2001 Lingenfelder Großkarlbacher Osterberg Riesling Spätlese

It's electric! Dark n' deep gold - spraying viscous wafts of 93 octane premium petrol, sharp key lime spritz, and ripe Georgia peach. Grab a few white flowers, toss'em in the blender and puree some flamboyant apricot preserves. Now, add in sugary egg yolks, salty pistachios and some fresh shaved truffle. Whoo awww... Ride the Rhine river to Pfalz and get some! I had the chance to meet Ranier Lingenfelder, proprietor, at the New York Wine Expo back in February, and this guy's family has been doing Riesling since the 14th century. Trust the tradition.

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1998 R. López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia

This summer, I was hot for Lopez de Heredia and yet, I missed my opportunity to purchase this wine when it was first released. So, tonight - I jumped when my local Sommelier pointed out something special on the list: The 1998 R. López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. Excuse me? Yeah, it's a mouthful. Even before opening, the color seduces you ... In the glass, vibrant peach rust hues lure you into the bouquet of sweet marzipan, bright red fruit, warmed sawdust, dried apricot, peach cobbler and deep, wet sandy notes. The briny minerality is scary ... Think of laying on a warm, wet beach towel, fresh out of the ocean. If I were blind, I'd guess this as a red. So full, the mouthfeel is unreal. Tart cherry flavors yield to cinnamon spice and as the roller coaster undulates up and down, we're lead from cranberry to wet and woolly sour lactic funk - butter milk notes give me flashbacks of Joly's Coulée de Serrant but, this isn't the Loire my friends... No, no. Twelve years of careful and calculated age show what precision oxidation does to dress up this Rioja cuvée. 60% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 10% Viura intermingle playfully on the tongue and leave you in an mild aldehydic, Jerez like trance as the ethereal marzipan reemerges - morphing into a mature, restrained nuttiness ... Up and down and indeed, well worth the ride!

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A Visit to Spring Mountain Vineyard

While in Napa this past July, my palate began to dream... Vivid and fermented thoughts of rich mountain fruit dominated the reverie. Knowing this urge couldn't be restrained, I quickly found my way to Spring Mountain Vineyard, and my palate was thankful.
Taken directly from the source: "Spring Mountain Vineyard is an 850 acre estate of forest and vineyard on the eastern slopes of Spring Mountain which rises behind the town of Saint Helena. The vineyard occupies about 226 acres of the estate and is broken into 135 small and separate hillside vineyard blocks. Each small block and slope has a unique soil, exposure to the sun, and microclimate."
When I arrived, it was a beautiful day, the sun beat down and I couldn't have asked for better hospitality. The pleasure of sampling a serious line-up of wine was soon to be mine.
We started with a refreshing 2007 Spring Mountain Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel fermentation and sur-lie batonnage give the crisp juice a delightfully rich nuance. From here, we moved onto the decadent 2001 Elivette. From the famed '01 vintage, this Gobelet-grown wine packs serious depth while offering seamless, elegant fruit and a velvety, prolonged finish.
We ended with a very special library release, the storied 1993 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. With only 760 cases made, this treat was rare. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 13%, and Cabernet Franc 11%, marry together from separate blocks transforming into something more than the sum of its parts. Still impressively young, the first release from the new estate, sets the bar high with a sweet kiss of cedar folded with classic blackberry, minty dark chocolate, and lead-wrapped earthy goodness.
As outlined on their website, "Spring Mountain Vineyard's goal is to produce exceptional wines that showcase powerful mountain fruit that through gentle and graceful winemaking produces wine with elegance and strength." Given Spring Mountain's cool, rainy climate compared to other AVAs, the vineyard's vertical goblet trellising and resulting low yields, I find these vines produce wines that sing!
Should you find yourself in Napa, California in search of wine from serious mountain fruit - I suggest you find your way to Spring Mountain Vineyard and taste the dream.
Photos & film by: Fermented Thoughts
Music by: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Source: Spring Mountain Vineyard


"Furmint-ed" Thought: Tokaji

Fur-what? Look people, wine can be confusing. Deal with it, I know I am. One bottle at a time. So many complexities: different countries, classifications, grape types, growths, regions, laws, wine making styles, minimum blending and aging requirements, terminology, terrior, sulfites, what to pair it with, how much you can drink before getting "rotten", etc... Part of our quest here at Fermented Thoughts is to educate and perhaps, at times - to turn you onto something new.

First off, Furmint [FOOR - mint] is the principal grape used in producing Tokaji [TOKE-eye], Hungry's renowned sweet, late-harvest, white wine made from Furmint, Harslevelu and Muscat grapes. Being thin-skinned and late-ripening, Furmint is often affected by noble-rot. This is a good thing. As this "rot" takes place, the grapes shrivel like raisins and lose most of their weight, leaving only the rich, sugar-concentrated essence of the grape that is kneaded into a paste and added to the base wine produced one-year prior, allowing it to ferment a second time. The result is a very rich, sweet white wine that is both lush and balanced. Some argue Tokaji rivals and even surpasses French Sauternes.

Now, here's where it get's confusing. Furmint, by itself is also vinified into a dry white wine exhibiting both high acid and alcohol from the cool, long growing seasons of northeast Hungry.

While there is always contention as to "who was first" regarding wine, the Hungarians are quick to point out that they were the birthplace of quality classification between 1700-1720, followed by Portugal with the 1756 classification of Port and then France's Great Classification of Bordeaux in 1855. Prince Rakoczi II of Transylvania first classified the vineyards primae classis, secundae classis and tertius classis or 1st - 3rd growths. This system outlined quality and is still in place today.

Quality production however dwindled during the Communist takeover of the Hungarian wine trade and it wasn't until the fall of the iron curtain, that Tokaji truly began its renaissance. The Royal Tokaji Wine Company was founded in 1989 by a group lead by Hugh Johnson, the prominent wine authority, to secure a future for Tokaji and to preserve a dying art. Located 125 miles northeast of Budapest, Royal Tokaji produces many wines but, only five single vineyard wines including Furmint.

The video above goes further to showcase not just the rich wines themselves but also the rich and storied history of the region.


Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 - Retail $14

Light golden hay in color, Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 opens with a hot and intense nose hinting at its 14% alcohol by volume. Nonchalant tropical notes of kiwi and banana skin float on with time and mix in among layers of citrus and thick toasted nuts. At first the palate is restrained but really picks up momentum and jumps out at you in full-force on the finish. Full-bodied and tangy, subtle flavors of honey, ripe lemon and tropical mangosteen are flanked by a light cosmetic nuance.


Rewarding, biscuity marzipan leads to a mouth searing acidity that says "I am Hungarian and proud of my tradition!" Really, this wine is so very similar to the Aligote I enjoyed recently with such a high acidity but, rewarding fruit and layered, complex flavors. I'll be keeping my eye on this producer and you should too.

Wine Bloggers Conference

Barry Schuler (former CEO of AOL and now VC and Vintner) addresses the crowd on new technologies and how they apply to the business of wine. The Wine Bloggers Conference is indeed up and running at full speed.

This man is passionate and can read an audience. Humor is just as important as knowledge when commanding a room.

Key take aways: Right now, we're going through "Death Valley," where traditional media is deflating faster than new models are being developed. Today's new business model is "if they come, we will build it!" We've gone from broad to narrow to micro and now, nano casting. The message continues to get more fragmented; however, every downturn leads to opportunity. Wine Bloggers are reshaping the media industry and so long as they stay passionate, build a brand, tell the story well and continue to survive - they may ultimately thrive.

Disaggregation and fragmentation is bound to consolidate in a new form with time... Those that stay strong will be the victors who cash in on the opportunity.

Returning to Italia

Just shy of one year ago I set out on a journey. A journey of taste. Accompanied by two close friends, together we formed an impressively insatiable force. Our stomachs were empty, our palates dry, and our spirit strong. Seeking sustenance for the mind, body, and soul we soon found ourselves sitting at Italian and French tables and feeling very much at home. As we trekked through Pisa, the Cinque Terre, BeauSoleil, and Monaco, good times were had and many a bottle shed its lifeblood in our glass...

In less than a week, Fermented Thoughts will invade Italy once more - feasting on culture. We'll be in search of lively Ligurian wines, freshly caught Mediterranean cuisine, and views that exude the essence of laid-back, riviera living. After hiking from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore, we'll find our way to Florence, back up to Pisa, over to Portofino and back again.

Until we return with a new sack full o' pics - enjoy last year's harvest!


Wine to Water

Jesus did it (well, in reverse...). Doc Hendly did it. We did it and you can too!

