Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NADIA, the sister label to Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery Impresses CUISINEIST.com Tasting Panel


We are very familiar with Laetitia Estates Vineyard and Winery having the pleasure of visiting their picturesque vineyards on many occasions.
Recently we decided to explore NADIA, the sister label to Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery that has recently undergone a revamp.  These lovely wines feature fruit from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard in eastern Santa Barbara County. The Vineyard is located outside the more populated wine regions of the Central Coast and its influence on high-end wines has not gone unnoticed with producers from Sans Liege to Grace Wine Company sourcing Highlands’ fruit.  It is unique in that fact it is located 3,200 feet above sea level, with warm days, afternoon breezes, and cold nights.  The vineyards temperature can vary by as much as 50 degrees in one day.
“The Highlands Vineyard, which has ideal weather conditions, is phenomenal for Bordeaux and Rhône wines,” said NADIA Winemaker, Eric Hickey.  “And with first pick of the best fruit, it makes sense for us to showcase those varieties with the NADIA label.”
NADIA has just released the 2011 Santa Barbara Highlands Sauvignon Blanc and the 2010 Santa Barbara Highlands Cabernet Sauvignon and a very good reason for the CUISINEIST.com Tasting Panel to get to work.
NADIA 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard.
 The 2011 Vintage was a cool one producing a lighter than usual crop. Because of this we expected a good concentration of fruit in the finished wine. This Sauvignon Blanc was pressed, chilled and settled for 24 hours. It was then placed in Stainless Steel for 6 weeks and aged in French Oak.
In the glass, this lovely wine was straw-colored and light-medium bodied. On the nose, apricot aromas jumped out of the class teasing our senses with additional aromas of mango and light citrus. On the palate, signature notes of grass were followed by the citrus flavors of lime and light wet rock for minerality and a soft finish with very balanced acidity.  We were pleasantly surprised by this Sauvignon Blanc that showed classic notes of the varietal but had a sense of place that we won’t forget. The Nadia 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is very food friendly and a nice addition to any cellar.  Buy now and enjoy.
Cuisineist Tasting Panel Sep 2012  91points

NADIA 2010   Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard

The 2010 Vintage was slightly cooler than normal and harvest was delayed three weeks to allow for more hang time resulting in higher fruit concentration. After crush, the wine was racked and then aged in Medium Radoux barrels for 20 months.
In the glass the wine showed purple hues moving into a dark garnet near the rim and Medium bodied. The classic notes of black currant on the nose move into aromas of clove, red berries, smoke and earth. On the palate, intense red fruit pleases the palate with smoke and cassis that marries into a long finish with medium tannins and very nice structure to the very end.
The NADIA 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was a pleasure to enjoy. Its big, bold red fruit is not overwhelming and allows this very balanced Cabernet show off its lighter side on the finish. The 14.2 % Alcohol is spot on with the intense yet supple flavors all at the same time. Every cellar needs a nice Cabernet and the NADIA 2010 Cabernet would feel right at home on your table. Buy Now, Drink Now or hold it for the cellar. No matter when you drink it will be pleasing to your palate.
Cuisineist Tasting Panel Sep 2012  90points 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wine and Fire in The Sta Rita Hills , Impresses Many as the Alliance Shows off its best


The terms Wine and Fire can  evoke many thoughts , however when you use those terms in California’s Sta Rita Hills it has only one meaning , a weekend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a  BBQ in a renown vineyard ,  and a grand tasting under the stars at an historic mission .
Every summer the Sta Rita Hills winegrower’s alliance has their Wine and Fire event that offers guests 3 days of tasting some of the best wines in the world amongst the beautiful Sta Rita Hills. The Alliance was created in 1997 with the focus of unifying the growers and winemakers in the area and  to gather information to create a new AVA.  Renowned winemakers Richard Sanford, Bryan Babcock , Rick Longoria and others spearheaded the effort that eventually created the Sta Rita Hills AVA.  Today there are over 48 members that source grapes from this very special area.
Having traveled the back roads of the Sta Rita Hills for many years we arrived with great anticipation to travel those familiar roads once again to taste wines from old friends and find those hidden gems that are always waiting to be brought to the forefront.
The first stop on our list was to spend some quality time in the Lompoc wine Ghetto.  Zotovich cellars was our first stop and were impressed as always with the young winemaker Ryan Zotovich’s  palate pleasing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay .  The Ampelos Cellars tasting room is always a mandatory stop whenever we are in the area.  Sampling Peter and Rebecca Works incredible line up from Rose, Pinot Noir , Syrah and other sustainable , biodynamic wines show how versatile the AVA is.
One could spend literally an entire day in the Wine Ghetto  and we did our best  with visits to Kathy Joseph’s Fiddle Head Cellars , Flying Goat Cellars, Palmina and Moretti  just to name a few. It was time to head down highway 246 to visit nearby Buellton and Solvang for a stop in at a few tasting rooms to sample their best.  With the sun setting behind the Sta Rita Hills and  fog settling over the vineyards  we made a stop at the legendary Hitching Post Restaurant in Buellton for some very famous culinary creations from Chef , Winemaker Frank Ostini and then a welcome reception at D’vine  wine bar in Lompoc .
The sun, breaking through the early morning fog began to shine through our window signaling the “Big Day” for this Wine and Fire weekend has started.  Back on Highway 246 , turning onto Hwy 101 we headed to Santa Rosa Road winding our way down into the valley to our destination , Fiddlestix   Vineyards  for a day of education and lunch amongst the vines.



The Sta Rita hills has long been known to produce world class Pinot Noir.  Many in the industry have stated they are probably one of the top three Pinot producing AVAs in the United States.  Recently , much to the wine makers delight , Chardonnays from the Sta Rita Hills are climbing their way to the forefront to join their Pinot Noir “cousins “ as some of the best being produced .

It was only fitting that the Wine and Fire event bring together a prestigious panel to taste and discuss the AVA’s Chardonnay’s.  Guests filed into   the Barn at  the Fiddlestix vineyard  to sip and learn from the experts.  The renowned Chardonnay panel of experts brought Nikki Nelson, Karen Steinwachs , Steve Fennell, Wes Hagan  and Dan Kessler together to blind taste several  Chardonnays and discuss their impressions , the varietal and its place in the  Sta Rita Hills.
The impressive lineup of Chardonnays consisted of 2010 Liquid Farm, White Hill Seagrape cellars 2010,  Zotovich, Sanford Winery Rinconada Vineyard , 2010 Clos Pepe  Homage to Chablis and  2010 Kessler-Haak Vineyard Estate were submitted blind to the amazing panel  for their insight .
You could hear and see the passion with every sip as they spoke on each wine and agreed that Chardonnay gets the worst soil in the AVA but is making big gains. “If we could only plant one varietal now, without question it would be Chardonnay” was echoed up and down the panel of legendary winemakers and growers.
The Chardonnay panel had completed their work but that did not mean the educational experience was over. A Pinot Noir panel was being assembled, but first who could resist and walk through the Fiddlestix vineyard with renowned AVA expert, winemaker and Clos Pepe Vineyard Manager Wes Hagan.
With a hand full of diatomaceous earth ageing 12 to 13 million years in his hand , Wes shared is vast knowledge of the AVA with the very attentive guests under a cloudless day in the vineyard.
Pinot Noir from the Sta Rita Hills needs no introduction nor does the members of the Panel that came together to discuss in detail what makes Pinot Noir from this region special and a blind tasting of the AVAs best.
Winemakers Ken Brown, Frank Ostini, Peter Cargasacchi , Adam Lee  and Deborah Hall took their seats and began the interactive discussion.



Peter Cargasacchi
It was a Pinot parade featuring Ken Brown Rancho La Vina 2009, Hitching Post Fiddlestix Vineyard, Cargasacchi Vineyard estate, Siduri Clos pepe 2010 and Gypsy Canyon Pinot Noir Estate to the delight of the guests being very interactive with panel.



Ken Brown , Frank Ostini
In short, the panel of Pinot Noir All-stars honed in on one particular but important theme, “Make the best wine from what the vineyard shows you”.  With that theme ruminating in our heads , guests enjoyed an outdoor  luncheon prepared by Frank Ostini of Hitching Post fame accented by  many of the area’s best wines  while overlooking the Fiddlestix vineyard and the Sta Rita Hills.
Frank Ostini








Leaving Fiddlestix vineyard and climbing out of the valley on Santa Rosa road, there was still one more, but very big official event yet to attend during this intimate weekend of Wine and Fire.  The featured event was a grand tasting showing off the best the AVA has to offer. For those who have attended Wine and Food events in the past, Grand Tastings are pretty much the same.


Like everything else the Sta Rita Hills the event  took it to the next level with a tasting under the stars at the historic   Las Purisima Mission Founded in 1787.  The La Purisma Mission  once covered nearly 470 square miles and was as home to the Chumash people and Spanish settlers. On this starlight night an intimate group of 250 settled in as well and enjoyed some tasty treats from local restaurants and of course those lovely wines from the Sta Rita Hills.

Sipping wines under the Oak Trees at the mission was a perfect way to end the day.  Walking amongst the wines guests mingled with legends like Richard Sanford, Ken Brown and Peter Cargasacchi all standing side by side with newcomers speaking with the guests and pouring their wines to the delight of all.

The AVA came together on this cool, clear night with the wines of Seasmoke , Babcock , Cargasacchi , Dragonette, Ampleos , Hilliard Bruce , Wedell , Zotovich and others to spotlight the versatility and quality of wines  produced in the AVA.







One of the best aspects of the Wine and Fire weekend is its open houses where attendees can go to the vineyard or tasting room to enjoy the entire lines from many of the areas producers.
















We took full advantage attending an invite only library and current release party in the Clos Pepe Vineyard with Wes Hagan then traveling down hwy 246 to Solvang and a visit with Ken Brown at his tasting room.
Wes Hagan



















With plenty of time left, we paid a visit to the legendary wine making pair of Bruno D’Alfonso and Kris Curran in their winery on Santa Rosa Road.  Since we were already visiting the AVAs legends, we headed straight for Lompoc for a visit with Peter Cargasacchi in his winery as well.






Our last stop on this weekend of Pinot bliss was the beautiful Hilliard Bruce Estate on Hwy 246. The Sun began to set once again and the fog settled on the vineyard  as we enjoyed some highly pointed Pinot Noir from Hilliard Bruce with John and Christine over looking their pristine pastures , which are home to their beautiful Arabian Horses . Is there a better way to end the weekend?  We think not.







Elaine Harris , CUISINEIST.com Editor-In-Chief
The Sta Rita Hills has been overlooked for years by wine writers and oenophiles alike. Over the last 8 years this very special appellation has begun to shine like a lighthouse beckoning all to come , enjoy and see why the Sta Rita Hills has taken its place amongst the best in the United States.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Food , Wine a Luxury Travel Report : IL Borro in Tuscany cant be beat !


Tuscan luxury resort and spa features authentic Italian accommodations, world-class vineyards, sophisticated fine dining, and much more
  The  romantic region  located less than 40 miles southeast of Florence in the historic town of San Giustino Valdarno lies the estate,  Il Borro , a luxurious oasis found in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. In  the rolling foothills of the Pratomagno Mountains. The compound, which boasts more than 30 luxury accommodations as well as a private vineyard, state-of-the-art spa, equestrian center, varied sporting facilities, and  an acclaimed culinary program, offers U.S. travelers the chance to experience the old and new wonders of Italy.
“Il Borro is an ancient, charming, and alluring place,” says Salvatore Ferragamo, CEO of the property since 1993. “We continually work to maintain the beauty of these historic buildings while leaving them as similar as possible to the originals to communicate that magnetism to our guests—a perfect blend of past and present.”
The resort  unites  traditional and modern comforts offering apartments, suites, villas, and farmhouses comprising 30 accommodations that feature stone terraces, shapely gardens, and inviting swimming pool. For an additional touch  the 12 apartments and suites, which can hold up to eight guests and are located  along the cobblestone paths of the medieval hamlet  that  feature updated amenities with an Italian flair.
The Villa Il Borro is a  landmark in and of itself. It had been left in a state of deterioration following World War II but today the Ferragamo’s have restored the building to its original beauty, preserving the romantic architecture typical of residences dating from the 1800s. This nearly 24,000-square-foot guest house is equipped with first-class comforts, including a heated pool, fitness room, Turkish bath, sauna, and billiards table.
Guests  can also enjoy the secluded Villa Chiocci Alto a  4,800-square-foot farmhouse mansion overlooks Il Borro and affords some of the most stunning views of the estate, perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in nature without forgoing modern comforts and hospitality.  In addition ,the  Casetta,the most recently renovated and very exclusive offers up a  3,800-square-foot manor farmhouse amid the Merlot vineyards, offers a deluxe atmosphere of serenity.
Of course , Tuscany is well known for its wines.  In 1993, Co-Owner Ferruccio Ferragamo began producing wine on more than 111 acres of vineyards, all of which are situated between 984 and 1,640 feet above sea level. The Ferragamo family has identified the ideal Tuscan terrain for each varietal it grows: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, and Syrah. From the fruits of these superior vines, Il Borro produces world-class wines, prized by sommeliers and wine enthusiasts alike.
The estate also shows off their  La Corte Wellness Spa which is an  oasis of tranquility, immersed in the green hills of Tuscany, far away from the hectic buzz of city life. Guests can start at the Fitness Zone, a gym in which design meets the latest workout technology, and continue on to the Turkish bath and soothing Jacuzzi. Regenerating beauty treatments and therapeutic massages are performed to the backdrop of soft music with sweet scents, essential oils, and exclusive La Corte products by Kanebo Sensai. VinCafè, which opened in 2010 features a traditional Tuscan menu with sophisticated health-conscious foods adapted to be in line with the physical well-being of spa guests by Executive Chef Gabriele Senesi.
Tuscany is also all about the cuisine .  Combining attention to detail, first-class hospitality, and new frontiers of taste, Osteria del Borro is the signature restaurant at the resort and serves dishes rich with  Tuscan flavors throughout the day, from lunch and dinner and even  savory snacks and leisurely coffee service. The restaurant also offers elegant aperitifs, top wines by the glass, and locally made charcuterie. Dinner is served nightly on two beautifully appointed floors, the upper of the two overlooking the open kitchen that is managed by Executive Chef Gianluca Danese.
Completing the Il Borro experience are the diverse sport offerings at the property. A full-service equestrian center offers private and group riding lessons for horse lovers, and those looking for a bit more physicality will enjoy Il Borro’s hunting grounds, tennis and golf programs, mountain biking and hiking, soccer and basketball.
It is a great time of year to visit Italy and travelers who wish to have a more low-key experience can turn to the high-end shopping in town and private cooking lessons with Il Borro’s esteemed chefs. To make a reservation please call 011.39.055.977053  or visit   ilborro.com.

Elaine and Scott

Elaine and Scott
Elaine and Scott