Wineries of the Month
Elizabetta Gnudi Angelini owns three Tuscan estates, the historic Caparzo estate at Montalcino, Borgo Scopeto in the Chianti Classico zone, and Doga delle Clavule in the Morellino de Scansano zone. The 470-acre Caparzo estate was developed in the 1960s with 222 acres of vineyards and nine of olive groves, much of the rest being woodlands. The hillside terrain is planted to Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, and the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, and the whites Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Traminer. Elizabetta began her career as the manager of a film company and after 10 years and the death of her husband became general manager of the pharmaceutical company, owned by her husband’s family. “After pharmaceuticals, the best drug is wine,” she told Wine Spectator. Her dream was to live in the countryside, which she accomplished by purchasing wine properties. She has owned Caparzo since 1998 and has developed the estate into one of the top ten producers of Brunello di Montalcino.
Rocca di Montemassi
Wine guide Gambero Rosso states, “In an area like Monteregio, which is still youthful in winemaking terms, this Zonin family winery [Rocca di Montemassi] is an important benchmark both for the quality of its wines and for its commitment to making this area a significant one in Maremma wine production. Establishing a working relationship with French winemaker Denis Dubordieu proved to be the right decision, given the results achieved.” The comment refers to the fact that the estate, a 1062-acre property with 395 planted to vines, grows the traditional grapes of the area, Sangiovese and Vermentino but also the French varieties Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The super-Tuscan Rocca di Montemassi was awarded Tre Bicchieri for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.
Winery of the Month
In 1972, Francis Mahoney founded Carneros Creek in partnership with Balfour Gibson, his employer at Connoisseur Wine Imports in San Francisco, where Francis developed his life-long passion for Pinot Noir. Francis was one of Pinot Noir’s most important pioneers in California and the first to plant it in the cool-climate Carneros appellation, which straddles Napa and Sonoma.
At that time, wine was inseparable from food. So with that background, the wines Francis has made throughout his career have been on the European model, clean, bright, and higher in acid, made to refresh the next bite on the plate. Since then, a newer wine category has developed for both reds and whites, the sipping wine, smoother and higher in alcohol, that pleases with or without food. Except for a brief foray into that style, Frances Mahoney has remained faithful to making “food” wines.
Today, younger winemakers and sommeliers eschew high-alcohol, block-buster wines that have dominated the market in the last ten years and embrace wines with finesse and balance. So Francis Mahoney finds himself once again on the cutting edge with his leaner, food-friendly wine style. And Pinot Noir continues to be a favorite for most wine lovers. “The wine business is always evolving. If you’re in the business for five years, then you can’t relate to the previous five years. It just keeps moving.”
Francis farms 200-acres of vineyards in Carneros. He and his wife live on the original Mahoney Ranch vineyard on the Napa side of Carneros. His Brisas vineyard is located on the Sonoma side. He sells most of his grapes to other wineries, including Flowers, Whitehall Lane, Coppola, and Bouchaine, reserving enough for his 4000-case Mahoney Vineyards label. He makes an additional 18 thousand cases for the Fleur label, purchasing most of the fruit.
ITALIAN Wines of the Month
Caparzo 2013 Sangiovese Toscana
This Sangiovese Toscana is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Alicante. The wine is a lighter-bodied summer red with delicious cherry aromas and flavors, typical of Sangiovese. Fresh acid and mild tannins balance the flavor. Pair with all of your favorite summer foods from appetizers to grilled poultry and salmon. Serve very cool during high summer temperatures and don’t hesitate to refrigerate for 15 to20 minutes before pouring (13% alcohol).
Rocca di Montemassi 2013 Viognier Astraio
Viognier is the principal white grape of the Northern Rhone in France, but in the Maremma, Viognier is enhanced by the minerality of the soils and the light in the area. Its color is golden, and the nose offers white flowers, apricots, and peaches. On the palate, the wine is full and rounded yet with an attractive vein of acidity (13% alcohol).
