Big juicy burgers. Big healthy baby. Big hotel suite. Big expense account. Mr. Big. But big wine? In our super-sized reality is big always better?
Since big is often a matter of perspective and can be vague in usage, to better understand big as it relates to wine we need to go to the source; to the vineyard. In wine, big is typically synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Napa Valley. Since Napa is home to some of the most expensive agricultural land in the United States it is understandable how big enters the picture. Cabernet grown in this lush valley thrives. Upon examination this petite powerhouse of a grape resembles a small dark blueberry more than a familiar table grape. As a matter of fact, all grapes are called berries. Cabernet berries are tightly clustered and the skin is thick and darkly pigmented. But this power is not just skin deep. With the largest seed mass of any black grape, the tannin to juice ratio is only one factor when defining big – as there is nothing passive about this aggressive little berry. However, it is all part of the big reveal. We must look to the winemaking team and the philosophy espoused by each winery and the fruits of their labor for ourselves.
Since I do not drink wine that assaults my palate, when drinking Cabernet I seek out plush, velvety and elegantly styled wines. Some critics may argue this type of cabernet disappeared with payphones and library cards. I disagree. Classically styled Cabernet, while not prolific, is available.
Under the direction of Dario Sattui, one of Napa Valley’s biggest success stories, the winemaking team at Castello di Amorosa strives to produce wines with sophistication. Executive winemaker Brooks Painter utilizes “tannin control” techniques from vineyard to production. The result is palpable.
In the vineyard, Castello’s Cabernet is picked at 25 degrees brix (sugar level). But aside from sugars, Brooks and his team monitor the maturity of the tannins by tasting the fruit from each vineyard block as harvest approaches. Once the juice is in the tank the cap of solids (skins and seeds) is reintroduced to the juice via punchdown or gentle pump-over to limit the over-stimulation of phenolics (natural organic compounds in the juice).
But regardless of the winemaking philosophy or the vineyard geography, the real test is largely subjective and that individual perception or preference is ultimately the biggest player in the equation. The big reveal is how you perceive the wine you are drinking. Thus the debate on big wine continues.
When does size matter? There is one point on which we can all agree…….
A big glass of wine is always better.
Mary Davidek, C.S., C.S.W.
Romantic love will be in full celebration as guests express their love for each other at Castello di Amorosa’s cupid-friendly Royal Hearts Gala on February 16, 2013. A reception kicks off the festivities at 7:00 p.m. followed by dinner seating at 8:00 p.m. The winery’s name embodies the spirit of this gala --- “Castle of Love.” The evening will also include a performance of excerpts from Shakespeare’s works on love.
Castello di Amorosa welcomes special guest chef Alejandra Schrader, a Top 10 Finalist in Fox’s MasterChef USA Season 2. “To say we are thrilled to have Chef Schrader showcase her culinary skills is an understatement,” said President, Georg Salzner. “I’m sure she’ll dazzle us with menu she’s creating. We are looking forward to the menu and the evening,” he adds.
Currently a private chef in Los Angeles, Shrader has participated in high profile culinary festivals such as “Taste of Chicago,” the world’s largest, as well as food and wine festivals in Washington, D.C. and Palm Desert. “I have had the opportunity to learn directly from renowned chefs like Mary Sue Milliken from Border Grill and acclaimed Ricardo Zarate of Picca and Mo-Chica (Food & Wine Magazine’s 2010 Best Chef),” Shrader explains.
“I was fortunate to compete and present my dishes to Judges Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich,” Chef Schrader explains. “From well over thirty thousand auditions all over the country, 100 people were brought to Los Angeles to compete for the title of MasterChef; and I was one of the lucky ones. I am proud to be part of the MasterChef family and it will be an honor to prepare special dishes for the guests at the Castello’s Gala.”
The Royal Hearts Gala will include a VIP reception with hors d’oeuvres in the Tasting Room followed by a 4-course meal in the Grand Barrel Room. Cost is $195 for the winery’s wine club members and $225 for non-members.
Shakespeare in the Vines will perform selected scenes from Shakespeare’s most romantic plays and sonnets during dinner. Shakespeare in the Vines is an acting troupe which specializes in the works of William Shakespeare.
A top finalist and fan favorite on FOX's popular show MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay, Alejandra has established her presence in the culinary world. She has performed cooking demonstrations all over the United States at prestigious food and wine festivals such as this year's Taste of Chicago, the largest food festival in the world. She has shared the culinary stage with renowned chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, Aaron Sanchez, Sara Moulton, Mark Peel and Graham Elliot. Since the end of MasterChef, Alejandra has done appearances on TV shows like Access Hollywood Live, Cafe CNN, NBC’s Today in LA, and Primera Edición (Univision, Spanish TV). Her recipes and interviews have been featured in high profile magazines like InTouch Weekly and Taste of Home. She owns a private chef business in Los Angeles; she is also writing her first cookbook and working on exciting new media projects. More at http://www.alejandraschrader.com/
Chef Alejandra Schrader
As 2012 came to a close and we ran in another year of beginnings, fresh starts and clean slates, I reflected on the past 365 days. How did 2012 Measure up? Did I live each day to the fullest of did I just do time?
Each January first we received a one year sentence and thus begin the process of tuning the proverbial page on birthdays, dentist appointments, holidays and oil changes. Is this the measure of a year? Flipping pages…simply doing time.
What about grapes? How will the 2012 vintage measure in Napa Valley? With near idyllic weather conditions dominating the growing season, vintage 2012 shows great promise. We will know the extent of this hopeful success in the years ahead when we taste the matured wine. Until then we will keep watch on this cellared expectation as we sample from the barrels…and wait. I recall tasting the 2009 Il Barone Just a few years ago. Drawn from the barrel the young Cabernet was tannic, aggressive, almost abrasive in its blatant immaturity. Last month I pulled the cork on a bottle and the seductive notes of black cherry and licorice jumped from the bottle. The once angry tannins are settling into a presentation of refined strength. Time has served it well.
From today forward, this is how I will measure my years… my vintages. How do I know if 2012 was a success? There are beautiful memories and experiences that I will savor for years to come as well as “learning moments” that I cannot say, that at this time, I can look upon so fondly. Perhaps in a few years I will look back fully able to appreciate and comprehend all I experienced in 2012.
Before this potential is realized, however it needs to do some time.
Happy New Year
Mary Davidek, C.S., C.S.W.