Unique Beauty Shines When You’re Single

There is a time in your life when you want to just blend in.  You want to look like everyone else,  dress like your peers, sound like your peers, and are mortified when the attention is all on you.  Or maybe that was just me.  But thank God, that time is short-lived.  Sometimes, it takes the support of others to put yourself out there, but, hopefully, you wean yourself from the need for a wingman.  There comes a time when you can unapologetically speak your truth.  You become uniquely you and are  proud of the things that make you shine, that make you stand out from the others.

At first glance, this looks like an Atta-Girl-Self-Help blog.  And, in typical form, there is a bit of truth in that.  But this is actually about the grape.  Specifically, the Single Vineyard variety.   Today is Wine Blogging Wednesday 75.  For over six years, fellow lovers of the vine have been sharing their insight about a variety of topics.  Today, Joe Roberts is hosting “Singles Night.”   I have been looking forward to it all month.  Unfortunately, a cold has conspired against me and my palate is shot, so I chose to adjust my original plan.  I had planned to taste a Wellington Cab that I have been holding, but I want to do it justice, so I went to a large supplier here in Austin to find something that was more readily available and less costly.  With some help, I chose 2007 Morandé Edición Limitada Carménère.

Carménère has been mistaken as a Cabernet Sauvignon clone in France.  It was thought to be a Merlot clone in Chile.  It was trying to blend in, but it is now being seen more for who it is on its own.  In fact, as old as the varietal is, it wasn’t recognized as a distinct variety in Chile until 1998.  It took some time for Carménère to step into the spotlight.

The grapes come from San Bernado Vineyard in The Maipo Valley which is temperate with a dry, hot summer and a rainy winter.  The soil is sand, stones, and clay with good drainage.   It is produced in small quantities and aged for 16 months in French Oak.

The color is a rich crimson with hues of violet as to be expected from Carménère.  The nose, well, I am the wrong person to ask right now, but it is spicy for sure.  I think it needs to open because I am getting a lot of alcohol.  The flavor, spicy and full-bodied.  Earthy leather and some black fruit that I can’t discern.  The finish is smoother than I expected from the nose.   Which has, in fact, softened with some air.  My co-taster (aka hubby) picked up black cherry, plum, cocoa.  I am a fan of Carménère, for sure.  I like how it is bold, yet drinkable.  The tannins a bit softer, but it is still sturdy.  Some that I’ve had were a bit harsh, with something to prove, but this one seems quite comfortable in its skin (ahem).  A smoky, smooth finish, this is one I would get again.

The beauty of Single Vineyards is, I think, in being able to compare them to one another as I did with the Rieslings at Lamoreaux Landing.  I wish I had another Carménère from a different vineyard to note the differences, although that might be wasted on me at this point in time.  The differences would have to be pretty pronounced for me to pick them up right now.

Blending is typically a beautiful thing when it is done right.  It can bring out the best in both grapes.  Rough edges can be smoothed.  What was a bit flat can be brought to life.  Too much acid can be softened.    When conditions get rough, even the sturdiest grapes need a partner.  A difficult season or a small harvest happens to the best of them.  But there are as many times when the right conditions allow, no, command that a grape is seen on its own.  In its purest form.  When it has a chance to shine.  When we can see why, given the right conditions, the proper care, it deserves to be seen for all that makes its beauty unique.

An Ode to Vintners, Viticulturists, and lovers of the vine

In honor of today being March 12th, Deed Day at Gundlach Bundschu, I thought it was only appropriate that I dedicate this post to the Bundschu Family, other farmers of the vine, and all wine lovers in general. Although I have had an affinity for the product of the science, I had not done much digging into oenology until last year when doing research for the Deed Day Poetry competition.  My desire to learn about the nuances of winemaking, the histories of the  families, and viticulture has only grown since then.   

154 years ago, Jacob Gundlach purchased the 400 acres in Sonoma.  Six generations later, through prohibition, San Francisco’s quake, and the renaissance of the Napa/Sonoma wine industry, the Bundschu Family carries on the tradition of making fabulous wines.  They continue to honor the past, while adapting to modern technologies.  Amazing people, an amazing place, and amazing wine. I hope you enjoy the piece I wrote to commemorate the celebration last year. Cheers!

