Friday, September 28, 2018

Italian Grapes of Amador County with Terra d'Oro

It doesn’t happen all too often that I get the opportunity to try wines made from Italian grapes outside Italy.  I had the opportunity to try some from Terra d’Oro located in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County in CA.  I connected with their winemaker, Emily Haines, and will be sharing some of the questions to give you further insight into their workings with some Italian grapes.   

The name Terra d’Oro means land of gold in Italian and was where the Gold Rush miners settled in the 1800’s.  When the gold dried up they were also the first to plant vineyards.  By the end of the century there were over 100 wineries, the largest wine region in the state back then.  The miners had transitioned their money making from gold to wine production.   
Terra d'Oro in Amador County Sierra Foothills
Terra d'Oro vineyards copyright of Terra d'Oro
The winery began back in 1973 under Cary Gott and father-in-law Walter Field, but at that point in time was named Montevina.  According to the Terra d’Oro site it was the first winery of Amador county that was producing wines after Prohibition.   The winery produces a variety of grapes, but being most interested in Italian grapes I was pleased to find that they produce barbera, pinot grigio, sangiovesemoscatoteroldegofreisanebbiolo and aglianico.  I am sharing their 2016 Terra d’Oro Barbera and the 2017 Terra d’Oro pinot grigio.   
Terra d'Oro barbera and pinot grigio
2016 Terra d’Oro Barbera   

Barbera is native to the wine region of Piedmont in northwestern Italy usually seen as Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba.  Terra d’Oro quotes that it’s the 6th most planted red grape in California.  Bright ruby in color with purple hues.  On the nose ripe forest berries.  A soft, easy drinking, smooth wine with juicy raspberries and blueberries.  It’s aged 2 weeks in stainless steel tanks plus 15 months in French and Hungarian oak.   Terra d’Oro suggests to pair this barbera with roast pork or a pasta bolognese.  ABV 14.5% SRP $18 

2017 Terra d’Oro Pinot Grigio 
Pinot grigio is one of the most overlooked grapes due to the high quantity on the market and the large variety of quality out there.  I truly enjoyed this grape and was my pick of the two.  Almost clear in the glass this wine had a very aromatic nose.  Smooth on the palate with nice acidity and plenty of pineapple and green apple notes.  This wine is fermented in stainless steel for a month.  ABV 13.55 SRP $16 
Emily Haines winemaker of Terra d'Oro
Emily Haines Copyright of Terra d'Oro
Interview with Emily Haines, winemaker of Terra d’Oro 

As a winemaker, what is it that attracted you to producing wines for Terra d’Oro? 
I am originally from Washington State and made a lot of Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling.  I’d made some Barbera and Zinfandel over the years, but definitely never had made AglianicoTeroldego, or Freisa.  Coming to Terra d’Oro offered a new venture into winemaking that I had never been down before.  I’ve spent much of my time here tasting the Italian representations of these wines along with representations across the country.  I’m taking what I’m liking in those tastings and creating winemaking designs that tip the hat to the traditional, while also innovating and creating wines that are advancing with wine lovers new and old, alike.  

Why was Terra d’Oro named Montevina prior?  
Montevina was the name of the winery when we crushed our first wine back in 1970.  As the winery grew, it was natural to create a higher quality luxury tier, which was named Terra d’Oro.  As time went on, it became clear that it was time to focus our efforts into the Terra d’Oro brand.  But fret not, we still create wine under the Montevina label. Montevina wines we varietally correct, yet more fruit forward.  

What vineyards are your other Italian grapes planted in?  
Our estate vineyards in Amador County add up to 800 total acres over 4 properties, 500 acres of which is planted.  On our Amador properties, we have the following Italian varieties planted: Barbera, Sangiovese, TeroldegoAglianicoFreisa, and Nebbiolo.  

I was reading that Barbera is the 6th most planted grape in the state of CA.  Why is that and what is it about this grape in particular that attracted you to it to plant in Amador County?  
Barbera is widely planted here in Amador County.  Terra d’Oro was one of the first to plant Barbera in our region.  The shallow soils filled with Iron and decomposed granite made the perfect home for this Italian Variety.  We get big robust cherry flavors along with the signature clean acid finish, making Barbera an excellent food pairing wine.   

In your description of the pinot grigio you mention that it finishes with a touch of elegant French oak.  Is it aged and barrel and for how long?  Why did you decide to take this approach in particular with a pinot grigio 
Since the 2016 vintage we changed the winemaking style and vineyard sourcing to bring more liveliness and a crispness to our Pinot Grigio, but, as an homage to the previous style, we did a little extended yeast lees contact to add more viscosity and density to the traditionally linear wine. We feel Pinot Grigio doesn’t get the attention that it deserves.  It’s a very expressive variety, especially here in California, where we get flavors and aromas of, pear, green apple, ripe melon, along with some refreshing minerality and floral characteristics.   

I saw that your pinot grigio is grown in Santa Barbera.  Do you have a vineyard site there or do you purchase them from another winery?  If so, what part do you take in the production of those grapes? 
Our Pinot Grigio from Clarksburg is all from our own company-owned vineyards.  We have 4 different clones of Pinot Grigio from that site, which gives us many different flavors to work with, resulting in a lovely aromatic and flavor complexity ranging from ripe fruit to minerality to even a little bit of fresh hay.  We hand pick these grapes so they pick up the least amount of color on the 2 hour trek from Clarksburg to Amador County.   

I saw that the winery also produces sangiovese and moscato.  What is it about the land there that made you decide to produce so many wines based on Italian grapes?    
In the infancy of Amador County, people tried to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, white varieties, but they never performed the way it was expected.  After Barbera has been planted, it wasn’t long for Sangiovese to come in.  We also produce Aglianico and Teroldego from our estate vineyards.  Much of this is attributed to our very warm climate.  Despite being in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, our summers are very long and hot.  Varieties that do well in these climates were incredibly important in the planting of this region.  In addition to Italian Varieties, Spanish varieties and Zinfandel do exceptionally well here.  


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Crisp, Alpine Whites of Terre di Ger Limine

With these few last warm days of summer left here in the Boston area it means that I still have a great reason to continue cracking open some great bottles of whites sitting in my cellar.  Today I’m sharing with you a white blend called Limine from the Terre di Ger winery.  This is Terre di Ger’s select wine made from primarily pinot grigio with some sauvignon blanc.   

The Winery 
Terre di Ger resides in the province of Pordenone in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy.  The winery borders Friuli and the Veneto region.  It’s personally one of my favorite regions in all of Italy for white wines.  The Spinazzze family that owns the winery started in the wine industry back in the mid 60’s by creating concrete poles for vineyardsThey had first planted some grapes in the mid 70’s and bottled their first wine in 1999.  The vineyard is located in the village of Frattina.  The name derives from the word “fracta” meaning cut down as the area used to be completely covered by a forest. 
Terre di Ger winery in Frattina
The Wine 
The 2016 Terre di Ger Limine delle Venezia IGT is a blend of 90% pinot grigio and 10% sauvignon.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and spends a brief 30 days in barriques plus 7 months on the lees.  A brilliant bright yellow color in the glass.  On the nose it’s very aromatic with hints of stonefruit and citrus.  A well balanced wine with lots of grapefruit and lemon with refreshing acidity, a little salinity and a lengthy finish.  This wine is exactly why I love drinking my white wines from the northern regions of Italy.  It’s all about crisp, refreshing wines. ABV 13.5% 
2016 Terre di Ger Limine delle Venezia IGT
Wine Pairing 
I paired this wine with a garlic lemon chicken dish and it went superbly.  The lemon in the chicken played well with the citrus notes of the wine. 


* This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Badia a Coltibuono: Beginnings by Monks in Gaiole in Chianti

As we’re anxiously awaiting the cool weather to arrive here in the Boston area, or should I say New Hampshire now since my recent move, I’m starting to get back in to a red wine frame of mind and this month’s Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is highlighting some Italian fall reds to get the season started. 
We’re going to visit one of my favorites, if not my most favorite, grape of Italy.....sangiovese.  I’m sharing 4 different styles of sangiovese from the producer Badia a Coltibuono from the Tuscany region.   

The Winery ~ Badia a Coltibuono 
The Badia a Coltibuono winery started back in 1846 when the land was bought by Michele Giuntini, the great grandfather whom is also a cousin of the Selvapiana family of Rufina.  Today the winery is run by the 7th generation of the Stucchi Prinetti family,  Roberto and Emanuela Stucchi-Prinetti.   

The winery is named after the Latin name “Badia a Cultus Boni” meaning the “abbey of good culture”.  The Vallombrosan monks settled there in 1051 and agriculture was their way of life and primarily utilized the land for for olive oil and vines, which it’s still used today for.  They were forced to sell in the 19th century.  Today, in addition to the winery, there is also a cooking school operated by author, Lorenza de’ Medici di Ottajano, whom has written a boatload of cookbooks that I’m going to be seeking out myself to try.  

The Land ~ Gaiole in Chianti 
Badia a Coltibuono is located in Gaiole in Chianti, which falls within the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  It’s one of the main communes of the Chianti Classico territory that falls within the province of Siena located between Siena and Florence.  Gaiole in Chianti, like many of the other charming towns of Tuscany, is surrounded by rolling Tuscan hills and vineyards stumbling across a number of castles and churches in a rustic setting.   
Gaiole in Chianti Tuscany
Every October held on the 1st Sunday of the month the popular L’Eroica is held in Gaiole in Chianti.  Since 1997 this is a vintage bike race where only bikes built in 1987 and prior are allowed to be part of the event where they travel on gravel roads for about 209 km.  Unlike normal races where many stop for water in this area I’m curious if some stop for a quick glass of vino.  I would! 

The Grapes ~ Sangiovese 
Sangiovese is the most widely planted grape in Italy and the one mostly shared today.  I personally love this grape for its many typical qualities which include cherry and plum notes backed by high acidity and firm tannins.  It can be a rustic, earthy wine with elements of spice, leather and tobacco.  It’s a thin-skinned late ripening grape. 

The sangiovese wines of the past didn’t have the greatest reputation where the focus had been more on quantity over quality.  You may remember the days of the straw covered bottles known as fiasco.  Thankfully in recent decades sangiovese has made some major improvements and have shifted away from the days of quantity (well not all wineries), but there are plenty of great producers out there making quality sangiovese today. 

Sangiovese is primarily found in the central regions of Italy including Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Lazio and Umbria.  It’s made it’s away around the world to other wine producing regions like the US (primarily California) and Australia.   
Badia a Coltibuono wines Gaiole in Chianti
The Wines 
The Badia a Coltibuono wines that the Stucchi-Prinetti family produce are certified organic using natural yeasts.   

2015 Coltibuono Chianti Classico RS DOCG 
2015 Coltibuono Chianti ClassicoThe Coltibuono labeled wines are produced from a selection of grape growers that the family has partnered with.  Made from 100% sangiovese this wine is aged a few months in neutral oak vats.  An approachable, easy drinking style chianti classico with juicy cherries, supple tannins and rather smooth wine with good acid.SRP $15 ABV 13.5% 
2016 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 
2016 Badia a Coltibuno Chianti ClassicoAll the Badia a Coltibuono labeled wines are made from the family’s estate vineyards.  Produced in Monti in Chianti this wine comes from 15-25 year old vines.  The wine is comprised of hand picked sangiovese primarily combined with canaiolo, ciliegiolo and colorino.  Aged 1 year in French and Austrian oak casks.  Compared to the last this wine was more classic chianti classico ruby in the glass with notes of cherry and violets with hints of tobacco and spice.  Well balanced with nice acidity, solid tannins lingering in the mouth upon completion.  SRP $22 ABV 14% 
2013 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG  
2013 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico RiservaThe winery considers this their classic wine and possesses riserve chianti classico that date back to 1937.  They had lost prior vintages due to WWII.  Sourced from vineyards of up to 40 years old this wine is also a blend of primarily sangiovese with colorino, ciligielo and canaiolo.  Aged 2 years in French and Austrian oak with 4 months in the bottle before release.  A beautiful chianti classico riserva with much more complexity and aromas of cherry, licorice, spice and chocolate notes.  Full-bodied with plenty of acidity and tannin to age this for some time.  SRP $35 ABV 13.5% 
2013 Badia a Coltibuono Montebello Toscana IGT 
2013 Badia a Coltibuono Montebello
The standout wine from the group and stands proudly amongt the other bottles.  This goes to show how not always the designations dictate quality as this wine is labeled as an IGT because it doesn’t follow the specific laws of a chianti classico.  This wine is made of mammolo, sangiovese, ciliegiolo, pugnitello, colorino, malvasia nera, canaiolo, sanforte and fogliatonda.  Aged 12-16 months in oak casks with 6 months in the bottle a full-bodied wine showing earthiness, dark berries, spice and firm tannins.  A personal favorite of mine from this tasting with the Chianti Classico RiservaSRP $60 ABV 15%

The Favorite Italian Red Wines For Fall #ItalianFWT event will be Saturday, September 1, 2018. The following posts will go live early that morning and you can follow along on a Twitter chat — using #ItalianFWT — from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. CT.
Future #ItalianFWT Events
October 2018 (hosted by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator) Lugana November 2018 (hosted by Katarina of Grapevine Adventures) Gaglioppo and Calabria December 2018 (hosted by Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog) Italian Sparkling Wines

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct.