The Mystery Wines of the Loire Valley

Last month, I was thrilled when I received an invitation to participate in a fun competition for the 2016 Wine Blog Trophy. Organized by the Loire Valley Wine Trade Fair, which takes place in Angers from February 1 to 3, 2016, the essence of the competition is to guess the appellation and vintage of two mystery bottles (one each white and red) of wine from the Loire Valley. 

I was excited about the competition because I’m a big fan of the Loire Valley.  My favorite under $20 sparkling rosé wine is a Crémant de Loire. But, I’m also a big fan of the whites (Muscadet [my go-to wine for raw oysters], Sancerre, and Vouvray), rosé, and reds (Chinon and Bourgueil) of the region.

And hey….win, lose, or draw, it’s Loire Valley wine at no cost to me.

What’s not to like?

Loire Valley Wine Blog Trophy

The friendly competition was open to both American, Irish and French wine bloggers.

After tasting the two wines, were asked to go on www.wineblogtrophy.com to register our answers and tasting notes.

The first blogger who will give the two correct answers wins the Wine Blog Trophy 2016!

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The winners were (L-R):were Côte Roannaise (2014 – Domaine Sérol, Eclat de Granite), and Coteaux du Giennois (2014 – Vignobles Berthier, Terre de Silex)

After receiving the wines, I tasted and wrote up my tasting notes:

Cuvée 886 – Pale yellow with lemon, grass, quince, and wet stone aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, fresh and easy-going with lemon, quince, and under ripe white peach flavors with a nice vein of herbaceousness.

Cuvée 412 – Dark ruby color with red berry, black currant,  and mineral aromas with a kiss of floral aromatics. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, fresh,  and nicely balanced with black cherry, raspberry, black currant flavors underscored by an appealing minerality.  My wife and I enjoyed it with Paella Mixta of salmon and sausage.

My guess for the appellation both wines was Fief Vendéens.  In terms of vintage, I guessed 2013 for the red and 2014 for the white.

Why Fief Vendeens? I thought the red was a blend of (mostly) Gamay and Cabernet France. And I thought the white was a blend of (mostly) Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.

I logged on the aforementioned website to register my guess, but I was too late.  The competition was over!

It’s just as well…I was wrong.

The two appellations of the Mystery Bottles were Côte Roannaise for Cuvée 412 (2014 – Domaine Sérol, Eclat de Granite), and Coteaux du Giennois for Cuvée 886 (2014 – Vignobles Berthier, Terre de Silex)

The winner was Yann DEREU – www.ah-le-vin.blogspot.fr, who correctly guessed one of the two appellations/vintages correctly.

Both these are new to me appellations (as was Fief Vendéens).  Once I found out which appellations the wines were from, I checked out the excellent Loire Valley Wines website for more information.

Côte Roannaise, located in the far south of the Loire region, produces rosé and red wines exclusively from Gamay.

Coteaux du Giennois is an appellation on the eastern edge of the Loire Valley northeast of Sancerre produces almost equal amounts of light-bodied red and white wines, with a small portion of dry rosé as well. The whites are Sauvignon Blanc.

The Fiefs Vendéens is a relatively small appellation produces a wealth of wines: white (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grolleau Gris, Sauvignon Blanc), rosé and red (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Négrette).

This was a fun competition for me. I very much enjoyed learning about a few new-to-me wine appellations in the Loire Valley. Both the wines were delightful.  And I expect nothing less from the Loire Valley!

More About the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley, two hours southwest of Paris is known as “the Garden of France” due its abundance of fertile farmland that include vineyards along with fruit and vegetable farms which line the banks of both sides of the Loire River. The Loire is the longest river in France.
It’s also known as the Land Of A Thousand Chateau. The region has a rich heritage featuring historic towns of AmboiseAngersBloisChinonNantesOrléansSaumur, and Tours.

“The Loire is a garden, a mosaic of tastes and flavors with 45 appellations that attract curious wine lovers.” – Jean-Pierre Gouvazé

From a vinous perspective, the Loire Valley is one of the largest wine regions of France.  It covers fifteen departments and 52,000 hectares (128,000 acres) of vines shared between 7000 growers, who produce nearly 400 million bottles of wines annually.  It’s so large it’s 60 appellations are spread over three large areas – The Western (home of Muscadet – home of my favorite still wine for oysters!), Middle (Vouvray, Touraine and Chinon) and the Upper Loire (includes, arguably the regions most well-known appellations Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume). It’s France’s most diverse wine region producing red, white, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines.

Tale Of A Crémant de Loire Brut Rose At The Table #Winophiles

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received wines at no cost from Clement et Florian Berthier, Domaine Robert Sérol, and Loire Valley 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

 

How To Host A Champagne Pairing Dinner Illustrated

It’s a day I’ll always remember.  A day that forever changed my evolution as a wine lover. On June 30, 2014, I received an email whose subject line read: Invitation to Attend 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  I simply couldn’t believe it.  But it turned out to be true.  And I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a week in Champagne.  The invitation read:

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities… 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…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.

There are simply too many awesome experiences I had during my week in Champagne to recount here.  Suffice it to say it’s a trip I’ll always remember (see below for my 5-part Champagne Chronicles recap).  But near the top of the list experiences for me would be the Champagne pairing dinners.

Before I went to Champagne, I’d never given a champagne paring dinner much thought. It’s certainly not because I didn’t know that champagne is arguably the most food friendly wine there is.  I know it is.  It’s singular combination of effervescence, ample acidity and lower alcohol make for beautiful pairing from aperitif through to dessert.

Sipping champagne for lunch and dinner for a week changed me forever. Enjoying an awesome multi-course champagne pairing dinner is no longer a hypothetical for me. I experienced the magic first hand!

Upon my return, I promised  myself I would share the experience of champagne pairing dinners with my wife and our close wine loving friends.

I’ve been thinking about. And talking about it.  But I hadn’t done it.

So when saw this month’s French Winophiles theme is Champagne.  Well, I figured now is the time to recreate the magical experience of a Champagne Pairing dinner and offer some tips how you can host one too!  

In My Glass

My first decision was to select the Champagne. I decided I wanted to try one each of the primary types of Champagne – Blanc de Blanc (appetizer/salad), Blanc de Noirs (main) and Rosé (cheese course and dessert) Since it was a Champagne Pairing Dinner for two, I also decided to get two half bottles of Champagne to a) keep the cost down, and b) drink (somewhat) responsibly.

I reached out to K&L Wine Merchants Champagne Buyer – Gary Westby (talk about a dream job!).  I knew Gary, who has been to more than his fair share of Champagne Pairing dinners, would be a great resource for both the wines and as a sounding board for my pairing ideas.  I shared my general Champagne and food pairing ideas, and asked for his Champagne recommendations.  He spoke. I listened and purchased.

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The Champagne Pairing Menu:

After deciding on the wines, I settled on this five course menu (Champagne pairing in red):

Appetizer

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We love seafood! And Blanc de Blanc and seafood are a match made in heaven. I originally had seafood påté in mind, but we couldn’t pass up the King Crab Legs at Costco!

King Crab Legs with Clarified Butter

Salad

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A salad of thinly shaved asparagus spears with avocado, and minced mint with a simple lime vinaigrette. Not in the photo, but it Feta cheese make a great topping!

Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut

Main

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Stuffed Salmon with Beet Risotto

Fleury Pere & Fils Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut

Cheese Course

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Sneaking in a photo of cheese course from my trip to Champagne. We had leftover Appenzeller, Comte and Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Triple Cream from a previous Champagne campaign

Dessert

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Red Velvet Cake (red velvet sponge cake, cream cheese frosting, dark chocolate crunch) and Lemon Raspberry Tart (shortbread tart shell, lemon curd and raspberry glaze) and

Lemon Raspberry Tart and Red Velvet Cake

Franck Bonville Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru

How It Turned Out

Note:click on the links for my detailed tasting notes

The Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut was an awesome pairing with both the King Crab Leg appetizer, and the salad.  The wine is all Chardonnay and all Grand Cru from the villages of Mesnil, Oger, Cramant and Avize–a roll call of the finest crus for Chardonnay. While fantastic with light first courses such as seafood, salads and soups, it shows enough depth and complexity to pair well with richer foods too.

Likewise, the Fleury Pere & Fils Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut, a rich full-bodied expression of Champagne was wonderful pairing with the main dish.  The pairing worked well on a few levels.  First, just as a still Pinot Noir would have been a fabulous pairing for my Stuffed Salmon and Beet Risotto main dish, a Blanc de Noirs of 100% Pinot worked even better in my book because of its palate cleansing higher acidity. Furthermore, its “weight” and texture we a great match for  filling character of the main dish.   And last, but not least the wine seemed to bring out accentuate the spiciness of the seafood stuffing in a very pleasing way. The champagne and food each made other taste better. I agree with Jancis Robinson assessment the Fleury is “a champagne for food.

I must admit I stepped out on faith when I decided to pair the Franck Bonville Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru with the my selected desserts (I knew it would be great with the cheese course – and it was). That’s because I was concerned the desserts would be too sweet for this dry rosé . But when I was in Champagne, enjoyed rosé champagne with a wide variety of desserts several times.  But it turned out to be a delightful pairing with the desserts, especially the Lemon Raspberry Tart.  When I took a bite of desserts and then took a sip of wine, after a split second of sweetness of the dessert being a tad bitter, the wine stepped up to the challenge with its ample black cherry  fruit, and creamy texture. Again the wine made the desserts taste better and vice-versa.

In terms of the wines ; the Launois and the Bonville were especially compelling because they were awesome with or without food. On the other hand, the Fleury really distinguished itself with food.  I highly recommend all three!

How to make your own champagne pairing magic

A key to creating champagne pairing magic is to match wine and foods of equal “weight” Serve light first or second courses with a light-bodied Blanc de Blanc or brut. Such wines will not only be wonderful as an aperitif, they will also be well suited to light first courses including raw fish – sushi, sashimi, oysters, ceviche and some caviar, seafood, and salads.

From there move on to a medium-or full-bodied champagne for the main course.  Good choices here are Brut, Blanc de Noir or many Rosé champagne.  Consider pairing a champagne with anything you might pair with a Pinot Noir or Burgundy such as roast chicken, salmon, tuna, or pork dishes.

Consider a cheese course. When I visited Champagne last year, it was my first time having a cheese course after the main meal and before dessert.  I enjoyed that very much. The French way of serving cheese to nibble on whilst having a conversation your guests between the main dish and dessert makes a nice “break” and may aid your digestion. There are a few ways to go about it, none of them wrong. Consider “bringing home the barnyard”—that is, serving a cow’s milk cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese, and a goat’s milk cheese. You can’t go wrong with a tripe cream cheese such as St. Andre or Mt Tam. And cheese with a nutty character such as Comte, Parmesan or Gruyere are also great with champagne.

Champagne also loves dishes with a crunch texture such as fried chicken, tempura, of stuffed phyllo pastry.  

Finally consider the sweetness level of the champagne.  The dry “brut” style is the most flexible at the table. But you might consider an extra-dry (paradoxically sweeter than brut), or a demi-sec for dessert. Rosé is also a great option for dessert that aren’t overly sweet.

And last but not least keep in mind that champagne is fantastic at the table.  They’re so versatile at the table that I find them easier to pair with food than still wines.  

The little things:

  • I prefer a tulip shaped Champagne glass for sparkling wines to flutes.  If you have neither a regular wine glass is fine.
  • Ask friends to bring a bottle. This a great way to keep the cost down and bring some diverse selections to your champagne pairing dinner.  Give each give a type of wine like Blanc de Blanc, Rosé, Vintage and/or style like Brut, Brut Nature, Extra Brut, etc.
  • Keep a few ice buckets on hand to keep the champagne cool (not cold). Fill a bucket about halfway with ice, add a little water, and make sure you keep a towel handy for drips.
  • Remember have a few champagne stoppers on hand.  They’ll help maintain the champagne’s effervescence.

A champagne pairing dinner is one of life’s great pleasures.  They’re fun, festive, and fanciful. Give it a try!

Check out what my fellow #Winophiles are sharing about their exploration of the Champagne region of France:

Join our live Twitter chat on Saturday, December 19, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. , Pacific Time and use the hashtag #winophiles. This will be a great chance to ask your Champagne and food pairings questions and share what you already know!

Related Posts You Might Enjoy

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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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A 3-Course Sparkling Wine Dinner with Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut #winePW

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. Cindy Lowe Rynning  of Grape Experiences  is hosting this month’s “#winePW  theme which is “Sparkling Wine and Festive Holiday Dishes” We were asked to try a favorite or new-to-you sparkling wine and pair it with a festive recipe that will be perfect for holiday entertaining or cozy nights in front of the fireplace.

