|Apologies to Omar Khayyam|
After Mrs ERJ picked me up yesterday in Ray, Indiana she drove us to Satek Winery seven miles to the west-southwest.
Satek makes wine out of some of the grape varieties that I am interested in growing. I wanted to taste those wines while it is still cheap and easy to make changes in my vineyard.
Varietal or blend?
Winemakers have to make a decision: Focus on varietal wines or blends.
Some grape varieties are inherently "balanced" and produce a drinkable wine as a single variety most years. Cabernet Sauvignon is one such grape. There is a perception among many wine drinkers that varietals are "better" than blends.
The challenge to the wine maker trying to make good wines, and turn a profit out of a single variety is similar to a painter trying to paint masterpieces, at a profit, using only white paint and burnt umber for pigment. While it can be done it is artificially limiting.
Approximately 2/3 of Satek's offerings are blends and the rest are varietals. Lucky for me, one of the winemakers was in the building and was able to identify some of varieties used in their blends.
Blend. Tart, refreshing, neutral, no secondary malo-lactic fermentation. This is an excellent "picnic-basket wine" to take to outdoor theater in the summer time. Goes perfectly with freshly baked bread, Swiss cheese, cantaloupe or ripe peaches. (Growers note: Whisper is primarily Cayuga grape, a very heavy producer on a grower-friendly vine. Cayuga starts to show winter damage at -12F)
Varietal. Semi-sweet pink, very well balanced regarding sweetness and background tartness. To my nose I smelled grapefruit juice but there was not grapefruit taste. A very likeable wine. (Growers note: Steuben is an absolutely bullet-proof grape variety to grow...impossible to kill and a very heavy producer. I am delighted to discover that Steuben can make such a likable wine.)
Varietal. Traminette is currently considered a rock-star cultivar. The nose reminded me of a fragrance called Midnight in Morocco. Perfumed, very floral, almost like Datura meteloides at first dark. I can see this wine being very appealing to new wine drinkers.
Larry's Luscious Dry Red, 2015
A blend of Corot Noir, Noiret and Chambourcin. Good color. I could smell a little bit of oak. Was surprised to "taste" far more oak than I smelled. I read that these grapes were inherently tannic...perhaps that is what they meant.
Technically a clean, red wine but this old man could not smell much fruit. Maybe I caught it in that valley between "young and unrestrained" and "fully developed". Or perhaps CN and N just want a little more heat and a little longer growing season than they saw in 2015. (Growers note: Corot Noir and Noiret both have Steuben in their pedigree. They produce about 80% as much as Steuben. Noiret grafted on a semi-vigorous rootstock that advances maturity might be a great choice.)
Varietal. Tasting notes similar to Larry's Luscious. Must not be my day to taste reds. (Growers note: Marquette is a varietal that produces half as much as Steuben. Marquette has little secondary bud fruitfulness after spring frosts. Marquette is considered very cold hardy.)
Aromas and taste is non-linear. A little bit of butyric acid smells like butter. A lot of butyric acid smells like fresh dog feces. A little bit of indole smells like well aged beeft. A lot of indole smells like mice or putrid meat.
The threshold between "a little" and "a lot" varies from person-to-person. It also varies by age and experience. One person might hate ripe bananas as a child but adore them as a senior citizen.
My tasting notes apply to me as I existed on July 30, 2018. Your experiences might be the polar opposite of mine.
Vidal Ice Wine
Varietal. A specialty item. Very strong, almost medicinal in flavor impact. Very sweet. Probably an acquired taste. I can see this appealing to folks who like Peppermint Schnapps or as an alternative to a small glass of port or sherry after a large meal. Not my cup-of-tea.
Satek Winery specializes in drinkable wines. These wines were not grown and fermented with the intention of wowing judges by being more over-the-top than competitors at a state fair. They were grown, fermented and blended with the intention of complementing, not dominating, food at the family table.
They were all technically competent. Even the ones I found less to my taste I could see having a place on somebody's table.