Ah Spring. Not only do the days start getting longer and the weather warmer, it is also the time when San Francisco has an influx of wine tastings. Of course, we had to explore new and old friends
Mexican-American Vintners Association
We have enjoyed this event in the pass. Held at Fort Mason, the MAVA gave 12 Mexican-American-run wineries a chance to highlight their wares.
Sonoma Carneros-based Ceja Winery, which was by far the largest, most established of these vintners, offered a slate of five great wines including a Rose, Pinot Noir, Red blend and Cabernet, ending with a Botrytis dessert wine. We especially enjoyed three:
- 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir;
- 2009 Cabernet and especially;
- The wonderful, Dulce Beso Late Harvest, which consisted of 94 percent late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and six percent Semillon.
In fact, since one can buy wine at this event, in addition to tasting wine, we ending up with a few bottles to enjoy at home.
While wine appreciation is subjective, we also found some other wines that especially pleased our palates at the event:
- Encanto Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon;
- Honrama Cellars’ 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon;
- Maldonado Family Vineyard’s 2014 Farm Workwer Chardonnay and 2012 Proprietary Red (consisting of 65 percent Cabernet, 20 percent Merlot and 14 percent Syrah);
- Mario Bazan Cellars’ 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; and
- Mi Sueno Winery’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Given the quality and growing commercial success of some of these entrants, we hope to see more and more Mexican-American Vintners over the next few years. And we especially look forward to the event in 2017.
Jura Wine Seminar and Tasting
Before being invited to the Jura Wine Seminar and tasting we had never even heard of Jura, much less knew that it was a French wine region. But it is. It is just to the east of, and generally runs parallel to the much more familiar Burgundy region—just west of the Swiss border. Like Burgundy, is a cool growing region. And while it also grows Chardonnay and some Pinot Noir (the latter of which is used largely as a blending grape), its primary grapes are different from those in next-door Burgundy—grapes including Savignin (a form of Sauvignon Blanc) and its two leading red grapes, Poulsard and Trousseau. Some of its wine making processes also differ from those in Burgundy and other French wine regions. For example:
- Its sparking wines (Cremant du Jura) is made from Chardonnay grapes that are not yet ripe;
- Vin de Paille, so-called “straw wine”, is made from grapes (often on a bed of straw) that are dried to concentrate their juices and produce a sweet wine (similar to ice wine, but without the freezing);
- Macvin du Jura is a sweet wine that is fortified with brandy; and its
- Famous Vin Jaune (yellow wine) is a dry white Savignon-based wine that is produced in a manner similar to that of dry fino sherry (matured under an airtight-layer of yeast), although it, unlike sherry, is not fortified.
Although each of the Jura appellations have somewhat different soils and microclimates, the region’s primarily clay-based soils retain water and tend to produce fuller-bodied wines. Meanwhile, the cool climate (colder than Burgundy) extend ripening times and therefore, require later harvests (typically in October).
After learning about the region and its grapes, and sampling different styles in a guided tasting, we were let loose to explore wines from about 20 different producers. Among those we found to be most interesting were:
- Domaine Berthet-Bondet 2014 Trio, which is a blend of Trousseau, Poulsard and Pinot Noir);
- Domaine Daniel Dugois 2015 Trousseau—Grevilliere;
- Domaine de la Touraize 2015 Trousseau Les Corvees;
- Domaine des Ronces 2013 Cotes du Jura Pinot Noir;
- Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2012 Poulsard; and
- Fritiere Vinicole d’Arbois 2012 Bethanie (a blend of Chardonnay and Savignon).
We also enjoyed some of Jura‘s more specialize wines. These included Domaine Baud’s Macvin du Jura (non-vintage) and its 2010 Vin de Paille. A few Vin Jaunes also tickled Tom’s (although not Joyce’s) palette: the 2009 Domaine Benoit Badoz Cotes du Jura Les Roussots, the 2008 Juravinum Chateau-Chalon and the 2009 Domaine Rolet Arbois.
This event was a good introduction to a region of which we had no previous knowledge.
Vin de Corse (Corsica) Born to be Wine
On the same day, and just down the street from the Jura tasting, we also attended a wine tasting from another part of France—a small wine region located on the fringes of a mountain emerging from the Mediterranean. Corsica is mountainous island that, while a part of France, is located off the coast of Italy (virtually within shouting distance of Sardinia) and is more culturally aligned with Italy than with its mother country. Its wines, however, are sui generis, with grapes and tastes that are all its own.
This brief seminar and small ten-producer tasting provided us with our first introduction to this region and its wines.
Although the island is relatively small and most of the mountainous interior is virtually uninhabited, the narrow strips along the island’s coast are home to nine distinct AOCs, and, for the size of the island, a huge number of tiny producers (264) and independent wineries (104). They commercially grow 28 different varietals, many of which are indigenous. Among the most common white grapes are Vermentinu (somewhat acidic) and Biancu Gentile (more citrusy and tropical). Reds include Nielluccio (a version of Sangiovese with something of a gamey taste) and Sciacarello (which is lighter and more Pinot-like). Production consists primarily (51 percent) of rose wines, with reds accounting for 33 percent, whites 15 percent and another one percent of Muscats. Each of the appellations has a different terroir, so that even when they do grow the same grapes, the expressions are often quite different.
Tasting winners, at least for our tastes, were primarily reds, made from either Niellucciu or Sciaccarellu grapes, or blends of both. These included 2014 Clos Alivu Rouge, 2015 Clos Venturi 1769 Rouge, 2012 Domaine De Torraccia Rouge, 2013 Domaine Orenga De Gaffory OG Rouge, 2015 Domaine d”Alziprattu Flumeseccu Rouge and our two favorite reds, 2012 Corsican Groupe Uval’s Villa Angeli Don Pasquate Rouge and 2014 UVIB Group’s Domaine Petroni Rouge.
Our white selections were more limited: Les Vignerons D’Aghione’s 2014 Premium Casanova Blanc and 2015 U San Muletto Blanc (the first of which was 100% Niellucciu and the second a blend of Chardonnay and Vermentinu).