Saturday, December 31, 2011

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Paso Robles

This Cabernet is super soft and very fruit forward with aromas of ripe red fruits, blackberry and forest floor, paired with a palate of berry flavors, chocolate, bing cherry, and a touch of oak. Rounding out with silky tannins, nice texture, and a ripe finish with good length, this Cab is especially food friendly. An unexpectedly good red California wine for $13 a bottle (An on line search may get you closer to $11, but you'll have to do your homework).

For over three decades, Liberty School has been among the best values in California wine. In the early 1980’s, Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles caught the attention of renowned Napa Valley vintner Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. Because of the incredible quality and value of their Paso Robles Cab, Wagner approached Hope Farms in search of Cabernet for his second label wine, Liberty School. The Hope family helped build the brand’s solid reputation over the years and in 1996, the Hopes took over the label. Austin Hope, who started working under Chuck Wagner, in the early 1990s, heads the winemaking team and their goal has always been the same; to produce delicious, fruit-driven, varietally correct wines at reasonable prices. That’s what this Liberty School 2008 Cab is all about. It offers vibrant cassis and berry fruit with supple tannins and just touch of oak.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc 2010 New Zealand

Marlborough, NZ does some nice things with Sauvignon Blancs and here's proof at a good price. Super fresh and crisp with waves of lemon drops and tropical fruits, pineapple, and guava, with grapefruit rind and summer fruits on the palate. SRP around $11.

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 - Pretty, with floral overtones, delivering lemon curd, dried mango and pineapple punches of flavor. Appealing for its smooth texture and crisp acidity. Drink now. 41,000 cases imported. -MW, Wine Spectator, Score: 88

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Piccini Chianti 2009 DOCG

Here is a Chianti DOCG that is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Ciliegiolo. This everyday Chianti is an absolute value for the $8.95 pricetag. Nicely balanced, bright, fruity, supple and very easy to drink besides being a good food wine. Aromas of cherry, slight earthiness and cedar with hints of tobacco, on the palate delicate tannins and a fresh style make this an inexpensive winner.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001

This Christmas day I broke out a bottle I've been saving since receiving it as a birthday present a few years ago. Released sometime in 2007, this Brunello Riserva is just setting out on its path to maturity but will have probably reached its peak at the end of this decade. It's always so difficult to be patient when aging a good bottle of wine.
But that's okay, a Christmas dinner is as good a reason as any to pop the cork.
And I'm glad I did!

The color is a warm ruby with good clarity and intensity, aromas of a sexy mixture of forest floor, flowers, blackberry, licorice and a slight nuttiness. An attractive weave of texture with silky tannins while the finish is as comforting as a soft, warm blanket on a cold Christmas day. Beautiful. Elegant. Paired perfectly with Steak Au Poivre.

Wine Spectator gave the 2001 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 93 points... Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast both gave it a 92.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2008

This Riserva is made only from grapes grown on the Gabbiano Estate in the heart of Tuscany. Only the oldest and best Sangiovese vines on the property are used. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 20 days, and for more extraction the wine was macerated on the skins for another 20, followed by aging in 50% new French oak for 16 to 18 months, and finally in bottle for 4 months.

Rich and intense ruby colors paint a picture of full body, texture and complexity. Dry and luscious with a blend of 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot. Aromas of violets with flavors that ring of black licorice, tobacco, red cherries, cassis, plum and oak. The finish is a dream and so is the price at $23 SRP, with 14% alcohol.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wartalia "Kikoi" Aglianico 2010 DOC

Wartalia was founded in 2004 and is made up of fourteen independent farms with 50 hectares of vines located in the hills of the Telesina (or Calore) Valley and produces around 650 metric tons of grapes in several varieties - Aglianico, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe, Malvasia and Sangiovese, plus Sannio DOC (AOC), Guardiola DOC and Beneventano IGT.

This find is a 100% Aglianico, aged briefly in wood then in bottle. Ruby red colors, medium intensity, clear appearance, with clean aromas of mature red fruit along with floral perfumes. The palate shows a dryness with medium acidity and tannins, spice with a vegetal hint, and good length on the finish. Reminds me of a raspberry pie. This is a bargain at about $11.

Guardia Sanframondi is a town and municipality in the Province of Benevento, Campania region, Italy, best known for the penitential rite held every seven years.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Macari Vineyards Merlot Reserve 2007

A beautiful showing from Macari Vineyards on Long Island's North Fork, 100% Merlot with medium body and dark violet colors, luscious aromas of plum and violets, while on the palate notes of umami, contrasted by raspberry candy, cherry, clove, spice, chocolate, and plum with lively tannins and vestiges of oak, followed by a very long and attractive finish.

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.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Man of Numanthia

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club in NYC with Estate Director Manuel Louzada, from Bodega Numanthia, to introduce three different vintages of Termes, Numanthia and Termanthia.

Born in Portugal, Louzada lived in Spain for ten years, where he developed a love for the sea as well as a more introspective way of looking at life. He studied agriculture, engineering, and agronomy and eventually returned to Portugal where he set to work making Port wine. In 1999 he moved to Argentina to make sparkling wines for Bodegas Chandon where the focus is on detail.

His three year plan, turned into nine, and he eventually moved to Numanthia in Spain in 2008. “Character and concentration are the trademarks of the Toro region wines, and we want to be truthful to soul of the wines,” notes an enthusiastic Louzada.

Numanthia was founded in 1998, and in 2006 the partners sold to Moet Hennessey. Some of the uniqueness of Toro wines is rooted in the fact that some of its vines are 60 to 200 years old.

I asked Manuel, how his experience with Port and Champagne influenced his winemaking…

“The influence of Port is about character -- it’s about power,” says Louzada. “It’s about trying to understand the massive strength of nature. When you taste Port wine for the first two years, I can assure you it’s not a very pleasant sensation, because of the alcohol, because of the amount of tannins, because of the fruitiness that seem overwhelming. What makes the big difference is the development of understanding of those powerful details.”

“Champagne on the other hand is the opposite. It’s how a single 1%, 2%, 3% of the most delicate wine makes such a big difference, so it’s about small details; it’s how the small percentages change the character of a wine. Blending it was a beautiful exercise, because when you taste base wines, whatever you have in thebase wine, good or bad, is going to be multiplied by a thousand because of the carbonic. So I had a lot of fun learning about, and making sparkling.”

“When blending Termanthia I had to choose between 22 or 23 barrels -- deciding which of the 20 I’m going to use-- there anything more detailed than that? You have to be able to figure out how to get to the picture you have in your head.”

Tinta de Toro

The Spaniards of the region call it Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo). A typical Tempranillo will usually display a full, muscular body and a viscosity with dark purple colors woven with aromas of black currants, violets, licorice and caramel. The bouquet may blend into a palate of plums and dark chocolate, all working to create a soft but supple wine with a long dusty finish... the better ones are a very nice balance of tannins & acidity.

A Quick Study of the 3 Vintages

The Termes 2007 was a warm vintage with elegant and delicate tones, while the 2008 Termanthia was a more traditional vintage with a beautiful combination of fresh fruitiness and tannic structure and concentration, with 2009 presenting yet another warm vintage concentration, highlighting extremely soft tannins. Louzada explains that some wines can be drinkable upon release but can be equally palatable in 30 years.

Tasting Notes and Pairings

Termes 2009

The first up is the Termes 2009... 100% hand harvested, 4 months in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French oak barrels for 14-16 months. (The 2008 was expressly fresh fruit, while the 2009 was slightly warmer vintage like 06, 03 with a level of intensity, and lots of character). Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, fruity, sweet lush tannins, lively vibrant fruit character. nice structure, toasted, cedar, layered juicy texture on palate. Paired beautifully with Beef Carpaccio with Piquillo Pepper, Egg and Jamon Serrano, delicate nuances, which rounds out the tannins. SRP $30

Numanthia 2007

Numanthia 2007, 100 year old vines, 18 months in French oak, more concentration, more complexity in the fruit, more aging, 100% new oak, a bit toastier and spicier, so you can feel the intensity of power and remarkable balance. On the palate, dark chocolate, cassis and spice. Paired with Veal Chop, Soubise, Summer Squash. SRP $60

Termanthia 2008

"Termanthia 2008 is a the expression of a single plot that is 120-140 year old vines, and explosion of fruit fresh cherries, like a bomb, complex so everything that we do has to be the most delicate winemaking technique to try to dominate that force, that strength of nature. Hand de-stemmed, crushed by foot, twice thru new barrels." Paired with Lamb Loin with Stuffed Piquillo Peppers and Eggplant. Can be aged for 30 years. SRP $200

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2008

The Castello di Gabbiano was founded in 1124 and... as the story goes, in the 12th century The Gabbiano Knight (or Cavaliere in Italian) protected these Tuscan Vineyards from foreign invaders.

