Archive for the ‘Wine’Category

Drinks rival meals during Lexus Gran Fondo

Cocktails at Chatham Bars Inn during Lexus Gran Fondo
As wine and Champagne flowed throughout the weekend of the Lexus Gran Fondo, summer cocktails on the lawns stole the spotlight. For the opening night lawn picnic, the Chatham Bars Inn concocted a pair of perfect summer drinks.

The flute (above) contains a Beach Plum Royale. Ingredients include orange simple syrup and a dose of beach plum liqueur. The hotel staff makes the liqueur when beach plums are in season, They lay down the liqueur to age and use it throughout the year. A generous pour of Veuve Clicquot Brut tops the glass. Bubbles buoy up a thin rim of orange peel, keeping it in suspension halfway up the glass.

The deep goblet holds a spectacular ginger-infused version of Sangría. Lillet Rosé forms the base. The rosé version of this old-time favorite aperitif wine is a fairly new product. It is fermented from Muscatel as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. Just before bottling, a small amount Lillet Rouge joins the mix. Additions of bitter orange distillations and a touch of quinine make it a great mixer. For the party sangría, the Chatham Bars Inn bar staff added ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, and guava juice. They topped each glass with ginger ale and added a blueberry for color. The combination is remarkably refreshing.

Just as Lexus imported some Lexus Master Chefs for the Gran Fondo, it also brought along Lexus Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy, the wine director of Little Nell in Aspen and one of the youngest master sommeliers in the U.S. McCoy guided wine choices at the dinners. But he also shook, stirred, and poured some nifty cocktails of his own for brunch on the day after the big ride.

Carlton McCoy cocktails


Carlton McCoy pours Blood Orange Mimosa at Lexus Gran Fondo At left, McCoy is creating a Blood Orange Mimosa. The gorgeous drink is deceptively simple to make. His mixer contains blood orange juice and a bit of Cointreau, a sweet orange liqueur without the bite of Grand Marnier. For each flute, he poured in a generous shot (about 2 fluid ounces) and topped with Mumm Cordon Rouge brut Champagne. It was such a popular choice that most drinkers didn’t even wait to get the orange peel garnish.

The White Peach Bellini, a similar but less colorful drink, began with a mix of fresh juice from white peaches mixed with lemon juice and sugar. The same Champagne topped off the flute, and if drinkers were patient, they also got a spring of mint as a garnish.

To our taste, the most unusual McCoy concoction was a variant on the St-Germain Cocktail. The base liqueur is distilled from elderflowers gathered in the French Alps in the spring and swiftly rushed to the distillery on bicycles. (This is according to the official St-Germain propaganda.) Nothing quite tastes like St-Germain, though the aroma might remind you of a cross between fresh lilac and freshly cut grass. It is sharp and floral at the same time. Most cocktails drown the liqueur in a lot of wine or Champagne and sweeten heavily. McCoy took a different approach, combining some fresh lime juice with the liqueur and topping it off with a pour of cold Prosecco. With a lemon twist, the drink is light, bright, and surprisingly adult.

26

07 2016

Paso Robles wine comes into its own

tasting at a Paso Robles winery
Paso Robles has a frontier spirit. Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast community lends its name to California’s fastest growing wine region.

wine signpost Paso Robles Known since Native American times for its thermal hot springs, Paso (as locals call it) had only 35 wineries in the late 1990s. But this district of limestone bedrock and huge day-night temperature differential has caught the eye of winemakers large and small. Located in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range about a half-hour drive from the Pacific Ocean, the region boasts more than 250 wineries and 26,000 acres planted in more than 40 wine grape varietals. The power of Paso Robles goes well beyond the numbers. The palpable air of experimentation and possibility is so infectious that even short-term visitors get a lift.

Upscale boutiques, Western-style clothiers, restaurants, cafes, and more than 20 wine tasting rooms give a bustling air to the tidy downtown around City Park. While downtown is the best place to taste across the whole region, many vineyards are nearby. On Highway 46 alone, 25 tasting rooms dot the roadside within a five-mile stretch.

Coy and Sarah Barnes founded the first wine tour company in Paso. Their Wine Wrangler (the winewrangler.com) offers both half- and full-day tours.

“Wine has been grown here for as long as in Napa,” says Coy, “but the area is not as well known. There are only about one-third as many vines as there are planted in Napa. But it is an area that is young, growing, full of people who like to experiment.” Even a short tour gives a sense of the proud history and dynamic growth that give the region its unique character.

