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Heritage wine grapes,History,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine Business

American Heritage Variety Petite Sirah ~ When you get that call

Phone rings, I answer, and hear, “Hello, this is Emma Thomas from Jackson Family Wines.”

This story is inspired by that call from Emma, who works with Jackson Family Wines, because of her interest in PS I Love You and how it relates to this heritage variety. She, really caught my attention, because I’ve been noodling a story on Petite Sirah for a very long time.

Having worked for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in 2000 to 2001, as I was starting my own PR firm, I intimately know the integrity of their wines and their growing number of wine brands (through other experiences), under the Jackson Family umbrella. I was greatly impressed and honored.

SIDEBAR: It was like the day that Stags’ Leap Winery became a member of PS I Love you. I was told by a Bay Area wine writer that “until Stags’ Leap Winery becomes a member, PS I Love You will not be credible.” I immediately went after Robert Brittan, winemaker at the time, and was like a puppy nipping at his heels. I didn’t give up until he said, “Okay, Jo, I understand.” He did get it, because he loves the grape, too. So, now here I am, with Jackson Family Wines really interested in the American heritage variety story, and I couldn’t be more jazzed.

For the record, Jackson Family Wines purchased Field Stone Winery, a few years ago. Field Stone’s old Petite vineyard section did NOT have any damages in the 2019 Kincade Fire. I took these vineyard shots a few years ago, at Field Stone Winery. They tell such a story of why having old vines are very interesting (and colorful, if I may), as well as being important to still be existing.

Besides, it’s been ages since I’ve written about Petite Sirah. So, here I am, back at it again.

I’ve been buried in detailed, busy work, with the Petite Sirah I Love You group. Emma brought me back up to the surface, for a breath of fresh air and it’s great timing. I’ve been thinking about writing a new update about Petite, most especially about its heritage in the US. (Part Two will be devoted to its historical data.)

She excitedly called, because Jackson Family Wines has a focus on heritage varieties, through the brands and vineyards they’ve acquired over the years.

I easily sold their Edmeades Petite Sirah, when I was working in their Kendall-Jackson tasting room. This was prior to PS I Love You even being formed. At the K-J tasting room time, I’d finish the reds tasting with the Edmeades Petite, because it was so bold and luscious. Perhaps this last wine left such a remembrance that that was my chosen closer. Perhaps it was because it was just simply delicious, and the guide I gave to what foods to enjoy with it made visitors hungry… Hungry for more Petite.

In 2001, there were only 62 growers and producers combined. Today, there are over 1,100 vintners and grape growers. Something has happened over time, and while I know the long story, this graph below is worth those 1,000 words.

I’m working on going way back to the history for the crossing of Syrah and Peloursin, which became known as Petite Sirah in the United states.

Dr. Carole Davis, of U.C. Davis fame, has confirmed the DNA lineage of Petite. There’s no longer any more of that “distant cousin,” so many writers have decried in the past. Syrah is the father + Peloursin is the mother grape = the offspring Petite Sirah.

Petite Sirah and Durif became Legal Synonyms in 2011

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) declared my synonym request in 2o11.

I was the impetus behind the effort. When I learned that Durif and Petite Sirah were not recognized as synonyms. I had to get busy with it. Calling in PSILY board of directors, the Wine Institute (through Wendell Lee), and the University of Davis’ Foundation Plant Services department, I got everyone’s backing to endorse my efforts. I filled out and files all of the correct paperwork; and now, the rest is history. In 2011, the names became official synonyms. TTB LINK – DECLARATION

Last October, getting that call from the Jackson Family Wines, just told me that somethings are meant to be. PS I Love You has had patron saints along the way, starting with Charles McIver, in 1884. Of the heritage varieties, Petite Sirah has my full attention. This American Heritage variety landed in California in 1884, when Charles McIver brought Petite Sirah from Montpelier France. The resource for this happening was recorded by California’s famed history Charles Sullivan.

The following is a bit of historical perspective, since it’s still not completely understood, even in the world of wine.

 

Author – Wine Historian Charles L. Sullivan’s Credentials

Let’s start with Charles Sullivan’s A Companion to California Wine An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present

Charles McIver:

  • LINDA VITA VINEYARD: “Charles C. McIver bought 400 acres south of Mission San Jose from Juan Gallegos, in 1883. There he built hid Linda Vista winery and planted one of the most diversified premium vineyards in California. The pre-Prohibition reputation of the Mission San Jose area for fine table wines was derived mostly from McIver’s efforts. He imported such varieties as Béclan, Verdot, Syrah, Durif, Merlot, and Malbec.” pp 189-190
  • PETITE SIRAH: In 1997 there were about 2,500 acres of Petite.

When I took on Petite Sirah in October of 2002, I had no idea the journey would last this long. Petite is so much of a thread in my tapestry that I have a granddaughter who is named Astrid Sirah. (Notice it’s spelled with the “i,” not the “y.”)

To have started the advocacy group PS I Love You for this heritage variety, has been such an privilege. To have so many incredible brands helping me over the years has allowed for a very obscure variety (at the time) to begin to come into the spotlight, to take it’s rightful place in American viticultural history.

[PHOTO: asturianu ~ Hackberry, Arizona, Usa – July 24, 2017: The famous historic route 66 highway with the old general store is visited by people from all of the world.

Petite Sirah ~ The All American Grape

Petite Sirah left France as soon as it had been crossed by French botanist François Durif. He was looking for a Syrah variety that would not be prone to powdery mildew. Instead he created one, whose tightly clustered berries are compacted on its rachis, making it extremely prone to bunch rot. France was happy to see it leave, so it wouldn’t destroy their fragile, viticultural eco system.

Wine Historian Charles Sullivan writes about Petite Sirah coming to Mission San Jose through the Bay Area to Fremont, with Charles McIver. That was in the early 1880s, and here it has been ever since. In California, we have the most acres in all of the world. In the 1960s, Napa Valley was planted to Petite Sirah by 60 percent. It was a work horse and very popular, until Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi became enchanted with Bordeaux varieties. Napa has primarily continued on with Bordeaux varieties.

The following brands in Napa Valley still “get” Petite Sirah, and are hanging with this heritage variety:

It’s significant to note that this one variety, until most recently, has had very few acres anywhere else in the world,and we still lead in Petite production. Unlike other heritage varieties, Petite Sirah has no lasting history of “belonging,” because it would have been a disaster to grow it in France.

It’s not like Zinfandel that has come from Croatia. From Vivino: Primitivo is a grape primarily grown in Italy. But these grapes are actually the same. And even more, Primitivo and Zinfandel were never the original names for this grape. The grapes are originally from Croatia, where they’re called “Tribidrag” and sometimes “Crljenak Kaštelanski.”

When it left France, it came to American first. Nor is it historically like another heritage variety… Charbono. From Wine-Searcher:

In California’s Napa Valley, Charbono – as it is known there – has a more historic role in the region’s wines. It is thought that the variety was brought here by European settlers but the why and how of this is disputed. The most popular theory suggests that it was brought to the valley by Italians under the guise of Barbera. In the 1940s, researchers discovered that these vines were something different from Barbera altogether. Inglenook released the first Charbono in the 1940s, and now remains one of the variety’s most important proponents. However, it is losing ground to more fashionable grape varieties and now covers less than 100 acres of land there.

