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Anniversary drinks at Fleurie in Charlottesville

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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Jenn and I celebrated our latest wedding anniversary by spending a family weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The one person I happen to know there is Erin Barbour Scala (Thinking-Drinking).  We previous met in New York City during her days as sommelier at Public NYC followed by The Musket Room.  Having had diverse and fantastic wines with her before I knew there was no other choice than to dine at Fleurie restaurant where both she and her husband are now based.  As Wine Director, Erin’s wine list focuses in on France and Virginia but she is far too curious to neglect the rest of the world as was evidenced by her selections that night.  We were greeted to glasses of NV Rolet, Crement de Jura for ourselves and locally made sparkling grape juice for our daughter.  The Rolet was great by itself, accessible with a nice balance of yeast and fruit.  It left me thirsty for more wine.

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I select the wines we drink at home on a daily basis so it is nice to step away from making any choices.  We gave no direction to Erin as to what we felt like drinking or avoiding.  With Coravin in hand Erin proceeded to pour a utterly fun variety of wines.  To go with our shrimp risotto with carrots and shellfish sauce she poured the 2009 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes.  It was utterly satisfying and drank spot-on with its balance of maturity, fruit, and supportive toast.  Jenn’s herb crusted halibut was joined by the 2010 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Bockenauer Felseneck, Riesling trocken Grosses Gewächs, Nahe.  The glass was incredibly and persistently aromatic with herbs, stones, and some petrol with great balance in the mouth.  Great stuff! For my venison Erin poured two different red wines.  The 2011 Avennia, Sestina, Columbia Valley is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc blend with fruit sourced from the Bacchus and Red Willow vineyards.  It was forward and complex with darker, racy fruit that was hard to resist.  Avennia was only launched in 2010 so if this second vintage is an example of their other wines this is a new name to follow.  My second red wine was completely different being the 2010 Cambridge Road, Dovetail, Martinborough.  As Erin pointed out this field blend of mostly Pinot Noir with Syrah is not such an oddity given the affinity for these varieties to perform in cooler climates.  Its oscillation between Pinot Noir and Syrah aromas was rather intriguing.

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With our trio of desserts and petit fours came the King Family Vineyards, Loreley, Monticello. This pure Petit Manseng wine was made in the vin de paille style.  She poured this wine because it shares the same name as our daughter.  It was a touching end to our meal.  If you are in the Charlottesville area or need a break from the city I strongly recommend you dine at Fleurie.  Due to the Coravin you can drink almost anything on the list by the glass.  With a large order of wines soon to be added there will be even more reasons to stop by.

An Impromtu Tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noirs

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently suggested that Shane come over to taste some wine this past weekend.  Working for Bacchus Importers during the day he is always excited to taste wine with friends.  He suggested we drink New Zealand Pinot Noir as he still had six bottles from a tasting-dinner he meant to host earlier in the fall.  After some last-minute texting and phone calls Shane brought his friend Natasha and her daughter, our neighbor Mark showed up, and Jane from the Greater Washington Wine School stopped by as well.

We wedged ourselves into our small dinning room to taste the wines and eat some food.  The wines were brown-bagged and simply opened.  The group represented a diverse set, from people in the business to fans of drinks.  In the end there was a group consensus that the favorite wine was the 2006 Voss Estate followed closely by the 2009 Felton Road.  The rest of the wines fell into a middle grouping.  Unfortunately the 2008 Peregrine was an off bottle.

  1. 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
  2. 2009 Felton Road, Bannockburn, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
  3. 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
    2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  4. 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Here are notes and Shane’s from the evening.  They are listed in the same order we tasted the wines.  The 2006 Voss is at or near peak drinking.  The 2009 Felton Road will clearly develop with age but it a lovely bottle right now.  I think the 2008 Escarpment and 2008 Nautilus need more time as they fluctuated throughout the evening and need to settle down.

#1 – 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 12 months in 15-20% new French oak barriques.  There was a medium strength nose of earthy, brambly fruit, with notes of pencil/cedar.  In the mouth this medium-bodied wine had good texture with earthy flavors of brambly fruit and pencil.  With air there were some blue, inky flavors in the finish along with integrated, supporting acidity.  Clearly the most mature wine of the lot.  This is drinking very well right now. My #1.**** Now.

Shane’s note, “Earthy with subdued dark fruit at the back.  Big on the palate and well-balanced between fruit and earth notes.  Long finish.”

#2 – 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 11 months in 30% new French oak barriques.  This was young and fruity on the nose.  There is good texture in the mouth and a slightly chewy midpalate.  The fruit tilts towards sour red fruit with a hint of minerality.  I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Lighter than #1 and more acidic, but more red fruit.  Won’t live as long, I don’t think so.”

#3 – 2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that was de-stemmed then aged in a mix of older French oak barrels.  This was very fresh with a lighter and restrained nose.  In the mouth the cherry flavors reminded me of typical New Zealand Pinot Noir.  The fruit was a tad sweet.  I did not care for this so #5. * Now.

Shane’s note, “Big fruit bomb, a bit thin and acidic.  Still acid at the finish.”

#4 – 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough
This wine is imported by Negociants USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that  was de-stemmed and aged in a mixture of new and older French oak barriques.  There was a fine scent to the nose.  Reminiscent of the #2 but with more, good grip.  The ripe fruit and fine tannins were enjoyable.  There were youthful flavors of orange lemon grass with darker berries in the aftertaste. Drink now for youthfulness but will develop with age. I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Acid in the front, cherry.  Finish is nice.”

#5 – 2009 Felton Road, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
This is imported by Wilson Daniels.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir with 20% whole-cluster fermentation using indigenous yeast.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French oak barrels.  This wine stood out with its nose of darker red fruit with notes of roasted earth.  In the mouth the fruit was a bit prickly with tip of the tongue acidity.  A lovely, young wine that almost reminded me of a brambly, rustic Cotes du Rhone.  My #2. ***(*) Now-2017+.

Shane’s note, “So pretty and soft, beautiful midpalate and great finish.  May be my favorite.”

#6 – 2008 Peregrine, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 10 months in 38% new French oak barrels.  This was an off bottle. Not Rated.