Rosé Wine and a Tomato Tasting on the Terrace

We live on the 20th floor of a Manhattan apartment building. The terrace is very sunny and Michele grows blueberries, tomatoes, mint, basil, etc. A few years after we moved in, we noticed a couple in the apartment building right across the street from us who also were growing tomatoes and other vegetables.

One night, we noticed the couple was out on their terrace having dinner with some guests. Next day on Facebook, a friend posted pictures of her and her husband having dinner on that very terrace. We contacted our friend and asked if she was visiting the people across the street the night before and she said, yes she was. She offered to introduce us to them and we became friends.

Valerie and Mitch are passionate about vegetable gardening tomatoes and grow many different varieties of tomatoes, plus eggplants, peppers, carrots and so on. Every year they invite us to a tomato tasting dinner.

We started with baba ganoush with peppers from the garden for dipping.

Then we had Caprese salad with two kinds of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

A delicious gazpacho followed.

Last but not least was fresh fettuccine with carrot top pesto and cherry tomatoes. If you have never tried it, carrot top pesto, with a delicate parsley flavor, is a nice alternative to the usual basil variety.

It was a lovely evening as we sat on the terrace finishing the last of our rose wine.

Maison Belle Claire Rosé 2016 Cotes de Provence made from 35% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 30% Cinsault. The soil is clay and limestone. The grapes are destemmed and there is temperature controlled pneumatic pressing without maceration.The wine has a light salmon color very typical of the Rose from the Cotes de Provence. It has intense red fruit with hints of strawberries and raspberries, good acidity and a very pleasing finish and aftertaste $18.

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A Summer Taste of Provence in NYC

“A Summer Taste of Provence in NYC” with Chateau De Chausse was the theme of a recent event.

Mr. Franck Bailleul, the general manager of Château De Chausse, spoke about the estate. Château De Chausse is situated near St. Tropez in Frances’s Povence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azur Region. The estate is nine miles from the town of St. Tropez. It is a 135-acre property on which 37 acres are planted in vines. The estate was established in 1986 and was purchased last year by Charles S. Cohen, a frequent visitor to Provence, who dreamed of owning a winery and made his dream come true.

The climate is Mediterranean and is moderated by the proximity to the coast and the surrounding forests. The soil is sandy clay and schist. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino) are planted in the vineyard.

Both Mr. Bailleul and Ms. Laurence Berlemont, the consulting enologist spoke about the wine. Mr. Baileul said that the grapes are harvested by hand and are strictly selected.

Côtes de Provence AOP White, 2016 -100% Rolle (Vermentino) Vineyards are cultivated according to sustainable agriculture methods. The grapes are transferred by gravity into the press for a short maceration period before pressing. After pressing, the must is fermented in stainless steel thermo-regulated tanks. This is a fresh aromatic wine with hints of wild flowers, honey, pears and other yellow fruits. There is a touch of apricots in the finish and aftertaste. Mr. Bailleul said this wine would develop in the bottle for several years. $28

Côtes de Provence AOP Rose, 2016, 65% Cinsault and 35% Grenache. The wine is salmon pink in color with hints of strawberry, raspberries and white stone fruits. $29

Ms. Berlemont said Grenache grapes are big in size and full of juice.

Côtes de Provence AOP “Diamant” White 2016 100% Rolle (Vermentino) This wine was very different from the first wine made from the same grape variety. Direct pressing tales place. After settling of the must, fermentation takes place in 300L new oak casks and the wine remains on the fine lees for 9 months prior to bottling.

Ms. Berlemont said the oak aging gives the wine subtle notes of vanilla and brioche, with a touch of coconut. The wine has a long aging potential from 5 to 10 years and will evolve offering notes of grilled almonds and quince paste. $58.00

The Red Wines

Mr. Bailleul said the high quality of the red wines from Provence have yet to be discovered. 

Côtes de Provence AOP Red 2013 & 2012, 50% Syrah and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Long maceration at warm temperatures is followed by fermentation in thermo-regulated stainless steel tanks. 15% of the wine is aged in new and used oak barrels. The wine has hints of licorice, violets and black cherry. Wine can age for 4 to 8 years. The 2013 is $33.00.

Côtes de Provence AOP Red 2011, 60% Syrah and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mr. Bailleul said this wine is no longer available in the market. It is now a 50/50 blend.

Côtes de Provence AOP “Rubis” 2013 & 2010 Red Long maceration at warm temperatures is followed by fermentation in stainless steel thermo-tanks. The wine is aged for 15 months in French oak. The wine has hints of black fruit and mocha with a hint of leather. The 2010 is more developed but not showing any signs of age. The wine can last for 10 years or more. The 2013 is $112.00.

Ms. Berlemont said the grapes for “Rubis” are picked by hand and sorted in order to get rid of the little branches and any fruit which is not totally mature or with imperfections. The grapes are harvested quite mature at 14 to 15 % alcohol. This is done in order to obtain black fruit aromas such as blackberries.The wine is aged in 100% new barrels The wood aging differs from year to and depending on the vintage and the tasting of the wine as to oxygenate or fine and the aging time. At the moment only 1,200 bottles of “Rubis” are produced are produced.

There was reception at the end where we could taste the wine again with food. Mr. Cohen’s favorite band provided the entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow on Champagne, Prosecco and Food

A Sparkling Wine Tasting Dinner

 A few coincidences set the stage for a very interesting dinner at home this week.

  • Beloved Spouse, having decided to write a post for his wine blog on a comparison between prosecco and champagne, brought home a representative bottle of each, first for a formal tasting, then to test with dinner foods.
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  • I had just read Fatal Pursuit, a detective novel by Martin Walker that has Perigord police chief/gastronome Bruno Courrèges making blinis of an unusual kind to serve with local caviar – a kind I wanted to try to make.
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  • We had a little jar of American transmontanus caviar in the refrigerator.

Everyone who reads the Bruno books knows that their lavish descriptions of the hero’s cooking are virtually narrative recipes. I’ve written about re-creating some of his dishes here. The blinis in this story are not the traditional Russian ones in several ways. Bruno doesn’t use any buckwheat flour; he adds chopped chives to his batter of flour, milk, egg yolk, and melted butter; and – because he doesn’t have time to raise the blinis with yeast – he beats the egg white into peaks and folds it in. I did the same.
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I dropped the batter by tablespoonsful into very hot butter in a frying pan. (Bruno remarks that this is one of the few places he doesn’t use duck fat!) They cooked quickly and neatly, making 20 fluffy 2-inch pancakes.
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After we’d had the formal tasting of the sparkling wines alone, we opened our caviar and sat down to find out how the champagne and prosecco would go with our dinner dishes. The blinis themselves were fine – light and delicate, an excellent vehicle for the caviar. I think the leftovers, which I froze, may be just as good with smoked salmon or sturgeon.
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We did the same tasting of the two wines along with the dinner’s main course, which was sauteed soft-shell crabs on toast and a summer vegetable mélange of okra, corn, and tomatoes (which I’ve also written about here).
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I’ll leave the detailed results of the wine-wine and wine-food comparisons forTom’s blog post to report. What I’ll say is simply that Bruno’s blinis were a success, all the food was delicious, both the wines were delightful, and the entire evening sparkled like the wine.   dianecookbooks.wordpress.com

Prosecco and Champagne: Tasting Beyond the Bubbles

August 7, 2017

I have been enjoying both Champagne and Prosecco for many years now without ever thinking of making a direct comparison between them. I had, without a lot of thought about it, consigned them each to its own niche: Prosecco light and pleasing and sort of frivolous, Champagne a more serious wine for more important occasions. But I was brought up short recently by an innocent question from a wine civilian about what really was the difference between the two.

I had started giving the stock answer about the different grapes that each is made from, when I realized that in fact I had never drunk them side by side so as to be able to give the answer that my civilian friend was really seeking – the differences in how they taste and how that affects what one ought to drink them with. Not a glaring omission, you might think, except that that kind of side-by-side comparison is exactly what my first book, Mastering Wine, is based on and is what I have always believed is the best basic method of learning about wines. Color me embarrassed.
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To make up for that slip, and with Long-Suffering Spouse as a willing collaborator, I put together a tasting of a representative Prosecco and a representative Champagne designed to explore the two thoroughly: first, tasting alone in the classic clinical way; then with two stages of a dinner – first as apéritif alongside caviar, then alongside a main course of sautéed soft-shell crabs. (No one says a wine tasting can’t be a little self-indulgent.) It would be understatement to say the experiment was very interesting. You can read Diane’s account of the foods here.
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To keep the playing field as level as possible, I wanted to use readily available wines. Ideally, I would have liked them to be similar in price, but that proved impossible. No Prosecco in my local markets came anywhere near the price of most Champagnes, so I availed myself of an Astor Wines sale on sparklers to buy Nino Franco’s Rustico at about $15 and Pol Roger’s Brut NV at about $38. That’s close to standard price for the Prosecco and a very reasonable price for the Champagne. Rustico is a DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene, which is one the best zones for Prosecco, but it’s Nino Franco’s basic bottling. (The firm makes others, including a brilliant vintage bottling that is capable of great aging, but none was available locally.)  The Brut NV is Pol Roger’s most basic Champagne, so in that respect there was no tilt in the playing field, but I’m afraid the difference in price between the two wines definitely provided one.

So what did the tasting show me? Visually, there’s not much difference between them, both a pale gold, the Champagne a shade darker. Both had lovely fine and persistent perlage, despite the fact that the Rustico was made by the Charmat method and the Pol Roger had the benefit of the full méthode champenoise (not topics that I can go into here).
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The aromas showed more differences. The Rustico was yeasty smelling, hinting of fresh bread, while the Pol Roger was a tad more intensely bready, hinting of toast. Both were pleasing and inviting.

In the mouth, the Rustico tasted light and fresh, with floral and fruity notes, and specific suggestions of apple, while the Pol Roger showed more wheat and less fruit (though hints of pear popped up), by comparison seeming even a little austere on the palate and in the finish. The Rustico finished long, with a touch of elegance polishing its freshness.

This direct comparison was very instructive. Of the two wines, the Prosecco seemed the more direct and – I considered two words here – simple or honest. It was more obviously fruity, though we’re talking about nuanced fruit here, not in-your-face jam. It struck me as more immediately enjoyable, less demanding of attention or analysis. The Champagne seemed less direct or accessible – more intellectual, so to speak. It seemed weightier, more imposing. (The Prosecco had 11 degrees of alcohol, the Champagne 12.5.)

I deliberately used white wine glasses, not flutes, because I wanted to taste the wines and not just the effervescence. As the two wines sat for a while in the glasses and their sparkle faded, the fruit of the Prosecco showed better, while in the Champagne the winemaking came to the fore.

I would say that with neither of these wines is fruit the point. It’s an attraction, of course, but sparkling wines are a contrivance, and the point of the contrivance – at least in my opinion – is lightness and pleasure first and everything else after. Obviously there are outer limits of how much lightness and how much or little of anything else is desirable, and every winemaker and every drinker has to decide what those are for themselves.

Nothing I tasted in this match-up pushed me to prefer one wine over the other. Both offered high levels of pleasure of slightly different kinds, but in fact the two wines surprised me by how similar they were. And those similarities persisted with different foods, both wines tasting equally satisfactory in their own ways with caviar and blini and soft-shell crabs on toast.
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Each dish called up the Prosecco’s light, fresh fruit and the Champagne’s relatively greater weight and depth (the latter, I am certain, the result of being vinified from a blend of grape varieties rather than a single one). So there were no knock-outs or TKOs, just two excellent contenders of very slightly different weight classes, each performing in character in a variety of circumstances. As old carnival barkers used to say, ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice.

I could certainly have gotten more dramatically different results by choosing different wines – Nino Franco’s impressive vintage Primo, for instance, or Pol Roger’s always wonderful Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill – but I wanted to get as near parity in my selections as I could. Likewise, other palates making the same comparisons might come to different conclusions or perceive greater differences than I did. All I can tell you is what I tasted, and urge you, if you’re curious, to make the comparison for yourself.

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Champagne made from 100% Pinot Meunier

Champagne made from 100% red grapes, especially Pinot Meunier, has always been my favorite, though they have always seemed difficult to find. I was delighted when I was invited to a tasting of Champagnes that included several made from the Meunier grape.

The invitation said: “An association of 9 Champagne producers has joined together not to create a specific blend in common but to underline the value of Pinot Meunier, an under-appreciated grape, by clearly articling its sensory and flavor profile and linking its authenticity to the Marne Valley.”

I do not know of any of the big Champagne Houses that makes 100% Pinot Meuner


 Eight of the producers were present at the tasting.

At the tasting all the wines contained Pinot Meunier.  Some were 100% Pinot Meunier, others a blend of Meunier and Pinot Noir, and some a blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  I decided to concentrate on the wines made from 100% Pinot Meunier.  Meunier is named for the downy white underside of its leaves that seem to have been sprinkled with flour. Meunier means “miller” in French, and is a term used for some things that involve flour, an example is the classic “Sole Meunier.”

The Pinot Meunier vine has medium sized roundish shaped leaves with five lobes (five parts of the leaf), and a lyre-shaped petiolar sinu (lower part of the stem).  The berries tend to be smaller than Pinot Noir (8 to 12 millimeters and grow in relatively small, tight bunches).  Meunier does well in poor, limestone-laden soils, but does best in the richer, clay-heavy soils of the Marne Valley.  It is the second most planted grape (32%) in the Champagne Region. Pinot Noir is first.

The Champagnes listed below are all made from 100% Meunier.

Champagne André Hecq Gault Millau Extra Brut 100% Meunier (Blanc de Noirs) from reserve wine: 40% 2009 and 60% 2010.  Dosage 4g/l. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine remains on the lees for four years. This is Champagne with good structure, minerality and hints of apple and pear.

Rosé De Saignée 2012 100% Meunier. Vinification  saignée maceration (bleeding).  I believe this is the only winery that makes a Rosè using this method.  Grapes from a single parcel L’Etau 50 year old vines. Malolactic fermentation takes place. This is Champagne with hints of red fruit, raspberries and strawberries.

Champagne Eric Taillet “Bansionnensi Extra Brut 100% Pinot Meunier-Blanc de Meunier. Grapes are from the Marne Valley, Binsonnois lot and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The soil is clay and limestone. Sustainable viniculture, with grass growing between the rows, no chemical weed killer is used. Application on foliage is of pure algae and certified organic oligo elements.

Traditional Dollat type wood press is used. There is an extraction and fractioning of press juices and natural must settling. Thermoregulation fermentation is at 65F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine matures on the fine lees. The wine is aged for 36 months. Dosage 4g/l, 2004 vintage base wine and cane sugar.

Champagne Serveaux Fils 100% Pinot Meunier, 50% from 2013 and from 2014 50% Grapes for the Cuvée Meunier d’ Antan from Passy sur Marne and Barzy sur Marne. Average age of the vines is 40 years. The soil is limestone. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and the reserve wines are aged in barrel for 7 months.  Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Dosage 0g/l (Brut Natural) The wine is aged for 30 months.

Champagne Roger Barnier-Cuvée Meunier composed of 100% Meunier from the 2012 harvest. It is a blend of 5 old plots- 1910 to 1956.  Hand harvested, grapes are pressed in small batches and vinification is by plots. Only the first press is used, “The Cuvêe.” Blended and matured in oak casks and bottled in March of 2010 with corks. Second fermentation is done at a low temperature.  This is a well structured, complex and elegant champagne with full fruit aromas and flavors.

Météyer Pere & Fils Exclusif (Blanc De Meunier) 100% Pinot Meunier from the vineyards Tré sur Marne- Vallé de la Marne. Age of the vines is 65 years and the soil is clay and limestone. Harvest is by hand with sorting on the vine. Automatic press is used. Vinification is classic and traditional and malolactic fermentation does not take place. There is a minimum aging of eight years on wooden laths.  It is a Brut Natural- Dosage Zero.  It is fruity, complex, full bodied and intense with hints of citrus fruit, honey and almonds.

 

Champagne Demiére Egreg’Or “Brut 100% Meunier. Fleury La Riviére, subsoil chalky sand with different levels of shells.  Harvest 2010 by hand with a selection of the best grapes. Traditional vertical press: Coquard. Téte de Cuvée. Malolactic fermentation does not take place.   Dosage 9g/l with the addition of their homemade liqueur.  This is champagne with fine bubbles, a delicate form and a complex bouquet with hints of apricots, peaches and a touch of honey.

Solera 23 100% Fleury la Riviére and Damery. The soil is clay limestone with deep marl and the average age of the vineyards is 35 years. It is a Cuvée. Traditional wine making, without malolactic fermentation taking place in order to preserve the grape’s natural acids.  Solera Method which has been implemented over the last 20 years, is usually used as a blend base. Dosage 7g/l.  This is a full-bodied champagne with hints of ripe pears and figs with a touch of toasted almonds.

Champagne Moutardier Cuvée Pure MeunierBrut Natural NV made from 100% Pinot Meunier.  It has hints of green apple, peach and pineapple with a touch of almond.

Champagne Roger-Constant Lemaire Select Réserve Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Meunier from the Marne Valley. The soil is a mixture of limestone and clay and the age of the vines is 35 years. The grapes are harvested by hand with a strict selection of the grapes. Treated with Norwegian kelp within the context of environmentally responsible wine production.  There is a long fermentation at 16C in temperature controlled stainless tanks. Only the juice from the first pressing is used. A late racking takes place in February. Malolactic fermentation does not take place and there is no filtration or fining. The wine is aged for four years.Dosage Brut- Extra Brut(4 to 8g/l) Dosage liqueur is 100% estate produced using pure cane sugar, aged in oak barrels.

In my experience,  Champagne  made from 100% Meunier can go with a wider ranger of food then those made from blends.

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Taittinger Champagne, Oysters, Caviar, Chocolate

Champagne Taittinger hosts an annual event called “The Art of Celebrating the Holidays — Christmas in July.”

This year the event also included Thanksgiving and New Years ideas for celebrating Taittinger Champagne style with Oysters, Calvisius Caviar, Black Truffles from Urbani and Jacques Torres Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier.

The room was covered with Taittinger Champagne bottles and the whole line of Taittinger Champagne was available to taste. At the entrance was a Taittinger Champagne Christmas tree.

As I entered, I was handed a glass of Champagne Taittinger Nocturne NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier ($84). I headed for the caviar.

John Knierim from Calvisius Caviar said Calvisius is an Italian company located in Calvisano, between Milan and Venice. It is the world’s largest farmed caviar producer accounting for 20% of global caviar production from its 150 acres of sustainable aquaculture. Taittinger Champagne and Caviar a perfect combination.

Then with a glass of Champagne Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir ($97), I headed for the oyster bar, just warming up for the Champagne and Oyster seminar that I would be attending later in the evening.

With a glass of Champagne Taittinger Brut Millesime 2012, made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir ($ 97), I headed to the Urbani Truffle Lab where they were serving risotto with black truffles.

These were perfect black truffles and one could smell their wonderful aromas from across the room.

I had one more glass: Champagne Taittinger Prestige Champagne Rose NV made from 50% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier $86, before the oyster seminar. I should point out that they were all 1/2 glasses.

I would have dessert after the seminar.

Champagne and Oyster Seminar   — There were eight different types of oysters to taste and this was one of the few times I have had Champagne with oysters.

On the panel were:

Catherine Cutrei, Sr. PR director for Kobrand,

Vatalie Taittinger, Artistic Director Champagne Taittinger

Chantelle Pabros, Sommelier and Taittinger Ambassador

Julie Qui, Oyster Sommelier @inahalfshell.com

Vatalie said Taittinger is one of the few remaining family owned and operated Champagne houses. It is located in Reims, France. Its distinctive style is influenced by a greater proportion of Chardonnay in the blends and a longer aging period before release.

Julie said oysters are not that different from fine wine insofar as they are site–expressive, meaning their taste is shaped by the characteristics of their growing environment. Where wines have terroirs, oysters are defined by “meroirs.” Water salinity, temperature, the type of algae present in the water, and the seabed characteristics all factor into an oyster’s flavor.

Champagne and Oysters

Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meurnier. Ms Tattinger said the Champagne is aged for 3 to 4 years, which is twice the legal requirement, and it is the staple of the Taittinger House. $62.

It has a very expressive bouquet fruity with hints of brioche, peaches and white flowers. On the palate it is fresh and lively with honey notes.

 

Oyster: Kumiai

Species: Crassostrea gigas and harvested Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur Mexico

Grow out method: Intertidal long lines

It had a meaty texture with poignant salinity with flavors of seaweed, savory and umami packed like anchovy.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2006 100% Chardonnay

This is the ultimate expression of the Taittinger House Champagne style and is produced in only in exceptional years.

The grapes come from the top vineyards in the Côtes des Blancs and only the best-pressed juice is used. A small amount (5%) of the blend spends 3 to 4 months in new oak barrels. Ms. T said this is to enhance the intrinsic qualities of the final blend. Prior to disgorgement, the Champagne is aged for 10 years on the lees in 13-century chalk cellars. This is one of my favorite Champagnes and worth the price $205.

Oyster: Nootka

Species: Crassostrea harvested at Nootka Sound, Northwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Grow Out Method: Floating tray/ intertidal beach

Nootka are among the most remotely cultured oysters in North

America. They have very thin white meat and very black mantles. Medium salinity and very creamy. Slightly lactic, butter cream and vegetal. Nutty sweet and a clean finish.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosè 2006 made from 70% Pinot Noir (12% blended in as still red wine), and 30% Chardonnay. It is produced from 100% Cru grapes from the Cötes des Blanc and the Montagne de Reims. Only juice from the first pressing is used. This is a well structured and complex Champagne with hints of strawberries, cherry black currants and a touch of fresh almonds. This is a great Rosè ($262)

Oyster: Glidden Point

Species: Crassostrea virginica harvested at Damariscotta River Maine

Grow Out: Method Bottom–cultured in deep water

Many Glidden Points are hand-harvested by divers. It takes about 4 years for market size. Medium to high salinity, and silky texture (in winter they take on a much meatier, crunchier texture).

Layed minerality, kelp, and in winter cured ham and prosciutto notes.

Super sweet adductor muscle, crisp mineral finish.

Champagne Taittanger Nocturne Rosè NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier.

This is a Sec Champagne blended from about 30 vineyards and from multiple vintages. The wine is laid down for 3 years to age before disgorgement. A 17.5 g/l dosage of sugar cane combined with slow cellar aging that Ms. T said creates a round and smooth Rose Champagne. This is the first time I tasted this Champagne. It had hints of brioche, red berries and a touch of almonds.

Oyster: Mystic

Species: Crassostrea Virgibica harvested at Mystic River Estuary, Norwich, Connecticut

Growing out Method: Bottom cultured on beach

Mystics are often abnormally round and have scalloping, which some theorize comes from the strong tides ripping over the shallow-planted oysters. High salinity with springy texture, may be a little creamy in July (much firmer in winter). Flavor fluctuates throughout the year, but generally a good balance between sweet, nutty and mineral. A crisp and clean finish.

Note: Oysters enter the grow-out phase after they leave the nursery.

When we finished the oysters Julie said to flip them over and admire the “artistry” on the back of the shells.

After the seminar I headed to Jacques Torres Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier with another glass of Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosè 2006 to try with the chocolates and pastries.

