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:
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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

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A Day with the Giovanett’s & Castelfeder Winery

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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.

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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:

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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):

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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.

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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.

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

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

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…and took some silly photos to remember the day:

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

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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

Weingut Prechtl & a Trip to Austria’s Weinviertel

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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!

Comfort Wine ~ What’s it to you?

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On first impression, Provence evokes thoughts of food, savory herbs and perhaps a nice bowl of bouillabaisse.

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!”

It’s comforting.

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.

What’s it to you? What’s your favorite “comfort wine”?
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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.

Cheers,
Matt