Tag Archives: Italy

Harvest 2011: How California became Italy

This year has had it all.  We started with heavy frost on the Central Coast, rain during bloom and spring hail.  The craziness continued with a long temperate summer which was punctuated by few heat spikes (if you can call mid 90s a heat spike out here).  Growers fought Powdery Mildew and numerous invasive insect species all summer including the European Grapevine Moth, Light Brown Apple Moth, and the Oriental Fruitfly.  For those growers who were able to get through the gauntlet of summer, everything was looking perfect until early October when the rain came back and brought with it watered down flavors, muted colors, and botrytis.  As I woke to the sound of frost fans in northern Napa Valley today I felt that we had come full circle. 

 

Today is the last day of harvest for Asti Winery.  We’ve survived although the last three weeks have been crazy and stressful.  It’s also a time of reflection over the wines that are fermenting away from this vintage.  The floral whites are beautiful.  Marked by crisp acid and intense white flower and spice notes, the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer have really stood out this harvest.  The Chardonnays that were harvested before the first October rain, while lower in alcohol, are displaying elegant fruit flavors and balanced acids.  The alcohol conversions on whites this year were insanely high.  Sugars that were picked at 23 Brix are topping out in the 13.5% range showing extremely efficient yeast conversion.  Chardonnays picked after the rains look to be less concentrated than the pre-rain picks plus they are showing Botrytized characters that lean towards a bit earthy in most cases.  Luckily most of our lots are pre-rain thanks to the hustle of our vineyard crews and growers. 

 

It was yesterday as we tasted through pressed off Cabernets though when I came to the realization that my tasting notes were not that of a typical California Cabernet.  Aromas of raspberry leaves, black currants, and sous-bois shined through in the best examples with high acid and moderate alcohol on the palate paired with moderately high powdery tannins.  Granted these wines are pre-ML and have not seen oak for the most part but it struck me as very similar to my notes on Cabernet  from Tuscany.  As we’ve been saying all along, this vintage will be vastly different from what has become the norm in California.  There will be some bad wine out there, I’m sure, but I believe that there will also be a new style of California wine to be found this year.  All the proponents that have been wishing for lower alcohol, this is your year!  The reds had the opposite issue from the whites as the conversion rates were very low. Even the higher Brix reds (which were anything over 24 this year) are only showing in the high 13% range.  It’s going to be interesting to see how these wines develop and how each winery dealt with this challenging year.  Most of all I feel sorry for anyone who gets one of this vintage on a blind exam down the road because it’s going to be so different from what is accepted as a typical California style.

 

As for me, I’m looking forward to capturing the spirit of this vintage in my wines this year.  I think it will be fun!

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!