Month: July 2022
Azores may be a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic, but what I discovered the last 3 weeks is that Azores really mean family and community. Families that have struggled toiling the rocky island of Pico planting vineyards, battling seasonal weather swings, enduring a tumultuous history and today enjoying the freedom of a new Azores. Today they are proudly doing it as a family and community. No where was this more exemplified than by the restaurant Gastrónomo on the island of São Miguel.
It is not an opulent setting, nor a view of the ocean but a simple local restaurant for the community and tourists seeking out an authentic culinary experience. The concierge tried to make reservations the night before but they were sold out! The charm of the restaurant was embodied by two factors. The first being the family that owned and ran the restaurant. We were greeted by a young man (son of the owner) with a grin from ear to ear that immediately disarmed you as a stranger and welcomed you to his family. We quickly met Mama, sister and tasted grandma’s homemade blackberry jam.
The second factor was the fresh fish of the day proudly displayed in the restaurant. We were encouraged and fully participated in walking up to view which seafood looked inviting for the evening meal. Choices made included squid, triggerfish and tuna. Each were served with local spices and prepared in typical Azorean fashion. All were delicious as each was shared.
The white wine, recommendation provided the perfect compliment to fish dishes enjoyed by all. It was a 2018 Mau Feitio, which had a blend and taste/aromas of both a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in a beautifully integrated and harmonious wine. This white wine comes from the Douro region of mainland Portugal. Mau Feitio in Portuguese means a “good bad temper of qualities, expressions and righteousness”.
The second wine of the evening which functioned more like an after dinner wine, was a 2017 Fraga da Galhofa, a Grande Reserva also from the Douro region. It was a blend of Touriga National, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Alicante Bouchet. It tied for the best red wine for the trip. Worthy to seek out and purchase.
This was the a perfect crescendo to the Azorean experience-family, community, fresh foods, friends and beautiful wines. It doesn’t get much better than what we experienced.
Started off the day with a late lunch at Aldeia Da Fonte in Lajes on island of Pico.
Fresh fish of the day was grilled Yellowmouth Barracuda! It was so tasty and ate it like locals with olive oil and wine vinegar. Paired with a 2019 Pico do Verdelho.
Then off to very special friend of Goulart’s. Went to his adega (stone building) where families make wine, moonshine, cognac and who knows what else. Fernando makes all kinds of wine to moonshine to cognac in his tiny adega. His generosity in sharing will never be forgotten.
He has 16 hectors of grapes and fruits (figs for example) which are used in his fig moonshine for example.
One is amazed anything can grow in this rocky soil throughout the island!!
Isabela and Merlot grapes are planted on his property. Seems like half the population of Pico have their personal adega for production.
If you walk a road lined with adega’s, it is considered bad luck if you are asked to stop for a drink and don’t partake. In the short 500 yard walk, we passed at least 12 to 14. Fortunately no one was at their adega so we were safe!!!!
2017 De Tierra Cabernet Franc – Best of Class at the International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration
At the April 2022 International Cabernet Franc Blind Wine Competition and Celebration held in Copperopolis, California, the 2017 De Tierra Vineyards Cabernet Franc won several awards. Two sets of judges presided over the tasting, one being the Professional Judges and the other being People’s Choice Judges. The People’s Choice Judges for category 3 ($51 to $75), awarded a Silver Medal and Best of Class to the 2017 De Tierra Vineyards Cabernet Franc. The Professional Judges also awarded it a medal. For more information on the Annual International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration click on the following links:
Winemaker’s Dinner Featuring Cabernet Franc’s: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/04/14/cabernet-franc-wine-competition-and-celebration-winemakers-dinner/
The vineyard was planted in 2003 in De Tierra Valley, between Salinas and Monterey about 6 miles south of Hwy 68. The vineyard is called the Russell Estate and has been organic since the beginning. The co-owners of the winery are Dan McDonnal and Alix Lynn Bosch. The wine maker is Olivier Rousett, originally from France but has been making wine for the last 12 years in America and another 8 years previously in France. He has been with them approximately one year.
De Tierra tries to focus their production on Monterey varietals. Other wines produced by De Tierra Vineyards include: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Sangiovese, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, three proprietary red blends and of course Cabernet Franc. All the wine varietals are small lot with only 200-300 cases per each varietal. They have gained some excellent traction in winning 2021 Gold Medal Monterey Wine Competition in 2021 with their Syrah. Ditto for their Rose. In 2022, their Chardonnay was Gold and their Riesling was rated 98 points.
Their tasting room is located in Carmel-By-The-Sea at Mission 3SE, 5th Ave in downtown Carmel.
The Wine – 2017 De Tierra Cabernet Franc
First on the eyes a deep purple hue and medium viscosity. On the nose, dark cherry and hint of smokiness. Where the wine excels is on the palate with blackberry, black tea, plum and a strong sense of trace minerals. On the finish damp musty forest meadow surrounds each sip. Missing were the strong pyrazines but such a soft rounded finish with embracing tannins makes this wine enjoyable. The wine is held in 25% new French oak and balance being various countries of neutral oak. The wine was aged two years in the barrel before bottling. The wine is listed on their website for $65/bottle. This Cabernet Franc also won a Gold Medal at the 2018 American Fine Wine Competition and scored 92 points.
The Food and Wine Pairing
The meal for the evening consisted of a tri-tip steak marinated 24 hours in a Chaka marinade, then seared on the BBQ at 650 degrees and served medium rare. Accompanying the meal was a fresh garden salad and garlic French bread. Additionally a Greek Pesto Pasta Salad was served. Ingredients for the salad included: Kosher salt, fusilli pasta, pesto sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, black pepper, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, purple onions and Kalamata olives. The meal with this wine and friends was fantastic.
Looking forward to my next visit to Carmel and stopping by to taste some of their other award winning wines!
Unti Vineyards is located in the Sonoma Valley, specifically in the Dry Creek Valley. The Unti Vineyards is owned and operated by Mick, Danae, George and Linda Unti. Mick manages all the winemaking, sales and marketing for the winery. Jason Valenti performs the winemaking tasks. The vineyards were planted in 1990 and the winery opened in 1997. Today they produce approximately 8,000 to 9,000 cases annually from their estate of 60 acres. The vineyards are planted with 35 acres of Syrah, Zinfandel, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Montepulciano, Lacrima, Fiano, Verdicchio, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and Vermentino. The Benchland property is 25 acres and planted with Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir.
With such a broad offering of Mediterranean style wines, each small batch is handcrafted to bring forth a sense of place. They use a combination of stainless steel, concrete tanks, large French oak ovals and small French oak barrels. Truly an artisan winery.
The 2017 Syrah uses three blocks in the vineyard for their production release. Combining the three allows more “cool-climate aromas and flavors (blueberry, olive) reminiscent of the Northern Rhône wines Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph” per their website. First on the eyes, a dark radiant and iridescent purple/violet coloring in the glass with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, blackberry and blueberry aromas waft into the senses. Once sipped, jammy fruit and lightly toasted oak fill the mouth with secondary flavors of cranberry and plum. The finish completes the tasting with multi-layers of freshness, coupled with structure and pointed, but not sharp tannins. The fruit with the most welcomed tannins came from a portion of the wine which received a whole-cluster fermentation. The wine was aged in only French oak, 35% being new for 13 months. Current release is the 2018 which 470 cases were produced and shows on their website at $38/bottle.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Dinner with this wine was a special Carne Asada. The ingredients included, fresh chopped cilantro, olive oil, soy sauce, fresh squeezed orange and lime juice, minced garlic cloves, a diced jalapeno, ground cumin, Kosher salt, ground black pepper marinated for 24 hours with a flank steak. The steak was seared at 650 degrees for about 5 minutes a side along with jalapeno peppers roasting on top of the steak. Topped off with fresh minced cilantro and a modicum of fresh squeezed lime juice. Accompanying the meal was Mexican street corn off the cob. Ingredients included unsalted butter, ears of corn (shucked and kernels removed), mayonnaise, grated cotija cheese, smoked paprika, green onion finely chopped, fresh parsley and seasoned to taste with salt & pepper. Cooked in a cast iron skillet to a light charred finished.
The Carne Asada was flavorful and spicy without being too red-hot! A drizzle of fresh squeezed lime juice topped off the meat along with the bbq’ed jalapeno. This is now one of our go to summer food pairings. This wine received one of my highest scores ever given to a Syrah! It will definitely make my “Best Wines Tasted This Year” (comes out each December) in 2022.
I have not visited or tasted any of the other Unti Vineyards wines, but look forward at some point to tasting their Aglianico, Petit Sirah and Picpoul Blanc. A visit is surely on my near term calendar!
It is customary for me to accompany my owner, Michael Kelly into the wine cellar. What many people don’t know is that I am the one to pick out the wine!! So last evening to enjoy on the patio, I selected a 2019 Dracaena Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles. While I have not traveled to Paso Robles, often staying locally at the Doggie Resort & Spa for multi day trips. I have heard great reviews on many wines from the area. I overheard my owners talking about how Dracaena had won two out of three years Best of Class and Best of Show at the International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration held in April each year. While as a dog, prefer to be called a four legged human, not drinking wine, I don’t understand the big deal. I have however visited over 300 wineries and can attest to good bushes to relieve myself, best dog treats and who continually refreshes their dog water bowl. Michael told me should I take up reading, this is an excellent review of their wine:
Michael also mentioned to me that this small artisan and boutique winery is definitely getting noticed with winning a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for their 2019 Cabernet Franc. They have also won at the 2022 Los Angeles Invitational Wine and Spirits Challenge a Gold Medal and Best of Show for their Chenin Blanc.
My only beef with Dracaena Wines is how do I get my picture on that label??