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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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)  
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Ignore TLC’s advice and DO go chasing this Waterfall

Sheldrake Point Waterfall Chardonnay 2007
Varietal: Chardonnay
ABV: 12.5%
Price Point $12
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


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”.


<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.

Published in: on 19 March 2009 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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