By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
Many American wineries are making wine from varietals that are considered Italian in origin. I looked at some of the most well known Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio last week, and this week I am expanding the investigation to include several additional wines – both red and white. Tasters continue to appreciate the more balanced style of wines being tasted with less heavy oak and less extract. Meaty pasta and Shrimp Saganaki accompanied the wines.
Earl and Hilda Jones pursued their love of Tempranillo by establishing Abacela winery near Roseburg, Oregon in 1995. Over the years the vineyard has expanded beyond the original Tempranillo plantings to include 20 varietals. This Muscat was grown on the property in the Abacela Faultline Vineyard and offers bright aromas of orange blossom, stone fruits and honeysuckle leading to a mildly sweet palate with flavors of honey, ripe pear and spice – a nice sip and great cooling accompaniment to spicy dishes.
Maryhill Winery in the Columbia Gorge crafts many varietal wines and offers this Muscat Canelli as a pairing for spicy Asian cuisine or delicate fruit desserts and soft-ripened cheeses. Aromas of honey, jasmine and tropical fruits invite a taste, which reveals flavors of white peach, apple and mineral. By the way, Moscato di Canelli is one of the names used for Muscat Blanc (also called Muscat Frontignan). Other Moscato varieties include Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Ottonel and Black Muscat.
A to Z Wineworks
This superb wine hails from the Del Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, though the wine is made in Newberg, Oregon by winemakers Cheryl Francis and Sam Tannahill. The aromas are strawberry, watermelon, mineral and rose perfume, and the palate is crisp with flavors of ripe cherry, berry and light spice. It is great for sipping or enjoying with lighter meat dishes, pastas or flavorful seafood preparations like the tomato, shrimp and cheese included in Shrimp Saganaki.
Gino Cuneo’s Rosato is very well constructed and gives plenty of ripe fruit character on both the nose and on the palate. The wine offers a little higher tannin profile than the rose above and thus is more suited as a food wine, rather than a light wine for sipping.
Wind Rose Cellars
Wind Rose Cellars is a joint project of husband and wife David Volmut and Jennifer States. They began making wine professionally with the 2009 vintage and their main focus is producing wine from Italian varietal grapes. The winery – located in Sequim, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula – uses mostly grapes grown in the Columbia Valley in the eastern part of the state. This wine is a blend of 80% Dolcetto and 20% Barbera. The nose and palate offer red fruits highlighting raspberry jam and cherry with light notes of chocolate and coffee. Enjoy it with lighter meats, fowl or any pasta preparation.
Wind Rose Cellars
Also from Sequim by way of the Wahluke Slope, Wind Rose Cellars Nebbiolo is blended with 15% Barbera and is a more hearty wine than their Dolcetto reviewed above. Aromas of strawberry, field herbs and floral perfume lead to a rich palate with flavors of cherry, plum and cranberry that pair well with meats from the grill and rich pasta sauces.
Cecil and Marilyn Zerba team up with their winemaker Doug Nierman to craft a variety of wines in their Walla Walla Valley winery. They grow grapes at their own vineyards in the area and offer wine lovers a chance to taste their wines at three locations: Milton-Freewater, Oregon (near the winery), Woodinville near Hollywood Corner, and in Dundee, Oregon right on Highway 99W. Their Nebbiolo is made in the Walla Walla style with lots of toasty oak and ripe flavors. The wine pairs well with steaks from the grill and toasty garlic bread.
Cana’s Feast Winery
Cana’s Feast is located in a Tuscan-inspired winery just a few blocks north of downtown Carlton, Oregon. If you are so inspired – and happen by for tasting on a dry day – you can play a game of bocce on their two regulation courts. The Italian feel of the place is unmistakable. The winery works, with Jim Holmes of Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain to grow some of their grapes, including this Nebbiolo. Look for ripe strawberry and raspberry aromas with notes of anise and vanilla. The palate offers complex flavors of cherry, spicy raspberry and vanilla with earthy tannins.
Gino Cuneo’s wines taste Italian. Veteran tasters on the panel were consistently impressed by the light hand that this winemaker uses with oak and processing. Those who seek out lighter style reds that offer complexity instead of power would do well to give Tre Nova wines a try. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, dark fruits, licorice and dried cranberry make this a wine to serve with rich sauces and meats from the grill. (Blend = 62% Barbera, 38% Nebbiolo)
The Columbia Gorge is such a wonderful destination for scenery, wind-water sports and an ever-growing gourmet scene; it is surprising that more folks don’t get out there to enjoy it. Just check the weather forecast to avoid occasional frosty winds from the east and head east to experience spectacular vistas, tasty restaurant fare and memorable winery experiences. Perched above the Columbia River, Maryhill Winery offers visitors flavorful wines, warm hospitality, snacks for picnicking and four bocce courts! Try this vintage Barbera, Proprietor’s Reserve, offering powerful character of dark fruits, blackberry, toasty oak, caramel, vanilla and a finish of cocoa and moderate tannins.
The Red Mountain appellation will no doubt continue to expand its plantings of Italian varietals since many dedicated winemakers are clamoring for Barbera, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and others. Few people know how to grow grapes on Red Mountain better than the folks at Kiona Vineyards – it was the Williams and Holmes families that pioneered the place over 30 years ago. You’ll need to contact the winery about this tasty Barbera; its release will be later in the spring. Look for aromas and flavors of pomegranate, cherry candy, toasty cedar and herbs with hints of smoky meats and vanilla, with ample acidity for aging or enjoying with rich foods.
This vintage Barbera was crafted by winemaker Brian Carlson from grapes grown at Sagemoor Vineyards north of Pasco in the 2008 growing season... a season that had a dry fall, allowing the fruit to remain on the vine and ripen until late in the season. The wine offers aromas of plum, cherry and baking spice with following flavors adding rhubarb and juicy berry to the mix. Notes of herbs and ample acidity on the palate make this a good food wine.
Hard Row to Hoe Winery
Hard Row to Hoe Winery near Lake Chelan has such a great storyline about the vicinity of the property, you should spend a minute checking it out: http://hardrow.com/about-our-name_323.html This Barbera from Red Mountain is a recent release and is still feeling its oats. Aromas of ripe plums, dark cherry and gunpowder-mineral grab at your nose, and ripe blueberry, cherry and spicy cranberry coat your palate. There is lots of oak character in spicy aromas and flavors, and there is enough acidity for aging that you can buy a bottle and wait until the ruckus calms down in a year or so.
Wines from other areas:
When all of your paisanos are coming over and you want to have both white and red wine on hand, pick up a Bota Box of Pinot Grigio. This bargain quaff is easy on the pocketbook and very appealing to accompany light meals or just for sipping.
While the Gnarly Head name began as a reference to centuries old, head-pruned Zinfandel vines in Lodi, the company name now signifies wines with character…as in: Bold, Sophisticated, with a Hint of Gnarly. This California Pinot Grigio has a bit more body than most Italian PGs, but one has to appreciate the aromas of peach, honeysuckle, and orange blossom that lead to a refreshing palate of melon and citrus flavors with a crisp finish.
From the Veneto region of Northeast Italy, this wine exemplifies the Italian Pinot Grigio style at a very appealing price. Light and crisp, it offers aromas of floral and citrus notes, and flavors of apple and pear with a delicate finish of lemony mineral. It is a dependable value-priced wine for informal meals at home or to accompany your picnic.
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards produces many wines made from Italian varietals grown in California. Arneis translates from Italian as “little rascal;” it is grown in the foothills of the Italian Alps. This Piemontese grape was traditionally blended into Nebbiolo red wines to diffuse the rough edges of that varietal. My tasters found the wine to be a superb food wine, offering citrus and herb flavors mingling with mineral and earthy notes on the finish.
The name “Ecco Domani” means “here’s tomorrow” and this Italian winery looks to the future as other Italian wine firms celebrate the past. The modern trends of Milan are front and center in Ecco Domani wines that are crafted from selections made throughout the country. This refreshing Moscato is a blend of Moscato Bianco and Moscato Giallo, each contributing to the exciting fruit nuances of peach, apricot, Mandarin orange and honeysuckle. A light alcohol content of under 9% makes for easy sipping at brunch or lunch as well as at the evening meal.
Sera Fina Cellars
Paul Scotto founded his winery in Amador County in 2010 but he is the fifth generation of a winemaking family that owns Scotto Cellars and its attendant brands. Our tasters were very excited about the quality and style of Sera Fina Malvasia Bianca with its bright aromas and flavors and seemingly endless complexity. Aromas of grapefruit and orchard blossom mingle with notes of pine forest, earthy honey and lemon, leading to a palate with flavors of citrus, flinty gunpowder, honey and stone fruits. It is a great sipping wine to appreciate the variety of components, but is also a great companion to lighter foods of any style.
Brancaia Winery was begun in 1981 by founders Bruno and Brigitte Widmer with the purchase of a Tuscan estate. The Brancaia wines quickly gained recognition for quality and value and now include two super Tuscan blends as well as Chianti Riserva and a Sangiovese/Merlot blend. This Chianti Classico Riserva offers the true Chianti experience with a complex nose of earth and herbs mingling with cherry, plum and floral perfume. The palate offers flavors of ripe plum, smoky dark fruits and spicy herbs with notes of cranberry and bell pepper.
This wine is crafted under the parent company of Marchesi Antinori with the Indiczione Geografica Tipica of Toscana – Tuscany. The wine is a blend of Sangiovese with a small percentage of Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot – that varies with each vintage. The use of the IGT designation allows the winery to use grapes grown at higher yields to produce a fresh and fruity wine for earlier consumption. Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, earthy/smoky cherry and notes of coffee, chocolate and citrus on the palate.
Nick Buttitta was content growing grapes from 1974 to 1984 at his vineyard in Sonoma County and selling the fruit to Sebastiani, Sovereign and other wineries. While making a delivery to Simi Winery, winemaker Zelma Long suggested that he make wine from his own grapes. The Buttitta family kept the dream alive until the 1990s when vineyards were established north in Lake County and the winery was founded. This rich and flavorful Dolcetto offers aromas of dark cherry fruit, perfume and earthy herbs. The palate has flavors of cranberry, cherry and earth with hints of tar and green bean. Very tasty with Pasta Bolognese.
© 2013 Chuck Hill