Caparzo 2012 Rosso di Montalcino
“Fresh aromas of red cherry and violet on the perfumed nose. Then bright and minerally in the mouth, with red currant and red cherry flavors framed by smooth tannins,” reports Ian D’Agata, writing for Vinous Media. Both this classically styled Rosso di Montalcino and the Brunello from the Collector Series would benefit from decanting (13.5% alcohol). Serve atcool room temperature.
Rocca di Montemassi 2012 Monteregio
di Massa Maritima Sassabruna
The Sassabruna is made from Sangiovese and small amounts of Merlot and Syrah, which are vinified separately and then blended and aged together in French oak barrels for more than a year. The wine shows amazing complexity. With a deep ruby color and bright reflections, the nose offers a broad bouquet, redolent of blackberries and other small red fruits with hints of morello cherries and notes of green peppercorns and liquorice. Elegant, intense, and well-balanced, the Sassabruna shows innate class and a singularly warmand mouth-filling texture.
Rocca di Montemassi
2013 Vermentino Calasole
The Calasole is 100% Vermentino and a deliciously vibrant and refreshing wine, the result of its lower alcohol and higher acidity. White flowers, with spicy notes and just barely ripe fruit dominate the nose, and the palate shows additional citrus and almond notes. It’s a natural with seafood (12.5% alcohol). Serve chilled
Caparzo 2010 Brunello di Montalcino
This is a classic Brunello, made from grapes that were harvested from three different vineyards at the estate, La Caduta, Cassero, and San Piero Caselle. At 14% alcohol, the wine is beautifully balanced with cherry fruit, fine tannins, and acid. Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media gave the wine 93 points. “Vibrant and lifted throughout, the 2010 captures the freshness of the vintage in spades,” Galloni reports, giving the wine 93 points. Decant before serving this classically styled Brunello to release full aromasand flavors (14% alcohol).
2008 Brunello di Montalcino La Casa
“A huge, hulking wine,” writes Antonio Galloni in Vinous Media, “the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa hits the palate with black fruit, smoke, tar, licorice and graphite, all framed by huge, imposing tannins. Although not exactly the last word on finesse, this is certainly an intriguing Brunello with solid medium-term aging potential.” Galloni gave the wine 92 points. This full-blown Brunello representsan older style from the winery, which hassince moved toward wines that are more classically elegant like the 2010 Brunello above.
ITALIAN Region of the Month
The name Toscana comes from the Latin Tuscia, which the Romans called the area to honor the Etruscans, who developed an advanced civilization there before the Romans subjugated them. The Etruscans were wine makers, but the Romans preferred stronger southern wines. Thus the Etruscan wine trade faded until monks revived viticulture in the region. Wine became a daily beverage in the medieval cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo. During the Renaissance, which began in Florence, the wines of Toscana were transported throughout Europe. The noble red grape variety of Toscana is Sangiovese. Although many clones of Sangiovese exist, the superior ones are among the world’s finest vines, such as Montalcino’s Brunello, Chianti’s Sangioveto, and Montepulciano’s Prugnolo Gentile. Among other fine Sangiovese based wines are Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, and Carmignano. Tuscan wines also include the “Super Tuscans,” which are100% Cabernet or Sangiovese-Cabernet blends. Vernaccia de San Gimignano is the most prestigious white wine in Toscana, and Vin Santo its highly prized dessert wine. In the government system of laws that regulate wine production, Toscana boasts 11 DOCG areas, 39 DOC areas, and 6 ITG.
CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month
Fleur 2014 Rosé, North Coast
This perfumed Rosé of Pinot Noir is crisp and bright and perfect for summer meals. Its color may be delicate, but citrusy flavors have a surprising impact along with pronounced acidity (13% alcohol). Serve chilled with everything.
Fleur 2012 Pinot Noir, Carneros
This is the best Pinot Noir for the price that I have tasted from California. The color is translucent, which is typical of lightly pigmented Pinot Noir. Aromas and flavors of bright red fruits and spice are beautifully structured with clean acid and tannin (13.8% alcohol). This wine is a beauty.
Mahoney Vineyards 2011 Carneros
Pinot Noir, Las Brisas
Seven miles west of the Mahoney Ranch Vineyard, the 91-acre Las Brisas Vineyard is planted with 15 clones of Pinot Noir. This 2011 Pinot is soft and fruity with ripe red cherry fruit and spice, which is typically what the Las Brisas Vineyard produces, whereas Pinot Noir from the Mahoney Ranch is usually structured with more acid and tannin (13.8% alcohol). Decant the wine to fully release its aromas and flavors.
Mahoney Vineyards 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir,
While Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir flavors may be similar to those from the Las Brisas Vineyard, the 45-acre Mahoney Ranch Vineyard, planted with 16 different Pinot Noir clones, develops wines that are more structured with acid and tannin. The 2011 shows an extraordinary balance between spicy cherry fruit, acidity, and a beautiful mouth-feel, produced by the tannins. Winemaker Ken Foster ages the Pinots from both vineyards in mostly older barrels with just 10% new ones in the mix so as not to directly introduce oak flavors, which new barrels will produce (13.8% alcohol). Decant this wine to release its full potential.
Mahoney Vineyards 2013 Carneros
Chardonnay, Gavin Vineyard
This delicious Chardonnay, harvested from the Gavin Vineyard on the Mahoney Home Ranch, shows intense fruit flavors and aromas, but what strikes the palate is lipsmacking acidity, which distinguishes it from most other high-end Chardonnay wines. Aromas and flavors of citrus and apple are terrific, but the acid splash makes the wine remarkable 13.8% alcohol).
CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month
Napa Valley is the heart of California’s wine industry, its vine-covered valley floor and rolling hills the destination for millions of visitors each year. The Valley is home to 43,000 acres of vines, over 400 wineries, and many renowned restaurants. George Calvert Yount, arriving in 1831, planted the first grapes. Notable early but still existing stone wineries, developed between 1859 and 1882, including Charles Krug, Christian Brothers, Beringer, Chateau Montelena, and Beaulieu. Formerly a sanatorium, Inglenook winery began production in 1880. San Franciscans provided a huge market for Napa wines, which were easily transported across the San Francisco Bay. But Prohibition, enacted in 1920, closed most of them, except the few that provided sacramental wine for churches. The Valley didn’t begin recovery until Robert Mondavi built his large winery in 1966. Today, the Napa Valley has 16 American Viticultural Areas. The umbrella appellation Napa Valley, specializes in Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Cooler Los Carneros, stretching into Sonoma County, is ideal for the grapes of Burgundy, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But other grape varieties, such as Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Italian Sangiovese are planted in Napa County.
MENU OF THE MONTH
Feast of mixed grilled sausages and summer salads for outdoor dining
Platters of sliced multi-colored tomatoes with mozzarella balls and
basil, drizzled with olive oil; grilled slices of red bell pepper, zucchini,
and eggplant, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped flatleaf
parsley; castelvetrano, cerignola, and taggiasca olives; all served
with freshly baked country bread
Grilled freshly made specialty sausages, a mix of Italian,
Bratwurst, Chorizo, and Cajun Andouille
Farro with chopped tomatoes, scallions, parsley and mint, dressed
with olive oil & lemon; white beans with chopped red onions, lemon
zest, and chopped parsley, dressed with olive oil; organic baby
lettuces & herbs, dressed with garlic, olive oil, & vinegar
Platter of fresh strawberries, dipped in chocolate
Grilled freshly-made sausages
Sausage making is an ancient method for preserving meat and for using the entire butchered animal. The Greek poet Homer mentions sausages in the Odyssey, and the Romans raised sausage-making to a fine art, adding spices and smoking them or curing them with salt and drying. In the US, sausages of various types from Salami to hotdogs became mass-produced industrial foods, cured and preserved with controversial nitrates, which consumers began to reject, opening the door to a whole range of artisan purveyors from food trucks to restaurants, who create their own brands of healthful and innovative sausages. My go-to sausage maker is Whole Foods, which makes a range of fresh sausages that, at least around here, are beyond delicious. You might have other options. When you take that first terrific bite, know that you are joining more than two thousand years of grateful eaters.