Thursday, June 29, 2017

Italian Summer Red & White Wines

We’re at the start of summer and the grills are fired up, time is being shared with friends including good food and of course good wine.  Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month is featuring summer Italian red and white wines. Most folks gravitate towards whites in the hot summer days, but there are reds as well to be enjoyed and of course don’t forgot rose’ or sparkling wines.  And it’s the perfect time for suggestions with the 4th of July upon us with plenty of festivities all around.
Summer Italian wines
My recent trip to Peschiera del Garda.  Perfect wine sipping weather!
Here is a preview into what our group will be sharing with you this Saturday July 1st.  You can chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  We look forward to seeing you then!
  • Gwendolyn of Art Predator will be sharing "Our New Favorite Summer Italian Wine: Lambrusco!"
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be sharing "Quick Summer Dinner: Salumi, Formaggi, e Amarone"
  • Jill at L'Occasion will be sharing "Fresh Wines from Umbria and Lazio"
  • Lauren at Swirling Dervish will be sharing "Verdicchio and Vermentino - Italian White Wines Perfect for Summer"
  • Jen of Vino Travels will be sharing "Italian Red Wines to Enjoy in the Summer"


Friday, June 23, 2017

"Mai Dire Mai", Never Say Never with Pasqua Wines

Last week I took a trip back to Italy as I received an invitation from the Pasqua winery to go and visit the winery and their vineyards and taste some of the wines that they produce. It was a wonderful trip and myself along with two other international folks in the wine industry were warmly welcomed and treated very well.
Italian wine press trip to Italy with Pasqua
The Pasqua winery is located in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy within the winemaking area of the Valpolicella. Their winery is specifically located in the Valpantena, one of the top winemaking areas of the Valpolicella. The winery started over 90 years ago and just recently celebrated their 90th anniversary in 2015. 
Pasqua winery in Valpantena of Valpolicella
Pasqua winery
Our trip started off with a guided tour of the Giardino Giusti, the serene and peaceful renaissance gardens located over the Adige River in Verona. The gardens reminded me very much of the Boboli Gardens of Florence, but on a smaller scale. The Giusti family actually originated from Florence.
Giardino Giusti in Verona
Giardino Giusti
We proceeded to the Torre dei Lamberti in Piazza Dante after a quick aperol spritz, where we met Pasqua's PR and marketing person, Sara Biasi, who greeted us and kicked us off at a private tasting at the top of the tower. The tower was privately reserved for us as we made our way to the top with views overlooking all of Verona and even Lake Garda in the far distance. We started the evening enjoying a glass or two of the Pasqua Prosecco before proceeding to our dinner in at Cafe' Dante. 
Torre dei Lamberti with Pasqua winery
Torre dei Lamberti
Torre dei Lamberti Verona
Views from the top

A beautiful night to sit outside in the piazza and we were graciously joined by the owner and President of the Pasqua winery, Umberto Pasqua. A very down to earth and personable gentleman. We sampled a number of the Pasqua wines including their prosecco, 11 minutes rose', Passione Sentimento Bianco and Rosso. The last pairing was my favorite as we paired the Sentimento Passione Rosso with risotto all'amarone drizzled with monte veronese cheese of the area.
President of Pasqua Winery Umberto Pasqua
President, Umberto Pasqua
Our next day was lovely as we started off visiting Pasqua's top vineyard site, Monte Vegro, located in the town of Ilasi in the Valpolicella. This winery was named Monte Vegro (monte=mountain and vegro=unattainable) due to the fact that many folks said that grapes couldn't be grown there. So the wines of this area are called Mai Dire Mai meaning “never say never”
Monte Vegro vineyards of Pasqua winery
Monte Vegro vineyards
The vineyards that day were loaded with sunshine on our visit as a single tractor traveled through the vines. Set high up on the hills with many south facing slopes the soil there was comprised with layers of limestone.  There is such a peacefulness I find when visiting vineyards and it's the perfect way to understand how the wines are developed as it all starts there. 
Monte Vegro vineyards of Mai Dire Mai wines
Limestone @ Monte Vegro
The vines reside on 26 hectacres and since land is so limited in the Valpolicella with maybe 1 hectacre changing hands every year it results in the price of the land to be rather expensive. It was mentioned by one of the guests/sommelier that the land costs about half a million a hectacre, but I don't have facts to back that up.

Next, we made our way to the Pasqua winery, which is very deceiving from the outside, but quite the operation with floors upon floors inside. I have to be honest that I have seen the label Pasqua wines before, but don't believe I had yet to try them. Even though the majority of their wines seem to be more bulk wine that either they grow or purchase the juice from other areas of Italy including Sicily, Tuscany and Puglia, the wines that we were fortunate to sample I found to be very enjoyable.
wines of Pasqua winery in Valpolicella
Upon arrival we were immediately introduced to the winemaker Giovanni Nordera, whom is actually a cousin of the family. He has been winemaker at the Pasqua winery for over 10 years and at the impressive age of only 38 years old. He had traveled to many wine regions of the world including Chile, South Africa and France working in the industry before he eventually ended up at the Pasqua winery. Giovanni walked us through all the wines you'll find listed below. 
Winemaker of Pasqua winery, Giovanni Sordera
Giovanni Nordera, winemaker
The winery produces about 14-15 million bottles a year. We toured the factory with Giovanni after our tasting and he walked us through the lab and the bottling operation where they typically bottle about 60,000 bottles a day. I always find those machines to be quite fascinating to watch. We walked through where the stainless steel tanks are kept where their largest tanks hold about 200,000 liters, which is mostly their pinot grigio as they produce about 3 million bottles of this wine. On our tour we were introduced to quite a unique room that was created for the launch of Pasqua's new rose' released this year called 11 Minutes.  Yes, those are hundreds of bottles hanging in a room surrounded by mirrors.  Pretty cool, huh?!
Pasqua 11 Minutes Rose
Room of Pasqua's 11 Minutes Rose'
After the tour Giovanni even walked us through making our own wine including blending, bottling, labeling and corking.  We finished lastly in the wine cellar where a dinner was being prepared for us directly amongst all the barrels.
winemaking with Pasqua winerywinemaking at Pasqua winery

Wine dinner in the wine cellar of Pasqua
An absolutely lovely time over the 2 days and I'll share with you a couple of the towns I visited after on upcoming blogs sharing some of the wines typically produced in those areas so stay tuned.
Wine tasting at Pasqua winery
Below is the list of wines we tried over the couple days and there truly wasn't one that I didn't enjoy, some more than others.  My favorites during my visit were the Pasqua Passione Sentimento Bianco, Pasqua Mai Dire Mai Valpolicella Superiore and the Pasqua Mai Dire Mai Amarone della Valpolicella.  You'll see my notes on these particular favorites, but I'm happy to share others if there is interest.  Shoot me a message.
Pasqua Prosecco Spumante Brut DOC
2016 Pasqua 11 minutes Rose' delle Venezie IGT

2016 Pasqua Passione Sentimento Bianco IGT is made of 100% garganega these grapes go through the appasimento process, drying the grapes out on trays for 1 month in the fruitaio. This wine had good structure with aromatics of stone fruit and citrus.  On the palate it was dry and a nice balance of fruit and refreshing acidity leaving a round mouthfeel and lingering finish. ABV 13%  SRP $14

2015 Pasqua Passione Sentimento Rosso IGT
2012 Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

2012 Pasqua Mai Dire Mai Valpolicella Superiore DOC is made from with 50% corvina, 30% corvinone, 10% rondinella and 10% oseleta (a reinvigorated grape once facing extinction).  Aromas of ripe, rich dried red fruits.  A more traditional style of Valpolicella Superiore with lots of complexity including dried cherries, spice and bright acid.  Aged in tonneaux and barriques for 18 months.  This wine was drinking well, but can still withstand some aging. Only 4,000 bottles produced. ABV 15%  SRP $35

Pasqua Mai Dire Mai Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is made from 65% corvina, 15% corvinone, 10% rondinella and 10% oseleta.  Displaying on the nose sweet, dried fruits.  A structured, concentrated wine loaded with rich, dark fruits showing hints of mint and toasty characteristics.  Aged 100% in new oak and barriques for 24 months.  This wine still needs some more time in the bottle.  ABV 16.5% SRP $150

2006 Pasqua 90th anniversary Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Passito on the Island of Pantelleria

Today is Italian sweet wine day with our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group. I've written about a number of different sweeter style wines on Vino Travels. I am one that has a sweet tooth and enjoys a nice dessert wine. I'm veering off from the typical moscato d'asti and brachetto d'acqui in the north and taking you an island off the coast of Sicily for some passito di Pantelleria.

I believe I've only ever had 1 passito di pantelleria and it was the delicious Ben Rye from Donnafugata. I've written about passito di pantelleria in the past so you can reference all about it from my previous blog post. To summarize, these wines are produced from the moscato grapes, here it's known as zibibbo. Elsewhere this grape is known as Moscato di Alexandria. The weather is intense here so the grapes ripen rather well. To produce passito the grapes are harvested at night in cooler temperatures, but then left to dry to concencrate the sugars more. 

2014 Ipsus Passito di PantelleriaFor all you Trader Joe's wine lovers I have to admit this was the first time I actually tried a wine from Trader Joe's. The store I frequent doesn't sell wine and the other closest store is about 40 minutes away, but one day I was in the area and stopped in to check out their wine selection I've heard a lot about. I was excited to find a passito di Pantelleria from Ipsus and immediately made the purchase. I'm always one for wines that I can't find as easily. This 2014 Ipsus Passito di Pantelleria wine was amber in color. With an aromatic nose this wine is rich in flavors of orange zest, apricots and honey. I would suggest to try pairing it with a fresh fruit tart or even some crème brulee. SRP $10.99 (Trader Joe's). 

A delightful and delicious wine at a great price. So when you find yourself craving a little dessert after your meal it's an affordable option to check out.

Here are more Italian sweet wines for you to enjoy. If you catch us in time join us live on Twitter Saturday June 3rd at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT.