No Reservations Wine Tasting: Donkey & Goat Winery

My wife and I do more than our fair share of wine tasting.  We’ve hit all the major wine regions in California (and a few minor ones too;-), along with some tasting in Oregon, Spain and Champagne.  From time to time we have a wine tasting experience that stands above the rest, and is everything we’re looking for – great wine and commendable service in a relaxed unpretentious environment. It’s such experiences that are the focus of this No Reservations series.  Why “No Reservations”? Because I can honesty say I have “No Reservations”  about recommending the winery anyone who is looking for a great wine tasting experience.

Image courtesy of Donkey & Goat

Image courtesy of Donkey & Goat

The latest in this series features an East Bay urban winery located in Berkeley – Donkey & Goat  My complete review of Donkey & Goat, including history, a recap of the tasting experience, reviews of wines tasted, and insider tips may be found on the American Winery Guide’s website

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

A Taste of Montlouis Pétillant Originel #Winophiles

The French Winophiles(#Winophiles) are doing a deep-dive into the Loire Valley region.  The Loire Valley is divided in to five distinct regions – Pay Nantais , Anjou/Saumur, Touraine, and Centre- Loire.  We’ve previously explored Pay Nantais , Anjou/Saumur.  This month we’re exploring the Touraine region. I chose a wine from the Montlouis sub-region of Touraine. 

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Touraine is a wine district at the very heart of France’s Loire Valley wine region. Its main commercial center, the city of Tours, sits precisely half-way between Sancerre and Nantes (the home of Muscadet). The district follows the Loire river for roughly 60 miles (100km), from Blois in the east to Chinon and Bourgueil in the west. Beyond this the river continues into the adjacent Anjou district.

Touraine has its own generic regional appellation (simply called Touraine) which covers the entire district, as well as several titles that are more specific in terms of both location and wine style. These range from the dry, fruity reds of Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil to the diverse whites of Vouvray and Montlouis

Wines made under the Touraine regional appellation may be red, white or rosé, and each color also comes in sparkling variants. The red wines are made principally from Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (known here as Côt), with smaller proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Their white counterparts are almost always based on Sauvignon Blanc, with the occasional addition of Sauvignon Gris. Touraine rosés, which account for about 10% of production, are created from the same varieties as the reds with the addition of the Loire’s less-favored Grolleau Noir and Pineau d’Aunis, and even Pinot Meunier(Source: winesearcher.com)

Montlouis is an appellation just east of the city of Tours, where white wines are made from the primary grape of the region, Chenin Blanc.  The wines are crafted in a multitude of styles — from bone dry to unctuously sweet; from still to two traditional types of sparkling wine, méthode traditionelle, made like Champagne, and Pétillant, which, with half the bubbles of Champagne, is creamier and less vigorously fizzy.

And there is a third style of sparkling wine Pétillant Originel (essentially a regulated pétillant naturel, or “Pet’Nat”) which won legal status from the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine in 2007.  It is different from traditional Pétillant for two reasons. First, it only goes through one fermentation, rather than two.  And secondly and most significantly, Pétillant Originel must be absolutely natural – a product of the grapes harvested and no more. The designation also demands hand-picking, whole-bunch pressing and a minimum of nine months sur lattes before release.  And It is illegal to add either sugar or yeast at any stage of the wine’s production (unlike sparkling wines produced using the first two methods such as Champagne).

As I was searching for a wine from Touraine, I came across the 2013 Domaine Le Rocher des Violettes Pétillant at my favorite wine shop. It caught my attention because I’m a fan of the “”Pet’Nat”” style of sparkling wine.

I dig the “natural” aspect of this style of sparkling wine and the soft creamy texture.

This one is made from old-vine (pre-WWII) Chenin Blanc.  1/3 of grapes were fermented in conical wooden vats, and 2/3 of the wine fermented in stainless steel tanks.  It aged on its lees for 24 months before the first disgorgement. Normally thereafter a portion of the stock is disgorged every month until 36 months, thus a given vintage sees 12 disgorgements.

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With such stringent requirements it should come as no surprise that there is only a handful of winemakers crafting pétillant originel in Montlouis.  Le Rocher des Violettes owner and winemaker Xavier Weisskopf was involved in developing the regulations. 

You will note the label indicates the wine as Pétillant, not Pétillant Originel.  That’s because for the 2013 vintage,  the alcohol level was not in compliance with the requirements of the Pétillant Originel designation.

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow gold color with gentle stream of bubbles and chalk, yeast, under ripe white peach, lemon peel and orange blossom aromas. On the palate it’s fresh, and dry with a soft creamy mousse and bruised apple, chalk and lemon peel flavors. A lovely Pet-Nat. 12% alcohol| SRP – $22

This was an intriguing and moreish wine, I would buy again.  It was lovely paired with take-out Thai of Pad Thai, Pineapple Fried Rice, and Garlic Fish.

Be sure to check out what my fellow #Winophiles are bringing to the table, and in their glass:

If you’re up early enough please join in our live Twitter Chat on Saturday, May 21st using hashtag #Winophiles at 8 am PST/11 am EST.

Here’s a list of upcoming Events:

  • June 18th – Upper Loire – Cheverny, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume/Pouilly-Sur-Loire
  • July 16th – Medoc, Haute Medoc
  • August 20th – St. Emilion/St. Emilion Satelites
  • September 17th – Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers

We hope you’ll join the fun!

