Maui Mother’s Day

Winding down a beautiful Mother’s Day on Maui, Hawaii with nutty, figgy, baguette crust-driven Champagne, yet with a pithy, chalky, and pleasantly bitter medium plus finish. Very good 4 of 5.  Thanks Maui Costco for selling it at $38 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut NV.

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Celebrity and the Changing Landscape of Wine: Terry Hoage Wine Review

Celebrity wine.

I have mixed feelings.  It seems buying a winery has become salve for a small handful of midlife crises.  Owning three Ferraris, an island, and six children just does not cut it anymore.  Brangelina, Drew Barrymore, Dan Ackroyd, Dave Matthews, Sam Neill, Coppola, Johnny Depp, and more have dipped their gilt toes into wineries with various success.

And then there are football players: people we imagine crushing six packs of Bud into their foreheads.  Yet some -beneath that sweaty, helmeted, shoulder-padded facade- actually drink wine.  Mike Ditka, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino, Charles Woodson, and Terry Hoage own wineries.

NFL Historical Imagery

I had never heard of Terry Hoage. Then my mother-in-law shows up with a red and white.  A night later, someone at a bar pulls out their own bottle to share.  The universe was telling me something (that or I spend way too much time with alcohol).

Hoage played as defensive back through the 80s into the mid 90s.  But he hated his second career in finance, so, in 2004, with wife, parents, and uncle in tow, built a 3,000 square foot winery and purchased a 26 acre organic vineyard in Willow Creek AVA Paso Robles, California.  Luckily, Justin Smith of SAXUM Vineyards made a few vintages and taught Terry and wife Jenn his trade.

Today, they keep it modern but simple: no racking, fining, nor filtering.  Oxygen is the enemy of fruit.  Their mono-varietal wines and blends include what Paso does best: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and a rarely planted Picpoul Blanc.

A wee two acre plot of limestone provides Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Picpoul Blanc for Hoage’s white blend, The Gap: named for the cooling Templeton Gap, without which, white grapes would loose all acidity.

TH, The Gap White, Paso Robles, California 2015  $40.00

The appearance looks a clear, mild, bright golden hay color, with thick waxy legs. Plump, pleasant aromas include fresh honeydew melon, creme fraische, toasted vanilla bean, and almond.  The palate feels fat, round, soft yet dry, with fine bright acidity, and notably warm viscous alcohol.  Moderate flavors carry the aroma, again with honeydew melon, lemon, and roasted vanilla of medium plus length.
TH’s The Gap is crisp enough, thanks Picpoul, yet round and melon-driven because of the Grenache.  But I smell French trees.  The oak though annoys me.   It takes this pleasant, perky little white and tries to makes it complex, serious, modern, American, and well oaky.  Still, The Gap is very good 4 of 5.
Terry Hoage, The 46, Paso Robles California 2014 S40

Hoage named The 46 after the Highway the winery is on and a football defensive play.  He blends 48% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre.  So classic GSM, Rhône ranger stuff here, with a touch of pigskin:

Terry Hoage The 46 2014 Red

The appearance looks a clear but deep purple, with a short clear, ruby rim and washing legs.  Proud aromas of cracked pepper, kindling, bourbon, alcohol, dried vanilla, subsume a black cherry, and berry pie nose.  The palate feels dry, quietly acidic, soft, with fat tannins, hot 15.6% alcohol coals, and a full body.  Flavors punch with dense, dried blackberry jam, followed by toasty, bourbon barrel flavors that last a medium plus length.
Well, TH’s The 46 ’14 is very good (4 of 5).  Again, one must dig through new oak to get to great, chunks of blackberry pie and spice.  But it is clean, modern, and big.  Not bad for a footballer.
Can celebrities make good wine?  For sure.  Since we live in a world where one must pay to play, where land is so expensive, it seems better at least to have independent, passionate people create their own wine, rather than large conglomerates with branding committees deciding our choices.
The myth of the weather-worn peasant hand-selecting each grape for his family’s wine is dying.  And maybe the beast created its own problem.  When the rich and famous got involved in wine, ever-willing to pay ever-inflating land prices, it drove wine as agriculture into wine as lifestyle.  But at least even a footballer like Hoage can stick to the basics and keep this industry alive and dynamic.
What do you think about celebrity wines?
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Wine Review for Spring: Grillo Grapes by Tenuta Rapitala Sicily Italy

An earthquake and marriage coincided in 1968.  The Belice Valley earthquake destroyed Rapitalà winery in western Sicily, just as French Count, Hugues Bernard de la Gatinais, married Gigi Guarrasi and moved there.  Together, they renovated their winery and vineyard. Six years later, Rapitalà began to lead modern wine-making in Sicily. Today, son Laurent continues their drive.

They own 618 acres ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the sea.  Grillo grapes cut a western swath across these elevations.  Now, I know what you are thinking: Grillo must be some funny Sicilian name for Pinot Grigio. Or maybe Grillo is grilled wine. Or maybe they name it after a local animal armagrillo. No! The Grillo grape comes from uncertain origins, but handles heat and often ends up fortified as Marsala.  Rapitala harvests it early in mid-August.

Rapitala Grillo Sicily

Now, I could only get my hands on a 2012. But for $14 lets have faith and try it.

The APPEARANCE is light yellowish green with golden highlights.

The PALATE feels dry, light but hardly hollow, with pleasant crisp acidity.

AROMAS and FLAVORS come out fairly forward and bright with sage and pine nettles, dried white rose, gold pear, and lemon juice leading the show. Salt and wax carry for a medium plus length.

Rapitalà’s Grillo is just right for Spring. It is solidly good wine (3 of 5) even pushing five years away from vintage.   This wine will provide a pleasant diversion to other easy but bright things like Pinot Blanc or Gris.  Imagine warm evenings, finally breaking out the patio furniture and grilling some fish.


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Wine Review: E Carrel Brut Sparkling Wine from Savoie France

Just before you get to Swiss and Italian Alps. Just before you bathe yourself in fondue. Make a wine stop in France’s Savoie:

Savoie Wine Map

Savoie is a collection of seven gerrymandered valleys just warm enough to ripen grapes.  Romans called it Sapaudia or Sabaudia: land covered in fir trees. Clearly, they had little confidence in its wine potential.  But the French needed somewhere to ski.  So they annexed Savoie in 1860.

Understandably, crisp white wines make up three fourths of Savoie’s product.  Native grape Jacquere dominates at around 20% of plantings, followed by cool climate red Mondeuse, white Altesse (aka Roussette), and familiars, Roussanne (aka Bergeron), Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.

Eugene Carrel, Paulette and son Olivier run their family estate in Jongieux, forty miles southwest of Geneva.  Their 23 acres of vineyards hang high and steep at 1,476 feet above sea level, on chalky clay soils, desperately facing the sunset southwest.  Luckily, Jongieux enjoys nearly three more hours of sun than the rest of Savoie.

E. Carrel’s Brut comprises of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Jacquere made fizzy thanks to secondary bottle fermentation akin to Champagne. Promising….

But how does this mountain goat bubbly taste?

Carrel Brut Savoie

The APPEARANCE looks clear, but like pale golden hay, with a rapid froth that mellows into a fine rapid string of pearl bubbles. Lovely.

Mild, fresh, but quiet AROMAS smell of grass, hay, light honey, lemongrass, and star gazer lily.

The PALATE feels off-dry, braced by racing, well cut acidity. Yet a plump little medium body and waxed texture compensate for the acid and fizz.

Flying intense FLAVORS contradict the demure nose with fresh white honey, crisp lemon grass, a touch of chalk, and singing lemon juice that last a medium plus length.

E. Carrel, Brut, Savoie France NV will start any party off right. This is very good (4 of 5) and under $16, a lovely alternative to any Cremant de… or Cava out there.  Involve appetizers, salads, mild or young cheeses (goat boucheron), flaky white fish, scalloped potatoes…heck, take off your ski jacket, put on a cardigan sweater, kill the lights, fire up some candles, and warm a pot of fondue.

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Cava Solves Power Outage

imageWith 90 + mph winds knocking trees into power lines, it looks like we will not have power through the night. Desperate times call for desperate measures: time for the emergency Cava rosado. Nothing will fool us into thinking we’re in sunny Barcelona better.

Vilarnau, Brut Reserva Rosé, Cava, Spain NV $15

It looks bright clear and cranberry pink. Smells of fresh, underripe strawberries, orange, and vanilla. Nears brut dryness with zipped acidity and a twangy fresh personality. Made from native Trepat and Pinot Noir. Very good stuff 4 of 5. $15 Thanks Vilarnau!

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