Nevada Wine

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Last night we tasted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In class we discussed the origins and characteristics of these grapes and their wines. In the tasting we compared wines that had been drought-stressed or not, treated with oak and/or malo-lactic fermentation. The wines came from either 2008 or the 2009 vintages. All of the wines were very nice. Amongst the Chardonnay, the the favorite was the 2008 Well-Watered Chardonnay with oak and malo-lactic fermentation. A close second was the drought-stressed 2009 Chardonnay (no oak or malo). These wines were light in color with nice fruity aromatics and a long-finish. The favorite Pinot Noir was the 2009 Well-Watered (with oak) followed as a close second by the 2009 Drought-Stressed (no oak). The well-watered 2009 Pinot Noir had medium color with very nice strawberry jam aroma and flavor. It was very smooth and well-rounded. The drought-stressed 2009, was very dark in color with some fruity aromas and firm tannins. I almost wouldn't know that this wine was a Pinot Noir, it was a very unusual wine for a Pinot Noir and one very worth drinking! Next week is our last week before the holidays. We will return starting in February. Have a happy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lemberger Tasting

Dear Nevada Wine Enthusiasts,
Last night we started off the class by talking about the possible wine adjustments one can make in a wine after fermentation is complete includeing acid adjustment, color adjustment, tannin adjustment, stabilization and clarification. Our Lemberger wines have always been popular, and last night was no exception. We had new people there that had never tasted Lemberger before and were quite pleased with what we tasted. We tasted well-watered wines from 2006 to 2009 with or without oak. Many of these wines were very good. The winner was the Oaked 2009. This wine was described as having hints of blackberry, some pepper, with a nice oak finish to make a well-rounded wine. Others described it as having a fruity, jammy nose, with a light berry, acidic palate and lingering finish. Others decribed notes of raspberry, black cherry, beautiful ruby color, and balanced. One went even so far as to say this was the best UNR wine ever! Hope to see you next week!
All the best,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gewurztraminer Tasting

Dear Nevada Wine Enthusiasts,
Last night in class, we took a cold blustery walk out into the vineyard to view our vine burial techniques. We shall see next spring whether our efforts were worthwhile. After returning to the classroom we discussed the importance of oak, its impact on wine color and flavor and the different methods that oak can be administered. We finalized the class with a summary of the 5522 wine tastings scores recorded to date. There were clear differences in which wines were more popular with the public. Cabernet Sauvignon was a clear winner. Semillon clearly benefited from water deficit as the drought-stressed wines were much more popular than the well-watered vines. After that we had a vertical tasting of our Gewurztraminers from the last 5 years (2004-2009). Clearly Gewurztraminer wines from our area hold up well compared to some of our other wines. The wines most liked were the Well-Watered 2006 and 2009 wines, although others liked equally well some of the other wines. The least favorite was the Drought-Stressed 2008, however, again there was a difference of opinion. I personally liked the Drought-Stressed 2009. I thought it was outstanding with a delicate aroma, good balance and finish.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Merlot Tasting

Hello Nevada Wine Enthusiasts,
Last night in class, we discussed my recent visit to China. I learned that the Beijing area has very similar problems with cold as we do and that they too have major die back in the March period of the spring. They think this is due to excessive transpiration of the shoot (even though there are no leaves yet) and the inability of the roots to transport the water fast enough (because of the cold soils or lack of root development). They are doing some experiments to confirm this hypothesis and I think they may be on to something here. I have hypothesized in the past that there is a loss of carbohydrate (starch) storage reserves by this time of the year that is contributing to the decline. The vines are surviving the coldest part of the winter in January but running out of steam in March. As for the wine tasting, we tasted our UNR Merlot. The well-watered 2009 Merlot was the clear favorite although a number of other Merlots were equally liked by other tasters. Some descriptors of this wine were that it was well colored and balanced. The least favorite wine was a blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc from 2008. It had some oxidized caramel characters that some people didn't like. However there were a number of people who chose this wine as their favorite. So as I say, just because it is someone's least favorite doesn't mean it is not someone else's favorite. We find this happening frequently in our wine tastings. Individuals clearly have different tasting preferences!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Last night in class we discussed our recent harvest and the on-going fermentations in the experimental winery. We then did a comprehensive tasting of 12 Chardonnay wines including 3 commercial wines, La Crema, Clos du Bois and Bogle. We analyzed wines that were unoaked, oaked or had malolactic fermentation. Some of the UNR wines did quite well in the tasting, particularly the Well-Watered 2008 that had been oaked and treated with malolactic fermentation. Another favorite was the Well-Watered 2009 Chardonnay with oak. Clearly some of the UNR wines were competitive if not better than the commercial wines. Chardonnay appears to be a good grape to grow in the Northern Nevada region.

Best of the Best

Hi Nevada Wine Enthusiasts,
It's been a very busy week with harvest. Last week we had a tasting of the Best of the Best Wines from 2008 and 2009. We tasted 3 whites and 3 reds: the 2009 Pinot Gris, the 2009 Drought-Stressed Gewurztraminer, the 2009 Chardonnay, the 2009 Drought-Stressed Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Cabernet Franc and the 2008 Drought-Stressed Cabernet Franc. The top white was the Pinot Gris and the top red was the DS Cabernet Sauvignon. While the other varieties are very promising for the region, these two varieties clearly stood out in this tasting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Best of the Reds 2008

In class tonight, we talked about yeast, the different kinds and how they affect the fermentation of the grape juice and make wine. We tasted the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, both well-watered and drought-stressed wines. The clear winner was the Drought-Stressed Cabernet Franc but there were a number of people that picked other wines as their favorite. The Drought-Stressed Cabernet Franc had dark color, nice balance with fine tannins that lingered on the finish. It had some black berry fruit aromas and flavor. The least favorite wine although not a bad wine was the Drought-Stressed Merlot. It had good ruby color, but was lacking in flavor and was a little tart. This wine was the only wine not oaked. Clearly there was a preference for oak in the wine!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Best of Whites 2008

Last night in class we viewed and identified different pieces of equipment used for making wine from the commercial winery scale (at wineries around the world) to the homebrewer scale that could be used in the home. We then tasted six white wines from the UNR vintage. Most wines had lost a lot of their varietal character compared to when the wines were lasted tasted in February (a year and a half after bottling), when they had lots of fruit character. We tasted Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Semillon. There was a difference of opinion but the Riesling had more votes for the best wine overall. The loss of fruit in the wine could be due to under sulfuring the wine. SO2 helps to prevent the wine from oxidation. The wines are stored in a cool room so the loss of fruit character was not due to storage problems. Or the other conclusion is that these wines just don't keep for very long and must be drunk young. We will study this in the future by boosting our SO2 levels in our wines in the coming years.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Best of the Reds 2009

Tonight was one of the best tastings ever. We had a packed house. The class focused on how to determine when your grapes are ripe, how to sample and what measurements to make. We talked about Brix and TA and the Brix/TA ratio. We had a lively discussion. The wines we tasted tonight were the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, two Bordeaux style blends of the those wines. The wine with the most votes for best wine was the Drought-Stressed Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine had a very fruity aroma with a nice blend of oak. It was very dark in color. It was full-flavored and had a long-finish. The close runner up was the Well-Watered Cabernet Franc. It too had a dark red color and good fruit aroma. Cherry flavor exploded in your mouth. The other wines were quite good as well. No one thought there was a bad wine in the bunch. My personal favorite was a Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Franc with 50% Merlot. It had chocolate notes and aromas with a good finish that melted in your mouth. Very smooth, very well blended with the French oak. All of the wines were remarkable since they are not quite a year old! See you next week for our next Best of the Whites 2008!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Best of the Whites 2009

Last night, we tasted four different white varieties, from the 2009 harvest. They were Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. We tasted these wines blind (wrapped in aluminum foil) and we compared drought-stressed (DS) and well-watered (WW) wines. All tasters were in agreement that there were no bad wines. They were all pretty good. Two wines were tied with top honors, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. The Pinot Gris had lovely fruity aromas and good balance and body. The Chardonnay was well-watered and oaked, had fruity aromas with a nice acid balance. A close second was the drought-stressed Gewurztraminer with distinctive sweet honeysuckle and floral aromas. It was very well-balanced and had good body. All wines were made dry with no residual sugars. Next week we taste the Best of the Reds! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lemberger Tasting

In class last night, we talked about wine making and the supplies needed for wine making. These include:

tanks, fermenters, carboys, barrels, airlocks, bottles, corks, siphon, hydrometer and thermometer. Fermentation supplies include yeast, a source of SO2 (usually potassium metabisulfite is used), yeast nutrients (DAP, diammonium phosphate), and malolactic bacteria (Oenococcus) if malolactic fermentation is desired. A good source of information is the book "From Vines to Wines" by Jeff Cox.

Last night we tasted 6 UNR Lemberger wines and 2 commercial Lemberger wines from Washington State. The UNR wines were 2006, 2008, and 2009 wines. The 2006 wines were not popular and clearly had gone bad. The drought-stressed 2009 Lemberger was the favorite of the UNR wines. It was very aromatic and fruity, with a deep dark ruby color and good balance. It was comparable to the commercial wines (Kiona and Fairwinds wineries) which were very popular. This wine was oaked as were the commerical wines. The other 2008 and 2009 UNR wines had scores similar to the commercial wines. One of the complaints of the Lemberger wines from UNR is the acidity. Perhaps lower crop loads or warmer nights will reduce the acidity more quickly. We shall have to test this in the future. At the end of the tasting, everyone agreed that this was a good grape for Nevada.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Riesling tasting

Last night we had a large and lively group for the class and wine tasting. In the class, we discussed our recent visit to Geneva, NY and discussed some of the interesting hybrid wines we tasted there, especially the Seyval, the Noiret and the Regent. Last night we tasted 6 wines wrapped in aluminum foil. One wine was not a Riesling but a 2005 Gewurztraminer. Most people could not distinguish it as a different grape variety from Riesling although they knew that one wine was a different variety from the other five. However, some people did distinguish it as different. This Gewurztraminer was surprisingly fruity and fresh for a 5-year-old wine with floral-honey aromas. Other people got peach and apricot aromas from this wine. Amongst the Rieslings there was no clear winner, but there was a clear loser, the Drought-stressed 2008 Riesling was an almost unanimous loser. It had distinct petrol aromas, which most people did not like, but according to the German literature these petrol aromas are characteristic of high quality wines and drought-stressed Rieslings. Clearly this group, including myself, did not like this wine. The well-watered Rieslings had some slight floral notes, particularly in the well-watered wines. Next week we will be trying some Lembergers and will mix in a couple of commercial wines from Washington State. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Syrah and other reds

Last night we discussed how to make white wines, from how and when to harvest to bottling. We blind tasted 7 wines last night, three of them Syrahs from different years, and 4 other reds we produce, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Meunier, Merlot, and Lemberger. This was one of our last tastings of Syrah as the grape has been fairly cold-sensitive in the winter and we have had very little production from this grape. This year we pulled out Syrah and replaced it with Tempranillo. While my personal favorite was the Cabernet Sauvignon, the overwhelming favorite of about half the tasters was our 2009 Lemberger! This grape is not only popular with our tasters but it is very productive and one of the most cold tolerant of our vinifera varieties. Its only problem is that it is fairly sensitive to powdery mildew and needs special attention with sulfur sprays. At the end of the tasting we made two blends from the wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Lemberger and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. Both were outstanding and both blends were better than their individual wines alone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pinot Meunier Tasting

Last night we had about 20 people attending the class. We started off with an introduction to wine making. This will be part of a continuing series as we head into harvest and wine making season. We followed that with a description of Pinot Meunier (pronounced Pea-no Mooney-eh). Meunier means miller and is named because of the white flour-like dusty sheen caused by the fine white hairs on the leaves of this vine. Pinot Meunier is a red grape mutant of Pinot Noir. It is commonly used in small proportions in Champagne. We blind tasted 100% Pinot Meunier wines from 2005 and 2009 and mixed in a Pinot Noir from 2009. The drought-stressed 2009 Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir were the favorites. They were deep dark red wines with notes of Black Cherry aromas. As usual there was a diversity of opinion and almost every wine was a favorite of one or more persons.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon Tastings

Yesterday Nevada Wine had another blind tasting. Four of the wines were Cabernet Sauvignon and the other two were mystery wines. The tasters had to distinguish which wines had oak and which wines were drought stressed or well watered.

This week, we had five newcomers. Erin Gearty and her friend, Jenny found about the Nevada wine tastings online after searching for yesterday's events.

"We have done some wine tasting in Napa, but we have never done it in Reno," Gearty said. "The wines are really good."

Bernie Fournier just started coming to the wine tastings also.

"My husband brought me," Fournier said. "I really enjoy learning about different wines."

Many of the tasters could pick out which wines had oak because oak masks the fruit aromas in the wine and for many people, this makes the wine taste better. Ron Savinski can also tell the difference between drought stressed wines and well watered wines.

"I can't pick out the fruits or year," Savinski said. "I guess I am not that good yet."

The two mystery wines were Lemberger. The well watered 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon with oak was the favorite wine of the evening because of the wine's aroma and berry flavor. The least favorite wine was the well watered 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with no oak.

The Cabernet Sauvignons with OAK seemed to be a success this week!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cabernet Franc Tasting

Today we started class by sniffing red wines with added aromas such as raspberry, bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms, etc. Then we tested our sniffing abilities on unknown wines (not labeled but one of the added aromas). Most people were successful in identifying the correct aroma. I think our training is starting to pay off. After that we tasted six wines blind (wrapped in aluminum foil), 5 were Cabernet Franc and one was a ringer (a different variety). The wines were exceptionally good, especially the 2009 wines with deep dark colors, great aromas and tannins that lingered on the long finish. The winner was the Drought-Stressed Cabernet Franc (2009). Nobody detected the ringer, which was quite a surprise. It was the 2009 Well-Watered Pinot Meunier and amazingly it fit in well with the Cabernet Francs. Next week we will do some aroma analysis in white wines after which we will taste our Pinot Gris. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pinot Blanc Tasting

Dr.Cramer was out of town again for this week's wine tasting, so Danny Hopper and Ryan Ghan lead the wine tasting and taught another interesting class. Their class summarized last year's research on how plants responded to drought. To measure drought stress, Hopper said they needed an arabidopsis, or prefect model, of the plants. Their two models are Riparia Gloire, which is a drought sensitive plant and Ramsey, which is a drought tolerant plant.

They took a 100 genotype samples from the fields at UC Davis and selected and screened the plants by measuring the change in NCED gene expression. They used NCED,a plant enzyme to produce ABA, Absicis acid, which is an important plant stress hormone. This hormone closes the stomata in plants so that the plants can conserve water loss and thus become more drought tolerant. In both early and later tests, Hopper and Ghan have had higher expressions of NCED in Ramsey vines. Their goal, at this moment, is to use ABA to produce more grapes on vines, especially in Cabernet Sauvignon.

John Handzo has worked with plants in the past and enjoyed the class on drought stress but was confused by how the hormone affected the stomata.

"I thought it was pretty interesting, but I fee like they could have been more clear on how the hormone affects the opening and closing of the stomata," Handzo said.

Cindy Ainsworth thought the class was fascinating because Ainsworth had recently adopted grapes out in the vineyard and wanted to learn how to properly grow vines.

"Drought stress is something I have never learned much about," Ainsworth said. "Learning how to grow grapes is interesting and shows me a different side to drinking wine."

After the class, tasters tried different Pinot Blanc wines. There were two wines out of the 11 that were not Pinot Blanc and they had to indentify them.

"I like the white wines they make here," Handzo said. "This class has given me a better appreciation of wine."

Bob Wildman had a hard time indentifying the Pinot Blanc wines because he has not tried enough Pinot Blanc to understand it's distinct characteristics.

"The Pinot Blanc is very pleasant," Wildman said. "I usually prefer red wines, but the white wines from here are better."

Although, Wildman loved one of the Merlots he tried last week. He raved about how surprising the fruit qualities were in the wine.

"They are producing wines comparable to the wines in Napa," Wildman said. "If the average person was served a UNR wine at a restaurant, they probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a UNR wine and a wine from France."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Merlot Tasting

Today we had a good turnout for a very interesting class on aromas with our Merlot from the UNR Valley Road Vineyard. We used the WW 2008 Merlot as our base wine. We then smelled added aromas of blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, prune, oak, black pepper and cherry, which were added to the base wine (no additives). After we trained our noses, we then tested four blind aromas. Unfortunately I don't think anyone guessed them all correctly! Oh well, more training is required! After that we tasted an assortment of Merlots. The aromas in each were very interesting! The oaked wines were very popular. Of course there was one ringer in the bunch, it was a Cabernet Franc!

NOTE! We will change our wine tasting class time and day starting in July. The classes will start at 5 PM on Tuesdays! Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nevada Wine Tasters, thank you for coming to the wine tasting yesterday. This weeks wine tasting was different than the usual set up. Dr. Cramer's graduate students, Ryan Ghan and Danny Hopper, taught a class on rapid propagation techniques. Greenwood propagation, for those who don't know it, is the process of asexually cloning a given plant. This propagation technique is a fast and easy way to produce plant material.

The class focused on taking cuttings from a ‘mother vine.’ Here, cuttings were taken 3-5 nodes beneath the growing end or shoot tip. The wounding of the cutting eventually leads to the formation of a callus and then to adventitious root formation. Ghan and Hopper emphasized two importance propagation aids: cuttings require warmth, in the form of bottom heat, and high humidity to quickly root. A rooting mixture of 1:1 perlite and vermiculite has been successfully employed, as per the advice of their colleagues at UC Davis. Plant propagation has been successful with UNR's Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes, the rootstocks Ramsey and Riparia Glorie, and the CBF4 overexpressing vines.

Bob Dickerson specifically came to yesterday's wine tasting to learn the proper way to propagate. He has been growing his own vineyard for the last two years in the sierra foothills. He wants to create more vines through propagation.

"This has been the second time that I have come to these wine tastings," Dickerson said. "I heard about it last week and I said I would definitely come."

Eric Swanson and Kim Roberts have been propagating plants in their own home. They have had a lot of success with their propagation.

"They have been rooting out very nicely," Roberts said.

They came to this culture class to learn more techniques for their grape plants because propagation worked with their other fruit plants.

"We are not sure about the success with our grapes yet," Roberts said.

Bob Wildman came to the wine tasting this week for the first time after meeting Hopper at another wine tasting. Wildman is a clinical psychologist who is intrigued by the idea of using wine tastings for research purposes. He would like to do research on wine someday and hopes that collaboration with UNR could be available.

"I want to let other people know about this work," Wildman said. "It's fascinating."

For the last half of the wine tasting, tasters tried their favorite white wines. The wines were wrapped in tin foil and they had to guess what each wine was. This was considered the fun part of the night.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Semillon Tasting - May 27, 2010

Today we started by testing our palates for glucose. Many of us struggled with the low levels of glucose in water, but about three of us got them nearly all correct (1 to 6 g/L glucose). After that we tasted the 2008 Well-Watered Semillon and Drought-Stressed Semillon with different levels of sugar. Most of us correctly identified the sweet (20 g/L) wine but the 5 g/L version (slightly sweet) was more difficult to distinguish. One observation was that the added sugar seemed to diminish the volatile aromas from the wine. It was a mixed bag on which wine was the favorite; there were equal numbers of people who liked the wine with no sugar added, slightly sweetened and very sweet wines. Almost no one disliked the slightly sweet, where as there were equal numbers of people who chose the dry (no sugar added) or very sweet wines as least favorites.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chardonnay Tasting - May 20, 2010

Greetings Nevada Wine tasters. In case you missed it, we had a very interesting tasting yesterday. We started by training our palates for acid, sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in our Well-Watered 2008 Chardonnay. Then when moved on to a comparison of different fermentations and modifications of of 2009 Chardonnays. The 2009 Well-Watered Chardonnay was quite a bit lighter than the 2008, with less fruity aromas. We compared our Drought-Stressed Chardonnay and this was perceived most as having more acid. It looks like our previous week’s sensitivity test to acid was working as the tasters were absolutely correct. The Drought-Stressed 2009 Chardonnay grapes had 8.6 g/L titratable acidity (TA), whereas the Well-Watered grapes came in on the same day at 7 g/L. This is unusual in that generally our drought-stressed grapes come in with less acid.

After that we compared wines made under exactly the same fermentation conditions with two different yeasts. The differences in fruity esters were notable, with more fruit aromas in the wine made with the Pasteur (Champagne) yeast.

Next we compared wines fermented in stainless steel or a French Oak Barrel with malo-lactic fermentation. The wine fermented in the used barrel had clear aromas of oak and increased body and mouthfeel.

Finally we compared a wine made with the oak barrel and with extra oak chips. This changed the wine again, bringing out more fruit (sweet) aromas and providing a long finish to the wine.

As usual there was quite a difference in the group on which wine was best, however most people like the wine with the most oak (a common phenonomenon!). As we have discovered before there is a wide range of tastes and preferences!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Hi Nevada Wine Tasters,
Welcome to a new blog, where I will discuss and describe the events of our wine tastings. I hope you will join me and add your comments!