Friday, July 13, 2018

50 Harvests with the Sieni Family of the Montefioralle Winery

Over the last two weeks I've attended a couple live online chats with the family of the Montefioralle Winery located in a division of Greve-in-Chianti in Tuscany called Montefioralle.  I've been to Greve a number of times and it's not too far outside of Florence.  I believe there is a SITA bus you can take from the bus station in Florence, but my preference when visiting the countryside is to rent a car and have the freedom to stop wherever you want.  There is so much to see and so many picturesque photo opportunities that you won't want to miss along the way.  The primary wine road to take through wine country there is the SS222 also known as the Chiantigiana.  Greve-in-Chianti will be one of your first main communes that you'll reach.
The family members that shared their history of Montefioralle were Fernando Sieni, the father, and his son, Lorenzo, and daughter, Alessia. They were so dedicated to sharing their story with us that they did the video live from their vacation in Puglia with their kids playing in the background.
It's an important year for the Montefioralle winery as they are celebrating 50 harvests this October. The winery was founded by Fernando's father back in 1964.  He rented the property and land from the church which he then planted the vineyards on.  Fernando finally purchased it from the winery in the mid 90's.  Both Fernando's parents were born in Montefioralle.  Montefioralle was founded by German monks.  Lorenzo mentioned that they found documents that actually mention that the priests of Montefioralle used to make wine in their vineyards all the way back to the 14th century.

The winery has come a long way from their 1st harvest of 500 liters to today producing about 10,000-12,000 bottles annually.Some of their procedures have changed over time where they used to use wooden barrels for fermentation where now they use cement vats.  Fernando was the one whom started green harvesting at the winery where they discard some of the grape bunches to increase the quality of the grapes.  His father was never in agreement of this as he thought it was always a waste of the grapes, until he really understood the reasoning behind it to produce higher quality wines.  They are currently taking part in green harvesting as we speak.  Lorenzo and Alessia's nephew, Sebastiano, whom is 12 has taken a liking to being in the winery and takes part in these activities including harvest.
The family shared that they have faced some difficult harvests like any winery including 2002 due to heavy rains where there many diseases evolved and the grape bunches had to be harvested by hand.   2014 was another difficult vintage where they lost over 40% of their production.  As Lorenzo described though that a great winemaker is one whom can produce great wines in the bad years as opposed to the good.  Although, their best vintage recommendations for their wines include 1997, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016.  So far the 2018 vintage is shaping up like 2013 where it's been wet, but also sunny and not so hot followed by cool nights.  Alessia actually shared something that I found very touching and shows you the passion behind their winemaking philosophy and how they view wine more than just a product.  It's a way of life.  When asked her favorite vintage she stated that “Every wine has it’s own history and individuality and they allow that to transpire”.  Fernando compared it to not being able to choose a favorite child and it's the same with wine. 

The wines have always been produced organically, but in 2015 they started the process to be certified with the first vintage coming out as certified organic possibly in 2018 or 2019.  So what grapes do they produce?  They primarily produce sangiovese along with canaiolo and colorino for red grapes and trebbiano and malvasia for white grapes used in the production of their vin santo. In the 80’s Fernando wanted to plant international varieties including cabernet sauvignon and merlot that they use in their IGT designated wines.   

I received 3 of their wines including their 2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico, the 2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva and their Vin Santo.  Their chianti classico wines are produced with over 90% sangiovese, the noble grape of Tuscany, that is known for tannin and high acid.  The rest of the grapes added include canaiolo for approachability and a smoother wine as well as colorino for color since sangiovese is a light colored grape.  Not all wineries use canaiolo and colorino as canaiolo is difficult to grow and reach ripeness where the colorino is produced in small quantities.
Montefioralle wines from Greve in Chianti
2015 Montefioralle Chianti Classico  - This wine was aged a year in barrels.  This vintage had a very hot summer resulting in a wine full of ripe, rich cherries.  An approachable wine with rather balanced acidity and supple tannins.  Notes of tobacco and cedar all typical to sangiovese and part of the reason why I love it.  Lorenzo suggested aging the wine about 5-6 years and in good vintages this can be doubled.  ABV 14.5% (typically 13-13.5%) SRP $14
2014 Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva – A difficult vintage due to climate.  They produced 1,000 bottles that year as opposed to their normal 3,000.  Their riserva wines are produced from vines that are 30+ years old.  This wine is aged 2 years in barrel.  A wine with complex aromas including cherry with some herbal and chocolate notes.   Lorenzo recommended that this wine can age about 10-12 years on average and more than double in good vintages. ABV 14.5% SRP $30

I have yet to try the 2014 Montefioralle Vin Santo since I wanted to pair it with cantucci, or biscotti, as I have enjoyed in Tuscany.  I will let you know once I've had a chance to try it.  SRP $30 at a half liter bottle.  The nice about these wines is that Montefioralle has it arranged where they can ship directly as they are partnered with importers and mine came rather quickly. 

What I loved about meeting the Sieni family virtually was that everything they do is for their passion for wine.  They don't tailor their wines for the consumer market as some wineries do.  It's more about quality and not the quantity and I could feel their passion and sense of family and history throughout the conversation. 


* Most pictures copyright of Montefioralle Winery.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Lake Garda says Hooray for Rosé with Chiaretto

Over the last few weeks I've sampled a number of different rosé, or rosato, wines from around the world and this month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is featuring wines from the area of Lake Garda that borders both the Veneto and Lombardy northern regions in Italy.  In particular we're talking about the wines known as chiaretto, pronounced "key-ah-ret-oh".  Lake Garda is actually the largest lake in Italy.  The last time I was at Lake Garda was June of 2017 where I took a day trip over to Peschiera del Garda on the southern part of the lake only about 15 minutes by train from Verona. If you've never been to Lake Garda it's a must see.  It's such a beautiful place to visit with so many great towns along the shores easily reachable by boat.    

Peschiera del Garda Chiaretto wine
My trip to Peschiera del Garda

This area of the Veneto, including Lake Garda, prides itself on their red grapes used in the production of their valpolicella, amarone and bardolino wines.  Corvina leads the pack of red grapes followed by molinara and rondinella, all grapes that are also used in the production of chiaretto of varying levels.   
Chiaretto has been produced in Lake Garda since 1896 started by a lawyer/writer, Pompeo Molmenti, whom owned vineyards on the lake and decided to start producing wine.  Today the area produces about 8.5 million bottles.   
If you're not familiar with Chiaretto it typically produces wines that are dry, crisp, fresh with a citrus profile touched by red berries.  It's named chiaretto after the Italian word chiaro, meaning pale.  If you're not familiar with how rosé wines are made, the juice is kept in contact with the red skins for a limited amount of time to impart a hint of pink to the wine.  Chiaretto is a wine to be enjoyed in its youth.   
Bardolino Chiaretto Classico wines from Lake Garda
I tasted the 2017 Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato Le Morette Bardolino Chiaretto Classico and I was very delighted by it mostly because of the balance and elegance in this wine.  It's made of 55% corvina, 35% rondinella and 10% molinara.  It was the best rosé I personally tasted recently (personal preference of course).  It was very pale pink in color.  There were citrus notes on the nose.  A light-bodied wine that was nicely balanced with fruit, acidity and a little saltiness.  Most prevalent on the finish were fresh strawberries and raspberries.  12% ABV 
The winery is located in San Benedetto di Lugana located between Lake Garda and Lake FrassinoThe winery is named after a species of wild duck, called le morette, that live along Lake Frassino.  They were chosen for their elegance and beauty and the deep respect for nature and the environment.   It was started 60 years back by Gino Zenato and his main purpose for the land was the production of vines, in addition to producing wines on the side for himself.  His son, Valerio, took over the business in 1981 producing wines for distribution to the market.  Today the winery is run by the 3rd generation, Fabio and Paolo, that strives to complete the vision of their grandfather.  And so the legacy continues.  One of the things I love about Italian wines is the history and stories behind each and every winery and how the next generations continue on the dream and mission of their founding fathers. 
I also tasted the 2017 Cantina Caorsa Bardolino Chiaretto Classico.  This is actually a cooperative of about 350 members owned by the North-east Agricultural Consortium that began in 1987.  I unfortunately couldn't locate too much information on this winery, but enjoyed this wine also.  It's a blend of primarily corvina at 60% with 20% rondinella, 10% molinara and 10% merlot.   A deeper pink in comparison to the Le Morette and a rather smooth, light-bodied wine bright with red berries.  12.5% ABV
Join me and my fellow writers in the #ItalianFWT group to discover even more about Chiaretto di Bardolino on Twitter, Saturday July 7 at 11 am/EST.  Here's what we'll talk about:
*Wines provided as samples thankfully by the Consorzio Tutela Vino Bardolino DOC, but opinions are my own.  Information and most pictures sourced from Chiaretto.


Friday, July 6, 2018

A Taste of the North Fork with Bedell Cellars

Being in the Boston area there aren’t as many destinations for winery visits as those living out on the west coast, although I have tried some locally.  My favorite go to place for winery visits is upstate New York to the Finger Lakes, but back in 2007 I traveled out to the North Fork of Long Island to visit their wineries and was rather impressed.  I have yet to go back, but recently tried the 2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rosé and it made me want to pay a visit back to this area.  Bedell Cellars sticks in my mind to this day out of all the wineries I visited and I loved their merlot I tried back then. 
Bedell Cellars North Fork Long Island
Part of the WineStudio program that I’m part of had an online chat one night with winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich from Bedell Cellars.  He is the only winemaker in North America to entirely use indigenous yeasts.  He feels that it’s the best way for a terroir to shine in the cellar.  He also helped find the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, which is the first on the east coast and only one of 12 on the planet.   

Bedell Cellars started in 1980 by Kip and Susan Bedell before it was purchased in 2000 by art collector, Michael Lynne.  He incorporated world renowned contemporary artists for the label work along with the skills of winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich, whom has established it as a certified, sustainable winery.   

The North Fork built their reputation off growing European grapes on the east coast which was unheard of back in the beginning phases.  As Rich stated that “making wine on the east coast is not for the faint of heart and it’s incredibly hard work”.  He compares their wines to that of the old world and uses Bordeaux as a model as well as the western Loire in France due to a similarity in the weight and balance of wines in both wine regions.   

Rich stated that “my approach to making great rosé starts with targeting sites in the vineyard that would produce what I’m looking for: low alcohol, crisp acidity and bright aromatics.”  All the grapes are carefully hand harvested and sorted.   
2017 Bedell Cellars Taste Rose

The 2017 Bedell Taste Rosé is blended different every year. This vintage is comprised of 60% merlot 30% cabernet franc, 5% syrah and 5% cabernet sauvignon.  The grapes are pressed gently in whole clusters before they are fermented with the indigenous yeasts. It’s salmon pink in color with notes on strawberries on the nose.  It’s a dry wine, medium bodied with a lengthy finish.  SRP $18. ABV 11%    

Have you been to the Long Island wineries?