9 Things I learned at the Wine Bloggers Conference

9 Things I learned at the Wine Bloggers Conference

So it’s been just over a month since we were out in California for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference. Once again we had a great time and learned much about being better bloggers and how we can better understand our place in the wine industry. Here’s a list of 9 things I learned while at this year’s conference.

Continue reading →

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
North Carolina Wines for Your 2017 Holiday Table

North Carolina Wines for Your 2017 Holiday Table

The holidays are here! It’s a time for celebration with family and friends which often means good food and good drink. With a growing industry and higher quality of wines, it is time to consider adding North Carolina wine to your holiday table. But where do you start?  What should you pair with classic holiday foods?  We’re back this year with some updated suggestions!

Off Dry Pear Mead from Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro

Winter Salad with Pears – Pears and spicy greens are perfect this time of year.  Add some blue cheese and a tangy vinaigrette and you have magic!  To further that magic, pair the salad (pun intended) with the Off Dry Pear Mead from Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro.  This mead is made with diluting the honey with fruit juice rather than water.  The palate begins with pear moves to honey and finishes with more pear.

Ham – Ham is a classic main course for any holiday. While Riesling is a classic pairing with any ham, we’re recommending two excellent muscadine wines this year.

  • The first is the Riverton Estate from Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram.  This dry Carlos wine is tart yet fruity.  It tastes very much like a Riesling with great acidity!
  • The second is Carlos in the Buff from Dennis Vineyards in Albemarle.  Also, Carlos this wine was made with no skin contact.  It’s also only lightly sweet also with great acidity and less of the foxy quality often found with muscadine.

Turkey – Roast turkey is versatile. You can pair with a white wine or a lighter red wine.

  • For the white wine, we recommend the 2015 Grüner Veltliner from Burntshirt Vineyards in Hendersonville.  This wine is always stellar.  It has notes of citrus, apple. and peach.  This would match well with turkey and cranberry sauce.
  • For the red wine, we recommend the 2015 Chambourcin from Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery in Elkin.  This Chambourcin is lightly oaked with flavors of dark cherry and warm spice.   This would also pair well with turkey and cranberry sauce or turkey and gravy.

Provencia from Hanover Park Vineyard in Yadkinville

Duck – Ah, duck! It is poultry that has the umph of a steak! Classically you would pair duck with a Pinot Noir. But, if you can’t find Pinot Noir, Chambourcin is a great substitute!  We recommend the 2014 Provencia from Hanover Park Vineyard in Yadkinville.  This Chambourcin is a step above.  It was so special that it got a special name!  It’s smooth and bold with no hybrid bite.

Reserve Syrah from Junius Lindsay Vineyard in Welcome

Lamb – Lamb is one meat where you either love it or hate it. We happen to love it. A classic pairing with lamb is a wine from the Rhône Valley of France.  We recommend the 2013 Reserve Syrah from Junius Lindsay Vineyard in Welcome.  With warm oak and smooth cherry, this wine is easy drinking with light black pepper notes.

Roast Beef – Roast beef is another holiday classic. Of course, this calls for a hearty red wine!

  • The first recommendation is the 2013 Tannat from Shelton Vineyards in Dobson.  This is a big, bold red.  Yet it’s also smooth and balanced.  It’s perfect for beef or any red meat!
  • The second recommendation is the 2012 Estate Reserve Selection Merlot from Jones von Drehle in Thurmond.  Aged in French oak for forty months, this wine has soft tannins with cherry and cocoa.  It also pairs well with duck confit.

South Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay from RayLen Vineyards in Mocksville

Seafood Lasagna, Roast Chicken or Roasted Vegetables – Any of these dishes make for a great additions to your holiday table.  For pairing with all of these, we recommend the 2015 South Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay from RayLen Vineyards in Mocksville.  Sourced from a vineyard near the South Mountains in Burke County, this wine is barrel fermented.  This wine is oaky and buttery yet retains good fruit.

Barbera from Brandon Hills Vineyard in Yadkinville

Any Tomato Based Dish – Having a dish with tomato sauce and maybe a little spice?  We recommend the 2010 Barbera from Brandon Hills Vineyard in Yadkinville.  This wine is earthy yet with good cherry flavors.  It’s very smoothed and well balanced.

Finish Line Dessert Wine from Childress Vineyards in Lexington

Chocolate Desserts – Decadent chocolate desserts call for port-style wines. They are perfect with rich chocolate or just by themselves on a cold night. We recommend the 2012 Finish Line from Childress Vineyards in Lexington. This fortified wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has strong notes of coffee and cocoa which pair perfectly with chocolate!

These are our recommendations for 2017.  We’d love to hear your recommendations, so leave us a comment!

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Napa and Sonoma Are Open for Business

Napa and Sonoma Are Open for Business

We recently returned from the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference held in Santa Rosa, CA.  Santa Rosa is located in Sonoma County.  Parts of Santa Rosa were directly impacted by the October, 2017 Wildfires.  Yes, we saw fire damage.  We heard stories from panelist who were directly impacted by the wildfires.  Yes, there is recovery in progress.  However, taken as a whole, the wine industry survived pretty much in tack.

Napa and Sonoma are open for business.  Most vineyards saw little to no damage.  So, if you’re able, go visit.  Help revive the tourist economy on which these areas depend.

Below are some images we took during our trip.  They show a beautiful region that’s still extremely picturesque.  We have a new found respect for this region and its wines.  We look forward to enjoying the wines we purchased and visiting again in the future!

Vineyards along US 101 Near Healdsburg in Sonoma County

Beautiful fall colors in a vineyard near Healdsburg in Sonoma County

Vineyards near Geyserville in Sonoma County

Another vineyard near Geyserville in Sonoma County

Red foliage on vines near Healdsburg and Alexander Valley in Sonoma County

Vineyard near Calistoga in Napa County

Vineyard on the approach to PlumpJack Winery near Oakville in Napa County

Vineyard near Windsor in Sonoma County

Head trained vines in the Alexander Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County

Front gate at Miner Family Wines near Oakville in Napa County

Vines with grapes still hanging near Calistoga in Napa County

Hill Family Estate tasting room in downtown Yountville in Napa County

Stewart Cellars Tasting Lodge in Downtown Yountville in Napa County

PlumpJack Winery Tasting Room near Oakville in Napa County

Vineyard on a beautiful November day in Napa County

Vineyard in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa County

Charred Trees look down on an untouched vineyard in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa County

Napa Town Center in Downtown Napa

Beautiful Mountains heading over Atlas Peak in Napa County

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, 0 comments
#WBC17 Wine Dinner at Thomas George Estates

#WBC17 Wine Dinner at Thomas George Estates

On Friday night of the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we decided to take part in a wine dinner excursion at Thomas George Estates in Healdsburg.  Thomas George is located in the Russian River Valley AVA of Sonoma County.  They were founded in 2008 and focus on small production vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

We loaded on our bus and headed out.  After a twenty plus minute drive in the darkness which included a wrong turn by the driver and a trip across a one lane bridge over the Russian River, we made it up the hill to Thomas George Estates.  As we arrive the tasting room was on one side and the wine cave was on the other.  Dinner was being served in the wine cave.

Cave Entrance at Thomas George Estates

Reception

Immediately upon entering the wine cave, we were greeted with glasses of the 2014 Brut Blanc de Blancs, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Cooper Block.  The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Russian River Valley AVA.  Starr Ridge Vineyard is located a few miles to the east of the winery.  To accompany the sparkling wine, we were served house-made cured meats from the Black Pig Meat Company.  The Black Pig is meat company owned by the evening’s chef, Duskie Estes.  Duskie is co-owner of Zazu Kitchen + Farm with John Stewart.  Duskie has also appeared as a judge on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network.  In addition to the meats, there were roasted vegetables, spreads, and crostini.

Table is set for dinner inside the Cave at Thomas George Estates

First Course

After reception, we took our seats at the long table.  The first course was a roasted Brussel sprouts salad.  The salad included bacon from the Black Pig, Asian pears, Marcona Almonds, aged sherry vinegar, and  Capriago from Bohemian Creamy.  The paired wine was the 2015 Chardonnay from Sons & Daughters Vineyard.  This vineyard is located at the border of the Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill AVAs.  This unoaked wine was aged sur lie with no malolactic fermentation.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts Salad

Entrée

The featured wine for the entrée course was the 2014 Pinot Noir from Baker Ridge Vineyard.  This vineyard is on the winery site.  Duck is, of course, a perfect pairing with Pinot Noir.  This Star Anise Liberty Duck also included Cracklin’ Pork Belly with black rice, estate grown pomegranate and watercress.  This was perfectly paired!

Cracklin’ Pork Belly & Star Anise Liberty Duck

Dessert

We were allowed some time to finish our Pinot Noir after dinner before dessert was presented.  Dessert was a Quince and Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato.  The 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from the Baby Block of Baker Ridge Vineyard was the wine of choice.  The grapes for this wine are always hand harvested by the staff at Thomas George estates.  This block is closest to the driveway leading to the winery.  It was a beautiful wine!

Backyard Quince & Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato

 

Following dinner, Chef Duskie Estes came out to introduce herself and talk about her meal.  She’s quite the accomplished chef including appearances on Iron Chef and a 2001 James Beard Award.

We made a few purchases and loaded the bus to head back to the hotel.  If you’re ever in the Russian River Valley, be sure to go check out the Zazu Kitchen and Thomas George Estates!

Cheers!

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Lodi, CA

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Lodi, CA

We visited Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA.  Fellow bloggers recommended it and since we’re big fans for Rhône Valley style wines we had to go.  We thoroughly enjoyed everything we tasted.  For more on that trip go here:  Lodi Adventures after 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Since we were returning to California for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we decided to allow for some time in Lodi again.  We emailed Sue Tipton, the owner of Acquiesce, to see if she would be willing to let us come in for a tasting.  Acquiesce is normally closed on Wednesdays, but Sue graciously agreed.

Arrival

We arrived just before 11am.  Before going in we took a look around the vineyards closest to the road.  Below are some of the pictures we took.  Sue grows only Rhône Valley white varietals and Grenache for making rosé.  This is because Sue only makes white wines and a rosé.  She ripped out Zinfandel, Lodi’s signature grape, to plant these Rhône Valley grapes!  Also, Sue is small production.  She opens for the year in March and is usually sold out of the previous year’s vintage by early to mid-November.  Sue is now closed for the season and will reopen in March, 2018.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tasting

After checking out the vineyard and snapping pictures, we headed inside.  Sue was already behind the bar waiting for us to arrive.  We exchanged greetings.  Then Sue proceeded with the tasting.  Here are out notes:

  • 2016 Grenache Blanc – This wine had notes of green apple, apricot, and lime on the nose.  On the palate, it had a crisp, minerally undertone with good apricot fruit.  The finish was slightly minerally too.  Sue paired this with a thyme cracker which provided perfect balance with the wine.
  • 2016 Belle Blanc – A blend of 45% Grenache Blanc, 45% Roussanne, and 10% Viognier, light pear showed on the nose.  Mildly ripe pear with some light mineral notes showed on the palate.  Sue paired this wine with a manchego with a violet flower confit.  This brought out the mineral notes in the wine along with a lightly floral undertone.
  • 2016 Roussanne – A nose of honey and pineapple lead to a palate also of honey and pear.
  • 2016 Viognier – This wine presented a floral peach note on the nose.  Peach and apricot predominated on the palate along with a slight mineral undertone.  Its pairing was a Moroccan spiced cracker with a mango chutney.
  • 2016 Grenache Rosé – Picked at 22.5 Brix and whole cluster pressed, this showed light strawberry on the nose.  Watermelon and lime showed on the palate.

Winery

After we finished the tasting, Sue took us out to the winery.  A fairly new building, it was filled with several tanks of various sizes.  But unlike most wineries, there were no barrels.  Sue’s wines are only done is stainless steel.  She had a few more things for us to taste.

  • 2017 Picpoul Blanc – We tasted this straight from the tank.  While not the finished product, this will be a great wine.  It was highly acidic with notes of pineapple and pear.
  • 2017 Bourboulenc – Sue said we were some of the first folks in the country to taste an American grown Bourboulenc.  Again, this wine will be great.  It had notes of pear with some light pineapple in the background.  Sue has the only known planting of this grape in the US.
  • 2017 Clairette Blanche – A floral nose along with notes of pear showed on the nose.  There was more pear on the palate along with some herbal notes.  Again, it was an interesting wine.

We look forward to tasting these wines again in their finished state.

We headed back to the tasting room and selected wines for shipping home to us.  We thanked Sue for taking the time to host us, and we know we’ll be back to see her.  If you’re ever in Lodi, you should do the same!

Cheers!

 

 

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
#WBC17 Live Blogging Day 2 – Red Wines

#WBC17 Live Blogging Day 2 – Red Wines

The live blogging for day 2 will be starting in just a few minutes.  Like we did yesterday, we’ll be posting about the wines that are poured at our table.  Check in soon for more details.

1. 1000 Stories 2015 Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel – This is the flagship wine for the winery. Bourbon and vanilla come through predominantly on the nose. The finish is smokey and charred with a healthy dose of spice on the mid-palate. This particular batch is number 35. Each batch will be different from batch to batch.

2. Paradise Ridge 2015 Pinot Noir – Cherry and vanilla on the nose are light and airy. The flavors are cherry and a nice oak. Ample fruit is present throughout. This Pinot Noir is slightly lower in alcohol at just over 13%. A very nice sample.

3. Gracianna 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir – This vintage is the third Pinot Noir made by the winery. The nose is light with subtle cherry, leather and vanilla. There is a very nice spice that comes through on finish. Overall a very nice example of Pinot Noir.

4. Missouri Wine pouring the Stone Hill Winery 2015 Norton – One of the 135 wineries in the state, this wine is incredibly dark. Aged in a combination of American, French, and Hungarian oak. Blueberries and baking spices come through on the nose. Fresh and fruity flavors come through on the front and mid-palate. The finish is tannic and broad sweeping.

5. Theopolis Vineyards 2015 Petite Sirah – This vineyard specializes in Petite Sirah and the 2015 doesn’t disappoint. The nose is fresh and bursting with dark berries and a nice vanilla. Big red fruits and berries come through on the flavors. The tannins are bold and grippy right now, but with more time it will transform into a supple profile.

6. Donelan Wines 2013 Cuvée Moriah – This wine is a Grenache based wine with a splash of Syrah added in. This ode to chateauneuf is lighter in color than some of the previous wines, but it doesn’t lack in flavor. It starts with a nice dried fruit with secondary characteristics of dried herbs and an earthy mid-palate. The finish has a nice tannin balance. Definitely a wine with character.

7. The Hilt Wines 2015 Pinot Noir – The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard that is just 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Coffee and cocoa come through on the nose. Ample red fruit flavors and a juicy mid-palate make this a mouthwatering wine that is easy drinking and approachable. And for the price point of $45, it is definitely enjoyable.

8. Wagner Family of Wine 2015 Conundrum Red – This wine is Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. The color is dark and the nose is straightforward with vanilla and dried fruit. Dark fruits and vanilla come through as the predominant flavors. Mild tannins come through and have a slightly fruit-sweet finish.

9. Cliff Lede Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – This Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the first we have had during this live blogging session. The nose is slightly floral (violets) with a mild cooling effect. The flavors are big and tannins bold. Cedar cigar box and a dark charred fruit finish are very present on this wine. Overall a very well balanced wine.

