Tag Archives: summer wines

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.

Life Through Rosé Colored Glasses – Vinho Verde Rosé? Rioja Rosé?

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Looking at the world through Rosé colored glasses helped ease the stress of a joint Fathers Day and Birthday dinner party for seven this last Sunday.  The pressure was on.  What to cook was on my mind all week up to the last-minute.

My much appreciated epiphany arrived by way of sampling stations at Whole Foods Market North Miami.  Our cold Sunday supper summer menu was quite the hit. So much so that I really got to enjoy it myself. Even after realizing I had not cooked any of the items myself as I had originally planned.  Their may be something to be said about catering or buying prepared foods for dinner parties 🙂

Our menu started with cheeses from: buffalo milk, a goat blue, goat and cow’s milk combined soft cheese from Vermont Creamery and a Gouda from Holland with cumin seeds. Although all cheeses were a hit the Vermont Creamery Cremont blew everyone away. I recently sampled the Cremont to customers in our Whole Foods Specialty department and we sold out in what felt like minutes!

Our feast continued with: Bison roast beef , key lime and cilantro shrimp, loaded potato salad and a kale salad with almonds, dried apples and cran-raisins. Luckily room was left for dessert. Chocolate layer cake with butter cream strawberry icing. The one item actually cooked in our house. Baked by my better half who has become quite the dessert maker!

Thinking summer and a cold surf and turf supper lead me to rosé wines I had eyed with interest.  A Rosé green wine? Vinho Verde by Casal Garcia and a Rosé Rioja [?] by El Coto. Two varieties of Rosé I had never come across before.

Casal Garcia comes from winemakers Quinta de Aveleda.  A family tradition: making wine since 1671. In my research I found that Portugal has exported its wine since the 14th century and is Europe’s fourth-largest wine-producing region.  A statistic that quite honestly surprised me.

I could swear the screw top popped like a cork as I was opening it! Beautiful intense rose color reminding me of watermelon candy pink on this 85 point Wine Spectator rated wine.  Dry with a rich fruit mid palate. Lingering finish. A very passable summer sipper at a great price of under $10.00 U.S.

3,000 cases made.

Spains Rioja region does not usually cry out ¡Rosé! to me but this could just be ignorance on my part.  Made from equal parts Tempranillo and Garnacha [Grenache] this wine comes to us from the area of Rioja Alavesa and its lime and clay soils. As per the  El Coto winemaker it is made with short cold maceration in contact with the skins to extract the colour, and fermentation. From grapes grown on their 500 hectare vineyard.

I found the Coto Rioja rosé to be herbal,  earthy and spicy on the nose with notes of raspberry and strawberry.  Dry on the nose.
Again a beautiful bright and rich rosé color. Caramelly on the palate making me think if wine spent any time in wood, with also sour tart berries a bit green not in a bad way,  and a lingering finish.  Minerality and fruit enhanced as it opened or warmed in the glass. Price $12.99 at Whole Foods Market.
So there we have it. Both wines were very well received. The Vinho Verde a bit lighter and the Rioja with more body and fruit flavor. Both refreshing and perfectly priced for the summer.  I think both these rosé wines gained fans over our Fathers Day Birthday weekend.  ¡SALUD!