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Tag Archives: Sparkling Wine

Tiny Bubbles, in my wine….

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pardon the Don Ho flashbacks….

Mr WineOH and I headed over to Lago for a Bubbles tasting with a Northeast Ohio wine group. What better way to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon than sipping on some bubbles and meeting new friends!

Our hosts were Mindy and Alice from WineTrends, an Ohio distributor – so all of the sparklings we tasted are available in the Cleveland Metro area. John from Lago was gracious enough to open the doors early for the group – and provide us with appetizers. This restaurant specializes in northern italian cuisine and has a nice by the glass list. They also have a lovely patio with live music on warm days.

Now, on the the Bubbles!

zardetto prosecco label We started with Zardetto Prosecco – this one is aged in stainless steel.  Any sparklings produced in Italy after 2009 must be from Prosecco to be CALLED Prosecco, otherwise, it is called Glara –  much like the limitations placed on french wines, including Champagne. See more about that here.

The Zardetto is 95% Prosecco and 5% Chardonnay – we found crisp acidity and green apple flavors. Its floral on the nose, and soft on the palate. We got to this one a bit warm, which presented as flat. This one is bone dry, compared to other proseccos you’ll find. At $12.99 – I place it high on the QPR scale.

Loosen Sparkling Riesling label Dr. L Dr. L Sparkling Riesling was next on the menu – 100% pure Riesling from one of the most accessible German producers. The Dr. L is another stainless steel sparkling, called “Sekt” in Germany and is produced using the Charmat method. The secondary fermentation is done in a pressurized tank, producing smaller, longer-lasting bubbles; as opposed to Methode Champenoise, where secondary fermentation is in the bottle. If you are curious about this process, read more here.

The Dr. L was definitely bubble heavy, almost too heavy on my palate. Even the finish had a strong effervescence. I got stone fruit on the nose, and some banana on the palate. It is an interesting and affordable sparkling at $11.99.

Laetitia Pink Sparkling labelWe then headed to the Arroyo Grande Valley in California, tasting Laetitia Brut Rosé – this one is produced in small batch tanks – medium bubbles and elegant fruit, mostly strawberry – showing off the Pinot Noir base, and a niggle (that’s a technical term) of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. If you like pink bubbles, you’ll like this one, as it’s an easy sipper, though I could see it an easy pairing with chicken or fish. Selling at $19.99, I’d put it midrange on the QPR scale.

Taltarni Brut Tache label Next on the trip was Victoria,  Australia, with Taltarni Brut Taché. Made from 54% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier – this sparkling is elegant, floral and has just the right amount of bubbles for me. according to the winemaker’s notes, the pink hue is achieved by adding a hint of red wine liqueur to the finished wine at disgorgement. Strawberry and floral on the nose, I got less of the Pinot Noir in this one. The mouthfeel was luscious and the complex yeast characters typical of well made sparklings were obvious. At a local price of $29.99, its a bit lower on the QPR scale, but I found it online for around $23. I think its worth that price.

We had to spend some time with the French bubbles of course, which means the prices get well…. pricey!

ayala zero dosage brut champagne

The Ayala Brut Zero Dosage was the first of the French champagnes, and is a lesson in how champagne is made. Champagne spends many months, sometimes years maturing in bottle on its yeast lees.  At the end of this time, the wine is ‘disgorged’, meaning the yeast lees are removed.  A final ‘dosage’ – a wine/sugar solution – is added immediately afterwards, which gives the wine the level of dryness/sweetness required by the cellar master.

This is a zero dosage champagne and with no residual sugar, an extremely dry wine.

40% pinot noir; 40% chardonnay; 20% pinot meunier – a delicate effervescence, distinct fruitiness and a long finish.

This was my favorite of the tasting… but as MamaWineOH would remind me. I can walk into a store and fall in love with the most expensive item, without looking at the pricetags.

This champagne retails at $49.99.

champagne j lassalle

The Champagne J Lassalle was the grower champagne of the event. It is grown and produced by three women at this family owned Champagne house in Chigny-Les-Roses in the heart of the Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France. This is a Kermit Lynch import selection, and one of impeccable taste. A blend of 60/40 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it is a distinctive Premier Cru Champagne. Fruity and soft, dry and beautifully structured with a long finish – a champagne to truly sip and enjoy. This bottle would work perfectly for any special occasion and is available from fine wine merchants in Cleveland. It retails for $49.99.

The tasting was lovely, and bubbles are a great way to spend an afternoon. I love Lago Restaurant in Tremont – but there was not a lot of thought put into the pairings on the appetizers. One of the apps was heavy onion – which can do some serious damage to the palate, particularly when tasting the delicate flavors in champagne.

The price was right at $30 for this tasting. I’d just as soon have had a bit of brie and crackers to nibble with the bubbles though.

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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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