Red, White and Bleu …… Let Freedom Ring!
Freedom; no single word in the English language is more synonymous with America. Case in point, "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence as is inalienable rights which the Declaration says all human beings have been given. Even when certain ‘dry” movements (prohibition 1920-1933) threatened one inalienable right, the powers that be eventually restored this right and true freedom was reinstated.
Without starting a political debate, let’s just talk about the fun stuff! We have the right to eat what we like and drink what we choose. In the United States we boast more than 3,700 certified wineries and in Napa, there are more than 450 wineries in this relatively tiny valley. It is obvious happiness has been justly pursued. For the purpose of this blog and this holiday let’s concentrate on a quintessentially American if not, Californian grape; Zinfandel.
Also known as Primitivo, Zinfandel is planted in nearly 15% of all California’s vineyards. Many debates have ensued as to who can rightly lay claim to this popular cultivar’s origination but DNA fingerprinting revealed it is genetically equivalent to Croatian grapes (which I will spare you the pronunciation of) as well as the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in the Puglia region of Italy. Eventually, this grape found its way to the United States in the mid-19th century, and became known by the name "Zinfandel". Zinfandel thrives in Napa’s Mediterranean climate as well as other growing regions of California. Geographical and climatic differences are expressive and many; robust and tannic, fruity and candied, complex and aromatic.
As stated, this is about fun, freedom and the right to pursue both. This 4th of July, you will find me celebrating the red, white and blue with another red, white and bleu. Castello di Amorosa Zinfandel (Primitivo) and a yummy burger off the grill. I like 2 cheeses to top my burger, a little white cheddar for creaminess on the palate and a few bleu cheese crumbles for a salty zing. With all the usual burger suspects present and accounted for-- this red white and bleu is perfect to get you in the mood for a night of fireworks.
Happy 4th of July—Let Freedom Ring!
Mary Davidek, C.S., C.S.W.
Everything for our decadent 4th of July burgers.
Remember, on the grill or the stove--160 degrees is the safety zone for hamburger.
Castello di Amorosa 2010 Zinfandel from Russian River is spicy and fruity with hints of potpourri and dried Bing Cherries. Just big and bright enough for the Bleu and Cheddar.
Happiness pursued and achieved--enjoy with your firework spectacular!
"Color: Very pale yellow. Think of the color of hay.
"Nose: Massive amounts of honeysuckle (maybe due to the 3.8 g/L of residual sugar) create a nice backdrop for the green apple and honeydew fruits. The nose isn’t overly sweet. There are plenty of wet rocks to balance everything out.
"Taste: There is a surprisingly nice petrol note to this wine which provides for a very fun, viscous mouthfeel. As with most Pinot Grigios, there is a brightly acidic backbone to this wine that delivers a variety of citrus fruit flavors of lemon and lime zest. There is a nice combination of honey and minerality at play here too.
"Score: I get it. Castello di Amorosa makes wines consisting of mainly Italian varieties of grapes, and no self-respecting “Italian” winery would ever label a bottle as “Pinot Gris”, but… This is not one of those ordinary, 20-dollar, flat-lemon-lime-soda-tasting, Italian Pinot Grigios that have been taking over your local super market in recent years. This drinks like one of those rich, subtle, and intriguing Oregonian Pinot Gris that I have been grooving on in recent months. Stylistically, these guys have done everything right with the grape they call the “Grey Pine”. At 87+ points, you may want to introduce this Pinot Grigio to your favorite housewife."
Check out the rest of his review on his blog here, and be sure to scroll down to see his fantastic comments about our 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir as well!
The night of our 2010 Castello Holiday Party I was seated at a table with executive winemaker Brooks Painter. As dessert was served, a decadent Bouche Noelle, we were contemplating our next pour. No small task! Lovers of the sweet anxiously awaited the succulent Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. Tempting. However, in the corner of the rooms I saw a bottle of something red. To my delight it was the highly anticipated 2006 Castello di Amorosa Merlot. Rich chocolate goodness with Merlot? Brooks and I agreed; Yes, please! We toasted another great year and then…..Silence as we took a moment to contemplate the wine. This Merlot was stellar. Heavy intoxicating aromatics with a smooth velvety palate of bittersweet cocoa and blackberries. I asked Brooks where the fruit was sourced from as it differed from the past fruit-driven Merlots of Castello. For the 2006 Merlot Brooks brought in fruit from vineyards near the south end of the Napa Valley, closer to the San Pablo Bay and the fog that rolls in off the Pacific. Made sense. Cooler vineyard sites allow the fruit to mature slowly while maintaining structure and natural acidity. Our admiration was well-deserved as the 2006 Castello di Amorosa release was voted one of the best Napa Valley Merlots of the vintage.
Merlot: typically more approachable than Cabernet Sauvignon, more versatile with food – what’s with all the bad press? (pun intended) Some of my most memorable 'wine dinners’ have prominently featured this viticultural also-ran. Later that night my thoughts turned to past Merlot Super Moments. This trip down memory lane required a bit of travel.
First stop: Italy. Although not specifically known for great Merlot, a few standouts are indeed vino Italiano. Tuscany’s Galatrona Petrolo and Masseto by Ornellaia are two of the finest expressions of Merlot I’ve had. Unfortunately price and availability can be prohibitive. For lovely lush Italian Merlot that won’t break the bank, travel north to the Friuli-Venezia region. Livio Felluga produces Merlot that never disappoints. For approximately $20 this luxurious red is perfect with slow braised fork-tender short ribs and mushroom risotto…..listen closely…..those are angels singing.
Now, across the globe to South America. Chile is now the 4th largest exporter of wine to the U.S. and has 33,000 acres planted to Merlot. (2nd most planted varietal to Cabernet Sauvignon of course). I went to a BBQ last summer and brought a few bottles of one of my favorites from this exciting region; Santa Ema. This $10 Merlot has and edge and is always met with approval. Turns out this southern hemisphere bottling works great with spice rubbed grilled chicken quarters.
And back to where it all began: France. Not only is Merlot the most planted varietal in the country, in the Bordeaux region Merlot accounts for 172,000 acres planted compared to Cabernet Sauvignon’s 72,000. In St. Emilion, 70% of all planted grapes are Merlot. Wines from this region, although Merlot dominant, are primarily blends; they embody elegance and restraint. Be adventurous….pick up a few right-bank’ers in the $30-$40 range and enjoy with roast leg of lamb or grilled duck breast. Two of my favorites: Chateau Monbousquet and Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf, my favorite prime roast beef wine.
I applaud and encourage all global explorations of this soft maligned varietal. In Napa Valley, where Merlot excels at higher elevations and cooler vineyard sites, this once exploited grape is being produced with new vigor and excitement.
Be adventurous and in your endeavors may you find out why Merlot is said to be the “flesh on the Cabernet Sauvignon’s bones.”
Mary Davidek C.S, C.S.W
Recently, Joe and Matt of Thumbs Up Wine paid a visit to the Castello, and had a blast making this fantastic video. It's THE CASTLE!
Matt and Joe from Thumbs Up Wine
"If you're coming to the Napa Valley either for a day or for a week, there are certain things you have to see. We call them the Seven Wonders of the World, and this is one of them: THE CASTLE!" - Joe, Thumbs Up Wine
Toasting our Il Barone with Dario
The Thumbs Up Crew with Dario
Thank you Matt and Joe for such a great review of the Castello! We're looking forward to your next visit!
Castello di Amorosa's 2008 La Castellana Super Tuscan Blend
93 points, The Wine Enthusiast, May 2013
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with a splash of Sangiovese, this super Tuscan-style blend is powerful in every respect. It shows massively concentrated blackberry and crème de cassis flavors, with notes of dark chocolate and spices. The oak is rich and toasty, the tannins thick but as soft as silk, and the acidity lively enough to give all this richness a racy hit. Best enjoyed now and over the next 2–3 years for sheer Napa exuberance.
View Wine Enthusiast's review in their Buying Guide here
I have always rooted for the underdog, drawn to the dark horse; sure things and odds on favorites need not apply…..My Dad would have said being a Dodger fan has taken its toll. And so it goes; when it comes to wines my preference also leans to the runner-up. I often pass on the popular choice and instead, opt for its viticulture next of kin. When Cabernet Sauvignon is what’s for dinner, trust I will be sipping Merlot.
Not to say dark brooding Cabernet isn’t tempting with its flirtatious undertones of blackberry, cassis, dark cherry and chocolate…..wait…..am I describing Merlot? Yes. In fact, on a palate chart Cabernet and Merlot are kissing cousins and easily confused. If you want to have some fun, (admittedly wine-geeky fun) invite a few friends for a blind-tasting featuring Cabernet and Merlot. Make certain the wines are of similar pedigree, bottles in the $25 to $45 price range offer worthy contenders. Castello di Amorosa’s 2006 and 2008 Merlot are two of my favorite wines produced by Brooks Painter and his Castello team. Put these beauties in the lineup and even in the presence of well-seasoned palates, I predict a dead heat; a 50/50 split. In tasting panels Merlot is said to possess a softness or a roundness not typically associated with Cabernet. Why then the ridicule for this benevolent cultivar, which is, in fact, the most widely planted grape in all of France!? (Sacre bleu). Truth be told, Merlot is prolific in many regions and quite possibly this is at the root of its undoing.
Merlot could wear the banner "Just Because You Can Grow Something Doesn’t Mean You Should" but we’ll cover geography in Part 2. This over-abundance and plenitude eventually lead to Merlot becoming the marketing darling of the 90’s. Finally a wine our thick American tongues could pronounce. (I wonder how many “peanut noyas” were ordered?) Restaurants eagerly filled their wine lockers with this fashionable red. However, this trend ran its course as the over-planted Merlot often bordered on insipid rather than inspiring and earned a “sideways” glance.
Seemingly overnight Merlot became ‘persona non grata’ in tasting rooms as an often quoted movie line rang through the wine country. Out went Merlot and in came the next grape of favor. (shh, don’t tell me chateau Petrus!)
Well, fear not Merlot loving readers! Merlot is back with a vengeance and it’s better than ever. Next I’ll cover a few regions that are cultivating this classic with new vigor and excitement.
Until then, go drink some Merlot!
Mary Davidek C. S., S.W.
On April 30, 2013, The New York Times wrote about the trend where wineries are hosting retreats for corporate team building. Here’s an excerpt:
IT seems counterintuitive for companies to take their employees somewhere where the alcohol begins to flow even before lunch is served. But wineries around the world are increasingly accommodating businesses asking for meeting space, catering and even wine-making lessons for their workers. In the Napa Valley, the vineyards producing the region’s famous cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay have long welcomed tourists and about 10 percent of them are traveling on business, according to the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau, so it is no wonder that many of the valley’s wineries encourage corporate gatherings.….Castello di Amorosa, a castle and wine estate inspired by 13th-century Tuscany, where Mary Pham, digital marketing manager for Toyota, recently held an event for auto dealers. Other businesses that come for work-related meetings might want to advise their employees to dress down, because team-building activities here could mean stomping grapes.
Read the full article here
The Castello Team
On Saturday, April 20th, New Orleans came to the Castello for our Ragin' Cajun party. As the sun went down, the beads and beats came out, and the Castello was transformed into a sizzling scene full of live music, tarot readings, and hot and spicy Cajun foods paired with our Castello wines!
The main event featured Gator Beat, a high-energy Zydeco and New Orleans R&B band based out of Sonoma. They kept the Cajun beats going throughout the evening out in our courtyard, where guests dressed in their best Creole "style" danced the night away.
In all I'd say it was a "ragin'" success, but you can see for yourself in the photos below!
You know it's going to be a great night when Fantasia is flowing!
Gator Beat getting the party started out in the courtyard.
A few of our favorite Wine Club members with the Voodoo King.
Guests enjoying some of the delicious Cajun cuisine (and Castello wines!) in our Great Hall.
So many good things in one pot!
All of the delicious Creole cuisine at the party was provided for our guests by Oak Avenue Catering. Ca c'est bon!
Way to rock that New Orleans style!
The featured cocktail of the evening was the "Hurricane di Amorosa," a tantalizingly effervescent mix of our Fantasia with orange sorbet. Santé!
Who wants to hear their future? Tarot card readings in the chapel.
Feelin' the love!
Ragin' Cajun Ladies
Willard Blackwell on washboard keeping the Zydeco beats bumping through the night.
Out on the dance floor. Laissez les bon temps roulet!
Il Barone himself, Dario Sattui, made an appearance later on in the evening.
Our wonderful events team celebrating the fruits of their labors. Merci boucoups for throwing such a great party!
Another fantastic Wine Club event at the Castello. We're looking forward to next year already!
Wine of the Week: Castello di Amorosa 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay
This is a crowd-pleaser of a chardonnay. It has nice aromas of vanilla and toffee along with flavors of red apple, pear and spice, which will appeal to lovers of oak-influenced chardonnays. Yet the wine is not over-oaked. It is balanced with a freshness that allows fans of crisper white wines to appreciate it as well. With this chardonnay ($28), you won’t need to stress over which style to choose for your next dinner party.
Not only does Castello di Amorosa’s winemaker, Brooks Painter, continue to roll out beautiful wines, but the winery’s schedule is jam-packed with fun events. Next weekend there is the Ragin’ Cajun Party followed by a Midsummer Medieval Festival, and then Hot Havana Nights — among many others. It is likely you will find something intriguing!
You can read the full article in the Napa Valley Register here