Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where in the World is Wine Ophelia

Right now I'm here, at the beautiful winery La Bruna in Dogliani, Italy. It is nestled in the hills of San Luigi in between Dogliani and Monforte d'Alba. I've been working harvest (la vendemmia) here while I work on my current culinary/wine tourism project seeking out beautiful, historic, local, artisanal wines and foods as well as charming, culturally relevant accommodations. (And am I EVER finding it!!) My deepest thanks to Sebastiano Ramello of Piemonte Wines for helping me with my trip and to Bruno Andriano my host for his incredible kindness and generosity.

I'd like to share with you the story of La Bruna and the truly lovely wines that they make here:

The historic winery and vineyards of La Bruna have been in the Andriano family since the beginning of 1850 when Dogliani was but a speck on a map. Giuseppe Andriano, great-grandfather of the current owner Bruno Andriano, inherited this lovely piece of land between picturesque Dogliani and Monforte d'Alba In the rolling hillsides of San Luigi.
The vineyard extends over 20 hectares, 17 of which are planted exclusively with dolcetto with 39,000 vines. The southwest exposure and 400m altitude are quite favorable for viticulture. The vineyards are cultivated with great respect for the environment and all work is done by hand.

The vines are trained in Guyot style rendering a production of around 2kg of grapes per vine.

Piero Ballario, oenologist for La Bruna and his wife Alessandra provide the winery with the expertise to pull the best out of the dolcetto,producing around 55,000 bottles.

The wines of La Bruna are:

This is one to drink every day if you can! (I certainly am!!)

Langhe Dolcetto ARMONIA: Fermentation in small tanks of 25-50 hectoliters for around 7 days, then in steel tanks for 8 months. Armonia has lovely translucent violet-red color. The bouquet offers bright, just-ripe cherry aromas. On the palate it is youthful with pure, clean fruit, a lively acidity and good tannins and the same bright, ripe cherry notes with a pleasant, faint rose petal acidic finish.

Dolcetto di Dogliani pi cit: Fermentation in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days then in steel tanks for 9 months. Pi cit has a translucent ruby red color with violet hues. The bouquet is ample with intense ripe black cherry and ripe blackberry and a whiff of spice. On the palate, gorgeous ripe black cherries, subtle leather and a slight chervil note, good tannins and a long pleasant floral, bright cherry finish.

This is the staple of the winery and has developed an incredible reputation in the area.

Dogliani San Luigi DOCG: Fermentation in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days, steel tanks for 5 months, oak barrels for 5 months, then in bottles for 6 months.
La Bruna Dogliani San Luigi has been DOCG since 2005.
This is the house Cru and is among the most celebrated in the region.
This wine is a very intense, almost opaque ruby red with violet hues. On the bouquet it has concentrated ripe black cherry aromas. The palate is mature and well-structured with delicious ripe black cherry and dark forest berry notes. Firm and pleasant tannins support the ample fruit. It has a long finish with tobacco notes, cherry and herbs.

And this brings us to my personal favorite at the winery:

Langhe Luigina: An assemblage from the best of the barbera, merlot and nebbiolo vines. Fermentation is in small tanks of 20-50 hectoliters for around 7 days then steel tanks for 9 months. After this it rests in barriques for a year to provide it with a balanced structure, complexity and ability to age well.
Gorgeous dark, nearly opaque, red-violet color that belies its lovely extraction. Beautiful aromas of ripe cherries and thyme. On the palate it is complex, lively with acidity, and present, but not overwhelming, tannins. It has notes of mild leather, subtle chocolate, bright cherries, herbs and a lovely floral component. The finish is long and pleasant with an herbal/floral note. It is best served below room temperature and can stand up to a wide range of foods.

From time to time they also make a chardonnay that is aged in barriques for 9 months.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This is not a manifesto.

What is Wine Ophelia looking for in a wine? Authenticity. Palatability. Done.

There is a good bit of chatter these days on the internet about “Natural Wine.” What is it exactly? How does one define it? Does anyone really care? I really enjoy what many people are calling “natural wine.” But I have to say that I've had a lot of so-called natural wines that taste like shit. Really. Not that I've tasted shit, but I can imagine... Anyway, what I look for in a wine is something as authentic

authentic |ôˈθentik| (abbr.: auth.)
1 of undisputed origin; genuine : the letter is now accepted as an authentic document | authentic 14th-century furniture. See note at genuine .
made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original : the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals | every detail of the movie was totally authentic.based on facts; accurate or reliable : an authentic depiction of the situation.(in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life. (*added on 1/31/12) possible that still tastes delicious to me. I just don't want the winemaker to haul out the chemistry set to give me a monotonous giant fruit and alcohol bomb that tastes the same year after year after boring year. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Snoozefest.

That being said, some people who have too much time on their hands and who like to hear themselves talk (and they are the only ones who do) say that wine itself isn't natural. We've grafted onto the rootstock. We add things to it and mess with it. Whateverthefuck. I don't care. You can nit pick a thing to death no matter what the subject and I don't have time for these nit pickers. Go find a monkey somewhere and have at it. What I'm after is something as authentic (*see above) as possible that is still palatable to me. I love to see what has happened in the field during the year. I want to taste the extraction of lack thereof. Don't mask it with oak. Balance it out? Sure? Give it a little structure? Sure. But I want to experience what the grapes experienced. I like a minimal hand in the winemaking process. Guide it along, but don't intervene overmuch. Don't let it die. Dont' let it get a brett infection. Don't let the VA take over. Please, for the love of all things good and decent, don't let the VA take over! Ick!

I think that's all I really have to say. I'm looking for a passionate grape grower, a winemaker who wants the life of the grape that year to show in the bottle, year after interesting year, without adding too much to it. The end.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

France! Wahooooo!!

What a whirlwind I've been on! Arrived in Paris on Monday. Visited with my cousins, and one other friend.

Got to “enjoy” a train worker strike.
While I did NOT get to go to visit Thierry Puzelat (thanks striking train workers... thanks A LOT!) I nevertheless ate well, drank well, got some great shoes (always an important part of a Paris visit) and went to a few of my favorite spots in my old stomping grounds near La Sorbonne.

My favorite still has to be the Jardin de Luxembourg. My habit was always to take a coffee at Le Rostand and to go sit and read by the Fontaine de Medicis.

Le sigh... it is as gorgeous as ever. And I had been so proud of myself for not crying. Silly. I knew I would sooner or later. I always do. One look at the Fontaine de Medicis and it was all over. Couldn't hold back the tears. Not a full on sob-fest mind you... just a few little tears of joy, sorrow. Je ne sais quoi.
I didn't get enough time in Paris. Ok. That is just a moronic thing to say. I never get enough time in Paris. But this time it REALLY was not enough. Just 2 days.

Then I was off to Antibes to visit dear old friends. I had never been to Antibes before. This place is just beautiful. It has (as do so many French cities) a little historic section, Ancien Antibes.

I loved the sandy beaches in Antibes and preferred this to the galets (large pebbles) of Nice. The color of the water is INSANE. My photos don't begin to do it justice. My friends in Antibes took me to so many lovely places. Eze and St. Paul de Vence. Both gorgeous, historic hilltop villages overlooking the Cote d'Azur

Lots of lovely little places to sit, eat, have coffee and chat...just to relax and enjoy life. Perfection.