Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

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(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

I’m a Vintner!

I got to check out this great Blend Your Own Bordeaux competition last week.  Wasn’t sure what all this would entail other than wine and some form of mixing.  This took place at American Eats Tavern, just outside of DC, and was in the company of Master Sommelier Andy Myers and Barboursville Vineyards Chief Sommelier Jason Tesauro.

The evening started off with some bubbly and intros and then the rundown on what had to be done.

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IMG_3339(that’s the Master Somm)

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We had four varietals to play with (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Nebbiolo) and we would taste them and play with each to determine how much of each we wanted to combine to make our own perfect blend.  It was a chemistry class with all the toys we had, too.

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In our instructions, we received definitions of each piece, percentages for mixing and what all we could do.

IMG_3374[1]Playtime!!!!

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IMG_3348You could not just plug the pipette with your thumb to fill it.  You had to actually suck on it to get a good amount in there.

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IMG_3375[1]After determining your best (personal) blend based on taste and trial & error, it was bottling time.  You also had to label it to the best of your ability.

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IMG_3352The after-shock was quite a mess.

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We were told when we started blending that there would be awards for the best wines.  Jason from Barboursville was the main taster/judge of the wines, while Andy and the Somm from American Eats also took part.  They had 15 or so wines to judge…the rough life of wine folks.

After their long-lasting time of judging they had some announcements to make.  Much to my surprise, I had a podium finish!!!  I brought home the bronze medal.  That meant great bragging rights, my wine and a bottle of Barboursville vino.  I am now a vintner.  What more could I ask for?

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Wild Horses

Over the past several months I have started a part-time job as a wine taster/pourer.  So, 1-2 times a week I get to go to a variety of locations and be that person who pours different wines for the customers to sample, while of course sampling them myself to be educated about them to properly inform the shoppers.  It’s a win-win situation — learn more about the wine and talk to people about it!  It occurred to me the other day — why don’t I write a blog about all my tastings?  It has to start sometime, right?

Ok, so Friday night I was doing a tasting for Wild Horse Winery, which is located in the Central Coast of CA.  Very nice, affordable wines.  I had 3 varietals.

1) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Oaked, but not overkill on it.  Very smooth, green apple, pear and vanilla notes.  Perfect with fish.  Price is around $15-$18.

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2) Wild Horse Pinot Noir.  Light Pinot, smooth, had both fruit and earth notes, with some mushroom in there.  Pretty nice.  Would pair well with salmon, grilled vegetables, chicken.  Price is around $16-$20.  (for some reason they don’t have this one on their site).

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3) Wild Horse Chardonnay.  Hello happiness, where have you been?  The body, the flavor…cherry, berry, cocao.  WOW!  Wow.  Go find one, buy it, open it, drink it.  Would be great served with a pizza made on the grill or some steak.

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If you go pick any of these up or have had them in the past, let me know what you think.  Cheers!

 

 

SA Winery Visit #4 — Muratie

We were very fortunate on our winery tour because there were only 3 people in the group (vs up to 16).  Our guide was also amazing.  Based on the great blend of people, the guide made sure that we fit 4 wineries into the day and finished the outing with an amazing vineyard.  The close the tour, we visited Muratie in the Stellenbosch.

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It’s one of the oldest estates in South Africa and that is evidenced by the amazing wine, stories and other things you see.

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IMG_0509They have not cleaned spider webs off some things to maintain ambiance…nice.

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At Muratie we were once again able to choose which wines we would like to sample, and shared amongst each other.

I started with the Melck’s Rose, which was made with Cab Franc.  Nice, crisp and refreshing.  And a steal at R45.

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Next I went to their Laurens Campher (Blended White).  It’s 46% Chenin Blanc, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 19% Verdolho, 10% Viognier.  Buttery was my take on it. R95.

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Then I had a quick sip of their Lady Alice Methode Cap Classique.  Was this beer?  The reason I say that is that it tasty yeasty.  R120.

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Ok, red time!!!  Started with the Melck’s Red, a 50/50 Shiraz/Cab blend.  Just a nice, easy dinner wine.  R50.

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Moving down the line, next came the George Paul Canitz Pinot Noir.  It had a black pepper nose and for the taste — a bit of green pepper, chocolate and some berries.  Quite unique.  R165.

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Then came Shiraz time, Ronnie Melck Shiraz to be exact, from the family selection.  NICE!!!!!!  Normally it’s not available for tasting but we lucked out.  Smoke, tobacco, smooth…very similar to a pinotage.  Very worthy of the price of R350.

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To wrap up the tasting there was the fortified wine, Ben Prins Cape Vintage.  With 19.5% alcohol, it was a bit chewy with notes of chocolate and blackberry.  R170.

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This winery was great to just look around and see fun parts of.

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Amazing winery to wrap up an amazing day!  It’s tough to get these/their wine in the States but I am going to keep working on it to continue enjoying amazing vino.  Cheers!

Wine Class/School

Last week I has my first, of five, classes with the Capital Wine School for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award.  Going to school for wine?  What more could one ask?  There are a variety of people in the class, from wine distributors looking to learn about products, caterers, retirees pursuing their passions of wine and getting background for potential work in wine stores and others of us just learning more about wine for kicks.

During the first session, we learned about various elements of wine, from environment to storage.  But the primary focus was the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine.  Before you taste the wine, you have to analyze several aspects of it, with specific, pre-identified terms for each level.

Appearance — clarity, intensity, color.  For this, you always want to have the wine against a white background.

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Nose — condition, intensity, aroma characteristics (you use the characteristics below).  Swirling is optional, personal preference, but what do you have to lose?

