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The Otter

A friend of mine is doing a bit of wedding planning and asked for my thoughts on a cocktail to serve to her guests. She wanted to name the drink after her dog, who she described as bubbly, brown, and sweet. Not surprisingly, chocolate and champagne had popped into her mind.  Well, when someone else has done 90% of the work for you, there is no point in overdoing it. The best cocktails are the simple ones.

The Otter

1 glass of sparkling rose
1 sugar cube
3-5 dashes of Aztec chocolate bitters (to taste)

Drop sugar cube into the bottom of a Champagne glass. Coat/drown the cube in chocolate bitters. Pour sparkling rose over cube and bitters. You can play with the presentation with some chocolate syrup and/or powdered sugar on the glass.

A Sampling of the 2012 Class of Finger Lakes Rieslings

Every year the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (“FLWA”) sponsors a virtual tasting on Twitter for members of the wine media (using the term very generously in my case) interested in trying some of the new vintage of Finger Lakes rieslings. As anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows, I have long been an advocate of the Finger Lakes as an under appreciated wine region, particularly with regard to its rieslings. The five sample bottles that the FLWA was kind enough to send this year again showed the consistent quality available throughout the region. If you want to check out the tweets from the virtual tasting, you can search for the hashtag #FLXWineVT.

One noteworthy comment from the winemakers during the tasting is the trend toward drier rieslings, a trend driven at least in part by consumer preference. This trend was reflected in the tasting I participated in this year, with 4 of the 5 wines labeled as dry with only one semi-dry offering. As usual, the wines were of high quality, an excellent demonstration of the quality rieslings regularly produced by this region. If you have never tried a Finger Lakes riesling and you are looking for something new, one of these five wines would be a good place to start.

Three Brothers Wineries & Estates 2012 Stoney Lonesome Zero Degree Dry Riesling — Aromas of tart citrus, petroleum, and hints of honey. 0.15% residual sugar and 11% ACV. Very light, pale color. High acidity, with subtle flavors of limes, tart pineapple and orange. Hints of minerality. 86, $14.00 per bottle.

Dr. Frank 2012 Dry Riesling — Petrol on the nose, even at this young age. 0.65% residual sugar and 11.6 % ABV. Medium to high acidity, dry wine with flavors of orange peel, lemon, with floral notes and hints of white stones. Tart, but not overwhelmingly so. A bit on the powerful side, so pair wisely, it may overwhelm lighter cheeses/dishes. 89, $14.99 per bottle.

Thirsty Owl 2012 Riesling — Subtle aromas of peach and apricot with a light golden color. High acidity. 1.6% residual sugar and 11.3% ABV. Very fruit forward, which gives an impression of additional sweetness. Flavors of peaches, nectarines, apricots, and hints of pineapple/citrus. A completely different style from the last two, but very enjoyable. 89, Appx. $14.95 per bottle.

Hosmer 2012 Dry Riesling — Intriguing nose of petroleum and barnyard that should only get more interesting with age. 2.5% residual sugar and 11.8% ABV. Light pale color with an immediate hit of high acidity and flavors of lime and tart citrus. Almost a more intense version of the Three Brothers. 88, $15.00 per bottle.

McGregor 2012 Semi-Dry Riesling — Subtle aromas of lemon and petroleum. 3.0% residual sugar and 11% ABV. Semi-sweet, high-but-not-overpwoering acidity, and fruit-forward. To me, no particular fruit stands out, but that does not detract from the enjoyment. 87, $17.99 per bottle.

An Original Cocktail: The French Margarita

I’ve taken a stab at my first original cocktail. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

French Margarita
2 oz Tequila
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp Light Agave Nectar
3 dashes Orange Bitters

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice, and strain into a chilled margarita glass.

2011 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières

I needed a wine at the last minute for a cookout. I wanted something a little bit different, so I went to West Nashville’s newest wine shop, Harvest Wine Market on Highway 100 (you can find them on Facebook here), and asked the helpful staff if they could recommend something appropriate. We discussed a couple of roses, but ultimately settled on a French red, the 2011 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbieres.

