Thursday, April 30, 2015

Media Dinner at Robert Mondavi Winery



My trip this week to Napa Valley began with a media dinner at Robert Mondavi Winery with four other journalists and winemaker, Megan Schofield, on hand to discuss the wines of the evening. I might not typically write about this meal if it was something of which I felt my readers would not be able to ever partake. The reasons that I decided to do so are that, on this evening, we enjoyed the most affordable and available wines in the Robert Mondavi portfolio and I also learned how easy it would be for others to enjoy wine and food pairings in this venue.

Robert Mondavi Winery sits on the famed To Kalon Vineyard with a view of the mountains in the background, to call it scenic would be selling it short. The grounds are complete with stunning gardens blooming with flowers and beautiful art all around; a combination of the best that nature and man can offer. 

Our dinner that evening and our lunch on the following day were prepared by the in-house chef, Jeff Mosher. His philosophy on food is "...about obtaining the highest quality local and sustainably grown ingredients harvested at the peak of freshness..." and believe me, this was absolutely showcased in my two meals there. 

This would be an over the top choice for a destination wedding or for a corporate incentive trip of which I know many Texans that are fortunate enough to be able to experience. In addition to the winery's ability to accommodate large private groups, individuals that wish to tour and taste at Robert Mondavi have several options to do so on their own as well.

Our dinner began with the 2004 To Kalon Vineyards Fumé Blanc Reserve which is a higher end library wine that would be more difficult to find on your own. We enjoyed it with grilled fava beans (picked earlier that day from the vineyard garden) and with pork belly sliders out in the Rose Garden. This 11 year old wine was incredibly fresh with tropical aromas and flavors with the famed smoky notes from the barrel fermentation and aging, absolutely delicious and a great lesson on the age-ability of this wine; look for the current release and feel confident in knowing that you can enjoy it immediately or lay it down for years to pull out for a future special occasion. More recent releases range from $40-60 in price.

The other wines served at this dinner were all current releases in the more affordable Napa Valley line.

2013 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay with aromas and flavors of pear, melon, toast and a pronounced spicy note had a medium body, refreshing acidity and a creamy finish.It paired perfectly with the seared salmon alongside peas, carrots, nasturtiums and coconut curry. Though a majority percentage of the wine was fermented in French oak barrels, this is not an oaky Chardonnay.

2012 Robert Mondavi Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir had aromas and deep flavors of black cherry with dried herbs and a slight earthy note with a medium body balanced by good acidity with a dark fruity finish, This was served with Sonoma duck confit with forbidden rice, turnips and tatsoi with pickled garden strawberries and a red wine swipe.This vintage was described as an "epic year". (wine bottle not pictured)

2012 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet was a classic Napa Valley Cabernet with its pronounced aromas and rich flavors of sweet ripe blackberries, a bit of tobacco and chocolate with a decided mineral-edged finish. This paired phenomenally with the grilled Five Dot Ranch Ribeye Cap served with fingerling potatoes, spring garlic, morel mushrooms and bordelaise sauce. (wine bottle not pictured)

2013 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Moscato d'Oro was served slushy style as the founder, Robert Mondavi, enjoyed this wine. This fragrant sweet wine had aromas of citrus blossoms with juicy peach and rich tropical fruit flavors balanced with a clean acidity. Another perfect pairing with strawberries, blueberries, shortbread crumble and black pepper chantilly cream.

Whether alone or with a group, taking the time to enjoy a food and wine pairing or full paired meal at Robert Mondavi Winery should definitely be on your radar as an experience to not miss on your next trip to Napa Valley.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gambero Rosso Top Italian Wines Road Show - Houston

Notes from The Master Class
Taught by Marco Sabellico, the top taster and editor of the Vini d'Italia, Gambero Rosso's annual guide to the wines of Italy.

This is not the order that we tasted the wines, I reorganized them by region.

