If you want to call me a Rhonie, I guess I’m guilty as charged. In case you just dropped in from Mars, the Rhone Valley in the south of France is one of the most talked about wine countries in the world.
It straddles the Rhone River where, from Lyon in the north to the Mediterranean in the south, you have some 250 miles of old world and romantic wineries and vineyards.
To put it in perspective, Napa Vallley is just 30 miles long. From the northern boundary at Lyon to the middle of the Rhone at Hermitage, Syrah rules.
It’s Syrah’s birthplace and it explodes with certain wildness. At the most recent Rhone tasting at Vittorio’s Trattoria in San Diego, the Estates Group introduced Gerard Bertrand, a leading winery in the southern district of the Rhone.
Syrah is still important wine here, but this district includes Chateaneuf-Du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Cotes-Du-Rhone and others including Languedoc which is home to Gerard Bertrand.
Here, grapes are blended into a rich mix of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and occasionally Cinsaut. The southern Rhone region is clearly a marriage of warmer weather, rockier soil and the Mediterranean influence, where Grenache is king.
There is no wildness, only a smooth, visceral, velvety pattern of gracious flavor. Marcus Mizzau of The Estate Group presented each of the dinner wines from Gerard Bertrand, articulating its prominence in Languedoc.
“The focus is on quality with this wine,” Mizzau said. “The best example is the 2013 Chateaux l’Hospitalet ‘La Reserve’ La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc ($17 at the dinner) which absorbs long summer heat, rocky soil and a higher elevation than most. Here we have Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre in perfect harmony.”
Vittorio’s continues its attractive dinners June 30 at 6 p.m. when Bonny Doon wines come to town at $49.95 per person. Call (858) 538-5884.
The Sun is Shining on Abruzzo Wines
The Abruzzo region of central Italy is a rugged, mountainous body of land whose western boundary includes the Apennines and its highest peak on mainland Italy, Corno Grande.
To the east lies the Adriatic Sea.
Its most popular native grape is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, although there is no known tie to Montepulciano, a medieval city in Tuscany that draws 8.5 million visitors a year. In Abruzzo, near the city of L’Aquila is the Nazzare Winery.
It has joined a special team of marketing professionals in wine, olive oil and natural sauces, in a move to gain a greater share of Italian table products. The organization is Re d’Abruzzo.
Nazzare wines include Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino and Cerasuolo.
The minerality is complex and intriguing, with red berry, and black pepper, and subtle hints of oregano. And here’s an amazing statistic: Abruzzo has only 38 percent of the vineyard land that Tuscany has — yet it produces 40 million cases of wine — twice the amount of production than that of Tuscany. To learn more about this vibrant farm-to-table-land, visit redabruzzo.com.
Leading winemaker Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Winery in the Sta. Rita Hills will be pouring her legendary Pinot Noir June 25 from 5 to 7 p.m., at The Wine Lover Garden Patio in San Diego. Cost is $40, including sampling at the cheese bar. Call (619) 294-9200.
The Grand Opening of the Culver Beer Company in Carlsbad is planned for July 1 from 4 to 10 p.m. and July 2 from noon to 10 p.m. The tasting room will have rotating beer selections from 12 taps, including taster flights. Location is 2719 Loker Ave. More at culverbeer.com.
A Farm to Table Dinner with award winning beer and wine is offered by the San Diego County Fair in the Garden show area July 2 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Dine with local farmers. Details at sdfair.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.