Next, the fun part — tasting the wine!  They like to call it palate. There are several areas to determine/analyze here — sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavor characteristics, finish.

For the Aroma and flavor characteristics, there are many of them to base it/them on:

Floral/fruit — floral, green fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit

Spice/Vegetable — underripeness, herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice

Oak/other — simplicity/neutrality, autolytic, dairy, oak, kernel, animal, maturity, mineral

Conclusions — quality

What was interesting to learn while doing this is that you have a blank palate — you do not lean a certain way.  It is what is present in the wine.  You might not like the wine, but it’s the flavor, aromas, characteristics, x,y,z that are there.  You analyze that wine to present it to the innocent bystander who is looking for a ‘wine that will pair with ‘this” or a wine with ‘x flavors.’

We tasted 6 wines last week.  They provide you with spit/dump buckets and water so you could keep going strong.

#1  2012 Mara White Grass Sauvignon Blanc

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#2 2010 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay

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#3  2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

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#4 2011 Henry Fessy Morgon Cru Beaujolais

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#5  2010 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon

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#6 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Mourvedre (Monastrell)

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As mentioned earlier, it was tough to say, ‘this was a good wine,’ because there are a few that I put personal notes about what NOT buy at the store.  But it is so neat to start learning about what goes into what sommeliers learn when they provide you all the info on the grapes we enjoy.

Class #2 is later this week.  So, more to come.

Aussie Wine Tasting

Last night there was a call from Down Under to taste their wine.  One must answer!  How can you go wrong?  It was taking place at Bin 201 in Annapolis, MD.  For $10 you taste(d) 8 wines and then you could apply those 10 bucks towards the purchase of a bottle.  And, if more than one person goes, you can combine your ‘credits.’  The two of us who went walked out with a ‘free’ bottle of wine.  Score!  They also serve cheese and crackers at the tasting.

So the night began:

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#1:  Pewsey Vale Riesling.  That was originally to be the 2nd in the tasting but turned out to be best as first as some previous tasters decided the notes made it best to go first.  Nice and dry.  You’re not drinking sugar.  The nose was flowery, the taste was lime.

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#2:  Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc.  Hand me the green peppers.  Or, if your recipe calls for some and you’re out, you could easily sip some of this instead.  Wow, very poignant, yet nice, nose and taste of them.  Also had some grapefruit notes.

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#3:  Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir.  Yes, it’s from New Zealand but they are pretty close together, yet so far away from here.  There was a light note of cranberries in the nose.   For taste, I found some ash and bit of cranberry.

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#4:  Misfit Brujeria.  I felt it was ‘thick and chewy’ and couldn’t pick up a flavor.  If I had to put something to it, the most I could say is chocolate, but that’s me.

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#5:  Tournon Mathilda.  Light wine with some eucalyptus on the nose.  Also carried the eucalyptus in the taste with a hint of jam.

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#6:  Tir Na N’og ‘Old Vines’ Grenache.   What a nose — chocolate and molasses.  Then it was like drinking molasses cookies with a hint of black licorice.

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#7:  Yalumba “The Scribbler” Shiraz/Cabernet.  I love their Shiraz/Viognier blend so was excited about this.  I could not pick up a taste from it though, unfortunately.

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#8:  Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon.  The most I can give is mint!

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And the entire menu/notes from Bin 201 were interesting.  I always try to sniff and taste before reading these to avoid the ‘brainwash.’  The Aussie tasting was great and can’t wait to see/taste what’s next.

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MD Wineries — Cheers!

Last weekend I stepped away from the norm and decided to do this thing I rarely do — drink local wine.  I love our west coast — bring me Napa, Sonoma, Oregon (going in October!!!) and Washington.  But, I live in Maryland and wineries are not far away.  So, why not explore what’s a car ride vs. a plane ride (aka several hundred dollars before the wine purchase) away.

Friends slated 3 wineries for the day and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.  I was expecting nothing superb but ended up with wines that I will put on my regular list.

Our first visit was to Elk Run in Mt. Airy.  For the simple tasting you had 7 pours — lucky number, right?  There was a nice variety.  I was quite surprised when the Cab was my favorite.  That’s normally my last resort for a the wine to choose when picking a red.

ElkRunWinesFor the entire menu, it was quite extensive should you want a regular pour.  This was our first visit, so didn’t want to go too crazy.

MDWineTasting 005Our next visit was about 5-10 minutes away at Black Ankle.  Their grapes grow on rocks and therefore get no leaves.  Per our wonderful ‘pourer,’ it’s very sad.  They get about 2.5 tons of grapes per acre because of the ground.  But let me tell you, GREAT wine, particularly for Maryland.  We tasted 4 wines and they were phenomenal.

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At Black Ankle, they also want you to come enjoy a picnic and relax, so everyone in the group brought food and we kicked back and relaxed for awhile.

LunchOur last destination was Serpent Ridge in Westminster.  I will qualify this as more Maryland wine.  Not spectacular, but we had already been to 2 wineries.  It was nice to explore another location in the area and see what they have to offer, though.

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We ended the day by returning to Black Ankle and kicking back for a little bit longer as some storms rolled in.  I just have to say Cheers! to local wineries for expanding their vineyards, wineries, production, etc, etc, etc and drawing in the locals, visitors and everything else.  The expansion of the wine industry throughout the country over the past couple years has been quite interesting.  From the Finger Lakes in NY to MD and VA, to MI and TX.  This country is up for some fun over the next decade+.  Though I know I will always love the West Coast, just like supporting the farmers at your local farmer’s market, the same will soon come with wine.  On that note, what are you pouring tonight?