Thursday, May 26, 2022

Grill That Pizza and Pair It With Cecchi

Summer is upon us and the grills are firing up and the company is coming over. Whether you are grilling a steak, pizza or chicken, I have 2 wines that will pair well with grill and company.

Cecchi is one of the oldest and most prominent wine producers in Tuscany. They have been around since 1893. They are a family-owned vineyard that got its start when Luigi Cecchi became a professional wine taster. He understood winemaking and the potential of making wine in Italy. The rest is history.

Today they are crafting wines that showcase the expressions of the family’s vineyards using innovation and sustainability practices.

In case you are wondering how to pronounce the name, it’s CHECK-EE.

The wines below I had with grilled pizza. The Storia di Famiglia we grilled a basic cheese pizza. The Riserva I went all out and made a pizza with red sauce, mozzarella and manchego cheese, chorizo (that I grilled first then sliced) topped with spinach and red onion tossed in olive oil. While the first pizza was a success (my husband the Italian made it) the second pizza was a fail. I couldn’t get it off the board because I didn’t put enough flour on it and it stuck to the board. So we made it a calzone, but we couldn’t flip it on the stone on the grill and the stone broke. We finished it in the oven and it was very good but didn’t look pretty (hence, no picture). The wine paired perfectly for both pizzas.

2019 Cecchi Chainti Classico Storia di Famiglia DOCG SRP $20 - This wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% other red varietals. The vineyards are with an elevation of 250 meters. The wine spent 12 months in wooden casks and two months in the bottle before released. Aromas of red raspberry, black cherry, a hint of rose petal lead to a palate with nice rounded tannins and notes of plum, red raspberry and dark spice on the finish.

2015 Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia DOCG SRP $32 - This Chianti is 90$ Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.Ruby red in color with brickish undertones. Grown in estate vineyards that had an elevation of 250 meters. The wine spent 12 months in oak casks and three months in the bottle before release. Smooth and elegant with hints of earth, black raspberry, tannins dancing on your palate and lingering notes of cassis on the finish.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Wines and Regions of Catalonia, Spain

I recently attended a masterclass in Wines of Catalonia. I am going to share with you what I learned and some of the wines I tasted. I warn you, it’s a long post but very informative.

Spain along with Italy have embarked on a program to bring awareness to European Quality wines. Look for a label designating PDO or PGI. What this means is the wines are considered to be a high-quality product and produced in accordance with the national and European regulations.

PDO - Protected Designation of Origin have the strictest rules. There are 70 DO’s in Spain and 11 of them are in Catalonia.

PGI - Protected Geographical Indication. This focuses on the geographical area the wines are coming from and what can be produced there. Each specific region will show the typicity of the region and specific grapes.

Why it matters? It allows us to know what grapes the wines from that region are made of, aged for a certain period of time and made in a certain style.

Catalonia, home to quality wine with distinction is a region of Spain, located in the northeast part of the country. There is a diverse range of territories and home to more than 600 wineries.

Catalonia boasts 580 km of Mediterranean coastline and borders Roussillon, France and Andorra. It is surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Pyrenees and Coastal Range. The lower levels of elevation tend to be more humid. The Ebro River flows into the Mediterranean Sea in the southern Catalonia Province of Tarragona. Catalonia has one-third of the land devoted to agriculture.

PDO Emporada

In the North East Corner of Catalonia is PDO Emporda. The vineyards are not at high elevations.The soils are alluvial on the plains and granitic and slate in the mountains. The soils are acidic with low organic material content.

Even split between red and white. Lots of freshness and juicy fruit.

Recommended grapes are White Carignan, White Grenache, Grey Grenache, Macabeu, Moscatel of d’Alexandria, Carignan (Samso), Garnatxa Tinta(Lledoner)

Allowed grapes are Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, Malvoisie, Muscat a Petis Grains, Picpoul Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Xarel-lo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Monastrell, Tempranillo, Syrah and Granacha Peluda.

Espelt Pla de Gates Negre 2019 - This wine is made with 100% Lledoner Negre (Garnacha Noir) in a 17-year-old vineyard 25 meters above sea level. The soil composition is granite, sand and clay. Aged 9 months in 500 liter neutral and 20 HL Fench Oak barrels.

It was a beautiful red garnet in color. Didn’t feel like 15% alcohol. Aromas of juicy red fruit with red raspberry showing strong. The palate boasted lots of red fruit, red raspberry with mineral notes and a soft spice on the finish.

Terra Remoto Camino 2016 - This wine is a blend of 36% Syrah, 32% Grenache Noir, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Tempranillo with 14.5% Alcohol. The soil composition is granitic soil. Maceration 3 to 5 weeks and aged for 12 months with 1/3 in stainless steel, 1/3 in wooden vats and 1/3 in 500L French oak barrels.

Lots going on in this wine. Very dark garnet in color. Aromas of fresh black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and dried herbs lead to a palate that was pretty complex. Soft tannins and lots of fresh blackberries, black cherry, and licorice with some spice on the finish.

PDO Terra Alta

The southernmost wine-growing area of Catalonia. Shows the highest elevation in Catalonia with an elevation of 350 to 550 meters. It gets the cold wind from the north and the humidity from the south. The soild here is limestone and clay. Known for their white wines. Produces 30% of the world's Garnatxa Blanca.

Main grape varieties are Garnatxa Blanca, Tinta, Peluda/Llandoner, Carignan, Macabeu, Parellada, Carignan (Samso)

Roqueta Lafou El Sender 2018 - This wine is a blend of 70% Red Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 10% Morenillo clocking in at 14% alcohol. The grapes came from Mas Gabriel Vineyard that hace calcareous soils with clayey and loamy texture. The wine is aged for 6 months in 300L Central European oak barrels.

The wine is dark ruby in color. Aromas of black raspberry, black fruit and a hint of balsamic leading to a fruity palate with a soft mouthfeel and balsamic finish.

PDO Conca de Barbera

Located a bit inland protected from the coast by Prades Mountain range. Hot dry air. Colder winters and the risk of frost. Hight UV exposure, so the grapes have thicker skins grown on bush vines. More robust tannin structure. The soil composition consists of limestone and clay in the central part with slate in the west. Most notable for Trepat production.

Main grape varieties: Macabeu, Parellada, Chardonnay, White Sumoll, Garnatxa Blanca, Chenin blanc, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Trepat, Tempranillo, Granatxa Negre, Red Sumoll, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Merlot.

Clos Montblanc Masia las Comes Reserva 2015 - A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with 14% alcohol. The vines were 30 years old and grown at an altitude of 700 meters. Aged 18 to 24 months in French and American oak barrels.

Complex aromas of black fruit, cigar box, tobacco, and coffee lead to a structured palate with black cherry and dark fruit and long spice on the finish.

Clos Montblanc Origen 2017 - This is a signature wine, a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon with an alcohol level of 14.5%. Made from old vines between 20 and 30 years old and aged for 16 months in French and American oak barrels.

Dark ruby in color. A nose of dried herbs, black currant, and black fruit leads to a complex palate. Notes of black cherry compote, vanilla, soft and velvety texture and a burst of cinnamon.

PDO Priorat DOCa

PDO Priorat DOCa is of the two DOCa in Spain (Rioja is the other). It got it’s name from the Priorato de Scala Dei Carthusian monastery that was established in the 12 century.

Located southwest of Catalonia on top of the mountain, 100 to 750 meters in elevation with steep terraced slopes. Harsh climate due to cooler winds blowing from inland and extreme diurnal shift. Soil composition is a unique llicorella soil that is a mix of black slate & quartzite. Very poor soil with no organic matter. The vines have to go very deep to get nutrients. Yield is 2lbs per vine which = a bottle of wine per vine. It got its name from the Priorato de Scala Dei Carthusian monastery that was established in the 12 century.

Known for red wine production of Garnacha and Carignan.

Unio Llicorella Gran Seleccio Vitis 60 2016

A blend of 35% Carignan and 65% Grenache with 14.5% alcohol. Soil Llicorella composition and wine was aged in oak casks for 18 months.

Very dark cherry in color. Aromas of ripe black fruit with a hint of minerality. The palate is meaty with silky oily tannins, black fruit, prune, licorice and a hint of chocolate.

PDO Montsant

Looking for a value alternative to Priorat look at PDO Montsant. Formerly the Falset subzone of Tarragona DO, but in 2001 became PDO Montsant. It is a ring-shaped DO surrounding Priorat with an elevation from 50 to 700 meters. Recognized for Garnacha and Carignan they are the main grapes for the area.

Main grape varities are: Chardonnay, Garnatxa Blanca, Macabeu, Pansa Blanca (Xarel-lo), Moscatell de Gra Petit, Parellada, Carignan, Garnatxa Negre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa Peluda, Merlot, Monastrell, Picapoll Negre, Syrah, Tempranillo.

Laurona Pythagora 2015 - This wine is 100% Grenache Tinta, 15% alcohol grown in soils of calcareous argyle. It was aged in 500L French oak for 18 months and then 6 months in bottle before release.

Perfumy aromas dark fruit and a touch of chocolate lead to a palate of prunes, stewed dark fruit and integrated tannins.

Unio Perlat 2018 - This is a blend of Garnacha, Mazuela and Syrah and clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. The grapes are grown on 30-year-old vines that are goblet trained in limestone and clay soil. They aged in 60-70% French oak, 30-40% American oak for 10 months.

Aromas of ripe red and black fruit, ripe raspberries, blackberries and black currants. The palate is fresh with nice structure and firm tannins. Very balanced with notes of red raspberry, black cherry and hints of minerality.

DO Cava - Cava is so special in my opinion. The Cava designation was established for quality sparkling wines made in the traditional method in 1986. Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is the Capital of Cava. To be called CAVA the wine has to be aged at least 9 months on the lees. There are a few classifications of Cava as follows:

Cava de Guarda: Cava aged a minimum of 9 months.

Caba de Guarda Superior are from specific vineyards and by 2025 must be 100% organically grown.

Reserva - aged for 18 months

Grand Reserva - aged for 30 months

Paraje Calificado aged for 36 months with special location and terroir designation.

The preferred grapes for Cava production are Xarel-lo and Parellada, and Monastrell for Rose. Chardonnay, Malvasia, Pinot Noir, Garnacha and Trepat can also be used.

Maset Nu Ecologico 2019 Reserva - A blend of 40% Xarel-lo, 40% Macabeo and 20% Parellada with 11.5% alcohol. Aged for 24 months. A nice floral aroma with hints of lemon and brioche. On the palate it is fruity with ripe orchard apple, a hint of citrus on the finish with a tad of sweetness.

Maset L’Avi Pau 2018 - A blend of 50% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay, aged for 36 months with 11.5% alcohol. Nice aromas of white fruit, apple, hint of citrus and brioche. Dry and creamy with a touch of elderflower.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Interview with Dana Spaulding of Wander & Ivy

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Dana Spaulding the Founder of Wander + Ivy. Wander + Ivy are classy single-serving wine bottles.

Dana made the transition from the financial service industry to the wine industry after feeling that she was wasting wine. She would sit down at the end of the day and have a glass of wine while her husband would have a whiskey. She hated throwing out the wine after a few days. She searched for high-quality single-serving wine and couldn’t find any that was in line with what she was looking for.

In the Spring of 2017, she took the leap and started Wander + Ivy. The bottles are very classy as is the label design. The labels feature animals that represent the region. On the front, they are serious animals and on the back, they are playful after they have drank their wine. The wines are sourced from different regions of the world; Italy, France, Spain, and California.

Wander + Ivy gives back 1% of sales to charitable organizations that provide healthy and organic food to those in need.

All the wines I tasted were nice but these three stood out.

Wander + Ivy Chardonnay 2020 California - it’s a nice oaked Chardonnay. With that being said, the oak isn’t overpowering. The wine shows nuisances of pear, vanilla and green melon.

Wander + Ivy Rose 2020 Languedoc, France - a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. Aromas of strawberry fields fill the glass. The palate shows minerality, orange peel, Macintosh apple and raspberries. It’s a very easy drinking wine.

Wander + Ivy Red Wine Blend Valencia, Spain 2019 - a blend of 55% Bobal and 45% Merlot. The Merlot really shines through on this wine with the Bobal saying, “I’m here too.” Lots of red and black fruit with hints of cassis, vanilla and mocha.

Watch the Webinar - one note..this is take two with this episode. We began taping a few weeks back and had issues. During this taping, as Dana will say did not turn on her video because she recently had a baby and we had to film around baby time. That is an overlay picture from the first try.

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, May 5, 2022

4 Rose Wines to Taste in Marlboro, New York

I recently attended a Rose Garden Party hosted by Nostrano Vineyards in Marlboro, New York. Marlboro is a small hamlet in Ulster County that is home to about 6 wineries and a distillery. It’s beautiful farm country when you drive around the area and you get the feeling of peace and serenity.

The setting was in the barn at Nostrano Vineyards. It was beautifully decorated, and there were four wineries in attendance: Benmarl Winery, Nostrano Vineyards, Fjord Vineyards, and Quartz Rock Vineyards (Formerly Glorie Farm Winery).

Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to wear to a garden party, but I put on a nice dress, brought a sweater, and left my derby hat home. (good thing, because nobody else wore a hat). I found that most guests got into the garden party attire and were up for a good time.

We all received a nice charcuterie plate (for lack of word) to pair with our Rose wines. I started the tasting with Benmarl’s 2021 Pet-Nat and looked around for a place to sit. This is where I met my new friends. It was nice to see these three young ladies enjoying the local wines. We had great conversations about the wine and charcuterie and what paired well with each wine. In addition, to understanding what each of them liked in the wine. Where one liked the wines on the sweeter side but really liked the more fruit-forward. It was a great evening sharing wine and stories with them. Yes, I was old enough to be their mother, but for that evening, I felt young.

Here are four Rose Wines to taste and wineries to visit in Marlboro.

Benmarl Winery 2021 Pet-Nat $30 - This was a great wine to start off the tasting and it had a lot going on. Complex nose of strawberry fields, green apple. The palate shows bright acidity, red berry, soft but lively mouthfeel. A great wine for any time! This went really well with the salami.

Nostrano Vineyards Ava Rose 2021 $23 - Named after their daughter Ava Rose. Notes of strawberry, orange blossom this is a very beautiful and refreshing Rose.

Fjord Estate Dry Rose 2021 $22 - This is a Rose of Cabernet Franc, beautiful and elegant. Aromas of rose petals and a hint of citrus lead to a palate that is mineral-driven and notes of dark fruit.

Quartz Rock Vineyards Rose of Chambourcin 2020 $21 - Aromas of blooming rose bushes and bright red fruit. The palate showed nuisances of red berry fruit and candied watermelon.

Quartz Rock Vineyards DeChaunac Rose - I did not taste this as you were only allowed 4 tastes that came with 4 tickets to deposit at each winery. But one of my new friends tasted it and she liked it. She noted that it was a sweet wine and she tends to like it sweet. So if you like the sweeter wines, this Rose is for you.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Kiss the Ground and Wash it Down with Veramonte Wines - Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Today, we celebrate Earth and all the wonderful things the earth gives us. But, we take a lot from it. Do we ever think about giving back to earth, becoming more sustainable and ways we can protect our planet?

Veramonte Wines takes this task very seriously. Veramonte is located in Chile. Their vineyards in Casablanca is planted with their white and cool climate grapes, while the reds are planted in Colchagua.

All their vineyards are 100% organic. Their organic practices consist of the following:

  • Quality Compost - they use their own compost to maximize the soil and promote balance and self-regulation of the ecosystem.
  • Inter-Row Cultivation - To improve the structure and vitality of their soils, cover crops are planted in between rows. This minimizes erosion, improves soil structure and provides nutrients to the soil.
  • Incorporation of Animals - Sheep and other animals act as natural fertilizer in addition, cut(eat) grass in the spring and aerate the soil (with their feet)
  • Conservation of Biological Corridors - by preserving biodiversity ensures a self-regulating ecosystem, thus having healthy vines
  • Pruning & Canopy Management - Ensure proper ventilation and the right amount of foliage to avoid diseases.
  • Weed Control - They cultivate the land under the vines. This loosens the soil and generates structure for the vines and enhances the life and microfauna of the soil. The goal is to have healthier soils rich in micro-organisms.

Veramonte has partnered with the non-profit organization Kiss the Ground, which was created to focus its efforts on healthy soils and creating a symbiotic relationship with the earth. Their mission is to awaken people to the possibilities of regeneration.

With every purchase of Veramonte wines, they will contribute to Kiss the Ground and its mission.

Veramonte Wines is priced at $11.99

Veramonte Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2021 - An impressive Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of white grapefruit and lemon zest. The palate is soft with bright acidity and nuisances of white grapefruit, lemon and lime zest. A great summer white! (Found it at Total Wine for $7.99)

Veramonte Organic Chardonnay 2020 - Aged for eight months in oak, this Chardonnay is very easy drinking. Aromas show a hint of vanilla with honeydew melon pear and green apple. The palate is creamy with notes of pear, lemon and green apple.

Veramonte Organic Carmenere 2020 - Aged in French oak for eight months, the 2020 Carmenere is full of red and black fruit. The palate is smooth and balanced and has a nice even finish.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Brachetto - Spring Sweetness and Bubbles

It’s Spring, and this bottle of Acquesi Brachetto says it all. Just looking at the beautiful design of the bottle makes me smile and think of warm weather and bubbles.

Brachetto is a black-skinned Italian grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. The grape is usually produced as sparkling wine and low in alcohol. Rules around making wine with this grape is the wine needs to be 100% Brachetto. For two days, the grapes are macerated (sit on the skins and seeds). During this time, the color and flavors are extracted from the grapes.

Brachetto does have a level of sweetness. If you like your wine on the sweeter side, you will like this. If you are looking for a nice wine with personality with your berry pie, strawberry shortcake or fruit cup, this is the wine for the pairing.

Acquesi Brachetto D’Acqui DOC $13.99

Tasting notes: Beautiful garnet red in color - fresh mountain sweetness on the nose with hints of strawberry, juicy red raspberry and lilacs. It is frizzante, so the bubbles are light.

The palate is sweet and bursting with red fruit with a hint of anise spice on the finish. Low in alcohol at only 6.5%

This wine will pair well with chocolate and berry desserts. Or as a Sunday afternoon sparkling at the beach or pool.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Areni: A Dark & Mysterious Grape

Areni is a grape that is grown in Armenia and for our first episode of Winephabet Street we got a double-A.

Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Exploring the Wine Glass and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

Armenia is considered the birthplace of viticulture. It’s a dark and mysterious grape that comes from the village of Areni located in southwest Armenia.

On this episode, we were joined by Wines of Armenia’s Stepan Baghdassarian and we tasted 3 different wines that expressed the grape differently and priced from $25-$50

Please watch the webinar or listen to the podcast and hear the excitement in Stephan’s voice and expressions as he talks about the grape and wine region he loves.

The Wines:

Noah of Areni 2017 - Aromas of blackberry, tobacco and violet lead to a palate that is easy drinking. Juicy blackberry, light mouthfeel with dark fruit and a hint of black pepper spice on the finish.

Old Bridge Areni Noir Reserve 2014 Estate Bottled - Aromas are dense, very berry with a hint of menthol. The palate has a very nice structure, more tannin structure. Notes of sour cherry and raspberry. This wine spent 24 months in oak.

Voskeni Old Vines 130 Reserve Areni - very complex in both aromas and palate. 130-year-old vines that are bushes and low-yielding. Aromas of ripe black raspberry, plum, clove and tobacco leads to a palate that is smooth and complex yet elegant. Lots of red and black fruit with mouth-watering tannins.