Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Report from ... Churchill Cellars Portfolio Tasting - May 12, 2014

Churchill's never seems to bring out their big guns, it's an assortment of general list and a few vintages products ... call it a tasting for the masses. But it's still interesting to taste the newest vintages of some old favourites, new to market labels and some facelifts on well worn products ... These were the highlights of the Churchill tasting:

Alpine Valley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($14.95 - #241810)
big and bright with grassy and grapefruit, full of typical flavours
(*** 1/2+)
Deakin Estate 2013 Shiraz ($9.95 - #560821)
chocolate, raspberry and white pepper - a great value for what you get
(*** 1/2+)
Segura Viudas Reserva (Cava) - $14.95
"New look, same great taste"; actually I think it tastes even better:
fresh, clean, apple, lemon, big acidity, food friendly and very refreshing
Willm 2012 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($15.95 - #269852)
soapy, floral and orange pith
(*** 1/2+)

Fresita, Sparkling Wine with strawberries ($13.95 - #56697)
it gives you exactly what you expect: strawberry infused sparkling wine;
always delicious (****)
Chateau de Gourgazaud 2011 Minervois ($12.95 - #22384)
good fruit-tannin mix with smoked cherry and mineral notes

Chateau Donissan 2010 Listrac-Medoc ($17.95 - #365874)
mocha and oak, fruit shows lots of cassis and blackberry with touch of smoke
Chivite 2007 Gran Feudo Reserva ($16.95 - #479014)
nice and easy drinking with cherry and strawberry fruit
(*** 1/2+)

Delicato 2011 Handcraft Petite Sirah ($17.95 - #361907)
fun on both the nose and palate: meaty bacon and blueberry with mocha,
smoky vanilla and coffee on the finish
First Press 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($22.95 - #188110)
smooth and sexy Cabernet, silky, mouth-filling, full of red and black fruit
(*** 1/2+)
Michael David 2011 7 Deadly Zins ($24.95 - #59311)
love the smoked meatiness that seems to be creeping into this wine,
nicely peppered vanilla, black cherry and plum
Domaine Pinnacle 2012 Ice Cider ($24.95 - #94094)
apple and apple peal in all it's sweet glory - this is a party in the mouth
for apple lovers - and for the rest of you, just call it "sex in a glass"
Vodka Mudshake, Chocolate ($12.45 - #5280)
yes there are 3 different kinds: vanilla, caramel and chocolate ...
but the chocolate one seems to rule them all
Crazy Uncle Uber Caesar ($18.95 - #370650)
crazy good

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Report from ... Montefalco: a Journey of Sagrantino, Day 4 - June 25, 2014

Roberto and I took a quick little early morning sojourn to visit BEA Winery (Paolo Bea Winery), met with Giampiero Bea (Paolo's son) to talk natural winemaking in a bunker of a winery that Roberto referred to as "a lair in a 007 film" ... let's take a look:

My usual last day breakfast room pic - where we picked up our morning starters
And could have our coffee or tea overlooking the pool and surrounding gardens
As for Paolo Bea Winery ... we start out in the vineyard
Here Giampiero discusses leaf plucking and shoot thinning in the vineyard
A look through the vineyard

The catwalk over the tank room
Drying grapes for the Passito
"The bunker" - otherwise known as the barrel room

For the first time this trip we actually tasted Sagrantino straight out of a barrel
The BEA tasting room - it's true what your friends tell you, it really is a
rickety old table in a converted kitchen
Three vintage of Pagliaro (Sagrantino) 2005 - 2007
The '05 & '07 were lovely garnering 4-stars each;
while the '06 seemed funky and gamey
Newest Wine: 2007 Cerreto (Reserve) -
1 year in steel, 4 years in oak and released after 8 years
dark fruit and spice with rhubarb, strawberry, blackberry and cassis (****+)

And that's it ... 5 hours later we were all on a plane back to Canada ... Goodbye Montefalco - it was a quick whirlwind trip but one I would return to do again in a heartbeat.

Report from ... Montefalco: a Journey of Sagrantino, Day 3 - June 24, 2014

It turned out to be a longer day than expected due to the World Cup game between Italy and Uruguay ... now unfortunately Italy lost, but what I found interesting was that I had never been in a country with a vested interest in the outcome of a World Cup game, where you could sit outside and literally feel the game being watched and hear the citizens' every reaction.  But I digress ... today it was an olive oil farm, three wineries, two meals, a glass or two in a vineyard and of course, quite a bit of wine ... let's take a look:

Our day starts bright and early right here
Because of this flyer promoting the winner of the best Olive Oil in Italy
Looking in through the portal to the farm
We walk through this courtyard
In this lobby - with countless awards ...
we're looking even more forward to this

Olive oil making has similarities to winemaking -
after hand harvesting they go into this hopper
Then into the sorter / de-stemmer and crusher

Which turns everything from the skin to the pit into a paste
that gets mixed in this machine
And this machine extracts the oil ...
pictured here with Romina Segoloni (owner)
And here's the last step before ...

the holding tanks ...
and bottling - some of the best olive oil in all of Italy.
Mono Variety:  San Felice ...
fruity, floral and spicy; delicate on the palate
Mono Variety:  Moraiolo ...
intense, thicker, richer with fresh cut grass notes

Emozione (mixed variety) ... Best Olive Oil in Italy ...
pretty with sunflower seed, smooth, spicy and flavourful
And here's the awards to prove it.

Town of Bevagna ...

From there we are dropped off in the town of Bevagna ...
where the medieval festival is in full swing:  each quarter of the town
takes on an aspect of medieval living
One of the medieval squares
Where we find the candlestick-maker's shop
and the spice / herb / apothecary shop

... and the distillery (very important)
This little guy followed us around for a few blocks
We're then picked up at one of the gates of Bevagna

Perticaia ...

And after getting lost a few times we ended up here at Perticaia
Looking out over their clay soil planted vineyards
And a look at the stoney soil vineyard - a bit of a rarity in these parts
And a quick peak at the emerging grapes of Trebbiano Spoletino:
the "wings" on the left and right of the bunch are also known as 'clown feet'
Such a gorgeous spot
Alessandro has been the winemaker since 2008 toured us around
the vineyard and the winery
With this little guy close behind on our heals
Perticaia = hand plow (representing the old ways)
Cool thing:  around the property there are 10 types of rosemary and
6 types of lavender ... in beautiful bush form
And it adorns the walls ... (rosemary)

And rings the property (rosemary)
A look from the balcony at Perticaia

and the other side.

Lunch and Wines at Perticaia ...

Lunch begins with Strangozzi (no egg noodles) with a faux meat sauce
2011 Rosso & 2009 Rossa Riserva - both 4-star wines
Rosso: fruity with a touch of spice
Riserva: round and full, gentle pepper and spice with dried cherry and raspberry

The cheese, prosciutto and sun-dried tomato plate
Two Vintages of Sagrantino: 2009 & 2010
"2009": baked sweet cherry-strawberry with floral/violets, touch plummy - rough and rugged (*** 1/2+)
"2010": dark fruit, good acidity, sweet tannins, cassis, blackberry - complex, elegant and supple (****+)
Then, owner Guido, who joined us for lunch, and has been making wine since 1968,
finally opened his own dream-winery of 'Perticaia' in 2000
QUOTE:  When talking about the 1968 vintage when someone said it was a terrible vintage:
"1968 wasn't a terrible vintage; it was a very terrible vintage"
Brings out this 2005 which (we are told) is similar to the 2010 vintage-wise:
it has elegance and power with great structure and backbone
(at this time the vines were only 5 years old)
Here Konrad Ejbich shows all three vintages in a glass:
"it's an expression of the land at the time, by a human being of the time"
One more look over the vineyards before we leave.

Antonelli ...

Our first sight at Antonelli - and why not it's 28C and this guy was in the shade -
ah the life ...
We were then officially greeted by Filippo - 4th generation Antonelli and the
first involved directly with the winery (pictured here with Konrad and Roberto)
"I interrupted a long line of lawyers to be a farmer" - Filippo Antonelli
We then take the elevator
(shown here being given the thumbs up by Roberto)

To the tank room: these are double tanks ...
one on top of the other allowing wine to flow from one to the other
Our tour includes a peak at the "Cucina":
where wine pairing and cooking classes happen
A walk down the long driveway
To the main 'gate' - which is prominently displayed on the front label of the bottle
Like so ...
This rarity of Montefalco: 2009 Contrario - is 100% Sagrantino from young vines, no oak
with short fermentation and shows the fruity side of the grape with seemingly sweet red
and black fruit and good acidity: lively and fresh (*** 1/2+)

While cleaning out his car we catch Felippo with something even rarer
than un-oaked Sagrantino ... he's quick to blame the kids

Arnaldo-Caprai ...

Arrival at Arnaldo-Caprai, established in 1971
Complete with play area for mom and dad ...
... and one for the kids
A display showing the different soil types in their vineyards
We are then whisked into the vineyard itself to this platform
With this view of the winery below
and this other vineyard (to my left)

Marco Caprai talks about the winery and
various social initiatives they have undertaken
with this spread, while we tasted the two whites of the property
Best of which was the 2013 Grecante:
a 100% Grechetto with floral, citrus, peach pit and lovely tropicality
all with a tinge of bitterness on the finish (*** 1/2+)

As the sunsets on Caprai, so does our visit to the winery
One last look at our "table on the mount"

Dinner and Wines ...

And it's back to Bevagna, where Marco is taking us to
La Trattoria di Oscar
Owned by this man, Filippo Artioli, in the Piazza del Cirone -
his ragu was written up in Saveur Magazine, May 2014 (pg. 44) -
pictured here with his wife and co-owner, Enza
We all sit down - and what a dinner it was - as you will soon see
clockwise from left: Konrad Ejbich, Roberto Staiano, Marco Caprai, yours truly
Ricotta cheese flan and salted cod with chick peas

Chianina beef carpaccio shasimi with beef liver topping
paired with these two wines:  2011 Rosso & 2008 Rosso Riserva
"2011 Rosso" - light red fruit, easy drinking with a touch of pepper (*** 1/2+)
"2009 Riserva" - spicy, earthy, with blackberry, cassis,
a nice tannin grip and some peppery notes towards the finish (****)
Organic egg with goat cheese cream and summer truffles
Ravioli, ricotta cheese and aromatics herbs in a fresh tomato sauce

2008 Collapiano: lovely dark fruit with balanced acidity and tannins (****+)
The famous Tagliatelle with Chianina Ragu Sauce - I could eat this all night
Fillet of pork, BBQ'ed with sweet spices

2009 "25" Sagrantino
a wine originally made for the 25th Anniversary of the winery in 1996 (from the 1993 vintage)
using a special selection of barrels.  Wine proved so popular that it lives on today (****)
Older vines typically go into this wine.
We end hands-down the best meal of the week with this
chocolate parfait with mango and strawberry coulis ... truly decadent
Filippo: "How was your meal"
Konrad: "I'm going to call my lawyer ... to tell him how good this was"

The day ends around 1 AM ... it's been a long day and one that should be the end of our journey; but as you will see on Day 4, Roberto and I decided we needed to go to one more place before we leave ... and awaken disgustingly early to do so.