‘Corked Wine’ is spoiled wine which has been tainted by microbial infected cork. The various microbes that may infect cork create chemical compounds that cause unpleasant aromas and off flavors in wine. The Spoilage is not harmful to one’s health however the taint is detectable at very low levels and can cause great disappointment.
Many of us have seen some movie where someone is dining in a fine restaurant and a bottle of wine is presented to the patron who smells the cork before the wine may be poured. One can easily determine if the wine has been tainted by a sniff of the cork. In my experience most of our guests are unfamiliar with what is meant by ‘Corked Wine’ though most have experienced it unaware of the actual problem. ‘Corked’ is more of a blanket term for any spoilage caused by the natural cork, and various foul compounds which can be associated with various contaminating microbes. One compound in particular stands out as perhaps the greatest offender, Trichloroanisole better known as TCA. It is often characterized as odors that are musty, moldy, dirty or of wet dog. TCA has such a pungent, distinctive and powerful scent that once one has smelled it this scent will not be easily forgotten. TCA is produced when some amount of chlorine in the environment is metabolized by a microbe. The wine may have been tainted by TCA anywhere during production however the natural cork is usually the source of the problem. Natural cork is the standard for premium wines, but unfortunately we can expect a small percentage of these natural closures to carry a TCA infection even in the highest quality cork. The cork industry strives to reduce taint problems in their product however advancements are slow and difficult considering cork is a natural product that is harvested from the bark of an oak tree. A few cork companies have recently begun to use machinery that is able to sense and remove tainted cork during the processing stage. These technologies are very expensive and new. No doubt time will reduce cost and improve the technology as well as increase the availability. In the mean time a few things to keep in mind: screw caps and synthetic cork are TCA free though they tend to be used for wine of a lower price point. Natural cork still prevails in the premium wine industry for various reasons, so if you find your favorite wine is corked consider exchanging it for a good bottle. Most establishments appreciate your business and take pride in their wine so they would rather replace the tainted bottle to keep you happy, provided the purchase was recent and the policy is not abused.
For Mount Palomar the month of May is a perfect time to bottle White Riesling after an extended slow cold fermentation that increases the wine’s fruit elements. Professionally as a winemaker I must maintain an appreciation for all types of wine. However I have very distinct memories of enjoying Riesling wines as a younger man and these wines continue to be particularly dear to me. The varietal is well known for its’ characteristic floral elements and often have tastes of stone fruit. Americans tend to think of Riesling only as sweet wines. These medium sweet wines are wonderful; however there remains a much larger world of Rieslings to explore.
Fact: DNA finger printing show that Riesling is closely related to Chardonnay. They are sibling hybrids.
Riesling is well associated with Germany and thus is assumed to be the place of origin, but in reality no one really knows where the grape originated. The vine is prone to bunch rot and can be particularly difficult to cultivate in areas with frequent summer rains so it may have originated in a dry climate similar to California. The grape tends to have high acid levels that make it a good choice to produce as a sweet wine. When the wine is produced without residual sugar these same elevated acids also make a dry wine taste drier. The clusters are small making harvesting tedious, however the small berry size increases the intensity of flavors and aromas. The vine can require more attention than other varieties, but the wine is worth the extra effort.
Medium Sweet Riesling: This is the most popular style in the United States. Generally the residual sugar is between two and four percent. This wine is not intended for extended aging and is best consumed less than four years old.
Dessert Riesling: These are super sweet and would include ice wines, late harvest, and botrytis wine. These wines are harvested or treated in a way that raises the sugar content. They are often allowed extended aging. The flavor components are very intense.
Dry Riesling: These wines have very little or no residual sugar. This class of Riesling can vary from light and crisp similar in style to a Pinot Grigio to big and full like a well oaked Chardonnay with a distinct Riesling character.
As the weather gets warmer and the summer heats up, Riesling is a refreshing wine choice. Visit us at Mount Palomar Winery and compare our “Riesling” at 3% residual sugar and our neutral barrel aged “Dry Riesling” at 0% residual sugar.
It is April and it is a wonderful time in Temecula Wine Country. The skunks are no longer in full rut and the threat of crop damaging cold weather has passed. We are in for another early harvest and I predict it will begin the first week of August based on the timing of this year’s grape bloom. The downside of the current climatic conditions of California is yet another year of severe drought. The upside is perhaps the potential for better wine grapes. Size does matter and it is not just what you do with it that counts…. For wine production we want small! Smaller crops with smaller grapes mean a greater concentration of flavors and better wine. It takes some stressing of the vine to achieve such a crop and the drought is lending us a hand. Vinifera wine grapes are durable and an appropriate crop for California as they are a less thirsty crop plant.
With the warming of the weather we have released the 2013 Sangiovese Rosé. For those of you that may not be in the know, rosé wines are the new black. We are at the beginning of a Rosé Renaissance. Though these wines have been popular before and had fallen out of vogue, the market and the public’s tastes have matured to value something other than White Zin. The wine industry is seeing a surge of high quality and sophisticated rosé wines entering the market. Please forget about ‘White Zin’; for the true lovers of rosé wines this term has become fighting words. In the past the wine market had become inundated with mediocre Rosés made from Zinfandel, giving rosés in general a bad-wrap and much of the public soured on the idea of any type of rosé…. Open your eyes and enjoy this reawakening of this noble class of wines. These wines are truly beautiful in their broad array hues and flavor tones. They range from bone dry to tangy sweet, with great acid balance and prominent fruit elements. They are wonderful to drink throughout the year, but are most appreciated during the hottest times of the year. Rosés are created from red grapes that have been fermented as a white and are essentially more of a white wine than red. Their color depends on the amount of contact of juice with the grape skin before fermentation begins. For a ‘Blanc de Noir’ skin contact may be a matter of minutes while other rosé styles may require hours of contact with the skin. These wines are intended to be enjoyed when they are young to display the strongest fruit elements, but like as is true with certain white wines, some rosés can actually be aged to some degree.
Our Rosé Wines
Sangiovese Rosé: Mount Palomar Winery introduced Sangiovese to Temecula Valley and now Sangiovese accounts for our largest plantings in the vineyard. Today amazingly we have seven different clones planted in our vineyards. It seems only appropriate that we make an extraordinary rosé from Sangiovese. Our styling has a hint of sweetness brightened by natural acid with a prominent display of strawberry and melon essences. The fuchsia color is gorgeous. Recently it was awarded “Best Medium Dry Rose” at the San Diego Fair.
Cinsuat Blush: With a wonderful hue of bashful, this is our pink sensation. Off dry sweetness is balanced against tart citrus flavors.
Cinsaut Blanc de Noir: With a slight pink ting this wine is styled truly like a dry white wine. It is light, crisp and elegant. This wine is thirst quenching on the hottest day and great with white fish.