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

 

An Awesome Judgment of Paris Inspired Blind Tasting #JOP40

The Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) does a Judgment of Paris inspired blind tasting

My wife and I founded the Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club in 2010.  Originally conceived as a neighborhood based wine tasting club, the club’s membership has grown dramatically. That’s primarily because friends of friends have joined the fun over the years. We’ve got a great core of 20 individuals at all experience levels who enjoy wine, and want to learn more about wine while having fun and making friends.  All of our tastings are done blind.

The Tasting

Since reading George M. Taber’s Judgment of Paris; California vs France and The Historic 1976 Paris Tasting The Revolutionized Wine several years ago, I thought it would be fun to participate in a similar tasting pitting comparable French and California (California Chardonnay v. White Burgundy; and California Cabernet Sauvignon v. Bordeaux) wines against one another. With all of the hype around the 40th anniversary of  the Judgment of Paris (“JOP”), which was held on May 24th, 1976, we decided to organize a similar tasting for our Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club.

JOP Judge Photo

Judges of the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” tasting Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The challenges of pulling off an authentic as possible tasting were finding reasonably priced wines that had a connection to the original 1976 tasting and determining if enough our PPWTC members had an appetite for participating in a tasting where the price point of the wines was significantly higher than our typical $25-$30 price range.

I decided on a $40-$60 price range for the wines, and sent out the Evite.

I hoped to get enough interest for an 8 bottle tasting (four Chardonnay, and four Cabernet Sauvignon; two each from California and France).

Then, I set about looking for the wines.

The affirmative RSVPs rolled in fast and furious.  So much so that I had to cut-off the tasting at about 20 individuals because there are about 25 one ounce pours to a bottle, and I wanted to some cushion for generous pours, or revisits.

Based upon the RSVPs, I decided to expand the tasting to 12 bottles.

The Wines

As you can imagine, the wines that were part of the original tasting are priced well above the $40-$60 price range. Therefore, I focused on finding similar wines from wineries that participated in the original tasting (primarily second labels, comparable bottles, or ownership), and/or wines from the same appellation.

Here are the wines, including their connection to the ’76 JOP (if any).

California Chardonnay

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White Burgundy

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Bordeaux

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  • 2001 Clos du Marquis, St-Julien; Clos du Marquis, introduced by Chateau Leoville Las Cases in 1902 was the first official, “Second” Bordeaux wine. 30th vintage anniversary of 1971 Chateau Leoville Las Cases was in ’76 JOP  ($60)
  • 2009 Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande, St-Estèphe; Chateau Montrose and Chateau Tronquoy Lalande owned and managed by the Bouyges brothers.  1970 Montrose was in the ’76 JOP – ($40)
  • 2012 Chateau d’Armailhac, Pauillac; It’s a long story, but Chateau d’Armailhac was previously part of the the massive vineyards that we know of today as Chateau Mouton Rothschild. 1970 Mouton Rothschild was in the ’76 JOP  – ($50)

California Cabernet Sauvignon

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How the tasting went down:

  • The tasting order of the wines was based on vintage; we tasted older vintages first.  If the wines were the same vintage, we tasted the wines based on alcohol level; tasting the lower alcohol wine first.
  • The Chardonnays were tasted first
  • Nineteen (19) tasters that completed scorecards (no partial scoring permitted)
  • Tasters were asked to grade each wine out of 20 points; Between 1-5 points awarded for each for aroma, body, taste, and finish.
  • Scores determined by highest median score (to mitigate the influence of outlying scores). Where the median score is the same, the highest average score was the tie-breaker
  • Tasters had the option of marking their score card to denote whether they thought wine was French or California (no influence on numerical scores. Just so they could go back after the reveal and see how they did)

The results of the tasting follow:

JOP PPWTC Judges

The PPWTC JOP Judges! Image credit: The King of Selfies; Jojo Ong!

Here are a couple of factoids from the results I found interesting:

  • The difference between the first and second place wine in the 1976 Paris tasting was only .05 (14.14 for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars; 14.09 for Château Mouton-Rothschild) Our tasting had similar scores and results. There was only .04 difference between the first and second place wines (14.24 for Ridge; 14.20 for Chateaus Tronquoy-Lalande)
  • I found it interesting that Mike Grgich had a hand in the winning Chardonnay for both the ’76 JOP, and our tasting.

Conclusion

Over the years the Paris blind tasting has been replicated a few times. There was a San Francisco tasting in 1978 (both white and red wines).  And there were decennial tastings (red only) in 1986and in 2006 .

The results showed that different panels of “experts” again preferred the California wines over their French competitors.

So, the fact that the results of our tasting was another California sweep wasn’t shocking. I was, however, mildly surprised the White Burgundy did as well as they did (taking second and third)

“The results of a blind tasting cannot be predicted and will not even be reproduced the next day by the same panel tasting the same wines. – Steve Spurrier, organizer of the 1976 Paris Tasting

I know that blind-tastings are inherently flawed and capricious. I don’t think the results per se are important (although, admittedly bragging rights are cool for the winners!)

But for a tasting like this, I think the alternative is worse.

I agree with Jancis Robinson, who wrote in her classic book How to Taste Wine, “It is absolutely staggering how important a part the label plays in the business of tasting.  If we know that a favorite region, producer, or vintage is coming up, we automatically start relishing it – giving it the benefit of the tasting doubt”  

Ultimately, what really matters to me is that the tasting was exceedingly fun and educational.  The juxtaposition of French and California wine was a great opportunity to taste the wines back to back.  I think that’s the best way to hone one’s palate for different styles of wine and decide what you like.  And isn’t discovering what you like what really matters?

