Huston Vineyards 2014 Malbec

We received a selection of wines from the Idaho Wine Commission and have been slowly writing up the tasting notes. We saved the best for last.

There was, apparently, a mix-up and we got two bottles of the Huston Vineyards 2014 Malbec. Oh, darn. Not. This was really a lovely, rich wine, perfect for a nice meaty meal.

Michael noted the deep ruby, almost black color, and got black fruit (like blackberries) and earth on the nose. It’s a spicy wine, in that there are hints of different spices and some peppercorn, alongside the blueberry flavor. Better yet, the oak is there, but subtle and gentle. It’s a very smooth wine with decent acidity and a decent finish.

We drank one bottle with a steak dinner and the other with our favorite cheese, dried sausage, and olives combo. It paired beautifully with both and was just as nice by itself.

Like most surveys of a region, you’re not going to like everything. It’s how it goes. But overall, we have to say there are some nice wines coming out of Idaho. So, if you see one on a shelf near you, give it a try. It will almost certainly be drinkable. It might even be a gem.

Idaho Tasting – Cinder Wines 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

The Idaho Wine Commission sent us a mixed case of the group’s wines, and we’ve been tasting them and featuring some of the winemakers.

Getting wine samples can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a little dicey. So there was some significant relief when we tasted the Cinder Wines 2014 Small Lot Series Sauvignon Blanc. We love sauv blanc and this was one worth drinking regularly.

Michael noted that the color was clear and pale yellow. The nose was lightly scented, but without some of the funkier notes that sauv blanc can get (often called boxwood, gooseberry or cat pee, never mind that no sauv blanc we’ve had has ever smelled anything close to cat pee).

The flavor was dry and crisp, just the way we like it. Michael got some flavors of lemon and pear and noted that it was juicy with clean fruit.

Not only is this a nice sipping wine on a warm evening, it’s a great food wine. We drank ours with a vegetable risotto and it was perfect.

P.S. Happy Beaujolais Nouveau release day. We normally do a post on this fun little new wine at this time of year, but this post got bumped for the Marisa Taylor GoFundMe.com repeat back in September. We still love the Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving – the lighter new wine works well with just about everything on your Thanksgiving table. But we also like merlot and sauvignon blanc, too.

Idaho’s Koenig Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling

The Idaho Wine Commission sent us a mixed case of the group’s wines to get the word out that there’s some tasty wine in Idaho. And given what we’ve been tasting, there are. Including this one.

Michael was really looking forward to this one. He loves dessert wines and the Koenig Vineyards Botrytis Single Berry Late Harvest Riesling was everything he likes.

Botrytis is actually a fungus and usually means your grapes (or other fruit) have gone rotten. But the form known as noble rot actually adds to sweet wines, such as Sauternes and this late harvest riesling.

Another thing that makes this wine interesting is that riesling is often made as a sweet wine, but not necessarily a dessert wine. German rieslings are usually off-dry and great with spicy foods. But they aren’t as thick and heavy as a dessert wine, which this one most definitely is.

Michael got strawberry and melon on the nose, and thought it was nicely balanced, without any “heat” from too much alcohol. It also had a rich mouthfeel and wasn’t cloying.

 

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!