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  • #GoGoldenBordeaux with Sweet Bordeaux

    Posted: 2018-11-20 06:31
    Raise your hand if like me, you thought Sweet Bordeaux would refer to just the wonderful wines of Sauternes? I learned preparing for the Snooth facilitated #GoGoldenBordeaux tasting that Sauternes is one of ten appellations producing these dessert wines. Bordeaux is the only French region which allows for the development of Botrytis Cinerea - aka noble rot. And this derives from the region’s oceanic climate which alternates between humidity and heat. When the Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, or Muscadelle grapes hang on the vine a little past their harvest peak then noble rot ensues. This grape concentration produces a golden colored wine with intense aromas and flavors.

    Its sweet wines come from the towns of Sauternes, Barsac, Preignac, Fargues and Bommes, located on the left bank of the Garonne, about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified according to tradition, in small volumes, for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

    Bordeaux Supérieur
    Its sweet wines come from vineyards all over Gironde, capable of producing quality sweet white wines. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified over 6 to 18 months, in vats or barrels depending on the crus. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. The vinification is followed by great attention because producing a sweet wine is a precision job. But the charm of Loupiac is also the multiplicity of producers who make wines with very different personalities and all very endearing.

    Their acidity and freshness. Their citrus aromas and liquorice notes which bring character. Their accessibility and delicate balance with the sugar.

    Its sweet wines come from the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally for 12 to 18 months.

    Its sweet wines come from vineyards of 10 towns in the Saint-Macaire canton, which extends on the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne, south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are produced after handpicking and harvested by successive selections, followed by a traditional vinification, aged for 10 and 18 months.

    Its sweet wines come from the town of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont and its hilly terroir, the only one which can claim the wines from this appellation. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally and in small volumes. They are aged for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

    Premières Côtes
    Its sweet wines come from vineyards of 39 towns that lie on the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne, south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are produced at the end of harvests and of a traditional winemaking, aged for 10 and 18 months.

    Its sweet wines come from three cities, Cérons, Illats and Podensac, located about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon. They are vinified in accordance with traditional methods and in small volumes. They benefit from 12 to 18 months vinification, in vats or barrels depending on the crus.

    Its liquourous wines come from Barsac town, on the left bank of the Garonne, about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified according to tradition, in small volumes, for 12 to 18 months, in vats or barrels depending on the crus.

    Graves Supérieures
    Its sweet wines come from the Graves vineyards on the left bank of the Garonne. Its grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. They are vinified traditionally and in small volumes. They are aged for 12 to 18 months in vats or barrels, depending on the crus.

    The Wines

    Chateau Manos Cadillac 2016
    This tropic and honey-citrus wine is practically all Semillon harvested from a clay-limestone slope in the commune of Haux. The Château has belonged to the same family for four generations and produces one delicious wine.

    Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet 2016
    This is the lightest and freshest wine of the group comprised of 90% Sémillion and 10% Sauvignon. Like others, the grapes were harvested from vines growing in clay and limestone soils. This is the wine that started the brainstorming for cocktails.

    Château la Rame Sainte Croix du Mont 2015
    My favorite -- savory with stone fruits of peaches and apricots, honey, and racy minerality. The 100% Sémillon grapes grew on the typical clay-limestone soil but with a fossilized oyster subsoil. This explains the minerality.

    Chateau du Cros Loupiac 2014
    The is a very citrus and candied blend of 90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon, 5% Muscadelle grapes harvested from the right bank slopes of the Garonne River on chalky clay topsoil and limestone subsoil. Some of these vines date back to 1907.

    Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac 2011
    The chateau is in its eighth generation of family ownership and this blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with multiple layers of raisons, honey, apricots, and butterscotch. Seven years has not dented it's quality.

    Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes 2016
    This is an extremely rich and tart wine with a hint of spice. It is 100% Sémillon that was aged 12 months in stainless steel tanks. Excellent.

    Chateau Filhot Sauternes 2015
    Chateau Filhot Sauternes dates back to the 1600s and was compared to Chateau d’Yquem by then ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson. The grapes were grown south of the village of Sauternes on south-west hillsides with the blend established at 60% Sémillon, 36% Sauvignon, & 4% Muscadelle. There is more of an orange cream cycle feel to this wine that was aged 22 months including 12 months in oak barrels.

    Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes 2006
    This wine shows the aging potential of this styled wine. It offers layers of dried apricots and honey, abundant acidity, and salty minerals. There's abundant history with the property as well as Count Blaise de Suduiraut replanted the vineyard and restored the estate after it was destroyed in the 1600s. The 99% Sémillon grew on sandy clay soil and the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 15 months with 30% of once used barrels and 70% of twice used barrels.
  • Kent Island's First Brewery: Cult Classic Brewing

    Posted: 2018-11-18 07:01
    Have you ever been stuck in Route 50 west bound traffic traveling over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge? Well, these are new stop to pass the time outside of the Kent Narrows restaurants. Cult Classic Brewing opened recently smack center of Kent Island and has a playful tasting room - spacious and outlined with various boardwalk games (3,000 square foot taproom, 75 foot bar). In this reconstituted ACME Supermarket, brothers Brooks and Jesse McNew serve a dozen craft beers from their rather extensive initial brewing systems. Their portfolio runs the gamut of craft beer styles and my sampler consisted of the Kolsch, Munich Helles, Pale Ale, and Porter. They last was my favorite although the other three were very stylistically correct. On my next visit to the beach I plan to explore their Irish Red and Oatmeal Stout - if both still on nitro - as well as their various IPA offerings. Cheers and as always theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to this and all other breweries.
  • The Chalk Hill 2016 Sonoma Red Wine

    Posted: 2018-11-16 06:00

    The Chalk Hill Winery 2016 Sonoma County Red ($24.99) is a friendly wine as our group quickly and easily disposed its contents not long after uncorking. Expect a rich and smooth dark fruit sensation mingling with spices and vanilla, before finishing with a velvety and lingering tail. It is a Bordeaux-ish blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 3% Zinfandel, and 2% Merlot. Whereas the Chalk Hill brand is normally characterized by estate fruit, this wine is derived from grapes sourced from a combination of Chalk Hill estate and Foley Family vineyards dispersed throughout Sonoma County. [Foley Family is the parent company to Chalk Hill Winery.]   According to the tasting notes, the Chalk Hill AVA fruit provides richness, concentration, and nuttiness, whereas the Sonoma County fruit provides fruit forward nuances. These grapes are barrel fermented in French and American oak (20% new) then aged in additional 12 months in barrel. The result is a delicious wine.

  • Finally, a Trip to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

    Posted: 2018-11-14 13:38
    This month I finally was able to visit the holy grail of east coast brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  In my opinion, this brewery isn't lionized because of its iconic brands such as the 90 Minute series but because co-founder Sam Calagione freed us from the Reinheitsgebot. Before Dogfish Head opened in 1995, almost all American beers adhered to the key features of this German law -- brewing with just malted barley, yeast, hops, and water. Calagione blew this stagnation out of the water by not only creating non-conformist beers but also becoming a mini-archeologist and brewing craft beverages enjoyed by ancient cultures. Think of excellent and provoking beers such as Midus Touch, Chateau Jiahu, or Theobroma. Then there is his innovation combining wine must and beer as with Noble Rot and Siracusa Nera. Or think of the special oak treatments such as the Palo Santo Marron. Thus, for those who love any of the funky, sour, or just crazy beers brewed by the thousands of craft breweries today, Dogfish Head was the pioneer.

    The brewery is located in Milton Delaware, far from Sam's New England heritage and Dogfish Head, Maine in which the brewery is named. Instead, Delaware is the home state of co-founder and current VP Mariah Calagione -- Sam's wife. The brewery first opened in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware as a brewpub which is still operating today as Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. After those early days the brewery's growth mandated a relocation to a larger facility in Milton, which has continued to expand as demand dictates.

    Visitors to Dogfish Head first notice how the facility is massive, with fermenting tanks erected through ceilings and the long, long warehouse. Most are probably unaware of the equally large packaging facility located a football field behind the brewery.  Dogfish Head is easily the largest brewery I've ever seen outside a stop in Golden, Colorado. In fact, their experimental R&D unit alone is larger than most craft breweries. According to the Brewers Association, in 2017 Dogfish Head produced 276,243 barrels of beer. In comparison neighboring Crooked Hammock Brewing released 1,300 barrels and Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, Maryland 2,800 barrels.  Yet Dogfish Head is still only the 12th largest independent craft brewery as defined by the Brewers Association.

