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Pouilly-Fuissé, fresh and mineral

Date: Fri, Feb 11, 2011 Wine Tasting

A few weeks ago, Kobrand Corporation sent me a bottle of 2008 Pouilly-Fuissé Domaine J.A. Ferret.

The wine is 100% Chardonnay from a white wine appellation located in the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy. The region is best known for its wave-shaped hills above the Saône valley, rich in limestone mixed with clay, and particularly well-suited to the Chardonnay grape.

The 15 hectare Domaine J.A. Ferret lies at the heart of the appellation, in the village of Fuissé. Fonded in 1840, it was the first estate of the region to bottle its own wines. It also introduced the concepts of terroir delimitation and vinification of separate grape lots. Since 1993, it was owned and managed by Colette Ferret, the last in the family line. She died in 2007 and the estate was later sold to Maison Louis Jadot.

The 2008 Pouilly-Fuissé Domaine J.A. Ferret had a light golden color and a Chablis-like nose of crushed oyster shells and citrus. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, crisp, slightly creamy with a touch of oak, and a fresh, lemony finish.

It was a good accompaniment to the Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Spinach Gratin we had that evening, although I think it would have been even better with a fresh Dungeness Crab.


Our Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Spinach Gratin


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Budweiser, balsamic vinegar and the effect of expectations on our biased view of the world

Date: Tue, Sep 14, 2010 Wine Tasting

Would you willingly mix balsamic vinegar with your Budweiser? yes in certain conditions, explains Professor of Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

The Muddy Charles is one of MIT's two pubs and the place of Ariely's experiment. Students that dropped by were offered two small free samples of beer, one labeled A and the other labeled B. Beer A was regular Budweiser whereas Beer B was a special mix called “MIT Brew”, two drops of balsamic vinegar for each once of beer. After tasting the samples, participants were offered a free large glass of the beer of their choice.

Most of the participants that knew nothing about the vinegar before tasting the beers chose Beer B, the vinegary beer. But those that were offered more information before the tasting (Beer A was a commercial brew, Beer B had a few drops of balsamic vinegar in it) would wrinkle their nose at the vinegary brew and request Beer A instead. They believed beforehand that Beer B was going to be bad and after tasting it, they actually found it bad.

Now what happens if the presence of vinegar is revealed after tasting the samples instead of before? Can initial sensory perceptions be reshaped with new knowledge or is it too late to change the perceptions once they are established?

It turned out that the participants to this new version of the experiment liked Beer B as much as those that knew nothing about the vinegar. Moveover, when asked whether they would like to make the “MIT Brew” themselves, they were willing to add the right amount of vinegar to their beer. Like the first group, they tasted the vinegary brew blind without any pre-conceived expectations and they actually liked the taste of it so they didn't mind giving it another try.

What happens is that our brain is always refining and distorting sensory information in order to construct a simpler picture of the world. If our brain has tried to represent everything as accurately as possible, we would be completely paralysed by information. Moreover, it cannot start from scratch at every new situation. Instead, it must build on what it has seen before so we can interact with our environment more decisively and make better sense of our complicated surroundings.

So next time you make a decision, be realistic, it's 100% biased.

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A tasting of affordable Bordeaux from the Planet Bordeaux Program

Date: Wed, Sep 8, 2010 Wine Tasting

Before the summer, I received three samples of Bordeaux wines from Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications as part of a new marketing campaign called Planet Bordeaux. The goal of Planet Bordeaux is to promote wines from the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellations, incite wine amateurs to look beyond the expensive classified growth and top rated wines and help them discover well-crafted wines at very reasonable prices.

The Bordeaux AOC is the most generic and the largest category within the Bordeaux region. It is used for red, white, and rosé wines produced outside the more specific appellations. Wines under that appellation vary greatly in style, price and quality but the best can be smooth, easy to drink, and affordable.

The Bordeaux Supérieur AOC covers the same geographic area as the Bordeaux AOC but has stricter production norms. The wines must be aged for at least twelve months before they can be sold. So it is usually used for more ambitious wines with a better aging potential, sourced from older vines in selected vineyards.

