February 16, 2011
Thank you for your continued support & for a successful event! Cream's 7th Annual Small Batch & Grower Tasting April 27th 2011
February 14, 2011
Nick Haselgrove Oz 2010 winemaker of Year!
<strong>Nick Haselgrove wins the 'James Busby Trophy'</strong><br />by Greg Turner | Monday November 15, 2010<br />Winestate Magazine tasted and rated over 10,000 wines during 2010 and Nick’s wines were all highly rated to claim the "Australian Winemaker of the Year". Nick produces <a href="../brand.php?id=465">"Blackbilly"</a> wines and is also winemaker for “<a href="../product.php?id=4314">The Old Faithful Winery</a>”  "This award is fantastic for our wines as it shows our commitment to quality across our ranges. Thanks must be given to the team in the vineyards and winery who all strive for quality. The award also pays homage to the great vineyards of McLaren Vale and the Adelaide wine regions where high quality vineyards make it a joy to make world class wines".<br /><br /><strong>Haselgrove</strong><br />Haselgrove Premium Wines was established in 1981 in the heart of the historic McLaren Vale wine region, 45 kilometres south of the city of Adelaide. The name Haselgrove has been intrinsically linked to fine winemaking in Australia for several decades. Chief Winemaker, Nick Haselgrove, is the grandson of Ron Haselgrove, who produced the great Mildara wines of the late 1950's and 1960's and great-nephew of Colin Haselgrove, a winemaking legend at Chateau Reynella. Grapes for Haselgrove's wines are mainly from McLaren Vale, where the companies own vineyards are predominantly planted with old Shiraz vines. Haselgrove also sources grapes from other company-owned vineyards in Wrattonbully in the south east of South Australia, and from contracted local growers
February 11, 2011
Exploring Oregon's 'Other' Wines by Paul Gregutt
Outside of Oregon, few consumers know that the state offers a range of varietal and blended wines every bit as interesting and diverse as Washington and California. And virtually all of them sell for prices well below those of the state's acclaimed Pinot Noirs. Oregon's reputation as the Pinot Noir state dates back to the late 1970s, when an Eyrie Pinot showed well in a prestigious competition. More critical praise followed the landmark 1983 vintage, just as many new wineries were being opened.
But there were other grapes planted in Oregon right from the start. Riesling, Pinot Gris and some hybrid grapes were in the ground in the 1960s and early 1970s. And in the past decade or so, the expansion of vineyard plantings in southern and eastern Oregon-well outside the familiar boundaries of the Willamette Valley-has allowed vintners to experiment with everything from Albariño to Zinfandel.
Sineann: Unearthing a century-old tradition
Sineann's Peter Rosback is perhaps the most adventurous winemaker in a state full of them. His Oregon portfolio is bursting with single-vineyard scores; he also produces wines with grapes from Washington, California and New Zealand. Rosback's earliest professional winemaking experiment remains one of his most successful.
As he tells the story, he'd stumbled across a bottle of Oregon Zinfandel from a long-gone producer, and noted that there was some great fruit lurking under the bad wine. Though Zin was not entirely unknown in Oregon, what little there was came from way down south. But this wine, he discovered, was sourced from an all-but-forgotten, century-old vineyard near Hood River called The Pines. He began making the wine in 1987, though his first commercial release came in 1994.
The Pines is situated in the Columbia Valley AVA, which stretches across the Columbia River from Washington State down into eastern Oregon. The original vineyard dates from the late 1800s and is terraced, with marginal soils. The area, notes Rosback, has one of the greatest day and night temperature differences in the country; 50 degree swings are not uncommon. The region, as these Zins prove, is both one of the oldest, and one of the newest, to be explored in Oregon.
91pts Sineann 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel
From one of, if not the very, oldest vineyards in the Pacific Northwest. Its low-yeild, old-vine fruit matches lush scents of chocolate, plum, cherry, hints of camphor and baking spices to ripe fruit flavors of berry, cherry and plum. It's full, forward and powerful, with alcohol topping 15%.
February 09, 2011
How NZ can trounce the best by Jancis Robinson
French wine producers and purist wine collectors have long held that it is simply not done to compare the accepted wine classics with wines made elsewhere in their image. They tend to mutter about the futility of comparing apples and oranges. My colleague Steven Spurrier was spurned by the French wine establishment for years after he organized the famous California v France tasting in Paris in 1976.
I find such comparisons hugely interesting and illuminating and I think it has been shown over the years that what the French are frightened of - denting the reputation and sales of their precious iconic bottles – simply does not happen. If my experience is anything to go by, the gap between the best of France and the best of the rest continues to narrow. And yet demand for Bordeaux's first growths and Burgundy's grands crus has never been stronger. Everyone knows that a TopShop handbag will hold a wallet just as effectively as one from Louis Vuitton, but that does nothing to do shorten the queues for the latter.
What's important is the conclusion drawn from a blind tasting in which a great French wine is outperformed by an upstart at a fraction of the price. The other evening over dinner our host poured six Pinot Noirs of which one came from each of Burgundy's two smartest domaines, Romanée-Conti and Comte Georges de Vogüé, one was the 1995 Isabelle from Au Bon Climat, producer of some of California's most burgundian Pinots, and the rest from three of New Zealand's most revered Pinot Noir producers, Ata Rangi, Dry River and Felton Road. All the wines had had the benefit of considerable time in bottle; vintages varied from 2000 (Dry River and Felton Road's Block 5) back to 1991 in the case of Ata Rangi, which acquitted itself very creditably next to the more youthful and energetic DRC 1992 Romanée-St-Vivant.
The fact that more people round the table preferred the Kiwi 1991 to the world-renowned 1992 burgundy at more than £400 a bottle does nothing to diminish my admiration for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and my frustration at not being able to afford it, but it does encourage me to devote more cellar space to the top Pinot Noirs of New Zealand.
Long term Pinot Noir and short term Sauvignon Blanc are far from the only wine styles that New Zealand can boast about nowadays, however. Tasting a wide range of new releases and old favorites from New Zealand wineries recently reinforced my impression that, while the recent grape glut has sent average grape prices tumbling to the levels of the 1990s, the range of styles of wines available today from both North and South Islands is much more successful and exciting than it was as recently as five years ago. I even tasted a couple of promising Marlborough examples of Austria's signature grape Grüner Veltliner, from Tinpot Hut and Forrest, that really did seem to have some of the spice and herbs of that variety.
Because acidity this far from the equator tend to be naturally high (one of New Zealand's major advantages over Australia), aromatic white wines are a natural fit and the 2010 Rieslings and Pinot Gris I tasted were generally of much higher quality than a few vintages previously. The balance of sugar and acidity is now much more likely to be deliberate and successful rather than evidence of using sweetness to mask heavy-handed winemaking. Felton Road, for instance, make a range of Rieslings, from bone-dry Clare Valley-like to the Bannockburn bottling that is more like a German Spätlese and a much more complex Block 1 bottling that finishes dry enough to suggest a perfect match with Thai food.
It seems that New Zealand growers, like their counterparts in Oregon, see even more potential in Pinot Gris than in Riesling, with the other Alsace variety Gewurztraminer trailing a very distant third. The only Gewurz on offer at a recent showcase of new releases in London, Seifried's 2010 from Nelson, showed just how fine a good Kiwi version can be. The 2010 Pinot Gris ranged from Spy Valley's full-throttle Alsace-like version from Marlborough to another distinctive wine from the small Nelson wine region in the north west of the South Island, Woollaston's super-natural Tussock.
New Zealand Viognier still tastes like work in progress; I wonder whether it is left on the vine long enough to develop its characteristic richness? (Although it is worth noting that in its north Rhône homeland it also seems to have been sent to WeightWatchers recently.) But at last New Zealand winemakers seem to be investing real interest and effort in their considerable quantity of Chardonnay grapes, so well suited to the climate there. There are few copies of white burgundy - though this is hardly surprising in view of today's widespread levels of dissatisfaction with prematurely aged white burgundy among collectors. Instead there are well-balanced, zesty wines with strong stone-fruit characters; sleeker Chardonnays more focused on the mineral spectrum of aromas; and some really nervy wines that taste almost like dry Rieslings. Many of these New Zealand Chardonnays, even from the bloated 2009 and 2008 vintages, taste as though they will repay cellaring, so refreshing is their acidity.
It was notable in fact when tasting through the range of new releases from the winery formerly known as Montana – now called Brancott Estate with the eye of its owners, Pernod Ricard, on the American market (third most important for Kiwi wine after Australia and the UK) – how much crisper and drier the wines are now than only a few vintages ago. And this applies equally to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This is clearly how New Zealand's dominant wine company sees the future.
The latest vintage of the country's most famous wine, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010, seemed sweeter and grassier in comparison, whereas that made by Cloudy Bay's ex-winemaker Kevin Judd under his own Greywacke label is much more austere and ambitious and looks as though it will last as long as the other whites made at Dog Point winery in Marlborough that is effectively a centre for Cloudy Bay's most celebrated dropouts.
The future of New Zealand Pinot Noir seems assured, as the vines age and the wines become more complex (although there are few I would guess will age quite as gracefully as that Ata Rangi 1991), but the quality of some Syrah and Bordeaux blends is also seriously encouraging.
Just one caveat: much is made of New Zealand wine's aim to be fully sustainable by 2012. Why not start by outlawing needlessly heavy bottles?
February 02, 2011
Ready for the Next Argentine Invasion?
Torrontés has been touted as the hottest thing to arrive from Argentina since the tango. Or at least since Malbec. It’s a grape, and a white wine, and some say it will be as popular in the United States as Pinot Grigio.
Well, one day, perhaps. But first things first. Have you even heard of Torrontés? The grape is grown pretty much nowhere else in the world but Argentina. Yes, Spain also has a grape called torrontés, but the two grapes are apparently unrelated. The Argentine grape has been shown genetically to be a hybrid of the Muscat of Alexandria and the Criolla, or mission, as it’s known in English.
The ancestry of the Torrontés is interesting only in that it most definitely bears more than a passing resemblance to the gloriously fragrant muscat. The best Torrontés are highly aromatic, exuberantly floral with a rich, hothouse citrus scent as well. Dip your nose into a glass, and you don’t know whether it ought to be sold as a wine or a perfume.
Argentina has a talent for obscure grapes. It took the Malbec, a red grape that is forgotten in Bordeaux, overlooked in Cahors and known as Côt in the Loire Valley, and turned it into a juicy, fruity, money-generating phenomenon identified purely with Argentina. Can Torrontés become Malbec’s white counterpart?
Indeed, in 2010, Argentina exported more than 231,000 cases of Torrontés to the United States, according to Wines of Argentina, a trade group. That figure may seem minuscule next to the 3.15 million cases of Argentine Malbec the United States received that year. But compared with the mere 29,333 cases of Torrontés exported to the United States in 2004, the growth has been remarkable.
Given the rate of the Torrontés onslaught, the wine panel felt compelled recently to taste through 20 bottles. We could easily have done 50, given the sheer amount of wine out there. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Brett Feore, the beverage director at Apiary in the East Village, and Carla Rzeszewski, the wine director at the Breslin and the John Dory Oyster Bar on West 29th Street.
It was clear right away that Torrontés has issues of identity. These wines were all over the stylistic map. Some were indeed dry, light-bodied and crisp, like Pinot Grigios. Others were broad, heavy and rich, like ultra-ripe California chardonnays.
This may be a problem. All genres of wine have their stylistic deviations, but consumers can often read the cues. Chablis is athat one can reasonably assume will be lean and minerally, without oak flavors. One would likewise expect a California Chardonnay to be richer, and oaky flavors would not surprise. Of course, exceptions exist, often from labels that have been around long enough to establish an identity of their own. But Torrontés has no clear identity, not yet at least, and the unpredictable nature of what’s in the bottles will not help.
Wherever the wines landed on the spectrum, we found that their level of quality depended on one crucial component: acidity. Whether light or heavy, if the wines had enough acidity they came across as lively and vivacious. The rest landed with a thud, flaccid, unctuous and unpleasant.
Florence had other issues with the wines. “Some were concentrated, but finished with a kind of watery emptiness,” she said. “And often, the nose and the palate were not on speaking terms.” That is to say, the aromas often did not signal clearly how the wines would taste.
So, what did we like? Those beautiful aromas — or as Brett put it, “floral, mandarin, muscat, nice!” Carla found a touch of bitterness in some wines, which she very much appreciated.
Just to make Torrontés a little more complicated, it turns out the grape in Argentina has three sub-varieties: the Torrontés Riojano, the best and most aromatic, which comes from the northern province of La Rioja and Salta; the less aromatic Torrontés Sanjuanino, from the San Juan province south of La Rioja; and the much-less aromatic Torrontés Mendocino, from the Mendoza area, which — fasten your seat belts — may not be related to the other two at all.
While I would never want to assume which sub-variety was used, we did find a geographical correlation. Of the 20 bottles in the tasting, 11 were from Salta and other northern provinces. Eight were from Mendoza, and one was from San Juan. But of our top 10, seven were from the north, including our top four. Only three were from Mendoza, and they tended to be more subdued aromatically.
Our No. 1 wine, and our best value at $15, was the 2009 Cuma from Michel Torino, from the Cafayate Valley in Salta. With plenty of acidity, the Cuma was fresh and lively, which made its aromas of mandarin and cantaloupe vibrant rather than heavy. Likewise, our No. 2, the 2009 Alamos from Catena, also from Salta, was thoroughly refreshing with aromas of orange blossoms.
The story was similar for Nos. 3 and 4, both from Salta, too. The 2010 Crios de Susana Balbo was fragrant with melon and citrus, and well balanced, as was the 2009 Tomás Achával Nómade, which had an added herbal touch. By contrast the No. 5 Norton Lo Tengo and the No. 6 Goulart, both from Mendoza, were far more reticent aromatically though pleasing and balanced enough.
At this stage in the evolution of Torrontés quite a bit of experimentation is still going on. Some wines are clearly made in steel tanks, which accentuates the fresh, lively aromas. Others may have been briefly aged in oak barrels, adding depth and texture to the wines. Thankfully, we found very little evidence of new oak in our tasting.
For my part, I was encouraged by the wines we liked best, particularly our top five. Their aromatic exuberance is singular and pleasing, with the caution that the wines ought to be consumed while young. As for comparisons to Pinot Grigio, they seem both premature and misleading. The big-selling Pinot Grigios are so indistinct that they offend no one but those seeking distinctive wines. Torrontés, on the other hand, are quite unusual, which confers on them the power to offend. In wine, that’s often a good thing.