All posts by Sip Tripper

About Sip Tripper

A passionate travel writer excited to share wine reviews, winemaker profiles and wine destinations with like-minded wine enthusiasts.

St. Hugo of the Barossa Valley, Australia

We were chauffeured to the Barossa Valley, a premier wine region an hour from Adelaide in South Australia, in a vintage Daimler as part of an Ultimate Wine Experiences tour. First stop: St. Hugo winery.

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Although we were in the one of the driest continents in the world, it rained off and on that day, mostly when our group walked through the vineyards. Our umbrella procession escalated in its amusement when we spotted a few kangaroos hopping between a few rows of grapevines. No need to worry about the grapes; kangaroos like to munch on the grass and offer free labor for their excellent vineyard maintenance.dsc02568.jpg

Inside the luxurious underground private tasting room, where a vault holds a time capsule of vintage wines, I tasted from a bottle of 2016 Shiraz that had no label. Like most Australian wines, it was secured via screw cap. This wine offered a lovely perfume of cherry with a slight of oak, and its taste was somewhat approachable, but could be more so once it’s released next year. The grapes for this Shiraz were sourced from several vineyards.

While at St. Hugo, I learned that from 1980 through 2008, the region only grew Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, but now there’s plenty of Shiraz, Grenache and a few white grape varietals, especially impressive are the Semillon grapes.

I taste a 2015 Barossa Shiraz with ripe tannin structure. Very nice, full-bodied. And then a 2009 Barossa Shiraz harvested during a drought. Those vines were stressed while growing in the ancient sea bed soil, and as a result, the wine offers an intense flavor and velvety structure with great tannins and leather aroma. If held for three more years, you’d get more characteristics of plums and pepper.

Next, a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon with no label was green pepper dominant in its aroma. St. Hugo deems this as its flagship cabernet. It tastes different than my palate recognizes as cabernet, but it does have a good tannin structure and I find it interesting in comparison to the 2009 cabernet that was so black currants-jammy and high in acidity that I craved a filet mignon to make it work for me.

Behind the Saint

Formerly the wine label Gramp & Sons, St. Hugo came about following a tragedy that occurred in 1938, when Hugo Gramp’s flight from Adelaide to Melbourne – with two other prominent wine industry members, Thomas Hardy and Sidney Hill Smith, ended with a crash.

Honoring Hugo as a legend in winemaking, in 1983, a wine labeled “St. Hugo” was released. The “Saint” was inspired by European tradition of naming vineyards after saints in order to bestow good fortune upon them.

The first St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes harvested in 1980 and hailed for its power and elegance, much like the great man himself. St Hugo sets the benchmark for excellence in Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Two French Rosés and a Portuguese White to Enjoy This Summer

Rosé is probably the most subjective wine that catapults conversations and arguments among wine drinkers. Considered the summertime sip, there are variations on the winemaking methods and grapes used to create a ballet-pink to jewel-ruby color wine, best served chilled.

As a fan of Alsace wines, I wasn’t surprised to fall in love with a 2017 Gustave Lorentz Pinot Noir – Le Rosé, even though I prefer Grenache rosés. Pretty as a perfume bottle, its shape and label match the elegant palate of soft and supple femininity. I would suggest sipping this throughout summer, and stocking up isn’t going to break the bank, either. Depending on where you purchase this wine, it ranges from $13 up to $19.99 per bottle. It also pairs well with barbecue, roasted meats salads, light cheeses, non-spicy Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Indian foods. Win-win.

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Next, a bottle of Chateau Ferry Lacombe Haedus Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence (AOP) France sets the stage for rosé excellence. I gave this wine five stars on Vivino because of color, clarity and taste. All magnificent. Fifty percent Grenache, 25 percent syrah, 15 percent cinsault and 10 percent vermentino work for me. The soft pink/peach color leads to a delicate taste of raspberry and strawberry mixed with some freshly-picked white and citrus fruits. Served best as an aperitif, but if you must sip with food, choose white meats or grilled fish, mixed salads, paella or Thai satay. Priced at $21.99 a bottle, you’ll want to savor this one.

Now we’ll head to Portugal for a 2016 Vila Nova Vinho Verde (DOC) made with 50 percent Loureiro, 30 percent Arinto and 20 percent Avesso grapes. Priced at $11.99, you get what you pay for with this bottle. It’s a bit Vila_Nova_Verde_BFfrizz-forward upon opening, but once it relaxes, it offers a fresh, tropical fruit palate. Best served with shellfish and vegetarian dishes (sushi).

 

www.quintessentialwines.com

 

Two wines, Two Angels

Jacob DeBacker’s artistic interpretation of the Two Angels label of Lake County, California is a yin-yang for oenophiles; it depicts the hilarity of inebriation and the trauma of the morning after. In my own yin-yang evaluation of one white and one red, I came to the following conclusions:

#1 – Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes grown in High Valley, California, proved to be a lovely 2017 vintage priced at approximately $15. I enjoyed sipping this fruit-forward wine and was informed that it is reminiscent of the Rhone Valley’s Crozes-Hermitage vineyards, which are in the northern region opposite of where the best Rhone grapes are grown. This French region uses white grapes as a blend in the red wines. High Valley in Lake County, California offers red volcanic soils from the hillsides while the valley floor provides well-drained beds for the vines.

What makes this wine special is the winemaking technique of leaving a percentage of sur lies, as it adds a silky-ness while keeping it crisp. I give it three stars.

#2 – Two Angels Petite Syrah made from grapes grown in Red Hills of Lake County, California is a 2015 vintage. What you need to know is that in 2015, Lake County experienced a horrific fire storm. I was eager to see what resulted in the finished product, especially knowing a bottle is priced at approximately $25.

Upon a pour, this was as inky as a petit syrah should be in color, but it fell flat after the start. It was texturally rich but with a band-aid finish, sort of like a dead end, devoid of fruit. It was an abrupt end to a good start. It was more a beverage than a wine. I give it two stars. I do look forward to the next few vintages to taste a difference.

The ‘Little Rascal’ of Northern Italy

The scent of honeysuckle thrills me. Italy thrills me. Wine thrills me. And I was able to embrace all three pleasures in a bottle of 2016 Langhe Arneis (DOC) from Luca Bosio Vineyards in Piedmont, Italy.

As one of the most acclaimed Old World wine regions in Italy, Piemonte (Piedmont) is located in the northwest corner, and is a region most notable for its Barolo wines. In Italian, Langhe Arneis means “little rascal”, which is a good way to describe this grape and the winemaking method where technology and rural tradition co-exist.

Valter and Luca Bosio, father and son, with Rosella, mother and wife, manage Bosio Family Estates. The Bosio’s winemaking philosophy is about sharing a heritage: “It’s our style, style of people who like to cultivate the vineyards and make wine, an old and tiresome ritual that is patrimony of everybody, as the piedmontese landscape is.”

I was ready to pour a glass. The first thing I noticed was this deep straw yellow color, which may be a result of the young winemaker’s method of 24-hour arneis grape skin contact. Next, I inhaled the aroma, and its floral scent gave way to a fruity taste of apricots, pineapple and peaches, which explains why this wine would pair well with white fish, chicken, pork and savory vegetable dishes.

I was ready to pair with dinner, but all I had was a slice of pepperoni pizza. This was not a good pairing because the red sauce heightened the acid component a bit too much for my taste. Next time, I’ll try it with white fish.

Now that I’ve sipped this Piedmont arneis, I’ve established an introduction to the Langhe region. Eventually, I hope to visit Piedmont, Italy, so that I might taste more of its wines. Until then, cheers!

Déjà vu through Cremant d’Alsace Rosé

To converse about sparkling wine, one has to be willing to share personal experiences that most often involve a memorable moment of celebration. It doesn’t always have to involve celebration, though. It could simply convey an emotion you recall when you first sipped a particular wine. Perhaps the sunshine felt especially comforting, or a particular scent permeated the air that you pick up in the wine’s aroma, or the minerality of a wine connects you to the soil and rainfall experienced during a visit to the vineyard where those grapes were grown.

Wine déjà vu is interesting, and when I opened a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace Rosé produced by Gustave Lorentz, the group who sipped this sparkling pinot noir had much to share. My personal reaction was more about Alsace, a region in France I did not get to visit during my year living in Paris. Once I tasted this sparkling brut made in “Methode Champenoise”, my desire surged for a visit to explore Alsace.

A oenophile friend among my group of tasters had visited Alsace, so it brought her the opportunity to share details of her travels and love of cremant. Another in our group is a huge fan of rosé wine, so she was thrilled once she tasted the Alsace cremant and realized a new discovery to add to her wine collection.

We sipped this refined aperitif (valued ~$30/bottle) at the start of a dinner party, and it was perfect in its reception, both in its fresh and subtle fruit taste, and in its chilled serving as a toast to a wonderful evening. This pale, straw-colored sparkling is definitely worthy of opening at the start of any dinner party, if only to see where the conversation goes.

For more information on Gustave Lorentz, visit http://www.gustavelorentz.com. 

Silver Trident wines: A blend of symphony and the sea, Old World & New World

Throughout the Napa Valley, wine novices and oenophiles associate cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay as world-class wines to explore within the 400-plus wineries in the region. But in the heart of the Napa Valley, Yountville, the small town with a population in the mid-2,000, is all about luxury boutique wineries. Silver Trident is no exception.

Open shy of three years, the Silver Trident name is a nod to Neptune, and associated with the owner’s ancillary businesses in luxury Virtuoso and Oceania Cruise line.

Private tasting roomBecause Yountville has an ordinance in place that requires wineries to offer a percentage of retail, Silver Trident is adorned with the interior design of Ralph Lauren. With its muted neutral shades of upholstery and tartan wallpaper, seemingly endless crystal accessories and framed photographs of artfully colored sea turtles and retro-glamour photographs, a tasting at Silver Trident feels like a visit to someone’s home, except that each item is priced for potential purchase, including the tasting plates. The intent of tasting in someone’s living room is to eliminate any intimidation.

To set the stage for this wine-tasting experience, please know that the winemaking style of Silver Trident is Old World, but with New World grapes.

Lori and Cheryl - CheersMy trio headed to the larger dining room to take our seats for a wine/food pairing experience that began with a tasting of pinot of rosé made in the Provence style. Ooh la la, it was perfection, and I was surprised I loved it even though it wasn’t made with Grenache. Next, a taste of spring: A sip of 2017 sauvignon blanc with the label Symphony No. 9 (named after the owner’s love of music), paired with a small spoonful of goat cheese and fresh yogurt, courtesy of Sarah Scott, the winery’s chef and caterer.

Taking things up a notch, a Dijon, France clone of pinot noir grown in the Russian River in Sonoma County is a label Silver Trident calls “Benevolent Dictator”. The 2015 is a taste of some of the most sought out fruit in Sonoma. Sipping this wine felt like rose petals falling on my palate. Yes, the tannins were that soft.

A 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon labeled “Twenty Seven Fathoms” mimics marine depth. We enjoy this 100% varietal with an aged Gouda, butter and sea salt biscuit.

It’s no wonder there is a long list of wine club members who receive shipments of the eclectic wines of Silver Trident Winery. Please visit http://www.silvertridentwinery.com for more information.

Best of Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Party

Distinguished university Professor Kirshenblatt-Gimblett described wine tasting as an event: “It matures over the years and changes even in a few hours. It is an event. Even a single taste can be like an act in a play that is as long as the life of the vintage.”

Perhaps wine opens doors of communication relative to taste and travel, and with discussions revolving around Old World and New World wines, it’s the stuff of wine tasting parties. Have you ever been to a blind tasting party? If not, now is your chance to create your own with help from Boutique Wine Club. Its Boutique Wine Sampler features 6 ultra-premium, small-production wines in small bottles that serve 2.5 glasses each.

I enjoyed a sample pack of wines from Santa Barbara, one of my favorite destination spots in California. I would recommend most of the 6 bottles I sipped, and I would recommend setting up a tasting party of up to 12 (one-ounce pours). Once each taster has breathed in the wine’s aroma, a taste and swirl around the mouth and over the front and back of the tongue is next, followed by a swallow to consider the tastes that surface. The best part is the discussion.

While I might believe E11even, An Andrew Murray Production of Chenin Blanc 2016 from Santa Ynez Valley with its rich and luxurious texture and melting flavors of melon and citrus fruit was the best wine out of the pack, it could also be argued that Blair Fox Cellars 2016 Petite Sirah of Santa Barbara County, with its luscious dark berry flavors and finish of earthy herbal notes performed best.  Or perhaps the 2017 Larner Rosé of Santa Barbara County was a favorite for anyone who loves raspberries and a crisp wine on a warm day.

