Monday, March 23, 2009

Quattro Goomba's Winery

Today we finally had an opportunity to listen to live music at a winery so we headed out Route 50 to Quattro Goomba’s Winery (QGW) - a winery with a completely different business model than its neighboring wine colleagues. QGW was officially formed by three friends - Jay DeCianno, David Gaetani, and David Camden - in the fall of 2006. DeCianno and Gaetani were raised in Italian households where homemade wines were common and learned the art and science from their grandfathers. They decided to become partners in making wine, starting in their basements. After two years honing their skills, they became bonded in 2006 and sold the wine through the WineStyles retail outlets. After the initial success, the opened their current tasting room directly on Routh 15, north of Gilbert's Corner, in the fall of 2008.

Now, there are dozens of wineries that started in a basement - or bathroom - but what makes QGW unique is that they source their grapes completely from outside the state - California, Chile, and Italy. They utilize brokers to suggest the vineyards and transport the juice or grapes; but only after the proprietors at QGC have conducted an extensive cost\benefit analysis and sampled wine made from grapes from the prospective vineyard. One they select a vineyard, it must meet stringent guidelines on quality (ie. acidity, brix) and vineyard control (what chemicals to use and when to apply). The growers segment a lot for QCW and are financially responsible if they fail to deliver fruit that meet their contractual obligations.

Eventually the owners would like to become a Virginia farm winery and plan to plant a small estate vineyard beside the tasting room. They will also source grapes from Breaux Vineyards in order to sell Virginia made wine. In order to satisfy the definition of farm winery, they are not required to produce wine from their estate grown grapes - only from Virginia grown grapes. This will give them time to slowly acquire the necessary vineyard skills to grow grapes and manage a vineyard.

When we arrived Dave Pepper was already performing in one corner and a group of tasters surrounded one tasting bar. Soon David Gaetani walked us through their portfolio - which interestingly only included two wines available for sale. For when they started, they only made 300 cases - and most of these sold out quickly. They plan to ramp up to 2,000 cases a year, but until these wines are bottled - we tried barrel samples served in carafes. We started with their only white - the soon to be bottled Vino Di Frascati, made from Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca grapes. Because of its proximity to Rome, the wines from the Frascati region have popular for over 2,000 years. The juice for this wine was transported in 57 gallon drums - taking about 17 days to reach the winery. Not a bad trip. At our tasting, the wine hadn't been clarified so it looked more like lemonade or a lemoncello flavored drink, than wine. But it was probably our favorite wine of the day - fruity and refreshingly acidic. We can't wait until this wine is bottled; perfect time for warm weather.

The next wine that was another favorite was the Vino Di Nanni (Wine of our Grandfathers) - proprietary family recipe made from two red and one white varieties. The wine has a pinkish tint, but is not a rose since the juice was not bled from the skins. Instead the color results from the composition of the grapes. This wine is also dry, but fruity enough were we can see it drunk chilled.

When the proprietors formed QGW, their goal was to make Mediterrean styled wines that were drinkable now and not necessarily with food. Their Chilean Merlot definitely hit this mark - it is dry and full bodied but amazingly smooth. The wine had undergone malolactic fermentation, converting the malic acids to lactic acids, and it showed in the finish. The following two wines were an interesting combination - made from the same varieties and vintage; but a different location: Vino D'Ana California and Vino D'Ana . Each wine is made from equal percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; however they are completely different. The Chilean wine is fruitier whereas the California version has a much peppery nose and earthy flavor. What's interesting is that is usually describes the comparison between California and French wines; but in this case, the California is the Old World wine and the Chilean the New World wine. We finished with their Vino Dolce, a dessert wine made from late harvest old vine zinfandel. Even though the wine has 4% residual sugar, it is not not syrupy and sugary. Instead its more like drinking dark raisins - similar to the Cyprus Commandaria we tasted recently in south beach. The final wine in the portfolio, currently aging is their popular Vino Di San Pietro, a Super Tuscan blend of 80% Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2007 vintage sold out quickly.

Afterward we relaxed on the deck playing with dogs, watching horses, drinking wine, and listening to the music. The winery is very dog friendly as described by Ms. Martin below. And the music completely complemented our visit - it was just nice to have music playing in the background. In fact we learned from Pepper that he enjoys playing at QGW because he has complete control of the setlist. Apparently that is not always the case - particularly when an agency is involved. Look for him on Sundays and when the winery hosts a larger concert on April 18th. This event celebrates the release of the Vino Di Frascati, Merlot and Vino Di Nanni wines and features Gaetani's rock band Swiftkick. You should see us there.

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