Taste of Wine

Blended Wines:  A winemaker’s creation

Since the beginning of my wine writing journey, I have been fascinated with the increasing number of wine blends released by creative winemakers.

Castello di Amorosa in the Napa Valley makes the Italian style 2009 La Castellana, mostly Cabernet, with Merlot and Sangiovese. Photo by Liza GershmanTASTE OF WINE columnist Frank Mangio is one of a few of the cast of characters planned for Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Frank Mangio

Such legendary stalwarts as Opus One, Insignia, Rubicon and Isosceles are but a few from respected wine makers in California who have replicated the “Bordeaux Style” of classic French wines, that have become more in demand than the French originals.  If you are not that familiar with this style, it’s based on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, a good team player in the wine world, in that it is big–bodied with high tannins, blending well with smaller amounts of flavorful grapes from France, namely Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

Jim Sullivan is the Public Relations Director of the fabled Castello di Amorosa near Calistoga, NapaValley.  This is the 13th century, eight-story medieval Tuscan-style castle that is a massive 121,000 square foot authentic castle and winery.

Sullivan made me aware of the winery’s new-release “Super Tuscan” style blend, the 2009 La Castellana, in a most unusual way.  The blend comes from the estate’s 30 acre vineyard and is made from 70 percent Cabernet, 15 percent Merlot and 15 percent Sangiovese ($88 at the winery only).

The winemakers at Amorosa know a thing or two about blends.  Director of Winemaking Brooks Painter has worked at Robert Mondavi and Stags Leap and last year won Winemaker of the Year at the San Francisco International Competition.

Consulting Winemaker Sebastiani Rossa worked in Italy with Sassicaia in Bogheri and Argiano in Montalcino.

Given that background, Sullivan laid down the challenge of making my own TASTE OF WINE custom blend for the 2012 “Super Tuscan” La Castellana with three 2012 harvested wine barrel samples of the same grapes used in the 2009:  Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese.

I needed to create what I thought was a flavorful Italian-style blend, ratcheting up the Sangiovese — Tuscany’s native grape.

After several attempts at various combinations, my final base-blend featured 50 percent Sangiovese. The cabernet came in at 40 percent, and the merlot smoothed out the blend at 10 percent.  We will see if my blend is chosen as the 2012 La Castellana, but we must wait until 2015 when it’s released with three more years of body, flavor, complexity and most important…balance. See more at www.castellodiamorosa.com.

Mardi Gras & St. Patricks Day Fun in the Gaslamp

A scintillating 20th annual Mardi Gras Parade and Celebration 20 blocks long will headline Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, downtown San Diego, Tuesday March 5th from 5pm to midnight on 5th Avenue.

On March 15 it will be the 10 annual “Sham Rock,” a St. Patrick’s Day Block Party, from 4 p.m. to midnight, on the same street. There will be three stages, 10 DJ’s and six Irish bands.

Producer Laurel McFarlane said, “We’re closing down 5th Avenue to traffic.  We’ll have lots of wine and beer tents to offer to visitors over 21 at both events.  A VIP three-course dinner package with a special area designated for guests will be a popular choice.”

Tickets for the March 5 Mardi Gras start at $30 and $ 40 at the door.

For details and other price information, go to the Mardi Gras website at sdmardigras.com; and for the St. Patrick’s Day event, see sandiegoshamrock.com.

Wine Bytes

Vigilucci’s Coronado has a Mardi Gras celebration and dinner March 1 at 6:30 p.m. Enjoy a five-course menu with paired wines from Veneto, Italy with a three-piece live band.  Cost is $80. Call for an RSVP at (619) 522-0946.

SDSU’s Extended Studies Wine Program has a two day seminar with winemaker Gus Vizgirda called the Character of Wine, March 1 and March 8 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Call (619) 594-1138 for details.

The Pacific Coast Wine Festival will take place at the elegant Island Hotel in Newport Beach, March 1 at 5 p.m.  Taste from 60 wines, bid on many great items, and enjoy a five-course feast.  Live auction for fine wines and rare experiences.  For more information call (714) 876-2364.

Temecula Wine Country presents the World of Wine Tasting March 1 and March 2 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s a self-guided tour where guests visit 35 member wineries for tastings and food samplings.  Tickets start at $79.  Call (800) 801-9463.

Solare Restorante Italiano Bar Lounge at Liberty Station Pt. Loma presents a Wine Dinner with Banfi, one of Italy’s top wines, March 6 at 6:15 p.m.  Chef Accursio will create a special five-course menu to pair with six wines, presented by Banfi Ambassador Luciano Castiello.  $75. Reserve seats at (619) 270-9670.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  His columns can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com.  He is one of the top wine commentators on the web. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.