Thursday, May 14, 2015

Small Vineyards: The Gold Seal of Approval

Every spring, I look forward to the Small Vineyards (August Wine Group, LLC) tasting for industry members. This year, I especially thank Michael and Mark, from Noble Wines, LTD and Susie Curnuette of the August Wine Group, LLC for allowing me sit in, sample, and enjoy the afternoon learning about the new vintages from Italy. 

The August Wine Group, LLC is a wine company that specializes in importing high-quality wines of distinct character from Italy, and other regions along the Mediterranean. They especially support small environmentally-responsible growers from both traditional and new wine regions. 

What I enjoy, just as much as the tasting of the wines, are the stories that are shared about the history, locations, and the people who produce these very special wines. The Small Vineyards project is proud of their connections with their small batch wines they have procured from family-owned wine estates. Therefore, every Small Vineyards' bottle of wine (and even their olive oil) that is imported will carry a gold seal. The label is worth looking for, as you can be assured of high-quality, yet affordable wines. 

How small is small from Small Vineyards, you ask? About 99% of the grapes are picked by human hand, the estates use sustainable growing methods, and most of all; the estates are owned by families - no large corporations. Small Vineyards estates are among the smallest 10% in their region - - that is how "small" the wines are that carry the Small Vineyards "gold seal of approval." 

Our afternoon tasting consisted of 20 different wines - - from, not only Italy, but also from France (Provence), Croatia, and Slovenia. We tasted the "usual suspects" such as Sangiovese, Montepulicano, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Vermentino, and even a Prosecco - and all enjoyable, especially with food. Since there were so many wines, I won't go over each and every one, but highlight a few favorites and more unique ones. 

Some of the surprises were two sparklers from the Monte Tondo estate produced from the Garganega grape. This white Italian wine grape is widely grown in the Soave region in north-eastern Italy  - - and two of only six Soave sparklers produced in the region.  

Gasevina (Welschriesling) was a new grape of the day for me. This white wine grape is not related to the Rhine Riesling, as you would think. However, in Croatia it is the most planted white grape variety. The nose resembled a traditional Riesling, but the color and palate reminded me of a Semillon with the bright yellow hay color; and apple and stone fruit flavors. This wine was produced by the award-winning Krauthaker Vineyards and Winery in Kutjevo, Croatia. 

Produced by Salvatore Lovo, of Lovo Wines, is Colli Euganel Fior d'Arancio (orange blossoms). This white grape, Fior d'Arancio, is known for its aroma of orange blossoms. I believe in the USA it is the same -  Orange Muscat. Lovo produced this sparkling wine, with small refined bubbles, in a frizzante style. A tangerine nose with a creamy and orange palate is perfect for "porch sippin'," salty tapas, or save it for dessert. It reminded me of a orange creamsicle. 

A popular wine for many, yet still obscure for many, was the Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia - - Giocato.  This indeed was a wine I was very familiar with. Giocato is a popular label to many with the cat on the label. The wines are affordable and a great value for the quality. This white wine had all of the traditional notes that I enjoy in a Sauvignon Blanc, from the grassy nose, with hints of mineral and stone fruit on the palate. 

Nadia Curto is the Italian wine woman amongst the men, therefore comes from a long lineage of male winemakers in her family. "La Fola" Barolo  from Curto Wines was produced in La Morra located in the Piedmont region. This 100% Nebbiolo was what I would refer to as a "feminine" wine, as in "pretty," - - if I was to describe it in one word. The tannins were a bit on the "puckerish" side, yet juicy and smooth. Earthy dark fruits, and even a hint of roses in the finish. 

Also, from Lovo Wines was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Veneto region. It wasn't just any Cabernet, but one that had been produced through carbonic masceration. As expected it was fresh, bright, fruity, and low in tannins. Truly a food wine, especially in the summer time. You could even put a light chill on it. 

Palama Arcangelo Rosato has the distinction for being one of the top rosatos in Italy. This bright red rose is produced from 100% Negroamaro. The nose bursts with strawberries and bright and juicy acids on the palate. Our restaurant host was the popular Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla. They prepared beautiful serving plates of assorted cheeses, charcuterie, and fruits. There was also bruschetta with an assortment of toppings. I made a discovery that this lovely Rosato was not only a perfect pairing with the cured meats, but also the bruschetta that was served with the thyme and mushroom topping. If you can find this wine - - it needs to be on your Thanksgiving table, and especially served with the sage and thyme dressing. 
Last but not least, and on purpose, is the Maison Fabre,  Cotes de Provence Serpolet Rose. "Serpolet"  in French means "Thyme," which of course grows abundantly around the vineyards in Provence region of France - - of course, even the curvy bottle expresses notes of Provence with the periwinkle blue-colored foil and label reminiscence of summer window shutters in Provence. The nose of the pretty pale pink wine was of cotton candy and the burnt crackling sugar found on a creme brulee.  On the palate there was strawberries, citrus, and with a finish of light herbs - - such as thyme.  It was everything I want in a French rose and it indeed made me very happy. 

The wines from Small Vineyards are ordered once a year and imported into the USA. Once again, I cannot stress how affordable they are for the quality. However, it's important to know that once they are gone  - - they are gone, until next year.  Salute! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Passementaries ...

What is Passementaries? It's my newest journal. 

Oh no, I am not forsaking this Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman blog. She will be celebrating 10 year anniversary next month, and I will continue to write about my wine experiences and opinions. I am just mixing things up a bit. 

Passementaries is about the simple trimmings for an elegant life ... 

I'll even talk a little bit about wine. Please join me. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Castillo de Feliciana Winery Rosebud Tempranillo

Once in awhile, you happen to come across a wine that you continue to ponder, long after the last sip. Castillo de Feliciana Winery Tempranillo - 2012, with grapes sourced from the Rosebud Vineyard at the Wahluke Slope, was that wine for me. 

The estate of Castillo de Feliciana is located in the heart of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, encompassing 66 acres just south of Walla Walla near the state line at Oregon. It is an exceptionally beautiful property, where 6.5 acres of the estate property are planted in wine grapes.  Not only do they use their own estate grapes, but source grapes from other areas such as the Wahluke Slope AVA which is located north of the Columbia Basin in Washington State. Their emphasis is Spanish-style wines such as Tempranillo. 

Let's cut to the chase, the last time I tasted a Tempranillo that I swooned about was an earlier 2000 Campo Viejo Rioja Grand Reserva.  In fact, I believe in that sitting of discovering the Campo Viejo, we killed almost two bottles of it between the two of us.  It was exceptional.  

Last week I was sitting at one of my favorite lounges in Walla Walla, as we were celebrating a birthday. I started my evening sipping on Champagne, but kept noticing the table tent in front of me advertising the Castillo de Feliciana Rosebud Tempranillo - 2012.  My table decided it was time to order something to nosh on and we ordered the shaved prime rib sliders on a toasted brioche, with horseradish cream and a side of au jus. I love food and wine pairings and knew that this wine, advertised in front of me, was going to be the answer.  It was. 

The winery's tasting notes state that their Tempranillo is reminiscent of wines from the famous Rioja region in Spain.  Indeed!  This was an elegant wine for sipping, as well as a wine that would pair up well with beef. Castillo de Feliciana's Tempranillo is dark and almost inky. The nose was a bit of dried fruit and smoke, with a waft of vanilla. It was a luscious mouthful with soft, yet structured tannins. Big in flavors with notes of dark Bing cherries, juicy blackberries, plums, and chocolate-covered raisins. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in the finish.  A very smooth and elegant wine - - and a memorable wine. "Swoon-worthy!"

I would consider pairing this wine with other beef dishes, grilled vegetables and portobello mushrooms, and just noshes of dark olives, figs,  and salty Manchego cheese. Salud! 

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