Friday, April 26, 2013

Wining in Beverly Hills, that is...

The Goddess and JD were invited to a special tasting event. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was coming to town! We met at the luxurious Mr C Hotel in Beverly Hills for a special seminar with C. Scott Carney and the Consorzio staff where we tasted through 9 wines, were tested on knowledge and palate, and then fed in a most delicious fashion, after which most of us trooped upstairs for a trade tasting of delightful Chiantis and Vinsantos looking for distribution in the US.

From the Consorzio's website: The Chianti Wine Consortium was established in 1927 by a group of wine growers from the Provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Pistoia, and later expanded its operations to include the entire production region. It was legally recognized by the Production Regulation of 1967, and incorporated into the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin – DOCG).

Over 2,500 producers, cultivating more than 10,500 hectares of vineyards and producing 550,000 hectoliters of Chianti, are protected by the Consortium which, due to its tradition of representation and operations, has been appointed as the official monitor of Chianti by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MIPAAF) by the ministerial decree of 22 May 1978, which was later reconfirmed for the other denominations within its sphere of responsibility in 2003 and 2004, and whose members receive the same representation.

Scott Carney & the GoW
The seminar and subsequent test and luncheon were facilitated by Scott Carney, Master Sommelier and Lecturer and Educator, Court of Master Sommeliers. After a brief welcome from the president of the Consorzio - in Italian - we dove into the 9 wines - interestingly only identified by their region and vintage; no brands listed:

1. Chianti DOCG 2011 - 85% Sangiovese/15% Canaiolo, some barrel aging, 3 months in bottle - Light ruby color with a blush of youthful pink on the edge. Nose full of tobacco, sour cherry and a gamy, yet floral quality. Tart and acidic on the palate, this very young wine showed elements of sour cherry, allspice, some woodiness (Slovenian oak?), and a seriously tannic finish.

2. Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 - 90% Sangiovese/10% Canaiolo, 6 months in French oak and 3 month bottle aging - Light garnet color, but darker and more robust than #1. Woodsy and herbaceous on the nose; the palate had balanced acid to fruit, was markedly dry in the mid-palate, with a long, soft finish.

3. Chianti DOCG 2011 - 85% Sangiovese/15% mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah,10 months in cement and/or steel vats - Deeply hued with even color core to rim. The Cab Sauv definitely changed the nose from the typical Sangiovese. Very tannic and extremely dry, but nice texture in the mouth.

4. Chianti Rufina DOCG 2011 - 100% Sangiovese, 6 months in wood and 6 months in stainless steel - Ruby red color with a pink rim; Woodsy spice, cinnamon and some Brett providing savory herbal notes. In the mouth, gamy, meaty flavors with an element of tomato led to a silky tannic finish.

5. Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2010 - 85% Sangiovese/5% Canaiolo/10% Colorino, aged in concrete vats - Almost opaque, deep ruby red color. The nose seemed muted with some savory notes and some cherry at the top. In the mouth, lovely dusty cherry, silky tannins and a long, luxurious finish. I wanted to drink a lot more of this wine!

6. Chianti Superiore DOCG 2010 - 100% Sangiovese, one year in barriques followed by 6 months in bottle - Clear, ruby with a pink edge, this young wine had too much wood in the nose. The slight overtone of coconut gave away the American oak used. In the mouth, dry, soft tannins and a slightly watery texture made the wine less interesting than some of the others; odd considering it was a Superiore - meaning it had to meet some very high standards. Perhaps it was in a dumb phase.

7. Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2010 - 90% Sangiovese/10% Canaiolo, aged in glass-lined vats and stainless steel, followed by additional bottle aging - The brownish color, sulfur and diesel on the nose, followed by sour, gamy, muted earthiness in the mouth made us wonder if this bottle was not right.

8. Chianti Montespertoli DOCG 2010 - Sangiovese/Colorino (no percents listed), 16 months part barrique and part steel, followed by 6 months of bottle aging - Very dark, intense ruby color; baking spices and anise on the nose, with black cherry and ripe fruit flavors made this well-structured wine very approachable and tasty.

9. Chianti DOCG 2010 - 90% Sangiovese/10% Black Canaiolo, aged in concrete and barriques for 6 months each and then further bottle aging - Brownish red in color, with sawdust and minerality on the nose. Not much fruit on the palate either.

Then, we were each poured 3 glasses of unidentified wines - all of which we had just tasted. Quizzes were distributed in which our knowledge of Chianti wine and regions was tested. The sheet for the blind tasting was also passed out. We tasted and made our educated guesses, answered the questions as best we could, and hoped we would be in the top 3 in order to win prizes, the Grand Prize being an all-expenses paid trip to Tuscany!

Well, we didn't win the prizes, but our friend Violetta Carillo came in 2nd place! We were happy that we got more than 50% of the questions right and a few of the wines right. 

They fed us a hearty lunch consisting of the best mushroom pizza I have ever
had in my life, a beef slider, crispy fries, and a huge piece of buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto on a bed of arugula - all of which paired beautifully with Chianti!

Then, as if that wasn't enough, there was the trade tasting - almost 50 wineries pouring Chiantis and Vinsantos. I hate to disappoint, but we only made it to around 15 of the wineries. Between conversations with the winemakers/winery owners/friends and acquaintances...well, frankly, I ran out of steam. We sat for a few minutes, drinking water and chatting up some folks, thought about what we still needed to accomplish, and went home.

Highlights for me:
Fattoria Valacchi - Chianti DOCG Riserva "Gelso" 2010 and Chianti DOCG "Gelso" 2011 - Two very different but delightful versions presented by the charming Irene Sanesi. Beautiful color and nose full well-balanced fruit and earthiness made for approachable and tasty wines.

Le Fonti a San Giorgio - Chianti Montespertoli DOCG 2009 - JD and I just stood there with our noses in our glasses. Earth, fruit, tobacco, lilacs set the stage for a full-bodied, satiny quaff with a long chocolate finish. Wow.

Podere Alberese - Chianti DOCG Riserva 2009 and Chianti Superiore DOCG 2009 - Classic in design, this very young winery - just founded in 2003 - is making some beautiful wines that need more time in the bottle. They're just babies! We had an interesting chat with Lucia Bozzano about being the newcomers in an ancient and traditional craft. Lovely.

So thanks to Allison Levine of Please the Palate for inviting us to this wonderful tasting, thanks to the Consorzio Vino Chianti for the wines, thanks to Scott Carney for a great seminar.

Now on to Paso Robles for the first annual Paso Robles CAB Collective. Cheers!

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