Welcome to the Crosby Roamann blog, where we highlight events and news around the winery.
We are very exicted to announce the release of our first set of Pinot Noir wines Produced & Bottled by Sean W. McBride, from four distinct blocks of three different vineyards and three very different appellations. So, without further ado, a little description of the wines that you can now find in our tasting room, select restaurants in New York, Florida, and California, and very shortly from our website.
2016 Gremlin Vineyard Los Carneros Sonoma County Pinot Noir --
Sourced from Lauri and Steve Busch's small vineyard surrounding their property outside the town of Sonoma. The property was purchased in 2014 and the Busch's began the difficult process of rehabilitating these very old vines -- we're not sure what the clones or the rootstocks are, but we sure can tell from the size of their monstrous trunks that the vines have been here longer than anyone else. The vineyard is now maintained sustainably, and we have become the sole producers of their grapes. The grapes were fully destemmed and fermented on native yeasts. We pressed entirely by hand, and racked to 33% new French oak barrels for the completion of malolactic. The wine spent 11 months in barrel prior to racking to steel and bottling unfined and unfiltered. What we love about this wine: its our most voluptuous and flamboyant of the 2016 vintage, with cherry cola and vanilla and a sweet clove note on the finish. Three barrels; 72 cases produced.
2016 Kim Giles Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir --
Kim's vineyard overlooking San Pablo Bay is located southeast of Carneros on the road leading down to American Canyon, sort of in a no-man's land between the better known parts of Napa Valley, which is how we like it. The vineyard is actually just a mile down the road from our winery in the Crusher Wine District of Napa Valley. Kim grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and keeps bees on the property. We picked this vineyard ourselves, by hand, and partially destemmed the fruit to open top barrels for native primary fermentation. We pressed by hand, and racked to one single neutral French barrel for a natural malolactic fermentation. The wine aged for 11 months in barrel prior to racking to steel and bottling unfined and unfiltered. What we love about this wine: it has a crazy roast chicken and rosemary savory flavor to it, unlike anything else we produce. We think its the native yeast. One barrel and a quarter barrel; 34 cases produced.
2016 Filigreen Farm “The China Block” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir --
Sourced from the biodynamically farmed Filigreen Farm on the southwest flank of Anderson Valley, our selection of Pinot Noir is surrounded by the oldest stand of Chinese bamboo in the continental U.S. and is therefore named "The China Block." The 2016 vintage was fermented on native yeasts, with 50% whole clusters, and was pressed entirely by hand in our old hand-crank press. The wine completed malolactic fermentation naturally in barrel, and aged twelve months in French oak barrels, 20% new. We performed one racking to stainless steel for one month prior to bottling, unfined and unfiltered. What we love about this wine: the interplay and balance of blackberry acidity with sour cherry sweetness. Five barrels; 141 cases produced.
2016 Filigreen Farm “Old Saint George” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir --
Also sourced from the biodynamically farmed Filigreen Farm, the “Old Saint George” is selected especially from heritage clone Pinot Noir grafted onto 65-year-old Saint George rootstock. This block ripens more slowly than the rest of the vineyard, and produces wines of greater flavor sophistication and higher acidity. We fermented our one-half ton of the 2016 vintage on naturally occurring yeasts in open top neutral barrels, with 50% stem inclusion, and pressed entirely by hand. The wine aged in a single one-year old French barrel, and was racked to steel prior to bottling unfined, and unfiltered. What we love about this wine: everything, we just wish we had more! Wonderfully balanced with bright dark fruit notes. Our best Pinot of 2016. One barrel; 23 cases produced.
You’re Invited to Crosby Roamann Declassified ... Our ONE DAY ONLY Spring Fête With Bottles Starting At 99¢
This is a family friendly event. The grill will be on, and vinyl will be spinning. Saturday March 24 from 12
Declassified is our opportunity to blow-out the odds and ends that never make it to the bottling line. We have numerous one and two case lots of wine bottled with artsy labels and other one-offs available for one day only. Visit us in the tasting room Saturday March 24 from 11-4 to grab our smallest production wines.
We’ve fallen in love with this recipe we picked up a from a fellow winemaker. It’s a wonderful appetizer to cheer up a Saturday night dinner at home; it’s not hard to make, and it makes you look legit!
Seared Sea Scallops in a bed of Sautéed Leeks and Cauliflower Puree
Cauliflower puree (separate recipe below)
4 leeks, thinly sliced (3-4mm)
9-12 medium sea scallops, patted dry, season with salt
1 oz. domestic farm raised sturgeon caviar
sea salt and pepper to taste
olive oil and butter for sautee
Prepare the cauliflower puree from instructions. Plate in shallow bowl in wide circle.
Thinly slice the leeks and sauté in butter and oil till just crunchy; remove to top cauliflower puree.
Add more butter to pan and sear scallops 1-2 minutes per side. Place 3-4 scallops per plate on top of leeks.
One teaspoon caviar in the middle of the scallops
1 head cauliflower, stem and tough stalks trimmed, florets roughly chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
2-3 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine cauliflower and chicken stock in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until cauliflower is very tender, about 5 minutes. There should only be a very small amount of liquid remaining.
Add the butter, and, using a manual food processor (you can find one here), process until smooth, adding the heavy cream slowly as you go. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
This year, begin with love.
The Crosby Roamance package includes one bottle of the sultry 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon with a beautifully hand-blown heart-shaped glass dish from Simon Pearce. Optional, also included with a blank Valentine’s Day woodcut card. This wine is spectacular, and is sure to make that special someone in your life coo with pleasure; it makes a fine arrow in Cupid’s bow. We have extremely limited quantities as usual … Purchase the Valentine’s Day Special here.
This year, “the impossible does not exist.”
Now that the rains have come to the valley, and an iridescent pale green grass covers the hills, it’s time to focus our attention on the new year. The winery is cold, and the sky is covered with a tumble of low, nebulous clouds. It’s quiet except for the sound of the bull-frog croaking in the rosemary bush outside our front door. How can we share the exuberance we feel about 2018? What we think is that we must make 2018 a year in which “the impossible does not exist.”
There will be a few biggish changes at the winery in 2018. As many of you who know, in 2013 we produced our first Pinot Noir … we did it sort of on a dare and a whim and were surprised and delighted by the results.
That first Pinot Noir became a fast favorite. It was a riper style Pinot, with soft and lush fruit tones and a warm texture, and we were happy to see that people responded to it so immediately. But it wasn’t just the fact that people enjoyed it; there was also so much that went into making that wine that was important and different from what we had done before, which has informed and changed our winemaking in the years since.
Among other things, it was one of the first wines we pressed entirely by hand – an arduous process that we felt had immediate and recognizable benefits – and philosophically, it was a wine that we let go, a wine for which we didn’t have concerns about concentration or depth … just about transparency and umami. It was a turning point.
That’s the backstory. We tinkered with Pinot Noir again in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2016 that we ventured out of Napa Valley for the first time and produced a series of four Pinot Noirs from across California, including two wines from Filigreen Farm (a biodynamically farmed vineyard in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County), one wine from Carneros, Sonoma, and one wine from Kim Giles Vineyard overlooking San Pablo Bay in southern Napa. As these wines blossomed in barrel it became apparent to us that this was really a new venture. Something other.
This new venture is still in development; the wines have been bottled and are waiting for labels. They are delicious and delightfully different expressions of Pinot Noir, and we are very excited to share them with you – we just don’t know how to yet, or what to call them.
The more things change …
Which brings us back to our chilly winery and our Cabernet Sauvignon. Because in this whole process, as we thought more and more about Pinot Noir, from idiosyncratic places like Filigreen Farm and Kim Giles Vineyard, we came to understand Cabernet Sauvignon in a deeply new way. And not to make too fine a point about it, one might say that Crosby Roamann had “come out of itself” … that only in struggling to understand the other, does one come to recognize oneself. Because after 2013 – when we finally came to see Crosby Roamann through the lens of a Pinot Noir that we produced reluctantly – everything changed.
We started to experiment with native fermentations in each wine. We produced skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. We fermented Pinot Noir in new, open-top barrels. We experimented. With the Cabernet Sauvignon, we adopted a number of new techniques … closed-top barrel fermentation with daily rotations of the barrels, hand pressing of the must, extended maturation on the lees, with a total elevage of 30 months in all new French oak barrels. We forgot about the wines, only to rediscover them later. We had some issues. We learned some valuable lessons.
If you’ve been to the winery and talked to Sean, you know how passionate he is about Cabernet Sauvignon and how special this grape and these wines are to him. Our focus at Crosby Roamann is producing the single finest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that we can. It is not hyperbole when we say the wines we are releasing today and over the next couple years are the best wines we have ever produced, and we are terribly excited to share them with you. They encompasses the very best of what Napa Valley is – rich, concentrated, and complex.
Valentine’s Day Special 2018
One bottle 2013 Cabernet Sauvignonwith a beautifully hand-blown heart-shaped glass dish from Simon Pearce. A blank Valentine’s Day woodcut card is included (optional). Shipping included.
Which brings us full circle. As in previous years, we are offering a special Valentine’s Day package – a single bottle of our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford, Napa Valley, with a beautifully hand-blown heart-shaped dish from Simon Pearce. This wine is spectacular, and is sure to make that special someone in your life coowith pleasure.
With love from Napa Valley,
Juliana & Sean
Love is a spell that binds the past to the present; that lays open the future … “an infinity of presents.” *
We want to share the magic we feel this time of year, when the vineyards are so cold you can feel the electricity of it, with hills of leaves blown haphazardly along the rows of vines and down the quiet streets of our chilly, little town. We want to share the magic we feel when we awake to a bright orange sun rising over a landscape of barren trees and wonder how the past can feel so heartbreakingly near.
This holiday season we are so thrilled to share with you a very limited selection from our cellar – the Cabernet Collection – a small gift box containing one bottle each of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, Rutherford, and our essential blend of the two in Crosby’s Reserve. This $270 package is being offered for $200, shipping included. Or upgrade your order to Magnums, $400 (extremely limited) or to six bottles in the original wood case ($400). We only have a very small number of these gift packs remaining, and they will sell out quickly. Please order below by Monday December 11.
As Thanksgiving is approaching, we find ourselves in a contemplative and particularly grateful kind of mood, so while we usually illustrate news and goings on around our valley in the world of wine, like our recent posts on harvest and the wine country fires, this month we thought we would step out of that mold and discuss some other topics. We were inspired in this endeavor by a particularly fun blog post from Sam Sifton at the New York Times.
Naturally Thanksgiving affords us a time to reflect, and to count our blessings. As the holiday falls right around the birth of our daughters, we are naturally thankful for them, for the myriad ways they’ve changed our lives for the better, for the ineffable joy they give us. We are also in eternal gratitude for the bounty of new experiences we share together and for the journey our life is taking together. It’s hard work, all of it, but these moments together to stop, reflect, share a meal and a good bottle of wine, make it all worth it, no matter where we are.
As Audrey would put it, “I realize that only two months ago my home, Sonoma, was in flames. I also realize how lucky I am to have such amazing family to go to when this happened, and to be with, and snuggle with every day of those fires. I am so grateful to be able to spend that time with them, and also be able to go back to an unharmed home.”
We are also posting our Thanksgiving recipes for this year – not the traditional roast turkey with dressings, but, seeing as how we are going to be overseas for the holiday and want to tone down the kitchen time – something a little bit more relaxed and easier to cook. You can find the recipe for our Turkey Pot Pie, below.
And seeing as how each of us is going to be lazing on the beach this Thanksgiving weekend, we want to share our beach reading for the weekend. Audrey and Scarlett are newly obsessed with the Rick Riordan series … it’s something about a boy who finds out he’s the demigod offspring of Poseidon – here is the link to Amazon to find The Lightning Thief. Juliana is suggesting a trio of books, including Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout, and Sean, as usual, is bumbling through Plato’s Complete Works, although no one, including him, can figure out why.
Finally, we wanted to share our harvest mix tape with you … it’s a bit of mishmash this year, including some new and some old from all our recent favorites. You can email us to request a free copy of the CD, if you’re a trilobite like Sean, or download the Spotify tracklist here.
Wishing you and your families the best this Thanksgiving season!
With love from Napa Valley,
Audrey & Scarlett & Juliana & Sean
Turkey Pot Pie
Adapted from our kitchen staple (the book that sits out on the kitchen counter more than any other) Bride & Groom, First and Forever Cookbook, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford.
- Some olive oil, a tablespoon of unsalted butter
- A yellow onion, chopped kind of finely
- Some garlic, chopped
- A carrot, chopped into half inch squares
- Some fresh thyme, or dried thyme
- Some salt and pepper
- A little white wine (optional, or not)
- A dash of flour (also optional)
- 1 jar Alfredo sauce, like Classico
- About three cups a purchased roast chicken, shredded
- A package of frozen peas
- Frozen pie crust, defrosted
- An egg yolk, beaten
Saute the onion, garlic, and carrot in olive oil and butter. Season with salt and a dash of pepper, add the thyme. Add the white wine and scoop up the brown bits on the pan. Add the flour, and blend. Set aside and let this cool briefly. This whole process takes about 10 minutes.
Add the Alfredo sauce to the mixture, and mix in the shredded chicken and frozen peas. Blend this all together, and crack a bit of pepper into it. Scoop the mixture into four 1½-cup ramekins (French onion bowls also work well, if you have those but no ramekins).
Roll out the pie crust and put a ramekin on it. Cut a wide circle around the ramekin – this is the size of the pie crust topping that you need for each bowl, so repeat four times. Cover the ramekins with the pie crust and pinch down the edges.
At this point, you’re pretty much all set, but here’s the really fun part, especially for kids – take the remaining pie crust and cut out the first initial of your guests’s names. This initial should be gently placed on top of each ramekin. Use a pastry brush to coat the pie crust with beaten egg yolk and glue the initials down.
Place the pot pies on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; they should be golden brown, if not, keep baking!
We are deeply grateful for all of your support in the past month and incredibly indebted to the thousands of first responders that fought the blazes surrounding our little towns. While we escaped the worst of the damage, it was a harrowing two weeks. We are so happy to be back at the winery and returning to a normal routine.
The Final Days of Harvest
Now that we reflect on the halcyon final days of harvest, we want to mention first and foremost that all of our fruit was harvested and processed before the fires. All of it. We picked our final lot of Pinot Noir from the old vine block at Filigreen Farm in Anderson Valley on Saturday morning, September 30. We harvested Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga on the evening of October 4; Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon at dawn the morning of Saturday, October 7th, and the following day, Sunday the 8th, we harvested Harmony School Vineyard. See here for a round up on our Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Merlot.
The half-ton block of Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga, we crushed and destemmed into open top barrels for fermentation. This small lot will yield about just one barrel of finished wine. The Oak Knoll District fruit was crushed and destemmed to stainless steel; Harmony School into new French oak barrels. Both lots will ferment and macerate until the beginning-to-middle of December.
We left the winery that last Sunday night of harvest on October 8th in a joyous mood. We went home with bags of In-N-Out burgers and aged bottles of Bordeaux. We toasted to another wonderful growing season, with long Spring storms, late budbreak, steady ripening through the end of the summer. We recounted the first weekend of September when the temperature reached 110F for nearly 36 daylight hours. The flavors this year have been some of the most complex in our experience – a mixed bag of dark cocoa and coffee, black pepper and prune. We were elated.
The fires erupted later that night.
Which brings us to the second thing worth mentioning — the truly best thing you could do to show your support now is to return to Napa Valley! We miss you! It is in fact a perfect time to visit. As these late Indian summer days give way to ever cooler nights, with crisp stars twinkling above the valley and the restaurants open for business, nothing could be more fun than toasting to the survival and resilience of wine country. Drive up from San Francisco, drive in from Sacramento, drive down from Portland … fly in from around the world. The winery is open! Schedule an appointment here!
Shipping News & Memberships
For those of you who purchased wines over the summer, your shipments will arrive next week. Tracking information will follow separately, or has already arrived. Member shipments will be charged and shipped in the following two weeks. Our holiday selection this year is the 2012 Crosby’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. You can purchase this wine here.
Crosby’s Reserve is a barrel selection of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%) and Merlot (10%) aged for thirty months in all new French oak. The wine displays a depth of complexity, purity of fruit and concentration, with wholly absorbing and intriguing flavors of boysenberry, vanilla, milk chocolate, and cherry cola, with sweet tannins that finish on notes of ripe raspberry and a touch of heat. 104 cases produced.
With love and gratitude from Napa Valley –
Juliana & Sean
In the past few weeks harvest has gotten crazy! We began picking in August this year (see the blog post), and by today’s writing (September 13th), we have brought in Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Pinot Noir, Calistoga dry-farmed Merlot, and within the next 4 days we’ll be bringing in Pinot Noir from Filigreen Farm in Anderson Valley, and our favorite Chardonnay from the Loma Blanca Vineyard in Carneros. To say we’ve been busy wouldn’t really begin to explain….early morning picks, entire days de-stemming and racking into barrels or tanks, whole days hand-pressing in the basket press, twice-daily pump overs (on the Merlot), and daily lab work. And of course, tastings!
Gremlin Vineyard Pinot Noir was pressed by hand in two lots this week after spending 17 days in the concrete egg. We’re jazzed with how good this tastes already – it feels to us like a blend of our 2013 and 2014 Pinot Noirs … it has beautiful round fruit reminiscent of the 2013, but also a really welcome kick of acidity, like the 2014. It’s now going to rest in a selection of new and neutral French oak barrels for about a year. We also produced about 100 cases of some kick-ass Rosé from this vineyard for next summer, instead of our typical 25 or 30 cases.
Pressed the day it came in, the Sauvignon Blanc from Rutherford is tasting delicious already. We fermented it in some new and some used French and American oak barrels, and it’s been resting in a selection of 33% new and 64% neutral French oak since the completion of priumary. It will continue to mature for the next 8 months. Read more about that here.
Our Napa Valley Pinot Noir from the Kim Giles Vineyard came in on September 2nd, and after partially de-stemming the fruit, we racked to barrels for fermentation. The wine is now dry, and we’ll be pressing this tomorrow (!) If you’ve been in the winery recently, we’ve lifted the heads off these barrels for you to smell, or even punch down….the aromas are savory – rosemary, thyme, and gamey – intensely delicious.
And, our Calistoga dry-farmed Merlot…oh my goodness. While this one surprised us immensely with how quickly it ripened and developed on the vine, the way it’s tasting in tank….soft, velvety, smooth…just wow. It’ll stay in tank for another good month, before pressing.
Filigreen Farm’s biodymanic Pinot Noir comes in on Friday, and our Loma Blanc vineyard Carneros Chardonnay on Sunday, along with the dry-farmed Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon! For those picks we’ll have lots of friends and family to help and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you in advance…
After that we’ll be waiting on two remaining Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards to come in, and of course lots of fermentations to watch and fret over. Thankfully temperatures have leveled off a bit from the blistering 3-digits we were seeing…it’ll give the grapes some more time to fully develop those mature and complete flavors we love in our signature wine.
