Sunday, March 29, 2009

Damilano Barbera d’Alba, 2007

This red wine is produced in the Piedmont region of Italy, made from fruit grown in Diano d’'Alba and Monforte, fermented in stainless steel and stored in oak barrels for 1 month prior to bottling.

Noticed at first is a slight fizziness (“fizzante”), with ruby red coloring and aromatics of raspberry, followed by enticing spices and a small pinch of oak. Medium body opens to a supple and expessively bright Barbera that balances with layers of cherries and dark summer fruits, evolving into an elegant long finish.

Paired well with appetizer of tagliolini pasta in porcini mushroom sauce wrapped with smoked prosciutto, and grilled filet of salmon served with sautéed spinach in a light mustard sauce at Il Poeta.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Borsao Crianza Seleccion 2006 at Crescent & Vine

Whenever I ride my bike I always keep my eyes open for any new wine bars. For a while now, I've had my eye on a small place on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria called Crescent & Vine. Last night after a rough week I finally had the chance to drop in.

It's a small cozy place with brick walls, tin ceilings, a dark wooden bar that seats about 10 and several tables that seat another 15 or so with standing room for maybe another 15. Overhead lights are smaller versions of vintage lamps I remember from public schools, casting a warm red glow.

Friendly atmosphere was provided by Wade behind the bar who when asked provided me with one of his favorites, a Borsao Crianza Seleccion 2006, a Spanish blend of Grenache, Tempranillo and Cabernet. On the nose I found a slight tar/minerality under notes of black cherries while the palate showed a fruity intensity, with floral hints, raisins and a finish of powdered sugar. Overall fresh acidity makes this wine a good food wine.

Price by-the-carafe for the Borsao was a reasonable $11, and is the equivalent of almost 2 glasses.

Though I didn't dine, they have a limited bar menu of Paninis... I'm saving that for next time.

I will definitely go back.

Crescent & Vine
25-03 Ditmars Boulevard
Astoria, New York 11105
718 204-4774
Open 7 day a week from 5pm until 4am.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vestini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2007 DOC

From the Abruzzo appellation comes this deeply colored, medium bodied red wine from Italy, made with 100% Montepulciano and aged in Slavonian oak.

Fresh aromas of cassis, plums and red currant lie beneath a layer of subtle fruit with earthy overtones of spices, specifically cinnamon, with a suggestion of herbs. Its pleasant but basic simplicity makes this a good everyday wine that will go well with pizza, pasta or even some chicken dishes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wine made in all 50 states

I understand all 50 states produce wines but I've only had samples from New York, California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Anyone get close to 50?

Which one surprised you the most?

Map image source: GoogleMap

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2001

Made from 100% Sangiovese, this wonderful Brunello exhibits ripe sour cherries, licorice, plums, spices, and pungent leather on the nose, confident with flavors flush with an earthy brilliance. The midpalate exhibits verdant fresh spices that slowly transform into dried herbs. An extremely gentle but complex finish radiates to the senses as a luminous glow. An intensity of robust essence along with an amazing balance of tannins makes this Brunello a huge winner.

Winemaker's notes:

The grapes are hand picked during the first two weeks of October. After the grapes are manually selected, they are destemmed and lightly pressed in a crusher. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks for about 10 days at a temperature of 28°C, followed by a maceration of the skin for another 6-8 days.

After the malolactic fermentation, Brunello di Montalcino is transferred into french oak barriques (50% new and 50% of second usage). The aging takes place for 24 months, the minimum time required by law. Once the vintage has been bottled, it continues the aging process for another 24 months before being released to the market.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Wine Fighting World Hunger

Source: Katie Pizzuto Gonzo Gastronomy

“So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine…”

I have just finished one of the most memorable wines I have had in a long time and what completely shocked the shit out of me was that it was a merlot. Right now you are either rolling your eyes at me for being a merlot basher or nodding your head in empathy. I don’t hate merlot—I hate mass-made, spineless merlot, which is unfortunately what lines most of our store shelves nowadays. When Miles stood outside, declaring to Jack, “No, if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!” I laughed my ass off because he gave voice to the little merlot-shunning demon inside of me. But when I stood inside a local wineshop this past weekend talking to the owner, we got on the subject of earthy wines. You see, I LOVE funk. I love the earthy, mushroomy, barnyard character you find in certain red wines and I was on the hunt. When I asked what he recommended, he pointed to the Italian section and said, “That merlot right there.”

“Merlot? Are you serious?”

“Yeah, it’s from Friuli…a nice cold pocket for the grape. It’s all about the funk, I swear.”

