Wine Tasting In The NC Piedmont

Not long ago I was traveling through North Carolina.  Having stopped in at Iron Gate Vineyards a little over a year ago (where I had my first Chambourcin), I knew that the Piedmont region of NC is dotted with wineries.  Taking a look at my route and the online listings of wineries in the State, I found that Childress Vineyards was a short detour and open during my trip.  Yup.  No brainer!  Clearly, I was going to have to drop by to see what they are up to.

The facility at Childress is an attractive, impressive, full-service enterprise akin to many of the popular wineries in California – including a tasting bar, a gift shop, and a restaurant.  When I arrived I made straight for the tasting room/bar  where I learned that I had options.  I could taste one selection free – a Sauvignon Blanc that particular day; I could take advantage of a “Cellar Select Tasting” of 8 predominantly off-dry wines for $12; or I could go with their “Barrel Select Tasting” of 8 Barrel Select, Reserve or Signature wines for $15.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I went with the third option.

The eight wines they were pouring on my visit included a Reserve Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Reserve Cabernet Franc, a red blend called Pinnacle, their Signature Merlot, and a dessert wine called Starbound.  Below are my impressions in brief.  Please understand these aren’t complete tasting notes, just quickly scribbled thoughts.

1.  Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – plenty of lemon and grapefruit with a silky mouthfeel.

2.  Pinnacle – a non-vintage blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec – this was their 5th release of this wine (c. 2013).  I found it earthy with lots of buoyant fruit flavors.  13% alcohol.

3.  Merlot 2009 – with almost a brownish tinge to it’s color, this Merlot struck me as smokey and peppery.  13.4% alcohol.

4.  Cabernet Franc 2010 – copious berry flavors and nice medium tannins with a noticeable grip.

5.  Reserve Chardonnay 2010 – a bigger style Chardonnay with plentiful citrus flavor as well.

6.  Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 – made from estate-grown grapes.  14.2% alcohol.  tannins are lighter than in the previous Cabernet Franc selection, and flavors were subtler with a little less focus on fruit.

7.  Signature Merlot 2009 – another nicely smokey Merlot but with a more complex flavor profile.

8.  Starbound – a non-vintage blueberry dessert wine in the port style.  this was the last selection tasted.  thought it was very blueberry and very sweet.  for me, could probably make an interesting drizzle over ice cream or pound cake.

The staffer who poured for me was very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  I had a very good time sampling their wares and discussing the Childress wines with her.  She was even kind enough to include a bonus taste of their 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot.  This was a first for me, tasting a varietal wine made from Petit Verdot.  I found it lightly earthy with nice blueberry fruit flavor and pepper as well as some green herbals on the finish.

Having finished tasting all this vino, the question came as to what I might want to carry home with me.  Oh my!  Decisions, decisions!  But then I noticed they had a Sangiovese among their full list of selections.  They weren’t pouring it that day at the tasting bar, but it was available for purchase by the bottle.  Well, then, given my ongoing exploration of Sangiovese, you know what I drove away with.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable tasting experience.  It’s a nice facility in a pretty setting with helpful staff and plenty of wine selections to sample.  It’s just a tad off the beaten path, but not far.  What’s not to like?


Hey, Dude, Pour Me A Glass Of Zori

It’s funny, but I grew up using the word “zori” to refer to the footwear commonly known by many as the flip-flop.  It was my father who taught me the word zori and used it himself.  Although he was a Tennessee boy from a dairy farm, he had joined the service and been stationed overseas.  In fact, my older sister was born in Japan – which is where I think he learned about zoris.

It wasn’t until we were living in California and I was a teenager that I heard the term flip-flop.  But that term made perfect sense to me immediately.  After all, that is the sound they make when you walk in them.  To use a fancy word, it’s an onomatopoeia — “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

Well, it’s summer and zori/flip-flop season in my neck of the woods, so I grabbed a bottle of Flip Flop to boot.  lol

Winemaker: Flip Flop
Varietal: Merlot
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $8.99

Notes:  In the bouquet I caught faint whiffs of berries, earth and wood.  It was medium-bodied with rather high acidity and light tannins (although the tannins were more aggressive before oxidation).  On the palate of this dark, dark ruby Merlot I tasted cherry, chlorophyll, and a hint of spice.  It was a very uncomplicated glass of inexpensive red wine which seems to fit the “Flip Flop” world it’s name suggests.

There You Go Making Me Blush Again

I mean the summer weather, of course.  With the high humidity and high temperatures in my area – we’re talking nineties on both counts – I  have definitely been in the hunt for refreshing beverages to cool off with.  As far as wine goes, I’ve been buying plenty of light whites, but I’ve also been branching out into new territory.  Pink territory.  Not that I haven’t done pink before.  I used to have a pink tie, and I even had a pink polo shirt for awhile.    And, yes, I’ve had some blush wines previously.  But – until recently – I’d never had a Pink Moscato.  And until this bottle of inexpensive blush, I’d never had a White Merlot.

