Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From the Miner Family: 2005 Syrah La Diligence Stage Coach Vineyard

Miner Family Vineyards is a small Napa Valley family-owned winery, well known for producing a portfolio of high-end wines. The winery has recently introduced a new label called La Diligence, actually a joint project between Miner and Domaine François Villard. François Villard is a young vintner from the Northern Rhône Valley and renowned for producing exceptional Viogniers and Syrahs from the Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie appellations. The name of the wine refers to this Franco-Californian joint venture: Diligence means Stagecoach in French

With over 500 acres planted, Stagecoach Vineyard is one of the largest vineyards in Napa Valley. The land stretches between the Oakville and the Atlas Peak appellations, from an elevation of 900' climbing to over 1700'. The location is unique thanks to the cool morning fog that rolls off the hills during the summer, and a rocky, volcanic, well-drained soil. The vineyard is planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, with Syrah and Malbec on south and west facing slopes, and small plantings of Viognier and Marsanne found in rocky, thin soiled areas.

The 2005 Miner Family Syrah La Diligence Stage Coach Vineyard had a dark, purple color and aromas of sweet black fruit on the nose. The palate was full-bodied, rich, woody, with a long cocoa/moka finish. The wine was remarkably tasty, although a little too young. We served it with a Cocoa-Chili-Rubbed Chicken dish, which was actually a great combination.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Winemaking step #9: fining

Earlier this week, we had another meeting with Crushpad chief winemaker Mike Zitzlaff. The objective was to determine the appropriate amount of egg white in order to remove the proper amount of bitter tannins in our wine. We had learned at our previous meeting that the albumin contained in the egg white was particularly effective at removing aggressive tannins without affecting the other desirable flavors of the wine.

This time, Michael had prepared three samples with three different dosages: the first one had 1 gram of egg white per 1 liter of wine, the next one 0.8 gram per 1 liter, and the last one 0.6 gram per 1 liter.

Tasting these samples was eye-opening: the first one seemed to have lost most of its body — too much egg white —, the third one had a harsh finish — not enough egg white —, and like Goldilocks finding Baby Bear's porridge, we found that the second one was just right.

Everybody was happy with the 0.8 dosage, which means that we could move forward with the fining. And then, the wine will be ready for the next and final stage: bottling!

Related posts:
•  Winemaking step #8: blending
•  Winemaking step #7: barrel tasting
•  Winemaking step #6: after the malolactic fermentation
•  Winemaking step #5: pressing the wine
•  Winemaking step #4: getting ready for the pressing
•  Winemaking step #3: monitoring the fermentation
•  Winemaking step #2: inoculation of the must
•  Crushing at Crushpad
•  2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Ink Grade Vineyard Howell Mountain

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wine service: the best of times and the worst of times

Sometime ago, a friend of mine sent me a New York Times op-ed piece called Of Wine, Haste and Religion. It's a witty article about wine service at restaurants that definitively related to me.

“Why wine glasses, even at fine New York tables, get filled almost to the brim, and refilled to that unseemly level, every time you're distracted from Second Amendment-authorized armed guard of your receptacle,” wonders the author. Exactly! How often do I have to prevent the waitperson from overfilling my glass? I think large wine glasses shouldn't be more than about 1/3 full to allow enough space in the glass to aerate the wine. Moreover, the wine is going to warm up much more quickly in the glass than in the bottle.

And there is more: “Just as you prepare to dab bread into the unctuous leftover sauce from those slide-from-the-bone short ribs, the plate vanishes. The fact that others around the table may still be eating — and to be without a plate is to feel naked in such circumstances — does not trouble the stealthy masters of this Houdini routine.” We know this one too well: while I am a slow eater, my husband is always the first to finish his plate. How he hates it when the plate disappears without notice.

But honestly, not all our restaurant experiences are bad. Just last night for example, we had dinner at a local Italian restaurant. This is a place where the food is good but red wines are usually served way too warm. So we were prepared and right away, asked our waiter to chill our bottle of Amarone in an ice bucket. He graciously followed our directions and by the time our plates arrived, the wine was at perfect serving temperature.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Italian Wine Tasting

This was the annual wine tasting and fundraising dinner for the Band and Orchestra department of our school. For the event, I had prepared a selection of wines that I thought would best showcase the wide diversity of the Italian production. We started with two whites and some antipasti, followed by four reds served with beef braised in wine and a cheese platter. Finally, a sweet passito wine and an almond and apricot cake ended the dinner and an extremely enjoyable evening.

The wines we tasted:

• 2006 Ermacora Tocai Friulano: Tocai Friulano is a white grape native to the Friuli region of Northeastern Italy. The wine is produced by Azienda Agricola Ermacora, a small family owned winery in the Colli Orientali del Friuli district, just a few miles from the Slovenian border. My notes: light yellow color, ripe pear and sugar cane aromas on the nose, fresh acidity on the palate, mineral finish. Great with Prosciutto con Melone.

• 2006 Malvirá Roero Arneis Renesio: Arneis is a rare and, until recently, almost extinct white grape cultivated in the Roero area of the Piedmont wine region. Malvirá is a small family estate in Roero. The name Malvirá relates to the former location of the winery, which faced north instead of south: mal stands for wrong and virá for situated. My notes: straw color, flowery nose. Slightly fizzy at first, the wine has more body and complexity than the Tocai Friulano. Really good.

• 2005 Vietti Barbera d'Alba Tre Vigne: the Vietti family has been making wines in Piedmont's Barolo region since the middle of the 19th Century. The Barbera d'Alba Tre Vigne comes from 35 year-old Barbera vines sourced from three estate vineyards in Monforte, Barolo and Castiglione Falletto. My notes: bright red color, spices and black cherry on the nose, juicy on the palate, extremely well balanced and food friendly. Very good with the braised beef.

• 2005 Morgante Nero d'Avola: Nero d'Avola is one of the main indigenous grapes of Sicily. The wine is produced by Morgante, a winery located in the province of Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily. The property has 200 hectares of vineyards and almond trees growing at 300-500 meters above sea level. My notes: plum and prune on the nose with some dried herbs notes, savory and creamy on the palate, cinnamon and moka on the finish. Tasted wonderful with braised beef as well.

• 2005 Bibi Graetz Grilli di Testamatta: Testamatta means hot head and Bibi Graetz, an artist that has become a winemaker, makes his wines in a powerful style. This Super Tuscan is a classic Tuscan blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino, 10% Canaiolo. My notes: dark color, rich berry nose, dense on the palate. Still very young, needs more cellaring time.

• 2004 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico: Amarone is a unique red wine from the Valpollicella wine region, in the province of Verona. It is made of grapes (usually a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara) traditionally dried on straw mats. This drying process, which typically lasts 3 months, concentrates the juices within the grape and intensifies the flavors. My notes: dark color, nose of sweet plum, rich and spicy on the palate with notes of cinnamon, long finish, perfectly well balanced and really good with aged Parmesan cheese. Perhaps my favorite red wine of the evening.

• 2004 Colosi Malvasia delle Lipari Passito: Malvasia delle Lipari is produced in the Lipari Island, the largest of the Eolian Islands. It is made from overripe Malvasia grapes that are then sun-dried for 10 to 15 days on large bamboo mats. My notes: deep golden color, aromatic muscat-like nose, luscious palate with a vibrant acidity. Superb with the almond and apricot cake.

We all had such a great time and were ready to meet again next year for another Band and Orchestra fundraising dinner. As for the theme, the decision was unanimous: Spanish wines. Not a problem for me, Spanish wines are awesome!

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