Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Grape of the Sheep with Umani Ronchi Pecorino

I love when we have months where our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group focuses on the autochthonous, or indigenous, grapes that are lesser known to the average consumer.  Even though it can be a challenge to seek one out it gives you a perspective on everything a region has to offer than those that are just commonplace in the market.  Especially with this month’s feature of the pecorino grape as this was one an almost extinct varietal, but has so much to share with our white wine lovers.   

Pecorino is a grape that hails from the Abruzzo and neighboring Le Marche wine regions.  The producer I tried, Umani Ronchi, produces wines in both of these countries.  Pecorino is not the shining star when it comes to white wines in these regions as verdicchio in my opinion runs the show, but definitely holds a place in the running.  As I write this it’s eating my soul that I had an opportunity to take a press trip and tour this region this month and really discover more of this grape and understand Abruzzo’s terroir, but my 2 little ones need me and unfortunately had to postpone until a later time. 

The Winery ~ Umani Ronchi
Umani Ronchi is owned and operated today by the Bianchi-Bernetti family and is run by Michele Bernetti overseen by his father, Massimo.  It originally started by in the 50’s when Gino Umani Ronchi started a farm in the Cupramontana of the Le Marche.  The Bianchi-Bernetti family then took the estate over a few years later.  Massimo was the visionary and driving force behind developing Umani Ronchi in a number of ways when he was later joined by his son in the 90’s.  The recognitions they have received over the years and their partnership with Giacomo Tachis focusing on international varieties with their Pelago wine help put them on the map across the wine world. 

With over 500 acres of vineyards, the winery has doubled its land under vines from the 70’s and has replanted over 85% of their vines.  They have 10 vineyard sites spread amongst Abruzzo (near Teramo) and Conero and Castelli di Jesi in Le Marche with 3 winemaking facilities.  Speaking of recent talks of organics and biodynamics, Umani Ronchi also practices organic farming practices throughout all of their vineyards as well as practices taken to be sustainable.   
Umani Ronchi wines of Abruzzo and Le Marche
Copyright of Umani Ronchi
2017 Umani Ronchi Terre di Chieti Velladoro Pecorino IGT 
The sheep on the label represents the pecorino grape since the word stems from the word pecora, meaning sheep.  This wine is grown in Monti Pagano of Abruzzo that overlooks the Gran Sasso mountains.  It is 100% hand picked pecorino.  Umani Ronchi began a project working with the pecorino grape that was almost extinct in 2005 releasing its first vintage in 2007.  The pecorino grape is only a small percentage, about 5 acres, of Umani Ronchi’s total production.   
Monti Pagano Umani Ronchi wine
Monti Pagano ~ Copyright of Umani Ronchi
This wine is straw colored with floral aromatics and citrus.  This wine was quite impressive available at only $10.  A clean, refreshing wine with bright acidity, nice flavors of apples and pineapple. Even though it was light bodied there was plenty of enjoyment all around.  The wine finished with nice salinity reminiscent of the nearby Adriatic Sea. 
2017 Umani Ronchi Velladoro Pecorino
The fact that Umani Ronchi is reinvigorating the pecorino grape from extinction while continuing to advance their winery both inside their facilities and practicing organic winemaking as well as a focus on quality shows their determination to represent what Abruzzo and Le Marche wines can and should be. Well exported to over 60 countries producing 2.9 million bottles this is no small establishment and if this wine is only a fraction  of what they produce and not even their flagship wine I’m intrigued to try more. 

