ITALIAN

Wineries of the Month

Massimino Venturini Winery

Massimino Venturini
Father Massimino with children Daniele, Mirco, and Giuseppina own 22 acres in the Pedemonte area of deepest Valpolicella in the Veneto region. The land runs over hills at an average height of 812 feet above sea level, the terraces held up by stone walls called marogne. The family makes wine only from its own vineyards, which are planted to the classic grape varieties of the region, Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. The “Gambero Rosso” wine guide describes their winemaking as follows: “The scrupulous care taken over every stage of winemaking, and respect for nature’s rhythms, are supported by an ongoing search for the best possible balance of tradition and innovation.” Their flagship wine is the single vineyard Campo Masua Amarone, which has won “Gambero Rosso’s” highest Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award.

Stefano Accordini
Located in Negrar, the heart of Valpolicella, the Accordini estate is just 9 acres, planted to the classic varieties of the region, Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone. The Accordini family has recently purchased 14 additional acres in the hills of Fumane and has planted new vineyards there. Stefano and Giuseppina Accordini, together with sons Tiziano and Daniele and their wives and children work together at the winery. Stefano is the winemaker; Daniele manages the vineyards; and Tiziano directs marketing. The estate is known especially for its Amarone, which has received “Gambero Rosso’s” coveted Tre Bicchieri award. Gambero Rosso writes, “…Tiziano Accordini [is] one of the most dedicated and meticulous exponents of Valpolicella and Amarone, assisted by his family.”

Drusian
The 200-acre Drusian estate is located in the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, the most prestigious location for Prosecco. Francesco Drusian is the third generation to direct the business and takes meticulous care of the vineyards, farming exclusively with organic methods. The winery accommodates guests at its ancient farmhouse and restaurant, which serves food grown at the estate.


CALIFORNIAN

Winery of the Month

Jeriko Estate

Jeriko Estate
This remarkable 180-acre estate, located 95 miles north of San Francisco in Mendocino County, is as beautiful as its wines. The stunning suite of lowrise Mediterranean buildings with red tile roofs is surrounded by 120 acres of biodynamically farmed vineyards.

Danny Fetzer is the owner and architect of the vision. The youngest of 11 Fetzer children, he and his siblings were raised on the nearby Fetzer estate that his father developed and that the family sold in 1992.

For his own winery, Danny chose the name Jeriko to evoke the ancient city in Palestine, where plants and animals were supposedly first domesticated.

As he explains on the website, “At Jeriko we believe that farming is a heritage and that many ancient beliefs were too quickly discounted with the introduction of the agrochemical era. Implementing new technology with old wisdom is the basis of our ‘tread gently on the earth’ approach,” which Danny decided would best be accomplished through biodynamic farming.

“You look at your property, your estate, as a living organism, so your goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to composting any inputs in the vineyard. The goal is to produce it all on the property.”

In other words, whatever elements are necessary for a balanced soil and healthy plants are grown on the property with cover crops, so that the system is free of external and unnatural additions. Contributing to that balance, sheep and goats graze around the vineyards, and ducks and other wildlife live in the ponds.

Ultimately, Jeriko wines need to prove the argument. And they do. They have a purity and intensity of flavor that is as remarkable as the estate on which the grapes were grown.


ITALIAN Wines of the Month

VenetoARTISAN SERIES

Venturini 2014 Valpolicella Classico
From estate vineyards, the fruit for the Semonte Alto Valpolicella Classico Superiore is 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. Valpolicella is made from grapes that were harvested in the foothills of the Alps to the north of Verona. The wine has a beautiful ruby color, smells pleasantly fruity, very typical of the varieties, and is well balanced. Because of its easy drinkability and medium body, the wine can be paired with many different dishes (12.5% alcohol).

Drusian Prosecco di Valdobbiadene,
Extra Dry
With a pale straw color, this fresh and fragrant Prosecco from the prestigious Valdobbiadene appellation has a pleasingly creamy texture, the result of its fine bubbles. Serve chilled as an aperitif or with first courses and fish entrees (11% alcohol).

WINEMAKER SERIES

Venturini 2011 Valpolicella Classico
Superiore, Semonte Alto
From estate vineyards, the fruit for the Semonte Alto Valpolicella Classico Superiore is 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. The Semonte Alt vineyard or “high hill” produces rich, concentrated fruit, so the wine is a great candidate for the Ripasso process, which further intensifies flavors and aromas. The wine is re-fermented with the lees of the grapes used to make Amarone, so color, intensity, and body intensify. The wine pairs especially well with pasta and braised or grilled meats. Uncork for an hour before serving or decant to a carafe (14% alcohol).

Accordini 2013 Valpolicella Classico
Superiore, Acinatico
A blend of 60% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara, this Accordini Valpolicella Classico Superiore was re-fermented with the lees of the grapes used to make Amarone. Corvina is the most important grape in the blend and contributes deep color and intense flavor. Rondinella offers aromatics and sweet fruit and is resistant to disease, insects, and drought, while Molinara ripens late but brings bright acidity to the blend. Serve at cool room temperature and uncork an hour before serving or decant into a carafe (14% alcohol).

Drusian Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose
Mari, Extra Dry
Made from Pinot Noir grapes, this sparkling Rose` has pronounced flavor and a smooth mouth-feel from its fine bubbles. Serve chilled with simply prepared fish, shell fish, and poultry. Francesco Drusian wants us to know that he has dedicated this wine to his “gentle but determined” wife, Maria Drusian (12% alcohol).

COLLECTOR SERIES

Venturini 2011 Amarone Classico
Like the Valpolicella Classico Superior in the Winemaker Series, this Venturini Amarone is 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. But instead of fermenting the grapes after harvest, as was done with the Valpolicella Classico Superior, the best grapes from the harvest are selected and then placed on trays where they partially dry through the winter in breezy barn lofts, losing as much as 40% of their weight and increasing their concentration. Then in the early spring when temperatures begin to warm, the fruit is fermented and transferred to oak barrels where it ages. The result is an extremely intense wine, a “meditation wine” as the Italians call their best. This Venturini Amarone is packed with rich, deep fruit flavors, plumy, sweet, and fragrant. Decant an hour before serving with flavorful dishes like roasted lamb or with a last course of aged cheeses and nuts (16% alcohol).

Accordini 2011 Amarone Classico
della Valpolicella, Acinatico
From the estate’s Acinatico vineyard, the wine is 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. The grapes for Amarone wines are treated as described in the Venturini Amarone paragraph above. Aged for 25 months in Slovenian oak barrels, the Accordini Amarone remains in bottle for another six months before release from the winery. Decant into a carafe an hour before serving. The wine complements grilled or roasted game or other flavorful meats, but another way to enjoy this rich wine would be with a final cheese course at the end of a meal. A meditation wine as the Italians call it, Amarone can also be served apart from a meal as an accompaniment to good conversation (16.5% alcohol).

ITALIAN Region of the Month

Veneto

Venezia, a city built into the sea, is haunted by the princes and poets of its past and by centuries of tourists. The cities of Padova, Vicenza, and Verona, originally frontier posts on the Roman trade route between Venezia and Genova, grew into Renaissance splendor. Nature exhibits its own marvels, the Dolomite Mountains in the north, the Euganean hills in the south, vast Lake Garda in the east, and to the west, the Adriatic with its beaches and ports. Today, Veneto is a thriving agricultural center, ranking first with classified DOC wines. There are three areas of premium production: the western province of Verona, the central hills, and the eastern plains. Verona is the leader in classified DOC wines, especially Soave, Bardolino, and Valpolicella, a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. When young, Valpolicella is a fruity red, but when the grapes are partly dried, they become Amarone, one of Italy’s most noble wines. Bardolino is made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but is a lighter version. The central hills produce Soave, Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot, Cabernet, and sparkling Prosecco. The eastern plains have been dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc for decades.


CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month

MendocinoARTISAN SERIES

Jeriko 2012 Syrah, Upper Russian
River Valley
This sophisticated wine captures the soul of Syrah, with plenty of fruit and spice. Fruit flavors, acid, and tannins are beautifully integrated into an elegant food-friendly wine, made from organically farmed grapes 13.9% alcohol).

Jeriko 2013 Chardonnay, Upper
Russian River Valley
Winemaker Ce’sar Toxqui uses native yeasts for fermentation and neutral French oak barrels for aging to frame pristinely farmed biodynamic estate fruit. The result is a delicious wine, clean and crisp with heady aromas and complex flavor. Serve chilled (14.5% alcohol)….

WINEMAKER SERIES

Jeriko 2012 Anima Mundi Pinot Noir,
Mendocino
This wine is quintessential Pinot Noir. Strawberry, cherry, and rose petal fill the nose and transfer to the palate that finishes with spice. Winemaker Ce’sar Toxqui aged the wine in neutral French oak barrels to protect delicate Pinot Noir aromas and flavors that an assertive barrel might mask. The grapes for this beautiful wine were harvested from estate biodynamicallly farmed vineyards (13.8% alcohol).

Jeriko 2013 Anima Mundi Pinot Noir,
Mendocino
Another gorgeous Jeriko Pinot Noir, this one very different from the 2012. At 14.5 percent alcohol, the 2013 is much richer but nevertheless balanced with beautiful acid and lush tannins. Both wines have the same translucent jeweled color along with intense aromas and flavors that finish with spice. This too is an Anima Mundi wine made from biodynamically farmed estate fruit.

Jeriko 2013 Anima Mundi
Chardonnay, Mendocino
Forget anything you ever thought about Chardonnay. This one is in a class of its own with layered and complex aromas and flavors, maybe green apple, guava, and banana to start. Winemaker Ce’sar Toxqui does everything he can to showcase the extraordinary biodynamically farmed fruit harvested from estate vineyards, including using neutral barrels and indigenous yeasts.

CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month

Mendocino

Created in 1850 at the time of California statehood, Mendocino County is located 90 miles north of San Francisco and is noted for its Pacific Ocean coastline, Redwood forests, wine production, microbreweries, and liberal views about the use of cannabis. Nearly 25% of vineyards are cultivated organically. In 2004, residents voted to become the first GMO-free county in the United States, an initiative that was supported by the county’s largest wineries. The Mendocino Range segment essentially divides the region into two climatic spheres. The land to the west of the ranges, closest to the coast, has a maritime climate that includes cooling and rain influences from the Pacific ocean. Among the wine regions in this cooler area are the AVAs Mendocino Ridge, Anderson Valley, and Yorkville Highlands. East of the ranges, the climate turns warmer around Ukiah and along the path of the Russian River. The Redwood Valley, Potter Valley, Cole Ranch, McDowell Valley, Covelo, Dos Rios AVAs and most of the large general Mendocino AVA are in this warmer area. The climatic and geographical diversity of Mendocino county allows the region to produce a wide range of grape varieties.


MENU OF THE MONTH

The Season for Small Plates

Red, Green, & White
Mashed avocado spread on toasts, sprinkled with diced red onions, lime juice, & coarsely chopped cilantro; roasted red & yellow bell peppers, sliced into segments and drizzled with olive oil, then sprinkled with capers & ribbons of basil; sliced fennel, radishes, and green onions with yogurt-olive oil dipping sauce; a layer of sliced red heirloom tomatoes, topped with multi-colored cherry tomatoes and ribbons of basil, drizzled with olive oil; garbanzo bean salad with diced tomato, fresh mint & parsley with lemon-olive oil dressing; slices of fresh mozzarella with sun-blushed tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil; mixed Italian olives marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar;

Grilled
Sardines coated with olive oil & served with lemon wedges; calamari tubes coated with olive oil & served with lemon wedges; skewers of marinated lamb; chicken breast, thinly sliced & drizzled with olive oil & fresh lemon juice, topped with capers & chopped parsley

Sweets
Large platter with fresh fruits of the season, drizzled with Triple Sec, surrounding a bowl of freshly whipped cream; Italian artisan biscotti

Small Plates
Small plates are always tantalizing, but they are especially suited to warm summer months when all foods fresh and colorful are abundant. For those of you, who have been Celebrations Wine Club members for several years, the small plates on this month’s menu will be mostly familiar, with a few exceptions. The avocado has long been a staple in the US, but it has lately become popular on European menus too, served especially on toasts as an appetizer. Grilled or fried calamari is also commonplace whereas fresh sardines are less so. These inexpensive, wild, and nutritious small fish are most delicious simply coated with olive oil and grilled until golden with an added squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!