2018 Spring Newsletter: What’s new?

Cool climate wine and craft beer, cider and spirits are exciting as ever, and we’ve added some new products and programs to meet your unique needs. Check them out below!
And while cool climate consulting is our specialty, our Titan hybrid stainless steel-oak barrels and WineStix® can be configured to work well with warmer climate varietals and blends, too!
Finally, as a boutique cool climate oak company, we appreciate every customer and thrive on referrals, so please feel free to share this newsletter with industry friends!
 GKS 2017 bw crop headshot
Gina Shay
Owner, Petraea Plus

Tonnellerie Cadus Introduces New Blond Toast 

In response to cool climate customer demand, Tonnellerie Cadus has developed a new toasting profile for our Origine Grain Selection series: Medium Minus toast. It’s a blond toast that offers structure with virtually no aromatic impact, which is right in line with Cadus’ signature style. We love it with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Marquette, and other reds that benefit when the fruit shines without much in the way of oak flavors or aromas. This, combined with our 30-month minimum open-air seasoning, ensures that your customers will taste your fruit, not your barrel program.
And for those who are fans of more impactful vanilla, spice, caramel, nuttiness, etc., don’t worry–we have options for you, too. Contact us for pricing and options.

Tonnellerie Cadus Available Stock Barrels 

We currently have the following stock barrels available in our east coast warehouse to assist with fermentation needs for anyone picking early. Contact us for pricing and delivery options.

Barrel Type Avail. qty.
BDX 225L / Equilibre 7
BDX 225L / Intense 2
BDX 225L / Tight Grain / M 7
BDX 225L / Tight Grain / M+ 7
BDX 225L / Volume 6
BG 228L / Equilibre 10
BG 228L / Tight Grain / M 11
BG 228L / Tight Grain / M+ 11
BG 228L / Volume 13
Grand Total 74
Cadus Custom Barrel Order Deadline
June 4, 2018 is the custom order deadline for 265L/puncheons, thin stave barrels, or export barrels with your specified toasts or logos. The containers are expected to arrive in port August 1. Cheers!

MIWineColab hi-res logo

Michigan Wine Collaborative Discounts

MWC members qualify for special discounts on select products! Ask us about our current MWC perks.

Titan Barrel Early Order Discount Extended Through April 20! 


Early order discount special of USD$900 per 59-gallon French oak barrel until April 20, 2018. List price is $995. Our new 20,000-sq. ft. Titan Barrel facility is up and running in upstate New York and we are anticipating full capacity in the next couple of months after bud break, so order now to ensure delivery before harvest.
Titan Barrel is a hybrid stainless steel body with wooden heads and stave inserts in American or French oak or acacia for wine, in toasts Lt/M/M+/H, and sizes from 750 ml to 225L), giving you the micro-oxygenation of traditional oak aging with ultimate in flexibility and cost savings. Controllable oak for cool climate, but perfect for ALL climates. 
Change the heads and staves with the frequency of your traditional barrels or as the vintage changes for a third of the price of a traditional barrel.Mix and match oak or other woods for a truly customizable aging program.
For spirits, sizes range from 750 ml to 53 gallons in the following woods:
  • American or French oak
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Japanese Mizunara oak
  • Char 1-5
  • Mix and match any of the above
Titan Order Deadline for Delivery Before Harvest 
Order before June 1, 2018 to guarantee delivery by September 1. We accept orders year-round with a 12-week lead time. Contact us to order!

Wine Stix® Alcohol-Infused Staves

Last year we added WineStix® Bourbon-Infused Tank and Barrel Staves for beer, cider, and bold red wines (for our clients to capitalize on the trendy popularity of bourbon barrel-aged reds). 
Now we’re offering custom alcohol infusion with your choice of spirits. Simply specify the alcohol (bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, rum, tequila, brandy, cognac, etc.) and we’ll infuse them. The possibilities are unlimited. Minimum order size required.
Don’t forget about our Burgundy Medium+ Long Toast to our WineStix® offering, which brings you a deeper, more complex flavor from our two-step gradient toasting process. Available in French or American oak Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers. It’s as close as you can get to a barrel…without the barrel.
Looking for a low-tannin way to impart intense baking spice aromas/flavors into your beer or cider? Try applewood in Medium toast. Available in Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers with contact time as little as a few weeks.

Black Water Barrels: Spirits Maturation & Finishing 

BWB logo overlay rickhouse stackDid you know that we work with Black Water Barrels in Bamberg, South Carolina?
Our 53- and 30-gallon whiskey barrels are $230 each plus ground shipping, but volume discounts are available. Drop us a line to find out lead times and volume pricing.

Liftco Racks for Tasting Rooms, Event Rooms, and Production Spaces 

Think outside the rack!
Have you ever wished that you spent less time forklifting barrels around the cellar, or that your space was more aesthetically pleasing for events? Here’s your answer: Our steel e-coated racks slide out (extending to up to 54″ from the wall) and spin barrels up to 228L for easy filling, cleaning, racking, and topping.
Safer than traditional racks, Liftco racks can be bolted into the floor and nest into each other for stable stacks up t

o 5 high. A huge part of the cost of barrels is how time intensive they are; why not cut down on some of that expense while gaining a profitable and beautiful backdrop for winemaker dinners and events? Contact us for a CAD evaluation of your space and a quote.


Grapes and the Garden State, #winestudio Nov17

New Jersey doesn’t get enough press for its ability to grow grapes, but it should. The history of New Jersey wine is long and storied, beginning in the late 1750s when, per the Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA), “Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine ‘of acceptable quality,’ meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France,” and colonial New Jersey residents William Alexander and Edward Antill stepped forward to accept the challenge. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, New Jersey producers have faced the same challenges as other cool climate wine regions in eastern North America (cold conditions, humidity, disease pressure, Prohibition, restrictive alcohol laws, etc.), but they’ve come out on top.

Flash forward to the modern-day New Jersey wine industry: According to the GSWGA, New Jersey is home to about 50 wineries and three AVAs (American Viticulture Areas): Warren Hills AVA, Central Delaware Valley AVA, and the Outer Coastal Plain AVA. The combination of Northern New Jersey’s humid mesothermal climate and Southern New Jersey’s breezy, temperature-moderating maritime climate allows for growing many different types of grapes…about a hundred varieties, to be exact. And 250 years of grape growing are paying off in more ways than just delicious flavors: Wine production contributes approximately $30-$40 million annually to the state’s economy.

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of participating in #winestudio’s four-week web-based virtual tasting of New Jersey wines, and we were introduced to some of New Jersey’s premier producers and a selection of sparkling and still wines, including chardonnay, chenin blanc, syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon/petit verdot blend. The online conversation and tastings with the Garden State Wine Growers Association, Unionville Vineyards, Tomasello Winery, William Heritage Winery, and Sharott Winery were definitive proof that we all need to pay more attention to New Jersey as a rising star in North American wine.

Palmaris - TomaselloWeek 1: 2013 Palmaris Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from 3rd generation winegrowers, Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

The nose is smoky and musky with a perfumy quality; think herbes de Provence with a healthy dose of lavender, lots of black fruit and dark plumminess, and a very subtle spice element from oak. All of these characteristics carry over onto the 13.7% ABV palate, and the oak is more apparent on the tastebuds. Overall, a very nice wine.

Week 2: 2016 Estate Grown Chenin Blanc from 6th generation winegrowers, William Heritage Winery in Richwood, NJ. William Heritage Chenin blanc still wine

The aromas are simply beautiful in this wine: White flowers, peach, and tropical notes abound. The aromas are mirrored on the palate with a flinty character. I wished for a little more acid and mid-palate weight, but the ample residual sugar (10 g/L) was a great foil for our salty/fatty smoked sausage and cruciferous sautéed cabbage dinner pairing, and its sweet notes complemented our buttery sweet potato mash perfectly.

Sharrott ChardonnayWeek 3: 2016 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay from Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

This is an American Chardonnay lover’s Chardonnay! There is a bold nose of smoky and spicy oak with lots of butter/diacetyl. Upon sipping, it has a nice weight and texture, with its ripe pear flavors not exhibiting quite as much smoke as its aromas until the finish, where the oak comes in with fresh wood, flint, and smoke characteristics. I’d really love to try Sharrott’s unoaked version of Chardonnay to carry that lovely fresh ripe pear trait to the next level.

Week 4: 2013 Estate Grown and Bottled Pheasant Hill Syrah from Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, NJ.

Unionville Syrah

The nose seemed to be a little bit horsey upon opening this wine, which distracted me from the fruit while swirling and sniffing. However, in time, it seemed to dissipate completely and turn into earth and wet stone aromas. With every sip, I became more entranced with this wine. Tart cherries, cranberries, and a hint of cedar flooded my taste buds, and juicy, mouthwatering acid, silky tannins, and a medium-minus weight made this wine extremely food-friendly. The very subtle oak influence is elegant and well-integrated, leading me to believe that it was 100% neutral oak (later confirmed by the winemaker). A beautiful violet/floral character completed the experience. I really loved this wine and could see adding it to my regular rotation if I can get my hands on some more.

I guess I need to plan a visit to New Jersey wine country ASAP! And so should you.


TasteCamp Maryland: A Photo Journal



Planting a Vineyard in Metro Detroit

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to plant grapevines? I have, and I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 15 years in the wine industry to find out! Luckily, my friend Jessica Youngblood, with whom I serve on the board of the Michigan Wine Collaborative, has planted a vineyard nearby in Ray Township, Michigan. When she advertised the opportunity for volunteers to assist on one of their planting days, I jumped at the chance. The kids and I hopped in the car to go help dig in the dirt at Youngblood Vineyard.

When I asked how they ended up in the grape biz, Jess gave me some family history: She grew up in Washington state, met her husband Dave while they were in college, and they later moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. There they fell in love with the wine industry after visiting many Northern Virginia wineries. When the opportunity arose to return to Metro Detroit, where they had a family farm, they jumped at the chance to plant wine grapes. In less than two years, they have planted over 20,000 grapevines on nearly 23 acres of the farm, establishing Youngblood Vineyard as the largest vineyard in Eastern Michigan. Jess’ primary job is to take care of the vines full time: tying, pruning, thinning leaves, checking clusters, and maintaining overall vineyard health. Dave primarily does the planning and construction side of things, such as land clearing, vineyard layout, and trellis construction, though they both do some of everything. Their kids get in on the action, too, pruning, planting, mowing, and fighting for their turn to drive the tractor.

The Youngbloods are growing several cold-hardy hybrid grape cultivars that can survive extreme winter weather fluctuations (which metro Detroit certainly had during the 2014 and 2015 Polar Vortex seasons), including three reds and three whites: Marquette, Frontenac, Petite Pearl, Frontenac Blanc, Prairie Star, and Traminette. (If these grape names don’t sound familiar, just wait—hybrid grape wines are gaining traction and can rival dry, semi-dry, sweet, or dessert wines made with the Vitis vinifera grapes most people are familiar with.) The Youngbloods may sell some of their grapes, but they strategically planted varieties with complementary flavors and structure for when they decide to produce their own label. In conjunction with Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology, they also host occasional VESTA (Viticulture & Enology Science & Technology Alliance) workshops, so students looking to gain valuable hands-on vineyard experience should definitely contact them!

Best of all, in addition to being a founding member of the Great Lakes Sustainable Wine Alliance, the vineyard is verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, which “shows peers and neighbors the high level of commitment to agricultural stewardship and protecting the environment.” Find out more about the MAEAP verification program here: http://www.maeap.org/get_verified.

