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When people think of Las Vegas, they think of gambling and poker tournaments. At present, tens of thousands of players from around the world are currently playing at the World Series of Poker. You can bet that very few of them have ever thought of Las Vegas as a prime location for making wine. As it turns out, one of the fastest growing wineries in the US is located just on the outskirts of Las Vegas in Pahrump.
The Pahrump Valley Winery has been in business since 1990 and in that time, they have had a history that sounds like it came out of a fairy tale. The very first batch of grapes planted in 1990 were actually destroyed by wild horses and it was two years before another crop was attempted.
Fortunately, since that time the addition of both a fence and the recent developments in the Pahrump area have kept the wild horses at bay and the Bill and Gretchen Loken have went on to produce some of the best wine in the area. The big secret to their success is not any type of fancy technology, but partnerships with other vineyards in the state.
The climate of Nevada only allows certain grapes to grow in certain areas. For example, the best climate for red grapes is in the Pahrump area. That is why the Pahrump vineyard has produced the largest crop of red grapes in the state's history. The partnership with other state vineyards allowed them to expand beyond offering only Zinfadel and offer Cabernet Sauvignon, Frontenac, and Merlot.
Locals to Las Vegas knew of the rising vineyard and one of the Vegas locals just so happened to also work for several Chinese companies overseas. Once she discovered the Pahrump Valley Winery, Linda Wong brokered a deal with her companies that will see several fine restaurants in China offer wines from the Pahrump Valley Winery.
While Vegas may be known more for poker and blackjack, they may soon be known for fine wine thanks in large part to the Pahrump Valley Winery. The Lokens have proven that with hard work and the right partners, even the barren climate of Nevada can be used to produce fine wine.
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
I keep trying to retire the "Tasting Table" series, but my recently chaotic day job along with the all-consuming reality of an infant and a 5-year old have once again reminded me that no matter how obsessed I am with local wines, beers etc. and this website -- it's still a hobby. Add to that the fact that we'll be cutting over to our new site design and platform soon (maybe even next week) and Tasting Table remains a valuable tool. I'd like to start things off at the new site fresh. Tasting Table will not be a part of the new NYCR, but it will be here. At least one more time.
As always, these are wines that crossed the NYCR tasting table at some point recently but for one reason or another, will not be reviewed in standalone posts. The notes are more or less straight from my notebook.
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2009 Riewurz ($18): Blend of 60% gewurzt, 40% riesling. Gingery nose with rose petals, grapefruit and lime. Medium-light body that starts out very gewurzt-y but finish is all riesling. Good balance, but lacks a bit of focus. Unique and tasty. Long finish of apple, peach and lime.
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2010 Dry Riesling ($16): Green apple, sweet lime and a little fennel frond on the nose. Feather light palate with more apple-lime flavors with notes of peach, fennel and slate. Good acidity and a dry finish that lingers gently.
Billsboro Winery 2010 Pinot Gris ($17): Grapefruit, citrus blossom and sweet apricot on a medium-light nose. Candied lemon leads the way with peach and light floral flavors beneath. Show a little of the RS (1.2%) on mid-palate but mostly dry on the finish. Good acidity but somewhat short finish.
Billsboro Winery 2010 Riesling ($16): Tangerine, grapefruit and pineapple on the nose. Grapefruit and orange peel flavors on the palate with slightly tropical hints. Shows RS (2.3%) but isn't cloying. Citrusy acidity brings balance. Somewhat showy style.
Grapes of Roth 2005 Merlot ($50): Nose of licorice, black cherry, leaf tobacco and pencil shavings/graphite. Ripe but not jammy, showing mixed cherry/cherry pit and tobacco flavors. Medium bodied with medium-intense tannins that are well integrated. Graphite/rocky finish that is long and shows a bit of dried herb as well.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Casscles Vineyard Reserve Baco Noir ($24): Sour cherry, cranberry, toasty oak, black pepper and vanilla on the nose. Medium body with lively acidity. Crunchy red fruit with black pepper and earth. Juice mid-palate but perhaps a bit short on the finish.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2010 Field Stone Baco Noir ($30): Dark fruit -- black cherry and plum -- with mustard seed, violets and curry spice. Soft and lush with forward fruit, low tannins and just enough acidity. Plum, juicy and fruity. Long finish with subtle vanilla character.
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2010 Round Rock Riesling ($20): Minerally, slate-y nose with hints of yellow apple, lemon balm and tonic water. Generous palate with solid focus. Citrus and herbs mingle with pear and light peach flavors. Light RS brings weight. A bit more acidity would elevate.
Millbrook Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc ($18): Plum, blackberry, vanilla, dried leaves and brown spices on the nose. Medium body with plum and blackberry fruit flavors. Medium tannins that are well incorporated. Finish is of medium length with a hint of toasted, slightly bitter oak.
Millbrook Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir ($18): Nose of macerated strawberries, black cherry and button mushroom. Toasty, bitter oak a bit too heavy on top of dark, intense cherry flavors and big, dry tannins.
