Monthly Archives: October 2009

Grapelive Latest: Wine of the Week

papapietro07.gif2007 Papapietro-Perry Pinot Noir “Peter’s Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
This is a fantastic wine, and a remarkable Pinot Noir that stands out in what is all ready an amazing vintage. Without question this winery has reached new heights and with this vintage may have equaled Rocchioli and other top wineries in the region, well to be honest they might have surpassed them in this vintage. I was floored by the precision and balance achieved on this complex and smooth Pinot, and the freshness of the fruit and acidity that lifts the flavors. This wine is near perfect with raspberry, black plum, rich cherry fruits with hints of cola, currant, smoke, sweet tea spice and warm vanilla. This wine is long and lush, but still lively and as exciting as a Grand Cru, but Californian all the while. ($55 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Latest: Staglin Family & Felsina Berardenga

Grapelive Latest: Staglin & Felsina

By Kerry Winslow,

staglinkw.jpgIt is always a great day when the best in the world of wine comes to you and asks if you want to taste their wine, and today was like that with top Napa producer Staglin and premier Tuscan producer Felsina dropped in on me in Carmel and showed their wonderful line ups of wine.  It is always a pleasure to see Garen Staglin, of Staglin Family Vineyard and to taste his wines, the Stalin’s are an elite family no question, but they have really given back and deserve lots of gratitude for all they have done for the wine community and their charity. As of today the Stalin’s have raised close to or more than $90 Million for mental health, in support of mental illness care and awareness, which is amazing and truly fantastic. Garen and Sherri Staglin also have a second label “Salus Estate” where all the profits go to mental health research, which is more than most small estates can do for good causes, further still, they put on a great party every year as well for the same cause. Next year they are they will be putting on the 16th Annual event, the Napa Valley Music Festival for Mental Health at the Staglin Family Vineyard in Rutherford on September 11, 2010 that will feature Dwight Yoakam and close to a hundred premium wineries pouring their wines as well.staglinchard.jpg Staglin employs David Abreu to oversee their vineyard and the famed Michel Rolland to direct the winemaking, so there is good reason to get excited about this estate and their cave is amazing to visit, let alone tasting to wine itself, which is always rated as one of the great wines of the world, not just one of the top wines of Napa Valley. Staglin has received praise from new world and old world press as well as the likes of Robert Parker, James Laube and Jancis Robinson, three of the best wine writers and critics, so it is great to get a chance to try it myself and relate and revisit my own views on the Staglin Family Vineyard.

I have been blessed to have been able to try most of the famed vintages in the past and have been on a tour of the cave and estate, all of which have impressed me greatly and I must say, even as jaded as I any wine buyer or wine writer can get, I am always delighted to try these wines. Staglin is most known for their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also make a world class Chardonnay and even a little bit of Sangiovese. Then they also make the Salus Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from 100% estate grown grapes.

staglincab.jpgThe 2006 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Estate, Napa Valley is the new release and I must say it is a great wine and really enjoyed the beautiful nose and elegant texture is has all ready, without a doubt this wine competes with the heavy weights of Bordeaux for class and style. The 2007 Staglin Family Vineyard Chardonnay Rutherford Estate, Napa Valley is modeled after the Grand Cru Burgundies of Montrachet and it shows good depth and character with pretty pear and white peach layers.While the Chardonnay is a nice and refined wine, it really is the Cabernet that steals the show and makes the grade even in this price level. At $175, the Staglin still manages to compete well as a value as weird as that might sound! But, it does, when you look at Harlan at $500-650, Opus One at $225, Joseph Phelps Insignia at $200 and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild at $300-750 all make the Staglin look like a steal! Especially when you look at the critical scoring of these wines since 1995 to now and prices, it shows the Staglin is not only a great wine, but also one that ranks with the best..

Felsina Berardenga

felsinawines.jpgWhen you think of Tuscany and Chianti Classico you can’t not help, but consider Felsina, the iconic prestige Chianti Classico producer, recently named winery of the year for Italy and a winery that has been turning out amazing wines of late. I had some experience with this estate while a wine buyer, and got to enjoy their 1997 releases and well as a few 1995’s as well, then have enjoyed a few more modern vintages over the following years. In 2002 I travelled through Tuscany on vacation and I have a certain fondness for this region and know the Chianti Classico area from a personal perspective, which has made me a fan for life.Felsina Berardenga winery sits on the southern most border of Chianti Classico near Castelnuovo, closer to Siena rather than Florence if you are mentally looking at a map of Tuscany. Felsina focuses on Chianti Classico and the grape of native Tuscany the Sangiovese, and I must say it would be very hard to find a better Chianti Classico or Sangiovese than what Felsina makes. Beyond the Classico, Felsina also makes an IGT Rosso, or all Sangiovese “Super Tuscan”, though I consider the term “Super Tuscan” as a traditionalist, in that it means a wine made in Tuscany including international varietals, so an all-native Sangiovese wine from a non-classified area would be an IGT Rosso. Their other Sangiovese is called Fontalloro and is their flagship wine made from grapes on the estate that are outside the Classico region, and it is from a special terroir that has perfect exposure and soil to get the best out of Sangiovese and it has been proven to great success in many, many vintages. Fontalloro is a massive and glorious wine that deserves every accolade and I was very impressed by the latest release as well as all of the Felsina reds I was shown recently by Caterina Mazzocolin of Felsina.

felsinacaterinakw.jpgCaterina explained that Felsina has great vineyards in Chianti Classico, 11 parcels of which they use for different wines, with all eleven going into the basic Chianti Classico, then a selection of up to seven for their Chianti Classico Riserva, then the single cru site “Rancia” for the Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva that is their top Chianti and a sublime wine that has finesse and richness not usually found in Chianti and I would compare it to a top Bordeaux in a sense, though it is pure to its grape and region. Felsina Berardenga makes extraordinary wines that deliver layers of flavors that are focused and lively making the most of Sangiovese. The basic 2007 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico aged in neutral big ovals (oak) has bright and young fruit, though rich in flavor and a gem with food. Next up is the 2006 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva which is aged longer and is both a vineyard and barrel selection, that does show a big difference and makes for a darker, deeper and more perfumed wine. This wine is magic and sends me straight to Tuscany in my mind with lush berry fruit and lovely balance, if you like Sangiovese and Chianti, you must try this wine. Felsina’s other Classico Riserva is the cru, 2005 Felsina Berardenga “Rancia” Chianti Classico Riserva that is more edgy and tannic, much more like a young Bordeaux and with the French oak almost tastes like one at first with smoke and pencil lead, before opening up and giving classic Sangiovese character. While more intense than the regular, this wine is a joy for any serious wine lover and a wine that will age gracefully and worth keeping your hands off for a few years in the cellar. This wine is on the same level as a Brunello and worth every penny if you can find it, and I suggest a little extra effort and time to find this wine, it will prove rewarding I swear!

fontallaro05.gifThen there is the aforementioned 2005 Felsina Berardenga Fontalloro, a wonderfully textured and bold Sangiovese that explodes on the palate that is more modern in style than the “Rancia” and fills out in the mouth with sweet red berry fruit, though returns to more classic Sangiovese on the finish, again rivaling top Brunellos for richness and depth. As much as I taste wine and am lucky enough to try many interesting wines, this line up hit me and left me wanting more, Felsina is a winery to watch and look for if you haven’t tried any and a winery that is worth searching hard for. I also intend to pay a visit to this place when I return to Tuscany!

Grapelive Latest: Food & Wine Harvest Farm-to-Table Fest 2009

Food & Wine Harvest Farm-to-Table Fest 2009
By Kerry Winslow

harvest2.jpgThis new event that was based on the Tomato Fest has taken things to a new level with great seminars from top chefs and even a Riedel glassware class that showed class and commitment to excellence. A big kudos goes out to Dave Bernahl and Robert Weakly, the same duo behind the Pebble Beach Food & Wine, as they worked tirelessly to put this show on. This year they had Tomatoes yes, but they also tied the farms themselves and wine growers into the mix with some great chefs and restaurants from the central coast and beyond. I had worried about parking and traffic, which in the past had been horrible here at the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, but these guys nailed it, and it was a breeze with super managed care. Once inside, you get the warmth of a country fair, though there was some lounge areas to unwind as well, in fact they even had a special Champagne and Hip Hop area that while not really my thing was entertaining the thongs non the less. Being the same time of year as the famed Munich Oktoberfest, they had thought of having a good-sized beer hall tent as well, now that got a lot of play too. There was a good sized crowd when I was there and I can only see things getting better for this event, especially when it gets out how many great wineries were pouring and the talented chefs that had some amazing bites on offer, all in all it was a perfect day.

harvest1.jpgWith chefs galore and a glorious day the Food & Wine Harvest has proven a success to me, even before getting some tasty wine in me! The roll call of cooking talents included and vast selection of stars local and not so local, but all put on some great stuff. There was a select group that I enjoyed best, even though I missed the headliner of the main event Tyler Florence, they included; Cal Stamenov of Marinus, and who had my favorite bite of the day, the baby octopus over a zesty puree, Craig Von Foerster, Sierra Mar, Christophe Grosjean, Aubergine, Jason Balestreri, Cantinetta Luca, Christopher Kostow, Meadowood Napa Valley, Keiko Takahashi, El Paseo Restaurant and Phillip Wojtowicz of the Big Sur Bakery. Please forgive me, as I have left off mention of some stunningly talented people and couldn’t begin to try everything at this awesome event, so I hope people come back next year and that anyone who reads this comes too!

harvest5.jpgThen it was on the taste the wines being poured at the Food & Wine Harvest, which was something that I’m much more qualified to report on anyway! As I was really doing this even for my own enjoyment and mainly as a social thing, I didn’t get down to note taking or geeking out too much, but I can say there was lots of beautiful wines being served and some rare and much sought after bottles here, very unique for an outdoor free flowing show! More power to these guys, it is not often you see bottles of cult wine or top producers pour big glasses of their best stuff, but here they did, I even saw Joseph Phelps Insignia being filled up on more than one pass by. Plus if you looked hard enough you could find some really special wines, and I did, a few that stood out were; L’Aventure Estate Cuvee, Donum Estate Chardonnay, Morlet (Luc Morlet, formally of Peter Michael) Chardonnay and Vision Cellars Pinot Noir from the Rosella’s Vineyard. These four wines seemed to show best for me on this day, but all are fantastic wines, and no question would all rank high on anyone’s list. That said there was lots of super wines to be tried here and others that made me stop and take mental notes were wines by; Tudor, Tantara, Figge, Parsonage, Maia-Lynn and Chock Rock, though like the foodie side, I could not begin to taste all the wines at the Harvest and I’m sure I missed plenty of outstanding wines.

I really hope the Food & Wine Harvest Farm-to-Table Fest continues for many years to come, it was a wonder event that was a huge boost for the whole community and I must say that it also raised awareness of good local and international charities. There was one organization I found very appealing and one that I did drop some cash with as well, and it was Freedom Fields USA. ( Freedom Fields continues the late Princess Diana’s main cause of removing landmines. Right now Freedom Fields is digging up thousands of explosives in Cambodia. They say there about a million landmines buried in border region between Thailand and Cambodia, and they only serve to kill innocents, mostly women and children.  It is estimated that there are 60 million landmines abandoned and waiting to cause harm to animals, farmers, mothers and kids around the world, in fact 5,000 to 10, 000 people are killed or injured each year and these are overwhelmingly in countries in which there is no current war going on. This is a very sobering issue and I hope that a few people will see this and help them out making people safe around the world.

Moving around the booths at the Harvest, I found many friends and characters, most of which poured great wine to me! In my photos, I have included a few familiar faces that have made some excellent wine.
harvest6.jpgThomas Perez, a local sommelier at the famed Aubergine in Carmel, and a classically trained winemaker that learned his trade in Rioja, Spain, has released his first series of wines under his Maia-Lynn label. With the help of Jeff Fink and Tantara Winery Thomas got some great fruit from top vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills region and he put out his 2006 wines this last spring. This weekend I retried some of his premier vintage Pinot, with the 2006 Maia-Lynn Pinot Noir “Rio Vista Vineyard” Ste. Rita Hills showing very nice on the day. Thomas only made a few hundred cases total and they are selling well, which is great news as Thomas is a really good guy that makes everyone around him feel special and providing lots a smiles along the way.

harvest7.jpgI was happy to see Mac from Vision Cellars as well, and though he was very popular and I wasn’t able to interact with him personally this time, I was able to savor his very pretty 2006 Vision Cellars Pinot Noir “Rosella’s Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands which is really becoming an attractive and interesting wine with good depth and balance. Vision Cellars has been getting good reviews for many years and looks to keep getting positive press for a long time to come. Mac in his trademark overalls and farmer’s hat is charming and very talented; it was a pleasure to watch him work the crowd.

harvest4.jpgA surprise find at the Harvest was Donum Estate, Anna Moller-Racke’s tiny vineyard estate in Carneros, that is one of the hottest Pinot Noir houses in the state. I was very impressed with the new Pinot Noirs and was blown away with the estate Chardonnay that comes from almost 30 year old vines that are old Wente clone of which only a tiny amount is made. I want to thank Dorothe Moller-Racke, second generation, in the US, wine grower for pouring me the 2007 Donum Estate Chardonnay Carneros. Dorothe took the time to give me all the details and explain the winemaking on this remarkable white and I hope Chardonnay lovers take note, as this wine was in a superior league, making it in my mind on par with some Grand Cru Burgundies. I would put it up there with my very favorite Chardonnay wines, including some fine Corton-Charlemagne!

Carmel Valley, California is a perfect place for this kind of event and enjoys all the terroir and history for foodies and wine lovers as well as organic farmers. With beautiful fall weather Carmel Valley has proven itself as the perfect host venue for the Harvest Fest and I look forward to this event next year all ready!