    In contrast to the brewing size, the tasting room is rather small - more comparable to a routine craft brewery. Obviously then, off season is the most opportune time to visit as I heard horror stories of long summer queues.  And there is no shortage of beers available as they pour close to two dozen beers as samples, pints, crowlers, or growlers. Where else can you find the 120 Minute IPA, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Palo Santo Marron, Pennsylvania Tuxedo, Viniferous IPA, or Wood-Aged Bitches Brew all in one spot. They even pour beers that have graduated from their R&D system but are not intended for wider distribution.

    The tasting room is also where visitors schedule tours - and Dogfish Head offers several varieties. The shortest is the Quick Sip a 25 minute free tour that includes four free samples of beer. The hour long Off-Centered tour is most recommended where for $10 participants receive four samples and stops at " our 200-barrel brewhouse, Off-Centered Center and even our new R&D system where you’ll have a chance to sample one of our experimental brews and we finish the tour out at our packaging facility where we show you have everything is kegged, canned and bottled".  Of notable interest is the original brewing equipment (a bucket and electronic football game) used by Calagione to develop the 90 Minutes series. And on our tour we sampled an excellent IPA that most likely won't even make it into the tasting room. And for visitors who really plan ahead look for the limited Grain To Glass, Randall Jr., and Distillery tours with access to normally off-limit parts of the brewery. And yes the distillery official relocated from the Rehoboth Beach brewpub to a larger pasture in Milton.

    For those heading to the Maryland or Delaware beaches, visiting Dogfish Head takes just a slight adjustment from your route.  For those brewery tourists, visit nearby Lewes and Rehoboth Beach to broaden your craft beverage trip. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you there.

  • Santa Cristina and the Italian IGT

    Posted: 2018-11-13 06:42
    Most of Italy's wines are labeled DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), classifications that set rules governing concerning the viticultural zone, permitted grape varieties, wine styles, and more. Barolo DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Prosecco DOC, and Soave DOC are popular examples of each.

    However, many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status, not because they were of poor quality, but because they were made from grape varieties (or blends) not sanctioned under DOC/G laws. One example are the Super-Tuscans -- Sangiovese blended with international grape varieties. Thus in 1992 the IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) was created -- granting winemakers more freedom to create unique blends. IGT wines are only required to state the vintage, region of origin, and producer name on the label and be made from at least 85% grapes from the region.

    Santa Cristina is one establishment that utilizes this classification by creating several Toscana IGT wines. The winery is located in the small historic town of Cortona and in 1946 Niccolò Antinori released their first vintage -- a Chianti Classico. However, with the passage of the 1984 DOCG laws requiring lower vineyard yields, Chianti Classico grapes became so complex and rich that they required more aging than what this fruity, fresh wine should have. In 1987, the winery stopped using the Chianti Classico designation and in 1994 adopted the IGT classification by adding Merlot to soften their signature red wine. This wine has evolved into the Santa Cristina Rosso Toscana IGT and I recently received a sample accompanied by two other Santa Cristina wines. In general, they provide immense quality at a noticeably reasonable price point. Cheers.

    Santa Cristina Rosso, Toscana IGT 2016 ($13)
    The Rosso not only incorporates Sangiovese and Merlot, but also Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Each of these grape varieties were fermented separately  , then blended and aged partly in oak and stainless steel. The result is a dry, but fruity wine - very food friendly -  with juicy and savory texture finishing with moderate and lasting tannins. Give me a burger or pizza.

    Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato, Toscana IGT 2017 ($14)
    Santa Cristina was one of the first Italian wineries to release a rosé wine and is named after the cypress trees which reside in the Tuscan landscape. This wine is predominately Sangiovese and offers soft red apples and strawberries followed by a long and fresh finish. Nicely done.

    Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio, delle Venezie DOC 2017 ($13)
    In the past this would have been referred to as an IGT delle Venezie wine but in 2017 the delle Venezie DOC was created that covers the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Veneto regions. Seven out of ten delle Venezie wines are Pinot Grigio and this grape variety is required to be 85% of the bottled wine. This is another soft wine, with citrus and green apples dominating the palate with a velvety texture and lasting tail. A great example of delle Venezie Pinot Grigio.

Featured Visit

Boxwood Winery; Middleburg, Virginina - Saturday, January 05, 2013

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