Thursday, December 31, 2009

Truffles & Pinot Gris

Had a really tasty New Years Eve Day brunch today, egg whites omelette with havarti cheese and arugula and a sprinkle of white truffle oil paired with a glass of Oregon Firesteed Pinot Gris 2007.

The truffle oil provided the grounding effect to contrast nicely with the fresh citrus aromas of the Pinot Gris, while the savory edge of the truffles complemented the pear and honeydew melon and flavors of honeysuckle and spice.

Sabatino Tartufi White Truffle Infused Olive Oil is made in Italy, sample provided by Marxfoods.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prosecco picks for New Years Eve

Here are a few of my favorites for New Year's Eve celebration.

Valdo Extra Dry Prosecco
"... straw colored, with aromas like a fresh loaf of bread and, well, grapes... and flavors of grapefruit, melon, apple, stretching into a refreshing finish. "

Col Vetoraz, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene

Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Gold Label DOC
"... from the Valdobbiadene area of the veneto region, this spunky Extra Dry Prosecco has fresh fruit aromas, with flavors on the sweet side of sour Granny Smith apples and a wonderful floral finish."

Riondo Prosecco
"... with delicous fragrances of orange blossoms, apricots and ripe peaches."

Prosecco is not made by the methode champenoise in which the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in its own bottle, instead it happens in large, pressurized tanks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Poggio al Casone Toscana IGT 2005

With a nose of cranberry and fig, black raspberries, strawberries and white pepper with subtle animal notes, this blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah offer up an exotic aromatic presentation. 12 months aging in French oak barriques shows on the palate with a smoky veil revealing herbal tones and more dark fruit, evolving to leather, wood, mint and mineral.

In the Siena hills the Poggio al Casone Estate in the Colline Pisane region of Tuscany, the Castellani family is making a major investment in their Tuscan estates. To produce this selection of Tuscan Red, they have followed the craft of the *tufaceous soils of Poggio al Casone that give birth to soft and light wines, with strong fruitiness and intriguing aromatic complexity.

*tufaceous\ a porous rock formed as a deposit from springs or streams
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Poggio al Casone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Poggio al Casone Chianti Superiore 2006 DOCG

Up in the Siena hills the Poggio al Casone Estate in the Colline Pisane region of Tuscany, the Castellani family is making a major investment in their Tuscan estates. This selection is made for its ripe fruitiness and easy drinkability.

It’s a Chianti Superiore blend of 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak casks. First the senses detect figs, chocolate, tobacco and mineral aromas, followed by almonds and vanilla with light mellow flavors of cassis, ripe tart cherries then spices as the finish stretches over time.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Poggio al Casone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Women Of The Vine Cellars Napa Valley Syrah 2006

This Napa Valley Syrah made by winemaker Heidi Peterson Barret has deep blueberry colors, with lot's happening on the nose: roasted marshmallows, tar, blackberry jam, black plum, rosehips, strawberries and eucalyptus. On the palate rich almost sweet blue fruits, hints of white pepper, dried cherries, licorice and marzipan with a nice long finish. A fairly high alcohol content at 15.3%.

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino 1999 DOCG

It wasn't too difficult choosing the wine to have with our Christmas Eve dinner this year. I picked one given to me by my friend Gary last year for Christmas called Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino, a concentrated and full bodied, earthy Sangiovese.

Warm ruby with rusty colors around the edges introduce aromas of leather, plums and vanilla on the way to intense flavors of cola, ripe black cherries, spices and a hint of smoked meats. There is also a floral note present somewhere in the background that floats along the way to the long elegant finish.

Buon Natale

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Picks for Christmas 2009

Sparkling white:
Riondo Prosecco Italy
"...with delicous fragrances of orange blossoms, apricots and ripe peaches", to accompany shrimp appetizers.

Urban Uco Torrontés 2009 Argentina $10
"...fragrant and snappy, the first whiff just put a big smile on my face", try this with linguine with clam sauce.

Il Trullo Salento Primitivo Italy, $11
"...loaded with resinous flavors of cassis and dark berries", similar to a Zinfandel and will work really well with a veal dish.

Cantele Rosato Negroamaro 2007 IGT Puglia, Italy
"... hints of copper paints this Rosato from Puglia, while sour cherry gummy bears and strawberries express the aromas. The crisp palate shows a tart freshness that sings with the essence of rose water and cherries." This will work with a traditional Italian Christmas Eve "7 fishes".

Marenco 2007 Pineto Brachetto d'Acqui Italy
"... a strawberry bubbly that is an excellent way to end a Christmas Eve meal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Firesteed Citation Pinot Noir 2000 Oregon

Howard Rossbach (who grew up in the Bronx) of Firesteed started out by successfully crafting a good, affordable Oregon Pinot Noir at $10.

After this success he wanted to attempt a higher end wine in a creative way, so he selected the best available Pinots of the region, fermented in small vessels, then aged in French oak for 18 months before bottle aging for 5 years … There really aren’t that many Oregon Pinot Noirs aged for 5 years before release.

The results? A complex but softened beauty. I allowed a few hours decanting and the aromas were dark and earthy. In the glass deep ruby colors and a nose full of strawberry shortcake with a bit of citrus. On the palate ripe black cherries, vanilla, a smoky spice, forest floor and a good long balanced finish.

$50, 13.6% alcohol

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Firesteed Cellars.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2004

Renato Ratti played a major role in defining Barolo, and in 1965 bought his first vineyard in the historical zone of Marcenasco at La Morra. Ensuring quality by using the best Nebbiolo grapes and aging in new barriques and small Slovenian casks, his family carries on Mr. Ratti's particular style.

Robust and full bodied, the assault begins with seasoned aromas of chocolate, sour cherries, coffee, tar and tobacco, with delicious flavors of violets, licorice, chalk, and dusty stone. Having a richness and texture that hits hard, after an hour's decanting integrating well, and finishing nicely with length.

If you have the patience to hold on to this for just a bit longer, it may just be worth the wait. Or if you'd rather seize the day like I did, enjoy it now, my friend.

Country: Italy
Region: Piedmont
SubRegion: Langhe
Appellation: Barolo
Vineyard: Marcenasco
Varietal: Nebbiolo

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2006 DOCG

This Chianti Riserva from the 11th century Frescobaldi vineyards of Rufina is sexy and layered with dark deep, cool ruby colors, fruity aromas of pomegranate and black currant, with exotic notes of leather, vanilla, and a barnyard hint. The palate is complex and runs the gamut from black cherry pie topped with powdered sugar to black plum and raspberries, to spice and cocoa powder to smoke and licorice. Fine tannins are expressed with a long clean finish.

It is made from 90% Sangiovese with small amounts of Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged 24 months in barrel and 3 months in bottle. Cost is in the $20 range and alcohol content is 13.5%.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Marchesi de Frescobaldi.

Winery Notes:


Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina DOCG is one of the historic wines produced at the Castello di Nipozzano. This wine always retains its close relationship with the Castello di Nipozzano terroir.


The 2006 harvest for the Tenute Frescobaldi was completed on October 11. The overall evaluation is very positive, particularly regarding exceptional levels of fruit quality in the areas where the Tenute Frescobaldi are located.Castello di Nipozzano, the standard-bearer of Chianti Rufina DOCG winemaking, experienced even and balanced growing conditions, with normal amounts of rain during July and August.

The year yielded wines of considerable elegance and outstanding ageing potential.Light rains during the summer provided the vines with enough moisture to undergo veraison (change of colour) without problem. Sunny, crisp, dry days in September and October were crucial in developing in the grapes all of the qualities necessary for the production of wines of unsurpassed quality and fine structure.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Firesteed Oregon Pinot Gris 2006

From a blend of various vineyard sources and regions within the Willamette and Rogue Valleys in Oregon, this Pinot Gris varietal does well in this place. Very pale coloring, more like that of an Italian Pinot Grigio, with aromas of pear and honeydew melon and flavors of honeysuckle and spice. Fresh and clean with good acidity and weight, with lemon notes and easy drinkability, I paired it with a blue cheese, but it can easily work with a salmon dish.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Firesteed Cellars.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Firesteed Willamet Valley Pinot Noir 2005 Oregon

The jolt I get from this Pinot is reminding me of those candies I loved as a kid... you know... those chocolate rings with a chewy raspberry jelly inside. Then aromas of pomegranate, black cherries, grilled meats, and figs. The flavors are a mix of marzipan, black tea and a bit of cocoa at the end. Very, very nice and a long finish.

Winemaker notes:
Cool and slightly damp weather in early June caused vineyards to set a small crop for the second consecutive vintage. The hot, dry summer ran out of steam early in September and high temperatures at the winery stayed in the 60's and 70's for a full month prior to harvest. Requiring neither sunscreen nor umbrellas, crushing peaked mid-October. As the season began to wind down it became clear that the year 2005 could rank among Oregon's finest vintages.

Select lots of prime Willamette Valley Pinot Noir grapes were chosen to be fermented in small vessels with a high percentage of berries remaining whole. After fermentation the young wine was gently pressed into new, one, two and three-year old French oak barrels for 12 months of aging. The top-quality barrels were then selected and blended together for this cuvee.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Firesteed Cellars.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Urban Uco Torrontés 2009 Argentina

¡Caramba! That's Wow! in Spanish.

This inexpensive white wine from the Cafayette apellation in the North West Region of Argentina is in the $9-10 range... no malo, verdad? It's made with 100% Torrontés grapes and is so fragrant and snappy that the first whiff just put a big smile on my face.

And springtime is the season where it takes me, with flowery aromas of honeysuckle, lemon rind, honeydew melons and peaches... then finishes like a bright sunny May afternoon.

¡Viva Torrontes!
Sampled this wine at The Wine room of Forest Hills
Torrontes grapes photo from Wikepedia

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Erath Pinot Gris 2008 Oregon

Made from the Pinot Gris grape in Oregon, pleasing fresh layers of kiwi, lychee, honeysuckle and ginger aromas unfold with tropical fruit flavors and ripe banana, lemon and floral notes. Showing a lively acidity and a very good structure and finish, Erath produced an appealing everyday white at the $14 range.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Erath Winery.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2004 Cayalla RTW (Red Table Wine) Oregon

From the Columbia and Walla Walla Valley in Oregon comes this tasty blend made from 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 14% Syrah. It is aged for 9 months in French oak barrels before blending.

Aromas of cassis and vanilla complimented with exotic flavors of sour cherries, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, licorice and stewed prunes. Balanced, but with a bold character and showing a long finish with medium tannins.

Winemaker notes:
The Cayalla brand has been created by a team with over 75 years of experience in the Pacific Northwest wine industry. Cayalla wines exhibit the finest qualities derived from grapes grown in the Walla Walla and Columbia Valleys.

The Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley are shared by both Oregon and Washington State. The Walla Walla Valley is a small region that lies within the confines of the larger Columbia Valley. Both appellations are east of the Cascade Mountains and are very much warmer and drier than the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. The climate east of the Cascade Mountains is far more hospitable to the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.

Select Cuvees of Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah from top sites in the Walla Walla Valley were blended with choice lots from the Columbia Valley to produce this unique wine. After going through malo-lactic fermentation, the wines were aged nine months in a combination of new, one year, and two-year old French oak barrels prior to final blending and bottling.

We chose the name, Cayalla, as it is unique, memorable, and trademarketable. It is derived from the names of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes of eastern Washington and eastern Oregon.

Full disclosure: This bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Firesteed Cellars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Firesteed Oregon Pinot Noir 2007

This blend of Pinots Noir sourced from the Willamette, Umpqua, Rogue and Walla Walla Valleys in Oregon makes for an interesting glass of wine. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, then 20% of the blend was barrel aged to round out the flavors.

Pale translucent ruby colors and medium body with aromas of cherries, and an earthy underbrush, followed by flavors of raspberries and strawberries. 12.5% alcohol. $15 pricetag make this a great wine to accompany a weeknight dinner.

Full disclosure: This particular bottle was a complimentary sample for Vigna Uva Vino from Firesteed Cellars.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Black Box California Merlot 2007

Well, I really didn't want to like this wine, simply because it was in a box (actually it's in a bag, in a box). But, the truth is... I did. It has a freshness that is not easy to find these days in an everyday wine. It's touted to stay fresh for four weeks.

Aromas of blackberries, raspberries, cedar, violets with hints of fresh baked pastries. Flavors are fruit forward with cherries, milk chocolate, and a fairly smooth creamy cherry finish.

The box holds 3 liters of wine, the equivalent of 4 bottles and retails for $24, 13.5% alcohol.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clos L’Oratoire St. Emilion 2005

Quick notes on a Bordeaux blend... dark purple, made from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, very earthy, barnyard and mushroom, creamsicle fruitiness, plums, banana peels, tight tannins, could use a little time. $50-60.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cameron Hughes Lot 143 Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet 2007

More tasting notes from the Snooth California Cabernet Sauvignon Blind Tasting earlier this month. Made from 90% Cabernet, 6% Tempranillo, 4% Syrah... on the nose chocolate, cherry cola, cassis, violets, super dry on the palate but with cedar, cigar box and ripe black fruits, and a floral note, nice acidity, short to medium finish.

Hughes notes:
In this economic environment, more and more wineries are presenting their wines to us, so one could say that as the economy gets worse, our selection gets better. Lot 143 is one of the first acquisitions of Sam Spencer, (our new wine maker) after originally bringing us Lots 1 and 2 back in 2003. Sam has focused on stepping outside of traditional brokerage channels to find the upper-echelon wines that tiptoe around the frenzy of the wine-sourcing market.

