Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Midnight Red and Berry Vodka for Haunted House Party

Happy Halloween! 

Looking for that something special to serve at your Haunted House Party? We've unearthed these two devilish delights to get your spirits lifted:

  - 2013 Menage a Trois MIDNIGHT Dark Red Blend California $14.99
A deeply fruity, silky, smooth and ripe, almost port-like red wine.

- Menage a Trois Berry Vodka $29.99 (750ml)
I'll get you my pretty, with this wickedly delicious delicately flavored raspberry magic potion.

Available at fine food and grocery stores nationwide.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pere Ventura Cava - A Beautiful Sparkling Wine for $15

Cava is the popular and very well-priced Spanish sparkling wine which is similar to Champagne in production and aging but made with indigenous grapes. The most noble grape, Xarello (say "Cha - reh- lo") is the bones, or the structure, while Macabeo is the meat or flesh. Parellada comes into the mix, as well as the four allowed red grapes for Rose production - Monastrell, Garnacha, Pinot Noir and Trepat.

Our host, Pere Ventura, opened his namesake winery in 1992 in homage to his ancestors - his great-grandfather Manuel Montserrat Font helped produce the first bottles of Cava made in the Traditional, or Champagne method (second fermentation in bottle and extended lees aging). Pere was on the verge of becoming a Priest when he realized his true calling - producing one of Spain's greatest Cava's.

I enjoy sparkling wine at least once a week, if not more, and quite often it is Cava, so when I put my nose into the Pere Venture Tresor Reserva Cava $14.99 I expected the usual chalk, lemon, and quinine notes. What I got, however, was a symphony of minerality - chalk, slate, and sea salt, that, along with lemon rind, quince and soft floral notes, melded together like silk. This Cava is one of the best I have tasted recently - delicate, nuanced, and layered with a definite sense of its origin.

The tasting was held by importer Palm Bay International at Hakkasan in San Francisco. Delicious dishes included Scallop shumai, Har gau, Shanghai siew long bao, Crispy silver cod with superior soy sauce, and Sanpei claypot chicken with Thai sweet basil.
© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sicily's Donnafugata Winery

Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo along with their daughter Jose and son Antonio launched Donnafugata Winery in 1983 both at the family's historic cellars in Marsala and at their Contessa Entellina vineyards in the heart of western Sicily.

"Donnafugata," or "woman in flight," refers to Queen Maria Carolina, wife of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, who sought refuge on this remote, mountainous isle after fleeing Napolean's troops in Naples.

Donnafugata is one of a handful of Sicilian wineries spearheading a movement towards quality, vineyard and appellation recognition, and a return to their unique and historically rich indigenous grape varieties.

While not made with a local grape, their 2010 Donnafugata Chiaranda Chardonnay Contessa Entellina DOP $39 is a gorgeous rendition and is popular at wedding receptions with its romantic, lacy label and soft, buttery texture. In fact, Sicily's top producers tell me they make Chardonnay as an entree into the US marketplace, and they have been quite successful.

Their 2009 Donnafugata Tancredi Sicilia IGP $45, a blend of Nero d'Avola with Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat, illustrates and showcases the potential of Sicily's signature grape, Nero d'Avola, which can lean towards lighter bodied on its own and has inviting deep red berry, black licorice and tobacco notes. With a dash of Cab and Tannat to round it out, the wine crosses over into that place that is not so intimidating for folks used to bigger, riper, rounder wines.
The flagship wine and one of the most significant releases from Sicily, the 2008 Donnafugata Mille e una Notte Contessa Entellina Rosso DOC $89  is a serious barrel-aged Nero d'Avola with notes of cassis, blackberry, cherry, orange rind, stewed tomato, zucchini, earth, and tobacco, and its heady, musky perfume will haunt you for a long time.

To learn more about or to visit the winery, go to

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