Cal-Ital At The Golden Nugget

This past Saturday I took a road trip to Atlantic City to attend the Cal-Ital wine event which was billed as “A Celebration of California and Italian wine”. The event was held at the Golden Nugget Casino on the marina. The event featured Italian wine producers and California wine producers with an Italian background as well as wine produced from Italian varietals.

The Golden Nugget casino was formally the Trump Marina and had gone through extensive renovation and it shows. The casino has that spanking brand new look and not the frayed around the edges look like some of the casinos on the boardwalk have. They held the event in the “Grand Room” which was the huge event space with lots of chandeliers and red tones.  I had an enjoyable evening, they poured enough decent juice to make the night interesting, and of course, the models they hired as pourers didn’t hurt. This event was much better than the food and wine fest that AC had a few weeks ago. That event had an ocean of mediocre wines.

The Italian producers I sampled were: Cerreto, Michele Chiarlo, Tommasi, Marcarini, Banfi, Frescobaldi, Lungarotti, Antinori, Castello di Querceto, and Terre di Talaimo.

The California producers I sampled were: Sbragia, Pellegrini, Levendi, Cosentino, Seghesio, Schafer, Altamura, Louis Martini, Flora Springs, Pedroncelli, Sebastiani, Ferrari Carano, Trinchero, and Montevina.

The 2009 Sbragia “Home Ranch” Merlot was medium red with a toasty dark chocolate coverd cherry nose with great balance and a long finish.

Levendi from Napa was a winery I haven’t tried before.  Their 2007 “Symphony” Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) was medium red with a dried herb bouquet on the nose, tight concentrated fruit with a medium to long finish. The 2006 “Sweetwater Ranch” single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) had an interesting nose of tar and violets with tight and very concentrated fruit with a firm but balanced long finish. Very tasty.

The 2009 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot was dark red with a nose of dark chocolate and bluberries, chewy dense fruit with a long finish.

The 2008 Altamura Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was another Cali wine with a dark color with a nose of black plums, chewy fruit and a long finish.

The Louis Martini 2008 Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon had a brambly, dried rosemary nose and juicy, mouth puckering tannins and acids on the finish.

From Trinchero Vineyards the 2008 “Chicken Ranch” Merlot was medium dark with a dusty nose with chewy, toasty fruit on the palate. The 2008 “Central Park West” Cabernet Sauvignon  had a nose of spicy plums and oak with tightly wound fruit of dark berries and oak and firm acids on the finish.

From the Italians I enjoyed Frescobaldi’s Super Tuscan the 2004 Luce (Sangiovese, Merlot). Medium red, nose of tar and violets, chewy earth on the long finish.

The Ceretto 2007 Barolo Zonchero had an atypical nose of black cherry with the fruit on the light side and chewy tannins on the finish.

Tomassi’s 2007 Amarone was a delicious wine, medium dark, the nose was closed but had some dark berry flavors peeking through, concentrated fruit with bright red cherry on the finish. Not at all like the typical jammy Amarone.

The 2009 Peppoli Chianti Classico from Antinori had what I thought a dark color for a Chianti with spicy chocolate on the nose with bright fruit and crisp acids on the finish.

The 2008 Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva was medium red with earth on the nose with good fruit followed by mouth puckering tannins on the finish.


Seneca Lake West Side

After the visit to Zugibe Vineyards I continued on wine road over the top of the lake to the west side and continued south toward Watkins Glen. The wineries I visited on the west side of the lake included White Springs Winery, Monello Vineyards, Anthony Road Wine Company, Magnus Ridge and Shaw Vineyards.

First stop was White Springs Winery.  I had the Pinot Gris 36 NV. Aged in oak for a long 36 months, on my notes I had notes of “pixie stix” on the dry finish, very unusual. The Riesling 101 NV (from the first 101 gallons of the pressed grapes) had a pleasant floral nose with orange peel and nice mouth puckering acids on the finish.  The 2010 Gewürztraminer was dry and had the classic nose of lychee and grapefruit peel with nice balance and a long finish .



At Anthony Road Wine Co., the PN II NV is a red made from the second sorting of grapes and was light red with a nose of warm stewed strawberries with a light finish that  I thought could have used a bit of a chill. The Devonian Red NV is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger and was bright red with crisp, sour cherry fruit. The 2010 Pinot Noir was light in color with a nose of smoky old leather.

At Shaw Vineyards they had some pretty cool artwork hanging around the tasting barn. I had the pleasure of chatting with owner/winemaker Mr. Steve Shaw while I sampled his wines. One of the unique things about this winery is that Mr. Shaw does not release his wines immediately but holds them  back (including the whites) for some time before making them available. The 2006 Chardonnay aged in steel had a nose of forest floor with a dry finish of dusty, aged cheese. It was better than it sounds. His 2005 Chardonnay was aged for 24 months in oak and had an interesting nose of bubble gum with a toasty finish.  The 2009 Rose is blend of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Grigio and  had some salinity on the nose with a touch of RS on the finish. The  2006 Cabernet Franc had tight fruit with some stemmines and good balance on the finish.  The best wine of the day in my opinion was the 2007 Pinot Noir.  A nose of crushed blackcherry and earth with silky, mouth filling fruit with smoky and earthy notes on the long finish. I picked up a couple of bottles for the wine cave back home.

Seneca Lake Wine Tour East Side

This past Wednesday I decide to take a road trip to the Finger Lakes wine country. I had been to Seneca Lake a couple of years ago to visit the wineries and decided to visit the lake again this time. I made my home base the town of Watkins Glen which sits on the southern tip of the lake.

Seneca Lake is the deepest of the Finger Lakes (600+ ft) and has the most wineries and tasting rooms (50+). The Finger Lakes have been voted as some of the most beautiful wine country in the world, I haven’t been all of the wine country in the world but it is very scenic especially on the east side of the lake where the road that takes you to the wineries is on a ridge and the vineyards slope down to the lake. The tasting rooms on the east side of the road all have an outdoor terrace where you can sit with a glass in your hand and take in the gorgeous view of the vines and the lake.

Seneca Lake is big, it took me six hours to circumnavigate the wine trail starting from Watkins Glen working my way counter-clockwise. The wineries I visited on the East side of the lake included  Damiani, Red Newt Cellars, Sheldrake Point, Leidenfrost, Kings Garden Vineyard and Zugibe Vineyards.

My first stop was at Damiani. When I was last here a couple of years ago their tasting room was a small shack by the side of the road since then they have since opened a much larger tasting room. I remember being impressed with their Pinot Noir. This time around I tried the 2010 “Sunrise Hill” Pinot Noir, light red with a nose of black pepper and black cherry, tight with and earthy and smoky finish. The 2010 Syrah “Sawmill Creek” was medium red with a sour cherry nose, tight fruit with big tannins and nice acidity on the finish.

At Red Newt Cellars the 2011 Dry Riesling (1.3RS)  was a tasty wine with a nose of sweet peaches and enough acidity to balance the sweetness to make this a very nice, easy drinking wine for a warm day.  The 2007 Pinot Gris “Curry Creek Vineyards” had a nose of slate and dusty mushrooms with grapefruit flavors on the finish. The 2007 Gewürztraminer “Curry Creek Vineyards”  had an oily nose of petroleum and lycee with crisp acids on the very dry finish. The 2008 Gewürztraminer “Curry Creek Vineyard” was from an obviously different vintage. On my notes I had  a nose of “stinky wildflowers” with sweeter fruit than the ’07 with crisp acids on the stinky finish.

At Sheldrake Point I  enjoyed the 2011 Riesling (.9RS) with a nose of honeydew melon and peaches with melon flavors on the fruit and nice acidity on the finish.

The last stop on the northeast side of the lake was at Zugibe Vineyards. The brother of the wine maker poured while we had a very nice chat about  local wines and various other matters. He poured the only Gruner Veltner (2010) that I sample this day as well as a very tasty Riesling (2010) which was very dry with lemony notes and great mouth-watering acids on the finish. Would have loved a dozen raw oysters to go with that glass. I tried the only Cabernet Sauvignon of the day, the (2008) which was dark with a nose of sweet black cherry, firm fruit with excellent balance on the finish.