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  • Locations Ventures into New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

    Posted: 2017-09-19 20:32
    It took a few years, but the Locations brand has landed in New Zealand with the release of the NZ6 - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99). The wine is 100% of the country's signature grape, but sourced from various wine regions. The base is derived from Marlborough's Wairau Valley which provides the "tropical and grassy flavors". This region is "consistently ranking as one of NZ’s sunniest and driest regions, the Maori referred to the valley as ‘Kei puta te Wairau’ – ‘The place with the hole in the cloud’ – reflecting the outstanding protection offered by the topography". The second part of the blend is sourced from the Awatere Valley and provides "minerality and elegance". This is a cooler region located in southern Marlborough. The final piece comes from the southern valley of Waihopai where the gravelly soils and still cooler climate provide the "final layers of complexity. That's plenty of marketing fluff, but in fact this is a delicious wine, starting with tropical aromas; a creamy, tart and lemon infused body; and plenty of refreshing acids. Nicely done.
  • Get Ready to Play at Waynesboro's Basic City Beer Company

    Posted: 2017-09-15 06:35
    During the same weekend we visited Adventure Farm, we parlayed a swim at Sherando Lake with a visit to Waynesboro's Basic City Beer Company. The relatively new brewery is located on scenic Rt 250 in the reclaimed Virginia Metalcrafters industrial complex. Evidence of the former foundry is everywhere, from the industrial lathes to reclaimed pipe and wood tap room tables. The pipes housing the taps are particularly stylish. co-founders and brothers Bart, Chris and Joe Lanman also added entertainment value to the facility by building out a large game room stocked with ping pong, shuffleboard, skeet-ball, foosball, and more. Add the hammocks and large picnic area in the back; live music; and food from Hops Kitchen and this is a family friendly establishment. But what about the largest attraction: the beer?

    Beer Menu as of Sept 2017
    Head brewer Jacque Landry leverages 20 years brewing experience into crafting a portfolio of a dozen beers. I elected for a flight of the WaynesbeerOh Lager, Oopsproch Lager, Rays Pale Ale, and Bramblehead Raspberry Stout. They were well made with the stout very smooth, the lagers refreshing, and the pale ale on the money. However, I seemed to gravitate to the Rotsproch Lager, a hibiscus infused Marzen Amber Lager. The beer was more tart than malty sweet and thirst quenching as the day had warmed. We had a fantastic visit, laughing, drinking, and eating with the only reservation having to drive over the mountain back to Charlottesville. But we will be back to basic City as well as other Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail breweries with the assistance of theCompass Craft Beverage Finder. Cheers.
  • A Quick Flight into Charlottesville's Adventure Farm Winery

    Posted: 2017-09-12 08:04
    A couple weekends ago we visited Charlottesville and on the drive down Route 29 decided to visit a relative new and somewhat obscure winery: Adventure Farm. Located just outside the Charlottesville Airport north of town, the farm land was purchased by Morris Chisholm in 1950. Back then, the airport didn't exit and this area was traditional country farmland and pastures - which it remained while the city slowly encroached ever closer. Since the 1950s the Chisholm family has raised beef cattle (Angus-Salare) goats, pigs, and chicken as well as grow various crops. And in 2006 they planted a vineyard consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Chardonnay, and Viognier. As with most ventures, viticulture led to winemaking and Adventure Farms leverages the services of esteemed Michael Shaps and his Wineworks.

    On our visit there were five estate wines on the tasting lineup starting with the 2015 Chardonnay ($21). Half the wine undergoes malolatic fermentation and the finished wine is aged eight months in one year old French Oak. The process provides considerable depth and creaminess to this wine without the overbearing buttery-toffee characters. A great value at this price. The 2015 Viognier ($28) is fresh and floral with strong peach flavors. Fermented in steel and aged just four months in neutral oak, this is a refreshing and very acidic wine. The 2015 Rosé ($19) is another fine bargain made from 95% Chambourcin and 5% Cabernet Franc. There's plenty of bright red fruit and acids with the Chambourcin providing a little spicy kick to the finish. The 2014 Gigi Red Blend ($22) is also predominately Chambourcin (25%) with the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an entry level red, low in tannins, plenty of acids - very smooth on the palate. Perhaps serve a little chilled. But the star of the tasting was undoubtedly the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32). The wine is aged 18 months in French Oak, which provides a lush, velvety body but doesn't overwhelm the strong dark cherry characters. Even with noticeable tannins, the finish is very smooth and  mature.

