Our thanks to SipSwirlSavor for reviewing our Sangiovese:
A sensible Sangiovese from the Napa Valley
Italian grape varieties are fairly uncommon in the Napa Valley. That being said, the few Napa Sangioveses I've had in the past have tasted less like their Italian counterpart and more like a Napa Cabernet. Which made me wonder why a Napa winery would even bother making anything besides Cab. And yet, Castello di Amorosa has committed itself to producing Italian-style wines from Napa-grown grapes.
Charmed by the architecture and the chickens roaming the landscape, I felt transported to Tuscany when I visited the Castle in Calistoga for a brief tasting in 2010. Since then, the winery has hired a new consulting winemaker and the vineyards have matured in ways that do the Tuscan varieties justice.
I recently opened a bottle of the 2009 Castello di Amorosa Napa Valley Sangiovese. Upon my initial quaff, the wine was tight and restrained. I poured a little more through a WineSoiree and swirled it around in the glass while my eggplant parmesan warmed up in the oven. It wasn't long before this wine started singing a beautiful tune.
The perfume of rose petal, dried herbs and red cherry hits a very similar note to that of Chianti Classico. On the palate, notes of cranberry and currant shine alongside excellent acidity and dusty tannins. Despite it's Calistoga birthright, this wine definitely has an Old World sensibility.
The wine’s high acid was the perfect match for the tomato sauce with my eggplant parmesan. It was a delightful pairing that continued to get better as the wine continued to flourish. By the end of my meal (and my second glass of wine), sweet aromas of black cherry and ripe plum dominated the nose of this medium-bodied Sangio. Rhubarb and cocoa became more pronounced on the palate, and the finish lingered with juicy cherry and spicy vanilla.
WineWiseWeb reviewed three of our 2011 Gewurztraminers: “…a trio of beautifully made 2011 Gewurztraminers from Dario Sattui’s dream winery in Calistoga. Winemaker Brooks Painter shows his deft hand with the variety with three different styles…Gewurz brings different varietal characteristics forward at different sugar levels. Each of these wines delivers excellent quality and complexity of aroma and flavor….
Read all of the reviews here:
Our thanks to Enofylz for choosing the 2008 La Castellana as his Wine of the Week:
Here’s a taste of his review:
“Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out. For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2008 Castello di Amorosa La Castellana. Opaque dark garnet color with aromatic dark red fruits, toasted oak,and spiced tobacco aromas. On the palate, it’s voluptuous and smooth with well-integrated soft dusty tannins, good balance, and blackberry, plum, bittersweet chocolate, and spiced vanilla flavors. Long finish. Rating: A- (91pts). Pair with: Hearty fare such as grilled steak, sausages, Venison Stuffed Mushroom Caps, Shepherd’s Pie, Braised Lamb Shanks, Veal Parmesan or Rigatoni with a wild boar ragú.”
And there’s more: http://enofylzwineblog.com/2013/03/28/wine-of-the-week-castello-di-amorosa-2008-la-castellana/
Dario Sattui, owner of V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena and Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, has pledged $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga for its future construction of a permanent Club facility in Calistoga.
Listen to Dario's interview on KGO 810:
“I am really proud to make this small contribution to the future of our community, and believe this will make a positive impact. Let’s hope the Club can raise the rest of the money quickly and open the new Club, “said Sattui.
Dario Sattui with the Board of Directors and Staff of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Helena and Calistoga
“This is a landmark moment for our organization,” commented Club Executive Director Jay Templeton. “Mr. Sattui’s magnificent lead gift provides us the framework to begin focused discussions of our Calistoga project. The Boys & Girls Clubs and Mr. Sattui share the same values of respect for the environment, and the importance of agriculture, nutrition, exercise, academics, entrepreneurship, technology skills and guidance in preparing today’s youth to be productive 21st century citizens.”
Currently the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga operates an after-school program located at the Calistoga Elementary School on Berry Street. In 2012, registered youth membership at that site was 395 with an average daily attendance of 129. The Club also operates a Teen Center located in the city’s Monhoff Center on Grant Street adjacent to the Calistoga Junior-Senior High School.
“For some time, the Board of Directors has discussed a Calistoga project,” said Templeton. “Our St. Helena facility was opened in January of 2008 following a successful capital campaign. The next vision has been to establish a permanent facility in Calistoga through community fundraising.”
On April 26th, the Board of Directors will hold a Board retreat specifically to discuss the Club’s Calistoga future, including discussions on a potential location, cost, size, fundraising and timing. “We hope to come out of that day with basic direction and to set the course for a new Boys & Girls Club building in Calistoga,” remarked Templeton.
Sattui will attend the Club’s Board of Directors meeting at noon on March 20th to present two $500,000 checks. Each of his local businesses, V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa are contributing jointly.
The Sattui donation is the second lead gift received for the future Calistoga project. In November of 2012, the DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation made the first contribution, a $250,000 pledge arranged by Calistoga residents Paul and Pamela Ingalls. The Boys & Girls Club hopes these early donations are an indication of the support it will have and need in order to complete the Calistoga capital campaign and the construction project.
The children of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Helena and Calistoga with Dario Sattui and staff.
Noted Board of Directors President, Kathleen Herdell, “We are thrilled by the generosity of Dario, Paul and Pamela. Their contributions will touch the lives of Up-Valley children for generations to come. ‘Thank you’ just doesn’t adequately capture the gratitude we feel for these visionaries and role models. They are helping to give the kids a safe and positive place to be after school and all summer long. Having watched the excited faces of kids as they enter the St. Helena Clubhouse, I can’t wait to give the Calistoga children that same experience.”
This is the time of year when winemakers and vineyard managers start paying close attention to weather patterns. Although long periods of extreme cold and sub-freezing temperatures can always cause distress in a vineyard; frost is particularly damaging in the early spring. Once bud break occurs, spring frosts can kill the young shoots potentially destroying a crop. If you visit wine country in early spring you may spot a few different methods utilized by vintners in attempts to combat frost damage. Most preventative measures are expensive and vary in effectiveness, but, the financial loss of frost damage is extreme.
The least utilized and possibly least effective is burning oil in a smudge pot. The smoke and heat generated is hopefully carried over the vineyard by the wind forming a warmer protective blanket. As the heavier cold air sinks, the warm blanket of air protects the shoots.
A solution that seems just as drastic but that has actually proven viable in some vineyard locales; spraying the vines with a fine mist of water. As the water freezes it forms a protective layer of ice insulating the young shoots by trapping the heat, (think of an igloo or an ice cave). Since Napa Valley’s Mediterranean climate doesn’t generally dip below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, this method shows promise as it is environmentally less invasive and more economically viable. A negative for using water is fairly obvious but worth noting: you are using water, which can be scarce or completely unavailable in remote vineyards.
The most common and visually the most obvious method in use can be viewed off Highway 29 and along the Silverado Trail. What looks like windmills are actually wind machines, which move air over vineyards to keep the coldest air from settling on vulnerable, young shoots. The heavier cold air mixes with the warmer air, being moved by the wind machine, creating a slight elevation in temperature which is often just enough to ward off frost as long as that temperature is above 28 degrees Fahrenheit. However, I live close to one such wind machine and I see it as only partially effective. While it prevents frost from developing in areas directly in the path of said turbulence, my personal observation is the outlying areas are often blanketed with frost. Another fact to consider…..wind machines are essentially propellers that run on fuel so they can be expensive to run and the noise level can be extreme – especially in the wee hours of the morning when they are typically used. *yawn*
Does a foolproof solution exist? Well, if you have an opportunity when driving in the valley, look to the hills. It is rare to find any method of frost control on sloped vineyard sites. Dense cold air naturally drains off the hillsides and settles onto the valley floor quite often rendering the hillsides unaffected by frost.
In this north end of the Napa Valley we are fortunate. With the Mayacamas Mountains to the West and the Vaca Mountains to the East, some of the most prestigious viticultural land in the world has been created. Castello di Amorosa’s Il Barone and La Castellana wines are crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards on Diamond Mountain, part of the famed Mayacamas range; above the fog line, drenched in sunshine and relatively unharmed by frost.
As we continue to progress in viticulture methodology one fact holds true – Mother Nature will always have the final word.
And with that my final word – Cheers!
Mary Davidek C.S., C.S.W.
In the last submission I covered the basics of getting your wine to the restaurant. Now, for the dedicated corkage seekers……..let’s continue.
Take care of the waitstaff. Many experienced servers see a bottle carried in and mark you as a diner who is…….well……thrifty. I prefer to call it savvy. And when addressing the monetary side of it, I usually MYOB but regarding BYOB; I can’t hold back. If service warrants a generous gratuity, include an additional percentage for the server to off-set their loss of a potential wine sale. I usually include an extra 5%. In a more intimate dining setting I offer the server, or chef, or other interested staff a small sample of the wine. If you frequent a particular restaurant, develop a rapport with your favorite server. A big bonus, many times the published corkage fee disappears.
When possible I patronize restaurants with lenient BYOB practices or those that do not charge corkage…..EVER! Be on the lookout for specials or promotions. One of our favorite Napa spots offers “No Corkage Mondays”. Some wineries have partnered with local restaurants who offer complimentary corkage if you bring in a bottle purchased at the referring winery. Castello di Amorosa has a list of at least 20 restaurants in the valley that are happy to open a bottle of Castle wine at no charge. And kudos to Restaurant Cuvée in Napa and Farmstead in St. Helena, CA; a small corkage fee is charged and donated to charity. Bravo!
Become active on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor to give feedback and accolades. Wine forums are also a great place to turn. Check out WineSpectator.com, VinoCellar.com and RobertParker.com; you will find lively and well-informed participants as well as updated BYOB info.
As previously mentioned, there has never been a better time to dine out with wine as more restaurants and chefs are embracing BYOB diners. States that had prohibited BYOB in the past are now loosening laws and restrictions. Establishments that at one time discouraged corkage enthusiasts are now recognizing the valuable business this clientele provides.
Happy dining –
Mary Davidek C.S., C.S.W
BYOB = Bring Your Own Bottle
Corkage Fee = the fee charged to open and serve a bottle of wine not purchased at the dining establishment
Every restaurant has restrictions and specifications which are said to cover the cost of opening a bottle, providing stemware, and serving the wine. Realistically, a corkage fee is charged to cover lost revenue. I am unabashedly a self-professed BYOB junkie; a dedicated corkage hound ……and I go to extremes in my pursuit. Here are a few situations I have encountered and simple resolutions which may help in your quest.
1. Call the restaurant or check their website prior to your reservation as fees and restrictions vary. Some restaurants may impose a 1-bottle limit and others may have more tempting ways to capture your attention. A growing trend; restaurants charge a fee but will comp it one for one, for every bottle purchased. For example, restaurant “X” charged $25 corkage. I brought in a bottle of Castello di Amorosa Cabernet Sauvignon. From the restaurant wine list I selected a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy with apps. I love a zippy Sauvignon Blanc with bruschetta and goat cheese on a warm baguette; sublime. The bottle I purchased was $28. That’s right, the corkage fee for my Castello di Amorosa bottle was waived. This is clearly a win-win. Typically I bring in a red and purchase a white from the list as even the grandest wine menu offers a tasty and affordable white wine.
2. A common and reasonable request; the bottle you bring in cannot be available for purchase on the existing wine list. To ensure your selection for carry-in is acceptable, browse the wine list on-line or request a fax or emailed copy prior to your planned visit. Here is my fool-proof solution. Bring in wine from a winery that does not distribute. This is becoming easier as more small and mid-sized wineries are opting for direct-to –consumer sales only. Castello di Amorosa wines have been a fixture on my restaurant outings for this very reason. Restaurant wine lists change weekly and this takes the guess work out of it.
3. Prepare your bottles. If you want a chilled bottle of bubbly with your Dungeness crab; chill it. If you are bringing a Napa Cab with a little age on it, stand it up for a few hours prior to leaving which allows sediment to collect at the bottom.
4. I have seen bottles transported in everything from a paper shopping tote to a plastic grocery bag. My advice; invest in a respectable wine carrier. From leather totes to canvas carrying bags to decorative wine boxes – your wine should travel in style.
Good news for us food and wine lovers, corkage and BYOB is becoming an accepted standard. Restaurant owners are adopting more favorable corkage policies as a marketing tool.
Stay tuned……Part 2 coming up.
Mary Davidek C. S. , C.S.W.
The first time I saw the man who would eventually become my husband I was dumb-struck (quite a confession those who know me will attest). Just my type; tall, dark (it was summer), and handsome. After a chat over a glass of vino (what else?), I made the fatal mistake of telling him I thought he was smarter than I was. I say fatal mistake as it is now 24 years later and he won’t let me forget that statement.
Our friends often tell us they have never met 2 people more suited for each other, meant to be together. Better together as 1 than separate as 2. Like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, peas and carrots……it just works.
Perfect pairings certainly enhance and intensify and one thing which is singularly good, but with food and wine, perfect pairings take on a new meaning. If you have ever been on the Royal Pairing Tour at Castello di Amorosa you may have experienced a few of these perfect pairings. A rich pate’ with Castello’s award winning Il Passito comes to mind. Sommeliers agree this match is perfection. Popular wine writer Karen Macneil says “this luxurious pairing comes perilously close to maxing out the human tolerance for pleasure”. An endorsement like that certainly piques the imagination. But, must perfect pairings always be so lofty, and quite candidly, so costly to be perfect? Does perfection have a price? A rule of thumb, pair rich with rich and humble with humble. One of my affordable favorites, a simple roast chicken (any grocery store’s rotisserie is fine), and a bottle of Pinot Noir. The rustic flavors of a simple roast chicken, a loaf of crusty bread and the earthy tones of Pinot Noir are magical together. When selecting your pinot go for light and fruity bottlings from Sonoma. For my dollar Castello’s Los Carneros Pinot Noir is the perfect choice with a hit of clove balanced with bright fruit. This Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to perfect pairings, celebrate this dynamic duo with your honey. Light a couple of candles, put in your favorite music, pour a couple glasses of vino and relax.
Throughout the year, connect with your inner match-maker; go forth and discover new and exciting pairings.
And remember, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder……
Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day
Mary Davidek C.S., C.S. W
Big juicy burgers. Big healthy baby. Big hotel suite. Big expense account. Mr. Big. But big wine? In our super-sized reality is big always better?
Since big is often a matter of perspective and can be vague in usage, to better understand big as it relates to wine we need to go to the source; to the vineyard. In wine, big is typically synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Napa Valley. Since Napa is home to some of the most expensive agricultural land in the United States it is understandable how big enters the picture. Cabernet grown in this lush valley thrives. Upon examination this petite powerhouse of a grape resembles a small dark blueberry more than a familiar table grape. As a matter of fact, all grapes are called berries. Cabernet berries are tightly clustered and the skin is thick and darkly pigmented. But this power is not just skin deep. With the largest seed mass of any black grape, the tannin to juice ratio is only one factor when defining big – as there is nothing passive about this aggressive little berry. However, it is all part of the big reveal. We must look to the winemaking team and the philosophy espoused by each winery and the fruits of their labor for ourselves.
Since I do not drink wine that assaults my palate, when drinking Cabernet I seek out plush, velvety and elegantly styled wines. Some critics may argue this type of cabernet disappeared with payphones and library cards. I disagree. Classically styled Cabernet, while not prolific, is available.
Under the direction of Dario Sattui, one of Napa Valley’s biggest success stories, the winemaking team at Castello di Amorosa strives to produce wines with sophistication. Executive winemaker Brooks Painter utilizes “tannin control” techniques from vineyard to production. The result is palpable.
In the vineyard, Castello’s Cabernet is picked at 25 degrees brix (sugar level). But aside from sugars, Brooks and his team monitor the maturity of the tannins by tasting the fruit from each vineyard block as harvest approaches. Once the juice is in the tank the cap of solids (skins and seeds) is reintroduced to the juice via punchdown or gentle pump-over to limit the over-stimulation of phenolics (natural organic compounds in the juice).
But regardless of the winemaking philosophy or the vineyard geography, the real test is largely subjective and that individual perception or preference is ultimately the biggest player in the equation. The big reveal is how you perceive the wine you are drinking. Thus the debate on big wine continues.
When does size matter? There is one point on which we can all agree…….
A big glass of wine is always better.
Mary Davidek, C.S., C.S.W.
Romantic love will be in full celebration as guests express their love for each other at Castello di Amorosa’s cupid-friendly Royal Hearts Gala on February 16, 2013. A reception kicks off the festivities at 7:00 p.m. followed by dinner seating at 8:00 p.m. The winery’s name embodies the spirit of this gala --- “Castle of Love.” The evening will also include a performance of excerpts from Shakespeare’s works on love.
Castello di Amorosa welcomes special guest chef Alejandra Schrader, a Top 10 Finalist in Fox’s MasterChef USA Season 2. “To say we are thrilled to have Chef Schrader showcase her culinary skills is an understatement,” said President, Georg Salzner. “I’m sure she’ll dazzle us with menu she’s creating. We are looking forward to the menu and the evening,” he adds.
Currently a private chef in Los Angeles, Shrader has participated in high profile culinary festivals such as “Taste of Chicago,” the world’s largest, as well as food and wine festivals in Washington, D.C. and Palm Desert. “I have had the opportunity to learn directly from renowned chefs like Mary Sue Milliken from Border Grill and acclaimed Ricardo Zarate of Picca and Mo-Chica (Food & Wine Magazine’s 2010 Best Chef),” Shrader explains.
“I was fortunate to compete and present my dishes to Judges Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich,” Chef Schrader explains. “From well over thirty thousand auditions all over the country, 100 people were brought to Los Angeles to compete for the title of MasterChef; and I was one of the lucky ones. I am proud to be part of the MasterChef family and it will be an honor to prepare special dishes for the guests at the Castello’s Gala.”
The Royal Hearts Gala will include a VIP reception with hors d’oeuvres in the Tasting Room followed by a 4-course meal in the Grand Barrel Room. Cost is $195 for the winery’s wine club members and $225 for non-members.
Shakespeare in the Vines will perform selected scenes from Shakespeare’s most romantic plays and sonnets during dinner. Shakespeare in the Vines is an acting troupe which specializes in the works of William Shakespeare.
A top finalist and fan favorite on FOX's popular show MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay, Alejandra has established her presence in the culinary world. She has performed cooking demonstrations all over the United States at prestigious food and wine festivals such as this year's Taste of Chicago, the largest food festival in the world. She has shared the culinary stage with renowned chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, Aaron Sanchez, Sara Moulton, Mark Peel and Graham Elliot. Since the end of MasterChef, Alejandra has done appearances on TV shows like Access Hollywood Live, Cafe CNN, NBC’s Today in LA, and Primera Edición (Univision, Spanish TV). Her recipes and interviews have been featured in high profile magazines like InTouch Weekly and Taste of Home. She owns a private chef business in Los Angeles; she is also writing her first cookbook and working on exciting new media projects. More at http://www.alejandraschrader.com/
Chef Alejandra Schrader