Another Dinner with Inspector Montalbano

Andrea Camilleri is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Inspector Montalbano. The stories take place  in southeastern Sicily in a town with a made-up name, but it sounds a lot like Agrigento. This is of special interest to me because my father’s family comes from Naro in the Province of Agrigento.

Wine and food writers Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca are also loyal fans of the Inspector Montalbano books, as well as the made-in-Italy television series on the same subject, which is available here on DVD. Like most Sicilians, the fictional Montalbano spends a lot of time thinking, talking about, and of course, eating food. Especially seafood. While in Italy, Diane and Tom Purchased a cookbook, I Segreti della Tavola di Montalbano, The Secrets of Montalbano’s Table, written by Stefania Campo, and recently they invited Michele and I to a dinner at their home featuring some of the recipes. The last time we were invited for a Montalbano-style dinner, Tom paired the courses with Sicilian wines. This time he did not, but his chosen pairings went very well with the food.IMG_8127

Gruet Blanc de Noirs 100% Pinot Noir. This is a sparkling wine (Méthode Champenoise) from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The wine spends a minimum of 24 months on the lees. It is a fruity wine with a creamy texture, hints of strawberries and slightly toasty. At $ 16 a bottle it is a real bargain.IMG_8126

It was well paired with the Sfincione (Sicilian Focaccia) Mentioned in Camilleri’s book, “Excurison to Tindari.”IMG_8133

Piemonte Grignolino DOC 2013 Castello di Neive made ​​from 100% Grignolino. The exposure is east, southeast and the soil is calcareous marl. The average age of the vines is 25 years and the training system Guyot. Manual harvest in small boxes takes place in mid-September. Fermentation lasts for 8/10 days with automatic replacement. Maceration is for 5 days. The wine is aged 3 months is stainless steel and 3 months in bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity wine, with a little more body than most Grignolino. It has hints of cherry and a touch of spice.IMG_8129

This was served with the polipetti di polpo (octopus croquettes) from “The Smell of the Night.” Tom did not want to serve a white wine with this dish but paired it with the Grignolino which was a good choice.IMG_8136

Barolo DOCG 1998 Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo This is traditional, classic Barolo at its best. Even though 1998 was not a great year this is a great wine and it will age very nicely for a number of years. This was served with the agnello alla cacciatora (hunters style lamb) from “The Voice of the Violin.”IMG_8140

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG “Campolongo di Torbe “ 1998 Agricola Masi  made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The Campolongo di Torbe vineyard has southwest exposure and is at 375/400 meters. The soil is deep, red eocenic limestone, with good drainage and stones. Wide terraces are supported by natural stone walls called marogne.IMG_8142

Amarone is made ​​by drying  the grapes. Bunches are dried on bamboo racks in farmhouse lofts in the vineyards, with natural ventilation. By mid-February, the grapes weigh 35-40% less; Corvina is the only variety affected by botrytis (noble rot).  After delicate pressing, the dried grapes are partially destalked, fermented in large Slovenian oak barrels (large barrels), at a very cold temperature until the sugar has completely transformed to alcohol, and Malolactic occurs. Most of the wine is aged in 30 to 40 hl Slovenian barrels; a portion is matured in 600 liter Allier and Slovenian oak casks: new and second, third or fourth passage. The wine remains in bottle for a time before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of raisins, cherries, fruits preserved in spirits and spice. It has a very long finish.

We finished the lamb with the Amarone and finished the Amarone with cheese.

For more on the food and recipes, see Diane’s blog


Filed under Amarone, Barolo, Barolo- Bartolo Mascarello, Castello di Neive Grigolino, Gruet Blanc de Noirs, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Weekend in Sag Harbor

Every summer, when we visit our friends Ernie and Louise in the Hamptons, we look forward to the same menu. I would not have it any other way because to me it is just perfect! What’s more, Ernie has a very interesting wine cellar and we consult on what wines we should drink with the food. Here are some of the things we drank and ate over the weekend.IMG_8030

Champagne Brut Reserve Billecart-Salmon NV. Made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has tiny bubbles and a fruity delicate freshness.

IMG_5987 It was a perfect combination with the cold melon soup with candied ginger.IMG_8024

Barbera d’ Asti “Vigna Noce” 1999 Antica Azienda Agricola Trinchero. The winery belongs to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir and as little interference as possible by the wine maker. Only natural yeast is used, there is no acidification of the wine, clarification and filtration does not take place. Chemical treatments are not used in the vineyards; copper and sulfur are used but only when it is really necessary. The wine is aged for 7 years in large chestnut barrels. This is a traditional, classic Barbera that will last for at least another 10 years.IMG_8025

We had this with the pasta amatriciana but we could not get bucatini so we made it with penne.IMG_8022

Grato Grati Vino Rosso da Tavola 1988 Vecchia Annata Made mostly from Sangiovese with a small amount of Canaiolo. This is declassified Chianti Rufina and it is one of my favorites. It can age: I have had the 1978, 1982, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 1997 often. I still have a 3-liter bottle of the 1990 that I was given when I visited the winery.

IMG_8020 We had this with the Italian salumi, cheese, and grilled zucchini and peppers.IMG_8027

Aglianico 1999 made from 100% Aglianico del Vulture Azienda Agricola Basilisco. There are 8 hectares of vineyards. Fermentation and maceration is in stainless steel tanks for 15/30 days depending on the vintage. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12/18 months.IMG_8029

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1985 Emidio Pepe 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists.Both the tendonne method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendonne method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. 1 hectare of tendonne has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters.Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand.IMG_8032

We drank the Pepe and the Basilisco with grilled skewers of lamb, French bread, and bacon.IMG_6002

For dessert we had homemade fig ice cream, and for breakfast the next morning heated brioche and fig ice

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Filed under Basilisco Aglianico1999, Billecart- Salmon, Champagne, Emidio Pepe, Grato Grati, Italian Red Wine, Tinchero Barbera d'Asti

Franciacorta: The Real Story

Jeremy Parzen is an old friend.   I have a great respect for his wine knowledge and I enjoy reading his erudite blog is now the official spokesperson for Franciacorta sparkling wine and wants everyone to know the real story.


Jeremy Parzen

Jeremy explained that Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Northern Italy noted for its sparkling wines. The Franciacorta wine region is located in the hills immediately southeast of the foot of Lake Iseo in the province of Brescia in the Lombardy region. Roughly square in shape, it stretches eastwards for 15 miles (25km) from the Oglio River (which flows out from the lake) until reaching the Mella River valley and the western suburbs of the city of Brescia.

Franciacorta is reserved for wines obtained exclusively with re-fermentation in bottle and the separation of sediment by way of disgorgement. They must be produced in accordance with the appellation’s production regulations.

The four categories of Franciacorta DOCG are:

Franciacorta – must be made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as a maximum of 50% Pinot Blanc. The base wine for the production of Franciacorta may be obtained from a blend of different vintages. Minimum of 18 months on the lees.

Franciacorta Saten – Pinot Noir is not allowed in the Satén No more than 20 grams/liter of sugar may be added to the wine in causing the second fermentation/final dosage.

Minimum of 24 months on the lees. Saten Rose is a minimum of 30 days and Saten riserva is a minimum of 60 days.

Jeremy said that Satèn in Franciacorta has less pressure than most sparkling wine with 4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of the traditional 6. This gives the wine more elegant bubbles, a more delicate mousse and a softer mouth feel.

He did not compare Franciatora to Champagne but showed how they were different. The climate and soil where the grapes are grown are different, as are some of the grapes that are used. He added that in Champagne more sugar is added to the wine. In Franciacorta most of the production is organic. In fact he said in the near future every producer in the consortium would be organic. Champagne has a long history while Franciacorta has been in production for around 50 years.

Franciacorta Rosè – minimum of 25% Pinot Noir and minimum of 24 days on lees. Millesimato minimum of 30 days on lees. Riserva minimum of 60 days on lees.

Franciacorta millesimato (vintage dated) must be produced using at least 85% of wine from the stated vintage.

Franciacorta riserva — minimum of 60 days on the lees.

Franciacorta must be disgorged manually or mechanically and filtration is not allowed.

Jeremy said there are 109 members of the Franciacorta consortium and they account for 94% of the total production.

Franciacorta is the largest selling sparkling wine in Italy made by the Methodo Classico.

There were 8 wineries represented with two wines from each winery.IMG_8101

Barone Pizzini Brut”Animante” 78% Chardonnay 18% Pinot Noir 4% Pinot White. The winery is certified organic and states on the label “organic wine”. There are 5,000/6,250 plants per hectare. Soft pressing and fermentation in thermo steel tanks. The wine ages for 6 months in stainless steel tanks and bottle aging is on the lees for 20/30 months. The wine has citrus notes with hints of honey, apricot and dried fruit.

Barone Pizzini Satèn 100% Chardonnay. The soil type is Moraine and the training system is guyot. Soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation is thermo steel tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in steel barrels and remains on the lees for 30/40 months. Residual sugar is 6g/l. The wine has citrus notes and nice minerality.

Il Mosnel Brut 60% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Blanc. Half of the Chardonnay is fermented in small oak barrels and half from a different vintage is fermented in steel. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are fermented in steel. Each bottle is given the liqueur de triage and laid down for the second fermentation. After a minimum of 18 months on the lees, the wine is riddled to concentrate the sediment against the cap, disgorged and re-corked. The wine has hints of white flowers and peach and a touch of almonds in the finish.IMG_8104

Il Mosnel Satèn 2010 100% Chardonnay, 60% fermented in steel and the rest in small oak barrels. In spring it is given the liqueur de triage and laid down for the second fermentation. Less sugar in the liqueur makes the mousse less forceful. After a minimum of 30 months on the lees, the wine is riddled. This is a silky, fruity full-bodied wine. The residual sugar is 8g/l. Organic farming.

Monte Rossa Brut 85% Pinot Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Blanc. Soft pressing of the best grapes with no more than 55% of the total yield. Partially fermented in steel tubs at a controlled temperature and partially fermented in oak barrels. The wine has strawberry aromas and flavors with an undertone of brioches with added to depth to the wine.IMG_8106

Monte Rossa Cabochon 2009 70 % Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and selecting the best grapes for no more than 58% of the total yield. Fermentation is in first and second passage barriques between September and February. The wine is aged on the lees for 48 months. The bottles are not sold until at least 4 months after the dègorgeage. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with more than hints of brioches which gave it much more depth.IMG_8107

Montenisa Brut Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and a small amount of Pinot Noir. The first fermentation takes place partly in stainless steel vats and partly in barriques. The second fermentation is in the bottle with at least 30 months contact on the yeast. The remuage is carried out by hand according to ancient tradition, using typical pupitres (trestle tables). After the degorgement the bottles remain in the cellars fro 3 months before release. The wine has hints of peaches and apples and a hint of yeast. The winery is partly owned by Marchese Antinori.

Montenisa Rosè 100% Pinot Noir. In the early spring, following alcoholic fermentation partly in stainless steel vats and in barriques, the wine underwent a second fermentation in the bottle and remains in contact with the yeast for at least 24 months. Remuage is by hand. After degorgement the bottles were laid down for at least 3 months before release. The wine is full bodied with hints of strawberry and cherry.IMG_8119

Ricci Curbastro Brut 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed in spring by the draft with the beginning of a slow second fermentation in the bottle. The bottles remain in the stack for at least 30 months (total of 38 from the harvest) contact and autolysis of the yeast. After disgorgement, with the addition of liqueur di triage(very dry) 8g/l,the wine remains in the cellar for a few months before release. This is a dry elegant fruity wine with floral hints and a touch of baked bread.

Ricci Curbastro Satén 100% Chardonnay fermented in oak barrels. The bottles remain in the stack for at least 40 months (total 48 from the harvest). There is an addition of liqueur very dry 7g/l. The wine remains in the cellar a few months before release. It is an elegant wine with fruity notes, a hint of spice and a touch of toasted almond.

Ronco Calino Brut 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from Burgundy clones. The training system is guyot and spurred cordon and there are about 6,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand and there is a manual selection of clusters before pressing which occurs in the first week of September. There is a soft pressing of the entire grape cluster and initial fermentation in thermo-conditioned stainless steel tanks and 20% in French oak barrels. At least 24 months on the lees before disgorging. The wine has hints of pear, cherries and candied orange peel with a touch of spice.IMG_8117

Ronco Calino Satèn 100% Chardonnay. There are about 6,000 to 8,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand the third week of August. Soft pressing of the grapes, fermentation in stainless steel. 30% is aged in French oak barriques. There is a low percentage of liqueur de triage. The wine has hints of pear, peach and cherry and a touch of brioches.

Contaldi Castaldi Brut NV 80% Chardonnay 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir training system guyot and casarsa (a variation of guyot). There are 3,000 /5000 plants per hectare and the average age of the vines is 15 years. Harvest takes place in August and early September. There is a soft pressing and a cold settling followed by an inoculation of selected yeast. Fermentation is in stainless steel for 20 days and there is partial malolactic fermentation. First aging is for 7 months in steel and barriques. The wine spends 20/25 months on the lees. It has floral notes with hints of lime and peach.IMG_8113

Contaldi Castaldi Rosè NV 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir. Training system is guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. The average age of the vines is 15 years. There is a soft pressing of the grapes after a cold maceration of about 3/4 hours. Cold settling, inoculation with selected yeasts and fermentation for 20 days is stainless steel. There is partial malolactic fermentation. First aging is for 7 months in stainless steel and bariques. The wine ages for 24/30 months on the less. Disgorgement is in July. The wine remains in the bottle for 3/4 months before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, apple and tropical fruit.

Jonathan La Rochelle

Jonathan La Rochelle

Also at the tasting was Jonathan La Rochelle, Brand Ambassador for Bellavista

Bellavista “Alma” Cuveè Brut Jonathan said that alma means soul in Latin and this wine reflects the soul of Franciacorta and Bellavista. The symbol of this wine is the butterfly because it represents harmony and balance, nature at its purest, transformation and rebirth. Made from 80% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Nero and 1% Pinot Blanc. The balance comes from 30 different selections from over 100 vineyards. Most of the wine is fermented and matures in 228 litter oak barrels for 7 months. The wine consists of at least 6 to 9 older vintages. This is a wine with a depth of flavor with hints of apple, pears and white flowers.IMG_8111

Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvèe Pas Operè 2006 made from 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir. The grapes for this wine come from the most vigorous selection of grapes from vineyards that are over 20 years old with an east and southeast exposure. Most of the must is fermented in small oak barrels. The wine is aged for 6 years before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of honey, apple and herbs. Jonathan said that in 2007 this wine not only changed its label but its name, to Bellavista Pas Opèrè.


Filed under Barone Pizzini, Bellavista, Contadi Castaldi, Franciacorta Brut, Il Mosnel, Italian Sparkling Wine, Monte Rossa, Montenisa, Ricci Curbastro, Ronco Calino, Uncategorized

$20 and Under for Summer Drinking

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite wines for summer drinking.


Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2014 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. It has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $14

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross-featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_8070

Pinot Grigio 2014 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $17IMG_8062

Urban Riesling 2014 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. It is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, with juicy fruit and a minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14IMG_8063

Frascati DOC “Terre Dei Grifi 2013 Made from 50% Malvasia Bianco di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. Hillside vineyards with volcanic, potassium rich soil. The grapes are gently pressed and vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for 4 months to impart greater complexity, structure and bouquet. The wine ages in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has fragrances of exotic fruits and citrus with a touch of ripe pear and almond in the finish. $12

Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 Colli Aprutini IGT Cerulli Spinozzi (Abruzzo) 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation in stainless steel, then malolactic. It is aged on its lees for 5 months before the wine is bottled. Hints of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits and apricot. There is a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I was very impressed by this wine, one of the best I have tasted. $16IMG_8098

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco 2013 DOC Struzziero made from 85% Caprettone 15% and Falanghina or Greco. The vineyards are located on the slopes of Vesuvius. Crushing and destemming followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is bottled in March following the harvest. Aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with good minerality and a touch of smoke. $12


Organic Prosecco DOC grapes for this small production Prosecco are harvested from certified organic wine estate in the town of Vazzola in Treviso. The grapes are grown without chemicals or fertilizers, the grapes are 100% organically grown. It is produced in the extra dry style with just a little more residual sugar than a Brut. It has hints of green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. $16


Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc  This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $14IMG_7661

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence. Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with nice red berry aromas and flavors. Very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18


Cantina Terlano St. Maddalena 2014 Alto Adige DOC made from 80% Schiava and 15% Lagrein. The vineyards are between 230 and 500 meters and the exposure is south/ southwest. Harvest is by hand and there is a grape selection and they are destemmed. This is followed by a slow must fermentation at a controlled temperatures and gentle agitation of the must in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging is in big wooden barrels for 7/10 months. The wines are blended one month before bottling. The wine has hints of black elderberry and cherry with a touch of bitter almond and violet. It has balanced acidity and low tannins which is a unique feature of the Schiava grape. $20IMG_8069

Scherecbichl Colterenzio Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Schiava. (Vernatsch) produced by old traditional pergola trained vines. The hillside vineyards are at 410/440 meters and the soils are morainal mixed with sand and eroded porphyry deposits. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation, then four months of aging in tanks. It had red summer fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry, light tannin and acidity. This is a wine to be drunk young served slightly chilled for summer drinking.IMG_8068

Kaltern Caldaro Kalterersee Auslese 2013 Alto DOC Adige 100% Schiava (Vernatsch). The vineyards are on south and east facing slopes surrounding Lake Kaltern at 230/450 meters. The soil is loamy, limestone gravel, with a small proportion of sand. The average age of the vines is 20/50 years and the training system is the pergola. Harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is for one week on the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged four months on the fine lees in stainless steel and large casks. It has hints of cherry and raspberry with a touch of bitter almond. Wine should be drunk young.IMG_8066

Chianti Classico “Aziano” 2013 DOCG Ruffino Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino and Canaiolo. The soil is moderate clay content rich in Galestro rocks. The vineyards are at 200/400 meters. The vines are guyot trained and cordon spur pruned. Fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once malolatic fermentation is complete the wine is aged for 11 months in stainless steel and concrete vats and four months in bottle before release. It has hints of red berries, cherries, violets, plums and a touch of spice. $14IMG_8064

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 Sartori di Verona made from 45% Corvina, 30% Covinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatioa. The Valpolicella Classico area is north of Verona and the soil is calcareous with fine layers of limestone. There is soft pressing with skin maceration for 8 to 10 days. After pressing 10% of the must is extracted to obtain better color and tannin. After racking and malolactic fermentation the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in oak for 15 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. It has aromas and flavors of rich red fruit with hints of black cherry, nice minerality and soft tannins. $20

I was very impressed with this wine. It was one of the best Valpolicellas I have tasted in a long time.


Filed under Banfi, Bila- Haut, Bio-Dynamic, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kalterer See, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Struzziero, Petale de Rose, Peter Zemmer, Pfarrhof Kaltern, Prosecco, Ruffino, Sartori di Verona, St. Magdalener- Hausler, Terre dei Grifi Frascati, Urban Riesling-Nik Weis

Baracchi Winery: Red, White and Sparkling

Tony di Dio of Tony di Dio Selections is the representative for a number of quality wine estates. It is always interesting to taste with him the wines from one of these estates. This time it was the Baracchi Estate located near Cortona in Tuscany, we tasted the wines with lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC.IMG_8061

Tony said that near the winery is the Relais Il Falconiere, part of the Relais & Chateaux which is operated  by the Baraccho family.

The Baracchi Estate is located on a hill overlooking the Valdichiana Valley. It covers about 60 hectares of which 22 are planted in vines. They are divided into small plots: San Martino where the winery is located, Gabbiano between Cortona and Montepulciano, and Montanare all of them at about 300 meters with a southern exposure.

Tony said that the agronomist Stefano Chioccioli, who is also the enologist, selected the best land for each variety. San Martino with sandy and well-drained soil for Sryah and Sangiovese. Gabbiano with its clay soil is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Montanare with soil composed of stones and lime for Merlot and Trebbiano. He said that here at the top on the edge of a forest he planted Pinot Noir, which might be their greatest challenge. IMG_7803

Trebbiano Methodo Classico Brut NV 2012  100% Trebbiano  The grapes are harvested early by hand. Fermentation takes place with skin contact for about 10 days at low temperatures. Maceration is for at least 12 months on selected yeasts. It has small bubbles, good acidity with floral hints and notes of apples, crusty bread and almonds. $19. I was very impressed with this wine for the price.IMG_7802

Sangiovese Rosè “Millesimato” 2012 100% Sangiovese. Metodo Classico with manual riddling. The wine is produced by the method of submerged cap maceration for a few hours and the fermentation continues with the cold techniques for a few hours more. This is to enhance the aromas and finesse of the wine.  The wine remains on the lees for 36 months. It has hints of cherry with notes of almonds and yeast. I have tasted Rosé made from Sangiovese but this is the first time I tasted a sparkling one.IMG_7811

Sangiovese Rosso “Smeriglio” 2012  Cortona DOC 100% Sangiovese comes from old vines of more than 20 years and a recently planted vineyard. The harvest begins the first week of October; a selection of the grapes had already been made at the end of July leaving only one kg of grapes per vine. The alcoholic fermentation with consequent skin maceration is done in stainless steel tanks for about 21 days, at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French barriques, half new, for 12 months, which also performs the malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and raspberries, with a touch of vanilla.IMG_7807

O’Lillo! 2010 Tuscana  IGT made from 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 23% Cabernet and 25% Sangiovese. The grapes are harvested and vinified separately. After a soft de-stemming the grapes are fermented in stainless steel thermo-controlled and kept in contact with the skins for 20 to 24 days depending on the variety. The wine is bottled after six months and is aged for another 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, wild berries with a touch of spice and pepper.IMG_7808

Ardito 2010 Toscana IGT made from 50% Cabernet and 50%Syrah. Harvest is by hand in mid-September for the Syrah and on October 10 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are vinified separately and after alcohol fermentation, part of which takes pace in oak barrels, the wine is placed in vertical temperature controlled tanks, continues fermentation for 21/22 days. The wines are blended and malolactic fermentation takes place in medium toasted French barriques: Allier, Nevers and Troncais) aging continues for 20 months. It remains a minimum of 9 months in the bottle before it is released. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of plums, licorice, coffee and chocolate.IMG_7809

Pinot Nero- 2012 Toscana IGT 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard approximately 500 meters. Tony pointed out that this is a Tuscan Pinot Noir and should not be confused with the Pinot of Burgundy or other areas. It has hints of cherry and strawberry and a hint of spice with a very long finish.

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Filed under Baracchi winery, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Celebrating with Champagne on the 4th of July

Champagne gets a lot of attention on special occasions and holidays, especially New Years Eve. For the Fourth of July, an American holiday and the biggest barbecue day of the year, many think of Zinfandel. But I prefer to celebrate with Champagne. Am I being un-American? Keep in mind that if it were not for the Marquis de Lafayette and the French fleet, we would not be celebrating on July 4th. So I believe that we should all raise a glass of Champagne to the French and our Founding Fathers.IMG_7926

When the Comitè Champagne (Champagne Bureau) invited me to a Champagne tasting, it was perfect timing.


