Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vino Italiano: Wine Book Club

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy By Joseph Bastianich, David Lynch is an excellent Reference on Italian wines. I wish more countries were covered in such a thorough manner. I say Reference with a capital "R" for a reason. This book does not have a central narrative and thus can be challenging to read cover to cover. I am glad now that I've familiarized myself with its structure to have this book as a reference for when I shop for Italian wine. You may notice that the previous phrase is code for .. I did not finish this book... However, the first section was a quick read for me. It details the basics of Italian wine history, laws, and labeling rules. Very useful stuff you put to work right away in your local wineshop. Part two explores all 21 regions of Italy in detail. Each region is lovingly detailed and is written as a stand alone section and immerses the reader in the people, culture, foods, and history in addition to the main varietals from that region. The Fast Facts section for each region is a great breakdown that would be helpful to copy and take to your local wineshop to inform your purchases.

The first great use of this book was for Wine Blogging Wednesday when we covered wines from Fruili. It was a great reference and provided a wonderful context in which to consume the wine. From reading, I learned which DOC's were known for better wines so I selected a wine from a specific DOC, Collio, based on my reading. Now whenever I encounter an Italian wine, I can later go and read up on the region, the expected flavors for that varietal and compare it with my experience.

One of my favorite aspects of this book were the descriptions of typical flavor profiles for varietals grown in the region and the basic winemaking techniques. This is the kind of information I find immediately useful because it enhances my tasting experience and my ability to discern which varietals I may prefer prior to purchasing. I also enjoyed that regional recipes were included at the end of each region's section. The flip side of that is my one complaint with the book. I wish there were more recipes at the end of each region's section! One section had a recipe for wild boar... Realistically, when am I going to make wild boar anything ? I wish there had been a more easily realized recipe associated with each region where I could obtain the ingredients. Considering how carefully the authors made sure that the wines they mentioned are available in the US, it would have been great to pick recipes that had the same consideration for ingredients. Mostly I 'm asking for additional authentic regional recipes since reading about each wine region made me a bit hungry and inspired to cook.

For best results here's how I would prescribe your dose of Vino Italiano.

  • Browse through a section on one of the wine regions just enough to help inform your purchase of a wine from that region. Once home, open said wine and enjoy a glass while curled up with the book and learn more your wine and its region of origin. If you are the ambitious sort, make the suggested recipe that is at the end of each wine region's section. If you have decided to make a recipe go back to wine purchasing step and get a second bottle to have with your completed dinner. The first bottle is inspirational for the cook and an apertif for your guest.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about Italian wines. Its a bargain at $15 dollars and a great addition to your wine library.

Thanks to Dr Debs for starting the Wine Book Club and I look forward to what is in store for us next. I hear solid rumors its much shorter and will will be announced on the first Tuesday of March by host Tim Elliott of Winecast.

Thanks to David McDuff, of McDuff's Food and Wine Trail for hosting this month. The discussion is also ongoing over at on Facebook, or Shelfari.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pink Fiddle Party Report Part 1: A Whiter Shade of Pink

Fiddlehead Wines had their annual Pinkie party for their upstart Pinot Noir Rose that has become a cult favorite in Santa Barbara County. Lucky for us, that's not all they were pouring. As you can see on the right some people really went for it with a complete outfit made of pink post its. We also spotted a few winemakers there besides Kathy. Don Schroeder, the new winemaker for Seasmoke, made an appearance. He also has his own label; Ampelos. Karen Steinwachs, Kathy's former assistant winemaker was helping out by pouring for a bit even though she is now the winemaker at Buttonwood. Kris Curran and Bruno D’Alfonso also stopped by Fiddlehead to take part in the festivities. In summary : Great wine, great food, fun people, and a live band= Great Party

Now for the White Report. Kathy Joseph has dedicated herself to making wines from her two favorite varietals. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc from California is often derided in comparision with other wine regions. I think Kathy's Sauvignon Blancs could make people reconsider this notion. I once had one of the most fantastic experiences with her Fiddlehead Honeysuckle Sauvignon Blanc with a Halibut from Tupelo Junction. The wine started out crisp and fresh with lots of citrus notes and as it warmed in the glass it continued to evolve and began to reveal lovely notes of honey and even more intense aromatics. It was a perfect match for my halibut. It was just one of those perfect moments in wine and food pairing. Needless to say, I have had a soft spot for Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc ever since.

My favorite whites of the day

Fiddlehead Goosebury Sauvignon Blanc 2007 **
Pale golden with a lovely litlting blend of citrus fruit and floral notes. Fantastic bracing acidity makes this a perfect match for seafood. This wine whole cluster pressed and cold fermented in stainless steel to preserve the varietal characteristics.

Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($24) **
This is the most versatile and crowd pleasing of all the Sauvignon Blancs poured. This wine is a blend of 1/3 fermented in stainless steel for aromatics and zinginess, 1/3 in new French oak barrels for texture and spiciness and the remaining third from neutral French oak barrels for fruit tones and elegance. I consistently enjoy this Sauvignon Blanc and it's probably the most easily found in stores and restaurants in the area.

Fiddlehead Hunnysuckle Sauvignon Blanc 2003 ($34)***My favorite Sauv blanc
The nose was lovely, lots of floral notes and honeysuckle. Smelling honeysuckle in wine reminds me of my childhood. How all the smells cling to the air in the summer with the help of the humidity and my mom showing me how to pull the stem out of the honeysuckle flower to get a drop of "honey". I still love the smell of honeysuckles today. The wine also had a fantastic silky mouthfeel and distinct notes of juicy grapefruit and nutmeg. This wine is a winner. Fermented and aged , in 100% new oak tight-grain, Damy French oak barrels and finished non-malolactic. A bit pricey for Sauvignon Blanc but worth it. The 2001 vintage of this wine was featured in Sideways during the dinner scene at Los Olivos Cafe.

Stop by Fiddlehead's Tasting Room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto to taste these wines and see what you think. 1597 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc CA. Click here for directions. Thursday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wine Blogging Awards, Book Club Reminder and WCWC Adventures 100th Post!

Stop by Tom Wark's blog and vote on your favorite Wine blogs

This is the second year for these awards and here are the categories


This post is the 100th Post on West Coast Wine Country Adventures and I was happy to see that some folks had nominated us for the Best Single Subject Wine Blog and Best Wine Blog Writing. I don't expect to win by any means but appreciate the mention. Stop by and nominate your favorites. You can nominate up to 3 wine blogs in each category.

Just a reminder for anyone reading Vino Italiano, the Wine book Club Discussion is due Feb 26th. Here's some questions from McDuff's Food &Wine Trail to get you started

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cool Climate Syrah may be Moving in on Pinot's Turf

If you long for the days when cool climate Syrah was "cool" perhaps the answer is to grow it where Pinot is dominating the terrior. I miss the days when I found black pepper intertwined with floral notes in my Syrah. Soon they might be able to prove what winemaker's, and I :) have long believed, is that this spiciness comes from cool climate Syrah. " The Australian Wine Research Institute announced last year that researchers had isolated a compound, rotundone, responsible for Syrah's classic black pepper character. Now it's seeking data to prove whether grapes in cooler sites have more of it. " *see below for reference . I'm glad that the Australian Wine Research Institute is looking out for me and my love of black pepper in syrah. While we wait for that to be resolved, I'm very happy to see that winemaker's, like Cristom, are exploring this varietal. Winemaker's in the cool climate of the Willamette Valley are flirting with Syrah and getting fantastic results. The Deux Vert vineyard and Adelsheim Vineyard's Calkin Lane are growing Syrah as well.

Check out this great article in the *SF GATE by John Bonne Here and come back and leave a comment whether you prefer the big bold fruity Syrah's often associated with Australian Shiraz or do you want your Syrah to be "cool" again?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Brought to you by Natalie Maclean

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone has gotten smarter out there and has decided to choose a great wine and some decadent dessert to share with someone special instead of overpriced flowers and fighting the crowds in a restaurant. Natalie Maclean sent this over to me and I doubt I could improve on these recommendations. The most fun pairing from playing around with the food and wine matcher sounds like late harvest zinfandel and chocolate mud pie. Pure decadence.

My own fun and playful options for Valentine's Day are chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas, biscotti, and marshmallows or red velvet cupcakes and Champagne. These would be fun with that special someone or a great group of friends enjoying their single status.

Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass concurs and suggests that “Just share a glass of wine (or three) with your sweetheart.”“Wine is liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire,” she observes. “What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the mouth-coating luxury of chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.”The creamy flavors of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines, MacLean notes. She suggests wines to complement 50 chocolate dishes in her online matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher. Just click on “desserts” to find pairings for chocolate mud pie to chocolate cheesecake.

Natalie’s top 10 wine and chocolate matches:

  1. Dark Chocolate and Banyuls, France
  2. Chocolate-Covered Biscotti and Recioto Della Valpolicella, Italy
  3. Chocolate-Orange Cake and Liqueur Muscat, Australia
  4. Chocolate with Nuts and Tawny Port, Portugal
  5. Milk Chocolate and Tokaji, Hungary
  6. Bittersweet Chocolate and Amarone, Italy
  7. Chocolate-Dipped Fruit and Icewine, Canada
  8. Chocolate Ganache Truffles and Sauternes, France
  9. Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Framboise, California
  10. Chocolate Hearts with Cream Filling and Cream Sherry, Spain

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

WBW: In Seven Words or Less 2005 Gaja Ca Marcanda Promis

I chose the 2005 Gaja Ca Marcanda Promis based on a recommendation from the commentary on a recent Sangiovese post and I was not disappointed. Score 1 for the wine blogging community. This wine is the product of a venture Angelo Gaja started in 1996 by venturing from Piedmonte to Toscana. He planted 150 acres of vineyards along the Tuscan seaboard in Maremma to source his Ca'Marcanda Label. Promis is a Super Tuscan blend of 55% Merlot, 35 % Syrah and 10% Sangiovese that was fermented separately and then blended together in early winter. Aged 18 months in new and near neutral oak this wine clocked in at a reasonable 13.5% alcohol.

So now for my Wine Blogging Wednesday entry, with the theme brought to us by Andrew over at Spittoon.



Tasting Notes in Seven Words or Less:

  • opulent cherry, rustic leathery tannins, fantastic acidity.

This wine was fantastic and possesses a great balance between opulent cherry cola fruit notes, leathery tannins, and a lovely bracing acidity that lends Italian wines to pair so well with food. This is a big wine so I'd suggest a big meal like lamb, NY Strip steak, or a delicious Tri-Tip. Stay in and grill a nice steak for your Valentine and share this lovely Italian wine. It will run you around $38-$44 or even higher so be sure to shop around. Considering that it costs less than a dozen marked-up roses, it's a bargain for Valentine's Day. Bring your lady a fabulous bottle of red to show your love. Anybody can pick up flowers, sharing a memorable wine with someone special indulges all your senses.

Monday, February 11, 2008

WTDOMN: 2006 Palmina Dolcetto

This Dolcetto is a casual easygoing wine that is perfect for our weekly "What to drink on Monday Night"segment. While the varietal is orginally from the Piedmonte region of Italy, this Cal Italian gives you a great peak at the sense of place that develops from growing Dolcetto in the Santa Ynez Valley. This wine is sourced from the Honea Vineyards right off Alamo Pintado Road in between Solvang and Los Olivos and the Zotovich Vineyards that lie further west in the cooler climes of the Santa Rita Hills. It has also been aged for only 5 months in neutral oak and is meant to be consumed young.

As soon as I leaned into my glass this wine brought a smile to my face. The nose was contained distinct aromas of bright raspberry and cherry butressed by a lingering scent of roses. I suspect the bright cherry and raspberry are a reflection of the warmer Honea Vineyards. Upon tasting the darker black cherry and blackberry influences of the Zotovich vineyard emerged and the wine possessed a lovely acidity that's begs you to pair with simple Italian foods. I was really taken with the focused flavors and aromas in this wine. A fantastic wine at a price point($20) sure to please everyone.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Party in Pink at Fiddlehead

Party in Pink this Saturday, at Fiddlehead Headquarters with the winemaker. It's the Annual Pinkie's Release Party on Feb 9th from 1 - 4pm. A ticket will run you $25 and there will be artisanal cheeses and rosé friendly appetizers, live music, and a Pink Costume Contest. Warm up for Valentine's day by digging out your finest Pink outfit and welcome the 2007 Pink Fiddle Pinot Noir Rose to the world with Kathy Joseph and other Fiddlechix folk. Here's the short version of how the 2007 Pink Fiddle got from fruit to bottle.

Winemaking Notes from Kathy's Site: Fruit Source: 100% Fiddlestix, 100% Sta. Rita Hills, 100% Estate-owned pinot noir.100% Pommard clone ($18)

"100% de-stemmed, cold-soaked at 40º F for 24 hours for delicate extraction of color and texture; lightly-pressed and cold-fermented at 50º F to complete dryness. Non-malolactic to keep the fragrance true to pinot noir."

Pink Fiddle was built from the ground up to be a Rosé. That is, it was not made as a a saignée (an early juice bleed by–product removed from an alternate red wine fermentation, with the intention of concentrating the red wine left behind) Rosé's made in this fashion can be more of an afterthought or perhaps a more efficient use of fruit. Kathy instead uses the entire Pinot Noir grape cluster to add desired complexity and character.

A small production of only 184 cases. This is Fiddlehead's only wine bottled using a screw cap closure. Its done to keep it fresh and to remind the consumer that its meant to be enjoyed in its youth. Serve it well chilled. This wine is so enjoyable every year and with such a lovely shade of pink, its a great idea for Valentine's Day. Rose's and Rosé are a great combination. I'm looking forward to tasting the new Pinkie.
More about Pairings,winemaking and fun facts on Drinking Pink here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jump in and have some fun in the Wine Blogosphere

I've been remiss in mentioning all the great chances around the wine blogosphere for you to participate. Its been a busy 2008. Here's the roundup.

  • Over at El Bloggo Torcido.. there is what I'm sure will become the Infamous Take your Rubber Chicken to Work Day Contest. Send in your photo or video of you and your rubber chicken at work and get a prize.
  • Over course there is the clever challenge thrown down by Andrew over at Spittoon for everyone to review an Italian Red in Just Seven Words. Wine Blogging Wednesday posts are due Feb 13th.
  • Feb 23rd is Open that Bottle Night. OTBN is always the last Saturday in February and was the creation of Wall Street Columnists,Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. This should give you a great excuse to open that special bottle you keep saving. Wine is meant to be enjoyed not kept as a trophy. Farley is showing her support and having a contest over at Behind the Vines. You can win two bottles of unreleased Rosenblum wines just for commenting on what you are planning to drink. Check out the rules here. Seems like a great deal to me, open up 1 bottle, and you could get 2 to replace it. I'm debating between opening a Doyle Pinot Noir from Fiddlehead or my last 1997 Buttonwood Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Lenndevours is asking for a New logo for Wine blogging Wednesday and has kicked off a contest over at his blog. Submissions are due March 31st and I believe a few generous people have kicked in some great prizes.

As you can see there are lots of creative ways to participate in the Wine 2.0 Conversation. Make 2008 the year you were photographed with a rubber chicken, drinking that wine you've been saving, while designing a new logo for WBC. At the very least find seven words to describe that Italian Red and read more about in Vino Italiano for the Wine Book Club by Feb 26th.

Monday, February 4, 2008

WTDOMN: The Bridesmaid White 2006

I found a bargain Napa Valley white at our local wine shop. The Bridesmaid will run you about $19 . The mind's behind this label are three premium winemakers, Josh Peeples (Chateau Boswell), Drew Neiman (Kongsgaard, Neiman Cellars), and Pam Starr (Crocker & Starr, Spottswoode). They have collaborated together by blending their excess barrels and creating a wine that was destined to be always a bridesmaid never a.. Anyway, even if this wine may not be fit for the bridezilla in your life, the Bridesmaid is a compelling value. Lets face it, the Bridesmaids are usually the unsung hero of the wedding so pour yourself a glass and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

The Bridesmaid is a blend of 60% semillon and40% sauvignon blanc. It had a lovely pale straw color in the glass and had a vibrant tropical nose that evolved as it sat to meyer lemon and minerals. Upon tasting, the Bridesmaid was a light enjoyable white that began with notes of tropical citrus fruits and banana, mostly pineapple, and had a crisp mineral finish that reminded me of crushed seashells. Pair with a cheese plate and invite your favorite bridesmaids over. It might start to make up for that overpriced dress they'll never wear again.

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