'United Slurps of America'

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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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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United Slurps of America: Iowa

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 five: Hello, Iowa.

Things We knew about Iowa before this project: it’s somewhere in the middle of the country (but where exactly was not clear to Her: She had to look it up), and something about tornadoes and corn? He did skate demos there in the mid-90′s and remembers that it is very hot in the summer…He threw away all His soaking wet clothes after the demo.

Things We now know about Iowa: people there are really, really nice and viticulture is booming. Corn is not the only thing that grows well, turns out cool climate grapes thrive here too. And, yes, there are a lot of crazy looking tornadoes.

Our (virtual) journey to Iowa wine country began a couple of weeks ago with an enthusiastic email from Derek Whittington, Assistant Tasting Room Manager of Tassel Ridge Winery. Derek urged Us to try Iowa next for the USA project…and he knew just the wines We should taste. Our first thoughts (well, Her’s at least): Where is Iowa? And someone there reads our blog? And they want to play along in the tasting tour? And they are going to send Us wine? Awesome…Hello, Iowa.

Next up, We needed to find a local co-taster or two. Derek kindly offered to help Us with this task as well. Through Tweets and emails he (virtually) introduced Us to two more very friendly and enthusiastic Iowans who were also wine bloggers: Dan, The Iowa Wino, and Grace, Cellarmistress. Within a week wine had been delivered and We had two new blogging wino friends. Well, three really…thanks for doing our legwork for Us, Derek.

Dan and Grace beat us to the punch and promptly tasted and posted their reviews of the Tassel Ridge Winery wines on their blogs. Keeping to our weekly Monday USA schedule, We delayed and enjoyed the wines over the holiday weekend (admittedly, with many other bottles as well). Here are our collective tasting notes…Hello, Iowa.

Iowa LaCrescent, Tassel Ridge Winery 2008 (sample, winery sells for $13)

She said: Very pale and bright. In the nose: citrus, pineapple, a creaminess, peach blossom. On the palate very pleasant and beautiful flavors of peach, honey, bitter almond and a healthy kick of lemony acid to keep the tropical fruit flavors from being too cloying. Tastes like a Spring day. A very enjoyable, slightly sweet white… and for $13 a good buy.

He said: Bright yellow, I feel more colorblind than usual with this wine. In the nose there is strong fruit, a lot of peach accompanied by tropical & citrus. Not overly sweet. Delicious peach right away again in the mouth, accompanied by nice acid throughout. Initial tingle on the front of the tongue gives way to smooth quite long finish with honey all over the palate. I’m always apprehensive about tasting any sweet (or semi-sweet) wine, and really don’t do it that often. This wine is making me re-think my apprehension and might be the best one (of the very few) I have ever tasted. I would like a few more bottles of this to drink on hot summer days in the garden.

CellarMistress said: Never having sampled these cold climate grape varietals before, I didn’t know what to expect but went in with an open mind. The Iowa LaCrescent was a semi-sweet white with a pleasant sweet bouquet. The mid palate was HUGE! Ripe, fleshy mangoes and peaches. So juicy and sweet. It dropped off at the end so it didn’t linger like I would have wanted it to but it was pleasant and enjoyable. Until I got to the second glass and I couldn’t really finish it because the sweetness got to be a bit much for me. I prefer drier wines. I would definitely recommend this wine however because the flavors are top notch.

The Iowa Wino said: Iowa LaCrescent is a semi-sweet white wine which I found interesting in aroma from very chilled to warming close to room temp. First in the glass chilled, the peach is so very alive, ripe and almost reminds me of fresh cut fruit. Crisp citrus and pear become more pronounced as the wine warms. Fruit fills your nose with each sniff. Alright enough of this procrastination and lets taste this juice. A mouth full of fruit in every taste. Wow fresh peach starts this great wine off first. Lemon citrus middle with even a hint of pineapple. Finish showcases the grapefruit. I love how the flavors interchange with the temp of the wine . I can see why this grape is gaining popularity in the Midwest. #3 best selling white wine at Tasselridge. Imagine a hot day and as the evening approaches this wine being sipped by you and friends prior to a dinner party.

In the Dark, Tassel Ridge Winery NV (sample, winery sells for $20)

She said: Dark, dull ruby. In the nose reminds me of a basic Cote du Rhone: some earth, smoke, and funk with dark cherry. In the mouth not much fruit. Medium tannin, some licorice and tart cherry. There is an acidic/sharpness throughout which helps give the wine structure, but it seems out of balance. For the price wish it was juicier and richer. A basic table red that does not require or ask for contemplation.

He said: Dark maroonish, somewhere between a pinot and a cabernet in color and translucency. This nose is tough for me, maybe dark cherry and some wood. Nothing is really jumping out at me. Cream soda and some earthiness in the mouth. Light tannins and a small kick of acid initially, but this wine feels “young.” It died out a little bit in the mid-palate and finish. There is a decent tartness throughout, but I have to agree that it is lacking fruit and a bit overpriced. Tassel Ridge imports syrah grapes for this wine from California, which understandably increases the price. But my 2 cents is that the cold weather LaCrescent was so nice and unique; stop importing and do what you do with Iowa terroir. Don’t try to make a CA wine in Iowa, make an Iowa wine! Not a bad wine, by any means, just not really a standout.

CellarMistress said: I loved the bouquet! It smelled heavenly and the flavor was berry rich on the front. As it reached the mid-palate, it hardened up a little with earthiness.The finish was one I didn’t care for. It was bitter so it didn’t sit well and each sip repeated exactly the same way. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t like it. It needed a smoother finish.

The Iowa Wino said: In the glass my first sniff identifies the huge plum aroma. Another smell and my nose picks up spice, berry, and oak. Nice red wine aromas and now lets taste this bad boy. First in the mouth I get a juicy cherry flavor. Next in the middle I get a peppery spice. Follows up at the finish with a shot of cherry/oak and a touch of the plum. Definitely a full flavored wine but a soft finish. I should have tried this wine with my grilled burger to see how it paired.


5 down, 45 to go…

Summary

CellarMistress said:I was also sent a bonus bottle whose name I found rather amusing, the Oskyfrizzante Pink. It is named, I suppose, after the town of Oskaloosa which is near the winery and is a semi-sweet sparkling wine with a strawberry hue. I ended up opening all three last night and had a little wine and cheese party on the deck with my sister and a friend during what was our first official 70 degree day of the year! My favorite of the three was the bonus bottle, the Oskyfrizzante Pink. Made with Zinfandel grapes and another cold climate varietal, St. Pepin, it was very enjoyable with strawberry, rhubarb and kiwi flavors and an effervescent tingle on the finish. It was a tad bit sweet but paired well with the brownies and strawberries that we were eating.

The Iowa Wino said: While Tasselridge is such a young winery I would say they have some very nice Iowa wines. One of the largest producers in the state I can’t wait to visit and tour their facility. Stop by the winery for a visit and say hello to Derek and the gang.

We said: A terrific benefit of this project is tasting grapes We have never heard of from regions previously unknown to Us. For example, In the Dark is made from St Croix and Marechal Foch varieties, grown in Mahaska County (with a bit of California Syrah mixed into the blend). We enjoyed the pictures on Tassel Ridge’s website of the vineyard just weeks ago (republished here)…check out that snow. To think We were poolside in the Los Angeles sunshine. The high acid of both the red and white wines We tasted are testament to the cool growing conditions. (Also, a reminder: Wineries, put high-res bottle images on your websites, please.)

We want to give a special “Cheers!” and thanks to Tassel Ridge Winery, their very helpful Tasting Room Assistant Manager, Derek, and our two new wine blogging pals Grace and Dan…it was great fun slurpin’ America with you all.

Previously on USA: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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United Slurps of America: Texas


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 four. It’s Texas, y’all

What has become a recurring theme in this project reared it’s head again: damn it’s hard to get wine shipped from one state to another. United States of Prohibition? That said, our big thanks to Bill Elsey (with the lofty credentials of CS, CSW, and Manager of Wine Sales) of Mandola Estate Winery for being so easy to communicate and do country-wide shipping with. Also. Texas wine growers, wine makers, and drinkers of local juice: you have an incredible advocate and ambassador named Denise Fraser. Denise picked up on our USA:TX quest on Twitter and immediately offered her help in making introductions and playing go-between. After our initial paltry (read: nothing) response from Texas wineries about getting bottles shipped to Hollywood, Denise worked her magic. We plan on reviewing more Texas wines in our Wines of Note series this week. Thanks, Denise!

