Tee Pee

If you like adventure lodging, Cherry Wood “Bed, Breakfast, and Barn” might be just your kind of place! It’s not everyday you see a Teepee, much less stay in one overnight. The Teepees at Cherry Wood in Zillah are more “Glamping” than camping with stone floors, electricity, nice beds, and a few basic amenities.

The gorgeous setting amongst the vineyards and orchards is serene and enchanting, and you’ll want to share your pictures on Facebook as the place is just too cool to keep to yourself. Horse lovers will enjoy the “western” feel of the place, with an interesting array of unique horses, many of who are on property as rescues from your compassionate host “Pepper” who is an avid advocate of saving horses. The Western feel is both romantic and gritty, so be prepared for not only the beauty of the horses but an occasional whiff of them as well. Mannerly dogs that don’t bark a lot are welcome and they provide a kennel for your furry friends if you are out wine tasting.

The teepees have fans but no air conditioning, and when asked about it Pepper says she knows this may not be the right fit for the caller inquiring about a place to stay. On a very hot or very cold day, this could be a bit more than some bargained for, but with nice weather between 70-85 degrees the setting would be hard to beat. Showers are outdoors as are the sinks, and the honey buckets are creatively camouflaged behind old barnwood fencing.

Enjoy a hot bath alone or with 2 others under the stars in a cozy private area – the set of 3 antique outdoor clawfoot tubs can be reserved by putting your name on a chalkboard. But while the rustic element of bathing is maybe a little much for some, there is a modern restroom complete with everything you need just a few minutes walk to the Bunkhouse.

Should the weather permit, nearby winery tours are available by horseback or by a “country limo” – a 4×4 that pulls a trailer filled with hay and your friends. And why else would most be in Zillah anyways other than to visit the nice array of small boutique wineries. A can’t miss stop is Pepper’s sons’ winery, Cultura. Meet the charming couple Tad & Sarah Fewell and taste a great lineup of wines just around the corner from Tad’s Mom’s place. With at decent group of wineries close by in the Rattlesnake Hills area, don’t miss J Bell Cellars and Dineen Cellars while in the area!

Your host Pepper Fewel is a salt of the earth kind of woman, who will do her best to keep you happy along with the Trail Boss, her daughter Tiffany. But remember this is a working farm, not a B&B that pampers spoiled city folk. Yes, it’s a B&B in true form though, complete with a stiff cup of coffee and hot cowboy breakfast.

While the Cherrywood BB&B is really about a cool, off-the charts off the beaten path kind of experience for a couple or group of friends, it can  also the location of group retreat or corporate team building experiences utilizing the horses, with or without lodging. Get your whole group to stay here in all of the teepees for an unforgettable bonding experience. Click here to see pics of this amazing & surreal setting. While staying in a teepee is not for everyone, I guarantee if you give it a try you’ll never forget the experience!

David LeClaire, Sommelier
Seattle Wine Scene

A Changing of the Grapes

Editor’s Note: I’ve been writing a biweekly column for northforker.com since November 2014, but this is my first piece after taking over the wine column space in the print editions of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review from long-time wine columnist Louisa Hargrave. I’ll be publishing an excerpt of each column here on NYCR and linking over to the full piece. How do you replace a pioneer — an icon, really — who was literally there when a wine industry was born? You don’t because you can’t. I can never fill Louisa Hargrave’s shoes, but I do hope to fill her old column…

18 tips for wineries on better communication

 

I’ve been doing weekly tastings at Jackson Family Wines for a while now, and part of that is buying non-JFW wines to include in our [blind] tastings, and preparing printed information for my fellow tasters on technical matters about the wines.

For this, I turn to three sources: the front and back labels, the winery website, and any tech sheet the winery included in the box.

