Thursday, May 29, 2014

Top 5 winery recommendations in Tuscany

If you have ever been to Italy you will understand how many wineries there are and places to taste wine and olive oil. It can be overwhelming which one to stop in at. I've always been one to stop in at the names that I don't recognize from the states. These are the vineyards that you can't easily access and where you will sometimes be surprised by the quality of the producer, but they may not export large amounts due to their production or it may be hard to find in your market. It is also pretty neat though to stop in at the well known wineries as well and to see the operations and meet the folks that work hard to produce the wines that we fortunately get to enjoy.

I was invited by Robert Dwyer of the Wellesley Wine Press to write this blog as he will be visiting this region soon and will even be staying at the place where I got married in Bucine, Iesolana.  Today I'm going to cover 5 of the wineries that I have visited that I would recommend stopping in and tasting the wines in the region of Tuscany.  For my full details on each follow along on the Wellesley Wine Press.

Fattoria dei Barbi
I visited the Fattoria dei Barbi estate in 2007 in the town of Montalcino. The Colombini family that owns and manages the estate started making the famous Brunello with Biondi Santi in the 1780's. 
Fattoria dei barbi vintage bottlestouring the wine cellar of Fattoria dei Barbi
Poggio Antico started off in the late 1970's. I visited them back in 2004 before I developed my strong sense of love for italian wines, but you know quality when you taste it. 

I visited Poliziano in 2007 in the town of Montepulciano not too far from Montalcino, about 30-40 minutes. Lots of drinking going on for my 2007 trip for sure. How can you not?
fermentation room at Poliziano winery

Barrel room of Poliziano winery Montepulciano
Chianti region
On my recent visit last October I stopped in at Vignavecchia in Radda. The workers were outside eating lunch when I arrived. 
Visiting the Vignavecchia winery in Radda, TuscanyStefano, wine director, vignavecchia
Castellare di Castellina
Another winery I visited this past October in the Chianti Classico region, that is more well known, was Castellare di Castellina in the town of Castellina. This winery has received a number of awards for their wines.
castellare di castellina winery
Castellare di Castellina
Of course there are many more wineries I could discuss, but I tried to mention some of the ones where I had an enjoyable experience. When I open some of my bottles that I still have from this list I will absolutely share them with you on my blog.  Have you visited any of these wineries or others that you personally enjoyed?  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meeting Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli in San Gimignano

Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli San Gimignano
Me & Elisabetta Fagiuoli
If I could visit wineries in Italy every day meeting the winemakers, sampling the wines and touring the land I would be a happy lady, but the second best thing is meeting the winemakers when they visit locally. My most recent tasting I had the pleasure to meet Elisabetta Fagiuoli, the owner and winemaker of Montenidoli in San Gimignano, Tuscany whom was visiting the Pairings wine shop in Winchester, MA where they always host great events and opportunities such as this. This entertaining and charismatic woman at the age of 77 had such vibrancy when discussing her wines and vineyard that she referenced as her “big garden”. Funny, but my garden looks nothing like hers!
Elisabetta started her organic winery in 1965, but the estate dates back to the 1700's. She also operates an agriturismo there, equivalent to our B&B's, along with running the vineyard. Lots of work, but when you love what you do the passion takes over. Her excitement about the way she takes care of her “garden” was very evident. She doesn't cut branches or green harvest and her vineyard has dense plantings. Green harvesting is when you cut some of the more unripe grape clusters in order to allow the others to fully ripen, which decreases the yield of the grapes, but helps winemakers to get their desired quality that they are looking for. The reason that Elisabetta doesn't green harvest is because it causes the vines to struggle forcing them to deepen their roots in the soil creating more complexities in the wine. The soil in her vineyard is clay and very fallow containing shells left behind from the Ligurian Sea providing minerals to the soil.

Elisabetta, with her crew of about 10-12 workers annually and 30-35 workers during harvest, hand pick all the grapes and produce about 10,000 cases annually. I sampled 6 of their wines that night and wanted to discuss a few of my favorites, which were the 2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia, the 2011 Montenidoli Colorino and lastly the 2005 Sono Montenidoli.

