Tag Archives: Monterey County wine

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

2011 Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough New Zealand

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2011 Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

This  Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2012 SILVER MEDAL winner has been in my sights for quite some time.  Cupcake Vineyard wines are hard to avoid in my world as a Wine Steward for a national grocery store chain and now as a liquor store manager [albeit temporary]  for the same company.  The masses like their Cupcake; be it red’s such as Malbec, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah or their Red Velvet blend in addition to whites such as the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio etc.   According to the winemaker; all made in a “fruit forward” style since being introduced in 2008. For more information  check out their web-site: http://www.cupcakevineyards.com

The Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc in particular was recently brought to my attention by New Jersey cousins who, it sounds to me,  have made this their house white and I can see why.  Cork finally popped I discovered what everyone else already seems to know. Good tasting wine at a good price. Our store  has it in the $10.00 range with holiday sales bringing it as low as $7.99.  It is also available at  retailers such as Costco, Total Wine etc.  Making it a perfect [Holiday] party serving choice. No wonder this wine is as popular as it is.

I detected very crisp aromas of; pineapple, citrus, green apple and stone fruits on the nose. On the palate I noted; grapefruit! [yes with an exclamation mark], Meyer lemon, tropical white fruits and cantaloupe, but unripe/green.

This is a dry medium body white with good acidity levels lingering on the tongue and a tart finish.  If this wine tasted as good as it did with pizza I can only imagine how nicely it would pair with, well, actually something that it should be paired with 🙂  ¡SALUD!

Cupcake Vineyards Tasting Notes:

It’s the long cool seasons in the South Island that allow our Sauvignon Blanc grapes to mature slowly, giving them levels of complexity and a vibrant zing. This wine is reminiscent of a lemon chiffon cupcake. It’s made up of integrated favors of Meyer lemons, Key limes and a finish that awakens the appetite.

Wine Searcher – Marlborough wine region

New Zealand‘s largest wine region in production and area, Marlborough is located at the north-eastern tip of the South Island. It stretches from the small port town of Picton in the Marlborough Sounds to the east-coast town of Kaikoura. The long, straightWairau Valley has the most extensive plantings of vines, and the entire region had 58,300 acres (23,600ha) of land planted with grapes in 2010. This young wine region has won worldwide acclaim for its Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape variety from western France which is now successfully grown in emerging and established wine regions all over the world. While the grape may be more readily associated with the Loire Valley (for its pivotal role in Sancerreand Pouilly-Fume), it is more likely to have originated from Bordeaux, where it is typically blended withSemillon.