I think so.

Happy 40th Anniversary California of the your glorious victory in the tasting that shocked  and forever changed the world of wine!

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

S.R.Tonella Cellars 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

S.R. Tonella Cellars is a Napa Valley artisanal producer focused exclusively on the Rutherford appellation. Steve Tonella (read his bio here) is the proprietor.

The winery is the culmination of over 100 continuous years in the wine business in Rutherford, Napa Valley.  It all started with an earthquake.  In 1906 after the great San Francisco earthquake, a huge demand for workers to rebuild the city brought Joseph Ponti, Steve’s great uncle, from Italy to San Francisco.  Shortly thereafter, Ponti became the superintendent and initial winemaker at the iconic Beaulieu Vineyards in Rutherford, where he stayed for 43 years.  Ponti’s nephew, Steve’s grandfather, Louis Tonella, joined his uncle at Beaulieu when he was just 17 and worked there for several years.  Louis inherited from Ponti vineyards located in the Rutherford viticulture region and passed them on to his son Raymond Tonella, Steve’s father.  Over the years, Raymond purchased additional vineyard acreage, as well as managing other Rutherford vineyards.  Grape growing and wine production have been a part of Steve’s life and family history.

Today, Steve is continuing his family’s legacy, while striving to craft the best
premium Cabernet Sauvignon  and Sauvignon Blanc that represents the best of Rutherford and Napa Valley.

2014 S.R. Tonella Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

2014 S.R. Tonella Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

The wine pours a very pale straw color with a distinct and appealing mango, lime,mandarin orange, pineapple, and white peach aromas.  On the palate it’s a fuller bodied expression of Sauvignon Blanc with wonderful texture and lively acidity that keeps it fresh. It shows white peach, kiwi, mandarin orange, vanilla and a hint of warm spice flavors with a lingering, satisfying finish. I paired with Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas from my favorite local taqueria.  Highly recommended!

 Sample|13.5% alcohol|SRP $29

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Product Review: Vinomaster Wine Bottle Lever Screwpull

From time to time I receive wine related products (mostly books mostly) for review.  Tim Edison of Wine Turtle  (where I was included in last year’s 103 Wine Blogs You Can’t Miss) reached out to me and offered me the opportunity to sample the  Vinomaster Wine Bottle Lever Screwpull.

As a wine lover I’ve used a variety of devices to open bottles of wines over the years.

I started with tried, tested and found true two-prong Ah-so cork puller (a.k.a Butler’s thief). It works well, especially with sensitive and broken corks, but it requires a moderate amount of muscle to use. 

Then I moved tried the (inexpensive) Waiter’s friend corkscrews.  They work well (though you generally get what you pay for up to a point IMO), and require less effort that an Ah-so. They are also the most portable, but do require a moderate amount of skill to use. Plus, I dig the ritual of using it. 

Then I moved on to the wing corkscrew (you know the ones with the meme that look like they’re exercising).  Meh…even though it required slightly less effort to open the a waiter’s friend corkscrew,  and require less skill, they have an annoying habit of shredding cork. I don’t care for them one bit.

Then I tried an electric corkscrew (This seems to be a popular and ubiquitous gift once your loved ones find out you “into” wine)

wine rabbit w box

Image courtesy of Amazon.com.

The most recent wine opener I’ve tried is the Vinomaster Wine Bottle Lever Screwpull (SRP; $28 at Amazon).

It’s presented in a sleek 3-Piece (the Vinomaster, a foil-cutter and an extra teflon coated spiral worm) buckle box.

After trying it over the course of a few  months, here’s what I think:

Pros:

  • It removes corks quickly with minimal effort
  • Fantastic tool for opening up multiple bottles
  • The foil-cutter is first class and works well
  • I dig the box it’s presented in. Not only does it look cool, it makes it pretty transportable.
  • This is a great wine opener for beginners
  • More durable that an electric opener or wing corkscrew

Cons:

  • If you keep it in a drawer, it will take up a fair amount of space (I keep mine in a cabinet near my wine cellar)
  • It’s doesn’t work as well as a waiter’s corkscrew for synthetic corks
  • The worm will need to be replaced periodically for optimal performance

After years of trying different wine openers, I still tend to use a waiter’s corkscrew for single bottles, primarily because I enjoy the ritual.  And I use an Ah-so for sensitive or broken corks. But the Vinomaster is also among my favorites.  It’s an efficient and easy to use wine-opening machine!  I appreciate it most when opening multiple bottles at our wine-tasting club events.

I use all three…depending on the situation, and my mood.  Cheers!

Product sample received for review. Opinions are my own

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Franciacorta; The World Class Italian Sparkling Wine of Lombardy #ItalianFWT

One of the things I love most about food and wine is their ability to transport one to a different place.  I think a place’s people, culture, and customs are reflected in its food and wine.  In that sense, one can virtually travel the world through food and wine.  And that is exactly what we are doing through Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT).  We are taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Lombardy (aka Lombardia)! And I’m going to focus on the small sub-region of Franciacorta which is renowned for its high-quality sparkling wine.

Image courtesy of www.franciacorta.net

Image courtesy of www.franciacorta.net

Franciacorta; The Region

Lombardy is located in the heart of northern Italy.  It is bordered by Switzerland to the north, and the Italian regions of  Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto to the east, Piedmont to the west, Emilia-Romagna to the south.  Lombardy is Italy’s most populous region and home its capital of Milan.  With its strong financial, fashion, and industrial business interests it accounts for the lion’s share of Italy’s economy.

