On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

The Monte Zovo Tasting on Zoom

09 Feb 2021

(November 4, 2020) ... You may have seen the Monte Zovo name on bottles of Italian wine while perusing the shelves of our liquor monopoly here in Ontario – or maybe (when we could), while wandering wine shops in Italy or around the world. Today, some principles from the winery joined us via Zoom to discuss the wines they make and the vineyards they come from.

Owned by the Contini family Monte Zovo is a four-generation wine family that can date its roots in agriculture back to 1925.

Monte Zovo owns 140 hectares over three estates:

Caprino Estate - their Lake Garda vineyard, at about 450 m above sea level ... and their most northerly vineyard.

Tregnago Estate – the estate where grape drying occurs for Ripasso and Amarone wines; located in eastern Valpolicella at 300 to 600 m above sea level and is dubbed there "valpolicella vineyard".

Le Civaie Estate – their most “southerly” vineyard, aka the Lugana Vineyard, at much lower elevation (130 m above sea level).

They also have access to an additional 240 hectares which are not owned by the family, but “supervised” by them. Through the years they have learned that high elevation is very important to the making of their wines because it provides better diurnal temperature plus sun exposure and ventilation to the grapes.

They have two lines of wines that come out of their winery – the main line Monte Zovo and their secondary wine Villa Annaberta ... the difference between the two labels are:

Monte Zovo ... Classic line “real expression of terrior”, more refined, elegant and ageable – grapes come from high altitude vineyards that are 100% family-owned.

Villa Annaberta ... This easy going, more consumer friendly line described by the family as "juicy and velvety" – 30% of the grapes are from family-owned vineyards, 70% from suppliers, and most from the eastern area at medium to high altitude.

Two of the wines tasted are Ripasso wines from the 2017 vintage, described as "very hot”, but because of the planting being at such high altitude was a help with temperature regulation. Low-lying vineyards did get some frost, but higher vineyards did not suffer the same fate.Monte Zovo Wines


The Wines ...

Monte Zovo 2017 Sa’Solin Valpolicella Ripasso
$19.95 - Italy - #650713
The name of the wine refers to the soil the grapes are grown in, “Sa Solini” - little stones. It's 70% Corvina, 20% Corvinone and 10% Rondinella, grown at 350 to 450 m above sea level ... Re-fermented with Amarone skins then aged 18 months in French barrique and tonneau (large barrels). Baked and fresh fruit with spiced-cherry, cassis, and cocoa with a lovely easy finish – the acidity balances the tannins – this one is easily ageable 5 to 7 years.  (*** ½+)

Villa Annaberta 2017 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore
$18.35 – Italy – #378091
This incredibly palate friendly Ripasso is made from 60% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 10% Molinaro and Oseleta that was re-fermented with Reciotto pumice (instead of the usual Amarone) – aged 24 months in big barrels and conical shaped tanks. Lots of cherry and white pepper provide the basis for this supple and easy drinking cherry-fruit-forward wine.  (*** ½)

Villa Annaberta 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella
$38.95 – Italy - #433961
The makeup of this wine is 70% Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella – the rest is a winery secret – only hand-harvested and dried in the “Frutaio” (ventilated room) for 3 to 4 months, then aged 24 months in a mix of barrique and tonneau. As described in the opening, and description of Annaberta, this wine is another fruit forward number with plenty of spiced-cherry and other red fruits. On the finish: red currants, vanilla and mocha all make an appearance.  (****)


The Double Diamond Tasting

15 Jan 2021

(October 9, 2020) ... What are Double Diamond wines? In simple terms, they are the second wines of Schrader Cellars in Napa Valley, which leads us to our next question, who is Schrader Cellars?

Started by Fred Schrader, who, after tasting a mind-blowing, earth-shattering, life-changing To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet, decided to meet with Andy Beckstoffer and talk him into selling him some of his fruit ... Problem is that Fred doesn't actually make wine, so he also does some fast talking to get winemaker Thomas Brown (formerly of Turley Wines) to join his project. By 2004 Wine Spectator took notice of their project – and Parker raised his eyebrows of approval in 2006. Today, a majority of Schrader wines are wait-listed.

Double Diamond WinesEnter Double Diamond ... These are the second wines of Schrader and is touted as a “daily drink” for those who want to lay their Schrader wines down. The philosophy, according to winemaker Thomas River Brown, is: “To deliver far in quality beyond their price point."

It's a wine you can comfortably bring into your house and easily serve right away and “while people say you should bury this stuff for 10 to 20 years, the truth is people are drinking this stuff right off the FedEx truck," Thomas Brown says with a chuckle.

Double Diamond is mainly a Cabernet Sauvignon wine, but it is also a way to bring in experimental vineyards and varieties, test them out, and not have to dump them or sell them on the bulk market. Blends can be tested, varietals experimented with and will then become Schrader or Double Diamond wines, if they meet the standard - interesting to note that To Kalon fruit is a big part of both Schrader and Double Diamond, in fact the vineyard’s fruit makes up 80% of the 2018 Double Diamond wine ... that’s because Thomas B has a hard time pulling focus away from this historical vineyard: “when someone says ‘here's 450 acres of To Kalon fruit, pick what you want’ I'm pretty much going to stick around."

Before tasting, In his words Thomas wraps up the vintages we are about to try in a few words: 2017 was the first fire year and had heat spikes in September so it was very challenging; while 2018 was a much better vintage and claims that he was able to create a "super joyous wine".

The Two Wines Tasted ...

Double Diamond 2017Double Diamond 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon appears on the label but there are bits and pieces of Cabernet Franc 7%, Petit Verdot 1% and less than 1% of Malbec and Merlot; aged 14 months in French oak (49% new) ... all from the Oakville AVA. Big fruit leads with cassis and black cherry, plus notes of chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and anise along with hints of oak and cedar. Once open for an hour it becomes silky smooth and even more fruit forward shucking the baby fat and making it a super drinkable wine. (****+)

Double Diamond 2018 Cabernet SauvignonDouble Diamond 2018
This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville AVA of Napa, and mostly from the famous To Kalon vineyard ... Aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak. This is a wine that broods in the glass from the first pour and continues as it sits in the glass. Big tannins and spice with cedar, vanilla and smoke – the palate digs in with earthy, blackberry and cassis, but as it opens there are more Syrah-like notes of bacon fat / smoked meat / and pastrami ... The dark fruit does swing in and out, but it's those tannins that constantly bite back. (****)



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