Lots more pecorino to be explored with my fellow wine and food lovers.  Join us live Saturday May 4th on Twitter at 11am EST #ItalianFWT to chat more about pecorino and learn all about this unique native grape of Abruzzo and Le Marche.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will dazzle us with “Oven-Roasted Trout with Citrus Salsa Crudo + 2017 Lunaria “Civitas” Pecorino”
Gwendolyn, the Wine Predator is “Pairing Pecorino d’Abuzzo from Ferzo: Lemon Caper Shrimp #ItalianFWT”
Cindy at Grape Experiences does a “Twirl. Sip. Savor: 2016 Tenuta Cocci Grifoni Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio and Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Linguini”
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish asks “Looking for a New White Wine to Serve this Spring? Try Pecorino from Tenuta Santori in Italy!”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Sheepish about new kinds of wine? Try Pecorino! #ItalianFWT”.
Susannah from Avvinare shares “Pecorino from the Lady from Le Marche – Angela Velenosi- Velenosi Vini”
Jeff at Food Wine Click goes “On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape”
Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog cooks up a “Brodetto di Pesce Wine Pairing #ItalianFWT”.
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures discusses “Le Marche & Abruzzo – Two Regions… Two Expressions of Pecorino”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Roasted Asparagus Pasta with Pecorino”
Kevin from Snarky writes "Pecorino - Welcome to the Fold"
At Savor the Harvest, our host Lynn is “Discovering the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT”


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Highlighting Villa Maria's Taylors Pass Single Vineyard Wines with Winemaker Kathrin Jankowiec

I’m a little behind in sharing some of these wines considering I attended the virtual tasting back in the fall, but I think it is the perfect time with the spring upon us and the warmer months ahead to share the wines of Villa Maria once again. I featured these wines a couple years ago when I attended a virtual tasting with winemaker Helen Morrison.  This time around it was with another one of their winemakers, Kathrin Jankowiec, hosted by Snooth with co-founder Mark Angelillo. 

Many of the wines tasted this time were different than the last go around with Villa Maria that you can revisit on my earlier blog.  I was excited for this new selection as I got to explore more of Villa Maria’s single vineyard wines called Taylor’s Pass that for me were personal favorites of the tasting along with the rose’.  New Zealand wines, in particular the sauvignon blanc, have always been a fan favorite of mine and I have always found Villa Maria to be quite affordable with a good bang for your buck.   

To shine some light on Villa Maria’s Taylor’s Pass wines, these are their single vineyard vines growing in the Marlborough wine region along Awatere Valley on the banks of the Awatere River.  Planted back in 1999 the first release from Taylors Pass was their chardonnay in 2002 followed by their sauvignon blanc and pinot noir in 2003.  Not all the grapes grown here go into the production of labeling the wines Taylors Pass as they make sure to seek out the highest quality of the production.  Although these wines come with a larger price tag then their fellow Private Bin wines you get what you pay for, especially with the Villa Maria Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc priced at only $26.  The wines have much more complexities with a richer texture and flavor profile than its Private Bin labels as well as a more pronounced minerality.  
Villa Maria Taylor Pass wines New Zealand
2017 Villa Maria Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc  
Fermented 100% in stainless steel tanks this pale straw colored wine had aromatics oh so reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blanc for me.  A pronounced grassiness with citrus and grapefruit bursting from the glass.  Well balanced on the palate with nice crisp minerality, a little herbaceous with nice fruit and an elegance. ABV 13% SRP $26 

2015 Villa Maria Taylors Pass Pinot Noir  
Deeply hued red with purplish highlights.  This wine is rich in ripe red and black cherries, strawberries and plums with some spice and herbal notes.  The tannins display similar to those acquired from a cup of black tea.  ABV 13$ SRP $42 

2017 Villa Maria Private Bin Rose’ 
I also wanted to highlight this wine as I enjoy a good rose’ and at this price point of $15 it’s worth sharing.  This wine comes from Hawkes Bay located on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  Based mostly on merlot and a beautiful salmon color.  This dry, refreshing wine is easy drinking full of luscious strawberries.  SRP $15


*These wines were received as samples, but opinions are always my own.  I personally selected these wines out of a larger tasting highlighting my favorites to share.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Vino Travels celebrates 6 years of blogging about Italian wine

When the reminder popped up on my computer that it had been 6 years that I start blogging about wine I couldn’t believe how fast time has gone.  As I’ve mentioned in the past I started a wine blog to encourage myself to read, research and learn as much as I can due to my love and passion for Italy and wine, especially Italian wine.  I will never claim myself as an expert as I’m far from it, but this is my own personal journey and I’m very thankful to my readers for joining me along for the ride.   

