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Jeff’s Corner

Once again, it’s time to say howdy!

Since the start of the year, we’ve been bottling our new 2015 white and sweet wines, and our 2014 reds. This means lots of new releases are right around the corner, and I’m going to be abused and overworked by having to taste these new wines and write notes about them. As always, my faithful sidekick, Kathy, will be at my side offering opinions and advice.

Today, let’s kick off the season and check out our 2015 Cuvee Blanc. First, however, we should revisit some cool info regarding its history and name.

“Cuvee" means blend, and it’s a derivative of the word “Cuverie” which is the French word for the production facility. Cuvee is most often associated with Champagnes, which are typically a blend of wines from different vintages.

Cuvee Blanc has been part of our portfolio at Grape Creek for at least 16 years. In the past, it has been blends of many different grapes, and I remember one from years ago that was Chardonnay, Semillon, and Chenin Blanc.

The 2015, as it has been for much of Jason’s tenure, is Pinot Grigio (45.5%), Viognier (29.4%), Muscat Canelli (13.8%), and Sauvignon Blanc (11.3%). Being very different percentages of these four grapes than the ’14 Cuvee, it is to me quite different in style.

The color of the new ’15 is a classic pale yellow with intense, bright clarity. The aroma is subtle yet complex, and shows soft caramel and butterscotch in delightful contrast to lemon peel, tangerine, and Granny Smith apples.

On the palate (due in part to the high percentage of Pinot Grigio), we see an austere wine, delicate and lean in fruit, with a strong backbone of acidity. The citrus dominates, and transitions into an elegant clean and crisp finish. It’s a delightful spring and summer wine.

Last night, I prepared a Chicken Piccata (super simple) and it was a great pairing with our new Cuvee. So, as a bonus, I included my recipe. Try the two together when the wine is released, maybe in a week or so. I liked it between 45 and 50 degrees.

CHICKEN PICCATA

INGREDIENTS

* 2-6 oz boneless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup grated Romano, 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs, mixed
* 2 Tbs Grape Creek Citrus Cilantro Grapeseed Oil
* 4 Tbs butter
* 6 oz GCV 2015 Cuvee Blanc (get a bottle, drink the rest with dinner)
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
* 1/4 cup capers

METHOD

* In a large, sealed zip-loc pound the chicken to where it is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
* Rinse the chicken, and dredge it in the Romano and bread crumbs until well coated.
* Heat the olive oil and 1/2 the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Brown the chicken on each side until it releases from the pan, 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and keep warm.
* Still on medium high, deglaze the pan with the wine and lemon juice, add the capers, and reduce by half. Whisk in the remaining butter and reduce the heat so the sauce thickens, but not too much.

I’d definitely serve this on hot plates to help keep the food warm. Wild rice would be a great side, but I like linguine. Be sure to sauce the pasta as well as the chicken. Add a baby spinach salad with mixed greens, garlic bread, and maybe some Spumone for dessert. Enjoy, everyone!!

Hello, hello, and here we go...

Last week, I had a guest on one of my tours ask me about a pricey wine they once opened that smelled like a wet dog that had been lost for a week or two. What they experienced was a wine suffering from “cork taint”. A wine with cork taint is often referred to as “corked” or “corky”.

So, what happened to this wine? Well, cork taint results from a faulty cork that creates a chemical compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, which is also referred to as TCA, or 246-TCA. TCA is harmless, but even in small amounts will render a wine unpalatable. It is also indiscriminate; it doesn’t care if a wine cost ten dollars or two hundred.

TCA is created when naturally occurring air-borne molds are on the cork at harvest. These molds react to bleaching compounds that are used to process the cork, and the result is TCA.

Cork taint can be very extreme, or extremely subtle. In large amounts, the result is sickening; generating aromas of wet newspaper, cardboard, and yes, stinky dog. Moderate amounts smell dank, musty, and moldy. Slight amounts simply strip the wine of its fruity aromas and flavors, and we may just think it’s not a very good wine.

To add insult to injury, our nose is extraordinarily sensitive to TCA. We can perceive as little as 30 parts per trillion (yes, trillion), and some of us with really good sniffers can detect it as low as 5 ppt.

It is estimated that between 2-7% of all bottles are influenced by cork taint. This number sounds pretty accurate to me. Last month in California, I was judging about 110 wine a day, and we sent back an average of 3-5 each day due to TCA.

One of my saddest wine memories goes back to April, 2005. Kathy and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary in a cabin on the Frio River. I pulled the cork on a very expensive bottle of Napa Valley Dominus Cabernet (it was a gift) that we had saved a long time. Kathy looked at me from 20 feet away with a very sad look and said, “it’s corked, isn’t it!”. I tried a moment of denial, and then poured a 200 dollar bottle of wine down the drain.

Anyway, we’re kind of over it by now. We’ll see you next week, with some notes about our brand new 2015 Cuvee Blanc...

We are fast approaching the inaugural Heath Vineyards Owner’s Club shipment in November!

The Sauvignon Blanc, Captivating, is now in the bottle and is already quite amazing with initial aromas of white peach that develop into perfectly ripened pear with floral notes. This is much more like a white Bordeaux than a typical Sauvignon Blanc.

The reds are aging nicely in the barrel and we are watching closely as they mature. We are pleased to see the depth of color and flavors present that so aptly reflect the terroir. Our upcoming Tank-Tasting event will feature tastings of the Syrah from the barrel, as well as, the aforementioned Captivating. We plan to bottle the Syrah, Pinot Noir and Absolution (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) in early Summer which will allow 18 months in oak and 5-6 months of bottle rest before shipping or pick-up to you!

What initially attracted us to this property were the unique growing conditions.  The only way to consistently have access to grapes of this quality is to own the land underneath the vines.  Most of the wineries around us, that feature estate fruit in this sub-region of the the Paso Robles Willow Creek District appellation, are already on waiting lists. We were excited to gain access for our club members.

As you might imagine, the pace of new members is accelerating as we get closer to the first shipment and we are on track to be sold out before then! As reported previously, the 2015 harvest was excellent quality but very low quantity. Originally, we had hoped we would have room for the addition of a few more members after the first shipment. However, given the limited harvest, we will move to a waiting list once we hit the initial membership availability. 

So, if you have been thinking about signing up, now is a good time!

Learn more about the vineyard and the club!

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