We hope everyone’s autumn is starting out well. If you live in any of the areas affected by the natural disasters that mother nature has thrown our way, our hearts and thoughts are with you. We are raising our glasses to you and your spirits.
Member shipments will be going out by early October, so there’s still time to sign upif you’d like an early gift to yourself this year.
Juliana & Sean
There is a saying in France that when the growing season starts early, harvest will be late, and when it starts late, harvest will be early. This year here in Napa/Sonoma it has certainly come true! It is not yet September, and instead of taking the next two weeks to start to think about bringing fruit in and what kinds of wines we are going to make (should be shepherd them this way or that?) we’ve already brought in grapes from two vineyards, with a third coming in this Friday, September 1st.
It is the earliest harvest on record for us. It started on Saturday August 26th, with Pinot Noir from Gremlin Vineyard in Sonoma. This is our second year working with Steve and Laura Busch on Hyde Road and we’re very exicted to be building a long term program from this vineyard. The maturity and flavor of the grapes surprised us when we took our first sample in the middle of the month, so we pulled the trigger on picking as soon as we could. At 5am on Saturday our whole family was up and by 6 we were all warmly dressed in the vineyard — Audrey and Scarlett performing the difficult tasks of “Chief Grape Tester” — Sean picking leaves from bins and Juliana helping with harvest. By nine that night we had crushed the fruit into our concrete tank.
Today, August 30th our Sauvignon Blanc came in from Rutherford. After whole cluster pressing, the wine will ferment and age in one-third new wood, one-third used, and the rest in stainless steel … these magic proportions are how we fermented and aged our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, which tastes so amazing even now we are still pouring it in the tasting room to rave reviews.
We are in such a different place this year than last. After the winter rains and cool spring and lazy start to the growing season, the clusters of fruit coming in are heavier, rounder, with better acidity and balance — which is exactly what we were hoping for. While we may ultimately have slightly less concentration in these wines, we will have much better balance and complexity of flavor. It reminds us of wines we tasted from 2005 and 2007, and looks very similar to 2012 — our last big harvest after a wet winter.
The temperature is expected to rise in the next two weeks, with triple digits on thew way. This means it’s all going to be coming in faster than ever! The next vineyard up is Kim Giles Pinot Noir from the San Pablo Bay side of southern Napa Valley.
So much seems to be going on in the world, it’s hard to keep our eyes on the details sometimes, but keeping our elbows buried in the fermenting musts and delicious aromas of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc helps keep us grounded. Our hearts go out to everyone in Texas and Louisiana — we promise to hold on to some of this delicious wine for when you’re ready to toast to the new season. We’ll continue to update you on our progress with Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon as harvest rolls on. We are so excited about what we are doing this year — about the vineyards and growers we are working with — about the new tanks and toys we have in the winery — and some big changes at the winery that we will be telling you more about soon! Stop by anytime for a tour and tasting: to make an appointment, go here. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you might even get the chance to punch down some Pinot!
Juliana & Sean
Book your seats now for The Triple Crown — An Urban and Intimate Wine & Food Tasting Experience in the Napa Crusher District — this Sunday August 13, 2017. Two seats left!
I first went to Italy in the middle of my awakening as a young adult, not so completely sure of myself anymore and not so insecure either. A little rebellious at that time. It was a road trip with my Hungarian cousins, whom I spent time with every summer of my childhood, and who I knew as intimately in many ways as my own family outside Chicago, where I grew-up. Never having left land-locked Hungary before, they were nervous about meeting people who they couldn’t communicate with, and about exploring a new city, like Florence, and about being tasked by my father with keeping me safe. One of the things I remember most about that trip was when I walked into the ocean with them on the Adriatic Coast for their very first time. That first night in Tuscany, we camped out at the top of the hill of Poggio Magherini overlooking the medieval city of Florence. I fell in love immediately with this place, with the history, the art, the river, the green rolling hills, and the open friendly Italian faces.
In college, I chose to study Italian and ended up double majoring in it, and spending my junior year abroad at the University of Bologna. This was a transformative and challenging year … I learned a lot of humility in the way everyone who learns a new language must. I learned how to cook. I learned really how to cohabit. I learned how to acclimate to a new culture, and eventually to immerse myself in it. I learned that I could not drive a moped, but was more than happy to be a passenger. It was a year of sensory exploration, and along the way I learned a little about the marriage of food, wine, and experience. When the year ended, I didn’t want to go home.
Now, these many years later, I am in Italy again, together with my husband and children here for the first time. We are renting a small villa in a breathtakingly beautiful area outside the town of Greve-in-Chianti, overlooking a little valley surrounded by small vineyards and olive orchards. My Italian is coming back slowly. I wake up each morning feeling deeply happy — who couldn’t with this view of rolling vineyards and olive orchards interspersed among villas and forest — and we set out to explore Italy again; for me, this time from a much different perspective and place in my life.
The Tuscan Experience—
Tuscany is a world of bright golden hues and deep forest green. The scent of lavender floats in the air. It is hill country, and here and there the forest has been cleared from the hillsides to grow vines – predominantly Sangiovese in Tuscany – and groves of olive trees. We’re reminded of the fact that almost all of the wineries here produce olive oil in addition to wine, and they also tend to produce a number of different wines – from everyday whites and reds for those afternoon meals, to hearty red wines.
For me, being here almost feels like a religious experience. It starts with the long journey from Rome, the slim roads and crazy drivers (yes, Italians drive insane!) the perfectly rounded hills flanked by the more austere Appennine Mountains and the cypress trees that dot the landscape. Then there is the warmth and openness of the Italian people you meet … and of course the wines, the olives and cheese, the late sunsets and warm nights … but the experience that makes the strongest impression on me is the light. The quality of light here in the summer is uniquely Tuscan. It’s a golden light that makes every green hillside, every stucco villa seem to glow deeper and richer in hue.
Here’s a sensory memory that will stay with me: as we’re driving from Greve-in-Chianti around the countryside outside Siena, and near Montalcino, there are fields and fields of sunflowers that are blooming all over the valley floor, and only in bloom this one month. Our driver for the day explains that the sunflowers are harvested for their oil, in which the locally grown, stuffed zucchini flowers that we love so much are fried. All these huge sunflowers turning to face the morning sun — literally translated, “girasole.” … this is an image that will live with me even after I return home.
In every town we visit, from San Gimignano, to Siena, to Montalcino, Greve, Radda-in-Chianti; there are wonderful little wine shops. We particularly enjoy the little shop in the main piazza of Greve-in-Chianti — La Bottega del Chianti Classico — and in San Gimignano we pick up a couple bottles at Enoteca Antica Latteria. Of the white wines, Vernaccia from San Gimignano is our favorite so far this trip. It has a floral aroma and a ripe stone fruited quality on the palate but is delightfully balanced with notes of lemon meringue. We also particularly enjoy a Rose from the historied producer Biondi Santi in Montalcino, purchased from the Enoteca in Greve. These shops have an extensive collection of local wines in every price point and many vintages, with decent pricing (additionally they offer reasonable shipping to the states.)
But we also choose a day to go wine tasting. The majority of the red wines in Tuscany, from Montalcino to Florence, are produced from the Sangiovese grape varietal. These best of these are produced from the hillsides surrounding Montalcino, and are designated Brunello di Montalcino. The Brunello is a medium to medium-heavy bodied red wine with rich, round, and full tannins. A reserve Brunello is typically aged in French oak barrels and can have a distinctly plummy character. Many wineries also produce a Rosso di Montalcino, which tends to be lighter in body and style, as the aging process is much shorter. The Rosso wines are meant to be fresh and come to market sooner. There is also a large and growing segment of the market here that produces Indicazione Geografica Tipica wines, or “IGT” wines, from grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, and in fact, at each of the producers we visit they offer at least one IGT wine. Here are our favorites …
Casanova di Neri—After a brief tour of the property surrounding the tasting room and crush pad, our experience ended with a seated tasting through a secret door off a bookcase in the main tasting lobby, in a gorgeous room with five wines. The tasting was accompanied by a plate of bread, olive oil from the estate, and the cheese of the region, Pecorino, along with a delicious fig jam. 100 euros/person. Our favorites of these wines are the 2015 Rosso and the 2012 “Tenuta Nuova” Brunello di Montalcino. The IGT designate 2015 PietradOnice IGT Toscana from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was also delightful.
Podere Le Ripi—Our tour started at the tasting room, and included a walk through the vineyards and then down to the winery. We had a lovely, young host. The winery building is a honeycomb shaped round building that leads underground. The wines are produced in a modern fashion while adhering to traditional requirements. We had a small “light” lunch at the tasting room (which consisted of essentially three courses) while we tasted through the four wines poured for us. The Brunellos were our favorite wines. 40 euros/person included the lunch and wines.
Uccelleria—Our tour began outside with short description of the history of the property, then inside to the fermentation room. Down to barrel room for a long barrel tasting, from both 2015 and 2016 from French oak as well as Slovenian oak tanks. I tasted a lot of iodine and black-cherry, strong wet beef notes, blood, plum, and leather. This experience was quite special. Ucceliera is innovative. We tasted a wine produced in a French oak barrel from Sylvain that was completely un-toasted, allowing for a very true expression of the wine. It was a group experience, with two other couples, but very engaging and informative. 15 euros/person for tour and tasting, which included olive oil produced from the estate.
Colle Beretto—A thoroughly engaging and lasting tasting with the winemaker, Bernardo Bianchi. It’s a beautiful winery newly renovated by the owner Roberto Cavalli. We recommend a trip to taste with Mr. Bianchi if at all possible. In addition to the Chianti Classicos produced, the estate grows Merlot and Pinot Noir as well. The Pinot was actually one of our favorite wines. Our tour and tasting included a small plate of pecorino cheeses, with olive oil from the estate.
What We Learned—
Take wine less seriously. As wine truly becomes the alcoholic beverage of choice for most Americans, having wine on the table becomes more of what is has been for Italians for centuries. That is to say, a part of the meal, and more a part of everyday experience. Sometimes people in the US feel intimidated by wine, like they might not have the right descriptors, or be qualified to talk about what they like or don’t like. There is none of that in Italy. People just pick what they like and leave a lot of the wine-talk out if the experience. Often this is about price and favoring local producers, or putting the Rosso on the table every day, and saving the Brunello for Sunday. For us as small producers who can sometimes take what we do a little too seriously, we’re embracing this approach. Explore wine; find what you like. At the end of the day, that’s what matters to us as well.
We had a variety of different tasting experiences during our travels. We’ve written about a few, but the one that most resonated with us was not the fanciest or most expensive winery. It was the smallest winery we visited, the one that took the time to taste in their cellars with us, to taste out of barrels and tanks, that was open and friendly, rather than intimidating. The winery that was honest, as well as innovative. And that winery was for both of us one called Uccelliera. When someone truly takes the time get to know you, to really talk about the winery, the history, the styles of wines they produce and why — in an open and almost familial way – those are the experiences that are going to stay with you and make you a fond and loyal customer for years to come.
And this is very much the experience we hope and strive to provide at Crosby Roamann. We’ve tried to bring back a little of that Tuscan magic to Napa Valley. We hope you’ll take the time to come share it with us!
Arrivederci. A la prossima! Enjoy the rest of the summer.
Juliana & Sean