    Adventure Farm hosts several festivals and weekend live music. This is a definite spot to visit and theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will get your there. Cheers.
  • Carmel Winery's Selected Mediterranean Red Blend & Israeli Wine Regions

    Posted: 2017-09-06 08:27
    Last month I received another sample of Israeli wine which led me to not only research the targeted winery, but also Israeli wine regions.  I immediately learned that Carmel Winery was founded in 1882 by Edmond James de Rothschild (owner of Château Lafite). Within ten years Rothschild had built two wineries,  both intended to support Jewish settlers returning from Europe. The Rishon Le Zion Wine Cellars was built in 1890 and is the oldest winery in Israel still in use. This facility was also the first to use electricity and the telephone. The Zichron Ya'acov Wine Cellars was built two years later and is the largest winery in Israel. These facilities make Carmel the largest producer in Israel and one of the largest in the eastern Mediterranean as they produce over 15 million bottles of wine a year.

    Until the 1970s, Carmel focused on sweet and sacramental wines, but in order to engage the international market they transitioned to international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  The Selected Mediterranean Red Blend ($11) is a reflection of that philosophy and is a blend of several grape varieties grown in the Shomron region: Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Viognier, and Petit Verdot.

    This region is one of five major Israeli Wine Regions with Galilee, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev the remaining four. Shomron and Samson are the historical coastal viticulture areas in central Israel with the former located on the base of the southern Carmel Mountain range and cooled by Mediterranean breezes. Samson is not a geographic place -- just a biblical name to describe the central coastal Judean Plain and Judean Lowlands, south east of Tel Aviv. The region is relatively low lying, hot, and humid with mostly alluvial soils mixed with sandy, clay loams. Bulk grapes are the predominate crop.

    Negev is the desert region that comprises half the country. Vineyards are located in the elevated, semi-arid, and loess soil land in the northeast at Ramat Arad.

    The Galilee and Judean Hills are more trendy cooler climate wine regions. The Judean Hills ranges from the mountains north of Jerusalem to the south of Hebron. Warm days and cool night time temperatures characterize the region which ranges from 500 to 1,000 meters above sea level. The Galilee is the most respected appellation, located in northern Israel and includes the "two finest quality wine growing regions, the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights".  These are high altitude, cooler climate sites located not far from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

    As for Carmel's Selected Red Blend, winemaker Lior Lacser produced a fresh, light, approachable wine; not necessarily fruit forward but balanced between the cherry flavor, acids, and modest tannins.  At this price this wine is well worth a closer inspection. Cheers.
  • Virginia's Falls Church Distillers Opens With Bourbon and Vodka

    Posted: 2017-08-30 07:00
    Craft distilleries continue to open in the Commonwealth of Virginia with Falls Church Distillers joining their ranks earlier this summer. The operation was started by Michael Paluzzi and his chemist and oldest son Lorenzo who plan to "produce a range of offerings including vodkas, gins, brandy, rums, specialty & blended spirits and eventually distinctive aged bourbon". Actually they had the foresight to create a bourbon at an existing Virginia distillery based on their mash recipe. As a result, the Church Bourbon has been quietly aging as the Paluzzis flew through the regulatory, financial, and construction processes.

    When I visited Falls Church Distillers last month I also had to navigate the ludicrous Virginia ABC regulations inflicted on distilleries. These regulations allow distilleries to serve generous four half-ounce tastings of their product - usually in cocktail form. The regulations also require separate seating when sampling the distilled products from the wine and beer bar that Falls Church Distillers provides. My rant over, the Church Bourbon recipe includes Virginia wheat that assists the medium bodied whiskey to obtain a very smooth character. They were also pouring two vodkas: Frozen Falls Vodka & Frozen Falls Pepper Flavored Vodka. These spirits have interesting pedigrees - based on a combination of distilled cane sugar and wheat that is "processed through a uniquely designed filtration system". I sampled both in cocktails which were tasty but unfortunately hid the unique flavor profiles of each vodka. Keep focused on Falls Church Distillers because there are bright clouds on the horizon as they plan to release a barrel aged Rum and Apple Brandy. As always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to this destination. Cheers. 

