Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shea Wine Cellars, Willamette Valley

Pinot Noir: love it or don't... there really doesn't seem to be any in between.

     Myself, I love the damned grape. It was one of my first true joys in wine; tasting a great Pinot Noir. Many years later, I still derive the same pleasure - accentuated only be a deeper appreciation for what tremendous work goes into those delightful results.

     My wife, however, can pinpoint a Pinot Noir being opened on the other side of the room because of it's unique characteristics that my wife says: "Are better appreciated by other people.". She truly dislikes it, and will only grudgingly even taste from my glass.

     Sometimes there are exceptions even to that rule, and Shea Wine Cellars  ( )just might be it! Situated in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Dick Shea started planting grapes on his land in the later 1980's. 95% Pinot Noir, the rest is Chardonnay (which I haven't tried yet), Dick has a truly impressive array of sub-plots and clones.

     The clone I tried is Pommard Clone, which was brought to America in the 1940's & (In My Humble Opinion) is not widely used at present. The winemakers who do use it however, are producing world-class results.

2002Pommard Clone Pinot Noir
$unknown - best guess about $100-$120 Canadian for this vintage if you bought it today
  • deep ruby centre with established brickish rim, slight sedimentation
  • full- to moderate++ intense bouquet; all manner of cherries, black currant, leather, slight tobacco of mild cigars, slight heat from the alcohol, finish with a sweetness reminiscent of blueberries
  • moderate acids, moderate tannins, palate equals the nose in all respects
  • moderate body... almost a touch more then I expect from Pinot Noir but in a wonderful way
  • excellent structure and balance, there is a strong acidic presence right now all the way through the palate, but the fruit is still allowed to show through
     What a wonderful treat, really. My father gave me his last bottle of the '02 & I think it drinks delightfully now, and most likely for quite a few years given the strength of those smooth tannins. We served this with a prime rib roast that I cooked on a bed of leeks and fresh thyme, steamed new potatoes, and a spinach salad I finished with crimini mushrooms roast with white truffle oil, sweet onions and charred bell peppers. The truffle oil really brought out some lovely notes in the wine - but so did the leeks!
                                                          (Shea Wine Cellars in Winter)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sonoran Estate Winery, Summerland BC

Let me start by saying that genuine hospitality is a dying art form. True, genuine, hospitality where one feels like an old friend coming home rather then a stranger who has walked in the door uninvited...

Sonoran Estate Winery has an atmosphere of genuine hospitality.

My wife (Mrs AstudentofWine) and I were in Summerland, BC last August for a well earned week of r&w (rest and wine - of course) when we almost literally stumbled across Sonoran. A nice looking brown home at the end of a short gravel driveway, one side of the house looks out over Okanagan Lake and the valley. There is shade, and cool tile floors, and someone always behind the counter ready to pour a taster of what-you're-in-the-mood-for.

This visit, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adrian, the winemaker. A jovial fellow, we got down to tasting wine in earnest quickly and he whisked me away to the inner workings of Sonoran in the "cellar". There were many treasures hidden there, and Adrian was kind enough to let me sample more then my fair share. I owe a debt of gratitude not only to him for letting me sample such truly excellent craftsmanship - but to my wife as well, for taking over the driving at that point.

2008 Riesling/Gewurztraminer
13.5%, $14

  • nose is moderate++; full of roses & summer floral with a background of grapefruit & young stonefruit (peaches before they reach maturity)

  • moderate++ acids, moderate palate (same as the nose)

  • moderate (to mod-) body, moderate alcohol, moderate+ structure
I find this to be an appealing summer patio wine; inexpensive and good value for the money - it has good balance and structure and drinks easily on its own. Not my choice with food - but if pressed would serve it with lighter food like a shrimp salad croissant or crab salad.

2009 Oraniensteiner
13.0%, $16

  • moderate+ intense nose; hot alcohol, citrus notes (especially grapefruit), and candied banana

  • moderate- (soft) acids, moderate palate starting with ripe stonefruit and finishing with limey terroir

  • full- body (this wine has a big mouth feel without any of the flabbiness), full alcohol (serve it well chilled to keep from overpowering), brilliantly developed structure - drink this wine now!
Great wine - I loved every drop, but would once again warn not to serve it above 14C. Serve with a breast of smoked duck and a spicy apricot compote or relish!

2009 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
60% Pinot Gris, 14%, $18 **EXCELLENT VALUE**
  • moderate+ intense nose of citrus and mild herbaceousness or garrigue
  • full- acids with a fully intense palate of the limey terroir... citrus and herbs come into play and the finish is almost gravelly
  • moderate- body, moderate alcohol (it doesn't feel like 14%), excellent balance and structure
Just a well made wine and that's all there is to it. I could, and have, sipped this on a patio in the mid-afternoon whilst reading a book - or - as the start to a meal on a hot evening when the palate really needs some help to open up. Serve this with BC chevre (goat's cheese) in any dish & prepare yourself for a treat.

2009 Riesling
12.3%, $18 **EXCELLENT VALUE**

  • moderate+ to full- intense bouquet of layers upon layers of honey, apricots, peaches, small yellow flowers

  • moderate acids awash with the limey terroir of the vineyard and a long long long crisp, clean finish

  • moderate body, moderate alcohol, brilliant balance and structure
What a treat. This certainly appealed to my wife, who is a true fan of Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Oraniensteiner and any of the aromatic whites. I loved it because the dry palate balanced the richly sweet nose perfectly. I would love to serve this with cold smoked duck, seared scallops, coconut prawns... the list is truly endless. Fondue!

2008 Gewurztraminer

  • full- intense nose with multi layers of ripe stonefruit, floral upon floral and a ton of honey

  • moderate++ acids (perfect to balance the nose) but I noticed a slightly sour aftertaste to the acids
2009 Riesling Gewurztraminer

  • light nose, very faint and hard to open; lime, stonefruit, floral, gravel

  • moderate++ to full- limey acids

  • moderate+ body, slightly hot alcohol, long finish
Once again, a wine I would ensure was 12C to 14C and no warmer or the alcohol seems quite hot. I thought this was a perfect pairing with any of your fatty meats like pork loin (wrapped in bacon) or a cream based sauce - Coquilles St Jacques perhaps!

2007 Merlot

  • visually starting to show a light cherry/brick rim with dark ruby centre

  • moderate+ intense nose shows leather (26 months in oak!) and the fruit is just making an appearance with plums

  • moderate++ acids, moderate++ tannins all interfere with the palate where, once again, the plummy fruit is just starting to appear

  • Great Structure!
I would give this wine at least another 9-12 months before tasting again.

2007 Malbec

  • (barrel sample)

  • moderate+ intense nose; dark baies rouges or red berries, earthy terroir with a hint of pepper

  • moderate acids, moderate+ slightly chewy tannins, moderate palate; filled with earthy plummy goodness

  • moderate(+) body, moderate+ alcohol, good balance and a long, developed structure
     I have been saying (since the fateful day that I tasted this wine) that, In My Humble Opinion, this wine will change the way that we perceive BC red wine. Not because of the quality - which is excellent... there are quite a few BC wineries producing quite a few excellent quality red wines. Many of which are superior to this one (although I would say the same echelon).

     It is because of the quality versus the price.

     $25 for a BC red of great quality is a rare, rare find. I was truly impressed with the level of workmanship & look forward to sharing many a bottle of this with many of you.

2007 "Forbidden Love" Icewine
11.2%, $30, Pinot Noir & Pinot Blanc blend **Very Good Quality**

  • fully intense bouquet of intense garden floral, honey upon honey & candied almonds

  • moderate++ acids, with the palate mimicking the nose completely
Icewines & Late Harvest wines are not usually my thing. But.
     But this has excellent balance, a lovely contrast between sweet, honey floral nose and crisp almost "pop in your mouth with lime zest" acids. Overall a very good quality product & well worth the money.

2008 Erenfelser Icewine
13.2%, $30, **Excellent Value**
  • moderate++ intense nose, full of notes of dried raisins & reminding me of Olorosa Sherry with the particular nose that the Solera system imparts
  • full- acids, rich developed palate with the usual fruit & floral & honey - but once again the dried raisin flavor stayed on the palate for an incredibly long time
Much more my type of desert wine - I could almost see this paired with foie gras au torchon and a green apple and raisin chutney, some fresh rosemary potato bread & a small wedge of pecorino cheese.

2006 Oraniensteiner Icewine
11.5%, $35 **Very Good Value**
  • fully intense nose rich with all overripe stonefruit: peaches, nectarines, apricots & of course honey
  • moderate+ to full- acids, palate mimicks the nose again but with the same sense of dried raisins and a ton of residual sugar (too much for my personal tastes)
  • moderate++ body, moderate- alcohol, very good structure
      Another well crafted wine - much more to my wife's tastebuds then to mine, but thoroughly enjoyed by both of us.

     So a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in Summerland, BC... sitting up on the side of the hill on a cool patio, sipping at well crafted wines (did you know they have a chef now?). You can have a little something to nosh on and just watch the world pass by.

     A truly hospitable & amenable place to visit. We ended up walking out with almost an entire mixed case of wine - some to cellar (the icewines can last for years) and some to share this summer with friends and family... as it should be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gruner Vetliner, a rare varietal

     Last month I has the decided pleasure of tasting some brilliant Gruner Vetliner from Fred Loimer (the undisputed king of GV in Lower Austria ). The tasting was hosted by and Terrarosa Imports at the visually stunning LIFT restaurant ( )in Coal Harbor (Vancouver), BC. My apologies to all concerned for not getting this blog out sooner - summer vacations have a way of turning even the most dedicated blogger into even more of a hedonist then usual.

     I have to admit to being somewhat nervous when I approached... after all, LIFT is a posh sort of place and I just a lowly blogger (I counted 2 Lamborghini's within a half block) and Gruner Vetliner is not a varietal I am familiar with. But the staff at LIFT were incredibly gracious and Fred Loimer turned out to be not only a gentleman, but truly generous with his time and information. We were given the entire upper deck that looks out over Coal Harbor and North Vancouver, and in between dazzling sips of wine were treated to sushi & canapes. Perhaps it can be said that wine bloggers don't make very good money, but the perks? The perks of this business are truly delightful.

2009 Gruner Vetliner "Kamptal" $28
  • nose is moderate+ notes of floral such as cherry blossoms and chrysanthemum
  • moderate+ crisp green apple acids hitting the palate immediately (in a good way) with tangerine zest & minerality close behind and a long, limey - terroir finish
  • wonderful summer wine, very good structure and well balanced moderate- to light body, easy wine to pair with summer foods especially white fish (halibut, swordfish, red snapper)
2006 "Speigel" Gruner Vetliner
  • moderate+ intense nose filled with grass, wet hay, damp clay and oak
  • fully intense citrus acids with a long finish of currants and all notes from the nose as well
  • moderate- body, moderate alcohol & an excellent structure. This can pair with seafood or try with your roast turkey in the Autumn!
2006 "Kaferberg" Gruner Vetliner
  • very light nose that needed some coaxing - I would serve only lightly chilled to allow the stonefruit and orange blossom to showcase
  • full bitey acids with a palate full of the limey-mineral terroir and yellow grapefruit
  • as soon as I tasted this I thought of Coquilles-St-Jacques... fresh Qualicum Bay scallops, cream & cheese will off-set these dramatic acids & huge palate full of citrus
2008 "Langenlois Steinmassl" Reisling
  • fully perfumed nose with rich floral notes evoking memories more of muscat  then gewurztraminer; black lilies and orange blossom dominate
  • full acids with the same lime-yellow grapefruit notes that seem to demonstrate this particular terroir
  • please don't drink this yet. Buy yourself 6 bottles and open one every 6 months to watch a thing of great beauty evolve. Moderate body, excellent structure, I found the acids still overpowering and didn't allow for the full palate to showcase as I believe (IMHO) it will in only 12 to 18 months
  • when it comes to fruition (pardon the pun) - try serving with free-range chicken and peach-rhubarb compote.. layer upon layer of flavor. Another food direction? Tea smoked salmon on bannock
2009 "Lois" Gruner Vetliner
  • soft nose created (I imagine) for mid-afternoon decks and sandals... starfruit, cantaloupe & light minerality
  • moderate acids with the palate mimicking the nose impeccably
  • just enough acids to open the palate, this could start a meal or finish an afternoon. Food pairings? Think light! Shrimp salad, some steamed crab dumplings or fish cakes.
2008 "Lenz" Riesling
  • moderate- intense nose of soft cherry blossoms and minerality
  • moderate- acids with the palate, once again, mimicking the nose due to great craftsmanship
  • same thoughts on this wine: sit on the patio, kick back your heels, read a good book and sip the wine. Food pairings? Bergamot smoked duck would be a natural.
2008 Schellman "Gumpoldskirchen" (ain't that a mouthful?!)
  • a blend of 5 white varietals
  • a full- intense nose that carries off rich floral notes from the modest amounts of Muscatel and has a lush, round body from the Chardonnay
  • moderate green apple acids, moderate intense flavors of petrol, grass, orchardfruit (peach, nectarine, apricot) and of course the lime mineral terroir
  • a soft palate, moderate+ body and excellent structure, this wine is drinking incredibly well now and will continue to do so for 2 years or more. Serve with your main course and don't be afraid to match stronger flavors against this wine: my thoughts? grilled dogfish (a BC shark) with a spot-prawn risotto & buttered swiss chard
2007 Reserve Chardonnay
  • soft grassy petrol nose... was elegant at 14C
  • moderate acids with moderate palate of orchardfruit & young kiwis
  • simple, sophisticated. moderate+ body and long, developed structure, this is well balanced and yearns for food to draw more notes from it - I would use grilled foods to emphasize through contrast
2007 Langenlois Pinot Noir
  • let me start by saying that I was completely unfamiliar with Austrian Pinot Noir, and had only German to compare to...
  • a much richer nose then I was expecting; moderate nose of all the usual suspects: cherries, leathery oak, a hint of tobacco
  • moderate acids and moderate tannins, the palate mimicking the nose with great expertise
  • I would say this wine is drinking well now, and will reach it's height quite soon - not made to cellar for more then a few years it drinks like a good Burgundian (if I understand this correctly)
2005 Stienmassl Auslese Riesling
  • decadence in a bottle
  • fully intense nose of plastic and layer  upon layer upon layer of cherries
  • moderate acids give way easily to a rich palate of cherries (in all their forms), meyer lemons & kumquats
  • call me a radical but I would try serving this with Foie Gras au Torchon, grilled breads & a cherry & rhubarb chutney. It may seem unoriginal that I'm suggesting rhubarb yet again - but that tartness will contrast the wine in a most delightful way.
So! So an excellent tasting with a vast profile of Lower Austria's winemaking from Fred Loimer. I was completely and utterly impressed & cannot wait to try more product from this truly skilled craftsman.

Cin-cin ! Slainte!