Some months ago, I mentioned to our friend Ed McCarthy that Michele and I were invited to a wedding in Massachusetts. Ed, who has a home in that area, invited us to stay with him and, his wife Mary Ewing-Mulligan, and we gratefully accepted. Ed and Mary are the authors of the Wine for Dummies books and Mary is an MW. When I told Ed we could stay for only one day, he said, “We will have to fit in a lot of wine!” It was a great weekend of wine and food but what I really enjoyed was the wine talk on subjects ranging from “leaf roll” in one of the single vineyards of Ravenswood Zinfandel, to a 1960 Coonawarra Estates Cabernet from Australia which they had a few days before, and many other things between. The six wines below were drunk during lunch and dinner.
Champagne Brut Rosé “Celebris” 1998 Gosset It is 68% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir Grand Cru and 7% red wine from Pinot Noir. I believe disgorging is by hand and it does not go through malolatic fermentation and the remuage is both manual and by gryopalettes. The color was a robust pink, a profusion of small bubbles in the glass with aromas and flavors of red fruit and hints of raspberries and strawberries. It made a wonderful aperitif. The current vintage is an “extra brut”. Gosset located in Ay is the oldest continually operating wine firm in Champagne.
“One of the main reasons that I wrote Champagne for Dummies is to share with you my enthusiasm for the lesser-known Champagne houses such as Gosset. This firm, owned by the Gosset family until a few years ago, has been making wonderful Champagne for as long as I can remember, and only a small number of people (in the United States at least) have experienced them”. I agree with Ed!
Fiano di Avellino “Radici” 1997 Mastroberardino 100% Fiano di Avelliano (Campania)
The grapes are from the Santo Stefano del Sole vineyards and the soil sandy, deep and rich in minerals. The harvest takes place in the second half of October. Classic white wine vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. It has been my pleasure to drink Fiano di Avellino from this producer that has been 20-25 years old. This is a white wine that can age and this 14 year old wine still has many more years in front of it. It had subtle white fruit aromas and flavors, more than a hint of smoke, and touches of honey and toasted hazelnuts. It was rich on the palate with a finish and aftertaste of slightly bitter almonds.
Arnad-Montjuret DOC 2009 La Kiuva 75% Nebbiolo with some Pinot Noir and perhaps some Dolcetto (Vallée d’Aoste) This is a small co-op of 60 growers on 25 hectares of vineyards. They produce 8,000 cases of 3 different wines. Each grower tends his own plot with the help of the co-op’s agronomist. The wine is named for two small villages.
The local clone of Nebbiolo here is called Picatendro. Ed made me taste this wine blind and asked me where it came from and I said Piedmont, I was very close and I had never had this wine before. It is a light wine with aromas and flavors of cherry and a hint of spice. The wine was very easy to drink and the alcohol was only 12.5%.
Vignabajla 1982 Angelo Gaja 100% Dolcetto. (Piedmont) This is a single vineyard Dolcetto and it is the wine Ed should have given me to taste blind. Dolcetto means “sweet little one” even though the wine is dry. It should be consumed within the first few years. This wine still had aromas and flavors of cherry, was not showing any sign of age and if Ed had given me the wine blind and only told me the year, I would have guessed it was Nebbiolo! Gaja no longer makes Dolcetto.
Taurasi “Radici” 1994 Mastroberardino 100% Aglianico (Campania) the grapes are from the Montemarano vineyard that has a southern exposure and chalky clay soil. The harvest is at the end of October and the beginning of November. Classic red wine vinification with a long maceration with the skins and aged for about 30 months in Slovenian oak. This wine was produced before they began to use barriques. In the past Mastroberardino used cement tanks and both large chestnut and Slovenian oak casks for the wine. It is classic Aglianico with dark fruit flavors and aromas, with hints of smoke, leather and tobacco. Their Taurasi can last for many years and I have had wines in the last few years from the 1960’s and 1970’s that are still drinking very well.
The 1968 still remains a classic.
Barbaresco “Martinenga” 1985 Tenute Cisa Asinari Del Marchesi DI Gresy 100% Nebbiolo. (Piedmont) The Martinenga vineyard is 11 hectares with a southern exposure and blue marl soil. Vinification is on the skins. There is 8 to 10 day fermentation with floating cap followed by 5 to 10 days fermentation with submerged cap. This wine was aged in Slovenian oak for at least 14 months. More recent vintages have a brief period in barriques. 1985 was a very good vintage for Barbaresco. The wine had red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherry, tobacco, leather and spice. It was not showing its age.