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Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

We Might Have Lost our WITS, but We Found Excellent Wine

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MissWineOH and company were asked to participate in the #WITS2012 Twitter Tasting event in conjunction with WineTwits, so we piled onto the rooftop deck with much anticipation. When the wines arrived, we were ready to pair, taste and tweet about four wines from California.

Wente 2010 Morning Fog Charndonnay was the first wine of the evening. This was paired with a romaine lettuce salad that I first experienced at Hillebrand in Niagara this past weekend. I don’t think I did Chef Dodd’s dish any justice, but it was pretty darn tasty. You can find my recipe here.

The Morning Fog lifted the dish to a beautiful profile with green apple on the nose, and soft citrus notes as it eased into a finish. As y’all know, I am not a fan of the oaky chardonnay, and it was obvious the oak was judiciously used to provide a light buttery medium mouthfeel. At $12.99, (slightly higher in Ohio) this will be a versatile crowd pleaser, as it paired seamlessly with the romaine, prosciutto, crab salad and caeser in the dish. 

Our second wine comes from Hahn Family Wines and home to my favorite wine banned in Alabama (Cycles Gladiator) – the 2011 Pinot Noir quickly became a crowd favorite. With strong berry and cherry flavors on the nose, with a hint of black currant, this pinot finishes with notes of marshmallow. I will attribute that to the winemakers use of caramelized oak on the wine. I am not at all saying the wine is sweet, though your tastebuds may argue with that point initially. The structure of the tannins and medium mouthfeel hold up well with a variety of dishes. We served a Cardamom Salmon spread over plain bagel chips (recipe here) and had trouble pulling away from this pairing to move on to the next wine!

Our third wine was the Garnet 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir paired with a Black Quinoa and Spinich with Basil Pesto. Garnet Vineyards has been making cool climate pinots since 1983, and the current winemaker Allison Crowe joined the tasting to give us her insights into the wine. While the Hahn pinot was overwhelmingly the favorite of our guests, I truly enjoyed the subtlety of this wine. Strawberry and Vanilla with a smooth enticing spice finish off with elegant oak and “drink right now” tannins that makes this CArneros Pinot Noir a go to red around MissWineOH headquarters. This wine is on the higher end of our wine buying for dinner, at $19.99 (and is not available in Ohio) but go get this wine, I loved it. The quinoa dish got lost in the structure of this wine, so the recommendation is to add a pork tenderloin or for a vegetarian twist, a well seasoned tofu, on top of the quinoa. You can find the recipe here.

The last wine was a bit of a struggle for us. Franciscan Estate sent us their 2008 Magnificat, a Mertiage blend. I had opened this a bit ahead, and aerated each glass, but it seemed either very tight in the bottle or slight off. After multiple aerations (and a later decanting) it was sadly determined that the wine was corked. We paired this complex red with a well seasoned Meatballs and Marinara, and those came out beautifully. That recipe is here. I’m not one to give up on a wine, so I’ll be looking for a bottle in the area to try. We’ll let you know how that works out. Based on the comments from tasters in the twitterverse, I’ll recommend this wine. The 2007 is listed at $50.00 per bottle, so a special occasion/cellar wine for us.

Many thanks to the wineries, our MissWineOH who participated on a school night, and the folks at Wine Twits for organizing it all.

Have you tried these wines? Or the recipes? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Sipping!

#Writers Note# The four wines for this tasting were received as samples courtesy of the wineries and WineTwits. Thank you for letting us participate.

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Winery Adventure – Markko Vineyards

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Markko Vineyards - front entrance

A regal entrance into one of Ohio’s oldest and most successful wineries.

Markko Vineyards isn’t the easiest place to find. There is no big sign indicating “Winery Here” – in fact, there are no signs at all. I got a bit turned around on the back roads off of I-90 because of some bridge work (now completed) – but if you follow the directions from the Markko website, you’ll get there fine. And you should. You should make an appointment for a tasting, and go out and try these wines in Conneaut, Ohio. Arnie Esterer, owner and winemaker, has a theory. “Our wines are good. If they like good wine, they’ll find us,” so he’s not worried about drawing a crowd. He’s been at this for over 40 years, and he knows what he’s talking about – his wines are divine.

Markko WineryThis is not a “destination winery” and not one to appear on the cover of a tourist magazine, but the wines are worthy of The Beard House and the New York Times. There is a small tasting room with a table for 12, and old growth tree shaded deck. Perfect for one of their Perch and Riesling lunches.

Back deck at Markko

I chatted with Arnie and his son, opening bottles here and there, while we talked  about this incredible adventure they’ve been on. The goal when Arnie Esterer and Tim Hubbard started was to show the potential of Vinifera in the Lake Erie region – it wasn’t an AVA yet in 1968. They were looking for the terroir, and by george, I think they found it.

Markko has 16 acres under vine, and every bottle produced comes from estate grapes, producing about 2100 cases annually. When Markko got started they planted Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir under the guidance of Dr. Konstantin Frank (a New York winemaker). Later Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, and Merlot were added to the plantings. Over the last 44 years, Arnie has become known as pioneer in Ohio winemaking.

Once Arnie came back from testing the wines they intended to bottle that day, we started the tasting with his Chardonnay.

2007 Chardonnay Select Reserve, bottled in ’09 (I tasted in 2011, so it’d been aging in the bottle 2 years) This spent 2 years on oak, but the flavor of the chardonnay grape shines through. Apple and pear on the palate, buttery on the finish. I am in no way an oaky chardonnay fan – much prefer them stainless steel, but WOW. Beautiful. ($33) – This one was paired at a MissWineOH event with chicken salad toast points and fresh garden salsa crostinis.

2004 Chardonnay Reserve This spent 7 years sur lee on American oak. Yes, you read that right – 7 years. This one had less of the fruit on the palate, but the butter was certainly present. I’d call this a perfectly oaked Chardonnay. (2005 is $30, I don’t think the 2004 is available)

2007 Chardonnay Lot 0703 Three years on oak, and fined with egg whites. Pleasant fruit, crisp and aromatic. Slightly more obvious oak here. ($24)

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve A beautiful field blended Cab, smooth tannins and well balanced. Blending consists of 5% each of merlot, cab franc and chambourcin. Gorgeous. ($33)

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Having tasted the 07, I grasped just how Markko wines are meant to be aged. The 08 had more prominent alcohol, and was slightly more tannic. It is also a drier red, but has the same full mouthfeel as the 07. Similar field blend.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve The smoothest of the Cabs. Very fruit forward, the complexity of the field blending shows with fun layers of the chambourcin and cab franc peeking through. This wine, while aged similarly to the others in its oak barrels, did not have the oak intensity – beautiful wine, and any of the Cabs could lay down for many years. ($36)

2008 Johannesburg Riesling Grassy and slightly floral on the nose stone fruit on the palate, slight effervescence that makes this a great wine to pair with spicy dishes. (currently not available)

2007 Riesling Reserve More grassy and slightly petrol on the nose, with honey on the finish. This one also has that effervescence. ($30) I paired this at a special event with a pumpkin cupcake. Beautiful wine.

Arnie did not stop being an innovator when he planted vinifera in Ohio in 1968. He also devised a trellis system for organic grapegrowers and planted American, French and Hungarian oak trees on his 100 acre property.  The intent was to be able to harvest these (now 40 year old) trees to be sent to a cooperage to become Markko barrels. That harvesting begins this year. Winemaking innovation and excellence is  a hallmark at Markko.

I arrived with the intention of doing a bit of a tasting and picking up a bottle for an event I was doing. I stayed about 2.5 hours, and had I been dressed differently, I might have been conscripted to help cork their wines. They were bottling that day, a fun thing to watch, an incredibly labor intensive process to complete. They use a pump system and hand run equipment to bottle and seal.

Employee Notice - wash your feet

Arnie’s son told me during our conversation that they opened a 1973 Chardonnay a week before I’d been there, and that it had aged beautifully. I just wish I’d been around for THAT tasting. These Ohio wines, while not exactly budget friendly, are priced extremely well for the quality and pricing of comparable wines. Don’t let the Ohio AVA fool you. There are serious vintages being made in Conneaut.

Markko’s first vintage was in 1972, and their system works, so they aren’t fixing what’s not broken. Markko wines are available in wine shops throughout Northeast Ohio. I have spotted them in Heinen’s and in Constantino’s. They do have a few budget friendly wines ($9-$20) – and while I haven’t tasted them, I can’t imagine Arnie and Linda would put out a wine they wouldn’t drink. These folks make cellar worthy wines.

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