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Showing posts from 2018

A Tour and a Dinner Tasting at Mazzetti d’Altavilla

With tours, tastings, a coffee shop, full restaurant, and a store, Mazzetti d’Altavilla is the most tourist friendly Grappa distillery that we visited. This family business has everything that a Grappa lover could want.

Elisa Belvedere Mazzetti met our group and offered us coffee in the coffee shop before we started our tour. She then led our group outside to what they refer to as Pomace Square where the deliveries of marc or pomace arrive from the wineries and are conserved in tubular containers that look like well fed giant white snakes. Inside of these tubes, the pomace is temporarily preserved in a vacuum to protect the freshness.

Next, we went into the distillery where the wine grape pomace begins its journey to become Grappa. Mazzetti d’Altavilla Distillery uses the discontinuous method which involves distilling in pot stills. They operate from September to January and are sustainable using solar energy for fuel. Grappa meant to remain clear and young will rest in stainless steel …

Porto Tonico

This was my first real introduction to this cocktail. Although I had heard about it throughout my wine education, I had never actually had one.
  This Porto Tonico was enjoyed by me on the first night that I stayed in Porto on a Dâo Wine Media Tour. A friend and I hit the streets to see the city at night and stopped into Nogueira's for some refreshment. The food looked fantastic though we had already eaten, I did make note of the restaurant for a future trip.
  The drink is essentially like a gin and tonic but substitutes white Port for the gin with a ratio of 1 part Porto Branco to 2 parts tonic over ice and then garnished with an orange slice or twist and some mint.   Very refreshing!

Faled Distilleries and Spirito Verdiano

Next stop on the Grappa tour was in Parma at Faled Distilleries. Faled has been distilling spirits from local grapes Malvasia, Lambrusco, Fortana, Barbera, and Bonarda since 1945. Success in the region led the company to invest both in improving the plant, purchasing wooden barrels, and buying a 15th century castle to age their Grappa. 

They spent several decades expanding their market and their portfolio of products. In addition to Grappa, Faled makes brandy and liquor infusions including Nocino a nut flavored liqueur, Bargnolino which is berry flavored and Limoncino, a lemon flavored spirit. In the new millennium, they started a new brand of premium Grappa called Spirito Verdiano. The Spirito Verdiano line was created to showcase the grapes that have been a part of the region's wine making since ancient times. 
Giuseppe Scaltriti, Director of Communications, led us on the tour of the distillery followed by a tour of the Castle Roccabianca. The castle was originally started in 145…

A Grappa Tasting at Castello Banfi

I couldn't have been more delighted that the Grappa tour would take me back to Castello Banfi. I stayed at the castle with my daughter back in the spring of 2015 when we did a mother/daughter trip through Europe following her graduation from college.

Castello Banfi is located between the Orcia and Ombrone rivers in the southern part of Montalcino in Tuscany. All of the pomace used in the production of the four Grappas comes from wines made from grapes in the vineyards surrounding the castle. After a vineyard tour and wine tasting at the winery, our group headed back to the on-site restaurant for lunch followed by a Grappa tasting.

Banfi produces four different Grappas, one is made from a blend of grapes and the other three are made from Brunello di Montalcino, a type of Sangiovese and the most important grape variety in the region.

The Tasting:
All of these Grappas were double distilled in a continuous still and have 45% ABV.

Grappa del Castello - Made from a blend of different gr…

Grappa - An Educational Tour at Bonollo Distillery

The first stop on the Grappa tour involved getting a lesson in how Grappa is made at the Bonollo Distillery located in Torrita di Siena in the heart of Tuscany. Bonollo owns five distilleries located throughout Italy that distill 200,000 hectoliters of alcohol per year which is equal to 50 million bottles. Grappa is an alcoholic beverage of Italian origin and it is their most important product. They also produce acquavitae and brandy.

We arrived just as a truckload of pomace which is also called marc arrived at the plant. Pomace is the used grape skin and seeds leftover after winemaking. Our tour was taking place during the wine grape harvest so the distillery was operating in full swing. The distillation season is only about three months long. In addition to alcohol production,  they also collect the grape seeds during the production process to make grape seed oil, used both for cooking and in the cosmetics industry.

The pomace must come from Italy, grapes from wine regions in other …

Hello Grappa!

I went on a Grappa media tour in October. Before going, I really did not know much about Grappa, other than that it fell in the same category as Brandy. It had been briefly discussed years ago when I was taking wine certification classes though I don't remember actually tasting any at that time.

Then, a few years ago, a wine producer brought some to Houston when they did an event and did I taste one at that time, I was surprised by it. It wasn't the "firewater" that I had expected, it was a far smoother drink and a nice way to end a heavy lunch. Unfortunately, in the Houston area at that time, I was not finding Grappa on the after dinner drinks list at my favorite restaurants so I was not able to explore it more.

Almost 3 years after that positive experience, I found myself on a Grappa trail in Italy eager to learn more. The trip started with a rooftop party in Rome. Our group had the opportunity to meet some producers, taste an array of Grappa, and most importantly …

Subtle Start - Smooth Finish

As originally seen in the December 2018 issue of Galveston Monthly magazine

Celebrate Thanksgiving with the Wines of Cambria

As seen in the November issue of Galveston Monthly magazine

A Noble Taste - Crown Royal Whisky

I met Stephen Wilson, Director of Whisky Engagement for Crown Royal in Houston last month. We sat down for a tasting of some of the brand's more popular offerings including the recently released Texas Mesquite Whisky.

  Wilson shared the the story of how the brand was created in 1939 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Canada to tour the provinces. The whisky was stocked on their train for them to enjoy throughout their travels. The name, the shape of the bottle, and the bag were all designed to showcase the whisky as a royal gift. The popularity of the brand increased immediately after entering the American market. It is still the top selling Canadian whisky in North America.

  This original flagship blend set the standard for Crown Royal, it is comprised of five different styles of whisky blended together from many different years aged in many different barrels both new and seasoned to create the consistent taste and texture that aficionados have always enjoyed. The f…

Alexander Valley Vineyards

As originally seen in the October issue of Galveston Monthly magazine

La Lucha in the Houston Heights

The much anticipated new restaurant concept from Chef Ford Fry opened this week in Houston. LaLucha is the chef's opportunity to pay respect to one of his favorite childhood restaurants, the San Jacinto Inn, that his family regularly visited for southern cuisine and other gulf coast favorites. It is the first restaurant of its kind in the Ford Fry family.

I just had my first meal there and I am excited to go back for more. My husband and I sat at the bar and each went with a wine by the glass. I ordered the Cleto Chiarli "Vecchia Modena" Lambrusco, a refreshinging and very food friendly light sparkling Italaian winewhile he went with a more classic choice of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne. We had great service at the bar from both Colton and Allie. They knew the menu well and were quick to discuss their favorite items.

We started with a side of watermelon that was dressed with Thai chiles, lime and fresh cilantro and an order of La caviar
and onion dip toppe…

Cool Whites, Refreshing Rosés, and a Couple of Reds for Barbecue

As originally seen in the September issue of Galveston Monthly magazine

Mixology Class with Susi Zivanovic

I had a fantastic experience this week learning about the cocktail program at Perry's Steakhouse & Grille with beverage director, Susi Zivanovic. In addition to selecting the wines for the restaurants, Zivanovic creates all the cocktail recipes that guests enjoy at the many Perry’s locations. Zivanovic shared with the group that her philosophy for mixology involves high quality ingredients masterfully blended into well-balanced deliciously drinkable cocktails. She said that when she creates the different recipes, she chooses only premium ingredients - most importantly, she makes sure that there are no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Invitees to this event started the evening with the Perry's Hog-Hatten. This drink was prepared by the true professionals behind the bar. This Manhattan-based cocktail is elevated with spicier Redemption Rye Whiskey instead of the more traditional Bourbon. This is combined with Vya Vermouth and is complemented with a Sugar in the Raw …