Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

Casa de Mateus on day trip in the Douro Valley on trip from Porto

Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

There is a dangerous beauty to Portugal’s Douro wine region.  With its treacherously steep slopes, extreme summer heart, perilous roads, and a wild river – why would wine growers consider growing grapes here?  Just take a sip of the red and white wines from this region and then you know why!

With three World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO, there is no reason not to visit Douro Valley. Home to the Douro River, the third largest river in the Iberian Peninsula, which runs 897 kilometers from Duruelo de la Sierra to Porto, Portugal.

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Douro wine region in March this year with other international wine journalists.  I found the scenery in the valley to be some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in a wine region. Not only because of the gravity of the steep slopes of the vineyards, but also the sheer beauty of the Douro River and the hills that fall to the water’s edge.

“The sole immeasurable evidence with which we can amaze the world.”

Miguel Torga (Portuguese poet)

I found the Alto Douro Wine Region to be a land of traditions where nature reigns in perfect harmony and farmers who shaped the valley into terraced vineyards supported with stone walls (socalos). Their persistent labors have transformed this vast slate-soiled region into a true agricultural and landscape monument. The vineyards are accessible by lots of winding roads and steep cliffs.

Wine grapes have been cultivated here for over 2,000. The Demarcated Douro Region was formed (by the Marquis of Pombal) in 1756, and at this time the region became more internationally recognized. It’s important to note that it was the first region in the world to be demarcated.  Even today the traditional harvest is done by hand and crushing the grapes by foot is still carried on, along with modern vinification methods that accompany these traditions.

Alto Douro Wine Region is stretched over 250,000 hectares in which 20% is used for wine production, with 9,000 wine-growers.

Quintas visited
(wine producing estates/winery or vineyard)

Adega Cooperativa de Vila Real
http://www.adegavilareal.com/pt/

The Adega is a cooperative with over 1,232 members and works with winemaker Rui Madera. It was named “up and coming wine producer” for Portugal by Wine Access magazine in 2010 and was awarded the best co-op winery of Portugal of 2013.“

We met with Nuno Ferreira Borges, Marketing and Export Manager, and his father Jaime Borges, retired director and grape grower.  They discussed what the co-op is currently doing and how they keep the quality high.

Their wines are made from grapes cultivated according to traditional techniques, with low mechanization levels and low yields/hectare, while maintaining Douro’s terroir.

Their commercial brands are: Adega de Vila Real, Cancellus, Cancelão and Terras De Alleu. 

Quinta de Nápoles – Niepoort
http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/

Dirk Niepoort was the first to make high-quality unfortified wines in the Douro since1987.

Niepoort was founded in 1845 by Dutch merchants and at that time only produced Port wines.  This changed when 5th generation Dirk van der Niepoort took the realm.  He decided not only to make port but also wine.  Dirk is a true pioneer –  he insisted on making the region known for its wines first. He began with an experimental wine in 1991, and his first production white in 1996.

After a guided tasting with Dirk Niepoort we lunched on the terrace at Quinta de Nápoles winery, which hosted spectacular views.

My favorite wine was Redoma 2014

Tinta amarela 40 %; Touriga Franca 30%; Tinta roriz 20%; Rufete (Tinta Pinheira)10 %.

Tasting Notes:

Dark cherry, wild herbs, hints of raspberry and red currant; some mineral-salts; fine but gripping tannins –  deep, lengthy and layered.

Quinta da Casa Amarela
http://www.quinta-casa-amarela.com/en

Quinta da Casa Amarela is located on the left side of the Douro River, just opposite Régua. The Quinta has been owned by the same family since 1885 and today Laura Regueiro is sitting at the helm. The quinta is named after the main house yellow or ocher color (Amarela in Portuguese).

Quinta da Casa Amarela has 8 hectares with 45-50 year-old vineyards, mainly planted with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca, with smaller parcels of Malvasia Fina, Viozinho and Codega. They also practice sustainability. I learned that they had traditionally delivered their grapes to other port companies, but since 1994 started marketing their own Port and wines.

Casa de Mateus
http://www.casademateus.com/

This palace is famously depicted on bottles of Mateus rosé. Casa de Mateus is one of the best surviving examples of 18th-century baroque architecture in Portugal.

Its granite wings shelter a lichen-encrusted forecourt, dominated by an ornate stairway and guarded by rooftop statues. Surrounding the palace is a fantasy garden, with boxwood hedges, prim statues, and a fragrant cypress tunnel.

Inside, the library contains one of the first illustrated editions of Luís Vaz de Camões’ Os Lusíadas, Portugal’s important epic poem, while another room houses a collection of religious artifacts, including 36 relics brought from the Vatican in the 18th century: a bit of holy fingernail, a saintly set of eyeballs, and the inevitable piece of the true cross – each with the Vatican’s proof of authenticity.

The wine shop offers tastings of three locally produced wines for €4. I found especially interesting is the Alvarelhão, which is the same rosé originally bottled by Mateus in the 1940s.

