Wine of the Day: Les Rocailles Rosé Gamay Vin de Savoie

I’ve got a crush on a girl.

Well, at least if we put rosé wines into the more feminine category, I guess that’s true. She’s pretty in pink too. Actually, she’s my favorite rosé-ified hue of pale salmon.

New fave rosé?

I’m talking about the Les Rocailles Rosé Gamay Vin de Savoie. It’s a beautiful little French number (in case you couldn’t tell) and it’s won a place in my heart. The nose opens with white peach, green apple, lime and tangerine on a chalky backbone that reminds me a little of the white dipping stick in a Fun Dip. That’s not a bad thing in my book. There’s also a pink lemonade note that makes me think this is a perfect summer wine, but here we are in fall and I’m loving it still.

Here’s a little help, too, if the label is posing a bit of a challenge for you:

Les Rocailles is the producer

Rosé is the type of wine, and it’s made of the grape Gamay in this case

Vin de Savoie is the region. It’s tucked into the French Alps, east of Burgundy and not so far from both the Swiss and Italian borders.  Here they tend to produce a number of different grapes, and the AOC (or controlled region) is simply called Vin de Savoie (pronounced like van du sav-wa). The grapes and wines in this region tend to be lighter in body, and are usually white or rosé, though some red wine is also produced. I’ve tasted some interesting wines from this region, particularly coming from the white grape Roussanne, which can be really tasty.

I tried the Les Rocailles Rosé with a Southwestern chicken salad, and the spice buried it. It would be much better and express more of its inherent elegance with an arugula salad with goat cheese and slivers of granny smith apple.

Awesome. And under $20.

The Ale Jail and Wine Thief Anniversary Party 2012

The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The weather couldn’t have been any nicer or the beer any tastier in Saint Paul’s Mac/Groveland neighborhood for the backyard bash at The Ale Jail and The Wine Thief. Pair that up with fantastic wines from friendly vendors, amazing burgers from The Blue Door Pub and we had an all around winning day. Hope you had a chance to swing by!
The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012
The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012The Wine Thief & Ale Jail Anniversary Party 2012

The Ale Jail & Wine Thief Anniversary Party 2012

Above is the link to the full set of photos. Enjoy and please ask permission before using images.


Paolo Scavino Barolo on a Beautiful Day

I. Love. Barolo.  I especially love Paolo Scavino Barolos.

I can’t think of many ways I’d rather spend an afternoon than hanging out with Elisa Scavino and her family’s gorgeous wines.  Specifically their Barolos, which in my opinion reign supreme in Piemonte, in terms of purity and elegance.

I had the very good fortune to visit their winery in 2010, and embark on a highly memorable multi-course dinner which started in the neighborhood of eleven p.m. and ended many wines, many courses, and many hours later.  It followed a day of tasting Barolo at their winery, which was also one of the most memorable winery experiences I have ever had.

Elisa’s father Enrico Scavino is at the helm of operations, with 2012 being his 61st harvest. I remember thinking him the most meticulous winemaker I’d ever met, with the cleanest and most pristine winery, hoses suspended in the air by big metal hooks, so that they don’t touch the floor. He rarely lets others in the cellar, working only with two others.  And he often subjects his family to blind tastings of the wines during various phases of production, so they can single out not just which vineyards they think are producing the best quality, but various plots within single vineyards. They separate the wheat from the chaff (though I doubt the chaff is very low qual) and sell the juice they won’t use.

The Scavinos produce wine from an astounding six of the 11 villages in Barolo, and 19 of the 21 vineyards they get grapes from are owned by the family. They work with 18 different Crus in all. They produce seven different styles of Barolo, including four single vineyard Barolos. Try keeping track of that.

Elisa sharing the stories of the wines and showing us the various regions and vineyards of Barolo in Piedmont.

History and principles aside, today was a beautiful sunny day in Minneapolis, and even more so because the lovely Elisa was with us sharing wine and her stories. She managed to pull away from Piedmont for a quick wine tour through the States, despite the fact that the winery is in full operational mode and has begun harvesting.

And again, Miss Elisa.

Today’s lineup started off with the Langhe Bianco 2011, which is a super drinkable blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It leads with pretty floral aromatics and soft tropical fruits, like baked pineapple. On the palate it’s broad and even a little oily, offering a full mouthfeel but none of the weight of an oaked white. The Sauvignon aromas are well behaved, simply bringing forth some herbal notes that persist on the incredibly long finish. I could drink this wine all spring and summer.

Langhe Bianco 2011

We tasted the Langhe Nebbiolo, Rosso di Tavola, Barbera d’Alba, and Dolcetto d’Alba.  All tasty and fun, especially the uber-approachable Barbera which is so drinkable it doesn’t require food.  And my perpetual friend, the Langhe Nebbiolo, which is more budget friendly than Barolo but brings plenty of moxie to the table.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2008

Barolos (brief tasting notes follow):

Barolo 2007- At first whiff, lots of violet and soft florals. Tannins are soft and silky, this is an approachable style of Barolo, bringing together the finer qualities of their various vineyards.

Carobric 2007- This blend (Ca + Ro + Bric) is jammed full of bright anise notes on a mineral and herbal core. Acid and tannin, check.  Not a pedestrian Barolo by any stretch, this blend brings forth some of the best qualities in this style of wine, including the classic rose petal notes and dusty cocoa.

Scavino Barolos from 2007

Bricco Ambrosio 2007- Single vineyard from Rotti village. It’s the only cru in the village, and makes a fatter, fleshed out style of Barolo (relatively speaking, of course). Softer acidity and more fruity than it’s counterparts, still a force to be reckoned with.

Monvigliero 2007- The first release of this wine, it’s a new single vineyard from Verduno in the northern region. The fruit comes from .5 hectare of 45 year-old vines. The nose has lots of black pepper followed by anise and followed by eucalyptus.  It’s really pretty.

Cannubi 2007- Coming from the center of the cru Barolo village, this is more fleshy and shows more fruit, specifically black fruits and crushed raspberry. I love the way this wine feels in my mouth, the tannins are tight and grippy (is that a word?) but they coat my mouth like a big velvet blanket. Elisa describes this wine as having a typical Balsamic aroma. I just know that I love it.

Bric del Fiasc

Bric del Fiasc 2007- I actually made some kind of audible (and therefore embarrassing) sigh when I smelled this wine. Gorgeous leaps out of the glass. The ball starts rolling with peppermint, young raspberry, candy cane, leather, tar and black licorice. I know that sounds kind of freakishly unappetizing, but it was a truly well-woven and elegant wine. My pen couldn’t even keep up with my senses as I was trying to record my impressions of this wine, there were so many layers of aroma, flavor and texture. I wish I had a lifetime supply.

We were also really lucky today to taste the 2000 vintage of Carobric, which is remarkably fresh but shows lots of mature fruit and all the sweetness of the wet forest floor. Delicious.

And the Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva 2005, which is the current release. Is that sick or what? It was so beautiful, really classic with crushed rose petal, graphite and wet leather notes. Lots of eucalyptus here too. Simply a breathtaking wine and a luxury to drink.

These three can come over to my house to play anytime.

Loved the food that accompanied the tasting today, all prepared by Broder’s Pasta Bar in Minneapolis.

A good mix of snacks for partnering with the wines.

Pesto pizza

And special thanks to Bourget Imports for putting this tasting together with Banville and Jones, who imports the wine from Italy.  It was excellent!

More information about the Scavino Estate can be found here. I hope you have luck finding the wines locally (make the investment, you will not regret it). Unfortunately, the winery is only open to the trade by appointment.

Snapshots from Istria Wine Trip, October 2011

In October 2011, Brava Wine Company took the first group of travelers through Istria to experience the beautiful wines and the culinary riches. It’s also truffle season and time for the olive harvest, so we had a very full weekend of amazing food and wine!  A similar trip will be repeated again several times in October.

You can read all about this trip here or join us in Istria for a weekend in October of 2012- more information about upcoming trips can be found here.

Arriving at the Truffle Festival…

…on a crisp autumn day, one traveler is saving his energy for the truffle tasting.

The group in Livade for the Zigante Tartufi festival

At Misal Winery

Ana pours sparkling wine at her family winery.

A long day of truffles, wine and fresh air calls for pizza and… more wine!

The pizza wiz

The next day, we are enjoying a four course traditional wine lunch in Višnan.

Joined by Peter Poletti who introduces us to his delightful wines.

Helping Poletti pour for my guests.

Muškat Ruža to go with the fritule we brought back to his winery.

In Poletti’s winery

Poletti gets up in the archive section to fetch a bottle of wine for us!

Vines. olives and the sea as seen from Višnjan.

Freshly harvested olives to be pressed.

Admiring the olives.

Pouring a bottle of freshly pressed olive oil.

