Ignore TLC’s advice and DO go chasing this Waterfall

sp-t-07-006
Sheldrake Point Waterfall Chardonnay 2007
Varietal: Chardonnay
ABV: 12.5%
RS:Dry
Price Point $12
Notes:
Looks: Pretty pale yellow with hints of green
Nose: A little bit of freshly lit match (sulfur dioxide, a topic for another time), metallic pineapple, green apple, and slight herbal component i can’t quite nail down
Palate: lively acidity, good body on the {mouthfeel}, though it may be a touch heavy on the alcohol. Reminds me of a lemon meringue pie. I got some fennel too, like the bulb part. The finish is pleasant and long-lasting with lemony notes, like after eating one of those lemon girl scout cookies (Hmm, two mentions of girl scouts this week.) Very drinkable. With spring hesitantly arriving and summer just around the corner, the refreshing acidity on this one should make it pretty popular.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork


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Sheldrake is one of my favorite wine producers on Cayuga Lake. They almost exclusively grow {vinifera} grapes and most of their wines are very good quality. Plus, they have a nice view of the lake, a nice tasting room, their staff are really knowledgeable. In fact, they keep a binder behind the counter with all of the winemaker’s notes on every wine that they have available to taste, including pH, total acidity, fermentation notes, types of oak used, and much more. Great for a wine geek like myself.

This particular chardonnay is fermented in all stainless steel with NO {malolactic fermentation} and never sees any oak, which allows the straight up aromas of the wine to shine. Don’t get me wrong, I like a big, oaky, buttery chardonnay, but I would rarely call it “refreshing” or “lively”.

Science!

<em>Oenococcus oeni</em> converts malic acid into lactic acid, "softening" a wine.

Oenococcus oeni converts malic acid into lactic acid, "softening" a wine.

I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about malolactic fermentation. Malolactic bacteria, such as Oenococcus oeni (guess where it was first discovered) convert malic acid into lactic acid. What does that have to do with wine? The primary organic acids in wine are tartaric acid and malic acid. You may be familiar with malic acid, as it is the main acid in apples. Lactic acid is the main acid in yogurt. In fact, the Germans call malic acid Äpfelsäure and lactic acid Milchsäure (tartaric? Weinsäure, of course!). But we digress.

Warheads.  Ridiculously sour.

Warheads. Ridiculously sour.

Malic acid has two acidic protons (i.e., two hydrogen ions that like to leave the molecule). Lactic acid only has one acidic proton. Thus, for the same concentration of malic and lactic acid, malic will be perceived as harsher and more acidic. I have done this test with several different acids and it is not fun. In fact, remember Warheads candy? The candy with the super sour coating? Well, the coating is primarily malic acid. Wow, my mouth literally watered when I typed that as I was brought back to fifth-grade Warheads eating contests.

The point is that malolactic bacteria are often inoculated into wines after the primary alcoholic fermentation (yeast) to reduce the overall acidity of the wine.  Reducing acidity is not the only benefit of MLF, though.  It can help reduce {acetaldehyde} and release “trapped” aroma compounds enzymatically (Ref: Grimaldi et al., “Identification and Partial Characterization of Glycosidic Activities of Commercial Strains of the Lactic Acid Bacterium, Oenococcus oeni”, AJEV, 2000). A majority of reds undergo malolactic fermentation. Only some whites do, mostly chardonnay. The best way to determine whether or not your wine has undergone MLF is to try to detect a buttery aroma, like movie theater popcorn. This is the aroma compound diacetyl, produced by ML bacteria, which merits its own separate discussion.

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Published in: on 19 March 2009 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Megapost: “Ices of March” vertical Finger Lakes ice wine tasting at Sheldrake Point

I actually found out about Sheldrake Point’s “Ices of March” event from facebook, which is interesting from a marketing perspective.  Anyway, I thought this was a unique opportunity to taste several ice wines, a specialty of cooler climates like the Finger Lakes, and one benefit to our cold temperatures.  The {vertical tasting} ($20, including a fancyman glass) featured four ice wines, with accompanying blue cheese, walnuts, paté, and orange-flavored cookies.

mmi

Left to right: 2007, 2002, 2004 December Harvest, 2004 January Harvest

From youngest to oldest:

Sleek, stylish bottle on the 2007

Sleek, stylish bottle on the 2007

Sheldrake Point 2007 Riesling Ice Wine
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 12.6%
Residual Sugar: 16.5% (165 g/L)
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Price point: $65 for 375 mL (half-bottle)
The 2007 looks pretty much like any normal riesling would, pale yellow in color, though noticeably thicker in the glass on swirling. It also smells like a Finger Lakes riesling, with characteristic light floral and citrus notes. Also, it’s got a little stonefruit (I wrote “peach”) and pineapple thrown in there. On the palate, lively acidity stands up to the considerable sweetness very well, for a very fresh, zingy feeling. Lemon and lime join the party on the palate, kind of like Sprite. (Interestingly, all of these wines have quite a bit more sugar than Sprite [~110 g/L]). Really great, and not just for dessert. This {well-balanced} wine plays nicely with blue cheese and walnuts, and would likely compliment spicy foods (e.g., Thai or Indian) pretty well.
Rating: 3.5 corks corkcorkcorkhalfcork

Sheldrake Point 2004 December Harvest Riesling Ice Wine
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 12.8%
Residual Sugar:15.5%
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Price point: $90 for 375 mL
This wine was bit more golden in color. Muted fruit aromas compared to the 2007 give way to more honeyed character in this one. I imagine the honey character also comes psychologically as a result of the increased viscosity of the wine. It’s also got a long finish.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork

Sheldrake Point 2004 January Harvest Riesling Ice Wine
Varietal: Riesling (grapes from 2003 season harvested in January 2004)
ABV: 12.2%
Residual Sugar: 19.5%
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Price point: $100 for 375 mL
The apparent crown jewel of the tasting, this wine was served at a Governor’s Ball at the White House in 2006.

kerosene-lamp

Kerosene? In my Riesling? It's more likely than you think.

The label says 2004 but the grapes were from the 2003 vintage and harvested in January 2004, so for all intents and purposes, this is a 2003.  It’s starting to show its age. It’s just beginning to develop the aroma of “petrol” (a nice way of saying “kerosene”).*  This aroma is common in older rieslings and found especially in German rieslings (probably because many German rieslings will not be released for years after bottling, while FL wines usually come out ASAP.)  I have to say that the petrol is not a bad thing in this wine, and in fact it adds an interesting layer of complexity. I also noted some citrus peel in addition to peach aromas.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork

Sheldrake Point 2002 Riesling Ice Wine
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 11.5%
Residual Sugar: 20%
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Price point: $70 for 375 mL
The oldest and darkest of the bunch, with its deep gold color, is on the verge of browning. I noticed two things right away on the nose. First, a whole lot more of the petrol character than the 2003. Secondly, and unfortunately, this wine is a bit {oxidized}. In all fairness, it’s possible that I got a bad bottle. However, I actually got a re-pour (for an errant fuzz in the glass), and the wine remained the same. If the whole lot of wine tastes like this, they really shouldn’t be selling it for $70, or maybe even at all.
Rating: 1 cork cork


Overall, I enjoyed the tasting. The wines were served to small groups (in this case, me and 5 friends) so it was like a private tasting. The host was informative but a bit blabby. At a certain point I just wanted some quiet so I could taste the wine. Others, though, got a lot out of it. I still find ice wine in general a bit pricey for me. And though they went out of their way to pair with some non-dessert foods, I’m not sure I would crack a $65 half bottle to down with dinner. For me, I’ll leave it as an appetizer or dessert, both of which it’s perfectly suited for.