2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San GimignanoStarting with white I compared her 2011 Tradizionale Vernaccia DOCG, which I enjoyed more than the 2011 Montenidoli Fiore Vernaccia DOCG, both of these being made 100% of the vernaccia grape. The difference between these two is that the Tradizionale is macerated with the skins and then fully pressed, where the Fiore is about ½ the production and is just the must and free run juice, which isn't pressed. The Fiore had a nice elegance and finesse and showcased more fruit where the Tradizionale was drier, but I enjoy this style of Vernaccia.
2011 Montenidoli Colorino San Gimignano

For reds I had the 2011 Montenidoli Colorino, which was 100% colorino. These colorino vines were planted at the winery in 2006 with its first release in 2012. This wine was actually sold out for the night temporarily, but I was still able to sample it. It is aged 12 months in barrels. The colorino had good body with very noticeable cassis on the palate with a little dryness and tannin creating a very approachable and enjoyable wine. Colorino is a lesser known grape that is usually added to chianti for its deep color, but stands very well on its own in this wine.

2005 Sono Montenidoli sangiovese
The last red wine that Elisabetta called the “big baby” was the 2005 Sono Montenidoli made of 100% sangiovese. Definitely the highlight of the reds and comes from Elisabetta's best sangiovese grapes. It is aged 12 months in barrels and another 3 years in the bottle. It had such structure and power and even though it was a 2005, it was still younger and has such aging potential. It was fuller bodied with lots of fruit present as well as tannin and had such a long lived finish.

It was such a pleasure to meet Elisabetta and share in the works of her passion. Have you ever visited Montenidoli or tasted Elisabetta's wines?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cantine Aperte with Movimento Turismo del Vino this weekend

The Movimento Turismo del Vino is a non-profit that began back in 1993. It consists of about 1,000 members from some of the top wineries in all of Italy covering all 20 regions of the country. Their mission is to expand the wine tourism industry in Italy, which is a major source of income for thousands throughout the country. It's to educate folks on the products of these wineries, while also demonstrating how the wine world in Italy operates through the traditions of the regions and wineries, along with the focus on being environmentally friendly and developing the territories in order to produce quality products for consumption.

From their website here are the goals of the Movimento Turismo del Vino:

  • “promote wine culture by visiting the produc­tion sites;
  • support the growth of tourism in all Italian regions with a strong winemaking vocation;
  • qualify the wineries tourist services
  • enhance the image as well as the economic and employment outlook of the wine areas.”
They host a number of events throughout the year including one this weekend on May 24th and 25th called “Cantine Aperte”, meaning “open cellars”. Throughout all of Italy in each region the wineries open their doors and invite in wine lovers from all over the world to become educated about the wine industry throughout Italy and be able to explore cellars, meet the folks that produce these wines and taste some of the greatest wines of the world. 
rainbow over vineyards in Orvieto Italy
So if you're fortunate enough to be in Italy at the moment make sure to visit your local wineries or drive to a new region and explore their wines. Otherwise, maybe considering checking out one of their events throughout the year and making a beautiful vacation out of it exploring a new region and incorporating in one of their events. Or, have you been to one yet and which one did you attend?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Interview with Federico Cerelli of Castello di Gabbiano

I was fortunate to spend some time at Busa Wine & Spirits in Burlington, MA meeting with the winemaker, Federico Cerelli, of Castello di Gabbiano, which is situated in San Casciano Val de Pesa. This commune resides in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Castello di Gabbiano is the second largest vineyard owner in the Chianti Classico region with about 400 acres (160 hectacres), according to Federico, and close to 270 of those acres (110 hectacres) are planted with the sangiovese grape. The other 130 acres (50 hectacres) are used to produce IGT wines including cabernet sauvignon and merlot. With their new plantings of 25 acres (10 hectacres) per year they hope to become the largest vineyard owner. They currently produce about 600,000 bottles. It's not about quantity for Federico though as it is quality.

Federico Cerelli Castello di Gabbiano
Federico Cerelli of Castello di Gabbiano
It was a lot of fun talking with Federico. He was very personable and what was even better was that he is from the area where I got married in Bucine,Tuscany so we had a great kickoff. Federico joined Castello di Gabbiano in 2011 as the head winemaker. Being from the Tuscany region and having attended the University degli Studi di Firenze with a degree in Enology and Viticulture he has a strong appreciation and understanding of the terroir. He had worked with the famous Antinori estate for 5 years prior as well as working out in California.

White wines of Gabbiano

I tried a whole line of wines from their pinot grigio through their estate sangiovese. The whites I tried, pinot grigio and moscato d'Asti are actually sourced and/or produced in other regions. The Gabbiano pinot grigio, named “Promessa”, is produced up in the Fruili-Giulia Venezia, also known as the Tre Venezie, region in northeastern Italy. Federico works very closely with them throughout the year in regards to growing these grapes and caring for them to produce quality wines. Once harvested, the grapes are brought down to their facilities in Tuscany to be bottled. 

The Gabbiano Moscato d'Asti comes from the area of Asti found in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy (one of my favorites). With this particular wine they bottle the wine themselves due to the process and the need to be bottled sooner than taking the time to transporting the wine down to Tuscany. This was a perfect wine after dinner or even with some fruit and cheese prior. It had a soft fizz and sweetness that was very enjoyable. Both of these regions are known for producing these types of grapes and they grow best there, which is why Castello di Gabbiano is partnered with them to produce quality wines.

2010 Castello di Gabbiano BellezzaRed wines of Castello di Gabbiano

In regards to the reds the highlight was the 2010 Castello di Gabbiano Bellezza, meaning beauty, named by the workers because of the special soil and views from this single vineyard that is 17 acres (7 hectacres) at 400 meters high. The grapes here are grown on 15 year old vines. They produce about 2,000 cases of this wine. This is a Chianti Classico D.O.C.G produced with 100% sangiovese. It's aged 18 months in oak with 50% being new oak. The body and roundness of this wine paired with a nice presence of fruit and a long finish made this wine very attractive to me. This is definitely for a special occasion or just because you feel like trying something that displays the sangiovese grape in its element.

Good values of Castello di Gabbiano

2010 Gabbiano Chianti ClassicoFor great deals at about $8-10 a bottle their 2010 Gabbiano Chianti Classico I found to be an enjoyable easy drinking Chianti. I preferred this over their Chianti because I felt that it was a better expression of sangiovese with a riper profile of fruit with some hints of spice. The Chianti Classico is fermented in stainless steel and then aged 12 months in oak. Another good value wine that seemed more accustomed to the modern tastes was their Solatio. This wine is a blend of 60% syrah, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 5% sangiovese. This wine comes from the west coast of Tuscany. They first started producing this wine in 2010 and this is the 3rd vintage, but its the first vintage being sold in the US.

On the website of Castello di Gabbiano they discuss that “the future of the production of ancient wines lies in its capacity to balance tradition and innovation.” This is so important to stay true to the traditions of how these wines started, but also being able to keep up with modern technology that is helping to advance winemaking in the world today.

This weekend I'll be sharing with you some wines that I tasted at a recent tasting including a wine from the Trentino-Alto Adige and I may even throw in a recommendation for some great French wines that I tried as well that I was impressed with. Until then, drink well!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The potential of Italian wines in the USA market with Wine Meridian

I was fortunate enough this week to be featured in the Italian online wine magazine, Wine Meridian.  Wine Meridian is for italian daily news for key players and for wine lovers.  I was interviewed by Lavinia Furlani regarding my thoughts on the potential of Italian wines in the US and how the wines are viewed here in the states. 

You can view the article at Wine Meridian.  Please let me know what you think at Vino Travels.  Happy weekend and happy reading!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Blog tour and my passion for Italian wine

What a beautiful weekend and I hope everyone enjoyed the weather and their mother's day! I hope you had some delicious wine and food and celebrated with loved ones.

My blog today is part of a blog tour that I was introduced to by a new blogger to my network, Meghan from Travel, Wine, and Dine. Meghan is a fellow Bostonian like myself that focuses on everything from food and sharing recipes, travel with a special travel Tuesday weekly post, and a wine of the week. What a perfect combination that go together oh so well!

This blog is two-fold. One part is to introduce you to some potential bloggers that you aren't familiar with that hopefully you will explore further and benefit from their recommendations and their journeys. The other part is to discuss my writing process so you become more familiar with me as a blogger in the wine world.

What am I working on?

My blog is focused on Italian wine, which will keep me busy forever with tons of different grapes throughout the country. Plus, with my passion for everything Italian there is always something to discuss. I love sharing my travels throughout Italy with you as I cover wines of all different regions. I'm in the middle of expanding Vino Travels and incorporating travel tours throughout Italy. I've recently partnered with a winery in Italy and am co-marketing all-inclusive tours in Tuscany to their beautiful estate where they produce their wines and have fantastic accommodations. I look forward to this new venture and with my knowledge and experience living and traveling throughout the country I look forward to sharing it with everyone.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The wine world is very vast when it comes to bloggers. My passion and familiarity with Italian wine is what drove me to specialize in italian wines. There are some great Italian bloggers out there and I have reached out to many of them and acknowledged the great work they do. I look at all of us as a partnership in promoting the wines of this beautiful country. We all did chose to write about italian wines in particular due to our love for the country and wines so blogging is the perfect avenue for sharing this with the world.

Why do I write what I do?

I've been fortunate to live in Italy, travel there numerous times and super fortunate enough to get married there over 6 months ago. For me, writing my blogs and sharing with you my stories of the folks that I have met that work hard in the vineyards every day is important to me. I have met so many great producers throughout Italy, some of them smaller that maybe don't have the reputation some of the others do. I love to promote the grapes that folks may not be familiar with while getting people to think and explore outside the box. All of this is what drives me share my experiences and knowledge with you.

How does your writing process work?

I base my blogs on what is going on that week. Sometimes I have weeks where I will meet a bunch of winemakers from Italy that are visiting the Boston area. Sometimes I will travel to tastings that are featuring Italian wines. Other times I will pop open a bottle to taste or will share some of my travels and pictures of my ventures to Italy. I try to change it up to keep things interesting. I'm not a huge fan of writing review after review. I love telling the stories behind the wine because I find the history and traditions of wineries and regions the most intriguing.

Now I'm going to introduce you to someone new in my network, Yo, whom writes a blog that is La Vita di Monteolivo. She shares a similar passion to mine, which is her love for Italy, including Umbria and more specifically the Todi region. It's a bilingual blog where she covers everything from cooking to gardening. She even rents out her home in Umbria and if you haven't been to that region it's well worth exploring. So check out her blog and get a peak into Yo's world.

Enjoy your Monday!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Seratina Primitivo & Tenute Folonari Super Tuscan

I attended one of my local wine shops, Lucia's Bodega, wine tasting that was celebrating their “3rd Anniversary Bash”. I sampled about 6 Italian wines and two stood out to me on two different sides of the price spectrum that I'll cover, but I also appreciated the quality of the following:
  • Montupoli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
  • Illuminati Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva DOCG
  • Banfi Col-di-Sasso Toscano
Map of regions in Italy from Wine Folly
Property of Wine Folly,
The first one I wanted to cover that I picked up for $12.50 a bottle was the 2011 Seratina Primitivo from Puglia. Puglia is located in south eastern Italy that runs down the heel of the boot. You will see it on the map provided by Wine Folly. The Primitivo grape was discovered to be associated with the US's grape, Zinfandel. Not white zin! This is one of the top red grapes of Puglia and is primarily produced out of this region. This wine had a higher alcohol content of 14%, but I enjoyed it's soft tannins combined with the ripe fruit producing a medium to full body with a lasting finish. If you seek out this grape you should be able to find some good deals!

2011 Seratina Primitivo wine from Puglia
The other wine I really enjoyed was around $50 a bottle, but was impressive. The wine was from the Tenute Folonari estate that was a 2008 Cabreo Il Borgo Red Toscana super tuscan wine made up of 70% sangiovese and 30% cabernet sauvignon. If you haven't figured it out I'm a big fan of sangiovese along with nebbiolo and I alway seem to enjoy these wines the most, but I'm one to try everything and that's why I like exploring Italy's hundreds of grape varieties. 
Piazza in Greve Tuscany
Center of Greve
This wine comes from Greve, which is one of the primary communes/towns in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. It's right outside Florence and if you are in the area you must go there. It's a charming town with a beautiful square surrounded by restaurants and shops. I stayed at an agriturismo (like a B&B) Patrizia Falciani surrounded by the vineyards of Le Masse di Greve when I had gone. 
My next blog I have a winemaker I'd like you to meet of the 2nd biggest winery in the Chianti Classico region of Italy. I had a great interview and meeting with him and can't wait to share it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Touring the Ascheri winery in Piedmont

Mateo Ascheri of Ascheri winery in Piedmont
Mateo Ascheri
One of the best meetings I had while in Piedmont was my private tour of the Ascheri winery in Bra, Italy. I was fortunate enough to have it organized for me through Martignetti's due to my work with the distributor. I entered behind the gates that day located right in the city center and it opened up to this square which contained the Ascheri's operations. The owner, Matteo, pleasantly greeted me at the door and gave me a brief introduction of the Ascheri winery. This winery has been in the Ascheri family for 6 generations. They produce about 240,000 bottles. Matteo then introduced me to the winemaker, Giuliano Bedino, whom then took me on a tour of the winery.

winemaking tour at ascheri in piedmont
At that point, which was the second week of October, they had just finished picking the week prior and were cleaning out the tanks of the skins. The decision to pick the grapes is decided by Giuliano, Matteo and occasionally an outside expert. They have 20 people on hand at all times to be ready for harvest. We moved on to where all the barrels were with the names on the outside like Fontanelle (where they grow their Barbara grapes) and Sorano (Giuliano's favorite area for the nebbiolo grapes that make up their Barolo).
wine cellars of Ascheri winerywine cellars at ascheri winery

Visiting the wine cellars is always one of my favorite parts. I love seeing rows and rows of wines stocked, some covered in dust, that have been aging and sitting for years or decades. So much history in one place. The Ascheri wine cellar was beautiful surrounding a huge tree displayed as art to represent what used to exist in that space. Following, I toured the bottling facility that bottles 3,000 wine bottles an hour. Seems like a tons of bottles, huh? The reason for processing at that rate is because it avoids oxidation of the wine.

winemaker Giuliano Bedino at Ascheri winery
Winemaker - Giuliano
We finished with Giuliano in the tasting room to sample the fantastic wines that Matteo, Giuliano and their team worked hard to produce. I sampled everything from their dolcetto, barbera, arneis to nebbiolo including a couple barolos. There is nothing like topping off a tasting with a dessert wine as well and I sampled their Moscato d'Asti, which Giuliano signed for me to take home. I love collecting the bottles that I have had signed by winemakers or owners or those that I have taken back from Italy so that I can use them in designing my bar in my basement.

2001 Ascheri Barolo Sorano
I have so many more stories and great pictures to share from my travels so I hope you are enjoying the journey! As always I love to hear of your Italian travels and great wines you have tasted and people you have met so don't be shy.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Arneis wines from Malvira winery in the Roero

I thought it would be fun to compare one grape, Arneis, but in two different styles, a still white wine and a dessert style. Both of these wines are from the winery, Azienda Agricola Malvira, located in the Roero, a town in the northwestern region of Italy in Piedmont. Two brothers, Massimo and Roberto Damonte, run the vineyard and winery that they took over from their father Giuseppe that began production in the 1950's. Their winery produces about 380,000 bottles a year on about 103 acres.
Map Roero & Langhe regions of Piedmont
Compliments of

malvira arneis roero wine from piedmontThe white wine I tasted was a 2012 Malvira Roero Arneis. This is their Arneis that comes from multiple vineyard sites, where some of the other Arneis are single vineyard. It's made of 100% Arneis and is fermented in stainless steel for 4-8 months. It was a light wine with acidity up front, but aromatic fruit in the middle. 

malvira renesium arneis wineThe other wine was a dessert style, Malvira Renesium Arneis, that is sourced from their Trinita vineyard and is made up of 90% arneis and 10% other aromatic grapes. The difference between this and the other is that the grapes for the dessert wine were affected with botrytis, also having a form called noble rot, which is a beneficial fungus that grows on the grapes. It takes place drier conditions take place after wet weather. Botrytis starts to remove the water within the grapes, therefore making them more concentrated. In addition, this wine was aged for 2 years in french oak. It had that nice honeysuckle taste that is typical of botrytis affected grapes.

Drinking this Arneis reminded me of the time that I had a private tour set up through Martignetti's to meet with the owner, Matteo Ascheri, of the Ascheri winery in Bra, Piedmont. I think that is a great place to pick up next time so stay tuned of some great pictures and my meeting with Matteo and his winemaker Giuliano.