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.

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

Castiglioni

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.

Win(e)ding roads: Highlights from the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

THE REDS

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
Some of the more interesting finds among the Reds at the Sun Winefest included:

Greenpoint Shiraz 2005 Australia Nice smooth, earthy Shiraz. Has a slight bite at the end, but I suspect pairing it with food will do much to smooth that out.

Lot 205 Petite Sirah California Deep plum color, rich and fruity. Detected notes of berries.  One of the wines I starred for future purchase.

Alma Negra Bonarda Malbec Chile  A blend of 60% bonarda and 40% malbec grapes, this is smooth, earthy, dry wine.   It finishes with a slight bite that is a hallmark of Malbec grapes.  Interesting wine.  I also really liked the label, and when I asked about it, the distributor informed me that Alma Negra refers to “Other face,” and the label was designed to evoke that sense of mystery.
Faustina V Reserva Rioja Spain According to the distributor the Faustina V Reserva is a Rioja made in the “traditional style.”  Aged in French Oak, the wine is earthy and deep, with a slight mustiness to the nose.   We were encouraged to taste it back-to-back with the…
Condesa de Leganza Crianza Spain  A tempranillo from the La Mancha region of Spain, this is a deep, rich, fruity wine.  Very smooth, with a rich, complex bouquet, the distributor described it as being more in the spirit of California wines.  It was interesting to taste the two wines back-to-back; the rioja with its strong earthiness and the tempranillo with its bright fruitiness.  Even given the differences attributed to the grapes and the regions, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of different styles of winemakeing.
Chateau d’Aussieres Vin de Pays Ausseries D’Oc Rouge 2006 Languedoc-Rousillon A medium-bodied red with a rich, earthy bouquet.   Like the 2006 Blanc, a nice table wine.
Avia Shiraz Chile Medium-bodied, smooth wine.  Priced under $10 US, this is a nice affordable every-day red.
Avia Merlot Chile Another medium-bodied red, with nice notes of berries.  Also priced under $10 US, a nice affordable Merlot.  I used to drink Chilean wines more frequently than I have been lately.  While I’ve never found large selections of Chilean wines unless I go to a large wine specialty store, it does seem like fewer and fewer Chilean wines are available in local shops and outlets these days.  It’s a shame, because as I found with these two wines, the Chilean reds are smooth, interesting wines that are very affordable.
Windmill Estates Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi From the Michael~David Family of Wines, the Old Vine Zin is fruity, with strong notes of cherry and plum in both the bouquet and on the palate; overall a really nice Zin, but not a standout like their more recognized wine…
7 Deadly Zins  Lodi Michael~David’s “flagship wine,” this is a wine I’ve had often before.  A combination of zinfandel grapes from 7 different wineries (hence the name), this is a rich, fruity, absolutely gorgeous wine.  One of my all time favorite zins.

Banfi CollePino

Marguerite Barrett

Contributing Writer
I mentioned a few days ago that I picked up this up solely because the label caught my eye.  
From Castello Banfi in the Tuscan region of Italy, the CollePino is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that is quite delicious.  And at less than $10US a bottle, a great wine to stock up on for a good everyday table red.    I paired it with a hearty risotto one evening for a wonderful “comfort food” dinner.