Sauvignon Blanc

WBW 55: North vs. South

by Tim Elliott on March 25, 2009

This Wine Blogging Wednesday thing is becoming a problem for me. No, it’s not the themes but my lack of organization and focus to actually post on time or near to the actual event. I did my last event on the weekend after the Wednesday in question and there have been too many months where I’ve missed posting these on the day prescribed.

So in the “better late than never” category goes this entry, which I actually started last Wednesday but ran out of time to complete; my apologies to our host Remy from The Wine Case for my late entry this time, a week behind the curve. This is after sitting out the last outing (stupidly, as will become obvious in future tasting notes).

But getting back to the task at hand, this month we are challenged by Remy from Quebec City’s The Wine Case blog to taste a variety from the North and South and compare them. This can be by any measure but I thought it best to compare wines made from the same variety from different hemispheres. I also decided to turn to a white grape since I nearly always feature reds for WBW. So I picked Sauvignon Blanc, the variety from Bordeaux that travels well around the world to create interesting wines.

Sauvignon Blanc is one of those ancient varieties that seems to produce pleasing wines no matter what the style. From bone dry to sweet, the variety does well from it’s home in France to California, the valleys of Chile and the vineyards of New Zealand. DNA profiling has connected Sauvignon Blanc as the parent of the noble Cabernet Sauvignon (along with Cabernet Franc) and related to Chenin Blanc and even Traminer. This grape has a lot to tell from several angles and I hoped to be able to triangulate common characteristics from this tasting.

For my northerly selection I chose a recent sample sent from Rued Winery in Dry Creek Valley. I’m a frequent visitor to this part of Sonoma but have not had the pleasure of visiting this winery. From this, and subsequent tastings of other varieties, I will have to drop by to taste more. From the south, we have the ever reliable Kim Crawford from Marlborough, New Zealand. Unlike some wineries acquired and expanded based upon the reputation of early efforts, this brand seems to continue to deliver the goods.

But who will take this North vs. South Sauvignon Blanc showdown?

Tasting Notes:

Rued Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley 2007  ($16/sample) – Very light straw in color with a green tinge. Citrus and stone fruit aromas with flavors of lime, grapefruit and peach finishing with a burst of acidity and nice mineral notes. A very nice California SB in a style I’d like to see more producers make. Also an excellent value. Paired well with Japanese food but would also be a natural for any seafood you’d squeeze lemon on before eating.

13.5% ABV
Synthetic closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2008 ($17/sample) – Light straw in color with aromas of grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh hay. Bright grapefruit and lime flavors finishing very clean with good acidity. A reliable and food friendly SB for current drinking.

13% ABV
Screw cap closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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So a draw this time with perhaps a slight nod to the North. It seems the northern entry was more mineral while the southern selection more herbaceous. But either would make a great pairing with spring food and are highly recommended. I look forward to next month when I will dare to publish these notes on the correct Wednesday ;-)

Check out Remy’s summary for those who posted on time.

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WBW 53: Wine for Breakfast!

by Tim Elliott on January 18, 2009

In the nearly 4 years I’ve been participating in Wine Blogging Wednesday I’ve never posted this late but I really wanted to take a run at the theme of “Wine for Breakfast!” Since our host this month seems fine with a bit of Wine Blogging Sunday, I’ll take a crack at getting this post published before the NFC Championship game is over.

First off, I don’t drink wine with breakfast. Never have. Sure, I’ve had plenty of sparkling wine or rose at a brunch or two but that is always about 11 a.m. which seems close enough to noon to be socially acceptable. Funny enough, I actually taste wine in the morning on occasion but it’s never with food and I’m always spitting. And finally, I don’t like breakfast food for dinner. This is probably mostly due to wine being not the best match for eggs, pancakes and maple syrup.

But that doesn’t mean there are no wines that would match with such fare; in fact, sparkling wine and rose — dry or off-dry — would probably work here fine. But El Jefe, owner of Twisted Oak Winery and our WBW host this month, has limited our options to dry white and red wines only. Nothing sweet, sparkling or mixed with fruit juice is allowed.

