Tag Archives: Italian Wine

Our Wine of the Week: Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018

Every once in a while, you score a wine that absolutely exceeds expectations. Our Wine of the Week this week is one of those wines. A few weeks back, Wine.com was having one of their red wine sales. Always on the prowl for bargains, we checked it out and, among a few others we purchased, we snagged a couple bottles of Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018

We are big fans of Barbera, but typically prefer bottles from Amador County in the Sierra Foothills, where Barbera grows exceptionally well. Barbera is one of the few varieties that we generally favor richer, fruit-forward New World versions over Old World. Maybe we just hadn’t found the right ones, but many of the Italian Barberas we’ve had have been rather thin and lacking, with acidity approaching excessive. Well, the Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 was about to blow that stereotype right out of the water!

Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta has more than 1,000 years of history in the Piedmont region of Italy. The Incisa family ancestors settled there in the 11th century. In the 13th century, local monks leased land from the Incisa family to cultivate grapes, and by the 19th century, the Marchese Leopoldo Incisa della Rocchetta had become known in the region for his viticulture and winemaking. He was an early pioneer in experimenting with Pinot Noir plantings in Piedmont. Members of the family have expanded to Tuscany, where Sangiovese is king, but the Piedmont estate is still owned and operated by members of the Incisa della Rocchetta family. In the 1990’s the Marchesa Barbara Incisa della Rocchetta inherited and purchased the estate and continues operations to this day, producing wines from local native grape varieties like Barbera, Grignolino, Moscato d’Asti and Arneis, while continuing production of international varieties such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.

With such prestigious and long-standing wine making history, how can you go wrong? You can’t. The Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 is a stunning, breath-taking wine. It really changed our minds about Old World Barbera. We opened our first bottle with grilled pork loin and the experience was euphoric. Recently, we brought our second bottle to a friend’s house for a homemade pizza night. With seven hungry (and thirsty) adults in the house, suffice it to say we opened more than one bottle of good wine that night. But the one that stood out, head and shoulders above all others, by unanimous decision of all present, was our Wine of the Week, Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018. It’s just that good. 

Garnet color. Aromas of blackberry bramble, plum, and spice. On the palate, black cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, white pepper, and earthy notes. Bone dry with medium tannins and bright acidity, perfect for food pairing and great with grilled pork loin or pizza. Or both, why not?

The Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 is available from Wine.com. As of this writing, it is on sale (still or again, doesn’t matter!) for just $16.99. Many other wines from Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta are also available and worth trying! 

What was your wine of the week? 

Cheers!

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Toccata Classico 2015

I first learned about Toccata wines several years ago, when one of their sales reps was hosting a tasting at a wine bar near my home. I happened in, by happy coincidence, and was immediately impressed by the quality, complexity, and character of the wines. Alas, the wines are not widely distributed, so Toccata was difficult to find and enjoy regularly.

The Toccata label is owned by Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, a family owned estate in Santa Barbara County. I’m fairly certain the Toccata tasting all those years ago was the first Santa Barbara wine I had experienced. Lucas & Lewellen is fairly well known to travellers along Highway 101 south of Paso Robles, as their large estate vineyards are adjacent to the highway, and are well marked with signs identifying ownership and often the variety of grape.

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Photo Credit: llwine.com

Years after that original Toccata tasting, my son started college at U.C. Santa Barbara; another happy coincidence. During the hours-long drives from Northern California to visit, as I passed the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards, I was reminded of the Toccata wines I had enjoyed. When I discovered that Toccata has a tasting room, just a few miles off Highway 101 in the quaint village of Solvang, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy these wines again while also enjoying time with my son, and the beauty of Santa Barbara. Still, once he graduated, and my regular trips to Santa Barbara came to an end, so did my ready access to Toccata.

To my sheer delight, I was recently offered a sample of the Toccata Classico 2015. There was no hesitation in my affirmative response to the offer!  

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Toccata wines are all Italian varieties and styles. Toccata Classico is a red blend made in the Super Tuscan style. The fruit comes from two estate vineyards; Los Alamos Vineyard in the Santa Barbara AVA and Valley View Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The 2015 is composed of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Freisa, and Petit Verdot. Here’s what we thought of it:

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Rich, deep purple with ruby rim. Initial nose is vanilla, with ripe red berry. On the palate, flavors of ripe raspberry, blackberry, and cassis, with baking spice, vanilla, tobacco, white pepper, and toasty oak. Firm, chewy tannins, with medium acidity. Rich and full bodied. The finish is long with red and black fruit, oak, and black pepper.

SRP $29.00 per bottle

Perfect for Italian cuisine, and also fantastic with other genres of food, too. We loved it with Pan Seared Filet Steaks with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions. Sheer delight! img_2349

If you are in the Santa Barbara area, be sure to take a detour out to Solvang and visit the Toccata tasting room. It’s well worth the trip!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo credit, except where noted, and inspiration by Robyn Raphael

Holiday Bubbles for January Birthdays

Oh, those pesky January birthdays. They are always overshadowed by the holiday season that precedes them. Family and friends are partied out from New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and other holidays that span from November through the first of January. The earlier in the month, the worse it is.

Robyn and I are both January babies. My birthday falls mid-month, while Robyn’s is at the beginning, just days after New Year’s Day. When I was a kid, my birthday was always disappointing. Sure, my parents tried to make it special. I had parties, outings to pizza parlors, and all the usual kid-birthday adventures. Nevertheless, the general rule was, toys and cool stuff on Christmas; socks, pants, and shirts on my birthday. What self-respecting 8 year old kid looks forward to a new pair of jeans?

As Robyn recounts, family birthday dinners were the norm, but parties not so much. With an early January birthday, school was still out for the winter holiday, so she missed out on the schoolroom buzz and excitement. So often her friends were out of town or otherwise spending the post-holiday season with their families.

So, what do you do when you have a January birthday? How do you compensate for living in the shadow of such major, resource-depleting holidays? You celebrate your birthday for six to eight weeks, starting with Thanksgiving! When fortune shone on us, and we were offered samples of four sparkling wines this past fall, we knew exactly what to do. As we popped the corks throughout the season, we toasted and celebrated our upcoming birthdays.

As you can see from the photos, we didn’t just limit ourselves to birthday celebrations on the high holidays. Some of the nights, we were more spontaneous and busted out the birthday bubbles with a mid-week meal.

We hope you enjoy sharing our birthday celebrations in the images below. The wines were samples. We received no other compensation. All opinions and review notes are our own.

For our first birthday celebration, we opened a Paul Cheneau Cava Reserva Blanc de Blancs Brut, and paired it with sautéed cilantro-lime shrimp and a spinach salad for a mid-week meal.

 

 

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Paul Cheneau Cava Reserva Blanc de Blancs Brut

Golden color in the flute. Vigorous tiny bubbles tickle the nose. Aromas of apricot, yeast, and nutty notes. Flavors of pear, yellow apple, almond, and hints of tangerine and pineapple with soft vanilla notes on the finish. Super dry and crisp; a very refreshing Cava that paired very well with sautéed cilantro-lime shrimp and a spinach salad with bacon-vinegar dressing.

When we opened the second bottle, a Valdo Prosecco Brut, Christmas season was in full swing. The halls were decked, the Christmas music playing, and it was finally cold enough in NorCal to light a fire in the fireplace. Time for wrapping gifts, and popping some bubbles!

 

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Valdo Prosecco Brut

Bright golden color. A steady stream on tiny bubbles rises to the rim. Aromas of ripe apricot and tangerine. On the palate there are flavors of apricot, pear, apple, and hints of citrus, along with notes of yeast and almond. Lively acidity makes this quite refreshing and light. A perfect pairing with gift wrapping, whether Christmas or January birthday gifts.

On Christmas day, it was time for something French. My parents were visiting, and loved the idea of combining Christmas and birthday, and celebrating with a lovely Rosé sparkler. (Wait, maybe they just thought it would get them out of buying me a birthday present.) To honor the day, and to get the celebration started, we popped the cork on a Côte Mas Cremant De Limoux Brut Rosé St. Hilaire.

 

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Côte Mas Cremant De Limoux Brut Rosé St. Hilaire

Salmon color in the glass. An abundance of tiny bubbles flow from the bottle and carry on in the glass. Aromas of strawberry and rose petals. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, strawberry, red currant, and cotton candy. Creamy mouthfeel and bright acidity lead to a crisp, bright, red-fruit finish. Perfect with Christmas toasts, or birthday celebrations.

With Christmas behind us, our sights now turned to New Year’s Eve. International Champagne Day. Naturally, we’d want to ring in 2018 with genuine champagne, right? Wrong! Robyn’s birthday was just days away, and we decided to save the bubbles from the most famous sparkling region in the world for her special day. Instead, we headed over to our local wine shop and picked up a domestic brut to toast the New Year.

Finally, the time came to celebrate a January birthday on its actual day. Dinner reservations at a local, romantic restaurant made, we chilled a bottle of Barons de Rothschild Champagne Brut to bring with us and toast to another year of life. The hostess was kind enough hold our champagne we stopped in the bar for a pre-birthday-dinner cocktail.

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When we took our seats at our dining table, our bottle was waiting for us in an ice bucket. Our server expertly released the cork, and also did double-duty as birthday photographer!

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Barons de Rothschild Champagne Brut

Golden straw color. Soft fruit aromas of floral, apricot and pear. On the palate there are flavors of yellow apple, Bartlett pear, apricot, and cream. Bright acidity and vigorous bubbles liven the tongue. The finish is stone fruit with hints of elderflower, almond, and cream. The perfect sparkler to celebrate a January birthday!

The champagne was the perfect accompaniment to our evening, and it was excellent with my seared-scallop risotto. To end the evening, the pastry chef even wrote “Happy Birthday” in chocolate on the plate with our crème brulee.

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Do you have a January birthday? Let us know in the comments how you like to celebrate to ensure your day isn’t lost in the holiday fervor.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds & Robyn Raphael