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Brix = the amount of sweetness in a given solution measured in degrees expressing the porportion of sugar to each 100 gr. of total fluid; Used in winemaking by growers to measure the amount of sugar in the grapes.

Chicks = We're girls of a certain age with a sense of adventure, a passion for wine, a vibrant curiousity to learn more and a drive to exchange ideas, share tips and find out what you have to say about how wine flavors your experience.

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08 September, 2015

From the Ashes of Deliciousness - DOC Etna and Planeta Wines

Alessio Planeta has as light a touch with his presentation style as he does with his delicious wines.  He kept us laughing and furiously taking notes when he visited San Francisco and hosted an informative lunch at SPQR, as perfect a spot for Planeta's interesting wines as you could ask for.

Alessio became Planeta's chief winemaker in 1998.  Since then he has been creating and marketing Planeta's wines.  I could hear his passion for the land:
"Sicily is special.  Dotted with places with varieties of soil and of culture.  The jewel is the volcano."

He means Etna. Volcanic soils exhibit much diversity, despite common ideas that all volcanic soil is lava.  He told us that  Etna is more like an island, since it  rose from the sea like mushroom 700,000 years ago.  Its land was formed by matter escaping from up from bottom border and rising above the sea, rather than by a blowing top and cascade of lava.
Credit: Planeta

It's still an active volcano today.  Every few years ash blows out to fall on existing land, which continually transforms the lava stones. After all these  years, ash is now a main component of the soils. Vineyard sites must be flat as soils are powdery, so man made terraces are a common feature.  The soil ranges from ancient to younger more organic soils.

Much as the conversation fascinated me, the best thing about  DOC Etna is that it's a place where history, geology and viticulture combine to produce delicious wines.

Alessio wins more awards and says the whites in general are of better quality.  This is especially true of the Eruzione 1614 Carricante.  Carricante is the leading white grape Planeta produces in Etna.  It pulls from the soil a fresh and lively mineral quality underpinned by a floral note.  Alessio's  "secret ingredient"  10% Riesling, makes all the difference,  Riesling grown surrounded by the Carricante, blends and reinforces floral notes and acidity.   As much as Alessio is skilled with the white wines, he roots for his reds

Photo Credit Planeta: Nerollo Mascalese
My favorite wine from the lunch was the Eruzione 1614, which was made from the area's  leading red grape: Nerello Mascalese.  Nerello in the name comes from the grape's dark, almost black, color.  Vinification includes aging with a touch of wood to fix color and flavor.  Used French oak and a careful barrel protocol are used to be gentle with the grapes, preserving that sense of place. This results in a lighter, fresher ready to drink wine laden with exotic spices and autumnal red fruit.  It has bright splashes of cherry, anise cookies, balsam and sap in the aromas.  A blast of cherry with a hint of postage stamp are also in the flavors and finish. You may still be wondering why in the fullness of time of 700,000 years,  did Planeta land on 1614 as a name for their wines?  That was the year a 10 year eruption and lava flow started which stopped nearly at the border of the Sciara Nuova vineyard

Photo Credit Planeta:Feudo di Mezzo Vnyd
These wines came from a lovely winery in the middle of vineyards nearly 10km square on each side.  The winery itself is in the middle of natural stone garden which gives the place a unique appeal.

Sicily is an area that delivers a diverse range of wine from Marsala to Nero d'Avola.  Lots of influences that contribute including culture, grapes and climate.

I love ordering wines from Etna when I see them on wine lists because I have found them to be an excellent value, delicious with many foods and exotic.  I think about all the inherent challenges in viticulture and wine making, and then throw in an active volcano.

If you see Planeta wines on your wine list, please do try them.  You won't be disappointed.

Many thanks to Bethany Burke of  Palm Bay International who hosted me at this lunch

03 August, 2015

#Bubblesandbikes Prosecco in my glass this summer

#BubblesandBikes was the hashtag @wineharlots and I used, when we were lucky enough to be guests of the Consorzio Tutela Prosecco DOC at the World Superbike Races at Mazda Speedway in Laguna Seca, near Monterey, CA.

Laguna Seca races are events that are generally half hiking and half roasting if you, like me, want to see the lightning fast, thunder loud motorcycles racing.  However, for this event, we were VIP and got to enjoy the races in  a cozy, sparkler-splashed aerie, where we could enjoy delicious Valdo Prosecco along side hot and cold running snacks.

We also got to visit, thanks to our hostess Claire Hennessy of Colangelo Partners, backstage where we got to meet Miss Prosecco and take a Pit Walk. When you see the race bikes up close, they look like steel skeletons.  Those highly modified bikes give new meaning to the phrase "Zoom Zoom" as they clock in at speeds upwards of 152 mph.  With nothing between themselves and the asphalt but some brightly colored leathers and some serious derring do, racers roar around the track.  It's hard to imagine all the things that have to go right just to survive, let alone win.  So, no wonder when all the heats are over, the winners celebrate with Prosecco.

As refreshing as a Prosecco shower might be, I still think it is best in a glass.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from a grape called Glera.  It is made using  a method called "Charmat" (named for its inventor, Eugene Charmat) where still wine, in this case from Glera grapes, undergoes its second fermentation in a large pressurized tank.  This is different from m├ęthode champenoise in which this process occurs in the bottle as is done in Champagne.  Charmat  is a quicker and more economical way to get this delicious and festive wine to the market.

Proseccos come from the north of Italy; think, the cuff of the boot.  There are both DOC and DOCG areas, as pictured on the adjacent map.  Many delicious examples come from both regions. 

While we gobbled up breakfast, lunch and snacks--all that excitement gives you an appetite--we drank copious amounts of straw bright, refreshing Valdo Prosecco DOC Brut.  The wine had small, tight bubbles.  With aromas of apples and white peaches and a nice acidity, it was a great pair for all the snacks.  We toasted the winners as they zipped past us.  

The evening before, we had enjoyed a delicious bottle of 
Zonin Prosecco DOC Brut, which is one of the most popular brands of Prosecco.  We found it very tasty.  So tasty in fact, that it was gone before our starters arrived.  To make the wine, Zonin gently presses 100% Glera grapes to obtain must.  Half the must undergoes an initial fermentation at a controlled temperature of 64°F while the remaining unfermented must is stored at 32°F.  Then, they combine the two and transfer it into pressurized stainless steel tank, where the Charmat method is employed  to finish the wine.

10 seconds more...
All that Prosecco reminded me of my visit to the Friuli region.  A highlight of the trip, was dinner with an amazing producer, San Simone. Not only were Anna Brisotto and her husband two of the most glamourous people I have ever seen up close, but Anna's passion for the wines and her family's commitment to excellence in wine making was fascinating. Had I the foresight to set my camera to sports action mode, I would have captured better snaps.  Their wines were all delicious, but my favorite was the  Perlae Naonis San Simone Prosecco DOC Brut.  A long name for a lovely wine they nicknamed " Si".  Lovely pale yellow with tiny bubbles and a bright and delicious taste, it was paired with a starter of Sformato, or cheese mousse, that started off our dinner with a bang.  After several days of serious snacking and sipping, this wine's sparkling personality shone through and was memorable.  A great story like that of  Anna's family, which has nearly a hundred years of wine making helps.  Their commitment to sustainability was impressive.  As well, the stylish bottle with the tactile shape and the embossed "Si", made you want to say yes.  If you find yourself at the Ritz Carlton in Miami, order up and you will be delighted.
Delicious Prosecco? Si!

Make time this summer for this affordable and festive wine.  Prosecco pairs with many foods. It is known for fruity aromas and an easy lightness.   The classic Bellini is Prosecco with white peach puree and goes great with brunch.  A lively sparkle will pair well with summer salads.  And for dinner, what could be more versatile than a sparkling wine that pairs well with courses from shrimp to dessert?

Many thanks to Colangelo Partners who hosted me for the races! And special thanks to Claire Hennessy who made the trip so fun!

21 May, 2015

Happy #ChardonnayDay

#WenteChard and Mac-and-Cheese from Home Room, Oakland
May 21st is Chardonnay day.  A day to celebrate one of the world's most popular grapes.  Grown all over the world, Chardonnay makes its mark very comfortably close to home in the Livermore Valley.

As early as 1889, wine from the Livermore Valley,won the Grand Prix at the International Paris  Exposition.  In 1936, Wente bottled the first varietally labelled Chardonnay in Livermore.  So there is a lot of precedence to delicious Chardonnay here, especially from Wente.

 For people visiting San Francisco, there is a tendency to go right to more famous appellations, as there are many nearby.  However don't  skip Livermore.  It's close and convenient and best of all the wine is yummy.

Set your GPS for Wente Vineyards.  The Wine Maker's Studio is a lovely destination where you can advance your knowledge of wine in a fun, tasty way. More information on classes here

Cure for Homesickness in Paris
Announcing this Chardonnay Day is a white wine blending session as well as an Umami class.  As people drink and celebrate #Chardonnayday, a lucky few are enjoying the festivities where it all started:  Wente Vineyards. But even if you can't get to the winery, Wente's Chardonnays are easy to find.  I was lucky enough to get samples and can vouch for their excellent value and good taste.

First 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay ($15) This is a wine that is made with care to express the Livermore fruit well, even adding in 2% of Gewurztraminer for a dash of spice.  A combination of barrel and stainless fermenting as well as seven months on the lees and monthly battonage, produces a soft mouthfeel with a snap of acidity.  I got a nice vinous edge to the aromas as well as citrus notes and apple.  It is carried all over the world as I snapped a photo of it at the Nicholas Wine shop on the Rue Cler in Paris.  Way to represent the USA Wente!

2013 Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22) This is made from Monterey County fruit. It had a warmer gold color and was very food friendly. 3% Gewurtz here. More oak gave this a broader touch of vanilla, which was nice with pineapple and mango in the flavors  It was delicious with the Mac and Cheese.  Without descending into "Cougar Juice", the more persistent creamy notes of this wine stood up to and complemented the insanely delicious Home Room macaroni and cheese. Home Room is an Oakland purveyor of over the top rich, buttery, cheesy goodness #Cardiologists avert your eyes.

2014 Eric's Chardonnay Small Lots ( $25) I am a sucker for Unoaked Chardonnay.  I thought this wine made a great aperitif.  It had a crisp, refreshing texture that was perfect for peeling off the stress of that last concall.  Flavors and aromas were subtle but shifting clouds of peach, lemon, bay leaf, pineapple and savory vinous notes.  Stainless steel is the perfect backdrop to make the most of hand harvested premium fruit.  This is a great introduction and representation of the Livermore Valley and how tasty this place can be

Whereever you choose to spend #Chardonnayday, I hope you lift a glass of Wente to taste California history in a glass. When I finish my work, my final and my commute, I plan to toast Livermore!

These wines were provided as samples