Unfiltered critique

Damiani Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve 2007

Enjoying some Damiani at my desk after going over the final draft of a paper I recently submitted.  Can you see any typos?

Enjoying some Damiani at my desk after going over the final draft of a paper I recently submitted. Can you see any typos?

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Pinot Noir
ABV: 13%
Price Point: $32
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: from the website, “Our favorite 4 barrels of 2007 Pinot, this unfiltered, unfined wine is sourced all from the Davis vineyard, Dijon clone 115.” Emphasis mine.

Hedonic Notes:

It’s got an intense nose, oak up front, coffee/cocoa, bit of a floral component, a bit {hot}. After a little while of adapting to the aroma, there is some very interesting sort of blueberry fruit, but it flits away quickly. On the palate comes some strawberry/cherry, with tartness reminiscent of cranberry. There is a woodiness that makes me think they may have overdone it with the oak. Acid is the support structure and it is here in spades, but it lacks the body and overall {mouthfeel} to take this wine from good to great for me. Any {astringency} present seems to be oak-driven. Cherry vanilla on the interesting but short finish, and what’s this? Not to go all Gary V. on you, but do you remember Bottle Caps candy? They were like giant Smarties that came in soda flavors. Here I get some of those Cola-flavored bottle caps.

bottlecaps

Overall, the wine is pretty good and I can see the potential for it to have been great. It just disappoints in the mid-palate, where I crave some body that I’m afraid can’t be delivered by oak alone.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks

Science!
A common story among winemakers is that when Robert Parker shows up to tour your winery, you hide the filter. The biggest name in wine has come out strongly against filtered wines, arguing that filtering “strips the character” from wine. It’s a controversial topic in wine (an example of a long debate about filtering and NY wine can be found here). So where is the science behind this debate? After all, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts (a quote often attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynahan).

Filtering is often done to make wine more microbiologically stable. By running wine through a sterile 0.45 micron filter, large things like yeast and bacteria are kept out of the wine finished product. This not only protects against re-fermentation, but also against spoilage, particularly by {Brettanomyces}. Filtration can also speed up the time from fermentation to bottling, by collecting sediment like yeast hulls, skin bits, etc., that would settle out by gravity over longer periods of time. I have been told (though I can’t find a source at the moment) that consumers, especially in whites, prefer clear wines (although they exist, you don’t see too many unfiltered Chardonnays on the market).

But is other, good stuff being stripped out by the filter? It turns out there is very little scientific study about the sensory differences between filtered and unfiltered wines. From a theoretical standpoint, aroma and flavor compounds are far too small to be trapped, even by a sterile 0.45-micron filter. (For comparison with the other day’s post about reverse osmosis, those filters are on the order of 0.005 microns, about 100x smaller pores). So theoretically all the flavor and aroma compounds should flow right through the filter. It’s possible that the idea that color and flavor are stripped out of wine by filtration has to do with the fact that filter pads generally turn purple after filtering red wine. Sure, some of the color can get stuck to the filter pad at first, but the pads quickly become saturated, and the amount left on the filter is insignificant compared to the amount in the wine. Still, some winemakers swear that the wine is “stripped” by filtration. I might buy the argument that micron- and larger-sized particles left over from fermentation might change the mouthfeel of a wine, but I don’t believe, for example, that fruit aroma could disappear. Unfortunately, until we have some sensory data, it’s difficult to gauge the sensory impact of filtration.

Like most things in life, though, there’s no place for absolutes here. Not all unfiltered wines are {Brett} bombs, and not all filtered wines are bereft of flavor and aroma.

Published in: on 24 September 2009 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More Finger Lakes Wineries on Twitter

Hey twitterphiles, add these Finger Lakes wineries and wine personnel to Twitter!

For harvest updates, follow @flxcrush or look for the #flxcrush hashtag.

Winery Twitter username Lake
Atwater Estate Vineyards @atwaterwine Seneca
Lucas Vineyards @LucasWineTalk Cayuga
Hazlitt 1852 Winery @Hazlitt1852 Seneca
@RedCatWine

Finger Lakes Wine Marketing People
FLX Crush Updates @flxcrush
Morgen McLaughlin, President, Finger Lakes Wine Country @FLWineLady
Finger Lakes Wine Country @FLWineCountry
Cayuga Wine Trail @cayugawinetrail
Seneca Wine Trail @senecalakewine
NY Wine and Culinary Center @NYWineCulinary

Are there any wineries that you’re following that I’ve missed? Check out the complete list and let me know!  You can follow some or ALL of these wineries on this link:
http://tweepml.org/Finger-Lakes-Wineries/

Published in: on 18 September 2009 at 5:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wine Blogging Wednesday 61: At the source: Fulkerson Winery

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme, “At the source” is a bit lost on those of us lucky enough to live in a world-class wine region and visit wineries regularly, but here we go anyway. The task here is to visit and taste at a local winery. Well, don’t mind if i do!

A painted barrel in the Fulkerson tasting room, from the winery website

A painted barrel in the Fulkerson tasting room

On Labor Day weekend I took a full day off from lab (I actually do try to go in every day, Dr. Matt) and Sarah and I went down to Watkins Glen. The deal was that we would do Sarah-type outdoors things and then we’d do Tom-type wine things. We hiked through the Rim and Gorge trails at Watkins Glen State Park, then headed up the west side of Seneca Lake at about 4:00. Living in Ithaca, I usually only get a chance to visit Cayuga and East Seneca wineries (barring a special trip), so this was going to be a treat for me. Our goal was to get up to the hallowed Hermann J. Wiemer winery for some riesling flights, but there was a wedding there so they had closed early (Congratulations, Jeff and Melissa!).

As we headed back down to Watkins, we stopped at the much-lauded Shaw Vineyard, a tasting which I will review later, but our final stop of the day was Fulkerson Winery.

Fulkerson Winery is part of a farm that’s been family-operated for 6 generations, and at the winery you can buy a range of produce. In addition, Fulkerson has one of the biggest home-winemaking grape juice operations in the Finger Lakes. There is a ton of winemaking equipment and supplies (including bentonite and Zork closures, among many other things), and their website even has links to their home winemaking instructional videos. But enough about the place, how is the wine?

For a few bucks, we were able to select 5 wines, so Sarah and I shared. Some quick, unofficial highlights (feel free to skip):

  • We started with the 2006 Lemberger, which some would consider the “Great Red Hope” of the Finger Lakes. Nice acidity, some interesting cherry, maybe a bit of VA on the bottle I had. Bought 2 bottles.
  • My note on the 2007 Dornfelder was “interesting, buy and drink again”. It’s a light, fruity, low tannin grape, and the only other place I’ve heard of it grown in NY is at Channing Daughters in Long Island. Bought 1.
  • The 2007 Burntray I also liked. It’s a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and a recently-released Cornell grape called Noiret. Noiret is known for its distinct black pepper aroma and in this case it complements the CF quite well. Bought 1.
  • The next one was one I have been looking forward to trying. The 2007 Vincent is a varietal wine from the Vincent grape, a hybrid originating in Ontario and released in 1967. It’s generally used for color and found in many blends in the Finger Lakes, but this is the only one I’ve seen so far that’s mostly Vincent. I didn’t find much going on in the glass, except for a slight bit of sulfur, so I thought that I should give this one another shot. Bought 1.
  • The 2007 Cabernet Franc is actually blended with 20% Lemberger, a combination that seems unique to the Finger Lakes. It tasted slightly sweet, with a nice oak component. Bought 1.
  • The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon seemed a bit thin and overoaked (smoky).
  • On the white side, the 2007 Traminette (another Cornell grape, with Gewürztraminer parentage). Normally with Traminettes I get a lot of old lady perfume. That is, a huge bouquet of flowers shoved right up my nose. In this case, the flowers are more subdued and the hint of sweetness balances them out well. Bought 1.
  • The 2007 Riesling is made in a dry style but wasn’t terribly distinctive for me. Well-balanced, just not much to write about.
  • The 2007 Ravat 51 (aka Vignoles) was very nice. Vignoles is generally made in a late-harvest, high-sugar style and this one clocks in around 6.3% RS (that’s 63 g/L). Kiwi was te first thing that came to mind, with some subdued tropical fruit and citrus flavors (think starfruit, which doesn’t really taste like anything in particular, but is somewhat citrusy).
  • Vidal Iced Wine demonstrated some apricot with an interesting richness and smokiness. “Iced” wine is generally made from late harvest grapes brought in and frozen, then pressed. This is distinct from “Ice wine” in which case grapes must be picked frozen on the vine. Nonetheless, bought 1.
  • Finally, the Cabernet Franc Ice wine was a little bit soapy?

Overall I appreciated the variety. We only tasted a fraction of the wines available, including their huge seller Airship white (made with Niagara) and a wine made with a local table grape called Himrod. Fulkerson has actually created a huge jump in price for Himrod in the area because of its demand for this grape. Our tasting room staffer was very knowledgeable and friendly, giving lots of information about a wide variety of grapes. For me, tasting room staff can make or break the experience, and our staffer did very well, especially considering it was near closing time. The tasting room’s high ceilings and new atmosphere (recently built in 2004) make it a very pleasurable experience. I highly recommend stopping by if you’re on the west side of Seneca. Look for more detailed (and controlled) reviews of these wines on this site in the coming weeks.

Thanks to Lenn (aka my new boss) for hosting WBW this month. Check out the New York Cork Report in a few days for a wrapup of other wine bloggers’ tasting room experiences.


Science!
I buy a lot of my wine from tasting rooms. Again, I have that luxury because I live within a little over an hour of most of the wineries in the Finger Lakes. The tasting room influences my choices greatly, since I can taste a wine right there and decide whether or not I like it, then buy accordingly. Sometimes, I find, though, that something that tasted great in the tasting room is pretty meh when I get home and taste it in a more controlled environment. Wine tasting is very psychological and I suspect that that environment has an effect on your perception of the wine you taste.

A bunch of respectable wine bloggers and some dude in a Cornell jersey listen to winemaker Roman Roth in the palatial tasting room at Wölffer Estates, in the Hamptons, Long Island (photo credit: Lenn Thompson)

A bunch of respectable wine bloggers and some dude in a Cornell jersey in the palatial private tasting room at Wölffer Estates, in the Hamptons, Long Island (photo credit: Lenn Thompson)

While I couldn’t find any studies to this effect, a recent paper does show that a person’s expectations about a wine can influence his or her perception of the wine (Siegrist and Cousin, “Expectations influence sensory experience in a wine tasting”, Appetite, 2009). In this study, researchers served participants a glass of wine. In some cases they said “Parker gave this wine 92 points” and in some, “Parker gave this wine 72 points”. Some had no information at all. Those with positive information beforehand gave the wine a higher score than the ones who received negative information beforehand. So if your tasting room attendant is telling you about the double gold medal this wine received or the good rating it got from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, or even Wine and Spirits, there’s a chance that that will influence how you perceive the wine.

Allow me to give some more evidence to support the “wine tastes different in the tasting room” theory:

  1. The tasting room is aesthetically pleasing. It is nicely decorated, and you’re surrounded by, say, old wine barrels. You pet the winery dog. You’ve got a lovely view of the vineyards outside and it’s a gorgeous day (or a crappy day!)
  2. The tasting room is fraught with distractions, from the treat-begging wine dog to the bachelorette party that just rolled up, to the weird guy next to you who keeps asking questions about the wine and spitting into the dump bucket (not that I know anyone like that…)
  3. The actual environmental conditions (temperature and humidity for example) are likely different from your home.
  4. Arthur from the winesooth.com suggests that over the course of the day, tasting room bottles are poured from (tipped over) many times, resulting in lots of aeration of the wine. I’ll buy that.
  5. Along the same lines, tasting room bottles may have been open for more than a day, especially those “reserve” flights that you may have to pay extra for.
  6. The glasses you use in the tasting room are different from the glasses you use at home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that the shape of a glass can bring out certain aromas or flavors (I have whole other rant about that issue!). The size and shape of a glass does, however, influence the intensity of aromas, and tasting room glasses tend to be stout and durable, rather than bulky with huge headspace.
  7. Bottle variation can be huge. I’ve talked with some tasting room managers, who pour bottle after bottle of the same wines every day, and they have said that the variation between bottles can be tremendous. This is not only a function of the amount of cork taint present in the bottle but likely a symptom of storage conditions and the variation in closure integrity.
  8. The amount that you sample in the tasting room is very small. Come on, a 1 oz. pour? When I review a wine for this site, I generally enjoy the bottle over the course of an evening and comment about things that show up as conditions change. With this small pour, you’re probably spending a minute, 2 tops. Sometimes your pourer is rushing you along as well.
  9. Usually, when you visit a tasting room, it’s in the context of several other tasting room visits. And if you’re like 99.9% of wine tasting room customers, you’re not spitting. Suffice it to say that your physical and mental state may be altered during your tasting room experience.

I’d like to see some studies done about this, but I have no idea who would fund such a thing. Plus, hey, it might take a little bit of the fun out of the tasting room experience if you’re cynical about it from the get-go. There’s nothing wrong with wine tasting different in the tasting room. For me, it’s the best place to talk to someone who understands something about the wine they are serving (I really love talking to the winemakers themselves so I can ask the really technical questions, but that’s not possible in all circumstances). At the end of the day, wine tastes better when you’re having fun, so why not visit your local winery tasting room with some friends?

Great estate

Lamoreaux Landing Estate White (N/V)

Forgot to take a picture of the bottle, so here is a small one.

Forgot to take a picture of the bottle, so here is a small one.

Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: 55% Riesling 45% gewürztraminer
ABV: 12.8%
RS: 1.75%
Price Point: $10
Notes:
Looks: Lemony-green
Nose: Intense nose of flowers, peach, and lychee (What’s a lychee, anyway? I can only find them in cans, but they’re pretty good! Check the Asian section of the local market)
Palate: Pear coming through on the palate, and some passion fruit*. Good amount of sweetness and balanced acidity. A tad short on the finish, but all in all a nice wine. For under $10, I’d definitely get it again.
Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork for outstanding {QPR}.

Winemaker Paul Brock is new at Lamoreaux Landing, and I understand that this is one of his first wines there. He’s also trained as a chemical engineer, so he’s got that going for him. Many estate whites in the Finger Lakes are made with Cayuga White, or other hybrids or native grapes. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these, it’s refreshing to see an estate white made with the aromatic white varieties that the Finger Lakes is known for. So far, it seems he’s doing a great job out at Lamoreaux. See where a little science can get you?


*Science!

In the last science section, we talked about volatile thiols and how enzymes in saliva can free them up. One example of a volatile thiol is 3-mercaptohexanol. It smells like passion fruit, and can be quite nice. At high concentrations, though, it starts to smell a little bit sweaty. When I first smelled a sample that had been spiked with this chemical, I though I had forgotten to put on deodorant. Nope, it was the wine. At least that time it was…

3-mercaptohexanol. Fruity and sweaty.  Kind of like Richard Simmons.

3-mercaptohexanol. Fruity and sweaty. Kind of like Richard Simmons.

This is a good example of something that can be pleasurable at low concentrations, but when the concentration gets too high can be considered a fault. Some people feel this way about the characteristic aromas of {brettanomyces}. But that’s a story for another post.

Published in: on 19 May 2009 at 11:56 pm  Comments (3)  
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Anthony Road Rules

Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2007
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 12.3%
RS: 1.9%
Price Point $16
Notes:
Nose: lime and pineapple on the nose, but the first thing I notice is our old friend petrol*, which in this case adds some nice complexity to an otherwise crisp and fruity nose.
Palate: rich {mouthfeel} with refreshing acidity. Very nice on the palate. The sweetness and overall body give a lemon chiffon feel. Really enjoyable.

Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork

I have not yet been to Anthony Road, but I have heard winemaker Johannes Reinhardt described as “dreamy”. So, that’s good for the ladies. If his other wines are just as dreamy, then they are doing a fine job out there. Riesling month is off to a delicious start!


1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, or TDN to the syllabically challenged.

*Science!
The petrol component, as we discussed in the riesling ice wine bonanza, usually shows up in riesling wines after a bit of aging. But this wine is a 2007? What’s going on? Let’s look into the origins of the aroma compound.

The molecule in question is 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, which is thankfully abbreviated to TDN. TDN’s aromas can be described as kerosene, burned rubber, or the much nicer French term goût petrol. Nothing with a circumflex (château, l’Hôpital’s rule, etc.) can be that bad, right? While it tends to add a bit of complexity to a fruity bouquet increasing amounts of this compound can make it an off-aroma.

It’s thought that TDN arises from the breakdown of carotenoids in wine. What are carotenoids? Carotenoids are color compounds. In the fall, when chlorophyll in trees breaks down, what’s left are the carotenoids, yellow, orange, red, etc. They mostly serve to protect chlorophyll by absorbing damaging wavelengths of sunlight. As such, carotenoids are usually higher in grapes grown in hot regions with lots of sun. Carotenoid concentration can affect the emergence of TDN as wine ages. Also, carotenoids are produced until veraison (i.e. the beginning of ripening), then degraded during maturation. So (1) the more concentrated your carotenoids (e.g., hot, dry year), and (2) the longer your maturation time, the more carotenoid breakdown products you’ll end up with in your wine.

2007 was a hot, dry year in the Finger Lakes. As such, many producers produced very ripe grapes, and let them hang for quite a while for maximum ripeness. In riesling terms, this could be a recipe for TDN, if not now then in a few years. On a side note, not all carotenoid breakdown products are bad. β-damascenone (canned apple), β-ionone, and the aptly named Riesling acetal all are the result of carotenoid breakdown. I’ll be tasting quite a few 2007s during “May is riesling month”, so stay tuned!

If you want some real science, check out this quote from an excellent and very detailed review of the subject of carotenoid breakdown by Maria Manuela Mendes-Pinto in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (2009) which was the source for much of the above information. This is the kind of stuff I love.

It is important to take into consideration that the model systems studied for thermal degradation of β-carotene require extreme temperature over a long period of time, sometimes in the presence of organic solvents such as ethanol and benzene and . Although these conditions are not representative of the natural conditions that can contribute to the degradation of carotenoids and norisoprenoids formation, they are valid studies because they can be indicators of the naturally occurring reactions. The formation of TDN and Riesling acetal by acid hydrolysis of megastigmane structures as intermediates has been proposed by Winterhalter in 1991. The existence of multiple possible precursors for TDN, vitispirane and also of β-damascenone, was observed in heated juice of Riesling grapes; the glycosylated forms were hydrolysed to release the corresponding aroma norisoprenoids. In Riesling wines, TDN, vitispirane and Riesling acetal were formed in high concentrations by acid hydrolysis of the glycosylated precursors. While the precursor of β-damasenone has already been suggested (megastigma-6,7-dien-3,5,9-triol) the precursors of TDN and Riesling acetal were proposed later; the glycosylated form of 2,6,10,10-tetramethyl-1-oxaspiro[4.5]dec-6-ene-2,8-diol identified in wines was considered as a natural precursor of TDN after acid hydrolysis, while 1,4-dihydroxy-7,8-dihydro-β-ionone was considered as the precursor of Riesling acetal. This work also provided evidence of multiple precursors of TDN as previously suggested in related work with the same Riesling wine (P. Winterhalter, M.A. Sefton and P.J. Williams, Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 41 (1990), pp. 277–283).[74].

I guess it makes more sense with the figures.

Published in: on 8 May 2009 at 5:13 pm  Comments (6)  
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