All this talk about noble wine was making me thirsty! Fortunately for us, Massimo had quite the lunch in-store for us. Our tasting took place in their restaurant located right on the property. It is a part of their hospitality business, Villa di Nottola. To our delight we were joined by the owner’s daughter, Giulia Giomarelli and her boyfriend Paolo. Our lunch of local specialties was kicked off with a very fresh (it was bottled two days before) white blend of vermentino and pinot bianco called PerGloria. A perfect accompaniment to our medley of crostini with assorted toppings.
Next came their 2011 Rosso di Montepulciano which had an intense violet bouquet and silky cherry fruit. Made from 80% prugnolo gentile it was paired with their local pasta called pici and a simple blue cheese sauce with pepper. We couldn’t decide which pasta to have so the chef was nice enough to make us two (oh darn!) so next was tagliatelle with wild boar ragu paired with their very yummy 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Bold with complex structure and notes of dark blackberries this wine lived up to its noble name. For our entree of tagliata (grilled sliced beef) with rosemary and roasted potatoes we had their reserve supertuscan called Anterivo made from 50% prugnolo gentile and 50% merlot. Aged 12 months in French oak it was an explosion of red fruits and sweet spice. Note: word on the street is that Jens just picked up this wine so look for it at Portalis in the near future. No tasting in Tuscany would be complete without their signature dessert wine Vin Santo, or as I like to call it nectar of the gods, which was enjoyed the traditional way by dipping a small almond biscotti (cantucci) into it.
Such a lovely end to a wonderful visit. I look forward to visiting the Montepulciano region again very soon. If you ever find yourselves south of Siena, make sure you book a stay at the Nottola winery. With its panoramic views of the valley, plus delicious food and wine at your doorstep, I promise you an unforgettable experience.
Salute until next time,
Interested in joining Gina on an Italian tour? Visit her at www.premiervineyardtours.com
Would you like to re-create Gina’s Nottola tasting in your own home? We currently sell the following Nottola wines at Portalis:
Nottola Chianti dei Colli Senesi
Nottola Tre Pezzi Supertuscan
Nottola Rosso di Montepulciano
Nottola Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
arriving in September:
Nottola Anterivo Supertuscan
Nottola Vino Nobile Riserva
Enjoy this wine travel post from Gina Gregory, Premier Vineyard Tours:
I never get tired of exploring new places in Tuscany. On my recent trip to Italy I had the pleasure of visiting one of J. Strecker Selections direct imports, Azienda Agricola Nottola located just a few kilometers from the medieval hill town of Montepulciano (not to be confused with the grape of the same name from Abruzzo). Having been to the charming village of Montepulciano several years ago on my honeymoon, I had yet to visit the surrounding wine country that it’s famous for. Montepulciano is located 70km southeast of Siena and 35km east from that other hilltop Tuscan town you might have heard of called Montalcino (famous for Brunello di Montalcino).
The drive to Nottola winery was so picturesque – full of olive groves, vineyards and gentle sloping hills framing the landscape perfectly. When we approached the driveway to the winery even the entrance seemed poetic. With its regal cypress trees saluting us, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Are you serious? Even something as common as a driveway is beautiful here.”
We were greeted warmly by Massimo Gonzi, Export Manager for Nottola winery. Many of you might remember Massimo from last year when he and fellow countryman Emiliano Morando (of Vinchio-Vaglio Serra in Piedmont) did a joint tasting at Portalis.
Massimo began our visit with a tour of the winery and the impressive grounds. He explained the history of the local wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and that the surrounding area was literally the birthplace of wines enjoyed by nobleman many centuries ago. The Nottola estate was no exception, having once been the country villa for Count Bracci in the 18th century. All the buildings were completely restored and updated thanks to Cavaliere Anterivo Giomarelli who purchased the estate in the late 80′s. In addition to renovating the historic buildings Mr. Giomarelli also planted more vineyards and modernized the original winery. Today the estate is run by his son Giuliano Giomarelli and his family. Giuliano has continued with his father’s work by expanding the vineyards to 23 hectares, upgrading the winery with the latest technology and bringing on famed eonologist Riccardo Cotarella to be consulting winemaker.
All of this Massimo explained has definitely brought Nottola to a new level of quality in recent years. The technique of aging their reds first in large Slovenian oak barrels then in French oak barriques helps bring out the expressive notes of the sangiovese grape, locally known as prugnolo gentile, the primary grape in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where they get to test it all out!
Every year, the summer months signal that wonderful time of year when many different people decide to make their love for one another public & tie the knot. As with any celebration, sparkling wine is a necessary ingredient in making every fête additionally exceptional (what’s more elegant than a champagne flute filled with bubbly?) Portalis carries quite a few options of outstanding bottles of champagne/sparkling wines, including cava (from Spain).
Wine making has been around in Spain for centuries (it was discovered that the Phonecians introduced winemaking to the Penedès about 7,000 BC). But it wasn’t until around 1870 that cava was developed as a perfect accompaniment to tapas (small plates served throughout Southern Spain). Tapas tend to be cooked using large quantities of garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, olives & salt. “Les bombelles” as ‘bubbles’ are known in the Catalan dialect cut through these strong flavors and refresh the palate [note: this is also why fried foods go so well with champagne].
The best cavas are produced in the region of Penedès (Barcelona is the capitol of this region). This is one of the most well-known regions of Spain not only because of the city of Barcelona itself but also due to some of its famous former residents (Miró, Dalí, Picasso). Today there are about 175 cava producers in the region who combine the native grape varietals of Macabeo, Parellada, & Xarel-lo (plus chardonnay in some instances) in order to create the perfect cava.
The same production method is used for cava as it is for champagne: méthode champenoise or secondary fermentation. Cava is also classified in the same way as champagne depending on sugar content. A cava can be (increasing from bone-dry to sweet) brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec, or sweet. One huge way that differentiates cava from champagne is the behavior behind each; cava is meant to be drunk alongside any night’s meal, whereas champagne obviously is a luxury reserved for special occasions. Thus, cavas are generally much more affordable.
Here are a few cavas that are perfect to help you celebrate!
Bodegas Maset NV (nu) Cava Reserva
Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Bodegas Maset has been making their delicious Cava for more than 200 years! This NU Reserva has crisp, clean, citrus fruit notes of apple & pear. Fine, elegant & festive! Delicious with smoked salmon, rich cream sauces, or marinated olives.
Bodegas Maset NV Cava Del Lleo Brut
Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case: $11.19
The del Lleo Brut has light fruit aromas on the nose with fresh, delicate white fruit notes playing on the palate as gentle bubbles linger through the dusty finish!
¡Salut + Salud!
This is a blog post meant to help de-mystify another somewhat confusing term in Italian wine: SuperTuscan. The reason that the term ‘Super Tuscan’ came into being is because of Italian wine laws. These laws strictly define what amount of what grape can be used in a specific kind of wine, where certain wines must be grown, and in some cases, they state what production methods must be used. SuperTuscans do not fit in any category of wine according to these ‘laws’.
Not only are there strict laws for blending and production, there are lables that designate the quality of the wine from a certain producer. Because Super Tuscan wines do not qualify as a specific wine, they are given the label “IGT” or “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” or “typical regional wine”. The only law these IGT Toscana wines must adhere to is that 85% of the grapes that is used in that wine must come from within the region of Tuscany.
SuperTuscan wines originated from Chianti producers around the 1970s. The overall quality of Chianti wines had deteriorated following WWII, so some of the producers decided to use different combinations of grapes in order to make a better ‘Chianti’ wine (and of course this deviated from the original blending laws). In most Tuscan wines, Sangiovese grapes are used (Chianti, Rosso di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, etc.), SuperTuscans do incorporate Sangiovese grapes however they generally use French varietals as well (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc). SuperTuscan wines are usually aged in small French oak barrels as well (as opposed to the large Slovenian oak casks used for many other Tuscan wines).
Overall, SuperTuscan wines are very special to their producers as they generally speaking are only produced in great vintages. They are meant to showcase the skill of the producer, and are often difficult to find a certain bottle of producers SuperTuscan outside of the current vintage.
Here at Portalis, we are lucky enough to carry the 2009 “Tre Pezzi” from Nottola in the heart of Tuscany near Montepulciano (a world-renowned wine producing town). It is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Petit Verdot (20%). An outstanding wine, and a true SuperTuscan!
To me, however, it just reminds me of being a kid.
One of the earliest memories I have is sitting at a table on my great-great-grandmother’s porch in Pégomas. I was fresh off my first disastrous experience with fois and I remember being given a very small glass of white wine for what my aunt declared as my “French lesson”.
As an American kid growing up on Coca Cola, this was equally as disastrous.
It occurs to me now that all the memories I compiled during these early forays into French culture, like that of the fois, were perhaps too vast for me to truly appreciate at the time.
I’m now 24, and what I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to revisit these places of my youth; to discover the vast culinary prowess of the region, a glass of rosé and a bowl of ratatouille.
There’s just something about wines from the old-world regions, something almost book-like. They have the ability to transport you miles on a taste like an author on a word.
With my eyes closed and a sip of Chateau Barbanau L’Instant (rosé from the village of Roquefort, east of Marseille) in my mouth; I can almost imagine the words roaming back toward me over the lavender covered hills: “Matt! Get down from that rock before you break your neck!”
Most people would probably consider a “comfort wine” to be something big, a brooding Cab or a Malbec. To me, however, a “comfort wine” is just a wine that puts you in a good place and makes you happy. To me, this is a Provençal wine and Barbanau fits this criteria.
Some notes on the liquid inspiration here: Chateau Barbanau 2011 L’Instant Rosé
It’s definitely something light and crisp with a nice balanced acidity and fruity (perhaps even melony) flavors. It would compliment a fish dinner or something with a bolder flavor like a citrusy roasted chicken.
As with food, when pairing wines with chocolate, match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines, and more “intense” flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines. When pairing wine with chocolate, you can look for wines with have the same flavor profile as the chocolate (nutty, cherry, other fruit, mint, etc.), or look for contrasts. Most experts would recommend “sticking” with fortified wines (ports), because the sweetness of the wines match well with chocolates. But there is more behind it. Let’s take a journey beyond fortified wines.
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar, and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate). In addition with its higher milk content, milk chocolate is a milder, sweeter product with fewer aromas and flavors. Wine pairing suggestions: a Tawny Port (try: Quinta De La Rosa 10y Tawny Port) is the ultimate match. Its nutty, caramel flavors highlight the milk chocolates’ own flavors and intensify the overall chocolate flavors.
Dark chocolate with 50% to 69% cacao has strong, complex flavors, with notes that are nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, and/or caramel. The aftertaste is balanced, not too sweet. Wine pairing suggestions: fortified fruity wines like Banyuls and Ruby Ports (try: Niepoort NV Ruby, Quinta De La Rosa Finest Reserve) have cacoa and chocolate aromas and flavors as well as cherry, raspberry or other berry fruit, and are classic companions with chocolate. Vintage Ports should be matched with caution: The high sugar and alcohol content can overwhelm the chocolate. Banyuls and nonvintage Ports have softer, rounder tannins than vintage Ports and pair better with chocolate. Another classic choice is Cabernet Sauvignon (try: Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or Sparkman Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon) or Bordeaux (try: Château Pibran Pauillac or Château Pichecan Margaux). It brings out the fruity-peppery-grapey notes in the chocolate. Zinfandel brings out chocolate’s spicy notes. Tawny Ports, which have nutty, tobacco and leather notes, also make good pairings.
The most intense, richly-flavored dark chocolate is 70% to 100% cacao. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and/or nutty notes. The same wines will match bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.
Chocolates with Caramel or Toffee
Wine pairing suggestions: Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricots, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Young Madeira (try: Broadbent Madeira 5y old) has classic caramel and toffee flavors and good acidity to pair with that kind of chocolate. Buttery caramels and toffees pair well with buttery wines. Mersault from a ripe year, with rich, lush fruit and low acid or a rich buttery Chardonnay from California (try: Shannon Ridge Chardonnay) complements the brown sugar and caramel flavors as well as the cocoa flavors of the chocolate. The nutty bouquet of a dry Oloroso Sherry complements the nuts in toffee. It’s also great with salt caramels. Sauternes, a rich sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux, has honey, apricot and peach notes, also pairs well with caramel and toffee chocolates. The chewiness of the candy stands up to the viscosity of the wine. Tawny Port enhances the nutty notes of toffee, and to a lesser extent, caramel.
Chocolates with Cinnamon and Ginger
A spicy, dry Zinfandel (try: Four Vines Maverick Old Vines Zinfandel) or a sweet Late Harvest Zinfandel (they can almost be port-like) are good options to complement the spicy notes of chocolates with cinnamon and ginger.
Chocolates with Coconut
Brachetto D’Aqui (try: Giacomo Bologna), a light sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas and flavors of strawberries and roses, is a great match with nuts and coconut. Sauternes or a Late Harvest Semillon or Moscato from Australia (try: Two Hands) are other options.
Chocolates with Coffee Flavors
Chocolates with espresso, mocha, coffee bean and other coffee flavors. Oloroso sherry or cream sherry (coffee, nutty flavors) or Australian Shiraz (try: Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz), with dark fruit, mocha, coffee, espresso flavors.
And last … Chocolates with Nuts
Including hazelnuts, almonds, and other nuts and pralines. Wine pairing suggestions: nutty Tawny Ports are the perfect match for chocolates with nuts. Sherry that is not too sweet is a good companion to almond-based chocolates, ideally a Pedro Ximinez with its almond aromas and flavors, or a well-rounded Fino. Cream Sherries match well with hazelnuts. Lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Sauternes. Other options would be Brachetto D’Aqui and Cabernet Sauvignons.
Cheers & Happy Valentine’s Day!
I noticed that Cabernet Franc was used in a lot of red blends, but it got me thinking “Does this grape have the potential to be used alone?” There are quite a few grapes that are either too overpowering, or not overpowering enough to be considered viable options for a single varietal wine, but I thought that perhaps Cabernet Franc just wasn’t getting the amount of press it deserved. It must not be too strong since in some blends it can amount for 50% or more if the wine. Thus, I decided to investigate.
Cabernet Franc is one of the major grape varietals grown throughout the world. It prefers a cooler climate, and is relatively thin skinned (meaning less tannins in the wine). Cabernet Franc is considerably lighter in body than its relative Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernet Franc is an ancestral grape for many varietals as it turns out). It adds spicy, violet aromas and finesse to wines along with flavors of raspberry and black currant. Definitely sounded like Cabernet Franc could make up a wine completely solo, and turns out that there are quite a few already produced.
Chinon, Bourgueil and St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil are not only three of the most famous Loire Valley wines, but they are almost always created using just Cabernet Franc. The best wines from each of these areas are soft and elegant, but have the full flavors of cabernet franc come through the wine. It is of course also planted widely in Bordeaux as it is used in blends throughout the region.
In North America, Cabernet Franc is used to make icewine (mostly in Canada and New York State), Napa Valley has won multiple awards for its Cab Franc wines, and in Washington state, Cabernet Franc is the fourth most planted grape (it is much more robust against cold weather than other grape varietals).
At Portalis, we carry a variety of Cabernet Franc wines (as well as Cab Franc blends). This wine not only is easy to drink, but is easy to pair with food. Cabernet Franc can be paired with vegetable dishes, poultry, red meat, pizza, sharp cheddar or bleu cheeses, and pork. You can try the Roche de Feu Chinon, 100% Cab Franc from AlphaLoire, a producer from the Loire Valley, at the bar as a glass pour. It’s medium-bodied, has a lot of earth & is a fabulous food wine. We also carry Paul Buisse 2005 L’Exceptionnel Bourgueil, another Cab Franc from the Loire Valley. If you’d prefer to try something local, we have the Owen Roe 2010 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, a beautiful, fuller-bodied Cab Franc from WA’s Yakima Valley. It’s pricier, but it’s well worth the splurge!