A Taste of Nieto Senetiner Wines

As a wine writer, I receive offers for free wine samples from time to time (a nice perk since making any meaningful money is almost impossible – but then again, I do it for love…). Most of the offers are for a bottle or two. Rarely do I receive more than three or four bottles of wine.  So, imagine my surprise when I received eight bottles of Nieto Senetiner wine from  Big Bang Wines on behalf of importer Foley Family Wines!

About Nieto Senentiner

The history of Bodegas Nieto Senetiner dates back to 1888, when Italian immigrants founded it and planted the first vineyards to European grape varieties in Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo, a province of Mendoza.
Over the first decades of the last century, the winery was run by several families including Spanish immigrant Don Nicanor Nieto, who succeeded in passing on the secret of fine winemaking and the love for their land.  These families gave the winery an architectural style of the Italian countryside that still remains today.
Over the years, the European grape varieties gave way to Malbec, and Bonarda (a.k.a. Charbono), which dominate the region’s vineyards today.
In 1969 it is acquired by the families Nieto and Senetiner, who expanded the facilities signalling the beginning of a new stage of growth and brand development. In 1998 it becomes part of the Grupo de Negocios de Molinos Río de la Plata. The winery is a leader in production of Malbec and Bonarda.  holds a consolidated leadership position, committed to the highest production and quality standards, backed by a continuous investment plan both in estates and process technology.

Nieto Senetiner has 400 hectares of vineyards in their three Estates (Fincas), all situated in the Lujan de Cuyo area.  The estates include:

  • Finca Villa Blanca in Vistalba – planted in 1900; 3,300 ft elevation
  • Finca Agrelo in Las Tortugas- planted in 1900; 3,100 ft elevation
  • Finca Alto Agrelo in Las Torcazas – planted in 2005; 3,300 ft elevation

The winemaking team includes Head Winemaker, Roberto Gonzalez, and consulting winemaker, Paul Hobbs. Nieto Senetiner was the first Argentine winery to receive ISO 9002 certification in 2002.  The wines are fermented with native yeasts, minimum SO2 and no acidifications.

Their state-of-the-art, sustainable winery and estate vineyards produce richly textured, interesting Malbec and Bonarda, the other red star of Argentina.  At the foot of the Andes Mountains Lujan de Cuyo (a.k.a.the “Primera Zona” for producing high quality grapes) is renown for its low rainfall, high altitude, and diurnal temperature swings that stress the vines, developing the highly concentrated flavors.

The Wines

Nieto Senentiner has three tiers of wine – Camila is their entry-level wine, the Nieto Senentiner are their flagship wines, and the Don Nicanor is a step up in sophistication, and complexity in terms of barrel blending and additional oak aging.  The wines I sampled were:

Camila

  • 2014 Malbec – SRP;$10
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP;$15

Nieto Senentiner

  • 2014 Torrontes – SRP;$15
  • 2013 Bonarda- SRP;$13
  • 2014 Pinot Noir- SRP;$13
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP;$13
  • 2013 Malbec- SRP; $13

Don Nicanor

  • 2012 Malbec – SRP;$19

My tasting notes follow:

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2013 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec – Garnet color with subtle plum, blackberry aromas with hints of smoke and spice. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with an appealing supple texture and good acidity, and ample fruit with plum, blackberry, fig, vanilla and bittersweet chocolate flavors and a lingering finish. 100% Malbec. Aged in French Oak for 6 months – Very Good; 87-88pts

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2013 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Cabernet Sauvignon Emilia – Dark ruby color with subtle red fruit and sandal wood aromas.  On the palate it’s full-bodied, and fruity with solid acidity with easy, and juicy with red currant, blackberry, cherry, vanilla and hints of dark chocolate and spice flavors. Very Good; 86-87pts

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2013 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Bonarda – Violet color with blackberry, black currant, plum and perfumed spicy aromas. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, and fresh with easy, and enjoyable blackberry, black currant, plum, vanilla and a bit of spice flavors. Aged for 6 months in French  and American Oak. Pair with grilled beef, mushroom risotto or cheese ravioli. Very Good; 87-88pts

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2014 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Pinot Noir – Ruby color with promising red fruit, spice and vanilla aromas. On the palate, its light-bodied, and fresh showing a bit of savoriness with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry flavors.  Aged for 6 months in French Oak. Pair with grilled or roasted chicken, grilled salmon, mild cheese and dishes with tomato based sauces. Very Good; 87-88pts

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2014 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner TorrontésYellow color with subdued greenish shades with intense, appealing dried peach, citrus, and white flower aromas.  On the palate it’s fresh and easy with peach, and citrus flavors with an appealing hint of minerality. Raised in stainless steel. Pair with grilled chicken or white fish. Very Good; 87-88pts

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2013 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Cabernet Sauvignon – Deep ruby color with promising cassis, vanilla, and a bit of graphite aromas.    On the palate it’s medium-bodied, with medium-acidity and well-integrated soft tannins with generous black cherry, cassis, and vanilla flavors showing nice depth at this price point.  Aged for 6 months in French and American oak.Pair with roasted lamb, grilled pork, or heavy sauces.  Very Good; 87-88pts

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2012 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec Don Nicanor – Inky black violet color with plum, blackberry, cassis, and roast coffee aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with a harmonious, persistent character and well-integrated firm tannins and black cherry, cassis, vanilla, and a bit of baked blueberry flavors, and a lingering graphite laced finish. 14.5% alcohol Fruit from vineyard planted at 3,450 feet altitude. Aged for 12 months in French Oak.  Very Good to Outstanding; 89-90pts

2014 Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec Emilia – Intense dark red with low-key plum, raspberry and cedar wood aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, smooth, juicy and straight forward with plum, raspberry, and a hint of red currant flavors that are surprisingly persistent at this price point. Aged in French and American Oak for 12 months.  Very Good; 86-87pts

Since I typically taste sample wines organically (i.e., I work them into my daily wine drinking – almost always with a meal), it took what turned out to be a few months to taste these wines.  And I can tell you this about Nieto Senentiner wines. They are food friendly wines that offer strong value for every day drinking wines!  

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the wine samples from Big Bang Wines on behalf of importer Foley Family Wines.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely 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.

A Taste of Burgundy #winophiles

Welcome to this month’s French Winophiles!  We’re group a food and wine bloggers pulled together by Christy of Adventures of a Culinary Diva.  We’re taking a virtual tour of France region by region and learning about French cuisine, wine and travel.  This month we’re exploring legendary Burgundy (a.k.a. Bourgogne)

 About Burgundy

Steeped in centuries of history, tradition, and mystique, Burgundy is an exemplar for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  It is one of the world’s most renown wine regions.

In spite of, or perhaps more accurately because of, its reputation (the wines can be prohibitively expensive and premox can an issue with white Burgundy), my only experience with Burgundy has been Chablis(love it), Beaujolais, and Crémant de Bourgogne.

I simply had to try at least a red Premier Cru Burgundy!

“You admire great Bordeaux but you fall in love with great Burgundy”  Neal Martin

For the uninitiated , white Burgundies are made from 100% Chardonnay. Red Burgundies are made from 100% Pinot Noir. You won’t see the name of the grape variety on the labels.

Located in the east-central part of France, Burgundy has 5 principal wine growing areas (excluding Beaujolais and Châtillonnais):

000004776-burgundy_map

Source: Decanter (http://goo.gl/I7lIVJ)

The most renown of the wine growing regions are Chablis and Côte d’ Or – home to Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. 

Burgundy is all about terroir.  And The Climats  and lieux-dits are the ultimate expression of the notion of terroir.  Climat is a traditional Bourgogne word for a precisely delimited plots of land that enjoy specific geographical and climatic conditions.

A Taste of Burgundy

Image courtesy of Bourgogne Wines

Last year Burgundy was awarded Unesco World Heritage Status for its viticultural heritage, its 1,247 Climats, or individual terroirs, of the Côte d’Or, and the historic centres of Beaune and Dijon .

Though the word may remind you of climate, it comes from the Greek “klima”, and then the Latin “climatis”, which means slope. Lieux-dit are also plots recognized for their own topographic or historical specificities.  But they are not registered by the INAO (Be sure to check out the excellent Bourgogne Wines website for more info)  One may find several lieux-dit within a Climat, or a Climat may only cover part of a lieux-dit.  One can see how that might be confusing.

I think I’ll just stick to main levels of Burgundy classifications, in descending order of perceived quality, Grand crusPremier crus, village appellations, and finally regional (Bourgogne) appellations

Ah, but Burgundy is not just about wine.  The region’s famous vineyards are bookmarked by two  of France’s food capitals – Dijon (the mustard capital of the world)   and Lyon.  Many classic French dishes originate from the region including Coq Au Vin, Escargot a la Bourguignonne,and Boeuf Bourguignon (did Julia Child just pop into any else’s head?). Not to mention other gastronomic delights including cheese (Epoisses de Bourgogne) and bread ( pain d’epice)

Let Paris be France’s head, Champagne her soul; Burgundy her stomach – The Concise World Atlas of Wine

 

On Plate and In My Glass

I received, as a sample, a book entitled Chablis; A Geographical Lexicon from  by Jean-Paul Droin.  The idea was to learn more about Chablis, then taste a wine from one of a Chablis Premier Cru.  In this case, it was the wine the 2012 Sebastien Dampt Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons.

The book was informative (e.g., I didn’t know there Chablis winegrowing region covers 20 communes with the River Serein running through it.  And that the river divides it into two distinct parts left bank and right bank)   It’s a must read if you have an interest in the etymology and history behind the names of Chablis Climats.

Chablis Escargot

My tasting notes on the wine follow: 

Pale yellow-green color with green reflections. It’s  aromatic with buttered bread, oyster shell, baked green apple, white flower and a hint of spice aromas. On the palate it medium bodied, fresh, focused,  and harmonious with green apple , pear, bit of Meyer lemon and spice flavors. Long finish. Highly recommended.

I paired the wine with a Chablisien classic – Escargots a la Bourguignonne (Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter), and sautéed garlic asparagus accompanied by a loaf of crusty french bread. We topped our the meal with a fabulous Saint Angel triple cream cheese from Fromagerie Guilloteau in the Cotes du Rhone region of France.

(Note: I’ve included a link to the escargot recipe, but I found an oven ready escargot in garlic-herb sauce at my local Whole Foods Market)

The wine was fantastic with the entrée. And I especially enjoyed crusty french bread dipped in the garlic herb sauce with a sip of the Chablis.  In a word – divine! The wine was a very good complement to the buttery notes and chalky texture of the cheese.  

I simply couldn’t take a virtual tour of Burgundy with trying a red wine.  In keeping with the Premier Cru theme established with the Chablis, I chose the 2012 Domaine Bart “Hervelets” Fixin 1er Cru.  It my first Premier Cru Burgundy!

The Fixin appellation, which received official recognition in 1936, produces both appellations Village and Premier Cru. There are six Premier Cru Climats.

Fixin

Image courtesy of the Burgundy Report

From the Bourgogne website – Fixin (pronounced “Fissin”) is situated in the Côte de Nuits region between Dijon and Gevrey-Chambertin. In 1860 it merged with the neighbouring hamlet of Fixey. As well as wine-cellars, attractions for visitors include the 10th century church of Saint-Antoine, the manor of La Perrière where once the monks of Cîteaux came to enjoy the good air and the good wine, François Rude’s famous statue in the Parc Noisot of Napoleon in the process of becoming immortal, a particularly handsome communal laundry and the slate-covered village breadoven. Here there are a thousand things to see, not to mention many welcoming wine cellars.

Here’s where things may get confusing – the Premier Cru Climats of Les Meix Bas, and Les Arvelets may be labeled as Les Hervelets. But Les Hervelets cannot be sold as Les Arvelets or Les Meix Bas!

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My tasting notes follow:

A subtle touch of pencil shavings sets off ripe and relatively elegant notes of black and red cherry, earth, warm spice with pretty floral notes. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and layered with intense mixed red and black cherry, red currant flavors with ample minerality, and a subtle rustic character wrapped around dusty well-integrated tannins and bright acidity.Approachable now, but would benefit from further aging.  Highly recommended and a very good value at $40!

We paired the wine with a quick weeknight dinner of grilled salmon and sautéed spinach.  Again we capped off our meal with another double cream cheese from France. This one was the decadent Fromager d’Affinois with Truffles.   Pinot Noir is the most food friendly red wine in my book and it paired very well with our meal.  And it was other worldly with the cheese! 

Check out what my fellow French #winophiles are bringing to the table this month!

Don’t forget to join the live Twitter Chat this Saturday (Jan. 16, 2016) at 8 am PST (1700 hours in Beaune, France!) Just search for the hashtag #winophiles. We love new participants, if you would like to join us, just let us know.  Stay tuned for our February visit to Alsace. Au revoir!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the bottle of Chablis and book at no cost from Sopexa on behalf of the Chablis Commission.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely 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.

A Taste of Greece: Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono Paired with Hatzidakis Assyrtiko

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work (or learn from the ones that don’t); along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic.  Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is hosting “Let’s Talk Scorched Terroir – and Volcanic Wines – for this month’s #WinePW

The Volcanic Island of Santorini

As I began to consider this month’s theme, my initial thoughts turned to the Napa Valley (which has a fascinating geology that includes a vast array of soils of volcanic origin).  But I was leaning toward a white wine rather than a red.  Then as fate would have it, I saw a post from Camilla, our host for this month’s theme that featured an Assyrtiko (one of my favorites – Domaine Sigalas) from the Greek island of Santorini.

Bingo!

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed one. In fact, my second post for #winePW was a fabulous blend of Assyrtiko and Malagouzia last summer.  And I’ve not had any since then!

santorini-greece-whichgreekislandcouk

The breathtaking beauty that is Santorini seems to have risen from it’s volcanic ashes quite nicely…Thank you!

I hadn’t really given much thought to Santorini being a volcanic region. I’m more familiar with the Santorini pictured above.

But Santorini is a part of a volcanic island group at the central south end of Aegean Sea. The island caresses the vast crater left by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history – the Minoan eruption of 1613.  Thus, the island is also renown for its spectacular sea-filled volcanic caldera, which are surrounded by steep colorful cliffs. One of the island’s most fascinating sites is ruins at the Minoan site of Akrotiri. Click here for a cool video about the volcano!

On My Plate

One of my favorite restaurant’s in the Bay Area is a Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, Evvia. They serve a delicious oven roasted Branzino that is fantastic.  Inspired by that dish, I, decided to make Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono.

Branzino (plural, branzini),  is a European sea bass that is low in fat, but with a  wonderful richness when cooked on the bone. That’s because the fish has lots of cartilage.  So, when the flesh gets hot, it stays succulent long after the fish has hit the right temperature.

Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono

Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono

I purchased the Branzini from our local Whole Foods market,  The fish is farm-raised in Greece and was reasonably priced at $12.99/lb.

Ladolemono, with its one-to-one acid-to-oil ratio (as opposed to the usual one-to-three), is a classic Greek vinaigrette that gives a flash of brightness to the smoky, crispy skin of the branzino (would also be wonderful with  grilled octopus, shrimp, or squid)

Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Makes 2-4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 whole bone-in branzini, cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup Ladolemono
  • 2 lemon thyme or thyme sprigs
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 lemon—1 thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Season the fish cavities with salt, pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning. Stuff each cavity with a thyme sprig, and 2 lemon slices. Rub the outside of the branzini with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill the branzino over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.
  3. Remove the lemon slices and thyme before plating, and discard. Transfer to a platter, drizzle with Ladolemono , and serve.
Notes
This is recipe is very simple and offers a very high taste/effort ratio

The fish turned out perfectly.  It had tender well flavored flesh (the Old Bay makes it pop), with  a hint of the lemon thyme and lemon placed inside the fish prior to grilling, And the Ladolemono was the perfect complement.  If you  haven’t tried whole Branzini on the grill, what are you waiting for?  

In My Glass

The 2013 Hatzidakis Winery Assyrtiko Santorini is a blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri

My tasting notes follow:

Pale green color with gold highlights and apple, lemon zest, chalk aromas with a dusty note. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with zesty acidity. It shows apple, lemon, white peach, and mineral flavors with a dusty grip and a lemony mineral driven finish.

The wine was fantastic with the Grilled Branzini.  The lemony minerality of the wine was a great compliment to the Ladelmono.  It was as if the wine was a bit of  spritz of lemon on the grilled fish.  And after taking a sip of the wine the grilled Branzini tasted better.  

The wine was very good on its own, but was better with food.  We had leftovers of the Branzini the next night and paired the wine with a homemade salsa, that included chunks of avocado on a bed of spinach.  It was a wonderful partner with at the table for both the fish and the salad!

Here’s what the #winePW crew posted about volcanic wines…
Come chat with us…

#winePW Twitter Chat September 12,  8 a.m. PT: Connect with us on twitter, using hashtag #winePW. We’ll chat for an hour about volcanic wines, food pairings, and #scorchedterroir. “October’s #winePW is hosted by @foodwineclick. Stay tuned for Jeff’s invitation that might have something to do with #MerlotMe Month.  Cheers!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, yoga, hiking, and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine. Since I’m 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! Follow my reviews on Vivino and Delectable This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

A Taste of Alto Adige – Cantina Terlano Classico #ItalianFWT

One of the things I love most about food and wine is their ability to transport one to a different place.  And 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 taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Trentino-Alto Adige!

