Yes, while we drink and live California wines on a daily basis, It is good to respect and venture to regions of different climate and terrior. Today we explored the world of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, which many consider the most versatile grape. The comparisons to that which I have had from California and Washington State are like day and night. How can one varietal taste so different? Well first it is important to look at where the wines come from and the different soils and climates.
The Loire Valley Sits to the South of Paris and stretches west to the port city of Nantes along the Atlantic Ocean. Many rivers run through the Loire giving a range in soil conditions from rich metamorphic soils to calcareous limestone and river bed soils. This gives the Loire a wide range in flavors from richer rounder wines to zingy zesty minerally wines. With Loire River being the longest river in France it yields many micro-climates. Splitting into other tributaries, such as the Maine, Nièvre, & Erdre on the left-bank and Allier, Cher, Indre, Vienne, & Sèvre Nantaise on the right bank, adds finger-like cooling influences to the north and south Loire Valley. Due to all these factors, winemakers of Loire have styles of Chenin Blanc ranging from bone-dry Sparkling wines to Botrytis dessert wines.
We explored five wines from Loire encompassing two distinguishing different soil compositions. We tasted three wines from Touraine, a more inland region of Loire located just east of Tours. Touraine sits with the Loire River to the North and the Cher River to the South and has Tuffeau soils, a relative to Limestone. The remaining two wines are from Anjou, a coastal region between Nantes and Angers. Anjou sits on both the north and south banks of the Loire River intersecting at the Maine River and has Schist soils, which is the same as metamorphic.
Since Loire wines tend to range from Bone dry to sweet, we tasted wines which were Sec and Savennières being more austere, bone-dry wines with intense minerality and also tasted Demi-Sec and Doux which have more honey and botrytis notes with tart citrus and minerality. Wow what a day, I had waited for this tasting all week, and finally it was here.
1. Olivier Deletang Montlouis-sur-Loire “Les Batisses” Sec 2007 $14.40/bottle
- Fresh notes of juicy pear, jolly rancher tart green apple, developing into star-fruit. Opening up to little hints of SO2, and rounding off with a pronounced minerality of wet-stone.
2. Francois Pinon Vouvray “Cuvée Tradition” Demi-Sec 2007 $18.90/bottle
- Grandma’s newly baked apple pie hints at a little baking yeast with undertones of dried hay or straw. An aspect of caramel and honey dazzle the palate ending in a floral note of orange blossom.
3. Olivier Deletang Montouis-sur-Loire “Les Batisses” Demi-Sec 2007 $17.10/bottle
- Notes of Limon-Lime start leading into tree fruits. This wine is “Driving Miss Daisy” and all over the road and palate. It now leads to dried fig and river-rock with a lush velvety finish.
4. Domaine Des Baumard Savennières 2005 $20.70/bottle
- Hay and cut grass start this wine into a fire of burnt toast. A chemical aspect, which smells like Mom’s hair dye, takes over. As the wine opens it shows some bruised and dried tree fruit and leans towards to creamy almost leesy finish.
5. Domaine Des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2004 $63.00/bottle
- This Botrytis dessert wine opens with freshly made apple sauce & baked pear. Additions on vanilla extract, honeycomb, & butterscotch give this wine the elegance of a full length botrytis feature, creating a wine that is delicately sweet without being cloying.
Which is my favorite? Well that is a good question, with these wines being so different stylistically it is hard to choose. I tend to like wines with more lean and austere flavors, which fit the descriptor of the Oliver Deletang “Les Batisses” Sec 2007. I took home a few bottles that evening and opened the Sec up with a grilled chicken salad. This wine is perfect for almost any occasion and over-achieves in value given the price.
Who in Napa does these out-of-the-ordinary import tastings? Back Room Wines (www.backroomwines.com), which has weekly tastings most of which take us out of our normal routine and put us in another region. It takes us out of our element, and gets us to refresh or educate our pallets with different regions. They also sell me on probably too many imports, but hey, it gives us something different to share with friends.
I find that if you drink too much of a particular wine you start to develop a “house pallet”. It is hard to break this routine, especially when you are showing the same wines and/or varietals 5 – 7 days a week to different restaurateurs and retailers. Trust me, I love my domestic Pinot Noir, but there is more out there and it is good to keep an open mind. Some people say variety is the spice of life and with wine I find this statement true.
From a man’s perspective this is one of the most exciting parts of the year. You have the NFL playoffs climaxing to the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks, March Madness is just around the corner, and pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training starting on February 17th. With all this excitement in the sports world, this is normally the time of year that I take the deep fryer off the shelf and it finds a vacation spot on the kitchen counter. Sometimes it takes until the Super Bowl to get this going, but this year it started a little early, as in this past weekend.
It started as a normal Saturday, a cup of coffee, list of errands, the Dog wanting to play, but this Saturday was going to be different with what seemed to be two very exciting NFL games on the TV. I was dedicated to getting my list of chores done early. So here was the ever exciting list: Go to the Dry Cleaners, Post Office, Grocery, and then my favorite stop of the day, Mumm Napa Valley. If you join the Mumm Wine Club, and you choose the pick-up at Mumm option, you will soon find out that they are very persistent with phone calls and letters letting you know your wines are ready. Of course, the pursuance might stem from the fact that I usually have around 6 months of shipments by the time I make it up that way. Congratulations, you are on the Mumm naughty list!!!
Anyway, back to the subject at hand – Champagne and Chicken Wings. Saturday would not prove itself as exciting as the day was perceived. The football games were blow-outs and since the wife was out-of-town no Champagne was opened. However, on a side note I did make some killer empanadas for a friend’s b-day party. This, of course, marked the deep-fryer out of retirement playoff opener, like the great #4, Brett Favre. The wife would return home later that evening to the fabulously sweet aromas of Duck Fat, and at this point she knew there was no return. The fryer was out and there was going to be a great surprise for Sunday football! Oh, and the surprise was about 3 pounds of wings and a case of bubbles from the previous day.
I was so excited; I pondered how I had made it through the whole regular season without wings? The idea of chicken wings gave me hope that the Sunday games were going to be more entertaining. Normally Sunday football calls for wings and beer, but given the circumstance of having all this sparkling wine, I reminisced of an event a few years earlier down in Texas. It was after a long day of selling Pinot Noir down in Austin. I want to say it was in September and a day that was stifling hot. I went with one of our wine reps to Stubbs restaurant and he convinced me that anything cold with bubbles would pair with BBQ. We ordered up a bottle of Shramsberg Blanc de Blanc and shared our opinions with others around us, and many were so surprised that we possibly came up with the perfect pairing. After my day-dream of BBQ and Schramsberg was over, I thought lets give hot-wings and bubbles a try!
We popped open a Mumm Brut Prestige and found that the dryness and acidity really cut into the spice of the wings quite well. While the football games still lacked that exciting edge we had anticipated, we found that with enough wings and sparkling any day can live up to expectations. The moral of the story; There is a wine out there for every occasion. Sometimes pairings do not reach expectations, but it is about enjoying wines and trying new experiences with family and friends. Do not hesitate to venture outside the realms of normal pairings, throw out those old wine pairing rule books, and just drink wines you like with foods you like!
There are two places where we store wine in our house. One is the cellar; a very civilized, organized wine guru place (pretty boring) and the other (my personal favorite) is the black hole under our stairs. Let me tell you what goes in “the black hole”; ready to drink wines, wines we will never drink and will eventually re-gift, past their prime wines (for the late night parties) and the RAB’s “Random Arsss Bottles” We usually have NO idea where the RAB’s come from and typically it accounts for 75% of what’s in there. They come to us as gifts, samples, threats, jokes etc. I have stared at two very interesting bottles over the past year. They are both etched (oooh la la) they have wax tops (very fancy) and even more intriguing they are a Petite Sirah and Syrah from the same Napa Valley producer and the same vintage. So it is pretty clear to me what must happen with these RAB’s. Let’s have a battle of the bands (Guffy that is)
Our winery actually produces Petite Sirah as well, so I get the question a lot “What is the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?” All I know is that they are two separate varietals, but here is the real skinny on the subject. As it turns out , Petite Sirah’s mother plant IS IN FACT Syrah. So to sum it up briefly Petite Sirahs “baby mama” is Syrah. Petite Sirah originated from the Rhone in France and was created when Peloursin “the baby daddy” and Syrah were crossed. So there you have it! …we have some baby mama drama to add to our Petite Sirah Vs Syrah battle.
