American Wine: California, Oregon and Washington
This week we will sample wine from the Alexander Valley in California, Oregon and Washington, two from each state. Altogether we will try two white, one rose and two reds from grape varieties including Chardonnay, Riesling, rose of Syrah(-based), Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Peter Schmidt of the Hotel Capstone will provide a bounty of delicious finger foods to sample with the wine selection. This tasting should offer something for everyone; we hope to see you this Thursday night!
Alexander Valley Vineyards: “Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley was mostly prune orchards and pastures when, in 1962, Maggie and Harry Wetzel purchased a large portion of a homestead built by Cyrus Alexander, the valley’s nineteenth century namesake. Here, in a rural community of family farms and ranches, the Wetzel family settled. They raised livestock, cultivated bountiful gardens and restored Alexander’s original home, making it the center of family life. With an eye to their neighbors in nearby Napa Valley, the Wetzels boldly planted premium grape varieties, among the first in the area. Then the family built a small winery.
Hank Wetzel, oldest son of Maggie and Harry, produced Alexander Valley Vineyard’s first wine in 1975. His wife Linda set up the books and managed the winery office. AVV quickly established a reputation for estate grown wines with distinctive varietal character. Acclaimed for crisp Chardonnay and luscious Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley Vineyards brought recognition to the appellation and became a leading winery in Sonoma County.”
“Alexander Valley Vineyards produces 100,000 cases annually, 17 varietal wines and proprietary blends. Seventy-five percent of AVV’s production is red wine. Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon constitute roughly half of total production.”
Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2011– Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California. 70% no oak, 30% fermented in French oak. “The vines are planted on some of the coolest sites on our estate where daily fog is the norm. During the growing season the temperature drops between 40 to 50 degrees from day to nighttime. Rain at bloom lowered the grape yields in 2011 dramatically. That lower yield combined with the long hang time of the cool growing season intensified the flavors and body in this wine. At harvest we were luckier than many, all of our Chardonnay was picked before the start of the annual rains. To retain the natural acidity we harvested 70% of our Chardonnay at night when the grapes are coolest, then cold ferment those lots in stainless steel, without malolactic fermentation or barrel aging to highlight the citrus and green apple flavors. To add balance to the wine, we whole cluster press 30% of the best fruit and barrel ferment that portion in French Oak barrels. The barrel fermented lots undergo malolactic fermentation and age on the lees for 8 months to develop roundness and body. There are aromas of apple, pear, butterscotch, toasted oak and a little minerality in the glass. This is a Chardonnay with a lush, rich, creamy mouthfeel, tropical notes and flavors of apple, pear and citrus, with just a touch of acidity on the finish.” $13.99
Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011– Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California. A Bordeaux style blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Aged for 14 months in French and American oak, 25% new. “In 1975 we produced our first vintage using the family’s bonded estate label and since then it has been a crowd favorite with supple tannins, well balanced fruit and a hint of spice. Light and late are the two words most often used to describe the 2011 vintage. A wet winter and spring delayed bloom, then heavy rain at bloom hindered the fruit set decreasing the grape yields dramatically. A cool summer prolonged the growing season and harvest started later than usual. The overall effect was great flavor development at lower than normal sugar levels resulting in balanced wines at lower alcohol levels. After fermentation the wine was barrel aged for 14 months in a combination of 25% new French and American oak. The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon has a soft, silky tannin structure with a delicate mouthfeel. To balance those soft, silky tannins, Winemaker Kevin Hall added 8% Merlot for structure, as well as 1% each Malbec and Petit Verdot for color and 1% Cabernet Franc for a floral quality. Aromas of black cherry, plum, cassis, vanilla and a slight eucalyptus note. In the glass there are refined flavors of red cherry, cassis, blackberry, plum, spice and tobacco. Our 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has good structure and complexity along with an old world style balance.” $18.99
A to Z Wineworks: “A to Z Wineworks’ partnership blends unique skills. Bill Hatcher brought an extensive background in strategy and finance to the Oregon wine industry and Domaine Drouhin Oregon, which he managed for 13 years before co-founding A to Z. Debra Hatcher spearheads marketing, promotion and design. Sam Tannahill and Cheryl Francis, winemakers respectively for Archery Summit and Chehalem for 8 years, bring surpassing creativity and technical expertise resulting in the same quality at 120,000 cases as with the inaugural 2,500 that earned us Food and & Wine Magazine’s award for the best American Pinot Noir under $20.
In 2006, a widely experienced Michael Davies joined the winemaking team and Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, became a partner representing his Rock & Hammer Pinot Noir. Charlotte Mischel runs the day-to-day operations with her organizational and problem solving skills. In 2007, A to Z and more minority partners purchased Rex Hill Vineyards, a 25 year old winery at the northern tip of the Willamette Valley, and our staff expanded and we hired Amy Prosenjak Amy Prosenjak as CFO.
Founded in 2002, the company is Oregon’s fastest growing winery. The business model is simple: to produce and market Oregon’s best wine values by concentrating on our core competencies of acquisition, blending and marketing.”
A to Z Riesling 2012– Oregon. “The 2012 A to Z Riesling has fresh aromas of wet stone, lime, white flowers, tangerine and ginger. The primary rush of aromatics gains complexity with aromas of white pepper, quince, white currants and raisins and lemon sorbet. Focused fruit (lime, passion fruit and guava) and mineral flavors echo the aromas on the palette. As the wine moves into the mid-palate the strong structure takes over with a hint of residual sugar adding balance and depth to the wine. The finish is extremely long, succulent and clean with lingering flavors of lime marmalade and minerals. Complete, complex and beautiful, this wine will gain in age and complexity over the next ten years, but is already drinking great now. A versatile food wine, it pairs exceptionally well with spicy foods which play nicely against the dynamic layers of this Riesling.” $14.99
A to Z Pinot Noir 2011– Oregon. “Elegant and complex aromas of bing cherries, cranberries, red currants, raspberries and strawberries, a combination of wild flowers and fresh forest berries that epitomize Oregon Pinot Noir. The juicy red fruit flavors open the attack then evolve in the mouth to darker fruit flavors with spice and mineral overtones. The wine shows ripe tannins and a succulent texture that give definition and lift to the surprisingly long finish. Although the 2010 A to Z Pinot Noir is drinking well now, it has the focus, balance and intensity to age and will become more complex over the next 5-10 years.” $16.99
Charles and Charles Winery: “The Charles & Charles project is a collaboration between Charles Smith and Charles Bieler of Three Thieves, Bieler Père et Fils, and Sombra Mezcal. The Charles & Charles portfolio includes a red blend and rosé from Columbia Valley vineyards (also available in kegs). With an abstract play on the American Flag (designed by the historic Nashville poster shop, Hatch Show Print), the labels showcase the intent to provoke thought of the future while honoring the past.”
Charles and Charles Rose 2012– Washington. “The 2012 Rosé exhibits a beautiful pink color, tinged with a subtle salmon hue and coppered fuchsia edges. The aromas pop with wild strawberry, rose, cherry, subtle hibiscus and a touch of citrus, with underlying dried herb, crushed gravel and mineral tones. These bright fruit and savory flavors continue through the palate with great acidity that carries into the finish. Our goal is create a balance between fruit, savory and acid notes so that not one element is overly dominant. Syrah comprises the majority of the blend at 81%. The complimentary varietals are Mourvedre (16%), Cinsault (2%) and Grenache (1%). PH: 3.43, TA: 6.9g/L, Alc: 12.9%. RS: .4g/L. 20,100 cases made.” $11.99
Charles and Charles Red 2011– Washington. “2011 was the coolest growing season in Washington State that anyone can remember. Thankfully, the Wahluke Slope AVA — where most of the fruit for this blend is sustainable farmed — is one of the warmest spots in the state, and so the fruit was able to achieve full ripeness and maturity by late October. The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards outperformed the Syrah vineyards and so the blend has evolved this vintage to be Cabernet Sauvignon dominated (72%) and just 28% Syrah. The aromas have the same signature blackberry, violet, currant and mocha that it’s had in previous vintages but also takes on more of a cigar box component. These flavors carry through on the palate which is medium bodied, soft and luscious. A portion of the Syrah was whole cluster fermented which brings some dark, spicy flavors. After blending together the wine was aged in french oak for a shirt period to enhance the mocha, toast and sweet vanilla flavors and soften the mid palate.” $11.99