Monthly Archives: January 2014

Drinking Krug on a Very Cold Night

It seemed like one of those beer commercials that you see on television.  A freezing cold winter’s night, a man walking alone (in this case me), he approaches a door of an apartment and he hears music, laughter and the sounds of people having a good time. He opens the door and is handed a glass of beer? NO, he is handed a glass of Krug Grand Cuveè Champagne!


As I stood in the well-appointed apartment in Greenwich Village owned by the makers of Krug sipping my Champagne, I said to myself, for Krug I would come out on the coldest of nights.  Krug was introducing its 2003 vintage and they were doing it with a lot of style and a lot of Krug.

The Grand Cuvee is made from a blend of 120 wines from 10 different years, the youngest dating from 2003 and the oldest from 1988.  After a few glasses of the Grand Cuvee, it was time for the 2003. This was a difficult vintage in many respects, and it was pointed out that the harvest began on August 23, the earliest since 1822. Difficult vintage or not, they made great champagne I and was more than happy to have a glass or two before my walk home.

Krug just may be my favorite Champagne



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Three Bordeaux Producers at the Wine Media Guild

Ever year the Wine Media Guild does a Bordeaux tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant in NYC. This year we had the wines from three top Chateaus along with a representative from each one. It was a very interesting tasting going back to 1978.

The speakesr were John Kolasa – Chateau Canon, Edouardo Moueix- Chateau La Fleur Petrus and Jean-Michel La Porte – Chateau La Conseillante. Chateau Canon St. Emilion

Mr. Kolasa began by saying that wine is a happy match between grape variety and soil type. The current blend is 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc.


The different plots of vines total 54 acres of very uniform soil types, which is the first hint that Chateau Canon is unusual with respect to the rest of the Saint Emilion area. The soil is a combination of limestone containing fossilized starfish covered by a thin layer of clay left behind by a prehistoric lake which constitute an ideal environment for the grape varieties, The different steps in the vineyard management calendar are scrupulously respected throughout the year. Chateau Canon manages its plots sustainably, ensuring perfect ripeness and making it easier to identify the best batches of fruit, which are vinified separately. The policy is clearly to foster environmental preservation.

2001 There was an oaky vanilla component to this wine which seemed to overwhelm all the other aromas and flavors. I did not find this in any of the other Chateau Cannon wines that I tasted.

2005 This is a classic vintage and it will age.

2008 This was a mixed vintage some very good wines but no great ones. However you can but the better ones at a good price.

With Lunch

1998 This was a very successful vintage and I found it drinking very nicely now but it will last for a few more years.

1989 This was a true classic vintage. The wine is ready to drink and it had a soft, smooth feel on the palate


1978 This was the wine of the afternoon for me and I had a lot of agreement. It is classic old Bordeaux with a background of leather, a touch of spice and lingering berry aromas and flavors.

Chateau La Fleur-Petrus Pomerol   the wine is made from 90% Merlot (30 years old vines) and Cabernet Franc (50 years old vines) There are 2,600 vines per acre.

Edouard Moueix

Edouard Moueix

There are 47 acres of vineyards and the soil is mainly gravelly with some clay. The hand- picked grapes are sorted using an optical system. Traditional fermentation takes place with 16 to 20 days maceration in concrete and stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in French oak barrels, 50 % new. Mr. Edouardo Moueix said that today the Chateau is composed of three major blocks, within 500 meters of one another. They are situated at an altitude between 35 and 38 meters, along side some of Pomerol’s top chateaux’s as its neighbors. The last parcel was purchased in 2012.This terroir is mainly gravelly soil. The plateau of Pomerol is between 30 and 40 meters.

2008 -This was a successful vintage

2009 – This is one of the great vintages of the last 60 years and already a bench -mark for its power and natural concentration

2010 This is a big well-structured tannic wine that needs another 15 or 20 years to develop

2012 This is a wine that is very up front with ripe fruit, It was drinking very well for such a young wine.

Wines with lunch

1998 Drinking very well and a wine you can drink now or hold for a few years


2001 Classic vintage-underestimated after the fanfare of the 2000. It is a remarkably well -balanced wine and drinking very nicely now.

2006 This was big tannic wine that will age

Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol Mr. Jean-Michel Laporte said that 80% of the vines are Merlot and is grown in soil the is mostly clay,  the combination of soil and Merlot makes the wine round, deep and smooth. The remaining 20% is Cabernet Franc, which grows in gravel soil and contributes structure and freshness.

Jean-Michel Laporte

Jean-Michel Laporte

The soil composition is 60% grey clay and 40% sandy gravel, resting on red (iron) clay. There are 11.8 hectors of unbroken vineyards. There are 6,500 vines per hectare on average, the training system is double guyot and the age of the vines is 34 years. There is optimal phenolic ripeness and harvesting is by hand in low – capacity, open trays.

Sorting of the grapes is on 4 tables by hand and by machine. Pre-fermentation cold maceration takes place for 2 to 5 days. The wine is vatted for 3 to 4 weeks in 22 temperature controlled epoxy coated concrete tanks. A vertical wine press is used and the separate aging of the pressed wine takes place. The wine is aged 50 to 80% new oak barrels, from a number of carefully selected coopers for 18 months. There is racking using air pressure very 3 months and 2 to 3 fresh egg whites are used per barrel.

1998 unfortunately this wine was corked.IMG_4623

2001 This is a well- balanced wine that is ready to drink now

2005 This wine needs time to age.

All three speakers made the point of the importance of having the right terrior for the grapes that you are growing.

In answer to the question how do you know when the grapes are ready to be picked, one of speakers answered when I pick them. However they all agreed that they have the best modern equipment to tell  when the grapes are ready to be picked than they had 25 or so years ago. That is one of the reasons that today’s wines will not taste like the wines from 30 years ago!


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The Return of “Grifi”

Avignonesi has always been one of the top wine producers in Montepulciano with their Vino Noble di Montepulciano Grandi Annate, the Vin Santo di Montepuciano and the Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano.  I recently attended a tasting of the wines from Avignonesi and one of the reasons I went was to find out what had happened to a wine that they used to produce called Grifi .


The speaker was Giuseppe Santarelli, North American Manger for Avignonesi.  He said that the winery was founded in 1974 and remained in the same family until 2009 when Virginie Saverys purchased it.  Ms. Saverys is a believer in organic and biodynamic viticulture and hopes to get organic certification for the winery by 2016.  She also wants the wines to express the terroir and is using fewer new barriques.  This was evident when I tasted the wines.  All the grapes are estate grown.

The Wines


Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2011  made from 90% Sangiovese and 6% local red varieties. The grapes come from five different vineyards. The soil is sub-alkaline to alkaline, with layers of clay, sand and silt.  The vineyards are at 279 to 330 meters. The vines are bush and cordon-spur trained and are between 10 and 35 years old. In the older vineyards there are 3,300 vines per hectare and in the younger ones 7,158. Harvesting took place between September 10 and 20. The grapes were selected berry by berry by use of the optical technology of Vistalys (sorting the grapes by machine). The grapes were lightly crushed and transferred to temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a 3-day-prefermentation maceration. The alcoholic fermentation proceeds naturally with indigenous yeast.  A combination of delestrage (two step rack and return process) and remontage (pumping over) is used to manage extraction from the cap.  Malolactic fermentation takes place in oak. The wine was aged for 6 months in barriques (second and third passage) and large oak casks of 150hl. This is an easy drinking wine with a nutty character and hints of cherries and violets. It is a good food wine.   $19


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese. The fermentation is like the Rosso but with longer skin contact. The wine spends 18 months in oak, 70% in barriques (30% new) and the rest in large oak casks 150hl. The wine is aged in bottle for a minimum of 7 months before release. Giuseppe said that up to 30% of other grape varieties can be used in Vino Nobile but they chose not to do so. This is a wine with hints of wild cherries red currants, rosemary and a touch of spice. $30


Merlot “Desiderio” DOC 2010 made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot comes from the Paggino vineyard of La Selva estate and the Cabernet from the Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia of the La Selva estate, which is located in the Cortona DOC appellation.  Giuseppe said that the soil is different here than in Montepulciano. In Cortona there is more clay and limestone, and is better for Merlot and Cabernet. The vines are at 250 to 300 meters and the exposure is south, southwest. The vines are 12 to 22 years old, they are bush trained and there are 7,158 vines per hectare. The Merlot was picked on September 27th and the Cabernet on October 10 and 11. There is four weeks of temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins in stainless steel tanks.  Malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, 35% new and 65% second passage. This is a complex full bodied wine with hints of blueberries and strawberries and nice acidity.  $57

When I saw the Grifi being poured I said to Giuseppe, “I thought that they stopped producing this wine.”  He said yes, they had stopped producing it in 1997 because the demand for the Sangiovese for the Vino Nobile was so great that had to use it there. However, with the recent purchase of new vineyards they were able to bring it back into production and the 2010 is the first vintage.


Toscana IGT “GRIFI” 2010. Made from 60% Sagiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangiovese comes from the vineyard parcel “Poggetto di Sopra” of I Poggetti Estate and the Cabernet from the parcels “Selva Nova” and “Selva Vecchia” of the La Selva Estate. The La Selva has a north-south exposure and the I Poggetti Estate western. There are fluial origin clay and sand layers at the La Selva Estate and a matrix of clay sand and silt at the I Pggetti Estate.  The vines are 8 to 12 years old and bush trained (7,158 vines/hectare) at the La Selva Estate and 39 years old and guyot trained (2,564 vines /hectare) at I Poggetti. The vines are at 270 to 300 meters. The Sangiovese is hand harvested on September 29 and 30 and the Cabernet is machine harvested on October 10 and 11. Separate fermentation for each in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins lasts from 20 to 24 days, depending on the vintage. The malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, new oak for the Cabernet and second and third passage for the Sangiovese. The wine has aromas of fresh red fruit, a hints of cherry, raspberry and spice with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste- it was as good as I remembered it! $57

Giuseppe said that the La Stella parcel of one of the vineyards is in front of the old Le Capezzine winery and is very unique. What makes this parcel unique is that the bush trained (alberello) vines are planted in the settonce system, hexagon shaped. Ancient Roman military engineers invented this system to give the vines maximum exposure to the sun and circulation of air.  Each vine is in the center of a hexagon surrounded by six other plants, equidistant from each other. None of the vines cast a shadow on another vine. I have seen the settocne system in Southern Italy but never in Tuscany. Giuseppe said that they are the only producer to use this system in Tuscany.

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Filed under Avignonesi, Brunello, Desiderio, Grifi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

The Last of the Holiday Wine

From Thanksgiving to January 6, it was a wonderful holiday season with good food, good wine and friends. January 6, also known as Twelfth Night, is a holiday in Italy.  It is the feast of the Epiphany, the day that the Befana, an old lady or good witch, brings gifts to the good Italian boys and girls.  We were invited to our second annual Befana celebration by Lars Leicht, National Director of Cru Artisan Wines, a division of Banfi.  When Lars was young, he spent many of his summers and holidays in a small town not far from Rome and became familiar with the Italian customs and traditions.

The "Sabered" wine

The “Sabered” wine

The first wine Lars served was a spumante, Cuvee Aurora Rose Method Classico Altalange (Piedmont) 2009 from Banfi. Lars took the bottle and a large kitchen knife and stood just outside the front door.  The rest of us stood in the doorway behind him.  Then, in one quick motion, he “sabered” the bottle with the back of the knife.  The bottle top and the cork went flying across the street!  The wine bubbled up and Lars quickly poured it into our glasses without losing a drop.


The wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir and the grapes are hand harvested. The soil is a mixture of clay and calcareous.  There is one hour of skin contact cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermented at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of a previous vintage aged in French oak barriques. Yeast contact lasts for at least 24 months followed by traditional hand riddling (remuage) on pupitres  ( An “A’ shaped frame) and degorgment a la glace. The wine is aged in bottle before release.  It has very small bubbles and hints of apple and roses.  It went very well with the smoked fish appetizer.


  • Pecorino “Cortalto” Cerulli Spinozzi 2012 IGT Abruzzo 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. 75% of the wine in fermented in 500 liter barrels and 25% of the wine in stainless steel. Fermentation takes about one month and ends with malolatic fermentation. The wine then remains in bottle for at least two months before release. This is a very pleasing wine with nice citrus aromas and flavors and hints of apricot, peach and bitter almond.


  • Luna Mater Frascati Superiore DOC 2010  Fontana Candida. Made from 50% Malvasia di Candia, 30% Malvasia del Lazio, 10% Greco and 10% Bombino. Harvesting began in the final 10 days of September and continued until the end of October, producing perfectly ripe, healthy grapes with a golden color and high sugar content. The grapes are grown in selected hillside vineyards ranging between 650 and 1,300 feet in the communes of Frascati and Monteporzio Catone.  The volcanic soil is loose, porous and dry but not arid. It is rich in potassium, phosphorous and microelements. Spalliera, Guyot and Cordone Speronato training systems are used. First selected bunches of mature grapes are picked by hand. Then the best grapes from each bunch are chosen. The grapes are transported in small baskets directly to the cellar so that they will be in perfect condition when they arrive. The wine has floral aromas with hints of white peach and honey with bitter almond in the finish and a very pleasing aftertaste.


Barolo Borgogno 1979 & Borgogno 1978 (Piedmont) 100% Nebbiolo.  It was very interesting drinking the wines side by side. The 1979 was showing some age but was still very enjoyable. The 1978 was a bigger more complex wine with more of the typical aromas and flavors that characterize the Nebbiolo grape.


Montefalco Sagrantino Alzatura 2008 (Umbria) 100% Sagrantino from a careful selection of hand picked grapes. The soil is clay and limestone.. Primary fermentation takes place for 26 days in small temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Frequent pumping over is followed by carefully monitored malolactic fermentation. The wine is then aged for 16 months in French oak barriques and another 8 months in bottle before release.  This wine was a perfect combination with the braised lamb. The wine has hints of blackberries, prunes, leather and coffee with good acidity and a long finish. It was one of the best Sagrantinos that I have tasted.


Brunello di Montalcino 1982 Banfi (Tuscany).  I believe this is 100% Sangiovese Grosso as it was produced before Banfi did all of their experiments with the clones. Lars said it was aged in large Slovonian oak barrels, which were new. This had all of the characteristics of a traditional, classic Brunello.

For more information about the feast of the Befana in Rome, check out my friend Elizabeth Minchilli’s blog:

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Barolo and Pizza at La Pizza Fresca

One of my favorite Barolo and pizza memories is from 1985.  Michele and I visited Alfredo and Luciana Currado, owners of the Vietti winery with Mary Ewing Mulligan MW and Ed McCarthy. A Neapolitan man had opened a pizzeria a few doors away from their winery and they wanted us to try it.  Their whole family joined us.  The pizza was very good especially the one made with Fontina Val D’Aosta cheese and porcini mushrooms.  Alfredo brought a magnum of 1961 Barolo and he very proudly told us that this was the first wine that he had made.  The wine was great with the pizza.  From then on, I was hooked on pizza and Barolo.IMG_4540

Just before Christmas, Brad Bonnewell, owner of La Pizza Fresca in NYC, inviting me to a Barolo and pizza dinner a few days after Christmas and I had to accept. IMG_4543

With the pizza there were two flights of Barolo, five from the 1997 vintage and five from the 1998 vintage.  It was a blind tasting.

The Vintage

Some wine writers called the 1997 vintage Barolo “The Vintage of the Century”.  It was given ratings in the high 90’s by the better- know wine writers. It was also rated a five star vintage.

1998 did not get the same recognition or hype, though some rated it 4 stars. The 1997’s that we tasted were more fruit forward, riper, and richer with less acidity.  It seemed that they should be drunk before the 1998.

The 1998’s were subtler and with more of the tar, leather, tea and faded rose aromas that I like, so we drank the 1997’s first.

On another vintage note I would drink the 1997’s and 1998’s before the 1996’s, which I believe, is a great vintage like 1989.

1997 Vintage


Barolo – Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo from 3 hectares of vineyards: Cannubi 1.5, Lorenzo 0.3, Rue 0.5 in the commune of Barolo and Rocche 1.2 in the commune of La Morra. The vineyards are between 3 and 50 years old. This is the most traditional producer of Barolo and it is a classic old style wine. The Barolo is a blend of all the vineyards, the way it was done in the past before the other producers took up the “French Cru” designation. I have had these wines a number of times and they are usually among my favorites, however this night they were not showing well. The two bottles we opened might have been slightly corked, hiding the aroma and flavors of the wine. Brad said he had a case of the wine and the others he had opened had the same problem.


Langhe Nebbiolo ConteisaAngelo Gaja.   Mostly Nebbiolo with a little Barbera. Fermentation is on the skins in stainless steel tanks for 3 weeks. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months followed by 12 months in large oak barrels. This is a well-made wine with less vanilla, oak aromas and flavors then I remember. Still, it is a little too modern for me.


Barolo Grand Bussia Riserva – Aldo Conterno Nebbiolo: Michel and Lampia varieties. Grapes come from 3 different vineyards (Bussia, Monforte d’Alba). The grapes are hand harvested. The must remains in contact with the skins for 60 days, during which the alcoholic fermentation is fully completed. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 32 months. The wine remains in the cellar for at least 8 years before release. Only in the best vintages is this wine made. I have not tasted this wine in a long time and it was showing very well with all the true Nebbiolo characteristics.

Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best.

  • IMG_4529

Barolo – Parussi 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes come from Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. There are 5,000 plants/hectare, with south/southeast and southwest exposure and the grapes are hand harvested. Destemming of the grapes and then maceration on the skins. Alcoholic fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfites. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 24 months in contact with its native yeast and 6 months in bottle before release.

1998 Vintage


Barolo Azienda Agricola Falletto of Bruno Giacosa, 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes for the Falletto wines are all estate grown. He uses traditional wine making methods. This is a wine with hints of liquorice, spice and tea. I like Giacosa’s Barolo but  would rather drink his Barbaresco.


Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra – Domenico Clerico 100% Nebbiolo The vineyard is at 400 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Maceration on the skins in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days. Aged in French oak barriques, 90% new for 22/24 months and 6/8 months in bottle before release. This was the most modern style wine in the tasting with a lot of vanilla and oak.


 Barolo Cereqiuo- Roberto Voerzio 100% Nebbiolo There are 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare and the vineyard faces south/southeast. Fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged for 24 months in used barriques and 20hl casks. Then 8 months in stainless steel and 8 months in bottle before release.This is another wine that I have not tasted in a long time but it was less modern then I expected.


 Barolo Bric del Fiasc cru: Castiglione Falletto (Fiasco) – Paolo Scavino 100% Nebbiolo. Destemming and light crushing takes place and maceration and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Indigenous yeast is used and malolactic fermentation takes place in oak for 10 months. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 10 to14 months in large casks, 1 year in stainless steel and 10 months in bottle before release. This was the second most modern wine.


 Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo  Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best. The 1998 was my number one wine and the 1997 was my number two wine. They also went the best with the pizza.

 Brunello di Montalcino 1997Mastrojanni. This has always been one of my favorite producers and when Brad asked what else he could open, this was my suggestion. Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then aged for 6/8 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. There was even more hype for the 1997 vintage for Brunello than for the Barolo.

Maculan 1990 Dindarello La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

 We ended with the dessert wine, Dindarello 1990 from Maculan. 100% Moscato from the 6 acre Dindarello vineyard on the estate.The grapes are dried for about a month, then fermented in stainless steel and aged another three months in bottle before release. This is an excellent dessert wine with hints of honey, tropical fruit and good acidity.Barolo 1997 & 1998 Dinner La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

In all, there were 16 wines at the tasting, but the 12  listed were the ones I remember drinking.  I enjoyed Brad’s hospitality and the wine and pizza.  I also enjoyed remembering my friend and a great winemaker, Alfredo Currado.


Filed under Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello, Brunello, Bruno Giacosa, Dindarello, Domenico Clerico, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Maculan, Mastrojanni Brunello, Paolo Scavino, Parusso, Roberto Voerzio

Ripasso and Short Ribs

The weather has turned cold and Michele was making short ribs from her book The Italian Slow Cooker for dinner.IMG_1128

I wanted a red wine that would  not be overwhelmed by the ribs. I decided on the Valpolicella Ripasso 2010 DOC made from 75% Corvina, !0% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone from Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve. The 2010 has just arrived and it is showing very well.


 The vineyards are located on clay hills with calcareous layers. The training system is the pergoletta, there are 5,600 vines per hectare and the harvest is by hand at the end of September. In the middle of October when the grapes have reached their optimal maturation and sugar level, they are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks for 25/30 days with daily pump over. The wine is later macerated and fermented a second time on the skins and raisins of the grapes used for Amarone, which are still rich in sugar.  This is followed by 24 months of aging in tonneaux and barriques where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for 6 months in bottle before release. This is a complex well-balanced wine with nice fruity aromas and flavors with hints of dried cherry, blueberry, licorice and a touch of spice, which made it a perfect wine with the ribs. $35


Filed under Ripasso, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve