Tag Archives: Light and Bubbly

State of the Harvest 9-27-10

   We’re about 5 weeks into our harvest here at Asti Winery in Alexander Valley however we’re just really getting into the thick of things this week.  Perhaps some of you read my blog post a few months ago, June to be exact, “Meandering thoughts on the vineyards this season” (http://www.novacadamatre.com/?p=79).  At the very end of this blog post I took a stab at figuring out how the season would progress.  Well it turns out that one end of my prediction seems to be coming true.  Everything seems to be ripening at one time.  This week is the first week we’ve really been staring at a wall of fruit coming our way.  Up to this point we’ve been harvesting mostly Central Valley fruit and while that constitutes a good bit of volume, it does not make up the most complex parts of the harvest. 

Now with those complexities upon us in the form of barrel fermented Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs produced in open top fermentors, and a myriad of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot produced with different fermentation temperatures, yeasts, and skin contact times.  For me, this is the really fun part of harvest but this year we will be fighting for tank space as well.  From chatting with my other wine industry friends this seems to be a common theme throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties.  The hot weather we’re seeing now is serving as both a boon and a bane as the sugars are beginning to spike in many varieties.  Russian River Chardonnay is very close to picking, likely this weekend or early next week.  This is normally one of the last Chardonnay vineyards to pick however this year it’s one of the earlier ones. 

Botrytis has reared its ugly head once again with the bit of moisture we picked up last week but most growers seem to be controlling it well through treatments and canopy management.  Acids overall are high and yields are down.  So far we’ve seen anywhere from 15-30% below average tonnage.  We’re just starting to get into the more northern counties of Lake and Mendocino with some Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc showing up in the near future.  Overall it’s been a smooth harvest so far however I feel a change in the tides this week.  We’re about to be up to our eyeballs in grapes. I think the next three weeks are going to fly by and we’ll all put our heads up at the end and think “Is it really the end of October already?”

On the tasting note side I’ve been very pleased to be drinking some really nice wines lately.  For a friend’s wedding this past weekend we shared a vintage 2000 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque which was lovely.  It was very toasty with hints of floral notes and light citrus (Light and Bubbly).  The other tasting highlight of the past two weeks has been a 1994 Penfold’s St. Henri Cabernet-Shiraz blend (Power Punch with Spicy and Smoky notes).  I was amazed at the color that still persisted in this wine.  It still had tints of purple on the rim and the fruit was mostly still primary and fresh notes of black cherries, blackberries, and spices.  It had only just begun to show more tertiary bottle aged notes of mission figs.  This one had a lot of life left in it.

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.

Vinitaly and Verona

I was recently invited on a supplier trip to go to Italy and France to visit their production sites as well as local wineries.  One of the main highlights of the trip was a visit to Vinitaly, an Italian focused trade show highlighting the wines from all over Italy.  I came armed with a half empty tasting journal, two notepads, and my favorite pen plus ink refills in order to capture the day in tasting notes.  The show itself was immense and it seemed like it is the highlight of the year for Verona as there were advertisements everywhere for it.  If one wanted to try all the wines that Italy has to offer without going all over the country to do it, I would recommend going to Vinitaly.  With around 4,200 exhibitors and 80 thousand square feet of exhibition space, it truly was one stop shopping.  This is the way Italy shows off its vintages to the trade buyers from all over the world.  I only had one day at the show so our group mainly focused on Piedmonte however we began our tour at a winery from Sicily plus visited a few other scattered regions around the show.  My tasting notes and personalities for the wines are below.

Cantine Paolini Inzolia Sicilia IGT 2009

Pale lemon core with green tints.  Medium – aromas of citrus, limes and lemons, fresh cut celery, Youthful.  Dry palate with Medium – acid, Medium + alcohol, Medium – skin tannins, Light body and Moderately low intensity flavors of lime, citrus with a slightly hollow middle finishing with a Medium + length with slight roughness from tannins.  Some call this variety the “Doughnut variety” due to a distinctively hollow middle which I picked up from this wine. Fresh and Grassy

Cantine Paolini “Gurgo” Grillo Sicilia IGT 2009

Medium Lemon core with green tints.  Medium aromas of pears, lemons, and slight toasty, youthful.  Dry palate with Medium – acid, Medium + alcohol, low oak tannins, Medium – body and moderately intense flavors of toast, light spice, lemons and pears with a Medium – finish.  Grillo is blended with Chardonnay in Sicilia and is quite similar in flavor however much lighter in body than Chardonnay.  Zesty and Fruity

Cantine Paolini “Gurgo” Viognier Sicilia IGT 2009

Medium lemon core.  Medium – aromas of lemons and light floral notes.  Dry palate with Medium + acid, medium alcohol, low skin tannins, Medium – body, and Moderate flavors of lemon and light white flowers, moderately long finish.  I would be unable to identify this as Viognier save for the skin tannins.  It was a much less intense display of the variety than I’ve come to expect in other Viogniers.  Fresh and Grassy

Cantine Paolini “Gurgo” Nero D’Avola Sicilia 2008

Medium – purple ruby core. Moderately intense aromas of raisins, jam, strawberries, and slight rubber notes.  Dry palate with moderately high acid, medium alcohol, Medium body, Medium – slightly green tannins with moderately intense flavors of herbs, strawberries, rubber, light cloves with a moderately long finish.  Raisins are typical of this variety I’m told. Elegant and Floral

Dante Rivetti Ivan Rose 2006

Medium Salmon core with fine bubbles.  Medium + aromas of salt and autolysis. Brut level dosage with moderately high acid, low alcohol, low skin tannins, Moderate flavors of salt crusted cheese, autolysis, and lemons, with a long finish.  Very creamy mousse on the mouth.  Light and Bubbly

Dante Rivetti Briccodoro Langhe Arneis 2009

Medium – lemon core with green tints and a prick of light CO2.  Moderately high intensity aromas of lemons, citrus, very light smoke, youthful with a refreshing nose.  Off-dry palate with Moderate acid, medium alcohol and low skin tannins. Light body and moderately intense flavors of lemon, citrus, white flowers with a moderately long finish. A very nice refreshing wine.  Fresh and Grassy

Dante Rivetti Barbera d’Alba 2008

Medium – garnet core.  Medium aromas of strawberries, light earth and spices. Dry palate with Medium acid, medium alcohol, and medium tannins.  Light body and Moderate flavors that echoed the nose and a Medium finish.  Barbera seems fruitier with more tannins than Pinot Noir although a similar color.  Elegant and Floral

Dante Rivetti Barbaresco Bricco Riserva 2004

Light garnet core with tawny rim.  Medium aromas of rosehips, spices, earth and dried fruits.  Dry palate with moderately high acid, Medium alcohol, High tannins, and Medium – body.  Moderate flavors of spices roses, earth and fruit (figs or dates), with a medium finish.  A really lovely Riserva Nebbiolo.  Elegant and Floral

Gianni Doolia Bosco Donne Barbera d’Asti 2008

Medium purple ruby core. Medium aromas of coffee, strawberries and raspberries.  Dry palate with moderately high acid, medium alcohol, Medium – tannins, Medium – body and Moderate flavors of strawberries, coffee, raspberries with a Medium finish.  Unoaked and slightly tanky.  Needs air but is a tank sample at this point. Elegant and Floral

Cascina Carlot Muscato d’Asti 2009

Pale lemon core with Moderate CO2 level.  Pronounced floral notes, peaches and Muscat characters.  Sweet palate with high acid, low alcohol and light body.  Pronounced flavors of nectarines, peaches, tropical flowers, and Muscat fruit with a long finish. Still my favorite Muscato d’Asti of the entire trip as it was incredibly complex with multiple different fruit flavors and the intensity was incredible! Light and Bubbly

Toledana Gavi di Gavi 2009

Not just a Gavi but a Gavi di Gavi as Marco was reminded by the person tending the booth.  The distinction is very important as the Gavi region was expanded and now the original area around the town of Gavi is known as Gavi di Gavi.  Cortese Variety.

Pale Lemon Core with light CO2. Medium – intensity nose with lemon and citrus notes.  Dry palate with moderately high acid, medium alcohol, and light body.  Moderately light intensity flavors of citrus and flowers.  Fresh and Grassy

Looking at the differences between Cortese, Garganega, Fiano and Pinot Grigio I’m hard pressed to tell them apart blind however there are subtle differences that one can tease out when confronted with several of these grapes at any one time.

La Doria Gavi DOCG 2009 Single Estate Blend

Pale lemon core.  Light intensity nose of citrus, floral notes, lemons, and chalk. Dry palate with moderately high acid, medium alcohol, and light body.  Medium flavors of flowers, passion fruit, lemons and chalk.  Light and Grassy, Stone and Chalk

La Toledana Gavi di Gavi Raccolto Tardivo- Harvested Nov. 2009

A late harvest Cortese with a very low yield of 50hl/ha.  When asked about botrytis problems, the winemaker said that animals were more problematic than the mold as Cortese is relatively resistant to botrytis influence.

Pale lemon core.  Medium aromas of ripe Meyer lemons, citrus, and chalk.  Off-dry palate with high acid, medium alcohol and medium body with moderately high intensity flavors of ripe fruits, peaches, and white flowers.  Long finish. Zesty and Fruity

Lo Zoccolaio Vigna dij Sagrin Dolcetto d’Alba 2009

Medium – purple ruby core. Medium + flavors of Strawberries

And cherries.  Dry palate, Medium + acid, Medium alcohol, medium – tannins, and Medium body.  Moderately intense flavors of strawberries, cherries and spices.  Tank sample. 30% new barrels every year and their current release is the 2006. Elegant and Floral

Lo Zoccolaio Barolo Ravera 2005

Medium – Garnet core. Medium + aromas of cedar, figs, dried cherries, earth and leather.  Dry palate with medium acid, medium alcohol, High but velvet smooth tannins with an interesting texture.  Moderately high intensity flavors of dried fruit, earth, leather, spices, cedar, and figs with a long finish.  Three years in French oak barrels with 30% new.  Elegant and Floral

Other wineries included Marenco and Fontanafredda.  At Marenco we had a lovely Brachetto D’Acqui that was sweet, creamy and full of strawberry flavors, an Asti Spumante which was light and fresh with intense floral notes and high acid, as well as a Passito wine made from dried Muscato grapes.  Fontanafredda was a specialty sparkling wine producer from Alta Langa, a lesser known DOC than its Franciacorta cousin, who also had Asti Spumante and Brachetto as well. The day ended with a visit to the Volli stand to taste a sparkling Brut and Extra Dry style Trebbiano that was extremely refreshing and crisp after a long day of tasting.

After the show, we were off to do some sight seeing in Verona.  Some of the highlights included the Coliseum and Juliet’s Balcony.  Dinner was another incredible experience at the restaurant Alcova del Frate with fantastic meats, two wonderful wines, a Valpolicella and an Amarone della Valpolicella as well as Cavallo (Horse meat) which tasted like a mix of buffalo and venison minus the gamey flavor.  Apparently Cavallo is a local delicacy that is becoming rarer and rarer to find. We finished with the house made Tiramisu which was heavenly.