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Stefania Pepe Wines: Natural Wines at their Best

I first met Stefania Pepe many years ago at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona at the wine stand of her father Emidio Pepe. At the time I was the wine director and sommelier for i-Trulli restaurant in NYC.  The owner of I-Trulli and I liked the Pepe wines and we carried them in the restaurant.  Over the years, I would occasionally see Stefania in NYC. When I saw her 3 years ago at Vinitaly, Stefania had her own wine stand with the wines she produced. I was very impressed with her wines.

Last month Michele and I were invited on a press trip to Abruzzo.  We did not visit Stefania’s winery but I was delighted to see her at the Grand Tasting on the last day.

Stefania greeted us like old friends, and reminded us that we know each other for over 20 years.

Michele, Stefania and me

Last week Stefania was in NYC for the Wines of Abruzzo tasting.  I tasted her wines again and they were just as good as they were in Abruzzo.

The Wines of Stefania Pepe

L’Azienda Agricola Biologica Stefania Pepe is located in the commune of Torano Nuovo, Abruzzo.  There are 8 hectares of which 5.5 are covered with vines. The white grapes are crushed and pressed by feet and the red grapes are crushed and pressed by hand. The transfer of the wine is all done by gravity.

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC Biologica “Cuore di Vino” 2006 made from Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina. The vineyard is in Torano Nuovo at 240 meters, the exposure is west and the soil is clay calcareous. The training system is pergola abruzzese. The grapes are hand picked, crushed and pressed by feet and put into small concrete vats for 8 to 13 days without adding any yeast or sulphites. The wine remains in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for 5 years.  The wine is unfiltered and placed in bottles until it is ready to be released. This is an intense wine with hints of grapefruit, yellow apple, floral notes and a touch of honey.

Stefania said she follows the phases of the moon in her wine making. Her method changes according to the seasons.  For example the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation on its own during the hot weather and during the cold weather she decants the wine.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Biodiamico “Pepe Bianco” 2013 made from Trebbiano vines which are more then 30 years old. The exposure is south/east and the vineyards are at 240 meters and the training system is spalliera. The grapes are crushed by feet and fermentation takes place in cement vats for 10/18 days. The wine is decanted two times into another botte of cement and remains here until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of apple, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Stefania said using cement botti was a Pepe tradition going back four generations. Many producers in Abruzzo said they were now going back to using cement tanks for their wines.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2007. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC Controguerra 2009 made from 70% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Organic cultivated grapes selected and destemmed by hand. The wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 5 to 6 days without the addition of yeast or sulfites. There is one delastage and 2 pump overs of the juice a day. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, prunes, toasted nuts and a touch of black pepper.

Montepulciano D,Abruzzo” Colline Teramane” DOCG “Pepe Nero” Biodinamico 2006 made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast, the vines are at 240 meters and the vineyards are 15km from the sea. The training system is pergola abuzzese. The grapes are biodynamically grown, selected and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in botti (large wooden barrels) only with the skins without any additives including sulfites. The wine remains in the bottle for six months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberry, prune, cherry and a touch of almond and black pepper. I was very impressed by this wine.

This is how Stefania Pepe sums up her winemaking:  “I’m the woman in love with natural wines, I create wine only with biodynamic and organic certified grapes without using any chemicals or additives! I love to communicate and to give benefit…joy…healthier life to my customers.”

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Return to the Cataldi Madonna Winery

 

Michele and I first visited the Cataldi Madonna Winery in Abruzzo about 15 years ago. I recall that it was the first time I had tasted wine made from the Pecorino grape. There was some confusion and a lot of discussion over how the Cerasuolo D’ Abruzzo, a Rosato that looked like a red wine, was produced. We looked forward to our return visit and seeing Luigi Cataldi Madonna again.

Luigi Cataldi Mondanna

Luigi Cataldi Madonna

The winery, which is about 65 acres, is located in the town of Ofena. There are 30.5 hectares of vines planted exclusively with local and traditional vines like Montepulcino, Pecprino and Trebbiano at 320 to 440 meters. The plain of Ofena is at the foothills of the only Appenine glacier on Calderone in the Gran Sasso Mountain range. This makes for a great difference between night and day temperatures. The area has been called the oven of Abruzzo.

