Sunday, March 21, 2021

Michele Chiarlo Gavi with Grilled Chicken Caprese

Spring is upon us as I slowly start to gravitate towards choosing a white wine over red some evenings.  Today the focus is on one of Italy’s top whites, Gavi, made from one of Piedmont’s respected producers, Michele Chiarlo.  Gavi, located in the Alessandria province, is situated in the northwestern wine region of Piedmont where it is tucked in the southereastern corner very close to Liguria and the port of Genova.  With its close proximity to both the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Alps these varying landscapes are major influences on Gavi’s wine production. 

The Winery ~ Michele Chiarlo 

This is not Michele Chiarlo’s first appearance on Vino Travels as I have featured them not too long ago talking about sustainability at the forefront at the winery.  Michele Chiarlo is a well-established name in the Piedmont wine region.  They were established in 1956 and own about 270 acres between the areas of Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi.  Their focus is only on indigenous grapes and in Piedmont there are plenty to work with.  They also don’t blend any of their grapes either.   

Today the winery is operated by the 4th generation of family members that are staying true to tradition, but also focusing on innovation while expressing their authenticity paying close attention to the environment with much manual care.   

The Grape ~ Cortese 

Gavi, also known as Cortese di Gavi, is named after the town itself and includes a number of surrounding communes located in the hills.  It is made from the Cortese grape, which is a highly productive, high acid grape.  Its home is in Piedmont where it grows in the mineral rich soils and high sunshine area where it thrives.  Gavi became a DOC in 1974 and was promoted up to DOCG in 1998.  It produces wines that are dry, low alcohol, crisp, fresh and lively that deliver floral, aromatic wines.  You’ll find notes of peach, pears, lemon/citrus and almonds.         

The Wine 

2017 Michele Chiarlo “Palas” Gavi DOCG – This wine is made from 100% Cortese on white calcareous soil.  The grapes are softly pressed where it spends a minimum of 3 months in stainless steel.  Straw colored with golden highlights.  Mostly citrus on the nose showing lemon and grapefruit with some green apple and wet stone.  Dry, medium bodied with refreshing acidity.  Pineapple and green apple on the palette with some minerality showing towards the finish.  With an SRP at $10-12 a bottle you can beat the value of this wine.   ABV 12.5%  

2017 Michele Chiarlo Palas Gavi

This wine paired lovely with a simple grilled chicken caprese topped with sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of authentic balsamic vinegar from Modena.  It made me crave for warm days on the patio that lie ahead.  Here’s to the warm days of spring and summer approaching quickly where we can all get back outside for some rays of sunshine.  

Grilled chicken caprese


Friday, March 12, 2021

Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines

This month our Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) friends partnered with the Yakima Valley in Washington state to showcase a variety of wines grown throughout the region and some suggested pairings.  

The Region ~ Yakima Valley

Yakima Valley is a land rich in agriculture known for it’s abundance of fruits and wine grapes. Vines have been in existence in the Yakima Valley since 1869, originally planted by French winemaker Charles Schanno.  The vines originated from the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company.  Modern winemaking in the Yakima really took off though in the early 20th century by an attorney of Seattle, William Bridgman, when he planted his own cuttings in 1917 that are still in existence today!  Along with Bridgman, many other families during the earlier decades including Upland Vineyards, Kiona Vineyards, Red Willow Vineyards and others are what helped lay the groundwork for what exists today.

Yakima Valley wine country in Washington
Copyright of Yakima Valley Wine country

The Yakima Valley boomed in the 80’s with new wineries and vineyards popping up throughout the region.  The Yakima Valley appellation (AVA) established in 1983 grows the largest variety of grapes in Washington state covering over 17,000 acres of vines.  Today there exists over 150 wineries that make up over half of Washington state’s wine production.  Through hard work, persistence and collaboration with Washington State University’s Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the wineries of Yakima Valley have made quite a name for themselves in not only Washington state’s wine industry, but the wine industry as a whole.

The Winery ~ Sleeping Dog Wines

Sleeping Dog Wines is located in Benton City, Washington in the lower Yakima Valley.  It’s a small production winery averaging about 300 cases annually.   Larry Oates, owner and winemaker, started his hobby in winemaking in 1992 and has been commercially producing since 2002 starting with Merlot, Syrah and Malbec with his wife Joyce and their “sleeping dog” Jett.  Larry’s approach is to allow the grapes to express themselves.  He holds onto the bottles for about 6-10 years before release as he feels this shows the best expression of the grapes, hence the name of the vineyards as he believes to “let the sleeping dogs lie”.  

Sleeping Dog Wines Jett
Jett the dog of Sleeping Dog wines ~ Courtesy of Sleeping Dog Wines

Larry Oates Sleeping Dog Wines
Courtesy of Sleeping Dog Wines ~ Larry and Joyce Oates with Stari Grad in Croatia
The Wines

Due to the limited production of these wines I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Larry Oates and sample a few of his wines made from Italian grapes plus a Carmenere.  Larry sources the grapes from his neighbor Bob Buoy at Buoy Vineyards with south facing slopes over the Yakima River.  Sleeping Dog’s signature style are robust wines showing intense berries and I couldn’t agree more, especially with the Montepulciano and Carmenere.      

Italian grapes at Sleeping Dog Wines
2012 Sleeping Dog Wines Dolcetto: Made of 94% Dolcetto and 3% Montepulciano and Merlot respectively, these grapes are grown in the neighboring vineyard, Buoy Vineyard.  Another client of Buoy Vineyards was going to purchase the grapes from this small block, but it didn’t pan out so Larry decided to work with the grapes.  American oak chips are used during the primary fermentation.  The wine is aged in stainless steel with French and Hungarian oak staves.  The Montepulciano and Merlot grapes were blended in 1 month prior to bottling.  Garnet in color this wine shows aromas of red cherry in addition to showing up on the palette.  Dry, medium bodied with good acidity and smooth tannin, the wine is balanced showing a hint of vanilla.  Only 51 cases are produced.  ABV 14.1% ABV SRP $28

2014 Sleeping Dog Wines Montepulciano: According to Larry this was the first Montepulciano planted in Washington.  The vines were planted in 2006.  Made from 100% Montepulciano also grown in the Buoy Vineyard.  American oak beans were used during primary fermentation.  This wine was also aged in stainless steel with French and Hungarian oak staves.  Dark ruby red in color.  An intense nose of dark fruits.  Blackberry, black cherry and plums on the palette.  A hearty wine with high acidity.  Only 106 cases produced.  Luckily I received 2 bottles of this wine so I’d like to see how this wine does with time in the bottle as it seems to have aging potential.  ABV 14.4% SRP $34

2015 Sleeping Dog Wines Carmenere: These vines were planted in 2006 along with the Montepulciano.  Made from 100% Carmenere.  Similar to the Montepulciano, American oak beans were used during primary fermentation and it was aged in stainless steel with French and Hungarian oak staves.  Dark ruby with a hint of purple.  Green bell pepper and white pepper on the nose.  A full-bodied wine with good acidity with moderate tannin.  Full of flavor with a lengthy finish.  Only 81 cases produced.  ABV 13.9% SRP $35

The pairing: Life has been a little crazy as of late so I did take the lazy route this week, but who doesn’t love pizza and wine?  To be honest it was a fun weekday night sampling these wines with some delicious sausage and ricotta pizza.  My pairing of the three was the Dolcetto. 

Sausage ricotta pizza paired with Sleeping Dog Wines

Join my fellow food and wines lovers as they share some great pairings highlighting these wines of the Yakima Valley.  Catch us live on Twitter at #WinePW this Saturday @ 11am EST.

  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
  • Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
  • Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us "Yakima Valley - Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington's Finest Syrahs"
  • Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
  • Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
  • David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares "Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare"
  • Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
  • Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles with "Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co."

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

    Friday, March 5, 2021

    Remy Wines: Italian Grapes in Oregon and a Winery After my Heart

    This month our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) is exploring Italian grapes around the world.  Always an intriguing search and fun experimentation to see what other states or countries around the world are growing Italian grapes and why they choose these particular grapes to grow in their particular place in the world.  The winery I sampled wines from, Remy Wines, holds a particular place in my heart as my first born son’s name is Remy.  He was a big fan seeing his name on the bottle!

    Remy Wines is located in the Pacific Northwest of the US in Oregon.  The vineyards are located in the Dundee Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley.  The owner and winemaker, Remy Drabkin, had a lifelong dream and passion to work in the wine industry starting at the young age of 8.  By the age of 14 she had worked her first harvest and by age 17 she was already studying winemaking abroad. 

    Being a native to McMinnville, Oregon where the winery is located, Remy holds strong roots to the area.  She began Remy Wines in 2006 and over the years has added a couple tasting rooms including baR (pronounced R Bar) in 2011 and her latest tasting room added in 2017 at the family’s Lone Madrone Vineyards site in Dundee.  Although Remy’s winery is small production, she prides herself on innovation as she works with Italian grapes that are very outside the norm for Oregon’s wine country.  Her focus is on Lagrein, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Barbera.  She also has another label called Three Wives Label that she experiments with from vintage to vintage playing with blends. 

    Remy Wines Italian grapes in Oregon
    The Wines

    2017 Remy Wines Jubilee Dolcetto:  These grapes are grown in the Jubilee Vineyards in the Northern part of the Eola-Amit Hills AVA in the Willamette Valley.  Dolcetto is a grape widely grown throughout the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy.  The Jubilee Dolcetto is barrel aged 16 months in neutral oak.  Ruby in color with aromas of black licorice and blackberries.  This wine was dry and balanced with juicy acidity showing blackberries on the palette. The subtle tannins showed on the finish with a hint of vanilla finishing with nice length.  Only 206 cases are produced.  SRP $35

    2017 Remy Wines Dolcetto and Lagrein
    Chicken, broccoli and sun-dried tomato over brown rice

    2017 Remy Wines Estate Lagrein: These grapes are grown at the family vineyard in Dundee Hills.  Lagrein is such a fantastic red grape that is native to the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy.  It’s a beautiful area surrounded by Dolomite Mountains.  Remy was the first to bottle Lagrein in Oregon.  Deep in color with purple hues.  A hefty wine with jammy fruit, notes of chocolate and a hint of herbs with chewy tannins.  I wish I had opened this when I grilled some rib eyes a couple weeks ago.  The Estate Lagrein is aged 2 years in 50% new American oak.  Only 125 cases were produced.  SRP $58

    Join my fellow Italian food and wine lovers on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #ItalianFWT as we share many other Italian grapes around the world.

    • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Cheesy Bites, a Colorful Board, and a Barbera...from California”
    • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: “Italian Grapes Grown Outside of Italy and Served Out of a Box? Che Diamine!!!”
    • Andrea at The Quirky Cork: “Tuscany Meets Turkey with Chateau Murou Montepulciano Sangiovese”
    • Marcia at Joy of Wine: “Exploring Italian Grape Varieties Down Under with Zonte's Footsteps”
    • Jeff at foodwineclick: “Italian Grapes from Unti Vineyards at the Winter Grill”
    • Martin at ENOFYLZ: “A Splendid Cal-Ital: 2016 Giornata Nebbiolo Luna Matta Vineyard”
    • Terri at Our Good Life: “Italian Grapes in Lodi Paired with Grilled Salmon Tacos”
    • Nicole at Somm’s Table: "2 Italian White Wine Blends Born in California"
    • Gwendolyn at wine predator: “Italy in California: from Aglianico to Zinfandel” and “Italy in California: Nebbiolo from Humbolt's Terragena and Santa Barbara’s Silver”
    • Susannah at avvinare: “Vermentino, A Star In and Out of Italy”
    • Linda at My Full Wine Glass: “Native Italian grapes find a home in the land of Pinot Noir”

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