Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Perfect Lunch

Prior to our lunch at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, a friend, who dines there regularly, selected the menu.  He selected each of the courses to go with one of the wines we would be drinking. The seven diners were supposed to bring one wine each.  Somehow we wound up with nine. It was one of those rare occasions were everything worked out perfectly – – the wine, the food and the company.

We started as we always do with Champagne:  IMG_2440
Blanc de Blanc “Roses Jeanne” 2006
Cédric Bouchard. I have never tasted any Champagne from this producer and was very impressed by this one. I believe he only produces single vintage, single vineyard wines and that they are fermented and aged in stainless steel.  The winemaker interferes in the process as little as possible.  It was also different from other Champagnes. The bubbles were very small and it had a crisp, fresh taste with subtle citrus fruit flavors that would make it go very well with food.  He also makes a Champagne from 100% Pinot Blanc!IMG_2443
Sauternes 1997 Château d’ Yquem made from 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Harvesting is by hand.  Successive waves of pickers are sent into the vineyard and the grapes are picked one at a time. This is to ensure that only the grapes with the “noble rot” Botrytis are selected. The grapes are pressed three times and then aged in oak barrels for 3 years. 1997 is considered a great vintage. Château d’Yquem will not produce a 2012. We had this with the Foie Gras with Poached Quince, Walnuts and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Wonderful!IMG_2445
Montrachet “Côte de Beaune” 2005 Louis Jadot made from 100% Chardonnay. 2005 was a very good vintage with almost perfect conditions. The wine is fermented in wooden barrels and aged for 18 to 20 months in wooden barrels before it is bottled. This is a big rich wine and will last for a number of years.IMG_2447
Meursault 1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils I00% Chardonnay
This is a wine that I have drunk a number of times and always enjoyed. I believe it is at its peak now but should hold for a few more years.  These two white wines were served with Striped Bass with Leeks Beacon and Brussels Sprouts.IMG_2448
Gevry Chambertin  Corbeaux 1985 Domaine Leroy 100% Pinot Noir This is a great Burgundy from one of the top producers and it was exceptional. IMG_2451
Barolo 1971 Serralunga d’Alba Pira 100 % Nebbiolo. Sheldon Wasserman in his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines says that “Luigi Pira was… the single finest producer in Barolo” Pira was a traditionalists and the crushing of the grapes was by feet. The grapes were brought into the cellar, the bunches were put into tini, large upright oak vats’ and the men crushed them with their bare feet and the wine was fermented. Luigi Pira died in 1980 and the tradition of pigiatura a peidi died with him. Wasserman gives the vintage and the wine four stars, his highest rating. Some 32 years after Wasserman tasted the wine I would have to agree with him. We had these two wines with Duck Breast with Lentils, Parsnips, Hazelnuts and Trumpet Mushrooms.IMG_2454
Bordeaux Château Montrose 1983 Saint-Estêphe made from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine was at its peak and I think it will remain there for a few years. In my opinion 1983 was a very good vintage in Bordeaux but it was overshadowed by the 1982’s. The 1983’s are a good buy if you can find them. The wine was drinking very well, soft, with hints of dark fruit, spice and just a touch of leather.

Amarone 1964 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese; 30% Rondinella- this is the present blend.IMG_2456

Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the “Guyot “ method with 5.000 vines/ha. Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.

Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1964, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it is racked twice annually prior to bottling.

Aromas of freshly picked cherries mingled with notes of sour cherries, and an agreeable trace of spicinessDry, full-bodied, amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice with a finish that recalls walnuts and hazelnuts. 1964 was a legendary vintage for Amarone and this wine lived up to it. We enjoyed these two wines withIMG_2453

Roasted & Braised Lamb with Broccoli and Ruby Crescent Potatoes.

