“Wine improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.” ….. Anonymous

Close your eyes and think of Pinot Grigio. Are you thinking of Italy?  Are you thinking of a great value, yummy-delicious Italian Pinot Grigio with a short, very un-Italian sounding name, or of another from there that (my opinion) is both overpriced and disappointing? Both shall go un-named here. But I’d bet that in the process of that exercise, you didn’t think once of Paw Paw Michigan.

My first experience with this winery was at their tasting room in Union Pier located in Southwest Michigan in the designated Lake Michigan Shore AVA. I was so impressed, I subsequently visited the winery in Paw Paw. Other tasting rooms are located in Frankenmuth and Dundee to the East.  What attracted me was their signage reading, “Italian Roots. Michigan Soil.”  The attraction proved fatal and I’ve been a fan ever since.

The “Italian roots” are evident in this delicious Pinot Grigio.  This is a bright, zesty wine with all the best characteristics of Pinot Grigio that have made that varietal so popular. But blended to include a small percentage of Traminette (a cross of Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewurztraminer), St. Julian’s Pinot Grigio offers delightful twists and surprises.  In the glass, the wine shows as lemon grass tea. Aromatics are strong with notes of kiwi, tropical fruit, pear and spice. These same notes carry into the taste in a symphony of flavors with notes of Honeycrisp apple, zesty lemon, lychee, pineapple and pear all making their contribution.  With more body than most Pinot Grigios,
(L) Angela Braganini, David Braganini
and The "Mizer" enjoying a Riesling
it’s also lush in the mouth, a contribution of the Traminette, yet finishes clean with an excellent fruit to acid balance.  Together, these grapes create a most enjoyable sweet/tart interplay on the palette; a push-pull of flavors collecting in the pocket mid tongue, then developing while yet teasing for replenishment.  Quite simply, this wine is fun.

Entrance to Paw Paw Winery
To keep it fresh, grapes are collected in the cool, early morning hours. Skin contact is limited and the juice sees no wood. Fermentation and aging is within temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. No malolactic fermentation is allowed.  The result is a wine that is fresh, fragrant, floral and fun --- and meant to be enjoyed young. As with most “finds,” the tendency is to put off opening the last bottle so that you’ll always have one available. But I’ve tasted several vintages and found this wine to be consistently pleasing.  

Depending on how prepared or sauced, this wine would pair
well with roast fowl and seasonal vegetables, or baked macaroni with Fontina cheese and béchamel sauce.  Its sweet / tart interplay lends itself also to enjoyment with some desserts at the end of a meal. But as the cold weather here begins to give way to spring breezes, I’m thinking of carefree hours spent outdoors by a lake at a picnic table with sandwich in the basket and this wine in the glass.

……………… Jim
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St. Julian Winery
7166 S Kalamazoo St
Paw Paw, MI 49070
(269) 657-5568


“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you New York, New York!”

But as was said in George Gershwin’s 1935 opera “Porgy & Bess”, “It ain’t necessarily so.”  While Frank Sinatra (backed by a terrific band) made a terrific song, when it comes to wine it is definitely not so.  Recently I had an opportunity to taste some of the estate wines of Villa Bellangelo. The wines were not only delicious, they served to affirm the importance of terroir.  Bellangelo Vineyards and Winery is located in Dundee near Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. 

The conditions for ideal grape growing in this region were actually set into motion tens of thousands of years ago. Retreating glaciers deposited a layer of topsoil on shale beds above the lakes. Seneca Lake is the deepest of the Finger Lakes at 618 feet and rarely freezes. And the lakes (there are eleven) moderate the region’s temperatures.

Move forward several tens of thousands of years and I was enjoying wines from the Finger Lakes here (in the Midwest) in the early 1970’s. But as California gained prominence, retail outlets allocated more of their limited shelf space to that state’s offerings, as well as to the expanding market here for non U.S. wines, and New York’s wines became difficult to find and enjoy. More the pity because these wines are affordable and exciting and truly unique.
Shale From The Seneca Lake Vineyard
This piece about 3"x3"x1/4" 
As Chateaubriand and Filet Mignon are similar, they are also different:  Bellangelo’s Gewurztraminer is similar to Alsace, and its Rieslings are similar to those of the Mosel region of Germany - similar but so appreciably different. Any lover of wine who professes an appreciation of terroir is self-obligated to taste Villa Bellangelo and other wines of the Finger Lakes.

