Alicats Winery2005 Passito di Chardonnay
Tuscan-born Alessio Carli, winemaker for Pietra Santa Winery in San Benito County, also makes wine under his own label, Alicats. The name comes from the first names of the family members: Alessio, wife Catherine and their twin daughters, Alessia and Catia.
“Passito” is an Italian term for a method of making sweet wines that involves laying the ripe grapes on mats or hanging them so they can partially dry, which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Alessio constructed a trellis for hanging the Chardonnay grapes (which came from the Cienega Valley AVA, despite the California appellation on the label). Once the grapes were dried, he destemmed them by hand, discarding any berries that weren’t up to snuff, then pressed the rest.
The resulting wine is luscious and very sweet, with flavors of dried apricots, vanilla, brown sugar and, curiously, a faint hint of chocolate. It’s made in tiny quantities and may not be easy to find, but it’s worth the hunt. Considering how labor-intensive this wine is to make, the price – $30 for a 500-milliliter bottle – is more than fair. The Carlis are considering using 375 ml bottles in the future to stretch their tiny production.
Reviewed February 5, 2007 by Laurie Daniel.
Laurie Daniel, wine columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, has been reviewing wine for more than 10 years. She doesn’t use numbers, preferring to describe her recommended wines and let consumers decide for themselves. Laurie believes that bigger isn’t necessarily better; she’s partial to wines of balance, finesse and character. Her particular interests are Pinot Noir (versions that really taste like Pinot, that is) and aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.