'Tasted: American Seyval Blanc'

United Slurps of America: Illinois

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? We’re doing just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. The next stop on Our tasting tour: Illinois

For nearly four months now We’ve been tasting the states, making friends along the way. A true delight of our Slurpin’ America project has been our collaboration with regional wineries and wine-lovers. For each state We’ve tasted (twelve so far, whew) We’ve teamed up with local bloggers to get their take on their state’s wine. It’s been refreshing (and insightful) for Us to add new voices to our He said/She said blog.

While the collaboration has been a delight, the logistics for coordinating USA has taken a lot more work and time than We initially anticipated. We naively thought We would taste a different state each week. Hmm…No.

Just when We were in a panic about which state would be next, We were contacted by Mike and Evelyn of He Sipped/She Sipped, a blog hosted by ChicagoNow, a division of the Chicago Tribune. Their blog is just a few weeks old, but already they’ve posted dozens of reviews of local shops and restaurants, wines from all over the world, books, and more. As they say “anything wine-related from the Loire to the Loop.”  So We had our co-bloggers, We just needed a winery. Lynfred was an easy candidate, being the state’s oldest, having produced wines since the 1970′s. We contacted the winery and they graciously offered to send samples across the nation to Us in California and to their neighbors Mike and Evelyn, 30 miles away.

This past Sunday, just as We were about to pop open the bottles, He got a call for a last-moment trip to Atlanta to supervise the construction of a skate park He designed. Ah, skateboarding: another one of His favorite things. Or maybe His very favorite thing. After Her, of course. Because He is working away in Hotlanta, there will be no “He said,” just a “She said” in this USA post, making it even more fortuitous that Mike and Evelyn are offering their opinions. (Or…at least He says He is working. His Swirl Smell Slurp Facebook update paints a different story. Hmm.) And here are the reviews:

Seyval Blanc, Correl Vineyards, Lynfred Winery 2009 (sample, $25)

She said: Clear, light yellow. Aromatic and perfumey nose with aromas of tropical fruit and ripe apples. On the palate the wine is floral but with an underlying acidity. Minerals, aromatic herbs, and limes in the finish, reminding me of a limey gin and tonic. I enjoy the arc of richness in the nose to the austerity of the finish. Zingy, refreshing–a nice summertime sipping wine. If it was half the price I’d stock up (and give it a higher rating). 

Sipped: I don’t think I’ve ever had a French-American hybrid before, so I really didn’t know what to think going into this. This wine definitely exceeded my expectations – even if those expectations were pretty low. The Seyval Blanc ia a light to medium yellow color in the glass. The nose is pretty light and perfumy with a hint of apple and banana in the background. On the palate, this wine is smooth and enjoyable. It has flavors of sweet ripe fruit, but the wine was actually pretty dry. Lynfred lists it as a semi-dry wine, but at only 0.7% residual sugar; it’s not very sweet – and that’s a good thing.

Sipped: On the nose I get fruit, mostly bananas. In my mouth, it’s light and smooth but subtle. This wine is easy to drink; I’d call it a picnic white. I can imagine it with cheese and bread and a warm day. It’s good but not great, and I’m not sure I’d pay $25 for it.

rating: Have a glass

12 down, 38 to go…

Summary:
Sipped: As Chicago bloggers, Lynfred winery and its wines took us by surprise. We have to admit we didn’t have high expectations. Most wine in the area is fruit wine and over-the-top sweet, which is not our thing; however, these wines were drinkable and then some. We’ve never been to Lynfred, but we’re making a phone call this week—and we’ll be there soon. The samples proved that it’s worth a trip out there—to Roselle, IL, which is 30 miles outside of our home in Chicago. Chicagoans typically think of that area, just south of Schaumburg, as suburban hell, and nothing but a needed-trip-to-IEKA can get us city folk out there. (Kind of like Burbank, for you LA folk; She Sips used to live in Sherman Oaks.) But we’re going to check out Lynfred, because we deem the wine surprisingly worth it.