Our host then and now was the owner of the winery Luigi Cataldi Madonna. This time his daughter Giulia assisted him. Giulia said the picture on the labels is of the statue of the Warrior of Capestrano, a symbol of ancient Abruzzo.

The Wines

Trebbiano d”Abruzzo made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from vineyards located in Mandrella and Frontone, Ofena. Mandrella is at 1,300 feet. The vines were planted in 2003 and the training system is espalier. Frontone is at 1,215 ft, the vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is pergola. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of lemon, apple, pear and almond. They called this their every day wine.

Pecorino “Giulia” Terre Aquilane IGT 100% Pecorino from vineyards in Cona, Fontone and Macerone at 380 meters. The vines were planted in 2001 and the training system is spallier. Vinifiction takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. At the end of fermentation the juice is in contact with lees and is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months. The wine has hints of grapefruit, lime and a touch of fresh herbs.

Luigi was one of the first to “rediscover“ the Pecorino grape and began replanting in 1990 and produced the first vintage in 1996. Pecorino means little sheep in Italian because the sheep liked to eat these grapes off the vine.

Pecorino “Super Giulia” 100% Pecorino. The difference between the two is Super Giulia is made from the best selection of the grapes. This is a more flavorful version than the regular Giulia with a note of passion fruit.Giulia

Both wines are named for Luigi Cataldi Madonna’s daughter, Giulia.

 Cerasuolo d’ Abuzzo Rosato made from 100% Monepulciano D’Abruzzo from vines planted in 1970 and the vineyard is at 1,250ft. The training system is pergola. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature and is aged for 3 months in stainless steel. The wine has a bright rose color. This is a fruity wine with hints cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo “Pie delle Vigna” Rosato this is the wine that caused all the confusion because it is a Rose but looks like a red wine. We did not get to taste this wine on this visit because it was all sold out. I saw it in a store on one of our stops. This wine is made by white wine vinification 85%. The problem is that the juice from the Montepulciano grape is pink. The other 15% from red vinification, the juice is in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, so the wine looks like a red wine!

They also now make another Rosato from Montepulciano grapes called “Cataldino” which is an IGT wine and is a very fruity easy drinking wine.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Malandrino” made from 100% Montepulciano d”Abruzzo the vineyards are at 1,375 ft and the vines were planted 1970-2004. The soil is clay and limestone with medium texture and rich in skeleton. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in stainless tanks and concrete vats for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberry and plum with a touch of violets.

We enjoyed visiting the winery once again and meeting the third generation of wine producers at Cataldi Madonna.

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Touring Abruzzo

After a short stay in Rome, Michele and I were headed to Abruzzo for a press trip to explore the food and wine of this beautiful region.

We arrived at the hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi in San Vito Chietino after a 3-hour bus ride from Rome. The coastline here is called the Costa dei Trabocchi.

Trabocco

Trabocchi are dwellings used by fishermen so they could fish in bad weather.  Made of wood, they stand in the water on long wooden legs with long poles and nets reaching out into the water.

Some of them have been turned into restaurants.

On our first night, dinner at the hotel included a very informative presentation on Abruzzo given by Davide Acerra, president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo.

Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, it is considered part of the South.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The vines are grown along vertical posts and wires to a height of about 6 feet. The vines are planted 2 meters apart in parallel rows 2 meters apart. The leaves grow over the top to form a canopy (pergola) to protect the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. The Tendone has always been the way to grow table grapes in the area and it is easier to pick the grapes without having to bend down.

The Grapes and the Wines

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

This red grape has a medium compact cluster and a conical – pyramidal shape, often winged, with an elongated grape. It ripens late which gives the wine its ruby rich color, with hints of violets, cherries, berries and liquorice.

Both and Cerasoolo but notice the difference in color

Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo is a ‘Rose” made from the Montepulciano grape. This is a rose made from the free run juice and or juice with very little skin contact and it is bright red in color. If the producer adds 15% or more of the juice that has had skin contact for a number of hours, it almost has the color of a red wine.

Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo. The vines have large leaves and long bunches. The grapes never get darker than a deep straw color because of the long leaves and the Tendone training system. Trebbiano Tuscano is also used in combination with Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but the best wines come from those made from 100% Trebbiano d”Abruzzo

Of the local varieties Pecorino, a white grape is the most popular. Pecorino an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

Sparkling wines, both Metodo Classico and Charmat, are produced from the different varieties.

Almost 80% of the wine made in Abruzzo is produced by co-ops.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

It was a three day tour and in that time we visited a number of producers, a few hill towns,  made the local specialty pasta alla chitarra, had dinner in a Trabocco

and ended with the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo at the Villa Estea Torino Di Sangero where there were over 50 producers presenting their wines.

The experience was made more enjoyable because of the other members of our group who were so congenial.

I will write more about our experiences in a future report.

 

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Ferrari: Sparkling Wine at its Best

Ferrari produces some of the best Metodo Classico sparkling wine in Italy and their Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore may be the best sparkling wine produced in Italy. When I received an invitation to The Ferrari Art of Living Party at the Glasshouses in NYC where there would be food, music and best of all Ferrari Metodo Classico sparkling wine, I was happy to accept. Then I received another invitation from the President of Gruppo Italiano Ristoratori, Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Il Gattopardo restaurant, inviting me to a tasting before the party of Ferrari Perle and Giulio, I could not wait to go.

Matteo

The speakers were Matteo Lunelli, President of Ferrari, and a member of the Lunelli family that owns the Ferrari winery,Marco

and Marco Sabellico Senior Editor at Gambero Rosso. Marco announced that Ferrari is the 2019 Gambero Rosso “Winery of the Year.”

Matteo told us that Giulio Ferrari, the founder of the company, returned to Trentino after studying in France and was convinced that the local terroir was perfect for the Chardonnay grape. He felt that by using the Metodo Classico (Méthode Champenois) he could make great sparkling wine there. He became the first person to plant Chardonnay in Trentino. In 1902 he began the company and it became very successful.

In 1952 Bruno Lunelli, the owner of Trento’s best-known wine bar, took over Ferrari from Giulio, who continued the work at the winery until his death. Today the third generation of the Lunelli family runs the company. It has a 40% market share of all the Metodo Classico made in Italy.

With the exception of the Ferrari Rosé and the Ferrari Perlé Rosé all the wines are Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay.

Matteo said Ferrari is a member of Istituto TrentoDOC, which has 53 sparkling wine producers in Trentino, and they are the only sparkling wines produced in the mountains. The TrentoDOC wine area is in Northern Italy and is surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains. The vines there are trained mainly using the Trentino pergola system and are grown at an altitude of 200 to 800 meters. With global warming, this may be the only area where grapes can be planted higher up where the temperature is cooler. Matteo said that when you go up 100 meters the temperature drops about one degree.

The Ferrari Sparkling Wines

Ferrari Perlé TrentoDOC Metodo Classico Vintage Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of September from a hillside owned by the Lunelli family around the Trento vineyards. The vineyards are 300 to 700 meters above sea level with a southeasterly or southwesterly exposure. The wine remains for about 5 years on the yeast, which are selected from their own strains. It is a crisp dry wine with hints of apple, almonds and pleasant touch of yeast. The best Chardonnay grapes from the family’s vineyards are used to make this wine. Matteo said that it is the wine that best summarizes the art of Ferrari.

Ferrari Pérle 2013 TrentoDOC made from 100% Chardonnay. The first vintage was 1971. The wine has hints of apple, mango and pineapple with a touch of honey.

The 2013 Vintage: Marco said the ripening of the grapes during August was slow, resulting in a relatively late harvest with slightly higher yields, healthy grapes and excellent quality.

Ferrari Pérle 2007 TrentoDOC The wine has hints of lemon, apple, white melon and sage.

Ferrari Pérle Zero, Cuvée Zero 11 made from 100% Chardonnay from the slopes of the Lunelli families own vineyards of the mountainsides of Trentino. Marcello said it is a mosaic of vintages, and an extreme example of the refined art of creating cuvees. Part of the wine is in stainless steel to highlight the fruit and the aromas; the wood provides structure and richness of flavor, while glass confers concentration and depth. Each cuvee takes its name from the year it was bottled, in this case 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Once it is bottled, it matures for at least 6 years on the yeasts selected from Ferrari’s own cultures. The wine has hints of citrus fruit with notes of sage and good minerality. This is a wine that can be drunk with food.

Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore 2007 TrentoDOC is a single vineyard reserve aged wine. The grapes are picked at the end of September in the Maso Pianizza, a vineyard owned by the Lunelli family. The vineyard is in the commune of Trento and is between 500 and 600 meters above sea level with a southwesterly exposure. The wine spends at least 10 years on the lees. This wine is not made in every vintage. The wine has hints apricots, grapefruit with a touch of honey and lightly toasted bread.

