Friday, July 14, 2017

Villa Maria Wine Tasting with Winemaker Helen Morrison

Warning that we're breaking out of the Italian shell today and virtually traveling to a country that has long been on my bucket list, New Zealand. I recently attending a virtual tasting hosted by Snooth with guest appearance by Helen Morrison, the winemaker at Villa Maria. Experience the tasting yourself at the Villa Maria virtual tasting with Snooth.

If it wasn't such a long journey from Boston I've would've already made my way there and probably have visited the Villa Maria winery by now, but for now I'll settle with drinking their wines here in the states. Villa Maria wines were some of the first I've ever tried from New Zealand and was the reason why I fell in love with sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. To this day they're still my favorite sauvignon blancs. 

Sir George Fistonich started the company in 1961by leasing five acres of land from his father and growing vines on one of those acres. He still takes part in the operations today. Through the years the winery has been recognized for a multitude of awards, but George prides himself and the winery by making sure the focus is on quality and the rest will follow.Here are some pretty neat facts on the timeline of Villa Maria's history:
  • 1962 – first vintage
  • 1970's – started hiring staff
  • 1988 – began exporting
  • 1995 – became a member of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
  • 2000 – the winery in Marlborough opened
  • 2001 – the winery became 100% dedicated to screw caps
  • 2005 – the winery and vineyards opened in Auckland
  • 2009 – George Fistonich received a knighthood recognizing his contribution to the New Zealand wine industry
    George Fistonich owner of Villa Maria
    George Fistonich in the beginning years of Villa Maria
Villa Maria has 4 vineyards located in Auckland, Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne and they're all either located on the ocean or close by. Regardless of the difference in climates there is an aim to create balance between the ripeness of the grapes, acidity and aromatic flavor profiles.
The following wines are those I sampled and enjoyed them all for different reasons, plus some great values. If you haven't tried wines from New Zealand Villa Maria is a perfect place to start.
Wines of Villa Maria New Zealand
2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc
This wine hails from Marlborough on the northeastern tip of the island. Crisp mornings are followed by sunny, warm days with moderate rainfall. The Private Bin tier is the most widely distributed and most recognized. The wine is produced by blended vineyards. It demonstrates a classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc with fresh fruit, citrus, grassiness with some herbs. ABV 13%. SRP $13.

2015 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is slightly carbonated with fine bubbles. The wine is full of lime and grapefruit with softer acidity. ABV 12.5%. SRP $15

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Bay Rose'
Produced in Hawkes Bay this wine is predominately made from merlot and actually a touch of the Italian grape hailing from Piedmont, arneis, which adds softness, richness and stone fruit. This wine displays juicy strawberries and cherries with soft acidity and a creamy texture. ABV 12.5%. SRP $14.

2015 Villa Maria Taylor's Pass Chardonnay
A fan favorite of the night this single vineyard wine comes from a cold subregion in Marlborough and from stony parts of the vineyard. In the wine you taste that minerality, citrus and creamy toastiness from the wine aging in new french barriques. ABV 13.5%. SRP $45. 

2014 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir
Produced from Marlbough vineyards the pinot noir grape is the most widely planted after sauvignon blanc. A pretty soft wine demonstrating dried herbs, fresh acidity with cherries and raspberries with a touch of spice and smokiness from the oak. ABV 13.5%. SRP $26

2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet
Produced in Hawkes Bay this area is much warmer than Marlborough. It consists of 70% merlot and 30% cabernet sauvignon. Sometimes malbec and cabernet franc is added in small percentages depending on the vintage. This was considered a great vintage for them with George claiming it's the vintage of the century. The wine goes through about 18-20 months of maturation time. ABV 13.5%. SRP $20

*Wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Most pictures copyright of Villa Maria.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Italian Red Wines to Enjoy in the Summer

Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month is featuring Italian summer red and white wines. I'd say most folks gravitate towards whites, but I want to share with you some Italian red wines that you can enjoy even in the hot, summer days. 

Of course we'd all love to be sitting in a piazza, watching the locals take their evening passagiata while sipping many of Italy's fine wines, but for those of us that can only dream of it right now can still be left with some suggestions to pick up a bottle, close one's eyes and only dream.

Italy has a never ending list when it comes to native varietals to select from, but here are just some of my suggestions on some Italian reds to enjoy this summer. One of the key points to remember when drinking these suggested red wines below is to make sure they have a slight chill to them. 
Italian red wines for summer
My recent trip to Peschiera del Garda.  Let's all dream of sipping with this view!


Home to Emilia-Romagna in north central Italy, this wine is well beyond what many remember as the inexpensive, sweet wine clouding many images in folks minds. Lambrusco comes in many different styles and is best known as being dry, slightly frizzante full of red fruits. You can read more about the different styles of Lambruso on a previous blog. Start your meal with it alongside some salumi or enjoy it on it's own. 
Styles of Lambrusco
Copyright of Consorzio Tutela DelLambrusco di Modena

Located in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy, but more specifically in the Alto Adige. It's also known as vernatsch. This wine is delicate and light bodied as well as light in color. It's full or aromatics and fruity, red berries with slight spice.


Another grape from northern Italy found in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Known as “little sweet one”, this is purple hued in color with juicy red fruits of cherry and raspberries with some spice and low in tannin. It is typically light in body, but there are definitely more modern style dolcetto out there that are heartier reds as well. 


This wine can be found in eastern Sicily. It's used mostly in the Cersasuolo di Vittoria wines, the only DOCG of Italy, where it's blended with nero d'avola. Enjoying this wine on it's own though will leave you satisfied in the summer months as it is light-bodied, aromatic, full of strawberries and bright acidity. 

Don't forget about any of the wonderful rose' wines of Italy, known as roasto. Depending on your palate and preference the rose' wines of the south, due to the climate, typically tend to have more body and riper fruits where those of the north are more delicate, lighter and crisp. Either way you can't wrong so choose depending on your mood or what you're pairing it with. On my recent trip to Italy last month I tried a new rosato release from the Pasqua Winery 11 Minutes. It's a blend of corvina primarily with syrah, carmenere and trebbiano di lugana. It received it's name from it's 11 minutes of skin contact with the juice. Light salmon in color, it's a very soft, delicate and elegant rose' with nice acid and notes of strawberry. A perfect wine for beginning our evening recently in Piazza Dante in Verona.
2016 Pasqua 11 Minutes rosato

Join my fellow wine bloggers as they share more Italian wines for you to indulge in this summer. Also, join us live on Twitter this Saturday July 1st at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  See you then!