What are the Major Cool and Warm Climate Grape Varietals?

Cool climate Riesling grapes

Cool climate Riesling grapes

By Guest Author, Sumun Rahim - Any wine lover who has studied the French concept of “terroir” knows that the same grape varietal can produce vastly different wine depending on what type of soil and in what climate it’s grown. Some wines do best in cool, even cold, climates; others are better-suited to warm, sunny weather. Knowing which wines thrive in which climates can help you enjoy local wine more fully when you travel as well as be a guide to help you choose from the selection available at the average wine store.  Below is a look at the different wines that thrive in cool and warm climates.

Cooler Climate Wines

  • Riesling – Riesling is a classic, cold-weather grape and its flavor and character profile changes significantly if it’s planted in different environments. The best Riesling wines come from the Alsace region of France and Germany’s Rhine River valley.
  • Pinot Noir – This cold weather favorite is very particular about its soil and thrives in dry, cool climates. The world’s best Pinot Noirs hail from France’s Burgundy region and the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
  • Chardonnay –  Chardonnays does well in the cooler climate of Burgundy France, as well as the foggy coast of California near the Russian River.  Cooler regions of New Zealand and Australia are also famous for exquisite Chardonnays
  • Ice-wine – The quintessential cold weather wine, Ice-wine is crafted naturally by allowing the grapes to freeze on the vine, which concentrates the natural sugars in the fruit. Arguably, the best Ice-wines come from Germany, the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada where temperatures fall way below freezing.   Riesling and Vidal Blanc are common grape varieties used for Ice Wine.

Warmer Climates Wines

  • Warmer climate cabernet sauvignon grapes

    Warmer climate cabernet sauvignon grapes

    Cabernet Sauvignon—Cab usually thrives better in a warmer climate, such as sunny Napa Valley or the continental climate of Bordeaux.  Excellent cabernets can also be found in the warmer valleys of Chile, Argentina and Australia.

  • Zinfandel – This red grape with dark blackberry and slight black pepper overtones is a California favorite. It thrives in the hot, dry Lodi Valley of central California as well as the Sierra Foothills.  Zinfandel is also grown in Southern Italy and Croatia.
  • Sangiovese -- The grape that makes Chianti so wonderful and complex loves a warm, Mediterranean climate, particularly that of the Tuscany region of Italy.
  • Syrah– Syrah can actually adapt itself to cool and warmer climates, but has a tendency to exhibit more fruit-forward flavors when it is grown in a warm location such as the Barossa valley of Australia or the Paso Robles region of California.  At the same time, the cooler region of France’s northern Rhone Valley is the home of Syrah, where the climate often imparts a slightly smoky taste with floral accents.

Climate and growing conditions are just some of the factors that help to create a delicious wine. Knowing what wines thrive in which climates can help you get the most enjoyment from your wine tasting.

This guest post was written by a content editor for Personal Wine. To learn more about Personal Wine, check out our site –> www.personalwine.com.

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Two of the “Grand Cru” Wineries of Sonoma County Pour at SSU

IMG_6217Though Sonoma County doesn’t technically have any “grand cru” wineries, it does have some very well established wine estates with stellar reputations for producing award winning cabernet sauvignons from Alexander Valley.  At the last SSU Winesense Club tasting of the year, we were graced by two such wineries — Jordan and Silver Oak, both established in 1972.  Indeed, these two legendary wineries have so much brand power, that students waited in line to get into the tasting, and some were turned away when the room maxed out at 50 people.


Silver Oak Rocks

IMG_6208Silver Oak winery was represented by Romana Behrens and Veronica Jauregui (an SSU grad!) who poured the 2008 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to rave reviews (one of the top favorites of the evening), as well as two wines from Twomey – the pre-release of 2012 Twomey Sauvignon Blanc (they sold out of it last year immediately) and the 2010 Twomey Merlot.  The merlot was nice, but the floral sauvignon blanc with hints of grass, grapefruit and honey stole the affections of the crowd, and was voted in at number one wine of the evening.

Jordan Sings

IMG_6209Jordan Winery was represented by Sean Brosnihan and Joseph Lozinto Jr (an SSU Wine MBA grad!).  They poured the 2010 Jordan Chardonnay, which reminded me of how incredibly good Sonoma County chardonnay can be.  This wine was exquisitely crafted with a touch of creamy ML and toasted oak, and loads of crisp apple notes, minerality, and a refreshing acidity.  They compared it to a Meursault, and I would have to agree.  Yum!  The 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon reminded me of a Pessac Leognan with plush tannins, complex cassis and earth notes, and classic elegance.  It wasn’t your typical powerful and tannic Alexander Valley, but a much more approachable version, that I believe spoke to the 2009 weather conditions.  It was also one of the top favorites of the evening.

Cheers to the SSU Winesense Board

The complete SSU Winesense Board of Directors showed up in full force this evening, lead by president, Chelsa Robinson.  In celebration of the last tasting of the semester, they provided free wine glasses filled with candies, as well as next semester’s tasting dates.  Free T-shirts were handed out, and two lucky students were awarded prizes for answering questions about Silver Oak and Jordan correctly.  The tasting was supplemented by wonderful food treats of cheeses, salami, crackers, and desserts.  A very nice way to end the Spring semester of 2013.

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Golf and the Joy of Surprise Wine by the Glass Lists

Light HouseOne of the items on my husband’s bucket list is to play golf on Hilton Head Island, so when I was able to get a good deal on a weekly condo rental there recently, we jetted off to the South Carolina island covered with long white sandy beaches, swaying palms, pink azaleas, and oak trees dripping with lacy moss.

He was happy because he was finally able to play Harbour Town golf course with the famous red and white lighthouse on the 18th hole.  He also enjoyed the challenge of Sea Pines Ocean course, Palmetto Dunes and Shipyard.  I was pleasantly pleased because I stumbled across some wine by the glass lists with unique wine choices, while also managing to get in a little golf and take an excellent short game clinic with Doug Weaver at Palmetto Dunes.

The Ennui of Wine by the Glass Selections – or Not? 

In general, I find many wine by the glass lists rather boring in that they carry the same major brands, although I do recognize that many consumers are seeking the comfort of a familiar wine, and that restaurants want the reassurance of solid cash flow.  Therefore I was quite surprised to find buried within the KJ Chardonnays, Beringer White Zins, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blancs, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, and Apothic Red Blends, a few unique gems.

The first surprise was at the Topside Waterfront Restaurant where we found a Picpoul (white grape from the South of France with a zippy lemony edge) and a Chapoutier Grenache Blanc and Clairette blend on the extensive wine by the glass list – both for under $10.  When I asked to see the complete wine list by the bottle, I found it was the same as the by the glass list, but with the prices inflated by four.  Therefore it made no sense to buy a bottle, so instead we opted for 4 different glasses.

Pink HouseThe next day in Savannah when dining at the famous Old Pink House, we were quite surprised to find a Godello on the wine by the glass list.  This is a white wine from Spain that is rarely found in the US.  It was crisp with sharp acid, grapefruit notes, and a mineral edge.   They also carried a Lioco unoaked chardonnay, which is a tiny artistic winery in Sonoma that most people have never heard of – including me, and I’m from Sonoma!

Probably one of the best culinary experiences we had was at a restaurant that I didn’t want to enter because it looked like a nightclub with a dark interior, red lights, and bar stools at high tables.  However, we had been told that Daniel’s at Coligny Beach on Hilton Head featured a creative chef with artistic large tapa plates like the angry lobster, lamb lollipops, and tableside hummus preparation.  The wine by the glass list was equally innovative with several flights served in a tiered candelabra presentation (see photo), as well as Naked “natural” wine from Snoqualmie Washington and two unique styled malbecs from Argentina.  Equally intriguing about Daniel’s were their homemade liquors, such as vodka with Skittles, peach and bacon soaked bourbon, and many other unusual concoctions.

Extensive Wine by the Glass Selections – But Had to Request Wine List

Glass flightOne interesting observation at all three of these higher-end restaurants is that none of them brought the complete wine list with bottle prices to the table with the menus.  Instead they featured extensive wine by the glass lists inside the food menu.  Perhaps this is a custom in this part of the country.  I’m not sure what the explanation is, but I did notice that a lot of people were drinking wine in Georgia and South Carolina – a good sign for American culture because as Thomas Jefferson said, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.”

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What Type of Wine Do They Drink in Costa Rica?

IMG_5742March 13, 2013 – This past week I enjoyed my first visit to the beautiful country of Costa Rica.  Though better known for coffee than wine, since I was in the country to present a paper on the wine supply chain at the NBES academic conferences, I was naturally curious to learn about the types of wine available in Costa Rica.  Therefore I made it my mission to investigate wine lists and store selections during my stay.

Chilean Wine Dominates, Followed by Argentina and Spain

After visiting six restaurants, three grocery stores and four wine shops, I would have to say that Chilean wine seems to dominate the market place by about 50% – at least on the Pacific Coast near Jaco where I was staying.  This was followed by Argentinian and Spanish wine, both with estimates of around 20%, and California wine making up the last 10%.  The most common US brands were KJ, Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, and Barefoot (Gallo).

Chilean Wine with Costa Rica CheesesObviously this was not a scientific poll, but it does provide an idea of what types of wine you will find when visiting the country.  In addition, Costa Rica actually produces some fruit wines, because wine grapes cannot grow in such a hot, tropical climate.  It is interesting to note, that since their alcohol taxes are higher, wine prices are more expensive as well.  For example, a bottle of 2011 Barefoot Chardonnay was $12 in the grocery store, whereas in the US it usually sells for around $7.  In a restaurant I paid $11 for a glass of 2012 Montez Alpha Sauvignon Blanc.

Hot, Humid Climate Calls for Chilled White Wine, Beer or Rum Drinks

Since Costa Rica is covered with many rainforests and volcanoes, and is known for producing coffee and bananas, it obviously has a warm and moist climate.  Indeed, from December through May, the Pacific side of the country where I visited is very hot and sunny.  Everyday the temperatures hovered in the high 90’s F with 90% humidity.  Then during July through November, the rains come – dumping an average of 400 inches on the land, and allowing them to grow rice in the fields.

JungleBecause of the warm climate, most locals drink beer or rum with a preference and pride in their homegrown brands of Imperial beer and Cacique Guaro rum.  The latter is blended with fruit juice or “agua de pipa” – coconut water. Because of the intense heat, when I bought wine, I was drawn to the crisp, chilled sauvignon blancs from Chile and verdejos from Spain.  At the Marriott Los Suenos, I was interested to see that when they did serve cabernet sauvignon, it was chilled because they kept the bottles on ice.  Though that may sound strange for a red wine, it made sense in Costa Rica because the nights were so sweltering and sticky.

Costa Rican Food – Fresh and Simple

Not much has been written on Costa Rican cuisine, and that is because it is rather simple, consisting of fresh fish, fruit, rice, and beans.  They also enjoy chicken and fried plantains, and craft some local cheeses.  The food has a bit of Caribbean flare, but I found I was missing sauces, salsas, and spices in general that would make the cuisine more interesting.

Costa Rican Red Snapper DishA very strange experience occurred when I ordered a whole red snapper, which is supposed to be a specialty of the region.  However when it arrived, it was so tough and rubbery I could barely eat it.  Apparently the custom is to flour and salt it, then deep fry it for about an hour.  It is served with fresh lime, but no sauce.  I found the best bet is to order fresh filet of sea bass or mahi mahi.  They also make good ceviche with tilapia and/or mango.

Costa Rica is World Class in Ecotourism

Where Costa Rica does excel is in ecotourism.  I have never visited a country that has perfected this subject to such an art form.  It is very inspiring how the whole economy seems to revolve around protecting the rainforests, their national parks (which make up more than 25% of the country), conservation, recycling, and education on all of these issues to tourists.

ToucanWe visited Manuel Antonio and Carara National Parks, and in both cases had professional guides with degrees in biology and conservation that guided us through the rainforest.  They carried large telescopes and could easily spot toucans, red macaws, sloths, monkeys, fruit bats, and other exotic rare birds and creatures.  They knew the name of every tree, bug, and bush, and showed great enthusiasm in explaining nature and the impact of man on the environment.

We also did a kayak trip through a mangrove swamp and learned how the mangroves protect the land from erosion.  We visited a few beaches and discovered that they are quite varied, with some having rocks and grey sand, whereas others are pure white sand with native coconut palms.  Another highlight of the trip were the very large crocodiles that live in the many rivers and crawl out to rest in the sun on muddy banks.

IMG_5751Overall, Costa Rica is a beautiful country with abundant wildlife, friendly and enthusiastic people, and a belief in enjoying life as illustrated by their motto of “pura vida”, which means “pure life” or “live life in the moment.”Costa Rican Sunset at Playa Hermosa

Capuchin Monkeys in Costa Rica

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Hook & Ladder and Delicato Wineries Delight Millennials – Liz Rice, SSU Grad Gives Advice on International Wine Sales

SSU Winesense BoardCo-Authored by Jenny Garza – There was a double dose of delight when two very famous family run wineries, Hook & Ladder and Delicato, agreed to host the SSU Winesense Tasting this past week.  Over 40 students showed up to listen to the presentations, taste some exciting California wines, and enjoy appetizers prepared by the SSU Winesense Board of Directors.

Joshua Deloach Tells Story of Hook & Ladder Winery

Hook & Ladder Winery, located in the Russian River AVA, is known for handcrafted small lots and specializes in pinot noir and zinfandel.  Joshua DeLoach of Hook & Ladder gave an inspired summary of his family’s long history in the winemaking business, and poured several beautiful wines, which he emphasized, are “not-for-mass-distribution” specialties.

Joshua described the family background in fire fighting – thus the name “Hook & Ladder” – and explained that they are trying to produce “the next generation of Russian River Valley Wines,” with a fresh fruit forward style.  Everyone enjoyed the two wines he brought: Handcraft California Chardonnay 2011 and the Noble Vines 667 Monterey Pinot Noir.

Liz Rice of Delicato Family Vineyards Provides Career Advice on International Wine Sales

Liz Rice, Delicato Manager or European Wine SalesDelicato Family Vineyards, one of the 10 largest wineries in the US with extensive vineyards across California, was represented by SSU Wine Business graduate, Ms. Liz Rice.  While finishing her classes at SSU in 2003, Liz started an internship at Delicato in their Napa offices and was offered a full-time job upon graduation.  She has continued to work at the company for the past 10 years, being promoted first to wine sales and marketing manager for Canada, and several years ago being promoted to Wine Sales Manager for all of Europe.

Liz was also one of the founding members of the SSU WineSense Club, and was very excited to come back to SSU after a decade of traveling the world with Delicato, and share some of their exquisite wines.  The group enjoyed tasting:  Gnarly Head California Viognier 2011, 2011, Brazin Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2010, Gnarly Head California Petite Sirah 2010, and Black Stallion Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

Liz also described her job living in London and traveling to countries around Europe to market and sell Delicato wines.  She explained differences in culture, regulations, and taste profiles in the different countries, and encouraged the students to consider international wine sales if they want an exciting career.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

Wines in TastingWhen the vote was taken at the end of the evening, the two favorite wines were Hook & Ladder’s 2011 667 Pinot Noir and Delicato’s 2010 Gnarly Head California Petite Sirah.

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Chalk Hill and Williamson Winery Kick Off First SSU Winesense Tasting of Semester

Wines for the RaffleBy Guest Author DominiqueLevenberg.  It was an exhuberant crowd of 35 SSU students who attend the semester’s first Winesense tasting with Chalk Hill and Williamson wineries.

Chalk Hill, located in the Chalk Hill AVA of Sonoma County, brought a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon from their new Lancaster Estate winery.  The favorite from Chalk Hill was the Sauvignon Blanc.

Williamson Winery, located in Dry Creek AVA, shared a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir Rose, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The favorite from Williamson was the Pinot Noir Rose.

Tasty TreatsCheese, crackers, salami, and tasty treats were served from Bianchi’s Bake Shop.  Both wineries generously raffled a few bottles of wine, and the Board also raffled three of our new SSU Wine Sense t-shirts.

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SSU Winesense Club Tastings Announced for Spring 2013 – Hold the Dates

Yellow Mustard by Liz T.Great news!  The Board of Directors for the SSU Winesense Club held their planning meeting this past Saturday evening, Jan. 18 and agreed on the dates for Spring 2013 wine tastings.  Please hold the dates!

  • January 24th- Hook & Ladder
  • February 7th, Williamson Wines
  • February 21st- TBA Wine, Bianchi’s Bakery
  • March 14th- Blind Tasting with Fetzer & Bonterra
  • March 28th-Bryter Estates, Bianchi’s Bakery
  • April 11th- TBA
  • April 25th- Silver Oak – tentative

The Board of Directors for Spring 2013 is as follows:

  • President-Chelsa Robinson
  • Vice President- Cassandra Childers
  • Treasurer- Alex Lazuriac
  • President of Marketing /Social Media- Alexis
  • Vice President of Marketing/Social Media- Jenny Garza
  • Webmaster- Dominique Levenberg
  • Field Trip Master – Elliott Sneen
  • Winery Networker-Oscar Contreras
  • Winery Networker- Kaila Medina
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