Bordeaux and Maipo

It is very interesting to see what type of wines are being offered at a wine tasting, especially when there is no theme or featured winery. This happened to be the situation when I last visited D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia. In a normal slate of wines for a tasting, the wines featured go from white to reds, and from lighter to fuller; and I mention this, not for the seasoned wine drinker, but for those that do tastings infrequently or have just thought about trying it for the first time.

I was a little surprised to see that the third wine for the evening was from Bordeaux. Chateau Pillebart 2015, in hindsight would have been my logical choice for the first of the red wines. Chateau Pillebart is on the slopes of Castlemoron-Albert the smallest village in France and is located in the Entre-Deux-Mers which is the largest sub-region of Bordeaux. This wine is a blend of ninety-six percent Merlot, with three percent Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the balance. This wine was aged in Stainless Steel, instead of oak, so the fruit is forefront, but it still had a light taste, especially when compared to other Bordeaux wines.

The fourth wine of the evening and this one had more body was Echeverria Family Wines Propuesta Red Blend 2013. This wine is from the large Maipo Valley of Chile, and the winery originally was a producer of bulk wine, until they decided to step up their game; they were the first Chilean wine to be sold by Harrod’s of London. This wine is eighty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon, ten percent Petit Verdot and the balance is Malbec. The wine was aged for eight months in oak and it had long legs and good color and nose, nothing outstanding, but worthy of a second glass.

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Two Crisp Whites

I found that I had a free Tuesday, so off I went to another wine tasting at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia, Michigan. This wine shop and wine bar tends to have a wine tasting class almost every Tuesday night, and there are some that make it the night to go tasting. They have assorted wine tastings whenever one wants to venture in, but it is on Tuesday when the tastings are conducted by Lee Hershey and his vast knowledge of wine and his years in the wine trade. I met Lee years ago, when my Bride and I took one of his wine classes during the Culinary Extravaganza at then Schoolcraft Community College and now it is Schoolcraft College and they have one of the finest culinary programs in the state.

The first wine of the evening was from the Wine Cooperative of the Orvieto Community, one of the oldest cooperatives in that particular area of Italy. The cooperative began in 1949 and had thirteen vineyards and it now has one-hundred-fifty vineyards as members. The cooperative also has their own aging and bottling facility and have received official sanction for their wine. The Cardeto Orvieto 2016 was just a crisp white wine that was the perfect way to start the evening off. This wine is a blend of Trebbiano, Gracietto and Chardonnay grapes. The average age of the vines used is twenty-five years. This wine fermented for three weeks and then was bottled where it then aged for four months before it was released. Just a very easy drinking wine and as a side note, if one had several bottles of this wine and lined the labels properly, one would get a panoramic view of Orvieto from an ancient engraving.

The second wine of the evening really caught my attention as I have been enjoying some of their wines for years through the only wine club that I belong to. The Wrath Estate Winery Ex Anima Chardonnay 2014 was a keeper. The fruit came from their San Saba Vineyard that is located just below the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey. This wine was ninety-five percent Clone 4 and the balance was from the Kistler Clone and it was a delightful Chardonnay, if I do say. The wine spent four months on the lees in Stainless Steel, so it an un-oaked Chardonnay. Ex Anima means “from the soul” and I felt that it described the passion that I have encountered from other wines from Wrath and they are now a Sustainable Certified winery. The funny thing is that most of the attendees were not enamored by the wine, which allowed me to take some home with me that evening, their loss was my gain.

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MWWC#36: Environment

“Wait Master, it might be dangerous… you go first.”

Jeff at The Drunken Cyclist won the honor of winning the last Monthly Wine Writers Challenge and his reward was picking out the theme for the next challenge. He chose “environment.” I am the not the person to ask about the environment, as I can appreciate the end result from those that work the soil, I am lucky if I can grow dirt. It is pretty sad, that as a homeowner, that I or my Bride can not grow anything, and when we do get kind of successful the local rabbits and deer seem to cut short our progress. Thankfully the world of wine, does not have to depend on my ability to grow anything.

I thought of the recent fires that ravaged the wine country in California and then in Spain. I read some of the transcripts and even followed the first-person narratives of those that were in the midst of that tragedy and quite candidly, they did a much finer job, then I could, even if I tried to rehash the events and the drama. Then I thought of the recent new designations for wineries as they strive to be more than stewards for the land, as in the French “Agriculture Biologique,” which I applaud, but most of it is beyond my comprehension of being a good farmer.

So, my brain started a series of non-sequitur thoughts until I followed Igor and countless others who said “Walk, this way.” I followed them not down to a laboratory or even down a rabbit hole, but I walked down to the cellar. Those grand images of old wine cellars in Gothic mansions where the dust is part of the charm. The environment of the wine collection, something near and dear to the heart of those of us, who like to collect and drink wines.

The wine cellar is part of the lore of wines. Who cannot get excited when they see pictures or perchance an actual visit to some of the cellars of the grand estates on the continent. Where one can find bottles that have been resting since they were once laid down, which explains the wonderful libraries of wines that still exist, some perhaps past their prime, and others still waiting to show that they still have it. Some are like catacombs with cobwebs defying all that enter, not to defile the rest of the bottles. Those lucky souls that have the old bottles of vintage Port that have a daub of paint on the bottle, so that if the bottle is moved, it will end up in the same resting position elsewhere.

The closest that I ever got to being in a cellar of this stature was when we booked a tour and wine tasting at Neibaum-Coppola which was in the original structure built by the Finnish Sea Captain Gustave Neibaum who started Inglenook way back when. Our tasting was held in one of the old cellars, or with the magic of Francis Ford Coppola, maybe it was created to look like an old cellar, but it made the Rubicon taste all that much more wonderful. I have also had the privilege to be in some wine cellars of some old restaurants that are still in existence and that is a marvelous visit as well.

Nowadays the cellars are show rooms, just like they are putting small cinemas into the new houses. They have state of the art systems to keep the wines at a constant temperature and humidity. The woodwork and the marble in these rooms are as elaborate as a formal dining room. The wine magazines like to feature these elaborate rooms with their wonderful hordes of wines, usually in vertical runs. Not only is it possible to have house-envy, but now cellar-envy, as some of these cellars may have cost as much as my home.

When I first learned about wine cellaring when I was in high school, the main points were constant temperature (with an allowance for some fluctuation), darkness and the lack of vibration. These three rules I have always tried to maintain. My first attempt in my parent’s home was some shelves in the basement. My first home had a coal chute, under the front porch and next to what is called a Michigan Cellar for storing home canned goods. The house had been converted to a natural gas furnace, so the coal chute was perfect with racks that I built using two by fours. In our current house, I was able to actually build a cellar that is adjacent to two outside walls of the basement that have no insulation, but the walls adjacent to the actual basement are stuffed with insulation and so are the rafter above the cellar and the room stays nice steady fifty-five degrees with no mechanical assistance. I call it a cellar, but it is really just an oversized closet and with racks on both sides of the room, I can not turn around in the room. I built it to hold nine-hundred bottles, but I somehow have managed to cram around thirteen-hundred bottles in it, and yes, I am proud of that boast. I also managed to give it a bit of a cellar feel, by paneling the walls with the end crates of wooden wine crates that I carefully took apart, and when I ran out of wine crates, I actually pasted wine labels from all of the wines that I had drank that did not end up in scrap books. The racks I had ordered from a company and I had to assemble them like tinker-toys of my youth and when I get motivated I will finish the room with a crown molding of all the corks I have saved with this future project in mind. That is the environment for my wines.

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Two Enigmas

Leave it to Ms. Yoga to write to me about a couple of wines that she enjoyed, actually she bombarded me with six new wines. Some may not consider me a bona-fide wine blogger, because I tend to ramble on about wines, but that is just my style. I like to enjoy the moment and I like to have fun. Yes, wine can be very serious to me, but not at the expense of the moment. I guess that is why my collection of assorted wine drinking friends put up with me, because I guess I have a sparkle in my eye when the subject of wines arises. Ms. Yoga is an old friend of about twenty-five years and she and my Bride even have a longer run in friendship, and some how food and wine and merriment are always part of the equation when we are together.

Ms. Yoga does quite a bit of traveling in her present position and she enjoys having a glass or two of wine after hours, when she isn’t doing her yoga. Thankfully she does it, and not me, or I might be The Crippled Wine Raconteur. She usually drinks white wines, but she will never turn away from a red wine and she wrote to me that she enjoyed Apothic Wines Inferno 2015. I have had a couple of the wines from this winery and they are an enigma for the wine blogging community in that their wines are all “proprietary” which means that they do not list any technical information, in fact it is sometimes impossible to decipher what types of grapes that they even use. Their Apothic Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon while their Apothic Crush is a blend of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir. The Apothic Inferno is unknown at the moment, but their selling feature is that it is blended in Whiskey barrels, which is not totally unknown as even the Robert Mondavi group have done this, and I have had two different wines that were aged in Bourbon barrels, including one that uses the famed barrels of Pappy Van Winkel. I haven’t tried the wine, but I am sure that it is a full-bodied wine like their basic Apothic Red with some whiskey traces and one day I may get a chance to try it.

The other enigma wine that she wrote about is Cooper’s Hawk Winery Sparkling Almond NV. Cooper’s Hawk Winery also has a chain of restaurants with thirty locations which also offer wine tastings as well, and I am not sure if Ms. Yoga went to one of their restaurants or had the wine elsewhere. Cooper’s Hawk Winery also produces about six-hundred-thousand gallons of wine per year, which is quite the amount of wine. The winery is located in Lodi, California, but the fruit I would hazard a guess is from many areas, as they offer scant information and no technical information. Even the grapes are not listed, though I did see one site that suggested that the wine is a blend of Viognier and Roussanne and steeped with almonds for flavoring and since it is a sparkling wine, I will go out on a limb and opine that it is probably produced by the Charmat Method, which is widely used for bulk production. Most of the reviews that I read about this wine were positive, and I think that I would try it, as I have very fond memories of a Tante from Milwaukee that I never met, that was a confectioner, and every Christmas while my Mother was alive, she would send her a twenty-five-pound box of hand-made and hand-dipped Marzipan; and that taste is what I compare to every piece of Chocolate Covered Marzipan that I have ever tried. So, Ms. Yoga is two for two, for two wines that defied any real research about the couple of wines that she enjoyed, but are worthy of a taste, if I ever encounter them.

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Jordan Painter

The guest speaker for Klinker Brick Winery at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia was Jordan Painter, who is the Regional Manager for the winery and he was a good soul, as his name was printed on the sheets as Justin Painter. He was explaining how all of the classic structures in Lodi were built using klinker bricks which are heavier and stouter than the average building brick and that the name was an homage to the history of the area. He was sharing the discussions that evening with Lee Hershey who usually hosts the wine tastings. He was very passionate about the products and could quote all the production information without a cheat sheet and he seemed to be enjoying himself that night.

The fifth wine of the evening was Klinker Brick Winery 1850° 2014. The name of the wine refers to the temperature required to fire up klinker bricks when being produced. This wine was a blend of sixty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, thirty percent Petite Sirah and the balance was Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine was aged for twenty-two months in American Oak and produced a wine with long legs, a peppery spice to the tongue and a long finish. Even with only ten percent of the wine being Zinfandel, it added a nuance that I rarely encounter, and it was delicious.

The last wine of the evening was their “reserve” wine that in the first couple of years caused the winemaker grief, because it was so feisty from day one. The Klinker Brick Winery “Old Ghost” Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 was from their oldest plots and most of the vines were over one-hundred years of age. The fruit harvested from these plots were the smallest in ratio of ton to acre and there were looking for the smallest berries to use with “more skin to the flesh.” Even the label had a rather ethereal feel to it, as it was a blind embossed image of an old grape vine. This wine was aged for twenty-two months in a mix of American and French Oak barrels. This wine really won me over for the enjoyment of a well-made Zinfandel. While they are no production numbers for the wines, this wine is limited in sales to one case or twelve bottles per customer and I can understand their request. A delightful evening and a chance for this old war-horse to reconsider his thoughts about Zinfandel.

