Monthly Archives: June 2015

Baracchi Winery: Red, White and Sparkling

Tony di Dio of Tony di Dio Selections is the representative for a number of quality wine estates. It is always interesting to taste with him the wines from one of these estates. This time it was the Baracchi Estate located near Cortona in Tuscany, we tasted the wines with lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC.IMG_8061

Tony said that near the winery is the Relais Il Falconiere, part of the Relais & Chateaux which is operated  by the Baraccho family.

The Baracchi Estate is located on a hill overlooking the Valdichiana Valley. It covers about 60 hectares of which 22 are planted in vines. They are divided into small plots: San Martino where the winery is located, Gabbiano between Cortona and Montepulciano, and Montanare all of them at about 300 meters with a southern exposure.

Tony said that the agronomist Stefano Chioccioli, who is also the enologist, selected the best land for each variety. San Martino with sandy and well-drained soil for Sryah and Sangiovese. Gabbiano with its clay soil is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Montanare with soil composed of stones and lime for Merlot and Trebbiano. He said that here at the top on the edge of a forest he planted Pinot Noir, which might be their greatest challenge. IMG_7803

Trebbiano Methodo Classico Brut NV 2012  100% Trebbiano  The grapes are harvested early by hand. Fermentation takes place with skin contact for about 10 days at low temperatures. Maceration is for at least 12 months on selected yeasts. It has small bubbles, good acidity with floral hints and notes of apples, crusty bread and almonds. $19. I was very impressed with this wine for the price.IMG_7802

Sangiovese Rosè “Millesimato” 2012 100% Sangiovese. Metodo Classico with manual riddling. The wine is produced by the method of submerged cap maceration for a few hours and the fermentation continues with the cold techniques for a few hours more. This is to enhance the aromas and finesse of the wine.  The wine remains on the lees for 36 months. It has hints of cherry with notes of almonds and yeast. I have tasted Rosé made from Sangiovese but this is the first time I tasted a sparkling one.IMG_7811

Sangiovese Rosso “Smeriglio” 2012  Cortona DOC 100% Sangiovese comes from old vines of more than 20 years and a recently planted vineyard. The harvest begins the first week of October; a selection of the grapes had already been made at the end of July leaving only one kg of grapes per vine. The alcoholic fermentation with consequent skin maceration is done in stainless steel tanks for about 21 days, at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French barriques, half new, for 12 months, which also performs the malolactic fermentation. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and raspberries, with a touch of vanilla.IMG_7807

O’Lillo! 2010 Tuscana  IGT made from 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 23% Cabernet and 25% Sangiovese. The grapes are harvested and vinified separately. After a soft de-stemming the grapes are fermented in stainless steel thermo-controlled and kept in contact with the skins for 20 to 24 days depending on the variety. The wine is bottled after six months and is aged for another 6 months before release. It has hints of cherry, wild berries with a touch of spice and pepper.IMG_7808

Ardito 2010 Toscana IGT made from 50% Cabernet and 50%Syrah. Harvest is by hand in mid-September for the Syrah and on October 10 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are vinified separately and after alcohol fermentation, part of which takes pace in oak barrels, the wine is placed in vertical temperature controlled tanks, continues fermentation for 21/22 days. The wines are blended and malolactic fermentation takes place in medium toasted French barriques: Allier, Nevers and Troncais) aging continues for 20 months. It remains a minimum of 9 months in the bottle before it is released. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of plums, licorice, coffee and chocolate.IMG_7809

Pinot Nero- 2012 Toscana IGT 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard approximately 500 meters. Tony pointed out that this is a Tuscan Pinot Noir and should not be confused with the Pinot of Burgundy or other areas. It has hints of cherry and strawberry and a hint of spice with a very long finish.

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Filed under Baracchi winery, Italian Restaurants, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized

Celebrating with Champagne on the 4th of July

Champagne gets a lot of attention on special occasions and holidays, especially New Years Eve. For the Fourth of July, an American holiday and the biggest barbecue day of the year, many think of Zinfandel. But I prefer to celebrate with Champagne. Am I being un-American? Keep in mind that if it were not for the Marquis de Lafayette and the French fleet, we would not be celebrating on July 4th. So I believe that we should all raise a glass of Champagne to the French and our Founding Fathers.IMG_7926

When the Comitè Champagne (Champagne Bureau) invited me to a Champagne tasting, it was perfect timing.


