Monday matchup: Cabernet Franc/Noiret blends

I haven’t reviewed a wine in a while, so here are two! It’s not every day you see a comparison of blends of Cabernet Franc and Noiret, a relatively new hybrid grape developed by Cornell. But this isn’t really your everyday wine blog.

Note: I tasted these two wines together, blind, in identical ISO 9000 glasses. I did this partially because I received the Stoutridge as a sample from the Hudson Valley Wine Goddess. For more details about samples, see the sample policy.

Fulkerson Winery Burntray 2007

Picture 15

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: 50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Noiret
ABV: 12%
Price Point: $12
Closure: Red molded synthetic cork

Technical Notes: 9 months in French and American oak.

Hedonic Notes: PEPPER! You are the hot dog guy in BurgerTime and this wine is Peter Pepper. Black pepper but also zingy white pepper are right up front on the nose. There is an interesting floral component, too. On the palate is a structured acidity, with some dark fruit and oak around but not so well integrated. A bit of {astringency} on the gums. It’s a little bit thin for me, but if it had a bit more {mouthfeel} I would really like it.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks for a fun, easy drinker with a spicy edge.

I’ve already written positively about my visit to Fulkerson Winery (on the west side of Seneca Lake). Unfortunately, this particular wine is sold out at the winery, but they have just released a non-vintage Burntray, which is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Noiret.

Stoutridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc Noiret 2007
Appellation: Hudson River Region, NY
Grape: 50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Noiret
ABV: 12%
Price Point: $28
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes:From the website:

We are a gravity winery, meaning we never use pumps or filters in our winemaking. In addition we do minimal chemical processing to our wines. We do not “fine” our wines with gelatins, tannins or clays. We do not add water or sugar nor do we chemically adjust the acidity of our wines. We use minimal sulfites in our wines and we do not add sulfites or sorbates to wine after they are made. The wines are very nearly unprocessed and in a very natural state.

Hedonic Notes: At first sniff of this wine, I thought something was wrong. I got this odd, labrusca-type smell. While Noiret does have some labrusca parentage, the other Noiret wine certainly didn’t have a Welch’s grape juice aroma. Then I tasted it.

Bubbles mean fermenation.  Welcome in champagne, unwelcome in this wine.  I broke the screen on Sarah's camera at the Wine Festival (sat on it), so pictures are a bit hit or miss lately.

Bubbles mean fermenation. Welcome in champagne, unwelcome in this wine. I broke the screen on Sarah's camera at the Wine Festival (sat on it), so pictures are a bit hit or miss lately.

… The light effervescence on my tongue was unexpected, as was the ferocious acidity. I looked down at the glass to see tiny bubbles around the rim, which stuck around long after I had poured. Unlike Don Ho, though, these tiny bubbles in the wine did NOT make me happy. This wine had undergone a re-fermentation in the bottle. The off-the-charts acidity made me think that it had not fully completed {malolactic fermentation}. Now, MLF can be a real bugbear for winemakers, and it’s tough to tell exactly when it’s finished without an enzymatic assay or special test strips (both quite expensive). As the technical note states, the winery strives to use low sulfites. In this case, any sulfiting was not enough to dispatch the malolactic bacteria. In addition, this wine was unfiltered, so surviving malolactic bacteria probably paraded right into the bottle, where they were able to happily convert at least a little more of the malic acid into lactic acid (releasing CO2 in the process). This was OK in my winemaking class, where we were clearly amateurs and our MLF got stuck after about three weeks, but for a commercially released wine, re-fermentation in the bottle is totally unacceptable.

I wish that was the only thing wrong with this wine, but it was also {oxidized}. The sharp tinge of acetaldehyde on the back of my tongue was unmistakeable. When wines are unfiltered, winemakers generally rely on racking to clarify wine before bottling. Racking (i.e., settling wine, then decanting it off of the sediment into another tank or barrel) exposes wine to oxygen, so additional racking steps may have led to oxidation in this wine. After a day, the oxidation was even more pronounced and getting worse, while the Fulkerson was still very drinkable 2, 3, and 4 days after opening.

This could have been a bad bottle, but something tells me there is something systematic about at least one of the faults that I discovered. This could be one of those cases where “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” Are you listening, Alice Feiring?

Rating: halfcorknocorknocorknocorknocork 1/2 out of 5 corks for reminding me of our batch of Pinot where MLF got stuck and the wine oxidized while we waited for MLF to restart.

I feel bad because I investigated Stoutridge after hearing a glowing recommendation from a reader about the winery (Sorry, Matt!). This wine apparently won a gold medal at the New York Food and Wine Classic, AND Debbie sent it to me, so maybe it was just a bad bottle. At any rate, I would like to try more wines from the Hudson Valley, in addition to giving this one another shot.


