Winemaker: Adam Sabelli-Frisch

                As with most things in life the saying “What was old is new again” rings particularly true when it comes to trends in the wine world. Anyone that has read this blog can attest to my curiosity with the ancient wine grape Saperavi and its resurgence worldwide but more specifically here in the U.S. The Mission grape has a storied past in California but fell out of favor with the winemaking community in the early part of the last century. Countless acres of vines have been pulled out and the land used for other projects. When I heard of a winemaker producing wine from Mission grapes and other lesser know varieties I was intrigued. I contacted Adam Sabelli-Frisch owner/winemaker of Sabelli-Frisch Wines in Santa Clarita, California and asked him for an interview to find out more about him, his winemaking philosophy and his plans for bringing back some very interesting wine grapes that haven’t been widely produced in decades.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Adam for the time and honesty he shared with me for this article. What follows is my unedited interview with Adam Sabelli-Frisch of Sabelli-Frisch Wines.

 

                       How did you get started making wine?

Like so many others, I started with home winemaking. Very bad at first, but it gradually improved. Like most home winemakers, I harbored a dream of eventually doing it professionally, which

Mission Grapes Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

certainly isn’t a new idea by any means. And one of my bad or good character traits, depending on how you look at it (or if you’re my wife), is that when I decide something, I launch into it pretty quick and without much fear. So by the summer of 2018 I’d decided I wanted to try this for real, and in Sept of that year I was already doing my first harvest!

How would you describe your winemaking style?

I would say that I lean towards making more old world type wines in the new world. Not austere in any way, just a little more restrained than perhaps is the CA style that has prevailed in the last decades. But still embracing the possibilities of the warmer climate wines we can make here. Perhaps a more accurate description would be that I try to make them in the earlier California tradition of the 60’s and 70’s before the big

Flame Tokay Grapes Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

styles became the norm.

Who and what had the greatest influence on your winemaking?

I wish I could mention a mentor, but since I didn’t come up through a traditional winemaking background, and have another job to support this still, I never had the chance to work under others (which I very much regret). I would say that maybe Emile Peynauds book Knowing And Making Wine was the closest to something like that.

How did you get interested in growing and making wine from grapes not being widely grown commercially?

That is a long story that I will try to shorten as much as I can: During my early winemaking I was predominantly drinking and making so called ‘natural wines’ (I prefer to refer to them as low-intervention wines these days, rather than natural).That

Petit Manseng Grapes Photo Courtesy: Sabelli-Frisch Wines

was the focus I wanted to bring to making my own wines – naturally fermented, not filtered and with low sulphur additions. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to also take that concept one step further. And in my mind it didn’t make sense to do low-intervention wines and then use imported and non-native grape varieties to do it from. So I wanted to make my wines using the American native strands, vitis labrusca and vitis rupestris etc. But after personal research and trials, I came to the conclusion that they are very challenging to make good wine out of. It was just a bridge too far for a new winemaker. So I regrouped and said: “well, which is the oldest vitis vinifera strand in the US?” And the answer is of course Mission. It’s the oldest European grape in the New World and has been in the Americas for more than 500 years now. So that seemed like a good fit. Only when I started making wine from it did I fully realize how amazing and rewarding that grape is.

What are your favorite varietals to work with and why?

I love Mission with a passion. It has been maligned, discredited, mistreated and ripped out for over a century now. You open older winemaking books and they all refer to the grape as inferior and not suitable for making wine at all. It is completely misunderstood. And when you take the time to understand it, you’ll find it makes world class wines. That might sound hyperbolic, but I actually believe that is the case. Mission has a great future ahead of it, and I’m convinced it will have a big resurrection.

What are some of your favorite wines and from which regions and producers?

I used to be heavily into Amarone in my youth and have a good

Syrah Grapes Photo Courtesy :Sabelli-Frisch Wines

collection of them still. But as you get older, seems like the palate changes and you go for more subtler styles. Last years it’s for me mainly been California or Oregon wines with a good mix between natural wines from small producers and a lot of Pinot Noir. My knowledge is limited to CA and OR wine and I don’t have a lot of knowledge about European producers, which is kind of ironic as I’m from there myself. I really enjoy Lioco, Failla, Ceritas,, Stirm, Broc Cellars, Deux Punx, Sandlands and producers like that here in CA. It’s a very exciting time for CA wines and there’s a change of guard as we move away from the Napa style.

What wines are you working on now and what are your expectations for them?

Well, my interest for rare, underused or strange grape varieties continues. Beside Mission, this year I did a Petit Manseng white for my limited edition Milk Fed line. It’s a yearly recurring edition where the grape changes, but the vinification in amphorae and with light skin-contact doesn’t change. Very small production and one-off’s for each vintage, so they’re always exciting. I also came back to my Alicante Bouschet which turned out so well in 2018 vintage. Really a wonderfully subtle wine. And my Flame Tokay rosé I continued this year as it also turned out so nice last time (Flame Tokay is another almost extinct grape). In the future I’m looking to explore more varieties – I almost got some Negrette and Cabernet Pfeffer this year, so I hope I can revisit those down the line.

Please feel free to to add any personal thoughts and insights you think would be of interest to my readers.

Well, maybe that first release will be sometime early 2020. No fixed date yet, but I would guess around March. I bottle in January and depending on how long they take to get over bottle shock, that’s when they’ll come out.

For more information you can contact

Adam Owner/winemaker Sabelli-Frisch Wines Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

Sabelli-Frisch Wines via email at info@sabelli-frisch.com

Phone: 310-383-2944

Follow on Instagram @  sabellifrisch

 
 



Wow! Here’s a discount code for Rocca Wines

     It isn’t often that a premier Napa Valley vineyard and winery offers a discount on their award-winning wines. Mary Rocca, owner of Rocca Family Vineyards in Napa has generously offered a discount on her wines to all of my readers. Deals like this rarely happen with world-class wineries so don’t hesitate because it expires on 10/16/19 and I know you will regret missing this one. Go to http://roccawines.com  and enter either discount code at checkout. WPASHIP (one dollar shipping on any order) or WPA25 ( $25 off any order of 2 bottles or more).

L to R Vineyard Manager Sergio Melgoza, Mary Rocca Owner Rocca Family Vineyards, Winemaker Paul Colantuoni and Banner a Lagotto Romanolo (Italian truffle hunting dog)

 

 

Down in Roccaland

     If you have ever had the good fortune to see your family name on the label of a wine bottle you can understand my interest when I saw mine attached to a premium Napa Valley winery. I started to wonder if there might be some family connection. I contacted Mary Rocca, owner of Rocca Family Vineyards to explore the possibility of us being related. I found Mary to be very kind and welcoming as we exchanged information about our ancestry. I learned a great deal about my own heritage and also about Mary’s. We found some amazing coincidences that would have never been discovered had we not reached out to each out. Mary generously sent a gift of her wine to be shared at my family reunion as an introduction between our families. I would like to say “Thank You” to Mary for all the time and effort she has taken from her busy schedule to assist me in this project. Although we haven’t identified any recent common threads we continue to search. Even if we can’t find any blood relatives uniting our families I will always consider Mary not only a friend but family. Mary has generously offered to discount the wine purchases of all of my readers when they enter either of these codes at checkout on http://roccawines.com  WPASHIP ($1 SHIPPING ON ANY ORDER) or WPA25 ($25 OFF ANY ORDER OF 2 BOTTLES OR MORE) These codes expire on 10/16/19 so don’t miss out on your chance to buy extraordinary wine from an outstanding Napa Valley winery with an insider’s deal.

Anyone that has ever dreamed of owning a vineyard and winery in Napa, California can only imagine the excitement that Mary Rocca and her husband Eric Grigsby felt when they

Mary Rocca at Rocca Family Vineyards Napa, California

decided to pursue that very dream. They began their search for the ideal Napa vineyard in 1996 while Mary juggled her dental practice, Eric his medical practice and not to mention their four young children at home. Their three-year search for the perfect vineyard came to fruition when they found a 21-acre vineyard deep in the heart of the Napa Valley. They renamed it the Grigsby vineyard and planted new rows of vines between the existing ones to essentially double their grape production. This vineyard is located between the warmer climate of the upvalley and the cooler maritime influences of the San Francisco Bay. The Grigsby vineyard is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon but also has 1 acre of Merlot and roughly 2.5 acres of Syrah. In 2000 Mary purchased the 11-acre Collinetta vineyard in the Coombsville appellation. The Collinetta vineyard is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (Clone 4 & Clone 337) but also has an acre of Cabernet Franc and an acre of Petit Verdot. Now with all the pieces in place Mary could focus on making her vision for Rocca Family Vineyards a reality.

     Many decisions had to be made when it came to what pillars the winery and vineyard

The Grigsby Vineyard

would be established on. For many of those choices Mary drew upon the deeply seated beliefs she had built her life and career on. First and foremost, Rocca wines had to be the best they could possibly be and show not only the most natural expression of the vines but also the environment in which they were grown. With that in mind, the choice to farm both vineyards with organic and sustainable viticulture was the only acceptable path forward. As conscientious stewards of the environment, everyone at

The Collinetta Vineyard

Rocca is acutely aware of the long-lasting and far-reaching effects that pesticides and herbicide can cause in the delicate balance of the ecosystem both locally and globally. The Grigsby and Collinetta vineyards have proven themselves by producing some of Napa Valley’s finest wine grapes and because they are organically farmed are U.S.D.A. organic and C.C.O.F. certified.

     In 1999 Mary hired Celia Welch Masyczek of Scarecrow fame as Rocca’s first winemaker and together they produced a long line of award winning and critically acclaimed wines. In 2008 Paul Colantuoni assumed the role of master winemaker at Rocca wines from Celia. With vineyard manager Sergio Melgoza nurturing the grapes and Paul’s skillful hand now making Rocca Family Vineyards wine the winery has continued on its accending arc vintage after vintage.

     If you would like to know more about the Rocca Family Vineyards story or are interesting in purchasing their wine please visit http://roccawines.com  Don’t forget to use the codes to receive a discount on your wine purchases. WPASHIP for $1 DOLLAR SHIPPING ON ANY ORDER or WPA25 for $25 OFF 2 BOTTLES OR MORE.

     Follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter            

Vineyard Manager Sergio Melgoza, Mary Rocca and Winemaker Paul Colantuoni (left to right)

 

Three Little “Pink” Birds

     To be honest, the reasoning behind making a single vineyard Rosé is completly lost on me. The beauty of making a Rosé is the artistic license winemakers can excercise in the way they meld the distinct characteristics of grapes to create a finely nuanced wine. Blending affords a winemaker the luxury to be able to “paint” their wines with fine strokes of flavor and delicate aromas not possible with a single vineyard Rosé. With the ever increasing popularity of Rosé around the world I understand the pressure producers feel to gain attention for their wine and themselves in a crowded market. 

The first wines ever made were probaly Rosé-type wines. It makes sense that when ancient civilations harvested their grapes they all were combined and crushed to render a mixture of every grape they could get their hands on. Have we really evolved so much over the millennia that we now feel the need to taste the terrior in our Rosé? The fact I am writing this post about single vineyard Rosé proves that it is an effective tool to get your wine noticed. 

Here are a few single vineyard Rosés that you might find interesting if you are curious and want to see for yourself if they have any merit or are just a marketing ploy. 

Single Vineyard 2017 Rose Languedoc Languedoc-Roussillon, France $11 Fruity with flavors of red berries and herbs but on the dry side.

2017 Jules Taylor OTQ Single Vineyard Rose Pinot Noir Branken Hill Vineyard Marlborough, Australia 92pts James Suckling 90pts Wine Advocate $20 Loads of raspberries and cherry flavors on fine tannins lead to a dry finish.

Aluvion 2017 Malbec Rose Single Vineyard $30 Medium-bodied with balanced ripe red fruit flavors and lively acidity.

Gervasi Vineyard = Tuscany in Ohio

Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of enjoying an overnight visit to Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, Ohio. If you are looking to escape to a little piece of Italy for a day or two this is an excellent “No passport required” option. All the buildings and amenities at Gervasi fit

The Crush House

effortlessly into the 55-acre Tuscan-themed property. This premier destination winery

resort boasts fine Italian dining ranging from the “The Bistro” located in the meticulously restored original barn to the trendy “Crush House” with its casual dining choices and views of the winemaking operations. We did our wine tasting at the Crush House where we sat at the bar which afforded us the added entertainment of watching the chefs in the open kitchen work their magic. The small plates we ordered to accompany our flights were excellent.

