Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 9 I is for Itata

Welcome to Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 9. Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and myself work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions on letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put in on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. 

Itata Valley, Chile

February took us to the Itata Valley in Chile which is known as the “Forgotten Viticulture Region” in Chile. It is 250 miles south of Santiago and covers an area measuring roughly 60 miles from north to south and a little less from east to west. There are approximately 26,000 acres of commercial grapes planted. One of the questions asked during the webinar was about the altitude and we aim to please and found the altitude of Itata ranges from 195 feet to 1475 feet. It is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Chile planted not far from the bay of Concepcion by Spanish conquerors in 1551. This wine region is the forerunner to Chilean winemaking.

Wine Tasted

The wine I chose for this episode was a De Martino Gallardia 2014 Cinsault. I was batting double with this because it was my first wine from the Itata region and first 100% Cinsault tasted. Usually Cinsault is used as a blending grape. Although Lori and I had different producers and vintages we both tasted a Cinsault. I found the wine very one dimensional with red berry flavors. As the wine opened the fruit became more apparent but there was a hint of menthol.

Sit down and grab a glass of wine or your favorite beverage and watch or listen to Lori and I as we explore the Itata Valley region of Chile. If you don’t have time to watch the webinar, feel free to listen to us on your drive to work, in the gym or when you have spare time. The podcast below is available on Itunes, Stitcher and a bunch of other platforms for your listening pleasure. To watch older episodes visit our website http://winephabetstreet.com/ and visit our sponsor Winc.

Don’t forget to register for our March episode where we explore the Jacquere grape. Register here.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Awaken your Senses with Adorada Wines

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, poured it in the glass and got a scent from the wine that transported you back to your childhood or another time or memory? Good memories of course. That is the what you will experience when you open a bottle of Adorada Wines.

Adorada Wines begin when winemaker Margaret Leonardi harvests grapes of multiple varieties at different sugar levels. She then ferments them using different winemaking styles. Some of them are more fruity, some more floral, some sweeter and some dry. Fragrances inspired by the art of winemaking.

Margaret says “As a winemaker, scent is everything to me. I wanted to make a wine that is distinctly different & stimulates the senses.” The blending process done virtually blind. Margaret takes the components and blends different amounts of flavors to see how they come together. She plays with aromatics, balances of flavors and mouth feel until she achieve the most unique and tasty blend possible. Adorada Wines are very versatile and everyone who tastes them picks up different notes. Makes it nice, because everyone has a different palate and there is no right or wrong on what you are experiencing.

The entire experience with Adorada wines is beautiful including packaging in which the bottle is dipped in wax. In all honesty, I had a difficult time opening the Pinot Gris. It was quite the process that even had some blood drawn and required a band-aid. I knew there had to be a better way and Tina from #Winestudio had the answer. Don’t worry, Adorada is making some changes to the pull tab in the new release this spring.

1. Warm the wax with your palm
2. Pierce with wine key, remove cork
3. Clean around edge
4. Pour and enjoy
That worked for me on the bottle of Rose. No band-aid needed.

Get in touch with your senses. Part of the process is to remember where you initially encountered the aroma. You might be amazed as I was as the 2016 Pinot Gris sparked a memory of my childhood running and playing in my backyard. Even had the visual of the memory to go with it, swing set and all. It was the white flowers that sparked the memory of the nice spring day. Flavors of lemon curd, pear, honeydew melon and fresh orange zest.

2016 Rose had hints of strawberry, a bit of honey. It was fresh and exciting. The scent gave me energy and even though it was evening, it put some spunk into my step. I paired this with crab cakes and the hint of spice in crab cakes blended really well with the touch of honey in the wine.

Both these wines retail for $20. I can see them at the beach, at the pool, on the boat and at an Apres-Ski event. I would definitely grab a glass of either of these wines when I come in from the slopes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sisters Sharing Wine Made By Sisters

Breathless Wines is the love of three sisters, (Sharon Cohn, Rebecca Faust and Cynthia Faust) and the passion for life their mom passed down to them. In my eyes it’s also a tribute to their mom who suffered from Alpha-1. Had to Google Alpha-1 and found it’s a genetic lung disease passed down from both parents. It occurs when there is a lack of protein in the blood called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) which is mainly produced by the liver. The main function of AAT is to protect the lungs from inflammation caused by infection and inhaled irritants like tobacco smoke.

Breathless is the perfect name as their mom didn’t take any breath for granted. According to Sharon Cohn, Breathless is about celebrating moments in life, big or small and to live life to the fullest. Breathless donates to the Alpha-1 as well as other non-profits annually.

Located in Healdsburg (Sonoma County) in a unique tasting room made from recycled shipping containers with a vintage 1920 kind of feel. Inside you’ll find chandeliers, marble and a nice patio for a wonderful experience. Behind the winemaking is honoree sister Penny Gadd-Coster who selects the grapes from vineyards in Carneros, Russian River, Dry Creek Valley and the North Coast. The sparkling wines are made in the traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle).

There is nothing more wonderful than sharing wine made by sisters with your sister and sister’s from another mother. My sister Donna and I shared the Breathless Blanc De Noirs, made with 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay aged for 38 months. Nice fine mousse delicately fills your mouth with hints of toast, cherry and citrus notes. SRP $30

The following evening I shared Breathless Brut with my sister’s from another mother, my Rombout Road ladies (3 are missing from the photo). We are neighbors that have been together for over 20 years. Yes, over 20 years of wine nights celebrating our love, supporting each other and being together. Breathless Brut was the perfect pairing for the evening. I will admit, when I poured it in the glass and saw the rose color, I thought something might be off. One sip and I was clearly wrong. The wine was perfectly balanced, crisp with hints of persimmon, ripe gala apples and a touch of honey. The reason it has the rose color is because of the press fraction used. SRP $25

Share Breathless with your sisters!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Getting Arrogant and Being Loved

The word arrogant has a stigma to it. I personally shy away from arrogant people, that is until I met this dapper little frog. He appeared at a gathering in October where we all fell in love with him. After all how can you resist this little frog dressed so classy.

Arrogant Frog is the creation of Jean-Claude Mas, a dapper man himself and owner of Paul Mas Domains (Domaines Paul Mas, Mas des Tannes, Domaines Astruc, Chateau de Martinolles, Chateau des Cres Richards, Domaine de la Terrandiere, Domaine Silene, Chateau Lauriga and Arrogant Frog) As Frenchman he wanted to show that wines from the Languedoc region can shine all over. Can the French shed their reputation as arrogant people? I think so, and together with Jean-Claude’s humor he decided to poke fun at the disposition and created Arrogant Frog.

Arrogant Frog was born in 2005 in the Herault Valley of Landguedoc which is located in the south of France. The Languedoc region of France is unlike the other regions where a few grapes grow well and dominate. The Languedoc is a great growing region for a variety of grapes with Mediterranean influences. The Herault Valley terroir is gravely, clay limestone hills making it a good area to grow Syrah, Grenach, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carigan, Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Chateau Arrogant Frog is located in the Limoux grand cru and has 20 hectares of which 15 are organically farmed and 5 are certified by Terra Vitis.
Around the holiday time the frog appeared on my doorstep with a bottle of 2016 Lily Pad Pinot Noir. I welcomed the Arrogant Frog into my home where he clearly made himself comfortable.

The 2016 Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Pinot Noir had a beautiful light red garnet color that shimmered in the light. Half of the wine is aged in new oak barrels for 7 months while the other half ages in stainless steel vats. After the 7 months of aging in new oak the wine is put into vats to age for 2 more months before being bottled. Escaping from the bottle were aromas of red berries, strawberries, hints of vanilla and lots of spice. In the glass ad on the palate the wine had ripe tannins and nice acidity with a nice black pepper finish. SRP $10

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bourbon Barrels and Wine

What do bourbon barrels have to do with wine? Recently there has been a trend to age wine in bourbon barrels. It’s interesting because Bob Blue, winemaker of 1000 Stories Wines said that when he began as winemaker in the 80’s they aged wine in Bourbon barrels as a cost saving method. It was cheaper to purchase used bourbon barrels than brand new ones.

Today he has a different outlook on the processes, bringing back what’s old is new again. The bourbon barrels Bob uses today are curated from an older selection of barrels to achieve more intense aromas and flavors that would be more subdued using traditional wine barrels. The outcome is balance in the wines and varietal character showing through.

Bob uses a combination of old and new bourbon barrels with the percentage weighing heavily on old. He feels the older barrels bring a real sweetness to the wines and the newer unused ones bring a unique smokiness and together it makes for a nice balanced wine. Together they bring vanilla, herbs and spice, clove and dill to the wine.

Tasting 1000 Stories Zinfandel and Petite Sirah was a first for me in tasting bourbon barrel aged wine. I really like the labels on the wines. The bison on the label is significant because 1000 Stories supports the Wildlife Conservations Society in its efforts to reintroduce bison into healthy environments so they can thrive and contribute to the ecosystems. Seems even thought there are about 450,000 Bisons fewer than 20,000 range freely.

2015 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel Small Batch No. 038 at first I thought the aromas coming out of the glass were strange. Remember this is my first bourbon barrel aged wine. Then as the wine aired the nose got complex and there was a hint of sweetness combined with red fruit, red berries pepper and coffee. The palate was just as complex. Flavors of red fruit, raspberries, cherries, black plum, black licorice and toffee. SRP $19

2015 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Petite Sirah Half Batch - this wine showed a lot of blue fruit and you can smell a bit of the sweet bourbon on the nose. The palaee was complex with boysenberry, blue fruit, blackberry, dry herbs and hot cinnamon on the finish. SRP $18.99

All the wines at 1000 are made in small batches, just like bourbon. The two above would pair real well with BBQ and smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork. Look for a release of their bourbon aged Carignan in 2018.

Have your had a bourbon aged wine? Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Not All Gondola Rides Happen On The Ski Slopes

The only time I’ve rode in a gondola is when I’ve been skiing. Never did I think I would be riding one to get to a winery, but that is how you get to Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. (They call it an aerial tram) Sterling sits on the top of a large hill and they need a way to get employees and visitors up to the winery with little impact on the hill. When you pull into Sterling there is a large parking lot where you take the tram to the top. Bring your camera because the views are incredible. Unfortunately the day I visited was cloudy and misty but still amazing view. Once I got to the top my mouth dropped open just looking at the winery operation and listening to the St Dunstan bells every 15 minutes play a different tune.
View from the Tram

St Dunstan Church Bells
As you step off the tram you are greeted in the portico area and given a glass of wine.  From there the three different tours depart.  If you are taking the self walking tour of the winery it will end in the South View Terrace.  There is an app you can download for the self guided walking tour and its available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.   The tour takes you through the production area where you can see the production without being on the production floor. The tour ends on the beautiful South View Terrace with beautiful views of Napa Valley. Throughout the tour at each segment you get to taste a different wine.

The walking tour is available with all the different experiences at Sterling. I got to experience the Platinum Experience where five wines are paired with small bites. It’s just not a wine pairing it is truly and experience. Sterling has three commercial kitchens and a full culinary staff. In this pairing we were treated to a vertical of their Platinum 2013, 2012, 2011 and their 2014 Reserve Chardonnay.

The 2014 Reserve Chardonnay was paired with house made ricotta cheese with Agramato olive oil and lemon zest
2011 Platinum paired with Duck Confit on roasted winter squash seasoned with cardamom and coriander
2012 Platinum paired with Lamb Meatball braised leek, fennel and tomato sauce
2013 Platinum paired with Braised short rib, Cabernet reduction and carrot puree

Listen here as we learn about the wines, how 2011 was not a stellar year, to how 2012 and 2013 were amazing years and the pairings. 

I don’t always have the best timing with things, but this visit happened to be timed right with their release of their Iridium. This wine is only mad during the very best vintages and in small lots that have been individually selected for quality. The grapes are sourced from three vineyards, 4 barrels coming from Rutherford, 2 barrels coming from Sleeping Lake in Yountville and one from Megs Vineyard in Wooden Valley and it’s all aged in 100% new oak.

Listen to Director of Winemaking - Harry Hansen talk about the Iridium, one of the greatest wines of his career.

Other experiences Sterling offers is the Silver Experience which is a taste of 4 wines and you can add a cheese and Charcuterie platter to pair with the wines. After the pairing end the experience with the walking tour.

A definite must visit when in Napa!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Valentine's Day Love and Bubbles

It’s that time of the year when Hallmark tells us it’s Valentine’s Day and we have to do something special. Quite frankly, everyday is special when it comes to the person you love, but Valentine’s Day is extra special to show your love. This year it a trifecta with February 14 falling mid-week, we have the weekend before, the actual day and the weekend after.

No worries, I have the four perfect sparkling wines for you to toast your love with that won’t break the bank. Celebrate the weekend before, the day of and the weekend after with Cava and Prosecco.

Vilarnau is a small artisan winery located outside Barcelona specializing in small scale production of Cava. Their aim is to make cave with as little impact on the environment. They hold the Organic Viticulture Certificate issued by the Catalan Council for Organic Agriculture which means they have reduced chemical and phytosanitary treatments by 50%.

The two Cavas below are in these beautiful bottles in the Trencadís Edition. Trencadís is a mosaic created from tiny fragments of broken ceramic tiles, or roof tiles. The technique is known as “pique assiette” in French. The bottles are so pretty you almost don’t want to open it.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva NV Made with the typical Cava blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel.lo and aged for 15 months on the lees. You’ll find bright apple and floral notes with exotic citrus and stone fruit. SRP $14.99

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé NV made with a blend of 85% Trepat and 15% Pinot Noir, aged for 15 months on the lees you get bright red fruit popping out at you once you uncork. The Cava is a beautiful pink in color dancing in your glass with flavors of bright cherry and juicy strawberry with an elegant body. SRP 15.99

We head over to Italy and celebrate with two Proseccos.  First is a Zonin Cuvee 1821 Prosecco from a the Zonin family that has been producing wine since the 1800’s. Light and refreshing aromas of white peaches and fresh picked white flowers opens to a palate showing some minerality with green apple and pear. There is a hint of sweetness on the finish. SRP $ 12.99

Rounding out Valentine’s Day with the Lunelli family brings us Ferrari Brut NV which is 100% Chardonnay sourced from grapes grown in the vineyards planted on the slopes of the Trentino mountains, made in strict accordance with the regulations of Trentodoc. This is a beautiful Prosecco with yeasty notes and toast coming from the bottle right after it’s uncorked. Pour it in a wine glass and smell the breddy aromas mixed with lemon, white flowers and chalk. One sip and the smooth and silky liquid is balanced with just enough acidity and flavors of just baked bead with melting butter, golden delicious apples and lemony citrus notes. SRP $25