What We Drank For The Big B-Day

YOWZA! What We Drank For The Big B-DayWhat We Drank For The Big B-Day

My partner Shannon recently celebrated a milestone birthday [ editor’s note: Shannon is quite a bit younger than the Dude ], and so we deemed it necessary to both celebrate a bit early (due to her demanding work schedule, since she is a consummate and dedicated professional) and to dip into the wine sample pool for something appropriately special.

The sample pool, as it usually does, performed admirably. And so I’d thought I should share some thoughts on what we decided to imbibe to celebrate a lovely lady who very much deserves to be celebrated! Incidentally, she has no idea that I am writing and posting this, so I expect to earn serious loverboy points here…

What We Drank For The Big B-Day

What We Drank For The Big B-Day2021 Bortolomiol Ius Naturae Millesimato Brut, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, $23

Yeah, I decided to branch out from Champers for some reason, live with it. This 100% Organic Glera bubbly from Parco della Filandetta shows why Valdobbiadene Prosecco is totally killing it right now. I’m not saying it’s a mirror image of vintage Champagne—far from it. But that’s in part what makes it awesome in its own right: it’s still Prosecco’s super-friendly self, just more sophisticated. Vintage Valdobbiadene is now consistently hitting the quality of NV Champers for a bit less moolah (kind of like how Franciacorta is hot on Champagne’s heels in the $25-$30 range).

This one is a rambunctious, crowd-pleasing mix of blossom, red and green (and yellow) apples, and pear flavors, all floating on a slight creamy note and a fleshy texture. Great length for the money, too. Apparently, by their own admission, Bortolomiol decided to go Brut style on this to blatantly appeal to the international market. Mission accomplished, friends

What We Drank For The Big B-Day

What We Drank For The Big B-Day2015 Mira Winery Schweizer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, $233

Coming in at roughly ten times the price of the bubbly is this milestone 2015 vintage of one of Mira’s flagship reds (marking ten years since founders Gustavo Gonzalez of Mondavi fame and entrepreneur Jim Dyke, Jr. formed the idea for Mira after a chance meeting at a DC-area hotel bar). This Cab’s source, the Schweizer Vineyard, is bordering on legendary status, having been planted to grapes in what would become Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District for more than a century (and under the care of the Schweizer family since the 1950s). At just over 40 acres, it’s relatively small, and production of this vintage only hit 500 cases. 

2015 is known as a fruit-driven, high-quality, low-yield (read: power-packed) red vintage in Napa, and this Cab demonstrates all of that to an extreme beauty that’s almost too potent to fully experience. Almost. Everything is dialed up here to the point that it’s 15.5% abv feels impeccably, funambulist-ically balanced. You’ll sense graphite, warming oak spice, cranberry, ripe blackberry, dried sage, cinnamon, black raspberry… there’s just a metric sh*t-ton going on here. With the impressive concentration of the vintage, this one is still really fruity, and very structured despite its silky profile—it’s got time to go if you’re patient. An appropriately gorgeous, sexy wine (for celebrating an incomparably gorgeous, sexy lady).

Cheers (to Shannon)!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2022. Originally at What We Drank For The Big B-Day from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)

Have old map of Treviso, will taste…

“We always wanted to break the rules.”

So mentioned Prosecco family producer Bellenda owner Umberto Cosmo and his daughter Lucrezia during an online samples tasting I attended (relatively) recently.

If ever an outfit in Valdobbiadene embodied the Italian spirit of flaunting convention, it’s this one. Founded in 1986 by Umberto and his brothers and father, Bellenda came about due to Umberto being “almost disgusted” by the industrial nature of his family’s animal breeding business. For generations, his family owned vineyards and sold their fruit to local producers—forming a small estate/boutique winery was, at the time, relatively unheard of, particularly in Italy’s Prosecco region where larger brand labels dominated. Detractors told Umberto’s father “‘you are going to lose a lot of money, because Italian wine is dead forever.'” Given the immense success of Prosecco bubbles since then, that piece of advice seems to have aged about as well as milk.

It’s not just in approach and size that Bellenda bucks the trends; as you’ll read below, they take every chance they can get to turn the conventional notion of Prosecco firmly onto its proverbial ear…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2021 Bellenda San Fermo Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $22

This delightfully elegant sparkler takes its name from the county church that sits adjacent to the limestone-clay vineyards that source it. It’s one of the more precise Prosecco incarnations you’re likely to encounter, offering up pear (with the skins) and wet stone notes. The palate is fresh, fresh, FRESH, with ample green and red apple flavors that are both crisp and over-ripe. It’s hard not to love this wine’s vibrant mouthfeel and fantastic length, ending with citrus pith notes.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2018 Bellenda S.C.1931 Pas Dosé, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $NA

Named after Sergio Cosmo (Bellenda’s founder) and the year of his birth, this kick-butt Superiore sees partial oak barrel fermentation without temperature control, resting on the lees for three months and then again in the bottle for up to eighteen months, finally being disgorged without liquer d’expédition. Sugar levels are ultra-low (about 1g/L). Apple bread, white flowers, ripe pears, apples, and toasted nut all hit from the nose, along with earthy notes among the more evolved fruit flavors. On the palate, it feels substantial and austerely serious, coming off as reserved and tightly wound—a serious ‘head-fake’ when it comes to what we conventionally think of with respect to Prosecco. Lip-smacking and almost chewy, this is an age-worthy bubbly that might have you rethinking your entire Prosecco mindset.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)2018 Bellenda ‘Sei Uno’ Brut, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, $25

Multiple plays on words going on here, with “61” being Umberto’s birth year, and “you are…” being a phrase that apparently his wife like to use (use your imagination to fill in the blank). This classic method sparkler from Rive di Carpesica also spends several months sur lie, with a further six months of bottle aging in Bellenda’s cellar. And… wow… this has nose reminiscent of am excellent non-vintage Champers, with pear, apple, filbert, and brioche action all over the place. The texture is complex, bouncing between richness and vibrancy, all the while dominated by lovely apple flavors. Refreshing above all else, you won’t mistake this for a Champagne in the mouth, but you wouldn’t dare dream of turning this elegant sipper away, either!

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)NV Bellenda ‘Così È’ Col Fondo, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco, $20

“As it is” is a fitting name for this Vino Frizzante. Umberto had to convince his brothers to let him craft this one. The tradition of local farmers taking unfiltered Prosecco with their meals lives on in this bubbly, which is bottled with natural yeast sediment, giving it an appealing hazy appearance. Sourced from a south-southwest facing vineyard near Carpescia, this has a classic Valdobbiadene nose but is less boisterous about it. A palate cleanser to its core, this is profoundly fresh in the mouth, there being pretty much no residual sugar in the mix. Consider it a “more modern” take on the current semi-sparkling craze (well, the craze among wine geeks, anyway)—it’s elegant AF, but you’d better like your bubbles on the zesty side!

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases)NV Bellenda Fratelli Cosmo Carpesica Metodo Rurale, Veneto, $NA

The most unconventional of all of the unconventional wines in the Bellenda lineup, there’s no added SO2 here. This wine is allowed to ferment for fifteen days on the skins, in non-temperature-controlled wooden vats, and secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Bellenda state that they “made this wine with our heart as well as with our head,” in a throwback to the “accidental” bubblies that gave birth to sparkling wine in the region. It’s slightly hazy in appearance, with an inviting nose of flowers and grape notes, just-ripe pear, and a mild bit of funk. Balanced and fresh in the mouth, you get flavors of toast, peaches, and banana. The structure comes off like apple skins in a delicious, ambling way that’s about as crowd-pleasing as Pet-Nat gets. It makes a strong argument for putting more Glera-based Pet-Nat on the market…

 

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 59: Rule Breakers (Bellenda Valdobbiadene Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)

image: @proseccocv

In my experience, most people don’t know Jack about Prosecco, despite the fact that we drink metric tons of the stuff (pre-Covid 2019 saw some of the best sales numbers ever for the stuff).

Which, generally, is just fine; most Prosecco isn’t worth getting to know deeply. Not that it’s bad, mind you (thankfully, Prosecco seems to have mostly avoided the lower-quality-due-to-production-overreach-after-popularity scenario of which the wine business seems so fond); it’s just that it’s not meant for contemplation. It’s fun. It’s fruity. It’s fresh. Just drink up, preferably with gusto.

There’s another side to Prosecco, however, which follows a much different path, and is the kind of wind that merits contemplation: the tippy-top of the Prosecco appellation pyramid, Conegliano Valdobbiadene. And if you’re like most people, you know even less than Jack about that level of Prosecco.

First, the vitals: Prosecco hails from one of the more gorgeous spots in Italy’s north-eastern Veneto region, in a hilly zone of Treviso (between Venice and the Dolomite mountains), covering 15 communes. Vine-growing there has ancient origins, and they don’t exactly part with tradition there lightly (the borders of the historic production zone have remained almost unchanged for about nine decades). Sparkling wines there are produced using what they call the “Martinotti Method”, where the secondary fermentation that produces those beguiling bubbles takes place in pressurized tanks (autoclaves) rather than individual bottles, thus emphasizing the fruity/floral primary and secondary aromas and flavors of the grape (primarily Glera) and maintaining freshness.

That’s usually where Prosecco knowledge stops dead, even for wine geeks. But there’s an area in the hills – Conegliano Valdobbiadene – where the vineyards range from 164 to 1640 feet above sea level, and are situated in between the sea and the foothills of the Alps, with ideal sunlight exposure on the south-facing slopes. While rainfall there is substantial, Glera doesn’t mind the wet weather so much, thanks primarily to the steepness of the plantings and the area’s ample breezes. This is where the primo Prosecco stiff gets made, folks.

As I learned during a recent virtual tasting with the Consorzio di Tutela del Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Conegliano has clayey soils of alluvial and glacial origin, rich in calcium carbonate, promoting more structure and more intense fruit aromas than you might otherwise expect from Prosecco further down the quality chain. The area of Valdobbiadene is similar, in its ancient moraine, sandstone and clay soils that promote added finesse, and richness.

While not ridiculously expensive, Conegliano Valdobbiadene wines are pricey for Prosecco, but (in my experience) generally worth the extra coin. The price hike isn’t just for bragging rights, either – for every hectare of vineyard, roughly 600 hours of work is necessary each year to maintain the plantings on the steep slopes (vs. an average of 150 hours on the lower plains). Much of this is done by small, and family-run farms (there are more than 3000 growers in this small region), and all of that work translates to extra expense/cost.

Fortunately, it also translates to extra… well, everything else

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)NV Le Colture Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Cartizze ($35)

This cru area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene covers 108 hectares of steep vineyards in San Pietro di  Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol. In this case, the southern-facing, steep (very!) slopes that sit up to 320 meters in elevation on ancient seabed/calcerous soils promote ample ripening and higher malic acid levels. Hence the Dry classification (despite 23 g/l RS). The biggest landowner in the area commands a mere 15 acres. As for the wine: with salinity, minerality, chalk, white melon, pear, and white flowers, this is friendly (of course), but also elegant, with a nice sense of refinement. Green and yellow apple flavors dominate the palate, and the finsh is plenty long. It’s just reeeaaalllyyyy nice drinking.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)2019 Masottina ‘Le Rive di Ogliano’ Millesimato Extra Dry ($NA)

First, some additional vitals: the term Rive comes from a local dialect, and indicates vineyards situated on particularly steep sites. These wines are produced exclusively as sparkling, using hand-harvested grapes originating from a single municipality. This particular site-specific, single vineyard release comes from vines planted on complex glacial moraine soil, and is a warmer spot at roughly 200m elevation. There are lots of apple fruits and blossoms on the nose, with melon, lemons, and grapefruit. This feels really focused, with a bright, linear acidity that is direct but also well within control. There’s also something seductive about it on the palate, like it has its mind fully made up to try to hook up with you. It’s fresh, but also generous – 15.4 g/l RS, but you don’t really feel it.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)2019 Marsuret ‘Rive di Guia’ Brut Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore ($NA)

This wine hails from a “no-till” area, with cover crops grown between the rows in the terraced vineyards to help combat erosion, on one of the few north-facing vineyards in the area. The soils are sandstone, marl, and clay, supporting vines that average 50 years old. There’s only 4g/l RS in this floral, peachy, and tropical bubbly. The nose isn’t exuberant; rather, this wine emphasizes a more textural experience. Greener apple and white pear flavors take over in the mouth, with a hint of herbs, and an absolutely lovely mouthfeel with excellent length and sapidity. This is really strutting its stuff and already drinking like a champ right now.

 

Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene)2019 Adriano Adami Col Credas Rive di Farra di Soligo Brut ($25)

Conegliano Valdobbiadene his is not a place of straight-line vineyard plantings, and the hills and rocks of this Rive demand and determine the row aspects and plantings (up to 350m in elevation). Lots of floral notes on this one, and white fruits (think pear, and melon). There’s almost a creamy note, too, with a hint of chalk. The apple and citrus flavors are true, fresh, and fun, while also containing an undercurrent of seriousness and savory notes. This one is going to make a crap-ton of friends.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine in the Time of Coronovirus, Part 23: The Other Prosecco (Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!