In 2003, Doc Hendley was a bartender from North Carolina that had a dream. That dream became a reality in 2007 when he founded Wine to Water, a non-profit organization who's mission is to support clean water projects - helping deliver fresh, clean, and sustainable drinking water around the world.

How did he do it? Wine tastings! Quoting their website "...The first fundraiser was a great success. With its success, and others to follow, came a confidence that Wine to Water would continue to grow as an organization. As a result, wine tastings became just one of many ways that we raise awareness and support for the global water crisis. We have worked to provide clean water and sanitation in many countries including Sudan, India, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Haiti."

Since 2004 Doc's organization has brought sustainable, clean water to more than 25,000 individuals in more than 5 countries. "

Doc's dream, and now the goal of Wine To Water, is to quench the thirst of the needy in a way that sets them apart from the rest of the world." -Wine to Water

Doc's story humbles and inspires. Join us in raising a glass to Doc, his team and to all of those who work to quench the thrist of the needy and in doing so, help to make our world a better place!

To host a Wine to Water tasting - click here.

To support this worthy cause by making a donation click here and help make a difference.

Playing for Change

Do yourself a favor and watch this ENTIRE 5 minute video. You'll be very glad you did. Given the crazy times we all live in today and the recent strife experienced by so many, it's pretty uplifting to see an organization focusing on bringing joy to the masses, even at its most elemental level. This video was done by a group called Playing for Change. Their mission is to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.

Quoting one of the artists in the film, Roger Ridley, these people, much like him, are "in the JOY business" and I see great dividends in their future.

Looking beyond limitations, walls, and current situations of doubt, we benefit ourselves by benefiting others and seeking to speak and relate to each other in a universal voice.


Making Wine in Brooklyn (Red Hook)

This past October I was invited to check out some wine making over in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Now, I'd bet you're asking yourself the same thing I did: "Wine making... In Brooklyn?" Yep, that's exactly what's going on and the story behind it is pretty catchy. Former Sound Technician for Peter Frampton and Billy Joel and now turned Wine Distributor, Mark Snyder (a local New Yorker), decided making wine in Brooklyn was just the thing to do. From what I've heard wine making isn't all that disconnected from Brooklyn. Historically, the area was a home to Kosher wine production and much as I've witnessed in small town Italy,  homemade wine is an integral part of the culture and apparently thrived among Italian-American immigrants in Brooklyn during years past.

Given Snyder's close connection to two of the West Coast's cult-status winemakers (Bob Foley of Robert Foley Vineyards and Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project) it now seemed time to do a little "West Coast Winemaker meets East Coast Grapes" style throwdown.

Talking to Snyder, you can sense his enthusiasm and passion for wine. This drive is exactly what led to the formation of his company, Angel's Share Wines which, is well-known for distributing quality West Coast wines from the likes of both Foley, Schoener and many others.

In reality, these bold Winemakers faced a really though year. Long Island vineyards experienced an aggressive growing season in 2008 with increased rain, lower than average temperatures and according to one of their growers accounts, the onslaught of hungry birds as the tough little grapes hung on the vines longer than normal for a bit more development.

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viogner and as you can see above, Merlot are all on the block. Having the opportunity to taste some of the Sauvignon Blanc during fermentation was excellent. The yeast was very much present and while it was still more juice than wine, I was intrigued by the rich, crisp fruit and sweetness that was present given such a though year. If anyone can pull-off this project, I'm betting Snyder, Foley and Schoener are the crew to do it. It'll be really exciting to taste some of these wines in 2009.

I'll be posting some video taken at the yet-to-be-named Red Hook, Brooklyn winery soon. Until then, check out some of the photos I snapped that night up in the Fermented Photo Gallery.

Something New

Ever had a Blaufrankisch? Austrian red - like Pinot but more earthy.
#90 on my quest toward tasting 100 different grapes varieties.
Dark violet purple with a nose of earthy mushroom, spicy cherry, fresh ground coffee and with time, rosemary. Old world nuances of tinny smoke and forest floor meeting black pepper and black cherry. All touched by an odd menthol and bitter chocolate finish. Meaty, bretty old word Burgundy meets Pinotage. Funky but, in a good way.
Perspective comes to those who seek it and wines like these certainly give perspective. If you find yourself interested to see how many grape varieties you've tasted, head over to Wine Century.com, download the application and begin your journey.