Next in my series featuring widely distributed wines that can be easily found in your area is one that doesn’t come to mind when you go looking for an inexpensive easy drinking wine for a relaxing evening on your deck or poolside. Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Rosé 2021 is just one bottling in a long list of drinkable offerings that this Washington state winery group produces in large volume. This Rosé is 55% Syrah, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Grenache. Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Rosé 2021 opens with notes of watermelon and strawberries followed by flavors of citrus on a light body. Priced at around $15 or less it is a good choice to pair with the lighter fare that is popular during the warmer weather. If you like to “Rosé all day” with your wine glass filled to the brim with ice then this Rosé is for you with its 12.5% ABV and crisp dry profile.
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Review: Carnivor Zinfandel 2019
In my latest look at widely distributed wines that are moderately priced and worth your consideration, I review Carnivor Zinfandel 2019. Carnivor Wines is a Gallo Winery Inc. label produced in Modesto, California. Carnivor uses Zinfandel grapes sourced from warm-weather vineyards in Lodi, California. Their winemakers give these grapes a brief cold soak to coax extra color and tannins from them. The must is fermented at a warm 88-90F. The wine is aged in French and American oak to soften its tannins and balance its structure. Finally, the Zinfandel is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, adding color and structure plus some Merlot to impart a softened character.
Carnivor Zinfandel 2019 is balanced on a medium body and a smooth finish. Nothing about this wine is overwhelming whether it be the aromas of toasted oak, the flavor of blackberries, tamed acidity, or a controlled finish. Everything about this wine is designed to be bold but not offend the mainstream red wine drinker. Priced at well below $13 a bottle this wine deserves serious attention when you are scanning the shelves for a dependable “everyday” wine that will please a wide range of palates. Carnivor Zinfandel 2019 pairs well with all red meat, after all, Carnivor’s tagline, is “Meat was made for Carnivor” but red meat isn’t the only thing it pairs well with. It is also a good wine to drink with your pizza or any dish that features a hearty dark red tomato sauce. The winemakers at Carnivor must be commended for producing a wine of this quality for a bargain price and doing it on such a large scale.
Review: Arrowhead Wine Cellars Riesling
Arrowhead Wine Cellars is located in North East, Pennsylvania on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Nick and Kathy Mobilia are third-generation owners of Mobilia Fruit Farms. In 1998 they started making wine from their grapes that until then they had been pressing into juice for other wineries. Today, Arrowhead Wine Cellars produces 32 varieties ranging from Red, White, Blush, Sparkling, Ice, and Fruit wine.
Arrowhead Wine Cellars Riesling is an off-dry, light-bodied, and very lightly colored Riesling. It is an easy-drinking wine with muted flavors of apricot and melon that would pair well with spicy Thai and Chinese dishes. $15.99 arrowheadwine.com
Interview: Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist Erste+Neue Alto Adige Region, Northern Italy & Review: E+N Pinot Nero 2021
Erste+Neue is the product of the 1986 merger of two wineries that began in the early part of the twentieth century. Erste Kellerei and Neue Kellerei combined to form Erste+Neue. The two wineries moved forward as one with a commitment and determination to stay on the cutting edge of alpine winemaking.
In 2018, Erste+Neue was awarded the prestigious international seal for sustainable viticulture by FAIR’N GREEN. The goals and standards of FAIR’N GREEN mirror the same deeply ingrained beliefs that guide the winemaking culture at Erste+Neue. Sustainability, protecting the environment, biodiversity, natural viticulture, and the protection of natural resources are the guiding principles that drive all decisions made at Erste+Neue.
The wines of the Alto Adige Region are famous for being terroir-driven and their bias to a specific area of the region. I was curious to hear how the vineyard managers and winemakers at Erste +Neue balance the demands of preserving and integrating the “terroir” factor into their wines while balancing the needs of the local ecosystem with the standards of producing world-class grapes and wine consistently.
Seeking answers to these questions and others, I posed them directly to a leading viticulture professional and Chief Enologist at Erste+Neue, Andrea Moser. The following is our interview published in his own words.
How does Erste+Neue approach the unique challenges that making wine in the Alto Adige present while still being able to produce the highest quality wines that display a “sense of place?
“Facing the challenges of climate change is becoming increasingly important in every wine-growing region of the globe, and in South Tyrol, too, it is no different.”
However, Alto Adige and specifically our area are at a great benefit with respect to this issue, in fact, our orographic situation is very particular. The vineyards start in fact with the red varieties at about 230 m.a.s.l. and arrive in just a few kilometers to elevations of about 700 m.a.s.l. where the white varieties find excellent ripening conditions. This large elevation range, combined with a constant south-to-north wind “the Garda Hour” and strong temperature fluctuations between day and night due to the mountains surrounding us (Mendola range), allows us to consistently obtain high qualities on both red and white grape varieties.
Ripe but fresh and elegant reds and whites with low pH, good acidity, crisp and fresh that perfectly embody the spirit of our territory and our vineyards located in the middle of the Alps.”
How has being FAIR’N GREEN certified complemented your winemaking practices and philosophy in both the vineyard and cellar?
“For us, sustainability and especially respect for the environment has always been a key point to consider during our work from vineyard to bottle.
Since we have been working with Fair&Green we have made this commitment measurable and have strived to improve our efficiency and sustainability a little more each year.
In the first year of certification, we scored 68 percent while we are now at 82 percent on the scale that verifies, measures, and evaluates our degree of environmental commitment. Today, having reached the fifth year of certification, we have made many steps forward, such as completely eliminating some synthetic molecules for the phytosanitary defense of the vines, eliminating chemical weeding by 92%, increasing the areas under green manure thus increasing biodiversity in the field, and introducing sexual confusion in the vineyard to combat certain types of harmful insects. All our wines can be considered vegan since we have not used any clarifiers of animal origin for several years now, only yeast derivatives. By now, all the facilities for the production of cold, compressed air and nitrogen are equipped with energy recovery to produce hot water. We have equipped ourselves with photovoltaic panels that can provide us with about 40 percent of the energy we use.
In terms of packaging, the biggest step has been taken by eliminating bottles that are too heavy. In fact, we have gone from 700/750-gram bottles to 500-gram bottles, reducing our CO2 footprint by a third.
The road to true all-around sustainability is still a long one, but we are very committed and determined to get there as soon as possible.”
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Klammer, Sales Director of Erste+Neue for his support because without it this article would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist of Erste+Neue for his time and candid insights into the ideology behind the winemaking mindset at E+N. I found his comments about how the culture at E+N and the environment are intertwined extremely informative because I hold a degree in nature conservation. The following is my review of Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021.
Pinot Nero is known internationally as Pinot Noir. Pinot Nero is an early-ripening grape with a thick skin that has the reputation for being a “Heartbreak Grape” variety because it requires a great deal of care in the vineyard thus making it difficult to produce a successful harvest consistently.
Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021 is a sophisticated well-made wine that can be purchased at a very fair price. This Pinot Nero is ruby red in the glass and opens with the aromas of cherry & faint raspberry that is followed by the prominent flavor of cherries on the palate while smooth tannins and lively acidity are borne on the medium body of this wine. The finish is lengthy and agreeable.
CIAO! Stanley Tucci
CNN has canceled Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy and all of its original programming. But all is not lost because I heard Stanley tell Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that he was exploring the possibility of reviving the show on another network, whether it be broadcast, cable, or streaming. This was more than just a travel show that featured the traditional tourist attractions, and scenic vistas of the Italian countryside and coastline. This production had that special feeling one gets when traveling with a friend who knows all the best spots and interesting locals that really allows you to immerse yourself into the culture of each region you visit. Tagging along with Stanley Tucci I experienced the Italy that only Stanley could show me with his adventurous palate, wry smile, and that all-knowing look of his.
When I heard CNN wouldn’t be renewing a new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy I got that same feeling you get when the plane lifts off the runway on your return home from a great vacation. You know that feeling of joy in the memories you made but a hint of sadness because there was more to see and do.
With that said, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see Italy through Stanley’s eyes. If you are wondering where he went here’s a recap. Season One: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Tuscany, Milan, and Sicily. Season Two: Venice, Liguria, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Umbria, London, and Calabria.
Luckily for anyone who may have missed any or all of the episodes they are available through a number of media outlets that can be easily found with an internet search. If you have a cable subscription you can access all of the Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy episodes from both seasons for free by going to go.CNN.com/vod (http://go.cnn.com/vod) and find Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, click on it, and log in using your cable provider when prompted. I have found the Microsoft Edge browser works better for this site than Mozilla does for streaming its content.
All that is left to say now is Grazie di tutto, Stanley!
Photos Credit: CNN Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
Review: Ménage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020
A few posts ago I wrote about mass-produced and widely distributed wines. To prove I just don’t “Talk the talk but walk the walk” I bought a bottle of Mènage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020 to review. This is one of the offerings from the immensely popular Ménage à Trois label of Folie à Deux. Ménage à Trois is a St. Helena California winery. Mènage à Trois “Silk” Soft Red Blend 2020 is a blend of separately fermented Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Petite Sirah with a light oak flavor from the time it spent in French and American oak. “Silk” Soft Red Blend is a ruby red color in the glass with muted floral aromas followed by flavors of cherry and spice with both medium body and acidity. If you like a sweet light-bodied wine this wine is NOT for you. If you like a big California Cab this wine is NOT for you. If you want a red wine that is right down the middle in its body, fruit flavors, acidity, and economy priced then this wine is one you should take a close look at. I paired it with grilled steak and it was an acceptable match. I purchased it for $13.99 in Pennsylvania but it can usually be found for around $10-$15. http://menageatroiswines.com
Review: Saperica 1st Annual Saperavi Festival Finger Lakes
On May 14, 2022, an event took place in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York that was a landmark moment in the history of Saperavi, not only for the future direction of Saperavi in the northeastern U.S. but for all of North America. While Saperavi has been on a steadily ascending arc for several years this gathering of Saperavi winemakers, growers, and enthusiasts will prove to be the catalyst that fuels Saperavi’s meteoric rise into the conscience of the American wine lovers.
Saperica http://saperica.org, the nonprofit founded by Lasha Tsatava and Erika Frey, held its inaugural Saperavi Festival at the iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery overlooking Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York. The one-day event was a sellout with more than three hundred guests enjoying winetastings and delicious traditional Georgian cuisine prepared by Chama Mama, a Georgian-themed restaurant from New York City. The trade and media portion of the festival drew over fifty participants that were greeted with opening remarks from Fred Frank and Saperica co-founder Erika Frey. Keynote speaker Lado Uzunashvili delivered a live virtual presentation on the importance of Saperavi that was followed by guest speaker Darra Goldstein (Flavors of Georgia). Both presentations can be viewed on Saperica’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUb_6pPRupQ Closing remarks were presented by Saperica co-founder Lasha Tsatava with a special thank you to Meaghan Frank for her tireless efforts to make the Festival a resounding success.
I ask some of the contributors to share thoughts and impressions about the festivities and their vision for Saperavi in North America.
Lasha Tsatava, Director @ Boston Sommelier Society and co-founder of Saperica Inc.
When we first started to tell the story of Saperavi and its connection to Georgian culture and the history of wine, we saw how people’s eyes lit up and we wanted to grow that feeling in FLX and beyond. At the Saperavi Festival’s Trade & Media event, I made it clear in the closing remarks, that our organization’s goals are, as a minimum, to make Saperavi a premier red grape variety in the Finger Lakes region and the ultimate goal is to build a Georgian Cultural Center with Marani (Georgian traditional cellar with qvevris) in Finger Lakes, NY. The 1st annual Saperavi Festival has reconfirmed the sensibility of these goals.