Gervasi Vineyard makes three very good estate wines from the grapes harvested from the

Tanks in the Crush House

five acres of vineyards located on the property. The other wines they offer are made from grapes sourced mainly from California and the Finger Lakes of New York. We found these wines to be very well-made and enjoyable to drink. The menu also includes craft beer, select imported wines and distilled spirits made on site in “The Still House”. The Still House is a café  with a coffee bar by day then transforms into a cocktail lounge by night with live music, Gervasi signature spirits, draft beer, wine and snack food.

“The Piazza” delivers an alfresco dining venue where guests can savor the relaxing view of the lake. We chose to dine at “The Bistro” which offers patrons a rustic upscale Italian

North Vineyard

dining experience. We ordered Chef Jerry’s Famous Tuscan Beef Short Ribs and paired them with a Barolo from the Italian Piedmont. Everything at The Bistro was upscale, plentiful and presented in a friendly and helpful atmosphere. I found this attention to detail and customer service a constant in all of my interactions at Gervasi. 

We stayed in the newly opened boutique hotel appropriately named “The Casa”. The Casa has 24 individual suites with king-sized beds, gas fireplaces that light with the press of a button, heated floors and a covered patio overlooking the pond and courtyard. A complimentary Italian-style continental breakfast is available each morning and will be delivered to your room. 

“The Villas at Gervasi Vineyard” has been named “Best Wine Country Hotel” by USAToday

The Lake at Gervasi Vineyard

two years running and is a Four Diamond hotel. Each villa has four suites with fireplaces. A complimentary breakfast is also included at the villas. The villas can be reserved as an individual suite or as an entire villa. These accommodations are just a short walk from all that Gervasi has to offer. 

“The Farmhouse” is the property’s original 1830 farmhouse that has been completely restored and modernized. The Farmhouse sleeps 7-8 guests with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large wrap-around porch. 

Gervasi Vineyard is the perfect option for someone looking for a break from the daily routine of life. Whether it is a romantic getaway, girl’s weekend or even a business meeting Gervasi will leave you with “bei ricordi”.  The NFL Football Hall of Fame is only a short 15-minute drive from, Gervasi. One last thing, be sure to pick up a bottle of Gervasi’s very

Gervasi”s Courtyard Fire Pit

own imported Italian olive oil. “Delizios”

Gervasi Vineyard 1700 55th St NE Canton, OH 44721  (330) 497-1000  http://Gervasivineyard.com

Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill

     It was a beautiful evening as we drove down the access road past row after row of

Photo Courtesy: Sand Hill Berries

manicured vines clinging to trellis on our way to Greendance Winery. We were driving through Sand Hill, a fruit and berry farm that is home to Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill. After parking in a nicely mowed field we were drawn to the winery by the music drifting through the trees. 

A crowd was lounging at tables spread throughout the patio area and it was easy to see why there was ongoing construction of an extended seating area to accommodate the ever-growing gatherings. 

Sand Hill was purchased in 1982 by Rick & Susan Lynn and Rob & Amy Schilling. When Rob asked if we would like to tour the facilities we gladly accepted. As we passed through different areas Rob described what function they served and some insight into the plans for the operation.

Tastings are free with the opportunity to do a tasting of all their premium wines for only $5. The Greendance premium wines are made from high quality grapes sourced from a grower in Eastern Pennsylvania. They are so particular about only using the highest quality Pennsylvania grown grapes in their premium wine that when the grapes are ready to pick they will sometimes send their own crews to harvest them.

Sweet wines are always the favorites at Pennsylvania wineries and it is no different at Greendance. Their Isabella is a blush that is on the sweeter side but is light in both body and alcohol. The soft and balanced structure of Isabella makes this easy drinking wine the perfect choice for a relaxing evening on the patio with friends. For the curious Greendance Winery has plenty of wine options for you to explore. The selections run the spectrum from red, white, sweet, dry, Rosé, blush, blends, Port, fruit and sparklers. An interesting new offering at the wine shop is Tango Red, a Greendance favorite, now being sold in a box.

Greendance Winery has a no outside food or alcohol policy but as my Australian friends say “No worries mate”because they have an excellent walk-up restaurant and a separate

Photo Courtesy: Greendance Winery

window that serves ice cream and desserts that are made on-site.

Sand Hill Berries and Greendance The Winery at Sand Hill are at 304 Deer Field Road Mount Pleasant, Pa. For more information please visit their websites.  http://sandhillberries.com  and  http://greendancewinery.com

 

Travel Tips: Finger Lakes Wine Region New York (FLX)

     For any wine lover the chance to take a short getaway to a wine region and enjoy all that it has to offer is something that is impossible to resist. So my question to you is “What are you waiting for?” Here is your opportunity to start planning a fun trip with that someone special or a lively outing with a group of friends and family.

My favorite wine region to visit in the northeastern U.S. is the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York (FLX). It is easily accessible to visitors from both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., as well as the Canadian provinces located just north of the Great Lakes.

The popularity of this area has grown exponentially over the past few years. Even with this growth the region has retained its charm and welcoming spirit. Even with this growth the region has retained its charm and welcoming spirit. While the wineries, vineyards and breweries remain the big draw one must not overlook the spectacular beauty of the eleven  Finger Lakes. Deep and ice-cold these lakes were carved out by glaciers approximately two million years ago. The countryside around the lakes is mostly rural and seems to be an endless session of family farms. Adding to the rustic atmosphere of the area are the numerous small family run businesses that run the gambit from artisanal cheese shops, handmade craft stores and Amish country markets. Always remember to show courtesy when you encounter a horse-drawn buggy on the roadways and please be respectful by not photographing members of the Amish community.

I have included a few suggestions to get you started on your FLX adventure. The real fun begins when you start exploring “Lake Country” because you will be making treasured memories as you discover your own favorite spots along the way. “Cheers and Happy Hunting.”

The two things that are essential for a successful visit to the FLX are a GPS and a plan. Since there are no bridges across any of the Finger Lakes you will be driving around the perimeter stopping at wineries as you pass them. Seneca Lake is 38 miles long, making it a 76 miles round trip. This is why it is advantageous to line up your stops in the order you come to them as you circle the lake. I am only going to say this once “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The Hampton Inn in Penn Yan is a new hotel on the northern shore of Keuka Lake. We have stayed there and I we always ask for a room on a higher floor overlooking the lake. It is a good location to begin your tour of the wineries of Seneca & Keuka Lakes.

The East side of Keuka Lake:

McGregor Vineyards is the home of John McGregor and his FLX cult wine Black Russian Red, the winner of a Grand Silver medal at the Saperavi World Prize in Tbilisi, Georgia. Ravines Wine Cellars is a landmark winery. Weis Vineyards was Limeberry Winery before a former Dr. Frank winemaker bought it and began making European-style wine. Schedule some time to look around Hammondsport ,it’s a nice little town. The scenic views from on top of the hill going up the west side of Keuka Lake are spectacular. Heron Hill Winery and Bully Hill Winery both have fantastic views from their cafés. Dr Frank’s Winery is a must stop when visiting the Finger Lakes. This is where Dr. Konstantin Frank started the Vinifera movement that changed the Finger Lakes wine industry. Dr. Frank’s grandson Fred and great granddaughter Megan run the operation. We had the pleasure to visit with Fred last summer. Fred is a genuinely nice man and if you see him please tell him Rich wpawinepirate said “Hi”.

Starting at Watkin Glen and going up the west side of Seneca Lake on Rte. 14 we have always stopped at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards. I think they are a premier Riesling producer. Fox Run Vineyard and Café is a mainstay on the western shore. Belhurst Castle is a landmark that is also an interesting winery, restaurant and hotel.

Coming back down the East side of Seneca Lake from Geneva. Ventosa Vineyard & Café is a beautiful Italian themed winery and café. 3 Brothers Wineries and Warhorse Brewing has three wineries and a brewery on the same property. Boundary Breaks Winery is a newer winery with good Riesling and nice lake views in the middle of several vineyards. It’s a little out of the way so bring your GPS. Lamoreaux Landing Winery has a great view from its tasting room. Wagner Vineyards and Winery, Brewery, Gift Shop and Restaurant is one of the best known FLX wineries. Standing Stone Winery makes excellent Riesling, Ice Wine and Sapravi. It was purchased by Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards last year and has just released their 2017 vintages. Finger Lakes Distilling produces spirits. The vodka and Grappa are favorites of mine. They also have a large vertical still that is worth seeing. Red Newt Winery is a classic FLX winery and café.

My recommendations:

Whites: Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and Chardonnay

Reds: Cab Franc, Saperavi and Lemberger

Sparklers: Dr. Frank’s Chateau Frank offerings

del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo is an exciting evening after a day of wine tasting.