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Trader Joe’s Merlot Run

October 31, 2016 13 comments

As some of you might know, I can never pass on visiting the local Trader Joe’s when traveling – as long as it offers wine (which seems to be the case so far in the most places I visit). Last week I was in Santa Clara in California, so the trip to the nearby Trader Joe’s was unavoidable.

trader joe wines californiaDeciding on what wine to buy at Trader Joe’s is difficult. I always take price into account, but then there are lots of wines in the same, super-reasonable prices range of $5 -$8. The next option is the label – yes, I’m a sucker for creative labels, and then, of course, the region comes to play.

As I slowly walked along the wine shelves, the label of Jebediah Drinkwell’s caught my eye – it was strangely attractive – plus I like Meritage wines, so it was an easy decision.  I picked up Trellis Merlot because it was a Merlot (and October is a Merlot month) – and I was really curious to see what $4.99 can buy you from Sonoma. Cecilia Beretta was the third bottle I got – wanted to go outside of California, and “Partially dried grapes” always sounds like a music to me.

Looking at the wines later on, the idea  of #MerlotMe dedication came along – would all these wines be Merlot based? To my delight, in addition to the 100% Merlot from Sonoma, two other wines also had substantial Merlot content, so here you go my friends, a Merlot run at Trader Joe’s.

Here are my notes:

NV Jebediah Drinkwell’s Meritage Red Wine Paso Robles ($5.99, 37% Petite Verdot, 31% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec)
C: dark Ruby
N: touch of smoke, roasted meat,
P: soft fruit, blackberries, tobacco, good acidity, medium-long finish
V: 7+/8-, quite enjoyable

2014 Trellis Merlot Sonoma County (14.5% ABV, $4.99)
C: garnet
N: restrained, distant hint of cassis, herbs
P: soft, round, cassis, good acidity
V: 7+, excellent QPR

2014 Cecilia Beretta Soraie Veneto IGT (14% ABV, $7.99, 40% Merlot, 30% Corvina, 20% Cabernet, 10% Croatina, grapes dried for a few weeks before pressing)
C: dark garnet
N: touch of blueberry pie, quite restrained
P: touch of blueberries, tobacco, hint of dried fruit, good power but round, soft tannins, medium finish
V: 7+, will work well with food – pasta with some hearty tomato sauce would be perfect

As you can tell, it is pretty amazing what $18 can buy you at Trader Joe’s. Also, it is my second experience with non-vintage wine at Trader Joe’s, and I’m definitely impressed with the quality of that wine.

Do you buy wines at Trader Joe’s? Any interesting finds you care to share? Cheers!

Passion and Prosecco

April 12, 2016 15 comments

Bisol Tasting GlassesOne of my favorite ways to start a conversation is to ask a trivia question, so here it is. We all take Prosecco for granted – if one wants to casually have a glass of wine with bubbles, Prosecco would handily beat any other sparkling wine as a top choice, no matter where in the world you are. Now, for the trivia part: do you know when Prosecco first appeared in London? I will give you few moments to ponder that question. Meanwhile, few basic facts:  Prosecco hails from the hills of Veneto, where wines (still wines, it is) were produced for more than 500 years; Charmat-Martinotti method, used in the production of Prosecco, with the secondary fermentation taking place in a steel tank instead of the bottle (“secondary fermentation” is what produces those adorable bubbles), was first created in 1895. So when do you think Prosecco showed up in London?

The answer: 1989. And all due to the tenacity and passion. Bisol family had been producing the wine in Veneto for more than 20 generations (yes, I do call this a passion). When Gianluca Bisol approached his father and said that he wants to bring Prosecco to London, the father’s response was very quick (cue in Italian pronunciation and emotional hand gestures): “you are crazy!”. That didn’t stop Gianluca, and to London off he went. It appears that his father was almost right – selling unknown sparkling wine, door to door, in the downturn economic times, was not going swimmingly well, by any measure. Until a lucky coincidence (well, people would call it “luck”,  but we all know that luck usually works best after applying lots and lots of hard, dedicated effort), when at one of the best restaurants in London, Gianluca met wine director who was not only Italian, but also born and raised in the same Veneto region, and was extremely happy to see his beloved Prosecco. As they like to say it in the books, the rest was history. Today, Prosecco outsells Champagne in UK 3 to 1. And annual production of Prosecco hit 540 million bottles in 2015. Just to finish with historical references, Prosecco made it to the US in 1992/1993 (in case you are wondering).

I had a pleasure of meeting Gianluca Bisol at lunch at Marta restaurant in the New York City, and we spend two hours talking, tasting wines and of course, eating tasty food (detailed account follows). This is where I heard the story of Prosecco concurring the UK, as well as many other interesting facts which all together can be summarized in one single word – passion. Passion for the land, vines and wines. Passion for the whole Veneto region. Passion for the traditions which are more than 20 generations strong. But also a passion for the not stopping, for continuing to innovate and to create – new wines and also new wineries.

Our tasting included 7 different wines, out of which 4 were Bisol wines, but 3 were from the winery called Maeli Colli Euganei, the winery which Gianluca helped to start in 2010. Actually the plan was that at the lunch, Gianluca will be joined by Elisa Dilavanzo, the owner of Maeli winery – unfortunately, Elisa got sick and had to stay behind, so Gianluca had a duty of representing both wineries – which he completed with flying honors, as you can imagine.

We started our tasting with 2014 Maeli Fior d’Arancio DOCG Sweet (6% ABV, SRP $27, Residual sugar 115 g/l, 100% Fior d’Arancia, a.k.a. Yellow Muscat) – nice sweetness, clean, minerality, beautiful sweet nose, bright white fruit, nice honey notes. The grapes for this wine come from volcanic soils, which gives it an interesting complexity, saving it from been “one singular note sweet bore”. It is not surprising that last year this wine was selected as “Best in Class” by Tom Stevenson in the UK in the sweet sparkling wines category. Another interesting fact is that in 2015, Maeli winery started Maeli Chef Cup competition, which will be now an annual event, where world-renown chefs compete to create the best dish pairing for Maeli Fior d’Arancia – if you are interested, here is the link detailing the 2015 competition.

Our next wine was NV Bisol Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. Spumante Dry (11.5% ABV, SRP $42, Residual sugar 23 g/l, 100% Glera) – some sweetness on the nose, but body very restrained, creamy mouthfeel, delicious aftertaste, beautiful supple palate. The wine can age – Gianluca had an opportunity to taste 20 years old Bisol Cartizze wine – it retained bubbles, but obviously acquired aromas of more mature fruit. As you can see, this wine is designated as Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G – Cartizze is a single vineyard, 106 hectares (about 255 acres) in size , one of the best vineyards in Italy (most expensive for sure). 139 families own parcels of the Cartizze vineyard – Bisol family owns their parcel for 21 generations. The cost of land on Cartizze is $2.5M per hectare, or $1M per acre – not sure if anyone is selling though.

Time to eat something, right? The first two wines were paired with the selection of appetizers:

Suppli Cacio e Pepe (Risotto Croquettes, Pecorino, Black Pepper) – nice crust, tasty, works the best with the wine.

Bietole Ai Ferri (Plancha-seared Forono Beets, Ricotta, Hazelnuts) – good, nice flavor, good acidity, hazelnuts work well to complement the wines.

Nebrodini Arrostiti (Wood-fired Mushroom Salad, Kale, Mustard Greens, Thyme, Lemon) – nice, good flavor.

We continued our tasting with NV Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Spumante Brut (11.5% ABV, SRP $25, Residual sugar 7.5 g/l, blend of Glera, Pinot Bianco and Verdiso). “Crede” is a “type of clay-laden soil with particular characteristics that greatly benefit the grapes”, according to the wine’s tech sheet. The wine had delicious nose, touch of fruit, fine mousse, perfect acidity, crisp, clean finish.

Now we go back to Maeli with our next wine, which was also the only still wine we had in the tasting. 2014 Maeli Colli Euganei Bianco Infinito ∞ Veneto IGT (12.4% ABV, SRP $24, Yellow Muscat 60%, Chardonnay 40%, aged 5 month in steel tanks, 3 month in the bottle) had nice aromatics, touch of lemon on the nose, vanilla, nice complexity on the palate. The name of this wine (infinito) comes from the accident – one of the workers called Elisa to inform her that one of the barrels needs attention, and when she asked which one, he said “infinito”. As she couldn’t understand what the worker was talking about, it appeared that the number “8” was written on the barrel at an angle, and so from there on the wine took the name “infinito”.

Now, the dishes which were paired with these two wines deserve their own commendation. You see, I rarely eat pizza. When I do, my absolute preference is that the pizza would have crisp, crunchy, literally paper-thin crust. This is exactly what I got at Marta – three pizzas, one better than the other (Funghi was my absolute favorite):

Stracciatella (House-made Stracciatella, Basil, Olio Verde) – perfect pairing. Delicious pizza – very thin crust.

Funghi (Fontina, Mozzarella, Hen of the Woods, Hedgehogs, Red Onion, Thyme) incredible, amazing flavor mushrooms and thyme. Great pairing with Bianco Infinito

Porri e Pancetta (Leeks, Bacon, Fontina, Scallion) – great flavor, very good pairing.

Last three wines were truly special and unique – but none of them are available in the US at the moment, unfortunately. 2015 Private Cartizze Zero Dosage Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. (second fermentation in the bottle, 12 month on the lees) –  first Classic Method sparkling wine from Cartizze, 2015 vintage was bottled 45 days ago, 2011 was the first year of production, 3000 bottles produced in 2015 –  classic champagne, yeast, outstanding.

Then we had 2011 Maeli Colli Euganei Rosévento IGT Spumante (12% ABV, Residual sugar 6.9 g/l, 100% Pinot Nero, 36 months on the lees) – another Classic method sparkling wine, yeasty, classic Rosè champagne nose with strawberries, delicious!

The last wine was truly unique – NV Jeio noSO2 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Brut (100% Glera) – this innovative wine was produced without any added sulphur dioxide (hence the name), made specially for the sensitive consumers. The wine is packaged in the clear bottle wrapped into the foil, to protect it from the sunlight (the wine we were tasting was brought by Gianluca directly from the winery, so it didn’t have any foil or labeling, except the small pieces of paper around the bottle’s neck. The wine had an amazing nose, floral with a touch of white fruit, very dry and again, floral on the palate – very unique compared to any sparkling wine I had before. Delicious – you need to try it for yourself (well, you might have to visit the winery for that).

Our last two dishes were Pollo Ubriaco (Chicken Breast, Charred Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Fresno Chili, Mint), perfectly executed, and Salmerino (Arctic Char, Crispy Potato Cake, Horseradish Crema) – delicious, potato cakes were outstanding ( I would eat the whole plate alone), and the fish was cooked perfectly.

That’s all I have for you, my friends – a wonderful encounter with passion, great people, unique wines and delicious food. Next time you are in a mood for some bubbles in your glass, Bisol and Maeli offer a great range, suitable for any palate and taste. And even if you are not craving pizza right now, go visit Marta in New York – I’m sure you will be happy. And by the way, feel free to ask your friends if they know when Prosecco was first sold in London – you might become a party star, at least for one night. Cheers!

Marta
at Martha Washington hotel
29 E 29th St
New York, NY 10016
Ph: 212-651-3800
http://www.martamanhattan.com/

Marta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gambero Rosso 2016: Tre Bicchieri Tasting

March 21, 2016 12 comments

Gamber Rosso 30 yearsNow, let’s talk about most intense part of the Gambero Rosso 2016 event – Tre Bicchieri grand tasting. Both Custoza DOC and Special Awards Master Class seminars were nice and relaxing – you are sitting down, you have at least an hour to evaluate 9 wines – this is “an oenophile at ease” experience. The grand tasting though is more of an “oenophile in hell”, or if this is too strong of an expression, think of it as marathon which you have to run on the tippy-toes – yep, that level of comfort.

Let me repeat the Gambero Rosso numbers – about 50,000 wines are evaluated by the Gambero Rosso staff in a year, comprise 20,000 different labels from more than 2,400 wineries. 421 wines received the coveted Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award in 2016. 193 wineries were present at Tre Bicchieri 2016 tasting in New York, which would roughly translate into about 400 wines – not all of those wines are Tre Bicchieri winners, wineries are allowed to present the wines which got two glasses awards.

This was the fourth year in the row as I attended Gambero Rosso in New York, so at this point I knew the drill – which means that there will be no rant in this post. Nothing changed – there was still a limit of one glass per attendee for the whole tasting, the wineries were still organized by the distributors and not by the regions – but again, I was ready for that before I walked into the room. I had an opportunity to look at the show guide before tasting started, so I had my targets set and thus from the moment I walked into the tasting room, I went directly to the tables I wanted to visit first (where the wines would potentially run out). This was the right strategy and it worked quite well (as you will see in the list down below).

This was also the first time in 4 years my dear friend Stefano was unable to join me at the Gambero Rosso in New York – which also changed the dynamics for me. Usually when we are together, Stefano perseveres until the very last moment, still tasting wines and taking notes. Left to my own devices, I cut it short when I felt tired. By the way, the pictures below will give you an idea how the tasting room looks like in a middle of event – I always like to take a few shots which I call “Hail Mary” – just put the camera up and take a picture of whatever it will point to. I think it will give you an idea for the event:

Gambero Rosso 2016 Tasting Crowd

Gambero Rosso 2016 Tasting Crowd 1Before I will inundate you with the details on the wines I tasted, I want to offer you some of my main takeaways from the Tre Bicchieri 2016 tasting.

  1. Out of all the wines I tasted (90+), 4 wines were my absolute favorite:
    • Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia – stunning wine – young (2012), but perfectly drinkable, with the balance nothing short of amazing. Down below I will have pictures of the labels – note that starting with 2012 vintage, Ornellaia wines now will have artistic labels on portion of their bottles – 1 bottle in every 6 pack will have an artistic label.
    • Eugenio Collavini Collio Bianco Broy – my favorite white wine of the tasting – beautiful clarity, impeccable balance and a bonus story
    • Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Primitivo Marpione Riserva – yes, I know that Primitivo is technically a Zinfandel, but I never yet tasted Primitivo which would be reminiscent of a good Zinfandel, like Turley, for instance. This wine was – fresh fruit, ripe raspberries and blackberries, playful – just an excellent wine all together.
    • Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah – might be easily my favorite red wine in the tasting – if anything very comparable with Ornellaia in its ability to deliver pleasure. Amazing clarity of spicy fruit, just a pure vibrant note of black pepper – only a few times ever I experienced such pure expression of Syrah. Absolutely delightful.
  2. Very interesting how things changed in Italian wines. I tasted a number of Barolo, 4-6 years old – they were all very approachable, with good fruit and reasonable tannins – quite a departure even from the few years back. On another hand, most of the Super Tuscans were tannic bombs, with the happy exception of Ornellaia and Le Macchiole. I definitely welcome the Barolo change (will be interesting to see how those wines will age), but I think super Tuscan producers should dial down the use of the new oak – as they are, these wines need quite a bit of time to age.
  3. Italy is the #1 wine producer in the world (by volume) so it is not surprising that in addition to the ingenious grapes, such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Italians also mastered all the main international varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache ( better known as Connonau), Zinfandel (yes, in the form of their native Primitivo) and now even Syrah. 3-4 years ago, I would never associate Italy with the world-class Syrah. But then was Syrah from Cartona, which is delicious, and this year’s discovery, Rosset Terroir Syrah from Valle d’Aosta, left me literally speechless in its purity of expression – and I loved it as much as I did the Ornellaia. So yes, Syrah is also squarely on the master list for Italy. Notable exception – Pinot Noir (should be called Pinot Nero in Italy), the finicky grape the world is in love with, which I yet to find to my liking coming from Italy. This will probably happen at some point, and if it does, I’m curious where and how.

Okay, now it is time to share the notes on my favorite wines. I visited about 45 tables, tasted about 90 wines. Below are the favorites – as typical for the trade tastings with lots of wines to evaluate, I use the “plus” system, where “+++” means “excellent wine”. The list below only includes “+++” or higher; I couldn’t contain my excitement and rated “++++1/2” both Ornellaia and Rosset Syrah, this is as high as I ever went. For what it worth, below are my brief tasting notes, all the wines are sorted by respective regions:

Abruzzo:
2012 Villa Medoro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colloie Teramene Adrano – +++1/2, delicious

Alto Adige:
2013 Abbazia di Novacela A.A. Valle Isarco Riesling Praepositus – ++++, clean, balanced
2014 Abbazia di Novacela A.A. Valle Isarco Kerner Praepositus – ++++, delicious!

2011 Elena Walch A.A. Lagrein Castel Ringberg Riserva – +++1/2, excellent, concentrated

2012 Cantina Terlano A.A. Terlano Nova Dominus Riserva – ++++, delicious! 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Sauvignon

Basilicata:
2010 Re Manfredi Terre Degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Serpara – +++1/2, perfect, nice minerality

Friuli Venezia Giulia:
2013 Jermann Vintage Tunina – +++1/2, great complexity
2013 Jermann W…. Dreams…. – ++++, butter, vanilla, beautiful minerality
2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio – +++

2014 Eugenio Collavini Collio Bianco Broy – ++++, clean, beautiful, 50% Friulano, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon, SRP $35, comes from the small small plot behind the house

2013 Livon Braide Alte – +++1/2, Chardonnay, Picolit, Moscato Gialo

Liguria:
2013 Poggio dei Gorgleri Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Albium – +++1/2, Gunflint nose, clean palate

Lombardy:
2009 Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut – +++, beautiful nose, a bit too sweet on the palate
2011 Nino Negri Valtellina Sfursat 5 Stelle  – +++1/2, dried fruit, delicate, delicious. 2012 and 2014 were bad years, and no 5 Stelle wine will be produced
2008 Bellavista Franciacorta Extra Brut Vittorio Moretti Riserva – ++++, delicious, classic

Marche:
2013 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore Vecchie Vigne – +++
2011 Umani Ronchi Canero Cùmaro Riesrva DOCG – +++1/2, delicious (Montepulciano 100%)
2011 Umani Ronchi Pelago Marche Rosso IGT – +++1/2, excellent (Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Montepulciano 40%, Merlot 10%)

Piedmont:
2010 Abbona Barolo Cerviano – +++1/2, lavender, clean, wow!
2011 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi – ++++, beautiful

2012 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superoiore Nizza La Court – ++++, outstanding

2011 Malvira Roero Mombeltramo Riserva – +++, nice, clean

Puglia:
2011 Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Primitivo Marpione Riserva – +++1/2, wow, excellent, Zinfandel-comparable
2012 Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Pri-mit-ivo – +++, excellent fruit and balance

Sardinia:
2013 Vigne Surrau Sincaru Cannonau di Sardegna – +++, excellent
2014 Vigne Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore – +++

Tuscany:
2012 Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter Toscana IGT – +++, 100% Cabernet Franc
2012 Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia Bolgheri Superiore – ++++, excellent, Bordeaux blend (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

2012 Fabrizio Dionisio Cortona Syrah Il Castagno – +++1/2, beautiful nose, restrained, 100% Syrah

2012 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia – ++++1/2, wow! polished, ready
2013 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Rosso Le Serre Nuove – ++++
2013 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Poggio alle Gazze – ++++, outstanding

2010 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino – +++1/2
2011 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino – +++, beautiful
2013 Le Chiuse Rosso di Montalcino – +++, clean, simple

2012 Villa le Corti Chianti Classico Don Tommaso Gran Selezione – +++, excellent, soft

2012 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno – +++1/2, gripping tannins, wow
2013 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo – +++

2012 PETRA Petra Rosso – +++1/2, good balance, Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot blend

2012 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso – ++++, outstanding, 100% Cabernet Franc

Valle d’Aosta:
2013 Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah – ++++1/2, wow, perfect, spicy nose, clean, wow! 100% Syrah

Veneto:
2011 Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo di Gigle – +++, closed on the nose, well present tannins, but balanced
2011 Viticoltori Speri Amarone della valpolicella Classico Vign Sant’Urbano – +++, good, round
2009 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Campolongo di Torbe – ++++, delicious!!! (yeah – single vineyard at about $150 retail)

2014 Valdobbiadene Brut Rive di Col San Martino Cuvée del Fondatore Graziano Merotto – +++1/2, nice complexity

2012 Vignalta Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio Passito Alpianae – +++

 

Gambero Rosso 2016: Discovering Italian Wine Regions – Custoza DOC

February 21, 2016 9 comments

Few weeks ago, I attended Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event in New York. For those unfamiliar, Gambero Rosso is a leading Italian wine guide, where the wines are rated with the symbol of a glass (bicchiere in Italian). The wine can get a rating of one, two or three glasses, and those three glasses (Tre Bicchieri) rated wines considered to be some of the best wines the Italy has to offer. Every year, Gambero Rosso conducts a series of tastings worldwide, to celebrate these best Italian wines, and the tastings are called Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri events.

Custoza DOC tasting

While I had been attending Tre Bicchieri events for the past 4 years, this year was the first time I also attended seminars conducted right before the general tasting. The first seminar was dedicated to the white wines of a small, and I would bet, largely unknown to the majority of the wine drinkers, region in Veneto, called Custoza.

Custoza is located at the south border of the Veneto region, on the shore of the Lake Garda. Excellent terroir to grow wine grapes, and white grapes in particular. Region has mild winters, which definitely helps not to worry about the frost. Another important characteristic of Custoza is mixed soil – clay, sandstone, limestone, which leads to a diversity in the wines. Overall, there are about 700 wine growers in Custoza, 70 wineries, and total wine production is roughly 12 million bottles per year (1 million cases). The region is fast growing on Italian market and represents great value for the money. A number of indigenous grape varieties are use in wine making in Custoza – Garganega, Fernanda/Bianca Fernanda (Cortese clone), Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbianello (known as Tokai Friulano in other regions), Riesling Italico (a.k.a. Welch Riesling), Incrocio Manzoni (cross created in 20th century).

Seminar presenters also made a statement about Custoza wines having a great aging potential – I would like to get back to that after presenting you with the tasting notes. We tasted total of 8 wines in this seminar:

2015 Tinazzi Custoza Cà dei Rocchi (Garganega 40%, Trebbiano di Soave 40%, Bianca Fernanda 20%)
C: pale straw
N: amazing, fresh sweet fruit, candies, through the roof aromatics. Green notes appear after a while.
P: crisp, clean, great acidity, fresh, will work great with seafood
V: 8-, food wine

2015 Gorgo Custoza San Michelin (Garganega, Cortese and Riesling Italico)
C: light gold
N: restrained, candied lemon, herbs, fresh caramel, opened into concentrated sweet baking spices. Smell is an enigma, keep changing. Yes, tropical fruit.
P: clean and crisp, but leaves sweet aftertaste. More concentrated than the previous wine, medium to full body, finish switched to more acidity
V: 7+/8-

2014 Cavalchina Custoza Superiore Amedeo (Garganega 40%, Fernanda 30% (Cortese clone), Trebbianello 15% (Tocai clone), Trebbiano Toscano
15%)
C: light golden
N: hint of smoke, gunflint
P: excellent, clean, green apple, fresh, perfect balance, acidity on the finish. Leaves me desire to take another sip
V: 8

2013 Albino Piona Custoza DOC (Garganega 30%, Trebbiano 35%, Friulano 20%, Trebbianello, Pinot Blanc and Riesling Italico)
C: light golden
N: medicinal, iodine, a nose almost suitable for a scotch
P: lots of fighting components, interesting. It is drinkable, but not together
V: 7-

2013 Menegotti Custoza Superiore Elianto (Cortese, Garganega, Trebbiano)
C: light golden
N: strange, vegetative
P: vegetative/sweet all over the place
V: 7

2013 Monte Del Frà Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro (40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 5% Tocai Friulano, 10% Cortese, 10% Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia and 15% Incrocio Manzoni)
C: golden, nice viscosity
N: minerality, hint of gunflint, white fruit sweetness, restrained
P: delicious. Ripe apples, white stone fruit, minerality, excellent balance
V: 8-

Custoza DOC Old Wines

Take a look at the color difference with younger wines

2010 Monte Del Frà Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro (40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 5% Tocai Friulano, 10% Cortese, 10% Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia and 15% Incrocio Manzoni)
C: concentrated gold
N: minerality, volcanic soils, smoke, interesting
P: interesting complexity, still a touch of oxidation, vanilla, sea salt
V: 7+. This is a drinkable wine, and it will stay like that for a while.

2007 Cavalchina Custoza Superiore Amedeo (Garganega 40%, Fernanda 30% (Cortese clone), Trebbianello 15% (Tocai clone), Trebbiano Toscano
15%)
C: concentrated gold
N: slightly oxidative nose, similar to Jura whites
P: vanilla, steely notes
V: 7. May be good with cheese, but not enjoyable on its own

I very much enjoyed young Custoza wines – many were vibrant and delicious. When it comes to the two older wines, I wouldn’t say I was fun (I’m sure you can see it in my notes). Yes, I like tertiary aromas of older wines, but I still want the wine to have harmony and balance – and this was not the case here.

Very interesting learning experience in any case, plus a new grape (Incrocio Manzoni), or even two if I will count Fernanda as a separate clone/grape. So, have you ever had Custoza wines? What do you think of them?

In the next post, I will be talking about Gambero Rosso Special Awards master class, so until the next time – cheers!

To be continued…

The Wine I’m Willing To Drink For The Next Ten Days – Marcus by Marco Sambin

August 19, 2014 14 comments

Yes, you read it right, and it is a pretty bold [personal] statement. “I will be glad to drink this wine over the next 10 days” was the first emotional reaction as I took a sip of this wine. The reason for this bold statement? Simple. The wine was ready to drink from the get go. You know how often you take a sip of wine and say “well, I think it needs to breathe a little”, or “nice, but let me give it some time”? This wine didn’t need time. Fruit, body, acidity, tannins – all present in a cohesive, as I often call it, “together” package. Instantly available. Instantly delicious.

What makes this “bold personal statement”? My reaction to the first sip was “ahh, I will be glad to drink this every day. Period”. I never experienced this before – with the best wines I had, I would still pick something else to drink the next day, even if that “best wine” was still available. With this wine – yes, I would gladly keep opening the same bottles day after day. Well, possibly that was a reaction to the fact that this was my one and only bottle.

This bottle was actually a sample, and before I will continue talking about the wine, I want to share my frustration with samples. I don’t actively solicit samples (as a general rule – but yes, with exceptions), but then I don’t refuse samples either; I always warn the submitters that the review will be posted only if I happen to like the wine. When the sample arrives, especially if it is a red wine, the frustrating cycle starts. On one hand, I need to open it sooner rather than later, as the sender is awaiting my feedback. On another hand, I treat samples same as the regular wines – I wouldn’t open wine just to take a sip and dump the rest, even if it is only a sample. And I would also make an effort to involve my wife into the tasting, and as she generally prefers the red wines, it becomes difficult to find the right time to open the bottle. All in all, I’m getting torn between the need to open the bottle and the desire to still find the right time for it. There, I let it out.

Now, this particular sample has its own story. Back in April I was contacted by the winery called Marco Sambin from Italy, inviting me to come and taste their flagship wine, called Marcus, at the Vinitaly expo in Verona. When I mentioned that I will not be attending the Vinitaly, they offered to send me a sample – however, they could deliver it only inside Italy. You know, I already said it many times in this blog – having good friends is one of the most important things in life. My dear friend Stefano, who is constantly in between US and Italy, was able to get this bottle for me (it took only about two month for the bottle to get from the Italy into my hands). It then also took me about 6 additional weeks for find the right moment to open the bottle – hence my rant about samples (see above).

Marco Sambin Estate Villa Contarini in Valnogaredo

Villa Contarini in Valnogaredo, from the Marco Sambin presentation

Never mind all of that. What important is that I was able to experience a great bottle of wine. Marco Sambin winery (Azienda Agricola Marco Sambin), a small 10 acres estate, was founded in 2002 in Euganean Hills area in Veneto by Marco Sambin, Full Professor of Psychology at the University of Padova. I don’t want to recite all the information from the web site – you can read it for yourself here, and these are just some of the interesting facts. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah are all growing at the estate. The estate is farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. All the harvest is done by hand, and once the grapes are sorted and destemmed , they are gently crushed and fermentation process starts using only natural yeast, each grape variety fermented on its own. After the fermentation, which lasts for about 15 days, the wine is pressed and goes into the French oak barrels (both new and used), still each variety on its own; the wine will age in oak for the next 12 month. Only then the final cuvée is blended and bottled. Once bottled, the wine will still spend 6 -12 month before it can be released. On average, only 6,000 bottles are produced every year.

And now, here are my notes about the wine itself. The 2010 Marco Sambin Marcus Veneto IGT (14% ABV, Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Merlot 40%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Syrah 5%) had very dark garnet color in the glass. On the nose, it showed concentrated red fruit, cassis, pencil shavings, baking spices and lavender, very complex and inviting. The palate delivered delicious fruit, perfectly present but not over the top, clean acidity, supple tannins and impeccable balance. Long finish, and every sip was leaving you craving another one. Drinkability: 9

Here you have it – the wine I’m willing to drink for the next ten days. Except it was my one and only bottle, and this wine is not available in US (if you are an importer who is reading this by any chance, the winery is looking for representation in the US – you can contact them using the information on the web site, or drop me a note, I will be glad to connect you). Is there a wine you will be glad to drink day after day after day? Cheers!

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