The Contenders; 2006 Guffy Syrah, Corners Napa Valley & 2006 Guffy Petite Syrah Mendocino County
The 2006 Guffy Syrah has aromatics of ripe blueberries, cherries and raspberries. It has a little bit of cola and eucalyptus. The Guffy Syrah comes from Carneros, Napa Valley. There are a ton of eucalyptus trees in the appellation. The sap that falls from the eucalyptus is Puuuhngent and undoubtedly plays a role in the wines for some Carneros producers. However tonight I am the only one who smells eucalyptus so I might just be crazy. Back to Guffy, this wine is fantastic for a “RAB” I am pleasantly surprised. It is full bodied, very ripe and has a long finish that leaves vanilla, baking spices and a little bit of cocoa lingering. If I were a fancy wine writer I would give this wine 90 points. But I am not…so whatever.
The 2006 Guffy Petite Sirah is totally outrageous right out of the gate. I feel like I am getting smacked around by its big tannins and it’s and instant love hate relationship. It is super ripe, jammy and has this crazy concentrated blackberry fruit flavor. The finish has a lot of mocha. I love that….but I feel like it is not as balanced as the syrah. The syrah was a little more sophisticated to me. It had more layers. This Petite Sirah is wonderful it is just not as well rounded as the Syrah. HOWEVER- many people are into the jam in the jar thangg and I can’t hate…it is a great wine. I would rate this wine 88 points. Ladies and Gents, if I were the line judge on this one , it would be a tight match but I do believe the Guffy Napa Valley Petite Sirah would take the cup.
If you personally would like to take the Petite Sirah/ Syrah challenge, check Guffy Family Wines out. They are an excellent boutique family owned winery in Napa Valley. They produce very small quantities of their hand crafted wines and I believe you can only purchase from the winery. www.guffyfamilywines.com
Do it! and then let us know which varietal wins your “battle of the bands”!
Enough for today my friends there is too much good football on! Let’s go Vikings… Love ya Brett.
Today, I had the opportunity to take the buyer from a major Cruise Line based out of Ft. Lauderdale and our wine broker barrel tasting at our winery. It is always a great day when you start barrel tasting at noon. Really, how can your day get any better? They were mostly interested in the higher end wines we are producing. We tasted through many lots today, woot –woot!! . The wines change so much in this stage that I always like to pick out a couple that are really rockin’. Today we are all flippin’ over the Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I love Petit Verdot; it is funky, fun, spicy and sooo rich. This is a wine that coats your mouth from front to back and leaves a crazy long finish. I think I am still chewing on it. Anyway, we only produce a couple barrels of Petit Verdot each year which we blend into our Cabernet and Meritage Blend. Petit Verdot was first planted in Bordeaux and grew well before cabernet. It is generally used in blends because some people feel it is a little too one dimensional, over- the top on the tannins and “not pretty enough” (some say it is one of the varietals that has no floral notes.) As my dad would say about wines (he loves Zinfandel) “Give me more spice babaaay!” & I myself say Bah –Hum- Bug to the disbelievers. I love it, I love it and I don’t care who knows it! It is different and unexpectedly rustic. The grape itself is a finicky little sucker, but packs a punch. Check out the following producers of Petit Verdot; Jarvis is my favorite and has awesome caves if you ever travel to Napa.
So cheers to you Cruise Line Guy…….. We tasted through some great wines today… Now how about a few pallets of Napa Valley Cabernet for your brand new ships???? Oh and a Wine Club Event on your cruise to Mexico…hosted by yours truly and your new favorite Napa Valley winemaker.
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