Story by Manos Angelakis
The pandemic notwithstanding, we have been receiving interesting wine samples that we taste with food, the way wines should be tasted.
We recently received wines from California’s Fathers + Daughters Cellars in Anderson Valley, created by Phil Baxter, an enologists and viticulturists with a background in French premier cru as well as village wines. The winery is a collaborative and multi-generational effort of a family: Kurt Schoeneman, his daughter Sarah, Sarah’s husband Guy Pacurar, their daughter, Ella, and Guy’s older daughter, Taylor.
We received a 2017 Pinot Noir, a 2019 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2019 Rosé.
All come in Burgundy-style bottles with silk-screened labels, instead of the traditional paper labels, and no capsules covering the cork.
The Pinot Noir is smooth, almost sweet-tasting and medium-bodied. Mild cherry, plum and raspberry flavors are accented by vanilla, cranberry and cinnamon notes and cigar box and pencil shavings in the longish finish. Elegance and power seem to go hand-in-hand in this Pinot from hand-harvested grapes aged 18 months in 70 percent neutral barrels, with the balance once-used French barrels. Even though it is still very young and a bit acidy on the back end, it paired beautifully with sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage rolls. I would give this wine 88 points as tasted; given some further time in cellar it could possible reach 90 points once it has some time to further mellow.
The Sauvignon Blanc bottle had 100% sauvignon blanc wine from vines that were planted more than 40 years ago. It had a pale straw color, with grapefruit, apple, melon and hints of stone fruit on the nose. Apple, lemon and dried apricot were on the palate; the dried fruit was only perceptible on the long finish and was accompanied by an almost Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc minerality. The wine exhibited good acidity and balance. It was light-bodied and would be an excellent aperitif, as well as pairing well with seafood and charcoal grilled fish and perhaps mild cheeses like brie. We tasted it with grilled branzino filets that were flavored with olive oil, fresh oregano and lemon juice sauce, a very traditional Greek-styled preparation. As tasted, I rate this wine at 87 points.
Unfortunately, I did not like the rosé. There are other rosés in the market that are leaner and less acidic. I would like to retaste this wine from a different vintage, before I make a final decision.
Another group of wines came from Sicily. Cantine Ermes, a co-op in the heart of Sicily’s Belice Valley, launched their Vento di Mare organic wine collection, which includes both indigenous and international grapes.
Al the bottles sport a Stelvin closure, which I like because it’s easy to open as well as keeping oxygen away from the wine. Cork allows for micro-oxidation to occur, which improves the aromatics and taste of more complex bottles; for fresh and lighter wines as the ones that are in the Vento di Mare bottles, Stelvin allows us to taste the contents as the winemaker intended them to be. It also avoids TCH problems that have been lately again popping up from poor quality corks.
We received samples of 3 red and 3 white wines.
The whites were: a Grillo (indigenous Sicilian grape), a Pinot Grigio, and a semi-sparkling Moscato; Moscato d’Alessandria is a grape ubiquitous in the Eastern Mediterranean. The reds were a Pinot Noir, which is a wine from an international grape, a Nerello Mascalese and a Nero d’Avola – both these wines are from grapes indigenous to Sicily.
The Grillo is a local grape whose popularity has increased considerably over the past few years. Wines from the Grillo grape are not as widely known as other Terre Siciliane wines, though a few other local wineries also make some interesting bottles from this particular grape. The Cantine Ermes Vento di Mare Grillo is straw colored with olive green highlights. It displays aromas of tropical fruit and citrus. On the palate it is light, fresh, with naturally crisp acidity, sporting hints of melon, pears and lots of tropical fruit.
The Pinot Grigio is made from softly-pressed grapes, fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks with 2 months in bottle before release. There are aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruit, citrus and hints of pear. It's a fresh and juicy wine, with grapefruit, honeydew, pear and a touch of salinity on the finish.
Both these wines I would rate at 88 or 89 points. They were tasted at lunch accompanying breaded, fried oysters followed by a grilled octopus and cuttlefish salad.
I have not tasted yet the Moscato. A slightly frizzante wine is better tasted during a warmer time of the year. So I will wait until the temperature goes above 70 degrees before opening the bottle, and then I will report.
Next month I will talk about the reds.
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