WOW. What a night. Michele D'Aprix is not just a great winemaker but a natural comedienne! About 35 participants came out to welcome Michele. We learned. We laughed. We left knowing all about Bordeaux.
Punch Downs Punch downs, on the other hand, are a very delicate way of stirring a wine. Theykeep skins from getting too extracted and little to no amount of added oxygen in the fermentation. Punch downs are typically done by hand and are more popular with non-interventionist winemaking.
What a delightful guy! Alessandro Cellai (https://wineinsicily.com/en/
First, let me say that I hope Alessandro is not shining me on! He is mighty charming and could do some shining with ease but he seems like a real and nice guy. And I could see he was visibly taken aback when I gave him my business card. He says his mother's name is the same as mine, Trippi. She was from the Tuscan village of Civitella Della Chiana in Arezzo. "It is not a common name and I have only heard it around the Florence area." How cool is that?
Are we cousins, I ask with great hope? Alessandro says, "Probably, up the line somewhere." That works! A world class winemaker for a cousin, even if it is several generations back in the old country and a little light on connectivity, is good enough for me. Alessandro says he will send me something that his mother signed. WOW! I am all over town today telling everyone about my cousin. But enough about my excellent adventure. Back to Alessandro...
I was determined to make sure that I got to the bottom of this "Rock Star" designation. What's that all about? Turns out Alessandro was chosen by Decanter Magazine as the Best Winemaker Under 40 in the World! The WORLD I say. Read: "Rock Star." Yeah, that's my cousin!
But do you believe it? The RockStar thing, I ask? Alessandro hesitates a bit. Ok, I say, put another way then, can you name a better winemaker? "No." He believes it. And well he should. After tasting the wine, I know I do!
Alessandro says he entered the wine world through his uncle. A Catholic priest at a church in Tuscany, Alessandro's uncle made the sacramental wine with Sangiovese grapes he planted and farmed on the church property. A not so little divine intervention! And from there, the wine gene took over.
Alessandro has two children. His son, Lorenzo is 18 and studying economics. His daughter, Barbara is 16 and, Alessandro hopes, his winemaking successor. Barbara is already studying viticulture and is hands on at the winery.
Do women in wine have a tough time in Italy? Do you have any concerns about your daughter pursuing a career in winemaking? Alessandro says "No." He does not see discrimination against women in the wine industry. "Women have always been winemakers in Italy." About this time, I am wondering why I am not in Tuscany! I have the Mary Tyler Moore boxed set of 7 seasons. I can go anywhere now.
Now the important stuff. Favorite actor? "Bruce Willis." So I guess "Die hard" is your favorite movie? Alessandro says, without a hint of equivocation, "Si. All of them."
Actress? "Julia Roberts." Movie? "All of them. Any of them. I like Pretty Woman but, really, all of them." It is clear that Alessandro really, really, really likes Julia Roberts!
And if you are kicking back to watch a Julia Roberts movie, what wine in today's lineup that included Grillo, Frappato, Nero d'Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, and his most awesome dessert wine, do you pour. "Nero d'Avola." That might have been my favorite too.
Vineyard Dog? "Si, due cani." Alessandro has two Black Labs named Tom and Jerry.
Finally, what music did he want us to play for the tasting? "I like music from the 60s and 70s but if I have to pick just one, The Beatles."
I write this through the haze of wondering why I am not in Firenze. My cousin is a rock star winemaker! And a real nice guy.
Stephanie Morton-Small, chief Commercial officer, for Decero in Mendoza, Argentina hosted a sold out Seated Tasting on Tuesday, September 11th. What's the one thing Stephanie wants us to remember? Mendoza is the size of California and, so, not all parts are created equally! Great Wines. Great Speaker. Great Night!
Besides the US, Francois says his biggest markets are UK, Japan and, get this, Russia.
And one more thing. I had Disco cranked up on Spotify. I asked francois if he would prefer different music. "Yes, Country," he says. "I don't get to hear it much in Chablis!"
* THIS JUST IN: NEW REVIEWS FROM ROBERT PARKER on SIGNORELLO WINES *
2013 Signorello Estate Padrone
The 2013 Proprietary Red Padrone, the winery’s flagship wine, is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc
aged 21 months in 100% new French oak prior to being bottle unfiltered.
This wine exhibits an inky purple color, notes of graphite, blueberry, blackberry, a hint of cocoa and a dense, full-bodied superrich mouthfeel with good acidity and strong, but well-integrated tannin.
Give this wine 6-7 years and drink over the following 35-40.
- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)
2015 Signorello Estate Chardonnay Hope's Cuvee Napa Valley
The best Chardonnay I have ever tasted from Ray Signorello has to be the 2015 Chardonnay Hope’s Cuvée.
