Palate-friendly hybrid


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
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.

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)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Rogue’s gallery

JanKris Picaro 2004
Varietal: 50% Zinfandel 25% Merlot 25% Cabernet
ABV: 13.8%
Appelation: Paso Robles, CA
Price point: $8 (bought a 5-pack from wine.woot for $40 plus $5 shipping)

The 5-pack.  image from wine.woot

The 5-pack. image from wine.woot

Looks: The label. It is so purple!  And gold!  Plus, it looks like the Girl Scouts logo.  It probably doesn’t go too well with Thin Mints though.  Actually, maybe.  That might be interesting to try.

Copyright infringement?  Encouraging girl scouts to drink wine?

Copyright infringement? Encouraging girl scouts to drink wine?

As for the wine, a tinge of reddish orange is peeking through the normal deep purple of a young wine; it’s starting to show its age, but just slightly*.
Nose: Honestly, at my first sniff i got an interesting aroma: shellfish. like shrimp shells. Further down, i got sawdust, like a freshly cut 2×4. Eventually this led into some dark fruit, blueberryish characteristic cooked fruit zinfandel notes.
Palate: At first sip, I felt this in my cheeks. The {astringency} puckered them right up, an experience that I’ve rarely had in a non-experimental wine before. That being said, it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. I like a wine that firmly announces its presence in one’s mouth, like a medieval herald’s trumpet (you know, with the big banner on it). Dun da da DAH! WINE! It’s a bit woody, maybe owing to time spent in barrels, likely American oak.
It also had a hint of sweetness, which called me back to the fruit*. I wouldn’t be surprised if this has a bit of residual sugar. On the palate I was reminded of a wine I had a little while ago, Viña Borgia (garnacha). It had a tinge of bitterness to go along with the astringency, what one might call “oaky tannin“.
Rating: 2 corks corkcork

This wine was actually free. After purchasing this 5-pack on wine.woot I was asked to “lab rat” the wine. These things happen when you’re a well-respected wine journalist like myself *snort*. In short, I got a free bottle of Picaro in exchange for a timely tasting note (shared above). I’m not sure if my note encouraged anyone, as I really wasn’t too big of a fan. However, I believe that woot sold out of their holdings of the wine, so apparently price was more of a factor than the lab rat tasting notes.

In contrast to the Long Point Zinfandel (grown somewhere in CA), this Zinfandel had a lot of acidity. The high acidity intensified the effect of the astringency, which was probably brought in by the Cabernet Sauvignon portion of this somewhat unusual red blend. All in all, it wasn’t that great. In fact, even for $8, you could probably do much better (think Chile).

Color changes in 1, 5, and 25 year-old wines.  This is the only adequate picture of this phenomenon I could find.  img from G. Sacks, Cornell Univ.

Color changes in 1, 5, and 25 year-old wines. This is the only adequate picture of this phenomenon I could find, since all the wine journals seem to be printed in black and white. img adapted (read: stolen) from G. Sacks, Cornell Univ.

*Science! As red wines age, their color drifts from bluish-purple to brick-red to brown. Color in red wines come from contact of the juice with the grape skins. In the skins live compounds called anthocyanins. These polyphenolic compounds (or if you want to market a bit better, ANTIOXIDANTS) can be found in several different colors depending on the state of the wine (pH, oxidation, etc.) (Ref: Mirabel et al., “Copigmentation in model wine solutions: occurrence and relation to wine aging”, AJEV, 1999) As the wine ages, the reddish types begin to dominate over the purples. The rate at which this occurs can depend on the fermentation and storage conditions.

Once the wine starts turning brown, it’s oxidizing (more on oxidizing in a future post). For more info on color and wine, check out this page. While I kind of disagree with their statements about quality and age, it’s interesting to see a color spectrum for wines.

Published in: on 12 March 2009 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Beaujolais it on me

Louis Jadot Beaujolais 2007
Varietal: Gamay noir, the Beaujolais grape

"It's like eating an angel's head!" - Christopher Durang, "Phyllis and Xenobia"

"It's like eating an angel's head!" - Christopher Durang, "Phyllis and Xenobia"

Alcohol by volume: 12.5%
Residual Sugar: Dry
Appelation: Beaujolais
Price point: $10

Looks: nice cranberry-sauce color (I mean the purple stuff in the can)
Nose: cherry* on the nose and the slightest hint of vanilla, not altogether complex.
Palate: nice acidity, it’s definitely the first thing I notice. Astringency is not so much puckering as slightly numbing, Laffy Taffy banana* on the pleasantly long finish. Again, not terribly complex, but quite light, and I would say food-friendly with a light appetizer or cheese.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork

Louis Jadot is a big producer in Burgundy, and the wines are pretty ubiquitous around here. One way to easily recognize a Louis Jadot wine is the creepy angel head on the label, which is apparently supposed to be Bacchus.  Looks like a chubby cherubim to me.  Anyway, Louis Jadot makes wines that sell from about $5-10 to around $450 and up per bottle.  I have heard that if a producer makes a very expensive wine that is good, then their lower labels will also be good.  (I think it was Oz Clarke on Oz and James’ Big Wine Adventure, of which I am rather a fan and some episodes of which you can watch on YouTube).  This seems to be the case here, as this Beaujolais is a bit of all right.


pairing FAIL

I tried this first on its own, then brought the bottle back to enjoy with a turkey-cranberry-brie baguette. At first, the pairing was quite nice, until the rind of the brie started to majorly interfere with my palate with a weird ammonia-like off-flavor, kind of like having a fish skin with red wine.

There is not very much science on wine and food pairing, so I’m not sure how to explain that.  At any rate, I’ll be avoiding brie rind with red wine in the future.

Cherry and banana and other “fruity” aroma compounds are acetate esters.  Acetate esters will, over time, reach an equilibrium with other components in wine and fruity aromas will disappear (Ref:  Rapp and Mandery, “Wine Aroma”, Cellular and Molecular Life Science, 1986).

*sniff* Is that Beaujolais I smell?  Oh, hell. Time to get a new gasma-*ack*

*sniff* Is that Beaujolais I smell? Oh, hell. Time to get a new gasma-*ack*

This is particularly problematic for wines like Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau, and it’s why, in most cases, you should drink Beaujolais-style wines pretty quickly, as they’ll lose that characteristic fruit profile. Don’t believe me? Check out the bargain bin at a wine store in February-March. I bet it’s full of that year’s Beaujolais Nouveau.

Factoid: Isoamyl acetate, which smells like bananas, is used to test the effectiveness of gasmasks, even to this day.

Published in: on 11 March 2009 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

This cider house rules!

Bellwether Original Hard Cider

Click the label to visit Bellwether's website

Varietal: Apples! Apparently they use around 7 varieties for their original, probably including Liberty, Northern Spy, Tompkins King, Baldwin, English and French cider apples.
Price Point: $9.50
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Residual Sugar
: unknown, but my guess is about 2-3%.

Looks: Nice golden color.  This sparkling cider has a decent amount of carbonation, especially when poured vigorously, which diminishes after a little bit.
Nose:  I hate to start out with apple, but yes, this apple cider smells like apples*.  The other thing I get (and I get this on a lot of Bellwether ciders) is potpourri (i.e., cinnamon and floral spice).  Also some pear, and kind of a sour apple Blow Pop thing going.  I also get a bit of sulfur on the nose.
Palate:  Crisp acidity is nicely balanced by the palpable sweetness of this cider and a bit of {astringency} gives an interesting {mouthfeel}.  Also, in addition to the apple I get some Sprite-like lemon-lime characteristics.  The low alcohol (at least compared to most wine) makes it a rather refreshing thirst-quencher that’s both sippable and gulpable.

Rating: 3.5 corks corkcorkcorkhalfcork


Competing interest statement: I actually bought this glass.

Yes, I picked a hard cider as the first thing to review on a wine blog.  Well, it is one of the first stops on the Cayuga Wine Trail.  Plus, I was hungry and I wanted something that would pair with food.  I picked a good one.  A ham sandwich with brie and mustard from CTB with this stuff?  Money in the bank.

Bellwether Hard Cider is a family-run business as far as I can tell, with Cider Dad (the cidermaker), Cider Mom, and Cider Daughter pouring samples at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market and at the Cidery on Route 89, which is home to 4 Cider Cats.  They make a bunch of different ciders ranging from pretty “brut” all the way up to “Black Magic” and “Cherry Street” which are blended with blackcurrant and cherry juice (respectively) after fermentation.

New York state may be the 3rd biggest wine producer in the country, but it is 2nd in apple production, so maybe these folks are on to something.  Cider may not have the same snoot appeal as wine, but if you taste some, be it from New York or Normandy, it just might amaze you how good it can be.

*Science:  Many of the flavor/aroma compounds in fresh fruit will be lost during fermentation.   That’s why most wines don’t really taste like grapes.  However, producers of fruit wines will often backsweeten with fruit juice.  They do this not only to add sweetness (which has the additional benefit of  increasing the perception of fruit), but to add back those lost fruit aromas.

Published in: on 14 January 2009 at 1:27 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,