I’ll be posting more detailed reviews of some of these wines in the months ahead. But in the meantime, these wines are too “Wine Mizer worthy”   to remain unmentioned. So being the dedicated reviewer that I am, I’ve ordered additional of these wines to taste a second time. And in the meantime, here are my first impressions:    

1)    2013 Seyval Blanc $16.  I’m starting with this wine because I generally don’t enjoy Seyval Blanc and there always seem to be so many other white wines to enjoy. For me, Seyval is weak in character; listless, wondering what to make of itself.  Even its color is non-descript.  But the nose of this rendering from Villa Bellangelo immediately captivated me. Character a plenty with notes of quince and lemon. Silky mouthfeel. Back taste brings in hints of orange and vanilla. A white wine of balance that plays with all its flavor hints in tandem and with a surprisingly long finish.
2)      2012 Gewurztraminer $20.  Nose is faint, but pleasantly floral. Kiwi, peach, quince, lychee. A luscious mouthfeel (more glycerin like than the 2013). Long finish.  Both this and the 2013 share similarities with a Gewurz from Alsace yet provide a uniqueness that give a sense of place and make these wines so fun to drink.
3)    2013 Gewurztraminer. Nose of honeyed peach that carries into the taste along with apple that develops noticeably. Sharper acid finish. 
4)     2013 Cabernet Franc $18.  Cherry colored in the glass – like a Pinot Noir. I’m concerned the wine may be thin.  Then again, I recently had a Cabernet Franc from Argentina that was hot-climate deep purple and tasted too much like Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’m looking for the graceful, unassuming but balanced style of a Loire style Cabernet Franc.  Another reviewer visited unexpectedly and I offered him a taste. “Delicious” he said immediately.  I enjoyed a delicate nose of sour cherry and raspberry and a taste of cherry cordial chocolates. A little alcohol-black pepper in the throat that thankfully wasn’t present in subsequent tastes.  My fault – I needed to give the wine more air and will be tasting this again.
5)     2013 Semi-Dry Riesling $18.  The nose is Mosel:  smell/taste this wine blind and you might take it to be an Auslese. Tart green apple that softens in the taste as sweet ripe pear develops. The tart-sweet interplay mid-palette is intriguing, but the experience continues as an interplay develops between honeydew melon and pear. Who said white wines can’t be complex?
6)      2013 Dry Riesling $18.  Classic, pale straw in the glass with edges that are almost translucent. Again, looks like a Riesling from Mosel. Nose is light, delicate and floral with orange blossoms. Heavier bodied than a Mosel Kabinet, it offers Granny Smith apple and Meyer lemon with hints of orange and a taste that just continues to build in this uniquely characterized wine. Long finish.

Frank Sinatra had a great song, was a great singer and certainly could afford to buy great wine. But what they do in New York is unique and just can’t be done anywhere.  The sampling of wines from Villa Bellangelo delighted me with wines that are graceful, play with the senses and uniquely reflect a sense of place.  And you needn’t have a star’s pocketbook to afford them. At prices shown, these wines are super values.

……………. Jim
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·         Wines reviewed provided as a sample by the winery

Villa Bellangelo
150 Poplar Point Rd
Dundee, NY 14837


"Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.” -Michael Broadbent

News, by definition, is not about the ordinary.  It is the attention getting story that gets played or published.  And so when wine gets attention in the mass media, it is often about a record setting price paid for a particular Bordeaux wine.  Along the line of “Tell a lie often enough about a generality and people will begin to accept it as truth for all particulars” we need to be reminded that not all Bordeaux wine is the same.  Just ask the French.  They live there and know something about French wine. 

They also know something about vintages which many of us take for granted here.  Weather is important to all types of agriculture everywhere.  But in France, where irrigating grape vines is not allowed, rain (its timing and its amount) are critical as are other factors that affect grape and other crops elsewhere.  So while wine collectors and investors worldwide pay big sums for a Grand Cru from a great vintage (hoping to later cash in on escalating prices), I buy wine to drink it.

And I prefer to pay other than big prices.

And I prefer to enjoy good wine.

And the two are not exclusive of each other.  And you can too.

So now we need to get to vintages and why they are important in Bordeaux, for example.  I’m not a fancier of numerology, but recent vintages of note are 1995, 2000, 2005, (2009) and 2010. Two-thousand and nine was, perhaps, made a good year by Mother Nature just in order to throw off the numerologists.  2007 also had its merit, but is a year to appreciate early. If you learn the years of good vintages, want to drink good wine and want to do so inexpensively, it’s important to learn this so that you can work with the “Wine Mizer” system.

When a year (vintage) is really stellar, almost any wine from that area will be enjoyable. It will not, certainly, be as complex or as structured or even as cellarable as a Premier Cru. It will also not necessitate that you apply for a home equity loan in order to enjoy a bottle.  A good example is Chateau Cadillac from 2010 (pictured here).  The Chateau is near Fronsac in Bordeaux and uses regional blends in making everyday table wine.   Their red blend is 70% Merlot / 30% Cabernet Sauvignon… pretty classic even without Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot and made in an “old world” style being less fruit forward. The wine is medium-bodied and offers all the classic depth and elegance associated with French Bordeaux.

It cost me $17.

Now that I have your attention, let me better describe this $17 wine.  Respecting that palettes differ, I enjoyed the wine’s nose of pencil lead and dark cherry which carried into the taste and married with leather and juicy cassis. The finish hinted at black tea although tannins were smooth and the finish carried along some dark chocolate.

Chateau Cadillac is labeled “Bordeaux Superieur” meaning it is slightly “superior” to standard Bordeaux AOC wines. Although the Chateau is a 13th Century Estate and makes what I consider very good value wine, and although the estate’s chalk and gravel soils produce grapes of character and a sense of place, wine begins in the field.  And 2010 was a great year for that area.

2004, an "off" year but drinking
beautifully  now from these 3rd growth estates.
Being a contrarian, and since I so enjoy Bordeaux wine, I do buy Grand Crus in off years. 2004 and 2006 encapsulated the great vintage of 2005.  I bought each of those years limiting my selection to 3rd growths (Troisiemes Crus). The respected estates’ blending experience, and their access to quality barrels assure me of a wine that will cellar and develop beautifully over time. Buying the best (or at least very good) in off years means you don’t have to in great years. It means you can consistently enjoy quality “old world” wine in all years and at substantial savings in each.    

For another review of an excellent but remarkably value-priced wine, see my review of Chateau Pey La Tour (2010) and click this link:

In the meantime,
Even the Mizer does occasionally splurge: Here on some
2010s - a great year - but they're 3rds.
why not try this Wine Mizer system for enjoying excellent Bordeaux wine at surprisingly affordable prices?  You’ll thank me later (if your parents raised you correctly).

……………….. Jim (Master Gardner, April 1992. U of I Cooperative Extension Service).

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“Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” … Plautus

Siduri is another example of wineries began by first generation winemakers who have garnered acclaim and a cult following of wine lovers; in this case lovers of
Pinot Noir.  Founded in 1994 by Adam and Diana Lee on a shoe string budget, the Lees have developed Siduri into a winery producing more than twenty Pinot Noirs, the majority being single vineyard.  Their love of Pinot Noir and their passion for work has earned them praise from such notables as Robert Parker (“One of California’s top Pinot Noir producers. One of my favorite wineries.”)  to Antonio Galloni (“Siduri’s appellation level Pinots are wines that consistently over deliver.”).  Add Matt Kramer’s comments (Wine Spectator) from his new book, New California Wine: (“To taste Siduri is to taste some of the best Pinot Noir made in America today.”).

Even with a wide angle lens, I couldn't
get all the Pinots Siduri makes. (But I'm happy
to have these).
I’d be thinking too much of myself to think I could add anything of more weight to these comments from such notables.  But in fact, comments from such heavy weights can have the effect of scaring away some consumers, leading them to believe the label may be too expensive for their budget. Siduri has completed an end run pass around this problem by working with more than twenty vineyards. They maintain a bare bones operation, making only Pinot Noir.  And visiting the winery, you won’t see an expensively appointed tasting room. The opulence is solely in the wine. Hence the cult following that recognizes both good Pinot Noir and a bargain.

I recently tasted a 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, for example. The wine is a blend from five sites the winery works with. But Siduri vinifies each wine separately by block, clone and barrel type to maximize individual components and provide greater complexity to the final blend.  In the glass, the wine is ruby colored and offers aromas of cherry and blackberry. But I was most intrigued by the nose of white smoke, flowers and musk. This was a supple, juicy Pinot with silky tannins and a pleasing, cleansing zesty acidity. I tasted dark mashed plum and the wine played a savory-sweet balancing act of cherry and vanilla notes along the way. A hint of black pepper accompanied the dry finish.

