Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Wine: Year in Review

What an exciting year this has been for Why Wine Blog and for me personally in my quest to further my knowledge of wine. The blog started out in 2008 only as fun thing to do and to give my new wine affiliate web site it's first link. The web-site did not succeed, so I transferred many of my affiliates to the blog and began pretending to know something about wine. Well, at least I thought I knew something, but in 2009 I realized how much I did not know. To understand you will have to know where I came from as far as my wine experience.
Not including the sweet Rose's and $1 bottles of wine we took to Virgina Beach, VA and Revere Beach in Boston in the late 60's while in the service, I actually did not start drinking wine regularly until 1971 or 72. Other than an occasional Chardonnay, it was red wine only for me. The first wine I really loved was Chianti and other Super Tuscans that fell within the limits of my wallet. Italian wines only in my rack until I discovered Rioja and Bordeaux and California Cab/Sauvs. In the late 90's I added Pinot Grigio and Voigner to my limited white wine list. As you see, with the exception of the Cab/Sauv, I liked blended European reds. That did not come close to changing when I moved to within one hour of the New York Finger Lakes region. I honestly tried their reds and for lack of a better term, they sucked. So life went on and nothing changed my wine drinking habits or taste. At least wine shopping was easy, my selection was not vast, actually very slim.
When I made my first Finger Lakes wine tour in 2008, I went expecting to taste only white wines. I decided, since I'm here, why not give a few reds a try. What I did find was some of these reds aren't bad. I only brought a few home and they stayed in the wine rack for a long time. I was afraid to open them. That was until 2009 when I bought a nice Italian vin rosso from Damiani Wine Cellars. The Italian name through me off and I did not realize that it was a Finger Lakes wine until I uncorked the bottle. Yes, I don't always read all the labels when buying wine, especially when in the Italian section where this one was. I thought this was more than just a very good table wine. It was a fantastic red table wine. I had just started posting the Joeshico Wine Reviews in February and New York reds were not supposed to be part of any of my reviews.
After posting a few reviews, I came to the conclusion, that I knew very little about wine and how to critique wine. From then on I started using my blog as a learning tool. I will post articles about only wines I like and why I like them. This is working out very nice. I just have to learn how to write like a half way descent journalist to really enjoy this new found hobby more.
If I am going to review wines, albeit my way,  I would have to force myself to leave my comfort zone and begin to search out new wines and some oldies I just never gave a chance to. This point was made very clear on my first wine tour of 2009 and the first winery visited on what was a Finger Lakes red wine only day. My first stop was at the winery that raised my curiosity about their reds, Damiani Wine Cellars. One of the highlights of this year was barrel tasting, at Amy Cheatles persistence, the Damiani Syrah.
Tried to convince her that I am not a Syrah fan. That was until I tasted. That vintage was not bottled, but I started buying and tasting quite a few Syrah and did my first Syrah review this month. As I write this article, I am finishing another Finger Lakes Syrah from Glenora Wine Cellars and as their label states at the bottom "Beautiful wine"
How far I was going to go with Why Wine Blog and what direction was still undetermined until that day. Still need many improvements, but happy were I am at now.
Now, how exciting a year was this:
1. I now can enjoy and appreciate local wines. New favorites are the Cabernet Franc, Lemberger (Blaufrankisch) and Syrah's from the Finger Lakes.
2. I now search out and try to always add something new in whites and reds to my rack.
3. I have added many white wines to my fave list. Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Cayuga White, Rieslings and Sauvignon Blanc
4. I met some of the nicest people on earth, tasting room employees and owners in the Finger Lakes region. If it wasn't for temperatures dipping below 60 deg in the winter I'd probably retire to that area.
5. I spent two hours enjoying a Heron Hill Blaufrankisch with a blogging friend 1000 miles away on Skype.
6. Ate lunch with another blogging friend in Virgina Beach.
7. Tasted more and different good wines in one year than I have in the past 10 years.
If I have to name the best wines I've tasted this year, I probably would have a difficult time choosing. but I will give it shot.
1. Best Rose': Tried four different Finger Lakes Rose's, best was from Billsboro Winery.
2. Best White: Many good Finger Lakes Riesling's and Gewurzt's, but best white tied between a CA Chardonnay from Clos du Bois the Calcaire and the Michael Shaps 2006 Viognier from the King Family Vineyards in Virginia.
3. Best Red: Loved the Meritage from Damiani, the Atwater Estate Syrah, the Fox Run Pinot Noir and the Heron Hill Blaufrankisch, but the best was the Ravines Cabernet Franc 2007.
I don't know what 2010 will bring to Why Wine Blog, but looking forward to some changes, some new wines and some old faves, some new friends and meeting some friends made this past year.
To all my followers and those just tuning in for the first time:
"May the best of 2009 be the worse of 2010 for us all"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Wine: Joeshico Wine Review; Atwater Estate Vineyards Syrah 2007

