Annual Alsace Festival Draws an International Crowd

Print The annual International Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley draws an international crowd of wine lovers.

This year, an especially enticing educational seminars start with a feature tasting of the sparkling wines of the region, Cremant d’Alsace.  Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis will lead a panel of my wine friends, Fred Swan (who has a fancy new WSET Diploma!), Deborah Parker Wong, also a DipWSET, and Master of Wine Dr. Liz Thach in a deep dive breakfast session on this delightful fizz.

Immediately following the tour of Cremants, David Strada, representing the Wines of New Zealand, will walk us though some beautiful food pairings with Alsatian varietals from the Kiwis.

Finally, before the Grand Tasting in the afternoon, a unique look at Michigan’s Dry Rieslings will explore this up and coming wine region.  I have only tasted a few wines from Michigan, and admittedly I am somewhat dubious, but this will be a great opportunity to learn more and step out of my comfort zone.

Image courtesy of Anderson Valley Winegrowers

Seminar tickets sell out fast!  Get yours today for $60

After a break to hydrate, the Grand Tasting begins at 1pm.  This extravaganza features wines from around the world, including California, France, and more!  Some of my favorite wineries that wll be pouring are Cartograph, Greenwood Ridge, Navarro, Toulouse, and of course, the Wines of Alsace and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry – pairing tastes include seven unique tasting stations featuring pork belly B-B-BACON, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and so much more.

Grand Tasting tickets are $90, and can be combined with the educational seminars for $135, which is a great deal! Designated drivers can eat all the food at the tasting stations for $60.

If you aren’t too full, I highly reccomend one of the very small Winemaker Dinners, at the Apple Farm, featuring Long Meadow Ranch and Balo Cellars, or the Scharffenberger Cellars Dinner, featuring six wineries including Scharffenberger, Navarro, and more.  Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Winegrowers of New Zealand, Lichen Estate, and  Husch Vineyards.

These very intimate dinners sell out early so be sure to book on ASAP!  Dinners are $150 and area almost sold out so hurry!

If you are planning a full weekend, be sure to book a room in nearby Cloverdale or Ukiah and enjoy the Open Houses on Sunday.  This is a very special opportunity to get up close and personal with the winemakers, pouring special selections and many offering food pairings and no additional tasting fees.

This annual event is not to be missed and always sells out so get your tickets early and head on up to the Anderson Valley!

From California to Alsace!

Spring has sprung, at least temporarily, in Northern California.  The trees are blooming, the mustard blankets the resting vineyards, and our gratefully recieve El Nino rains have made the hills green with life.

Every year, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association shows off one of it’s two claims to fame:  Alsatian varietals.  These beautiful, nuanced, elegant, varied aromtaic white wines are a cetnerpirce of teh AVAs culture, and production.

Next weekend, the 2016 International Alsace Varietals Festival kicks off with educational seminars and grand tastings.  While many events are sold out (because I am late on the ball), there are still tickets available to many.  Even if you cannot make it this year, make a point of visiting Anderson Valley anytime, to taste the splendor of these delicious whites.

The Festival schedule is as follows:

Grand Tasting (Sold Out) – Saturday, Feb 20th 1-4pm

Taste Alsace style white wines from around the world with delicious bites to match.

 

Participating wineries include (my faves are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Winemaker Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars – Feb 20, 6:30pm

Dine with one of 6 winemakers in the private dining room at Scharffenberger Cellars to learn why these aromatic whites are the darlings of the wine world.

Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, REIN Winery, Maidenstoen Wines, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Stirm Wine Company and Husch Vineyards.

 

Educational Session – Feb 20th, 8:30am (sold out)

Learn, engage, and interact with winemakers from around the globe as they discuss winemaking and grape growing specifically for Alsace varietals.

 

This year’s deep dive is all about Riesling.  Riesling  is the world’s seventh most-planted white wine grape variety and among the fastest growing over the past twenty years. It is a personal favorite of many sommeliers, chefs, and other food and wine professionals for its appealing aromatics, finesse, and minerality; for its uncanny ability to reflect terroir; and for its impressive versatility with cuisines of all types.

This discussion and panel tasting will look at the present state of dry Riesling on the west coast: where it is grown and made, what models and objectives vintners have in mind, and what parameters of grape growing and winemaking are essential when the goal is a delicious dry wine.

