Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser moderated an Alto Adige winery panel last week in Houston with speakers Armin Gratl of Cantina Valle Isarco, Andi Punter of Franz Haas and Kathrin Werth of Muri-Gries Wine Estate and Monastery Cellar.
These are my notes from the "Alto Adige: Taste Italian Wines at Their Peak" seminar and tasting.
The first two hail from Italy's northernmost wine growing zone, Valle Isarco, which is home to 860 acres of vineyards set at steep elevations of 1312 to 3117 feet, they are densely planted and terraced. The mica schist and sandy gravel soils of the area add a mineral component to the wines while the Alpine influence enhances the purity. White wine makes of 95% of production, Muller Thurgau and Gewürztraminer are important grapes along with Sylvaner and Kerner.
The next were from the central Adige Valley which is located between Bolzano and Merano and has 637 vineyard acres at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet. In this area there are grapes on the hills and apples in the valleys. The hillside grapes are on red porphyry soils, some limestone areas and sandy loam at lower levels. 63% of the production is for white wines from Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with the reds made primarily from Schiava and Lagrein. Alto Adige Pinot Bianco DOC Sirmian 2015 by Nals Margreid - Clean and elegant with apricot, stony notes and a slight bitterness in the finish. 13.5% ABV Alto Adige Terlano Sauvignon DOC Quarz 2015 by Cantina Terlano - Interesting profile for a Sauvignon Blanc, more saline minerality, subtle fruit, slightly citrus finish. 14% ABV
The next two were from the Oltradige zone where Lago di Caldaro sits in the heart of the hilly 4156 vineyard acres sitting at elevations ranging from
984 to 2297 feet above sea level on limestone and porphyry soils. The wine production here is more balanced with 56% white and 44% red wine made, grapes include Schiava, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. Alto Adige Pinot Grigio DOC Anger 2016 by Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano - The name Anger translates to "a piece of land near home". Gaiser commeneted that it was "all about the lees contact with this wine" which gave it "balance, intensity and lift." Bright, fresh aromas of green apple and pear with a light bitter note in the finish. Alto Adige Lago di Caldaro Scelto Classico DOC Bischofsleiten 2015 by Castel Sallegg - This wine's name is due to its historic site, the former home of the Bishops of Trentino. Intense raspberry, smooth, pure.
From Bolzano's 1695 vineyard acres set at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet on primarily porphyry soils with gravel on slopes and alluvial on the valley floor, one finds more red wine, it is produced at 70% to the only 30% white. This is due to the warm sunny micro-climate caused by the protection of the mountains and the temperature moderation from the Adige and Isarco Rivers. Schiava, Lagrein, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc are the main grapes in this zone. Alto Adige Santa Maddalena Classico DOC Huck am Bach 2015- This label has existed since 1919. The grapes come from the hilltops, 90% Schiava and 10% Lagrein and are co-fermented. Interesting, tart berries, lingering spice note.
Alto Adige Lagrein Riserva DOC Abtei Muri 2014 by Muri-Gries Wine Estate/Monastery Cellar - A valley floor vineyard with old vines from 1933 still trained to the Pergola System and younger vines now being trained in the Guyot method. Gaiser proclaimed it, "A great food wine that more people should be pouring." Ripe dark berries, chocolate, long finish.
Bassa Atesina is the home of the next two wines. The southern warmer zone in the lower part of Alto Adige is influenced by the mild temperatures of Lake Garda. The largest of the growing zones at 4618 acres with vineyards sitting at elevations of 656 to 3773 feet on mixed soils of limestone, dolomite, loamy rubble, along with sandy marl in the south. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are important grapes in this area though there is also Chardonnay, Schiava and Gewürztraminer continues to thrive in its homeland of Tramine. 67% of the zone's production is white.
Alto Adige Pinot Nero DOC 2014 by Franz Haas - Punter shared that Pinot Noir had been in the region since the 1860's. It is 1/3 of the production at this private estate. Fresh aromas and flavors of red cherry, forest floor with a lingering mineral-laced finish. Both elegant and pleasantly easy, it was a crowd favorite at the tasting. Alto Adige Gewürztraminer DOC Kastelaz 2013 by Elena Walch - Modern production methods
including cold maceration, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation and cultured yeast created a dry, fresh, higher acid Gewürztraminer with all the classic aromas and flavors, lovely.
Celebrate this year by Rosé-ing all day with Natura Rosé 2016 sourced from Chile's Rapel Valley.
This refreshing blend of organically grown Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is fresh and easy-going with bright cherry/berry aromas and flavors and a gravelly mineral note in the lingering fruity finish. Tasty with a variety of menu items from sushi to mild cheeses, it is also easy to enjoy alone as an aperitif. With it's only 12% ABV, it makes an excellent patio sipper.
Light, pleasant, delicious and priced at only $10 a bottle, it is highly recommended as the perfect organic wine to Rosé with now and on through the summer!
The Dreaming Tree Crush California Red Blend 2014 is the sample of the week. Jammy berry flavors invite you back for another sip of this easy drinking red blend; soft, smooth and welcoming. Affordably priced at $15 and with a moderate 13.7% ABV, I like it for Sunday afternoon with the extended family. Delicious with pasta with spicy red sauce or barbecue.
A product of a partnership between musician, Dave Matthews, and winemaker, Sean McKenzie, this sustainably-made wine was created to showcase the beauty and ease of life in California wine country. It is a blend of 64% Merlot, 20% Petite Sirah, 13% Zinfandel and 3% other grapes primarily sourced from the North Coast. Their labels are made from recycled paper and the wine is packaged in lighter bottles.
Explosive aromas and juicy flavors of cranberry and blackberries with zippy white pepper energize this wine while the smooth tannins and moderate alcohol (13.5% ABV) make this an easy drinking anytime red. Reasonably priced at approximately $17.99 a bottle and delicious with grilled pork chops.
This wine is made from 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier sourced from Colombia Valley in Washington State. The grapes were co-fermented and the wine was aged in neutral barrels on the lees. The grapes come from five different vineyards with unique terroirs which harmoniously blend into a fresh and interesting red wine. All of the vineyards are farmed using sustainable practices such as using recycled water. Enjoy this wine on Earth Day and beyond!
Amarone della Valpolicella wines come from the Valpolicella wine region which is located outside of historic Verona near Lake Garda in northeastern Italy. Vandenberg opened with the relatively short history of the wine. The area has long been known for its sweet version, a passito wine called Recioto della Valpolicella. This wine is believed to have been around since the Roman era while the first commercial release of an Amarone wine would not take place until the 1950's when a winemaker unintentionally left some of the Recioto fermenting until it was fully dry, accidentally giving birth to a new wine style for the region.
The production method used to make this style of wine is what makes Amarone unique but it also adds to its expense. These wines require more grapes per bottle, lots of handwork, more space and a longer creation time which all add to the cost.
Traditionally, the grapes were dried on straw mats for three to four months until almost 40% of the weight was lost, nowadays, plastic bins are also commonly used. This process concentrates the flavors and sugars leading to a typically intensely nuanced, higher alcohol wine.
After a discussion which included an overview of the terroir of Valipolicella, the unique red grapes and the production methods, attendees tasted twelve Amarone wines from a group of quality-conscious producers from the region whose stated goal is to be "guardians of tradition".
2012 was a hot summer with very little rain which led to lower yields from drought stress.
These Classico wines have a minimum aging requirement of two years after the grapes are pressed.
Allegrini - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 - Sweet aromas of cherry, blackberry, raisin, and fennel. Dry, lush, full bodied, with similar flavors and a lingering licorice-laced finish. Parzen stated his opinion that of all the wines we would be tasting today, this one was "a little more modern-leaning." 15.5% ABV.
Begali -Monte Ca' Bianca Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 - With only 200 cases or so made in the best vintages, this single vineyard wine was one of the smallest production wines in the tasting. Lighter aromas of black fruit, baking spices-cinnamon and nutmeg with a bigger structure, a bit more tannic. Parzen said he felt this one was made in "a very traditional style". 15.5% ABV.
