July 8th, 2011
July 4th weekend and Thanksgiving are the two times in the year when I insist on serving only American wines. Every year the array to choose from grows, and can become mind-bogglingly confusing, especially if you want to stray from your habitual wines and venture into something different. Read on for some delicious suggestions to get your July 4th party going.
American Wine, 2011
Did you know that the United States is now the largest wine consuming country in the world? Amazing progress thanks to consistent positive growth over the past twenty years. We surpassed France in 2010, which was quite significant, as it held the title for many years. However, when you look at per capita wine consumption the U.S. is still quite low, at 2.6 gallons per capita. So a bit of a way to go on that front!
When it comes to wine production, the United States is the fourth largest producer in the world, behind France, Italy and Spain. California accounts for the lion’s share of U.S. wine production (a whopping 90%), followed by Washington State, New York State and Oregon. However, wine is produced in every single U.S. state. As wine consumption and production continues to expand, and interstate wine shipping laws continue to liberalize, it has become easier to buy wines form the less well-know wine-producing states such as Virginia, Idaho, Texas, Maryland and North Carolina.
American wine region AVAs
Within each wine-producing state, official wine-regions are known as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). These are geographical designations and unlike most European appellations do not impose restrictions on which grape varieties to grow, or on viticultural or winemaking practices. The geographical boundaries for each AVA are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).....
• 2009 Dashe Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, Sonoma – Inviting spicy, ripe red fruit aromas with nuances of vanilla, butterscotch and a savory wild earthiness. Warm, soft, ripe flavors prevail across the palate. Black cherry liqueur, sweet plum compote, clove, bramble fruit and a delicious spicy earthiness. Tannins are smooth and round. Quite a long, juicy, spicy finish. A wine made for barbecue...
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July 8th, 2011
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 3:36:38 PM
by Joe Czerwinski
Durng summer’s hottest months, it’s tempting to stick to whites and rosés. Even the most insipid examples can be chilled to within a few degrees of freezing and provide simple icy refreshment.
But many reds are fated to be left slumbering in the cellar, waiting for cool temperatures to return, and rightfully so. The mere idea of trying to keep a bottle of 1982 Grand-Puy-Lacoste from getting too warm at a picnic or from having its sediment stirred up while bringing it to the beach is daunting. The thought of a big, beefy, alcoholic red at the end of a long day becomes unappealing when the mercury is over 80°F or so and the humidity is hanging thick in the air.
Still, there’s no need to let the hot, humid weather completely dampen your enthusiasm for red wines. For inveterate–or even just occasional–red-wine drinkers, here are a few suggestions that will allow you to scratch that itch while keeping your cool....
Noticed an Old World bent to these selections? That’s because so many New World red wines emphasize ripeness and weight, making them less successful as summertime quaffs. Here are two California selections that buck the trend: Edmunds St John’s Bone-Jolly Gamay from El Dorado and Dashe Cellars‘ Les Enfants Terrible Zinfandel (from Potter Valley in Mendocino). Or try some of the reds coming from such cool-climate states as Michigan or New York.
Although not an exhaustive list, hopefully these suggestions will give red-wine devotees hope as the temperatures climb. Please share your favorites via the comments section.
Alternatively–as I’ll admit to sometimes doing–damn the greenhouse gases, crank up the air conditioning and open a hearty winter-weight red with that brontosaurus-sized rib eye...
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July 8th, 2011
hosted by Leslie Sbrocco
..2008 Dashe Zinfandel "Florence Vineyard" Dry Creek Valley, CA
Falling into the elegant camp when it comes to Zins (moderate alcohol and vibrant fruit notes), this classically-styled Zin showcases aromas of wild berries and a kick of peppery spice. Try it alongside barbecue ribs or pork loin drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
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June 22nd, 2011
Adjusting the volume
Paul Gregutt – Wine Editor
Loud, pulsing, occasionally histrionic musical compositions or vocal stylings are quite popular. And why not? The sheer volume is impressive, the cascading notes suggest a certain caliber of professionalism, and the listener can’t help but think “this is really loud so it must be really good.”
The same is true of wines. Substitute alcohol for volume, and you have the same basic phenomenon. And yet for many wine lovers, and music lovers, a quieter, more subtle and refined style is preferable.
Wines that sport alcohol levels of 15% or more can certainly be delicious, and even balanced. But they can also blow out the details, and rarely offer finesse. Singers who can trill their way through a blizzard of notes and octaves may also miss the opportunity to impress with subtle phrasing or nuanced emotion.
One of my favorite wines in days gone by was zinfandel. For a time in the late 1990s, I was assigned an annual zinfandel review by a publication for whom I wrote. The zin-a-thon, as I named it, would bring up to 300 different zins to my door for tastings that would take place over the course of 8 – 10 days. I would generally arrange them by appellation, and not only did I find many outstanding individual bottles, I also learned how the terroir of specific AVAs impacted the zins.
Sadly, in subsequent years, alcohol levels on most zins rose so dramatically that any possibility of finding such details vanished. As the wines climbed ever higher – 15%, then 16%, then 17% – for dry wines! – they became, at least for me, completely undrinkable. I switched to other grapes, from other places, in search of the pleasures that zin no longer seemed capable of delivering.
So it was with a sense of absolute glee that I found a newly-released bottle, from a talented producer, that carried me back to the good old days. The 2008 Dashe Cellars Florence Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($32) is an absolute gem. Winemaker Michael Dashe notes that the Florence vineyard was planted with cuttings of an unusual clone (St. Peters Church clone – a new one on me) “renowned for its intensity, complexity, and beautiful floral aromas of lavender and violets. The wine has great flavors of blackberry, black cherry and chocolate, and a wonderfully rich and viscous mouthfeel.”
All true. And more. Listed at 14.8 % alcohol, it was a lovely accompaniment to a simple meal of roast chicken and a salad of goat cheese, walnuts and greens fresh from our spring garden. A final note from the winemaker – though previous vintages of this wine used just 18% new oak, in 2008 it was further reduced to 10%. This lowering of the volume also allowed the fruit and floral aromas to burst through. Bravo!
June 10th, 2011
Draper puts unique touch on Ridge wines
By: Pamela S. Busch 06/02/11 8:30 PM
Special to The Examiner
If there is one wine grape that identifies California, it’s zinfandel, and nothing says legendary zin like the name Ridge.
Ridge Vineyards’ story goes back to 1885 when Dr. Osea Perrone, an Italian immigrant, bought land atop the Montebello Ridge in Cupertino. Along with fellow emigres, he cut into the limestone slope and finished building what became the Montebello Winery in 1892. Prohibition put the kibosh on its production, and the winery closed its doors by 1938.
Eleven years later, a neighbor, William Short, planted cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay near the old winery. Fast-forward to 1959, when three scientists from the Stanford University Research Institute heard about the new plantings and purchased some of Short’s fruit. By 1962, they were selling a wine commercially. And in 1966, the trio purchased what was Perrone’s facility. At last, Ridge Vineyards was born.
Throughout the ’60s, Ridge was very much a labor of love with friends and family working around their day jobs to keep the wine flowing. Finally, in 1969, the first employee was hired, a young winemaker named Paul Draper. Though Ridge started out as a cabernet house, Draper turned one eye toward zinfandel. His efforts helped shape its impeccable reputation for both grapes.
The winery was sold in 1986 to Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., but Draper has remained the face of Ridge, going on to become a legend in his own right. He was named CEO in 1988.
One of his disciples, Eric Baugher, who started out as an in-house lab tech in 1994, says, “Working with Paul is so amazing. He’s such a great guy.”
After 17 years, that says something.
Baugher is now the vice president of winemaking at Montebello. He modestly credits the vineyards and Ridge’s dedication to minimal intervention, along with the model set by Draper, for the consistency and quality of the wines. With nearly 20 selections in its lineup, of which about two-thirds are made at the Montebello facility, this is no small feat.
Ridge’s flagships wines are the two known simply as Montebello and Geyserville.
Composed of just under 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, with merlot, petite verdot and cabernet franc making up the rest of the blend, Montebello is one of California’s most acclaimed vineyards. The wine that bears its name was one of the top-rated California wines at the famed Judgment of Paris in 1976, and it can age for decades.
Like all of Ridge’s wines, Montebello is aged in American oak barrels. When the wines are young, the oak can be pronounced, but after a few years it starts to integrate and rarely dominates the fruit.
Geyserville made its debut in 1966. While zin makes up the majority of the blend, it does not always account for 75 percent, the minimum required by law for labeling a bottle by grape name. Hence, it’s just known as Geyserville. Call it what you want, but it is one of the most age-complex and -worthy zin blends made, thanks to its high acidity.
There is no question that other producers have made great zin and Bordeaux blends in California, but few have excelled at both. Ridge’s wide-ranging influence has inspired folks such as Al Brounstein of Diamond Creek as far back as the 1960s and, more recently, Michael Dashe of Dashe Cellars.
For these and other accomplishments, there is no doubt Ridge will go down as one of the most important wineries in history.
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit your questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.
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