Wineries of the Month
Just outside the Town of Barolo in Piemonte next to the famous Cannubi vineyard lies the historic cantina of Francesco Rinaldi & Figli. Luciano Rinaldiand now his niece Paola Rinaldi continue family traditions started almost 140 years ago. They farm 25 acres of vineyards and purchase additional grapes nearby. The family’s wines include three Barolos, a Barbaresco, a Dolcetto d’Alba, and several other wines. The jewels in the crown are their two Barolo crus, Cannubbio and Le Brunate, two of the most famous vineyards in the entire Barolozone. Wine-making is traditional with long fermentations and aging in large Slavonian oak barrels. The wines are above all elegant and refined.
Cascina Val del Prete
In 1977 Bartolomeo Roagna and his wife Carolina bought the farm where they had worked as sharecroppers, and today their son Mario runs the estate. For the past two years, Mario has been converting the vineyards to bio dynamic farming, a system that is far more rigorous than organic. In addition to avoiding toxic chemicals to control pests,weeds, or molds, the farm must be self-sustaining,and any nutrient that the vines require must be produced from plants grown on the site. Cascina Val del Prete has received the highest Tre Bicchieri award from “Gambero Rosso” for its Roero for four years in a row.
About 15 years ago, Barbera producers decided to prove that if Barbera were carefully tended in the vineyards and in the winery, it would emerge as a prestigious wine instead of the everyday wine that it had always been. They were right. Today, Dolcetto producers are making the same journey. The Mossio brothers have been in the forefront of this movement. As wine guide Gambero Rosso puts it, “Mossio’s Dolcetto selections have
Winery of the Month
Michael Roth & Greg Martellotto
Michael Roth is one of Ten Winemakers to Watch, according to Jon Bonné, influential wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, whose book The New California Wine is changing the tune in the California wine industry from head-banging high alcohol wines to balance and elegance. Greg Martellotto is his partner in Pugilist wines and should have been on the list, too. Located in Santa Barbara,both are terrific winemakers, dedicated to pristine farming and natural wine making. As they describe it, “Pugilist wines represent David in a world of Goliaths, who dominate the wines consumers are able to purchase. Pugilist wines scrap and fight to gain recognition and prominence in spite of a distribution system designed to thwart the small guys.”
“We believe in neutral barrels, native yeasts,little to no sulfur additions, and no adjustment of pH,” says Mike Roth, whose main label is Lo-Fi Wines. “We love whole cluster fermentation. We adore carbonic maceration. We embrace a nothing added, nothing taken away philosophy that gives birth to wines that are young, vibrant and alive.”Whatever you may or may not understand about what Mike is saying, you’ll get that he makes honest and natural wine from cleanly farmed vineyards.Greg Martellotto echoes the principle. Long time friends, they cooperated on the Pugilist label. While Mike Roth spends most of his time on Lo-Fi Wines,Greg Martellotto makes wine mostly under his own name. A soccer player and graduate of Stanford University in biology, he comes from a long line of winemakers who have practiced the craft since the 17th Century in Italy. He was unable to resist the tradition and makes remarkable wines of consequence,consistency, value, and varietal expression.His vineyard-first philosophy focuses efforts on farming, including biodynamic and sustainable agriculture, with gentle handling in the winery and minimal intervention.
ITALIAN Wines of the Month
Cascina Val del Prete
2013 Barbera d’Alba Serra dei Gatti
Hearing Mario Roagna talk about his biodynamically farmed vineyards inspires awe as he explains that everyone from ladybugs and bees to workers and the family dog are at home in his vineyards, which are farmed without pesticides, herbicides,and fungicides. His Barbera d’Alba is medium bodied with clean fruit and lip-smacking acidity, which makes it a perfect food wine (13.5% alcohol).
Cascina Val del Prete
2013 Roero Arneis Luet
Made from the Cortese grape, which was harvested from the Gavi zone, this deliciouslya romatic wine fills the nose with spicy fruit and tingles the palate with fresh acidity. Luet means “small wolf” in the Piedmontese dialect. Serve chilled (13.5%alcohol).
