Williamson Orchard & Vineyards 2012 Sangiovese

We were given a case of wines from the Idaho Wine Commission as part of their efforts to let people know that there is not only wine in Idaho, but some very tasty wine, at that. We’ve gotta be honest – not everything in the case was stellar, but this one was pretty darned good.

The thing with the 2012 Snake River Valley Sangiovese from Williamson Orchards & Vineyards is that it is a food wine with a hey nonny. It’s okay as a sipper, but if you want it to shine, you’ll drink with your favorite pizza or spaghetti bolognese. It is almost a prototype sangiovese and that’s a good thing.

Michael noted its dark garnet color. He thought the nose was pretty oaky but caught some strawberry notes. The body was decent with good acidity and lots of red fruit flavors, including cherry, cranberry, and raspberry.

But again, it needs food, otherwise, it can be a bit in your face. Like most sangiovese.

Idaho Tasting – Crossings Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc

We received a mixed case of wines from the Idaho Wine Commission for free in the hopes that we’d really like them. Well, we liked most of them. 

We have to be honest, the Crossings Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc did not wow us. It’s not a bad wine. In fact, it’s a perfectly serviceable cab franc. It’s just not a great wine.

Michael got graphite and pink fruit on the nose and tasted red fruit, such as cherry, a little dill or spice, and some marzipan. There was good acid and a nice finish.

Let’s be real – you don’t need a transcendent experience every time you open a bottle. And some days, a perfectly serviceable cab franc is what you want. Whether you’d want to pay $18.50 (the going rate for the 2014 cab franc on the website) for perfectly serviceable is up to you and what your budget can handle.

Martin Fujishin and Teresa Moye, Partners in Wine

A few months ago, the Idaho Wine Commission sent us a mixed case from several different wineries in Idaho. We’ll be reviewing the wines (which they may regret) and featuring some of the winemakers.

Harvest may not be the best time to convince your online girlfriend to come out and live with you. But Martin Fujishin managed to do it.

“She seems to think I was on my best behavior that harvest,” Fujishin said about Teresa Moye, who does marketing, design and information technology for Fujishin Family Cellars based in Caldwell, Idaho.

“It’s mostly manageable,” Moye said.

Teresa Moye

 

The two have been together since 2008. Fujishin is producing about 2,000 cases a year of mostly Rhone-style wines.

“We’ve always been kind of a Rhone-style, but we’ve branched out,” he said.

What we tasted was the winery’s 2015 Viognier.

“Viognier is what every white wine wishes it could be,” Fujishin joked.

He noted that his viognier doesn’t have as heavy a floral character as other more traditional ones.

“I think we were going over the top with it in earlier vintages,” Fujishin said.

Indeed, Michael wrote in his notes that the wine had a light golden color, and that the nose was a bit closed. The texture was very light and the flavors were white flowers and a bit of honeydew melon. And it had a nice level of acidity and a long finish.

 

Hat Ranch Winery 2105 Dry Moscato

As has been mentioned, we received a whole case of different wines from the Idaho wine region and we have been slowly making our way through them. While there have been some very good wines and at least one really good one, we can’t say we’ve been impressed by all of them.

Case in point – the 2015 Hat Ranch Winery Dry Moscato. Moscato is actually just another word for muscat, a grape with such a strong, fruity flavor that even the least bit in a blend makes the whole wine taste like muscat. It’s usually a sweet wine (another black mark as far as Anne is concerned).

The Hat Ranch wine was not bad. It just tasted a little tart to Anne. Michael, on the other hand, noticed that the color was very light, to almost water color. The nose was also light – none of that heavy muscat smell. the mouthfeel was full and it wasn’t too cloying. There was some acidity (the tartness that Anne tasted) and a long finish.

In short, there really wasn’t that much to it except the above.

Coco Umiker and Clearwater Canyon Syrah

Coco Umiker

[As noted in an earlier post, we received a case of wine from the Idaho Wine Commission, and have been slowly, but surely, tasting our way through it. We haven’t liked everything, although they’re hoping they’ll get a few good reviews out of the venture.]

Coco Umiker, winemaker at Clearwater Canyon Cellars in western Idaho, works with her husband Karl.

“He’s the grape grower and I’m the assistant grape grower,” she said. “I’m the winemaker and he’s the assistant winemaker. We’re partners in crime in everything here, but one of us has to have the final say.”

Umiker said that one of her primary goals is to let people know about Idaho wine.

“That’s probably our first challenge,” she said. “To educate people.”

Her winery, in the Lewis Clark Valley AVA, is only 30 miles from one of Washington State’s prime wine growing areas and has a climate that’s very good for grapes, with mild winters, plenty of water, and long, dry summers.

“When you look at it, we have all the important things that it takes to grow great grapes,” Umiker said. “We’re empowered with that and we also have this amazing history.”

According to Umiker, 150 years ago, there was quite a bit of wine grape growing in the valley, thanks to the immigrants who settled there and brought their wine growing traditions with them. Unfortunately, in the early 20th Century, Prohibition came along and killed the industry there.

Because this is not as well-known a wine country, Umiker said that it can be both liberating and restricting at the same time.

“It allows us to jump out there and try some things,” she said, such as adding syrah to a red blend. “At the same time, to be taken seriously, you have to do some traditional things.”

We tried their 2014 Estate Syrah, which was really nice. Michael noted the deep red color, with fruit and oak on the nose, and tannins that were nice and smooth. We drank it with our favorite black olive and sausage pizza. The only problem we had with the wine was that it was really tight when we first opened it. Michael thought it was a bit young and would have cellared it for a year or two.

But that is exactly why Umiker said she chooses to release her wines when they’re still a little young. She pointed out that there are some people who prefer a brighter, younger wine. Others prefer a smoother, more aged wine, and are perfectly happy to hold onto a bottle for a year or more.

“If you release it sooner, then people can make that decision for themselves,” she said.

Idaho Wine? Really?

From the Idaho Wine Commsission

[Please note that we received the below wines in exchange for honest reviews – something the sender may eventually regret… ;-)]

With the spring and summer travel season coming up, wouldn’t Idaho be fun? It’s well known as a great destination for fishing, camping, hiking and…wine. Yeah, wine.

The Idaho Wine Commission recently offered us a mixed case of Idaho’s wines mainly from the Snake River AVA. That’s actually on the border near Washington State, and the area has a similar desert climate to Washington’s.

Since we don’t have plans involving Idaho this year, we accepted the case and we’ll be tasting through the various wines and bringing you our short tasting notes and, hopefully, some winemaker stories.

Truth be told, it’s taking us a while to get through the case. That’s twelve bottles and to taste them thoughtfully with appropriate food doesn’t happen overnight. Also, truth be told, while the wines are mostly pretty darned good, we haven’t been that impressed with everything we’ve tasted so far.

But in terms of the early results, we’re discovering that Idaho isn’t just about the potatoes. There’s some darned good wine there, too.

Amy Butler Talks about Carignan

This is another new venture for us at OddBallGrape.com – video!

We went to the 2014 Garagiste Festival in Pasa Robles and caught up with some amazing women in wine, not least of all was Amy Butler. We first ran across her at an Hospice du Rhone, back when she was working at Edward Sellars. Now, she’s the consulting winemaker at LXV (a post that will be coming soon) and has her own label, Ranchero Cellars.

Amy’s big thing is the carignan grape (also spelled carignane). We’ll let you look at the video to tell you why. We’ve tasted the wine and it was awesome!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day and Thanksgiving Wine Pairing

Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day - it's a great Thanksgiving wine pairing
Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day – it’s a great Thanksgiving wine pairing

It’s the third Thursday of November and that means it’s time for the Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 release. No, the timing has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, although the wine is great paired with Thanksgiving dinner.

Beaujolai Nouveau literally means New Beaujolais. It’s basically wine from Beaujolais, France, that was still grapes back in September. It hasn’t aged. It hasn’t done anything, really, except ferment, making it light and fruity and all the things wine snobs love looking down their long, bony noses at.