When my kids and I arrived on a chilly May day to help plant, the Youngbloods provided a quick training session for all of the volunteers, teaching us the correct orientation in which to plant the vines, how to wrestle with the long root system (they kept the roots long instead of trimming them since they had augered holes that were a couple feet rather than just a few inches deep–Jess told me that this would shorten the period until the vines will be ready to produce viable fruit for wine), and how to install the grow tubes that would protect the young vines until they can be trellised. We jumped in with gusto and were able to plant a few rows of vines before my crew had to leave for karate and guitar lessons. We all left dirty and happy, wishing that we could have contributed more. I hope the Youngbloods will let us come back when it’s time for harvest so we can check on the vines we planted and help pick the fruit from the vines Jess and Dave planted in 2016. Most of all, I hope I can “help” them when it comes time for taste-testing their first wines!

We can’t wait to see what’s next for Youngblood Vineyard! While Detroit has a rich history as a beer-producing town, the founders of Motown and the Big Three auto makers probably never would’ve fathomed that there would be a working vineyard only about 30 miles from the heart of this gritty manufacturing city. Follow Youngblood Vineyard on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/youngbloodvineyard/.

Crowdsourcing a crusty bread recipe

We’ll be spending some time in France over the next few years, and with a kid who has a tree nut allergy, I figured I’d better perfect my bread-baking skills instead of trying to search out a nut-free boulangerie in Paris. Luckily, people in the wine trade are just as obsessed with food as they are with wine, so I reached out to to the interwebs for help. I received several great recipes, and after trying them all, I incorporated the best practices, ingredients, and bake temp/time from each to derive what I think is the best flavor, height, airiness of the crumb/texture, and, of course, über-crisp crust. Thanks, crowdsourcing!


Homemade Dutch Oven No-Knead Bread from the kitchen of Chez Shay


Start 6-7 hours ahead of when you want to eat the bread (total baking & prep time) + 10-20 minutes for cooling.


Makes 1 loaf white bread



4 cups King Arthur Bread Flour*, lightly packed and leveled off

1 ¾ cups lukewarm water (between 90-110°F)

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp lager beer (not any other kind of beer; lager is milder and imparts a yeasty but not hoppy taste; I used Yuengling)

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 envelope active dry yeast

6-8 qt. enameled Dutch oven or cast iron/aluminum pot with oven-safe lid

*For whole wheat bread, use 3 c. bread flour, 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 ¾ c. lukewarm water, 1 ¼ Tbsp salt, 1 Tbsp lager, ½ Tbsp white vinegar, 2 Tbsp honey, and 1 envelope active dry yeast. Follow instructions below the same way, adding honey with other wet ingredients.



  1. Stir yeast packet into water and allow yeast to bloom. (A light foam should appear on top of the water after about 5 minutes; this means that the yeast is alive and active.)
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour and salt by hand. Once incorporated, create a small well in the middle and pour water/yeast mixture, lager, and white vinegar.
  3. Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers (Note: I have found that no matter how wet I get my hands, the dough still sticks. C’est la vie!). The water and flour should come together and form a rough dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky/wet, add more flour in small increments, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Once the dough has come together in a shaggy ball (should not be wet or sticky or it won’t get tall and fluffy; it will be short and dense), cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 1.5 to 2 hours. (Note: It’s difficult to tell if it doubles in size or not; even if it doesn’t look much bigger, move on to the next step.)
  4. Using your hand, fold the dough. Starting from the rim of the bowl, pull the dough loose from the sides of the bowl and fold it in toward the center of the bowl, adding flour in small increments around and underneath it to prevent sticking. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat until all the dough has been pulled from the sides and is folded toward the center (Note: I usually repeat this entire process about 3 times for the dough ball.) Once finished, cover the bowl with the towel again and allow the dough to continue to rise for another 1.5 to 2 hours.
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size again (you should notice a marked difference this time), grab the dough, lifting it out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface (it’s OK if it stretches as you lift). Keep extra flour to the side of your surface to use as you work, and sprinkle a small amount of flour on top of the dough.
  6. Using your hands, fold the dough over on itself several times (10-12), then fold it under itself to form a ball, clasping together the seams of the dough underneath. Place the dough seam-side down in a clean bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil and flour. Cover the new bowl with a towel and let rise for another 1 hour. *15 minutes after you finish this step, start Step 7*
  7. Meanwhile, take a 6-quart Dutch oven (or heavy cooking pot with oven-safe lid) and place it inside the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C and allow it to heat up with the pot inside for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove the pot from the oven and place it on a trivet or heat-safe surface. (Be careful! It’ll be VERY HOT.) Carefully place the proofed dough into the very hot pot, seam side down. Cover with lid and return the pot to the oven.
  9. Bake at 400°F/204°C for 45 minutes, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when center of loaf reads 210°F/99°C on a quick-read thermometer.
  10. Remove bread from pot and allow to cool for at least 10-20 minutes before slicing.
  11. Enjoy!

