Monthly Archives: February 2014

Celebrating the Year of the Horse



Every year, we get together with friends and celebrate Chinese New Year.  Since this is the year of the horse, we decided on a theme — wine vintages from past years of the horse. I was told that I was born in the year of the water horse but I could not find a wine from that year.

Jelly Fish and Cold Cuts

Jelly Fish and Cold Cuts

We chose the Oriental Gardens Restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown for the dinner. The service was excellent and so was the food. Our waiter was the best that I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant and could have qualified as a sommelier at a top restaurant.

The Wines

2002 Year of the Water Horses


Chablis Domaine Billaud- Simone Cru “Les Preuses” 2002  100% Chardonnay. The exposure is south; southeast and the vines are 65 years old. Harvesting is by hand. Vinification is in stainless steel. Aging is for 8 to 10 years depending on the vintage. This is an elegant complex wine, with aromas of honey, toast and lemon with good minerality, a long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. It was a great way to start the celebration.

1990 Year of the Metal Horse


Regaleali Rosso Sicilia IGT 1990 made from 100% Nero d’Avola. Fermentation is in stainless steel for an average of 10 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel 50% and 50% in oak casks of 30HL and 60HL for 6 months. This was a real surprise. The wine was 24 years old and is the type of wine that one would think is to be drunk young. It was in vey good condition with no signs of oxidation and enough fruit to make it very enjoyable.

1966   Year of the Fire Horse


Chateau Montrose 1966 – Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 30% and Cabernet Franc 5%.  Back then, the average age of the vines was 29 years. The wine was aged for 22 to 24 months in barrel. Robert Parker in his book Bordeaux (1985) writes that the anticipated maturity of the wine is between 1986 and 2010. The wine is classic St-Estephe and was drinking like a younger wine.


Chianti Classico Fattoria Di Santa Christina 1966 Fattoria dei Marchesi Lodovico and Piero Antinori. I am not surprised anymore when I drink older Chianti Classico. This wine was made with white grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, and they most likely used the governo method (drying 10% of the grapes).   This was the wine of the evening for me.

1978 Year of the Earth Horse

Barolo “Vigneto Rocchette” 1978 Giovanni Accomasso & Figli. I do not believe that I have had any wine from this producer. The location of the winery is La Morra but as far as I know it is not imported into the USA.


 Barbaresco Bricco Asili 1978 100% Nebbiolo Ceretto.  We had this wine at another New Year celebration a few days later and it was showing so well I just had to include it.


Barolo 1978 Cogno- Marcarini  100% Nebbiolo–  This wine was made when Elvio Cogno was the winemaker. Cogno produced some of the best classic traditional wines that it has been my pleasure to drink. This one was no exception and it was the wine of the evening for a number of people. 1978 was a very good vintage for Barolo. Wasserman gave Cogno’s Barolo 4 stars, his highest rating.


Filed under Antinori, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Regaleali, Uncategorized

Beef and Taurasi

I always look forward to the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) tasting which is held every year in NYC.  Tre Bicchieri is the highest rating that Gambero Rosso gives to a wine in its Italian Wine Guide. This year there were a number of wines that I tasted and enjoyed. It seems to me that the Italian producers are using less and less new barriques so that the wines I tasted were less oaky than they have been in the past.

I will be highlighting the wines from the tasting from time to time.IMG_4832

Taurasi “Radici” DOCG 2008 100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania) Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards were on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. Piero made a point of telling me that the barriques were second and third passage. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather. I was in the mood for Taurasi.

Beef in Red Wine

Beef in Red Wine

Michele was making beef in red wine for dinner, The 2008 Taurasi from Masterberardino would be too young to drink so I opened a 1995 and it was a perfect combination.


Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Mastroberardino, Taurasi

Too Much Cannubi?

In his seminal book, Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Sheldon Wasserman wrote, “If there is a single finest vineyard in Barolo, and there is a consensus that there is, that vineyard is Cannubi.”  I was interested in attending the grand tasting and seminar held by Vinitaly USA 2014 because there has been a lot of controversy about the Cannubi vineyard and I wanted to be better informed about the wines.IMG_4791

The seminar was entitled “Barolo Cannubi: Italy’s oldest and most famous Grand Cru”, and the speaker was Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director, Vinitaly International Academes.  I had met Ian a number of times and always found him to be very knowledgeable and informative.

Ian spoke about the Nebbiolo grape. In the distant past the Nebbiolo grape was more famous than the wine Barolo.  He said that Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word nebbia (fog).  Lampia and Michet are sub-varietals of Nebbiolo but the Rose, which is commonly considered a sub-varietal, is a different variety related to both Nebbiolo and to Freisia.


Ian D’Agata

The Cannubi vineyard also known as Cannubi centrale extends from the village of Barolo and has been planted with Nebbiolo grapes on its south and east exposure for more than 100 years.  The 15-hectare Cannubi centrale runs approximately southwest northwest and is entirely in the commune of Barolo.

There are four other areas that border on Cannubi: Cannubi Muscatel, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Boschis and Cannubi Vallitta. These four have been a matter of controversy and court cases over the last years.

What makes it so confusing is that there have been a number of different rulings each contradicting the other.IMG_4804

One decision was to just call the whole area Cannubi which would double it in size. But I believe that was defeated.  Then there was a proposal that would require a producer in Cannubi, San Lorenzo for example, to put Cannubi San Lorenzo on the label and not just Cannubi. That was passed but then it was challenged and defeated. The latest proposal is that a producer with vineyards in Cannubi San Lorenzo can either put this on the label or just put Cannubi. There are producers in Cannubi centrale that do not like this ruling.

Ian seems to favor having the particular vineyard name, ie, San Lorenzo, on the label. For more on this subject see Alfonso Cevola and Jeremy Parzen

The Wine

There were 7 wines tasted

Michele Chiarlo Cannubi – while it is often said that this producer leans toward the modern style, I really did not see it in this wine.

Giacomo Brezza e Figli Cannubi – this is a very traditional Barolo IMG_4800

Damilano Cannubi — It is a little more modern in style, more approachable and in my opinion will be ready to drink before the other wines.

Poalo Scavino Cannubi — One of the first producers to go to the modern style but it seems that he is becoming more traditional.

Chiara Boschis  Cannubi  -I know they use new barriques but once again it did not seem modern in style

Cannubi San Lorenzo from Ceretto did not make it to the tasting.

There were no examples from the Cannubi Vallitta presented at the tasting.

Cascina Bruciata – Cannubi Muscatel  In the southern most position, just north of the town of Barolo itself, this vineyard is at 300 meters with a southwest exposure. Ian said that in the past Barbera was planted here. I have also been told that before phylloxera the vineyard was planted with Muscat or Nebbiolo grafted on to Muscat vines, hence its name.IMG_4799

Virna Cannubi Boschis— This is a specific sub section of the Cannubi hill. Ian pointed out that its origin name was Monghisilfo and it might have been renamed for the family which controlled the area. The late Renato Ratti, who was one of the first to draw attention to the crus, wrote that there were similarities between Canubbi Boschi and Cannubi proper but set them apart. Cannubi Boschi has a particular good south and southeast exposure. It is in the north most portion of the district. The soil is sea deposits of calcareous clay and there is very good drainage.

I believe that it would be better to put the name of the vineyard on the label, for example Cannubi Muscatel, to inform the buyer about the source of the wine.  What is the use of a cru if the label says one place but the vineyard is actually someplace else!


Filed under Barolo, Cannubi, Cannubi Boschis, Cannubi Muscatel, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine

Piedirosso for Lunch on a Cold Winter’s Day

Another cold day in NYC and all I want to drink was red wine. I wanted a wine that will go with pasta or pizza but which also make my feel like I am on the Amalfi Coast.IMG_4871

The wine I decided on was the  Az. Agr. Apicella Colli di Salerno Piedirosso IGT 2012, made from 85% Piedirosso from ungrafted vines and 15% other red grapes. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the training system is mostly pergola. Harvest takes place the third week of October. The stalks are removed and the grapes are pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 10 to 12 days. Piedirosso is used mostly as a blending grape.  (It is one of the grapes in the blend for Lacryma Chrisit del Vesuvio Rosso.) It is difficult to find wine made from 100% Piedirosso but worth the effort.
The wine has fresh red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of black pepper and spice a long finish and nice after taste. The wine should be drunk young.IMG_4105

It goes extremely well with dishes made with tomato sauce. It was exactly what I wanted and a steal at $15 retail.


Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Piedirosso

More Brunello

The tasting seminar for the 2009 Brunello was held in a space high above the main floor of a former bank.  On the main floor there were 42 producers presenting not only the 2009, but also other Brunello vintages as well as other wines that they produce.

Benvenuto Brunello Grand Tasting

Benvenuto Brunello Grand Tasting

There is always a big turn out for this event and the main floor was very crowded. Since there were so many wines, I limited myself to tasting the 2009 Brunello but did not get to taste all of them.IMG_4732

I found most of them to be less modern in style than in the past and hopefully they will continue in this direction.

Here are 10 wines that I tasted and really liked:



Castelli Martinozzi

Col D’Orcia

Greppone Mazzi-Ruffino

Il Pazzone

La Fiorita 2008IMG_4733


Pian Delle Vigne-Antinori

Tenute Silvio Nardi


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The 2009 Brunello Di Montalcino

Every year the Brunello Consortium holds a grand tasting and seminar featuring the current release.  This year it was the 2009 vintage.  A panel of three speakers included the moderator, Gloria Maroti Frazee from the Wine Spectator, Francesco Ripaccioli representing the Brunello Cossortium, and Jeff Porter from restaurant Del Posto in NYC.  The panel members began by speaking about the Brunello area and the laws that govern the wine.

The production area is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese, known as  Brunello in Montalcino. It is interesting to note that at the seminar they did not refer to the grape as Sangiovese Grosso, but only Sangiovese. IMG_4715

The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle–6 for the Riserva. Bottling must take place in the production zone. The wine is available for sale from the 1st of January of the 5th year following the harvest (6th year for the Riserva). Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold in Bordeaux type bottles.

The panelists agreed that 2009 was a changeling vintage for Brunello because of the weather. There was less production because of more vine growth due to the heavy rainfall. There were very hot summer days so there was more sugar and they spoke of less tannin, sweeter tannins and a sweet sensation in the wine. It was a good vintage, not a great one and received four stars. The panelists agreed 2009 was a very approachable vintage, it can be drunk sooner, and Mr. Porter pointed out that it would therefore be a good restaurant wine.

In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 years before (even in a not so great year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want to drink something “approachable” and ready to drink young, then drink a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.

The Panel

The Panel

There were 7 wines from the 2009 vintage in the tasting from different zones in the Montalcino area and the panelists out pointed how these wines differed according to their geography. The higher the altitude, the cooler it will be and the grapes will ripen later. Gloria pointed out that there is a 10 to 2 week difference between when the grapes are harvested in the northern part of the zone than in the Southern. There are also many different types of soil adding to the differences.

When the representative of the consortium was asked if there was any chance that they would rate the different zones and producers, his answer was “no.” He made the case that all of the zone was a limited cru and had many characteristics in common. After tasting the wines I could not see the difference between north, south, east and west and wondered if the panelists could have picked them out if it was a blind tasting!

 The Wines


Collosorbo- South of Castelnuovo Del Abate. The soil is a medium texture. The harvest is by hand and then there is a sorting of the grapes, also by hand. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled and there is a testing of the wine twice a day before racking. The wine is aged for 36 months in medium and large French and Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for at least 6 months before release. $50IMG_4726

IL Poggione- near Sant’Angelo in Colle. The altitude of the vineyards is 492 to 1,475 ft. and it is mixed soil with a lot of rocks. The vines are estate grown and are at least 20 years old. Alcoholic fermentation takes place with the submerged cap technique for 15 to 20 days. The wine spends 3 years in 50 HL French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting.  It is classic traditional Brunello and will last for at least 20 more years. At $85 it was the most expensive but in my opinion worth the money.IMG_4727

La Togata- South of Tavernella The vineyards average 250 ft. and the soil is clay tuff rich in fossils and the vines are 20 years old. The vineyards are at 250 meters and there are 5,500 vines/hectare. Intense extracting initiates the stages of fermentation followed by a long quiescent maceration on the skins. The wine is aged for 6 months in French barriques and then for 24 more in Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for another 6 months before release.  This is a very up front wine with more than a hint of cherry.IMG_4728

Ridolfi –Northeast of Montalcino  This was the producer with the smallest production – only 4,900 bottles. The soil is clay and sand with many large stones and the altitude if the vineyard is 300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in truncated-conical oak vats and in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration time depends on the vintage and can last up to 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels observing the Montalcino tradition. The wine has very nice fruit with tart wild berry aromas and flavors, a hint of black cherry and a touch of spice. This wine is a very good buy at $36.IMG_4723

 Solaria -East and slightly South of Montalcino The average vineyard altitude is 1000ft. The soil is clay, sandstone and gravel. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The training is balanced spurred cordon. There is a long maceration of the skins and frequent pumping over. -The wine spends 24 months in medium sized Slovenian and Allier oak barrels and is then 6 months in bottle before release. $75IMG_4730

 Talenti– In the south by Sant’Angelo in Colle. The soil is clay and very stony. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days in steel tanks with daily pressing? The wine is aged for 30 months in 60% Slavonia oak barrels and 40% Allier Tonneaux. Bright cherry aromas and cherry candy on the palate.  Jeff said it is approachable and would make a good restaurant wine. $70


 Uccelliera south-east of Montalcino near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The vines are at 820ft. and the soil is mineral-rich, medium textured sand and clay with some gravel.

The grapes are selected, destemmed, crushed and the must is kept for 4 to 5 days at a low temperature. Alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally in temperature controlled steel tanks and it lasts for 15 days. The must remains on the skins for about 7 days depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation takes place in steel. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 36 months and another 10 months in bottle before release.  Mr. Porter said that this was a wine he would give to his customers as a transition wine for those that liked California Cabernet Sauvignon. He said the wine was complex, big, bold and beautiful with a texture of sweet fruit. The only thing that I agree with him on was that the wine was complex.  $60


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Cappuccino and Caffe on a very cold morning

Vergnano 1882

It was a very cold morning as I walked the few blocks from my apartment to Eataly in New York City.  I was headed to a demonstration, seminar and tasting of the coffee from the Italian producer Vergnano 1882 and I was looking forward to a hot cappuccino and a caffè. IMG_4647

My first cup was a cappuccino, which was picture perfect and just the right temperature.  It tasted so good that I asked to meet the barista.  Carolina Vergnano, the export manger introduced me. By his accent I knew he was not from around here, or from Italy. His name is Damian Burgess and he is from New Zealand.  Damian is also the head of the Caffe Vergnano Coffee Academy and the senior training manger.

Carolina Vergnano

Carolina Vergnano

Carolina told me that Vergnano is a family-owned Piedmontese coffee company that began in a grocery store in the small town of Chieri not far from Turin. It is the oldest coffee company in Italy, over 130 years old.

They make the capsules for the Nespresso machine and Caroline pointed out that making the capsule is like creating another business. In 2000, they started a chain of coffee shops called 1882 and they are now in 75 locations world wide. I was in the one in Alba a few times and the caffè was excellent.


Caroline said that their coffee is the perfect blend of tradition and innovation.  The superior quality of the blend comes from the meticulous selection of the best raw material available and the extraordinary production process. She stressed the point that roasting is the most important step in coffee production. The different coffee varieties are roasted separately, type-by-type, so that just the right level of roasting can be achieved. They use a slow roasting system with cycles that last between 18 and 22 minutes. For each new cycle, the roasting of each batch is individually controlled, to guarantee a uniform quality product roasted for the correct amount of time.

Damion, the Barista at Work

Damion, the Barista at Work

Damian is very knowledgeable about coffee and when he spoke you could tell he is passionate about it. He told me about the different blends of coffee and how different blends are used in different places because of local preferences. For example, a lighter blend would be used in Turin while a darker blend would be used in Naples. He said the most difficult coffee to make is caffè. This is because there is no room for mistakes. With a cappuccino you can cover a mistake with the milk.



In order to make caffè you must start with the best coffee, the machine must be at the right temperature, the grinder for the beans must be set according to the humidity, the barista must use the right amount of coffee, with the right amount of pressure, and it can not be over- or under- extracted.  Last but not least is the barista, the hand that makes the coffee is important. But it is all worth the effort!


Filed under Caffe, Caffe Vergnano 1882, Cappuccino, Coffee

Pizza and Wine at Keste NYC

Friends from out of town Dan and Shirley were in for the Super Bowl and wanted to go for Pizza.  They were on a Pizza trip to Naples that we did a few years ago and they are very passionate about pizza.  Dan makes his own pizza at home and they go to the pizza convention in Las Vegas. We told them when they go to the convention they should look for Roberto Caporuscio from Keste. They met and spoke to Roberto at the convention and were very impressed with him and wanted to go to Keste the next time they were in NYC. Last night we went to Keste. There were 6 of us and we had seven pies.


  We started and always with a Margarita and also a “lemon pizza”which is a specialty of Don Antonio Starita, a famous  pizzeria in Naples.  This was the first time Shirley had a “lemon pizza”. For dessert we had the “Nutella pizza”. I was very happy that they enjoyed the pizza at Keste and we all had a great time.


With the pizza we drank The Az Agr, Monte de Grazie. The wine is made from 90%  Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti gowns almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red in color. 

This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has ageing potential. The wine went very well with all of the pies even the lemon pizza. The wine went very well with all the pizza even the “lemon pizza” and the “Nutella pizza”.

"The Nutella pizza"

“The Nutella pizza”




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