I was headed down the path of preparing a dish to pair with my sparkling wine.

But then two things came to mind:

First, sparkling wine is, arguably the most food friendly wine there is in my book.  I believe that.  I preach that (Five Most Food Friendly Wines and 12Most Food Friendly Wines).

Sparkling wine isn’t just for toasts and appetizers. Drink it throughout a meal…from appetizers to dessert I say!

And secondly I had a flashback to last year when I spent a week in Champagne on a media trip.  Essentially, I didn’t have a drop of still wines for either lunch or dinner for a week!  

Inspired by my week in Champagne, I decided to prepare a three-course meal and pair it with one of my favorite California sparkling wines from Iron Horse Vineyards.

On My Plate

Here’s what was on the menu for my easy three-course meal:

For the salad, I picked up an Asian Chopped Salad from my local grocery store and swapped out the dressing for the utterly delicious Organic Lemon Ginger Sesame Dressing and Marinade.

My main dish was a light and healthy, but creamy “alfredo” like pasta dish

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According to author, Sommer of A Spicy Perspective…I’m sharing my alfredo-like lemon cream sauce today, that incorporates less than half the parmesan cheese of normal alfredo sauce, low-fat milk instead of cream, fresh lemon and herbs, and a secret ingredient.

Adding just a touch of low-fat cream cheese, know as Neufchatel, helps to thicken the sauce so you get the same luxurious feel as a heavier cream sauce, yet with only a fraction of the fat and calories.

The recipe turned out quite well.  I’ll definitely be making it again!

For dessert I picked up an assortment of macarons from Sweet Orchid  – a local Gelateria, Patisserie, and Cafe:

  • Lemon Cream
  • Taro
  • Pistachio
  • Mango-Passion
  • Sesame
  • Chocolate

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In My Glass

As good fortune would have it, I had a bottle of 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Classic Brut in my refrigerator.  Iron Horse is a Sonoma County favorite of my wife and I.  We’ve tried a variety of both their sparkling and still wines. But the wine we purchase every visit is Vintage Classic Brut.  Part of the reason we enjoy the wine so much is because of the Green Valley terroir. To my palate it always shows an appealing minerality that I appreciate and enjoy in both their sparkling and still wines.

It was rated 93 pts by Wine Spectator and was #74 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2012

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My tasting notes follow:

Very pale yellow with abundant stream of tiny bubbles with roast hazel nut, pear mixed citrus, spice aromas, and a hint of wet stone aromas .On the palate it approaches full bodied and shows a cream mousse with pear, raspberry, mandarin orange, lemon, and a kiss of spice aromas with an appealing vein of minerality . Long finish. A blend of 75 % Pinot Noir, and 25% Chardonnay; Aged four years on lees. Outstanding – 90-91pts

The Pairings

The Iron Horse paired beautifully with all three courses! The citrus in the salad dressing, as well as the Lemon Cream Sauce in the pasta were both accentuated by the citrus in the Iron Horse.  The Iron Horse made the food taste better and vice-versa. And the weight and the texture of the wine complemented each course of the meal.  The wine also had enough residual sugar to be a very good pairing with all the macarons.  But it paired especially well the the lemon, mango-passion, and taro macarons. It was even a very good pairing with the chocolate macarons!

What I especially appreciate about pairing sparkling wine with a wide variety of foods is that they take much of the thinking out of the pairing of food and wine because they’re so versatile at the table.  Especially with the healthier fare we prefer, such as a wide variety of vegetables, chicken and fish.

For example, the only real thought I put into my pairing was featuring citrus based dishes, picking a dessert that wasn’t overly sweet, and selecting a great brut sparking wine (probably the most food friendly of sparkling wines) over other options such as extra-brut, extra-dry or demi-sec.

I hope you’ll go beyond limiting sparkling wines to toast and appetizers and give pairing it throughout the meal a try! 

About Iron Horse Vineyards

From the winery…Iron Horse is one of Sonoma County’s most beautiful, small, independent, estate, family-owned wineries.It is located in cool, foggy Green Valley. The founding partners, Audrey and Barry Sterling first saw it in the pouring rain in February, 1976. Driving down Ross Station Road, they were sure they were lost until they crested the knoll and viewed 300 acres of gentle rolling hills, looking like Camelot. Incurable romantics with extraordinary vision, they bought the property in just two weeks.

A pioneer in the Green Valley appellation within the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, the Iron Horse family is building a legacy of prestige sparkling wines and estate bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Iron Horse is renowned for its Sparkling Wines, which have been served at the White House for five consecutive Presidential Administrations, beginning with the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings ending the Cold War.

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The winery produces a limited production, vintage Blanc de Blancs, called Ocean Reserve, in partnership with National Geographic. The winery contributes $4 for each bottle sold to establish Marine Protected Areas and reduce over fishing around the globe.

Iron Horse Chardonnay is a signature Green Valley region wine. Pinot Noir is the winery’s rising star.

Iron Horse has been named an American icon in “Icons of the American Market Place” published by Random House.

The estate was named after a railroad stop, which crossed the property in the 1890s. Rodney Strong rediscovered it as a vineyard site in 1970, planting the original 55 acres of Chardonnay and 55 acres of Pinot Noir.

The logo, the rampant horse on a weather vane, came from a 19th century weathervane unearthed during construction. The first vintage of Estate Chardonnay was produced in 1978. 1979 marked the first vintage of Estate Pinot Noir and the official opening of the winery. The first Sparkling Wines were vintage 1980.

For more info check their website!

Check out the other creative and delicious sparkling wine and food pairing my fellow #winePW are sharing today!

Join our live Twitter chat on Saturday, December 12, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. , Pacific Time and use the hashtag #winePW. This will be a great chance to ask your sparkling wine and holiday pairings questions and share what you already know. If you’re reading after December 12, consider joining us for #winePW on January 9th when we will chat about “New Year – Try Something New”, hosted by yours truly!

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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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of The Art of Italian Living With Ferrari Trento #WineStudio

Last month I was invited to participate in an online 4 week program put on by Protocol Wine Studio.  The sessions featured the Italian sparkling wine producer Ferrari Trento. 

I was thrilled to receive the invitation for at least a couple of reasons:

First, I adore sparkling wines.  It’s a deathbed wine for me.  And I’ve had a fair amount of Italian Sparkling wine – mostly Prosecco and a bit of Franciacorta.  But I wasn’t at all familiar with Ferrari. Secondly, it was a great opportunity to perfect my palate for Ferrari sparkling wines!

Therefore, I wanted to do my homework before the first session.  I checked out my Slow Wine 2015: A Year in the Life of Italy’s Vineyards and Wines

Slow Wine 2015 doesn’t simply select and review Italy’s finest bottles. With visits to 350 cellars, its 3000 wine reviews describe not only what’s in the glass, but also what’s behind it: namely the work, the aims, and the passion of producers; their bond with the land; and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques―favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices

I was pleased to see Ferrari Trento (they were awarded a symbol representing “excellent average quality”) in the book.

What is #WineStudio?

PROTOCOL wine studio presents online twitter-based educational programs where participant engage their brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.

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All the participants were provided with four bottles of Ferrari Trento sparkling wines. Each week was focused around a theme (see below), and featured a guest facilitator.

About Ferrari

Ferrari was founded in 1902 by Giulo Ferrari. After studying in France, Giulo returned to Trentino convinced that his native region’s terroir was ideal for growing Chardonnay grapes suitable for the production of world-class sparkling wines. In fact , it was Giulio who first brought Chardonnay grapes to the region from France around 1900.

A pioneer in Italian viticulture, Ferrari was the first Italian winemaker and viticulturalist to dedicate his vineyards almost entirely to Chardonnay – and by 1906 the awards had begun to roll in.

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Alas, Giulio had no children.  He began to look for a successor.  He found  Bruno Lunelli, the owner of a wine shop in Trento.  Thanks to his passion and entrepreneurial talent, Bruno Lunelli succeeded in increasing production without ever compromising on quality.

Today, the third generation of the Lunelli family is keeping the Ferrari tradition alive and well.

Lunelli Third Gen

MarcelloMatteoCamilla and Alessandro lead the company with the aim of combining innovation and tradition, taking Ferrari around the world as ambassadors of what they refer to as the  “Italian Art of Living”.

Guided by the third generation of the Lunelli family, Ferrari embodies the very best of metodo classico sparkling winemaking and what the family describes as the Italian Art of Living. Founded in 1902, Ferrari dominates the Trento DOC with 40% of the total market share with about 375,000 cases. This is a region on the rise, and Ferrari’s exquisite lineup of wines are a principal reason why”….Thanks to over a century of experience, Ferrari has helped put Italian sparklers on the world’s radar. (…)No brand has reached the luxury status and prestige of Ferrari”. – Wine Enthusiast

Ferrari is a perennial 22-time winner of the Tre Bicchieri award, Italy’s highest wine accolade, often with Giulio Ferrari – with the most recent honor going to the 2005 Ferrari Perlé Nero bottling in 2012.

The Sessions

Week 1: November 3 – Ferrari TrentoDOC – Origins

This is a story of Giulio Ferrari’s dream of producing quality sparkling wine in his native Italian Alps and how over 100 years of sustained history and passion has made Ferrari into the most beloved sparkling wine in Italy.

Three generations later, the Lunelli family epitomizes the very soul of Ferrari – tradition, respect and a fierce love of the remote, mountainous and picturesque region where the grapes are nurtured.

My takeaways:

  • Lead by Ferrari,  Trento DOC was the second wine region in world (Champagne was the first) to be recognized  for its outstanding sparkling wine production using the classic method; that region was Trento DOC
  • Ferrari has been on a roll of late:  Ferrari won the title of “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year” at the international competition The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2015, prevailing in the final round over two renowned Champagne producers: Charles Heidsieck and Louis Roederer. Additionally Ferrari has been named “European Winery of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast in the celebrated 2015 Wine Star Awards
  • The Ferrari Brut offers very good value at $25!

Tasted: Ferrari Brut

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Pale yellow color with an abundant and persistent small bubbles with apple skin, Asian pear, brioche and white flower aromas. It’s well balanced, crisp and full of energy with pear, apple, mandarin orange, and lemon flavors, and a lingering satisfying finish. Retail – $25; Very Good to Outstanding 89-90pts

Week 2: November 10 – Bottle Expectations – Palate Talk

With high altitude farming and pristine grapes, the result is a bottle of sparkling wine that has the ability to take you from aperitivo to dolci – all in one sitting! The Italians possess an innate sense of style, what’s known as the Italian art of living. This ideal encompasses every aspect of Italian life, which we’ll explore through wine, food and conversation.

My takeaways:

  • Quite of bit of the conversation centered around this wine’s affinity for food, which is undeniable. It has a great gastronomic character that is part and parcel of the Ferrari house style – but especially so with this wine.
  • Another great value for a sparkling rosé at retail of $36!

Tasted: Ferrari Brut Rosé

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Salmon color with a stream of tiny persistent bubbles, and fresh bread dough, red currant, strawberry, almond skin, and dried rose aromas. On the palate it’s dry, elegant with vibrant acidity, and a soft mousse. It shows a very good depth of red currant, and strawberry flavors with a hint of citrus peel on the back end that, along with subtle tannins enhances its broad gastronomic appeal. It has a very giving, and satisfying finish. Blend of 60% Pinot Noir; 40% Chardonnay.  Retail – $36; Outstanding 90-91pts

Week 3:  November 17 – Sustainability – Respectfully Cultivating what Nature Provides

We have a tendency to forget that wine is an agricultural product. Ferrari is all about mountain winemaking and sustainable agriculture, practiced in its estate vineyards and reinforced by long-standing grower relationships.

The Lunelli family is extremely conscious of the biodiversity of the region, implementing programs involving the health of bees in the vineyards and recently becoming Biodiversity Friend certified.  In this session we’ll find out how Marcello Lunelli works with Ferrari’s team of eight oenologists and six agronomists, collaborating with estate growers to produce palate and earth-friendly wines.

My takeaways:

  • I was very impressed by Ferrari’s commitment to sustainability and biodiversity. They “get it”.  They understand that not only do healthier vines makes for the best wine, but they also understand the favorable socio-economic impact of sustainability.
  • Again – there’s great value here for a vintage sparkling wine that’s spent five years on lees!

Tasted: 2007 Ferrari Perlé

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Golden yellow color with a fine bead. Shows baguette, stone fruit, apple, almond, and orange blossom aromas . On the palate it’s fresh, and harmonious with a soft mousse. It boasts peach, yellow apple, white melon,lemon, and spicy mandarin orange flavors with a kiss of minerality. Produced from 100% their best Chardonnay grapes that are handpicked.  A minimum of 5 years on less. Retail – $38; Outstanding 90-91pts

Week 4: November 24 – A Talk of Dolomites –”Il vigneto Ferrari”

How exactly is that sustainability and biodiversity captured in the bottle. We’ll take a walk through Ferrari’s mountain vineyards, discuss DOC requirements and taste how Trento terroir is interpreted from grapes to glass.

My takeaways:

  • Made only in the best vintages, Ferrari’s prestige cuvee is very impressive. It’s easy to see how this wine has been consecrated by an uninterrupted succession of awards and accolades in Italy, where it has won nineteen times the “Tre bicchieri” (three glasses) of the “Guida ai vini d’Italia” (Italian wines guide) by Gambero Rosso
  • The Ferrari Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore is definitely a splurge worthy wine!
  • No one has patent on quality.  Ferrari doesn’t compare itself to Champagne.  It has its own style that make it  unique, and they’re very proud of that!

Tasted: 2001 Ferrari Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore

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Beautiful shimmering golden color with a gorgeous perlage of tiny bubbles. It shows very pleasing leesy, toasty, roasted nut, white chocolate, stone fruit and citrus aromas. On the palate it elegant, and sophisticated with beguiling and delicious stone fruit, lemon, quince, and honey flavors, and a long very pleasing finish. 100 % Chardonnay grapes sourced from the expressive of Maso Pianizza vineyard, at over 500 meters altitude on the hills surrounding Trento, framed by an old growth forest.  Aged on lees 10 years Retail – $120; Outstanding 92-93pts

I must say I came away from the 4-week session very impressed with the sparkling wines of Ferrari-Trento.  They are definitely wines I will seek out.  3 of the 4 wines offer tremendous value, and the fourth the Giulio Ferrari is on par with many Champagne prestige cuvees (and in relative terms is a good value too!).  I highly recommend you seek out these wonderful Italian sparkling wine that embody the Italian Art of Living!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received wines at no cost from Ferrari Trento and Protocol Wine Studio. 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

#WineWednesday Review: 2014 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

From time to time, I receive wines samples from wineries or their public relations agencies for review.  I feature such samples here on #WineWednesday Review. This week it’s the 2014 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

About Domain Bila-Haut

Domaine Bila-Haut is the passion project of famed Rhone/Hermitage producer, Michel Chapoutier. As head of  Maison M. Chapoutier, he has been producing some of the greatest wines from Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Chateauneuf du Pape, Saint-Joseph, and Crozes Hermitage.

“Roussillon has the potential to be as great as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone” – Michel Chapoutier

In 1999 Chapoutier purchased a neglected 190 acre estate on the slopes of the Agly Valley in Roussillon.  The estate is located in the commune of Latour-de-France – as close as you can get to Spain while remaining in France.  He was intrigued by the land’s varied mix of schist, gneiss, limestone chalk and clay. It is harsh terrain dotted by scrappy bushes, sparse tree and while herbs that perfume the air – smoky rosemary, thyme, juniper, lavender and olive.

Most of the vines are farmed biodynamically and most are certified organic. The “Les Vignes” is produced from the mixed terroirs of the Roussillon.

In addition to this wine, Bila-Haut produces a white, and a rosé.

At Bila-Haut, Chapoutier has been free to let his imagination go, creating wine that are relaxed as a long leisurely summer’s day.

Bila-Haut

#WineWednesday Review: 2014 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

2014 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Dark ruby color with promising black cherry, plum, black berry and garrigue aromas underscored with an appealing savory note. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and juicy with a supple texture, and lively acidity. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with lively acidity and ample easy to like black cherry, plum, blackberry, vanilla and sweet spice flavors and a satisfying finish. Blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Retail – $15 Very Good (88-89 pts)

This is a great everyday wine made for the table.  I’ve purchased and enjoyed this Bila-Haut wine in the past. I heartily recommend seeking out this wine.  You’ll be amply rewarded with an easy-drinking, yet quite complex wine that drink above its price point!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this wine at no cost from Maison M. Chapoutier and  Creative Palate Communications. 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of Friuli – Got Pignolo? #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 are taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Friuli Venezia Giulia!

Here’s a great overview of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region from Lonely Planet:

With its triple-barrelled moniker, Friuli Venezia Giulia’s multifaceted nature should come as no surprise. Cultural complexity is cherished in this small, little-visited region, tucked away on Italy’s far northeastern borders with Austria and Slovenia. Friuli Venezia Giulia’s landscapes offer profound contrasts too, with the foreboding, perpetually snowy Giulie and Carnic Alps in the north, idyllic grapevine-filled plains in the centre, the south’s beaches, Venetian-like lagoons and the curious, craggy karst that encircles Trieste.

Photo credit: www.diwinetaste.com

Photo credit: www.diwinetaste.com

While there’s an amazing reserve of often uncrowded historical sights, from Roman ruins to Austro-Hungarian palaces, this is also a fine destination for simply kicking back with the locals, tasting the region’s world-famous wines and discovering a culinary heritage that will broaden your notions of the Italian table. Serene, intriguing Trieste and friendly, feisty Udine make for great city time – they’re so easy and welcoming you’ll soon feel as if you’re Friulian, Venezian or Giulian too.

The Wines of Friuli

Over the years, I’ve heard many good things about the wines produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In fact, when I first considered joining the #ItalianFWT, it was primarily because Friuli was at the top of “wines to taste” list!

Friuli is a small wine region with a big reputation for producing some of Italy’s best white wines.  The region’s wines stand out noticeably from other Italian wines because its wines are made using a combination of (mostly) non-traditional  and traditional grape varieties.  The non-traditional grape varieties include grapes such as Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  While the traditional and indigenous grape varieties include quintessentially Italian grapes such as Pinot Grigio and the region’s own Picolit, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano.

The region’s winemakers have a reputation for being forward-thinking. They even pioneered the “Friuli method”, a modern technique for getting juice off the skins quickly.

Friuli holds three DOCG titles, all for white wines. The Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit and its Ramandolo enclave in the region’s eastern hills produce sweet whites from Picolit and Verduzzo grapes. They were joined at this highest rank of Italian wine classification in December 2010 by the dry, Verduzzo-based wines of Lison.

There are ten DOCs in Friuli.  Two are generally considered to be exceptional – Collio Goriziano, which is usually known simply as Collio, and Friuli Colli Orientali. 

In My Glass

It’s actually been cold in California recently(well Ok…Cold for California; lows in upper 30s ; highs in upper 50s where I live).  That put me in the mood for red wine.  So no Friuli whites, or orange wines for me this go round.  And since, I’m a sucker for new to me autochthonous (indigenous) grapes, I picked up a bottle of the 2009 Ermacora Pignolo Colli Orientali del Friuli  from my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants.

Pignolo is rare grape, native to Friuli and known for being “grumpy” and difficult to grow. Until a few decades ago, it was all but obsolete. The Ermacora family is among the few brave winemakers to replant this grape, and its patience has been rewarded.

 A Taste of Friuli - Got Pignolo?

The wine pours an inky violet ruby color with beguiling, and complex black fruit, dried herb, savory spice, graphite and a hint of lavender aromas.  On the palate it’s powerful, yet light on its feet.  It’s fresh and well structured with dusty well-integrated tannins with delicous black cherry, blackberry compote, a kiss of black currant, plum and vanilla flavors with an appealing minerality, and a long satisfying finish. Aged for over 36 months in oak barrels and 4 months in bottle.  If Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah had a child, it would be this wine. I double decanted before drinking.  Retail -$30; 14.5%. Highly recommended!

juicy steak

Photo credit: themeathouseblog.com

 The wine was wonderful paired with a grilled bone-in Rib-eye steak! 

Check out the other delectable Friuli food and wine pairings my fellow bloggers are featuring:

Join our live chat Saturday December 5th at 8am PST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  We can’t wait to hear from you.

We can’t wait to start off the 2016 new year with you exploring some of the lesser known regions of Italy starting in January with the Basilicata region.  So come back on Saturday January 2nd as we explore the rest of Italy’s regions.

Related Posts You Might Enjoy:

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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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

A Taste of Villa Maria Pinot Noir #NZPinot

Earlier this month, myself and other select wine writers participated in a virtual wine tasting on Twitter – the Villa Maria (“VM:”) “First Sip of Fall”  Pinot Noir tasting.  

The tasting featured VM hosts Helen Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker and Josh Hammond, Marlborough Winemaker, along with wine expert and social media maven Nanette Eaton of Wine Harlots (www.wineharlots.com).

New Zealand is most renown for their Sauvignon Blanc. And I’ve participated in a couple of other VM virtual tastings that featured their Sauvignon Blanc (wines I highly recommend by the way). But Zealand is more than Sauvignon Blanc!

Its made quite a reputation for itself with Pinot Noir as well.  In fact, what feels like a few years ago, I recall New Zealand winning a Pinot Noir shootout of some sort over California, Oregon and Burgundy.  That caught my attention.  And I’ve been looking to try New Zealand Pinot Noir ever since.

But I’d never gotten around to it…until now. So it was with great anticipation I participated in this event.

The VM wines were a great introduction to New Zealand Pinot Noir!  What I appreciated about both is that they showed wonderful fruit while maintaining the varietal character.  In other words, they tasted like Pinot Noir should tasted.  I don’t know about you, but most of the under $30 Pinot Noir I’ve had, didn’t particularly taste like Pinot.

Furthermore, both offered tremendous value at their respective price points.

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My tasting notes on the wines follow:

2014 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
Ruby color with subtle red berry, earth, and black tea aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, fresh and well crafted with an appealing smooth texture and well-integrated tannins, and a hint of minerality. It shows cherry, raspberry, a bit of pomegranate,and spice flavors. Retail $17. Your under $30 Pinot Noir search is over. This wine over-delivers for the price. Recommended!

2013 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
Dark ruby color with aromatic, cherry, red plum, pomegranate, earth and spice aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, fresh and elegant with a supple texture and well integrated soft tannins. It boasts focused cherry, plum, pomegranate, cola, mineral and spice flavors complemented by an appealing savory character. Long finish. 13.5% ABV $25 Retail. Another high quality-price ratio gem. Highly Recommended!

My search for a very good to outstanding Pinot Noir is over thanks to Villa Maria!

About Villa Maria

The Villa Maria story is one of absolute passion. Each wine is crafted in the unique, fruit‐driven style of New Zealand, showcasing the very best of the country’s distinct wine regions. Villa Maria sources grapes from New Zealand’s premium grape growing regions, including Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, and produces wines in state‐of‐the‐art winemaking facilities in Auckland and Marlborough. The winery is family owned and stands as an icon of superior quality and innovation in New Zealand winemaking. Villa Maria was also the first wine company in New Zealand to declare the winery a “cork‐free zone,” sealing all wines from the 2001 vintage onwards with a screwcap to ensure quality in every bottle. Dedicated to minimizing environmental impact, Villa Maria has pioneered sustainable viticulture and winemaking since the 1990s, and is one of the very few wineries that have acquired four certifications as proof of the ongoing commitment. In 2015, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and fourth most admired wine brand in the world.

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In 1961, at just 21 years of age, George leased five acres of land from his father in Mangere, Auckland and started off with just an acre of vines. He harvested his first grapes in 1962 and made his first wine under the name Villa Maria.

Throughout the 1960s Villa Maria was a one-man band, with George’s wife, Gail, supporting him in his venture. He made dry red and white wines, sourcing grapes from the greater Auckland regions. In the early 1970s he started to employ staff and the company began to expand rapidly.

The Villa Maria winery in Marlborough. Image courtesy of Villa Maria Wine

The Villa Maria winery in Marlborough. Image courtesy of Villa Maria Wine

Today, Villa Maria employs more than 250 permanent staff and exports wine to over 50 countries worldwide.

Visit the Villa Maria web site to see their entire portfolio of wines, learn more about the winery and see where to find their wines near you.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received these wines free from Ste Michelle Wine Estates and Villa Maria as part of the “First Sip of Fall”  Pinot Noir Twitter Tasting. 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. Copyright2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Paired With An Aussie Sticky #winePW

It’s here.  Thanksgiving.  The perennial harbinger of the holiday season that seems to arrive all to quickly. For me that typically means going 100 miles per hour with my hair on fire!  It’s already happening.  I had other plans for  this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend “Creative Thanksgiving Pairing” theme.  Alas, things have been crazy busy for me.  I needed something quick, yet utterly delicious and company worthy.  Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake was top of mind for me.  And I’ve “kicked it up a notch” by topping it with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cream (recipe below)

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If you’re not familiar with Paula Deen’s version of a Gooey Butter Cake, it’s a flat and dense cake/cheesecake hybrid. The crust is made with cake mix, and butter.  That is topped with a mixture of cream cheese,  more butter (it’s not called “butter’ cake for nothing), eggs, and spices. The pumpkin version very much reminds me of pumpkin cheese cake with a thick crust.

