Monday, May 30, 2022

Carmenere Cowboys from TerraNoble Wrangle Pairings with Aplomb

One of the most fun parts of being a wine lover is playing around with pairings. And the “Carmenere Cowboys” from TerraNoble winery were in NYC recently to do just that – with the lively culinary offerings of Citizens at Manhattan West to choose from. The enjoyable evening was eye-opening with regards to the pairing possibilities of Chilean wine.  

The winery’s name, TerraNoble, refers to the Maule Valley’s fine soils that can produce great wines. The winery has vineyards across the Casablanca, Colchagua, and Maule Valleys of Chile. The winery’s guiding philosophy is one of minimum intervention. Winemaker Marcelo Garcia’s practices reflect that, favoring aging in more neutral containers such as large format foudres or concrete eggs.

Our evening began with TerraNoble Grand Reserve Carmenere 2018 served with spicy tuna crispy rice. The spicy kick to the tuna tartare made this a delicious match to the wine’s notes of cranberry, herbs, and white pepper.

Next was some hard Parmigiano Romano paired with Grand Reserve Carignan 2018. This wine was a surprise to me, as I’m not sure if I’ve had Carignan from Chile before. The nose was lovely with floral notes of violets and rose. On the palate there were bold cherry and hints of dark chocolate with bright acidity. A wine I will keep an eye out for. The salty, fatty cheese was well suited to the wine’s fresh acidity.

Our third course paired crisped pork gyoza with the Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018.  The wine had aromas of dried cherries and eucalyptus. On the palate, there was cranberry and a hint of balsamic and black pepper. The wine’s spicy notes and integrated tannins complemented the fatty pork of the gyoza well.

Our fourth course was quite a showstopper – Flintstone-size sticky ribs. The ribs were gorgeous by themselves, but when paired with the TerraNoble CA2 2018, the course took on a new dimension. CA2 is Carmenere sourced from a cooler region with a maritime influence. It has some green pepper dimensions to the nose and palate, and that herbaceous quality was terrific with the fatty, sweet ribs – like another spice added to the plate. 

The dessert course was a surprise – an enormous salted truffle cookie that was rich with deep cocoa flavor. The generous sprinkling of salt on top and the fact that the cookies weren’t very sweet made them an unexpectedly good pairing with TerraNoble CA1 2018. Also a Carmenere, this wine is grown in warmer foothills of the Andes and therefore had more concentration of deep cherry flavors that complemented the chocolate well.

A final bonus wine wrapped up the evening nicely – Lahuen. This Bordeaux-style blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  It was an elegant wine with fresh blackberry, cherry and hints of rose with well-integrated tannins.

The "cowboys" from TerraNoble were charming hosts to us and led the tasting with warm hospitality. The evening truly demonstrated that Chilean wines are wonderfully versatile – and that the wines of TerraNoble are particularly fun to pair. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Delicious with a Dash of Do-Good - ONEHOPE Wines from Napa Valley

California winemaking has gone through many phases since the earliest pioneers who shone in the tasting of Paris in 1976. From hugely powerful wines heavily impacted by new oak aging, and the waxing popularity of Pinot Noir and waning appeal of Merlot (thanks, Sideways) to the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) advocates. Today there is a move towards letting the grapes shine, managing alcohol levels, and always looking for the best parcels from which to source grapes.

The new hunt for freshness in the resulting wines is a decided boon for wine lovers who are looking for varietal expression, more acidity, while still wishing for complexity and richness. Mari Wells Coyle is vice president of winemaking and estate operations at ONEHOPE Winery in Napa Valley, and, under her stewardship, the wines are delivering lovely quality of fruit, more balance, and delicious, complex flavors.

But ONEHOPE is more than just a top notch wine producer – the Rutherford winery was founded 15 years ago with the mission to give back. For each purchase, the winery donates 10% of the price to customers’ chosen nonprofits. Today the winery has donated over $8 million.  It’s an outstanding achievement that makes drinking well and doing good easy.

Mari was in NYC for a media lunch at Marta, where she walked us through a number of current releases.

Estate 8 Fume Blanc Rutherford 2020 – Rutherford fruit that sees a mix of new and used oak barrel aging produces a luxurious white with floral and herbal aromas, white plum flesh and toffee on the palate, a round mouthfeel and long finish. A very special wine.

Reserve Collection Chardonnay Napa Valley 2020 – Although the vintage was growing during some times of fire, the fruit was clean and so wine could be produced. This had a fresh nose of orange blossom and the citrus continued on the palate along with honeyed toffee notes on the backend. The balance of acidity and richness makes this wine a delight.

Reserve Collection Pinot Noir Russian River 2020 – Lush strawberry jam and dried roses on the nose with dark cherry flavor and well-integrated tannins. A more delicate Pinot Noir that still had satisfying flavors and length.

Reserve Collection Zinfandel Amador 2020 – I was pleased to see that this Zin avoided the heaviness that is often seen from the grape in California.  There was an appealing blackberry nose and rich black fruit with a touch of spice on the palate with a full body.

Naturally, the Cabernet Sauvignons were a highly anticipated part of the tasting and they did not disappoint:  

Iconic Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2017 – Redolent of blackberries on the nose and palate with hints of baking spice and a long finish.

Iconic Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2018 – A cooler growing season resulted in a wine with slightly more herbal and rose tones on the nose. The wine delivers black and red fruit on the palate and tight tannins.  

Iconic Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak 2019 – This wine from Edcora Vineyard in Atlas Peak is drinking beautifully right now. A longer growing season contributed to delicious ripeness in the fruit – reflected in the ripe black fruit flavors and aromas. The wine is big, rich, but balanced – a terrific reflection of the best of Napa.

ONEHOPE wines are available online here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Feeling the love for expressive New Zealand wines from Loveblock

The world of wine is always changing, and the big, overblown New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that were hugely popular over the past few decades are making way for more subtle interpretations of the grape. You can see this particularly in the newest releases from Loveblock, where organic farming practices are being increasingly applied. 

At a wine media dinner at Osteria La Baia, Erica Crawford, founder and CEO of Loveblock Wine, explained that organic farming is one of the factors that contributes to a more restrained Sauvignon Blanc. Rather than encouraging abundant growth through applications of fertilizers and clearing any other plants between vines, the Loveblock vines are made to struggle. So, no fertilizer is applied, and, also the vines compete for soil nutrients with the plants growing between the rows. Erica used the analogy of an only child who gets everything versus one who needs to share with many siblings – in other words, those vines are not getting spoiled.

Our dinner began, however, with a different grape—Pinot Gris. It’s fair to say that those of us in attendance fell in love with this wine. It was a luscious, aromatic interpretation, offering a crisp minerality, tart apple and pear, as well as a lovely acidity. This is a wine I’d happily drink on its own, and it was also delicious with the sea bass I had for a main course. In addition to seafood, I’d enjoy with poultry, pork, and light-sauced pastas.  Erica assured us that this wine “just gets better with age.”

Next we enjoyed the Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc. Erica told us that 82% of the vines are either organic or in the process of conversion to organic. I enjoyed the quieter aromatics that were still quite fresh with grassy, citrus notes and the wine’s flavors of lemon, tangerine, and white pepper – with refreshing acidity as well.  Erica noted that “Texture is quite a focus for us.” The vineyard management practices include using a cover crop between vines. 

A special new project for the Loveblock team is the introduction of a very different style of wine – Loveblock Tee.  This wine made of Sauvignon Blanc grapes has the addition of green tea tannin to preserve freshness, rather than the traditional addition of sulfites. On the nose and palate, we found clove and ripe red apple. The texture was more round than a traditional Sauvignon Blanc. Consumers who have an affinity for natural wines as well as those who wish to avoid sulfites will be interested in this unique wine. 

Our final wine was the Loveblock Pinot Noir. This was a delightful wine with floral aromatics, medium to light body, and tart cherry and cranberry flavors with low levels of well-integrated tannin. 

The Loveblock wines are delicious representations of what wines from Marlborough, New Zealand can become with careful vineyard management and intentional winemaking choices. With their beautiful botanical labels, they’re easy to spot on the shelf. For myself, I especially look forward to enjoying their sensational Pinot Gris again soon.