Category Archives: Calabria

World-Class Sparkling Pinot Noir from Pennsylvania? You Bet!

World-Class Sparkling Pinot Noir from Pennsylvania? You Bet!

Discovering delicious surprises always provides a large part of the fun in drinking and sharing wines. Surprises keep you honest as a wine drinker while refreshing the senses and expanding the palate.

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South Shore Wine Company Sparkling Pinot Noir made with the “Traditional Method” from Pennsylvania fruit.

Such is the case with the N.V. South Shore Wine Company, Sparkling Pinot Noir, Pennsylvania ($19.95; available online and at the winery). from veteran Pennsylvania winegrower Robert Mazza (pictured above).  Made from 100% Pennsylvania-grown Pinot Noir fruit, the wine’s eye-catching salmon pink color offers a persistent mousse of fine beads of bubbles. On the nose, delicate red fruit and floral aromas lead to fresh flavors of black cherries and plums. Crisp acidity and a touch of creaminess balance a dry, elegant finish.

To create the sparkle, Mazza’s winemaking team  uses the “traditional method” (a.k.a., as the “méthode champenoise” in France’s Champagne region). Secondary fermentation takes place directly in the bottle to create more elegant, refined sparkle. This labor intensive process takes more time, but it clearly delivers superior results in the N.V. Shore Wine Company, Sparkling Pinot Noir which offers “world -class” quality at a terrific price.

For Mazza, growing grape and making wine in Northeast, Pennsylvania, on the shores of Lake Erie is a family tradition. His love for the vine came from his father, Joseph, a native of Calabria, Italy, who emigrated to the United States in 1954. Mazza and his brother, Frank, founded Mazza Vineyards as a commercial enterprise in 1972. They built the winery themselves and opened to the public in 1973.

From the start, the brothers focused on learning the potential of the terroir of the Lake Erie Shore vineyards. As in the New York State Finger Lakes, vineyards planted close by the lake, itself, enjoy moderating effects in the Spring and Fall. This plays a critical role in combating frosts and  properly ripening Vitis Vinifera grapes as well as French-American hybrids such as Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc.

The Mazza’s also emphasized quality winemaking and hired a German-trained winemaker. Today, the winemaking team consists of Robert’s son, Mario Mazza, along with Hungarian-born Peter Szerdahelyi, and Carolina Damiano Cores from Uruguay.

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Father and son Pennsylvania winegrowers, Robert and Mario Mazza.

In 2007 when Bob Mazza and his wife Kathie purchased the South Shore Wine Company, they revived an illustrious history. William Griffith and Smith S. Hammond founded the winery in 1864 and created a stone wine cavern fashioned after French wine cellars.

In 1867, the South Shore Wine Company sent their wines to the famous Exposition Universelle better known in English as the Paris World Fair of 1867.  Also in 1867, the South Shore Wine Company hosted a lunch for more than 300 grape growers and guests in the big hall above the wine cellar. Unfortunately William Griffin passed away early, but the winery continued in various incarnations until 1920 when Prohibition dealt a death blow.

After the purchase in 2007, the Mazza’s restored the wine cellar and added a seasonal café and year-round banquet hall. In addition to the Sparkling Pinot Noir, South Shore offers a Pennsylvania Grüner Veltliner (a dry white that has consistently won national awards as well as a Double Gold at the Pennsylvania Farm Show) and a peppery, dry red blend made primarily from Pennsylvania grown Lemberger grapes.

As we roll into 2018, surprise and refresh your taste buds with a sip of the delicious South Shore Wine Company Sparkling Pinot Noir along with the winery’s other well made, terroir-focused table wines.




L’Acino Vini Gives a Taste of Calabria’s Underappreciated Terroir and Culture

L’Acino Vini Gives a Taste of Calabria’s Underappreciated Terroir and Culture

In 2006, Dino Briglio, Antonello Canonico and Emilio Di Cianni, native sons of the mountains in Calabria, Italy, followed their dream. With plenty of passion but no formal winegrowing background, they launched L’Acino Winery near the ancient fortified town of San Marco Argentano. They aimed to produce traditional wines worthy of Calabria’s noble, under-appreciated terroir and ancient culture.

After 10 years of working tirelessly to reclaim vineyards with indigenous Calabrian grape varieties, the partners’ international reputation for delicious, organic wines has blossomed. L’Acino ships wine throughout Italy, Europe, Asia and the United States, and it participates in “Raw Wine,” London’s artisan wine fare.

For the partners, it begins vigna-mantonicowith their love for Calabria, the often misunderstood southern region occupying the “toe” of Italy’s famous “boot.” This rugged land of incomparable beauty is rich in olives, figs, vineyards and diverse ancient culture. In October during the 2016 harvest, I returned to “la bella Calabria” and visited L’Acino to see the team in action expressing their rich heritage through wine.

The winery operates at Masseria Perugini, a working agriculture estate featuring an acclaimed restaurant, charming grounds and overnight accommodations as an “agriturismo” site. Two young, friendly dogs and their feisty companion, an adorable kitten, welcome visitors. In the winery, heady smells of fermenting grapes fill the air as Antonello Canonico leads the winemaking team. They work virtually around the clock with grapes ripened in nearby vineyards.

acino-ferment“In our village of San Marco Argentano, almost every farmer growing fruits, olives and vegetables also has their own little vineyard to make wines they drink themselves,” says Dino Briglio, who trained as a historian. “The vineyards usually last 40 to 90 years and have never been grafted onto native American rootstocks.”

For their initial white, L’Acino purchased a rugged, hillside vineyard near mountainous Pollino National Park. The site featured relatively young Mantonico Bianco vines, an indigenous white-skinned grape. The partners then purchased another patch planted with Magliocco, an indigenous red-skinned grape.

To improve quality, they farmed organically, using plowing and natural treatments instead of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Both sites have high altitudes above sea level to create large temperature swings between day and night. The grapes ripen slowly for optimal balance between fruit, acidity and mature tannins. Manual harvesting minimizes bruising the grapes while also permitting sorting.

“For us, producing natural wines has never been dictated by a passing trend,” says Briglio. “We only work by traditional ways, the way of our families and neighbors.”

Encouraged by the quality and commercial reception of their initial wines, the partners purchased another 12 acres on a windy, dramatically sloped site enjoying plentiful sun. Its sandy soils cover solid sandstone rock below.

“In any other place, this would be considered a grand cru site,” Briglio notes. The partners planted native Mantonico Bianco and Magliocco vines, along with Guernaccia Bianco and Guernaccia Nera. According to Briglio, the latter two came from Spain in the 1500s when the Kingdom of Aragon ruled the region. L’Acino continues to plant more vines in anticipation of keeping pace with growing global demand for their wines.acino-chora

The entry level white, L’Acino Chora Bianco, Calabria I.G.P., blends Mantonico, Guernaccia and Pecorello for a fleshy yet fresh dry finish. The L’Acino Chora Rosso, Calabria I.G.P. blends Magliocco and Guernaccia Nera for a juicy red with soft tannins. Both wines have pure, fresh fruit and floral aromas leading to juicy, refreshing flavors balanced by zesty acidity and mouthwatering minerality.

tre-cipolleThese easy-drinking, delicious and captivating wines call for the soups, antipasti, pork and seafood dishes prevalent in Calabria. A visit to the charming little bistro, Tre Cipolle sul Comò in Rende offers a fun opportunity to pair the wines with traditional food. The restaurant’s charming hosts, Andrea and Carlotta, have passion for their work and a light sense of humor reflected in the fun ambiance.To whet the appetito, they use Vecchio Magazzino Doganale’s locally produced spirits such as “Jefferson Amaro Importante” and “Roger Bitter Extra Strong” for delicious “Doppolavoro” cocktails. The restaurant’s inventive dishes highlighting local produce include fresh, perfectly cooked pasta with roasted chestnuts and pig cheeks. A flavorful hint of Calabrese spiciness peeks through.

The dish pairs beautifully with the 2015 L’Acino “G”, a delicious white from very old  Guernaccia Bianco vines. The wine’s golden color unfolds enticing peach and honey aromas leading to fresh, fleshy fruit flavors. Tremendous acidity and mouthwatering minerality balance the dry finish. And like all L’Acino wines, it is made completely naturally without additives and technological tricks in the winery. It’s a wine worth tracking, and L’Acino Winery is definitely a producer to put on your pleasure seeking radar.