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Soave, Italy

We were heading from Venice to Verona, so visiting Soave was a MUST for me.  After finding the center of town (where a wonderful Italian wedding was going on!) and parking, I immediately called a recommended winery for an appointment.

While waiting for our scheduled tasting time, we headed for some lunch.  Antica Trattoria da Amedeo was were we landed and we had a lovely lunch.  They have a nice little wine list, great pasta and salads, and WONDERFUL service.  I love the Italians, and the folks we met in Soave were all so warm and welcoming!

After lunch we headed to the famous Castello di Soave, but sadly it was closed.  I did walk around Soave’s famous castle for a bit, enjoying the absolutely fabulous views of the famous vineyards.

Next we headed to our tasting at Cantina Coffele.  What a lovely experience we had at this family winery.  Elizabeth poured for us, with much knowledge and a lot of charm.  The owner of the winery, Giuseppe Coffele, joined us during the tasting, which was a lovely surprise.

The wines were great!  We tried many, starting with their Soave Spumante Brut (DOC), which was a wonderful beginning.  It had a nice floral bouquet and a wonderful almond, yeast flavor on the palate.  Next up was their Soave Classico (DOC), which was nice as well.  It had a lovely green apple on the palate.  We moved on to the 2009 Alzari Soave Classico (DOC), which I loved.  The oak influence is there (with some baking spices and vanilla on the nose), but not overdone.  All three of these wines are made with 100 % Garganega.

We then moved on to the reds.  My two favorites were the 2006 Amarone Della Valpolicella (DOC), but then again I’m a sucker for Amarones!  The varietals in this wine consisted of 75% Corvina, 15% Rondinella and 10% Molinarra.  The color was ruby red with a nose full of black cherries, plum and some licorice.  These were evident as well on the velvety palate along with some spice, cinnamon and some nice earthiness.  I loved this wine.  I also really enjoyed their “Nuj” Rosso del Veneto, which is a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Another ruby red wine, this had some blackberry to go along with the cherries on the nose.  The palate was very well balanced with just the right amount of acidity, and the tannins present, but not overbearing.  The finish was nice and long.

Our final taste of the day was their Ricioto di Soave Spumante (DOCG).  Again, this is 100% Garganega.  This wine is my idea of the perfect desert along with some cheese!

Our tasting ended with Mr. Coffele taking us on a brief tour and showing us their cellar, their bottling machinery and kindly taking a quick photo with me.  We bought a bunch of bottles to enjoy on the trip, and a couple to take home in our suitcases.


Next Up:  Piemonte!!!!


My August Wine of the Month

Robert Young Estate Winery
Alexander Valley Barrel Select Chardonnay

The Wine – If you like big, oaky, buttery California chardonnays, you’ll love this wine.  It has a golden straw color and is very viscous in the glass.  The nose offers some sweet golden delicious apple, pineapple, butter and caramel accompanied by a touch of minerality.  On the palate there is ripe pineapple and honeydew melon, smoky vanilla, hazelnuts, honey, candied apple and caramel corn.  The finish is wonderful.  It is nice and long with caramel lingering for an extended time.  I rate this wine 92 points.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is aged in 100% new Seguin Moreau French oak barrels that was chosen specifically for this wine.  Only three barrels were made.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery –It is in an absolutely stunning location in the Alexander Valley. The gentlemen pouring were wonderful and the wines lovely.  They guided us through many wines, with the whites and the reds both wonderful.  They planted the first cabernet sauvignon in Alexander Valley in 1969, and they have their own chardonnay clone that is known around the world.

The Journey – We were referred to Robert Young by another winery. The tasting room is located on Red Winery Road, and is a hidden gem.  Driving up to the winery you see a beautiful, historic house with a circular driveway, and the tasting room is in a building next door that appears to have once been a stable.  The Robert Young Estate Winery was a definite highlight of our most recent trip to the Alexander Valley wine region.

Venice, Italy (July, 2011)

On my recent European excursion the first stop in Italy was the magical city of Venice.  In a city full of fine dining and extensive wine lists, it was fun to try many different wines from the Veneto region, in which Venice is located.   The wines of Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone poured freely.  Well, freely may not be the accurate word, as Venice is a very expensive city!

The wine highlight for me in Venice was Prosecco.  I found myself ordering a glass of Prosecco on many occasions: while my husband was having a beer at an outdoor café, before most meals, while listening to the dueling orchestras in Piazza San Marco, and sometimes instead of lunch!  The most important Italian phrase I learned was:  “Vorrei un bicchiere di Prosecco per favore!”

For those of you who don’t know, Prosecco is a spumante, principally made from the prosecco grape.  It is usually not made in the Methode Champenoise, but by the Charmat process, where the second fermentation is done in a pressurized tank rather than in the bottle.  That’s one of the reasons that one can find some nice Prosecco without a huge price tag.  In all of the restaurants and cafes I visited, Prosecco is not served in a Champagne flute, but in a Bordeaux style wine glass.

The ultimate Prosecco experience was visiting Harry’s Bar in Venice for their world famous Bellini.  This was a must visit for me and I wasn’t disappointed.  We sat at the bar where we could get a great view of our bartender concocting the famous drink, which was created at Harry’s Bar by it’s founder Giuseppe Cipriani sometime between 1934 and 1948.  The Bellini is one part freshly pureed white peach juice and three parts Prosecco.  The drink was just what the doctor ordered for a hot summer day in Venice.  It was served in a 7-ounce glass for a whopping 15 Euro each, so if you’re on a tight budget, plan on ordering just one!

Most locals undoubtedly avoid the expensive tourist spots and head to little wine shops around Venice where they buy their daily table wine.  We ran across such a place by simply watching.  We spotted a woman walk into a shop with some empty 2-liter water bottles, so we followed her inside.  We watched as the man in charge filled her bottles with the wine she chose and off she went after paying a small sum.  We were curious.  We asked if they have any bottles to buy and sure enough, he produced an empty water bottle.  We had him fill it with a local wine, and the total price was 3 Euro.  The wine wasn’t half bad, either!


Next Up:  Visiting a Winery in Soave


My July Wine of the Month

J. Bookwalter Couplet
Conner-Lee Vineyard

The Wine – This is a great wine for these hot summer days we’re experiencing. There is luscious white peach on the nose, accompanied by grapefruit, some clove and a touch of rose petals. On the palate was the white peach again, along with a lot of pear, green apple and grapefruit. There’s a little lemon peel as well. It is well balanced with nice minerality and just enough acidity. I love the name too, and the wine does it justice. The Chardonnay (60%) and the Viognier (40%) compliment one another nicely. They harmonize in the glass! I rate this wine 89 points.

My Experiences Visiting The Winery – J. Bookwalter has two tasting rooms; one in the town of Woodinville (right outside of Seattle) and the other in Richland, Washington, which is located in the Yakima Valley. We visited the Richland location.

J. Bookwalter is a really fun winery. It is also very pleasing to the eye, with dark, sleek stone and a very modern tasting room. We had an awesome tasting there with a very nice and knowledgeable young man named Jared. We even went back for lunch a little later in the day. They have a great little restaurant right there on the property, which serves some good, light meals. They are also open late on some evenings, where one can purchase their wines and listen to live music.

The Journey – I first tasted J. Bookwalter wines years ago. It is probably the first Washington State wine I had ever experienced. I remember enjoying it then, so it was high on my list for a visit while tasting in Washington. We were there on a rainy day, and the dark, modern structure was a very nice refuge from the outside elements.

My June Wine of the Month

Mounts Family Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon

The Wine – Wow, what a nice Cab!  This dark ruby hued wine has a nose full of cassis, black cherry, black raspberry and licorice.  It also has a hint of oak.  On the palate I picked up the cassis, along with some red current, vanilla and a dark chocolate covered cherry.  The finish was lovely, with the fruit lingering a nice long time.  I really love this wine now, and it will be drinking nicely for years to come.

My Experiences Visiting The Winery – Mounts Family Winery sits on a beautiful piece of property in the Dry Creek Valley region of Sonoma.  We tasted in an outdoor picnic-like setting, overlooking a valley of vineyards. We were there on Valentine’s Day of 2010, and they were serving some wonderful cupcakes and chocolate along with the wine tastes.  The owners are very welcoming in a genuine way.  David Mounts is also the winemaker and does a bang up job!  We especially loved this Cab, along with their Cabernet Franc and their Syrah.

The Journey – We came across Mounts Family Winery by accident.  While driving to another winery, we saw some balloons with a sign, inviting us to Mounts for Valentine’s Day.  We love discovering new places, so we headed their way.  The drive up to their winery is on a long, gorgeous driveway that leads to some beautiful views and some wonderful wines!

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