The first sample was the 2009 Château Ballan Larquette Rosé. Château Ballan Larquette is a 35 hectare property (86 acres) owned by the Chaigne family. It is located in the Entre-Deux-Mers region between the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers. The vines are on average 18 years old. The blend is mostly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Cabernet Franc. The Rosé is made by partial saignee (or bleeding off the juice) after a 24 hours contact with the skins to obtain a light cherry color. The wine had a fresh nose of red berries and citrus with some good acidity on the palate and notes of of sour cherry and mineral on the finish. Take the wine along on your next picnic or try it with Grilled Rosemary Lamb Chops.

The next wine was the 2008 Château Fontblanche. Château Fontblanche is owned by Elisabeth & Armand Schuster de Ballwil of Château Montlau. It is located between the hills and the banks of the Dordogne river. The wine is a blend of mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc and a dash of Malbec. It showed a medium ruby color and a mellow nose of fresh plum. On the palate, it was easy going with a dry and clean aftertaste. Try it with Pork Tenderloin and Grilled Vegetable Salad

The last sample was the 2007 Château de Bel La Capitane. After spending 10 years as a négociant in the wine business, Olivier Cazenave and his wife Anne bought the property in 2003, realising their dream of making their own wine from their own vines. Olivier's philosophy is to make wines that are immediately pleasurable, without being diluted or overextracted, and as such, works long hours in the vineyard. The Château is located along the bank of the Dordogne across the river from Saint-Emilion. It has 12 acres in production, mostly old vines of Merlot and some Cabernet Franc. The cuvée La Capitane is a Bordeaux Supérieur made from 100% Merlot vines averaging 30 years old. The wine has matured in 100% new American oak for 6 months. It had a deep garnet color and attractive notes of vanilla and fresh cherries on the nose. On the palate, it had a round, juicy mouthfeel with dried herbs and earthy tones on the finish. Try it with Grilled Pork Sausages with Spiced Figs.

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If our wine is too bold, too alcoholic, there is hope: just add water

Date: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 Wine Tasting

Maybe you knew it already, and like me, have in several occasions surreptitiously dropped an ice cube in your glass of 14%+ alcohol Merlot and found the resulting drink more palatable.

I thought that the wine tasted better because it was a few degrees cooler but according to Harold McGee's latest Curious Cook column, water is actually an ingredient that can enhance flavors.

That may seem counterintuitive: water has no flavor and by adding water, you dilute instead of concentrate flavors. But what McGee found out is that water, by diluting the other ingredients, can change their balance for the better.

This is how it works in high-alcoholic drinks:

“Both alcohol and aroma molecules are volatile,” explains McGee, “meaning they evaporate from foods and drinks and are carried by the air to the odor receptors high up in the nasal cavity. Aroma molecules are also more chemically similar to alcohol molecules than they are to water, so they tend to cling to alcohol, and are quicker to evaporate out of a drink when there's less alcohol to cling to. This means that the more alcoholic a drink is, the more it cloisters its aroma molecules, and the less aroma it releases into the air. Add water and there's less alcohol to irritate and burn, and more aroma release.”

In case of high-alcohol wines, “flavor chemists have found that high alcohol levels accentuate a wine's bitterness, reduce its apparent acidity and diminish the release of most aroma molecules. Alcohol particularly holds down fruity and floral aromas, so the aroma that's left is mainly woody, herbaceous and vegetal.”

So next time your glass is filled with some big, bold Zinfandel, don't worry about what others will think. Add water, the wine will taste more fruity, more balanced, more pleasant, and you will know why.

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Last but not least from our Oregon trip: Brick House Vineyards and The Eyrie Vineyards

Date: Wed, Aug 25, 2010 Wine Tasting

You usually need an appointment to visit Brick House Vineyards and when we called the winery, it was already late in the afternoon and we were just hoping to have an appointment for the next day. Therefore, we were surprised to be invited to come right away. At the winery, we were warmly welcomed by Alan Foster, an artisanal cider maker who now works at Brick House and casually sat around a farmhouse table to taste the latest estate productions.


Brick House Vineyards



Tasting with Alan Foster


We started with the Chardonnay, made from estate grown fruits. The wine is certified organic, fermented with native yeast, aged in used oak barrels, and bottled without filtration. I particularly liked the 2008 Brick House Estate Chardonnay with its nose of pear and stone fruit, smooth and creamy mouthfeel, and mineral finish.

Then we moved to the 2008 Brick House Boulder Block Pinot Noir. The fruit comes from a volcanic hillside that greatly differs from the nearby sedimentary soils that characterize the Ribbon Ridge appellation. Columbia river basalt rocks can be found between vines throughout the parcel. These volcanic boulders are particularly good at retaining moisture and warmth during the growing season and it is usually the last block to be harvested. The cuvée is all Pommard clones — originally from cuttings imported in the 1940's from Château de Pommard — and sees more new oak than the other reserve Cuvées. The wine had a fragrant, spicy nose, a rich, fruity palate almost liqueurish, leaving a lasting earthy finish.


Basalt rocks from the Boulder Block parcel and the 2008 Brick House Boulder Block Pinot Noir


The next wine was the 2008 Brick House Evelyn's Pinot Noir. For me, it had an even stronger spicy character and a longer finish. The cuvée is named after the mother of winemaker and founder Doug Tunnell. It is a blend from selected barrels and a very limited bottling built for long-term aging.

My husband had heard that the winery was making some gamay and asked about it. The current vintage had been sold out for a while but Alan let us taste a barrel sample of the 2010 vintage. There was no banana, candy, or bubble gum quality in the wine. Instead, it had some good depth and structure with some of these aromas of tobacco and black fruit that could also found in some of the best Crus of Beaujolais.

We were also lucky when we arrived at Eyrie Vineyards' historic winery in downtown Mcminnville. The previous visitors were still in the barrel room when we arrived and we were able to continue the guided visit of the wine facility.


The Eyrie Vineyards


The history of Eyrie is now well known but still fascinating. In 1965, David Lett — locally known as Papa Pinot — came to Oregon from California with 3,000 vine cuttings and planted the first Pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley. One year later, he founded The Eyrie Vineyards with his wife Diana and produced his first vintage of Eyrie Pinot Noir in 1970. Then in 1979, the winery suddendly caught the attention of the international wine community as the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir successfully competed at the Wine Olympics held in Paris that year. This instantly put Oregon on the map as a world class Pinot noir producing region.

Lett's original plan was to build a winery on the hillside overlooking the estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills but he found no bank to loan him any money. So he ended up refurbishing an old poultry plant in McMinnville. Many years later, his son Jason Lett is still making wine in the original building with even a few barrels from the 1970 vintage still in use. The mold that grows on the walls is part of the cellar's natural environment and is thought to play a positive role during the winemaking process.


The barrel room and the mold on the walls


Here are some of the wines we tasted:

2007 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir: from the four estate vineyards in the Dundee Hills. The youngest vines were planted 19 years ago. Aged in mostly neutral French oak. Fresh nose of griotte cherry, tasty, well balanced, lively finish.

2008 The Eyrie Vineyards BlackCap Pinot Noir: made with organic fruits from the Dundee Hills and Carlton-Yamhill appellations. The vines are 20-year old and own-rooted (non grafted). Dark color, more earth and spices than fruit, concentrated.

2006 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Original Vines: from Eyrie's original planting, 40-year-old vines grown on their own roots. Aged nearly two years in used barrel, bottled without filtration or fining. Sweet nose of wild berry, creme de cassis and spices, great texture, absolutely delicious!


2006 Eyrie Pinot Noir Reserve Original Vines


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Oregon Trip: J.K. Carriere Wines

Date: Fri, Aug 13, 2010 Wine Tasting

Founded in 1999 by owner and winemaker Jim Prosser, J.K. Carriere has recently moved to a brand new facility on Parrett Mountain near Newberg in Yamhill County. Before founding J.K. Carriere, Jim Prosser worked for eight producers in four countries including: Erath, Domaine Drouhin, Brick House and Chehalem in Oregon; Villa Maria in New Zealand; Tarra Warra and T'Gallant in Australia; and Domaine Georges Roumier in Burgundy. The name J.K. Carriere corresponds to the combined names of his grandfathers J.K. Prosser and Paul Carriere. Being severely allergic to wasps and nearly killed by them twice, he chose to prominently feature one of these insects on his bottle labels.


The new facility has steel culverts embedded into the ground to create naturally temperature-controlled barrel caves


In the summer, the tasting room is conveniently open Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm. Otherwise, you need to make a private appointment to visit the winery.

The wines we tasted:

2009 J.K. Carriere Glass White Pinot Noir: whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented to absolute dryness at low-temperature in older French oak barrels. Lees from a Chardonnay fermentation are stirred during aging, following a 100-yeal-old Champagne Rosé technique to strip color and broaden an earthy mid-palate. My notes: beautiful salmon color, citrus aromas, dry and mineral on the palate with some roundness, fresh and crisp on the finish.


2009 J.K. Carriere Glass White Pinot Noir


2007 J.K. Carriere Chardonnay Willamette Valley: a blend of two vineyards: Temperance Hill in the Eola Hills and Maresh Vineyard from the Dundee Hills. Whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented at low-temperature with wild yeast in older French barrel. My notes: deep golden color, crisp and dry, more mineral than fruity.

2008 J.K. Carriere Provocateur Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: Provocateur is French for troublemaker. A blend of seven vineyards: Temperance Hill, Anderson Family, Black Walnut, Shea, Gemini, Momtazi, and Sheppard. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations in open-top stainless steel tanks. Barrel aged for 17 months in French oak, 4% new. My notes: attractive Pinot nose, dusty spice aromas, well-balanced, light on the finish.

2007 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: a Willamette Valley blend that includes 21% Shea Vineyard for ripe dark fruit, Temperance Hill for old-vine complexity, Eola Hills for centrist cherry, Gemini Vineyard for moving red, Momtazi for hi-tone and spice, Black Walnut for earth, and Anderson Family Vineyard for savory and structure. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations, 100% barrel aged for 18 months, 21% new. My notes: richly flavored with notes of mint, eucalyptus, citrus, and licorice, medium-bodied, well-balanced with a nice, long finish.

2007 J.K. Carriere Antoinette Pinot Noir: Antoinette Carriere was Jim Prosser's Canadian grandmother. The wine is made from the five best Temperance Hill vineyard barrels, sourced from 28-year-old vines growing at high elevation. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations, barrel aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new). My notes: denser than the Willamette Valley blend, complex aromas of wild berry and pepper with mineral notes. Needs time to open up, very long finish, age worthy.

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Oregon Trip: Dinner at the Painted Lady Restaurant

Date: Fri, Aug 6, 2010 Wine Tasting

The Painted Lady Restaurant is located in a refurbished Victorian house (the painted lady) in downtown Newberg. The chef and co-owner, Allen Routt, cooks seasonal dishes using fresh locally-sourced ingredients including local fish, berries, and hazelnuts. He opened the restaurant with his wine Jessica Bagley in 1995 after working several years in Napa Valley and then Las Vegas.


The Painted Lady Restaurant


The evening of our reservation was warm and breezy so we decided to sit out on the deck, a more relaxed setting than the elegant dining room inside. We chose the four-course meal which ended up being the best food we ever had in Oregon.


Alsatian Onion Tart with Bacon and Veal Sweet Breads



Seared Diver Scallop with Braised Endive and Grapefruit Supremes



Hazelnut Crusted True Cod with Viridian Farm Pea Ragout



Rabbit Roulade with Pancetta, Butted Savoy Cabbage and Medjool Dates



Chocolate Tart with Local Hazelnuts and Milk Chocolate Ice Cream


That night, the restaurant offered wine pairing with the menu but the wine list also included some older Pinot Noir vintages that were very well priced. So, after getting some advice from our extremely friendly and knowledgeable waitress, we ordered the 2001 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley with our meal. We were not disappointed: the wine was ready to drink with a complexity of aromas that went fabulously well with the food. And our plans for the following day were made: we had to visit the J.K. Carriere Winery.


