Showing posts with label Malvasia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malvasia. Show all posts

Monday, December 10, 2018

Orvieto: From The Heart Of Italy

Argillae's Orvieto is in Italy's Umbria region, landlocked and surrounded by other Italian regions in the heart of the country.  The area has changed shape since the time of the Romans and has seen many wars through the years, most recently World War II.

Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo in the hills north of the town and the 94-acre estate is now run by today's generation.  Their U.S. importer says winemaker Lorenzo Landi works with grapes grown in clay, sand and limestone.  Argillae, in fact, is the Italian word for clay.  The clay soil stays cool and helps the grapes grow better through the hot Umbrian summer.  Ancient fossils dot the landscape from two million years ago, adding their own special minerality to the fruit and the wines.

The 2016 Argillae Orvieto is a blend of grapes: Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  You may recognize Procanico by its local name - Trebbiano.  The different grapes were vinified separately in stainless steel tanks, then blended together and aged a few months in those tanks.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13% abv and I paid $11 by the glass for it at a Beverly Hills Italian restaurant.

This dry white wine strikes a nice balance between the floral and mineral aspects.  Served too cold, as it always seems to be in restaurants, it's hard to dig out any scent at all.  Once it escapes the clutches of the refrigerator, the citrus and minerals work hard enough to rival the flowers. The palate is mineral-driven and fits perfectly with pasta and chicken in a light tomato sauce.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Orvieto: Dry Italian White Wine

Argillae is located near Orvieto, in Italy's Umbria region, landlocked and surrounded by other Italian regions in the heart of the country.  Its borders have changed shape since the time of the Romans and the area has seen many wars and battles through the years, most recently in World War II.

Argillae was founded by Cavaliere del Lavoro Giuseppe Bonollo in the hills north of the town and the 94-acre estate is still run by today's generation.  Their U.S. importer says their winemaker is Lorenzo Landi.  The grapes grow in clay, sand and limestone.  Argillae, in fact, is the Italian word for clay.  The clay soil stays cool and helps the grapes grow better through the hot Umbrian summer.  Ancient fossils dot the landscape from two million years ago, adding their own special minerality to the fruit and the wines.

The 2016 Argillae Orvieto is a blend of grapes: Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  Procanico is the local name for Trebbiano.  The different grapes were vinified separately in stainless steel tanks, then blended together and aged a few months in those tanks.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13% abv and I paid $11 by the glass at a Beverly Hills Italian restaurant.

This dry white wine strikes a nice balance between its floral and mineral aspects.  Served too cold, as white wine always seems to be in restaurants, it's hard to dig out any scent at all.  Once it escapes the clutches of the refrigerator, the citrus and minerals work hard enough to rival the flowers. The palate is mineral-driven and fits perfectly with pasta and chicken in a light tomato sauce.


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Italian Bubbly That's Not Merely Festive

Every now and then, a wine gets lost in the rack. It's not really lost, but it just becomes part of the scenery. You see it every day and say "I need to open that bottle one of these days." The Pa Kettle imitation becomes a routine, done daily without thinking. There's nothing wrong with the wine. It's just as desirable as the day it was purchased, but it never seems to hop out and get into a glass. This nice Italian white sparkler was bought for a Hollywood Bowl concert last summer, but somehow didn't make the trip. So let's finally open it already.

The Monte della Vigne sustainably farmed vineyards run from an elevation of 300 meters down to the Taro River in Parma, I.G.T. Emilia. According to their website, the winery is underground, cool, dry and soundproof.

This frizzante wine is made entirely of Malvasia di Candia aromatica grapes. It's made using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in a big steel tank, rather than in the bottle. Its alcohol content is only 11.5% abv and it sells around the low side of 20 bucks.

This pale gold Italian sparkler, Malvasia Classica 2013, smells of lovely, yeasty lemons and apples with bubbles to spare. Actually, they dissipate quickly but are very festive while they are there. The palate is so full of fizz, it's almost lighter than air. Acidity is quite good and the yeast carries through in the flavor and finish. After the bubbles die down, a certain funkiness takes hold, which I find fascinating, but some may not. That earthy quality separates the wine from a simpler, but equally festive, prosecco. This one has the bubbles, but it also means business.


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Friday, September 23, 2016

Moruno: Spanish Wine, Food And A Little SBC Vermouth

"Get something you've never tried before," said my wife as we scanned the wine list at Moruno, the Spanish restaurant in L.A.'s Original Farmers Market. It’s a great place, with delightful Spanish dishes and an adventurous wine list that leans heavily in the Iberian direction.