Panelists:
Chris Williams – Brooks Winery, Oregon
Nicolas Quille – Pacific Rim, Washington
Graham Tatomer – Tatomer Wines, Central Coast, CA
Alex Crangle –  Balo Vineyards, Anderson Valley, CA

10:00am    Food and Wine Pairing 
Speaker:    Francois de Melogue, Chef and Author
This session will explore pairing a selection of Alsace Varietals with food. Francois will serve delectable samples to showcase the effect of foods on the wines to be tasted.
11:00am    Grand Cru Grapes, Globally interpreted
Speaker:    Evan Goldstein, MS
Taking the cue from Alsace, Evan presents a look at the four noble grapes (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat) with different unexpected duets per grape variety. A tasting panel will explore two different unexpected geographical interpretations of each along with the audience.

 

Grand Tasting – Feb 20th 1pm (sold out)
Meet the winemakers and taste Alsace style white wines from around the world. Enjoy foods perfectly suited for aromatic whites including prawns, pork belly, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and more – all included in your ticket price.

Participating wineries include (my favorites are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Open Houses – Feb 21st 11am  (no tickets required, come on up!)Meander through beautiful Anderson Valley tasting the bounty of Alsace varietals at participating wineries.  Each winery wil feature special wines as well as food pairings to tantalize your taste buds!

Participating wineries:

Balo Vineyards, Bink Wines, Elke Vineyards, Goldeneye, Greenwood Ridge, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Lichen Estate, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge, Signal Ridge, Toulouse Vineyards.

I’m looking forward to some new favorites, old favorites, and delicious wines! I look forward to sharing my experience in the next few weeks.  Happy sipping!

K is for Knez

Knez WineryWhen I was first introduced to Knez Winery, I knew they would be something special.  It was no special occasion, or anything memoriable, it was just a bottle of fantastic pinot noir on the table one night at dinner.  Sometimes, it’s the little things.

I re-introduced to the label at a weekly tasting event at Arlequin Wine Merchant, where I had the chance to talk with the winemaker while I tasted the ones.  Once again, I loved not just the Pinot Noir, but the Chardonnay as well.

Fast forward to earlier this Spring, when I was meandering through Anderson Valley with my friend, we were working our way back south after a delightful day at Roederer, I stopped by The Madrones in Philo, a small collection of tasting rooms.  Here, I was able to taste through the then current releases of the Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir, as well as a historical look back at two other vintages.

Knez focuses on hand crafted, single vineyard wines influenced by the extreme climate of Anderson Valley, and the combination of marine influences, damn, cold, fog, and the soils of the area.  With particular attention paid in the vineyard, winemaker Anthony Filiberti practices a more hands off winemaking approach, preferring to do as little intervention as possible.  This old world philosophy encourages a sense of place to be developed in the wine, carrying the terroir over from vineyard to bottle.

The Cerise Vineyard, where the Knez Pinot Noir is born, was planted in 1995 to ten clones.  This mixture of clones, in 15 blocks, allows for careful selection and characteristics to be hand picked for each wine.

2009 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir

A brilliant cranberry color with a mountain strawberry nose, and bold, bright red fruit.  Strong acids with piquant notes of cranberry melt in to lightly scented vanilla flowers.  As the palate opens, Bing cherry, ripe raspberries and rose petals appear.  The mid palate reveals crushed minerals, cedar, and cardamon, cinnamon and anise, with a hint of violets.

2010 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir

Dark and brooding, with a kiss of brown sugar, the 2010 is a deep garnet color with forest floor aromas and earthy, cedar notes.  A touch of mint and wild berries blend with black cherry, deep raspberry and bergamot while dried lavender and white pepper dot the finish.

Currently the 2013 is $34 in the tasting room.  As these are library wines, I am unable to provide current pricing.  Please contact the winery for more details.

If you find yourself in Philo, be sure to stop in an taste the terroir at Knez!

 

 

Sparkling Stars on a budget

It’s that time of the month again!  Time for Wine Blogging Wednesday, when a particular theme is used to inspire bloggers to post on a single subject all over the blogging world.

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day (hurl), Tim Elliot of WineCast asks us to think about sparkling wines on a budget.  In this case, budget means anything under US$25.  Well I can do that!  There are literally dozens of sparkling wines from all over the world that match this price point.  I am spoiled living here int he Bay Area, as I have access to many local wineries – at least 10 sparkling houses among them, as well as excellent retail locations that offer wines of all types and cost levels.

Sparkling wine is used to celebrate all around the world.  Sparkling wine is known for toasting at weddings, or romantic dinners.  Well, I’m having none of it I tell you!  Sparkling wine is for every day!  It’s for potato chips and picnics.  Why save something so delightful for a few times a year?  With a few budget selections, you can make it an everyday wine.

I have been hard at work … um…researching this for you.  What did I discover?  There are so many to choose from, it’s difficult to walk down the wine isle at the grocery store and not find an excellent wine under US$25.  For my picks, I am going to go for three

specific wines:

 

1.  A house “genertic” from Trader Joes.  TJ’s has realy upped the game from Two Buck Chuck.  Trader Joe’s North Coast NV Sparkling Wine.  For $10, you really can’t go wrong.  TJ’s has been consistantly improving thier house labels over the years; this wine is no exception.  It was very well balanced, and had a roundness of body that I particularly enjoy.  Lots of pear, Asian pear, and apple flaors, with a touch of brioche.  This north coast fruit is 60% Chard, 40% Pinot Noir, from somewhere in the vast North Coast catch all AVA.  It’s hard to tell where it’s really from,but given the cooler growing climate up there, it’s prime for bubby.

This will make a frequent appearance at my house!

2.  A favorite of mine, is the Roederer Estate NV.  Typically under $20, and often much lower (like at Safeway, when it’s on sale for $16.99) this is an outstanding example of a domestic sparkler, and one I never get tired of.  Roederer Estate, located in the cooler climate of Anderson Valley, is the US arm of the French house Louis Roederer.   Surprisingly, the NV is a low alcohol wine, so yes, at 12% ABV by all means!  Drink more!  I love the bright green apple, pear, and creamy flavors in this wine.  Bight with citrus, it tastes like it cost a lot more than it does.

For a splurge, try the L’hermitage!

3.  A surprise guest appearance of a NEw Zealand sparkling wine, Quartz Reef Method Traditionalle NV, from Central Otago.  Quartz Reef is known as “The House of Pinot Noir”, and this bubbly kicked off our #nzwineday celebration wonderfully.  A slightly fuller bodied bubbly, there was wonderful stone fruit and lemon curd.  At $22 (JJ Buckley) this is another one to seek out if you can find it locally.  I haven’t had much sparkling wine from New Zealand and was really pleased with this.  I plan to harass my friends at JJ Buckley to ensure I can get some of this!

Other honorable mentions:

  • Mumm – the value tier of wine is generally ~$15 at retail and there are several good picks.
  • Gruett – an oddball hailing from New Mexico, actually offers a great Rose and Brut.
  • Gloria Ferrer – The Brut and Carneros Cuvee are personal faves, and are best enjoyed from tehir terrace in Carneros!

Happy Sparking Wine Blogging Wednesday!  And remember, bubbles are for every day, a celebration, a consolation, or just because.  Why hide them away when they are so affordable?

There were many more wines that I tried, and some of them are still in my fridge.  Never fear, I will post about them all, just over time as I continue my…research!  I have tasted sparklers from South Africa, Burgundy, and Spain and I vow to continue my quest as long as my champagne stopper keeps working!

Happy drinking!

 

On the birth of a winery

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year or so, you know that I’ve ingratiated myself  become friends with the Cellar Rat (@cellarrat), Alan Baker, and his partner Serene Lourie (@slourie), who have launched their new brand, Cartograph Wines.  Morphing out of Alan’s previous project, Cellar Rat Cellars, which was some damn fine Pinot Noir & Syrah, Cartograph is truly a labor of love – and it shows.  (You can read my previous review of Cellar Rat here)

This was my third time tasting the wines in barrel, and it is a joy to watch them grow and develop over the course of the past 9 months.  Much like a new baby, these wines change and grow, becoming something special as they integrate in to the finished product.