Fratelli Mossio 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba
Piano delli Perdoni
Outside of Piemonte, Dolcetto could be considered an acquired taste. But this Dolcetto from the Piano delli Perdoni vineyard intrigues even a first-time Dolcetto taster.The aromas, balance, and texture of thewine are extraordinarily complex and elegant,typical of the finest wines the world over. To get acquainted with the wine, all you have to do is concentrate on the Piandelli Perdoni’s exotic aromas that suggests our black cherry, hints of coffee, and a balsamic finish. Serve at cool room temperature with red meats and seasoned cheeses (13.5% alcohol).
Fratelli Mossio 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba
Both the Piano delli Perdoni and the Ricco Caramelli are 100% Dolcetto. With atypical purplish color and intensely scented with prune, blackberry, and other red fruits, Dolcetto also has aromas and flavors of Balsamic vinegar. Both wines were made and aged in stainless steel tanks so that the native fruit is obvious on the palate without oak influence. Serve at room temperature.
Francesco Rinaldi 2013 Gavi
Made from the Cortese grape, which was harvested from the Gavi zone, this deliciously aromatic wine fills the nose with spicy fruit and tingles the palate with fresh acidity. The wine is made traditionally without oak barrel contact and delivers pure fruit flavors. At just 12.5% alcohol, you can drink glass after glass, which is exactly what you’ll want to do. Serve chilled.
2009 Barolo Brunate
Harvested from the estate’s 36 year-old vines in the Brunate cru, this Barolo Brunate was aged in neutral Slavonian oak casks and for another 12 months in bottle before release from the winery. With entrancing aromas, the wine shows translucent color, gorgeous texture, and vivid fruit flavors. It’s a study in subtlety, complexity,and elegance. James Suckling gave the wine 94 points, and Antonio Galloni at Vinous Media gave it 90, both having reviewed the wine at the end of 2013 (14%alcohol, 833 cases produced).
2009 Barolo Cannubio
Harvested from the estate’s 46 year-old vines in the Cannubio cru, this Barolo was aged in neutral Slavonian oak casks and for another 12 months in bottle before release from the winery. This Barolo has the same translucent color and gorgeous texture as the Brunate and is made and aged in the same way. While it has less pronounced fruit flavors than the Brunate, it is nevertheless beautifully balanced and gorgeously elegant. James Suckling gave the wine 93 points (14% alcohol, 833 cases produced).
ITALIAN Region of the Month
Half of Piemonte lies in the great arc of the Alps and the Apennines, from which the Po River flows east to the Adriatic. Bordering Switzerland and France, Piemonte was part of the French-speaking principality of Savoy between the 11th and 18th Centuries. Ski resorts and Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso draw visitors to the majestic mountains in the north, while in the south, vine covered hills around Barolo and vast fields of grain in the Po Valley continue a rich agricultural tradition. Torino, the region’s capital,is a crowded industrial city but also offers splendid Baroque civic buildings. The ancientLiguri tribes first cultivated the wild vines of the Apennines, as did the Celtic Taurini, who gave their name to Torino. Piemonte has 42DOC and 16 DOCG zones, more than any other region. Both produced from the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo is one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, and Barbaresco may be its equal. Barbera and Dolcetto are popular full-flavored reds. Whites are equally prominent, the first being Asti Spumante from Moscato d’Asti. Among still whites, Gavi from the Cortese grape has emerged as one of Italy’s most coveted wines.
CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month
Pugilist 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
The grapes were harvested from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon, a new AVA(American Viticultural Area) that was established in 2009 and is located inland in a warmer climate, the best place in Santa Barbara County for Bordeaux varietals. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and15% Merlot, the wine was aged in French barrels for 12 months and intrigues with aromas of blueberries, dried cherries, and vanilla. In the mouth, it has beautiful texture and balance. Serve with grilled meats (14.1%).
Pugilist 2013 Viognier
The grapes were harvested from Curtis Vineyard, fermented in stainless steel tanks, and aged on the lees for six months in neutral oak barrels. This Viognier has alluring aromas of jasmine flowers, honeysuckle,and fresh limes and in the mouth offers zippy acidity. Serve chilled with appetizers and fish entrees (14.1%).
Martellotto 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon La Bomba,
Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara
Blending is key to creating this Cabernet, which is fruit-focused with balanced oak,integrated tannins, and moderate alcohol. Aged for 14 months in French oak barrels,Cabernet provides structure, black cherry,and pepper flavors. Merlot adds blue fruits, baking spices, and vanilla flavors.La Bomba means “The Bomb” in Italian,a wine that makes a statement at your finest table (14% alcohol, 375 cases made).
Martellotto 2012 Le Bon Temps Roule Pinot Noir,
Sierra Madre Vineyard,Santa Barbara
A cool zone, Sierra Madre Vineyard is located15 miles east of the ocean. The wine slept for 14 months in French oak barrels,just 30% of which were new. Aromas of raspberry and blueberries are wrapped in crushed violets and baking spices. Well rounded and balanced, this Pinot is delicious now but will reward the patient collector over the next decade (13.9% alcohol,192 cases made).
Martellotto 2011 Chardonnay,
Santa Barbara County
The fruit was harvested from Sierra Madre Vineyard, located 15 miles from the ocean in the western part of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Valley. This cool and wind-swept vineyard is well-known for attracting outstanding winemakers, who source fruit from it, including Greg Martellotto. Baked apples and pears in the nose follow through on the palate. The wine was aged for nine months mostly in older Frenchoak barrels. A broad mouth feel and yummy minerality combine with layers of vanilla,toast, and nutmeg (13.5% alcohol,300 cases made).
CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month
Built in 1786 and called the “Queen of Missions,” Mission Santa Barbara in the heart of the city is the most beautiful and best preserved of the 21 California missions that Father Junipero Serra establish in the 18th Century. Grape culture and wine making are as old as the first missions, whose vineyards included cuttings brought from Mexico.Today, Santa Barbara County has about100 wineries. Ocean breezes blow eastward,channeled by the hills and mountains.The eastern foothills are warm during the day and cool at night, whereas the western vineyards toward the coast have a mild climate. Generally, most of Santa Barbara County is cooler than northern California and favors Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling along with Pinot Noir. In the warmer areas, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah make world class wines.Within Santa Barbara County, there are currently four federally designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon within the Santa Ynez Valley appellation.
MENU OF THE MONTH
Smoked trout with a relish of radish, avocado, capers,
chives & coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, dressed with
extra virgin olive oil, & served with fresh baguettes
Borlotti Minestrone with Arugula Pesto
Orange salad with capers & finely sliced red onions,
drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt,
and topped with finely chopped parsley
Bittersweet Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
Borlotti Minestrone with Arugula Pesto
Steve Sando, founder of Rancho Gordo in Napa, has revolutionized the concept of the pedestrian bean. He sources heirloom beans from Latin America and replants them locally, furnishing local restaurants with beans so delicious and beautifully colored that you would hardly recognize them. If they’re not available in a local specialty store, buy them on line. The humble bean is a super food, and if it is a Rancho Gordo heirloom bean, it’s a delicacy. This month’s recipe is adapted from Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando & Vanessa Barrington.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
5 cups water
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 cups cooked Borlotti beans in their broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 pound baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmegiano cheese
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and salt to taste
In a pot, add 1 pound dried Barlotti beans, covering with water about an inch above the beans. After 2 to 6 hours, add more water to the expanded beans, again about an inch above the beans. Bring beans to a boil for about 5 minutes and then cover and reduce heat to a very slow simmer for 1 to 3 hours until they are cooked but still firm. Add 2 teaspoons salt just before beans are cooked. Rancho Gordo beans are less than two years old. If you’re purchasing beans in a normal market, you won’t know their age, and the older they are, the more cooking time they will require. Allow beans to cool.
In a soup pot, add olive oil, onion, garlic, and fennel and sauté until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Add the cabbage, stir to coat and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the green beans and the Borlotti beans and simmer for another 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the beans are cooking, make the pesto. Put garlic, arugula, and parsley in a food processor and process until well chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add Parmegiano and lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of pesto. Serves 4 to 6.