Monthly Archives: December 2016

Nine Affordable Sparking Wines for the New Year

Everyone can celebrate a sparkling New Year with one of these great choices priced between $16 and $36.

My choices range from Brut to dessert sparklers, plus one over-the-top Champagne.img_1133-rustico

Prosecco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Nino Franco. 100% Glera (traditionally called Prosecco) from classic production area hillside vineyards situated at medium to high altitude. Pressing, destemming, cooling of the must and fermentation takes place in steel tanks at controlled temperature. Second fermentation is in “cuvee close” (Charmat method). $18

Chevalier de Grenele, Saumur MousseuxNV in magnum. Caves Louis de Grenelle.  Made from Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc with 9 months aging on the lees.grenelle

Under the streets of the Loire Valley town of Saumur, miles and miles of chalk caves meander. Carved centuries ago, many were dug with prison labor under the direction of the king of France. There are so many streets underground that they actually outnumber the streets above ground. Two and a half kilometers of underground caves belong to the Cave of Louis de Grenelle, the last remaining family-owned property of the major Saumur sparkling producers. All of the bottles produced by the cave are stocked here, under the city, and left to age for several years. Louis de Grenelle has been producing wines in this location since 1859. It has hints of hazelnuts, mint and a touch of licorice. At $40 for the magnum, it is a great buy.img_8540-lars

Cuvee Aurora Rose Alta Lange 2012 DOC 100% Pinot Noir Banfi, Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage) on pupitres and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.

Ferrari Perlé 200 Trento DOC Method Classico Vintage Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of September from a hillside owned by the Lunelli family, owners of Ferrari, around the Trento vineyards. The vineyards are 300 to 700 meters above sea level with a southeasterly or southwesterly exposure. The wine remains for about 5 years on the lees. It is a crisp dry wine with hints of apple, almonds and a touch of toast. $36img_6018-lambruscao

Lambrusco di Modena Spumante Brute Metodo Classico DOC 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara- Cantina Della Volta (Emilia Romagna). This red wine is obtained by a selection of the best Sorbara grapes entirely gathered in small cases (max. 37 lbs.) by manual harvesting. The grapes are carefully handled in order to prevent them from being crushed during transportation to the winery. The clarification of the must is followed by fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. After resting for at least 6 months the wine receives selected yeasts prior of being bottled. The bottles are then stored horizontally in piles for the re-fermentation process in a constant ambient temperature of 53°F. The last steps are the remuage, disgorgement and the addition of liqueur d ’expedition. This is a dark red wine with wild strawberry aromas and flavors and hints of other red fruits and berries. $29img_2652-grangano

Cantina Federiciane Montelone di Napoli Gragnano DOC Sorrento Peninsula 2010, made from Piedirossa and Sciascinoso. Fermentation with selected yeast takes place in temperature controlled autoclaves.  This is a fizzy red wine that when poured has a lot of foam that quickly disappears in the glass. It is fruity with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of raspberries and strawberries, and easy to drink. In Naples they often drink sparkling beverages with pizza and Gragnano goes very well with pizza margarita. $16

The next 3 are from Piedmont and all have a certain degree of sweetness.

Fontanafredda Asti Spumante DOCG is made from the Moscato Bianco grape, also known as Moscato Canelli.  It is a sparkling wine produced by using the Charmat method. It is low in alcohol, about 7%, and has aromas and flavors of peach, honey and tropical fruits. It should be drunk young because the wine is at its best when it is fresh. $1602_vietti_moscato_dasti

Vietti Moscato D’Asti “Cascinetta” DOCG 2014 is made from the same grape as Asti and has many of the same flavors and aromas. It is also low in alcohol around 6%. The difference is that this wine is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and it is vintage dated while Asti is not. It should be drunk as close to the vintage date as possible. The two wines share the same DOCG $16

Banfi Vigna Regali “Rosa Regale” Spumante Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG 2014 is a sweet wine and it is most famous as a red sparkling wine. Made by the Charmat method. It is made from the Brachetto grape. It has intense berry flavors and aromas, especially strawberry, and goes very well with chocolate and all kinds of chocolate desserts. $20

I have written 3 articles this month on Champagne:

https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/vintage-champagne-for-the-new-year/

https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/champagne-ed-mc-carthy-on-vintage-blanc-de-blancs-champagnes/

https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/blanc-de-blancs-champagne-with-champagne-ed-mc-carthy/

but I just have to mention one more, Dom Perignon Rosè.

