Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Earthquake Strikes Napa Valley

As some of you have heard, this past Sunday, August 24th, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Napa Valley and Sonoma County.  The damage was intense to many homes, historical buildings and businesses including wineries and their supporting companies.  Thankfully there have been no reported deaths yet 200 injuries is nothing to ignore.

My heartfelt prayers go out to those recovering from this earthquake and a speedy recovery to those injured.  May we all support them in whatever way possible.

The following is a story by Wine Spectator online with further details.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meritage blending – Franciscan Magnificat $50

Napa Valley

I just came out of a local wine shop after attending a great seminar on Meritage and Bordeaux wine blending. This was excellent to understand “Meritage”, it’s history, guidelines for varietals and how closely related it is to a Bordeaux blend. It brought me a greater appreciation to the wine makers, working to create that perfect blend for all of us to enjoy.  Wine blending is such an important aspect in wine making.

The name Meritage is taken from two words, Merit and Heritage. It was initially a contest to come up with a name when American wine makers wanted to designate their wines made in the tradition of a Bordeaux blend. Today, it’s an alliance and the wines brought forth from wineries must be considered their best wines with no single grape variety making up more than 90% of the blend and production of not more than 25,000 cases.  Grape varietals can be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Carmenère is also allowed however these 5 mentioned are the predominant ones used.

In our seminar, taught by Luis Torres, Director of Wine Education for the Constellation Academy of wine, we worked on blending to match to the 2011 Franciscan Magnificat.  We had available to us the 5 single varietals to mix and match given our own preferences. All be it virtually impossible to re-create Magnificat, many of us tried to match this nicely blended composition of 79% Cab. Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Aged on oak for 20 months the aromas exhibited dark plums with hints of licorice and flint. The flavor profile exuded ripe blackberries with a subtle black pepper spice.  Medium to full body with firm tannins. Definitely a wine to drink today yet very good for aging.    

Overall, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the seminar, however I was pleasantly surprised. Luis is great at demystifying wine, the process of blending and most of all a really nice composure to make anyone feel comfortable in understanding wine.    

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summertime in Provence

Bandol Wine Region

From a recent cruise with our first stop in the port town Toulon, France, I wondered what the heck we'd do in this city I know nothing of.  I'm average at best with European geography and once I mapped it out, viola...we're going to Provence!  Marseilles was a bit too far a drive to spend quality time so I looked into the Bandol wine region after some great assistance from Provence Wine Tours.

Bandol is known primarily for their rose wines however, some other great varietals are coming out of this region as well.  Eric was our guide for the day and picked us up at our ship that morning. Our first stop was Domaine Bunan and the drive up through the hilly, single lane, stone road was an adventure in itself.  Very different than winery tours in the US, Eric actually led us on our visit vs. winery staff.  Having family with us who had not been to wineries before, we walked the production aspects of the winery first followed by our tasting.

With my preconceived notion for many French wines being stronger on the "mineral" like flavors, I promised to opened my palette and I truly enjoyed the tasting. Rose was the wine of choice and my favorite was the Chateau La Rouviere.  Made from a blend of Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache this wine was full of floral aromas with hints of pears.  Flavors were balanced with a refreshing combination of citrus, strawberries and peaches.  I could see this pairing well with grilled sea bass, shellfish and spicy Mediterranean dishes.

Our 2nd stop was Château de Pibarnon and upon our arrival, we were greeted to an absolutely beautiful view down into the valley.  One of their vineyards was designed like an amphitheater with tiered walls separating the vines for optimum drainage.  As we came up to the 18th century chateau my mom who was traveling with us was instructed by Eric to ring the large bell hanging over the front door.  It was as if we were coming to someone's home.

Our tasting was held in a stone walled room amongst their large oak vats used for aging.  The Rouge was my favorite and with a 2011 and 2012 available to taste, I preferred the 2011.  With 90% Mourvèdre and 10% Granache it had aromas full of dark cherries and plums.  The flavor profile consisted of ripe dark fruits with a subtle spice on the finish.  Prior to this, I've only tried Mourvedre wines from Spain and I must say as an alternative red, which most people don't hear about much, it was outstanding!

The last stop was Bodin in Cassis .  Quite possibly the most fun on our day, Eric clearly knew the tasting room staff well.  We enjoyed laughing and trying many different selections from their portfolio.  My favorite was the Blanc de Blancs, Cuvee Notre Dame des Lumieres.  Fresh, clean aromas of citrus, nuts and honey.  The flavors combined apples, mangos and a lemon finish.  Absolutely a refreshing wine to be served chilled on a hot summer day.  The blend consists of 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Clairette, 30% Marsanne and 10% Ugni Blanc.  For me not being up on this type of blend, it was definitely a wonderful wine to be enjoyed in hot weather with salads, grilled fish and no doubt a perfect accompaniment to any picnic.

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