A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Month: February 2016

Bold Baby Barolo on #Winestudio

This post is long overdue but I wanted to share a #Winestudio learning experience from January.

If you recall, I love to participate in Protocol Wines #Winestudio. It’s an online educational forum on twitter most Tuesday evenings at 8CSt/6PSt that engages wine enthusiasts with winemakers, pioneers, wineries and importers for the sole purpose of learning about Wine. It’s basically a really great wine time! January’s topic focused on a new generation of winemakers from Alsace, France and Piemonte and Umbria, Italy courtesy of George Tito of Tanaro River Imports. So without further ado let me take you to Piemonte, Italy and a young winemaker walking in his ancestors’ wine shoes.

The Piemonte region lies in the Northwest part of Italy. It’s blessed with breath-taking landscape and the famous Langhe hills, home to the world’s greatest Barolo, Barbaresco and Asti wines. For those not familiar with Barolo and Barbaresco, they’re made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape. In the 13th century, wines made of Nebbiolo were prized. Then the phylloxera crisis decimated the vineyards so today only 6% of Piemonte grows them.

Courtesy Germano Angelo Winery

Courtesy Germano Angelo Winery

Nebbiolo is known for being difficult, demanding, finky and having powerfully, strong-willed tannins. Sounds like some toddlers I used to know! However, “strong-willed” children tend to grow into interesting, engaging and full-of-life adults. Definitely not boring. If you’re a collector, Barolo’s age well with some taking 10 years to soften their tannins. This is the age some of my children began to be more reasonable, too. It’s that strong-willed personality again. Another interesting fact about powerful Barolo is it can smell like tar and roses.

Germano Angelo Nebbiolo "Visette" 2010

Germano Angelo Nebbiolo “Visette” 2010

The bottle we sampled for #winestudio was Germano Angelo Azienda 2010 Nebbiolo d’Alba “Visette”. However, the grapes didn’t grown-up only in  Barolo so this is a ‘baby barolo’ crafted of Nebbiolo grapes from the areas of La Morra, Barolo and Montforte. The young winemaker is Davide Germano, a 4th generation descendant of the 1908 winery founder, Angelo Germano. The Germano Angelo winery is located in the little town of La Morra on the 17th century Bishop of Alba’s farm estate.

Germano Angelo Winery via casasvizzera.com

Germano Angelo Winery via casasvizzera.com

The Germano family purchased it in the 1960s for production and aging. It has cellar vaults made entirely of wood and aging rooms comprised of 60 cm thick walls. At the winery in LaMorra, Davide uses traditional vinification mixed with technological innovation. The wine ages for 18 months in large “botte grande”  neutral oak casks and 18 months in bottle. This wine is a younger aging Barolo meaning it ages 6 months less than it’s bold brother. I do recommend short decanting, though, since it’s definitely acts like a Bold Barolo.

About the word ‘Visette’ on the label: According to George , “The “fantasy name” of “Visette” is an old name of a section of Monforte and the famous Bussia Cru for barolo.

Germano Angelo’s  ‘baby barolo’ was ruby colored with a lovely aroma of characteristic rose petals, dark fruit and earth. It was well-rounded with dark plums, a hint of licorice, tobacco, cherries, and nice tannins on the finish.

A beautiful print-only label adorns the traditional Barolo Albeisa bottle. I think simple typography can be works of art. During college, I took a Typography class which might sound boring but if you’re a history buff, the artistry, design and style behind each template is actually quite fascinating. Each type or script tells a story beyond the mere printed words. You can discern the printer, the region, type of document and social status. My finals paper was on cemetery headstones of the 1700 and 1800s. Loads of history! Ok, I’ll stop, I promise. Anyway, sometimes a well-crafted print is all that’s needed to garner attention. The Germano Angelo label speaks of a wine with elegance and tradition.

Overall I really enjoyed getting a peek into Piemonte and the next generation of Italian winemakers. If you’re in the mood for Barolo but not the price-tag this a delicious alternative. Three cheers for Germano Angelo’s lovely baby Barolo.


This was a wine sample from Tanaro River Imports. Opinions are my own. Grazie, George! 


Spain’s Mighty Little Wine Shire

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Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas 2014

When you look at this bottle, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?

Hobbits? Elvish? The Lord of the Rings? Bilbao Baggins?

“One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!”  (Insert wine for Ring) Oh the drama!

I picked up this wine from the sale rack a few weeks back because one: I recognized the grape Albariño, two: it was on sale from $19 to $11, and three: it has a really cool Tolkien label.  To be honest, it didn’t actually click why the label was so appealing until my eldest daughter came through the kitchen and quipped, “Ah, drinking a little hobbit wine this weekend, eh, mama?”

My daughter’s full of clever quips or maybe just full of it. I haven’t quite decided yet. It’s probably both! I do know one thing, though, she keeps my eyes rolling heavenward more than I do hers.

Anyway, Albariño was one of the connections to buying the bottle, albeit a mysterious one. It’s ironic that despite the fact I read a large collection of wine blogs, retention is about oh 1/5th of what I read. Sometimes, I feel like Dorie in Finding Nemo. “Albarino? Never had it.” “We opened a bottle last weekend.” “Are you sure?” “Pale green, golden liquid, fruity tropical aromas, hints of peach and apple, crème brulee-like mouthfeel, excellent long mineral finish?”  “Oh, that was Albarino? Wow. That was good.” “Do you remember now?” “Huh, you sure it was Albarino?” Continual repetition is the key for me.  Continual. Repetition.

The label was elusive about the winery and winemaker with my memory lapses so I decided to throw it into the fire in the hopes of revealing its hidden message i.e do a bit of digging into its origin. I started in the most logical place: what did the mysterious label say? 

First the technical: Burgáns Albariño 2014 Rias Baixas DO

100% Albariñ0, 12% Alc.

Produced & Bottled by RE 6153 PO-ES Cambados Pontevedra Spain

“Albariño Burgán gets his name from the Burgán hills, the heart of the Salnes valley in N.W. Spain. The unique soil and the Atlantic climate allows the mythical Albariño grape to reach its fullest expression.”

Mythical Albariño grape? Why is it mythical?

The mythical Albariño grapes grow in northwest Spain near the border of Portugal but from what I uncovered, the area seemed reminiscent of the Shire.

courtesy of DeLong's Maps of Spain

courtesy of DeLong’s Maps of Spain

Turning to The Wine Bible (Karen McNeil 2001) I learned Rías Baixas is a tiny remote region in the province of Galicia. The area is isolated with windy cool coasts and mountain ranges. Galicia residents, known as Galegos, have grown white Albariño grapes for centuries.  The Galegos are originally Celtic which explains the Tolkien typography of the label. My smarty pants teenager was apparently very close to the truth. They also speak Galician, a Celtic accented dialect of Spanish/Portuguese mix. Originally, not many of the family produced wines were available commercially until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a group of wealthier Galegos started a revolution. A white Albariño grape technology revolution. Viva la wine techno! Through modernization and investment in well-trained young enologists, the region and the varietal has risen to produce one the best white wines of Spain.

This particular wine, Burgán Albariño is produced by Bodegas Martín Códax Winery. The name is from a 13th century Galegos troubadour whose romantic medieval poems can still be spouted at college poetry slams today.  

 courtesy Martin Codax Winery website

courtesy Martin Codax Winery website

From the Martín Códax Winery website:

The winery:

Our wines are produced following new techniques of vinification without forgetting traditional ways. Our vineyards, situated in small parcels, use the typical system of “emparrado” and are meticulously cared, advised by our viticulturists in order to get the best possible quality.

Usually harvest starts in September. It is hand harvested and the grape clusters are put in crates of 20 kg in order to avoid their being crushed and thereby decreasing quality.

Once they arrive at the winery, they are analyzed to ensure they have the essential requirements and are introduced into the de-stemmer in order to separate the berries from the stems. Finally, a neumatic press produces the juice.

Once we have the juice, the alcoholic fermentation process begins in stainless steel vats of 30.000 liters. When it is finished, malolactic fermentation starts. This fermentation converts malic acids into lactic acids, avoiding excessive acidity. Finally, the wine is stabilized and bottled.

The winery was founded thanks to the idea of a group of winegrowers; as a winery made by people for the people. Set up by 270 members, the winery also relies on the collaboration of 300 families whose grapes are supplied to us. As a big family, we work together in order to ensure our wines have the highest possible quality.

I learned “emparrado” means trained vines on an overhead frame. Emparrado. Emparrado. Emparrado. Remember repetition.

Albariño is rapidly rising to be one of my favorite varietals too. So maybe it’s not really a Hobbit wine but with its mellow, well balanced, dry yet luscious fruit flavors and long finish, it makes for great fellowship!

“One wine to bind them all . . .” 

A Place to Think

We all have them.

That one place where your mind can roam free. Your’s might be in the shower or at the kitchen sink while doing dishes, or vacuuming the living room, or you know, while in the necessary. (Forgive me, I tend to read and re-read a lot of Jane Austen in winter.) Anyway, mine’s the treadmill. It’s mundane, steady, and never varies. Unless the power suddenly goes off and the tread abruptly halts, at which point I switch to thinking from the concrete floor where I’ve landed.

I write my best blog posts that never get posted while on the treadmill. The text flows effortlessly and free and unencumbered by typos, run-on sentences or limited vocabulary. The ideas come together. That’s exactly what happened a couple mornings ago while I ran and stared blankly at my dear husband’s dart board.  I was pondering the beginning of post I need to write about a young winemaker whose carrying on his family legacy by producing an amazing ‘Baby Barolo’. Possibilities for beginnings flowed like lightening through my mind. Why is it always easier to land in the middle of a story than hash out the beginning? While I tried to remember what ‘Visette’ means my thoughts turned to reminiscing over the past year. The Lord has given me some amazing wine experiences that I still shake my head at in disbelief.

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Here’s a quick flash of highlights:

  1. Tasting Turkish wine: The Turkish grape Borgazkere means “Throat burner” and it’s true to its name!
  2. Biodynamic wines are approached with a holistic view of the vineyard from soil to bottle.
  3. Bordeaux is a complex structured tannic wine that ages well. (It would be lovely if smearing tannins on my face would help me age well.)
  4. The region of Alsace produces dry Riesling that makes your mouth water and pairs perfectly with sauerkraut.
  5. Wine shipping can be a pain in the rear.

This doesn’t change the fact there’s still no blog post written about a vineyard in Piemonte or a thank you to the importer who sent the wine. One of these days, I’ll get a Dictaphone and just speak my thoughts out loud while running. Ha! Like the neighbors need one more reason to think I’m crazy.

Well, Cheers and Happy Tuesday!

Ti Amo Barbera


One hip-hop song writer sang “Love, Love, Love is a verb! Love, Love, Love is a verb.”  Shakespeare penned “it is an ever-fixed mark“.  and “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”  

The Bible says “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13 

And then there’s Tiamo Provincia di Pavia, Italy Barbera 2010. 

A few weekends ago, my husband and I were looking for something new to try and came upon this bottle. The label caught my attention since sunflowers are my favorite and then there’s the charming name, Tiamo ~ I love you.  An added bonus was it’s very reasonable price of SRP$11. 

Tiamo Barbera 2010

Tiamo Barbera 2010

 As I stood in line to pay for the bottle, I kept hearing actress Olympia Dukakis’  character from the movie, Moonstruck She plays Rose Castorini whose husband, Cosmo, is cheating on her because he feels old. A perfect romantic Valentine’s Day movie, if you need a suggestion! Anyway, Olympia has a very poignant line that kept playing over and over in my head. (For those of you who’ve seen the movie, have you guess it?) Once we took ‘I love you’ home, we discovered a bright, medium bodied, soft blackberry aroma wine with a hint of spice, brambly fruit, lavender and high acidity.  Not bad for a blind pickup! 

Tiamo wines are produced by MasterWines and the Sager Family from organic grapes grown in the Oltrepo Pavese Vineyards, located in the Pavia district of Italy’s Lombardy region. Some of the vines are over a century old. The wine is aged in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with an initial soft press and maceration 8-10 days. I must say, this Barbera is easy to love. 

With the holiday of romance looming on the horizon, Tiamo Barbera 2010 might just be the wine to say “I Love You.” Unless, your sweetheart doesn’t like Barbera or wine. Then you should probably just get the heart-shaped box of chocolate or roses but definitely NOT that ginormous stuffed teddy bear I saw on TV recently. The evening might not end up as romantic as you’d wished unless your date is in the 6th grade. I’m just saying. 

Ok, now back to that line in Moonstruck. My sentimental heart sighs just thinking about it. 

Rose has just told Cosmo to quit seeing ‘her‘ and he says, “A man understands one day that his life is built on nothing, and that’s a bad, crazy day.” 

Rose pins him with a stare,”Your life is not built on nothing! Te amo.” 

Te amo, friends! 


Crushing on Beck-Hartweg of Alsace on #Winestudio

Vignerons Florian & Mathilde Beck-Hartweg

Vignerons Florian & Mathilde Beck-Hartweg

I admit it. I have a crush on Florian and Mathilda Beck-Hartweg of Dambache-La-Ville located in the middle of Alsace, France. It started with a picture of an adorable young winemaking couple and grew after I tasted their Riesling 2012 Cuvee Prestige and Pinot Gris 2011 Cuvee Prestige. The Riesling was deliciously dry, well-balanced with a hint of orange, citrus, minerals, salt and lots of lovely acidity. The Pinot Gris had the same salty balance and body and paired perfectly like Ditka’s football team with sausage and sauerkraut. Trust me, you’ll be crushing too, once you’ve tasted Beck-Hartweg wine from a region that doesn’t get much attention. However, these young winemakers are working hard to bring Alsace to the forefront of the international wine scene.

Made in the French-style and fermented and aged in 100 year old oak casks, Beck-Hartweg is bringing new meaning to the term biodiversity with their philosophy of great “wines aren’t made in the cellar but in the vineyard”. Florian and Mathilde, like Florian’s parents, Michal and Yvette, live by the family mantra of ‘healthy soil yields balanced, high-quality wines’.  They keep the vineyard as natural as possible with such practices as making  soupy mixtures of certain weeds and herbs in barrels of rainwater to be sprayed as insecticide. Woven throughout is their respect for ancestral work methods in the vineyard environment, respect for other winemakers and finally respect for the wine drinker.

The belief in healthy soils has Florian eating dirt. Literally. The story goes that while visiting with their Italian counterparts, in an attempt to get a well-rounded understanding of the wine, Florian inspected the vineyard dirt by tasting it. The attention to even the taste of the soil is one of the reasons Beck-Hartweg is producing amazing Riesling.  Personally, I’m content to let the wine represent the soil and leave the dirt eating to the winemaker.

Riesling 2012 Cuvee Prestige

Riesling 2012 Cuvee Prestige

Pinot Gris 2011 Cuvee Presitge

Pinot Gris 2011 Cuvee Presitge

First, let me back up at bit. In January, #winestudio participants tasted and discussed wines from Alsace, France and the Piemonte and Umbria wine regions of Italy courtesy of George Tita of Tanaro River Imports in California. Surprisingly enough, George is also an Associate Professor of Criminology at UC Irvine. What’s a college professor in criminology doing in the wine business? He loves wine, of course.  Plus, like many times in life, an opportunity presented itself during an unrelated academic trip in Europe. So now George gets to bring the deliciously crafted  wines of old school, young winemakers from Northern Italy and France to the States. Thus, the source of my Alsace winemaker crush!

Now back to this “Young Turks” group of winemakers. These new vintners have all grown up on family owned vineyard estates with lengthy wine making histories. As they step into their forefather’s wine making shoes, it’s with a strong embrace of the old traditional wine growing and wine making methods. For Florian that translates into 14 generations of Beck-Hartweg winemakers on the same land through countless border changes and political climes.  The only constant has been the wine.

The Beck-Hartweg vineyard has one more special feature: 25% is classified as Grand Cru Frankstein (only 4% of the total Grand Cru production of Alsatian wine has this classification) and is spread among four south-east sloping hillsides of solid granite. The mountain granite soil is a composite of light, stony,shallow sand and forces the roots to penetrate down into the rock fissures for nutrients which gives the wine crystalline minerality and long finish.


Vineyard Map courtesy of Beck-Hartweg website

Even now, my mouth waters just thinking about the dry citrusy Riesling. Frankstein, indeed! I’m excited to see how the Alsace wine road develops under the direction of these passionate new vintners.


~ I received the wine samples from Tanaro River Imports as a participant of the online wine education program #Winestudio via @Protocolwine.  All thoughts and opinions are my own. Salute!


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