Monday, February 18, 2013

Tasting Sequoia Grove

I was delighted to be invited to sit down with a small group for lunch with Michael Trujillo, the head winemaker for Sequoia Grove in Napa Valley, at Tony Mandola's on Waugh Drive in Houston last week. An array of seafood appetizers was brought to the table to taste with the 2010 Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Michael talked about his goal of creating wines that are not only well balanced but that also showcase the true character of the grapes and where they came from.
I really enjoyed the Chardonnay, it was clean and crisp with aromas of apple and lemon tart. It was dry, with medium body, alcohol and acidity with flavors matching the aromas and a slightly toasty medium+ length. Highly recommended and available at Spec's for approximately $25. It was fantastic with the Oysters Damien, crab balls and fried calamari.
I tasted the 2009 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet with the seafood cannelloni from the lunch menu. This was a fruit forward Cabernet with aromas and flavors of ripe dark berries, cocoa and smoke. The soft ripe tannins and good acidity worked well with the tomato tarragon sauce without overpowering the seafood. Recommended. You can find this wine at Spec's and it is also on the menu at the restaurant.
The final wine was the 2008 Sequoia Grove Cambium. This wine is a Bordeaux style blend sourced from some of Napa's best vineyards. Aromas of ripe black cherries and berries, coffee and cedar. Dry, similar flavor to the aromas with additional red fruit flavors and pepper. Full body, medium acidity, medium + alcohol and tannins with a long finish. Recommended.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Italian Winemakers in Houston - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Gambero Rosso wrapped up its Houston event with a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano tasting and seminar. As I had already attended a Brunello tasting and met with a Chianti producer the week before, I was pretty excited to round out my top three wines from Tuscany tastings for the month.
The noble wine from Montepulciano is based on the Sangiovese clone known as Prugnolo Gentile. It may be blended with Canaiolo, Mammolo or other international grapes. It is aged for a minimum of two years.

The wines in the tasting:
Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano (90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot)
1988 Clear, deep garnet with an orange rim. Low intensity, dried fruit, cherry and plum with dried leaves on the nose. Dry, medium body, acidity and alcohol, throwing sediment, losing oomph. Low intensity flavor.
2009 Clear, deep ruby color. Light aromas of fresh ripe cherry and plum with a hint of vegetal/green. Dry, medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and grippy tannins with similar fruit flavors and a slight spiciness in the finish. Recommended.

Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano (100% Prugnolo Gentile)
2002 Clear, medium garnet. Medium intensity aromas and flavors of dried fruit. Dry, medium body, acidity, alcohol and medium+ tannins and length. Recommended.
2008 Clear, medium garnet color. Medium+ intense aromas of licorice, black cherry and plum. Dry, medium body, alcohol and smooth tannins with medium+ acidity with similar fruit flavors and a long finish. Recommended, my favorite of the younger ones.


La Braccesca-Marchesi Antinori Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano (90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot)
2001 Clear, deep garnet. Intense aromas of tobacco and dried cherry on the nose. Dry, medium+ body, tannins, acidity and alcohol, fresh cherry flavor, long finish.
2008 Clear, deep ruby color. Medium+ aromas ripe blackberry and strawberry. Dry, medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and tannins with similar fruit flavors and a slight spiciness in the finish. Rich and drinkable. Recommended.

Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano Riserva (90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot)
2001 Clear, deep ruby. Medium intense aromas of dried cherry and dried leaves with a bit of mushroom. Dry, medium body, tannins and alcohol with medium+ acidity. Dried fig and licorice flavor with a long finish. Recommended, my favorite of the older ones.
2007 Clear, medium ruby color. Fruity aromas of ripe juicy cherry. Dry, medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and bitter tannins with cherry fruit flavor and medium+ finish. Recommended.

After the formal tasting and seminar, I went out onto the floor and only tasted a few more wines. I didn't write out formal notes as I was also snacking from the buffet line. Some that stood out for me were:
  • 2006 La Braccesca-Marchesi Antinori Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano Riserva Santa Pia which is 100% Prugnolo Gentile
  • 2010 La Ciarliana Rossa di Montelpulciano 
  • 2008  La Ciarliana Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Italian Winemakers in Houston - Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Gambero Rosso came to Houston to present their two part "Italian Wine Tales" tastings starting with a seminar on the Prosecco Superiore wines from Italy's Conegliano Valdobbiadene region. As a lover of bubbly wines, I was looking forward to this event.
Prosecco wine is made primarily from the grape variety Glera using a minimum of 85%. It may be blended with up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera, Pinot or Chardonnay. While basic Prosecco DOC wine can come from a much larger area in the Veneto and Fruili regions with an area that includes 600 municipalities, the higher quality Prosecco Superiore wines from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG come from fifteen municipalities in a much smaller delineated area set between the two named towns on limestone hillsides. The wines which are produced here have adhered to higher standards in both the vineyard and the winery than the more basic DOC wines.
The wines may be vintage dated or they may be non-vintage/multi-vintage. There are three sweetness levels produced. Brut is the least sweet or most dry and probably the most versatile with food while Extra Dry is the most traditional with its touch of sweetness. Dry is the sweetest and may be the most difficult to pair with food.
A recent introduction onto labels is the "Rive" indication. This wine must be vintage dated and will include the name of the municipality where the grapes were grown within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region. This new labeling allows terroir differences to be explored by wine lovers around the world. Wines with this indication join the spumante wines from the historic zone of Cartizze at the top of the quality pyramid for the region.

All of the wines were a clear, very pale straw color with profuse bubbles. The wines we tasted:

2012 Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Brut San Fermo Millesimato- fruity peach aromas with some floral notes. Dry, creamier texture than I expected with flavors matching the aromas, nice acidity and a mineral finish. Very good, recommended.

Valdo Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Brut Oro Puro- light floral aromas. Dry, delicate, light, good acidity, clean finish. Food friendly, recommended.

Canella Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry- light fruity pear and apricot aromas. On the dry to off dry line. Zesty citrus flavor added to the aroma flavors, good acidity with a richer mouthfeel than the previous one and a mineral finish. Very good, recommended.

2011 Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry Bandarossa Millesimato- distinct wisteria floral aroma. Off dry with a dried apricot flavor and good acidity. Intriguing.

2012 La Tordera Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Dry Cru del Tittoni Mill- fresh and fruity aromas of apple and peach. Off dry+, similar flavors.

2012 Astoria Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Brut Casa Vittorino Rive di Refrontolo Millesimato- right as I begin to sniff this glass, the person to the left of me says, "It's like a sparkling Gruner Veltliner." I ponder that wine thought with some agreement and I don't actually write down any notes for this one, though I do remember liking it.

Colesel Valdobbiadene DOCG Superiore di Cartizze Brut- Fruity aroma-apple and pear. Dry, a little more full bodied with a bit more of a creamy texture. Pear flavor with a bit of nuttiness in the finish. Recommended.

Overall, I would say that although I enjoyed virtually every wine that I tasted. In my home, I would be more inclined to serve the drier Brut version. I would serve it as an aperitif for dinner parties or with a light quiche or frittata meal or any brunch type menu. I might also serve the Extra Dry version with saltier pre-meal snacks like cured meats and cheeses. The Consortium recommends less sweet desserts or spicy fusion cuisine with the sweeter Dry version.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Italian Winemakers in Houston - John Matta of Castello Vicchiomaggio


The Tasting Room at City Centre hosted a meet and greet with John Matta of Castello Vicchiomaggio last Wednesday evening. I had the opportunity to sit across from the IWSC Italian winemaker of the year of 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2010 and and his son Sebastian and taste through their wines before the event. John's philosophy is to make fresh, fruit driven wines with limited oak influence in a classic style.
  • 2010 Ripa delle Mandorle Bianco - Toscana approximately $22. This wine is 85% Trebbiano and 15% Chardonnay. Crisp, fruity, a great patio option.
  • San Jacopo Chianti Classico approximately $28. Easy drinking, traditional blend of grapes (90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino), red fruit flavors with just a bit of oak in the background.
  • 2008 Riserva Petri Chianti Classico Riserva approximately $54. A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Cabernet. Rich, chocolate cherry with some vanilla.
  • 2008 Riserva la Prima Chianti Classico Riserva approximately $63. My favorite in the lineup. 100% Sangiovese, an elegant structure with nice acidity and a bit more floral with red fruit and spice flavors.
  • 2009 Ripa delle More - Toscana approximately $59. My husband's favorite. A super-Tuscan blend of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. Peppery with ripe black fruit, full body and rich flavor.


 
All of these wines are available for to go purchase or consumption at The Tasting Room.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Italian Winemakers in Houston - Benveneto Brunello 2013

It is a great time to be an Italian wine lover in Houston. The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino previewed some of the wines of the four-star rated 2008 vintage at the Wynden last week. The event called Benveneto Brunello USA is two exclusive tastings held every year in America, this year in Houston and New York. Wine professionals from all over Texas came to to the tasting to be the first in America to taste these wines. I felt fortunate to also be treated to a seminar and Brunello tasting with Kevin Zraly, author of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. I plan on writing more about that later.
I thoroughly enjoyed every wine that I tasted. The 2008 Brunellos were intense and complex yet elegant. Most were very approachable and ready to drink now though they can certainly be held. I really enjoyed all the Rosso di Montalcinos that I tasted as well, these were from both the 2010 and the 2011 vintage. There were also many Moscadello di Montalcino and a few Sant'Antimo wines to try.
As I am looking through all my information and notes from this tasting one week later, from a room full of great wines, these are the ones that stood out the most to me.
  • 2010 Fattoria dei Barbi Rosso di Montalcino
  • 2010 Sasso di Sole Rosso di Montalcino
  • 2007 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
  • Everything I tasted from Il Poggione - Both the 2010 and 2011 Rosso di Montalcino, the 2008 Brunello and, most of all, the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli
  • Everything from Donatella Cinelli Colombini- particularly the 2008 Progetto Prime Donne, but also the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and the 2010 Rosso di Montalcino. The 1999 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino was my favorite of the three older vintages we tasted.
The event was fantastic and the wines were exceptional. Both the Brunellos and the Rossos are wines that work so well with the heavy beef meals that we tend to consume so frequently here in Texas, they are certainly wines to look for not only when you are out wine shopping but also to look for on the wine lists of the many restaurants in town that serve them. Salute!

Donatella Cinelli Colombini - winemaker
 
related post:
Tasting Brunello with Kevin Zraly
1999 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva