A Walking Tour of Sicily

As we are surrounded by the cold, dark, rainy days of Seattle in winter, I thought it would be a good time to enjoy the photos of a trip to Sicily that my parents (ardent supporters of Portalis and lovers of food & wine) took with some couple friends of theirs last spring. It was a walking tour, so every day they’d take a 4-6 hours hike (primarily through the countryside) and then they’d return to their guesthouse for a wonderful meal of local foods & wines.

Here’s the itinerary (which you can follow on the map) with photos from each day:
Map_IT_Sicily_v2

Day 1: Arrival in Syracuse with a walk through Syracuse Archaeological Park and a historical tour of Ortygia

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Day 2: Noto & Oasi Naturale di Vendicari

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Day 3: Mount Etna
This hike was moderate to challenging with an elevation gain/loss of 2200 ft.

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Day 4: Necropolis of Pantalica

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Day 5: Mount Ganzaria with a visit to Villa Romana del Casale, which is considered the most important Roman archeological site in Sicily.

Day 6: Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonnie followed by a cooking class

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Day 7: Walking tour of Cefalu, a beachside resort, followed by visits to the towns of Segesta and Erice, and the hilltop Castle of Venus.

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Day 8: Riserva Naturale di Monte Cofano, plus a wonderful night of dinner and drinks at Planeta Estate and Vineyards

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Day 9: Selinunte archaeological site; “La Dispensa” winery and vineyards

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We carry several wines produced by a large Sicilian co-op. Interested in experiencing some of the wines from this beautiful land? Let us know and we’ll hook you up:
Palazzo Malgara Inzolia
Palazzo Malgara Nerello Mascalese
Palazzo Malgara Shiraz
Palazzo Malgara Nero d’Avola

Cheers!
Julie, Co-owner
Portalis Wines & J. Strecker Selections

February 22, 2014 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

New Tasting Series: Grape Varietals A-Z

A-Z_logo_Jan 2014
Kicking off a new year, we thought it would be fun to do a comprehensive tasting series featuring as many single grape varietals as we carry in the shop. We counted them up. (There are 60+!) We put them in alphabetical order. And we’re ready to go! Here’s the schedule.  If you make a good chunk of these tastings, you will have tasted the vast majority of single grape varietals grown around the world today. We’ll offer a little educational overview on each grape including tasting notes & where it’s grown. The rest is up to you. Ready, set, go:

Outon_Albarino_2_banner
Tastings run every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from bar open (4pm) to 8pm:
Tue, 14-Jan – Albariño ~ pictured above in the Outon vineyards in Rias Baixas, Spain
Wed, 15-Jan – Aligoté
Thu, 16-Jan – Arneis
Tue, 21-Jan – Barbera
Wed, 22-Jan – Blaufraenkisch
Thu, 23-Jan – Brachetto
Tue, 28-Jan – Cabernet Franc
Wed, 29-Jan – Cabernet Sauvignon
Thu, 30-Jan – Cannonau
Claude Nouveau_grapes_chardonnay_banner
Tue, 4-Feb – Carmenère
Wed, 5-Feb – Chardonnay (France) ~ pictured above in Claude Nouveau’s vineyards
Thu, 6-Feb – Chardonnay (California)
Tue, 11-Feb – Chenin Blanc
Wed, 12-Feb – Cortese
Thu, 13-Feb – Dolcetto
Tue, 18-Feb – Garganega
Wed, 19-Feb – Garnacha Grenache
Thu, 20-Feb – Grauvernatsch (Schiava Grigio)
Tue, 25-Feb – Grüner Veltliner
Wed, 26-Feb – Inzolia
Thu, 27-Feb – Kerner
Pelassa_Nebbiolo
Tue, 4-Mar – Lagrein
Wed, 5-Mar – Malbec
Thu, 6-Mar – Melon de Bourgogne
Tue, 11-Mar – Merlot
Wed, 12-Mar – Montepulciano
Thu, 13-Mar – Moscato
Tue, 18-Mar – Muscat
Wed, 19-Mar – Nebbiolo ~ pictured above in the Pelassa vineyards of Piedmont, Italy
Thu, 20-Mar – Nerelo Mascalese
Tue, 25-Mar – Nero d’Avola
Wed, 26-Mar – Pedro Ximenez
Thu, 27-Mar – Petit Verdot
Claude Nouveau_grapes_v2_banner
Tue, 1-Apr – Petite Syrah
Wed, 2-Apr – Pineau d’Aunis
Thu, 3-Apr – Pinot Bianco
Tue, 8-Apr – Pinot Blanc
Wed, 9-Apr – Pinot Grigio
Thu, 10-Apr – Pinot Grigio
Tue, 15-Apr – Pinot Noir (France)
Wed, 16-Apr – Pinot Noir (Oregon)
Thu, 17-Apr – Pinotage
Tue, 22-Apr – Primitivo
Wed, 23-Apr – Prosecco
Thu, 24-Apr – Riesling
Tue, 29-Apr – Sangiovese
Wed, 30-Apr – Sauvignon Blanc (France)
BLOG_Jens in Australia_Shiraz grapes from Beachworth_Victoria_v4
Thu, 1-May – Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Tue, 6-May – Semillon
Wed, 7-May – Shiraz ~ pictured above from Jens’ trip to Victoria, Australia
Thu, 8-May – Syrah (Old World)
Tue, 13-May – Syrah (New World)
Wed, 14-May – Tempranillo
Thu, 15-May – Torrontes
Tue, 20-May – Verdejo
Wed, 21-May – Vernaccia
Thu, 22-May – Viognier
Tue, 27-May – Welschriesling
Wed, 28-May – Zinfandel
Thu, 29-May – Zweigelt

This should be a lot of fun! Look forward to seeing you there!
Julie, Jens & the Portalis team

January 14, 2014 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Portalis Staff Dreams Big for the Holidays

It’s a tradition! Every December we ask your lovely Portalis staff what they would like to drink for the holidays. Here’s what they said:

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Jens & Paul Reitz Vosne Romanee
Jens:  Ahhh, this year it’s Burgundy! I’d pick the Claude Nouveau Premier Cru or the Paul Reitz Vosne-Romanée, either one. Festive, beautifully-made wines. Cherry, dark fruit. They pair with everything. Always a class act!

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Rhiannon & Lagrein Riserva
RhiAnnon: You’ve corrupted me. My go-to was always my high-end Washington wines (which I love), but I’m going Old World this time: Burgum Novum Lagrein Riserva. When you take a sip of this wine, it will make you stop mid-sentence and think about what you are enjoying. Lesser-known varietal. It will knock your socks off!

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Travis & Stevenson Barrie PN
Travis: Stevenson – Barrie 2009 Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley! Great structure and acidity with lingering black cherry & cedar finish.

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Matt & Pelassa Barolo
Matt: This past year saw me get married in my personal life as well as learn to serve wine to the public in my professional life. In both cases, I’ve learned that patience is, in fact, a virtue. In this same vein, I would love to have  Pelassa’s 2007 Barolo, a wine beautiful now, and even more so in the years to come.

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Evann & Priorat
Evann: I’d choose the Bodegas Maset 2011 Mas Viló Priorat. The first time I tasted it I fell in love! It reminded me of cold weather and the holidays! A wonderful Christmas Dinner wine!

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Daniel & ferrer
Daniel: My pick for wine is Achaval 2007 Quimera. Because once opened up, it has lovely texture & complexity with a hint of plum, cinnamon & chocolate. This makes it an excellent winter wine!

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Tracey & Jean Veselle
Tracey: Same song, different year! Champagne! This year I’d go with the Jean Veselle Reserve if I had my choice. Cheers!

Dec 2013_Staff Picks_Julie & Rauda Musai
Julie
: Probably because I want to go there, I’d choose a deep, dark, well-aged Spanish Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. Since I lived in Germany in the early 1990’s I’ve dreamt of a trip through northern Spain. Now 20+ years later, it would be a wine trip through northern Spain. Sounds good, huh? My friend Catherine Reynolds (you can find her at the Spanish Table) once described wines from this part of Spain as ‘hedonistic pleasure bombs’. I can’t wait to try mine: Bodegas Rauda 2009 Musai de Tinto Roa. Cheers!

From our house to yours, happy holidays!
Jens, Julie + the Portalis team

December 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Remembering Holidays Past

Holiday Recipes & Wine Pairings_2010
Three years ago, Chef Tracy got the idea to create a Little Book of Recipes. We got Jens to do the wine pairings, did a little research on how to create a beautiful, handmade book, and we were off with a lovely little book of Portalis recipes for the holidays. It flew off the shelves! It was such a hit that we have decided to post some of our favorite recipes from that wonderful little book, along with updated wine pairings. We hope you enjoy these delicious yet totally doable holiday home recipes. Cheers!

Gougères with Gorgonzola Mousse,
Red Grapes & Walnuts
~ paired with ~
Cave de Bissey Crémant de Bourgogne

Mâche Salad with Roasted Butternut
Squash & Cranberries
~ paired with ~
Castelfeder 2011 “Lahn” Kerner

Roasted Duck with Pomegranate Molasses Sauce,
Maple Sweet Potato Gratin &
Brussels Sprout Gratin with Hazelnut Crust
~ paired with ~
Domaine de Nalys
2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réserve

Sticky Toffee Pudding
~ paired with ~
Porto Kopke 20-Year Old Tawny Port

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Gougères with Gorgonzola Mousse, Red Grapes & Walnuts

Little Book of Recipes_Gougeres & Bissey

Gougères
1 cup water
3 oz butter
1 tsp salt
pinch white pepper
pinch nutmeg
1 cup flour, 4 eggs, 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put water, butter, salt, pepper & nutmeg in a saucepan on medium heat and bring to simmer. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the paste is pulling off the sides of the pan. Take off the stove & stir in the parmesan cheese. Put mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment & mix on low until the steam stops coming out of the dough. Then add eggs (one at a time) scraping the bowl in between to incorporate eggs evenly into the dough. Then I put the dough in a piping bag and pipe onto a sheet pan, making them about the size of a quarter and placing them about 1½ inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes until golden in color & puffy. Note: if you don’t want to use a piping bag you can use a teaspoon to drop onto the sheet pan.

These gougeres can be served warm by themselves as simple little cheese puffs or you can cool them, cut off the top & fill them with anything you like. I like to fill them with a gorgonzola mousse:

Gorgonzola Mousse
8 oz crumbled gorgonzola (room temp)
4 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 Tbs butter (room temp)
red pear or red grapes & toasted walnut halves to garnish

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment, whip cream cheese on high speed until light & fluffy. Then slowly add the gorgonzola & whip until light & fluffy. Add butter & mix to incorporate.

Then cut the top off of the gougères and fill with the mousse.
(Again, I use a piping bag but you can use a spoon.) Garnish with red grapes cut in half or a slice of red pear and a piece of toasted walnut.

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Mâche Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash & Cranberries

Little Book of Recipes_Salad & Kerner

Salad
2 medium butternut squash
1 cup dried cranberries
1 5-oz container of organic mache (usually with the bagged salad mixes in gourmet grocery stores; substitute spinach if you like)
pinch of nutmeg
1 oz olive oil

Peel butternut squash, scrape out seeds & medium dice. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the diced squash, olive oil, salt, pepper & a pinch of nutmeg in a bowl and put on a sheet pan. Roast for 7 to 10 minutes until squash is tender. Cool.  Then, in a salad bowl, toss the squash, mache & cranberries with the maple vinaigrette (recipe to follow), adding enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad.

I make candied walnuts as a garnish but to save time you can buy candied walnuts or pecans, which you can usually find in the bulk food sections of most grocery stores.

Maple Vinaigrette
¼ cup best quality maple syrup
1/8  cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp minced shallot
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of salt & pepper
½ cup olive oil

Place maple syrup, vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt & pepper in a bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil. You can also use a hand blender and drizzle in the olive oil to make a thicker, emulsified vinaigrette. Toss with salad immediately before serving.

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Roasted Duck with Pomegranate Molasses Sauce

Little Book of Recipes_Duck with cherry molasses sauce & Nalys Reserve_v2

I recommend a pomegranate molasses sauce for its sweet & tart components as the perfect complement to the richness of the duck.

Duck
1 whole duck
½ cup kosher salt
2 Tbs sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice

This is a 2-day process, so you’ll need to plan ahead. First thing you want to do is wash the duck inside & out with cold water and pat dry with a towel. Then combine all other ingredients to make your salt rub. Rub inside of cavity with the salt rub & thoroughly rub the outside as well. Put on a sheet pan place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day wash the duck again in cold water to get the salt rub off & pat dry with a towel. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the duck on a roasting rack (breast side up) and roast for 10 to 15 minutes to crisp up the skin and render out some of the fat. Then turn the oven down to 250 degrees & roast for 3 to 4 hours, basting the duck every 30 minutes with the fat from the bottom of the pan. The duck is done when the leg moves easy at the joint.

Sauce
8 cups pomegranate juice
1 sprig of sage
1 star anise pod
1 shallot (sliced)
1 tsp black peppercorn

Put pomegranate juice in a sauce pan on medium high heat. Bring juice up to a simmer & reduce by half. Then add sage, star anise, shallot & peppercorn and reduce on low until juice is thick like molasses.  Strain sauce & serve warm with the duck.

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Maple Sweet Potato Gratin

1 lb Red Garnet sweet potatoes
1 lb yellow sweet potatoes
1 lb butter
2 cups Grade A maple syrup
1 cup pecans (chopped)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup cold butter (diced)

Melt 1 lb butter & maple syrup on medium heat until it begins to simmer, then take off the heat & set aside.  Peel & slice potatoes into ¼ inch slices.  Put into a bowl and toss with the maple butter mixture and salt & pepper. Put the potato mixture in a 10 inch round gratin dish, patting down to compress the potatoes. Put foil over the gratin & bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, make the pecan streusel topping. Put the pecans, brown sugar & flour in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold (½ cup) butter & pulse a few times until mixture resembles course bread crumbs. Then take the foil off the potato gratin, add the pecan topping & bake for 15 more minutes uncovered.

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

Brussels Sprout Gratin with Hazelnut Crust

1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 cup bechamel sauce (recipe to follow)
1 cup cave-aged gruyère (shredded)
½ cup skinned hazelnuts
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup butter (melted)

Bechamel Sauce
1 cup half & half
½  yellow onion
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 sprig thyme
1 garlic clove
pinch nutmeg
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour

To make the bechamel, put the half & half in a sauce pan and add bay leaf, clove, sprig of thyme, garlic clove & nutmeg and simmer for 15 minutes to infuse flavors. Strain and cool to room temp. Then in a sauce pan melt butter, add flour and stir with a whisk until a paste forms. Then slowly pour in the half & half while whisking over medium heat and continue to whisk until sauce thickens. Cool to room temp.

Wash Brussels sprouts in cold water & pull off the outside leaves. Cut the bottom off & then slice Brussels sprouts in a ¼ inch slice. Melt 2 Tbs butter in a sauté pan & add the Brussels sprouts. Cook on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the sprouts are tender. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside in a mixing bowl.

Add the cooled bechamel & gruyere to your Brussels sprouts and fold together. Pour the mixture into a gratin dish. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse a couple times. Add the bread crumbs & butter and pulse again to combine. Crumble over top of the gratin & bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until the edges are bubbling.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

Little Book of Recipes_Sticky Toffee pudding & port

Pudding
2 cups diced dates
2¼ cups water
1½ tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 inch square baking pan (2 inches deep), knocking out excess flour. In a 2 quart saucepan, simmer dates in water (uncovered) for 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and stir in baking soda. (Mixture will foam.) Let mixture stand at room temp for 20 minutes. In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, ginger & salt. In a stand mixer beat together butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating after each addition until just combined. Add date mixture with a spatula and stir batter until combined. Pour batter into baking pan. Set pan into a larger baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. (This water bath insulates the cake so that it doesn’t heat up too quickly, causing the center to rise & crack.) Bake in middle of the oven until tester comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from water bath & set on a rack to cool.

Sauce
¾ cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter
1½ cups dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp vanilla

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add the brown sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream & vanilla. Simmer sauce until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Then serve warm pudding with warm sauce over it. I like to garnish with brandy whipped cream or the ice cream of your choice.

Hope you enjoy these recipes! Happy Holidays to you & yours!

December 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

Rosé & Thanksgiving, a Perfect Pair!

BLOG_Rose & Thanksgiving_Nov 2013
Rosé has built up a lovely following of fair-weathered friends, and who’s to argue? What could be more refreshing than a crisp yet still fruity, cool refreshing glass of coral colored wine (with the sun shining through!)?  What has gotten overlooked in this weather-based attachment is that rosé ranks as perhaps the quintessential food wine.  It, literally, can pair with everything, even a big fat juicy steak. Now we’re not suggesting that it’s superior to a big tannic red, but it’s decent with the steak & it’s delightful with the side salad (unlike that massive Cab).

What is rosé? Rosé is made from red grapes, although there are other methods of rosé wine production that combine red &white wines (this is an illegal process in France and generally looked down upon as a way of producing this kind of wine). The most common way of producing rosé is due to skin contact with the juice. The skins are allowed to ferment with the rest of the juice for a certain period of time (usually one to three days). The longer the skins are left in contact with the juice, the darker and more vibrant the color in the final rosé wine. To extract the skins for the juice, the mash is pressed. (In red wine making, the skins are left in during the entire fermentation process, leading to tannic wines).

Why is it such a good food wine? Rosé wine is slightly more robust than most white wines, and its acidity is a little softer than most whites, making it rounder and more flexible with respect to food. That said, Thanksgiving can be a tricky meal for wine & a beautifully made, well-balanced rosé would make a wonderful pair to the demands of a gamey-salty-sweet traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Here are some of our favorites, including several rosé sparkling wines:

Label_FR_Barbanau 2011
Chateau Barbanau 2011 L’Instant Rosé
Reg $22.99 | INSIDER $21.99 | Mixed Case $17.59
From the classic rosé region, Provence, Château Barbanau has been family owned for over a hundred years with Sophie & Didier Simonini-Cerciello currently at the helm.  Made from 90% Grenache & 10% Syrah, this rosé has a bright clear blush color with a nose of red fruits with white floral notes & peach flesh. Fresh, with great finesse, full & fleshy. Has never met a food it doesn’t pair perfectly with. We’re down to our last bottles, so make your move quickly if interested.

Label_FR_Croix Bouquie Rose
Domaine de La Croix Bouquie 2010 Rosé
Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
This young domaine is owned by Alpha Loire, a trio of friends who combine their passion for wine with sustainable farming. Pineau d’Aunis, also known as Chenin Noir, is often used to make sparkling wines or in this case a very unique rosé. Pale pink with flavors of strawberry & rhubarb, this has a round soft finish. Pair with spicy ethnic foods, seafood, BBQ …or roasted turkey! One of our best selling rosé.

Label_IT_Montecchiesi Selverello Rose_no frame
Tenuta Montecchiesi 2011 Selverello Sangiovese Rosato

Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
The Dal Cero family based in the Veneto also own and operate this small estate in Tuscany. Tenuta Montecchiesi vineyards are located near Cortona. Made from 100% Sangiovese this rosé has brief skin contact resulting in its vivid pink hue. Fruity and rich with notes of ripe mixed berries, it is great with all meals. A few highlights are cold meats and delicate fish dishes & fowl dishes, either stewed or grilled.

Label_IT_Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe_Blush_4_no frame
Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe 2011 Pinot Grigio Ramato (Blush)
Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79
Okay, so this wine is not technically a rosé as it’s 100% Pinot Grigio, but it sure looks & acts like one! Produced by the Dal Cero family, it’s created according to the ancient tradition of the Republic of Venice, leaving the wine in contact with skins for 12 hours, creating this beautiful copper colored wine. Aromas of exotic fruits with sweet white flowers. Lush & velvety on the palate. People love this wine & it would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving table!

Label_IT_La Farra Rosé_no frame
La Farra Rosé Cuvée
Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
The Nardi family, specializing in high quality Prosecco, has their winery in the village of Farra di Soligo. This exceptional sparkling rosé is made from mostly glera grapes with a touch of Raboso (red grapes) for color. Dry and superbly soft, it’s full of structure and is a perfect aperitif or Thanksgiving dinner wine. Saluté!

