Take a Wine Trip to Tuscany with Gina

It’s your big chance! You’ve heard about these wonderful wine tours to Italy with Gina at the helm. Now is the perfect time to join in for her fall trip.  Below are pictures as well as a sample itenerary for what you’d get to do if you decide to sign up. Photography © Red Box Pictures

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PREMIER VINEYARD TOURSFALL TOUR 2013
Saturday, October 5th – Saturday, October 12th

Be our guest for an exquisite weeklong winery tour to Tuscany, Italy. Your tour includes: • Pick-up and drop-off from Florence airport, • 7 winery tours, cooking class, & ground transportation • Breakfast and lunch included. Most dinners included, with two dinners on your own. Tour cost is €3,200 per person (airfare not included).

Below is a sample itinerary of the extraordinary week you’ll enjoy as a guest on one of our exclusive personal tours. For a detailed itinerary visit www.premiervineyardtours.com or email us at info@premiervineyardtours.com to book your tour today!

Day 1 Arrival and check in by 4pm – Welcome reception and visit to a local winery in San Gimignano for tour, tasting and light appetizers. The evening ends with a welcome dinner in the historic center of San Gimignano.

Day 2 Our adventure begins with a visit to the Chianti Classico region for winery tour and tasting at one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Tuscany and picnic lunch. Dinner will be a multi-course family meal prepared at the villa.

Day 3 We head south to the Arezzo Chianti wine region for a vineyard tour and tasting plus lunch at a very small, family owned organic winery followed by a visit to historic Siena to dine at local wine bar.

Day 4 Travel to the famous Brunello region of Tuscany for a full day of touring. We will visit two area wineries with a lunch, al fresco, over looking the beautiful valley. Upon our return to San Gimignano, there is dinner at a lovely osteria in Saint Agostino piazza.

Day 5 We stay local with an all-day, hands-on cooking class at family operated agriturismo. Learn local recipes and after each course is prepared, enjoy the dishes along with the typical wines of the region.

Day 6 Today, we visit one of Chianti’s most impressive wineries and tour the family’s beautiful castle gardens & private cellar followed by a multi-course lunch at the winery especially designed to highlight their wines.

Day 7 Unwind with a leisure walk and lunch in the famous commune of Volterra; known for its Neolithic history and Etruscan walls. The evening ends with a farewell celebration dinner in one of the areas best ristoranti.

Day 8 Checkout of villa by 10am.

You can book your tour at www.premiervineyardtours.com . Hope to hear from you soon!

Ciao,
Gina, Co-owner
Premier Vineyard Tours

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Montepulciano – An Afternoon at Nottola Winery – Part 2

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To see Montepulciano – An Afternoon at Nottola Winey – Part 1>

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.

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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.

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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,
Gina

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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

Montepulciano – An Afternoon at Nottola Winery (Part 1)

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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.

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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.

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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!

What is a Super Tuscan?

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Vineyards around the Nottola estate in Montepulciano

This is a blog post meant to help de-mystify another somewhat confusing term in Italian wine: Super Tuscan. 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, Super Tuscan 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.

Label_IT_Nottola Tre PezziHere 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!

Cheers,
Kyle

Staff “Dream Picks” for the 2012 Holiday Season

Three years ago I asked this question: If you could have any wine in the shop as a gift this December, which one would it be & why?  I decided it was time to pose the question again…

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Gina: What I wish Santa would bring me?? Pelassa 2007 Barolo! Why? I have such fond memories of my visit to this beautiful region and the gracious family that toils over the land to produce this world-class stunner! It has hints of rich balsamic in the nose with layers of black cherry & elegant tannins. A refined Barolo young, but what keeps you smiling with every sip is that you can taste its potential down the road…it is anything but tame! Plus ~ it would drink just dandy with our Christmas meal : ) So please Santa…

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Karli: The most religious of all wines: Chateauneuf du Pape! I’d pick: Domaine de Marcoux 2010

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Sky: The biggest one you’ve got from Australia: John Duval!

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Tracey: You know what I’m going to pick; the same thing I picked 3 years ago: Champagne. If I could have any bottle, I’d go with:  Michel Turgy NV Reserve Champagne Blanc de Blancs

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Jens: I’m going with Bordeaux. I could pick any wine I wanted to import via J. Strecker Selections and I picked: Château Franc Grâce-Dieu 2009 St-Emilion Grand Cru.  To be honest, I didn’t know its pedigree.  I was tasting through a lot of wine last spring when I was in Europe and I knew immediately this wine was killer for the price. But just in case you’re into predigree, it has a 300+ year history of winemaking and is located near Château Figeac (truly one of the greats in my opinion) and 2 kilometers down the road from Cheval Blanc. It’s prime real estate, and this wine with its lightly toasted flavors overlaying black currant & blackberries with a touch of pencil lead, ceder. Complex, well-balanced. It is a fantastic wine!

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JJ: Wow, that’s a tough one! Well, I really am in love with the Castelfeder Lagrein for obvious reasons, but if I get to step it up a notch, I’d go with the Sineann Pinot Noir! I love a lot of the Sineann wines for their relatively small production, hand harvesting of old vines, and their tremendous passion for producing a consistent high-end product.

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Travis: Red Burgundy. Gérard Raphet 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru. The perfect food wine; fruit & acid are well-balanced.

There you have it!

Happy holidays & cheers,
Julie

Where’s Gina? Part 3: Prosecco Land at La Farra


For our last wine tour in Italy, we journeyed 2 hours northeast of Verona to the province of Treviso & home to one of my favorite wines to drink…Prosecco! We spent nearly the whole day with the wonderful Nardi family, who owns & operates La Farra, a Prosecco producer and one Jens’ direct imports. Brothers Innocente & Guido along with their sister, Adamaria, own & operate La Farra (named after their village Farra di Soligo) which began in 1997. Though the winery is young, it has become well-known internationally for its superb quality and excellence. (Innocente is the current President of the Prosecco consortium.)

Most of you are familiar with the delicious Italian sparkling wine known as Prosecco. I myself started drinking it many years ago, purely as an affordable option for bubbles. Don’t let the price tag fool you! Prosecco is a very serious sparkling and with its DOCG status for the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region as of 2009, it’s considered one of the great wines of Italy.


Our tour began with a tasting of several of their Proseccos including their Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore along with some local salumi & cheese. We then visited their modern production facility where both Adamaria & Guido Nardi explained the process of making prosecco.  Pictured below, Guido explains the bottling line for their prosecco.

The main difference between the Italian method and Champagne method of making sparkling wine is that with prosecco the secondary fermenation takes place in steel tanks versus in the bottle for Champagne. (Also the latter is often aged for years in the bottle.) Prosecco must be made with at least 85% of “Glera” the primary grape of prosecco, with a maximum of 15% of any of the other approved grapes, which includes Verdiso, Perera, Bianchetta, Glera Lunga, Pinot or Chardonnay. Note: La Farra uses 100% Glera for all of their Prosecco.

The landscape of the Prosecco region was breathtaking, with its many steep hillsides and valley floor covered with vineyards. The production zone extends over an area of 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres) with altitudes ranging from 160 to 1600 feet. All this equates to one stunningly beautiful and impressive wine region! Here are some photos from our day:


Cartizze Vineyard – The famous Cartizze hillside located in Valdobbiadene is a Cru zone with only 262 acres. Considered one of the most expensive terroirs in Italy, prosecco from the Cartizze zone is truly special. I was thrilled to be seeing it with my own eyes!


Collagu Vineyard – After a 15 minute drive straight up a windy road through the forest, we came upon the small commune of Collagu, home to La Farra’s superiore vineyard. It’s also their steepest at over 1200 feet. Innocente explained due to the steepness of these vines, it takes 20 people over 2 days to harvest only 2 hectares.


Steep vineyard – This is just a random vineyard in the Valdobbiadene region. I wanted to show how steep the vineyards are. Everything is hand-harvested. Even if they wanted to use machines to harvest, it’s impossible due to how steep the vineyards are!


Conegliano Valley (panoramic) – The other important village that the prosecco DOCG zone lies between.


La Farra Winery – Interior of La Farra’s modern production facility.


With Adamaria – Our gracious host! We are standing on the ledge of where their Superiore Vineyard (Collagu) is located. Thank you to the Nardi family for such an amazing tour of their beautiful region and winery. I cannot wait to visit again!

There are many levels of dryness for Prosecco including Brut, Extra Dry and Dry which are distinguished by the quantity of residual sugar in each. Here at Portalis we are proud to offer the following La Farra Prosecco Brut, Extra Dry & Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG. My personal favorite for only a few dollars more is their Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. We currently pour the La Farra Extra Dry at the bar, so stop by for a glass!

Cheers!
Gina

Where’s Gina? In Soave with the Dal Cero Family

We had such a wonderful visit to the Dal Cero family winery located in the Soave district of Veneto. Soave is one of my favorite white wines, so it was a much anticipated visit.  Greeted by Francesca Dal Cero and her father Dario, we started off with a tour of their winemaking facility. This was the first time I had visited a winery that only makes white wine. A noticeable difference was it was mostly all steel tanks. Only a few oak barrels were on hand to age their single vineyard “Runcata” Soave Superiore wine.


The Dal Cero winery was founded in 1934 by Dario’s father, Augusto Dal Cero. Three generations later they are producing top quality wines in the Soave district. [Note the 5 Star “Outstanding” rating in last month’s Decanter Magazine.]  Owner, Dario is a very kind man, with a great sense of humor. Even though he doesn’t speak very much english, it didn’t stop him from showing us around, including his special technique of adding dry ice to the crushing machine to help protect the grapes from oxygen. That was a new one to me!

After the winery tour, Francesca drove us up to their vineyard sites, a winding road that took us up over 300 meters to a hillside that is now an extinct volcano (one of two in the area). The view of the valley below was spectacular even on a cloudy day. But the best part was their single vineyard site home to 80 year old garganega vines that her grandfather had planted.

The tour ended with a fantastic lunch prepared by Francesca’s mother Laura where we had the opportunity to taste their wines (and some aged Soave) with pasta, local meats & cheeses. We felt honored that the whole family took a break from their winery duties to enjoy lunch with us including Francesca’s two brothers Davide, Enrico and his girlfriend.

One of the most fun moments was watching Davide chill down their spumante in dry ice (since they have it around?) then opening it a la “sabrage style”, yes sword and all! Bubbles never tasted so good. Apparently he and Enrico are passionate about bubbles (they have an impressive collection of Champagne) and are determined to make high quality brut sparkling with 100% Chardonnay.

The Dal Cero family are unique because not only do they own and operate a winery in Soave, but in 1980, Dario Dal Cero bought a vineyard in Cortona, Tuscany, where they produce several whites, Sangiovese, Supertuscan and Syrah wines. Guess where I’ll be headed to next time I’m in Tuscany??

Note: The principal grape of Soave (white wine) is Garganega but other grapes such a Chardonnay are allowed in small amounts. Often light-bodied with fresh, fruity notes Soave can also be aged into elegant, rich and complex wines. We proudly carry the following Dal Cero family wines at Portalis:

Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe 2011 Soave (Decanter: 5 Stars “Outstanding”)
$15.66 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $

Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe 2011 Pinot Grigio
$15.66 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $

Tentua di Corte Giacobbe 2011 Pinot Grigio Blush
$17.66 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $

Tenuta Montecchiesi 2010 Selverello IGT
$15.66 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $

Stay tuned … La Farra (Prosecco) is next!

Cheers from the road,
Gina