Jonathan Edwards Annual Spring Festival

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Expect to be in the Northeast/Southern New England in early June?  If so, consider stopping by Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington, CT for their Annual Spring Festival:

From Andie Martin at Jonathan Edwards Winery

The Details:
Saturday June 6th 12-6pm
Local food vendors, an Artisans tent
and dancing to two bands including Boston’s premier Soul and Funk band Chicken Slacks! 

Admission includes our logo wine glass and a wine tasting voucher.

$15 in advance or $18 at the door. (Kids under 21 free with an adult.)

Tickets are available via our website at http://www.jedwardswinery.com or call 860.535.0202

Check the website for more information: http://www.jedwardswinery.com

Hope to see you there!

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

Castelgiocondo

Southern Tuscany
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
We finished the seminar – and our tour of the Frescobaldi estates – in Southern Tuscany.  Castelgiocondo, one of the largest estates in the Montalcino appellation, was originally owned by a French Investment Bank, who grew mostly Bordeaux variety grapes.  The owners soon discovered that the Bordeaux varieties did not grow well here, and the vineyard was replanted largely with Brunello (a clone of Sangiovese).  It was around this time that the Frescobaldi family assumed the management of the estate, which they purchased outright in 1989.  Today the Frescobaldis are the largest landowner in the Montalcino region, while the rival Banfi estate is the largest producer.
The region has been known for Brunello grapes and the quality of the wines they produce since the 14th century.   The region was awarded the first DOCG designation (Brunello di Montalcino DOCG) in 1980, and today the wines are some of the most awarded and prized wines produced in Italy.  (Source: Wikipedia).
The seminar featured two of the four wines currently produced at Castelgiocondo:

Despite being 100% Sangiovese, the Brunello is not a Chianti.  The wine is aged at the estate for 4 years, three of those in oak barrels.  A deep, deep red, the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of plum.  The wine is intense, rich and complex – there’s a slight acidity, but overall it is smooth with well-balanced tannins.  There are rich notes of plum and other stone fruits.  The wine would be beautiful on it’s own, but will also pair exceptionally well with food, particularly beef or lamb.   Retailing for around $60 US, this wine has limited production and fewer cases are imported into the US than other Frescobaldi wines.  It can be found primarily in the New York area.
The Lamaione is 100% Merlot.  Not a grape that traditionally does well in Tuscany, one portion of the Castelgiocondo estate has strong volcanic clay soil, and the Merlot grapes do grow well here.  A deep red color, the nose is gorgeous – rich, earthy, with overtones of both fruit and spice.  I detected notes of cinnamon and cloves.  The wine itself is full-bodied, with strong notes of spice – again clove and cinnamon.  It is not what I expect from a Merlot – it’s more “aggressive” if you will, but in a good way.  This is a wine that demands notice – smoother than the Brunelo, it is complex, rich, nuanced – overall a very interesting wine.   The tasting notes described it as a “racy Merlot.”  Retailing for about $70 US, it also has limited distribution, and can be tough to find outside of the New York area.
And with these, the seminar was concluded, and Christy and I headed over to the Grand Tasting.  By the end of the day, we both agreed the seminar was the highlight of the event, and next year, we’ll likely sign up for a few seminars and spend less time in the Grand Tasting hall.

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: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

Castello di Pomino

North East Tuscany
Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The first wine featured in the seminar was the Pomino Benefizio from the Castello di Pomino estate.  Located on the “slopes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines,” the Castello di Pomino is the highest and coldest point in Tuscany, and because of this also serves as the summer house for the Frescobaldi family.  Because of the elevation and the climate, Sangiovese grapes, a staple of Tuscan vineyards, do not grow well here; instead, the Frescobaldis grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir exclusively on this estate.
Exiled from Italy in 1434 for their attempted coups against the Medici, the Frescobaldis settled in France and were introduced to the vineyards and grapes of Southern France.  Upon their return to Italy several centuries later, they brought with them the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes they had begun cultivating while in France.   They successfully introduced both varietals into the Tuscan region, and the Pomino wines, first “recognized in 1716 by Cosimo III de’ Medici,” have been winning awards since 1800.  
The Frescobaldis are the only wine producers in the Pomino region, and the estate has been designated a DOC, (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).  DOC, which can be loosely translated as “controlled place name,” is the system created in 1963 to designate specific wine districts throughout Italy.  Similar in concept to American Viticultural Areas (AVA), the DOC laws specify geographical areas, grape varieties, alcohol content and other factors that contribute to the final product.
The Pomino Benefizio is 100% Chardonnay, aged in oak for eight months and then refined in the bottle for an additional year.  A light gold color, the nose is fruity and rich with hints of peach and melon.  The wine is crisp, dry, with subtle notes of fruit, and reminded me more of a White Bordeaux than a traditional Chardonnay.    Very nice, complex wine.
According to our host, Kerry Guilfoyle of Folio Wine Partners, the wine can age 20-30 years, although it is a beautiful wine if drunk within the first 3-4 years. After the first few years, the wine enters what Gilfoyle calls its “funky adolescence” which lasts about five years.  Once it passes through this adolescence, the wine comes into its own and continues to mature and deepen as it ages.
The wine retails for $30 US and can be ordered online from NobleMerchants.com and found in select wine shops in the New York area.
Next stop: the Castiglioni estate and the Tenuto di Castiglioni.

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

Marguerite Barrett 

Contributing Writer
In addition to the Grand Tasting, Christy and I signed up for the Frescobaldi  Crus Wine Seminar.  Hosted by Kerry Guilfoyle of Folio Wine Partners, the sole distributor of Frescobaldi wines in the US, the seminar was held in a private room in Todd English’s Tuscany Restaurant.  The room itself was gorgeous, wood-paneled, with shelves full of wine bottles lining the main wall and extending up to the 20-foot ceilings.   A large rustic, farm-style table that seats about 20 dominated the room, and above the table were two lovely wrought-iron chandeliers. 
The Frescobaldi vineyards are a family owned business now in its 30th generation.  The 31st generation is currently in school and will be joining the family business upon graduation.  
The Frescobaldis, a Florentine family, first became successful as bankers around the year 1,000.  During their banking career, they loaned money to Edward I and Edward II of England to finance their wars with France in their unsuccessful attempts to reclaim the Bordeaux region for the English crown.  Unfortunately for the Frescobaldis, England lost those wars, and the King of France fined them heavily for giving aid to the enemy.  The family was forced out of banking and shifted to cultivating grapes and producing wines.   More than 600 years later, the family owns 9 properties, each with its own castle, encompassing more than 2,500 acres across Tuscany.
Over the centuries the Frescobaldis have sold wine to such luminaries as Donatello, Michaelangeo, and the Kings of England.  Along the way they have amassed an impressive art collection, much of it by allowing artists to barter for wine.
The Frescobaldi Crus seminar featured the premier wines from 4 of the Frescobaldi estates, each with their own history: CastelGiocondo, Castiglioni, Castello di Pomino, and Castello di Nipozzano.
First stop: Castello di Pomino…

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.

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

THE WHITES

Marguerite Barrett

Contributing Writer
In addition to just being at the Winefest for the experience, Christy and I also were looking to discover some new wines.  Some of the highlights among the whites included:
Grgich Hills 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Estate Grown) Napa Valley Pale yellow color, floral nose, crisp, light with hints of fruit.  Very nice wine.
Grgich Hills 2006 Chardonnay (Estate Grown) Napa Valley  Smooth, crisp wine with notes of citrus.  According to the Grgich Hills representatives, this is the first vintage of their Chardonnay vineyards to be certified organic and biodynamic.
Villa Giulia Pinot Grigio  Italy Dry with notes of citrus.  A bit acidic on its own; it would pair nicely with food.

Ponte Vecchio Pinot Grigio  Italy This is a crisp, refreshing wine; fruity with notes of citrus – perhaps grapefruit, but not strongly acidic.  This was one of the wines I starred for later purchasing.  I also really liked the label, which was what first caught my eye.
Terrazas de los Andes 2007 Chardonnay Vin Blanc Argentina  Earthy, dry Chardonnay with strong fruit notes.  Strong notes of Oak as well.  Interesting wine.

Chauteau d’Aussieres Vin de Pays Aussieres D’Oc Blanc 2006  Languedoc-Roussillon  Crisp, fruity wine, with a delicate nose.  Made from Chardonnay grapes, a nice table white.
2 Friends Chardonnay  Sonoma This was one of the standouts among the whites I tasted that day.   A light yellow color, with a delicate fruity nose, the wine is smooth and  buttery.   Really nice wine; definitely one of my favorites.
Next up: highlights among the Reds.

Win(e)ding Roads: The Sun Winefest, 1.17.09

Marguerite Barrett

Contributing Writer
On January 17th, my friend Christy Sherard and I headed down to the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort Complex in Uncasville, CT for the  Sun Winefest.  In addition to more than 200 wineries, the event also featured celebrity chef demonstrations, special wine seminars, a separate exhibit area featuring beers and craft ales, and food from a variety of local restaurants.
The majority of the events were held in Mohegan Sun’s large convention center.  Situated in the heart of the casino, the convention center is a two-story space with a large entrance/reception area and main ballroom on the first floor which housed the Grand Tasting and Celebrity Chef demonstrations, and on the second floor a series of meeting rooms housing the beers and craft ales.
The event ran from 12-5 on both Saturday and Sunday, and according to one vendor we spoke to, “when the doors opened at 12:00 on Saturday, you just saw this wall of people stream into the Grand Tasting room.”  In other words, the place was packed!
Our first stop of the day was the Frescobaldi Crus wine seminar (check back with Vino Verve on 1.31 for seminar details), and then we headed into the Grand Tasting about 1:30.  We stopped in the main reception area long enough to pick up glasses and program guides before heading straight into the fray.
On the far right of the room, a large stage was set up for the celebrity chef demonstrations and people were beginning to gather and find seats for the Jacques Torres’ Chocolate demonstration.  The rest of the room was set up with rows of tables and booths featuring the participating wineries and distributors, and as we were there for the wines, we bypassed the chef stage, and headed straight over to the tables.  Along the back wall was the food section, featuring local restaurants offering sandwiches and finger foods which you could purchase for a small fee.
Making your way through the crowds in these events is always a challenge, particularly as the day progresses and people become increasingly tipsy.  Wine expos are not for the faint of heart; you need to politely but firmly navigate your way through the crowds and up to the tables – otherwise, you’ll find you spend a lot of time staring at people’s backs as they sample the wines.
Having now been to a few wine expos, I can also recommend going in with a game plan; Christy and I were there to discover new wines, so we approached the room with a few rules:

  • We avoided tables featuring wines we were already familiar with, such as the Gallo wines, YellowTail, Barefoot Cellars, etc., 
  • We looked for distributors that featured wines of  specific regions (South Africa, Spain) so we could sample several different wineries at a single table, and
  • We stopped at any winery whose name caught our attention (2 Friends, for example) or whose labels caught our eye.
All in all it worked really well – and helped us focus our time and energy on getting the most out of the afternoon.  We also found it helped to take a short break about 1/2 way through the afternoon.  Stepping out of the crush in the convention area and just walking around the casino and shops for 10-15 minutes gave us a chance to get a breath of fresh air before heading back into the fray.

A very fun and successful day – and best of all we came home with the names of several new wines we plan on picking up in the future.
Next up: highlights from some of our “new” wines!

Food & Wine at the Sun!

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Today Christy and I are heading down to Uncasville, CT for the Sun Winefest.   Billed as “the largest food and wine show in Connecticut,” the Sun Winefest runs January 17th and 18th at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Entertainment Complex.
Now in its sixth year, the Sun Winefest boasts more than 200 wineries and 12,000 attendees over the two day-event.  The event also features a grand tasting, craft beers, celebrity chef demonstrations, restaurant & food stations, and wine/food seminars. 
 
The event opens to the public at 12:00, and after we get signed in, we’re heading over to Todd English’s Tuscany Restaurant for the Frescobaldi Crus wine seminar at 12:30.  After that it’s back into the main ballroom for a leisurely tour of the more than 200 wineries in attendance.  The program closes for the day at 5:00 – just in time to grab a dinner at one of the Sun’s many restaurants, and maybe stroll around the shops or casinos a bit before making the 45-60 minute drive back to Hartford.
Keep your eye on VinoVerve over the next several weeks for posts about the wines we discover at The Sun.