Showing posts with label Pinot Grigio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pinot Grigio. Show all posts

Monday, November 29, 2021

Pinot Grigio From Sicily - They Should All Be Like This One

People sometimes don't think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  While that may be true for some, the best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us.  Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise - are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a price that is more than fair.  Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office eight years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

The 2020 Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio is a full varietal Pinot Grigio, grown and made on the Italian island of Sicily.  The appellation is Sicilia IGT.  These grapes were turned into wine in stainless steel tanks, where they also aged for two months before bottling.  Alcohol touches 12% abv and the retail price is just $12.  

The wine appears as a very pale yellow in the glass.  Its nose suggests citrus and minerals more than flowers and fruit.  The aromas come across as a savory salinity, not the dainty sweetness which afflicts many Pinot Grigio wines.  The palate follows suit, with a bit of the sea in the flavor profile that centers largely on limes, lemons and grapefruit.  The finish is medium long and the minerals are the lasting impression.  The acidity is zippy and fresh enough for seafood and salad pairings.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Collio Wines Bring The Minerals

The Italian wine region known as Collio is located in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy's northeast corner, between the Giulian Alps and the Adriatic Sea.  It offers its winemakers a mild microclimate and soil - called ponca - which is a remnant of a time when the ocean covered the land, consisting of marl and sandstone, with marine fossils abundant.  The land gives Collio wines their striking minerality.

Toros Pinot Bianco Collio 2019

Franco Toros is known for his wines which accentuate the minerality of Friuli, and especially Collio.  The 100% Pinot Bianco grapes were grown in the hillside vineyards and fermented in steel tanks, where the wine also aged.  Alcohol rings in at 14% abv and the wine sells for around $19.

The Toros Pinot Bianco Collia 2019 has a nice golden color in the glass. I get a muted nose with apricot aromas foremost and citrus minerals chasing. The palate shows stone fruit and minerals galore. Acidity is nice and fresh, even zippy.  The finish is medium long and carries the minerals back for a revisit. 

Borgo Conventi Pinot Grigio Collio 2019

The winery Borgo Conventi says its name comes from the legend concerning the commune of Farra d'Isonzo.  So the story goes, Count Strassoldo - il Rizzardo to the locals - donated a piece of land to Dominican friars who then built the first monastery in the area.

The Conventi Pinot Grigio Collio 2019 was fermented and aged in steel tanks, enhancing the minerality and freshness.  The alcohol number is 13.5% abv and the wine sells for around $20.

The yellow-tinted wine smells floral and tropical, with white flowers, apricot and mango coming through on the nose.  There is also a bit of citrus minerality, like a sidewalk after a rain.  The palate shows the stone fruit and tropical aspect, with a hefty slice of acidity to go along with it.  So fresh and racy is it that one can feel free to pair this Pinot Grigio with seafood rather than restrict it to salads. 

Ronco Blanchis Collio Friulano 2019

Ronco Blanchis is in the process of converting to organic farming, which they say will be complete sometime in 2021.  The operation is headed up by Giancarlo Palla and his sons Lorenzo and Alberto.  Winemaker Gianni Menotti was named Italian winemaker of the year in 2006.  

The winery refers to vintners as "poets of the land," a land which once belonged to the Greeks, then the Romans, Austria and Spain, a land influenced by its proximity to mountains and sea.

This wine was made of Tocai Friulano grapes, vinified and aged in steel.  Alcohol tips 14% abv and it retails for around $15.

This clear yellow wine pours up very slightly frizzante, with a small collection of tiny bubbles clinging to the glass.  On the nose there is a sweet apricot aroma mixed with a delicate blend of herbs and minerals.  Those minerals drive the palate, which is exquisitely citrus.  The acidity comes on strong, then softens through the sip into a gentle tingle.  It is an elegant white wine, offering a perfect balance of herbal notes, earthiness and freshness.

Vina Borut Blazič Malvasia Collio 2019

Blazič is actually located in Slovenia, right on the border with Italy.  Some of the Blazič vineyards are in Slovenia, some are in Italy's Collio region.

Their 100% Malvasia wine was aged for seven months in concrete and another couple of months in the bottle.  Alcohol is 14% abv

This wine has a yellow-green tint and a nose that is a bit closed, or maybe subtle is a better word.  Very light citrus notes give way to a mix of cantaloupe and honeydew.  The palate is anything but subtle.  Big toasted almond flavor elbows past Meyer lemon and tangerine to lead the way.  The acidity is fantastic - just enough but not too much.  The finish wraps up the sip with a beautiful salinity.  The more of Collio I taste, the more I love that region.

Conti Formentini Raiante Ribolla Gialla Collio 2019

The winery's U.S. importer indicates that the Formentini family has owned the castle on the tallest hill in Friuli since the 16th century.  The wine that was made there was reported, even way back then, as being "exquisite."  The name Raiante comes from the local word for "a ray of sunshine."

A little more than a third of the Ribolla Gialla grapes that make up the wine are set aside for a month to dry, then added to the fermenting wine.  The process is said to give more body to Raiante.  Alcohol is restrained at 13% abv and it can probably be found for less than $20.

This wine colors up a medium-pale yellow with green highlights.  The nose is earthy and mineral-driven, with mango, guava, apricot and citrus aromas.  The palate offers salinity and stone fruit, along with a decent acidity that refreshes.  The citrus flavor that plays through the strongest is lime.  This is a really great wine for crab cakes or shrimp dishes. 

Polje Fantazija Bianco Collio DOC  2019

The Polje winery was named after the geological depressions, or sinkholes, formed in limestone which has been eroded over time.  It is this limestone element of the soil which lends the incredible minerality to the wine.

Fantazija was made from Ribolla Gialla, Chardonnay and Sauvignon grapes, fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the retail price is around $20.

The nose on this wine from Italy's Collio region is explosive enough to make an impression before the glass has been raised.  Floral, then herbal, then honeydew melon, then limes, then - of all things - smoke!  It's a showstopper.  The palate offers a mineral-driven flintiness, with citrus, melon and a fine acidity.  Pair it with oysters, shrimp, or a calamari and scungilli salad. 


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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pinot Grigio That Is Actually A Bargain

People sometimes don’t think that wine importers are very important, that all they do is have crates of wine shipped in from who-knows-where to be peddled on the shelves in the lower reaches.  The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the pleasure to us.  Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise - are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a price that is more than fair.  Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office eight years ago.  They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 carries the designation of Terre Siciliane IGT, which means the grapes were grown in the clay soil of Sicily.  It is a full varietal wine, all Pinot Grigio, with restrained alcohol at 12.5% and a price tag of $12.  We tend to think of that price point as "bargain wine," but often the quality is poor enough to nullify the concept.  If the wine is no good, is it really a bargain?  This wine is a true bargain.

My experience with Pinot Grigio - and Pinot Gris - leaves me flat, really.  PG is not my favorite grape, by a long shot.  It is so seldom captured in all its savory beauty, more often drenched in a floral sweetness and hung with a sameness that reaches from brand to brand.

This wine is drier than your typical - or at least my typical - Pinot Grigio.  Almost the color of water, the nose shows the usual suspects: flowers and limes and rocks, oh my.  The accent on minerality is a nice flourish, particularly in this grape.  On the palate, the floral angle plays a tad stronger, with citrus in tow.  That Sicilian salinity makes itself known throughout.


Monday, November 4, 2019

Italian Wines On Display In L.A.

If you don't know Italian wine, shake hands with your new best friend.  Italian wine is what goes with Italian food, from pasta to pesto, scampi to scungilli.

The Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour 2019 is underway, spreading the gospel of Italian wines to big cities across the nation.  The Los Angeles stop was held in October on the terrace garden of the fabulous SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.  I was invited to attend the walk-around tasting session, and here are my notes.  All the wineries mentioned here are seeking U.S. importers.

Italy's terroir is varied, and I have always found that nothing tastes like an Italian wine - even a wine of the same grape, grown somewhere else.  Wine regions like Piedmont, Veneto, Lazio, Lombardy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna, Sicily, Tuscany and others were on display.

Cantina Sociale di Trento poured their 2018 Teroldego Dolomite Vineyard.  The grapes were grown at 600 meters and above and were vinified in stainless steel.  The wine shows good color and savory cherry and plum flavors.  The freshness is amazing.

Zell's 100% Chardonnay bubbly spent 30 months in the bottle.  It has a wonderful nose and palate, great acidity and bubbles from the traditional method.

Casa Vinicola Carminucci offered two wines.  The 2018 Belato Pecorino is made from grapes grown in Offida, the only DOCG in La Marcha.  The nose is light citrus and it's a wine made for food.  The 2018 Grotte sul Mare Rosato is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Montepulciano.  Cherry, strawberry, nice acidity, quite refreshing.

La Fortezza has the 2011 Aglianico Riserva, which aged for three years in oak and one in the bottle.  Lovely fruit, savory earth.  The 2015 Aglianico got 8-10 months of oak and six months in the bottle.  The 2018 Falanghina has beautiful florals, citrus and savory plum.

Azienda Agricola Zaglia Giorgio's 2018 Pinot Grigio is from Friuli.  Savory on the nose and palate, its presentation is earthy - not on pretty side.  The 2018 Prosecco is extra dry, not as sweet as one usual finds the style.  Their 2018 Rosato is made of Merlot from Venezia Giulia.  It has a beautiful salmon color and fruity cherry.

Manvi's 2017 Myra Rosso di Montepulciano is all Sangiovese with no oak treatment to get in the way of the grape.  The 2014 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is also a varietal Sangiovese, but it spent two years in oak and another in the bottle.  I get plums. Prunes and a savory finish.  The 2015 Ojas Riserva Montepulciano will pair well with game or lamb.  The name is Sanskrit for vitality.

Matteo Soria showed off their 2018 Soria, a delightful Moscato which is bubbly, fresh and fruity. It aged for nine months on the lees in the tank.

Azienda Agricola Sordo Giovanni brought their 2015 Sordo Barolo - light in color, lovely nose, easy sipper, nice tannins but not too firm.  Their 2009 Sordo Barolo Riserva Perno has better structure and a deeper color, showing some bricking on the edges.

Vignetti Repetto of Piedmont poured the 2017 Equilatero, a steel-made Barbera.  The 2017 Rosso is a red blend which also saw no oak.  The 2018 Derthona Quadro Timorasso Colli Tortonesi has a lovely salinity after steel vinification and aging on the lees.  The Timorasso grape is difficult to grow and almost went extinct in the 1980s.  Plantings in the area have gone from two acres to 350 in 30 years.  Derthona is the Roman name of the village. 


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Friday, September 27, 2019

An Italian Pinot Grigio To Love

Hot weather doesn't necessarily mean rosé wine - although it's always a great choice.  Any cool, refreshing white wine could serve as a summer sipper, especially Pinot Grigio.  It's one of the more popular grapes for consumers in the U.S., and Italian winemakers have adopted the grape of French origin as their own.  Everyone seems to like the lime, apple, pear and melon flavors found in typical Pinot Grigios, and the pairing possibilities fall right into the summertime wheelhouse - light pasta, salads, ceviche and sushi.

The 2017 Gradis’ciutta Pinot Grigio hails from the Collio hills of northeastern Italy, in the Friuli-Venezia region's Collio hills.  The winery says visitors to their estate are greeted with a home cooked meal by owner and winemaker Robert Princic's mother, Ivanka.  And there's wine, too?  That sounds like living the dream.

This grapes for this wine were grown in the vineyards of Budignacco, Pozar and Dragica, at elevations from 325 to 475 feet above sea level.  Vinification in stainless steel tanks is followed by a period of aging on the lees, the spent yeast cells, which imparts weight and depth to the wine.  Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the wine retails for about $22.  The wine was provided to me by its importer, Vineyard Brands.

This wine smells of apricot and lanolin, an earthy nose that does not scream "Pinot Grigio" to me.  It's a subtle and elegant nose, and definitely on the savory side.  Vegetal notes come through on the palate, along with stone fruit.  I'm not a big PG fan, but this one I would have anytime.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Lodi Pinot Grigio

One of America's biggest wineries is in the tiny California town of Murphys.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi in the Sierra Foothills.  It may be an out-of-the-way stop, but there's a better than average chance that you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

The Kautz Family are fourth-generation growers, not unusual in that part of the state, and the family-run winery's corporate officers are known simply as John, Gail, Kurt and Jack.  They are also longtime equestrians, hence the name on the Leaping Horse Vineyards label.

Leaping Horse Vineyards is one of their brands, and their 2017 Pinot Grigio, reportedly sourced in Lodi but labeled with the California appellation, is actually 80% that grape, with 5% splashes of Viognier, Chardonnay, Symphony and Chenin Blanc.  The winery says it was sustainably farmed and is vegan-friendly.  Produced in stainless steel, the wine hits 12.5% abv for alcohol and rings up at $14 on the cash register.

The pale straw color leads to a floral and tropical nose, with citrus, green apples and pineapple on the palate.  Acidity is nice, but not ripping.  On the finish are red apples and lemons.  It's probably best as an aperitif or a sipper on a hot summer afternoon.  A pairing with chicken or a tuna salad should be okay.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

LBD Rosé: The Perfect Accessory For Spring

My wife tells me that a little black dress is perfect for any occasion.  That's something you learn in Girl School, I guess.  I took shop class and learned how to make an ugly key rack.  Perfect for no occasions.  I grew up to wear my shirttail out whenever possible and comfortable shoes with all outfits. I think girls were probably given much more useful information in their youth.

Little Black Dress wine is intended to be the booze equivalent of that garment, a no-brainer, easy choice that solves problems on the spot. As they say, "Good taste is your call. It's something you wear proudly and pour boldly. It's your own personal flavor. And it looks amazing."

Margaret Leonardi is the winemaker in Mendocino County.  I don't know if she wears a little black dress or a pair of old jeans, but she certainly knows how to make a wine that's right for all occasions.
The winery likes to say that "a good bottle of wine is the best accessory," and I will concur.  It's certainly a much better accessory than a tiny black purse that only holds a couple of credit cards.  It's better than a belt that's six inches wide and shiny.  It's better than shoes that hurt your feet.  Of course, pretty much everything is better than shoes that hurt your feet.

The Little Black Dress folks like to say, "Confidence turns heads and sophistication is the rule," when talking about their wines.  They are confident, and with good reason.  Even without a fancy, single-vineyard label - actually, with only "California" to describe the wine’s origin - they manage to put a really distinctive wine in the bottle.  They did it with Chardonnay, and damned if the Mendocino winery didn't do it with the rosé as well. 

The 2017 Little Black Dress is the same size this year as last, but it's made from different grapes.  The newer LBD Rosé was vinified entirely from white wine grapes, 75% Pinot Grigio, 13% Muscat, 10% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier grapes out of Mendocino County.  The wine was fermented and stored in stainless steel tanks up to its bottling.  Alcohol is a calorie-conscious 12% abv.

The color is light pink, almost an onion skin tone.  Aromas are powerfully surprising, with a great earthy presence joining the floral and fruity expression.  The palate, is as dry as a bone and luscious, with stone fruit and herbal qualities.  The wine pairs beautifully with salad or toast but is a lovely sipper on its own.


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Virginia's Barboursville Vineyards

James Barbour initiated the vineyards that carry his name today. He was a Governor, a Senator and the Secretary of War, but he is best remembered for his contributions to Virginia's agrarian heritage. He, like his neighbor Thomas Jefferson, struggled to buck the tobacco trend and grow rotated crops that didn't use up the soil. An Italian bought the parcel in the 1970s, Gianni Zonin, whose name you have probably seen on bottles of Prosecco. Zonin, also bucking the tobacco advice, planted grapes and made wine. The Zonin family still owns the vineyards, and wines are produced by winemaker Luca Paschina.

Scheduling changes on my trip prevented me from trying the restaurant at the estate, Palladia, but it gets raves from all over. Next time. I was able to make the half hour or so drive out of Charlottesville for a tasting of the Barboursville wines. Here they are.

Pinot Grigio 2016 -A very refreshing wine, although the grape is not one of my favorites.

Vermentino Reserve 2015 - Lovely acidity and the mark of the earth on it.

Viognier Reserve 2015 - Very nice acidity, but the wine was not a favorite.

Chardonnay Reserve 2016 - It's the only white they make with oak, and it's Hungarian wood. Quite a show that oak makes, if you ask me. A little too much in the wood.

Vintage Rosé 2015 - Rich pink, made from Petite Sirah, Barbera and Merlot. The acidity is great and the palate brings beautiful, light fruit with herbal touches.

Barbour’s Reserve 2015 - Fantastic red fruit and mocha
are a real kick.

Sangiovese 2015 - Big, earthy, smoky. Love it.

Merlot 2015 - Another earthy red.

Cabernet Franc 2015 - This is really good, with great acidity, white and bell pepper notes.

Merlot Reserve 2013 - This is what I want from Merlot - big smoke, earth and a savory coffee
expression.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - Tons of earth that reminds me a bit of Paso
Robles Cab.

Cabernet Blanc - A sweetie, with 2% residual sugar.

Rosato - Even sweeter, with 4% residual sugar.

Phileo - Sweet Traminette, Vidal Blanc and Moscato blend, 10% residual sugar. This is a lovely dessert wine with floral notes, good with cheese.

Paxxito 2013 - The sweetest, with 12% residual sugar. It's simply beautiful, made in the passito process in which the grapes are air-dried over time. You get raisins and caramel, and since when it that not a great dessert?


Monday, January 16, 2017

If You Pass On Pinot Grigio, Try This One

Brothers Luigi, Ercole and Fernando bought what is now the Pighin estate in 1963, and it became a full-fledged winery four years later. Fernando and his wife and kids have run the place since 2004.  The building on the property dates back several hundred years. They say the "vineyards of Grave del Friuli overlook the north shore of the Adriatic Sea."

Kobrand, the wine’s importer, notes the relationship between the name and the soil: "Like the gravelly Graves region of Bordeaux, Grave del Friuli owes its name to the gravel in the subsoil, which forces the roots of the vine to grow deep into the earth in search of water. As the vine struggles, its fruit grows richer, resulting in full, well-structured wine with remarkable minerality."

This Fernando Pighin Pinot Grigio is one of those Pinot Grigios for people who think they don’t like Pinot Grigio. Flat, unimaginative juice this is not. It carries an alcohol number of 12.5% abv, and sells in the $10 to $15 range.

This wine a bright and beautiful yellow-gold in the glass. The nose is fruity and floral, with Meyer lemon and tangerine zest. Stone fruit and white flowers complete a delight for the nostrils. On the palate, there is ample fruit balanced with earthy minerality. The acidity is quite good. I enjoyed mine with lentil soup, and the winery also likes it with fish and risotto.


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Friday, December 9, 2016

Pinot Grigio You Can Really Love

Alto Adige Valley is where some of the best white wines in the world come from, if you ask me. I realize that you didn't, but it's my article so I'll continue.

While Alto Adige holds a very high place of esteem for me, Pinot Grigio does not. I have no major problem with the grape, I just don't happen to find the wine made from it to be terribly interesting. I don't "heart" Pinot Grigio. Usually.

The Giovanett family runs the Castelfeder Winery as they have for four generations now. The area is in the Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, which also encroaches a bit on Veneto. But it is mainly in Alto Adige, in far northern part of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps.

Their vines in the hillside vineyards have to work harder for water, which means they produce grapes that are more concentrated in aroma and flavor. They grow there in the north, under the Alpine sun and under the naked moon. The Luna Nuda tips the hat to the lunar influence on growing things.

Luna Nuda Pinot Grigio 2015 is fermented all in steel tanks and reaches a 12.5% abv alcohol content. The winemaker notes say, "This is not your standard Pinot Grigio" which means it may actually have some interesting qualities, if you can take a little more Pinot Grigio-inspired snark. Insert smiley face emoticon here. The website claims that the wine tastes "the way Pinot Grigio used to taste before it became so popular." That statement probably lost something in the translation from Italian, but I get their drift.

This Pinot Grigio is, in fact, "not your standard" stuff. The pale golden wine is aromatic enough, with a floral sensibility and a prominent overlay of minerals. A smoky character clouds those flowers and a basket of limes joins the aroma of wet rocks. The palate is pretty exciting, and I don’t have to qualify that statement with "for a Pinot Grigio." It’s loaded with lemon and lime zest and strident acidity with a delicious salinity on the finish.


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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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Monday, November 16, 2015

Trust Your Importer - Great Wines From Slovenia

Blue Danube Wines is one of those importers you want to check in with from time to time. For those who don't have an extensive knowledge of wines from countries other than the US, a good importer is a good thing to know. Importers tend to find the wines they like, and bring them home to the rest of us. So, if Slovenia, for instance, or some other Central European country catches your fancy, Blue Danube Wines has a full portfolio of wines that are uniformly great.

When I was invited by Blue Danube to attend a tasting reception with Jean-Michel Morel (pictured) of Kabaj Wines, how could I refuse? They had never steered me wrong before. The event was sparsely attended at Culver City's Hatchet Hall, which has a great tasting bar in the back of the restaurant.

Morel is described as a "bad ass" winemaker. He is actually quite personable and very friendly. His wines lifted Kabaj (ka BYE) to be included on Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wineries list for 2015. The winery is in Goriška Brda, Slovenia, right across the border from Italy’s Collio region. In their respective languages, Collio and Brda mean "hills." Brda’s hills of marl and flysch, are the remains of an ancient limestone seabed. Their steep slopes offer quite a range of micro climates.

For generations, the Kabaj family has grown grapes, but it was not until winemaker Morel married into the family that they started making their own wine. The first vintage of Kabaj wine came in 1993.

The Kabaj wines are produced mainly - 70% - from white grapes, and all wines are aged at least 12 months. When used, French oak is preferred. Morel is nothing if not passionate about his cellar techniques. "Step by step. We do it the right way. It is not to rush out the wine to the market. 2015? No. No." He was pretty emphatic about that, so I would take it as his winemaking philosophy.

All the Kabaj presented at the tasting showed intense minerality and great acidity.

2008 Rebula - You might know this grape better as Ribolla - it is Morel's signature grape.  Lovely savory apricot honey. Great acid, savory lime and lanolin. Fresh, lots of vigor. Great, unusual flavor.

2011 Ravan - This white is flinty from the limestone. Savory saline palate.
2012 Ravan - Less flinty, more apricot and pear.

2012 Sivi Pinot - We would call it a Pinot Grigio. Showing a pink blush, muted strawberry, cherry and lime flavors are persistent.

2010 Luisa - This white wine - orange, actually - shows a beautiful copper color in the glass. Mineral-driven, savory nose, earthy palate.

2010 Merlot - Smoky black cherry and coffee on the nose, with a palate of tart cherry and raspberry. Huge minerals.

2009 Cuvée Morel - Merlot,Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot make a nose of minerals and black cherry. There is a tart edge on the palate with earth, fine tannins and a raspberry finish.

2006 Amfora - This wine stays in contact with the grape skins an amazin one year. The beautiful, golden color is deep and rich. A nose of honeyed apricot, flint and limestone lead to a palate of savory apricot. Lots of age here, showing beautifully. A massive white wine.

Amfora wine has a history dating back thousands of years to the Georgian culture. Ribolla, Malvasia and Sauvignon Vert (Tokai) grapes are destemmed in clay pots and held with the skins after fermentation. In the first month, the wine is stirred six times a day, then the pots are closed for ten months. Then, it goes into oak barrels for another year.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Alto Adige Wine: Pinot Grigio Leaps Over The Low Bar

A recent online tasting session featuring wines of Italy’s Alto Adige region was staged by Alto Adige Wines and Bottlenotes and hosted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and acting editor-in-chief of the daily email blast, The Daily Sip. Participants tasted the eight wines and chatted in virtual fashion about their swirling, smelling and sipping experiences.

You may know of Alto Adige - located in the far northern reaches of Italy, just below Austria - by their aromatic white wines with wonderful minerality and acidity. Only sixty percent of the area’s wines are from white grapes, however. Pinot Grigio is the leading white grape, and they are probably a far sight better than the Pinot Grigio you may find in the grocery or on restaurant wine lists. Schiava is the most popular red grape, with Lagrein and Pinot Noir also showing well.

Here are the Alto Adige wines featured during the virtual tasting event:

Castel Sallegg Pulvernai Pinot Grigio 2014
Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013
Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 2012
Colterenzio Prail Sauvignon 2013
Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer 2014
Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro Pfarrhof Kalterersee Auslese 2013
Erste + Neue Mezzan Pinot Nero 2013
Abbazia di Novacella Praepositus Lagrein 2010


Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013 (Alto Adige, Italy)

The land of Alois Lageder Winery is located on the scree of Magrè, and I'd be lying if I said that doesn't sound like a cool address. The winery has been there since 1823, and Alois Lageder is the fifth generation of his family to run the business. There is a lot of limestone in the estate's rocky, sandy soil, and the temperature swings wildly between day and night.

This Pinot Grigio is made with grapes that are certified organic and Demeter biodynamic. Twenty percent of the wine ferments spontaneously in wooden casks, while 80% does its thing in stainless steel tanks. Aging occurs over five months on the lees - in contact with the spent yeast cells - for added depth and body.

Winemaker and participant in the social media event, @alisoncrowewine, tweeted a nice tidbit: “Did you know Pinot Grigio skins are actually purple? That's what makes it so tough to make - the wine can turn pink!" But would that be such a bad thing?

This 13% abv Porer Pinot Grigio exceeds expectations. My expectations of the PG grape are not very high to start, so that by itself is not a great compliment. Despite the simple fruit, sweet nose and flabby acidity that usually marks the Pinot Grigio experience, this Alto Adige example really rocks. It retails for $26. If that's a little higher than the PG you get from your grocer's shelf, just know it's worth it.

The golden tint is lovely and the nose is a beautiful scent of apricot and Meyer lemon. Minerality is rampant in the aromas and a whiff of smoke lingers. The acidity is brilliant, the mouthfeel is full and the peach and apple flavors are pure. This is a Pinot Grigio for people who don't like Pinot Grigio.


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Monday, October 19, 2015

Alto Adige Wine: A Castle Of Pinot Grigio

A recent online tasting session featuring wines of Italy’s Alto Adige region was put on by Alto Adige Wines and Bottlenotes and was hosted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and acting editor-in-chief of the daily email blast, The Daily Sip. Participants tasted the eight wines and chatted in virtual fashion about their swirling, smelling and sipping experiences. 

You may know of Alto Adige by their white wines - aromatic, with wonderful minerality and acidity. Only sixty percent of the area’s wines are from white grapes, however. Pinot Grigio is the leading white grape, and they are probably a far sight better than the Pinot Grigio you may find in the grocery or on restaurant wine lists. Schiava is the most popular red grape, with Lagrein and Pinot Noir also showing well.

@thedailysip commented during the event that, "Alto Adige can be the #GoldilocksWine between the light wines of summer and dense bold wines of winter." @KMacWine tweeted, "@AltoAdigeWines can often be overlooked. That can have an upside: great value." That is one of my favorite tricks when looking for a great wine deal - an overlooked wine region.


Here are the Alto Adige wines featured during the virtual tasting event:

Castel Sallegg Pulvernai Pinot Grigio 2014 
Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013
Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 2012 
Colterenzio Prail Sauvignon 2013 
Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer 2014
Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro Pfarrhof Kalterersee Auslese 2013
Erste + Neue Mezzan Pinot Nero 2013
Abbazia di Novacella Praepositus Lagrein 2010


Castel Sallegg Pulvernai Pinot Grigio 2014 (Alto Adige, Italy) $22

"The modern story of the ancient Castle Sallegg starts in 1851," states the Sallegg website. That is when Archduke Rainer of Austria, Viceroy of the Lombardy and Veneto, bought the castle and surrounding wine estates. I wonder what the poor people were doing that year? Oh, right - picking grapes.

This wine is made from 100% Pinot Grigio grapes - various clones - grown in the Kaltern - Pulvernai area. Bottled in Caldaro, the wine hits only 13% abv.

On social media, @KMacWine tweeted, "The concept of bitterness is important to understanding #Italian #wine. This Sallegg is a great example of good bitter." She continued, "Bitter doesn’t have to mean bad. Cocoa, olives and coffee are all bitter foods we love." When it comes to Pinot Grigio - a much maligned grape - MacNeil comes to its defense: "The best #PinotGrigio wines have real character. They should not be simply neutral-tasting and bland."

From @thedailysip: "We think #PinotGrigio is a great everyday wine and there’s nothing wrong with that." Didn't say there was. @AltoAdigeWines chirped that "PG wines from #AltoAdige are known for their floral aromas, minerality & complexity."

In the Sallegg Pulvernai PG, a nice golden tint leads to aromatics that are fruity and laced with minerals. Apricots and lemon-lime give a much more forceful nose than I expect from a Pinot Grigio. The palate shows apples, citrus and minerals in a fresh display, while the acidity is bright and zippy.


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Monday, October 5, 2015

Surfing, Film And Wine

ZIOBAFFA is an Italian wine, the creators of which - Jason Baffa and Chris Del Moro - have brought their passion for filmmaking and surfing to wine.

Baffa is an award-winning filmmaker who chronicled his love of surfing in the film, "Bella Vita," developed with his friend Del Moro. The pair shared plenty of good food and beverage while getting those gnarly waves on celluloid. It was a natural - organic, in fact - transition to ZIOBAFFA (in Italian, Uncle Baffa.)

The press info states that "ZIOBAFFA is bottled and labeled with eco-friendly material, crafted with a biodynamic focus and organically produced grapes. With a focus on sustainable, zero waste production and environmentally friendly bottling, including the innovative Helix re-useable cork closure, these wines are a modern take on an old world tradition."

The unusual cork, which looks like a cross between a sparkling wine cork and a liqueur stopper, requires no mechanical assistance for opening. You can access the wine barehanded, even though it is worth some trouble.

This is Pinot Grigio the way I wish Pinot Grigio always tasted. A smoky nose sports citrus and almonds in addition to the small campfire. It has quite a bit of character for a Pinot Grigio. The palate is earthy and lemony, with kiwi on the backside. The finish is not terribly long, but the tropical notes stay with it to the end, along with a honey component. The acidity is not thrilling - the only negative I found - but the mouthfeel is quite round and full. 12% abv means you won't lose focus from a large pour.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Pinot Grigio Benefits From Blending With Verduzzo

Masi - led today by Sandro Boscaini - claims to be located directly on the cutting edge of wine technology.  The appassimento technique is used by Masi to dry the grapes before fermenting, resulting in greater concentration of color, aroma and flavor.  It’s actually an ages-old technique, applied in a 21st century environment.

The 2012 Masianco is not a 100% varietal wine - it is made from 75% Pinot Grigio grapes and 25% Verduzzo Delle Venezie grapes, a local variety in this “supervenetian” blend imported by Kobrand.  The Pinot Grigio grapes are grown in the Castions di Strada vineyard in Friuli, while the Venetian Verduzzo is the grape which undergoes the appassimento  process.  It also gets some time in barrique after tank fermentation.

At 13% abv, the alcohol is quite restrained.  The retail price is $15.  I was given a sample for the purpose of review.

The wine's nose is very attractive, and it shows the dried side of the fruit, especially apricot.  There is almost a petrol angle to the minerality.  Masianco is tinted light gold, a little darker than the usual shade for a Pinot Grigio.  The palate is a whole lot more complex that your usual Pinot Grigio, too.  The dried fruit flavor is quite intense, but it's the minerality that really carries this wine.  That and a zingy acidity that refreshes completely.  The finish lingers with traces of lemon and orange peel lasting long beyond the sip.


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Whole Foods Wines: Pizzolato Organic Pinot Grigio

One of the wines showcased during the holidays by Whole Foods Markets is a lighthearted and delicate Pinot Grigio by Italian producer Pizzolato.

I don't drink a lot of Pinot Grigio, but when I do, I drink Italian Pinot Grigio.  This one, from the Venezia IGT, is an organic wine from the hillsides north of Treviso.  It is vinified off the skins in stainless steel, with only indigenous yeasts used.  The importers say it is not only organic, but also suitable for vegans.  At just 12% abv, it's a lightweight wine that won't provide too much alcoholic intrusion to a light lunch or seafood dish.

Whole Foods recommends a pairing with such as, "delicate seafood, shellfish, lemon vinaigrette and citrus fruit salad."  I'll go along with that.  I'll also look at a nice, light cheese plate as a good match.

On Twitter, @RickGriffin was "Loving the Pizzolato Pinot Grigio - nice acidity - bring on the seafood!"  He commented upon "a hint of mint with apples, peach & citrus."  @Bepkoboy tweeted succinctly, "Absolutely lovely!"  @LisaBellMusic thought "The wine is refreshing and light; fruity," while @jenmoreno said she was "Glad we've got some oysters to go with it."  Apparently reading the proceedings without a bottle of her own, @gracepap realized, "I need to buy that Pinot Grigio."

The Pizzolato Pinot Grigio struck me as pleasant, with a pale straw color in the glass and an aromatic nose of flowers, green apples and a hint of herbs, just a slight touch.  The palate holds some very nice acidity, with flavors of pear, apple and a hint of minerals defining the taste profile. Crisp and balanced, this is a wine that will certainly make Pinot Grigio lovers happy - maybe even win a few converts.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

Going Italian At Whole Foods - What Did You Tweet?

During March and April, Whole Foods Market has celebrated wines from Italy.  Eight lovely wines from some of Italy’s notable winemakers are offered at great prices - all under $16.  From light, crisp Pinot Grigio from Veneto to earthy, fruit forward Sangiovese from Tuscany, you can taste your way through Italy with recipes and cheese pairings from Whole Foods Market.  You can also see my articles on these wines here.

Along the way, two virtual tasting events on Twitter have brought the wines forth in 140 characters or less.  Below is the list of Whole Foods Market’s featured Italian wines discussed on the most recent Twitter Tasting, along with some choice comments from those who took part.  You can access the stream at the hashtag #WFMWine and see how much fun we had.

Presto Prosecco

Describing the aroma of this wine, @dbrogues commented that it was "like the center of a green apple."

Price was a big attraction on all these wines, but particularly the Prosecco.  From @WineFoodTravel, "Loving the Presto Prosecco. It's a slice of heaven! Crisp apple. What's the price on this?"  Just $11, by the way.

@DeborahGrossman tweeted, "for my upcoming birthday, I'll stock up on Presto Prosecco to kick off the festivities, yes?! #WFMWine Virtual party now!"

Caposaldo Pinot Grigio

@winefashionista chimed in with favorable notes on this one.  "I love the Pinot Grigio - and so does my husband! Nice balance of acid and fruit you could sip this wine all summer!"

Another fan of the P.G., @JamesTheWineGuy, is always good for some tasting notes.  "Capolsado Veneto Pinot Grigio - crisp, nicely acidic; notes of yellow citrus zest and peel, sunflower seeds, mineral & sweet fennel."

Monrosso Chianti

@MarinelliSauce tweeted, "Chianti is so versatile. the favorite red wine of Germany FYI. their buying habits drive the bulk Chianti market," to which @WineHarlots replied, "I agree. Chianti, to me, is a 'no-brainer wine.' Easy to drink and goes well with summer cuisine."

@WholeFoods offered a recipe for pairing purposes, "Looking for a nice meal to have with this Chianti? Try PUTTANESCA PASTA: http://t.co/jrBISfMBH4."  Many agreed by retweeting the comment.  Speaking of sharing, @dbrogues was in a generous mood.  "My roommates are trying the wines with me, we're all loving this!"

Verrazzano Rosso

Some tweeters liked the lighter body on this wine.  @Liz4Aker wrote, "This is a really mellow chianti, was expecting a fuller red. Not disappointed."

@RickGriffin liked the price.  "The Verrazzano Rosso is a great value. Surprised it’s only $16."

Getting a nation full of wine lovers together on Twitter gets a bit noisy.  @takeabiteblog noted, "Awesome! #wfmwine is number 2 on the trending list :)"

In a virtual tasting event, there are likely to be as many comedians as wine lovers.  From @WineFoodTravel: "spillage?! Lick it off the table or suck it out of the carpet. Don’t let good wine go to waste:)"


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Going Italian At Whole Foods: Caposaldo Pinot Grigio

Attention Whole Foods shoppers, through April, Whole Foods Market shines the WFM spotlight on Italian wines at great prices.  The grocery chain is also hosting a pair of virtual tasting events to help spread the word about their great Italian value wines.  Get the details on the wines and the April 10th virtual tasting event on Twitter here.

You can search the hashtag #WFMWine on Twitter to see how much fun we all had on the previous virtual wine tasting on March 13th.  We hope you can join us on Twitter in April.

Today we sample one of the wines to be featured on the April tasting event.


Twitter Tastings

Thursday March 13, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT:

Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi 
Ruffino Orvieto Classico
Gran Passione Rosso
Donnafugata Sedàra

Thursday April 10, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT:

Presto Prosecco
Caposaldo Pinot Grigio
Monrosso Chianti
Verrazzano Rosso


Caposaldo Pinot Grigio  $11.99

I saw that a Facebook wine friend of mine commented in that social media platform recently to the effect that a Pinot Grigio is wine for people who don't want their wine to taste like anything.  While some Pinot Grigios will lead you to that conclusion, there are plenty that won't.  This is one that won't.

Caposaldo is a 100% varietal wine, all Veneto Pinot Grigio, all the time.  The 12.5% abv content is right about where you would expect it to be and aging was done without any oak, in stainless steel tanks.  This really lets a fresh, pure expression of a generally maligned grape come forward.  Since the wine is intended for immediate consumption, it is bottled accordingly - under a screw cap.

The Caposaldo Pinot Grigio 2012 has a straw-yellow tint, which I like in a white wine.  The less color a white has, the less I expect much aroma or flavor from it.  That rarely turns out to be the case, by the way, but I feel that way nevertheless.  The upside is, I get a lot of pleasant surprises.

The nose on the Caposaldo mixes tropical fruit, flowers and minerals fairly equally.  It's really an astounding array of aromas that come out to play.  The minerality shows strongly on the palate, too, with a mix of pineapple and apricot flavors representing the fruit faction.  A bit of green apple and lime linger into the finish.  
This wine only costs twelve bucks and it is a lot tastier than some popular Pinot Grigios that sell for over $20.  It's definitely worthy of a status update.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wine Country Illinois: Lynfred Winery

The Now And Zin Wine Country series is an attempt to taste 50 wines from 50 states.  Wine is produced in each of the United States, and my mission has led me to try wine from 34 states so far.  The series has been to Illinois before, and now we are kicking off the new year with a return visit to the Land o’ Lincoln for some more Illinois wine.

Lynfred Winery is in Roselle, Illinois, in the northeastern corner of the state, a little west of Chicago and a little south of Wisconsin.  Winemaker Andrés Basso works with grapes not only from Illinois, but also fruit from California, Washington and Michigan.

Lynfred’s late founder, former restaurateur Fred Koehler, started making wine at home with his wife Lynn.  The winery calls his interest in wine “a hobby that got out of hand.”  The winery was made official in the 1970s and the awards started rolling in soon after.  No less than Robert Mondavi told Koehler he should get out of Illinois and move to California.  Koehler decided to stay with his roots.

Lynfred Winery Vin De City White,  $10

Billed as American White Table Wine, Vin De City White is a non-vintage wine made from five grape varieties - 32% Viognier, 28% Chardonnay, 23% Pinot Grigio, 9% Marsanne and 8% Roussanne.  The wine is made in Illinois, but it is made from grapes grown in California and Washington.  It is aged in stainless steel for six to eight months and has a 12.5% abv number that keeps the alcohol under control.  Bottled under a natural cork, the label sports a beautiful portrait of the Chicago skyline.

The wine has a light, straw color and a very aromatic nose, both floral and fruity.  Aromas of ripe peaches and apricots mix with honeysuckle.  The flavor profile brings great fruit - apricots, apples, white nectarines - laced with an earthy undercurrent.  A vibrant acidity makes it a refreshing and food-friendly wine.

Lynfred Winery American Sangiovese Reserve 2009  $30

This 100% Sangiovese wine also utilizes grapes not grown in Illinois - they are a product of Jones Vineyard in Washington.  This wine has seen a lot of oak, 30 months worth of American and French oak.  Bottled under natural cork, the alcohol content is 13.9% abv.  It is labeled as “for sale in Illinois only,” which may be due to a state restriction on the use of out-of-state grapes.

Lynfred’s Sangiovese is very dark in color and quite aromatic.  Minty notes of clove, cinnamon and black cherry decorate the nose, while the palate shows every bit of those 30 months of oak.  A large overlay of cedar accompanies the cherry and red berry  flavor.  The acidity is great and the tannins are firm, which led me to pair some food with it.  My holiday snack of seaside cheddar from Whole Foods, Gorgonzola crackers from Trader Joe's and  beef summer sausage from Hickory Farms married with this wine quite well.


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