“CALIFORNIA BOASTS ABOUT 1 MILLION ACRES OF GRAPES. WHAT PERCENTAGE IS DEVOTED TO GROWING WINE GRAPES?”
The answer to that query is estimated to be 59%. The remaining 41% is eaten up (excuse the pun) as raisins and table grapes, with the hands-down favorite being the Thompson Seedless.
William Thompson, an early grower of the grape known as the Sultana back in the 1870’s, could never have dreamed the destiny of his favorite fruit. They make up the largest amount of the million acres, covering 275,000 acres. Some Thompson grapes are utilized in some American wines as a blending grape for both bag-in-the-box-style and fortified wines. (Sorry to report, Chardonnay comes in a distant second.)
“WHY DO WHITE WINES ACTUALLY APPEAR shades of YELLOW IN THE GLASS?”
While the grape skins are used in the making of red and rosé wines, they are not used when white wine is made, though the acid in them does contribute. Different white grapes have different acids. These organic acids – plus sugars, tartaric acid and alcohols all contribute to the grape juice “stew” and the coloration of the resulting wine.
Another big factor is what vessel(s) is utilized during the fermentation process. Take a good look at your glass of so-called “white wine.” If it appears yellow-gold, that’s an indicator that it was barrel aged in a neutral barrel. Pale, straw yellow? That wine took a siesta in a steel fermentation tank. If your white has some real color to it, it was probably aged in new oak.
“GRAPES CAN GET SUNBURNED? REALLY?”
Yes, many whites (and even some red grapes like pinot noir) can get sunburned – but they are actually “exposure burned.” Bright sunshine, hot temperatures and winds cause hot spots called almeria spots to appear. They look like a round halo of burned skin, with brown and deep yellow pigmentations. The almeria spots can also harden the grape skins due to lack of H2o.
PATIT CREEK CELLARS — THE CREEK (Vintage 2011, Red) Country: U.S.A. Region: Columbia Valley, WA/OR Grapes: Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Tempranillo
The Columbia Valley AVA was established in 1984, covering much of central and southern Washington state and a morsel of Oregon, as well. It is the largest wine region in the state of Washington, covering over 11 million acres, a third of Washington state’s land mass. Over 40,000 acres are planted in vineyards, or 99% of the total vineyard area planted in the state. In the early 1800’s, French traders named the stream near the winery “Petite Creek,” which the pioneers changed to Patit Creek.
Since 1999, elegant hand-crafted wines worthy of their European heritage have been produced there. The original Dayton, WA winery was purchased by Ed Dudley, current owner, in 2007, and the following year their new 6,000 sq. ft. winery was opened.
The recipe for this wine is 20% Merlot, 20% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo and the balance is Syrah. All are fermented separately, then blended and aged for 22 months in barrels: 85% used, 15% new; 40% are French, 35% Hungarian and 25% American. Total production is a mere 461 cases of deep cherry red wine. The nose is bright fruits, floral notes and savory spice. It offers firm tannins and bright acidity. Note the clean ripe pomegranate (from the Syrah) and black raspberry (from the Grenache) punch, and earth tones. Enjoy now, at room temperature, with burgers, sausages, pizza, marinated steak, and most pasta dishes.
Patit Creek Cellar’s – The Creek:
GRENACHE — Used to make wines that are rich, warm and alcoholic, and are often-times components of blended recipes, as in this month’s selection from Patit Creek.
SYRAH — A red that makes big, rich, tannic wines with lots of fruit. Dates back to 600 BC.
MERLOT GRAPES — Producing wines soft in fruit, grand in color, and rich in flavor, Merlot grapes are invaluable in fruity lusciousness and velvet quality. Merlot grapes are key to wines that are fresh flavored and vibrant.
TEMPRANILLO — Thick skinned, it produces wines deep in color, but rather low in alcohol. Low in acidity and quite malic, wines may be made solely from this varietal.
DRASSANES — WHITE VALENCIA (Vintage 2012, White) Country: Spain Region: Valencia Grapes: Chardonnay, Semillon, Merseguera, Moscatel
Valencia, on the banks of the Turia River, is on the east coast of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. It has a subtropical climate with very mild winters and long, warm/hot summers. The wine region consists of 87 vineyards (or Bodegas), and covers an area of 37,000 acres that produce 200 million gallons of wine each year.
Valsan, the producer of Drassanes wine, is a family enterprise. The Estate has 295 acres of vineyards in three locations. It was thoroughly renovated in 2002 and is one of the most modern facilities in Spain. Drassanes is the Valencian dialect word for “dry docks” and was adopted because of the region’s maritime traditions.
Made of 50% Chardonnay, 25% Semillon, 24% Merseguera and 1% Moscatel, all from trellised vines. All grapes are hand harvested, then fermented separately, with the Chardonnay grapes fermented in oak, while the other varietals in stainless steel. The resulting wine is bright lemon yellow in color with marked green reflections. Enjoy the subtle aromas of white flowers combined with tropical fruits and subtle hints of apricots. Richly fruity and fresh on the palate, it presents an excellent mouth feel and balanced acidity. Enjoy now, chilled, with crab cakes, grilled wild salmon, tuna steaks and your favorite Paella dishes.
Drassane’s – White:
CHARDONNAY GRAPES — The world’s greatest dry white grape, it has a split personality, with fruity flavors and aromas that mimic where the grapes are grown.
SEMILLON GRAPES — This grape provides the components for producing a wine naturally rich in flavor and high in alcohol. Makes succulent sweet wines of longevity.
MERSEGUERA GRAPES — A little-known white grape, it is nearly always used in blends. Strictly grown in Spain, it is valued for its climatic tolerance and ease of growth.
MOSCATEL GRAPES — This white fruit puffs up its wines with both fruit flavors and ripe fruit aromas.
ESTAMPA — RESERVE MALBEC ASSEMBLAGE (Vintage 2012, Red) Country: Chile Region: Colchagua Valley Grapes: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah.
Chile’s central region has ideal conditions for grape cultivation — Mediterranean climate with four defined seasons. Cold nights guarantee slow and optimal ripening; long hot summers combined with night-time lows allow the fruit to develop great aromatic expression, deep color and good concentration of anthocyanins. Little rain during harvest is a huge plus.
Estampa is owned by the Gonzalez-Ortiz family who built the first winery in Chile dedicated to Assemblage wines. It boasts the most modern viniculture and viticulture facilities and has more than 300 hectares of vineyards.
Assemblage is the blending of several wines, generally from different grape varieties and independently vinified. This selection from Estampa blends 72% Malbec with 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. These ingredient grapes are from three different Estates and vinified separately, but were all subjected to a cold soak prior to fermentation to obtain greater color and aromas, finalized with 8 to 10 months of rest in French Oak Barrels.
You will find this deep red/purple wine to have violet tinges plus aromas of black fruit, ripe berries and a bit of violet toastiness. It bursts with black fruit flavors with layers of age-related complexity. It has great balanced acidity, is medium-full bodied with a lingering finish. Enjoy now or cellar properly through 2018. Serve at room temps with roasts, rich pasta dishes and medium cheeses.
Estampa’s Reserve Malbec Assemblage:
MALBEC — This red-fruit grape is traditionally used for both color and significant tannin. Notably grown in Mediterranean regions, it has a thick skin rich in color pigments. Small amounts of Malbec are traditionally used to color correct and balance the acidity of blended and assemblage wines. Outstanding as a stand-alone wine.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON — Widely planted, this is a prolific grower, small, dark, thick skinned and late-maturing. Makes tannic wines with black currant/cassis aroma and flavor.
SYRAH — Blessed with aromas of fresh black and blue fruits, the Syrah grape makes a nectar that’s big, rich and tannic — a virtual fruit showcase in a bottle. (see above)
TURKEY FLAT VINEYARDS — BUTCHER’S BLOCK WHITE (Vintage 2011, White) Country: Australia Region: Barossa Valley Grapes: Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne
The birth of Turkey Flat took place in 1847 when Johann Fiedler (a relative to Pastor August Kavel who led the German emigrants to Barossa Valley) planted Shiraz vines adjacent to Bethany Creek. Today the Turkey Flat vine-yards and winery are situated on the historic Section One property in the center of the Barossa. Around 1865 the Schulz family became owners, not only tending the ancient vineyard, but developing a thriving butchers business, as well. Today the sensitively restored bluestone butchers shop is the wine sales and administration building.
Turkey Flat now encompasses four vineyard estates, all owned by descendents of Johann Schulz. Each vineyard specializes in specific grape growing. Most survive only on natural rainfall, so yields are painfully small.
Turkey Flat Butcher’s Block White has bright aromatics, subtle texture and vibrant acidity. Each component contributes in this way: The Marsanne (56% of the total ingredients) guarantees excellent mouth feel while contributing restrained secondary aromas. The Viognier (at 32%) lends apricot and floral aromas, while the remaining 32% is Roussanne, which adds tropical nuances and round palate weight. The three blended together result in a pale straw color with lime hues that offers a complex nose of apricots, citrus peel, orange blossoms and acacia flowers, plus roasted nut and toasted barrel nuances. Flavors are of ripe white stone fruits, citrus and grapefruit. Enjoy it now, chilled, with creamy fish dishes, cold soups, grilled veggies or as an aperitif. This wine will be awesome through 2018 if properly cellared.
Turkey Flat Vineyard’s Butcher’s Block White:
MARSANNE GRAPES — This is a premium white grape variety originating from the Northern Rhone in France. There, Marsanne is one of the dominant white grapes used in making the great white wines of Hermitage.
ROUSSANNE GRAPES — This premium white grape variety also originated from the Northern Rhone in France, and is a dominant grape variety there. Marsanne and Roussanne grapes are two halves of one whole, so close are they in mannerisms and characteristics.
VIOGNIER GRAPES — With its roots in France’s Northern Rhone region, it makes wines rich and delightfully aromatic. Also used to soften and add complexity to blends.