Blush wines have been making a comeback for some time and they’re better than ever! Gone are the days of super-sweet pink wines that we remember from the “white zin” days. Now blush wines are off-dry and are being made from some really interesting grapes. Ever seen a blush Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec or Pinot Noir? They DO exist and they’re great Summer wines! They’re light and crisp, go with lots of different foods and even manage to satisfy the most discriminating wine drinkers.
Since all blush wines come from red grapes, you might be wondering how wine-makers achieve that gorgeous rose color. The answer lies in the maceration process. Much of a wine’s character comes from the grape skins, not the juice as many people believe. To lighten things up, wine-makers simply remove the grape skins earlier than they would if they were making a full-bodied, red wine. Removing the skins after a few hours [or days] creates a wine that’s light, refreshing and perfect for Summer!
At Wine 661, I serve a blush Tempranillo by the glass and it’s a huge hit! I also carry an inexpensive blush Grenache from Spain (or Garnacha as they call it in Spain) and I can hardly keep it on the shelves. At a mere $19.99 per bottle, it’s a steal! I have a blush Pinot Noir from the Coppola family of wines and it’s absolutely gorgeous! Pale pink, fruity but not sweet, lots of character and it comes in a stunning bottle!
If you haven’t tried any blush or rose wines in the past few years, give them another shot! They have a long way to go to repair the damage that “white zin” did to blush wines but if you’re adventurous enough to revisit them, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing wine experience!
24268 Valencia Blvd.
Valencia, CA 91355
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My childhood favorite is gone. Pop singer Michael Jackson died earlier today due to cardiac arrest.
Typical Zinfandel Smelland/or Flavor Descriptors
Bottle Age: musk, mushroom, earth, leather cedar, cigar box
Here is Appellation Americas comical overview of the zinfandel grapes to help us remember what a Zin is all about:
2007 Layer Cake Primitivo – Puglia Italy
Aroma: Licorice, Musty, Nothing really stood out on the nose
Taste: Licorice , Creamy, Spices
In fairness to this wine, I tried this wine the day after the tasting and was detecting dark fruits in nose and taste, definite candidate for decanting. I have not been a firm follower of decanting as I like to smell and taste the changes of a wine over time. Unfortunately, at a tasting some wines do not get a chance to breath and open up.
wine maker’s notes:
Could not find any ratings
September 16, 2008 – Napa Valley, Calif. – Jayson Woodbridge, renowned global winemaker and owner/winemaker of Hundred Acre and Layer Cake wine brands, today announced that celebrated winemaker, consultant and good friend, Philippe Melka, will join his Layer Cake winemaking team. Layer Cake Wines demonstrate Jayson Woodbridge’s vision of crafting wines based on his own personal experiences and journeys with people and vineyards around the globe. The high quality, handcrafted wines consist of a one hundred percent Old Vine Primitivo (Zinfandel) from Puglia, Italy, Shiraz from the Barossa Valley and South Australia, a Côtes Du Rhône from the Rhône Valley in France, and a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, all retailing for just $15.99 – an incredible value.
Tasting Notes :
The wine is opaque and purple-colored with a nose of jammy black cherry and blackberry fruit, truffles, tar, and spice. Warm and rich in the mouth; the ripe fruit is well supported by the depth of the structure.
2006 Brochelle – Paso Robles
Aroma: Coffee, Chocolate
2004 Mariah – Mendocino Valley
Aroma: Blackberries, Vanilla, Lacquer (when first opened)
Taste: Vanilla , Red apple, Blackberries, Dry on the palate, Pepper, Light body like William Selyem
wine maker’s notes:
· Connoisseurs’ Guide Rating: 87pts
15% Petite Sirah; 5% Syrah; 1% Carignane. This wine’s intense first nose of ripe blackberries and sweet spices belies its tightly structured character in the mouth. Both acid and tannin take on major roles, and more than balance the ripe fruit flavors that rise up underneath.
2004 Rancho Zabaco Toreador – Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
Aroma: Dark Plum, Blueberry, Jammy
Taste: · Dark plums · Blueberries · Very Acidic when first opened but left as it opened up
Remember the topic on good and bad acids in wines that I wrote a couple of weeks ago? This is an example of acetic acid which is a volatile acid. This is what is known as a bad acid. Don’t confuse it with Tannic or Malolactic acids which are what are called good acids and are needed to provide character and longevity to a wine. Being volatile, acetic acid will not remain in the wine once the bottle is opened and exposed to air. Decanting will assist in fast removal of this type of acid.
wine maker’s notes:
Robert Parker : 94 points.
The 2004 Zinfandel Monte Rosso Toreador is absolutely amazing and one of the great Zinfandels of that vintage. This wine boasts a dense ruby/purple color and a big, sweet nose of ground pepper, dried herbs, lavender, black cherry jam, raspberry, and licorice. Full-bodied, powerful, and concentrated, this stunning Zinfandel should drink well for up to a decade.
2005 Storybook Mountain Vineyards Estate – Napa Valley
Aroma: Berries,Vanilla, Wine with great finesse
Taste: · Fruit Forward · Noticeable tannins
wine maker’s notes:
· Wine&Spirits: 95 points.
· Connoisseurs’ Guide: 95 points
“Irresistible …aromas pile up in a heady rush of roses, wildflowers, crushed rock and black pepper. The dark, glass-coating pomegranate color shows off its power…”
95 PTS.- 100 best wines of the year.
Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines:
In more vintages than not, this bottling has turned out to be our favorite from Storybook Mountain. And here again, it is a ripe, generous, yet impeccably balanced wine whose keen blackberry fruit in nose and mouth comes with a mix of intensity and youthful restraint that promises more and better as the wine ages. Fullness plays off against firming acids, and tannin crops up in the late going, and so much about this lovely wine calls for a bit of patience that we would caution against early drinking lest you miss the best it will have to offer.
2007 William Selyem Baciagalupi Vineyard – Russian River Valley Sonoma
Aroma: Blackberries, Red Raspberries, Cherry
Taste: Bing Cherries, dryness to the palate, Minerality to the finish, Characteristics of a Pinot (not a typical zin profile), Very elegant and classy wine
wine maker’s notes:
· Robert Parker: 93 points
Wine Advocate As for the 2007 Zinfandel Bacigalupi , this wine is dense, chewy, medium to full-bodied, with relatively elevated alcohol, loads of spice, red and black fruits, as well as herbs and underbrush.
Hopefully, we will have some converts within the group to try more Zinfandel wines. My perfect evening in the winter is to sit down in front of a fireplace and relish the spices mixed into layers of fruits of a fine Zinfandel. Remember, this is what we enjoy around the Christmas holiday. This Christmas, treat yourself to a piece of ginger bread with a fine Zin. If you want to go a step further, try a late harvest Zin with the concentrated fruits and sugars. I doubt that you will be disappointed.
I hope that the evening of Zins that we shared with their wide range of tastes and characteristics will lead you in a search for what your palate considers a perfect wine.
Until next time…Cheers,
This last weekend my husband Eddie and I were invited to taste some of their recent vintages. We hadn’t been up to their Castaic home and winery since last year. And that year proved fruitful for us all as the Clark’s met the Carpenters (over a shared story by yours truly). Chris and Jeannie Carpenter are also home wine makers, knew a slew of others in our valley, and organized the first Assistance League sponsored Sunset in the Vineyard event that highlighted private home winemakers.
This year, as last, Kerry had several Winemaker Magazine awarded vintages to try. And I jotted down a few notes during the tasting
On the wine
We started out tasting with his 2008 Grenache Blanc, a Rhone white. We were immediately brought back a year; these wines were what we had come to expect, incredibly good. Next was a Rhone white blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Marsanne (all Tablas Creek clones by the way). “It’s a blend of all whites,” Kerry began. “It’s a very drinkable Rhone white with characteristics of honeysuckle, spice and refreshing acidity.”
The Gruner came next with 12% alcohol. “I purchased the grapes and this is my favorite wine as it’s fuller and sweeter”.
A 2008 Muscat Susie lingered over. Again with Two Hearts Estate grapes, 11% alcohol. As 10 vines only produced about a gallon, the flavors of honey and fruit made it more than worthwhile.
Eddie liked the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon made from Washington grapes that had softened nicely after bottling.
Tasting the 2007 Malbec from Argentinean juice (that now sits on my desk for inspiration) Kerry’s back label notes read: “…dark dense structure with a full rounded mouthfeel. Prominent lush flavors of cherry, black currant and blackberry…cloves, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, spice, fruit.”
Susie makes time for gardening and the back yard, where a year ago landscaping was being done, now boasts several colorful flower pots, a beautiful clay pot fountain and spice garden. Kerry, on the other hand, only has time for farming the vines.
Kerry is now growing over a dozen varieties, made more quantity in 2008, with 2007 being the first time he was turning his own grapes into wine.
“Once the vineyard is ‘dialed in’ everything is okay and it’s just irrigation. But you’ve got to be in your vineyard a lot. We only take a few days off and then we need to work until it’s balanced again.”
We recalled that Kerry does buy some of his juice and he had something new on that front as well. “We can purchase flash-frozen grape juice. It has to remain at minus 10 degrees until you are ready to use it. I bought some Napa Sauvignon Blanc juice that way.” Eddie thought that, theoretically, you could be making the same wine as Mondavi if you can get the same grapes frozen and delivered. But it doesn’t end with the grapes.
“We also experiment with yeast, how much or how little we add. The same goes for sulfites. Sulfites reduce oxygen damage and kills bugs. We follow a formula and you know if a white wine is too gold that there was probably oxygen damage. If we siphon out a little wine to taste, we may need to fill up the the fermenting bottle with marbles to displace space, raising the wine levels and keeping oxygen out. It’s all chemistry. And it’s Susie’s nose that’s more reliable than mine.”
Susie’s guest post coming up soon tells of the Clark ’s recent attendance at a winemaker conference. “There are people there that ‘fix’ wines and wine labs that you can send a sample of your wine to (or they come to you). Then they tell you what you need to do to repair a wine instead of throwing it out or losing your reputation.”
Though the Clark’s are not concerned with their winemaking reputation they are invested in learning more and creating better vintages with each year. The last thing they’ve done besides, planting, farming and studying chemistry is to allow their dog Boomer his opportunity to assist. Because, as we finally rose to leave, it was Boomer that tore out the front door, ran up the hill and zoomed through row after row in the ever enchanting part of winemaking for a dog: chasing rattlesnakes, rabbits, quail and crow. Things sulfites wouldn’t stand a chance against.
Starting out, my first wine mentor was my boss Tim. We sometimes had to travel to see clients, and he introduced me to the miniature wine bottles offered on the plane, as well as enjoying wine with dinner. He also liked to go to the wine stores in the towns we visited, seeking out rare finds that were not available at home or were just priced lower because the shop owners didn’t know any better.
Next, living in San Antonio in the mid-80s, my wife and I made the acquaintance of a private wine broker who introduced us to the wines he was importing from Europe. I regret that I cannot recall his name.
Moving back to California in the late-80s, we spent a lot of time traveling the coast. And approximately mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the town of Cambria, we met Calvin Wilkes, who probably had the greatest influence on me of anybody in terms of my enthusiasm for wine.
Calvin ran a combination wine shop and tasting bar in Cambria, and I received the benefit of his knowledge, both in terms of local wines and wines from around the world. For a short time, he also had a small restaurant in the shop, which local winery employees would frequent.
Bringing in bottles from their wineries and sharing them just enhanced our own experience. We visited him often, until he moved to Pacific Grove, where he and his wife Michele run Fifi’s Cafe Bistro. We like to visit him there as well, and he professes to remember me from the old days. I recommend you stop in if you are in the area. Tell him “hello” from me.
We met DiMaggio Washington in the 90s, when he ran Select Wines. I think this was the first combo wine store and tasting bar in Santa Clarita. His Zinfandel tastings were a big influence on my ultimate focus on this grape, and the blind tastings were fun but challenging. It was only later, after reading more about DiMaggio, that I realized how patient he was with us newbies and how deep his own expertise goes. I haven’t seen him in a long time — I hope to rectify that soon.
Gary R., who has tried diligently but unsuccessfully [albeit expensively] to get me interested in older Bordeaux style wines.
Victor Herstein at All Corked Up. who seems to have a palate similar to mine and has shown me the pleasure of mixing wine and rock and roll.
And, last but not least, Eve Bushman, who has allowed me in a small way to feel a part of this incredible industry.
To all of my mentors, past, present, and future, I raise my glass and say “thank you”.
Corry De Robertis, seemingly plucked from the dairies of his ancestor’s home in Italy, walked in to a room of wine makers with: Goat Balls.
Corry happens to be a home cheese maker. Not satisfied with kits, he found them as a jump – start to an interest not unlike the winemakers surrounding him in palatable interest. Corry had found a way to express his need to make something with his hands in a way wine makers, and non-wine makers, could appreciate.
Like having wine with winemakers or beer in a beer garden, having fresh homemade cheese was a treat no one was prepared for. Surprising, delicate, attractive and incredibly flavorful.
“I brought Sauvignon Blanc because it pairs well with goat cheese and it also would cleanse our palate so we could accurately taste the Zin later. My goat cheeses tend to lay on the palate for several minutes or more. The high acidity breaks through and cleanses away the “goaty” flavor.”
Corry is considering a cheese making party as one of his cheeses, the mozzarella, takes only 30 minutes to set up. But for the purists, that know they can’t buy these cheeses anywhere and don’t know Corry’s address, here is a sampling of the talent Corry shared with us:Cheese making is my passion (I absolutely love wine too!). Similar to wine, cheese is an expression of the land and climate (terrior). For me, the terrior changes week by week. I am at the mercy of the ever-changing local milk supply at the market.
In the last couple years, the milk supply in the U.S. has been over pasteurized (heated to extreme temperatures so it lasts longer), making home cheese making a bit of a challenge.