He retraces the steps of those that came before him

Balancing the yoke of four generations

Sorrows of the past, visions of the future 

Early blossoms cover pear trees

Bud break, Energy, pooled

Bark pulling away, ready for growth

 The time for grafting

A merger of strength and resistance

New Hope at Rhinefarm

 

He retraces the steps of those that came before him

Balancing the yoke of five generations

Replanting the past, visions of the future

Hues of fruit are changing

Prune the tested vine,

Flesh develops, the yield is set

The time of Veraison

Forging toward fruition

New Hope at Rhinefarm

 

He retraces the steps of those that came before him

Balancing the yoke of six generations

Honoring the past, visions of the future

Toasted leaves curl on tired vines

Energy poured into fruit

Bursting on the vine

The time for harvest has come

Inspiration, Innovation flourish

New Hope at Rhinefarm

 

A Sunny Saturday at Solaro

It is hard to beat Austin in March.  The Mountain Laurels, with their grape scented clusters, are in full bloom.  The landscape is painted with every green you can imagine.  The sky, cerulean and vast, illuminates the rebirth.  It is almost criminal to stay inside.  So when my parents offered us a date this past weekend, there was only one thing on my mind- a Hill Country Winery.

There are several wineries within a thirty minute drive of Austin, and I have hit most of them, but I was looking for a new adventure.  My husband and I decided it was time to hit Solaro Estate in Dripping Springs. 

This winery is truly a labor of love.  The family has incorporated the Old World traditions from their family winery in Solaro, Italy.  The wines are produced using only grapes grown in Texas.   Some are grown on their 160 acres, others are purchased from the Texas vineyards that have the most favorable conditions for the particular varietal.  The family is directly involved in every step, from picking the grapes to hand racking the wines.  Jessica, our host for the tasting, educates the guests and pushes the button to cork the bottles on bottling day.  The dedication and love are reflected in the wines.

We began our tasting with a Montage Blanc (70% Viognier, 20% unoaked Chardonnay, 5% Muscat Canelli, %5 Chenin Blanc).  Honeysuckle nose, medium body, well-balanced.  Soft peach and floral with a clean finish.  A great sipping wine.  Our next white was Arancia, a dry orange muscat.  Big flavor in front.  Think orange creamsicle with out the sugar.  Since I prefer dry wines in general, I really liked this take on what is typically a sweeter wine.  This wine received a Silver medal in the Finger Lakes Competition.  In fact, of the six wines Solaro submitted, four medaled in the competition.

We transitioned to reds in a big way.  The 2010 Mourvèdre is big.  There is nothing “young” tasting about this wine.  Cherry, vanilla, earthy nose.  Soft, round, cherry, and plum with rustic heft.  Then we had the Lisse, which means smooth.  The blending of 40% Merlot with the Mourvèdre changed it up.  It added surprising tart qualities (in a good way) and a long finish which inspired the name.

Sangiovese does well when grown in limestone so it is a natural fit in Texas.  As with the other red wines at Solaro, it is unfiltered, a beautiful ruby-red.  Bright, silky, Strawberry spice.  The Tempranillo was incredibly smooth.  Soil and spice and everything nice; it developed with each sip.  Solaro also does a Bordorosso, an even blend of Merlot and Tempranillo which is held for 27 months in French Oak.  Rich fruit and chocolate.  The Merlot brought out even more spice in the Tempranillo.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: Cheval 5.  Solaro is home to five Thouroughbred horses, thus the name of this winner.  A blend of Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Ruby Cabernet.  (If you are, as I was, unfamiliar with Ruby Cabernet, take the time to read up on it.  An interesting hybrid.)  Raspberry and rhubarb on the nose.  A brilliant red.  Fruit in the front, huge in the mid-palate, and an incredibly smooth finish.  An amazing wine.  If you are lucky enough to spend a Saturday at Solaro, you can sample this beauty by the glass at a great discount while listening to their music series.  This wine alone is worth the visit.

I love being “wowed” by Texas wines. I love seeing family-run wineries excel at what they are doing.  I love when the people at a winery add to the charm of the experience.  Solaro Estate exceeded my expectations in each of these areas and was an all around delight.  A perfect way to get outside and spend a spring afternoon near Austin.   With the impending release of the Barbera, I think we will be heading west again soon.