Villa Milagro Vineyards ~ The Wines

Villa Milagro Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, October 15, 2009

Villa Milagro’s wines, in addition to being organic, are all European-style wines.  The Gambinos have eschewed the American hybrid varietals that you find so often in the Northeast, and have planted 11 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  They have no plans to expand their holdings or production, preferring to focus on artisanal wines that they sell exclusively through the winery.

Villa Milagro produces five wines: one white, one blush and three reds, and in keeping with Audrey’s California heritage, all of the wines have Spanish names.  They are currently serving the last of their 2006 vintage, with the 2007 vintage scheduled for release around Thanksgiving of this year.

While we very much enjoyed our visit to the winery and our time with Audrey Gambino, both Maree and I were underwhelmed by the wines.  They all show promise, but in general we found them on the light side.  As both the vines and the winery matures, I would anticipate the wines becoming more complex as well.

The tasting kicked off with Villa Milagro’s sole white, a Chardonnay…

Dos Luz 2006 This is a very smooth Chardonnay.  In fact, one of the hallmark characteristics of all the Villa Milagro wines is their smoothness, which I believe contributed to our disappointment with the wines we tasted.  The wines were almost too smooth, lacking the acid that would give them balance and depth.  Aged for two years in stainless steel tanks, the Dos Luz is a light-bodied Chardonnay with a very soft, subtle nose and light notes of citrus on the palate.  I would have liked to find a bit of a “kick” on the end, and without it, the wine felt a bit flat.

Roja Dulce 2006 Roja Dulce, which means “sweet red,” blends Cabernet Franc with other, sweeter grapes to produce a fruity, slightly sweet Cabernet Franc.  The nose is pleasantly fruity, with interesting notes of strawberry.  Dry, with just a touch of sweetness, the Roja has a slight tartness and touch of acid at the end which gives the wine some character.   This was my favorite of the four Villa Milagro wines.

Sombra 2006 A medium-bodied Shiraz blend, the Sombra, like all the reds, is oak-aged for 24 months.  There are light notes of cherry in both the nose and the mouth, and the oak is stronger here than in either the Roja Dulce or the Suave, contributing smokey notes, particularly in the mouth.  I found myself writing “young” in my notes, and I suspect this wine will do better if cellared for a few years and then allowed to breathe before serving.

Suave 2006 The last wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  Suave, which is Spanish for smooth, is a medium-bodied red with both berry and chocolate in the nose.  In the mouth, cherry is the predominant note with a light toastiness from the oak.  The finish is light and slightly tart, and like the Sombra, I anticipate this wine will improve with additional aging.

We stayed a bit longer to chat with Audrey before saying a fond farewell to Commander Cody and heading north to continue the adventure…

Cheers to Dalice Elizabeth Winery – Connecticut’s Newest Winery

Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT / Photo: Marguerite BarrettMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I have to say it was hard to tell who was having more fun at Dalice Elizabeth Winery’s Grand Opening Celebration last weekend – the guests or the owners.

Gretchen had received a news alert on Thursday afternoon, which she promptly forwarded over to me, announcing the opening of Connecticut’s newest winery, The Dalice Elizabeth Winery in Preston.  The festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon with a ribbon cutting and brand unveiling ceremony beginning at 4:30 and continued until 8:00 with Italian cooking demonstrations, live music and the star of the event, the wines.   On Saturday afternoon, when I arrived, people were still talking about how successful Friday had been, and how they had had to force people to leave because everyone was having such a good time.

Saturday afternoon the party was still continuing.  Inside the tasting room John Wilcox, owner and winemaker, greeted guests, poured tastings and answered the myriad questions people brought with them.  Outside there was a large grill going making marvelous steak and bruschetta appetizers.  Chairs and tables were set up around the lawn for people to sit and enjoy the wines, the view and the company.   The overall atmosphere was casual and relaxed; people mixed and mingled and took turns at the tasting bar so everyone got a chance to sample all the wines.

Grand Opening Celebration, Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT / Photo: Marguerite BarrettThe Dalice Elizabeth Winery is owned and operated by John and Mary-Lee Wilcox and their grandson, Blaze Faillaci.  The trio are owners of a gourmet food distribution business, Sumptious Selections, a business that Mary-Lee started with her daughter, Dalice Elizabeth.  Eleven years ago, the pair were days away from opening a winery and retail store when Dalice Elizabeth died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The family put the winery on hold, resurrecting the plans a few years ago.

The Wilcoxes have a long history of winemaking; Mary-Lee’s father, Raphael Blaze Faillaci, immigrated from Italy bringing with him the wine press still used by Dalice Elizabeth today.  John, Dalice Elizabeth’s winemaker, has been crafting wines for years, and he and Mary-Lee also run a wine-making school.  Their formerly private-label Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have garnered a number of awards and critical acclaim over the years, but until now, have not been available to the public.

Grand Opening Celebration, Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT (1)Dalice Elizabeth Winery, Preston, CT - The New Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

The current Dalice Elizabeth vintages are all made from grapes brought in from California and Washington, although the entire winemaking process is done here in Connecticut.  They’ve planted both Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc on the Preston property, but it will be another three to four years before those vines are producing grapes ready for pressing.  In the meantime, John continues to produce well-crafted artisanal wines from his west coast grapes, including two whites (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) and six reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Old Vine Zinfandel).

John Wilcox (Winemaker) and Blaze Faillaci pour tasting at Dalice Elizabeth Winery's grand opening celebration

John Wilcox (Winemaker) and Blaze Faillaci pour tastings at Dalice Elizabeth Winery's grand opening celebration

Only the reds were available during opening weekend; the whites will be released shortly after the first of the year.  And of the reds only four were available as they had sold out of both the Sangiovese and the Syrah before I arrived.  But the remaining four made up for any lack.  All were rich, complex, smooth wines that practically melted in the mouth.  The Cabernet Franc had lovely notes of cassis and raspberry, and I made a friend in Mary-Lee when I exclaimed “oh this is lovely” after the first sip.  The Merlot is a brighter wine, with strong notes of cherry.  The Old Vine Zin is rich and mellow with notes of plum and chocolate that linger in the mouth.  And finishing the tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon, rich and complex with notes of black currants and a hint of chocolate on the finish.

Dalice Elizabeth's School of Winemaking / photo: Marguerite Barrett

I will definitely be going back; already Christy (who was out of town and couldn’t make the grand opening) and my cousins Bobbie and Andy have volunteered to take a return trip with me.  In the meantime, I purchased a bottle of each to bring home with me – just to be sure I had a “good enough” sample to truly assess each wine.

Congratulations to John and Mary-Lee Wilcox, Blaze Faillaci and the Dalice Elizabeth Winery.  Here’s to great wines and a great afternoon!

Dalice Elizabeth Winery

6 Amos Road, Preston Ct 06365

+1-860-930-9198

info@ DaliceElizabeth.com

Dalice Elizabeth is open year-round for wine tastings and sales.  Current hours are Thursdays and Sundays, 11-5; Fridays and Saturdays, 11-8.  Hours may change during the winter; check the website for details.

Sharpe Hill ~ Reds and Dessert Wines

Marguerite BarrettSharpe Hill Vineyard, Pomfret, CT / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ballet of Angels may be Connecticut’s best-selling wine, but both Christy and I found ourselves much more taken with Sharpe Hill’s reds than with any of their whites.  First up was their best-selling red,

Red Seraph A blend of Merlot and St. Croix, this is a dry medium-bodied wine that will pair well with a wide variety of foods.  The nose is very spicy with notes of pepper and smoke.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth with light smoke and notes of dark stone fruits and a spicy finish.  The Merlot grapes provide body, while the St. Croix provides a crisp bite at the end which gives the wine some interest.  Not my favorite red, but I did like this wine.

Red Seraph 2006 Vintage Merlot Also a blend of Merlot and St. Croix, there is a greater percentage of Merlot in this blend making the wine smoother and richer overall than the Red Seraph.  That being said, this was my least favorite of all of the reds.  Both in the nose and the mouth I detected notes of cherry, although they are more subtle in the mouth than on the nose.  The oak is more subdued producing very light notes of smoke.  It’s not a bad wine, but in general I didn’t find it as complex or interesting as the other reds, particularly the next two…

Cabernet Franc 2006 This and the St. Croix 2006 (see below) were hands-down my two favorite wines of the afternoon.  I have been finding myself drinking a lot of Cabernet Francs lately, and this was one that made it on my list of “wines to come back for.”  Medium-garnet in color, the nose is rich and spicy with interesting notes of tobacco.  The mouth feel is lush and silky, and on the palate the wine is smooth with a smokey spiciness that balanced the light fruit notes of dark berries nicely to produce a wine with interesting character and depth.  Christy starred this as one of her favorites of the afternoon as well.

St. Croix 2006 100% estate grown, the St. Croix is the second of my two favorite wines of the afternoon.  Also a medium garnet color, the St. Croix is a fuller-bodied wine, with a soft, lush mouth feel.  The nose is soft with subtle notes of berries which are also detectable on the palate before the wine finishes with intriguing notes of licorice.  The licorice provides both a bite and a hint of sweetness that made the wine more interesting.  Our host indicated that this wine pairs well with game as well as with more traditional dishes such as beef or lamb.   While I really enjoyed this wine, Christy was less impressed, finding a lot of sediment at the bottom of her glass.

That concluded the reds but not the tasting as we cleaned our glasses and settled in to enjoy dessert in the form of the last two wines on the menu.

Select Late Harvest 2006 An estate wine made from 100% Vignole, this is a really, really nice late harvest wine.  Rich, lush and sweet, the color is a lovely orange-rose color that catches the light nicely.  The nose is subtle with soft notes of fruit which blend nicely in the mouth.  No one fruit note is predominant, and the result is a smooth, balanced wine that would be excellent on it’s own or paired with desserts, cheeses or fruits.

Pontefract 2006 This is a port-style dessert wine with rich notes of chocolate in both the nose and the mouth.  Very smooth, I found it not as rich as other ports and the mouth feel wasn’t quite as lush as I expect.  Made from 100% estate-grown St. Croix grapes, despite being a dessert wine,  the Pontefract retains that interesting final bite that one finds so often with St. Croix.

Both the Select Late Harvest and the Pontefract are produced in more limited quantities and neither are available by the case, and the Pontefract is limited to three bottles per customer.

As the tasting ended, we sat back and took stock of the afternoon: the American Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc were our favorite white and red, and runners-up in the “wines we’d come back for” category also included the Cuvee, the St. Croix, the Red Seraph and both (or either) of the dessert wines.

All in all one of the more successful – and relaxed – Win(e)ding Road afternoons.

Sharpe Hill vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

Newport Vineyards ~ The Wines

Marguerite BarrettNewport Vineyards / Photo: Christy Sherard
Contributing Writer

Newport Vineyards has an extensive menu of wines, 31 in total; one of the largest selections that I’ve seen yet from a Northeastern regional winery.   The menu begins with 13 whites divided into four categories: dry, no-oak (2), dry, oaked (1), Alsatian Style (6), and the semi-dry (4), before moving into the Rosés (4), the Reds (8), the Dessert Wines, which include a Port and an Ice Wine (4), and finishing with a Brut sparkling wine and a hard apple cider.

A tasting, which runs $9, includes your choice of five wines and allows you to join one of the two daily tours of the winery (1 and 3 pm).  Unfortunately, if you elect not to take the tour or arrive after the tours have finished for the day (as we did), the price still remains $9.  Tastings of the Ice Wine and the Brut will run you an additional $1 each.  Individual glasses of wine can be purchased for $6, although a handful of the premium wines run $8 per glass.

Christy and I took our time studying the menu and selecting our wines, while listening to our hosts explain ad nauseum to a group at the other end of the bar that tastings work best if you start with the whites and move on to the reds.  I’m always amused, and often exasperated, by the people who don’t know what they’re doing – but desperately and often pretentiously pretend that they do.   The winery staff had my sympathy that day; I can only imagine how frustrating it is to watch someone select a fuller-bodied wine like a cabernet franc as their first wine, follow it up with a light-bodied white, and then have to listen to them complain about how the “white tastes funny” – all the while keeping a polite smile on your face.

But eventually the group settled down, and our host wandered over to pour our tasting.  I elected to begin with the one dry, oak-aged white, the

2007 Newport Chardonnay A nice wine, but not one that blew me away.  The color is a very pale yellow, and the nose has light grassy notes with a very light touch of citrus.  A light-bodied wine, in the mouth the flavors are light, clean and smooth with light sweet notes of pear and a touch of lemon on the finish.  The citrus is crisp and balances the smoother, deeper flavors of the pear, and the oak provides a light toastiness.   The tasting notes indicate this would pair well with grilled fish and poultry as well as light cheeses.

2008 Tranquility Next up for me was one of the Alsatian-style wines, a blend of gewurztraminer (34%), muscat ottonel (34%), pinot gris (22%), and riesling (10%).  Like the Newport Chardonnay, Tranquility is also a pale yellow color.  The nose is bright with lovely floral notes and a hint of sweetness from the muscat.  A light-bodied wine, yet fuller than the Chardonnay, Tranquility is a soft dry-style wine with floral notes, low oak, and a touch of sweetness that provides depth and character.  It’s an interesting wine and my favorite of the wines I tasted that afternoon.  Tranquility is a gold medal winner for Best Vinifera Blend at the Atlantic Wine Competition.

Newport Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett2006 Rochambeau Named in honor of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, the French General who fought with George Washington and helped defeat the British at the Battle of Yorktown (1781),  Newport Vineyard’s Rochambeau is a blend  of Cabernet Sauvignon and Landot Noir.   Made in the Bordeaux-style, the wine is medium-bodied, bright and tangy.  The nose has interesting notes of pepper and berries.  In the mouth, the wine is young with a tangy “back” taste and strong berry notes, particularly on the finish.  I tend to prefer stronger, deeper reds, but I was intrigued by this wine and will definitely be giving this another try on my next visit.

2007 Cabernet Franc I have become a real fan of Cabernet Franc, finding it one of the richest most satisfying reds produced here in the Northeast, and even when not touring local wineries am finding myself gravitating towards cabernet francs and zinfandels over my former favorites pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.  Newport Vineyards’ Cabernet Franc didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t find it as strong as the Cabernet Francs from Chamard or Gouveia.  The color is a lovely jewel-tone medium garnet that subtly sparkles in the glass.  The nose is deep and soft with light notes of earth and fruit and just a hint of spice.  A medium-bodied wine, there are soft notes of fruit in the mouth – I detected dark berries and just a hint of cherry brightness.  The finish is clean with lingering notes of pepper that give the wine an interesting character.  Perhaps I had a tasting from a recently opened bottle, but I did feel that the wine needed to breathe longer to display it’s full potential.

2006 Newport Jazz I finished out the afternoon with a dessert wine, a Sauterne-style, late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  Despite my general fondness for dessert wines, this was my least favorite of the afternoon.  A lovely dark gold color, the nose was rich and sweet and held a lot of promise that unfortunately the wine didn’t deliver.  Surprisingly, in the mouth the wine was slightly dry with a sharp finish.  The mouth feel had that silky smoothness that one expects from a dessert wine, but the balance was somehow just “off.”  It may that I had a tasting from a bad bottle, so I will definitely give this another try before writing it off altogether.

Vini Portugal Party

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

A party so wild, I have NO incriminating photos. Truth be told, I got tired of carrying around all the stuff. I was sweaty, it was 9:00pm and I was going out to party!

The party this evening was being sponsored by Vini Portugal.  Obviously, Portugese wines were being featured.  I am certainly not someone that has to be sold on Portugese wines, as I have have been drinking Vinho Verdes  (a light, crisp white wine from the Minho Region of the country in the northeast) for years and have a deep love and respect for both Port and Madeira (I recently had a taste of a 1875 Barbeito Malvasia Madeira  that was so amazing).

Wine Mutineers looking innocentThe wines at the party were amazing.  Ranging from Ports to less complex Vinho Verde that is supposed to be drunk within a year of making it.  I even drank some absinthe (which was ironically, Spanish and snuck into the party by the Wine Mutineers) which I am sad to report that I swigged right out of the bottle.  It did earn me a rousing cheer from the Mutineers though.

Midway through the evening I got invited along to the lobby to enjoy a brief but enthusiastic private tasting from Christophe Smith from Titus Vineyards (Thanks largely to Bill Daley).  Titus is 40 acre winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa that produces mostly red wines (and a Sauvignon Blanc!).

My earlier reports of party wildness were not exaggerated as we eventually got kicked out of the party room at around midnight (but who is counting) and worked to find a place to continue our gallivanting.  Eventually we all made our way to someone’s room, but were immediately kicked out by security.  Eventually we made our way back to the original party room and managed to get the ok to hang out until 1:00am. Dancing might have broken out.  I am a little fuzzy on that, though I am certain I did not partake.

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and by the end meekly (sure, we’ll go with that) headed back to our rooms for the evening.

Jones Winery ~ The Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite BarrettJones Vineyards
Contributing Writer

First up for the Reds was Jones Winery’s

Ripton Red This is the driest of the Jones Reds, made in a Chianti style from a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes, both brought in from California.  The color is a lovely purply-red, and the color changes slightly from light to dark as it catches the light.  The nose is earthy with with a strong tanginess.  The wine is medium-bodied, smooth, with earthy, slightly smoky notes and a hint of dark cherry which provides light touch of sweetness to balance out the earthiness.  There’s a slight note of spice on the finish.  This is a very versatile red and would pair nicely with a broad range of food.

Next up was Group #5 and my choice of either the First Blush, described as a “pleasingly sweet blush wine created from a blend of CT apples, pears and black currants” or the 2007 Cabernet Franc.  Not being a huge fan of blush wines, I selected the

2007 Cabernet Franc An estate-grown wine, the Cabernet Franc is barrel aged for 12 months in American Oak.  The result is a medium-bodied wine with a bright nose and notes of cherry in both the nose and on the palate.  There’s a nice acid balance to the finish, and the finish lingers pleasantly in the mouth.  An interesting wine, but not as strong a Cab Franc as ones I’ve found at Chamard or Gouveia.  That being said, I suspect the wine will grow more interesting if cellared for a year or two.

After the Cabernet Franc I had my choice of the Strawberry Serenade or the Merlot.  The Strawberry Serenade was described as one of Jones Winery’s signature wines, made from locally grown strawberries; given this, and despite not being a fan of sweet fruit wines, I opted to give the Strawberry Serenade a try.

Strawberry Serenade This is a sparkling wine, with very strong effervescence.  A pale, salmon color, the nose is that lovely, deep, rich strawberry smell you get from fresh-picked strawberries.  Surprisingly, the wine is neither too sweet or too “strawberry.”  The strawberry notes are certainly detectable, but not overpowering, and the wine is drier than I anticipated.  While not one of my favorites, I was pleasantly surprised by this wine.  It would be a great brunch wine for a late spring or summer brunch, and would pair well with fruit and light desserts.

With that I was left with a final choice – this time among the three dessert wines, Blueberry Bliss, Raspberry Rhapsody and Black Currant Bouquet.  I had a tough time deciding.  The Raspberry Rhapsody is an award-winning wine, and this year’s winery logo-glass features a raspberry in honor of the wine.  But the Black Currant Bouquet is more in the style of a Port, which I prefer, and had the added attraction of being a Black Currant Wine, which is not something I come across every day.  I must admit the Blueberry Bliss didn’t make the first cut.

As I was trying to decide, my host for the afternoon took the decision out of my hands and offered to let me try a taste of both the Raspberry Rhapsody and the Black Currant Bouquet.  Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I quickly accepted.

Raspberry Rhapsody This is a lovely and interesting wine, and I understand why it won so many medals.  The Raspberry notes are very strong in both the nose and in the mouth, but the rich sweetness of a dessert wine balances those out.  The Raspberry adds a very slight tartness that gives the wine depth and keeps it from becoming cloyingly sweet.  The tasting is paired with a piece of dark chocolate, and the wine changes, getting deeper and more complex with the chocolate.

Black Currant Bouquet This is a full-bodied wine in a Port style, not as sweet as the Raspberry Rhapsody.  The color is a deep plum.  The nose is full but subtle – the black currant is prevalent but there are notes of sweet berries as well.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and rich, with a soft mouth-feel.  On the palate, the flavors blend nicely, just enough sweetness to satisfy but not enough to be overpowering.  This is also paired with chocolate during the tasting, and the chocolate emphasizes the depth and richness of the wine.

Chamard Vineyards ~ The Reds (Connecticut)

Marguerite BarrettChamard Vineyards / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

For 2009, Chamard has three reds, the 2005 Merlot, the 2005 Cabernet Franc and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2007 Rosé.  Only the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc remain on the tasting menu; as of my visit in early July only 2 cases remained of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

I began the Reds with the

2005 Merlot A blend of 80% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Pinot Noir,  this is a lighter-bodied wine than either a California or European Merlot.  The nose is earthy, but still has that “tang” that I’ve discovered is very typical of Northeastern reds, particularly Merlots.  It’s almost as if the wine has a touch of salty sea air that comes out in the nose.  The wine itself is smooth and dry, with subtle notes of dark chocolate and raspberry.  The finish has interesting notes of pepper, and the wine lingers at the end.  It’s an interesting wine, and of Connecticut Merlots, one of my top five.  This should age nicely and will definitely benefit from decanting.

Chamard Vineyards - back vineyardsThe last wine of the tasting was the

2005 Cabernet Franc 80% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 2% Pinot Noir, the Cab Franc is a lovely wine, and with the Estate Reserve Chardonnay, my favorite wine of the afternoon.  The color is a lovely rich garnet, and the nose is soft with light notes of spice and berry.  In the mouth the wine is smooth, rich and complex with notes of both chocolate and raspberry that linger on the palate.    Like the Merlot, the Cabernet Franc will age well, and will pair well with a variety of foods.

Chamard also produces an Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc, which had sold out shortly before my visit.   They do keep bottles of every vintage and often have older vintages available in the cellar.  If interested, and if the tasting room isn’t too busy, ask the Staff and they’ll root around downstairs and try to locate a bottle or two for you.

Chamard, like most wineries, offer a 10% case discount.  Purchase of your first case enrolls you in Chamard’s VIP Membership, which provides you with complimentary wine tastings, a 10% discount on all future purchases, and invitations to special VIP Only Events.  Chamard’s wines can be purchased from the winery, through their website (they ship to most states), and in wine shops throughout Connecticut.

Chamard Vineyards, July 2009 Tasting Menu / Photo: Marguerite Barrett

Ventimiglia Vineyards ~ The Reds (New Jersey)

Marguerite BarrettVentimiglia Vineyards ~ vineyards behind winery / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Gene Ventimiglia, patriarch and principal winemaker of Ventimiglia Vineyards, is a third-generation winemaker, having learned the craft from his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy in the early part of the 20th century.   In the 1920s, the elder Ventimiglia, a member of a local Italian-American Club, produced wine for the club throughout the Prohibition era.  With the demise of Prohibition in 1933, Ventimiglia continued to produce wine, albeit legally now, and passed the traditional hand-crafted winemaking methods he learned in Italy down to his grandson, Gene, who after growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, opted to continue the family traditions here on the East Coast.

As for the Ventimiglia Reds, Gene has produced a very interesting collection of California and New Jersey table wines:

Rocky Ridge Red 2006 The Rocky Ridge Red is a bland of eight different grapes, all grown locally in New Jersey.  It is cold-fermented and aged in oak, and like all of the Ventimiglia Reds it is unfined and unfiltered.  The nose is bright and fruity, and in the mouth there are lovely notes of dark berries and stone fruits.  The wine has a slight tartness, which gives it a piquancy.

Chambourcin 2007 A Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 NJ Wine Competition, this is a very interesting wine.  Chambourcin with a slight blend of Syrah, Merlot and a little Sangiovese, this is a medium-bodied wine with a lovely deep ruby color.  The nose is bright and fruity, and the mouth-feel is lovely and full.  Aged for 16 months in French and Hungarian oak, there are notes of dark berries, particularly blackberry, in the mouth, with a light pepper finish.  95% of the grapes are grown locally in New Jersey, making this one of three of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds.

Syrah 2007 The last of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds, the Syrah is made from grapes grown in vineyards directly across the street from Jon Bon Jovi’s house.  Gene has added just a touch of Grenache to the Syrah and the result is a lovely medium-bodied wine with a delicate, fruity nose, a smooth, soft mouth-feel, and light cherry notes on the palate.  The Syrah will pair well with a wide range of food, and will also cellar nicely.

Carignane 2006 This was my first taste of a Carignane wine, as despite it being one of the most planted grapes in France, it is often used for blending rather than as the primary grape.  Medium-bodied with a soft mouth-feel and notes of stone fruits on the palate, it is designed to be a “companion” or table-wine, and is Gene Ventimiglia’s favorite everyday wine.  It shares many of the characteristics of a good European (French or Italian) table wine – interesting and lightly complex, without being overpowering, it will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Merlot 2006 Made from California grapes, the Merlot has a bright nose with notes of plum and cherry, and a lovely soft fruitiness in the mouth that is balanced by a slightly acidic finish.   A nice wine, but not as interesting as the Syrah, Carignane, Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Also made from California grapes, this is a full-bodied wine with a lovely deep garnet color.  The nose is sharp and tangy, and in the mouth the wine is soft with nice notes of plum and a smoky, spicy, slight tobacco finish.  The finish also lingers beautifully, and the wine grows more complex and interesting with each sip.

Cabernet Franc 2006 The afternoon ended with the 2006 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorites of the day.  Aged in French Oak, the wine ages an additional 3 years in the bottle.  Made in the Bordeaux-style,  this is a full-bodied, dry red.  The nose is earthy with a slight mustiness, and in the mouth the wine is rich, full, with notes of grass and berries and a strong earthiness that gives it depth and character.   Very interesting wine.

A smaller winery, tucked in the northwest corner of the State, Ventimiglia is worth a stop.  While I definitely had my favorites from among the selection, none of the wines disappointed.

Gouveia Vineyards ~ The Reds (Connecticut)

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I was on my own during this recent foray into Connecticut’s Eastern Wine Trail.  Christy, my normal wine trail buddy, had out of town guests that weekend and had to take a pass, and I found myself feeling more than a little lonely as I headed down I-91 to Wallingford.

But fate, if not the sun, was smiling on me that day, and I arrived at Gouveia just after another couple. They had just started their tasting, so I was able to quickly join in to both the tasting and the conversation.  Turns out they, like me, are also recent relocatees to Connecticut, coming from California, where he used to work for Gallo.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write down their names, but we spent a very pleasant 45 minutes talking about the joys of discovering your new home state one winery at a time.

Having finished the whites, we then all proceeded on to the Reds; Gouveia produces 4 Reds and 1 Rosé, but that afternoon’s tasting menu had only two of the reds available.

Stone House Red   Gouveia’s most popular red wine, the Stone House Red is a blend of zinfandel, merlot and cabernet franc grapes, aged for 12 months in American and French oak.   A dry wine, the nose has lovely notes of black cherries with their crisp tang and hint of sweetness.  Medium-bodied, the wine has nice notes of fruit, black cherry again and perhaps blackberry…  It’s nicely balanced, and the oak adds a touch of “toast” that gives the wine an interesting finish.   The Stone House Red is also a 2008 Big E Gold Medal Winner.

Gouveia Vineyards ~ Cabernet Franc

Gouveia Vineyards ~ Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc  A full-bodied red with lovely notes of cherry.   The color is a medium-ruby color with a slight matte finish.  The nose is bright with strong notes of cherry and other berries.  In the mouth, the wine is nicely blended, and the fruit notes are pleasant without being overpowering.  The wine is aged for 16 months in American and French Oak.  This is a very nice wine, and my favorite of the afternoon.

While not available on the tasting menu that afternoon, Gouveia also produces a Merlot, “a deep purple-colored wine with complex aromas and a touch of spiciness and blackberry”; and the Whirlwind Rosé, “a semi-sweet, crisp blend of … Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, and Chardonnay.”

As I headed off to the next winery, I sent Christy a quick text letting her know we needed to come back – with dinner – some Saturday evening.  Soon!

Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

Castello di Nipozzano

North East Tuscany
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The Castello di Nipozzano estate is in the heart of the Chianti Rúfina DOCG.  A DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is a sub-region of the larger DOC regions, and the classification guidelines are more stringent than those of the DOC.
The Chianti Rúfina appellation is the coolest and highest elevation in the Chianti region; with sandy soil and a dry and windy climate, the region is ideal for growing Sangiovese grapes.  The castle at the center of the estate dates back to the year 1,000, and was rebuilt in the 1400s to incorporate extensive wine cellars for the estate’s burgeoning wine production.
The seminar featured two wines from this estate:

Montesodi Chianti Rúfina, DOCG Chianti Rúfina
This is one of the Frescobaldi family’s favorite wines, as well as being their birth wine.  Bottled separately from other wines on the estate, the Montesodi is 100% Sangiovese and is aged for 18 months in small French Oak barrels.  The color is a deep purple, with a jewel tone quality to it.  The nose is smooth, floral and soft, with light notes of berry.  Our host described it as a “kitty-cat” wine – the nose just curls up and purrs…  A strange description, but surprisingly apt.  
The Montesodi is a full-bodied wine, more reminiscent of a Cabernet than what one typically expects from a Chianti.  Slightly acidic, I tasted rich fruit notes, possibly plum.  There also were strong notes of minerality, and the wine had a bite at the end when drunk by itself.  It pairs exceptionally well with food, however;  pairing with a sharp cheddar balanced the wine beautifully – and it really came alive in the mouth.  
The wine retails for about $50 US.  About 2,000 cases a year are imported into the US making it one of the easier wines to find of those featured during the seminar.   
Mormoreto, IGT Toscana

Also from the Castello di Nippozano estate, the Mormereto is a blended wine: 70% Cabernet grapes, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Like the Montesodi, this wine is also bottled separately, and is aged for 12 months in small French Oak barrels.
The nose is deep and rich, with notes of berries and a hint of cherry.  Also a deep purple, the color is denser than the Montesodi; it doesn’t catch the light and have that jewel-tone element I found in the Chianti.  A full-bodied wine, the taste is complex – definitely notes of berry, but also strong minerality.   Very dry, the wine has a chalky element to it.  Paired with food, particularly strong cheese or meats, the wine blossoms – becoming even richer and more complex.
Retailing for $50-$60 US, approximately 2,000 cases a year are imported to the US.  Both the Mormoreto and the Montesodi can be found on Wine.com.
Last stop – and next post: the Castelgiocondo estate and the Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino and the 2005 Lamaione.