Zardini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2007

Zardini Valpolicella di Ripasso 2007

Zardini Valpolicella Ripasso 2007

I missed National Cabernet Day. That’s not to say I wasn’t drinking, I just wasn’t drinking Cabernet. I found out too late, and I was already working my way through this bottle with no regrets. Next year!

Anyway, when my wife brought home this Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso with a variety of my usual favorite Italian reds (and some new ones) from our local shop, my eyes lit up. This was the first time I’ve had one of these, and I have distinct memories of trying to memorize the process, without getting my Amarone/Valpolicella and passito/ripasso confused along the way.  Hailing from the Veneto wine region of (northeastern)  Italy,  its second in DOC production in the country after Chianti.  Valpolicella (‘valley of many cellars’) is not a variety but a regional DOC wine made of three varieties traditionally: Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Typical Valpolicella on its own is a lighter-bodied red, and so this ripasso technique evolved to create a bigger, bolder wine. It is made by re-fermenting  (‘re-pass’ = re-ferment)  the local Valpolicella Superiore wine with the partially dried (passito) grape skins left over from production of Amarone and recioto sweet dessert wines, which have DOCGs of their own.  Therefore, you will typically find more tannin, and more fruit, complexity and color in this wine. They are also more aromatic, with some tar, resin, and spicy characteristics of the Amarone.  Valpolicella di Ripasso got its own DOC in 2007.

It was impressive. The color was a deep intense ruby. This makes a lot of sense given the double soaking on the skins and fermentation. On the nose there was rich black cherry and dried cherry with a compliment of oak.  Its palate was intensely fruit forward as expected, full of black and red cherry. It was very concentrated but the tannins and fairly bright acidity were very well integrated. It had a nice full body and a long, delicious finish.  I paired it with some pasta – it was perfect.

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Nassau Valley Vineyards, Lewes, Delaware

Nassau Valley Vineyards

Nassau Valley Vineyards Tasting Room

Yesterday I capped off a great family vacation at the beach with a visit to the very first farm winery in the state of Delaware. At Nassau Valley Vineyard, I tasted 6 wines each with my wife and sister-in-law. We all picked different ones, with some overlap.  I wanted to tell you about a few that I had and enjoyed. But first, the stories!

This one has an interesting story as at the time of its inception by former Les Amis du Vin International and The Friends of Wine writer and would-be winemaker Peg Raley, farm wineries were not allowed in Delaware law. A farm winery is a place where the grapes are grown, made into wine and sold all in the same place. So she lobbied the state to create the legislation, succeeding in 1991, and the winery opened in 1993.  It’s therefore the first and only farm (and international-award-winning) winery in Delaware. Also, I got to experience my first veraison which was really exciting. I missed fruit set but I did see a few preseason vineyards in March in Long Island, and then the beginning of the canopy growth in May in New Jersey. I intended to visit another vineyard last month but it was not so. And fortunately, I will be experiencing my first Harvest in Bordeaux in the beginning of October!  So I am happy I am able to experience at least this many stages of the vineyard cycle this season.

Veraison

Veraison

The berries were about 3/4 through the process, or rather only about 1/4 of them hadn’t changed color, and none of them had grown from the small size as of yet. But it was really a perfect example and you can see so in the photo.  This winery also had a full museum (they call it a self-guided tour) with all sorts of artifacts and important moments in wine-making history in panels along its walls — with facts, photos and quotes. This included a quote from my favorite wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson (see last photo.) My family learned a thing or two, as did I. The tastings were set up in the museum, with a nice view of the barrels and steel tank cellars below via glass windows along the lower part of a tasting room wall. Here are some notes on a few of the wines I tried.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – This is not 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is more of a Bordeaux blend and so there is also some Merlot and Cab Franc in there to round it out, and I am just opening a new bottle as we speak.  It pours a deep ruby, and again on the nose I get powerful cherry and plum, and subtle enticing oak and spice from 12+ months of barrel aging. There is also a hint of violets and some earthiness.  On the palate I pick up more of the spice and the deep cherry (especially on the finish) and less of the oak. Tannins are a little grippy, but I don’t dislike that sort of thing in this type of wine, especially when paired with food.  I recalled thinking it was a very nice wine but that it would be better paired with food than on its own to make the palate equal the nose. This I think of almost any good Bordeaux blend, honestly. And so I just tried it with some salami and cheese slices and it really does open up even more nicely.  Tonight I will pair it with a grilled chicken Paillard and rice.

"True Blue Blueberry","2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, "Peach Ambrosia" and "Meadow's Edge"

“True Blue Blueberry”,2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Peach Ambrosia” and “Meadow’s Edge”

Peach Ambrosia – This is a white wine made from 100% fermented peach juice. We all loved this one, especially with the suggested ginger snap wafer for a before-and-after taste test.  The first peach aromas were prominent and ripe, and it was sweet and a nice dessert wine for sure. This was proven after a bite of the ginger snap, with the flavors just coming so much more alive!

Cape Rosé – This was very much in the style of a southern French Rosé. It is dry with just a touch of sweetness, and this is my preferred type of pink wine. It sports the artwork of nationally known artist Abraxas on the label, which depicts a lighthouse scene in local Cape Henlopen for which it is named.  It doesn’t state the varieties on the label from which its made but based on what they focus on at the winery, I’d guess Cabernet Sauvignon. Probably my favorite of the wines I tried.

