Archive for August, 2015

Mixed Bag

From the Not-Quite-Quick-and-Dirty Department: Each of the wines featured in this report bears a connection to one of our previous two reports. I tasted this first one with Luke McCollom from Left Coast Cellars last week; the wine was given to him by a generous Ann Arbor retailer, and then he sent me home with the bottle to share with Kim. As promised, here are my impressions.

2006 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, 80% Roussanne, the balance from Grenache blanc, Picardan, Bourboulenc and Clairette, 14% alc., $69.99: Clean, rich color; stony mineral and a hint of beeswax over bone dry stone fruit in both flavor and aroma. Full bodied, with great acidity and outstanding presence. I had the opportunity to taste this over a couple of hours and the beeswax emerged to take a more prominent place in the wine’s personality. Quite tasty already, but not yet at its peak, perhaps not even close. Organically grown, 80% fermented in stainless steel, 20% in 225 liter oak casks. Find this wine

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

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Hangin’ with Luke McCollom of Left Coast Cellars

There are so many wine producers in so many regions of the world that fly well under our radar, it’s always a treat for us when we happen upon one that really impresses us. Case in point; we’d never heard of Left Coast Cellars until a few weeks ago, when their PR firm contacted us to inquire as to whether we’d be interested in meeting their winemaker and viticulturist, Luke McCollom, who would be in Michigan during the week of August 17.

I did some quick research, and found that this family owned winery seemingly had much to admire, starting with a commitment to sustainability. 150 of the 353 acres on the property, located in Rickreall, Oregon, are planted to nine vineyards, with a focus on exclusively estate-grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Viognier and Syrah, with several single vineyard wines in their lineup. Besides growing grapes, Left Coast Cellars has also undertaken a project of growing European truffles (mostly Périgord, with some Italian whites) on a four acre site of hazelnut trees, shrub roses and holly oaks. There are also oak groves, fruit orchards, organic gardens, bee hives, streams and a small lake which adds to the site’s biodiversity and provides water for gravity fed irrigation. (Click images to enlarge.)

The vineyards themselves contain a wide variety of clonal and rootstock combinations, elevations, row orientations and soil compositions, which provide for a significant range of nuance to what we’ve quickly come to recognize as a distinctive LCC house style. Based on what I discovered on the winery web presence, we decided that this was an operation we’d like to learn (and taste) more about, so we accepted their kind offer and a time was set to meet with Mr. McCollom last Wednesday, at Birmingham’s The Bird & The Bread.

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A Pair of Swans

Every so often over the past few years, I’ve been struck by the following thought: we don’t drink enough Pinot Noir at our house, not nearly as much as we did back in the late ‘90s and on through the turn of the century. For whatever reason, we just kind of drifted away from the variety, which is a shame, because it can be so very, very fine.

So it was that, when I celebrated a certain annual milestone last week, I pulled the first wine in this report from the cellar, almost as an afterthought. I eat almost no red meat these days, but I look more favorably upon good seafood and decided that wild caught salmon would make for a nice dinner, and so we procured a nice filet that fed both Kim and me very well. I could have chosen a nice Morgon, since we have several of those down in the Cellar from Heck, but I decided to go with one of the very few Pinot Noirs in our possession instead. I had no idea how fortuitous my choice would be.

As far as I can tell, we haven’t talked about any of the wonderful wines from Joseph Swan Vineyards since late 2007, which is too bad, because, A. they’re SO good, and B. that means we’ve been missing out on a lot of mighty fine drinking.

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Summer Wines So Far

We’ve been celebrating the slightly oddball summer with some interesting, and mostly very good, wines of the pale and pink persuasions. June and July were all over the place, weather-wise, ranging from wet and unseasonably cool to the more usual oppressive hot-and-muggy that rears its sweaty head in Michigan this time of year, but we’ve stuck with our warm weather game plan throughout. Some of these are new vintages from old friends, and some we tried for the first time. Here are seven that we’ve encountered over the last four or five weeks, starting with the whites.

This first one had sat patiently in the cellar since early winter, waiting for just the right moment to pop its cork, and I found it a few days ago.

2012 Gilbert Picq Chablis, 12.5% alc., $23.99: Clean medium color; tart, yet rich and quite tasty, with mineral-driven green apple and quince flavors and aromas. Great presence and balance, full bodied without being heavy in any way, with racy acids and a nice long finish. An excellent food wine, but I chose to sip and savor it on its own after a week without wine, and it’s a very fine choice indeed. It just gets better as it opens and warms a little in the glass. I want more of this one.

Imported by Vintage ’59 Importers LLC, Washington, DC

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Three Wines From The Mitten

I had the distinct pleasure of going on a five day northern Michigan musical road trip over the last weekend in July. I performed my music on four successive evenings, starting off at two of my favorite wineries, Left Foot Charley and Shady Lane Cellars. (I finished up with my first ever appearance at Short’s Brew Pub in Bellaire, and finally at the quaint old one-room Green River Schoolhouse, in Mancelona. Both were tons of fun, but those are stories for another occasion.)

The appearances at the two wineries gave me the opportunity to try fresh new versions of a couple of my favorite wines from the Mitten, and they do not disappoint in the least.

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