Sunday, May 19, 2019

South African Wine Travels with #WinePW

It has been years since my trip to South Africa and to say it was the trip of a lifetime is an understatement.  I jumped at the opportunity to host our Wine Pairing Weekend group (#WinePW) for June featuring South African wines. It came as a perfect time as June 15th is also #DrinkCheninDay, one of South Africa's main varietals.
Asara Wine Estate South Africa
My stop at the Asara Wine Estate
Wines of South Africa was generous to partner with many of our bloggers providing samples of chenin blanc.  So don't miss this food and wine extravaganza Saturday June 8th.   

Are you a interested in joining us as a writer? Here is how to join:
  • Send an email to me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com to tell me you'd like to participate.  Make sure to include your blog url, Twitter handle and any other social media details. If you know  the title of your blog post already then please send that along, but it isn't due until the week leading up to the event. 
  • Prepare a dish to pair with a bottle(s) from South Africa.  It doesn't have to just be chenin blanc.  There are plenty of other great wines to be shared so feel free to explore the country. 
  • Send your blog title to me by Tuesday, June 4th to be included in the preview post.  I'd also appreciate your blog url as well to include.  Your title should include “#WinePW”
  • Publish your post between Friday, June 7th until Saturday morning June 8th by 9am EST. Feel free to schedule your post and tweets in advance to save time. 
  • Include links to the other #WinePW participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. I’ll be providing the updated HTML code that you can easily plug into your blog post that will link everyone's articles together.  Once the event has been completed final updated HTML code will be sent out for everyone to update their site .
  • Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts’ to comment and share. We have a Facebook group for participating bloggers to connect and share, too.
  • Sponsored posts are ok if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's All About Variety in the Land of the Lodi Wine Region

I’ve had the luxury of trying wines from Lodi over the last few years and one word comes to mind and that is diversity.  Lodi had always been mostly been known for its zinfindel, but times have changed and new wineries are popping up with new winemakers that are experimenting with grapes from all around the world.  In the wines I’m sharing today are some Italian varietals including vermentino and aglianico along with some other great wines. 

I was part of an online virtual tasting on the wines of Lodi that can be viewed for your own enjoyment.  It was conducted by Snooth and leading the tasting was author, speaker and TV host, Leslie Sbrocco.  She was joined by Stuart Spencer, Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission as well as owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery.  Also as part of the panel was Adam Mettler, named Winemaker of the Year in 2016 by the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.  He is Lead Winemaker at Michael David Winery featured today as well as Winemaker at Mettler Family Vineyards also featured today. 

Where exactly is Lodi?  It’s located between San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  This is an area that has more of a Mediterranean climate with warm days and cool nights.  The area is cooled off by the San Joaquin and Sacramento River Delta.  
Lodi AVAs wine region
Lodi Wine AVA's ~ Copyright of the Lodi Wine Commission

The excitement of trying such a vast array of grapes was best described by Leslie, ”it’s like taking a trip around the world in our glass”.  The Lodi wine region features grapes found in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, France and beyond.  It’s mostly a red wine region with about 2/3 of its acreage planted to red grapes.  This region has experienced so much growth in the past 20 years that Stuart mentioned when he first started with the Commission that there were about 8 wineries in 2000 and today there are over 85+ wineries.  

Some fun facts to show more of Lodi’s growth in the wine industry is that its total wine production makes up 20% of California’s state production.   If that isn’t something to get excited about than I don’t know what will.   
Lodi Wines of California
The Wines
2018 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Ingénue 
This is the 2nd wine I have had from this winery and both have been quite impressive.  Located in the Mokelumne River AVA, this winery started about 10 years ago.  Acquiesce only grows white wines in a land of red.  They’re obviously proving what this region can also do with reds.  This wine is a blend of southern French grapes including 35% clairette blanc, 35% grenache blanc, 20% bourboulenc and 10% picpoul.  An aromatic wine, dry and delicate with luscious fruit.  SRP $32 

2018 m2 Winery Vermentino 
Not too much information on this winery’s website, but they produce small lot artisanal wines that opened their winery and tasting room in 2006.  Vermentino is a grape that is mostly found in Liguria, Sardinia and Tuscany.  This vermentino comes also from the Mokelumne River AVA.  Pale in color, but juicy, crisp acidity showing notes of green apple, orange and citrus with some minerality.  SRP $20 

2018 LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards Aglianico Rosé 
Aglianico is a grape that hails from the Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy.  Not too common to see it elsewhere, but here is produced in a rose style.  For a grape that usually produces big, rich tannin filled wines I was surprised to see what its capable of in a different style.  This is only the 2nd vintage produced for this winery.  Dusty rose colored with aromas of fresh picked strawberries this wine had a round mouthfeel.  Light bodied and delicate with nice acid and minerality on the finish.  Thrilled to start the season with rose’ and especially this one!  SRP $20 

2016 Mettler Family Vineyards Pinotage 
Pinotage is a grape originating in South Africa and is a cross between the pinot noir and cinsaut grapes.  Deep in color, this medium bodied wine showed rich, dark fruits.  Supple with a toastiness and notes of spice.  SRP $25  

2016 PRIE Winery Carignane 
Carignane is a spanish grape also found in southern Rhone France.  These vines at Prie Winery are 120 year-old vines.  A complex, full-bodied wine with many layers and a silkiness to it.  Packed with red berries and vanilla with a balanced acidity.  These last couple wines are screaming for the BBQ season coming upon us.  SRP $29 

2016 Michael David Winery Ink Blot Cabernet Franc 
Located in the Mokelumne River AVA.  Usually blended with a little cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.  Ink blog named after the big, dark inky colored varieties growing here.   This is Michael Davids Winery first cabernet franc that they have ever produced.  Cabernet franc originates in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux France and here is produced in a much bolder style.  Packed with rich, lustful dark fruits, notes of chocolate, vanilla with good length. SRP $35  
Not all of these wines are available online or in stores so it’s the perfect reason venture out to the Lodi and try them for yourself.  I need to make it out there myself one day!

To see some of my older articles featuring a wide variety of wines from this region you can check out:  
Italian Grapes in Lodi with Harney Lane’s Primitivo  
Wine Diversity in the Land of Lodi  
Wines of the Lodi with Harney Lane Winery & McCay Cellars


*Wines were received as samples, but opinions are always my own.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Biodynamic Wines of the Willamette Valley with King Estate

The Wine Pairing Weekend group I’m a part of that features monthly themes focused on Williamette Valley wines from Oregon this month and reminded me why I fell in love with Oregon pinot noir a long time back.  When I first learning about wines Oregon pinot noir was always my favorite.  

There was just something about the light to medium body of the wine, but the depth of flavors that it appealed to me so much.  I’ve never been a huge fan of big, bold, jammy wines so it’s no surprise that these wines appealed to me.  Prior to wine my only other knowledge of Oregon was the Oregon Trail computer game I played back in grade school if that didn't just date my back some. 

The Land 
The Willamette Valley of Oregon is located in the Pacific Northwest and the valley runs from Portland in the north to Eugene in the southern part of the valley.  It’s surrounded by 3 mountain chains including the Cascade Range, the Oregon Coast Range and Calapooya Mountains.  The climate there is continental.  
Willamette Valley wine AVA's
Willamette Valley AVA's copyright of Willamette Valley Wineries Association
The Williamette Valley of Oregon is home to pinot noir and it’s obvious when you go to Williamette Valley Wineries Association website and it’s boldly says “We are pinot noir”.  Over 15,000 acres are planted to pinot noir with the 2nd largest planted grape is pinot gris at almost 4,000 acres.   Being known for world class pinot noir they must be doing something right since the first planted vines of pinot noir were back in only 1965 by David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards.  The Williamette Valley dominates wine production for oregon state producing an overall 71% percent of its total production with the Willamette Valley making 82% of the states pinot noir.
wine grapes of willamette valley oregon
Copyright of Willamette Valley Wineries Association
The Winery 
I sampled some wines from King estate located at the bottom tip of the valley in Eugene.  The winery has been family owned since 1991.  With a total production of 350,000 bottles all their grapes are hand picked with over 1,000 acres Demeter certified biodynamic.  I can truly appreciate a winery that goes to lengths to take measures in properly taking care of its land and environment.  The winery takes part in many practices including:            
  • No use of chemicals 
  • Use of raptors such as owls and serves as a rehabilitation centre for them  
  • Specific plant species utilized to attract insects 
  • Solar panels to reduce their carbon dioxide footprint  
  • Over 1,000 tons of compost annually used for fertilization
    King Estate Winery in Eugene, Oregon
    Copyright of King Estate Winery
    King Estate Winery of Willamette Valley
    Vines and lavender fields @ King Estate ~ Copyright of King Estate Winery
King Estate Winery wines of OregonThe Wines 
2017 King Estate Pinot Gris Steiner Block 
Named after Rudolf Steiner who founded the biodynamic approach to agriculture.  They claim to be the largest producer of pinot gris domestically.  This wine was aged in a concrete egg.   A pale straw color with a tinge of green, almost clear in the glass.  A beautiful, aromatic nose of green apple and citrus.  A lighter body that was crisp, clean with citrus shining on the palate combined with some minerality.  ABV 13% SRP $28 

Pairing:  I paired this wine with a garlic butter marinade with a pork tenderloin served with a simple side salad.  I had bigger aspirations on this pairing to add a side of crab cakes, but I was balancing a work call while my almost 3 year old was emptying the fish food into the tank.  Mamma mia!  The wine was a wonderful match with the pork and the simplicity of the marinade allowed the citrus and minerality of the wine to shine. 
2017 King Estate Pinot Gris wine pairing
2016 King Estate Pinot Noir Highwire 
Deep ruby in color with almost a purplish tinge.  Medium-bodied with ripe, juicy strawberries and raspberries on the nose.  A wine well balanced with finesse and a rich, ripe fruit finish.  ABV 14.1% SRP $68 

Pairing: I paired this wine with a teriyaki marinated petit beef filet served with some sauteed mushrooms.  Pinot noir is such a classic pairing with mushrooms and even with the hefty beef filet the pinot noir held its own.  
2016 King Estate Highwire Pinot Noir wine pairing
Here are plenty more wine and food pairings with Willamette Valley wines with our talented group of wine and food bloggers.  Join us live on Twitter this Saturday May 11th at 11am EST with the #winepw as we discuss the behind the scenes of our recipe pairings and share thoughts on these amazing wines.

*Wines were provided as samples, but opinions are my own.  Information sourced from King Estate Winery and the Willamette Valley Wine Association.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Grape of the Sheep with Umani Ronchi Pecorino

I love when we have months where our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group focuses on the autochthonous, or indigenous, grapes that are lesser known to the average consumer.  Even though it can be a challenge to seek one out it gives you a perspective on everything a region has to offer than those that are just commonplace in the market.  Especially with this month’s feature of the pecorino grape as this was one an almost extinct varietal, but has so much to share with our white wine lovers.   

Pecorino is a grape that hails from the Abruzzo and neighboring Le Marche wine regions.  The producer I tried, Umani Ronchi, produces wines in both of these countries.  Pecorino is not the shining star when it comes to white wines in these regions as verdicchio in my opinion runs the show, but definitely holds a place in the running.  As I write this it’s eating my soul that I had an opportunity to take a press trip and tour this region this month and really discover more of this grape and understand Abruzzo’s terroir, but my 2 little ones need me and unfortunately had to postpone until a later time. 

The winery is owned and operated today by the Bianchi-Bernetti family and is run by Michele Bernetti overseen by his father, Massimo.  It originally started by in the 50’s when Gino Umani Ronchi started a farm in the Cupramontana of the Le Marche.  The Bianchi-Bernetti family then took the estate over a few years later.  Massimo was the visionary and driving force behind developing Umani Ronchi in a number of ways when he was later joined by his son in the 90’s.  The recognitions they have received over the years and their partnership with Giacomo Tachis focusing on international varieties with their Pelago wine help put them on the map across the wine world. 

With over 500 acres of vineyards, the winery has doubled its land under vines from the 70’s and has replanted over 85% of their vines.  They have 10 vineyard sites spread amongst Abruzzo (near Teramo) and Conero and Castelli di Jesi in Le Marche with 3 winemaking facilities.  Speaking of recent talks of organics and biodynamics, Umani Ronchi also practices organic farming practices throughout all of their vineyards as well as practices taken to be sustainable.   
Umani Ronchi wines of Abruzzo and Le Marche
Copyright of Umani Ronchi
2017 Umani Ronchi Terre di Chieti Velladoro Pecorino IGT 
The sheep on the label represents the pecorino grape since the word stems from the word pecora, meaning sheep.  This wine is grown in Monti Pagano of Abruzzo that overlooks the Gran Sasso mountains.  It is 100% hand picked pecorino.  Umani Ronchi began a project working with the pecorino grape that was almost extinct in 2005 releasing its first vintage in 2007.  The pecorino grape is only a small percentage, about 5 acres, of Umani Ronchi’s total production.   
Monti Pagano Umani Ronchi wine
Monti Pagano ~ Copyright of Umani Ronchi
This wine is straw colored with floral aromatics and citrus.  This wine was quite impressive available at only $10.  A clean, refreshing wine with bright acidity, nice flavors of apples and pineapple. Even though it was light bodied there was plenty of enjoyment all around.  The wine finished with nice salinity reminiscent of the nearby Adriatic Sea. 
2017 Umani Ronchi Velladoro Pecorino
The fact that Umani Ronchi is reinvigorating the pecorino grape from extinction while continuing to advance their winery both inside their facilities and practicing organic winemaking as well as a focus on quality shows their determination to represent what Abruzzo and Le Marche wines can and should be. Well exported to over 60 countries producing 2.9 million bottles this is no small establishment and if this wine is only a fraction  of what they produce and not even their flagship wine I’m intrigued to try more. 

Lots more pecorino to be explored with my fellow wine and food lovers.  Join us live Saturday May 4th on Twitter at 11am EST #ItalianFWT to chat more about pecorino and learn all about this unique native grape of Abruzzo and Le Marche.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will dazzle us with “Oven-Roasted Trout with Citrus Salsa Crudo + 2017 Lunaria “Civitas” Pecorino”
Gwendolyn, the Wine Predator is “Pairing Pecorino d’Abuzzo from Ferzo: Lemon Caper Shrimp #ItalianFWT”
Cindy at Grape Experiences does a “Twirl. Sip. Savor: 2016 Tenuta Cocci Grifoni Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio and Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Linguini”
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish asks “Looking for a New White Wine to Serve this Spring? Try Pecorino from Tenuta Santori in Italy!”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Sheepish about new kinds of wine? Try Pecorino! #ItalianFWT”.
Susannah from Avvinare shares “Pecorino from the Lady from Le Marche – Angela Velenosi- Velenosi Vini”
Jeff at Food Wine Click goes “On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape”
Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog cooks up a “Brodetto di Pesce Wine Pairing #ItalianFWT”.
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures discusses “Le Marche & Abruzzo – Two Regions… Two Expressions of Pecorino”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Roasted Asparagus Pasta with Pecorino”
Kevin from Snarky writes "Pecorino - Welcome to the Fold"
At Savor the Harvest, our host Lynn is “Discovering the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT”