We might be biased, but we believe that if you ask the best winemakers the secret to their outstanding wines, they will likely not talk about special techniques or mysterious processes, but rather just taking advantage of nature’s bounty, by producing the grapes and wines most appropriate to that specific region. Jamieson Ranch Vineyards – which seems to be catching wine reviewers’ eyes and palates year after year – is no exception. From the wisdom of a non-native winemaker, Juan Jose Verdina, come wines that embrace California’s native features, producing outstanding cool weather specimens.
So, as the weather starts warming up for May Day, Mother’s Day and the rest of this beautiful spring month, we offer our Inspired Wine Club members a chance to experience some of these “cool” wines: a beautifully balanced Carneros Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir that reviewers seem to shower with medals and 90-point scores. Yes, these are just the kind of wines that will pair perfectly with your backyard deck, screened-in porch or shaded garden terrace.
2014 Reata Chardonnay, Los Carneros
A well-crafted example of how a Chardonnay can be rich, yet balanced! This really is an elegant wine. From its deep straw yellow hue to its cheery nose of apples, walnuts, pears, honey and apricots, your senses are aroused. This crisp, dry wine yields flavors of honeysuckle and apple with hints of dried pineapple. The slight oakiness leads to a nice butterscotch element, providing that richness. But this is not a buttery, flabby wine. It’s complex, with a long finish, and pairs marvelously with that lighter fare you start to crave this time of year: a smoky grilled sea bass, tuna tartare or perhaps a chicken Caesar salad.
2013 Reata Pinot Noir, Sonoma/Monterey/San Benito, California
One taste of this pinot, and you will see why it seems to win awards year after year. Watch the sunlight catch its inviting ruby color. Cherry, raspberry and pomegranate all come to mind as you delight in your first sips. Again, this is an impressively balanced wine – incredibly quaffable! The French oak shines through, but only enough to provide vanilla accents. This is not an overbearing wine; in fact, it’s perfect for spring with its soft tannins, excellent acidity and strong finish. Grilling portabella mushrooms? A dill-accented salmon steak? Or maybe even a game hen adorned with some remaining winter root vegetables? Yes, this is the wine for that.
Enough with those Mediterranean wines made bold and beautiful with their sunny climes, parched soils and hot, dry weather. Good as they may be, April showers bring forth May flowers. So, as the morning air still has a lingering chill, we had cooler thoughts in mind: cooler-climate wines that surprise, delight and would do our Inspired Wine Club proud.
We think we’ve succeeded, bringing two wines that will push your oenophilic experience to new heights. A domestic Riesling recalls all the classic attributes of some of the world’s finest Old World examples. A Cabernet Franc from our northern neighbor, Canada, is sure to steal your heart with this well-crafted bold red. This is a month that will make you rethink your preconceived notions about what makes a wine country great, as your taste buds and other senses take a short, but very delicious and satisfying trip north.
2013 Riesling Ovid Line North, Boundary Breaks Vineyard, Finger Lakes, N.Y.
Here’s the perfect Fruehlingzeit wine, coming from a winery that knows German Riesling, despite its upstate New York location. Bruce Murray purchased the vineyard from a family who had owned the 120-acre farm for 207 years, hoping to replicate the best German and Austrian Riesling with its Cazenova silt loam soil. This east side of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes AVA has soil with optimal pH for producing these complex, aromatic white wines. And Murray’s focus has been unwavering; it’s all about Riesling. The Ovid Line North is a combination of two Geisenheim Riesling clones, vinified and aged in steel tanks, producing a refreshing, unoaked wine. Fresh, fragrant, clean and perfectly balanced – it even has the classic old world “petrol nose!” An off-dry Kabinett-style wine, its poignant acidity keeps it from being cloyingly sweet while holding onto the gorgeous aromatics and making it deliciously drinkable. That bit of sweetness also makes it a wonderful match for a zippy curried chicken salad, deviled eggs, or a roasted, herb-stuffed chicken.
2012 Cabernet Franc, Cave Spring Cellars, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Though not the first country to come to mind when one talks about wine, Canada has become the place to find interesting, cool-climate wines. And Cave Spring Cellars is one of its most acclaimed wineries, earning its reputation in the heart of Ontario’s wine country. This CabFranc is actually a blend of 86% Cabernet Franc with 14% Merlot. From the Niagara Escarpment, overlooking Lake Ontario, comes a smoky, spicy berry-centric wine with tobacco notes that has benefitted from limestone-clay soils, just-the-right elevation and offshore breezes. Barrel-aged for 16 months in 45% French, 35% older Hungarian and 20% American oak, this Cabernet Franc bursts with ripe red berry fruit, mocha and toast that has only been enriched by the hot Niagara weather of summer 2012. This is a big red that marries well with that a grilled, well-peppered ribeye or that elegant platter of charcuterie and artisanal cheese served at your first garden party of the season.
The French have long owned the word, “terroir,” using it to describe how a vineyard’s climate produces that certain “je ne c’est quoi” that makes their wine so unique. But as winemakers around the world know, there are many flavors of terroir, all bringing a special something to the wines they produce, when done with the right craftsmanship and attention to detail.
This month, the Inspired Wine Club offers two such wines that serve as wonderful examples of the terroir from which they spring and the flavors, colors and aromatics that result from carefully crafted wines that yield to the best Mother Nature has to offer. Ever wonder how Napa’s climate translates into a mostly Cabernet red blend? We’ve got you covered. Want to see how an Italian winemaker draws from the natural minerality of Umbria to produce a scintillating wine blend? Yes, that’s here too.
And maybe blends are another common denominator to this month’s offerings. Afteralll, it seems particularly apropos as March weather tends to be a blend of winter and spring. However, in the case of these wines, you don’t have to ponder on what to wear; no need to decide between winter parka, rain poncho, or cotton sweater as you grab the corkscrew and a couple of glasses before settling in.
2013 Fortnight Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
With 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Malbec, this dark purple blend is a smooth, well-balanced wine that has been barrel aged (55% French oak, 45% American oak) to draw out those red fruits that cling to the cedar notes. Think bright blackberry, rich mocha and vanilla with cedar and crushed gravel on the finish. Of course, this wine pairs well with a smoky, grilled ribeye, but it is also a delight with a luscious Moroccan couscous royale, Merguez sausage or garlicky lamb chops.
2014 Vitiano Bianco, Umbria, Italy
It’s always lovely to hear of successful experiments, and this is one of those stories. With 50% Vermentino and 50% Verdicchio grapes grown in experimental vineyards shared with the University of Viterbo, this wine benefits from the area’s sedimentary clay soils. In this case, the winemaker opts for steel tanks to let the natural beauty of these grapes stand alone. The result is a balanced, fresh wine. The nose is a mesmerizing mix of lime, pear and fragrant herbs. The color, golden. And the wine itself offers a minerality with a fresh finish. That freshness is a perfect accompaniment to green salads, a freshly caught, pan fried rainbow trout, or even a final lobster bisque to say “farewell” to winter.