J Dusi shows Zin is no sin


Janelle Dusi of J Dusi Wines in Paso Robles Janelle Dusi is the fourth generation of a grape-growing family. She grew up on 100 acres planted in old-vine Zinfandel. “We’re farmers. My great grandfather began growing Zinfandel in the 1920s,” she says. “It’s Paso’s heritage grape and the vineyards are still intact and family-owned.”

Her grandfather taught her the basics of winemaking and she is now both winemaker and proprietor of J Dusi Wines (1401 CA-46, Paso Robles; 805-226-2034; jdusiwines.com). True to her family roots, Janelle makes a medium-body Zinfandel.

“I restrain the jam and alcohol. I’m not embarrassed to do a more restrained style with a little more finesse,” she says. “I don’t need to come out of the gates with a chewy meal in a glass. My wine is more food friendly.”

While she is proud of her Zinfandel, Janelle has become increasingly interested in some of the most full-bodied Rhone grapes. She produces single-varietal bottlings of Grenache, Syrah, and the Rhone-like Petite Sirah.

SummerWood strikes a French pose


Shayne Kline of SummerWood in Paso Robles Shayne Kline, general manager at SummerWood Winery, agrees that Rhone grapes are a good fit for Paso Robles. “This area is known as the ‘Rhone zone,’” he says. He points out that the weather and the soils in the two regions are comparable, while noting that the night-time cooling is the most important aspect of the climate.

SummerWood (2175 Arbor Road, Paso Robles; 805-227-1365; summerwoodwine.com) is known for its limited-production American Rhone and Bordeaux wines and for Cabernet Sauvignon, a favorite of winemaker Mauricio Marchant.

“I’m originally from Chile, and I love Cabernet,” Marchant says, He spent time working in Napa Valley where “it’s Cab and Chard all day long. Here we’re still learning, trying to figure out what will work. Trying new things all the time. I love Syrah—powerful, inky black, manly man wine.” He also makes a huge, intense Rhone-style Mourvèdre.

Villicana shows a spirit of its own


Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery & Vineyard (2725 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles; 805-239-9456; villicanawinery.com) share that sense of adventure.

Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery & Vineyard in Paso Robles “We were the 17th winery in the area in 1993,” says Alex. The couple has planted their 13 acres in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot from Bordeaux, and Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah from the Rhone. “It’s Bordeaux meets Rhone,” Villicana says. He could add Puglia as a footnote, since Villicana also grows a lot of Zinfandel.

As winemaker, Alex stems the grapes and removes 30 to 40 percent of the free-run juice. “We change the ratio of juice to skins to get richer red wines,” he notes. In the process, “we stumbled on the fact that you can make vodka out of grapes” in place of the more traditional potatoes or grains. In fact, the Villicanas opened Re:FIND (refinddistillery.com), the area’s first craft distillery.

During the harvest, Alex saves their own free-run juice and buys this “saignée” from other winemakers. He makes vodka and gin by fermenting the juice and triple distilling the product.

“Twenty years of winemaking helped me in distilling.” Alex says. “I use the same sense of smell and taste to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.” He considers the venture to be “the ultimate in spirit-making sustainability.”

12

07 2016

Ocean meets wine country in Pismo Beach

sunset and the pier at Pismo Beach
California beach country is often also wine country. On the Central Coast, wineries nestle in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range only about five miles from the ocean. The San Luis Obispo wine country comprises about thirty wineries squeezed into the hills between Arroyo Grande in the south and San Luis Obispo in the north.

Pelican preens on Pismo Beach pier Over the hills in Pismo Beach, Lissa Hallberg of the Tastes of the Valleys wine tasting bar and bottle shop was eager to introduce me to their products. The coastal village just over the mountains from Arroyo Grande boasts a long strand of soft sand. The town resists modernization, preferring to embody the classic, low-key beach getaway. In the morning, fishermen cast for Spanish mackerel off the 1,200-foot pier where seagulls and pelicans also perch. A gentle surf usually accommodates boarders and everyone can find enough sand to spread out a blanket. Dog walkers and joggers follow the shore south to wander among the undulating dunes. Shorebirds touch down in little lagoons, taking turns flap-flap-flapping to shake out their wings once they land.

