Friday, June 26, 2020

Super Tuscans: What's it all about?

Italian wine designations DOC, DOCG, IGT, Generic
Copyright of Federdoc
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia winery
Copyright of Tenuta San Guido

2015 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC
Copyright of Tenuta San Guido
We're having our Twitter chat a week early due to the 4th of July holiday.  Join us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST as we chat all about Super Tuscans.  Read on to learn more from my fellow Italian wine and food lovers.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Late Harvest Greco Bianco of Calabria at Tenuta Iuzzolini

Over the last few months I’ve shared some wines from Calabria, a wine region of Italy that is one of the lesser discovered one that I love to explore and share.  Today is the first day I’m sharing a wine from the Greco Bianco grape and it’s a late harvest one from Tenuta Iuzzolini. 

The Winery ~ Tenuta Iuzzolini 

Four sibilings, Pasquale, Diego, Antonio and Rosa started the winery back in 2004.  They own over 1,200 acres with their parents Fortunato and Giovanna, with 250 acres dedicated to vines.  I actually was not familiar with this winery before today, but they’re no small shop producing 1.2 million bottles annually with 13 different stypes of wines including sparkling, passito and grappa.  Per their site they pride themselves on the “recovery and enhancement of Calabrian native vines” featuring Magliocco, Galioppo and Greco Bianco.  

Tenuta Iuzzolini’s vineyards are located in the province of Crotone in Ciro' Marina, along the Ionian coast.  Most of their wines fall under the Ciro' DOC or Calabria IGT designations.  The climate of the area is Mediterranean with various fertile soils that are calcareous with clay and sand.  

Tenuta Iuzzolini Calabria
Copyright of Tenuta Iuzzolini
I connected with one of the sons, Pasquele, to dig a little deeper into the winery, their practices and learn more about these indigenous grapes of Calabria. 

1) Why did you and your brothers and sister decide to begin the winery in 2004? 

The Iuzzolini family has always for generations worked in viticulture.  However, until 2004 it was limited to selling grapes or bulk wine to local consumers.  In 2004 my siblings and myself wanted to innovate our business with a mission to export the Calabria brand all over the world.  We thought to produce wines of the highest quality exclusively for the hotel, restaurant and cafĂ© sector around the world utilizing the principal indigeous grapes from our land (Gaglioppo, Greco Bianco e Magliocco). We have had exponential growth and today we export our wine in all the principal markets of the world receiving awards, in particular our Donna Giovanna wine achieved a score of 98 from Luca Maroni. 

2) Tell me about the grape greco bianco.  It seems the focus is on native varietals.  Why did you choose to make a late harvest greco bianco with Donna Giovanna?   

The greco bianco vine is an indigenous vine of Ciro'.  As mentioned in the preceeding question our mission at the winery is to export the Calabrian brand and Ciro’ all over the world.  For this reason we utilize the indigenous vines like Greco Bianco.  We chose Greco Bianco for a late harvest because it is the most appropriate for this type of wine.   

3) Does the winery participate in any particular practices, biodynamic, organic, etc 

In our vineyards we only use natural fertilizers. 

4) What is the future for Tenuta Iuzzolini? Do you find it difficult to promote the wines of Calabria and unknown grapes?   

Our future goal is to always make known Calabria and Ciro' through our wines.  The wines of Calabria and southern Italy are only being discovered in recent years, finally it is our moment and we want to contribute to discovering Calabria in the world.  Unfortunately not everyone knows the wines and the grapes of Calabria, but as soon as you taste our wines you will be in love immediately.   

5) What is unique about the land and climate where the winery is situated?    

The climate of Calabria is unique in the world.  The summers are dry and very hot with winter short and mild  This climate naturally is ideal for the cultivation of the vines since it causes them to become very mature and reach a very high sugar level.  It is very important to consider the vicinity of the vines to the sea.  This gives the grapes a level of very high sapidity. 

The Wine 

2018 Tenuta Iuzzolini Donna Giovanna Calabria IGT (Greco Bianco late harvest) - The Greco Bianco grapes are manually harvested and picked in late October.  This wine spends 6 months in new French barrique with an additional 2 months in the bottle.  More golden colored in the glass.  This wine showed ripe, tropical fruit on the nose.  A sharp acidity up front upon opening, but smoothed right out in the glass.  Ripe fruit with a textured mouthfeel and a hint of toastiness and herbs.  Quite unique and not what I expected for a late harvest.  

Pairing: I chose to pair this wine with some grilled lemon pepper chicken and a caprese salad.  I wish I did a little research before or had tasted the wine sooner because I think I would've tried seafood instead.  Lots of spice with the chicken and the residual sugars of the wine I would've tried a different route.  If you think about where Calabria is located along the sea you'll find seafood in many of the dishes.  A great rule to always follow, what grows together goes together.  

Tenuta Iuzzolini Donna Giovanna Greco Bianco late harvest pairing
How familiar are you with the wines of Calabria and have any of my readers visited this region?


*This wine and oil were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Importer: IVDC Wines.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Wines from Around Upstate New York's Finger Lakes Wine Region #WinePW

The Finger Lakes wine region holds a special place in my heart.   It’s where I first grew to like and appreciate wine.  A dear friend introduced me to the area many years ago since he used to work at Fox Run Vineyards.  I used to take annual trips there, the last one being a couple years back now.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to receive a number of samples and have fun pairing some of them with our Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW) crew.  Let’s get started!

Where is the Finger Lakes wine region?  It’s located in upstate New York, just south of Ontario Canada.  The drive for me is about a 6 hour ride from Boston.  There are eleven lakes parallel to each other that look like fingers from north to south.  The main viticultural lakes are the Seneca, Keuka and Cayuga lakes along with Canandaigua.  These lakes were developed during the Ice Age by glaciers that left behind soils like shale and limestone that give these wines their particular mineral characteristics. 

Keuka Lake wineries Finger Lakes
View over Keuka Lake from one of my favorites, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
This region has so much to offer in addition to its wineries, including breweries, distilleries and wonderful farm-to-table experiences at many of the wineries and local restaurants.  In addition, the miles upon miles of farmland, corn fields and vineyards overlooking the lakes is simply beautiful.  Many of the wineries operate  events throughout the year to giving you the perfect excuse for a visit.  I used to attend an annual multi-course wine paired “garlic dinner” at Fox Run Vineyards attended by the owners and winemakers.  It was just glorious set in the vineyards under a tent overlooking Seneca Lake. 

The climate of the area is tempered by the lakes allowing ideal conditions for the grapes of the area to grow.  The Finger Lakes is best known for their Rieslings and Gewurztraminer wines and I feel in love with the enticing aromatics and flavors of these wines.  I’m also a fan of their Cabernet Franc and I’ve enjoyed many other unique Cornell developed grapes as well as cold climate grapes that do particularly well there. 

I’ve been fortunate to visit 3 of the 4 wineries I sampled this week and just imagined myself there in the tasting rooms.  We all need a getaway at this point with everything going on so it was nice to mentally escape for a bit. 

Lakewood Vineyards 

My last visit to the Finger Lakes was the first time I visited Lakewood Vineyards located in the town of Watkins Glen on the southwestern side of Seneca Lake.  If you visit this area you must stop and visit Watkins Glen State Park.  It’s a beautiful place to walk off many of the calories consumed upon your vacation.   

Lakewood Vineyards is family owned and was founded in 1988.  The grandsons of the founder today run the winery with Chris Stamp producing every vintage to date since their establishment and David Stamp overseeing the vineyards that date back to 1952.  I really enjoyed both of these Rieslings with varying levels of residual sugars and they both paired perfectly with the dishes I prepared. 

2018 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling – A dry Riesling with crisp acidity and peach and lime notes.  ABV 11% SRP $15.  I paired this wine with a grilled pork chop and pear risotto.  I also added a side of bruschetta topped with ricotta and truffle honey.  It particularly complemented the pears in the risotto. 

2018 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling with Pork Chop Pear Risotto
Bruschetta with ricotta and truffle honey
2018 Lakewood Vineyards Riesling – Straw colored and floral aromas with ripe peach, pears and citrus.  It was rather light and delicate with good acidity up front with peach satisfying the palate.  ABV 10% SRP $15.  I paired this wine with a thai shrimp pasta comparing it with the Red Newt Riesling mentioned next.  As I assumed based on the amount of residual sugars listed on the bottles that this wine would pair better with the dish.  It brought out the lime flavors in the thai peanut sauce.

Red Newt Sawmill Creek Riesling and Lakewood Riesling with Thai Shrimp
Red Newt 

Red Newt is located in Hector, NY on the southeast part of Seneca Lake.  Started in 1998 by David and Debra Whiting, Red Newt provides an opportunity to experience food and wine of the Finger Lakes at its finest with their onsite bistro.  I sampled their flagship wine, Circle Riesling that I’m very familiar with, but wanted to call out to their single vineyard Sawmill Creek Riesling.

2017 Red Newt Circle Riesling

2013 Red Newt Sawmill Creek Vineyards North Block Riesling - It was quite interesting to experience the difference in this single vineyard compared to the Circle Riesling.  Sawmill Creek Vineyards belongs to the Hazlitt family of Hazlitt Vineyards that have been growning grapes there since 1862.  It is only about a half mile from Red Newt.  This single vineyard is located on steep slopes made of shale soil.  This wine was pale straw colored with a distinct nose of ripe peaches, apricots and especially petrol.  Very luscious, ripe fruit dominating the palate.  With very low alcohol at 8% and high residual sugars I enjoyed drinking this wine on its own.  Although you’ll see I did pair it in a standoff with Lakewood Riesling for comparison this is the type of Riesling I like to sip solo. SRP $24 

Buttonwood Grove Winery  

Buttonwood is the only one I haven’t been to although I have heard of it before.  It’s amazing to me over the years from when I first started going almost 20 years ago to see how many wineries have been established in that time frame.  Every time I go there always seems to be a new one.  Buttonwood was purchased by the latest owners, Dave and Melissa Pittard, in 2014. Located on the western side of Cayuga Lake they make classic vinifera grapes on their 25 acres.  It seems you can stay at the property and they also have a summer music series.  Sounds wonderful!   

2019 Buttonwood Grove Winery Rose' – This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes.  Juicy acidity with wild strawberry flavors.  I picked up a hint of wet stone as well.  It had decent weight and was rather refreshing.  ABV 12% SRP $16.  This warmer weather has us using the grill a lot as you can see so I paired it with a grilled chicken dish topped with a blueberry, balsamic and maple syrup sauce and a side of kale.  The blueberries in the sauce paired nicely with the red fruits of the rose’.   

2019 Buttonwood Grove Winery Rose Cabernet France pairing with Grilled Chicken in blueberry sauce
Have you been to this wine region?  I’d love to hear all about it! 

Join my fellow food and wine lovers as they share their journey through the Finger Lakes wine region.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at #WinePW 11am EST.  See you there!  Also, some of the wineries of the region are having great free shipping deals on 6+ bottles so make sure to check them out.  

Friday, June 5, 2020

Montecucco: Tuscany’s Hidden Gem featuring ColleMassari

When the sangiovese grape comes to mind I think it’s natural to gravitate one’s thoughts towards Tuscany, more specifically the Chianti wine region.  Although, there are a number of regions throughout Italy producing sangiovese.  This month on Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) is exploring sangiovese all over Italy.   

The Wine Appellation ~ Montecucco 

Even though I’m not venturing outside Tuscany I am highlighting a lesser discovered appellation in the southern part called Montecucco.  Located in the Maremma, northeast of Grosseto not too far from the Tyrrhenian Sea.  The hills are set inland at the foothills of Monte Amiato, an extinct volcano.  Not too distinct are also the sangiovese based appellations of Brunello di Montalcino to the North and Morellino di Scansano to the south. 

The wine producers of Montecucco are not only focused on wine, but are very much farmers as well.  Much of the land is occupied by vineyards and a variety of agricultural crops with a high percentage as certified organic. 

Although the DOC (1998) and DOCG (2011) designations are newer in the last 20 years, wine has been produced since the 8th century during the time of the Etruscans.

Copyright of Consorzio Montecucco.  Top right map bottom up: Morellino, Montecucco, Brunello and Chianti at the top in blue with Bolgheri to the far left.

The Winery ~ Castello ColleMassari

Usually the springtime in the Boston area we enjoy a variety of portfolio tastings, but due to COVID life we‘re missing out.  A bummer for someone like me who uses those opportunities to really delve in to discover new producers, grapes and wines to share.  Last year this time I attended the Gambero Rosso tasting where I tried my first wines from Montecucco featuring those from ColleMasssari.  I had read a lot about this wine region by other wine writers so was excited for the opportunity to try them. 

The Castello ColleMassari winery was established in 1998 when it was purchased by Claudio Tipa and Maria Iris Bertarelli, at just the right time when the Montecucco DOC was established.  The winery is located in Cinigiano, right at the foothills of Monte Amiato. Occupying 3,000 acres with about 300 acres dedicated to vineyards, the rest is dedicated to crops, olives and forest.  The vines face the coast that provide plenty of ventiliation for the grapes.  This combined with the protection of Monte Amiato and altitude of the vineyards provides diurnal swings for the grapes to develop favorable characteristics.   

The castle was founded by monks in the 8th century.  The name stems from colle, meaning hills, and massari, which during the Middle Ages were agricultural centers with the farmhouse being the focal point in the middle, called massa. 

ColleMassari’s first vintage was released in 2000.  Their primary focus for red grapes is based on 80% sangiovese with ciligiolo, montepulciano and cabernet sauvignon fulfilling the rest of the land.  For whites vermentino leads the pack at 85% with grechetto rounding out the vines at 15%.  

The Wines 

Granted I was a little taxed at the end of the Gambero Rosso tasting and this was my last stop, but it made me wanting to know and try more.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Castello ColleMassari Montecucco wines

2016 ColleMassari Montecucco Rosso Rigoleto DOC– An approachable sangiovese based wine at 70% with equal parts ciliegiolo and montepulciano.  Ripe cherries and well balanced acidity and tannin. ABV 14% SRP $20 

2015 ColleMassari Bolgheri Superiore DOC Grattamacco – This wine hails from one of the four brands, Grattamacco, under ColleMassari Wine Estates.  It’s their flagship wine and was the second established winery in Bolgheri after the famed Sassicaia.This area is an hour outside of Castello ColleMassari in the Bolgheri area of the Tuscan coast.  Sangiovese takes a back seat to the international varieties with  65% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot and 15% sangiovese.  Aged 18 months in French oak with an additional 12 months in the bottle.  A big, full-bodied, silky wine with complexity.  Juicy blackberries and plums with tobacco and spice.  Layers upon layers to experience.  ABV 14% SRP $76 

2015 ColleMassari Montecucco Rosso Riserva DOC – A blend of 80% sangiovese with 10% cabernet and ciliegiolo.  Aged 16 months with the sangiovese in oak casks and the rest in French oak tonneaux.  Dry with ripe cherry flavors and firm tannins  ending with a persistent finish.  ABV 14% SRP $24

Come explore sangiovese from all over Italy with fellow Italian wine and food lovers.  Check us out live on Twitter this Saturday at #WinePW at 11am EST.