Saturday, August 4, 2018

Italian Grapes in Lodi with Harney Lane's Primitivo

I'm obviously a huge fan of Italian wines, but I love finding Italian grapes grown outside Italy to experience the difference of the grapes being grown on non-Italian soil. This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is doing just that in sharing wineries around the world producing wines from Italian grapes.  

We've talked about primitivo here in the past and it's a grape that you'll typically find in Puglia, but today I found one out in Lodi, CA from the Harney Lane Winery.  I was introduced to the Harney Lane Winery awhile back when I tried their 2012 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel.  Harney Lane and the family have been harvesting grapes for 5 generations.  The winemaking there is carefully tended to with everything done by hand.

Harney Lane Winery Lodi, CA
I connected with owner, Jorja Lerner, to get a better understanding regarding their Primitivo Lot wines. Jorja actually held a career as a physical therapist for 15 years, but growing up having respect for farming she got her calling back to the family winery and today runs the tasting room and operations. 

Can you give me your history in the wine industry and what got you started with Harney Lane?
For 5 generations my family has grown wine grapes on the Harney Lane property.  In the early 2000's my husband and I started discussing the thought of a winery as well as other options as a way to add value to the family farm to ensure it was financially viable for generations to come.  Our region has long been the backbone of the California wine industry, but at that point few families had developed their own label.  In 2006, we made our first vintage of wine, jumping to the vintner side of the busienss and we never regretted the decision.  It is more work than we ever imagined but also more rewarding. While it has added value to our business it has also been a beneficial learning tool for our farming practices and gratifying to share our final estate product directly with the consumer.

What attracted Harney Lane to producing primitivo in particular out of all the Italian native grapes?  Were other Italian grapes considered?
Primitivo really comes also as a circumstance of our farming history.  We had already been growing this variety for another large winery.  As a grower, it is more elongated and slightly earlier ripening than many zinfandel clones.  As a grower it made sense to reduce some of the struggles growing zinfandel.  Early in our winemaking, we quickly discovered that primitivo produces beautiful, elegant dark cherry notes that are distinct.  It completely made sense to share this with our consumers as another offering in our lineup.

Harney Lane Primitivo LotThe Harney Lane Primitivo Lot is a club exclusive wine so I was lucky to receive a sample.  They blend 3 vintages producing a wine that full bodied, robust and in jammy berries and vanilla with a hint of spice.  ABV 15.5% SRP $40.

Food pairing
Harney Lane recommends the following to pair with this wine: spicy food, thair curry, chicken marsala, sweet baby back ribs, autumn beef stew and cioppino.

Join us this Saturday August 4th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT and chat about Italian grapes from around the world.  Next month on Saturday September 1st we will be featuring Fall Reds.


*Wine provided as a sample and pictures copyright of Harney Lane Winery

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Italian Grapes from Around the World with #ItalianFWT

As we all know understanding wine around the world can be challenging to get a grasp on especially if we haven't visited the region, don't understand the language nor the wine laws that come along with each wine territory.  When it comes to Italian wines the real challenge is that Italy alone has over 2,000 native grape varieties.  That's enough to make your head spin.

Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month is taking these Italian grapes to another level by finding countries around the world outside of Italy that are growing some of these Italian grapes on their own soil.  What types of wines do they produce on different soil, with different climates and how do they compare to those that are grown in Italy?  There is lots to share and our group this month will shed some light on the variety to be discovered.

Join us this Saturday August 4th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT and chat about Italian grapes from around the world.

Camilla of The Culinary Adventures of Camilla features "Italian Grapes in Paso Robles: Aglianico, Malvasia Bianca and Some Pairings"

Jeff from Food Wine Click shares "Eating Pizza / NotPizza with Italian / NotItalian Wines"

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish features "Ryme Cellars Ribolla Gialla: A Taste of Friuli in Napa Valley"

Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares "This Italian Wine Grape Fooled You" 

Susannah from Avvinare shares "Noteworthy New York State Wines Made with Italian Grapes"

Gwendolyn from the Art Predator features "An Italian in AUS? Meet a 2006 Montepulciano from Tscharke"

I'll be featuring from Vino Travels "Italian Grapes in Lodi with Harney Lane's Primitivo"


Friday, July 13, 2018

50 Harvests with the Sieni Family of the Montefioralle Winery

Over the last two weeks I've attended a couple live online chats with the family of the Montefioralle Winery located in a division of Greve-in-Chianti in Tuscany called Montefioralle.  I've been to Greve a number of times and it's not too far outside of Florence.  I believe there is a SITA bus you can take from the bus station in Florence, but my preference when visiting the countryside is to rent a car and have the freedom to stop wherever you want.  There is so much to see and so many picturesque photo opportunities that you won't want to miss along the way.  The primary wine road to take through wine country there is the SS222 also known as the Chiantigiana.  Greve-in-Chianti will be one of your first main communes that you'll reach.
The family members that shared their history of Montefioralle were Fernando Sieni, the father, and his son, Lorenzo, and daughter, Alessia. They were so dedicated to sharing their story with us that they did the video live from their vacation in Puglia with their kids playing in the background.
It's an important year for the Montefioralle winery as they are celebrating 50 harvests this October. The winery was founded by Fernando's father back in 1964.  He rented the property and land from the church which he then planted the vineyards on.  Fernando finally purchased it from the winery in the mid 90's.  Both Fernando's parents were born in Montefioralle.  Montefioralle was founded by German monks.  Lorenzo mentioned that they found documents that actually mention that the priests of Montefioralle used to make wine in their vineyards all the way back to the 14th century.

The winery has come a long way from their 1st harvest of 500 liters to today producing about 10,000-12,000 bottles annually.Some of their procedures have changed over time where they used to use wooden barrels for fermentation where now they use cement vats.  Fernando was the one whom started green harvesting at the winery where they discard some of the grape bunches to increase the quality of the grapes.  His father was never in agreement of this as he thought it was always a waste of the grapes, until he really understood the reasoning behind it to produce higher quality wines.  They are currently taking part in green harvesting as we speak.  Lorenzo and Alessia's nephew, Sebastiano, whom is 12 has taken a liking to being in the winery and takes part in these activities including harvest.
The family shared that they have faced some difficult harvests like any winery including 2002 due to heavy rains where there many diseases evolved and the grape bunches had to be harvested by hand.   2014 was another difficult vintage where they lost over 40% of their production.  As Lorenzo described though that a great winemaker is one whom can produce great wines in the bad years as opposed to the good.  Although, their best vintage recommendations for their wines include 1997, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016.  So far the 2018 vintage is shaping up like 2013 where it's been wet, but also sunny and not so hot followed by cool nights.  Alessia actually shared something that I found very touching and shows you the passion behind their winemaking philosophy and how they view wine more than just a product.  It's a way of life.  When asked her favorite vintage she stated that “Every wine has it’s own history and individuality and they allow that to transpire”.  Fernando compared it to not being able to choose a favorite child and it's the same with wine. 

The wines have always been produced organically, but in 2015 they started the process to be certified with the first vintage coming out as certified organic possibly in 2018 or 2019.  So what grapes do they produce?  They primarily produce sangiovese along with canaiolo and colorino for red grapes and trebbiano and malvasia for white grapes used in the production of their vin santo. In the 80’s Fernando wanted to plant international varieties including cabernet sauvignon and merlot that they use in their IGT designated wines.   

I received 3 of their wines including their 2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico, the 2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva and their Vin Santo.  Their chianti classico wines are produced with over 90% sangiovese, the noble grape of Tuscany, that is known for tannin and high acid.  The rest of the grapes added include canaiolo for approachability and a smoother wine as well as colorino for color since sangiovese is a light colored grape.  Not all wineries use canaiolo and colorino as canaiolo is difficult to grow and reach ripeness where the colorino is produced in small quantities.
Montefioralle wines from Greve in Chianti
2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico  - This wine was aged a year in barrels.  This vintage had a very hot summer resulting in a wine full of ripe, rich cherries.  An approachable wine with rather balanced acidity and supple tannins.  Notes of tobacco and cedar all typical to sangiovese and part of the reason why I love it.  Lorenzo suggested aging the wine about 5-6 years and in good vintages this can be doubled.  ABV 14.5% (typically 13-13.5%) SRP $14
2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva – A difficult vintage due to climate.  They produced 1,000 bottles that year as opposed to their normal 3,000.  Their riserva wines are produced from vines that are 30+ years old.  This wine is aged 2 years in barrel.  A wine with complex aromas including cherry with some herbal and chocolate notes.   Lorenzo recommended that this wine can age about 10-12 years on average and more than double in good vintages. ABV 14.5% SRP $30

I have yet to try the 2014 Montefioralle Vin Santo since I wanted to pair it with cantucci, or biscotti, as I have enjoyed in Tuscany.  I will let you know once I've had a chance to try it.  SRP $30 at a half liter bottle.  The nice about these wines is that Montefioralle has it arranged where they can ship directly as they are partnered with importers and mine came rather quickly. 

What I loved about meeting the Sieni family virtually was that everything they do is for their passion for wine.  They don't tailor their wines for the consumer market as some wineries do.  It's more about quality and not the quantity and I could feel their passion and sense of family and history throughout the conversation. 


* Most pictures copyright of Montefioralle Winery.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Lake Garda says Hooray for Rosé with Chiaretto

Over the last few weeks I've sampled a number of different rosé, or rosato, wines from around the world and this month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is featuring wines from the area of Lake Garda that borders both the Veneto and Lombardy northern regions in Italy.  In particular we're talking about the wines known as chiaretto, pronounced "key-ah-ret-oh".  Lake Garda is actually the largest lake in Italy.  The last time I was at Lake Garda was June of 2017 where I took a day trip over to Peschiera del Garda on the southern part of the lake only about 15 minutes by train from Verona. If you've never been to Lake Garda it's a must see.  It's such a beautiful place to visit with so many great towns along the shores easily reachable by boat.    

Peschiera del Garda Chiaretto wine
My trip to Peschiera del Garda

This area of the Veneto, including Lake Garda, prides itself on their red grapes used in the production of their valpolicella, amarone and bardolino wines.  Corvina leads the pack of red grapes followed by molinara and rondinella, all grapes that are also used in the production of chiaretto of varying levels.   
Chiaretto has been produced in Lake Garda since 1896 started by a lawyer/writer, Pompeo Molmenti, whom owned vineyards on the lake and decided to start producing wine.  Today the area produces about 8.5 million bottles.   
If you're not familiar with Chiaretto it typically produces wines that are dry, crisp, fresh with a citrus profile touched by red berries.  It's named chiaretto after the Italian word chiaro, meaning pale.  If you're not familiar with how rosé wines are made, the juice is kept in contact with the red skins for a limited amount of time to impart a hint of pink to the wine.  Chiaretto is a wine to be enjoyed in its youth.   
Bardolino Chiaretto Classico wines from Lake Garda
I tasted the 2017 Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato Le Morette Bardolino Chiaretto Classico and I was very delighted by it mostly because of the balance and elegance in this wine.  It's made of 55% corvina, 35% rondinella and 10% molinara.  It was the best rosé I personally tasted recently (personal preference of course).  It was very pale pink in color.  There were citrus notes on the nose.  A light-bodied wine that was nicely balanced with fruit, acidity and a little saltiness.  Most prevalent on the finish were fresh strawberries and raspberries.  12% ABV 
The winery is located in San Benedetto di Lugana located between Lake Garda and Lake FrassinoThe winery is named after a species of wild duck, called le morette, that live along Lake Frassino.  They were chosen for their elegance and beauty and the deep respect for nature and the environment.   It was started 60 years back by Gino Zenato and his main purpose for the land was the production of vines, in addition to producing wines on the side for himself.  His son, Valerio, took over the business in 1981 producing wines for distribution to the market.  Today the winery is run by the 3rd generation, Fabio and Paolo, that strives to complete the vision of their grandfather.  And so the legacy continues.  One of the things I love about Italian wines is the history and stories behind each and every winery and how the next generations continue on the dream and mission of their founding fathers. 
I also tasted the 2017 Cantina Caorsa Bardolino Chiaretto Classico.  This is actually a cooperative of about 350 members owned by the North-east Agricultural Consortium that began in 1987.  I unfortunately couldn't locate too much information on this winery, but enjoyed this wine also.  It's a blend of primarily corvina at 60% with 20% rondinella, 10% molinara and 10% merlot.   A deeper pink in comparison to the Le Morette and a rather smooth, light-bodied wine bright with red berries.  12.5% ABV
Join me and my fellow writers in the #ItalianFWT group to discover even more about Chiaretto di Bardolino on Twitter, Saturday July 7 at 11 am/EST.  Here's what we'll talk about:
*Wines provided as samples thankfully by the Consorzio Tutela Vino Bardolino DOC, but opinions are my own.  Information and most pictures sourced from Chiaretto.


Friday, July 6, 2018

A Taste of the North Fork with Bedell Cellars

Being in the Boston area there aren’t as many destinations for winery visits as those living out on the west coast, although I have tried some locally.  My favorite go to place for winery visits is upstate New York to the Finger Lakes, but back in 2007 I traveled out to the North Fork of Long Island to visit their wineries and was rather impressed.  I have yet to go back, but recently tried the 2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rosé and it made me want to pay a visit back to this area.  Bedell Cellars sticks in my mind to this day out of all the wineries I visited and I loved their merlot I tried back then. 
Bedell Cellars North Fork Long Island
Part of the WineStudio program that I’m part of had an online chat one night with winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich from Bedell Cellars.  He is the only winemaker in North America to entirely use indigenous yeasts.  He feels that it’s the best way for a terroir to shine in the cellar.  He also helped find the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, which is the first on the east coast and only one of 12 on the planet.   

Bedell Cellars started in 1980 by Kip and Susan Bedell before it was purchased in 2000 by art collector, Michael Lynne.  He incorporated world renowned contemporary artists for the label work along with the skills of winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich, whom has established it as a certified, sustainable winery.   

The North Fork built their reputation off growing European grapes on the east coast which was unheard of back in the beginning phases.  As Rich stated that “making wine on the east coast is not for the faint of heart and it’s incredibly hard work”.  He compares their wines to that of the old world and uses Bordeaux as a model as well as the western Loire in France due to a similarity in the weight and balance of wines in both wine regions.   

Rich stated that “my approach to making great rosé starts with targeting sites in the vineyard that would produce what I’m looking for: low alcohol, crisp acidity and bright aromatics.”  All the grapes are carefully hand harvested and sorted.   
2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rose

The 2017 Bedell Taste Rosé is blended different every year. This vintage is comprised of 60% merlot 30% cabernet franc, 5% syrah and 5% cabernet sauvignon.  The grapes are pressed gently in whole clusters before they are fermented with the indigenous yeasts. It’s salmon pink in color with notes on strawberries on the nose.  It’s a dry wine, medium bodied with a lengthy finish.  SRP $18. ABV 11%    

Have you been to the Long Island wineries?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Taste of Orange Wine in Vermont with Iapetus

I’ve been fortunate lately to participate in a new wine group and drink outside the box than my typical Italian wines.  Last month I attended a couple virtual tastings via the #winestudio program.  We chatted with Ethan Joseph, the winegrower of Iapetus that shared their wine called Tectonic, a Vermont made wine. 
Ethan Joseph of Iapetus Shelburne Vineyard
Living in the northeast I have visited a couple wineries in each state including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine and if you’re a follower of my blog you know that I typically make an annual trip up to the Finger Lakes.  I have yet to visit any vineyards in Vermont so when I was presented with the opportunity to try the one from Iapetus I was intrigued.  I will admit that when I received the wine in the mail I questioned what it was going to taste like as it was unfiltered and was not your average looking wines.

Vermont’s wine scene began with Snow Farm in 1997 and many other wineries have sprouted since then totaling 13 producers state-wide with Shelburne Vineyard being the largest grape producer.  Ethan described the wine scene in Vermont as a “small and supportive community”.  Grape growing in the area originally started with New York hybrids and german grapes, but as the 2000’s approached the wineries transitioned over to cold-hardy Minnesota hybrids.  

Ethan shared his days of growing up a Jersey boy and his attraction to Vermont stemmed from his studies at the University of Vermont where he was drawn to Lake Champlain.  He began his wine career working part time at Shelburne Vineyard and sippin on good old Carlo Rossi. 

Iapetus is the name of an ancient ocean that once covered the Champlain Valley.  Ethan chose the  name Iapetus to connect the wine of the past and present and relate it to why he remained in the area and to what drew him there.   “We aim to craft our product and farm in a way that acknowledges the broad history written into the earth from which we work”, claims Ethan.  They began their production in 2016 with about 500 cases and continues to grow and expand today.  The biggest challenges they face are the New England cold temps and short growing season.  
Shelburne Vineyard Iapetus 
All the Iapetus wines are spontaneously fermented, unfiltered and unfined.  Their spontaneous fermentation means that 7-10 days before harvest they gather the cleanest fruit from the block in  addition to an assortment of flora from within and around the vineyard. 

2016 Iapetus Tectonic La Crescent grapeThe 2016 Iapetus Tectonic wine is made of 100% la crescent grape where it spends 50 days macerating with the skins.  Fermentation and maceration take place in stainless steel and then aged 8 months in barrel.  Tectonic had notes of citrus and loads of oranges and tangerines with some rosewater.  Some folks in the tasting compared it to qualities of a cider with spice, which I sensed myself.  I was rather impressed and surprised and it’s one that you must experience.  ABV 14% 

Recommended pairings from our chat included pistachios, charcuteries, roasted beets, Mediterranean foods and oysters. 

Have you tried other wines from Vermont or the north east that you recommend?