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My February Wine of the Month

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon
2008

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is an integral part of Napa history.  Founder Warren Winiarski is one of the pioneers of the wine industry in the Napa Valley.  His 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon placed an extremely impressive first place in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, beating nine other wines, which included four top-ranked Bordeaux, two of these first growths.  The success of the California wines in “The Judgment of Paris” significantly helped to give California wines legitimacy around the world!

The Wine – I love the wines of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  Their Fay Vineyard and Cask 23 wines are a couple of my favorite California Cabs!

This 2008 Artemis is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot.  The color is a dark garnet.  The nose has some rose petal and green earth.  I also detected piecrust, which I assume is a muted vanilla aroma from the oak.

The wine is nicely balanced.  With 18 months in barrel (55% in new French oak), there is not too much oak.  The terrior comes through nicely.  The palate also has some leather, blackberry and black currant.

The 2008 Artemis is drinking nicely now (with an hour in the decanter), but will only get better with a couple of years in the bottle.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery – While visiting the winery a few years ago, the gal pouring for us wasn’t very warm and fuzzy.  We also had the opportunity to attend a tasting in their caves, which more than made up for the lack of love we’d received earlier.  I’m heading to Napa next week, so I’ll check them out again.  I’ve heard that some exciting improvements are being made since my last visit.  I’ll be sure to write about this visit in my blog.

The Journey – Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is located right on Silverado Trail, which is a lovely road west of busy Highway 29.  They are located in the famous Stags Leap district north of the city of Napa.

Wine Adventures

Do you know how it is when you are enjoying a book and you don’t want it to end???  The characters become friends with whom you want to share years of enjoyment?  The locale becomes home and you must get there immediately?

I just finished reading a book in which this is an understatement.  Last night I sadly completed Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France.

I’m proud to call myself a Sommelier and a Certified Specialist of Wine, but after reading this book I feel as if I never really understood wine before at all.  Oh sure, I knew a lot of facts.  I had the knowledge of the different regions, the vines and varietals, the chemistry of how it all works.  I was even pretty proud of my palate.  But did I truly know WINE?????  I’m not so sure.

Lynch’s book was written 25 years ago, and yet it all made sense to me.  In case some of you out there don’t know, Kermit Lynch is an importer of French and Italian wines.  He started his wine career with a retail store in Berkley, CA (which he still has), and soon realized he wanted more control in which wines he sold.  Little did he know his career was only beginning!

In his book, he travels throughout France in search of new and perhaps undiscovered winemakers and growers who excite him and his palate.  He takes the reader all through the fabulous French wine regions and introduces us to characters and wines we will never forget.  Each named vintner he describes led me to grab my laptop and search them and their wines on Google.  He does include some pictures in his book, which was very considerate of him since 25 years ago we didn’t have Google to find these photos for ourselves!  I loved discovering each of these “characters” and also learning about what is happening to their wines and wineries now.  In many cases the sons, who were very young men we meet in Lynch’s travels, are now expertly running many of these Domaines.

I am fortunate to have been to France tasting, but after reading of Lynch’s adventures I can’t wait to go back!  I know that I will look at the experiences very differently now.

I also feel as if I finally “get it”.  I will never taste wine the same way again.  I truly believe that I was overanalyzing it at times, instead of just enjoying the nuances and differences of each wine!  I look forward to my upcoming “adventures on the wine route”!

Thank you Kermit Lynch!  You have given me so many new wines I desperately want to taste, as well as enhancing the way I look at wine in general.  Even though we’ve never met, I consider you my new friend!

 

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
 2008

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

 

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