Thursday, July 24, 2014

Malibu Coast Becomes an AVA

Photo Courtesy David Glancy MS,  SF Wine School
The 46 mile long and 8 mile wide Malibu Coast, with glitzy beachfront mansions and celebrity-filled Starbucks, is now an official American Viticultural Area, or American wine appellation. This is ironic in that the area is home to several low profile celebrity rehab facilities. Nonetheless, Malibu is making viticultural history, joining the ranks of high profile AVA’s including California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Elliott Dolin, proprietor of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, helped initiate the AVA application in 2011, and is joined by 51 other wine grape growers in the area. There are not yet any local wineries. These small-lot artisanal wines are made at custom-crush facilities or at nearby Central Coast wineries for the time being. While the AVA includes the beaches, most of the grapes are grown inland, up in the Santa Monica Mountains. There are 198 acres of vines in production. The majority of the AVA is within Los Angeles County but it overlaps into Venture County. According to local growers, the coastal Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters is ideal for wine grape growing. In fact, the first vineyards were planted here in 1824, and shortly
afterwards Los Angeles County was leading the state’s wine production.
Dolin Estate labelDolin and his family planted a vineyard exclusively to Chardonnay in 2006, though they plan to release a proprietary red blend soon. The south-facing slope is behind
the family home near what is now the AVA’s western border, and is covered with a morning marine layer which burns off by afternoon. Plentiful bright, hot sun and then
cool evenings ensue, a formula that bodes well for both richness and ripeness but which
allows for naturally retained and lively acidity for balance. 
My students had the opportunity to taste the 2012 Dolin Chardonnay Malibu Estate Vineyard Los Angeles County$39 at the inaugural California Wine Appellation Specialist 3-Day Intensive in Santa 
Rosa in January 2014. The wine was rich and buttery with pineapple, lemon curd, lemon meringue and vanilla bean, and had a lovely creamy texture balanced out with lively coastal and cool hills acidity. Dolin’s 2013 bottling will be labeled with the new Malibu Coast AVA. Two previously established Malibu AVA’s, Malibu-Newton Canyon and Saddle Rock-Malibu are both within the Malibu Coast AVA. For wineries, events and
tours in Malibu go to .
© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Umbrian Essence - Strada del Sagrantino

walk around tasting
For lovers of Umbrian wines, the Sagrantino Umbrian Essence event, held on June 10th at San Francisco’s The Press Club, was a rare treat. Eight producers were on hand to showcase their wines, with an emphasis on the star of the region, Sagrantino di Montefalco.

The indigenous Sagrantino grape produces very tannic wines that are high in resveratrol. Local producer Marco Caprai, of Arnaldo Caprai, perhaps the best known producer in the region, says wine made from Sagrantino is the healthiest in the world. The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG must be100% Sagrantino, so the wines are rich, intense, and heartily tannic while young. They are similar in many ways to a Barolo, but are heavier and more bitter. The lighter, softer, and more affordably priced Rosso di Montefalco, a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 10-15% Sagrantino, plus up to 30% of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, is softer, lighter, fruitier, and easier to enjoy, if simpler.
trade question
Producers on hand included Antonelli San Marco, Arnaldo Caprai, Tenuta Castelbuono, Le Cimate, Perticaia, Romanelli, Scacciadiavoli, and Tenuta Bellafonte. After tasting through the reds, I stopped back at Scacciadiavoli to try their Rose Brut Metodo Classico, made exclusively with Sagrantino. I was blown away. Extended skin contact gave this rich, bone dry fully sparkling wine a soft, gentle, chewy tannic impression on the palate. Sparkling wine producers typically go out of their way to avoid skin contact. This was a first and I absolutely loved it. What passion and pride this producer has for their local grape!
walk around crowd

The event was a joint venture between the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco and the Strada del Sagrantino, or Sagrantino Wine Road, which winds through the hills and towns of Umbria, including Todi, Assisi, and Spoleto, giving tourists a road map to the various wineries, olive mills, castles, churches, museums, and monuments. Their saying is, “Strada del Sagrantino, Discover the Good Life.” I couldn’t agree more.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.