Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Dinner in the Veneto Style

This week I had the good fortune of experiencing a traditional Venetian themed dinner and wine pairing at the home of my friends Eric and Deborah. Eric and I have had a few conversations about risotto, and how unsuccessful I was in my 3 attempts to make it. So this evening was an education for me... I was able to watch his process from start to finish, and for me, hopefully the 4th time will be the charm.

While Eric made the Risotto we had a glass of Riondo Prosecco, with delicous fragrances of orange blossoms, apricots and ripe peaches.

The first course was Risotto ai Funghi di Bosco, an AMAZING Risotto with mushrooms (crimini and shitake), shallots, sage and butter. This was paired with the Pieropan Soave Classico 2002 I brought that I think might have been just past the curve... but it did have a few interesting qualities like aromas of Vinsanto/Moscata, melon, cantelope, apple compote with over-ripe fruits. The color was an amber yellow, a bit darker than it probably should be, but strangely enough worked with the course.

Next was Fegato di Vitello alla Veneziana con Radicchio Rosso di Trevisi Al Forno, Calves Liver and Sauteed Vidalia Onions over Baked Polenta encircled with Radicchio, paired with Masi, Campofiorin Rosso Del Veronese 2005 (brought by Allan). Deep ruby colors with rust around the edges painted this baby Amarone with ripe cherries, powdered sugar, aromas of cassis, currants, a bit of bacon... and flavors of delicious intense ripe cherries and black fruits like plums and blackberries. The great balance of acids and tannins matched the rich flavors of the liver while contrasting the savory bitterness of the radicchio.

Next course was Formaggio e Frutta, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggioano con Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, Ciliegia di Marostica, Cherries, soft Gorgonzola, Reggiano, aged Balsamic Vinegar paired with my favorite wine of the evening, the Nicolis, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, Ambrosan 2001. Blue ruby colors paint this with INTENSE wood aromas, sour cherries, chocolate, black cherries cough syrup, unique, pruny and velvety... with a kick... 16% alcohol! I loved this wine.

And for an after dinner wine Eric brought out a bottle of L'Arco Pario a Valpolicella Ripaso made from Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and, in very small percentages, Croatina. On the nose a fruity sweetness, black pepper, and flavors of ripe cherries, while the residual sugar makes this a chewy mouthful of fun.

There's an expression I once heard Mario Batali say, "If it grows together, it goes together." This night was the ultimate illustration of those 7 words of wisdom.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chateau La Roche Segur 2005

Not overly sophisticated, but simple and straight forward - that's the way I'd describe this Bordeaux. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with deep ruby highlights and fresh aromas of currants and cherries. Flavors of black cherries, tar and smoky earth. Interesting when paired with a Brie or Manchego cheese. Retails for $9, 13% alcohol.

Dinner at Tournesol

I recently had the chance to dine at Tournesol, a popular small but authentic French restaurant in Long Island City just across the river near the Queens side of the Midtown Tunnel.

I started with the Tarte fine à la saucisse et aux champignons PORK SAUSAGE AND MUSHROOM TART

For main course I had Saumon grillé, gratin de choux fleur, sauce porto GRILLED SALMON WITH CAULIFLOWER GRATIN AND PORT SAUCE

...paired with a wonderful Gigondas whose animal aromatics seamlessly melded with the sausage tart and then with the salmon.

Tournesol Bistro Francais
50-12 Vernon Blvd LIC NY 11101 (718) 472 4355

Monday, May 25, 2009

Macari Vineyards Rose 2008

Made from a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Pinot Noir, and 4% Malbec, this rose from the North Fork of Long Island is perfect for the beginning of summer.

Showing colors of pale pink copper with fresh aromas of grapefruit, watermelon and some floral notes of hibiscus. The flavors range from white peach and sour apricot to orange zest, a hint of eucalyptus and a spot of papaya.

Retails for $14.99, 12.8% alcohol.

Full Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Les Nobles Dentelles Gigondas 2006

A red wine from the Gigondas Appellation in the Rhone region of France, and made from 100% Grenache grapes, this rich Gigondas opened very nicely as the evening went on.

Lush and velvety on the tongue with good depth, showing verdant aromas of animal nuances, the bouquet evolving in waves of plums, dark berries, earth, mushroom and at the very end a bit of green peppers. All these elements successfully make "the whole greater than the sum of the parts" resulting in a finish that is complex and thoroughly satisfying.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stella Italia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007

Last night I stopped by Il Poeta to have a light dinner and asked Luca for a suggestion for a wine-by-the-glass... he recommended the Stella Italia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

It has a light to medium weight, with aromas of smoky cherries, and ripe strawberries with a toasted wood note on the palate. This is a perfect illustration of "less is more"... it's simplicity and fresh acidity are what makes this a really sturdy everyday table wine. Paired with a penne pasta, peas and salmon in a light tomato sauce, it was a match that really worked for me. I believe this one retails for about $8.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Manducati's Rustica

Manducati Rustica, an offshoot of Manducati's in the Long Island City/Hunters Point area of Queens, is a spot I actually found by chance while cycling through the neighborhood. I had been to the original Manducati's a few years back and enjoyed the old neighborhood charm of the place, the good food, and the inexpensive but extensive wine list. Over the past few years Vernon Boulevard has seen an influx of new bars, restaurants and shops to accommodate the new residents.

Rustica is in a building that from the exterior deceptively projects a small space for a restaurant, but when you enter sprawls from the cafe room with a gelato & Italian pastry counter- to the open kitchen with a brick oven - to the huge dining room complete with couches... feeling more like you're in someone's home.

The wait staff was very knowledgeable and just plain fun, at one point sitting with us for a while just to talk. They don't yet have their alcohol license yet, so we brought our own wines. I would have normally taken tasting notes, but was having so much fun that I didn't have a chance. We enjoyed a Termes Tempranillo 2006 from Spain, 3 Piedmont reds, and an Umbrian Sangiovese.

They specialize in brick oven pizza, but their menu changes daily and we sampled the Burrata, an eggplant dish, the house pasta special, a hat shaped pasta stuffed I believe with mushrooms and ricotta, a great Rib Eye steak, Cod fish, and a fish dish that was shrimp and other shellfish.

I loved the place, the prices were reasonable considering the quality of the food, and it was great to share an evening with good friends. I'm already planning the next visit.

46-35 Vernon Boulevard
(718) 937-1312

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Terralsole Rosso di Montalcino 2006 DOC

Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, aged 8 months in French oak and 4 months in bottle. Intense aromatics of black currant, stewed prune and barnyard. Showing tannins powerful enough to cellar for a while, but opening nicely with exotic flavors and clean acidity. Presenting a flavor profile with considerable gusto, led by black cherries and finishing with cedar notes.

Melini Chianti Borghi d'Elsa 2007

Aged over 1 year in oak and made with a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 7% Malvasia and 3% Trebbiano, this dry red wine hails from around the San Gimignano area of Tuscany.

Dark ruby coloring with resinous, woody aromas and dark berry, with flavors of spice, coffee, sour cherry, noticeable tannins with a chalky finish.

The Melini family constructed their first winery in 1705 in Pontassieve, a village on the outskirts of Florence. Their wine was consumed locally until 1860, when Laborel Melini collaborated in developing the straw-covered glass flask (fiasco), which made it possible for wine to travel safely overseas.

Had this glass of wine paired with a panini with grilled chicken, brie, mushroom, tomatoes and pesto sauce at Masso in Long Island City.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Carpineto Rosato 2007

Some difficulty finding the varietals used in this Rosato, but it seems to be a 20% Canaiolo and 80% Sangiovese blend. On the nose floral notes prevail with honeydew, green plums and unripe white peach below. Flavors are spicy ginger, kiwi, orange zest with a green wood finish.

Winemaker notes:

This wine comes from grapes selected from our Chianti Classico estate near the town of Dudda, Greve in Chianti.

Vinification: the must obtained from pressing is cooled and left in contact with the skins for a short time. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures using selected yeasts.

Finishing: It is bottled in early January after being racked off the lees following fermentation.

Color: soft pink with elegant bright fuchsia tones.

Bouquet: floral characteristics, particularly rose, acacia and grape flowers; fruity fragrances like apple, currant and sour cherry are also consistently called to mind.

Flavor: broad and fresh; the characteristic fruity aromas of the bouquet come through with complexity and end with a clean finish.

Alcohol: 11% by volume.

Serving temperature:
10-14°C, 50-57°F.

Gastronomy: excellent aperitif and hors d'oeuvre wine. Distinctive accompaniment for mild meats, peppered dishes and cheese, excellent companion to grilled fish.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Accademia dei Racemi Alcione Aglianico 2004 IGT

Aglianico, the grape originally to have come from Greece, is the exclusive ingredient in this dry red wine from the Puglia region of Italy.

Alcione Aglianico di Puglia has a deep, red color, and on the nose, an intense bag of barnyard, bacon, and black raspberry jam with strange hints of plastic, then vanilla and dark ripe cherries.

Very tannic but balanced and with an earthy complexity, supported by a palate of raisins, leather, cocoa and tobacco. There's also a hint of vine ripened tomatoes just sliced open and even cured Italian black olives. This is an Old World wine with fruits in the background contrasting exotic flavors in the foreground.

Pairs very well with pasta with a red sauce, red meat or game.

Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto Dei Colli Martani 2006 DOC

Made from 100% Grechetto in Montefalco, the Umbrian region of Italy, this fresh and lively white wine has the coloring of hay. Aged in stainless steel for 3 months, then in bottle for 3 more, it exhibits a bouquet of pressed flowers and soft clean fruity flavors redolent with melon and a very slight slate undertone. Nicely balanced with a refreshing long finish.

Paired extremely well with Asian fusion cuisine, specifically Tom Kha, a Thai soup with chicken, coconut milk, mushrooms, galanga and lime juice followed by sashimi.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Luigi Bosca Reserva Pinot Noir 2006

At a tasting at work after hours on Friday, Liz contributed this nice little bottle of Argentine Pinot Noir showing big fruits and painting a picture with tones of red ripe cherries, chocolate and mocha followed by a very nice smoky finish. Worked very well with a Manchego cheese from Murray's.

Winemakers Notes

Long autumns, cold winters, rainless temperate summers, ideal conditions for obtaining optimum ripeness and big body. Average summer temperature: 23º C and minimum winter temperature: -4º C. Average annual rainfall: 220 mm.

Aluvial, calcareous sand. Permeable, supported by stones and gravel. 1% east-west inclination.

Oak Aging
8 months in French oak.

Yield of Vineyard
70 qq/ha 49 hlts. / ha.

Grape Variety
Pinot Noir 100%.

Aging Potential
5 years.

One very light filtering.

Service Temperature
18°C /20°C.

Basic Analysis
Alcohol 14%, pH 3.68, Total Acidity 5.21 g/l, Residual Sugar 2.65 g/l

White meat - Small game, such as quail and pheasant - Soft cheese.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2005 DOC

The Goretti Family of the Umbria region of Italy creates this Montefalco Rosso at Fattoria Le Mura Saracene from a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot. The process begins in stainless steel tanks, then 12 months in oak barrels followed by 8-10 months in bottle.

To start the experience, deep ruby and purple coloring followed by intense aromas of blackberries and a floral bouquet. With a little time to open I begin to get hints of cloves and roasted red peppers, flavors of black cherries and toasted oak, then a bit later lilacs mingle with a pleasantly bitter plum. Bright tannins combined with all these wonderful flavors and aromas weave a rich vibrant wine that leaves one with a lingering finish.