Archived entries for Italian Wines

A Conversation with Eleanor Coppola: The Untold Story of a Renaissance Woman

 Courtesy of Coppola Winery

I was honored last week to spend several hours with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola at two different Dallas-based events.  The first, and my absolutely favorite, was an intimate lunch with a who’s who of women in Dallas food and wine, hosted by Eleanor Coppola, who is one of the most iconic women I’ve had the chance to sit down with in the wine industry.

You would never know that she has become part of the “first families” of California wine.  You would never know that she’s a well-regarded artist with curated shows around the world.  You would never know she’s an accomplished artist and film documentarian.  You would never know that she’s one of the most accomplished women that I’ve ever had the chance to sit down and talk to about her life.  That’s because Eleanor is focused on you. 

She started our intimate lunch of 12 at Hotel Za Za with a toast where we had to look each other in the eyes or we’d be cursed with seven years of bad sex, according to her husband.  She asked us to talk about how our love for food and wine got us to where we are today.  We spent a lot of time talking about family, what’s on the dinner table and what wine complements the family experience.

Eleanor’s journey began when her father studied art in Paris and discovered food and wine.  They lived in a blue collar town where it was unusual for wine to be on the table.  In college, she drank the traditional Gallo jug wine and it was funny to share that same college wine experience with her.

When she met and married Francis, he came from a big Italian family where wine was always on the table and kids drank the table wine, diluted with ginger ale.  She and Francis’ first experience with fine wine came when he was writing for Bill Cosby in Las Vegas.  Cosby, a wine aficionado, enlightened them to some of the world’s top wines and a love affair was born.

The Coppola’s have two wine properties in Sonoma and Napa.  One is the old Inglenook property in Napa, which was originally known as one of the first great California wines, but fell into making jug wine for many years.  They acquired the property in 1975 and in 2011 they were able to acquire the Inglenook name. They hired Phillipe Bascaules, an agricultural engineer who worked for Chateau Margaux, with the vision of bringing the property back to its glory days of making beautiful estate wines.   “These will be the best wines we can make,” said Eleanor.

But they never lost their love for “macaroni wine with family.”  Francis Ford Coppola Winery with its mid-range Diamond Series is meant to illustrate that love and they have created a family friendly experience in Geyserville complete with a swimming pool, tasting room, and restaurant featuring Francis’ personal favorite items.

The love for family was quite evident during the lunch.  We started with a glass of the Sofia Blanc de Blanc, which Francis made for their wedding.  It was a great wine and Sofia designed the packaging and other aspects of the wine.

Our next course involved their granddaughter, Gia, the daughter of Gian-Carlo Coppola who died in a tragic boating accident.  Gia, a photographer and bartender, is following in her grandfather’s footsteps with the release of Palo Alto, which will be released this Spring.

Then we followed with Eleanor’s wine, labeled Eleanor, whose label featured her passion for textiles.  She’s partial to red wines and this wine brings together a mix of the two properties in Napa and Sonoma.

Eleanor gave us a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a blue-collar family and suddenly, with Francis’ success with the Godfather, go from a one-bedroom bungalow to a 22 room mansion.  “I felt like I needed to go to hotel school,” she laughed.   

Francis Ford Coppola Live at the Lakewood Theater, Courtesy of Coppola Wines

That night, I went to a very different event.  Francis Ford Coppola was at the Lakewood Theater where a few hundred food and wine lovers attended his one-man show.  This was a mix of Francis talking about his fascinating life with video clips supporting his story in the background.  He talked, he laughed, he sang.  He told a great story.  But, I was lucky.  I had already spent several hours with the woman who was the rock of the family.  Her story is the one that I choose to tell today.


California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Holiday Wine Round Up

It’s a new year and time for a new wine round up of those sampled over the holidays.  This time I tried 18 wines in the $10 to $125 range from California, Chile, Italy and Spain.  Half of them made my list, which excluded some high priced samples:

Whites:

Italy

NV Mionetto Brut Prosecco – the quintessential, easy to drink brunch wine.  Priced at $14, this sparkling wine had notes of green apple, pear, citrus and peach. 

2012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($17) – I liked this wine, but I think it needs to be paired with Italian food.  I got lots of tropical fruit, melon, apple and floral notes. 

Spain

2012 Franco Espanolas Royal White Rioja ($10) – lots of lemon curd, citrus and green apple.  This was a nice aperitif wine that begged for shellfish.

Reds:

California

2011 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir ($16) – a very drinkable wine with black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and earth.   This is a wine club that sources wines from around the world delivered at an “everyday wine” price point.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Wine Blend ($14.99) – when a master chef puts his name on a bottle of wine, you know it will be very food friendly.  You taste the berry in the Merlot, followed by the black fruit in the Cabernet, and then finish with the spice of the Zinfandel.  I’d pair this with beef tenderloin.

Chile

2009 Viña Concha y Toro Don Melchor ($125) – this lived up to its billing as Chile’s first ultra-premium wine.  Cassis, berry, tobacco and chocolate notes are showcased in this very well balanced special occasion wine.

Spain:

2009 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($13) – a great value wine with notes of cherry, herb, wood, spice and chocolate. 

2007 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($15) – notes of cherry, rosemary, basil, and tomato plant – this made me crave a margarita pizza.

I’m also going to give a special shout out to one wine that blew me away from the Guarachi Family.  Guarachi, which was previously unknown to me, sources small parcel lots from top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and makes Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  The winery was launched by Alex Guarachi, a native of Chile and importer of South American wines.  The winery just purchased Sun Chase Vineyard in Sonoma and if this wine is any indication of what is to come, I’m beyond excited.

2011 Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($65) – this was full of red berries, cherry, floral, earth and cherry cola.  I loved this wine.


A Few of My Favorite Sparklings

Courtesy of Pierre Peters Champagne

I published a few of my favorite sparkling wines at a variety of price points just in time for your New Year’s celebration.  See what you think of what I published in Culture Map Dallas.  What are your favs?


Take Time to Be in the Moment

For the last nine years, I’ve hosted an annual girl’s wine club champagne and sparkling tasting.  Usually this involves me recruiting my kind husband who cooks massive amounts of great food paired with very loud conversation, lots of catch up and of course bottles and bottles and bottles of sparkling wines and champagne. 

Each year there seems to be one dominant brand — and 2013 was the year of Perriet Jouet, which was ironic because that trend continued on a carriage ride a few days later with friends.  Someone asked me if I was ready to blog about everything we tasted the memorable and not so memorable.  While I got some good content for an upcoming Culture Map article about sparkling wines, my answer was no.  I love blogging and I love writing Dallas Wine Chick, but this was a time for friendship, good food, catching up and just being in the moment.  Truly what the holidays are all about and if you approach it with a notebook in hand, you are going to miss what is really important.

And so, my dear readers and friends, put down your notebook and look up.  That’s how memories are made.  Cheers and happy holidays!

 


Another Wine Round Up: Great Entertaining Wines

It’s time for another round of wines from around the world and this week focuses on Chile, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Most of these wines are under $25 and the majority under $15.  A good showcase of values and “off the beaten path” wines make these regions ones to try.

Chilean

  • 2012 William Cole Albamar Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, citrus, flowers and orange blossom.  This was the favorite white of the tasting.
  • 2012 Como Sur Sauvignon Blanc – herbaceous with lots of grapefruit and green apple.
  • 2012 William Cole Columbine Special Reserve – citrus, floral, grassy and a nice balance of minerality
  • 2012 Garcia and Schwaderer Sauvignon Blanc — grapefruit and notes of honey.

Spain

  • Campo Viejo Garnacha – very drinkable with notes of cherry, flowers, spice, vanilla and oak.  A great easy drinking Tuesday night pizza wine.

French

  • Joseph Drouhin 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – red cherry, black cherry, earthiness, red raspberry, balanced fruit.  A very nice pinot noir for a value price.
  • Joseph Drouhin 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay – a nice Old world style with notes of lemon, vanilla, honey with a nice balance and in the style that I prefer in a chardonnay.  I really enjoyed this wine.

Portugal

  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho White – tropical, vanilla, peach and lemon peel.  Had some depth and layers to the wine.
  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho Red – bramble, berry, bramble and cedar.  Very drinkable but would benefit with food.

Italy

  •  2012 San Pietro Lagrein – plum, cherries, spice, floral and oak
  • 2011 Elena Walch Lagrein – blackberry, cherry, chocolate, floral with a nice balance.  This was one of my favorite reds with that tasted much more expensive than $20.  This was the crowd pleasing red for our group.

 


Franciacorta: Discovering a Sparkling Powerhouse

I recently participated in a Twitter tasting for a region that was new to me – the Franciacorta region from Lombardy in Northern Italy.  The region, which was originally known for still wines, now is a powerhouse area for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s DOCG (Demominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantia) designation.

The region is located about an hour East of Milan on the hills from towns south of Lake Iseo in the Province of Brescia.  Franciacorta has made still wines since the 16th century and sparkling wines started in the region about 50 years ago.  These wines are made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Bianco grapes on about 5,400 acres.  The soil is rich with minerals and calcareous and sandy soils on limestone bedrock.

We tried a variety of styles of the sparkling wines that day all made in the metodo classico style.  Our line-up was as follows (all were non-vintage wines):

-          Lo Sparnerre Saten NV ($25) – notes of yellow apple, toast, saline, mineral and pear was silky, refreshing and delightful.

-          Barone Pizzini Brut NV ($35) – notes of tropical fruit, yeast, creaminess, ginger and floral notes. Loved the acidity on this one.

-          Montenisa Brut NV ($37) – tasted like brioche, apple, peach, lemon and pear.  Another blogger described this as “apple pie in a glass.”  It was a great description.

-          Ronco Calino Brut NV ($30) – notes of floral, pineapple, vanilla and citrus.

-          Fratelli Berlucchi Rose 2008 ($27) – notes of strawberry, citrus, apple, grapefruit and raspberry.  Delightful.

-          Villa Franciacorta Brut 2007 ($35) – apple, toast, citrus, peach and ginger.

These were all great and received glowing reviews from the folks in my party who tasted them. I am a firm believer that sparkling wines should not just be for special occasions.  The Franciacorta region has been doing sparkling wines with finesse, Old World style and traditional champagne methods.  In 2012, 14 million bottles were sold around the globe.  Once this knowledge becomes more than a wine insiders secret, I suspect this number will be off the charts.


Scotto Wines: Fifty Years of Family and New Eye Toward Legacy Wines

When I was contacted by the “biggest winery that I’ve never heard of” last month, it peaked my interest.  I missed Anthony Scotto III, the CEO of Scotto wines, when he was in Dallas last month, so when the winery offered to have Bill Chenault, the national sales manager for Scotto pour the wines for me, I accepted.

Totally unrelated, but interesting. Bill spent some time in Atlanta, where I grew up, and sent his two daughters to Auburn University, where I received my undergraduate degree.  It was an unexpected bonus.

As someone with an Italian heritage, I loved hearing about another successful Italian American dream story. Salvatore Dominic Scotto started a winery in Ischia, Italy, in 1883.  In 1903, the family emigrated from Italy and settled in Brooklyn, NY.

They opened Scotto Liquors, one of the oldest liquor stores in the state of New York, which has since been sold, but is still in business.  The Scotto’s made wine in their home from whatever fruit they could source in Brooklyn and similar to the Gallo family, sold it door to door out of crocks from a horse drawn wagon.  In 1961, they bought a facility in Pleasanton, California, that they named Villa Armando, where they began making their own wine. They created Villa Armando Rustico, one of the oldest US wine brands.  I tried it and appreciated that this was the type of mass production wine that allowed them to build a family business with overall capacity of more than 300,000 cases annually.

They sold this facility in the 1980s and expanded the Scotto portfolio into Lodi and Napa.  Five generations later, they have expanded the scope of their wines to include more than 40 brands sold to customers around the world.  I was honored to try an unlabeled limited-edition, higher-end Napa wine from the Van Der Hayden Vineyard in honor of the Scotto’s family’s 50th California harvest that I thought was fantastic.  The 50 Harvests Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Napa Valley is a small production wine that will change your image from a mass producer of wine to a winery that takes winemaking to another level.  It’s a blend of 94 percent cabernet sauvignon and 6 percent petite verdot.  The Scotto children rightfully knew that while the value labels are important, this unlabeled bottle would be the one to put them on the map in the wine world.

I tried a few other wines that were made to be fruit forward, drinkable and enjoyed every day.  The first was Scotto Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel made with Lodi fruit.  This had a nice spice, lots of red and black fruit and notes of cedar.

The next was the NAPA by N.A.P.A Michael’s Red, the first Napa release from the Scotto family.  The name represents the five siblings: Natalie, Anthony, Paul, Anne (NAPA) and Michael who recently joined the winery. This is a very drinkable every day wine with dark fruit, oak and notes of chocolate and mocha.  Look for it at Cost Plus World Market stores, who pretty much took most of the inventory produced.

We ended with a Moscato wine that was semi-dry, honey-touched and the perfect aperitif to a great meal and conversation at Max’s Wine Dive.


A Few of My Favorite Things: Another Wine Review Column

I had a chance to taste wines from nine wineries from regions ranging from Italy, Spain and California. Of the wines sampled, I’m going to profile seven of them.

Italy

2011 Tenuta Costa Lahnhod Sauvignon Doos – This 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Alto Adige DOC was my first Italian version of this varietal. It was full bodied with notes of herbs, white stone fruit and minerality. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked the balance of the fruit and steeliness.

NV Piccini Memoro Bianco – lots of green apple, apricot and floral notes to this wine along with honeysuckle and herbs. This is a blend of viognier, chardonnay, vermentino and marche. A bargain for $9.99.

Spain

2009 Rupestre de Alpera – This was the hands down favorite of the Spanish wines sampled. There was a complexity to the wine from the notes of balsamic, oak, smoked meat and dark berries. For $19, this is a great weekday option.

Argentina

2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec – black cherry, dark berries, tobacco and vanilla notes round out this well-made Malbec. I loved the finish of this wine.

2012 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes – talk about flowers in a glass. Combine that with tropical fruit and orange blossoms and you have pegged this wine.

California

 

2012 Clos LaChance Dry Rose – this was another group favorite that took us all by surprise. Lots of raspberry, cherry and ruby red grapefruit with notes of flowers and a very dry finish.

2007 Mustache Mentors Naked Rebel – In all honesty, the Naked Rebel wine is a perfectly good pizza wine with an attitude that makes me chuckle. It was very jammy with notes of spice and tobacco. If you look closely at the back of the bottle you can find my favorite lines mentioning a Zombie apocalypse, a Prius and White Zinfandel.


Thirsty Thursday Round Up: My Finds in August

It’s time for another round up of wines and I brought in my colleagues to help me taste them.   I think I’ve been pretty vocal about really enjoying my role with the new company that I joined the end of February.  Because there were so many review wines coming in and I wasn’t happy with my delay in reviewing them, I started #thirstythursdays at the new company.  It was here that I met Randy, one of my most colorful and fun colleagues.  You see Randy doesn’t like wine much at all.  But, after proving I could hang with the boys on a business trip to London, he agreed to come to these tastings and provide classic commentary.  More to come on his quotables later.

We tried 17 wines over several Thursday’s in July and August with varying price points.  Below are my favorites:

Whites:

Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto di Colli Martani – apricot, lemongrass, honeysuckle and lime.  I really enjoyed this refreshing white with a SRP of $14.

Bolla Soave Classico 2011 – For $8, this is a refreshing white with notes of lemon and pear.

Reds:

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 – I really liked this wine.  It was juicy and balanced with brambly fruit, pepper and notes of chocolate.

Arcadian Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2005 – this wine had a nice minerality with notes of Asian spice, raspberry, white pepper and Asian flavors.

Domaine du Terme Gigondas 2003 – this was a soft wine with notes of tobacco, cranberry, licorice, white pepper and soft tannins.

Montefalco Rosso 2009 – black cherry, mocha and one of the tasters exclaimed, “this wine makes me happy” and shouldn’t wine do just that?

Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007 – very earthy, dark fruit, young berries and herbal, but has a lushness.  If the first white listed above, the Montefalco Rosso and this wine are indicative of wines from Umbria, I’ve doing more research on the region.

Matchbook Tempranillo 2010 – notes of blueberry, blackberry, mocha and chocolate make this a very smooth and balanced tempranillo.

Bridlewood Cabernet 2011 – black fruit, chocolate and caramel makes this wine beg for a great piece of chocolate or blue cheese as a great match.

Coppola Votre Sante Chateau Red 2012 – cherry with some nuttiness.  The presentation of the $14 wine was quite impressive, but I’m not sure if it was because it was a blogger sample.

Tendril Pinot Noir 2010 – one of my favorite samples that I’ve received in quite some time.  Full of black cherry, herbs, blackberry and floral notes, this was a fabulous wine and exactly what I would expect a great Oregon Pinot Noir to be.  I have my eye on Tony Rynders, owner and winemaker, and expect great things from him in the future.

So back to Randy, who I hope will be providing more colorful quotes in the future (to wines that did not make the cut) like “this is not a taste that I like, it’s like sucking on a vinegar bottle” or this tastes “like a wine vampire.”  For the record, he did find a few that he even liked, which is a great thing about the vast differences in wines that are produced.

 

 




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