I’ve been in California all week for the Society of Wine Educators Society of Wine Educators conference in San Mateo. It was a very informative conference with a lot of great wines, interesting seminars and friends. It also was held in a hotel with a hot tub, always a plus. I discovered the perfect wine for the hot tub, Blanc de Noirs. I’ve actually had two inexpensive American Blanc de Noirs sparklers this week, one from Gloria Ferrer and one from Korbel.
Made with a majority of Pinot Noir grapes, hence the name Blanc de Noirs, these sparkers both retail for under $10 a bottle, a great price for a fresh summer wine to drink in a relaxed atmosphere such as a hot tub. I don’t have a hot tub at home or even a balcony but I do like to picnic and I could see very easily bringing these widely available ones to a park for summer fun. I know, I’m the old world girl who has fallen for California. I’ve drunk the coolaid but with views like this from my friend’s backyard, you can see why.
I am at the Society of Wine Educators conference in San Mateo, California this week along with many old and new friends. It is an impressive array of wine people from all over the country, with special knowledge about almost every grape on earth. I am quite pleased with the seminars I have attended be they on dry German Riesling, Scotch, Wines of Provence or New Wines of Greece.
What I am most surprised about though is how much I am enjoying all of the seminars I am taking on wines from California. I am a decidedly old wine world gal, by training, “indole” as they say in Italian, and from personal experience. That said, California is creeping into these old world bones, slowly but surely. Just as France never disappeared from my memory despite 15 years in il bel paese – Italy, old world wines will never be replaced but they do have to make room for some new friends.
David Glancy of the San Francisco Wine School did a masterful job of leading us through the California Appellations North to South. I also took a seminar on the wines from Sonoma County and was delighted at a pre-conference jaunt to the Thomas Fogarty winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains earlier in the week, the first appellation to be defined by elevation in the United States. I’m sure today will hold further surprises for me. What has come to mind is why don’t we all live in California? The beauty is hard to beat.
Famed Italian winemaker Josko Gravner told me some years ago that California should grub up all of its’ vines. I wasn’t sure if he was serious at the time but I can say now with ever more certainty that he was sorely mistaken in my view and I wager even he might change that view if he could taste them more fully.
This week’s pick is a Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza called “Le Nicchie” from La Gironda, a winery in Piedmont. I am not sure how I got this bottle or who gave it to me.
What I do know is it is the perfect complement to my tired body after a day of dance and sailing. I opened this wine thinking I might have just a sip or two, instead a few glasses have been happily consumed.
The wine is full and rich on both the nose and palate with hints of dark red/black fruits, earth, vanilla and tobacco.
I am enthralled with this wine. It has enveloped my palate and I truly am surprised at the depth of flavor that it is showing.
Barbera Superiore Nizza comes from a very specific terroir around Nizza Monferrato. The producers who make these wines are located in 18 communities around Nizza Monferrato and have very strict bylaws for maintaining the quality of their wines. Their association called Associazione Produttori del Nizza has put Nizza on the map.
Oddly enough, many years ago, I proposed my Pr firm services to an important member of this group. Sadly, the export manager told me that I couldn’t understand Italian wine because I was a foreigner despite the fact that I was a member of the Italian Sommelier Association.
Actually it was during the early days of the war in Iraq and he called me a warmonger or “guerrafondaio” because I am an American. The experience left me with a terrible taste in my mouth for years about these wines.
Happily numerous other Italians have felt that I was precisely the person to represent their wines so the sting of that comment has faded but he was quite shortsighted and I think Nizza hasn’t done the job it could have to promote its wines in the United States. \
Needless to say, I’m thrilled that I came upon this great bottle in my home, opened it and am enjoying it’s vast array of flavors.
Today is Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. I remember the day he was released from prison perfectly. I remember how happy I was to think he was free. Thinking of all he has done in the ensuing years, since that day, is truly beyond inspiring. Would that the world had more people like Mandela.
South Africa has gone through numerous changes in the past 18 years. Nelson Mandela was freed 18 years ago; peaceful democratic elections were held in 1994 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission went a long way toward healing wounds post-apartheid; and South Africa has become a vibrant democracy with a lively tourist industry. South Africa has been courting tourists for many years, primarily pushing its host of flora and fauna as the prime attraction. Things have changed, though, and South African food and wine have become a real draw. Winemaking is not new to South Africa. The country has been producing wines since 1659.
I have the privilege of being friends with one lovely South African winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela. I’m thinking of her today and all the South Africans that Mandela has helped directly and so many of us that he has inspired around the world. Happy birthday Madiba.
This week’s indigenous variety post is a bit delayed on account of a long birthday weekend, mine. I love my birthday and always have since I was a little girl. As a child, presents used to arrive in an old red wagon. As I grew older the gifts got smaller and more exquisite. As an adult, the most meaningful are no longer gifts but words, actions, shared moments, shared meals and wines.
I like to celebrate all month long in July and tomorrow’s Piedmont tasting feels like a perfect occasion for further celebration. This is a maxi consortium tasting or a group of consortium that have put their full force behind this initiative. I’m not sure exactly which producers will be present but I am sure the lineup is very impressive.
Some producers and consortium I know well wondered why Piedmont would choose mid-July for a big tasting in New York. I too had that thought when I was looking at the region primarily as one of big red wines.
Instead today I thought of all the fabulous white grapes that are made into great wines that come from Piedmont, be it Arneis, Cortese, Erbaluce, Favorita, Malvasia or Moscato Bianco, to name a few indigenous varietals that make Piedmont proud. I have tried many an Arneis that made me happy in the past years, including a great one from Malvira’.
Moscato is all the range in the States but I think that it’s sister grape, Malvasia has been sorely underrated on these shores as has Gavi made from the Cortese grape. The most memorable Moscato I have ever tasted was from a producer named Gianni Voerzio. I wrote a long post about him back in 2008.
The idea of trying some of these wines brought a smile to my face despite the 100 degree weather we are experiencing here in New York. I hope to see some of my dear friends from Piedmont as well.
I’ve been reading Charles Scicolone’s articles on wine for sometime now. I know Charles personally and always appreciate his view whether expressed loudly or faintly. I know which wines to put in front of him and which to avoid seeking his opinion on when I wear my PR hat. As a Italophile though, I always seek Charles’ opinion. We share a love of Italy that transcends the rest for me. His latest piece on Italian whites under $20 lists some of the wines I know and like and the price point I think we all prefer. Charles writes for his site as well as for I-Italy.org, a great online resource for all things Italian.
I also spent a long time reading WineSurf. I am well acquainted with one of the journalists who works with this site and have had the pleasure of tasting wine with him on a number of occasions. I find the site a great resource and am interested in their tasting judgments.
Today I also read a long comment chain on one of their forums where an angry producer wrote in to complain about their judgment of his wine. I can scarcely imagine how difficult that must be after a year of hard work. That said, I found his level of criticism and his diminishing of the people who work at this magazine quite over the top.
What I did find fascinating was the larger question of what a producer can expect when they send their wines to be reviewed. Certainly a professional staff and opinion but then what makes a professional is the true question. Is it the number of wines they have tasted, the frequency with which they taste the same wines, year in and year out or is it something more elusive.
Certainly there is no exam to become an official wine taster and often the qualifications to become a wine expert are amorphous but I agree wholeheartedly with the second producer who mentioned that they knew the risks they were taking but sending in their wines was a personal choice.In fact, a dear producer friend of mine refuses to send their wines to guides in general.
Clearly, everything is a matter of opinion in the world of wine as well. I have heard all sides of this argument expressed throughout the years but today’s email interchange was illuminating. The wines they were referring to were wines from Liguria, Colli di Luni, which I have just recently blogged about as well.
I love Liguria and its coastline, hilltowns and beaches, as well as its wines. All of this is making me want to find some Trofie col Pesto in New York instead I found this recipe and a great new (for me) well-written food blog, Food Lover’s Odyssey. Here is a nice blog post about Liguria from a tourism site called Life In Italy.
This week’s indigenous varieties is Canaiolo Bianco. It is less well-known than its’ relative Canaiolo Nero but it can be an important variety in the wines of Orvieto DOC. Wines from Orvieto have been famous for centuries, almost as famous as the beautiful cathedral. In earlier times, the wines from Orvieto were mainly sweet but for many years, a dry wine has been made.
Canaiolo Bianco in Umbria is known as Drupeggio. It also grows in Tuscany. In both regions, it is a white blending grape. In Umbria, it is paired with Trebbiano and Grechetto and in Tuscany, it is blended with Trebbiano and Malvasia.