Tag Archive | Chardonnay

Fish, Wine and Several Freight Trains

I arrived home today after a two day work meeting, complete with a hotel stay near the tracks with multiple middle-of-the-night trains and little sleep.  While the overnight part of the trip was less than stellar, I had a fabulous dinner at a seafood restaurant with a reasonably priced, good Chardonnay.

I had the Blackened Red Snapper with a pico de gallo salsa topping, served with creamy fettucine.  But instead of white sauce, it was made with a creamy red sauce with just a bit of spice.  It was so yummy.

I ordered my wine before I decided what I wanted for dinner, so I paid no attention to pairing, but I ended up with a Sycamore Lane Chardonnay.  I couldn’t find much online about this wine, but it hails from the Napa region of California, and is either unoaked or aged in neutral oak.  It has a light crisp taste with tropical and citrus flavors.  It cut through the mild spice of my red snapper dish nicely.

If only my night of sleep had been as good as my meal… But yay for the weekend!

2013 Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay

Every now and again, I buy a bottle for the label.  Or in this case, for the bottle.  You know you do it too; that irresistible whimsical label, or the one that is funny or beautiful or reminds you of that time…  Or something you have never seen before.  Like this bottle – a gray ceramic bottle meant to remind one of the concrete tanks the wine is aged in.

The bottle was on sale – very reasonably priced if I remember correctly.  Somewhere in the $10-$11 dollar range.  In looking online, it appears that this wine usually retails in the $25-$30 range.  I brought it home and it has been sitting waiting since December.

 2013 Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay

2013 Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay

Last night Jon was rooting around for an everyday drinking wine and popped this one open.  It has a distinct metal cap stuck into a cork, so we had to figure out how to deal with that before uncorking the wine.  We smelled the bottle – it was an interesting clay and tropical white wine smell.  Not unpleasant, but unusual.  We poured.  The wine was a deep, buttery yellow.  We smelled again – a light butter with the same tropical aroma.  Interesting that an unoaked chardonnay smells so buttery.

We tasted.  Butter.  And funky.  No tropical taste here.  UGH!  I am usually fairly forgiving, but this wine was terrible.  Maybe it was corked, but it didn’t really taste flawed.  It certainly didn’t taste like an unoaked chardonnay though – there was too much butter and oak.  It was… awful.  So awful that neither of us drank more than a couple of sips.

Even though this wine was a dud, I still have a nice bottle to save.

Have you ever had a really awful wine? 

There’s Less Competition for the White Wines…

I’m still working on the wines from the mixed case, and I have much more success getting some tastes of the whites!  Jon isn’t quite as interested in white wines, so I can open them at my leisure.  Here are my notes on the few I have tried lately.

2013 Gerald Talmard Chardonnay.  This wine is from the Mâcon Uchizy region in France and it is an unoaked Chardonnay with lemongrass and a hint of floral and herbal notes on the nose.  On the palate, it has a bright acidity with tart, light citrus and lemongrass flavors.  I like a good, crisp white wine anytime of the year, but this would be an excellent summer wine, enjoyed out on the deck with with BBQ chicken.  Ahh… now I want summer back, instead of this rainy, windy storm going on outside my window.  $11.99

My Mixed Case of Wine – I sampled the Scaia on the far left, and the Gerald Talmard , which is fifth from the right, with the bright yellow label.

My Mixed Case of Wine – I sampled the Scaia on the far left, and the Gerald Talmard , which is fifth from the right, with the bright yellow label.

2013 Scaia white wine.  This wine from the Veneto region of Italy is a blend of 50% Garganega, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Trebbiano di Soave.  However, there was some conflicting information on the internet, so those percentages might be somewhat different.  It also seems that the blend changes with each vintage.  This wine had flavors of peach, grapefruit, and pineapple with good acidity.  It also contained a nice balance of sweetness on the front of the tongue and tartness on the back of the palate. $10.99

Scaia is another wine that would be great in the summer, but would also be wonderful with spicy Thai food or stir fry.  The fact that Garganega was a grape I hadn’t tried before was just a bonus!  I loved checking a grape off of my Century Wine Club list!

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and you can be sure I’ll be enjoying some wines at our table.  What will you be having?

 

California Marathon Road Trip: Gundlach Bundschu

Our second winery stop was at Gundlach Bundschu – good luck trying to pronounce that name!  It is the oldest continuously family-owned winery in California.  It was founded by Jacob Gundlach in 1858 as Rhinefarm, with Charles Bundschu joining the company in 1868 – originally the farm in Sonoma was about 400 acres.  It was renamed Gundlach Bundschu in 1894 and at the turn of the 20th century the company was producing about 250,000 cases of wine each year.

Up until that point the winery facility was located in San Francisco, but the production facilities and about a million gallons of wine were destroyed by the earthquake in 1906.  They moved the production facility to Sonoma after the quake and then Prohibition hit.

During prohibition the winery closed its doors, and all but 130 acres of the farm were sold – the family managed to make a living selling grapes for juice and raising cattle.  After prohibition, the farm began selling grapes to Inglenook, Almaden and then Louis Martini wineries, but didn’t reopen the winery until the 1970s.

The winery now produces about 25,000 cases total – I believe all their wines are estate grown.  They have a huge tasting room with a gorgeous outdoor patio area; seems that they do a lot of events.  Too bad it was too cold to sit outside and enjoy the view!

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu was a fun winery; our server was Columbian and he was super friendly.  We tried Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We both loved the Zin!  It was fruit forward and balanced, without losing structure.  There was a lot of pepper and spice on the Merlot, and the Chardonnay was a nice acidic wine with a light balanced oak on the back of the palate.  The only wine I didn’t really like was the Gewürztraminer.  I liked it at first taste – it was semi-sweet with citrus, but there was a floral finish on the back of the palate that didn’t appeal to me.

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

While we were there several other groups came in, and you can tell they have a loyal following.  Which isn’t surprising, given the quality of the wine.  What a fantastic visit!

Olympic Cellars Winery

After our disappointing trip up to Hurricane Ridge, and having the skies open up in a deluge, Jon and I decided to head back to the hotel for the evening.  On our drive out to Port Angeles, I had seen a winery along the main road, housed in a large historic barn.  I had been thinking that they would be closed by the time we returned from our hike, but with the weather changing our plans, we now had a chance to stop!

Olympic Cellars Winery was founded in 1979, making it the 15th winery founded in Washington State, and the first on the Olympic Peninsula.  I hadn’t realized that there had been wineries on the peninsula so long, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to wine when I was a kid on a family trip to Port Townsend.  The barn that the winery is housed in is 121 years old, and the ladies who own the winery have a lot of pride in the history of the land and the building.  The tasting bar where you sample the wine is also over 100 years old.

Olympic Cellars Winery makes its home in a 121 year old barn

Olympic Cellars Winery makes its home in a 121 year old barn

When we stopped by, it was about 30 minutes before they closed, and the rain had let up so it was mostly just a light sprinkle.  We headed in and were the only ones there.  I apologize for not taking any photos, but imagine a large old barn with a beautiful, dark wood, antique tasting bar.  The rest of the tasting room is an amazingly well stocked, wine themed gift shop.  They have all sorts of wine items and novelty gifts for the wine lover in your life.  They also sell some gift items in their online store, but that is only a fraction of the items that they have in their tasting room.

Olympic Cellars Winery produces three labels, their popular everyday “Working Girl” series, the Olympic Cellars label, which has 5 varietal wines, and the Dungeness label, their artist label series wines.  For your tasting fee, you get to sample 5 wines of your choice.

I hadn’t really planned on tasting that afternoon, so I didn’t take any notes, but we really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc (the 2009 won Best in Show at the Denver International Wine Competition), and the Dungeness Red, which is made with Lemberger grapes.  Neither of us was a fan of their Chardonnay, but I can’t remember what it was about it that didn’t appeal to me.

Overall, the visit was pleasant; my only criticism would be that our server that day didn’t offer up any information about the winery, its history, the winemakers or the wines we were sampling.  If I haven’t been someplace before, I like to hear about the winery; I want to know what I’m drinking and how it was made!  Where do you source your grapes, why is the winery in this location?  Give me something…  So, this lack of conversation made for some awkward long silences when you are the only people in the tasting room.

The bell they use to ring in the harvest is over 100 years old!

The bell they use to ring in the harvest is over 100 years old!

All in all, worth a trip, but you might make sure to bring a friend who likes to talk…

California Road Trip: The Anderson Valley Pinot Tour

We woke up the next morning ready for our foray into Anderson Valley Wine Country.  At that point, it had been a whole 18 hours since I had last thrown up!  Not the ideal timing for a wine tour, but today was the day, as the rest of the trip was mapped out in other places.  I am a big (no – HUGE!) fan of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, and I have been interested in trying some of Pinots from other areas.  In researching our trip, I learned that the Anderson Valley has a double draw – they are known for their Pinot Noir wines and there are also several sparkling wine producers!  Win, win!  The Anderson Valley is characterized by a coastal fog that settles in the valley, creating the cool nights that Pinot Noir is known to thrive on.

Jon and I got on the road, and while I was feeling a lot better (my breakfast remaining in my stomach being a vast improvement over the day before), I would be lying if I said I was feeling 100%.  So we headed out, across Highway 253, a scenic country road that heads up and over some hills before descending into the valley at Boonville.  The view was nice, and we enjoyed the drive.

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

Our plan was to drive northwest from Boonville to Navarro on Highway 128, and then turn around and work our way back, stopping at our destination wineries along the way.  There are many wineries located right on 128, so there really isn’t much chance of getting lost on country roads along the way.  We checked out where we wanted to go on the way back (really, I decided where I wanted to go, because Jon hadn’t provided any input) and then we drove up to our first stop of the day.

Handley Cellars is a family owned winery that began operations in 1982.  When you step into the tasting room, you are met with all sorts of interesting items from around the world.  The server explained that the elephant chairs in the sitting area are over 100 years old, and is among the folk art items that have been collected by winemaker Milla Handley in her travels around the world.

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

While we were there, we tasted the 2011 Mendocino County Chardonnay, the 2011 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer, and the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling.  For the reds, we tasted the 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2010 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, and the 2009 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.  We also tried the 2009 Redwood Valley Syrah and the 2010 Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  It was our first winery of the day, and as I was still a bit tired from being sick, and I completely forgot to take any notes.  Sadly, I didn’t love the style of Pinot Noir.  It was a much more earthy and spicy than the light, acidic, cherry Pinots from the Willamette Valley.  The highlights of our tasting were the Late Harvest Riesling and the Zinfandel, which we took home with us.

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

Husch Vineyards was our next stop, right down the road – their tasting room is very scenic – located in a historic pony barn built in the late 1800s.  Husch planted their first vineyards in 1968 and the winery was founded in 1971, making it the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley.  The current owners purchased the winery from the Husch family in 1979.  All of their grapes are estate grown, but some of the vineyards are in the Mendocino area.

Husch has a wide selection of wines (22 in all – although only 17 were available the day we were there), and you can choose to sample any six on their list.  I sampled their 2011 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Vine One Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (a Rosé), 2010 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2010 Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Mendocino Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Chenin Blanc, and 2012 Muscat Canelli.  If you count up those wines, you’ll notice that they let me sample eight, which just goes to show a little friendliness goes a long way.

Husch Vineyards

Husch Vineyards

I was pleased with many of their wines, with their Chardonnay being a nice balance between the crisp style that I like and the oak that Jon prefers.  Their Vin Gris Rosé was a nice, light summer wine, perfect for a hot day.  The Reserve Pinot Noir was very nice, with more of the cherry flavors I have come to love in a Pinot Noir.  Jon and I both enjoyed the Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, although I didn’t taste enough of a difference to justify the big price difference between the regular and the reserve Cab.

And I enjoyed the Chenin Blanc, which had a slight sweetness with acidity and just a hint of butter.  The Muscat Canelli had flavors of peach with honeysuckle on the finish.  We left with a couple of bottles – the Reserve Pinot Noir and the Chenin Blanc.  Then we continued on our tour!

Benson Vineyards Estate Winery 2011 Estate Chardonnay

Tonight I’m enjoying the last of the Benson Vineyards Estate Winery 2011 Estate Chardonnay.  Jon opened it up the other night, and I was instantly reminded of our smoky trip to Chelan last fall.

On the nose, I picked up aromas of light oak and honey, and the wine is a beautiful butter color.  On the palate, the initial flavor is a tart citrus, not at all what I was expecting after the nose!  When the wine hits the back of your mouth, you get a nice light oak flavor; enough oak to balance out the tart citrus, but not enough to overpower the Chardonnay.

I paired it with some fantastic turkey tacos that Jon made – ground turkey, sauteed cabbage and peppers, and black beans.  Plus all the toppings – shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, olives and tomatoes.  Amazing!