Tag Archives: Fresh and Grassy

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!

Christmas Wines at My House

Every year, I see a ton of people doing a “What to pair with your Holiday Meal” post.  Therefore my blog would not be complete without a similar post to finish off its first calendar year of existence.  However I’m just going to do a run down of what is being served at my house this Christmas and what I’m pairing with it. Perhaps you can glean some ideas from it. 


Assorted cheese including Humbolt Fog, Manchego, and Brie.

Stone ground wheat crackers

Veuve Clicquot N/V Champagne

 Light and Bubbly: I really love this Champagne.  It’s consistently a good value and widely available.  It is also a perfect intro to Champagne for people who don’t drink it on a regular basis as it focuses on pure fruit with hints of lemon curd and toasted brioche with a fine mousse and nicely balanced dosage. 

First Course

Pumpkin Bisque with holiday spices garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay

Buttery Beauty: Now I helped blend this wine so just be aware that I have a personal interest in it however I really like pairing it with this soup because the wine has such great intense flavors and it complements the intensity and the thickness of the soup.  It has intense notes of tropical fruits, brown baking spices and is dry with a full body.  The wine finishes cleanly with spices and toasted walnuts lingering.

Main Course

Brown Sugar Glazed Baked Ham

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized White Onions

Roasted Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Stuffing with Onions, Herbs and Spices

Homemade Cranberry Sauce.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Spicy and Smoky: I love the Mondavi Reserve Cabernets and have several vintages in my cellar.  The ’99 is drinking very nicely right now and I wanted to share it with my family.  The notes of black currants are highlighted by some lovely fig and date notes that are beginning to develop adding to the complexity of the wine.  The tannins are soft and plush and the spices on the palate it makes a nice complement to the holiday meal. 

Philippe Raimbault “Mosaique” Pouilly-Fume 2008

Fresh and Grassy: With that much herbs being thrown around in my kitchen I must have a Sauvignon Blanc somewhere.  We found this wine on our last trip to France and I really love how the flavors of dried herbs, limes, and chalk mix together to create an old world wine with hints of new world styles in it. 


Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Seasonal Yellow Pears with Salted Caramel Sauce

Beringer Nightingale 2006 Napa Valley

Sweet and Luscious: Again, in the interest of disclosure I work for the company that makes this wine however I have nothing to do with the production directly and I wasn’t working for them during this vintage.  I just really like it as a well balanced late-harvest wine that conveniently comes in a 375mL as there will not be enough people at my house to finish off a 750mL bottle of dessert wine. The grapes are affected by botrytis which gives the wine beautiful honey and sweet yellow pear aromas to complement the full, sweet body and lingering finish. 

As you can see it will be a busy weekend in the kitchen for me but I hope it will be an enjoyable meal for my family as we celebrate the Christmas Season.  For more information about how to pair wines with food see my earlier Blog post The Pirate’s Code of Wine and Food Pairings  (http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=72).

Finally, Merry Christmas to you, my readers, and a wonderful and happy New Year’s as well.  Please drink responsibly and enjoy what you drink because life is too short not to drink great wines!

Cellar No. 8 Brand Tasting

Last Friday I had the pleasure of meeting the Cellar No. 8 marketing team and tasting through the current releases along with brand winemaker, Paul Rydquist.  After a great lunch at Catelli’s in Geyserville (awesome heirloom tomato salad!) we settled down to business which included the tastings.

For those who have not been to Asti Winery, home of Cellar No. 8 and Souverain, in the Alexander Valley, I’ll explain a bit about the brand. Asti Winery was originally called Italian Swiss Colony and was founded in 1881 by a group of Italian and Swiss immigrants.  Over the years, they became most famous for a wine called Tipo Chianti, an Italian style blend of red varieties which they grew on the property here.  Asti is home to the world’s first tasting room and the world’s largest underground tank (or at least it was in the early 1900s).  After Prohibition the winery took off again and played host to around 250,000 visitors per year (2nd only to Disneyland in CA) during the 50s and 60s.  This popularity prompted the architects of Highway 101 to give the winery its own exit called Asti which is still our main entrance today and is marked by a historical marker. Stop in if you happen to be traveling in CA on 101!  Anyway with all that history the people of Asti Winery decided that it needed a brand and the company couldn’t agree more so Cellar No. 8 was born, inspired by one of our older cellar buildings here on site called No. 8.

Cellar No. 8 has two labels; the white label which is nationally distributed and the black label which is only sold through the tasting room and a small number of off-site stores.  We went through the entire gambit on Friday; both black and white labels, and below are my notes and personalities of the wine.

Cellar No. 8 California Pinot Gris 2009 (White Label)

Stone and Chalk with a hint of Zesty and Fruity

A pale lemon colored core accented by a nose filled with lemons and white flowers brought together by undertones of wet chalk.  Off-dry with moderately high acid and medium alcohol, the palate flavors mirror the aromas on the nose with candied Meyer lemons, jasmine, and wet slate.  Crisp, refreshing, and to the point this is an easy drinker.

Cellar No. 8 California Chardonnay 2009 (White Label)

Buttery Beauty

Medium gold core with lemon highlights.  Moderate aromas of caramel, brown spices, and melted butter with hints of green apple fill the nose while the palate is off-dry with moderately high acid and medium plus alcohol.  The flavors in the mouth move more towards tropical fruits supported by spice and light toast with a moderately long finish.

Cellar No. 8 Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Black Label)

Zesty and Fruity with a bit of Fresh and Grassy

Pale lemon green core with aromas of Passion Fruit, Pink grapefruit, and guava this wine is much less grassy than some other Sauv Blancs from New World origins.  Dry with high acid and moderate alcohol the flavors on the palate show bits of lime zest, grapefruit, guava, and a long finish.  One of my favorite summer wines!

Cellar No. 8 Sonoma County Chardonnay 2008 (Black Label)

Buttery Beauty all the way

A moderately deep gold core sets the tone for this wine which is echoed in the intense nose displaying cloves, toast, butter, and ripe pineapple notes.  The palate is dry with moderately high acid and alcohol, low oak tannins and a long finish with flavors of baking spices, butter, and toast.  The new oak influence is lovely and intense.

Cellar No. 8 Syrah Rose 2008 (Black Label)

Zesty and Fruity

The color is a beautiful shade of deep rose with aromas on the nose of cherries, strawberries, and hints of lemon.  A dry palate with moderately high acid and alcohol complete with a bit of structure from low tannin levels make this wine a great choice for summer dining when you need something besides a white wine.  The berry flavors continue in the mouth to a moderately long and refreshing finish.

Cellar No. 8 California Pinot Noir 2008 (White Label)

Zesty and Fruity

The medium ruby core and lovely cherry and strawberry nose make this Pinot easy to approach.  The palate is dry with moderate acid and medium-low soft tannins.  The lighter style and fruity palate is complemented by a hint of spice on the moderate finish.

Cellar No. 8 California Merlot 2008 (White Label)

Power Punch with a Zesty and Fruity side

A deep ruby core and a nose screaming of bing cherry with a hint of dried herbs starts this wine off on the right foot.  Dry with moderate acid and moderately high alcohol, it also has flavors of red cherries, cola, cloves, toast, and dried thyme on the finish

Cellar No. 8 California Zinfandel 2008 (White Label)

Elegant and Floral

Aromas of black mission figs, black cherries, and vanilla fill the nose of this deep ruby colored wine.  The palate is dry with medium acid and moderately high alcohol with intense characters of brown baking spices, vanilla, cherries, and figs with pomegranates and a moderately long finish.

Cellar No. 8 California Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (White Label)

Power Punch

This wine started it all and still keeps going with a deep ruby core and moderately intense aromas of blackberries, black cherries, spices, and toast.  The palate is dry with moderately high acid and alcohol supported by moderately high, ripe tannins.  Flavors in the mouth move towards dark fruits, cloves, and oak toast with a long finish.

Cellar No. 8 Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 (Black Label)

Power Punch

This deeply colored wine shows off aromas of Black cherry, cinnamon, spices, vanilla, and red rose.  A dry palate with moderately high acid and high alcohol is supported by moderately high, ripe tannins and flavors of bramble fruits, black cloves, and toasted spices.  A long smooth finish hinting at strawberries caps the wine off.

Cellar No. 8 Andrea’s Blend 2006 (Black Label)

Power Punch

Named for the man that started Asti Winery, Andrea’s Blend, is the new take on the old favorite red blend that started the colony.  A deep ruby core and aromas of blackberries, cloves, and toast highlight the nose.  The palate is dry with moderate acid and high alcohol with flavors of figs, spices, and wild blackberries with a long finish. Smooth, ripe tannins make it a wine to pair with red meats and robust cheeses.

Cellar No. 8 Petit Sirah 2006 (Black Label)

Power Punch

This is, hands down, my favorite Petit Sirah to date (and I’d say that even if I didn’t work at the winery that made it)!  The opaque ruby color is marked by intense blackberry aromas reminiscent of blackberry pie.  The dry palate has moderate acid but high alcohol and high strong tannins.  The theme of blackberries continues on to the palate mingling with French oak toast and hints of brown spices on the moderately long finish.  Enjoy at your own risk!! J

Feel free to stop by anytime to try any of these wines and in the interest of full disclosure (if you haven’t picked it up already) these are tasting notes for wines produced at the winery at which I work.