This lot in particular has been nothing less than mind-blowing. It comes from a $95 per bottle program, so with a little fine-tuning by Sam, becomes one of the best wines we offer at $22 per bottle. We just submitted it for reviews and should have the results by the end of 2009. I would be shocked if it scored anything less than 92 points. The grower group responsible for this wine has consistently scored in the mid 90s and with 2007 being one of the best years that Napa has seen, making this wine truly exceptional.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cameron Hughes Lot 116 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

My tasting notes from the Snooth California Cabernet Sauvignon Blind Tasting earlier this month yielded this natural winner for me.

Ruby colored, with a dark bouquet of vanilla, cassis, menthol/eucalyptus, and white pepper, and dry earthy tones displaying wholesome fruity flavors, combining together to produce a full-bodied, balanced Cabernet with ripe cherries lingering as a finishing touch.

14.5% alcohol, $22/bottle retail

Cameron Confidential:
From an 85 dollar bottle-program and the virtuoso wine maker that brought us Lot 133 2008 Atlas Peak Chardonnay, this primary blend is of a completely custom facility in Napa. Sourced from some of the best vineyards in Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, and Spring Mountain, this wine receives continual 91, 92, and 93 point scores. It does sit at the high point of our pricing at 22 dollars, but is absolutely worth every penny. Remember: this is not leftover barrel lots but the actual bottling blend from an $85/bottle program.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Soave is Back

Gary Grunner, National Sales-Brand Manager of Cantina di Soave, invited me on a recent Sunday afternoon, to Il Poeta, one of the finest new Italian restaurants in Queens, New York. Three new wines from Veneto were the main event, paired perfectly with cuisine from the same region prepared by Veneto native, Chef Mario DiChiara, and co-hosted by his business partner Luca.

Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2008 DOC

When I was a younger man, the most famous white wine from Italy was from the Soave region, near Verona. Regional Garganega and Trebbiano grapes were among the finest then and remain so until this day. The first tasting selection, from Cantina di Soave is this very same Soave Classico, a fond reminder of my youth, and proof in my estimation, that Soave has not only made a strong comeback but remains one of Italy's greatest white wines.

This straw colored white wine, made with 100% Garganega grapes, expresses blossoming aromas of fresh fruits, melons, pears, apples and mild cinnamon. A surprising depth of flavor and texture balances very nicely with bright, crisp acidity, and a nutty finish.

Soave Classico proved to be a super match-up with the first two courses, a burrata with arugula and prosciutto, and "sardines in carpione," delicate fish that's fried, then marinated in a saor sauce (vinegar with onions, pine nuts and raisins).

Rocca Sveva Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 DOC

The Amarone Process
The hand-picked clusters are set to dry on "drying racks" for at least 3 months in special temperature- and humidity-controlled lofts. During the drying period, the grapes are affected by "noble rot" or botrytis cinerea. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation they will have lost up to 50-60% of their water content. They are then de-stemmed and pressed, and the must is put into small fermenters where it ferments at low temperatures (50°F) for some 25-30 days. When the alcohol reaches two-thirds of its final level, the wine is put into stainless steel tanks at 68°F to complete fermentation. The wine is then matured in oak casks for a minimum of 24 months, followed by an additional twelve months in bottle.

Deep ruby with warmer colors around the edge of the glass, along with cherry pie aromas, layered with flavors of rich chocolate, dried fruits, bing cherries, and dark berries urge you to savor every sip. This full-bodied gold medal winner is the perfect pairing for a hearty meal. On the palate has a nice full-bodied structure, with notes of hazelnut, a beautiful balance and lasting finish. We decanted this wine for over an hour and it opened beautifully— the perfect partner for a Risotto with duck ragu.

Gold medal winner 2008 Vinitaly
Gold Medal and Trophy 2008, 2007, 2006 International Wine Challenge

Rocca Sveva Ripasso di Valpolicella Superiore 2007 DOC

Made from 70% Corvina, and 30% Molinara and Rondinella, and employing a process by which the wine is "re-passed" for 11 to 14 days over the freshly fermented pomace/lees of the grapes used to make Amarone, this lush 2009 International Wine Challenge Gold medal winner, is then further aged for six months in the bottle. The "re-passing" provides increased structure as well as an appealing roundness; 30% of the wine is then matured in oak barriques and 70% in large oak botti for an additional 12-18 months.

The hospitable bouquet is abundant with black fruits, a smoky oakiness, with slight barnyard alongside exotic spiciness. Luscious ripened black cherries and vanilla contrast a slightly floral edge, as a prelude to a smart, smooth and long finish, pairing exquisitely with sirloin steak and mustard sauce, mushrooms and potatoes.

It was clear to all on this particular Sunday afternoon, that the best vineyards in Italy are producing premium but affordable wines. Soave is back with a flavorful vengeance, and Chef Mario and I were happily surprised and excited about the many amazing selections from this rich and fertile region.

Il Poeta is a family owned restaurant featuring classic Italian dishes brought to life with the culinary touches of Chef Mario DiChiara. Fine dining and exceptional service is what you can expect when you visit there. After years of experience as Chef at such restaurants as Harry's Bar (owned by Cipriani in Venice, Italy), Cipriani (NY), and Il Corso, Chef Mario DiChiara and his brother-in-law Luca opened Il Poeta to rave reviews.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Estate Selection Pinot Noir 2006

After visiting the Oregon Food and Beverage Show in NYC last month, I was impressed with the wines I tasted from The Erath Winery. This Pinot Noir is another sample bottle I received from them. It sources fruits from several Reserve quality locations in the Dundee Hills Appelation of Oregon (15% Prince Hill, 14% Juliard, 62% Knight's Gambit, 5% Lillie's and 4% Niederberger), and is aged in barrel for 13 months.

Aromas of cherry, plums and a certain earthiness prevail while the palate leaves a smoky cinnamon suggestion and tangy red licorice (anise), a layer of minerality, rounded flavors and soft finish. I can imagine this working perfectly with a Thanksgiving dinner.

91 points Wine Spectator, Retails for $36, 13.5% alcohol.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Macari Vineyards Dos Aguas 2007

From the Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, Long Island's North Fork, comes this blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec. The four grapes used here are also found in many Bordeaux, usually with a bit higher percentage of Cabernet. But this blend really makes for an interesting variation on the theme.

The nose makes a statement immediately with notes of mint, vanilla, black cherries and cassis, and the deep dark ruby colors bring weight to the table. What follows on the palate is cola with creamsicle, stewed prunes, muted citrus rinds and smoky soft tannins with a silky finish.

The "dos aguas" name is a testament to the Peconic Bay and the L.I. Sound which contributes to the Terroir, and dedicated to the Native American people who had such a high regard for the Land.

About Macari Vineyards

Macari Vineyards, located on the North Fork of Eastern Long Island in Mattituck, is owned and operated by the Macari Family. The business is led by owners Joseph Macari Sr. and his wife, Katherine, and Joseph Macari Jr., who is at the helm of the winery with his wife, Alexandra. Though Macari Vineyards was established in 1995, the Macari Family has owned the 500 acre waterfront estate for nearly 50 years. In this time, they have been careful environmental stewards of the land. What were once potato fields and farmland has become a vineyard of 180 acres of vines with additional fields of compost, farmland, and a home to cows, goats, Sicilian donkeys and ducks.

Macari is on the cutting edge of viticulture and is dedicated to a more natural approach to winemaking. Joseph Macari, Jr. is recognized as a pioneer in the movement towards organic and sustainable farming on Long Island, employing principles of biodynamic farming since the vineyard’s first plantings. Extensive soil preparation, rich composts, careful cover cropping and a consideration to wildlife and terrain makes Macari's 180 planted acres stand out from the rest. Taking into account the health of the environment as a whole, and moving away from the harmful effects of pesticides to a more natural and meticulous caretaking of the soil and plants, ultimately yields premium wines.

Full Disclosure: This sample bottle was given to vignauvavino compliments of Macari Vineyards.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Map of route we took on Day 5 of bike trip thru Tuscany 2006

It's been three years since the trip I took to Tuscany (deep sigh). I just found a shot of the map we used to navigate around Castelnuovo Berardenga, Asciano and Rapolano. That was such a fun trip. I feel like I need to put out there my intention to get back there.... SOON. And to make it happen!

There, it's DONE.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sanfords Restaurant

Revisiting the neighborhood where I grew up never ceases to amaze me. When I left Astoria over 30 years ago there was a coffee shop on Broadway called Sanford's Cafeteria that back then was already there for over 55 years and a mainstay of the neighborhood. So it was great to see a CBS TV review of the new and improved Sanfords Restaurant. Brothers Chris and Gus Karalekas reinvented the place which was passed down to them from their father John Karalekas. John envisioned the Contemporary American culinary style and fresh ingredients and Chris (a Sommelier) selects the wines.

The exterior draws you in, is warm and inviting, and once inside is strikingly modern and tastefully done in warm tones with comfortable lighting.

We started with a bottle from Tuscany, the San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico 2005, made from 100% Sangiovese, aged 12 months in Slavonian oak casks, showing deep ruby colors, aromas of violets and red berries, flavors of ripe cherries, raspberries and plum, smooth tannins and crisp acidity. This wine is special to me having visited the vineyard during a cycling trip in 2006.

One of the appetizer house specialties were amazing, Butternut Squash Raviolis in a toasted almond sage cream sauce. They were out of the Florentine spring rolls in an herbed spinach-feta mix, but we'll save that for next visit. Next was the Tuna Tartar sashimi with sesame soy marinade, layered guacamole and wasabi aioli... beautiful!

Our main courses ranged from the Pecan crusted ahi tuna over orzo with grape tomatoes and wasabi to the organic free range rotisserie chicken, fresh herb rub, sweet potato mash, and seasonal vegetable medley.

On to our second bottle this time from Spain, a Lan Rioja 2005, a Crianza tempranillo showing bright ripe black cherry, fruity aromas, rosewater, and a bit of oak with light tannins and a fresh acidity.

Let me just say that this is just scratching the surface... the wine list is extensive and their markups are very reasonable, and the menu has loads of categories to choose from, soups, appetizers, quesadillas, salads, pasta, entees, sides, sandwiches, burgers and desserts... also VERY reasonable.

If you haven't been back to the old neighborhood in a while, well, here's a damned good excuse.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cameron Hughes Lot 147 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

My tasting notes from the Snooth Blind Cab Tasting last week for this Cameron Hughes were not extensive, but it was my favorite out of the third flight:

Aromas of Chocolate along with a barnyard earthiness showing a slightly vegetal palate with hints of ripe tomato. 15.2% alcohol.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cameron Hughes Lot 138 Santa Barbara Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

From the third flight of the Snooth Blind Cabernet tasting, a noticeable 14.9% alcohol level, aromas loaded with oak, black raspberries, cassis and a dry dusty palate. Flavors waft with a bit of cassis, mint, pencil lead, and black fruits, nice... but just a bit short on the finish. Might need a little time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Smoking Loon California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Another California Cab from the second flight at Snooth's Cabernet Blind Tasting last week.

Dark purple rose colors, aromas of smoked meats, speck, black cherries and hints of rubber band with flavors of strawberry pie, violets and a dusty fruitiness. 13.5% alcohol $8.99.

Hess Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This red from California is from the second flight at Snooth's Cabernet Blind Tasting last week.

Actually this is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah and 4% Merlot and made from grapes from Mendocino, Lake County and Napa County (45%, 30%, 25%). Shows floral aromas of lilac, mineral, tar, and reminiscent of Robitussin cherry cough syrup in a slightly oxidized way. Flavors of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cedar, and hints of sawdust with a short to medium metallic finish, 13.5% alcohol and $12.99.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This was my favorite from the first flight at the Snooth Cabernet tasting last week. Initially, beautiful dark ripe blackberry aromas assault together with wafts of berries, and hints of vanilla, spices and cassis.

Structured tannins and a chewy, brambly mouth feel, give way to more black fruits expressed to the end with a long enjoyably candied finish. 15% alcohol and $16.99

Winery notes:

Varietal Composition:
80% Cabernet Sauvignon
12% Merlot
3% Cabernet Franc
3% Malbec
1% Petit Verdot
1% Syrah

Napa Valley

Grape Sourcing:
42% from the Oakville AVA, with the majority of that (35%) from Robert Mondavi Winery’s To Kalon Vineyard, 25% from Stags Leap District AVA (12% from our Wappo Hill Vineyard), the remaining third from other select Napa Valley vineyards

Winemaking Notes:
• Harvested in cool morning hours
• Fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak tanks
• 25 days of maceration (skin contact) to soften tannins
• Barrel-to-barrel racking to develop flavors
• 14 months of aging in French oak château barrels (20% new oak)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Crush Wilson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Another entry from Snooth's Cabernet blind tasting last week. We were given 4 flights of 3 for a total of 12 California Cabernet Sauvignons.

Floral aromas start the ball rolling followed by chalk dust, and soap, then flavors emerge of black cherry, citrus rinds and coffee. Has a slight bite with a medium finish. 13.5% alcohol $12.99

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monogamy Truly Madly Deeply North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Another entry from Snooth's Cabernet blind tasting last week. We were given 4 flights of 3 for a total of 12 California Cabernet Sauvignons.

On the nose Salumi, leather, earth, vanilla, and tobacco with flavors of cinnamon and other spices, and bursts of ripe cherries, white pepper and twizzlers, high acidity, 13.5% alcohol and $13.99.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Erath Pinot Noir 2008 Oregon

After visiting the Oregon Food and Beverage Show in NYC a few weeks ago, I was impressed with the wines I tasted from The Erath Winery. This week I received samples from them and will be posting my tasting notes.

The first I tried was the 2008 Pinot Noir which was light bodied with light cherry colors, and aromas of cherry, a tarry vanilla, red berries and smoked meats.

On the palate up front are notes of plum, grapefruit rinds, cherry and strawberries, balanced by a layer of mild spice and earth.

This is a good everyday wine in the $19 range that would pair well with any pasta dish with a red sauce, and spicy dishes like Indian or Thai.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chateau de Saint-Cosme Gigondas Les Claux 2006

More from last weekend's Shades of Red dinner and wine pairing, this Gigondas (100% Grenache) was paired with the first course of Pumpkin Risotto.

From the Southern Rhone and looking in the glass like it was poured from an inkwell... dark, brooding and daring, this Gigondas matches in the strength of its aromas: waves of violets, herbs, blueberry, and plum followed by a smoky minerality. Then onto the palate with big, contrasting flavors of gamey meats, black pepper, tea and black cherries. All combine to create a very complex package with a silky finish. This definitely will age well, but is very approachable now. $50 retail.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2006 Château Pesquié Côtes du Ventoux Terrasses

Back to the Shades of Red pairing at Eric Guido's... From France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux, this Ruby red, with a nose muted with red cherries, spices and a bit of barnyard, or as Eric quipped, "a hint of moo". Built with a fine integration and nicely structured, this was my pick from the first flight that was paired with the first course, a Pumpkin Risotto. At first the muted tones steered me away to the other 2 wines, but as I sipped and took bites of my risotto, then returned to the Côtes du Ventoux, its focused austerity began to appeal to me until it eventually won me over. Eureka ... I get it!

PS. Forgot to mention this is an $11 bottle retail, a huge bargain.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trespass Zinfandel 2006 Napa Valley St Helena

This weekend I had the opportunity to try a GREAT Zinfandel at Eric & Deborah Guido’s Celebration of Autumn: Shades of Red dinner and wine pairing. I’ll go into detail in another post about the whole night, but first I’d like to tout my favorite wine of the day.

Eric and Deb found this gem on their last trip to Trespass Vineyards in Napa. The amazing aromas and flavors literally burst forward from this red wine, perfectly reminding me of autumn. Spicy ripe cherry aromatics explode followed by violets, while flavors arise full of cassis, and raspberries. Richly textured with good acidity and providing a full mouth feel, then gliding into a long silky finish that continues on and on.

This was part of a 3 wine flight that paired excellently with the 2nd course, a delicious Fettuccini topped with Hungarian Goulash with a rich brown sauce. The cut of beef that was used was slow cooked for 6 hours and melted in your mouth.

Unfortunately, by virtue of the positive word of mouth this particular vintage has been getting, it is currently sold out and I can see why.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fonterosso Chianti Classico Riserva 2004 DOCG

From Arezzo Italy, this Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blend is aged 1 year in oak, with aromas of cherry cough drops, twizzlers, smoked meats and flavors of dried fruits on top of sour cherries. Has a confident maturity and a refreshing finish. This was beautifully paired with Tagliata di manzo con funghi e parmigiano (Grilled and sliced sirloin steak served with button mushrooms and parmesan cheese) at Il Poeta.

Friday, October 23, 2009


This week I attended Food Fete's Oregon Food and Beverage Show and was impressed with the diversity of quality that can be found coming from that bountiful state. One of the highlights for me was meeting and talking with Jack Czarnecki and his wife Heidi from Joel Palmer House (in Dayton, Oregon), a restaurant that also produces Oregon White Truffle Oil (Jack hunts for the truffles with his son, Chris).

His truffle oils are produced naturally and either Jack or Chris picks every truffle that appears on a customers’ plate.

Here’s a mini lesson in truffles.

Oregon Truffles are fungi that grow just below the duff surface (decaying vegetation) on forest floors along the roots of the Douglas Fir tree. They are similar to mushrooms except they grow underground and don’t have a root system.

Truffles emit gases that have evolved perfectly in order to attract animals that eat the truffles, pass the spores and ultimately perpetuate its kind. And it’s that same muskiness that attracts the human animal.

Truffles are traditionally harvested in Europe by pigs and dogs. Pigs are attracted to a pheromone present in the truffles and dogs are trained to find the scent.

Truffles flavor is not nearly as intense as the aroma, which is actually a released gas. Truffle oil is probably a better way to experience the sensations that truffles have to offer.

Above photo of Jack & Heidi, photo at left is delicious mushroom stuffed prosciutto with white truffle oil.

Jack gave me a sample bottle, which I used to make a delicious Tataki Mushroom Risotto, with Shallots, White Truffle Oil, Black Pepper and Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese.

It was the fifth time I attempted making risotto, the first four being unsuccessful. I guess the fifth is the charm… or it could be the Truffle Oil. (Thought bubble:) hmmmm, there’s that pine forest in Forest Park in my neighborhood where the ground is covered with “duff”, I wonder if I can find any truffles there? Anybody have a pig I can rent by-the-day?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jamesport Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2005

This Cabernet Franc was part of the goodie bag I received upon leaving the Long Island Wine Challenge last week. From the North Fork of Long Island, this deep red displays husky aromas of smoky currants, and menthol paired with flavors of chocolate, ripe cherries, candied lemon rinds, and vanilla followed by a vividly spiced finish. Enjoyed this at home paired with a pasta with red sauce.

Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels Vineyard 2004

From New Zealand, this Bordeaux blend of 87% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Malbec is fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak for 17 months. Ruby red in color, with aromas of stone fruits, dark chocolate, blackberries and oak, with flavors of glycerine, sour berries and a fine finish.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Long Island Wine Blind Challenge

This past week the Long Island Wine Council sponsored a seminar and blind tasting of its wines to compare them with others from international regions. The day started with a series of speeches about some of the history of Long Island wines, how the wines were picked for the blind tasting, followed by Q&A.

The blind tasting consisted of 20 wines, 10 from Long Island vs. 10 non Long Island. The breakdown was 5 flights of 4 each of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (unoaked), Chardonnay (oaked), Merlot and Cabernet Franc. I just read another blogger's post about how he/she identified the Long Island wines successfully. I didn't try to idenify the wines but instead picked my favorite from each flight and 1 out of 5 were from Long Island. So, here we go.

Flight 1 Sauvignon Blanc

Osprey’s Dominion Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (LI)
Reverdy “Hippolyte” Sancerre 2007 (FR)
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (NZ)*
Palmer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (LI)

*My blind favorite

Flight 2 Unoaked Chardonnay

Daniel Dampt Chablis 2007 (FR)
Macari Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 (LI)
Channing Daughters “Scuttlehole” Chardonnay 2008 (LI)**
Domaine Renaud Pouilly-Fuisse 2007 (FR)

**My blind favorite

Flight 3 Oaked Chardonnay

Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2007 (CA)***
Pelligrini Estate Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 (LI)
Langoureau Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Grerenne” 2007 (FR)
Castello Di Borghese Chardonnay 2006 (LI)

***My blind favorite

Flight 4 Merlot

Grapes of Roth Merlot 2005 (LI)
Clos L’Oratoire St. Emilion 2005 (FR)
Raphael Merlot 2005 (LI)
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravel 2004 (NZ) ****

****My blind favorite

Flight 5 Cabernet Franc

Shinn Estates Cabernet Franc 2007 (LI)
Catherine Et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Franc DE Pied 2007 (FR)
Dare By Viader Cabernet Franc 2005 (CA) *****
Bedell Cabernet Franc 2005 (LI)

*****My blind favorite

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Ten Bells

After reading Eric Asimov’s positive review of The Ten Bells near the Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I managed to stop by in the early evening for a few glasses of wine and a tapas plate. I wasn’t disappointed.

The open front, exposed brick walls, and tin ceilings create a cozy and intimate atmosphere with a warm glow. The central horseshoe-shaped white marble bar is framed by stools and counters on both sides with high tables and stools in the rear section.

The menu and wine list is up on chalkboards, but I got my recommendation from the bartender/manager who paired my wine perfectly with a spicy chorizo picante dish. The dishes are reasonably priced, to name a few: Prosciutto & goat cheese cigar $2 each, a Special Oyster Happy Hour every day from opening to 7.00 p.m at $1 each, and Duet of Salmon Tartar with Black Caviar $9. The reds by the glass range from $6-10, whites $7-11.

I will go back for sure next chance I get, the oyster dishes looked delicious, and the two red wines I tried were very good. As If that’s not enough, it's an organic wine bar, with 15 all-natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines by the glass and 50 more by the bottle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hahn Estates Meritage Central Coast 2006

From Monterey, California, a Meritage is a Bordeaux style blend using Cabernet and Merlot... this one also has Petit Verdot and Malbec in the mix. On the nose a thick and intense syrupy aroma of ripe cherries, with juicy flavors showing herbal influence, swathed in violet powder and a mild vegetal edge. Tried this at a tasting at The Wine Room of Forest Hills last weekend.