Tuscany vs Napa

The line up of Tuscan and Napa reds

Last week, Susanne and I attended a great tasting and dinner at Catch, organized by Thirsty Cellar Imports. It featured 5 courses with 11 wines from 4 different wineries, 2 from Napa (St. Supery and Rubissow) and 2 from Tuscany (Michele Satta and Tolaini). Each course came with one of the wines from Napa and one from Tuscany, providing a great opportunity to compare and contrast the wines from these two regions.

Since I generally prefer Old World wines, I figured that I would much prefer the Tuscan wines over those from Napa. However, I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the wines from the Napa valley, even though my favourite wine of the night was a Tuscan. Note that all the Tuscan reds fell into the Super Tuscan category (see the post on Villa Antinori for some background).

The specific pairings can be found below, but for those who just want the Coles Notes, here are some overall observations:

  • In general, the Napa wines were softer and drinking wonderfully now, while several of the Tuscan wines could use a few more years of bottle aging. This put some of the Tuscans at a disadvantage now, but for those willing to wait a few years, their patience will be rewarded. After these wines have a chance to mellow and balance out somewhat, they will gain in complexity and drink beautifully.
  • In several cases, the Napa wines showed better before the food arrived, while the Tuscan wines showed better with food. Personally, I would prefer to open most of Napa wines later in the evening with a good movie, while the Tuscans were great dinner companions.
  • Our favourite wines then:

The nitty gritty details:

Cocktails: 2011 St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc showed a very interesting contrast between the nose and the palate. The nose was very fruity, showing intense passion fruit and lychee. On the palate, vegetal notes dominated with canned asparagus and gooseberry.

First course: St. Supery Virtu vs Michele Satta Costa di Giulia.

  • The Virtu is a blend of 51% Semillon and 49% Sauvignon Blanc, showing smoky/toasty notes combined with apple and melon. It has some nice weight and acidity and is very well balanced. It seemed to win this round before the food arrived.
  • The Costa di Giulia is a blend of Vermentino and Saivignon Blanc. It shows ripe pear, lemon, and melon. It’s lighter-bodied than the Virtu and has higher acidity, which went well with the Thai coconut green curry scallop. So combined with food, it took this round.

Second course: 2010 Lola Kay Red vs 2008 Tolaini Al Passo.

  • The Lola Kay is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Wonderful, bright fruit: black cherry and raspberry combined with herbal notes (sage) and slight peppery notes.  This round’s winner.
  • The Al Passo is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. Oaky notes dominated on the nose with red cherry and redcurrant notes on the palate. Well made, but not as interesting as the Lola Kay.

Third course: braised short rib ravioli, pork belly, and parsnip puree.

Third course: 2007 St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon vs 2006 Tolaini Valdisanti.

  • The St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. Blackcurrant, raspberry, black pepper, and hints of smoke. Medium-plus acidity, medium-bodied, and low, soft tannins. Well-balanced and quite elegant for a California Cabernet Sauvignon. This round’s winner.
  • The Valdisanti is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. It’s rather subdued at the moment, showing some blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, but the tannins dominate, so this needs time to balance out. It’s showing great potential though (thankfully, since I have several bottles of this in the cellar, which are going to stay there for at least another 2 to 4 years still).
    • Interestingly, we had just drank a bottle of the 2003 the weekend before, which was showing much better than the 2006 since it had had a chance to mellow for a few more years. I looked up my tasting notes on that bottle: “wonderful, dark fruit (blackcurrant and black cherry), black pepper, slight cigar box, medium acidity, and soft tannins. Very well balanced.”. So promises lots of good for the 2006  in a few years from now.

Fourth course: 2006 Rubissow Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon vs 2004 Michele Satta Piastraia. (my favourite match up of the night)

  • The Rubissow is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. It’s intense: blackcurrant, plum, black pepper, and cedar notes. A bit hot, but has good acidity to hold it up. Medium-minus, soft tannins. Well-balanced and a great example of what NapaValley Cabernet Sauvignon is all about. This would have won any of the other rounds, had it not been paired against the Piastraia …
  • The Piastraia is made up of 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah, and 25% Sangiovese. At 8 years of age, it’s starting to show the complexity and character I love about wines that are made to age in bottle for at least a few years. There’s blackcurrant, leather, black tea, and hints of forest floor on the nose. On the palate, there’s blackcurrant, red cherry, and medium-plus though soft tannins. My favourite of the evening.

Fifth course: 2011 St. Supery Moscato vs 2008 Tolaini Picconero.

  • The Moscato was a wonderful surprise. Fruity, with passion fruit, orange, and peach notes. Medium sweet with enough acidity to keep it vibrant. A beautiful wine to go with dessert. This round’s winner.
  • The Picconero  is comprised of 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. I had heard much about this wine, but had never had the chance to try it. Similar to the Valdisanti, it’s showing tons of potential, but is much too young now. There is some blackcurrant and red cherry fruit, but the tannins and the acidity dominate at the moment. It needs at least another 3 to 5 years and will last for the next 10 to 15 years.
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