Winemaker:  Sutter Home
Wine:  White Merlot
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.49

Notes:   I’d call the color of this wine a light rose.  In the bouquet I detected scents of berries and biscuits.  It was a light-to-medium-bodied wine with some viscosity and decent acidity.  The tannins were quite light, and alcohol was at 11.5%.  Flavors I caught were sweet cherries, grass, some pepper, and biscuits.  The last lingering into the finish.  It was different that what I had been expecting.  Somehow I thought it would be another dessert wine.  It is sweet, but not heavily so.  Honestly, I don’t know what this might be best with/as/for.  Again, this was my first flirtation with a White Merlot.  If White Merlot is one of your preferred selections, maybe you can help me think that through.  How do you serve it?

A Ruffino Vino From Umbria

This is only my second Orvieto Classico.  The first was the Gaetano D’Aquino Orvieto Classico 2012.  I have to say that they have both been quite light.  Which is to say that unless you insist on Chardonnay or a heavier-bodied white wine, the Orvietos seem a real possibility as a warm weather selection.

Winemaker:  Ruffino
Wine:  Orvieto Classico
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Orvieto DOC, Italy
Price:  $13.99

Notes:  The color of this Umbrian was an extremely pale yellow in the glass.  On the nose I detected scents of grass and citrus.  Acidity was good and slightly effervescent in it’s effect.  Light-bodied with a hint of viscosity, this Orvieto came in at 12% alcohol.  On the palate I found it to be again fairly light and straight-forward.   For me, there were flavors of lemon, pear and grass with just a tinge of chlorine as it neared the denouement.  I think it’s a fine white option for a summer refresher or with a light salad.

The Sangiovese Tasting Continues

I have to admit that I’m surprised with the local Whole Foods when it comes to their Sangiovese varietal wine options.  There are four of them on their shelves.  That’s pretty good by comparison.  This is the third of them I’ve tasted – previous experiences were with a Globerati offering and a Gran Conti selection.  Of course, that means there is only one more to go!  When I purchased this Pirovano, I explained to the helpful wine staffer there (because he asked if he could help me) about my focus on only the 100% Sangiovese wines.  He looked at me quizzically and then began recommending a good Chianti blend.  When I stopped him and reiterated my intentions, he looked even more puzzled.  He even thought that I didn’t understand that Sangiovese was a type of grape. Well, I thanked him for explaining, but assured him that I was fully aware of that fact.  Once he realized that I really was serious about my particular approach, though, he smiled and with a quick shake of his head graciously helped me identify the four bottles of this varietal he had in stock.

Winemaker:  Pirovano
Varietal: Sangiovese
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  Romagna DOC, Italy
Price: $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color of this red from Romagna was a dark ruby.  In the ebullient bouquet I found scents of musty earth and berries.  The body was light, acidity was high, and tannins were light.  Alcohol was at 12%.  This was a gentle Sangiovese with flavors of cherries, pepper, something along the lines of mustard greens, and a quick clove note near the very brief finish.  To me, it seems made for family pasta night.

Wine From Under The Tuscan Sun

No, this isn’t about wine that was drunk in the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”  I’m talking about wine from grapes grown under the Tuscan sun.  I mentioned previously that I am trying to learn more about the Sangiovese grape.  To that end, I’m searching for reasonably-priced selections of wines that are 100% Sangiovese.  In order to find those wines, it looks like I’m going to have to search beyond my usual wine-buying haunts.  I have found a few, to be sure, but the majority of the Sangiovese options on the shelf are a Chianti blend which doesn’t serve my purpose of learning about Sangiovese alone.  Chianti will be another vein of viniferous gold to explore, and I think I’ll be better prepared for that venture by my current endeavors.  I hope so, anyway.  I found this Pratesi at one of our local boutique wine shops.  This was the only varietal Sangiovese they had.  (Although they did have a Chianti they indicated was all Sangiovese.  I may have to go back for that one.)  Of course, there were plenty of other awesome wines.  But I am on a quest of sorts.  lol

Winemaker:  Pratesi
Wine: Locorosso
Varietal:  Sangiovese
Vintage: 2010
Appellation: Toscana, Italy IGT
Price: $17.99 at Grateful Red Wines

Notes:  This Sangiovese varietal wine was dark purple in color.  On the nose I found plenty of pepper, raspberry, plum and some spice notes.  It was light-bodied with decent acidity, slight tannins, and 13% alcohol.  Flavors I encountered in this Tuscan offering were sweet raspberry, oak, a dash of pepper, and green herbs on the finish.  I think this is a selection that might be a candidate for that glass of wine at the end of a long day.  It’s fairly straightforward, with a light, pleasant flavor profile.