She said: A big “cheers” to Lynfred Winery and their Marketing Director, Christina Anderson-Heller. These are good, generous people. And they like to interact with fellow wine-lovers: friend them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, you’ll enjoy it. Although Lynfred sent both Us and He Sipped/She Sipped several bottles of wine, just one was made from grapes grown in Illinois. We wanted to stay to true to the “tasting local” concept of the project, so We are going to reserve the other bottles for a future post.

Also, thanks to our USA: Iowa co-blogger Dan, The Iowa Wino, for the picture of the 2008 Seyval Blanc accompanying the review. (See, We’re making friends all across the nation.)

And finally, a clink of our glasses to Evelyn and Mike. It’s been great to virtually “meet” another wine blogging couple. We love Chicago and know We’ll be visiting. We look forward to tasting the town with you. In the meantime, We’ll be following your adventures on the blog.

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

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United Slurps of America: Ohio

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? We’re doing just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. It’s our 11th stop on the tasting tour: Hello, Ohio.

Social networking has become key to the coordination of this project (and, surprisingly, it takes a lot of coordination). One state leads to another via recommendations and insights from Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and reactions to previous posts on the Swirl blog. Beyond tasting local wine and in some cases grapes We’ve never heard of (Chambourcin? St Croix? La Crscent?) We’ve also “virtually” become friends with an enthusiastic bunch of fellow wine adventurers.

After slurping Kentucky with Kevin Keith (of the terrific Under the Grape Tree blog) he suggested we contact Michelle of wine-girl.net in his neighboring state Ohio. We looked up Michelle’s blog “My Wine Education,” and were delighted with its insights into local wineries, tasty cocktail recipes, and reviews of all things liquor: bottles, books, and shops. We quickly sent her an email: Want to slurp Ohio with us?

Michelle jumped on board the project and came with a list of recommended wineries: Harmony Hills Vineyards, Kinkead Ridge, Firelands Winery, and St Joseph’s Winery. Next step: contacting the wineries. Nancy Bentley of Kinkead Ridge promptly replied to our inquiry: “What a fun idea! There are people in Ohio that will tell you we are making the best wine (vinifera) in the state…Sadly, all our wine is currently sold out!” Too bad. But great for them…it’s wonderful to hear that small, regional wineries are thriving.

We received no response from Firelands or St. Joseph’s and were getting nervous, but then word came from Bill Skvarla of Harmony Hill. Bill was equally enthusiastic about USA and offered to ship Us some wine. The timing was also propitious as the winery was reopening for the season over Memorial Day weekend and he was pretty sure Michelle and her partner Kevin were going to come by. The timing delayed our post a couple of weeks, but the wait was worth it. (We have come to realize that Our original tagline of “Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We’ll do just that…” has become unrealistic. We’re still going to taste every state, but it’s going to take longer than 50 weeks.)

Here are our collective reviews:


Photograph of Harmony Hill Vineyards, taken from a hot air balloon showing vineyard, winery, and entrance to their cave.

“Aria,” Seyval Blanc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2009 (sample, $12)

She said: Very pale and translucent salmon pink. On the nose: some wood, ripe pear, fruit punch-like. The flavor reminds me of old fashioned fruit salad–the kind that comes in a can with heavy syrup that my hippie mother would never let me eat. It is not as cloying as the canned fruit and has a nice acidity to keep the cloying factor in check. Honey dew melon, tropical. Serve ice cold on a hot day.

He said: Pinkish / Salmon colored. The nose is a cross between a rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc with subtle oak hints of Chardonnay. Not overly sweet (which I suppose is the reason it’s called semi-sweet). Nice acid to counterbalance the sweetness. Maybe a little cloying, but totally nice. Super chilled in the backyard on a hot, sunny afternoon; that’s when I imagine this wine to be perfect.

wine-girl said: First off, this wine is best served very chilled. Harmony Hill is great at making wines that should be enjoyed on their patio or yours on a hot summer day. Once this is chilled down, this is an overall enjoyable wine. There’s a little too much oak for me, but at the same time, if I even see an oak tree, that’s too much oak. I’m probably a poor judge. That said, I sipped it during a party on my patio and it was a huge hit.

“Concerto,” Vidal Blanc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2008 (sample, $11)

She said: Very pale, almost clear yellow. The nose is not appealing: vegetal, funky, over-cooked green beans. It’s hard to get past. But in the mouth the wine is really lovely: crisp, light, slightly effervescent. It’s a semi-sweet wine, but like the “Aria,” is not cloying. Candy-like fruit flavors, Juicy Fruit gum, and applesauce. Too bad about the funk on the nose, but a delightful wine. I’m will to stop myself from sniffing before I slurp. Which I want to do a lot of.

He said: Gold-yellow corn silk in color. Ugh, weird nose. Vegetal, green beans, funky and gross. It makes me not want to taste this (and We discussed if perhaps the bottle was bad). But, wow, no hint of the nose in the mouth. In the mouth it’s bright and lively. Sweet with just-right acidity. Apples. The only problem is when I smell it while sipping. If the nose wasn’t so strange, this would be my favorite of the bunch.

wine-girl said: Without a doubt, this is currently my favorite HH wine. I know we left with this as a sample, but we also left with a bottle we paid for. We love this. It’s sweet, but not that candy-sweet that a lot of French-American hybrids can have. This is, in our opinion, perhaps the perfect hot-day-patio-wine.  It’s full of peaches and pears, and tends to bring on a relaxed happy feeling no matter how hot the afternoon.

“Rubato,” Chambourcin, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2008 (sample, $14)

She said: Very purpley red and opaque. On the nose reminds me of Cabernet Franc–has a hint of vegetables. Also some oak, but more than anything else: cherries. The wine is tart, like unripe plums, some earthiness, baking spices. But mostly tart, dark cherries. The acid is nice and I imagine it would be a great food wine.

He said: Purpley. Nice nose. I could smell it as soon as it was poured. Black cherry and dark fruit abound. It’s a little light in the mouth. Some spice, all black cherry. Long smooth finish. I’ve never had this grape. I just read that Karen mentioned duck (or Kevin did roundaboutly as to not offend) and now I want duck confit with this. Maybe we should go to Canelé tonight. I like this wine.
wine-girl said: Ah, chambourciraminette and vidal. This sets them apart, surprisingly, from many of the local wineries that are focusing (and in some cases struggling) with growing vinifera. If you like French-American hybrids, you’ll enjoy Harmony Hill. I admit we’re partial to this wine – we helped harvest the grapes. It’s got nice spice and black pepper on the mid-palate with a lot of black cherry. The Rubato has a light finish but that seems pretty typical for the chambourcins in the Kentucky / Ohio/ Indiana tri-state region. Kevin thinks this wine would be nice with grilled dark poultry. (I think he’s trying to say “duck” without offending me.)

“Rhapsody,” Cabernet Franc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2006 (sample, $14)

She said: Ruby, garnet color. On the nose: some mild wood, spices. Tart in the mouth, clean finish. Not a lot of fruit anywhere; the wine seems to be mostly about structure. Maybe elderberry? Can’t quite place it. That said, very enjoyable in its texture and acidity. Another good food wine.

He said: Red-maroon, totally different looking from the Chambourcin. Berries on the nose. This one is also light in the mouth. Nice, totally drinkable but hard for me to decipher. Cherries and berries. The bottle lists “black currant” and I realize that is another flavor I can’t really recall. An enjoyable bottle.

wine-girl said: This is a cabernet franc that really surprised me. I’m not really a fan of cab franc, but I enjoy this one. It’s got a lot of big fruit up front, almost assaulting you. The finish has a lot of sour (maybe bitter?) cherry. Happily, there is very little greenness, which makes this an approachable cab franc. It has light tannins and is really drinkable right now. We tend to take out time getting to wines, and I wouldn’t worry about the drinkability of this wine if it took us a year to get to it.

11 down, 39 to go…

Summary:
wine-girl said: HH is great because the winery itself is all about atmosphere. Kid-friendly, picnic-friendly, and dog-friendly, a great weekend evening can be spent hanging out at the vineyard listening to amazing acoustic music, chatting with other wine & music lovers, and enjoying wine by the glass.

We said: A clink of our glasses to Michelle for tasting along with Us in our slurpin’ tour. Her Memorial Day weekend winery crawl sounds like a terrific way to relax and enjoy what Ohio River Valley has to offer.

Also, a thank you to Nancy Bentley of Kinkead Ridge. We’re sorry to not have been able to sample Kinkead’s wines, but our palates have been piqued. United Slurps of America: Ohio, part deux?

Finally, a big cheers to Bill and Patti Skvarla and their staff at Harmony Hill Vineyards. These are good folks. We poked around the internet and were delighted to discover that in addition to producing award winning wine (Harmony Hill’s 2008 Rubato took home a Gold medal and the 2007 Refrain took home a Bronze in the 25th Hilton Head International Wine Festival) the Skvarla’s are dedicated to protecting the bucolic countryside of the Ohio River Valley. The National Wildlife Federation has certified a significant portion of their 70 acre property as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat site, protecting the diverse and abundant wildlife that live live and nest on the property. When our virtual tasting tour becomes an actual one, We’re making it a destination.

(All photos from Harmony Hill’s website…check it out for more sweet shots.)

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

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United Slurps of America: Georgia

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 six: it’s Georgia, y’all.

Lots of Georgia has been showing up at Her door over the last week. First up was a prettily packaged box of wine. And a few days later there was another Georgia import: Joe, the Suburban Wino. He was in our lovely state for vacation and staying just down the coast in Laguna Beach. Both the wine and Joe were a delight. Georgia, represent.

We’re just six weeks in, but already The United Slurps of America has been a terrific tasting adventure. Once again We found ourselves with wine made from a far away state and, in the case of the white, made from grapes neither one of Us had ever tasted (and twisted our tongue pronouncing: say-vul? see-vel? chez-val?). Tasting in person with Joe was a bonus. We’ve been a fan of Joe’s blog since We began our own blogging adventure. When he said he was anxious to get out and explore and how about getting together We said, yeah, come on up to gritty, hipster Hollywood and let’s taste some wine.

Joe rented a car and drove up, arriving on a beautiful Spring morning. We hastily made introductions and then got down to business. Glasses were gathered and corks popped. We have a pretty regimented way of tasting wine (examine the color, swirl, smell, slurp, linger–and no talking) all of which seemed to amuse Joe. He’s much more laid back and experiential in his tasting and admitted to rarely taking notes. While We went through our ritual he filled us in on some facts about Georgia wine in general and Persimmon Creek in particular, having recently visited the place. We were intrigued by the winery in light of the fanciful package they sent Us which included a piece of wool from their sheep and vineyard prunings. Joe told Us that there were about 30 of the cute, fuzzy animals on the property. We continued to sip the wines and Joe joined us in scribbling down some notes, our collective reviews are below.

Seyval Blanc, Persimmon Creek  Vineyards 2008 (sample, retails for about $12.99)

She said: The color is very pale, translucent yellow with a greenish hue. The nose is quiet: a little bit of grass and obvious acidity, which is confirmed in the mouth. With the acid are subtle flavors of cucumber and a mild gin and tonic. The wine is bone dry and quenching with a sweet tart kind of mouth puckering sensation. Also get hints of lime (perfect garnish for the g&t) and wet stones/oyster shell. Imagine enjoying with a grand le plateau de fruits de mer. Not a deep thinking wine, but highly enjoyable, food friendly, and a good value.

He said: I’ve never had a Seyval Blanc, this is really why I love Our project. It’s very, very pale (almost clear) greenish-yellow. On the nose is citrus, cooked pear, apricot and white peppercorn. Very acidic and mouth-drying, very  reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc, I assume these grapes are cousins, or half-brothers–or however grape families work, they are closely related. I am getting only slight hints on the palate of the fruit I discerned on the nose. I enjoyed this wine and it’s a great value for 13 bucks.

Suburban Wino said: very pale in color…nothing overwhelming on the nose; some subtle melon, maybe some cucumber.  Getting a little bit of citrus, some mineral, and some herbaceous- perhaps “grassy”- elements that I tend to get in a lot of Georgia wines…let’s call it terroir.  I then got some really interesting petrol and ginger notes, until I realized that I’d accidentally grabbed the white wine from Iowa from the previous week.  Oops (but way to go, Iowa).  Between the cheeks, I found it to have some decent acidity.  It was a little hollow in the palate, but I’ll be a homer and suggest that will improve as the young vines (5-10 years old) develop.

Cabernet Franc, Persimmon Creek Vineyards 2008 (sample, retails for about $21.99)

She said: In the glass the wine is translucent around the edges and a muddy purplish garnet. On the nose it smells dusty with vegetal/string bean aromas. On the mouth I detect the burnt wood flavors of American oak, white pepper, and green veggies…there is a fresh produce quality. Quite tart with a lingering cinnamon-like aftertaste. Not my style, but some may say typical of a Cab Franc (and I have had many I’ve enjoyed, so my mediocre review is not because of the grape). 

He said: Purpley and if in Photoshop would be about 75% opacity. On the nose there is not much fruit, but spices. Peppery. Some wood, maybe blackberry. I am getting tar, like a freshly tarred street–which may be a smell of the past for me because it looks like Los Angeles is about to be bankrupt and won’t be fixing any streets in the near future. Savor the smell of a functioning government. In the mouth there is more fruit than on the nose. Peppery mouthfeel with light tannins. She doesn’t like it, but I totally do. This bottle is mine.

Suburban Wino said: this nose changed from the last time I tasted it.  Maybe my nose was on west coast time.  Anyway, I expected a lot of toast from the 1/3-1/3-1/3 French-Hungarian-American new oak barrel aging regime.  This time, however, I got a telltale note of jalapeño/green pepper, some red fruit- maybe raspberry, a bit of cocoa, and a freshness/cheesiness (that throws folks off) that I tend to get in Loire Cab Franc and Beaujolais and Gamay-based wines.  Rolling around in the mouth, I found it a little thin and flabby (there was some acidity there, but I could use some more).  The fruit flavors, along with some Italian canned tomatoes (more bitterness that home grown) came through on the palate.  I think this would be a darn good food wine if the acidity was dialed up a notch.


6 down, 44 to go…

Summary

We said: After tasting the Georgia wines the three of us went to a favorite neighborhood spot for lunch: The Hungry Cat. The seafood is incredibly good here…and so are the fresh fruit cocktails. We indulged in peel your own shrimp, squash blossoms stuffed with crab, a lobster roll for Him, a crab cake sandwich for Her, and an oyster po’boy for Joe. What a great day.

We later marveled about the afternoon and our whole wine tasting adventures in general. It’s always a treat for a package to arrive. This feeling is heightened when said package is wine. The feeling is heightened tenfold when said package contains free wine. Opening the box from Persimmon was, by far, Our favorite box-opening experience since we started USA. There were so many thoughtful extras in the box–and wow– Mary Ann’s handwriting. She wrote Us a personal 3-page letter with the most beautiful handwriting We have ever seen. Thank you, it’s so nice when people care. And then there is our new friend the Suburban Wino. This was Our first face-to-face USA tasting, and it was a complete pleasure to spend an afternoon with Joe.

A quick aside, We will try to resume making the video trailers for the USA posts, but we have had a busy couple of weeks and those were one of the causalities of our schedule. Plus, He couldn’t figure out a song for Iowa last week.

Previously on USA: Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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