Monthly Archives: November 2008

Wine Media Guild Puglia Tasting & Luncheon

The Wine Media Guild is an association of wine communicators dedicated to providing wine information and education. Each month there is a wine tasting and luncheon held at Felidia’s restaurant in Manhattan. I am the co-chair of the Wine Media Guild and my co-chair is Pat Savoie. The November 5th event was a tasting of the wines of Puglia.

Charles Tasting

Terry Hughes from Mondosapore and Domenico Selections, myself, and Pat Savoie, my co-charir


There were 35 wines from the different regions of Puglia. It was my honor to be the speaker at this event. I was introduced by wine blogger Jermey Pazen. Jeremy helped to get many of the wines for the event and invited Francesca Mancarella, the export director for the Candido winery, and Gary Grunner, the USA brand manger for Candido wines, who were kind enough to bring samples to the tasting. The wines of Candido are not imported at the present time. However, I have been to the winery and liked the wines.

Charles Presenting

To my right were Jeremy Parzen, Francesca Mancarella and Gary Grunner


It was a very impressive tasting and like my co- chair, I liked 95% of the wines. Here are some of my own comments on the tasting:

Puglia is not known for its white wines but the Gravina Bianco 2007 from Botomango, (60% Greco and 40% Malvasia) was light, fruity, with a hint of pear, was the favorite white wine.( suggested retail: $ 11)

The Five Roses Rosé 2007 from Leone de Castris , is 90 Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia, and has a balanced strawberry flavor ( suggested retail: $ 18 ). I have visited this winery a number of times: It is one of the oldest wineries in Puglia but the facilities are very up- to-date. In fact, it has the best tasting rooms that I have ever seen.

Il Falcone Riserva 2003 (70% Nero di Troia and 30% Montepulicano). This was one of the most elegant wines at the tasting. It was very well balanced, with good fruit, acidity and a pleasing after-taste. ( suggested retail: $ 26).

There were a few red wines that I believe were great for the money: Vigna Flaminio Riserva 2007 (70% Negroamaro and 20% Montpulciano 10% Malvasia Nera), and from Taurino, the Salice Salentino (80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera) for $15, and the Notarpanaro (100% Negroamaro) for $20. The Cappellaccio Aglianico Riserva 2003 by Rivera, which is 100% Aglianico, goes for $18.


I had never had a 100% Syrah from Puglia. We tasted one the Suahili from Vigbamaggio, aged in botti (large oak barrels), which was very good and a bargain at $13. Piero Antinori now makes wine in Puglia under the Tormaresca label. Bocca di Lupo 2004, 100% Aglianico, suggested retail $38 is a modern-style wine. Despite the fact that it had more than a hint of oak, I found it to be very well made and a good wine of this type. It was the number two wine in a tasting of Aglianico, in Eric Asimov’s column in the Times on September 17, 2008, for which I was a member of the tasting panel.


The private dining rom at Felidia


The 1999 Patrigione from Taurino (90 % Negroamaro and 10 %Malvasia Nera) may have been the top wine of the tasting, as everyone was trying to take it to their table to drink with lunch. The grapes are late harvested. It has prune-like aromas and flavors, and has good acidity. It has a long finish and lingering aftertaste, and retails for about $70. Gratticiaia 2003 from Vallone (100% Negroamaro) is another dried-grape wine, where the fruit is dried for three weeks in the hot Puglian sun. It is a big wine with deep prune aromas and flavors. Members were also keen to have this wine with their lunches.


There were two desert wines, the Moscato di Trani “Piani di Tufara” 2004 by Rivera (375ml for $20) and the Aleatico 2002 from Candido. The Moscato was very pleasant with hints of pear and apricot, and not too heavy. The Aleatico was aromatic with undertones of red fruit and good acidity.

Unfortunately I was unable to have the old-style Primitivo that I wanted, an omission noted by Paul Zimmerman. There was also a discussion of the origin of Primitvo, which is a very interesting topic. There is much evidence of the grape’s birth in Croatia, but not much mention on how it fared in Puglia when phylloxera was decimating the vineyard of Europe. Terry Robards agreed with me on the origin of the grape: It was probably imported into Italy from the United States. For more commentary on the origin of primitivo, see Robert Simonson’s blog. Peter Hellman asked his usual questions on barriques and did mention “The Dark Side,” a term I use for wine that sees oak-ageing. It was honor for me to conduct a tasting of Puglian wines, a region I have much respect for.


Filed under Italian Red Wine

Last Meals in France: At Au Hazard Balthazar & Ferme de Berle

Restaurant Au Hazard Balthazar in Martel

This is a great inexpensive restaurant that has prix-fixe menus and one-dish meals. I had a salad of charcuterie which included geseers, bloc de foie gras, paté and rellettes, and all for 14 Euro .We also had potatoes fried in duck fat. They were so good that Michele bought duck fat and made them almost every night we ate at the house. The owner is named Patrick and the ladies in the group made a fuss when they saw him. The food went very well with a Bergerac Rosé de Saint Vivien 2006.




The last lunch we had out was at La Ferme de Berle, a working farm that serves food. It is near the town of Collonges- la-Rough, where all the buildings are made of a red colored stone. We got lost trying to find the little town of Berl where the restaurant is located. There were no other customers in the place and the woman in charge did not want to serve us at first.


After telling her how far we had come and how we were looking forward to being there, she gave in. She gave us a choice of a peach or walnut wine that was in a bottle that had a round sphere on the top which measured the amount of wine poured. The first course was a tomato salad that gave new meaning to the tomato. That was followed by a great paté. We could not stop eating the bread. The veal stew was served with a potato cake, and both were excellent. All of this combined perfectly with a bottle of the local rosé. Dessert was a clafoutis, a sort of cherry cake and I had two pieces. It was a great place to have our last meal in France.


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More Périgord Restaurants: Le Sombral & Moulin de l’Abbaye-Brantme


Auberge Le Sombral “Les Bonnes Choses” at Saint-Cirg-Lapopie.

This restaurant looks like any other in this charming town high above the valley We arrived late, and were almost not seated. The day was very hot and the town was full of tourists but the food and the wine made up for everything.

The first course was Talmouse, Roughford cheese in puff pastry that was delicious, followed by duck confit. I ate a lot of duck confit in Le Périgord but this one was the best. Great care was taken in the preparation because the skin seemed to melt in your mouth. The Château de Mercues 1994 Cahors was the perfect match with the food. It was one of my top restaurants.

Moulin de L’ Abbaye-Brantme en Perigord.

Lovely setting along the river, prix-fixe lunch with wines to match. Expensive, but we not only had a bottle of wine and asked the sommelier to match a glass of wine with each course. One of the whites had too much oak and he exchanged it without question.


I started with bloc de foie gras, followed by foie gras and pigeon, which was excellent. Then came cheese and a chocolate ‘cone-shaped’ dessert. We drank a Château Montus 2003 produced by Alain Brumont made from tannat, and sometimes a little cabernet sauvignon, from Madiran. Big, dark and 15.5 % alcohol but a great wine. Blackberries and a hint of prune, it’s a very full-bodied a wine that makes itself noticed on the palate.


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Filed under Périgord