A Is Not Always For Apple ….

I know full well that Acacia Vineyards is best known for their Pinot Noir.  I still remember being quite impressed with my first glass of Acacia Pinot Noir from Carneros.  In fact, I’ve had several enjoyable glasses of Pinot by the Acacia folks from multiple vintages.  I know success with one varietal does not guarantee a winemaker’s success with another.  Still, I think a label that has earned my respect by doing a good job over many years deserves my trust on their other offerings as well.  So … I decided I’d give this A by Acacia Chardonnay a try.

Winemaker:  A by Acacia
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $12.99

Notes:  The color of this Acacia Chardonnay was a vivid golden yellow.  On the nose I smelled apple, pear, and oak with notes of citrus and artichoke.  Acidity was high, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  This medium-bodied Californian brought a lot of flavor to the palate.  I tasted plenty of oak, some citrus, pear, honey, and a touch of artichoke.  It finished with bitter grass and chalk.  This is a moderately complex glass of white in the big, oaky tradition of California Chardonnays.  I found it pretty darned enjoyable even if it isn’t a perfectly balanced wine.  Hey, sometimes balance can be overrated.

Wine For the Price of a Frappuccino

That’s right, I’m talking about cheap, cheap wine.  Tisdale is a label that competes at around the same price point as the Whole Foods Three Wishes wines and Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw.  Made by E&J Gallo, Tisdale has a full line of California Table Wine that includes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sweet Red (a blend), and White Zinfandel.  It’s sold at grocery stores and drug stores in my area at very low prices – sometimes available on sale for just over $3.00.

Winemaker:  Tisdale
Varietal:  Pinot Grigio
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $5.49

Notes:  The color of this low-budget PG was very pale yellow with a slight green tinge.  The bouquet was faint with scents of peach and lemon oil.  What do I mean by lemon oil? I mean that lemony, bitter – almost chemical – smell that results when you squeeze lemon peel and express a liquid.  Isn’t that lemon oil?  Anyway, the acidity was OK, and alcohol was at 11.5%.  It was light-bodied with some of the expected varietal viscosity.  Flavors I detected were faint as well, including sweet melon and peach.  As it wound down, this Tisdale also brought peach pit to the palate.  It was all right, but to me the overall experience was a bit lackluster.

Barefootin’ In July – How Sweet It Is

It’s summer, summer, summertime!  Well, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, anyway.  For those of us north of the equater, this warm weather season is the perfect time to enjoy light, refreshing wines.  Not that we can’t drink them whenever we like, of course, but I feel the experience and enjoyment of these lighter selections is heighted in contrast to the often sweltering heat at this time of year.  Don’t you think so?  In light of that, I thought I’d experiment with my first Pink Moscato.

Winemaker:   Barefoot
Wine: Pink Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $7.99

Notes:  The color of this sweet California Moscato was a pale . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . pink!  Shocking, no?  On the nose I caught scents of roses and sweet berries.  Acidity was quite lively.  It was a fairly light-bodied selection, albeit sweet at 9% alcohol.  Flavors consisted of an underlying foundation of apricot with an overlay veneer of cherry, some candied melon rind, and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.  This is definitely a dessert wine in my opinion.  Then again, I’m a savory over sweet kind of guy, so my natural preference is for items – foods and drinks – that are less sweet.  For me, then, this Barefoot was quite sweet, even syrupy at times.  As I said, however, it might be a good choice for a summer dessert.  I could totally imagine enjoying a strawberry shortcake with this as a complement or a bowl of fresh berries with a dash of it over the top instead of sugar or whipped cream.  If you like your wine on the sweet side, you may well enjoy this inexpensive blush.

Monkeying Around With A Kiwi White

In a recent post I pondered whether some of the wine labels chose their names to suggest a certain kind of terrain and terroir in consumers’ minds irrespective of where the winery is located or where the grapes are grown.  But, of course, that is not necessarily the case.  There are plenty of wineries that do, indeed, assume a name from their locale.  For instance, Dry Creek Winery is near a stream called Dry Creek.  Mayacamas Vineyards is located in the Mayacamas Mountains.  And, in the case of Monkey Bay, the winery assumes it’s name from a bay not far from the winery – north of Blenheim and west of Wellington on the coast of Marlborough.

Winemaker:  Monkey Bay
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  New Zealand
Price: $12.99

Notes:  The color of this New Zealand white was a pale lemon yellow.  The bouquet was really quite a heady experience with scents of tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya), honey, citrus zest and floral notes.  Acidity was fine; it was light-bodied; alcohol was at 12.5%.  On the palate I found lime, some hints of sweet pineapple, and grapefruit.  The grapefruit hits late and lingers long on the finish.  Overall, it’s a tart glass of wine that I found enjoyably refreshing.  This is another Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc that, though not particularly refined, delivers on flavor.