Bartender. Pre-med student. MBA recipient. Medical device salesman. Chris Carpenter is a man who’s worn many hats over the years. His most noteworthy, however, is perhaps the one he’s been wearing for the past twenty: Winemaker for Jackson Family Wines’ esteemed Lokoya, Cardinale, Mt. Brave, La Jota and Hickinbotham labels.
So just how does a Biology major from the University of Illinois become one of Napa Valley’s most well-respected winemakers making some of its most highly acclaimed wines? While studying at Illinois, Carpenter worked at Butch McGuire’s, an iconic Irish pub in Chicago, where he developed an affinity for the restaurant industry. He eventually discovered a passion for food and wine and ultimately decided to pursue a career that would marry his science background with his love of hospitality. Making wine allowed him the perfect opportunity to combine both.
In 1998 Carpenter received his MS in Horticulture from the University of California, Davis and, in the same year, joined Jackson Family Wines. Since then, he has become an expert on the mountain appellations of the Napa Valley. From Mt. Veeder to Howell Mountain, he is intimately acquainted with the subtle nuances each has to offer.
Whether he’s making site specific wines which reflect unique mountain terroirs, or orchestrating vinous symphonies which marry a variety of sites, Carpenter has garnered much praise over the years from consumers and critics alike. During a recent visit to Napa Valley, we were fortunate to sit down with him and taste through a selection of his 2013 offerings.
On a crisp, sunny Fall morning, we met Carpenter at the Jackson family’s Cardinale winery, located in the heart of Napa’s Oakville district. The smell of fermenting grapes perfumed the air as we proceeded up the long, winding driveway to the winery. The building’s rustic, stone architecture beautifully complements its surroundings which features sweeping, panoramic views of the Napa Valley.
At about 6’5″ tall, Chris Carpenter is not easy to miss. A ruggedly handsome blend of Paul Bunyan and Tom Selleck, circa his Magnum PI days, he arrived straight from the vineyard, walkie talkie in hand and fingers stained a deep, inky purple. His team was just pressing the last of 2016’s harvest which he emphatically declared, “an outstanding vintage from a flavor and tannin standpoint.”
True to his love of hospitality, it was soon evident Carpenter is as passionate about sharing his wines as he is about making them. During our visit, we tasted the La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Brave Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Cardinale, all from the 2013 vintage, “a near perfect year” by Carpenter’s standards. Prior to tasting, he passionately explained his personal approach to winemaking, which consists of three essential elements:
“First, you absolutely have to make wines about place. We’ve broken up this valley into 16 smaller appellations…and each has their unique flavor profile or character relative to one another,” Carpenter reflected. “As a winemaker, my job is to preserve that character so that when you’re tasting you can get a sense of the diversity.”
“Second, the wine absolutely has to be made in the vineyard first.” He continued, “By that, I mean the raw product ultimately drives the finished product. If you don’t make the grapes as great as possible, you’ll never make great wine.”
Which led to Carpenter’s third tenet, “If I’ve done everything in the vineyard that I can, then when it comes to the winery, I can keep it as simple as possible. I preserve the characteristic of the grape versus my winemaking which can mess with the character of the grape.”
We began with the 2013 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon ($85) crafted from fruit grown in the historic La Jota and W.S. Keyes Vineyards on Howell Mountain. Established in 1898 by Fredric Hess, the winery was named for its location on the Mexican parcel, Rancho La Jota. Carpenter described this wine as, “our most Bordeaux-like appellation, due to the region’s wetter, cooler climate which is influenced by the nearby San Pablo Bay.”
This Bordeaux-style blend contains all five Bordeaux varieties, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.5% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4.5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Following fermentation using only native yeasts, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation to soften its acidity and was then aged for 19 month in French oak barrels (89% new). The end result is a wine with an inky purplish hue and enticing aromas of black fruit, licorice and spice. On the palate, mouth-filling flavors of blackberry, black currant, licorice, graphite and savory herb accompany a gravelly minerality and food friendly acidity. While this powerful, full-bodied wine will undoubtedly reward over the next 7-10 years, the generous dollop of Merlot also makes it imminently enjoyable now.
