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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
By Kent Reynolds
Photo credit, except where noted, and inspiration by Robyn Raphael
A couple of weeks ago, we were out to dinner with friends at a quaint, local Italian restaurant. As one does when dining Italian, we ordered a bottle of Chianti, or more specifically, Chianti Classico. As we sat enjoying the food, wine, and company, the discussion turned to the little black rooster on the Chianti Classico bottle. Perhaps you’ve seen it…
I started to explain the history behind the black rooster, and why it appears on every bottle of Chianti Classico. However, much to my own embarrassment (I’m a wine blogger, after all; people look to me as a font of wine knowledge and wisdom) I couldn’t recall the story. I knew there was some dispute some centuries ago, and that a black rooster was somehow involved, but that was all I could remember at the time.
So I did what any self-respecting and self-proclaimed wine “expert” would do.
I Googled it.
Contrary to some popular belief, Chianti is not a wine grape. It is a region in Tuscany, Italy, renowned for its red wines made from the Sangiovese grape. Sure, a few decades ago, Chianti suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, but then again, didn’t we all? Back then, Chianti was usually a cheap, low quality wine, better known for its gitchy “basket” bottle (bonus points if you know that it’s called a “fiasco”) than for the wine quality. The fiasco, in turn, was better known as a holder for colorful, dripping candles than as a vessel containing delicious wine.
The Chianti wine region is expansive, spanning some 100 miles between Florence in the north and Siena in the south. However, the most highly regarded Chianti wines come from what has been designated the Chianti Classico region. The Chianti Classico region is that portion of Tuscany considered the original and best Chianti hills and vineyards, dating back to the 1700’s when the Chianti region was first designated.
Which brings us to our story.
As legend has it, in the 13th century, before Italy was a unified country, Florence and Siena were engaged in a land dispute. Can you blame them? If you could claim rights to a prime wine region, wouldn’t you? Anyway, the two feuding cities decided to end their dispute with a race. The plan was that at the crack of dawn on the day of the race, each city would send a rider on horseback toward the other. Where the riders met, the new land border would be established. Of course, 800 years ago, they didn’t have Smartphones to wake them up, or even alarm clocks. Back then, they relied on the good old, low tech rooster!
In Siena, a white rooster was selected as the most dependable, and was given the task of waking their rider. Of course, some strategy must be employed to ensure victory, so the people of Siena fed their white rooster well, to keep him happy and crowing strong! To the north in Florence, a black rooster was chosen. However, the people of Florence had a different strategy. They put their rooster in a box for a few days before the race, with no food.
On the morning of the race, the very hungry and understandably grouchy black rooster of Florence woke at the first sign of light and began crowing, waking the town and more importantly, the rider. In Siena, however, the white rooster, content with a full stomach, slept in a bit. Thus, the rider from Florence got a head start on the rider from Siena and covered much more territory. So much so, that they met just 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from the walls of Siena. The new border was established, much in Florence’s favor, and the black rooster was established as the mascot of Chianti. The emblem was first adopted in 1384, and has been in use ever since.
Now that you know the story, make a reservation at your favorite local Italian restaurant, order a bottle of Chianti Classico, and amaze your friends with your very impressive knowledge of this entertaining tale.
If you think all Rosé is White Zinfandel, I have two things to say to you. (1) You’re not alone, and (2) you need to get out and explore Rosé!
I’ve actually been in conversation with people who say, “I don’t like Zinfandel; it’s too sweet.” When they see the quizzical look on my face, they say, “You know, Zinfandel? The pink wine.” (Spoiler alert: Zinfandel is actually a red wine grape.) While it’s true that many of us got our start with White Zinfandel, myself included, Rosé wines have come a long way in the past 40 years! (A nod to all you purists who will argue that Rosé from Provence has always been good.) But the popularity of dry Rosé, as I opine all Rosé should be, has taken off in recent years, and thankfully, there’s no end in sight!
Many people think of Rosé as a spring and summer wine, and for good reason. A well-chilled, crisp, dry Rosé is quite refreshing when lounging by the pool, or dining al fresco. I am a believer that there is no Rosé season, and drink it all year round, but I will concede that it is best when the weather is warmer.
When you think of Rosé, what grape varieties do you think of? Other than Zinfandel, of course. What? You mean Rosé isn’t a varietal? Nope. Rosé can be made from virtually any red wine grape. Yet it seems that most domestic (U.S.) Rosé wines, and many Old World examples, are made from Pinot Noir, Grenache, or other Rhône varietals. However, Lodi winemakers are pushing the envelope with some stellar Rosé wines made from grapes you may have never considered.
The Lodi AVA is home to more than 125 different grape varieties. The temperate climate; warm temperatures and dry summers; is conducive to Mediterranean grapes, which thrive here. Lodi winemakers produce Rosé wines from Carignan, Grenache, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and many others. The characteristics that make each of these varieties great red wines, also serve to produce Rosé wines with distinct profiles themselves.
The following wines were provided as media samples for review. I received no other compensation, and all opinions and tasting notes are my own.
I’ve written about LangeTwins Winery before, when Robyn and I had the good fortune to meet some friends for a personal tour, with winemaker David Akiyoshi as our guide. It was a memorable experience, to be sure! So I was excited when I opened the box that the nice FedEx courier delivered, and found a bottle of the LangeTwins Sangiovese Rosé 2017. (Click the link to read about the day, and some of the LangeTwins story.)
From the winery:
With an alluring vibrant pink color, our 2017 Sangiovese Rosé is delightfully refreshing. Opening with juicy aromas of watermelon and strawberry, the same fruit notes carry over to the palate and are balanced by bright acidity. These smooth flavors and a lasting finish will leave you wanting another sip.
Here are my tasting notes:
Crisp, dry, and refreshing. Medium pink color. Aromas and flavors of strawberry and raspberry, with a pop of watermelon jolly rancher on the finish. This’ll be great all summer long!
Well, now. I’ve actually never had a Barbera Rosé before. Barbera is one of my favorite varietals. I’ve enjoyed many red Barbera wines, and even a White Barbera (fermented with no skin contact.) But never pink!
St. Amant Winery was born in the early 1980’s in Amador County, growing their own grapes, and making wine in borrowed facilities. The name comes from the founder’s wife’s maiden name., Their first emphasis was on port-style wines, with some success. In the late 1980’s, the White Zinfandel craze exploded, and St. Amant jumped on board. The success of their White Zin sales allowed the family to purchase their own winery, in French Camp, California, just outside Lodi. In 1996, they moved to their current location in Lodi. The history of St. Amant is quite fascinating, and I encourage you to read the whole story on their website.
About the wine, from the winery website:
This delicious dry rosé of Barbera is the perfect refreshing wine for a hot summer day. Barbera’s natural acidity and Lodi’s decadent fruit flavors come together to create a lively wine that is sure to please. Yes, it may be a pink wine, but then again, it’s a delicious pink wine. The 2016 Rosé was such a hit that we couldn’t resist doing another one. If for no other reason, it’s a wine I like to drink during the summer. It’s a dry, lighter-styled version of our Barbera, with a zesty refreshing quality that lends itself well to warm summer days. Barbera’s natural acidity and luscious fruit lend itself perfectly to this unpretentious and quaffable wine. It has a deep pink color with a bright fuchsia edge. Strawberry and cranberry aromas follow through on the palate capturing the essence of spring in the glass. Drink Pink!
Here are my tasting notes:
Great color! Deep rose petal in the glass. Aromas of wild strawberry and red cherry burst from the glass. On the palate, a variety of red fruit rolls across the tongue, including strawberry, cherry, and raspberry, with hints of kiwi and watermelon. Rich texture and mouthfeel, with bright acidity. The finish is medium with sour cherry (almost like the Lifesaver flavor!), strawberry, and raspberry. A delicious summer sipper, and great wine to pair with light food dishes.
This wine retails at the winery for just $15! (Noticing a trend?)
If you’re not convinced to get out and try some delicious Lodi Rosé wines, well, I guess I’ve failed. Lodi winemakers and producing some stunning Rosé wines, that are delicious, unique, satisfying, and affordable. So, get up, head to your local wine shop…or better yet, come out to Lodi…and try some Rosé!
By Kent Reynolds
Photo credit (unless otherwise noted) and inspiration by Robyn Raphael
On a recent business trip, Robyn met a fellow conference attendee who gave her a recommendation for a new wine. Frank said this wine is one of he and his girlfriend’s favorites, and suggested Robyn and I give it a try. The wine is Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo, from Toscana, Italy. Robyn texted me a picture of the bottle, and I went on the hunt. I didn’t have to look far. Our local Total Wine & More store just happens to carry this wine.
When Robyn arrived home from her trip, she had a little surprise waiting for her on the counter. We adore Italian wines, and some of our favorites are the Sangiovese-based wines out of Tuscany. So naturally, I had stopped at Total Wine on my way home from work the day after her text, and bought a bottle to try.
Tommasi Family Estates has been producing wine grapes since 1902. The family got their start in Valpolicella Classica, Verona, and has since expanded to other regions in Italy. They launched the Poggio al Tufo line of wines in 1997 with the acquisition of the Pitigliano Estate, 66 hectares of vineyards planted in volcanic soil, in the rolling Tuscan hills. The addition of two more vineyards, the 24 hectare Doganella Estate and the Scansano Estate, 80 hectares in the DOC Morellino zone, expanded the operation. The Doganella Estate is an organic production, producing high quality grapes due to the hot, dry Tuscan summers and cooling breezes from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Several vintages of this wine have won numerous awards and accolades, including 93 points from Vinous Media (2012), No. 31 in the Wine Spectator Top 100, with a 92 point score (2011), and 87 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast (2010).
The current release, at least what is available in our local store, is the 2014. We opened it to enjoy with our meal of grilled filet mignon steaks, baked potato, and spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. Exquisite is the best word to describe it! Here’s my review posted on Vivino:
Delicious Toscana blend. Dark purple and ruby colors. Aromas of bing cherry and soft cedar. On the palate, juicy cherry and blackberry flavors meld with notes of cola, vanilla, and oak. Soft, silky tannins and medium acidity balance the wine and make for great dipping or food pairing. Long, black fruit and spice finish. We had this with grilled filet steaks and it was outstanding!
I highly recommend this outstanding Toscana wine. And at $15.99 retail, it’s a bottle you can enjoy often!
By Kent Reynolds, with inspiration by Robyn Raphael
Photos by Kent Reynolds (unless otherwise credited)
The weather forecast was daunting. A “Pineapple Express” was about to bear down on Northern California, bringing biblical rains, winds, and flooding. For those of you who don’t live in California, a “Pineapple Express” is a tropical storm system that originates near Hawaii, and barrels eastward carrying heavy rains and warm temperatures. The resulting deluge has been known to melt Sierra snow packs and cause widespread flooding in the Sacramento Valley from the combination of rainfall and snow melt. That was the prediction for the weekend.
Meanwhile, a week-long business trip was on the horizon. Having completed packing, Robyn suggested that, regardless of perilous weather forecasts, we head out to the nearby Placer Wine Trail, and do some wine tasting. There are about 20 wineries to choose from, but I knew right away where I wanted to go. We’ve enjoyed the wines of Wise Villa many times. In fact, on our first date, Robyn and I had a bottle of Wise Villa Tempranillo. So clearly, this winery holds a place near and dear to my heart. Yet, despite its location a just 20 or so minutes from home, I’d never been. This potentially stormy day, that injustice would be corrected.
Wise Villa Winery & Bistro is a family owned estate, situated atop a hillside in rural Placer county, with stunning views of the surrounding valley. They farm over 20 different varietals, producing more than 30 wines. From Albarino to Zinfandel, Wise Villa’s wines are expertly crafted to capture the essence of the variety, and the unique terroir of the Placer County Wine region.
Our original intention was to visit a few wineries that day, but when we arrived at Wise Villa, and took in the beauty of their Tuscan-style building and breathtaking views, we decided to make an afternoon of it. That Wise Villa is the only Placer County winery with a full-service bistro, complete with gourmet chef, combined with the fact that we hadn’t had lunch, made our decision to stay an easy one.
With the combination of beautiful views, excellent wines, and exceptional service, it’s no surprise that Wise Villa is the favored destination of local large group outings; work-related team building, bridal showers, etcetera. Sure, the winery and bistro were buzzing with activity when we arrived, but we found a quiet table on the covered patio that overlooked the vineyards and valley, and ordered a bottle of wine to enjoy with our small plates. Service was outstanding, and soon our glasses were full of the 2015 Sangiovese, and our Artisan Plate of cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, and fruit, and a platter of chicken skewers were presented for our enjoyment. And enjoy we did!
Here are my thoughts on the Wise Villa Sangiovese 2015. (Shhhh. It’s a wine club member exclusive.)
Rich, ruby color in the glass. On the nose, aromas of ripe raspberry and fresh cherry. The wine coats the tongue with a smooth, rich mouthfeel, and flavors of Rainer cherry, kirsch, and raspberry. Tannins are ultra-soft and smooth, balanced by medium acidity and a long, smooth finish of red fruit and spice. Paired perfectly with the Artisan Plate; especially the blue cheese.
As it turned out, the dreaded “Pineapple Express” failed to make an appearance. Instead, we were treated to cotton-ball clouds, warm weather, and absolutely unbelievable views. We relished in our appetizers and wine, and enjoyed a relaxing Saturday afternoon, and each other’s company.
As the larger groups departed, the tasting room became more tranquil, and our bottle now empty, we ventured inside to explore the rest of the Wise Villa menu. All of the wines were exquisite. From soft, supple whites with perfectly balanced fruit and acidity, to big, bold reds with unique aromas and full, rich flavors.
While tasting, and capturing a few photos for the blog, I happened into owner and winemaker, Dr. Grover Lee. A personable and friendly man, Grover shared his passion for winemaking and pairing good food with good wine. He also informed me he offers guided tours of the winery, and assured me they are like no other winery tour I’ve ever been on. Intrigued, I vowed to return to experience the full journey. In the meantime, there was an early morning flight to catch, so we had to say our goodbyes, with an intention to return soon.
By Kent Reynolds, with inspiration from Robyn Raphael
What do you think of when you hear about a family owned winery? If you are like me, you envision a small, mom-and-pop operation, with a quaint, small tasting room, producing perhaps a few hundred cases of wine per year. What you probably don’t expect is a massive winery operation on the scale of LangeTwins. What? Never heard of LangeTwins? That may be because producing their own private label wine is just a portion of what they do here.
I recently visited LangeTwins Winery, located in Lodi, California, with friends Robyn, Anthony, and Kim. Despite living only about an hour from Lodi for 14 years, and being something of a wine guy (as suggested by this blog), this was my first tasting trip to Lodi. Yes, I am ashamed of myself and have no valid excuses. Anyway, as I rounded the bend and the facility came into view, I thought perhaps I had missed my turn and was arriving at a Gallo or Mondovi facility. Yet the monument sign that greeted us confirmed we were at the right place.
We had arranged a winery tour with winemaker David Akiyoshi, who Anthony and I know though our mutual affiliation with NakedWines.com. In addition to his responsibilities and LangeTwins, David also produces wines under his own label that are sold by NakedWines.com. David has worked in the wine industry for more than 30 years. His tenure includes 25 years at Woodbridge. An interesting fact that David shared is that as children, during World War II, his parents were both sent to internment camps. As an adult, David’s father rose to success in the wine industry, including oenology research at U.C. Davis. David later followed his father in a wine career. David is a personable and engaging guide. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and gets great enjoyment in sharing his passion with guests. As a result, what was supposed to be a one-hour tour, stretched into nearly three hours!
The Lange family has been growing grapes in the Lodi area for five generations. In 2006, Brad and Randy Lange – the “Twins” of LangeTwins – started the winery operation. They brought David Akiyoshi in as winemaker and together, they built a state-of-the-art winemaking facility. The Langes gave David virtually free-reign in designing and constructing the operation. As David explained, when he asked for equipment or supplies, the Langes only wanted assurance that they were the best available for the production; they never asked about cost. The result is an impressive, sustainable, and continually expanding winery with the latest in technology and production equipment. The crush pad is topped with bifacial photovoltaic solar panels, capturing both direct sunlight and reflected light from below, while providing shade for workers below. They generate enough electricity to fully power their operation, and provide surplus energy back to the grid.
In addition to their own wines, LangeTwins offers a variety of services to other producers in the region. These include vineyard management, grape sales, winemaking, and bottling. They recently installed the most up-to-date bottling line, capable of churning out 120 bottles per minute, and provide bottling and labeling services to several wineries that you would readily recognize. (For proprietary reasons, those names could not be revealed, and photography in the bottling area is prohibited.)
David showed us around the grape hoppers (originally designed for pickling cucumbers but better suited for grapes); conveyers;four massive crushers;fermentation tanks ranging from small-lot to some of the largest, custom built tanks I’ve ever seen; and the barrel room, where we had some fun with barrel thieving.
After the tour, David delivered us to the capable hands of the LangeTwins tasting room staff, where we enjoyed samples of the finished product. LangeTwins makes a large variety of wines, from light and lively whites, to a crisp, zesty Sangiovese Rosé, to big, bold red blends and varietal wines. Everything we tasted was exceptional. So much so that we decided to join the wine club, thus ensuring return visits, at least quarterly, for the foreseeable future.
No trip to Lodi is complete without a stop at LangeTwins Winery. If you are in the area, I encourage you to stop in for a tasting. If time allows, click here to schedule a private tasting and winery tour. If you happen to run into David Akiyoshi while you’re there, tell him I said “hi.”
Many wineries have tours. Visitors get to see the crush pad, fermentation tanks, and barrel room on the way to the tasting room. I have been on several of these tours, and always enjoy them. There is something enlightening in learning more about the processes that go into making this wonderful, enjoyable beverage. Still, I’ve often felt there was something missing in these tours: the vineyard. What goes on out there? I long to walk the rows, taste the berries straight from the vines, and learn more about the agricultural part of the process. Wine is, after all, the end result of months of patient and backbreaking farming. Then I learned about the Farm-to-Glass Vineyard Tour at Vino Noceto. I signed up immediately.
Vino Noceto is a family-owned winery in the Sierra Foothills. More specifically, they are in Amador County, in the Shenandoah Valley AVA, a sub-appellation of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Located in the rolling hills about an hour east of Sacramento, Vino Noceto is a fun, friendly, and inviting destination.
Olives nearly ready for harvest
Awards and Passion
The Farm-to-Glass tour is often led by either the winemaker, Rusty Folena, or owner Jim Gullett. For my tour, a small group of just three of us, Jim was our guide, providing us with intimate details and insight into the history of the winery. It was fascinating to hear Jim relate his personal journey from just starting out; to the successful operation he leads today.
Jim and his wife Suzy purchased the land, formerly a walnut grove, in 1984. The name, Noceto, reflects a part of Suzy’s history. Suzy is from the city of Walnut Creek, in the east Bay Area of Northern California. Noceto is Italian for walnut grove. It is also the name of a town in Italy, located in the province of Parma. Noceto, Italy is the sister city of Walnut Creek, California.
In keeping with the Italian connection, Vino Noceto specializes in Sangiovese, the main grape used in Chianti. Vino Noceto is one of the leading producers of Sangiovese in California. This is quite a departure for a winery in a region known for Gold Rush-era Zinfandel vines, and the Rhone varietals many of their neighbors are producing. Still, Jim and Suzy had a passion, and they pursued it.
The tour began in the tasting room; just long enough to each receive a glass and a generous pour of Vino Noceto’s Clarksburg Pinot Grigio. Light, crisp, and delicious, this was a great way to start off! Jim grabbed his bottle caddy – more tastes awaited us along the way – and we headed off to the vineyard.
The next wine we tasted was the flagship Sangiovese Originale. We tasted the 2013, but the first release of this Chianti-style wine was in 1990. Light, ruby color in the glass with flavors of raspberry and cherry, and lively, balanced acidity. This wine is delightful on its own, and would pair exceptionally with a variety of foods. Jim said his vision was to create a “Chianti with California sunshine.” He didn’t want to simply imitate Chianti; he’s in California, and he wanted to allow the California influence to shine through. Mission accomplished, Jim!
Many of Vino Noceto’s Sangiovese vines can be traced back to nine original cuttings. These were obtained from a neighboring winery that had procured them some years earlier, but decided to go a different direction with their production. Other vines came from various other sources, all of which can be traced back to Italy. Some of these other cuttings had originally been brought to the U.S. from Chianti via (ahem) a briefcase import in the 1970’s. So the Vino Noceto vines have some pretty prestigious, if shadowy, heritage.
The original vineyard plot is called Dos Oakies, because of two large oak trees that stood watch over the vines. One of these sentinels fell in a storm a few years ago, but the other remains, providing shade and shelter for vineyard tourists and wildlife alike.
As we walked through the vineyard, Jim informed us that Vino Noceto is a Certified Sustainable vineyard. After harvest and crush, the grape pressings are returned to the earth to help fertilize for next year. They also reclaim the water used in production. In addition, their winery and tasting rooms run completely on solar power, and investment that has already paid for itself.
Harvest was already complete on the day of my tour, but some fruit lingered on the vines. This enabled us to sample some of the berries. We tasted Trebbiano and Malvasia, both white grapes, and Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, and Aglianico, the latter two used as a blending grapes in Italian wines. It was interesting to note the differences in flavor, texture, and tannin, right there among the vines that produced the fruit.
One the way to the winery building itself, we sampled two more wines; the Dos Oakies Sangiovese, a single vineyard bottling from that original vineyard block; and the Hillside Sangiovese. Both were stunning, and had the classic Chianti stylings, with that extra pop of California sunshine. The Hillside Sangiovese has just a hint more oakiness, giving it a fuller feel and flavor. Perhaps that is why it has won so many awards and high scores!
At the winery, the tour included a stop at the crush pad, where Jim explained the processes from harvest, to sorting and de-stemming, to crush. Then we moved into the fermentation room and barrel room. Jim detailed the processes, including such decisions as which yeast to use in fermentation, and the level of toast required for their barrels.
Though Sangiovese experts, Vino Noceto is a Sierra Foothills winery. Therefore, they also produce a Zinfandel. Using his wine thief, Jim got us a barrel taste of the 2016. It is already coming along nicely, and when released in a couple of years, will be a superb Zinfandel. As we left the winery, Jim poured us a taste from their current release, 2012 OGP Zinfandel, made with grapes from the Original Grandpère vineyard. Unlike many jammy, powerful Zins, this is a lighter, more restrained Zinfandel that really allows the fruit to show its stuff!
Normally when you hear “cult wine” you think of big, bold, in-your-face Cabernet from Napa. Would you believe: a cult white wine? Yes, Vino Noceto makes a Moscato blend called Frivolo. Slightly effervescent, and completely refreshing and delicious, Frivolo has a cult following, and its own wine club! That’s right, a club for a single wine. Members receive one shipment per year, in December – a case of the newly released vintage. While the 2014 is long sold out, the day of my tour the 2016 was undergoing cold stabilization. Naturally, as a good host, Jim got us a sample from the tank. Ice cold, but still delicious and flavorful!
The tour ended back in the tasting room, where Jim said his goodbyes and left us in the care of the friendly, helpful staff. There, we were offered more tastes of wines we didn’t try on the tour, plus opportunities to re-try those we had. Like so many Sierra Foothills wineries, tastings at Vino Noceto are complimentary.
If you are in the area, I highly recommend the Farm-to-Glass Vineyard tour. Tours are held daily at 11:00 a.m.; free for club members, $10 for everyone else. Money well spent! You can book online here, or call Vino Noceto at (209) 245-6556 x2.
Old World versus New World. What does that even mean? For those accustomed to Californian or other Western Hemisphere, New World wines, many Old World (European) wines may seem pale and acidic. The stereotype is of ripe, fruity New World wines that are enjoyable on their own, versus dry, acidic Old World that are best with food.
Here we have a great example of an Old World Italian wine. Historically, wine is much more a part of European culture than it is in the U.S. Remember, it was we crazy Americans who passed the Volstead Act – Prohibition – the effects of which still linger today in the U.S. In Europe, a meal isn’t a meal without a glass of wine.
Exclusively from NakedWines.com, the 2014 Sangiovese by Maurizio Castelli is a classic Italian wine, meant for Italian food. Below is an excerpt from Maurizio’s bio on his NakedWines.com page:
A famous Brunello consultant – Maurizio had a hand in many of the region’s most famous wines like La Ragnaie (100 point wine), Mastrojanni, Badia a Coltibuono, Bastianich, Mastrojanni, Grattamacco and a long list of other delicious wines that are even more expensive than they are difficult to pronounce.
And on top of knowing how to make landmark luxury wines, he knows how to create remarkable everyday sippers like Integolo (the top-rated value wine in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list)
Here’s my review, posted at NakedWines.com:
This is a young wine. Do yourself and Maurizio a favor and decant or aerate before drinking. You’ll enjoy it more. It’s also an Old World wine, leaning toward subtle fruit and food-friendly acidity. For some who only like California style smooth, jammy fruit bombs, that’s strike two. But if you are looking for a fresh tasting, complex wine to pair with some classic Italian cuisine, look no further!
The color is dark Ruby in the glass. On the nose, blackberry bramble and plum. Flavors of blackberry, cedar, and spice dominate, followed by subtle blueberry. Tannins are a bit harsh yet; as I said, it’s young; but smooth out with exposure to air. The acidity is brisk; not atypical for classically made Italian wines. This is a food wine. We paired it with spaghetti squash and marinara with Italian sausage. The wine enhanced the food, and vice-versa.
If you have a few bottles, lay them down a bit. This will be excellent in a couple of years.