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Marsanne

I’ve loved white Rhône blends since well before I learned that’s what these wines were actually called. For those of you in that camp now, white Rhône blends (or “Rhône-style” blends if from somewhere other than the actual Rhône Valley) are primarily blends of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Sometimes lesser known grapes like Clairette or Grenache Blanc are added – particularly in the Southern Rhône.

White Rhône wines range from zesty with flavors of bright citrus to full bodied with floral and honey notes. The higher the percentages of Viognier and Marsanne in the blend, the more likely the wine falls into the latter category.

I first discovered Viognier around 2005 and remember being thrilled to find an alternative to my usual Chardonnay. (I can’t be the only one who started out pronouncing it Vie-og-knee-er, can I?) 😉 And while this remains a favorite varietal of mine, I’ve recently become more intrigued by its blending partner – Marsanne.

I’ve sipped on a couple of white Rhône-style blends lately, and got to thinking how perfect these wines are for this time of year. While I love my zippy summer porch pounders, I’m wanting something with a little more weight and texture right now. And these hit the spot:

Rôtie Cellars 2016 ‘Southern White’, Walla Walla Valley. 12.5% abv. Blend of 50% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne. Tons of fruits going on here – ripe peach and apricot on the nose, baked lemon square and peach nectar on the palate. Crisp acidity, maybe from the cooler Walla Walla climate or the nice percentage of Roussanne in the blend.

Cornerstone Cellars 2016, El Dorado Marsanne/Roussanne, David Girard Vineyard, California. 14.1% abv. Blend of 47% Marsanne, 47% Roussanne and 6% Viognier. Beautiful floral, peach and honeydew melon aromas. Rich and weighty mouthfeel. Slight bitter note on the finish. Not a shy wine.  This would definitely be a go-to winter white for me.

Unfortunately, it’s rather challenging to find single varietal Marsanne wines – the grape is usually a supporting player to the more well-known Viognier. Nonetheless, it does make for a delicious blending partner, or solo artist, if you can find it (Rôtie Cellars often puts out a good one)! Here’s more about Marsanne.

Vougeot AOC

Exactly one year ago, my hubs and I were in France for two weeks trying to cram in as many of my favorite wine regions as we possibly could. We did amazingly well – visiting Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais and both the Northern and Southern Rhône. And while I loved each of these places, I would honestly put Burgundy at the bottom of my list.

It certainly wasn’t the wines of the region – in fact one of my favorite bottles of the trip was a Pernot Belicard Puligny-Montrachet (and a Bouvier Gevrey Chambertin was up there as well). Rather, it was the overarching pretentious attitude that seemed to permeate the region. Granted, we were staying at a 5 star hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant just outside of Beaune. But while I can swing 5 stars America style – the French take it to a whole new level that’s just way outside my comfort zone. :-/

That being said, there were definitely moments when I felt like I was experiencing the real Burgundy . . . like when we pulled off the side of RN74 to watch some workers busy at harvest, or wolfed down Beef Bourguignon at a small, crowded little bistro in Beaune.   These experiences were much more memorable than the fancy schmancy hotel or restaurant with a menu full of items I couldn’t pronounce or identify WTF they were when they were served.

So perhaps it’s rather ironic that I recently joined the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin – a group described as “an exclusive bacchanalian fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts.” Just typing that makes my eyes roll it sounds so incredibly pretentious.

Historically, the Confrérie has consisted of older, wealthy, white men (shocking, I know). My “liberal and casual” local chapter was looking to add more women and younger people. Since I can’t remember the last time my 44 year old self was included in the classification “younger people” – I was intrigued. And having access to a cellar full of Burgundy wines doesn’t hurt either. 😉

The Château du Clos de Vougeot is the headquarters of the Confrérie, so I figured I should know something about this area prior to my official “knighting” ceremony – fascinating history of this place, here’s the Vougeot outline.