Next, was the 2013 Mt. Brave Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) which sources grapes from the eponymous Mt. Brave vineyard located high atop Mt. Veeder in the western Napa Valley. The vines grow at an elevation of 1,400-1,800 feet where the thin, rocky soils and steep slopes present constant issues with water retention and soil erosion. This unique terroir, however, creates small, concentrated berries which produce wines of great concentration and complexity.
The 2013 Mt. Brave is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6.5% Malbec and 4.5% Cabernet Franc aged for 19 months in French oak (80% new), then bottled unfined and unfiltered. The resulting wine is bold and powerful with a gorgeous deep, opaque purple color with fragrant aromas of ripe black fruit, violet and spice. On the palate, lush notes of ripe black currant, black raspberry, roasted plum, cassis and licorice accompany brooding tannins and a lengthy spice-tinged finish. A few years in the cellar, or some aeration either using a decanter or a Vinturi (which Carpenter dubbed, “the best gadget ever!”), will nicely soften this wine’s youthful intensity.
We finished our tasting with Carpenter’s sublime 2013 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon ($275), historically a blend of only two grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) and Merlot (14%). While the previous wines have reflected specific mountain sites, Cardinale is an expression of Napa Valley as a whole, layering both mountain and valley floor fruit to ultimately create a wine of great complexity.
Vintage also plays an important role in making Cardinale, “In different vintages, different areas in Napa will perform differently, so one year [Cardinale] might be defined by a greater percentage of Mt. Veeder, and the next year it might be defined by Stag’s Leap.” As a result, Carpenter describes Cardinale as, “The most right-brained wine I make because I have to think in very creative terms. I have to think of the wines as pieces of an orchestra…each section has a very specific role in that piece of music. Individually, they don’t always make sense but when the composer layers them…they do.”
The stunning 2013 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon, comprised of predominantly Mount Veeder fruit, features a gorgeous purplish-red color and enchanting aromas of red and black fruit, sweet oak and spice. Opulent layers of black cherry, cassis, leather and mocha unfurl on the palate as the wine’s rich, silky texture gives way to a long, lingering finish. This sumptuous, sensory symphony beautifully transmutes the Napa Valley’s signature aromas, flavors and textures and this exquisitely balanced wine will continue to evolve over the next 15-20 years.
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“Odette is a fabled princess… a mistress…a judge…a heroine. Odette is both of antiquity and modernity. You will find her in works of fiction and tales from history. Odette encapsulates our inspiration for this property – femininity, strength and power.” How’s that for an introduction? In this case we’re introducing a new vinous endeavor from Napa Valley’s famed Stags Leap... Read More
The post Producer Profile: PlumpJack & CADE Welcome Sister Winery Odette appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
“Odette is a fabled princess… a mistress…a judge…a heroine. Odette is both of antiquity and modernity. You will find her in works of fiction and tales from history. Odette encapsulates our inspiration for this property – femininity, strength and power.”
How’s that for an introduction? In this case we’re introducing a new vinous endeavor from Napa Valley’s famed Stags Leap District. Odette is the sister winery of PlumpJack and CADE, founded in Oakville and Howell Mountain respectively by the dynamic trio of Gavin Newsom, Gordon Getty and John Conover. Like its sisters, the name for the project was inspired by Shakespeare, however, Odette was also the name of a French judge from the 1976 Judgment of Paris, an event which rocked the wine world. This legendary blind tasting pitted French against American wine and was judged by some of the most respected palates on the planet; however, in a stunning defeat for the French, a red wine from California’s Stags Leap District took first place, officially putting California wine on the map (Bottle Shock is a great film about this historic event). Comprised of 45 acres, Odette is a new addition to this historic appellation and is dedicated to producing full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon which represent the region’s unique terroir.
2012 marks the inaugural vintage of Odette and winemaker Jeff Owens is off to a smashing start with the new label. His 2012 Odette Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was extremely well received, garnering a perfect score of 100 points from esteemed wine critic Robert Parker, the first winemaker to do so in his inaugural vintage. Owens was originally poised for a career in landscape architecture but became smitten with wine, graduating as a member of Cal Poly’s first class in Wine & Viticulture. After completing an internship at Cakebread, he made the move to the smaller, boutique PlumpJack winery where he began as a cellar worker. Owens rose quickly through the ranks and became assistant winemaker at PlumpJack in 2008, and then made the move to CADE in 2010 where he remained until being tapped for the Head Winemaking position at Odette in 2012.
The land for Odette was purchased from the Steltzner family who established their eponymous winery in the Stags Leap District in 1965. The family sold 49 acres to the PlumpJack group while retaining 30 acres on which they will continue to make their own wine. The Stags Leap American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the first in the United States to be approved based on the uniqueness of its soils, which include both loam and clay sediments from the Napa River, as well as volcanic soils from eruptions which took place millions of years ago. These soils are coarse and retain little water, which produce fruit of great intensity and flavor. The Odette team takes their role as “stewards of the land” very seriously and is currently building a LEED Certified winery on the property while also pursuing a rigorous, organic certification for its estate vineyards.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the affable (and young!) Owens and tasting through the Odette wines at Ft. Lauderdale’s Capital Grille. We began with Odette’s second tier of wines, Adaptation, which consists of a Chardonnay, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon made from fruit sourced from the Napa Valley:
The 2013 Adaptation Chardonnay ($32) was pleasantly crisp and refreshing, the result of being fermented and aged primarily in stainless steel – no oak monster here! This wine had delightful notes of white flowers, green apple, and pear complemented by a food friendly acidity and dry finish making it an excellent pairing for the Crab & Lobster Burger.
The 2012 Adaptation Petite Sirah ($36) exhibited this grape’s hallmark, inky purple hue which had my wine glass looking like a stained glass window. Heady aromas of black fruit and spice followed through on the palate with mouth-filling flavors of juicy blackberry, ripe plum, and baking spices. Appreciable tannins and a lengthy finish made this wine a perfect match for the Grille’s juicy Signature Cheeseburger.
The 2012 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon ($46) is a “celebration” of classic Napa Cabernet which was aged in 50% new French oak and 50% used for 20 months. The result is a full-bodied red with aromas of bright red fruit, vanilla and spice while on the palate, red currant, cranberry, mocha and smoky oak predominate. Chewy tannins and a lively acidity make this wine an excellent partner for grilled meats such as the Filet Mignon with Cipollini Onions and Wild Mushrooms.
Our final wine of the flight was the 2012 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($98), a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc from one of Napa’s most acclaimed vintages. This wine had an opaque, purple hue and fragrant aromas of black fruit, cassis and spice. On the palate, this full-bodied beauty revealed layers of black cherry, raspberry, violet, and licorice while tannin and acid struck an elegant balance which persisted through the lengthy finish.
The Adaptation and Odette wines provide wonderful representations of their respective grape varieties as seen through the unique prism of California terroir. I hope you enjoy experiencing them and next time you’re in wine country, be sure to stop in for a visit!
5998 Silverado Trail, Napa
Telephone: (707) 224-7533
This week’s Wine Word of the Week is Terroir and was suggested by Leah Yablong of West Palm Beach, FL. Thanks for the suggestion, Leah!
“Terroir” is a French term which, loosely translated, means “a sense of place.” It is used to refer to products such as cheese, meat, coffee and wine that reflect or represent qualities unique to a specific geographic location. With respect to wine, terroir refers to the intersection of grape variety, soil type, climate and winemaking technique which come together to create a wine that, theoretically, cannot be produced anywhere else in the world. The art of blind tasting is based on the concept that wines look, taste and smell a certain way depending on where they are produced. So, if a wine is said to express terroir, the wine is believed to represent where it comes from and is considered a “wine of place.”
It is important to note the concept of terroir has special significance in Old World wine regions (i.e. France, Italy, Germany) where wine has been produced since approximately the fourth century. Winemakers in these storied regions have been tasked with upholding and preserving the vinous traditions of their ancestors by relying on their wisdom, keen observations and tried and true techniques which have been passed down from generation to generation. New World wine regions (i.e. the United States, South America, Australia), on the other hand, have only been making wine since approximately the sixteenth century, often using vine cuttings and winemaking techniques from the Old World. By simple virtue of time, New World wine regions don’t yet have the experience with their geography that Old World regions do. Today, the evolution of terroir in the New World continues to be an exciting and dynamic process.
Thanks again for your suggestion, Leah, and I hope that helps! If you (yes, YOU) would like to suggest a word for our Wine Word of the Week segment, please leave it in the comment section below or on our Facebook Fan Page which you can access by clicking here. If we use your word, your name will be entered into our monthly drawing to win one month of The Wine Atelier’s “Explorateur” Wine Club but remember – you have to play to win so make your suggestion now!
Last month’s installment of the “The Art of Wine & Food” series at the Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale was themed “Passion for Pinot” and featured three different Pinot Noirs from three well-known wine regions: Oregon’s Willamette Valley; California’s Anderson Valley; and Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. I thought it was apropos to use the word “passion” in the title due to the polarizing effect this grape has on its fans whose fierce loyalty to their favorite region/style rivals that of the most avid sports fan. Each of our featured wines was accompanied by a delicious dish created specifically to pair with it by Chef Remy Gautier of Argentelle Catering. So why compare Pinot Noir from three different regions? My wine loving friends, it all has to do with a little concept called terroir.
“Terroir“ (pronouced tare-WAHR) is a French term which, loosely translated, means “a sense of place.” With respect to wine, it refers to the intersection of grape variety, soil type, climate and winemaking technique which come together to create a unique wine that, theoretically, cannot be produced anywhere else in the world. The art of blind tasting is based upon this concept, that wines can look, taste and smell a certain way depending on where they are produced. This allows even wines made from the same grape to be distinguished from one another based on a region’s known characteristics (i.e. Pinot Noir from Burgundy would be more earth-forward while Pinot Noir from California would be more fruit forward). In short, if a wine is said to express terroir, the wine is believed to represent where it comes from and is considered a “wine of place.”
The purpose of featuring three different Pinot Noirs from three different regions was to illustrate the concept of terroir and demonstrate how these wines look, smell and taste different from one another even though they are made using the same exact grape. We started with the New World wine regions (Willamette and Anderson Valley) and finished with what is perhaps the birthplace of terroir: Burgundy, France. In 2oo AD, winemaking was introduced to this region located in east central France. While at first under the control of nobility, the vineyards of Burgundy eventually became the charge of the Catholic church. The Benedectine monks, specifically the Cistercians, were the first to realize different vineyards produced different wines and that not all of them were created equal. It is their observations which are responsible for creating the vineyard landscape of this world renowned wine region and establishing the framework for the Burgundy cru system.
The newer of our two New World wine regions was Oregon’s Willamette Valley which was represented by the 2010 Biggio Hamina “Zenith Vineyard” Pinot Noir ($42) from Eola-Amity Hills, one of the Valley’s sub-AVAs. The Willamette Valley was established in 1984 and is the largest AVA in the state of Oregon. This geographical region benefits from the winds off the Pacific Ocean that enter through the Van Duzer corridor, a gap in the Oregon Coast Range, which moderates warm summer temperatures. The name Eola is a tribute to the windy conditions in the area, and is derived from Aeolus, the Greek god of wind.
Biggio Hamina was founded in 2007 by winemaker Todd Hamina and his wife Caroline Biggio and this winemaker’s goal is to let the terroir do the talking. During positions at Archery Summit, Elk Cove and Patton Valley, Hamina worked with some of Oregon’s most renowned winemakers including Adam Campbell, Gary Andrus and Sam Tannahill. This valuable experience greatly informed his style of winemaking which he describes as non-interventionist and as “hands-off” as possible.
The Zenith Vineyard is a volcanic site with alluvial soils known for producing wines with notes of red fruit and minerals. During a conversations with Hamina he described 2010 as an optimal vintage and his decision to harvest was dictated strictly by physiologic ripeness and was not influenced by any adverse, external factors. The 2010 Hamina Zenith Vineyard Pinot Noir was 47% whole cluster fermented and spent 24 months in barrel, resulting in a wine with perfumed aromas of red fruit preserves, potpourri and smoky minerals, with an exotic black cardamom nuance. This wine has an elegant character with raspberry and cherry-cola flavors and finishes with lingering floral notes and a hint of minerality. It paired deliciously well with Chef Remy’s Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette.
Our next New World wine region was California’s Anderson Valley and our representative was the 2010 Copain “Les Voisins” Pinot Noir. Established in 1983, the Anderson Valley is located 10-15 miles from the Pacific Ocean and has a cool, coastal climate with a wide diurnal temperature shift, meaning warm, sunny days followed by cool nights. The region’s soils are primarily alluvial with clay and, together with the climate, create optimal conditions for growing cool climate grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from which both still and sparkling wines are produced.
Copain was founded in 1999 by winemaker Wells Guthrie who chose the French word for “friend” or “buddy” as his winery’s name, based on his belief wine is an experience best shared with friends and family. Guthrie was deeply inspired by his time spent in France’s Northern Rhône valley, apprenticing with the renowned Rhône winemaker Michel Chapoutier. Guthrie’s goal today is to make some of the most balanced, low alcohol, and food-friendly wines in California. He achieves this through combining French sensibility with California fruit, focusing on the Anderson Valley and Mendocino County.
“Les Voisins” is French for “the neighbors” and the grapes for this wine hail from three neighboring vineyards which are planted on Franciscan sandstone soils. 2010 was an unseasonably chilly vintage which meant a slower ripening of fruit which ultimately produced wines with more structure and acidity. The 2010 “Les Voisins” Pinot Noir was aged in neutral French oak barrels and has lovely aromatics of red fruit and spice. On the palate, flavors of red and black cherry, cassis, cedar and a dash of smoke accompany silky, supple tannins and a bright acidity. The flavors complemented Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms beautifully.
Our final Pinot Noir of the evening came from Burgundy, represented by the 2011 Vincent Girardin Pommard “Les Vignots” ($50) from the Cote de Beaune. It is important to note. however, that in Burgundy you will never find the words “Pinot Noir” on the label. Because wines produced here are all about place red Burgundy is always assumed to be Pinot Noir.
Vincent Girardin is the 11th generation of a winemaking family whose origins date to the 17th century. Girardin began his career in 1982 with only 5 acres of vines and he has since grown his holdings to 54 acres as of 2010. Girardin is known for his pure, focused wines which represent one of the few sources of vinous value in this prohibitively priced wine region. Much like his fellow Burgundians, Girardin’s goal is to produce wines which respect the individuality of their terroirs.
The most prized vineyards in Burgundy are located in the Côte d’Or which is divided into the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. Pommard is a commune in the Côte de Beaune known for producing powerful, richly flavored red wines. “Les Vignots” is a vineyard parcel in this region whose vines are 65 years old and soils are comprised of limestone and clay. Fermentation begins with natural yeasts and the wine is aged in French oak (10% new) for 14 months. The 2011 Girardin Pommard “Les Vignots” has a purplish-red color with fragrant aromas of dark fruit, violet and wet earth. On the palate complex flavors of black cherry, raspberry, spice and earth accompany a bright acidity and lingering mineral and spice-tinged finish. It paired wonderfully well with the classic Boeuf Bourguignon.
A very special thank you to Hank Hill of Four Hills Media for the fabulous video of our evening and the photos for this post! To see more of his wonderful work please visit www.fourhillsmedia.com. For information on purchasing any of our featured wines, please visit The Wine Atelier, our online wine boutique by clicking here. This week we are sfeaturing a selection of Pinot Noir and are offering 10% off your Pinot purchase of $100 or more! To receive the discount, just enter the code PINOT10 at checkout, offer is good through Sunday. So what’s your favorite region for Pinot Noir? Do tell in the comment section below – I’d love to hear from you!
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.
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.