Vintage Port Fonseca 1970IMG_2457
Here is the vintage report:  Winter rainfall from October to March was 40cm, which was slightly above average. A very dry spring followed by rain in May and June. From July to October almost no rain fell and the vintage was made under ideal conditions.
Picking started on the 21st September and bunches were in perfect condition and completely free from disease. Sunny days and cool nights resulted in musts with tremendous depth of color. Yields were high. 1970 was an excellent vintage.
This is a 42-year-old port that will still last for a number of years. It has aromas of red fruit, ripe raisins, caramel and a hint of spice among others. The wine has great depth but also very subtle, balanced with a long full finish and after taste. We had the port with a selection of farmstead cheeses.



Filed under Amaro, Barolo, Bertani, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cedric Bouchard, Champagne, Fonseca, French Red, French White Wine, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Pira, Port, Vintage Port

Sparkling New Year

There is a sparkling wine for every occasion.  Here is a list of sparkling wines that I have tried over the last 12 months for you to enjoy in the New Year. The prices range from $300 for a Rose Champagne to $18 for Prosecco, and everything in between.Donnaachiara 006
Spumante Santé Brut IGT 100% Falanghina (Campania) Donna Chiara. The soil is chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of October.  Fermentation lasts for 40 days. Illaria Petitto, owner of the winery, always refers to the vinification system used as the Martinotti method. (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Federico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s.) Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it is fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It is great as an aperitif and with fried foods. $20i_vini_03Prosecco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Nino Franco. 100% Glera (traditionally called Prosecco) from classic production area hillside vineyards situated at medium to high altitude. Pressing, destemming, cooling of the must and fermentation takes place in steel tanks at controlled temperature. Second fermentation is in “cuvee close” (Charmat method). Other good producers are Bisol,  Mionetto and Bocelli $18

Franciacorta Gran Cuveé Saten Brut Bellavista, a special cuvee made from 100% Chardonnay selected from the best vineyard. It is made in the cremant style resulting in lower CO2 pressure, the defining feature of all Saten wines. It is produced in limited quantities using old small barrels as was once done in the past.  Saten is a blanc de blancs and can be made from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco up to 50%  $50Ferrari 2011 001Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore 2001 Ferrari 100% Chardonnay This is a single vineyard reserve aged wine. The grapes are picked at the end of September in the Maso Pianizza, a vineyard owned by the Lunelli family who also own the winery. The vineyard is in the commune of Trento and is between 500 and 600 meters above sea level with a southwesterly exposure. They use selected yeasts from their own cultures. The wine spends at least 10 years on the lees.  They do not make this wine in every vintage. The first vintage was 1972. This may be the best Method Classico made in Italy.

Ferrari Perlé 2006 Brut, Method Classico, DOC Trento, Italy Vintage Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay.  The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of September from a hillside owned by the Lunelli family (owners of Ferrari) around the Trento vineyards.  The vineyards are 300 to 700 meters above sea level with a southeasterly or southwesterly exposure. The wine remains for about 5 years on the lees. It is a crisp dry wine with hints of apple, almonds and a touch of toast. It is showing very well and in my opinion a bargain at $38.IMG_2471Perrier Jouët Cuvee Belle Epoque Rosé 2004. After vinification the wine is preserved separately, cru by cru, until blending. Chardonnay from the Grand Cruz Cramant  and Avize dominate the blend. The Pinot Noir comes from the Grand Crus Marlly and Verze. Still red wine makes up 9% of the blend. The wine is aged for 6 years before release.  This is the most expensive wine and in my opinion may be worth the money. It is an elegant full-bodied wine with great fruit and hints of strawberries and raspberries and a lot more going on. $300IMG_2467
Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2007 NV 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 20% of the wine is matured in oak barrels with weekly batonnage, there is no malolactic fermentation. The sangée method is used following skin contact, which lasts 5 to 8 days in the liquid phase. The wine ages for an average of 4 years in the cellar and another 6 months resting after disgorging to complete its maturity. Dosage varies between 8 to 10 g/l depending on the vintage. There are citrus aromas and hints of strawberry and peach. There was also a toasty spice aroma, which reminded me of gingerbread, and I was told that it was typical of the Roederer Rose.   $65

Champagne “Grand Siècle” Crand Cuvèe NV Laurent-Perrier (Trous-sur Marne) made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.  12 of the most prestigious villages supply the grapes and only the best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. I believe this is a blend of three different vintages. The blended wine is aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for about five years. It has tiny bubbles and complex aromas and flavors that make it go very well with food.IMG_2469
Pol Roger Rosé is based on their Brut Vintage, 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay to which is added before bottling and second fermentation about 15% still red wine (Pinot Noir) from the best crus of the Montagne de Remis. Dosage 9g/L. The wine is aged 7 years in the cellar before release. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with hints of blood oranges and red fruit berries. $110

Paul Roger Cuvée “Sir Winston Churchill” 1999 Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston IMG_2540Churchill mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. The exact blend is a closely guarded family secret.  It is a blend of Pinot Noir, which dominates, and Chardonnay.  Composed exclusively of grapes sourced from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, which were already under vine during Churchill’s lifetime.
The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second, a débourbage à froid, takes place in stainless steel tanks at 6°C over a 24 hour period. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks kept to temperatures not exceeding 18°C, with each variety and each village kept separate until final blending. The wine undergoes a full malolactic fermentation. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C in the lowest Pol Roger cellars (33 meters below street level) where the wine is kept until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne nowadays. The very fine and
persistent mousse for which Pol Roger is renowned owes much to these deep, cool and damp cellars.  $200

Asti DOCG (formally know as Asti Spumante) is made from the Moscato Bianco grape, also known as Moscato Canelli.  It is a sparkling wine produced by using the Charmat method. It is low in alcohol, about 7%, and has aromas and flavors of peach, honey and tropical fruits. It should be drunk young because the wine is at its best when it is fresh.  From $14 to $20.  Producers include Bera, Gancia, Cinzano, and Martini and Rossi.
Some producers also make a Metodo Classico.02_vietti_moscato_dAsti
Moscato D’Asti DOCG is made from the same grape as Asti and has many of the same flavors and aromas. It is also low in alcohol around 6%. The difference is that this wine is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and it is vintage dated while Asti is not. It should be drunk as close to the vintage date as possible. The two wines share the same DOCG. From $15 t0 $20
Producers: Michele Chiarlo, Fontanafredda, Elio Perrone, La Spinetta and Viettirosa_regale_vrBrachetto D’Acqui DOCG is a sweet wine and it is most famous as a red sparkling wine. Made by the Charmat method. It is made from the Brachetto grape. It has intense berry flavors and aromas, especially strawberry, and goes very well with chocolate and all kinds of chocolate desserts.
Producers include Braida $30 and Banfi-Rosa Regale $20



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Filed under Asti Spumante, Champagne, Franciacorta Brut, Moscato d'Asti, Prosecco, Saten, Sparkling wine, Spumante

Everything is Coming Up Rosé

The only thing Ed Mc Carthy likes better than talking about Champagne is drinking Champagne.  At a tasting he organized for the Wine Media Guild at Felidia Restaurant, he was able to do both. This annual event is the Wine Media Guild’s most popular and it is always overbooked.  Ed assembled 15 Rose Champagnes, 10 NV and 5 Vintage.  Fortunato Nicotra, the chef at Felidia, organized a complementary menu.  The highlight was an enormous salmon that the chef sliced and served in the dining room.  It was a perfect match with the Champagne.
Ed said that Rosè Champagne is “in” right now even though it is more expensive.  A few years ago some Champagne houses did not make Rosé Champagne and it was only 4% of the total Champagne production.  It is now 8% of total production and has not slumped in the last 10 years.

He said that Rosé is a little more full bodied because of the addition of Pinot Noir and that it goes well with food.  He added that rose champagnes are usually the best Champagnes to have with dinner, even with meat. These are dry wines and should not be drunk with dessert.

Ed loves all types of Champagne but when asked which style was his favorite his answer was Blanc de Blancs because he believes the best chardonnay grapes in the world come from Champagne.  He said the greatest vintages are 1964,1988.1996 and 2002

When asked what were his most memorable champagnes his answer was Krug 1928 and 1975.IMG_2528

Ed explained there are two ways to make Rosè Champagne.  For the traditional method, a small amount, about 10 to 15%, of still or regular Pinot Noir is added to the cuvée before the second fermentation.  The other method involves skin contact (maceration). The skins of black grapes are pressed slightly and left in contact with the juice to soak or steep until the desired color is archived.  This method is more difficult because the same color must be achieved year after year.

Ed and his wife, Mary Ewing-Mulligan, are the authors of the popular Wine for Dummies series and Ed is the author of Champagne for Dummies.

The 10 NV Champagnes:IMG_2460
Bruno Paillard Brut Rosè Premier Cuvèe NV  this Rosé is produced from first pressing only. Pinot Noir about 85% and 15% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir is pressed rapidly to obtain a clear white wine, which is then blended with the juice of some Pinot Noir vinified as a light red by leaving the skins on the juice. The dosage is very low to produce an authentic brut wine.  Rosé Première Cuvée is in a clear bottle. $70

Ed said it was an extra Brut. The wine was very fruity with strawberry and raspberry flavors and aromas and a hint of citrus. Ed liked this wine better than I did and said it was subtle and delicate and needed more time to develop. Later I tasted it with food and liked it much better. IMG_2462
Ayala Brut Rosè NV Made from 53% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir and 8% of the Pinot Noir is still wine from old vines. It is a blend of premier and grand crus with a 98% rating on the “echelle des crus” scale. There is no dosage. Ed liked this wine because it was very dry and considered it a very good buy at $50. I agree with Ed and it is also a very good food wine. He also said that Bollinger now owns Ayala but the style is completely different. $52IMG_2463

Henriot Brut Rosé NV  $60 The majority of the wine is Pinot Noir the Montagne dr Reims and Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blances and some Pinot Meuniuer, 15 crus are blended together and 25% is reserve wine. Vinified Pinot Noir as a red wine is added to the assemblage. Ed said it was light and elegant but it is not a well known house.IMG_2470

G.H. Mumm Brut Rosè NV $70 A selection 12% to 14% of red wines from the villages famed for their Pinot Noir such as Bouzy, Verzenay or Riceys on the Cote des Bar.  Once the balance is achieved by the addition of reserve wines, the final blend is determined by the addition of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with the addition of Pinot Meunier. Ed said he was very impressed by this wine.IMG_2478

Laurent-Perrier Cuvèe Brut Rosé NV 100% Pinot Noir It is a blend of ten different crus (villages) situated mainly in the south and north areas of the Montagne de Reims, including Cote Bouze, from the finest crus of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvis and Tours Sur-Maine. The grapes are sorted and destemmed before going in the vats. Controlled maceration lasts from 48 to 72 hours depending on the vintage. It is aged in the cellars for at least 4 years before release. The first vintage was 1968.

Ed said they use the skin contact method and that they specialize in Rosé Champagne. Subtle and fresh with nice red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of strawberries, raspberries and cherry. $75 IMG_2464

Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosè NV The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir come from the Montagne and Les Ricyes.  Most of the grapes are pressed in vineyard press houses. In the winery the must undergoes cool temperature fermentation. 85% of the blend is vinified as white wine and the remainder as red. A small portion of still Pinot Noir from Ambonnay, Bouzy and Riceys is added. The final cuvee is blended from an extensive range of at least 15 diverse crus. After the second fermentation in the bottle, the wine spends three years on the lees also in the bottle. It is a crisp; complex full bodied fruity wine with hints of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. Ed said he was very impressed with this wine and so was I. It is a good buy at $60

Alfred Gratien Brut Rosè NV  made from 45% Chardonnay 40% Pinot Meunier  and 15% Pinot Noir added as a still wine. After 6 months of cellaring in 228 liter oak casks, the must is transformed into wine. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The cuvee is bottled with sugar and yeast to allow for a secondary fermentation in the bottle and it remains in the cellar for 36 months. Then the disgorging takes place where the lees and sediment are removed from the bottle. The bottle is then topped up again with more wine and some sugar and left to rest for a few more months in the cellar.  It has good red fruit with hints of raspberry and I enjoyed it with lunch.   $70 IMG_2477
Gosset Brut Rosé NV 58% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Noir and 7% red wine from Ambonnay and Bouzy. The grapes come from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.  It is a blend of 3 different harvests, including 10% reserve wine. The wine spends an average of four years resting on the lees before release.  $75IMG_2466
Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Reserve NV made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They purchase grapes from about 120 of the 323 crus which make up the Champagne appelation each year to blend their Champagne. The wine is aged for a minimum of three years. They have only been making Rosé for a few years.    $65IMG_2465Bollinger Brut Rosè NV 62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Meunier. There is an addition of 5% red wine and 85% of the grapes come from Grand Cru and Premiers Cru vineyards. The wine is aged for more than twice the time required by the appellation.  This wine had more body, Ed said, because of the percentage of Pinot Noir. It has aromas and flavors and strawberries, raspberries, cherries and a hint of sweet spice. I like their slogan “Fresh as a Rose, Balanced as a Bollinger”. $85

Here are three books on wine that I recommend as gifts this Holiday Season: How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto-Eric Asimov

Wine for Dummies-5th Edition -Ed Mc Carthy and Mary Ewing- Mulligan

The New York Times Book of Wine: More than 30 Years of Vintage Writing- Howard G. Goldberg



Filed under Bollinger Champagne, Champagne, Rose Champagne

California Dreaming

Could it be possible?  A winemaker who has been making wine in California for over 40 years but still holds on to his French roots?  These questions were soon answered when I was introduced to Bernard Portet.

Bernard Portet

Bernard Portet

As soon as Bernard began to speak, he had me. He said that winemaking is all about place, though at some wineries, technology has replaced terroir.  He stated that wine is not as important as the food.  It is second to the food and Bernard asks his wife what’s for dinner before he chooses the wine, not the other way around.  Of course he only drinks wine with food.  Super ripe, heavily extracted wines with high alcohol are not his style. “Why make Merlots that taste like Syrahs? Where is the charm? Big, alcoholic super extracted wines overpower the palate and sacrifice varietal and regional typicity, as well as complexity.”  In an age when a lot of wine is reaching 16% alcohol his wines range between 13.5 and 14.1 percent of alcohol.IMG_2431Portet’s assemblage winemaking style has become his signature. He does not own any vineyards and buys all of the grapes since he feels that he can buy the best grapes available.  He blends wines from different varieties and terroirs to create finished wines greater than the sum of their parts.  He feels that it is a style that creates unique distinctive wines.Bernard was born in Cognac and his father was a regisseur  (estate manager) at Cháteau Lafite and his mentor.  He explained that the name of the winery Heritance is derived from heritage (his family has been making wine for 9 generations) and inheritance (from his father Andre who taught him all about wine).

The Wines of Bernard PortetIMG_2416

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 made from 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from vineyards located in St Helena and the Soscol Hills south of the city of Napa. The wine is aged in stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation. Bernard said that this is more like a white Bordeaux in style. It is a subtle well-balanced wine with hints of herbs, grass, good acidity and a touch of citrus fruit. $24

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 88% Sauvignon Blanc and 12 Rousanne. The Rousanne comes from the Paso Robles area where the soil is well drained sandy-loam. The grapes were hand harvested in mid-September at an average brix of 23.0. Bernard said Rousanne was very much like Sauvignon Blanc and added that this wine was more California in style. It had more body than the 2010 with a touch of grass, citrus aromas and flavors with undertones of ripe grapefruit and tropical fruit. $24 IMG_2421Pinot Noir 2011 Stanly Ranch, Carneros, Napa Valley. Grapes were hand harvested between July 24-August 7 at an average brix of 24.2.  The vineyard is vertically trellised with a density of 1,500 vines per hectare. The soils are mostly alluvial and sedimentary and well drained. Bernard said that Carneros with its marine-influenced climate is considered the best growing area for Pinot Noir in the Napa Valley.  The grapes were cold soaked for several days at 50 degrees F.  Fermentation took place in open top stainless steel tanks.  It is punched down twice a day and pressed after a short maceration. The wine is aged in used French oak barrels. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, a hint of cherry and a touch of mint. $24IMG_2424

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Napa Valley. Made from 94% Cabernet, 4% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. The grapes come from the valley floor vineyards in the St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville and Oak Knoll appellations. The soils are alluvial and gravelly. The vineyards have generally good drainage and although all are drip irrigated very little irrigation was needed in 2010. Because of the cool weather it was a relatively late harvest. Bernard said it was like the weather in France. The grapes were hand harvested in September at an average brix of 23.5 to 24.5
The grapes were cold soaked for a few days to enhance extraction and color and the musts were fermented at around 85 degrees F. for about 10 days. Assemblage of the small lots and varietals took place in various stages. The wines were aged for about 20 months in both new and mature, medium-toast French oak barrels. This is a round and soft wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of blackberry as the wine opens up and a touch of spice. $36

Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Napa Valley 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. Bernard said the Merlot was necessary to make the wine complete. This wine is full, round and well balanced. There are black fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of violets, and a touch of spice. $36IMG_2422

Malbec 2010 “Nandù” Mendoza, Argentina. 97% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon for the acidity. Grapes are from the Maipu area, the vineyards are at 2,624 ft. and Luján de Cuyo area at 3,116 ft. The average vine is 18 years old with a vertical trellis system. The average yield is 5 tons per acre.
Bernard said that the area is semi-desert like with an average temperature of 60 degrees F. Average rainfall is 8% per year, mostly in the summer. The soils are a blend of clay, sand and silt, consisting of a fair amount of gravel and small stones and well drained. Due to the proximity of the Andes mountain range, the nights are fairly cool. All this makes for very good conditions allowing for an even, slow maturation of the grapes. The grapes are hand harvested between March 20 and April 10 in 880 pound bins at an average brix of 23.5. 50% of the wine is aged in stainless steel and concrete tanks and the other half in French oak barrels for 9 months. Bernard called this wine an “Argentine Malbec with a French spirit.” This is difficult to believe but it did not taste like any Malbec from Argentina that I have ever tasted before–in fact it may be the best one I ever tasted. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of plum, blueberry and later blackberry with a touch of cedar. $24IMG_2426Bernard saved a gem of a wine for last.   Cabernet Sauvignon 1972 Clos du Val. Made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. It reminded me of an old Bordeaux when they use to make them in this style. It had red fruit aromas and flavors, more then a hint of cherry and overtones of leather. The waiter made the mistake of leaving the decanter next to me …..

Bernard is co founder of Clos du Val and was there for 40 years. 1972 was his first vintage. Mixing grapes was not done in California in those days.

Bernard and his former colleague at Clos du Val, Don Chas formed Polaris Wines which produces Heritance and Ñandú.


Filed under Bernard Portet, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wine, Clos du Val, Heritance, Malbec, Nandu, Sauvignon Blanc

A Pleasant Surprise!

It was a cold wet afternoon as I made my way uptown to Felice 64, a wine bar on 1st Avenue and 64th Street, to have lunch and taste wines.  Since I was not familiar with the restaurant or the wines, I was not sure what to expect.
I am happy to report that it was a pleasure.  The wines were from the Colline Lucchesi, a zone I am not very familiar with and the wine bar and the food reminded me of Italy.

Jacopo Giustiniani

Jacopo Giustiniani

Jacopo Giustiniani, the owner of the Felice 64 greeted me, and told me something about himself.  He said that he came to the US in 2007 and went to work at Sant’Ambroeus, a restaurant and café owned by his uncle. After six months there he decided to open a wine bar and now he has three of them.  He also own Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani in the Colline Lucchesi along with his brother Matteo who is the wine maker.

Jacopo said that Colline Lucchesi is a small zone and there are only ten producers.  Farroria Sardi Giustiniani is the largest producer and they make only 60,000 bottles a year.  They have between 12 and15 hectares in vines.
I asked a question about one of the wines and Jacopo was not sure of the answer so he called his brother at the winery outside Lucca a got the answer.

The Wines of Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani

Jacopo believes that the Colline Lucchesi is the perfect place in Tuscany to make white wine. It is in the northwest part of Tuscany between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apennine mountains. They get the benefit of the warm sea breezes and the mountains protect them from the cold and winds from the north. The soil and the climate give the wine good acidity and minerality, while the big difference in day/night temperature gives the wine its aromatic flavors.  He said that the winery was using sustainable agricultural methods now and it will become organic in a year.

With the white wines he suggested I try the Tartare di Salmone – diced raw salmon, lemon, avocado and mesclun. It was very good.IMG_2406
Vermentino 2011 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. Fattoria Sardi 100% Vermentino. The vines here are 25 years old. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures and the wine matures for four months on the lees. There is no malolactic fermentation. This is a light, fresh wine with good acidity and hints of herbs, grass, grapefruit and nice minerality. It is a very good food wine.IMG_2404
Jacopo said that they have a different clone of Vermentino than they have in Sardinia or Liguria. He feels that their clone produces a Vermentino which is elegant, lighter and more aromatic.  IMG_2405
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. Fattoria Sardi. 100% Sauvignon Blanc.  The grapes are from three different vineyards. The wine is fermented in second passage barriques and is matured on the lees for six months. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine spends six months in barriques, 50% new and 50% second passage.  The wine has aromas and flavors of herbs and grass with a hint of peach in the finish and aftertaste.IMG_2407

Felice Sardi Bianco 2011 “Saint Ambroeus” 2011 Colline Lucchesi. D.O.C. made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Grechetto.  Fermention and malolactic fermentation take place in French oak barrels as the wine is aged on the lees for 6 months. The wine is aged first in barriques and then in stainless steel.

The Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Grechetto come from a
2 hectare vineyard, which they rent.

Felice is the name of Jacopo’s grandfather on his mother’s side. It also means “happy” in Italian.  “Felice” is a private label and is only sold in Jacopo’s restaurants and Casa Lever restaurant. Both the red and the white are very good restaurant wines.

With the red wines he suggested Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, fresh pasta ribbons with a veal ragu. It was perfectly cooked and the ragu reminded me of Italy.IMG_2411
Jacopo said that they use a number of French grape varieties because they have been in the Lucca area for over 200 years. These grapes came here in 1805 when Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi ruled there as Queen of Etruria.IMG_2408Villa Sardi Rosso 2010 Colline Lucchese D.O.C  80% Sangiovese 5% Canaiolo 5% Colorino and 5% Moscato Nero di Lucca. Part of the wine is aged for 8 months in 20HL oak barrels and the remainder in cement tanks. The wine is aged for 4 months in barrel and then released. This is a fresh light wine with nice fresh fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, strawberry and a touch of pepper. This is a very good food wine.IMG_2412Fattoria Sardi Rosso 2010 Costa Toscana IGT made from 50% Colorino, 40% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. IMG_2413Felice Rosso “Sant’Ambroeus” 2009 Colline Lucchesi D.O.C. 60% Sangiovese and 40% Merlot. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques and six months in bottle before release.

Merlot “Sebastiano” Colline Lucchesi D.O.C.2010 85%, Merlot 5% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.  Fermentation is in cement tanks for about 20 days. The grapes come from the “Virgin Mary” vineyards and the vines are 30 years old. The exposure is south/southwest. It is aged in French tonneaux oak barrels for 18 months. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of red and black berries and a hint of spice. The wine can be enjoyed now but it will age very well.
Sebastiano was the name of Jacopo’s grandfather on his father’s side.

The “Sebastiano ” is $30 all of the others are about $14 which makes them a good value for the money.

Jacapo said that they also make a Rosè like the French do in Provence, which is very popular here and in Italy. He would have liked me to taste it but it was sold out.



Filed under Colline Lucchesi, Fattoria Sardi, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani, Felice restaurant, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Jacopo Giustiniani, Villa Sardi