Discover “Undiscovered California” at Ventura County’s Clos des Amis VeroTalk

With brown hills above Santa Paula and local snow capped mountains in the background, winemaker Bruce Freeman cradles three of his wines to be featured in the Feb. 11 Verotalk.

Following high winds with two brief yet intense rainstorms which left inches of hail on the ground and snow dusting the local mountains including several inches in Malibu canyon, I dropped by Clos des Amis yesterday  afternoon to taste how the 2020 vintage is progressing, and help a bit with clean up.

These 3 Clos des Amis wines will be featured in a Facebook live talk on Feb. 11; details on how to order them below. (Unfiltered, unedited photo!)

In a difficult year with COVID, fires, and sudden record-breaking high temperatures, the 2020 harvest overall was a bright spot for Clos Des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman who predicted the vintage would be exceptional: “We had beautiful weather, beautiful fruit, and I’m excited about the potential for these wines.” Soon after harvested, he told me that the wines were “already showing elegance and power.” Continue reading

Comforting Montinore’s Biodynamic Lagrein and Teroldego Paired with Instant Pot Italian Pot Roast (recipe)

Montinore and pot roast

As the nights and days cool, and the green leaves go gold and and fall to the ground, our attention turns to comfort food and wine to go with it.

For Sue and I, that means Italian food. Nearing the end of a long Spring under lockdown, when we were released but still concerned, we went for these three red blends made from Italian grape varieties from Four Brix, Lucas and Llewellyn, and Montinore.

Now here we are solidly in Autumn, but at another transition: it’s Election Day, and a good time to once again turn our attention to comfort food and wine, which again means Italian. Later this week, we have Primitivo and Zinfandel from Miraflores in El Dorado, then we compare and contrast a Turley Zinfandel with an Italian Primitivo. We’re pairing these wines with food inspired by The Godfather movies.

But today, we again turn to biodynamic Montinore (and that’s not because, based on all of my friends talking about day drinking today, you can drink more biodynamic wine without getting a hangover!) Continue reading

Interview: Antonella Manuli’s and Lorenzo Corino’s patented method + wines, lasagna, sustainability, and dogs #ItalianFWT

Last week, I enjoyed watching the sun set, twilight fall, and the glow of the moon in Tuscany, Italy.

In front of the house with views of vineyards and the farm of Antonella Manulli, I chatted about sustainability and the Metodo Corino with co-innovators Antonella and Lorenzo Corino and their importer Sheila Donahue of Verovino.

This is one of the oldest places in the world for wine grape cultivation, going back 4,000 years.

As we talked, we all sat outside  with our dogs, enjoying the fresh air. Continue reading

Super Tuscans: Keep Your Sassicaia, I’ll take the Sangiovese #ItalianFWT

Sangiovese lovingSue shows off her purple teeth: we asked these three after a practice for the US Wine Tasting Team!

“Sassicaia, Sassicaia, all they want is Sassicaia!” wailed the young sommelier from China during a tasting lab of Sangiovese  and other Italian indigenous grapes during the VinItaly Wine Ambassador Course in Los Angeles in February 2019.

“How can I get them to try something else?” she asked plaintively. The group of wine professionals gathered weighed in, but none of the suggestions seemed to click. Continue reading

#RoséAllMay? #RoséAllDay! Three Rosé from Oregon with sushi, salad, seafood skewers for #AirportRules

Three Rosé from Oregon’s Willamette Valley I purchased with an industry discount on a sponsored press trip.

With so many of us at home due to COVID-19 “shelter in place” policies and practices, I hear there’s been more day drinking going on!

One winemaker says that COVID-19 means “airplane rules” — you don’t judge day drinking in an airport because you have no idea what time zone people are from and what time it feels like to them! What’s breakfast time for you could be time for a night cap for them!

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Willamette Valley Visit for Pinot Noir: Sustainable, Biodynamic Estate Wine from Antiquum, Brooks, Cooper Mtn, Left Coast, Montinore

Biodynamic and sustainably grown Oregon Pinot Noir paired with fresh wild salmon from Monterey Bay and strawberry salad

As the country awakens from slumber, so does the countryside grow green and fragrant with flowers.

Wineries and vineyards, however, have not been sleeping: vines and wines have been cared for, and now winery owners and staff across the country are evaluating how they can reopen to the public and still keep everyone safe.

On Friday, May 15, Oregon’s governor opened up the state, but no gatherings more than 200 are allowed, which postponed the 2020 Wine Media Conference slated for late August in Eugene; it will now be in early August 2021.

“The timeframe for tasting rooms reopening still remains uncertain,” said Executive Director of the Willamette Valley Winery Association (WVWA) Morgen McLaughlin in a May 13 press release. “The Willamette Valley’s individual counties must submit a plan to the state government for final approval. Most importantly we are encouraging a gradual and thoughtful reopening of our region.”

In addition to frequent cleaning and social distancing, some changes to expect include:

  • Reservations.
  • Expanded outdoor seating areas.
  • Greeters to manage customer flow and monitor distancing.

The WVWA has created a new resource page related to COVID-19 where you’ll find wineries which have provided new protocols, contact details, and consumer information on their websites.

“When wine tasting rooms do open, we encourage consumers to call each winery for further information and details before visiting,” continued McLaughlin. “As much as the first few months may be far from business as customary, I have no doubt each winery will work hard to create the most authentic Willamette Valley experience as possible, with safety of guests and personnel our top priority.”

With vineyards, farmlands, coastline, volcanoes, desert, rangelands, and more, I look forward to visiting again because Oregon’s diverse landscapes make it one of the best places to experience spring, summer or fall! Continue reading

A Toast with Leclerc Briant and an Invitation To Unexpected Pleasures in Champagne #Winophiles

Bouzy Rouge from Gaston Collard. It’s a thing– an unexpected pleasure, a red wine in Champagne!

Red still wine? In Champagne?

During my visits to Champagne just before harvest in 2018 and at the end of harvest in 2019, I tasted many unexpected pleasures including Gaston Collard’s biodynamic red wine made from Bouzy pinot noir in the barrel and the bottle.

Yes, red wine from Bouzy is a thing– a Champagne thing — and it’s called Coteaux Champenois. What an unexpected pleasure!

Because when we think about wine from Champagne, usually it’s the big sparkling wine houses that come to mind– the labels we see on a regular basis in the grocery store like Moet & Chandon, G. H. Mumm, Laurent Perrier, Bollinger, Veuve Cliquot, Taittinger, Piper-Heidsieck, Nicolas Feuillatte.

Just like when we pop open a bottle of Coca-Cola we expect a specific flavor, we expect these big brands, and their flagship labels, to have a certain, consistent, standard profile which they achieve from their proprietary dosage which is added before bottling.

All roads lead to Champagne! Also– these cookies– biscuits of Reims–another unexpected pleasure.

But Champagne is full of unexpected pleasures!

These include biodynamic wines like Vincent Charlot (read more here) and Leclerc Briant (discussed below) and organic wines too that express the terroir and the vintage, wines full of distinct personalities, wines with little or no added sugar, even red and white still wines like they are allowed to do in Bouzy!

So let’s virtually visit today in advance of the June #Winophiles exploration of unexpected pleasures in Champagne along with some picnic pairings!

Above are photos from our visit to Gaston Collard in Bouzy. We tasted through the wines and visited the cellar where we tasted the Bouzy rouge from the barrel.

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