Except it’s much easier to prepare. You cut it up like a brownie. In fact, there is a Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake I’ve made several times that, like this one, is always a crowd pleaser!

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 3 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1cup heavy cream
  • ½cup sour cream
  • ½cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛teaspoon table salt
  • 2teaspoons bourbon
Instructions
  1. In bowl of standing mixer, whisk heavy cream, sour cream, brown sugar, and salt until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve cheesecake, at least 4 hours or up to 24, stirring once or twice during chilling to ensure that sugar dissolves.
  2. When ready to serve Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake, add bourbon and beat mixture with whisk attachment at medium speed until small bubbles form around edges, about 40 seconds; increase speed to high and continue to beat until fluffy and doubled in volume, about 1 minute longer. Spoon cream on individual slices of the Pumpkin Butter Cake.
Notes
I added ¼ tsp of dried ginger to the topping to give this a bit more spice. Additionally, I prefer to not have my butter cake not so sweet. So rather than use the entire 1-lb of powdered sugar, I used ⅞ of the bag (I just eyeball it

In my glass

Although, I don’t indulge myself often, I very much enjoy capping off a great meal with a dessert and dessert wine pairing!  Thanksgiving is one of those days I do indulge both cravings.  For a bunch of years now, my signature dessert has either been Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, or Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cream (yes..the same whipped cream I used to top my Pumpkin Butter Cake). Both of those are time-consuming, and I simply didn’t have the time.  But I’ll make one or the other for Thanksgiving this year.  So I was looking for a dessert wine that would pair with either.

I found the R.L. Buller Premium Fine Muscat at K&L Wine Merchants.  They described the wine as follows:

Basically this decadent style of wine combines the floral notes and sweetness of a late harvest Muscat with the richness, nuttiness and rancio barrel-aged characters of tawny port or even sherry with a lovely spice and kick from the fortifying brandy

That sounded  good because I wanted something that would complement either the spiciness, if I go the Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake route, or the nuttiness, if I go the Sweet Potato Pecan route.  I was confident it would be wonderful with the Butter Cake as well.

The term “stickies,”  is a nickname Aussies give to sweet wines. I’ve enjoyed a few “stickies” in the past, but I don’t think they’re top of mind when folks think of dessert wines. Certainly not like Port, Sauterne, Madeira, Ice wine, and others.

They should be.

This one is from the Rutherglen  a wine region within the North East Victoria zone of Australia. It is Australia’s most important area in terms of fortified wine production. And its Muscats and Tokays are internationally recognized for their unique style and quality.

According to Winesearcher.com… The most noble Muscat variety, the dark-skinned Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, is used to produce Rutherglen’s world-famous fortified wines. This grape variety is so intrinsic to the region’s profile that it is more commonly referred to as Rutherglen Brown Muscat. These fortified wines display a richness and depth which is almost unparalleled. The unique winemaking process involves a slow and oxidative barrel-ageing which imparts a complex array of flavors variously described as caramel, toffee, butterscotch, sweet spices, molasses, tea liquor and cassis liqueur. 

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake with R.L. Buller Premium Fine Muscat

A half bottle is the perfect size for this decadent Aussie Sticky. My wife found the cute Port-style glasses at an antique shop

My tasting notes follow:

Dark amber color with lifted, complex, and appealing dried apricot, toffee, caramel, molasses, date, roast nut, and warm spice aromas. On the palate it’s full-bodied, rich, and sweet, but not overly so thanks to vibrant acidity, and a rancio character with toffee, brown sugar, date, bitter orange peel, and warm spice flavors, with a long sweet, but not cloying finish. From 375ml 18% alcohol. (Outstanding 92-93pts)

The Pairing

It was fantastic! On a scale of 1-4 with 4 being perfect, I’d give it a 3.5 without the Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cream, and a 3.75 with the cream.  There was something about the kiss of bourbon in the whipped cream that just took the pairing to the next level for me.  

If Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, or Sweet Potato Pecan Pie are on you dessert menu for Thanksgiving, this is a great bottle to serve. And at $14 for a half-bottle it won’t break the bank! Very highly recommend!

Check out what the rest of the #winePW family of food and wine bloggers are offering up for your Thanksgiving feast!

The #winePW Twitter Chat will this morning at 8 a.m. Pacific: Connect with us on twitter, using the hashtag #winePW. . We’ll chat for an hour about creative food and wine pairings.  Also, consider joining #winePW on December 12. Our theme will be “Sparkling Wine & Festive Holiday Dishes”, hosted by Cindy at Grape Experiences. You can get a full listing of past and upcoming Wine Pairing Weekend events here.

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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. Copyright2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Veal Ribs with Fontina with Vallee d’Aosta Torrette Supèrieur #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 are taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Vallee d’Aosta (Aosta Valley)!

Valle d’Aosta is the smallest, and least populated  region in Italy. It’s located in the mountainous northwest corner mountainous corner of Italy’s where the nation’s borders meet those of France and Switzerland.  As a result of a long-ago mingling of the French Provençal and northern Italian cultures Italian and French are the official languages. And the co-mingling of French and Italian culture is also evident in the local architecture and at the dining table. 

Val d’Aosta is overlooked by some of Europe’s highest mountains, including Mont Blanc , the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino), Monte Rosa, and Gran Paradiso.  Not surprisingly the region offers some of the best skiing in Europe. And when the snow melts, spectacular hiking and other outdoor activities.

On my plate

After poking around on the web a bit, I found a recipe for Veal Ribs with Fontina, a meat dish with an intense flavor, typical of the Aosta Valley cuisine.  It’s essentially veal chopped stuffed with Fontina Cheese.

Fontina is a classic Italian cheese that’s been made in the Aosta Valley since the 12thcentury.

I had some cornmeal on hand so, I decided to whip up some polenta.  I found a recipe for Polenta with Fontina and Thyme.  And last, but not least, with the polenta firmly in mind, I decided to whip up Herb Butter too. (recipe below)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but it has literally been decades since I’ve had eaten veal, and I’ve never actually prepared it before.  And my wife has never had it.
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Veal Ribs with Fontina and Herb Butter with Polenta with Thyme and Fontina

Fortunately, this was a pretty straight-forward preparation.  And it turned out beautifully!

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A rich, decadent treat, these veal chops—crisp with a bread crumb crust and oozing fontina cheese—can be assembled long before dinnertime and take only about 15 minutes to cook

What I liked about this dish is that it

In my glass

Quite naturally, the vineyards in Valle d’Aosta are home to some of Europe’s highest vineyards.  French grape varieties are just as common as Italian grape varieties.  And the region is home to  a diverse selection of indigenous grapes. Petit Rouge is arguably the most important of these (besides Picotendro, a local clone of Nebbiolo).

Here’s what New York Times wine critic, Eric Asimov says of Aosta Valley wines…Of the many wrinkles in the Italian wine tapestry, one of the wrinkliest is about as far northwest as you can go in Italy. There, tucked away in the Alps beneath looming Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the chain, is the smallest Italian viticultural region, brimming with little-known wines capable of offering great pleasure.

It was a challenge to find a Valle d’Aosta wine.  My usually reliable wine store didn’t have any. Fortunately, I found the 2010 Maison Anselmet Torrette Supèrieur. 

Blend of 70% Petit Rouge the dominant red grape in the Aosta Valley; along with a 30% blend of lesser known red wine grapes – Fumin, Mayolet, Cornalin that are indigenous to the region. The wine was aged in French barriques.

Bright, floral and well balanced with earthy, mineral flavors. Torrette Supérieurs, which must be at least 70 percent petit rouge. No. 3, from Maison Anselmet, was a little more precise and complex

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Befitting a region that borders France…the label is in both Italian and French!

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with rose hips, mixed black and red fruit, and cinnamon aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, fresh and well balanced with a wonderful velvety texture and polished tannins with black cherry, plum, pomegranate and a bit of blackberry flavors with an appealing saline minerality and a long spicy finish. The wine reminded me of a Cru Beaujolais.

The wine was a wonderful partner for our dinner. It was very good with the Veal Ribs.  But it was even better with the Polenta with Fontina.  

And be sure to check out what my fellow #ItalianFWT have to share with you:

Join us Saturday November 7th where our blogging group shares our experiences on the food, wine and travel to this region.  A live chat will be held Saturday November 7th at 11am on Twitter at #ItalianFWT and we’d love to hear from you.

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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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Book Review: “The History of Wine in 100 Bottles” By Oz Clarke

I love wine.  Truth be told…I’m a wine geek.  I also love history, and cultural anthropology. But these topics can be well…boring.  In his recently released book “The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond” (Sterling Epicure, 224 pages, $24.95) inimitable wine personality Oz Clarke manages to give us his take on the history of wine in an entertaining and informative way.

100 bottles

Oz Clarke’s newest book is called The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond.

Overview

This is a book about the people, places, and wines that have had a major impact on the evolution of wine, and the stories behind them.  The book is composed of 100 double spread chapters.  Each chapter deals with a particular year or period of time in wine history.  The first paragraph of each chapter has a “cliff notes” summary of the topic of the chapter, which I found very helpful, in terms of both whetting my appetite for what was to come, and also as a way to discern my level of interest in topic.

This isn’t just a history of a hundred bottles.  And it’s not just a history of wine.  This book is a hundred stories with wine at their center, embracing all the history and culture of which wine is a part. – Oz Clarke

The book is beautifully illustrated with well-chosen photos, and wine labels that illuminate,and complement the subject matter of each chapter.

Review

Archeological evidence dating back 8,000 years suggests that before the Greeks, before the Romans, Georgians who made wine.  And this is where Clarke begins – in 6000 BC. From there the book winds its way through to the genesis of what we consider to be traditional winemaking (with wines like Sherry, Tokaji, and the legend of Dom Perignon in the 16th and 17th century), on through the more familiar 19th and 20th century history (the classification of Bordeaux, Louis Pasteur’s vital role in winemaking process, Phylloxera, and Prohibition to name a few), into contemporary topics of the day, such a natural winemaking and wine fraud.

Since drinkers love to spin tales, it’s not surprising that there are a few fair legends about the discovery of wine and the planting of vineyards, which may – or may not  – have an element of truth about them

That’s a lot of ground to cover.  Clarke covers some topics more thoroughly than others. For example, he essentially covers the Middle Ages (1100s-1200s) in a single page.  But, I didn’t feel cheated.  That’s because I found myself enthralled by Clarke’s story-telling style, wit, and humor.  The man has an entertaining way with words that adds color to historical events.  Especially when that color comes recounting his own experiences and personal insights.

As I read the book, I found myself categorizing the stories into three buckets; 

  • I knew about the  wine and the story (though I often discovered a kernel or two of knowledge that built upon my knowledge).  For example, I knew the stories related to the chapters on Champagne – The Blood Vintages; Prohibition, Prestige Cuvées, Gallo Hearty Burgundy, and the Judgement of Paris.
  • I knew the wine and I thought I knew the story, but discovered something I didn’t know, or that was unexpected; For example, there were chapters such as Barolo, a wine I know and love, but what I didn’t know was that it took a Frenchman to get it right. And I knew about Hock (a white field blend originating in Germany), but had no idea it once sold for more than Chateau Lafitte.
  • The wine and the story were completely new to me.  Here there were chapters such as the Delimitation of the Douro, which was the first legal delimitation of a wine area – not France as I’d always believed, or that venerable Ridge Vineyards jumped on the White Zinfandel wagon in 1973, or how, thanks to a Nyetimber sparkling wine, English wine went from being a joke to world beater in a matter of a couple of years.

It was the chapters around those second and third buckets that I found my favorites because that made the book both enjoyable and informative for me.  Perhaps my favorite chapter was 1942 Mateus;  wherein Clarke shares a story of his parents were introduced to Mateus Rose after World War II, and the back story of how Mateus Rose came to be. I found myself reading the chapter with a smile on my face from the first word to the last thanks to Clarke’s entertaining story telling.

Of course, not all wine history is about wine per se.  It’s also about wine paraphernalia. And Clarke does an admirable job of covering corkscrews, airtight corks, decanters and the evolution of the wine bottle.

Conclusion

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond” is a  wonderful, and a times peripatetic take on the chronological history of wine within the context of politics,  economics, and culture of the time.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining and informative  book that I heartily recommend.  Especially with Christmas around the corner.  This book would make a wonderful gift for the wine lover in your life, even if that wine lover is you!

Note: This book was provided as a sample for review.  Opinions are my own. Thank you Sterling Publishing

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