Charlie Opines About Wine

In my search for interesting wines to serve to guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attend many planned and impromptu wine tastings. I am happy to share my experiences with you. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wines From Wente Tasted in Sandwich

As summer is waning, I am still wine-ing and looking for wines to serve my guest at our Cape Cod Inn. Wednesday’s weekly wine tasting at the Belfry Bistro gave me some good ideas for my fall offerings. Classic Wine Imports’ Sales Consultant Polly Hemstock hosted the tasting of Wente Vineyards wines. We were fortunate to have Dan Meunier the New England Regional Sales Manager for the Wente Family Estates to discuss the four wines poured.

As I leaned, and I always learn something, Wente is the oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery in the country, founded more than 128 years ago. Today, the wine making and vineyard management is under the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The Wente Estate wines are made from grapes from their almost 3,000 acres of “sustainablely” farmed vineyards. For over one hundred years they have been in the forefront of the “new” concept of sustainable production, which now many consider to be the new wave in wine making. Wente Vineyards is located just east of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley and is also now recognized as one of California’s premier wine country destinations. They feature wine tasting, fine dining, music festivals, and championship golf. Ironically, I was first introduced to Wente in the late 1970s on my first and only sailing adventure in San Francisco Bay. We sailed with an inexperienced friend from San Rafaela past San Quentin to Tiburon, CA. Wente had a tasting room just off the pier where we purchased and drank a little wine before our ill fated return sail. After a long frightening trip home in a stormy and turbulent November San Francisco Bay, I had intentionally forgotten my Wente wine tasting along with the rest of that nautical experience.

My Wednesday tasting of Wente Vineyards inspired me to recall my sailing memories and also created a new appreciation for the Wente wines of today. We started with a Tamás Estates 2009 Pinot Grigio. Tamás Estates is a part of the Wente Family Vineyards portfolio that has focused on Italian style grapes. This crisp and refreshing white wine paired nicely with Atlantic Salmon Tartare, a nice summery start to the evening.

Next we had the Wente 2009 Riva Ranch Charonnay, with Baked Stuffed Barnstable Littleneck Clams. Wente was the first California winery to produce a wine labled Chardonnay in 1936 and many of today’s great Chardonnys are grown from Wente clones. Although aged in oak, the oak was so subtle that I thought it was a non-oaked Chardonnay, which I tend to like.

Our first red of the night was the Wente 2009 Sandstone Merlot, paired with Seared Long Island Duck breast. This merlot is one of Wente’s Vineyard Select wines named for the specific vineyard sourced for the grapes, i.e. the Sandstone Vineyard. This wine is fremented and aged in stainless steel and not oak. This method yields a lower tannined, friutier, and very approachable merlot. It worked perfectly with the Duck.

Cabernet Sauvignon
As the sun was setting on a perfect Cape Cod evening, we finished with the Murietta’s Well 2008 The Spur. Murrieta’s Well is another part of the Wente Family Vineyards portfolio. Also in Livermore, its origins date to the discorvey of an artisan well in 1850 by a Joaquin Murrieta. The Wente’s have been involed since the 1930s and now produce some interesting blends. The Spur is a very drinkable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot,  Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Murrieta’s Well also makes a white called The Whip. I assume the inspiration for the name comes from a western, cowboy, horse theme and not…., well I won’t go there.

It was another great night of wine tastings and food pairings. I now have more choices to offer my guest at our Sandwich Inn and a whole new respect for the Wente Family of wines. 

Happy Wine-ing,

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cape Cod Tasting Features Napa Valley Wines

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

July flew by, August is almost gone, and we have been very busy at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast. One of my chores is to pick the wines to share with our guests; I work at this by helping pour wine at the weekly Wednesday wine tasting at the Belfry Bistro co-sponsored by my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants. I literally work for wine and last week’s pay was outstanding in the form of Piña wine, a cult wine from Napa Valley, California. 

The tasting actually started with two French Rose’s from Chateau D’Esclans, which didn’t leave much of an impression. I have not had a lot of experience with Rose’ and am not qualified to judge, but personally I have had other less expensive Rose’ that were more memorable. The Rose’ was just a warm-up for the real star of the show, the Piña Napa Valley wines. Mary Tarpy from Andes Imports Company introduced the two wines we enjoyed. 

Piña Brothers

The Piña family history in Napa Valley is traced back to 1856 when their Spanish ancestors first farmed the land. Over the last century and half they have expanded from growing grapes for others, to the full service Piña Vineyard Management that controls the growth cycle for many of the most famous Napa Valley wineries. The current four Piña brothers, Larry, Davie, Ranndy, and John, have demonstrated their leadership as viticulturists and now have extended that expertise to their own small portfolio of single-vineyard wines from their own vineyards.

The grapes for all Piña wines are from their five exceptional vineyards: the Buckeye Vineyard, the D’Adamo Vineyard, Firehouse Vineyard, the Ames Vineyard, and the Wolff Vineyard. Although they are famous for their single-vineyards wines, we started with the 2008 Cahoots, which is a blend from all five vineyards. The Piña label declares Cahoots "A secret collaboration of wines". In only its second year of release, the winemaker Anna Monticelli says "This balanced wine is very approachable and ready to drink now". Unlike their other Cabernets, this wine is crafted to drink younge. I am pleased to say I had already tasted the 2007 and now have tasted the 2008. Both are great, easy drinking wines.

We closed with the single-vineyard 2007 Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon pared with the Belfry’s signature Chocolate Delight desert. Dave from Cellar 55 describes it as a Cab-lovers Cabernet. I know I enjoyed it, especially with the wonderful chocolate. I enjoyed both wines, but at half the price the Cahoots has found a home in my cellar for those special occasions that beg for a great Napa Valley Cab.

All Piña red wines are bottled in striking black bottles with gold etched text. As happy as I was to consume the contents, Nancy Simison, a fellow wine lover and local glass jewelry artesian, was just as happy to take home the empty bottles. She heats the bottles and gives them new life by creating beautifully etched and functional cheese trays. Nancy's art is available at the Collections Gallery on Jarvis Street in Sandwich, just up from the Belfry. I have one of her trays and enjoy recalling the first experience of the wine as I serve my guest from the tray, a gift that keeps on giving. 

Happy Wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts