Friday, December 26, 2008

Icewine and Christmas Greetings!

Winter has hit all of Canada with a vengeance and British Columbians who can normally brag about their mild winter conditions, are shivering and shoveling on a daily basis. Vancouver Island, where I live, has seen up to and over 2 feet of snow in some areas. That includes my home. Those are pictures of my driveway and other than a path down the middle, I have given up on keeping it clear. I have rarely seen conditions like these in the 15 years I have lived here.
The good news for Icewine producers here in BC is that they were able to pick grapes for their 2008 vintage. When grapes are picked at this time they result in luscious fruity Icewines. If the required freezing temperature ( -8 degrees Celsius or 17.6 Farhenheit) does not come till January or Frebuary which is often the case, the fruit has become more dessicated and the resulting Icewines are more concentrated but do not display those big fresh fruit flavours. Growers in the Okanagan saw temperatures drop to -12 and with the wind chill factor to minus 21 degrees Celsius. As always my source for Icewine conditions was John Schreiner, the auther of the ultimate book on Icewine. I introduced my readers to John a few times and most recently on my September 5th blog entry.
I am eager to do some further posts on my Tuscan tour but it seems appropiate for this my 100th post to wish you all the best of the season and a Happy and Healthy New year. That means of course that you must do your share and continue to drink those Red Wines.
Greetings from Wilf and my little friend Maddie. That is a two foot snow bank behind her.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Travelling and Tasting Wine in Tuscany!

A news item on the total volume of wine for the 2008 Italian vintage as reported by the Associated Press puts Italy in the number one position as the world's largest wine producer. It has been copied verbatim by many leading newspapers. It never ceases to amaze me that news media do not check the accuracy of facts and figures. Thus the
Assoenologi's estimate of 44.5 billion liters, should have read 4.45billion. But you read it accurately here. It is 4.45 billion liters. Now that I have got that out of the way I can tell you that not only is it a larger volume but the grapes are wonderfully ripe and mature. Look at those Cabernet grapes. (click pic.)

Even the grapes for Vinsanto ( as pictured here) are juicy and delicious. The grapes shown here are Trebbiano grapes at the
Castello di Verrazzano estate winery.

My traveling buddy Sanjoy and I spent a delightful day at Ruffino's Tenuta Poggio Casciano property in Tuscany. Click on the map to enlarge and see Ruffino's other Tuscan properties.

Tenuta Poggio Casciano is a state of the art facility. Our gracious and very hospitable host Francesco Sorelli made our visit a memorable one. Knowledgeable and dedicated, he gave me enough information to write a book. Ruffino was established by two cousins, Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino. In 1913 having no heirs, they decided to sell to the Folonari brothers, Italo and Francesco. Their proud history and traditions were carried on by the brothers. Ruffino was the first Italian winery to export Italian wines to the United States. Before treating us to a magnificent lunch with wines matched to each course, he gave us an extended tour of the magnificent cellar and facility. History seeps out of the walls and their wine cellar is just like you always pictured a wine cellar to look like.

I am not going into a detailed description of the wines we tasted. I am leaving that for my email newsletter I send out on a regular basis. It is also called Wilf's Wine Press. But here is the line up.
2007 Libaio Toscana IGT Chardonnay. Unoaked,it is fresh, clean and rich on the palate.
2007 La Solatia Chardonnay Toscana IGT
It has 10% Viognier added and this well balanced wine is rich in fruit aromas and on the palate.
2004 Nero al Tondo Pinot Noir Toscana IGT. This one is not available anywhere except for in house use and a few lucky journalists like myself. Ah, The touch of tuscan soil and forrests mingle with rich cherry aromas. Well balanced acidity and lingering flavours.
2007 Il Ducale Toscana IGT. This is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot. Fruity and velvety tannins, it matched beautifully with the Pappa al Pomodoro we were served. Loved the wine and loved that true Tuscan dish.
2005 Tenuta Lodola Nuovo Vino Nobile Montepulciano DOCG which is predominantly made with Prugnolo Gentile grapes. Rich aromas of spice, earth and cherries which carries on to the palate. Red berries and plum on a long lingering finish.
2006 Tenuta Santedame Chianti Classico DOCG made up with 85% Sangiovese and 15% other varietals. The colour is a violet best described as "mammole" which is a special violet. Complex aromatics mingle with spicy scents, elegant on the palate and a lingering, long satisfying finish. A beautiful match for the rich pork dish and roast potatoes we were served. It all ended too soon with the 2004 Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. This of course is Ruffino's flagship world renowned wine. Country fresh fruit, complex spicy notes with sweet tannins, elegant in structure and a long lingering satisfying finish. Very fruit driven and food friendly and a oh so worthy of aging. Long will I remember this wonderful visit. I really liked Italian wines and food before this, now I can only say I really love their food and wine. Thanks to Francesco for being such a wonderful ambassador for Ruffino. I have been making some delightful Italian dishes since my return home. I have used a good many recipes forwarded to me by friends and found on the web. But I have also modified and added some of my own twists to some of them. One of the dishes that has become a regular for me is the Bucatini alla Matriciana. Thanks Bobby, but I have altered your recipe somewhat, adding a little home made Pesto sauce among other things. Want to see how it is done Tuscan style in a Florence kitchen? Watch this video and open that bottle of Ruffino Chianti and get ready to enjoy a great meal with a super food friendly wine.

Thats me toasting our host. Ruffino also produces some very good olive oils which we applied liberally to the tuscan bread and of course you need Pelligrini to clear your palate for the next part of the adventure.