As they say in Italy, "love and learning dignifies life" —perhaps an appropriate mantra for wine enthusiasts since one must be both passionate and learned to enjoy wine. As for us, our Montemaggiore life grew out of love—and through all our adventures, we've certainly learned a lot! In fact, both love and learning are reflected in much of the recent Montemaggiore news:
Skipper joins the helm
About three years ago, a "bluebird" few in our window. A delightful couple named Skip and Gloria visited us—Gloria and Vincent quickly started jabbering away in Italian (with lots of hand-waving and Sicilian dialect thrown in). The couple joined our wine club. Skip started showing up for the grape and olive harvests, even helping Lise with punchdowns during fermentation. As we got to know Skip better, he started asking us leading questions about our business. We realized that our passion lies with the grape growing and winemaking, while we've tried to ignore the business end. Skip's passion, on the other hand, is working with small business owners like ourselves to help broaden their business acumen.
Given his wealth of business and winery experience, we've asked Skip to join us at the helm of Montemaggiore and help get our business shipshape. How will this affect you? Many ways, but in the immediate future, the following opportunity was Skip's idea and we hope you can reap the benefits.
Our oversupply creates your opportunity
Upon purchasing Paolo's Vineyard and making wine in 2002, we had specific and definitive plans for the vineyard and the winemaking. On the business and sales end of things, however, we didn't even know what we didn't know—and to no surprise, our early vintages did not sell out. With Skip coming on board, his eye for business saw a great opportunity in our oversupply of those early vintages! Why shouldn't our loyal customers be drinking a quality Montemaggiore wine at $14 a bottle right now?
Pass over questionable wine shop specials and order now to take advantage of Montemaggiore's 2002 Syrah and 2003 Superiore at 40-60% off (obviously, while supplies last). For a single case, it's 40% off; for three cases you'll receive 50% off—but if you can get a group of friends to share five cases, you'll receive 60% off. That includes mixing and matching of cases (e.g., six bottles of Syrah and six of Superiore, the Cabernet-Syrah blend).
1 case 40% off
3 cases 50% off
5 cases 60% off
These wines were highly rated upon their release, and people just like you continue to rave about them. Wine&Spirits rated the 2002 Syrah one of its Top 10 Syrahs of the year, while the 2003 Superiore received a Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Recent reviews on CellarTracker.com rate the Syrah at 92 with "Very deep fruit, complex nose and color with excellent balance", while the Superiore is also rated a 92 with "rich berry, earth and fruit nose. Flavor is full and filling...with notes of blueberries, cedar box and soft pepper. Lovely finish."
We could never stay in business selling wine at these prices given that we are farming our mountainside biodynamically in this prime Sonoma location. But our early inexperience can bring you benefits—we hope you are able to take advantage of it by ordering online or calling us (707.433.9499)!
Olio Nuovo è arrivato
In late December we pressed our third "vintage" of extra virgin olive oil—it's now bottled up and ready for you to enjoy! So soon after pressing, it's called Olio Nuovo ("new oil"), and it has a unique, intense flavor—the deep olive and herbal aromas harmonize with a richness and spiciness on the palate. This year the olives were harvested about a month later than usual, since Vincent was waiting for a higher proportion of black olives—as they mature, green olives turn black and yield a richer, more unctuous oil.
The Montemaggiore Olive Oil tastes great drizzled on grilled fish, grilled vegetables, and bruschetta—but both Paolo and Lise just love dipping fresh olive and rosemary bread in it! At $25 for 375ml bottle, Montemaggiore's Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available now by ordering online or picking up at the winery. To learn more about the 2009 Olio Nuovo, check out the olive oil area on our website.
Wine Lovers Rick and Ginger
One of the unexpected pleasures of the wine business is meeting interesting, fun, and talented people. Having met Rick and Ginger about two years ago, we've come to think of them as the king and queen of food and wine! Since they live in Northern California, perhaps they have an advantage—but not many people combine their patience for cellaring fine wine, their creativity in pairing food with wine, and their skill in the kitchen.
They are wonderful hosts, and truly enjoy sharing their food and wine discoveries with their friends. We are honored to have been on the receiving end of their hospitality! Their favorite food pairing with Syrah is paella, and they have other food and wine pairings to suggest.
The Great Cork Debate
Have you ever wondered why Montemaggiore wines are sealed with a cork instead of a screwcap, for example? Having just finished reading "To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle", Lise figured this is a good time to contemplate wine bottle closures.
Corks started being used regularly as a stopper for wine bottles in the mid-1600s (replacing the oil-soaked rag). They are punched from the outer layer of bark of Quercus suber. With ~5.5 million acres of cork forests worldwide, about half of the production is from Portugal and a third from Spain. Once the trees are about 25 years old, the dead outer layer of the bark is stripped every 9–10 years, leaving the living inner bark layer. The oldest known cork oak which has planted in 1789, yields more than 100,000 corks each harvest. About 80% of all cork harvested is turned into wine closures, while the percentage of wine closures made from cork is about 75% (down from 90% twenty years ago).
Cork is an absolutely amazing material, and is a nearly perfect wine stopper. The cellular structure of cork enables it to be easily compressed upon insertion into a bottle and then to expand quickly to form a tight seal (98% expansion in 24 hours). Since the neck of glass bottles is notoriously variable and uneven, this and it's water tightness arecritical attributes. Nearly 90% of a cork's volume is made up of tiny, trapped air pockets which give it its buoyancy and compressibility.
Being a natural product, cork is not entirely perfect. Historically, its been the source of TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which can give a bottle of wine a musty, wet-cardboard aroma. TCA in corks was reponsible for the nomenclature of a "corked" wine. While TCA poses no health risk, even minute amounts can destroy wine quality. In recent years, cork producers have vastly improved their quality: developing methods to remove naturally-occurring TCA and prevent its formation. In fact, more recently wineries themselves have been the source of much TCA in wine. TCA is formed by the combination of wood, water, and chlorine (a common winery disinfectant)—it can become airborne and contaminate winery equipment. (Note: this is why Montemaggiore's winery never uses chlorine, and was built without any wood).
Due to TCA (as opposed to cork scarcity), several alternatives to natural corks have been developed including plastic corks, agglomerated corks, glass stoppers, and screwcaps. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, screwcaps are popular for early-drinking wines, especially whites. Screwcaps allow much less oxygen to come in contact with the wine, thus making the wine taste fresher and younger—but that can also lead to reduced, rotten egg-like odors. Lise believes that red wines, especially those which are cellar-worthy, need oxygen in order to reach their potential with layers of softness, richness and complexity.
Given the pros and cons, natural cork is Montemaggiore's closure of choice and we have had good experience with it.
- We believe cork is the best closure for the long-term aging of high-quality red wines. Lise buys dense, high quality corks, and performs sensory trials to choose specific bales of cork.
- Cork is natural and unprocessed in keeping with our winemaking and vineyard management philosophies. It's also completely recyclable and reusable.
- We prefer to support the environment of cork forests, over aluminum mines and smelters for example.
Having said that, Lise reserves the right to change her mind in the future as alternative closures are improved and new research comes to light! And if you ever feel that a bottle of Montemaggiore wine is tainted by TCA, please let us know since we stand behind our product 100%.
Spring Events in Northern California
For those of you living in or traveling to Northern California this spring, you may find some of the following events really fun-stop by and say hello to us!
Final Note: As always, we welcome your visit to our mountainside estate vineyards and winery. Simply contact us for an appointment by phone (707.433.9499) or email.