'Tasted: American Merlot'

United Slurps of America: North Carolina

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week ten: It’s North Carolina.

Well, actually it’s week eleven. Last week We took a bye. This week’s edition of our Slurpin’ America had a couple of hiccups (namely that our original co-blogger, who will remain unnamed, went MIA), but We’re back into the project with our palates fresh and eager to taste the states.

Thank you, Twitter friends and Facebook fans (or “likes” as FB now refers to you–weird) for hooking Us up with our (new, improved, and non-flakey) North Carolina co-blogger, Joshua Sweeney of Wine(Explored). He’s a cool dude with a fun and informative blog to add to your wine-related reads. When We were scrambling to find a new friend he stepped up with enthusiasm. But really, who wouldn’t want to try McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks?

After hearing such positive (downright effusive) reviews of McRitichie’s wine and cider we cold-emailed them in hopes of getting some wine shipped to Us in California. Patricia McRitchie replied within a few days,”We did our due diligence and read excerpts from your blog.  We were highly entertained and would enjoy reading your thoughts on NC wines.” Awesome. Our big thanks to Patricia and her family for playing along with Us.

Check out McRitchie’s jealousy-inducing website to find out more about this family run business in the bucolic hills of Yadkin Valley. Not just grapevines. Chickens! Bees! Horses! Cute kids! And We knew We were going to especially enjoy this tasting when We saw this picture of the father/son wine-making team. Here are our collective reviews.

Dry Hard Cider, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $14)

She said: The bubbles are very fine, even scarce–looks like a Moscato d’Asti in the glass. Very pale green yellow in color. Very subtle on the nose as well–barely a hint of apples with some yeasty, bready scents. After months (well, years really) of paying very close attention to wine scents and flavors, the cider is a refreshing change, but I can’t help but compare it to wine: it reminds me of a Txakolina. Super dry and refreshing with very quiet and elegant apple notes (but completely dry–more like a Granny Smith than a Fuji). I imagine the cider would be excellent with food and also an aperitif. Makes me want to be outside and cook on the grill. Love it.

He said: In Her notebook she wrote, “He is going to love this.” She’s right. The cider is a shiny gold-green (reminder: I’m colorblind, could always be wrong on this) with tiny little bubbles. Yeast and bread initially on the nose giving way to green apple…a green apple Jolly Rancher™. In the mouth it is very dry with more sour apple. It tastes like an apple Jolly Rancher™ too. I love it. So, good. I want a case(s) of this. It would be such a great thing to take to daytime summer parties. I will seek this out again.

Wine(Explored) said: It’s much, much lighter than most hard ciders I’ve seen. I cheered inwardly a bit when I noticed the carbonation in the glass. It’s very fine, frizzante, not aggressive like the more common hard ciders. It has a musty, Champagne-like nose with a very subdued apple scent. I honestly don’t know what to expect just from the smell. The flavor is very subtle, and, as the name states, very dry. The apple flavor is pure, but not sweet, like apple juice. If it weren’t for the warming sensation in my throat and stomach, I wouldn’t even be sure there was alcohol here. It barely comes through on the finish, but there’s just enough there to give it a bite. Its got a great balance. 7/10

Fallingwater, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2009 (sample, $16)

She said: Very pale yellow. The nose has a funky chemical smell mixed in with honeysuckle, tangerine, and other tropical notes. There is a citrus peel bitterness on the finish and a strong acidity, yet the wine is also very full and rich, almost overly luxurious in the mid-palate. Seems out of balance. Not for me, but very interesting to taste and ponder.

He said: Slightly cloudy and pale yellow-gold in the glass. The nose is weird; citrus, tropical and scents that I can’t really describe. I actually wrote “indescribable” in my notebook. Strong acidity with very light fruit. There is something woody about it to me, or like carbonated water. I don’t really like it. 

Wine(Explored) said: The Fallingwater has a very light yellow color, with just a tinge of green, and it has a lower viscosity than I would have expected. The nose consists of overly ripe tropical notes, apricot and a sweetness like honey, and a bit of vinyl. Rather dry, with a detectable alcohol flavor and a hot scent. Flavor of apricot preserves, pineapple, and there is that slight vinyl flavor. It’s got a very luxurious, tropical medley on the finish that’s hard to pin down but still very enjoyable.  Has a very strong acidity that becomes prominent on the finish. Balance isn’t quite there for me. 6/10

Ring of Fire, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: Very deep purpley ruby color. Oak on the nose, but also chocolate, coffee, dark berries. The wine is lush on the palate–almost syrupy. Medium tannin and alcohol is in balance with the fruit–the structure is strong but doesn’t overwhelm the flavors. Rich and creamy finish, like chocolate milk. With a fresh blueberry garnish. Very enjoyable and easy drinking wine. Tried it again later with a turkey meatball sandwich (from Locali–love that place) and it paired wonderfully.

He said: Actually drinking it as I type this post. I had it last night and my notes are fairly negative, but I am enjoying it right now. Light nose with coffee and dark fruit. Maybe a little licorice too. Nice weight and very rich in the mouth, but maybe a little too much oak for me. Some heat in mid-palate and finish. Not great, but a nice, drinkable wine.

Wine(Explored) said: Color’s a very deep, almost opaque reddish purple. Rich scent of redcurrant and coffee. It has a very smooth, very full texture, evidence of a very good amount of time in oak. Flavor is a very rich mocha with a bit of cherry. Tannins are chalky, not quite chewy, and the sensation lingers on the finish. Good balance on the alcohol here; it contributes to the structure without coming forward. Though simple, this one is my favorite of their wines. 7/10

Merlot, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: A very dark/opaque garnet with a translucent purple rim. There is obvious oak on the nose, but more than anything else: chocolate. Pleasant, soft and chalky tannin and more coca on the palate. Also sense dried herbs (lavender?), coffee, and stewed tart cherries. The wine finishes a bit harshly with high acid and an almost burnt, bitter flavor (in this way it is similar to the white we tasted). Another interesting wine to taste; it challenged my palate.

He said: Deep Purple. Chocolate, anise, and more chocolate on the nose. I wrote “Really nice smelling wine” in my notebook. A little light in the mouth but very tasty. Coffee, chocolate, a little bit of heat and licorice in the finish. The flavors are great in this wine, but the composition seems a little “funny”. Good not great.

Wine(Explored) said: Before I even get to the color, I can smell the chocolate. My exact words: “mmmm, chocolatey.” Anyway, the color is a wonderful, deep, rich red with a very, very light purple tint that becomes noticeable on the swirl.  In addition to the chocolate on the nose, there’s a jammy cherry scent. I also, and I think I’m a bit crazy, get a hint of both burlap and maple syrup. Was this aged in French oak? I can definitely detect the oak influence in the flavor, contributing a powdery vanilla-sugar flavor. I also get a tart cherry and coffee and a bit of chocolate on the finish, which is long and clean. There’s also a certain sort of baking spice flavor like cloves or cinnamon. Mouthfeel is a bit stringy and the alcohol/acidity balance is a bit harsh, but the overall experience is a clean, medium-bodied, classic Merlot flavor. 6/10

10 down, 40 to go…

Summary:

We said: This was a real treat and We give a big, glass clinking “Cheers!” to the McRitichie family and Wine(Explored) for expanding and tantalizing our national palate. Also, love, love, love the little diagrams on the back labels.

Yesterday afternoon We stepped out onto Her usually lovely porch to enjoy our last few sips of McRitichie’s delicious cider and were greeted with this not-so-lovely view:

A big hole, an even bigger tractor, and a construction worker’s butt. And the noise. Suddenly big-city life felt a lot less glamorous. We took our glasses back inside, turned up the music, and daydreamed about being elsewhere…the lush, quiet splendor of North Carolina, sipping McRitchie cider.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

Tags: , , ,

United Slurps of America: Washington

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America.

We find it extremely apropos that the motto for this week’s featured state is “Alki.” Yes, the state of Washington likes it’s alcohol, especially wine. Okay, okay…”Alki” is Chinook for “by and by” but it is still appropriate; only in the last fifty years or so has Washington been producing serious wine, but the future of the state’s wine industry appears limitless. According to our guest blogger Josh Wade, of the terrific blog DRINKnectar.com, “before long” the wines from Washington will be tantalizing all wine lover’s palates.

Now, on to the reviews: a red and a white from Washington. (If only there was a blue wine…it’d fit our theme so well.)

Merlot, “The Velvet Devil,” Charles Smith Winery, 2007 ($11.99)

She said: Purpley ruby, translucent around the edges. Smells like a cherry Coke burnt over a cedar campfire. With tobacco leaves thrown in. I’m guessing there is some American oak involved. Not much flavor up front on the palate, but the finish is forever and velvety…too bad the muddy flavors and harsh bite get in the way. Some cocoa and stewed plums, but mostly tastes like a goopy, dark mess with over ripe tannin and weak structure.

He said: Not as dark as a typical Merlot. Dark fruit and an underlying funk on the nose. And some chocolate. What is that funk? It kinda smells like a meat product cooking on a campfire, not exactly a hot dog, but close. There is some funk in the mouth too. That scent I can’t really pinpoint keeps showing up. The flavors are intitally pretty weak, but there is a nice choco-cherry cola showing up. I just took a 10 minute break. Air helps this wine. The funk is mostly gone (or I’m used to it) and it’s drinking nicely. There are flavors and textures of that Bottle cap candy. I’m really starting to like it. I think I don’t dislike it as much as Her or like it as much as DN; I’m right in the middle. I will finish the bottle.

DRINKnectar said: Let me just start by saying Merlot is making a comeback in a big way. Don’t forget to participate in #WAMerlot on March 25!  Mildly translucent with ruby red undertones. I started to get a whiff of the wine when I was pouring. Immediately hit by dark chocolate and oaky cherries. I would imagine this would be the aroma an Umpa Lumpa would smell in the chocolate river (if cherries were involved too). The sip is slightly thin on the front that opens up to a nice moderate fruit – still cherries. Definitely a chocolate covered cherry Merlot. The name is apropos in that the finish is very smooth. I think the devil is in the fact that the temptation is strong to finish the whole thing. The devil won. Think Elvis in a velvet leisure suit suckin’ on a chocolate covered cherry! Thank you, thank you very much!

Riesling, Columbia Valley, Seven Hills 2008 ($11.99)

She said: Pretty, pale straw yellow color. The wine smells like Hawaii on a spring morning: very floral and ripe. Also there is an undertone of petrol which can be quite attractive in Riesling. In the mouth it tastes like creamy lime yogurt and lychee syrup. There is plenty of acid and minerality which prevents the wine from being too cloying, but the sweetness and viscosity points to residual sugar. The finish is long and dry with lingering tropical fruit flavors. I wish it was more aggressive, but this is fine, easy drinking wine–not exceptional, but enjoyable. In fact, We enjoyed it with spicy fresh fish tacos that had lots of lime, jalapeno and cilantro–the wine mellowed the heat and made for a great pairing.

He said: Very pale with a watery perimeter. Citrus on the nose and a little apricot and a granny smith apple. In the mouth it’s candy. It’s sweet and a little unbalanced, there is a hole in the middle..and quite a short aftertaste. It makes me pucker a bit, like having a sweet-tart. To me this wine is sweet in 2 ways; both sugary and it’s a little too friendly. All that being said, it is refreshing and I will finish this bottle too (it may be a long night). Not great, but totally drinkable.

DRINKnectar said: Bright pale honey color. Viscosity seemed pretty thick on the swirl. I must start by saying I’m not a sweet wine fan, the swirl and the sniff had me thinking syrup was on the other end. The aroma was a nice citrus lime with good white plumeria undertones. Hesitantly I took the sip and was pleasantly surprised by the balance. Not an overly sweet Riesling (6 on a 10 pt scale) but had enough acidity to make it pleasing. Good tropical fruit flavors without a typical steeliness that comes with cheaper models. Not MY fave, but those who like sweet over dry would go gaga, (not Lady). Washington is making some killer Rieslings under $15 and while this doesn’t make my killer list, it’s a good solid effort.


