My First Natural Wine – La Stoppa Ageno 2007

La Stoppa Ageno 2007

You don’t really understand what a Natural Wine is until you pour that first glass. It certainly does not look like a glass of crystal clear Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay that we are accustomed. You may also hear the term “orange wine” as the wine will have a yellow to orange colour to it, for white wines.  There are of course red wine versions too.

How is Natural Wine Made?

According to the Natural Wine Fair website,
“…They are wines that are made without the use of synthetic chemicals in the vineyard and few, if any, additives in the cellar.

Natural wine vineyards are farmed without using pesticides, fungicides, weed-killers or other synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, and they come from vineyards that are literally FULL of life. Their grapes are hand-harvested to make sure that the grapes don’t get damaged and to ensure that the soil of the vineyards is not compacted by heavy machinery.

Once the grapes hit the winery, their juice is fermented without the use of added yeasts and the arsenal of additives this entails. Nothing is added to the grape juice or its subsequent wine, apart from – at most – a dash of SO2. Ideally nothing is removed from the wine either to keep it whole and complete, so most natural wine producers do not fine or filter but rather let time settle the wine naturally…”

My Natural Wine Taste Experience

My first experience with Natural Wine was a glass of La Stoppa Ageno 2007 with Rasoul Salehi from Le Vieux Pin. It is a blend of 60% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, 40% Ortrugo and Trebbiano. The wine had already been open for 1 month and Rasoul commented how it still had no change in aroma, while the tannins had reduced over the month. It looked like freshly pressed apple juice. It had a very interesting nose, with roses, light leather and some Brettanomyces.  Very dry, bone dry, medium body, high acidity and medium tannins.  The main flavour that I could get from this wine was of apples.  It is not a summer sipper wine.  You must / should drink the wine along with a meal.  I am told it is traditional to enjoy a wine like this with a stew. Here is the La Stoppa website if you would like to find out more about this wine.

Other producers of Natural wines are:

  • Domaine Gerard Neumeyer
  • Catherine and Dominique Derain
  • Domaine de la Tournelle
  • Clos du Gravillas
  • Fattoria San Lorenzo
  • Fonterenza

And many more.  There were more than 100 wineries presenting their Natural Wines to taste at the Natural Wine Fair in London.

I can’t say I am on one side of the Natural Wine movement or the other.  I would like to try more Natural wines, from both red and from white grapes, so I can taste the gamut of flavours and textures.  Do these wines express their terroir the best?  Too many questions at the moment, and not enough answers.  If you have more experience with Natural Wines I would love to get your comments.

La Stella Mosto Cotto and Olive Oil – Premium Foodie Products

You may know of Le Vieux Pin and La Stella wineries as high quality French and Italian style wines coming from the Okanagan. But you may not know that they also provide olive oil and now Mosto Cotto from Italy!

What is Mosto Cotto?

La Stella Mosto Cotto

Well you probably have heard of Balsamic Vinegar.  Mosto Cotto isn’t the Balsamic Vinegar that you normally get in the grocery store.  According to Wikipedia Balsamic Vinegar is “…is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and, in the past, juniper. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks…”  This reduced grape syrup, Mosto Cotto can be enjoyed on it’s own rather than further process/age it into top quality Balsamic Vinegar.

I was fortunate today to sample some La Stella Mosto Cotto on it’s own.  It was deep orangy brown in colour.  A very intense molasses nose which with air, added a dill component. Quite sweet and sour at the same time on the palate.  Medium minus body with  burnt sugar / caramel flavour. The higher acidity of the Mosto Cotto keeps it lively in your mouth.  Long lasting finish.   The grapes to produce their Mosto Cotto are biodynamically farmed and certified.

What would you serve with Mosto Cotto? I was told by Rasoul from Le Vieux Pin and La Stella wineries that in Italy he has seen the Mosto Cotto dissolved in soda water as a drink, and put on shaved ice.  It could be drizzled onto vegetables and polenta. If you are more ambitious you could take the jus from a roast beef, add some mosto cotto and reduce this down and serve on the roast beef.  Mosto cotto is very versatile.

La Stella Olive Oil

La Stella Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil Intensivo

I was first introduced to the La Stella Olive Oil last year, but by that time it was completely sold out.  This year the olive oil has just arrived, so there is time for me and you to purchase a bottle. It is also organically produced.

The oil was deep lemon in colour. It had an artichoke, grassy, mineral nose. Very full bodied and round on the palate with a very spicy finish.  Their olive oil is called “Intensivo” and yes I agree that it really is intensive.  Use sparingly as a condiment as it really is quite peppery.  This would be wonderful drizzled on vegetables, or in dishes where the oil would not be overcooked or competing with too many other spices.  You really want to enjoy the flavour of this olive oil.

Where can you buy these two products?  There will be a small allocation to some specialty grocery stores in the Vancouver area.  The easiest way would be to order these through Le Vieux Pin / La Stella. Email info@lastella.ca

Novo Pizzeria and Fontanafredda Wine in the BC Marketplace

Poggiotondo Bianco Toscana 2011

Sometimes last minute events are the most fun.  I received a short notice invite to try a new red wine, a Barbera,  from Italian producer Fontanafredda being released in the BCLDB stores. Also at the event is a white blend of Malvasia, Trebbiano and Vermentino produced by Alberto Antonini.  To top it off, the wine tasting was going to be held at Novo Pizzeria on Burrard St in Vancouver.  How could I refuse.  I love wine and pizza!

The white wine comes from Tuscany which is perhaps the most famous of all Italian wine regions, while the Barbera is from Piedmont. The Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes are found all over Italy, particularly in the center and north. I have noticed recently an uptick in Trebbiano wines coming into the BC marketplace.  Barbera, according to Wikipedia “..is a red Italian wine grape variety that, as of 2000, was the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy (after Sangiovese and Montepulciano).[1] It produces good yields and is known for deep color, low tannins and high levels of acid… The best known appellation is the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) Barbera d’Asti in the Piedmont region. When young, the wines offer a very intense aroma of fresh red and blackberries. In the lightest versions notes of cherries, raspberries and blueberries and with notes of blackberry and black cherries in wines made of more ripe grapes. Many producers employ the use of toasted (seared over a fire) oak barrels, which provides for increased complexity, aging potential, and hints of vanilla notes…“.

My Wine Notes

  • Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2010

    Poggiotondo Bianco Toscana IGT 2011, Italy ($16.99). Light lemony colour. Lively citrus with some lime and flowers on the nose.  Very pretty. Light body, dry with high acidity making it very refreshing to drink. Citrus and bitter apricot pit flavours, and some leesy creaminess on the palate.  A nice wine to drink this summer on the patio.

  • Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2010, Italy ($17.99). Medium ruby colour in the glass. Woody nose, not oaky.  Also some sour cherry aromas. Light body, dry with medium acidity.  It has a very light vanilla flavour that floats on top of the cherry and ripe raspberry flavours.  Soft mouth feel with some acidity at the back of your tongue. Very tasty.

Both wines are very approachable, have an excellent sub $20 price, and use a screw cap, so you should have no reason not to buy these wines and enjoy them.

Enjoying Novo Pizzeria’s Pizzas

I do enjoy thin crust pizzas baked in a brick oven and made with fresh ingredients.  Novo Pizzeria kept making pizzas with different ingredients, some with tomato based sauces, others without.  Each pizza was unique and very tasty.  Enjoy the pictures of the process of making the pizza, to reaching my plate!  Enjoy!

Making a pizza at Novo Pizzeria.

Novo Pizzeria cooking the pizza.

Novo Pizza right from the oven.

Novo pizza with wine.

More Novo pizza with wine.

Latest IVSA Wine Picks – March 2012 Trebbiano and More

I’m a bit tardy with this blog article about the latest Import Vintners and Spirits Association (IVSA) trade tasting, with many other work and non-work events happening at this time. Going back to my notes, I found a few good new wines to the BC marketplace. One thing I noticed was there was more Torrontes and Trebbiano at this trade tasting than at other tastings. This could be in part due to the time of year with the white wines being released.  With that, let’s get into my latest wine picks.

White Wines

  • Callia Alta Torrontes 2011

    Callia Alta Torrontes 2011, Argentina (spec $13.95). Medium lemony green in colour.  Very fruity, tropical fruit and flowers on the nose. Medium body with tropical fruit, citrus and oranges in particular flavours.  Nice acidity and some spiciness.  Dry with medium plus length.  This is more complex than most Torrontes.

  • Zenato Lugara DOC San Benedetto Trebbiano, Italy. Pale lemon in the glass.  Nice nose with citrus, apples and a hint of oranges. Light body with citrus and slight sweet spice / nutmeg flavour. Dry. Very nice.
  • Thelema Mountain Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010, South Africa. Thelema is a quality producer from South Africa.  This wine had a wow nose.  Lots of gooseberries.  High acidity with green bean, gooseberry and grapefruit peel flavours.  Some spiciness on the mid-palate.  Short length (wish it was a bit longer).
  • Vouvrey Grandes Caves Saint Roch – Demi Sec 2010, France.  This was my overall favourite wine of the tasting.  It is a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Delicate light crab apple and citrus aromas. Medium minus body mouthfeel yet acts like it is a bigger wine.  Apples and citrus flavours.  Quite round with a good acidic backbone.
  • Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2007, New Zealand. Medium lemon colour. Citrus and tropical fruit on the nose with a touch of oak.  Medium minus body, mineral, citrus, and apple flavours.  Dry with medium acidity. Medium length with a waxy finish.  An interesting wine.
  • Kiwi Walk Sauvignon Blanc 2011, New Zealand. Pale lemony green in the glass.  Lots of herbal and cut green grass on the nose.  High acidity on the palate with lots of gooseberry flavour and some jalapeno pepper flavour mid palate.
  • Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon 2008, France. Another Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Deeper golden colour. Nutty, peachy nose. Medium body, round with medium acidity.  Peach pit, citrus and some spice on the palate.  Very interesting.

Red Wines

  • Cameron Hughes Lot 300 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

    Cameron Hughes Lot 300 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Medium translucent ruby colour.  Nice ripe berry nose.  Elegant and not overpowering. Lighter body with cassis and dark fruit flavours.  High acidity, low tannins and long length.  A quality wine.

  • Gorcleyant Malbec 2010, France. Medium ruby colour. Nice bright red fruit nose.  Lighter bodied, soft tannins and juicy red fruit flavour.  A hint of vanilla and spice too.
  • Masi Modello Rosso 2010, Italy. Light ruby colour.  Nice nose with closes and red fruits.  Light body, dry, with soft tannins. Red fruit, oak and cloves on the palate. Good price $12.99.

Sparkling and Fortified Wines

  • Niepoort LBV 2005, Portugal. This is a Late Bottled Vintage port.  This one is medium ruby in colour.  Light aromas of cherries and apples.  Light body, medium sweetness, but quite spicy on the palate.  Flavours of plums, dark cherries and some vanilla.
  • Zinck Cremant Brut D’Alsace, France. Light straw colour with small light bubbles. Nice aromas of red delicious apples and some lees.  Light body, high acidity, with more red delicious apples on the palate.  Dry.  Tasty.

Hester Creek wine tasting

Last evening I was selected with a few other bloggers to sit down with Rob Summers, the wine maker from Hester Creek Estate Winery, in downtown Vancouver. Rob comes originally from the Niagara region in Ontario working for larger wineries, and has moved to the Oliver area in BC in 2006, to work for the boutique winery, Hester Creek. It sounds like he really enjoys all the hands-on work and the wonderfully dry Okanagan climate. Hester Creek is one of the oldest wineries in BC.

Hester Creek Estate winery, besides having 95 acres of vineyards for producing wine, also has 6 villas for visitors. I’d say one of the most famous visitors from last year staying at a villa, is the renowned wine writer, Jancis Robinson. The villas and new winery buildings opened up last year, so if you have seen the winery from August 2009 or older, you haven’t seen their latest and greatest operation.

We went through 3 white and 3 red wines. The first white was the Pinot Blanc 2008. This is Hester Creek’s best selling white, along with their Pinot Gris. The Pinot Blanc was pale lemon colour with a slight green tinge. Light aromas on the nose. Some spice, some apple, some honey. Light in body with a light apple flavour and medium acidity. An easy sipper. The next white was their Semillon Chardonnay 2008. This is a 50/50 blend. This wine had some lemon, some sweetness, some waxiness and greenness on the nose. Medium body with slight roundness in the mouth. Apple and lemon flavours. The final white of the evening was their Trebbiano 2008. Trebbiano is the second most planted grape in the world, and is used in the production of cognac. It is known for it’s high level of acidity. This one had light green apple and floweriness on the nose. Light body, with almond and apple flavours, and good acidity. The acidity made it a nice pairing with some of the hard cheeses they had for us to nibble with the wines.

On the red side, we tried their Merlot 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2008, and the Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006. The first two wines were not overly extracted in colour, giving them lightness in body. The Merlot 2008 had a very wild nose, with sausage, smoke, plum and cherries. I quite enjoyed nosing this wine. On the palate it had medium tannins, with plum and cherry flavours and a slightly oaky finish. The Cabernet / Merlot 2008 is their best selling red. This wine is light garnet in colour, not an overpowering nose. Red fruits with a bit of sausage aromas. On the palate there were cherry flavours with light tannins. The final red wine of the night, and my favourite, was the Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006. Cabernet Franc doesn’t get the limelight that Cabernet Sauvignon gets, but if it is made well, is an exceptionally nice wine to drink. This wine being reserve level was deeper garnet in colour. Vanilla and cedar on the nose. Firm tannins, with a round mouthfeel. Red cherry flavours, with medium length and cherry finish.

Again, thanks to Rob Summers for leading us through this tasting. If you are out in the Okanagan, drive down to the “Golden Mile” in Oliver and visit the Hester Creek winery. I did record the tasting, and will be posting it on www.MyWinePal.com hopefully soon. Enjoy!