Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

For those unfamiliar with Castello di Amorosa, I’m guessing that your first guess as to the location of the castle on the right would not be Calistoga, California. In fact, Castello di Amorosa’s immaculate 121,000 sq. ft. castle/winery is located 2 miles south of Calistoga, just off of Highway 29. The winery was a pet project for Dario Sattui (owner of V. Sattui Winery, off Hwy 29 in St. Helena), who has an immense passion for Italian medieval architecture. Castello di Amorosa opened on April 19, 2007, after fourteen years of construction.

When your winery looks like this, people would likely come and buy wine whether the wine is good or not. I recently sampled a few of Castello di Amorosa’s wines and can personally attest that winemakers Brooks Painter, Peter Velleno, and consulting winemaker Sebastiano Rosa are making some excellent juice. The winery’s portfolio spans several varietals, from Gewürztraminer and Riesling, to Italian varietals Sangiovese and Barbera, to Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, to Napa Valley staples Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Consumers should note that Castello di Amorosa’s wines are only available at the winery.

Castello di Amorosa SangioveseCastello di Amorosa Sangiovese 2009

Price: $30.00

From The Winery: 14.5% Alcohol. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot. Napa Valley AVA. 3531 cases produced.

Impressions/Notes: This aromatic and flavorful Napa Valley Sangiovese presents with a dark ruby color. A defining feature of the wine is spice–Dr. Pepper spice, allspice, and sweet baking spices are prevalent on the nose and in the mouth. Tangy red cherry, minerals, and cocoa power round out the aroma/flavor profile. A strong oak presence add some of the above-described spice and tannins to the wine, but does not overshadow the fruit.

Rating: Recommended (89), 3/5 Value 

Castello di Amorosa Gioia Rosato D’SangioveseCastello di Amorosa Gioia Rosato D’Sangiovese 2011

Price: $24.00

From The Winery: 13.1% Alcohol. 100% Sangiovese. California AVA. 1642 cases produced.

Impressions/Notes: A couple of my wine blogging friends have recently published confessionals/disclosures on their respective blogs. In keeping with that spirit, I now add my own confessional–Roses have been some of the least favorite wines that I’ve tried in the past few years. I’m a guy that likes his acid (the legal kind, never tried the other kind), but several of the American Roses that I’ve tasted are over-acidified, sour, and well…boring. Not this Rose. The Gioia was extremely impressive. It’s balanced, refreshing, smooth, and teeming with ripe fruit. Light ruby in color (though seemingly darker than most Roses that I’ve tasted), this Sangiovese-based Rose displays raspberry, strawberry, a hint of bubble gum, honeysuckle, and violet. At this level of quality and at the price of $24.00, the Gioia is a screaming deal.

Rating: Highly Recommended (91), 4.5/5 Value 

Castello di Amorosa La CastellanaCastello di Amorosa La Castellana 2008

Price: $68.00

From The Winery: 14.6% Alcohol. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 14% Sangiovese. Napa Valley AVA. 1634 cases produced.

Impressions/Notes: The La Castellana is an inviting and elegant Super Tuscan blend that really started to shine about an hour after opening. Ripe and succulent black fruits (particularly plum and blackberry) mingle nicely with eucalyptus, cedar, cigar box, and sweet spices. Approaching full-bodied, with lightly gripping tannins and a slight bit of heat on the back palate. The finish is long and loaded with vanilla and sweet spice.

Rating: Highly Recommended (92), 3/5 Value 

Disclaimer–These wines were provided as samples by the winery.

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What You Need To Know Before Buying a Built-In Wine Fridge

Built-In Wine Fridge

When considering buying a built-in wine refrigerator you should know a couple of things first. You should know for example how these built-in fridges work, how is it different from free-standing wine coolers and why is it so important to buy a fridge that clearly specifies it is supposed to be built-in. Or why do you need a specialized wine fridge to cool your wine when you thought you can easily put it into your regular refrigerator. All of these things are really useful and good to know before you make a choice.

How Wine Fridge Works

At first let’s talk about wine coolers in general. There are mainly two types of refrigerating systems these fridges use. Usual refrigerator you use in your kitchen works on compressor based cooling system. This means there is a compressor inside the cooling system and therefore moving parts. The problem with moving parts is pretty clear: they wear out. In addition, compressor based refrigerators are not environmentally friendly since there is a liquid refrigerant (Freon) and operation costs are slightly higher than in the second type of refrigeration system. Last problem with these systems is that you wine couldn’t age properly (there is an important sedimentation process during aging of wine) due to vibrations it produces. With all these problems with compressor based cooling system in mind, you should choose a thermoelectric wine fridge instead. These fridges are environmentally friendlier and produce almost no noise and vibrations which could easily ruin the process of its aging.

Why Specialized Wine Fridge?

Although it may sound impossible there are several reasons why you shouldn’t keep your wine in regular refrigerator. In the first place, regular refrigerator is supposed to protect your food from aging and decomposition. To do this your refrigerator is usually designed to keep its inner temperature lower than is the recommended temperature of white wine. This means the wine will be overcooled which doesn’t have to be a real damage if you consume low quality but if you tend to drink quality wine by overcooling it you are literally erasing the difference between quality and no quality. The character, aromas and flavors you should experience when drinking it are suppressed to almost nothing when overcooled so keep this in mind. If you are more of a red wine person a wine fridge is almost a necessity. There is a “rule” among wine drinkers who don’t know much about it that white wine goes into the fridge and red wine stays at room temperature. In fact, it is a huge mistake. Red wine should not be cooled in regular fridge but at room temperature it looses its character, aromas and flavours as white wine when overcooled. Wine fridges are really foolproof and most of them are designed to offer you a range of temperatures which are good for your wine.

Built-In Wine Fridge Features

Let’s see built-in wine fridge features. Now when you know about how the refrigerating system works and why do you need a cooler specialized to chill wine you can start thinking about the usual stuff. What size of wine fridge do you want? Where you want to place it? If you have already decided for a built-in wine fridge it is good to know that it is specially designed to stand under and between regular kitchen units with no place to “breathe” as usual free-standing wine fridge does. Although these two types of wine coolers may look alike you don’t really want to confuse it because a freestanding wine cooler needs a little space around to work and it would make a huge trouble when placed instead the built-in. Always make sure there is really specified it is a built-in wine fridge. Finally, there are several ways how to use a built-in wine fridges. You can have it in your kitchen fitted between two regular units, when smaller you can place it between two cupboards on your wall or you can build your own wine furniture and place it inside as a part of shelving. Make your choice.

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What makes a wine Chianti?

Chianti region

The Chianti  region sits firmly in the palm of Tuscany.  The Chianti region was enlarged in 1932 to create eight regions over a large geographical area this includes the highly regarded Classico region. This led to a wide variance in quality and style of the wine, and has led to mixed views of Chianti around the world. Lots of us remember the squat bottle enclosed in the raffia basket.

Chianti once had strict guidelines and had to be made using only a sangiovese, canaiolo and malvasia blend, but since 1995 it has been legal to produce wines from 100% sangiovese.

What makes a wine Chianti in simple terms is :

  • region and grape variety
  • Similar to Champagne, Chianti can only be named as such if it comes from the Chianti region
  • Predominantly made from sangiovese grapes, which are rich in body and complex in flavour
  • Colorino is an intensely  red coloured grape which is sometimes used in small amounts to add tannins and complexity to sangiovese blends
  • Chianti Classico identifies wines made traditionally. Wines made outside the Classico region cannot be identified in this way.
  • Chianti Superiore is a subset of chianti  and is made from grapes grown from regions other than Chianti Classico, giving the remaining seven regions a comparable term for a certain standard.
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How to Select an Exceptional Wine as a Present

Wine Basket

Finding the perfect gift for that special occasion can be difficult to find, especially if the person is quite picky. However, wine always makes an incredibly elegant present, regardless of the occasion— perfect for everything from anniversaries to birthdays, a perfect token for a small dinner party, or even as a welcoming gift for a new neighbor. However, not all wine is the same, and not all wine will conform to the individual tastes of whomever you’re giving the gift to. However, the following are a few tips on selecting the perfect wine in ensuring your gift is a spectacular one!

White Wine for Something Lighter

Figuring out individual tastes is definitely a difficult task. So if you’re unsure of the type of wine to purchase as a gift, choosing a lighter wine like white wine is probably the best choice, especially for individuals who do not drink regularly. Some of the most popular wines include Moscato, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio because of their sweetness and intricate pairing with common household dishes including chicken and salmon. They are also light and stay away from complex or confusing flavors that red wines offer.

Why Not Give Wine Baskets or a Gift Set?

Wine gift baskets are exceptional in terms of buying something that the individual will like and simply offering a great quantity and variety of wine. In this case, it’s alright if you have no clue what the recipient’s tastes are because you’re offering multiple items at the same time. If you opt to buy a wine basket with only a few wines, however, including cheese and dark chocolate is a special inclusion that can bring your basket to a whole other level. This type of gift is also great for parties where you believe the recipient would want to share the gift with attendees.

Gift baskets with wine are also a simple yet meaningful gift. The Veuve Clicquot gift set is one such gift basket that includes a delicious Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne inside an aesthetic faux leather wine bottle carrier. And thought it includes one bottle, the pure design of the entire package is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Red Wine for Something Bitter

Sometimes, light wine just doesn’t cut it. If you’re thinking of giving wine to someone who is an avid wine drinker, then perhaps buying something with more of an intricate blend of flavors or a tinge of bitterness could go a long way. Red wine is perfect in this case, as many do offer a nice blend of complex flavors. However, it is best to avoid buying such a wine if you know for a fact that the recipient is not so experienced with wine.

Give Something Rare or Uncommon

If the individual you are giving wine to is known to be quite the wine enthusiast, perhaps buying something rare or uncommon is the best way to leave a lasting impression. Of course, rare wines tend to be much more expensive, but speaking to an expert at a wine retailer is the best way to be on the right track when it comes to buying a wine that is both affordable yet exotic.

Final Thoughts?

Before choosing a wine, decide what your budget is, what type of experience the recipient has with wine, and the type of flavors you want to wine to express. Whether you want a wine that has more complex flavors, or offer a simple yet elegant gift set like the Veuve Clicquot gift set, doing a bit of research and asking a retailer for their advice can go a long way in ensuring the perfect gift for the perfect occasion.

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Can Wine Bottles Really Impact the Taste of Wines?

Wine Bottles

Can wine bottles really impact the taste of wines? That seems to be a question on a lot of wine enthusiast minds these days, as they ponder the thought of this question one could only imagine the thought of wine being stored inside a dirty, contaminated bottle.

Wine bottles, generally created of glass, they provide a great deal of communication when it comes to the general aroma of the wine. They are designed in a large array of sizes and some were named after the Biblical kings and other important figures in history.

The standard wine bottle size should contain 750ml, although there are some that come in much larger sizes. A wine bottle is commonly sealed using a wine cork however what is becoming popular nowadays is the use of screw-top caps. Yet, there are still numerous methods being invented and used to seal a wine bottle.

The many wine producers in Germany, France, Spain and Portugal follow the custom of their locality particularly in selecting the bottle’s shape, which is appropriate for their beverage. In the European continent, a lot of wine manufacturing areas has developed a wine bottle, designed uniquely for that region. This has then become the conventional wine bottle of that place.

There are several varieties of a wine bottle. The Bordeaux, sherry and Port group are high-shouldered and straight-sided, coming with a prominent punt. Sherry and Port wine bottles may have bulging necks to gather any residue.

The Rhone and Burgundies wine bottle variety are tall bottles with smaller punts and sloping shoulders. Rhine, Alsace and Mosel wine bottle style are tall and narrow with few punts.  Meanwhile, for the champagne and wine bottle for the rest of the sparkling wines; they are wide and thick-walled, with sloping shoulders and prominent punt.

In Germany, they use the Bocksbeutel wine bottle shape to store the wines of higher quality, coming from Franconia (Franken), a region for quality wine situated in the north west of Bavaria. Many South and North American, Australian and South African producers of wine choose the shape of the bottle they prefer, associating it to their wines. For instance, if a wine producer who thinks his wine is related to Burgundy, he/she may opt for bottles in Burgundy style.

Other wine producers choose distinctive style of bottles for selling purposes. Home winemakers may utilize any shape and design of a wine bottle as these factors do not necessarily influence the finished product’s taste.

For the colors of wine bottles, there are also traditional shades being used. For Bordeaux, dark green is used for red, while for dry whites a light green is the shade being used. Sweet whites use a clear color. The Rhone and Burgundy uses a dark green shades. Alsace and Mosel use dark or medium green and Rhine uses an amber color.

Generally, wine bottles have dark colors as this can shield the wine from heat and light exposure and may affect its taste, however, more recently white and green colored bottles are becoming very popular with most manufactures.

Although wine bottles can come in many shapes, sizes, and color, their main purpose is to keep the wine that’s inside fresh and cool, so that when opened, it goes down silky smooth.

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The Wines of Colorado

The Wines of Colorado

My wife is getting further along with her pregnancy (19 weeks already!) and we’ve been hit with the realization that our days of nice, quiet dinners out on the town are numbered. We’re excited and as ready as we’ll ever be for this next chapter. In the meantime, we’re aiming to finish the current chapter with a bang! Our recent Saturday night excursion was to The Wines of Colorado, a wine retail shop and restaurant located in unincorporated Cascade. Cascade is just a few miles west of Colorado Springs and less than a mile from the entrance of the Pikes Peak Highway (where crazy people do this).

The Wines of Colorado has a very large selection of Colorado wine and several of the wines can be sampled at no cost. I didn’t want to keep my hungry, pregnant wife waiting too long, so I only sampled three to four wines before dinner. One of these wines was the 2010 Winery at Holy Cross Abbey Cabernet Franc, which won Best of Show in the Governer’s Cup/AWS Colorado Wine Competition earlier this year. It was bold and impressive, and I’m inspired to make a pilgrimage to the Abbey in a few weeks to taste the rest of their lineup and re-taste the Cab Franc.

After tasting, it was time to select a bottle for dinner. I opted for the 2005 Guy Drew Meritage, based solely on my knowledge that Guy Drew is a very respected Colorado producer. Wines purchased from the retail shop can be brought into the restaurant without a corkage fee. As a wine consumer that sometimes–ok, oftentimes– complains about the markups/corkage fees in restaurants, this was a breath of fresh air.

The restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating, with the outdoor seating looking out over a beautiful creek that trickles down the Pikes Peak foothills. It was chilly, so we ended up sitting indoors. Perhaps we were subconsciously influenced by the buffalo on the sign, but we ended up splitting a bowl of buffalo chili and each ordered a buffalo burger. The food was good and inexpensive. The one fault that I found with the restaurant was the wine glasses. They were the same small tasting glasses that were used in the retail shop. My glass came out piping hot, and upon taking a whiff, it was obvious that it was just taken out of the dishwasher. Thankfully, the detergent odors did wane after a few minutes and did not interfere with my enjoyment and assessment of the wine.

Guy Drew’s 2005 Meritage is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 22% Petit Verdot. Black cherry was practically jumping out of the glass, with blue fruit, baking spices, and faint vanilla in the background. It’s ripe and friendly with a moderate oak presence and it’s drinking very young. There’s plenty of balance and some gripping tannins on the back palate. The fruit comes from Montezuma County in the southwestern corner of Colorado, home to Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners area. At a retail price of $19.00, I think it’s fairly priced. I rated it as Recommended (86-89) and a 3/5 value.

The Wines of Colorado is my kind of place and I would highly recommend it to anyone passing through the Colorado Springs area. Most of Colorado’s wineries are located on the less populated Western Slope, so Front Rangers and tourists get the opportunity to sample many of Colorado’s finest wines without having to make the trek across the Rockies. My parting recommendation–make sure that you sample these wines after braving the Pikes Peak Highway rather than before.

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Wine Competitions

Colorado Wine Competitions

Wine Competitions

The number of Colorado wineries has been increasing steadily and now exceeds one hundred. Two recent competitions were held to showcase and evaluate the wines of Colorado vintners. While not all participated by entering, those who did evidence that, overall, the quality of their offerings continues to improve and some are making wines that could win medals in competition they entered. Continue Reading

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Kosher Wine

Kosher Wine: A Theological Quagmire

Kosher Wine

Jewish dietary laws, commonly known as Kosher, cover what a Jew who follows them is permitted to eat and drink and even what foods may be consumed with what others. The origin of the laws is found in what is commonly called the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible but nowhere therein is found a specific reference to Kosher wine. The rules governing viticulture for and the making of Kosher wine initially were developed by scholars in the Second and Fourth Centuries C.E. who wrote commentaries on the Old Testament which were compiled as the Talmud. Those writings have been expanded, refined, and reinterpreted since by other scholars. As with any rules governing religious practice, not all scholars or leaders agree. What follows are the basic rules. Continue Reading

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