November 8, 2010

November Wines of the Month

All-American Wines

It’s November and what a day today has been!

Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away and we wanted to do wines from unusual places in the United States or wines that are unusual for their area!

Tier One


Oregon isn’t that unusual of a place for wines from the United States, you say. You’re correct. That said, not a lot of wine is produced in the Illinois Valley in extreme southwestern Oregon; and, few of the wines are blends.

Only 7 miles from the California line, located in the Siskiyou Mountains, Foris Winery is the southernmost winery in the Pacific Northwest. This winery’s location in the Illinois Valley provides it with a climate that is similar to Alsace during the growing season – warm days and chilly nights. This diurnal temperature shift helps give the wines vibrant acidity and crispness. Unlike the rain-prone Willamette Valley, Illinois Valley has dry summers and falls.

Foris is a family-owned winery that Ted and Meri Gerber founded in 1971 when they bought acreage, built a house and began planting grapes in the remote Illinois Valley. For years, they grew grapes and sold them to other vintners. In 1986, they began making wine and haven’t looked back since.

Today, the winery is still family-owned and family-run.

The “Fly-Over” wines are so-named because the Illinois Valley is located midway between Northern Oregon’s Willamette Valley and California’s Napa & Sonoma Valleys. Much of the national wine press ignores this area.

The White

Foris Fly-over White 2008 (Rogue River, Oregon) $11.99 – This is a delicious, easy-drinking wine that will pair well with Thanksgiving Dinner and many other foods. Aromas and flavors of pears, apples, figs and baking spices. Medium-bodied with a nice softness from aging on lees. Crisp, clean finish. Blend of 61% Pinot Blanc, 22% Pinot Gris and 17% Chardonnay. Fermented and aged on their lees in stainless steel for 3 months. The lees are stirred bi-weekly to add richness and enhance the fruit flavors. 832 cases made. Food pairing – Thanksgiving Dinner, smoked salmon, shellfish, roasted chicken or duck. Drinks nicely without food.

The Red

Foris Fly-over Red 2009 (Rogue River, Oregon) $12.99 – This is fly-over times two. To find the best fruit at the best prices and keep this wine moderately priced, Foris flew over the Willamette Valley to Yakima in Washington and bought grapes from a 30-year-old winery. This has a deep, dark color. Aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, mocha, blackberries and dark cherries. This has some bigger chewy tannins, so I prefer it with food. Blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. 4,583 cases made. Food pairing – A hearty meal such as a steak, roast, lamb, etc.!

Tier Two


Arizona Stronghold is a winery founded by Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer for Tool, as well as being a moviemaker (a movie about his starting this winery) and more. He is best known as the lead singer of the multi-platinum rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Moving to Arizona in 1995, Keenan began his quest to make wine and has produced excellent wines through his labels Caduceus, Merkin and Arizona Stronghold.

Many Americans know of the “Four Corners” area where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah border each other. This area is also home to the great Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range arcing northward from Mexico into the US. This is another “Four Corners,” the Madrean. Sonora, Chihuahua, New Mexico and Arizona were once the homeland of the Chiracahua Apache, the mighty Chocise’s tribe.

The Arizona Stronghold Winery and Vineyards are near Sedona (just south of Flagstaff). The vineyards are at altitudes of 3,200 – 4,800 feet.

The White

Arizona Stronghold “Tazi” White 2008 (Arizona) $22.99 - This is a vibrantly aromatic white with aromas of tropical fruit, oranges, apples and pears. The flavors are loaded with fruit and minerals. Notes of citrus fruit at the start and minerals on the finish. The Chardonnay adds body and texture to the blend; although they harvest early to avoid too much softness. The Sauvignon Blanc adds a refreshing acidity. Riesling adds fruit to the aromas and flavors. Malvasia adds a ton to the aromas. Blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Malvasia Bianca. Aged in stainless steel and neutral oak. 1967 cases made. Tazi was Chocise’s eldest son and the peacemaker for the Chiracahua Apache. Food pairing - Enjoy with Oysters, Shellfish, Caesar Salads, Thai Curried Vegetables and Fettuccini Alfredo. Serve this a little warmer than you normally do white wine – at about 58-60 degrees….this will enable each grape to be in balance.

The Red

Arizona Stronghold “Nachise” Red 2008 (Arizona) $22.99 - . This has a lot of spice, dark fruit, red berry and a brambly earthy quality (wet leaves in the fall). The aromas also have lavender, sage, blueberries, blackberries and ground pepper notes. The mouth is loaded with lush, rich fruit. The long finish has nice drying tannins and a wildberry characteristic. Blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre and Counoise. Aged in neutral oak barrels. The Syrah is from a clone from Australia (Shiraz-1) so this has some Australian as well as Côtes-du-Rhône characteristics. 2009 barrels made. Food pairing - Great with any type of game, roast lamb and grilled vegetables.

Tier Three


The White

Westport River Winery Blanc de Noirs Brut 2000 (Massachusetts) $32.99 – This is a delicious sparkling wine made just like Champagne from Champagne grapes. Westport River Winery was founded in 1986 by the Russell Family (they also founded Buzzards Bay Brewing Company). It is the largest New England winery and it makes internationally-known wines, including sparkling wines that rival great champagnes. This is one of them. If you are looking at a “green” holiday and want to serve sparkling wine, pick this. It tastes great and getting it here is a short journey! The Blanc de Noirs is a blend of estate-grown Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (just as Blanc de Noirs Champagne is). These are the two “black” grapes of Champagne. They come together to make a juicy wine that has a tart, crisp finish. The winery is between New Bedford and Fall River and is located north of Buzzards Bay. Food pairing – Thanksgiving Dinner and toasts, Asian food.

The Red

This is from the same winemaker as the Tier 2 wines from Arizona Stronghold.

Caduceus Nagual de la Naga 2007 (California/Arizona) $42.99 – Big, bodacious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from Ranchito Canyon Vineyards in Pleasant Valley in Paso Robles. The wine is made in Arizona at the same winery as the Arizona Stronghold wines. Maynard James Keenan expects to be able to make this wine from exclusively Arizona grapes within a few years.

This is Maynard James Keenan’s take on a Californian Super Tuscan. Like many great wines from Bolgheri in Tuscany, this is not just made from Tuscan grapes – it adds Cabernet Sauvignon.

This has those classic Sangiovese cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors. The Cabernet adds A LOT of weight and depth and ripe, dark fruit to the aromas and flavors. It also has aromas and flavors of figs, dark berries, prunes and other dried fruits. This is a big, rich mouthful of wine! The vines are hand-pruned and “green” harvested to reduce yield and increase quality. The grapes are hand-harvested. Food pairing – steak, braised lamb, veal shanks, etc.

No comments: