Monday, February 2, 2009

No better ad for soon-to-open Waltz winery

I wanted to post this first, as a prelude to the news that Jan and Kim Waltz will be opening their Manheim, Pa., winery in a couple of weeks. Jan has established himself as a master in the vineyard, and a number of wineries that have bought his grapes during the past decade or so will vouch for that. I remember seeing an extremely positive reference to the Waltz vineyard and a review of his soon-to-be-sold in a recent newsletter by Mark Chien, the well-respected statewide Viticulture Extension Educator, and I thought it would be worth sharing before posting Jan's thoughts on the reasons for moving from supplier to more of a dual role in the wine community.

Chien wrote in his December e-letter:

"Many of you are familiar with the vineyard of Jan and Kim Waltz in Manheim, either having attended a viticulture workshop there or purchasing their outstanding grapes. Jan has always dabbled in wine making and he is one of those persons whose amateur wines are often better than many commercial wines. There is no surprise here since the vineyard is one of the most meticulously maintained anywhere. It is easy to connect the quality dots in this case … great fruit can yield great wines. There is a reason I use it as my default teaching vineyards so growers, especially new ones, can soak in the vision of what a fine vineyard looks like and get exposed to Jan’s knowledge. It was inevitable but Jan and Kim have built a beautiful winery and tasting room on the property. It’s not quite done yet but wine was made there this vintage.

"I had a chance to taste the 2007 and 2008 wines and they are remarkable. Jan had a vision of Sauvignon Blanc growing where Merlot also excelled and has planted it along with Semillon. The sauvy is a shining example of the versatility of what this variety can do, from the absolute fruit forward New Zealand version to the more restrained, creamier, nutty, barrel fermented white Bordeaux or California style. While I’m not a big chard fan in general I think we can do very fine Chardonnay in SE PA and I might have to change my tune. Jan’s blend of three Dijon clones, stainless steel and barrel fermented versions were both incredibly fruit-driven wines with pure flavors of honey, apple, citrus, full and rich in the mouth, these are truly reminiscent of Pouilly-Fuisse, especially the barrel wine with its toast and smoke. Sauvy and Chard both appear to be well suited for our region but they are both rot prone so they need great viticulture to succeed consistently. I guess we are just a white wine region.

"That is, until I taste his reds. The 2007 estate Merlot is deep in color and full in body with layers of dark fruit flavors, great structure and balance. Merlot is a fruity red that, I believe, needs blending to add complexity. That is a practice that I think we can improve upon, maybe by getting some help from outside. Jan’s could easily stand alone as a varietal but I think it could be even better with some Cabernet Sauvignon for structure, Cab Franc for that herbal note and Petit Verdot for rusticity, but I don’t know how to do it. His Cabernet Sauvignon is a surprise and delight. This block took it hard in the shins during the ‘04 freeze but they have brought it back and the 2008 is nice and ripe but with that savory quality that Jim Law describes in his reds and a character of Bordeaux. No one will mistake it for a cult Napa cab, but who would want to anyway? This is a foodie’s wine and it had me thinking of what to pair it with. Okay, well, by now you know I wear my palate on my sleeve when it comes to the Waltzes. These wines couldn’t happen to a nicer and more deserving family."

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