Wineries of the Month
Located in Toscana on the summit of a hill southwest of Montalcino, magnificent Villa Argiano was built by the noble Pecci family from Siena in 1581. Centuries later in 1992, Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano purchased the 100-hectare estate, cooled by breezes from the Maremma. In ancient times, the sea covered the whole area, so the soil contains large quantities of minerals available to the vines and crucial for their optimal development. The wines are some of the best in Toscana. Besides Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino, the classical wines of the appellation, the Super-Tuscans Solengo and Suolo represent the innovative side of this tradition-bound estate. IGT Non Confunditur has been most recently introduced. In 2014, a group of Brazilian investors purchased the estate, appointing Giorgio Gabelli as the new managing director and setting off speculation about what changes he might make. In the meantime, the wines, and especially the 2010 Brunello, are grabbing the highest scores.
Nadia Betti, her husband Renato Spanu, and her brother Christian Betti completed studies in viticulture and enology at the University of Florence and then launched themselves in professional work in the area. Inspired and enchanted by the historic countryside outside of Siena, they founded La Lastra in 1994, together with childhood friends Enrico Paternoster and Valerio Zorzi. Their seven-hectare estate is located in San Gimignano, where they produce high-quality and sustainable Vernaccia di San Gimignano, as “a pure expression of the territory.” In 2000, they added the Marciano property, 23-hectares with seven hectares of vineyards and seven of olive trees, located close to the city center of Siena. They farm entirely with organic methods, and their stated code of conduct is “environment before business, people before brand, and substance before shape.” According to Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso, the Riserva 2011 de La Lastra is one of the best Vernaccias on the market and a benchmark for the whole designation.”
The vast Nature Reserve of Monterufoli-Caselli, located in the southern part of the province of Pisa, is host to many, who hike through this natural world of beautiful panoramas. The Reserve includes the Villetta di Monterufoli estate, dedicated to agritourism, where visitors can enjoy accommodations, gardens, a restaurant, and agriculture that creates a natural environment for many species of animals. The estate farms 16 hectares of vineyards, planted 10 years ago with Vermentino di Toscana, and their small winery produces just one wine, Pian di Seta Vermentino di Toscana.
Winery of the Month
Tedeschi Family Winery
Flying over Hawaii in 1974, Emil Tedeschi was struck by the thought that the Islands lacked even a single winery. Having come from a winemaking family in Calistoga, California, he set about correcting the breach. Emil partnered with C. Pardee Erdman and began to make pineapple and grape wines. Today, Ulupalakua produces 30,000 cases of mostly pineapple wine and is still the only winery on Maui.
Almost 20 years later, Emil returned with his wife and two sons, Emilio and Mario, to the prime vineyard land in Napa Valley’s Calistoga appellation, where he was born. Emil worked as a vineyard manager and consultant in the area and replanted two-acres of walnuts with Cabernet Sauvignon on his family’s farm. In 2005, he opened Tedeschi Family Winery, making artisanal wines as his grandfather had done when he immigrated to the area in 1919 and what his father had done later.
Today, Emil’s young sons Emilio and Mario run the business. Mario accompanied his father to the various Napa vineyards that his father managed and today handles the estate vineyard. He works with consulting winemaker David Sundberg, Mario steeped in generational, hands-on knowledge and David a master of the science. Emilio, with a degree in bio-chemistry from Gonzaga University runs the business.
The excitement and enthusiasm that Emilio and Mario feel about Tedeschi Family Winery is palpable. “We were never forced to participate,” Emilio says. It was entirely our choice to join this business. And it’s not about taking an inherited company and running it day to day. We’re excited to see where we’ve been in the last five to ten years, where we are now, where we are going.” Their style suggests the “New California Wine” as Jon Bonne` describes it in his recent book of the same name, intense and clean aromas and flavors and, above all, a natural expression of the particular vineyards where the grapes are grown.
ITALIAN Wines of the Month
La Lastra 2013 Chianti Colli Senesi
This delicious medium-bodied red is 95% Sangiovese, 3% Canaiolo Nero, and 2% Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano, all fermented together to form a seamless wine instead of blended after fermentation. Aged for 14 months in both stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels, the wine is a jewel red with a bouquet of red fruits, flowers, and spices. Serve this versatile wine at cool room temperature with roasted and stewed poultry and lentils with garlic, basil, and parsley pesto (13% alcohol).
La Lastra 2014 Vernaccia di San Gimignano
The noble white of Tuscany, this Vernaccia di San Gimignano is 98% Vernaccia and 2% Trebbiano Toscano. The wine is structured and complex with intense floral, citrus, tropical, and mineral notes in the bouquet. Serve chilled with fish stews, roasted poultry, and appetizers (12.5% alcohol).
2011 Marciano Provenzano Canaiolo
This highly unusual mono-varietal Canaiolo wine was more esteemed than Sangiovese in the 18th Century. But because it is difficult to grow and less assertive than Sangiovese, it devolved in importance and has been used mostly as a blending grape in Chianti, mainly to mitigate the tannin in Sangiovese. Part of the movement to resurrect ignored heritage grapes, La Lastra has put this beautiful fruit in the bottle. Prepare for intense wild berry, spice, and black pepper to fill the nose with remarkably smooth tannins and a long finish on the palate. Aged for 14 months only in small stainless steel tanks to avoid any flavors that might occur from aging in oak barrels, this wine is a rare beauty (13.5% alcohol).
