FMN – April 2022 – Florence Wine Stroll VIP Wines

Although at the time of publishing the Florence Food and Wine Fest will be over, I felt it remiss to not mention my small contribution to the VIP section of the Wine Stroll. If you know me at all, you are aware that I usually have multiple projects going on at the same time, many of which involve out of town work. So, when Tamara Kirvin approached me with the plans of starting the Food and Wine fest back up after the Covid sabbatical, I was skeptical but she has a coercive way about her. One of the main reasons I agreed was due to her resilience and dedication; and how can I refuse selecting, drinking and running my mouth about really good wine.

Even though it may be a bit cliché, I think a sparkling wine emulates no only celebration but a welcoming feel to the beginning of an event. It’s almost as if those bubbles wash away the worries of the outside world and get your Freudian id ready to party. In this instance, I went with a sturdy acid-driven traditional method sparkler but produced outside of the Champagne region, termed Crémant.

The Loire Valley has a particularly good range of these sparkling wines, but it was the red grapes we were after. In the village of Aligny-Cosne, 30 kilometers northeast of Sancerre, we find the “Petit Negotiant”, Lubrun-Foucher family. Practicing the French philosophy of Lutte Raisonnee, their goal remains the production of expressive sparkling at a reasonable price point. There is little denying that they knock this one out of the park.

The next wine selection was for the white wine drinking acidophiles, those who love Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. I went with what I term as a lateral; a wine close to something people are familiar with, but may be a completely unfamiliar variety. The Albariño grape more than fits the bill here and may even become your new favorite white wine. Do Ferreiro, a family-owned winery in the Salnès subzone of Rías Baixas (NW Spain), farms and harvests over 175 small plots by hand. These wines are some of the most terroir-driven expressions of this grape I have ever had the pleasure of sampling. The Gerardo Méndez family dinners are legendary and he claims to always have food with his wine; something you will concur when you tip a glass of this with any and all ocean creature preparations.

Although many have turned their back on, and nose up to, the Chardonnay variety, I feel this is unjustly deserved. This variety exemplifies expression of terroir and the impact of winemaking decisions. There are many styles and choices but, to balance our wine menu, I wanted something that showed the nuances of oak and malolactic fermentation (MLF). Often overdone, MLF and oak expressions in Chardonnay have somehow become negative in the eyes of many, including miscreant “wine experts.” Subtlety is key when implementing these techniques. With the use of oak barrel fermentation, older oak for “resting”, and lees exposure during MLF, these wines can demonstrate interesting layers of complexity.

Switching to red, I was looking for an expressive domestic Pinot Noir that demonstrated the primary fruit aspects of the grape, the expressiveness of place and from a producer that embraced stewardship of the land. A seemingly tall order but over-delivered by the Cristom Estate in the Eola-Amity Hills of Willamette Valley, Oregon. In my humble opinion, good Oregonian Pinot should have a bright acidity (helping with food friendliness), red fruit expressions and a difficult to precisely define earthiness that ties the wine to the dirt it comes from. Embracing organic, biodynamic, agro-ecology, permaculture and integrative pest management, the forward thinking of the Cristom Estate maintains a one-hundred-year plan for the health of their land and its future. A humility in their philosophy, sacred care of their land and producing good juice is a recipe to end up on my wine short list.

As with any event, you have to know your audience. I am aware of the cultish California Cabernet troop and appeased them in a way that they may have not thought possible. Because much of this crowd are avid label watchers, I wanted a California Cabernet that was less overtly familiar but had good pedigree. In addition, a wine that was approachable and not so youthful and tannic that you could use it to make leather.

Three by Wade is not your typical wine situation of a sports star putting their name on a label for marketing purposes. Dwayne Wade, the basketball star, became interested in wine fueled by years of fine dining with Chris Bosh and Lebron James. Bitten by the bug, he sought further wine education and pursued an opportunity to invest in his own brand. Always striving for the best, he approached the famous Jason Pahlmeyer, a definition of Napa pedigree, for the project. This partnership has a promising future, not only due to the winemaking abilities of Pahlmeyer but also the love and respect Wade has for this amazing beverage.

The Wine Stroll VIP was my proverbial baby and I was extremely pleased with the outcome. Although the wines for the event were purposely diverse to appease all different wine palates, I would happily pop and pour any or all for my own pleasure. Unfortunately, you will not truly appreciate the pairings without the wonderful accompanying dishes prepared by the chefs (thank you Cooper) from Victors. I cannot understate how their conceptualization for the menu exceeded my expectations. The entire Food and Wine Fest weekend was the best it has ever been and with Tamara Kirvin at the helm, I’m quite certain it will continue to evolve in the coming years. For those that attended, you saw the potential Florence has when these events are locally supported; it takes a village. As I’ve said many times, you do not have to leave town to enjoy things. You can create the culture you want right here just by supporting events like these.


Wines Served at Florence Wine Stroll VIP:

Cremant de Loire Maison Foucher Cuvee de Roys de Naples Rosé NV     Loire Valley, France

This rosé Traditional Method sparkling is composed of 80% Pinot Noir 20% Cabernet Franc. The nose has red fruit (cherry, strawberry) and tropical citrus (nectarine). The palate is dry with bright acid, barely ripe red fruit, and fine mousse. The palate mirrors the nose with a slightly brambly finish.


Albariño Do Ferreiro 2020                                                                                      Rías Baixas, Galacia, Spain

This 100% vegan Albariño (ahl/bah/REE/nyoh) has nuances of tree fruit (green apple and white peach), lime zest and pith, brined citrus notes and a saline and struck flint minerality. The acidity has a jagged component that is mouthwatering and cries for food. The finish shows a slight bitter citrus pith element with a splash of seafoam.


 Talley Chardonnay 2019              Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, San Luis Obispo County, California

This 100% Chardonnay has primary characteristics of orchard fruit (yellow apple, Asian pear), grilled tropical citrus, and lemon grass.  The meringue (lemon)/ custard and slight butter note is evidence of the malolactic fermentation, without being overdone. Oak influence emerges as toasted nut and baking spices but is layered and not overt or overpowering.


Cristom Pinot Noir 2020                                                                           Willamette Valley, Oregon

This 100% Pinot Noir is classic Willamette Valley. The fresh barely ripe red fruit (cranberry, cherry) emerges first with the earthiness awaking on the midpalate (dried leaves / herbs, brambles) wrapped in the baking spice from French oak and some whole cluster. The acidity is upfront and crunchy and the tannin structure silty and dusty.


Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon 2019            Napa (Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena), California

This Cabernet Sauvignon has the classic Rich dark fruit (blackberry, black cherry, currant, dark plum), pencil graphite, dark floral notes, moist pipe tobacco, baking spice (anise). It diverges by being a bit more elegant versus most California Cabernet with integrated fine grained tightly knit tannins felt on gums (sleek and linear) and well-integrated alcohol, even at 14.9% abv. The 20 months it lived in 75% new French oak has paid off.