Friday, December 28, 2018

Vino Travels Top 5 Italian Wine Blogs of 2018

Another year comes to a wrap.  It has been a great year of wine from around the world with of course our love for Italian wines.  Time to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019 with open arms, open minds and an open glass.  As I continue to take you on our journey around Italy I also plan to show some highlights from other wine regions outside of Italy to broaden our horizons.  I'd appreciate if you could take this quick survey so that I can hear from my readers and find out what you'd like to read more about in 2019.

Here are the top 5 Italian wine blogs of 2018.  I hope they were your favorites too!   

#1 50 Harvests with the Sieni Family of the Montefioralle Winery
#2 Aglianico del Vulture from Cantina Il Passo in the Basilicata 
#3 Verdicchio of the Marche with Tenuta di Tavignano
#4 Vermentino of Toscana with Aia Vecchia
#5 Lake Garda Says Hooray for Rose' with Chiaretto

As you've noticed I've also incorporated some non-Italian wines into the blog this year as I've done in previous years.  I think it's important to understand wines from around the world.  Although, sometimes when I feature non-Italian wines there may be an affiliation with Italy whether they are Italian grapes being grown outside Italy or the producers have an affiliation with Italy.  I hope you've been enjoying them.

#1 Italian Grapes in the Lodi with Harney Lane's Primitivo
#2 A Taste of Orange Wine in Vermont with Iapetus

Thank you all for your support and sharing your passion for Italian wine.  Happy New Year and Buon Anno!  As always I love to hear from my readers so please leave comments or send me an email at any time!  Share with your friends too!


Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Holiday Celebration with Golden Sweet Bordeaux Wines

For those of you that know me from reading my blogs you know that I have a sweet tooth.  So when the opportunity presented itself last month for me to receive bottles of sweet bordeaux from France I jumped at the opportunity.  My husband used to drink and experiment with me on a variety of wines, but I lost him along the way in the wine journey.  He'll never hesitate though when I'm opening a dessert wine or something sweeter in nature so he participated in the tasting festivities.

I attended a virtual tasting with Snooth whom provided these wonderful wines hosted by the owner of Snooth, Mark Angelillo, and Master of Wine, Mary Gorman McAdams.  It was a very informative tasting on this region I admitingly didn't know too much about, but Mary's delightful manner and passion was shining through during the session and was a fantastic learning experience for myself.  Hopefully I can pass along some of that information and make you want to try some of these wonderful wines as well.

I'm always intrigued by wine pairings and what this tasting proved to me is that it's ok to try something outside of the box and go a little crazy.  You never know, it may just work!  That is what we discovered with this pairing.  We had a variety of snacks that included everything from sweet potato and beet crackers to salami, sriracha cashews and jalapeno chicken crisps.  No one ever said you had to go all out to experience a treat.  Most would think of more desserts or cheeses to pair with these wines, but savory was showing to be a great way to go.  Mary's choice hands down was pairing these sweet bordeaux wines with fried chicken.  Now I'm intrigued myself to try it.  She is the expert and all.
pairings with sweet bordeaux wines
The wine region of Bordeaux is about a 2 hour train ride from Paris in the southwestern part of France.  What makes this area special for producing sweet bordeaux is the climate.  There is a balance of heat and humidity at times that allows the grapes to develop what is known as noble rot, or in more technical terms botrytis cinerea.  Plus, its proximity to the Gironde river also contributes to the right conditions for these grapes.  The grapes on the vine shrivel concentrating the sugars and allowing this good fungus to develop on the grapes.
Sweet bordeaux are produced primarily from semillon with sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes.  As Mary mentioned that semillon is "king" in Bordeaux.  These thin skinned grapes lend a certain texture and richness.  The sauvignon blended in brings freshness and acidity while the muscadelle gives it a little body and spice.  They are typically a beautiful golden color. 

We tried wines from a few of the appellations of this region including Cadillac, Loupiac and the ever famous Sauternes.  I loved Mary's expression that in the "Medoc it takes a vine to make a bottle of wine and in Sauternes it takes a vine to make a glass of wine".  This expresses the labor that goes into making these wines and the yields that must be used to produce these 375 ml bottles. 
map of sweet bordeaux sauternes loupiac cadillac
Copyright of Wine Folly
The great thing about these wines is that they can age for decades.  Mary referenced that when she visited one of the wineries below, Chateau du Cros in Loupiac, that she had a bottle from the 1920's that was still drinking wonderfully.  If that doesn't show you how ageworthy they are I'm not sure what will. 

Mary recommended the following vintages to seek out: 2001, 2007 and 2011.

Now to the wines......

sweet bordeaux wines of Sauterns Loupiac Cadillac
2016 Chateau Manos Cadillac
Located in the Cadillac appellation made up of only 22 communes along the right bank of the Gironde river.  This is a newer appellation created in the 70's in comparison to the others created in the 30s.  Made of 98% semillon, 1% muscadelle and 1% sauvignon.  This wine was fresh with good acidity and lots of tropical fruits (banana) and stone fruits (apricots).  Honeyed with a smooth texture.  SRP $14.

Pairing: I enjoyed this wine with the Wilde Jalapeno Chicken Chips.  I'm not one for spicy sot he chips alone had enough kick for me, but was balanced out by the sweetness and texture of the wine.

2014 Chateau du Cros Loupiac 
This wine came from the Loupiac appellation also on the right bank of the Gironde river.  It's larger in size than Cadillac.  Made of 90% semillon, 5% sauvignon and 5% muscadelle.  This wine had a florally nose and juicy, ripe tropical and stone fruits on the palate combined with lemon zest.  SRP $23

Pairing: I chose the Emerald sriracha cashews.

2016 Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet
80% semillon with 20% sauvignon.  This wine was lighter in body with fresh fruit notes of peaches and some marmelade with a little spice. SRP $20

Pairing: I went with the 3 seed sweet potato and 3 seed beet crackers on this one from Trader Joes

2011 Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac
Made of 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. Mary described this vintage as AMAZING!  This wine was complex with lots going on as the wine opened up.  Lots of fresh fruit on the nose.  Very clean on the palate with high acidity and orange citrus with even some butterscotch notes.  SRP $28

2015 Chateau la Rame Sainte Croix-du-Mont
This wine hails from the Sainte Croix-du-Mont appellation.   Mary described this area as having more limestone than the prior appellations, which lends to the wine showing more purity.  It's comprised of 75% semillon and 25% sauvignon.  2015 was a very lush vintage and the wine expressed that.  Lots of orange, apricot and honey.  A very concentrated wine.  SRP $20

2015 Chateau Filhot Sauternes
We've made it to the appellation of Sauternes.  This wine is comprised of 60% semillon, 36% sauvignon and 4% muscadelle.  Mark shared a great descriptor of orange creamsicle on this wine.  Along with some citrus this wine was very luscious.  SRP $30 

2016 Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes
Made of 100% semillon this wine was rich, full-bodied and silky on the palate.  Plenty of floral notes with luscious apricots and peaches on the palate. SRP $20

Pairing: I contrasted this wine with the Olli Gusto Calabrese Salami. 

2006 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes
90% semillon and 10% sauvignon.  Mary wanted to just "snuggle up with this wine" based on it's beautiful amber color.  Aromatic with toasty notes.  A wine with depth and creaminess with vanilla, spice and everything nice!

Pairings: Mary recommended grilled lobster with this.  Sounds like heaven! 

Have you experienced sweet bordeaux or any savory pairings?  Would love to hear them.


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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Everyday Pairings with German Riesling

It's been awhile since I've had German wines I'm ashamed to say.  Riesling was really my first love from my trips to the upstate NY at the Finger Lakes years ago.  Then I got acquainted with German wines following that and made a couple trips over to Germany as well, but unfortunately it wasn't to the wine regions there.  I was partaking mostly in Oktoberfest activities and visiting some other towns.

Due to the climate in Germany it's best suited for white wines, which is the majority of what it produces, but reds are being produced here as well on a smaller scale.  Your most popular white grape varietals are riesling by far as well as muller thurgau and silvaner.  Today I'm sharing a couple Rieslings and pairing with some of the others I have tasted.

The Land
Germany has 13 different wine regions and the two wines I'm sharing today come from 2 of the most popular wine regions, the Rheinhessen and Mosel.  The first Riesling from Dr. Heyden, comes from the Rheinhessen within the village of Oppenheimer.  This is the largest wine region of the 13 comprised of a variety of hills.  Wines of Germany states these wines are "soft, fragrant, medium-bodied, mild in acidity, pleasant and easy to drink".  The other Riesling from Dr. H. Thanisch hails from the Mosel with some of the steepest vineyards around at about 60-70 degrees.  Imagine the hard work that goes into taking care of the vines and harvesting grapes on slopes like that!    

The Wines
2016 Weingut Dr. Heyden Oppenheimer Riesling Kabinett
This winery was founded in 1999 by Dr. Karl Heyden and today is run by his wife and 2 sons, Frank and Harry.   This wine is sourced from 2 of their single vineyards, Kreuz and Herenberg.  Made of 100% riesling this straw colored wine has an nice bouquet of stone fruit and citrus.  Dry, crisp, clean with firm acidity and well balance with fruit.  Kabinett is a level of sweetness indicating an off-dry wine.  ABV 11.5% SRP $13
Dr. Heyden winery
2017 Dr. H. Thanisch Feinherb Riesling
This winery's history goes back 350 years.  They are located in the prestigious Mosel valley named after the Mosel River that flows through the land and for over 150 miles.  The winery owns about 40 acres of land and exclusively produces riesling on their steep slopes.  They believe in purity and expression of their terroir and also practice sustainability by not using herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers in the vineyards.  The 2017 Riesling is more of their entry level wine at an affordable price.  Straw colored with florals and lemon on the nose.  A light bodied, delicate wine with refreshing acidity.  This wine weighed heavier on the citrus than the previous where the stone fruit showed more.  ABV 11% SRP $14
slate soil for riesling
Slate soils of Dr. Thanisch
Dr. H. Thanisch winery German Riesling
The Pairing
I played around with a few pairings with these wines.  I played the easy route on a Friday night where we did chinese takeout, which is always such a great pairing.  
chinese food pairing with riesling
I also prepared a cream shrimp topped haddock dish, but this dish didn't work out as well.  It strangely overrode the sauce and made the fish taste more fishy. 
cream of shimp topped haddock
The surprising pairing that worked out really well is what I call my slow cooker Tex Mex chicken.  Being a working mom with 2 little ones  I do what I have to do to feed my family, which typically will involve one crockpot meal a week.   I prepared it with a side of spanish rice.  The sweetness in the wine complimented the spice in the dish and integrated together quite well.
Tex Mex Chicken wine pairing
Other Wines
2017 Schafer Dry Rose - Hailing from the Rheinhessen this wine is made of organic pinot noir grapes.  A salmon color with an slight orange hue.  A dry, light and delicate wine with notes of orange on the nose.  Strawberries and peach brighten up the mouth with a crisp, tingly acidity on the tip of your tongue. Well-balanced and a perfect wine to drink anytime.  ABV 11.6%  SRP $16

*All wines were provided as samples, but as always opinions are my own.  Winery pictures copyright of WineSellers LTD.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Spaghetti with Clams and a Flight of Adami Prosecco

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is leading into the holidays with Italian sparkling wines. Italy doesn’t get enough recognition for the quality sparkling wines that are produced throughout the country.  Some of your main sparkling wine producing regions include: 
  • Franciacorta and Oltrepo Pavese Metodo Classico (Lombardy) 
  • Trento DOC (Trentino-Alto Adige)
  • Alta Langa, Moscato d'Asti & Brachetto d'Acqui (Piedmont)
  • Lambrusco (Emilia Romagna)
  • Prosecco (Veneto) 
The Land 
This week I dug into prosecco from the Adami winery located in the Valdobbiadene area of the Veneto.  Prosecco in my opinion can be overlooked for producing high quality wines since the market is saturated with wines that aren’t showcasing what this region can truly produce.  I always recommend to folks that if you want to see what prosecco is really all about one must seek those from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area, two towns located just north of Treviso.   
To take it a step further there is an area that is considered the “cru” of prosecco which is the subzone of Cartizze.  When I took my Italian wine certification awhile back I was informed that Cartizze is a small production area (about 2.5 acres) and the land is estimated to be worth over a million dollars.  Yowzers!  I wish my acreage at my own home was worth that.  Maybe I need to start growing some prosecco! 
The Grape 
When one says prosecco what you might not realize is that it isn’t an actual type of wine as it is the grape prosecco, also known as glera.  Prosecco is produced via the charmat method in which the secondary fermentation is produced within stainless tanks.  This produces wines that are lighter and more delicate.  The area of Conegliano typically has a warmer climate than that of the Valdobbiadene so the wines have more structure where those of the Valdobbiadene are more delicate and elegant. 
What one may not understand is that a sparkling wine labeled dry is not dry at all.  Here are the levels of sweetness defined from driest to sweetest:  
  • Extra brut 
  • Brut
  • Secco
  • Extra Dry
  • Amabile
  • Dolce
The Winery 
The Adami winery has been around for 90 years and is now in the 3rd generation operating the winery.  It started in 1920 when the grandfather, Abel, purchased a vineyard where he worked with his son Adriano to begin producing wines.  In 1933 Abel did something that was new to the area where he broke off his vineyard from others and created the 1st single vineyard of the Valdobbiadene with his Riva Giardino Asciutto.  In the 80’s the oenologists that took over in the family were Armando and Franco.  They took the winery to the next level making them more international and developing a new facility.   

Today the winery produces about 750,000 bottles and sources their grapes from 50 hectacres where 12 of them are theirs and the others they purchase the grapes from and work closely with the owners of the land.      
The Wines 
My pick of the 3 wines was the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Dry Vigneto Giardino Rive di Colbertaldo. DOCG.  For those that follow my blog regularly you’ll know I’m not a huge of sparkling wine, so I’ll tend to lean towards the dry level of sparkling wines, but I always appreciate a well made wine when I try them. 
Adami Prosecco Valdobbiadene
Adami Prosecco Treviso Brut “Garbel” DOC 
Locally Garbel means freshness and lightness.   This was a pale straw colored wine that was crisp, with refreshing flavors of lemon and apple.  ABV 11% SRP $15 

Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Bosco di Gica” DOCG NV 
The old name of the area was called Bosco di Gica, named after the Gica wood.  A pale straw colored wine with stone fruit on the nose.  On the palate notes of pears with rather creamy bubbles.  The wine finishes strong with a minerally, bright finish.  It’s hard to believe the SRP is only $19.  ABV 11%  

2015 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Dry “Vigneto Giardino” Rive di Colbertaldo DOCG 
Rive stands for the steep hillside where the grapes are grown and are further defined by the particular site with the village name, in this case Colbertaldo.  The Giardino vineyard used to be an oak forest in the 400-500's and got replaced by vines and trees.  It was a pale straw color.  When I tried this wine I got a sense of ambrosia with some apple It had good body and an overall nice mouthfeel.  Rather elegant and balanced with a salty, lengthy finish.  ABV 11% SRP $22

The Pairing
I tried these wines with a spaghetti and clams dish I prepared, also know as spaghetti alle vongole.  It's one of my favorite dishes I enjoy ordering in Italy.  The saltiness of the clams and the clam sauce paired really nicely with the wines, especially the Brut style prosecco wines.  I typically don't pair sparkling wines with a dinner, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes you need to break outside the norm.
spaghetti with clams wine pairing with prosecco
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*All wines were provided by samples, but opinions are my own.