Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrating Garnacha Day & Its Many Styles

My heart and soul lays with Italian wines, but it doesn't mean I don't like all wines. When I'm offered the opportunity to explore other grape varietals from other countries I'm all about it. Nothing makes a better wine drinker than an educated wine drinker with a diversified palate.

Friday September 16th was Garnacha Day and like many around the world folks were opening bottles in celebration with many chit chatting online about the Garnacha in their glass. It's easy to remember as it's always the 3rd weekend in September. I was fortunate to receive some samples from Snooth and invited to join an online chat with many of my fellow wine bloggers that was hosted by Snooth and moderated by Master of Wine Christy Canterbury and Master Sommelier Laura Maniec of CorkBuzz. Lots of great buzz and laughs and if you ever have the opportunity to jump in on a virtual tasting don't be afraid to do so. You don't have to be drinking what those online are, but many you can be sampling another bottle of the same grape that is being discussed or just jump on and join the chat. There is lots to be learned in the wine world for all.

Garnacha Day and wines of Spain

Garnacha is the 3rd most planted grape in Spain. It's the same as Grenache that you'll see in French wines and Cannonau in the wines on the island of Sardini, Italy that I've previously written about. What makes garnacha unique is that you can find it as a red wine, rose' and white wine and there are a large variety of styles having always been a blended grape to single bottlings of 100% garnacha. This was a first for me sampling a white grenache. There is such a large variety of price points that it can be found at so there is something for everyone. According to Christy, garnacha has been around since 1513, but there have also been tracings since BC.

The wines I tasted were the following:

  • 2015 Cellers Unio Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca2015 Cellers Unio Clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca (Terra Alta region)
    • Based in Catalonia, Terra Alta, meaning high lands, is named after the high altitudes of where this eastern wine region is located. It's a fairly newer region that was established 1982. This wine is packed with citrus (lemon), minerals, high acidity with a good finish. It's a software wine with good flavor compared to the next one that has more body. Stainless steel. 12.5% ABV. $10 SRP.
  • 2013 Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca2013 Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca (Somontano region)
    • Located in the foothills of the Pyreenees Mountains and another region rather new established in 1984. Laura compares this wine to a chardonnay or viognier. Aged 4 months in French oak that gives it the vanilla notes. A wine with nice aromatics, citrus (lemon), apples and a creamy texture. ABV. $10-12 SRP $16.
  • 2014 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha2014 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha (Carinena)
    • Christy describes the Carinena region as the birthplace of Garnacha and is “windswept, rustic landscapes with ravines and castles perched on mountains. Located in the western portion of Aragon. A wine with a deep, dark color. Easy drinking with ripe red fruit, herbs and baking spices. ABV. $10 SRP.
  • 2015 Altovinum Evodia Garnacha
    2015 Altovinum Evodia Garnacha (Calatayud)
    • Also located in the western portion of Aragon. Very old vines (in Spain can be about 40-50 years old per Christy) at very high altitudes. Another wine with deep, purple hues. A very perfumed wine of violets and dark cherries on the palate. 15% ABV. $10 SRP.
  • 2014 Cote de Hayas Centenaria Garnacha2014 Cote de Hayas Centenaria Garnacha (Campo de Borja)
    • Located up in the mountains with a continental climate. The wines are produced from vines that are at least 50 years old. This wine is aged in French oak. A complex wine with notes of orange ending with a long finish. $13-15 SRP.

My top picks from the tasting were the 2013 Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca and the 2014 Cote de Hayas Centenaria Garnacha, but that definitely doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the others. What's interesting is the Cote de Hayas Centenaria was also a top pick for me last year amongst the others tasted then. 

The biggest take away from this tasting was the value with all bottles having an SRP (suggested retail price) under $15. That is one thing I have always realized with Spain is that there are great values when it comes to their wines and this tasting was additional proof. Have you tried Garnacha or other versions of it and what are your thoughts? I love to hear from my readers!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Crafting Small Lots at Murrieta's Well

Of course Vine Travels is all about educating on Italian wines, but every now and then I like to mix it up and share some other wines from around the world with you. This week we are venturing to Livermore, CA and sharing the wines of Murrieta's Well to you with an inside scope from winemaker Robbie Meyer. In full disclosure these wines were received as samples courtesy of Murrieta's Well and Snooth, but opinions shared and recommendations are personally my own.

The name Murrieta's Well stems from Joaquin Murrieta who discovered the Livermore Valley in the early 1800's. Robbie Meyer has been the winemaker at Murrieta's Well for 2 years now and believes in terroir driven wines that are produced in limited batches from small acres, but are of high quality. Through his career he has also produced over a hundred 90 point rated wines so without having the background knowledge going into the virtual tasting that I had with him he must be doing something right, wouldn't you say?! ; )
wine tasting in Livermore, CA at Murrieta's Well
Murrieta's Well courtesy of Balzac Communications & Marketing
Actually never having been to California I don't know much about the Livermore area, but Robbie shared that the weather is relatively cool influenced by the fog at the bay, along with plenty of sunshine. Murrieta's Well has about 500 acres, but their grapes are sourced only from select blocks that they feel are performing at their best.

I tasted the following:

2014 Small Lot Chardonnay - retails about $44
2014 The Whip- retail about $24
2013 Small Lot Cabernet – retails about $58
2013 The Spur – retails about $30

The Murrieta's Well Small Lot wines are a small production of about 200-250 cases annually. Robbie believes in farming “acre by acre” and managing all aspects including canopy management. It's important for him to make sure there is some sunlight on some portion of the grapes for some part of the day.

2014 Murrieta's Well ChardonnayThe 2014 Murrieta's Well Small Lot Chardonnay is made in about 50-75% new French oak barrels, but Robbie believes in accenting the wine with oak and not dominating it so for those of you that like a hint of oak influence without completing taking over the wine you'll want to seek out this wine. Robbie actually mentioned that 80% of the chardonnay grapes in California originated from the Wente clone including these grapes. Picked at night, this wine goes through about a 3-8 week fermentation where the malolactic fermentation is innolcated. The target is to have a slow, consistent and cool fermentation that provides an integrated presence. It's then aged for 15 months in barrel to provide a silky wine combined with plenty of tropical fruit and peach and that hint of oak. Robbie suggested pairing this week a flaky fish, maybe halibut.

2013 Murrieta's Well The SpurThe 2013 Murrieta's Well Small Lot Cabernet goes through a whole berry fermentation where it is aged about 22 months in barrel. Inky purple in the glass with ripe dark fruit, nice structure and notes of dark chocolate. Who doesn't like some dark chocolate in their glass?! Robbie thinks this wine can be enjoyed up to about 10 years of age and is best paired with some grilled meats.

For value 2014 Murrieta's Well The Whip and 2013 Murrieta's Well The Spur are the wines to consider. With The Whip containing some muscat and viognier that provide a beautifully, aromatic wine. The semillon and chardonnay grapes give it that mouth feel and body. Lastly, the sauvignon blanc gives it some of that acid and zest.
2014 Murrieta's Well The Whip2013 Murrieta's Well The Spur


Friday, September 9, 2016

It's celebration time with Poliziano!

This past Labor Day weekend I finally celebrated my own labor and the birth of our son Remy whom was born on July 3rd at a healthy 8 pounds and 10 ounces It's been a LONG time since I've enjoyed a glass of wine, but the sacrifices have been all worth it.  I enjoy waiting to open some of my special bottles for special occasions and what a special life changing occasion it has been. With so many bottles I have brought back from Italy it was hard to select one, but I chose my 2004 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that I brought back from my visit at their winery many years ago.

Italian wine blogger celebrates with Tuscan wine
About Poliziano
I've written about Poliziano a couple times on my site when I wrote about wineries in Italy that use cement tanks in their winemaking and I also included them on my top 5 winery recommendations in Tuscany. Poliziano was started in 1961and have increased their vineyard acreage from 22 to 120 hectacres (49 to 297 acres) over the years. There are a number of single vineyards that they own including Asinone, Casale, Pozzi, Valiano, Lama and Caggiole with soils that are rocky and that include volcanic clay.

What makes up Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Vino nobile, meaning “noble wine”, is produced in the south eastern part of Tuscany. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano became a recognized DOCG status in 1980. To be recognized as a DOCG wine it must contain at least 70% of the sangiovese grape, here known as prugnolo gentile, along with 30% other grapes from Montepulciano. It also must age at least 2 years plus an additional year for the riserva. There are also some additional requirements including yield restrictions, etc.

A more affordable Vino Nobile
A step down from the DOCG level is the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC, a younger wine, more affordable, and not held to as strict standards. Of course it will never be a Vino Nobile, but it could be a more affordable option for some to get a sense of Montepulciano where these grapes are grown.

2004 Poliziano Vino Nobile di MontepulcianoThe 2004 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that I tasted was produced with 85% prugnolo gentile and 15% a blend of colorino, canaiolo and merlot. It's aged between 14-16 months partly in French oak barriques and tonneaux that are 20% new and partly in traditional casks. Garnet in color and ruby red around the rim.  This wine first had firm tannins that became more balanced with the ripe cherry fruit as time went on.  A nicely structured wine with a persistent finish.  Poliziano recommends aging this wine 10-12 years and I felt this wine was still drinking well and definitely benefited from decanting. It was very smooth, if not better, even the next day. This wine was rated 88 points Wine Spectator and was awarded the “due bicchieri rossi” for the 2005 Gambero Rosso.

Many of you have visited wineries and know there is no better way to learn about the land, the grapes, the climate and the history than putting yourself amidst all the wonder that goes into creating what's in our glasses. If you can find yourself wandering the vineyards of Italy that's even better. Montepulciano is a great town in Tuscany to visit as well, but bring your walking shoes as it's a hike to the top to reach Piazza Grande.
wine tasting in Montepulciano Piazza Grande
Wine tasting in Piazza Grande. Sometimes you gotta be silly!
Italian wine blogger
Salute to the special occasions in your life!  Life is too short...enjoy!
Information sourced by Poliziano.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Campania's Volcanic Wines with Fratelli Urciuolo

This month for our ItalianFWT (Italian Food, Wine & Travel) monthly group is exploring volcanic wines and food or travel to the regions of Campania and Sicily (also volcanic wine producing regions). After hearing about this month's topic I immediately though southern Italy and more specifically Campania. Today I'm taking you to the region of Campania, which I've mentioned before is where my dad's side of the family is from. I have yet to go to his home town of Candida in the village of Avellino, but I will make it there some day. Especially since Avellino in particular makes some fantastic wines. I'm always intrigued by wines that are grown on volcanic soil and the characteristics that they impart into the wines.

Avellino is in a part of Campania known as Irpinia that is known for producing many of the DOCG wines of the region including Fiano, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi (made of aglianico). The fiano grape that I'm sharing today is also known as vitis apiana stemming from the word apia for bees known for it's sweetness that the bees are attracted to. Fiano is a grape known for it's aromatics and nuttiness, although I didn't pick up nutiness in my particular bottle that I'm sharing with you today, but it's beautiful bouquet showed lovely in the glass. I tasted the 2013 Fratelli Uriuolo Monte Faliesi Fiano di Avellino.

Wine map of Campania wine region
Wine map of Campania copyright of Federdoc

Fratelli Urciuolo began in 1996 by two brothers, Antonello and Ciro Uricuiolo. There was very good knowledge of what the soil was composed of as within the Uricuiolo family there had been generations that had planted chestnut trees and knew the soils well. There are traces of volcanic ash and clay within the soil of the land they own. Antonello's drive to go learn to become a winemaker at the university triggered him and his brother to make their father's dream of winemaking a reality.

The brothers produce about 50% of their own production that's hand harvested and the rest come from local growers. They are situated in the town of Forino about an hour south of Naples, but they have other vineyard sites as well. They started growing the fiano grape and have increased their production to include the other popular grapes of Campania: greco, falanghina and aglianico.

2013 Fratelli Urciuolo Monte Faliesi Fiano di AvellinoThe 2013 Fratelli Urciuolo Monte Faliesi Fiano di Avellino DOCG is a straw color with a golden hue. On the nose are lemon, banana and minerals. It's a dry, medium to full bodied wine that has a creamy texture with good acidity and a little saltiness. It's a persistent and well-balanced wine that has the potential to age well. It retails about $20. This Fiano di Avellino has been awarded the Tre Bicchieri award a number of times as well as their Taurasi wines.

Have you tried the wines of Campania and have any favorites?

The #ItalianFWT Crew Presents...
Information sourced from Opici Wines.