Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At The Source: Wine Blogging Wednesday #61 (aka "Georgia Wines, part 3 of 3, but now with a part 4 because I suck at brevity")

Been building up to this for a while; a little too difficult to condense my experiences of Georgia wine into one post (another big thanks to Lenn Thompson at Lenn Devours for putting together Wine Blogging Wednesdays and hosting #61!). And I know, I've come off as pandering. I get it. Talking about "beautiful grounds" and "great people" and "unforgettable experiences" in two previous posts: first about Montaluce Winery, then another about Wolf Mountain Vineyards, both on the Dahlonega Plateau in North Georgia. I've probably come off a sell-out advertiser for their businesses.

Well, lay off. I was born in Atlanta. I grew up in the 'burbs. I attended the University of Georgia. Then I moved back to Atlanta. Now I live in the 'burbs...

...crap. I forgot to attend the University of Georgia again somewhere in-between. Why does my life feel like a scene in Groundhog Day? Anyway, I guess my point is that I can't help but have an affinity for the natural beauty that does exist in my home state, especially up north. I won't be faulted because people in the hospitality industry are generally quite nice (especially folks I've met in the wine industry, and especially in the South). And I won't apologize for (even shamelessly) backing a wine industry if it helps Georgia's economy. We DID genuinely enjoy the grounds and the views. The folks HONESTLY came off as genuine and welcoming to my wife and I. Was it because they knew they'd get free publicity? Sure, that's possible, but I don't believe it's the case. For these reasons alone, visiting Georgia wine country is a good idea, even if you don't drink wine at all. But, despite my abhorrence of critiquing anything (I was once told- quite correctly, I think- that a critic is no more than bitter fool slamming something he's not good enough to do himself), I at least owe the wineries and the readers an honest opinion of what I drank. I'm not good enough to do what they do. I also suck at being critical. If anything, I offer fodder for you to provide an entertaining dissent.

We tried a LOT of wine...I think 15 total, including ones made from Chardonnay, Viognier, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah. Georgia's really still trying to figure out what works best with the climate. I also know of Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio, Petit Verdot, and Malbec creeping up the trellises in the Peach State, so there's a lot going on.

Okay, okay, I know I'm filibustering. On to the wines, and I'll try to keep it as brief as possible:

2008 Blanc de Blancs Brut: French for "white from whites", this is a sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay. Wolf Mountain employs the "Méthode Champenoise", or tradional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. This creates a yeasty, biscuity bubbly with smaller, longer lasting bubbles. This one was very lightly yeasty, with a nice herbal, melon, and citrus nose. Clean and herbal in the mouth. Frankly, one of my favorites...paid full price and took a bottle home with me.

2008 Plenitude: An unoaked, 75% Chardonnay, 25% Viognier blend (blending being a common theme in Wolf Mountain wines). Peachy, herbal nose, kiwi, cantaloupe. Nice acidity in the mouth, very clean, but a little hollow, like the flavors dropped off. Nothing complicated, but a fine easy-drinker.

2008 Chanteloup: Same blend as the Plenitude, but it spent 6 months in French Oak (I couldn't find out whether the oak was new, neutral, or in-between). I think the oak aging helped in this case. Where the Plenitude fell short, the structure and tannin of the oak kind of "filled in the gaps". It reminded me a lot of an Alsatian white: nice floral nose, really dry in the mouth, with a fuller mouthfeel. I really preferred this to the Plenitude

2008 Sunset Rosé: a Rhône-style blush wine of Mourvèdre and Syrah. It was really earthy and clean, once again subtle and simple. I noted that I wasn't sure if these wines were just VERY subtle, or if they were just lacking complexity. Regardless, I'd knock this back with some pulled pork any day. I just wouldn't pontificate about it. I guess, often, that's what rosé is about anyway: uncomplicated summer quaffing.

2006 Coupage: A right bank Bordeaux-style blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. 40% of the grapes underwent a whole-berry fermentation, or "carbonic maceration", which you see a lot in Beaujolais. My wife really liked this one, so I'm sure it had its merit. To me, this was my least favorite. The nose was just kind of sickly, and I couldn't get past it. I'd like to give it another try, but it really wasn't doin' it for me on this day. That being said, I really respect the creative techniques in effort to make better wine.

Howling Wolf Red: A non-vintage blend of leftover 51% Syrah and 49% Cabernet (winemaker Karl Boegner referred to it as a "byproduct" wine). Well, it was a damn good byproduct, and probably my favorite of the day. A very earthy, minty, chocolate & berry nose led into a silky, smooth mouth of dark fruit. Nice, smooth and ripe tannins. However, the incredible earthiness in it (like many of the wines) really screamed "Georgia terroir" to me, in the best way possible. I drank this with my wife and a professional chef on Sunday. The chef, although half-in-the-bag, declared it to be "pretty damn good wine". That's a ringing endorsement. Nice effort.

2006 Claret: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Mourvèdre. Nice berry, tobacco, and pepper nose. Once again, I wrote down "clean" in the mouth, suggesting it was a little hollow and lacking in complexity to me. Despite the grapes, the tannins were pretty smooth, so it was ready to drink.

2008 WMV Demi-Sec: an off-dry 75% Chardonnay/ 25% Viognier blend with 3% residual sugar. Nose of pineapple, melon...almost "Riesling-y" (can you just add a "y" to the end of anything and make up a stupid new word?) in the sense that there was a fuel-ish smell (okay, you can frivilously add "ish" as well). Banana-y (crap!) as well. The mouth had tropical fruit flavors: papaya and mango, but I think it lacked acidity. Not bad.

Okay, originally, I planned on talking about the Montaluce wines as well, but the length of this thing is getting ridiculous. I'll do that in a separate post. Until then, I've seen Wolf Mountain wines at Harry's/ Whole Foods, and Total Wine (check your local bottle shop too). Give them a try and compare notes. I welcome you to disagree with me, because that just proves how trivial wine reviews really are. It's all about personal taste, and mine is very likely different from yours. I'd like to think I've just given you some cliff notes. At the very least, I hope- once again- that you support the local growers and vintners.

And now, I will shut up. Okay, not yet: Cheers, Sláinte, L'Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!
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