Sunday, January 22, 2006

Liquid Wisdom

Here's my tasting notes on a couple of wines that I have had recently. First, a Hickory Hollow 2002 Chardonnay. Hickory Hollow is our nearest winery neighbor on Seneca Lake and a relatively new winery, opening in 2003. Hickory Hollow encompasses 23 acres and is owned by Bruce and Suzanne Kendall, Peter and Cindy Oughterson, and Ed Woodland and Theresa Cholewa-Woodland. Peter Oughterson is the winemaker. The winery's slogan is "Liquid Wisdom" and Peter has a lot of that. Peter grew up on the farm next to the vineyards of Finger Lakes icon Hermann Wiemer and he worked with Hermann for many years. The beautiful woodsy tasting room is one of my favorites and it comforts me that it is only a few minutes away to find excellent wine. The 2002 Chardonnay shows a straw color and opening aromas of mineral and petroleum. At first taste, I found it smoky tasting with bits of sweet vanilla and spicy oak and hints of nutty butteriness with a somewhat overwhelming petroleum bitterness that was a little unsettling. As I worked on the computer, I left the glass alone for about 15 minutes. When I tasted the wine at this point, it opened up with new tastes of butterscotch and citrus and the petroleum heaviness had subdued greatly, leaving a host of wonderful flavors of smoke, spice, nut, citrus, butter, and butterscotch. All which led me to this thought- Maybe more White wines should be decanted. I seem to only ever hear of reds needing decanted to open up the wine. It was very obvious to me that this wine presented amazing complexity only after it had breathed for a time. I Googled for "decanting white wine" but only found a few vague references. I am far from a wine expert, so I appeal to all the wine experts out there- Should some White wines be decanted?

And now the first Idaho wine I have ever tasted,
Sawtooth Winery 2004 Chardonnay. My wife was at a Jewelry Party and this was being served and she liked it so much, she asked the hostess if she could take the rest for her hubby to taste. She is so good to me. Her hubby liked it very much. In researching this wine, I learned that Idaho has a long wine history dating back to the late 1800's, but like other wine regions such as the Finger Lakes, wine production came to an abrupt halt during Prohibition and the regions winery rebirth and growth has been fairly recent. Sawtooth Winery is located in Idaho's Snake River Valley and they have won many awards for their wines. The 2004 Chardonnay is a smooth-drinking Chardonnay the way I like it and very similar to Finger Lakes' Seneca Shore Chardonnay, which is one of my favorites. It was very buttery and not overly dry, with just the right balance of vanilla and oak for me. So now I know that Idaho is not just for potatoes anymore.

It just amazes me how many areas of the U.S. that you would not normally think of as wine regions are making great wine. I was watching the Fine Living channel on cable, which is one of the few channels that has good wine shows, and I watched Andrea Immer's 50 Wines, 50 States, where she picks her favorites from all 50 states. I believe this is an old show, but Dr. Franks Riesling was her favorite from New York and she had a nice segment where she chatted with Willy Frank in Central Park.
Click here to see the list. Of course the problem is being able to purchase these out of state wines. I wish the state governments could get over their hangups about shipping wine between states. Tom Wark at the Fermentation Blog and the Free The Grapes website have good info on the ongoing battle for wine shipping. As for Andrea, I really like her because, even though she is extremely knowledgable about wine, she is not pretentious and snobby like a lot of wine experts and you can tell that she is a fan of the small family winery and value wines. Andrea's website is here.

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