Sunday, February 28, 2016

Wine Review: Veramar Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Franc

Veramar Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Franc

"Decanter Magazine awards the family its seventh consecutive medal for Cabernet Franc, competing against the best wines in the world." That's what the Veramar Vineyard's website (http://www.veramar.com/) has to say about their Cabernet Franc. And, as somebody that reads Decanter far more often than the other wine rating and news sites, I'm impressed. I'm also a big fan of Cabernet Franc so I'm a little giddy. I've been looking forward to this one.

Veramar Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc is the final portion of a three-part Virginia wine series. The other ones are Bogadi Bodega & Vineyard 2014 Seyval Blanc and James Charles 2014 Viognier. All three of those guys (James Charles, Bogadi and Veramar) are products of the Bogady family. So far their other wines have been amazing. Crap, this entire month has been a home run for wine reviews. Everything has been received a 4 out of 5 or more. I highly doubt that the month will end on a bad note. Right? Right????

James Charles Bogady's parents came over to America from the Italian Alps, and his family in the old country still runs a small vineyard. So James thought he'd carry out his family tradition in Virginia. He bought his first vineyard in 1995, and in 2000 he and his wife Della founded Veramar Vineyards. Their son Justin became the winemaker in 2001.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Wine Review: James Charles Winery & Vineyard 2014 Viognier

James Charles 2014 Viognier

Is Viognier the best wine with lobster? It's gotta be, right? I say it is. Some say that a buttery Chardonnay is, but you're already having butter with the lobster so why would you go with a buttery Chardonnay? Sounds redundant and stupid. Viognier. Best wine with lobster. Remember that.

It's also the pride and joy of Virginia viticulture and winemaking. From what I've read, it makes not only the best wine in Virginia but possibly the best Viognier in the country. Viognier's hometown, however, is Rhone Valley in France. It's safe to say that it's native to Rhone but there's reason to believe that it was brought there by the ancient Greeks. But whatever. It's killing it in Virginia now. They even share a first letter! It was meant to be!

James Charles 2014 Viognier is the second portion of a three-part Virginia wine series. The other ones are Bogadi Bodega & Vineyard 2014 Seyval Blanc and Veramar Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc. All three of those guys (James Charles, Bogadi and Veramar) are products of the Bogady family. James Charles Bogady bought his first vineyard in 1995, and in 2000 he and his wife Della founded Veramar Vineyards. Their son Justin became the winemaker in 2001. James Charles Winery & Vineyard was started by Justin in honor of his father.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wine Review: Bogadi Bodega & Vineyard 2014 Seyval Blanc

Bogadi 2014 Seyval Blanc

Virginia is for lovers. And for strongholds in uprisings against governments. It's also got the longest history of winemaking in the United States of America (Texas and California made wine much earlier but weren't a part of the USA until much later). Wine from the native species' of grapevines had been made there since the early days of English colonization. Many attempted to grow vitis vinifera (the European species for making wine) but the vines just kept dying. Thomas Jefferson (drinker, collector and "America's first wine expert") planted vinifera at Monticello in Charlottesville. He failed.

The reason was phylloxera, that little bug that I've mentioned half a billion times, before anybody knew it even existed. It's native to the eastern United States and it likes to munch on the foliage of the native grapevines (like vitis labrusca and vitis rupestris), but for whatever reason it can't eat the leaves of vitis vinifera. So instead it attacks the roots and slowly kills the plant. That's why the English colonies couldn't grow vinifera wine while the Spanish were growing it like crazy in places like Mexico, Texas and California.

Before the solution of grafting vinifera trunks onto labrusca roots was discovered in the 1870's, there was a period of hybridization. Artificial selection and modification of our crops and animals is what we humans do best, right? So we took vinifera and various American species and created hybrids. The varieties involved were chosen carefully for what flavors were wanted or what conditions it had to face. After grafting, the creation of hybrids cooled off but they were still made for various reasons. One of those after-grafting hybrids was tonight's subject: Seyval Blanc.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Soil and Wine - Part 3: Roots Among Rubble

This is the conclusion of my Soil and Wine series of articles. Part 1: Starstuff and Seashells started with the creation of the Earth, how it got its water, how life changed the planet with organic matter, and then covered volcanic soil and limestone. PART 2: Terroir and Texture started with whether or not you could taste the soil in your wine, then explained the different soil types of clay, sand and silt, what they're made of and what they offer.

And now we've reached the end. The final structure of soil type: ROCK/STONE. It's not so much a soil type because you can't grow grapevines on nothing but rocks, but the soil of vineyards can get very rocky and stony.

The Sword in the Stone
THE SWORD IN THE STONE
IMAGE SOURCE: viewsfromthesofa.com
What's the difference between rocks and stone? The answer seems to be hotly debated. If you asked me before researching this article I would have answered it this way: Both are very hard, consolidated matter that can be strictly mineral, strictly organic or a combination of both. Rock is jagged as if it was chiseled. Stone is smoother and rounder and weathered. That's what did, and still does, make the most sense to me.

But reading up on the subject almost all night has left me more confused than with answers. One thing I will tell you is to not even bother with the Dictionary definitions. Those are useless. And in the end I couldn't even get a clear, widely accepted definition from geologists. Some say rocks are immovable like cliffs and other formations while stones are smaller fragments of rock. Some say that rocks are minerals regardless of size, whether it's the smallest particle or a boulder, while stone is a formation of organic matter or both organic and mineral matter. Then some say rock is naturally formed while stone is extracted by people for our own purposes. I dunno, dude. It seems like geologists can't even find a straight-forward definition. I like mine.

Regardless of the true definition, if any of the previous soil types also include a good number of rocks or stones then it has the benefit of extra soil drainage and heat retention. Take a bunch of clay and water it down and it just absorbs all that water. Do the same thing but with rocks in the clay and the water will use the sides of rocks and the openings they make to drain better. Let it sit out in the sun and the rocks on the surface will suck in solar heat and blast it back up to the vines, warming them nice and cozily. Also, with more space in the soil being taken up by big clunky things, the less nutrients are in the land. So, in that broad view of soils that I mentioned in the clay section of Part Two, stony and rocky soil is absolutely the best kind for viticulture.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wine Review: Ventisquero "Grey" Glacier 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Ventisquero "Grey" Glacier 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

For the last decade or so the general rule of Chilean wine was that you can double the price of a bottle and that's what wine of the same quality would cost coming from one of those classy California appellations. For the most part that theory is still going strong, although it's no longer a guarantee.

There is no doubt in my mind that Chile is absolutely the top producer of quality Cabernet Sauvignon for your money. It's very similar to the style and quality of the Cab's from Napa Valley; lots of currant, big and bold and mouth-drying. Only they're, you guessed it, much less expensive.

Grey Glacier Cabernet is the second wine I'm reviewing from Ventisquero. The first was their Carménère, which I really enjoyed. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to like their Cabernet even more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wine Review: Ventisquero "Grey" Glacier 2013 Carménère

Ventisquero "Grey" Trinidad Vineyard 2013 Carménere

Hey look! It says Glacier on the label! Massachusetts is temporarily a big piece of glacier at the time that this review is being written! Lots of snow and ice! Hurray! I hate the cold. Fuck off, cold. Die.

Drinking Carménère is like drinking an extinct grape. It was a blender in the French region of Bordeaux until that a-hole louse phylloxera killed it in the 1800's. It really wasn't much of a loss, honestly, and probably went extinct because it wasn't attempted to be protected. Nobody was really heartbroken with its passing because it was just a minor blender and really didn't have much to offer the blend. In fact, it was tempermental and actually more of a burden. It was the Meg Griffin of Bordeaux.

For years Chile's Merlot just tasted different and everybody assumed that this was just what Merlot from Chile tastes like. Ya know, terroir and whatever. Then in the 1990's everything was suddenly being recorded by its DNA. From The Shroud of Turin, to OJ Simpson, to the Merlot grapes in Chile. Hey, wait... well goshdarnit... that's not Merlot! That's Carménère risen from the dead! Put me in flippers and call me a duck! It's a zombie grape!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Soil and Wine - Part 2: Terroir and Texture

In Part 1: Starstuff and Seashells we started with a complete geek-out on the creation of the Earth, how it got its water, how life changed the planet with organic matter, and how wine connects us to all of it. Then we moved on to volcanic soil and limestone, because they really can't be placed into one soil type when categorized into soil texture.

Roots in soil
IMAGE SOURCE: jamesonfink.com
By texture, AKA granulometry, I mean how small the grains of the soil are and how compact it gets. When you categorize soil that way you get the four categories of CLAY, SILT, SAND and ROCK/STONE. Why would I, and most wine writers and experts, do it this way instead of by chemical composition? Ya know, by what the soil is actually made of? Well, there's this...

The nutrients in the soil has an effect on the growth of the plant and thus its fruit. Like I explained in Part One under Tuffeau, iron-rich soil seems to create structured and tannic wine. But can the actual aromas and flavors of the soil be transplanted from the roots to the juice too? Studies have shown that in WARMER CLIMATES the chemical composition of the soil has no effect on the final wine except for its physical texture and pH level (also explained in Part One under the limestone portion). So it doesn't matter what KIND of sand you grow your Cabernet on, just that it's sand (Cab <3 sand) and that the acidity levels are where you want them to be.

When you get to the COOLER CLIMATES, such as Chablis, this is where composition actually seems to matter... or so the Old World says. You can smell and taste the limestone, the slate or the granite. However, it's hard to prove. We all know cool climate wines express more "minerality" (dry rock, wet stone, chalk, rust, etc.) and "earthiness" (dirt, mud, wood, moss, etc.) than warm climate, but how can you scientifically prove that it's because of the soil when there's no mineral or chemical evidence of it in the wine? Earthiness and minerality could just be a characteristic of grapes from a cool climate or when they lack fruitiness. Instincts and wanting something to be true cannot make anything fact, only evidence can. Someday we'll know for sure.

That's not to say that the entire concept of terroir doesn't exist. It clearly does. All of the surroundings including climate, weather, altitude, slopes, the angle of the sun, total daylight, water sources, microorganisms and soil type, when combined with local traditions in viticulture and winemaking, can contribute in making the wine from that particular spot different than any other place on Earth.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wine Review: Bodegas Veganzones 912 de Altitud 2014 "Tierra Arenosa" Rueda

Bodegas Veganzones 912 de altitud Rueda 2014

Spain's Denominación de Origen of Rueda is southwest of Ribera del Duero. The region surrounds the town of Rueda and it's been making wine since the 11th century when the Verdejo varietal was brought from North Africa and planted there. For most of its history in winemaking, Rueda was focused solely on that Verdejo grape until phylloxera came to town in 1890 and stuck around until 1922, forcing them to bring in other grape options. Today they grow Verdejo, Viura (AKA Macabeo), and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and even four reds are allowed (Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha).

But Verdejo is still the queen of Rueda, and to carry the name of the Rueda DO the wine must be 50% Verdejo at the least. To be called Rueda Verdejo it must have a minimum of 85% Verdejo but they're usually 100%. The varietal creates a tasty, well-rounded white wine that goes great with any kind of poultry, especially grilled herb-rubbed chicken.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wine Review: Alonso del Yerro 2010 Ribera del Duero

Alsonso del Yerro 2010 Ribera del Duero

It's been well documented that perhaps my most favorite wine region in the world is Spain's Ribera del Duero (if it's not tied with France's Loire Valley). It's also been well documented that I love Tempranillo, and in Ribero del Duero they call their Tempranillo by the name Tinto Fino. So when RiberaRuedaWine.com contacted me about reviewing a Ribera and a Rueda I sprung at it like Dennis Wideman taking down a linesman.

Vinedos Alonso del Yerro was established in 2002, in the Ribera del Duero town of Finca Santa Marta, by Javier Alonso and María del Yerro. Their consultant is from Bordeaux: the famous vigneron Stéphane Derenoncourt. Their winemaker is the young Lionel Gourgue, also from France.

This is the firstof two wines that were sent to me by RiberaRuedaWines.com, the second being Bodegas Veganzones 912 de Altitud 2014 "Tierra Arenosa" Rueda.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Soil and Wine - Part 1: Starstuff and Seashells

Earth was born with our Solar System 4.5 billion years ago by the gravitational collapse of a molecular cloud, which was created by the death of a star, on the outskirts of the 13.2 billion year old Milky Way Galaxy. So our star, the Sun, is actually a second or third generation star.

IMAGE SOURCE: lospecchiostorto.com
For its first billion years our planet was a fiery and violent hell as its gravity pulled in debris from the Solar System's creation, increasing its mass and forming the Moon. The meteors and debris that it collided with and collected were made of various elements, minerals and gases. Earth is mostly iron, especially in its center, and its other major ingredients are silicon, oxygen, aluminum, and magnesium. As the planet congealed it created an atmosphere with the release of methane, ammonia and hydrogen.

Once the planet had an atmosphere it could actually hold on to the ice that was delivered by meteors and comets. Instead of evaporating back into space it became Earth's water, trapped in an endless cycle of evaporation and condensation. Used and cleansed over and over again. Through billions of years the land and oceans shifted. Early life forms in the oceans gave the atmosphere enough oxygen through photosynthesis for itself and other life to evolve and breath it in. The presence of plants and creatures that lived and died, then decomposed or were fossilized, created new forms of soil and liquids with organic matter. Ice ages and glaciers were incredibly impactful to both life and the Earth's surface.

Now think about your favorite Chablis. Crisp, clean, zingy Chardonnay bliss. The limestone in the Kimmeridge Clay soil of Chablis is one of the factors in why it's so outstanding. Limestone is the skeletal remains of early life forms and other prehistoric shelled creatures, layered in land once covered in water or where moving glaciers deposited them. It's a gift from the ghost of CreepyCrawlymas past.

Let us recap. The death of a star lead to the creation of our own star (the Sun) and our Solar System. The Earth and its water were created from starstuff. For most of human history we've cultivated grapevines out of Earth to make wine... a beverage that Galileo called "sunlight held together by water". It's the circle of the cosmos and it rules us all. And it's so goddamn beautiful.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When a plan comes together.

"Halfway done with the hour, bottle halfway gone. I love it when a plan comes together." - Joey Casco CSW/CSS

"Halfway done with the hour, bottle halfway gone. I love it when a plan comes together." - Joey Casco CSW/CSS

Monday, February 1, 2016

February Wine Pick: Sandeman Fine Rich Madeira

This WINE PICK of the month was written for the Luke's of Cape Cod website.

Sandeman Fine RIch Madeira
I always like to make my February wine pick a fortified one because that's the month where we get most of our snow here on Cape Cod. Fortified wine is strengthened with spirits, usually brandy, so it'll keep you warm and toasty between shovelings.

Madeira is a Portuguese island far out in the Atlantic, west of the Strait of Gibraltar. Their wines were like any other until it became a popular stop for sailors, so they fortified it to slow down spoilage on long journeys. At some point somebody left a barrel on deck in the sun for too long and noticed that, when exposed to heat, the fortified wines of Madeira got even better. The style became standard. Madeira became, basically, a slow-baked fortified wine. It was America's favorite wine at the time of our revolution.

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