Wineries of the Month
Founded in 1990 by Roberto Sabatino and Andrea di Properzio, Fattoria La Valentina is located in Spoltore, a village nestled on the Pescara hills in the Abruzzo region, which has been restoring its historic grape varietals, red Montepulciano and white Trebbiano, to levels of excellence that the ancient Romans praised two thousand years ago. La Valentina owner Andrea di Properzio farms with organic and biodynamic methods. “By ensuring that the land remains highly fertile and the plants healthy, they are able to fight off parasites and disease on their own and fully express themselves. In this way, they can produce the healthiest possible grapes of the absolute highest quality.” The Bellovedere hillside vineyard surrounds the winery at Spoltore and is planted with Trebbiano and Montepulciano, overlooking the Maiella and Gran Sasso mountains. The vineyard’s proximity to the sea, forest, and mountains defines the wines made from its terroir, including the acclaimed Montepulciano Spelt and the Bellovedere. The Binomio vineyard is located in San Valentino near the Maiella Mountain and is planted entirely with Montepulciano. La Bianca is the most recent acquisition in nearby Scafa and comprises 52 acres of Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo and Fiano.
Garofoli is one of the oldest wineries in the Marche, dating back to 1871 when Antonio Garofoli began producing wine for local pilgrims, coming to the famous church of Loreto. Today, Carlo and Gianfranco Garofoli, the family’s fifth generation, run the business, and their wines are garnering attention world wide. Since its inception, the estate has been guided by the same philosophy: updating production techniques while respecting traditional winemaking and the unique terrior of the Marche. Garofoli was one of the first producers in the Marche to reduce yields and experiment with barrel-aging, with the intent to make a Verdicchio with bigger body, structure, and complexity. Garofoli’s vineyards cover a total area of about 128 acres in the zones of Montecarotto, the Jesi area, Paterno, and Piancarda, in the Mt Conero area, and Castelfidardo. The estate produces a range of wines including several different bottlings of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.
Winery of the Month
Italian immigrants first planted grape vines in Dry Creek Valley in the late 1800s. That sprinkling of family farms has since morphed into 9000 vineyard acres and 70 wineries. But amazingly, this 16-mile long and very narrow valley, butting up against wooded hillside, is still a quiet rural destination, bird calls and the occasional tractor breaking the silence.
About to sell CheckFree Corporation in 2006, Peter Kight could have purchased any wine estate to his liking. He chose Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. Former owner Henry Wendt had converted the estate to biodynamic farming after witnessing how agricultural chemicals poisoned plants, insects, and fish in Wine Creek, which ran through his property.
Unlike organic farming, which employs nontoxic remedial action against molds, predators, and plant diseases, biodynamic farming emphasizes the health and balance of the entire property, replicating nature as much as possible. To that end, Demeter, the biodynamic certifying agency, requires that at least ten percent of the farm is devoted to other crops rather than unnatural monoculture tracts.
Visiting the winery is a visual feast, as much for the “other” crops as for the vineyards. Raised beds are planted with seasonal vegetables, in summer a profusion of color. Unusual heritage chickens, goats, and cows eat grasses and fertilize the soil. Bat and bluebird houses also welcome hawks, owls, and osprey, together controlling predators. Their hives located throughout the estate, honey bees pollinate the orchards and vegetables.
Since purchasing the Quivira estate on West Dry Creek Road, Pete Kight has added three more properties to his Dry Creek portfolio, a total of 93 acres, all farmed biodynamically with varieties that are traditional to the area, especially Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone varieties, wines that reward Pete’s extraordinary commitment to the land.
ITALIAN Wines of the Month
Garofoli 2014 Rosso, Monte Reale
The grapes for this wine were harvested from the hilly areas of Ancona, Macerata, and Ascoli Piceno, where Sangiovese is lighter and fruitier compared to other regions, making it a fine match for most foods. The fruit is fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain its freshness and flavor characteristics, which mainly suggest ripe cherries.
Garofoli 2014 Verdicchio dei Castelli di
Jesi Classico Superiore, Serra del Conte
The Serra del Conte Verdicchio is a fresh wine that is meant to be consumed young. Its high minerality together with bright acidity is balanced with intense fruity flavors, all of which make a versatile and food-friendly wine. The grapes were harvested from the hills around Castelli di Jesi in an area described as the Classico zone. Serve chilled.
La Valentina 2011 Montepulciano
This wine is 100 % Montepulciano with a blend of fruit from vineyards in Spoltore, San Valentino, and Scafa. You’ll smell wild berries, rose, and liquorish that become bold and voluptuous on the palate. After 18 months in oak barrels, the winemaker makes a careful selection, then blends and bottles the wine, retaining bottles for an additional year before release from the winery. Serve at cool room temperature with roasted mountain lamb, scented with rosemary and garlic (13.5% alcohol).
Garofoli 2009 Rosso Conero Riserva,
The grapes, 100% Montepulciano, were harvested from estate vineyards in the hamlets of Piancarda and Paterno. Aged for 18 months in oak barrels and over a year in bottle before release from the winery, this richly delicious wine has a bouquet of ripe dark cherry and plum, which become soft and warm on the palate and suggest jam and spice. Serve with grilled meats, game, and aged cheeses (14.5% alcohol).
Garofoli 2012 Verdicchio dei Castelli
di Jesi Classico Superiore, Podium
The fruit for this wine comes from the hills around Castelli di Jesi in an area described as the Classico zone. Capable of aging for ten years, the Podium has medium structure and is fruity, fresh, and delicate when consumed young. Its high minerality, together with great texture and bright acidity make it versatile and food-friendly. With intense aromas of ripe yellow fruit, accompanied by elegant scents of citrus and honey, the wine is an ensemble of great complexity with seductive flavors, fine character and strength. Serve chilled (14% alcohol).
La Valentina 2010 Montepulciano
Harvested from the estate Bellovedere vineyard, the Montepulciano grapes for this wine came from a two-hectare section of 35 year-old vines. A ripe and powerful wine, the Bellovedere was aged in French oak barrels and larger Slovenian oak casks for 18 months. With dense red color, the Bellovedere shows lingering aromas of ripe red fruit and hints of spice. The palate is stylish and velvety, almost creamy, with alluring flavors of dark fruit, spice, and prune. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave the wine 93 points (14% alcohol).
La Valentina 2010 Montepulciano
Another powerful wine from the La Valentina estate, the Binomio is 100% Montepulciano from La Valentina’s Binomio vineyard, a stunning plot of old vine Montepulciano, planted in 1971. While the grapes are indigenous to Abruzzo, the style mimics famed Amarone from the Veneto. The Binomio was aged in French oak barrels for 15 months and then lightly filtered but not fined. The wine has a deep ruby color with obvious viscosity. And the nose shows pronounced ripe berry, cassis, and spice with intense fruit flavors and great length.
ITALIAN Region of the Month
Abruzzo has its fair share of art and architecture throughout its hill towns and mountain villages, but the Apennine Mountains dominate the region. The vast Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo is one of Europe’s most important nature preserves. Descendants of various hill tribes, who settled the region in the Bronze Age, were difficult to unite, although the Greeks, Romans, Swabians, Aragonese, and Bourbons all tried. After the 12th Century, the Abruzzesi were ruled by a succession of dynasties based in Naples. As a result, their diet, speech, and customs are similar to their southern neighbors. The hills in the region are highly favorable for grapevines. The two classified wines are Trebbiano and Montepulciano, not to be confused with the town of that name in Toscana, where Vino Nobile is made. When grown on the lower hills, Montepulciano has an irresistible character, full bodied and smooth with the capacity to age. In the higher areas, the vines produce a lighter version, Cerasuolo, which is a sturdy, cherry-colored Rosé. At its best, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo develops a Burgundy-like complexity after four or five years of aging.
CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month
Quivira 2012 Zinfandel,
Dry Creek Valley
The grapes for this food-friendly Zinfandel were harvested from three different estate vineyards along with several other vineyards in the area, making this wine a classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Aged in mostly older oak barrels, the blend includes 89% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, and 1% Carignane. Aromas and flavors suggest raspberries and cherries with spice on the finish, balanced by smooth tannins and clean acidity (14.5% alcohol).
Quivira 2014 Sauvingon Blanc,
Dry Creek Valley
The grapes were harvested mostly from the estate Fig Tree Vineyard but also from several vineyards down the road. This Sauvignon Blanc aims for roundness rather than the higher acid and grassy profile of other Sauvignon Blanc wines (13.5% alcohol). Serve chilled.
Quivira 2013 Grenache,
Dry Creek Valley, Wine Creek Ranch
Harvested from the estate’s biodynamically farmed and certified “home” vineyard on West Dry Creek Road, the fruit is 100% Grenache. A lighter red similar to Pinot Noir, the wine was aged in mostly neutral French oak barrels and larger casks. Strawberry and red cherry flavors dominate and finish with spice, balanced by smooth tannins and acid (14.7% alcohol). Serve at cool room temperature with grilled or roasted salmon.
Quivira 2012 Reserve Zinfandel,
Dry Creek Valley
A delicious food-friendly Zinfandel, the wine has ample blackberry aromas and flavors with spicy overtones. Aged for 12 months in a mix of American, Hungarian, and French oak barrels and larger French oak casks, the blend is 79% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Syrah, an aromatic and flavorful combination, well-balanced with smooth tannin texture and acid (14.1% alcohol). Winemaker Hugh Chappelle suggests a pairing with steak tartare or baby back ribs.
Quivira 2014 Sauvignon Blanc,
Fig Tree Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
The estate vineyard where the grapes were harvested is named after a 135 year-old fig tree at the site, which is planted partially with the Musque clone of Sauvignon Blanc, delivering a rounder and spicier wine. Seventy percent of the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks, but the rest went to neutral French oak barrels and acacia wood, another reason that this complex wine is spicier rather that citrusy as we expect from Sauvignon Blanc (13.5% alcohol). Serve chilled with creamy goat cheese.
CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month
Russians planted the first vineyards after establishing a colony at Fort Ross on the Pacific in 1812. Meanwhile Franciscan friars were building a series of garrisons and churches up the coast. The Mission in the Town of Sonoma was the northernmost to be built in 1824. While he built the Mission, Father Jose Altimira planted grapevines to provide sacramental wine for religious services and for the table. Sonoma County is large and boasts a huge diversity of vines and wine styles because micro climates, soils, and topography are infinite. Some of these micro climates are hospitable to grapes that require warmer temperatures, like Cabernet Sauvignon and associated Bordeaux varieties or Zinfandel and other Mediterranean grapes. The County also offers cooler areas where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and additional white varieties thrive. Morning fog, afternoon breezes, and cool nights along with warm days prolong ripening to produce complex flavors. Sonoma County’s valleys, benchland, and mountains include 16 distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) recognized by the Federal government. More will surely follow. The AVAs include Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Carneros, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Green Valley, Knights Valley, Moon Mountain District, Northern Sonoma, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain, and Sonoma Valley.
MENU OF THE MONTH
Intimations of spring
Fava Bean Bruschetta, topped with sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil
Stuffed roasted trout, served with sweet peas,
dressed with olive oil and slivers of mint
Garden lettuces with shaved fennel and lemon,
olive oil, and garlic dressing
Baked pears with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, topped with
semi sweet chocolate shavings and a dusting of cinnamon
Stuffed Roasted Trout
Right now, the season looks like spring. Flowering acacia and plum trees line
the streets with bright yellow and pink blossoms, the sky is blue, the sun bright
and warm. El Niño has rescinded its promise of pelting rain storms in California,
at least for now, although it could make good on the threat later. Until
further notice, we are furnishing our tables with spring fare. We adapted the
following recipe for Stiffed Roasted Trout from Umbria by Julia della Croce.
5 fresh trout about ¾ pound each, cleaned and rinsed
3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the fish
3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat a broiler. Select a pan that is large enough to accommodate all of the fish without crowding. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Distribute the filling evenly among the cavities of each fish. Message the outside of each trout with olive oil. Measure the thickness of the fish at the thickest part, and then calculate the cooking time, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Place the fish on the broiler pan and place about 5 inches from the broiler element. If using an electric oven, leave the door ajar while broiling. Broil for half the estimated cooking time on the first side until the skin is nicely browned, then turn and baste the other side with pan juices or more olive oil and cook for about 30 seconds less on the second side. The flesh should be opaque throughout when tested with a knife. Remove the trout from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 5.