Wineries of the Month
Il Molino di Grace
In 1995, American-born, London-based Frank Grace purchased the 19th-century estate, named for the windmill on the property, molino in Italian, which includes the Villa di Castagnoli and vineyards, located in the heart of the Panzano zone in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico. Some of the vineyards on the property are as old as 70 years. By 1998, Frank Grace had restored an ancient barn close to the villa and filled it with objects of art and artifacts. Over time, he planted new vineyards and reinforced older ones, now certified organic. As Frank Grace wrote, “Our goal is crafting elegant wines that express their terroir through the Sangiovese grape. As such, our use of oak must be judicious: we want Sangiovese to dominate. Equally judicious is any outside intervention on the grapes or wines. We have the utmost respect for the land and for Tuscany’s rich winemaking tradition….” The winemaker is acclaimed Franco Bernabei.
In 2009, new owner Baron de Ladoucette took over this 307-acre property in Rada in Chianti and a second 260-acre estate Il Tesoro in Maremma from Roberto Guidener. Sangiovese is planted at Rada, where all the wines are made, and Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are cultivated in Maremma. Campaccio is the flagship wine at Rada and enjoys a stellar reputation. Vittorio Fiore is the consulting enologist.
Since 1972, Neil and Maria Empson have gathered together a group of Italian wineries, whose wines they represent and export to the United States and elsewhere. Their portfolio includes a variety of offerings from cult wines to those made from obscure indigenous varieties. In fact, any wine that you might find on a shelf, whose back label names Empson & Co. as the importer, is guaranteed to be a fine example of its kind. Toscolo, meaning “Tuscan boy” in the Tuscan Renaissance dialect, is their own project together with highly respected enologist and friend Franco Bernabei.
Founded by Elizabetta Fagiuoli, this 500-acre estate is certified organic. Gambero Rosso, Italy’s foremost wine guide calls it “not only a sensational San Gimignano estate but also a benchmark for the whole of Italy, thanks to its history, style, and deep-rooted, radical convictions which rise far above standardization.” Sergio the Patriarch Foundation, founded by Elizabetta’s father, hosts free of charge “elderly in need and troubled youths” at the estate, comprised of vineyards, olive groves, and forest, overlooking San Gimignano and facing the Chianti Classico zone.
Winery of the Month
Over 30 years in the wine business, Daniel Morgan Lee is used to accolades. His wines have been on Top-100 lists at Wine & Spirits Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Wine Enthusiast. The winery has been awarded Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Restaurant Wine.
He credits the success of his wines to organic farming. “One part of organic farming is to create vital, active, living soil, which you feed with compost to keep the micro organisms very active…. That is very important for the health of the soil, and eventually the vines will benefit. They go hand in hand. In the long run, you get better fruit and I think a better expression of our terroir.”
His 65-acre Double L vineyard is located at the cool northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, close to Monterey Bay. The vineyards are planted with 30 acres of Pinot Noir, 20 acres of Chardonnay, an acre of Syrah and one of Riesling. The vineyard is certified by Monterey County Certified Organic, the only one in the prestigious appellation.
“The Double L is also “Certified Sustainable” by the Central Coast Vineyard Team. “Sustainability” is a “big-picture” philosophy and practice,” Dan writes on the website, “taking into account every aspect of a vineyard’s operations: social responsibility, clean water, energy conservation, and maintenance of existing habitats are just a few of its components. The Double L is the only vineyard in the Highlands to achieve both Sustainable and Organic certifications.”
He also buys fruit from “Partner Vineyards,” with whom he has long term contracts, guaranteeing top-quality grapes vintage-to-vintage. For its limited, Single Vineyard Designate releases, in addition to the Double L, Morgan looks to three stellar Santa Lucia Highlands’ vineyards: Garys’, Rosella’s, and Tondre Grapefield.
ITALIAN Wines of the Month
Toscolo 2014 Chianti
The grapes for this Toscolo Chianti are 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. At just 12% alcohol, this is a food wine, which you might consider decanting. After decanting or sitting in the glass for a while, it releases the spice and wild berry flavors that are typical of Chianti. The wine was aged for one year is large oak barrels, which soften the wine without transmitting flavor. Serve with roasted meats and Barlotti bean dishes.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Vernaccia, the noble white grape of Toscana, is no longer readily available in the U.S., in part because the demand for red wine is so much greater. I’m happy to have found this wine, which is 100% Vernaccia and suggests pear, honeysuckle, and sage. Serve chilled and enjoy (12.5% alcohol).
Il Molino di Grace
2012 Chianti Classico
Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media gives this wine 90 points and writes, “The 2012 Chianti Classico [100% Sangiovese] hits the palate with serious intensity and power. Juicy red-fleshed fruit, tobacco, mint and spice open up in a large-scaled, wine built on resonance and depth.” Consider decanting the wine to fully expose its flavors and aromas and serve with roasted meats (13.5% alcohol).
Terrabianca 2011 Chianti Classico
Riserva Vigna Croce
Brick-red in color, typical of Sangiovese, this wine is deliciously soft and generous with aromas of dried cherries, flowers, and spice. Flavor is pronounced, so serve the wine with equally flavorful foods, such as roasted and grilled meats and stews (13.5% alcohol). Serve at cool room temperature.
Montenidoli 2013 Vernaccia Fiore
di San Gimignano
This most elegant expression of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is 100% Vernaccia and “well suited to delicate dishes with cream sauces, steamed fish, and delicate fish such as sole, whiting, or brook trout. Perfect with fish mousse or soufflé, and white meats including chicken breast, turkey breast, or milk-fed veal.” The wine is complex, layered, and nuanced. Made from free-run must, which flows naturally from the grapes that break because of the pressure of those above them in the press. The juice ferments in steel and ages long on the lees to gain roundness and a long finish (13.5% alcohol). Serve chilled.
Il Molino di Grace
2010 Gran Selezione Il Margone
“A silky, graceful wine, the 2010 possesses lovely balance in an understated, feminine style for the year. All the elements are in the right place. Sweet floral notes add lift and perfume on the finish. This is one of the most finessed wines I have tasted from Il Molino di Grace,” writes Antonio Galloni on Vinous Media and gives the wine 91 points. Expect beautiful texture and pronounced aromas. Decant and serve with roasted meats, stews and braises (13.5% alcohol).
Terrabianca 2008 Campaccio Riserva
“Subtle and layered in the glass,” Antonio Galloni writes for Vinous Media and gives the wine 92+ points. “…the 2008 speaks to understatement. For a wine of its age, the 2008 remains fresh and vibrant, although the structure is a bit compact, which is typical of many wines of the year.” Be sure to decant this wine as Galloni suggests so that aromas and flavors express themselves to the fullest. The wine is rich, slightly raisiny, and spicy (14% alcohol). Serve at cool room temperature.
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
Morgan 2014 Cotes du Crow’s,
Cotes du Crow’s is a blend of two noble red varietal from France’s Rhone Valley, 53% Grenache and 47% Syrah from Monterey County. The wine has rich color, and aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry, and cranberry. The mouth-feel is smooth with soft tannins (14.2% alcohol). Serve at cool room temperature with stews and braises.
Morgan 2014 Sauvignon Blanc,
In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, this aromatic wine blends Sauvignon Musque, Semillon, and Albarino. Expect aromas of apple, nectarine, and cantaloupe. The wine is bright but exhibits a certain richness as well (13.5% alcohol).
Morgan 2013 Twelve Clones Pinot
Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
The Twelve Clones Pinot Noir was harvested from the finest vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, including Morgan’s organically farmed Double L estate, which accounts for 40% of the final blend. Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, the wine demonstrates the power and finesse of Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Aromas of dried cherry, cola, spice, and smoke and flavors of cranberry and pomegranate are complemented by mineral notes (14.2% alcohol). Serve with roasted poultry, duck, or lamb.
Morgan 2013 Double L Vineyard
Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands
Syrah, originally from the Rhone Valley in France, is one of the world’s most widely planted wine grapes. Whether in Hermitage, Cote Rotie or Santa Lucia Highlands, Syrah from cool climates displays equal parts intensity and structured elegance. Aged for 14 months in Bordeaux barrels, the wine shows deep color. Attractive aromas of black cherry, sage, and pepper carry onto the palate with a rich and full mouthfeel of blackberry and spice (14.4% alcohol).
Morgan 2013 Chardonnay,
Double L Vineyard
Floral, Fuji apple, and walnut aromas are backed by sweet spice from aging for 10 months in lightly toasted oak. Tangerine, pear, and apricot flavors are complemented by a touch of creaminess and elegant, bright acidity. This is a Chardonnay with a certain weight, which will hold up to roasted poultry and seafood stewed with tomato sauces (14.2% alcohol).
CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month
Monterey County was the capital of California under Spanish and Mexican rule before California statehood in 1850 and is home to some famous destinations, including three historic missions built in the 1700s, Pebble Beech Golf Links, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 99 miles of spectacular coastline, and various state parks, including Big Sur. But the County also has an agricultural sector that produces almost $4.5 billion in revenues mostly from row crops and grapevines. The Monterey American Viticural Area is located in the eastern part of the County and is part of the larger Central Coast AVA. Arroyo Secco, Hames Valley, San Bernabe, San Lucas, and Santa Lucia Highlands are all sub AVAs. Chardonnay comprises almost 50% of vineyards. In the north, Riesling and Pinot noir are popular, while in the south, Bordeaux varietals are most often grown. The County has three distinct areas, the Salinas Valley, the Galiban Mountains in the east, and the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Pacific Coast. These diverse micro climates, soils, and elevations accommodate a wide variety of grapes, including French, Italian, Spanish, and German, altogether about 36,000 acres and 100 wineries.
MENU OF THE MONTH
A platter of red radishes, castelvetrano green olives,
cucumber spears, hand-crafted salumi, and fresh cheeses,
drizzled with olive oil and served with fresh-baked baguettes
Butterflied grilled turkey with an herb rub, served with
sweet potato spears, roasted with rosemary and olive oil,
and Blue Lake green beans, slivers of red bell pepper and
red onion, tossed with olive oil and salt
Pumpkin Pie topped with freshly whipped cream
Butterflied Grilled Turkey With a Herb Rub
Each year, some trend takes hold around the winter holidays to distract us from the classic recipes that dominate our entertaining. Last year the butterflied turkey arrived. I tried it and became an enthusiastic practitioner. Because the turkey was flattened, it cooked evenly and was easy to test with a meat thermometer. It was also easy to apply a savory rub that infused the meat with delicious scents and flavors. And finally, it was easy to carve. I’m reprinting the recipe this year because it was that delicious. If you missed it, I’m here to tempt you again. Start with the best turkey in your neighborhood. In our case, it was a Diestel turkey, raised in Sonoma, and ask your butcher to butterfly the bird. Depending on the width of your oven, you could bake it instead of grilling. But since our grill was wider than the oven, it more easily accommodated the width of the turkey. The following recipe was adapted from the one at GrillGrate.com. Enjoy.
1 fresh butterflied turkey 12 to 15 pounds, the skin lightly brushed with olive
oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper
For the rub
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 tsp onion, minced
4 tsp garlic minced
2 tsp salt
Combine and mix all ingredients. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Directions for grilling (approximately 1 1/2 hours)
Set grill for initial temperatures 400-450F. For charcoal grills, bank coals around perimeter of the grill. For gas grills, turn off center burners and use only outside burners. Place turkey in the center of the grill, skin side down for the first 20-25 minutes. After 10 minutes, lift and twist the bird to reposition it on the grates, keeping skin down. After 25 minutes or sooner if you see dark sear marks, turn the turkey skin side up. Reduce heat to medium/low about 350F. Baste with half of the herb rub, brushing the entire skin, and saving the other 1/2 to baste again in 45 minutes. After 1 hour, test temperature with an instant-read thermometer at the deepest part of the leg. Remove from grill at 165F. Remove to a cutting board and tent with a paper bag for 20 minutes before carving.