Argiano 2013 Rosso di Montalcino
Aged in large oak casks and smaller French oak barrels, the Rosso is 100% Sangiovese. The wine is medium bodied with red berries, violets, and earth flavors supported by smooth tannins. Serve at cool room temperature, especially with pasta with meat sauces and braised rabbit or chicken (14% alcohol).
Monterufoli 2013 Pian di Seta
Vermentino di Toscana
This delicious white wine is 100% Vermentino di Toscana and reflects the extraordinary landscape, on which the vineyard thrives. The wine shows pronounced aromas of ripe exotic fruit and almonds, wisteria flowers, and toast. Fresh and savory with strong mineral sensations, the Pian di Seta pairs perfectly with seafood, white meats, and appetizers (12.5% alcohol). Serve chilled.
Argiano 2010 Brunello di Montalcino
Aged for 30 months in large oak casks and cement vats, the 2010 Brunello is a combination of power and elegance. The wine shows optimal balance, captivating perfumes of fruits, and complex flavors on the palate. Giving the wine 94 points in Vinous Media, Antonio Galloni writes, “The 2010 Brunello di Montalcino jumps from the glass with notable energy and precision. Grilled herbs, smoke, tobacco, rose petal and mint are all beautifully delineated in the glass. Distinctly savory and mineral notes add complexity to the expressive, stone-inflected fruit in a chiseled, pulsating Brunello endowed with considerable energy…. The wine is unquestionably a winner.” Decant and serve at cool room temperature (14% alcohol).
Argiano 2012 Solengo
Solengo is the brainchild of renowned enologist Giacomo Tachis, the so-called father of Super Tuscans, including famed Solaia, Sassiccaia, and Tignanello. The 2012 Solengo is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, each variety fermented separately and then blended. Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, the wine is intensely red, rich, and dense with ripe fruit, oak, and spice. Serve with grilled and roasted meats (14% alcohol).
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
Tedeschi 2013 Grenache,
Genache has much in common with Pinot Noir in that it is a medium bodied wine with pretty fruit flavors and a lot of spice. This one has a complex and enthralling nose that transfers to the palate. It is made and aged in neutral oak barrels that do not transmit flavor. The fruit tells the whole story, and it’s a beautiful one (14.5% alcohol, 133 cases produced).
Tedeschi 2014 Rosé of Old Vine Gamay
& Charbono, Napa Valley, Calistoga
Rosé is the new white, made almost exactly in the same way except that Rosé soaks with the skins just long enough to pick up its gorgeous color before the juice is pressed off and fermented. Rosé can be made from any red grape. Expect a glass full of aromas and lip-smacking acidity. Serve chilled and pair with everything! (13% alcohol, 290 cases produced).
Tedeschi 2012 Merlot,
Stargazer Vineyard, Napa Valley
Stargazer Vineyard is just one mile from Tedeschi Family Winery, and Emil and Mario Tedeschi have been farming it since 2005 to their own specifications. The wine reflects what truly fine Merlot can be, intense wild berry aromas, licorice, and spice, beautiful tannin texture in the mouth, and a long finish. The wine has the typical Tedeschi profile, gorgeous fruit, plenty of clean acid, and fine tannins (13.5% alcohol, 251 cases produced). Serve at cool room temperature.
Tedeschi 2012 Mario’s Blend,
Mario Tedeschi describes this wine as a “classic European Merlot.” Ninety five percent of the grapes were harvested from a Lake County vineyard above Napa, which he farms and where this summer’s fires occurred, and five percent was harvested from the estate vineyard in Calistoga. The wine is a bit richer than the Stargazer Merlot but has the recognizable Tedeschi balance of clean fruit aromas and flavors, acid, and smooth tannins without overt oak flavor intrusion (13.5% alcohol, 251 cases produced).
Tedeschi 2014 Chardonnay,
Napa Valley, Truchard Vineyard
This may be Napa Valley Chardonnay, but it’s entirely distinctive. The grapes were harvested from the Truchard Vineyard in the southwestern part of Napa, the only vineyard among all of our Tedeschi choices that the family doesn’t farm. The wine is uniquely delicious, aromatic, complex, and fresh. Serve chilled with herb roasted chicken, risotto, and roasted or grilled white fish (14.5% alcohol, 168 cases produced).
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
Let the Celebrations Begin
Mushroom & farro in broth with a sprinkle of finely chopped flat-leaf
parsley and grated Parmigiano cheese
Spinach & Feta-Stuffed Flank Steak, served with
sautéed rainbow cauliflowers
Radicchio salad with orange dressing
Chocolate & pear tart
Spinach & Feta-Stuffed Flank Steak
Stuffed meats are both beautiful and delicious, exactly what is required for holiday
entertaining. With the help of your butcher, who can butterfly the steak,
preparation time is minimal, yet another attractive part of this dish. The following
recipe was adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle recipe archives
and presented by staff writer Amanda Gold.
1 ½ pounds flank steak, butterflied
1 10-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cups feta cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus fresh wedges for garnish
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Place the spinach inside a kitchen towel or colander and squeeze thoroughly to drain excess liquid. Place in a bowl and mix with the shallots, olive oil, feta cheese, oregano, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lay the butterflied flank steak on a cutting board with the short side facing you, and open it to lay flat. Season well on both sides with salt and pepper. Spread the filling evenly over one side of the steak, and place the other side back to enclose the filling. Roll up, starting with the short side, and secure with toothpicks on the open end.
Place the steak seam-side down on a roasting pan, and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak for medium. Let rest for at least 5 minutes, and slice 3/4-inch thick. Serve garnished with lemon wedges. Serves 4.