October Domestic Wine: 2009 MANDOLIN Pinot Noir, Monterey, CALIFORNIA

Mandolin is a collaboration between veteran winemaker Philip Zorn and longtime wine executive Brent Shortridge. Bringing together their previously established relationships with winegrowers in California’s Monterey County, Zorn and Shortridge have created wines that stand out for their balance, finesse and distinct varietal character, as well as their sense of place. Mandolin wines are internationally recognized as outstanding values.

Mandolin currently produces ChardonnayRieslingPinot Noir,SyrahMerlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with grapes sourced from Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco and Hames Valley within Monterey County.

History of Pinot Noir and its Relation to Mandolin: The fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, in the Central Coast region of California. Situated high above the Salinas Valley within Monterey County, the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA has developed a reputation for producing wines with intense fruit character. Chardonnay dominates the vineyards, although Pinot Noir is quickly establishing itself as another favorite. Running parallel with the Pacific Ocean, this region benefits from well-drained granitic soils and is sheltered from harsh weather by the Santa Lucia Mountains. Cool morning fog and afternoon breezes are drawn into the Salinas Valley from Monterey Bay, creating a very long growing season.

The grapes for this Pinot Noir were sourced from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA of Monterey County, where high winds, dry days, and bay fogs create a cool, but very long, growing season. These growing conditions are ideal for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir, and lead to full, forward fruit flavors and ideal acidity. Grapes were harvested at an ideal balance of sugar and acid, and the wine was fermented in small open-top tanks. The wine completed malo-lactic fermentation in French oak barrels, where it aged for 11 months prior to bottling.

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.3% by volume

Tasting Notes: With its maritime influence, California’s Monterey region has an extended growing season that yields wines with full flavor development and great acid balance. Mandolin Pinot Noir is a rich wine that features bright cherry and raspberry fruit with hints of spice, leather, and cedar.

Food Pairings: This wine is the ultimate match with turkey and heavier fishes like salmon. A great accompaniment to your Thanksgiving meal or a nice sipper for a Fall football game!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine that is textbook Pinot Noir. Old-school in character; loaded with earthy cherry flavors. This wine really overachieves for an affordable Pinot Noir.”-JL

October Imported Wine: 2009 WINZERKELLER ANDAU Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, AUSTRIA

One of the greatest potential resources for a wine importer is a better-than-average co-op—Caves coopérative de vinification in French, Winzergenossenschaft or Winzerkeller in German. This is an association of growers, some of whom own wide-reaching expanses of vineyard—several hectares, possibly—and others who have three rows of grapevines behind the barn. Under central leadership, these grapes are harvested at an arranged time with others of the variety, delivered to the press-house, vinted, fermented, matured and then bottled together under the label of the Coöperative. The world of wine would be a far poorer place indeed, without the activities of the Produtorri di Barbaresco, or the Domäne Wachau—(formerly Die Freie Weingärtner). For fifty years now, the Winzerkeller Andau has provided its currently almost 300 members with the opportunity to do together that which would be impossible for the individual. And since Austria’s entry to the EU in 1995, the coöp has spared no expense—to the tune of some 10 Million Euros—in modernizing its grape-collection technique and winemaking procedures, to the point of reaching a very high standard of quality.

History of Blaufränkisch and its Relation to Winzerkeller Andau:  Andau is a little community of some 2400 souls, situated less than a mile from Austria’s border with Hungary. Back in the days of barbed-wire, checkpoints and machine guns, this neighborhood had very little to rejoice about, being border-country, one that was in no way encouraged to feel pride at its Magyar heritage, even though the province had been part of Hungary until after the 1st World War. The vineyards bear fruit typical to the area: Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Muskatt, Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling.

Blaufränkisch (German for blue “Frankish) is a dark-skinned variety of grape used for red wines, which are typically rich in tannin and may exhibit a pronounced spicy character. The grape is grown across Central Europe, including Austria, Czech Republic (in particular southern Moravia, where it is known as Frankovka), Germany (where it is known as Lemberger, or Blauer Limberger), Slovakia (where it is known as “Frankovka modrá”), Croatia (“frankovka”) and Slovenia (known as “modra frankinja”).  It has been called “the Pinot Noir of the East” because of its spread and reputation in Eastern Europe.

DNA profiling has shown that Blaufränkisch is a cross between Gouais blanc and an unidentified Frankish variety. One of the candidates for the Frankish parent is Blauer Silvaner. For a long time before the application of DNA analysis, Blaufränkisch was thought to be a clone of the Gamay grape variety, due to certain similarities in morphology and possibly due to its name Gamé in Bulgaria.

Varietal:  100% Blaufränkisch                                Alcohol:  12.5% by volume

Tasting Notes:  Very pure and elegant, a wine that opens the entry level for people who hitherto have little experience with these unique and distinctive Austrian red varieties. Subtle dark cherry and cassis notes fold nicely into a palate showing the same, good length and nicely structured wine which has benefited from the generous material of the 2009 vintage.

Food Pairings:  This wine pairs very well with duck, bratwurst, sausage, lamb, and veal. Enjoy this wine on a cold day with a great plate of food!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts:  “This is a great example of a cool grape from Austria. The wine jumps out of the glass! I am excited by the interesting flavors and the unique grape varietal. Drink this and think of great minerality, smooth tannins, and good acidity. Very food friendly and extremely quaffable!”-JL