C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery
In 2000, Chaim Gur-Arieh and his wife, the artist Elisheva Gur-Arieh, purchased a 209-acre estate, located between the south and middle forks of the Cosumnes River in the five percent of the Shenandoah Valley within El Dorado County borders, the other 95% of the appellation situated in Amador County. The two counties are the best known and largest wine areas in the Sierra Foothills.
The 12,000 square-foot winery, including two art galleries, is perched on a hillside with spectacular views of the vineyards and a panorama of the Sierra Foothills in the distance. Located in a warm-weather zone, the vineyards produce mainly red varieties with a history in the area, especially Zinfandel, Primitivo, which is the parent clone of Zinfandel, three clones of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, and Grenache, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. The winery is now producing about 20,000 cases a year.
With a Ph.D. in Food Science, Chaim established Food Development Corporation, where over 18 years, he created a database of 5000 flavors for the food industry, an almost invisible business that nevertheless contributes its products to the list of ingredients on almost every packaged food. After selling the business, he took the short step into wine production.
Chaim describes his winemaking style as fruit-forward and bold but lower in alcohol like European wines. He does not want oak barrel elements to overshadow the varietal taste of his wines. He wants flavors to be open, to show layers, instead of being one dimensional. Finally, he wants the wine to impart its essence even after it is swallowed, that illusive long finish that challenges winemakers. Although winemakers, consumers, and environmentalists have turned against screw caps, Chaim says the research validates them.
California Wines of the Month
C.G. di Arie 2009 Zinfandel, Break Away, Sierra Foothills
Chaim Gur-Arieh named this wine Break Away to distinguish it from other Zinfandels that are robust, jammy, and heavy with alcohol and oak flavor. Instead, this wine follows a new model for Zinfandel, crafted in a more elegant and balanced way, which will complement a wide variety of foods. Chaim bottled the wine with screw caps, explaining that his decision to use this closure was based on quality issues. By using the screw cap over the cork, he says that he avoids cork taint and the sporadic oxidation of the wine that emanates from the cork, which at times leaks oxygen into the bottle and results in variation in the quality of the wine from one bottle to the next. Aged predominantly in French oak barrels for nine months, this wine has strong varietal aromas of blackberries with hints of spice, which carries into the mid-palate, adding black cherry and plum flavors. The long finish reveals more spice with hints of chocolate and orange peel (alcohol 14.3%, pH 3.55, cases produced 3000).
C.G. di Arie 2012 Verdelho, Lod
Verdelho is a white grape variety, which ioriginated in Sicily and was introduced to the Madeira Islands in the 15th Century. It later expanded into the Douro Valley of Northern Portugal and then to the Anjou region in the Loire Valley of Western France. Verdelho is the dominant white grape of Portugal’s famous Madeira wines. Extremely aromatic with high acidity, its palate can be rich, herbaceous, spicy, and nutty with tropical fruit flavors. This Verdelho, harvested from a small, meticulously farmed vineyard in Lodi, is crisp, dry, and clean with very floral and tropical flavors of pineapple, guava, green mango and hints of lime (alcohol 13.9%, pH 3.3, cases produced 246).
C.G. di Arie 2008 Grenache
This wine, like all of the C.G. di Arie wines is elegant, soft, and layered with flavor. The grapes were harvested from the hilltop Duarte Vineyard in Georgetown. Aged predominantly in French oak barrels, this Grenache is blended with a small amount of Syrah like the distinctive wines of France’s Southern Rhone in Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas. The Syrah contributed color, flavor, and structure for better balance. The wine has distinctive flavors and aromas of blueberry syrup, raspberries, and chocolate. In the mid-palate the flavor becomes more herbaceous and leather-like. The sustained finish brings in more fruit, spice, cocoa, smoke, and hints of licorice. Serve at cool room temperature with mild dishes that don’t obscure the subtlety of the wine (alcohol 14.3%, pH 3.6, cases produced 368).
C.G. di Arie 2008 Amalur
While most winemakers push their wines into the market place as soon as possible, Chaim Gur-Arieh holds his reds back until he feels that they are truly developed. This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Tempranillo. The Tempranillo and Grenache grapes were harvested from the hilltop Duarte Vineyard in Georgetown while the Syrah is from Estate vineyards. While it is common to blend Syrah and Grenache in the wines of the Rhone Valley in France and Tempranillo and Grenache in the Rioja region of Spain, a combination of these three varietals is quite unusual. Amalur means mother earth in the basque language, a nation between France and Spain. The wine was aged primarily in French oak barrels. Dark berry aromas carry over to the palate and add herbal and earthy notes. The sustained finish brings in more dark fruit, cocoa with hints of smoke and licorice. (alcohol 14.2%, pH 3.6, cases produced 490).
C.G. di Arie 2007 Rousanne
This beautiful white wine has been cellared at the winery for seven years and has aged beautifully like a fine White Burgundy. Unlike red wines, very few white wines will transform over time into a wine as complex as this one. Rousanne is a lesser known French varietal hailing from Northern Rhone appellations. The fruit was harvested from the Bellagrave Vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley and fermented over six months in French oak barrels. It greets the taster with honeydew and dry hay upon the nose. The wine has substantial body, and citrus blossom paired with butter dominate the palate, bookended with crisp acidity. Serve chilled with a variety of foods from cheeses to salmon and pork (alcohol 13.8%, cases produced 172).
California Wines of the Month
El Dorado County
In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill on the South Fork of the American River. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, El Dorado County became the destination for legions of people, who arrived to find their fortunes, many originally from Europe. Miners planted vineyards almost immediately, and by 1870, El Dorado County had about 2000 acres of vines. Zinfandel and Barbera were some of the earliest plantings and later Syrah. But the gold bust and finally Prohibition destroyed viticulture until a resurgence of interest in the late 1960s. With a huge array of microclimates, vineyards are planted at elevations between 1200 to 3500 feet with cooler areas at higher elevations and warmer ones in the valleys. Breezes floating down from the mountains provide the crucial cooling influence, extending the time that grapes can hang on the vine to develop flavor. Home to over 70 wineries, the main American Viticultural Area is El Dorado County, but part of the sub appellations, Fair Play and Shenandoah Valley cross over into the County. The Sierra Foothills AVA, one of the largest in California, includes all eight Foothill counties.
Menu of the Month
Pumpkin gnocchi, drizzled with brown butter, topped with braised fresh sage,
and a grating of parmigiano cheese
Roast duck with a honey-balsamic sauce, served with brussel sprouts,
drizzled with olive oil and roasted with a sprinkle of sea salt
Organic butter lettuce with roasted pine nuts, chopped parsley,
and a lemon-olive oil dressing
Recipe of the Month
In English pick-me-up, we think of Tiramisu as a classic Italian dessert, but it actually has a short history that began in Northern Italy in the 1960s. The recipe has become popular for two obvious reasons. It can be made easily and is exceedingly delicious. Although many variations exist, the most common one is made with lady fingers, replaced in the following recipe with panetone, which is even easier and is readily available during the winter holidays.
5 pasteurized eggs
½ cup sugar
2 ½ cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup strong coffee
Panetone, cut into ¾ inch slices
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy and gently fold in the mascarpone. Beat the egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture. Make a layer with the panetone slices at the bottom of a deep 7 by13-inch serving dish and brush with roughly half of the coffee. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the panetone slices. Cover with another layer of panetone and brush with the rest of the coffee, spreading the rest of the mascarpone on top. Sift the cocoa powder over the top, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours. Serves 12.