Petraea Plus Spring 2017 Newsletter: What’s new?


We hope Spring 2017 finds you, your family, and your team happy and healthy! We’ve added some new and exciting things to help your oak aging program meet at the intersection of your consumers’ palates and their purchasing habits, and we’ve included a more diverse array of flavors to suit your custom demands.

As always, as a boutique oak solutions company, we appreciate every customer and thrive on referrals! Please share this newsletter with friends in the craft beverage community seeking a customized oak program.


Accelerated aging programs

How do you get your beverages out of the cellar and into your customers’ hands faster? If you don’t have 12-24 months to age your wine, cider, beer, or spirits but are still looking for oak character, we can help!


Multiple strategies available for any beverage you want to bottle or serve within 2 weeks to 6 months. We’ve got you covered! Contact us for options.


Is it an oak barrel? Is it a steel drum? Yes! (It’s both!)

What’s easy to care for, offers oak versatility with every vintage and true angels’ share evaporation while saving you exponentially on your barrel overhead costs?

Titan Barrel full
Meet the new Titan Barrel: a hybrid stainless steel body with wooden heads and stave inserts (your choice of French, European, American, Acacia, or any combination). Change the heads and staves every year depending on the crop or as your beverages change, or let them go neutral and replace them as you want to add more new oak impact into your program.


New WineStix® toasts/wood types

We’ve added Burgundy Medium+ Long Toast to our WineStix® offering, which brings you a deeper, more complex flavor from our two-step patented toasting process. Available in French, American, or Applewood Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers. It’s as close as you can get to a barrel…without the barrel.

New CharStix™ Whiskey-Infused products for tanks or barrels. You asked and we listened!

BeerStix dark tether small
Applewood, anyone? Offering low-tannin, intense baking spice in Medium Toast and baking spice plus added caramelized sweetness in Medium+ and Medium+ Long Toast, applewood is a unique complement to cider, beer, and aromatic white wines. Available in WineStix® Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers.



Tonnellerie Cadus PUR® toasting

CADUS_PUR_toasting_sm Tonnellerie Cadus has developed a new, 100% natural protocol for barrel toasting which is noticeable after just a few months of barrel aging.

The Pur® Protocol for our Sensoriel series barrels contributes by:
• Breaking down the undesirable agents naturally present in the organoleptic expressions of oak
• Controlling the aromas and macromolecules produced during the toasting process
• Only retaining the most stable molecules
• Breaking down the most expressive molecules to ensure the finesse and quality of the “new barrel” impact
• Systematically reducing the density of extractable components, which leads to the reduction in expression of undesirable aromas

Taste for yourself how well these barrels work with cool climate wines (and they’re also amazing with cider…think apple pie brioche). Cheers!


To find out more about any of the above, please contact Petraea Plus at www.petraeaplus.com or +1 585-705-7500.