*Science!
Ice wine is usually made by leaving the grapes on the vine until winter.  When cold temperatures come around (~15-18 F, according to the tasting room manager), the frozen grapes (the ones that haven’t {rotted} or been eaten by deer or just fallen off the vine) are picked and immediately pressed. 128816664704197436Out in the cold, most of the water inside the grapes will freeze, but a more concentrated solution of sugars and acids will not, producing {must} with very high sugar and high acidity.  The resulting juice is fermented (though usually not without difficulty), leaving a wine with a normal amount of alcohol for a wine (~12% abv) and high residual sugar. The labor-intensive process justifies the high price, as it is a pain in the butt to pick in sub-freezing temperatures, crush solid grapes, and ferment juice that is so high in sugar that yeast have a hard time surviving due to osmotic stress (Ref: Erasmus et al., “Genome-wide expression analyses: Metabolic adaptation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to high sugar stress”, FEMS Yeast Res., 2003.)

Published in: on 16 March 2009 at 3:47 am  Comments (3)  
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Venial zin

Long Point Zinfandel (Reserve) 2006
Varietal: Zinfandel (not to be confused with “white zinfandel”, a wine made in a rosé-style from Zinfandel grapes, and usually drunk by moms.)

This is the biggest picture I could find of the label

This is the biggest picture I could find of the label

Alcohol by volume: 14.8%
Residual Sugar: Dry (supposedly)
Appelation: Only to be sold in NY (more on that later)
Price point: $24

Notes:
Looks: Dark violet uncharacteristic of Finger Lakes reds.
Nose: Hot on the nose, kind of smells like those old blueberry-cream Life Savers lollipops in that it carries dark fruit and vanilla.
Palate: Sweet, I tend to disagree with the “dry” rating. Rather low in acidity, {flabby}. There is a bit of {tannin} that sticks around through the black licorice finish. Overall, for 24 bucks I’m not sure I would buy it again.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork


I drove to Long Point with some of my high school friends in the middle of a snowstorm around new years. Located just off of Route 34B on Cayuga lake, it’s one of two main wineries on the east side of the lake, the other being King Ferry (Treleaven wines). In the deserted tasting room, when I expressed that the reds showed a lot of color, tannin, and flavor, the winemaker informed me that the grapes for some of his reds are shipped from California. Finger lakes wine indeed! But hey, if you have had some of the reds made in a cooler climate like this, you would probably consider importing as well. It takes a lot of energy for grapes to make all those anthocyanins (color compounds) and other polyphenols (e.g., {tannins}).

Creamy blueberry in lollipops:  great!  Creamy blueberry in high-alcohol wine: not so great.

Creamy blueberry in lollipops: great! Creamy blueberry in high-alcohol wine: not so great.

Also, what does “reserve” mean? Legally, in the U.S., it means absolutely nothing. Some winemakers use it to mean that these were the best barrels of that fermentation, some use it to mean that the wine is oaked or aged in a nicer (French vs, American, a topic for another time) or newer oak barrel. Regardless, “reserve” on a wine usually guarantees one thing: it will be more expensive. This wine is no exception.

*Science!
A fairly recent trend in winemaking, especially in California, is letting grapes hang on the vine for the maximum amount of time before harvesting to maximize ripeness (Ref: Coombe, “Research on development and ripening of the grape berry”, American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 1992). At first, this seems like a great idea: riper grapes mean more flavor, right?. (Incidentally, long hang times in the Finger Lakes are not advisable because of the propensity for rain in September-October, which leads to the growth of {botrytis} (rot) on the grapes.) As grapes ripen, sugar levels increase and acid levels (malic and tartatric) decrease. The result of a long hang is juice that comes in with very high sugar. Very high sugar leads to very high alcohol after fermentation, and this one weighs in around 15% alcohol by volume. Wow. An unfortunate downside to this approach (which frequently happens with Zinfandel, a notoriously high-alcohol wine) is the loss of a lot of the acids, leading to a wine lacking structure.
Alcohol levels in wine are increasing all over the world and it’s thought that climate change has a lot to do with this (Ref: Jones et al., “Climate change and global wine quality”, Climate Change, 2005). I don’t know if Al Gore mentioned this in “An Inconvenient Truth” but he probably should have!

Published in: on 9 March 2009 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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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%.

Notes:
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


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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  
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