With its tiny yields, old vines and unfiltered style of keeping the wine nine months in barrel (of which half is new French oak and the rest used),this wine is absolutely spectacular.
The wine has a Montrachet-like richness with profound concentration from the tiny yields, loads of caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, melons and a touch of brioche.
It is full-bodied, but great acid, purity and length make for an incredible wine from this old vineyard’s clay and loamy soils.
Drink over the next 10-12 years as this has every indication of being long-lived.
- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)
2015 Signorello Estate Seta (Semillon /Sauvignon Blanc)
He makes one of the more intriguing and fascinating proprietary white blends, the 2015 Proprietary White Seta, which is 66% Sauvignon Blanc and 34% Semillon aged nine months in two-thirds
French oak and bottled unfiltered (somewhat of a trick, since there is no malolactic).
This is a serious Haut-Brion Blanc-like wine with notes of lanolin, sealing wax, caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, a touch of tangerine and exotic fruits.
The wine is medium-bodied and concentrated, with great acidity and freshness. The sad thing is, less than 100 cases were produced.
- Robert M. Parker, Jr. (October, 2016)
NOW BACK TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING:
The Signorello Estate Chef will guide you through a five course pairing experience explaining the pairing philosophy and describing each creation. This is a wine and food experience unlike any other in the Napa Valley. Want to go? In my head, I am already gone. "The Enoteca Signorello" is a 2 hour adventure on Thursday through Monday, March through November starting at noon for $175 per person.
Back to reality! Ray Signorello stopped by the shop last night and hosted a tasting of his wines. I had a chance to ask a few more questions while Ray graciously juggled a crowd of abot 30 wine fans. He appears in personas you see him in his stock photo, that is, sophisticated, sport jacket, Italian leather shoes, nice haircut.
So it came as quite a surprise when I asked Ray his favorite movie and he said "Gladiator" so fast my head was spinning. I don't know why I was not expecting that answer. But I just wasn't. Not that anyone can't respect even love "Gladiator" but I just wasn't expecting it. Ray loves the view into Roman life and remains partial to all things Roman. But would Ray ever grow Italian grapes in California? Maybe a Sangiovese? I say other California winemakers do. "No," Rays says as quickly as he let loose on "Gladiator!" Ray thoroughly and professorially explained, with a lot of complicated wine terms but, basically, California is for Cab!
What Ray poured:
FUSE: Ray chose to the name to emphasize the fusion of varietals. This blend of 86% Cabernet, 8% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petite Verdot received 90-92 Points from Robert Parker in Wine Advocate. Parker said: "This wine was still in barrel and shows loads of espresso roast, blackcurrants, and hints of white chocolate and spicebox in an elegant, yet authoritative, medium to full-bodied style."
And addressing the harvest, Parker said: "2013 may turn out to be the finest vintage I have experienced in tasting North Coast varietals over the last 37 years. it's a game changer in terms of the consistency of quality, the depth of quality, and the across-the-board excellence for so many wines."
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
“The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is a beauty. Inky purple-colored, with notes of charcoal, graphite, blackcurrants and blueberries, the wine is dense, opulent, full-bodied, fresh and full. It should drink well for up to 20 more years.” 94+ Points Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, October 2015
WINEMAKING NOTES: Traditional French winemaking practices: native yeast fermentations, extended maceration (each lot averaged 25 days on the grape skins) and pump-overs twice a day. The 2013 vintage aged for 22 months in 64% new oak from Troncais, Nevers and Alliers, coopered into thin-staved, medium-plus toast Chateau Ferre barrels by coopers Tarransaud, Saury, Darnajou and Nadalie. To preserve fruit intensity and body, the wine was not filtered prior to bottling
And 2012 PADRONE
“This is a fabulous wine, meant to evolve over three decades. It offers up notes of charcoal, scorched earth, blackcurrant, blackberry, chocolate and a touch of espresso. A wine of great intensity, full-bodied opulence and a multilayered mouthfeel, this is a formidably endowed, serious Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine from vineyards with some of the best fruit on the estate. Drink it over the next 30 years.” 97+ Points Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, Oct. 2015
WINEMAKING NOTES: Traditional French winemaking practices: native yeast fermentations, extended maceration (each lot averaged 25 days on the grape skins) and pump-overs twice a day. The 2012 vintage aged for 22 months in 100% new oak from Troncais, Nevers and Alliers, coopered into thin-staved, medium-plus toast Chateau Ferre barrels by coopers Tarransaud, Saury, Darnajou and Nadalie. To preserve fruit intensity and body, the wine was not filtered prior to bottling on September 5, 2014.
And finally, you're thinking that I forgot to ask about the winery dog. Au contraire! Ray does not have a a dog of his own because he travels so often. BUT, there is a winery dog. And a mighty happy one with a vineyard full of friends!