The 2007 Vintage: Marco said the weather during August was rather cool and punctuated by several thunderstorms, contributing towards maintaining good acidity levels and an interesting development of aromas in the grapes.

2004 Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore TrentoDOC   this wine has a very low dosage, which gives it a complexity of aromas. This is a crisp, fresh, yet elegant wine with hints of apple, citrus fruit, a touch of chamomile, a note of toast and a striking long finish. I was very impressed by the 2004, it is fantastic!

The 2004 Vintage: Marco said it was characterized by a mild winter and a reasonable rainy spring that allowed for an even germination of the grapes and high bud fertility. Later in the year, the summer was characterized by scarce rainfall accompanied by below average temperatures. This made the agronomic management of grapes easier, leading to a harvest of healthy grapes. September was filled with sunny days providing the perfect conditions for harvesting.

1999 Gulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore TrentoDOC This is a wine for those who like more mature sparkling  wines. as I do.  It is a complex wine with a creamy bouquet, hints of white chocolate, candied citrus fruits, almonds and brioche.

The 1999 Vintage: Marco said the dry and windy climate and the marked difference between day and night time temperatures resolved any earlier weather problems regarding the health of the grapes, allowing them to ripen perfectly.

After the tasting I attended the party and enjoyed drinking some of the other sparkling wines produced by Ferrari.

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Sparkling Wines from the Mountains

The Istituto Trento DOC sponsored a tasting of old vintage sparkling wines from the Trentodoc region at the Nomad Rooftop.

Some of Italy’s best sparkling wines come from this area as well as some of the country’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

The Trentodoc wine area in Northern Italy is surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains. The vines there are trained mainly using the Trentino pergola system and are grown at an altitude of 200 to 800 meters. With global warming, this may be the only area where grapes can be planted higher up where the temperature is cooler.

The grapes used to make Trentodoc are Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero and Pinot Meunier. This is the only region where sparkling wines are produced in the mountains.

The grapes are harvested by hand and the base wine is aged slowly in the bottle on the lees for a minimum 15 months for a brut wine, to a minimum of 36 months for a riserva. The producers of all of the wines we tasted aged their wines far longer on the lees than the minimum allowed by law.

Giulio Ferrari was the first to produce high quality Metodo Classico sparkling wine in Trento in the early 20th Century. Trentodoc was the first official recognized Metodo Classico in Italy and among the first in the world. The Istituto Trento DOC was founded in 1984 and now represents 53 sparkling wine producers, and is the brand’s promoter. The symbol has two ‘0’s that resemble the bottom of a bottle being rotated, a distinction of sparkling Metodo Classico production.

The Wines

Trento DOC Moser 51,151 Brut (Deg 2014) made from 100% Chardonnay. The vineyards are mainly limestone and are between 300 and 600 meters, with a density of 2,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare. The training system is Pergola/Guyot. 80% of the wine is aged in stainless steel and 20% in large oak casks of 25HL for 6 months. The wine spends 30 months on the lees. Residual sugar 4.5 g/l. The name pays tribute to the cycling record Francesco Moser set in Mexico City in 1984.

Trento DOC Cantina D’isera 1907 Brut Riserva 2013 made from 100% Chardonnay grown on the hills of Isera. The soil is made of volcanic, fluvial and glacial deposit. The vineyards are at 500 to 600 meters and the training system is Pergola/Guyot. There are 4,500 to 6,000 vines per hectare. The wine spends all its time in stainless steel and remains on the lees for 60 months while the law requires only 36 months for a Riserva. This is a wine with hints of candied fruit, brioche and delicate mineral notes. Residual sugar 3.8g/l. This is a co-op with 150 members.

Trento DOC Revi Brut Millesimato 2010 (Disgorged in 2014) Made from 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir. The vineyards are at 250 to 350 meters and soil is calcareous clay, medium textured stone. There are 4,500 vines per hectare. Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel and the wine spends 36 months on the lees, Residual sugar 6g/l. This is an elegant wine with nice fruity aromas and flavors and floral notes.

Trento DOC Rotari Flavio Brut Riserve 2010 made from 100% Chardonnay. The vineyards are at 650 meters and the soil is clayey and phorphyric. The training system is pergola. Aging is in stainless steel 60% and barriques 40% for 6 months. The wine spends 96 months on the lees. Only 3,000 bottles are produced. The wine has hints of apricot and peach with notes of brioche, white flowers and a touch of citrus. Residual sugar is 6.7g/l.

TrentoDOC Ferrari Perlé in magnum 2010 made from 100% organic Chardonnay from vineyards at 400 to 700 meters. The soil is loose not too deep made of volcanic and glacial deposits. There are 4,500 to 5,500 plants per hectare. Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel and the wine remains on the lees for 60 months. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of apple, almonds, and a touch of brioche. I was very impressed by this wine. Residual sugar 6g/l.

TrentoDOC Altemas iBrut Riserva Graal 2010 made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from vineyards at 500 to 600 meters. Volcanic and glacial soils, the training system is pergola/guyot and there are 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The wine spends 70 months on the lees. Aging is in stainless steel and barriques for about 6 months. This is a well-balanced wine with hints of apple, citrus and candied fruits with a note of brioche and good minerality.

TrentoDOC Endrizzi Masetto Prive 2009 Riserva Dosage Zero made from 100% Chardonnay from vineyards at 300 to 400 meters and the soil is dolomic, calcareous. The training system is espalier/guyot and there are 5,800 plants per hectare. The wine is aged in stainless steel and barriques with 9 months in French oak. The wine remains on the lees for 84 months. Only 1,500 bottles are produced. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, pastry and toasted bread with a mineral touch. Residual sugar is 6g/l.

TrentoDOC Madame Matris Brut Riserva 2009 Maso Martis made from 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir from vineyards at 450 meters. The soil is calcareous, rich in texture on red Trentino rock. The training system is Pergola and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. The Chardonnay is aged for 8 months in barriques and Pinot Noir and Pinot Menuier is stainless steel. The wine has hints of brioche, citrus fruit and white flowers with nice minerality. Only 2,680 bottles are produced. Residual sugar is 7.5.

TrentoDOC Monfort Brut Riserva 2008 Made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from vineyards at 400 to 700 Meters. The soil is glacial deposit soil, with a marly calcareous mineral content. The training system is espalier/guyot and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is aged 50% in steel and 50% in barriques. 50% of the Chardonnay spends 6 months in French oak. The wine has hints of bread crust and vanilla with citrus notes. Residual sugar is 8g/l.

TrentoDOC 976 Brut Riserva Del Fondatore 2008 Letrari made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay from vineyards at 450 meters. The soil is calcareous. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is pergola/guyot. 95% of the wines is aged in stainless steel and 5% in oak casks from 4 months. The wine spends 120 months on the lees. Only 3,000 bottles are produced. The wine has hints of brioche, vanilla, apple and hazelnut with a touch of spice. Residual sugar 6.4g/l

TrendoDOC Cesarini Sforza Aquila Reale Brut Riserva 2004 Discorged in 2012. Made from 100% Chardonnay from vineyards at 500 meters. The soil is full of debris, slightly calcareous, not very deep, loamy and well drained. The training system is simple pergola and there are 4,500 plants per hectare. The wine spends 60 months on the lees and 50% is aged in French oak barriques for 6 months. This is an elegant wine rich and complex with hints of candied fruit, brioche, nice minerality and a touch of sage. It was drinking very well for a wine of this age. Residual sugar 5.5g/l.

 

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Magical Moscato D’Asti

A master class on Moscato D’Asti , organized by the Consorzio Dell’Asti DOCG, was held recently at Del Posto restaurant in New York City. This wine, from Italy’s Piedmont region, has always seemed to me the perfect dessert wine because it is low in alcohol, slightly sweet, and a little fizzy. It deserves to be better known.

The speakers were: Luigi Coppo – Coppo Winery, Marco Dogliotti – Azienda Agricola Caudrina Winery, Gianpiero Scavino – Ceretto Winery, Stefano Chiarlo- Michele Chiarlo Winery and Andrea Costa- Marenco Winery

Each speaker brought one Moscato d’Asti for the tasting.

All of the vineyards for the Moscato grape in the Langhe, Piedmont have a southern exposure or mostly southern exposure. The training system is mainly guyot to give more sun exposure to the vines. Harvest is by hand because the vineyards are on steep hills. The harvest takes place in late August and is finished by September first. The maximum C02 pressure of the wine is 2.5 bars. Alcohol can be between 4.5% to 6.5% but most are 5% to 5.5%.

The production zone and the five wineries

Moscato d’Asti is not a sparkling wine because it only undergoes partial fermentation in pressure tanks until the desired alcohol level is reached. The use of cold chain technology in the production process means that the aromas and flavors of the grape are preserved and the wine can be stabilized and be ready for storage and transportation.

Moscato D’Asti is a very pleasant easy drinking wine that can be drunk on its own as an aperitif before dinner or after dinner as a light dessert wine. Moscato D’Asti is very easy to like and when the tasting was over one of the guests said ‘all the wines were good” and they were right.

The Wines

Moscato d’Asti DOC G 2018 “MoncalvinaCoppo made from 100% Moscato di Canelli. The vineyards are located in Canelli. A soft pressing is followed by a slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature until the alcohol level reaches 5%. During this process, part of the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation is captured by the wine giving it a natural light fizziness. Residual sugar: 129.67g/l and the alcohol is 4.89. This is a fresh and aromatic wine with hints of peach and pear and a floral note. Luigi Coppo, the speaker, said that 2018 was a classic, traditional vintage for Moscato.

La Caudrina Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018 Azienda Agricola Caudrina made from 100% Moscato Bianco. The vineyards are in Castiglione Tinella. Marco said that the Moscato grape is aromatic and requires a specific technique to preserve all of its fragrance in the wine. Immediately after the harvest the grapes are softly pressed, clarifying and filtering the must. The grape juice is preserved in refrigerated tanks at -2C until it is time for temperature-controlled fermentation, which takes place in an autoclave with selected yeasts. This is a wine with hints of apricot, peach and a note of white flowers. Residual sugar 130g/l and the alcohol is 5.5%. Marco said they have 25 hectares of Moscato grapes.

Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018 “Nivole” Michele Chiarlo made from 100% Moscato Bianco. There is a soft pressing of the grapes. The must is stored in a tank at -2C followed by slow fermentation in an autoclave at a controlled temperature until 5% alcohol is reached. A part of the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation remains “entrapped” giving the wine its mild, natural effervescence. Before bottling, the wine undergoes micro filtration to give it clarity, purity and stop any further fermentation of the yeasts. This is a fragrant wine with hints of peach, apricot and floral notes. Residual sugar 122g/l and the alcohol is 5%. This has always been one of my favorites.

Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018 “I Vignaioli di Santo StefanoCeretto made from 100% Moscato d’Asti from vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo, Calosso. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with separation of the must. Following decantation it is kept cold to stabilize the fragrances. Fermentation begins in temperature controlled, presurized stainless steel tanks until the alcohol level reaches 5.5%. This is the stage in which the perlage (fizz), typical of Moscato, is produced. After filtration the wine is bottled. This is a wine with hints of melon, orange, jasmine and a touch of honey. Residual sugar is130g/l.

Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018 “Scrapona” Marenco made from 100% Moscato Bianco. The vineyard is located in the Bagnario Valley, Strevi. Scrapona is a single vineyard (cru) Moscato. Harvest takes place the beginning of September. The grapes are softly pressed and naturally clarified. Fermentation is in pressurized vats and is interrupted through filtration when the alcohol reaches 5.5% and a delicate perlage is reached. This is a wine with hints of apricot, lime and sage. Residual sugar is 120g/l. Andrea Costa, the speaker, said 70% of their production is Moscato d’Asti.

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Wines of Elk Cove, Ponzi and Sokol Blosser

Three Oregon wineries presented a tasting of their wines last month at the Astor Center in NYC. It was one of the most unusual and interesting tastings I have ever attended. It showed how Pinot Noir  grapes taken from the same vineyard could be made into different tasting wines in the hands of three different wine makers.  In all, there were 9 wines divided into 3 flights and each of the winemakers produced 1 wine from 3 different vineyards.

After this part of the tasting, each winemaker presented 2 of their wines.  They were: Elk Cove Vineyards, Adam Campbell winemaker; Ponzi, Luisa Ponzi winemaker; and Sokol Blosser, Alex Sokol Blosser winemaker and Co- President. They have come together and call themselves “Oregon Originals” because all of their wineries were founded in the early 1970’s in the Willamette Valley and “Second Generation Vintners” because they and their siblings have taken over the running of the wineries from their parents.

The Wines

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017 Adam called it a classic Oregon vintage. Made from 100% pinot Gris hand harvested from select hillside vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. The age of the vines is 4 to 32 years. Harvest was from mid-September to mid-October. Harvest sugars were 22.5 brix. They whole cluster press the grapes then the juice is fermented at a very cold temperature in small stainless steel tanks. The wine was bottled in Feb. 2018. This is a light to medium bodied wine with hints of pears, peaches, and apricots with refreshing acidity.

Sokel Blosser Dundee Hills Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018 (777,115 & Pommard clones) Alex said the 2018 vintage was their coolest growing season since 2012 and he believes it will be their best vintage since then as well. The grapes were carefully hand harvested (brix at harvest 19.5), de-stemmed and loaded into the press where the juice soaked on the skins for four to six hours. It was then gently pressed to minimize extraction of tannins from the skins. The juice was divided into multiple stainless steel tanks, one portion was inoculated with natural yeast, and the other with a yeast focused on lifting the fruit aromas within the grape. An extended, slow, cool fermentation took place. There is just a hint of residual sugar (1.5g/l) to balance the firm acidity. This is a crisp refreshing rose’ with hints of melon, white peach and a touch of raspberry.

Ponzi Aurora Chardonnay 2016 Luisa compared this vintage to the 2006, which produced lush, beautiful wines with unexpected elegance and acidity, a stellar vintage for Oregon. The grapes for this single vineyard cuvee were grown on Layrewood soil at Ponzi “LIVE” Certified Sustainable Aurora Vineyard located in on the Chehalem Mountain AVA. The grapes were sorted and whole cluster pressed. The juice settled for 12 hours before going to barrel for fermentation. Using 15% new French oak and cool temperatures, fermentation was completed with primary wild yeast. Malolactic fermentation is 100% complete using native bacteria. Lees are stirred weekly for 6 moths before a fall racking to neutral oak and bottled in the spring of 2016. The wine is aged in barrel for 20 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of lime, lemon and touch of chamomile with a touch of vanilla.

Elk Clove Vineyards 2016 Mount Richardmond Pinot Noir Adam said he hoped the 2016 vintage will be outstanding, like the 2012 and 2014, wines that showed great balance and concentration. The Richmond vineyard sits on Willakenzie soils in the heart of the Yamahill AVA and is 150 acres. The elevation is at 300/500 feet, which allows for early ripening, there are 2,100 vines/acre. The blend includes old vine pommard, and equal parts of Dijon clones 115 and 777. The age of the vines 5 to 23 years and the brix at harvest 23.5. Fermentation is in small temperature controlled steel tanks, hand punched down twice daily and aged in 50% new French barrels for 10 months. The wine was bottled in August 2017. The wine has hints of black cherry, blueberries, boysenberry and a touch of spice.

Pinot Noir Abetina 2016 Ponzi Luisa said this was a stellar vintage for Pinot Noir in Oregon. This single vineyard cuvee is made exclusively from the Abetina 2 block at the “LIVE” certified Sustainable Vineyard. All the fruit was hand sorted and destemmed. Fermentation in small lots with five days of cold soak to increase aromas and color, the peak temperature reached 90 degrees. The fermenters were aerated or manually punched down twice a day for 12-20 days before undergoing a 7 day post fermentation maceration to increase structure and length. The wine is aged in French oak barrels 50% new for 20 months. The wine was racked and bottled by gravity without filtration or fining and was aged in bottle for 5 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, cassis and plum with a touch of chocolate and note of hazelnut.

Dundee Hills, Oregon Estate Pinot Noir 2016 Alex called it a quality vintage. Grapes hand harvested at 22/26 Brix. Some sections harvested based on acid levels and some on higher intensity of fruit flavors. Grapes were hand sorted and destemmed directly into 3-ton stainless steel fermenters or 2.5 ton oak upright fermenters, 35% of the fermentation for this part was done using the Sokol Blosser native yeast program. Gentle punching down 2 times a day. Post fermentation, 25% of the blend was kept on its skins for 30+ days, the remaining portion was pressed off the skins at dryness (10-15 days of skin contact time). The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 17 months (36% in new oak and the rest once used or neutral oak) with minimum SO2 levels. The wine has hints of cherry, raspberry with a touch of spice and soft tannins.

I am now convinced that these three wineries make outstanding Pinot Noir

 

 

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