This is a delicious and affordable Pinot Noir from a winery that’s been making affordable, great-tasting wines for 30 years.
The wine is made from grapes sourced from the Sonoma Coast AVA, a Pacific Coast area with a half-million acres and six sub-AVAs stretching from San Pablo Bay north to Mendocino County.
That cool climate shows in the wine’s smooth mouthfeel and flavors of juicy cranberry and baked cherry flavors with a bit of toast and enough acidity to enliven the palate.
Founded by two psychiatrists, Folie á Deux made a quick impression when the first wine, a 1983 Chardonnay, beat 1,400 other entries for “Best of Show” at the California State Fair Wine Competition.
After the two founders separated in the early 1990s, the winery was sold in 1995 to a group headed by renowned winemaker, Dr. Richard Peterson.
Peterson revived the winery, bringing on wine industry veteran Scott Harvey (he created the Menage á Trois line of wines) as winemaker for Folie á Deux.
In 2004, Folie á Deux was sold to Sutter Home/Trinchero Winery.
Folie á Deux 2012 Sonoma County Pinot Noir $20 SRP
I was wandering the aisles of Crossroads Liquors when owner and friend Jerry Sica stopped to ask if I had anything in particular in mind.
“Other than a Chianti or Tempranillo, no,” I said, and he unhesitatingly pointed me toward the Barone Ricasoli Brolio 2010 Chianti Classico.
“You know these guys” he asked, and I nodded.
I was familiar with the Ricasoli family of wines, having met the current (and 32nd) Barone, Franceso, at VinItaly a few years ago.
Although I didn’t know it before our meeting, Barone Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy and, according to the magazine Family Business, the fourth longest-lived company in the same place and the second such in the wine sector.
My friend hauling me around VinItaly told me a bit about the Ricasoli history, including the Ricasoli family ties with the town of Florence going back to the 12th century, and where they still spend the summer in the family castle at Brolio, in the hills between Siena and Florence.
He also noted it was the Barone Bettino Ricasoli, known as the “Iron Baron,” who is credited with first writing the Sangiovese-based formula for Chianti Classico wines in 1872.
We finally stopped at stopped at one booth and, pointing to the by-now famiiar name, he asked, “How do you pronounce that?”
After I had stumbled a few times through my deficient Italian, he looked dismayed, grunted, “How very American,” and corrected my pronunciation.
He then guided me over to meet the Barone and with a hiss, warned, “Try not to say anything too American.”
Chianti Classico rules allow up to 20 percent of non-Sangiovese red grapes and both the Brolio Chianti Classico and its big brother, the Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico, typically are 80 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Both wines are ruby red, with violets, red fruit and cherry notes amid earthy Sangiovese minerality with a hint of spice on the end.
If you pay attention to such things, the wines received 90 points from both The Wine Advocate and the International Wine Cellar.
The Ricasoli website says the 2010 vintage is “the best Sangiovese we have ever seen.”
Which, coming from a winery dating back to 1141, is something notable.
For more about Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico, please see what my friend and fellow blogger Susannah Gold, who also was at that edition of VinItaly, has written on her blog, avvinare.
Barone Ricasoli Brolio 2010 Chianti Classico, $25; Castello Brolio Chianti Classico, $45. Prices may vary.
One other note: The ribbon on the label insignia says “Rien sans Peine,” which translates from the French to “Nothing without pain.”
Or, as Americans are wont to say, “No pain, no gain.”
Note: Photo courtesy of Cherries and Clay.com.
Early January found me rummaging through my wine cellar (which is cleverly disguised as the basement laundry room) and remembering the wines I had the pleasure of enjoying in 2013.
I can remember for two reasons: One, I keep decent (though not great) notes. The best note-taker I’ve ever witnessed in person is the multi-talented author and Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, whom I once followed around (no, honest, I wasn’t stalking her) in the Grand Tasting Tent at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen.
Never before had I witnessed anyone who could move at a fast pace tasting 100 different wines, write incisive and accurate notes and still make it back to the St. Regis Hotel in time for her presentation to a packed house.
Second, I save lots of empty bottles, which means the recycle guy will have his hands full sometime later this winter but they serve as physical reminders of what those bottles once held.
Did I have a favorite? Maybe it was one of the brilliant Italian wines – the 2005 Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino, or the 2005 Arnaldo – Caprai 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco, or the 2007 Rocche Costamagna Rocche dell”Annunziatia Barolo.
Or was it French, maybe something simple yet elegant, such as the 2009 Domaine Lucien Jacob Les Toussaints?
Was it one of the mind-blowing German Reislings shared by Rielsing-meister Paul Grieco at last summer’s Food & Wine Classic?
Or, perhaps, it was closer to home, such as the memorable 2011 Tempranillo from Eames Petersen in Paonia, a thoughtful, expressive wine, much like the winemaker himself, enjoyed with dear company and a room full of joy.
Asking an ecumenical and wide-ranging wine drinker “Which was your favorite wine?” is like asking Father Flanagan, “Which is your favorite child?”
It’s neither an unfair nor unanswerable question but the world of wine is immense, not only in breadth but depth, a virtual (in every sense of the word) ocean of grape juice.
It’s as my friend and Jedi Master of blogging Alfonso Cevola wrote about his first (vinous) love, the wines of Italy: There is no easy way to understand wines without plunging forward.
“As for the mystery of Italian wine, lately some of the fog has lifted,” wrote Cevola in his much-read blog, “On the Wine Trail in Italy.” “But every time I think I get a handle on it, another perplexing clue surfaces.
“I’m okay with that, but in my day job, the task of trying to make something that can be very complicated into something easily explainable and understandable is still a big order.”
It’s a task all serious wine drinkers understand.
So I stand surrounded by wine bottles, some empty, some still full of the promises made many harvests ago in countries around the world.
And I smile at the challenge of new discoveries.
Wine writer Fred Tasker, now retired from the Miami Herald but still writing about wines via McClatchy-Tribune News Service, recently noted that Americans drank more wine last year for the 19th year in a row, up 2 percent to 360 million 12-bottle cases, according to wine consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
And second, Americans love American wine: California makes 58 percent of all the wine we drink. That’s not surprising, considering California produces about 90 percent of all U.S. wine.
That’s 207.7 million cases worth an estimated $22 billion in retail sales. Colorado can’t quite match those numbers, producing 141,000 cases in fiscal year 2013 with reported sales of $28.2 million (up $9.1 million from 2012) and an economic impact of $144 million.
However, a study recently released by Colorado State University, from which the above Colorado wine statistics were taken, says Colorado wines are grabbing an increasing market share, up last year to 5.48 percent of total wine sales in Colorado. That means that for every $20 spent on wine in Colorado, $1 goes to a Colorado wine.
And second, that Coloradans, on average, drink 3.1 gallons of wine per year, 24 percent more than the national average.
Why Colorado, whose 5.1-million population ranks 22nd, would consume more wine per capita than California, Texas, or any of the 19 other larger states, may be that we attract tourists not afraid to open their wallets for wine.
“The tourist business is so big and attracts so many people to Colorado and particularly to the big three resorts of Aspen, Vail and Telluride,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. “Just in those three areas there is an awful lot of wine consumed.”
That’s not to say other resort areas, such as Crested Butte, Summit County, Steamboat and Winter Park don’t pour their share of wines, but it’s really in the highest-money markets where most of the juice gets shared.
“Those three markets really change and elevate the rest of the Colorado wine market,” Caskey said.
That almost-5.5 percent of the market share is a 1.66 percent increase over 2012. Part of that growth, among many reasons, has to do with more wineries, particularly Western Slope wineries, finding shelf space in Front Range liquor stores and restaurants.
This helps build that market share on the populous Front Range, which is good, but also means some of those Denver-Boulder-Colorado Springs wine drinkers might not visit the Western Slope as often.
In past years, I’ve heard visitors here for the Colorado Mountain Winefest and the Grand Valley Winery Association’s annual barrel tasting say they make several trips each year to the Grand Valley and elsewhere to stock up on wines unavailable on the Front Range.
But this year several local wineries said their tasting room visits in 2013 were down compared to years past.
That indicates some wine buyers are finding their favorite Colorado wines closer to home, not needing those four or five trips across the Divide to fill their cellars.
However, that doesn’t mean the Grand Valley will lose its appeal for wine lovers.
Tickets for the 2014 Barrel Into Spring tasting, sponsored by the Grand Valley Winery Association, went on sale Jan. 1 and four days later 75 tickets had been snapped up.
Bob Witham, owner of Two Rivers Winery and Chateau and secretary of the winery association, said he expects both weekends (April 26–27 and May 17–18) to sell their allotments of 350 tickets each. (Tickets cost $70 per person. Information: 241-3155 or here).
This tells Cassidee Shull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology, that the Western Slope will continue to draw people eager to share the experience of visiting their favorite wineries.
“We offer them the destination weekends and the events in the vineyards that they can’t get anywhere else,” Shull said. “Maybe they don’t come here as many times each year as they did before Colorado wines were so available but that doesn’t mean they will stop coming. It’s these unique adventures and the excitement of things like tasting the wine where it’s made and meeting the winemaker that will bring these people back every year.”
The shortest day of the year leaves us little time to write about wines, although plenty of time (if you drink after sunset) to enjoy them. I’m catching up a bit before the year ends on some wines I’ve enjoyed the past few months.
A selection of wines from Kim Crawford reminded me why New Zealand might be one of the most-dynamic wine-making regions in the world today and the No. 1 selling luxury New Zealand wine in the U.S., according to the website. Fair enough.
2011 Marlborough Sauvingon Blanc – ($12). I’m not the only one who likes this bright, taut wine showing notes of tropical fruits, fresh grass and citrus: Wine Spectator gave the wine 90-plus points for seven straight years.
2012 Unoaked Chardonnay – ($13.99). You’re forgiven if you sometimes feel a bit burned out on what passes for Chardonnay. Too fat, too buttery, too “pillowy,” if that’s a word. There are many reasons why unoaked chards (with thanks to writer Bill St. John) are taking a bigger share each year out of the chardonnay pie, and this Kim Crawford offering is among the better unoaked chardonnays on the shelf.
Kim Crawford sources his grapes from the Marlborough region (South Island) and Hawkes Bay (south-east coast of the North Island), offering tropical and white peach/apricot flavors with nice acidity and a bit of pleasing body lost in other leaner unoaked chardonnays.
Certain white wine grapes, led by Riesling but certainly including Chardonnay and, to some extent, Sauvignon Blanc, are particularly prized for their clarity, the ability to reflect and express the specific terroir they are raised. Additionally, maybe to some degree of danger, is Chardonnay’s clarity allows it to be manipulated by the winemaker.
The winemaker, of course, has to be willing to let the grape shine through, and Kim Crawford winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst has that ability.
2011 Pinot Noir – ($18). Maybe it’ the soils, maybe it’s the proximity of the sea, maybe it’s the … well, who knows for sure, but New Zealand produces some beautiful Pinot Noir. This one from the South Island vineyards is among the better ones, and the fact it’s listed as sold out on at least one site attests to its popularity. Bright red fruit, with notes of tart and sweet cherries and ripe strawberries, with just enough spice and sweet French oak to give the wine some heft.
As I noted earlier today on (both???) my Facebook page(s) – which is a frustrating story all its own – John Garlich and Ulla Merz of BookCliff Vineyards in Boulder recently won their third Jefferson Cup award, the top prize in the annual Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition.
This year’s winning wine was the BookCliff 2011 Reserve Cabernet Franc, and we’d like to think the win demonstrates at least a couple of promising developments about the Colorado wine industry. One, that Colorado wine can hold its own against any wines produced in the U.S. and two, that Garlich and Merz (and assistant winemaker Justin Jannusch) have learned how to make the best of what might soon be Colorado’s signature red grape.
A bit about the Jefferson Cup, devised by the renowned wine writer Doug Frost (who also graciously wrote the forward to my latest book, “Drink It In: Wine Guide to Western Colorado”) and one of the more-prestigious wine competitions in the U.S. today.
The Jefferson Cup is the only wine competition that recognizes top wines from all of America’s wine regions. This year, 22 states took home honors with 12 states having wineries awarded the highest award, the Jefferson Cup. In all, 25 Jefferson Cups were awarded. And this is a real cup, not a round doubloon hanging from a colored ribbon but something Ulla compared to a football trophy, easily big enough to drink your wine from.
And, unlike other, open-to-all wine competitions, the Jefferson Cup is an invitational (hence the name, right?) where 700 wines are pre-selected to “exemplify top viticulture and winemaking throughout America,” as the press release says.
What’s also important, especially for Colorado winemakers who might be wondering what the future holds if this year’s cold weather serves up another short crop of other vitis vinifera grapes, is Cabernet Franc might be cold-hardy enough to be the industry’s savior.
That’s a whole ‘nother topic, one for next week’s column, but after the double-whammy cold snaps of winter and spring 2013, which decimated the wine grape crop in most of western Colorado, Cabernet Franc was the only red grape this summer to have substantial survival (Riesling was the best-surviving white grape). No Tempranillo, almost no Merlot, very little Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon did a meager OK, Petit Verdot so-so, but Cab Franc lived through it all. Just sayin’, is all.
BookCliff was a pioneer in making a Cab Franc varietal bottling and as Ulla said during a phone call Thursday, they soon discovered Cabernet Franc fits BookCliff’s winemaking style.
“Our first (Cab Franc vintage) was 2002,” she said. “I think we were one of the first wineries to make 100 percent Cab Franc.”
Usually used as a blending wine to add finesse and pepper, violets and a bit of tobacco hints to heavier Bordeaux-style wines, today many wineries in Colorado are making a Cab Franc varietal bottling.
“Cabernet Franc has worked well for us, it seems to fit our style of winemaking,” said Ulla, noting that among other awards the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc won a gold medal and was named the Best Cab Franc under $30 at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition and also received a double gold in the 2013 Colorado Governor’s Cup wine competition.
BookCliff uses only French oak in making Cabernet Franc, the barrels made by a specific barrel-maker familiar with the winery, Ulla said. “What happened in 2002, we found we had only one or two barrels, and it’s been (small production) since,” she said. “Every winemaker has to find what works for them and its always been French oak for us on the Cabernet Franc.”
BookCliff also has a 2013 Jefferson Cup nominee (just under the Cup winners) with its 2012 Colorado Petit Verdot plus its Ensemble 2011 Red Blend and the 2012 Colorado Malbec won Medals of Merit.
Other Colorado wineries also winning awards at the 2013 Jefferson Cup included Anemoi, Canyon Wind Cellars, Grande River Vineyards, and Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Congratulations to all.
Colorado wine is showing up on more tables and consumers are willing to pay more it, according to a report released Wednesday by the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
The report, done by Colorado State University for the CWIDB, says that not only are Colorado wine consumers drinking more wine than their national counterparts – 3.41 gallons per year compared to the national level of 2.7 gallon – the amount of Colorado wine being bought also has increased.
The report also notes that that the Colorado wine industry’s economic impact in sales, employment and other considerations has more than tripled to more than $144 million since a similar study was conducted in 2005.
“Our $144 million is very small, but it’s a key linchpin in the state’s $40 billion agriculture industry,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado wine board. ““The significant expansion of the Colorado wine industry’s impact through tourism is particularly exciting.”
The wine industry has become “imperative” to the marketing efforts of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, said Mistalynn Lee Meyeraan, Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator.
“This is the way Grand Junction, and the entire Grand Valley, distinguishes itself from the rest of the destinations,” Meyeraan said. “It’s our ‘umbrella’ brand. This is wine country.”
CSU researchers said wine tourism generates $103 million annually in direct and indirect economic activity, with an estimated $144 million in sales, employment and secondary economic impacts.
Caskey said the wine industry “encouraged state residents to contribute $56.3 million to Colorado’s economy by attending wine festivals and events, or visiting tasting rooms instead of taking their money to wineries in another states.
“We are very gratified that Colorado wine adds one more item to the long and exhilarating ‘to do’ list that the state offers its visitors,” he said.
According to the report, the state’s wine industry, barely a quarter-century old in its modern iteration, remains small by most standards, accounting for just 2 percent (up .2-percent) of all wine sales (by volume) in Colorado and 5.5 percent of the wine dollars spent.
The later in part is due to the higher prices Colorado wine fetches. The average price of a bottle of Colorado wine last year was $16.64, up from $12.86 in 2005 and well above the $6.14 average cited for other wines.
But that last is a bit misleading, since “other wines” includes the ocean of cheap brands such as box and jug wines, Yellowtail and Two Buck Chuck.
According to the report, sales of local wines jumped from $19.1 million in fiscal year 2011 to $28.2 million last year.
“What that says is $1 out of every 20 spent on wine in this state goes to Colorado wine,” Caskey added.
Production in Colorado grew to 335,000 gallons, up 14 percent (17,000 gallons) from 2012 and a reflection of the bountiful harvest grape producers enjoyed in 2012.