Domaine de Fontsainte is located in the Corbieres region’s Golden Crescent. The vineyard’s terroir features bright sunshine and south-south east facing, sloping terrain. The 2011 Rouge grew from soil of silica, clay, and limestone. It is 60% Carignan; 30% Grenache Noir; 10% Syrah, and 13% ABV. The wine is deep purple in color. It is young, with aromas of blueberries, dark fruits, and hints of hay and oak. Medium to full bodied, it has good acidity with smooth, well integrated tannins. It is fruit-forward with primary flavors of blueberries and raspberries, but it is dry and not jammy. It’s just a touch watery on the finish or it might get even higher marks. It went perfectly with burgers and dogs, and carries a very reasonable price. The winemaker indicates that it will be at its best from now until 2015. Swing over the Harvest and grab a bottle or two. , Appx. $17 per bottle.

Harvest Wine Market
6043 Highway 100
Nashville, TN 37205
(615) 750-3476

Domaine de Fontsainte
Route de Ferrals
11200 Boutenac
+33(0)4 68 27 07 63

A Sample of 3 from Giordano Wines

Disclosure: I received these wines as part of a free sample package from Giordano Wines. No reviews or any other considerations were promised in exchange for the samples.

I recently received a sample set of three wines from Giordano Wines.  Giordano has been producing wines in Italy since 1900. To this day, it remains a family-owned business. The wines I am reviewing are reasonably priced, the most expensive being in the $15.00 range. While they may not be a go-to wine for an event where you need to impress someone special, they are good wines for a casual dinner amongst friends or to bring to a party featuring cheeses or hors d’oeuvres.

Giordano 2012 Pinot Negroamaro — This is a fun, good value wine as long as you know what you are getting. It has jammy aromas of strawberries and cherries with hints of bananas. The wine has a bright acidity and is medium bodied with red fruit flavors. It has a jammy mouth feel, but a dry finish. It is different and enjoyable (if you don’t mind the jammy notes), particularly at this price. 3/4, Appx. $10 per bottle.

Giordano 2011 Chianti DOCG — This wine has a bouquet of violets and red fruits. It is light to medium bodied with high acidity and gentle tannis. Flavors of cranberries, cherries, and unripe strawberries dominate. Definitely on the light end of Chiantis, this would be a good match for pastas, cheeses, and lighter meat dishes. 1/2, Appx. $15 per bottle.

Giordano 2012 Soave DOC — Straw-colored wine with mellon and floral aromas. Light and refreshing with good acidity and flavors of tart citrus with light stone and mineral notes. It would be nice with light past dishes and seafoods. 1/2, Appx. $9 per bottle.

You can follow Giordano Wines on Twitter @GiordanoWinesUS.

A Final Review of the 2011 Finger Lakes Vintage: Sheldrake Point and Dr. Frank

This is the last in a series of posts that I have done reviewing examples of 2011 rieslings from the Finger Lakes that were provided to me in a sample pack by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. You can read and compare my prior posts on these wines here, here, and here. Overall, as major wine publications are beginning to realize, the Finger Lakes rieslings offer high quality and exceptional value. So, here is the disclaimer: I received the wines reviewed in the post and six others as a free sample package from the FLWA. I promised no positive reviews, or any reviews at all, in exchange for these bottles. Today’s samples are from Sheldrake Point Vineyards and Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.

Sheldrake Point is located on the Western shore of Cayuga Lake. The vineyard is on a slope between two gorges, which contain glacier soils for excellent drainage. Sheldrake planted its first vinifera grapes in 1997. The winery has won numerous awards for its red and white wines dating back to 2002. Sheldrake Point Vineyards 2011 Dry Riesling clocks in at 11.4% ABV and 0.9% residual sugar. This residual sugar and its fruit forward nature give it more of an off-dry impression. The wine has aromas of citrus and melon with hints of petroleum and mild floral notes. It has a high acidity, but is well balanced, with flavors of melons, limes, and hints of pineapple. This is a good choice for a white wine to satisfy both sweet and dry wine drinkers. Sheldrake’s 2011 Dry Riesling has received 89 points from Wine Enthusiast and 90 points from Wine & Spirits, and is a solid value at its price. , $16 per bottle.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Dr. Frank wines. The vineyard overlooks Keuka Lake, and you can read more about the history of this producer here. Dr. Frank’s 2011 Dry Riesling has won numerous awards. The wine has subtle aromas of apples and pineapples, with hints of bananas and petroleum. It is a crisp, high acidity wine, with flavors of lemon, orange, and sour apples. It has a long finish of tingly citrus. Although the 2011 vintage appears to be sold out already, you can shop all of Dr. Franks’ current offerings online here, appx. $16 per bottle.

Sheldrake Point Vineyards
7448 County Road #153
Ovid, NY 14521
(607) 532-9401
Twitter: @Sheldrake Point

Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars
9749 Middle Road
Hammondsport, NY 14840
Twitter: @DrFrankWine

Recent Tastings

Two more quality entries from the Finger Lakes’ 2011 Riesling vintage (see here and here) and a solid Virginia Cabernet Franc:

Knapp Winery 2011 Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY — Semi-sweet wine with a nose of tropical fruit salad. Bright, medium to high acidity with a slightly heavy mouth feel owing to the 28% residual sugar. Flavors of melon and tropical fruits with hints of orange and bananas. Good value at under $20.00. 1/2, $16.95 per bottle.

Lakewood Vineyards 2011 Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY — This wine is similar to the Knapp offering. It has medium to high acidity with aromas of melons and pineapples. It is on the sweet side of semi-sweet with flavors of apples, pears, and citrus with a slightly tangy finish akin to pineapple. While it rates the same as the Knapp in my book, it is a slightly more impressive value. 1/2, $12.99 per bottle.

Cardinal Point Winery 2010 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc, Monticello, VA – Deep color with aromas of dark cherries and plums with vegetal notes. Good acidity, soft tannins, and flavors of black cherries with dark fruits and pepper. 1/2, Appx. $20 per bottle.

A Rare Taste of a Foreign Beauty: Chateau Unang 2009 La Gardy

A few months ago, I was honored to be invited to a good friend’s wedding.  (Shameless plug: you can purchase his travel guide to Yemen here.) During the wedding feast I noticed an intriguing label on the red wine being served. As my friend is a noted world traveler I asked if the wine had a special story. Apparently, he first tasted the wine in France while visiting Chateau Unang in person. As this offering is not distributed in the States, he prevailed upon the winemaker to sell him a sufficient amount to bring back home and serve at his wedding. Although this wine is not available Stateside, I thought it warranted a review; several other Unang offerings are a bit easier to find, even in America.

The Chateau Unang 2009 La Gardy has subtle, herbaceous aromas of red fruits with subtle hints of oak and tobacco. It is medium bodied, with smooth, well-integrated tannins and warm, spiced flavors of red licorice, tart berries, and cherries, accompanied by mild vegetal notes. This is a great Southern Rhone wine that I wish I could buy down the street. 1/4

Château Unang
Route de Methamis
84570 Malemort-du-Comtat
Tel: 00 33 (0)4 90 69 91 37

Two More Quality 2011 Finger Lakes Rieslings from Lucas and Ravines

As I noted in my last post, every year, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (“FLWA”) sponsors a series of virtual tastings for the media to spread the word about the latest vintage of Finger Lakes rieslings. This is the second year that I have participated. So, here is the disclaimer: I received the wines reviewed in the post and six others as a free sample package from the FLWA. I promised no positive reviews, or any reviews at all, in exchange for these bottles.

Please read my first post in this series for a little background on the Finger Lakes Wine region. Tonight, I am writing about the next two wines I have tasted from the FLWA’s sample, Lucas Vineyards‘ 2011 Dry Riesling and Ravines Wine Cellars‘ 2011 Dry Riesling.

Lucas Vineyards began in 1974 with Ruth Lucas and her family left the Bronx to grow grapes. The family harvested their first grape crop in 1978 and released its first vintage in 1980, after Ruth became one of the first female winery owners in the region. Lucas now grows 14 grape varieties, including Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.

Lucas’ 2011 Dry Riesling was the result of a hot, sunny season with late rains that required a quick harvest. It has 1.0% residual sugar (btw, here is a helpful article on understanding and measuring residual sugar). The wine has citrus aromas with subtle floral notes and hits the palate with high acidity. It has flavors of citrus fruits and unripened peaches. Simple, enjoyable, and a solid value, it is a good go-to wine for spicy faire, Asian food, or just as an every day sipping wine. 1/2, Appx. $13.99/bottle.

Ravines Wine Cellars was founded by Morten & Lisa Hallgren.  Morten Hallgren is the progeny of a wine making family from the Provence region of France, which is famous for its elegant rose wines. He spent his first harvest as an oenologist in Bordeaux before moving to the United States. He passed through wineries in West Texas and North Carolina before moving to the Finger Lakes to work at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, a winery with which readers of this blog are very familiar.  The Hallgren’s purchased their shale stone-soiled property on the Eastern slopes of Keuka Lake in 2000. While the Finger Lakes is famous for its whites, Ravines’ reds have also received high praise, including multiple vintages of the winery’s Meritage blend.

Ravines 2011 Dry Riesling has 0.4% residual sugar, clocks in at 12.2% ABV, and was left on lighter lees until late February. It presents with aromas of tropical fruits and petroleum. A high acidity wine, it has flavors of limes, pineapples, and other tropical fruits. A subtle layer of minerality adds complexity. This is a crisp, refreshing wine that was an excellent compliment to jerk chicken. Another fine offering from a producer with a stellar reputation. , $16.95/bottle.

Fine Finger Lakes Riesling from Two Old Favorites: Swedish Hill & Fox Run

Every year, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (“FLWA”) sponsors a series of virtual tastings for the media to spread the word about the latest vintage of Finger Lakes rieslings. This is the second year that I have participated. So, here is the disclaimer: I received the wines reviewed in the post and six others as a free sample package from the FLWA. I promised no positive reviews, or any reviews at all, in exchange for these bottles.

The Finger Lakes is a wine region in upstate New York. Although it does not get the same press as wine-making regions in California, Oregon, and Washington, those of us who have tasted Finger Lakes wines over the years know that they consistently show high quality. Of the many grapes that grow well in the region, Riesling is undoubtedly the king. I have tasted a number of rieslings from the Finger Lakes that rival the best examples of that varietal from places like Germany and Australia. I could bore you with a fuller history of the region, but that work has been done for me.

Two of the first wineries I remember trying from the Finger Lakes were Swedish Hill Winery and Fox Run Vineyards. While they are old favorites of mine, it has been some time since I have had an opportunity to taste any of their wines. Fortunately, that dry spell (pun intended) has come to an end. This year, the Riesling package that I received from FLWA included Swedish Hill Winery’s 2011 Riesling and Fox Run Vineyards 2011 Reserve Riesling.

Swedish Hill Winery‘s 2011 vintage was its 25th Anniversary production. The Peterson Family’s experience with grapes, however, goes back to 1969, when they started growing grapes for sale to other local wine producers. Swedish Hill has collected any impressive number of awards and accolades along the way. Their success allowed them to open Goose Watch Winery in 1997 and Penguin Bay Winery in 2005.

Swedish Hill’s 2011 Reisling is semi-sweet, with 2.35% residual sugar and 11.1% ABV. It is pale yellow in color with aromas of pineapples, peaches, and hints of petroleum. It is well balanced, and the sweetness does not cross the line into cloying. This wine has a delicate mouth feel with moderate acidity and flavors of apples with tropical notes. It’s a good stand-alone wine on a warm day or with the right dish; the winemaker recommends turkey, ham, and fresh fruit, and I can add butternut squash soup to that list. This is a good example of a quality, approachable Finger Lakes riesling. It is also a good value. 3/4, $15.99 per bottle.

Fox Run Vineyards is high on Torrey Ridge overlooking Seneca Lake. Fox Run has 55 acres of vines, including varietals like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Fox Run practices minimal intervention winemaking, and Fox Run’s owner, Scott Osborn, is not only a player in the wine industry, but also hosts the Fox Run Glorious Garlic Festival.

Fox Run’s 2011 Reserve Riesling is semi-sweet, clocking in with 2.2% residual sugar and 13% alcohol by volume. The Vineyard’s notes reflect an odd growing season with heavy rains early, a hot and dry summer, and more rains near the end of the growing season, but with enough sun to fully ripen the grapes. Whatever the intricacies of the growing season, Fox Run handled them perfectly. This wine has citrus and latex aromas with hints of kiwi and pineapple. There is a bright, but not overpowering acidity. As the wine opens up is shows flavors of pineapple, melon, and tropical fruit salad, with a bit of unripened peach. Well-balanced and drinkable, this is an excellent example of why Finger Lakes riesling is some of the most underrated wine in the world. 1/4, $29.99 per bottle.

Swedish Hill Winery
4565 State Route 414
Romulus, NY 14541
(607) 403-0029
Twitter: @SwedishHillWine

Fox Run Vineyards
670 State Route 14
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Twitter: @foxrunvineyards