Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Montecucco, Napa Valley and Lake Seneca - Wine Country

Poggio Anima "Belial", Montecucco

Tuscany is covered in vines and you will find dozens of DOC wine regions, but for me, the rarest and one of the newer sources of great Tuscan wine is Montecucco. Just northeast of Grosseto, directly south of Siena and most importantly right up against the vineyards of Montalcino, this is where you'll find very sturdy, deeply flavored sangiovese wines that are WAY under the radar. I recommend looking for Poggio Anima "Belial" to experience for yourself just how full flavored Tuscan sangiovese can get. 
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Having spent so much time in Napa Valley
Seqouia Grove Chardonnay, Napa Valley
back in the late 1980's, witnessing the birth of what would become "Classic Napa Chardonnay", I periodically have flashbacks
. And it was just that kind of jolt when I tasted the current release of Sequoia Grove's Chardonnay - I was transported back to the days when chardonnay was richly textured with silky layers of buttercream, vanilla and a sweet, sweet purity. Well, if your feeling a bit nostalgic,  I would recommend seeking out this Chardonnay - and pair it up with several of the biggest richest flavored crabcakes you can find.
More info: click here

Standing Stone Dry Vidal
From way out in left field, and a complete shocker for me was this New York State wine produced on the eastern banks of Lake Seneca. Vidal is a hybrid grape variety planted mostly because it tolerates very cold climates and can produce exquisite ice wines. But it can also be fermented dry...and this is one of the most extraordinary bottlings I've tasted. The Standing Stone Vineyard Dry Vidal has a lushness, an incredible rich array of pear-like fruit flavors and a balancing tangy acidity that will make you swear you've been treated to an Alsace Grand Cru Pinot Gris.
More info: click here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Alsace - Where purity of expression reigns.

If there is a French wine region that Americans can feel comfortable exploring - it's Alsace! You'll find this narrow stretch of vineyards in the far eastern part of the country, snug up against Germany. The proximity to Germany has influenced the wines quite a bit. The Germanic names of the vintners and the tall slender shaped bottles, resembling Mosel wines, both work to make the wine consumer think that these wines are more like German wines with a slight sweetness.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most Alsace wine is fermented dry. The natural sugars are reduced through fermentation to a level where the average palate will not be able to detect any sweetness. But - the real beauty of these wines is that there is a very pronounced fruit component. In fact, vintners here seem to put almost all the emphasis on this aspect of wine production: fruit identity of their grape varieties.

Of all the French wine regions only in Alsace will you see the grape variety clearly displayed on the label. There is very little blending going on here. Typically wines are 100% of the grape variety stated on the label. And this is exactly why it is so easy for Americans to understand these wines. Americans are trained to buy wines by grape variety and have been slow to learn the European system of buying by region.

Each grape variety has it's own set of fruit aromas and flavors and in Alsace this is nurtured, amplified and emphasized. It seems like every aspect of winemaking is done to protect this precious part of the wine. Fermentations take place in stainless steel tanks where the temperatures can be kept cool; a technique that preserves the freshness of the fruit flavors. You won't see oak barrels stacked to the ceilings here. Oak barrels whether used for fermentation or aging diminish and/or distract from the pure fruit expression of the grape variety.

I recently tasted my way through the wines of Trimbach and Gustave Lorentz, both great wine producers with a long history of making some of Alsace's best wines. Their wines would be a great place to start exploring the beauty and purity of the wines from this region
Wines to seek out:

Trimbach Pinot Blanc
Gustave Lorentz Pinot Blanc

Trimbach Riesling

Trimbach Pinot Gris
Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris

Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer