Friday, May 29, 2015

Crisp White Wines from the Italian Alps

Catherine Fallis MS

At the recent Age-Worthy Alto-Adige wine tasting put on by SUDTIROL WEIN/VINI ALTO ADIGE and moderated by the erudite and engaging Tim Gaiser MS, not a single Pinot Grigio was served, though it is their most planted white grape.

Instead, the focus was on Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). The Alto Adige DOC appellation along with several sub-appellations produce a wide range of wines due to the enormous range in vineyard altitude. Believe it or not, this is one of the warmest places in Italy in the summer months. It was also interesting to learn that the US is sandwiched between Germany (1st) and Switzerland (3rd) in terms of export markets. We import less Alto Adige wines than Germany? How is this possible?

As it turns out, the region was under German occupation from 1943 to 1945, and German influences prevail to this day including the accents, customs, and cuisine. Tobias Zingerle of Kaltern Caldaro, when asked about the region applying for the higher DOCG status, said, "G? Garantita? What does this mean? This is so Italian."

Wines tasted included four Pinot Bianco's ranging from 2014 to 1999, proving they are age-worthy, along with four Gewurztraminers and four Pinot Nero's (wine reviews will be posted shortly). Spicy sweet Gewurztraminer and soft sexy Pinot Noir is an easy sell here, but what about Pinot Bianco? Zingerle and his fellow winemaker panelists Martin Foradori Hofstatter of Tenuta Hofstatter and Ines Giovanett of Castelfeder described Pinot Bianco as "lighter than Sauvignon Blanc and very transparent." Zingerle added, "Pinot Bianco is a natural beauty, while Chardonnay is like Pamela Anderson."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lodi ZinFest 2015

ZinFest WineSchool Presented by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis of
Lodi, California
May 2015

Lodi Lake last weekend was transformed into the popular wine festival known as ZinFest, attended by folks as far away as Montreal and Fort Lauderdale. This is one of my favorite events of the year, as it celebrates not only the delicious, well-made, and very under-valued local wines, but it is an event that celebrates the local growers, many of whom have remained in the shadows as others - many in Napa Valley -  took the credit. The event kicks off with an outdoor dinner featuring a live band, wine tents, hearty family style platters heaping with steak, chicken and butternut squash ravioli, followed by dancing and cigars under the moonlight.

Planet Grape Wine Review panel members Catherine Fallis MS and Fred Swan DWS with his journalist friend from Seattle and LODI WINES Ambassador Randy Caparoso

Winemakers Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars & Sandlands, and Ryan Sherman of Fields Family Wines at Vintners Grille Friday Night Dinner

The next day, cooler than normal - all over the state in fact - folks tasted whites, roses, reds, and sweet wines and hob-knobbed with growers, winemakers, and producers in this homey, low key setting. The outdoor piano bar under the shade of trees was as popular as the food booths and the cooking school was as packed as the wine tents. As the event closed individual wineries reminded folks they had special events going on Sunday - such as Oyster BBQ or Jazz music with their wine tastings. After a long day of presenting and tasting we opted for the tranquility of the lovely Wine & Roses Hotel & Spa pool. Looking forward to 2016! 


The Swimming Pool at Wine and Roses Hotel and Spa in Lodi

Check out our reviews of Lodi wines here:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

{ THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 - 2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port


2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port
by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis

I’ll never forget my first wine tasting in San Francisco. I had just moved from Los Angeles as was excited to meet my peers so I put on a nice suit and pair of heels.

Rookie move number one - walking down from Nob Hill to Postrio Restaurant in Union Square and then trying to walk back up in those heels was a nightmare. Rookie move number two – not knowing that women too would flirt by rubbing their leg against mine under the table. I was the lipstick…so much to learn here. Anyway, I did stop to say hi to the bartender on the way out, and was stunned to see more than fifty Vintage Ports on the back bar. They were all available by the glass. And they were all basically spoiled.


Vintage Port is best. This is a no-brainer. But one of the biggest misconceptions out there is that Vintage Port can stay fresh for months. This is not the case at all. Rather, Vintage Ports have a shelf life of 48 hours at best. Vintage ports spend less than 2 years in barrel then go straight to bottle, where they may rest as long as seventy years. Once opened, they rapidly devour oxygen to the point of total oxidation in a very short time.


So what’s a Somm to do? Offer Vintage Port by the bottle (ideally by the half bottle) and offer Late Bottled Vintage Port by the glass, specifically the 2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port Douro DOC Portugal $24 (750ml), balanced and elegant with notes of blackberry, cassis, black licorice, cocoa powder, violet and sandalwood. As is inferred by the name, LBV goes to bottle late, spending 4-6 years in barrel first. While still Ruby and youthful, the slight oxidation softens the wine and accelerates fruit flavors in addition to giving it the ability to stay fresh for up to 4 weeks, especially if it is place in the beer box or fridge between services. Unlike a wine opened this long, the fruit won’t fade. LBV also carries the prestige of “Vintage” in the name, while costing 1/4 the price.


Part of the Rupert Symington Family Estates, Dow is easily recognized as one of the top names in Port. Their “A” rated Quinta do Bonfim and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira vineyards planted to Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and old mixed vines which are vinified separately on site, are the source of their vintage port. Their vintage port gets the top 6 of 45 independently fermented batches of single varietal lots - the sandalwood, cocoa powder and sandalwood components from Bonfim and the violet and mint notes from Senhora da Ribeira. Fourth generation Rupert Symington says, “After we select the 6 lots for vintage, the next 15-20 best lots go into our LBV.” Their 2011 Dow’s Vintage Port Douro DOC Portugal $82, a 99-point wine in the Wine Spectator, is made with the same fruit from the same prestigious vineyards.


Another plus for Somms and Chefs is the higher acidity and drier finish of the Dow’s LBV. While the family’s Grahams and Cockburns are sweeter, Dow’s LBV is fermented longer, so yeasts continue to consume sugar and the wine ends up drier. While still particularly appropriate for cheeses, particularly the local earthy, sharp, and aromatic Queso Serra de Estrela sheeps milk, which incorporates the peppermint and eucalyptus notes found in older ports from the roots of the Gum Cistus or Rockrose shrub eaten by the sheep, or a strong, well-aged gouda, and chocolate – “dark chocolate with port accentuates the blue fruit, the purity of fruit,” says Symington, “and it is delicious with fudge brownies without too much sugar,” the 2009 Dow’s LBV is ideal for blending with veal stock and sauce espagnole for a lively demi-glace, or for a port wine reduction sauce to serve over meat. Rupert suggests giving a bottle to the kitchen to play around with.


“We are taking LBV back to its roots from our 2009 going forward. Dow’s is not an LBV made in every year, only in better vintages, so there will be no 2010. As 2011 was one of the best vintages in recent years, we will release a 2011 LBV, says Symington. Their production of LBV is 15-20,000 cases, vs. 5,000 of Vintage. Together this is 10% of what Dow’s produces, and .2 percent of Douro’s total production.


2009 Dow’s LBV Port



3 ounce pour at $11.83/750 ml bottle, $1.41 cost per serving



Prestige of “Vintage” in the name

Getting a look into Vintage without the price – same prestigious vineyards and fruit



Shelf life 2 weeks, up to 4 if refrigerated

Well-distributed and widely available despite being rare, hand-crafted, and artisanal

Read our review of the 2009 Dow's LBV Port and 2011 Vintage Port here:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Dirty Julius - A Sparkling Wine Cocktail with Orange Juice and Cream

A sweet, creamy and delicious wine cocktail that reminds you of an Orange Julius.  However the addition of sparkling wine and vodka make it a little “dirty,” but fun!

The idea of our cocktail, the Dirty Julius, started with just figuring out what wine we were going to mix with. For both of us, it was an easy pick since our favorite wine to drink both plain and mixed was champagne. We loved mimosas and wanted to make a mimosa that could be even better than the original.

It started with a simple mixture of the original mimosa, orange juice and champagne, but with an added twist of whipped pinnacle vodka. It tasted good, kind of like a sweet, alcoholic orange creamsicle.  Next we decided to try and mix our drink with higher end ingredients and the best resource we had was the full bar at the restaurant we worked at. It was a great idea since we not only had more options of alcohol to choose from but also the bartending tools that were made for mixing drinks.

We only had one problem when we got there; there wasn’t any whipped vodka to be found. So we had to improvise. We substituted the whipped vodka out for a shot of plain vodka simply mixed with some whipped cream. The drink turned out to be better than what we expected, it was not only sweet but also creamy and delicious.   Thus the Dirty Julius was born.

1 tablespoon of sugar
1 ½ shots of vodka
¼ cup of whipped cream
4oz of orange juice
Top off drink with champagne

Start out with a glass bucket, coat the rim with orange juice that is poured onto a small saucer, then coat the rim with the 1 tablespoon of sugar that is spread out on another saucer. Use an 8oz glass cup and pour the 1 ½ shots of vodka along with the ¼ cup of whipped cream in the cup. Use a mixing spoon and mix the vodka and whipped cream together well, then add ice and pour the 4oz of orange juice into the mixture, cover with a shaker cup and shake well. Strain the mixture over ice into the bucket, top the drink off with the champagne, mix with a straw, and garnish with a blood orange slice on the rim.

Excerpted with permission from:

WINE MIXOLOGY - Tantalizing Wine Cocktails From Around the World

Dr. Liz Thach MW, Professor of Management and Wine Business, Sonoma State University

Contributed by A. DiMichele & B. Charmasson

Friday, May 1, 2015

French Drink More Rose Than White

Did you know?

The French are now drinking more Rose than white wine. The dry Rose trend is increasing in other parts of the world as well, though in the good ole USA sweeter styles prevail.

France's most pale, delicate, ethereal Rose wines come from Provence, the country's oldest wine region. While coral was the color of most wines during Greek and Roman times, Provincia Romana, or today’s Provence, is still considered the rosé center of the world.

Situated on the Mediterranean coast between Aix en Provence and Nice, the area has nine appellations from coastal to warmer inland. Provence is the only French region with Cru Classe, or Grand Cru Rose wines. At 5.6% of the world's pink wine, or 165 million bottles, they are also the world's largest producer.

With alcohol levels averaging at about 13.5%, no noticeable oak, crisp acidity and inviting notes of strawberry, raspberry, licorice, white flowers and seashell, these are ideal for dishes such as Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Crawfish, or a rich and creamy dish of Provencal Seafood Cavatelli.

For our reviews of wines of Provence, please click here:

For a more in-depth report on the wines of Provence, please click here: