Vinnez – November 2013

It is clear that the vines are starting to share their growth and maturity with the grapes as the wines are building out the mid-palate beautifully.

Vinnez – April 2013

The wines are very complex with deep flavors and a strong finish. They reflect an excellent growing season and the gradual maturing of the vines. If you enjoyed my 2010 wines then you will enjoy even more the 2011 vintage.

Vinnez – March 2013

It is important to plant varietals that match the terroir or growing conditions and soil of the vineyard. For example, Tempranillo would not do very well in cool Burgundy and Pinot Noir would suffer in warm Rioja.

Vinnez – February 2013

Although some may think judging wine is an innate skill – you are born with it or not – nothing can be further from the truth.

Recent Articles:

Vinnez – November 2013

Vinnez – November 2013

¡Hola! – Great 2011 Wines for the Holidays

Our 2011 vintage arrived in June and I have tasted it repeatedly over the past few months. It is clear that the vines are starting to share their growth and maturity with the grapes as the wines are building out the mid-palate beautifully. I last wrote about how wonderful Mother Nature treated the vines with warm days, cool nights and no hail. Well, the wines are showing that kindness through their deep colors, rich concentrations, and expressive flavors.

2011 wine labelFor those of you who purchased our first vintage, the 2010 wines, you will be greatly pleased by the evolution on our 2011 vintage. Everything is …well…..more of everything, yet balanced and interesting.

Notice our new label for our blend, the Grand Corte. We will be introducing a new label photo every year for our leading wine, and already chose our photo for the 2012 vintage to be bottled in the in the next few weeks.

As we prepare for the holidays, I hope you consider building your vertical of Chaiken Vineyards wines with our lovely 2011 offerings.

 PS-Yes, I know it has been a few months since I sent you Vinnez. It has been a very busy few months. New everything it seems but I think I have my hands around it all and will get back on schedule going forward.

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography Fulani Marriage Earrings. Senosa, Mali

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New York State Wines

New York wine refers to wine made from grapes grown in the U.S. state of New York. New York ranks third in grape production by volume after California and Washington. Eighty-three percent of New York’s grape area is Vitis labrusca varieties (mostly Concord). The rest is split almost equally between Vitis vinifera and French hybrids.

NYS wine map

History

New York State’s wine production began in the 17th century with Dutch and Huguenot plantings in the Hudson Valley region. Commercial production did not begin until the 19th century. New York is home to the first bonded winery in the United States of America, Pleasant Valley Wine Company, located in Hammondsport. It is also home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson Valley, which has been making wine for almost 175 years.Furthermore, New York State is home to North America’s oldest dedicated sacramental winery, O-Neh-Da Vineyard, now operated by Eagle Crest Vineyards on Hemlock Lake in the Western Finger Lakes region.

In 1951 Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated from the Ukraine to New York, to work at Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station. Frank was hired by Cornell as a janitor at the Geneva Experiment Station. Though he was a respected viticulturalist in Ukraine, this was the only position for which his American work experience, which consisted of his being a janitor at Horn & Hardart‘s cafeteria in New York, qualified him at the time.He spent his spare time at Cornell attempting to convince his colleagues that the failures of quality wine production in New York had to do with their choice of vines. He believed that choosing the correct Vitis vinifera vines would yield great wines in the Finger Lakes. With three-hundred years of failure preceding his theory, his colleagues were skeptical. Combined with a language barrier (although Dr. Frank spoke six languages fluently, English was not one of them) his vision would have to wait for an appropriate ear.

Dr. Frank continued to promote his beliefs on the potential of the Vitis vinifera in New York until Charles Fournier, a French Champagne maker and president of nearby Gold Seal Vineyards took heed and hired him. The two shared the common language of French as well as a passion to plant Vitis vinifera in the Finger Lakes region. A decade later, Dr. Frank was producing quality wines from such Vitis vinifera vines such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This set the stage for further plantings of Vitis vinifera vines in New York, aided by the boost to the New York wine industry given by the New York Farm Winery Act of 1976, which eased the process of opening a farm winery. Wineries have worked to choose the proper varietals that grow well in the unique terroir of the state. The Finger Lakes region would eventually become the central area of New York’s wine industry in the 20th century.

In 2011, the New York wineries were given another boost when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Fine Winery Law (S.4143-a/A.7828-a) into law, allowing each farm winery to operate up to 5 tasting rooms as a single entity, rather than requiring a separate license for each. The act also streamlined the paperwork involved in direct shipping wine to customers, and allowed wineries to use custom-crush facilities or rent equipment and space from existing wineries, rather than requiring wineries to own all their own equipment.

Wine Grapes

Vitis vinifera, Riesling grapes are used to make some of the highest quality wines in New York, others are made from French hybrids, American hybrids and Vitis labrusca.

Vitis labrusca

Vitis labrusca

The range of wines made in New York include Riesling, Seyval blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, sparkling wines, and Cabernet sauvignon. The Vitis vinifera varieties account for less than 10% of the wine produced in New York. Important American hybrid grapes grown in New York include Catawba, Delaware, Niagara, Elvira, Ives and Isabella. French hybrid grapes grown in New York include Aurore, Baco noir, De Chaunac, Seyval blanc, Cayuga, Vidal and Vignoles. Vignoles is particularly used in late harvest wines and ice wines. Of the Vitis vinifera varieties, Riesling is noted for the most consistent and best quality wines, while wine made from Chardonnay grown in the Finger Lakes AVA is noted to take on characteristics of leaner styled Burgundy white wine.

 Growing Regions

The state has four major wine-growing regions, including Lake Erie AVA on the western end of the state, the Finger Lakes AVA in the west-central area, the Hudson River Region AVA in eastern New York, and the eastern end of the Long Island AVA. In 1976, when the Farm Winery Act was passed, the Finger Lakes and Long Island regions had 19 wineries. By 1985, there were 63 wineries, and now the regions hold approximately 212 wineries. The wine regions’ soils originated from the last glacial advance which left gravel and shale type soils with heavy clay deposits in the Finger Lakes region and sandy soil in the Long Island region. The climate differs amongst the regions based on the Atlantic Gulf Stream and the numerous bodies of water and mountainous regions around the state. The annual precipitation ranges from 30 inches (76 cm) to 50 inches (127 cm). The growing season in the Lake Erie and Finger Lakes regions ranges from 180 to 200 days a year, while on Long Island, the season is extended to 220 days and the humidity is higher and the fall precipitation is somewhat higher as well.

Source: Wikipedia

Vinnez – April 2013

Vinnez – April 2013

2011 Vintage Almost Here

The 2011 vintage is in the U.S. and on its way to the warehouse for distribution in early June. I tasted the 2011 this past January while visiting Mendoza for the blending of my 2012 wines. The wines are very complex with deep flavors and a strong finish. They reflect an excellent growing season and the gradual maturing of the vines. If you enjoyed my 2010 wines then you will enjoy even more the 2011 vintage.

2011 wine label

We are working to expand distribution of my wine in restaurants and wine shops here in Boston. Currently Lucca Back Bay, a fine dining location with excellent food and service near the Prudential Center is the first restaurant to stock my wine for diners. A few weeks ago I was privileged to pour my wine for a couple who ordered it and spend some time chatting up wine with them. Now, that was a lot of fun!!

If you are interested in ordering some of the 2012 vintage, go to my online eshop. As soon as the wine arrives I will ship it out to you (weather permitting). If you have any comments on the 2010 vintage, please send them along.

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Akha Woman. Kengtung, Mynamar (Burma)

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Report from the Field – Malbec

Below is a recent report from the field sent by my friends at Vines of Mendoza. The report explains some of the processes followed in making my Malbec wine.

This season we have seen unusual climatic conditions. We have had more rainy and cloudy days and colder temperatures compared to previous years. Due to these conditions we have observed that the Malbec vines have easily obtained a desirable sugar concentration and ripeness, but have had a slightly slower ripeness of the polyphenols (tannins) and the berries are a bit larger due to the water content that results in less concentration.

Santiago Achaval and Pablo Martorell

Still, Pablo Martorell (winemaker, right in photo) is pleased with the quality of the grapes and believes we will have a very good year for Malbec. We expect wines with a better natural acidity. There is an incredible amount of heterogeneity across the vineyards this year, so we are working each Malbec tank differently in the winery depending on style and range desired.

On Tuesday, April 23 we hand-picked your Malbec grapes to make your Malbec in 15 kg bins, and after brought them to the winery for cluster and berry sorting. We then de-stemmed and placed the berries in a stainless-steel tank. We are currently performing a cold maceration in tank at 10 C | 50 F which will last between two to seven days. We are expecting to have many shorter cold maceration periods for the Malbec this year. The purpose of the cold soak is to increase the extraction of primary aromas and color. Bleeding – extraction of juice – will be done at about 10% of the total volume.

Aromas of Plums and Cherries

The color of the must is dark purple and your Malbec is already displaying nice aromas of plums and cherries. After the cold maceration is complete we will raise the temperature in the tank to 28 – 30 C | 80 – 86 F, which are slightly higher temperatures this year to make sure we don’t have any green aromas. We will inoculate with selected yeasts to start the fermentation. During this time the sugar from the grapes is converted to alcohol. Throughout the alcoholic fermentation process the wine cap is closely managed by doing punch downs / pump overs in your tank up to six times per day.

Ferementing wine being pumped over

Managing the wine cap (skin and seeds forming a cap in the tank) helps us obtain the best varietal expression. Because of the characteristics of the Malbec this year, we will perform most punch downs / pump overs at the beginning of the fermentation, and reduce the intensity of this activity by the end of the fermentation.

 

As soon as the alcoholic fermentation is complete and the wine is dry (without sugar), a short post-fermentative maceration will be carried out before the wine is pressed. By leaving the skins in contact with the wine we can obtain a better color stability and tannin structure as well as improve the concentration of the wine. This maceration will last only two – three days to prevent the extraction of green tannins.

After these three processes are complete we will press the wine using a small hydraulic press, enabling a gentle extraction of skin and seeds and put the wine into oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation will happen in the barrel, lasting from 20 to 40 days. During the barrel aging process, we will perform monthly tastings to assure the wine is evolving well and we will perform batonage – stirring of the lees inside the barrel – to obtain a better mouthfeel and body. This is a year that the barrel work will be essential to obtain a better mid-palate and boldness in the wine.

Source: Vines of Mendoza

Vinnez – March 2013

Vinnez – March 2013

Exploring Regions

You can grow grapes just about anywhere which suggests that you can make wine just about anywhere. That may be true but it does not mean every vineyard produces grapes that can be used to make great wine. Modern winemaking techniques can help improve the quality of wine from grapes, but can never replace starting the winemaking process with superior raw materials.

It is important to plant varietals that match the terroir or growing conditions and soil of the vineyard. For example, Tempranillo would not do very well in cool Burgundy and Pinot Noir would suffer in warm Rioja. Having just returned from Israel, it is clear they are making very good wines but are still learning what varietals under what conditions produce the best grapes to make great wines.Jerusamlem

The Israeli wine industry began in the 1980s with the boom in boutique wineries beginning just 20 years ago. No single grape varietal dominates Israeli wines or wine regions as winemakers continue to experiment with different varietals and clones to see what works best under what conditions. During my recent trip to Israel I sampled many wines from its several wine growing regions. Many of the wines were well made but no region showcased a particular varietal or style of wine. Syrah and the Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot) dominate the types of grapes grown. Many wineries blend their wines following the approach employed by winemakers from Bordeaux.

Exploring wine regions and its terroir affords a great opportunity to learn about wine and winemaking. The ongoing experimentation by winemakers offers visitors a unique chance to try new wines that taste very different from anything else commonly found in local wine shops. If ever visiting a country or region new to winemaking, be sure to try the wines. At a minimum you will learn about the particular terroir. Or perhaps you will find a special bottle for your cellar.

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Lunch Break, Luxor, Egypt

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Israeli Wine

Israeli wine is produced by hundreds of wineries, ranging in size from small boutique enterprises to large companies producing over ten million bottles per year. Wine has been produced in the Land of Israel since biblical times. In 2011,Israeli wine exports totaled over $26.7 million. The modern Israeli wine industry was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, owner of the Bordeaux estate Château Lafite-Rothschild.Man with wine

Climate and Geography

Israel has a distinctly Mediterranean climate, with the country located along roughly the same latitude as San Diego and the Mexico – United States border. There are two primary seasons – a hot, humid summer season running from April to October with very little precipitation and a cold, rainy winter season from late October to March. During winter, average precipitation is around 20 inches (50 cm) with some areas seeing as much as 35 inches (90 cms) annually. Some vineyards in the higher elevation regions of Golan Heights can see snow in the winter months. With a dry growing season , drip irrigation is essential to sustaining viticulture. Vineyard managers will utilizing pruning and canopy management techniques to maximize shade production from the sunlight. Harvest will often take place during the cooler temperatures of night time. The dryness of the growing seasons serves a protective barrier to many grape diseases that thrive in damp weather and allows vineyard managers to control vigor and yields with by irrigation.

Israel as a Wine Region

After many years where in Israel the wine industry was almost non-existent, the past twenty years herald a change in path. In the late eighties there were only a couple of wineries in Israel, making mostly boiled wines for sacramental use. That is part of the reason why wines from Israel are mistakenly considered to be boiled wines and Israel is not yet considered and recognized to be a wine region as many other countries are. Over the last twenty years, the Israeli wine industry has grown tremendously and today there are around 300 wineries of different sizes in all areas of Israel.

Wine Regions

Map of IsraelIsraeli winemaking takes place in five vine-growing regions: Galil (Galilee, including the Golan Heights), the region most suited for viticulture due to its high elevation, cool breezes, marked day and night temperature changes and rich, well-drained soils; the  Judean Hills, surrounding the city of Jerusalem;  Shimshon (Samson), located between the Judean Hills and the Coastal Plain; the Negev, a semi-arid desert region, where drip irrigation has made grape growing possible; and the Sharon plain near the Mediterranean coast and just south of Haifa, surrounding the towns of Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina, which is the largest grape growing area in Israel.

As of 2012, Israel has 50,000 dunams of vineyards. More than 80% of the vineyards planted in Israel are located in the Shomron, Samson and Galilee regions.

The Golan contains some of the highest elevated vineyards in Israeli-controlled territory, with vineyard planted upwards of 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) from the Sea of Galilee towards Mount Hermon. There are seven Israeli wineries in the Golan Heights that cultivate a total of 1,600 acres (647 ha). These include four boutiques, and Chateau Golan, Bazelet Hagolan, and the Golan Heights Winery whose Yarden, Gamla, and Golan labels enjoy international renown.

Kosher Wine

To be considered kosher, a wine may only be handled by observant Jews from the time the grapes are crushed. If, however, the wine is boiled or pasteurized, it may subsequently be handled by anyone without losing its kosher status. Additionally, kosher wine cannot contain any non-kosher ingredients or fining agents such as isinglass, gelatin or casein. Although not all Israeli wine is kosher, virtually all of the large producers in Israel have kosher certification.

Source and Further Reading: Israeli Wine

Vinnez – February 2013

Vinnez – February 2013

Sunday Night Dinner

It may sound crazy but I look forward to traveling to NYC from Boston to escape the cold. Sure, it is less than 200 miles south, but the 5-10 degrees of warmth there make the difference between the five foot piles of dirty snow on my street and the cute patches of white now in Central Park. In addition to the weather, NYC has a great restaurant scene that includes spots that feature unique, yet affordable, wine.

Man pointing at wine.

One of my favorite spots is Nice Matin which is located on the corner of W. 79th street and Amsterdam Avenue. In addition to an extensive wine list that showcases hard to find wines and old vintages, Nice Matin has the uncanny ability to employ some the finest wine stewards in NYC.

Earlier this month I was fortunate to consult with Brian, Nice Matin’s latest version of that great wine advisor. Brian is a young, ambitious, and talented professional earning his way up the wine ranks by working long hours serving wine in restaurants and studying wine knowledge during every free moment.

Although some may think judging wine is an innate skill – you are born with it or not – nothing can be further from the truth. When you meet someone like Brian, who knows much about wine and thirsts for more, you quickly understand his appreciation and knowledge of wine is gained through hard work and dedication.

Perhaps you have a favorite wine steward who takes the time to understand your preferences and steers you to wine places that are both new and exciting. If you do, you are quite lucky. I feel that way about Brian. And when he shared his dinner time with me, talking about wine, sharing his knowledge, I knew this was a perfect Sunday night dinner.

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Flowers Market, Mynamar (Burma)

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Temperature: A Hot Issue for Wine

During a recent cold snap, I backed out of the garage, put wine bottles in and around the car, and then went back inside to sit by the fire. All in the name of experimentation, you understand. I was curious to learn if the lows of 20°F (-6°C) overnight would freeze wine in the bottle.

Even if consumers don’t store their wines outside, wine retailers continue to ship wine in the winter and distributors make deliveries to shops and restaurants every weekday. In order to simulate these conditions, I placed one bottle in a Styrofoam shipping box and another just loose in the body of the car (some distributors load their trucks the evening before, leaving the wine in them overnight). For good measure, I placed a bottle in a snow bank for the maximum chill.Chart of wine temperature shipping from France to Hong King.

When I returned in the morning, a water bottle inadvertently left in the car had frozen solid, but none of the wines had. Even the wine in the snow bank was still in good shape.

It turns out that because wine is only about 86 percent water, the remaining ethanol (which freezes at -173­°F (-114°C) lowers the actual freezing temperature of wine below 32°F (0°C). Indeed, producers intentionally bring white wines down to around 32°F during winemaking, a process known as cold stabilization. This makes tartaric acid crystallize and fall to the bottom of the tank. If the winery didn’t do this preemptively, these harmless ‘diamonds’ could precipitate in the bottle if consumers or restaurants aggressively chilled the bottles.

The effects of the flip side of extreme cold - extreme heat - are better known to wine enthusiasts because they are so much more prevalent and damaging. Think of a wine left outside in a loading bay in the summer sun. It browns quickly, has reduced flavors, and tastes a lot older than it should. It is cooked.

Extreme Heat

The Boston-based company eProvenance has collected more than one million data points on more than 5,000 actual wine shipments around the world. Its data shows that about 15 percent of shipments are exposed to extreme heat (86°F or 30°C). Shipments to China demonstrate the highest amount of exposure to heat, with fully 47 percent of shipments breaching 86°F. On the route from France to China, a staggering 90 percent touched that level.But what’s not widely known is just how much wine is exposed to extreme heat on the journey from the winery to the consumer. Even if an importer ships via refrigerated containers, local distributors do not uniformly use climate-controlled warehouses (although many do) and there are still some who deliver the proverbial last mile in a truck without refrigeration. And even overnight airfreight could subject wine to extreme heat while out for local delivery.

 

Chart of wine temperature during air freighteProvenance undertook a study with ETS Laboratories in Napa, and found that a wine exposed to 80°F (27°C) for 36 hours showed permanent change in its chemical structure. At 86°F, only 18 hours’ exposure had the same withering effects. This makes cooked wine the biggest threat that wine consumers face, far greater than “corked” wine or counterfeit wine.
For my wine purchases, I would feel most confident about avoiding extreme temperatures by having wine shipped to me starting late fall through to the spring (on all but the coldest days of winter). If I wanted to really reduce my risk of cooked wine and wasn’t buying from an importer and retailer that maintains cool temperatures, I would drastically cut back purchases from summer through the fall, even in stores.But that’s impractical. The best approach would be simply to know if the wine had been exposed to heat, because then I could be confident buying all year round. With the technology now available, hopefully this isn’t too far away from becoming reality.Source and Further Reading: Wine-Searcher.com, Tyler Colman

Vinnez – January 2013

Vinnez – January 2013

Wine Friends

Wine friends. Friends and wine. What is it about wine that brings people together, cementing relationships for a lifetime?

People with wine bottles smiling

Last week I got back from my annual trip to Mendoza and the Valle de Uco to blend my 2012 vintage. It was an opportunity to see old friends, break bread with them, talk about wine, and celebrate life. Every trip to Mendoza includes spending time at the Vines of Mendoza (VOM) tasting room. There I get to meet visitors from around the world exploring the world of Argentine wine. It is great fun to share with them my list of favorite wineries, Bodega lunches, and restaurants. The Mendoza wine region offers so much more to visitors than it did in March of 2006 when I first visited.

The VOM staff makes every visit great. From servers in the tasting room to customer service representatives (Kacie you’re the best!), VOM staff know what to do and do it well.

Oh, did I mention how much fun they are to be around? Each visit is like visiting family. We spend time catching up on life with review of family events, personal experiences, and future aspirations. It is amazing how close you can get to people you only see once a year.

Wine is the magic elixir that brings people together, allows them to connect, and become more human. Wine friends, how perfect!

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Guardians of the Gate. Angkor Thom, Siem Riep, Cambodia

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Tannat

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the “national grape”. It is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and in Italy‘s Puglia region where it is used as a blending grape. In the US state of Virginia, there are small experimental plantings of the vine, and plantings in California have increased dramatically in the first years of the 21st Century. Tannat wines produced in Uruguay are usually quite different in character from Madiran wines, being lighter in body and lower in tannins. It is also used to make Armagnac and full bodied rosé. In France, efforts to solve the harsh tannic nature of the grape lead to the development of thewinemaking technique known as micro-oxygenation.

Tannat grape bunch

France

Tannat is normally found in the Basque-influenced regions of France near the Pyrénées. The wine is notable for its very high tannin levels and is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Fer to soften the astringency and make it more approachable. In addition to Madiran, Tannat is also produced in Irouléguy, Tursan and Béarn. Modern winemaking in the region has begun to emphasize the fruit more and utilize oak aging to help soften the tannins. Now the wines typically spend about 20 months in oak prior to release.

In 1990, Madiran winemaker Patrick Ducournau experimented with adding controlled amounts of oxygen aeration into Tannat while fermenting and ended up developing the modern winemaking process of micro-oxygenation.

Madiran wines from Tannat are often made by soaking the grapes with their seeds. This produces a wine with the highest level of procyanidins which are anti-oxidant, but also help repair cells of the coronary arteries in the heart. Men from Madiran have a long life expectancy, possibly as a result of procyanidin intake.

Uruguay

The Tannat vine was introduced to Uruguay by Basque settlers, especially Pascual Harriague, in the 19th century. Along with the Manseng vine it quickly started to flourish in its new home. Today it is often blended with Pinot noir and Merlot and is made in a variety of styles including those reminiscent of Port and Beaujolais. From Uruguay the vine spread to Argentina and from there flying winemakers promoted the grape’s resurgence in California at the end of the 20th century.

United States

In the late 19th century, University of California-Berkeley agriculture professor Eugene W. Hilgard imported the Tannat vine from Southwest France and began to grow it in the University’s vineyards. The grape did not receive much attention until the late 20th century, when South American varietals of the grape variety began to receive international acclaim. In the 1990s several plantings began to appear in California in the Paso Robles and Santa Cruz Mountains AVAs with such producers as Bonny Doon Vineyard using it in blends with Cabernet franc and Tablas Creek Vineyard using it in conjunction with Rhone varietals.

Source and Further Reading: Wikipedia

Vinnez – December 2012

December 28, 2012 Vinnez Newsletters No Comments
Vinnez – December 2012

New Year Surprises

As we wind down 2012, it is time to think about the new wines you will bring into your wine portfolio in 2013. In a California Cab Sav rut? Only quaffing Australian Shiraz? Are you a Bordeaux or bust person?

A man and a woman standing

Bonne Année 2013

The beauty of wine is that the possibilities are infinite. Variables such as region, vineyard, winemaker, and vintage deliver a broad spectrum of choices for every type of consumer. If you spent 2012 focusing only on fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon wines, you might want to try rich, mouth-watering Cabernet Franc wines coming from Argentina. If you like Burgundy, it is time you tried some Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Sonoma Coast. If Chateauneuf-du-Pape makes your toes curl, check out those Rhone style wines coming from Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention Southern France (Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence), Portugal, and Spain. New winemakers applying modern techniques are quickly changing the reputations of these regions by producing world-class wines. And the value-price ratio is unworldly.

As you make those typical New Year’s resolutions such as exercising more, eating better, and spending less time watching TV, why not add a promise to expand your selection of wines. Your nose and mouth will thank you for it.

Happy New Year!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Cool Monk, Myanmar (Burma)

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Douro DOC

Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered on the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).Douro Valley

While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. The non-fortified wines are typically referred to as “Douro wines.”

The style of wines produced in the Douro range from light, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian style wines aged in new oak.

Geography and Climate

The Douro wine region is situated around the Douro river valley and lower valleys of its tributaries Varosa, Corgo, Távora, Torto, and Pinhão. The region is sheltered from Atlantic winds by the Marão and Montemuro mountains and has a continental climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters.

It is usually subdivided into three subregions, from the west to the east:

Baixo Corgo (“below Corgo”), a subregion with the mildest climate and most precipitation. It has 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of vineyards. Although it is the subregion which was planted first, in general, it is considered to give wines of lesser quality than the other two subregions.

Cima Corgo (“above Corgo”) is the largest subregion with 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) of vineyards, centered around the village of Pinhão, and where the majority of the famous Quintas are located.

Douro Superior (“upper Douro”) is the hottest and driest of the subregions, and stretches all the way to the Spanish border. It has 8,700 hectares (21,000 acres) of vineyards and is the source of many wines of very good quality. As it is the least accessible of the three subregions, it is the most recently planted, and it is still expanding.

Terraced vineyards are very common in the Douro region. Vineyards dedicated to Port production are usually planted on schist while areas with granite-based soils are used for table wine production.

Grapes

The principal grape varieties of the Douro region include the black grapes Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (the same as Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional, and the white grapes Donzelinho Branco, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho.Map of Douro Valley

A large number of grape varieties are grown in the Douro region, most of them local Portuguese grapes. For a long time, the grape varieties grown in the Douro were not very well studied. Vineyards of mixed plantation were the norm, and most of the time, the vineyard owners didn’t know which grape varieties they were growing.

A pioneering effort were made in the 1970s which identified Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca as the prime dark-skinned grape varieties. Tinta Amarela and the teinturier Sousão has later come to be included among the varieties that attract the most interest. This work was important for creating the new wave of top Douro wines and has also led to a greater focus on the grape varieties that go into Port wine. Most top quintas now replant with single-variety vineyards and focus on a limited number of varieties, but older, mixed vineyards will remain in production for many decades to come.

Source and Further Reading: Wikipedia

Vinnez – November 2012

December 10, 2012 Vinnez Newsletters No Comments
Vinnez – November 2012

Holiday Party Wines

All of us wine folks have no problem breaking out that special bottle when we have friends over for dinner. Great wine tastes so much better when shared with great friends. During the holiday season, sharing wine with friends becomes a bit more complicated.Wine label - Chaiken Vineyards Corte 2010

Rather than intimate dinners, the holiday season begs for large parties attended by dozens of people consuming a smorgasbord of food representing a broad range of types, quality, and sources. Serving a fine wine at such a freewheeling event almost guarantees that it will be lost in the chaos of the occasion. In addition, attendees vary in their interest and knowledge of wine. Some search for the correct vesicle to drink their Pinot Noir while others place a second ice cube in their glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

No matter where your guests sit along the continuum of wine interest, everyone deserves a great glass of wine. Rather than pull out a special bottle that may not be appreciated by everyone, choose a quality bottle of inexpensive wine that can be enjoyed by all types of wine consumers. Choices include well-made wines from less know wine regions such as Sicily in Italy, Roussillon in France, Priorat in Spain, and the Valle de Uco in Argentina. Look to choose a wine that provides upfront fruit flavors, a moderate alcohol level indicating balance, and soft tannins. These wines are easy to drink at a party and go pretty well with any food.

Introducing your guests to a well-made, easy to drink wine may start them on a path to become a wine lover. Hey, that’s not a bad gift to give them for the Holidays!

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Daybreak at the Ganges, Varanasi, India

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Daybreak at the Ganges Print Sale

Chaiken Vineyards teamed up with Don Gurewitz Photography to produce limited edition labels for our Generaciones Corte 2010 wine, a unique blend of 51% Malbec, 28% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Syrah. “Daybreak at the Ganges“ represents the first in a series of labels that feature Don’s distinctive images.

From now through December 31, purchasers of any size print of “Daybreak at the Ganges” will receive a 50% discount off the regular print price plus a free bottle of Generaciones Corte 2010 adorned with the limited edition label shown here. To purchase one of these prints, please visit our eShop at Limited Editions or contact us at info@chaikenvineyards.com. Your bottle of Generaciones Corte 2010 will automatically be shipped with your print.

Additional bottles of this special label edition of our Generaciones Corte 2010 are available at $29 per bottle and $348 per case of 12 bottles (includes free shipping). Just visit our eShop or contact us for ordering details – info@chaikenvineyards.com.

Vinnez – October 2012

Vinnez – October 2012

Only Three Types of Wine in the World

In addition to the Atlantic Ocean, there exists a great divide between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to wine. My travels around Europe over these many years convinced me that Europeans enjoy drinking wine much more than we do. This is obvious in restaurants where Europeans take pleasure leafing through a wine list, while most Americans look at those lists the way they do a long letter from the IRS. Person with wine glass

Even though Americans drink wine now more than ever before, the culture here is to consider wine some intimidating blood sport filled with pretentiousness, arrogance, and condescension. Yes, this is not found everywhere, but enough wine snobs, self-centered wine stewards, and greedy restaurateurs – outrageous price markups that make wine seem only affordable for the rich – do their best to make the entire experience unpalatable. Perhaps this is why so many diners order the tried and true wine brand that they are sure will be just fine if not unspectacular, passing on the many better values on the list.

Here is a hint. There are only three types of wine in the world. First, there are wines that are well made. The grapes are properly cultivated and harvested, and the wine is correctly fermented, aged, bottled, and handled before arriving at your table.

Second, there are the wines that are poorly made. The vineyard is poorly managed with the grapes harvested at the wrong time, and the wine is flawed from errors in fermentation, aging, storage, bottling, or handling.

The third type of wine made in the world is the one only you can identify. These are wines that are well made that you like. Wine drinking is as simple as that. As a poorly made wine usually tastes or smells bad, picking it out requires only a little practice. So, the next time you drink some wine, act like a European. If you like it, enjoy it!

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – In the Mustard Fields, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

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Grape Rootstock

As with any agricultural venture, proper planning is the first step to a successful vineyard. Before establishing a new vineyard, potential problems should be considered and steps taken to avoid falling victim to costly and long lasting mistakes.

One commonly asked question is “should I use grafted plants or own-rooted plants”? There is no simple answer. Each site and vineyard has unique situations that need to be well thought out before an answer can be given.Grafted grape vines

What is the difference between an own-rooted and grafted vine? An own-rooted plant is simply taking a cutting from one plant and rooting it to make another genetically identical plant. Therefore, if the top portion of the plant dies, and the plant sprouts from the roots, the same type of plant will reemerge.

A grafted plant is made up of two plants. It is essentially joining a root portion (rootstock) with the budwood (scion) from another plant. If the scion dies and the plant re-grows from the roots, the reemerging vine will be the undesirable rootstock rather than the scion (usually a variety). Before selecting an own-rooted or grafted plant there are several factors to consider.

First, a vineyard should have welldrained, deep soils with a minimum of 2 feet to 3 feet of soil depth before hitting water, rock, or a hardpan. A sandy soil will be more prone to nematodes and dry out quicker than a tight clay soil. Clay soils can be too wet, not allowing water to drain and starving the roots of oxygen.

Why would an own-rooted plant be a better option to plant in a vineyard? Both types of plants have advantages and disadvantages.

Own Roots

Because less time and labor is involved in growing an own-rooted plant, initial plant costs are much lower. Nurseries can produce own-rooted plants in the same year that they were started; whereas, grafted plants may be at the nursery for one or two years.

In areas where freeze damage is likely, an own-rooted plant is the best choice. Avoiding the cost of replacing grafted plants or re-budding the surviving rootstocks can be eliminated. Own-rooted vineyards can be re-established sooner by using root suckers to begin new plants.

Drawing of a grafted grape vine

Own-rooted plants have a tendency to be less vigorous than grafted plants. If the vineyard site is very fertile with ideal soil conditions, an own-rooted plant might be the best choice to avoid too much vigor. However, if the vineyard is less than ideal or has potential soil problems such as high pH or salinity levels, a rootstock can be used to compensate for certain site limitations.

Rootstocks

Rootstocks were first used in European vineyards in the late 1800s to combat devastating phylloxera outbreaks. The vineyards began to use phylloxera resistant grape plants as rootstocks. These plants were native to North America, where the pest was naturally occurring. Today, rootstocks can be helpful in vineyards that have limiting factors. Rootstocks can be used to improve vigor, increase production, and help sustain the health or survival of the vineyard. Careful consideration should be given to match the rootstock characteristics with the site limitations, therefore taking full advantage of the rootstock.

Rootstocks commonly used are Vitis species selected from native areas or hybrids that use native species to form new rootstocks. When two species are crossed, they normally exhibit characteristics of both species. Some of the most common are Vitis rupestris, V. riparia, V. berlandieri, V. x champinii, and V. vinifera. An understanding of the native environment of these species can give clues to their potential adaptation to other areas.

Source and Further Reading: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

Top photo of vines courtesy of Michael Evans.

Vinnez – September 2012

October 10, 2012 Vinnez Newsletters No Comments
Vinnez – September 2012

What’s That Smell?

Unless you are one of the unlucky few who have no sense of smell (anosmia) or diminished sense of smell (hyposmia) you can learn to be an excellent wine taster. Taste is all about aroma with your taste buds playing a fairly insignificant role in experiencing flavors. Think back to when you last had a stuffy nose. Didn’t all the foods you ate during that time seem bland?Dog nose

It is your olfactory nerve – the one in your nose that distinguished aromas and transfers those messages to your brain for interpretation – that allows wine drinkers to experience flavors. The sensitivity of the olfactory nerve determines our ability to taste, a characteristic we are born with and have little influence over. Alternatively, training can significantly enhance our skill interpreting those signals from our nose.

There are only a few great wine tasters in the world who attribute their skill to hyperosmia, a heightened ability to smell. Most accomplished tasters possess an average sense of smell, but have studied hard over many years to develop their cognitive ability to interpret the signals coming from their nose. Therefore, most of us can become quite skilled in wine tasting simply by investing some time in training our brains to understand our noses.

There are many kits available to do such training. Most include a set of aromas paired with explanatory notes and images. These kits train your brain to associate an aroma – the signal coming from your brain – with an image that represents that aroma.

Banana and pineapple

For example, the signal from the olfactory nerve stimulated by a ripe banana becomes associated in your brain with the image of a banana. Although this seems rather straightforward, it is not thanks to the power of our sense of sight. Unconsciously, our seeing the banana already predisposes our brain to interpret any signal coming from our nose to be that of what we expect a banana to smell like. Even if a banana is modified to smell like a pineapple, our first thought will be that it smells like a banana. It probably will take a second or third sniff to realize that the something is different about the doctored banana.

One way to get around this bias it to taste blind, meaning with your eyes closed. By doing this, your sense of site does not overpower your sense of smell. This is not only a good way to taste wine – close your eyes when first tasting a newly opened bottle – but works great when tasting food too.

Included in this issue is a representative wine aroma wheel. It covers most of the aromas associated with wine. Don’t be discouraged if you are unable to discern some of these aromas while tasting wine. Only through some rigorous training of your brain can you fully master the skill of tasting wine. Nevertheless, every step you take to learn a new aroma, enhances your ability to enjoy wine.

Cheers!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Schoolgirls, Hue, Vietnam

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Aromas

Below are some tools you can use to further develop your tasting ability. Remember, it takes a good deal of practice and frequent retraining to maintain a high level of proficiency in wine tasting. Can you think of a better excuse for drinking wine?

Wine Wheel

 

Aroma List

FRUITS WHITE WINE YEASTS
Citrus grapefruit bread
lemon MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION
lime butter
mandarin yogurt
Tree Fruits pear OAK AGING
apple toast
green apple coffee
peach smoked
Tropical Fruits melon Spices vanilla
guava pepper
pineapple cinnamom
passion fruit licorice
lychee nutmeg
FRUITS RED WINE clove
Red berries red currant Nuts coconut
black currant hazelnut
strawberry almond
blackberry Woods oak
Tree Fruits cherry sandalwood
plum cedar
FLORAL pine
honeysuckle LATE HARVEST/BOTRYTIS
hwathorn orange peel
orange blosson dry apricot
linden FORTIFIED RED WINE
jasmin prune
acacia AGED WHITE WINE
violet honey
lavender AGED RED WINE
rose chocolate
VEGETAL Animal musk
Vegetables green pepper leather
tomato Undergrowth mushroom
Fresh herbs cut grass truffle
dill tree moss
thymne FAULTS
Dried herbs mint Cork taint corked
tobacco Oxidized sherry
hay Heat madeira
Leaves blackcurrant leaf Volatile acidity vinegar
eucalyptus nail polish remover
MINERAL Sulfides rubber
Young white wine flint rotten egg
Aged white wine kerosene onion
Aged red wine tar sweet corn
Brett old band-aid

Source and Further Reading: Aromaster and Wine Aroma Wheel

Vinnez – August 2012

Vinnez – August 2012

Same or Different

Winemakers argue about this all the time.

“A wine should be consistent year to year and a winemaker’s job is to achieve a level of never-ending consistency. Consumers expect a wine always to taste the same. That is the definition of high quality wine.”

Winemaker“Wine must express the uniqueness of the grape growing season, the vintage. A winemaker’s responsibility is to extract from the grapes Mother Nature’s impact on the berries and have it expressed in the wine. Wine drinkers look for wine to surprise them by offering a new experience every year. This is the definition of high quality wine.”

Who do you agree with? For me, every wine bottle needs to hold a surprise insider. Wine that tastes the same every year is boring. Like eating the same meal every day, no matter how delicious the food might initially taste, one soon craves a change.

Large wine producers work to keep their wines similar from year to year. They tweak their blending and add additives when necessary to achieve consistency. Large clients such as hotel and restaurant chains who buy wine from these producers demand  an unchanging product. Staff find it easier to present the wines to the majority of patrons who  are occasional, inexperienced  wine drinkers. This approach greatly reduces the risk of delivering a bottle with flavors that the consumer is unfamiliar with and does not like.

If you want to experience exceptional wine, seek out small and mid-sized producers representative of their winemaking region. Stay away from boring, mass-produced wines that are – you know – mass produced.

Alberto Antonini, a well-regarded Italian oenologist and wine consultant, is credited with introducing the world to high quality Argentine Malbec wines. Commenting on wine production, he said, “If everything were perfect every year, it would be the Coca-Cola industry instead of the wine industry.”

Right on, Alberto!

Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Chaiken Vineyards

info@chaikenvineyards.com
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Featured Photo Courtesy of  Don Guerwitz Photography – Angkor Watt, Siem Riep, Cambodia

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Taste

Taste (also called gustation; adjectival form: gustatory) is one of the traditional five senses. Taste is that sensation produced when stimuli are taken into the mouth and react with the receptors of the taste buds. Simply put, it is a chemical reaction between stimuli (food) and receptors (taste buds).

Taste along with smell (olfaction) and trigeminal nerve stimulation (with touch for texture, also pain, and temperature) determines flavors, the sensory impressions of food or other substances.Taste bud

Humans receive tastes through sensory organs called taste buds, or gustatory calyculi, concentrated on the top of the tongue. Taste is sensed through taste cells, which are known as taste buds. There are about 100,000 taste buds that are located on the back and front of the tongue. Others are located on the roof, sides and back of the mouth, and in the throat. The sensation of taste can be categorized into five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. “Umami” is a Japanese word coined by the Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, the discoverer of this taste as a distinct one; apparently from umami (a Japanese word meaning ‘delicious’ or ‘savory’; not ‘meaty’). Not surprisingly, it is characteristic of many Asian dishes.

The amino acid glutamate produces a strong umami taste. The tongue is able to differentiate between the different tastes based on different molecules or ions that bind to the taste cell. Sweet, umami, and bitter taste is triggered by different molecules that bind to the G protein-coupled membrane receptors; while saltiness is from Na+ ions and sourness is from H+ ions entering the cell. As taste senses both harmful and beneficial things, all basic tastes are classified as either aversive or appetitive, depending upon the effect the things they sense have on our bodies. Sweetness helps to identify energy-rich foods, while bitterness serves as a warning sign of poisons.

The basic tastes contribute only partially to the sensation and flavor of food in the mouth — other factors include smell, detected by the olfactory epithelium of the nose; texture, detected through a variety of mechanoreceptors, muscle nerves, etc.; temperature, detected by thermoreceptors; and “coolness” (such as of menthol) and “hotness” (piquance), through chemesthesis.

Source and Further Reading: Wikipedia