Wines of the Week: Rutherford’s Round Pond Estate!

This week I’d like to introduce you to the oldest new winery you’ve never heard of: Round Pond Estate. Founded by Bob and Jan MacDonnell in the 1980’s this family-owned and operated estate consists of over 400 acres in Napa’s acclaimed Rutherford region. Historically the family had always sold their grapes to such well-known wineries as Franciscan, Duckhorn and Schramsberg... Read More

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Wines of the Week: Rutherford’s Round Pond Estate!


This week I’d like to introduce you to the oldest new winery you’ve never heard of: Round Pond Estate. Founded by Bob and Jan MacDonnell in the 1980’s this family-owned and operated estate consists of over 400 acres in Napa’s acclaimed Rutherford region. Historically the family had always sold their grapes to such well-known wineries as Franciscan, Duckhorn and Schramsberg but in 2002 they decided to produce their own estate wines. In 2007, after five years of exploration and experimentation, the family opened Round Pond to the public and while they still sell the majority of their grapes, they are committed to their portfolio of critically acclaimed, limited-production estate wines.

Today, the second generation of the family who grew up roaming the estate vineyards is at the helm, including brother and sister team Miles and Ryan MacDonnell who serve as CEO and COO respectively. In addition to their estate vineyards, Round Pond also includes biodynamic gardens and olive orchards from which artisan olive oils, red wine vinegars and citrus syrups are produced, reflecting the family’s ongoing passion for and dedication to sustainable farming.


I recently had the opportunity to attend a press lunch with Round Pond Estate Global Sales Director, Diane Cline, at La Nouvelle Maison, a newly debuted downtown Boca Raton eatery. On that scorching Summer day in July we were greeted with a refreshingly chilled, salmon-hued glass of the 2013 Round Pond Estate Rosato di Nebbiolo ($22). A mere 300 cases of this wine are produced from a scant three rows of Nebbiolo, a grape typically found in Italy’s Piedmont region. This rosy gem which received its color from a mere thirty minutes of grape skin and juice contact, offers mouth-filling flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and a hint of lavender accompanied a delightful minerality and a refreshingly dry finish – truly lovely!

The four-course tasting menu highlighted the talents of Chef Gregory who created a beautiful menu to pair with the Round Pond wines. Our first course paired the Rosato with a Colossal Crab Martini with Avocado and Yuzu Foam. The dish was beautifully executed featured glistening white chunks of chilled jumbo lump crab meat dressed with the delicate yuzu foam. This pairing served as a delicious introduction to Chef’s cuisine and the wine’s citrus notes and acidity complemented the flavors of the dish very nicely.

The 2013 Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc was next and while our first bottle was noticeably “off” (hey, it happens!) the next bottle proved well worth the wait! This delightfully lemon-yellow incarnation of the Sauvignon Blanc grape had body and presence. Diane explained this wine was de-acidified naturally; 10% of the grapes were harvested when the acid levels were high; 80% were harvested when sugar, acid and pH were all “in the zone”; and the additional 10% were allowed to hang for two additional days contributing to the wine’s viscous mouthfeel. Cline explained, “this method gives three different snapshots of the vineyard,” resulting in a generous expression of this grape with notes of guava, lemon zest, peach and plenty of zip. Chef paired this wine with a duo of dishes which really showcased its range and versatility: with House Cured & Smoked Loche Duart Salmon with Salmon Roe and Dill Creme Fraiche the Sauvignon Blanc really made the dill “pop” and accentuated the lovely texture and oiliness of the salmon while cleansing the palate after each bite; with Saffron Risotto of Florida Rock Shrimp the wine’s body stood up beautifully to the savory flavors while its lemony, food-friendly acidity balanced the richness nicely. 

ROUNDPONDCollage3Our first red wine of the day was the 2012 Round Pond Estate “Kith and Kin” Cabernet Sauvignon. The “Kith and Kin” wines are so named after the Old English expression for “Friends and Family” and originated in 1992 when the MacDonnell family made its very first barrel of wine from their Napa Valley vineyards intended exclusively for friends and family. These wines also sparked the family’s passion for making wine and ultimately became the inspiration for Round Pond Estate! Today, Round Pond’s “Kith and Kin” wines are intended to reflect the Napa Valley appellation and to be consumed in their youth. After a challenging 2010 and 2011, 2012 was a nearly perfect growing season and winemaker Muiris Griffin selected some of his favorite Rutherford estate lots, as well as a careful selection of grapes from neighboring appellations for this cuvee. The wine was aged in second year French oak barrels and after 15 months the result is a Cabernet Sauvignon with fragrant aromas of ripe red currant, blackberry and plum. The velvety mouthfeel is further enhanced by silky tannins which add weight but not astringency making this wine very approachable. Chef prepared a delicious Roasted “Jurgielewicz Farms” Duckling with Red Cabbage Gel, Braised Black Barley and Valencia Orange Glaze which was a home run with this wine, creating a beautiful harmony of flavor and texture.

Our final wine of the tasting was the 2011 Round Pond Estate Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. 2005 was the inaugural vintage of Round Pond’s estate wines which, as you might expect, are crafted from the estate’s finest lots. The goal is to create a wine which reflects its historic Rutherford “terroir” with as little intervention as possible. In the fashion of Bordeaux this Meritage blend (for definition and pronunciation of this term, please click here) is comprised of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Merlot fermented in small lots and then spends twenty months in 70% new French oak. The result? A wine with a delightfully inky purple hue and fragrant aromas of black fruit and spice which beckons from the glass. On the palate black cherry, plum, spice and a hint of chocolate are accompanied by firm tannins and a long, lingering finish. This wine was definitely built to go the distance while still maintaining excellent balance and made a wonderful accompaniment to Chef’s Herb Roasted “Miyazaki” Wagyu Flatiron Steak with Ratatouille and Red Wine Reduction, cutting through the fat of the lean meat like a vinous laser.

The wines of Round Pond Estate are currently available at The Wine Atelier. These special, limited production wines offer a great opportunity to explore California’s Rutherford region and its unique terroir.





A Study in Piedmont Terroir & the Wines of Michele Chiarlo!

Alberto Chiarlo & Moi

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Alberto Chiarlo, son of Michele who established the family’s eponymous winery in Italy’s renowned Piedmont region in 1956. The Chiarlo wines represent this family’s dedication to the mastery and expression of Piemontese terroir through the use of indigenous grape varieties, innovative viticultural practices and seven generations of winemaking tradition.

We met at Piattini, a new Italian eatery in Boca Raton’s Royal Palm Place, whose deliciously authentic cuisine provided the perfect accompaniment for the featured wines. As we took our seats Chiarlo explained, “We make wine to go with food,” reinforcing one of my favorite things about Italian wine, “and Piemonte is the food capital.” With just shy of 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in the region, he made an excellent point.

We began the tasting with the 2012 Chiarlo Gavi “Le Marne,” a delightful white wine made from 100% Cortese grapes with inviting aromas of white flowers, citrus and minerals. Chiarlo explained, “Our goal is to make wines that are expressive of the soil, [they are] not super modern.” Stefano Chiarlo, Alberto’s brother and Chiarlo winemaker, generally abstains from the use of temperature controlled fermentation and new French oak.” [We are] traditionalists and use the same style now as my grandfather. Our wines are grown in the field…the less touch in winemaking, the better.” This bright white wine had flavors of white peach and lemon accompanied by a crisp acidity which paired deliciously with the freshly grilled octopus.

Of all their wines, Barbera is most definitely at the heart of the Chiarlo ethos. This might sound surprising in the context of this region which deifies the Nebbiolo grape and has historically considered Barbera a simple, one-dimensional offering not suitable for much more than everyday enjoyment. However, Barbera was essentially the first wine the Chiarlo family produced and over the years they’ve done much to elevate its reputation. “Our first goal is to make Barbera,” Chiarlo stated with conviction. In order to produce the finest incarnation of this grape, the winemaking team implements green harvesting, a technique first introduced to the region by Michele Chiarlo in which the fruit of the vigorous Barbera vines is dramatically thinned, resulting in fewer grapes of higher quality with the goal of creating a more complex and potentially age-worthy wine.

Since Barbera plantings must vie for land with Nebbiolo in the town of Alba, another region known for producing much of Piedmont’s Barbera wines, Barbera from Asti is generally considered more structured and complex due to the availability of superior vineyard land. The 2011 Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Le Orme,” is made from fruit sourced in the southern part of Asti from the hills around Nizza Monferrato. The wine is fermented for ten days in stainless steel tanks and then aged for eight months in large French oak casks prior to release. The wine had enticing aromas and flavors of black fruit, cassis and spice as well as a lovely hint of violet. On the palate, the wine had a velvety mouthfeel while the acid and tannin struck a harmonious balance. This wine was perfect for enjoying on its own but also paired extremely well with the flavors of the Prosciutto di Parma and decadent duck pate.

In addition to the “Le Orme,” we also sampled the 2009 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza “La Court,” Chiarlo’s single vineyard Barbera made from fifty year old vines and only in the best vintages. Again, Chiarlo stressed the wine was, “very traditional, [fermented in] open vats with no temperature control. In order to do this we must have perfect grapes.” Fermentation in large oak casks was followed by an additional twelve months of oak aging resulting in a wine with structure and balance as well as heady aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, plum and spice with a tangy acidity and lengthy finish. This wine is delicious now but will continue to benefit from and evolve with additional time in the bottle. The “La Court” synergized deliciously with the Aged Goat Cheese studded with heavenly bits of Black Truffle.

Next were a dynamic duo of Chiarlo Barolos, the 2008 Tortoniano and the 2009 Cerequio. The ’08 Tortoniano Barolo is named for the tortonian-era soils in which the Nebbiolo vines are grown. This wine is more feminine in style than the other Chiarlo Barolos and is considered a great introduction to this wine known for its abundant levels of both acid and tannin. This wine is aged in oak barrels for two years and an additional year in the bottle prior to release resulting in a wine with a vibrant garnet color and fragrant aromatics of red cherry, roses and black truffle. On the palate flavors of pomegranate, ripe cherry, spice and Piemontese earth are accompanied by soft tannins and a lengthy, spice-tinged finish.

The Cerequio vineyard’s soil composition, southern exposure and mild climate make it one of the most prestigious crus of the Langhe. Located at 1,200 feet elevation within the La Morra commune the vineyard’s soils are rich in magnesium which has been found to result in wines of great elegance. Fermentation on the skins is followed by aging for two years in large oak barrels and an additional fifteen months in bottle before release. The resulting ’09 Cerequio Barolo was indeed elegant with complex, layered notes of black currant, cherry, spice and anise. This rich, full-bodied red clearly exhibited the hallmark acid and tannin levels often associated with these renowned wines and will most definitely age gracefully for years to come. Following Chiarlo’s lead, I also ordered the Bucatini Amatriciana, a pasta dish featuring crispy guanciale (cured pork jowl/cheek), flavorful pomodoro sauce and an ample dusting of Pecorino Romano cheese. The housemade bucatini pasta was cooked perfectly “al dente” which brought a smile to Chiarlo’s face as well as all who ordered it. Needless to say it was the perfect accompaniment for both Barolos demonstrating how a robust wine can stand up to a dish with comparable levels of flavor and texture which, in return, will serve to tame the wine’s acid and tannins.

Bucatini Amatriciana

The Michele Chiarlo wines offer a wonderful opportunity to explore Italy’s Piedmont wine region, one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. Whether you’re looking for a crisp, refreshing everyday white wine; an immensely enjoyable selection of red wines or age-worthy additions for your wine cellar there’s definitely a little something for everyone. Also, if you live in the Boca/Delray area (or happen to be visiting) be sure to visit Piattini Ristorante located at 187 SE Mizner Blvd in Boca Raton. For information on purchasing any of the Michele Chiarlo wines, please click here to visit The Wine Atelier.