A Night with Robbie Meyer

Robbie Meyer is the winemaker at Murietta’s Well and while I did not have an actual meeting with, through the arrangements of Snooth, I along with forty-three other wine bloggers we did a virtual wine tasting.  I was actually enthralled listening to Mr. Meyer as he discussed many aspects of the winery and the passion that he spoke about the many wines, the different wines, the vineyards, the terroir and realized that he was the type of man that actually got his hands dirty out in the fields and not one to sit back and let others do the labor.  There were times when I was listening so intently about what he had to say, that I neglected to keep a better eye on the sidebar that showed all the remarks and questions being posted by the other bloggers.  There were times when I almost forgot to enter my remarks, because I was enjoying his company, if you can appreciate that he was on my computer screen and not actually in my presence, but it felt like he was.

The actual shift from the first wine of the evening to the second wine was very subtle, and I had my Bride sitting at the other end of the dining room table from me with her own laptop watching the same program, sometimes prodding me, but then my glasses were already poured and she had to keep pouring her own wine, I mean I am such a meanie.  The second wine that we were all tasting and commenting on was Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” White Wine Blend 2016.  Here is a wine that has a third of the wine from their legendary Sauvignon Blanc cuttings that started the winery, the rest of the fruit used for this wine comes from their Hayes Vineyard which has the widest elevation and the blocks are individually maintained for the specific requirements that the grapes require.  The balance of the grapes used for this wine are Semillon, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat and Viognier.  A portion of both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay were fermented in small oak barrels and the rest of juice was ferment cold in Stainless Steel tanks.  The longest period of aging time was fourteen months.  There were two-hundred-ninety-seven barrels produced of this wine and they suggest that the wine will aged well to 2021.  I was looking at the wine and I describe the color as soft Gold with floral aromatics.  One can still taste the Sauvignon Blanc but tempered with the other wines to bring a nice aftertaste.  I think a great wine to drink with friends before dinner.  My Bride described the wine as a dark Straw color with the flowers of the Viognier.  She thought it would be best just to drink without food.  I had not told her what wines were in the blend and I think that when she saw the color, she immediately thought of Chardonnay, and she said that maybe she should have rinsed her glass after the Sauvignon Blanc, because she was still tasting that grape, then I told her that the wine was a third Sauvignon Blanc, so that made her happy that she wasn’t off base with her tasting abilities.  As we kept tasting and studying this wine, we appreciated the nuances of the other grapes and the minerality that neither of us mentioned at first, but we just kept enjoying the wine.

The third wine of the evening piqued my Bride’s thirst immediately as she has in the last couple of years taken a real interest in the different Rosé wines that we have encountered.  We were trying the Murrieta’s Well Dry Rosé 2017.  Here is a wine that has Grenache and Counoise grown in their Hayes Vineyard and the Mourvedre was grown in their Raboli Vineyard.  The grape clusters were handpicked in the morning hours and they used gentle whole cluster pressing.  Each varietal was cold-fermented separately and aged for about one month.  After the month the wines were blended and aged for an additional two months in Stainless Steel.  This wine produced two-thousand and one cases and they recommend that it will be best to be consumed by 2019.  My first thoughts on this wine was the soft Salmon shade with a delicate soft nose of soft fruits.  A good acid balance with harmonious blend of the fruit.  A shorter aftertaste with a little bite.  My Bride described this wine as a translucent Salmon color with a light nose.  A very subtle, not overpowering wine that she liked a lot.  We were a little disheartened when one of the other bloggers pointed out that this wine was now sold out at the winery, but we were glad that we had a chance to enjoy this bottle.   As we kept tasting the wine the terroir became more apparent and I think that it added to the appeal of the enjoyable aftertaste.  Years ago, when I first started learning about wine, I was told to count after drinking the wine, the longer the count the better the aftertaste, as some wine dissipate quickly.   My next article will cover the last two wines of the night.

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A Virtual Wine Tasting

A little while ago, I was approached by a representative from Snooth, if I would be interested in participating with forty-three other wine bloggers in a virtual wine tasting.  I was intrigued, flattered and scared.  I mean, I am probably one of the oldest self-appointed wine writers out there.  Snooth for those that are more casual about wine is Social Networking website founded in 2006.  It is a community for research, review and shopping online and I have been kind of a lone wolf writing in the hinterlands about a subject that I enjoy so much.  I was intrigued and flattered that I was even noticed, since I am based in the mid-west, which is hardly the wine center of the country, even though the wine makers in Michigan and other parts of the mid-west are working hard for more recognition.  I was also scared, because I am probably considered an old curmudgeon, a relic from the last century and I hardly use the flowery prose and descriptors that are now in vogue.   The other aspect was the thought of a virtual wine tasting, the idea of tasting wines was not a concern, since I probably started tasting wines before most of my colleagues that I would be participating with were born.  So, I was game, since I have kind of conquered my fear of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a new way to taste wines only seemed a bit daunting.  I did contact one of my oldest followers of my blog and maybe I am one of her oldest readers as well, but she has always been very friendly and helpful in the nuances of aspects of modern blogging, and she kind of assisted me in two different wine chats on Twitter and I survived, even with my rather limited typing skills, and I am eternally grateful and I was pleased to know that she would be one of the other forty-three.  She also gave me some great tips.

I received five bottles of wine courtesy of Murrieta’s Well in Livermore, California.  They are one of the oldest and original wine estates in California, and use only estate grown fruit for their wines.  The winery is in the Livermore Valley AVA which is in the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay AVA.  Louis Mel started planting grapes in the 1860’s and they were not just any grapes, but cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux.  In 1884 Louis Mel built and installed in a hillside a gravity flow winery.  In 1933 Louis Mel sold his winery to Ernest Wente and the winery has been part of the Wente Family Estate ever since.  On the Murietta’s Well website they are showing fourteen different wines that they are selling.  The wines that will be part of the virtual wine tasting will be:  Sauvignon Blanc Small Lot 2017, “The Whip” White Wine Blend 2016, Dry Rosé 2017, “The Spur” Red Wine Blend 2015 and their Cabernet Sauvignon Small Lot 2015.

The Murrieta’s Well Sauvignon Blanc Small Lot 2017 was the first wine that we tried for the tasting.  The grapes in this wine are descendants of the original Chateau d’Yquem cuttings that Louis Mel planted in the 1860’s, in the Louis Mel Vineyard that is right in front of their historic tasting room.  The fruit is one of the earliest that is picked and it is hand-picked in the late evening and early morning hours.  The 2017 vintage was the first non-drought year since 2011.  The wine was aged in neutral French Oak for four months “Sur Lie” which will add nuance to the juice, without imparting an oaky flavor.  There were thirty barrels produced of this wine and it is suggested that this wine will be enjoyed through 2022.  I had two reports to issue as my Bride joined in for the occasion.  I found the wine to have a soft Straw color with a soft grapefruit aroma.  Good balanced acidity with a lingering aftertaste and a long count.  Great as a stand alone or with food.   My Bride opined that the wine had a soft Straw color with a delicate grapefruit aroma.  She also felt that it was good and refreshing.  There is still more to come about this evening.

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A Two-Hour Cruise

While “a two-hour cruise” may remind some of a long-ago television show, we actually went on a river cruise.  We went aboard the Huron Lady II for a cruise on the St. Clair River which connects Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair.  We went with another couple who have done this excursion before, so we drove to the city of Port Huron to spend the day.  On any normal outing when we go to Port Huron, it is because we are going to use the Blue Water Bridge to leave the states and go to Canada for a holiday trip.  For those of you that are not aware, the Great Lakes are so huge, that the water would cover the entire map of the United States of America nine feet deep.  The river is also one of the busiest waterways and conveys more shipments than the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal combined.

It was an enjoyable trip, but the boat is rather spartan in creature comforts.  The seats are like park benches, but one does get some beautiful views along the river, along both of the country’s shorelines.  Since we were not stopping at all during the excursion, there was no need to have our passport.  The weather was wonderful with a nice cool breeze, so we sat up on the top deck, while the lower deck did have an enclosed area with air conditioning.  The captain of the boat was a lady and I think she maintained a continuous narration of what we were seeing along the trip.  The captain also explained a few of the courtesies that the ships and boats display and the rules of “right of way,” especially since there was a sailboat race going on while we were on the cruise.  While we did see many sailboats, we also saw a large assortment of personal pleasure boats, which is a major hobby or sport in Michigan, but we also got a chance to see some cutters and ocean liners that ply the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence Seaway.