Once I tasted all six wines, I realized that my personal taste preference is for wines of Santa Ynez Valley. I loved that Chenin Blanc, as well as the 2016 Carr Cabernet Franc with elements of white pepper and spice mixed with raspberry. Did I mention that all of the wines in the sampler pack have been rated 90+ points within Santa Barbara? And there’s more. With each pack, you get a 12-page full-color tasting guide profiling each wine, winemaker and region, plus food pairing tips, recipes and tasting notes, a tour guide map to Santa Barbara County and its unique wine growing areas, and a custom placemat with instructions for hosting your own wine tasting party.

Visit BoutiqueWineBox.com and join the Wine Club so you can begin receiving shipments on a regular basis to plan your wine-tasting parties!

U.S. Zinfandel Recommendations from a wine judge

It’s no surprise to me to discover the best of class U.S. zinfandel hails from Lodi, California, also referred to as the “unofficial” zinfandel capital of the world. Close to 40 percent of the nation’s best zinfandel is grown in this northern portion of California’s Central Valley.

As a wine judge at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, I was bestowed the honor of selecting the best of 82 U.S. zinfandels priced between $28-$31 per bottle. Here is a list of my team of three’s picks:

Many congratulations to all of these zinfandel producers, and special congratulations to best of class, Prie Winery!

A glacially-refreshing bubbly

During Napa Valley Restaurant Week, I visited four Up Valley restaurants to see what the chefs have been up to, but at Acacia House in the new Las Alcobas resort located in my hometown of Saint Helena, I also took advantage of a local perk: if you live in town, you are waived a corkage fee.

To celebrate, I brought a bottle of Pata Negra (a Spanish term that translates, “highest quality”) Cava, made with organic grapes in the traditional Champagne method. This cava is now available in the U.S., by the way.

Our server opened the bottle shortly after we drank a sample glass of the bar’s signature margarita, which lived up to the rumored hype of this frothy-topped tequila goodness.

As I dipped my toast point in a bowl of creamy, salted cod, I followed with a first sip of the Barcelona-produced Pata Negra cava. One word came to mind: glacial. For the price point of $14.99 a bottle, this Catalonia cava is a refreshing teeny tiny bubbly choice for sipping a dry, slightly acidic Macabeo varietal. It paired well with our appetizer and again with a mushroom risotto topped with scallops. I would like to try another bottle with some manchego cheese.

Rooted in Spanish culture and tradition, the Barcelona-based Pata Negra winery is located atop a hill that slopes gently toward the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the winery is surrounded by an estate of 309 acres containing cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo and chardonnay vineyards. I do hope to taste their tempranillo soon.

About that label: Although it would seem the fractal label design was inspired by a giraffe, it is actually fashioned after the gate of Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila in Barcelona. The building is an architectural masterpiece with an undulating stone facade with twisting wrought iron balconies.

Available in Brut Reserva, Brut Rosé, Organic Brut and Organic Brut Rosé varietals, Pata Negra Cava is available online and at select retailers.

Holiday Gift of Paso Robles picture book

Former Time magazine editor George Taber is known for his “’76 Judgment of Paris” book about Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay besting French wines. His latest publication, however, is a preface to “The Winemakers of Paso Robles,” a coffee-table book with authentic photographs — down and dirty winemaking — of Paso Robles wine country along the Central Coast of California.

In his preface, Taber refers to Napa and Sonoma wine regions as Disneyland-esque, regardless of the fact that these two wine regions of Northern California produce some of the best cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays in California, if not the U.S.

Like the Napa Valley produces Bordeaux-style wines, Paso Robles produces Rhone-style wines. As someone who loves a good Chateauneuf de Pape, and after flipping through the images of this book, I want to visit this wine region and really taste my way through the grenache blends.

The author and the photographer of this ground-breaking, large format book, Julia Perez, spent a year profiling 53 winemakers who are transforming an up-and-coming wine region into to a world-class destination. Immersed in the vineyards, wineries, crush pads, and tasting rooms of this gorgeous and burgeoning wine region, they document and uncovered the struggles and successes of being a winemaker.

Throw in a few bottles of Paso Robles wines and a copy of this oversized book ($119) to gift to that someone special who really wants to learn more about the winemakers behind the scenes.

If you need more inspiration before you buy a copy, watch the video below. It shows the process of becoming a published book.