Image courtesy of AltoAdigeWines.com

Image courtesy of AltoAdigeWines.com

The Region

map-of-trentino-alto-adige

Map of Trentino-Alto Adige courtesy of beviamo.com

Trentino-Alto Adige is Italy’s northernmost wine region.  Notwithstanding it’s hyphenated name, it’s really two autonomous provinces. Alto Adige, nestled in Alps, is bordered by Veneto to the east, Lombardy to the west, and the Tirol region of Austria to the north. Alto Adige or Südtirol, as it is known in German,  has a predominately German speaking population. This is due to the region’s former status as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It was re-claimed by Italy in 1919.  To its south is Trentino, which is almost entirely Italian speaking.

Here’s an overview of what I learned about Alto Adige:

  • Winemaking in the region pre-dates Roman occupation of the Adige Valley
  • The Alto Adige DOC, which covers the majority of wines made here, was granted in 1975
  • One of the smallest wine-growing areas in Italy (approximately 13,000 acres), producing only 0.7% of Italy’s total production
  • It leads Italy in wines meriting a DOC designation: 98% of its wines fall into this category
  • The vineyards are tiny and ownership is impossibly fragmented. Typical vineyards are about a hectare; which is probably why…
  • Most wine made here is produced by co-operatives (15 co-ops produce about 70% of the wine)
  • The major green grapes varieties, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc account for over 20% of the total wine production and are a hallmark of the region.
  • The native Schiava black grape variety dominates red wine production accounting for almost 25% of total vineyard area. The velvety Lagrein, also a native variety, is also widely planted.
  • Surrounded by the Dolomites and Rhaetian Alps Alto Adige is one of the most beautiful wine regions in Europe.
  • The Gewürztraminer grape owes its name to the village of Tramin (Termeno in Italian) about 12 miles south of the region’s major city Bolzano.

Cantina Terlano

Founded in 1893, the Cantina Terlano winery is now one of the leading wine growers’ cooperatives in Alto Adige. It’s current membership is composed of 143 growers working a total area of 165 hectares. Seventy percent of their production is white wines.

“The most impressive wines I tasted this year from Alto Adige came from Cantina Terlano. Simply put, these are reference point wines. I can’t imagine these wines not being represented in any serious cellar.” – Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate 2011

Cantina Terlano winery has a traditional focus on long-lived wines. In fact, Terlano has a Wine Archive located about 13 meters underground which contains over 20,000 bottles.  It’s quite a collection of rarities comprising various vintages from 1955 to the present. Some of the wines actually date from 1893, the year the winery was founded!

The Wine

From Cantina Terlano (Kellerie Terlaner in German)… A composition of Terlano’s three most traditional white varieties, namely Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Sauvignon, this old cuvée, which was one of the wines produced when the winery was founded, is an extremely complex wine. Pinot Bianco, as the main variety used in the cuvée, provides the freshness and a good acid structure, while Chardonnay delivers a pleasing warmth and mellowness and Sauvignon adds the fine aromatic character.

The fruit for this wine come from the Alto Adige Terlano  sub-region of Alto Adige, a region renown for its high quality white wines.

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My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow-green color with pear, lemon, white flower and lemongrass aromas. On the palate, it’s dense, and tangy with bright acidity, and white peach, lemon, hint of apple flavors with a wonderful mineral note and a lingering sweet finish. Blend of 60% Pinot Bianco, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. 13.5% alcohol. Retail $22 >>Find this wine<<

I paired the wine with a fabulous Seafood Lasagna (recipe here) I prepared. (Note: I substituted seafood stock for the clam juice and chicken stock and used real crab meat)

What a fabulous pairing! The wine’s bright acidity was a welcome counterpoint to the richness of the Bechamel sauce in the Lasagna, while the “weight” of the wine was a perfect complement of the weight of the dish.  And in the mouth each made the other taste better!

A Taste of Alto Adige - Cantina Terlano Classico #ItalianFWT

Much to my surprise, I’ve yet to try an Italian red wine for #ItalianFWT.  But , so far I’ve been captivated by Italian white wines.  I think my choices have (mostly) been driven by the foods I’ve been pairing with the wines.  But the whites have been memorable (and repeat purchases), including the Cantina Terlano Classico!

Don’t stop here.  We have lots more great information to share with you on the Trentino-Alto Adige region.  Join the rest of our Italian bloggers group:

Make sure to join us live on Twitter today and throughout the weekend at #ItalianFWT to chat about the Trentino-Alto Adige region and your experiences.  We can’t wait to hear from you.  Check back at #ItalianFWT throughout the month as well for additional blogs on food, wine and travel of Italy.  Next month on April 4th we feature Sicily so stay tuned.  Ciao ciao!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2012 Vigneto San Vito – Orsi Pignoletto

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  This week’s wine is the 2012 Vigneto San Vito – Orsi Pignoletto Colli Bolognesi Classico Vigna del Grotto.

The Winery

Federico Orsi & Carola Orsi Pallavicino founded Orsi – Vigneto San Vito in 2005 with the intent of revitalizing Bolognese wines. They found a site on the hills (200m above sea level) outside of Bologna  in Emilia Romagna.  They tend to 15 hectares of 50-year-old vines, with a focus on grapes and traditions that are indigenous to this area.

Their vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic.  They take that some “slow wine”, minimal intervention approach in the cellar utilizing native yeast, and bottling their wine unfiltered and unfined.  They do so because they seek to elaborate wines indicative of their land and to highlight the region’s unique style.

In addition to this wine, Orsi-San Vito also produces a sparkling Pignoletto, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grappa

The Wine

This was my first time trying Pignoletto, a Italian white grape variety indigenous Emilia-Romagna, which has has two DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – the highest classification for Italian wines)Albana di Romagna, and Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto.

