Exploring Austrian Wine – Zweigelt

This week, I had the chance to attend a wonderful tasting hosted by Austrian Wine, the national service body for the Austrian wine industry.  The tasting focused on red wines of Austria and we were able to taste four flights of four different grapes.  We started the tasting with a grape that immediately grabbed my attention; Zweigelt.  I have had Zweigelt once or twice before but never really had the chance to dig into the nuances and characteristics of the grape.

Austrian Wine tasting hosted by Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, and Patrick Farrell, MW.
Austrian Wine tasting hosted by Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, and Patrick Farrell, MW.

Zweigelt is the most widely planted red grape in Austria and is a crossing of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent.  I found the four Zweigelts we tasted to be fresh, pure, and great values.  Here are my tasting notes:

Getting ready to taste!
Getting ready to taste!

2012 Zantho Zweigelt

This unoaked wine offers tastes of red berries and spice along with balanced acidity.  The wine actually reminds me a bit of a Beaujolais.  Quite simple yet really fresh and enjoyable. (13% alcohol, $15)

2012 Claus Preisinger Zweigelt

Claus Preisinger’s Zweigelt is a bit fuller than the Zantho.  The nose is musty and there are tastes of cherry, plum, brett, and spice.  I would have like a bit more acid but still a very drinkable wine. (13.4% alcohol, $18)

2012 Münzenrieder Classic Zweigelt

The acidity definitely picked back up with the Münzenrieder Classic Zweigelt.  There were also floral notes intertwined with tastes of red berries and spice.  Fresh and a nice value! (13% alcohol, $13)

2012 Glatzer Riedencuvee Zweigelt

This wine opens with a medley of cherry, pomegranate, cinnamon, and floral aromas.  The refreshing palate offers tastes of red fruit and minerals along with a silkier, creamier texture than the other wines in the flight.  The most complex of the four! (13%, $18)

*Hosted tasting

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2014 Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay Petillant Naturel

Lately, I just can’t help myself…if I see a bottle of Pet’ Nat somewhere, I have to buy it!  The latest victim of my recent obsession is Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay.  Donkey & Goat is based out of Berkeley and run by husband and wife team Jared and Tracey Brandt.  They make natural wines and focus on Rhone varietals, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.  Lily’s Cuvée is a blend of predominantly Chardonnay with a splash of Roussanne from Anderson Valley.

2014 Donkey & Goat Lily's Cuvee Chardonnay Petillant Naturel
2014 Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvee Chardonnay Petillant Naturel

This cloudy, yeasty wine is slightly sweet with fine bubbles.  There are harmonious flavors of grapefruit, lemon, honey, ginger, and minerals.  A bit green, but according to Donkey & Goat, the sweetness will mellow out and the wine will become more carbonated if held on to for a little while.  Delicious, intriguing, and definitely fun to drink!

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Tasting Our Way Through The Garagiste Festival

Last weekend, Brandon and I had the chance to attend The Garagiste Festival “Southern Exposure” held in the Santa Ynez Valley.  There were many events held over the course of the weekend and we made it to Santa Barbara Wine Country just in time for Sunday’s Grand Tasting.  This event brought together 30 artisan ‘garagiste’ producers along with food vendors.  While most of the wineries were based out of Santa Barbara, there were a few labels from places like Sonoma, Paso Robles, and San Diego.

The Garagiste Festival

Brandon and I tasted our way through most of the wineries and there were definitely a few that stood out.  Our first stop was at J. Brix Wines and it ended up being our favorite tasting of the day.  J. Brix is a boutique winery based in San Diego (that’s right, San Diego!).  Winemakers Jody & Emily Towe started making wine in their garage and have since grown production to 700 cases.  While most of their grapes come from Santa Barbara County, they also produce “Rougarou” Carignan from McCormick Ranch in San Diego.  This unfined and unfiltered wine is balanced with tastes of red fruit and hints of earth.  A super impressive effort that will make you rethink San Diego’s potential.

Another winery that really stood out in the tasting was Ryan Cochrane Wines.  Owner and winemaker Ryan Cochrane was pouring his newly released 2013 Solomon Hills Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County (alongside Santa Barbara Pinot Noir) and it was showing really well.  Nice texture along with vibrant acidity and bright fruit.  A great wine from a winery that is only producing 150 cases!

Brandon and I wrapped up our tasting with bubbles from Flying Goat Cellars.  Their 2012 Cremant was an excellent way to rejuvenate our palates.  It is made from the Pinot Blanc clone 159 from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  This sparkling wine is refreshing and crisp with notes of melon and citrus.

Overall, The Garagiste Festival is an excellent way to explore wines from small production, artisan wineries throughout California.  If it comes to your town (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, & Paso Robles), you should definitely check it out!

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A Beautiful Everyday Burgundy – 2013 Domaine Les Faverelles “Le Nez de Muse” Bourgogne

A delicious Red Burgundy for under $30…is that even possible?  I found out it is indeed possible after uncorking a bottle of Domaine Les Faverelles “Le Nez de Muse” Bourgogne.  Domaine Les Faverelles is a small, 15 acre winery located in the village of Vézelay.  The vineyard is farmed organically and biodynamically and all of their wines are made with indigenous yeasts.  The “Le Nez de Muse” Bourgogne is aged in oak casks and is bottled unfiltered.

2013 Domaine Les Faverelles “Le Nez de Muse” Bourgogne


This Burgundy, which pours a brilliant cranberry color in the glass, opens with aromatics of red fruit and pepper.  The wine is graceful and delicate on the palate.  There are notes of ripe strawberries along with lively acidity.  There is also a youthfulness that is fresh and pure.  The wine actually reminded me a lot of Gamay in style and in taste.  Absolutely stunning for the price…I wish I had more bottles to enjoy! (11% alcohol, $22)

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