The soil in the region is high in limestone, sandstone and clay and makes for intense and concentrated fruit. The Sangiovese grapes used were sourced from select estate vineyards and the 2008 vintage was an excellent one. The juice was aged in large French oak barrels for 12 months before bottling.

Clean and with medium weight, attractive husky aromas of vibrant ripe cherry and violets, with a hint of cocoa, followed by dry but complex flavors of plums, floral and spice notes, textured and a very nice balance of tannins and acidity. $14.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Croft Pink Porto

To most of us here in the states Port wine is traditionally reserved for the holidays or a special occasion. Originating in 1588 in Portugal, Croft is now producing a Rose Port that goes beyond tradition.

Made from Porto grapes, the juice comes in contact with the skins just long enough to impart a pink color, fresh and fruity. Some aromas of raspberry and flavors of honey, citrus with a mild nuttiness on the finish.

I tried a glass on the rocks as suggested on the website (and on the label), but they've come up with quite a few interesting recipes you can try (see below).

Pink Jasmine
Croft Pink Port mixed with equal parts cold Jasmine Tea served in tall glass with diced strawberries and ice.

2 oz. Croft Pink Porto
1 oz. Premium Gin
2 dashes orange bitters
3 oz. ginger beer
1 mint sprig, for garnish
fresh fruit in season, as garnish
Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass, stir briefly, add the garnishes.

Pink Cashmir
2 oz. Croft Pink Port
1 oz. apricot nectar
3 grinds black pepper (ground finely)
1 oz simple syrup
Chill over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake well, and serve


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gabbiano Chianti 2010 DOCG

Made from 90% Sangiovese, and 10% other red grapes sourced from the Chianti region in Tuscany, aged 5 months in stainless steel tanks, clear ruby red colors, an herbal influenced potpourri of deep ripe cherries, red fruits, flowers, complemented on the palate with cocoa, and a pinch of musk. Dry but with a fresh mellow character, with an overall balance of fruit and tannins, and a smooth, clean finish. A great deal at $10.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Wines for Thanksgiving

I'd like to thank Kristen and her good friends for helping me taste this flight of wine picks for Thanksgiving. The wines were from California, Italy, France and New Zealand. (Also thank you to Kristen for photo above.)

Chateau Julien Gewurztraminer 2010 Carmel Valley, California
Light golden colors, clean citrus notes of grapefruit, flowers, honey and jolly rancher green apple, the mild and simple palate shows spice and nice acidity. Gewurztraminer is versatile and will pair well with Turkey dinner, especially if your stuffing is spicy, also may be used before dinner with cheese or after dinner with dessert.

Winemaker notes:
Cold fermented using Steinberger Yeast, known for its slow fermentation, allows the winemaker the ability to maintain natural varietal flavor and a slight residual sugar. While semi-dry in flavor, this wines slightly higher acidity balances the residual sugar for a refreshing, lighter style of wine.

Rasciatano Rose, Puglia Italy
Made with 100% Montepulciano grapes pressed softly then fermented partly in stainless steel vats at a temperature of 13-15° (C) and partly in second and third passage barriques, followed by aging in stainless steel vats for 4-6 months and 4 months in bottle. Rose petal colors, aromas of sour cherry, and peach, on the palate dry, slightly metallic with good acidity.

Dino Torti Forza Inter Pino Nero Oltrepo Pavese 2008 Italy
Also soft pressed, complex aromas of almonds, fruits and flowers, flavors of nutty, apple and pear, dry but satisfying.

Maison Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, 2009 France
The grapes (Gamay) are gently crushed, an extended maceration of 12-20 days gets you the extraction of color and tannins, then aged in French oak for 8 to 10 months. On the nose notes of tar and forest floor, fruit forward on the palate of black sour cherry, pepper, an attractive minerality and holiday spice, good finish. Great deal at $10.

Te Muna Road Vineyard Craggy Range Pinot Noir, 2009, New Zealand
From the region of Martinborough, 100% Pinot Noir grapes are fermented in open-top tanks followed by aging in 33% new French oak barriques for 10 months. Rose red, medium weight but at the same time velvety, tree bark, smoky earth and violets, dry but sweet, beautiful balancing act, plums. Nice long layered finish. SRP $40. A majority of the tasters really enjoyed this one.

