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Six Mile Creek Semi-Sweet Riesling 2007

SSRiesling07

Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: “table wine” an email to the vineyard asking for details got no response. tsk, tsk.
RS: ~5%
Price Point: $13.50
Notes:
Nose: Something spicy/cinnamony on the nose like Dentyne gum with some light floral aromas.
Palate: Canned peaches, sort of like fruit cocktail. Sweetness and acidity* are {well-balanced} in this wine. It doesn’t taste like 5% (50 g/L) residual sugar, but it is still pretty sweet. Many dessert wines come with an absurdly long finish, but this one drops off almost immediately. It’s easy to forget you’ve been drinking this riesling.

Rating: corkcorkhalfcork

Six Mile Creek is pretty much in Ithaca and because it’s about 5 minutes away I end up there somewhat frequently. I like the tasting room and the view from the deck out back is really gorgeous (vines and a pond). I think that this and the vignoles I reviewed earlier are some of their best offerings. This wine’s a pretty good value at $13.50. It’s not too complex, but will definitely be a crowd-pleaser.


*Science!
Perception is a tricky thing. Every individual expresses different levels of smell and taste receptors, and many different alleles for those receptors. After that, everyone’s brain seems to handle the information that those receptors provide differently. Often, perception takes place over complex chemical mixtures (e.g., food and wine). It’s not entirely known how the brain handles multiple signals (in series? in parallel? or as a mixture?). What is known is that some qualities of a sample can suppress or accentuate other qualities. In this case, let’s talk about acid-sugar balance.

Try this without sugar.  Just try it.

Try this without sugar. Just try it.

I first learned about this particular topic when I was about 9. I was mixing up some Kool-Aid (unsweetened, in the paper packet as opposed to sweetened in the large container) in our big orange pitcher. I emptied the packet (which may have been Purplesaurus Rex) into the pitcher. For those unfamiliar with Kool-Aid, the contents of the packet are pretty much citric acid and dye, and you’re supposed to add about a cup of sugar to a 2-quart pitcher. You can probably see where this is going. I took a big gulp of the liquid BEFORE adding sugar, and it was awful. Extremely tart. Added a cup of sugar, and I had purple-lemonade goodness.

tasteprofile

The scale that could be coming soon to riesling labels near you.

Turns out there is some science to back up the concept that sugar can balance acidity in wine. (Nordeloos and Nagel, “Effect of Sugar on Acid Perception in Wine”, AJEV, 1972). Basically, increased sugar decreases perception of acidity. The International Riesling Foundation has taken this into account. The idea behind their new “taste profile” is to give an idea of the sweetness of a riesling on the label so consumers know just how sweet their riesling will be. However, this rating is not just based on sugar content. It is based on sugar/acid ratio with a small adjustment based on pH. You can read more about the IRF and its new labeling scheme at their website or on a nascent Finger Lakes riesling blog called Stressing the Vine, which did a fine job covering this. For the record, I would guess that despite its hefty sugar content, this wine is probably on the high end of “medium-sweet.”

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Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 11:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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Monday matchup: Finger Lakes vs. Rheingau

Yep, it’s still riesling month. I decided to put some FL riesling up against another famous riesling producer, Germany.

The two competitors, plus my trusty Purity spit cup.  Featuring the festive Easter tablecloth.

The two competitors, plus my trusty Purity spit cup. Featuring the festive Easter tablecloth.

This test was done blind, with identical ISO 9000 wine glasses. Both bottles were opened at the same time and not decanted. Wine was poured into the glasses from the bottle before the test began to avoid bias, as one is a screwcap.

Stats:

Wine Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2007 Fürst Löwenstein CF Riesling QbA trocken 2007
Appelation Finger Lakes Rheingau
ABV 12.5% 12.0%
RS 0.9% 0.9%
Price Point $17 $16

Here we go:
Wine 1
Looks: pale yellow with a hint of green, with a little spritz
Nose: very strong lime peel, dominant petrol. It’s like WD-40 (I toasted enough tent caterpillars with my friend Brian when I was a kid to know what WD-40 smells like. It’s part gasoline, part floral sweetness) Part of that may not be all TDN, it may be more sweaty/grapefruity.
Palate: nice acid balance. Also limey on the palate, like biting into a lime. Not as acidic as a lemon, and a little bitter. A bit of pear on the palate, but the finish is what makes this wine really good. After a while in the mouth it develops some tropical fruit flavors*, like the Skittles that come in the blue bag. But you’ve got to be patient!
Rating: 3.5 corks corkcorkcorkhalfcork It’s really, really good, but the petrol is a bit much.

I need some better lighting up in this piece.

I need some better lighting up in this piece.

Wine 2
Looks: about the same as wine 1, including the bubbles on the bottom of the glass
Nose: Very different. Intense green apple, cotton candy, and a little bit floral
Palate: Very acidic, almost off {balance}. Palate like the core of a pineapple, the part that’s not quite ripe and really tart. As for the finish, the only thing I get is acidity, like the one oboe player that didn’t cut off the note with the rest of the section.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork Also pretty good.

Some of you reading could probably tell which wine was which from the descriptors. Well, maybe. Anyway, I had a hunch that #1 was the Finger Lakes riesling, and it was! Overall, in spite of the WD-40 on the Wiemer, I liked the overall palate better. I liked the nose better on the Rheingau, but it just wasn’t enough to carry it through. Both good wines, and I would definitely buy them again. In this case, Finger Lakes riesling takes it.

Hermann J. Wiemer also produces premium single vineyard rieslings, which I have tasted before and are really, really nice, but a bit more expensive than the standard dry (~$30 or so). Wiemer is one of the most respected riesling producers in the Finger Lakes and it’s easy to see why.


*Science!

Sometimes flavors show up only after a little while in the mouth. This could be due to the way we perceive aromas (it’s not clear whether things are parsed one at a time or all at once), but in the case of some aromas there is a molecular reason why they may take a while to show up.

Many tropical fruit, peachy, grapefruit, passion fruit and other aromas are thiols. They’ve got a sulfhydryl group sticking off of what is usually an alcohol. Now, we’ve talked before about some sulfur compounds being rank-smelling, like hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans. Some mercaptoalcohols, however, can be quite pleasant.

s-cysteine

But there’s one problem. The thiols like to bind up with the amino acid cysteine (which also has a thiol group). The S-cysteine conjugate molecules are not volatile and therefore are not perceived as aromas. During fermentation, yeast enzymes can liberate the volatiles from their cysteines, but often a large portion are left cysteine-conjugated. However, saliva contains enzymes called lyases that free these compounds from their cysteine anchors and lets them fly into the nasal cavity retronasally. This phenomenon was discovered in sauvignon blanc grapes (many, especially from New Zealand will have pronounced tropical/passion fruit aromas) (Tominaga et al., “A New Type of Flavor Precursors in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Sauvignon Blanc: S-Cysteine Conjugates”, J. Ag. Food Chem., 1998), but these compounds have also been found in riesling and other aromatic whites (Tominaga et al. (again), “Contribution of Volatile Thiols to the Aromas of White Wines Made From Several Vitis vinifera Grape Varieties”, AJEV, 2000).

Published in: on 13 May 2009 at 1:48 am  Comments (2)  
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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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Megapost: Wine Blogging Wednesday #56: “Fine” Kosher Wines

I am new to the internet wine community, but if you start searching out wine blogs, something that comes up consistently is “Wine Blogging Wednesday.” The phenomenon was dreamed up by the king of New York State wine bloggers, Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS and the monthly endeavor is now managed by Lenn and many other prominent online wine personalities. The idea is a monthly wine tasting revolving around a loose theme. Drink the wine, then blog about it. Previous themes have included Piedmont, Maderized wines, and Wine for Breakfast. This month, in honor of Passover, the theme is “Fine Kosher Wines”.

Though I’ve never sought them out, I’m sure that there are probably lots of great kosher wines out there, mevushal or not (more on that later). Israel is becoming a name of note in the wine world, especially the Golan Heights. I reckon that this theme was brought about to eradicate a sort of stigma that has developed about kosher wines. To be specific, it’s commonly thought that they are disgusting, sickly sweet, and only to be drunk once a year, 4 cups at a time, during the Passover seder, and that gentiles (like yours truly) should avoid them altogether. So I expect that many bloggers will be picking up selections from newer high-quality producers such as Covenant, Noah, and to a lesser extent, Baron Herzog.

Me, pleading with Laube, Jancis, and Parker to have mercy on bad kosher wines

Me, pleading with Laube, Jancis, and Parker to have mercy on bad kosher wines

But hey, everybody deserves a second chance, right? I mean, when’s the last time you actually had Manischewitz? The rest of the wine blogosphere will enjoy some high-end kosher wines that might rate 90+ from wine critics. I, like Abraham, will beg the wine gods to recant their punishment on the Sodom and Gomorrah of kosher wines. We’ll see if any righteous wines are found amongst the wickedness. Four righteous people were found in Sodom, so here are four classic wines, pretty much the only kosher wines to be found at Collegetown Liquors. Hey, times are tough, okay?

Manischewitz Concord Grape
Appelation: American (these grapes could be from anywhere in the USA, but chances are the Concords are from New York)
Varietal: from the bottle: “Not less than 51% Concord”
ABV: 11%
RS: “Specially sweetened”
Price Point: $6

The kosher bunch

The kosher bunch

Notes:
Looks: uniform red with hints of purple, pretty translucent
Nose: The most apparent aroma is the characteristic aroma of native American grapes, e.g., Concord. Some would call this “foxy”. Never having smelled a fox personally, I’d say it smells like Welch’s grape juice. Next it made me think of Push pops. Remember them? A solid purple cylinder of grapey flavor that you could put a cap on and save for later.
Palate: Straightforward, decent bodied mouthfeel. A slight amount of bitterness on the finish. Very, very sweet in the mouth, with little acidity or alcohol to back it up. It drinks like soda, and it probably has more sugar than soda. That being said, people like to drink soda. I can see people actually liking this.

The mother of all kosher wines is Manischewitz. With its Concord pedigree and extreme sweetness, not many in the mood for wine should pick this one. However, just because it’s not a great wine doesn’t mean it’s a bad beverage. It goes down smooth and tastes like grape syrup. Ugh, now the outside of my glass is all sticky.

Rating: 2 corks corkcork

Herzog Selection Chardonnay 2006 (Mevushal)
Appelation: Vin de Pays de Jardin de la France (Jardin de la France is the now discontinued name for grapes from the all over the Loire valley)
Varietal: Chardonnay
ABV: 13%
RS: N/A
Price Point: $10
Notes:
Looks: light gold, darker than I expected
Nose: As soon as I smelled this wine, I wanted to smell it again. If you know me and my love of smells, you may know that this is not necessarily a compliment. It’s not in this case. It smells like a mix of straw and rotten banana peel. There are some cereal notes mixed in there. It reminds me of a barnyard, but not in a {brettanomyces} kind of way. I don’t know what to say.
Palate: Wow. I have never tasted a wine like this. The more I taste it (and spit it) the more it reminds me of beer. Ever taken a brewery tour? Think of the smell of the brewery, then think of licking the floor next to a wort tank. Also, pretty acidic. After a bit in the mouth it does start tasting like chardonnay, but it’s too little, too late. Medium length of finish, but I kind of want it to go away. A nice way to describe this wine would be “rustic.” A better way would be “awful.”

Normally, to remain kosher, kosher wines must be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews (a full list of things that render wine kosher can be found here.) However, if wine is heated, the holy beverage is considered changed from sacramental wine and therefore is still kosher even if handled by a non-Jew. Today, mevushal is the process of flash-pasteurizing wine to render it kosher. My first guess is that this heating process has affected the aromas and flavors in this wine. Oh and PS, plastic cork?

Rating: half a cork halfcork for providing a unique experience, but not one I’m keen to repeat.

Baron Herzog White Zinfandel 2007 (Mevushal)
(Oy, vey! First Manischewitz and now a white zinfandel? I’ll probably get LOLed off the internets!)
Appelation: California
Varietal: Zinfandel ({rosé} style)
ABV: 11%
RS: N/A
Price Point: $9
Notes:
Looks: Interesting color: between rosy pink and copper.
Nose: Here, I don’t get much of anything on the nose at first, a welcome surprise given the last two wines. Some generic, wine-like aromas, light floral and and apricot, but nothing too earth-shattering.
Palate: Fresh acidity, not too much sweetness. Strawberry. Not too complex, but hey, for $9 it’s not bad. Dry for the most part. I’m not sure I could pick this out as mevushal compared with similarly priced white zinfandels.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkcork for a light, refreshing offering.

And now, the wild card. Originally produced by the Mogen David (shield of David aka Star of David) winery in New York state, this sweet fortified wine quickly became the darling of college students and down-on-their-luck city dwellers. Technically, it’s not kosher, but let’s give it a shot.

A challenger appears...

A challenger appears...

MD 20/20 Red Grape Wine
Appelation: none, in fact there is practically nothing but the name, government warning, alcohol %age, and “Serve cold” on the label.
Varietal: none listed
ABV: 13%
RS: N/A
Price Point: $5 (probably collegetown price gouging)
Notes:
Looks: Translucent dark red, very similar to Manischewitz
Nose: Well, it’s not on the label, but concord has got to be in here too. Solventy, somewhat medicinal I don’t get alcohol on the nose, per se, but I’m reminded of port. Not {oxidative} character, but the brandy that’s added.
Palate: Sweet, but not quite as obnoxious about it as Manischewitz. The balancing factor for the sweetness here is not acidity but alcohol. I can only imagine what the original 18% is like. Bit of bitteress and alcohol burn on the finish. Again, they’re not going for complexity here. They’re looking for that abstract quality known to Bud Light consumers as “drinkability”. And hey, if you like concord grapes/wines, this stuff is not complete rotgut. This wine used to be fortified to 18%, and you can still find it at that high level in some places. Again, not a good wine, but not the world’s worst beverage. I can see lots of potential for getting creative with this and/or Manischewitz in the sangria area.

Rating: 1.5 corks corkcork for a cheap buzz.


Overall my kosher wine experience was surprising.  The cheapos fared pretty nicely, though admittedly I had low expectations.  From the more expensive bottles, a decent one and a terrible one.  Again, maybe that was a bad bottle, but I have tasted and observed many different wine faults in classes and real life, and I don’t think that aroma would vary bottle to bottle.  I guess the lesson here is not to give in to wine snobbery.   If people tell you a particular wine is no good, you don’t have to believe them!  And hey, if you buy some Manischewitz and you don’t like it, you’re only out $6, and you can make jelly out of it.  To kosher wines, L’chaim! As for the Sodom and Gomorrah analogy, I’d say that while one of these deserves smiting, it’s not worth pouring fire and brimstone over an entire category of wines.

*Science!

Foxy wine, I'm cominna GITCHA!

Foxy wine, I'm cominna GITCHA!

The “foxy” aroma I referred to, characteristic of concord, Niagara, and other labrusca-type ad {hybrid} varietals, is the smell of methyl anthranilate. {Vinifera} grapes generally lack the enzyme alcohol acyltransferase, which synthesizes this molecule. It is thought to attract animals to eat berries and (some time later) spread the seeds around. Why is it called foxy? This is the subject of much debate, covered in detail in “A History of Wine in America”, which you can peruse here.

Ref: Wang and De Luca, “The biosynthesis and regulation of biosynthesis of Concord grape fruit esters, including ‘foxy’ methylanthranilate”, The Plant Journal, 2005.

Published in: on 15 April 2009 at 5:16 pm  Comments (9)  
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Cab Suave

Sheldrake Point Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (PRE-RELEASE!)
sp_cs
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon 96% Cabernet Franc 4%
ABV: 12.5%
RS: 0.3% (Dry)
Price Point $N/A (yet!) will update on release.
Notes:
Looks: Great color. Deep red hinting towards purple.
Nose: Ripe blackberry & raspberry with a bit of an herbal note (mint-ish), and how about this one? pretzels! Like the buttery, toasty outside of a pretzel stick.
Palate: Juicy, lovely {mouthfeel}.  It rolls around on the tongue well. {Tannins} are not so big.  If you really concentrate, though, the {astringency} is detectable but definitely not the biggest player in this wine.  With soft, subtle tannin, it’s up to the acidity to balance this wine, which it does quite nicely.  There is a touch of quinine-like bitterness on the finish, but it doesn’t last that long.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork

If you’re expecting mouth-puckering tannin, this is not the cabernet for you.  However, it is really drinkable.  It goes down smooth, and will do great with food.


I realize I’ve been pretty Sheldrake/Cayuga heavy recently, but this one’s on a time limit. See, being the well-respected *ahem* and important *cough* wine journalist *cough cough* that I am, I have connections *snerk* that allowed me to get a sneak peek at Sheldrake’s estate reds, to be released April 4. Actually, I just joined Sheldrake’s wine club, and I had to buy these like everyone else.  But I do have a VIP card, so there! Anyway, there will be a big foofaraw at the winery next Saturday with chocolate and cheese, etc., so that might be fun to check out.

beta-ionone-label

β-ionone. It smells unmistakeably like raspberries.

Science!
The molecule of the day is β-ionone. Its descriptors include violet, raspberry, and “woody”. Yes, Beavis and Butt-head, I said “woody”. This molecule has a low detection threshold in wine (90 ppt). To give you some perspective on parts per trillion, a ppt is a nanogram per liter, or 10-9 grams per liter. Basically, if you poured a few drops (~300 mg) of this stuff into an olympic-sized swimming pool (2.5 million litres) full of wine, you’d probably be able to smell raspberries while you swam.

Just imagine it!

Just imagine it!

Molecules like β-ionone are thought to be formed by degradation of carotenoids, e.g., β-carotene. Other norisoprenoids formed in this way include β-damascenone (baked apples) and TDN, the “petrol” aroma descriptor mentioned in my post about riesling ice wines. (Ref: Mendes-Pinto, “Carotenoid breakdown products the—norisoprenoids—in wine aroma”, Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2009.) Now to find an olympic-sized swimming pool full of wine….

Published in: on 26 March 2009 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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