I might have a “connection” to some farm fresh milk! Senior Hernandez, where are you? In the meantime, I use the milk available to me. (editor’s note: To learn more about Senior Hernandez’s cheese connection try starting here: http://www.dairygoatjournal.com/issues/86/86-1/Tim_King.html)
I love spending time in my kitchen creating new cheeses. Each one with its own personality. Sometimes refreshing, delicate and young like a white wine and other times complex, robust and aged like a full bodied red.
The other cheese was a mold ripened goat cheese. I brought 2 styles. One was ripened with white Penicillin mold. (The same mold that forms the rind on Brie.) The mold softens the cheese and imparts earthy flavors. I formed some into small “goatballs” and the others into 3 inch wheels. The second style I used white mold and then brushed vegetable ash on them before the mold developed. This adds another flavor component and looks kind of cool like a geode stone when sliced. They are similar to a cheese from Indiana called the “Wabash Cannonball”.
Like with all cheeses the aging process AKA “afinage” is where it gets tricky. This requires daily flipping and monitoring humidity to ensure mold growth. This year I am focusing on rind development. There are so many possibilities. I might even try a wine soaked cheese.
Fresh bread, a piece of cheese and a glass of wine with my wife and friends …. Is there anything better? I don’t think so.
Once again we had an enjoyable time with good friends and fine wines. Unlike our last Syrah/Shiraz tasting, this time we had examples from California, Australia and France. The wines were all fantastic and it allowed us to see diversity between many terroirs.Syrah/Shiraz Background:
Syrah is the primary grape of the Northern Rhone and is associated with classic wines such as Hermitage, Cornas and Cote-Rotie. In the Southern Rhone it is used as a blending grape in such wines as Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Cotes du Rhone, where Grenache makes up the bulk of the blend. This was seen in our Rhone varietal tasting a few weeks ago. Syrah in its most heavily extracted form will age for decades, however, less-extracted styles can be enjoyed young providing lively red and blueberry characters and smooth tannin structure. Syrah has been widely used as a blending grape.
One of the key items that was noted at the tasting is that the wines from the warmer climates like Australia were sweeter and riper tasting. The wines from cooler climates like the Rhone valley of France, displayed more pepper and spice aromas in their flavor and lacked the sweetness.
Syrah usually becomes drinkable at an early age and most are produced for consumption within a year after release (2rd year from harvest). In Australia, Shiraz has found a real home. The Shiraz grape is the most widely planted red grape variety in Australia where it is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or occasionally with Mourvedre. Syrah is widely used to make a dry red table wine, which can be both varietal or blended.
The flavors and aromas of the Syrah grape are the results of its thick-skinned and dark, almost black fruit. Its wines are intense with a dark purple-black color. The wines taste of blackberry and currant fruit, smoke, tar and black pepper, and have a smooth supple texture. Syrah reflects minerality well, and the chalky character of the tannins provides a wonderful backbone to softer, fruitier varietals such as Grenache. In blends, Syrah provides structure, a deep blackish-purple color, minerality, and longevity.
Now that we have a little background on the Syrah grape, let’s review the group’s findings on the many examples brought to the tasting. I was glad that we did get a large variety of examples as this can show all of the different variations that a wine can achieve based on terroir and processing differences in different countries.Wines:
2004 Blue Rock Syrah Alexander Valley, Sonoma
Aroma: Black cherries , Plum , Eucalyptus , smoke , tobacco
Taste: Black cherries , Eucalyptus on the finish
Rating Wine Enthusiast: 90 points
2005 Greenpoint Reserve Yarra Valley, Australia
Aroma: Plum , Vanilla , Spices
This wine was unique in that John and I perceived that the wine had almost no taste when first entering the mouth. Then it opens up builds to a long finish. I have never tasted a wine with this characteristic. This is also noted in the second paragraph of the Professional/Vintners notes below by the professionals tasters.
Wine Spectator: 91 points
Syrah wines from the US were in-between France and Australia when it came to alcohol content and sweetness. Does this mean that it would be safe to say that the temperatures that the grapes are grown is directly proportional to the alcohol content and sweetness of the wine? Remember that other factors come into play such as when a winery decides to pick the grapes as well as when they decide to stop the fermentation process. The key thing is how much sugar is available.
In closing, here is a Comical overview by the Rhone Rangers of the Syrah grape to help remember its characteristics and roles in the wine world.
“During the Roman occupation of Gaul you rose to fame as a captive vine turned gladiator. Your legend grew in the spartan competition of Northern Rhône amphitheaters. But little did the Romans know; you had more than just brute tannic power. Behind your fiery, spicy attitude there was the soul of a great leader. You outlasted the Romans and eventually ruled the Rhone Valley from the hill of Hermitage. But your greatest victory was to come in the New World, as emperor of the masses ‘Down Under’. Never one to rest on past laurels, you have set your sights on America. It is only a matter of time before you conquer this continent, leading the charge of an imposing legion known as the “Rhone Rangers”.”