The wine is fermented with 20% whole clusters and a blend of wines from both the cooler northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands (Rosella’s, Garys and Soberanes Vineyards) and the warmer southern end of the appellation (Sierra Mar and Pisoni). 
With Tyler Bruner (L) Siduri guide
extraordinaire in the winery
Temperature (and other factors) play an important role in how grapes ripen and in what they offer as wine and partially explain why you may like a pinot one day and not the next.  By blending wines from both areas, after vinifying each separately, Siduri offers an entry label Pinot Noir of considerable elegance by itself or with food and one which tastes higher than it is priced (ARP $31).

Siduri has never filtered or fined any Pinot Noir. Their belief is that doing so, more often than not, the wine is stripped of its flavor and character.  There is no way for me to taste this same wine having undergone such procedures.  But having tasted this wine as it is, there is no reason for me to want to.       
……………  Jim

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“Wine is sunlight held together by water.”  … Galileo Gallilei

I should not be liking this wine.  I am, after all, a Francophile by taste  And although I’ve tasted some domestic Pinot Noir using Burgundian yeast and clones and another from New Zealand (same clones, and again with the yeast) and have enjoyed them -  doing this only served to establish my preference for the “old world” style: earthy and not so fruit forward.  But this Rochioli Pinot Noir exploded with fruit and I was loving it!   I cannot recall ever having so enjoyed a fruit forward wine.  If any Pinot Noir could re-patriot me, this Pinot had the best chance. 
Entrance to the winery

No, I haven’t changed my general orientation to Pinot Noir.  The problem (my opinion) with most fruit forward Pinot that I tasted is that its “forwardness” is dominating.  It obscures all the other characteristics of the wine.  There is no symphony playing out of the bottle, only a concerto from an instrument that keeps playing the same note.  Good wine, great wine, displays a push-pull of balance; a tease and reward system of notes on the palette that constantly intrigues and invites more exploration.  The better the wine, the better this game is played out. 

Visiting the vineyard in 2012, I tasted and was blessed to walk away with their 2010 “Three Corners” Pinot Noir that I was just now tasting again. Rochioli vineyard makes several wines, including  estate and single-vineyard estate bottlings, that  span the palette from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot
Noir (including a rose of Pinot), Syrah, Valdiguie (a Languedoc-Roussillon in the style of a Gamay) and a sparkling Blanc de Noir.  But it was the Pinot Noir that possessed me.  That it, in fact, possesses so many people is evident when you look at the ratings.  While all the Rochioli varietals are well rated (you can see this yourself -  click the tab labeled “accolades” on the vineyard’s web page), it’s their Pinots that constantly garner 90+ points, with some releases earning numbers like 96/93/93 from the Parker-Tanzer-Galloni triumphate that possess me.  And in the guide books for California wine touring, Rochioli vineyard is always included as a must visit with emphasis on tasting the vineyard’s Pinots.

I enjoyed aromas of ripe, mashed blackberry and cherry (emphasis blackberry) that followed through in the taste. This was a wine of intriguing contradictions: it was decadently rich but finished clean in a perfect acid balance against fruit. The mouthfeel was glycerin like, coating the palette with silky and clean fruit spiced with anise and a whisper-hint of black tea.  Yet despite all this fruit, the wine was not jammy.  It was a symphony of balance instead; its notes intermingled while playing against each other, each discernable but then immediately contrasted against the other, all ending in a long, long finish.  Amazingly, despite this long finish, I wanted to sip again just to re-experience the process.  Yes, this is a “new world” style wine. It’s not in the style I have habituated to since enjoying French burgundies in the 70’s and becoming accustomed to that model.  But it was a joyous experience and one I would happily and eagerly re-visit.  And perhaps, that’s the strongest recommendation any wine reviewer can really make.

Speaking of recommendations, this Pinot is a single-vineyard estate wine and among the bottlings constantly sold out -  so much so that people wanting to experience it need to register on a list.  So another 
Tasting ready-for-the-crush grapes at the winery in 2012
with Victoria Stone (Wine Server Extraordinaire)
recommendation is to visit the winery’s web site and register on that list. In the meantime, estate wines (including Pinots) are available and can be ordered directly on line.  Tasting these excellent wines will just develop appreciation toward the eventual experience of being able to enjoy a single-vineyard estate bottled wine from J. Rochioli vineyard and winery.  The push-pull of balance, the tease and reward system of notes on the palette intrigues and invites along the journey.

……………….. Jim

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Age of Vines:                         32 yrs
Fermented                             20 days, Open top stainless tanks. Hand punched cap
                                                Malo-Latic: 60 days
                                                Skin Contact: 11 days
                                                100% French oak / 50% new 
                                                60 gal barrels /  15 months
Acid:                                      .62 gm/100ml
PH:                                         3.55
Alc:                                         14.5%
Cases:                                     163
Cellaring Potential:               6 – 8 yrs

J. Rochioli Vineyard and Winery
6192 Westside Rd
Healdsburg CA 95448
Tel: 707-433-2305



“Wine is valued by its price, not by its flavor.” … Anthony Trollope (English novelist 1815-1882)

OK, that’s a lot of words. But you have to appreciate the French for putting it all out there on the labels (most words are on the back label, with “Chateau Saint-Roche” and “Chimeres” appearing on the front).  It’s French.  Even if you’re new to wine, you get that from the word “Chateau”.  The region in France where the wine is made is the Languedoc Roussillon.  The sub-region (a smaller area within that area) is the Roussillon. And the appellation is Cotes du Roussillon Villages.  Chimeres is a red Rhone blend made by Saint-Roche.  You could probably get by just asking for a Saint-Roche, though learning what these areas mean is helpful.  For one thing, French wine is still a standard worldwide.  For another, you can get good French wine made in the Languedoc area with just budget friendly money being spent.

At less than $20 (and often $16), you get a lot of wine in the glass.  And this blend of (40%) Black Grenache, (30%) Carignan, (20%) Syrah and (10%) Mourvedre shows deep purple. It offers aromas of mocha, raspberry and violet with hints of provincial herb. The wine has medium plus body and plus, plus tannin. But despite all this rich dark fruit and ample tannin, the wine is surprisingly smooth and supple. Mr. Trollope (see quote above) obviously never tasted Saint-Roche. If you’re looking for a winter wine somewhat on the chewy side or something to go with beef, this is a good choice.  At 14.5% alcohol, which by French standards is high, this wine packs some heat that you’ll feel on the back taste with black pepper.  A great winter wine and a good value, Parker / Wine Advocate awarded it 92 points and I found it most interesting.  Imported by European Cellars, it’s an “Eric Solomon Selection”.  And if you’re not familiar with French wines, that’s another piece of information on the back label to look for.  Drink now, or obtain a more recent vintage.

……………… Jim

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“Men are like wine. Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” … Pope John XXIII

There is an unfortunate side effect to labeling terms used on wine labels, and the fault – I think – lies with us and in how we conjure what the term means.  The term “reserve,” for example, has no legal meaning.  And while that is so, most winemakers and vineyard owners are proud of their craft and their family’s label and quite honest in putting forth their product.  In most cases, it’s safe to assume that the term “reserve” can be taken to mean the wine is something better than the vineyard’s entry label.  The wine may have received additional aging, benefited from oak, or have been selected from a superior site.  But none of that is legally defined or specified.

A visit to Krutz is an opportunity
to conveniently visit other wineries
But what does the term “Estate Grown” mean?  Legally, it means the winery producing the wine also grew the grapes.  And what do we conjure that to mean?  Do we take that to mean that wine produced from grapes grown on the estate will be better than wine made from grapes that have been sourced? I think that’s often the case.  And it’s an example of us reading too much into the label.

In fact, there are grapes grown on many vineyards that do not make wine.  Their business is growing grapes. And there are well known, highly regarded wineries that source all their grapes.  They source grapes from vineyards that both produce their own wines and from those that do not. Growing is farming and winemaking is something else. Sometimes they come together, and sometimes they do not. 

I recall enjoying a tasting in California put on by a winery and visiting
A Stunning Syrah
the B&B where I was staying. Upon pouring a sample of one of the wines, the sales person mentioned that the grapes for this Pinot Noir were sourced from “XYZ” (a Sonoma vineyard / winery famous for Pinot Noir and that will go unnamed). Upon enjoying the wine’s unique aroma, I immediately recognized the vineyard.  I had enjoyed his remarkable Pinot Noir on a previous visit. But upon tasting the wine, I recognized he had nothing to do with making it.  Don’t buy into the misconception that such vineyards only sell inferior grapes to winemakers.  They wouldn’t be selling anything for very long if that were true.  Growing is farming and winemaking is something else.  So let’s accept that winemaking is its own art. And the proof of that is in the tasting. 

Patrick Krutz moving crates of
Tasting Patrick Krutz’s Syrah is such an experience.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from the famous Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa Valley. Krutz has had, and benefited, from long term contracts with this vineyard since 2007.  As he says on the label, “the fruit we get into the winery is dark; full flavored, and big structured. It begs for the classic French tradition where 10% of Viognier (a white grape from the Rhone) is co-fermented with the Syrah.”

