Montemaggiore is in the news! Below you will find general articles, blogs, and videos published about us and our wines. If you are interested in reviews and awards for a specific wine, go to Wine List and click on Reviews.
"Syrah specialist Lise Ciolino didn't think she wanted to make a white wine. She loved the aromatics of viognier, marsanne and roussanne—three classic Rhone varietals—but knew she'd have to rein them in. Though she'd planted a bit of viognier on her own property and plans to co-ferment or blend that viognier into her syrah, she'd been wary about making a varietal viognier white wine.
“There are things I like and things I don't like about viognier,” said Ciolino, who makes wine under her own label, Montemaggiore, from an estate winery in Healdsburg. “From a varietal perspective, I love the aromatics in proportion, but it can be over the top, it can get really too big, can be really alcoholic.” So she blended viognier with marsanne and roussanne, sourcing all the fruit from Saralee Kunde's vineyard in the Russian River Valley, prime ground for these varietals which, like syrah, all trace their heritage back to the Rhone region of France. Knowing what she did about the grapes' headstrong nature, she named the wine 3Divas.
In France, they are often blended, too, but appear on their own as well. Ciolino felt that to get the wonderful honeysuckle aromatics people love about viognier, the fruit has to get fairly ripe, which in California's warmer wine-growing areas can lead to higher sugars and alcohol levels. “The marsanne and roussanne add so much more body and complexity and interest,” she said. “They bring the over-the-top aromatics down to the realm of pleasant and interesting and fun.”
Ciolino received viognier grapes in early October and the others about three weeks later. The marsanne and roussanne were more similar in flavor than the viognier, she found. “The marsanne was a little more nutty, the roussanne was a little bit more pear, while both had a bit of honey, the classic characteristics,” she said. “The viognier had its orange blossom, honeysuckle, very tropical fruit notes, it was fun to blend.” The resulting 3 Divas is 36 percent viognier, 32 percent marsanne and 32 percent roussanne, whole-cluster pressed into stainless-steel tanks and later aged in neutral French oak barrels that had previously been used for chardonnay. Each varietal was fermented separately. ..."
Biodynamic takes Organic to a higher Power
By Wendy Rieger
Wendy Rieger from NBC's Green Report visited Montemaggiore during the 2009 harvest to learn about the benefits of biodynamic farming. The following video comprises her report.
Daytime visits Montemaggiore
Daytime, a nationally syndicated morning lifestyle show, sent their wine guru to visit Montemaggiore and taste our wines. The video below offers an overview of Montemaggiore's winegrowing and winemaking practices, while Matthew Horbund's video review of the Montemaggiore 2005 Syrah can be found in the Wine List area.
Valentines among the Vines
By Risa Wyatt
Lise Ciolino: Winemaker
Vincent Ciolino: Vineyard Manager
Montemaggiore, Sonoma County, California
“One secret of success when going into business with your spouse is having a clear delineation of who’s in charge of what,” states Lise. “We strive towards the same goal,” Vincent says. “I do what I can to produce the best grapes, and I leave it to my wife to turn that good fruit into good wine.” The couple also maintains a clear dividing line at home. “Leave work at work,” Vincent advises. However one of the beauties of working with your spouse is integrating your family into the business. “With this last harvest, Paolo, our six-year-old son, really got into helping us,” Lise says. “It was fun to be out there as a family doing the harvest together.”
Rhone wasn't built in a Day
By Norm Roby
"Syrah may be a cute curiosity in several New World regions, but in California it has arrived bigtime. A number of artisan wineries-Jaffurs, Palmeri, Saxum, Copain, L'Aventure, JC Cellars, Adelaida, Domaine Alfred, Montemaggiore and Terre Rouge - are flirting with cult wine status. Each produces Syrah in garagiste quantity, and new vintages quickly sell out, either on a futures basis or to a mailing list clientele. At least another two dozen wineries have positioned themselves as Syrah specialists while others are making it their flagship wine.
To draw any conclusions as to Syrah’s
likely progress, we have to look at what
jump-started it. The nursery programme
at Tablas Creek (the Beaucastel connection)
first encouraged the importation of
Syrah clones and focused attention on
rootstock selection. Then winemakers
learned how to deal with Syrah’s tendency
to grow like the proverbial weed.
Lise Ciolino says of her breathtaking
Montemaggiore Dry Creek Valley Syrah,
'We use every trick in the book to keep
its growth in check, ranging from intensive
planting, to cane pruning to deficit
irrigation.' Her steep hillside vineyards
also restrict yields."
New Developments in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley
By Wolfgang M. Weber
"You would be forgiven for thinking that the view from the porch at the Dry Creek General Store (founded 1881) hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. There's still no traffic light at the intersection of Lambert Bridge and Dry Creek roads, and the pavement is uneven at best. Dry Creek Valley remains an idyllic slice of rural Sonoma County that runs to the northwest from the town of Healdsburg. Vines climb the hillsides amid dense forest, and vineyards cover the valley floor. It's a quiet view that hides recent viticultural changes along the valley's namesake creek.
Montemaggiore, a new winery high in the southern hills of Dry Creek Valley, has enlisted [biodynamic consultant Alan] York to help in their transition to biodynamic viticulture. The ten-acre vineyard that Vincent and Lise Ciolino bought in 2001 had been conventionally farmed, and they quickly realized that their plot—a steep slope surrounded by dense forest, including a smattering of redwoods—needed more hands-on care. "It's a symbiotic relationship," says Vincent Ciolino as we walk through Montemaggiore's syrah vineyard.
Ciolino, the son of Sicilian immigrants who settled in Chicago, remembers helping this father in the family's urban garden when he wasn't catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It was his first encounter with organic farming. "I used to drive a truck full of manure up to the house for the garden," he recalls. As we cross a small road that separates the upper syrah vineyard at Montemaggiore from a lower section called the Saddle, Lise Ciolino points out the winery's constructed wetland—a gravel pit of flowers and plants that catches wastewater from the winery. The pond acts as a filter, Ciolino explains, and then the clean gray water goes into a holding tank to be reused.
That may seem a small step toward minimizing the winery's impact on the hillside ecosystem, but it's one that fits Montemaggiore's small scale. According to Alan York, it's a practice that's "in keeping with a traditional European model, where there is a sense of dedication to take care of a piece of land and the grapes that come from it."
Its one thing for a rural community to survive in a place as densely populated as the Bay Area, but for one to thrive as Dry Creek Valley ahs is something else entirely. And perhaps that's the most significant change around here in recent years: A greater awareness of the close relationships between farmer, farm and environment that's leading to some great new wines. It's something to contemplate while relaxing on the porch of the General Store, glass of old-vine zinfandel in hand."
Over the prior 12 months, Wine & Spirits tasted 261 syrahs. Montemaggiore was one of ten wines receiving the strongest praise!
2002 Dry Creek Valley Paolo's Vineyard Syrah
"This wine shows its refinement when first poured, with a violet perfume, fresh blueberry flavors and tannins as ferrous as an iron skillet—it grows on a steep, south-southeast facing hillside in reddish, rocky soil with lots of iron. That tight bristle of tannin doesn't relent until the wine has been open for at least two days, when the elegance extends past the tannins as they soften into a firm density. A lovely, expressive syrah, this needs several years in the cellar before serving with quail stuffed with pancetta, roasted in a brick oven."
Syrah done Right
By Chris Knap
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
"Handled properly, Syrah is special: a powerful, luxurious wine that ranks among the world's best.
Now right about here is where I'd crankily vilify all those who vinify weak, flabby Syrah, except for this: There is such a welter of this crappy wine, a veritable ocean, that there's no sense trying to empty it with my little bucket.
What I can do is give a hearty huzzah to those who get it right, and Vincent and Lise Ciolino have done just that with the 2002 Montemaggiore Paolo's Vineyard, the inaugural release from their new estate winery in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.
Vincent, who is the grower, says the steep hillsides and thin soils, plus a decision to aggressively thin the 2002 crop (please take note, all wineries making weak Syrah) produced the intensely flavored berries that made this juice.
Lise, winemaker and wife of Vincent, chose a Côtes du Rhône yeast reputed to bring out the spiciness in Syrah, then added 11 percent Cabernet Sauvignon (also from their Dry Creek estate) to the final blend. Oh, yes, and the wine was aged for nearly two years in French (and a few American) oak barrels.
It all adds up to rich, deep and plush wine. The nose hints of cedar and sage. The wine tastes of black cherry, blackberry and black tea with hints of black licorice and cassis. It clocks in at 14.9 percent alcohol, but as with all well-made wines, the robust body and full fruit make the alcohol disappear on the palate.
Serve this with lamb, tri-tip or any meaty and slightly fatty fare.
Five stars to the Ciolinos for starting out right."
From Software to Syrah
By Lise Pfau Ciolino '85
When someone inquires about your profession, how much do you simplify the answer? For much of my career, I often resorted to "I'm in software" rather than risk "I build real-time reasoning with uncertainty systems" or "My company provides business to business electronic commerce for operational resources." These days, however, my answer is always simply "I make wine"—and it's more of a natural career step than you might think!
My freshman year I was hooked by my first Computer Science class (yes, Andy van Dam's CS11). I loved building software because of the intellectual challenge; the creative juices stirred as I formulated the "perfect" design, and of course, the user's profound appreciation of a product that I helped produce. After grad school, I went out into the wide world of software to do research, then startups—once, I actually joined a company that eventually made a profit. By then, I had made the fatal mistake of moving away from engineering and into management. The problem is that I like building products myself.
So my husband and I invested our software earned nest egg into our own small business-a business that involved another passion of mine: wine. I always had a fascination with wine, passed down from my parents who enjoyed wine with dinner every night. I traveled to many gorgeous European wine regions, enjoyed the food, the wine, and the culture—but I was a computer scientist. When I moved to Silicon Valley, however, I realized that Californians (seemingly just like me) made some pretty awesome wine. So in my spare time, I took some classes at UC Davis and started making wine in a friend's Palo Alto garage. As it turns out, lots of good things start in garages in Palo Alto, and that first vintage won a silver medal at a prestigious amateur wine competition. I was hooked.
You see, creating fabulous wine is very much like building great software. Between growing grapes and making wine, it's incredibly intellectually challenging—horticulture, entomology, meteorology, biochemistry, and statistics are all fields one should dabble in, if not master. Although you can make wine without understanding why yeasts need nitrogen at the start of fermentation, long before they begin to look stressed-you'll make a better wine more consistently if you understand the science. There is so much to know about growing grapes and making wine, we decided to specialize in a single varietal, Syrah.
Like software, with wine you are continually producing upgrades-we just call them vintages. Every year, I am optimistic that I can make amore elegant, more smooth, more intense Syrah than I have done before, and usually I do, although Mother Nature throws many curveballs. Winemaking schedules are very much enforced by an unyielding higher power, thus no amount of pleading, graphs, or PowerPoint presentations will change the reality that harvest comes every year around the same time whether I like it or not!
Wine, like software, is part science and part art form. The scientific aspect is undeniable, but also creativity, experimentation, and just "feel" make the difference between a good wine and a great wine. In winemaking, you have to use all your senses to evaluate the fermentation and aging process-of the thousands of variables in making great wine, which one will make a difference this year, with these grapes, in this situation? I mix a bit of science, a bit of intuition, a bit of good luck, and liberally dose it with some great advice from winemaking friends.
Of course the main difference between Syrah and software is that grapes and wine are physical in nature. To have people enjoy the fruits of your labor, you can't just ftp it—you have to lug around a 50lb case of wine. But the beauty also lies in that physicality. There's the sight of the bright green new buds bursting in the spring, the fog rising over the vineyards in the morning, and the ripe purple grapes against the deep green foliage just before harvest. There are the wonderful aromas when you enter the wine cellar full of French oak barrels, and the heady scent of a winery brimming with fermenting grapes. And of course, there's the smooth, silky texture and wonderful flavors of a Syrah that fills your mouth—particularly when you can ignore all the complexity in producing your product, and just sit back to enjoy a simple, wonderful glass of wine with some good friends.
Since the 2002 vintage, my husband and I have made wine and olive oil at Montemaggiore in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California. Life doesn't get better than this—and the pleasures don't get more simple. If you want more insight into the simple life, e-mail me at email@example.com. Cheers!
Lise Pfau Ciolino graduated from Brown in 1985
with an ScB in Applied Math/Computer Science.
By Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher
March 19, 2004
"The strangest things happen on Open That Bottle Night.
In our column announcing the date of OTBN this year, we wrote: "In Niskayuna, N.Y., retired physicist Dr. James B. Comly and his wife plan to open a 1983 Chateau Puy-Blanquet given to him in 1988 by Lise Pfau, an intern who worked with him in a software-technology program at General Electric. Her father had brought it back from one of his annual wine trips to France. 'I have been looking up old friends for the last two or three years in general and was reminded about Lise Pfau when I reviewed my OTBN candidate bottles,' Dr. Comly told us. 'I'm going to try to find her. I'd like to tell her about this.' "
After reading this, a former colleague told Dr. Comly how to contact Ms. Pfau. Now married, Lise Pfau Ciolino left her career in the computer industry three years ago -- to start a winery in Sonoma with her husband, who also worked in the computer industry. Her father instilled a love of wine and winemaking in her, she told us. "You're living from the earth and you get to share something that you produce. I always loved the lifestyle, the vineyards, the travel. People were always really nice."
Now her husband, Vincent, is in charge of the vineyard and Mrs. Ciolino is the winemaker of Montemaggiore (and they live right down the street from an old friend of ours from the Journal). They have five acres of Syrah and five of Cabernet Sauvignon. They are bottling their first wines this year—a Syrah and a Cabernet/ Syrah blend—and expect to ultimately produce about 2,000 cases a year. Said Dr. Comly: "I have asked to be put on their order list to buy a case of each.""