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Pinot Talk with Rudy Marchesi

A 1978 Beaune Premier Cru changed winemaker Rudy Marchesi’s perspective on wine. Funny, then, that he would become one of the top producers of Oregon Pinot Noir today, at Montinore Estate. He made his first wine 40 years ago, a student of wine since youth thanks to a winemaker grandfather. He remains a student, though, constanting looking for new and innovative techniques, biodynamic practices, and different grape varieties to grow in the Willamette Valley climate. His fascination with native northern Italian grapes led to his white wine blend, Borealis. His love of food has him producing cheese, cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, and verjus, a pressed juice of unripe grapes that falls somewhere between wine and vinegar. Oh, and did we mention he’s a jazz pianist?

What sets your wines apart from other Oregon Pinot Noir producers?
“We try to find that balance between elegance and concentration of flavor. We are more interested in our wines being seductive than big. And, consequently, I think that our wines are more European in style as opposed to new world.”

What is your favorite dish to pair with one of your wines.
“It’s difficult to answer that question with just one dish because Pinot Noir by nature is so versatile. For example, I recently had a fluke ceviche at ABC Kitchen with our Red Cap Pinot Noir, and it was one of the most interesting and pleasurable pairings I have had in awhile. Likewise, the Red Cap was spectacular with a pork roast I recently had. But I think one of my favorite pairings, as the weather gets warmer, is our Almost Dry Riesling with any kind of grilled seafood.”  

What is the most memorable bottle you have had?
“It was a 1978 Beaune Premier Cru. It was the first time I experienced Pinot Noir at that level of quality. And it completely changed my perspective on wine.”

More on Rudy Marchesi, and his Montinore bottlings here.

The Winemaker Profile: Fabio Alessandria

If Fabio Alessandria can’t have wine with dinner, he drinks water. The winemaker at the famed G.B. Burlotto estate in Piedmont, Alessandria is the great-great grandson of Giovan Battista Burlotto, a distinguished producer who was among the first to bottle Barolo and brand it under the family name. Alessandria has brought renewed acclaim to his family’s holdings in and around the village of Verduno, home to the limestone-rich Monvigliero vineyard which is considered among the great Barolo crus. USQ held a tasting of 12 Burlotto wines, including his aperitif favorite, Pelaverga, the 2007 Barolo Monvigliero, and a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. We also sat down to get to know the young, northern Italian native.

What sets your wines apart from other Barolo producers?
“It’s difficult to find a bad Barolo, but I prefer the more elegant, traditional style of Barolo. For us, the Verduno village is well known for the elegance and finesse of the wine, especially from Monvigliero, which is considered the most feminine vineyard in the Barolo area. We, in the family, think that while power is important, we don’t want to to lose the finesse, the drinkability of the wine. We want to maintain the aromaticity of the Cannubi, for example. Wines in the more modern style are more concentrated, more extracted, have more oak. I want to feel the profile of the grape.”

What is the most reward and the most challenging aspects of your job?
“I enjoy that it’s a family business. Our cellar is small, so I’m involved in the winemaking, the vineyard, and the marketing. I like that I can see the different aspects, but of course, the winemaking I love, to taste the wine. I try every day to do the best to show our soil and what our grapes can offer. But this is the most challenging part of the job: to understand the grape and what we want in the grape. The last vintages, from 2004 to 2008, are all really good vintages, but really different. We have to take what is good in each grape to produce really great wine.”

What do you drink at home?
“Barolo. I like to pull out a 10- or 12 -year Barolo after dinner or lunch. It’s so much more complex; I like to concentrate on the wine [without food].”

What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines?
“I drink the Pelaverga with sausage and prosciutto. I love the freshness and acidity of a younger Barolo with a stack of red meat like steak fiorentina.”

You’re going to a dinner party. If you can’t take your wine, what would you take?
“Of course, Barolo is my favorite wine, but I love Burgundy. I love the Rhone Valley, from Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Just today at lunch, I had a Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape.”

If you can’t drink wine, you drink what?
“With food, I love wine. If I don’t drink wine, I drink water. But I like a light beer in the middle of the day in the summer, to relax a bit when it’s hot.”

What is your most treasured bottle, personally?
“We have some bottles of Barolo going back to 1889, 1890. Those are special.”

Check out our Burlotto offerings here.

And in case you’re wondering, that’s Fabio drinking a bottle of Lebanese Chateau Musar at Terroir, in Manhattan’s East Village. A dose of NYC culture!

-Stephanie Cain