It’s onto Roxanich Winery in Nova Vas

Pouring Roxanich for one of my great guests!

Barrel samples in the winery at Roxanich.

A post-tour glass of wine on the terrace at our place before we head out to dinner. (Sorry boys and girls, the fingerless rainbow gloves aren’t for sale).

Our final dinner at Divino in Poreč, specialized in gourmet preparations of fresh fish.

White Zin… Once in a Blue Moon?

White Zin for the people.

This post is in honor of cousin extraordinaire Aimee Jean.  She’s a connoisseur of adult beverages herself (just don’t ask her to go halfsies on a pear cider). Miss Aimee Jean and I have on multiple holidays had the pleasure of being stuffed into a house crammed to the gills with extended family.  And if we’re not flinging mashed potatoes at each other (actually we only did that once…sorry, grandma) sometimes we’re marveling a what a wonderful, and huge, family we have.

By and large, our family is made up of the type of folks who usually reach into the cooler during the aforementioned holiday get-downs for a reduced-calorie American pilsner. But, once in a blue moon (and there’s one this month, you know), or if it’s a special occasion (i.e. it’s Sunday and the liquor store’s closed) they might also reach for a glass of vino. In which case they open the fridge and pull out the timeless and elegantly packaged box of Franzia White Zinfandel. There are many special things about this wine I’m sure, but the true magic of it is that it manages to offer both refreshment and sweetness, while leaving your breath smelling all boozy and watermelon-laced (this only applies on the way down, teens).  Not to mention, it’s a spot on perfect pairing with tater tot hot dish.

To you and your family, and to my cousin Aimee Jean, on this non-holiday I raise a glass and say CHEERS!

A Midsummer’s Day in Hvar with Ivo Duboković

We were dressed less than seriously in our swimsuits, casually covered with as little as we could get away with on this scorching hot day on the island of Hvar, often nicknamed the St. Tropez of Croatia. It takes this nickname due to its crystalline aqua waters, stunning beaches, swanky boats swaying languidly in the many harbors and beautiful bleached out stone buildings.

An afternoon in Hvar, in Duboković’s wine cellar.

We were headed to the beach to cool off, but not before passing through the wine cellar of one very highly recommended producer, Ivo Duboković. His unmarked cellar in the town of Jelsa would be a welcome respite from even the short drive on this hot day.  Anyhow, it was too hot to eat lunch and I was pretty sure I could get my friends to pull over the car for a glass or two of wine.

Little did I know, when I made the appointment to visit, that he makes over ten labels.

We knocked on the door and were welcomed into his peaceful, romantic wine cellar. Lit by candles, with soft classical music playing in the background (we would later learn more about this), we quietly looked around and were invited to sit so he could guide us step-by-step through his wines.  Three bottles of red wine stood aside, on a candlelit table, with small decanters in front of the bottles, forewarning us that something special was about to take place.

Plavac Mali decants.

What started for Ivo Duboković as a hobby 15 years ago has quietly morphed into 20,000 liters, mostly for the commercial market. He originally took after his father and grandfather making wine just for family and friends. In fact, it was a defining moment in his winemaking career when he decided indeed to go forth and make wine commercially.

In taking the operation from family winery to commercial winery, he had to weigh his options.  One turning point occurred for Duboković when he and his cousin, Swiss resident and Master of Wine Ivan Barbić, opened an archived bottle of wine from 1999, a white made by Ivo’s father. They were astounded at the remarkable amount of freshness that the bottle still contained, and became convinced that white wines in this region can stand the test of time and hold their structure.

Dessert wines were among the first wines produced by Duboković.

Another moment of clarity came from the legendary Aleš Kristiančić, Slovenian winemaker producing the cult wine Movia. Kristiančić told him, “the problem with Dalmatian wine is that they copy the continental style.” Meaning that producers in this hot, mediterranean climate are trying to follow a model set by those in an entirely different climate and terroir. These words resounded with Duboković and he set off on his own path, using his own intuition to make wines that are very minimally marked with his personal fingerprint (which, in its own way, ends up doing just that), and the wines are also left to their own devices in the winery, versus being chemically scrubbed and altered into something specific.

“All production we make without enological knowledge. To have something special, it doesn’t have to be perfect, like Photoshop. I don’t want to produce something that’s drinkable in every moment, just in the right moment for that wine. It’s the same way you  wear different clothes for different situations.”

Barrels for Medvid and Medvjedica are coming from top producers Canton and Taransaud.

In this way, he makes a number of different labels, perhaps that the end user can choose which they will drink based on the specificity of the wine.  He’s making wines from different grapes from his organically farmed vineyards, and grapes he sources from the some of the best vineyards of other local growers, who are farming to his standards of low yields per vine and the absence of pesticides and herbicides.

He’s making three dry white wines at the moment.  All of them are unlike any wines I’ve been familiar with in the past, and at first try all of these wines took me a little getting used to.  Once I did, I found that they can be pervasively interesting and contemplative. In the winery, his white wines are gently macerated for anywhere from 3-5 days, and then aged in old barrels sur lie.

Tasting Notes:

Moj Otok (My Island) 2010

A blended white wine, consisting of local sorts Maraština, Bogdaneša, and Tarpinka (Trebbiano).

Lighter in body and style, with a very noticeable mineral streak that’s reminiscent of a hot coin. Green apple peel and some apple and white peach, though this is not a fruity wine. There is an earthy component to this wine that shows up in the form of warmed stone. Interesting, likable and definitely something different.

Moja B (My “B”) 2009

100% Bogdaneša

Loads of white pepper, preserved lemon and hazelnut, which together make a really interesting combination.  Left it in my glass for a while to come back to it, and found that it developed some spicy, peppery notes and aromas of baked green apple.

Moja M (My “M”)

100% Maraština

Interesting wine that seems altogether savory on the nose. Roasted parsnip, dried white fruits, orange peel, oregano and clove all showed up on the nose while the palate presented more nuttiness and almost a touch of salinity. Texturally rich, with a round mouthfeel that has a lemony streak of acidity which lingers on the back of the palate.

His red wines are all made up of the local grape Plavac Mali. Based on the age of the vines, the part of the island they’re coming from, and the treatment they get in the winery, he has separated them into three distinct labels.  The reds we tasted today had been decanted for two hours.

2718 sati sunce u boci (hours of sunlight in the bottle) 2010

100% Plavac Mali

This smells so nice, with nothing heavy about it. Young red raspberry and cranberry, mineral with some light yeasty aromas that I love. Actually it smells like a freshly poured cherry lambic beer in some ways. Young, easy and softer tannins make it a very nice bottle of wine coming from the vines planted on sandy soil.  All stainless steel aged.

Medvjedica 2009

100% Plavac Mali from the south part of the island, in soil high in carbon.

This wine and that of it’s partner (Medvid) are named for the extinct sea lions (or “bears of the sea”) that used to populate the sea around the island of Hvar.

Black pepper, oregano, blackberries and cranberry, this wine is markedly more complex than it’s younger counterpart, and spent its time aging in older, more neutral wood barriques. Ivo recommends this wine for lunch. And today, it was indeed lunch.

Medvid 2009

100% Plavac Mali

The primary difference with this wine and it’s feminine counterpart Medvjedica* is that Medvid goes into newer oak barrels, both American and French. The oak doesn’t overpower the fruit, however, and the wine leads with really pretty floral aromas, like violet and mint. The fruit comes in as mature blackberries and plums, with the floral notes perking up alongside them.

*Medvjedica (med-vyed-eet-sa) was named as such as it’s a softer and more delicate expression than her masculine counterpart, Medvid, which is the masculine form of the name, and refers of course to the male of the gender in this case. Ivo recommends the former with lunch and the latter with dinner.

Dessert Wines:

Don Petar MMVM

100% Plavac Mali

Named for the priest of the house. Baked stone fruits with a slightly spicy cigar box aroma. The taste is not entirely congruent with the aroma, and has a warm, silky feel with mature black fruit, raisin and prune spilling over the palate. A little dirty, which gives it nice complexity and keeps it from being too girl-next-door sweet wine. Not at all cloying, in fact my favorite thing about this wine may be the mouthfeel, which is marked by the heat of a slightly alcoholic finish.

Prvi Poljubac 

Maraština, Bogdaneša, and Tarpinka

Name is literally “first kiss” and is prounounced like (perv-i pol-yu-bahtz). This is a wine they call prošek, a specific type of dessert wine made Dalmatia.

Smells like a really nice Moscatel sherry and has beautiful aromas and flavors both of baked pear, orange rind and scorched caramel, and pecan pie. Delicious. There’s also a little savory component to this wine, like carmalized carrots and parsnips, in a good and interesting way. It unravels and unravels, and I have the overwhelming impression that this wine would still be out of this world in a decade. I think this is something I will be stashing away in my cellar for future enjoyment.

Rosé 2011

We also tasted a tank sample of rosé, an unnamed version made of plavac mali, but not macerated at all, which gave it the most amazing subtlety, and beautiful aromas of tangerine, green apple and garden mint. Reminiscent of my favorite rosé from Provence, France. Beautiful and delicate, though unfortunately going to be released into the market in September which may prove to be a strange time for the first presentation of a new rosé. Great as an aperitif or for warm weather lunches. Gorgeous.

Snapshots from the full day tour of “Istria by Land and Sea”

Following a walking tour in Porec, we arrive by boat in Limski Canal where we meet up with Emil, who farms fresh shells here every day.

Limski Canal’s king, Emil Sošić, takes us on a boat tour and pulls in fresh oysters.

Opening the oysters caught moments ago.

Oysters caught a minute ago in the Limski Canal.

Emil prepares the oysters simply with a squeeze of lemon.  Champagne adds the final touch.

Passing through a small spacio, or fisherman’s hangout spot after the boat ride from Limski to Rovinj. Just a quick snack in this traditional locale and we’re off to lunch.

Seaside home of a local fisherman in Rovinj, where he welcomes us and prepares for us a multi-course lunch based on the daily catch.

First is fresh fish carpaccio marinated in local olive oil.

Next, fillets of small fish. Completely simple and totally perfect with a glass of Malvazija which is presented to us by our local winemaker from Piquentum winery.

Fisherman and chef of the day Luciano takes a break to enjoy his wine.

Squid is served alongside vegetables from Luciano’s garden.

Squash blossoms and young zucchini.

In Luciano’s garden, on the marina in Rovinj’s old town.

Luciano tends to lunch while his pup lazes on this relaxed day.

A rare “serious” moment before we’re off for a walking tour of Rovinj.

A walk through Rovinj shows us some local faces.

Young ladies in Rovinj.

A happy moment as we tour Rovinj.

Traveling via wineglass, we take a break in Rovinj before heading back by boat to Poreč.

All beautiful photos courtesy of the talented Mladen Scerbe.  For which we are incredibly grateful.  Information about joining this tour for a single day during the month of July can be found here or here.

Single Day Trips- Istria by Land and Sea!

Rovinj by Sea

New Single Day Trips Available in July:

“When arriving to Rovinj, dear traveller, please try to make sure that you do so by sea.”

-M. Rakovac

It’s an unforgettable opportunity to see Istria this summer by land and SEA, guided by a local winemaker, sommelier and fishermen!  To see recent photos from this trip click here.

The ultimate in laid back gourmet adventure, your unforgettable day between Istria’s two most beautiful seaside towns of Poreč and Rovinj features everything you love about this area, from two of the most beautiful towns to the best in secret gastronomy, it’s all waiting for you when you book your adventure.

We’ll meet in the morning in Poreč, where we’ll have a short walking tour of this beautiful, historical city.

Fresh oysters just harvested in the Limski Canal. Bring on the bubbly!

Then we’ll board a private boat and head into the Limski Canal, where the beauty of the natural landscape meets the bounty of the sea. We’ll have our first taste of the day with fresh shells harvested moments ago from the very spot that Anthony Bourdain ate fresh oysters on his recently aired TV show, “No Reservations- Croatian Coast.” And we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to pair this with one of Istria’s finest sparkling wines!

From there we’ll travel at our own pace towards Rovinj, the longtime maritime center of Istria, where further adventures await. We’ll embark on an expertly guided walk through this Venetian-inflected old town, stopping to visit some special places which don’t exist in any guide book, like a local spacio. We will have a fresh fish lunch with an excellent local winemaker in the colorful home of a local fisherman and renowned chef, right on the edge of Rovinj’s beautiful marina and nestled between bustling shops and cafes.

Multi-course lunches prepared with fish caught that morning and paired with local wines and olive oils!

After this full, fun day of fresh seafood, fabulous wine, and sightseeing, we’ll get back on the private boat and leisurely make our way back towards Poreč, stopping for a relaxing break on a small island.

This adventure will run from 9 a.m. until around 6 p.m. and is subject to change based on weather or other circumstances. Price is 140 Euros per adult.  Minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 people per tour.  Deposit of 50% is required at least 3 days in advance and is non-refundable.  Payments are possible in cash or bank deposit or on paypal (see below).

Inquiries and bookings at

There’s a good reason Lonely Planet voted Istria the #2 place to visit for 2011!  And this is your chance to see it as a local.