Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Takes a Lot of Sunshine....to Make a Super Tuscan Wine !!

I do want to share some more on Alsace wine but this entry is dedicated to my friend Alessandro Dondi at Castello di Bolgheri.

Check out the rich history and tradition of the Castello di Bolgheri by clicking on the above link.
I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro a couple of years ago while doing a tour of Tuscany with my California wine loving friend Sanjoy Ghose.
Castello di Bolgheri is located in the town of Bolgheri, on the Etruscan coast in the province of Livorno. We were scheduled to visit Ornellaia, the very well known and excellent producers of the Super Tuscan, Ornelaia. But since Sanjoy managed to get us to the coast way ahead of our appointment, we had plenty of time for lunch and a little sightseeing in Bolgheri. Just happened to walk into this delightful shop selling locally produced body lotions and creams. I asked the owner why do people drive all the way to the coast to visit Bolgheri. Ah, but of course, Bolgheri is where the famous Italian poet
Giosuè Carducci wrote the poem "Davanti a San Guido", giving everlasting fame to the Viale dei Cipressi ( Cypresses ) As you drive into the town of Bolgheri these stately 200 year old Cypress trees line the road on both sides for a 5 KM stretch.
Then, the charming owner of the shop, Beata, asked me what brought me to Bolgheri. When I told her I was on a wine tasting, wine writing tour of Tuscany, she insisted we meet her husband Alessandro, the wine maker at Castello di Bolgheri. What a marvellous turn of events that turned out to be.

I won't go into details about Super Tuscans. I am sure you know about Sassicaia and the other Super Tuscans but both Sanjoy and I were overwhelmed and duly impressed by the amazing Super Tuscans Alessandro has produced.

The vineyards are about 70 meters above sea level. They are planted facing west southwest. The rows are perpendicular to the Mediterranean Sea
which during the hot summer days allows the afternoon winds coming from the sea to cool the vineyard. The soils are sandy-clayey, skeletal and stone rich and a pH which is mostly basic. This "terroir" produces wines of great subtlety, smooth soft tannins and great complexity with rich aromatics. I noticed when Alex took us into the vineyards that he did a quick inspection of the Cabernet grapes, giving them a gentle squeeze. When I asked him about it
he explained that he wants the skins just

to start getting a touch of softness and that is when he wants to pick. Of course he does lab testing as well. Then he told us that they would be picking these Cabernet grapes tomorrow. Looking a few rows over, he indicated that those Cabernet, Castello was growing for Ornelaia, but that they were not planning to pick for a couple of weeks.

The close-up picture of Alessandro's grapes to the left shows them to be in perfect picking condition. Meanwhile back at the winery we tasted tank samples of the recently harvested Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Wow, I have tasted a lot of tank samples but these were amazing.

Now click on the map to enlarge it. As you can see, the Castello vineyards are located in the same ideal locations as the Ornellaia and Sassicaia vineyards. So what makes the Castello di Bolgheri wines so special? Because they are created by a winemaker with a passion. Truly an artist at work. One of the techniques he employs is called delestage. Very time consuming but with very beneficial results.
Alex joined the Castello in 2005 and as their cellar master here is his wine making philosophy. In his opinion when making a wine, the most important thing is to always have a clear picture in your mind of the kind of wine you want to make. Just like a good chef knows what he wants his dish to taste like, he images the texture,smells and tastes. He knows his grapes and the soils, then lets his feelings and emotions run with his artistic abilities.
And tasting his wines confirms that this winemaker truly makes a super Super Tuscan. In my opinion, among the very best of the Super Tuscans out there.

Fortunately for consumers here in British Columbia, finally almost three years after my visit with Alessandro, they are now available here in BC.
I am looking forward to visiting with Alessandro again and tasting what great wines are all about.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunshine into Wine.....!

Not this year, or at least not at many of the wineries on the west coast of Canada. Following up on my last blog entry, I contacted a few more wineries.

The song everybody seems to be singing is "Rain, rain go away, come back again some other day". But they say every cloud has a silver lining. Perhaps the sluggish economy of the last few years has left most wineries with enough inventory to carry them through till next year. At least those that as part of their marketing plan, hold back some of their inventory for a rainy day. When I spoke to Jerry Mussio at Starling Lane Winery he was fairly optimistic about this year, although their Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir was lagging behind. But since they make one of the best ( or in my opinion 'the best' ) sparkling wine on Vancouver Island that should make fans of their
Célébration Brut happy. Over on Pender Island Keith Watt at Morning Bay Vineyard reports similar conditions and thanks his lucky stars to have a decent inventory. Then this morning, speaking to Eugene Kwan, the managing director of one of my all time favorite British Columbia wineries, once again a similar story emerged. Domaine de Chaberton is located in the Fraser Valley. Be sure to click on 'Winery' and then 'about us' to get the story behind this magnificent winery. I had the privilege of working with Claude and Inge as their Vancouver Island rep while running my wine shop, The Wine Barrel in Victoria. For all you Seattlelites, Domaine de Chaberton is located just across the Washington / British Columbia border and easy to find. Their Bacchus Bistro is very popular year round and is a must visit. Since I am leaving tomorrow to spend a few days on the mainland, I have made reservations at the Bistro and greatly looking forward to it.
Not everyone of course is unhappy about the rain. In the Bordeaux they were crying for rain and finally got it. Looks like they will be bragging about another good vintage and the first growth estates will be able to continue their obscene, outrageous prices.
My good friend Philippe, the export manager at Dopff 'Au Moulin" in Alsace sent me this picture of his Auxerrois and tells me harvest for the sparkling wines has begun.
I must tell you some more about why I love the wines from Alsace and my visit to Kuentz-Bas but will leave that for another entry.
In the meantime, rain, shine or otherwise, no matter how wonderful your wines might be, a little smart marketing goes a long way. So here for your 'viewing' pleasure is how one Okanagan Valley winery shares some fun with us. The View Winery makes a wonderful Pinotage and I reviewed the 2008 vintage for my newsletter. But Jennifer, the star in their video, tells me "Wait till you taste the 2009". OK Jennifer I am looking forward to it. So be sure to click on the above link to the winery and I am sure you will agree when you view the video that it is great marketing.

As always cheers and enjoy your wines!!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

No Sunshine....No wine!

At least that appears to be situation developing on Vancouver Island. On the weekend I visited some of the wineries here on our island.
Veraison is barely visible and the only grape showing any signs of it that I saw, was the Siegerrebe grape at the Blue Grouse Vineyards.
If you click on the picture to enlarge it you might see some of the clusters picking up a bit of color. Summer took a long time coming and unless we see a lot of sunshine over the next 4 to 5 weeks, there will be no harvest this year. Although we might see a lot of sparkling wine produced this year and I do like my bubblies.
Meanwhile back to Alsace, the report I received from my friend Philippe Durst at Dopff "Au Moulin", in the middle of August, veraison was on its way. Slow start to their summer as well but the vineyards are shaping up for another good vintage. And of course that is where it all begins. That is cellar-master and oenologist Pascal Batot at Dopff keeping a close watch in the vineyards. Pascal's winemaking philosophy is that the quality of a wine starts first of all in the vineyards.

It definitely paid off recently when Dopff was awarded two gold medals at the very prestigious
Sélections Mondiales des Vins Canada in Montreal.
They received a Gold for the Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenberg 2007 and a Gold for the Gewurztraminer grand Cru Brand de Turckheim 2007.
Thought I would share with you a photo I took of the Schoenenberg Crus vineyard while visiting there in May. It looks like it is mostly hands on work required there, wouldn't you say?
Yes, the fruit of the vine does like its share of sunshine!