Tuscany’s Top 10 Wine Trivia

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In many ways, Sangiovese is to Chianti as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Bordeaux. Both form the base of wines that blend beautifully with other varietals, yet alone, they share a distinctive elegance and complexity. To impress your fellow oenophiles at the next dinner party, read on:

  1. Tuscany has 9 DOCG appellations that date back to the Etruscans in the 8th century BC. Sangiovese, Tuscany’s most prominent grape, is derived from the Latin sanguis Jovis, which literally translates to the “blood of Jove”.   Sangiovese is the premier grape varietal in Italy, planted on over 247,000 acres with 14 separate and distinct clones. Sangiovese thrives in direct sunlight at altitudes of 500 to 1600 feet. The higher elevations increase the diurnal temperature variation, helping the grapes maintain their balance of sugars and acidity as well as their aromatic qualities. 3m26JPG
  1. The Chianti zone is the largest classified wine region and produces over eight million cases of wine each year. The region is split into two DOCGs – Chianti and Chianti Classico. The larger Chianti zone is further divided into eight DOC sub-zones and produces white, other Rosso reds and Vin Santo.
  1. To be considered a Chianti Classico, wines must be 75% to 100% Sangiovese and can contain up to 20% of international varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot. Chianti Classico covers approximately 100 square miles between Florence and Siena and includes the communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda and five other neighboring communes.   Chianti Classico is required to be aged for a minimum of three years.5mp30JPG
  1. All but one Tuscany DOCG is comprised of Sangiovese grapes.  Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG produces the only white grape called Vernaccia . Other white grapes planted in Tuscany are Trebbiano, Malvasia, Vermantino and Chardonnay and are frequently used in blending wines.
  1. Vin Santo, also known as “holy wine”, is made of Trebbiano which is harvested in late fall and air-dried on straw mats until the start of Holy Week before bottling. Vin Santo ages for 3 to 10 years in small barrels and is produced in small quantities. Vin Santo makes an excellent Italian dessert wine.

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Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery Attracts Ghost Hunters

IMG_8371Buena Vista Winery is considered California’s oldest premium winery and was founded in 1857 by the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista”, Agoston Haraszthy.  Situated in the Los Carneros AVA (also known as Carneros AVA), the Buena Vista Winery vineyards are poised atop the hills overlooking San Pablo Bay.

IMG_8355The proximity to the cool fog and breezes from the bay makes the climate cooler and more moderate than the wine regions further north in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, allowing for the cultivation of cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Many of the grapes grown in Los Carneros are also used for sparkling wine production.

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Rarely does one think of ghost hunting when wine tasting, however, Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery has a ghostly past and an eerie presence.  In 1862, legend has it that 20 Chinese migrant workers were busy bottling, corking and wiring Champagne magnums in the deep wine caves when a minor earthquake triggered a cave-in.  Racism attitudes at the time, left the men to be buried alive amidst cases of fine champagne.  Continue reading

Oceanside’s Beach House Winery Views Are Astounding…And The Wines Are Even Better!

IMG_0377Looking to avoid the crowds in Temecula Wine Country this weekend, I headed toward the ridge of the Sleeping Indian on the Oceanside/Fallbrook border.  Lo and behold, there lie the Beach House Winery high atop the steep narrow driveway.

caf44750dfabb627b01af32d0f18f006I was warmly greeted by owner and wine maker George Murray, who was doubling as a valet.

Established in 2010, the Beach House Winery has been quietly making a name for itself with the locals.  

fa0d892186d4b53c6ade405520691f77Beach House Winery’s tasting room, albeit cozy, features a spectacular tasting menu with over 12 varietals.  George and his wife, Kim, have been handcrafting wines since 1989, purchasing grapes from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe and locally from San Diego County. Continue reading

Dry Creek Vineyard Sparkles During 2015 Winter Wineland

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Smack dab in the middle of Dry Creek Valley, near Healdsburg, marks the spot of Dry Creek Vineyard.  Founded in 1972 by David Stare, this family owned winery is often considered the flagship vineyard of the Dry Creek Valley AVA as it was the first winery constructed in the area after Prohibition.

IMG_8279Every January, the Wine Road showcases over 140 wineries in the Northern Sonoma wine country, each outfitted in a winter theme with stellar wine and food pairings. The 2015 Winter Wineland is just one of the many events hosted by Sonoma’s Wine Road throughout the year.  www.wineroad.com

This year, Dry Creek Vineyard was one of the most festive wineries, naming each wine selection with ski run course jargon.  Guests could start with the Bunny Hill, a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc or the MIlk Run, a 2012 DCV Estate Block 10 Chardonnay, selected from the best 30 rows of the family’s Russian River Valley vineyard.

For the more adventurous tasters, the Dry Creek Mogul, a 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel and the lusty Black Diamond, a 2012 Mariner, a meritage of the five Bordeaux grapes ~ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc were gold medal winners on the slopes.  Continue reading

Addio Miei Cari Amici ~ Renee & Michele Buccelletti

15968259376_364898d86eWith a heavy heart, I bid Renee and Michele Buccelletti a bittersweet farewell and much love, success and happiness in their new Italian adventure.

Next month the newlyweds embark for a new life in Castiglion Fiorentino to join the family agriturismo and viticulture business.

Michele will manage and assist in wine making with his mother, Lydia Castellucci at the family’s Agricola Buccelletti  winery.

And, Renee will spearhead the marketing of Casali in Val di Chio, an enclave of renovated stone vacation villas dating back to the early 1800’s.

castiglion-fiorentino Castiglion Fiorentino is a tiny walled hilltop hamlet which lies a few kilometers north of the sleepy medieval village of Cortona, which was featured in the romantic soul-seeking movie, Under The Tuscan Sun.  Only 12,000 residents make their home in Castiglion Fiorentino which dates back to the 13th century Etruscans.  Aaaah Bella Toscana!!! Continue reading

Porter Creek Vineyards is Best Kept Secret in Russian River Valley!

IMG_8218 Deep in the heart of the Russian River Valley’s west side lies the sleepy Porter Creek Vineyards.  Named for the adjacent Porter Creek tributary, which flows into the famed Russian River, this little slice of heaven is certainly worthy of a visit.

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Untouched raw beauty surrounds the rustic enclave and old vines, with an array of dogs and chickens meandering about.  Porter Creek Vineyards was founded by George Davis in 1977 and was planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay only.  Today, Rhone and Burgundian varietals are organically grown on the steep hillsides and son Alex Davis handcrafts the wines in small lots.

IMG_8236The tasting room is both eclectic and funky, with a mesmerizing view of the forest and hills.    I visited Porter Creek Vineyards at the 2015 Winter Wineland two-day event and was bowled over by the depth of the wines. Continue reading

Historic Rancho Sisquoc Winery & Vineyard ~ Angus to Vines

IMG_7156 Dating back to the 1850’s the 37,000 acre Rancho Sisquoc is part of a Mexican land grant, snaking along the Sisquoc River 14 miles east of Santa Maria.  The Chumash Indians called this pristine land, “Sisquoc”, meaning gathering place.

IMG_7159 And what a gathering place Rancho Sisquoc Winery has become!  Originally a cattle ranch with plots of beans and barley, today, over 300 acres are planted in vines.  Another piece of history adorns the ranch ~ the San Ramon Chapel, declared as Santa Barbara County’s first State Historical Landmark.   Erected in 1875, the chapel still holds Sunday services.

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Further down the winding gravel road is the rustic tasting room which was constructed in 1977 and overlooks the entire working cattle ranch and hills beyond the river.   Rancho Sisquoc Winery‘s tasting room decor is fashioned after an old western saloon and expands to the outside patio  in warm weather months.
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