Two Arrowheads by American Pioneer Wine Growers, Paso Robles, 2013
I am not really sure what the story is with the labels from Francis Ford Coppola - there are a lot of them and not all of them are obviously under the Coppola moniker. This is one of the samples from the winery that I was handed as part of a perspective for a dinner I am planning, and I was definitely pleasantly surprised when I got into it.
Reading the label, this is a blend 71% Viognier and 29% Rousanne from Paso Robles. I have been encountering a number of these Rhone-inspired and Rhone varietal blends lately, and i think they are great. It used to be that you would taste these varietals from the West Coast and they would be so laden with oak that they would be heavy and undrinkable. But the examples I have had recently from Paso and Santa Barbara are delicious, balanced and not heavy with wood flavors. The wine does see a short barrel aging after ferment, but only for about three months.
Light and delicate, but with a weighty-smoothness. I think these are perfect wines for American wine consumers looking for the style they get from Chardonnay, but without the weight coming from sweetness. They are balanced and smooth - perfect for simple cocktail drinking but certainly adequate for pairing with food.
This week's pick is for a well balanced and smooth drinking Rhone-inspired wine, that mixes Cali sunshine and wine-making with European finesse.
So this first question to address might be, what is Chianti Rufina?
Chianti Rufina is a small sub-zone in the northeast part of the greater Chianti district, and is a area that has always been associated with Florence. I was fortunate enough to visit this area about 8 years ago courtesy of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi and their Nipozzano estate. I remember two distinguishing things about the area - first, it was quite small, and second, was very hilly - being tucked into the foothills of the Apennines and all. The vineyards are basically tucked into the twisting hills outside the limits of Florence by about 30 minutes. The other thing about this area is that there is a fairly short list of wineries. Once you go beyond Selvapiana and Nipozzano, there are literally only a handful of other producers. Nonetheless, the region makes outstanding fan-favorite wines, that showcase beautiful fruit and great style.
Chianti Rufina is the quiet corner in the NE part of the greater Chianti "super-Zone"
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.