'Tasted: American Viognier'

United Slurps of America: Kentucky

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 seven: it’s Kentucky.

More noted for Bluegrass and Bourbon than wine, Kentucky was one of the states that We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Both of Us being big fans of Maker’s Mark, We knew they could produce a good whiskey. But wine? We didn’t know where to begin. Lucky for Us, Kevin Keith, of the wonderful Under the Grape Tree wine blog, contacted Us a few weeks ago, expressing his interest in the Slurpin’ USA project. He is well versed in all things wine and had great insight on Kentucky. We thought this might be one of the states handcuffed by archaic, inane wine shipping laws, but Kevin got the wines to Us safely (and hopefully legally).

Here are Our takes on the wines, with our terrific co-blogger Kevin chiming in. It’s Our own little 3-stop Kentucky Bourbon Wine Trail, featuring Elk Creek Vineyards, Jean Farris Winery, and StoneBrook Winery.

Vidal Blanc, “Kentucky Blue,” Elk Creek Vineyards 2006 (sample, winery sells for $9.99)

She said: Golden pale yellow color. On the nose: lime, unripe pear, wet stones, green herbs–parsley, and a saltiness. Can you smell salt? I do. In the mouth there is a lot of acid, making it fresh and lively. Again green notes: like fresh cut grass mixed in with the richness of pear. Has a silky, creamy mouthfeel. I imagine this is a terrific food wine with its mix of acid and lush fruit. Reminds me of a fruitier Muscadet or a Picpoul. Can imagine enjoying the wine with oysters, ceviche, sushi, squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta, arugula salads…the wine makes me hungry. Great bargain for $9.99, would buy it by the case for summer–if I could find it in California.

He said: Apple, melon, pear and cut grass on the nose. In the mouth it’s a mix of creaminess and high acid, which I’m not really used to. But, wow, it’s really good. There is also some spice, but not the typical spices; maybe mustard seed or dill. Would be great on a warm day with a salad or seafood in the garden. Really, surprisingly good.

Under The Grape Tree said: Yeah, I know this is sweet.  A bit of an indigenous take on Riesling, this hearty white has some honeyed apple and pear notes, some spicy mineral, and a bit of white flower.  It has some acidity to it, and of course, what many folks note as a “foxy” character – a bit wild or feral quality, as does most grapes from these parts.

Viognier, Jean Farris Winery 2007 (sample, winery sells for $19.00)

She said: Golden yellow and appears thick on the swirl. On the nose the wine is very floral and rich like peaches and cream and an Orangesicle with some mineral undertones and a big waft of honeysuckle. And is that a hint of corn syrup? We talked it over (breaking our “no talking” rule–yep, We both get corn syrup.) The mouthfeel is lovely, creamy, and viscous. On the palate the wine is very floral with apricot and a dry, stoney finish. Reminds me of burleed grapefruit. There is a nice balance of fruit/acid/minerals. I imagine this is another great food wine. It manages to be rich but with a clean, fresh finish. Love it.

He said: It seems as though every Viognier I am tasting lately is testing my aversion to the varietal. This wine is slightly cloudy and very fresh on the nose. Floral notes, apricot…it smells like Viognier. There is also some heat on the nose and I just looked to see the wine is 13.9% alcohol. In the mouth there is nice acid, again mixed with creaminess, oak is definitely present. It’s very creamy. It’s full-bodied, balanced; whoa, I love it. I’m tasting corn tortilla chips. Odd, but totally there. That said, this wine would be great with Mexican food, maybe even nachos. Exceptional, I totally love it.

Under The Grape Tree said: Not quite that of the Rhone, but the general characters of peach and honeysuckle are present, as is a bit of orange blossom, apricot and mineral.  The foxy notes are there too, but with some needed restraint.  A surprising white wine with some body and balance.

Cabernet Franc, “Estate Bottled, Ohio River Valley,” Stonebrook Winery 2008 (sample, $couldn’t find price)

She said: Deep, pretty garnet and translucent around the edges. On the nose: minty, green peas and asparagus with smokey cedar notes. Hefty swirls blow off some of the vegetal characteristics. The wine is quite sharp and tart with dark cherry flavors. Has a freshness, but also a chemical note like bing cherry air freshener. The aromatics also remind me of the botanicals of gin. Medium, soft tannins. I thinks it’s a really interesting wine.

He said: Hmm. This smells like Vick’s Vap-o-rub. Mint & eucalyptus with some tobacco thrown in. In the mouth there are flavors of fruit (cherry, blackberry, raspberry) in this very juicy wine. It’s light, but there is some presence in the mouth. Not really into it. I can’t really say that this is a “bad” wine, it’s just not for me. This is another thing I love about doing this project; I am learning about wine in general, but also figuring out which varietals I enjoy from a state I wouldn’t even assume produces wine.

Under The Grape Tree said: Being a huge Cab Franc fan, when good friend Terry Shumrick – winemaker for Stonebrook – told me he had a Cab Franc made from grapes grown in Kentucky, I thought he was crazy.  Then he told me the price and I thought he was a lunatic to boot.  Though it is not all that tannic, nor does it have a lot of body to it, it is really drinkable, with smooth blue fruit notes and hints of spice and mocha.  The tannins are soft but firm, and the finish is really nice.  And it is minus all the green bell pepper character you get in a lot of cheap – BAD – Cab Francs out there.  This is a really nice find, especially from Kentucky.

7 down, 43 to go…

Summary

We said: First off, a big thanks to Kevin for supplying and shipping Us the wines to sample. He also sent Us background information on the wineries and insights into the growing regions of Kentucky. Wineries and Winegrowers of KY: this guy is a great advocate for your state. It was also a treat to share tasting notes with Kevin. We’ve been a fan of his blog long before We started our own. Check it out…frequently.

A note on design: before tasting any of the bottles, We both commented on how much we liked the look of the “Kentucky Blue” bottle. We had a few critiques exchanges on how it could be better, mostly the relationship between the large antlers and the band beneath with the smaller antlers. And this is the point We’d really like to make: We’d show you, our readers, a picture of the bottle and the two others We tasted, but We couldn’t find any bottle shots on the web, which, if you’ve been reading this series, know is a bit of peeve of ours. We want to give our readers a visual–winerys: put Hi-Res bottle shots on your websites! (The images above are from: The Bluegrass Bride, Designs by Lynnea, and dhecker2000–thank you.)

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

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Miner? I hardly know her.

Not to harp on (or dream about) it too much, but damn my FedEx delivery guy is hot. When I answered the door a few days ago he was standing there in his little shorts, blue eyes glinting, a cute smirk on his face. “You’re going to like this,” he says to me. Oh yes…I do already. “Looks great,” I said. I may have even giggled as I signed. And oh my, what a nice package…he delivered to my door. A box of wine from Miner Family Vineyards.

I was excited and He was too (but not so much about the hunky delivery guy). It had been a long time since I’ve tasted Miner wines and He never had but had heard me raving about the wines and their national sales guy, Jack, for a while.

I met Jack in Los Angeles in the late 90′s. He is an all around great guy, wine expert, and one of my favorite people. I’m not alone in this evaluation: everybody loves Jack. The bonus is that he works for an outstanding winery. Miner Family is a top notch producer in Oakville run by Dave and Emily Miner.

Before I lived in Napa Valley I would stay at Jack’s place in Yountville when I traveled up there for trade tastings. He actually played a huge part in my eventual moving to sweet Y-town. I was relocating up to the Bay Area and couldn’t decide where to live…and the temporary housing time was running out. I was sitting at the bar at Bouchon, sipping wine and munching on salmon rilettes, feeling happy but overwhelmed. A decision needed to be made. Suddenly, Jack appeared. He was eating in the dinning room. Great. A few moments later James Hall and Anne Moses of Patz and Hall came over to say hi. I love this place, I love these people. Yes, I decided right then: I’m moving to Yountville. (Bouchon became my neighborhood corner bar and over the subsequent eight plus years many, many glasses of wine and bloody mary’s were happily shared there with Jack and the other locals–I miss this place.)

The delivery day was a hot one (like the FedEx…well, you get the idea). I put the two Miner whites in the frig and We impatiently waited for them to chill. We ended up spending the gorgeous day toiling in the garden. By the end of the afternoon We were pleasantly exhausted, dirty and super thirsty. Hello Miner Family whites.

We opened a Viognier and Chardonnay. Delicious, just as I remembered. I took my glass of chard (and what was left of the bottle) to the bathroom and drew a hot bath. The perfect end to a lovely (and stimulating) day.

Viognier, Simpson Vineyard, Miner 2008 (sample, retails $20)

She said: Bright, shiny golden yellow. In the nose the wine is distinctly viognier. There is lots of lush tropical fruit and peach blossoms. The palate is rich and full with a kind of saltiness in the finish. Plush, perfumey, soapy, and floral. The wine is very ripe, but the acid and minerality keeps it all in balance. Truly lovely.

He said: Bright yellow. Tropical fruits and flowery on the nose. I think viognier is one of the wines that I can, with some certainty, identify by the nose. There is also a little sting in the nose that I associate with viognier. I should note: I almost always dislike this varietal. In the mouth there is orange, and pineapple, which were also on the nose. There is also a definite mouthfeel that I associate with both of these fruits. I have to admit that I read “honeysuckle” on the label (which in our tasting ritual is kind of cheating) but, yes, there is definitely honeysuckle all over this wine. This is the best viognier I have had yet.

Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Miner 2008 (sample, retails $30)

She said: Okay, my notes got wet in the tub. It was splashy. But my palate remembers a fresh acidity, to compliment the ripe melon, apple, and toasty oak. Some almonds and peach flavors, a hint of spice (from the oak?). A silky mouthfeel that lingers and lingers. Rich, complex, and wonderful. The perfect “relaxing” in the bath-tub wine.

He said: So just maybe We were in the tub together. I actually don’t remember anything except for “whoa, this is good” which describes both the wine and a bubble-bath with the person you love. I think Steve McQueen enjoyed it too. Go somewhere else for specific tasting notes, but I will say simply, this was good.

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Field Trip Fridays: X to the Z

Some days everything just goes right. This is one of them. It all started at…

The Berrics
We had to swing by The Berrics (the most popular private skatepark in the world, and the most viewed website in skateboarding) to pick up Steve Berra for the LACC Luncheon. I have known Steve for 20 years and I worked with him at The Berrics for a couple of years. The growth of The Berrics has been outstanding and impressive. We are currently working on a few things together, and that’s why we are “honored guests” at the luncheon. Even if you have never skated, The Berrics website is quite entertaining and I would recommend that you check it out. I have to mention that Steve and I had a 3-hour meeting this week with a billionaire philanthropist with the last name Annenberg. It’s nice to meet billionaires.

LA Conservation Corps 2010 Luncheon Celebration (Los Angeles Historical Park, the old Cornfields)

Xzibit with some of the kids who were not exactly the under-priviledged ones.

As I mentioned above, I am working with Steve and the LACC on a couple of architectural projects. The LACC is a fantastic organization with truly ambitious and genuinely good goals. Today they were presenting scholarships to over 250 kids from tough backgrounds. 2 of the kids spoke, it was very moving, She cried.

We had been seated at a table right in front of the stage, and at the table was a well-dressed handsome man who introduced himself to us as Alvin “and this is my lady Crystal.” She, Steve & I all picked up the catalog in front of us that listed the speakers and the schedule. At separate moments, both She and Steve leaned over to me and pointed at the name “Xzibit.” My only thought was, “Cool, Xzibit is here.” I can almost guarantee that I am a bigger fan of Xzibit’s music than either She or Steve, but it took me another five minutes to realize that Alvin was Xzibit. Then there was a funny exchange:

Steve: So you have to get up on stage, huh?

Alvin (Xzibit): Yeah but I ain’t gonna rhyme.

Me: Not even a little What You See is What You Get?

Xzibit (Alvin): Nah, and no Bitch, Please either.

Then he got on stage and the first thing he said was, “I’m not gonna fix your cars.” The kids loved him. He was excellent and funny and charming and sincere. He wasn’t there trying to push or sell anything. It seemed that he was doing it strictly because he believes in what the LACC is doing for these kids. And it was his third year presenting the scholarships. Xzibit is very nice and I really like him.

Lunch was served in an LACC nylon lunch bag and We had turkey sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit salad and water as City Council President (and rising political star) Eric Garcetti spoke. Wow, he’s awesome. I really like him too.

The Gorbals
After our inspiring lunch We were in the mood for a glass of wine. Since We were downtown We decided to pop in and see our friend Ilan at The Gorbals. I designed the space and like to check in every now and then to see how it is holding up, and I really love seeing people seated on the stools I built with my hands. Ilan wasn’t there, so I called him and he said (in that very frazzled Ilan way), “I’m not there. I don’t have time. I am working on something time-sensitive. OK, I’ll come by for 2 minutes and say hello and give you a kiss.” That is actually how a lot of my conversations with Ilan go. We each had a glass of a Pine Ridge Viognier / Chenin Blanc blend. Ilan came by and said hello, and I learned that the time-sensitive “thing” was that he had to move a giant TV before his girlfriend got home from the airport and got mad at him. I love Ilan, but I am happy to report that he did not, in fact, kiss me (though he did kiss Her). The wine was light, lovely and refreshing.

K&L Wine Merchants
I haven’t been to K&L in a long time, which was long before I knew anything about wine. Today, it felt like I was at Disneyland (that is, if I actually liked Disneyland). Maybe I should restate that last sentence: Today it felt like I was at, umm, a Lakers game. Aisles and aisles of bottles. Oh, look, some Txakoli. We have to get a bottle of that. We were there to pick up wine for our United Slurps of America: Washington post that will go up this coming Monday, but left with those 5 bottles, a Txakoli, a Madeira, a bottle of Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, and 4 bottles each of Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon and Tonic Water. And I almost bought a hat because my hair is getting kinda long. Any wine shop that has shopping carts is OK by me.

Later She checked her history online and informed me over the past dozen years she has spent something like $50,000 at K&L. Whoa, darling.

Lou Winebar
We’ve already written about Lou in a previous Field Trip Friday. What can We say, We like the place. The service, food and wine are always top-notch. When We sit at the bar Lou almost always pours us a taste of some interesting wine that he is drinking from a region you wouldn’t expect to make good wine. I think last time it was Croatia. Tonight We sat at a table, She had duck, I had the Niman Ranch Ribeye. We shared Mac & Cheese (with Hook’s 10 year Cheddar, oh my), the charcuterie plate and olives and almonds. We drank 2008 Ribeira Sacra Vina do Burato; the medium bodied wine with flavors of pomegranate / cranberry and tart was a nice compliment to both of our meals.

When We got home, She Tweeted:

To which Lou replied:

I’m very surprised Lou knows of my Txakoli obsession. As much as I do love Txakoli, I hope Lou knows that in the He/She/Lou triumvirate, I am the one with the least wine knowledge. Either way, see you at Lou next week. And how does he know that She tweeted that and not me. Hmm…

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