Waiting for the sun to go down


Lissa Hallberg of the Tastes of the Valleys purs a sample in Pismo Beach As befits a beach vacation, Pismo Beach boasts plenty of arcades, salt water taffy pullers, ice cream parlors, and retro souvenir shops. But when the sun sinks low in the sky, all eyes turn to the pier. Local custom dictates buying a bottle of wine, pouring some into a Solo cup, and strolling down to the pier before sunset. I selected a bottle of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery Estate Chardonnay. Hallberg grimaced a bit at the thought of the plastic party cup adulterating the honeyed, mineral-driven taste of the wine from the Arroyo Grande Valley. (The region resembles Champagne in its soils and growing conditions, and the best wines are simple and unoaked.) Hallberg needn’t have worried. Watching the sun set, the taste of terroir came through fine without a crystal glass. I could get used to the ritual.

Tastes of the Valleys is at 911 Price Street, Pismo Beach; 805-773-8466; www.pismowineshop.com.

09

07 2016

Endrizzi ecological stewardship inspires great wine

Endrizzi vineyards in San Michele
Vineyards can be some of the most beautiful places on the planet, but few have charms to rival the original family vineyards of Endrizzi. Located in San Michele all’Adige (locale Masetto; tel. +39 0461 650 129: www/endrizzi.it), the winery launched in 1885. Masetto is also the name of the name of the family homestead. In those days, the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Endrizzi operated wine shops in Vienna, Prague, Belgrade, and Switzerland. After World War I, Trentino reverted to Italian control. The wine, however, has always been bilingual.

Trilingual, if you count the origin of some of the grapes. Founders Francesco and Angelo Endrici (the Italian spelling of the family name) pioneered Trentino plantings of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Those French grapes complemented their native teroldego and lagrein as well as riesling and gewürztraminer. In more recent decades, Endrizzi has also added chardonnay, pinot bianco, and sauvignon blanc.

The range of grapes isn’t even the most striking thing about Endrizzi vineyards. When I stepped out of the car at the Masetto facility, blooming flowers scented the air. Birdsong was everywhere. Amber sunshine spilled down the vineyard rows, reaching to the Dolomites in the background. Rarely have I arrived somewhere that exuded such health and harmony.

There’s an apropos quote from Goethe near the door of the winery: “Nature and idea cannot be separated without destroying both art and life.”

Lisa María and Paolo Endrici of Endrizzi Dr. Paolo Endrici is the fourth generation to operate the company. His wife Christine, a German architect, designed the winery. Their daughter Lisa María recently concluded wine management studies at Geisenheim in Germany with graduate work in Bordeaux. (Paolo and Lisa María are shown at left.)


The family also operates Serpaia di Endrizzi in La Maremma in Tuscany. I have written elsewhere of the elegance and intense fruit of their Morrelino di Scansano, so it was a pleasure to taste through the Trentino production. For brevity’s sake, I’d like to focus on just a few of the Masetto wines. They are just barely available in the U.S. I’d be thrilled if a broad-based importer were to pick them up, since they offer extraordinary quality at modest prices.

Masetto di Endrizzi


Masetto Bianco from Endrizzi If I had my druthers, I would drink Masetto Bianco at dinner several nights a week. This is a complex white blend of chardonnay, pinot bianco, riesling, and sauvignon blanc. All the grapes come from vineyards that are either biodynamically farmed or tending that way. The traditional pergola vineyards are being retrained to guyot wire. While a tiny amount of phosphate is added in mineral-deficient portions of the vineyards, none remains in the juices. Endrizzi vinfies most of the must in stainless steel, but ferments about 20 percent in oak. The winery employs powerful air-splitting machinery. The nitrogen provides a neutral atmosphere for bottling and capping off fermentation tanks. The ozone takes care of almost all sterilization within the facility, drastically reducing sulphites.

Masetto Nero is the red version of a daily table wine. This blend of native and French grapes spends just a short period in barrels to meld the flavors without adding strong oak flavors. Blueberries, raspberries and cocoa are the dominant flavor notes, with a slight undertone of vanilla.

Gran Masetto

Gran Masetto from Endrizzi The pride and joy of the family, however, is Gran Masetto. This wine shows the potential of the local teraldego grape for making an important wine. The must comes from two pressings. Grapes from a vineyard where the fruit has been reduced 50 percent by a series of green harvests make up the first pressing. The second pressing squeezes passito, or raisined, grapes. These are ripe grapes stored in small baskets under refrigeration until around Christmas. This cold desiccation concentrates the flavor, sugar, and acids. It keeps the aroma intact and avoids the marmalade qualities of grapes dried with sun or heat.

The color is extremely deep—almost black. The wine spends about 18 months in old oak barrels, and often several years in the bottle before release. Paolo poured verticals of the Gran Masetto from 2006 through 2011. Each displayed some caramelized fruit on the nose along with a characteristic teroldego spiciness. The younger wines also showed a hint of black pepper. Consistently ranked among Italy’s top 100 wines, this striking red retails around 45€. It could easily fetch twice the price.

Endrizzi’s Vinoteca is open daily except Tuesday for tastings and sales. Hours are 9am-noon, then 2-7pm. Slightly shorter hours prevail in October and November, when the winery commands everyone’s attention.

07

07 2016

Mezzacorona proves big wineries can make fine wines

enologist Mateo Covazzi at Mezzacorona
Not all Trentino wine producers are modest family affairs. Established in 1904, the Mezzacorona cooperative (www.mezzacorona.it/en-us) comprises 1,600 members. Their vineyards stretch across 3,000 hectares (about 11.6 square miles). They grow a third of the grapes in Trento province—about 30,000 tons per year. And they make surprisingly good wine.

Three-quarters of the grapes grown by Mezzacorona members are white. The most important are pinot grigio and chardonnay. Mezzacorona pinot grigio is certainly well-known in the U.S. and Germany, where it is a nationwide top seller in both countries. Wine Enthusiast magazine gave the 2014 a score of 87 and rated it a “best buy.” Annual production reaches about 50 million bottles. In the U.S., it sells for as little as $8 at a discount wine supermarket to $12 at a convenience store.

According to winemaker Mateo Covazzi (above), 2014 was a very challenging year. The cooperative had to lower its ripeness standards for the members, as late rains put a literal damper on the harvest. But Covazzi and his winemaking colleagues work with truly state-of-the-art tools and equipment. Pinot grigio is the flagship of the cooperative, so it must be consistent from year to year. Drinking the 2013 and 2014 side by side in a blind tasting, I detected a little more acid and fewer floral notes in the 2014. Otherwise, I found it hard to tell the two vintages apart.

Sparkling wines carry Rotari label


Mezzacorona facility The sheer size of the Mezzacorona facility is hard to fathom. It is several wineries under one undulating roof at the edge of town in the shadow of the Alps. Built of local wood, the roof echoes the structure of the pergolas traditional in local vineyards. In addition to varietal still wines—pinot grigio, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot nero, and moscato—the same company also makes 2.5 million bottles of sparkling wine under the Rotari label. (The cooperative also makes and bottles smaller amounts of other varietals for local consumption.)

riddling cages at Mezzacorona Rotari Mezzacorona sorts its grapes carefully, grading them for their final use. The best of the chardonnay grapes are reserved for Rotari sparkling wines. The sparkling wines spend a minimum of 20 months on the lees. Riservas sit on the lees for three to four years, flagship wines for six years or more. Although production of sparkling wines is more fragmented than the still wines, the volume of production permits some considerable economies of scale—like the 360-bottle riddling cages shown here. The standard Rotari Brut is comparable to a good entry-level Champagne. At $12-$16, it is half the cost.

Mezzacorona offers guided tours and tastings Monday-Saturday 8:30am–12:30 pm and 2–6pm. Call for an appointment. The Cittadella del Vino (“Citadel of Wine”), as the company calls its new cutting-edge facility, is 300 meters off the A22 at Via del Teroldego, 1/E in Mezzocorona; tel. +39 0461 616 399; www.mezzacorona.it.

05

07 2016

Warm wind makes fine Letrari wines in Vallagarina

Letrari vineyards in Isera
Every afternoon at 3 p.m., warm air sweeps north from Lake Garda into the Vallagarina, the low hills around Trentino’s southern portion of the Adige River. Vineyard owners call it “L’Ora,” or “the hour,” and swear that you could set a clock by it. All through the summer, this steady breeze provides warmth and aeration to the grapes. It drives up the sugar concentration and sweeps away potential fungal infections. The warm, dry wind makes the Vallagarina one of the best places in Italy to grow heat-loving grape varieties. The big reds from Bordeaux flourish here. So do the classic grapes of sparkling wine: chardonnay and pinot noir.

Lucia LetrariThe Letrari family has been making wine in Italy’s Trentino region for the last few centuries. The modern Letrari winery (www.letrari.it) was founded in 1976 by Leonello Letrari and his wife Maria Vittoria on the family lands in Borgetto all’Adige. Daughter Lucia (right) graduated from the region’s prestigious Institute of Agriculture and Enology in San Michele al Adige in 1987. She now runs the family winery, and her son is already working at her side.

Casa del Vino

The Letrari tasting room is a bit off the beaten path. As a result, Lucia often holds business meetings at the Casa del Vino della Vallagarina (Piazza San Vincenzo, 1, Isera: tel. +39 (0) 464 486 057; www.casadelvino.info).

Casa del Vino della Vallagarina Part restaurant, part enoteca, part wine shop, the Casa del Vino is an essential stop for a wine tourist. It is in the heart of the mountain village on the wine route known as the Strada del vino e dei sapori del Trentino (www.tastetrentino.it). It has a few hotel rooms starting at 90€ per night.

Impressive sparkling wines

Letrari produces a dizzying array of wines, but Leonello was a pioneer in making sparkling wines. The family still prides itself on sparkling wines made from high altitude chardonnay and pinot noir.

The very impressive Brut Riserva—60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay—was surprisingly good with a beef carpaccio topped with paper-thin swirls of sweet golden apple. The wine spends a minimum of 48 months on the lees. That produces a creamy head, notes of toasted bread, and a lingering taste of fruit. The prickliness of the tiny bubbles was a nice counterpoint to the raw beef. That wine, however, was only a warm-up for Letrari’s Riserva del Fondatore. This deluxe wine spends 96 months in contact with the yeast, developing a complexity comparable to high-end Champagne.

Letrari lunch canderli Letrari’s Dosaggio Zero is made without adding sweetness for the second fermentation. Tart and dry, it has a delicate apple-pear fruitiness. It mated nicely with a plate of canderli, breadcrumb dumplings laden with local herbs and served with cheese fondue. The yeastiness is less pronounced, since it only spends 24 months on the lees. The tart delicacy makes it perfect for pairing with cheeses and shellfish. With just a hint of brassiness like rice wine, it would be good with sushi. It’s also great this time of year as a picnic wine.

27

06 2016

Grigoletti makes superb wines a family affair

Grigoletti vineyards in Nomi, Italy
Slender and willowy, Bruno Grigoletti reaches his big hands into the canopy of a grape pergola and starts ripping out the extra foliage. In his late 70s, he works at a pace that would exhaust a man a third his age. Bruno manages a dozen family vineyards. They total about 15 acres (6 ha) in and around the commune of Nomi on the west bank of the Adige river, 9 miles (15 km) south of Trento. Some of the heat-loving varieties grow at the edge of the village in the alluvial soils of the Adige. But the most striking wines come from steep vineyard plots on the limestone hills behind the village.

Grigoletti brunoBruno prunes the white grapes—mostly pinot grigio, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc—three times across the summer. He then cuts out foliage a few weeks before harvest to improve air circulation and maximize sun exposure. Some special plots of white grapes and all the red grapes—merlot, marzemino, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and schiava—get an extra pruning across the summer to keep their yields in check.

Although this end of the Adige valley lies far north in Italy, the southern end is strongly influenced by Lake Garda. The lake effect makes it warm enough to raise lemons and olives. A warm wind siphons up the valley, extending the growing season around Nomi and providing warmth and moisture to go with the intense summer sunlight. Vineyard managers work hard to keep yields down and acids and sugar up.

Vineyard management is just the beginning. Azienda Agricola Grigoletti is a true family affair. Bruno commands the vineyards, and his son Carmelo makes the wine and runs the cellars. Marica, Carmelo’s wife, runs the tasting room and sales. They produce about 50,000 bottles per year of a dozen wines. Ten are table wines and two are sweet wines they call their “Meditation” series.

Grigoletti winery signI can heartily recommend them all. But I confess a special affection for Marzemino and for the four “selection” wines. Marzemino is a native grape, probably an offspring of Teroldego. It’s best known outside the region through a reference in the opera Don Giovanni. The rake calls for a glass just before he is cast into hell. (The librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, probably drank Marzemino when he grew up a few miles away.)

Most of Marzemino Trentino D.O.C. that I tasted at the big Trentino tasting in May (Mostra Vini) were an almost opaque dark plum color with a gentle warmth and very little tannin or acid. Grigoletti’s version is a cut above. It shows pronounced red fruit on the nose and a dried fruit aftertaste that’s very pleasant with food.

At the moment, North Americans must visit Italy to try these wines. But if Grigoletti breaks into distribution on this side of the Atlantic, the four “selection” wines will lead the way. They stand on their own with anything similar in the world.

L’OPERA

L’Opera chardonnay (9€ at the winery) comes from a mountainside vineyard where the vines are all at least 25 years old. Most of the soil is dolomitic limestone with a thin covering of topsoil, but part of the vineyard overlays a band of gravel. The grapes are soft-pressed and the juice is fermented in stainless tanks. The wine rests on the lees (with regular stirring) for six months. L’Opera is never touched by oak, but the influence of the lees and and high mineral content of the soil gives it an intensity and backbone usually associated with barrel aging. This is a chardonnay with pronounced fruit (golden apples more than pineapple or banana), a honey-like viscosity. and a well-defined structure. It mates well with ocean fish and mild young cheeses.

RETIKO

Retiko (11€) is Grigoletti’s complexly flavored white blend—70% chardonnay, 30% sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc is very aromatic in this part of Trentino, almost mimicking riesling and gewürztraminer in its intensity, though the flavor is much more like lychee. Carmelo ferments the wine directly in large barrels made of French acacia (black locust). That gives the developing wine access to oxygen without picking up the vanilla and other flavors from oak. He leaves it on the lees for another five months (with regular battonage) and then rests the wine in bottles six months before release. It’s clearly a sister wine to L’Opera, but with a more sprightly personality and a prickly acidity that makes it a good complement to veal carpaccio.

MERLOT ANTICA VIGNA

Grigoletti makes Merlot Antico Vigna (13€) from vines that are 60 or more years old. During the harsh economic times after World War II, merlot was “the family bread.” In those years, the Grigolettis overcropped the grape. But they have narrowed the historic pergolas and have retrained many old vines to wire. That drastically reduces yields and concentrates flavor and sugar. Carmelo makes a simpler merlot for ready drinking. But the grapes from the old vines are fermented in wood, then spend six months in French oak barrique, and two years in the bottle. The resulting wine tastes of cherries and bramble fruits with a pronounced spiciness. It is merlot in a very Trentino style—warm and round and slippery in the mouth due to soft tannins. Drink with a country salami, grilled lamb, or aged cheese.

GONZALIER

Carmelo Grigoletti with a magnum of Gonzalier Gonzalier (16€) is Grigoletti’s meritage. It contains 50% merlot, 25% each cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. They harvest most of the grapes a month later than the rest of the family vineyards. That is always tricky here, since they run the risk of rain. Gonzalier is fermented in oak and aged in a mix of oak and cherry barrels. Vineyard management is key, and the wine displays none of the green pepper aromas common in unripe Trentino cabernet. Carmelo has elected to make Gonzalier velvety and fruity with just a hint of vanilla and spice, and has kept the alcohol level to 14 percent. Every few years, he will blend three vintages to create magnums, available only at the winery for 65€.

Grigoletti welcomes visitors to the tasting room and store at Via Garibaldi, 12 in Nomi Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call them at (011-34) 0464 834 215 or visit the website at www.grigoletti.com.

18

06 2016

Hearty Trentino dishes complement the wines

chef in Trento at Mostra Vini
If you’re going to spend all morning tasting 128 wines, you really need some hearty food to follow up. The Trento cuisine is a fascinating blend of Italian and Germanic foodways, and it’s well suited to the regional wines. After we sampled our way through the wines, most of us had absorbed enough alcohol, even without swallowing, that we really needed a good meal. The Trentino wine consortium made sure we got it!

We started with a glass of light white wine made from the Incrocio Manzoni Bianco grape. It’s part of a group named for professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968), who experimented with crossing a number of grapes during the 1920s and 1930s at Italy’s oldest school of oenology in Conegliano, north of Venice. The bianco cross of riesling and pinot bianco (pinot blanc to French speakers) does quite well in cold climate, high altitude vineyards like Trentino’s. In fact, it’s often too vigorous and has to be aggressively pruned to keep from overcropping. A fairly delicate wine, it has just enough astringency to clear the palate before a meal.

Mostra Vini del Trentino lunch of braised veal cheeksThe meal was a humble feast of straightforward dishes typical of the region. We started with a red wine risotto—a treat when it’s made with the local Teroldego red and the local grating cheese—before moving on to braised veal cheeks with roasted potatoes (right) and, for dessert, a beautiful apple strudel.

The local grating cheese, Trentingrana DOP, is made in a part of the province that falls within the delimited region for Grana Padano DOP cheese, but it has the name “Trentino” prominently stamped in the form that makes the big wheels. Since it’s hard to find in the U.S., substitute a 24-month Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the same effect.

Note that the chef stirred the risotto vigorously (see photo at top of post), almost folding the mixture as it cooked. The recipe below follows the traditional way to make risotto—about a half hour of stirring—though you could also use our pressure cooker method (see this post: http://hungrytravelers.com/learning-under-pressure/) by reducing the volume of liquid to about twice the volume of rice. Note that the alcohol and the tannins in red wine affect the cooking time, making it about 25 percent longer than using mostly broth and a white wine. But the extra time is worth it for the perfect melding of red wine and aged cheese with the creamy mouth feel of the dish.

Mostralunch red wine risotto

RED WINE RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Trentingrana (see above)

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of the red wine, reserving the remainder.. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat so wine-broth is hot but not simmering.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot (a Dutch oven works well) over medium-low heat. Add shallots and and cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft and translucent. Add rice and 2 tablespoons butter and stir to coat.

Stir in the reserved half cup of wine and cook over medium heat, stirring until wine is absorbed. Stir in a half cup of the hot wine broth and adjust heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add more wine broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It will take 25-30 minutes for nearly all the liquid to be absorbed. At this point, the rice should be creamy and glistening with a starch coating but still be al dente when sampled.
Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and remove from heat.

Remove pot from heat and cover to let rest about two minutes before serving in shallow bowls. Pass extra grated cheese.

10

06 2016

Trentino shows off its superb wines at Mostra Vini

Tasting at Mostra Vini del Trentino
The wine district of Trentino is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets—at least from Americans. That translates into real bargains on some outstanding wines from unfamiliar producers. Trentino is the southern half of the region of Trentino-Alto Adige east of Lombardy and west of the Veneto. To help you place it, the wine district more or less corresponds to the Trento province in the map below.

Trentino Alto Adige map With high-altitude vineyards on a mix of dolomitic limestone and volcanic porphyry, the area produces startlingly good sparkling wines in the style of Champagne, highly aromatic white wines similar to the style of Alsace, and some fascinating local reds that many Americans have never heard of. Napoleon rolled through in the early 19th century, and many chardonnay, merlot, cabernet, and pinot noir vineyards date from that era. While the two big cooperatives of Cavit and Mezzacorona also produce daunting quantities of bargain-priced pinot grigio for the North American market, some Trentino wineries also make very sophisticated and delicious wines from the same grape.

Mostra logo I had the pleasure of attending the 79th edition of the Mostra Vini del Trentino, which translates loosely as Trentino Wine Tasting. Some 10,000 people showed up over the four days to file through one of the great late medieval palaces in central Trento to sample a selection of 128 excellent wines from the region. The general public paid 5 euros for three glasses of the “basic” wines, 10 euros for three glasses of the reserve wines. As always, there were a slew of other events, from wine-themed movies to lectures to workshops to special dinners. Before the event opened to the public, the Trentino wine consortium (www.vinideltrentino.com/ITA/32/Consorzio.html) turned a dozen of us wine journalists loose to sample and take notes. Trentino is better known in Europe than in the U.S., so I was the only American present. With few exceptions, we all worked our way through the complete selection—although I declined some of the dessert wines because my palate was exhausted.

In the next several posts, I’ll be writing about some of those wines, including some made from the unusual grapes native to the region and several where I had a chance to visit the wineries. The Trentino district is actually fairly small, and has an active program that encourages winery visits. In most of Italy, you need to make advance reservations. Along Trentino’s Strade del Vino, you can simply stop by to taste and purchase.

Trento is a perfect base for touring and is a truly beautiful city that’s easy to walk. It has shuttled back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries, so the architecture is as much Germanic as Italian. The Dolomite Alps hover in the background just outside the city, making the region a favorite for mountain bikers. It was the site of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that led to the Counter Reformation. Indeed, it’s been a center of humanistic learning ever since. Here’s a shot of the main square.

