'Tasted: American Traminette'

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: , , ,

Wines of Note: not lost in translation

Poor boy, He’s sitting in some bland, beige windowless room with seventy-four strangers waiting to not get picked for jury duty. Or hoping not to get picked. I had to dissuade Him from wearing the vintage NWA t-shirt to the courthouse. Although it is the 15 year anniversary of Easy-E’s death, so I guess it would be appropriate. (R.I.P. Easy.)

He gave me permission to look through His notebooks for a Wines of Note post. Must admit this made me a bit giddy–love the voyeurism of looking through other’s notebooks. The thing is He has about nine Moleskine notebooks lying around my house that are half written in and I ended up having to look through them all to find the right tasting notes. I just had to look through them all. And I totally got distracted. And then I started Tweeting and Facebooking about it. And then I felt guilty.

But not so guilty that I stopped snooping, er…reading. The tasting notes were finally found. Let the translating begin (my architecting boyfriend does not have architect handwriting).

We reviewed two wines from Penns Woods Winery in our first United Slurps of America post, Pennsylvania edition. We held back the bottle of Traminette We received to taste at a later date. It was a grape neither one of Us had heard of and We both felt a bit apprehensive.

Our USA co-blogger Joe Roberts of 1WineDude had a nice story about the wine: “I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees…Gino [winemaker] told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing…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 were intrigued.

Traminette, Penns Woods 2008 (sample)

She said: Golden yellow, bright and clear. On the nose there is honeysuckle, plumeria, and hay. Or is that wheat? Complex. Rich up front: creamy and lush. Taste oyster shell and minerals. Very dry in the finish–long and lean with great acid. I love the mix of sensations and flavors. Beautiful wine.

He said: Bright gold in color. Strong scent. Minerally with some stardust [? hard to read]. Fruit. Like a German Dunkel. Shells-oyster-y, minerally. Floral wheat beer. No heat. Good acid. 11%…nice and refreshing. Not a “get drunk” wine. [He didn't leave a rating.] [Him here, editing from the courtroom, is this legal?] I give it a

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] What a terrific surprise this wine was. We regret We didn’t include it in the USA: PA edition, but sometimes delayed satisfaction is a good thing.

And now for a red. We recently received a package from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Included were some promo material and a nice note which asked Us to wait two weeks before tasting the wine to allow the bottles to recover from travel. We’ve both had jetlag, but that seemed like an awfully long time to acclimate. We’ve wanted to uncork the bottles several times, but waited. We lasted ten days.

Pinot Noir, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Wilamette Valley Vineyards 2007 (sample, retails for around $40)

She said: Translucent brownish ruby in color–quite thin. On the nose lots of dark cherry, ripe plums, pomegrante, raspberries and some spice (allspice?). On the palate most of the power is in the finish; very quiet upfront and then kind of explodes with flavor. Subsequent sniffs also reveal some mintiness. The tannins are soft. There is a fresh acidity, keeping the wine bright. Really enjoy it–glad We opened it four days early and wish We had more. (To help me pinpoint the flavors I wrote in my notes “what it is NOT: meaty, earthy, syrupy, tar, too tight, bacon, tobacco.”)

He said: Dark-like cherry juice with a deep red transluscense [sic]. Nose: tart cherry cola. Graham Cracker. Mouth fresh bread [draws arrow to space before "Graham Cracker"]/pastry. Tart. Graham Cracker. Pomegranate. Spice throughout. Maybe some cinnamon/nutmeg. Plum. Juicy. One of my fav PN’s I have ever tasted. I want more.

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] The back label of the WVV pinot is one the best We’ve seen. No tasting notes are provided (a pet peeve of both of Us–We can make our own decisions, thank you), rather there is technical info, an offer for a 10cent refund when the bottle is returned to the winery, and symbols indicating that the winery is sustainable, Salmon Safe, and part of LIVE: low input viticulture and eneology. Not only do We admire the pro-environment aspect of this, all that information is presented in a clean, easy to read grid. Nice work.

(Side note: the pictures above are not of the wine We reviewed, but they are from the winery’s website. I couldn’t find any good bottle shots and got sick of searching the internet. And also…a plea: Wineries, offer Hi Res bottle shots on your website. We’re not singling Penns Woods or Wilamette Valley Vineyards out–so many miss out on this opportunity to have pretty pictures of their wines on display here. Thank you, your fans He and She.)

Tags: , , , ,