Syrah has always been one to those wines I could take or leave it. Almost all that I had ever tasted were the Shiraz from Australia. While visiting Damiani Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake this past spring I tasted an excellent Syrah and I was sold. From that day on I was a fan. I found that the Syrah's produced here in the US were smoother and not as bold as the full bodied Shiraz I had become accustomed to. Then again maybe I just have to taste a few more and that's not a bad thing now, is it?
On a recent tour I found what I believe is the best (so far) Finger Lakes Syrah and it was just a short drive south of Damiani at the Atwater Estate Vineyards.

Winemakers Notes:
Syrah has found an ideal home in the Finger Lakes, where our climate mimics France's Rhone Valley, where the grape produces some of the finest wines in the world. Cool-climate Syrah produces elegant wines, brimming with dark fruit, spice and earth. With a velvety palate of mulberry, pepper and mocha, this dry Syrah will complement grilled meats, beef stew, and classic French cassoulet.

My notes:
I found a whole lot of dark plum in the aromas and the palate with a little earth. Very smooth feel and finish with a little white pepper and a bit of sweet raspberry added to the plum. Probably the mulberry, which I have no idea what that taste like, gave it that hint of sweetness in a very nice dry wine.

I enjoyed the Syrah with Shirley's three bean chili. Not quite a cassoulet, but as close as I'll get.
Would really like to try with my daughters beef bourguignon (ala, Julia Child).

Unfortunately, there were only 113 cases produced. The price is very competitive with other Finger Lakes Syrah at $32, but can only be found on-line at Atwater Estates Vineyards or at the winery, which has one of the most fantastic views of Seneca Lake.
  • Acres: 0 - Saw Mill Creek Vineyards, Hector, NY
  • Year first planted: n/a
  • Residual Sugar: .1%
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Acid: .66%
  • pH: 3.41
  • Cases produced: 113

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Wine: Joeshico Wine Review; Fulkerson Winery Dornfelder 2007

This has been one fantastic year of enlightenment for me when it comes to all things wine. Believe I may do a year end article on the subject. If I do, I will have to include the German grape, Dornfelder as one of the highlights.
Dornfelder is a cross between Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe grapes. It is the 3rd most planted red wine grape in Germany. In the Finger Lakes region it is very scarce, only two wineries grow Dornfelder and Fulkerson Winery is the only varietal wine producer.

Color is a dark garnet with light aromas of plum, cherry and a hint of spice. As noted by the wine maker, it is a Beaujolais style wine, dry and fruity with some blueberry on the palate.

I purchased the Dornfelder at the Fulkerson Winery while on the Deck the Halls tour last week.
Price was right at only $12 and during the event the second bottle was 1/2 priced. Of course, I brought home two and now think I should have purchased more. The first bottle was great just sipping with some cheese bits and some chocolate M&M's.
The second, I enjoyed with my daughter's roasted organic free range chicken and some fabulous roasted potato fingerlings.

Add one more new discovery for 2009 and a reason to be very optimistic for 2010. Just too many varieties of grapes yet to be tasted for a first time. It'll be fun! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Joeshico Wine Review: Agent For Change Zinfandel 2006

**Disclaimer: I received these wines from Martellotto Wines

One of the benefits of writing a wine blog is the occasional UPS delivery of wine to taste and review on the blog. Because I am not a wine critic, but write a more or less personnel blog and only post what I find in wines that I like, I am surprised, but feel honored that I was chosen to write my opinion on their wines. It can also be disappointing when the wine received is one that I don't normally drink or one that I have a hard time with. Such was the case with one of the two wines received from Martellotto Wines.

The first one I opened was the Martellotto 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Now Cabs I have no problem with. They are one of the wines that I started with a long long time ago in a place far far away and still enjoy today. I believe this is my first from the Paso Robles' region of California. The wine is 85% Cab/Sauv, 10% Merlot and 5% Syrah which gives it a nice fruity and peppery finish. A full bodied wine that I would like with a grilled NY strip, but settled for bites of extra sharp cheddar while watching my Phillies lose the World Series this past October. The wine sells for $18, but can only be purchased on line from Big Hammer Wines.

The second bottle I had to wait a month to open for a couple of reasons. The first was a little stomach problem that still lingers and the second was a fear that this would be like any other Zinfandel I've tried. I don't know why I have a problem with Zin's, but for some reason I never did get into the very full body, high alcohol and very peppery taste I always got, until now.
The second bottle was an Agent for Change 2006 Zinfandel. Blackberry, black cherry and a little dark plum aromas, lower alcohol and smoother finish from this Paso Robles' wine. Not what I was expecting, but any wine that I can finish in one night just sipping while playing on the PC, makes for a good drink. The Zin was also only $15 and like the Cab can be purchased only from Big Hammer Wines.

But wait, or as Paul Harvey would say, "now the rest of the story."
"Agent for Change Wines (code name: A4C) seeks operatives for doing good works by drinking good wines. By drinking charitably, A4C donates a significant portion of the proceeds to worthy non-profit organizations."
"A4C has released three wines from Central Coast California: a Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, and a Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Fifty percent of the profits from these wines are donated to community-based organizations that deliver healthcare to uninsured and underinsured workers in the wine industry."

These are good wines at a good price that support a good cause. To help out, please place your order now with Big Hammer Wines.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Day In The Finger Lakes 3 - "Deck The Halls"

Always nice to return to the Finger Lakes with Shirley and friends for a day of wine tasting and stocking up the wine fridge for the holidays.
This time it was our first visit to the "Deck the Halls" event on Seneca Lake. 30 participating wineries offering a food pairing and an ornament for a Xmas wreath made from grape vines.
We received the wreath at our first stop and then spent the next seven hours attempting to visit as many of the wineries as possible to try their special food pairing with one or two of their wines and also taste the new releases and some old favorites before heading onto the next stop.
Shirley acted as designated driver for me and two good friends and passed her time in the shops buying Xmas presents while we tasted, compared notes and bought wine.
We were able to visit 16 of the 30 participating wineries. On the downside, this really did not
give us a lot of time in each to meet the staff and talk wine. But, it was enough to come away with a trunk load of wine and gifts, enjoy the company of friends and make many new friends in the tasting rooms.

The day started when we arrived at Lamoreaux Landing at 10 a.m. to sign in and pick up our wreaths, first ornament and our first food and wine pairing. We tasted some of their reds and brought home a nice Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was here I decided that with winter now here I was only going to taste the red wines today. That did not last long and by days end I had a few good white wines in my bag.
From Lamoreaux we went on to visit Wagner Vineyards, Penquin Bay Winery, Red Newt Cellars and Atwater Estate Vineyards on the east side of Seneca Lake before heading up the west side.
It was at Atwater that I found the best wine of the day, the 2007 Syrah. I also got to meet and talk a bit with owner Ted Marks. It was a very busy day for Ted and I appreciate the fact that he took a little time to chat.
The rest of the day we traveled north on Rt. 14 (the west side).
The first two stops were at Casacata Winery at the Professors' Place and Lakewood Vineyards.
At Lakewood I found my new favorite Riesling and a nice recipe for a Christmas salad. From there we traveled to Fulkerson Winery, Glenora Wine Cellars and Villa Bellangelo. I am always looking for something new in wine and at Fulkerson I tasted a Dornfelder. A Beaujolais style German wine that is produced in the Finger Lakes by only Fulkerson Winery. A very nice wine and a 1/2 off price for second bottle. I took advantage of that offer and brought home two.
Still heading north we were able to stop at Torrey Ridge Winery and Prejean Winery before making a must stop at Anthony Road Wine Company. A fabulous swedish style meat ball over egg noodles was served with the Anthony Road 2008 semi-sweet Riesling. What a great pairing.
Best pairing of the day. Also very busy in the back and at the cash register was owner Ann Martini. Lovely lady, very gracious and very proud of her wines.
Again just a short chat and off we went to Fox Run Vineyards and White Springs Winery, two of my picks as best of the Finger Lakes wineries. I left Fox Run with a collection of their fine red wines and headed to White Springs for some of my favorite whites. But, at White Springs I got my surprise of the day! For those that know me, I usually will not try any wine that may even suggest sweetness. On the recommendation of tasting room manager Jan Van Allen, I tried a wild blend called Happenstance. Cab/Sauv, Cab/Franc, Merlot and Gewurztraminer produced a very elegant semi-sweet red wine with lots of very dark plum and black cherry and a velvety smooth finish. Thank you Jan for the recommendation.
Still early after leaving White Springs, we had time to head over to the north-east side and visit Ventosa Vineyards. A great way to finish our tour, at the most elegant structure on the Lake.
One of the newer wineries, Ventosa is producing some of the best wines in the region. I especially like the Tocai Friulano and the Saggio VI white blend and Saggio series 5 red blend.
What a great day on the Finger Lakes. Next year we hope to plan the entire weekend for this event. Until then I will just keep the wine fridge filled with with great wines and greater memories for our first "Deck The Halls."