At the Wine Media Guild Champagne tasting and lunch the topic was Blanc de Blancs Champagne. Toward the end of the lunch Christina Jacobs asked me if I wanted to taste another Champagne, it was Dom Perignon Rose 2004. Made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay more or less. She only had one bottle.img_2014

It may be the best Rosè Champagne that I have ever tasted. This is powerful, complex and elegant Champagne. There are hints of raspberry, cranberry, apricot, spice and so much more. It has a very long finish and an aftertaste the just goes on and on. Christian is the Champagne specialist for Moet-Hennessy, producers of Dom Perignon. It is expensive around $345 but worth the money if you are so inclined.

Happy New Year!

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Vintage Champagne for the New Year

The NY Wine Press Champagne Holiday Luncheon reminds me every year that the New Year is coming. Harriet Lembeck organizes the event and once again Ed Mc Carthy spoke about Champagne, Vintage Champagne. For the first time, the event was held at the Vanderbilt Suites. There were 13 Champagnes in all: img_2174

Domaine Dehours Brut Rose Oeil De Perdrix 2009 Made from 55% Pinot Meunier, 45% Old-Vine Chardonnay, fermented in Duchêne barriques.  A small touch of red wine is added for color and aroma depending on the vintage. There is very light skin contact on the press.  The nuances are totally different than a full maceration and are elegant and floral. The wines are full aged on the lees and clarified by natural decanting without filtration or fining. The dosage is 2%

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Cathleen Burke Visscher with Domaine Dehours

The estate was founded by Ludovic Dehour in 1930, one of the first independent growers. Today Jéröme, Ludovic’s grandson, is the proprietor and winemaker. The estate is comprised of 42 parcels in the villages of Cerseuil, Mareuil-le-Port, Troissy and Oeuilly and Port-à-Binson at the intersection of two valleys, the Marne and the Flagot. The sites are predominantly north facing. The extensive vineyard holdings allow a large array from which to choose and they vinifiy only a strict selection of the highest quality under his own name and sell 30-50% each year.  The three traditional Coquard vertical presses allow them to press each of the individual parcels separately.

The wines are full aged on the lees and clarified by natural decanting without filtration or fining.

While the estate is registered as a négociant-manipulant, no grapes are purchased, and all of the wines are entirely estate-grown. This was served as an aperitif. At $72 Ed said this was a real bargain.

Ed divided the Champagne into three flights to accompany the food.

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Christina Jacobs with Moet- Hennessy

Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 made from 40% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir and 23% Meunier. The dosage is 5g/liter. Ed said that every Grand Vintage is unique because it is the Cellar Master’s personal interpretation of revealing the exceptional personality of single vintage years. 2008 was an excellent vintage. They are the biggest producer in Champagne but the wines are of the highest quality. The wine has hints of citrus fruit and mandarin orange with a touch of honeysuckle and brioche. $75img_2180

Piper-Heidsieck Vintage Brut 2006 made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 17 crus: 9 Grand Crus, 7 Premiers Crus, 8 Pinot Noir, 9 Chardonnays. In 2006 because of the weather the winemaker reduced the proportion of Pinot Noir compared to past years thus reaching parity between Pinot and Chardonnay to moderate the Pinot’s intensity. The wine was aged for 6 years in the cellars. The wine has hints of apricots and black berries with a touch of spice. $75img_2181

Henriot Millesime 2006 made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 6 Grand Crus: Maily Champagne, Verzy, Verzenay on Montagne de Reims, Mesnil-su-Oger, Avize, Chouilly on Côte des Blancs. The wine has hints of raspberries and strawberries with a touch of hazelnuts and brioche and a long finish. Ed said this house is finally getting the praise it deserves. $85.img_2182

Louis Roederer Et Philippe Starck Brut Natural en 2009 Made from Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. The grapes are grown in the Côteaux de Cumères. All the grapes from the various parcels were harvested on the same day. They were pressed together all at once, a technique used in the past. The wine was aged for 5 years in the cellars and left for a minimum of 6 months after disgorging to mature. The wine has hints of peach and hazelnuts with citrus notes.