2001 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley


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Our Oregon trip: The Beaux Frères Vineyard

Date: Tue, Aug 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

In 1986 while on vacation from Colorado, Michael Etzel found an 88-acre pig farm for sale in Yamhill County, Oregon. The place looked like a promising vineyard site so he decided to purchase it with the help of his brother-in-law, Robert Parker, Jr. The following summer, he moved to the farm with his family and became a vineyard manager, planting Pinot Noir and slowly converting the old pig and dairy farm into a prime vineyard property. Eventually, The Beaux Frères Vineyard (which means brothers-in-law in French) was established in 1991 thanks to the addition of a third partner, Robert Roy.

Michael Etzel's winemaking philosophy is to follow a minimal intervention approach using small yields and healthy fruit. The vineyard is planted with tightly spaced vines to keep yields low. The grapes are harvested when they have reached physiological maturity. The fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts. The wines are aged in French oak for 10 to 12 months and the percentage of new oak utilized is based on the strength and concentration of the vintage.


The Beaux Frères Winery



Replanting in the vineyard due to Phylloxera damage


When we arrived at Beaux Frères, we were welcomed by Rebekah Bellingham in charge of the tasting room and the winery tours. It was very nice of her to take us on such short notice. Here is what she had available for tasting:


Rebekah Bellingham at Beaux Frères



The wines we tasted


2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: formerly known as the Beaux Frères Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir, this is a blend of fruit from different vineyards. Less new oak is used than for the Estate Cuvées. My notes: light red color, fragrant nose with notes of citrus, medium-bodied and round on the palate, well-balanced.

2008 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: while the 2007 vintage was characterized by moderate temperatures during the summer and rain storms during the last few weeks of the vintage, 2008 was on average warmer, with a cool summer followed by hot days and cold nights in September. My notes: more sweet cherry aromas, fuller with more power but less refined than the 2007.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Beaux Frères Vineyard: the vines of the 22 acre Beaux Frères Estate Vineyard were planted between 1987 and 1990. The vineyard is a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones. Although it is not certified as either organic or biodynamic, it is being farmed using biodynamic principles. My notes: medium red color, a hint of fruit but mostly spices, black pepper, rich and full on the palate, young.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Upper Terrace Vineyard: the Upper Terrace is made from a ten acre vineyard purchased in the late 90's. The site is similar to the Beaux Frères Vineyard in elevation and its sedimentary soils. It is surrounded on all sides by a forest of old fir trees. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to Dijon clones, as compared to the Estate Vineyard, which is planted to Pommard and Wadenswil clones. It is farmed using the same sustainable principles as the Beaux Frères Vineyard. My notes: still tight and young, concentrated, earthy, licorice aromas, very long finish. This is a wine that should age beautifully.

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Our Oregon trip: The Beaux Frères Vineyard

Date: Tue, Aug 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

In 1986 while on vacation from Colorado, Michael Etzel found an 88-acre pig farm for sale in Yamhill County, Oregon. The place looked like a promising vineyard site so he decided to purchase it with the help of his brother-in-law, Robert Parker, Jr. The following summer, he moved to the farm with his family and became a vineyard manager, planting Pinot Noir and slowly converting the old pig and dairy farm into a prime vineyard property. Eventually, The Beaux Frères Vineyard (which means brothers-in-law in French) was established in 1991 thanks to the addition of a third partner, Robert Roy.

Michael Etzel's winemaking philosophy is to follow a minimal intervention approach using small yields and healthy fruit. The vineyard is planted with tightly spaced vines to keep yields low. The grapes are harvested when they have reached physiological maturity. The fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts. The wines are aged in French oak for 10 to 12 months and the percentage of new oak utilized is based on the strength and concentration of the vintage.


The Beaux Frères Winery



Replanting in the vineyard due to Phylloxera damage


When we arrived at Beaux Frères, we were welcomed by Rebekah Bellingham in charge of the tasting room and the winery tours. It was very nice of her to take us on such short notice. Here is what she had available for tasting:


Rebekah Bellingham at Beaux Frères



The wines we tasted


2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: formerly known as the Beaux Frères Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir, this is a blend of fruit from different vineyards. Less new oak is used than for the Estate Cuvées. My notes: light red color, fragrant nose with notes of citrus, medium-bodied and round on the palate, well-balanced.

2008 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: while the 2007 vintage was characterized by moderate temperatures during the summer and rain storms during the last few weeks of the vintage, 2008 was on average warmer, with a cool summer followed by hot days and cold nights in September. My notes: more sweet cherry aromas, fuller with more power but less refined than the 2007.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Beaux Frères Vineyard: the vines of the 22 acre Beaux Frères Estate Vineyard were planted between 1987 and 1990. The vineyard is a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones. Although it is not certified as either organic or biodynamic, it is being farmed using biodynamic principles. My notes: medium red color, a hint of fruit but mostly spices, black pepper, rich and full on the palate, young.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Upper Terrace Vineyard: the Upper Terrace is made from a ten acre vineyard purchased in the late 90's. The site is similar to the Beaux Frères Vineyard in elevation and its sedimentary soils. It is surrounded on all sides by a forest of old fir trees. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to Dijon clones, as compared to the Estate Vineyard, which is planted to Pommard and Wadenswil clones. It is farmed using the same sustainable principles as the Beaux Frères Vineyard. My notes: still tight and young, concentrated, earthy, licorice aromas, very long finish. This is a wine that should age beautifully.

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Our Oregon trip: wine tasting at the Ponzi Wine Bar

Date: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 Wine Tasting

If you're looking for a quick bite and a good introduction to the wines of Oregon, Ponzi Vineyards' wine bar in downtown Dundee is the place to go. You'll find different wine flights and wines by the glass on the menu showcasing over 70 Oregon vintners, as well as various cheese and salumi plates to accompany them.

Ponzi Vineyards is one of Oregon's oldest wineries. It was founded in 1970 at a time when Oregon was not a well-known wine region and when making Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley was rather risky. Nowadays, Ponzi has become a successful winery dedicated to sustainable viticultural and enological practices. It is was one of the first Oregon property to get the LIVE Winery Certification. A new eco-friendly winemaking facility was completed for the 2008 harvest. Built atop one of the Chehalem Mountains slopes, it uses several green features including gravity-flow processing, temperature control, energy efficient lights, natural ventilation, water retention, and recycling.

It was a hot day and we wanted to start with something fresh and crisp, so following the advice of Sales Associate Kendra Wells, we ordered a flight of mostly white wines. Here are my notes:

2008 Ponzi Chardonnay Willamette Valley: produced from old vine Chardonnay, the wine was hand sorted, whole cluster pressed and fermented in 100% stainless steel. My notes: stone fruit and butterscotch aromas on the nose, crisp, light to medium-bodied on the palate, fresh and lively on the finish.

2009 Ponzi Arneis Willamette Valley: Arneis is a white wine varietal from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. Ponzi Vineyards is one of very few U.S. producers of Arneis and the only producer in Oregon. The wine was fermented at very low temperatures in stainless steel with a portion in neutral oak. My notes: floral aromas on the palate, fizzy and light on the palate, good acidity, light finish.

2009 Ponzi Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley: Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir and produces full-bodied white wines in Alsace, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Oregon, it is known as the real thing because Oregon's cuttings came originally from Alsace, whereas in California, the certified Pinot Blanc rootstock from University of California at Davis turned out to be Melon de Bourgogne, a grape from the Loire Valley used in Muscadet. The wine was fermented 75% in stainless steel tanks, 25% in neutral oak barrels with partial malolactic fermentation. My notes: aromatic nose, floral notes, rather dry, crisp, mineral finish.

2009 Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley: Pinot Gris is a clone of Pinot Noir with a different skin color that was caused by a genetic mutation. It is known to be Oregon's Signature White Wine. It was David Lett from The Eyrie Vineyards that planted the first Pinot Gris vines in Oregon in 1966. At Ponzi, Pinot Gris plantings started in 1978. My notes: attractive nose of white peach, medium body, spicy, mineral finish. Drier than most of the Oregon Pinot Gris wines that we have tasted so far.

We also tasted a flight of two “guest” (non Ponzi) wines:

2008 Patricia Green Pinot Noir Whistling Ridge: Patricia Green Cellars is located in the Ribbon Ridge district of Yamhill County. Whistling Ridge Vineyard is a small, 15-year old vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge appellation, located just behind Patricia Green Cellars and Beaux Frères Vineyards. My notes: funny chemical on the nose, notes of tar, butterscotch. Not our favorite.

2008 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard: founded in in 1998 by winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash and her husband Ron, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars is located on the eastern edge of the Yamhill-Carlton District. Owned by Dick and Deidra Shea, Shea Vineyard was one of the early planted vineyards in Yamhill County. It is a 200-acre property with 135 planted to Pinot Noir and 5 acres planted to Chardonnay. While the Shea family keeps 25% of the Pinot Noir for their own bottling, the rest is sold to various wineries in Oregon and California. My notes: nose of sweet berries with notes of green pepper, earthy on the palate with a hint of caramelized pear on the finish.



Kendra Wells at the Ponzi Wine Bar


While we were tasting, Kendra recommended going to Beaux Frères and she even called the tasting room for us. I remembered buying two bottles of their Pinot Noir some time ago but I hadn't tried them yet, so it was time to move on and discover the wines of Beaux Frères.

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Our Oregon trip: wine tasting at the Ponzi Wine Bar

Date: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 Wine Tasting

If you're looking for a quick bite and a good introduction to the wines of Oregon, Ponzi Vineyards' wine bar in downtown Dundee is the place to go. You'll find different wine flights and wines by the glass on the menu showcasing over 70 Oregon vintners, as well as various cheese and salumi plates to accompany them.

Ponzi Vineyards is one of Oregon's oldest wineries. It was founded in 1970 at a time when Oregon was not a well-known wine region and when making Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley was rather risky. Nowadays, Ponzi has become a successful winery dedicated to sustainable viticultural and enological practices. It is was one of the first Oregon property to get the LIVE Winery Certification. A new eco-friendly winemaking facility was completed for the 2008 harvest. Built atop one of the Chehalem Mountains slopes, it uses several green features including gravity-flow processing, temperature control, energy efficient lights, natural ventilation, water retention, and recycling.

It was a hot day and we wanted to start with something fresh and crisp, so following the advice of Sales Associate Kendra Wells, we ordered a flight of mostly white wines. Here are my notes:

2008 Ponzi Chardonnay Willamette Valley: produced from old vine Chardonnay, the wine was hand sorted, whole cluster pressed and fermented in 100% stainless steel. My notes: stone fruit and butterscotch aromas on the nose, crisp, light to medium-bodied on the palate, fresh and lively on the finish.

2009 Ponzi Arneis Willamette Valley: Arneis is a white wine varietal from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. Ponzi Vineyards is one of very few U.S. producers of Arneis and the only producer in Oregon. The wine was fermented at very low temperatures in stainless steel with a portion in neutral oak. My notes: floral aromas on the palate, fizzy and light on the palate, good acidity, light finish.

2009 Ponzi Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley: Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir and produces full-bodied white wines in Alsace, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Oregon, it is known as the real thing because Oregon's cuttings came originally from Alsace, whereas in California, the certified Pinot Blanc rootstock from University of California at Davis turned out to be Melon de Bourgogne, a grape from the Loire Valley used in Muscadet. The wine was fermented 75% in stainless steel tanks, 25% in neutral oak barrels with partial malolactic fermentation. My notes: aromatic nose, floral notes, rather dry, crisp, mineral finish.

2009 Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley: Pinot Gris is a clone of Pinot Noir with a different skin color that was caused by a genetic mutation. It is known to be Oregon's Signature White Wine. It was David Lett from The Eyrie Vineyards that planted the first Pinot Gris vines in Oregon in 1966. At Ponzi, Pinot Gris plantings started in 1978. My notes: attractive nose of white peach, medium body, spicy, mineral finish. Drier than most of the Oregon Pinot Gris wines that we have tasted so far.

We also tasted a flight of two “guest” (non Ponzi) wines:

2008 Patricia Green Pinot Noir Whistling Ridge: Patricia Green Cellars is located in the Ribbon Ridge district of Yamhill County. Whistling Ridge Vineyard is a small, 15-year old vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge appellation, located just behind Patricia Green Cellars and Beaux Frères Vineyards. My notes: funny chemical on the nose, notes of tar, butterscotch. Not our favorite.

2008 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard: founded in in 1998 by winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash and her husband Ron, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars is located on the eastern edge of the Yamhill-Carlton District. Owned by Dick and Deidra Shea, Shea Vineyard was one of the early planted vineyards in Yamhill County. It is a 200-acre property with 135 planted to Pinot Noir and 5 acres planted to Chardonnay. While the Shea family keeps 25% of the Pinot Noir for their own bottling, the rest is sold to various wineries in Oregon and California. My notes: nose of sweet berries with notes of green pepper, earthy on the palate with a hint of caramelized pear on the finish.

While we were tasting, Kendra recommended going to Beaux Frères and she even called the tasting room for us. I remembered buying two bottles of their Pinot Noir some time ago but I hadn't tried them yet, so it was time to move on and discover the wines of Beaux Frères.

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Touring the wineries in Oregon's Willamette Valley

Date: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

We just spent five days in Oregon, visiting Portland, the Willamette Valley around the town of Newberg in Yamhill County, as well as the beach resort of Cannon Beach on the Pacific Coast.

While touring the Willamette Valley, we found ourselves welcomed by a laid-back and bucolic lifestyle, meeting warm and frienfly people, always happy to share their stories. There were many highlights in our trip and in my next posts, I'll write about our lunch at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, wine tastings at Beaux Frères, J.K. Carriere Wines, Brick House Vineyards, and The Eyrie Vineyards. We also had a wonderful dinner at The Painted Lady Restaurant in Newberg.


Vineyard in the Dundee Hills


So stay tuned for my next post with a review of the Ponzi Wine Bar.

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Touring the wineries in Oregon's Willamette Valley

Date: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

We just spent five days in Oregon, visiting Portland, the Willamette Valley around the town of Newberg in Yamhill County, as well as the beach resort of Cannon Beach on the Pacific Coast.

While touring the Willamette Valley, we found ourselves welcomed by a laid-back and bucolic lifestyle, meeting warm and frienfly people, always happy to share their stories. There were many highlights in our trip and in my next posts, I'll write about our lunch at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, wine tastings at Beaux Frères, J.K. Carriere Wines, Brick House Vineyards, and The Eyrie Vineyards. We also had a wonderful dinner at The Painted Lady Restaurant in Newberg.


Vineyard in the Dundee Hills


So stay tuned for my next post with a review of the Ponzi Wine Bar.

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A bright orange soup and a Spanish wine for the World Cup Final

Date: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 Wine Tasting

Sunday was the Spain-Netherlands World Cup Final and we were invited to a potluck party to watch the match. For the occasion I made a chilled Carrot Ginger Soup that I served in small glasses garnished with a drop of cream and snipped parsley. With fresh ginger and a pinch of curry, the soup is spicy but very refreshing and it works wonderfully well with a Spanish Albariño like the 2008 Burgans Albariño Rias Baixas that I also brought to the party.

The Rias Baixas region (the name means low estuaries) is located on the Galician coast, between the city of Santiago de Compostela and the Portuguese border. It is renowned for its white wines (over 90% of the wine production) primarily made from the Albariño grape variety.

Albariño produces aromatic wines with high acidity. The name means the white from the Rhine as it was thought to be a Riesling clone brought from Alsace in the twelfth century. It may actually be related to Petit Manseng, a grape grown in the southwest of France. In Portugal, it is called Alvarinho and is commonly used in the blend of Vinho Verde wines.

The 2008 Burgan had a light yellow color and a citrus nose with white peach and mineral notes. On the palate, the wine was dry and bright, clean and zappy, just like a skilled and precise Spanish pass.

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