Give me some skin

Channing Daughters Meditazione 2006

Click to go to the Channing Daughters website

Click to go to the Channing Daughters website

Appellation: Long Island
Varieties: Tocai Friulano 36%, Pinot Grigio 25%, Sauvignon Blanc 17%, Chardonnay 10.3%, Muscat Ottonel 9.5%, Viognier 1.2%, Malvasia Bianca 1%. Yeah, a bunch of grapes, so to speak.
ABV: 13%
Price Point: $40
Looks: Bold, deep golden color with a tinge of orange, somewhat like Sauternes.
Nose: Floral, orangey Muscat-like nose, with lemon peel and pineapple, LOTS going on.
Palate: Unlike any white wine I’ve had. There is some {astringency} to it! Unripe honeydew shows up on the perfumey palate, which also reminds me of peach iced tea. Great {mouthfeel}. Full-bodied, complex, and beautifully balanced, this white drinks like a red. It’s really unique.
Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork for an interesting aromatic white with panache.

Not everyone will like this wine, at least not at first. The muscat can be a bit overly perfumey for me. I’d also recommend having it at room temperature (cold can increase perception of bitterness and astringency, Ross and Weller, “Effect of serving temperature on the sensory attributes of red and white wines”, Journal of Sensory Studies, 2008, and if you don’t believe that, make some tea and try it hot, then put it in the refrigerator and try it cold). Basically, if you treat it like a red, this wine will do nicely. Its price and overall qualities make this more of a special occasion wine to me, but I believe it can function as more than just a curiosity in a wine sideshow. (Barker: Step right up! See the white wine fermented… on its own skins! Crowd: *gasp* Victorian ladies: *swoon*)

Channing Daughters is based on Long Island and uses grapes from both the North Fork and Hamptons. Perusal of the wine list on the website will quickly let you know that this winery is not about producing ordinary wines. This wine is no exception.

Check out the color!

Check out the color!

Unlike most white wines, which are pressed before fermentation, separating the juice from the skins, this wine is fermented ON the skins*, providing the somewhat rare experience of a white wine with noticeable tannin. I’m sure it also contributes to the fantastic color. (NB: Channing Daughters makes a few other whites with varying degrees of skin contact which I have not tried but would like to.)

For many readers, there are some unfamiliar grape varieties packed into this wine, likely because tocai fruilano and malvasia bianca are typically varietals grown in northern Italy. Lots of peoples’ wine varietal education starts with France: Bordeaux (merlot, cabernet, sauvignon blanc), Burgundy (pinot noir, chardonnay), Alsace (riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris). They then move on to California (all of the above, plus zinfandel), then the rest of the New World (Aussie shiraz, Argentine malbec, NZ sauvignon blanc, etc.) and sometimes never really make it to the “Italy” chapter of the book. At least this is the case with me. (NB: I’ve recently decided to add some Italian flair to my cellar, picking up a case including barbera, sangiovese, malvasia bianca, freisa, and others. Working on it…) I suppose one exception to this unfamiliarity is the ubiquity of pinot grigio, which may stem from consumers’ delight in saying “pinot grigio” out loud. Many FL producers will bottle a pinot gris/grigio.
It turns out that lots of great wines come out of Italy, along with lots of different grape varietals. Northeast Italy is a slightly cooler climate. It makes me wonder if there is a reason (beyond name recognition and marketing) that more Italian varietals aren’t grown in quantity in the Finger Lakes. Ventosa Vineyards does produce a tocai fruilano, which I have yet to try. They also have plantings of sangiovese, and of course, pinot grigio.

This wine was fermented on the skins, allowing extraction of phenolic groups (e.g., tannin) that would normally stay behind in a typical white wine fermentation. White wines fermented on skins have been shown to have an antioxidant capacity similar to that of red wine (Ref: Furman et al., “White Wine with Red Wine-like Properties: Increased Extraction of Grape Skin Polyphenols Improves the Antioxidant Capacity of the Derived White Wine”, J. Ag. and Food Chem., 2001). So if you drink wine strictly for health reasons, you’ve got that going for you. Interestingly, while {tannin} extraction is somewhat dependent on the alcohol content of the fermentation, color will start showing up much sooner. This is why rosé wines (reds pressed off of skins, perhaps with brief skin contact) have some color, but not much noticeable astringency. (Cf. Monday’s entry, the Chateau Frank Blanc de Noirs, made from black grapes [pinot noir and pinot meunier], pressed gently such that little to no color escaped from the skins). Finally, (possibly just so this site gets more hits on google) skin contact can even increase levels of the wine media darling resveratrol, a molecule which in itself merits its own discussion at a later time (Ref: Darias-Martín et al., “Effect of skin contact on the antioxidant phenolics in white wine”, Food Chemistry, 2000).

Published in: on 9 April 2009 at 4:24 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…


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.

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


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.


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

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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