Tag Archives: Asti

Harvest 2011 – Week 5 – Things REALLY get moving…

This week we’ve started seeing far more grapes than the previous week.  Our Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were joined by our first Chardonnay of the season!  Fruit quality looks really nice and acids are still staying put thanks to the more moderate day time temperatures as well as the cool nights.  The Alexander Valley reds are showing signs of the same incredible color that 2010 brought us and we should start seeing Lodi Cabernet and Merlot being harvested over the next two weeks.  For Asti it seems after a crazy end to last week, Week 6 will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb as we enter the first slump of the season.  This will give us a chance to catch our breath and take stock of how things are going.  The weather for week 6, however is forecasted to be a good deal warmer than week 5 with several days topping out around 100 degrees!  Hopefully they won’t go much above that so we can avoid the September heat spike that we saw last year. 


I’m playing with the first Alexander Valley fruit from this season which is a Gewurztraminer from a vineyard in Geyserville which was harvested last Wednesday.  It’s packed with flavor and did retain some acid which is fantastic for the variety that is famous for losing acid like a woman loses last season’s out of style shoes.  I’ve set it up for a long, cool fermentation so the yeast can form the beautiful terpene compounds that make up the fruit and spice notes in the final wine.  I’m also playing with some Pinot Gris from Lodi with a couple of different yeast strains so that should be interesting to see how it goes.


As promised here is the red variety group from Week 4’s interesting varietal tasting!


Latitude 50 N Sekt Trocken Rose  Germany  $14.99

Light and Bubbly

With amazing aromas of strawberries and cotton candy this wine offered fantastic quality for the price.  A medium- dry style balanced with crisp acid and intense citrus flavors.  It’s a blend of Portugeser, Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir.  A perfect bubbly for everyday drinking at a great price, all of us decided to go in on a case!


Studert- Prum Wehlener Nonnenberg 2008 Dornfelder  Germany ~$25.00

Elegant and Floral

I have a soft spot for this variety because it’s one of the first reds I ever worked with in Pennsylvania, of all places.  However this also showed to be the hardest variety to find in the tasting. It’s known for intense aromas of Strawberries and cherries and this wine did not disappoint.  It was dry with moderate acid, medium alcohol and smooth tannins.  It’s worth the search as this was one of the best Dornfelders that I’ve ever had!


E. Pira Chiara Boschis Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 Italy    $19.99    

Elegant and Floral

This variety makes a light and easy to drink red which is perfect for lighter fare.  Moderate aromas of cherries, bramble fruits, red plum, and figs introduce the wine which has a dry palate with medium + acid and moderate alcohol.  The tannins are firm and structured but ripe.  This is a great food wine. 

Umathum 2008 Zweigelt Burgenland Austria    $16.99

Spicy and Smoky

This was a dark brooding wine with smoky gamey notes complemented by black cherry and plum.  The palate is dry with medium + acid, moderate alcohol and strong structured tannins.  Zweigelt may be a good alternative to Merlot or Syrah for those seeking something different.  This one was really nice.


Montebuena Rioja 2009   $9.99

Power Punch

Made with 100% Tempranillo this wine is true to form with aromas of cherries, raisins, lemon zest and vanilla.  The palate is dry with medium acid, moderately high alcohol, and strong, textured tannins.  Right now Spain is offering some great value for the money.  Anywhere else this would easily be an $18-20 quality wine.


Quinta das Maias Tinto 2004 Dao   $11.99

Power Punch

Another value to be had currently is dry reds made from Port varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Jaen, 25% Touriga Nacional, 10% Alfrocheiro and 5% Tinta Roriz.  The nose is intense with aromas of coconut, almonds, vanilla, and cherries.  American oak is clearly a favorite with this producer.  The palate is dry with moderate acid, medium + alcohol, and a full body filled with flavors of cherries, dried dates and raisins.

Harvest 2011 – Week 4 – Grapes, Pigs, and Fun Varieties at Asti Winery

Week 4 has come to a rather quiet close as we only processed a few hundred tons this week atAsti.  It’s a drop in the bucket for what is to come this season.  We were led by Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris from the Lodi area which both had perfect Brix, crisp acids, and really nice flavors for that region.  The weather has again proved to be wonderful for quality wine growing and is forecasted to continue for the next week as well. 


At Asti, we have a tradition of roasting a whole pig for the cellar crew (and whoever else happens to be at the winery at the time) on the Friday before things really get cranking around here.  Today was that day!  We enjoyed a moment of togetherness before the work really starts and grapes begin to roll in like an avalanche.  This year we celebrated the 11th Pig Roast and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all! 


This week I also wanted to write a bit about the fantastic tasting that we held last week.  The theme was “Unusual Varieties from Around the World”.  I set up this tasting to open our winemaking minds to different varieties than we normally would see on the everyday supermarket shelf.  They cover a wide range of personalities as well as offering great values for the money (I’ve listed what I paid for them below) and I highly recommend you check them out!  Here is the list below….


Adega cooperative Regional de Moncao “Trajarinho” Vinho Verde 2010 Portugal    $8.99

Zesty and Fruity

A bright blend of Trajadura and Alvarinho, this wine was crisp with a bit of residual CO2 spritzing up the glass.  A moderately intense nose of citrus and lime zest introduced a dry, high acid palate with a light body.  Refreshing and clean this is a perfect summer wine!


Cantine di Marzo Fiano d’Avellino 2009 Italy     $14.99

Stone and Chalk

Fiano is such a savory variety.  It lacks the zesty fruit notes that most new world consumers expect making it a bit of a hunt here in the states but if you want something different it’s worth it.  It leads with aromas of hazelnut skins, wet granite and chalk.  It has a waxy nature to the texture that lends to a fuller body balanced by moderate acid and a long dry finish.  Pair with more savory fatty foods such as cheese, nuts, and cream sauces.


Icardi L’aurora 2009 Piedmonte Italy    $14.99

Zesty and Fruity

Cortese is one of my favorite Italian whites and I generally prefer it over its more popular neighbor Pinot Grigio.  Primarily found in the small Piedmonte region of Gavi this particular offering was sourced from the wider regional designation.  Light aromas of citrus and white flowers delicately emerge and are followed by an off-dry palate with moderate acid and a medium-light body.  It is very well balanced and easy to drink.


Hetszolo Tokaji Furmint Sec      $9.99

Stone and Chalk

This is another of those wines that is a bit challenging to find at your everyday wine store.  While Tokaji typically is most well known for its sweet Botrytized dessert style, these dry styles can offer great value and interesting appeal.  It leans more towards hazelnuts, citrus, golden raisins, and mineral flavors with a dry palate and medium + acid.  It finishes with an almost citrus rind texture which keeps the wine interesting and a fun pairing with different foods.


Pazo Senorans Rias Baixas 2008 Spain     $17.99

Fresh and Grassy

I like to think of Albarino (the Spanish version of Alvarinho which made an appearance in our first wine of the flight) as a flowery Sauvignon Blanc with the volume turned down.  The clean primary aromas of jasmine, grapefruit, and peach skin carry through on to the palate which is dry with medium acid and body.  It’s a riper style of Albarino however it is very tasty and I love the floral element to it.


Dominio del Plata “Crios de Susana Balbo” 2010 Torrontes Salta Argentina    $11.99

Elegant and Floral

Torrontes is one of my favorite floral varieties and one that you can impress your friends with at parties as it’s not well known but is a Muscat cousin so it has an amazing spicy and fruity nose that is hard to mistake.  Intense aromas of flowers, citrus, and an interesting lime Jello note give way to a dry palate with high acid and light body. If you likeMuscataromas but want something dry, try this one out!


That’s all for the whites… I’ll write about the Red varieties tasted in my Week 5 wrap up!

My speed tour of Piedmonte

The day after Verona we headed west towards Piedmonte in search of another Italian tradition…Gelato!  This was something I was very excited about since I had always heard that Italians make Gelato very differently from ice cream as we know it.  We stopped at a little town that was recommended to have some of the best Gelato around and ate lunch.  It was everything that I had heard it would be.

After dining and enjoying Gelato we continued on towards Piedmonte, the home of Asti, Barolo, and Barbaresco.  Our first stop was a winery called Ceretto, the largest winery in the region.  Ceretto produces a large range of products but the largest seller is an Arneis based wine called Blange.  It is an easy drinking everyday style white.

Ceretto Blange Langhe 2009

Fresh and Grassy

Pale Lemon core with light CO2 apparent. Clean with medium intensity aromas of citrus, lemons, white flowers and chalk. Off-dry palate with medium acid, medium alcohol, low skin tannins and light body.  Medium + flavors of lemons, wet chalk, citrus, and white flowers with a medium finish.

Our guide at Ceretto was Ellen Whetten an American Ex-pat who has now made her home in Piedmonte.  The winery is family owned with 5 production sites of which this one is the largest.  1,000,000 bottles per year are produced most of which are Blange Arneis although Dolchetto, Barbaresco, and Barolo are also produced as well as some 250,000 bottles of Muscat.  Arneis experienced a rebirth in the 1980s and is now the region’s signature white grape.  The estate has 80 ha of Arneis which is typically vinified in Stainless steel tanks.  Usually 40% is cryomacerated at 6 degrees C for 12-16 hours on the skins to add texture.  3-4 kinds of different selected yeasts are used for Blange.  CO2 is usually added to boost acidity perception because Arneis tends to loose acidity quickly.  Finished at 5 g/L of sugar to balance the mouthfeel and make it more approachable.  Only one yeast is used for the reds although the cellar worker answering these questions did not know the name of the individual yeast strain used.

Ceretto Barbera d’Alba “Piana” 2008

Elegant and Floral

Medium – pink ruby core. Medium + aromas of cherries, strawberries, and wet stones. Dry palate with high acid, moderate alcohol, low to medium – tannins, with a light body. Moderately intense flavors of Bing cherries, strawberries and wet stones with a medium finish. Excellent with aged meats and fruit.

The high end wines of Ceretto are produced at their Bricco Rocche Winery including the Monsordo Cellar Blend made up of Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Noir.  This blend is aged in both large and small French oak casks for 18 months.

Ceretto Barbaresco 2006 Bricco Asili Winery Bernardot

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core. Medium + aromas of dried cherries, fresh figs, earth, and baking spices.  Dry palate with medium + acid, moderate alcohol, High tannins, and Medium + body. Moderately intense flavors of dried cherries, figs, earth, and cloves, with a long finish. Aged for 18 months in wood.

Ceretto Bricco Asili Barolo 2005 Brunate

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core. Moderately intense aromas of Bing cherries, figs, chocolate, hazelnuts, spices and soil.  Dry palate, moderately high acid, medium + alcohol, high tannins, and moderately full body. Moderately intense flavors of cherries, chocolate, fresh figs, earth, stones, and spices, with a long finish.

The Barolo is aged for 2 years in a combination of large and small barriques.  The large barriques are resurfaced every 6-7 years.  After bottling the aging process continues for 9 months in bottle before release.  The combo of large and small barrels is a melding of traditional Barolo production with modern techniques to come to a happy medium between old age-worthy style and new more approachable wines.  Around 50% new is used every year with 5-6 different coopers all light to medium toast barrels.

Vignaioli di S. Stefano Muscato d’Asti 2009

Light and Bubbly

Pale lemon core with moderate CO2 level. Pronounced aromas of floral notes, peaches, nectarines, and apricots.  Sweet with moderately high acid, low alcohol, and Medium body.  Moderately intense flavors of apricots, white flowers, orange blossoms, and white peaches with a long finish.  Served with locally produced hazelnut nougat.

Our next stop was the Dante Rivetti Winery which in addition to having beautiful vineyards also made fantastic home aged salamis and was the home to 15 or so dogs that pretty much had the run of the place anywhere outside the actual production winery.  We had tasted some of the wines the day before at the show however we were able to see more of their operation which includes producing and holding Muscat juice for the regions most popular export, Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante. We were fortunate enough to meet the two generations of winemakers at this winery. A father and son team, neither one of whom spoke English so it was also an interesting challenge for our guides  to translate questions and answers back and forth.  We had dinner at a restaurant across the street that night and were treated to a wonderful 5 course meal and several wines including a 2001 Reserva.

Dante Rivetti Barbaresco Bricco Riserva 2001

Spicy and Smoky

Medium – Garnet core with Ruby tints. Moderately intense aromas of licorice, dried cherries, spices, and earth.  Dry palate, with moderately high (bordering on high) acid, moderately high alcohol, high tannins, and a moderately full body.  Moderately intense flavors of cherries, licorice, herbs, and wild asparagus (a newly acquired descriptor because of the wild asparagus risotto served a few courses before although I am more that willing to admit this may have been the power of suggestion at this point in the evening) with a long finish.