Friday, March 29, 2013

Virginia versus the World – A Blind Taste-Off, USA

Picture: The Tasters - (from left to right) Christian Schiller (schiller-wine) Isaac James Baker (Reading, Writing and Wine) Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours) Aaron Nix-Gomez (Hogshead Wine) David White (Terroirist) Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like)

Virginia wineries continue to gain national and international recognition. 10 of them recently won awards at the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The competition, held in June 2012, is the largest international wine competition in America, with more than 4,500 wines from 26 U.S. States and 29 countries competing. In that context, Frank Morgan and David White, recently organized a blind taste-off: Virginia versus the World.

See more:
Virginia Wines Shine in San Francisco - 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition, USA

Vendredi du Vin #54 : Soyons Joueurs!

This posting is being published as part of the Vendredis du Vin, a monthly blog event in France. Participating wine bloggers - mainly in France - are all releasing postings today under the same heading. This month's Vendredi du Vin is orchestrated by Anne Graindorge, recent winner of the Wine Blog Trophy de Loire. The theme is "soyons joueurs!" - "Let us Gamble", on blind tasting.

Picture: Anne Graindorge Tasting Blind

Wine Producer Virginia

Virginia is the 5th largest wine industry in the US, with more than 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards.

In the original charter of the thirteen colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter. Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed.

In 1762, John Carter, who had 1,800 vines growing at Cleve Plantation, sent 12 bottles to the Royal Society of Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in London for their evaluation. Minutes of their meeting on the 20th of October 1762 declared Carter’s wines to be “excellent” and a decision was taken to reward Carter’s efforts with a gold medal for his wines. These were the first internationally recognized fine wines produced in America.

Over the past 30 years or so, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines. Recently, Donald Trump as well as AOL founder Steve Case bought a Virginia winery.

Today, the vitis vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading white varieties.Increasingly they are made without any or with neutral oak, to retain natural acidity and freshness. It appears Viognier is on its way to becoming Virginia’s official “signature grape”.

For French-American hybrid varieties, Seyval Blanc is still popular, but resembles now the fresh and crisp wines from France’s South West. Vidal has become the backbone of the artificially frozen (cryoextraction), ice wine which I am not a great fan of.  Cryoextraction is an approach, developed by the French, which kind of simulates the frost in the vineyard in the wine cellar.

Pictures: At the Tasting

As far as red wines are concerned, there has been a shift from straight varietal wines to blends, with the blends now being dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Mirroring the Virginia white wines, there is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit.

Tannat, Uruguay’ signature grape from the South West of France, is showing up in more Virginia wines, usually as a blend. The only red French American hybrid which has performed consistently well in Virginia is Chambourcin, which resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais.

Finally, Claude Thibault, a native from France, has taken Virginia sparkling wines to a new level. His NV Thibault-Janisson Brut, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at his first state dinner, is as close as you can get to Champagne outside of France.

Washington DC Tasting of March 2013

The tasters were:

Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like),
David White (Terroirist),
Aaron Nix-Gomez (Hogshead Wine). 
Isaac James Baker (Reading, Writing & Wine),
Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours),
Christian Schiller (Schiller-Wine).

Picture: Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours)

Hosted by the Washington Wine Academy, the theme was to pit Virginia Chardonnays and Bordeaux blends against similar, comparatively-priced wines from other regions in the world. We tried to stick to the $18-$35 price range for Chardonnays and $25-$55 for the red blends. While we managed to have all white wines from the 2010 vintage, for the red wines we ended up with wines from2006 to 2009. The wines were all brown-bagged and tasted blind.

Chardonnays: Overall Rankings

The overall rankings were:
•    1st – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru, Bourgogne
•    2nd – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Chardonnay, Virginia and 2010 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay, Virginia
•    4th – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse, Bourgogne
•    5th – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Karia, Chardonnay, California
•    6th – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay, Virginia

Tasting Notes

Here are my tasting notes.

2010 Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros

100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented with 29% undergoing malolactic fermentation, aged for 9 months in medium-toast French oak barrels, alcohol 13.5%.

Off bottle. Not Rated.

2010 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay, Virginia

100% Chardonnay, fermented in oak barrels with inoculated yeasts, 50% underwent malolactic fermentation, aged for nine months in barrel where it underwent regular batonnage.

Light yellow in the glass, notes of honeysuckle, green pears and citrus peel on the nose, a bit bitter on the palate, good finish.

2010 Linden, Hardscrabble, Chardonnay, Virginia

100% Chardonnay, fermented in new and used barrels with cultured and indigenous yeasts, some barrels underwent malolactic fermentation, aged for 10 months on the lees with batonnage, alcohol 14.2%.

Medium gold yellow in the glass, notes of honeysuckle, vanilla on the nose, a rich wine, round on the palate, lovely finish.

For more on Linden Vinyards, see:
Jim Law and Linden Vineyards in Virginia – A Profile, USA

2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru, Bourgogne

100% Chardonnay, alcohol 12.5%.