So this has become quite a challenge as my typical breakfast of bacon and eggs is not that easy to match with a dry wine. I like my eggs scrambled and mixed with a bit of cheese further complicating matters. The bacon, of course, would match with a lot of wines but those eggs can really overpower a wine. But I’m not eating huevos rancheros with a yolk to worry about so I think I’ll try to match this breakfast with both a white and a red.

French Maid Sauvignon BlancFor the white I’m going with a medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc I recently received as a sample from the White Rocket Wine Company called “French Maid“. As I’ve noted in the past, I’m not much of a label buyer but perhaps I’ll change my tune as this wine really delivers what you want in Sauvignon Blanc. Made in France’s Languedoc region, the wine is very similar in style with New Zealand SB which have mostly risen above the $12 price point. I think this wine has enough body and acidity to stand up to my bacon and eggs breakfast but I’d more likely enjoy this wine in the summer with a cold chicken salad.

Tasting Notes:

White Rocket Wine Company, “French Maid”, Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2007 ($12/sample) – Light straw in color with aromas of grapefruit, fresh hay and pineapple. Tart lime fruit flavors finishing clean and dry. A very good value to be compared with better New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

12.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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My red match has to be a wine with a lot of fruit and no tannins. Yes, a fruit bomb. I think Beaujolais would be a good match here but when I think fruit bomb, the joven blend of Garnacha and Tempranillio from Bodegas Borsao comes immediately to mind. Available in good volume across the U.S. for well under $10 a bottle, this wine continues to be a good value vintage after vintage. The juicy fruit profile of this wine pairs will with my bacon and eggs breakfast and would also work with more ambitious fare such as a frittata.

Bodegas Borsao Red WineTasting Notes:

Bodegas Borsao,  “Red Wine”, Campo De Borja 2007 ($7) – A blend of 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillio this wine is medium ruby in color with aromas of strawberry and red cherry. Juicy fresh strawberry and cherry fruit flavors finishing with a touch of minerality and soft tannins. A fruit bomb, but I like it.

14% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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Thanks go out to Jeff from Twisted Oak Winery for hosting a very challenging WBW. I’m looking forward to reading the round-up post probably coming later this afternoon (hope I slip this post in).

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WBW 47: Brought To You By The Letter “S”

by Tim Elliott on July 9, 2008

For Wine Blogging Wednesday this month, our hosts Erin and Michelle from Grape Juice have presented us with a theme inspired by television series Sesame Street: Today’s Wine Brought To You By The Letter “S”. For those not familiar with the show, Sesame Street presented the alphabet to pre-school children one letter at a time with the help of Muppet characters. Erin and Michelle have asked wine bloggers to pick a wine with a connection with the letter “S” and post our notes.

The first wine to come to mind was made by Steve Matthiasson (the first “S”) from Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla and Semillon (two more “S” connections) grown in Napa Valley. I have long thought the most complex wines are made from a blend of varieties and was intrigued to taste such a blend when the winery send me samples (one more “S”) earlier this year.

Steve’s day job is as a vineyard consultant so he tends his own vines in his spare time on Sunday’s (another “S”). Matthiasson works with clients using both organic and biodynamic methods so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Rudolf Steiner (yet another “S”), the father of biodynamic farming. Matthiasson’s total production is only a few hundred cases and his entire family is involved in the operation. This hands-on, natural approach and attention to detail really shows in the glass with this stunning white blend (my last “S”).

Tasting Notes:

Matthiasson, White Wine, Napa Valley 2006 ($35/sample) – Straw in color with very aromatic pineapple, lychee, fig, almond and spice on the nose. Fresh green apple, citrus and mineral flavors finishing quite long with bracing acidity. A delicious and unique wine that pairs well with food but makes a statement on it’s own.

13.6% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 92
Rating: ★★★★☆

So I have seven “S” connections in this post and will now send a shout-out to Erin and Michelle for their great theme. Stay tuned for more Wine Blogging Wednesday news and links to the round-up when it’s posted.

Photo by the Corkdork

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Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005

by Tim Elliott on April 28, 2008

George and Elsa Vare love the white wine blends of Italy and have devoted Vare Vineyards to the pursuit of making this style of wine in Napa Valley. They are not new to the wine business having co-founded Luna Vineyards and this experience shows in the bottle. I first tasted Vare wines at the recent Wine 2.0 event at Crushpad in San Francisco and was excited to try their very limited production Bianco Riserva 2005 as part of the Wine Spy for a Day program. The Wine Spies are also offering free ground shipping on 4 bottles or more for all Winecast readers by entering promotional code “WINECASTLUVSME”.

Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005A blend of 40% Ribolla Gialla, 25% Pinot Grigio, 22% Tocai Friulano, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Chardonnay grown in Napa Valley, Vare Bianco Riserva 2005 is unique in several ways. First, this is the only winery with plantings of Ribolla Gialla in the US, a variety from Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region where it’s blended with Tocai Friulano. The wine spends an extra few months in once used French Oak barrels than it’s sibling Bianco which produces a more complex wine both aromatically and in it’s flavor profile. An finally, this is one of the few wines packaged in 500 ml bottles as requested by Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant. This results in one of the best Cal-Ital white blends I’ve tasted to date.

Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005 ($45/500ml/sample) – The straw color is a result of barrel fermentation and aging but the aromas are not overpowered by the influence of wood. This wine has a very pleasing bouquet of citrus, tropical fruit, walnut and a hint of clove. Complex but refreshing grapefruit and pineapple fruit flavors finishing with nice acidity and a creamy, lees element. An excellent food wine and would make a great starter to an Italian meal but with only 20 cases produced, you better act now.

14.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 90
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy this wine at Wine Spies for $35 today only!

And don’t forget to enter discount code “WINECASTLUVSME” when you check out for free ground shipping on orders of 4 bottles or more.

Thanks to Agent Red for recruiting me and Agent White for selecting such a nice wine to taste. Look for other wine bloggers to be Wine Spies for a Day in coming days.

Winecast 65 – Bar-B-Que Wines

by Tim Elliott on July 5, 2006


This month Wine Blogging Wednesday returns to it’s normal first Wednesday of the month and host Vivi’s Wine Journal has picked a very appropriate theme for July: Barbecue Wines (or is it BBQ, or Bar-B-Que?). The history of BBQ appears to be an American invention, but there seems to be some debate on this if you look closer. Whatever the derivation, today the term means either the slow cooked meats prepared across the southern U.S. from pork, beef or chicken or grilled meats in general. I took the latter definition for the purposes of this post and podcast and chose three wines I think would pair well with summer grilling. Different than in the other months I have participated in this event, my three wines will be a white, a rose and a red. All quite dry and loaded with fruit flavors to stand up to the heartiest summer fare.

Since yesterday was Independence Day here in the U.S., my grilling choice was classic Wisconsin brats and traditional side-dishes, potato and macaroni salad. Whatever wines I select, they would need enough acidity to cut through the mayonnaise in the salads and brown mustard on the brats. I selected two different kinds of brats, the common “beer brats” and a new-age chicken with bacon and swiss cheese. Both presented an interesting flavor profile to deal with in matching wines, where in past years I’ve just reached for an IPA or dark beer.

Of course, the best wine for Bar-B-Que or grilled meats depends upon the type of meat roasted. If I made steaks, for instance, I would have probably selected three red wines to match here. But since I had foods that were not overpowering in their flavors, I had a pretty open spectrum of wines to choose from. My strategy was to find wines with enough flavor to stand up to the food, but also enough acidity to enhance the flavors and not overpower the food. The rule of thumb at this time of year is to choose a dry rose, so my first match was a Wolffer Rosé 2005 the winery sent me recently as a sample. You probably remember Wolffer from my interview with winemaker Roman Roth in Winecast 56. Their rosé is made from 48% Merlot, 39% Chardonnay, 8% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon with the red grapes given a short time on the skins to minimize the color. The wine was totally made in stainless steel to accentuate the freshness of the fruit and retails for a reasonable $14 a bottle. This rosé is salmon in color with aromas of peach and fresh flowers. Rich and crisp in the mouth, showing cherry and citrus with a bit of white pepper on the dry finish. A very nice rosé for a hot summer’s day and nice accompaniment to my grilling yesterday. In fact, this might be the most versatile wine for grilled meats in the round-up. 11.5% ABV. Finished with natural cork. Score: 8.5/10