John Bandman

John Bandman, someone I have known for a number of years was the speaker.

Mr. Bandman made an interesting selection of Champagnes, all excellent values for the money. While most Champagne is made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with Pinot Meunier as a minor grape, he included several where the Pinot Meunier was prominent and one that was 100% Pinot Meunier. In response to a question Mr. Bandman said that besides Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, to make Champagne other approved varieties are white Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, but they make up less than 0.3% of the plantings.IMG_7930

Besserat de Bellefon, Brut NV It is a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. The winery was established in 1843 in Ay. There are 25 hectares of vineyards, mainly situated in the Marne Valley, which is known for its Pinot Meunier. They also have about 100 grape growers with vineyards situated in the best areas of the Champagne region. It has hints of dried flowers, grapefruit peach, apricot and plum with a touch of hazelnuts in the finish. I find that Champagnes which have more red grapes in them often have more body and can be served with a greater variety of foods. $40IMG_7929

Ayala, Brut Majeur, NV made from 43% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. Bollinger owns this company. They only use up to 20% of their reserve wine in the NV. Complex and elegant with hints of apple, pear, bread crust and a touch of spice. $50IMG_7931

Blanc de Blancs, Franck Bonville NV Grand  Cru made from 100% Grand Cru Estate grown Chardonnay from Oger, Cramant and Avize. There are 20 hectares of vineyards on the estate. This Champagne has floral hints with green apple, ginger and a touch of spice. $35IMG_7932

Brut Rose, Charles de Cazanove (Reims) Made from 50% Pinot Noir, 20 Pinot Meunier, 35% Côteaux Chamenois Rouge and 10% Chardonnay. Vinification mostly takes place in stainless steel, but when necessary some wines spend time in oak. It has nice fruit with hints of cherry and strawberry. $36IMG_7935

Blanc de Noirs, Michel Loriot NV made from 100% Meunier. The dosage is 10g. The have 7 acres of vineyards composed of 20 plots, 80% Meunier, 18% Chardonnay and 2% Pinot Noir. The owner/winemaker Michael Lorite likes to let nature express itself and has grass cover cropping to protect the vines from soil humidity. Rot and diseases are minimized as well as the use of phytosanitas products. Priority is given to organic fertilizers and the use of copper. The grapes are squeezed in a traditional press and the wine is stored in vats by cru and plot. $45IMG_7934

Collet Millesime Brut NV (Ay) 2004 Made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay and aged seven years in the cellar before release. This is a coop with 65 hectares of vines and 607 wine growers. The grapes for this Champagne come from ten specially selected Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with hints of dried apple, lemon, bread and a touch of spice. Mr. Bandman said the 2004 was a very good vintage. $55IMG_7933

Demi-Sec, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Sublime NV (Reims) Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Grand and Petite Montagne de Reims. The maturation period was extended by one year and there was a generous dosage. It is very fruity with hints of pear, cinnamon, candied fruits and a touch of pastry. $45


Filed under Ayala, Besserat, Champagne, Charles de Cazanove, Collet, Franck Bonville, Michel Loriot, Piper-Heidsieck

Tasting Calvados with Jéròme Dupont

After a wonderful lunch at the Auberge de l’Iil, we were invited to take our coffee on the lawn by the river. It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to prolong the experience with a glass of Calvados and a cigar. As I puffed on the cigar and sipped the Calvados I watched a woman feeding the storks that had just landed nearby. It was a magical afternoon.


Jerome Dupont

Calvados was on my mind when I went to meet Jerome Dupont of the Dupont Calvados Distillery. He is the fourth generation in the family business and joined the firm in 2002.

In 1887 the Dupont family settled their cattle and apple orchard farm in Normandy. Today the Dupont Family estate consists of 30 hectares of orchards in Normandy in the heart of the Pays d’Auge region. There are 13 different apple varieties from sweet to sour among the 6,000 trees.IMG_7780

They produce cider, pommeau and calvados. The poor chalk and marl soil create small apples with thick skins to produce just the right aromatic intensity and concentration that they seek. The apples are ripe when they fall from the tree and are hand sorted. Like wine, Jerome said, you have to start with good fruit to get the desired result.

You can also make Calvados from pears and a combination of apples and pears but Dupont only uses apples. Jerome said they use single batch distillation and not continuous distillation, which is used by some of the larger producers.IMG_7778

Cider Bouchè is made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% bitter apples. The harvest takes place between October and November. The cider is made by the traditional method the Pays d’Auge. There is controlled fermentation in stainless steel vats using indigenous yeast. Stabilization of the cider is carried out by successive racking as is the fermentation. The cider is bottled unpasteurized between March and April. Jerome said that the density (OG) is 1060 after pressing, equivalent to 134 grams of sugar per liter and 1024 when bottled which results in 5% alcohol after bottle fermentation has been completed. There was a slight deposit at the bottom of the bottle, which Jerome said was natural because it is not filtered or pasteurized. it has aromas of cooked apples and a touch of cinnamon.IMG_7787

Cidre Tripe is made from a selection of Mettais bitter apples. Jéròme said it was inspired by the techniques used to make long keeping dark beers. This is a triple fermentation using the bitter apples. After the first fermentation of the natural sugars, an addition of extra sugar allows for a second fermentation to take place giving the cider 10% alcohol. The third fermentation takes place in the bottle to give the mousse. It is bottled the year following the harvest. Density of (OG) 1065 after pressing, which equals 145 grams of sugar. It was dry, with hints of chicory and licorice with a bitter and slightly astringent finish and long aftertaste.

We also tasted a Calvados just distilled, which was 140 proof and reminded me of grappa. Jéròme said that in Normandy they used to add Calvados to their coffee in the morning.IMG_7790

Calvados Fine Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% acid apples. The soil is clay and oxfordian marl. The harvest is from September to November. The apples are mixed, crushed and pressed. The apple juice is fermented right out to give the cider to be distilled. The first distillation gives the petite eau at 30% by volume and the second distillation, the petite eau which produces the calvados. It is aged for a minimum of two years in toasted 400 liter (88 imperial gallon) oak barrels of which 50% are new. Jéròme said that it is bottled when ordered. It is golden in color, very complex and intense with aromas of apples, pears and citrus with a touch of vanilla. He said that as an aperitif it can be on its own or over ice or with a drop or two of water to let it release its aromas. As a digestive it should be given time to breathe. 42% alcohol. $45IMG_7791

Calvados Vielle Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge Double distillation is carried out 6 months after fermentation has taken place. It is aged for 4 years in oak barrels 25% of which are new. Bottled when ordered. Golden color, intense but soft with hints of candied fruits, liquorice and a touch of vanilla and oak. 42% alcohol. $55  This was my favorite for just sippingIMG_7788

Calvados Hors D’Age A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge  Same as the two above except it is aged for 6 years in oak barrels. It has fruity aromas of apple and banana, floral hints, a touch of wood. Very complex. 42% alcohol. $80IMG_7786

Calvados 1989 same as above. Copper Color. It was distilled in 1989 and aged in toasted oak vats since then. Jerome said it is unfiltered without being cold stabilized in such a way to maximize its concentration and complexity. Bottled to order. It is Intense and well-balanced but not aggressive with hints of apples, orange and vanilla. 42% alcohol $120IMG_7789

Calvados 1969 A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Very deep mahogany color. Distilled in 1969 and aged in toasted oak barrels. It is intense but not aggressive with hints of wood and spices. Jerome said that its intensity makes it perfect for cigar lovers. 41% alcohol. Not available in the US market.

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