Speri -Vigneto Monte Sant'Urbano Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 - Also a single vineyard wine, the grapes went through a longer drying time losing 42% of their volume creating a dry wine with intense fruit and spice with a smooth peppery finish. In regards to this wine Parzen stated, "It's really alive, a big wine, I'm enjoying it!" while Vandenberg said the spicy nuance danced on her tongue. 15%ABV.
Tommasi - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 - More mouth-watering with dried cherry and bramble berry, tobacco and light geranium notes, dry with velvety smooth finish. Vandenberg pronounced "it's a very nice wine, really delicious." 15% ABV.
Zenato - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 - More subtle nose, slightly smoky bramble berry flavors in the smooth finish. Vandenberg made the point with this wine that despite the higher alcohol content, it remained very balanced because it was so well-integrated. 16.5% ABV.
2011 was a cooler year for the region other than a late August heatwave which brought about an early harvest.
Brigaldara - Case Vecie Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2011 - This wine comes from a higher altitude vineyard which had a later harvest. It has red cherry aromas and flavors with leather notes and a mineral nuance in the slightly tart finish. 16.5% ABV.
Guerrieri Rizzardi - Calcarole Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011 - Dry with sweet red cherry aromas and flavors with slightly puckery tannins, this wine was more powerful with a bigger structure. 16% ABV.
Tenuta Sant'antonio - Campo dei Gigli Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011 - Elegant and smooth with sweet cherry aromas and flavors with dried herb and a long dry finish. 16% ABV.
Venturini Campomasua Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011 - Only made in the best vinatges, this wine is rich and concentrated with sweet fruit aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry and raisin, silky smooth, long finish. Vandenberg shared that the grapes for this wine were dried for over five months which led to the more concentrated profile yet the wine still maintained its approachability. 16.5% ABV.
The Riserva designation on the following wines means that the wines were aged longer with a minimum aging requirement of four years.
Musella - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva 2010 - This wine comes from a biodynamic producer. 2010 was a rainy vintage with a dry harvest. Very refined with dried red cherry aromas and flavors with a bit of licorice in the long, smooth finish. 16% ABV.
Tedeschi - Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva 2009 - This single vineyard was very rich, dry and round with dried cherry and raisin aromas and flavors with a smooth lingering finish. 16% ABV.
In Italy, the wines are often paired with roasted or braised horse or donkey meat but they also do well with beef, venison or other game. You can also enjoy Amarone della Valpolicella with mature cheeses. All of these wines are highly recommended, they are approachable and ready to drink now.
The Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Puyméras 2014 is the wine sample of the week. From a 30 yearold Southern Rhone Valley vineyard in the village of Puyméras that has soils comprised of pebbles and shale on stony terraces, this wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Carignan. This dry, full-bodied red wine has intense fruity aromas of ripe red raspberries with pomegranate and black pepper with matching mouth-filling flavors and a lingering spicy note in the finish. Soft, smooth, fresh and flavorful, this wine was a pleasure to consume, highly recommended. 13.5%ABV.
The Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Réserve Rouge 2015 was also enjoyed this week. This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mouvèdre from chalky clay vineyard soils in the southern Rhone Valley, south of Drôme and north of Vaucluse. This wine was a bit bigger with a darker fruit profile. This dry, full-bodied red wine has pronounced aromas of blackberries and blackcurrants with licorice and a subtle earthy note in the lingering slightly savory finish. Fresh and smooth, this wine is also recommended. 14% ABV
Both of these wines were sent to me as media samples for review purposes.
My notes from the "New Wave White Wines" seminar and tasting at Taste of Italy Houston 2017 held on March 6, 2017. with David Lynch, Jeremy Parzen, Thomas Moësse and Jaime de Leon.
Colutta Prosecco - Produced in Friuli from Glera grapes, this fresh, light sparkling wine had ripe apricot and melon aromas and flavors.
Bellaria Greco di Tufo 2014 - From the limestone soils of Compania, David Lynch feels that these southern Italian wines are "the Chablis of Italy" due to their mouthwatering acidity and strong minerality. Jeremy Parzen shared that "these are the types of wines my wife and I go to Thomas' shop to buy to drink at home," referring to Vinology, a local wine bar and shop, of which Moësse is a founding partner. Moësse discussed the terroir of the area which he says "adds bounce" to the wine. Fresh pineapple and citrus aromas and flavors intertwined with crisp acidity and a lingering smoky minerality.
Talis Colli Orientali Ribolla Gialla 2015 - Also from Friuli, this wine saw no oak, only stainless steel. Lynch credits the combination of the Alpine and Adriatic influences for giving this wine its character. Fresh aromas of peach and green apple with a light floral component, zippy acidity and a saline mineral finish. Very pure and elegant, David Lynch called it, "Electrifying." Colli di Poianis Colli Orientali Pinot Grigio 2015 - Another from Friuli, this wine also saw no oak but it had a weightier textural component than your "typical" Pinot Grigio. Ripe tangerine aromas and fresh citrus flavors with a slight bitterness in the persistent finish. Moësse's description of this wine was that he felt as if he bitten into a whole tangerine through its skin.
Kellerei Kurtatsh Alto Adige Pinot Grigio Penóner 2014 - From South Tyrol, though this wine was fermented and aged in oak, it is not an "oaky" white. Fuller bodied than than the previous, this wine had sweet orange cream aromas and flavors with a creamy texture and a touch of vanilla in the lengthy finish. Weightier and richer than the previous, Master Sommelier candidate, Jaime de Leon discussed the opportunities for heavier pairings.
Jaime de Leon also discussed the current wine buying trends he is seeing locally. He feels there has been a shift in wine buying attitudes, "People are wanting to experiment and explore more than ever before, they want to try something different." He credits tech savvy consumers who are educating themselves on new or unusual wines made from grapes they don't know or which come from places they haven't been and who are excited to investigate further. He is encouraged by this new openness and challenged the room to help consumers find all the opportunities that the world of wine offers.
My take away from this discussion and tasting is that this "new wave" of whites offers a fresh, crisp liveliness that I'm looking forward to enjoying this season and beyond. All of the wines from this tasting are highly recommended.
The Ciù Ciù Arbinus Classico 2016 is the wine sample of the week. It is made from Verdicchio grapes and comes from the Castelli di Jesi Classico wine region in the Marche in central Italy. This dry white wine has a full-body feel with bright acidity and a rich, rounded texture. It has fresh aromas of lemon verbena and lemon zest with a sweet lemon taste and a slightly bitter almond-skin note in the finish. Deliciously drinkable, food friendly and anytime affordable at approximately $15 a bottle. Highly recommended for your spring time sipping, it is available locally at Spec's as well as on-line. 13% ABV.
The Ciú Ciú Oppidum 2012 also hails from the Marche. This easy-drinking red wine is made from 100% Montepulciano grapes a portion of which spends some time in wooden barrels. Dry and full-bodied with soft tannins and balanced acidity, this wine has fruity aromas and flavors of dark cherry with vanilla and a slight earthiness in the smooth finish. Also recommended, this wine works with all your Italian-American favorites and is priced at about $18 a bottle. 15%ABV.
Both of these wines were sent to me as media samples for review purposes.
Southern Glazer brought in Gillian Balance to teach a Rosé Masterclass at their tasting in Houston last week which featured 100 rosé wines from around the world. The class focused on six wines in a New World vs Old World format.
Balance reminded attendees that rosé was not only the original red wine for the world's earliest wine makers, it is also one of the fastest growing styles of wine today. It has always been universally loved for its versatility with food. Served chilled, the weight, freshness and slight bit of tannic structure make it an excellent pairing partner for an array of food options.
While wine drinkers can find some typicity in the rosé wines of Provence, when they venture into New World regions, they may encounter a wider range of styles. Grape variety, climate and winemaking practices will all affect a wine's flavor profile.
Matua 2016 - This pale salmon colored wine is made from Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand. It is fresh with crisp acidity, fruit-driven with cherry aromas and tart cherry flavors with rose petals and an herbaciousness in the finish. A steal at $13 a bottle.
Chateau St Jean Bijou 2015 - This North Coast California wine is a blend of Barbera, Pinot Noir and Grenache which gives very fruity red berry/cherry aromas and flavors, soft tannins and a rounder feel. This wine has a higher level of residual sugar adding to the ripe watermelon finish. Balance called it the perfect rosé for Thai curry, only $13 a bottle. A by Acacia 2015 - This blend of Barbera, Grenache, Syrah, Tannat and Tempranillo is a deeper salmon color than the previous two wines. It is offering up a mix of baking spice, dried fruit, apricot and citrus with a slightly smoky, lightly oxidized note in the long finish. A bit fuller bodied than than previous two, Balance said she would enjoy this wine with roasted pork and root vegetables, only $12.
The next three are from the same 19th century chateau in St Tropez in Southern France and shared a paler onion skin pink color. Chateau Minuty is located by a protected woodland area and farms without pesticides or herbicides.
Minuty M2015 - Dry, medium body, slightly spicy with subtle peach and floral rose notes and a fresh
saline minerality in the lingering finish. Balance suggested this wine be served with crudites and tapas. Deliciously affordable at $17.
Minuty et Or 2014 - This wine is Grenache and Tibouren and shows more depth with bold sweet citrus aromas with subtle berry and citrus flavors, baking spice and a savoriness in the lingering saline laced finish. Also dry with a medium body, Balance thought this wine to be an excellent pairing for bouillabaisse or sushi. A step up in price at $36 a bottle, elegant, interesting and worth it.
Minuty 281 Rosé 2015 - This luxury offering has subtle aromas of white peach with mixed red berries with baking spice and an iodine laced finish. This wine is dry, rounder feeling with more weight, a slightly fuller body with a richer textural component making it a good partner for grilled tuna or octopus. Only $56 for this top tier bottle from a classic producer.
All six of these wines are highly recommended for springtime sipping and beyond.
The Hourglass Blueline Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 is deliciously drinkable with a surprisingly small amount of sediment in this 7 year old half-bottle. Less earthy than the Loire; fruitier with blueberry and plum, fresh mineralty, soft tannins and a bit of Indian spice in the lingering finish. I will be seeking more of this, highly recommended.
The 20 acre vineyard in Calistoga is named for two meandering streams that frame the property. The Cabernet Franc is planted on the cobble and sandy loam soils of an ancient dry riverbed. Purchased by my husband a few years ago, I was not able to find this anywhere locally. Find other vintages of this wine at Wine Searcher. This wine contained 15.2 ABV.
The Consorzio del Vino Brunello Montalcino was in Houston last month giving local media and wine professionals the opportunity to taste the newest vintage of the region's premium wines. Guy Stout, Houston's first and favorite Master Sommelier, led the guided tasting and seminar with Giacomo Pondini, president of the Consorzio. He opened with memories of the sights and tastes of his own visits there and assured the attendees that "Montalcino is a sweet spot on planet Earth"; encouraging those who not been, to go.
The Consorzio has given the 2012 vintage its highest rating of 5 stars and Stout said tasters should expect the wines to be "fresh, fleshy and upfront." The wines are all made from 100% Sangiovese and come from the Montalcino region of Italy. Stout went through the region's stringent production regulations and reminded attendees that wine style is always influenced by the choices of a winemaker in regards to barrels and aging.