As soon as it was crossed, it became an imported item that would flourish in California. That was in early the 1880s, coming into Mission San Jose (Fremont). It saved the wine industry during the infestation of Phylloxera. Then, it had a heyday in the 60s, dropping off the charts in the late 1960s, when Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi made their trips to Bordeaux, and decided to go that route.

My next story on Petite Sirah is going into greater detail with a time line, followed by quotes from members of PS I love You and why they’re dedicated to the importance of US Heritage grape varieties…

Looking into the future of Petite Sirah, through the lens of my camera and a bit of space in this 130 year old vine.

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Imports,Italy,Wine,Wine Samples,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery,Wines

Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino

This intro is for five wines tasted in a series. If you want to just skip to the wine, scroll down for ” Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino.”

Winter white wines are so scrumptious, with not only dense foods, but also with lighter foods. I don’t think of them so much as seasonal, anymore; i.e., “I only drink red wines in winter and white wines in summer.” That’s as passé as “one can’t wear white after Labor Day.” (Although, my mother is still turning in her grave, on this one…)

Our American society is finally becoming more sophisticated with wine. We’re beginning to realize that wine is an everyday beverage, and many of us are buying into the lifestyle. The more we travel to wine regions, the more we broaden our horizons and the expansion of our taste buds. Many of us have also found our own palates. We’re depending more and more, in this process of deciding what works best for us, and then forging our own memories.

Other opinions are great; we can learn from them. Ultimately, though, it’s on each of us to figure out what works best for our own taste buds. You might find a reviewer whose palate is very close to yours, then you’ve got a consultant.

I love bringing in regionalities, for instance. We connect more to the wines, with more knowledge… Regions are triggers for more enjoyment, on so many levels. This all goes beyond swirl, sniff, and down the hatch. It takes us to somewhere new. The experience I had with the Tablas Creek wine I’ll also be reviewing, for instance… one swirl, sniff, and taste…

I had just been tasting through some import wines. When I tasted one of them, I immediately knew it Californian. I’ve been blessed to have more than my share of California wines. I’ve also stepped outside of the US and gone into other wine regions of the world. Over time, I’m learning the differences. Each terroir is markedly unique. This, in turn, has more than the land determining flavors. It also has to do with practices, the people and their beliefs, and training; but, if I had been blindfolded during this tasting, and asked what location, I’d have said California, in a California second.

The following samples of white wines have arrived. Brands listed below are all unique, and have intriguing flavors in their own right. Flavors, balance, textures were right there for each wine.

 

[PURCHASED PHOTO from jakobradlgruber: Stock Photo – Beautiful view of idyllic village Castel del Monte, set into a steep hillside under Apennine mountain peaks on a sunny summer day, Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy… See Abruzzo on the map below.]

While I’ve been a guest of the Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, Tuscany, driven through Umbria, and also been a guest of Colonnara | Viticultori in  Cupramontana, in the Marche region of Italy (including a day trip to Senigallia on the Adriatic Sea), I didn’t take most of these pictures in this story. I appreciate the geography so much, and I love finding exceptional images to share with you. It’s all about terroir, and a photo does tell a thousand words. This is a refresher course for me, too, as I read about another winery’s story. Perhaps I can bring more Italian flavor to this story, having my Italian passion reignited.

[MAP: property of Umani Ronchi]

Let’s Begin: Wine, Regionality (including terroir), and Food

WINE: Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino 2018

From the Winery 

Umani Ronchi are wine producers in Marche and Abruzzo.

“The Umani Ronchi story is one of ancient vines, land and people. Seasons waxing and waning. Harvests changing. Wines coming into being. The story began more than half a century ago at Cupramontana, in the heart of Verdicchio Classico country, and has spread further. Today Umani Ronchi is the wine estate owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti family, who since 1957 have been making superb-quality craft wines, coaxing the best out of the Verdicchio and Montepulciano that find their finest expression in Marche and Abruzzo.”

All regions of Europe had the Romans conquer them and then rule over them, from  27 BCE to the First Century BC. The grape growing and winemaking influences of the ancient Romans and Etruscans into Tuscany? Yeah, they brought and they taught winegrowing and winemaking. Roots in Europe are very deep. Histories are rich and Umani Ronchi rightly feel that history.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“The building of an enormous empire was Rome’s greatest achievement. Held together by the military power of one city, in the 2nd century CE the Roman Empire extended throughout northern Africa and western Asia; in Europe it covered all the Mediterranean countries, Spain, Gaul, and southern Britain. This vast region, united under a single authority and a single political and social organization, enjoyed a long period of peaceful development.”

[PHOTO from the Website. Left to right: Michele Bernetti is managing the winery, while father Massimo Bernetti is acting chair.]

WINE

For starters: The Pecorino grape variety, also known as “grape of the sheep,” comes from the strong connection between sheep farming and agriculture. This grape variety grows in the areas of shepherds’ actions of moving livestock from one grazing area to another. In a seasonal cycles, this typically happens to lowlands in winter and highlands in summer.

We tasted the 2018 Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino and it was such a delicious wine, so reflective of its terroir. It has a Mediterranean smoothness, which is really clean, with a full, lush lingering finish.

And, “vellodoro” Pecorino grape variety, also known as “grape of the sheeps”,

Pecorino is an unusual grape to find in the US. Go the extra mile to find it. This Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino is a classic example of flavor, quality, and a sustainable wine being produced today.

The adorable lamb on the label speaks to its sustainability. The minerals, including salinity, were really well balanced, and the flavor that dominated for me, first off. Its heartiness is in balanced with its flora and fauna in this region. It’s a real treat.

An experience unlike our usual, safe and sound white varieties, when you step outside of our usual boundaries, you may discover gold. This is one of those golden moment wines… as delicious as its locations, along the Adriatic Sea.

 

[The density of the fog in this image that I took while there, was made possible by my being in the mountains, above the fog line.]

TERROIR

The Pecorino variety is grown in cooler climates. In Italy, the origin of these wines comes from the Marche, Abruzzo, Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio regions, with Adriatic Sea influences… In this wine’s case, Abruzzo is its pedigree. It’s a yellow-white grape – why it’s one of my Winter Wonderland Whites.

Soils are mainly composed of fluvial and lacustrine sediments.

  • Fluvial is created by the action of a river or stream; and alluvial, which we usually hear about for soils, is pertaining to a stream depositing the soil.
  • Lacustrine rock formations are formed in the bottom of ancient lakes.

In the US, it’s an unusual variety. In Italy, however, it grows in the very specific eastern, coastal regions… The Adriatic Sea has powerful influences. The fog is a bit overwhelming, as it hangs on for dear life, in Italian valleys of the Apennine Mountains. For flavors, think Alpine flowers: Jasmine and scents of the acacia bush, which are clean, pure, and a classic honey flavor.

[PURCHASED PHOTO: michelleleephotography]

FOOD

The label makes me think of a warming, thick pea soup with white beans. The acidity of the Pecorino, and yes, the color of the label, are also very suggestive. It seems like a night with the fireplace burning one more log, one more teaspoon, one more sip.

Buona notte!

 

#SAMPLES: Vineyard Brands has brought us the following wines, including this one… with the exception of the upcoming Nik Weis, brought to us by H.B. Wine Merchants.

Next will be Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2017

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Germany,Imports,Riesling,Wine

Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Nik Weis

This intro is for five wines tasted in a series. If you want to just skip to the wine, scroll down for “Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Riesling.”

Winter white wines are so scrumptious, with not only dense foods, but also with lighter foods. I don’t think of them so much as seasonal, anymore; i.e., “I only drink red wines in winter and white wines in summer.” That’s as passé as “one can’t wear white after Labor Day.” (Although, my mother is still turning in her grave, on this one…)

Our American society is finally becoming more sophisticated with wine. We’re beginning to realize that wine is an everyday beverage, and many of us are buying into the lifestyle. The more we travel to wine regions, the more we broaden our horizons and the expansion of our taste buds. Many of us have also found our own palates. We’re depending more and more, in this process of deciding what works best for us, and then forging our own memories.

Other opinions are great; we can learn from them. Ultimately, though, it’s on each of us to figure out what works best for our own taste buds. You might find a reviewer whose palate is very close to yours, then you’ve got a consultant.

I love bringing in regionalities, for instance. We connect more to the wines, with more knowledge… Regions are triggers for more enjoyment, on so many levels. This all goes beyond swirl, sniff, and down the hatch. It takes us to somewhere new. The experience I had with the Tablas Creek wine I’ll also be reviewing, for instance… one swirl, sniff, and taste…

I had just been tasting through some import wines. When I tasted one of them, I immediately knew it Californian. I’ve been blessed to have more than my share of California wines. I’ve also stepped outside of the US and gone into other wine regions of the world. Over time, I’m learning the differences. Each terroir is markedly unique. This, in turn, has more than the land determining flavors. It also has to do with practices, the people and their beliefs, and training; but, if I had been blindfolded during this tasting, and asked what location, I’d have said California, in a California second.

The following samples of white wines have arrived. Brands listed below are all unique, and have intriguing flavors in their own right. Flavors, balance, textures were right there for each wine.

[PURCHASED PHOTO Paul Grecaud: Panoramic landscape with vineyards surrounding the town of Bernkastel-Kues. Mosel, Germany. Autumn panorama]

 

Let’s Begin: Think Wine, Regionality (including terroir), and then Food

WINE: Nik Weis  St. Urbans-Hof 2018 Ockfener Bockstein

FROM THE WINERY:

St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Kabinett 2018 / SRP $26 is a single-vineyard grand cru Riesling from the Mosel region’s Saar Valley, made by A-list winemaker Nik Weis. Lithe and refined, with a complex array of flavors, it truly stands apart from industrial, one- or two-dimensional Rieslings. The 2018 vintage also highlights the wine’s mineral structure.

Every winery in the world has a distinct story to tell, with some unique location. Some of their histories have just begun, while others take you way back in time… Winemaker Nik Weis has the latter story to tell, being on property that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. From castle life, to monasteries and Knights (Templar), to housewives and their loves… It was a time then, when wine just “was.”

Living in the Mosel region of Germany, Nik Weis is a third generation winemaker, who chooses to make his wine, with passion and good heartedness. I’m fortunate to have tasted many vintages from Nik Weis. Each time I’ve loved them… Cool, crisp, well-balanced, all by this thoughtful man. Living and working in a cool climate has produced exceptional wines, with lively acidity and a lovely balance. They just make me think of days gone, living in Maine, enjoying mountainous skiing, and the knockout colors of fall. I could so be that person in The Sound of Music, sipping on Nik Weis… Nik’s wines have that calling of coming from a higher, ethereal place.

The St. Urbans-Hof 2018 Ockfener Bockstein is just delectable. A quality Riesling, with aromas of elderflowers, it’s flavors of high acidity have a very well-balanced finish. I grew up with a grandmother who made elderberry jam… It’s an easy flavor to pick up, as a result. From Nik Weis information on the wine: Nik Weis believes that Mosel wines are better with a hint of sweet, and also talks about the wine’s ‘saline’ quality. In his typically light-hearted, unpretentious fashion, Weis likens the interplay between sweet and saline in this ‘serious’ Grosse Lage wine to “the salt on the rim of a margarita glass.”

Yeah, it was all that and more. An easy brand to purchase, because it’s tried and true, and has a rock solid history of quality!

 

REGIONALITY

WIKI: Mosel wine region is located along the river Moselle (Mosel) and its tributaries, the rivers Saar and Ruwer, and was previously known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. [Map Below]

The Mosel region is dominated by Riesling grapes and slate soils, and the best wines are grown in dramatic-looking steep vineyards directly overlooking the rivers. This region produces wine that is light in body due to lower alcohol levels, crisp, of high acidity and with pronounced mineral character. The only region to stick to Riesling wine, with noticeable residual sweetness, as the “standard” style; although dry wines are also produced.

The Mosel river dominates the geography of the region, which is typically divided into three main sections. The Upper Mosel is the southern-most section, located closest to the river’s origins along the French and Luxembourg border. The region includes the Saar and Ruwer river tributaries and is centered on the city of Trier. The Middle Mosel, or Mittelmosel, is the main wine growing region and includes the villages of Bernkastel and Piesport.

[IBIX PHOTO Purchased]

WINERY: Vines have been grown on the Bockstein VDP Grosse Lage (“great site,” Germany’s legal equivalent of “grand cru”) since the Middle Ages. Today, there are only six producers with vines in this historic 136-acre site, and Nik Weis owns 25 of those acres. His father Hermann initially acquired property there in 1989, and Nik later increased the holdings. The Bockstein vineyard was expanded in the 1970s, but all the St. Urbans-Hof holdings are in the best, original section.

WINERY UPDATE

WINERY:

The Bocksteinfels (buck stone cliffs — likely a reference the wild mountain ibex that populate the surrounding forest) overlooks the small village of Ockfen, in a side valley from the Saar river. The vineyard sits on a very steep 50 degree southwest-facing slope. This makes the site a member of “the steepest vineyards of the world club,” which includes the famous Douro, home of port vineyards.

What makes this vineyard so special?

The area’s colder climate (winds come down from the Hunsrück hills) is compensated for by the site’s unparalleled access to sunlight (very steep slope and sun’s rays not blocked by other hills). This means an ideal, long, slow ripening season.

Rather than high sugar levels, vines produce aromatic potential and the resulting wines are some of the most aromatically complex found anywhere, bar none.

The extensive forest atop the hill retains water, which drains slowly into the vineyard soils below. The stony, weathered gravelly slate soil acts as a mini-radiator, absorbing heat during the day and warming the vines during the evening. A very shallow soil layer (around three feet) forces roots to dig deep into the bedrock, absorbing minerals along the way and reaching trapped water in times of drought.

For Riesling lovers, the Saar traditionally produced “the most Mosel of the Mosels:” steely, racy, smoky, minerally wines with vibrant notes of fruit and elderflower. But the cool, marginal-for-winemaking climate only yielded an average of three good vintages out of ten. Today, thanks to new viticultural techniques — and global warming – those “vintage valleys” have been nearly eliminated.

Next will be Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino 2018

SAMPLES: Vineyard Brands has brought us the following wines, including this one… with the exception of the upcoming Nik Weis, brought to us by H.B. Wine Merchants.

Thank you to Jane Kettlewell of Creative Palate for arranging this sample. Jane is a very fine storyteller.

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Côtes du Rhône,France,French Wine,Rhone,Sample,White Wine,Wine,Wine and Food,Wine Samples,Wine tasting,Winemaker,Winery,Wines

Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc

This intro is for five wines tasted in a series. If you want to just skip to the wine, scroll down for “Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc.”

Winter white wines are so scrumptious, with not only dense foods, but also with lighter foods. I don’t think of them so much as seasonal, anymore; i.e., “I only drink red wines in winter and white wines in summer.” That’s as passé as “one can’t wear white after Labor Day.” (Although, my mother is still turning in her grave, on this one…)

Our American society is finally becoming more sophisticated with wine. We’re beginning to realize that wine is an everyday beverage, and many of us are buying into the lifestyle. The more we travel to wine regions, the more we broaden our horizons and the expansion of our taste buds. Many of us have also found our own palates. We’re depending more and more, in this process of deciding what works best for us, and then forging our own memories.

Other opinions are great; we can learn from them. Ultimately, though, it’s on each of us to figure out what works best for our own taste buds. You might find a reviewer whose palate is very close to yours, then you’ve got a consultant.

I love bringing in regionalities, for instance. We connect more to the wines, with more knowledge… Regions are triggers for more enjoyment, on so many levels. This all goes beyond swirl, sniff, and down the hatch. It takes us to somewhere new. The experience I had with the Tablas Creek wine I’ll also be reviewing, for instance… one swirl, sniff, and taste…

I had just been tasting through some import wines. When I tasted one of them, I immediately knew it Californian. I’ve been blessed to have more than my share of California wines. I’ve also stepped outside of the US and gone into other wine regions of the world. Over time, I’m learning the differences. Each terroir is markedly unique. This, in turn, has more than the land determining flavors. It also has to do with practices, the people and their beliefs, and training; but, if I had been blindfolded during this tasting, and asked what location, I’d have said California, in a California second.

The following samples of white wines have arrived. Brands listed below are all unique, and have intriguing flavors in their own right. Flavors, balance, textures were right there for each wine.

 

Let’s Begin: Think Wine, Regionality (including terroir), and then Food

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2018

Let’s talk about passion, first. Check out these hands. THIS is a winemaker. THIS is the passion. And THIS was written by Jacques Perrin. (Photo from their Website.)

“To follow your own ideas, sometimes regardless of those of others, is to affirm your identity, at the risk of perhaps being misunderstood – at least for a while.”

A sage with a wink… This is going to be fun…

FROM THE WINERY

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2018

Made by the legendary Famille Perrin, who also produces Château de Beaucastel, this Côtes du Rhône is made from traditional varieties.

It is such a delightful mélange of flavors. I savored it, taking a lot of time to find all of the characters in this class act:

  • Grenache Blanc ~ This full-bodied white grape has flavors that delivered the honeysuckle and citrus
  • Marsanne ~ Enter the flavors of mandarin orange
  • Viognier ~ Mango and peach, with a fine olive oil viscosity
  • Roussanne ~ And this one came is with a beeswax, character finish… smooth, round, and delightful.

It’s a complex wine that was so easy to love. (I didn’t need to pair this one with food. It was a drinking, thinking wine.)

The Perrin family are blending masters. This Rhône blend has a rich melange of flavors. It’s round and supple on the palate, with its minerality a delicate addition.

REGIONALITY

From their own words on the Château de Beaucastel site:

  • Beaucastel’s terroir is marked by the Rhone violence. It is made with a layer of marine molasses (sandstone) from the Miocene period, covered by alpine alluvium. The presence of a great number of rounded stones, known as « galets », bear evidence of the time when the Rhone, a torrent at this time, tore fragments of rocks from the Alps and deposited them along its course
  • From UC Berkeley: The Miocene Epoch, 23.03 to 5.3 million years ago,* was a time of warmer global climates than those in the preceding Oligocene or the following Pliocene and it’s notable in that two major ecosystems made their first appearances: kelp forests and grasslands.

FOODS TO PAIR 

This is a wine pairs that pairs beautifully with spicy dishes. Also, white Côtes du Rhônes are delicious when paired with fish dishes, especially with sushi and shellfish.

Next will be Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2018

SAMPLES: Vineyard Brands has brought us the following wines, including this one… with the exception of the upcoming Nik Weis, brought to us by H.B. Wine Merchants.

 

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Burgundy,Food and Wine,France,French Wine,Wine,Winemaking,Winery,Wines,Wne and Food

Winter Wonderland Whites: Think Wine, Regionality, Food, and Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc

Winter white wines are so scrumptious, with not only dense foods, but also with lighter foods. I don’t think of them so much as seasonal, anymore; i.e., “I only drink red wines in winter and white wines in summer.”  That’s as passé as “one can’t wear white after Labor Day.” (Although, my mother is still turning in her grave, on this one…)

Our American society is finally becoming more sophisticated with wine. We’re beginning to realize that wine is an everyday beverage, and many of us are buying into the lifestyle. The more we travel to wine regions, the more we broaden our horizons and the expansion of our taste buds. Many of us have also found our own palates. We’re depending more and more, in this process of deciding what works best for us, and then forging our own memories.

Other opinions are great; we can learn from them. Ultimately, though, it’s on each of us to figure out what works best for our own taste buds. You might find a reviewer whose palate is very close to yours, then you’ve got a consultant.

I love bringing in regionalities, for instance. We connect more to the wines, with more knowledge… Regions are triggers for more enjoyment, on so many levels. This all goes beyond swirl, sniff, and down the hatch. It takes us to somewhere new. The experience I had with the Tablas Creek wine I’ll also be reviewing, for instance… one swirl, sniff, and taste…

I had just been tasting through some import wines. When I tasted one of them, I immediately knew it Californian. I’ve been blessed to have more than my share of California wines. I’ve also stepped outside of the US and gone into other wine regions of the world. Over time, I’m learning the differences. Each terroir is markedly unique. This, in turn, has more than the land determining flavors. It also has to do with practices, the people and their beliefs, and training; but, if I had been blindfolded during this tasting, and asked what location, I’d have said California, in a California second.

The following samples of white wines have arrived. Brands listed below are all unique, and have intriguing flavors in their own right.  Flavors, balance, textures were right there for each wine.

Let’s Begin: Think Wine, Regionality (including terroir), and then Food

 

Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc 2017

Wine

The Matros are located in Meursault, France, where they buy and sell the harvest from the vineyards of his father’s Héritiers du Domaine Joseph Matrot estate. The vines for this Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc 2017 are about 30 years old. This gives the Chardonnay depth of an intricate quality, in a terroir that delivers perfect Chardonnays.

Add to this that the wine was fermentation for eight to 10 weeks, in oak barrels.

Fifteen to 20 percent were new barrels; so, the richness that this imparts to the wine is not lost on their prior use. Prior use continues to create barrels that become neutral vessels. New oak adds a vanilla character that rounds out the wine further with complexity. And, complex is a great word to describe this Bourgogne Blanc.

This is a very delightful and delicious wine; the complexity of it was not lost on this writer. Fruity (the grape) and creamy (the oak) are my best descriptions, and we shared it with other winemakers, Betsy and Bill Nachbaur, of ACORN Winery, and Tom Parmeson (Parmeson Wines). It deserved some great palates, who would also enjoy the wine as much as Jose (partner-husband) and I did.

Regionality

Burgundy, located on the eastern side of France, means that this is a Pinot Noir wine grape variety. (Southern Burgundy is where most of the Gamay wines are grown. That sub-region is called Beaujolais as are the wines.)

The family (from their Website):

Family estate since 1835. Adèle and Elsa, with their parents Pascale and Thierry Matrot, work together, guaranteeing the deserved quality of the culture, of the vines, the vinification, the aging of the wines, and their marketing.

The philosophy of Domaine Matrot (from their Website):

Aware of our precious heritage and the work accomplished by our ancestors, our goal is to protect the quality of our terroirs for next generations.

The wine must be the expression of the terroir and the vintage. To keep all the different characters of our wines we start by doing a careful job in the vines.

Best Food Pairing

After tasting the wine in my office, we took the bottle with us for a dinner engagement with Betsy and Bill Nachbaur. Betsy prepared a green salad, and slowly cooked this delicious Coq Au Vin with rice… The Coq Au Vin paired perfectly with the Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc 2017, as well as her tiramisu.

Delicious foods to match and equally delicious wine…

Next will be Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2018

SAMPLES: Vineyard Brands has brought us the following wines, including this one… with the exception of the upcoming Nik Weis, brought to us by H.B. Wine Merchants.

 

7

Beaujolais,France,French Wine,Gamay,négociant,Obituary,Wine,Wine Culture

Georges Duboeuf Has Passed on to Greener Vineyards ~ January 4, 2020

[PHOTO CREDIT: Portrait-FD-et-GD-Avril]

Georges Duboeuf: Born April 14, 1933, Died January 4, 2020

Known as the “Pope of Beaujolais”

Being asked to go to Beaujolais on a media tour in July of 2019, was just the beginning of a very intense, five-day sojourn into the world of Georges Duboeuf, and his life devoted to Beaujolais’s Gamay grape. The world-renown wine businessman, Georges was a shining example of how one becomes and maintains global success as a wine négociant, with great dignity.

Monsieur Georges Duboeuf and his family not only taught me about the Gamay grape and the Beaujolais region of France, but they also demonstrated a rare humility, which sometimes comes along as quiet leaders within a farming community. He wasn’t looking for fame and fortune; he was looking for solutions.

The Duboeuf family has traced itself back to the Fifteenth Century. The family tree is complete; it hasn’t skipped a beat from one generation to the next of grape growers… At the time of my visit, I met three generations of Duboeufs: Georges, son Franck, and grandson Aurélien.

Georges Duboeuf’s early years were more than a bit challenging, but I don’t think he ever saw it that way. Georges’ father passed away when he was only two years old. Against some odds, his childhood was still like any other young boy’s, riding the dusty Beaujolais roads of the country. For him, they were exciting and inspiring times. He was a mover, a shaker, and a get-it-done-maker. When his neighbors were in need for anything, Georges was the finder of solutions. This is actually how his négociant career began…

 

Reading Beaujolais, A Shared Passion, by Georges Duboeuf, I found the pivotal point for when Georges Duboeuf began his négociant career. It had to do with Georges’ friend Jean Ernest Descombes’ passing. Georges lost a wonderful friend.

Nicole Descombes, Jean’s daughter, not only lost both parents, but she no longer was part of the winery; she was the winery. Together with her parents’ friend Georges, a solution evolved for moving past the grief and into the future. This adult woman, who was a child that Georges watched growing into womanhood, he would help her sell her wine. He had the connections; she had the wine. True friend that he was, Georges Duboeuf had two stipulations, however: The winery name must remain the same, and a picture of Jean Ernest Descombes must also be on every label.

GEORGES DuBOEUF’S CHILDHOOD

To understand Georges, one needs to go back into his childhood. Just imagine the challenges for a young mother, with two young sons; Roger, a bit older, and younger Georges. Both had to grow up fast, with some of Georges’ childhood needing to be put on hold for a bit. (Today’s evidence of his lost youth is with his beloved museum, called Hameau Duboeuf.)

Think Peter Pan: Why Walt Disney created what the child in him craved, why Georges Duboeuf recreated a tiny village, like the one he would sneak off to build in an old shed, complete with miniatures.

In Georges’ life, he not only created relationships through his business life, but he also satisfied his sense of pedagogy. And, that’s what makes his legacy very remarkable. He came into this world to be a teacher, and he devoted his life to the education of Beaujolais and the Gamay grape… As a single focus, he just got the job done, and had a very inspiring life, especially for those of us who saw this gentle giant, larger-than-life man of wine.

He had such a generous spirit, coming from deep within.

SHAPE SHIFTERS

Georges Duboeuf was to Beaujolais what Robert Mondavi was to Napa Valley…

All of his wine relationships were started through neighbors and forged friendships, over the years. Just imagine… a community that hasn’t grown apart as each generation goes forward. This can be a little hard to understand, unless you take yourself back to the “Old World.” The French Wine business was never part of the Industrial Revolution… Viticulture just kept happening, year after year – staying close to the earth. Eating, sleeping, drinking, socializing, everything that America was before the industrial revolution… That’s what it’s been like in Beaujolais, since forever, and Georges always carried that humble, work ethic forward.

Closest friends were the pioneer who’s who of Beaujolais’s growth: Alexis Lichine,  Stéphane Collaro, Joannes Papillon, Jean-Paul Borgeot, Jean Ducloux, Bernard Pivot, Guy Béart, Philippine de Rothschild, Gérard Lenorman, and Michael Nouveau, Sacha Distel, and André Pousse, for instance.

Georges Duboeuf in now a legendary figure, as earned thorough his passions for wine and Beaujolais. A major part of Beaujolais’ history, for legally defining its terroir, regional styles, soils, grape varieties… all of the steps carried out, in defining this specific region and history of France. It’s a very special distinction: to be this kind of innovator, a creator… Georges Duboeuf’s history, all of his steps are well documented.

While in Beaujolais, during that memorable morning tasting, with the Duboeuf family, it was coming to a close, but they had one more surprise: Georges Duboeuf’s autobiography. This photo was taken at that time. I came home to read it, to treasure it then, and hold in my heart forever more.

It’s hard to articulate how much respect I have for this family. Monsieur Georges Duboeuf is an amazing success story. It was such an honor to have been entertained by the Duboeuf family in Georges’  home; so that I, too, could continue to educate about Beaujolais, and carry his legacy forward.

Georges Duboeuf’s autobiography: A Shared Passion was written with the complicity of Jean Orizet, and translated by Eileen Powis. Georges Duboeuf’s autobiography was originally written in French. English versions are as rare as the man was.

Not only is Beaujolais weeping, the entire world of Gamay is also weeping today.

Thanks to Wine Business for publishing this story.

2

Obituary,PS I Love You,St. Helena,Wine

William “Van” Ballentine, Ballentine Vineyards, Passed Away on December 17, 2019

William “Van” Ballentine ~ Born March 15, 1927, Died December 17, 2019

It is very sad news, when such a dear person and friend passes on… Van Ballentine has passed onto the greener fields of his Irish ancestors. Reading the words from the family, processing them… my words don’t come easily to tell this story. But I must. There are communities of friends; both in and out of the wine business. So many fans adore the passion Van put into his farming and winemaking. His fellow members of PS I Love You deserve to know, since I’m its voice.

This one really touches my heart

When I read the words: “Van Ballentine, passed away peacefully at his home on December 17th. There will be a service at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. Helena, on Tuesday, January 7th, with a memorial at a later date,” I stared into the open.

Van was such a great member of his St. Helena area community. And a great member of the PS I Love You group… One of our first, always the quiet gentleman that came to be his signature at our wine events. William Van Morrison is in my heart and mind, as I wish him a fond, earthly farewell…

From William “Van” Ballentine’s Family

William “Van” Ballentine passed away at his home in St. Helena, at the age of 92, surrounded by his family on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. He was born on March 15, 1927 in St. Helena to John Ballentine and Ellen (Gerhardt) Ballentine. Van attended Foot Hill School in Angwin and then later St. Helena High School. On April 26, 1953 he married Betty Pocai from Calistoga and raised their two sons, Frank and Bill.

Van and Betty spent their life in the wine business. Van’s father, John Ballentine, immigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1910, and moved to Napa County in 1922. He bought 160 acres of vines along with a winery near Angwin that he later called Deer Park after his homestead in Ireland. Van grew up growing grapes and making wine with his father as early as seven years of age. He continued the family wine making tradition his entire life.

Van served in the Navy for four years. He was a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, and a Board Member of the Napa Valley Cooperative. He worked as Christian Brothers vineyard manager in the 50’s and 60’s.

Van enjoyed working in the vineyard. He spent the majority of his life in the vineyard planting and tending vines and working the soil with his own hands. His favorite place was on the tractor, and most days he could be found on the property in the field working his land. He took great personal pride in his vineyards and his work.

In 1993 Van and Betty built the Ballentine Vineyards winery in St. Helena and revived the family label. Van loved traveling around the country with Betty participating in wine tastings and sharing their wine. Van took much pride in sharing his wines and seeing their enjoyment by others.

When Van was not working in the vineyard, he enjoyed outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing. He spent a lot of time hunting with his family members, sons, and friends. Van also enjoyed traveling to Alaska for salmon fishing, which became an annual highlight for him.

Van is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Betty, his two sons, Frank (Linda) and Bill (Jane), and his four grandchildren, Cole, Audrey, Claire and Ryan. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at 1:30 PM at the Grace Episcopal Church, 1314 Spring St., St. Helena. A private burial will follow at the Catholic Cemetery. Family and friends are invited to the funeral service at the church. There will be a memorial held at a later date.

Thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.

Thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.

0

Capalbio,Italy,Maremma,Travel,Tuscany,Wine

The Microcosm of Maremma is Where Red Tuscan Land Meets the Sea ~ Part II

A quick recap from Part I, regarding this region’s location: Capalbio is a commune, from the Province of Grosseto, in the Tuscany region of Italy…

WHERE: Tuscany Bordered by Tyrrhenian Sea, on its West Side

From Discover Tuscany, “Maremma [as a microclimate] is unique because of the variety of its territory: blue sea, long beaches, black rock, hills covered with woods, marshes and flat lands, green hills and natural thermal baths.” Located in the coastal area of west-central, Italy, Maremma stretches between the provinces of Livorno and Grosseto.

[PHOTO: Discover Tuscany]

And this is where red Tuscan soil meets the Tyrrhenian Sea.

So let’s go on an adventure to Capalbio, and take a look at one producer, which I was asked to review.

 

[PHOTO: with permission from Villa Pinciana]

Villa Pinciana and its Wines of Maremma

GEOGRAPHY: The vineyards of Villa Pinciana rise upon a hill. It’s facing the sea on one side and is protected by the Maremma hills on the back side, at the feet of the small ancient village of Capalbio. This is located on the southern border of Tuscany.

Here, you can expect to find local “fresh catches of the day” from the sea, along with Tuscan wines, native cheeses, and extra virgin olive oils. Rich in Italian culture, it couldn’t possibly disappoint any adventurous soul, looking for yet more soul.

Within this region, the zones and wines of interest: Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario, Bianco di Pitigliano, Capalbio, Morellino di Scansano, Parrina and Sovana.

Villa Pinciana, in the CAPALBIO region

…located in the Maremma Hills

HISTORY: Brief ancient history, just for geographical enrichment, gratis Discover Tuscany:

Its origins are extremely ancient as testified by the tombs dating back to the Bronze Age. Its history is traceable back to 806 A.D. when Capalbio became the property of the Tre Fontane Abbey in Rome, as per donation of Charlemagne.

Around 1200 the village comes under the rule of the Aldobrandeschi clan and then under the rule of the Republic of Siena. During these years, the town accumulates wealth and many public works are completed, such as the fortress and the walls. In 1555, the invasion of Spanish troops throws Capalbio into a deep economic and demographic crisis, also due in large part to malaria. [Fortunately, they recovered.]

VILLA PINCIANA

Let me first say, the first word that comes to mind, if someone said, in a word association game, “Villa Pinciana,” would be “classy.”

In the zone of Capalbio, Villa Pinciana is a 133 acre (54 hectare) estate, with part of it being dedicated to wine growing. The original planting happened in 2003, with a focus on Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties.  Other planted varieties are Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Whites include Vermentino and Viognier. There is an emphasis here on Bordeaux varieties with the reds, if you take note. THESE I’d love to taste. I hear they’re outstanding, and I can’t help but wonder what the Tyrrhenian Sea has contributed to their terroir, as regards salinity, among other mineral flavors and floral notes…

The recently completed winery is very modern. In an ancient land, they insisted on using the most modern and innovative technologies. Striving for perfection, they knew that this would allow for them to monitor production, in order to obtain the highest quality wines.

From Villa Pinciana: Our dream? To put together a winery which produces high quality wines, with an international ambition, in a place which for us relates to our loved ones and our memories.

On their Website: Ilaria and Massimo took on the challenge from day one under the guidance of oenologist Paolo Caciorgna and of the agronomist Edoardo Pastorelli. Their working relationship lead to the birth of nine hectares of mainly local vines, (Sangiovese, Pugnitello and Vermentino), which were combined with French vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah. The recent construction of the winery, with a barrique cellar and the refining room interred in the hill (at optimal temperatures and humidity for the wine’s evolution) has enabled them to avail themselves of technologies which are respectful of the grapes. From this winery today, comes a production which is limited in quantity but of very high quality.

LA FAMIGLIA ~ The Family ~ Ilaria and Massimo Pietromarchi’s

PHOTO: Ilaria Pietromarchi

The dream began with Ilaria Pietromarchi’s. She remembers life as a child:

Her time was divided between the magical combination of the familiar Maremma landscape,– with its Holm-oak woods, myrtle bushes, and its pine forests…– and the ultra-cultural city of Rome. In Rome, Ilaria graduated with a degree in statistics. She then went on to specialize in Economics, in the United States, and then moved to London.

“But plants with ancient trunks are deeply rooted. Which is why, having married Massimo Tosato,” states Ilaria, “I set to work on my project, which would become our splendid Villa Pinciana.”

Ilaria likens it to being “the Bolgheri experience.”

[PHOTO: Purchased from Jaroslaw Pawlak – Pastoral green field with long shadows in Tuscany, Italy]

Bolgheri, Italy is celebrated by one of the major Italian poets Giosuè Carducci. He was of the nineteenth century, and devoted to the town of Bolgheri and its surrounding, because he had spent part of his youth there.

I can see the influence, and as I wrote above… classy.

 

0

Tuscany,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Travel

The Microcosm of Maremma is Where Red Tuscan Land Meets the Sea ~ Part I

WHERE: Tuscany Bordered by Tyrrhenian Sea, on its West Side

From Discover Tuscany, “Maremma [as a microclimate] is unique because of the variety of its territory: blue sea, long beaches, black rock, hills covered with woods, marshes and flat lands, green hills and natural thermal baths.” Located in the coastal area of west-central, Italy, Maremma stretches between the provinces of Livorno and Grosseto.

[PHOTO: Discover Tuscany]

And this is where red Tuscan soil meets the Tyrrhenian Sea.

About Red Tuscan soil in general: Sonoma County viticulturist Hector Bedolla, when he was teaching me about the viticulture of Dry Creek Valley, in Sonoma County, said to me, “This red soil is filled with iron oxide, from volcanic activity. The action from Mother Earth puts the ‘peppery flavors’ into wines; and is why Dry Creek Valley, in Sonoma County, is a perfect place to plant Zinfandel (known as Primitivo in Italy).”

It’s also a perfect soil for planting Sangiovese, the grape that truly defines Tuscany. (It, too, is known for its pepper spice.)

[Map Created by Norman Einstein, used with permission of creative commons via Wikipedia.]

GEOGRAPHY: A Bit About Tuscany

Tuscany comprises ten provinces (seen above). This story is inspired by, and ultimately about, wines crafted by Maremma’s, Villa Pinciana, located in the Grosseto Province of Tuscany, Italy.

In any winery story, I like to begin with a bit of geography, so we can fathom through words and images, in order to grasp a location and its terroir.

Below is a guide to understanding so many new names coming up, and in their sequence position:

  • Country ~ Italy
  • Region ~ Tuscany
  • Grosseto ~ Province or Comune [Italian spelling of commune]
    • Maremma ~ Microcosm and a small town

Please refer to the map for each highlighted commune, in Tuscany. The Grosseto Comune is one of the 10 regional appellation in Tuscany. Total population, as of 2016, is 223,652 people. Given both locations of Grosseto and the Tyrrhenian Sea, it seems like there would be some amazing vistas and really fascinating terroir.

Because I haven’t actually been there, I asked friend and wine marketer Michael Yurch, from Bluest Sky Group – whom I know has been there – if this is as beautiful as it seems? His response: “Maremma is indeed beautiful, and I LOVE the little town of Capalbio.”

Yeah, good enough for me, too. Now I can dream with some visuals.

HISTORY: Capalbio in the region of Maremma

Next, history is very important, now that we’ve established where we’re referencing, because it’s evolved the region.

Naturalists of any crop, in this case viticulturists, guide their terroir by using it to its best advantages.  Once we’ve gone through these two steps, we’ll be able to visualize being there, feeling and smelling it.

[PHOTO: Purchased photo by mzhu, of the Tuscan town of Capalbio, Italy]

On Discover Tuscany: “Capalbio is a beautiful medieval town in southern Maremma. The Municipality is the most southwestern municipality in Tuscany along the border with Lazio. The characteristic village, natural surroundings and long sandy beaches attract thousands of visitors every year.”

ONE FUN FACT: The town logo

The name Capalbio is thought to come from the Latin caput album (bald head), which is the town’s symbol. It’s found in the sign on the door of the Siena Cathedral.  Notice that this Sienna lion is holding a bald head. (Now I wish, when I was in Siena, I had brought my camera down lower, or gotten closer to the door to photograph the lion holding the bald head. I was trying to avoid all of the people’s heads… Next time.)

This is an ancient land, where lions were once roaming.

WIKI: The oldest fossils excavated near Pakefield in the United Kingdom are estimated at 680,000 years old and represent Panthera fossilis. Lion fossils were excavated in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia.

Now, a new generation of wine makers have merged, and complete each other to produce a product from which a new taste of Tuscany has emerged. Pretty exciting news, as I read about it, to learn even more about Italy.

Collective marketing is a powerful tool. Think Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Tuscany, Napa, Sonoma… Easy to know a lot, because a lot has been written about these regions, and they also have rules and regulations of regional standards.

  • The power of one is one: 1 x 1 = 1
  • Anything after that is squared
    • Power of 2 = squared (4)
    • Power of 50 = 2500 (for instance)

This collective journey is great news for Capalbio. I’ve had a lot of experience with collective marketing, and I know how and why it works so well.

[PHOTO Purchased: mzhu]

From Villa Pinciana, covered in more detail in Part II:

The vignards of Villa Pinciana rise upon a hill, facing the sea and protected by the Maremma hills at the feet of the small ancient village of Capalbio, on the southern border of Tuscany. This is an ancient land, where a new generation of wine makers merge and complete each other to produce a product from which a new taste of Tuscany emerges.

From Summer in History:

The quaint medieval town of Capalbio enjoys a nearly perfect setting in the Tuscan hills above the sea. It is just minutes from the Mediterranean in the wild part of Tuscany known as the Maremma. Here, miles of sandy beaches string along the coastline undisturbed and undeveloped with pretty coves and natural vegetation.

Capalbio is known as the “last town” in Tuscany, situated near the southern border with Lazio. it is near Manciano, Ortebello and the WWF nature reserve of Lago di Burano. The town rests on a hill still encircled by its medieval walls, a charming stone hamlet with its old world atmosphere intact. The Porta Sienese, one of the city gates that could be closed in protection, still has its heavy wooden doors hanging in the portal, just like they’ve done since the 1500s. There are pretty Romanesque churches, some palazzi, and a general atmosphere of antiquity with balconies and flower boxes that are so typical of Tuscany.

Want to read more? Follow the link above for Summer in History. The stage has been set.

What Geography and History Lead To

This journey ultimately is to guide us to the subtle flavors of the wines crafted by Maremma’s, Villa Pinciana, located in the Grosseto Province of Tuscany, Italy, in the forthcoming story of The Microcosm of Maremma is where red Tuscan land meets the sea ~ Part I.

 

0

Chardonnay,Red Wine,Rosé,Walla Walla,Washington,White Wine,Wine

Holiday Wines for 2019 ~ Let’s Begin with Forgeron Cellars

Relationships matter; and in this case, I first met Jeremy Baker in Russian River Valley, when he was the managing owner of Thomas George Estates. This was at the older location for Davis Bynam Winery. I used to work on Westside Road in Healdsburg at Belvedere Winery… I knew this location well, and have followed the growth of many winery name changes and emerging new companies, about 30 years now. Jeremy was involved in updating the old facility and landscaping of David Bynam, turning it into Thomas George Estates, and he did a fabulous job. Jeremy’s new wines were so delicious, it was great fun to go there. He accommodated a wine writer guest for me – and sweetened it by also giving us a cottage for the overnight visit.  It was extremely generous and kind, and a memory that’s lasted forever.

Then, Jeremy Baker was gone.

I didn’t know to where, until he contacted me again. He’s now living in Washington State, and is the managing partner of Forgeron Cellars. Proving once more, yes, we do all move around a lot. So, here’s what he’s up to now, and it’s all still very delicious.

I need to predicate what I’m about to write, with full disclosure. I’ve been to Washington State, not to visit Jeremy Baker, at the time, though. It was many years ago, while Jeremy was also in California. And… I love Washington wines. Comparatively speaking, they’re great wines for the money you’ll spend on them. They don’t give their wines away up there. They can’t; and most important, they shouldn’t. What they do do, is crafting excellent wines at reasonable prices… Restrained and delicious wines. Their Petite Sirahs floored me, with well-balanced handling. Cabs and Merlots… If you know wines, you’ve already discovered this Washington State fact. I also loved the Sauvignon Blancs.

To Forgeron Cellars

They recently opened a tasting room, in the heart of Washington’s beloved ‘Bavarian’ destination town, Leavenworth. (Purchased photo)

This artisan winery has locations in Walla Walla, Woodinville, and now Leavenworth; while they craft their wines in Walla Walla.

“This marked Forgeron Cellars third Tasting Room location, BTW, joining the Cellar & Winery in Walla Walla, and Tasting Room in Woodinville. Jeremy Baker: “We’re more than excited to join the fantastic community of Leavenworth, while we’re offering an additional outlet for our wine club members, and consumers alike, to indulge in our latest wine releases.” Jeremy Baker, Managing Partner of Forgeron Cellars.”

The Grand Opening happened on August 27th, 2019, at their new downtown Leavenworth location. The Leavenworth Tasting Room will be open from 11:30am to 6:00pm, Thursday through Monday each week, with Private Reserve Tastings available by appointment.

Jeremy was off and running again. I believe he just may have the Midas touch.

MISSION STATEMENT: Forgeron Cellars, French for Blacksmith, was established in 2001, in a quest to produce site specific wines that illustrate the diversity found among Columbia Valley’s different appellations. Our mission is to produce small-lot, artisan wines that accurately represent each vineyard, variety, and vintage. We believe that much of winemaking occurs in the vineyard, and adhere to traditional techniques with the benefit of modern innovation. The Forgeron production facility and Walla Walla tasting room are located in an old Blacksmith building in downtown Walla Walla. We work with many of the region’s top grape-growers to assure that we are making some of the best wines the valley has to offer.

Quite the promise and they DO deliver upon their promise. I really look forward to their wines arriving.

So, what is Forgeron Cellars crafting?

This is just a sampling.

ARTIST SERIES

2018 Otherworldly Chardonnay by Forgeron Cellars, COLUMBIA VALLEY

They’ve paid very special attention to other really clean and crisp un-oaked Chardonnays. The Forgeron Cellars is dedicated to a style that pays special honoring to wines crafted as a world-class Chablis wine. Theirs is a very delicate apple-blossom flavor and quite tasty.

SIDEBAR: It makes my heart sing that Forgeron has gone public with this disclosure about “worldly” Chablis. I’ve had two instances when I’ve come up against clients who hear the word “Chablis,” and run for the hills. I can’t even get them to believe me that they’ve missed an opportunity of a lifetime, with a great comparison.

The reason for their trepidation is US’s history, which has cast a shadow against the word “Chablis,” is because the US was just re-beginning our wine growing from Prohibition’s Repeal, ending on December 5, 1933. Imagine if your vines were all pulled, your businesses closed – except for the craftiest among us. And, you have to begin again. It was truly a re-beginning. Then, Hearty Burgundy (actually Petite Sirah) set the stage for red wine; if it was white, it was call Chablis… just a plonk and a jug white.

Today: How about a Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre 2016? It only sells for $139.99 a bottle, #tongueincheek. Granted this has French pedigree. Still, Forgeron Cellars style is what it should be… Chablis-styled, and I just love writing that! Makes me a happy girl… especially if your curiosity is piqued.

2018 Pink Rabbits Rosé of Syrah by Forgeron Cellars, COLUMBIA VALLEY

Ah, Yes, the 2018 Rose of Syrah. This one was really great. It has a touch of spice and a  hint of earthly aromas, which made it a refreshingly delicious comparison food and wine pairing. Almost too easy to go down… Good food, great friends, and one of the best nights. We enjoyed it with one of my “Nice Beef Soups,” on the lighter side of broth.

2016 Imaginarium Red Wine, by Forgeron Cellars, COLUMBIA VALLEY

Hello Beef Stew wine! The Imaginarium Red wine is a great collective of red wines… and you get to imagine what they might be. Their red blend doesn’t have a recipe you can nail down. This means it will change from bottle to bottle. Blends are a resource for adventure, because YOU get to tell people what it tastes like… a sommelier’s challenge, like playing “Name That Tune.” A batch is made, bottled, and sold. It’s always an adventure from a wine tank, and a yearning to just play, from the winemaker. This one hits the target. I’d see it and buy it, if I were looking for a fun red blend.

FORGERON CELLARS ~ HAS MANY MORE WINES TO EXPLORE

 

Take your pick. I recommend any of their wines as a great house wine; very easy to enjoy, because they’re well crafted.

2016 Chardonnay COLUMBIA VALLEY

This wine is the ultimate expression of Columbia Valley Chardonnay. Layered with the full spectrum of Chardonnay flavors: notes of elderberry, lemon meringue, and toasty hazelnut, pie crust, and vanilla.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon WALLA WALLA VALLEY

Cabernet Sauvignon is ‘ruler’ of the reds and reveals the seriousness of a winemaker. Firm, structured and age-worthy; a result of patience and restraint used in the vineyard and winemaking process.

2014 Merlot WALLA WALLA VALLEY

Walla Walla Merlot from Forgeron Cellars has structure and balance that will make you do a double take.

2016 Merlot MINNICK HILLS VINEYARD ~ Walla Walla

 Merlot from Forgeron Cellars has structure and balance that will make you do a double take.

2015 Façon Rouge COLUMBIA VALLEY

Rhone varietals are a perfect match for the dry and arid conditions of Eastern Washington. Our Façon Rouge is a generous, ripe and spicy wine reminiscent of the wonderful lifestyle of Southern France.

2016 Façon Rouge ~ BLUE MOUNTAIN

Rhone varietals are a perfect match for the dry and arid conditions of Eastern Washington. Our Façon Rouge is a generous, ripe and spicy wine reminiscent of the wonderful Syrah that Walla Walla offers

2017 Façon Blanc CRAWFORD VINEYARD ~ YAKIMA VALLEY

White Rhône varietals are a great match for our arid Eastern WA climate and this blend is bold, fruity, and flavorful. Perfect as an aperitif or with seafood.

NV Walldeaux Smithie Red Blend COLUMBIA VALLEY

From Walla Walla to Bordeaux, we all need an everyday wine to relax with. Our Walldeaux Smithie is a red blend composed of one or two vintages of wine barrel aged for complexity, and wine that is fresh and fruity.