We’re also very pleased to have not one but TWO co-bloggers who virtually tasted with Us. (Insert “everything is bigger in Texas” phrase here.) Ben Simons of Vinotology.com and Jim Wilkerson from VINEgeek.com both signed up for the fun. Check out their own wine writing shenanigans over at their blogs. Ben has a funny, smart must read every week “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” (cue Western music here) that always makes Us smile. For Mourvèdre lovers or learners, Jim dedicates each Monday to the grape, offering a thoughtful, easy to read review that always includes a “free association” picture to sum the wine up. Ben and Jim are also prolific and often funny Tweeters–follow them, read their blog, say hello.

[Him speaking, for this entire paragraph] I am from Texas. I have been in California for almost 20 years, but every memory of my childhood is from Texas, my family is in Texas, and it is a place I (try to) visit at least once a year. I have had some pretty good TX wines and some godawful bad ones. The last thing I want to do is bad mouth the state that I grew up in, so I hope these wines are good. Also, there is something to the notion of “Southern Hospitality.” Denise Fraser, Bill Elsey, and the guys from Vinotology and VINEgeek have been very helpful and a pleasure to work with, and we are honored and grateful. So now, we’re fixin’ to taste some wines, ya’ll.

Vermentino, Mandola Estate Winery 2008 (sample, $18 at winery)

She said: Pale yellow straw (how many times have I noted this?). On the nose: hit of alcohol, but behind it very floral like a Southern Rhone and then the citrus acid of a Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon leaves, high acid, some minerals, herbaceous, green…very quenching. Ends with a bite, wish the transition was smoother. That said, very enjoyable and a nice match to our spicy shrimp taco dinner. Hot day, spicy food–it matches well.

He said: Very floral on the nose with a little bit of heat. I would almost guess this to be a viognier. It also has lemon and citrus on the nose. On first sip I was confused because, despite the nose, it is crisp like a Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is actually the direct middle of Sauvignon Blanc and viognier; characteristics of both, but distinct. Lemon, grapefruit and minerals on the palate, and a small amount of electricity; it’s igniting my fillings. Am I detecting pepper? I don’t think I have ever had pepper on a white wine, but I am getting it in the finish of this one.  I love Sauvignon Blanc and kinda dislike viognier, but this wine is a good happy-medium.

Vinotology said: I’ve actually had this wine before, and have enjoyed it.  Mandola produces a number of wines from Italian varieties that are uncommon here in Texas, and this is one of the ones that has been getting quite a bit of attention.  At first I wasn’t getting a whole lot of definition on the nose, but after I had let it breathe a little bit it really opened up for me.  I got a lot of herbal and mineral aromas, along with some pear and a little bit of peach.  The palate had some minerality with some great citrus components and acidity.

VINEgeek said: Somewhere in between typical Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in color. A bright, juicy nose: a lot like Juicy Fruit gum, in fact, (even the little foil wrapper). Plus a bit of pineapple, perhaps. Nice and crisp on the palate, bringing grapefruit and more pineapple, but not full-on pineapple, more like if you had a fruit salad and the last piece in the bowl was a piece of pear that had been soaking up the pineapple juice at the bottom of the bowl. Something like that. It finishes crisp and clean with a hint of green/grassiness, leaving you wanting another sip. I had pretty low expectations, but this is very solid white wine that I’d be happy to drink again. Definitely one for me that would surprise people in a blind tasting. B/B+

Montepulciano, Spino, Mandola Estate Winery 2008 (sample, $26 at winery)

She said: The color is beautiful: deep, bright ruby catching every glint of light. On the palate: it tastes like grapes. Beyond this initial thought I also sense dark cherry fruit, fresh acidity, cocoa powder texture. Very long, dusty finish. The texture is chalky–and I enjoy this. The acid makes it good with food. Not very refined, but quite enjoyable. Overall reminds me of a basket of dark Bing cherries from the Farmer’s Market that still have a bit of orchard dust on them.

He said: The color is a vibrant deep red-brown that is shiny and reflective; beautiful even to a color-blind person like me. Earth, dark cherry and some cola on the nose. Maybe a little too much heat in the nose too. Tart cherry in the mouth. Initially I said (imagining the drinking process as 100% from sip to swallow), “1st 30%-not so good. 2nd 50%-great, creamy and long. 3rd 30%- awesome aftertaste.” I wanted to draw a diagram (I am an architect after all) but I am too tired and approaching drunkenness, so no.  After opening up, the 1st 30% has calmed down a bit and is robust and fruity. It tastes like grapes. Which made me think about all the wine reviews I read; no one ever says grape. Why is that? I actually really like grapes, but it seems taboo (or something) to say that wine tastes like grapes. Anyway. This wine doesn’t taste like grape juice, but it is very much of grapes. There is maybe a little too much heat in the finish, but it is otherwise tart and nice throughout.

VINEgeek said said: It smells like a Tuscan wine with its dusty cherry fruit and a sharp earthy, herbal quality. But there is also an aroma that I can’t really describe, but I that associate with not-ready-for-primetime wines I’ve tasted in many a tasting room in Texas and elsewhere. On the palate, I get more Sweet-Tart red fruit, sort of like a two parts cherry, one part cranberry blend. Medium-bodied and smooth-textured. It’s totally drinkable, but not something I’d seek out again. C

Vinotology said: This is another wine that Mandola makes that you really don’t see from other wineries in the state right now.  This may well be the perfect Italian food / Texas wine pairing.  The whole time I was tasting it, I kept thinking about how much I wanted some Spaghetti to go with it.  The nose really hits you with cherries and black pepper and spices, along with a little bit of cedar.  The palate is well balanced, with more spices and red fruits, as well as some earthiness.  There is a perfect amount of acidity on this wine that makes me crave food with it.

4 down, 46 to go.

We said: Over the holidays We took a three week road trip to Texas (meandering is our way). We spent a day doing a tasting room tour in Grapevine, Texas with (His) family. The highlight wine of the day–Austrian (from a sister city of Grapevine). So, what a relief and a pleasure to have a Texas tasting that We enjoyed. Cheers–this was a fun one and with such great company. We also feel compelled to take note of the labels (We’re designers, We can’t help it and end up spending a lot of time discussing it)…not our style but lovely and elegant. Also, We had fun with the phonetically enhanced tasting notes sent with the bottles. He really didn’t know how to say: mon-tae-pill-CHAH-noh (even though He took two years of Italian in college).

VINEgeek Summary:
I hope that the “not-ready-for-primetime” comment doesn’t come across too harshly, because the Vermentino proves to me that they know what they’re doing at Mandola. All-in-all this tasting showed me that I shouldn’t be so dismissive of Texas wines. And I’m doubly excited that I found a very good one so close to home (Mandola is about 20 minute drive from my house)! Thanks to Swirl Smell Slurp for inviting me to participate and waking me up to wines in my own backyard. Cheers, y’all.

Previously on USA: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington

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Tomorrow…

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United Slurps of America: Michigan

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 three. We’ve been emailing and Tweeting and Facebooking people all over the country, coordinating our future tastings. It’s a bit more complicated than we thought (damn shipping laws). Time was ticking away for the next post and We were a bit nervous…when a perfectly simple email arrived: “Alright, I’m in.” Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse preempted our “Yikes, which state is next?” dilemma by shipping four bottles our way. Thank you, Sean.

We were immediately intrigued by the fanciful labels. And all these images of hands. A little internet research and what do we find? A picture of Sean’s hands. We also found lots of accolades. Sean is a man proud of his wine and the state it’s made in…for good reason. Before we embarked on this tasting tour We had no clue such food friendly, delicious stuff could come out of Michigan. It’s the beauty of the project: discovery.

Researching Michigan We also discovered a fun, informative wine blog: MichiganByTheBottle.com, run by Shannon Casey with frequent cameos by the lovely Cortney Casey. Shannon posts all things MI wine: newswire stories, interviews, tasting notes, links to wineries, and more. Like O’Keefe, the Casey’s are proud of the wine their state produces. The podcasts are a particular treat on the blog. Shannon and Cortney primarily taste local wine, but sometimes venture beyond their beloved state. A recent “Beyond the Mitten” podcast on the Napa winery Luna began:

He said: We found out the other day that they make wine outside of the state of Michigan.
She said:
Umm…Are you going to joke about that every podcast?
He said:
Everytime.

Yeah, of course We love the He said/She said thing. And here is what all of us said about Chateau Grand Traverse:

Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $15)

She said: Very pale salmon color, quite translucent. On the nose: intense maraschino cherry, some honeydew melon, and vanilla. Nice kick of acid to keep the wine fresh, but definite sense of sweetness throughout–from nose to lingering finish. On the palate the cherries again with creme cassis. In fact, the wine reminds of a kir. Imagine hot summer afternoons by the pool–it’s a fresh and fruity easy drinking wine.

He said: Cherry on the nose. This is a strange (and delicious) wine. I can taste the Pinot Noir. Very tart cherry again in the mouth. I need to mention that I love this label. Actually, all 4 bottles look beautiful. Good job.

MichiganByTheBottle said: Another distinctive offering from Chateau Grand Traverse. This white wine is made from dark red/black grapes. The color is rusty and more salmon tinted. I get deep flavors of tart black cherry, with a real bite on the end. The finish is nice and long. It is not as crisp or refreshing as Dry Riesling, but it has a lot more body. I would call this a red wine drinker’s white wine, and it is easily my favorite of the bunch.

Ship of Fools, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $12)
(55% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinto Gris, 10% Pinot Noir)

She said: Very pale straw yellow. In the nose: citrus, sour cherries, almond extract/apricot pit. Very refreshing and light with a great acidic kick in the end. Watermelon rind and wet stones. Excellent food wine–imagining sushi, spicy Thai, grilled fish, fruit salad. Another wine that makes me think of being poolside. Or maybe I just really want it to be pool party time again.

He said: Very pale. Citrus, apricot and a little heat on the nose. Tastes great, like no other wine I have ever tasted. 13% alcohol with almost no heat in the mouth. Very balanced with a nice acidic taste in the finish. My favorite of this bunch.

MichiganByTheBottle said: I overhead some Michigan wine personalities talking about how this is one of their favorite Michigan whites. The combination of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir really work well together to create a light and crisp wine. The aromas surround the bowl almost immediately. I get hints of strawberry and citrus. This could very well be the perfect Summertime wine to pair with a salad or grilled fish.

Dry Riesling, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $13)

She said: Very pale yellow with a tinge of green. Aromatic on the nose: spring flowers, citrus, honey, and wet stones. Bracing acidity. Fresh and lively–another terrific food wine and my favorite of the bunch. Granny Smith apple, honeysuckle, minerals. A slight frizzante. It’s bone dry, but the aromatics keep it interesting. Enjoyed it with French toast with stewed prunes and mascarpone brunch. Fantastic combo.

He said: Bone dry. Green apple, citrus and floral on the nose. It’s so dry that it hardly feels like it stays in your mouth. It confuses me, but I really like it. Even if I can’t describe it.

MichiganByTheBottle said: Dry Riesling is my favorite style of Riesling, and this selection does not disappoint. The bouquet is very aromatic with strong scents of green apple. I get a lot of tart pear on the tongue. Although it is dry, the fruit really shows through. It has a nice long refreshing finish. This would go great with sushi smothered in wasabi.

Riesling, “Whole Cluster,” Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $14)

She said: Pale straw yellow. Subtle honeysuckle perfume and stones on the nose. High acid, apple, ripe pear, melon. Reminds me of SweeTarts–a candy I love (and I’m not a candy person). There is some residual sugar, but it makes for a terrific balance to the bracing acid. This may be my favorite of the bunch.

He said: Very floral on the nose. Wow, it almost feels carbonated in the mouth. The frizzante is tickling my tongue. I have described the fizz of Txakoli wines as pop-rocks, and this has the same feeling. There are flavors of grapefruit. Really refreshing.

MichiganByTheBottle said: I love unique wines, and this fits the bill. The grapes are pressed whole without destemming or crushing, adding some of the earthiness that I love in wine. This is slightly sweeter than the Dry Riesling. The best description that I could give it is grapefruit with a kick! It is very spicy with hints of ultra-ripe red apple. The finish isn’t quite as long as the Dry Riesling, but there is still a lot of flavor coming through.

3 down, 47 to go.

Summary

MichiganByTheBottle said: Chateau Grand Traverse is one of our favorite Michigan wineries. Ed O’Keefe was truly the pioneer of grape growing on Old Mission Peninsula. Sean O’Keefe pointed out that these four wines are not necessarily hit best-selling wines, but are definitely some of his most interesting. I strongly believe that Michigan wines are generally overlooked not because of the quality but because of the marketing and exposure. It is going to take more wine blogs like Swirl Smell Slurp to help highlight some of the lesser known regions doing great things with grapes.

We said: Thank you to Shannon and Courtney of MichiganByTheBottle & Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse for being part of USA: MI. The wines were delightful. We admire the efforts by both of you in promoting the state’s industry. Go Michigan. And We’re very curious about the reds. Perhaps a MI.2 is in order?

Previously on USA: Pennsylvania, Washington

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Tomorrow…

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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

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Tomorrow…

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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.

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