Sunday, March 11, 2012

All Dressed In White....or perhaps just Naked.

You know when you decide to buy a car but before you make the purchase, the model you have been eying seems to turn up everywhere? That has been my experience lately, only with Blanc de Pinot Noir. I'm not sure how this wine flew below my radar or perhaps it is becoming a "trend." Having recently spoken to a winery who is considering making one, my fear is that it may become trendy. I have a strong dislike for trends in the wine industry but I won't rant about that in this post. Either way, new style or trend, I'm intrigued and on a mission to learn more.

Luckily, for us wine nerds, this isn't another grape variety to memorize on top of the approximate 10,000 already in existence. (Which, by the way, I have all memorized.) It is a style of wine making which takes pinot noir grapes and separates the skins from the juice immediately, similar to how white wine is made...hence, "blanc" de pinot noir. Without the skin contact, the red colour which we know to be pinot noir, does not have time to develop. So...what does it taste like you ask? Well, I had the privilege of sipping one producer so far, the Novy Family Winery out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

As I sipped the 2010 Novy Family, Blanc de Pinot Noir, I couldn't quite place my finger on what I was experiencing right away. The wine was very tart, high in acidity, slightly blush in colour and was very subtle in smell and on the palette. After I let the wine warm up a little, I was able to get roses on the palette along with some minerality and citrus fruits. I struggled to find really strong fruit characteristics or structure besides the high acidity. But this is when I realized the wine reminded me of sparkling wines. In particular, champagne. Imagine a fine champagne without the bubbles: tart, subtle but a delight with seafood and salads. And since pinot noir is often used in champagne production, it all made sense. It's pinot without the colour or the's not white, it's just completely naked.

As I move forward with my exploration of other naked pinot noirs, I will be interested to see how they compare to the Novy Family in order to get a better overall understanding for this style of wine. I don't want to make any overarching judgement, but I am curious to taste more. After all, test driving wines are a hell of a lot more fun than test driving cars! ;)

Do you have any recommendations of Blanc de Pinot Noir to try? Let me know!

Charlotte :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love for Oregon Wines

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Happy Valentine's Day everyone!! It's no secret that I have a serious love affair with wine so upon my relocation to Portland, Or., it is also no surprise that I didn't waste much time diving right into some serious wine tasting. This past weekend, after visiting the beautiful but dormant rose garden, my family and I decided to warm up at the bar of Southpark Seafood. Being the wine geek that I am, the wine list provided some great reading material. (Seriously, if you want to have a conversation with me over dinner don't take me to a restaurant that has a great wine list, my nose will remain in the book for the majority of the meal.)

After a much agonizing decision making process, I settled on a 2010 Domaine des Cassagnoles Colombard, Petit Manseng and Ugni Blanc blend. I know, I know not from Oregon but from the Gascony region south of Bordeaux. But this was one hell of a wine retailing for around $12 a bottle! This wine encompassed everything I love about white wine. It has minerality, white flowers, chalk and even a grassy element. Doesn't sound like the most appealing combination but trust me on this one.

With my palate excited by this french white blend, I was ready to transition to some Oregon pinots. When in Rome, right? This lead me to taste two pinots from Belle Pente. Based in the Yamhill-Carlton region of the Willamette Valley and founded by Jill and Brain O'Donnell in 1994. It is an organic and biodynamic vineyard site with just over 16 acres planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. The 2007 Belle Pente Murto really stood out to me. Heavier in body than the 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and paired great with the cheese plate. Both wines provided great complexity and subtleness, I highly recommend checking them out.

Lastly, I tasted a wine which truly blew me away! Immediately after smelling and tasting this wine, I was convinced it was from Europe. I would have argued it to my death but even best trained palates can be taken by surprise which is what I love so much about wine! This amazing wine was the 2008 Ransom Cabernet Franc. Unlike any Cab Franc I have tasted being produced in the states before. I immediately felt like I was sitting on the coast of Spain. This is a winery high on my list to visit. They were recently featured in this month's Oregon Wine Press, you can read more about them here. They also distill spirits which includes a Gewurztraminer Grappa! Oh my, here I come!

With many more winery visits lined up over the next couple of weeks, you can be sure I will be sharing more of my Oregon tasting experiences!

Sending each of you lots of love and may you experience some romance in a bottle today!

Charlotte :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Change is Gonna Come

Wow! I don't know about you but January has flown by! I embraced this new year with open arms and strong convictions and with the recent start to the Chinese New Year, I feel like I have been spending the whole month celebrating a fresh start. While there is a lot of truth to that last statement, I am also gearing up for the major changes this week, which is why I have been MIA on the web circuit - I apologize.

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I have spent a  lot of the last month listening, reflecting and growing. Four and a half years ago, I packed up my Honda Civic, blasted Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" and moved to Sonoma sight unseen.

I have since immersed myself in the Californian wine industry working in both Sonoma and primarily San Francisco. Living, breathing and tasting wine. I have met an amazing network of friends and like-minded "winos". As my passion for wine continues to grow and yes, as I get older, I'm realizing that in order to embrace life in a way which matters the most to me, it is time I embrace some changes in order to "redesign" my life.

So without further ado, I have TWO huge announcements:

1) I am taking a "sabbatical" of sorts and relocating to the Portland, Oregon area. I grew up in the area and I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family in addition to getting to know the rapidity growing NW wine industry. Bay Area, please don't cry, you will always be home to me and I plan to be back shortly.

2) Keep your eyes on this blog/webpage...not only is a "face-lift" on the way but The Wine Key will become a center for wine education offering coaching and fun lessons on wine. Starting in February, I will become dedicated to teaching about wine and can't wait to interact closer with my readers and clients. Stay tuned for more. :)

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As I spent the next couple of weeks enjoying my beloved San Francisco, I am feeling empowered by change and excited for my new journey. Oregon wine friends, feel free to reach out, I would love to connect once settled!

Finally, as to not leave you completely wine deprived, here are a couple of wines I am currently gushing over:

Sandhi Wines from Santa Barbara. I recently tried their inaugural 2009 vintage out wine world, this is a game changer! I plan to do a full write-up on this one soon.

Benito Santos Albarnio 2010 Rias Baixas: This is what I consider to be a true expression of a Spanish albranio. Crisp, medium rich mouth feel, full of sophisticated citrus fruits including apple and a flavorful finish.

Looking forward to sharing my journey with you!

Charlotte :)