Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia

A Promise of Excellence

Several years ago I visited the Grape Creek Winery located near Fredericksburg, Texas, to try their American version of a Super Tuscan, which they named Bellissimo. I tasted both the 2006 and 2007 vintages and found them very pleasing, especially the 2007. While there, owner Brian Heath provided a tour of the vineyard and explained that Grape Creek had planted several new Italian grape varieties, aglianico and montepulciano. I asked Brian to let me know when these vines matured.

Recently, I was in contact with Brian and he informed me that both varieties had done well and that Grape Creek had harvested them. Winemaker Jason Englert and Brian decided to make a blend of these two wines instead of producing two separate wines. Most of the aglianicos I am familiar with from Campania and Basilicata are not blends, so I did some research and learned that in recent years a number of wineries on the Adriatic side of Italy have made such blends.

Brian offered to provide an early tasting of this new wine blend when next I was in the area, and I accepted his offer this past January. However, before I tried the new blend, I also tasted several new wines from Grape Creek. Many years before I settled on Italian wines, I was a lover of Petite Sirah. Grape Creek's 2008 Petite Sirah brought back some fond memories. It had the typical Petite Sirah fruit-forward nose and taste and intense flavor. For an initial offering, it was very good.

The latest version of Bellissimo, the 2008, was somewhat different than its predecessors. The sangiovese portion was reduced to 45 percent and the cabernet sauvignon and merlot increased to 20 percent and 35 percent respectively. The result was a somewhat lighter wine, but still a very good one.

Leaving the tasting room, Grape Creek's Doug Kitchens and Jeff Binney took my party out to the actual cellar where we were able to barrel taste the aglianico/montepulciano blend. Brian has yet to name this wine and I hope he chooses well, as my initial tasting was exceptional. Only in the American oak barrel for about one month, the wine showed great promise. It had a fine, slightly fruity nose, a smooth taste and a really nice finish.

I can't wait until Grape Creek releases this next year. I will follow its release and report back.

February, 2011

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