Archived entries for Amarone

Vinitaly: A Glimpse of Verona, Varietals, Vineyards and Vinology

How do you create stories about an event where more than 4,000 wineries were present, each serving an average of 6 to 10 wines over a three-day period?  Some you plan, some you experience, some are pre-arranged … and some stories are just meant to be told.  The ITA had several pre-arranged tastings – some were fantastic and I walked away with an understanding of the region and the wines offered.  One was challenging … a neighboring booth had its sound system going and only one wine was poured to the lucky folks that stayed behind to hear more.

Here’s the recap on the tastings:

Our first tasting was with the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Irpinia, an association of growers and producers from a place known for its terroir and diverse microclimates including volcanic soil.  Irpinia is known for bringing back grapes on the edge of extinction like Aglianico (we got to taste in the Nativ Blu Onice), Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe and Falanghina.  Wineries represented included Greco di Tuto, Nativ, La Molara, Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, De Lisio and Manimurci Zagreo.

Our second tasting was with the Consorzio Alto Adige, a consortium of 155 members made up of cooperative wineries, estate wineries and independent grape growers who cultivate more than 99 percent of this DOC.  This is a small wine growing region with about twenty different grapes grown on 5,300 hectares.  Approximately 60 percent of the region is dedicated to white wines made up of Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Müller Thurgau, Sylvaner, Kerner, Riesling, and Veltliner.  Reds are focused on Schiava and Lagrein primarily but Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc also are grown.

We tried some really interesting, diverse and tasty wines including a sparkling (Arunda Metodo Classico Brut) and some classic whites (Muri-Gries Wine Estate/Monastery Cellar 2016 Pinot Bianco, Cantina Kurtatsch 2015 Pinot Grigio Penoner, 2015 Manincor Terlan Sauvignon Tannenberg, 2015 Castelfeder Gewürztraminer Vom Lehm) and a delicious red, the 2014 Hans Rottensteiner Lagrein Grieser Riserva Select.  This was one of my top region discoveries and I loved the diversity, the German and Austrian influences and the wines were fabulous.

 

 

Our third tasting was hosted by the Associazione Puglia in Rose.  The association is focused on promoting the regional wine industry including rosé from Apulia, the easternmost region of Italy surrounded by water – the Adriatic Sea in the east and north, and by the Ionian Sea in the south.   The climate is Mediterranean in nature with variances in the Summer and Winter.  We tried a white wine, several roses and reds from Cantine Teanum, Cantina La Marchesa and Tenuta Zicari. I kept coming back to the Cantine Teanum ‘Alta’ Falanghina white with its notes of tropical fruit, green apple and a nice minerality.  I also enjoyed the primitivo reds with lots of black fruit that were easy to drink.

 

Renato Vezza, the winemaker at Cascina Luisin

Our fourth tasting was focused on the delicious wines of Piedmont with the Associazione Nuovo Radici.  The region has 58 DOC and DOCG zones, is the sixth largest producer in volume and has the highest percentage of Italian classified wines. And wow – these were stunners.  Piedmont is known for its variety of wines from Asti Spumante to Barbera to the swoon worthy wines made with Nebbiolo like Barolo and Barbaresco as well as Gattinara, Gemme and Roero.  What struck me was the approachability of these wines, which traditionally need time to age and open.

We tasted wines from Cantino del Pino, Comm. G.B. Burlotto, Cascina Bongiovanni, Villa Giada and Cascina Luisin.  I was so happy I had the chance to talk and taste with Renato Vezza, the winemaker at Cascina Luisin.  There are so many gems to discover at this winery with a focus on Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and Arneis grapes.

Our final tasting was by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Colli Berici E Vicenza, an organization bringing together the 34 wineries of the region.  The Colli Berici refers to the hills between the cities of Vicenza and Padua.  The area is known for its clay, volcanic and limestone soils with varying degrees of rain through the region.

