Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008 (375 ml)

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2008

At work, our team Italian wine expert is my colleague Stephen. Whereas I’m more the French and American wines geek, he knows his Italian wines — especially the Brunello. Today we are talking about another Sangiovese-based Italian classic. Chianti Classico means it is made in the ‘classic’ or original historic region of production. Located within central Tuscany, the region of Chianti is larger now, with several other sub-regions including Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Senesi. And only the Classico region can have the famous black rooster symbol on the neck of the bottle (see second photo), indicating the producer is part of the Chianti Classico consortium. This consortium focuses on improving the quality and integrity of the wines. Originally known for the straw-basket bottles called fiascos (a few producers still bottle it in those), Chianti DOCG is Italy’s most exported red wine. It is a region with many centuries-old vineyards. They are typically aged in oak – botte or the French barriques. This wine is aged in the French oak for 12 months, and their grapes are all organically grown. Chianti is primarily Sangiovese, but up to 20% can be other varietals, usually local ones like Caniaolo and Colorino. In the earliest forms of Chianti, there were even white grapes like Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano allowed. Sangiovese wines give you a good amount of acidity and tannin, so the blending of other varietals makes it a bit less astringent. While this is 100% Sangiovese, it is sufficiently mellowed at this age.

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

The Chianti Classico Black Rooster logo

On to the Fontodi story… So Steve had promised me a nice bottle of wine if I completed all my goals for the month, and I did. Well, about a month later, or was it two, I finally did get that gift. And what a great one it was. So, while I like to tease him for how long it took to get to me, I am really thrilled he gave it to me. I shared it with another one of our colleagues that very night. 2008 was a great vintage in the region, and Fontodi is one fantastic Chianti. After all, this is a wine and vintage that James Suckling gave 93 points, and got 90 points from Parker’s Wine Spectator. They are one of the current stars of the region.

On the nose, there’s intense black cherry, cocoa, plum and vanilla notes. On the palate it has deep, complex berry notes, spicy toast aromas from the oak, black pepper and a tobacco element as well. It was a tasty, tasty wine and between the two of us, did not last long.  Salute!

DOCG Reds of Piedmont, Part 2 – Conti Speroni Collection Terroirs Barbaresco 2008

Conti Speroni Collection Terroirs Barbaresco 2008

Conti Speroni Collection Terroirs Barbaresco 2008

For part two of the series of reds from my favorite region of Italy, I paired the 2008 vintage of Conti Speroni Collection Terroirs Barbaresco with home-cooked pork chops in a white worcestershire sauce with much success. The delicious chops were compliments of my in-laws and their annual Christmas gifting of two crates of frozen cuisine from Omaha Steaks.

The wine poured an expected ruby-garnet color with some noticable rim variation. This is indicative of the aging on the wine, as well as the characteristic lighter color of the variety, Nebbiolo. The rim will change to a brick-orange hue as its aged for several years. Barbaresco is traditionally a bit lighter than its big cousin Barolo. And while once considered the lesser of the two, Barbaresco is coming close if not equal in quality, save for perhaps a reputation well-protected by makers of Barolo. Therefore it is also less costly. Another reason for the lesser cost is the time required to age and vinify it is significantly less. But this doesn’t mean its not high quality. It too is a DOCG wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), meaning of the highest quality and its vinification processes, varieties and aging time ‘guaranteed’ by the wine authorities of Italy and the EU. And as I mentioned in part one, Piedmont has the largest number of DOC and DOCGs in all of Italy.

Nebbiolo however isn’t just found in Barolo and Barbaresco. Other regions in Piedmont employ the variety as well, albeit with blending allowed. Generally speaking, Piedmont is the home of Nebbiolo, though it is not the most common or widely grown in the region by any measure.

When young, Nebbiolo is highly tannic and acidic, but as this wine is from the 2008 vintage it is nicely mellowed. Malolactic fermentation also aids this mellowing. The Nebbiolo grape is among the earliest to bud and latest to ripen here as well, providing more fruit on the palate. In this level of wine, the finest vineyard sites are selected, typically facing southwest on slopes a few hundred feet high.

Now, how about the wine? On the nose were distinct red and black cherry notes, some spice and subtle oak. On the palate there was more cherry, medium tannins, and peppery spice. It was medium in body and had a nice lingering finish. Overall it was well balanced, with everything in the right place.

I am always amazed at how affordable Italian wines are in the United States, most likely as a result of how much is imported. This one was only $18, which is well below the $30 plus you’d spend on most quality Barbarescos! While not the very best one I’ve had, its a very good quality wine I would serve, and can afford. Apparently the italians are a bit shocked we import so much of their wine. I don’t know why. They must keep the REALLY good stuff for themselves!

Lenz Blanc De Noir 2008

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

As promised, I wanted to tell you about yet another amazing wine I tried in the North Fork.  I of course enjoyed several of their wines, but this was an event for me because, like the white Merlot at Sherwood House Vineyards, this was my first white Pinot Noir. And most of you know by now, that Pinot Noir is my all-time favorite variety. And that being my first trip to a large number of different wineries in one visit, I underestimated how much I was going to want to bring home. It adds up fast, so I was sparing overall, amassing about 2 cases from 8 wineries and only one or two of each favorite. This was a major failure on my part because most of these I would kill to drink again right now, though I’ve been able to locate a few in shops in New York City as mentioned with the Bedell first Crush and some of the Paumanok. And every single one I want to write about, and probably will! I was able to get hold of another bottle of this one from a co-worker when he visited the region and winery in May.

Seeing as how my father-in-law introduced me to my first love in the grape world, I was eager and waited to share this 2008 Blanc de Noir from Lenz Winery with him. We had an opportunity in June but never got around to it, so it stayed in my fridge for a month, so as not to risk spoiling it with any drastic temperature changes. This was an ordinary kitchen fridge, but I have plans to pick up a temperature-controlled wine refrigerator when I have a home with more room. I was nervous it would spoil, but fortunately, it did not. I chalk it up to it being a new refrigerator with reliable temperature control.

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

Anyway, I not only shared it last weekend with my father-in-law, but my wife, my dad and my sister-in-law. It was a hit. My wife had tried it at the winery with me in March but it was amazing all over again, for both of us. The color was a pale gold, similar to that of Champagne, for obvious reasons. (okay well if you don’t know, Pinot Noir is one of the three grapes and one of the two red grapes used in traditional Champagne.) It was nice and dry and made in the same style with the same methods as its European red counterparts, though lightly pressed and the skins removed before fermentation. This is not a bulk-made, blended sweet rosé unfortunately now associated with America due to white Zinfandel. So of course on the nose you had French oak and baking spice — I picked up some noticable cinammon — and white cherry. The palate echoed the nose, with more white, and red cherry. It had medium acidity, body, and finish. It had such a unique character, really like nothing I’ve had yet. An absolute prize of a wine and one of their top five most popular.  I will be back for more, you have my word.

We also picked up an amazing two-bottle wine tote in their shop, which included two plastic wine glasses and a corkscrew for the consummate picnicer. We use this on a regular basis – for outdoor concerts, camping, the beach and whatever occasion calls for it. It is padded on the inside and canvas on the outside. It doesn’t have any cooling elements but you can easily wrap those little freezer cooling bags around a white and slip it in to its compartment.

There is also a talented artist on the staff, Dan Krupin, who does custom chalkboard art for the winery, and also their friends at the Harvest Inn, where we stayed that weekend. I will be telling you about that great place, people, and the amazing time we had there soon.

In the meantime, visit the Lenz website or winery, and order some for yourself before I drink it all…

Lenz Winery
38355 New York 25  Peconic, NY 11958