The Tasting: Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 - Stout referred to this wine as a "more modern style of Brunello" opting to age the wine approximately 12 months in French oak and 14 months in Slavonian oak. With bright juicy flavors of cherry, cranberry and raspberry the wine was fresh, smooth and easy to enjoy right now. $58- SRP
Corte dei Venti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 - Winemaker Andrea Brocco introduced his wine. He opts for a more traditional approach at his family winery. The 7 acre vineyard yields looser grape clusters that ripen well on the clay and stone soils of the southern Sant' Angelo area of the region. The grapes are fermented in temperature controlled tanks followed by 36 months in oak barrels before bottle aging. The wine exhibited dried cherry and apricot with leather and a bit of tobacco in the long finish. Guy Stout pronounced it, "Delizioso!." $54-SRP Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 - Combining sustainable, diversified farming with a traditional approach to winemaking is how this fifth generation wine family creates wines of deep color with intense aromas and flavors. Winemaker Alessandro Bindocci also credits the 25+ year old deep-rooted vines on the property and says he believes that "Sangiovese should always be in the spotlight". Bindocci explained they ferment a bit differently using the submerged cap technique which keeps the must and grape skins in contact throughout the process. They exclusively use large French oak barrels for the first 36 months of aging followed by a minimum of 4 months in the bottle. The result is a bigger tannic structure with more pronounced aromas and flavors of cranberry, cherry, rose and black tea in the lingering finish. $85-SRP
Paradisone Colle degli Angeli Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 - Winemaker Federico Donini has a diverse mix of soils on his property. Four different wines are created from the different plots of this sustainably farmed 8 acre vineyard. The best is aged for 36 months in large Slavonian oak barrels with 30% aged separately in small French barriques and added to the other 70% after a year. Another traditional Brunello with cranberry, apricot, tea, dried leaves, cedar and a savory note in the long finish. $90-SRP
Sasso di Sole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 - Located in the northeast part of the region, the winery's name means sunstone and it is in reference to a large rock that reflects light across the property. Roberto Terzuoli says the wines are fermented and then aged in stainless steel tanks for twelve months and then aged another 36 months in Slavonian oak. Stout called this wine " a solid, made in the traditional style Brunello". Good structure with a little tannic grip, well-balanced with cherry, leather, tobacco and cedar with a lengthy finish. $60- SRP
Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2012 - The vineyard has mineral rich sandy clay soils with a bit of gravel. Winemaker Andrea Cortonesi ages his wines in a combination of Slavonian oak barrels and French oak barriques for 36 months with an additional 10 months in bottle. Fruit forward with raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors. Guy called this wine firm, "with tight, almost puckery tannins" and felt it was a "modern meets traditional style". $72- SRP
Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino 2012 - This wine was aged for two years in oak barrels and two years in stainless steel and bottle. Very traditional in style, it had aromas and flavors of roses, tart cherry, sun-dried tomato, leather, cedar and tobacco with juicy acidity and a long finish. $49.99- SRP
Villa Poggio Salvi Brenello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2011 - This wine is aged for forty months in Slavonian oak barrels creating a more traditional style. Tart cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors with dried oregano, leather and tobacco in the lingering mineral-laced finish. $85- SRP
All of the wines are highly recommended, consider picking one up soon. As Guy Stout concluded, "Everyday is a good day when you are drinking Brunello!"
Wines tasted on January 19, 2017. Also pictured in the collage is the Barbi Brunello di Montalcino, a favorite from the walk around tasting.
Vieux Château Certan Grand Vin Pomerol 2005 - Intense aromas of plum and violet dominate this full bodied, dry, rich red along with an earthy touch of mushroom and nuttiness in the long, mouth filling finish. Silky smooth, opulently elegant and very splurge-worthy!
My husband purchased this bottle for us for a special occasion under the advice of Bear Dalton, the fine wine buyer at Spec's Liquor Store over a year ago. A series of unfortunate events prevented us from consuming this when planned.
We enjoyed it over the holidays with a rotisserie rib-eye roast and immediately went looking for more. Though we were surprised at the youthfulness of this wine, we did seek out a newer vintage that I will be tasting soon, I will let you know how it compares. We were surprised to see that some from this 2005 vintage is still available for just under $300 a bottle in Houston at the downtown Spec's location.
Highly recommended for your next extravagant evening at home.