John Bandman

John Bandman, someone I have known for a number of years was the speaker.

Mr. Bandman made an interesting selection of Champagnes, all excellent values for the money. While most Champagne is made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with Pinot Meunier as a minor grape, he included several where the Pinot Meunier was prominent and one that was 100% Pinot Meunier. In response to a question Mr. Bandman said that besides Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, to make Champagne other approved varieties are white Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, but they make up less than 0.3% of the plantings.IMG_7930

Besserat de Bellefon, Brut NV It is a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. The winery was established in 1843 in Ay. There are 25 hectares of vineyards, mainly situated in the Marne Valley, which is known for its Pinot Meunier. They also have about 100 grape growers with vineyards situated in the best areas of the Champagne region. It has hints of dried flowers, grapefruit peach, apricot and plum with a touch of hazelnuts in the finish. I find that Champagnes which have more red grapes in them often have more body and can be served with a greater variety of foods. $40IMG_7929

Ayala, Brut Majeur, NV made from 43% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. Bollinger owns this company. They only use up to 20% of their reserve wine in the NV. Complex and elegant with hints of apple, pear, bread crust and a touch of spice. $50IMG_7931

Blanc de Blancs, Franck Bonville NV Grand  Cru made from 100% Grand Cru Estate grown Chardonnay from Oger, Cramant and Avize. There are 20 hectares of vineyards on the estate. This Champagne has floral hints with green apple, ginger and a touch of spice. $35IMG_7932

Brut Rose, Charles de Cazanove (Reims) Made from 50% Pinot Noir, 20 Pinot Meunier, 35% Côteaux Chamenois Rouge and 10% Chardonnay. Vinification mostly takes place in stainless steel, but when necessary some wines spend time in oak. It has nice fruit with hints of cherry and strawberry. $36IMG_7935

Blanc de Noirs, Michel Loriot NV made from 100% Meunier. The dosage is 10g. The have 7 acres of vineyards composed of 20 plots, 80% Meunier, 18% Chardonnay and 2% Pinot Noir. The owner/winemaker Michael Lorite likes to let nature express itself and has grass cover cropping to protect the vines from soil humidity. Rot and diseases are minimized as well as the use of phytosanitas products. Priority is given to organic fertilizers and the use of copper. The grapes are squeezed in a traditional press and the wine is stored in vats by cru and plot. $45IMG_7934

Collet Millesime Brut NV (Ay) 2004 Made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay and aged seven years in the cellar before release. This is a coop with 65 hectares of vines and 607 wine growers. The grapes for this Champagne come from ten specially selected Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. The wine has aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with hints of dried apple, lemon, bread and a touch of spice. Mr. Bandman said the 2004 was a very good vintage. $55IMG_7933

Demi-Sec, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Sublime NV (Reims) Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Grand and Petite Montagne de Reims. The maturation period was extended by one year and there was a generous dosage. It is very fruity with hints of pear, cinnamon, candied fruits and a touch of pastry. $45


Filed under Ayala, Besserat, Champagne, Charles de Cazanove, Collet, Franck Bonville, Michel Loriot, Piper-Heidsieck

Tasting Calvados with Jéròme Dupont

After a wonderful lunch at the Auberge de l’Iil, we were invited to take our coffee on the lawn by the river. It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to prolong the experience with a glass of Calvados and a cigar. As I puffed on the cigar and sipped the Calvados I watched a woman feeding the storks that had just landed nearby. It was a magical afternoon.


Jerome Dupont

Calvados was on my mind when I went to meet Jerome Dupont of the Dupont Calvados Distillery. He is the fourth generation in the family business and joined the firm in 2002.

In 1887 the Dupont family settled their cattle and apple orchard farm in Normandy. Today the Dupont Family estate consists of 30 hectares of orchards in Normandy in the heart of the Pays d’Auge region. There are 13 different apple varieties from sweet to sour among the 6,000 trees.IMG_7780

They produce cider, pommeau and calvados. The poor chalk and marl soil create small apples with thick skins to produce just the right aromatic intensity and concentration that they seek. The apples are ripe when they fall from the tree and are hand sorted. Like wine, Jerome said, you have to start with good fruit to get the desired result.

You can also make Calvados from pears and a combination of apples and pears but Dupont only uses apples. Jerome said they use single batch distillation and not continuous distillation, which is used by some of the larger producers.IMG_7778

Cider Bouchè is made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% bitter apples. The harvest takes place between October and November. The cider is made by the traditional method the Pays d’Auge. There is controlled fermentation in stainless steel vats using indigenous yeast. Stabilization of the cider is carried out by successive racking as is the fermentation. The cider is bottled unpasteurized between March and April. Jerome said that the density (OG) is 1060 after pressing, equivalent to 134 grams of sugar per liter and 1024 when bottled which results in 5% alcohol after bottle fermentation has been completed. There was a slight deposit at the bottom of the bottle, which Jerome said was natural because it is not filtered or pasteurized. it has aromas of cooked apples and a touch of cinnamon.IMG_7787

Cidre Tripe is made from a selection of Mettais bitter apples. Jéròme said it was inspired by the techniques used to make long keeping dark beers. This is a triple fermentation using the bitter apples. After the first fermentation of the natural sugars, an addition of extra sugar allows for a second fermentation to take place giving the cider 10% alcohol. The third fermentation takes place in the bottle to give the mousse. It is bottled the year following the harvest. Density of (OG) 1065 after pressing, which equals 145 grams of sugar. It was dry, with hints of chicory and licorice with a bitter and slightly astringent finish and long aftertaste.

We also tasted a Calvados just distilled, which was 140 proof and reminded me of grappa. Jéròme said that in Normandy they used to add Calvados to their coffee in the morning.IMG_7790

Calvados Fine Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Made from 80% bittersweet apples and 20% acid apples. The soil is clay and oxfordian marl. The harvest is from September to November. The apples are mixed, crushed and pressed. The apple juice is fermented right out to give the cider to be distilled. The first distillation gives the petite eau at 30% by volume and the second distillation, the petite eau which produces the calvados. It is aged for a minimum of two years in toasted 400 liter (88 imperial gallon) oak barrels of which 50% are new. Jéròme said that it is bottled when ordered. It is golden in color, very complex and intense with aromas of apples, pears and citrus with a touch of vanilla. He said that as an aperitif it can be on its own or over ice or with a drop or two of water to let it release its aromas. As a digestive it should be given time to breathe. 42% alcohol. $45IMG_7791

Calvados Vielle Reserve A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge Double distillation is carried out 6 months after fermentation has taken place. It is aged for 4 years in oak barrels 25% of which are new. Bottled when ordered. Golden color, intense but soft with hints of candied fruits, liquorice and a touch of vanilla and oak. 42% alcohol. $55  This was my favorite for just sippingIMG_7788

Calvados Hors D’Age A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge  Same as the two above except it is aged for 6 years in oak barrels. It has fruity aromas of apple and banana, floral hints, a touch of wood. Very complex. 42% alcohol. $80IMG_7786

Calvados 1989 same as above. Copper Color. It was distilled in 1989 and aged in toasted oak vats since then. Jerome said it is unfiltered without being cold stabilized in such a way to maximize its concentration and complexity. Bottled to order. It is Intense and well-balanced but not aggressive with hints of apples, orange and vanilla. 42% alcohol $120IMG_7789

Calvados 1969 A.O.C. Calvados Du Pays D’Auge. Very deep mahogany color. Distilled in 1969 and aged in toasted oak barrels. It is intense but not aggressive with hints of wood and spices. Jerome said that its intensity makes it perfect for cigar lovers. 41% alcohol. Not available in the US market.

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Filed under Calvados, Dupont Calvados

The New Chianti Classico Classification: Gran Selezione

I had been waiting for an opportunity to taste the 2010 vintage Chianti Classico Gran Selezione  DOCG to see what they were all about so I was pleased to attend a seminar and tasting of the wines.IMG_7875_2

The seminar was billed as a Master Class: “An Exploration of the Territory of Chianti Classico,” and was presented by Antonio Galloni. He selected 7 wines from the Gran Selezione category. This new classification is at the top of the Chianti Classico pyramid. In order to qualify for this classificatio, the grapes for these wines must be estate grown and come from a single vineyard, or selected from the estates best-suited vineyards. Gran Selezione wines can be released on the market after 30 months from the grape harvest, including at least 3 months of bottle aging. The alcohol must be at least 13%.IMG_7879_2

The Chianti Classico zone is between Florence and Siena and includes the communities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti and includes parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnella Val di Pesa.

As of 2005, all Chianti Classico has the Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) on the label. Before 2005 a Chianti Classico producer did not have to belong to the Consortium and therefore did not have to put the Black Rooster on the neck label. This was very confusing for the consumer.IMG_7873_2

Chianti produced outside this Classical zone cannot have the word Classico on the label and cannot have the Black Rooster symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium on the neck label. For more information see my blog

Grand Riserva Wines – Mr. Galloni used the wines of different producers of the Grand Riserva as examples of how the vineyard elevation, soil type and exposure will produce different styles of wine.IMG_7865_2

Badia a Passignano 100% Sangiovese Antinori The production zone is Tavarnella Val di Pesa. Fermentation lasts for 10 days and the must is in contact with the skins for another 10-12 days. After racking, the various lots were aged for 14 months in Hungarian oak barrels and in French oak barrels. The wine remained in the bottle for another 12 months. The wine has aromas of ripe fruit, with hints of cherries and a slight touch of vanilla. It has a nice finish and long aftertaste. $60IMG_7866_2

Isole e Olena 82% Sangiovese, 9% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petite Verdot. The production area is 9 km north of Castellina in Chianti. Fermentation is in conical open vats for 3 weeks for the Sangiovese and Cabernet and 2 weeks for the Syrah. The wine spends 22 months in French barriques (225 liters) of which 30 are new, and 10 months in casks. The wine was bottled in July 2013. It has hints of cherries, blackberries and spice with a touch of balsamic. $ Not yet released.IMG_7867

Castello di Fonterutoli 92% Sangiovese, 8% Malvasia and Colorino. Marchesi Mazzei Production zone is Castellina in Chianti. The grapes are hand harvested starting on October 1. The wine is aged is barriques and 500 liter tonnneaux of which 60% are new. It has nice fruit with hints of cherries and a touch of violets. $70IMG_7868_2

Mona Lisa Vignamaggio 85% Sangiovese,15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Greve in Chianti. There are 16/18 days of fermentation and maceration on the skins. After malolactic fermentation there is 18/20 months of barrique aging and 12/14 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry and plums. $40IMG_7869_2

Vigna del Sorbo Fontodi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Production area is Panzano in Chianti. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in inox tanks and maceration lasts for 25 days. The wine is aged in 225 liter French barrels for 2 years. Not all the barrels are new. It has hints of cherries, violets and a touch of spice.  $70IMG_7870

San Lorenzo Castello di Ama 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and Malvasia Nera. Area of Production Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 12 months in French oak and 2 years in bottle. It has red fruit aromas and flavors with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $50IMG_7871

San Marcellino Rocca di Montegrossi 95% Sangiovese and 5% Pugnitello. Production area Monti in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti. The wine spends 28 months in 49% barriques and 51% in tonneaux of Allier oak, 20% new wood, 10% two years and 70% 3 years. The wine was bottled on April 19, 2013 and remained in the bottle for at least 24 months before release. $50. They are certified organic. The wine has hints of black cherry and plum with a touch of cedar and leather. $50IMG_7872_2

Colonia Felsina 100% Sangiovese Area of production Castelnouovo Berardenga. Fermentation and maceration are for 16/20 days in steel tanks with punchdowns and popovers at controlled temperatures. In March/April the wine is transferred into new and once-used oak barriques for 18/20 months maturation followed by at least 6/8 months in the bottle. It has hints of cherry and plum with a touch of cinnamon. $85

In answer to a question, Mr. Galloni pointed out that two of the wines we tasted shared the same oenologist, Franco Bernabei. But the wines do not taste the same because the vineyards are located in different zones.


Filed under Antinori, Castello di Ama, Castello Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Fonti, Isole e Olena, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Rocca di Montegrossi, Vigamaggio

Le Pizze Regionale at Don Antonio by Starita

Le Pizze Regionali

One of my favorite pizzerias in New York is Don Antonio by Starita. (309 West 50th St, NY, NY). I first met the owner/pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio when he opened Keste on Bleecker Street. Michele and I had just returned from Naples where we ate pizza every day, sometimes twice a day. At Kesté, it was like being back in Naples, the pizza was that good and authentic


Roberto, Giorgia and Antonio

At Don Antonio by Starita, Roberto has come up with 20 different toppings to celebrate the regions of Italy. Each topping represents ingredients from that region. Roberto said that he would do ten regions for the spring and summer and the other ten regions for the fall and winter so he could take advantage of the freshest seasonal products. One region would be featured each week and the ones that were the most popular would become part of the regular menu. However there were 11 Pizzas on the list that Roberto gave me.

Roberto invited me to stop by and try them. The day I was there, the pizza was being made by three of the great pizzaioli, Roberto, his daughter Giorgia, a prize winning pizzaiolo in her own right, and Antonio Starita, Roberto’s mentor and owner of Starita a Materdei in Naples which we visited in February.

Here is a description of the 6 pizzas I ate:IMG_7898

I started with Umbria, made with cream black truffle mixed with ricotta cheese, oyster mushrooms, caciotta Umbro cheese, fresh black truffle and prosciutto. I knew there were more pizzas to go but this was so good I ate it all.IMG_7905

Next was Puglia, which was made with fresh basil, stracciatela di bufala, a fresh cheese produced in the province of Foggia , figs, sliced Cerignola olives (olive fritte) topped with grated Tavoliere cheese. I did not finish this one as I had to share it with other guests but it is a great combination of flavors.IMG_7904

Then La Basilicata made with Canestrato di Moliterno, a hard pecorino cheese made from sheep and goat milk in the commune of Moliterno, mozzarella, grilled Sinese bell peppers sautéed with roasted almonds and raisins. It was a good thing more people showed up so I only was able to eat two slices.IMG_7903

La Campania had ricotta di bufala Campana DOP on the dough, topped with marinated heirloom tomatoes and zucchini flowers. It was finished with grated caciocavallo Sllano, a stretched-curd cheese made from sheep or cows milk produced in the province of Avellino.IMG_7901

La Lombardia was made with stracchino, a cows’ milk cheese, baked on the dough. Then a paste of dried figs, gorgonzola, and raisin was wrapped in slices of bresaola marinated in olive oil and lemon and placed on top with 10 year old Bitto, a DOP cows milk cheeseIMG_7906.

Roberto said I had to try ay least one more. He brought me La Sicilia, the most complicated. The topping was made of calamari, clams, octopus, tomato sauce, Pachino tomatoes, saffron, salt, pecorino Piacentino di Enna allo zafferano.

What makes these pizzas so special is that the toppings are not just put on the dough but the preparation may take more than a day. Here is the recipe for La Sicilia as Roberto explained it to me:  Boil the Calamari and sauté the clams with olive oil. Sauté separately the tomatoes and octopus and the saffron with cut shrimp and octopus, then mix it all in a bowl and leave for a day to marinate with salt and some olive oil. On the pizza dough, spread the tomato sauce, add baby scallops, add the seafood and put in the oven for a few seconds to warm up the seafood

Roberto invited me back to taste some of the ones that  I missed. The ones I did not taste are the: Il Molise, La Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Il Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige. I am looking forward to going back again soon.


Filed under Don Antonio by Starita, Le Pizze Regionali, Uncategorized