Science: Grape Profile: NOIRET
Noiret (nwa-RAY) marks the first {hybrid} grape I’ve had since I decided to begin my quest to drink wines made from 100 different hybrid grapes, and it’s a good one to start with. It was released by Cornell University in 2006, though it had been available for test runs by growers since 1994. It has a complex interspecific parentage, being a cross between Steuben, commonly a table grape, and the not-so-artfully-named NY65.0467.08, of which one of the parents is Chancellor. Its lineage includes vinifera, labrusca, and ruspestris grapes. Its major aroma characteristics seem to be black pepper and some dark fruit. In general, when I think Noiret, I think pepper.

According to John Iszard, Fulkerson has apparently been making wine from Noiret since 2003 and they are very pleased with its performance. I have heard through the grapevine (HA!) that vegetative growth (i.e., favoring leaves and shoots over fruit) can be a concern with Noiret, and viticulturalists at the Geneva Experiment Station are still experimenting with different rootstocks to control vine vigor. This grape’s performance so far makes it promising, especially given the complexity that a little pepper can add to a wine. Look for this one to appear as a blender in many wines in the future.

For the full details on this grape, see this bulletin released by Cornell.

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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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Monday matchup: Bold statements

I follow a lot of wine people on Twitter. This post is a response to a tweet from the winemaker at Silver Springs Winery on Seneca Lake. In addition to an eponymous label, Silver Springs also makes Don Giovanni wines, their premium label. The tweet in question was as such:

DonGiovanniWine: my 2005 Bold Merlot in a blind taste test will beat all other merlots …yes I just said that…

photo-4

Today's competitors on "Drink the Wine"

I happened to have a bottle of the 2005 Bold Merlot at home, and I was actually planning on writing tasting notes for it soon. When I saw this tweet, I couldn’t resist having the winemaker put his money where his mouth is. For the opponent, I chose another wine that I had around the house, Ty Caton 2006 Upper Bench Merlot, which I purchased from wine.woot about a year ago and have been “cellaring” in the closet.

This test was done as blindly as possible, 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 the bottles are shaped considerably differently.
 
 
Stats:

Wine Don Giovanni Bold Merlot 2005 Ty Caton 2006 Upper Bench Merlot
ABV 13.7% 15.7% (!!!)
Appelation New York State (fruit from Long Island and Finger Lakes) Sonoma Valley, CA
Price Point $27 $37

Here we go:
Wine 1
Looks: dark red, getting to be brick-red.
Nose: Vanilla and oak, not too much fruit. I do get some cherry, and a spicy potpourri aroma. There’s a bit of an herbal tint in there too, with a bit of tobacco/cigar box. It may be running a little {hot}
Palate: Firm but not overpowering {tannin}. Medium-short finish, and I really like the tannin structure. It’s slightly on the acidic side and oaky on the palate. There’s something really nice that comes through on the finish about 10 seconds after swallowing/spitting. It’s subtle and I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it is satisying.
Overall, not too bad. I like its {balance}, but the phenolic (“spicy potpourri”) element is the loudest singer in the bunch, and it’s a little out of tune.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork

photo-6

The contestants, as judged. Post-it notes are so I wouldn't get them mixed up while tasting.

Wine 2
Looks: Darker red, with hints of purple.
nose A bit of hydrogen sulfide at first whiff (dissipated after a bit), jammy, grape soda, huckleberry pie, with a little chocolate in there.
palate Sweet, very fruity. Cheek-puckering tannin, almost a smokiness on the back end, a lingering bitterness that’s not really that pleasant. Pretty alcoholic, too, finishing with some black licorice.

This is a big wine, but maybe not in the right ways. At times it reminds me of a fruity-smelling magic marker. You know the ones I mean.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork

Results: Don Giovanni was wine 1, and Ty Caton was wine 2. In a way, this probably wasn’t a fair comparison. These wines are completely different styles, and since this wasn’t DOUBLE blind (i.e. I would have no idea which wines I was tasting at all), I had my suspicions about which wine was which right from the get-go. The DG had an aroma that I pick up in many, many FL reds, which I describe as “potpourri” only because I’m not really sure what to call it. My hypothesis is that it comes from extended maceration and/or long extraction periods, which can add a lot of color to a wine from a wet vintage, but also extract some undesirables from the skins. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, the TC can come off like a typical California WAY overripe, jammy, syrupy, alcoholic mess. 15.7% alcohol? It may as well be madeira! This may be a style that some critics really go for, but for me, I prefer the Don Giovanni. That being said, it’s not without its flaws, and I definitely wouldn’t say that it could beat ANY merlot out there.


A note about blind tastings: It’s important to point out that nobody buys wine blind. Nobody goes to the store and says to the clerk, “I’ve got $20, surprise me!” (though I might do that someday, sounds like fun). With so many wines out there (on the order of 10,000 labels authorized for sale in the US in 2007), there’s no way one can try them all and buy based on experience. The more adventurous consumers will reach for varietals and regions they haven’t had before, but it seems that in general, people buy wine based on lots of psychological factors that have little to do with the quality of the wine in question. This could explain why the results of truly blind tastings can often be rather surprising, especially to the tasters. However, human psychology is rather out of my jurisdiction and I’m content to just say that people do weird things sometimes.

I’ve been to Silver Springs a few times and whenever I go, the winemaker, John Zuccarino, is pouring behind the bar. The guy is nothing if not extremely enthusiastic about wine and the wines that he makes. Many times my friends have remarked that it was their favorite stop along the way on Seneca, even if the winemaker’s presence is a bit overwhelming for some. He makes some pretty good reds, and I highly recommend stopping by there if you’re traveling up the east side of Seneca.

photo-8

This is only a small portion of the detritus floating in my spit cup after tasting these two wines.

Science!
Hey gang! Here’s an experiment that you can do at home! Make sure you get your parents’ permission, though. In the winespeak dictionary, I explain how it’s thought that the mechanism of astringency is the precipitation of proteins in saliva by tannins. Additionally, perception of astringency correlates well with protein precipitation assays (Ref: Kennedy et al.,, “Analysis of Tannins in Red Wine Using Multiple Methods: Correlation with Perceived Astringency “, AJEV, 2006) Well, if you’ve got a spit bucket, you can observe this phenomenon for yourself!  All that chunky stuff floating around when you spit out a red wine is precipitated protein, mostly PRPs (proline-rich proteins).  It’s thought that PRPs evolved as a defense mechanism against polyphenolic compounds, like tannins (Ref: Baxter et al., “Multiple interactions between polyphenols and a salivary proline-rich protein repeat result in complexation and precipitation.”, Biochemistry, 1997).

Published in: on 30 March 2009 at 3:14 am  Comments (3)  
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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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Palate-friendly hybrid

vignoles

Six Mile Creek is in the town of Ithaca, right on 79.

Six Mile Creek Vignoles 2007
Varietal: Vignoles (also known as Ravat 51)
ABV: designated as “table wine” so between 7-14%
Price Point $9.75
Notes:
Looks: Mild yellow, kind of like a light vegetable oil
Nose: Right away there’s pear and creamy component kind of like baby food (like mashed bananas or something). Perfumey floral aromas are present, too, with touch of sulfur off-aromas* on the back end.
Palate: Fresh acidity with a little sweetness. Very enjoyable, I would drink this a lot, especially for the price.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork


Six Mile Creek is the closest winery to Ithaca, and they have some decent wines. They also have grappa (made from distilled grape skins), limoncello, vodka, and gin, all distilled from grapes. Usually I’m not too big on hybrids, but I really liked this wine.

Science!
I’ll talk about hybrid grapes like Vignoles another time (basically, they’re cold-hardy crosses between European-native {vinifera}, and Native American grapes.)

Hey, dudes, do you smell me?

Hey, dudes, do you smell me?

Now though, I’d like to talk about sulfur. Sometimes called “reduced” aromas or “sulfur off-aromas”, things like rotten egg, garlic, old cabbage, etc., can invade wine under certain conditions. For example, if the fermenting {must} doesn’t have enough nitrogen content, the yeast will metabolize the amino acids cysteine and methionine (the two sulfur containing amino acids) to create other amino acids and nitrogen compunds like nucleic acids. The result of this metabolism is the creation of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs, also one of the active gases in flatulence (Ref: Oghe et al., “Effectiveness of devices purported to reduce flatus odor”, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005, interesting read actually) and mercaptans (cabbage, onions). The human nose is actually quite sensitive to these compunds, detecting them at around 1 part per billion. This problem can be treated by copper fining, but winemakers have to be careful not to exceed the legal limit of copper. I’ve heard that if you have a pre-1982 copper penny, you can drop it in and remove some of the sulfides, never tried it though. A better way to get rid of sulfur off-aromas, especially hydrogen sulfide, is to aerate the wine, e.g., in a decanter or a pitcher, or heck, even a blender!
Other fun mercaptans include ethyl mercaptan, added to natural gas (which is odorless), so you know when you’re about to blow up. And 2-butenethiol is secreted by skunks. They’re not all bad, though. Grapefruit and passion fruit aromas (3-mercaptohexanol) are also mercaptans. If you’ve got too high a concentration, though, it will smell like B.O.

Published in: on 23 March 2009 at 6:53 pm  Comments (3)  
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