#Winestudio: The Mosel German Collection

Every once in a while, I deviate from drinking my customers’ wines in eastern North America and get to participate in #winestudio, a social media wine education program produced by Tina Morey. Its message is “interactive wine education, thus a better understanding of our world through wine and our part in that world.” You, too, can participate by following at hashtag #winestudio on Twitter on Tuesdays 9-10pm Eastern Standard Time.
img_7488January 2017 #winestudio kicks off strong with beautiful Rieslings from the Mosel appellation in Germany, which stretches the farthest west of all of Germany’s wine-producing regions. Planted on the steep slopes surrounding the Mosel River, the climate is cool with slate soils, and ripening the grapes is tricky. The result is low-alcohol wine with acidity so racy that it renders the wines’ ample residual sugar barely noticeable. (Contrary to what many wine drinkers might think, there is no added sugar in any of these wines; residual sugar is what’s left in the wine after fermentation stops.) These same qualities make Riesling one of the most versatile and food-friendly wines in the world! During this #winestudio, I mixed and matched these Rieslings with cassoulet (laden with white beans, pork, duck confit and garlic sausage), takeout fried rice, and that notoriously tricky crucifer, cauliflower.

My interest in this program was especially piqued because Riesling is king in many of the cool climate wine regions I serve in eastern North America, most notably in the Finger Lakes of New York, the Niagara region in Ontario, and the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan. I’ve included a few Rieslings from a couple of those regions for comparison.


Karthäuserhof 2009 Mosel Riesling Trocken Deutscher Qualitatswein. 12.5% ABV. Dry (“trocken” means “dry” in German). Tiniest hint of petrol, lemon, wet stone, beautiful tart acid backbone, straw color. Pretty antique green hock bottle; cork finished; moldy cork.













Karthäuserhof 2015 Mosel Riesling. 10% ABV.

img_7485Very pale straw color. White flowers, honey, and peach, (tropical fruit?) on the nose. Tangerine, peach, and orange blossoms on the palate. Fruity and sweet on the front and mid-palate; finish is cleaner and drier than expected with acid that swoops in at the end.
Pretty champagne green hock bottle plus screw cap.


Winegut Max Ferd. Richter Mulheim/Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2015. Prädikatswein – Mosel. 7.5% ABV. Clear, day bright, straw color. Lemon chiffon, tiniest hint of petrol. Lemon-lime, [unripe] green pear, minerality, petrichor, petrol hints, zingy acidity, slightly earthy character. Bright fruit, some sugar, crisp & balanced. Lightweight; slightly oily finish. Bit o’spritz—characteristic of Mosel Riesling. Mouth-watering acid perfectly balances residual sugar (the reason Riesling is the ultimate in food-friendly wine)!

Winegut Max Ferd. Richeter Mulheim/Mosel Brauneberger Juffer Reisling Kabinett 2015. Prädikatswein – Mosel. 8% ABV. Clear, day bright, pale straw color. Slightly softer than the previous Richter wine (acid not as aggressive as Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling). Lemon-lime, orange blossom, white peach; simple, not quite as complex as Graacher Himmelreich; mineral; lightweight. Slight spritz. Seems sweeter due to softer acid.

img_7587Left Foot Charley Riesling 2012, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan (originally reviewed November 2015). 11.4% ABV.
Another great Riesling from Left Foot Charley. Petrol, grapefruit pith, lime, face-puckering acid, balanced and weighted by the RS at 17.7 g/L, which doesn’t sweeten this bad boy but elongates the lovely finish. Paired with pan-seared chicken and second-grade homework.

img_7588Anthony Road Art Series Riesling 2009, Finger Lakes, New York (originally reviewed September 2013). One of the first “wild-ferment” Rieslings I remember having, this wine is made without adding commercial yeast strains. Bursting with juicy citrus fruit, apricots, and tart acid, it is complex, crisp, and delicious. I love this wine and can’t wait to open the 2012 I’ve been saving in my cellar. (Still haven’t opened the 2012 as of this 2017 writing…maybe it’s time!)



Kemmeter Wines Red Tail Ridge Estate Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York (originally reviewed August 2015). Medium dry and delicate, the ’13 is softer, rounder, and with an oilier mouthfeel than the ’12, but the orange blossom and stone fruit linger for a long, lovely finish.

Disclosure: All opinions are my own. Mosel Riesling wines were provided courtesy of Massanois Imports for the purpose of the #winestudio interactive social media program.

Review: Dueling Pistols Zinfandel/Syrah red blend

dueling-pistols-photoDueling Pistols is the latest in The Federalist series from the Terlato Wine Group. According to their website, “The Federalist Wines were created to pay homage to our Founding Fathers. Bold men of principle, whose pioneering spirit helped make the United States the great country it is today.” This wine is certainly not shy, coming in at 15.1% alcohol. Made from 50% Zinfandel and 50% Syrah from the Dry Creek Valley AVA in Sonoma County, California, Dueling Pistols’ concept is a nod to the famous political and personal feud between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, ultimately concluding in a duel which ends with Burr’s death. (I envision two bunches of Zinfandel and Syrah grapes facing off in the vineyard in a battle to the bitter end.) While there’s no bitterness to be had—I suspect due to a healthy dose of residual sugar—the characteristics of the grape duo complement each other: The Zinfandel’s big jammy blackberry and black cherry flavors meld well with the earth and spice of the Syrah. However, both varieties seem to be grappling with the 15 months in 20% new oak barrels used in this wine, the characteristics of which are extremely prevalent. The right pairing helped calm the fruit/oak duel, though; this wine went swimmingly with spicy weeknight beef chili. The residual sugar and jammy fruit calmed the heat of the chili, and the ample chili spice made the wine seem drier. The peppery acidity in the chili defeated the overly assertive oak, too. The suggested retail price for The Federalist Dueling Pistols is $29, putting it at least $10-15 higher than similar big, easy-drinking, slightly sweet California red wines. Other wines in The Federalist series include Chardonnay, Visionary Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel, Honest Red Blend.

Disclosure: Wine samples were provided courtesy of Terlato Wines for review. All opinions are my own.

Even Gnarly Dudes Can Make Great Wine

img_5867-editedMy taste buds and I spend most of our time hanging out with the wines of the eastern
United States and Canada: our passion, our wheelhouse. However, every now and then we remember that the rest of the wine world exists and we venture out to explore; it’s very important not to become too accustomed to a “house flavor,” so to speak. Understanding a wine in the context of its region and place in the wide, wide world of wine is both palate-calibrating and fun. So, when the opportunity to learn more about Two Hands Wines of South Australia through #winestudio’s interactive social media tasting program came along, my interest was piqued.

Image result for images of two hands winesTwo Hands Wines was founded in 1999 by friends Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz with the intent to stand out from the sea of large producers who managed to stay afloat during the decade-long Australian grape glut by driving down their retail prices and decreasing quality. According to winemaker Ben Perkins, “It was a hard time for sure, but we were positioned well with good brand equity; [the] industry is still recovering.” As stated on Two Hands’ website, “With so much Australian wine being sold around the globe under multi-region labels in a formulaic style, the intention was to break the mould and showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional and vineyard characteristics by allowing the fruit to be the primary feature of the wines.”

#Winestudio participants evaluated wines from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, both famous for high-quality shiraz production. Barossa is a continental climate and experiences weather extremes like cold winters and long hot summer days. McLaren Vale is situated on St. Vincent Gulf and experiences a more moderate Mediterranean climate, with warmer, wetter winters, hot dry summers, and cooling winds because of its proximity to the coast and the Mt. Lofty Ranges. Given the differences in their climates, Barossa typically produces wines that are big, juicy and fruit-driven, and McLaren Vale produces wines that are more balanced, herbal, and spicy in character. Two Hands showcases the regional differences in their growers’ vineyard sites with well-made wines at several price points.

img_5776The Pictures Series (closed with screw cap, for any other “cork dorks” who may be interested)

2014 Angels’ Share Shiraz (McLaren Vale): Aged in a combination of 15% new French oak and the remainder in older French and American oak. Dark ruby color with thick, red-tinted tears at 14.8% ABV. On the nose: Garrigue, crushed herbs (rosemary, mint), violets, blackberries, black plums, anise/black licorice and bell pepper. The alcohol level is very apparent at first whiff. Jam, anise/licorice, green bell pepper, near-neutral but slightly toasty oak, juicy black cherry, black raspberry on the palate. Fleshy and complete. Low tannin, medium-acid. Nice weight, long tarry finish. Day 2, noticed more cocoa on the nose. Surely the angels, who theoretically took their eponymous “share” of this wine during barrel maturation, took pity and left us the very best part. $36 retail

2014 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz (Barossa Valley): Aged in all French oak with 15% new barrels. Slightly lower alcohol at 13.8% ABV. Smells like rose petals, blackberry/black cherry, cassis, slight powdered sweet cocoa, and high-tone vanilla. Much lighter on the palate; the body is less complex than Angels’ Share. More linear, with medium tannin. More prevalent oak markers: vanilla, toast, caramel. Day 2 added smoked meat, more vanilla and pencil lead to the nose.  Named for the gnarly old vines from which these grapes were harvested, or for “The Dude” character from the film The Big Lebowski, or both—you decide. $36 retail

2015 Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon (McLaren Vale): Named as an homage to Ben Kingsley’s character, “a real badass,” in the 2000 British crime film, Sexy Beast. At 14.5% ABV, it’s nicely balanced and the alcohol is not overwhelming to my cool-climate palate. The tears running down the side of the glass were thick and prettily purple-tinted. The color denotes a very young wine: ruby red with a purple rim. This wine’s aromas include cassis, blueberry/violets, green bell pepper, black pepper, mint and black fruits. The palate evokes much of the same with blackberry, ripe black cherry, medium tannin, and a cedar finish. Very perceptible toasty oak, with this wine being aged in 15% new 300L French oak barrels from a cooperage in Cognac (characteristically bold toasting) and the remainder still picking up aromas from one- to five-year 300L French barrels. $36 retail

The Garden Series (closed with Diam agglomerated closures)
Bella’s Garden 2014 (Barossa Valley):
Blood red. Nose is hot, boozy, very ripe with notes of violets, spice, black olive, cola, black/blue fruits, pomegranate. I loved this wine for its combination of complexity and balance. Ripe and rich but not overextracted. Big and mouth filling, but balanced. Not as boozy as the nose initially led me to believe. Subtle mushroom, black/blue fruits, dusty tannins, vanilla/chocolate/caramel/toffee/coffee from the 16% new French oak, long cedar-y finish on the palate. My favorite of the bunch! $69 retail

Lily’s Garden 2014 (McLaren Vale): Named for owner Michael Twelftree’s daughter, Lily, this wine is a deep, concentrated, purple/ruby red. Vanilla, blue fruits, black fruits, the nose is less aromatic than Bella’s Garden. Palate: Black fruits, firm tannin, coconut/vanilla, cedar/sweet pipe tobacco mid-palate drifting to slight tar on the finish. Herbal, tomato-leaf notes throughout. Delicate and pretty. Aged in 6% new, 94% older French 300-liter barrels. More linear than Bella’s Garden. Nice balance of acid, fruit, oak. $69 retail

img_5842The Flagship Series (closed with natural cork)

2012 Ares Shiraz (Barossa Valley): Always 100% Barossa Valley fruit and aged in 25% new oak for 23 months, Ares is one of Two Hands’ big, bold flagship wines. If you like huge, ripe, high-alcohol wines, you will be thrilled at what awaits you with Ares. At 15.5% alcohol, it seems almost like an appassimento-style or fortified wine, with immediately noticeable viscosity and thick colored tears running down the side of the glass. The nose presents raisin-y, very ripe blackberry/black plum, and violet notes; the oak markers include lots of baking spice, musk, and a touch of smoke. Extremely aromatic. At first sip, I wrote, “Jam! Spice! A little boozy vanilla. Juicy sweet black cherry. Spice! Spice! Spice! Same as nose. Cedar on finish.” These flavors are not for the faint of heart. Because of the extra care, extreme barrel sampling by the winemakers (about 100 barrels per day until all 2,000 barrels are tasted!) and “best of the best” selection that goes into this blend, the price tag is not for the faint of heart, either. $185 retail

Disclosure: Wine samples were provided by the producer for the purpose of the #winestudio social media program. All opinions are my own.