But just an hour east of  hustle and bustle of Milan, at the foothills of the Alps, lies the historic city of Brescia, a picturesque offering of Renaissance palaces,monasteries, medieval castles, and Roman ruins. To its west is Lake Iseo, a sparkling  lake surrounded  by wooded mountains and ancient villages. Directly between the two, spread across a rolling, lush hills lies one of Italy’s best kept secrets: the tranquil oasis of the Franciacorta wine region.

“Besides our wine, which is the only real competitor to Champagne right now in terms of quality and price, we have castles, lakes, nature, great craftsmanship, and gastronomy. Plus, it’s beautiful.” – Maurizio Zanella, founder, chairman, and president of Ca’ del Bosco

Roughly square in shape, and bordered by the Oglio River (which flows out from the Lake Iseo) the region features the Strada del Vino Franciacorta, a 40-mile Franciacorta wine trail which starts in Brescia and meanders through the heart of the region, winding past olive groves, quaint cantine (wineries), and 5,000 acres of picturesque and immaculate vineyards.

From what I can tell, Lombardy reminds me of Northern California where I live because it’s home to the world renown Silicon valley, but  is also home to many beautiful mountains, lakes, ocean and vineyards. .

Check out the excellent (and fascinatingly artful)  Franciacorta website, which has a long list of places to visit. Here are few that captured by attention:

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Franciacorta: The Wine

Franciacorta is a relative newcomer to the sparkling wine scene.  The first sparkling wine to bear the name Franciacorta (Pinot di Franciacorta) was created by the Berlucchi winery in the late 1950s. In 1961 Berlucchi was allowed to produce for release 3,000 bottles of a sparkling wine, also referred to as Pinot di Franciacorta.  The wine, which was a conscious attempt  to emulate Champagne, was very well received. 
Both it’s sparkling and non-sparkling wines earned DOC status in 1967. Its sparkling wines were promoted to DOCG status (the highest level of Italian wine classification) in 1995.  
With DOCG status comes stringent regulations regarding the production of Franciacorta.
There are five types of Franciacorta permitted:
  • Non-Vintage: Must be aged on the lees at least 18 months.
  • Satèn: Non-vintage must be aged at least 24 months; usually 100% Chardonnay. The bottle pressure must be less than 5 atm.
  • Rosé: A minimum 25% Pinot Nero is required; the non-vintage rosé must be aged on the lees at least 24 months.
  • Millesimato: A vintage wine with at least 85% of the wine coming from the stated vintage; up to 15% can come from reserve wines. Must be aged at least 30 months.
  • Riserva: A Millesimato, Satèn or Rosé that spends at least 60 months on the lees in bottle.

I have often seen Franciacorta referred to as “Italy’s answer to Champagne” or “Italian Champagne“.

I understand the comparison, because Franciacorta has three things in common with Champagne : the principal grape varieties (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), the method used to craft the wines (the “classic method” or “traditional method”), and like Champagne, Franciacorta refers to both the geographical region and the wine itself.

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Image courtesy of Franciacorta.net

But I think it’s a shame to refer to Franciacorta in as a “step child” of Champagne. Franciacorta is distinctly Italian expression of the region’s unique terroir.

According to Winesearcher.com…One of the key reasons for Franciacorta’s success – other than its quality-driven producers – is its own particular combination of climate and soil types. Warm, sunny, summer days are followed by cool nights here, creating ample opportunity for the grapes to ripen, while retaining the acidity that is so vital to the production of sparkling wines. Although marked by fluctuations between day and night, temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the growing season, thanks to the temperature-moderating effects of Lake Iseo.Topography is also key here, both the macro-topography of the Alps (which protect northern Italy from continental influences of Central Europe) and the local, rolling hills that shelter the vineyards. The gravely, stony soils are well-drained and rich in minerals – ideal for high-quality viticulture. They were formed, just like the topography, by glacial activity.

 Another advantage that Franciacorta has over other sparkling wine regions is that about  50% of Franciacorta vineyards are organic. And it’s possible that it could become the first Italian wine region to become 100% organic.

 

A Taste of Franciacorta

I’m a voracious consumer of sparkling wine (mostly champagne).  But, I found myself surprised that it’s been four years since last enjoyed a glass of Franciacorta!

I was way overdue!

When I checked my favorite wine shop, my options were limited to one bottle from one producer – Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvée Prestige” Franciacorta Brut (I also checked other wine shops including Kermit Lynch, and the options were non-existent or very limited)

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Ca’ del Bosco Cuveé Prestige – Love the packaging. It comes wrapped in golden cellophane that brings to mind Cristal. Unwrapped the wine in a transparent squat bottle.

Tasting Note

A blend of Chardonnay (75%), Pinot Nero (15%) and Pinot Bianco (10%) grapes from 134 vineyards, each vinified separately and blended with at least 20% reserve wines.  Aged for 28 months on lees.

The wine pours a pretty pale gold color with plenty of tiny bubbles and a fine bead.  It opens with intense aromas of bread crust, stone fruit, lemon curd, and a bit of ginger aromas. On the palate it’s energetic, well-balanced and vinous with a rich, creamy mousse and ample peach, apricot, lemon and ginger flavors with a very giving finish.  It’s a Brut cuvee, so it’s not completely dry. That makes it’s versatile at the table. It’s a wonderful aperitif, but will pair nicely with a wide variety of dishes.  Pair with seafood pasta, vegetable risotto, delicately stewed chicken or pork.

Excellent quality price ratio at $33. Definitely a bubbly I will put in my sparking my sparkling wine mix!

About Ca’ del Bosco

Ca’ del Bosco is on the leading edge of the exciting new wave of Italian wine producers, making absolutely top-quality sparkling and still wines. Maurizio Zanella founded the winery in 1968, and dedicated himself to distinguishing the sparkling wines of Franciacorta. The winery owns more than 230 acres in the region, with vineyards planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Nero and other indigenous Franciacorta grapes. Ca’ del Bosco’s reputation for sparkling wines has been secured by the excellence of its cuvées.

cadelbosco

Situated among the gentle hills of Brescia, south of Lake Iseo, the Franciacorta region of Lombardy and its neighboring towns were historically better known for their production of firearms than wine. Maurizio Zanella has changed all of that and his talents have placed Franciacorta on the map of quality Italian wine regions. Zanella has worked to ensure the word “Franciacorta” would indicate a specific type of sparkling wine from a specific region, and would not be confused with “methode champenoise” or “spumante.” In 1995, his dream came true and the sparkling wine of Franciacorta was named a D.O.C.G. to be marketed as “Franciacorta.” Since the new D.O.C.G. standards require a minimum of two years aging before release, the first Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta D.O.C.G. were released to the international market in 1997.  Source: Wine.com

Check out the other Lombardian delights my fellow #ItalianFWT blogging have on their plates and in their glasses!

If you’re reading this early enough, loin our Twitter chat Saturday May 7th at 8am PT using the #ItalianFWT hashtag to chat about Lombardia. And don’t miss next month as we feature our last region of Italy, Liguria.  This will complete our first full tour of Italy.  Hope to see you June 4th!

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of True Myth Wines

True Myth is a specialty appellation winery that produces wines from regions along California’s Central Coast, focusing on Chardonnay from Edna Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles recently announced a nationwide launch of its wines.

I recently received two sample of the wines:

2014 True Myth Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard – Crafted from grapes grown solely in the Niven Family’s Paragon Vineyard. The vines, ranging from seven to 43 years old, are planted to a mix of Heritage and Dijon clones.  Fermented in 50% in French Oak barrels and 50% cold tank fermented. 38% total new oak, and aged 9 months on lees. This wine is SIP Certified sustainable. 13.5% alcohol; SRP – $18

2013 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon – Sourced from six different vineyards in the Paso Robles AVA.  Aged in a mix of French and American oak barrels for 18 months (50% new). 14.5% alcohol; SRP of $24

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My tasting notes follow:

2014 True Myth Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard 
Pale gold color with pear, white peach, pineapple, and vanilla flavors with hints of lemon curd, guava skin and honey. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, and lush with delicious white peach, pear, pineapple, butterscotch, vanilla flavors with bit of citrus, toasted oak and an appealing touch of minerality with a lingering finish.  If you enjoy a Chardonnay with lush tropical fruit, this one has your name on it! It offers very good value!  Very good (87-88 pts.)

Pair with crab cakes, creamy pasta dishes, mild Jerk Chicken, or grilled halibut.

2013 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon 
Garnet color with aromatic and appealing cassis, blackberry, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with a good balance of fruit, acidity and tannins with appealing and delicious black cherry, cassis, blackberry, and dark chocolate flavors and a lingering finish. It offers very good value! Very good to outstanding (89-90 pts.)

Pair with a grilled steak, lamb burgers, or a hearty tomato based meaty pasta dish.

More About True Myth

Crafted by the Niven Family, who pioneered grape growing in the Edna Valley in 1973 with the planting of the historic Paragon Vineyard and have played a significant role in defining San Luis Obispo County’s farming history for more than 40 years, these wines are the latest chapter in their winemaking legacy.  A depiction of “Mother Nature at her finest,” True Myth takes advantage of nature’s gift of rich and fertile soils on California’s Central Coast, yielding wines that reflect the true terroir of their origin.  The name is inspired by the idea that “the one True Myth is Mother Nature.”

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It is the latest project from Niven Family Wine Estates, a three-generation, family-owned wine group who pioneered the Edna Valley more than 40 years ago and have played an integral role in defining San Luis Obispo County’s farming history.   The family owns and farms 50% of all the Chardonnay grown in the Edna Valley.  True Myth represents a modern take on the family’s winemaking legacy in the region – it draws from old traditions while embracing modern techniques.  Made under the direction of Winemaker Christian Roguenant, a Burgundy-born and trained winemaker who has been producing Chardonnay for more than 30 vintages, these wines are a signature reflection of their terroir of origin.

The Niven Family Wine Estates’ portfolio includes the following sister brands: True Myth, Baileyana, Tangent, Zocker, Trenza, and Cadre.  Each winery has a specialized varietal focus and identity.

Wines provided as a samples for review.  Many thanks to James O’Hagan  and Glodow Nead Communications

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Chablis:The Spirit of Chardonnay – In The Glass And At The Table

I love minerally, acid-driven white wines. They are refreshing and delicious on their own, and a great companion for a wide variety of foods at the table.

So, I was thrilled when I received four sample bottles of Chablis from Pure Chablis a couple of months back.

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About Chablis

Pure Chablis is a trade organization that promotes and strengthens the image of Chablis wine in the US. Their motto is “Pure Chablis, one grape, one region, one of a kind. Pure Chablis, only from France”

The groups advocacy for Chablis is necessary because here in the US, there are cheap jug wines labeled as either “Chablis” or “White Burgundy”  that are misleading consumers and giving the Chablis “brand” a bad name.

So what, exactly is Chablis? Here’s an overview of the region…

Chablis Map

  • Wine has been made in Chablis for centuries.  The founding of the village of Chablis dates back to Roman times, as do Chablis’ wines.
  • It’s the northernmost subregion of Burgundy.  It located in the Yonne department between Paris and Beaune, a short hop from the Champagne region.
  • Chardonnay is the only grape variety permitted in Chablis
  • Granted AOC (appellation) status in 1938
  • What gives the region its unique “terroir” is a combination of its climate (harsh, cold and wet), and its clay soil referred to as Kimmeridge clay, that is composed of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells.

A unique territory and terroir - Image courtesy of Pure Chablis

A unique territory and terroir – Image courtesy of Pure Chablis

  • Chablis has four appellations (in ascending order of quality, power and depth)
    1. Petit Chablis – Represents an entry-level Chablis.  Intended to be consumed young. Vineyards are located on flat ground.
    2. Chablis – The grapes for this level are grown on north and east-facing hills.  These wines tend to show a bit more minerality, due to the high limestone content in the soil of the region.
    3. Chablis Premier Cru – The grapes for this level are grown on south and west-facing hills.  As the name suggests, this level of quality takes it up a notch and produces wine with better aging potential.
    4. Chablis Grand Cru – This is the upper echelon of Chablis, with only about 230 acres situated on one hill, on the north bank of the Serein River.  There are only seven vineyards from which to source the Grand Cru Chablis grapes. This level has the greatest potential for aging.

And in my mind, nowhere in the world does the spirit of Chardonnay manifest itself better than Chablis.  That’s because of its unique terroir and because the wines rarely reveal any oak.   Instead Chablis is strongly influenced by its Kimmeridge soil that was a seabed some 150 million years ago. The result is wines that show a distinct sense of place and a minerality that I love.  I also think most of the wines end to be wonderfully undervalued.  There are plenty of very good to outstanding bottles to be had for under $20, and even the more expense Premier and Grand Cru bottles excellent relative value.

Chablis is Chardonnay, but not every Chardonnay is Chablis“ – Rosemary George,MW

 

Chablis In The Glass And At The Table

In the past I’ve mostly enjoyed Chablis as an aperitif, or with a typical food pairing for such as oysters, snails, light seafood dishes, and poultry.  But with its high acidity, I wanted to try it with some other food.

So, over the course of a couple of months, I paired it with a variety of foods/cuisines.  My tasting notes and the results of the pairings follow:

2014 Domaine Servin Chablis Les Pargues – France, Burgundy, Chablis
Very pale yellow-green color with beautiful hay, white flower, green apple, citrus and wet stone aromas. On the palate, it’s taut, and focused with mouth-watering acidity, and wonderful minerality with green apple, lemon and a hint of peach flavors. Long finish. (90 pts.)  Great QPR at $20 SRP!

The wine paired well with a homemade Salmon Burger.  Pairing the wine with a Chablis rather than a lighter bodied  Petit Chablis was a good choice.  

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A homemade Salmon burger! Yum!

2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Petit Chablis
Very pale yello-green color with restrained apple, citrus and slate aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied and fresh with apple, lime, a hint of grapefruit and under ripe white peach flavors and a solid satisfying finish. (87 pts.)

The wine was a very good paired with a few sushi rolls from our local favorite Japanese restaurant

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Take out sushi from our favorite Japanese restaurant

2014 Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Petit Chablis
Very pale green color with wet clay, bruised apple, chalk and lime aromas. On the palate it’s very fresh with an appealing minerality, and green apple, lime and a hint of white peach peeking through. (88 pts.)

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We paired this wine with take out Thai food. It paired especially well with pad Thai and crab fried rice.  And it found what I call “peaceful coexistence” with yellow curry and lemon fish.  This was a bit of an eye-opener. In the past I’ve typically paired Thai food with Riesling, Gewürztraminer or perhaps a Viognier. Chablis is now on my list too!

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Thai take out with Pad Thai, crab-fried rice and lemon fish

2014 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis – France, Burgundy, Chablis
Very pale green color with buttered toast, green apple, lemon, lime and wet stone aromas. On the palate it’s approaches medium-bodied and is very fresh with green apple, mixed citrus and a hint of white peach flavors and an appealing minerality with a lingering finish. (90 pts.) Great QPR at $20!

We paired this with take out savory crepes from a local creperie.  It was an excellent match for both a Greek crepe of grilled eggplant, asparagus and tomatoes with feta cheese in pesto sauce, and a Florentine crepe of spinach and mushroom with mozzarella in pesto sauce

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A Greek crepe – grilled eggplant, asparagus and tomatoes with feta cheese in pesto sauce

My takeaway?  While Chablis has a well deserved reputation for being a great aperitif and an excellent match with fish, shellfish and light poultry dishes, it’s a more than capable partner at the table for a wide variety of dishes.  

For some great tips on matching food and Chablis click here

Check out the video below for more information about Chablis!

Wines provided as a samples for review.  Many thanks to Pure Chablis, the Chablis Commission and the BIVB!

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine Pairing Recommendations For #SundaySupper Regional Specialties

This week, the Sunday Supper taste makers are celebrating regional food specialties. Foodies believe there is no better way to get to know an area than to experience what the “natives” eat.  The Sunday Supper family is sharing more than 40 wonderful dishes they grew up eating or learned to love while visiting or living in a specific area.

I love this theme because I believe, in many ways, you can come to know something about the people of a place through the food and wine of that place.

Here are my general tips for How To Sensibly Pair Food And Wine.

Regional Food and Wine Pairing

Image courtesy of kuvo.org

My wine pairing recommendations follow:

Pair the appetizers, breakfast items, salads, soups, and side dishes below with a glass of sparkling wine. Sparkling wines are the Swiss Army knife of wines in my book.  They are a good match for virtually anything   And enjoying a glass of bubbly will not only elevate your meal, it’s the only wine that’s socially acceptable to enjoy with any meal). Look for Gruet Blanc de Noir. It’s blend of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a lovely pale salmon color and an enticing, rich raspberry, baked pear and toasty vanilla character.  

Appetizers:

Beverages:

Breakfast:

Salads:

Sauces:

Side Dishes:

Soups:

Main Dishes:

Pair the dishes below with Pinot Grigio.  I like the Kirkland Pinot Grigio, Friuli.  It’s a Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region in the far north-eastern corner of Italy. I think it’s one of the best regions for Pinot Grigio in Italy.  The Kirkland Pinot Grigio opens with aromas of apple, peach, clarified butter and wet stones.  In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, fresh and fruity with apple, and pear flavors and an appealing minerality.

Pair the following dishes with Riesling. A perennial favorite of mine is the Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling Eroica.  It offers calamansi, mandarin orange, and tropical fruit aromas. on the palate it’s off-dry (slightly sweet) with mouth-watering acidity and tropical fruit, citrus, and honey flavors.

Pair these dishes with a medium-bodied Chardonnay with good acidity.  Look for the Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay.  It opens with aromas of spiced pear and freshly sliced apples with a hint of honey.  In the mouth, it shows spiced peach, apple, citrus, tropical fruit, and vanilla flavors.

It’s not hard to imagine myself dining al fresco enjoying a chilled glass of a food friendly Rosé with the dishes below.  A perennial favorite is Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare.  It’s a blend of both red and white Rhone grape varieties with a refreshing, savory Alpine strawberry, and citrus character. 

When I saw these two dishes, the first thought that came to mind is the tried and true food pairing guideline “what grows together, goes together”.  So an Italian wine made from the Barbera grape came to mind.  Barbera tends to be a light-bodied, juicy wine.  Look for the 2012 Terre da Vino “La Luna e I Falò” Barbera d’Asti Superiore from Italy.  It has lush, savory black cherry, plum, and licorice character.

Pair the dishes below with a Malbec. I recently enjoyed the 2013 Catena Malbec from Argentina.  It’s a textbook smooth and supple Malbec with very appealing black cherry, blackberry, plum, dark chocolate and vanilla character. 

Pair the dishes below with a Rioja from Spain. The primary red wine grape in Rioja is Tempranillo. When I look for a value in a food-friendly wine, Spain is at the top of my list. Look for the  2010 Marqués de Murrieta Reserva Rioja.  It’s produced by one of the two oldest, historical bodegas that put Rioja on the map in the mid-19th century.  It’s a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano with a perfumed, spicy, savory red cherry, licorice and vanilla character.  

Pair these dishes with a red wine blend.  Look for the Michael David Petit Petite. It’s an intriguing blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot from the 2015 Wine Enthusiast Region of the Year, Lodi. It’s a rich, full-bodied wine with gobs of pure black fruit, cacao and vanilla flavors. 

Desserts:

When it comes to dessert, it’s often best to pair your favorite dessert with a cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk!  But pairing dessert with a dessert wine can make your favorite dessert even better.  Here are three recommendations that I believe will

Here are some guidelines and recommendations for desserts. There are three factors to consider: sweetness (a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert itself), acidity (an acidic wine may pair best with a fruit dish, which also has natural acidity), intensity (the more intense the flavors of a dessert, the more intense the wine), and color ( in general the darker the dessert, the darker the dessert wine should be)

For a mild, light, buttery dessert such as custard, meringue or where vanilla plays a prominent role, I recommend a Moscato d’ Asti, a semi-sweet, lightly sparkling, low-alcohol wine from Piedmont, Italy.  Look for the 2015 Saracco Moscato d’Asti.

For desserts featuring pome, or orchard fruit and cinnamon spice, look for a late harvest or ice-wine style Riesling.  Try the Pacific Rim Vin de Glaciere Riesling.

For dark, buttery, caramelized, nutty, and rich desserts try a Port. Look for the Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port from Portugal.

For frosted cakes or cupcakes, pair the wine to the frosting (i.e for chocolate, peanut butter,  or toffee frosting go with a Port, for vanilla, coconut, whipped cream, sugar cream type frosting go with a Moscato d’Asti or late harvest riesling.

Plus Rhubarb Steamed Pudding and Favorite Regional Recipes from Sunday Supper Movement

What are your favorite regional recipes? What about regional wines?

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper

2013 Castello Di Amorosa Chardonnay: An Exploration of Terroir and Technique

My friends who know I’m a wine writer often ask me if I’d like to be a winemaker.  My answer is always the same…Are you nuts? 

Let me explain. Though winemaking is often perceived as glamorous, I think it’s anything but.  It’s hard work that requires long hours, being a slave to Mother Nature, and a commitment to their chosen craft that borders on insanity.  And for the best, that commitment includes a relentless pursuit of perfection, and a willingness to experiment and take risks.

