Archive for What We’ve Been Tasting

Tasting Report: Gruet Cellars

Saturday, December the 5th we sampled Gruet’s Sauvage, a non-dosage (bone dry) Blanc de Blanc from New Mexico at Madrona Wine Merchants. Yummy! And a big seller.

Since I was already planning to be in New Mexico I arranged a tour of their facility in Albuquerque and thought I’d pass along my impressions.

While their estate grapes are grown outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the augment their non-vintage sparklers with grapes from California and the Northwest. Coming online in the next two years will be Pinot Meunier grapes from a joint venture with the Santa Anna Pueblo near Santa Fe. They even have a few vines in front of their urban winery. Fun fact: Gruet is the largest (by square feet) winery located in an urban environment, followed by Seattle’s own Charles Smith in Georgetown.

I had a chance to run through their entire tasting room menu and take notes:

After working through the wine list it was time for a personal tour of the winery by their production manager:

Normally these tours are only available on the last Saturday of the month at 2PM. The tasting room, which is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico is open to the public Monday-Thursday 10am to 5pm. Friday-Saturday 10am to 7pm, Sunday noon-5pm.

I was lucky enough to arrive as they were bottling their non-vintage Rose.

After the bottles come off the bttling line, they are first stacked in massive wooden crates:

Before getting loaded in to rotating steel rakes that perform the “riddling” – the quarter turn twist to get all the sediment to float down to the neck of the bottle.

Before final labelling the bottles go through disgorgement – which done by freezing the neck of the bottle and then upcapping the bottle which because it’s a sparkling wine, blows all the sediment out of the bottle. Next up is the adding of the “dosage” – a bit of sugar to restart the fermentation to get bubbles to form again. Then it’s recorked, wired, and sometimes foiled. Fun fact – the clear bottles for the rose are made in Seattle down in the Georgetown neighborhood on Highway 99.

We had the Gruet Sauvage open on Saturday, December 5th. In addition, we also carry their Blanc de Noir. Tasting notes for both of those are below:

Gruet Blanc De Noirs    $16
Pinot Noir
New Mexico
Méthode Champenoise & aged for a minimum of two-years, berry aroma with toasty notes and a creamy texture.

Gruet Brut Sauvage Blanc de Blanc    $18
Low-dosage domestic bubbles! Aromas of bright mineral notes followed by traces of green apple, lemon Meringue pie, with a hint of daisy. This wine finishes with bright, crisp acidity on the palate with a light yet long finish. With limited residual sugar, the Gruet Sauvage is for the sparkling connoisseur who appreciates bone dry acidity.

So, if you find yourself in Albuquerque with extra time, they are located just off the freeway – stop on by and sample their wares, which include still wines. Fun fact: the grapes for their Cabernet Sauvignon come from our own Columbia Valley.

We Live For Wine

Even when we aren’t behind the counter at Madrona Wine Merchants, we are searching the world for wines – fortunately, they mostly come to us through distributors and through trade wine tastings. Occasionally we will slip out of the city to explore wine country. Here is what I found in Walla Walla.

First stop was Balboa. They aren’t in commercial distribution and the tasting fee was $5. My favorite on the tasting was their 2013 Sangiovese ($30)

There were a couple of wineries out in the sticks (like Balboa) that we carry – Sleight of Hand, Gifford Hirlinger, that weren’t open on a Wednesday. Had I actually planned this trip better I could have probably gotten them to open up for us.

Next up was Kontos Cellars in downtown Walla Walla. Please note the prices in the upper left hand corner – these are VERY TYPICAL for Walla Walla wines. I think its cartel pricing at work. And they are in distribution with one of our distributors, but the price point is a hard sell in our neighborhood. Favorite at this stop was their 2012 Malbec ($44).

The final winery was El Corazon – which the friend who I was visiting had called a week earlier to set up a private tasting. Not in distribution, and the same pricing structure as Balboa and Kontos, but definitely a different attitude. Hey, they even put out snacks for us! Toss up on my favorite between the2012 Pistelero, their Bordeaux Blend ($40) or the 2013 Swordfight, a Syrah/Mourvèdre Blend ($50)

And the décor of the place is a hoot!

And they do have an amusing policy of throwing out people who are assholes:

No cheap wines in Walla Walla, but it’s was all really good wine. Next time you are on a holiday, check out the local wineries – they are now in all fifty states (including Alaska and Hawaii). Expand your palate.

Forgot The Name Of That Bottle You Liked?

One of the common peeves I hear from our customers is that they got this wonderful bottle of wine from us but can’t remember the name – or they were out at a restaurant and had a great bottle and now want to special order a case. It even happens to me.

Check out this app for your smart phone.

Click on the graphic above to go to their website.

With this app you take a picture of the bottle and it will search its database for information on the wine as well as letting you add comments either public or private. Unclick the check box if you want to keep the comments to yourself. If they don’t have it in their database yet, it magically appears several days later.

One nice feature is Vivino runs on all phone platforms. Latest release for iOS and Android, previous version for Blackberry and Windows Phones, just look in your app store and search on Vivino. I have a Windows 8 phone and it runs great.

Remember: Madrona Wine Merchants offers a 15% discount on all full-case special orders. Delivery time is usually less than one week.

We’re Famous!

The owners of Madrona wine merchants are pictured in an article called The Masters of Wine-Spitting. Click on the title to jump to the article.

To quote the article: “It’s a necessary evil for anyone wanting to taste many wines, but how on earth should one go about it?”

Here is a link to our very own spitting article: Swirl, Sniff, Spit, Dump, or Drink?

Bubbles Tasting A Success.

Thanks to all that showed up this afternoon for the Bubbles tasting – we barely made it to 4pm with the entire line open.

The value of your neighborhood wine shop…

According to the Wall Street Journal.

This is from the Wall Street Journal’s weekend cooking and eating section called: The Everyday Sommelier on the Corner.

This is the link.

Meet The Grower And Owner Of Airfield Estates.

A funny thing happened on my next winery visit… doors opened and I’m greeted my Mike Miller, the grape grower and owner of Airfield Estates:

This visit I hadn’t set up in advance so it was an unexpected pleasure to have him give up 45 minutes of his day to talk about his wines, including his secondary label Lone Birch. His son is the winemaker (Marcus) who I briefly met (he was in the middle of wine experiments). Funny that all the winemaker’s I’ve met this trip have been men in their 30′s.

At Madrona Wine Merchants we carry the 2010 Airfield Estates Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling ($13 for 375ml). This lovely dessert wine has citrus, pineapple and apricot flavors and is no longer available from the winery. We even have one in the refrigerator, chilled and ready to drink.

Meet The Winemaker:

Justin Neufeld of Gilbert Cellars.

Next winery up on our Yakima Valley tour is Gilbert Cellars. Here I am with Justin Neufeld, their winemaker:

Justin and Mark in the Cellar.

They had just finished a bottling run (which is a mostly mechanical process), but he still had enough energy to take us down into the cave to barrel sample half a dozen of his 2011 wines, including a Tempranillo-based Port that he is working on. Really fun to taste young wines like his Chardonnay that was still cloudy.

We featured Gilbert Wines in our tasting on Saturday, July 7th. Click here for the tasting notes.

If you are a fan of their Rosé of Mourvèdre, I’d stock up now as it is a limited release. We offer a 15% discount on special order cases.

Visit With Southard Winemaker.

Southard Winery is a family owned and operated winery located a few miles north of Selah, Washington. They produce Riesling from their estate vineyard as well as Rhône cultivars grown in the Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, and Wahluke Slope AVAs. We carry Scott’s “Columbia Valley White” which is a big-bodied Rhône style white blend of 65% Viognier and 35% Rousanne. We hope to arrange a tasting of Scott’s line in the near future.

Mark with Scott Southard, the winemaker.

Randall Grahm Of Bonny Doon Visits.

Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker for Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California dropped in to show us his latest offerings.

We currently carry two of his fine wines: Le Cigare Volant and Cloy de Gilroy.

Here are Randall’s notes on the Le Cigare Volant:

The newly released cuvée is the 23rd edition of Le Cigare Volant, and it certainly shows the family flavor profile of red fruits, herbal, and earthy notes in a savory, medium-bodied package. Bright ruby red with a pale purplish rim, it offers cherry aromas with a bit of spice, menthol, sassafras, and black pepper. On the palate there is fresh cherry, pomegranate, and red bramble fruit. The wine is peppery and lively with good acidity around an earthy, savory core.

A blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre with just a soupçon of cinsault makes for a bright and wonderfully gamey wine. The chief red in residence, grenache, derives primarily from our traditional Biodynamic® grenache source from Alta Loma Vineyard in Monterey County. This is supplemented with a smidge of our own Estate grenache, adding a discreet spiciness to the attraction. The syrah is principally sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley, which produces the closest analogue we have found to a Northern Rhône syrah—tannic and meaty in the lower registers; peppery, fruitful, and delicately floral in the top, all the while showing great balance and harmony. A group of non-irrigated, centenarian Contra Costa vineyards has provided mourvèdre for Cigare for many years. Finally, a dollop of cinsault provides a very particular fragrance of flowers and aromatic herbs.

And on the Cloy de Gilroy:

The Wine Formerly Known as Clos de Gilroy (TWFKaCdG) pays homage to the quaint, rustic town of Gilroy, the spiritual locus of all matters alliaceous. The fruit for our Grenache does not, despite its name, derive from Gilroy (clos, but no Cigare), but instead primarily from our former estate vineyard in Soledad and the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield, along with a sprinkling of other vineyards along the Central Coast. The wine exhibits all the hallmarks of exceptional cool climate Grenache—bright raspberries, a strong suggestion of blacknpepper and red fruits, and a supple, lingering finish.

The strawberry-rhubarbity of grenache is complemented by a delicate note of kirsch from cinsault and the spicy catch of syrah’s white pepper. Brilliant rubescent pink with a fuchsia rim, the wine is intensely aromatic, with notes of strawberry, raspberry, pepper, and wild herbs. Supple and medium-bodied, the dominant flavors on the palate are of red fruits: strawberry, red currant, kirsch, and strawberry-rhubarb. Fruity and spicy but fully dry, this wine is the perfect foil for all manner of grilled meat or vegetables, roasted poultry, the aïoli platter (naturellement), and anything prepared al fresco—especially when anointed with olive oil.

As you can see, he’s a pretty funny guy.