Okay, let’s be real. It’s also about the marketing. It started with a guy named Georges DuBoeuf. He is a négociant, or basically, a merchant who collects lots of wine from various producers and blends it together under his own label and sells it. In the mid-1960s, he started his business and became quite the advocate for the wines of Beaujolais.

Winemakers had been making the new wine for years, but it was only for fun and local consumption. The DuBoeuf came along and turned the release into a media event. Local winemakers loved it because selling wine this way was very good for cash flow. It also got a lot of attention for the more serious wine made in the region called Beaujolais Villages, which you do not want to drink new.

The nouveau is made from the gamay grape and is made to drink young. In fact, if you have any hanging around from last year, dump it. Seriously. It’s not even good for sangria at this point.

But it is great for Thanksgiving dinner. Because it is light and fruity, it’s not going to get all tart and nasty with many of the sweeter elements of the meal. It’s perfect for those members of your family who are either new to wine, such as your niece who just graduated from college, or think they don’t like red wine, like the aged aunt who’s been drinking sweet wines all her life, if that.

And we get that some years Beaujolais Nouveau can be a little rocky. The winemakers don’t have time to compensate for less than ideal growing conditions, so the wine will often reflect that – another reason why the snobs sniff at it.

But this year was particularly good in Beaujolais, at least according to DuBoeuf’s publicists. And since they were nice enough to send us a sample for review, we got a chance to taste it the other night and…. It’s a good one!

Michael smelled raspberry on the nose, but even Anne got a lot of fruit in the flavor. Michael also noted that the body of the wine was rather thin (duh, it’s new) and got lots of carbonic acidity – which means it’s just a tiny bit fizzy. What tannins there were (i.e. that dry feeling you get), were pretty tight, which means it’s going to be great with food. In fact, we tasted it with some cheese and ham and it did very well with both.

It’s also reasonably price, usually between $10 and $12 a bottle. If you can get the DuBoeuf, go for it. But his is not the only label out there, and the wine is still worth giving a shot, either for drinking on its own or with your own Thanksgiving dinner.

WBC 14 Speed Tasting: Ooo, Do We Go With the Bad Boy or The Sensitive One?

Actually, this was from  last year's Wine Bloggers Conference speed tasting event, but it looks the same.
Actually, this was from last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference speed tasting event, but it looks the same.

Speed Dating – we mean Tasting continued. When we left you last week, we had just finished some highlights of a round of white wines – all insanely yummy – while attending last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton, California.

Today, the Reds. Like speed dating, you’ve got a bunch of folks coming table to table to give you about five minutes to decide if you want a relationship with their wine. Unlike speed dating, in which the objective is to weed out, speed tasting is all about getting as many different wines into your personal portfolio as possible. We got way too many to write about here, but the highlights included:

The Sensitive Evolved One, the 2012 Ferrari-Carano Siena, a red blend with a deep ruby color and a hint of sweetness, making it a great sipper and even better with food.

Cheryl McMillan, who was representing Ferrari-Carano, said that the wine is a blend of sangiovese and malbec, with some petite syrah and cabernet sauvignon. We noted the screw cap and asked about aging (because wine under screw caps supposedly doesn’t age as well), and McMillan said that really wasn’t an issue with this wine.

“It’s made to drink now,” she said. “It’s not going to lay down for very long.”

In other words, a little flirtation, maybe a short fling, but not an extended commitment. Okay. Oh, and another plus – Ferrrari-Carano’s executive winemaker is Sarah Quider, and the gal who actually made it is associate winemaker Rebecka Deike, who does the red wines for the winery.

Next up, consider the attraction of a Bad Boy, one who is all wrong, but so very right in the moment. Now, meet Alexander Valley Vineyards 2012 Sin Zin. And the fact that it’s zinfandel is what makes it so very wrong, at least in Anne’s opinion. Anne doesn’t really like zins, but she liked this one. The Wetzel Family, who own the vineyard and the winery, have been bottling this zinfandel for over 35 years. Michael really liked it as a more subtle zinfandel (making it all the more dangerous), with an excellent balance between fruit and acidity, and a good long finish.

Katie Wetzel, who did the honors of pouring for us, said that the goal is not to make a zinfandel with the heavy jammy notes, but to also keep the fruit character of the wine.

