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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lesser Known AVAs: Manton Valley

California wine country continues to grow. The Manton Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was approved on August 1, 2014. Situated in the foothills of Northern California’s Mount Lassen…wait, what?280px-Lassen-Peak-Large 2

Yes, Manton Valley AVA is in far Northern California’s foothills, east of Redding. [1] Mount Lassen is a dormant volcano, noted more for its bubbling, aromatic sulfur pools and mud pots than for pastoral vineyards. [2] Yet grape vines thrive in volcanic soil, so this is an excellent area for viticulture.

Manton Valley AVA is a small wine region, just 9,800 acres, with about 200 acres of vineyards. [3] The Manton Valley Winegrowers Association website lists only seven wineries. Although only recently distinguished as an AVA, Manton Valley farmers have been growing grapes for 20 years, and trucking them nearly 200 miles to wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. [4]

My first taste of a Manton Valley wine came last night, in the form of the Jim Olsen Syrah Manton Valley 2014, from Naked Wines (www.us.nakedwines.com). The Naked Wines copy suggests this may be the first red wine with “Manton Valley” printed on the label. As a 2014 vintage, this wine is still quite young, and will benefit from some bottle aging. However, even at this young age, the character of this wine shines through. I find wines grown in volcanic soil to have a rich profile, yet a light, mineral mouthfeel. Jim’s wine is like this. Available exclusively from Naked Wines, and already sold out, the Angel (member) price is $11.99. As popular a winemaker as Jim Olsen is with Naked Wines Angels, I am sure he will produce another vintage.

Open Me 2

Naked Wines has some fun with corks. As if I need an invitation!

(Shameless plug): Follow this link for a $100 voucher, valid for first-time orders of $160 or more. (https://us.nakedwines.com/invite/kent-reynolds.htm?cid=USA)

My thoughts on Jim’s Syrah are as follows:

This SJim Olsen Syrah 2yrah is a rich, deep ruby color. I poured it through a Vinturi aerator, and was met with pleasing aromas of ripe plum and white pepper. On the palate, there are flavors of late season, ripe raspberry and bramble, with cherry and tobacco leaf notes. The finish is medium length with spice and plum.

This is a very young wine. When I tasted this wine, on 9/29/15, I am aware that these grapes were likely still on the vine a year ago. As a result, there is high acidity, and the tannins are a bit rough. Aeration and decanting will help in the short term, and a couple of years in the bottle will definitely transform this wine into a real gem!

Frankly, I’ve not been to the Manton Valley AVA in person. As a relatively unknown, rural area, there would be none of the crowds and traffic that plague the more famous wine regions. Manton Valley is now on my list of places to visit. If you can’t make the trip, you can at least get there through a bottle of wine!

[1] http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/805/Manton-Valley-AVA-Emerges.html

[2] http://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm

[3] http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/805/Manton-Valley-AVA-Emerges.html

[4] http://www.mantonwinegrowers.com/#!vineyards/c1yzj

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Sauvignon Blanc: The Next Big Thing?

Sauvignon Blanc has enjoyed a recent rise in popularity [1]. Although Chardonnay remains undisputed king of the white wine world, Sauvignon Blanc is achieving status as the latest trendy wine. All the cool kids are drinking it! I normally shun trends, but I am completely on board with this one. Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing; great for a warm summer day. It is food friendly, pairing well with white fish, chicken, pork, grilled vegetables, and salads – basically any light, summery food. And it’s affordable! Whereas Chardonnay can run upwards of $40-50 for a midrange bottle (and hundreds for a Grand Cru White Burgundy), the most expensive Sauvignon Blanc at my local Total Wine & More store, a White Bordeaux, is just $54, with the second most expensive being less than $40 [2]. Good Sauvignon Blanc is available for as little as $8 to $12.

Sauvignon Blanc grows well in wine regions all over the world. It has adapted well to the southern hemisphere, with some of the most award-winning wines coming from New Zealand. This summer, I have enjoyed a “world tour” of Sauvignon Blanc, enjoying examples from France, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and California. The California wines I’ve had have come from Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties, Clarksburg, and San Luis Obispo. Yes, I drank a lot of Sauvignon Blanc this summer!

I have found I prefer California Sauvignon Blanc, with my favorites coming from Mendocino and Napa. However, I recently enjoyed a truly delightful example from Clarksburg. Nestled along the Sacramento River, less than 30 minutes south of the capital city, Clarksburg is a hidden gem of a wine region. The wines are spectacular, and generally substantially less expensive than nearby Napa or Sonoma.

Baron Herzog SBBaron Herzog Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is one of these excellent, affordable wines. It is available at my local BevMo store for $10.99. I found it at Trader Joe’s for just $7.99!

My review, posted on Vivino:

Pale straw color, with aromas of lemon-lime and pineapple. The mouthfeel is light, with lemon/citrus, pineapple, fresh white peach, and tart apple notes. The acidity is bright and crisp, and the finish lingers with zesty citrus, and a hint of sweet elderflower in the back of the throat. A very nice Sauvignon Blanc from California’s Central Valley, and a great value at $8!

If you haven’t tried Sauvignon Blanc in a while, do yourself a favor and get some. Even though the calendar says it’s autumn, the weather still says “summer” here in NorCal. Sauvignon Blanc is a great way to relax and refresh. Cheers!

[1] http://www.iwfs.org/americas/wine-food—friends-1/articles/sauvignon-blanc—better-than-chardonnay-in-wine-food-pairin

[2] http://www.totalwine.com/wine/white-wine/sauvignon-blanc/c/000008?viewall=true&sort=price-desc

The Other Montepulciano

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an Italian varietal that is gaining in popularity in the U.S. Still unknown to many wine drinkers, there are great values to be found.

Not to be confused with Montepulciano the village in Tuscany, famous for its stellar Sangiovese based wines, Montepulciano is itself a varietal grape from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Tuscany is in central Italy, north of Rome, whereas Abruzzo is east of Rome, bordering the Adriatic Sea. Montepulciano, the grape, is noted for its deep, rich color and hearty character. Smooth tannins and relatively low acidity make these wines excellent for every day, yet they are bold and structured enough to complement a variety of foods. Their value pricing is an added bonus.

I’ve only just begun exploring this fantastic wine, and so far have sampled only two. The most recent was a 2013 Villa Rocca, purchased online for $9.99 from Wines Till Sold Out (WTSO.com). Here is what I thought of it:Villa Rocca

Rich and full bodied. Inky purple in the glass with aromas of dark berry, violet, and vanilla. A bit tannic at first, but this softens with time. Concentrated flavors of blackberry, black pepper, and black cherry with an earthy, spicy finish. Best with food; we paired this with Grilled Margherita Sandwiches, and it was a delightful combination. It would be great with pizza and pasta, also.

I look forward to many more Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines as fall and winter set it. I highly recommend exploring this region of Italy.