Kungfu Girl and Eve: Two Charles Smith Washington State Beauties to Welcome Spring

Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind Charles Smith Family wines. His “kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned him the moniker ‘rock star’ of Washington State Syrah”. With his many diverse brands [K Vintners, Wines of Substance, Sixto, Charles & Charles, Secco and Vino] he is able to offer a wide variety of wines varying in cost from budget friendly to highly rated, single vineyard Syrahs in the $100 range. Within all of his labels, Smith strives to craft sustainably farmed wines that “are full of flavor, balanced, and true to place of origin”.

Created in 2006, the Charles Smith Wines label was themed as “The Modernist Project”. Focusing on how people tend to drink wine today, which is immediately, the goal is to create approachable wines “to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard”. A fantastic concept; a Riesling that tastes like a Riesling from Washington State! Modern with a sassy edge, Charles Smith labels are renowned for their clean black and white artwork created by Charles Smith and artist Rikke Korffsure. Super eye catching and easily recognizable, the style has become synonymous with K Vintners and Charles Smith.

Philosophy: “It’s just wine, drink it.”

Winemaking: Both Riesling and Chardonnay grapes were sourced from the ‘Evergreen’ Vineyard. Planted in 1998, the vineyard stretches across steep cliffs above the Columbia River, within Washington’s newest AVA, Ancient Lakes. The soil is composed of fragmented volcanic rock, gravel, limestone and silt, and is known for producing “fruit with sublime mineral character and great acidity”. Kungfu Girl Riesling was aged on the lees for 2 months in barrels. Eve Chardonnay was fermented with partially native yeasts. Aged on the lees for 5 months in barrels [no new oak].

Charles Smith ‘Kungfu Girl’ Riesling Washington State 2015
Pale gold in colour with invigorating aromas of grass, apple, earth and petrol. Peach, green apple, pear and minerals are glazed with a touch of honey. Perfectly balanced, with an energizing play between acidity and subtle sweetness carrying thru to the clean, zippy finish. Super refreshing and easy drinking, the moderate alcohol contributes to what I would call “fantastically gluggable”.

Pairing Suggestion from the Winery: Thai or Chinese food, five spice pork or duck, fresh seafood.

100% Riesling
12% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

Charles Smith ‘Eve’ Chardonnay Washington State 2014
Gold in colour with aromas of lemon balm, orange blossom, anise and a trace of butter. Silky layers of lemon, apple, pear and a streak of minerality culminate in a delectable creamy finish. Sunny and cheerful, fantastic on its own or with a wide variety of dishes. [It was perfect with goat gouda grilled cheese with arugula.]

Pairing Suggestion from the Winery: Golden squash with sautéed Shrimp.

100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

 

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Trentino Winemaker’s Lunch at Del Posto: An Intimate Glance at Cooperation, Dedication, Stories and Superb Wines

I was honored to be invited by The Consortium of Trentino Wines to attend their winemaker’s lunch at DEL POSTO restaurant in October. The Trentino region produces about an equivalent amount of both red and white wines, using indigenous and international grapes. The focus of the lunch was to highlight the character driven sparkling and white wines, which have drawn significant acclaim. With its unique location and history of German influence, the area produces white wines that display easy drinking fruit and mineral flavours with a backbone of crisp acidity that are emblematic of the region.

The fundamental motif of wines presented was one of mutual cooperation amongst growers and winemakers. Cooperative wineries offer small family growers an opportunity to retain and work their ancestral lands, where otherwise there would be no economic opportunity to do so. The generally small plots of land these farmers own are on steep slopes of the Dolomites in the Alps, necessitating all vineyard processes to be done by hand. The cooperative provides the growers with the freedom to maintain their family cultivation traditions that have been passed along from generation to generation, along with the benefit of access to modern winery facilities and international marketing resources.

matteoandrea

Matteo Mattei and Andrea Pedrolli at Del Posto, NYC, October 28, 2014

I was seated with Matteo Mattei, General Director of Cantina D’Isera and Andrea Pedrolli of Cantina Roverè della Luna. It was such an amazing experience to enjoy phenomenal wines and a lovely lunch in a relaxed atmosphere with Matteo and Andrea. I had the opportunity to seek their insight on their processes, and feel that experience reciprocated by producers on their first trip to the United States, exuberant to share their passion with a new land.

The highlights of our wonderful conversation [my Italian is rather rusty] revolved around the protection of the environment and the preservation of the culture of the generations of families that live and work on the land. Farmers know that they are passing the land down to their future generations, and therefore vineyard cultivation is done without the use of chemicals [although not certified and not advertised].

The wine that Matteo presented was a sparkling wine made solely of Chardonnay grapes in the Champagne method. This is his family’s “Sunday wine”, it is meant to be enjoyed throughout the long family meals traditionally held on Sunday. It is light, airy and its purpose is to be a palate cleanser for all of the wonderful food served. Every house [family] in the area has their own version, Matteo’s grandfather passed the tradition down to him. “It’s a story, not a wine.”

The inner workings of the co-op were presented in great detail from Andrea. She relayed how involved the individual growers are in all stages of the wine making processes. In addition to typical interactions of living and farming in close proximity, they hold a yearly “sharing of ideas” meeting, which becomes a very vocally democratic process for determining changes (if any) to all aspects of wine-making operations. Additionally, I received a sneak peak into next year; she said the summer of 2014 was very rainy, “luckily this didn’t damage the quality of the grapes, the vintage is safe” but they will unfortunately have a reduced production.

Andrea, with her English skills, reflected the spirit of the cooperatives, she was there to promote her wines, yet also was instrumental in translating for her fellow winemakers. Just as important to her was promoting and disseminating knowledge of the Trentino region, in addition to her wines.

Cantina D’Isera 1907 Riserva Brut Trentodoc

bruttrentodoc
Winery: Cantina d’Isera was founded in 1907 under the name Cantina Sociale when the area was still under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire. Today there are over 200 members that cultivate 230 hectares of land. The cooperative operates under the principle that “A good wine is born in the vineyard”.

Philosophy: To “appreciate and love the wines created from the passion of man and the generosity of the hills of Isera”.

Tasting Notes: Pale straw in colour with a sparkling mineral aroma. Delicate apple and floral notes glided on an undercurrent of silky bubbles, whilst clean minerals comprised the elegant finish. Incredibly refined and easy drinking, this is a glass you keep reaching for.
100% Chardonnay
12.5% Alcohol
€8 [Average price in Italy, it does not have a US importer yet.]

La Vis Ritratti del Diaol Chardonnay 2012

ritratti
Winery: Cantina La Vis is located in the Avisiane Hills and dates back to 1850 when the Cembran family began producing wine. Officially established in 1948, today the cooperative has 800 members that cultivate more than 800 hectares of vineyards. The label is the work of Giovanni Segantini, a Trentino born artist known for his landscape paintings of the Alps along with rustic scenes of people such as peasant, farmers and shepherds, working the earth. Noted for the connections people have with nature, the cooperative chose his paintings as they resonate with their own ideals and people, the growers are passionate and proud of their interwoven relationship with the earth.

Winemaking: The grapes were sourced from a single estate vineyard located on a steep hill. It is the highest quality wine they make, with only 9000 bottles produced in this vintage. Unoaked, each vintage is known to age quite well.

Tasting Notes: Brilliant gold in colour with aromas of lemon along with hints of pineapple. The lengthy finish of slate minerals complimented rich lemon and buttered bread flavours. A wonderful display of rich plush flavours that maintain a delicate edge.
100% Chardonnay
13.5% Alcohol
$55 [average price]

Roverè della Luna Winchel ‘Quaranta Jugheri’ Gewürztraminer 2012

winchel
Winery: The cooperative of Roveré della Luna was founded in 1919 by 14 winemakers passionate about crafting excellent wines. It is located in the most northern village of Trentino at the base of an “immense calcareous landslide” in an area known for its oak trees. Today the cooperative consists of 300 members cultivating over 420 hectares of vineyards in the DOC’s of Trentino, Alto Adige and Valdadige.

Winemaking: A dynamic, holistic approach is given to winemaking. The “extremely modern” winery is based on the people and the passion they have for growing and producing wines, respect for the land, along with a dedication to research and innovation. This is their first vintage of Gewürztraminer, grapes were sourced from the Winchel vineyard, and only 1480 bottles were produced.

Tasting Notes: Deep gold in colour with radiating aromas of juicy peach, rose and traces of petrol. Fresh apple and peach flavours harmonized with spicy ginger and crushed white peppercorn, whilst clean minerals lingered refreshingly between each sip.
100% Gewürztraminer
13.5% Alcohol
No. 0028 of 1480

Fondazione Edmund Mach Castel San Michele Moscato Rosa delle Dolomiti IGT 2012

moscatorosa

A luscious pairing: Moscato Rosa with chocolate hazelnut mousse bar, spicy hazelnuts & citrus syrup

Winery: Fondazione Edmund Mach was founded by the Tyrolean Parliament in 1874 when they opened an agricultural school and research center in the former Augustinian monastery of San Michele in Trentino. They chose renowned Austrian Dr. Edmund Mach to run the center, with a goal of increasing agricultural production. Today the farm consists of 120 hectares of vineyards and apple trees, a distillery, and a wine cellar located in the 12th century Augustinian monastery. This blend of modernity and antiquity creates “an atmosphere suspended between history, where the art of winemaking has been practiced uninterruptedly for almost a thousand years”. In addition to the winery, the farm “promotes and carries out research, scientific experiments, education and training activities technical assistance and extensions services to companies”. The center strives to improve and advance “cultural and socio-economic growth in the agricultural sector”, using a model of sustainable agriculture and “low environmental impact”.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from 2 vineyards; Becchetti, which was planted in 1960, and Oberrauch, planted in 1988. Moscato Rosa is somewhat of a rarity, as there are very few vineyards planted with it, and yields tend to be low. It is not classified as late harvest or passito since the grapes “accumulate unusual concentrations of sugar, resulting in wines with high alcohol and natural residual sugar while retaining excellent levels of mouth-cleansing acidity”.

Tasting Notes: Brilliant red-violet in colour with radiant aromas of rose and red berries. Sweet raspberry and cherry flavours were complimented by candied roses and hints of spicy clove. A vivid acidity and wonderfully dry finish maintain a balance with the sweet notes, making this fantastic with desserts, especially chocolate.
100% Moscato Rosa
Vignetti delle Dolomiti IGT
12.5% Alcohol
$20 [average price]

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Wine flight From California to New York

photo
I’m a big fan of restaurants that offer wine flights. Even with a tiny wine list, wine flights provide the opportunity for tasting numerous combinations of wines. From all reds or whites, just one varietal, one country, light to full bodied, the varied options are all tantalizing. Additionally, if you think you will have 2 glasses of wine for the evening, flights can be a good value. A couple of evenings back my husband and I found ourselves at The Hollow in downtown Albany, where they have both wine and beer flights. I picked out a red and white each from New York and California to accompany seared polenta with grilled shitakes and a braised tempeh reuban on grilled naan.

From left to right:

Fetzer Crimson Winemaker’s Favorite Pinot Noir 2011 Estate: The Fetzer winery in California is 100% green, all of the energy used is from renewable energy sources. Grapes are grown without chemical or synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and the level of sulfites added to the wines is kept to a very low level. Their wines are made with the belief that “the more we refine our winemaking practices to be in harmony with the environment, the more we improve the quality of our wines – and everyday life”.

Tasting Notes: Fresh and fruity, with juicy cherry and hints of earth in the delicate finish.
100% Pinot Noir
California
$10 [average price]

St. Francis Chardonnay 2011

Estate: Founded in 1971, today the family owned estate consists of more than 400 acres of Certified Sustainable estate vineyards in both Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valley. They have received numerous accolades for their green practices; some of there are the usage of solar energy that in addition to the winery also powers 450 homes, water conservation, recycling initiative, and planting trees. Sustainably farmed

Tasting Notes: Like a lemon bar in a glass, buttery lemon and golden apple flavours merged into a creamy finish of toasted nuts and baked lemon.
97% Chardonnay, 3% Marsanne
Sonoma County
California
$11 [average price]

Duck Walk Vineyards Southampton White

Winery: Duck Walk Vineyards focuses on preserving the environment, believing that their environmentally conscience viticulture practices are “rewarded with exceptional grapes that we transform into our delicious wine”. They use geothermal, zero-emissions energy for heating and cooling, pumping well water from deep beneath the vineyards that then returns to the earth.

Tasting Notes: Citrus notes mixed with green, herbaceous elements, finishing clean and crisp with a bright acidity. Blend of Chardonnay and Cayuga
North Fork
New York
$10 [average price]

Pindar Vineyards Pythagoras Red NV

An award-winning blend that has been named “Best US Red Blend” by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago and “Best Red Vinifera” in Vineyard & Winery Management’s “Best of the East” competition. Sustainably farmed

Tasting Notes: Black current and blackberry elements wrapped around a delightful smoky core, whilst crushed black peppercorn and smooth black tea tannins comprised the velvety finish.
Winemaker’s Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec
North Fork
New York
$11 [average price]

For further reading on what a fun time wine flights are, see below:
http://frankstero.com/2014/09/11/evolution/

Bleecker California Chardonnay NV

bleecker

An unoaked Chardonnay that is light on its feet and refreshing, this is a phenomenal value to enjoy on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

Winemaking: Bleecker Chardonnay has an interesting, two part story behind it. Crafted by Wyatt Winery, the concept came about accidentally when two different tanks of Chardonnay from different vintages were blended together. Wyatt Winery is a Polaner Selections [Wine importers with an engaging motto of “Open your mind and taste”] label that was created with the goal of producing high quality wines at affordable prices. They work closely with multiple growers and winemakers in California and craft wines “using declassified wine that often sells at a much higher price under other labels”.
[As wines made with blended vintages are not entitled to a vintage status, this wine is declassified to non-vintage status.]

Philosophy: “Great value and lots of character for the money”.

Tasting Notes: Lemon yellow in colour with aromas of pear, apple and melon. Bright flavours of pear and apple were rounded out by the slightest buttery nuances in the medium body, whilst citrus zest comprised the zippy finish.

100% Chardonnay
California
Cellared and Bottled by Polaner Selections
13.5% Alcohol
$7
Enjoy now

Complexity New Zealand Chardonnay Tasting

New Zealand is famous for its award winning Sauvignon Blanc; those from Marlborough have even been heralded as “the finest expression of the variety”. However, with such a diverse climate, and a commitment to organic and sustainable practices, other varietals are beginning to share the spotlight with Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are just as dazzling as Sauvignon Blanc, and are now receiving well-deserved accolades. Michael Franx of the Washington Post describes New Zealand Chardonnay “In terms of structure and acidity, they recall the great chardonnays of Burgundy. In their totality they are like nothing else from anyplace.”

Elegant and fruit-driven, New Zealand Chardonnay in general tends to express concentrated citrus and tropical fruits, crisp acidity, and balanced, round oak notes. The varied climate and soils of each region contributes additional personality to the grape; Marlborough Chardonnay exhibits zesty citrus and peach flavours with a bright acidity, whilst those from Auckland express minerals, stone fruit, floral notes and can have a lower alcohol content.

I had the fantastic opportunity to enjoy three stunning, character driven Chardonnays that were vastly different from each other at a wonderful evening with Complexity New Zealand at Aureole, NYC. They have compiled an extensive portfolio of “hero wines and winemakers” in order to showcase the amazing wines coming out of New Zealand.

kumeau

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009

Estate: Before founding Kumeu River in 1944, Mick and Katé Brajkovich tended their own vineyards and produced wine in their native Croatia. Today the estate is headed by 3rd generation winemaker Michael Brajkovich along with Managing Director Melba Brajkovich. Their winemaking philosophy is to simply and purely “grow grapes of the highest standard and then treat them with respect when they turn them into wine”. Yields are kept low, and only indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation.

Tasting Notes: A wonderfully unique Chardonnay, opening with aromas of minerals, wildflowers and hints of funk. Smooth and well-balanced layers of creamy lemon and steely minerals culminate in a dry, crisp herbaceous finish.

100% Chardonnay
Auckland
$26

seresin

Seresin Reserve Chardonnay 2009

Estate: renowned cinematographer Michael Seresin founded Seresin in 1992. Consisting of 45 hectares, the estate is located in the central pocket of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. Passionate about organic farming and a long time vegetarian, Seresin is committed to the fact that quality wines “begin with healthy plants that are able to fully express the soil and environment in which they grow”. Believing that “the use of organic and biodynamic techniques and philosophies enables plants to achieve this healthy, balanced state in nature”, the entire estate, including olive groves, fruit trees, vegetable gardens and native vegetation are both organically and biodynamically farmed. Winemaking is done traditionally, and fermented using only wild yeasts. The handprint on their labels symbolizes “the individual and of creative endeavour; it represents our philosophy to work traditionally with natural elements and elicit a true Marlborough character in our wines”.

Tasting Notes: Focused and expressive, with fresh, toasted bread and snappy lemon flavours, finishing with traces of velvety, smoked nuts.

100% Chardonnay
Marlborough
$28

villamarie

Villa Maria Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay 2011

Estate: Founded in 1961 when George Fistonich leased 5 acres in Marlborough from his father, today the family estate has more than 250 employees, exports wine to over 50 countries and is New Zealand’s most awarded winery. Practicing sustainable farming and possessing a long term view of both the environment and the wine business, Villa Maria believes that “sustainability is not an end point but a journey and therefore we are always finding ways to embed sustainable principles into the culture of the organization”.

Tasting Notes: Intriguing aromas of smoke and citrus introduce luxurious layers of creamy lemon, smoky minerals and hints of honey, with a fantastically crisp citrus zest finish.

100% Chardonnay
Marlborough
$38

Media event sponsored by Complexity New Zealand