 

We tried five wines from the Colli Berici region – the 2016 Collis Decanto Sauvignon Colli Berici, the 2015 Pegoraro Tai Rosso Colli Berici, the 2015 Vitevis Tai Rosso Colli Berici, the 2013 Piovene Porto Godi Tai Rosso Thovara Colli Berici and the 2013 Gianne Tessari Pianalto Rosso Colli Berici.  And then we got to try some local delicacies, which were amazing.

I tasted hundreds of wines and had a few sit-down meetings with some wine folks that I wanted to highlight.

La Salette – Rossella Scamperie

My college friend who now resides in Veneto saw on Facebook that I was going to be attending Vinitaly.  He reached out to give me a recommendation on his favorite winery and introduced me to Rossella Scamperle, a member of the winery family and his Italian language teacher.

Me and Rossella Scamperle

La Salette was built as a sanctuary and tribute to the Madonna when she freed the vineyards from phylloxera.  The sanctuary is a church that overlooks the hills and vineyards.  One of those vineyards is owned by the Scamperle family, a historical winemaking family of Valpolicella who have the same name as the church.  For the past four generations, La Salette has been dedicated to producing classic Valpolicella and has 49 dedicated wine growing acres for grapes like Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and a little bit of Molinara, and Croatina.

We went through the portfolio of Valpolicella from the entry wines that were fresh and easy to drink to the reserve Valpolicella, Vernose and Amarone wines, that were nuanced and delicious.

Consorzio Tutela Roero

My friend Constance Chamberlain, the CEO of Wine & Co, asked me to a tasting of Roero, another new region to me.  Roero is north of Alba (Piedmont), on the left bank of the River Tanaro, between the plain of Carmagnola and the low hills of Astigiano.  It used to be part of the Goldo Padano, a sea that dates back 130 million years.  The terroir is known for its sandy soils, limestone, clay, fossil rock and sedimentary materials from the old sea.  The Roero hills are very dry in nature and get the least amount of rain in all of Piedmont.

The area is known for arneis and nebbiolo grapes.  The designation “Roero” is for red wines made from at least 95 percent nebbiolo grapes.  In most cases, Roero DOCG is 100 percent nebbiolo.  Roero Arneis is a term for white wines that are made from 95 percent arneis grapes and those that are designated Roero Arneis DOCG contain 100 percent arneis.  Other Roero DOCG wines include Roero Riserva and Roero Arneis Spumante.

Francesco Monchiero, President of the Roero Consortia and of Monchiero Carbone

I had the chance to talk to the President of the Roero Consorzio, Francesco Monchiero of Monchiero Carbone, one of the biggest and oldest estates in Roero.  It seems like this region is all about family and people that have worked together for generations.   Monchiero Carbone is in Canale, and was established in the 90’s to reunite two families with winemaking ties back to 1918.  Today, Francesco and his wife, Lucrezia, focus on Arneis. When I asked him about the phrase, “Ogni uss a l’ha so tanbuss” and the crest on every bottle, he responded that it stood for “Every door has its knocker.”  He added, “if you knock on our door, you’ll find our style of wines.”

 

We tasted a variety of red and white wines and I learned that Arneis can age like Riesling.  These are very drinkable, approachable and fresh wines that can be opened today, but some of them should have “riserva” status as they were more nuanced and elegant.  One sidenote: the Arneis Reserve classification will come into effect in 2017 and requires 16 months of aging prior to bottling.

We tried Roero wines from Giovani Armando, Monchiero Carbone, Marco Porello, Azienda Agricola Malvirà, Cornarea, Careglio, Matteo Correggla, Montriggio, Nino Costa, Azienda Agricola Cascina Ca’Rossa and Deltetto.

Ruche: Luca Ferraris

Luca Ferraris of Roche Ferrari Winery

Luca Ferraris from Roche Ferrari Winery is the second largest ruche producer – a varietal that I had never heard of.  When Joe Roberts asked me if I wanted to completely “geek out over a region,” the answer was absolutely.  He took me to meet Luca, whose family has been involved in making wine since 1921.   Luca’s great-grandfather Luigi Ferraris emigrated to American and was one of the lucky folks to strike gold.  He sent the money back to his wife, Bruno Teresa, and that led to the purchase of the house that later became the first winery location.

The family began to acquire additional land, vines and bought barrels to make wines. His dad grew grapes and sold them to a cooperative until 2001 when the family started making wine. He had a big commitment to high-quality production and considered it his job to evangelize the varietal.  Today the Ferraris estate produces about 130,000 bottles of wine (about 50,000 of Ruchè) from 18 vineyards covering 25 hectares. Luca Ferraris Agricola is the largest family owned agricultural company in the seven municipalities of the Ruchè-growing region.

Ruchè is a relatively scarce, low production red varietal grown almost exclusively hillside around Castagnole Monferrato in the Piedmont region in northern Italy.  It’s also a fickle grape with its many leaves to prune that is a labor of love for those who helped it earn its DOC designation in 1987.  Overall, the wine has a bright ruby color with delicate floral and red berry aromas.

We tried three Ruchè wines – a classic good, better and best offering from the winery.  Our first was the entry level and very easy to drink 2015 Ruchè Clasic.  I got notes of black and sour cherry, rose petals and bright fruit with some earthiness.

Our next wine was the 2015 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato Bric d’Bianc is the name of the hill most suited for the cultivation of Ruchè.

The next Ruchè was the 2015 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato Opera Prima, which was a single vineyard wine.  It was delicious and elegant with notes of the cherry and flowers, but depth and complexity.  Luca dedicated this wine in memory of his grandfather and it’s very special.

We also tried the 2016 Vigna del Parroco, which had the same floral notes but with red raspberry and almost a nuttiness.

Our final wine was the 2015 Castello Monaci Primitivo Salento Artas.  This was a treat – I got tons of dark cherry, raspberry jam and black fruit with notes of rosemary, mocha and cedar.  It was elegant and continued to open during our discussion.

And here my whirlwind discussion of wines comes to an end.  It was an life-changing journey with amazing people and I feel like I have much more of an understanding of Italian wines.  I am so ready to continue to experience the wines, culture and evolution of what I learned at Vinitaly.  I consider myself a proud advocate of continuing letting you, my readers know, how my journey progresses.

 


December to Remember: My Favorite Wines of the Season

Well, here we are at year end and I have once again let the wine pile up, so let’s consider this one hell of a holiday celebration.  This quarter (for the record, not by myself), I hosted a Halloween party, brought wine to the neighborhood holiday party, was the guest speaker at a Women Who Wine Executive Group, brought wine to numerous neighborhood parties as well as co-hosted a gathering with the Southern Methodist University MBA wine club.  All in all, we went through about 95 wines and today I’m writing about my “special shout outs,” the crème de la crème – my 12 A list choices.  The other 28 good ones will follow next week, but I thought a 40-wine line-up would give you, my readers, a blog hangover.

2009 Ferrari Perle Champagne – elegant, rich and beyond good. I tasted brioche, apple, citrus, stone fruit, almonds and French toast.  This is made with Chardonnay grapes and is the personification of what makes Champagne, well, Champagne.

NV Champagne Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee –this was a delicious compilation of more than 35 of 320 crus of Champagne. It was a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.   I tasted lime, grapefruit, cassis, white stone fruits, raspberry with plum, almond and toasted bread.

2015 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer – A Gewürztraminer from Sonoma?  Yes, you should.  This delightfully dry wine that Jacob Gundlach brought from his homeland in Alsace.  There are beautiful floral notes and minerality.  I also love the fact that the winery pairs this hip hop music – a perfect match to old school Run DMC.

2015 Naissance Sauvignon Blanc – The Galerie collection was named Naissance, which is French for birth or beginning, to blend Old World and New World wines.  You get an elegant blend of peach and tropical fruits, lemon zest, apple and great minerality.  Such a great expression of Sauvignon Blanc.

2014 Byron La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir – this is a big, ripe, rich pinot with notes of blackberry, black cherry, flowers and terroir.  It is complex and muscular, like my husband.

2014 Byron Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard – I tasted blackberry, earth, herbs, spice and flowers.  This was very elegant and aromatic.

2014 Byron Monument Pinot Noir – this is the blend of the best vineyard blocks.  This was my favorite of the pinots with a pure elegance and notes of deep cherry, berry, licorice, Asian spice and floral notes.

2013 Flora Springs Holiday Kisses Red Blend – from the cool etched Mistletoe themed bottle to the great wine inside, this limited-edition Cabernet Sauvignon blended Napa wine, was a true gift.  It had notes of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, mocha, plum, vanilla and Christmas spice.  A fantastic holiday themed gift both on the inside and out.

2012 Pleinair Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – this Galerie wine is named after the outdoor French painting method.  I tasted blackberry, spice, flowers, Heath bar and mocha.  It was silky and elegant – easy to drink today or would be even better with some bottle age.

2012 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella – this was a big, traditional raisined Amarone that needed more time to open, but was clearly the crowd favorite of the tasting (and therefore did not have the time it needed to develop).  I tasted red fruit, cherry and spice.  For being so young, it was still elegant.

NV Proprietary Red CA Locations by Dave Phinney, which represents a blend of the best wines by region across the globe.  This California blend is aromatic, flavorful and nuanced.  I tasted black cherry, raspberry, cigar, blackberry pie, tobacco and black tea.  It’s getting the least expensive wines of a well-known winemaker at a fraction of the price of his other wines.

NV Proprietary Red OR Locations by Dave Phinney – this was a blend of great grapes from Oregon.  This was Thanksgiving in a glass with cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, floral notes and spices.  This was such a lovely wine!


All for the Love of the Goose and Gourmet: A Prelude to Joining the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotissuers

Clay Cockrell, Bailli Dallas; Tom Dees, Chevalier; and Oscar Winston Durham, Chevalier

It all began in 1248 with a decree from King Louis IX and a passion for roasted goose.  When you are a king and you want your fowl roasted in a certain way, the smart move is to order the establishment of several professional guilds including the “Ayeurs” or goose roasters.  During the reign of Louis XII, the guild’s domain expanded to the preparation of other meats and the name was changed to “Rotissuers.”  In 1789, the organization went into dormancy when the guild system was dissolved during the French Revolution.  The charter was then re-established in 1950 and changed from goose roasting to  encouraging gastronomy and wines.

Fast forward to today and Chaine des Rotisseurs is the oldest and largest food society in the world with 23,000 members in 70 countries.  It has been active in the US for 54 years and has more than 6,000 gourmands in its membership.  After my Coquerel Wine dinner several weeks ago, Clay and Brenda Cockrell were gracious enough to ask me to attend a Chaine des Rotisseurs induction ceremony at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Self admittedly, I was a little nervous.  If you’ve been following me, you know that I have no official wine designation or certification.  It’s just a passion and my experience has been sip by sip, region by region. And, these two really know their wine.  When you get an invitation to drink great wine, eat amazing food, dress in black tie and you are designated to “wear your ribbons”, that is intimidating.

That is until I got there.  What a fun group of interesting food and wine loving people of all ages.  Clay is one of the organization’s leaders or Dallas’ Bailli and the new Bailli Provincial Bill Salomon of San Antonio led the ceremony.  The toast of the night was “Viva la Chaine” and the mood was celebratory. 

And the dinner … and the wine.  Definitely some favorite wines and an amazing dinner to go with it.  Here’s what they served:

Our first course was hot smoked salmon belly, horseradish, green apple and salmon roe with a 2011 Domaine Patrick Javillier Mersault Clos du Cromin.  This was my favorite pairing of the evening.  

We moved to a braised sweetbread ravioli with chestnut puree and warm shallot vinaigrette with a 2010 Chateau Paveil de Luze Margaux.

Our third course was a bison tenderloin with confit baby carrot, bacon jam and a bordelaise sauce served with my favorite red of the night – the 2010 La Cour Des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape.

Next up was the artisanal cheeses with a dark cherry compote and country bread served with a 2009 Fratelli Zeni Amarone.

Our grand finale was a 2006 Chateau Suau Sauternes with a hibiscus poached apple, honey granola and green apple sorbet. 

The conversation was fun … and engaging.  The topics surprised me.  I did find out that come next year’s induction, if the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotissuers will have me, they will have a new and enthusiastic member.


Winebow and Wilson Daniels Wine Portfolio Tours: A Taste of Heaven

Recently I had the opportunity to attend two portfolio tastings that swung through Dallas.  For those of you who haven’t had the chance to attend a portfolio tasting; it’s designed to showcase the wines imported and distributed by the company sponsoring the event.  It is a bit of a “kid in a candy store” experience, with wine buyers, restaurants, sommeliers and other industry wine people together in one place at the same time. 

Winebow was the first to come through town with the Vini d’Italia Tour 2014.  With this tour there was an opportunity to spend a brief period of time with one of my favorite wine people and friends, Melissa Sutherland Amado.  The tour focused on the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Italy and with 35 wineries they brought an array of wines.   

Melissa brought me through a variety of Italian wines.  I enjoyed them all – it was a diverse and interesting snapshot into “off the beaten path” Italian wines.  My favorites included:

  • Valdipiatta (Toscana) Vino Nobile Di Montulciano DOCG – this was 95 percent Sangiovese and 5 percent Canaiolo Nero.  It was elegant and delicious.
  • Giuseppe Cortese (Piemonte) Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva DOCG – this was earthy, rich and fabulous.  I really enjoyed this wine and would love to see what develops in the bottle over time.
  • Tenuta di Fessina (Sicilia) Erse Etna Rossa DOC – grown in volcanic rock, this was a mix of herbs, flowers, oak and black fruit.  I loved it – so different.
  • Altesino (Toscana) Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG – made from 100 percent estate grown grapes, this wine was truly the crème de la crème of the region.  It was stunning.

The next portfolio tasting came from the Wilson Daniels, a company known for its collection of luxury wines and spirits.  When I say luxury, I mean luxury.  Approximately 32 wineries and spirit companies attended and attendees were given several tickets that I soon realized the value of as I walked the floor.  The first ticket entitled us to a generous taste of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Echezeaux, one of the Grand Cru burgundies.  

I quickly learned to hold my other tickets close to the vest as the second one brought me to Domaine Leflaive where I tried the 2009 Puligny-Montrachet.  Whoa.   There I had a great conversation with the rep at the table who guided me toward a small winery purchased by Anne-Claude Leflaive and Christian Jacques in 2008.  Clau de Nell made some great estate wines that are biodynamic.  I had never tried Grolleau, a native Loire Valley wine that I loved.  Seek it out if you can find it.

My final ticket gave me access to the Royal Tokaji portfolio where I was lucky enough to sit down with Ben Howkins, author of Tokaji, “A Classic – Lost & Found” and the co-founder of Royal Tokaji and the Tokaji Renaissance.  He personally tasted me through 10 wines in the portfolio including still and dessert wines that ended up with a spoonful (yes, usually a mother of pearl spoon, but not at a portfolio tasting) of the 1991 Tokaj Betsek, proof that God loves wine.

This was a great week to be a wine blogger – I must say.  The good news is that these importers understand that Dallas wine drinkers expect to have access to great wines – and they are answering the call.

 


A Conversation with the Men behind Sartori Wines

Bernabei and Sartori 

When Banfi invited me to experience the Sartori family wine portfolio, I knew I was in for some great wines and a lunch that would take me right back to my Italian roots, but without all the yelling.  I met Andrea Sartori, fourth generation of the Sartori family, and Franco Bernabei, a renowned consulting wine maker, to explore their portfolio of wines.

This was my first experience with Sartori wines, a well-known name for over a century from Italy’s Veneto region.  The family’s initial foray into hospitality was as a hotelier and later as owners of a restaurant and hotel.  In 1898, Pietro Sartori bought Villa Maria, a vineyard with a small cellar attached in the heart of Valpolicella, to source good wines for his hotel and as a small cellar for the family’s personal consumption.  Pietro’s son, Regolo, an Air Force officer in the first World War, sold the restaurant and declared the future of his family was in wine. By the 1950’s, Regolo’s two sons expanded the winery with an eye on expanding its distribution outside of Italy.

In the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Andrea Sartori, Pietro’s great-grandson, took over the business. Soon afterward, in an effort to get closer to the grapes, he made a decision that would turn the negociant system in Italy on its head.  In 2002, the company joined with Cantina Colognola, giving the family rare guaranteed access to more than 6,200 acres of high-quality grapes from 800 farmers in Soave and Valpolicella, where virtually no wine houses control their own vineyards.  This freed them from ‘the mercy of the market’ and gave them the ability to work with the best farmers, grapes and vineyards.  Sartori said, “People thought we were crazy, but for the first time, we had the ability to do significant projects from the ground up and farmers now owned a piece of our company.”  The two coops merged together in 2011 and these relationships as critical to their success.

Bernabei, who is a fifth generation winemaker, took the consulting job with Sartori because he is originally from Veneto and wanted to work with a family that “paid considerable attention to the history and heritage of Italian wines.”  He believes that wines should be original, traceable and carry an identity card based on the vineyard.  In harvest, the balance of acidity and pH are important.

We started with the Sartori Di Verona 2012 Pinot Grigio. This wine had a mineral characteristic with floral notes, peach, citrus and pears. Bernabei talked about how this wine is treated like a great burgundy in the style it is produced. I asked him what he was going for in this wine. “I want to pick a grape and the consumer tastes the dew – it’s a perfect fruit.” He believes that winemakers should not be invasive and wines should be expressions of the vineyard.

He then talked about the trends in wine making and why Sartori will never follow the path of forcing a style that isn’t native to the grape. “The greatest wines are not forced, pushed or exaggerated,” said Bernabei. “They maintain their sense of place – we make wine with what we have. That expression can’t change,” he said.

Our next wine was the 2010 Sartori di Verona Pinot Noir, a fun project the two men put together to see if they could make an Old World expression that would stand up to the classics.  It had the classic vegetal notes and pungency that makes up good pinot with notes of vanilla, black cherry, spice and pepper.  It is meant to make pinot accessible and for $11, this was a wonderful expression of affordable pinot noir.

We then moved to the 2009 Sartori di Verona Valpolicella, which had notes of earth, cherry and represented a classic version of this wine.

We then made the switch to a white wine – the 2010 Sartori di Verona Ferdi, which was a muscular white with elegance, power and notes of pear, apricot, lemon curd and lots of complexity. We actually came back to this wine after the full line of up big reds and it had lost nothing. And, for $14, it was a heck of a deal.

It was time for the big boys next. I have to point out that we were eating lunch at Terilli’s and Bernabei asked for some Parmesan cheese, which fell woefully short of Italian cheese standards. But we persevered on (making me really want to get some of the cheese they wanted me to have). The 2008 Sartori di Verona Regolo uses a technique of gentle pressing followed by skin maceration at low temperatures for 10 days. The wine then sits on Amarone pomace to enhance the aromatics and aging potential.  This results in a wine with great minerality and notes of berry and cherry. Great to drink today, but at $19, you should put some down and see what happens.

We moved to the 2010 Sartori di Verona Regolo, which had a great balance of black fruit and acidity. The Sartori Amarone 2010 had notes of wild fig, dates, terrior and was incredible. The “I Saltari” 2001 Le Vigne di Turano is a collaboration of the Colognola and Sartori wineries to improve viticulture, winemaking and production of Verona wines. The wines are aged in casks and slow racked to “bring the marriage together.” It was old world and had aged wonderfully with notes of spice and dried fruit.

A constant over the last 100 years is the Sartori family’s love of their land and heritage.  I look forward to continuing to watch the family’s evolution of their classical portfolio and evolution into what we consider non-traditional varietals of Italy.




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