What We Drank (July 30, 2013 Edition)
Evan Dawson: Red Newt Cellars 2009 Circle Riesling
There is something almost obscene about the fact that 2012 rieslings are being released, and the 2009 rieslings are now considered library wines.
This wine is like a plea for help from a vintage that should probably be getting released right about now. But that’s the story of Finger Lakes wine, and that’s why there are so few bottles with any age on them. You can’t blame wineries for releasing wines on a schedule that simply allows them to stay in business. It’s tough.
Katie Myers: Verse 2011 Pinot Noir Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros
It’s hot. The weather virtually demands cool, crisp whites and roses. But after the sun goes down (and if you’re anywhere near water), a lighter red, like a Pinot Noir, beckons.
Len Dest: Leo Steen Wines 2012 Chenin Blanc
To start, I am a fan of chenin blanc wine. Perhaps it is the aromatics or perhaps it is the slightly off-dry style frequently used by winemakers, along with riesling — my favorite white wine — chenin blanc is a top choice.
As Lettie Teague recently wrote in a Wall Street Journal article, chenin blanc has been an underachiever compared to the noble white grape varieties; chardonnay and riesling, and even in its peer class with pinot blanc, pinot gris/grigio and sauvignon blanc grape varieties primarily due to overproduction and poor quality winemaking. But when made well by great winemakers in France’s Loire Valley as Savennières and Vouvray, or in South Africa in the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine regions, where it is known as Steen, chenin blanc can be a versatile grape and produce amazing wines.
By putting chenin blanc and California together, all I have is visions of terrible wines that had been sold as chenin blanc, or more frequently with it blended with colombard to make jug wines frequently named Chablis. Grim stuff. But in the last five years amazing things are happening all over California, as a new breed of winemakers is focused on producing white wines from grape varieties other than chardonnay. As members of the “Seven % Solution” they are interested in making superior wines from the grapes of 7% of California vineyards that are planted in varieties other than cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
Leon Steen Wines owner and winemaker is Leo Hansen, born and raised in Denmark, came to wine from the food and beverage industry including stints as a certified European sommelier and wine experience in Alsace, Loire, Champagne and Burgundy regions in France, and also in Spain, Italy and California. In 1999, he moved to California to immerse himself in winemaking first hand by studying oenology and viticulture, and then spent the next several years working days in wineries and nights as a sommelier. In 2004 he became winemaker at Stuhlmuller Vineyards — an acclaimed, family-run winery in the Alexander Valley, and in the same year founded Leo Steen Wines.
The centerpiece of Leo Steen Wines is the Chenin Blanc. Steen is Leo Hansen middle name, and it is also the South African word for chenin blanc. As a European, Hansen had a great appreciation of this elegant grape variety, and the way it complements the flavors of modern cuisine. After years of searching for just the right chenin blanc fruit Hansen found 30-year-old vines at Saini Farms in Dry Creek Valley. Planted in sandy loam soils on an old river bottom site, these relatively cool-climate dry-farmed vines produce grapes that capture the essence of excellent chenin blanc fruit. The grapes are hand harvested with 50% of the grapes undergoing classic pigeage prior to pressing, while the remaining grapes were whole-cluster pressed. The wine was fermented cold in stainless steel tanks for approximately 30 days to achieve the desired level of dryness. The wine was then transferred to neutral French oak for three and a half months of aging on fine lees.
The wine is a very light yellow/green color, with elegant highlight aromas of Summer flowers, citrus, and prominent base aromas of ripe apples and pears. The wine is moderately crisp, with a nice balance of acidity with creamy elements from the oak prevalent. Prominent flavors are apple, pear, pineapple and peaches. While this is primarily a dry chenin blanc, it more resembles a Savennières than a Vouvray in that it has certain richness. As such it is perfect for sipping and pairs best with poultry, pork, pastas and vegetables, rather than seafood or shellfish that tend to pair better with a crisper chenin blanc, such as the Paumanok Chenin Blanc from the North Fork.
A very enjoyable Sonoma Chenin Blanc made in a European style.
Kevin Welch: Boundary Breaks 2011 No. 239 Dry Riesling
Last week I wrote about an end-of -the-work week wine shopping spree where I found myself stocking up on some more summer sippers of rosé from around the world and a few local rieslings. One of things that excites me the most about New York wine is the constant arrival of new growers, winemakers and collaboration projects. So when I caught a glimpse of Boundary Breaks riesling on the shelves of the wine shop, a wine that has intrigued me since I first read about on this very site back in January, I couldn’t pass up my first opportunity to try it.
Reading the names of those involved in Boundary Breaks, one could very easily make the mistake of thinking they are back in the pages of Summer In A Glass or reading a Who’s Who of Finger Lakes Wine. Add in the fact that Boundary Breaks intends to focus solely on riesling and the air of mystery surrounding the covert owner and what fan of New York wine wouldn’t be drawn to seek out this newcomer.
The 2011 Boundary Breaks No. 239 Dry is named after the Geisenheim 239 Riesling clone it is comprised of. The nose is familiar and typical of a Finger Lakes riesling full of lime and lemon with hints of grapefruit. This wine is dry with just enough RS left for balance and has some accompanying refreshing acidity. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and expect this to be the beginning of another regional standout producer that will certainly continue to improve with time.
Michael Gorton: Sixpoint Craft Ales Sweet Action
Two weeks ago I had major dental surgery. Three teeth pulled and five stitches later my taste buds and palate were shot. I opened on bottle of wine that I knew would be good and it was just god awful thanks to my messed up mouth. So instead of dumping a whole bottle down the drain every other day, I decided to ease back into the scene mostly with beer.
I stocked up on a few of my favorites from Sixpoint in Brooklyn. Sixpoint hit the craft beer scene a few years back when they started to roll out some of their regular beers in can as well as introduce some seasonal ones in can as well. My love for Diesel and Apollo are known, but Sweet Action is the one that I have been drinking in heavy rotation since the surgery and the one beer that made me check my palate back into action.
Sweet Action is classified as a cream ale but Sixpoint likes to say its part pale ale, part wheat and part cream, it is one of the more interesting beers it there. The nose is jam packed with aromas of grass, hops, bread, sweet malt, strawberries and mango. The palate is where you feel all of the roller coaster. Pine tingling bitter hops along with yeasty bready notes collide with a fruity sweetness but leaves your mouth dry and refreshed and ready for another sip. The finish is dry with some piney notes and nice bitterness.
The ale is sessionable checking in at 5.2 ABV. It was perfect on a hot summer day. Go ahead get some action before the summer is over. I never really thought of Sweet Action as a summer ale, but for a hop head like me, it has a home in my fridge.