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Tackling the wines still open

By Dave Buchanan
It's been a while, hasn't it? Wish I could say I've been away, say to Friuli or slipping along the Grand Canal in Venice but instead it's only been time passing by. Don't pay the ransom, I've escaped. What do I have open at home? Let's see, as I rummage through the fridge. A 2007 Grand Valley Riesling ($12) from Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Vineyards, crisp, clean, a beautiful white tasting of honey and flowers just right for afternoon sipping while wondering where I'm going to plant the herbs I picked up last weekend from Cheri's Herbal Greenhouse on Orchard Mesa. There also is a 2007 Pinot Gris ($20) from J Vineyards in Healdsburg, Cal. This tantalizing wine bursting with honeysuckle and peach is one of the first vintages brought forth for J by noted winemaker George Bursick, and it carries his signature of crisp acidity and open, mouth-filling fruit without being overbearing. There's an unlabeled bottle of 2005 Cabernet/Sangiovese (or is it Cabernet/Merlot? or maybe Cabernet/Nebbiolo) made by home winemaker Sal Sassano of Rocky Hill Vineyards in way, way north Grand Junction. No price but priceless nonetheless. The wine has been laid down for the year or so since Sassano gave it me and it's thrown enough sediment to plant those herbs. Heavy, dense, full of earth and terroir and the loving attention indicative of a one-man operation. A beautiful wine that most of my friends won't like. And finally, there's a 2007 Chardonnay from the inimitable Parker Carlson. Remember last time when I said there were two wines that really stood out during the first weekend of the Spring Barrel Tasting? There was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Jenne Baldwin-Eaton at Plum Creek Cellars (yet to be released) and there was Carlson's new chardonnay. Here are my initial tasting notes on that blustery Saturday morning under the awning at Carlson's winery: "Wow. Crisp, lots of green apple with a hint of tropical fruits and even a bit of minerality. A real chardonnay, just like those from Friuli. Buy this one right now." I get paid to be nosy, so I quizzed Carlson about this new wine, and his answer was just what I wanted to hear. "This is the kind of wine I've been trying to make for 10 years," said Carlson, one of the great people of Colorado wine country. "I've been trying to get these flavors and finally think I've found out when to pick the fruit." For this wine, which went about 22.8 brix of sugar when picked on September 7 from Lola Brennan's vineyard at 33 and C Road, Carlson actually picked the grapes a week or so early, trying to capture the fruit flavors without being overwhelmed by the sugars and acidity. The final wine is very lovely 12.5 percent alcohol. By comparison, the 2006 chardonnay from the same vineyard was picked at 24.2 brix and fermented out at 14.5 percent alcohol. There's absolutely no oak, which doesn't surprise anyone familiar with Carlson's predilection for purity in his wines (well, most of his wines, anyway. There's always Sweet Baby Red for those who want a sugar rush along with the alcohol). Avoiding oak, whether by barrel or chips, lets the wine reveal itself and the skill of the winemaker. "I'm really proud of this wine, I think it might be the best I've done," said Carlson, with evident self-satisfaction. The wine is priced at $12.49. I mean, the wine will be priced at $12.49. Carlson said it won't be released until later this summer. Don't ask how I got a bottle. That would be nosy.

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