Monthly Archives: January 2009

Barolo,Barbaresco,Pizza Bianco and White Truffles


Pizza Bianco with White Truffles

Pizza Bianco with White Truffles

Pizza,Truffles , Barbaresco and Barolo


     I love pizza and my favorite place to eat pizza in New York is La Pizza Fresca. They make the best Neapolitan pizza in the city. The restaurant has one of the best Italian wine lists and it specializes in Barolo and Barbaresco from all the top names.



   We received an e-mail from Brad Bonnewell the owner inviting us to a truffle dinner with “the appropriate wines”, Barbaresco and Barolo, the following week. He said it was tentative because the truffle was arriving that day. We were busy and prayed that the truffle did not make it on time. The truffle was two days late in arriving and the dinner was rescheduled. This time we were able to attend.

   There were eight of us and the truffle was brought from Italy by Mark Fornatale of Micheal Skurnik Wines. It was a white truffle from Tuscany and it was very large. When I was in Siena this October I had dinner at the Enoteca Italiana in Siena and they served Tuscan white truffles on the risotto. They put truffles on a chocolate dessert which really did not work.

    We started with a Sancere 2007 Les Cules de Braujea  Francois Cotat Vicnerone a Chavignol Chev followed by the Chablis Premier cru “Cru La Forest” 2005, Dauvissat. I usually skip the white when there are so many good reds to follow but the Chablis was exceptional. It had everything one would expect from Chablis, dry, with mineral and steely undertones; it was so good I was holding the bottle and someone took a picture to prove I drink white wine.


Charles with a bottle of Chablis

Charles with a bottle of Chablis

   Brad started us off with pizza bianco,(three of them) made with fontina cheese and as soon as they hit the table Mark was shaving the truffle on them. The aroma of the cheese and truffles was wonderful and I ate more than my share. We finished all of the pies.

    The pizza here is so good that I seldom order anything else. However on two recent visits I did have a number of different dishes and they were excellent.

   There are few dishes in the world better then risotto with white truffles and Barbaresco. This was the next course and once again Mark covered the risotto with the truffle shavings. What can I say about the aroma and taste…..! The wine was the 1996 Barbareco“Asili” from Bruno Giacosa, and to my great joy it was a magnum.  It was all that a Barbaresco should be and more. This was the wine of the evening in my opinion and I kept going back for more.


Mark shaving the White Truffle

Mark shaving the White Truffle

   The next course was pasta pappardella and more truffles and we had the Barbaresco Bricco Asili 1996 from Ceretto and Barbaresco “Comarossa” 1996 from Bruno Rocco.

1996 was a great vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco, the best since 1989. They are both “classical” vintages and the wines will last for many years

Then came the papandella pasta with fontina cheese and Mark put on the last of the Truffel, as I said it was a big truffle!


The White Truffle

The White Truffle

  For the last course we had grilled lamb chops with the rest of the wine. I was still drinking the Giacosa.

     Barolo  La Sera 1996  Gianni Voerzoi and the Barolo “Cannubi” Chiara Boschis 1998. I liked the La Sera but found th Boschis to me much too modern for my taste.

   I tasted number of Barolo and Barbaresco’s from the 1998 vintage when I was in Alba last May. They did not get great press and therefore command a lower price. I think they are a great value.

  Barolo Riserva “Campe” 2003  La Spinetta and Barolo Riserva Vecchie vitidei Capalot e della Brunate 2003  Roberto Voerzoi followed

   2003 was a very hot vintage in Piedmont as it was in most of Europe and many producers did not make a Riserva. The 2003 that we had seemed to be more developed, this was a combination of the vintage and wine making styles.


The Wines

The Wines

We all declined dessert.




Filed under Wine. Pizza. Truffles

ON Cabernet Franc – Loire, Long Island and Canada

 I like Cabernet Franc from France but have never tasted it from Canada and have not had  many bottles  from Long Island. There are not many times that you have the chance to taste Cabernet Franc from the Loire, Long Island and Canada at the same tasting. There were 11 wines from the Loire,13 from Long Island and 7 from Canada, 3 of which were ice wines.

I am a very big fan of Chinon.They have very good fruit flavors and aromas and go very well with food. They are also a bargin. The highest priced  Chinon at the tasting was $23. They can also age very well.  When I am in France I always try to order them in restaurants and in wine stores to bring home. This past November I drank a Chinon 1978 Les Picasses-Domain Olga Raffault-Roguinet it was not showing its age and had great soft red fruit flavors and aromas.

There were three speakers at the tasting.  Frank Johnson spoke about the French wines. I know Frank for many years and respect his palate and wine knowledge. He did not believe that 2007 was a good year in Western France but felt it was a very good vintage in the Rhone. 2005 and 2006 were much better vintages. Frank is the head of his own importing company and did not buy any 2007’s. He went on to say that Chinon wines go back to the 12th -13th century.It is located in the heart of the Loire Valley near Tours between the Loire(left bank) and Vienne rivers. There are only 4,700 acres planted and the Cabernt Franc grape here ia called “Breton”. They do make a white from the Chenin blanc grape called Pineau de la Loire but this is only one percent of the total production.
The first wine of the tasting was a Langiolis Chateau Cabernet de Saumar Sec Rose 2007 $15. It was drinking like a red wine. It was one of the driest rose that I have ever tasted.There were dry fruit aroams and flavors of apricote.
Familie Grosbois Chinon Chinon Garbare 2007 ($17 ) Hints of spice and good red fruit flavors and aromar. Famille Grosbois Velle Vigne 2007 ($17 ) This was a bigger wine with more spicy aromas and red fruit flavors.

Cheateau de Vaugaudry Cuvee Prestige Chinon 2006 ($17) .Very dry, just a hint of spice and good fruit flavors and aroma. Plessis-Gerbault 2003 Chinon ($20) 2003 was very hot in France and this was a bigger wine, more depth,dry,concentrated fruit flavors.  The wine will last for a number of years.It was my favorite wine of the tasting. This was one of Frank Johnson’s wines and he said that the vines were from a special part of the vineyard. When I told hin I liked the wine he said ” wait until you taste the 2005″.  It went very well with the main course, terrine of three meats in mashed potatoes.  Having the chance to taste the wines with food can make all the difference in the world.

Frank Johnson at the Wine Media Guild tasting

Frank Johnson at the Wine Media Guild tasting

Chateau de Coulaine Chinon “Bonnaventure” 2005 ($21) Very fruit forward and seemed to be a little more modern in style.

Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Clos D’Isore ($21)Much more concentrated jammy flavor.
Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Picasses 2005 ($21) This was the most tannic of the wines but the fruit was there.

Another wine I liked was the Jean- Paul Mabileu Cuvee Gravies 2006 Saint- Nicolas de Bourguell ($20) Bourguell is a wine I have very little experience, with only 2,900 acres of vineyards. Mr Johnson said it was similar to Chinon and that they share the same terroir, history and wine making tradition. They are made in the area west of Tours and East of Saumur. They can age and are some what bigger in style that Chinon but it would be difficult to tell the difference in a blind tasting.

The next speaker was Paul Grieco a Canedian who came to the United States in 1991. He worked in a number of restaurants and now is the co-owner 0f restaurants Hearth and Insieme and Terrior a wine bar. all located in Manhattan. Paul felt that they were making some good wine in Canada but still had a ways to go. In his opinion the best place to grow wine in Canada was the Ontario’s Niagara Pininsula, Prince Edward County. The area is located between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and therefore has the warmest temperature of any of the Great Lakes.  This creates a moderating effect and a long with sunshine, adaquate rainfall and glacial left in glacia rivers and lakes , makes it a good area to grow grapes. The wines at the tastinig ranged in price from $100 for a 1.5 liter bottle to a $15  for a 750 bottle.  I was not impressed with the wines. The best was the Stratus Cabernet Franc 2004 (Niagara) $60 They were much to international in style for me. Of the three wine ice  wines the best was the Inniskillin Ice wine from Cabernet Franc 2007(Niagara). It did have aromas of pineappe and mango and I know it is difficult to make ice wine… $95 for a half bottle.

Paul Grieco sitting with members of the Wine Media Guild

Paul Grieco sitting with members of the Wine Media Guild

The next speaker was Roman Roth from Wolffer Estate on Long Island. He spoke about Cabernet Franc in general and how the climate and soil  conditions were very good for growing this grape there. Roman went on to sat that his Cabernet Franc was more  Bordeaux in style but one had to be true to the region that they were working in. I liked three of the wines and they were very different styles. The wines ranged in price from $16 – $60. The Woffer Estates Vineyards Caya 2005  86% Cabernet Franc and 14% Merlot $40 is a big wine, with oak , vanilla, blackberry,dried prunes and a hint of spice. It is a good wine of the price.Peconic Bay Winery Cabernet Franc 2005$20 was not as big with less oak but with good fruit and spice.  My favorite was the Raphael Cabernet Franc 2007 $16 This wine did not have an oak and was made in the style of the Loire Valley.It had aromars of cherries,raspberries and floral spices.On the palate cherry and spice with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste. It is a great food wine! Roman sat next to me and during lunch and we had an interesting coversation about wine.

Roman Roth Wine Maker at Wolffer Estates

Roman Roth Wine Maker at Wolffer Estates


Filed under Cabernet Franc

On Champagne

Can one ever get enough Champagne?

This was the question I was asking myself as I was heading for my second tasting of Champagne presented by Ed McCarthy author of Champagne for Dummies. I’ve know Ed for over 25 years and have drank many a bottle of champagne with him and his wife Mary Ewing-Mulligan. I was with Ed on New Years Eve waiting to welcome in the year 2000. Ed brought a six liter bottle of Cristal, there were eight of us and we had grand time. (see “The Best Champagne Tasting” Dec 14 2004 for the full story on the Cristal)
Vintage Champagne Tasting at Felidia's

Vintage Champagne Tasting at Felidia's

The first tasting was on Dec. 3 and it was the annual Tasting that Ed does for the Wine Media Guild at Felidia restaurant in Manhattan. The theme this year was vintage Champagne. There were 21 Champagnes in all ranging in price from $45 for the Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs 1999 to the Perrier-Jouet “Fleur de Champagne” Blanc de Blancs (Prestige Cuvée)2000 – $300. The Nicolas Feuillatte was a bargain at that price. The Perrier-Jouet was not up to the price. However the 1999 which I was lucky to have on more than one occasion was much better. Ed agreed with me on this.

My favorite at the tasting was the Ayala “Cuvée Perle” Natural Brut (Prestige Cuvee) 2002 $125. It is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. It was very dry, toasty and went very well with the food. Ed pointed out that while 2002 was a terrible vintage in Europe in general, it was a great vintage in Champagne, the best since 1996. On the other hand, the 2000 was not a good vintage in Champagne. He believes that vintage champagne is worth the extra money. They are more intense in flavor, more full-bodied and the flavors last longer on the palate. The Prestige Cuvées (Premium Vintage-Têtes de Cuvée) are the best champagnes a producer makes. They are at their best at least 10 years or longer after the vintage.

Mary, Ed, and the representative from Ayala

From right to left: Mary, Ed, and the representative from Ayala

The 1995 Henriot “Cuveé des Enchanteleurs” Brut (Prestige Cuvée) $120, was drinking very well. The 1998 Deutz “Cuvée William Deutz” Brut (Prestige Cuvee) $160 this was one of Ed’s favorites as well. I also liked the 1999 Gresset Milesime Brut $80. These older vintages were holding up very well. Both the 2002 Taittinger Brut $75 and the 2003 Bollinger Brut $108 lived up to their reputations.

The second tasting was on Dec 22 at The Brasserie in Manhattan for The New York Wine Press. Ed’s theme here was Blanc de Blancs. Ed said that it was Eugene-Aimé-Salon that popularized a champagne he called blanc de blancs in the 1920’s. After his death blanc de blancs champagne almost disappeared. In the 1950’s Tattinger released its now famous Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne and the rest is history. Today more and more Champagne Houses are making Blanc de Blancs.

There were thirteen champagnes ranging in price from $45 for the toasty NV Henriot Blanc Souverain Brut Pur Chardonnay to the 2000  afor mentioned Perrier-Jouet. Both Ed and I agreed that this bottle was showing better then the one earlier in the month but still not up to the 1999. The NV Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blances Brut $90 was fresh with a hint of citrus that made it a perfect combination with the excellent grilled filet Loup de Mer. One of the most balanced was the 2002 Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs Brut $75. The three oldest wines were drinking very well. 1999 Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs ” Extre Cuvée De Reserve $105. The 1998 Tattinger Blanc de Blancs Brut “Comte de Champagne $150 and the best for the money the 1995 Charles Heidsiek “Blanc des Millenaires Brut $95.

Ed likes to drink Blanc de Blancs as a aperitif or with the first course but also feels that there are some that can be drunk with heavier foods such as lobster. I agree with him but prefer the more traditional champagnes with heavier foods. They seem to have more body and character. The late Sheldon Wasserman along with his wife Pauline were the authors of Italy’s Noble Red Wines and Sparkling Wine. He loved to drink champagne with pizza and lobster. They were both friends of Ed and me.

I was invited to Nizza restaurant in Manhattan to taste their pizza and farinata. The owner of the restaurant loves Champagne and he brought a bottle of Krug. He said he brought a case of it and this was the best batch he had ever tasted. Krug is the only wine aged in barriques that I drink and the only wine I will drink without food. It went very well with the pizza. We also went to La Pizza Fresca the restaurant that has the best Neapolitan style pizza in the city and had Krug NV again along with the 1985 Heidsieck &Co. Monopol Diamant Bleu. The two wines I like the best with pizza are champagne and barolo.

Christmas Day I went to a friend’s house for dinner and they opened up a magnum of Perrier-Jouet Yellow label NV. It was very toasty and went well with the puff pastry stuffed with foig gras.

I hope that 2009 brings more great Champagne tastings.


Filed under Champagne