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



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.

Wallace Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

It seems these days I am always on the road and this is a good thing. I love meeting people all over the country who love wine so much that they have dedicated their lives to it. And naturally, I enjoy tasting as well. The best part of wine lovers is that they are everywhere and while it hasn’t been able to said as much about wine makers they are certainly becoming more widespread. In Iowa for instance, there are over 70 wineries.

Wallace VineyardsWallace WineryOne of the common complaints that I hear from those uninitiated in travelling to wineries outside of the west coast is that any wine produced in the rest of the company is sweet. This was certainly the case with the other winery that I visited in Iowa, the Ackermann Winery. Of course, the people of the Amana Colonies would have come by their love of sweet wine naturally given their German heritage and they continued to produce wines in that style when they arrived in Central Iowa 150 years ago.

As I drove down the country roads toward the Wallace Winery, I wondered what I would find. Pulling into the parking lot, I saw that this was part of a working farm. There were grapes growing as well as corn. I entered the tasting room to be greeted two young women who had clearly been enjoying the beautiful summer day as I arrived. I asked about tastings and was greeted with this warning, “Just so you know, we don’t have sweet wines”. Clearly the expectation of the region was for those kinds of wines and she wanted to head off any disappointment on my part. But you can’t disappoint me when I get to try a new wine!

Looking around I found 10 different wines mostly produced from estate grown grapes (only the Joan’s Cuvee was produced from grapes brought in from elsewhere). I started with the wines produced from locally grown grapes. The first was a Chardonel. This varietal is a cross between the Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and is often found in northern climates as it is hardier than Chardonnay. This wine was aged in stainless steel. The wine was fruity and pleasant but very light but would be lovely on a hot summer day.  The next white I tried was their Traminette.  Traminette is a varietal that was meant to be a table grape with the flavors of Gewurtztraminer, but was ultimately found to produce excellents wines. This wine was floral and citrus and like the Chardonel exceedingly light.  Nice for sipping by the pool on a summer day, but not quite what I would serve with dinner.

Wallace Tasting RoomWallace Winery SelectionsAt this point, I tried tasting the red wines.  The Chambourcin, another hybrid is a varietal that I have come to taste often in the Midwest (and Tennessee as that is more southern) and have liked a lot.  This wine like the others was lighter than I would have liked, but still flavorful.  It was like tasting a very light Rhone.  The flavors were pleasant, just weaker than I expected.  This made me curious to taste the last wine on my list the Joan’s Cuvee.  The grapes for this wine were imported from California as whole fruit, not juice.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and was aged in oak barrels.  Unlike the other wines, this was full bodied and I was a surprised with the richness.

Other wines produced by the winery include a Blanc de Blance made from the Chardonel, ‘Iowa Barn’ White, a blend of Chardonel, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles, ‘Iowa Barn’ Red a blend of Chambourcin and Chancellor grapes, a Vignoles, the Nouveau made from 2008 Chambourcin and the River City Port which is produced from Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The prices of the wines range from $11.99 to $22.99.

The winemaker is Dr. Edward Wallace who has turned his love for wine from a hobby into a business.  (Dr. Wallace is a chiropractor in West Branch, Iowa ((Home of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)).  Dr. Wallace has been making wine for 15 years and opened his tasting room five years ago.  My conclusion after tasting his wines is that he can produce good flavors but that the quality of the local grapes must be improved to bring greater depth to the wines.  Overall, I was impressed with his desire to make dry wines in an area that seems populated with wineries producing sweeter varieties.  It appears to be a more difficult undertaking and I wish Dr. Wallace good luck in his winemaking quest.

Wallace Winery
5305 Herbert Hoover Highway
West Branch, Iowa 52358

Alba Winery ~ The Reds & Dessert Wines

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Thursday, September 17, 2009.

Both Maree and I prefer reds, so we carefully coordinated our selections to ensure we got to try as many of them as possible.

Under the Alba Vineyards label, the winery produces three reds: Old Mill Red, Chambourcin, and a Pinot Noir.  Unfortunately the Chambourcin was temporarily out of stock, so we each selected one of the other two.

Old Mill Red Described as a “chianti-style” wine, this is a very drinkable, pleasant red table wine.  Made from a blend of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrown in, the wine is aged in american oak for 8-10 months.  The nose is rich with strong notes of dark berries and plum.  In the mouth there are also discernible notes of plum, and the oak provides a smoky finish.  I felt the wine would definitely benefit if allowed to breathe, as it was there was a sharpness in the mouth that is often found in wines with a strong percentage of Marechal Foch, and that usually mellows when allowed to breathe for 30 minutes or so.

2004 Pinot Noir The vineyard has only recently planted Pinot Noir grapes, and this is one of Alba’s first pressings.  For the 2004 vintage, the grapes came primarily from the New York Finger Lakes area and the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  The wine is a medium-bodied wine, although on the lighter side of medium.  There are lovely notes of cherry both in the nose and in the mouth, and there’s an interesting tanginess at the end.  This struck me as a young wine, and I wasn’t surprised to find that Alba has only just begun working in Pinot Noir.  For a newer wine, it is interesting, though, and I believe future vintages will grow richer and more complex.

Next we proceeded to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah of Chelsea Cellars.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon This was a lovely, very drinkable wine.  Medium-bodied with a soft dark-plum nose, the wine is rich and soft in the mouth.  On the palate the notes of plum are nicely balanced by touches of pepper and spice.  This would pair well with a wide variety of foods and should age well.  Definitely one of my favorites of the afternoon.

2005 Syrah I’ve been gravitating towards Cabernet Franc and Syrah lately, and the Chelsea Cellars Syrah didn’t disappoint.  The color is a dark red/purple – almost plum color.  The nose is smooth and light with notes of both cherry and plum.  Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has definite notes of plum and light notes of cherry which give it a brightness and freshness.  The finish is smooth with a nice balance of acid.  While I did like this wine, I definitely preferred the Cabernet, finding it a more interesting and complex wine.

We finished up the tasting with selections from among the Dessert wines.  Maree, who loves blueberries and had never tried blueberry wine, gave that one a whirl.  I, who have been tasting a fair amount of fruit wines lately, went with the Dolcina, an ice-wine style dessert wine.

Blueberry Wine When they say blueberry, they aren’t kidding.  The smell and taste of blueberry is predominant in both the nose and mouth.  Interestingly, though, it’s not overwhelming.  Like their Apple and Raspberry wines, Alba’s Blueberry wine is sweetened solely from the fruit and the result is a flavor that comes very close to blueberries straight from the vine.  It’s a rich, deep flavor that evokes … summer.  This will pair exceptionally well with chocolate or cheesecake as well as with fruit and cheese.  It would also be good sipped on it’s own as an aperitif.  Winner of the 2009 Governor’s Cup for Best Dessert wine.

Dolcina Described as an “ice-wine” style, the grapes are harvested late in the season (but not technically late-harvest) and cyrogenically frozen to produce that rich, velvety sweetness that one finds in ice wines.  The nose has notes of honey and apricot, and the mouth feel is soft and smooth.  In the mouth, the notes apricot and honey blend harmoniously, with neither one being predominant.  Definitely a nice dessert wine, but I found it didn’t have the depth and character of the true Ice Wines of the Niagara region or Germany.

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.

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.


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, that means something. Of course, 20% of the world’s population can already ready read it. It says, “Hello Chinese Wine!” How it is pronounced? Sadly, I do not know. I know that most of the time westerners think of wine China is pretty low on their list. I am sure that most people think of tea when asked to come up with a Chinese beverage.


Wine has been produced in China for thousands of years. Jars containing traces of wine made from rice, honey and fruit have been found that date to 7,000 BC. Grape wine came much later in the case of the wine that I tried Friday night at the Bottlenotes Around the World in 80 Sips event about 9,000 years later.

Dragon’s Hollow’s vineyard was originally planted in the 1990s at the foot of the Helan Mountains in Ningxia. They produce a Cabernet Sauvignon (I tasted the 2005) which was dark and smoky, tasting of tobacco with a hint of cherry. It was truly unique. It made me consider the idea of terroir. A friend of mine recently went to China and came hold and told me about the cigarettes and their distinct aroma and now I could imagine tobacco growing in fields across China…

Dragon’s Hollow also produces an Chardonnay (I tasted the 2006). This wine was more like the Chardonnays that are available all over the world. Produced and aged in stainless steel, I was disappointed not to find something uniquely Chinese about this wine but it was crisp and clean and very nice. Perfect for drinking during the heat of a warm sunny afternoon.

There is a medallion attached to each bottle of Dragon’s Hollow wine. In the shape of a Chinese coin, the medallion contains the only Chinese characters found in the packaging. A lovely addition, but a shame to hide so much of this wine’s heritage. Perhaps they will add more when the world begins to accept Chinese wine more readily.

Both of these wines are available from and sell for $13.00.


How do these wines relate to VinoVerve? Well, we approach local wine the way Tip O’Neill (MA-D, Congressman and Speaker of the House(January 4, 1977 – January 3, 1987)) approached politics. Everything is local to someone.

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
Last stop – and next post: the Castelgiocondo estate and the Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino and the 2005 Lamaione.

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


North West Tuscany
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The second wine featured in the seminar was the Tenuta di Castiglioni from the Castiglioni estate in North West Tuscany.  Castiglioni is the family’s first estate, established in the 11th century.  The estate is situated near the Arno and Pesa rivers, and as a result the soil has areas of both sand and clay. 
Like the Pomino estate, the climate and soil does not favor Sangiovese grapes, but Bordeaux varieties do exceptionally well here.  The Frescobaldis have replanted the vineyards recently with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  As the family replants their vineyards, whether here or on other estates, they are replanting in the “California style”: high density planting, forcing the grapes close together to increase the stress on the grapes.  By increasing the stress, the vines force more nutrients to the grapes to ensure they survive, and as a result the grapes are richer and juicier.
The Castiglioni estate is part of the IGT Toscana.  IGT (Indicazione Geografica Typica), adopted by Italy in 1992, is an expansion of the DOC classifications.   IGT allows winemakers to expand beyond the narrower DOC guidelines and produce wines blended from several grapes.
The Tenuta is one such blended wine: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Petite Verdot.  Aged for the first year in stainless steel, and then for another 12 months in French and American oak barrels, the wine spends another 2 months in the bottle before release.  The 2006 vintage, which we tasted, is only the 3rd vintage produced.
The color is a deep, deep purple; the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of spice and mint.  Both Christy and I agreed the nose on the Tenuta was the most interesting of all the wines.  The wine is complex; I tasted notes of mint and spice, as well as strong tannins and minerality by the finish.  There is a slight acidity that is beautifully balanced when paired with food, and it will pair nicely with a wide range of foods.  Definitely one of my favorites of the seminar.
The wine retails for $30 US, and can be found in select wine stores in the New York area and online through Dotcom Wines.
Next up: Castello di Nipozzano in North East Tuscany and the Montesodi Chianti Rufina and the Mormoreto.