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Friday, October 31, 2014

Moon Mountain 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Valley

Eclipse Wines 008This bottle is the end of my online score of Moon Mountain wines. The wines were on sale and I bought five of them.

Aroma of wet leaves was prominent on the nose. The tannins were soft on the front end, but the finish prompted a pucker.

The flavor of the wine has grown complex. Flavors of blackberry and violet come forth mixed with a taste of pencil shavings. For me the finish had a chalkiness.

Notably absent for me was the green pepper flavor which, in small doses, can be great. In larger concentration, it signals a young or badly made Cabernet Franc.

Eclipse Wines 004Will I see wines from Moon Mountain again? Probably not likely. The vineyard has been acquired by a large wine producer. They have been eclipsed. Speaking of which, here is my photo of the recent lunar eclipse. If I have to get up at 6:00 in the morning with my camera equipment, I’m darn sure going to use the photo somewhere!

Rating: 2.5 of 5  Value: 3 of 5 (based on $15 online purchase)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 California Winegrape Harvest: Earliest and Third in a String of Great Vintages this Decade

While wine producers in Ohio, Michigan and other cold climates experienced devastating damage to the 2014 grape crop, that’s not the case in California. In fact, despite the impact of the drought, California had its third largest harvest ever. Here’s a report on the California harvest of 2014.

Santa BarbaraCounty 004California vintners and growers across the state are grateful for another excellent vintage, despite an ongoing drought and earthquake that rocked south Napa in late August just as crush was getting underway. A mild winter and spring caused early bud break, although the overall length of the growing season was similar to past years. A compacted harvest began in July for sparkling wines and started winding down by mid-October for later ripening varieties. Moderate temperatures, with only minimal rain in September, allowed for even ripening.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Pacific Regional Crop Production Report of August 2014, California's winegrape production this year is forecast at 3.9 million tons, down 8 percent from 2013's record high crop. The 2014 harvest is the third largest on record.

"We are about 80 percent done, going into the second week of October," said Glenn Andrade, vice-president winemaking for Trinchero Family Estates, farmers of more than 10,000 acres of vineyards across Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast, Lodi and Amador. "We've had pretty light to moderate yields this harvest, resulting in exceptional quality. Our Amador Zinfandels are amazing—great intensity and quality. We should be done by the week of October 20, which is early for us, as typically, it's the first week in November."

"The 2014 vintage was by far the earliest start of any harvest I can recall," said Adam Mettler, director of winemaking for Michael David Winery in Lodi. "Early concerns about adequate storage quickly faded as our vineyards continued to check in at 20-25 percent down in volume from the previous two years. The moderate crop size allowed for rapid sugar accumulation early, which created some challenging high-density fermentations, but resulted in some real nice wines."

Renee Ary, winemaker at Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley is also very pleased with the vintage. "2014 will be noted as one of the earliest vintages in over a decade, but it will also go down as one of the best. Challenged by drought, an earthquake, rain, hail and significant heat, you would think there would be a lot of obstacles to navigate, however the timing of the events paired with some planning allowed us to dodge these curveballs and land another fantastic vintage. Tannins are in check and berries are small, which is translating into great balance and concentration in the cellar. Yields and quality are above average across all varieties, and I am anticipating a lot of beautiful 2014 wines to come."

"Quality is outstanding," echoed Chrissy Wittmann, winemaker at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in Paso Robles. "There are small berries with good tannin and color release on the reds, and flavorful fruit with bright aromatics on the whites. Now, we are in the home stretch, with this latest heat wave pushing the last of the hanging grapes into pick mode."

"The 2014 vintage was phenomenal for Wente Family Estates and Livermore Valley," exclaimed Karl Wente, fifth generation winemaker for the family winery. "We had outstanding color, the extractions were fantastic and we had great fruit character throughout. The lack of late-season rain and a long growing season helped ensure optimum fruit maturity."

In Sonoma County, there were more accolades for the vintage from Corey Beck, president and director of winemaking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. "In the past 17 years that I've been with Coppola, this has to be the best vintage I've ever seen. I remember saying that about the 2013 vintage, too. We've been so fortunate to have two back-to-back phenomenal harvests. We buy grapes from a variety of growers in various sub-appellations throughout Sonoma County, and to see that level of quality and consistency in each of the diverse varieties across the region is remarkable. The Chardonnay grapes were supple and succulent; the Cabernets were deep and complex—across the board, it's a great vintage."

"We are very pleased with the assessments of an exceptional 2014 vintage for California wine statewide," said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute. "And we look forward to sharing these outstanding 2014 wines with wine lovers throughout the nation and the world. Although we came through this harvest without major impact, we're keenly aware of the ongoing drought and its effects on California's entire agricultural community, including wine. We are doing our part as vintners and growers to mitigate water usage through a variety of sustainable practices."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: October 29–November 1, 2014

 
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Wednesday, October 29
Santa BarbaraCounty 068The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Explore the Beauty of Greek Wines.
Special Guest Rachel Nasatir of Grand Cru Wines. 1.Alpha Estate Malagouzia White Wine, 2. Skouras Moscofilero White Wine, 3. Skouras St. George Agiorgitiko Red, 4. Alpha Estate Axia Red. Nominal fee per sample or $8 per flight.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 6-8 PM. World of Wine: Santa Cruz Mountains, California. One-hour seminar with a tasting of two or more wines. $15 per person. Seating is limited.
 
Thursday, October 30
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. New Wines You Will Love: 1.
2013 Chateau Suau Bordeaux Blanc – France, 2. 2010 Boccadigabbia – Rosso Piceno D.O.C – Italy, 3. 2009 Tenuta Monteti Caburnio I.G.T – Italy, 4. 2011 Frascole – Chianti Rufina D.O.C.G – Italy. Nominal fee per sample or $7.50 per flight.
 
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Southern France & the Grenache Experience: 1. Domaine Boisson L'Exigence White Rhone, 2. Altitude 500, 3. Michel Chapoutier Bila-Haut L'esquerda, 4. Mas de Gourgonnier, 5. Domaine de la Tourade Gigondas, 6. Domaine du Terme Gigondas, 7. Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting. Nominal fee per sample.
 
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.
 
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Friday, October 31
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.
 
Saturday, November 1
Mobile Meals Wine Gala, (419) 255-7806, Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza. 6:00 PM. Tickets start at $150 per person. Online tickets at www.mobilemeals.org
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Tres Belle Wine and Martini Lounge, (419) 874-4555, 3145 Hollister Lane, Perrysburg (Levis Commons).
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.

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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:

November 21 – Wine Affair Savory Soiree, (419) 329-2353, Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza. 6:30 PM. Benefits the Kidney Foundation of NW Ohio. Wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, live and silent auctions, music. $90 per person. Order online tickets here.

Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines.  Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar).  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chateau de Leelanau 2012 Hawkins Red, Leelanau Peninsula

Eclipse Wines 007

Each year our neighbors venture up to Traverse City to take part in one of the many festivals in this great wine-producing region of Michigan. This year they brought back a red to sample.

While their taste runs a bit sweeter than ours, they brought back a real winner: Chateau de Leelanau Hawkins Red. It is our first sampling of this wine, and we hope it isn’t our last.

The wine is made from the Regent grape – and that’s a first for us. It is a cool-weather red grape that is disease resistant. It was introduced in the late ‘90s. The wine is inky black in the glass and silky smooth on the tongue.

This has become a trademark wine for CDL and we can see why. It has delicious flavors of blackberry juice and strawberries. There is a kick of Sweet Tart and a hit of toffee.

It retails for $17 and is an anytime wine that is sure to please the wine novice as well as the wine expert who probably has never tasted Regent grapes.

Rating: 3 of 5  Value: 3.5 of 5

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Murder Mystery Dinner Showcases Killer Wines

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As long-time winemaker at the Underwood Estates at Napa, I was shocked to discover a murder had been committed in the wine cellar. At least Papa Vito, who I was playing during a murder mystery dinner last weekend, was shocked.

Green Dragon and I attended a charity event last winter for the area Red Cross. During an auction we bid on and won a murder mystery dinner for eight. The dinner was contributed by Larry and Gail Nader, who own a large historic home on Wooster Street in Bowling Green.

We had a choice of several murder scenarios and – surprise – selected “A Taste for Wine and Murder” about a murder in Napa Valley. Larry and Gail are former California residents and know Jed Steele, owner of Steele Wines in Lake County. Our meal was accompanied by a dazzling selection from Steele.

Three of our characters had large bushy mustaches, including me. In order to drink our wine, we experienced a first: drinking wine through a straw. After a short while I did away with that and allowed my fake mustache to filter out any sediment in the wine.

Green Dragon played the role of Heddy Shablee, a rival winery owner, Glorious T was Marilyn Merlot, a beauty queen with a tarnished crown, and the Cabinator played FBI investigator Bud Wizer. Our friends Larry and Donna, and John and Maria rounded out the cast of characters (Otto Von Schnapps, Tiny Bubbles, Bonnie Lass and Ralph Rottingrape).

We started out with a cheese tray, lobster rolls and salmon appetizers while we got the low-down on the game. This was accompanied by the 2013 Steele Cuveé Chardonnay. As the name suggests, the Cuveé is a blend of Chardonnay grapes from three different regions: Santa Maria Valley, Carneros and Mendocino County. The wine has great depth thanks to malolactic fermentation. It pleases with tropical fruit flavor notes and complexity.

While we enjoyed a kale Caesar salad, we sipped the Steele 2013 Viognier. Viognier is a favorite white wine for us. This has delicate floral flavors that matched the appetizers well.

The 2012 Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc was also offered during the appetizer course. Shooting Star is a second label for Steele and this Sauv Blanc is the only white that doesn’t spend time in the barrel. The was a fresh wine with a full aroma of pineapple and citrus and tropical flavors.

Murder Mystery 2(1)Our first course was curry carrot soup. We moved to the red wines and I was surprised and pleased to see that grapes for the Steele 2010 Pinot Noir come from the Santa Barbara AVA of Santa Barbara County. Santa Barbara is one of the top Pinot producing regions in the US. What a great pairing with the soup! The Pinot has a velvet smoothness with dried cherry and strawberry flavors. This wine was decanted and was top top pick of the evening!

The wine kept getting even better. We next sampled the Steele 2011 Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel. This comes in 375ml bottles and is a superb Old Vine Zin tasting of berries, spice and a sprinkling of dust.

We returned to our crime busting  activities. Otto Von Schnapps kept flashing a stack of cash and we learned that Ralph Rottingrape had a criminal background. Meanwhile, Papa Vito (me), wasn’t getting props for the success of the winery. Nothing to do but enjoy more wine.

Our main course was prime rib, with new potatoes and green beans. This hearty wine was paired with two cabernets: Steele 2011 Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon and the Guenoc 2012 Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. This was beyond a “win-win” situation. I’ll call it a win-win-win situation. Both wines are food friendly and have soft tannins. The Steele has a sprinkling of spice while the Guenoc has a rich black cherry flavor that won over our crowd of diners.

Things started to get a bit crazy as we tried to solve the murder. Turns out Papa Vito is an expert with the ring knife, Marilyn Merlot is an expert knife-thrower and Tiny Bubbles has a half-dozen or so previous husbands who have all died mysteriously.

We headed back to the dining room to have dessert and solve the crime. We enjoyed a great crème brulee with a delightful Steele 2006 Sangiacomo Vineyard Late Harvest Chardonnay. This has 15% residual sugar, so it is very sweet, but still less than ice wine or other dessert wines. The amber colored wine has opulent flavors of honey.

A favorite Steele wine was also served, the 2007 Syrah Port-style wine from Lake County. (I call it Port-style, because it is not from Portugal.) This is a dark and rich wine with flavors of raisins and coffee – just perfect for the evening ending glass.

Who committed the murder? Everyone had a motive and the opportunity. That extra time I was in the wine cellar was to install a left-handed doorknob – not to hide a body. After all, Papa Vito is more than 80 years old, I certainly couldn’t have killed Barry Underwood… Or could I?

Thanks to our cast of players and to Gail and Larry Nader for a deliciously suspenseful evening.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Megalomaniac 2012 Homegrown Riesling Cellar 4379, Niagara Peninsula VQA

White Wines 002John Howard is an egoist – that is, a man with an outsized image of himself. His friends thought he was full of himself when he decided to name his winery John Howard’s Cellars of Distinction. That’s how his wine brand came to be dubbed Megalomaniac.

We had the opportunity to visit his winery in the Niagara Peninsula a few years ago and had an excellent tasting in his underground cellar. With names light Bigmouth Merlot, Bravado Cabernet and Narcissist Riesling, it was a lighthearted experience. The wines, though, were not lightweight.

During a recent trip to Point Pelee in Ontario, I breezed into an LCBO store. Due to restrictive laws north of the border, we hardly see any Canadian wines in the US. I scooped up a few bottles and was checking out when I saw this one on display near the register.

Homegrown is 100% Ontario wine, which the bottle proudly proclaims. For us, that is great news. Without a doubt, the Niagara region is ideal for Riesling. Howard is also quite proud of the location for his vineyard, latitude 43 and longitude 79.

This is a quality Riesling for a very palatable cost, only $13 Canadian. This offers the full spectrum of Riesling flavors with a rush of peach and citrus and some honeyed sweetness. The sweetness is somewhat kept in check by the acidity, but this is sweeter than we typically drink.

The time to bring out the man with the bowler hat (that graces the Homegrown label) is when you have a casual get-together or need something to cool down a spicy dish. Or maybe when you need to send a subtle message to your egotistical friend.

Rating: 2.5 of 5  Value: 3.5 of 5

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Proper 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Proper Syrah 2012

When family drops in, it’s always a good time to open a special bottle. It’s even better when they bring the bottle.

My cousin Christie stopped by earlier this week on her way back home to Chicago. For dinner Green Dragon cooked a sensational meal of butternut squash soup followed by linguini in clam sauce. We accompanied the meal with Pinot Gris from Yakima Valley.

We stayed with the Washington State wine theme after dinner. As we chatted and enjoyed music, we opened up a bottle from Christie: Proper Wines 2012 Estate Syrah from the wine Mecca of Walla Walla. Syrah from Washington is one of my top recommendations to any wine lover.

You might notice in the photo that the bottle is empty. That’s because we wanted to give it a good decanting. And we did – for about an hour while we enjoyed dinner.

The Proper Wines brand is relatively new, selling its first wines in 2011. The winery is a project of “five guys from Colorado” who are passionate about building something remarkable. Proper doesn’t have a tasting room and considers itself a micro-winery. Their focus is Syrah and… Syrah. They certainly have picked a premier location for the grape.

The wine is a dark ruby color. Despite the decanting, this took some time to evolve in the glass. With my first sip, I was unable to get a good reading on it, but as the decanter slowly emptied, I was appreciating its style and sophistication.

Full bodied with an edge of spice, the Proper profile is earthy rather than fruit forward. A splash of raspberry mixes with herb. Cousin Christie swears there were flavors of beets. Could that have something to do with the beet salad we had for dinner, perchance?

Christie likes a more fruit-driven Syrah, but Proper clicked with me. I think this would hit its peak drinking window in about two years – although it certainly is delicious now. The best solution is to buy two bottles. The price is about $39.

Thanks, cousin. You are welcome any time – especially when you bring the Proper wine!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: October 22-25, 2014

 
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Wednesday, October 22
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Perfect Wines for Halloween: 1. Skeleton 2013 Gruner Veltliner (Austria), 2. Skeleton 2012 Zweigelt (Austria), 3. Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles), 4. Bogle 2011 Phantom (Cal.). Nominal fee per sample or $5 per flight.
 
