really believe in them. And I think the quality is in those bottlings now.

Jameson Fink: Hey, we'll be back to the show very shortly. But since you're here, I know you're already a fan of wine podcasts, why don't you check out our other show called The Wine Enthusiast Podcast, download it wherever you get podcasts.

Let's talk about another white wine, we'll move on from Assyrtiko, it's Moschofilero?

Susan Kostrzewa: Yes.

Jameson Fink: Okay, so the second bottle I wanna talk about is the Nasiakos 2016 Mantinia Moschofilero, probably butchered that again.

Susan Kostrzewa: No, you got it.

Jameson Fink: Okay. That's 92 points. So tell me about this white wine grape, because it seems like if you're gonna start somewhere in Greece, this might be the white wine to start with.

Susan Kostrzewa: Yeah, that's a very good point. I think Assyrtiko, it's interesting because it might be the first point of contact that most people have with Greek wines, but it's actually, to me it's a little geekier. Whereas Moschofilero also delicious, but a little bit more versatile as far as style, and just a little easier to enjoy just patio wine. Again, it depends on where it comes from, it's Mantinia, which is in the Peloponnese, it's mainland Greece is where it's traditionally from. And you know, it's very floral, it's got again, it's crisp, it's really balanced. But it's got orange blossom, and grapefruit, and sort of floral aromas. Almost could be like a Riesling, or an Albarino style wine. And to me, those are some of the best wines that again, are made in Greece are the Moschofileros, they do them in sparkling, still, all sorts of different dessert wines. It's really delicious. And this particular one is fabulous. This producer makes incredible Moschofilero.

Jameson Fink: And I always think about that, I remember going to a wine dinner for a Greek winery a few years ago. And they were just showcasing Syrah, and Cabernet. And it was kind of weird in a way because I feel like this is probably for, I always have this tension in well, we kinda wanna give people grapes they're familiar with if you want them to enter a world of Greek wine or whatever it may be, or wines from Sicily or something like that. But then there's such this heritage of indigenous grapes, like here's a Syrah, here's a Cabernet. It's like you have this treasure trove of indigenous grapes. So is there kind of that tension there to pursue indigenous grapes? And it's not like they're bad wines, but Syrah or Cabernet, you know?

Susan Kostrzewa: Well like I said, I think there was a pressure years ago to plant international varieties, again Chardonnay, Syrah Chardonnay, et cetera. Because people felt well no one knows these wines, so let's push the international stuff. Then I think what the benefit became is they were making a very good quality of international grapes and they started blending them. And that's a great entree. I mean it is scary, especially if you're just a beginning exploratory wine drinker, you're not gonna go maybe first for something that is called Thrapsathiri.

Jameson Fink: Right.

Susan Kostrzewa: But you might go for a Sauvignon Blanc Thrapsathiri blend.

Jameson Fink: Right.

Susan Kostrzewa: So I think that actually ended up being a good thing. And there are some really great blends, really delicious blends. And it helps people along. And then they might say, "You know what? Next time I'll just try the Thrapsathiri, I liked this wine, I'm not afraid of this anymore, I'm gonna try the single variety. So I do think there was a pressure. I think now it's sort of subsiding in that I think more people are just doubling down on the native varieties. But it's good that they have some of these other blending options. I think it makes for some really nice wines in some cases.

Jameson Fink: And do you think, now we're at the second wine is from the mainland, I was also thinking when I think of Greek wine it's Crete or Santorini, is the mainland sort of still under appreciated even though it's huge and there's so much wine being made there. But kinda are we just in love with the island wines, and the mainland's like, "Hey, we got a lot going on here too."

Susan Kostrzewa: Yeah, I mean it's easy to connect with the idea, the visual of Greece is always the islands, and the beautiful ocean. But most of Greece is mountainous. It's one of the highest altitude, highest elevation countries in Europe. And people don't always realize that most of the grapes in Greece are grown in these high altitude, maybe 1,100 feet vineyards on the mainland. So yeah, I think there is some ...

Jameson Fink: I know, this is a real podcast. There's thunder, there's lightning.

Susan Kostrzewa: There's this dramatic.

Jameson Fink: The gods, the Greek gods.

Susan Kostrzewa: The gods are here with us as I talk. I better get this right.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, we'll get this right.

Susan Kostrzewa: This could be the last you ever hear of me. But anyway, I think they're underappreciated and I think again, you've got mainland Moschofilero, you also have some red wines, which we can talk about as well. Those are made in northern Greece in the mountainous areas of northern Greece. And you know, we need to talk about them more, there's great stuff going on.

Jameson Fink: Let us talk about one right now.

Susan Kostrzewa: Excellent.

Jameson Fink: The Alpha Estate 2015 Hedgehog Vineyard Xinomavro, 90 points. So kind of along the lines of Moschofilero is this kind of the red wine grape to start exploring if you're getting into Greek wines?

Susan Kostrzewa:             That's a good question, because Xinomavro is kind of akin, people compare to Barolo, to Nebbiolo. So I think if you're a wine lover and you're a food lover, you're going to be really excited about these wines. Do I think it's a quaffer? Not so much. And I hate to call any wine that, but I think as far as approachability, Xinomavro might be your 2.0.

Jameson Fink: Right.

Susan Kostrzewa: And I think Agiorgitiko, which is another red, and I hardly get that right. But anyway, that might be a little more approachable. So Xinomavro, I love these wines, I think they're so elegant. They're incredibly age able. So this is the kind of wine that you can store for 10 years plus and it has all that great acidity, it's gonna age really well. But yeah, I think it's sort of maybe for somebody who's got a little more of an advanced taste in reds.

Jameson Fink: So one thing we haven't talked about, which I think when talking about one of the great pleasures of wine is pairing it with food. Let's just back up and talk about Assyrtiko again. One of the things I remember being on Santorini is having the best tomatoes in the world and seafood. What are some of your favorite Assyrtiko pairings?

Susan Kostrzewa: Well Assyrtiko again, when I think of a great pairing I think of food as you said on the island, which is like the tomatoes, I think about seafood, grilled seafood like sardines, any of that salty seafood goes perfectly with this. Capers, caper salad, all that. All that style of food. A point that I wanna make just 'cause you're making me think about this, that I talk a lot with Greek wine makers about this, and this often happens, Greek wines often are associated with Greek food and that's a great thing. But they also do very well with other types of cuisine. And I think one of the foods that I think is delicious with Greek white wines would be sushi. So sort of more delicate seafood dishes. Indian food, there are a lot of flavors that do very well with these wines. And I think it's kind of fun to explore that as well. And I think that's something that as Greek wine has become more popular in the US you can find the wines in restaurants that aren't just Greek restaurants.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, that's a good point. It doesn't have to be I'm in a Greek restaurant, I'll drink Greek wine, and then if I go somewhere else that has any other kind of cuisine I'm like nah. Because I mean we drink champagne at pizza places, we do lots of interesting experimentation too. So I think that's a really good point. And that's something that will help Greek wine grow too, just not ... Of course if you're there in Greece, or if you're at a Greek restaurant I mean, yeah, it's only natural. Don't drink Barolo in southern Greece or northern Greece. But I really think that's a great way to get people excited and interested about pairing.

I'd love Assyrtiko right now, it's super hot and humid out. Even just a summer salad with fresh produce would be great with probably almost any Greek white wine that was of a lighter style, or a medium bodied.

Susan Kostrzewa: Yeah, definitely. And actually one of the things I've found is these wines, Moschofilero, you can pair them with obviously poultry and pork, and all that stuff. But they can handle some of the red meat like lamb, I mean you'd be surprised. Again, lamb is pretty traditional to Greece. But I've had Assyrtiko with lamb, and the high acid cuts the fat, it's really delicious. To me it's just fun. And again, they're great wines, they're very versatile, but they're really food-driven. So that would be my recommendation to everyone. If you've never had a Greek wine, I would recommend that you probably have it with food. Because they can be a little high in acid for people just to sit and drink if they've never had. But they do very well with that.

Jameson Fink: And I guess I have a little sidebar about food and wine pairing, I love white wine with meat, whether it's lamb, even steak. I had recently steak with a different wine, different country, but a rich, dry, Austrian Riesling. And it has that sort of big rich steak dish, and big rich red wine. But when you have something that's a little livelier like a white wine, especially in the summer. Especially with like a steak salad, it's super refreshing to drink a white wine, or a slightly chilled red rather than ... That doesn't mean oh I'm having a pork, or a steak, or a lamb then I have to have a red wine.

Susan Kostrzewa: Right, yeah. I mean that's the exciting thing about all these combinations. I think there's a lot more freedom than there used to be. There was always freedom, but we will tell you also, as I've bene lucky enough to taste and pair a lot of wines and foods in my career, I realize now it's really important to just try new combinations and not necessarily worry too much about what you've read, or think is the right combo. And that's, like I say, the Greek wines I've had a blast just tasting lots of different foods with them. And it's been a really fun way of learning more about the flavors, and seeing how they change, and just having a good time with it.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I don't think you need to bring your little chart to the restaurant and sort of look at it underneath the table, like oh I'm getting a steak, what am I allowed to have?

Susan Kostrzewa: Right.

Jameson Fink: I think that's a good thing where we sort of ... There are matches that are classic for a reason, but I think it's great that we've kind of moved beyond these rigid rules. Because a lot of it depends on how it's cooked, what it's served with, where you are. Are you in a nice air conditioned cave, or are you outside on a 90 degree humid day? It's like, "Oh I'm outside, I'm eating a steak, I have to have Cabernet." But you can definitely just chuck those rules.

Susan Kostrzewa: Actually you just made me think of something when you were talking about drinking wine and the context of it, and the atmosphere in which you're drinking it. And I was thinking when I was recently in Greece I was on Mount Olympus, which is in northern Greece outside of Thessaloniki. And it was a hot, hot day. My instinct would've been to go for again, refreshing white wine, something sort of nervy and easy to drink. And we ended up drinking some incredible Xinomavro on the mountain with lamb. And it seemed like ugh, it's heavy, and it's gonna be too hot for this. And I have to tell you, it was so awesome and delicious.

And I think in the case of again, going back to Xinomavro it has a freshness to it, it's got this kind of really nice backbone and freshness to it. And I actually, it made me reset my brain about red wine in the summer. Red wine and hot climates. It can be really awesome, and really delicious. And it also doesn't hurt to be on Mount Olympus.

Jameson Fink: No, it definitely does not. So even if you can't get to Mount Olympus for some Greek wine, I will encourage all of you to explore the country, it has an amazing history, centuries old, more than centuries old.

Susan Kostrzewa: Millennia.

Jameson Fink: Millennia old. And these are just three wines that are great to start, but explore the whole country, try the indigenous grapes, and maybe get a little crazy and try some of the blends that have some of the grapes you might be familiar with too. But get out there and explore Greek wine. So Susan, thank you for being on the show.

Susan Kostrzewa: Thanks for having me.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

Susan Kostrzewa: The three wines we discussed today were the Gaia Wines 2017 Wild Ferment Assyrtiko , the Nasiakos 2016 Mantinia Moschofilero, and the Alpha Estate 2015 Hedgehog Vineyard Xinomavro.

Jameson Fink: Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell you friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Aug 20 2018

24mins

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1:8 Exploring Texas Wines from High Plains to Hill Country

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While the East and West Coast get the lion's share of attention, it's time to focus Texas. It's an exciting time to be making, and drinking, wines from the state. Explore the landscape, get to know the grapes, and find out which local bottles pair best with barbecue. 

Wine Discussed:

 @4:50 Llano Estacado 2017 Signature Rosé (Texas)

@18:18 Haak 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Texas High Plains)

@17:18 Messina Hof 2014 Paulo Limited Edition Red (Texas)

Transcript:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at wines from Texas, with Assistant Tasting Director Fiona Adams, who covers and reviews wines from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time. Even wines from Texas, which you do want to mess with. Download Vivino to discover and find your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

When I think about wine in the United States, of course the West Coast comes to mind probably first. Definitely first. California, Washington, Oregon. Then, of course, being in New York, and spending a lot more time living here on the East Coast, I'm getting more into New York wines, and trying things from Vermont and Virginia, of course.

But a area I really know very little about wine-wise is Texas. I'm really excited to have you here on the show, Fiona, and give me a education in Texas wine. Welcome to the show.

Fiona Adams: Thank you for having me.

Jameson Fink: The first thing I want to know is where are they making wine in Texas? How many wine regions are there? What's going on?

Fiona Adams: There are a handful of wine regions, but the two main ones, where they're doing most of the grape growing, a lot of the wineries are based there, are in Texas Hill Country, which Fredericksburg is the main town there. It's just outside of Austin and San Antonio. A little bit more to do.

Then in West Texas, we've got the High Plains. So Lubbock, Odessa area. That's where they're doing most of the grape growing. It's really flat. Just a lot more space to work with. Most of the cotton grown in the United States is also grown there, so maybe grapes will edge them out.

Jameson Fink: Or stock up on your white t-shirts and get some wine.

Fiona Adams: Yeah, exactly. You can just ... disposable white t-shirts, with all the red wine they're making.

Jameson Fink: What are the main grapes they're growing, red and white?

Fiona Adams: They do a lot of pretty much everything there. I'd say the main standout red grape that's really emerging as Texas's signature is Tempranillo. A lot of different people are making it. It's pretty interesting.

Then, in the whites, it's a lot of mix of just warmer weather white grapes. A lot of Rhône grapes, Roussannes, Marsannes. They've got Albariños, Chenin blancs, and your classic Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, so they're really still in the experimentation phase in finding their true signature grapes, but it leads to a lot of different, interesting wines in a whole bunch of different styles.

Jameson Fink: Usually, I don't like to say like, "Oh, is this region like this?" I like to judge things on their own merits, but just, if you're not familiar with Texas, if you like these kinds of wines, it might remind you of this, or the land might remind you of that? Is it unique, as far as geographic weather, or ...

Fiona Adams: The weather? I mean, it's Texas, so it's hot. You should expect some fuller-body wines. Wines with a little bit more alcohol. Wines that are just a little bit fuller in character. A little heartier. But they have a lot of talented winemakers who are making things that are really elegant and lighter-bodied, as well.

It might be really hot there in the summer, but they also get really cold there, which not a lot of people know. It's pretty decent elevation. Winters get pretty cool. They've got a really great temperature change, day to night, out in the High Plains. Hill Country is a little bit more what you would expect. Pretty humid, pretty hot, but not as much grape production is going on there.

Jameson Fink: What's the elevation, in ... As far as it goes?

Fiona Adams: It's high.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it's high.

Fiona Adams: Not as high as New Mexico, but higher than most places. Higher than you would expect.

Jameson Fink: High enough to get a diurnal shift, dare we say?

Fiona Adams: Oh, yeah. I mean, Texas ... The big joke about Texas is, depending on what part of the state, the season can change. You could have winter in the northern part, and it be a snowstorm, and then go further south, and it's 100-degrees, and 1,000% humidity, and chilling at a beach. You get a little bit of everything.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. One of the scariest snowstorms I ever drove through was in Texas.

Fiona Adams: People don't think about snow when it comes to Texas, but they've got plenty of weather.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Well, speaking of weather, it's right now, here in New York and all over the country, it's a prime rosé drinking season, so actually the first wine I want to talk about from Texas is a rosé. It's the Llano Estacado 2017 Signature Rosé. 89 points, best buy. Can you tell me a little bit about this wine as far as what's in it, and what it tastes like?

Fiona Adams: It's a really tasty rosé. It's definitely got that lighter, Provençal color going on. Really pretty, like those classic strawberry and fruit flavors. Then the blend has got some more of those Rhône grapes that are doing really well there. I believe it's Cinsault, and ...

Jameson Fink: Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Grenache. I have it in front of me.

Fiona Adams: There you go. So more like a classic Rhône blend, but they've been able to keep it really refreshing, and pretty, and all of those things that people are really looking for in their rosés right now. It's just ... I mean, it's a great price. It's great wine.

Jameson Fink: Are you seeing a lot of dry rosés like this from Texas?

Fiona Adams: Oh, yeah. They do a ton of dry rosé there. There's been a handful of producers that are canning their rosé. I mean, it is hot in the summer there. You want to sit outside, and drink rosé, and hang out. There's, I mean, a huge variety. I mean, they are definitely doing a lot more of those Rhône grape blends for their rosés, but you can find a few of those Cabernet Sauvignon ones. It's going to be a little bit fuller than a Provençal-style, but I wouldn't go into saying it's dark rosé, that you need food. It's that really light, approachable style.

Jameson Fink: It reminds me of, I mean, I was just talking with Sean Sullivan about Washington State and Eastern Washington. I mean, it's really hot out there, and it's very deserty, but you get these ... You can still ... I mean, it's just like Provence. It's hot, but you produce these wines from grapes that make these thirst-slaking wines that you want to drink in the heat of the summer.

Fiona Adams: And they've got canned rosé. Who doesn't want canned rosé?

Jameson Fink: I want canned rosé!

Fiona Adams: There's a couple of cool producers who are making these canned rosés. Messina Hof, who we'll talk about later. They do a canned rosé that's really tasty. There's a few other guys who are doing it, as well. Then Lewis Cellars makes a ton of rosé that's all Rhône-varieties. They're just so pretty, and so delicious. He's really starting to master making those very light, refreshing, expressive wines with these grapes that can get insanely ripe in that heat.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and I think you mentioned canned wines, and I think ... People talk, "Oh, is it a fad, or a trend?" I mean, I think it's here to stay. We've gone past that. I think we're going to see more and more of canned wine.

Fiona Adams: If you can can beer, why can't you can wine?

Jameson Fink: I agree. I tend to like ... I mean, you can get a 12-ounce can. To me, it's like, "Okay, great. There's two glasses in there." Or I actually like better the ... I like the little Red Bull-sized, or what are those ... 250-milliliters. More like single-serving wines.

Fiona Adams: Exactly. If you're having a barbecue or something, that small can ... Or going to the beach. Sitting by the pool. You don't want to deal with glasses and bottles. I mean, there's all those products that you can buy, but it's way easier to ... you throw in your six-pack of beer, and you throw in your six-pack of wine, and you're ready to go.

Jameson Fink: That's right. They can live in the same cooler.

Fiona Adams: Exactly.

Jameson Fink: That's great. The second wine ... We're going to move into red wine territory. It's from the Texas High Plains. It's the Haak 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. 88 points. What is a Texas Cabernet like?

Fiona Adams: Texas Cabernet ... I mean, they're hitting all of those checkboxes that die-hard Cabernet Sauvignon-lovers really want. It's going to be fuller-bodied. They've got all that great tannin and structure. Some of those classic tobacco and leathery flavors. Then, because the fruit gets so ripe down there, they get really punchy red berries in there. All of their reds, really. It's just like ... You get all of those nice flavors, and structure, and support from the oak aging, but you're not overwhelming the fruit flavors, because they are just naturally so intense.

Jameson Fink: Is it too corny for me to say, like, these are great wines to have with brisket or Texas barbecue?

Fiona Adams: Texas barbecue! Absolutely. Brisket's big down there, and delicious. I mean, depending on who you talk to, they'll tell you 10 or 12 different barbecue places that you have to go to. I agree. You have to go to get them. It pairs well with ... Yeah. Those really classic Texas portions. Your big meat. You've got your cornbread, your potato salad. All the classic sides, and the wines just seamlessly pair with that traditional flavor.

Jameson Fink: So if you're visiting Hill Country, you can just do a pretty epic day or week of barbecue and wine tasting?

Fiona Adams: Absolutely. Especially with Hill Country being so close to Austin, which has some seriously famous barbecue places. I'm a Salt Lick person. That's my favorite. Come at me.

Jameson Fink: I can't. I haven't been there, so ... Shamefully.

Fiona Adams: You're also close to San Antonio, which has an insane amount of restaurants. You can, easy enough, fly in there. Rent a car, and in a couple of hours, you're in wine country with just as many great restaurants. A ton of different wineries you can visit. They've got their own wine trail happening in Hill Country, so you can really have that experience that Napa or New York has really developed, where, oh, you come here, and this is a wine trail, and everything is geared around that.

Jameson Fink: I think people are like, "Look, I'll get on a plane right now and go to Napa," or Sonoma, or really anywhere. But I think people are looking for those kinds of destinations, too, that are a little off-beat. People, like I said, love to go to Austin, or San Antonio, and like to be able to visit a unique wine country that's maybe unexpected. I think that's kind of the next step, is like, "Oh! I'm going to think about Texas, and I'll think of wine." Or "I'll think of tasting wine." Or buying wine, buying local wine. I think that's pretty exciting, too.

Fiona Adams: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Napa is, sure, the American wine destination for a lot of people. It's the first one that pops into their head. But it's really crowded. It's really expensive. And you can get a similar vibe and experience in Texas that you can in Napa, because you've got great restaurants. You've got a great place to stay. Great shopping. They've also got horses and Texas stuff that's way cooler.

Jameson Fink: Hey, we'll be back to the show very shortly. But since you're here, I know you're already a fan of wine podcasts. Why don't you check out our other show, called The Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Download it wherever you get podcasts.

Okay. I want to get a little controversial. Bring up a controversial issue. One is that ... Well, not one. The issue, to me, is that there are a lot of wines made in Texas that are made from grapes imported from California. I'm wondering, when you look at a label, how do you know ... It can say "Texas" on the label, but the grapes can be imported from California. How prevalent is this, and what is your take on that?

Fiona Adams: There is a big divide there about buying grapes from a different state, and slapping on your label, "Made in Texas." There's been a huge push. There's a lot of young winemakers who are really making some excellent wines who are saying, "Hey, if I wanted to make California wine, I would make it in California. But I'm in Texas. I'm from Texas. I grew up here. I've been farming these grapes for my whole life."

It's really a big push for that sense of pride of place. That "This is Texas wine. This isn't California wine. We grow our grapes. We have our own industry. We can beat them. Our wines are just as good. Some of our wines are better." It's just a different experience.

I mean, buying grapes from other wine regions is a common occurrence in some lesser-known states that, maybe they don't have the infrastructure. Maybe there are certain grapes that winemakers want to experiment with, but they just can't grow in their climates.

I mean, that's one way to go, and if you're making beautiful wine, I'm not going to be that mad at you. But especially when you consider sustainability and the environmental impact of trucking grapes from a different state, to ferment it, and then to say that your wine is from Texas? It's like, yeah, you might have made it there, but it's not the same.

Jameson Fink: I mean, I think the whole idea is like local food, and local wine, and when you visit a place, you want to have a literal taste of the place. I mean, I'm certainly ... Look, I'm saying this as some dude sitting on a couch in a Manhattan studio, but if I owned a business, and ... there just aren't enough grapes, for one thing, was [inaudible 00:14:16] be the problem.

I'm sure they're planning a lot more. There's just not enough grapes to meet demand. But I just think there has to be some kind of transparency in labeling. That's something that I don't know that much about as far as how labeling doesn't say, like, "22% of these grapes came from California." Or how that's-

Fiona Adams: They're really working on changing the labeling laws, and making sure that people know exactly where their grapes are coming from. That's a big push in a lot of states, as well, where there's ... When the local wine industry grows, you want to have that stamp on your wines that this is a local wine, and not a wine where the grapes are coming from someplace else.

But as you mentioned, there are issues where you run into with bad harvests, or the demand for Texas wine is going up. They drink so much wine in Texas. You want to keep up with production, so if you are not able to get in all of the grapes that you need to produce the amount of wine that you want to make or sell, and they buy other grapes ... It's just like, "All right, that can be a short-term Bandaid."

But there has been a lot more planting. There's a lot of investment in growing more wine. Like I said, in the High Plains, they can push out the cotton industry, as far as I'm concerned. They've got excellent soil. It takes less water to grow grapes than it does cotton, and they're harvesting really quality fruit.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and I think that maybe the thing to do is when you visit, or anyone visits, is to ask questions. Just be like, "Here's our Cabernet." "Where do you get the grapes from?" That's not accusatory. And say, "Are you trying to move away from importing grapes, and having more Texas grapes? Are you planting? Are you buying? Are you working with vineyards that are growing?"

I just think, as a wine drinker, when you're visiting, ask these questions, and get to know ... Just like you would ask about any other wines when you're visiting a wine region, and listen to what these winemakers are saying. Or these business owners, too.

Because like I said, it's easy for me to complain. Like, "Well, why would you make any ... Why don't you stop making wine when you run out of grapes?" And like, "If your livelihood and business ... Maybe five years down the road, or 10 years down the road, plantings will increase and then you won't need to be reliant on that."

I think also, as people are more into local wine everywhere ... I mean, just demand that. Demand that they move towards sourcing grapes from local vineyards, or vineyards in the state.

Fiona Adams: Texas is a great place to visit for that. Most of the wineries have tasting rooms. They have great staff who are willing to tell you about the wines that you're trying, and tell you where they were planted. It's like, "Oh, yeah. These grapes? If you drive five miles down that road, you can go look at these vines." They've got a fair amount of ability to handle tourists and really educate wine drinkers. It's definitely worth the visit.

Jameson Fink: Absolutely. The third wine we want to talk about is Messina Hof 2014 Paulo Limited Edition Red. 89 points. It's a Merlot blend. 60% Merlot, 27% Tempranillo, 13% Cabernet. I know you just tasted a bunch of Tempranillos from Texas. Can you talk about Tempranillo in Texas, and how ... Is that the grape to hitch your wagon to?

Fiona Adams: Tempranillo is definitely something that's becoming really popular there. I mean, they've got the right climate for it. If you think about ... Tempranillo, it's Rioja's grape. It's another place where it is hot there. It is flat. It has got not an entirely similar climate, but they've really been able to take those grapes and bring them to Texas and make their own style on it. I mean, they don't taste like Riojas. They are their own stamp on it.

I mean, they do have similarities to Rioja, but I think you get a nice range of styles that you couldn't find someplace else, and just great fruit flavors. A lot of the winemakers are pretty restrained in their use of oak, so you get some really pretty fruit flavors that will go with a lot of different foods. If you don't want something that's a big, heavy Gran Reserva, and you want a Tempranillo, I mean, Texas ... There's a lot of great value there. The vines really seem to have taken to the soils and the climates there, and it really looks like that's where they're headed.

Jameson Fink: I thought it was also cool about Messina Hof, is that it was founded in 1977. I mean, I think it was maybe the fourth winery in Texas. I didn't realize that the history goes back that far.

Fiona Adams: Oh, yeah. Texas? They've been making wine for a really long time. They used to grow grapes and sell them to California winemakers. Messina Hof's been around for a while, and they definitely have proved themselves as very capable of making excellent wines, and have really embraced the family wine tradition in Texas in creating a lasting industry.

Jameson Fink: I also was, when I was looking at their lineup of wines, they have an Estate Sagrantino, which I thought was really cool and unusual.

Fiona Adams: It's delicious.

Jameson Fink: I think that's ... It reminds me of when I was in Australia, in the McLaren Vale ... That was kind of lame of me to just brag about that, but you know what I mean-

Fiona Adams: "When I was in Australia."

Jameson Fink: When I was ... Yeah. Yeah. Ugh. So insufferable. But I mean the Barossa, or the McLaren Vale, rather, and it's super ... I mean, it's crazy hot there. There's a winery, Oliver's Taranga, that makes a Sagrantino, and they do a Fiano, and I think it's really smart, when you're in a climate that's that hot, to think about grapes like Sagrantino.

Fiona Adams: Absolutely. I mean, they're definitely still experimenting and figuring out, like, "All right. If this works, why can't this work?" Or "This seems to be a climate that's similar to ours. Let's throw in a few vines." I mean, they're enough under-the-radar, and they have a great local consumer base that, if they make something, and maybe it isn't their favorite thing, and they can pull out the vines in a couple of years? At least they tried it, and check that one off the list, move to the next one.

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Fiona Adams: I mean, and they're not really having a problem selling their wines. It's hard to find Texas wine outside of Texas because they're drinking all of the wine in Texas. Why would you export, if you can just sell it to everyone here.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. No doubt!

Fiona Adams: Hopefully, they get to enough production where you can find it in a few more states, but a lot of the wineries have wine clubs. They're easy to find. They're breaking into some markets. Chicago's got a decent handful of producers that are selling there. New York, of course, but ... Yeah. They keep ... I mean, Messina Hof also does Rieslings, which you would think, "Why would you grow Riesling, this German Alpine grape, in hot Texas?" But with really capable wine techniques, and knowing your region really well, they're able to create very dry, very approachable, affordable Rieslings.

 Who knows what Texas can do? It's these grapes that are just very surprising, that makes it difficult to be like, "Texas is this." It's like, "Oh, but wait. They also do this, this, and this. So maybe Texas is that." They're trying to find an identity, but maybe it's not as simple as nailing it down to, "Rioja makes Tempranillo. Barossa makes Shiraz." They've got the capability and enough people who are willing to just be constantly experimenting that maybe they don't need to be the "This is the Cab state."

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, speaking of experimenting, one of the nice pleasures of recording with someone in the studio together ... We're live here together ... is sharing some wine. This is our bonus wine that you brought, that I've been really excited to try. It's from Southold Farm + Cellar, which ... I mean, we've both like ... used to be a winery located in Long Island, and now is in Texas. As far as how that happened, I think I can just say Long Island's loss, Texas's gain. But tell me about this white wine you brought. It's very luscious.

Fiona Adams: Yeah, so this is a white blend. This is one of those wines where it's like, oh yeah, Texas is going to try ... make anything, and a lot of the times, they're going to succeed. This is Southold's blend. It's called Don't Forget to Soar. It's mostly-

Jameson Fink: S-O-A-R.

Fiona Adams: Yes. "Soar," like a bird.

Jameson Fink: Like a bird. Yes, I gotcha.

Fiona Adams: It's mostly Roussanne, right? I said?

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Fiona Adams: With a splash of Albariño, and those are two white grapes that ... I've been coming across them in Texas a lot. They've been very expressive, really fruit-driven wines. They've got an insane amount of acidity, and they've had a lot of success, so I'm hoping that they do go in this direction where they do a lot more of these Rhône blends, especially in their whites. This one is a little bit funkier. Maybe a little skin-contact going on.

Jameson Fink: Possibly, yeah. It's got some depth of color. It's rich. It's very good. It's very ... not indulgent, but it's very luscious, like I said. It's-

Fiona Adams: It is luscious.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. It's got a lot of texture to it.

Fiona Adams: Exactly. Southold, this is another one of those younger winemakers who is trying new things, and really expanding the category. I would say Lewis Cellars, which I mentioned before. They're doing a lot of interesting wines. William Chris is another winery. It's a duo with a younger guy who's making really awesome wines. He is not on the Tempranillo bandwagon.

Jameson Fink: Mm. Ah!

Fiona Adams: But his wines are incredible, so I'm not going to fault him.

Jameson Fink: Right.

Fiona Adams: I think having that energy has really been helping to give space to wines like this one, that's a little bit weirder. Wouldn't be what you'd expect, but because Texas isn't nailed down to this one signature style, that everyone's like, "Oh, yeah. I'll try that one. Oh, yeah. I'll try that. Who knows? I'm not so stuck in my ways with one style that I can just try something."

Jameson Fink: Yeah. It reminded me, like I said, I hinted at earlier, it reminds me a lot of Washington State, as far as like, "Oh, do we need a signature grape? Do we have one?" Or, I think they're, obviously, in Washington, is farther along, but they went through those same things, where they're like, "We're trying this here. We're trying it in these sites. We're trying these warm weather grapes. We do Riesling, too, and it works." I feel a kinship there.

 But whites, rosés, reds. It sounds like Texas is a really exciting place to explore. Especially getting in on the ground floor, before the word is out. The word should be out, because they make a lot of wine. They do make a lot of wine. But I would encourage everyone to visit. I definitely want to visit. I want to go eat some barbecue and drink some Tempranillo and rosé, and maybe have-

Fiona Adams: Those Rhône wines.

Jameson Fink: ... the Rhône wines.

Fiona Adams: You've got to go for those Rhône wines.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, the Roussanne.

Fiona Adams: McPherson makes a Picquepoul that is my summer wine. They're based out in the High Plains, so a little bit further, but-

Jameson Fink: That was the first Texas wine I ever had, was a McPherson.

Fiona Adams: He's been doing it a long time, and it shows. His wines are stellar. He's got a little bit of something for everyone. I mean, that Picquepoul, if you're sitting outside in the heat, maybe not Texas heat, but it's just as hot in New York right now.

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Fiona Adams: That's the wine that I want to be drinking.

Jameson Fink: Fantastic. Well, there's a lot to explore with Texas wine, so thanks for enlightening me and being on the show, Fiona.

Fiona Adams: Thank you.

Jameson Fink: All right. Let's drink more of this delightful Southold wine.

Fiona Adams: Yeah.

Jameson Fink: Thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast. Sponsored by Vivino, Wine Made Easy.

The three wines we discussed today were: Llano Estacado 2017 Signature Rosé, the Haak 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Texas High Plains, and the Messina Hof 2014 Paolo Limited Edition Red.

Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today's episode, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Aug 13 2018

27mins

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1:7 Washington Red Blends Take Wine's Center Stage

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Whether the blends are Bordeaux, Rhône-style, or something completely unique, Washington is serving notice that its red wines made from a mix of grapes are world-class. This week we talk to Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Sean Sullivan and get to know bottles from three unique regions, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, and Walla Walla Valley, and how vineyard site impacts what ends up in your glass. 

Wines Discussed:

@5:25 Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red (Red Mountain)

@12:11 Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard Red (Horse Heaven Hills)

@16:37 La Rata 2014 Red (Walla Walla Valley (WA))

Transcript:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's "What We're Tasting" podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at red blends from Washington state with Sean Sullivan, Wine Enthusiast contributing editor who covers and reviews wines from the region.

"What We're Tasting" is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, including wines from my dear home state for a decade of Washington. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites. Stock up at vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

One of the conversations we always have about a wine region or a state is having a signature grape, does it have to have a signature grape. Definitely with Washington, what's really interesting about that is you could probably say Merlot, you could say Cabernet, perhaps even Syrah. I think what's interesting about Washington, besides its diversity in grapes, is its red blends. For me, that's where a lot of excitement is so I'm excited to speak with you about this, Sean. Welcome to the show.

Sean Sullivan: Thank you very much for having me.

Jameson Fink: With red blends, I think ... Also, I should mention that you wrote a really interesting article for winemag.com about wine blending and red grapes. If you go to winemag.com and search for wine blending, it will come up. I was thinking about Bordeaux-style blends, your Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, et cetera, based blends. Rhone blends, which are your Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and a few other suspects might be involved in that, too. Sean, is Rhone ... Are the Rhone blends, the red blends, is that really where a lot of kind of the excitement and really interesting things are being done in Washington?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. I think that in terms of ... Bordeaux-style blends have really been done for quite some time in Washington now. It's really only more recently ... If you look at it, Syrah has really only been in the state ... It was first planted in 1986 and the plantings have been growing ever since, so it's a reasonably short history. It's really only much more recent that we've started to see an increasing number of wines using Grenache and using Mourvedre and some of the other varieties, as well, in Rhone blends. Definitely, we see a lot of those, as well some very exciting wines being made in that category, but we see people blending with pretty much everything under the sun in the state. We have over 70 different grape varieties planted here and people are experimenting with a lot of different things and they're trying to blend with a lot of different things and seeing what they find.

Jameson Fink: Do you think, just because I think Syrah has been such a rising star, that that's kind of ... Obviously, some of these blends are Grenache-heavy or possibly Syrah-heavy or another grape, but it seems like, with sort of the ascending stardom of Syrah, where it has that kind of savory Old World notes and some good acid and some of that kind of New World lift and power, is that kind of playing a part in the popularity of Rhone-style blends?

Sean Sullivan: Not just in Rhone-style blends. Even in Bordeaux-style blends, we see some wineries blending in sometimes a little bit of Syrah, sometimes a lot of Syrah, which you could say is that still a Bordeaux-style blend or not. I think one of the things you get with Syrah, in addition to the things you said, is that you get that nice plush richness of fruit flavor that a lot of consumers find very, very appealing. I think we see Syrah being used in a variety of different types of blends in addition to the Rhone-style blends.

Jameson Fink: I kind of think of ... This is something just when I first came to Washington in 2004, 2005, that I found interesting, and I really hadn't seen it anywhere else, is it seems like there's a lot of Syrah-Cabernet blends that kind of ... A little bit of Syrah, a little it of a Cabernet, is that kind of a signature Washington blend? It seems really interesting.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it's definitely something that you see a lot of in the state and people have been doing at least going back to the early 2000s, if not earlier. There are two ... Right, you see it a little bit elsewhere in the world, such as Australia. You see those types of blends, but it's definitely something that we see a good bit of here in Washington and something that I think can be done very, very well in Washington. It's a good marriage of the two varieties.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. You're not sort of ... That's one of the nice things about a fairly young wine region is you're not kind of bound by tradition, like, "Okay, we can either make a Bordeaux-style blend or we have to make a Rhone-style blend." It's like, "Hey, let's take a little bit from Column A and Column B."

Sean Sullivan: Well, I was told a great story by Steve Griessel at Betz Family Winery where he was saying that he had a winemaker in from Bordeaux, from a fairly well-regarded winery. They were working with a series of barrel samples and he said the first thing the Bordeaux winemaker did was take some Syrah and try blending it into the Bordeaux blends and kind of seeing what that looked like. It's something that I think a lot of people are experimenting with. As you said here, it's early days and very much the Wild West, and so people are trying different things and trying to see what works. It leads to a lot of excitement and a lot of interesting wines being made.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Well, let's talk about one of those interesting wines. The first one I wanted to talk about was the Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands red from Red Mountain, 90 points. When we were talking about this earlier, that ... It's 90% Syrah, 10% Cabernet, so it really could be labeled as Syrah.

Sean Sullivan: Correct, could be labeled as Syrah. They actually make ... Underground Wine Project makes another wine that's the flip of these wines called the Devil's Playground that's 90% Syrah ... Excuse me, 90% Cabernet and 10% Syrah, as well. Yes, this wine could be ... To be a varietally labeled wine, it needs to be at least 75% of this variety. At 90% for this particular wine, it's well above that but they're labeling it as a red blend. I think partly in doing so, it gives them the flexibility to change that blend over time if they wish, and partly red blends are just a very, very hot category now and have been for the past few years.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. I picked ... That was something I wanted to talk about, just because a lot of ... We might be drinking a lot more blends than we even know, just because any bottle of Cabernet or a single variety grape, whether red or white, it can have a certain percentage of other grapes in it. I think that is kind of an interesting development. A lot of people might not know that when they buy a Syrah. They're like, "Okay, it's a Syrah," but you know what? It might have 10% Cab, it might have 15%. I think that's kind of an interesting thing for people to kind of dig deeper in if you're ... Those lovely PDF tech sheets with all the wine data on them, it's pretty interesting when you sort of dig down a little and get the blend.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, absolutely. I think most wines are blends of some type. Either they're blends of different barrels, they're blends of different varieties, they're blends of different vineyards, they're blends of different appellations, and so it can be very interesting to look down in that and say, "Okay, what is the 5% of this? What does it bring to the wine? Why did the winemaker add it?" Sometimes, you can try to figure that out and try to taste that in the wines, and sometimes it's much more subtle and it can be hard to do. It's definitely interesting to think about.

Jameson Fink: It's like all the wine world is a blend.

Sean Sullivan: All the wine world is a blend. Exactly.

Jameson Fink: Actually, that ... When you said a little, kind of detecting those smaller percentages, I thought it was really interesting, just going back to your article about wine blending when you talked to James from Syncline about one of his blends has 2% of something in it. A lot of people would be like, "2%? What the hell is that going to do? That's not going to contribute anything," but he was ... He spoke very strongly about, "Yeah, that's something ... When it's there, you can taste it and, when it's not there, it's a different wine."

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, absolutely. Another part of that conversation with James which didn't make it into the article, he was also talking about sparkling wines. He was talking about the dosage or adding of sugar to those wines, as well, and he was saying that as much as a quarter of a milliliter can radically affect the taste and overall sensation of the wine in a sparkling wine. It seems ... 2% in a 750 mL bottle seems like an extremely small amount but he's saying even tiny drops of sugar to wine can also radically affect them, as well. That's part of the article.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Look, I'm just going to give a little sidebar even though we're talking about red blends, that the Syncline sparkling wines are great, and the sparkling Gruner is really cool.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it's definitely ... It's both an extreme rarity and absolutely delicious and well worth people seeking out.

Jameson Fink: Just going back to the Underground Project Wine, just something you said I thought was real interesting, too, just not calling it a Syrah, giving that flexibility. With red blends, such a hot category, and having those kind of proprietary names like Idle Hands or the Prisoner or something like that, one year to the next, people are like ... They're responding to the name, the packaging, and then the wine inside, of course, but it does give you that. Maybe next year it will be 80% Syrah or maybe there will be another grape in there. As long as it's got that kind of, I think, maybe stylistic consistency that people expect, and this is a project with, I should say, between Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly, that people are going to respond to it. They're kind of looking for that kind of profile with these wines. Would you agree with that?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, I would absolutely agree. Yeah, Trey Busch, Sleigh of Hand sellers, Mark McNeilly, Mark Ryan Winery. The wine coming from Red Mountain, known as a very, very warm area of Washington state, so wines with a lot of ripeness of fruit but also a lot of structure to them, as well, when we're talking about Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. Big, powerful wines that I think are very, very consumer-friendly.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. One thing I'm glad you mentioned, Red Mountain, it's a really ... As far as appellations in Washington go, Red Mountain is a tiny place, right?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it's only 4,040 acres total in size, so really, really a small growing region, but, if you go there, it is extensively planted to wine grapes. I don't know what the current number is. It's at least 2,600 acres, I want to say, planted to wine grapes at this point, so it's very much wine country there, and specifically red wine the vast majority of grapes grown there are red wine grapes because of the heat.

Jameson Fink: Are you seeing more collaborations like this with winemakers, more projects where two or more winemakers are kind of getting together and making something together, a new brand, kind of something that's different than what they're doing with their own winery?

Sean Sullivan: I definitely think there's some interest in doing that. One of the things that I think makes Washington such a fun area to cover and such a fun area to visit is it's a very small industry and everyone really still knows each other. In this case, Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly made this wine because they've been friends forever and were interested in working together and doing something together. I think those types of collaborations are definitely something that is very Washington. A lot of winemakers here, in areas like Woodenville, they're sharing equipment, they're sharing presses, they're sharing all sorts of different things during the harvest time, and that lends itself to a really nice kind of collegial atmosphere that then leads to people doing various joint projects together.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and they share beers and pizza. Actually, interesting. Earlier, you talked about how there's another Underground Wine Project wine that's kind of the flip of that heavy Syrah-Cab blend. Actually, the second wine is kind of like that, the Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard red from the Horse Heaven Hills, 91 points. That's 80% Cabernet, 20% Syrah. My experience with Buty is actually more of ... To me, their white wine, their white Bordeaux, their Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle is, to me, a really iconic Washington white wine. Can you talk about this particular red wine?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. I agree, the Buty white wine is definitely one of the iconic white wines of Washington state. Here, we see one of their reds with the 2014 Columbia Rediviva from Phinny Hill Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Horse Heaven Hills is a pretty warm growing region in Washington, near the Columbia River. This particular vineyard is right next to Champoux Vineyard, one of the most famous vineyards in Washington state, so we see this really nice ripeness of fruit flavor from that Cabernet Sauvignon, a lot of nice structure to it, too. Oh, really nice fruitfulness coming from the Syrah, this kind of plum flavor.

They also, at Buty, make a wine that is, again, kind of the flip of this, focusing more on Syrah, called the Rediviva of the Stones. That's coming out of the Walla Walla Valley appellation where the winery is actually located. We see in Washington a number of wineries that are playing with these Cabernet-Syrah blends. Some will be Cab-dominant, and then sometimes they'll make another one that's kind of Syrah-dominant with the opposite percentage. It makes for an interesting comparison between the two wines.

Jameson Fink: One thing ... Reading your review, you called Phinny Hill Vineyard "up and coming." Is that because of its location next to Champoux, or is it relatively new? What's kind of exciting about it to you?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. This is a vineyard where, if you talk to different wine makers, they're ... One of the things about Washington I should say, just back up for a moment, is we don't have as much of the estate model here in Washington, where we have a vineyard with a chateau or winery sitting next to it. Instead, we have wineries sourcing fruit from different vineyards across the Columbia Valley, which is Washington's largest growing region. A lot of different wineries are sourcing fruit from Phinny Hill Vineyard, and there's just a lot of excitement about the fruit that's coming out of that particular area. In particular, Gramercy Cellars, a lot of their Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an outstanding wine coming from Washington, is coming from the Phinny Hill Vineyard, as well. It's definitely one that, when you talk to winemakers about what they're excited about that's in their cellars, Phinny Hill is definitely one of those places.

Jameson Fink: It's pretty interesting because these are some, like Champoux, Phinny Hill, some really prestigious vineyards, but the appellation Horse Heaven Hills, I went there once and my instructions were like, "There's this lonely gas station and, if you don't get gas there if you need gas, you might be in trouble," and it was a very lonely gas station so it wasn't exaggerated. Can you talk about Horse Heaven Hills, where this wine comes from, because I think there's obviously a lot of maybe more high production type of wines that come from there, but then there are these really prestigious vineyards.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. The interesting thing about the Horse Heaven Hills is it is a very remote growing region. The closest major town would probably be Prosser, which is about an hour, maybe a little bit less than that, away. It's a pretty remote growing region, but some exceptional growing conditions. As I said before, it's down close to the Columbia River so you get a nice river effect, which helps protect against frost and freezes, which is one of our issues that we can potentially have here in Washington. There's also a very nice wind flow coming through, in part because of that river, which helps make thicker tannins and concentrate the fruit a little bit more. I think it's a very interesting growing region.

I've also ... I was initially a little bit skeptical of how good of a region it might be for Syrah, mainly because of the warmth of the regions, but I've recently seen some very high quality Syrahs coming out of the Horse Heaven Hill, as well. It's a very interesting growing region, but it is extremely remote.

Jameson Fink: Okay, so the first two wines were pretty much wines with 90% Syrah, 80% Cabernet, but now let's really get into a blend for real, serious time. The La Rata 2014 Red from Walla Walla Valley, 93 points. It's a Grenache 53%, Cabernet 34%, and 13% Syrah blend. Sean, can you just talk about the winemaker who is making this wine because there's a lot going on there?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, there's definitely a lot going on here. This is a project, this was started in 2012 by Elizabeth Bourcier, who is the assistant vigneronne at Cayuse Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. She was kind of inspired by a bottle of Priorat to think, "Well ..." In the Rocks area of the Walla Walla Valley, you have Cabernet Sauvignon growing right next to Grenache and they tend to ripen around the same time period, so she thought, a la with Priorat, maybe she could blend these together and come up with something interesting.

Her first vintage was in 2012, and a really interesting blend of these two varieties. The Rocks is one of the more distinct growing regions in the Pacific Northwest. It's in the Walla Walla Valley but it's on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. The soil, if you can call it that, is made up of fist-sized cobblestones from the bed of the Walla Walla River. It gives the wines this very unique profile with a lot of earth notes, a lot of savory notes, a lot of mineral notes that are either compelling. People either love them or they hate them.

Elizabeth was really the first person to, in that region, to take some of these varieties and say, "Well, let's take Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon and put them together." With the 2014 vintage, she's added in a little bit of Syrah, as well. That's the first time in this wine. It's a very compelling and interesting bottle of wine, and really is the only one like it, certainly coming out of the Walla Walla Valley.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. The Rocks, it's such an interesting place. If you want to make ... For me, if you want to make an argument about Terroir, Chablis comes to mind, but tasting those Rocks wines have such an interesting signature. Then, just being there, they're like, like you said, these kind of brain-sized rocks and that's the soil. It's so weird to think ... You think soil, you think dirt. You grab it in your hands and compress it. These are big rocks. [was-alt 00:19:14] the first place I ever saw being plowed by a horse. I remember I was visiting Cayuse and I was like, "Wow, there's just a giant horse there with a plow." It was pretty dramatic. It was probably planned for us because we were media but it was still pretty dramatic.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it's a very, very fascinating growing region. To plant the vines, you literally need crowbars to kind of pry between the rocks to get the vines down in there. One of the things that's happening is the rocks are absorbing all this heat and then transmitting it in the infrared back up at the grape clusters. It gives the wines an extremely unique signature, and one that you see really almost trumps variety in that particular region, which I think is very unusual, certainly for Washington. You can detect that. I remember having a wine several years back where I thought ... It was a Syrah and I thought, "Is there some Rocks fruit in this particular wine?" I think it had 6% Rocks fruit in it but you could tell because it's such a distinctive signature.

Jameson Fink: James from Syncline would be very proud of you for pointing that out. Then, we got to talk about ... This whole Rocks appellation, which is now the Rocks of Milton Freewater, I think it is, but ... Let me see if I can describe this right. This wine is made from grapes in the state of Oregon but it's ... I don't know why it's Walla Walla Valley or is it a Washington wine or what is it? I'm confused. I'm still confused and I live there.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it's ... I think the Walla Walla Valley is a very interesting appellation in that it spans both the Washington and Oregon borders and there's extensive plantings on both sides of the appellation. That said, of the, let's say, 110 or so wineries and tasting rooms in the area, the vast, vast, vast majority of them are on the Washington side so you see a lot of wines being made in that area that are blends of fruit from the Washington and Oregon side or maybe they're all from the Oregon side but they're being vinified in a winery in Washington. It gets a little confusing in terms of whether that wine is ... It's definitely a Walla Walla Valley wine. Is it a Washington wine or is it an Oregon wine? That becomes much harder to say.

I think it's more clear where the winery is. In Oregon, the Rocks are all located in Oregon. If the winery is there, it's definitely an Oregon wine. If it's a Washington winery that's using that fruit, I can tell you they will call it a Walla Walla Valley, Washington, wine. I think that can be a little bit confusing to people, certainly.

Jameson Fink: Or it could be contentious, too. You're talking about is this Oregon's wine or Washington's wine.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, no, absolutely. It's something that, in ... Going back a little bit in history, where kind of all of the Walla Walla Valley wineries, or most of them, really, were on the Washington side, you look back historically, a winery like Seven Hills originally started on the Oregon side, then moved to the Washington side. As in many other areas, they were just a little bit before their time because now you're seeing wineries on the Oregon side, as well. It just gets difficult to say where do ... If a wine is 51% Washington fruit, 49% Oregon fruit, made by a Washington winery versus an Oregon winery, it's hard to say what exactly the factors are that determine where that wine is from and how that wine should be labeled.

It gets more interesting, in terms of the Rocks district, where it's a sub-appellation of the Walla Walla Valley but it's all wholly located on the Oregon side of the valley. There's actually, and this is very insider baseball, to put something on the label, to put an appellation on the label, the wine needs to be what's called fully finished in the state in which that appellation lies, so wineries in the Walla Walla Valley cannot currently use the Rocks District of Milton Freewater on their label because they're in Washington, even though it's only five, 10 miles away from the Rocks district. They can't currently put that on the label. That's something the government is looking into, and hopefully we'll figure out a way around that in the future.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. This is the not fun, bureaucratic side of wine.

Sean Sullivan: Absolutely.

Jameson Fink: But the wines are ... I guess kind of to summarize that, though, if you can find, and maybe just go to your wine shop or you're at a restaurant and just say, "I want to try a wine made with fruit from the Rocks district," I really think they are just ... There's something about them. I guess their sort of savoriness, meatiness, maybe a little gaminess is very ... It's just one of those things where you're just like, "Wow, this is really ..." When you have a line-up of Washington reds, I think it's pretty ... It has such a signature that really pops if the rest of them aren't from there.

Sean Sullivan: Yes, absolutely. There are wines that, if you blind taste them in a line-up, you can absolutely point out which wines are coming from this area because they have that unique aromatic signature and also flavor signature. These wines are also a higher pH and it gives them this very soft, kind of luxurious mouthfeel, as well, which is also something that's very distinctive. Sometimes, people say, tasting these wines, like, "Wow, these wines remind me of wines from the northern Rhone," in terms of that savory aspect, but that higher pH, to me, is always kind of the tell of them being from the Rocks district, among other things. That mouthfeel that you get from these wines is very, very distinctive, as well.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Well, a lot of the blends from the Rocks district are really fascinating, and all over Washington, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills. Like I said at the beginning, there is certainly a great Cabernet, there's great Merlot, there's great Syrah, and lots of other interesting grapes, but it's really worth exploring the blends of Washington state because there's some really exciting and unique blends being made by winemakers all over.

Sean, thanks for shining a little light on some of the great wines from Washington state.

Sean Sullivan: Thanks so much again for having me, Jameson.

Jameson Fink: Okay. My pleasure.

Thank you for listening to the "What We're Tasting" podcast, sponsored by Vivino. Wine made easy.

The three wines we discussed today were Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands red, Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard red, and La Rata 2014 red.

Find "What We're Tasting" on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting" is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Aug 06 2018

27mins

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1:6 Embracing Lodi Wines, Unique Grapes and Ancient Vines

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast contributing editor Jim Gordon about how Zinfandel reigns supreme in the eyes of many, but Lodi wines are astonishingly diverse. 

Wines Discussed:

@4:48 Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño (Lodi)

@8:08 Scotto Family Cellars 2017 Dry Sangiovese Rosé (Lodi)

@14:18 Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane (Lodi)

Transcript:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, we're looking at the wines of Lodi, with wine enthusiast contributing editor, Jim Gordon, who covers and reviews wines from the region.

What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, including lots from Lodi. Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So while I was doing some reading on Lodi, doing a little reading up, a little research, a little due diligence, I came across this phrase, and this is the phrase: Something subversive is afoot in the vineyards of Lodi, California.

When I read that, the first thing I thought about was actually Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the part where they say, "Something strange is afoot at the Circle K." But this is not about Bill and Ted. We're here to talk about wine in Lodi, and actually, my guest Jim wrote that line, not about Bill and Ted, but about Lodi, and I think it was really great because a lot of people still consider Lodi ... they look through the lens of bulk wines, mass produced wines, nothing but jammy Zinfandels, etc. etc. But that's really ... I mean, it's part of the story, of course, but what's really exciting about Lodi is what's going on there with what we might call underdog grapes, and people doing really interesting and exciting things.

So, I'm excited to have Jim here to talk about Lodi and get to know it a little better, and sort of that hidden, subversive, underdog Lodi that's happening right now. So Jim, welcome to the show.

Jim Gordon: Thank you, Jameson. Happy to be here.

Jameson Fink: And you know, when I was ... I was in Lodi two years ago, and that was my first time there, and I was at a wine reception for the wine blogger's conference. It was 100 degrees there, not surprising, it's pretty hot there, and I was seeking out well-chilled white wines. And I was really impressed with ... I had a Grenache Blanc and a Vermentino there, and I didn't expect to have either of those wines. Maybe I was naïve and I had a lot to learn, that wouldn't be surprising, but I thought it was a really exciting tasting that I discovered all these interesting new white wines.

Can you kind of just talk about the breadth and depth of grapes that are being grown there besides the usual suspects? Just give me a few. Start me off with a few to tantalize me.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, sure. You know, the region has been known for almost commodity level Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc. But, there's Albariño, there's Vermentino as you said, there's Kerner, there's Teroldego, there's Cinsault from 120 year old vines, Carignan. Some of those have been there forever, you know, decades if not a century, but many others have been planted in the last several years to make Lodi a lot more interesting place.

Jameson Fink: And why do you think winemakers are attracted to these grapes in Lodi versus Cabernet or Merlot or Chardonnay? What's the appeal in your mind?

Jim Gordon: I kind of think they're trying to go 180 degrees from what people think of Lodi. People think of it producing sort of fat, lazy Zinfandels or big Chardonnays that are kind of soft and buttery. I think a lot of them are trying to do something the opposite of that, like crisp or tannic or biting or more vivid, not just a big softy like the mass market ones, but something more artisanal, more interesting, more intellectual in a way.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I guess I want to back up. I don't know if a lot of people even know where Lodi is. It's not far from Sacramento, correct?

Jim Gordon: True, it's south of Sacramento, and almost due east of Napa. I live in Napa, and it's an hour and a half drive roughly to Lodi. It's an interesting place. It's in the northern ... basically the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley. It's just on the edge of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta, where it's kind of a bayou area of California, where it's basically at sea level.

So, even though it's inland and it does get hot, but it has the water. When you have water and hot land, you have breezes, so it's not as hot as you would think. It's nothing like the southern San Joaquin Valley, more like around Madera or Fresno. This is quite different than the northern part.

Jameson Fink: So you mentioned earlier Albariño, and the first wine I wanted to talk about was the Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño, which you gave 89 points to. Can you talk about ... I mean, I know Albariño from Spain mostly. Is the grape similar there in Lodi? Is it producing a similar style of wine, something different, or is it a little bit of both?

Jim Gordon: This one is more similar to what you would find in Spain or Portugal I think, than most would be, which is why I liked it. It's refreshing, it's crisp, there's low alcohol, relatively, 12.8%, and that's why I liked it. I think I described it a lot like one would describe some Albariños from the Iberian Peninsula.

So I think they purposefully picked the grapes early enough so it didn't get too high in alcohol, too full in body, and they got something that's really refreshing, mouthwatering.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, you said it's a great antidote to rich and oaky wines.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, perfect.

Jameson Fink: Although, I do like rich and oaky wines. I have a soft spot for those. But I am a liberal. I like light, crisp, fresh, rich and oaky, everything in between.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, me too. I like some of each. I want crisp and fresh on a hot summer day, and depending on the weather or the food, I like fat and buttery as well.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I'm gonna make this a podcast feature where I complain about the heat, because it's like 85 degrees here today, so that wine sounds really, really good today. I think that's also interesting about the lower alcohol levels. Like you said, it's under 13%, which maybe you probably wouldn't associate with Lodi. I mean, I might think, oh everything's gonna be 15% or 16% or something crazy outrageous, but is there a movement ... I mean, just in general in Lodi or beyond, are you seeing people sort of ... wine drinkers saying, "Hey, I want something lower in alcohol." Or winemakers are saying, "You know what? I'm gonna pick a little earlier and make a wine that's less alcoholic."

Jim Gordon: Yes. I think people are demanding it, some people are, and I think winemakers in general in California, which is where I live and where I cover wine for Wine Enthusiast, have backed off on the high alcohol that they were doing five to 10 years ago. Not radically ... so, let's say a typical vintage now is a few tenths of a point lower in alcohol than it used to be, plus, wineries, many of them, like this Albariño there, are producing new wines that are more crisp and lower in body.

So, it's partly what they've done to the line of wines, say, well, we've already been making, but also coming up with new varietals or new styles.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, absolutely. So, Albariño is definitely a grape ... I mean, we're looking at Lodi, there's a wine region I think in the Columbia Gorge, bordering Washington and Oregon always says we have everything from Albariño to Zinfandel. And I want to talk about another grape that maybe is a little unusual to see in Lodi or really in the United States as much as say like, Italy, and that's Sangiovese. And I thought it was really interesting to see a Rosé made from that.

The second wine that I wanted you to talk about was the Scotto Family Cellars' 2017 dry Sangiovese Rosé, which you gave 88 points to.

Jim Gordon: It was a really interesting, dry Sangiovese in the Rosé mode. It was relatively low in alcohol for California, 13%, but I liked it because of the sort of grip that Sangiovese gives you. I mean, in the Chianti or super Tuscan blends that have Sangiovese as a red wine, it's known for tannin and acid and kind of a really grippy feel on your palette. And a little touch of that comes along with the Rosé, which I appreciate the ... Rosé is so popular now, and in California, practically every winery is making a Rosé or two, but it hasn't really settled into a style for this valley or that valley. Everybody's using different varieties. Some are darker reds, some are light reds, some are crisp, some are fat like barrel fermented even Rosés.

This one I liked because it's crisp, it has a sort of tangy, slightly tannic mouth feel, and to me that's palette cleansing and refreshing.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, you talk about a Rosé, I mean, it's just such a ... the category has just exploded and it's still growing. How prevalent is Rosé in Lodi, and is it something that's just happened over the last few years? Or have they been making Rosé in Lodi and we just didn't know about it?

Jim Gordon: It's relatively new in terms of today's type of Rosé. I'll bet you in the 70s they were making Rosé in Lodi, but it would have been something quite different.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, like a white Zinfandel ... sweet.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, exactly. That was the commercial mainstay of Lodi for some years, providing grapes for white Zinfandel. You know, they've had a revolution there in wine making since that period, and I guess this Rosé is just one example of the stuff they're doing now.

Jameson Fink: One of the things that you talked about briefly was the abundance of old vines in Lodi, and I think when I visited, that was the thing that blew me away is to see these vines from the 19th century, these grizzled, gnarled ... they're almost like supernatural looking, like hobbit forest or something ... Well, hobbit forest would be friendly, these are a little more mysterious and sinister looking.

I think one of the best vineyard visits I've ever had is we went to the Bechthold Vineyard, and to see these old Cinsault vines, really amazing. Can you talk about the old vine heritage in Lodi? Is that in danger? Because I keep hearing that wineries are having to pull out these old vines to plant things that are more profitable. Is there a drive to save these old vines?

Jim Gordon: Yeah, it's an interesting issue right now. Lodi does have lots of old vines, you know, hundreds of acres I would say, if not a thousand or more of vines probably older than 50 years. I don't know the numbers offhand, but intermixed with much more recently planted vineyards that are more commercially profitable and make sense for the people.

One thing to mention here is that so many of the grape growers in Lodi are family farms, and they're like in their fourth, fifth, or sixth generation. So, their ancestors came in the 1860s or 70s, maybe they tried panning for gold in the Sierra hills and mountains, and then they came back down to Lodi and became farmers. So they're there. They own the same properties in many cases that their families have been farming for generations.

So, they have old vines, they've kept some of them, and they've kept them on the places where those vines grew well and produce a good crop and make high quality wine. So, the old vines in many cases have been preserved because they were special. The ones that made so-so wine have probably been ripped up or replanted with other varieties.

I know what you're saying too about just the presence of being in the old gnarled vines, and many of the vineyards in Lodi, they train ... the older vines were trained up higher than you would see in most of California or Europe, so they're almost ... they're the size of a person with all these arms hanging out, and they're a little bit scary, but they're a little bit comforting, like the Ent who saved the Hobbit. They're more like that, I think.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, well I guess I was on the right path when I said ... when I brought Lord of the Rings and Hobbits into them. It's more of an Ent thing.

Jim Gordon: Right, right.

Jameson Fink: That's true, they are taller. They're not like those ... I mean, you look at vines [inaudible 00:12:54], and they're really low to the ground. I guess that's also because of the windy conditions there too that they would just sort of ... it's more protected the closer to the ground it is.

Jim Gordon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And it is basically pretty fertile soil in most of the Lodi area. They could grow other crops there, and they have over the years, but now the emphasis has really been on wine grapes for a couple, two or three decades.

But regarding the ... maybe a threat to the old vines, there is an economic threat because these families who run the farms need to make enough money to pay the bills and have a decent life, and when you're harvesting old vines, the yields are very low. So on an acre, maybe you get a ton or two tons of grapes, but on the vineyard next to it that's being farmed ... it could be organic or sustainably even, but they can get much higher yields with newer vines and new training methods for the trellis and all that.

So you know, they could get eight tons next door, and wineries don't really pay a lot more for the old vine fruit. It's kind of a bargain. That's why I think a lot of smaller, as I said before, artisanal wineries are seeking out these small blocks of old vines from Lodi to make something interesting with.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, that's why for the third wine I chose the Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane, 90 points, that ... you know, just to focus on one of these wines that the old vine stock that they have.

Can you talk about this wine and as far as your feelings on these really old vines, what kinds of wines do they make? Is it just romantic, or do they really give something special in the glass?

Jim Gordon: They do, they often do. You can't always taste it, but sometimes you can. I just think it's a purity of fruit. I think smart winemakers doing old vines don't put much new oak on the wine to mess with it. Just let the quality of the fruit come through.

What the growers say is just that the old vines are very stable. They have deep roots, they've been growing for years, if there's funny conditions in the weather one year, it doesn't affect them as much as it would a new vine that's shallow rooted, etc. So, they're just steady producers. I just find a purity, a fruit, a focus, kind of a seamlessness in the flavors and the texture, to make a very broad generalization.

Jameson Fink: And I know out there there's certainly a lot of old vine Zinfandel there, and I feel like maybe I've painted it with too broad a stroke, but can you talk about ... is Zinfandel changing in Lodi? Is there a diversity of styles and flavors now or do I just have a bad stereotype of monolithic Zinfandel?

Jim Gordon: Well, it is changing. I mean, on the one hand, you have Michael David Winery making these fabulous, showy wines out of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, like the Earthquake Zin and the Seven Deadly Zins, and those have been great. They're dramatic, they use a lot of new oak, but they're really well done. And they've sort of created a category of high quality Lodi Zinfandel, which is helping a lot of growers because they buy from a lot of growers to make Michael David Wines. So, that's really been a good engine for Lodi in terms of making a good livelihood for the growers.

But on the other hand, you have the Lodi native Zinfandel project, which is a handful of mostly small production wineries making these really pure, straightforward, no new oak, wild yeast, no water addition, no acid addition really elegant, cool wines. They label them as Lodi native, and they all have a similar label. That's real exciting. And those wines are terrific without being super showy.

So, you've got real showy on one end, you've got more elegant and native on the other.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I got to try the native wines when I was out there, the Zinfandels, and yeah, they were definitely an eye opener. I think also the interesting thing was all the winemakers were there and they were talking about when they were being approached for this project and sort of the way they had to work was a way that they weren't used to working, or some of them were kind of candid like, you know, I didn't think this would work, or I think I would need to use this or pick then or use this oak or X, Y, and Z. So, I really appreciated hearing their stories and kind of the candor they had about, hey, this idea ... like everyone wasn't just like, "This sounds great. Let's change the way we're making Zinfandel."

So, I thought that was a really interesting bellwether for the region.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, I sat with a group of them when I wrote an article for the Enthusiast a couple of years ago about the Lodi native wines, and they were telling the stories. Some of them were not confident they could make a really good wine without intervening more, and they had to pick it earlier than they had ever perhaps, so the alcohol wouldn't be too high, and it was a learning experience for them, kind of learning by doing, and they more or less proved to themselves that they could do it.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and that article about Lodi native Zin and also the underdog grapes of Lodi, those are both at winemag.com too, and they're both well worth reading because they're both a story of Zinfandel and of Lodi and grapes in general that I think people haven't heard of from the region.

And I had sort of a ... you know, when I was back in New York, I had sort of a Lodi eye opening moment too. This might come as a shock to you, I was at kind of a hipster, natural wine bar, and-

Jim Gordon: No way!

Jameson Fink: ... I know, I know. It's crazy ... with a couple friends, and the Turley Cinsault was on the list. I had had it before in Lodi, and it was served chilled ... well, first of all 'cause it was 100 degrees, so it was a really smart move anyway, because I wanted nothing to do with any red wine at all.

So it was served cold, pretty cold actually, and I was like, wow, this is really lightweight and kind of almost see through, and really delicious. I was with two of my friends who love drinking lighter style wines, natural wines, you know, and I said, "Hey, let's get a bottle of the Turley Cinsault," and they looked at me like, "What?" 'Cause I think they figured it would be ... whatever, 16% alcohol Zinfandel or something like that. And I said, "Hey, and also bring an ice bucket." We had it chilled, and they were just blown away by it, and that was another thing too, where you think a region is monolithic and it's only about one thing, but when you look a little harder, there's lots of little pockets of people doing really interesting things.

Jim Gordon: Yeah, I've had the same experience, similar experience, with the Cinsault. Are you speaking about from the Bechthold Vineyard?

Jameson Fink: Exactly.

Jim Gordon: Yeah. And a few different wineries use that fruit and make their own Cinsaults, and several of them, they're almost like Pinot Noir. They're elegant, they're kind of ethereal, they're not very dark colored ... even though it's a Roan grape variety. They made something kind of beautiful out of it.

Jameson Fink: What do you think about Lodi as far as visiting? You know, you're in Napa. What's the Lodi experience like when you visit? It must be a lot different than obviously what Napa's like.

Jim Gordon: It is. There are a lot of visitors now. There are ... I'm making it up ... 35 wineries you can visit, tasting rooms, something like that, and the town of Lodi itself has a cool district with cafés and bars and restaurants. It's big open farmland, these great old farm houses sitting on 400 acres down a long lane surrounded by trees to keep cool in the houses.

So, it's a bucolic americana landscape, kind of different from lots of Napa and Sonoma that are very gentrified. It's just a little slower paced and relaxed.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, that reminds me, I forgot, sort of my biggest wow wine when I was at the wine blogger's conference there a couple years ago was a Lucas Winery Chardonnay from 2001, and you know, we were at lunch and all these wines were going around. I was like, wow, the 2001 Chardonnay from Lodi, I just thought that was like audacious and bold to pour. But it was great. I just couldn't believe how good it was. To me, that was ... and also, you know, I'm kind of whatever, chasing weird grapes like ... well, not weird, but a little more unusual like Grenache Blanc, and so like Chardonnay ... and it was really good.

I mean, it just shows that you kind of ... That's a great reason to visit a wine region is that you kind of have an idea in your head of what it's about or what's available around you, and then you go there and you try things that aren't maybe commercially available, certainly an old vintage like that, or you discover wineries like Fields Family Wines or Uvaggio making all these really interesting things, and all of a sudden you're like, wow, my Lodi view has changed.

Jim Gordon: Uvaggio is a great example. They make this really spectacular Passito, dessert wine, and I think it was from Vermentino, which was fabulous. On the other hand, they make a dry Muscat, and you expect Muscat to be sweet, Vermentino to be dry. They turned it around and really two interesting wines from whit grapes.

Jameson Fink: The Vermentino and the Muscat are great.

So Jim, thanks for joining me and talking about Lodi, the diversity of grapes there, and also the fact that, hey, there's Zinfandel there too, and it's also worth paying attention to even though they make a lot of it. There's people doing really interesting and exciting things, and my only regret is when I visited that you weren't around in town and we couldn't hang out for a little bit. I was disappointed by that, Jim.

Jim Gordon: Well, we did get together afterward.

Jameson Fink: We did, we did. Thanks again for joining me today, Jim.

Jim Gordon: My pleasure.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we talked about today are: The Klinker Brick 2017 Albariño, Scotto Family Cellars' 2017 dry Sangiovese Rosé, and Jessie's Grove 2015 Ancient Vine Carignane. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at WineMag.com

Jul 30 2018

24mins

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1:5 Why Vermouth Demands and Deserves Respect

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Vermouth is having a revival and getting the respect it deserves. In this episode we speak with Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast's spirits editor. Find out why it belongs as a featured ingredient in your home bar, the diversity of styles and flavors available, and tips on mixing it up.

Vermouths Discussed: 

@3:00 Routin Dry Vermouth  @7:30 Lustau Vermut Blanco  @15:12 Imbue Sweet Vermouth

Transcript

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass.

This episode I'm talking about vermouth with contributing editor, Kara Newman. Kara covers spirits for Wine Enthusiast. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. With the largest online inventory, Vivino finds the right wine every time, and it's also got vermouth, which is a wine too.

Download Vivino to discover and buy your favorites, and stock up at Vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

So, I was recently at a bar, not surprising, and I was thinking about vermouth because the person I was with ordered a martini, and the bartender made a big show of pouring a cap full of vermouth, and putting the cap full of vermouth into the glass, swirling it, and then dumping it out, and just said, "This is the most important step in making a martini." So, I wanted to talk to you, Kara, and welcome to the show, about vermouth because I feel like it's still even in this day in age, it's underappreciated, and people aren't enjoying it as much as they should. They're just dumping it out, and that was a criminal, that was a traumatizing moment.

So actually what I want to ask you, Kara, is how do you like vermouth in your martini? What's your play there?

Kara Newman: Well, my go-to is actually a 50/50, so that means equal parts gin and vermouth, and that's actually a lot of vermouth. That's a pretty wet martini. Although, I just like to have it in the martini at all. It's funny that happened to you. The same thing happened to me in Rome. I was appalled to order a martini, and they poured in the dry vermouth and made a big show of shaking it, and then pouring it all out. I was like, "Oh my god, what are you doing? Are you crazy?"

Jameson Fink: It's such a waste. I do like the 50 ... another great thing about a equal parts 50/50 martini too is that you can have a lot more of them, and that's another thing that's nice about vermouth as more of a starring role. And then you've got sort of like the ultimate expression of that, which would be the reverse martini, which would be-

Kara Newman: Right, that was Julia Child's play.

Jameson Fink: Oh really?

Kara Newman: Yeah, I think she was the first person I ever heard of doing a reverse martini, yeah where lots more vermouth and just a splash of gin. Very civilized.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and that's a good drink to have while you're in the kitchen cooking too.

Kara Newman: You know it. She would know it.

Jameson Fink: She would know it, she would know it.

Kara Newman: If Julia says-

Jameson Fink: Yeah. And also the thing with vermouth is that we're seeing kind of an explosion of small batch crafted type of vermouth's from all over the country and all over the world, and I think we have so many more available to us now, and also with different flavors and types.

So, the first wine I wanted to talk to you about, and vermouth is a wine, it's just fortified-

Kara Newman: Correct. Fortified, aromatized, correct.

Jameson Fink: Aromatized and fortified. God, that sounds so cool. It's a French vermouth. It's the Routin dry vermouth, 91 points, best buy, and what are people doing with vermouth in France? I mean, I don't even know what's the tradition of vermouth there? Are there certain ingredients that they use that's kind of like a signature? Or is it just kind of it's anything goes, whatever you want to use?

Kara Newman: Well, traditionally you only heard about French vermouth or Italian vermouth and there were no other vermouth's out there in the universe for years and years and years. And recently we've had more of an explosion where we've seen vermouth, as you said, from all over the world.

But the Routin, the one that you mentioned, that one's more of an alpine vermouth and it has more botanicals, more of those beautiful herbs and flowers, and they even have bitter almonds listed in their botanical list. They really have this beautiful alpine sensibility.

Jameson Fink: Now is it rare to ... I think like a lot of those things it would be like a closely guarded secret-

Kara Newman: Oh, you know it.

Jameson Fink: ... do you see, like obviously there's some things that they're not listing, but do you find more people are just like, "Hey, we're gonna let you know what some of the flavorings we use to make this vermouth."

Kara Newman: Every now and then you see ... You're absolutely right, it's definitely held close to the vest. I mean, sometimes I think it's because it's a secret, sometimes I think it's because they change it pretty frequently, and it might be based on what's available.

But I'm not sure that there's really a ... I'm trying to think if there's anyone who's really giving their full list of botanicals. Usually you just see a number if they talk about it at all.

Jameson Fink: Right, like the secrets herbs and spices.

Kara Newman: Exactly. Very KFC.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. And then this vermouth is a dry vermouth, and you mentioned in your review that it's martini material, so what is ... I mean, there's different kinds of vermouth, but so if I'm shopping, do I want to look for like, okay, I'm making martinis, I want a dry vermouth?

Kara Newman: Well, for martinis, I would usually go for a white vermouth as opposed to a red vermouth. I think dry vermouth is lovely in a martini and can be very crisp. It goes really well with gin. I'm also a fan of Blanc vermouth, which are a little more oxidized. They have a bit more of like a honey note, and there certainly are a growing number of Blancs and Blancos out there. But yeah, dry would probably be my go-to for that perfect classic martini profile.

Jameson Fink: And what about too, we've talked a little bit about oh vermouth, you mix it, you put it as ingredients in things, what about drinking vermouth solo, like just on the rocks with a twist? Is that something that's becoming more popular or do people still look at vermouth as like, oh vermouth is just, it's an ingredient, it doesn't stand on its own?

Kara Newman: I'm seeing a lot of vermouth and tonics.

Jameson Fink: Oh okay.

Kara Newman: Yeah, that's sort of a Spanish tradition, and every now and then I'll see a vermouth tonic. That's very refreshing. Vermouth, tonic, a nice curl of citrus peel. Oh, it can be so good. A little tapas on the side-

Jameson Fink: And then that's kind of too with this trend of ... which is great about vermouth, it's got so much flavor, but it doesn't pack the punch alcohol-wise that vodka or gin or something like that would too. Is that also maybe helping revitalize vermouth that people are trying to make these more kind of culinary cocktails or things that are ... you can have a few more of them rather than just one giant stiff martini that's 100% vodka?

Kara Newman: Well, we are definitely seeing a trend toward lower alcohol cocktails, what people call session cocktails. You can hang out and have them over a session. And vermouth forward cocktails are definitely a huge part of that. The Bamboo, the Adonis, those are two cocktails that are literally nothing but vermouth, like two different kinds of vermouth. Vermouth, sherry, all kinds of lower alcohol cocktails are definitely on the forefront right now.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, no doubt. And then actually, this is great because we're not just talking about vermouth, we're drinking some vermouth, and the second wine I found really interesting because I know Lustau is a great sherry producer, and I was really excited to see that they now have a vermouth, at least it's new to me, and this is the Lustau Vermouth Blanco, 94 points, and it's a sherry-based vermouth made from fino and sweetened with Muscatel wine. It's really good. And is this more of that oxidized style that you were just talking about?

Kara Newman: Yeah, this one's definitely Blanco. This is actually two of my favorite trends of vermouth right now.

Jameson Fink: Uh-huh, in one bottle.

Kara Newman: In one bottle. Because I mean, I love the Blancos, and those I will drink straight up. Just a little ice is really all I need. But there's also a trend toward ... trendlet, toward more sherry-based vermouth's. There are I think three or four on the market right now, and this one, Lustau was actually the first one out to my knowledge ... and it's so good.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it's really delicious. I mean, it's really ... I mean, you can smell sort of the beautiful grapes, but then it's got that kind of oxidized character too. I mean, it's really good. It's just good. I mean, we're just drinking this on its own and it's pretty damn good.

Kara Newman: No, it's nice. I mean, it's got that honey, it has floral characteristics. I mean, a bit of chamomile. It's just really pretty and drinkable.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes, it's pretty and drinkable, absolutely. So it seems like the dry vermouth is the classic martini vermouth, but what do you like to do besides just enjoying it on its own or with maybe a little soda or something like that? What do you like to do with this as far as cocktails go?

Kara Newman: I think Blancos are really nice with anything that has a bit of citrus to it. I was playing around with kind of a gimlet martini mashup over the weekend, and I was trying to make a lemon cordial that I then combined with some gin and some Blanco vermouth, and it was really quite nice.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kara Newman: You're looking very skeptical.

Jameson Fink: Oh no, no. I'm just thinking, I'm just imagining you in your home ... like I'm thinking of this like drinks lab, and you kind of like, "Oh, today I'm gonna make a cordial." It just sounds really charming and intriguing. I mean, yeah, a lot of work goes into this stuff, right?

Kara Newman: Sometimes. This was ... let's call it a quick cordial. It was not exactly high maintenance. It was more or less simple syrup with lemon, and it was nice. It was very sunshiny, it was yellow. It went really well with the blanco and a little gin. I think next time I do it I might even do it with vodka. We won't tell.

Jameson Fink: Okay, no, not at all. And so cordial is, what is a cordial?

Kara Newman: It's just a sugar syrup. It's just a fancy word for that.

Jameson Fink: Oh, okay, it's like simple syrup, but it has fancier name.

Kara Newman: Yeah, you hear a lot about lime cordial for gimlets.

Jameson Fink: Uh-huh, cordial, well it sounds so cordial.

Kara Newman: No, but it was fun. Personally, I think you can do just about anything with a blanco. It's so versatile. I think it works well with whiskeys as well. Usually that's just the province of sweet vermouth, but I think that blanco really just spans categories, defies categories.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So when you walk into bars, I mean, we're in New York, it's an amazing city for cocktails. Are you seeing a lot more selection and variety of vermouth's on the shelf, or is it still just like we have the sweet vermouth and we have the dry vermouth, and that's it? And you don't know how old the bottles are.

Kara Newman: Well, it depends where you are. I think we're seeing a little more variety than we used to. Every now and then I'll see an amber vermouth, and those are quite good too. They're even more oxidized. Once in a blue moon I'll see a rosé vermouth, and I get very excited about those.

Jameson Fink: I would think, yeah, I would think there would be a ton of just ... 'cause there's rosé everything now. The popularity of rosé wine, there's rosé cider, there's rosé gin?

Kara Newman: There is. There is, yeah.

Jameson Fink: Okay, yeah, I think I've seen that too. Yeah, and cider ... if anything can be made like with a pink, pale Provencal color, it's being done. But that's pretty cool with vermouth. What do you do with a rosé vermouth?

Kara Newman: I think it probably would work very well in any kind of ... I mean, I keep going back to gin just 'cause I want everything with gin. That's just my go-to this time of year, but I think it probably would be really lovely on its own. It really wouldn't need much embellishment at all. I think it would be really nice with anything with kind of a grapefruit, I think kind of a tequila would be really nice, a rosé vermouth tequila grapefruit concoction, like a Palomaesque kind of thing.

Jameson Fink: Oh, I love a Paloma. I had a Paloma yesterday.

Kara Newman: Nice.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it's one of my favorite drinks.

Kara Newman: Oh, okay, cool.

Jameson Fink: All these flavor notes of vermouth, especially blanco vermouth, I mean, does it kind of remind you of gin in a way, botanically? Or do you think there's similarities?

Kara Newman: here can be. I'm nodding, no one can see me. I think that a lot of the language is the same. You talk about botanicals in both of them, and I think there are definitely some common botanicals in both of them, like we were talking about the Routin, I know they use juniper, which is also typically a gin botanical. But they also are ... in vermouth there are bittering agents that you don't find in most gins. It really would be just too intensely bitter I think to drink.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kara Newman: And that gives vermouth a nice gently bitter undertone, that would be really unpleasant I think in a standard spirit.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, the other thing I want to talk about is your books. You've written a lot of books.

Kara Newman: Yeah, it's a compulsion.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, so your most current one is Road Soda, which I think is really fun. Actually, can you just explain what Road Soda is about?

Kara Newman: Yeah, yeah, sure. It is all about drinking well on the road, so good things to make and drink in hotel rooms, on planes, on trains, on camping trips, the great outdoors.

Jameson Fink: Like what's a good example of something, like one of your favorites that's really innovative or fun ... or I guess it's all about being resourceful. Like what are some resourceful ways to make cocktails on the road when you're not at a bar?

Kara Newman: Well, one of my favorite chapters in the book is all about drinks to batch and put into flasks.

Jameson Fink: Okay.

Kara Newman: I think the flask is definitely an underrated cocktail tool-

Jameson Fink: Underrated.

Kara Newman: ... and I definitely love being able to pre-batch drinks, like Negronis or a gin and tonic, or any kind of vermouth drink.

Jameson Fink: Like to take to the movies or the park or all of the above?

Kara Newman: All of the above.

Jameson Fink: Of course, you're obeying all the laws of drinking in public and bringing things-

Kara Newman: Of course, of course.

Jameson Fink: ... but yeah, no that's really fun. What's a good drink to batch?

Kara Newman: I think anything in the old fashioned family works really, really well. Anything that doesn't include citrus I think works particularly well. So any kind of combination ... For me, the Black Manhattan I think is the ultimate. So, whiskey, sweet vermouth, some Amaro in there, maybe a drop or two of orange bitters or Angostura bitters, and then just cap it up and toss it in the freezer.

Jameson Fink: That sounds really good, and you worked vermouth into it, which I think is really great.

Kara Newman: Oh hey, I didn't even mean to do that.

Jameson Fink: But you did, but you did. And then speaking of a sweet vermouth, the last one I want to talk about is Imbue sweet vermouth, 90 points, and that's from Oregon. I remember ... I have a vermouth story.

So, when I was working at a wine shop in Seattle, one of our sales reps, he was like ... we have this room where we taste wine, it was kind of like our break room, and he's like, "Okay, and I have one more thing for you to taste." He was like, "It's a vermouth," and we were all like, "Ew, I don't want to taste a vermouth." We were all just like wine, you know, I mean, vermouth's a wine, but you know what I mean, we were like, "I only want to taste red wine and white wine and champagne and sparkling wine."

And he was really indignant. I mean, he wasn't a jerk about it, he's just like, "All right, I'm not leaving here until all of you taste this vermouth, and I guarantee you you're gonna love it." And it was Imbue, and it was really good. We were just blown away by it. And for me also, it was an introduction to ... that people in Oregon are making vermouth too, which I thought was super cool as well.

But this is a sweet vermouth, which I think is really interesting because, I mean I guess the classic application for a sweet vermouth would be a Manhattan, right?

Kara Newman: Right.

Jameson Fink: So, what else can you do with sweet vermouth, and is it really that sweet? It's not like super sweet. It's still got some bitterness to it.

Kara Newman: I don't think it's that sweet at all-

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Kara Newman: ... I mean, sometimes I think everything should be re-categorized so it's red vermouth or white vermouth, and sometimes I deliberately try to refer to them that way, which is not standard and not done, but yeah, you're exactly right. Sweet vermouth is not terribly sweet at all. I do like the Imbue. I think they're just so sincere also. There's a certain earnestness to this particular brand that I enjoy.

Jameson Fink: It's very pacific northwest.

Kara Newman: I guess so, yeah.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, it seems very Portland-ish.

Kara Newman: And they're using a lot of local ingredients. They're using ... I believe they're using Willamette Valley wines and I know they're fortifying their wine with eau de vie from Clear Creek, and they're a local producer of brandy's and other spirits. They just seem like very well-meaning and they make a good product.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I also like the Petal and Thorn. Have you had that?

Kara Newman: Yeah.

Jameson Fink: That is rosé color.

Kara Newman: Yeah, I mean that sort of feels more like a Campariesque kind of ... a [Parativo 00:17:31]. But also a wine-base, and very, very drinkable.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I haven't had the sweet wine or the red one. Yeah, I like that. Maybe we should just ban, just stop calling it sweet vermouth. I think like anything, people hear the word sweet and they automatically go to a dark place. I enjoy sweet things, chocolate-

Kara Newman: Same, same.

Jameson Fink: ... all kinds of sweets. Sweet sweets, so yeah, I agree that sweet is a ... well, it's just a loaded word, and especially in the world of wine and spirits too, that people automatically think like, "Oh, it's sweet-"

Kara Newman: Because something's been added and-

Jameson Fink: Right, or it's just for dessert or something like that. Do you look at ... I guess when you're thinking about sweet vermouth and a manhattan, but do you look at vermouth in general as a category, as like, oh it's just an apéritif wine, or does it depend on if you're having it alone or in a cocktail?

Kara Newman: I think of vermouth as being an ingredient. I don't know that I think of it as being an apéritif category. Maybe it should be, but I don't think it's typically consumed alone or as a precursor to a meal unless it's mixed into something else. Maybe that's something that should change.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I mean, I love the idea ... One of my favorite summer cocktails, along those lines, is a white port and soda or tonic with just a twist, a citrus twist. It's the same kind of philosophy. It's like, lower alcohol, it's got a ton of flavor, and it's really refreshing ... and it's really easy to make too. I think that's the nice thing about vermouth too is that it can be one small component of something, or it can just be like, hey, all you need to do is just [glug 00:19:15] some into a glass of ice, top it off with some soda or tonic, and add some citrus, and boom, you're done.

Kara Newman: Absolutely.

Jameson Fink: And you don't even need to like, oh, like X number of ounces of this and that. Just kind of, you know-

Kara Newman: No, just eyeball it.

Jameson Fink: ... eyeball it, yeah. Yeah, I think maybe it's hard. Well, you write a lot of cocktail recipes too. I mean, sometimes it's kind of a relief to just tell people like, you know, you can just kinda eyeball it, and it's not like a cocktail that requires 20 ingredients or 30 steps and eyedroppers of this, and you know, bar spoons of that.

Kara Newman: I think a vermouth highball, a white port highball, I think all of these just sound wonderful. Yeah, just put some into your glass, glug it up with a little bit of sparkling, and if you feel like some bitters, put in some bitters. If you feel like some citrus, put in some citrus.

Jameson Fink: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You can be having ... it's like a hot summer day and you just have a little on the rocks with some soda, a little citrus, it can be part of a classic drink like a martini or a manhattan, and it can be a little bit of everything in between. It's an underrated ingredient, and it's really cool to explore it from all over the country and all over the world in many guises and flavors.

So, thank you for joining us, Kara.

Kara Newman: My pleasure.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino, wine made easy.

The three wines we talked about today are: The Routin Dry Vermouth, Lustau Vermouth Blanco, and the Imbue Sweet Vermouth. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 23 2018

21mins

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1:4 You Should Drink Rosé from Provence this Summer and Forever

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast European Editor Roger Voss about rosé from Provence. Its color and flavor are the epitome of summer wine. But there’s more to rosé from Provence than its looks and taste. Explore the surprising diversity surrounding this pale pink charmer and find out why it should be enjoyed all year long.

Wines Discussed:

@3:15 Château la Vivonne 2017 Les Puechs Rosé (Côtes de Provence)

@9:28 Commanderie de la Bargemone 2017 Rosé (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence)

@13:58 Gassier 2017 Château Gassier Cuvée 946 Rosé (Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire)

Transcript 

Jameson Fink:       00:08          Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink.

Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines, and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode, I'm exploring rosé from Provence, with contributing editor Roger Voss, who covers and reviews wines from the region. So if I was able to go back in a wine time machine, maybe 20 years or so, when I was first starting to drink wine, I was certainly drinking rosé and enjoying it, but I never, ever would have expected rosé, and particularly, rosé from Provence, to be so incredibly popular as it is. It just seems like it's beyond a trend. It's its own category, it's continuing to grow, doesn't seem like it's going to slow down. It seems like rosé is just a part of our life, like red wine, and white wine. Which is great, but I wanted to explore it a little further, and get to know the world of Provence rosé with Roger Voss. Roger, welcome to the show.

Roger Voss:          01:14          Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jameson Fink:       01:16          It's delightful to talk about rosé. It is almost tropical here in New York. It seems to be a theme that I'm exploring, it's really hot out, it's really humid, and luckily, we're talking about wines that fit this season. Of course, rosé fits every season, but Roger, what's your take on ... I mean, are you surprised at how popular rosé from Provence has become? Does it surprise you?

Roger Voss:          01:39          Well, yes, because when I first got to know the American wine scene, rosé was sweet. It was called blush, and it was sweet. So it's astonishing to me that we've moved on from there, to drinking dry. That is really where Provence comes in. Because Provence, to me, is the perfect dry rosé. I always think, you combine sun, sand, sea, and summer with the sophisticated bars and restaurants beside the Mediterranean. That, to me, is the image of Provence rosé. And that's obviously gone down in America.

Jameson Fink:       02:16          That's a good point, too. How much is that lifestyle, too, that's part of its popularity? Do you think that's tied in? It's sort of aspirational. Like, "I'm drinking this rosé, and pretending I'm transported to Provence"?

Roger Voss:          02:29          Well, there is something about it. There's a little story, which I heard from one of the top producers. He spent a lot of time trying to sell Provence rosés, but he knew he'd arrived, when he got a phone call from one of the major yacht builders in the Mediterranean, saying, "Can you tell me the size of your double magnums? Because I need to ensure that the iceboxes, the fridges on my yachts, are big enough to take your double magnums." He knew he'd arrived.

Jameson Fink:       02:59          I wish I had that thought going through my head. I wonder if my fridge is big enough to fit double magnums of rosé. I'd probably have to take out a couple shelves, but I think I could do it. But, really, I'm fortunately living more of a 750 milliliter standard bottle lifestyle.

Let's talk about the first wine. I would like to attempt to pronounce it, Roger, but I think that would be a crime scene, and an affront to all things French if I did. I could sort of say it phonetically, but it would be awful. So I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind introducing the first wine?

Roger Voss:          03:33          Sure. First wine is Château la Vivonne. It's 2017 vintage, because that is what rosé is all about. Young, and ready to drink now. And its cuvée name is Les Puechs.

Jameson Fink:       03:46          That's from the Côtes of Provence, and that's 91 points, Best Buy.

Roger Voss:          03:49          Yes, indeed. I reviewed it in March, and the review was published in July.

Jameson Fink:       03:56          One of the things I'm interested about in your review is you talk about the wine, that it has a certain perfume, from the Mourvèdre. I'm wondering, what's the typical blend? Is that something that you see in a lot of these Provence rosés, that you're getting some Mourvèdre poking out, or is it, the blend vary?

Roger Voss:          04:16          Well, Mourvèdre is a very specific grape to a certain part of Provence, which I'll explain in a second. To answer your first question, the general blend is Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Those are the three which, in fact, they are the secret behind really good Provence rosé, which is why rosé from France is so good, 'cause it has Grenache in it.

But Mourvèdre, to move onto this wine, is from a region called Bandol, which is on the coast, near Toulon. It's a very mountainous set part of Provence, and the Mourvèdre grape seems to have settled there, and loves it. So most of the Bandol wines have Mourvèdre in them. This wine comes from a producer who's actually based in Bandol, he just happens to have vines outside in the Côtes de Provence area, but he's also using Mourvèdre in his rosé.

Jameson Fink:       05:15          So is it fair to say, this is, maybe, for Provence, kind of a heartier rose? Is that accurate?

Roger Voss:          05:22          That's a fair word to use, yes. Slightly richer than your standard Provence rosé. And certainly to say, as I say in my note, more perfumed.

Jameson Fink:       05:31          That's interesting too, because a conversation about Provence and its rosés is that of is ... there's certainly a lot out there that's sort of one-note, and so pale, it's almost watery, and nondescript. What's the variety? Am I painting Provence with too broad a stroke? Is there, within Provence, a lot of diversity of rosé?

Roger Voss:          05:54          There is, yes. First of all, we have different appellations. de Provence is by far the biggest. But we've also got a wine, we're going talk about later on, from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is slightly further to the west, and is Bandol, which, this wine comes from next to Bandol. Then there's other areas as well, within Provence. Now, you mentioned the color, and I think it's been very funny, because I review these wines every year. I've been noticing the color getting paler and paler each year. Until this year. Because, really, some of them were absolutely white. But this year, I've noticed they're actually ... a little bit of color's crept back in to even the palest of the rosés. So you naturally see it's rosé, rather than a white wine.

Jameson Fink:       06:48          Do you think that's a product of vintage, or is it winemakers saying, "You know what, maybe we went a little too far with the pale, and it needs a little more color and flavor"?

Roger Voss:          06:59          Well, I did say in my notes last year, they were just stupidly white, in some cases. So maybe they read those, I don't know.

Jameson Fink:       07:08          They could've. They could have taken it to heart.

Roger Voss:          07:11          They could've taken it to heart. But just, the problem you see with stripping out color, is you also strip out flavor. So, the paler the wines, very often, the less actual taste they had. So if you're drinking rosé really chilled, fine. But I taste rosés not chilled, because then I taste the wine complete. I was noticing with these really pale rosés last year, that they were getting less and less taste. So I'm glad to see they're stepping back from that really, really pale, almost white trend. Pale is fine, provided you can also have taste.

Jameson Fink:       07:50          Yeah, and that's something interesting to talk about rosés, you think about Tavel, or something like that, that's a really deep, dark, rich rosé. But is it always mean that, oh, because its pale colored, it's going to be lighter, or that kind of thing? Can it be still pale, and still have a lot of oomph or structure?

Roger Voss:          08:12          Well it can do, yes, and that's obviously, it's just up to the skill of the winemaker. The thing about rosé, all rosés, is lot of it to do with winemaking. Because of the use of the getting the color just right, and how long you macerate the skins of the grapes to get just the right color that you want and so on. So, rosé is probably the most, they say in the wine business, it's the most technical wine.

Jameson Fink:       08:38          I think that's something that people would be surprised to hear about. I think people maybe think because, "Oh, rosé, it's summery, it's light, it's pale," people don't think that it takes a lot of skill and effort to make a rose like it does. They might think a red wine, or even a white wine, would need, necessitate.

Roger Voss:          08:59          Yes, it actually takes even more skills than ... white wine's more difficult than red, and rosé's more difficult than white. You need to have a lot of skill, and you need to actually dedicate yourself to making a rosé, rather than just saying, "Oh, I've got some red juice, let's drain it off red grapes and macerating, let's drain them off, and we'll have some rosé." That doesn't work with good rosé. Provence has understood this, and so that's why their wines are good, even if, as we said, some of them are too light in color.

Jameson Fink:       09:32          Well, let's move on to the second wine, so if you could go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger?

Roger Voss:          09:36          Sure. This is from the Commanderie de la Bargemone, and as I said, this is from Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, which is west of the Cote Provence main part of the region.

Jameson Fink:       09:48          That's a 91-point editor's choice, from you, the editor?

Roger Voss:          09:52          A 2017 vintage, again. Now, this is interesting estate, founded by the Knights Templar, who were one of the crusading orders. So it was founded as a place where they lived, as well as making wine, the Knights Templar. And it actually got its name, Bargemone, because a few centuries later, there's a family, called Bargemone, bought it.

Jameson Fink:       10:25          I'm familiar with this rosé, because I think it was one of the first rosés from Provence, or rosés ever, that I saw in a three-liter box, and I was really excited, and I started buying a lot of it, because I love that three-liter box. Is that something, I mean, you're in Bordeaux right now, correct?

Roger Voss:          10:37          I am, yes.

Jameson Fink:       10:38          Do you see rosé when you're traveling around? Is that alternate packaging for rosé popular, or is it more of, just, export market?

Roger Voss:          10:47          No, the French love boxes. They're very happy with boxes, and particularly, at this time of year, they'll be buying ... If you walk through the aisles of the supermarket, and look at people's trolleys, which is always fun. There will be boxes of rose in those trolleys. Particularly vacationers, but also the locals.

Jameson Fink:       11:06          That's good to hear. I'm glad to hear I get the approval from the people of France when I'm drinking a box wine in my Brooklyn apartment. Good. I also thought it was interesting, packaging-wise, too, that ... I was reading some things you wrote about last year's rosés on winemag.com, and more, I listened about the vintage, but you're seeing all this different kind of bottle shape and packaging. What do you think that is, with these rosés from Provence?

Roger Voss:          11:30          Rosé is also a marketing thing. I mean, I started off by telling you that little tale about the guy and his double magnums. But, really, rosé, particularly Provence rosé, has a definite marketing bling to it. You're quite close to the Riviera. People like to be seen to be drinking from a fancy bottle, so there's a lot of that that goes on, as well, introducing these rosés.

Sometimes, these bottles are so bizarre. I get ones that look just like gin bottles, and the wine inside is fine, but what it is, a lot of packaging is very important, so you can put it on your table, and make it look good. You can show off with your bottle of rosé. Otherwise, it's just a pink thing in a glass.

Jameson Fink:       12:22          Well, I wonder, also, if that's part of, sort of this thing, with a lot of these rosés looking the same, like, the same pale, pink color. I mean, maybe that's also another way to kind of stand out on a shelf. A different bottle shape, or graphics, or things like that.

Roger Voss:          12:35          Absolutely. It's all, it's obviously all to do with looks, and Provence has really understood the idea. Because you're dealing with a product that's, as I say, it's very bling. It's here today, gone tomorrow. You got to make something to distinguish it, and bottle shape is a very good way of doing so.

Jameson Fink:       12:53          To move from bottle, to more of a terroir type of conversation, I think it's interesting that, when I think of rosé from Provence, I just think, "It's Provence. It's rosé." But we're looking at a couple wines from more specific appellations, and the bigger Côtes, smaller than the Côtes de Provence region. Is that something where there's rosés, and you can be like, "Do you have specific qualities, that come from where the grapes are from?" Like, terroir. Is that the next step in rosé?

Roger Voss:          13:25          Well, it has already happened. Certainly with Aix-en-Provence, which is where this Commanderie de la Bargemone wine comes from. One of the reasons is, they also blend in Cabernet Sauvignon. And that obviously makes a difference. Gives more structure to a wine, because, as you know, from drinking Cabernets … there's always a lot of tannin in Cabernet.

So, even if it turned into a rosé, it certainly gives more ... Not just actually tannic character, but certainly, structure to the wine. Which is why a wine like this one, the Commanderie de la Bargemone, is probably more structured than the first wine, or the third wine, that we'll be talking about.

Jameson Fink:       14:08          Yeah, let's move right on to the third wine. Go ahead and introduce that for me, Roger.

Roger Voss:          14:13          Okay. This is from the Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire appellation, Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946.

Jameson Fink:       14:24          What does the 946 refer to? Is that a mystery, or is there something to it?

Roger Voss:          14:31          946 is actually, is meters.

Jameson Fink:       14:32          Oh, okay. That's right. Well, in your review, it says, "It's a vineyard at a height of 3,000 feet."

Roger Voss:          14:42          Which is a rough conversion of 946. The thing about Sainte-Victoire, the mountainous Sainte-Victoire, which is why it has an appellation, is that it creates a microclimate, if you like. Which is very sheltered. It's drier, just a bit drier, because the mountain protects it from any rain that might arrive. It is, it gives wines with ... let's say, extra richness, and certainly, they do have weight to them, which some other Côtes Provence wines don't have.

So Sainte-Victoire's seen as an appellation apart, and it is because of the Sainte-Victoire mountain. Which is, I have to tell you, it is a scary mountain, just to look at.

Jameson Fink:       15:31          Scary, how?

Roger Voss:          15:32          Because, you're in the vineyard, and you're looking face, and there's this sheer rock face lowering over you.

Jameson Fink:       15:42          It's ominous. I don't think of rosé when I think of threatening and ominous, so there's kind of, there's some kind of dissonance there, but I'm sure, when you drink it, it's a glorious wine. I should also mention that this wine scored, that you scored at 93 points, and this ... So this rosé, when I'm hearing you talk about it, and reading it, and some of your notes that you can wait awhile to drink it. Is this an age-worthy rosé? Is this something you can age for a year, two years?

Roger Voss:          16:05          Yeah. So, I mean, this particular one, which is actually, had a bit of wood, with aging, certainly could be aged longer. And I said, I'm just reading my note now: "Wait until late 2018, but you could certainly drink it in 2019, and probably 2020."

Jameson Fink:       16:23          Is oak something common in rosé from Provence? Is there this, kind of, making it like these super rosés, if you will, and with some oak on them? Because I would think most of them are stainless steel, correct?

Roger Voss:          16:36          Absolutely. Stainless steel, or cement tanks. Neutral, neutral containers, but there is a trend, where two or three ... well, more than two or three. There's several wines, which I taste, which have been aged, not much. Just lightly, in big barrels, not little. Not little Bordeaux-type barrels, which rounds them out a little bit, and certainly makes them age-worthy. And, of course, means you can put their price up.

Jameson Fink:       17:05          What's the oldest rosé you've ever drank? Like, if you had one that was five, 10, more years old? If you had a really old rosé that made you stand up, and you're like, "Wow, this is really surprising"?

Roger Voss:          17:17          Yes. I mean, five years, maybe six, is as old as I've tasted, and that was still very good. I mean, it was no longer a fruity fresh wine that we think of as rosé. It was more like a, actually, it was more like an aged red, in a curious way. Because the structure would come forward, but the fruits are falling away.

So it was an interesting wine. I wouldn't say it was a stand up wow moment. But it was very interesting, but I think that "interesting" is not necessarily the word you want to hear, when you're talking about a wine you want to drink.

Jameson Fink:       17:54          Right, I'd rather, "delicious," or things like that. But it just makes me think, kind of, what we talked about earlier, about the skill it takes to make a great rosé, versus white wine and red wine. Are we getting to a point, where ... I mean, rosé is a serious wine, but are people striving to say, "Hey, I can make a rosé that will reach the heights of the greatest red wines"? Is that possible?

Are we selling rosé short, or it is just something, that, "Hey, you know what? Let's enjoy it, and its youthful properties." Are people reaching for the stars with rosé?

Roger Voss:          18:28          Well, I mean, the wine we're just talking about, the Cuvée 946, is certainly, got serious intentions, ambitions.

Obviously, I liked it, because I gave it a good score, and there are others like that. I mean, there are some which are more expensive than this one, which retail at $50, but there's one which retails for $100, and they exist, and they are actually wines you can look at seriously.

To go back to your original point about aging. I don't think you can age even these really expensive wines for very long. But you can certainly age them for longer than, "Buy it now, drink it this summer," which is what most rosé is.

Jameson Fink:       19:09          Well, I think you just mentioned $100 as a ... I think if we ever had any doubt that rosé from Provence, and rosé in general has really skyrocketed, I don't know if any of us would have predicted we'd see a $100 bottle of rosé awhile ago, or maybe even not that long ago.

Roger Voss:          19:25          I know. That's an exceptional wine, and an exception to the normal rule, which puts Provence rosé as a very drinkable $20 bottle. Really, I mean, we can talk about these fancy cuvées, and these more serious wines.

But let's not forget, that at the end of the day, rosé is meant to be drunk with pleasure. You got hot weather in New York. I've got hot weather here, this is when I've got a bottle of rosé sitting next to me, ready to be drink, and, as soon as we finish talking.

So, there is, that's definitely what, rosé, we should think of rosé. That's really how we should look at it.

Jameson Fink:       20:10          Also, the pleasure of rosé has to do, I think, with, it's probably one of the most food-friendly wines, too. I mean, there's certainly classics, especially in Provence, but what do you like to enjoy, food-wise, with rosé? Are there some things, people might be surprised, that you think is a good match?

Roger Voss:          20:27          Well, pretty much everything, actually. You've sort of indicated that. Rosé is a versatile, I mean, it definitely goes with fish. It goes with things like gazpacho, or it even goes, it certainly goes with chicken.

I've even had it with red meat, and it's fine. Black truffle, if you can afford it, is a great match, cheeses. You name it, pretty much, rosé goes with pretty much anything. Especially if the weather's hot. You'd much prefer to have a rosé, than a red wine. So, in the summer, we drink a lot of rosé, with pretty much anything we're eating.

Jameson Fink:       21:06          I like drinking it in the winter, too, I think. I mean, for the big holidays here, like Thanksgiving. With turkey, it's such a great match. Then, also, when I think it starts getting cold and dreary, especially here, when you have a bottle of pink wine, that can make, it just sort of brightens up your day.

Just like how it's emblematic of summer. It's like, it's December, or January, there's a blizzard in New York, and you open a bottle of rosé, and pour it in your glass, and it's this beautiful pink color. And you're like, serenity now. At least, that transportive property that is has.

Roger Voss:          21:40          Yes. I know, exactly. You're absolutely right with Thanksgiving turkey. It's a brilliant match. I've certainly done that. Yes, I mean, it reminds you of the summer that's just passed, and gives you hope for the summer that's about to come. I think that sets another great thing that rosé can do.

Jameson Fink:       22:00          Well, Roger, thank you very much for this little tour of Provence rosé. I think it's interesting to note that there's a lot of one-note rosé out there, but when you dig a little deeper, there's really interesting, different grapes being used, different locations, different prices, and different styles. So, thank you very much for this in-depth look at rosé.

Roger Voss:          22:21          You're very welcome. I enjoyed talking to you about it, and now, I'm going to have my glass of rosé.

Jameson Fink:       22:25          All right. You have more than earned it. You could have had it while we were recording, too, and I would have been delighted, as well.

Roger Voss:          22:30          I do point out, it is seven o'clock in the evening here.

Jameson Fink:       22:33          Oh, yeah, yeah. You're overdue.

Roger Voss:          22:37          Okay. Nice to talk to you, Jameson.

Jameson Fink:       22:38          Okay. My pleasure.

And thank you, for listening to the What We're Tasting podcast, sponsored by Vivino: Wine Made Easy.

The three wines we talked about today are:

Roger Voss:          22:48          Chateau La Vivonne, 2017, Les Puechs, rosé, Côtes de Provence.

Second wine: Commanderie de la Bargemone, 2017, rosé, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.

Third wine: Chateau Gassier, Cuvée 946, rosé, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire

Jameson Fink:       23:10          Perfect. Thank you so much. You saved me from grave embarrassment of pronunciation.

Roger Voss:          23:16          Oh, come on. I'm sure you can do it.

Jameson Fink:       23:17          Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Googeplay, or wherever you find podcasts. If you liked today's episode, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 16 2018

23mins

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1:3 The Charms and Challenges of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

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In this episode Jameson speaks with Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Christina Pickard about how Sauvignon Blanc put New Zealand on the world wine map. But is it a one-trick pony or are there new discoveries and surprises when it comes to how, and where it’s made?

Wines Discussed: 

4:07 Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

11:17 Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

17:53 Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Central Otago)

Transcript

Jameson Fink:       00:04          Welcome to Wine Enthusiasts, What We're Tasting podcast. I'm your host Jameson Fink. Join me as we discuss three fantastic wines and why each one belongs in your glass.

 This episode I'm exploring New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with contributing editor, Christina Pickard, who covers and reviews wines from the region. What we're tasting is sponsored by Vivino. Vivino is the world's largest online wine marketplace, powered by a community of 30 million thirsty wine drinkers. Use the Vivino app to engage with 2 million wines, including loads of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, every single day.

Many countries have established themselves on the world wine stage through one grape that caught the imagination of everyone. I can think of, in recent times, Shiraz from Australia, Malbec from Argentina. Today, I'm most interested in, of course, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and how it's captured the world's imagination, and taking a closer look at the grape.

Christina, thank you for being here. I'm gonna start a little philosophically with a question. What is the appeal, do you think, of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Why has it become such a worldwide phenomenon?

Christina P.:          01:23          I think there was a critic, and I can't even quote this critic specifically because I don't know who it was, but one critic said, " Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand was like having sex for the first time." That might sum it up.

Jameson Fink:       01:34          Wow, I did not expect that answer.

Christina P.:          01:40          Another one described the experience of drinking it as being strapped naked to insert super model of your choice, while bungee jumping into a bottomless pit of fresh gooseberry leaves.

Jameson Fink:       01:53          I did not expect that either. That is not the direction I thought this would go. What would you say is the appeal of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          02:02          I mean, look, I think it is crisp. It's zippy. It's really, pretty aromatics. It's just really likable, and in a fairly obvious way. In a super gluggable way. Right now, it's 85 degrees and humid, as we're recording this, and I'm thinking about a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I'm like, "Yeah. That would hit the spot right now."

It's great in the heat. It's great for hot weather. In the summer, you can chill it down as much as you want. I think, it's just that that combination of being incredibly outgoing as a style, and a grape variety. An incredibly likable. It's a gateway drug, in a way, for a lot of wine lovers. I know for me it was. A lot of people tell me the same thing. "Oh yeah. I started my wine journey with Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc."

Jameson Fink:       02:58          That's funny, my mom is a red wine drinker, but she looks at New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as her lawnmower wine, like a lawnmower beer. Once a year when she ... she doesn't have a lawn anymore to mow, but when she did, that would be her wine of choice. It had that thirst slaking appeal.

Christina P.:          03:17          Totally. It's also really grassy, that's one of it's main flavor profiles. I feel like mowing the lawn while drinking a really grassy wine is incredibly appropriate.

Jameson Fink:       03:27          Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. I don't think she was doing it simultaneously, but definitely fresh cut grass is very New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Yeah, maybe that was part of it. She was overcome by fresh cut grass aromas, and the only thing-

Christina P.:          03:39          She just needed to run in the kitchen and grab a glass.

Christina P.:          03:46          I was picturing her, like one hand on the lawnmower, a glass in the other hand.

Jameson Fink:       03:47          We encourage two handed lawn mowing, and not wine drinking. Even on the riding mower, too. Keep both hands ... keep both hands on the mower.

Christina P.:          03:54          Yeah.

Jameson Fink:       03:55          Public service announcement. Speaking about the first wine I wanted to talk about is, I guess, a classic textbook example of what we're talking about. It's the Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough Region, 90 points. I guess, you can't talk about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, without talking about Marlborough. Can you talk about that region's place in the history of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          04:23          Absolutely. I mean, yeah, Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc, I think, are completely synonymous, as you said. It is, by far, the region that produces more Sauvignon Blanc than anywhere else in New Zealand, and actually produces more wine in general. Sauvignon Blanc makes up ... I don't want to quote exact stats, 'cause they're changing all the time, but it's something like 75 or 80% of their production is Sauvignon Blanc. It's a huge, huge product for them, from an export perspective, you know, domestically as well.

At the heart of that is Marlborough. They are producing the wines here, by far, of this great variety and this style. Really, Sauvignon Blanc, as we know it from New Zealand, really started from this country, so, if you're going to start anywhere with this grape variety, I would say this is the perfect place to start. It's certainly the easiest to get a hold of from this region, as well.

Jameson Fink:       05:20          Geographically, Marlborough is the northern tip of the southern island.

Christina P.:          05:25          Exactly. The northeast tip. It's really split into two valleys. The Awatere Valley, which is cooler, there's more stonier soils, a little bit more maritime influence there. Stylistically, it's not huge difference, but you do tend to see a little bit more of a herbaceous style. Maybe a little crisper. Maybe a little more detectably higher acids.

It's often compared to Sancerre, a little bit in style. I think it's like Sancerre on steroids. Kind of like, New World, a little bit more bold, brash flavors there. Definitely the more herbaceous, I think, of the two.

Then, you get the Wairau Valley, which is just really wide river valley following the Wairau River. That's really split with ... it's separated between the Richmond Mountains, and that separates it from Nelson, which is another wine region that produces a lot of Sauvignon Blanc. That's a bit sunnier, a little bit warmer climactically. Then the Wither Hills in the south, that protects it from those harsh weather systems coming out of the southeast, and off the ocean, as well.

Jameson Fink:       06:41          You call this wine, the Nautilus, a wine for oysters, if there ever was one. What else do you like food pairing wise, with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?

Christina P.:          06:53          I mean, everything. Every kind of seafood under the sun, basically. Any kind of fish. Smoked scallops. Salmon is great with it. Then, I also love asparagus. Again, this is a flavor that you actually see in the wine, as well.

Asparagus is often one of those flavor characteristics that comes up a lot in describing Kiwi Sauvignon. Asparagus, I like more of a buttery or a creamy sauce, 'cause all that acid from the Sauvignon Blanc seems to cut through that. Just salad, you know, summery salads with berries, or green beans. You could also do it with a little bit heavier food, too, like seafood risotto or paella or something. Watermelon gazpacho is one that seems to get paired with it a bunch. That sounds really good right now.

Jameson Fink:       07:42          I'm also glad you mentioned asparagus, because I feel like when I was learning about wine, and you still read this kind of stuff, like "Asparagus is impossible to pair with wine." I actually had that written down. Asparagus in all caps, in bold. I think Sauvignon Blanc, and especially New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful with asparagus, and it's not impossible to pair. Strike that from your wine rules.

Christina P.:          08:06          Yeah. Oh yeah. Totally. I mean, 'cause asparagus has got a pretty strong flavor, so I could understand it would overpower a lot of wines. I think that this, particularly Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is so, so brash and bold, in it's flavors, that I think it holds up really well. Actually, a geeky side note, a lot of those asparagus and bell pepper flavors that are detectable in this style of wines, come from this methoxypyrazines. Pyrazines are these aroma compounds, and you find them in a lot of the Bordeaux family grapes, like Loire Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. When they're done well, it's all about canopy management and pruning.

Viticulturists can actually control how much of those flavors that are gonna end up in the final wine, hopefully, assuming the vintage is good, by pruning, and by controlling the leafy part of the vines to tweak those aromas. When they're done well you get, like I say, the bell pepper, asparagus, the mint, and basil. When they're done badly, you start to get this mushy, mushy asparagus, or overripe peppers, that's not really that pleasant. I think it's a quality in the line that I really like, personally.

Jameson Fink:       09:16          Yeah, I really ... I'm pro-pyrazine. I'm a big fan of pyrazines. Not like an overload of them, I don't know how I would measure that, but I like those kinds of flavors in my wine. I know they can be very outputting and polarizing for some people.

                                             In fact, Sauvignon Blanc, it's funny, there are a lot of people I talk to who are wine pros, work in the business, and they don't like Sauvignon Blanc at all. It seems like it's like the most polarizing white wine grape I can think of.

Christina P.:          09:41          I think because as a style, it's fairly obvious. I don't necessarily mean that to be a derogatory statement. I just think it's ... that's why I call it a gateway wine, because it's, for a lot of wine lovers, it's a wine that you start with because of its obviousness. It's because it's so out there. It's such an extroverted style, that in the beginning it's really charming and it really draws you in.

Then, I think for people who really get geeky about wines, that style can start to just be a little zany, and a little boring. Then, of course, there's just this added snobbery of, "Oh, I've moved on from that. You know, I like much more sort of toned down, restrained wines." As we're going to talk about one of the wines today, they're not all like that, and they're certainly not all cut from the some cloth.

I mean, I have the good fortune of tasting a lot of them, these days, and there certainly is a style that screams, "New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc" and more specifically, "Marlborough." Then, there are a lot these days that are working out, a lot producers working outside the box, and trying new things, and working with more leaf contact. Aging in oak, or picking at different times. Going less for the pyrazines, and maybe more for a riper style. I really think now, there's a Sauvignon Blanc out there for everybody.

Jameson Fink:       11:03          Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned outside the box, because if you go to winemag.com, you wrote a great article about exploring New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc outside the box. Go check that out.

On that note, I do want to talk about a wine that's included in there, or a producer at least, the second wine, which is the Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, also from Marlborough. Now, this is an organic and biodynamic producer, correct?

Christina P.:          11:27          They are, yes. They are, Clos Henri is actually owned by the Henri Bourgeois family in the Wairau Valley. They have really ... they started their New World Winery in Marlborough, and their, Damien Yvon is their general manager, and their winemaker. He is also from Wairau, so, this is very much French wine making, and French philosophy, transplanted into Marlborough. I think that a lot of what you think of as being really tradition, old school French winemaking, Terroir being the number one focus, really carries over into this winery, and therefore, into these wines.

The Petit Clos is what you, I guess, what they would call their entry level. It's $18, which I think is an incredible bargain for how ... they're fairly small scale, they're definitely small scale compared to some of the really big well-known names. I think that $18 for what is a really, really delicious wine, and is very Terroir expressive, and all of those things, and need. With very minimal intervention, and biodynamically grown fruit, I think is all ... it's a really great package for that price.

Actually touching on that, just a side note, I do think this style is one where if you put in a bit extra money, you really get rewarded. I think all the wines we're talking about today are ... the last one we're going to talk about is a little bit pricier, but Nautilus is I think $17 or $18, this is $18, the Clos Henri. If you put in that ... go into that $15 to $20 range, I think you get a much more ... a huge step up in quality, and a much more interesting wine. This is a really great example of that.

The Petit Clos is a blend of three ... they have three vineyards, with three vineyard sites with very distinctive soils. This is a blend of the Greywacke River Stone, and then they have these clay soils, Broadbridge, and with their clays. This is a blend of those three, and they use things like, a lot of leave stirring, where the leaves being the yeast. They leave the wine in contact with the leaves for a fair amount of time, to get some texture in there. With their top line of Clos Henri wine, which is a single vineyard, they use some oak aging in there, too.

It's a much more subtle line. It's a much more toned down line. I think for people who aren't maybe as into as bold a flavor as some of the more well-known styles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is a really great example of one that is more French in style, but with a little more sunshine, a little more of that New World vibe going on.

Jameson Fink:       14:19          You mentioned oak, which is something I think is interesting in Sauvignon Blanc. Is that something you come across a lot? Like New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that use oak, and if they do, what kind of oak are they using? What kind of program and what does it add to the wine?

Christina P.:          14:32          You see some where they want the oak to be a contributing factor. With Sauvignon Blanc, it's such a bold, crisp wine. It's high acid. It's considered to be a relatively easy summer drink. If they're wanting ... they don't often want a lot of the oak to shine through, 'cause it just clashes with that crisp, summery style. It's not Chardonnay, right? They're not going for that wheatier texture, and they're not trying to get the flavor, 'cause Chardonnay's a relatively subtle grape, in terms of flavor profiles.

The oak would really shine through in a grape like Chardonnay, whereas, I feel like Sauvignon is so extroverted in it's personality already, that to try to add a lot of oak in there, would just fight with the wine. Most people who are using oak, would just be using it more as a textural thing, and just trying to get a little bit more of that creamy mouth weight. Maybe make it more like medium bodied spectrum versus light bodied. It's not typical, so most of the wines you find out there, you won't really see oak at all. It would just be in stainless steel. It'd be just a young, crisp style of just fruit driven, and driven by those herbaceous notes, and not with any of that oak.

Actually the Nautilus, interestingly, going back to that, they use oak in a lot of their wines. I consider them to be pretty classic Marlborough producer. They've been around since 1985. They've been doing it for a long time. They use oak in a way that is, again, just adding texture, and contributing to that fruit concentration. I think that they are not afraid of those secondary, tertiary characters that add complexity. I think that's why i generally, consistently, really like Nautilus, and have liked their wines for a long time. I tend to be a little drawn to wines with a little more weight texture.

Jameson Fink:       16:24          Yeah, when you talk about weight and texture and freshness, and things like that, I think of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as something you drink right away, super fresh. Is it? Is it a wine that can age, if you had aged examples of it, where you're like, "Wow." Like that ... with three or plus years, or something like that. That it's a wine that can development at a certain level?

Christina P.:          16:45          Yeah, for sure. Going back to Clos Henri, I mean, their top wine is one that, for sure, it's just called the Clos, Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc, that is a really good example of one that could definitely age. I mean, you're not going to age them as long as you would age a Cabernet, for example. I think seven to 10 years, some of them could go, the majority are not though. I would assume that they're meant to be drink now wines.

Yeah, certainly some of them that have had a little bit of an oak regime, and again, maybe some leave stirring, trying to go for that texture and restraint. Maybe more of a mineral drive in there. They can age, for sure. They go a little more honeyed, and those really bright fruit flavors start to get a little bit more dried fruit, for example. Or some nutty characteristics in there, as well. Yeah.

Jameson Fink:       17:46          Cool. For the first two wines, they're both from the Marlborough region. I want to move to the third one, which is, we're gonna travel a little in New Zealand, it's the Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Central Otago. I think Central Otago is best known for Pinot Noir. If you could just start by telling me where is the Central Otago in relation to Marlborough, and is it unusual to see Sauvignon Blanc from there?

Christina P.:          18:14          Yes. First of all, Central Otago is southwest of Marlborough, so, we're still on the South Island, here. New Zealand's North Island, South Island. There is wine made on both islands, and unlike here, I know we're conditioned as you go south it gets warmer, we're in southern hemisphere, of course, so going north is where you see the warmer grape varieties, like Merlot, and Cab, you seem them a little bit more, Shiraz up in the Hawk's Bay area, for example.

Down in Central Otago, we're going cooler. You're going south of Marlborough, so, you're going into a little bit cooler climate. It's sort of its own microclimate, and you're right to say that Central Otago is more well-known for Pinot Noir, for sure. This wine is ... most of the fruit is coming from Bendigo, which is sort of a subregion within a subregion. It's one of the warmest, so you will get more of those[pineapple-y, passion fruit flavors from this area. Then a lot of that gunflint mineral, those mineral notes, the herbaceousness as well.

You'll see it occasionally, but definitely Central Otago is more Pinot. This one is, I think, $29 a bottle. They're going for a more premium style. They also farm organically. Yeah, this is a female winemaker, Nadine Cross, who is really talented. She's worked in France, and California, and all over the place.

There's a gram of residual sugar, if you wanted to know that. That's something that you see in Sauvignon Blanc a bit, they'll leave just a little bit of sweetness in there, because the acidity can be so high. Like they do with Riesling, and that gives the perception of more fruitiness, and maybe, softens the acidity a little bit.

Jameson Fink:       20:09          Huh. I didn't ... I'd never knew there was 1% RS in some of my New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. I guess, like you said, it's such a racy grape that it can handle a little touch. We're not talking about sweet.

Christina P.:          20:23          Yes, a tiny bit.

Jameson Fink:       20:23          We're talking just mellow out the zippy acidity.

Christina P.:          20:27          Exactly. It's tiny. Even I often will not detect it, and I might look at the technical notes and just go, "Oh, okay. There was a tiny bit in there. That's probably what's sort of contributing to, maybe a little bit of that feeling of wheatier fruit, or something."

Jameson Fink:       20:42          Then, one last thing I wanted to mention about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is, not necessarily about the wine, but the packaging, as far as screw caps, they wanted to know, New Zealand's been such a pioneer and I think almost all the Sauvignon Blancs you'll see are sealed under a screw cap, and I think their popularity certainly had a lot to do with people accepting screw caps. At least on wines that are more of a drink now, refreshing style of white wine.

Christina P.:          21:07          Yeah, absolutely. Australia, New Zealand, both have been really ahead of the game with screw caps. Now, I mean, I couldn't give you a percentage, but the vast, vast majority are under a screw cap. I think, here in the States we still, a lot of people maybe still have that misconception. I think it's changing a lot, but most of the wines here are still under cork. There's still a little bit of that misconception that if it's screw cap it must not be good quality-wise.

Now, keep in mind that if you're drinking a wine from New Zealand, I could say the same for Australia, that that really doesn't make a difference at all, as a quality. In fact, some of the top wines, even Penfold’s Grange now is doing a lot of their wines under screw caps. That really is not a sign of quality anymore. It's just been a shift, a stylistic shift. I think it's easier. From my perspective, I love it.

Jameson Fink:       21:57          Yeah, I like not even ... you don't need a specialized tool. I mean, corkscrews are great. Love 'em, but I love to use them, but it's nice when you forget one, or don't need one or are traveling and you can just, you know, unscrew it.

Christina P.:          22:08          Your mom could even do it one-handed with the lawnmower.

Jameson Fink:       22:11          She could. You gotta ... My mom mowing the lawn. Thanks for listening to this episode of My Mom Mowing Her Lawn. I'll be sure she listens to it, now.

Christina P.:          22:21          Actually, I'm not at all promoting drinking while using heavy machinery.

Jameson Fink:       22:26          No.

Christina P.:          22:26          We're really that you could open a screw cap with one hand. Actually.

Jameson Fink:       22:29          Right. Right. We're just trying to illustrate the ease of opening screw cap wines.

Christina, thanks for joining me, and talking about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It's nice to talk about it as more than single note, that people are doing interesting things with it, and not just in Marlborough. In other regions, too. It's something you can drink now. It's something you can hold on to, and there's just ... I think it's a more diverse wine than a lot of people have been exposed to. So, thank you.

Christina P.:          22:56          You're welcome. It's been a pleasure.

Jameson Fink:       22:58          And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. Buy the right wine.

The wines we talked about this episode were the Nautilus 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, the Clos Henri 2017 Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc, and the Peregrine 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. If you'd like today's episode, please give us a five star rating on iTunes. Leave a comment. And tell your friends.

What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 09 2018

23mins

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1:2 Central Coast Syrah Belongs in Your Glass and Cellar

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It’s time to give Central Coast Syrah its due. Not only does it produce age worthy wines, but you’ll find a wide variety of styles and regions to explore.

Wine discussed: 

5:48 Stolpman 2017 Syrah So Hot Syrah (Ballard Canyon)

13:52 Samuel Louis Smith 2016 Sandstone Terrace Syrah (Santa Cruz Mountains)

17:25 Joyce 2016 Tondre Grapefield Syrah (Santa Lucia Highlands)

Transcript

Jameson Fink:  Welcome to Wine Enthusiast's What We're Tasting Podcast. I'm your host, Jameson Fink. Join we as we discuss three fantastic wines, and why each one belongs in your glass. This episode I'm exploring Syrah, from California's Central Coast with contributing editor Matt Kettman, who covers and reviews wines from the region. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino. Vivino is the world's largest online wine marketplace, powered by a community of 30 million wine drinkers who use The Vino app to engage with 2 million wines (including Central Coast Syrah from California) every single day. 

So when it comes to the top grape, the top dog in California, especially with red wine, everyone wants to talk about Cabernet. It's the wine people collect, it's the one that can age, it's the one that gets the most love, and press, and it's well-loved for a reason. It's a famous, famous grape. But I think we're giving short shrift to Syrah. it's underrated, it's versatile, and it also belongs in your cellar. So Matt, you have recently made the case for Central Coast Syrah, the area that you cover, as being age worthy. Can you talk about sort of your awakening with Syrah as a grape that is age worthy?

Matt Kettman: Yeah, of course. I've loved Syrah since I started liking wine. I've always found it to be kind of one of the more interesting wines out there. And it was actually one of the first wines where I was in a tasting room, I read a note that said "cracked pepper", and I actually smelled cracked pepper. So I was like, "Wow, this isn't all completely made up. There's some truth to these tasting notes."

Jameson Fink: Of course, they're completely objective.

Matt Kettman:Of course, yes. So that really kind of turned my head not just for Syrah, but for wine in general. This is obviously a dozen or so years ago at this point. So that really kinda made me interested in Syrah. And then over the years I've been lucky enough to try some older vintages from people like Bob Lindquist at Qupe, he's been making single variety Syrah since the 1980s, and doing it really well.

And then more recently, a couple things happened. One, I did a long vintage flight with Joey Tensley of Tensley Wines, and we tried every vintage he'd ever made from Colson Vineyard, which is this really remote spot in Northern Santa Barbara County. And they were all phenomenal, and not in ways that you would necessarily expect. Some of the older vintages tasted younger than some of the more recent ones, so it was really kind of eye-opening in that regard. And it also showed how Syrah can really speak of a specific place, and do so while also referring to that year's, the vintage's characteristics as well.

And then a little while ago, couple months ago, I had been up at Hospice du Rhône and and tried zillions of different Syrahs and other Rhône varieties from around the world and the region. And I came home, and was hanging out with a buddy in my garage, which is kind of a defacto tasting den of sorts. And we popped open this bottle, this was pretty late at night, but we popped open this bottle of 1987 Qupe from Bien Nacido Vineyard, and we tasted it and we were both like, "This is maybe the best wine we've ever had in our lives." And I actually posted that to Instagram. And people were very not so much surprised, but they were surprised that I would say something like that I guess so publicly.

Jameson Fink: Yeah.

Matt Kettman: But also that somehow Syrah was up there. And I wasn't really surprised at all, because I had been tasting older Syrahs for a while. And I try to seek out old stuff as much as possible. But it was really just this phenomenal wine that you kept coming back to. And it really had developed beyond secondary and tertiary notes. There were just a lot of kind of crazy flavors and textures going on that were really memorable.

Jameson Fink: Yes, I went back and stalked your Instagram, and I saw that post. Your quote is, "Very possibly the best wine I've ever had." And then two of the responses are, "That is quite a statement." "Bold statement."

Matt Kettman: Right. No, and I wasn't, I stand by that statement. It was a phenomenal wine. And you know, it was obviously properly cellared and all of that, so it was kept well. You know, I don't know it was kind of mind blowing, which is funny. A lot of people have that happen with crazy old Burgundy, or some Chateau Margaux from 1954 or whatever. But for me it was just a simple 1987 Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard, and it was awesome.

I taste a lot of great Pinot Noir, so when people ask me what my favorite grape is I usually have to say, "Well, I taste a lot of great Pinot Noir from this region." 'Cause we have that. But Syrah is still kind of my, you know that's the one that ... My heart goes out to Syrah I guess. It's had a lot of struggles over the years. It's been a little bit too widely planted, probably in regions where it doesn't do as well. But I love, especially cool climate Syrah. Stuff that comes from really coastal regions, I think it brings out a lot of the kind of inherent uniqueness to the grape where you start to get these really kind of gamey, meaty flavors. But you also get a lot of the pretty purple flower aromatics too. So I don't know, there's just a lot in Syrah that's there to love. And those flavors and aromas really develop over time as it sits in your cellar.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, when you say there's a lot of Syrah, that first one I wanted to talk about was pretty much just for that reason. It's the Stolpman 2017 Syrah So Hot Syrah from Ballard Canyon, 92 points. And it's a wine made without sulfur, a natural wine. And you talk about chilling it down. I'm just wondering, are you tasting a lot more wines like that with no sulfur added, or minimal sulfur and the kind of light weight Syrah that you do wanna put a chill on and enjoy in an ice bucket?

Matt Kettman: I'm starting to see more, I guess you'd call them kind of sessionable reds. Lighter reds. They're not all Syrah by any means. Some are Syrah. Ones that you would wanna put a chill on. They do tend to be Rhône varieties, or Cab Franc can kind of show up that way as well. But I've had some Cinsaults recently that were really light, and sessionable I guess. So I am starting to see that.

As far as the natural wine movement goes, you know, there's a lot of people, especially in Santa Barbara County, but in other parts of the Central Coast that have always used kind of minimally effective sulfur. So they've never been big on adding too much. I don't see, I know there are a few brands that do it. I don't see a lot of all natural wine branding here, or brands here. There are some, but for the most part people are, I don't know, I guess professional about making their wines here. And they'll put a little sulfur in there to make sure it lasts. What's great about this Stolpman wine was that they tried to do it a different way. So they actually fermented it carbonically for the most part, which is to stay in a closed container without oxygen and without crushing the berries. So their Syrahs tend to be pretty rich and sumptuous, and thick. And that's because they get pretty warm days in Ballard Canyon and it makes the skins thicker, so that will lead to kind of a thicker wine during the fermentation.

So for this one, they wanted to make something fresher. So if you ferment it carbonically the juice starts to ferment inside the berries, so you get less skin tan and extraction. So you can make this kind of lighter, fresher wine. And that's what they did. And to keep that freshness, they decided not to add sulfur. I think it was partially kind of an experiment to see how it would go. But it makes this really light, lovely, fresh wine, that really I think does deserve a bit of a chill to properly experience it.

It's funny, I was trying to remember where we were, but now I do. We were at the World of Pinot Noir this past March. And the guys from the Stolpman team were walking around with a chilled bottle of this Syrah as kind of an antidote to some of the Pinot. So if you think about it in that way, using Syrah as a refresher for a bunch of Pinot, it kind of goes to show how light and refreshing this particular bottling is.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I was impressed, I was reading your review, and you actually called the aromas joyous. "It's a joyous wine."

Matt Kettman: Yeah, I use that when it's, it almost means kind of juicy, or I'll also use the word playful from time to time. It just kind of means it smells like a fun wine. Smells like a wine that you wanna hang out with for the afternoon. And I think it's reflective of sunshine, and kind of that warmth during the growing season leads to some riper flavors. And especially, you know, when a wine's released that young, they bottled that in January. So for a red wine, that's pretty crazy to have it on the market at all at this point. But to have it on the market as early as March and February, right after harvest, it's gonna be just by design extremely lively, and really primary on the palate.

It's not the most complex wine in the world, and I think my note kind of eludes to that. It's pretty ... I don't wanna say simple, 'cause that makes it seem kind of demeaning. But it's a light, fresh, fruity wine. And I think as much, for many decades, people have been trying to make these really rich, and layered, and deep wines. And they still do. But it's nice to have another choice in your arsenal there for something that maybe you have with lunch. You can have red wine with lunch and it's not too much. And you can enjoy that and go back to work, and not have to worry about it. 'Cause it's a lighter wine.

Jameson Fink: I like the life you live, your lunch life.

Matt Kettman: That's right, yeah.

Jameson Fink: But I like also you say, "Get it cold and chill out." That's literally the last sentence in the review. I think that's actually, well chilling out is good advice for everyone when appropriate. But get it cold, I think not even just with a wine like this, but I come across wines at restaurants and things like that, the red wines are just way too warm.

Matt Kettman: Yeah, and that's kind of the mantra I've heard for the typical American serving practice is that our whites are typically a little too cold in a restaurant, and then the reds are typically too warm. I think that's changing a lot in the last few years, especially as wine has become such a major part of our culture, and Sommeliers are in every single restaurant you go to. So I think there's a little bit more knowledge on that front. But yeah, that is something that I think people tend to forget even when serving at home is that those red wines should be served kind of at cellar temperature, which is not room temperature. It's a little bit more cold.

And really you can just throw it in the fridge for 10 minutes and pull it out and you're gonna be probably at a more optimal space than if you just serve it too warm.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, I've kinda talked about this concept earlier, but if you can just buy two bottles of any red wine, the same red wine, and put one in the fridge for 20 minutes and serve the other one at room temperature, it's pretty astonishing the differences in the wine, and what flavors poke out. Alcohol dominates for things like that. It's a pretty simple exercise that anyone can do with just two $10 bottles of red wine. You can have it be a little parlor game, and serve it to your friends and say, "Which wine do you like better?" And then be like, "Aha, it's the same wine."

Matt Kettman: Right. Yeah. And sometimes chilling it, it'll hide certain flavors, but it's not like it's hiding the bad flavors. It's just allowing other flavors to stand out a little bit more. And in the case of this Stolpman, it allows those crisper fresh fruit flavors to stand out away from maybe some of the warmer, riper aspects. So it's I don't know, I wouldn't chill all, I wouldn't put a big chill on big Cabs, or anything like that. Because you do kind of want, when they're these kind of lush wines, you do wanna experience those full waves of lush-ness. But you know, for a wine like this, it's just great to have a red wine option that you can drink on a sunny day.

Sunshine and red wine are not necessarily the best of friends. But chill it down, and they can be buddies.

Jameson Fink: That's right. Summer, it's not just for white wine and rosé . I want to shift gears from this really unique Syrah in Ballard Canyon to move onto the Santa Cruz Mountains. And that's a region that's always been kind of, I've never been there, but kind of magical to me, just because some of my favorite wine drinking experiences have been drinking the wines of Mount Eden there. The Cabernet, the Chardonnay, and the Pinot Noir. But I actually hadn't heard of Syrah from the Santa Cruz Mountains, so that's why I wanted to talk about the second wine that Samuel Lewis Smith 2016 Sandstone Terrace Syrah from the Santa Cruz Mountains, 94 points, Editor's Choice. What's your experience with Syrah in the Santa Cruz Mountains?

Matt Kettman: Sam Smith, the winemaker there, he started actually down in Santa Barbara County, he worked for Margerum Wine Company down here, which makes a lot of great Rhône wines, now they also make some Pinot and Chardonnay. But he started down here, worked here for a few years, and now he's the winemaker at Morgan Winery, which is actually one of the more famous wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and throughout Monterey. So that's his primary job. And then this is his side label, or his personal label is this Samuel Lewis Smith.

So he's really focused on making really I think fairly small batches of really hands-on wine every vintage. So I think in last year's release was really only this Syrah, and then one Pinot Noir that he made from Albatross Ridge which is this other crazy vineyard above Carmel Valley. By anyways, so he's really kind of adept at finding these sites that have not yet been used. So he was able to find some Syrah from there. And it's an excellent wine.

Like you thought, there's not a lot of it out there.

Another great example of Syrah from Santa Cruz Mountains would be Big Basin, which is a fairly well-known brand. It's not a big brand, but it's fairly well-known. And they're at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. And that's where the proprietor there, Bradley Brown grows, he grows a lot of Syrah. Really at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains, surrounded by redwood trees. Santa Cruz Mountains is mostly dominated on the coastal side by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and then on the more inland side by Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and some of the Bordeaux varieties like Cab. Just like what Mount Eden does. They kinda nail the three main ones.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and do you see this wine, the Samuel Lewis Smith as one you wanna hold for a few years, or more than a few years in your cellar? Or crack it open now? Or works both ways?

Matt Kettman: You know, I think like you suggested buying two bottles of any wine and doing the cool trick. You should also buy two or three bottles of every wine and drink one now, and drink one in five years, and drink one in ten years. Then you're really gonna get to taste the life of the wine. I do recall that wine having a really solid amount of structure, whereas the Stolpman was much more of, like I said, joyous fun wine to really chill down and drink right now. I believe the Samuel Lewis Smith wines will hold for quite a long time. You know, it's just a really well-made wine. And it has the acidity to keep it alive, and then some tannins to kind of hold it up too. So I think that one's gonna last quite awhile.

But it is quite delicious now. So I would be remiss in not advising you to drink at least one of the bottles as soon as you get it.

Jameson Fink: We gotta open up a retail wine shop where I'm like, "Buy two bottles," and you're saying, "Oh, buy at least three." Everyone's gonna be walking out of there with at least a case. And then of course you'd get a case discount too.

Matt Kettman: That's right. Yeah. Yeah, we'd be good at that.

Jameson Fink: We'll have to talk about that offline.

Matt Kettman: Yeah.

Jameson Fink: And I did hear you mention the Santa Lucia Highlands, so for the third wine, for a third Central Coast Syrah, I chose the Joyce 2016, hopefully I'm saying this right Joyce 2016 Tondre Grapefield Syrah, 91 points, editor's choice. What can you tell me about this Syrah as far as where it fits in with the Samuel Lewis Smith, or is it more of its own unique expression?

Matt Kettman: You know, the way it fits in with Samuel Lewis Smith is that like the Santa Cruz Mountains not having that much Syrah, the Santa Lucia Highlands do not have that much Syrah either. You get so much more money for Pinot Noir from regions that are known for Pinot Noir than you do for Syrah. Most places that had Syrah have ripped it out and replanted Pinot. But there are still a few Syrah plantings left. And there's actually some I think smart vineyards that are actually putting in a little bit more Syrah in the Santa Lucia Highlands right now. But overall it's declined quite a bit over the years.

I was looking it up earlier today, I couldn't actually find anyone else that made a Syrah from Tondre Grapefield. So I get the sense that Russell Joyce, who's the winemaker for his family winery, Joyce Cellars, I get the sense that he might take it all and make it all. And he must get a fair price for it, because I think that bottle's only like $25 or so. Which for a wine, any wine from the Santa Lucia Highlands, that's a pretty good price. And that wine is also kinda actually fits a little bit in between the Stolpman and the Sam Smith wines, in the sense that it is really ... I remember it being very fresh and vibrant, but also it had a little more structure than maybe the Stolpman did.

So I think it's a nice kinda fit in between there. Joyce Cellars is kinda one of the, there's this kind of new guard of Monterey County wine makers, and Russell Joyce, who's I think only in his mid-30s, younger guy. But he's taking the label that I believe his father founded, and he's really kinda upping the quality level, putting more of a younger, hipper vibe to the labels, a little more colorful, a little less old school. And then he's really ambitious about betting on, especially the Carmel Valley. So he and his wife took over this property right in the middle of Carmel Valley. And developed their new tasting room, they put another tasting room in there. Chesta Rosa Winery is also in this spot. And then they built something, I believe it's called the Wine House, something like that.

And it's essentially a, I believe it's a wine bar/retail shop/small restaurant. And outside of it are bocce ball courts, and lounge chairs, and all this kind of outdoor fun. And it's right in the middle of Carmel Valley. So the Joyce family really paid for all that, and are kind of betting on that region. So they make wines, they make a lot of Santa Lucia Highland wines, but they also make some Carmel Valley wines. And they're keeping it kind of fun. So this Syrah really fits right into that program.

 They're also doing, they do a Gamay wine, which is really cool. And they do a Rose of Gamay I believe. So they're exploring varieties that are really kind of more or less brand new to Monterey County at this point. Or maybe they were there many, many decades ago, and now they're back again like Gamay.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention you wrote up a nice little exploration of the Santa Lucia Highlands if you're a wine tourist, where to go, where to taste, all kinds of things. That's Exploring California's Santa Lucia Highlands, that's on winemag.com. I haven't been to that area, so I don't know what, you obviously just gave us a nice little slice of what's available there. But is it a region that's exciting for wine tourism, or has a lot of possibilities? What is your take?

Matt Kettman: Santa Lucia Highlands is a little bit funny, because Monterey County, the government is very I guess aggressive in protecting the historic farming philosophies, and the farming traditions of Monterey County. So they've made it, and I think that's a good thing. But they've made it very difficult for wineries to open tasting rooms in the region, they've made it very difficult for any kind of real hospitality to emerge in that area. So Santa Lucia Highlands sits above the floor of the Salinas Valley. So there's all these little kind of quaint, but fairly poor farm towns. Like Gonzales, and Greenfield, and places like that, that don't have a lot of hospitality infrastructure. At least not the level of hospitality infrastructure that the modern California wine tourists would expect.

So there are a handful of places in the Santa Lucia Highlands that do have tasting rooms, and it's beautiful to visit. You can see almost all the way to Monterey Bay on a clear day. And all the way across the Valley to the Pinnacles National Park. So it's really beautiful. But not a lot of people go there, because there's just not a lot of tourist infrastructure. So that article you mentioned, I spent a little bit of time just kind of explaining what I just explained. But then I also say, "If you really wanna taste a lot of these wines, you really have to go into Carmel by the Sea, or Carmel Valley," where most of the tasting rooms are.

 So I think in Carmel by the Sea, there's something like 20 or two dozen tasting rooms. And then the same is true in Carmel Valley, there's like two dozen tasting rooms in a mile stretch of road. So that's if you wanna bang out Santa Lucia Highlands tastings, you're gonna be better off trying to do it in the Carmel Valley or Carmel by the Sea. That said, it's certainly worth a day trip to drive through and check it out. And there's rumors of a potential kind of glamping option that might go in along the Arroyo Seco river. Although, like I said, it's a struggle getting any of those things approved. So that'll take probably a number of years to even get close to construction.

 But hopefully I think in the future there'll be some places that come online. I think it'd be a smart place to build something if you could. Maybe the cities around there would be more hospitable to that sort of thing. But right now, your best bet is gonna be staying at a chain hotel or motel in Salinas, or one of those little farm towns around there.

Jameson Fink: And finally Matt, we've taken a quick little tour of Syrah around the Central Coast, and just kind of to bring it back full circle, you've recently championed Syrah as age worthy from the Central Coast. We've talked about three totally pretty different, unique wines that different styles, different regions. Syrah in the Central Coast, where do you see it going from here? Do you see it growing, or just more of a thing where there's gonna be producers who just love working with it, it's maybe not their bread and butter, but it's certainly something that they're passionate about?

Matt Kettman: You know, I think it depends on which part of the Central Coast. If you look at Stolpman, they're in Ballard Canyon, which is really a small appellation, and it's basically an appellation that was made for Syrah. Syrah is always gonna be really strong there. In other regions I think it's gonna probably play second fiddle for a long time, for the years to come.

The one thing I will say, though, is that Syrah, and especially cool climate Syrah is kind of a favorite wine for many winemakers, for many sommeliers, for many wine professionals. People can't get enough of it. So as the American wine customer gets more and more educated over the years, I wouldn't be surprised if you see them shift in that direction too. If you see people who used to like Cab and maybe Pinot Noir shifting to liking this cool climate Syrah. Because it frankly is one of the most interesting wines out there.

And once you've gotten used to other varieties of more noble varieties, or these standard varieties that our chocolate, vanilla, strawberry world likes, I think Syrah offers this really nice portal into a whole different wine experience. And when you're talking about throwing some age on those bottles too, it becomes even more interesting. So I don't know. I have high hopes for Syrah. But people have been singing its praises for decades now. So I don't know what's gonna happen.

Maybe this'll be the third or fourth rebirth of Syrah in the years to come. But you know, I guess it's like a phoenix. The phoenix of the California wine world.

Jameson Fink: Rising from the ashes.

Matt Kettman: Keeps rising from its own death. Its own demise. So maybe, I don't know maybe we'll enter a new era of Syrah popularity. I hope so, because I think it's good stuff.

Jameson Fink: I agree. You're preaching to the choir here. Well thanks Matt, for joining me and talking about Central Coast Syrah. It's a great journey, great education. And I hope someday to hang out with you in the garage, drinking '87 Qupe.

Matt Kettman: Yeah. We'll do it. I'll go track down some more bottles.

Jameson Fink: You got a folding chair waiting for me?

Matt Kettman: I actually have a vinyl covered couch in my garage now.

Jameson Fink: Oh wow, okay. I'm gonna look at flights right after this.

Matt Kettman: Yeah, all right.

Jameson Fink: Thanks again, Matt.

Matt Kettman: Okay, thank you.

Jameson Fink: And thank you for listening to the What We're Tasting Podcast. What We're Tasting is sponsored by Vivino, buy the right wine. The wines we talked about this episode were the Stolpman 2017 Syrah So Hot, the Samuel Lewis Smith 2016 Sandstone Terrace, and the Joyce 2016 Tondre Grapefield. Find What We're Tasting on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you find podcasts. And if you liked today's episode, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes, leave a comment, and tell your friends. What We're Tasting is a Wine Enthusiast Podcast. Check out Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com.

Jul 02 2018

27mins

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1:1 Why South African Wine Has Something for Everybody

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Old World? New World? How do you describe South African wines? Take a look at white wines, red blends, explore the Swartland region, and experience Pinotage redemption. Also learn about the collaborative spirit guiding the Cape Winemakers Guild.

Wine discussed: 

Tokara 2017 Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc (Elgin)

Terre Brûlée 2016 Le Rouge Red (Swartland)

Adi Badenhorst & Duncan Savage 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Love Boat Red (Swartland)

Jun 18 2018

25mins

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iTunes Ratings

30 Ratings
Average Ratings
26
1
1
0
2

Fun and Informative

By Grape Chic - Jun 27 2018
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Fun, informative but not overbearing! Loved listening on my commute home from work. Great for people who love wine and also for those just getting into it! Looking forward to exploring more regions.