C.A.R.M.
http://www.carm.pt/

C.A.R.M. has over 200 hectares of vineyards spread over various farms and planted at different altitudes, up to 550 meters. C.A.R.M. overlooks the valley with the Douro river in full view. The temperatures in the summer reach 45C. Antonio Ribeiro gives us a tour and shows us the olive trees, vineyards and almond trees. The soil in their vineyards is schist, and granite in some areas which is good for white wines.

In the production facilities, they have modern alternatives to the traditional lagars for the foot-stomping of the grapes.

During the visit, we meet Celso Madeira – who is not only a pioneer in the organic viticulture in the region but is also the first to have had the idea to remodel the hillsides with bulldozers in 1965.

My favorite wine: Carm CM Douro 2013, a 94+ points/Robert Parker

The back label adds 4130 bottles total (this one was No 124). 14 % alcohol

Fresh nose of black fruit and berries; nice balance with nuances of licorice and complex aromas of wood; firm tannins and smooth texture.

The Douro wine region has truly maintained their rural character and traditional roots with culture and religious customs and truly worth a visit to some of the historic quintas and to taste their wines!

I want personally thank Rita and Pedro Figueiredo for putting together this extraordinary tour!  #TeamDouro

Franciacorta, Italy’s Premium Sparkling Wine

What and Where is Franciacorta?

Franciacorta is a sparkling wine from the Province of Brescia, Northern Italy with DOCG status. It was first referenced as Franzacurta in the Eighth Book of Brescia in 1277. Guido Berlucchi produced the first Franciacorta in 1961, and during 1995 the sparkling wines of Franciacorta were awarded DOCG status. This tells you that Franciacorta has some history but it’s is a very young wine appellation and it has some serious merit.

Franciacorta’s layered geological formations boast complex microclimates. The wines are defined by both a sub-Alpine and Mediterranean-type climate due to the proximity of Lake Iseo. 

The wines are produced using the Méthode Champenoise, or ‘Traditional Method’, in which the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco grapes This gives the wine more yeast contact, and results in a drier wine with biscuit and brioche notes creating a long finish.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit this beautiful wine region and here is an overview.

I visited Ca’ del Bosco and was fortunate to see the harvest and quality control taking place.

Founded in 1969, is an icon of Italy’s Franciacorta region. The winery’s state-of-the-art cellar, unique in Franciacorta, has allowed the winemaking team to produce the best wines possible and with the highest quality. Their wines have collectively earned 41 “Tre Bicchieri” awards by Italy’s Gambero Rosso, since 1998, the second-highest awarded winery in history by the publication.

Here is my video of what we saw on our tour.

Wines Tasted:

Vintage Collection Saten
Tasting Notes: silky smooth, soft, and well-rounded

Cuvee Prestige
Tasting Notes:  a well-balanced wine, fresh and crisp

Vintage Collection Brut
Tasting Notes: structured, full-bodied, intense and persistent.  

Other Wines In The Region

On my second day, I visited the co-op of  Cantine La Pergola. This winery is certified organic and uses a small percentage of sulfite.

Founded in 1979, Cantine La Pergola is made up of 45 members, 30 of which confer grapes, and control 80 hectares of vineyards, 90% of which are organic: with the annual production reaching 300,000 bottles (50% certified organic).

Wines Tasted:

VALTÈNESI DOC CHIARETTO – SELENE (2016)
Note: This wine is known as the “wine of the first night” because it is literally produced in one night.

Tasting Notes: beautiful floral notes; well balanced; light elegant wine

La Pergola Lugana
Tasting Notes: soft floral notes, excellent balance some hints of jasmine

La Pergola – Eos (2012)
Note: autochthonous grape varietal Groppello (cultivated 1300) with small percentages of Marzemino, Barbera and Sangiovese.

Tasting Notes:  bright ruby red; aroma and taste recall spices, herbaceous notes, and minerals and persistent almond aftertaste

La Pergola – Brol (2010)
Notes: Aged 18 month in second-hand oak barrels; limited production (5000
liters per year)
Tasting Notes: Red fruits with some spice notes; high acidity

In addition to producing delicious local wines, Cantine La Pergola also produces olive oil and organizes bike tours.

 Azienda Agricola Ricci Curbastro. This winery is quite historical with a history of 17 generations. The owner, Mr Cubastro introduced me to the soon-to-be 18th generation, his eldest son.

The most impressive aspect of this vineyard is that it is one of the few family-owned in the region. I also toured their museum which incorporated historic winemaking tools. Cubastro winery owns 32 hectares of vineyards and has created solar energy panels that help run and maintain the winery. The next step for this winery is to convert all of their production to organic.

 

 

 

Wines Tasted:

Franciacorta Brut
Note: blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Nero
Tasting Notes: Light, easy to drink, hints of floral notes

Franciacorta Rose Brut
Note: This salmon pink wine is perfect for the nice warm summer day
Tasting Notes: Light; refreshing, hints of floral note

Sebino IGT Bianco ZeroNote: No preservatives or chemical treatment
Tasting Notes: Nice minerality and freshness; good balance

I also visited Azienda Barone Pizzini, the first organic winery in the Franciacorta region. Silvano Brescianini, General Manager and Vice President of the Consortium provided us with a tour and details about the winery.

We started our session watching a video about the historical aspect of the winery. The video can be viewed here. The most impressive aspect of this winery is how organized it is and how the facilities are arranged. Is it no surprise that this winery is a Biodiversity award winner! They produce 70-80 different types of wines.  

 

 

Wines Tasted:

Golf 1927 Franciacorta Docg
Tasting Notes:  Nice mineral and floral notes with delicate notes of honey; elegant,
creamy and fresh – well-balanced

 Satèn Franciacorta DOCG Edition 2014
Note: name familiar to the word “silk”
Tasting Notes: Some nice citrus notes, with pressing minerality

Rosé Franciacorta DOCG 2013 Edition
Tasting Notes: Pinot Noir is transformed into hints of rose petals in the glass; The structure and balance of this wine are interwoven in a lingering tension between its rich flavor and acidity.

I had lunch at Agriturismo Corte Lantieri with a menu dedicated to Franciacorta Festival and the area’s traditional food.

Thereafter I went to Azienda Guido Berlucchi , a beautiful medieval-looking vineyard. Berlucchi has been producing certified organic wine since 2016. It took the winery about four years to fully convert to organic wine. And today, it is known as the largest producer of wine in the region I was happy to learn that the sparkling Berlucchi 61 Brut Franciacorta wine that I tried can be found at LCBO / Vintages (Ontario, Canada). 

http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/berlucchi-61-brut-franciacorta/514323#.WsK1ErYrIWo

VINTAGES#: 514323 

Wines Tasted:

Palazzo Lana Saten (2008)
Tasting Notes: refined notes of apple and pear, with an appealing acidity and firm structure, along with delicious, crisp notes of fruit.

Berlucchi ‘61 Brut
Tasting Notes: fragrant notes, crisp with hints of apple and pear and citrus, with a long finish

Berlucchi ‘61 Saten
Note: 100% Chardonnay
Tasting Notes: hints of citrus fruit, some tangy acidity, full and firm structure

The last winery I visited was Azienda Agricola Mosnel which was located in the open and fresh area of Franciacorta where the grapes are exposed to a lot of breezes coming off of the alps. The grapes will ripen a week earlier here than other areas. In this vineyard, 20% pinot blanc is harvest more than other regions and wineries due to climate region.

If you are ever in the Franciacorta region, visit the vineyards mentioned and also check out the Franciacorta Festival September 2018.

Shadi Yazdan and Liz Palmer

 

 

 

2014 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon “Vintner’s Reserve”

“This lush, round and rich vintage is back by popular demand!”

Vintage: 2014

Varietal: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot & 1% Malbec

Bottle size: 750 ml

Region: Sonoma County

State or country: CA/USA

Price: $27.95 [Canadian]

Available: In Ontario, Vintages # 331603

Review date: March 17, 2018

Review:

This dark ruby wine has aromas of lush black cherry and cassis with some vanilla and dried herb notes; on the palate, there is a nice balance with soft tannins with some hints of mocha following through on a long finish.

Score: 89

 

About Kendall-Jackson

Kendall-Jackson is one of America’s well known and loved family-owned and operated wineries. Along with their children, Kendall-Jackson is based in Sonoma County and offers a range of acclaimed wines grown on the family’s estate vineyards along the coastal ridges of California. A leader in sustainable vineyard and winery practices, including water and energy conservation and natural pest control, 100 percent of Kendall-Jackson’s vineyards in California are third-party certified by SIP (Sustainable in Practice) and CCSW (Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing). Kendall-Jackson was recently named 2017 winery of the year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, recognized as a benchmark in the California wine industry. Learn more online at www.kj.com, and follow Kendall-Jackson on social at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Wine Review: La Crema Sonoma Coast 2015 Pinot Noir 

 

Varietal:        Pinot Noir (100%?
Region:          Sonoma Coast
Producer:      La Crema Winery
Alcohol:         13.9%

This wine exhibits a deep ruby color with promising aromas of red cherry, blackberry and red pepper with some hints of spice; in the mouth, it offers multi-layers flavors of berries, plums, cherries with hints of blood orange and exotic spice; nicely focused finish.


Suggested Food Pairing

Beef, Veal, Game, Poultry

liz-palmer.com – October 1, 2017
Rating:  91points

Notes
Vintages#: 719435

Wine Review: Montecillo Crianza 2011


Varietals: Tempranillo (90%) and Graciano (10%)
Region: Rioja, Spain
Producer: Bodegas Montecillo SA
Alcohol: 13.5%

This deep ruby wine features medium woody, spicy and fruity aromas; on the palate are flavors of cedar, vanilla and sweet, jammy red and black fruits; fleshy tannins with long length.

Suggested Food Pairing
This is a versatile food wine. Enjoy with spicy dishes, paella, tapas and beef stew.

89/100