This wine is from the latter. It is 100 % Pignoletto.  Fermented in large oak cask.  After fermentation, the wine was aged 9 months sur lie with occasional battonage. Aging sur lie imparts some complexity and a wonderful creaminess to the wine.  It was aged in bottle for another 6 months before release.  Bottled unfiltered and unfined.

.13% alcohol; Retail – $22.99

IMG_1451 (1)My tasting notes follow:

Slightly cloudy gold color (unfiltered) with lime zest, honeysuckle,and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, fresh, and very persistent with a wonderfully supple texture. Flavor-wise it shows white peach, lime, honey, and a suggestion of persimmon flavors with a long mineral laced finish. 

Rating: A-; I really enjoyed this wine!  It was a nice change of pace, and a great winter white wine!I  Will buy more! >>Find this wine<<
Pair with: Pasta dishes prepared with fish, or chicken, mushroom risotto or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva.

The Winery

Cantele is a family run winery founded by Giovanni (“Gianni”) Battista Cantele, and his two sons Augusto and Domenico in 1979.  The winery is located between the villages of Fra Guagnano and Salice Salentino.

Today, the Cantele family owns 50 hectares planted to vine and the family’s current winemaker Gianni (one of Augusto’s sons) and agronomist Cataldo Ferrari manage another 150 hectares owned by other growers. Augusto’s other son Paolo is the winery’s brand manager and Domenico’s son Umberto is head of sales. Domenico’s daughter Luisa also works in the estate’s corporate offices together with Gianni’s wife Gabriella. The business remains to this day a true “family affair.”

Cantele produces about 2 million bottles/year, including indigenous Pugliese grapes such as Primitive and Negroamaro, along with international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.

The Wine

Cantele produces wine in Salice Salentino DOC of Puglia, which is located in “the heel” of the boot in peninsular Italy.  Puglia has had a reputation for producing mostly low-quality bulk wines (a.k.a. “plonk”).  In the 21st century though, a growing number of winemakers are more focused on quality rather than quantity.  For example, Puglia is the second largest producer (after Sicily) of organic wines.  And there have been substantial investments by the iconic Italian producer Antinori.

The flagship red grape of the Salice Salentino DOC is Negroamaro , which translated to English means dark (negro), and bitter (amaro).

This wine is made from 100% Negroamaro fermented in stainless steel and aged in 1-2 year old barrique for 6 months.

13% alcohol Retail – $9.99

Wine of the Week; 2010 Cantele Salice Salentino

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with inviting black and red fruits, bramble, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, vibrant, and deliciously spicy with plum, dried cherry, black raspberry flavors, dusty tannins and a supple texture. Medium+ finish. >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A-; Fabulous QPR on this wine!  And if you’re looking to try a different grape variety – give Negroamaro a try!

Pair with: Carne alla pizzaiola, meat lovers pizza, roast veal and beef, game, lamb, and ripe aged cheeses.

Sample purchased for review

Related post you might enjoy:

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m 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 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Champagne Chronicles – Day 3

This is the third in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

  • Day 1 – Guided tour of Reims Cathedral and Champagne dinner
  • Day 2 – C.I.V.C., Roger Coulon, and Veuve Clicquot

______________________________________________________________________

Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what they said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

Our itinerary for Day 3 included:

Champagne Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer is one of the last great independent and family run Champagne houses. The family has been managing the business since 1832.  Today it is managed by Frédéric Rouzaud, who represents the seventh generation of the Roederer lineage.

Their vineyards (all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) cover about 70% of the company’s needs, which is rare for large Champagne houses.  They produce about 3 million bottles annually.

The Roederer portfolio includes Champagne DeutzChâteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ramos Pinto Port in Portugal, Domaines Ott in ProvenceRoederer Estate and Scharffenberger in California.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave, and Assistant General Director of Roederer.  After giving us an overview of the Roederer vineyards, he took us on tour of their cellars, and lead us through a tasting of a few vin clair.  It’s obvious the man has a passion for wine.  We then adjourned to the beautiful Roederer tasting room to taste their current releases:

It just so happened I’d tasted the same wines a couple of weeks before my trip (click here for detailed notes)

After our tasting, it was time for lunch.  Much to my surprise and delight we were greeted by, and dined with the man in charge himself – Frédéric Rouzaud!

And lunch? It was a gastronomic and vinous delight!

How this for lunch? L-R; 2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut (magnum), 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut, 1995 Ramos Pinto Porto Vintage

It’s a tough call, but my favorite was the 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut one the wines we had with lunch.  It’s a beautifully mature, full-bodied Champagne with intense, complex, savory aromas and flavors including brioche, baked apples and peach, roast hazelnut, citrus, and a bit of caramel that harmoniously and seamlessly coalesce with energetic acidity and a smoky minerality. And it’s such fantastic food wine! 

Learned about: Roederer is the largest organic grower in Champagne with 65 of their 240 hectares farmed biodynamically.  They began converting their vineyards to biodynamic in 2000. Between 60-70% of the fruit for Cristal is biodynamic.  In fact, the current release – 2006 is the first vintage they released with primarily biodynamic fruit.  The first 100% biodynamic Cristal will be the 2011 vintage

Insider’s tip: Roederer will be launching their first Brut Nature (the driest style of sparkling wine – with less than 3g/L residual sugar) in the US this month! The 2006 Brut Nature cuvée, was developed by Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck.

Notable Quote: The secret to Cristal is Pinot Noir and Chalk” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon

See below for gallery of Champagne Louis Roederer visit

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Champagne René Geoffroy

“The Geoffroy family have been winemakers since the seventeenth century and the property has stayed in the family for almost 400 years, uninterrupted.  In addition to prime parcels in Cumières,  the family has holdings  in Damery, Hautvillers, and Dizy. They aim for the highest possible quality and ferment the wines in oak barrels for their Cuvée Sélectionnée [now called Cuvée Empreinte] and Brut Prestige [now called Cuvée Volupté].  The wines don’t go through malolactic fermentation, which gives them the nerve and aging potential that most Cumières Champagnes lack.  When you talk to the well-educated young Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, you understand that this is a family that cares passionately about wine.” (Source)

Geoffroy is a grower that produces its own wines.  They are the No. 1 grower in Cumières, where they farm 14 hectares of  sustainably grown grapes.  Cumières is the most sun-drenched and earliest ripening village in Champagne, and is known primarily for its pinot noir.  They produce generous, vivacious Pinot Noir led wines that can age. Their production is about 140,000 bottles a year

We were greeted by fifth generation winemaker Jean-Baptist Geoffroy, who lead us on tour of the family’s three-story gravity flow winery and cellar.

After the tour we tasted:

  • René Geoffroy  Expression Brut Premier Cru
  • 2007 René Geoffroy  Empreinte Brut Premier Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Rosé de Saignée Brut 1er Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Blanc de Rose Extra Brut
  • 2004 René Geoffroy  Millésimé

Geoffroy is doing my favorite was the 2007 Empreinte Brut Premier Cru. It’s a blend of 76 % pinot noir, 13%chardonnay, and 11% Pinot Meunier that were all fermented in large oak foudres.  It’s a well-balanced wine with apple, pear, and bread dough aromas, and apple, toasted almond, and mineral flavors and a long finish.  It’d be fantastic with seafood dishes!

Insiders tip: Look for the yet to be released “Houtrants” cuvée. It’s an interesting multi-vintage, field blend, old vine (minimum age of 50 years) wine cuvée composed of five of the permitted grapes (rather than the typical three) with lovely aromatics, and a rich, creamy, slightly autolytic tart apple and mineral character and a long finish.

See below for gallery of Champagne René Geoffroy visit

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Champagne Jacquesson

“Jacquesson is one of Champagne’s most venerable houses, not only predating Krug, but giving birth to it, when in 1843 Johann-Joseph Krug left Jacquesson to form his own house.  But despite more than 200 years of history, Jacquesson has become a revolutionary among Champagne’s established houses, under the leadership of brothers Laurent and Jean-Hervé Chiquet, who took over from their father in the 1980’s.

Since then, the house has adopted a herbicide-free, terroir-based philosophy. It also retired, after 150 years, its non-vintage blend and replaced it with a groundbreaking single-vintage-based cuvée, which changes yearly. And next came its terroir-based cuvées, an unprecedented move for a traditional house.” (Source)

They are based in the Dizy region of Champagne. They farm 28 hectares of grapes (10 are certified organic) located in the Grand Cru villages of AÿAvize and Oiry and in the Premier Cru villages of Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.   They currently produce about 270,000 bottle annually with approximately 15% of the fruit sourced from growers in these villages as well as the Grand Cru village of Chouilly and the Premier Cru village Cumières.  The house makes the claim it is the oldest independent Champagne house.

We were greeted by Jean-Hervé Chiquet who lead us on a tour of the winery, cellars and guided our tasting.

It was a blowout tasting!

  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733 Dégorgement Tardif
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 736
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 737
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 738
  • 2008 Jacquesson & Fils Dizy Terres Rouges Rosé
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Dizy Corne Bautray
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Brut Avize Grand Cru Champ Caïn
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Ay Vauzelle Terme
My favorite was the 2004 Ay Vauzelle Terme one of the “lieu-dit” (single-vineyard) wines.(all of which were outstanding). It’s 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 2,500 vines planted in 1980 on 0.30 hectare that grow in limestone mixed with a little clay, on chalk bedrock. Aged 8 years on lees.  It’s pale salmon color with intriguing cherry, raspberry, tangerine, roast nut, and floral aromas.  On the palate it It’s medium-bodied, and superbly balanced with a creamy mousse and great finesse. It shows cherry, strawberry and a hint of tangerine flavors and lingering, satisfying finish
After our tasting made our way to the Jacquesson dining room on the second floor of their property another fantastic meal expertly paired with more wines awaited!
Learned: “Fils” means “son’ in French, which is why you see it so often in the name of French wineries

Insiders tip: Look for the 2008 Terres Rouges Rosé.  It’s among the best rosé Champagne I’ve tasted.  It has an exotic floral, berry, pomegranate, slightly earthy character.

Notable Quote:We favor excellency over consistency” – Jean-Hervé Chiquet

See below for gallery of Champagne Jacquesson visit

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What an awesome day!  As if the continued brilliance of Louis Roederer  and the revelations of Geoffroy and Jacquesson weren’t enough. I was blown away by the superb lunch and dinner expertly paired with wonderous wines!

Stay tuned for Day 4, which featured visits to Bereche & Fils, Billecart-Salmon, and Bruno Paillard!

 

Champagne Chronicles-Day 2

I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what the Champagne Bureau said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the second in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne (Click here for Day 1)

Our itinerary for Day 2 included:

Visit to C.I.V.C.

On what was a glorious day weather-wise, first up on our itinerary was a visit with the C.I.V.C., the governing body of the Champagne region.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the mission of the C.I.V.C., and share some specifics about the region.  The presentation by Philippe Wibrotte, Head of Public Relations was information.  A few of my takeaways were:

  • What makes Champagne unique is the combination of climate, the predominately limestone sub-soil, and topography.
  • 100% of grapes in Champagne are harvested manually
  • There are 15,000 growers in Champagne, and 5,000 of those make Champagne from their own grapes.
  • Classification of grapes in Champagne is based on villages rather than specific vineyards. There are 17 villages ranked Grand Cru, and 42 ranked Premier Cru.
  • Champagne houses(there are 320)  account for two-thirds of all Champagne shipments and represent 90% of the export market.
  • There are 34,000 hectares of vines in Champagne.  38% of those are Pinot Noir, 32% are Pinot Meunier, and 30% are Chardonnay. There is a miniscule amount of 4 other permitted grapes – Pinot Gris (sometimes known as Fromenteau), Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.
  • 98% of Champagne sold is multi-vintage (that explains why vintage tends to be more expensive)
  • 1.4 billion bottles, about 3.5 years of production are in storage.
  • The C.I.V.C. is ferocious when it come to protecting the Champagne name and image of Champagne.  In the past, the C.I.V.C. has successfully barred the use of ‘Champagne’ in toothpastes, mineral water for pets, toilet paper, underwear and shoes.
  • Champagne producers have been using lighter bottles since 2011.
  • Production in Champagne is measured in bottles, not cases as it is here in the U.S.
  • The C.I.V.C. determines the dates harvest can begin for the 350 villages in the region. As announced the day after our visit, the 3-week window for picking grapes began on September 8th.
photo

C.I.V.C Headquarters in Epernay, France

After the presentation there was an educational tasting lead by C.I.V.C. enologist Marie-Pascale Do Dihn Ty

See below for gallery of C.I.V.C. visit

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Lunch

We dined at the restaurant in Les Grains d’Argent, a beautiful hotel surrounded by vineyards for lunch. 

See below for gallery from lunch

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“More than any other wine, Champagne unlocks wine’s archetypal promise:joy” – Karen MacNeil

Visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

Champagne Roger Coulon is a great example of Grower Champagne.  Grower Champagne comes directly from the families who own the vineyards, and make the wine. Located in the village of Vrigny, in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne, the Coulon family has been winegrowers since 1806.  The family has gradually increased its holdings so that there are now 11 hectares under vine, spread over 70 parcels of land in 5 villages, most of which benefit from South-east facing slopes on sand, chalk and clay. Their Premier Cru vineyards are composed of  approximately 35% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with an average vine age of 38 years. Using only wild yeasts, they produce about 90,000 bottles per year. The Coulon’s practice of lutte raisonée (reasoned agriculture) – the minimal use of herbicides and pesticides.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Isabelle Coulon, wife and partner of Eric Coulon, an eighth generation winegrower. After introduction and brief tour, Eric took us on a vineyard tour.

After the vineyard tour we returned their family home, which includes an amazing B&B – Le Clos des Terres Soudées, before settling down for a quick tasting. We only tasted three wines because we were strapped for time.

My favorite was the Réserve de L’Hommée Cuvée which is made with family’s oldest grapes. It’s intentionally made less sparkling(4.6 atmospheres instead of the typical 6) in order to get tiny bubbles that last a long time.  An equal blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, it’s aged five years before disgorgement. It’s yeasty, and generous with apple, roast hazelnut, spiced orange and mineral character with a long finish. >>Find this wine<<

Learned about: Sexual confusion (er…this relates to moths, not humans) – A treatment against the grape moth, in which small packets of synthetic pheromones of female moths are distributed among the vines to confuse male moths and prevent them from mating. It’s considered a much more eco-friendly solution, albeit more expensive alternative to spraying vines with various chemical products.

Insider’s tip: Their B&B is awesome!  If I ever go back to Champagne, I know where I’m going to stay!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

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Visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

When I saw a visit to Veuve Clicquot (“VC”) on our itinerary, it needed no introduction. The Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut (a.k.a. Yellow Label) seems to be the most popular Champagne sold in the U.S., and is certainly the most marketed brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s currently the second largest house in Champagne producing about 14 million bottles a year. Approximately  20 % of their fruit comes from their own vineyards.  The other 80% is purchased from growers, with most of whom they have long-term (20-25 year) contracts.

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron,VC has played a pivotal role in establishing Champagne as a luxury product. They are credited with many firsts including the riddling rack, and being the first Champagne house to produce rosé Champagne.

When we arrived at the Veuve Clicquot facility, we were met by their Chef de Cave (cellarmaster) Dominique Demarville, and winemaker Cyril Brun for a tour of one of their vineyards.  It’s clear that V.C. is laser-focused on working towards more natural viticulture for both estate and purchased grapes.

We must never forget that Champagne is a wine, and the quality is in the vines. – Dominque Demarville

After our vineyard tour we headed into Reims to V.C.’s private residence L’Hotel du Marc for dinner.  It’s a spectacular 19th century mansion that underwent a complete remodeling after V.C. was acquired by luxury group LVMH.

Inside the mansion, we tasted through eight still wines (vin clair in French) from various vintages that were both base and reserve wines used to make V.C Champagnes.  The wines were tart and very acidic, and I could barely discern the subtle differences the wines.  Though, the final vin clair we tasted was a multi-vintage blend with a 2013 base wine that showed the grapefruit profile I associate with the V.C. Yellow Label.  I came away from the experience with a whole new respect for the art of blending. 

Vins clairs tastings are a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wine before the bubbles, and to imagine their development over time; they are a unique foray into the magical kingdom of champagne. – Caroline Henry

After the vin clair tasting, we tasted four more wines including a 2003 Bouzy Rouge, an outstanding still red wine not for sale to the public, and had dinner in the magnificent dining room.

My favorite was the 2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Vintage – It has a harmonious, refreshing, slightly savory, strawberry, raspberry, citrus and mineral character. And it paired very well with the second and third courses of our meal.

Learned about: Inspired by the discovery of 47 bottles of Veuve Clicquot from 1839 to 1841 at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, that were in great condition, VC is experimenting with a “Cellar in the Sea“.

Insider’s tip: With about two-thirds of VC Yellow Label being composed of black grapes, it’s a great example of a medium-bodied Champagne that will work well not only as an aperitif, but also with a diverse selection of main courses, especially seafood!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

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After dinner we found ourselves hanging out on the patio outside the stately Hotel du Marc, and I found myself savoring what was a deeply satisfying day on all levels.  What a fantastic day!

Stay tuned!