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Klinker Brick Winery

Here I was learning about Klinker Brick Winery from Lodi, California and I was all ears, though I was also ready to keep tasting some wines. There was a special wine tasting that evening focusing on this one winery at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia. There was almost a full house and quite a few new faces, though in no way, am I a regular, like some of the people. Klinker Brick Winery is into its Sixth Generation, but they began as grape farmers and would sell their fruit originally to the home wine makers and Zinfandel was the main crop in this area. Eventually they began selling the crops in the latter part of the 1900’s to other wine makers and eventually they took the plunge themselves as there was a strong demand for their crops. They have about sixteen plots of land mostly along what is known as the Lodi-Mokelumne River as well as some in the Clements Foothills. They produced their first bottle of Zinfandel in 2000, and their first Syrah in 2001.

The third bottle that we tasted that evening was the Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel 2014. This wine is a blend of fruit from all sixteen parcels of land. When they say Old Vines here, they are Old Vines from youngsters that are fifty-five years old to some that are one-hundred-thirty-five years of age. This wine was aged for fifteen months in American Oak, of which sixty percent were new barrels. This wine had the sweetness that I think of when I think of Zinfandel, but there was enough spice to make it totally interesting to me. It was a glass staining wine that had a long finish and yes, I would have had some more, if it was offered to me.

The fourth bottle that we tasted was also a glass stainer, the Klinker Brick Winery “Farrah” Syrah 2014 was my kind of wine. I make no pretense, that I have a certain bias to Syrah wines, especially when they are full bodied and spicy, like this wine was. Here was a wine that was aged for fifteen months in French Oak and the fruit was all from the Lodi-Mokelumne River area. This one was a real war-horse and I am one of the few that really like Syrah with a big roasted turkey at Thanksgiving or for that matter, any time we make a turkey with all the fixings, as they say. I will follow up with the last two wines of the tasting.

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Some Lodi Wines

The more that I write about wines, the more I realize how little I know. I mean there are so many areas and so many wineries that I am not sure that I can ever learn enough or try enough wines. There is a certain amount of conceit that begins when one writes about any subject and the more one delves into the subject, the more one realizes that the acquired knowledge is scant. I have never been to Lodi and when the chance occurred to try some wines from that area at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia, I had to try them. Lodi is directly East of San Francisco and because of the bay, it maintains a more moderate almost Mediterranean climate, helped by the many rivers in the area. While it is part of the much larger Central Valley, it has its own AVA, because of the soil and terrain that differentiates it from much of the Central Valley that is known for producing bulk fruit for wines. Part of my hesitance in the beginning to trying wines from this region is that it is known for Zinfandel, and I grew up as a child tasting the home-made “Dago Red” wines that a lot of the immigrants used to make and I never really liked the taste, especially after I started to discover the wines from the Continent. D. Vine Fine Wines was featuring six different bottles from Klinker Brick Winery.

The first wine that we tried that evening was the Klinker Brick Winery Albarino 2015 which is a varietal that is only recently making in-roads in the area. The fruit is from the Mokelumne River area of Lodi and to maintain the crispness of this grape, it was aged for eight months in Stainless Steel. It was a light gold in color with the nose subtle fruit and a refreshing tartness and a touch of the minerals in the terrain, that appealed to me. I found it very easy to drink and it reminded easily of other similar wines that I have enjoyed before.

The second wine of the evening was one that I have actually tried before, and it was at D. Vine on another occasion. The Klinker Brick Winery TranZind Red Blend 2013. Here was a high proof wine that relied heavily on the Old Vine Zinfandel that the area is noted for, and this wine was also from the Mokelumne River Area. The wine was a blend of eighty percent Zinfandel, ten percent Petite Sirah and then an equal amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This was a moderate body wine that was not overpowering as I can find some Zins to be, but you could tell what the major part of the wine was. I will discuss the winery, the regional manager of the winery and some more wines as well.

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