2 down, 48 to go.

Summary

She said: I’m regretting We didn’t pick more standout wines for the WA edition of USA. I’ve really enjoyed the state’s offerings in the past, especially from DeLille Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle, L’Ecole No. 41, Woodward Canyon, and Andrew Will. These makers have consistently impressed me. Then again, there is a pretty large price point difference between most of what these wineries produce and the $11.99 (from K&L Wine Merchants, Hollywood) bottles We chose for the tasting. Luckily, We bought three others.

He said: I have had some really good wine from Washington. And, oh boy, have I had a bad one. I still have nightmares about that bottle of Hogue. But for the most part, I have enjoyed Washington wine, and plan to continue doing so.

We said: First off: it was a genuine treat to have Josh as our virtual tasting companion. He is a social networking genius (don’t take our word for it, follow him on Twitter and Facebook) and the most enthusiastic cheerleader for Washington wines (and coffee) that we’ve come across. Be sure to join him and hundreds of other wine tasters for the WAMerlot Twitter Tasting on March 25. And an aside, these wineries as well as many others we have reviewed do not provide bottle shots or logos (vector, pretty please) on their websites. Please reconsider and you will find our blog filled with images of your bottle and vector logos of your company with oh so crisp and clean lines. And, really, He has been working on a presentation for a lecture at SCI-Arc tomorrow and doesn’t have time to search the web or for Us to create them. Noted? Also, we love you. And. She appreciates the convenience of screwcaps, and He (ever the traditionalist, despite himself) is warming up to them.

Previously on USA: Pennsylvania

Tags: , , , , , ,

United Slurps of America: Pennsylvania

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? In the next 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America.

This week our eager palates travel to the state of “Virtue, Liberty and Independence:” Pennsylvania. For this premier edition of USA, wine blogger and Pennsylvanian 1 Wine Dude virtually tasted with us. Joe Roberts is a terrific, unique voice in the wine blog world and We are honored to have him join Us.

By way of background, last week a rather hunky UPS driver (what is it with the hot delivery guys in this neighborhood?) asked for Her signature for a box that looked suspiciously like wine. And to our delight, it was. Penns Woods Winery in Pennsylvania had shipped Us three bottles to taste, no strings attached. Fantastic. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch USA. We’re very grateful to receive samples from wineries (go ahead…ship them our way), but the feelings of joy for free booze also comes mixed with anxiety: what if We don’t like it? We pledge to always be honest in our reviews, but biting the hand that imbibes you seems harsh. Luckily for Us, We greatly enjoyed the two unique bottles reviewed below. Seek them out.

That said, let us begin:

Merlot, Reserve, Penns Woods 2005 (Pennsylvania, received as a sample, retails for $38)

She said: Very deep garnet, verging on opaque. In the nose strong wiffs of currants and blackberries with an earthy undertone. Extremely ripe and extracted fruit hits the palate immediately. Jammy stuff. There is a pleasant chalky texture, but more than any other sensation I get is lush fruit. Prefer less extraction and more structure in Merlot, but I am impressed that the wine does not get overwhelmed by the jamminess. As the bottle remained open the finish became increasingly Port-like. Very interesting wine. 

He said: Very, very dark in color. She says “garnet” and I don’t really know what She means. Kevin Garnet is quite dark, but it seems racist to describe wine that way, darling. Dark cherry, tobacco, cola, cedar and a lot of chocolate in my nose-piece. In the mouth there is a lot of fruit, but seems balanced nicely with the chalky tannins. More creamy chocolate and dark fruit flavors throughout. I am not normally a merlot drinker, but I definitely enjoyed this “big” wine. I would (and will) pair it with an American Spirit.

1WineDude said: Robust & full of dark fruits. Flirting dangerously close to over-extraction, but thoroughly enjoyable. The Merlot might blow your mind in terms of how ripe the fruit is, coming from the Right Coast.  This is because Gino Razzi (the winemaker) has spent a sh*tload of money on his small operation and equipment, and he has a horizontal fermentation vessel that can extract everything that the grapes have to offer in terms of fruit – I think you can literally dial-in the manner and depth of extraction on this machine.  Of course, you need to be careful that you don’t create an over-extracted Frankenwine Monster when you’re using that thing.

Chardonnay, Reserve, Penns Woods 2007 (Pennsylvania, received as a sample, retails for $33.50)

She said: Jumping to the bottom line: I loved this wine. It has a terrific balance of fruit/oak/acid with a deliciously long finish…a true delight. Now the specifics. Color is a pale yellow with golden hue. On the nose: apples, lemon curd, hint of wood. Great mouthfeel; very rich and full. The wine is obviously oaked, but the flavors do not overwhelm (not overburdened by butter, vanilla etc.). On the palate I taste pear and apple. There is a tangy creaminess which recalls brie and lemon curd. Some toasty notes and hazelnuts. In the finish I also sense crushed shells, but it is not a strong minerality. The finish lingers and lingers with a refreshing mix of acid and fruit (peach fuzz?). Fantastic. Where do I find it in LA?

He said: Pale gold-green in color, but as I have said before, I am colorblind so this part means almost nothing to me. Wow, very aromatic and smells damn good. Very crisp on the nose with honey and créme brûlée evident. Initial butterscotch in the mouth and very creamy, an excellent mouthfeel (a word I’m still uncomfortable with.) Getting a little something tangy, apple I think. I can taste and feel this in my entire mouth, which gives way to a long aftertaste with a nice acidity. It almost feels and tastes like a Bellini in the finish.I would drink this with anything in a cream sauce, but I would be more than happy just to drink it by itself. This wine is excellent.

1WineDude said: Vanilla, tropical fruit, VG acidity. Might be the best E. Coast Chard. I’ve EVER tasted. Period. I love what winemaker Gino Razzi is doing, and his `07 Chard made my Top 10 Most Interesting Wines of 2009 list because it’s the most balanced and nuanced white wine from the East Coast U.S. that I’ve ever tasted.  I’ve been following this one from its inception in stainless steel through barrel sampling and at multiple points after being bottled.  The amount of fruit that Gino has been able to coax out of these PA grapes is astonishing, and it was clear early on just how special this Chardonnay vintage was, and that the wine was capable of standing up to as much oak treatment as Gino was willing to give it.  It’s drinking beautifully now, a minor triumph really, and a new benchmark for PA and East Coast wines.

We Said: First of all, thank you to Jason Malumed of Penns Woods Winery, and Joe Roberts of 1WineDude for being involved for the premier edition of USA. Neither of US have ever tasted a Pennsylvanian wine, and it’s nice to get out of our oenological comfort zone; i.e. California and France. If We had to critique something about these wines, it would be the labels. We are both designers and can’t help but notice these things and how We would like to make them better (and, umm, We’re for hire).  Thankfully, the wine inside both bottles is terrific and that is what is really important.

In addition to the Merlot and Chardonnay, We also received a bottle featuring a grape neither one of Us had heard of: Traminette. We plan on tasting and reviewing it at a later date. 1WineDude gave us some insight as to what We may discover:

I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees (the wine, that is, not me!) and at the time Gino told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing.  Then, he ended up leaving on the lees so long that it gained this interesting creamy texture and more complexity.  I was like “Gino… if you were trying to make a simple wine, you failed spectacularly. This is one of most complex takes on Traminette I’ve ever tasted – you’re INCAPABLE of making a simple wine, man!!!”  We had a good laugh over that.

We’re intrigued. Will be opening the bottle sooner rather than later.

1 down, 49 to go.

We want United Slurps of America to be a collaborative project. Wineries or bloggers from states other than California who would like to be involved, contact us.

Tags: , ,