What does this mean?  In the glass, it means a medium bodied wine with soft, silky tannins. It means a wine that’s a safe “crowd pleaser” because every red wine drinker will enjoy it; the Viognier smoothing the edges of the Syrah’s depth allowing even white wine drinkers to enjoy a glass.  A pungent nose of blackberry mixed with smoky bacon carries into the taste along with notes of pepper and licorice softened with hints of crème de cassis.  Faint hints of nutmeg and allspice enhanced the nose. This is a wine not only to be enjoyed, but to be later tasted again and studied for its depth, complexity and balance. Wine Enthusiast rated this wine a 94.    

Krutz Family Cellars produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnays of various labels and price points, and exemplifies several first generation winemakers that left successful careers to pursue the craft of winemaking with passion and a love for the task and a willingness to take risk. I tasted many of the winery’s offerings during my 2012 visit and it was obvious that wine being made was not going to be “3rd or 4th or 5th generation business as usual.”   Now, looking at my notes from that visit, I’m still struck with the grace and depth of Krutz’s Anderson Valley and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and the Martinelli Chardonnay.  And looking at his current list which includes Merlot, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Malbec, I feel a need to return.     

…………………   Jim

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Harvested                                           Oct. 10, 2009
Fermentation:                                    Co-fermented in Macro bins with 19 days on the skins
Alc:                                                    14.9%
pH:                                                     3.74
Cooperage:                                         40% new French oak
Barrel Aging                                       14 months
Released:                                            March 2012
Production:                                        400 cases

Krutz Family Cellars
1301 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Tel: (601) 940-9625




“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” …… Paulo Coelha, Brida

If Paulo is correct in saying that all wines should be tasted, it would be remiss of me not to talk about this wine.  You already know from the name that it’s an Italian wine.  More specifically, it’s from the region of Tuscany; the sub-region of Vin Santo del Chianti Classico.  But don’t let use of the word “Chianti” mislead you. Although the sub-region includes the words “Chianti Classico” (a D.O.C.), this is not a wine of blended Sangiovese grapes, nor does it taste anything like it.  Not only are the grapes used in the making of this unusual wine different, but how those grapes are vinfied is a story in itself – and one that should instill respect in your heart for this wine being a labor of love.

Let’s start with the grapes: Trebbiano and Malvasia.  Italy, remember, is the land of over 900 grape varieties so when you’re expanding your experience with Italian wines, you’re likely to encounter fun new tastes.  The grapes are picked toward the end of September with the best bunches (no bruises and and loosely packed berries) taken to the vinsantaia.  The vinsantaia is a loft where the grapes are hung in bunches by chains and left to dry until February.  Thanks to the climate in Vin Santo, with cold but dry winters, the grapes are not subject to rot.  And numerous, large windows kept open throughout this time provide constant air circulation.  If you’re familiar with the process of appassimento (see ) in the making of Amarone, think similarly.

In February, the grapes are sufficiently dried to assure the Vinsanto
will have a high alcohol content and the residual sugar necessary for the long fermentation.  Only now are the grapes pressed and, after a natural process of clarification, the must is poured into small oak casks which still contain the lees of the finished Vinsanto that had just been removed. These lees start the fermentation process which can last up to five years!  (no, that’s not a typo – five year’s fermentation).  Finally, the Vinsanto is racked from the lees, clarified and bottled – usually in smaller 375ml bottles.

The bottle size is appropriate since the wine itself is more desert appropriate. In the glass, it shows medium amber and offers tastes of burnt sugar, caramel and candied orange peel.  At 16.5% alcohol, it’s a powerful finish to a meal and a wine to warm you up in winter. Though a desert wine, it’s not sweet in the way of a Sauterne, Tokay or “late harvest” anything. I find it more akin to a Marsala in texture.  

A purpose of this blog is to introduce you, perhaps, to different grapes; to bring you along the wonder-journey of winemaking and to introduce different tastes and textures into your glass.  Vin Santo will do that.  And while it may not be a style of wine you prefer for daily consumption, experiencing it will broaden your awareness of how long (this method of drying grapes is centuries old) and how patiently (five year fermentation!) winemakers work to give their wine a sense of place when you’re enjoying it.

…………………. Jim

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Composition:             Trebbiano 60%   Malvasia Bianca del Chianti 40%
Alc:                              16.5%
TA:                               7.6g/L

RS:                               148g/L