Veneto
De Stefani Valdobbiadene Brut Mill. 2014 - Smooth, round, fresh; green and yellow apples
Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Superior Extra Dry - Smoother & sweeter than above, floral wisteria aromas, lighter structure, peach and apple
Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Banda Rossa 2014 - Fresh, pleasant, apples
Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Giustino B 2013 - from 70+ year old vines, one of Italy's top labels; fresh, floral, mineral finish
Tenute di Genagricola Pinot Grigio I Classici 2013 Tenuta Sant' Anna - floral, pear and peach, fresh acidity, food friendly; pair with pasta with shellfish
Otella Lugana Superior Molceo Riserva 2012- Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc mutation from clay-based terroir facing lake; rich, smooth, creamy, easy drinking

Cesari Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Bosan 2011 - from a quality conscious producer in a young, fresh style; medium body, fruity, smooth tannins
Bolla Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Le Poiane 2012 - heavier style best with heavy meaty pasta; sweet, ripe cherry/berry flavor, good acidty, velvety tannins
"Different styles of Amarone but both fantastic, traditional wines"
Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 - lush, ripe but not over-ripe and complex, black cherry/berry, baking spices, long finish
Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera 2010 - classic with more than pure fruit; dried cherry, tobacco, chocolate

Lombardy
Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Brut Cuvee Prestige - made from 90% Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Noir & Pinot Blanc with 24+ months on lees; more structured, fresh acidity, long finish; pair with shellfish or mediterranean cuisine
Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut Nature 2011 - "Sustainable Winery of the Year", from a biodynamic vineyard; clean, pure, fresh, citrus and green apple
Agricole Gussalli Beretta Franciacorta Extra Brut 2008 (Lo Sparviere) - 95% Chardonnay; very different, complex aromas of toast, coffee, and yeast, fresh acidity, more structured

Trentino
Gruppo La Vis Pinot Grigio Simboli 2013 - Fresh pear, lighter structure, mineral finish

Friuli Venezia Giulia
Le Monde Fruili Grave Pinot Bianco 2013 - fragrant, fresh, lime zest, persistent finish
Livon Collio Friulano Manditocai 2013 - some French oak aging; citrus, peach, herbs; fresh acidty, long finish
Schiopetto Collio Friulano 2013 - more classic, no oak, slight vegetal aroma, nice acidity, food friendly
Jermann Vintage Tunina 2012 - "an elegant blend of everything"; fresh, smooth, easy drinking

Alto Adige
A.A. Pinot Bianco Sirmian 2013 - from high elevation; pure, fresh pear, no oak, flinty mineralty; long finish
Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano A.A. Sauvignon Lahn 2013 - single vineyard selection; lime citrus with tomato leaf , fresh mineral finish

Liguria
Lunae Bosoni Colli di Luni Vermentino Lunae Et. Nera 2013 - aromatic, smooth easy drinking, herbal basil note; pair with pasta and tomatoes; very Mediterranean

Piedmont
Tenuta Carretta Barbera d'Alba Superior Bric Quercia 2012 - very good producer from a single vineyard for everyday drinking; clean acidity, structured, juicy red fruit
Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi 2009 - from calcareous soils creating a long-lived wine, "premier grand cru, classic single vineyard, can age 25-30 years"; floral rose, licorice, earth

Marche
Cherri d'Acquaviva Offida Pecorino Altissimo 2013 - very popular in Italy; fresh, floral jasmine aroma, spicy, mineral finish
CasalFarneto Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Crisio Riserva 2012 - easy drinking, rich, fresh, new oak

Velenosi Rosso Piceno Superior Roggio del Filare 2010 -  a modern wine aged in new French oak"; good acidity, spicy finish

Emilia Romagna
Medici Ermete & Figli Reggiano Lambrusco Concerto 2013 - yields heavily controlled for quality; very berry-black, blue and strawberry; fresh, vibrant
San Patrignano Aulente Rosso 2013 - Product of home for addicted boys located close to sea made from Sangiovese, typical, clean, sharp.

Molise
Di Majo Norante Aglianico Contado Riserva 2011 - a top selling label from a quality conscious producer with good aging potential; rich, ripe tannins, blackberry, licorice, herbal note

This is an abbreviated list from the Italian wine guide chosen specifically for the Houston tasting, there are so many more than this. Hopefully, you will find the wine of interest to you when shopping or eating out. These are some of the top Italian wines and producers and they are worth seeking. 
The guide is available for purchase on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Italian-Wines-2014-Gambero-Rosso/dp/1890142239. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dinner with Silvano Brescianini of Barone Pizzini

After the Gambero Rosso Road Show, I was pleased to be included, along with my husband and daughter, for dinner with Jeremy Parzen and Silvano Brescianini at Dolce Vita, one of Houston's best casual Italian restaurants. After a day of spitting wine, it was so nice to sit down and enjoy some of Silvano's fantastic sparkling Italian wine alongside the delicious and authentic Italian dinner offerings while hearing more about his home and his organically grown wines.

