Far above Cayuga wine

Lucas Vineyards Cayuga White 2008

lucasCW

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Cayuga White
ABV: 11%
RS: 2.4% (wow, it’s been a while since I reviewed a non-dry wine, eh?)
Price Point: $9
Closure: Extruded synthetic (boo! If you’re going synthetic, then I much prefer molded to extruded, aesthetically speaking)

Technical Notes: Machine-harvested, crushed and destemmed. 19 {Brix} and {chaptalized} to 20, and fermented dry. Total acidity 10.1 g/L, pH 3.0. Filtered and cold-stabilized. Back-sweetened before bottling. (Thanks to winemaker Jeff Houck for the info. Follow him on twitter @LucasWineTalk)

Hedonic Notes: A tutti-frutti nose comes up, with grapefruit, apple, and canteloupe. On the palate, electric acidity is balanced by considerable residual sugar (aside: I always write tasting notes before I receive the technical info), with a loooong finish of mashed banana and a slight metallic note that may just be the tingling of the acidity on my tounge. Like licking the lid of a jar of baby food, or maybe a battery. A hint, just a hint, of labrusca creeps in on the finish, but it’s certainly not a dominant characteristic.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks for a pretty good easy drinker.

Science! Grape Profile: Cayuga White

Listen up. Cayuga White is THE MOST IMPORTANT HYBRID in the Finger Lakes.
Cayuga White was released by Cornell in 1972 and has been the most successful hybrid wine grape Cornell has released (The others are Noiret, Corot Noir, Valvin Muscat, Melody, Horizon, Chardonel, GR7 (Geneva Red 7), and Traminette, along with a host of table grapes.) It is a cross between Seyval blanc (a French-American hybrid) and Schuyler (Zinfandel x Ontario). Many wineries sell it as a varietal wine, and it performs pretty well around here. It ripens reliably and provides interesting, fruity aromas with very little labrusca foxy aroma. You’ll find it all over the Finger Lakes, on its own and blended with other aromatic whites like Riesling, and in dry or semi-dry styles. Sometimes “cotton candy” is used as an aroma descriptor. Anecdotally, Cayuga White’s labrusca overtones increase with increasing ripeness. Perhaps the enzyme that synthesizes the foxy aroma compound methyl anthranilate increases with ripening time. That enzyme only been recently discovered, and looking at the expression vs. time data (Wang and DeLuca, “The biosynthesis and regulation of biosynthesis of Concord grape fruit esters, including ‘foxy’ methylanthranilate”, The Plant Journal, 2005, linked above), it seems that expression of this enzyme increases with ripening as well, so that makes sense.

Advertisements
Published in: on 29 October 2009 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

Home semi-sweet home

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.”

Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 11:48 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,

Smoke on the wine

photo-9

A "meh" picture for a "meh" wine.

Americana Vineyards Cabernet Franc (N/V)
Varietal:Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir??
ABV: not labeled, (“table wine”) is it that hard to get your alcohol measured?!
Price Point: $18
Notes:
Looks: reddish-violet, pretty intense
Nose: Smoky*, vanilla oak on the nose. Toasty, chocolatey, I am smelling a lot of oak and not much wine. Kind of smells like a roasted marshmallow. Other than that, not much to offer.
Palate: I get smoky, oaky flavors on the palate, followed by straight up, somewhat harsh acidity and a short, bitter finish. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised (just guessing here) if this were blended with a bit of Baco Noir, a red {hybrid} which to me has an unmistakable smoky aroma, to add some color. Baco is found in a lot of other Americana wines as well…

Rating: 1.5 corks corkhalfcork for a thin, acidic, smoky wine.


Americana Vineyards has its benefits. It’s one of the closest wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail to Ithaca. Their tasting room is a big barn with a nice bar and ambience and live music on Sunday nights. Also, it’s usually open until 6 so when you get kicked out of your last winery at 5 or 5:30, you can always stop there on the way home. Also, one of their wines, Sweet Rosie, a dessert wine, comes with a piece of fudge. Um, and they have big wine dogs. I think that’s about it for me.

Cabernet franc is one of those varietals that is supposed to do well in the Finger Lakes, so I like to pick one up whenever I visit a winery. Now, 2006 wasn’t the best vintage (I bought this bottle in January or so, so the bottle made with 2007 grapes is probably not out yet) in the Finger Lakes. I’m also not sure that they used all 2006 grapes, since it’s non-vintage, there’s no way to know. This wine, though, is really going out of its way to hide it. Baco for color, oak for “flavor”. Not that I mind oak, but there’s just not too much cabernet franc expression here, or really any expression. And at $18, no way would I get this again.

*Science!

Guaiacol and its derivatives are usually smoky, like bacon, but sometimes not in a good way.

Guaiacol and its derivatives are usually smoky, like bacon, but sometimes not in a good way.

Smoky aromas could have several sources (e.g., the grape varietal), but the most likely culprit is toasted oak. The insides of oak barrels are charred, or “toasted”, before being sold as wine barrels. Winemakers can usually choose light, medium, or heavy toast. Toasting extracts some flavor compounds from the wood, specifically lignin degradation products. Lignin, simply, is a molecule that holds the cellulose fibers in wood together. (For this reason, it’s a real pain in the biofuel industry, but we digress…). Compounds that result from the breakdown of lignin include eugenol (clove aroma), vanillin (vanilla), and guaiacol (smoke). (Ref: Galletti et al., “Chemical composition of wood casks for wine ageing as determined by pyrolysis/gc/ms”, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 1995). In this case the smokiness could derive from the oak (guaiacol) or the smoky component in Baco noir which has yet to be elucidated (it could very well be similar to guaiacol.) Guaiacol taint (“smoke taint”) is sometimes found in wines made from berries that are near wildfires (e.g., recently in Australia) and therefore exposed to smoke. The guaiacol in the smoke will accumulate in the waxy outer coating of the berry and make its way into the wine.

Published in: on 2 April 2009 at 3:01 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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  
Tags: , , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,