Purité – Purely Unoaked Wine From Fess Parker

2006 Purite ChardonnayFess Parker Winery has recently released a new line of wine under the Purité label to showcase white wines that aren’t touched by Oak. Quite a few wine drinkers today love big, buttery, oaky Chardonnays, and the industry reflects that, as most Chardonnays sold are oaked in some way and/or go through malolactic fermentation or sur lie aging. But those wines just aren’t the greatest with food (unless your limiting your meal to cheese). The Purité line aims to offer wines with balanced acid and clean fruit flavors, devoid of any secondary malolactic fermentation or sur lie aging, that should work perfect with your midweek dinner. Initially, a Viognier and Chardonnay are available, with a Dry Riesling planned for the near future.

I had a chance to try the inaugural offerings last month with Tim Snider of Fess Parker and Epiphany Cellars at Charles Communications in San Francisco. The following are my notes from that tasting.

2006 Purité Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, CA

ABV: 14.5%

Production: 403 Cases

Retail: $22

Notes: This light straw colored offering exhibits a touch of lemon grass and pear on the palate. The acid is bright and crisp with more lemon zest on the medium length finish. It’s a nice wine and you find that Chardonnay in this capacity closely resembles Sauvignon Blanc.

Score: B (84-86 points)

2006 Purité Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

ABV: 14.8%

Production: 103 Cases

Retail: $22

Notes: Immediately on the nose is a pleasant floral note, with hints of lychee and passion fruit, a nice bright mouthfeel but a bit hot towards the back of the palate and on the finish from the high alcohol. Still, a nice first effort that really showcases what Viognier is capable of in this more naked form.

Score: B/B+ (86-88 points)

Note: Although not pictured, these wines are sealed with a Stelvin screw cap, bravo!

Product Review – The Wine Tube

The Wine Tube EmptyWine-Wall.com, an online retailer that sells wine accessories, has introduced the wine tube, a 2 foot long apparatus for storing a case of wine. We got our hands on a press sample and the following is our review.

At first glance, the tube appears to be a simple stainless steel pipe with a few holes drilled through it. During installation however, it’s obvious that some work went into designing this piece. The package comes with 2 king size screws and 2 spacers, which float the rack off the wall just enough to allow bottle clearance. Although the website sells drywall anchors, this rack should definitely be anchored directly into a stud. I mounted mine in the garage to test it first, and loaded it with empty bottles. Even though I managed to fasten it into the studs, it wobbled a bit when adding or removing a bottle. Not a huge concern, but perhaps the design would benefit from a third fastener.

The Wine Tube FullWhen filled with all 12 bottles this modest design exudes a tasteful, modern look, showcasing wine very nicely, especially imaginative labels. Of course, you wouldn’t want to mount it near a window or in the kitchen, but on an accent wall a pair of these would add a great look to any wine lovers home. Save any wax capped or over sized bottles for the cellar as this rack favors a standard bottle. Overall, this is a very nice effort and would make a great gift.

Price: $49 for 1, or $82 for 2.

Website: www.wine-wall.com

Shipping to the U.S. and Canada

[rating:3.75]

Try the Wine from Nampa

Idaho MapNo, that isn’t a typo, Nampa is located in the beautiful state of Idaho, and yes, they make wine. Nampa isn’t the only city in which wine is produced in the state, in fact, at the time of this writing, 34 wineries are listed on the website www.idahowine.org as either already producing wine, or coming soon.

The area’s Wine Growers experiment with quite a number of different varietals and styles. Idaho is one of the few states that produce Ice wine, thanks to the reliable frost that comes through late in the harvest season. Reisling also seems to grow well, lending itself perfectly to a nice dessert-ready late harvest wine. Of the three wineries I visited, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurtzminer, Viognier, and Bordeaux style blends were all produced. I found myself partial to the whites more than the reds, which included the dessert wines.

Our first stop was The Winery at Eagle Knoll (Website), a 5,000 case production facility with tranquil grounds for weddings and events. The Winemaker, Vernon Kindred, has a palate that leans toward dry wines, which translates into a very nice Chardonnay that doesn’t see oak or malolactic fermentation, and a dry Riesling that is well balanced and food friendly. The staff was friendly, prices reasonable, and white wines surprisingly pleasant. An enjoyable pairing was with a white dessert wine and a nibble of dark chocolate .The Winery has recently changed hands and the new owners are aiming at improving quality, changing the label, and investing in the business. Watch out for this one over the next few years.

Next we found ourselves sipping and depositing a lot of wine in the spit buckets of St. Chapelle Winery in Caldwell, ID, Southwest of Boise (Website). Although the Sparkling Brut was a good value, pretty much all of the other wines tasted off, sweet, flabby, or austere. The grounds are nice however, and it seems to be a popular choice for weddings and other events. A good comparison winery in California is Sutter Home. Huge production, low prices, low quality, with one or two varietals that are just O.K.

Our last stop was the Koenig Winery & Distillery (Website). Although the wines here are good, the prices are a bit steep, and I would much rather buy a good red from Washington at less than half the price. The Viognier was nice, but still, a bit pricey. The real gem of this stop is the vodka distilled from potatoes in double copper pot still’s made by renowned German coppersmith Adrian & Co. Unfortunately, the state doesn’t allow tasting of hard alcohol or shipping to any other state, so you have to pony up and grab a bottle when you visit. If you’re a vodka fan, this effort is sure to impress, and can be enjoyed in typical martini fashion or sipped out of a petite wine glass. Our tour guide, Gina, also recommends the brandies, available in Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Grappa, Peach, Pear, Plum, and Raspberry.

The next time you’re passing through town, move to the area, or are just going to Boise to watch the Bronco’s, schedule some time to see Nampa, you might be surprised at what you find.

Compass Box Shakes Up Scotch Industry

John Glasser of Compass BoxIn a world that has been somewhat unchanged for years, John Glaser is beginning to turn some heads. His method is unconventional, although quite common in the wine world. His company, Compass Box, is responsible for producing around 6,000 cases of award winning Scotch a year, with one catch: they don’t make it. The company contracts with about 15 different producers, and blends unique traits from each cask at their warehouse in London, creating a final blend that garners attention. For example, the Spice Tree, a whiskey that was blended and aged in barrels that contained Oak staves to infuse a rich flavor, was deemed impermissible by the Scotch Whiskey Association, and Glaser was forced to discontinue the blend. He laments in the announcement on his website:

Not much we could do at that point, with a gun, (figuratively speaking) pointed at our head. But don’t worry! The good news is we’ve got lots of other whiskies in development. We have no shortage of ideas. And no diminished passion for creating extraordinary and delicious whiskies. Stay tuned.

Glaser kept close ties to his former employer, Diageo brands, producers of Johnny Walker, and his contacts in the industry, giving him an “in” to buy the whiskey’s he blends. A man in his 40′s originally from Minnesota, he has done much to raise awareness of the spirit, helping to showcase a profile that hadn’t really been seen, and it’s beginning to pay off.

Compass Box has won Whisky magazine’s Innovator of the Year award four times in six years, which may say less about the recipient of the award than about the very conservative industry, in which even little innovations make big splashes.

Read [Wired.com]