Wine Review: Castel Sallegg Lagrein 2019

Here’s an opportunity to experience a little taste of the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy through their native grape Lagrein. Lagrein is the oldest indigenous grape variety of the Alto Adige region and a relative of Syrah and Teroldego. Alto Adige is Italian for South Tyrol (Südtriol in German). It is Italy’s northernmost district and is also one of its smallest. The landscape is punctuated by the peaks and valleys of the Dolomites and Italian Alps. The producers in this area focus on quality over quantity. Most, if not all, of their wine, is terroir-driven. Castel Sallegg Lagrein D.O.C. 2019 is one of those wines. Made with 100% Lagrein grapes manually harvested from their humus-rich clay soil vineyards in the vicinity of Lake Caldaro.The grapes are then selected, destemmed, mashed, and, malolactic fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless tanks. It is aged in stainless steel (80%) and French oak for twelve months. It is blended for two to three months and bottle aged for an additional six months.

Castel Sallegg Lagrein 2019 has a very dark ruby color with faint floral aromas. Flavors of mixed black fruits are carried on a structured medium body with mild tannins appearing mid-palate. More than ample acidity throughout. Pairs well with any grilled or roasted red meat or pasta in a hearty red sauce.

Interview: Ulrike Platter, Director Castel Sallegg (Alto Adige, Italy)

Castel Sallegg is a family-run firm of winegrowers located in Caldaro, Alto Adige (Italy) that is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the winemaking culture of the region. With a storied history and a tradition of commitment to excellence, the von Kuenburg family has ensured the production of quality wines from Castel Sallegg for over a century. While the winemaking team has great pride in its past they are focused on the future and the challenges that must be navigated to maintain its high standards in all phases of the operation. 

For answers about how they are addressing these problems and what we should know about Castel Sallegg, I asked its Director Ulrike Platter to share her thoughts with my readers and me.

1. The wines of Alto Adige are famous for being able to express their terroir. What methods and technologies does Castel Sallegg employ to ensure this “Sense of place” is preserved in your wines?

“Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.”Oltradige, the epitome of the wine-growing tradition in Alto Adige, lies at the foot of the Mendola Mountains in the hills of the western Adige Valley between Bolzano and Termeno. Vines have found ideal conditions in this delightful landscape for thousands of years. The winegrowing region of Alto Adige is one of the oldest in Central Europe and the entire German-speaking world.

The Alps form a protective barrier against cold winds from the north, while the southerly Ora wind from Lake Garda has a mild Mediterranean influence. Our wines benefit from the cool downslope winds coming off the Mendola Mountains. The vines flourish here thanks to an average of 1,800 hours of sunshine per year and average temperatures of almost 17 degrees Celsius during the vegetation period.

The family-owned vineyards are located in 3 historical vineyards in Caldaro:

✓ Preyhof / vineyard Prey: 550 m above sea level and situated in the Caldaro district of Paese di Mezzo.

✓ Leisenhof / vineyard Leisenpuiten: 500 m above sea level. Central location in the village of Caldaro.

✓ Seehof/vineyard VIGNA Bischofsleiten, vineyard Nussleiten: 230 – 280 m above sea level. San Giuseppe al Lago, Caldaro.

Due to the vineyards, which range from 230-550 m above sea level, Castel Sallegg identifies the best conditions for each grape variety and tries to make optimum use of this diversity.

Best practice: Our VIGNA Bischofsleiten Lago di Caldaro scelto classico superiore DOC: VIGNA (What is a Grand Cru for the French is a VIGNA for the Italians and for us South Tyroleans.) guarantees our customers that the grapes for this wine come 100% from this vineyard. In order to preserve these 50-year-old vines, the vines that fall out due to age, illness, etc., will be replanted with our own clones.

The goal is to produce top-quality wines in harmony with the terroir we have.”

2. With Alto Adige containing so many different microclimates and growing conditions in its vineyards, have the vineyard managers noticed any changes as a result of climate change? If they have, what can you tell us about them and how are you planning for your future vineyard management? 

“Our vineyard manager noticed the changes, especially this year, which was hot and dry. Since Castel Sallegg is more of a red wine winery (we produce 58% of red wines) and we often had difficulties in the past years, with the red grapes, such as Lagrein, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon fully ripening, so 2022 was a great year for us.

In addition, 80% of our vines are 30-50 years old, which means that the roots are growing very deep to get enough water for themselves even in a very hot season. These vines are stable.

Problems can be seen in younger plants or new plants.

For this purpose, we invested in a project for the next few years, which will digitize needs-based irrigation. This means that the humidity of the soil is measured by soil sensors and the vines in different places were partially watered by a targeted system.

Since we have some vineyards on a slope and the vines get less water at the top by draining and the vines at the foot get more water we can irrigate more targeted and water-saving.

We have also noticed increased hail in recent years. For this reason, we will place our most important vineyards under hail nets in the next 2-3 years.”

Thank you to Ulrike for sharing her time and down-to-earth expertise in the mindset and operations at Castel Sallegg.

My review of the 2019 Castel Sallegg Lagrein will be posted soon.

All images Photo Credit: Castel Sallegg

Interview: Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist Erste+Neue Alto Adige Region, Northern Italy & Review: E+N Pinot Nero 2021

Erste+Neue is the product of the 1986 merger of two wineries that began in the early part of the twentieth century. Erste Kellerei and Neue Kellerei combined to form Erste+Neue. The two wineries moved forward as one with a commitment and determination to stay on the cutting edge of alpine winemaking. 

In 2018, Erste+Neue was awarded the prestigious international seal for sustainable viticulture by FAIR’N GREEN. The goals and standards of FAIR’N GREEN mirror the same deeply ingrained beliefs that guide the winemaking culture at Erste+Neue. Sustainability, protecting the environment, biodiversity, natural viticulture, and the protection of natural resources are the guiding principles that drive all decisions made at Erste+Neue. 

The wines of the Alto Adige Region are famous for being terroir-driven and their bias to a specific area of the region. I was curious to hear how the vineyard managers and winemakers at Erste +Neue balance the demands of preserving and integrating the “terroir” factor into their wines while balancing the needs of the local ecosystem with the standards of producing world-class grapes and wine consistently. 

Seeking answers to these questions and others, I posed them directly to a leading viticulture professional and Chief Enologist at Erste+Neue, Andrea Moser. The following is our interview published in his own words.

How does Erste+Neue approach the unique challenges that making wine in the Alto Adige present while still being able to produce the highest quality wines that display a “sense of place?

“Facing the challenges of climate change is becoming increasingly important in every wine-growing region of the globe, and in South Tyrol, too, it is no different.”

However, Alto Adige and specifically our area are at a great benefit with respect to this issue, in fact, our orographic situation is very particular. The vineyards start in fact with the red varieties at about 230 m.a.s.l. and arrive in just a few kilometers to elevations of about 700 m.a.s.l. where the white varieties find excellent ripening conditions. This large elevation range, combined with a constant south-to-north wind “the Garda Hour” and strong temperature fluctuations between day and night due to the mountains surrounding us (Mendola range), allows us to consistently obtain high qualities on both red and white grape varieties.

Ripe but fresh and elegant reds and whites with low pH, good acidity, crisp and fresh that perfectly embody the spirit of our territory and our vineyards located in the middle of the Alps.”

How has being FAIR’N GREEN certified complemented your winemaking practices and philosophy in both the vineyard and cellar?

“For us, sustainability and especially respect for the environment has always been a key point to consider during our work from vineyard to bottle.

Since we have been working with Fair&Green we have made this commitment measurable and have strived to improve our efficiency and sustainability a little more each year.

In the first year of certification, we scored 68 percent while we are now at 82 percent on the scale that verifies, measures, and evaluates our degree of environmental commitment. Today, having reached the fifth year of certification, we have made many steps forward, such as completely eliminating some synthetic molecules for the phytosanitary defense of the vines, eliminating chemical weeding by 92%, increasing the areas under green manure thus increasing biodiversity in the field, and introducing sexual confusion in the vineyard to combat certain types of harmful insects. All our wines can be considered vegan since we have not used any clarifiers of animal origin for several years now, only yeast derivatives. By now, all the facilities for the production of cold, compressed air and nitrogen are equipped with energy recovery to produce hot water. We have equipped ourselves with photovoltaic panels that can provide us with about 40 percent of the energy we use.

In terms of packaging, the biggest step has been taken by eliminating bottles that are too heavy. In fact, we have gone from 700/750-gram bottles to 500-gram bottles, reducing our CO2 footprint by a third.

The road to true all-around sustainability is still a long one, but we are very committed and determined to get there as soon as possible.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Klammer, Sales Director of Erste+Neue for his support because without it this article would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Andrea Moser, Chief Enologist of Erste+Neue for his time and candid insights into the ideology behind the winemaking mindset at E+N. I found his comments about how the culture at E+N and the environment are intertwined extremely informative because I hold a degree in nature conservation. The following is my review of Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021.

Pinot Nero is known internationally as Pinot Noir. Pinot Nero is an early-ripening grape with a thick skin that has the reputation for being a “Heartbreak Grape” variety because it requires a great deal of care in the vineyard thus making it difficult to produce a successful harvest consistently. 

Erste+Neue Classic Pinot Nero 2021 is a sophisticated well-made wine that can be purchased at a very fair price. This Pinot Nero is ruby red in the glass and opens with the aromas of cherry & faint raspberry that is followed by the prominent flavor of cherries on the palate while smooth tannins and lively acidity are borne on the medium body of this wine. The finish is lengthy and agreeable.

Toasting the New Year with Ruffino Prosecco

We rang in the New Year not with a French Champagne made in the Méthode Champenoise but an Italian Prosecco. The prosecco was the affordability priced (under $15) Ruffino Prosecco. Ruffino is best known for their hugely popular Chianti but they also make a very enjoyable prosecco. 

Light yellow in the glass with more than adequate effervescent small bubbles and the flavor of fresh grapefruit. It is not overly dry and with an 11% ABV Ruffino Prosecco is a good option when planning any event from a brunch to a celebratory toast, as we did. 

CIAO! Stanley Tucci

CNN has canceled Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy and all of its original programming. But all is not lost because I heard Stanley tell Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that he was exploring the possibility of reviving the show on another network, whether it be broadcast, cable, or streaming. This was more than just a travel show that featured the traditional tourist attractions, and scenic vistas of the Italian countryside and coastline. This production had that special feeling one gets when traveling with a friend who knows all the best spots and interesting locals that really allows you to immerse yourself into the culture of each region you visit. Tagging along with Stanley Tucci I experienced the Italy that only Stanley could show me with his adventurous palate, wry smile, and that all-knowing look of his.

When I heard CNN wouldn’t be renewing a new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy I got that same feeling you get when the plane lifts off the runway on your return home from a great vacation. You know that feeling of joy in the memories you made but a hint of sadness because there was more to see and do.

With that said, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see Italy through Stanley’s eyes. If you are wondering where he went here’s a recap. Season One: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Tuscany, Milan, and Sicily. Season Two: Venice, Liguria, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Umbria, London, and Calabria.

Luckily for anyone who may have missed any or all of the episodes they are available through a number of media outlets that can be easily found with an internet search. If you have a cable subscription you can access all of the Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy episodes from both seasons for free by going to go.CNN.com/vod (http://go.cnn.com/vod) and find Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, click on it, and log in using your cable provider when prompted. I have found the Microsoft Edge browser works better for this site than Mozilla does for streaming its content.

All that is left to say now is Grazie di tutto, Stanley! 

Photos Credit: CNN Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

My Latest Michiganuncorked.com Article

I invite you to read my latest article “Field of Dreams” which was just published by michiganuncorked.com. It is about starting a vineyard and winery from scratch. It can be viewed by going to their website and clicking the “Read all about it” link under the “Winter Collaboration” heading. It will take you to their flip-page magazine https://issuu.com/userg123/docs/mu_-_winter_2022. It begins on page 8 or scroll down the page below the viewer window and it is also featured as an individual story just click on it. I hope you enjoy it. 

I wouldn’t have been able to write this story without the help of three successful winemakers that somehow found time to share their priceless advice on this subject. To Jim Baker Chateau Niagara, Jean Manspeaker, former owner of Briar Valley Vineyards & Winery, and Dan Matthies Chateau Fontaíne, I am truly grateful for your kindness and generosity. 

Frescobali Remole Toscana Rosso 2020

Frescobaldi Remole Toscana Rosso 2020

This Toscana is produced in Tuscany, Italy. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a lighter wine than many of the more complex and pricey Toscana bottlings from Tuscany.

Frescobali Rèmole Toscana Rosso 2020 is a balanced wine with its “middle of the road” approach when it comes to body, acidity, and flavor profile. With an approachable 12.5% ABV and bewitching scarlet red color in the glass, the faint aroma of berries leads you into the muted flavors of cherry and raspberry on your palate. It pairs well with lean red meat and pasta dishes with red sauce. Priced at less than $10 it is an excellent choice for a “weekday wine”

IL Burchino Toscana 2015

Tenuta di Burchino IL Burchino Toscana 2015 is a red blend of 85% Sangiovese 10% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Merlot from the hills of Pisa in Tuscany, Italy. 

James Suckling gave it 92 points saying it was “Perfumed with dark fruits, orange blossoms, and cherries following through to a medium body. Integrated tannins and just a hint of vanilla. Long and linear.” 

Quoted initially at $40 it is now available at P.L.C.B. stores in Pennsylvania as a “Chairman’s Selection” for $12.99. This is a bargain price for a wine of this quality. IL Burchino Toscana 2015 pairs perfectly with grilled red meat and pasta in a red sauce.

Days of Wine and Cheeses: Finale

Parmigiano-Reggiano is called by some “The finest cheese in the world.” Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in Italy from raw cow milk under strict adherence to a prescribed procedure. To harden the young cheese’s rind, it is left in brine for three weeks or more before being allowed to age from twelve months to three years. A wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano weighs eighty-five pounds and goes from an ivory paste color when young to an amber gold when mature. Don’t cut this cheese, use a blunt knife that will break it into chunks thus preserving its signature texture. You will need a medium to full-bodied red to pair with this cheese. Brunello di Montalcino, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel would be a great pairing.

Original Blue is a raw cow milk aged blue cheese made by the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and is the only blue cheese made in California. The morning milk is taken directly from the milking parlor to the cheesemaker where it is cultured, coagulated with rennet, and inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti. As the cheese ages, it develops the characteristic blue-gray veins that give blue cheese its name and distinctive taste. Pair a French Pinot Gris or dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes of New York. I have also found Champagne is an excellent pairing because it cleanses your palate. 

Manchego is Spain’s most famous cheese. It is made from raw or pasteurized sheep milk but most of Manchego today is made on an industrial scale using pasteurized sheep milk. You can find year-old Manchego at cheese shops in the U.S.  This aged version of Manchego has a firm dry interior that is ivory to light yellow in color. It is best served with something sweet to contrast its tangy salty bite. Quince paste is usually served as the sweet accompaniment. Manchego pairs well with a Rioja from its homeland of Spain. Think tapas on a beautiful evening in Barcelona when selecting a wine.   

I hope you enjoyed my posts on pairing wine and cheese as much as I enjoyed writing them. Cheers!

Photo Credit: Gourmetfoodstore.com, PointReyesCheese.com, and almagourmet.com

Days of Wine And Cheeses Part 2

Miles and Lillian Cahn bought an abandoned dairy farm north of New York City in the early 1980’s. Two years later they sold Coach Leatherware and became full-time goat farmers. A curious turn of events for the Cahans but a blessing for the cheese world. Coach Farm makes several kinds of goat cheese, both fresh and aged but is best known for its Green Peppercorn Cone. Green Peppercorn Cone is a bloomy rind pasteurized goat milk cheese with a soft interior that is impregnated with fresh green peppercorns. Bloomy rind cheeses ripen from the outside in as the cheese develops. Coach Farm Green Peppercorn Cone is soft, off-white, and creamy with flavors of pepper and lemon curd. 

Since this is a delicate cheese it calls for a light, crisp and clean wine that won’t dominate your palate. A couple of good choices are a dry Rosé like Chateau ď Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé 2020 or a dry Traminette from the Hudson Valley of New York, as they say, “What grows together goes together”. I asked Russell Moss, General Manager at Milea Family Wines Staatsburg, New York if he thought their 2021 Milea Estate Traminette would pair well with this cheese. Russ said, “The 2021 Traminette will pair excellently with the cheese. The spicy character of the wine will compliment the peppercorn well and the fat in the cheese will harmonize with the structure of the wine.” www.mileaestatevineyard.com 

When you talk about cheese from the American Heartland you must feature a cheese from Wisconsin and that cheese is Pleasant Ridge Reserve from the Uplands Cheese Company. http://www.uplandscheese.com

Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made in a style of French alpine cheese. It is a rarity among American cheese because it is made with unpasteurized milk from a single herd of cows only during pasture season. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made to very exacting standards so if the pasture conditions produce milk that doesn’t meet the cheesemakers’ expectations no cheese is made and the milk is sold. Pleasant Ridge Reserve has a hard thin rind over a smooth firm golden body with savory nutty flavors and light saltiness that lingers on your tongue.

Pleasant Valley Reserve has enough character to pair well with a Gruner Veltliner or Chateau Niagara DuMonde 2021, a Chardonnay/Riesling blend from the Niagara Plain near Lake Ontario in New York. http://www.chateauniagarawinery.com If you are looking to try a red any Cune (CVNE) Gran Reserva is an intriguing option.

My next post will be on a pair of popular types of cheese and the wine I serve with them.