Posted: 2017-03-27 20:09
On March 31st 2017 banjoist Ned Luberecki
releases his newest album Take Five
. I'm a fan of Luberecki's Sirius XM Radio Bluegrass Junction show, but I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when receiving an early download link. I'd never listened to a solo banjoist album before; and in hindsight, there was no reason to be skeptical. First, Luberecki organized a stellar supporting cast from vocalists to fiddlers and guitarists. (This cast consists of Missy Raines and the New Hip
, Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous Stringdusters
, Becky Buller
, the Helen Highwater Stringband
(Mike Compton, David Grier, Missy Raines, and Shad Cobb), Chris Jones and The Night Drivers
, Dale Ann Bradley
, Amanda Smith
, and Stephen Mougin -- guitarist of the Sam Bush Band and the other half of Nedski & Mojo.) Second, the interplay between the fiddle and banjo is hypnotic (See Cleveland Park
). Finally, and most importantly, the album is as varied as possible. There are fiddle tunes, train songs, and even concludes with the Theme from Star Trek
. Higher Ground
is my favorite track with Dale Ann Bradly on vocals. Blue Monk
handles the blues and there's an excellent Buck Owens Medley
. And his take on the Brazilian bossa nova jazz song Girl From Ipanema
sums up this album -- anything is possible with Ned Luberecki's banjo.
Riesling is the wine equivalent to the banjo; it's underappreciated and misunderstood. (Such as Riesling wine is always sweet.) Yes some are, but the majority range from dry to off-dry with enough acidity to balance any residual sugar. Normally I would think Finger Lakes
Riesling, but recently I purchased a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Columbia Valley Dry Riesling
($9, 12% abv). Like Take Five, this wine is refreshing and versatile - with apple and citrus flavors, some petrol, and all balanced with refreshing acidity. The winery has even implemented the International Riesling Foundation Sweetness Scale to inform the consumer of the wine's inherent sweetness -- with this wine solidly in the Dry range. And at that price and abv I could drink it every day while listening to Luberecki. Cheers.
Posted: 2017-03-23 15:35
The Maremmano is a horse breed native to the Maremma area of Tuscany and Lazio in Italy that has transitioned from a working horse with livestock to a saddle horse today. The horse is known for its dark chestnut or black color as well as its solid frame and ability to adapt to bad weather and rough terrain. Chianti Classico producer Cecchi Family Estate
pays homage to the horse by displaying a depiction of the Maremmano horse on the label and naming their Maremma Toscana brand La Mora - for the black horse.
These wines are produced from grapes grown in the Maremma Toscana D.O.C. - a region located in the southwestern part of Tuscany bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea. It recently gained D.O.C. status in 2011; yet in 1996 the Cecchi family purchased 360 acres of Maremma vineyards expanding out of Chianti Classico, the winery's home since the late 19th century.
At a recent tasting
Andrea Cecchi spoke proudly about the family's Maremma Toscana wines and I can see why in respect to the 2014 La Mora Vermentino
($20, 13% ABV).
is not your standard Vermentino wine. Yes it is lively with stone minerality, but a touch of malolactic fermentation provide richness not seen in others. And the wine provides a deep stone fruit flavor accompanied by a dry and refreshing finish. Nicely done.
Posted: 2017-03-15 14:59
I've been infatuated with Albarino
wine since last year's WineStudio's
foray into DO Rías Baixas
- Spain's unique Galician wine region. Unlike most of Spain, this region is lush with greenery that is fed from 71 inches of annual rainfall. The white Albariño grape dominates DO Rías Baixas with 90% of grape production. And what fantastically fresh, acidic, and minerally driven wines they represent. At a recent Tastemakers Table tasting of Rias Baixas Albarino held at the Succotash Restaurant
in National Harbor Maryland, Mark Oldman, author of How to Drink Like a Billionaire!
, stressed the reliability and authenticity of these wines and is his number one alternative to Chardonnay.
The DO Rías Baixas encompasses five distinct sub-regions. Ribeira do Ulla
is the newest (formed in 2000) and is the most northern region. Val do Salnés
is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape. This is the original and oldest sub-region and it's fingers reach out into the Atlantic. Soutomaior
is the smallest of the sub-regions where the soil is light and sandy over granite bedrock. Condado do Tea
(The County of Tea) is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River which separates the border with Portugal, and is the warmest and driest region. O Rosal
also resides against the Miño River -- adjacent to the Atlantic.
And I'm started to prefer wines from this last region: O Rosal
. Their wine contain similar levels of acidity as their brethren but seem to have an enhanced salinity beyond that generated by the granite soils as well as a more rounded profile and floral notes. This preference may have risen from the two O Rosal wines at the Tastemakers Table session which were blends and not 100% Albarino. The 2015 Santiago Ruiz
($20) for instance is a blend of Albarino, Loueiro, Treixadura, Godello, and Caino Blanco - all indigenous grapes to the region. And the 2015 Terras Gauda
($24), which was my overall favorite, is a blend of Albarino, Caino Blanco, and Loueiro.
There were also a few 100% Albarino at the tasting that impressed our group. The 2015 Pazo De Señoráns
($21) is highly recommended. The winery is is located in the Salnés Valley and is fresh citrus and saline with abundant acids. Also from that region, the 2015 Martín Códax
($15) has similar acidity but a fuller body as it sits five months on its lees. Interestingly this winery is a co-op of 600 family vineyards. Finally, the 2016 Bodegas As Laxas
($20) hits all the notes from their Condado do Tea grapes: heavy peach fruit, high acids, and plenty of minerality. Nicely done.
Posted: 2017-03-13 21:31
Recently I received a sample of the Mullan Road Cellars 2014 Columbia Valley Red
($40), a collaboration between Dennis Cakebread (yes, the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Cakebread Cellars
) and winemaker Aryn Morell. Evidently Dennis Cakebread was drawn to the high quality wine produced in Washington's Walla Walla Valley and wanted to be part of that wine community. This wine is a Bordeaux styled blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec sourced from three separate vineyards: Seven Hills Vineyard, Lawrence Vineyard, and Stillwater Creek Vineyard.
And the winery's name arises from an interesting historical fact related to the area. Lieutenant John Mullan was "an American soldier, explorer, civil servant, and road builder". In the mid 1800s he explored western Montana and Idaho, discovered the Mullan Pass over the Continental Divide, and "led the construction crew which built the Mullan Road -- the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains to the inland of the Pacific Northwest. Mullan's engineering and surveying was so efficient that modern-day Interstate 15 and Interstate 90 follow the route rather precisely through present-day Montana, Idaho, and Washington. And as a result of the Mullan Road, by 1870, Walla Walla had become the largest town in Washington Territory with a population of 1,394.
While sipping the wine I was reminded of a new song by Phoebe Legere
, Men From The Boys
, from her Heart of Love
release. Like John Mullan, the Mullan Road Cellars 2014 Columbia Valley Red has the "real stuff" - it's sturdy, firm, and will stand out without being overbearing. There's plenty of dark dried fruit and dust, sturdy tannins, and a long smooth finish -- all which "separates the men from the boys" - or in this case separates this wine among among many others. While the Mullan Road Columbia Valley Red lures you in with it's manliness, Legere entices with her sexy vocals. And cheers to "guts and hearts".
Posted: 2017-03-07 07:56
During last week's U.S. Wine & Beverage Industry Expo
(USBevX), wine packaged in cans was noticeably present at the event's trade show. The benefits of can packaging are significant: lower production and transportation costs, protection from light, and increased consumer flexibility. All reasons which help explain why canned beer is becoming the industry standard in the craft beer world. But will that standard translate to the wine industry or will it remain somewhat of a gimmick?
It all depends on consumer preferences. On one hand there is evidence that consumers will accept alternative packages and closures. As stated above canned craft beer is a viable option among beer consumers and wine consumers have eagerly accepted the screw-cap closures. According to this Freedonia
study, wine consumers are also seeking more flexibility in single serving options and alternative packing. And the canning industry is adding additional flexibility by developing a resealable can for containers larger than single servings.
But will will this translate into greater market share? The percentage of boxed wine in the marketplace is growing, but it's overall volume is still minuscule as compared to bottled wine. Although I wish them well, I believe canned wine (like box wine) will be hampered by the perception of quality. Or lack thereof. Yes, there are examples of tasty wines within each category - but the overall consumer impression is negative. And that will most likely not change based on the wines I sampled at USBevX.
Starting with the positive, the two rosé wines -- RUZA
Lodi Rosé and Underwood
Oregon Rosé -- were tasty, although the Underwood seemed somewhat extracted. And the Francis Coppola Winery SOFIA
Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine is a very nice option. This 70% Pinot Blanc, 15% Riesling, 15% Muscat blend receives it's carbonation using the Charmat
tank fermentation method. Plus a straw is included so the ladies won't lose any lipstick.
That being said, when possible, please pour canned wine into a glass. Not only will you be better able to appreciate well made wine, you will be in a better position to identify flawed wine. That's exactly what happened while sampling the Backpack
Snappy White. From the can it was okay, but pouring into the glass allowed us to identify multiple flaws starting with a pungent aroma that the can had suppressed. Another disappointment was The Infinite Monkey Theorem
Red Wine. While I'm a fan of their Colorado made wines, I couldn't get past the light carbonation in this California sourced wine. Is the carbonation necessary? And the final red wine (that I can't recall it's name) was so flabby and nondescript that we had to liven it with Oak Wise
liquid oak. It transformed into a tasteful wine after that.
Thus be careful when choosing your canned wine. Many outlets allow you to purchase in singles so experiment to find the quality offerings. Cheers.
Lovettsville, Virginia -
Saturday, June 07, 2008
After a day spent hiking and fishing at Cunningham Falls State Park, we returned home via Brunswick into the Loudoun Wine Trail. Our intended destination was the newly opened Notavina Vineyards. However, we were side tracked when we saw the Wine Tasting sign for Hiddencroft Vineyards, another new winery, that we thought was only open via appointments. We quickly backed up and slowly traveled the gravel road to the winery. When we saw a few other vehicles, we knew the sign was not mistaken, Hiddencroft was actually open to the public. We soon learned that after their initial opening May 3rd 2008, they had intended to open by appointment only, but they received so many requests that they decided to open regularly on weekends.
After growing vegetables to sell at farmers markets, Clyde and Terry Housel wanted more. They decided to convert the farm to grapes and planted several types of Labrusca and hybrid grapes to learn how to cultivate and produce wine. Starting with Concord, Steuben, DeChaunac, and Foch; they experimented with winemaking and grape growing until they found the best combinations: Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, and Cabernet Franc. The current vineyard was planted by hand and irrigated by Terry with a garden hose. With the assistance of Doug Fabbioli, who seems to always be available to mentor new wine producers, they have been able to "hand-craft artisan wines, concentrating on varietals that excel in Virginia's climate".
The current selection of artisan wines includes a Traminette, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and Sweet Cherry. We started with the Traminette which is more than appropriate on a 90+ degree day. Blended with a small portion of Vidal Blanc, the wine possesses the flavors of each grape, but the characteristic spicy flavor of the Traminette - whose parent is Gewürztraminer. A summer wine. We next tried their "nouveau" styled Chambourcin, where they took half their supply of the wine and aged for future use, and bottled the remainder after only a few months in oak. The result is a very fruit forward wine - that could also be served chilled - with a dry finish. But the fruit really stays in the mouth from start to finish. The meatier Cabernet Franc was next and this wine has a similar fruity composition as the Chambourcin, but a more peppery finish. I can't wait to try this wine with a steak. The final bottled wine, was the Sweet Cherry, a surprisingly drier wine than the name implies. Made from 100% montmorency cherries the wine tastes a little like a sugar free cherry pie. The tail is tart - which gives the impression of a dry wine. And Hiddencroft provides the obligatory chocolate morsels to enhance your temptation. Our favorite wine, however, hasn't even been bottles. Aging in the Barrel Room are a few barrels of Tannat and Petit Verdot in which Clyde originally intended to blend with the remaining Chambourcin. After sampling the Tannat in the barrel, we agree with his assessment to bottle it as a vintage. It is already smooth and flavorful - and will improve more with age. With samples like this, Tannat may supplant Cabernet Franc as Virginia's red wine.
The Housels are completely hospitable and provide an environment to relax on the porch with a bottle in hand. We also appreciate their assistance during the "accident". Thanks and see you soon.
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