They did announce just as we were leaving port, that there was a concession stand on the lower deck.  I have been in agony for a couple of weeks, but the pain has increased exponentially, almost to the point of not wanting to do anything, because a tooth that I had a root canal done years ago, cracked vertically and the soonest that I could get scheduled for an oral surgeon to remove the tooth and begin an implant procedure was over a month, and the pain that was just a dull throb has grown and as I sit to write this I have another eight days of blissed pain to endure.  I was all set to go and get some adult beverage, though I was the only one of the group that wanted some, and I was hoping to drown the pain for a little while.  They were selling small individual serving bottles of Barefoot Cellars California Chardonnay NV, I only mention this because some of the Chardonnay comes from South Australia.  The winery began in 1986 and is considered the second best selling brand in the United States and the largest wine brand in the world with current annual production around eighteen-million cases.  In 2005 Barefoot Cellars were purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery.  Suffice it to say that this wine is produced in bulk with no concerns for extended aging, and even worse it was not even cold when pulled from the refrigerator and I was asked if I wanted ice cubes.  The offer of ice, may have helped, because it is perhaps the sweetest Chardonnay wine that I have ever had, but I really only wanted it for the alcohol, in hopes of numbing the tooth and gum area.  To be quite candid, outside of the wine and pain, it was a pleasurable afternoon.

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Samples of wine sounds so enticing.  I think that every wine blogger when they begin writing, that they will come under an avalanche of wines sent to them, so that they can write about the wines.  For the past fifty years I have had the pleasure of tasting and drinking wines, and for the last six years I have even started rambling about the wines that I have tried.  I have never had to worry about offending anyone or a winery, because the price of admission was always from my own wallet, save for the few times that I have been to affairs where the wine was part of the evening.

Of course, when I did begin in earnest to learn about wines, it was kind of a rare item.  Cocktails and beer were the drink of the day and people that had wine cellars were far and few between.  Where I grew up, home-made “Dago Red” fined with egg whites was the usual wine one would encounter.  Houses had entertainment centers that were pieces of furniture with a record player with built-in speakers and a cabinet that had room for fifths of liquor, or the liquor was sequestered in the lower cabinets of dining room china cabinet.  Wine was really an after-thought, unless there was something to celebrate and then maybe there would be some “French” Champagne and I remember the first time drinking that, I must have been about seven or eight and I remember the puckering up sensation that I had, because the wine was so “dry,” and I had no words to describe it back then.  Which leads me to that eternal problem that I have about writing about wines, in that I have no real training in the appreciation of wine, it was all self-taught and when I would find a mentor in my youth, the wine was described as “this is what a fine Medoc tastes like” or “this is not what you should expect from a good Chablis.”  The charming descriptors that are bandied about these days, I have only seemed to have noticed for the last twenty or so years, and it seems that some go out of their way to embellish their descriptions as if they are tweaking the nose of the others at a tasting to let everyone know that the others are not as sophisticated as the embellisher.

Why do I bother even mentioning samples?  I think it is become a marketing tool for wineries and distributors to get the word out about the wines.  Historically I went to tastings or to wineries to try a myriad of different wines, because there were always some wines that I was not interested enough in, to buy a bottle of wine for my dinner, and for years that was the only way one could have wine in restaurants unless one wanted some mystery wine that arrived in a carafe.  I have only been to one restaurant in my life where the Sommelier actually had a tastevin hanging around his neck as part of his tuxedo.  The Sword of Damocles is now hanging precariously above me, as I have been contacted to try some samples.  While others would jump at the chance, and I am sure that some even court the powers to be for samples, I come from an era and a mind-set that one never asked, as it just was not the proper thing to do.  In the past, there have been plenty of wines that I have tried that I have never written about and I am sure that this will still occur in the future.  Since I know that the Sword is dangling overhead, all I can say is that I will always be honest and one will have to read between the lines.  If I am enthusiastic about a wine, I will say so, and if I am not, there will be very little to mention, as I realize that there are people that make a living in the production of wine and it would bother me if they lost their livelihood because of what I wrote.  This was a lesson that was burned into my memory, because I used to have a customer whose wife was a famed restaurant critic for one of the daily papers, and she told me that she would anguish over an article if the restaurant did not fulfil her criteria for a proper meal.  Whether I have another set of samples sent to me, is in God’s hands, but I can only do what I think is proper, and I will always mention that the wines are samples, because the odds are that I will still be writing more about wines that have been purchased.

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Another Graduation

High School graduates have permeated my psyche these days.  A couple more and I think the season will draw to an end for this year.  It has been an interesting time and a very happy time to see all of these relatives getting ready for the next stage of their lives.  While I have attended plenty of graduation parties from way back in my teens, I have to say that the parties are getting much more organized and structured, but I guess the party concept is the same.

We had another nephew graduate and the party was at the parent’s home.  They had a large tent set up in the valley of their backyard with plenty of tables for all of the revelers.  One nice addition, because of the extreme heat that we have had, was a couple of large commercial fans to keep a breeze going.   There were also some tables set up in the house, for those that may have found the heat unbearable.  The food was all catered in, and the theme once again was of Mexican food.  They had about sixteen linear feet of assorted items to make hard and soft tortillas and assorted side dishes as well.  The table of food culminated with a couple of cooks who were making “to order” quesadillas and individual bags of tortilla chips for the dips.  I would be remiss not to mention the big cake and all the other pastries and sweets for after dinner indulgences.

There were plenty of beverages available for the teens and the adults.   There were a couple of large vessels with signage that read “Adult Sangria.”  There was a keg of beer which reminded me of my youth.  There was also an assortment of wines, both red and white and a rosé.  I started with Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence 2017 the wine that has become popular, because of its owner Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  The winery originally made Vin de Pays until it was modernized and the celebrity owners have partnered with the Perrin family to produce the wines.  The Cotes de Provence originally carried a VDQS designation until 1977 when it became an AOC designation; eighty percent of the Cote de Provence is Rosé.  This particular wine is a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle with ninety percent of the juice aged in Stainless Steel and the balance in barrels.  Of all of the wines that I had at the party, the last wine was a pleasant surprise.  I am sure that they must have found this bottle and I am not sure how it was stored, as they are not really wine drinkers, but what ever they did, it worked.  Towards the end of the party they opened a bottle of Louis Jadot Macon-Village Chardonnay 1996.  Louis Jadot began with his first vineyard Clos de Ursules in the 1820’s and became a negocient in 1859 based in Beaune, one of the centers of the Burgundy region of France.  The Louis Jadot firm has a portfolio of wines from the basic regional wines to some of the most lauded vineyards in the region.  This particular wine falls somewhere in the middle, but I was just amazed that the wine was absolutely fine, I mean I was ready to casually pour it down a sink, but it wasn’t necessary at all, it was delightful without any foxing or darkening of the wine.  A great way to end the party for us, before the long set of goodbyes when ever we leave a family function.

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Refreshments After a Drive

The day of my Bride’s Godson’s graduation party, we were expecting to have company stay overnight at our house, but first they were expected to attend the party.  It really didn’t work out that way.  Our guests were going to drive from Louisville to Interlochen, Michigan and then down to the party in the Detroit area.  Two of their children were accepted to Interlochen for a summer theatrical camp, and if you have not heard of Interlochen, it is the Julliard of the Midwest and it is in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula of Michigan and trust me, there is no easy and direct route to get to any of the picturesque parts of the state.

They were beat, by the time they came to our house, and they never made it to the party, by the time they had unloaded the van with the assorted luggage of their children who were staying in Interlochen for the next month or so and go through whatever registration was required.  In fact, the same day that all of the students arrived, they all had to do auditions for the summer production of The Music Man, and it was one of my favorite musicals of the latter half of the last century.  We are looking forward to going up there to see the performance on one of the nights.  Our weary travelers arrived and we put out some assorted plates of food and noshes, even though they had stopped to eat.

What they were really interested in was some liquid nourishment to feed their soul after the long journey that they had.  The four of us were on the same wave-length I guess.  I pulled out a bottle that I had hoped that they hadn’t tried yet, but they told me that they just had it the week before.  I had chilled a bottle of Belle Glos Pinot Blanc “Oeil de Perdrix” 2017.  This Rosé wine is made intermittently by Joe Wagner, the son of Chuck Wagner, and the winery is named after his grandmother Lorna Belle Glos Wagner one of the co-founders of Caymus Vineyard.  When made, the fruit is harvested from the Taylor Lane Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast, and the fruit is carefully pressed to achieve the pinkish-coppery color of “the eye of the partridge.”  It was a delightful wine, in fact, it must have been absorbed into the atmosphere, because it seemed to disappear immediately.  My Brother-in-Law was not concerned, because in his car refrigerator he produced a bottle of Domaine Loubjac Rosé 2017 from the Willamette Valley.  The winery was named after a town in Provence that sits on the 45’th Parallel as does the winery in Oregon.  With a quick glance, one would almost think that the wine from it’s label was from France.  It is a curiosity that it is one of the few modern wines that I have encountered that does not indicate what the wine is made from, while Pinot Noir is the King of the Willamette Valley, the classic blend in Provence is Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.  I have to admit that after a day of eating and drinking, I could not tell you, but it certainly went down easily enough and I think that is what one should expect from a good Rosé wine.  The next morning, they had to leave to get back home, after one more visit and I am sure that from that trip they were glad to be home.

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A Godson’s Graduation

We have had quite a few graduation parties to attend this year, that is one of the benefits of getting older.  Most of them have been nephews or nieces and some are the children of cousins, that is what happens when you belong to a large family on both sides.  In the normal course of celebrations, one tries to maintain a certain fairness and a form of aloofness, because one doesn’t want to show favoritism.  There are always exceptions to the rules and my Bride tries to be fair, but this was her Godson and I guess that takes precedence over some of the others (did I say that?).  Well, we helped out as much as possible, after all we can be considered an amateur caterer at times.  We sent over three conference tables, a couple of card tables and a load of folding chairs.

My Bride also did some cooking and so did some of her sisters as well.  There was plenty of food being brought over and I kind of wondered why we didn’t take our electric chaffing dishes as well.   Along with all of the food that was brought over by the families, the parents at the request of the man of the hour wanted food from a chain known as Chipotles, and then there were additional sterno lit chaffing dishes from that company, along with all of the different foods and extras so that one could make soft and hard tacos, tamales and other personal creations.  We also brought along some coolers to help out with the beverages and ice cream treats.  It was quite a display of tents in the front yard and the back, as well as in the house to keep the guests comfortable.  I have to say that I even ate to my heart’s content and that is sometimes a rarity for me at functions of this nature, as my Bride thinks that I am a pain in the arse when it comes to party food.

Even though this was a graduation party, and there was plenty of soft drinks available, the adults were not forgotten about.  I mean there is nothing worse for this Raconteur than to attend a “dry” party or wedding, after all I thought that ended with Prohibition and a few odd counties in across this country.  The adults were thought about and there was a collection of assorted beers and then there was wine.  We brought some wines with us as well, some tried and true Chardonnay wines to keep my Bride happy, some sweeter wines to keep some of the other women happy, and I even brought along something different for the heat of the day and could count on our host to have something to try as well.  One of the wines that I had during the course of the day, into the evening was a red wine that was furnished by the hosts.  The Hope Family Wines established a winery in Paso Robles in 1978 and named it after a one-room school house from the area.  The Liberty School Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 was a very easy and moderate bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was a blend of over fifty different farmers and vineyards from the area, and I am sure that they can maintain a consistent taste value year after year with the assorted fruits that are harvested.  It also was an easy wine to pair with the “Mexican” food from the chain restaurant.   I wanted to bring a wine that was a little different from the Chardonnay wines that my Bride so enjoys on a hot day, and I brought a wine that is not as popular or as often seen here.  The Les Costieres de Pomerols Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet AOP 2016 brought some minerality to the glass.  Les Costieres de Pomerols is a group affair that was started in 1932 and there are now about three-hundred-fifty growers in the concern, and the town is Pomerols, not to be confused with Pomerol from the Bordeaux.  Picpoul de Pinet AOP is a sub region of the Languedoc, that was originally known as the Coteaux du Languedoc, part of the much larger Languedoc-Roussillon.  Picpoul de Pinet can only be made from the Picpoul grape, which kind of translates to “sting the lips” from the highly acidic nature of the wine.  I could not find much about the actual winemaking notes about this wine other than it spent forty-eight hours on the fine lees, but I am sure that it was not aged long, as the wine is favored in France for its floral, fruity and mineral taste.  I found it to be rather refreshing on a very hot day of the party, but the great news was that it didn’t rain, which was the concern of the hosts and the attendees.

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