In Napa Valley, a majestic, 13th century Tuscan-inspired castle of wine tasting awaits both visitors and locals alike. Castello di Amorosa, originally built just over twenty years ago by Dario Sattui, boasts incredible views of Italian medieval architecture and landscaping, fully equipped with Italian wines and medieval events to match. While the estate is well known for its Italian varietal wines, much like their sister winery V. Sattui, Castello di Amorosa is also highly lauded for a variety of other wines, including their Napa Valley classics like Chardonnay.
This spring, Castello di Amorosa released three new Chardonnays—all unique, small production bottlings that work to highlight the subtle differences in terroir across appellations, even down to individual vineyard sites. Working with fruit from across California, these new releases come from two very different appellations--Napa Valley and Santa Maria Valley, the latter of which is located in Santa Barbara County.
Each Chardonnay possesses varietally true characteristics with varying ranges of oak influence (or lack thereof). Most notably different of the three is the concrete egg fermented and aged Chardonnay—named La Rocca—which showcases the beauty of the fruit from the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The other two bottlings are made in a more classic California Chardonnay style with a moderate amount of oak; one is made from Napa Valley fruit and the other from Santa Maria Valley fruit.
2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Barrel-fermented in Burgundian barrels with 40% undergoing malolactic fermentation, and then aged on lees in 50% new oak for ten months, this Chardonnay is full, round and rich. The Napa Valley sun plus the cool climate of Los Carneros (where the grapes are grown) creates a tropical nose full of kiwi and pineapple, followed by green apple, salted lemon, wet rocks, minerality and baked bread. The palate exhibits a medium body and delightful balance between rich, round textures and bright acidity. Fruit and spice commingle with flavors of green apple mixing with ginger, vanilla and baking spice. In the background, baked bread and minerality provide contrast to the fruit and spice, giving the wine many layers of structure and complexity. This Chardonnay is an instant Napa Valley classic and would be a fantastic addition to any refreshing summer meal that involves seafood and rich sauces.
2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
Made in the same exact style as the Napa Valley Chardonnay, this beauty from the iconic Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley shows just how big of a difference an appellation can make. With the same barrel fermentation and aging, the terroir of the Bien Nacido Vineyard creates a completely different wine than that of the one made from Napa Valley fruit. A cool climate and unique soil types create a nose that boasts aromas of green apple, salted lemon, honey dew, lemon meringue, banana and vanilla pudding. On the palate, there is a significant amount of spiced ginger that brightens the lovely crispness and acidity; under-ripe honey dew also abounds, enmeshing with the layers of spiced ginger. These complex flavors are all enveloped in a smooth body and a long finish—an excellent choice for those looking for a Chardonnay with nice acidity and desirable spice.
2013 La Rocca Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
For a completely different experience, the same Bien Nacido Vineyard is harvested for La Rocca, which is fermented and aged in a single concrete egg tank on lees for ten months. With no oak influence, the aromatics, flavors and textures are completely unique compared to the other two Chardonnays. Pineapple, green apple, green mango, banana and banana cream pie hover above the glass beautifully; the palate is filled with layers of fruit and spice, wrapped up in creamy, round textures that fill every inch of the palate. Under-ripe pineapple and green apple dominate with notes of wet rocks and cinnamon in the background. The acidity is gentle but still gives the right amount of contrast to the creamy texture—overall bringing great balance to this pure, unique wine. This Chardonnay is the perfect choice for those who aren’t a fan of oak-aged Chardonnay; it is fresh and incredibly delicious, showcasing the terroir and the high quality grapes that it produces.
Visiting Castello di Amorosa
To enjoy Chardonnay from Castello di Amorosa, or any of their other fine wines, it is absolutely worth visiting the castle for wine tasting. The grounds are stunning, the views are incomparable, and the Tuscan-style castle is unlike anything you have every seen in Napa Valley. Complete with guided tours and tastings, a food and wine pairing tour, and a cheese and wine pairing tour, Castello di Amorosa has the right experience for every visitor.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.
When your winery tasting room is actually a winery tasting home, furnished by nothing other than the Ralph Lauren Home collection, the only logical way to release a brand new Pinot Noir is to host an intimate dinner party. Welcome to Silver Trident Winery, whose tasting home is located in the quaint town of Yountville, in the heart of Napa Valley. Having only been open in this location for two months, but making wine since 2009, Silver Trident Winery has already experienced great success in the tasting home.
Uniquely modeled to mimic the experience of inviting guests over for a luxurious afternoon of wine tasting in a private home, the Silver Trident Winery tasting experience is more comfortable, warm and welcoming than your average walk-up winery tasting bar experience. Full of luxurious rooms—including a stunning private library, living room with a welcoming lounge atmosphere and dining room fit with an elegant glass-top table—the Silver Trident Winery tasting home is unlike any other winery tasting room you’ve been to. Guests are invited to sit where they are most comfortable, and depending on the size of the group, can enjoy tasting wine with the owners who are often on site, as well as the knowledgeable tasting home staff.
Current releases include wines from Napa Valley, a Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir, as well as an exclusive, small production bottling of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir—2013 Benevolent Dictator—which was just released with the inaugural Springtime Pinot Pop Up dinner, held on Saturday May 30th in the Yountville tasting home.
Upon entering the Silver Trident Winery tasting home, guests were greeted with a glass of 2014 Apollo's Folly Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast appellation. A delightful, classic French style Rosé, Apollo’s Folly boasts elegant notes of strawberry and watermelon wrapped up in a luscious body with balanced acidity. Served alongside a plentiful array of charcuterie, cheeses and pâté, this Rosé of Pinot Noir was the perfect beginning to a fine evening of wonderful wine and delicious cuisine.
The Springtime Pinot Pop Up dinner took place upstairs in a private dining room with a seating capacity of up to twenty people—regularly used for hosting private parties and celebrations. The long family-style dining table invites guests to dine together and get to know each other throughout the four-course dinner, prepared by Chef Curtis di Fede.
Smoked Trout, Avocado, Blue Lake Beans, Citrus Vinaigrette
To begin, a smoked trout, avocado and blue lake beans beans salad with citrus vinaigrette was served alongside 2014 Symphony No. 9, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Enticingly fresh and flavorful, this crisp salad was the perfect accompaniment to this stainless steel and neutral barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc. Lively tropical flavors of kiwi, mango and pineapple perfectly complement the citrus vinaigrette, while the smoked trout brings a bit of contrast to the silky body, and matching the bright acidity on the finish. This pairing was crisp and refreshing, and an enjoyable introduction to the creative flavors of Chef Curtis di Fede’s springtime menu.
Lamb Tartare, Shaved Turnip, Roasted Cauliflower, Spring Onion
The second course was a plated trio of lamb tartare, roasted cauliflower with shaved turnip and sesame-crusted crackers. Elegantly paired with 2010 Twenty-Seven Fathoms, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the lamb tartare’s simple, rich flavor matches beautifully with the structure and grace of the wine. This pairing is all about textures—the rich texture of the lamb tartare plays beautifully with the balanced level of tannins in the wine, and also brings richness to the palate, which exhibits dry, terroir-driven soil characteristics at mid-palate, followed by a round, silky finish. Neither the lamb tartare nor 2010 Twenty-Seven Fathoms was overstated, but rather both shined beautifully for their restraint and elegance as they commingled together on the palate.
Roasted Duck Breast, Farro, Maitake Mushroom, Rocket
For the brand new release of the long-awaited 2013 Benevolent Dictator Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Chef Curtis di Fede paired this youthful wine with a tender roasted duck breast, served with farro, maitake mushroom and rocket greens. Stunningly plated and equally delicious, the duck breast and Pinot Noir pairing could not have been executed in a more perfect manner. Cooked to tender perfection, the succulent duck breast unites beautifully with the luscious, delicate flavors of the Pinot Noir. Aromas of cherry, strawberry, forest floor and a touch of oak give way to flavors of dried raspberry, cherry cola, black cherry and a touch of earth and spice on the palate of this incredible new release. The 40% new French oak is well integrated, bringing extra depth and body while still maintaining classic, delicate Pinot Noir characteristics. This nuanced Pinot Noir lends itself well to the flavorful duck breast and earthy maitake mushrooms, and found contrasting balance with the rocket greens and farro—a truly elegant, balanced pairing of both complementary and contrasting flavors.
To complete the exquisite meal, Chef Curtis di Fede served a chocolate tart with polenta crust and olive oil whipped cream. To show the diversity of pairing wine and food, this dessert was also showcased alongside the Twenty-Seven Fathoms Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, only this time it was the younger 2012 vintage. Together, the chocolate tart brings forward notes of blueberry and cherry in the wine, and really heightens the dark chocolate characteristics that linger in the background. The polenta crust provides the pairing with phenomenal texture and plays beautifully with the texture and body of the wine.
By the end of the night, guests were satisfied not only by the incredible cuisine of Chef Curtis di Fede and the Silver Trident wines, but also by the warm, lively company throughout the meal. Dining among other wine enthusiasts, both from local and afar, the Silver Trident Winery tasting home Springtime Pinot Pop Up dinner truly embodied a welcoming, enjoyable wine country dinner in the comfort of a family home. As Silver Trident Winery so accurately states, “Welcome to your home in the Wine Country.”
*Originally published on Examiner.com.
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