Friday, November 8, 2019

Texas Wine Pairing with Pedernales Wines and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

The wine life is all about enjoying what we love and already know and exploring that which we have yet to try.  This month our Wine Pairing Weekend digs into the Texas wine scene.  A state I have yet to discover.  Within the last year I also tried wines from Michigan which I truly enjoyed so was excited to receive some samples from Texas to see what wines from this region were all about. 

The Texas Wine Scene 
Michelle of Rockin Red Blog was gracious to gather some samples for the group to taste this month and provided a great overview of the wine industry in her home state Texas.  Here are some quick facts from my research to give you a glimpse into the wine industry of Texas. 
  • Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state in the US   
  • Texas has over 400 wineries growing grapes on 5000+ acres  
  • 80% percent of the wines are grown in the High Plains of TX  
  • The primary white grapes grown in Texas include: vermentino, trebbiano, viognier, albarino, roussanne, marsanne and picpoul di pinet   
  • The primary red grapes grown in Texas include: sangiovese, aglianico, tempranillo, mourvedre, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, tannat, graciano and touriga nacional
  • There are 8 AVA’s with Texas Hill Country be the largest in Texas and 2nd largest in the US (all information sourced from 
If you note there are definitely a variety of Italian grapes being grown on Texas soil that I’ll have to get my hands on for sure to share at a later date.
The Winery ~ Pedernales winery 
The Pedernales winery was established in 2006 Stonewall, TX in the Texas Hill Country AVA that looks over the Pedernales River Valley, hence the name.  Pedernales actually refers to flint in Spanish for the flint stone axes and Indian flint arrowheads that were discovered in the vineyards. 
Kuhlken family of Pedernales Cellars
The Kuhlken Family ~ copyright of Pedernales Cellards
The original wine estate, Kuhlken Vineyards, was established near Fredericksburg back in 1995 by Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken.  Their children, David and Julie, decided to open the Pedernales winery to focus on Rhone and Spanish style wines from small lots.   The winery is operating under the family’s 6th generation.  Sustainability is a key focus in their practices in many aspects of the winery from the vineyards to inside the winery. 

The Wine 
I tasted through a few of their bottles including the 2017 Pedernales GSM Melange, 2017 Pedernales Viognier Reserve and the 2018 Pedernales Over the Moon Rose.  Unfortunately I believe my 2017 GSM bottle was damaged as there was a slight leak to the cork and without trying another sample I’m not sure it was quite the bottle that the typically produce so I’m withdrawing from sharing that one.  Luckily, the dish I’m pairing this week went very well with the viognier and the rosé was a great sipper to start. 
Pedernales Winery in Texas Hill Country
2018 Pedernales Over the Moon Rosé - This is a new release for Pedernales and I love the story behind this wine.  The idea of naming it “over the moon” stems from the 50 years of marriage that Larry and Jeanine celebrate from their original introduction both working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission.  A beautiful pale pink in the glass this wine is a blend of 62% cinsault, 30% mourvedre and 8% carignon.  Medium body with lively acidity bringing strawberry flavors to the palette with some salinity on the finish.  A crisp and refreshing wine.  ABV 14.8% SRP $30  

2017 Pedernales Viognier Reserve – It seems the grapes are sourced from Lahey Vineyards in the High Plains.  Part of this wine is fermented in French oak that definitely lends richness to the wine and nose with vanilla and spice notes.  A fuller bodied white with layers of tropical and stone fruit flavors.  ABV 14.1% SRP $40     

The Pairing 
For me it’s always about what dish I’m going to pair with the wines I’m writing about each week and what will my kids actually eat.  This week I chose to prepare a parmesan crusted chicken with parmigiano reggiano added to the batter paired with some roasted potatoes and baked asparagus topped with pecorino romano (one of my favorite cheeses).  The multiple flavors of the viognier reserve paired beautifully with the chicken.  Asparagus is always a little tricky and it definitely changed the profile of the viognier, but the chicken was very complimentary.  
Join my fellow food and wine lovers as they share their Texas pairings.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #WinePW as we chat all about the Texas wine industry and share our wonderful pairings.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Taste of Tuscany's Gran Selezione

I’ve written so many articles about Tuscan wine because as we know they definitely flood the market for consumers across the board.  Although my love is for sangiovese I also love sharing the lesser known grapes and wine regions found throughout Italy.  With that said it’s nice to go back and visit my dear old friend Tuscany since our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is going above and beyond chianti today. 

I haven’t featured many Gran Selezione wines from Tuscany yet, but have tried a fair amount this year when I attended the ChiantiClassico Masters class earlier this summer along with some of the other Grand Tastings.  I’ll be sharing a few bottles to note along with what the Gran Selezione really is when it comes to Chianti Classico.

What are Gran Selezione wines? 
Within Italian wine you have the typical designations of vino da tavola (table wine), climbing up to IGT, DOC and then DOCG wines.  Within the Chianti Classico DOCG in particular there is another set of categories starting at the “annata” level, known as vintage.  Above that are your Chianti Classico Riserva wines with additional aging.  Then comes the newer category known as the Gran Selezione. 

The Gran Selezione was established in 2013 and dates back to wines at the 2010 vintage and beyond.   These wines are intended to be the cream of the crop, but we know as that goes it’s all personal preference and I never believe a wine is better because of its designation or price point.  Judge for yourself.  Overall though the wines are to be grown the a vineyards best grapes with many coming from single vineyard sites.  The wines are required to be at least 13% alcohol and a minimum of 30 months of aging with 3 of those spent in the bottle.  The wines also go through a tasting and lab analysis in order to carry this particular designation. 

The Wines
2015 Borgo Salcetino “I Salci” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 
One of the brands under Azienda Agricola Livon’s umbrella, Borgo Salcetino began in 1996 with about 30 acres planted to grapes.  The owners and winemakers,Valneo and Tonino Livon, actually hail from the region of Friuli.  They wanted to try out winemaking in the Chianti Classico district, located particularly in Radda in Chianti.  It seems they are really revamping the winery and vineyards so I’d be interested to see the future progression.  

I couldn’t find the technical sheet on this wine, but was told at the tasting it was about 80-90% sangiovese with 10% canaiolo and spends about 2 years in wood, which was very apparent upon tasting.  Bright acid with dried cherry flavors and spice.  Some gripping tannins so I’d like to see this wine tasted in the future as I believe it stills need some time or decanting, but I’m all about these characteristics hence why I’m a lover of sangiovese.  ABV 14.5% SRP $50

2015 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran
Selezione DOCG
The estate of Castello di Ama has a rich history unfortunately destroyed in the 15th century under the Aragonese invasion and rebuilt later into the 18th century.  Even though winemaking of this area dates far back Castello di Ama has been producing wine for the last 35 years when over 200+ acres of vineyards were replanted.  Today the winery is run by one of the young daughters, Lorenza Sebasti, whom married a well-known agronomist and prior President of the Chianti Classico Consortium, Marco Pallanti. 

Marco’s early on research project over 10 years helped to define the vineyards of Castello di Ama to ensure that the best quality grapes were being grown on the right parcels of land throughout the estate.  His dedication to the region to make sure that the wines of Chianti Classico are produced at optimum quality is very important to him and others of the region. 

The 2015 San Lorenzo Gran Selezione is made of 80% sangiovese, 7% malvasia nera and 13% merlot.  Aged in 18% new oak barrique for 10 months.  Juicy black cherry and blackberry with herbal qualities and a hint of tobacco.  A bit of earthiness on this wine.  Although the tannins seem rather chewy up front they seem to become more velvety on the finish.  A layered and beautiful wine.  ABV 13% SRP $55             

2015 Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione
Last, but not least I received this wine as a sample for the group. I've yet to try the extra virgin olive oil, but I have a special place in my heart for the olive oil of Tuscany. The Ricasoli family is one I’ve written about a few times at Vino Travels and earlier this year featuring the Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva.  This time around I had the opportunity to try their 2015 Gran Selezione.  Produced from 90% sangiovese, 5% cabernet sauvignon and 5% petit Verdot spending 18 months in 30% new tonneaux barrels.  Medium-bodied and a well-balanced wine with nice elegance.  Pure red fruits expressed finishing with notes of sweet tobacco and vanilla nuances. ABV 14% SRP $70    

Join the rest of our Italian food and wine writers as they share other wine and food pairings beyond chianti.  If you catch us in time join us live this Saturday at 11am EST on Twitter #ItalianFWT as we chat about the region's food and wine.  

*One of the wines was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

An Evening of Food and Wine at Firriato's Baglio Soria

A week ago I returned from an amazing destination trip to Sicily thankfully hosted by the Firriato winery.  I hadn’t been to Sicily in almost 20 years since I visited Palermo and Taormina.  I had always said if I returned I would love the opportunity to visit Mt. Etna and to better understand these highly talked about volcanic wines of Italy. 
Firriato winery of Baglio Soria
There is no better way to understand the culture, food and especially terroir of wine unless you experience it for yourself first hand.  I’m going to share my trip in a 3 part approach starting with an overview of the history of Firriato and their Baglio Soria estate.  In future blogs I’ll discuss their volcanic wines of Mt. Etna and finish the series with a special treat highlighting their unique vineyards on the island of Favignana.         

When we think of wine history there are wineries that have been producing wines generation after generation for centuries.  Although Firriato was established in 1984 by Salvatore and Vinzia di Gaetano, the amount that they have accomplished and where they are headed is mind boggling.  I’m not so sure our host, Federico Lombardo di Monte Iato the COO of Firriato, ever sleeps.  His father-in-law started the winery on the western side of Sicily in Trapani.  They have 6 estates spanning 470 hectares (almost 1,200 acres) spread throughout the island, mostly on the western side.  Their vineyards are located on 3 different terroirs:     

The mountains (Mt. Etna)  
The sea (the island of Favignana)  
The hills of Trapani 
Italian wine blogger press trip of Scily
That’s why its easiest to break down my trip into a few different parts as each estate produces very different styles.  Federico informed us that there are 12 different soils in the world and Firriato has 7 of them right there in Sicily.  All of their 40 labels across the 4.5 million bottles produced are certified organic and they are even the first winery in Europe to get a certification on carbon neutrality in 2018.  Just an example of what that means: they have lowered their green house gas emission by 41% and 90% of their products come from recycled products.  To be a winery of Firriato’s size it impresses me their efforts to achieve such accomplishments.    
Firriato Baglio Soria wine estate Sicily
Upon arrival to Trapani I visited Firriato's estate, Baglio Soria, for an aperitivo set up high on the hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegadian islands for sunset.  Breathtaking!  As Federico joked it was impossible for someone to say no to an engagement with that setting!  
Aegadian islands near Trapani

Firriato's Baglio Soria wine tasting

I wasn’t able to stay right at the Baglio Soria resort due to it being fully booked, but every resort/winery we visited owned by Firriato was so beautifully built and cared for.  I tasted through a number of their wines that evening prior to dinner including the following: 
  • 2018 Firriato Altavilla Grillo Sicilia D.O.C. - This wine spent 3 months on the lees plus another 6 months in bottle.  First produced back in 1988 this wine was very light bodied, clean, crisp, lemon nose with a nice acidity.   
  • 2018 Firriato Jasmin Zibibbo Sicilia D.O.C. - I really enjoyed this wine.  A gewurztraminer type nose with nice aromatics, spice and hints of peach and jasmine also showing through on the palate.  Light body with nice acidity.  This wine spends 3 months fermenting stainless steel and 2 months in the bottle.   
  • 2018 Firriato Quarter Vitis Bianco IGT Terre Siciliane (catarratto, inzolia, carricante and zibibbo) - I’m always intrigued by blends, especially those with this many grapes.  It tends to add many layers and characteristics to the wines.  All the grapes except the carricante that comes from the Etna side are from the area.  The aromatics of the zibibbo grape were showing on the nose with stone fruit.  More towards medium body this wine was well balanced displaying nice fruit with a lingering sapidity on the finish.  Aged in stainless spending 3 months on the lees. 
  • 2014 Firriato Santagostino Baglio Soria Rosso IGT Sicilia (nero d’avola and syrah) - This is Firriato’s flagship wine and the most exported with a production of about 400,000 bottles.  It spends 1 years in French and American oak.  I can see why this wine sells so well.  Very enticing aromas of blackberries and spice.  Bright acid up front on the palate with moderate tannins with some grip.  Dark berries, vanilla, cedar and tobacco notes with a long finish.   
  • 2014 Firriato Quarter Vitis Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane (nero d’avola, perricone, frappato and nerello cappuccio) This wine spends about 10 months in both French and American oak lending the typical vanilla nuances combined with rich in cherries, licorice, spice and a juicy palette with round tannins.   
  • 2013 Firriato Harmonium Sicilia D.O.C. Definitely the pick of wines that stood out to me when I tried Firriato wines for the first time earlier this summer.  The three women on the label represent the 3 single vineyards that the nero d’avola grapes are harvested from.  This vintage was actually the most awarded Sicilian wine according to Federico.  The grapes are seperately vinified and aged and blended before bottling.  Aged 1 year in French and American barrique.  This wine shows juicy plums, blackberry and baking spice on the nose.  Great acid and well-integrated tannins with an elegant finish. 
  • 2014 Firriato Ribeca Perricone Sicilia D.O.C. Firriato is actually the first winery in Italy to produce 100% perricone.  Perricone is a difficult grape to grow, late ripening and difficult to vinify due to the tannins.  It was almost extinct due to phylloxera at one point and is only found in the area around Trapani.  Rich in dark fruits, great acidity and sturdy tannins with the oak showing on the finish lending vanilla nuances, but elegant. 
  • Firriato L’Ecru Passito of Zibibbo IGT Sicilia I’m a sucker for finishing a meal with a good dessert wineFirriato uses a unique process they developedi n 2005 called the infusion method where the harvest the grapes in 2 stages with one part drying the grapes and the other part late harvested.  The aromatics of the zibibbo in this wine are to die for and it’s concentrated flavors rich in apricots with a medium body, not too syrupy as some and not too light either. 
    Process of drying the zibibbo grapes
About half of their production is red and half white wines.  Although I enjoyed all the wines from the tasting if I had to pick some of my highlights it would be the Jasmin for whites along with the Harmonium and Perricone for reds and of course the passito to end the tasting.  

The evening was topped off in their restaurant with the talented young chef, Chef Andrea Macca, that served up these amazing dishes paired with all the Firriato wines of course.  My visit to Baglio Soria was a real pleasure and I really look forward to the next two upcoming features on Firriato’s wines of Mt. Etna and the Island of Favignana.  Stay tuned!     


*This trip was sponsored, but opinions and views are all my own.