We drank his Animonte Francicorta Brut which is a Chardonnay based blend of the three allowed grapes.This fresh sparkling wine has aromas of lemon zest with light hints of toast and jasmine with long lasting bubbles, fresh acidity and a lingering citrus finish. It was perfect with everything from the fish to the octopus to the salad to the pizza. The pairing potential of this wine is endless.

I do love sparkling wine and it is so wonderful to see more of this type of wine in Houston on wine lists and in retail stores, we are fortunate to live in the city that we do. After listening to Silvano, however, it does seem a trip to Brescia and the Franciacorta region is a must-do; I personally will be trying to get there as soon as possible.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

The McBride Sisters of Truvée Wines

The McBride Sisters of Truvée Wines were in town this week introducing their wines to the Houston market. At a press luncheon at Coppa Osteria, members of the media had the opportunity to hear their story and taste this new line of wines now conveniently available at Kroger's grocery stores. The name Truvée is derived from the French verb that means to find, a fitting name as I learned, after hearing their history. 

Robin and Andréa McBride grew up without each other. They had the same father but they had different mothers and they did not know that the other existed. Interestingly, they were both being raised in up and coming wine regions on opposite sides of the globe. Robin, the elder sister, grew up in Monterey, California, surrounded by vineyards leading to her early career in technical sales and the international importing and exporting of wine. Younger sister, Andréa, was growing up in Marlborough, New Zealand, where she was introduced to the wine industry via the business of grape growing by her uncle in Spring Creek.

When their father learned that he was dying, his final wish was to find both of his daughters and unite them. Their father, unfortunately, did not live to see this dream realized but his brother made sure that this connection was completed and that the two girls would find each other. The two sisters were brought together by their father's family in 1999 and their mutual passion for wine led them to begin a wine import business together. They would later create eco.love Wines, a sustainable wine company making Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines in New Zealand. 

The McBride sisters then brought their vision to California's Central Coast sourcing grapes from some of the best vineyards in Chalone, Monterey, Edna Valley, San Benito and Paso Robles to create both a Chardonnay and a Red Blend made from Grenache, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel, both created in a fresh approachable style. Their goal was to make high quality yet affordable wines that would showcase the terroir of California's Central Coast. Their dream has come to fruition with Truvée Wines.

I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay which was sourced from several vineyards that were selected for their sustainable practices. The wine has lush tropical aromas and flavors with a honeysuckle floral nuance and a touch of minerality and spice. The wine is only partially aged in oak and less than half undergoes malolactic fermentation creating a fresh, juicy style with a lingering crisp, green apple finish. The wine paired beautifully with the fritto misto at lunch. Highly recommended and priced at under $16 a bottle.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Edouard Parinet of Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent

I had the opportunity to meet and taste with Edouard Parinet of Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent when he visited Houston a few weeks ago. We tasted some fantastic Beaujolais Cru wines that are perfect Spring reds. At the time, none were available in our market for retail purchase which is a big disappointment as I really enjoyed them all. The wines are on the wine list at Brennan's Steakhouse and Hugo's restaurant, check them out there.

The red wines of Beaujolais are made from Gamay, a grape that gives a raspberry or cherry character and has lighter tannins with fresh acidity. Beaujolais is often thought of as a luncheon or picnic wine but the wines of Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent can do that and more. Moulin-à-Vent is one of the Beaujolais Crus and the wines produced in this area are known to be some of the most full bodied in the region that can also improve with bottle ageing. 

Across the board, the wines of Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent were more concentrated than most of the Beaujolais Cru wines that I have tasted previously. His wines had the addition of a spicy component and an earthy quality that made for a far more interesting drink than a typical Beaujolais with a broader pairing ability for more serious meals.

I asked Edouard what was the factor that created the power behind his wine and his reply was that, in addition to the granitic soils on his vineyards on which Gamay performs best, it was the winds of the area that had a drying effect on the grapes that truly concentrated the flavors and created the full bodied and more powerful wines that are produced at Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent. Juicy, deep and persistent; I personally would like to see more of this type of red wine through spring and on into our hot summer. All highly recommended!

*Houston Wine Merchant has the ability to order any of the wines of Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent, as well.