10. Planeta Wines La Segreta Nero D’Avola – This wine of Sicily is fruit forward and juicy. Aged completely in stainless steel, this wine is very fresh. It would be very food friendly and is quite approachable. Bottle price roughly $15.

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
#WBC17 Live Blogging Day 1 – Whites & Rosés

#WBC17 Live Blogging Day 1 – Whites & Rosés

Live blogging is set to being here soon.  We’ll be using this page to document the different wines we taste throughout the event.  Check back frequently!

1. Antica 2015 Block A26 – This Chardonnay is only available in the winery. It is nicely oaked with ripe apples on the nose. The finish is toasty with a nice vibrant profile.

2. Hanna 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – The nose is zippy and citrusy. The flavors are very nice with a touch of green apple, a hint of grassy mid-palate. The winemaker has learned the nuances of this grape and tamed the wild nature into something that sings in the glass.

3. Leto Cellars 2014 Chardonnay – The nose is more pronounced and is moving into a more mature profile. The fruit was picked at the peak of freshness to get the best taste. Minimal interaction after picking helped to express the varietal characteristics in the wine. The flavors are broad sweeping and pleasing. A great family story to accompany a great wine.

4. Acumen Wine 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – 80% stainless steel and 20% new oak fermentation give this a slightly tropical banana nose. The flavors are mellow. Pears and grapefruit come through toward the end and into the finish.

5. William Hill Estate 2015 Chardonnay – Vanilla and butter come through big time on the nose. They have one of the most iconic views in the Napa Valley. It is buttery in flavor and has a nice balance of oak and fruit. The flavors are very soft and supple and has a really nice character. An excellent value for the $17 price point.

6. Dancing Coyote Wines 2016 Grüner Veltliner – A refreshing break from Chardonnay, this wine is fresh and crisp. The flavors are of fresh melon and creamed lemon. The acidity is fresh and leaves the mouth with a clean finish. Additional flavors of white peach with a slightly herbaceous note also come through.

7. Anaba Wines 2015 Turbine White – This Rhône style white is mostly Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne (with a dash of other common Rhône whites). The nose is flinty and slightly smoky. The flavors are vibrant and vivid. Tangerine and citrus come through on the mid-palate and the finish is nice minerally. This is another great refreshing break. Delicious!

8. Paradise Ridge 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – This limited production Sauvignon Blanc is 100% stainless steel. The wine itself is crisp and bright. There’s nice citrus and a light mineral flavor. The mid-palate is mildly tropical with a nice acid balance. It’s easy going and very enjoyable. Despite a loss of their winery and tasting room buildings, the vines were spared in the recent fires. Luckily they had a good supply off-site in a bonded facility that is still available for sale. Definitely one to check out.

9. Breathless Wines Blanc de Noirs – 99% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier make this quite interesting. The nose is bretty and yeasty. The flavors are a bit heavy on the biscuit with a dark subtle undertone. Fruit flavors come through as well, leaning toward strawberry and a hint of kumquat.

10. Vanderpump 2016 Rosé – This Cotes de Provence may seem a little out of place here in Santa Rosa, but good wine knows no bounds. The flavors are a classic Provence rosé. A nice way to finish out the live blogging round for the day.

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
A Spotlight on Vermentino of the Swan Creek AVA

A Spotlight on Vermentino of the Swan Creek AVA

Our final feature in our series of lesser known grapes is a spotlight on Vermentino. As with our other spotlight features, you can find some great examples right here in North Carolina in the Swan Creek AVA.  We go into some detail about the grape itself and review six vintages from two North Carolina wineries.

Continue reading →

Posted by Matt Kemberling in Wine, 0 comments
Cypress Bend Vineyards

Cypress Bend Vineyards

We recently had to a chance to visit Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram, NC.  Cypress Bend is located near the Lumber River in Scotland County and opened in 2005.  Dan and Tina Smith are the owners.  The area is known as Riverton Farm and has been in the family since the early 1800s.  They have been featured on North Carolina Weekend and Flavor NC Presents From the Vineyard in North Carolina. Continue reading →

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments