It’s about to get a lot greener here in wine country...
Not to say it isn’t green already. After years of record drought, the rains have finally arrived, and we have been incredibly fortunate to have a very wet winter thanks to a record El Niño. The much needed moisture has created the perfect conditions for cover crops to blossom beneath the sleeping vines, and the valley has been awash in vibrant greens and the bright yellow of mustard flowers, which are providing beautiful views as well as adding necessary nutrients back into the soil in preparation for the 2016 growing season.
Mustard flowers blooming between old vine Zinfandel
And speaking of growing season, it looks like the 2016 growing season has officially begun! With the arrival of bud break in vineyards all across Napa Valley, freshly pruned vines are beginning to show the first signs of foliage with tiny buds peeking out from the sleepy canes. Bud break typically begins in late March/ early April for this region, which means we’re experiencing a slightly earlier than usual start to the season this year. This growth may be slowed a bit by the current rains we’re experiencing, but as soon as the weather clears and warms up a bit more we should be seeing a lot more action in the vineyards.
Rainy days at the Castello
Bud break is a very delicate time of year, as the new vines are very vulnerable to inclement weather such as frost. Many vineyards have special turbines designed to keep air circulating around the vines in the case of a sudden cold snap (Castello sommelier Mary Davidek has a great blog post on the subject). With the relatively mild temperatures we’ve experienced this winter (again thanks to El Niño) frost should not be too big a concern, and as long as the storm systems moving through aren’t too strong, rain is still welcome!
Baby Cabernet Sauvignon leaves heralded the start of the 2015 season
Here at the Castello’s estate vineyards, we’ve just begun to see bud break on our Sangiovese vines. Just like leaf patterns and grape clusters, new buds can look quite different between grape varieties. For example, Sangiovese buds tend to be bright spring green, while brand new Cabernet Sauvignon leaves have an elegant, almost rusty tinge around their edges. We’re looking forward to greeting the new buds as they pop up around the Castello, and welcoming the start of the 2016 growing season!
Sangiovese bud break in front of the Castello
February 14th is once again upon us, and whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, Single’s Awareness Day, or simply the weekend, it’s a great occasion to celebrate with a glass (or two) of wine. But which wine would suit such an occasion? The answer: love the wine you’re with.
I hear a lot of people who come to tasting rooms looking for the “best” wine. People who have never visited Napa Valley and are searching for the famed bottles acclaimed by the likes of Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast. Cabernet Sauvignon is King here, so naturally when the person behind the tasting room bar pours a sample of their “best red wine,” you’re supposed to swirl, sip, and swoon over its magnificent structure and balance. If you love big, bold, tannin-punching Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, by all means, swoon away (more often than not I’d be right there with you). If, however, you are one of those who prefers a lighter bodied red, or perhaps a white wine, or even a (gasp!) sweet wine, you might find yourself in a bit of a dilemma. Is it okay to politely pass up that singular bottle everyone around you is clamoring for and request the wine your taste buds are craving? Absolutely.
Wine, like love, is a highly sensory experience that can be very different for different people. Some wines you can taste and have that “ah-ha!” moment, while others leave you less than impressed. But this is one of the best things about wine tasting: there are no wrong answers. You can taste the exact same wine as the person next to you at your wine tasting tour, have two completely different opinions, and both be completely correct. Every person’s taste buds are different; there can be no universal explanation for exactly what happens when you take that first sip. That single taste can transport you to a specific moment in time and place in a way other beverages rarely can. So find that bottle that transports you to your happiest of places, and whether you’re raising a glass to your lover, your friend, or yourself, just remember to love the wine you’re with!
If you have ever taken a guided tour of the Castello, you will have walked past our Library Rooms, filled with the Castello’s older vintages resting quietly in their cool brick shelves in small, frescoed rooms behind hand-forged wrought iron gates. One of these rooms even houses wines from Dario’s great grandfather’s original winery in San Francisco, dating back over a century. These dimly lit rooms raise numerous questions from inquisitive guests: what is the best way to age wine? How should you store your bottles? How long should you age them? Are those 100 year old bottles still drinkable? All great questions! Now for some answers…
♦ Storing Your Wines
Whether you’re planning on enjoying the bottles you brought back from your trip to the Castello next week, next year, or next decade, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your wine will be perfectly ready to drink when you pop that cork:
- Store cork sealed bottles on their side. This will help to ensure that the cork stays moist, preventing it from drying out and letting oxygen into the bottle.
- Store screw cap bottles upright. Since there is no cork, there is no need to store these bottles on their sides.
- Keep your wines out of direct sunlight. The back seat of your car or your kitchen window are definitely not ideal places to keep your favorite bottle of Castello wine. Light can be damaging to wines, altering their delicate chemical balance and potentially even heating up your wine. This is why the lights you see in our Library Rooms are dim and red, and also why most ageable wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon come in deep green bottles; the color of the bottle helps to prevent light rays from penetrating through the glass.
- Store your wines at a cooler temperature. Hot wine = cooked wine, which can be a sad sight to see (and a terrible thing to taste). You’ll notice heat damage to your bottles if the cork appears to be popping up from the bottle. Most wines are best kept around 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). Keeping them cooler also helps to slow the aging process. Storing your bottles in a slightly humid environment (60-70% on average) is also helpful for preventing the cork from drying out at the end not in contact with the wine. If you don’t have a wine fridge or cellar, keeping them in a cool place out of direct sunlight, like a closet or a wine rack in the coolest part of your house, should do the trick just fine.
♦ Aging Your Wines
Are a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Grigio capable of aging the same amount of time? Definitely not. There are certain characteristics of specific grape varietals, as well as how the wines are aged before bottling, that determines a wine’s ageability. The vast majority of wines available in the market today are meant for consumption sooner rather than later. Some, however, absolutely benefit from some quiet time in the cellars.
- Bold red wines like our Il Barone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and La Castellana Super Tuscan blend are capable of long-term aging, typically up to 15 years from the vintage date on the bottle. This is because these wines have the structure capable of aging due to the tannins imparted from thick skins of the Cabernet grapes as well as the new French oak barrels they’re aged in. As the wine sits in the bottle, these tannin molecules are linking together and falling to the bottom of the bottle as sediment; which is often why so many younger Cabernets tend to pack a bigger “punch” than older vintages (and also why so many older red wines are decanted to remove the sediment). While these wines are fantastic to drink now, they can be even better after laying down for several years, as the structure of the wine smooths out and the tannins are allowed to integrate further.
- Light-bodied white and sweet wines like our Pinot Grigio and La Fantasia are meant for drinking within the first five years from its vintage date. These wines are prized for their bright and crisp qualities; as they age these characteristics tend to fade. So if you’ve been hanging onto that bottle of 2006 La Fantasia, it might be time to pop that bottle before it’s too late!
- If you’re ever curious about how long to age your favorite bottle of Castello wine, check out our Ageability and Cellaring Chart, which shows the proper time, temperature, and storing positions for our premium and reserve wines.
So whether you’re building your own Tuscan-inspired brick and frescoed underground cellar, or are simply looking to keep your prized Castello wines from cooking in the living room of your apartment, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you’ll be enjoying your favorite bottle at the best time, temperature, and place! Just be sure to drink them before they turn 100!
I've spent a few years around various farms and ranches in Montana and Washington State working with livestock and performing various farming duties and I’ve had the opportunity to dine on some very good steak. I’ve been a real fan of steak ever since and so I was very excited to meet the folks at Best Filet Mignon and taste their product, paired with our Il Barone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, of course. You can read about our meeting in our last blog post, but let’s talk about the NY Strip steaks.
Just when I thought I had tasted the finest filet mignon ever, our friends at Best Filet Mignon sent me a package of their NY Strip steaks and I didn’t waste any time organizing a party and then heading to the grill. The steak was cooked to perfection which was great, but now all my friends have very high expectations when they come for dinner!
Sent overnight in an elegant shipping box, the NY Strip steaks, in their vacuum sealed pouch were very fresh, just like the filet mignon steaks I tasted earlier. Their steak is USDA prime and no hormones or antibiotics are ever used in the diet of their cattle.
What really impressed me was that Executive Chef, Phil Horn of Best Filet Mignon included a great recipe which I followed. Here it is. Follow every step and you won’t be disappointed.
Roasted Garlic Dijon Mashed Potatoes
- 2 3/4 pounds medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup (or more) whole milk
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Placed peeled garlic cloves in small piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt, close and place in 425 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.
- Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 25 minutes.
- Drain well.
- Return potatoes to pot. Add butter, roasted garlic cloves and mash potatoes until almost smooth.
- Mix in 2/3 cup milk and Dijon mustard.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Parmesan Tomato Crisps
- 6 cups thinly sliced beefsteak tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Gently drizzle and toss the sliced tomatoes in the olive oil to coat slices.
- Place slices without overlapping onto dehydrator shelves or a baking pan.
- If you are baking preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients.
- Sprinkle mixture over each slice.
- Depending on how thick the slices of tomato are, dehydrating could take anywhere from 12-24 hours.
- If baking check every 30 minutes until edges show some charring, could take 2-3 hours.
To order these delicious NY Strip Steaks from Best Filet Mignon, head to their website. Normally, Best Filet Mignon offers their 8 pack of 10 oz. NY Strip steaks for $289, but for a limited time, friends of Castello di Amorosa will receive $100 off which includes free FedEx overnight shipping. Simply enter the code “cdany” at checkout.
And if that’s not enough, you should know that BestFiletMignon.com is more than Filet Mignon. If you need guidance, ideas, or culinary advice, call the chef on his personal cell at 310-729-3264 or email him at email@example.com.
Stay tuned for more recipes from Chef Phil and wine pairing ideas from Castello di Amorosa.
In our previous blog post, I described how we met some new friends. Here is a continuation of that post:
“I’ve got the Filet Mignon if you’ll bring the wine,” said Ed Diaz, the CEO at Best Filet Mignon. Now I was curious so I asked him where should we meet to which he replied, “I’m coming to see you at the Castello… are you available on October 21st around 11:00 a.m.?” I said heck yes and we set the date.
What I did not know was that Ed loves a good road trip. He packed up the car and picked up his Executive Chef, Phil Horn and they left Los Angeles at 4:00 a.m. on October 21, tweeting (@TheBestSteaks) along the way.
Tweet from Ed Diaz in the wee morning hours of October 21. Only 299 more miles to go!
They arrived right on time and as they walked up the steps of the Drawbridge, their eyes were wide open and filled with amazement. We toured the Castello and got to know each other. We headed to the wine fermentation room and then to the cellars.
Phil Horn, Executive Chef of Best Filet Mignon in the Grand Barrel Room at the Castello.
Ed and Phil came prepared with their Filet Mignon so I invited Georg Salzner, our President to join us for an epic tasting of Filet Mignon; prepared and cooked by Phil and paired with our 2011 Il Barone.
Preparing the Filet Mignon for the grill.
A 6 oz. cut of Filet Mignon ready for the grill.
Georg Salzner and Ed Diaz dining at the Castello.
I must say, the Filet Mignon was simply the finest cut of meat that I've ever tasted and the pairing with Il Barone was nothing short of spectacular. The flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon framed by the lightly toasted oak and gentle acidity wine met the savory, succulent flavors of this steak. You owe it to yourself to experience this extraordinary steak as we did.
Ed and Phil want you to experience this wonderful food and wine tasting experience so they created a special offer exclusively for friends of Castello di Amorosa.
And as we promised, check out this video by Best Filet Mignon that pairs Il Barone with Filet Mignon (and wonderful side dishes). You'll learn how to make the perfect meal, without fail, everytime. Here it is:
Click on the logo below to see a special offer from Best Filet Mignon, available exclusively for friends of Castello di Amorosa.
Meet Best Filet Mignon's Executive Chef, Phil Horn
"Whether you are an aficionado or a quality flavor-craver, the king of steaks is the filet mignon because of its decadently rich, smooth, mild flavor and super savory, buttery texture. As a lifetime beef enthusiast, I love my filet mignon with nothing added (i.e. bacon, etc) and I love how it pairs with fine wine.
What you serve alongside filet mignon is what enhances the delights that your palate will experience upon tasting and ultimately bring out the earthy notes of the meat. For example, I really enjoy pan-roasted carrots in a butter sauce along with savory mashed potatoes.
Il Barone paired with a nice cut of beef from Best Filet Mignon
When it comes to pairing a wine for this dish, I recommend a wine that compliments filet mignon's more subtle flavors. Wines with dark fruit, elegant balance, and structure seem to work best. That said, I strongly recommend Cabernet Sauvignon, and particularly the Il Barone 2012 from Castello di Amorosa grown in California’s Napa Valley.
Filet mignon with sauted mushrooms and onions
The ripe, refined tannins framed in the generous body of the wine coupled with its hints of tobacco serve as a complement to the dish, without overpowering the flavor of the meat. This provides a wonderful balance due to the wine’s acidity and alcohol levels. Whatever is chosen to serve alongside the dish guarantees a simple, elegant, and delicious dining experience for your guests.”
Mary Davidek gives us a primer on Cabernet Sauvignon:
“Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely grown and recognized red wine grapes,” said Mary Davidek. ”Cab is grown in every major wine producing region covering a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. However, with a near perfect Mediterranean climate combined with rich soil ranging from rocky to alluvial--Cabernet Sauvignon reigns as Napa Valley’s king of grapes.
A Cabernet Sauvignon block 7 at the Castello
Mary Davidek, sommelier
Cabernet Sauvignon is an interesting study—thick skin, small, tightly clustered, darkly pigmented purple-black berries. Cabernet also has a higher ratio of skin and seeds (tannins) to pulp (juice) which contributes to the wine's aging potential and typically leads to oft used descriptors; i.e. big, intense, bold....
Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful wine and can be quite tannic when young, just the qualities to make it an ideal match for foods that are rich and packed with flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to pair best with meat dishes as fats and proteins tend to soften the tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon.
It does not take a connoisseur to savor the sheer bliss of Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a char-grilled Filet Mignon. When showcasing a special bottle, remember, keep it simple. Cab + a great steak = pairing perfection!”
It does not take a connoisseur to savor the sheer bliss of Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a char-grilled Filet Mignon. When showcasing a special bottle, remember, keep it simple. Cab + a great steak = pairing perfection!”
Stay tuned to this blog as www.BestFiletMignon.com will soon be delivering cooking videos exclusively to Castello di Amorosa subscribers that will teach you how to make easy, impressive meals that pair wonderfully with our wines. Can you guess which wine they’ll be pouring first?
The 2015 Harvest season is in full swing here at the Castello, and on Saturday, September 21st we celebrated our newest arriving vintage with our 8th Annual Harvest Celebration and Grape Stomp Competition! Wine Club members and their guests enjoyed delicious food paired with Castello wines, live music in the courtyard, winemaking demonstrations in our fermentation rooms, and of course, our annual Grape Stomp Competition! Check out our photos of the evening below:
Our enthusiastic Grapes were a hit with our guests!
Guests were able to sample freshly fermenting Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Malbec in the Red Wine Fermentation Room
The calm before the storm on the Crush Pad...
Team #6 cheering on their bottle filler to the finish line!
Congratulations to Team #1, our First Place Stompers!
Thank you to everyone who attended this great event! We hope you had a "grape" time!
I was raised in a large and lively household. With 2 parents, 4 of us kids along with 1 grandparent, my mother was faced with the daunting challenge every week to procure economical yet delicious ways to feed our sometimes demanding and always hungry mob. Schedules were constantly changing, I had piano lessons and swimming, my brothers balanced after school jobs and sports. In the summer, Dad often worked late. This meant not only did food have to be delicious and economical, but had to be just as good and easily re-heated to accommodate our unpredictable schedules.
Sunday night pasta was a regular on our menu. Essentially left over tidbits from the week slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce and served over pasta, a good way to start a busy week. Soups were another yummy option and minestrone often filled the pot. Basic minestrone was a smart use of left-over roast beef with an assortment of veggies and pasta. Frittata was a popular catch-all in our house and seemed to be a Friday night staple. The saying became TGIFrittata!
Frittata is a flat Italian-style omelet that's usually prepared in a cast-iron skillet. A Frittata can be made with an assortment of ingredients; mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini. For a heartier main course preparation, ground sausage, bacon or potatoes can be included. To make a frittata, beaten eggs are cooked briefly in a hot skillet along with other ingredients like onions, spinach, bacon and/or potatoes, and then topped with cheese and finished in the oven.
The Castello provided the bounty for this frittata. The royal chickens supplied the organic free range eggs. From the castle garden; zucchini, red and yellow pepper and serrano chili peppers.
The kick of spice made the wine selection for this brunch easy—Gioia, a dry and fruity rosé of Sangiovese.
When cooked in a round skillet, frittata is traditionally sliced into wedge-shaped portions for serving. And re-heated…it was just as yummy as it was just out of the oven.
♦ In medium size bowl, using a fork, blend together 4 - 6 eggs, grated Parmesan, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.
♦ Heat 12-inch non-stick, oven safe saute pan over medium high heat.
♦ Add butter to pan and melt. Add frittata contents. Pour egg mixture into pan and stir with rubber spatula.
♦ Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the egg mixture has set on the bottom and begins to set up on top.
♦ Sprinkle with parsley and additional grated parm.
♦ Place pan into oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned and fluffy.
Nadine Sierra, one of the most promising emerging talents in the opera world today opened the landmark 10th season at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole on July 17, 2015. Boasting formidable 13th century Tuscan architecture and stunning views of the Napa Valley from it's Diamond Mountain District vineyards, the Napa Valley and Castello di Amorosa was a perfect setting to experience the performing arts, wine, wellness and the culinary delights offered by Festival del Sole, one of the world's premiere cultural events.
Nadine Sierra, one of the most promising emerging talents in the opera world today, performs.
Nadine Sierra celebrates with Jan Schrem, a major benefactor
of Festival del Sole.
Nadine Sierra on stage at the 10th anniversary of Festival del Sole.
An elegant dinner for patrons followed Nadine Sierra's performance in The Grand Barrel Room.
The Russian National Orchestra performes Moscow Nights in the Courtyard featuring world-renowned baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, acclaimed Russian-born baritone, Rodion Pogossov and tenor Daniil Shtoda.
The much-revered coutyard at the Castello was filled with the sounds of the Russian National Orchestra.
Cellist Nina Kotova performs with the Russian National Orchestra.
Herb Alpert was simply magical on the trumpet playing many classic numbers and songs from their latest album, Steppin' Out.
That's Michael Shapiro on drums and percussion and Hussain Jiffry on bass.
Bill Cantos performs with Herb Alpert and Lani Hall.
For more details visit: http://www.festivaldelsole.org
It is well known the health benefits of salmon are seemingly endless. From cardiovascular health to muscle and tissue regeneration, to eye health-- regularly including this meaty fish in our diet even bolsters our metabolism! Additionally, salmon is an excellent source of beneficial fatty acids like omega-3 as well as a good source of vitamins A and D.
Salmon is also exceptionally wine friendly; the chameleon of the sea when looking for the perfect pairing. Salmon works with whites, reds and rosé, so if salmon is on the menu let the cooking method and spices guide your pairings.
In the words of Billy Joel “a bottle of red and a bottle of white, it all depends on your appetite”.
Well, your appetite and perhaps what was in the latest Castello Wine Club shipment!
Chardonnay with Lemon Pepper and Garlic Baked Salmon
With brilliant stone fruit, a hint of creamy citrus (think merengue) and just a breath of fig and hazelnut the 2013 Bien Nacido Chardonnay is the perfect canvas for this salmon preparation. Keep the sides fresh and vibrant like this hash of sweet corn and edamame. Liberally season the fish with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on a non-stick baking sheet or in a non-stick pan. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degree oven.
Sangiovese with Cajun Spiced Salmon
Salmon is a hearty meaty fish with high fat content (the good fats!) so it can play with high acid, high clarity varietals like Sangiovese. For the seasoning I used a Cajun spice rub but added additional garlic and black pepper. I wanted the spice to bring zing and pizzazz with our latest Sangiovese release. The 2012 Sangiovese shows vibrant notes of ripe red raspberry, rhubarb and trademark anise. It is a mid-palate explosion of delicious and perfect with the rich spiced salmon
Pinot Noir with Ginger, Soy, and Balsamic Grilled Salmon
A simple soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger marinade, with a dash of lemon and garlic, are the perfect salty-sweet complement to rich salmon fillets. Evocative Asian notes of ginger and soy are classic flavors for Pinot Noir pairing and the smoky grill perfectly accentuates this earthy wine. Newly released 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir has just a touch of exotic spice but the palate showstopper is the obvious grace and elegance iconic to cool climate Pinot Noir.