Monday, May 29, 2006

Sicily ~ Memories, Dreams and Reflections

Sicily shelters many memories, like an ancient version of my early California days. Warmth, sunshine, seaside, fresh fruit and lively wines. In many ways these two places are so alike, in their feel. When you scratch the surface though, Sicily is a multi layered cake.

This isn’t going to be a wine posting per se. Memories around the wines and memories before the time I was even on the planet. Where do they come from? Why do I remember an ancient Greek temple but forget the book I read a year ago?

A glass of fresh red wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, on a patio by the shade of a palm tree, where I heard my Grandmother singing and cooking and my grandfather watering the plants, the aromas of oregano and basilico washing my senses with light and vigor.
A picnic out in the country with my Aunt Vitina and Uncle Peppino, fresh rice croquets, arancini, a slice of caciocavallo cheese, some sparkling mineral water mixed with the vigorous Sicilian red wine from the cantina, cool and spicy ….

Scurrying around the Sicilian countryside in Zio Peppino’s Cinquecento, stopping to take a picture or get some fresh eggs or olive oil, in this tiny little car pressing on the landscape at a speed that only now seems impossibly wonderful.

On the way home a stop at an old friend’s winery…littered with Ferraris and Fiats, barrels and bottles, we’ve stopped for some Marsala and dessert, little capi duzzi di ricotta with a Marsala Riserva Superiore 10 year.

We are rolling out of an ancient winery, (was this a dream or a memory?) and come upon this sign painted in the time of Mussolini. Now appearing like an ancient fresco found at Piazza Armerina, in Italian it said, chi non beve mai vino e un agnello, chi ne beve giusto e un leone, chi ne beve tropp e un suino” (He who drinks no wine is a lamb, he who drinks moderately is a lion, he who drinks too much is a pig.)
On the way back to Palermo there is a scene , two country Sicilian men, from the turn of the century standing by their Carro Siciliano. I remember this clearly but was I there at the time the picture was taken, was I even alive in those days? But it is a fond memory nonetheless, even if it is from an ill tempered time machine gone mad in reverse.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ceretto Moscato d' Asti ~ Warm Season Favorite

In Alba in the late 1930s, Riccardo Ceretto founded the Casa Vinicola Ceretto, which formed the nucleus of the present Aziende Agricole Ceretto. In the 1960s, his sons, Bruno and Marcello, took over the company's commercial and technical direction, respectively, dedicating themselves to a careful expansion of family holdings.Since then, the enterprise's mission has been to acquire and consolidate various high-quality winemaking properties around the Langa region; make them autonomous from a production point of view; and foster synergy between the company's technical and sales staffs. The result has been the selection of land offering ideal exposure, altimetry, and chemical-physical composition, and on this land the family has planted or replanted vineyards. In its wines, the family uses grapes that come either directly from its own vineyards or indirectly from nearby producers who maintain the same high quality standards as the Cerettos and with whom the Cerettos have exclusive contracts.Of primary importance remains the vines' cultivation, at once traditional and-thanks to collaboration with the University of Turin's Faculty of Agriculture-evolutionary. With this sound foundation, work in the cellar has been reduced to a series of measures that complement and complete, rather than modify, nature's product.
In the 1960s, the Cerettos sampled grapes from many regional properties, to determine which were the best Barolo and Barbaresco crus. Then the family began purchasing vineyards, acquiring its first, Bricco Asili (in the Barbaresco region), in 1970. In 1973, the Cerettos built their first winery, the Azienda Agricola Bricco Asili, which comprised two of the area's best crus, Asili (1,2 Ha.) and Faset (1,6 Ha.) and purchased the Bernardot vineyard (in the Treiso district), in 1997. After Barbaresco, the Cerettos assembled-in a series of purchases of small plots over twenty years-a patchwork of Nebbiolo vineyards for the production of Barolo wine: Prapò (2,4 Ha.), in Serralunga d'Alba; Brunate (5,6 Ha.), in La Morra; and Bricco Rocche (1,5 Ha.), in Castiglione Falletto. Between 1977 and 1982, the family constructed an ultra-modern winery, the Azienda Agricola Bricco Rocche, in Castiglione Falletto on the top of the hill Rocche. In 2002, we purchased just under 1 acre on the top (the "Bricco") of the famous Cannubi vineyard, which will soon produce a very exclusive Barolo.
In 1974, the Distillery was built-the first in the Langhe region to produce single-variety grappas from property vineyards. In 1985, a new seat became operative at La Morra (in the Brunate district), where four varieties of grappa are distilled: Nebbiolo,Moscato, Dolcetto and more grapes .
Although the world has always known Piedmont for its great red wines, the Cerettos have never ignored white varieties. In 1977, several small producers of Moscato d'Asti in Santo Stefano Belbo founded the Azienda I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano Belbo, under the Cerettos' technical and commercial direction. 40 Ha. of the Tenuta San Maurizio, rented for 30 years from the Conti Incisa Beccaria, were added to the first 15 Ha. in the 1995. The total production of this estate is 150.000 bottles of Moscato d'Asti, 10.000 of Asti Spumante and 4.000 of Moscato Passito.
In the 1980s, the Arneis-Piedmont's only indigenous white grape-began receiving well-deserved attention, and in 1985, the Azienda Agricola Blangè 35 Ha. after the acquisition of Tenuta San Carlo)was set up, to produce a high-quality, Arneis-based wine.
The headquarters of the Ceretto Aziende Vitivinicole, were transferred, in 1989, from Alba to a completely restored site near the Bernardina estate. Situated in the hills surrounding Alba, it is one of the largest aziende agricole in the area. La Bernardina is also the seat of the Azienda Agricola Monsordo-Bernardina, which produces a Spumante Brut Classic Method, a sparkling wine crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes.
With the 1997 harvest and the bottling of the first Monsordo red, the winery realized its longtime dream of creating a great, "international" red wine, blended-in different proportions each year-from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Nebbiolo.In 1995, a plot of land extending into the communes of Sinio and Albaretto Torre was acquired in the Upper Langa region (at an altitude of 600 meters). The Rhine Riesling was identified as the ideal grape for this terrain, and its first harvest, in 1997, gave rise to the Azienda Agricola Arbarei.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

You say Ripasso and I say Ripassa; Three versions

Starting with a basic definition of Ripasso
• (Italy) A brilliant concept for increasing the amount of flavor and interest in basic Valpolicella. The Valpolicella wine is passed over unpressed but drained must of an Amarone. The bittersweet intensity of the Amarone is imparted, in a small way, to the basic Valpolicella, possibly with the help of a minor secondary refermentation.

I have narrowed them down to three methods.(although there are several other variations). But for the time this would be a good place to start from.

1) Traditional
Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore DOC
A blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese and 5% Molinara. After fermentation the wine is put into the vessels recently vacated by the Recioto and Amarone and undergoes a slight re-fermentation that increases both the alcohol and body. (the traditional Ripasso method, where the wine is repassed over the pomace of the partially dried grapes that are used to make Amarone) It remains in tank for 6 months and is then aged in small oak barrels for 18-24 months.

2) Innovative and Fresh

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre IGT
A blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese made in their ripasso style. 70% of the grapes picked are vinified immediately. The remaining 30% are left to dry until the end of December when they are vinified and re-fermented with the wine from the fresh grapes. They feel they have improved upon the traditional Ripasso method, where the wine is repassed over the pomace of the partially dried grapes that are used to make Amarone. They now add whole, partially dried grapes of the same variety to enrich the wine, as opposed to the spent grape skins normally used.

3) Artisanal and Intense (the most complex method of the 3)

Viviani “Campo Morar” Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC
The grapes are harvested the first or second week of October from the vineyard designated Campo Morar. 50% of the harvested grapes are vinified at the time of harvest, macerated for about 10 days, and vinified in glass lined cement containers under controlled temperatures. The other 40% of the grapes go through “appassimento” (a natural withering of the grapes in an ambient environment) for about one month in order to obtain the highest concentration of all the components of the grapes. At the end of November these grapes get crushed and after the maceration period, the wine is mixed with the juice of the grapes that were vinified in October. Around the end of March, a small amount of the ripassato (pomace) of the Amarone, which is rather sweet, is added to the Valpolicella Superiore. This process, our version of “ripasso” allows the wine to re-ferment for several days. The wine ages in barrels for a period of 24 months followed by an additional 6 months in the bottle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

postcard from Texas--Planeta is here...

click the postcard above

Monday, May 15, 2006

If I were an island, I'd be Pantelleria

Yep, I'd definitely be Pantelleria

Surrounded by Water

Vines and Vini

the Wind....

and Serenity

did I say Serenity?

not here or here ....
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