Millbrook Vineyards 2010 Tocai Friulano ($16): Clementines, persimmon, melon and peach aromas on a very fruity nose. Melange of peach, orange, lemon and pear on the palate. Fresh acidity that lingers. Simple and fruity, but also quite tasty.
Palaia Vineyards 2007 Traminette ($15): Very floral on the nose with slightly foxy aromas I don't usually find in traminette. One-note floral flavors with a bit of RS and not enough acidity. Ends up being soft and a bit watery on the finish.
Pindar Vineyards 2010 Viognier ($25): The nose shows just-cut melon, honeysuckle, spiced peach tea and subtle nuttiness. Sweet melon, spice and honeysuckle on the palate with a squirt of juicy citrus and spiced nuts. Very ripe on the mid-palate and the oak is restrained. Finish is a bit hot, but a note of hay is interesting at the end.
Raphael 2010 First Label Sauvignon Blanc ($26): Lemon, green apple and kiwi fruit aromas with honey and blanched almond notes. Fuller bodied and very citrusy. Bit lean on flavor but good balance. Slight saline quality to finish, that turns just a bit bitter.
Red Tail Ridge Winery 2010 Semi-Sweet Riesling ($14): Apricot -- fresh and dried -- with hints of mango and lime on the nose. Friendly style with gobs of sweet, juicy fruit -- apricot, peach and pineapple. Rich mid-palate but nice cut of acidity on the finish to bring just enough focus. Finish is pretty long.
Roanoke Vineyards 2010 "The Wild" Chardonnay ($20): Light vanilla over top of peach, apple and high-toned herbs. Medium body with butterscotch and ripe, juicy fruit. Medium-long finish with nice acidity and balance. Appetite-whetting finisih with pineapple and Asian pear notes.
Sherwood House Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay ($30): Pure pear aromas accented by vanilla, toasty oak and roasted hazelnuts. Round, opulent palate with nice, integrated acidity to keep it balanced. Pear and toffee flavors lead into more nuts and vanilla. Long finish with crisp apple and a bit of lemon zest at the very end.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($41): Blueberry and cassis aromas mingle with notes of smoked meat, chicory coffee and dark chocolate. Hefty and slightly hot (15.4%) on the palate, showing fruit that edges on over-ripe but holds on, with chocolate, coffee and oak notes. Ripe, slightly edgy tannins provide structure. After a few hours open, a pretty minty note emerges.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2010 Haven ($36): 84% sauvignon blanc with 16% semillon. Complex nose of melon, fig, nutty oak, dried apricot and golden raisin. Rich and dry on the palate, it shows dried fruit and nut flavors layered on top of melon and peach. A bit more acidity would help enliven the palate.
Wolffer Estate Vineyards 2008 "Caya" Cabernet Franc ($40): Cherries, tobacco, sweet cedar and green peppercorn aromas lead into medium-light body with similar flavors with caramel added. Lacks fruit just a bit, but well made.
Zugibe Vineyards 2008 Dry Riesling ($13): Citrus and petrol aromas dominate. Not big on flavor -- again mostly citrus and petrol. Dry with very good acidity and focus. Right on the edge of the "citrus water" style of dry riesling.
Zugibe Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Riesling ($22): Honey, botrytis and pineapple on the nose. Shows its RS, but finishes nearly dry. Very botrytis driven with secondary flavors of apricot, peach and pineapple. Long finish with orange and spice. Want a bit more acid and perhaps a bit mature for a 2009, but delicious.
Zugibe Vineyards 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling ($13): Nose shows citrus and apricot with hints of petrol. Palate is peachy but not intense, with light layers of lime and honey. Off-dry with good-no-great acidity.
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
The May shipment of the Empire State Cellars Wine Club won't ship for a few weeks, but from now on, we're going to announce the selecitons at least a few weeks beforehand. That way, if you're not already a member but want the wines, you'll have time to join!
If you're not familiar with the club, you can learn more here.
Channing Daughters Winery 2010 Scuttlhole Chardonnay: I prefer my chardonnay unadorned and clean -- usually the less oak the better. Winemaker Chris Tracy makes an array of chardonnays, but this one is my favorites -- all steel with ample fruit, a minerally vein and juicy acidity.
Medolla Vineyards 2007 Merlot: You may not know this one-wine winery, but Medolla is a name to know when it comes to value merlot on Long Island. Pure and expressive, this merlot is ripe, but not too ripe, showing restrained oak and good length with gently grippy tannins.
"Getting to Know New York" Wines
Lieb Family Cellars 2010 10th Anniversary Pinot Blanc: Complex with layers of almond, white pepper and candied orange peel sprinkled over juicy pears, this wine -- made for the first time to celebrate the winery's 10th anniversary -- balances richness with juicy acidity, resulting in a beautiful mouthfeel.
Lenz Winery 2007 Estate Selection Merlot: Eric Fry's winemaking is decidedly low-tech, and that hands-off approach lets this wine shine. Plump and juicy -- with little noticeable oak -- this is a wine that over-delivers with it's aromas and of red and black cherry, plums and a bit of blueberry compote.
"New York Wine Trail" Wines
Paumanok Vineyards 2011 Chenin Blanc: The Massoud family has a cult following for this wine, one that expresses vintage variation as much as any on Long Island. While the 2010 was rich with sweet tropical fruit, this edition is more citrusy and saline with hints of melon. Local oysters dream about this wine.
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards 2010 Syrah: Think Rhone rather than Australia with this wine from Niagara. Though young -- an hour or two in a decanter, or a few years in your cellar wouldn't hurt -- it shows beautiful, rich fruit, peppery spice and the kind of heft you want to heartier meals.
Anthony Road Wine Company 2009 Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling: Really only available in the Anthony Road tasting room, we were able to procure a small parcel of this pure, complex and lengthy riesling that is absolutely delicious today but will reward those patient enough to cellar it. Simply stunning.
The Grapes of Roth 2005 Merlot: Veteran winemaker Roman Roth's personal label built its reputation on merlot. This elegant, nuanced merlot comes from Sam McCullough's vineyard and features cherry, licorice, tobacco, subtle dried herbs and graphite aromas and flavors. Again -- you can drink it today or park it in your cellar.
If you haven't signed up for the club yet, fear not. You can still get in on this first shipment. Email Katherine Jaeger, Manager of Wine Clubs, at email@example.com and she will take good care of you. And remember, you can customize your club to include just red or whites wines too if you'd like.
Photo courtesy of Shinn Estate Vineyards
By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
The organizers of TasteCamp are gearing up for an exciting weekend of wine discovery that will bring some 40 bloggers and writers from all over the United States and Canada to Loudoun County and Northern Virginia, May 4-6, 2012. The program for the weekend has steadily taking shape over the past few weeks, with some great additions to the three-day experience now confirmed.
A Great Finish at Linden
The weekend’s final vineyard visit, on Sunday morning, will almost be worth the trip in itself: Linden Vineyards. As Jancis Robinson put it in a recent article in the Financial Times: "A key figure in raising standards in Virginia grape growing... and winemaking has been Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, whose wines have been exceptional almost from when he started in the 1980s." It’s an honor that Jim Law agreed to host the TasteCamp group and provide a true idea of what Virginia is capable of.
Vineyard walks at Fabbioli and Tranquility
Vineyard walks – a great opportunity to understand where the wines of a region are coming from – have always been an essential part of TasteCamp. This year’s program features two walks that will showcase some of the most interesting grape growing spots in Northern Virginia.
On Saturday morning, TasteCamp participants will get to know another solid example of Northern Virginia wine, Fabbioli Cellars. Winemaker Doug Fabbioli will be showing the group around his vineyards and winery, where he produces Bordeaux varieties, but also sangiovese and tannat, as well as a selection of fruit wines.
On Saturday afternoon, the group will visit Tranquility Vineyard, a 7-acre property in Purcellville that provides fruit for several local producers. Ben Renshaw, winemaker/owner of 8 Chains North winery, will lead the group on a vineyard walk and tasting.
Grand tastings at Boxwood and Tarara
TasteCamp will also offer a wider-ranging look at the diversity of Virginia wines, thanks to two grand tastings presented at Boxwood Winery (Friday) and Tarara Winery (Saturday). Some of
the best producers in Virginia have confirmed their presence, including Blenheim, Barboursville,
Hume, Ankida, Veritas and Corcoran.
There are still spots open for the grand tastings. Wineries interested in participating should contact Frank Morgan or Lenn Thompson.
A laid-back Southern-style BYO
The always-fun BYO dinner, a Saturday night tradition at TasteCamp, will benefit from a laid- back, relaxed, Southern-style setting and menu. Organized in collaboration with Visit Loudoun, the dinner will take place at a great location, North Gate Vineyard, with catering by Smokin Willy, a well-known Virginia BBQ provider. All at a very nice price, too!
Essential Virginia partners
TasteCamp is also proud to count on several other great partners, starting with three host wineries: Breaux Vineyards, Boxwood Winery and Tarara Winery. Two key regional organizations are also on board: The Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office (Virginia Wine) and the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association (Visit Loudoun) who are offering logistical, financial and/or transportation support.
TasteCampers will be staying at the National Conference Center, in Leesburg, Virginia, a conveniently-located facility that is offering a special rate for event participants.
The concept for TasteCamp, created in 2009 by Lenn Thompson, executive editor of the New York Cork Report, is a simple one: getting enthusiastic journalists and bloggers together in a region that is new to them, to taste as much wine as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course of a weekend.
Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world would love to get their wines in front of new audiences, but it can be a challenge. With TasteCamp, the new audience comes to them.
This is not a junket — attendees pay their own travel expenses, including their hotel rooms and meals. Through generous sponsors, some meals may be deeply discounted.