Trento center square

02

06 2016

Frescobaldi celebrates its Tuscan estates

Lamberto Frescobaldi
There’s poetry in the Frescobaldi soul, and I don’t just write that because I like so many of the family’s wines. Back in the 13th century, poet Dino Frescobaldi helped his exiled friend Dante Alighieri recover the first seven books of the Divine Comedy, enabling him to complete one of the great masterpieces of world literature. About that same time, the Frescobaldi family also started to focus on making wine in the Tuscan countryside. A couple of years ago, Lamberto Frescobaldi took over the leadership of the family business, and since he has a son at college in Rhode Island, the chief often passes through Boston. When he was here in March, we had a chance to sit down and taste some current releases and talk about new directions he’s taking the company.

Lamberto is a businessman with the soul of a poet and the skills of a winemaker. Since he took the helm, the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi has quietly pivoted from emphasizing the 700 years of winemaking experience behind the entire portfolio to playing up the character of the six individual Tuscan estates that are part of the Frescobaldi Toscano branch of the family company. (They also produce Super Tuscans called Masseto and Ornallaia in Bolghieri, as well as Attems pinot grigios and sauvignon blancs in the sandy eastern hills of Friuli.)
Pomino Benefizio Riserva Frescobaldi The newest bottlings from the Tuscan vineyards play up the vineyard name over the Frescobaldi moniker.

Since we were conversing as well as tasting, we kept to just four bottles. The first was my favorite Italian chardonnay, Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2013. The Pomino estate in the northeast corner of Tuscany is high in the hills. The family has been growing chardonnay here since 1855, first winning a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Since 1973, the estate has been making this barrel-fermented white from a single vineyard at 700 meters. For an Italian wine, it’s very Burgundian—rich and luscious with very gentle French oak. It is a truly voluptuous white that makes a perfect pairing with intensely flavored fish, strong aged cheese, and light veal dishes. It retails around $43.

Frescobaldi Montesodi Although Castelo di Nipozzano is well within the Chianti district, the Montesodi 2012 wine is technically a Tuscan IGT because it is made from nothing but Sangiovese grown in the limestone and clay soil of the Montesodi vineyard at 400 meters. Starting with the 2012 vintage, the wine spends 18 months aging in large (30hl) French and Austrian oak casks. This bottle had been opened about two hours before we sat down, so the aeration had taken the edge off its young tannins without taking anything away from the complex nose. This is possibly the purest example of northern Tuscan sangiovese on the market. It displays strong notes of tart cherries, brick, and a bit of oregano and thyme. Although usually drunk at a meal with red meats, Montesodi would be spectacular with roast chicken–or even better, roast duck or pheasant. Retail is about $43.

Frescobaldi Giramonte 2012 Tenuta de Castiglioni is the oldest of the Frescobaldi estates, but the impressive Giramonte cru—a merlot wine with some sangiovese—has only been made since 1999. It’s a synthesis of flavors that the Frescobaldi winemakers pioneered when they started planting Bordeaux varietals in Tuscany in the 1850s. When I drink Giramonte, I feel like I’m getting both the full lushness of a ripe merlot (a hint of mint and mushroom) with the spice and leather of good sangiovese. We drank an old-style Giramonte 2009, which had an 88 percent merlot content. Lamberto explained that they pick the merlot in three stages, starting when it has only 10-10.5 degrees of sugar. The remaining grapes are allowed to mature more slowly. It’s a silky, complicated red that drinks nicely with red meats—or after-dinner philosophy. The 2009 is still in the market at around $108-$120, though the 2012 is available at about the same price.

Frescobaldi Mormoreto 2012 We finally capped off our tasting with Mormoreto, a Bordeaux-style blend from the Nipozzano estate. The Mormoreto vineyard was planted in 1976 with Frescobaldi vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot first established here in the 1850s. The vineyard is showing great maturity, and the 2012 is truly opulent—with a strong hint of black cherries, blackberries, and respberries. The scorching heat of the 2012 summer was clearly well-balanced by cool nights, as the wine has intense aromatics. The wine spent two years in small oak casks before bottling, and vanilla notes are still pronounced until it’s well-aerated. A large, full wine with all the chest-beating power of a Bordeaux blend, Mormoreto has a lot more finesse than many of Super Tuscans. I know by experience that the elegance becomes more pronounced after a few extra years of cellaring. Retail is around $65.

16

04 2016