And P.S. – so far, what I’ve seen of my fellow Chevaliers is a bunch of wine loving individuals who don’t take themselves too seriously. And I’m at least a decade younger than most of them. 🙂

Stags Leap District

As one of the many perks of my industry, I toured Napa Valley last month on a whirlwind business trip. Admittedly (and somewhat embarrassingly – since it’s less than a 2 hour flight away), I hadn’t visited this area in several years . . . back when I could barely afford to drink these wines or Napa’s hefty tasting fees.

SL new vines
New vines being planted at Stags’ Leap

To be honest, with most Napa Valley wines, I tend to write them off as too big and boldly fruity, too alcoholic and tannic, overpriced and overhyped. (Should I tell you how I really feel?) And although this trip didn’t dispel all these generalizations, I did find myself enjoying the wines more than I thought I would – particularly those from Stags Leap District. One of the 16 (and counting!) different sub-AVAs of the Napa Valley.

Wines from this area tend to be softer and more elegant than other Napa wines, plus it has a pretty colorful history – here’s the outline on the Stags Leap District AVA.

 

Vacqueyras AOC

I’ve been taking the Rhône Valley “Master Level” program through the Wine Scholar Guild for the past few months, so lately I’ve been completely immersed in all things Rhône related.  Which is not a bad place to be!

Although I’m confident in my knowledge of the Northern Rhône, the South hasn’t come quite as easily.

Maybe it’s because there are about 27 permitted grape varieties in the South compared to only four in the North. Or because the Southern Rhône represents a whopping 95% of the area’s total production. But it’s likely due to the fact that one of my best wine days ever occurred last Fall when my hubby & I did a private all day tour of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Places I’ve visited in person tend to stick better in my brain.

Whatever the reason, I decided to pick a Southern Rhône Cru at random (congrats Vacqueyras!) and do a more detailed outline on that region. At least then I’m guaranteed to nail exam questions on this area. 😉 Here’s the Vacqueyras outline.

[Note: There was some conflicting information among sources while I was putting together this outline. Since I’m taking the exam through the WSG, I went with their materials – even if they differed from GuildSomm. As a general rule though, I prefer and trust GuildSomm as a resource pretty much above everything else.]

Discrepancy between WSG and GS:

Rosé required blend

Per WSG: Grenache – minimum 60%, Mourvédre & Cinsault – minimum 15%

Per GS: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (but no single variety may account for more than 80%), maximum 10% other varietals allowed for rouge wines

Ancient Lakes AVA

It’s the waning weeks of summer, but we’ve (thankfully!) still had plenty of sunny and toasty days here in the PNW. Although I drink whites consistently year-round, it’s during this time of year that I often reach for them to refresh and cool down. I don’t want anything heavy or serious. Just pour me a crisp, uncomplicated porch pounder and I’m good to sit on the deck (or in my bedroom with A/C) for hours.

I love acid bomb whites. Gramercy Cellars’ Picpoul (which appropriately translates to “lip stinger”) is one of my favorite summer staples. Both wines below are reminiscent of this wine, but both really push the boundaries of acidity. They’re on the edge of being too much.

Since I had these wines back to back, and noticed that they were both from the same region, I was curious as to why these had such high acidity. What is it about Ancient Lakes that produces such bright & zesty white wines? What else does this region produce? What makes this region special and unique?

central_WA_ancient_lakes
Ancient Lake AVA boundaries

Palencia Albariño 2016, Ancient Lakes AVA. 12.5% abv. Pale lemon. Aromas of lemon, chalk, and wet stones. Lighter bodied, high acidity with flavors of lemon, tart yellow pear and lime zest. This is a super easy to drink wine, but not necessarily one to sit and ponder. It’s fairly simple. Zippy and refreshing.

Wines

Efeste ‘Feral’ Evergreen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Ancient Lakes AVA. 12.5% abv. More of a pale lemon-green hue on this wine. On the nose, grapefruit, grass, lime zest and herbal notes. Same on the palate, but with a touch of salinity. And holy acidity!

Here’s my outline on the Ancient Lakes AVA – an area you definitely want to check out if you like crisp whites, and reds with a good dose of acidity as well.