It’s that pursuit of excellence, and willingness to experiment  that led Castello di Amorosa winemaker Peter Velleno to craft three 2013 Chardonnays: the 2013 Napa Valley Chardonnay from their estate vineyard in Los Carneros, and two Chardonnays from the renown Bien Nacido vineyard in Santa Maria Valley, one of which ( “La Rocca“) was raised exclusively in a concrete egg.

Crafting two Chardonnays from two cool climate vineyards, using identical wine making protocols was an opportunity to showcase  the differences in terrroir between Los Carneros, where the San Francisco Bay meets both Napa and Sonoma, and Bien Nacido in Santa Barbara County.

Concrete eggs are an interesting mix of ancient and ultra-modern winemaking techniques, since the first wines were actually fermented in pottery jars called amphorae. The egg shape is a newer modification, which allows the wines inside to have a natural convection current as the carbon dioxide released during fermentation helps to naturally stir the wine and mix in the sediment, or lees. – Castello di Amorosa

The 2013 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnays also featured a limited about of a wine called “La Rocca” or “the fortress.”

As explained by Winemaker, Peter Velleno, “the reason for the Chardonnay is that the use of concrete (or more specifically the lack of oak barrels) allows the flavor of the vineyard to be the star. Chardonnay needs to have a rich mouthfeel, so it makes sense to try it in concrete, where there will be no oak flavors or aroma, but still the benefits of aging on the lees.”   Aging wine on the lees, or the yeast and sediment that settles to the bottom of the barrel during fermentation, imparts a creaminess and complexity that can’t be found in stainless steel.

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The first two wines below showcased the differences between the terroir of Carneros, and Bien Nacido. To my palate, the Bien Nacido bottling had a distinctive tropical fruit character, and a higher level of acidity. On the other hand, the Carneros bottling showed an appealing minerality, and a bit more spice.

My favorite of the three was the La Rocca bottling. To my palate, it was the freshest, and most balanced of the three wines.

My detailed tasting notes follow:

2013 Castello di Amorosa ChardonnayUSA, California, Napa Valley
Pale golden-yellow color with pear, apple, and butterscotch aromas. On the palate it’s lush and with a supple texture and good acidity with apple, peach, honey, lemon meringue, vanilla and bit of very pleasing brown spice and minerality. Long finish. 100 % Barrel fermentation, 50% new French oak barrels, 50 % second use, with roughly 40% undergoing malolactic fermentation, all aged “sur lie” (on the yeast) for 10 months and stirred to re-suspend the yeast, enhancing aromas and adding texture and volume to the mouth. alcohol; SRP – $29. 827.5 cases produced. Pair with Alaskan King Crab Legs and drawn butter (90 pts.)

2013 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay Bien Nacido VineyardUSA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Pale gold color with alluring orchard fruit, tropical fruit, orange blossom and toasty aromas. On the palate it shows a harmonious character with ample fruit, nicely balance against lively acidity and a lush mouth feel. It shows white peach, pineapple, pear, vanilla, and toasty oak flavors with a bit of butter and spice peeking through, with a very giving finish. 100 % Barrel fermentation, 50% new French oak barrels, 50 % second use, with roughly 40% undergoing malolactic fermentation, all aged “sur lie” (on the yeast) for 10 months and stirred to re-suspend the yeast, enhancing aromas and adding texture and volume to the mouth. Alcohol 14.8% SRP; $38 453 cases produced. Pair with Seared Scallops in Morel Cream Sauce.  (91 pts.) 

2013 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay La RoccaUSA, California, Napa Valley
Pale yellow color with expansive apple, pear, pineapple, a hint of citrus marmalade aromas. On the palate it full-bodied, and pure with great texture nicely balanced with lively acidity. It shows enticing apple, pear, lemon curd, pineapple, and a hint of grapefruit flavors with a hint of wet stone minerality peeking through. Long finish. 100% Chardonnay. Fermented and aged in a single concrete egg tank sur lie for 10 months. No malolactic fermentation. Pair with Forty Cloves and A Chicken or Seafood Risotto. SRP -$38 14.8% alcohol 177 cases produced. (92 pts.)

Between the three wines there’s something to love for most Chardonnay fans.  If you prefer a lush, riper style of Chardonnay opt for the barrel fermented Napa Valley, or Bien Nacido wines.  If you prefer your Chardonnay with more of a  pome (apple, pear) fruit character, you’ll enjoy the Napa Valley.  If you like a more tropical fruit character go for the Bien Nacido bottling.  And if you prefer your Chardonnay with higher acidity, the La Rocca fits the bill quite nicely!

The wines are sold exclusively through Castello di Amorosa directly.

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About Castello Di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is one of Napa Valley’s top “destination” wineries.  What makes it unique is that it’s both an authentic 13th Century castle and a winery.  The Castello (Castle in Italian) was the brainchild of Dario Sattui, a fourth generation winemaker.

Armed with his vault of medieval architectural renderings and another passionate dream, Sattui purchased a 171 acre vineyard property in Calistoga in 1993 and began construction of Castello di Amorosa Winery in 1994. Clearly, the success of V. Sattui Winery built the 121,000 square foot, 12th century style, authentic Tuscan castle winery. The Castello opened to the public in 2007(click here for complete history).

And if you’re ever in Napa Valley, a visit to the Castello di Amorosa is a must!

Wines provided as a samples for review.  Many thanks to Castello di Amorosa and Julie Ann Kodmur

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.