Featured Visit

Plum Creek Cellars; Palisade, Colorado - Saturday, July 01, 2006
After our visit to Minturn Cellars, we were excited to visit the Palisade and Grand Junction area, located in western Colorado. Known as the as "The Banana Belt”, this area is perfect for fruit and grape growing. Winds move through the Debeque Canyon and are compressed and warmed. This warm air is spread throughout the valley and prevents crop killing frosts in the spring. The mild climate creates a 182-day growing season, with sunshine on average 78%. Along with irrigation canals from the Colorado River, this environment is able to produce 75% of the state's premium wine grape vineyards. One of the first wineries to open in Colorado was Plum Creek Cellars, which opened in 1984. The winery holds Colorado winery license No. 10, the oldest license of all of the state’s wineries now in existence. The winery was also one of the first Coloradan wineries to use only Colorado grown grapes and has continued to do so. For the past twenty years Plum Creek Cellars has excelled, raising both quality and volume over this period.

During our visit the winery was pouring a wide range of white and red wines from dry to semi-sweet and dessert wines. For white wines, the winery is known for their Chardonnay and Riesling. These wines have won several Gold medals over the years as well as Best Colorado Wine in 2000 for the 1998 Redstone Chardonnay and Double Gold for the 2004 Riesling at the 2004 Eastern International Wine Competition. The 2004 Colorado Chardonnay was refreshing, with a citrus like flavor and great acidity. The wine is aged slightly in new French oak, which gives a very slight softness to the wine. The 2005 Riesling was bottled the week we arrived and is awesome. According to the winery, the Riesling grape excels in Colorado’s cool mountain climate, particularly in Delta and Mesa counties. This vintage is all apricot, fruity and refreshing. The wine is made semi-sweet, but not overly sweet; we finished our bottle that evening – it is extremely drinkable alone or with a meal. Not to be unmentioned, Plum Creek produces a very good Sauvignon Blanc, comparable to a Pinot Gris. However, this wine gets overshadowed by the brilliance of the Chardonnay and Riesling.

Plum Creek Cellars produces a wide range of red wines. The lightest is the non vintage Palisade Red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Syrah. Although lighter than the other vintage offerings, this wine is full of berry flavors with a spicy finish; an excellent dinner table wine. The 2003 Cabernet Franc was aged 11 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, which provides a soft vanilla finish to the otherwise full-bodied berry flavor wine. There is also a slight vanilla finish to the medium-bodied 2003 Merlot. This wine is very drinkable now, although the winery recommends aging for a few years. The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine with cherry flavors and a long smooth finish. If not for the Sangiovese, this would be our favorite red. The 2003 Sangiovese was the smoothest red wine with softer, more balanced flavors than the other reds. It has nice fruit flavor and light tannins for a smooth finish; our favorite Chianti style wine. The winery also offers an “accidental” 2000 Dessert Sangiovese, after an abnormal hail storm fractured most of the Sangiovese grapes. The grapes were not ripe enough to create the usual bold Sangiovese wine, but ripe enough to make a lighter-colored, port-styled wine. The wine was then aged two years in oak. The result was an excellent semi-sweet dessert wine, with berry flavors and a slight vanilla and oak finish.

The final wine we tasted was their 2004 Dessert Riesling, made in the ice-wine style by freezing the gapes after harvest. This dessert wine possesses the usual Riesling flavor, at a more potent level. The apricot and peach flavors are evident from the outset and through the finish. This wine is a great compliment to a meal.

We could have stayed at Plum Creek Cellars for the entire day. The winery offers several other wines that we did not have the time to taste as well as beautiful picnic area to view the surrounding mountains. However, the winery recommended that we visit Carlson Vineyards, so off we went.

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