Thursday, October 23
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. Fall Italian Wines: 1. 2011 Falesco – Est! Est!! Est!!! – di Montefiascone, Montecchio, 2. 2011 Fattoria Rodano – Poggialupi, Castellina in Chianti, 3. 2011 Poggio Amorelli – Chianti Classico, Castellina in Chianti, 4. 2010 Podere Sapaio – Volpolo, Bolgheri. Nominal fee per sample or $7 per flight.
 
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Jim's 20th Wine Anniversary Party: 1. Terredora Fiano di Avellino – Italy. 2. Tres Picos Garnacha – Campo de Borja, Spain. 3. Tait Ball Buster – Australia. 4. Black Rock Petite Sirah – California. 5. Fin Amour – France. 6. Amor Fati Syrah – California. 7. Domain Tempier Bandol – South of France. 8.
Lapostole Clos Apalta – Chile. 9. Alto Moncaya – Campo de Borgia, Spain. 10. Smith Woodhouse 1999 LBV Port and some super secret special attractions. Special cheeses by Liz Donaldson from our Cheese house & treats from Tony Packo’s Café. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting. Nominal fee per sample.
 
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.
 
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Friday, October 24
Toledo Museum of Art, 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine by the Glass Pavilion. Liquid Indulgences: Smart Wine Splurges. Enjoy four wines and light snacks at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448.
 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.
 
Saturday, October 25
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Tres Belle Wine and Martini Lounge, (419) 874-4555, 3145 Hollister Lane, Perrysburg (Levis Commons).
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.

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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:

November 1Mobile Meals Wine Gala, (419) 255-7806, Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza. 6:00 PM. Tickets start at $150 per person. Online tickets at www.mobilemeals.org

November 21 – Wine Affair Savory Soiree, (419) 329-2353, Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza. 6:30 PM. Benefits the Kidney Foundation of NW Ohio. Wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, live and silent auctions, music. $90 per person. Order online tickets here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Estancia 2011 Reserve Meritage, Paso Robles

Estancia MeritageWe cracked open this wine during a recent visit to Poco Piatti, our favorite tapas restaurant. We started with a bottle of 2010 Stags Leap Artemis and as we settled in, we were ready for a nice accessible red wine to pair with our small plates.

The Meritage is a flavorful blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. I’d also say that it is 100% Paso Robles, where the wines are lush with fruit and ready to savor. Although Paso wines can become refined with aging, many are ready to enjoy now.

We were into our servings of chorizo tacos when we opened the Estancia. This was a perfect pairing – not too aggressive and bubbling with fruit – the wine, that is. I had hoped to get a 2009 or 2010 vintage red, but the 2011 Estancia is right on target. There is some earthiness with some dark berry fruit. This isn’t a bottle that should be aged for a long period – it’s drinking just great now.

This is a solid, all-around performer. It is a crowd pleasing wine that pairs well with a variety of foods or can stand alone. A Meritage is a good bet in most social situations as is wine from Paso Robles.

Rating: 3 of 5  Value: 3 of 5

Monday, October 20, 2014

Walt Churchill’s Market in Maumee Offers World of Wine Wednesdays

English: Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000, is offering a special series of wines tastings called, “World of Wine Wednesdays.” This is a series of one-hour wine seminars designed to introduce you to the places responsible for some of the world's most interesting wines.  During the hour you will get a quick overview of the area, a tasting of two or more wines from the region, and an opportunity to get your questions answered.

The programs start promptly at 7:00 PM most Wednesdays this fall.  The cost is $15 per person.  Programs are limited to 20 people. These will take place at the seating in the front of Walt Churchill's Market Maumee and be lead by either Austin Beeman or Jim Krusinski of the Churchill’s wine department. You must prepay to reserve your space.

The schedule is as follows: October: 22 - Piedmont, Italy, 29 - Santa Cruz Mountains, California. November: 5 - Carneros, California, 12 - The Mosel Valley, Germany, 19 - Priorat, Spain. December: 3 - Bordeaux, France, 10 - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France, 17 - Porto, Portugal.

Call for more information.