Fred Frank, President, and CEO of Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, grandson of wine legend Dr. Konstantin Frank & Meaghan Frank’s father
We were honored to host this first Saperavi Festival at our historic winery. I am sure Konstantin was looking down from the heavens with pride to see all the attention and acceptance that his beloved Saperavi was receiving from the hundreds in attendance. Konstantin was the first to plant Saperavi in the United States in the late 1950s in his vineyard above Keuka Lake. He was a big fan of this variety for its historic pedigree originating in Georgia and believed it would have a great future in the Eastern United States. Saperavi vines are cold hardy and the wines are of high quality with deep color. We look forward to the next Saperavi Festival and continued acceptance of this historic grape variety.
Jim Baker, owner/winemaker of Chateau Niagara Winery, located on the Niagara Lake Plain, Newfane New York
My thoughts on the festival are quite positive. The media section contained two presentations featuring my good friend Lado Uzunashvili, and Darra Goldstein. Lado is an old friend and did a great overview of Saperavi in Georgia and the world, including history and all sorts of technical information on the grape in several world locations. He did a comparison of our winery and a Georgian location. Darra Goldstein presented a history of Georgian food and culture. Food was served up from Chamma Mama, a Georgian restaurant in NYC. It was truly a Georgian feast. We got to taste wines from a number of American and Georgian producers. It was surprising how well we held our own against some stunning Georgian producers. The afternoon consisted of more Georgian feasting and public tastings of wine. All in all a great celebration of Saperavi and Georgian culture.
Phil Plummer, Head winemaker at all three Martin Family Wineries in the Finger Lakes.
I attended the festival, but mostly on the technical/trade end of the schedule. I can’t speak to marketing impact and the like, but the viticultural and enological information shared in the trade sessions was really compelling. Saperavi is a very exciting grape variety for us in the Finger Lakes, but I think winemakers should be excited about this one on a global level, too. Saperavi exists at the intersection of past, present, and future winemaking. As one of the earliest-cultivated grape varieties, working with Saperavi gives winemakers an opportunity to connect to the past–walking in the footsteps of the countless generations of winemakers who came before us. At present, Saperavi’s unique versatility allows winemakers to experiment, making wines in a widening array of styles. Looking forward, Saperavi’s resilience and versatility position it as a grape variety to embrace in the wake of a changing climate. As a blending component or varietal, Saperavi rarely disappoints. From a culinary standpoint, its rich phenolic profile, bright acid, and unmistakable aromatics present exciting opportunities for wine and food pairing, particularly with the Georgian cuisine available at the festival.
Erika Frye, co-founder of Saperica Inc., CS, CWE & Diploma WSET
When I started discovering Saperavi in the Finger Lakes several years ago, I could feel that there was something special about this grape variety in this region. There is a buzz that surrounds Saperavi which started off whisper-like but has now grown into a conversation that cannot be ignored. The 1st annual Saperavi Festival came at just the right time to give this grape variety a clear voice to tell the story of its past, present, and future. It comes at a time when Saperavi plantings are increasing in the Finger Lakes region. We hope that these new producers will be able to use the Saperica organization and the Saperavi Festival as resources to find information about the Saperavi grape variety, learn about its Georgian heritage and connect with other Saperavi producers.
The most exciting thing about the festival for me was the ability to build connections. We had a great partnership between the three festival hosts – Saperica, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and Chama Mama. An impressive group of wine producers and wine importers were present from both the USA and Georgia. Two experts in their fields shared their knowledge of Saperavi winemaking and Georgian cuisine. Most importantly, there were about 250 festival attendees who were connecting with the wines, the food, the environment, and the people. When I was able to stop for a moment and survey the amazing crowd of people who had come together to celebrate Saperavi, that is what made me feel truly proud – proud of the community that we are starting to build and what we will all be able to accomplish together in the future.
John McGregor, Vice President of McGregor Vineyard
The Saperavi Festival was a great introduction to Saperavi for many. Its Georgian roots were presented wonderfully! McGregor Vineyard was the sole producer of Saperavi in the United States for decades. Now the Finger Lakes is home to numerous Saperavi producers, and more are sure to come in the near future. This festival really felt like a validation of my late father, Bob McGregor’s steadfast belief that Saperavi was perfectly suited to grow in the Finger Lakes and could make some of the region’s finest and most respected wines.
Bryanna Cramer, Assistant Winemaker Standing Stone Vineyards
I felt like the event was a huge success for the region, seeing as it was the first annual and it sold out and had additional tickets added on. It felt like the overall vibe was excitement about the variety as well as a general curiosity about its potential here in the FLX. It was really beneficial to have vendors pouring various Saperavi from Georgia to have as a reference, as well as Georgians giving their genuine feedback on the wines being made here in the Finger Lakes. I think they were pleasantly surprised by the quality and authenticity that can be achieved. From the customer perspective, I think the majority are still discovering the variety, its characteristics, and its history but I see that as an opportunity to continue educating not only at events like this but also on-site at Standing Stone and the other wineries working with Saperavi.
This event and those all involved proved that Saperavi has progressed from being viewed as a grape variety with the potential to make outstanding varietal wine here in North America to being acknowledged as a proven producer of high-quality wine in various styles. Saperavi will continue to evolve as new winemakers add their interpretations of how it can be made and the newly planted Saperavi vineyards come into production expressing the terroir of their increasingly diverse geographic locations.
Congratulations to everyone involved in Saperica’s Saperavi Festival in the Finger Lakes on its successful endeavor to gather Saperavi lovers and promote this ancient grape. A special thank you to Lasha, Erika, Fred, Phil, John, Bryanna, and Jim for taking the time to share their thoughts and insights about Saperavi.
Photos Courtesy: Saperica Inc.
More Wine For Less $$$
When I’m asked what is a good wine to buy I always ask what wine they like to drink? When they tell me their favorite wine I say “Then that’s a good wine for you.” This sounds very non-committal but I tell them this because a wine is only a good wine if you enjoy drinking it not because someone tells you it is a good wine but you don’t like it. Not enjoying a wine deemed a shining example of winemaking is not a judgment of your wine quality preferences but a measure of personal taste. The idea that a “processed” wine, you may remember as an “industrial” wine, can actually be enjoyed by millions of wine drinkers has sparked spirited discussions among wine lovers.
These widely distributed wines have to be mass-produced to accommodate the logistics of supplying every retail outlet that offers them for sale. Benefitting from the economy of scale wine conglomerates are able to make these wines readily available at affordable prices and in a mindboggling array of choices. This type of wine is produced in facilities that resemble an oil refinery more often than the small family-run wineries we are accustomed to visiting.
Marketing of wine is a complex procedure that relays on what a consumer is willing to pay for a product as opposed to its quality and production cost, take note that we are back to the perception of what is a good wine and who determines it. Most of the brands I am referring to fall into the $8-$25 range where the completion for sales is fierce. When you look at the bottles in this price range at the store it is easy to be fooled into thinking each is from an individually owned winery but the truth is that they are divisions of a handful of large corporations. E & J Gallo Winery has over 100 unique brands, you will be surprised to see just how many of their brands you recognize but didn’t associate with it. It is virtually impossible for a small winery to compete in this area of the wine market.
The corporations make the decisions on which of their brands are marketed to each consumer demographic and it is carefully produced to satisfy as many of the qualities that group of wine drinkers is looking for in their wine purchase. Depending on how and to whom the wine will be sold ultimately determines its ad campaign and if it gets put in a bottle, jug, box, can, or keg, well you get the picture. Due to certain unknown factors in these decisions, it is possible to find some very drinkable wines at bargain prices. The reason may be the vintages are better than expected and there are limited distribution channels to handle the excess wine. Just like those late-night TV commercials for warehouse furniture stores that tout the “Everything must go” pitch, winemakers often end up with more wine than they can sell. That is why you often find name-brand wines on the shelves of deep-discount retailers.
Just as the economy of scale can have a huge influence on the way wine is produced the clout of buying power has an enormous effect on how wine is sold. I live in Pennsylvania where the government controls all alcohol sales. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (P.L.C.B.) maintains a network of retail stores statewide and offers online sales through its website. The P.L.C.B. is the largest purchaser of wine in the United States and this gives them immense leverage when negotiating deals. The P.L.C.B. uses its Chairman’s Selection program to offer customers an ever-changing lineup of interesting wines at a discounted price. Wine is like any other product, in that getting it on sale is no bargain unless the quality is there. Doing your homework before you go wine shopping can be very helpful when you are cruising the aisles looking for a “GOOD” wine. Happy Hunting!
Photos Courtesy: Vivino.com
Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine 2019
When Jim Baker started his winery he didn’t set out to just make good wine but to make great wine in a traditional French style not only for New York but for anywhere.He has been doing just that since the beginning at his Chateau Niagara Winery with his award-winning wines featuring his signature Cabernet Franc. Sometimes you have to explore an avenue of innovation when it presents itself in the form of an interesting twist on a classic Italian wine making style. Jim developed an entirely new method of wine making that he uses to produce his Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine. Riesling Rosine is a totally new take on Riesling that has to be tasted to be understood. Jim uses a modified appassimento method that he invented to dry his Riesling grapes to the point of them becoming raisins, hence the name Rosine. He chose the name with a tip of the hat because it sounded Italian but is the German word for raisin.
Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine 2019 is an off-dry Riesling with bright acidity and balanced sugar that produces a creamy mouthfeel that I found to be surprising for a Riesling. The flavors start with citrus but shift to tropical fruit as a result of botrytris doing its thing during the drying process. You can purchase Chateau Niagara Riesling Rosine and other Chateau Niagara wines online at http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com
Time After Time
You might be familiar with the name Meiomi from its immensely popular Pinot Noir, That Pinot has the dubious honor of being deemed “drinkable” in the controversial 2/4/2019 New York Times article by Eric Asimov titled “Supermarket wines are poured, and worlds collide.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/dining/drinks/wine-school-grocery-store-wines.amp.html In his article Mr. Asimov named three “processed” wines, as he called them, to show the divide between how the consumption of wine is viewed between two distinctly different groups of consumers. He used Apothic Red Blend, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and The Prisoner as examples of wine manufactured and marketed to the masses as an industrial product while another smaller group of wine consumers are targeted by the producers of wine that is made in small batches and is an artisanal agricultural product. He also mentions a third even smaller group of wine drinkers who can appreciate and move between both groups. I am a member of that group. While I can enjoy wine from both of Eric Asimov’s groups, I must be careful when recommending a bottle that is in limited distribution making sure it can be found in traditional distribution channels.
Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 is widely distributed and is very affordable with a price tag under $20. This California Chardonnay is made to check as many of the boxes that Chardonnay drinkers are looking for as possible. It is a blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County, Sonoma County, and Monterey County. Meiomi Chardonnay 2019 was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks and underwent 100% malolactic fermentation before being aged with French oak. This is not a bone-dry California Chardonnay but has a little sweetness to it, along with flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla followed by a buttery finish.
Meiomi Chardonnay is a crowd-pleaser because it is made to appeal to the broadest range of tastes while maintaining consistency from year to year. If you are planning a gathering where the majority of your guests are casual wine drinkers, I think serving a popular mass produced wine is a wise choice. It is better to be throwing out empty wine bottles than to be pouring half-full glasses of wine down the drain.