▶ Summertime Sippers: refreshing wines for warmer weather
Italians would say "a poor man lacks many things, a greedy man all" which seems appropriate for this drought year. We certainly have lacked rainfall, but we don't want to be greedy (always believing something is lacking), especially since we finally did receive enough rain to fill our irrigation ponds. At Montemaggiore, we remind ourselves that despite hard work and sacrifice, we have a great life: growing grapes in partnership with Mother Nature, making wines we love, and sharing them with people like you. In fact, we'd like to remind you about some wonderful summertime wines, while providing in-depth information on one of them: our Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier blend called 3Divas.
Summertime Sippers: 3Divas and Rosé
It's that time of year again! The days are getting warmer, signaling the time to put away the sweaters and take out your shorts—meanwhile, it's also time to stock up on whites and rosés! Coincidentally, we are approaching the season when it's too hot to ship wine, so if you'd like some Montemaggiore 3Divas or Rosé, don't delay in ordering. Both wines are $25 per bottle ($20 for Club Primo members, and $21.25 for Club Secondo members), just give us a call (707.433.9499) or order on-line. Note that for Wine Club members, we've put together a special "encore" Club Shipment of 3Divas and Rosé.
3Divas is a perfect summertime refresher, being a white Rhône blend of Marsanne, Roussane, and Viognier. If you are not familiar with our 3Divas, Lise promises that you will enjoy its lively tropical fruit and floral aromas. While it's an excellent match for many foods, 3Divas also makes a great before-dinner aperitif due to its distinctive personality. Our grapes came from the renowned Saralee's Vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, and represent the last vintage ever from this vineyard, one of Sonoma's most historic. More information on the 2012 3Divas can be found below and on our website. Only 125 cases made.
To complement your al fresco meals, consider the Montemaggiore Rosé! Even if you are not typically a fan of rosés, you really need to try this dry and refreshing wine. Made in the style of the south of France, these Syrah grapes are grown and harvested specifically for rosé. Rosés made in this way has fresh red fruit aromas, more intense flavors, and lower alcohols. More information on the 2012 Rosé can be found on our website, or last year's article devoted to beauty of rosé. Only 60 cases were bottled.
Italian Regional Cooking Class: join us on Sunday, May 18
We have four spaces left for our next Italian Regional Cooking Class coming up quickly on Sunday—so if you live in the Bay Area and love big Italian family feasts, you should really join us. Gloria DeMaria, our resident chef and ital-o-phile, will be directing us in the making of an authentic spring meal from Puglia—known for its pasta, foccacia, and other breads. Burrata is one of the delectable dishes we'll be enjoying (see left). Recently returning from a visit to Puglia, Gloria will be sharing her newest recipes, funny stories, and favorite tips for the home cook. Register online or call us at 707.433.9499.
Three more classes are planned:
- July 20: Amalfi Coast and Naples, featuring lemon risotto with crazy water fish (Risotto al Limone con Pesce all'Acqua Pazza)
- September 14: Umbria, featuring baked fish with roasted tomatoes (Pesce al forno con Pomodori Arrostiti)
- November 2: Tuscany, featuring pasta with braised boar and olives (Pasta al Ragu di Cinghiale e Olive)
All classes are held on Sunday afternoon, following the great tradition of Italian family meals. First we learn the tips and tricks for making each dish, then sit down to enjoy the meal along with perfectly paired Montemaggiore wines. Each class is $95 per person, limited to 12 participants.
2014 California Drought will affect both Grapes and Wines
Perhaps you have heard of this tiny little drought California has been experiencing? You can thank Vincent for turning a potentially extreme drought into merely a "regular" drought. With the prospect of having empty ponds useless for irrigating his grapevines over the summer, Vincent bought crop insurance for the first time in our 13 year history. Within two weeks of mailing his payment, northern California received five inches of rain, which was enough to fill our ponds for the year. So our crop insurance was a great investment!
Seriously, California is still experiencing a significant drought, which will affect our vines and most likely our wines. The warm and sunny weather during the early spring prompted our vines to bud out two weeks early. Then we received enough rain to cause significant early growth. The soils still don't have a lot of retained water, so we are suckering the vines early so as not to "waste" any water on unnecessary growth. The 2014 harvest will probably be early, and yield grapes with higher sugar levels. This means Lise will have to be extra vigilant in tracking the ripeness of our grapes because higher sugars mean higher alcohols—which can make the wines seem thin, tannic, and "hot". We'll do everything to keep our growth in check, keep our vines hydrated, and delay harvest into the cooler part of the harvest season—thus giving the phenolic ripeness of the grapes every chance to catch up to their sugar ripeness.
Blending Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier into 3Divas
What are Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier? Who grows them? Where did they come from, and why does Montemaggiore make a white blend from them? If you are asking any of these questions, we'd like to explain.
Montemaggiore makes 3Divas because Vincent tricked Lise into it. She has (almost) always been a red wine lover, never having the desire to make a white wine—after all, she only makes wine she likes to drink! Vincent had been trying to convince her otherwise pointing out that many people prefer to start out their dinner with a lighter wine, or they enjoy a chilled wine during warmer weather—and there are even those few who prefer white wine over red. Lise relented enough to make a rosé starting in 2007. This kept Vincent happy for a few years, but he couldn't let go.
One day, Vincent had an inspiration: use reverse psychology on his ornery wife! He said, "You are right. You shouldn't make a white wine. You probably wouldn't make a good one anyway." Lise would have preferred that he stop with "You are right", but having at least a few ounces of pride in her, she countered, "Okay, but it's not going to be Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—oceans of those wines are already being made." So she decided to make a Marsanne-Roussanne-Viognier blend, the perfect companion to her beloved Syrah given that all those varietals are native to the Rhône region in France. Thus in 2009, Montemaggiore's first 3Divas was born. How that name came to be is a story for another day.
The Rhône is home to many relatively unknown white winegrape varietals. Not just Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier but also Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanc, Picpoul, and Bourbelenc. The first three are most common in the northern Rhône, although not often blended together into a single wine. Marsanne and Roussane are commonly blended together in Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and St-Joseph (see map on right). On the other hand, Viognier stands alone (and is the only grape allowed) in the regions of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. Amazingly, in 1971 there were only 34 acres of Viognier total in the world, all found in Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. Currently, Viognier can be found on five continents with 2,500 acres in France and 2,000 in the United States. Interest in this once-underappreciated grape has certainly increased!
Outside of France, blends of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier are prevalent enough to have their own acronym: M-R-V. Blends as a whole are becoming more popular in the United States; although historically we bottle our wines as "pure" varietals (obscuring the fact that a wine labeled "Marsanne" could have up to 25% of something else). With a blend, a winemaker can create a more complete wine, drawing on the strengths of each varietal. Lise experiments with the proportions using a graduated cylinder in order to find the 3Divas blend that has the best balance, right mouthfeel, and perfect aromas. In Montemaggiore's MRV blend, each varietal makes an important contribution:
- Marsanne underpins the blend with richness and a full body, while providing with deep honey and nut flavors
- Roussanne imparts liveliness and elegance, along with lime and herbal flavors
- Viognier tops everything off with its distinctive floral and tropical fruit aromas
Standing alone, each of the MRV varietals has strengths and weakness—in aroma, texture, and aging potential. If you are curious, look for a "pure" varietal so you can taste each on its own. We hope you are inspired to try our 3Divas MRV blend, along with any other "new" varietal or blend you may not be familiar with. After all, much of the fun in drinking wine is trying new varietals, grown in different regions around the world, from not-so-common producers.
- Honeysuckle and honey aromas alongside pear and nutty flavors, and has a rich and full bodied texture
- Can be low in acid, thus a bit flabby in texture
- Not difficult to grow
- Look for Qupé Marsanne from California's Central Coast, Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Blanc from France, or Tahbilk from Australia
- Aromas of flowery herbal tea and lime, with a distinct minerality and good acidity
- Owes it's name to the russet (or roux) color of it's skin
- Difficult to grow, being prone to powdery mildew and ripening unevenly
- Look for Qupé Roussanne, Chateau de Beaucastel from France, or Yalumba from Australia
- Powerful aromas of apricot, tropical fruits, and orange blossoms, rich and honeyed in mouthfeel
- Pronounced "vee ohn YAY"
- Signature grape of the state of Virginia
- Look for Viognier around the world including California (Arrowood has a Viognier from Saralee's Vineyard), Washington (try Cowhorn, another biodynamic producer), or Virginia (Barboursville Vineyards receives good reviews)
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Events in Northern California
For those of you living in or traveling to Northern California over the next few months, you may enjoy the following events:
- May 18 in Healdsburg, Italian Regional Cooking Class at Montemaggiore focusing on Puglia
- July 20 in Healdsburg, Italian Regional Cooking Class at Montemaggiore focusing on the Amalfi Coast and Naples
- September 14 in Healdsburg, Italian Regional Cooking Class at Montemaggiore focusing on Umbria
- October 25 in Healdsburg, Vendemmia Harvest Party for Club Members at Montemaggiore.
- November 2 in Healdsburg, Italian Regional Cooking Class at Montemaggiore focusing on Tuscany
Final Note: As always, we welcome your visit to our mountainside estate vineyards and winery in Sonoma County. Simply request an appointment on-line or give us a call (707.433.9499). If you have wine-loving friends who might be interested in learning about Montemaggiore, please have them call us or send them to our website.
Enjoy the spring!