St. Francis Winery Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel, 2008 California
The average age of the vines here are 80-100 years old, and actually is 89% Zin, and the rest a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Mourverdre, Carignane, Syrah and Petite Sirah. The grapes are fermented then aged in new American oak for 12-15 months. Complex, underbrush, cigar box, cherry vanilla, raspberry, plums, pepper and spice. For the price ($17) very nice.

Luccarelli Pazzia Primitivo di Manduria Old Vines 2007 Puglia, Italy
Deep rich purple ruby colors show such an opacity as to preview what's to come, namely rich cherries with prunes and spices on top of vanilla and chocolate nuances. Very fruit forward but with an Italian flair. Beautiful. $40.

Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 2005 DOCG Montefalco Italy
Made with the best grapes of 100% Sagrantino, aged 2 years in French Oak Barrique and a minimum of 6 months in bottle. What is immediately apparent is the very deep dark opaque colors, with strong and vibrant vanilla concentrates on the nose, laid over violets, earth and spices. Flavors of ripe fruit woven with spices and vanilla, great aging potential.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Pick: Stoller Vineyards SV Estate Pinot Noir 2007

It's that time of the year again. Over the next few days I'll be featuring wines that will work for you this coming holiday season. Here is the first, Stoller Vineyards SV Estate Pinot Noir 2007.

Located in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley in the Dundee Hills AVA, Stoller brings this Pinot Noir to the Thanksgiving table with a blast. Colors of dusty rose and intense aromas of funky strawberry, moist earth and smoked bacon, with a palate of chocolate, coffee, raspberry and spice, followed by hints of licorice, violet and caramel and a fairly long finish. Complex and balanced and perfectly paired with a turkey dinner. Enjoy this gem with family or friends at around $40.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chateau Leoville Poyferre St. Julien 2003

The world of wine has been good to me. It's allowed me to meet interesting people with broad tastes and vastly different backgrounds. Ray O., after over a year of following my blog, recently took a trip from his hometown in Austin Texas to the Big Apple. We met for dinner at a small French BYOB called La Sirene, and Ray brought a bottle of Chateau Leoville Poyferre St. Julien 2003. He had originally bought a case to commemorate the birth of his 2nd son, and I thought it was very generous of him to show up with this wonderful Bordeaux blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.

First up are the amazing aromas, the impression of clay and wet soil is so present right out of the bottle, with cassis and violets floating up from the ground. The deeply opaque purple colors translate onto the palate as delicious ripe cherry, paired with Christmas spices, accompanying floral notes and verdant black fruit. Velvety tannins and perfect balance make this wine an incredible masterpiece with a silky smooth and extremely long finish. Thank you, Ray!

Wine Advocate
I have had this wine three times out of bottle, rating it 97 once and 98 twice. It is a colossal success and a potential legend in the making. Its saturated, dense inky/blue/purple color offers up notes of crushed rocks, acacia flowers, blueberries, black raspberries, and creme de cassis. A synthesis of power and elegance, this multi-layered wine has spectacular concentration, sweet but high tannin, and low acidity A stunning effort that showcases this legendary terroir, it is a brilliant, brilliant success. The quintessential Leoville Poyferre? Anticipated maturity: 2009-2030. Score: 98. —Robert Parker, April 2006.

Wine Spectator
Pure cassis on the nose. Impressive. Full-bodied, thick and powerful, with loads of fruit and big, velvety tannins. Goes on for minutes on the palate. Huge wine. Very, very impressive. This is one of the big surprises of the vintage. Best after 2012. 19,165 cases made. Score: 95. —James Suckling, March 31, 2006.

Wine Enthusiast
A huge, opulent wine that packs sweet, rich tannins and spicy fruit. In the midst of all this decadence, though, is a kernel of tannic dryness. This estate, long the weakest of the three Lèoville wines, is now back in top form. Score: 93. —Roger Voss, May 01, 2006.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Truth In Wine Labeling

Unprecedented Coalition of International Wine Regions Joined By Notable Chefs in Effort to Protect Wine Place Names

NEW YORK - October 19, 2011 - Leadership from 15 of the world's premier wine regions came together along with renowned chefs from around the globe to call on policymakers to heed growing consumer demand for wine truth-in-labeling.

Results from a recent poll of U.S. consumers, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, released today found that Americans, in particular, have very strong feelings about the role of location in making wine-purchasing decisions. Key findings from the poll of 1,000 U.S. wine drinkers include:

79 percent consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying a bottle of wine;

75 percent report they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned that it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but in actuality was not;

84 percent think that the region a wine comes from is extremely important in determining its quality;

96 percent say that consumers deserve to know that the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels; and

98 percent support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require that they accurately state the location where wine grapes are grown on wine labels.

"In over 20 years of polling, rarely have we seen such strong feelings on an issue like this," said Rob Autry, partner of Public Opinion Strategies and the lead pollster on this project. "Consumer sentiment this strong is a clear signal that Americans care a great deal about the location a wine comes from and clearly want ready access to that information when looking at a bottle."

Perhaps most troubling was the fact that despite broad interest in wine location from all sectors of the U.S. wine-consuming populace, when presented with two labels to compare side by side, most consumers were unable to determine the correct origin of the wine. This underscores the challenges winemakers face with current labeling laws.

"The research released today shows consumers are more focused on product origins than ever before and it isn't just a passing concern, but one they feel extraordinarily strong about," said Linda Reiff, executive director of Napa Valley Vintners. "When a place name is misused, a part of the identity of that distinctive wine region is lost and consumers can be misled. This poll shows that U.S. consumers understand this and are looking for clear labeling of wine place names when they purchase wines."

"The 15 regions gathered here today agree that great wine is made in unique places all over the world and that these unique place names must be protected. A failure to do so undermines all of these wine-growing regions and, as the research shows, runs counter to the expectations of the consumer," said Bruno Paillard, representing the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne. "People want to know where their wines come from. The Declaration signatories have taken a global stand for truth-in-labeling and we are committed to working together to maintain and protect the integrity of wine place names."

The poll was released by the signatories to the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition first formed in 2005 when the initial global declaration was signed. The organization has since doubled in size, welcoming its two newest members - Rioja and Long Island - at this year's meeting in New York.

In addition to the growing number of wine regions joining the campaign to protect place names, some of the world's preeminent names in food and wine have joined hands with the coalition as well. An open letter was released today signed by chefs and sommeliers lending their support for truth in wine labeling. Signatories include Thomas Keller from Per Se and the French Laundry; Ferran Adrià from El Bulli; Daniel Boulud from Daniel; Alexandre Ferrand from Alain Ducasse; Wolfgang Puck from Wolfgang Puck Restaurants; Antoine Hernandez from Joël Robuchon; Michel Richard from Citronelle; José Andrés from Jaleo and minibar; Pontus Elofsson from Noma; Charlie Palmer from Charlie Palmer Restaurants and many others from around the globe.

"We support the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin because place names are central to understanding the foods and wines we work with every day," says José Andrés, a James Beard Award-winning chef with restaurants in Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas and Los Angeles. "We celebrate foods and wines from all over the world every day, because they bring special elements to the table and we believe that clear labeling is central to this experience."

"Americans care about where their food and wine are from more than ever before, so we must stand together to ensure that consumers accurately receive the location-driven products they desire," says Chef Ken Frank of Napa Valley's landmark restaurant, La Toque.

The coalition hopes that the clear and resounding results of consumer survey data, combined with the accelerated interest on the part of chefs and other food and wine experts and an overwhelming majority of the world's leading wine regions now working in unison will push lawmakers and others around the globe to better protect wine place names in the U.S. and beyond.

By signing the Declaration, the 15 wine regions have collectively affirmed that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the wines from specific wine-growing areas. In their meetings today in New York, the regions renewed their commitment to working together on the consumer education and public advocacy necessary to ensure that these names are protected and respected worldwide.

The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin was originally signed on July 26, 2005, and now has the support of 15 international wine regions including Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Long Island, New York; Napa Valley, California; Oregon state; Paso Robles, California; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County, California; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia. These quality wine regions have come together to foster the growing global recognition that location is the most important ingredient in wine. To lend support and read the full text of the Declaration, visit protect place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wines of Campania: Donna Chiara Wines at Il Gattopardo

photo above by Alan Watts from Eat Italian

Last week Ilaria Petitto from Donna Chiara Winery guided us through an evening of tastings from the Campania region of Italy at Il Gattopardo, a fantastic Campanian restaurant in NYC owned by the legendary Gianfranco Sorrentino. The winery is located in Montefalcione, a small town in Avellino, where her family has been since 1885. Winemaking is a family tradition, tied closely to the land, where typical white wines like Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino are well structured and long aging, as well as tasty reds like Aglianico and Taurasi. Ilaria pointed out "It is said that Taurasi is the Barolo of the south, but in fact can be better, after all Aglianico is a much more ancient grape than Nebbiolo."

Here are my tasting notes along with the wonderfully paired menu:

Donna Chiara Sante Spumante Brut IGT
a sparkling 100% Falanghina, made using the Martinotti lungo method of fermentation to maintain traditional flavors of the region, fine perlage (smaller, more numerous bubbles), floral aromas, fresh fruit, citrus, minerality and a tropical bouquet.

Paired with arancini di risotto con piselli, mozzarella e sugo di vitelli, bruschetta di fiocco di burrata e basilico.

Donna Chiara Falanghina Beneventano IGT
Fermented for 40 days, straw yellow colors, toasty, pineapple, buttery smooth, even toned, beautiful full bodied, good minerality and acidity and long aging potential.

Donna Chiara Fiano d'Avellino DOCG
2 month fermentation using wild yeasts, vulcanic soils giving layered texture, late harvest imparts an intense ripeness, showing in the aromatics of dried fruit, pear, apple, mild acidity, smooth and long finish.

Both paired with parmigiano di zucchini con provola e salsa al pomodoro.

Donna Chiara Aglianico IGT 2008
No oak touches this one, aged 6 months in bottle, light, fruit aromas, a palate of sour raspberry, glycerine, blackberry, and sour cherries linger on the finish.

Donna Chiara Irpinia 2008 DOC
6 months in French oak, using wild yeasts, structure & body, non-filtered, touch of oak (2nd and third usage barrels not so aggressive). Medium to full body, cherries, prunes, spice, glycerine, raspberry. Charles Scicolone, (a passionate oak-hater) commented on how these reds did not exhibit much oak)

Both reds paried with paccheri alla genovese napoletana

Donna Chiara Taurasi 2007 DOCG
12 months in French barrique, non filtered, ruby violet colors, bouquet of beautiful raspberry and blackberry aromas, with chocolate undertones, ending with a delicious long finish.

Carre d'agnello arrosto con patate e spinaci saltati.

Greco di Tufo DOCG
Apricot, summer fruits, pear lemon rind, pineapple and a fresh finish.


Campania is truly a diverse region with lots to offer. I suggest you try to experience some of their wonderful foods and wines here in the Big Apple or on your next trip to... Campania.

For another perspective on the event see Charles Scicolone On Wine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wines of Cloudy Bay, Marlborough New Zealand

Marlborough, New Zealand's South Island seems to have a handle on Sauvignon Blanc. I recently had a chance to sample a few along with a Chardonnay, Riesling and a Pinot Noir. Cloudy Bay’s thoroughly engaging winemaker Sarah Burton was our guide at an outdoor dinner featuring their wares at The Elizabeth Street Gallery, an outdoor antique garden in New York City’s Nolita, with beautifully matching cuisine by Silkstone.

Sarah is one of three winemakers at Cloudy Bay (teamed with Tim Heath and Nick Lane) in Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand. “No traffic lights, no people and 1 coffee shop.” She’s been at Cloudy bay for 2 years and it’s just celebrated it’s 25th year anniversary. They’ve come a long way and their focus is on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. “Marlborough is a family region, where animals are important, people are close knit.” Their wines are about science and art but especially about people.

2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
This one is close to her heart, she and her team spent hours of fine tuning, they take it seriously, and they’re proud of it. I especially loved this one. Sarah says, “It reminds me of Christmas, with a vibrancy, fresh fruit, texture, herbs, capsicum, grapefruit, a palate that’s smooth, creamy, with a crisp finish. We slipped in a 2% controlled barrel fermentation which adds fleshiness, aged it 4 months in old barrels with some barrels from as far back as 1986 so they’re neutral, with no oak influences and more aeration than influence from the barrel. The point is to get flavors from the grape directly into the bottle. It’s all about climate... it’s the cool nights that give fresh vibrancy and acidity that make it special.”

Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2006
From the same vineyards as above, left to ripen a bit longer, they press the grapes but play around with the solids and the juice to give more texture and weight later on, then it’s 100% barrel fermented with 10% new oak and 90% really old (neutral) French oak. Complex, showing individual personality, and as this wine opens, the changes are apparent and amazing. Savory, with orange blossom characters, some citrus notes, but more nuttiness, creaminess from the barrel fermentation. The fermentation takes place using only wild yeast, followed by a partial malolactic fermentation, left in barrel for 18 months, then another 18 months in bottle. 2 words: Minerality & Texture!

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2009
The next big varietal coming out of Marlborough is Pinot Noir. Early on in NZ these grapes traditionally were planted on the plains and now planted on slopes which improved quality of fruits. Pinot Noir is gently handled, hand picked, then fermented for 2 weeks with natural yeasts, the use of “whole bunch” makes spicy green characters from the stems. 2 more weeks on skins impart more color and tannins, press off to 40% new oak barrel and 60% 2-3 year old oak, all French, and aged for 8-10 months, Complex, fruity, raspberry, strawberry, funk, spicy, chocolate, expressive, smooth, soft, supple tannins with minerality. I also get hints of white pepper, aromas of red licorice, a good long finish, and a clean earthiness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Wines of Chile: Casablanca Valley at Puro Chile

Pablo Morande first planted vines in Casablanca Chile in 1982 where he introduced Chardonnay, Riesling and in 1986 the first Sauvignon Blanc. He did this in a time and place where no one would have believed he would succeed. There was virtually no rainfall, poor vegetation, frosts in winter and extreme swings of temperature between day and night. But Pablo saw the similarities to Carneros California, and took the calculated risk. The qualities Casablanca had in its favor was its terroir. It is one of high humidity, 75% to 65% because of the proximity to the coast. And the valley forms with the Andes to create a perfect climate for fog which blocks solar radiation, especially in the western regions. In general the soil is clay and granite in the west and sand and loam in the east. The rest is history.

This past week we gathered at Puro Chile to sample 4 Sauvignon Blancs and 3 Pinot Noirs from the Casablanca valley, here are my tasting notes:

Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011
21 miles from the coast in the eastern section known as Alto Casablanca, visibly clean and clear, on the nose vaguely pineapple, honeydew melon with citrus lime, and refreshing flavors especially banana, some spice, verdant herbs and a creamy factor. 13.7% alcohol, a bottle costs $12 to $15.

Casas Del Bosque Pequenas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc 2011
In the western region about 10 miles from the ocean, the air is cool and soil is ancient composed of granite, volcanic matter and clay. After hand picking the juice is in contact with skins for 4 days, fermented in stainless steel then on the lees in barrels for 2 months. Liked this one quite a bit, showed earthy aromas of cat pee, with briny salt water, and passion fruit with flavors of spice, toast and melon. $25 per bottle with 13.7% alcohol.

Kingston Family Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc 2010
With vines first planted in 1998 this Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in combination of small stainless barrels, small jacketed tanks (that hold about 6 barrels worth of juice) and a few new oak barrels, just to add a little texture, and aged on the yeast lees.
Showing aromas of raw wood, a pleasant minerality, muted tones of grapefruit and citrus, good body and grassy flavors, and a good long finish. $17 per bottle, 14.3% alcohol.

Cono Sur 20 Barricas Sauvignon Blanc 2009
In this cool climate 2009 was apparently a hot year, yielding subtle aromas and clean fresh flavors exhibiting a tree bark green, which makes sense since this winery won an award as “Green Company of the Year” in 2011. Stainless steel fermentation, a nice bouquet of melon, ripe grapefruit, spices and a minerality with fresh fruit flavors. $15 per bottle.

Emiliana Gran Reserva Novas Pinot Noir 2010
The first Vineyard to go organic, sustainable and biodynamic, Emiliana produces this expressive Pinot Noir. They do a 4 day maceration using wild yeast, aging 8 months in French oak to yield a wine with strawberry aromas, soft clean fresh red fruit on the palate.

Quintay Q Pinot Noir 2010
Three different clones coming from farms in different regions of Casablanca, but preserving the identity of each terroir, 80% of the yield is aged in barrels. Red berries, fresh fruit, strawberry, cherries, floral hints, wet slate with an herbal finish.

Morande Edicion Limitada Pinot Noir 2008
15 months in half new barrel make this Pinot sing aromatically! It’s rich and complex with a perfume that’s intoxicating, red berries, cherries, licorice, strawberries, and raspberry. Outstanding Pinot Noir for the $22 pricetag.