The first wine we tried was the Gewurztraminer.  I have a growing love affair with this dry & racy white wine, and this had flavors of lychee, grapefruit, tropical fruit, hay and subtle guava notes.  I also tasted Tuscan melon.  .  The wine is made from the first harvest of the planting, and is fermented in stainless steel.  It had just a hint of spiciness and was a great alternative to other whites for the warmer summer months.

Next, we tasted the 2009 Perli Vineyard Pinot, from Mendocino Ridge.  This AVA is known as the “islands in the sky” since it is the only AVA that is non-contiguous land.  Instead, the AVA dictates that the land must lie above 1200 feet, which is the vertical fog line.  This is one of my favorite Pinots, and I tasted creamy strawberries, cloves, nutmegs and rhubarb with a smattering of black cherry and Dr. Pepper.

From here, we moved on to some of the different clone and barrel selections, and we tasted through to help decide what the blend should be.  I lost track of what was what, but it was fascinating to taste the difference between barrels, particularly when we got to the point where barrels of of the same wine, made from wood from different forests, but made by the same cooper from the same area.  I do know that I did find that the 777 clone in 25% new oak was my favorite, with black cherry and spicy cloves finishing with rich black raspberry.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the Cartograph line is the label design.  you can see from the front label, that there are five points on Alan & Serena’s journey in to wine, From France, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. to San Francisco and Healdsburg.  The back label design shows you the wine making process, and allows you the consumer to take part in the experience. The five points in the wine making process mirror the five points on the front, as you go from budbreak through bottling.  Bottling incidentally for the 2009s starts any day now, so I can’t wait to restock my cellar with smoe brand spanknig new wine!

If you’re in Healdsburg, give them a shout.  You won’t be sorry!  If you like Pinot, and you like small handcrafted wines, run out and buy some today.  While you’re at it, grab some of the Gewertz.  You will be happy you did, and your tastebuds will thank you!

A pinot that doesn’t fail!

I first found MacPhail Wines at a tasting held at San Francisco Wine Trading Company last year, at the recommendation of my friend.  Since i know he is a bigger wino than I am – NO!  It’s true Alex you are! – I couldn’t miss it, and I knew that I would be blown away.  BOY was I not wrong!  At the time, I was pinching the employment pennies and only walked out with one bottle of the Sonoma Coast which I am treasuring like a pot of gold.

Recently, my wino friends Jim, Shana, Vicki and Lil and I snuck in an impromptu visit with James and his dog, Zuni.  I am in love.  Pure, magical, pinot love.  One was better than the last, and the last was better than the first!

MacPhail Family Vineyards was founded in 2002, with a directive to create passionate Pinot Noir from the best Sonoma and Mendocino County sources.  To that end, here are my yumyumyummy notes from our visit!

2008 Rose of Pinot Noir was a deep rose hue, and smelled of rose petals, hibiscus and cranberry.  I tasted the cranberry and hibiscus as well, along with  red ziner, rich red fruit, and grapefruit.

2007 Sonoma Coast is a blend of two vineyards, the Pratt Vineyard and the Goodin Vineyards, both of which are located in Sebastapol.  These wines were vinified separately, and then hand picked for the single vineyard wines.  The remainder was blended in to this treat, which showed spicy clove, dusty cherry, black cherry, even a touch of blackberry, followed by Dr. Pepper,  and dark rich intense flavors.

2007 Anderson Valley Toulouse Vinyeard is a combination of a the Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, and 2A.  MacPhail is one of the premier examples of a Toulouse pinot, and one of the first.  This is a big pinot for Anderson valley, and was full of bright strawberries, salty creamy berries, lots of earthy bark and cinnamon.  It had a lighter body and color and was zippy.

2007 Sonoma Coast Goodin Vinyard had a rich, deeper color.  I loved the rich, spicy earth flavors.  Lots of Dr. Pepper and black cherry.  Dark delicious ruit.

2007 Anderson Valley Vagon Rouge was a very special wine indeed!   Only 8 barrels were made, and it had wild strawberry, rich intense fruit and bright red berries with a nice balance.

Strictly speaking, I loved ALL of these wines.  I left with 3 bottles to add to my 1 at home, and I will remember my visit for a long time.  I look forward to coming back and tasting again next year!

 

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