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.