Sunday, August 9, 2009

Report from ... The wines of Scott Harvey at Champane Wines Cellars – August 7, 2009

This evening I had the opportunity to meet winemaker Scott Harvey at Champane Wine Cellars in Warren, Michigan – my buddy Dave (of Drinking with Dave fame) invited me to the tasting. Scott now has his own label(s): Scott Harvey and Jana – but before that he was the brains behind the wines of Renwood and started the Menage a Trois brand for Folie a Deux (now part of Sutter Homes/Trinchero) amongst other projects he has done and had success with … so now it’s his turn to shine.

Tonight we tried 14 wines from his portfolio, including: a white and red blend called One Last Kiss, wine from his Jana label – a tribute to his wife, and his eponymous label – of which there is the Mountain Select (entry level) and Amador County (reserve). As usual I had my favourites … below I give you my top 3 selections.

Jana 2007 Leelanau Riesling … there were two Rieslings on the table, one from Napa the other made from local (if you live in Michigan) fruit sourced from the Leelanau Peninsula (I visited there this summer). Scott told me he made the wine by proxy, visiting a few times (to pick the block and check on the fruit) and then with the help of the folks at 45 North (winery) and UPS. Scott did some apprenticeship training in Germany (at K. Fitz-Ritter winery) so he has a soft spot in his heart for Riesling and it’s a grape he loves to work with it. There really was no comparison between the two wines, the Michigan fruit just burst in the mouth with fresh acidity, the balance between fruit sweetness and acid was excellent. It began sweet and fruity in the mouth with apple, peach and pear, then continued through to a great, mouthwatering finish. Scott told me that both Rieslings were made in a ‘half-dry’ style, using the German terminology (“Haltrocken Kabinett”). In my notes I called this one “refreshing with bite”. Alcohol was only 10.5%. An excellent Riesling. (****½)

Scott Harvey 2006 Barbera Amador County – J&S Reserve … this is from Scott’s reserve line of wines, which means the fruit is taken from a specific vineyard in Amador County, one that Scott believes grows the best representation of that varietal. Barbera is a grape with Italian roots but can also be found (amongst other places) in California (mainly due to the Italian immigrants who settled the area years ago and brought their favourite grape along with them from home). Scott makes two Barberas, one in each of his lines (Mountain Select and Amador), after trying both I can say the Amador version is worth the $10 price jump. There’s an excellent balance here between the high alcohol (14.5%), the fruit and the acids. A great sweet fruit entry with blackberry, black currant and spiced plums rolling around in the mouth … the delicious finish lingers with chocolate-cassis liqueur aftertaste. Delicious. (****½)

Scott Harvey 2005 Syrah – Mountain Select … amongst all 14 wines poured, this was the All-Star of the tasting. It’s part of the Mountain Select (entry level) tier of wines – meaning: fruit is sourced from Amador County but from different vineyards (more on that below). This evening the wine was specially priced at $14.99 … an absolute steal. Scott told me this is “my under $20 label”, and even at $19.99 this would have been a hell of a bargain, but even more so at $15. The grapes are sourced/selected from 3 vineyards in Amador County and spent 21 months in French oak. This wine also benefited from a “too much wine” situation from Scott’s top vineyard, 54% of the wine comes from the designated ”reserve” vineyard. The nose was fairly simple, with white pepper and black fruit, but in the mouth it really popped: red and black fruit, white pepper, smooth and luscious with those sweet fruits intermingling with the pepper and oak notes, mmm mmm. This could be a dangerous wine, at 14.5%, it goes down so easy and smooth, watch out. I’m giving this 4.5-star wine and extra half star for value. (*****)

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