Tag: Viognier

At Moshin Vineyards gravity is good for the wine

At Moshin Vineyards gravity is good for the wine

We usually don’t think of wine and gravity going together.  When I knock over a glass of wine, gravity causes the precious juice to fall to the floor.  Or worse yet, when the 2014 Napa earthquake struck, gravity maliciously conspired with shaking of the Earth to cause many bottles of wine to plummet to their sad demise.

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This stylish hutch held 110 bottles of wine at 3:19 a.m. on August 24, 2014
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Thanks, gravity. Thanks a lot.

Perhaps you can see why we generally think of wine and gravity as mortal enemies.  But there is a method – more common in Europe –where gravity plays a key (and useful) role in the winemaking process.  In most winery operations grapes and juice are moved around mechanically via conveyors, pumps and other machinery.  This movement can change the way in which the juice is extracted, oxidized, tannins are released, etc.  In gravity-flow winemaking, after the crush process the wine moves to fermentation, cellar and bottling all via gravity with no pumps or other mechanical assistance.

In 1989, Rick Moshin had a dream to step away from his day job – teaching mathematics at San Jose State University – and run his own winery.  He knew that he wanted to make wine using the gravity-flow method and that he would have to find a property that could accommodate that approach.   Optimally, gravity-flow operations are found on properties that are sloped.  Rick Moshin found the perfect property along Westside Road in Sonoma’s Russian River.  He purchased 10 acres and started the arduous process of building out the winery.  Gravity-flow winemaking is not for everyone: it can be more time-consuming and expensive to produce wine.  But this method is particularly appropriate for the delicate and thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape.  Below is Moshin’s diagram of their gravity-flow process (courtesy of their website).  Visitors can take a tour with a prior appointment, something we recommend simply because it is so different from tours at other wineries.

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Welcome to Moshin Vineyards
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Hummingbird sculpture in front of the tasting room
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And a hummingbird on every bottle

We stopped by Moshin Vineyards during a recent 3-day vacation in Sonoma (yes, we live in Napa and “traveled” the 40 miles to the Russian River to overnight for 3 days).  We absolutely loved our visit to Moshin; it punched every item on our list: beautiful location, high-quality wines, and fantastic people.  The tasting experience was quite enjoyable and, we must add, quite the bargain compared to some of our Napa Valley tastings.

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We don’t see too many $15 tastings in Napa Valley anymore

During our tasting we had the opportunity to taste quite a few wines – as usual, more than are typically offered .  When the tasting room staff knows you enjoy the wine and are interested in learning more and possibly buying, they will almost always pour more.  We tasted several white wines including the Moshin Sauvignon Blanc and two different Russian River Chardonnay offerings, each from a different vineyard location.

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Dueling chardonnay

As you would expect from a Russian River winery, Moshin produces Pinot Noir, in fact quite a few different versions from multiple locations across Sonoma as well as different vineyards within Russian River.  We really enjoyed their Russian River Pinot Noir which we found to be a classic representation of the varietal from that  region:  full-bodied, earthy, with notes of mushroom and, dare we say, forest floor.

 

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Who doesn’t love this color?

At Moshin, though, the red wines are not just limited to Pinot Noir. We also tasted a Syrah and a Merlot, both of which were special wines.  We actually purchased a bottle of Merlot – a wine more often found in Napa Valley.  Moshin’s Merlot – produced from grapes grown in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley – had strong dark fruit aroma and flavor with hints of chocolate.

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A fantastic Merlot

How do you top off a great wine tasting? If you’re lucky, with a sweet dessert wine.  At Moshin we had the treat of experiencing their luscious Moshin Potion, a late harvest blend of Gewürztraminer and Viognier.

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Dessert in a bottle

We couldn’t resist taking a bottle of this home with us along with the Merlot and several of the Pinot Noir offerings.  We’ve added Moshin to our list of Sonoma “must return” wineries and we’ll be back soon.

John & Irene Ingersoll

August 15, 2017

 

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This shack sells fantastic grape juice

This shack sells fantastic grape juice


Westside Road winds and meanders its way through Sonoma County’s wine region, on some stretches moving East-West and along others North-South.  In all of its directions and gyrations, Westside Road takes its travelers past some of the best wineries in Sonoma’s impressive wine region. The Westside Wine Trail, as it’s also known, starts in the town of Healdsburg and ends in a forest-like setting near Guerneville.  One of our favorite wineries on this route is Porter Creek Vineyards, an easy place to miss if you happen to turn your head at the wrong moment …or blink.  Unlike many wineries in the area, Porter Creek does not have a huge tasting room building, visitor center, deli, or cafe.  They have a small shack.  It is a damn fine shack, we have to say, but still a shack.

The drive from Westside Road to the shack is along an unpaved dirt road.  After parking, this is the first thing we saw on our way to the shack.

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A winery committed to doing things the right way
This is the second thing that we saw.

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The chickens would be a greater threat to our dogs
No big fancy tasting room or winery property.  No paved road.  Organic farm with free-range chickens.  Hopefully you’re starting to get an important point about Porter Creek: they have a strong commitment to sustainable farming.  This commitment is not a marketing ploy but rather a long-standing one held by this family-owned winery since it purchased the land in 1977.  George Davis, the patriarch of Porter Creek Vineyards, combined his commitment to sustainabilty with a strong desire to remain true to the grape varietals planted in the vineyards.  His son Alex Davis, the current winemaker, continues his father’s commitments and in one important area – sustainable certification – is raising the bar even higher.  Porter Creek’s Aurora-certified vineyards are being transitioned to Demeter biodynamic certification.  For farming and/or sustainability geeks, here’s what that means:  Organic vs. Biodynamic

If you don’t care how your wine is made, that’s okay too.  We don’t drink Porter Creek – and it’s not on the menu at 3-Michelin star The French Laundry – just because it is organic or biodynamic.  Porter Creek makes fantastic wines that happen to be certified organic and, soon, certified biodynamic.

When we finally entered the shack there were only two others tasting wine, a rare treat as we are usually elbow-to-elbow with fellow tasters when we go to Porter Creek. But it was early in the day and during the week so we beat the weekend crowds.  Our cousins from Spain joined us for the tasting and we were excited to hear their reactions to our California wines.  We were met by Steve who took us through one of the most entertaining and comprehensive tastings we have experienced in a very long time.

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These were just some of the wines we enjoyed
Porter Creek has a fantastic selection of both white and red wines, including a splendid Rosè made from Zinfandel grapes.  We tasted everything on the tasting menu and another three or four wines thatare not part of a typical tasting; we must have looked interested – or at least thirsty!

All of the Porter Creek wines share a similar approach to winemaking: let the wine reflect the varietal as well as the place and conditions in which the grape was grown.  Oak is used to enhance the flavor of the wine but not to manipulate the final product.

Our Spanish cousins were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the wine as well as the tasting experience.  In their home country they tend to drink “local” wines and have never been exposed to Somoma County or Russian River fine wine.  The balance, sophistication and refinement of the Porter Creek wines were obvious to them and they were able to overcome their Spanish wine snobbiness.  They readily admitted that these wines were on par with the best wines they have tasted.

We have been to Porter Creek before and we will go again, hopefully soon.  In the meantime we bought quite a few bottles to replenish our cellar at home, and a few bottles made the long trip back to Madrid with the cousins.

John & Irene Ingersoll

August 10, 2017

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The fruits – or grapes – of war.  

The fruits – or grapes – of war.  

Last night we opened a bottle of 2015 De La Guerra Viognier from Napa Valley’s Carneros region.  Translated literally, the words “de la Guerra” in Spanish mean “of the war” or “from the war.”  In this case, however, De La Guerra refers not to any battle or war but instead is the name of one of the oldest winemaking families in California.  De La Guerra is a second wine label of the esteemed HdV Winery in Napa.  In our very first post on this blog, we wrote about HdV, a partnership between the Hyde family in California and the famous de Villaine family in France.  Larry Hyde, grower of some of Carneros’ best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, is a De La Guerra descendant .

De La Guerra 2014 Viognier

Like all of the HdV and De La Guerra wines, the Viognier was sophisticated, balanced and luscious. For those that have not experienced this varietal – Viognier is a French grape from the Rhine region of France.  Typically, it has strong citrus and floral aromatics and flavor with a full-bodied finish.  Many American expressions of Viognier end up very smooth and creamy as a result of ripe fruit, secondary (malolactic) fermentation, and the use of new oak.

Lovely golden color and silky texture.

Fortunately, the De La Guerra Viognier was made in the more traditional French style and did not suffer from the overdone, heavy-handed style that often results in a sweet, almost syrupy wine.  On the nose, the Viognier had strong citrus elements – lemon and tangerine – as well as a strong floral component with hints of rose and honeysuckle.  On the palate, the wine was crisp, pleasantly acidic, with clear minerality mingling with the fruit flavors.  The Viognier went nicely with dinner but could also be enjoyed by itself (by which we mean with a good book and a patio chair outside).

We have many bottles of the HdV brand at home but this was our only bottle of any variety from the De La Guerra label; there is also a Chardonnay listed on the website that we are planning to order.  For more information on HdV or De La Guerra wines, visit the HdV website:  HdV Wines.

For the HdV story and an introduction to the team, click here:  The HdV Story and Team.

John & Irene Ingersoll

April 17, 2017