Light straw yellow in the glass, notes citrus, lemon, honeysuckle on the nose, a crisp and fresh wine, notes of green apple and pear fruit on the palate, long mineral-laden finish.

2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Chardonnay, Karia, Napa Valley

100% Chardonnay, in barrels (83%) and stainless steel tanks (17%) of which 55% underwent malolactic fermentation, aged for 8 months on the lees in 29% new French oak, alcohol 13.5%.

Light yellow in the glass, notes of vanilla and caramel on the nose, a full-bodied wine, notes of ripe pear and melon on the palate, short finish.

2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse, Bourgogne

100% Chardonnay sourced from vines 40-65 years of age, alcohol 13.5%.

Light yellow gold in the glass, beautiful, sweet notes of apricots, lychees on the nose, fresh and crisp on the palate, good texture.

For more on Pouilly-Fuisse, see:
In the Most Prestigious AOC in the Mâconnais: Pouilly-Fuissé, France

2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

100% Chardonnay sourced from vines at 1,830 feet, fermented in stainless steel then aged in barrels, alcohol 13.2%.

Light straw yellow in the glass, notes of spices and vanilla on the nose, lively acidity on the palate, followed by some toast, and spice.

Red Blends: Overall Rankings

The overall rankings were:

•    1st – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous, Virginia
•    2nd – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux
•    3rd – 2008 Dry Creek, Meritage, Sonoma, California
•    4th – 2006 Baron de Brane, Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux, Bordeaux
•    5th – 2008 Barboursville, Octagon, Virginia
•    6th – 2007 Boxwood Winery, Topiary, Virginia
•    7th – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red; Virginia

2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon, France

80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 28-year-old vines, fruit was destemmed and fermented in temperature controlled wooden vats for 25-30 days, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged on the lees in up to 80% new oak barrels for 15-20 months, alcohol 14.5%.

Chateau d'Aiguilhe is one of the wineries of Count Stefan von Neipperg. The von Neipperg portfolio also includes Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere and La Mondotte, 2 of 4 estates promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classés B last year.

Medium cherry in the glass, rich notes of sweet plums, red licorice on the nose, a yummy wine, notes of ripe fruit and chewy tannins on the palate, long finish.

For more on Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon, see:
The Wine Empire of the von Neipperg Family in France, Bulgaria and Germany  

2007 The Boxwood Winery, Topiary, Virginia

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec, alcohol 13.8%.

Medium garnet in the glass, notes of cassis, leather, wet dirt on the nose, nice mouthfeel, soft tannins and creamy blackberry fruit on the palate, good finish with a hint of tobacco.

For more on Boxwood, see:
Boxwood Winery in Virginia: Lunch with Wine Makers Rachel Martin and Adam McTaggert in the Chai between the Tanks – TasteCamp 2012 East Kick-Off, USA

Interestingly, the von Neipperg and the Boxwood wines are "made" by the same winemaker,Stephane Derenoncourt, who consults at both wineries.

See here:
Drinking the Wines of Stephane Derenoncourt at Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere in St. Emilion, Bordeaux, and at Boxwood Vineyard in Virginia, USA

2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous, Virginia

62% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

Medium to dark cherry garnet in the glass, rich notes of sweet roses, toasted oak, dark cherries on the nose, good mouthfeel, spicy tannins, flavors of cranberry sauce and blackberry jam on the palate, impressive depth, too young.

2008 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon, Virginia

Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, fermented in stainless steel tanks, macerated for 10-20 days, aged 12-14 months in new Gamba barriques, alcohol 13.5%.

Light to medium cherry in the glass, notes of cassis, smoke and rhubarb on the nose, a medium-bodied wine with tangy acid and bright tannins on the palate, good finish.

The 2009 Octagon won the 2013 Governor's Cup, see more:
Governor’s Cup Competition 2013, Virginia, USA

2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red, Virginia

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot, alcohol 13.9%.

Medium garnet in the glass, notes of candied cherries, spices on the nose, a medium-bodied wine with notes rhubarb and again spices on the palate, soft finish with some tannins.

2008 Dry Creek Vineyards, Meritage, Sonoma County, California

33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot, aged for 22 months in French and American oak, alcohol 14.5%.

Medium cherry in the glass, notes of fig, loam, leather on the nose, a fruity wine with notes of green pepper and wet earth on the palate, nice finish with a hint of vanilla.

2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux, Bordeaux

70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, aged for 12 months in 20% new barriques, alcohol 13%. The second wine of Chateau Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855.

Medium garnet in the glass, appealing on the nose, with ripe dark fruits and some oak, a medium- to full bodied wine, good acidity, cherries on the palate with a gentle layer of ripe tannins, long finish.

For more on Chateau Brane-Cantenac, see:
An Afternoon with Owner Henri Lurton at Château Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, in Margaux, France

Other Postings about the Event

Isaac James Baker (Reading and Writing, Wine), Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like) and Aaron Nix-Gomez (Hogshead Wine) have already posted about the event on their blog.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tasting Syrah/Shiraz Around the World

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Doug Lehmann at Pearson's in Washington DC

In recent years, I have tasted Syrah/Shiraz with winemakers around the world. In this posting, I am recalling a number of these tastings, with winemakers from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, South Africa, Paso Robles, Berkeley, Austria, Washington State, Oregon and Australia (in no particular order).

Weinrallye # 61: Syrah/Shiraz – a Global Player

This posting is being published as part of the Weinrallye, a monthly blog event in Germany.  Participating wine bloggers - mainly in Germany - are all releasing postings today under the heading " Syrah/Shiraz – a Global Player”.

Weinrallye is the brainchild of Thomas Lippert, a winemaker and wine blogger based in Heidelberg, Germany. This month's wine rally is organized by Susanne Werth-Rosarius (hunderachtziggrad).


Syrah/Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape grown all around the world that tends to produce a powerfully flavored, full-bodied wine, with a peppery and sometimes lusty taste.

Syrah has a long tradition in the Rhone region in the South of France. In Australia, it became popular under the name Shiraz, where it now has long been established as the most grown red grape variety. Some sources suggest that the grape variety originates in the city of Shiraz in Iran, from where it was brought to France and there named Syrah. In the US, it is mostly called Syrah, but should not be confused with Petite Syrah, which is a different grape variety.

The wines that made Syrah famous were those from Hermitage in the northern Rhone valley, in the 18th and 19th century.

Syrah arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and was first planted in Hunter Valley. By the end of the century, Syrah was fully established as one of Australia’s grape varieties. Pinfold’s Grange is the most famous Shiraz from Australia, although it is not 100 percent Shiraz, but a blend.

In the last few decades, Shiraz/ Syrah has enjoyed increased popularity, both in the Old and New World and recently broke into the top 10 of varieties planted worldwide.

Hermitage 2004 and 2005 with Owner/Winemaker Eric Bonnet of Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, at Bistro Vivant in McLean, Virginia, USA

Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique is a family-owned winery in Courthézon in the southern part of the Rhône Valley in France. Eric Bonnet: “My family has been making wine for a number of years now. My great-grandfather started it. He did not bottle the wine he made under his own label, but sold it by barrel to a negociant. My father started to bottle the wine in 1980.” The family owns 38 hectares of vineyards in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC and other areas.

Hermitage 2004 and 2005

Tasting notes: 2004 - Deep ruby in the glass, notes of plum, meat, and spices on the nose, solid acid/tannin backbone on the palate, full-bodied and mouth-filling, more open, more approachable than the 2005. 2005 - Deep ruby in the glass, notes of blackcurrant, gunflint and tobacco on the nose, a bigger nose than the 2004, full-bodied with good acidity and sweet tannin, still a bit closed on the palate. Hermitage is typically at its best between 10 and 20 years after the vintage, but the greatest examples from the strongest years can go on for several decades. This one should be put aside for many years.

Picture: Bistro Vivant Co-Owner Aykan Demiroglu, Eric Bonnet, Winemaker and Co-Owner of Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique and Christian G.E. Schiller at Bistro Vivant in McLean, VA, USA

Dinner with Owner/Winemaker Eric Bonnet of Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France/USA

2008 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah with Winemaker Jean Smit at Boekenhoutskloof in South Africa

From an initial 6000 bottles in 1996, now Boekenhoutskloof’s output is running at 3 million bottles, of which 95% is its second label Porcupine Ridge and the new Wolftrap, and 5% the premium category wines Boekenhoutskloof and The Chocolate Block. Founded in 1776, Boekenhoutskloof is one of the oldest farms in the Franschhoek Valley and has seen a phenomenal development since 1996. It now enjoys a reputation as one of the leading wine estates in South Africa.

Tasting notes: Rich dark berry, black plum, pepper and coffee and mocha on the nose. The palate is rich with plenty of complexity and hints of blackberry, dried cherry, prune, and cranberry.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with winemaker Jean Smit at Boekenhoutskloof

Boekenhoutskloof – Producer of Sensational Premium Wines as well as Good Value Table Wines in Franschhoek

2007 Syrah, Thacher Vineyards, with Sherman Thacher at Thacher Vineyards in Paso Robles, California

Thacher Vineyards is in the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area, which is located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on California’s central coast. More than 26,000 acres are planted to vineyards that provide fruit for Paso Robles wineries and others throughout the state. Today there are more than 170 wineries.

Since 2004, the Thacher Winery - with the grasshopper label - has been hand-crafting wines from vineyards found on the Westside of Paso Robles and in Southern Monterey County. It is a boutique winery that specializes on Rhone blends and Zinfandels. Currently, Thacher Winery produces 1800 cases.

100% Syrah from Coast View Vineyard, Monterey County

Tasting notes of Sherman Thacher: This wine is clear and bright, with a deeply intense shiny purple core, fading to a medium purple rim. Legs are slow and sheeting, with saturated purple color. On the nose, this wine is clean and developing, with medium plus intense aromas of ripe black cherries, French roast coffee beans, vanilla, cedar, plum sauce, cocoa nibs, tar and cola. On the palate this wine is dry, with medium plus firm tannin, medium plus spicy alcohol, medium plus filling body, and medium acid. Flavors are medium plus intense, and include ripe black cherries, vanilla extract, cedar, roasted coffee, black huckleberries, cola, cinnamon and Chinese five-spice. The finish is very long and supported. Firm tannins carry throughout, with dense chocolate and black fruit flavors. Acid to balance. Outstanding. This wine is ready to drink, but has enough structure, depth and complexity of elements to last 5-7 more years.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Sherman Thacher at Thacher Winery in Paso Robl

Visiting Sherman Thacher and his Thacher Winery in Paso Robles, California

2008 Syrah Fenaughty Vineyard with Jared Brandt at his Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley, California

The Donkey and Goat Winery is a wife and husband owned and operated winery located in Berkeley, California, producing “natural” wines. Tracey and Jared Brandt are the "donkey and goat" behind these naturally made wines. Tracey and Jared just make the wine, they do not own vineyards. The wine they make is very special: Tracey and Jared are followers of the natural wine movement. It is a rather new winery, established in 2004.

Jared: It was the first year we made this wine in our Rousseau 4t wooden open top vat. We do not make wine in plastic. Never have and never will. All of our reds are fermented in open top wood vats. The wines like Fenaughty, that go into the 4t vat, benefit from less temperature extremes and longer mid-range temps (in the high 70’s to low 80’s). Like all of our red wines, we only use the machine for whatever level of de-stemming is desired. In this case only we de-stemmed 75% leaving the rest whole cluster. The Fenaughty vineyard also has Viognier planted so we picked a few hundred pounds with the Syrah to result in approximately 3.5% co-fermented Viognier in our final blend. Crushing is achieved via pigeage à pied (foot stomping) and in our Rousseau vat, our stompers must channel their inner Lucy to get the job done. Wild yeasts are employed without nutrients or other enhancers. We punch down by hand up to 3 times daily which is an extreme work out in a 4 ton tank with 25% whole cluster! The cooperage was a mix of 1-3 yr old French oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation was natural and completed by early summer. The wine stayed sur lie for 8 months when it was racked and returned to barrel for the final 12.5 months of aging until the final blend was assembled in early June 2009. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration on July 14, 2009.

Jared’s tasting notes: Tobacco, earth and herbs intermingled with violets grab your olfactory immediately. With a moment to breathe, mineral, fresh meat and spice box come to the fore. Red fruits like cherry, plum and raspberry tickle the palate. Long, firmly structured yet smooth tannins coat the mouth and linger for minutes while you ponder what this wine is and what it will become.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Jared Brandt from the Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley, California. Donkey and Goat Produces in the Middle of Berkeley Natural Wines, where I recently spent a couple of hours with Jared talking about what natural wines is all about.

2009 Syrah Schuettenberg with Franz and Christine Netzl at their Estate in Carnuntum, Austria

The Carnuntum region, which covers an area south east of Vienna and south of the Danube, has a long tradition of viticulture stretching back to Celtic times. It experienced an upswing under the Romans. At some point it was the occasional residence of Roman Caesars. The Carnuntum is rich in Roman remains, including an amphitheatre and a roman palace.

The Netzl Estate is located in the small town of Göttlesbrunn in the Carnuntum. The family has been involved in wine production since 1820. Franz and Christine Netzl are regarded as one of those responsible for the red wine boom in this region.

The vineyard area totals 20 hectares, with holdings in the Aubühel, Bärnreiser, Haidacker, Holzweg, Kräften and Neuberg sites. 80% of the area is planted with the red varieties Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, while the remaining 20% is planted with the white varieties Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Welschriesling. A bottle-fermented sparkling wine is also produced. Annual production is around 80.000 bottles of wine.

The following vintage, 2010, was one of the 3 best Austrian Syrahs produced in this year, according to the Fallstaff Guide:

1. Syrah 2010 – Weingut Toni Hartl, Reisenberg (92 Falstaff-Punkte)
2. Syrah 2010 – Weingut Erich Scheiblhofer, Andau (92 Punkte Falstaff-Punkte)
3. Syrah Schüttenberg 2010 – Weingut Franz und Christine Netzl, Göttlesbrunn (92 Punkte Falstaff-Punkte)

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Christine, Christina and Franz Neztl in Göttlesbrunn in the Carnuntum

Visiting Christine, Christina and Franz Netzl in their Weingut Netzl in Carnuntum, Austria

2009 Murray Syrah with Kelly and Tim Hightower at their Hightower Cellars in Washington State, USA

Hightower Cellars is a small winery in the Red Mountain area of Washington State, owned and managed by the charming husband and wife team Tim and Kelly Hightower.

About half a century ago, there was basically no wine industry in Washington State. And if wine was made, it was not with the noble European vinifera grapes. But the American wine boom that had its origin in California moved to the north, first to Oregon and then it also reached Washington State.

Hightower Cellars is about 200 miles away from Seattle, on the way from Seattle to Walla Walla. The vineyards the Hightowers own are all in the Red Mountain AVA - the land surrounding the Red Mountain – between Benton City and Richland. It is part of the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. The Red Mountain AVA is a small AVA with 600 acres under cultivation of primarily red varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Syrah potentially producing exceptional wines.

2009 Murray Syrah

This 2009 Murray Syrah is the third release of the estate vineyard Syrah. It is 100% from grapes grown on Red Mountain; two different clones of Syrah co-fermented with 5% Viognier.

Tasting notes: The intensity of the vineyard is starting to show even in this young wine. The Syrah is dark red with a floral and brambly berry nose with a hint of tar and creosote. The palate is pleasingly plush, smooth with a continuation of the brambly berry fruit through the finish.

Christian G.E. Schiller with Tim and Kelly Hightower in the Tasting Room

Visiting Kelly and Tim Hightower and their Hightower Cellars in Washington State, USA

2007 Dominio IV Syrah/Tempranillo Blend "Spellbound" with Owner/Winemaker Patrick Reuter at his Dominio IV Winery in McMinnville, Oregon, USA

About two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are in the Willamette Valley. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. But Oregon is not only about Willamette Valley. Oregon’s vineyards span the whole State, rising up and falling over the rolling hills and gentle valleys of more than 12,000 acres (4,858 hectares) of wine grapes. Oregon’s major wine regions are the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. Some regions straddle the border between Oregon and the States of Washington and Idaho.

Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than its southern neighbor California. Oregon's biggest producer ships only 125,000 cases per year and most produce under 35,000 cases. The State features many small wineries which produce less than 5,000 cases per year. In contrast, E & J Gallo Winery, the US’ largest winery, produces about 70 million cases annually. The majority of wineries in Oregon operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market.

With a production of about 5000 cases, Dominio IV is one of the smaller wineries in Oregon.

2007 Dominio IV Syrah/Tempranillo Blend "Spellbound"

Syrah 58% and Temprenillo 42%.

The back label says: “You’re so pretty you’d make any mountain quiver. You’d make fire fly from the crater. If you walk across my camera I will flash the world your story. I will pay you more than money, not by pennies, dimes, nor quarters but with happy sons and daughter. To Leigh from Patrick via Woody Guthrie and Ingrid Bergman.”

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Patrick Reuter in McMinnville

Visiting Patrick Reuter and his Dominio IV Winery in McMinnville, Oregon, US

2009 Peter Lehmann Shiraz with Doug Lehmann of Peter Lehmann Wines in Washington DC, USA

Peter Lehmann Wines is one of Australia's most respected winemakers.  The wines are made from grapes purchased from about 185 independent growers as well as grapes grown in the 4 company-owned vineyards. Many of Peter Lehmann Wines growers’ families have worked the same vineyards for five and, in some cases, six generations. Peter Lehmann Wines produces around 600,000 cases annually with distribution to Australia but also to the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. Today, Peter Lehmann Wines is part of the Donald Hess family. The Barossa Valley in South Australia is one of the best wine-producing regions on Australia, around an hour from Adelaide.

Tasting notes: This is such a classic taste of Barossa Shiraz, with lashings of chocolate and plum aromas and flavors. It’s a big mouthful of fruit with a firm and generous structure delivering all the comfort you’d expect from a Peter Lehmann wine.

Meeting Doug Lehmann of Peter Lehmann Wines at Pearson’s in Washington DC, USA/Australia

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rising Winemakers in Germany: Promotions in the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2013

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Kai Schaetzel in Nierstein

Celebrating Riesling and my Birthday at Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany
A New Fixture in the Reemerging Red Slope of Nierstein - Visiting Kai Schaetzel and his Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany

The Gault Millau WineGuide Deutschland 2013 includes 1080 winemakers of Germany, selected by the American-borne editor Joel B. Payne and his team. This is really the crème de la crème.

The Gault Millau uses a scale of 1 to 5 Grapes. I have reported about the group of 10 winemakers who got in the 2013 Gault Millau WineGuide Deutschland the maximum number of 5 grapes.

Also, each year, the Gault Millau selects a winemaker of the year, a discovery of the year, etc. I have already report about these awards:

Best German Wines and Wine Makers – the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2013 Awards

This posting provides a listing of those winemakers who got promoted in the Gault Millau WineGuide Deutschland 2013.

To 5 Grapes


To 4 Grapes

Jos. Christoffel Jun. (Mosel)
Gut Hermannsberg (Nahe)
Kranz (Pfalz)
Peter Jakob Kühn (Rheingau)
Battenfeld-Spanier (Rheinhessen)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with H. O. Spanier

The Wine Maker Couple H.O. Spanier and Carolin Spanier-Gillot, with Roland Gillot, Lead Wine Tasting of Kuehling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier Wines at Weingut Kuehling-Gillot, Germany

To 3 Grapes

Brogsitter (Ahr)
Konstanzer (Baden)
Weltner (Franken)
Franz-Josef Eifel (Mosel)
Dr. Heinz Wagner (Saar)
Matthias Gaul (Pfalz)
Bernhard Koch (Pfalz)
Bischel (Rheinhessen)
Schätzel (Rheinhessen)
Winzerhof Gussek (Saale-Unstrut)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Andre Gussek in Saale Unstrut

Visiting Andre Gussek and his Weingut Winzerhof Gussek in Saale Unstrut, Germany

To 2 Grapes

Dagernova (Ahr)
Bimmerle (Baden)
Schloss Eberstein (Baden)
Spitalkellerei Konstanz (Baden)
Otmar Zang (Franken)
Gietzen (Mosel)
Johann Peter Reinert (Saar)
Vols (Saar)
Borell-Diehl (Pfalz)
Baron Knyphausen (Rheingau)
Georg Müller Stiftung (Rheingau)
Pfannebecker (Rheinhessen)
Steitz (Rheinhessen)
Zimmerle (Württemberg)

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Peter Winter and Alf Ewald of Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung

A Combination of Extraordinary Wine and Art: Peter Winter's Georg Mueller Stiftung Estate in Germany

To 1 Grape

von der Mark (Baden)
Ernst Popp (Franken)
Regie (Franken)
Josten & Klein (Mittelrhein)
Julian Haart (Mosel)
Schmitt-Weber (Mosel)
Gebrüder Bertram (Ahr)
Bieselin (Baden)
Engelhof (Baden)
Gravino (Baden)
Franz Herbster (Baden)
Kalkbödele (Baden)
Wilhelm Arnold (Franken)
Stadt Klingenberg (Franken)
Mößlein (Franken)
Römmert (Franken)
Rothweiler (Hess. Bergstraße)
Paul Basten (Mosel)
Breiling (Ruwer)
König Johann (Saar)
Lönartz-Thielmann (Mosel)
Axel Pauli (Mosel)
Familie Rauen (Mosel)
Römerhof, Traben-Trarbach (Mosel)
Ludwig Thanisch (Mosel)
Genheimer-Kiltz (Nahe)
Hees (Nahe)
Aloisiushof (Pfalz)
Emil Bauer (Pfalz)
Hollerith (Pfalz)
Krebs (Pfalz)
Uli Metzger (Pfalz)
Karl-Heinz u. Andreas Meyer (Pfalz)
Wolf, Birkweiler (Pfalz)
Bardong (Rheingau)
H. J. Ernst (Rheingau)
K. & K. Dautermann (Rheinhessen)
Kampf (Rheinhessen)
Liebrecht (Rheinhessen)
Schmitt Herrnsheim (Rheinhessen)
Spohr (Rheinhessen)
Wechsler (Rheinhessen)
Werther Windisch (Rheinhessen)
Born (Saale-Unstrut)
Hoflößnitz (Sachsen)
Ungerer (Württemberg)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Ana Eifel Spohr at Brasserie Beck in Washington DC

A German Woman Winemaker with a Full Plate: A Conversation with Ana Eifel Spohr at Brasserie Beck in Washington DC, USA

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rioja, Portugal, Austria, Italy, Turkey …. Rioja – EWBC 2013 Back in Spain

Picture: Gabriella Opaz and Christian G.E. Schiller at the EWBC 2011 in Italy

The sixth annual EWBC Digital Wine Communications Conference will be held in Logroño (Spain) on October 25-27, 2013.

The only international conference dedicated to the convergence of wine and the web, the EWBC - digital wine communications conference is a three-day event that provides a platform for the global wine community to address today's online communications opportunities.

The 2013 conference is sponsored by the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, and organized by Ryan and Gabriella Opaz and Robert McIntosh of social media company Vrazon in partnership with, a site dedicated to Iberian food and wine culture.

2013 sees the EWBC celebrating its sixth anniversary (previous events have been run in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy and Turkey) and an enthusiastic return to Rioja, scene of the very first conference, held in 2008. The conference will take place in and around the northern Spanish city of Logroño, and in other towns of the wine regions of Rioja and Alava, within easy travelling distance of many European locations.

The theme of the 2013 conference is 'Flavour', reflecting the diversity of the world of wine, not just in terms of regions, grape varieties, wines and those who communicate about them, but also suggesting the multitude of shapes, forms and styles that the related communications can take.

To register and for more information, see:

EWBC – Digital Wine Communication Conference

Christian Schiller and EWBC

This will be my third EWBC; I participated in the 2010 conference in Vienna in Austria and in the 2011 conference in Brescia in Italy. I enjoyed these conferences very much.

Here are my postings on schiller-wine.


