September 8, 2011: “Fall Fever”- Virginia Apple Ciders, Rustic Reds from Puglia, and Hearty Reds from Ballentine of Napa Valley

Autumn is in the air, and what way to better celebrate than with hard cider and bold red wines? This week we will sample an array that tells us Fall is just around the corner; these include two brand-new Ciders from Foggy Ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, two “rustic” reds from the southern-Italian region of Puglia (the “heel” of the boot), and two richly-flavored reds from Ballentine Vineyards of Napa Valley, California.

Foggy Ridge Cider is brand-new to the Alabama market. It is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virigina and owned by Diane and Chuck Flynt. Diane is the Cidermaker- she uses over 30 different English and French apple varieties and blends them to create a traditional hard cider that’s crafted with modern techniques. For the tasting we will try the First Fruit Cider made from Virginia Hewe’s Crab Apples and the Sweet Stayman Cider from Virginia’s famous Stayman Apples (blended with other heirloom varieties), both priced at $17.99 for the tasting.

From Torre Quarto of the southern region of Puglia, Italy (the “heel” of Italy’s boot), we will sample two reds; one is 100% Uva de Troia, and the other a blend of Sangiovese, Negroamaro, and Primitivo (which is genetically the same as America’s Zinfandel). The Torre Quarto Winery was built by the French Dukes De la Rochefoucauld in 1847 and was called “Quarto Ducale.” In the 1930’s the Italian-Belgian family Cirillo Farrusi-Bautier Solvay became owners of the winery and renamed it “Torre Quarto” in honor of the ancient tower (which was once part of a schnapps distillery) that sits on the property. Today it is owned and operated by the youngest son of the Cirillo Farrusi family, Stefano.

Ballentine Vineyards was the 115th winery granted a bond in California (today there are more than 5,600). It was founded in 1906 by Libero Pocai, although the first vintage of wine was not produced until 1933 (this was mainly due to Prohibition). Today it is owned by Betty and Van Ballentine, who have worked more than 60 vintages in Napa Valley. Ballentine produces less than 10,000 cases of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Franc. For the tasting we will sample the Old Vines Zinfandel and Fig Tree Vineyard Petite Sirah, both $15.99 tomorrow night.

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Foggy Ridge First Fruit Cider 2008– Blue Ridge Mountains, Virigina. A dry, high acid cider made primarily from Virginia Hewe’s Crab Apple blended with other heirloom varieties. The Hewe’s Crab Apple is the most celebrated southern cider apple- it was enjoyed by George Washington and grown in Thomas Jefferson’s North Orchard. The apple is small and light green, with red stripes when ripe. The cider is soft yellow in color with fruity aromas, tart flavors, mouthfilling texture, and a tart, persistent finish. Very food-friendly.

Foggy Ridge Sweet Stayman Cider 2008– Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. The famous Virginia Stayman apples ripen late in mountain orchards, but are “well worth the wait.” They come in a variety of colors, from green to yellow to red to dark red, with light russetting (textured skin). The Stayman cider is delicately sweet with tangy acid and notes of spice. It is juicy and refreshing, with a slightly sweet finish. Also very food-friendly. See the newsletter for pairing suggestions.

Torre Quarto Don Marcello Rosso IGT 2009– Puglia, Italy. A blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo, and Negroamaro that aged for 6 months in large French oak casks, then two months in bottle prior to release. It is pretty rust/brick red in color with a beautiful nose of fresh flowers and rustic notes of earth, smoke, and savory herbs. On the palate it is medium in body with juicy, tangy acid, bright fruit, and a tasty finish of berry fruits and sweet tannins. An excellent value.

Torre Quarto Bottaccia 2008– Puglia, Italy. Made from 100% Uva di Troia that aged in French oak casks for 6 months, then in the bottle for at least 1 month prior to release. It is dark brick red in color with rustic, terroir-driven aromas of spice, dark cherry and plum fruits, and floral red rose petal hints. The palate is deeply-flavored with more dark fruit notes intermixed with rustic spice and savory hints, as well as great minerality and balance. The finish is firm, lengthy and filled with delicious savory flavors. 89 Wine Advocate.

Ballentine Old Vine Zinfandel 2007– Napa Valley, California. A blend of 86% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, and 4% Syrah that aged in new American oak. Deep aromas of vanilla/clove spice, blue fruits, cracked pepper and savory, steak sauce hints are followed by red and black fruit flavors with hints of tobacco, floral notes, and ripe raspberry. This is a very balanced style (as opposed to “over the top”) with lingering dark fruit and toasty oak/coconut flavors.

Ballentine Fig Tree Vineyard Petite Sirah 2008– Napa Valley, California. 100% Petite Sirah from 10 year-old vines that aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. It is inky/purple in color with a scented nose of blueberry and blackberry fruit with notes of caramel. Ripe berry fruit flavors are very expansive on the palate, which is soft and big with firm tannin and excellent texture. Bright fruit flavors continue into the finish with notes of sweet oak that linger on and on.

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