Friday, September 10, 2010

Old World Style: Stella Fino Winery

The day I had made plans to visit with Marlene and Matt Steiner of Stella Fino Winery, little did I know I would also partake of tasting many imported Italian wines earlier the same week. What I discovered, after my journey across the  Washington/Oregon border to Stella Fino, was the pleasure of tasting more "Old World" Italian-style wines. However, this time these wines were produced with fruit from Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.

Matt Steiner "grew up" drinking Old World wines as his father was a collector of French and Italian wines.  It's no wonder that from the first grape crushed at Stella Fino, their focus would be creating wines from Italian varietals. It is important to Matt and Marlene that their wines not only honor Old World Italian wines, but  their wines also express a "sense of place," while maintaining New World cellar practices. 

Marlene and Matt told me about their journey to Walla Walla. Talk about an old world pioneer spirit, as well. They bought their first car, packed everything in it they owned, left their  home in New York and traveled to Walla Walla, sight unseen.  After Matt put some cellar and crush time in at a couple local wineries, Stella Fino Winery was created in 2005. The name comes from Matt's great-grandmother, Stella Fino, who emigrated from Italy to New York in the early 1900's. Stella Fino now has a 1,000 case production.

Stella Fino Columbia Valley Rosso  - 2007:
They tell me this blend of 63% Sangiovese and 37% Barbera has become a favorite among Stella Fino fans and after I took a sip, I could understand why. The juiciness of the Sangiovese comes through with notes of blackberries and chocolate.  Sourced from Lonesome Spring Ranch in Benton City, WA and Rosebud Ranch on the Wahluke Slope. Think meatballs and red gravy.   

Stella Fino Columbia Valley Barbera  - 2008:
100% Barbera  from Lonesome Spring Ranch. A bit tart with a mouthful of berries and finishes with notes of espresso. Deep in color, but low in tannins. The acidity in this wine is an example of why these Italian varietals go so well with acidic and spicy foods. Think a plate of salty cheese and smoky charcuterie.

Stella Fino Columbia Valley Sangiovese  - 2007:
This 100% Sangio comes from two different vineyards - Candy Mountain Vineyard near West Richland by Red Mountain and Pepper Bridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.  Both vineyards are known for producing some of the finest fruit in the state. A very aromatic wine of earth and autumn leaves with a mouthful of cherries and pomegranate. Another perfect food wine for those Italian influenced meals, but chances are you will finish the glass before the first course. 

Old World Chianti has always been the default wine for tomato-based sauces and also strong cheese sauces. Sangiovese and other Italian varietals have just the right acid level for tomatoes (which reminds me I need to put my fresh picked tomatoes and basil in the oven for a slow roasted pasta sauce to be enjoyed later). The wines from Stella Fino are no different from the Old World wines, but they are more elegant, luscious and very easy sipping. 

If you are going to make Italian-style sauces from your local garden harvest, then you need to think and drink local - go Stella Fino. Salute!

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