April Domestic Wine: 2009 Pietra Santa ‘Sassolino’ Red Blend, Cienega Valley, CALIFORNIA

Pietra Santa is a family-run estate producing artisanal wines and olive oils in California’s Central Coast. The site was planted to wine grapes in the 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache who chose the location because of the maritime climate and unique soils.

Pietra Santa is 25 miles from Monterey Bay and benefits from cool coastal breezes that allow for a long growing season. The estate’s location on the San Andreas Fault creates soils rich with granite and limestone that naturally lower yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named PIETRA SANTA, Italian for SACRED STONE, in honor of these exceptional soils.

History of Sangiovese and its Relation to Pietra Santa: Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety whose name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove“. The most accredited theory about the origin of Sangiovese is in Romagna, in the Town of Santarcangelo, where the Romans would store the wine in Grotte Tufacee (caves) inside the Mons Jovis. Though it is the grape of most of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, the wine is grown in Campania and in Sicily as well. Sangiovese is most famous as the main component of the blend Chianti, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, although it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino or Sangiovese di Romagna, as well as modern “Super Tuscan” wines like Tignanello.

Sangiovese has now been planted throughout the world, with many Californian wineries planting the varietal. Pietra Santa has planted Sangiovese, and are making many great wines with Sangiovese as the focus. Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavors of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels.

Varietals: 86% Sangiovese and 14% Merlot

Alcohol: 14.7% by volume

Tasting Notes: The name Sassolino means “little stone” in honor of the terroir of our estate. The wine has robust fruit and tastes of black cherry with hints of chocolate and oak, finished with soft tannins. The balanced acidity of this wine makes it ideal for pairing with a wide variety of food.

Food Pairings: Try it with your favorite Italian dishes including pasta Bolognese, pizza, and salty cheeses.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine with Tuscan flair and substance. Rich and elegant, yet subtle. The wine has many layers of complexity and tremendous texture. The Sassolino is a wine that will leave you begging for more.”- JL 

April Imported Wine: 2010 Apaltagua 'ENVERO' Carménère, Colchagua Valley, CHILE

Apalta is situated in the center of the Colchagua Valley, a few kilometers from the town of Santa Cruz. The Apalta Valley is made up of 800 hectares of grapes and other crops. This valley is characterized by its excellent conditions for the development of wine grapes, which has been demonstrated by the great wines that are produced in the area. This has led to the Apalta Valley being known as the “valley blessed by the hand of God”.

History of Carménère in Chile and its Relation to Apaltagua: The Carménère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot.

A member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name “Carménère” originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the brilliant crimson color of the autumn foliage prior to leaf-fall. The grape is also known as Grande Vidure, a historic Bordeaux synonym, although current European Union regulations prohibit Chilean imports under this name into the European Union. Along with Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Carménère is considered part of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux, France.

Now rarely found in France, the world’s largest area planted with this variety is in Chile in South America, with more than 8,800 hectares (2009) cultivated in the Central Valley. As such, Chile produces the vast majority of Carménère wines available today and as the Chilean wine industry grows, more experimentation is being carried out on Carménère’s potential as a blending grape, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Varietals: 90% Carménère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: The Apaltagua Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is characterized by being a sophisticated and elegant wine in which touches of strawberry and cherry are well emphasized. In the mouth it possesses a delicate velvety full-bodied taste, generous finish in which the touches of vanilla and herbs stand out.

Food Pairings: Pair with savory meats and hardy soup.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich, strong, and full-bodied wine with a long flavorful finish. The aromatics are striking with freshness and purity for the varietal. A great depiction of what Carménère should be, with good integration of herbaciousness and ripeness! Enjoy!”- JL