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.)

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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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