Wine Review: 2012 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris

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Update 4/30/14: You can buy the new vintage of this wine here!

Do you love white wine? Are you a fan of things that are both unusual and delightful at the same time? Do you get real excited when you find fancy things that don’t break the bank? This 2012 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris from the Russian River Valley is all of those things, and it’s one of my favorite wines of the summer.

Trousseau Gris was once widely grown in California under the name Grey Riesling. It’s a mutation of the red Trousseau grape, native to the Jura region in France. There is very little of it left here in the Golden State, but the Fanucchi-Wood Road vineyard in the Russian River Valley grows about 10 acres of it. This vineyard has created a name for itself through some very skilled winemakers (Pax Mahle of Wind Gap also makes a wine from this vineyard) and the wines are highly sought-after by insatiable wine geeks like myself.

Jolie-Laide Wines is a very small operation run by winemaker Scott Schultz in Forestville, CA. He produces just a few wines, and this was the first one I ever tried of his. Colleen and I were at the Punchdown in Oakland and we spied a Jolie-Laide 2011 Trousseau Gris on the menu. We have had Trousseau Gris in the past, from Wind Gap, and we loved it. It was no surprise we loved this one, too.

The hallmark of this wine is the velvety texture and spicy character it gets from the cold soak it receives for several days prior to pressing and fermentation. This process gives the wine a unique richness without being over-wrought or tannic, like many skin-contact white wines can be. It has an undeniable Trousseau Gris fruit profile, including stonefruit and citrus, which is reminiscent of other wines we’ve had from this vineyard. It has enough acid and freshness to balance the viscosity, richness, spice, and fruit. This is a balanced wine in the purest sense of the word, expertly made, by one of the nicest people we have ever met in the wine industry.

If you see this wine in a shop, and it’s hard to miss because of the sexy babe on the label, be sure to pick up at least a few bottles. At around $24, you won’t find another wine of this quality for the price. I would put my money on this wine aging gracefully for at least a little while, as it has the stuffing to do so. It’s a great food wine, like all wines we feature on Winelandia, and I suggest serving it with whole grilled fish stuffed with citrus & cilantro. Add on a side of grilled veggies, and you will be sure to impress your guests.

Have you tried this wine? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Editors Note: We previously stated that this wine was skin-fermented, which is incorrect. It received a 5 day cold-soak prior to fermentation. Thanks to the winemaker for clarifying!

Wine 101: Beginner’s Guide to Wine

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Most new wine drinkers are completely overwhelmed by the numerous and mysterious options when they walk into a wine store. It’s completely justified – that feeling of being totally lost. It’s not your fault, either. While most domestic wines are labeled with the type of grape the wine is made from, many European wines are not. Instead they have the region, the country, the house that made the wine, or just a funky picture on the label. Moreover, the labels generally don’t say a word about what it tastes like, what food to pair with it, or any other indication of what’s in the bottle. How on earth will you know which wine to pick for dinner?

In this post we will go over some of the common types of wines you will see in a wine shop, what they are like, what foods they pair with, a general price range, what stemware to choose, and where they are grown.

Cabernet Sauvignon
This grape is originally from Bordeaux but has gained a solid foothold virtually every wine market in the world. It’s one of the most widely-recognized varietals due to it’s widespread availability, ease of cultivation, and easy-to-pronounce name. It generally produces a very robust wine which can be appealing to a new wine-drinker’s palate due to it’s richness of flavor and enticing aromas. It can be very expensive, collectible and age-worthy. Still, if you know nothing about wine, chances are you’ve still had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Major Regions: Napa, Bordeaux, South America
Type of Wine: Red
Stemware: Large, tall-sided, tulip shaped Bordeaux glass
Flavors/Aromas: Currant, tobacco, blackberry, green pepper, spice, oak
Structure: Full-bodied, low acidity, medium to high tannin
Food Pairings: Beef, blue & aged cheeses, lamb, bittersweet chocolate
Price Range: $15-$80

Zinfandel
This fun, delicious, rustic wine is a staple in the New World, even though some believe it originated from Croatia. It counts for 10% of wine grapes planted in the US. While much of the Zinfandel vines grown are slated for “White Zinfandel” production, red Zinfandel is where it’s at. It can be made in many different styles and is a great wine to pair with food. It’s a wine that anybody can love, it was my gateway wine for sure. You can walk away with an exceptional bottle for around $25.

Major Regions: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Italy
Aliases: Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski
Type of Wine: Red, rosé
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped Viognier glass
Flavors/Aromas: Plum, black/white pepper, spice, vanilla, blackberry
Structure: Medium to full bodied, low to medium acidity, medium tannin
Food Pairings: BBQ, burgers, pork, beef, lamb, pizza, grilled sausages, turkey, ribs
Price Range: $10-$30

Pinot Noir
Since the debut of the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir has experienced a renaissance in America. It’s seen greater plantings, higher prices, increased sales, and wider availability. Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow and make good wine from. It prefers a cooler climate and longer growing season to warmer climates. Pinot Noir is famously grown in the Burgundy region of France (it’s one of three grapes legally allowed in Champagne), California, New Zealand, and is even gaining popularity in Oregon state. It can be difficult to warm up to, but it’s seductive textures and earthy aromas are bound to pull you in.

Major Regions: Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Burgundy, Willamette Valley
Types of Wine: Red, rosé, sparkling, sparkling rosé
Stemware: Large, wide, tulip-shaped Burgundy glass
Flavors/Aromas: Cherry, mushroom, forest floor, resin, mineral, earth, herbs
Structure: Light to medium bodied, medium acidity, fine tannin
Food Pairings: Roasted chicken, duck, lamb, mushrooms, salmon, roasted pork
Price Range: $25-$60

Chardonnay
This oft-maligned grape variety has been a staple in the New World while quietly making world-class, highly collectible wine in the Old World. Chardonnay is considered a ‘neutral’ grape, which means the flavor profile is easily manipulated through farming and winemaking practices. More importantly, it showcases the vine’s terroir very well when grown in mineral soils. The style of wine can vary wildly from stony, acidic and mineral to viscous, buttery and rich. I recommend finding examples from Chablis or the Russian River Valley with neutral oak treatments if you are just getting started.

Major Regions: Burgundy, Sonoma, Napa
Types of Wine: Sparkling, white
Stemware: Large, wide, tulip-shaped Burgundy glass
Flavors/Aromas: Green apple, butter, mineral, citrus, toast, melon, lemon
Structure: Light to full bodied, low to high acidity, no tannin
Food pairings: Butter & cream sauce, chicken, crab, fish, lobster, pork, vegetable dishes, corn, cheese, herbs
Price Range: $15-$60

Sauvignon Blanc
There isn’t a grape variety more polarizing than Sauvignon Blanc, yet it’s prolific on the shelves at your local grocery store and wine shop. It’s often grassy, pungent or tropical aromas can be off-putting to some, but delectable to others. It’s originally a wild grape from South West France, but has earned a reputation in Bordeaux & Sancerre while gaining widespread popularity throughout the New World. It’s usually very crisp and good with food or just by itself. It’s also one of the few wines that can pair with brussel sprouts, artichokes, broccoli and asparagus.

Major Regions: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Bordeaux, Napa, New Zealand
Types of Wine: White
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Gooseberry, grass, melon, tropical fruit, grapefruit, green pepper, citrus
Structure: Light bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin
Food Pairings: Seafood, goat cheese, oysters, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chicken, herbs, peppers, salad, tomatoes, vegetable dishes
Price Range: $10-$40

Pinot Gris
Also known as Pinot Grigio, this grape is the mutant cousin of Pinot Noir. It has white juice and rose-colored skin, which means it can make crisp white wines or copper-hued skin-fermented wines. This is one of the best-selling wines in the world due to it’s approachability, food-friendliness and wide availability. It grows well in cooler climates and makes excellent wines in Northern Italy, Alsace, Oregon and Germany. It’s best to drink Pinot Gris while it’s young as only Alsatian examples age well.