At about 14 bones, I was willing to trust the guy, so I bought a bottle (along with 2 others, cuz self control is something I’m not readily working on). The next night, I cracked it open while making dinner and gave it a whiff. Plenty of black plum and red berries, but the funk was definitely in the house. The scent immediately brought a smile to my face. The guy knew what he was talking about! I spent the rest of the evening completely enthralled by a bottle of merlot, and believe me when I tell you, I didn’t think that sentence would ever spill from my lips. I finished the second half of the bottle last night, and I’m thinking it might have been even better the second night if that’s at all possible. Knowing what I know now, I’m running back to the shop this weekend and buying a case of this wine to keep around. OK, Katie, so WHAT THE HELL WAS THE WINE?!?!? Fantinel Celebrate Life Merlot 2007.

I was so taken by the wine that it took me a couple of hours to finally look at the label and read it through. Apparently, the Fantinel family donates $1 to fighting world hunger and malnutrition for every bottle of wine sold in the US. So not only was this winery generous and globally conscious, but it single-handedly restored my faith in merlot. Let me repeat—single-handedly restored my faith in merlot. I am eternally grateful to both the shop owner for knowing enough about his wines to point me in the right direction, and to the winemaker for crafting a bottle of funky goodness that reminded me of merlot’s potentials. I am also eternally grateful because it reminded me of two things that you should also remember: 1. Never hold on to your silly “varietal prejudices.” Don’t walk around like a pompous dolt, declaring your detest of cabernet or sauv. blanc or riesling, because I promise you that you will miss out on some seriously great wine at some point. I would NEVER have given that bottle of merlot a second glance and it would’ve clearly been my loss. 2. Talk to the people in the shop. I don’t care how much you think you know about wine—they’re inevitably gonna know more than you about what they stock. Trust them. If it sucks, bring it back and tell them so. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino 2004 DOC

Made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in the heart of Montalcino, this ruby red "Baby Montalcino" shows fresh aromas of raisins... no make that prunes, powdered sugar, basil and green peppers, while on the palate notes of sour cherries, mushrooms, and red berries. With a mildly spicy undertone, friendly acidity and soft tannins the finish comes around full circle, returning to the prunes. This wine is very approachable and expresses an impressive balance of all its parts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Women of the Vine Cellars Tempranillo Paso Robles 2004

This weekend at The Wine Room of Forest Hills I had the pleasure of meeting Deborah Brenner, author of Women of the Vine and owner of Women of the Vine Cellars.

Women of the Vine Cellars is the first-of-its-kind wine importing and marketing company to unite award winning women winemakers under one label. They create high quality, limited production wines especially hand-crafted for Women of the Vine Cellars. The results truly express the nuances of their worldwide regions and each woman's unique style.

I'm constantly amazed by the diverse results of identical grapes grown in different regions of the world. This typically Spanish wine takes on a totally different aspect of itself, expressed in many ways. Made from 100% Tempranillo grapes and produced by Dorothy Schuler in Paso Robles, it represents one of my favorites from WotV. Aged 2 years in oak and 1 year in Bottle, 14.5% alcohol.

Deep purple opaque colors paint the canvas of this wonderful fruit-forward wine, with backdrops of gorgeous aromas rich in ripe blackberries, cherries, mint and fresh herbs. What follows is a vegetal mid-palate dominated by still more fresh fruit, vanilla and a hint of almond on the long finish. I love this wine! Retails for $40.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Message in a bottle: Sting's vineyard to sell 'rock star wine'

From Times Online
The rock star Sting – whose best known songs include Message in a Bottle – is to produce 30,000 bottles of Chianti a year from his 300-hectare estate in Tuscany.

The singer, 57, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, made the announcement at a public meeting called at Figline Valdarno, south of Florence, to "defend Tuscan agriculture and bio-diversity". "Since January I have been round the world one and a half times," he told the meeting. "When I get back here I take a deep breath and say to myself – I'm home".

The singer, dressed in a grey jacket and T-shirt and sporting a full beard, said that from the terrace of his 16th-century villa, Il Palagio, which he bought in 1997, he could see the sun setting behind the Appenines – "a masterpiece" of nature. He said that he would market two kinds of wine: a Chianti DOC and a Tuscan red based on the Sangiovese grape.

The brand names remain a closely guarded secret. However Paolo Rossi, the estate manager, said that the "Sting wine" had been made two years ago, and the first bottles of the 2007 vintage would be on the market in September. It would amount to "rock music wine" with "a bit of swing and a bit of international pop thanks to the addition of Cabernet and Merlot grapes".

Riccardo Nocentini, the mayor of Figline Valdarno, which is close to Sting's estate and villa, said that the singer was not just a "welcome guest" in the region but also a serious farmer. Together with his wife, Trudie Styler, Sting markets "Il Palagio Sumner Family" honey and olive oil from his estate through Harrods in London and on the internet.

Sting said that his concern for the environment, which initially took the form of a campaign to save the Amazon rainforest, had spread to the defence of rural Tuscany. "I always use traditional methods – no pesticides," he said. He bought the vineyards and woods adjoining his villa grounds in 2002, and employs 15 estate workers as well as seasonal labour.

A percentage of all profits from the sales goes to the environmental causes the couple support, such as the Soil Association, which promotes organic food and farming in Britain, and the Rainforest Foundation, which they helped to found in 1989.

Italian fans who attended the meeting said that they would buy the new wine the moment it appeared. "We have always bought Sting's honey and oil," Giovanni Pollastri and Lidia Di Corato told Corriere della Sera. "In fact with all the money we have spent supporting his agricultural produce we deserve a free bottle."

Sting spends much of his time in Tuscany when he is not touring, and recorded the album All This Time at Il Palagio after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The villa grounds, which he tours on a mountain bike, contain a circular swimming pool and a giant chess board. The nickname Sting derives from the bee-striped jersey he wore early in his music career with a band called the Phoenix Jazzmen.

Four years ago Mick Hucknall, the lead singer of Simply Red, introduced a wine called Il Cantante (The Singer), at his estate on the slopes of Mount Etna in in Sicily. He said that he had bought the vineyard after turning to wine to curb the wild drinking of his youth. He said: "My logic was I would drink less if the drink was better. So I became obsessed with fine wines."

Gerard Depardieu, the French actor, owns a vineyard on the island of Pantelleria, where he produces "passito", the celebrated local dessert wine.

Meet Deborah Brenner at The Wine Room

The Wine Room Events
Women's History Month
You are invited to a special wine tasting featuring
Women of the Vine Cellars' wines
DATE: Friday, March 13th
TIME: 6:00-9:00pm
LOCATION: The Wine Room of Forest Hills
MORE: Meet Deborah Brenner, author of Women of the vine and proprietor of Women of the Vine Cellars, the first company to unite award winning women winemakers under one brand!

The Wine Room
96-09 69th avenue
forest hills, New York 11375

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Exploration of Italy's Best Food & Wine

Last Saturday at LaVigna Italian restaurant in Forest Hills my friend Eric Guido hosted a fantastic tasting of 8 Italian wines paired with a menu to match.

1st Course: a typical Italian antipasto of dried meats, cheeses, peppers, lettuce, etc. paired with:
Col Vetoraz, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene

2nd Course: Pasta with Vodka Sauce with the following 3 Barberas:

Giacomo Conterno, Barbera 2005
Resinous aromas of earth, contrasting a fruitbasket of currants, plums and cherries, then chewy mouthwatering flavors of violets morph into a refreshing complexity and finishing with smoky, mineral notes. A luscious acidity makes this wine sing in perfect harmony with the Pasta.

Bruno Giacosa, Barbera, Falletto 2005
Dark fruit aromas, with a slightly chalky edge, this one is a more modern version of a Barbera. I found really unique notes of cherry pez candy, minerals, stone and a gasoline undertone. A great food wine with a healthy dose of acidity and smooth, silky tannins.

Domenico Clerico, Barbera, Trevigne 2005
Another modern Barbera with a floral background, a fair amount of toasted wood on the nose along with hints of vanilla. Well balanced with silky tannins and full body, this one goes on an on. By this point we're all taking a bite of pasta, then a sip of an alternating Barbera.

3rd Course: Filet Mignon in a Barolo sauce paired with:

Paolo Scavino, Barolo “Carobric” 1997
“Carobric” is actually a blend of 'Cannubi', 'Rocche' and 'Bric del Fiasc' and is a subtle play on words meaning 'expensive ridge' in Italian.

A rich bouquet of dark berries and roses with hints of truffles, rounding out to a dusty licorice, with leather, fresh herb, mushrooms and a hint of tar. This Barolo defines mouth-watering.

Tenuta La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Le due Sorelle” 2001
This Brunello is aged in Slavonian oak for 42 months, then another 18 months in bottle before release. Eric describes this as a "wilder" Sangiovese and I have to agree with his description. Drenched in complex aromas of cherries, licorice and violets, followed by a flavors of minerals, smoke, tobacco, oak, and coffee. Notes of a pleasant medicinal finish linger and reveal a long finish with tannins that are well balanced with the earthy fruitiness of this great food wine. This one was my favorites of the night.