Picture: Lunch with Silvia Prieler, Weingut Prieler, Schuetzen am Gebirge, Burgenland, Austria in Restaurant Buergerhaus in Rust - see more: Lunch with Silvia Prieler, Weingut Prieler, Schuetzen am Gebirge, Austria

The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

Wine Producer Austria - Not Only Gruener Veltliner

Willi Klinger Leads Tasting of Austria's Undiscovered Stars at EWBC 2010 in Vienna

Picking and Drinking Gruener Veltliner with Ewald Gruber sen. and jun., Weingut Gruber, Weinviertel, Austria

Lunch with Silvia Prieler, Weingut Prieler, Schuetzen am Gebirge, Austria

Chef Martin Weiler Suggests Amazing Food to Go With Gruener Veltliner

Producing Wines in Austria and Hungary - Franz and Franz Reinhard Weninger

With the WienWein Winemakers in Vienna in the Heurigen Drinking Gemischter Satz Wine

Wine and Food from Burgenland at Wachter-Wieslers Ratschen, Deutsch-Schuetzen, Austria - with Tom and Christoph Wachter and Julia Sevenich

Meeting “John” Nittnaus from Gols, Burgenland, Austria

Guerilla Wine Tasting with Gottfried Lamprecht from Herrenhof in Vienna, Austria

Internet Guru and Medical Doctor go Wine: Weingut StephanO in Suedburgenland


Picture: Dinner with Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti at Badia a Coltibuono - for more see: Wining and Dining at Badia a Coltibuono in Tuscany with Wine Makers and Owners Roberto and Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti, Italy

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

The Up and Coming Premium Sparklers of Franciacorta (#EWBC), Italy

The Premium Sparklers of il Mosnel, Franciacorta, Italy

The 1 Star Michelin Food of Chef Stefano Cerveni from the due colombe Ristorante and the Premium Sparklers of il Mosnel, Franciacorta - Wining and Dining at il Mosnel, Italy

An Apero at Zucca in Galleria in Milano, Italy

Wining, Dining and Blogging in Chianti Classico (#EWBC), Tuscany, Italy

Dining and Wining where the Royals Eat: Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano – the Butcher of Chianti Classico

Meeting Wine Maker Paolo Cianferoni at his Caparsa Estate in Chianti Classico, Italy

Wining and Dining at Badia a Coltibuono in Tuscany with Wine Makers and Owners Roberto and Emanuela Stucchi Prinetti, Italy

Extraordinary Art and Wines at Castello di Ama in Chianti Classico, Italy

Tasting Wines where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was Born – With Wine Maker and General Manager Francesco Nardi at Vignamaggio Estate in Chianti Classico, Italy

Visiting Barone Francesco Ricasoli and his Castello di Brolio in Chianti Classico, Italy

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

Christian G.E. Schiller’s Views on Soave – a Video Interview

Visiting Balestri Valda in Soave, Italy

Meeting the Winemakers of the Soavecru Association in the Palazzo Vescovile in Monteforte d’Alpone, Soave, Italy

A Visit of Cantina di Soave, Soave, Italy

Meeting American Wine Journalist/Writer George M. Taber (who was Present at the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting), USA

How Recioto di Soave - a Dessert Wine - is Made: In Le Sponde Room of the Coffele Winery in Soave, Italy

Annette Schiller and Ombiasy Wine Tours

Picture: Annette Schiller, Ombiasy Wine Tours and Henri Lurton, Château Brane Cantenac 2ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux

This time, I will be joined by Annette Schiller, founder and owner of Ombiasy Wine Tours.

See more here on Annette's upcoming trips to Germany and Bordeaux:
Ombiasy Wine Tours: Wine and Culture Tour to Germany Coming up in August 2013
Ombiasy Wine Tours: Bordeaux Trip Coming up in September 2013 
Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Station – Virginia Oysters in Washington DC, USA

Picture: Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market in Washington DC

In my home country Germany, oysters are very high on the list of any food aficionado, but you do not see them often on menus in restaurants nor is there a significant number of oyster bars in Germany. By contrast, in France, oysters are almost a daily staple, at least during the season. Similarly, at both coasts of the US, oysters are part of daily life. In Washington DC, supermarkets tend to have a nice seafood selection, including oysters and there are many oyster bars and restaurants that serve oysters at their bar.

One oyster bar in the Washington DC area that has received quite some attention in recent weeks is the Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market. It is the Washington DC outlet of a Virginia oyster producer - Rappahannock River Oysters - and only serves oysters it produces.

The Chesapeake Bay and Rappahannock River Oysters

The Chesapeake Bay – the largest estuary of the USA - used to be an area, where oysters would flourish. Virginia and Maryland combined to harvest 30 - in some years even 40 - million pounds oysters every year. But since the 1960s, oyster production in the Chesapeake Bay has collapsed to less than 1 percent of what it used to be. Efforts are underway to reverse this dire development. Virginia protects oysters with large sanctuaries in public waters but allows watermen to harvest them on a rotating basis about every two years. The state also strongly encourages private aquaculture, selling plots of riverbed or bay floor to oyster farmers.  Maryland is only beginning to develop aquaculture.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Travis Croxton at the Rappahannock River Oysters Farm

For more, see:
Tasting Virginia Chesapeake Bay Oysters with Oyster Producer Travis Craxton at the Rappahannock River, USA 

Rappahannock River Oysters – run and owned by Travis Croxton, who I met recently at the Chesapeake Bay and cousin Ryon Croxton - is among those innovative growers, who use aquaculture to produce quality oysters. Currently, their output reaches 4 million oysters per year.

The origins of Rappahannock River Oysters can be traced all the way back to 1899. It was in that year that 24-year-old James Arthur Croxton, Jr., purchased five acres of leased river bottom in the Rappahannock River near Bowlers, Virginia.

Farm Manager Patrick Oliver: “Our oysters are grown from seed (1/8”) to market-size (3” plus) in trays in the water. This method allows us to produce a healthy, clean oyster by growing it up off of the bottom. We're apt to brag that Rappahannock River Oysters grows only Crassostrea virginica, the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster. Our techniques for growing our celebrated bivalve have changed a little since Rappahannock River Oysters's early days. Today our oysters are grown "off bottom," positioned squarely in the water column where food quality and quantity are greatly improved. Not only do the oysters grow faster, they grow richer, plumper, and rounder - and all under our watchful eye. We monitor salt and temperature levels, guard against predators, cull out slow growers and misshapen shells - all to ensure that the customer gets a consistently healthy, attractive, and succulent oyster.”

Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market in Washington DC

Union Market is a new artisanal food market in NE Washington DC with a long history. In 1931, Union Terminal Market opened at 4th Street and Florida Avenue NE, Washington DC. Meats, fish, dairy and produce were sold by approximately 700 vendors. In 1967, a new indoor market was built a few blocks away at 1309 5th Street NE, which is the current site of the revitalized Union Market. During the 1980s, many of the original merchants left the area and moved to modern distribution centers and supermarkets in the suburbs. 

Pictures: Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market

Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market is a 20-seat bar, flanked by a communal table and patio seating. The regular selection of raw oysters comprises the 3 kinds of oysters  Rappahannock River Oysters grows: Rappahannocks, Stingrays and Olde Salts. Down the road, Travis Croxton anticipates offering “guest oysters” from elsewhere in the country. In addition, the menu includes steamed Olde Salt clams, oyster chowder with bacon, crab cakes, and grilled tuna loin with local peppers, tomatoes, and mojo de ajo. Travis Croxton says they plan to change the menu seasonally.

Pictures: Crab Cake, Olde Salt Clams

Rappahannock Oyster Bar has a good wine selection; I had a nice Tarara Viognier from Virginia. On tap, we found DC Brau's The Corruption, Chocolate City Beer's Cornerstone Copper Ale, and 3 Stars Brewing Company's Southern Belle and Urban Farmhouse. There are also bottles of Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, which is brewed with Rappahannock's oysters.

The Oysters we Tasted

We tasted 3 kinds of oysters.


Location: Topping, Virginia
Salt Range: 13-17 ppt.
Species: Crassostrea virginica (native)
Grow-out Method: Aquaculture
Taste Profile: Deep cupped and mineral rich, with an understated saltiness that lets the oyster's natural flavor come though, our Rappahannocks offer up a sweet, buttery, full-bodied taste with a refreshingly clean, crisp finish. It's the very same oyster we started growing in 1899.

Pictures: Oysters on the Half Shell


Location: Ware Neck, Virginia
Salt Range: 17-22 ppt.
Species: Crassostrea virginica (native)
Grow-out Method: Aquaculture
Taste Profile: Drawn from the pristine waters of Mobjack Bay, Stingrays are the quintessential Chesapeake Bay oyster: sweet and mildly briny with a clean, crisp finish. Named after the Bay oyster's chief predator, these Stingrays bite back!

Olde Salt

Location: Chincoteague Bay, Virginia
Salt Range: 28-33 ppt.
Species: Crassostrea virginica (native)
Grow-out Method: Aquaculture
Taste Profile: The truest taste of the ocean, our Olde Salt oyster brings together a bold sea-side brininess with a smooth, clean follow-through. Grown off the coast of Chincoteague (think Misty), our Olde Salt oyster is more than a classic, it’s a legend.

For more on the different kinds of oysters, see:
Oysters and Wine

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

New Hampshire, US: Cheese ... Lobster and Oysters ... and Wine!

Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Pessac-Leognan Wine in Bordeaux City, France

Oysters and Wine

The Best Wines for US West Coast and Other Oysters

West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

Maryland Crabs and Wine, USA

Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

A Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Pessac-Leognan Wine in Bordeaux City, France

Schiller's World of Seafood

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

Oysters - and Wine - at Zuni Café in San Francisco, USA

The 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition - 10 Oyster Wines

>Tasting Virginia Chesapeake Bay Oysters with Oyster Producer Travis Craxton at the Rappahannock River, USA