In trying to think about what wine I wanted to feature for such a special occasion it’s hard to just pick one bottle.  There are wines that I brought back from my travels from Italy over the years that I’m aging in my basement.  The question is what am I waiting for.  Life is too short, but for special bottles I do like to take a moment to sit and savor the sips and with 2 little munchkins running around my house that’s not always the easiest to do. 

I decided to enjoy a 2008 Secretum Brunello di Montalcino DOCG that I must have brought back from Italy some years ago.  I’m not sure why I had picked this particular bottle and if my memory serves me correct I was in a wine shop in Montalcino and chose this bottle to take home and try.  Unfortunately, after countless efforts online I couldn’t dig up any information about the winery, which is what I love to tell most of to my readers. 

So why did I pick this particular wine?  Well, I fight with the question of what is my favorite Italian grape and it’s impossible to pick just one.  I always seem to lean towards sangiovese in its many styles whether it’s chianti classico, vino nobile di montepulciano, brunello di montalcino or from southern Tuscany in the Bolgheri wine region where it’s blended with international grapes.  There are also great sangiovese wines from Emilia Romagna known as Sangiovese di Romagna that you don’t see too much of, but are definitely something to try. 

The 2008 Secretum Brunello di Montalcino DOCG was deep garnet in color with a hint of orange on the rim (typically comes with age).  On the nose were beautiful ripe cherries, almost with a hint of cherry chapstick to it with some notes of licorice at the end.  Classic sangiovese cherry notes on the palate with nice acidity and moderate to firm tannins.  The wine needed a little time to open up as initially the tannins overpowered the fruit.  A good lengthy finish with notes of vanilla at the end.  Overall an enjoyable brunello with a smile on my face as I look back at how far I’ve come with a long road ahead.   
2008 Secretum Brunello di Montalcino
Please drop me notes or leave comments as I love to hear from my readers and it doesn’t happen all too often.  I love all sorts of feedback and comments and for those that participated in my survey earlier this year I greatly appreciate the feedback so I can bring you more of what you’d like to read.    


Friday, April 12, 2019

Biodynamic Wines of the Alto Adige with Alois Lageder

Last month I shared some organic wines of La Valentina in the Abruzzo wine region of Italy.  Today we’re taking it one step further and going biodynamic with Alois Lageder from the Alto Adige wine region with our Wine Pairing Weekend crew.  
The Land 
Coming together as one region, Trentino-Alto Adige, with Alto Adige to the northern part of the region bordering Austria and Trentino to the south.  The region, once part of Austria, became a part of Italy in 1918 after World War I.  As you can imagine there are many cultural influences here because of the mix of cultures with both Italian and German spoken there. 
Trentino-Alto Adige is also part of the Tre Venezie with the Veneto and the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy as they were all once part of the Venetian Empire as well. 
Due to Alto Adige’s proximity to the Dolomite mountain range the climate has very cold winters, but otherwise it basks in 300 days of sunshine highlighting a warm Mediterranean climate outside of the winter months with cool nights providing optimal grape growing conditions.   
Alois Lageder biodynamic wines Alto Adige
The Grapes 
Alto Adige along with its counterpart Trentino share some similaries with their northern neighbors, Austria and Germany, in the fact that they produce along of single varietals leaning towards more German style grapes like riesling, muller thurgau, sylvaner and gewurztraminer.   

