Monthly Archives: December 2013



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Celebrate with something sparkling!!!!








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Holiday Champagne Luncheon II

This is part two of the Champagne lunch and tasting at the Brasserie in Manhattan with Ed Mc Carthy as the guest speaker. The food was excellent and well matched with the Champagne.

The second flight was served with Maine Lobster, Matignon de Lègumes Homardine.  This was so good, I wished there was more of it. Everyone commented on how much they liked it.


Ed described the wines in this flight as being more full bodied than the first flight.IMG_4459
Gosset “Grand Blanc de Blancs” Brut NV. 
 Ed said this was the oldest continually-operating Champagne house but it is not as well known as it should be. The grapes come from 15 different Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. The wine is on the lees for a minimum of four years before disgorgement.  The wine has floral aromas, with hints of white fruit, apricots and a touch of lemon on the palate.  $92IMG_4460

Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2007.  Like the Gosset, Ed believes that Deutz is not as well known as it should be. Ed includes them in the Champagne tastings that he does so that they will get the recognition they deserve. The Deutz vineyards are located in the Grand Cru villages of Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. The wine had hints of lemon and lime, with a touch of pear and apple and was a little toasty. $70IMG_4461

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Brut 2007. 
The grapes come from the Cotes des Blancs, the soil is chalk and the vineyards are at 80 to 240 meters. Harvest takes place in mid-September. Fermentation takes place in 228 liter oak barrels and there is no malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 6 months in oak.  I really liked this Champagne and it paired very well with the lobster. It is a complex wine with a strong pleasing aroma of brioche, citrus flavors, a hint of lemon and a very nice finish and aftertaste. $79  It is a very good value.IMG_4473
The third flight was served with Tournedos de Boeuf,Leeks, Truffled Mornay, and Parsnips Crisp. This was an interesting combination but these Champagnes were big enough to make it an excellent combination.

The next flight had the most expensive wines. 


Perrier-Jouet “Belle Epoque” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2002. This was by far the most expensive Champagne at the tasting. The grapes come from the best vineyards and Ed believes that it is worth the money and is one of the best blanc de blancs made. He also said that 2002 was an excellent vintage for Champagne. $330


Pol Roger “Extra Cuvee de Reserve” Blanc de Blancs 2002 . The grapes come from the Grand Cru vineyards of the Cötes des Blancs, Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Oger. Harvesting takes place from September 12-28.  The wine undergoes two debourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second a debourbages a froid in stainless steel tanks at 6°C for 24 hours. A slow cool fermentation at 18°C takes place in stainless steel with each village kept separate. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending.  Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C. They are one of the few Champagne houses that does the remuage (riddling) by hand.  It is aged in the cellars for 9 years before release. This is rich full-bodied wine. There are aromas and flavors of citrus fruit and lime peel with a hint of white flowers and toasty notes.    $116IMG_4466

Charles Heidsieck “Blanc des Millenaires” 1995.  Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blanc, 4 Grand Cru and 1 Premier Cru. The wine remains in the cellar for 15 years before release. Ed said that they were one of the few houses in Rheims that have a magnificent, 2,000 year old Gallo-Roman cellar to age their wines. This is a complex Champagne with aromas and flavors of dried and candied fruits, dates, and notes of hazelnuts and almonds.   $170

Happy New Year!! Celebrate with Champagne


Filed under Champagne, Gosset, Perrier-Jouet, Pol Roger

Champagne Holiday Luncheon

I missed the Wine Media Guild’s annual Champagne  tasting and lunch this year because I was in Sonoma.  As a result, I was looking forward all the more to the NY Wine Press Champagne luncheon at the Brasserie on 53rd Street in NYC. Ed Mc Carthy (author of Champagne for Dummies) was the speaker. Ed organizes both of the aforementioned Champagne events and when I arrived at the Brasserie, Ed told me that he was very disappointed that I did not attend the Wine Media Guild Champagne lunch. I replied that I was in Sonoma and he said that was not a good excuse! Ed loves his Champagne and likes everyone to enjoy it with him.  I am sorry I had to miss it!IMG_4468

For the tasting and lunch Ed chose Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, all were 100% Chardonnay

There were two aperitif wines: IMG_4474

 H. Blin Blanc de Blancs Brut NV. The vineyard has southern exposure and the vines are 25 to 35 years old. They do sustainable viticulture. Pneumatic pressing takes place in the hours immediately following the harvest. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Complete Malolatic fermentation. The wine remains on its lees for 3 years and the dosage is 9g of sugar per liter.  This wine was served as we walked in and I could not get over how good it tasted.

Ed did not give us the prices until the end and when he said it was only $35 I could not believe it. The wine was fresh with floral scents, hints of honeysuckle and white peach and dash of lemon on the finish.IMG_4475

Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs in magnum NV. $125 for 750 ml. The grapes come from the Còtes des Blancs.  40% of reserve wine is used. There is a low dosage and long aging after disgorgement, 6 to 9 months. Cellar aging is for at least 3 years. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with white fruit notes and hints of apple and almonds.


Foie Gras

For lunch Ed divided the wines into three flights of three wines.

Flight one was served with Foie Gras au Torchon, Granny Smith Apple and Petit KugelhofIMG_4455

Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV.  An assemblage of Chardonnay grapes from the Cotes des Blancs. The assemblage is made up of 30% reserve wine and the percentage may very from year to year. The wine has hints of honeysuckle, orange and lemon with a touch of apricot. $55IMG_4456

Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs Brut NV.  Made from Chardonnay grapes grown in Cramant, a village on the Cote des Blancs. The soil is chalky silt perfect for the cultivation of Chardonnay. There is a low dosage of 6g/l and the pressure is low 4.5 bar giving the wine a delicate effervescence. Ed said this was the best of the Mumm champagnes and the flagship of the line. He said that Mumm owns more vineyards in the 100% rated Grand Cru village of Cramant  than any other house. According to Ed this is one of the best Blanc de Blancs champagnes made today. This is a fresh, fruity, light bodied champagne, crisp, dry, with hints of white flowers and a touch of grapefruit. $60IMG_4457

Nicholas Feuillatte “Brut Chardonnay” 2005.  They are in partnership with the Central Vincole de la Champagne, the largest association of growers of Champagne, situated in the heart of the vineyards near the small Grand Cru village of Chouilly outside Epernay. This gives them a large supply of grapes to choose from. The wine is aged 6 years in the cellar before release. This was a very good price for a vintage Champagne. $49

Ed said that the 2008 in Champagne is one of the great vintages and compared it to 1996.

The next six wines Champagnes were bigger and fuller and more expensive and I will write about them next week along with rest of the menu.

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More Pizza and Wine

Friends are always recommending new pizza places to Michele and I. Recently two friends recommended the same place, one of them a wine producer from Campania, we just had to go. The name of the place is Pizzetteria Brunetti at 626 Hudson Street. The test of any pizzeria is the pizza margarita and this one was very good as were the others that we ordered.IMG_4483

With the pizza we drank a wine that I have not had before so it was two firsts for me.

Montecucco Rosso DOC “Tribolo” Poggio Stenti ( Tuscany)100% SangioveseIMG_4485

The hillside vineyards are at 200 meters above sea level, along the Orcia River. The soil has a high percentage of clay, which helps maintain water reserves from winter and spring rainfall..

The grapes are harvested in mid-September, when reaching sugar levels of 22-23 percent. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks and lasts for about 15 days at controlled temperatures, with skin contact.  .Malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel. The wine is left to age for about 12 months in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged for an additional six months in bottle before release. Since everything is done in stainless steel this is a  fresh and fruity wine with flavors reminiscent of cherries, peaches and blueberries. It is very well structured and offers a long, persistent finish and the wine can age. $28 IMG_4486

The wine went very well with the pizza margarita

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Pizza, Pizzetteria Brunetti, Poggio Stenti "Tribolo"

Wine Gifts

Manufacturers of wine gadgets often claim that their product will improve your wine drinking experience.  Most turn out to be nothing more than gimmicks.  But a few months ago I went to a demonstration of the Coravin Wine Access System and was very impressed.  It allows users to pour and enjoy wine from a bottle without pulling the cork!IMG_3437

Greg Lambrecht, the inventor and founder of the company, demonstrated how the Coravin worked. A thin hollow needle is passed through the foil and cork to access the wine.  Then the bottle is filled with argon, an inert gas. The pressurized argon pushes the wine through the needle so it flows into your glass without permitting any oxygen to enter the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally seals itself.  The wine remaining in the bottle continues to evolve naturally.  Five ounces of wine can be removed at one time.IMG_3432

Greg turned the bottle over but no wine seeped out. He had a bottle of Vietti Barolo “Castiglione” 2008 and had written on the label the date when wine was first removed with the Coravin–it was over a year ago. I know the Vietti wines and this was showing very well with no signs of age despite the missing wine.  Greg did the same with a white wine with the same results.  Greg said restaurants could use the Coravin for their wine by-the-glass program and retail stores for wine tasting.  For home use, you could drink a glass of white with one course and a glass of red with another.  It is also useful for older wines with corks that are difficult to remove

Felidia Restaurant has a special Coravin by-the-glass list of upscale wines.  The people that I know that have the Coravin are very happy with it.  Hoping I will get one for Christmas!  The Coravin cost $299 and the Coravin Capsule three-pack is $29.95 and for a video. IMG_4446

For those who enjoy older wines and want to ensure easy cork removal, there is also the Durand. It is intended to remove only older fragile corks from bottles with an inside neck opening of approximately 3/4 inch. Basically, the Durand is a combination corkscrew and Ah-so. $125


Friends of Wine: In Vino Veritas by Michael Belardo. This is a photo essay of people in the wine business by a gifted photographer who is also in the wine business. There is a great picture of me sitting in the cellar of the legendary Bottega del Vino in Verona.

Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines by Tom Hyland. The book is divided by region and there are descriptions of 550 wines from more than 475 producers.  Also available on Kindle.  www.Amazon.comIMG_3148


Here are a few wine gift ideas. Since all of these wines will age, the prices of the older vintages will be higher.

Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore, single vineyard, Methodo Classico. 100% Chardonnay $95

Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo 100% Trebbiano – Edorardo Valentini  (Abruzzo) $95

Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos,” 100% Chardonnay. Rene & Vincent Dauvissant (Chablis) $165

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 100% Verdicchio. Aged in large oak barrels (botti) — Villa Bucci (Marche) $ 47

 Etna Bianco Superiore “Pietramarino” 100% Carricante –Benanti (Sicily) $48IMG_3439

 Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, 100% Montepuliciano – Emidio Pepe (Abruzzo) $85  Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

Barbaresco “Ovello” 100% Nebbiolo – Produttori del Barbaresco (Piedmont) $57

 Faro, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello, Cappucio, Acitana and Jacchè – Palari (Sicily) $85

 Barolo “Vigna Elena”  100% Rosè a sub-variety ofNebbiolo – Cogno (Piedmont) $85

 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 70%  Corvina Veronese and 30% Rondinella – Bertani (Veneto) $88

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Filed under Coravin, Durand, French White Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

Pizza and Wine

We had just returned from Sonoma and I was in the mood for pizza and Italian wine. So we ordered pizza from Ribalta on 12th Street off Broadway and drank the Irpinia Aglianico 2009 DOC 100% Aglianico.DonnaChiara (Campania)


The soil is clay, there are 4,000 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of November. The wine is aged for 4 to 6 months in 225-liter French barriques- second and third passage- and 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. This is complex wine with hints of berries and prunes and spice.IMG_4097

The wine goes very well with typical Neapolitan dishes and was an excellent combination with the Pizza Margarita. The wine retails for $18.


Filed under Aglianico, Donna Chiara Winery

The Wines of the Veneto In NYC

In December the region of the Veneto hosted a number of events throughout the NYC area to promote their wines. The first event was a tasting of different wines from the region at Eataly in Manhattan.  A representative from each wine producing area spoke about the wines that were presented.IMG_4397

The Veneto is now the number one wine-producing region of Italy and produces more wine than most countries. The region is famous for its charming cities such as Venice and Verona–where Vinitaly  is held–the largest wine fair in the world as well as the enchanting Lake Garda.

One of the most famous wines produced in the Veneto is Prosecco, which is now the top selling sparkling wine in Italy. Prosecco, a wine that works well for many different occasions, has also become very popular in the US.

Most Prosecco is under $20 but there are some that can cost as much as $50. I enjoy Prosecco with fried foods in a batter like a fish or vegetable fritto misto. My favorite combination is Prosecco with fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies.

Many changes have taken place under Prosecco’s new DOC/DOCG designation, which includes a numbered labeling system.  A salmon-colored numbered label will now be placed on the top of every bottle of Prosecco DOCG. This seal has an identification number, which makes each bottle traceable so that every phase of the production of a specific bottle is known.

The representative at the tasting clarified for me the Rive. Rive are very special and defined hillside areas used in the production of specific wines. Each Rive carries the name of its local area and is subject to even more stringent production regulations.  The highest quality Prosecco and most expensive still come from the very limited Cartizze area.

I was very happy at the lunch when they served the Prosecco with a fritto misto of fish and vegetables, a perfect combination.IMG_4399

Prosecco di Treviso Brut doc NV 100% Glera Mionetto.

After the grapes are picked, they undergo a soft pressing with the must separated from the skins. The grapes are then fermented using the Charmat Method of sparking wine production.  The secondary fermentation takes place in an autoclave, a large pressurized stainless steel container.IMG_4401

Prosecco  di Treviso Brut “Tullia” Brut DOP NV 100% Glera. Montelvini. The grapes are harvested by hand and then Charmat method is used. Fermentation takes place in an autoclave instead of a bottle, the same method used for Champagne.IMG_4402

Prosecco “Millesimato” DOCG NV 100% Glera. The grapes are hand harvested in September and then lightly crushed. Then the must undergoes static decantation. Primary fermentation with the yeasts takes place inside steel vats. Before the primary fermentation is complete, the wine is run intp a pressure tank, where it becomes carbonated.  For 30 days, the wine remains in contact with the yeasts.  The wine spends six weeks in bottle before release.

When I was in the Veneto a few years ago I had the opportunity to taste sparkling wine from a local little-known grape called Durella. I was very impressed by this wine and was happy to see one at the tasting.IMG_4404

The DOC for Durello was established in 1987 and covers an area high up in the hills on the border between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza, in the area known as the Monti Lessini. The production zone for Lessini Durello is of volcanic origin. The hills on which the vines grow are layers of rocks formed by lava flows. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals and fossil deposits. Geologically, the soil is of volcanic tuff basalt.

Lessini Durello  DOC Millesimato NV Corte Moschina 100% Durella. The grapes come from an old vineyard in the heart of Santa Margherita in the heart of the volcanic area of the foothills of Mont Calvarina. The grapes are hand picked in the beginning of September. Alcoholic fermentation is for 20 days in stainless steel tanks. The second fermentation, Charmat method takes place. Refining is for 3 months in stainless steel tanks with yeast.IMG_4403

The wine has to be at least 90% Trebbiano Lugana. Carlo Veronese, Director of the Lugana Consortium, said that Trebbiano Lugana is closely related to Verdicchio  and this made it different from Trebbiano  grapes in other parts of Italy. He also said that Lugana is best when fermented and aged in stainless. He made a point of saying that Lugana Riserva is a wine that can age.

Lugana DOC 2012 Zenato 100% Trebbiano Lugana  Zenato. The  vineyards are on the San Benedetto estate, south of Lake Garda. The grapes are harvested in late September and early October and undergo a soft pressing and fermentation in stainless steel tanks.

Arturo Stocchetti

Arturo Stocchetti

Arturo Stocchetti, President of the Wines of Soave, said that there are four types of Soave: Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOC, Soave Superiore DOCG and the dessert wine Recioto di Soave. He said that Soave is mainly composed of two grapes: Garganega 70-100% and Trebbiano di Soave. The wines are usably fermented in stainless steel tanks, which he said brings out the lively acidity and fresh fruit notes.

The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals. There is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. The soil does make a difference. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir-based wines.

 Soave is a very underrated wine and one of my favorites. The price-to-quality ratio is excellent and it is always one of the best buys on a wine list. I like it with many different foods and one of my favorite combinations with Soave is risotto made with peas or radicchio.IMG_4400

Soave “Re Midas” 2012 Cantina di Soave 100% Garganega grapes. The harvest takes place from the middle of September to the middle of October. The grapes are soft pressed before being naturally decanted. The must is fermented with the addition of selected yeasts for 10 to 12 days. Aging takes place in stainless steel for 10 to 12 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months followed by one month in bottle before release.

This is a wine with good body, hints of lemon, fresh fruit, overtones of citrus and a hint of toasted nuts

Producers of Amarone usually also produce a Ripasso as they are made from the same grapes though the process for making them is different. Ripasso is less than half the price of Amarone and is a good alternative if you are looking for the same aromas and flavors as an Amarone.

The Ripasso technique has a history in Valpolicella consisting of refermenting the wines of the same vintage or that of previous years on fermented dregs of the dried grapes to produce Amarone. This serves to strengthen the Valpolicella and makes it more robust drawing from what is left on the dregs. The refermentation lasts 15 to 18 days and the Valpolicella acquires more color, structure, fragance and tannin, along with 1 to 1.5% more alcohol. After it is finally racked in February and March and has undergone malolactic fermentation, the wine is then aged in oak barrels.IMG_4405

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso “ Mara” DOC 2011 Cesari 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara grapes grown in the vineyards on the Valpolicella hills. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and then the wine is refermented on the dried grape skins according to the Ripasso technique. Racking takes place followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 12 months in 80% Slovenian oak and 20% in French oak tonneaux. After six months in bottle the wine is released. This is a full-bodied wine with ripe fruit aromas and flavors and hints of cherries and prunes.


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A Happy Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving lunch started at 3:00 PM instead of the usual 4:00 PM. There were six people and six bottles of wine.  Ernie and Louise De Salvo, and Travis Scott and Nicole Serle – owners of Turtledove wine store in Manhattan joined Michele and I.  It was a fun evening with great food, wine, company and a lot of laughing.

We started as always with Champagne.IMG_4389

Champagne Roses Jeanne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009 100% Pinot Blanc Cédric Bouchard. The champagnes from this producer always impress me. The vineyards are farmed using organic methods and simple guyot pruning. There are 8,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are hand harvested and crushed by foot. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks. The wine is unfiltered and unfined and low or no dosage depending on the vintage. I believe they produce only single vintage, single vineyard wines that are fermented and aged in stainless steel with as little interference in the process from the winemaker as little as possible.  The bubbles were very small and the wine had a crisp, fresh taste with bold citrus fruit flavors.  It worked very well with the smoked salmon mousse Michele served as an appetizer.

The first course was a chestnut soup, which was made by Louise, a great cook and bread baker.IMG_4390

With the soup we had the legendary Fiorano Rosso Vino da Tavola 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa. I love this wine and it had that great combination of leather and cherry that makes it so wonderful and unique.Turkey

Michele stuffed the turkey with fennel, rice and sausages and there were maple whipped sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  Michele made a mostarda of figs and cranberries that I could not stop eating.

We had three wines with the Turkey:IMG_4391

Volnay 1er cru Les Champans 1973 Domaine Joseph Voillot 100% Pinot Noir. There are 23 Acers of vines, harvesting is by hand and there is a selection of bunches both in the vineyard and the cellar. Vinification takes place without the stems and the wine is moved by gravity into barrels. The use of new wood is kept to about 1/3 of the total. This is a great expression of Pinot Noir and one which expresses the terroir and the grape at their best

I like Amarone with Turkey and all of the trimmings.  These were exceptionally good.IMG_4392

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1997 & Recioto della Valpolicella Amorone Classic Superiore 1983 Bertani. 70 % Corvina Veronese 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
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.IMG_4393

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 1997 was a big ripe wine and needs more time in the bottle to develop. The 1983 was
dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice a great wine and was not showing any signs of age.

 Both 1997 and1983 were excellent vintages for Amarone.IMG_4394

Malvasia Maderia Favilla Vieria 1920 Reserva Velha Barbeito 100% Malvasia. We had this with a Stilton cheese that we had purchased in Fortnum & Mason when we were in London a few weeks ago. This was a very elegant Madeira but with enough body to make it a perfect combination with the cheese.IMG_4395

For dessert Michele made an apple tart tartin and prune ice cream made with Agen prunes macerated in Vielle Prune liqueur.  It was the perfect way to end a great evening.


Filed under Amarone, Bertani, Burgundy, Champagne, Fiorano Rosso, Joseph Voilloy, Madeira, Roses Jeanne