The labels are usually pretty useless. The one piece of data they do offer—because they’re required to by law—is alcoholic content by volume. I don’t know why so many wineries make this so hard to find. Often, they print it in light-colored ink so it barely registers on the label, and then they use the tiniest type size possible. You should see me twisting and turning the bottles, holding them up under a bright light, trying to find that magic number. Another, related problem is that, if there is an alcohol number listed on the website or tech sheet, chances are 50/50 that it’s different from the number on the bottle. (I always go by the number on the label.)

Maybe most people don’t care about such stuff, but I do, and I think most other critics do. I think also that people who are serious about wine, and are willing to drop a bundle on a good bottle, like to know about the wine’s origins and winemaking. So here are 18 tips, respectfully submitted, for wineries that actually care about their customers, rather than simply making a few bucks.

  1. Always have your new vintage wine/s on the website. Always. No exceptions, no excuses. There’s nothing worse than a website that’s out of date. It’s disrespectful to your audience.
  2. Have a link somewhere to “technical information” or “more information about this wine” or whatever you want to call it.
  3. Don’t make users search for that link like they’re kids looking for the Passover afikomen.

Put it upfront. Lots of winery websites put the link on their “buying” or “shopping” page. I don’t like that. A critic/writer who’s looking for that information shouldn’t have to click all over the place to find it. Every winery website should have a link right at the top of the homepage about “Wines.” That link should lead directly to a listing of the wines, with the tech info connected to them, or just a click away.

  1. What technical information should be there?
  2. Suggested retail price
  3. Alcoholic content [and it should be the same as on the label]
  4. Case production
  5. pH and acidity
  6. Grape sourcing. If it’s a single vineyard, tell us where the vineyard is: Not just “Russian River Valley” (we can see that from the label), but where in the valley? Situate the vineyard. Don’t say just “a cool corner” but exactly where? Sebastopol Hills? Green Valley? Occidental? Westside Road? East of 101? It matters.
  7. If the wine is a blend, tell us which vineyards contributed, and where they are.
  8. Describe the vineyard/s. What is the elevation? The orientation? What are the soils?
  9. What clones or selections constitute the grapes?
  10. What is the age of the vines?
  11. Fermentation techniques: tell us about your regime: barrels, percent new, malolactic, time in wood, stem inclusion, the precise cépage. I don’t need a laboratory analysis, but these above details are helpful.
  1. Who owns the winery? Include a bio.
  2. Who is the winemaker? Include a bio.
  3. What is the full contact information?
  4. How may the wine be purchased?
  5. If you send someone a bottle of wine, especially a writer, include a tech sheet in the box. I don’t want to hear that your fulfillment center won’t do that. If they won’t, hire another fulfillment center.

I have particular annoyance with wineries that try to convey the impression of snobby exclusivity by having a website that offers nothing but an email form to contact the winery. Too good to talk to us? Remember, fame is fleeting. What the right hand offereth, the left hand snatcheth away.

All of these are commonsense things to do. The wine industry is a service industry: we serve the public, not the other way around. It’s a mark of respect for your consumers, for wine writers and for the industry in general to be open, informative and transparent, both on your website and on your tech sheet.

Daily Wine News: No Way Rosé

"So, no disrespect, rosé. It’s not like we’re breaking up for good. Really. We just need to take a break."

“So, no disrespect, rosé. It’s not like we’re breaking up for good. Really. We just need to take a break.”

Jancis Robinson checks in on the “glorious” 2005 Burgundy vintage. “Most of the 2005 reds I had tried early in their lives had been relatively surly and tough – so I was thrilled to find that…tannins have receded and the fruit has knitted together to produce really interesting flavours with enough acidity to keep the wines appetising but with real concentration too.”

In Bon Appétit, Adam Rapoport needs a break from rosé. “…it’s hard not to think, “Hmm, maybe I should order something other than rosé this summer.” I know. Can you imagine? What else is there!”

According to Wine Spectator, a team of researchers at U.C. Irvine believes they have developed a method to sniff out counterfeit wine without opening the bottle.

Since 2004’s Sideways made a star of domestic Pinot Noir, the U.S. has planted nearly twice the acreage of the finicky grape. But can a good bottle be had for under $40? Lettie Teague finds several in the Wall Street Journal.

On ilovewine.com, 9 experts (including David!) reveal their picks for best wines under $30.

In Grape Collective, Christopher Barnes explores the political troubles and the incredible potential of Turkish wine.

Rachel Signer explains why Gamay is a sommelier’s secret weapon in Eater.

Sasha Paulsen reviews Richard Peterson’s memoir, The Winemaker, in the Napa Valley Register.

In Le Pan Magazine, W. Blake Gray on “Napa’s unsung varietal” — zinfandel.

Dave McIntyre thinks you should get to know Georgian wines in the Washington Post.

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For August 31, 2015

So, like, what is this stuff, anyway?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes with you via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be quirky, fun, and easily-digestible reviews of currently available wines. Below is a wrap-up of those twitter wine reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find these wines, so that you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 13 VIE Roussanne (Lake County): Fleshier than it looks, enticing at first sip, and offering up Bausch & Lomb levels of saline. $29 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Sol Rouge Gypsy Rouge Red (Lake County): Crazy-haired, wild-eyed, strongly opinionated, but also very clearly as sharp as a tack. $28 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 13 Baron Knyphausen Riesling Spatlese Kiedrich Sandgrub (Rheingau): As cozy & gentle as soft pillows, as crisp as newly ironed sheets $39 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Dominio del Plata Susana Balbo Brioso (Agrelo): Four grapes, one vineyard, & a single, savory, focused, eagle-eyed determination. $45 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Crios de Susana Balbo Rose Of Malbec (Mendoza): Put its big girl pants on, but lost none of its attractive vivacity in the process $14 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes (Mendoza): An entire bunch of pretty, fresh cut flowers offered for the price of one or two. $14 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 11 La Jota Vineyard Howell Mountain Merlot (Napa Valley): Sweet plum, black olive, and stern, mountain man heft and attitude. $70 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 11 La Jota Vineyard Cabernet Franc (Howell Mountain): Zesty strawberries can actually achieve spicy, mineral depth? Go figure. $75 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 11 La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Gravel paths through blackberry bushes, surrounded with stunning scenery. $80 A >>find this wine<<
  • 07 Cardinale Red Wine (Napa Valley): Sage, herbs, anise, licorice, dates, all served up on fine silk & chased with a Cuban cigar. $240 A >>find this wine<<

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

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Copyright © 2015. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For August 31, 2015 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Un-Cruise Adventures: Guest Host on a Wine-Themed Voyage

I am leaving shortly to embark on an excellent journey with Un-Cruise Adventures along the Columbia and Snake rivers. They have tapped me to be a guest host on a wine-themed cruise. I’ll be on this boat, the S.S. Legacy:

Un-Cruise Adventures: Guest Host on a Wine-Themed Voyage

Un-Cruise Adventures has put me in charge of a daily wine program of my design and I also selected Washington State and Oregon wines for my fellow passengers to enjoy during my (low-key) instruction and throughout the journey. Looking forward to a lot of questions, camaraderie, and time on the water.

But this voyage is not just about being on the boat. Oh no! We’ll spend plenty of time visiting wineries (among other land-based activities). Here’s where we’ll be tasting. (Note: We take a bus to these spots; the S.S. Legacy is not a vehicle for dry land. I mean, duh, you probably figured that out.)

Columbia Gorge:

Springhouse Cellar

AniChe Cellars

Mt. Hood Winery

Maryhill Winery

Sunshine Mill Winery

Walla Walla:

Bergevin Lane

Dunham Cellars

Tri-Cities:

Terra Blanca

And in Cannon Beach, Oregon, we’ll be visiting The Wine Shack.

Stay tuned for updates on social media. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I may break out the Periscope as well.

Un-Cruise Adventures: Guest Host on a Wine-Themed Voyage

 

 

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Wine Reviews: Exploring Idaho Wine

People make wine in all 50 states. You’ve probably heard this before and thought: Yeah, but how many states produce wine worth buying and drinking? California, Oregon and Washington State lead the pack, of course, and wines from New York and Virginia have been showing great stuff for many years now.

So, which state is next to prove itself to the broader American palate? Michigan is home to some exciting vino. Missouri has been a key player in the history of American viticulture. And I’m a big fan of wines from some high elevation vineyards in Arizona. New Mexico, Texas, Maryland — the patriotic palate has plenty of options.

Well, what about Idaho?

When I told my wife I’d be tasting through a dozen Idaho wines she asked: “Umm… are they potato wines?”

I’m sure Idaho winemakers have heard similar comments more times than they care to remember. It can’t be easy convincing the average American wine drinker they should consider shelling out money for a wine from a state they know little about and have probably never visited. But if you shelve any preconceived notions and actually taste the wines, you may be surprised.

Idaho wine isn’t new, but it’s growing. In 2002, the state was home to just 11 wineries. By 2014 that number had grown to 51, according to the Idaho Wine Commission. These wineries produce more than 200,000 cases of wine a year, but that amount doesn’t even put Idaho in the top ten states in terms of production. (A bit of perspective: Ohio, the tenth-largest wine producing state, churns out about four times more wine than Idaho, according to Wines Vines Analytics.) So it’s understandable that Idaho wines don’t get much recognition on retail shelves or placement on restaurant lists outside of the immediate area.

Most of the states wineries are located in the Snake River Valley, southwest of Boise. In 2007, the Snake River Valley became the state’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA), an area that includes parts of eastern Washington. Several Idaho wineries in the Willow Creek area (a more hilly and rugged region) applied for their own AVA status in 2013, but that AVA is still pending.

I’d tasted a few Idaho Rieslings before, but this mixed case was my first real introduction to the state’s wines. And, I have to say, they make a good argument that Idaho wines should be taken seriously. I appreciated the freshness in a lot of these wines, and many of them have moderate alcohol levels. Also, the price points are generally quite attractive. If I have an overall concern about this lot, it’s the overreliance on new oak. Much of the underlying fruit seems solid, but too many of the nuances are overpowered by toasted barrel scents and flavors.

Still, if this batch is any sign, there’s a lot to explore in Idaho.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Review: 2012 Ste. Chapelle Riesling Special Harvest - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $12
Rich golden color. Bright nose of limes and white peaches with sweeter notes of honeycomb and sugarcane, and a new plastic toy smell (I know that sounds strange but it’s something I think of in some Rieslings, and this one totally has it). Sweet and rich on the palate, the acidity helps it out a little bit, but we’re dealing with a honeyed wine, covered in white peaches, guava paste and sugar cane. Fun and tasty but not enough verve, lacking in acid and minerality. (84 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Bitner Vineyards Riesling Reserve - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $17
Pale yellow color. Bright and clean on the nose, fresh laundry, limes, green apples, hints of white pepper and chalk. Bright acid, a lean and taut wine (0.5% residual sugar) with crisp green apple, lime peel and nectarine elements. A nice mix of stony minerality and chalk. Not too deep, but it does what it does well. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Koenig Vineyards Viognier Williamson Vineyard - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $15
Pretty light gold color. Bright aromatics, pineapple and kiwi mixes with lime and green melon, some breezy, floral and honeyed components as well. Full-bodied, moderate acid, a creamy, rich body. Flavors of cantaloupe, kiwi and white peaches, the fruit is juicy and tropical. Notes of almond and birch bark, some honeycomb, floral notes last onto the finish. Interesting to taste this Idaho interpretation of Viognier, a richer, chunkier style but still welcome on the table.  (86 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Snake River Winery GSM Arena Valley - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $21
Pale ruby color. Smells of tart red currants, raspberry, matched with pepper, dried roses, some clove and toasted oak. Medium-bodied, medium tannins that are fined down nicely around the edges, some refreshing acid. Flavors of tart red currants mix with blackberry and raspberry jam, the wine is laced with notes of clove, pepper and toasted oak, a bit too much of the latter for my palate. But it finishes tart and crunchy with floral and spice notes. 55% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Colter’s Creek Koos Koos Kia - Idaho
SRP: $22
Medium ruby color. Nose of currant compote, plum sauce, jammy raspberries, a sweet and spicy element, like honeyed fruit tea and black tea mixed together, some alcohol shows through at 14.2%. Full-bodied, a rich and chewy mouthfeel with moderate tannins, providing a dusty structure, some freshness from the moderate acid. Dusty and earthy, with black pepper sauce, bay leaf, black tea, some complex notes of cedar, coffee and roasted chestnut but it holds the new oak well. A big wine but balanced quite well with a lot of complexity to unravel, could last for four or five years, I’m guessing. A big five Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Impressive stuff. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Clearwater Canyon Merlot - Idaho
SRP: $25
Medium ruby color. Bright and floral on the nose, tangy strawberries and cherries, some spicy tobacco, eucalyptus and cherry wood notes. Medium-bodied, the tannins are dusty and approachable, the acid keeps the wine tangy. Bright red and black cherries, some strawberry jam notes. Fresh and juicy and accessible at 13.7% alcohol, I like the earthy and eucalyptus notes. But vanilla, coffee and cedar drown out the finish. Good fruit underneath, but a bit too strong on the oak. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Fujishin Family Cellars Amatino Red Blend - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $23
Deep ruby color. Jammy black and red berries on the nose, along with violets, rich and sweet earthy notes mixed in with some sweet basil and sage aromas, toasty oak. Full bodied, velvety tannins still providing plenty of structure, moderate acid. Rich black currant, black cherries, the jammy and chewy fruit is supported by savory notes of cracked pepper and beef brisket. Toasted coconut and mocha, lots of it, but the structure and strength of the other flavors pulls the wine together and keeps the oak from dominating. 92% Syrah, 5% Viognier and 3% Petite Sirah.  14.6% alcohol. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Cinder Tempranillo - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $30
A deep ruby color. Smells smoky and toasty, like someone threw chestnuts and cedar planks on a fire pit then doused them in cherries and plums, then topped it off with tobacco and mocha. Medium-bodied, smooth tannins, the acid offers freshness. Black cherries, plums and some red currant fruit, which is matched by notes of toasted almond, roasted coffee, backed up by some spicy tobacco and black pepper. Bold and toasty (21 months in oak) but this is still a smooth and approachable wine that’s good for drinking in the near term. 13.5% alcohol. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Sawtooth Tempranillo Classic Fly Series - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $25
Dark ruby colored. Aromas of roasted coffee, black and red cherries, a deep sense of tobacco and soil. On the palate, the wine shows dusty-velvety tannins on a medium-bodied frame with medium acid. Spicy red raspberries, juicy cherries, some tart blackberries, the fruit is mixed with spiced coffee, cedar shavings and toasted almonds. Feels silky and smooth on the finish, an interesting take on this variety, but perhaps a bit too high on the oak that it jumbles the other aspects. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Sawtooth Malbec Trout Trilogy - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $35
Light purple color. Smells of tart red currants, juicy black and red cherries, topped with some roasted chestnut, violet and potting soil aromas. Full-bodied (14.6% alcohol), silky tannins but plenty of structure, the refreshing acid really keeps this wine alive and bright. Chewy blackberry and plum fruit but tart aspects as well. Earthy with charcoal, graphite and tar accents, definitely showing its oak signature with chestnut, mocha and dark chocolate shavings, but there’s a lovely balance and freshness to this wine, elegance even. Drinking well now but I’d love to revisit this wine in three or four years. Impressed. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Huston Vineyards Malbec - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $29
Deep ruby color. The nose is dark and deep with currants, fig paste, blackberries, anise, charcoal and freshly paved roads. Silky tannins but still sturdy, refreshing acidity, makes for a pleasant and unassuming presence on the palate. Plenty of chewy fruit though, blackberries and black cherries, hints of crunchy skins in there. A complex web of anise, flower pot, sweet cedar, eucalyptus, pine tree and cherry wood. Moderate-long finish with hints of mineral and graphite. Ready to drink but time ahead, a very good effort, surprising in its balance. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Hat Ranch Winery Malbec - Idaho, Snake River Valley
SRP: $27
Vibrant ruby color. Nose of tart plums and red currants, rose petals, some smoke, earth, coffee and cedar. Medium-bodied, this wine shows some refreshing acid and fleshy tannins with a smooth but slightly dusty mouthfeel. Juicy black currants and plums abound, the fruit is blended in with dark chocolate shavings, espresso grounds. Very pretty, bright and refreshing wine despite the rich and ever-present oak (24 months in oak). I’d like to try this again in two years.  (87 points IJB)

I’ll Drink to That: Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine

I'll Drink to That: Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine

Episode 290 of I'll Drink to That has been posted, and it features Christy Canterbury. Christy is an MW who writes on wine topics for various publications, does speaking engagements related to wine, consults for restaurants and retail, and participates in wine judging competitions. She is based in New York.

This interview covers a lot of ground, as Christy has worked in several different areas of the wine business. She recalls, for instance, the major push by retailers into high end wines that followed the last big financial downturn. Why the move into the expensive wines from retail when the financial markets were in decline? The answer is simple if you were looking at it from her perspective on the inside of that market: high end consumers were fleeing restaurants markups on top wines, and instead purchasing them at retail. At the same time, more wine was available for purchase by retailers, as the restaurant buyers were in retreat. This is exactly the kind of insight that you don't get unless you ask someone who was there and was a buyer at the time. There is also a discussion of Christy's experiences preparing for the Master of Wine exam, a process which took her 7 years, and cost her an estimated $60,000. Does that seem like a lot of time or a lot of money? Maybe something to consider if you yourself are thinking about pursuing an MW. And the interview also discusses Christy's role as a restaurant group wine buyer for outfits like Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges and Smith & Wollensky. What are the attributes and skills necessary for a national level buyer? Christy comments on that, in addition to providing some advice to those who might be doing such work. But maybe most fascinating was the conversation about Christy's time spent working as a female American sommelier in Muslim countries like Qatar and Turkey -- an entirely other world that it is hard to even imagine without talking to someone who was there. And Christy was.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes.

I'll Drink to That is the world's leading wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @levi_opens_wine



Exploring Mount Etna Wines via Planeta

Exploring Mount Etna Wines via Planeta

Is there a more exciting wine region in the world right now than Sicily? And, within this island, anything cooler than what’s happening in the area surrounding Mount Etna?

No.

It was a pleasure to be invited to a lunch given by Planeta, whose six wineries ring Sicily. Our special guest was Alessio Planeta and our focus was on five bottles from their Etna winery, Feudo di Mezzo.

[I’d also like to mention this lunch literally whet my appetite for Sicily as I’ll be headed there at the end of September on a media trip to visit Planeta’s properties. I am mega-stoked!]

Right after this lunch someone asked me which wine was my favorite. I had to be extremely wishy-washy and say, “I loved them all.” Seriously. It’s an impressive lineup. Speaking of, here are the Mount Etna wines I tasted:

Planeta Metodo Classico Brut NV (100% Carricante grapes) $40

What?!? Sparkling wine from Mount Etna. I first tried this in Sicily and fell hard for this bottle of bubbles. Interestingly enough, I was queried if I enjoyed it as much in Seattle. This is always the fear regarding a wine you enjoy while on romantic travels (well, a press trip but the setting was uber-romantic): it will taste (much) better on-site than back at home. I am pleased to report this was not the case. The Planeta Brut was soft like linen, citrusy like lemon curd, and lingering like the ending of a great novel. This Metodo Classico was made for all of the finest fried foods. You can also drink it with abandon on its own.

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014 (100% Carricante) $24

Lively, textured, with richness from the lees stirring (you know, the dead yeast and other grape solids hanging out at the bottom of the juice that get agitated for their pleasure-enhancing qualities) and a portion of the juice hanging out in big-ass barrels. For under $25, hard to think of a more impressive white wine. So cool.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014 (90% Carricante/10% Riesling) $32

Ok, the vintage is 2014 not 1614. The latter year references the start of a Mount Etna eruption that lasted ten years straight. Whoa. The vineyard where the wine comes from, Sciara Nuova, is pictured at the top of this post. The Eruzione 1614 hangs around on your palate post-imbibe longer than the Etna Bianco and you do get a touch of Riesling-ness as well. Interesting note: the wine area on the label is not Etna but rather Sicily because the grapes are grown at an elevation too high to use the regional appellation name. (Same with the upcoming Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese.)

We also got to try the 2011 version of this wine (95% Carricante/5% Riesling) which was golden, rich, and almost Gewürztraminer-like in its spiciness.

Onto the reds.

Exploring Mount Etna Wines via Planeta

Planeta Etna Rosso 2013 (100% Nerello Mascalese grapes) $25

First, this label is awesome. (The white has the same one with yellow instead of red.) Light in color, Pinot-Noir/Nebbiolo-esque, and delicious. Spicy. Seriously, $25? Damn.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2013 (100% Nerello Mascalese) $35

Exploring Mount Etna Wines via Planeta

Alessio Planeta

The Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese is much richer than the Rosso but certainly not overboard in that department. A wonderful confluence of said riches, zip, and chilled-out tannins. Again, very Nebbiolo-esque. Not like a bruiser of a Barolo, but a Nebbiolo from the broader region of Lange that’s not all pumped-up with added-on brawniness.

We also tried the 2011 which has a nice minty quality to it and, after just a few years in the bottle, is at a beautiful place.

Many of the things Alessio Planeta said stayed with me. Probably the most memorable concerned Sicily as a whole, to try and figure it out not just regarding its wines, but climate, culture, history, and more. “Sicily is like a puzzle,” Planeta explained. “To finish the puzzle is the most difficult thing.” Who will ever put it all together in one lifetime? Maybe no one and certainly not me. But after today I feel like I’ve found a corner piece, am working on the border, and hope to someday fill in the gaps.

All photos courtesy Planeta.

 

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Weekly Interview: Aurelio Montes, Jr.

Aurelio Montes Jr.

Aurelio Montes Jr.

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Aurelio Montes Jr., the head winemaker at Kaiken Wines in Mendoza, Argentina.

Kaiken is a branch of Montes Wines. Some of our readers may recall that we have interviewed the chairman of Montes Wines, Aurelio Montes, who is this week’s interviewee’s father. This interview provides an important insight into a significant winemaking family. Below, we ask Aurelio Jr. about the influence of his father on his winemaking.

Aurelio Jr. is not, however, a home-grown winemaker. Instead, he traveled across the country to work at many wineries not affiliated with Montes Wines before he returned to the family business in 2007. It’ll be interesting to observe the next generation of wines from the Montes family.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where were you born?

My family comes from different places around the world. From my mother’s side they came from Spain, and from my father’s side they came from England. But all of them came to Chile many years ago. I was born in one of the most beautiful cities of Latin America — Santiago of Chile — as were my father, mother, and siblings.

What has been your career path to where you are?

Winemaking has been always been a part of my life, through my father and my family. Growing up, I understood that being a winemaker wasn’t easy. There is a lot of work, traveling, being away from your family and friends for many days every year, but at the end, it is a life of passion. That is what seduced me.

I studied winemaking at the Catholic University of Chile, the third most important university in Latin America and #1 in agriculture and winemaking. When I finished my studies, I decided to travel around the world to learn more about winemaking. The first place that I chose was Australia, because it was a country new in winemaking but very aggressive in the way of making wine – a great learning experience. There, I worked at a few wineries, such as Rosemount Estate and Cape Mentel.

Then I went to the United States because I loved Napa and its passionate atmosphere of winemaking. In the year 2000, I worked at Franciscan Estate.

When I returned to Chile, I decided not to work in the family winery, as I wanted to develop my skills further. Ventisquero Winery opened their doors to me, and it was an absolutely great experience.

In the year 2007, I joined our family winery in Chile, Montes Wines. After a few years there I moved to Mendoza, Argentina, to oversee Kaiken Wines as the Head Winemaker. Kaiken is part of Montes Winery.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

There are many ways how you can look winemaking. For me it is not only a beautiful work, but also a lifestyle. Making wine is not only trying to make a good bottle, it is also working to express the pure and real terroir. My main motivation is terroir, quality, and taking care of small details.

How would you describe the influence of your father on your winemaking philosophy?

He has been INSPIRATIONAL. Since I was a child, I would go along with my father to the wineries. He showed me the good and the bad things about this world, and how big your passion for winemaking should be if you wanted to make your own special wine . He showed to me how to create good wines with passion and commitment, and explained the meaning of quality and terroir.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Every day I have different challenges as a winemaker. There’s so many new places to discover, so many new varieties (for me) to taste, so many places to visit, and so many wines to try. On the other hand, the world changes day by day, faster and faster, so you need to understand the direction of the world. One of my biggest challenges is to find a special terroir and to be able to express the essence of the place through a bottle of wine.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

There are many winemaker that I admire. Of course my father is one of them, and others include John Duval and Miguel Torres. In general, I admire any winemaker who has the courage to challenge themselves and the world, going beyond the limits. It is very easy to make a wine; it is very difficult to make a special wine.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

For me my number one place is Burgundy, and then Tuscany. Both places have all that I love: passion, history, culture, and of course very good wines. There is one thing about these places that may sound simple, but is very important — both places are so beautiful it makes you happy when you are there.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Vega Sicilia 1962, not because I think it was the best, but it was the most interesting. That wine showed me a piece of history of Spanish viticulture, and also I sensed the essence of the terroir, unique and elegant.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

In my cellar there is one rule, “every day is a good opportunity to drink a good bottle of wine.” So I have a good collection of wine, but I drink all of it every year with my friends. So I buy all the time wine from different places of the world. My oldest is a Montes Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, which was the first harvest ever of Montes!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Nothing because I just drank it all. I open every day a new bottle of wine. Life is too short!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Red will be Malbec, and white will be Chardonnay.

Is beer ever better than wine?

YES, beer is part of the history and culture of every winemaker. After a big day of wine tasting, a good bottle of beer is the best! I’m not producing my own beer but it will happen soon.

How do you spend your days off?

I’m the kind of person who loves to squeeze every part out of his day. Even on my days off, I wake up early, 7:30 a.m., and I go for a run. After that, normally, we take a few thing and we go for a picnic in the mountain or sometimes in the park. We don’t like television, we have our natural television when we go out and see how life moves. Also it is very common for us to organize a big BBQ with friends and family. At BBQs, we eat 2.2 pounds of meat per person, we drink a lot of wine, play soccer, and have fun.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I love to skydive!

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Without any doubt, drinking wine and having some work related to nature. I love to be outside, smelling nature and working with the environment.

How do you define success?

Being happy, being able to reach my goals in life. Having time to enjoy all that I have built (family, friends, wine, etc.), and being able to travel and to meet people around the world.