This region like most of Trentino-Alto Adige have always been dominated by co-operatives and as you’ll see below Alois Lageder works with many other growers as well as their own estate grapes.   
I’m featuring both of Alois Lageder’s pinot grigio and pinot biancoSo you may ask what is the difference between both pinot bianco and pinot grigio.  They both originate from the same pinot family in different mutations, as if that was hard to tell.  They are both white grapes and pinot bianco is typically more lighter in style and occasionally can be aged in some oak.  It’s usually more rounder than pinot grigio and a little less acidity.   
Schiava, on the other hand, is a light styled red wine, known as vernatsch in German.  It is a grape that prefers the shade therefore Alois Lageder grows them under pergola trellis vines.  Lower in tannin and acid it lends flavors of strawberries, raspberries and ripe cherries.  I really enjoy this grape, especially in the warmer months when I am all white wined out and am looking for something red, light in body but with plenty of flavor.  
The Winery 
Alois Lageder is well respected wine producer in the region of Alto Adige.  The winery was established back in 1823 and is today operated by both the 5th and 6th generations. The wineries slogan upon visiting their website is “cultivating nature as a habitat of life”.  Their belief is that practicing organics and biodynamics enriches their landscape by enriching the soil and creating a diverse environment for all beings.  Perfect to our theme this month on biodynamics and how passionate some of these wine producers are about not only producing high quality wines, but also preserving the land for today and generations to come. 
Alois Lageder winery in Alto Adige
Clemens and Alois Lageder
Local farmers bring their cows during the fall and winter into the vineyards increasing the vitality of their grapes.  As with all organic and biodynamic practices no chemicals or synthetic substances are allowed.   

Collaborates with 80 grape growers throughout the Alto Adige covering about 250 acres that are about 50% biodynamic and organic as well as their own estate vineyards of about 135 acres that are completely organic and biodynamic.  They are looking to get everyone converted over to the Demeter certification by 2023 so they work very closely with their farmers.  All grapes are hand picked and vinified back at the Alois Lageder winery.  Over 25 different grape varietals are grown under the Alois Lageder brand. 
Its terrain is very steep with vineyards situated at about 700 to 4200 feet growing over 25 different grapes.   
Alois Lageder wines of Alto Adige
The Wines 
2017 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco IGT 
A light straw-colored wine.  Aromatics of peaches, pineapple, citrus and apple.  Light in body, but good acid with a nice crispness coming through clean with mostly citrus.  This wine was still drinking well for me after a few days shockingly (yes it did last that long since I’m the only one that drinks in my house).  Just a perfect wine coming into spring.  Light enough to sip on, but plenty to liven up the day.  ABV 13% SRP $15 
2017 Alois Lageder PORER Pinot Grigio  
What’s unique about this particular wine is the way in which it was produced.  Part of the grapes were pressed upon arrival to the winery.  Another part of the grapes were left in contact with the skins for 15 hours.  Lastly, another part was left to sit with the stems and skins for a year.  So as you can imagine this isn’t your average pinot grigio.  It was lively wine with nice aromatics of stone fruit.  Rather fuller than your average pinot grigio, but fresh with some nice salinity.  ABV 12.5% SRP $26 
2017 Alois Lageder Schiava  
Apparently Alto Adige was mostly a red wine region until the 1970’s per their website and schiava was king.  Definitely opposite of how this wine region is positioned today primarily as a white wine region.  It’s very pale in color, ruby almost a dusty rose.  With notes of cherry this schiava is light in body, soft and elegant with a hint of strawberry.   ABV 12$ SRP $16  

Pairing: I paired this wine with a creamy pasta with salmon and spinach.  I typically always prefer white wine with fish, but always enjoy a lighter style red with salmon and this schiava was a great match.
schiava wine pairing with salmon pasta
I don’t envy those that tend to the grapes and the vines as well as those that partake at harvest as Alois Lageder’s vineyards are very steep situated between 700 to 4200 feet.  That along with the close attention to practices of organics and biodynamics shows you the passion that these growers have invested in these wines and is solely the reason why I love sharing these stories with you!  

Join the rest of our Wine Pairing Weekend group of fine wine and food bloggers below and on our live Twitter chat at #winepw this Saturday April 13th at 11am EST.