Since most of the plates we get there are new to me, it makes sense to go with a grape that’s under my radar as well. Hondarribi Beltza, f’rinstance. I have heard of Hondarribi's white counterpart, but was unfamiliar with the red version. It comes from a place called Bizkaiko.

Located in Spain's Basque Country, on the nation’s north coast, the Bizkaiko Txakolina region is a collection of more than 80 little communities all growing wine grapes. They make Txakoli wine largely from the white Hondarrabi Zuri grape. This wine is made from the less common red grape, Hondarribi Beltza, grown primarily in the coastal town of Bakio.

Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakolina Hondarribi Beltza 2015

The waitress at Moruno offered the red Basque wine, and I could not resist. The wine's nose brings dark fruit layered with black olive and bell pepper. Its palate is just as savory, with some earthy blackberry in the balance.

The red Txakoli wine was great with the artichokes a la plancha - salty, caramelized exterior with a tender inner.  The music that was playing in the restaurant during our meal got high praise from my wife - big Eddie Kendricks fan.

But Wait, There's More...

I hate to relegate this to a postscript, but I asked for a taste of a vermouth that Moruno has on the menu. It's made by Steve Clifton of Lompoc's Palmina Wines and comes in both red and white. It's on tap in the restaurant from five-gallon kegs. The label images come from Palmina's Twitter feed.

The organic Vermina vermouth is a collaboration between Clifton and L.A. restaurateur David Rosoff. It’s part of Rosoff’s effort to bring European bistro dining to Southern California. Clifton reportedly digs around himself in Santa Barbara County to find the herbs he uses in the vermouth. According to the L.A. Weekly, the white vermouth is a blend of pinot grigio and malvasia wines, while the  red vermouth adds a touch of Sangiovese for its color.

It has a nose of violets and botanicals and shows wonderful freshness on the palate with a strawberry flavor that is carried along by the slightly medicinal notes of the botanicals.


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Friday, May 24, 2013

Spanish Wine: Rioja


The wines of Spain's Rioja region are varied and always a delight.  From crisp, young whites to fresh rosados to bright and cheery young reds and those with some age and oak influence, the wines of Rioja never fail to impress while showing off their terroir.

The Rioja region lies between mountain ranges in the north-central part of Spain and is separated into three main sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.  Tempranillo is the main red grape, although you will often see Graciano, Garnacha (Grenache) and Mazuelo.  For white wines, Viura is popular, with Malvasia playing a supporting role.

Tempranillo wines are defined four different ways.  Cosecha are young wines, one or two years old.  Crianza wines are in at least their third year, with a minimum of one year in oak.  Reserva wines are aged a minimum of three years, two for whites, with at least one in oak.  Gran Reserva refers to selected wines from great vintages.  They have spent at least two years in oak and three in the bottle.  Whites are aged at least four years. It may sound a little complicated, but the system defines the wines of Rioja well.

Not only do Rioja wines have a generally high level of quality, but they deliver it at very affordable prices.  Most of the wines I will mention here are in the $10 to $20 range.  A few went as high as $30, and some are under $10.

Here are some of the standouts I tasted at a Rioja tasting sponsored by Vibrant Rioja at Fleming's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills on May 7th, 2013.

It's not a Rioja tasting without a stop at the Lopez de Heredia table.  WineWise had these, and the whites are simply outstanding.  The Viña Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2003 is 100% Viura and has four years in the barrel and four in the bottle.  The Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 1998 has six years in the barrel and is 90% Viura.  These well-aged whites are really unbelievable.

Ole Imports, distributed by Angeles Wine, had two fresh wines by Cortijo.  The 2012 Rosado is all Tempranillo with brilliant acidity while the 2011 Tinto has 20% Garnacha thrown in, with only three months in oak.  Field blend fans should take note of the El Brozal 2010 - roughly 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 10% Garnacha, grown together in the 1938 vineyard and co-fermented.  There is an intriguing, savory nose and fabulous acidity.  The VSL Graciano 2010 - the only 100% Graciano I saw at the event - is savory.  It is fermented in concrete and spends only three months in oak.

I found Undiscovered Wines in the far corner of the room.  Rodriguez Sanzo's Lacrimus 5 is all unoaked Tempranillo, fresh and juicy, while their Lacrimus Rex blends Garnacha and Graciano for a dark, vibrant red that was one of my favorites.  The Zinio Garnacha is lovely - a bit more savory than I expected - and the fruity, funky nose of the Heredad Garblo Crianza mixes four red grapes - Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.

Importer CIV USA had some excellent wines from Conde de Valdemar.  Their Sierra Cantabria Blanco 2011 is 100% Viura, aged three to five months in French oak.  It has a distinctive floral aspect on both the nose and palate.  Their 2011 Rosado is a pink-tinted blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, from vines pushing 70 years old.  Great acidity is the highlight, with an herbal strand and a nice touch of oak.  Their Crianza 2008 has an exceptional nice oak effect and a savory side that dominates.

Dinastia Vivanco Blanco 2012 is a mix of Viura, Malvasia and White Tempranillo.  The pourer told me, with a laugh, that the last grape is nothing like White Zinfandel.  It is a natural mutation of the red Tempranillo grape and was not discovered until 1988.  This wine displays a huge streak of citrus.  Their Rosado 2012 is Tempranillo and Garnacha, showing a garden of strawberry.  The Vivianco Crianza 2008 has lively, young fruit while their Vivianco Reserva 2005 is a mature blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.

From Fine Estates of Spain, Jorge Ordonez Portfolio, comes a nearly perfect Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2012, with strawberry, cherry and fantastic acidity in the Tampranillo/Garnacha/Viura blend.  They also poured the Finca Allende Blanco 2009, a 90% Viura/10% Malvasia mix.  The nutty, floral nose anticipates a great, savory palate.

Folio Wine had the unbelievably refreshing Palacio Remondo Placet Valtomelloso 2011.  This unoaked Viura wine has fruit all over the nose and an herbal touch on the palate.  The Palacio Remondo La Montessa 2009 is a Garnacha/Tempranillo blend - heavy on the Garnacha - which spends 18 months in oak, yet is still light, bright and refreshing.  The Artadi Vinas de Gain 2009 is a savory 100% Tempranillo wine.

Frederick Wildman &Co. Splashed a nice white, the El Coto Blanco 2012 - 100% Viura aged in steel with a sweet, floral nose.  Also unoaked is the El Coto Rosado 2012, all Tempranillo with lovey strawberry and herbal flavors.  The fruit-forward red, El Coto de Imaz Reserva 2005, makes a great everyday wine.  The Baron de Lay Gran Reserva 2004 has dusty fruit and great tannic structure.

Grape Expectations Imports poured the Bodegas Lan D-12 2009, a light and delicious Tempranillo.
Vinos Libres Wine Merchants splashed a taste of the Luis Alegre Koden Semi-Crianza 2010.  Not an official designation, the importer calls it semi-Crianza due to its six months in oak.  It is an elegant and savory Tempranillo.


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Friday, September 28, 2012

Out Of The Blue Wine Tasting: Blue Danube Wine Company


The wines of Slovenia and Croatia don't get a lot of exposure except to certified wine geeks who seek out these gems.  Blue Danube Wine Company specializes in importing wines from eastern and central Europe from their base in northern California.  We are all richer that they do.

The Out of the Blue tasting event was held on September 17, 2012 at Los Angeles wine bar Bacaro.  I'm ashamed to say I had never explored the place before, but the discovery is a good one.  The small, rustic interior has chalkboard wine menus featuring small-production wines from all over the world.  They even carry some of the hard-to-pronounce items imported by Blue Danube.  They also have a great kitchen, and I'll mention the food after we cover the wines that were poured at the event.

Frank Dietrich and Michael Newsome were pouring as fast as they could to a small, but appreciative crowd that seemed quite knowledegable about the wines.  I seemed to be one of the few who stumbled over the names of the wines and wineries.

Dietrich told me that "Slovenians like their white wines aromatic."  "Aromatic" and "floral" kept popping up in my tasting notes so much I was beginning to feel I had a tired palate that day.  There were plenty of "nutty" flavors on hand, too - sometimes going hand in hand with the floral aspect.  Grapes like Yellow Muscat and Malvasia are used quite a bit in the whites, but we also see a lot of Ravan (formerly Tocai Friulano,) Rebula (known as Ribollo in Italian,) Pinela and Pinot Gris.  Chardonnay and Riesling also turn up from time to time.  It's worth noting, there were only a handful of wines poured which sold for more than $20 per bottle.

We started with a couple of nice sparkling wines produced by Kogl, in Eastern Slovenia.  One was made using Riesling, Yellow Muscat, Chardonnay and Furmint grapes, while the other was all Pinot Noir.  Both were toasty, and the latter showed a darker fruit flavor.

The western part of Slovenia was represented by Kabaj and Batic, which poured whites that are largely nutty tasting and reds that are lean, acidic and slightly tart.  I don't know if it has been tried, but cold-climate producers in the U.S. should get some cuttings.  My favorite Slovenian white was the Batic 2008 Pinela, a funky and complex wine showing straw and guava flavors.  I was wowed by the Kabal '08 Merlot - smokey and tart on the nose with great dark fruit and acidity on the palate.  Dietrich says, "it's still very young."  The Batic '09 Cabernet Franc is showing beautifully, with red fruit and an herbal note.  It is quite expressive.

Croatia is crazy about Malvasia.  Examples from Coronica, Terzolo and Piquentum exhibited savory tendencies that are irresistible.  As for the Croatian reds, Stoka's '09 Teran provided a hard edge for the raspberry fruit.  Dingac Winery puts the minerals up front in their '10 Peljesac and throws in some spice for their '08 Postup, a single-vineyard Plavic Mali wine from high up on a hillside.

Milos scores with their '08 Plavac and '05 Stagnum, two reds with great acidity and an amazingly light touch with the fruit.  Both are extremely focused wines.

Tastes of tapas were served by the crew at Bacaro LA.  A crostini with salmon and red onion on a spead of parsley cream cheese was a hit, and so was the one with blue cheese, apple and pepper sauce.  A panini of mozzarella and rosemary honey was reordered quickly, while a morsel featuring eggplant, sea salt and basil also had many fans.

Danny was the guy in charge, and he told me they had been open there - just south of the Santa Monica Freeway near downtown Los Angeles - for about five years.  He says Bacaro has a full house nearly every night, with grad students and profs from USC joined by locals and folks from as far away as Santa Monica.  Their small plates menu is delicious, and their wines keep things interesting.  Danny says that's why the wines imported by Blue Danube are such a good fit there.  They complement the food in taste as well as spirit.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

CASTELLO LUZZANO MALVASIA TASTO DI SETA COLLI PIACENTINI


Luzzano Malvasia Seta

Los Angeles fans of Italian wines have a great place to find the fruit of their passion and some pretty tasty eats, too.  Cube on La Brea Avenue is a cafe, a wine bar specializing in Italian vino, a cheese bar and a market all rolled into one location.

We stopped in there for lunch during a break in a hectic shopping day.  The place with the "What's Up D.O.C." sign above it was once again the right choice.

We opened with a couple of cheeses - Holzhofer (a strong cow's milk Swiss) and Smokey Blue (a delightfully pungent cow's milk blue cheese from Oregon.)  I followed with the braised bacon on polenta.  The "bacon" was more like slow-cooked pulled pork, only a hundred times more flavorful.

The wine - Luzzano's "Seta" Malvasia - is made from 100% Malvasia di Candia grapes grown in the Colli Piacentini D.O.C. of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region.  It is aged six months in stainless steel.  The price is an affordable $9 per glass and the bottle price (to take home) is $16.

The Seta's nose is quite green.  Mostly floral aromas with an herbal twist are laced with a bready, yeasty edge that's amazing and intriguing.  Minerals and zesty lemon lime abound on the palate.  There's definitely a steeliness there, but it flies in the face of the full, round mouthfeel.

It paired with both cheeses well - better with the Holzhofer - and was a near-perfect mate for the savory bacon dish.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

BORGHI VIN SANTO DEL CHIANTI 2002


Borghi Vin Santo del Chianti

Vin Santo wine is about as close as I'm likely to get to a religious experience. The Italian traditional wine - the wine of the saints - was made in small batches for family and church use for centuries. Many wine regions in Italy produce their own versions of Vin Santo, using a variety of local grapes. It didn't become a commercially exported product until the 1970s.
Grapes for Vin Santo are harvested by hand and hung from rafters to dry - this may take three months or so. Once dry, they are pressed and the juice is placed in small oak or chestnut barrels -caratelli - to ferment for up to 10 years, even longer. The wine is produced in sweet, dry or semi dry types.
The type I'm drinking - Borghi Vin Santo del Chianti 2002 - is a dry type, produced from a blend of 70% Trebbiano Toscano Bianco and 30% Malvasia del Chianti Tuscany. This dry white wine - brownish amber in color, actually - is a single vineyard and single vintage wine which is aged a minimum of three years in those little caratelli barriques. It's a strong wine at 16% abv.
It smells a lot like sherry to me. The alcohol is prevalent on the nose and the aroma of raisins cuts through the heat. On the palate, this Vin Santo tastes of dried fruit - not a surprise - and has a delicious sweetness, like caramel. It's a dry wine, to be sure, but it has a wonderful sweet edge to it. The finish lingers forever and leaves the sensation of an Irish whiskey, if you'll pardon the ethnic juxtaposition.
I may not buy much of what the Catholic church is selling, but drinking Vin Santo is pretty close to finding religion in a bottle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

PALAZZONE DUBINI BIANCO UMBRIA 2008


Palazzone Dubini Bianco Umbria

We got together with friends we see far too little of, with the intent of a casual night outdoors at the Farmer's Market.  Springtime in Los Angeles proved a bit too chilly in the open air, so we hoofed it over to The Grove and landed at Morel's.  We guys talked about guitars and the Grateful Dead and the stuff we used to do while the gals talked about who knows what and laughed themselves silly when I took a picture of my wine glass.  Fingers were placed in the shot and a great time was had by all.
I had the pleasure of an Umbrian wine, Palazzone Dubini Bianco.  It's an $8 glass, which is fairly paltry by today's restaurant standards.  I've found that an $8 glass of wine in a restaurant generally means you can buy a whole bottle of it at a wine shop for about the same price.

Orvieto is the best-known Umbrian wine, and this Palazzone actually qualifies as an Orvieto.  The wine was declassified, though, into the broader Umbria IGT.

The blend is 50% Procanico - the local Trebbiano - 20% Verdello and lesser amounts of Grechetto, Drupeggio and Malvasia.  Stainless steel fermentation allows these various fruits to express themselves uninfluenced by oak.

Pale golden in the glass, the nose is fresh and flowery.  The palate is full of minerals, which is how I like a white wine.  Flavors of apples, wet rocks and lemon zest dominate.  It was almost as much fun as the company I had at the table  that evening.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tasting Event: A Taste of Tuscany


I really should have written about this event already. It's two weeks after the fact, and I want to go to it again. My friend Nicolas Soufflet - pictured at right - staged this little taster in Hollywood, and did a fine job with it. When he does another one - and I know he will - you should attend.

A Taste of Tuscany was held at Victors Square Restaurant, on Bronson north of Franklin in Hollywood. It was a
very nice setup, with the restaurant pretty much devoted to our crowd. Three tables were arranged like a square with a side missing. This gave Nicolas a stage of sorts from which to work. A stand-up map of Tuscany loomed large, so we could all have a visual reference of where the wines were produced. Much of the space was filled with cases of the wines we were to taste. Nicolas stood in front of the map and explained in detail the specifics of the wines we were tasting. His knowledge and personality provided at least as much enjoyment as the wines. And that's saying a lot.

Big props should go to
Bill Gotti, the owner of Victors Square. He not only provided the space for the event, he also provided a few stories for our pleasure, as well as a menu of some mighty delicious pasta dishes.

On to the wines! Here's what I tasted:

Vernaccia di San Gimignano - Tuscan white, 100% Vernaccia. A pale golden color, very light nose. Dry and refreshing with minerals, citrus, good acidity. Hint of wet rocks, strong minerality.

Trebbiano Toscano Bianco
- Another white, from the Barco Reale region of Tuscany. Trebbiano is the white counterpart to Sangiovese. 85% Trebbiano, 15% Malvasia. Pale color and pungent nose, very clean taste with a good finish. Smokey flavor, very smooth. Great with Parmesan cheese.


Morellino di Scansano
- 100% Sangiovese. Medium purple, dark fruit nose, great flavor of blackberry, plum, black cherry. A nice finish, very clean with a kiss of oak.


Morello Toscano Rosso
- 75% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Darker ruby color, oakier nose. Aromas of black cherry. Medium mouthfeel, dark fruit, currant, some vanilla. Good acidity; needs a steak! A bit lightweight for me, but a nice taste saves the day.


Chianti Riserva
- 100% Sangiovese. Quite dark ruby color. Oak very predominant on nose. Medium mouthfeel. A little oaky, showing a bit of spice, plums, some raspberry. Again a lightweight feel.


Rosso di Montalcino - 100% Sangiovese. Deep red with a nose full of roses and oak. Tannic & fruity - plums. Very good for food, with great acidity. This wine is very easy to drink.

Vin Santo del Chianti
- 70% Trebbiano, 30% Malvasia. Very good dessert wine, salmon in color with some tawny looking shades. Could be the light. A sweet nose and a sweet, nutty palate. VERY good with biscotti. My wife is a big fan of barley candy, and she said this wine had very strong notes of that treat from her childhood.