Monthly Archives: January 2012

Two Margaux Chateaux at the Wine Media Guild

The Wine Media Guild holds its monthly tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant in NYC.  The theme of each event is set in June by the executive board. The events are usually held the first Wednesday of every month Oct-May.  Members of the WMG become member sponsors for each event. For a number of years now Mark Golodetz has been the member sponsor for one of our most popular tastings — Bordeaux. This time was no exception as Mark was able to get the wines of Chatteau d’Issan and Chateau Rauzan-Ségle going back to 1986 and a representative from each winery to speak at the event.

There were five wines from Chateau d’ Issan at the tasting the 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2000. With lunch we had the 2001, 1999 and the 1995 from magnum.

Chateau Rauzan-Seglapresented the 2009, 2008, 2005, 2003 and the 2001. With lunch we had the 1999 from Magnum, the 1995 , 1988 and the 1986.

Emmanuel Cruse, Mark Golodetz and Mrs Cruse

Mr. Cruse, whose family owns Chateau d’ Issan was the first speaker. He said that they only have Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted in the vineyards. The percentage changes according to the vintage but it is about 65% Cabernet and 35% Merlot. The vines are about 35 years old. The harvest takes place by hand, which is a law in Bordeaux. They use about 50% new oak, medium toast. The barrels come from 5 or 6 different barrel makers so the toasting of the barrels is different. They are trying for a balanced and elegant wine.

Mr. Kolasa from Chateau Rauzan-Ségla also spoke. They have mostly Cabernet Sauvignon 59% and Merlot 41% in the vineyards but also have some Piet Verdot 4% and Cabernet Franc 1%. There is supervised control in the vineyards. Vibrating sorting tables are used so that only the best bunches of grapes are chosen. Each vineyard plot is vinified separately and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. He said that they use between 50 and 60% new wood. The amount of new wood  depends upon the vintage. If it is a vintage that will produce wines with more alcohol, they use less new oak and not age it as long.

Mr. Kolasa

Mr. Cruse and Mr. Kolasa were in complete agreement when it came to speaking about Bordeaux in general and the different vintages. They both agreed that 2009 was an “American Vintage” and 2010 was a “British Vintage”. They went on to explain that 2009 would be ready to drink sooner and more pleasing to the American palate. The 2009 was compared to the 2003 a very warm vintage but they said 2009 was a better vintage. The 2010 would be more austere and would take longer to be ready to drink. It is a classic Margaux vintage.

Ed McCarthy a WMG member said he was an American but had a British palate and they should not generalize in this manner.

In 2011 there were very low yields and they agreed that it was not as good as 2009 or 2010 but better than 2008.

One very interesting point that they made was with all the new techniques that they use in the vineyard and winery it is almost impossible to have a “bad” vintage. A vintage like 1977 will never happen again in Bordeaux.

They said that they did not make wine for the market but made wine for themselves. Bordeaux is the benchmark for wine and as goes Bordeaux, so goes wine in general.

Mr. Kolasa is also a negotiant and spoke about the market for Bordeaux. He said that many people that buy Bordeaux are not “drinkers” but “collectors” that buy the wines for investment.

They were very concerned about younger wine drinkers that may not have the money or want to wait the necessary time to appreciate these wines. One of the things that could be done is to lower the prices. Another would be to try and educate the younger consumer about Bordeaux.

Both men agreed that their wines, like all of the better wines from Bordeaux, need to age for a long time. Bordeaux may age better than any other wines. They should not be drunk until they have aged for 20 years of more.

As far a style is concerned, Chateau d’Issan is a little lighter than the Chateau Rauzan-Ségla. For a wine that is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon Chateau d’Issan is rich, fruity, soft and supple and most likely would be ready to drink sooner then a Chateau Ruzan-Ségla of the same vintage. Chateau Ruzan- Ségal was more full-bodied, concentrated, and more tannic and would need longer cellaring. All of the wines were low in alcohol around 12.5% and both wineries did an excellent wine of integrating the wood. I liked both styles of wine.

2009 a More Colorful Label

I liked all of the wines that we tasted but they were for tasting and not for drinking because they were too young.

The Quail

I also enjoyed all the wines we had with lunch. These were older vintages and all were very good and went very well with the food.  The one I kept on pouring in my glass was the Chateau Rauzan- Ségla 1986. This was a great year and it was the oldest wine presented. It was the perfect combination with quail that we had for the main course.

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Filed under Bordeaux, Chateau d'Issan, Chateau Rauzan-Ségla, French Red, Margaux

Discovering Domodimonti Natural Wines from the Marche at Eataly NYC

Often, when I hear of a new winery or one that has just renovated its facility, I become a bit suspect. In most cases these wineries are going to make wines that are international in style and not to my taste.

So when I was invited to taste the wines of Domodimonte at Eataly I noted that the winery was started in 2003 and built a new facility in 2010. Was I going to be wasting my time tasting wine that I did not like and could not write about?  Curiosity got the better on me and I accepted the invitation.   As it turned out, I was very glad that I did.

Not only did I like the wines but found the tasting interesting and informative.

The speaker was Niccolo Salvadori, the general manager of the Eataly wine store.  He said that the winery was located at Montefiore dell’Aso in the Marche.  Marco Scapagnini, sales and marketing manger from the winery, assisted him.

Mr. Scapagnini making a point

Mr. Scapagnini began by saying that they were not a certified organic winery but a “natural” wineey. What makes it  “natural” is that the grapes are sustainable-grown using organic matter, low–yielding vineyards and the grapes are hand picked.   No sugar is added to the wine.  There is a strict selection of yeast and there are no additives made for color, acidity, mouth-feel, etc.   The addition of sulfites is kept to a minimum and they use of state-of-the-art technology.

The new winery built in 2010 was designed to generate the least amount of visual and ecological impact on the land.   He added that they exceed the rules and regulations of organic farming.

Mr. Salvadori led us in a tasting of the wines:

Offida Passerina “Déja” DOC 2010 100% Passerina  the vineyards are at 200 meters and have a southern exposure. There are 3,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordon with spur pruning. 80% of the grapes are picked at the beginning of September and 20% are picked a little later.

The wine is fermented and aged in temperature-controlled vats with an external insulation jackets. It undergoes malolatic fermentation and remains on the lees for a period of time.  This white wine was grassy and fruity at the same time. Malolatic fermentation and the late harvesting of a percentage of the grapes and the nature of the Passerina grape added roundness and a slight sweetness to the wine. There were hints of baked apples and pears. It had a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. It went very well with the first course, a fish crudo seasoned with sea salt and olive oil. $13

In answer to a question about sulfites in their wines Mr. Scapagnini responded that their entire wine making process is performed under nitrogen and they use cryomaceration, a process with very low temperatures, 2-5 degrees C to ensure protection against oxidation. 

Offida Pecorino “Li Coste” DOC 2009 100% Pecorino  the vineyards are at 200 meters. They have a southern exposure and there are 4000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place in early September. The wine is fermented in stainless steel. It is aged in barriques made from acacia wood. Mr. Salvadori mentioned that he only knew of one other winemaker that used acacia barriques and he produces a Gavi.  Mr. Scapagnini said that they only use new barriques because acacia wood barriques can only be used once. Only 10% of the wine is aged for two to three months in this way.  The other 90% is aged in stainless steel vats. It had nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of white peaches, orange peel, hazelnuts and a touch of pepper. $16 

Marche Sangiovese “ Monte Fiore” IGT 2010 100% Sangiovese The vineyards are at 200 meters with a southern exposure. They use Cordon training with spur pruning. The soil is mainly clay. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the beginning of September. The wine is aged in stainless steel.  This is a very easy wine to drink, with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of strawberries and red plums. $13

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT 2006 The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months.

There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Marche Rosso “IL Messia” IGT 2007 60%Montepulicano and 40% Merlot.   The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil is mostly clay. These vineyards have a southern exposure, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the end of September and the beginning of October. The Montepulicano is aged in French barriques, which are 3 years old. The Merlot is aged in special troncoconic vats. This type of vat is tapered on the top and smaller in size than the bottom. It allows for the increase in contact between the juice and the skins during fermentation and maceration, which results in the extraction of softer and sweeter tannins.

This was the most modern in style of the wines that we tasted but it was well balanced. It is a full-bodied wine with deep black fruity aromas and flavors with hints of blackberry, vanilla and oak. $35

I should have remembered an old saying that I often use, “do not judge a winery until you taste their wines!”  I enjoyed tasting the wines very much and look forward to drinking them.  In addition, the wines were priced very well.

Orietta Maria Varnelli

After the wine tasting there was a presentation by the Varnelli Distilleria from the Marche of their amari and other spirits. Varnelli is a family run business (run by four women) and Orietta Maria Varnelli, C.E.O. and export manger was the speaker and told us about their line of spirits. She said they were most famous for their L’ Anice Secco Speciale.

We tasted the Amaro Sibilla on the rocks with Lurisia Gazzosa, a fizzy lemon drink made from Amalfi lemons and a slice of orange. It has aromas of bitter herbs and dried fruit with hints of coffee and honey. On the palate it is bitter and tannic with touches of chestnut, honey and coffee. It is a perfect amaro to have after a meal.  I like it neat! The ingredients are of course a family secret.


Filed under Amaro, Distilleria Varnelli, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Marche, Natural Wines

Two Good Restaurant Wines and a 1970 Pinot Noir at Home

When I look at a restaurant wine list, I try to find wines that are a good value, have some age, and that will go with my meal.  Sometimes it seems like Mission Impossible.  But once in a while, I get lucky, as I did at Gigot, a small bistro in the West Village.

We started with

Beaumes-De-Venise 2004 Chateau Redotier.  The winery is owned by the Menthon family. The wine is 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Counoise. The grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and maceration lasts between 8 and 10 days. The wine is not filtered and is aged for two years in stainless steel tanks before it is bottled. This a wine with soft red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of raspberries, strawberries and nice fruity finish and aftertaste. It was perfect with the homemade country paté with toasted baguettes. Price at the restaurant $45

Coteaux Varois AOC 2004 “Clos des la Truffiere” Domaine Du Deffends.  This is also a family owned winery.  The wine is made from Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the percentage depends on the vintage. Truffles are found in the vineyard and this is the reason for its name. It is their flagship wine. The soil is clay and limestone, the vineyard has a southeastern exposure and the vines are 25 years old. Maceration is between 12 to 18 days depending on the vintage. They punch down 2 to 3 times a day and a pneumatic press is used. It is aged 12 months in 25hl barrels and 1/2hogsheads vats (a hogshead is 63 U.S gallons) How long the wine is aged and what it is aged in depends upon the vintage. The wine is not fined or filtered. This is a rustic red wine with subtle fruit aromas and flavors with hints of blackcurrants and cassis, a mineral character and a long finish and nice aftertaste. This was a perfect combination with the cassoulet.  It is $45 on the wine list.

When friends come to my house for dinner and bring wine, I like to open their wine so that we can enjoy it together. The only times I do not do this is when I know the wine is from the dark side, or if it is too young. Recently a friend brought a California wine that was 42 years old. It was a Pinot Noir   from Inglenook, one of the oldest wineries in California, established by Gustave Niebaum in 1879. It reached its height after Prohibition under John Daniel Jr. a relative of Mr. Niebaum.  In fact from Prohibition to the 1960’s this winery may have produced the best wines in California. It has had a checkered history since then. However, over the last few years Francis Ford Coppola has been able to buy the old Inglenook vineyards and the winery.   He has changed the name of his winery from Niebaum-Coppola to Inglenook.

I was only too happy to open this wine.  Another guest brought a magnum of sparkling wine and I provided two Italian wines.

Pinot Noir 1970 limited Cask K-150, Estate bottled, Inglenook, Napa Valley. The wine was aged in small oak casks.  It is called Cask K-150 because occasionally in the cellar the wine maker discovers a cask of Pinot Noir that he feels is so special that he sets it aside for further aging. Later if it comes up to Inglenook’s highest expectations, it is marked “Cask”. This bottle was drawn from one of these special casks. The wine was only 12% alcohol.

This is still a big concentrated wine.  The oak and vanilla flavors are all still there.  The wine was showing some age but no way did it taste like a wine that was 42 years old. It did not taste like Pinot Noir at all.  It is always interesting to taste old California wines because they do not all taste the same but all of them up until the late 1970’s were 12% to 12.5 % alcohol.

At a Wine Media Guild event in the fall I tasted a Charles Krug 1966 and a 1974 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon. They were both  “lighter” in style, tasting like the grape with only a hint of oak. Even in California wines that are 40 years old or more, if they are too oaky to begin with, the oakiness does not go away.  

Cococciola Vino Spumante Brut NV 100% Cococciola,  Cantina Frentana. (Abruzzo)    This is an ancient indigenous grape variety of the province of Chieti. It is mainly grown in the area around Rocco San Giovanni. The big grape bunches are irregular in shape and some are wing-tipped. It is a grape with good acidity and good yields. In the past it was only used for blending with other grapes. The harvest takes place towards the end of September. The grapes are soft pressed and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. Malolatic fermentation does not take place. Only the free run juice is used. This is an interesting sparkling wine made by the charmat method with citrus flavors and aromas and a hint of almonds.  

Vino Rosso Toscano de Tavola 1988 100% Sangiovese. Grato Grati I am glad that I have only one bottle of the 1988 left because it is starting to show its age. Time to begin drinking the 1990.

Ghemme “Collis Breclema DOCG 1996 100% Nebbiolo Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo (Piedmont) A selection of the more mature grapes are made from the Breclema vineyard. The soil is rich in minerals and has good sun exposure and is 280 to 310 meters above sea level. Harvest takes place in late October. The grapes are destemmed and pressed and kept in oak casks for about two years.  It is typical Nebbiolo with hints of red berries, liquorice, violets and a touch of tar. The wine is at its peak right now.



Filed under Chianti Rufina, French Red, French Wine, Ghemme, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Sparkling wine, Spumante

Wines to Know from the Valle d’Aosta

Recently I went to a lunch and tasting of the wine and food of the Valle d’Aosta held at restaurant Manzo in Eataly in NYC. It was more of a promotion for tourism in the Valle d’ Aosta than it was for the wine. In fact no one spoke about the wine.  There were four wines at the event and I liked them very much.

The wines of this region are made from some interesting grape varieties that are not very well known in this country such as: Prié Blanc, Cornalin, Fumin, Petit Rouge and Moscat Petit Grain.  I decided to learn more about these grapes and the wines they make.  Learning everything about Italian grape varieties is impossible, but I keep on trying.

The Valle d’Aosta is an autonomous region in Northwestern Italy that is surrounded by the Alps. It is the smallest of the winemaking regions of Italy both in terms of size and production.  75% of the production is red.

The Wines

Valle d’Aosta Bianco 2010 DOC 100% Prié Blanc Cave du Blanc, Blanc de Morgex et la Salle This is a cooperative started by the state government of the Valle d’Aosta in 1983. The communes of Morgex and La Salle are located at the foot of Mount Blanc and they have the highest vineyards in all Europe at 4,000 feet above sea level. The average age of the vineyards is about 60 years old. The vineyards are planted with the “pergola bassa” (low pergola) system that trains the vines low to the ground in trellised arbors. Stone columns surrounded by terrace rock walls protect the vines from snow and the strong winds. These stonewalls allow the vines to absorb the heat stored in the rocks during the day light hours. All of this also helps to protect the vines from the shifts in day/night temperatures that occur in mountain areas. Because of the training system during harvest the grape pickers must bend down or lie close to the ground to pick the grapes. Piér Blanc is know in Switzerland’s Valais region as Bernardeand is best suited to the sandy, gravelly soil found in higher attitudes. Most of the vines are on their original rootstock because it is too cold for phylloxera to survive here.  This is a balanced wine with hints of apple, spice and honey with good minerality and acidity. It had a surprising long finish and nice aftertaste.

Formaggino di Peranche

We had this with the formaggino di peranche (cows cheese marinated with olive oil and herbs served on thin slices of toasted bread) and it was a great combination with the wine.

Torrette Superiore “Vigne Rovettaz” 2007 Valle d’Aosta DOC. Grosjean Freres Made from 85% Petit Rouge, 10% Fumin and 5% Cornalin. The vineyards have a south/southwest exposure and the soil it is rich a sandy soil. Sustainable farming techniques have been in place since 1975. Only organic fertilizers are applied and no herbicides or pesticides are used. Natural yeasts are used for fermentation.  Maceration takes place on the skins for 6 to 7 days with pumping over three times a day. Aging is done in stainless steel tanks. It is a light red wine with very nice berry aromas and flavors with hints of raspberries.

Fumin “Espirit Follet” 2009 DOC  Vale d’Aosta  La Crotta di Vegneron Made from 100% Fumin (a distant cousin to Syrah) This is a small co-op located in the village of Chambave. The vineyards are south facing, steep and seem to be pasted to the sides of the mountain. They are 400 to 1,500 meters above sea level. The soil is composed mainly of rocks that give a nice minerality to the wine. The grapes are hand harvested and the wine is fermented with natural yeast as are all of their red wines. This was a big red wine with dark fruit aromas and flavor , peppery notes with good minerality and acidity.


Les Abeilles 2005 Valle d’Aosta DOC Les Cretes made from 100% Muscat Petit Grain. The vineyards are at 550 to 650 meters. It is loose sandy marine soil and the harvest takes place in late November. There is a soft pressing of the late harvest grapes with 45 days fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There were hints of dried apricots, spice and honey, with orange and lemon peel acidity that made it a very pleasant dessert wine and a


Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Valle d'Aosta

Holiday Adventures in NYC

Michele and I always look forward to Christmas dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow. For a number of years, Tom and Diane come to our house Thanksgiving dinner, and they have us over for Christmas. They are excellent and adventurous cooks and Diane often chooses recipes from books she has written about in her blog

Tom has a great wine collection and will try to find the perfect wine match for each course.

The first wine was Champagne Pommery Brut NV. Made from 35% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Nor and 30% Pinot Meunier. It was very easy to drink and worked very well with the little pastry shells filled with foie gras, egg salad, prosciutto, caviar etc.

The first course was an individual ramekin filled with an egg baked in cream with white truffle paste, which they had brought back from Alba. The wine to match this dish was a Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2003 Labouré–Roi. As Tom poured the wine into the glass it had a golden orange color and even without tasting it we could see that it was oxidized.

Then we had an Alsatian onion quiche. The main course was  Pintadeau farci Jean Cocteau– stuffed guinea hen from a recipe in Raymond Oliver’s La Cuisine. With it drank Beaune Premier Cru Greves 2005 Moillard and a Chambolle Musigne 2003 from Drouhin followed. They were both showing very well but the Moillard was a bit softer.

Next there was a cheese course.  All the cheeses were great but the gorgonzola was really special, we drank a Chateau Brane Cantenac1989, Cabernet Sauvignon Carmeriére. Dessert was a not too sweet cranberry crostata made by Michele.  For those that were still able to drink there was grappa.

Monday and Tuesday we stayed home and tried not to eat too much.

Wednesday we went to Russ & Daughters to buy caviar and foie gras for New Years Eve. We also went to an Indian restaurant but did not have wine.

Thursday we went to SD26, which is becoming one of my favorite Italian restaurants for lunch and had another great meal.  Tony May recommended we have the burrata, which was brought in from Puglia.  It was superb.  Then I had chestnut fettuccine with wild boar salami & dried cranberries, a perfect dish for a winter day.  We drank the 1988 Chianti Rufina from Grato Grati

On Friday we met a friend from Miami and went to Legend, a Chinese restaurant that has very good food and excellent Martinis.  Love the spicy lamb with cumin.

New Years Eve we went to Japonica for Japanese food for lunch.

That night to celebrate the coming New Year we started with the Caviar and had a bottle of Champagne Bruno Paillard N.P.U. Brut 1995.  Made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir I had mentioned to someone that I had had it at a tasting and liked it and I received it as a gift from him. With the foie gras we drank a dessert wine from Spain- Malaga 2007 N0 2 Victoria It is a naturally sweet wine made from the Muscate Alexandria grape and fermented in stainless steel Joege Ordoéz & CO.   This also was a gift from a friend.

On New Years Day we took a long walk and in the middle of Washington Square Park there was a man playing classical piano. It was a beautiful day and we stood and listened for a while.   His name is Colin Huggins and he was very good.

For dinner that night we had the rest of the foie gras, steak and potatoes fried in duck fat. The wine we drank was a 1984 Volnay 1er Cru “les Champans” Domaine Joseph Voillot.

This wine was everything that a red Burgundy should be and it was a great way to start off the New Year!

I would like to thank everyone that has followed my blog and Happy New Year to one and all.

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Filed under Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Chianti Rufina, French Red, French Wine, Grato Grati, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian Wine, SD 26, Villa di Vetrice