Monthly Archives: May 2013

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine at Sunset

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) at sunset

This image is of a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) and it was made at sunset in the Inyo National Forest (CA): these trees can only be found in certain mountainous areas of California, Nevada and Utah and are really remarkable in that, with some of them being almost 5000 years old, they are the oldest living tree on earth.

Bristlecone pines have adapted to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environments. Typically, they live in high elevation habitats in areas with rocky soil, low rainfall and long winters.

They grow extremely slowly (a 40 year old bristlecone pine may not reach 6 inches!) and, at high elevations, they grow to 60 feet tall. Also, their needles can remain green for over 45 years. At low elevations, bristlecone pines grow straight, while at high elevations their trunks become twisted. Their root system is very shallow so as to allow maximum water uptake in arid environments.

For more information about these incredible trees, you may check out the relevant pages on the Websites of the National Wildlife Federation, the BBC, and the National Park Service.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Advertisements

Windows Arch and Turret Arch Before Dawn

Windows Arch and Turret Arch at twilight

Utah’s Arches National Park is a special place that rewards visitors with stunning red rock desert views and over 2000 natural sandstone arches and giant balanced rocks.

I captured the above image of Windows Arch, with Turret Arch in the background, at twilight, just before dawn, from a slightly elevated vantage point. Given the bright desert sunlight and the crowds that generally assemble around the most iconic features of the Park, photographing at the fringes of the day or at night are among the best options available to those who do not simply seek to bring home a snapshot from Arches.

Immediately before dawn, contrast is low and manageable but the sky is already lit and takes on delicate pastel tones that subtly complement the warm hues of the ubiquitous rocks and sand. Add a pleasing composition (especially if you are at one of those over photographed spots) et les jeux sont faits 🙂

Oh, and by the way, Happy Memorial Day! 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Wine Review: Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer, who also happens to be a friend of mine! My review of the wine has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the opinion I am going to share on the wine is my own.

Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCGToday I will review a bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva that I received as a sample from the producer, who happens to be a former schoolmate of mine and a friend. The wine that I am going to review is Casa SolaChianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG (\sim \!\,$35). As I said in my disclaimer, my review will not be tainted by my personal relationship with the producer and will be as objective as a wine review can be. 🙂

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Casa Sola’s Chianti Classico Riserva to be a very pleasant Chianti, which could nicely complement a juicy steak or game dish.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended Good to Very Good  – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Let’s now say a few words about Chianti in general.

About the Appellations

Chianti wine may be produced under two different Tuscan appellations: Chianti Classico DOCG or Chianti DOCG.

The Chianti Classico appellation encompasses that stretch of Tuscan territory where the grapes for making Chianti have traditionally been grown for centuries (the first document referring to Chianti dates back to 1398!): this means an area surrounding the cities of Florence and Siena, including such landmark towns as Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti.

The Chianti Classico regulations require that the wine be made from 80% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 20% may come from other permitted black-berried grapes (these include Canaiolo, Colorino or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot). The minimum aging required is (i) 12 months for the base version of “Chianti Classico” and (ii) 24 months, at least 3 of which must be in bottle, for “Chianti Classico Riserva“. Every bottle of Chianti Classico wine must bear the “black rooster”  logo on its neckband. Plenty of additional information may be found on the Website of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium.

The Chianti appellation encompasses a significantly larger territory in the surroundings of the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, Firenze, Pistoia, Pisa, Prato and Siena. The Chianti regulations require that the wine be made from 70% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 30% may come from other permitted grapes, provided that (a) the use of permitted white-berried grapes may not exceed 10% and (b) the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc grapes may not exceed 15%. The minimum aging required is (i) 6 months for the base version of “Chianti“; (ii) 12 months for the “Chianti Superiore” version, and (iii) 24 months for “Chianti Riserva“.

About the Grapes

Regarding Sangiovese, Chianti’s main grape variety, it is a variety that is indigenous to Central Italy and was first mentioned in writing in 1600 under the name Sangiogheto (which begs the question: if the first documented use of the word Chianti to identify the wine dates back to 1398, what did they call the wine’s main grape for those 200 and change years???).  In 2004, DNA parentage analysis showed that Sangiovese originated as a cross between Ciliegiolo (a Tuscan grape variety) and Calabrese di Montenuovo (a quite obscure variety from Calabria). Sangiovese is a vigorous and late ripening variety that is one of the most widely cultivated in Italy, especially in the regions of Toscana, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Some is also grown in California and Washington State. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

Sangiovese is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties and is utilized for making several signature Italian wines, including (beside Chianti) Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano. Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still “young” and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them. Given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

Our Detailed Review

Now, on to the actual review of the wine I tasted, Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG.

This Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot grapes grown in the winery’s vineyards near the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, in proximity to Florence. The wine has a muscular 14.5% ABV and was aged for 18 months in a mix of larger oak barrels and barrique casks plus 8 months of additional in-bottle aging. The Riserva retails in the US for about $35.

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine with aromas of cherry, strawberry, sweet tobacco, licorice and vanilla.

In the mouth, the wine was drywarmsmoothfreshtannic and quite tasty. It was a full-bodied, balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, revolving mostly around fruity notes of cherry and strawberry. Its tannins were gentle and offered a pleasant counterpoint to the wine’s smoothness. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready, meaning definitely enjoyable now but a few more years of in-bottle aging could make it evolve even more and add additional complexity.

Finally, beyond producing wine and olive oil, Casa Sola also offers guided tours of the vineyards and winery culminating in a wine tasting experience, cooking classes and in-house accommodation in 11 rustically-furnished apartments: for more information, please refer to Casa Sola’s Website.

A special wine tasting: Marchese Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC… and some cool facts about Nebbiolo

StefanoA few days ago we had a special night, with a few wine-aficionado friends coming over to our house for dinner, including fellow wine blogger Anatoli who authors the excellent blog Talk-A-Vino. Needless to say, several great bottles of wine were opened, some coming from our cellar and some that were graciously brought by our guests.

Today I would like to focus on a bottle that we opened that night and really was quite special: a 1969 Barbaresco! That’s right, as in 44 years old! More specifically, it was a bottle of Marchese VilladoriaBarbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC ($22 for current vintages).

The bottle had been given to me a while ago by my father, who had forgotten all about it and recently “re-discovered” it in his own cellar. Clearly, with all those years of aging, much could have gone wrong, like the cork could have gone bad (which would mean an oxidized wine) or simply it could have been corked. But still… worth a shot, right?

The Bottom Line

Overall, I very much enjoyed tasting such an evolved Barbaresco: it has been the longest-aged wine I have ever had and it has been a pleasure to the eye, the nose and the mouth. Regarding the quality of the wine itself, I cannot vouch for the contemporary vintages of Villadoria’s Barbaresco, as this was the first bottle I had from such producer, who is a little bit out of the limelight. But there is no doubt that that 1969 Barbaresco held his own: sure, the bouquet could ideally have been a little more complex, but hey – today you can buy a bottle for $22 (granted, I am not sure how much it went for back then): what more do you want for that kind of money? 😉

Rating: Very Good, considering the excellent QPR Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

If you are interested, let’s now briefly talk about Barbaresco and the grape Barbaresco is made from, which is Nebbiolo.

About the Appellation

Barbaresco is a wine that is made in the northern Italian region of Piemonte in an appellation that earned DOC status in 1966 and was then “upgraded” to the top DOCG status in 1980. The appellation encompasses a small area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo comprising three smaller towns (Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso) and a village named San Rocco Senodelvio. The regulations applicable to the  appellation require that Barbaresco be exclusively made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in that area and that the wine:

(i) be barrel-aged for a minimum of 26 months (at least 9 of which in wood barrels) plus an additional 10 months in bottle for “plain” Barbaresco wines; or

(ii) be barrel-aged for a minimum of 50 months (at least 9 of which in wood barrels) plus an additional 10 months in bottle for Barbaresco Riserva wines.

About the Grape

A few notions about Nebbiolo, without a doubt Piemonte’s most world-famous grape variety. Researchers have recently been able to trace back the origins of (or at least the first documented reference to) Nebbiolo to 1266, at which time the grape was called Nibiol. This makes Nebbiolo one of the oldest grape varieties in Piemonte. While Nebbiolo is definitely an Italian indigenous variety, doubts still remain as to whether it originated from Piemonte or Valtellina (a mountainous district in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where Nebbiolo is still grown nowadays and locally known as Chiavennasca).

The name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word “nebbia” (fog) – some say because of the fog that in late Fall generally enshrines Piemonte’s hills where Nebbiolo is grown. Nowadays, three main different Nebbiolo clones have been identified: (i) Nebbiolo Lampia; (ii) Nebbiolo Michet; and (iii) Nebbiolo Rose’. Interestingly enough, however, DNA profiling has shown that, while Lampia and Michet have identical DNA profiles, Rose’ does not share the same profile, which has recently led to consider Nebbiolo Rose’ a different grape variety altogether rather than a clone of Nebbiolo.

Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC

Nebbiolo is a late-ripening, very finicky variety in terms of the terroir it requires to produce quality wine, which means that Nebbiolo successfully grows only in very few places on the entire earth – Piemonte and Valtellina sure being two of them, along with certain of California’s AVA’s. Nebbiolo grapes generally have robust tannins and high acidity, which make it a variety that is very suitable for long-term aging. In Italy, Nebbiolo’s best expressions are in varietal wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco in Piemonte or Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato della Valtellina in Lombardia’s Valtellina district (all of them being DOCG appellations).

(Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

Our Detailed Review

Now on to the wine we had last week: it was a Marchese Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC (13.5% ABV). Current vintages of this wine retail in the US for about $22.

If you have read the preceding notions about the Barbaresco appellation, it will not come as a surprise to you that our bottle was designated “DOC” instead of the current DOCG designation which, back in 1969, did not exist yet.

Two peculiar features of our bottle (that I had never observed in any other bottle before) were that it came completely wrapped in coarse cloth to which one end of a string had been affixed using sealing wax while the other end had been stapled to the cork! The two snapshots to the right should give you an idea of what I am talking about. While I can only offer conjectures as to why the producer went through the hassle of doing all that, I would imagine that the idea behind the cloth wrap was to protect the wine from light exposure (and therefore harmful UV rays) while the string connecting the cork to the cloth was maybe an anti-tampering device of sort?

I opened the bottle and decanted it about two and a half hours before the time we would likely taste it, following a proper handling and decanting procedure codified by the Italian Sommelier Association (I may write a post about it at some point). Fortunately, it looked like the cork had held up well throughout all those years, so that was a promising sign. Thanks to proper cellaring and handling, the wine poured clear into the decanter up to almost the end of the bottle, when unsurprisingly some sediment showed up.

Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOCFast forward two and a half hours (during which we managed to keep ourselves busy with appetizers, a pasta course and plenty of other wine) and the time had come to pour the Barbaresco into our glasses and taste it!

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was orange red in color, as expected after all those years of aging, and thick.

On the nose, it was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of spirited cherries, licorice, rose, vanilla and ethereal notes. The bouquet was not very broad, but it was elegant.

On the palate, our wine was dry, warm and smooth; quite fresh, quite tannic and quite tasty. If you are familiar with the ISA wine tasting protocol you might notice that our wine was a little shifted toward the “softness” side and therefore you might wonder whether it can still be classified as balanced. Well, considering that it is only natural that, after 44 years of aging, tannins and acidity recede a bit and that for a structured red wine being a little slanted toward the softness side is certainly not a “sin”, by all means I will go ahead and call it balanced. In terms of structure, our wine was between medium and full-bodied and its mouth-flavors were intense and fine, showing a pretty good correspondence with the wine bouquet: I picked up strawberries, cherries, vanilla and licorice. Finally, the finish of the wine was quite long and its evolutionary state was mature.

Ever Heard of a Sik-Sik?…

Arctic ground squirrel, or sik-sik (Spermophilus parryii)

Thought so. Quite honestly, neither had I – at least before I traveled to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (I have published more photographs from that trip on thisthis and this previous posts). Up there, beyond Inuit, caribou, wolves, arctic hare, the occasional polar bear and billions of mosquitoes and black flies you can find… sik-siks, which is the kind of cute sounding way Inuit call arctic ground squirrels because of the sound they make.

Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) are the largest and northernest among North American ground squirrels. They seek shelter from the frigid tundra temperatures by building a maze of burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent digging.

Throughout the long acrtic winters sik-siks hibernate for 7 to 8 months a year. Now get ready for a super cool fact: “Researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have shown that during hibernation, arctic ground squirrels adopt the lowest body temperature ever measured in a mammal. [Their] body temperature […] drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. At intervals of two to three weeks, still in a state of sleep, hibernating squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create heat that warms them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit [(about 36.5 degrees Celsius)]. When the shivering and shaking stops, body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature” (quoted from the Denali page of the National Park Service’s Web site).

By the way, I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my images of rodents and lagomorphs (i.e., rabbits and hares – no pikas, sorry): feel free to go take a look if you feel like it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

WiNews: Elena Walch’s Pinot Noir “Ludwig” 2010 Wins XII Italian Domestic Pinot Noir Competition

StefanoJust a quick flash to alert you about a piece of news that an Italian producer that I am fond of has been kind enough to share with me.

The 2010 vintage of the “Ludwig” Pinot Noir made by Elena Walch (the Alto Adige winery whose Riesling Castel Ringberg we have recently reviewed) is the fresh winner of the XII Italian Domestic Pinot Noir Competition, which is really exciting news as well as a tangible recognition for Walch’s commitment to quality production.

I hope I will be able to lay my hands on a bottle of the 2010 Ludwig soon so I can publish a full review!

An Overview of the 2011 Vintage Port Tour, NYC, and the Basics About Port

Last week I felt inspired by reading Anatoli’s wonderful accounts of his recent trip to Portugal on his excellent wine blog, Talk-A-Vino. Beside telling us all about the restaurants he dined at, he of course shared plenty of information about the wines he tasted over there, including of course Portugal’s world-famous fortified wine, Porto. And finally, today by total coincidence, he published a wonderful, extremely thorough post on Port, with all you need to know about it – had I known in advance, I would have spared myself the work to research and write an overview of Port altogether (see below)! 🙂 However, since by the time Anatoli published his post my Port write-up was all done already, I am going to publish it nonetheless, and then if you want to dig deeper into Port, please refer to Anatoli’s post of today!

Anyway, in order to remotely taste my own share of Portugal, I enthusiastically accepted the invitation to participate in the 2011 Vintage Port Tour that was held in New York City last week to offer to the press and the trade a preview tasting of Vintage Port’s latest production from the prestigious collection of brands belonging to the Symington Family.

Quoting directly from the literature that was handed to participants at check in, “the Symingtons, of Scottish, English and Portuguese descent, have been Port producers for five generations since 1882”. The Symingtons own four historic Port brands: Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s, plus the other three brands Quinta do Vesuvio, Smith Woodhouse and Quinta de Roriz. All such seven brands were represented at the 2011 Vintage Port Tour.

According to the brochure we were provided, the brands controlled by the Symingtons account for over one third of all premium Port and, with 965 HA (2,385 acres) of vineyards, the family is the largest vineyard owner in the Douro Valley. Also, Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port is so far the only Port in the XXI century to have been awarded a perfect 100 point score by Wine Spectator.

Before getting to the chase and telling you which ones among the Ports that I tasted at the event impressed me most, let’s take a look at a few basic facts about Port.

As we said, Port is a fortified wine, which means a wine in which the regular alcoholic fermentation process gets interrupted about half way through the conversion of the grape sugars into alcohol, CO2 and heat by the addition of a neutral grape spirit (a grape brandy). Port is made from a blend of different grape varieties, that must be included in an official list of authorized grapes that was compiled by the Portuguese government in 1940.  The main grape varieties that are used in the making of red Port are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.

Although at some point I will publish a post that explains the wine production process more in detail, here suffice it to say that one of the inhibitors of the yeast fermenting action is the presence in the must of alcohol in excess of about 16/17% VOL, which is why adding a spirit to a fermenting must blocks the fermentation process. The result of this addition is two-fold: on the one hand, it quite obviously increases the ABV of the resulting wine (generally, to about 19% to 21% VOL; hence the name “fortified wine”); on the other hand, by interrupting the conversion of grape sugars into alcohol, it leaves a considerable amount of residual sugar in the wine, which therefore tastes sweeter.

After being fortified, Port is moved into steel vats and/or oak or other wood casks for aging: depending on the intended type of Port, the aging process can be relatively short or even extremely long, with some of the finest Ports aging up to a century! After aging in casks, the wine gets bottled for consumption or for more in-bottle aging.

There are many different styles of Port, including White Port that is made from different, white-berried varieties. However, speaking of “regular” Port made from black-berried grape varieties, there are three main styles that are worth mentioning:

(i) Ruby: this is the most basic, simple style – it is a blend of different vintages that have aged for a relatively short period of time (generally, 3 to 6 years) in steel vats and/or wood casks and are meant for immediate consumption;

(ii) Tawny: this is a more complex, developed style of Port – it gets to age in wood casks for a very long time (essentially, 4 years or longer, with some Tawnies called Age-Designated that bear on the label an indication of how long they aged, ranging from 10 to 40 years), thus acquiring complex tertiary aromas and turning tawny in color due to the oxidation process induced by the lengthy in-cask aging;

(iii) Vintage Port: this is the king of Ports, which is made exclusively from grapes from a single vintage and only in the best years. After a minimum aging of 2 years in steel vats and/or wood casks, they are bottled unfiltered (which means that they will likely develop sediment in the bottle) and are meant for decades of in-bottle aging before being enjoyed at their best.

With all of this said, let’s now talk about my experience at the 2011 Vintage Port Tour.

The event was compact and well organized, with one table for each brand and each brand (except only Quinta de Roriz, which only had the 2011 vintage) offering for tasting both their own 2011 Vintage Port and an older vintage for comparison. In the exclusive interest of adequately covering the event, I got to taste *all* of the exhibited Vintage Ports: I know, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! 😉 Broadly speaking, all the Ports that were showcased at the event were very good, although some of them had a different style than others, clearly also because of the different aging of the older vintages made available for tasting.

Here below I will point out those that were my own personal favorites (with their approximate retail prices in the US) among the 13 Vintage Ports that I tasted, along with my tasting notes for each of them:

(1) 2011 Vintage:

Quinta de Roriz (about $60): purple in color; intense and complex aromatic palette, with a bouquet of caramel, black cherry, rose, licorice, raspberry, black pepper and tobacco; sensuous in the mouth, with intense flavors of plum, raspberry, licorice, dark chocolate, fruit candy and vanilla; warm, smooth, well balanced and long. Rating: Spectacular, with Excellent QPR Spectacular

Graham’s (about $90): purple in color; fairly complex bouquet (it needs aging to develop) of blackberry, black cherry, licorice and tobacco; wonderful in the mouth: intense, with excellent flavor-scent correspondence, plus additional flavors of dark chocolate and vanilla; warm, smooth, well balanced and very long. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Dow’s (about $80): purple in color; fairly narrow aromatic palette (it needs aging to develop) with aromas of plum, blackberry and licorice; very good in the mouth, with flavors of licorice, dark chocolate and spirited black cherry; quite warm, super smooth, balanced and quite long. Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Smith Woodhouse (about $55): purple in color; fairly narrow bouquet (it needs aging to develop) of fruit candy, licorice, ethereal notes; good corresponding mouth flavors; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Good Good

(2) Older Vintages:

Quinta do Vesuvio 1994 (about $90): garnet in color; with a not very broad and yet elegant aromatic palette of wild berries, wild strawberries, violet and chocolate; but the little bit that it lacked on the nose was more than compensated on the palate, with intense and outstanding mouth flavors of raspberry jam, licorice, tobacco and dark chocolate; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Smith Woodhouse 2007 (about $55): purple in color; elegant and complex bouquet of black cherry, spirited wild cherry, raspberry, rose, tobacco, sandalwood and black pepper; wonderful in the mouth, with pleasing flavors of spirited wild cherry, dark chocolate, rhubarb, licorice and tobacco; warm, smooth and long. Rating: Outstanding, with Excellent QPR Outstanding

Dow’s 1985 (about $95): garnet in color; intense, unique and complex bouquet very focused on tertiary aromas with tobacco, gunpowder, black pepper, raisin and a hint of wild cherries; intense, luscious mouth flavors of spirited raspberry and wild cherry, Amarena Fabbri (if you guys know what I am talking about!), licorice and dark chocolate; warm, smooth, well balanced and long. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Graham’s 1980 (about $105): garnet in color with orange hints; to be honest, given its aging, I would have expected a broader aromatic palette: I picked up aromas of tobacco, black pepper, licorice, plum and wild cherry; very good and more expressive in the mouth, with flavors of raspberry candy, licorice, vanilla and spirited cherry; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Very Good Very Good

Cockburn’s 2000 (about $70): ruby in color with garnet hints; intense nose with a fairly narrow bouquet of cherry, strawberry, plum and licorice; in the mouth, sweeter than the others, with pleasing flavors of licorice, vanilla, cherry jam, dark chocolate and tobacco; warm, smooth, balanced and quite long. Rating: Very Good Very Good

That’s all for today. As always, let me know how you liked it in case you happened to enjoy one of the Ports that I reviewed!

Happy Mother’s Day!

In a rare (at least for this blog!) multi-image post, here’s to all the Mothers who enjoy reading Clicks & Corks and to the Mothers of all of our readers!

Which of these mommies do you, or your Mom, relate more to?  😉

Happy Mother’s Day!

Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby

Protective?

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sow with cub

Romantic?

Black bear (Ursus americanus) sow play-fighting with cub

Playful?

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) sow with cubs

Cuddly?

American Graffiti

Sego Canyon (UT) Pictographs and Century Old Graffiti

I took this image of ancient Native American petroglyphs in Utah’s Sego Canyon, not far from Thompson Springs. These petroglyphs were scratched on the rocks of Sego Canyon by Native Americans of the Fremont Culture, who lived in the area between 600 and 1250 of the Common Era. As you will notice, however, just by looking at the top left quarter of the image above, more recent graffiti were also scratched on those very same rocks, right by the Fremont petroglyphs.

When I was framing this image, I wanted to convey the juxtaposition of “ancient graffiti” like the Fremont petroglyphs with relatively speaking more modern graffitis that two different people, seemingly in 1884 and in 1902, felt the need to scratch right next to (if not directly on) those vestiges of the past.

Which begs the question: considering that those “younger” graffiti are by now more than a century old, does age make them more acceptable to us viewers? Do you see them as a “work of art in the work of art” or as the condemnable act of vandals who inexorably defaced that precious Native American rock art?

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

European Wine Wars: after Tocai, it is the time of Prosek… and Teran

The international press, Dr Vino and several other sources all reported yesterday that, as a result of Croatia’s imminent accession to the European Union at the end of a 10-year long process, Croatian wineries will be required to stop using the name “Prosek” to identify a traditional local sweet raisin wine that has been made for centuries mainly in the Dalmatia region from local grape varieties such as Bogdanuša, Maraština, Plavac mali and Pošip.

The reason for the requirement is that, according to EU officials, the name of the Croatian wine is too similar to Italy’s Prosecco and therefore it might be confusing to consumers. And this in spite of Prosek and Prosecco being two very different wines, made out of different grapes (Glera for Prosecco and the Croatian grape varieties mentioned above for Prosek) and in different styles (Prosecco is mostly sparkling and is not a sweet wine, while Prosek is a still, sweet raisin wine).

Unsurprisingly, the EU requirement has caused considerable commotion in the Croatian wine world and some producers indicated that the Croatian authorities are even considering initiating a legal dispute to challenge the EU requirement.

However, the chances that Croatia be allowed to retain its right to use the name “Prosek” for their wine after joining the EU are very slim, as the case is virtually identical to the one that a few years ago prevented Italian winemakers (mostly in Veneto and Friuli) from using the word “Tocai” to identify a local dry wine that had been made for centuries from the homonymous grape variety because the name was too similar to Hungary’s Tokaji, a famous local sweet raisin wine made from Furmint grapes (for more information about the Tokaji/Tocai dispute, please refer to my previous post over at Flora’s Table that dealt with it).

But, as the saying goes, bad news never comes alone, at least for Croatia, that is. Beside the Prosek debacle, Croatia has to face a claim made by neighboring Slovenia that Croatia should also be prevented from using the word “Teran” to identify a red wine that is made in Italy’s region of Friuli, in Slovenia and in Croatia from the grape variety known as Terrano or Teran in Croatia. Slovenia’s claim is based on the fact that the EU granted Slovenia a protected designation of origin for Terrano grapes grown in the Slovenian region of Kras. The European Commission very recently decided the Teran dispute in favor of Slovenia, with a decision that will likely also negatively affect Italian Terrano producers.

Even in this case, the decision gives rise to many doubts, as Terrano is a very ancient variety (the oldest references date back to 1340 in Slovenia) which originated from the Karst plateau, an area that is shared among Italy (Friuli), Slovenia and Croatia (Istria). DNA profiling has also proved that Terrano is identical to Refosco d’Istria (a Croatian variety) and Refosk in Slovenia (information on the Terrano grape variety, cit. Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, HarperCollins 2012).

Given the above, which side of the fray are you on?

Wine Review: Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG

Coppo, Barbera d'Asti "Pomorosso" DOCG

Today we are going to talk about Barbera, and more specifically about a bottle of Barbera that I recently had the opportunity to taste and that has definitely impressed me.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG ($55) to be one of the best Barbera’s that I have had so far, a wine that is a pleasure to drink and savor sip after sip – a perfect companion for a red meat dinner.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended Outstanding – $$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellations

As you may know, Barbera is a grape variety that is indigenous to the Monferrato district in the north Italian region of Piemonte. The first written references to Barbera date back to the end of the XVIII century. Nowadays it is the most widespread grape variety in Piemonte, from which wines are made that display lively acidity and a deep ruby color. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

In Piemonte, Barbera is the main grape of four different appellations:

  • Barbera d’Asti DOCG (encompassing an area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria, and requiring the use of 90% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 4 months for the base version or 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels for the “Superiore” version);
  • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels)
  • Barbera d’Alba DOC (encompassing an area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo and requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)
  • Barbera del Monferrato DOC (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)

Given its wide distribution, Barbera is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from simpler, “younger” versions that are only aged in steel vats to more structured and evolved versions that are aged in oak barrels, including sometimes barrique casks.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG.

It falls within the category of the more complex Barbera’s: it is made out of 100% Barbera grapes grown in the 56 HA Coppo estate near the town of Canelli, near Asti (Piemonte). It has 13.5% ABV and is aged for 14 months in barrique casks. In the U.S., it retails for about $55.

Let me say outright that the Pomorosso is a great, structured red wine, that is suitable for several years of aging (the 2006 vintage that I had was a symphony of aromas, flavors and balance).

But let’s go more in the specifics through a technical wine tasting. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the 2006 Pomorosso poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine with a sequence of aromas of violet, plums, blueberries, cherries, tobacco and chocolate.

In the mouth, the Pomorosso was dry, warm, smooth; fresh, tannic and tasty. It was a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing good correspondence with its bouquet as well as a perfect integration of the oaky notes released by its barrique aging. Its tannins, although very discernible, were also equally gentle and supple, with their delicate astringency counterbalancing the wine’s lively acidity. The Pomorosso had a long finish, with its flavors pleasantly lingering in the mouth for a very long time. Its evolutionary state in my view was mature, meaning that, with 7 years of aging under its belt, it was at or approaching its peak in terms of quality, making me think that additional aging, while certainly possible, would not likely improve its quality any further.

As usual, if you have tasted Pomorosso before, let me know how you liked it!

The River

Stubborn dogwood (Cornus nuttallii Audubon)

Readers who have been following this blog since the inception may recall that I very much like dogwood, of which I have already published a close-up of a blossom in a previous post.

This photograph of a small dogwood tree, stubbornly clinging to a rock in the middle of an impetuous river is another image that I hold dear because I think it clearly conveys a message of resilience and will to survive against all odds. Two very positive messages, if you ask me.

The black & white rendition simplifies the image to its graphic elements and amplifies the yin-yang contrast between the dark and the light portions of the image, that balance each other out nicely, as if divided by an imaginary diagonal line.

Oh yeah, the title for this post pays homage to my favorite Springsteen song 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)