“This zin tends to be in the middle,” she told us.

And where there’s a bad boy, you know there’s going to be a Smooth Talker, and in this case, it’s the Adelaida Touriga Nacional 2010. If any of the wines we tasted were smooth, this one was it, with a nice dark color and an earthy profile. Good luck finding it on the Adelaida website, though. Anne searched and searched and could only find some technical notes buried under the Trade & Media tab. Think this one was trying to slip something past us?

Finally, there’s the one you’ll actually want to make a commitment to, and we are OddBallGrape for a reason – we love those unusual grapes, and the Urban Legend 2010 Teraldego definitely needs a commitment. Why? It won’t be ready to drink for a few years yet. But, oh, the potential!

It’s made by Merilee and Steve Shaffer, a husband and wife team of winemakers.

“I’m the goddess of fermentation, he’s the god of the barrels,” Merilee explained as she poured our wine. Winemaking is not the first business venture these two have had. “We’re serial entrepreneurs. It’s a little like being serial murderers.”

The wine had an inky dark color, a good fruit nose, dense texture, and strong tannins. Yes, give it a few years, then serve with a good steak dinner. Or something beefy and garlicky. This is going to be a very special wine.

And now, back to recovering. Actually, we’re hoping to catch up with several of the above folks in the future to ask them about wines, grapes and winemaking.

Speed Tasting at the Wine Bloggers Conference – Oh, You Little Flirt!

Getting ready for speed dating, um, speed tasting/live blogging at WBC14
Getting ready for speed dating, um, speed tasting/live blogging at WBC14

You’re in a hotel ballroom, the noise level is rising like the tides, and just when you get to like one, the next one shows up. Is this any way to build a relationship?

Well, the nice folks at the Wine Bloggers Conference thought if speed dating works for singles, it could work for wine. And, really, it did, but it was a challenge.

Oh, wait. What’s the Wine Bloggers Conference? It’s exactly what it sounds like – a conference or convention for people who blog about wine. And if you’ve ever Googled “wine blog,” you know that there are about 50-bajillion of us out there writing about our love of wine, and wine, and what we eat while drinking wine, and more wine. So mid-July, about 350 of us got together at the Marriott in Buellton, California, to talk about writing about wine and, uh, to taste wine. Which we did. A lot of it. Buellton, by the way, is smack in the heart of the Santa Barbara County wine region, kind of between the Santa Ynez Valley and the Santa Rita Hills.

So imagine a couple hundred people in a hotel ballroom, the chatter (and noise) increasing by the glassful, while each winemaker and his or her representative had five minutes to serve six to 10 people and tell us about the wine. We did two sessions over the two days of the conference, one for whites and one for reds. Fortunately, this wasn’t about weeding out because all of the wines were fabulous. But we now have a chance to use all those pretentious descriptors, like flirty, that don’t really mean anything as we bring you some of the highlights.

In fact, we’ll begin with The Flirt, herself – the Yorkville Cellars 2011 Cuvée Brut. A real bubbly personality. Literally, it’s a bubbly, and it was poured by Yorkville’s owners Deborah and Edward Wallo and their son Ben. Michael noted that it had a nice light toast color with good bubbles, bright acidity and a clean finish. It’s made from semillion and sauvignon blanc grapes, which are not your usual bubbly grapes.

“We like to play around with different varieties,” Deborah told us. Or was it Ben?

Then we got to the Cheap Date – Bandit Pinot Grigio, which comes in a one-liter box for $8. Yes, the box is recyclable. Michael noted that it had a neutral nose and tropical fruit taste with some sweetness, possibly making it good with spicy food.

But the white that we were most likely to make a commitment to was the Consilience 2012 Santa Barbara Viognier.

“If they try it,” said Consilience’s PR person Dan Fredman, about when people will buy an unusual wine like viognier. “Once they taste it, then they become evangelical about it.”

Well, we’re evangelical about this one – Michael noted that it had the traditional floral nose, with golden color and a light, clean fruit flavor. Good as a sipper and great as a food wine. Yum.

Next up – The Reds