Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Kath and Giovanni Petretta of Santo Stefano Winemaking Club are passionate people.
Giovanni grew up watching his grandfathers make wine in his home village of Santo Stefano in Avellino, Italy.
Following a devastating earthquake in Santo Stefano in 1980, Giovanni and his family moved to the United States.
Nowadays you can find Giovanni Petretta and his wife, Kath, in New York's Hudson valley. At their winery they help winelovers create their own barrel of wine.
They have a wonderfully old school approach to their natural winemaking. The grapes are mostly organic and shipped from California as quickly as possible after picking.
The wines are made without any added sulfites. Wines without any added sulfites should be kept in a cool and dark place.
Families and friends are encouraged to get their hands dirty and become involved in the winemaking process, all under Giovanni's experienced supervision and guidance.
The following summer their wine is bottled and ready for pickup by the group that made it with Giovanni. They also host Wild Game Dinners and Jazz Nights throughout the year that members are welcome to attend.
It all sounds deliciously civilized.
I tasted the Santo Stefano Vino Patrino red blend 2006. It is a blend of Cabernet, Petite Syrah and Merlot.
The wine was a dense purple color, due to the Petite Syrah I suspect. Rich, juicy cherry aromas mingle with a nice meatiness. There were notes of licorice and blackberries on the palate.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 9:23 PM
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The recent fires in Victoria, Australia have sat heavy on my heart. First and foremost, because I lived in Melbourne, Australia for many years and it will always be the city that got away for me.
Victoria, Australia is a place full of wide golden sand beaches, forests of majestic eucalyptus trees and green undulating hills covered in grapevines.
Aussies describe Sydney as a tart and Melbourne as a lady. I just say Sydney is like LA and San Fran rolled in one, while Melbourne is like a groovy mashup of NY and Vancouver.
It was while living in Melbourne in the mid nineties that I caught the serious wine bug. As a result, I drank quite a bit of Victorian wines.
Victoria is greener and cooler than any other part of Oz, except Tasmania of course.
As a result, the wines from Vic tend to be lower in alcohol and more refined than their South Australian counterparts.
When I buy Australian wines, they are inevitably from Tasmania or Victoria. Gorgeous sparkling wines, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to name a few.
I urge you to seek these wines out soon. All of us in the wine business have witnessed the financial nosedive that Austalian wines have taken over the past 2 years.
The Aussies are down but definitely not out.
Trust me, they are some strong and determined battlers.
Great time to discover these guys from Wineweek.com.au too! Their videos are always spot on and give you a glimpse into the Oz wine scene.
My few of my favorite wines from Victoria, Australia:
Ten Minutes By Tractor
Posted by Amy Atwood at 8:01 AM
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sokol Blosser is another great reason to jump on the Oregon wine bandwagon. The winery was founded in 1971 by Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser in the Willamette Valley's Dundee Hills.
Their children, Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser, now run the winery together.
They started farming their grapes organically in 2002 and received organic certification in 2005.
The winery's Meditrina red wine blend was a big mouthful of dark raspberry fruit with a touch of chocolate covered cherries. Very nice acidity keeps it from being too heavy handed. This blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah and red Zinfandel has a delicious zing to it. Guaranteed crowd pleaser. Was a great match with juicy meatballs and spaghetti. $17 Buy it online.
Sokol Blosser's Evolution white wine blend has long had a well deserved cult following. The winemaker says this is his hardest wine to make because of all the grapes involved (riesling, muller-thurgau, semillon, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, muscat canelli, chardonnay, pinot blanc and sylvaner...whew!).
Intoxicating aromas of lime flowers with flavors of citrus, pear and ginger. Like drinking a tropical fruit salad with a touch of eastern spice.
This is an awesome wine for spicy foods. I drank it with Ma Po Tofu and stir fried bok choy.
$17 Buy it online here.
Ma Po Tofu, simple version (the dish that will soften a tofu hater's heart)
Brown some ground pork in a hot wok until cooked, break up the clumps.
Turn heat to medium low
Add very soft tofu (better if you can buy fresh, silken tofu from Asian grocery)
Add spoonful of chili garlic paste ( you decide how much, it is spicy)
Stir all together and simmer gently for a few minutes
Optional: dash of soy sauce or fish sauce, chopped chives or cilantro
Serve over steamed white rice with stir fried Asian green vegetable on the side.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 4:04 PM
Monday, February 16, 2009
What is more California than fresh, local sake?
Our gorgeous state is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. This locally produced sake is a perfect example. California has long been influenced by Japanese culture and foods. But just like Cabernet grapes from France, we are discovering that we can also produce great sake with special sake rice from Japan.
If your only experience with sake has been the hot, cheap and nasty rocket fuel that comes out of 18 liter boxes, then this sake will be an eyeopener.
Premium sake is almost always consumed chilled. It is usually about 15-16% alcohol ( about the same as many Aussie Shiraz or Red Zinfandel from Cali!). You probably thought sake was higher in alcohol because you drank it hot, the fumes of warm alcohol gave you the impression of a higher alcohol percentage.
This sake is a Nama, or unpastuerized, sake so you can really taste the fresh ricey flavors. It also means it should be kept refrigerated and consumed as soon as possible after it was brewed.
Sho Chiku Bai is made by Takara Sake and is widely available (try Wholefoods or any local Asian grocery store).
Grab a california roll and enjoy!
SHO CHIKU BAI Organic Nama $7.50
Type: Junmai Nama / Draft (Organic)
It's totally natural, using OCIA certified rice harvested from the Sacramento Valley with absolutely no preservatives, no alcohol, and no sulfites added. It is brewed under the direction of Takara's master brewer combining the most traditional methods with modern technology to arrive at the Ginjo grade.
Character: Full, dry and balanced flavor with fruity and fresh taste
Dry/Sweet: +5 (dry)
Texture: Soft and smooth
Aroma: Pleasant ginjo aroma
Suggestions:Cold seafoods, sushi, etc
Pairing food: Cold or vinegar-marinated
Posted by Amy Atwood at 8:14 AM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The folks at Natural Merchants have a pretty good gig.
They import natural and organic foods and wine from Europe ( with a special focus on the Mediterranean region). Their U.S. base of operations is in Rogue River, Oregon. And they have an office in Cartagena, Spain as well. Both beautiful locations.
Not only do they focus on bringing real, family made wines to the U.S. market but they are also committed to focusing on those wines that are made from chemical free grapes.
Kudos to Natural Merchants! Their vision has become a successful reality.
Based on my initial tastings, they have presented high quality, inexpensive wines that consumers can feel good about drinking.
I tasted two beauties from their portfolio recently:
Tarantas Bodegas Iranzo 2003 Crianza $11.99
Great value for the money. Dark, roasted fruits on the nose. These aromas follow through in the mouth with a bit of mint, rosemary and licorice flavors. Made from certified organic grapes. 70 % Tempranillo grapes, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Available at Wholefoods or online.
La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco Veneto 2006 $13.99
Nice little sparkling wine from northern Italy. Bone dry with soft bubbles. Touch of apple fritter flavors, but light on the sugar. Very refreshing for lunch or brunch.
Made from certified organic grapes. Contact Natural Merchants for availability.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 1:17 PM
Thursday, February 5, 2009
If you love Pinot Noir, then Cooper Mountain Winery should be on your radar.
First of all they are located in Oregon, which to my taste, is producing some of the best Pinot Noir stateside.
Cooper Mountain Winery has certified organic vineyards ( no chemical pesticides or herbicides) and is also Demeter certified biodynamic.
The owner, Dr. Robert Gross, sounds like a pretty groovy guy too. He is a psychiatrist, an acupuncturist and a winery owner. Talk about mastering the healing arts!
The winemaker is Gilles de Domingo from Bordeaux. He joined the team because he believed in the land and the biodynamic principles that Cooper Mountain follows.
The Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir 2007 Reserve is an excellent, change all your preconceptions about domestic Pinot Noir, wine drinking experience.
Delicious cherry aromas with a bit of smoke and earth. Nice touch of mushroom. Gorgeous ruby color. Buy it online for $25 and up.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 5:37 PM
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Foggy Bridge Winery is a pretty cool concept. Talk about a dream location! The winery (which is under construction in Crissy Field) will have a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Wine lovers can watch winemaking in action, taste through the wine portfolio, eat in the restaurant and finish the day with a walk along the bay.
Sure beats fighting the bumper to bumper traffic along Highway 29 in Napa!
Daryl Groom, the Aussie winemaker of Geyser Peak and Penfolds fame, is the head winemaker. Foggy Bridge will make wines both from purchased grapes as well as grapes from it's own vineyards in the Livermore Valley.
All Foggy Bridge estate grapes are farmed organically.
These organically farmed grapes will go towards the G.E.O. label (Green, Earth,Origin).
But here's the amazing part of this new project:
The wines are really good. Delicious even.
The building facility of Foggy Bridge Winery has not opened yet but the wines are available online.
Foggy Bridge Chardonnay 2007 G.E.O.
Lovely pear and stonefruit flavors, touch of cinnamon and vanilla from the oak. Very well done, a lighthanded approach to CA Chardonnay, half oak and half stainless steel aging. Made from local organically farmed grapes. $18
Foggy Bridge Riesling 2007
Pretty apple and citrus aromas, touch of flint, gorgeous creamy lime on the finish.
Highly recommended. Grapes are from Washington's Columbia Valley. $18
Foggy Bridge Zinfandel 2007
Gorgeous dark fruit, brambly berry aromas, touch of chocolate and christmas pudding flavors. Very nice balance and a refreshing acidity on the finish. I am not a CA Zinfandel fan and I loved this wine. Only 13.5% alcohol. $26
Posted by Amy Atwood at 10:02 AM