Champagne Chronicles – Day 1

Dreams do come true. When I first got into the “wine thing”, as I call it, I dived head first into the pool of knowledge. One of my resources was Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. And one of my favorite chapters in that tome is “Champagne“.  Ever since then, the Champagne region has been on my bucket list of wine regions to visit.

Few wines captivate us to the extent Champagne does.  But then Champagne is not simply a wine; it is also a state of mind – Karen MacNeil

Imagine my surprise (shock really…slaw-jawed, I almost fell out of my chair!) and euphoria when I received an invitation from the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip that read…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip is exclusively reserved for a small group of leading food and wine journalists from across the U.S., and will be scheduled for the first week of September, departing the US on August 31, and returning September 6. This trip will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole. As a guest you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the first in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

After the 12 hour direct flight from San Francisco to Paris, I took the TGV (high-speed train) from Charles de Gaulle airport to Reims (click here for the tricky pronunciation).  It’s a quick 30 minute ride that gives you a taste of the bucolic French countryside with its undulating hills, farmland, crops and trees.  And to my surprise – not a vineyard in sight!

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

I arrived in Reims around 1:30 and got settled.  Our itinerary for Day 1 included a guided tour of the Reims Cathedral at 5:00p; followed by dinner.

After deciding against a nap, I decided take a walk to get acquainted with my surroundings, and see what I could see.

About Reims

Reims, the cultural capital of the Champagne region,  is a lovely town best known for its historical significance and its role in the production of Champagne.

Twenty-five French kings were crowned in its Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims  and celebrated in the adjacent Palais de Tau. These monuments, along with the  Abbey of Saint-Remi are included as UNESCO world heritage sites. Another historical site is the Porte de Mars, which dates back the third century AD, remains as the oldest artifact of Reims from the Gallo-Roman era.

The city was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War I.  At least 70% of the city was destroyed including The Cathedral which sustained heavy damage including the roof, hundreds of sculptures and the destruction of many of the arched stained-glass windows. The centenary of the World War I is being held this year.

Some of the most famous Champagne makers maintain their headquarters in Reims, including Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot.

Photos from my walk about and visit to the Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral are in the gallery that follow:

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Dinner

Dinner was at Le Millénaire, a chic first rate restaurant a short walk from the Cathedral. One of the things I most looked forward to during this trip was the chance to experience Champagne served with each course of a meal.  And my experience at Le Millenaire exceeded my expectations!

“I have yet to discover a dish that will not come alive in the presence of Champagne.” Anistatia R Miller, author of Champagne Cocktails 

Photos from my first Champagne pairing dinner!

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Wine(s) of the Day:

Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru.  My tasting note follows:

Vivid dark pink color with rich cherry, strawberry, damp earth and mineral aromas that bring to mind a still wine. On the palate it shows ample body with rich cherry flavors and an appealing minerality.  100% Pinot Noir.  A unique expression of Rosé Champagne that I very much enjoyed with my dessert.

Insider’s tip:

  • Reims is a great city where one can enjoy modern French culture in a sizeable city that isn’t Paris. There are plenty of things to do, and I could have easily spent an entire day exploring the city.
  • If you do plan to visit the Champagne houses in the area, plan to make your reservations many weeks in advance!

What a way to start my time in Champagne!  And it only got better…Stay tuned!

Rosé of the Week; 2013 Waterkloof Circumstance Cape Coral

Summer is officially here!  Rosé season is in full bloom, although truth be told, it’s Rosé season for me pretty much year-round for me!  With that in mind, I’m cranking up my annual series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  It’s my quest for the best Pink Porch Pounders! This week’s rosé is the 2013 Waterkloof Circumstance Cape Coral.

The Winery

Waterkloof Wines is a winery based in the Helderberg wine-producing area, a sub-region in the Western Cape of South Africa, just south of Stellenbosch.  Paul Boutinot, an Englishmen of French descent is the “Custodian”.  He learned the wine trade from the ground up, and launched his own successful wine import business in 1980.  It evolved into one of the UK’s biggest and most important wine distribution companies, which he subsequently sold in 2013.  In 1993 he commenced a search for a vineyard site that had the potential to produce truly fine with a defining sense of place.   It took ten years to narrow the search down to a small area on the south-facing slopes of the Schapenberg, overlooking False Bay in the Cape. As soon as he was led up a steep ravine opening out into a hidden amphitheatre of potential, all his experience and intuition told him: THIS IS IT! Waterkloof was born.  He took over the property just before the 2004 harvest.  The first vintage bottled under the Waterkloof name was from the 2005 harvest.

In 2009 a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar, tasting room and The Restaurant at Waterkloof were constructed

Waterkloof’s wines are shaped by an amphitheatre of select, high-altitude vineyards, famed as one of the finest cool climate vineyard sites in South Africa.

The Wine

The wine is made from 100% Mourvedre.  The  grapes were hand harvested and whole cluster pressed.  No further maceration of the juice with the skins was allowed.

Following in the footsteps of the great rosés of Bandol, the Waterkloof’s Circumstance Cape Coral rosé is made entirely from Mourvedre sourced from some incredible old vines in Stellenbosch

The juice was fermented on native yeast at temperatures of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius, which took 5 months to complete. The wine was then left on the primary lees for another 2 months to add further complexity before bottling. 13.5% alcohol.  Retail – $16.99

Rosé of the Week; 2013 Waterkloof Mourvedre Circumstance Cape Coral

My tasting notes follow:

Pale salmon color with damp earth, peach and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and fresh with a great mouth feel, and strawberry, peach and spice flavors. Lingering finish

Rating: A-:  This is a very good rosé! It can be a challenge to find a 100% Mourvedre-based rosé for under $20 and this one offers a very good quality to price ratio!

Pair with: What I like about Mourvedre dominant rosés is that they, unlike many light-bodied rosé, can be paired with more substantial fare.  Consider Pulled Pork sandwiches, or Barbecue Chicken Sloppy Joes!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m 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 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.