Mastroberardino, Naturalis Historia 2000
From Irpinia in Campania comes Naturalis Historia which is a single-vineyard blend of 85% Aglianico and 15% Piedirosso, aged in small French oak barrels for 18 months, followed by 12 months in bottle before release. White pepper and spices permeate the nose with violets and plums, combining with essences of cherries, mild toast and leather, and a delicious herbal quality that reminds me of an Italian Liqueur called Averna.

... and the finale...
La Sala, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2001
By this point in time, I was just so into enjoying the wines that I stopped taking notes, but I remember the nuttiness and intensity of flavors. Here are Eric's notes: ...trades sweetness for spiciness. As is traditional in Italy, biscotti is "dunked" in Vin Santo. Amber yellow, long and intense, complex undertones of spicy dried fruit and roasted nuts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chateau Le Barrail Medoc 2004

This Medoc is a Bordeaux blend made from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. A big fruity red wine with deep luxurious color and aromas to match. Silky, with ripe juice, and spices on the nose, with flavors of black fruits, resin and earth, followed by fresh cut wood. The mouth shows smooth balance and purposeful but not overpowering tannins, supported by a well integrated acidity and reflecting a finish that gives freely of itself. This one is mouthwatering and delicious and would be a perfect wine to pair with red meats or cheeses, in the $15 range.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Castello Monaci "Artas" Primitivo Salento 2006 IGT

From Puglia Italy and blended from 85% Primitivo and 15% Negroamaro, this red wine is aged in French oak barriques for 12 months and in bottle for 6 months.

Dark and mysterious with floral hints of lilac combined with dark summer fruits, equal a wine with interesting character and grace. Exhibits an herbacious bouquet laced with an herbal twist and a pleasant undertone.

Nino Negri Sfursat Valtellina Superiore 2005

Another wine sampled at NY Tre Bicchieri event:

Coming from Valtellina, in Lombardia, Italy and made from 100% Chiavennasca grapes which are left to dry for 3 months before vinification, this wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and then for 20 months in large Slavonian oak barrels.

Rich garnet red in color with a slight minerality prefaces notes of cherries, plums, spices and black pepper on the nose, followed by a palate expressing warmth and full body. A flood of resinous flavors follow with hints of licorice, finishing with a nutty polished veneer.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tormaresca Masseria Maime Negroamaro IGT

At the NY Tre Bicchieri event yesterday I had the chance to buzz through the event fairly quickly, so my tasting notes are short and sweet.

From the Salento IGT in Puglia, Italy comes this 100% Negroamaro aged 14 months in oak barriques and rated 90 points for the 2004 by Wine Enthusiast and a Tre Bicchieri for the 2005.

Deep ruby red colors with aromas of plums and sour cherries, with muscular flavors of summer fruits and oak. Chewy mouthfeel with full body and a long finish.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tasca d'Almerita Regaleali Nero d'Avola 2006 IGT Sicilia

An old world beauty, and one of Italy's rising stars is the Nero d’Avola of Sicily. This one, Tasca d'Almerita Regaleali, shows multiple verdant aromas that express a certain earthiness and connection with the land.

Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks and the juice is macerated with the skins for 10 days. The wine is then aged for 6-8 months in Slavonian oak barrels with 5% aging in Allier and Troncais barrels, it is then aged in bottle for 2 months before release.

Bright ruby red in color, with notes of sweet balsamic, cassis, dark berries, cherries, blackberries, and vanilla... all creating a complex bouquet. After decanting for an hour or so, got a bit of spice and herbs, even a little mint... this wine is a sensory explosion with great mouthfeel and dry fruit finish that's very well balanced. It has a certain regal air about it. Love it. A steal for about $13.

Cantele Rosato Negroamaro 2007 IGT Puglia

The grapes are macerated from 12-18 hours to infuse the colors and aromas of 100% Negroamaro, then fermented in steel tanks before bottling.

Pinkish rose with 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.

Pairing superbly with cauliflour soup, scallops with pancetta and crispy greens, and a quatro formaggio risotto at Il Poeta in Forest Hills (expertly suggested by Luca).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

10 reasons why I think wine is better than liquor

1. Wine tastes better.
2. Wine has more variations of aroma and taste.
3. Wine is healthier (contains Resveratrol) supposedly protects against cancer and heart disease.
4. Wine is less expensive.
5. Wine pairs with food more successfully.
6. Wine has lower alcohol content, so less likelihood of hangover.
7. Wine helps prevent getting colds.
8. Less calories.
9. Women who drink wine reportedly have higher bone mass.
10. Improves memory.