Label_AU_Prechtl Schaumwein_no frame
Weingut Prechtl Pinot Noir Sparkling

Reg $19.99 | INSIDER $18.99 | Mixed Case $15.19
Petra & Franz Prechtl own & run this 15 hectare estate (established 1839). This dry sparkling Pinot Noir is a lip-smacking opportunity to impress at your next occasion. Pale copper/pink hues, vibrant with notes of strawberries & cherries followed by a soft creamy finish! A perfect match with rich fish, roasted game or poultry or to quench a spicy dish. Prost!

The Portalis team would love to hook you up with these wines or any other wines that would be of interest to you for your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, so please stop by!

Cheers,
Julie & Jens

November 18, 2013 at 7:03 am Leave a comment

A Day with the Giovanett’s & Castelfeder Winery

Castelfeder_01

We arrived in the Cortina village square at dusk after driving over the Brenner Pass in Austria and then down through the Alps, over Bozen (Bolzano). There was an old castle ruin on top of a mountain peak every turn of the way. We were in the northern Italian region of Alto Adige, but the look and feel of the landscape and the architecture was Germanic.

Castelfeder_07_d

The next morning we met Ines Giovanett, daughter of Günther & Sandra Giovanett, the proprietors of the estate and sister of Ivan Giovanett, winemaker. She took us on a tour of their vineyards on the eastern side of the valley:

Castelfeder_07

Castelfeder_03

Castelfeder_Aug 2013_Ines in wineyards with dog

The tour included such Castelfeder label landmarks as the stone on the “Rieder” Lagrein label and the bridge on the “Glener” Pinot Nero label (on our next shipment):

Castelfeder_Aug 2013_label_stone on fence

Castelfeder_Aug 2013_Annelie on the bridge_square

After our morning tour, we met Ines’ (very fit 90+ year old) grandparents who live in a house on the property, and then we settled down to lunch on the terrace.

Castelfeder_02

After melon & parma ham, garden tomatoes with mozzarrela & basil, vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal with a tuna & anchovy sauce, spaghetti with tomato sauce, pasta with homemade garden pesto, and ice cream for dessert (and tasting through the wines in their lineup!!), we headed out through the apple orchards on the valley floor to their winery, just off the main village square in Cortina.

Castelfeder_08_a

Castelfeder_11

Ines gave us a great tour, finishing in the Castelfeder cellar:

Castelfeder_Aug 2013_Ines in cellar

After saying good-bye & many thanks to Ines, we returned to our hotel for dinner…

Castelfeder_15

…and took some silly photos to remember the day:

Castelfeder_12

Castelfeder_17

And then we ended our wonderful tour, full-circle, admiring the beautiful village square at dusk:

Castelfeder_16

We direct import (close to) the full Castelfeder line as well as their premium Burgum Novum line. All of the following wines are available at Portalis. As well, lovely Ines Giovanett will be in Seattle next week, so join us for a tasting next Thursday, October 24 (RSVP>) to hear the details of this extraordinary land & the wonderful wines it produces!

Castelfeder Pinot Biance “Vom Stein”
Castelfeder Pinot Grigio “15”
Castelfeder Kerner “Lahn”
Castelfeder Grauvernatsch/Schiava “Kegl”
Castelfeder Lagrein “Rieder”

Burgum Novum Pinot Nero Riserva
Burgum Novum Cabernet Riserva
Burgum Novum Lagrein Riserva

Cheers!
Julie, Co-Owner
Portalis Wines & J. Strecker Selections

October 17, 2013 at 2:23 am Leave a comment

Weingut Prechtl & a Trip to Austria’s Weinviertel

BLOG_Prechtl_sign

Portalis owner Jens Strecker & his family visited some of their producers in Italy & Austria this past summer. Julie (his wife & business partner) reported in on Weingut Prechtl:

On our way out of Austria, we passed through the Kamptal & Wachau Valleys, beautiful stretches along the Donau with vineyards straight up the steep slopes of the river valley and medieval castles on top of craggy mountains around every bend in the road. And as we drove through, Jens would point out wineries we used to carry: delicious wines, too expensive.

BLOG_Prechtl_farmland_square

Our drive out to the Prechtl’s didn’t look like this. Heading northwest out of Vienna until you’re about 10k short of the Czech border, you find relatively flat farmland with small rural villages. On the map, the DOC known as the Weinviertel (translates as Wine Quarter) looks huge, but you don’t really begin to see vineyards until you’re on the Weinstrasse about 10k short of the Czech border. Even when we arrived in our destination village of Zellerndorf, we didn’t see the magic until we spent the day with the Prechtl’s.

BLOG_Prechtl_weingarten

Down at the end of the village road, just before you head into more rolling vineyards, is the entrance to their oasis, a beautiful Weingarten within the walls of the once functioning farmhouse that Franz Prechtl grew up in. From April thru September the Prechtl’s open their doors on Saturday from 10am to 7pm for guests to have a sit, taste their wines, eat some of their delicious homemade local foods (sausages cooked in Grüner Veltliner and black bread with different sorts of house schmalz). The garden was full of trees, blooming flowers and huge pots filled with Oleander. It had German-style biergarten tables and from the time we arrived for breakfast until we left mid-afternoon, it was packed. They told us that this is the fifth year that they’ve had their Weingarten and business is brisk with locals, tourists and a good number of visitors from Vienna (about an hour away) looking for a weekend getaway from the big city.

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Franz Prechtl (pictured above) is a big man, easily 6’5″ or 6’6″ and he’s serious about the little empire he’s building. He left home at 16 to attend a winemaking school combined with Abitur (German high school for university bound students) and was living in Vienna some years later when we met Petra Prechtl (6 years his junior and also from Zellerndorf) and they decided to return to the farm and make their living making wine. From this modest beginning, the Prechtl’s have risen to notoriety, receiving the honor of Austria’s Champion Grüner Veltliner with their 2012 Längen Gruener Veltliner at the annual Austrian wine competition known as SALON.

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Weingut Prechtl was founded in 1839 by Karl Prechtl, whose original wine press and huge aging barrels are still in a cellar next to their Altenberg vineyard & a few yards down the road from the village church which was started in the 900’s and completed in the 1100’s. Franz clearly feels a strong connection to his land and his grapes. He’s not as interested in buying other people’s grapes as he is in acquiring more vineyards to grow his own. His philosophy in the vineyards is to let the grapes grow as naturally as possible and then to make accessible, juicy, delicious wine. He’s a serious guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. That may be due in some part to the influence of his wife of 20 years, Petra (pictured with Franz below). She is a woman with a lot of personal warmth and a quick smile. She runs the business side of their wine business as well as leading the team in the Weingarten every Saturday.

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The Prechtl’s have a diverse line of whites (Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling, Riesling), reds (Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, and blends of the 3), as well as a line of dessert wines and Pinot Noir bubbly. The Weinviertel is not picture-book experience that other Austrian wine regions provide, but it’s a wonderful look at real life wine production in northeastern Austria, and the Prechtl’s are a top-notch example of the stellar wines produced in the Weinveirtel & Austria as a whole! Importantly, too, as an insider-tip, these wines don’t carry the price tag of wines from better known areas and more famous producers. The Prechtl’s, with their hospitality, their beautiful Weingarten & their deep connection to their history and their land, make a worthy destination if you’re ever in the area.

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In the meantime, here are the Prechtl wines that J. Strecker imports into Seattle. All are available at Portalis. It’s truly a stellar lineup:

Weingut Prechtl Classic Grüner Veltliner 2012
Weingut Prechtl Längen vom Löss Grüner Veltliner 2011
Weingut Prechtl Altenberg vom Urgestein Grüner Veltliner 2011
Weingut Prechtl alte Reben aus Löss Grüner Veltliner 2012 (arriving end of Sep 2013)
Weingut Prechtl Kirchfeld vom Löss Welschriesling 2011
Weingut Prechtl Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (arriving end of Sep 2013)

Weingut Prechtl Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine (arriving end of Sep 2013)
Weingut Prechtl Weinviertler Rotweincuvée (Reserve Red)
Weingut Prechtl 2010 Satzen (Zweigelt)

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Cheers to the great work that they are doing!
Julie

September 13, 2013 at 6:34 am Leave a comment

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