I usually don’t think of white wine and grilling, but I do think about white wines on hot summer days so I thought I would pick one from my cellar to see how it might work here. I’ve always liked the aggressiveness of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from New Zealand, but I didn’t have any bottles handy from that country. What I did have was the 2005 vintage of Veramonte’s Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley of Chile. I first tried this brand in my round-up on Winecast 12 last year and it has made it into my cellar ever since as a great value for hot summer days selling for $8-9 a bottle. The wine is light straw with a slight green hue. Fresh hay, lime and pineapple aromas with some gooseberry reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. On the palate, there is tart grapefruit flavors with nice acidity to match with food. The match was especially good with the chicken brats adding an nice counter-point to the bacon and swiss cheese flavors. I’d recommend this one for grilled pork too, as long as there is not spicy BBQ sauce involved in the preperation. 13.5% ABV. Stelvin closure. Score: 8/10

Finally, I wanted to try a fruit forward red wine. After considering Syrah/Shiraz, I fell back on my old favorite Zinfandel, selecting a 2003 Chiarello Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, “Giana,” which sells for $28 a bottle. I first tasted Chiarello Zin at ZAP this past January and was very impressed with all their wines. You might recognize the family name from owner Michael Chiarello’s Napa Style TV show, book and website. If anyone knows how to make food-friendly wines, it’s Mr. Chiarello, but I have to say that you need a steak or, better yet, Mexican food to match with this Zin. The wine is garnet-purple in color with powerful aromas of blackberry, plum and licorice. In the mouth it is substantial with blackberry jam, black pepper, spices and silky tannins. A hedonists Zin that somehow balances the substantial alcohol with fruit. Delicious, but overpowering to my 4th of July brats. 16.1% ABV. Finished with natural cork. Score: 9/10

So what did I learn this month? That a range of wines go well with grilled meats. If I had some true Bar-B-Que to match here, I think only the Chiarello Zin and Wolffer Rosé would have made the cut. For best wine, it easily goes to Chiarello Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, “Giana” 2003 and best value to the versatile Wolffer Rosé 2005. Thank to Joel over at Vivi’s Wine Journal for hosting this month and a great theme. I’m looking forward to seeing what founder Lenn has in store for the two-year anniversary of WBW next month.

Show Notes:
00:21 – Welcome and show theme
01:10 – Matching wine with Bar-B-Que or grilled meats
03:56 – Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile 2005 ($9)
04:58 – Wolffer Estate Vineyards, Rosé, Long Island, New York 2005 ($14/sample) +
06:20 – Chiarello Family Vineyards, Zinfandel, “Giana” 2003 ($28) *
07:50 – Best of tasting
07:58 – Best value
08:15 – Wrap-up and contact details
08:50 – Next show theme

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Copyright 2006 Acan Media, Inc. Licensed to the public under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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Winecast 44 – The Big Three Whites

by Tim Elliott on October 31, 2005

Today’s podcast is a return to the virtual tasting format first suggested by a listener back in February. I taste the “Big Three Whites”, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay “live” on the show and invite listeners to taste these wines as they listen. The podcast was also filmed to be the first wine related Vcast or what Apple has been calling “video podcast” released, optimized for Apple’s 5G iPods.

Show Notes:

0:20 – Welcome
0:32 – Introduction of “virtual tasting”
01:10 – Review the three wines to be tasted
01:59 – Dr. Fischer, Ockfener Bockstein Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany 2003 ($14)
05:36 – Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2004 ($9)
07:29 – Los Cardos, Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina 2003 ($9)
11:40 – Best of tasting
11:51 – Best value
12:15 – Contact details
12:37 – Theme for next show

Feedback: winecast@gmail.com | Audio comments: +01-206-33-WINE-9 (+01-206-339-4639)
Copyright 2005 Tim Elliott. Licensed to the public under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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