While his veterinary days are in the past, animals are still front and center. Take a look at the Rock Wall Rock Hound label. That guy playing the guitar sporting the Ray Charles Sunglasses is Sunny, Shauna's blind pitbull.
"Sardegna was settled by Catalans 600 years ago. Some of the street signs in Alghero are written in Catalan and the Catalan dialect is still spoken in some parts" Paolo says.
History tells us that in 1469, the heir to Sardinia, Ferdinand II of Aragon, married Isabel of Castile, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, now separated from Corsica, was set to be inherited by their Habsburg grandson, Charles I of Spain. In order to defend their Mediterranean territories from raids of those confounded Barbary Pirates, the successors of Charles I fortified the Sardinian shores with a system of coastal lookout towers leading to development, such as it was in 1469, along the coast.
The Kingdom of Sardinia remained Spanish for approximately 400 years, from 1323 to 1708. Spanish traditions, customs and culture were absorbed, and to this day, as Parpinello told us, Catalan is spoken in the western city of Alghero.
"We do not hire "rock star" winemakers or wine consultants that pop in and out at Groth," says Suzanne Groth. "We look for dedicated winemakers invested in our wines who will watch the wine through the entire process." Groth winemakers have been working with the winery for three decades. "We make certain that there is a multi year overlap to insure passing down techniques and insuring consistent quality."
Suzanne was in Asheville to host a dinner at The Grove Park Inn. The wines paired perfectly with the perfectly prepared dishes. Groth wines are bold on the nose and palate but within bounds setting them apart from many California wines that are just about being BIG. While you could certainly enjoy Groth Wines solo, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, these are unquestionably food wines.
So how did we get to this point....................
Graduating from Lewis and Clark College in 1992 with a BA in art history, Suzanne entered the art world, working in a gallery. But soon, she decided on a career in wine. After spending four years with the Henry Wine Group, a California wine distributor, selling fine wine to restaurants and retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Suzanne says, “It was only after selling other people’s ‘wine vision’ that I was able to appreciate how very special Groth Vineyards was.” She returned to the family business in 1998, working several years in wine sales and Public Relations before becoming VP of Sales and Marketing in 2009.
Suzanne's parents, Dennis and Judy Groth, are Bay Area natives and lived there until they decamped to Napa Valley in 1985. Dennis, a CPA was a partner at Ernst and young before joining Atari in 1978.
In 1981, the Groths purchased a 121-acre parcel in Oakville adding a second 44 acre vineyard in 1982. Totaling These vineyards are the primary source of grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines produced by Groth.
Established in 1982, Groth crushed the first grapes for their own wines that same year. Production increased quickly to 30,000 cases by 1984. By 1985, the winery needed full-time attention from Dennis and Judy, so they moved their family to the Oakville property. And the rest is, as they say, history. "When we arrived in Oakville, vineyards were planted with Charbono but my father believed that this could be great cabernet country," Suzanne says. "And now, the area is considered one of best areas in world for elegant cab."
Suzanne tells the story that sounded similar to the experience of Chateau Montelena in "Bottle Shock." Making wine is a labor of love and an expensive one. The Groths were facing an uphill financial battle and feared they might lose the farm, literally. "My father had to sell some of the land he loved." But out of the blue, Suzanne says, the Groths got a call from a friend who said that Robert Parker had just awarded 100 points!! to Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.
Groth has come a long way. The winery has produced well balanced wines for decades and their work has not gone without notice and BIG notice. Groth Sauvignon Blanc was served at The White House dinner welcoming Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain!
And despite her many responsibilites at the winery, Suzanne still works her art. She gave us all a print at the dinner. Her work is much like the wine, dynamic but within bounds.
And I did not forget to ask if there was a winery dog. "Two Pugs," Suzanne says, "they come to work with me everyday."
Ok, back to the winery...
If Hotel Monteleone is history in a building, Pol Roger is history in a bottle. "The winery," says Hugues, "unlike many in France, has remained family owned since its founding in 1849." Hugues told us about an organization, Primum Familiae Vini, started in 1991 by family owned wineries. Information here: http://www.pfv.org/en/.
2 winery dogsStella, 14.5 year old Border Collie/ Chow mix. Aka: Fuzzball, fuzzykins, fuzzy pants. Sweet and stubborn, good dog days are over, does what she wants which isn't much. Looks like she is part pandaOlive, 4 years old border collie/poodle. Loves chasing tennis balls and chasing (2 kills that I know of) squirrels. Goofy and playful torturer of stuffed animals.
John GrochauGrochau Cellars
Not to be short but nothing more could be said about RAATS Wines than has been said with accolades by respected wine publications worldwide including Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar, Riscura Red Hot Wine Awards and Wine Advocate.