I have always been a fan of Rose Champagne and chocolate and it also worked very well with the pastries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tasting Gaja Wines at La Pizza Fresca NYC

Recently La Pizza Fresca Ristorante in NYC celebrated its 20th anniversary. The restaurant was one of the very first in the city to serve genuine Neapolitan style pizzas and it has one of the best wine lists in the city. Brad Bonnewell, the owner, created the list and he often hosts wine dinners at the restaurant.

I have been going there since it first opened and recently Brad invited me to a dinner featuring the Barbaresco of Angelo Gaja.

Representing the winery was the charming and knowledgeable Giovanni Gaja, Angelo’s son. I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as Giovanni and therefore could ask him a number of questions.

Giovanni is 24 years old and most of the wines we tasted were older then him. He is the youngest child and his youngest sister is 14 years older than him. He joked that it was like growing up with 3 mothers.

I asked Giovanni what changes occurred to the single vineyard Barbaresco in the last few years. Giovanni told me that he and his sisters, Gaia and Rossana had a discussion with their father Angelo about the single vineyard Barbaresco. He emphasized that it was a discussion and not and argument or a fight.

Giovanni Gaja

Angelo’s children convinced him to return to 100% Nebbiolo for the Costa Russi, Sori Tilden and Sori San Lorenzo. Giovanni said that before the DOC (1966) laws Barbaresco could contain other grapes, predominantly Barbera. So Angelo had detached the wines from the DOC appellation in order to produce them as they were in the past. Beginning with the 1996 vintage Angelo Gaja used 15% Barbera in these wines.

Giovanni said every generation has the right to do things in their own way.

So from the 2013 vintage their single vineyard wines are 100% Nebbiolo.

He added they have the full support of their father, and “We can now pursue the pure expression of the Nebbiolo grape once again.”

Giovanni said that Angelo had joined his father in the winery in 1961. In 1978 he changed Barbaresco forever with the introduction of barriques and other new techniques. We can only imagine what Angelo’s father thought of this and of his planting of international grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. That same year, Angelo took a prime Nebbiolo site and planted it with Cabernet Sauvignon. Legend has it that when Angelo’s father passed the Cabernet vineyard he would mutter “Damagi,” meaning “what a shame or a pity,” or “Damn It” and so the vineyard came to be called Damagi.

So Giovanni and his sisters were just following in their footsteps of their father by doing things the way they wanted. I asked Giovanni if the regular Barbaresco was made the same way today as it was when Angelo took over in 1978. His answer was “yes” adding that they still use a combination of barriques and large barrels (botti).

Giovanni explained in detail about the 6 wines we tasted. “Barbaresco is the wine that we have always been producing for 5 generations. It is a blend of 14 different vineyards of Nebbiolo mainly located in the Barbaresco area and a small parcel in the Treiso area at an altitude ranging from 250m to 330m covering an area of 21.4 hectares. Each vineyard undergoes fermentation and maceration separately and we let fermentation take its course. According to the vintage, it can take longer or shorter period of time. After fermentation, the wine from each vineyard ages one year separately in small French oak barrels, mostly used and a small part new oak. Usually the ratio is 80% used and 20% new. After one year the wines are blended together and undergo a further year of aging in big barrels. Finally, the wines are bottled and spend a further period of aging in bottle before being released on the market to let the wine settle and balance.”

The regular Barbaresco is made from 100% Nebbiolo. Here are the wines we tasted:

Barbaresco 1988 — the bottle that we had seemed a little tired for its age. There was a discussion at the table and someone said they had a bottle of the 1988 recently and it was fine. We just got an off bottle. The aromas on all of the other wines were classic Nebbiolo with hints of black cherry, violets, blackberries, tobacco, leather and tea.

Barbaresco 1990 — for me was the wine of the tasting.

Barbaresco 1993 — was not a great vintage for Barolo but the wine was showing very well and will last for a few more years.

Barbaresco 1997 — was showing very well and most of the people at the table liked this wine along with the 1990.

Barbareso 2000 — this vintage got mixed reviews but Gaja produced a very good wine.

Barbaresco 2013 — this wine needed more time but has great potential.

pasta, sausage, saffron and parmigiano reggianp

With the wine we had Carpaccio di Manzo, Paccheri Zafferano con Salsiccia, Pizza Margherita, Pizza Savoia and Tortelli di Vitello.

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Daniele Cernilli on Checchino dal 1887 and Monfortino-a Heated Argument

I reprint a number of articles by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine because I am in agreement with his point of view on the state of Italian wine and restaurants in Italy.

Checchino dal 1887 is for me the best restaurant in Rome for food and wine.

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°219

Checchino and Monfortino

by Daniele Cernilli 17-07-2017

Checchino e il Monfortino

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

Speaking recently with a journalist who I will not name, a veteran wine and food critic, I heard some statements that were contradictory to say the least. Our conversation began with a discussion on the attitude food critics had towards certain restaurants specialized in traditional cuisine.

On my part, I complained that a guide I collaborated with had dropped the Roman restaurant Checchino dal 1887, a temple of Roman cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood where coda all vaccinara (ox-tail strew) was invented. At the same time, the guide gave high ratings to trendy restaurants in that same neighborhood that not only lacked any history but also, in my opinion, any real gastronomic merit. The great traditional dishes were overlooked in favor of a stateless and ignorant cuisine, the product of improvised fusions. Needless to say, our discussion became quite heated and I heard myself being defined as defender of “stuffy” traditional cuisine and basically a dinosaur among food critics.

I struggled to bite my tongue. Immediately after, however, I heard the same person give a sermon in favor of the most classic Barolo wines, Monfortino first among them, bitterly criticizing all those who dared veer away from the most authentic traditions by using new-wood barrels and experimenting with methods that, in his view, prejudiced the true typicity of those wines. This was crazy, I said to myself, why are the recipes from Checchino “stuffy” while by the same measure Monfortino is the best there is? Make no mistake, Monfortino is truly an immense wine and while I agreed with him on this, some consistency or coherence was warranted when defining what is authentically traditional. This because it also has to do with cultural importance, as well as organoleptic considerations, and I would put into the same boat the vaccinara from Checchino, the shanks of Josko Sirk and the Subida from Cormons as well as the “schlutzkrapfen” of Patesheider hof on the Ritten of Bolzano, just to name a few examples.

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

If you have has similar experiences, let me know.

Th

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°219

Checchino and Monfortino

by Daniele Cernilli 17-07-2017

Checchino e il Monfortino

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

Speaking recently with a journalist who I will not name, a veteran wine and food critic, I heard some statements that were contradictory to say the least. Our conversation began with a discussion on the attitude food critics had towards certain restaurants specialized in traditional cuisine.

On my part, I complained that a guide I collaborated with had dropped the Roman restaurant Checchino dal 1887, a temple of Roman cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood where coda all vaccinara (ox-tail strew) was invented. At the same time, the guide gave high ratings to trendy restaurants in that same neighborhood that not only lacked any history but also, in my opinion, any real gastronomic merit. The great traditional dishes were overlooked in favor of a stateless and ignorant cuisine, the product of improvised fusions. Needless to say, our discussion became quite heated and I heard myself being defined as defender of “stuffy” traditional cuisine and basically a dinosaur among food critics.

I struggled to bite my tongue. Immediately after, however, I heard the same person give a sermon in favor of the most classic Barolo wines, Monfortino first among them, bitterly criticizing all those who dared veer away from the most authentic traditions by using new-wood barrels and experimenting with methods that, in his view, prejudiced the true typicity of those wines. This was crazy, I said to myself, why are the recipes from Checchino “stuffy” while by the same measure Monfortino is the best there is? Make no mistake, Monfortino is truly an immense wine and while I agreed with him on this, some consistency or coherence was warranted when defining what is authentically traditional. This because it also has to do with cultural importance, as well as organoleptic considerations, and I would put into the same boat the vaccinara from Checchino, the shanks of Josko Sirk and the Subida from Cormons as well as the “schlutzkrapfen” of Patesheider hof on the Ritten of Bolzano, just to name a few examples.

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

If you have has similar experiences, let me know.

2 Comments

Filed under Checchino dal 1887, Daniele Cernilli, Uncategorized