I also enjoyed their house red which was a lighter style oak-aged red made up of mostly Cabernet and Merlot, with some Chambourcin, and local variety Cayuga.  It is more of a table wine but it had a nice balance and was an easy drinker.

I finished with their “Delaware White” which is a sweet white made from a local variety actually named “Delaware.” It has green apple and honeysuckle aromas and flavors. It was my favorite of the whites I tried.

(I also tried their “True Blue Blueberry” red wine made with 100% fermented local blueberry juice — no added flavor here. I am going to review that alongside the Finger Lakes Wine Competition medal-winning “Blueberry Champagne” from Renault Winery in New Jersey that I picked up in May. That too is made using real local blueberry juice.)

We brought home all of these as well as an extra Peach Ambrosia and a “Meadow’s Edge” semi-dry white which my wife loved, made from Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc with a touch of honey sweetness. It has a hefty list of awards to show for its quality. I would also recommend their “Redneck Rouge,” as much for sweet spicy flavor as for the humorous name and description. It is made with mulling spices and therefore you are just a cinnamon stick and a little heat away from a treat on a cold fall night.

Thomas Jefferson quote from the museum

Thomas Jefferson quote from the museum

I also saw a sign a few miles down the road at a local fruit and produce stand for “wine juice for sale,” so my guess is that if it is from Nassau, that they do what many wineries do and sell their remainder for bulk wine production or individual winemakers’ use. If not, perhaps there’s another local small grower in the region. This was my first experience with wineries in the state so I don’t know a lot about the trade here.

The tasting staff were friendly and knowledgeable and there was a nice art exhibit on display in the tasting area. Pay them a visit yourself, whether or not you’re coming from the beach! It’s located at:

32165 Winery Way, Lewes, DE, US, 19958
Email: nassauvalley@dmv.com
Phone: 302-645-9463

Bodegas Carrau Tannat 2000, Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Ah, summer. Forgive me, I’ve been all about spending less time in front of digital boxes and more time embracing nature…and wine. Camping, going to the beach, grilling… the other day I purchased 15 bottles of Bordeaux 2009, and while I’m keeping 12 of them for my collection I did open one to enjoy with some filet mignon au poivre that I had just grilled. I even doused the filets with a tad of that nectar of the red-meat-pairing gods to great effect.

Anyway today I am here in front of the digital box and I want to tell you about another great experience I had at Barcelona in South Norwalk, CT and specifically, two amazing wines. Sunday nights are special nights at the restaurant, as they have their “sunday pig roast” and all bottles of wine are half price. The pig, and the seasonal vegetables and salad included were delicious, and we ordered a few tapas as well to pair with the wines. We had the chorizo with sweet & sour figs in a balsamic-sherry glaze, grilled asparagus with truffle vinaigrette (again, since we loved it so at the Fiesta dinner) and the albondingas (meatballs in tomato sauce.) But my favorite part of the experience was the wines we were able to enjoy at half the cost! And as the new resident wine nerd in the group, I was given the task of picking the wines. Normally a Priorat and the Tannat we had from Uruguay were each approaching one hundred dollars in price – though this is restaurant cost, and they would be less in store. The Priorat is about $65 online.

I know Priorat is hot stuff right now, and rightfully so. I tend, as with Italian reds, to prefer extremely concentrated wines more and more. Super Tuscans and Nero D’Avola, to name a few. So naturally something like a Priorat is right up my alley. As I usually can’t splurge on these wines, I have been enjoying old-vine Cariñena lately as a worthy substitute. Priorats are traditionally from my understanding the product of 100-year old Garnacha and Cariñena vines. This particular one was a blend of several varieties, adding Cabernet and Syrah to the Garnacha and Cariñena. The 2008 Font de la Figuera Priorat was deep ruby in color and on the nose had strong aromas of toast and smoke and red and black fruit, and some minerality to it. On the palate, it was full bodied and spicy, deeply concentrated and complex, each of the varietals making a contribution of deep black or red fruit. Some subtle smokey French oak aromas and flavors were present as well as it is aged in both new and older French barrels for 15 months. It was very well-balanced and had a nice finish of more toast and smoke. They are all hand-harvested and selected grapes in Priorat style.

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

2000 Bodegas Carrau Tannat, Amat

Next up we tried a 2000 Tannat from Bodegas Carrau, Amat. I learned about Tannat being a succes story in Uruguay after being brought from southern France so I was eager to try it. I recall as well  the winemaking process developed with this variety known as micro-oxygenation, which softens the harsh tannins by exposing the must to small amounts of oxygen during fermentation. It was a ruby-garnet color, likely due to age, and another reason why this one especially reminded me of a mature Italian red like Barolo or Barbaresco, dusty and earthy in all its glory. It is also a bit astringent and hence best enjoyed with food. Tannat is usually used to add some kick to flabbier wines due to its high tannin content from its thick skins – and hence the name. Though here they are made in a slightly softer style, as the French ones can be overwhelmingly tannic at times. The acidity was pretty well-balanced and the tannins were not too intense on this one. Perhaps its age also contributed to it being softer and more balanced. I picked up some chocolate on the palate especially, and plum and raspberry. It had a spicy long finish. A worthy first bottle for me.