Sunday, May 31, 2009

All in the Family at Seghesio

Imagine this: A sweeping saga of four generations of Italian winemakers as they struggle against the odds and triumph over adversity for the sake of land, love and wine. Sounds like a Hallmark movie of the week or an Oprah book club selection, right? But it's not--not yet at least. It's the real story of the Seghesio family, winemakers in Healdsburg, California. And I got to learn all about it first hand this past Sunday.

Shana Ray (@sharayray) the Sonoma county social media maven arranged for a wine blogger private tasting lunch at Seghesio and graciously invited me. Also in attendance was Thea Dwelle (@winebratsf), Paul Mabray of Vintank (@pmabray), David Horowitz (@dmhoro) marketing professor at Sonoma State,   Hardy Wallace (@goodetobefirst) visiting from Atlanta and heir to the Murphy-Goode throne in attendance with his lovely maiden, plus Valerie Crowell (@WineDog), and Jim Morris (@sonomawineguy).

It was quite a mixed group and I must admit before I got to know some of these folks personally I was a bit wary. Judging from their tweets alone I had the feeling that any type of event with them might be a cross between Sideways and SuperBad a sort of ad hoc Harold and Kumar Go Wine Tasting  kind of affair. But to the contrary, these people are pros with great knowledge, passion and respect for wine and all aspects of the business. They have been incredibly genial and accommodating to me, an outsider, looking to learn more about the local wine scene and add the moniker of wine blogger to my writing bag of tricks.

Dan, our host at Seghesio, started us off with a light and zesty Pinot Grigio on the terrace before leading us inside to Angela's Table, a private tasting room for the food and wine paring. 

It's all about la famiglia at Seghesio and it’s apparent in every detail. From the black and white photos that line the hallways to the favorite family recipes paired with the wines. Even the redwood in the redwood room had a family history. Seghesio is a living legacy of one family's love of land and wine. It shows in the decor and it shows in the wine.

The wines presented at Angela's table included: 2008 Fiano, a white grape from Campania, the 2005 Rockpile Zinfandel, 2003 Omaggio -a blend of 60% Cabernet and 40% Sangiovese, 2002 Petite Sirah, and the Dionigia Port. You can read more details about the wines here.

The food pairings, all created from recipes passed along generation to generation included; Uncle Ed's Eggplant parmigiana that resembled a tiny pizettea with sausage and cheese melted over a round of eggplant. (Uncle Ed is not to be confused with Mr. Ed of course. But who would do that besides me?) Peter’s spaghetti alio olio with wild prawns, Rachel Ann’s stuffed zucchini, and the spicy traditional family recipe sausage served on brioche with grilled onions. I detected a bit of stone ground mustard on the brioche which seemed rather un-Italian to me, but that could just be a regional thing.

Between the wines, I kept gravitating back to the Omaggio as it paired so well with the sausage and the eggplant parmigiana. It was my kind of wine. A wine that supports and encourages the through enjoyment of something fatty. The Sirah also matched well to the fennel and clove flavors of the sausage. In fact the Italians beloved lardo would be a very nice accompaniment to this wine as well. The more fat the better.

But the surprise for me was the Dionigia port, named after Angela Dionigia Seghesio and made from equal parts Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet. Maybe I’m biased because my middle name is Angela, but I thought this port was wonderful. Paired with chocolate covered almonds, the Dionigia port was soft and full without the high alcoholicky kick I've found in other ports.

After the lunch we adjourned to the patio once again and sampled the 2006 Zinfandel. It reminded me of the type of the wine found in Italy. Younger and brighter with fuller fruityness. (go ahead and add fruityness the to the new wine lexicon along with alcoholicky.)

If you are in the area, stop by and visit Seghesio-- hang out, play some bocce -- and even if you are not of Italian heritage you can adopt the Seghesio sensibility for a day and find your own sense of family in a glass of their storied wine.

Salute and grazie la famiglia Seghesio

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chill a Cella

I started thinking about all the cheap wine we drank in college, like Black Cat Riesling and Black Tower Liebfraumilch. Mostly we drank German wines because I was studying German at the time and liked the labels. And mostly we drank what we could afford, which was not much.

Then one night at the local Italian restaurant my roommate and I had a bottle of Vapolicella and I realized that there was more to wine than cheap whites. 

I was completely blindsided by the Vapolicella. It was such a departure from the super sweet Rieslings and Liebfraumilch's and it opened my palate in an unexpected way. I could actually feel a difference as well as taste it. And that was new to me. The Vapolicella had a weight and shape to it that was lacking in the the white wine I'd had. Up to that point, I'd not realized or noticed the vast range of tastes, textures and flavors in wine.

After that I spent more time in the wine aisle looking at the labels and trying all sorts of things. Since we rarely spent more than 4 dollars it was rather hit and miss. One stand out was the Bolla Vapolicella. The Bolla was a good wine for the price and set me off on Vapolicella jag.  

Around the same time the Aldo 'chill a cella' commercial came out for Cella Bianco (view it here) and people called me "Mar-chill-a-cella" for the next two years. Eventually, as with most jags, I got burned out and moved on to something else. 

I didn't drink Vapolicella again for almost 15 years. But recently I tried a bottle of Giuseppe Campagnola Valpolicella Classico Superiore Caterina Zardini 2005 and it made me appreciate it all a new.  

It certainly makes a difference to drink a Valpolicella Classico or Superiore instead of the regular old Vapolicella. And this wine was super superiore for around $24. I found this wine to be fresh and flavorful, quite spicy and even smokey, and with much more dimension than the Vapolicellas of old. 

After the fact, I discovered the 2006 had been rated tre bicceriere three glasses from Gambero Rosso. The bottle I tasted was a 2005 but it was still very much on the mark.

I think it's interesting to revisit wines we have a certain preconception about from time to time. So what have you drank, eaten, seen or read recently that re-acquainted you with something you once were obsessed with but may have forgotten? Do tell. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Wet Day in Dry Creek

My big sister is in town, so today we did Home School Tuesday tasting (see April 28th post below) on Monday and spent a wet day in Dry Creek rambling about. After learning a Visa Signature card gets you complimentary tastings at certain wineries, (see list here) I built the day accordingly. 

Today's Itinerary:
Rosso & Bianca (Francis Ford Coppola Presents)
Hanna - Hwy 128 (visited Occidental tasting room last week)

I just love, love, love Quivera. From the gardens, to the chickens, to the design of the structures on the property and even the collateral materials. Everything seems in harmony here, just like their wines. Today I made my love affair with Quivera official and joined their Queue wine club. I guess you could say we're going steady now. 

From Quivera we went to Diavola for lunch and had panini's and pizza. I must be on a pig/boar jag since the logos at Quivera and Diavola both feature swine. Or maybe it's a subconscious reaction to the Swine flu (media flu, really). Whatever--swine, I fear you not. I embrace thee!

After lunch we drove over to Rosso & Bianco which was just around the corner. I think it took us longer to drive to the tasting room on the winery property than it did to get to the winery gates from Diavola. If you go, just keep following the red signs past all the construction. You'll find it eventually. 

The tasting room at Rosso & Bianco (soon to be re-named/branded Francis Ford Copppola Presents) is long and narrow with a dark slate poured concrete counter top and low key lighting. It's all about the visuals here. The hosts wear red and white Guayabera style shirts that resemble bowling league attire from the 50's. The shirts gave the place a theme restaurant feel, but it was also kinda cool. 

We tasted the Sonoma County flight of wines and also a new release, the Sofia Riesling

Behind the tasting bar was a display of Coppolas' Oscars, Golden Globe, Donatello (an Italian version of an Oscar), Palme d'Or and other awards of merit. Plus storyboards of scenes from The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now is one of my all time favorite movies if not the favorite. I saw it about 30 times when it was first released and I was working part-time at a movie theater. I was riveted by it from the get go. I had just written a college paper on Joseph Conrad and The Heart of Darkness so it was beyond intriguing to me. I've since seen it another 20 times or so, I never tire of it. 

Off to the side of the bar at Rosso & Bianco was a rack of All-Story issues, the lit mag that Coppola publishes. I highly recommend All -Story to you readers out there. The design alone is worth the subscription price. Each issue is designed by a guest artist like Tom Waits, Wayne Thiebaud, Wim Wenders, Chip Kidd & most recently Guillermo del Toro.

I am always attracted to clever, well designed labels. The Coppola labels are very unique. The FC Reserve bottle feature the letters of the Coppola name scattered across the bottle. Apparently the letters were tossed in the air and then photographed as they landed.  The Directors Cut labels feature whimsical block cut figures that spiral around the bottle. The Votre Sante label is cut like a delicate piece of hand crocheted lace. Something anyone with an Italian grandmother is well acquainted with. 

From Coppola we drove back under the freeway over to Trentadue where we were greeted by a very happy wine dog that was part sharpei and boxer. I've had Trentadue Port, but this was the first time tasting their other offerings. There were many selections that stood out on the tasting menu, but my favorite was the Sangiovese

On the way home we stopped off at Hanna on Hwy 128. Originally Hanna was not on the list but we enjoyed their wines so much last week that we could not resist another taste.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Living La Vida Locavore

For many people, trying to eat locavore is not as hard as trying to drink locavore. In most regions of the country locally grown produce can be found within 50 to 100 miles of your home. But sourcing locavore wine is a bit more challenging. 

Luckily I live smack dab in the middle of a locavores' wet dream. Farms, dairy's, orchards and vineyards as far as the eye can see and beyond. Sonoma county is practically ground zero for year round availability of locally grown and produced products. I can hear chickens in my neighborhood and see vineyards from my living room. 

A few weeks ago I decided to find out exactly what vineyard I was gazing upon in the distance.  I fired up Google Maps and discovered it was Balletto. So off I went to check out my locavore vineyard. When the pourer asked where we were from I pointed out the tasting room window and said "Up there. I can see your vineyard from my house."

We tasted the 2006 Chardonnay, the 2007 Burnside and Estate Pinot Noirs, and the 2005 Zinfandel. But the wine that came home with me was the 2006 Gewurztraminer.  I was shocked by how much I liked this wine. It was so crisp and citrusy and thoroughly delightful. Not the treacly Gewurztraminwer of old that I remember from Stammtisch, the Friday night German Club drink fest held in the language department basement in college. I think Professor Marshall made the stuff himself.

Tonight we drank it with corn tortillas filled with sauteed rainbow chard, grilled onions and asiago cheese topped with green tomatillo salsa. It was a great combination. The savory and piquant with the crisp and light.  

I guess it's time to revisit other wines of the past that I have left in the dust and see what else out there will change my mind. -- Bis Gleich (german for see you later)


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