Major Regions: Alsace, Loire, Burgundy, Germany, Oregon, Northern Italy
Types of Wine: Dessert, white
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Spice, flowers, pear, apple, melon
Structure: Light to full bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin (unless skin-fermented)
Food Pairings: Salmon, shellfish, antipasto, goat/sheep cheeses, fried chicken, roasted pork, prosciutto
Price Range: $10-$30

Cava
This sparkling wine is the hallmark of Catalonia, an independent nation in the North East corner of Spain. It’s all over the place in Barcelona as well as in the refrigerated section of your supermarket in the US. Don’t let the price fool you – Cava is one of the most delicious and inoffensive sparklers out there. It’s usually made from a blend of traditional Spanish grapes in the Methode Traditionelle (the same method used in Champagne). In Barcelona, it’s served by virtually every restaurant for 5-10 Euro per bottle and is the perfect accompaniment to tapas. If you are looking for an inexpensive, crowd friendly wine for a party or celebration, pick up some Cava. For about $15 you can get a pretty good one.

Major Regions: Catalonia
Types of Wine: Sparkling, sparkling rosé
Stemware: Champagne flute
Flavors/Aromas: Lemon, green apple, nuts, brioche, mineral
Structure: Light bodied, medium acidity, no tannin
Food Pairings: Serrano ham, olives, fried fish, cheese, sushi, BBQ, tapas
Price Range: $7-$20

Rosé
Pink wine isn’t just for girls! Contrary to common belief, rosé isn’t usually sweet. Lots of it being made these days is mostly or completely dry, and sugar is only used to balance out the bracing acidity of some wines. By no means am I talking about White Zinfandel, Blush wine or anything made by Franzia or Carlo Rossi (avoid those like the plague). Some of the finest rosé wines come from the Provence region of France, but excellent variations can be found all of the world. Although rosé can be made from any red wine grape, they mostly taste very similar. It’s not meant to be thought-provoking, but it’s delicious and affordable. This summertime gulper is best enjoyed ice cold, on a warm night, with some light fare.

Major Regions: Provence, Sonoma, Oregon, Loire, Champagne
Types of Wine: Rosé
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Strawberry, watermelon & watermelon rind, herbs
Structure: Light to medium bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin.
Food Pairings: Salmon, charcuterie, cheeses, grilled fish, crab, pizza, BBQ, eggs, pork, salad, grilled shrimp, picnics
Price Range: $10-$25

Is there a type of wine that you’re curious about that you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments.

Day Trip: Russian River Valley Winery Tour

Colleen and I are in agreement: The Russian River Valley is one of California’s finest AVAs. It’s the birthplace of some of the New World’s most refined Pinot Noir & Chardonnay because of it’s warm days and cool, foggy nights. This swing in temperature preserves the grape’s natural acidity and extends the growing season which in turn produces wines that have great complexity and excellent age-worthiness. The best thing about the Russian River Valley is that it’s just an hour an a half outside of San Francisco/Oakland. You can easily make this a self-guided day-trip with plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the most beautiful places in California.

The first stop on your day trip should be the fair city of Santa Rosa. She is smack-dab in the middle of the Russian River Valley AVA, home to several awesome wineries, and one of the first cities you will pass on your way to rural RRV backroads.

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If you are coming out on a Saturday (but not on a Sunday, because even wine people need a day off), be sure to pay a visit to the Natural Process Alliance. If you’ve ever seen a wine being poured from a reusable Kleen Kanteen, it was probably a NPA wine (you can have these refilled with delicious wine for a discount after a $15 refundable deposit on the Kanteen). The owner and winemaker, Kevin Kelly, also produces wine under his Salinia label. He has a very natural approach to winemaking and produces some pretty interesting stuff. He is very warm and welcoming, and no appointment is needed to visit on Friday & Saturday from 10:30AM to 4PM.

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One of our favorite NPA wines is the ’25 Reasons’ petillant-naturel of skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is lightly sparkling, highly aromatic and completely mind-blowing. Kevin recommends you stand it upright in the fridge the day before you want to drink it, letting the sediment settle to the bottom (the wine has lees in it from the pet-nat process). You then carefully pour the first two glasses ‘clear’. This clear wine is subtle and elegant with more obvious mineral notes. Then, you give the last bit of wine a quick shake and serve the rest cloudy. The resulting wine is tropical, fruity, earthy, full of body, and delicious. This would be an excellent wine to pair with pork chops, roasted chicken or vegetarian dishes. If you want to get your hands on some, act quickly. There are only six cases left at the winery. You may be lucky enough to find it in a place like Arlequin Wine Merchant or Bi-Rite Market in SF.

The next stop while in Santa Rosa could very well be Punchdown Cellars (by appointment only!), home to about 30 different wine producers which include Dirty & Rowdy, Ceritas and Lioco. This custom-crush facility provides very small producers the resources to produce fine wine with with the latest equipment and technology. During our visit, we met with Jim from Lioco. They are a producer of high end Sonoma County Pinot Noir & Chardonnay but they also make a lovely Pinot Blanc, Carignan and rosé.

photo (14)It’s not often, but sometimes you encounter a wine that makes you absolutely lose your sh*t. Colleen experienced this while tasting their Pinot Blanc from the Chalone AVA. It was rich, spicy, fruity, full of body, with complex aromas and balanced acidity. If there’s anything Colleen loves, it’s a complex white wine with body AND acid. At $28 a bottle, it’s definitely a steal. While we loved all of the wines, we felt the other stand-outs were the rosé of Carignan, $18 (which had tons of acid, picked at 19.5 Brix); the RRV Chardonnay, $35 (delicious, classic RRV Chard); and finally the Indica, $20 (a rustic red blend of mostly Carignan with a screw-cap closure, insane QPR).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow on to the backroads. From Santa Rosa, head down Guerneville Road towards the city of Sebastopol and pay a visit to Iron Horse Vineyards. This spectacular winery is located at the top of a hill in one of the Russian River Valley’s coolest and foggiest subregions, Green Valley. Like many RRV producers, Iron Horse makes Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, but they also produce sparkling wine from these grapes in the traditional method. Colleen is a wine club member here and we love to stop by to pick up her allocation and also taste through their current releases. Their newly released 2009 Summer’s Cuvée was just what the doctor ordered because it was over 100F that day and we were melting. This is a great place to enjoy a glass of bubbles while taking in the amazing view.

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While Iron Horse is not a small producer (they even make a wine for the White House!), we love their sparkling wines, friendly staff and gorgeous quince tree at the entrance, which we couldn’t resist taking a photo of. What is a quince, you say? Well, if you’ve ever had that red jelly called Membrillo that you see on cheese plates at fancy restaurants, you’ve tasted a quince. They are a hard apple/pear type fruit which is inedible in it’s raw form but when cooked for hours turns a lovely pink color and develops a floral flavor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe feel that three wineries is the right number to visit in a day. If you visit these three, you will not be disappointed. That said, check out our very own Tasting Room Guide for more wineries not only in the Russian River Valley, but other surrounding areas. If you are going to Iron Horse, Dutton-Goldfield is nearby and is definitely worth a visit. If you plan to head further West towards Guerneville, call and make an appointment at Porter-Bass. If you’re heading North to Dry Creek, take a detour along Westside Road and stop at Porter Creek Vineyards along the way. You’ll definitely find something you love.