Emma Criswell with Louis Roederer

Emma Criswell with Louis Roederer

Ed said this represents modern, ripe and ready-to-drink Champagne. The first vintage was in 2006  $85img_2175

Served with Seared Scallop, Roasted Caulflower Crema, and Caviar Vinaigrette.

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Second Flightimg_2183

Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Brut 2008 Made from 50% Chardonnay from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize, 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 5% Pinot Meuniers from Dizy. The dosage is 9 g/l and the wine is aged for over 6 years in the cellars.The wine has citrus aromas with hints of orange and lemon peel. On the palate there were white fruit flavors and a touch of almonds. $150img_2184

 Veuve-Clicquot 2008 La Grand Dame Brut 2006 made from 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay. Verzenay/Avize are the two dominant crus in the blend of eight grand crus from Ciicquot’s own 100% rated Grand Cru Vineyards on the Còte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. It has hints of white peaches, apricots and brioche. It needs two or three years from release in order be at its best. $155img_2185

 Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 100% Chardonnay.  Ed said this is one of the few remaining family owned and operated Champagne houses. The grapes are pressed immediately in presses located in the vineyards. The first pressing, known as the cuvee, is followed by two more pressings known as the first and second “tailles”. Only the juice from the cuvee goes into this wine. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and about 5% of the wine is matured for a few months in 225 liter new oak casks. Prior to disgorgement the wine is aged for 9 or 10 years. This is their flagship Champagne. Ed described it as being full and rich.  It was toasty with hints of white fruit, good acidity and a long lingering finish.Ed is a big fan of this Champagne house and of this wine. It was one on my favorites. $150

Bethany Burk with

Bethany Burke with Andre Jacquart

Andre Jacquart “Les Mesnil” Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2006 Millesime 100% Chardonnay. 60% from Vertus 1er cru, vinified in stainless steel, 40% Grand Cru Le Mesnil-sur-Olger vinified in older Burgundy oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine is on the lees for 5 years before disgorgement. The dosage is 4g/l.. Tom Maresca liked the wine so much at the tasting that he served it to Michele and I for our Christmas dinner and his apartment. https://ubriaco.wordpress.com/  It was an excellent choice.

img_2186 It has flavors and aromas of  citrus fruit with a touch of brioche and almonds.   $75img_2176

Served with House Cured Skuna Bay Salmon, Green Chickpeas, Avocado Puree, Mache.

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Third Flightimg_2187

Pol Roger Brut 2006 Made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, the traditional house vintage blend. The grapes come from 20 Grands and Premiers cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings, one at the press house immediately after the pressing and the second, a débourbage a froid, in stainless steel tanks at 6°C for 24 hours. A slow cool fermentation takes place under 18°C in stainless steel with each variety and each village kept separate. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending. The wine remains in the cellar until remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne today.

It is aged for 8 years in the cellars before being disgorged and released into the market. This is a full-bodied complex wine with hints of quince and apple with touches of dried fruits, brioche and almonds.$100img_2188

Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Brut 2006 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. Ed wrote in his book Champagne for Dummies, the wine’s “…trademarks are its exquisite balance, its creaminess, its elegance, its very fine tiny bubbles and its complex flavors.” He was also right on the mark when he said, “With age, Cuvee Dom Perignon develops aromas and flavors of toast, coffee and honey.” $150img_2189

Alfred Gratien Brut Millesime 2000 made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir. They have 1.56 hectares of Grands Crus and Premiers Crus classified vines in the heart of the Côte des Blancs region. They also purchase grapes. Ed said that all operations such as riddling and disgorgment are done by hand. Champagne Krug and Alfred Gratien are the only two Champagne houses that ferment all of their wines in small oak casks, 228-liter barrels. He emphasized the words “old casks” that impart no oak flavors to the wine.

This is an elegant, complex and well-structured wine with hints of gingerbread and hazelnuts and a touch of raisins.  $80  Ed said 2000 is the current vintageimg_2190

Bollinger La Grand Annėe Brut 2005  made from 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay. This was one of my top wines. Both Ed and I felt that it would age very well. It is intense, concentrated, rich Champagne with aromas and flavors of toasted brioche.img_2177

Served with Roasted Lamb Chop, Butternut Squash, Maitake Mushrooms, Peruvian Black Mint

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and dessert

Special thanks to Vanderbilt Suites represented by Sharon Colabello, Director of Catering, Eric Basulto, Chef, and Matthew Padvarietis, Restaurant Manager for helping to make it a wonderful event.

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Jeremy Parzen on Wine Service and a Visit to Poderi Colla Winery

When a sommelier refuses to pour you a wine (go the winery): Poderi Colla, my top estate visit 2016

best-italian-pinot-noirIt had to have been 2003 when someone graciously offered to take me to dinner at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. At the time Per Se wasn’t online yet and Ducasse was New York City’s only three-Michelin-star restaurant (remember all those articles about whether or not Michelin-style restaurants would take hold in the city?). Even though the restaurant had been open for 3 years, it was still one of the sexiest and most difficult reservations to obtain. Henry Kissinger was in the dining room the night we ate there.

We were seated in the back, near the restroom, not that that mattered. It was a beautiful restaurant and there literally wasn’t a bad seat in the house.

I had been asked by the host to select the wine and when I spied the 1996 Poderi Colla Barolo Dardi Le Rose on the list for great price (around $130 if I remember correctly), I couldn’t resist ordering it.

barolo-soil-typesThe sommelier took my order but then returned to inform me that she wouldn’t be opening the wine for me.

“It’s too young,” she said, “and it isn’t drinking well. We’ve selected a different bottle for you instead.”

She had picked a new-barrique-aged Barbera d’Asti instead. It wasn’t the time or the place to make a fuss (in part because I was someone’s guest). And so, in the spirit of not interrupting the brio of the evening (we could hear Kissinger’s voice booming from the main dining room) and to go with the flow, I bit my tongue (an apt expression!) and didn’t say a thing.

best-italian-red-wineOne of my early mentors, the Italian wine maven Charles Scicolone, had first told me about Poderi Colla and the legacy of Beppe Colla, his brothers, and his family’s legacy as winemakers.

You don’t me to recount that story here. Many before me have written ably of Beppe Colla’s herculean contribution to the evolution of the Piedmont wine trade and the many benchmarks that he has set over the arc of a career well spent and a life well lived.

See, for example, Charles’ excellent post from earlier this year here. And see this wonderfully informed winery profile by British wine merchant John Hattersley.

What I will tell you is that until you tread the gorgeous vineyards of this farm and breathe in the salubrious air atop the estate’s Bricco del Drago (“Dragon’s Hill,” in the first photo above), you only know half the story of this magical estate and its enchanting wines.

beppe-collaWhen I visited in the spring, Tino Colla talked at length about organic farming and why his family doesn’t farm organically. It’s all about creating balance in the vineyards, he explained (just look at the flowers growing between the rows in the Bricco del Drago above!).

He laughed as he told our group about a recent visitor from California who was obsessed with organically farmed produce. When she was served an estate-grown peach at the end of a lunch at the estate, he said, she was horrified to find a worm on the piece of fruit. When he tried to explain to her that the worm was a sign of a healthy farm and the absence of pesticides, she wasn’t having it — figuratively and literally.

As he shared his bemusement over her misconceptions about organic growing practices, I remembered the disconnect (literal and figurative) between that first bottle of Colla and me. Looking back, I wonder: was the wine not ready for me or was I not ready for the wine in the sommelier’s opinion?

I hope that that sommelier someday makes it to Poderi Colla. Then she’ll realize that the people who make these wines make them to share with people who want to learn what Langhe wines really are.

I must have visited 20 wineries over the last 12 months and 9 trips to Italy in 2016. Poderi Colla was a visit of a lifetime. The luncheon, the eye-opening tasting, the winemaking museum, and the breath-taking hike through the vineyards. I can’t recommend the estate and the wines highly enough.

wine-museum-italy

 I could not resist leaving a picture of one of the Parzen Family Singers

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Sella & Mosca: Sardinian Wine at its Best

Sella & Mosca’s I Piani estate in Sardinia is situated in the northwest corner of the island just inland from the port of Alghero. The 1,600 acre property has more than 1,200 aces of vines making it one of the largest wine estates in Europe.img_1809

Sella & Mosca was founded in 1899 by Sig. Sella and Sig. Mosca. Today the Campari Group owns the estate. All the grapes are estate grown and they are converting to organic farming.

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Giovanni Pinna

I was very impressed by the winery when I visited a number of years ago. Recently I had the opportunity to try these wines again.

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GianMatteo Baldi

The speakers were Giovanni Pinna, the chief wine maker and GianMatteo Baldi, managing director.

Giovanni spoke about the wines and  GianMatteo spoke about the winery.img_1807

La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2015 100% Vermentino. After the harvest, select grape bunches are exposed to the warm autumn sunlight and undergo a brief, natural drying process. Following a gentle pressing, the juices are fermented in stainless steel vats for 12 days at a low temperature. The wine remains in the bottle a short time and is released at its optimum freshness. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with hints of pear. $13.99img_1813

Terre Bianche Torbato di Alghero Doc 2014 100% Torbato The grapes are manually and mechanically harvested between September and October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats at a low temperature for 20 days with natural yeast. 30% of the juice is aged for four months in 2 or 3 year old barrels. $20.99

GianMatteo said they have the last of the Torbato grape on the island of Sardinia, or any place else. One of the reasons for this is that Sella & Mosca started out as a nursery. When I visited the winery we had a sparkling Torbato, which I really enjoyed. When I asked GianMatteo if they still make it he said yes but at this time it was not available in this country.img_1814

Terre Rare Carignano del Sulcis DOC 2012 made from 100% Carignano. Grapes are harvested by hand in October and fermentation is in stainless steel vats for 10 to 15 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place soon after the alcoholic fermentation is complete. The wine is aged for 3 years in used French barriques and for several months in bottle before release. The wine is rich and concentrated with hints of cherry, raspberries and a touch of spice. $14.99img_1817

Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC 2012 100% Cannonau. Grapes are harvested manually and mechanically in late autumn and undergo fermentation in stainless steel vats for 15 days. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels and for several months in bottle before release. This wine had bright red fruit, with hints of cherry and plum. This is a very good food wine and a bargain for the price. $16.99

Giovanni said that Cannonau should never see barriques but should be aged in botti (very large barrels).img_1815

Tanca Farrá Alghero DOC 2011 made from 50% Cannonau and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are harvested by hand in September and October. After crushing there is a 3-day cold fermentation, followed by fermentation is stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. The varieties are blended and the wine is aged for 3 years, first in used barriques and then in traditional large Slavonian oak casks. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release.

Giovanni said Tanca Farra means “Iron Earth” in the Sardinian dialect because of the high iron content of the soil in this portion of the estate where the grapes are grown.   $26.99

Cabernet Sauvignon with a difference: Marchese di Villamarina

 Sella & Mosca has been making this wine since the 1950’s. It is a style of Cabernet that I really like.

It is a complex elegant wine with nice red fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather and a touch of spice. It has a long finish and a very pleasing after taste. It is a wine that can be enjoyed with food. The wines were showing very well. This is a wine that needs years to develop. The 1999 and 1989 showed no signs of age though the 1989 had become mellower and was my favorite.

Giovanni took us through a tasting of these wines.

We tasted the 2010, 2009,1999 and 1989.

Marchese di Villamarina Algero DOC 2010 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes are harvested manually and mechanically in late autumn and fermented in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged for 18 months in small French oak casks and for 12 months in large oak casks and finally 18 months in bottle before release.img_1820

Giovanni said the 2010 vintage there was a rainy spring and the summer had moderate temperatures, which led to an overall tardy vintage. However, the grapes matured well, shedding the green/vegetal scents and developing red fruit and the delicate floral notes typical of Sardinia’s terroir. $64.99img_1819

2009 This was a particularly favorable vintage. There was rainfall during the winter and spring nurtured a healthy growth cycle. The summer was dry with good temperature variations that did not overstress the vines but contributed to the development of sugars, structure and aroma. The harvest was delayed due to some rainfall at the end of September but the delay resulted in a vintage generous in body and color. $NAimg_1818

1999 there was a dry winter and a particularly hot summer with a slightly higher then average level of rainfall, which resulted in a well-balanced vintage with a hot harvest which contributed a noteworthy ripeness of fruit.$NAimg_1821

1989 was a very favorable vintage resulting in well-developed aromatics balanced by great structure, including a well integrated, racy acidity. Grapes were harvested during the last days of September when phenolic ripeness was reached and grassy characters softened. $NAimg_1822

The also make a dessert wine which I have not tasted since I was in Sardinia -Anghelu Ruju 1979. it  is very good but at the moment it is not imported in the US.

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Champagne Ed Mc Carthy on Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagnes

Ed McCarthy then spoke about Vintage Blanc de Blancs. They are made from the best  grapes from the choicest vineyards. The aromas  and flavors are more concentrated and  are more full bodied.

Ed

Ed McCarthy and friend at the WMG Champagne Tasting and Lunch.

They are aged longer which adds more complexity and the grapes are from one vintage which is always an above average year or an excellent one. He said that for him vintage Champagne was the better buy conceding the quality but added not every occasion calls for vintage Champagne. He likes vintage Champagne with dinner and non vintage Champagne as an apéritifs.

Vintage Blanc de Blancs

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Champagne Ayala 2008 Grapes are from 5 villages on the Cote des Blancs: Oger, Avize, Cramant. Vertus and Cuis. The wine rests in the cellars for 6 years after disgorgement, in order to develop complexity, intensity and roundness on the palate. It has hints of grapefruit, pastry dough and a hint of spice. Ed likes this house a lot but did not think the bottle he tasted was drinking that well. $85img_1993

Philippe Gonet, Belemnita, Grand Cru, 2005 this is the flagship cuvee of the house.  Single site in Le Mesnil sur Oger, planted in 1929.  9 years on the lees, 3 grams dosage, only 300 cases produced. Very complex wine with honey and truffle notes and secondary aromas.   Belemnita is the name of this cuvee which is their top as DP is to Moet or Comtes is to Taittinger. This champagne has an extra-brut dosage and is only made in exceptional years. It has tiny bubbles with hints of dried fruits, honey, grapefruit and a touch of hazelnuts and cashews $300

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Domaine Dehours, Brisefer, lieu-dit, 2005, 1.3 ha site specific plot in Mareuil le Port in the Marne normally planted to Meunier. This site was planted to chardonnay. Aged on the lees for 7 years. 3 grams dosage. Neutral barrel fermented. This is a wine with citrus flavors and aromas, with hints a grapefruit and apple and a touch of vanilla.  $95. 

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Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Nature 2009 The wine matures on the lees for five years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgment to attain maturity. Ed said there is no dosage and no malolatic fermentation. The wine has floral notes and hints of white fruit, almonds and mint. $85img_1999

Champagne A. R. Lenoble 2008 Chardonnay from the Grand Cru village of Chouilly. The dosage is 4g/l. Only 10% of the wine is vinified in wood and there is a very light dosage. The wine has hints of pear, apple and a touch of lemon. $64img_2001

Champagne Bruno Paillard 2006 Chardonnay grapes from the Còte des Blancs, all with a 100% classification. The fermentation method they use was established generations ago for Champagne “Demi Mousse”. When the still wine is decanted for the second fermentation in the bottle, less sugar and yeast is added than for traditional Champagne. This results in a less powerful bottle fermentation, producing a pressure of 4.5 kg instead of the normal 5 or 6. The dosage is 5 grams residual sugar. Ed said this is perfect for Blanc de Blancs because it enhances the finesse of the Chardonnay and adds freshness and elegance. This is a complex, elegant Champagne with an array of aromas and flavors with hints of citrus, white fruit, a touch of brioche, toasted almonds and good minerality. It has a long finish and very pleasant aftertaste. $90img_2003

Champagne Pol Roger 2008 made from grapes from the Grand Crus of the Cõte des Blancs: Oiry, Chouillu, Cramant, Avize and Oger. There are two débourbages (settlings) one at the press house immediately after pressing , the second “a froid” in stainless steel tanks at 6C for 24 hours. A slow fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with each variety and each village kept separate. There is full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending. The secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9C in cellars 33 meters below street level. It remains here until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand a rarity in Champagne today. The wine has hints of grapefruit, apricot and a touch of apple. Produced in limited quantities, this cuvee has been aged for 7 years in the cellars before release. $115. This Champagne was showing very well. img_2004

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 Ed said this is one of the few remaining family owned and operated Champagne houses. They age their wines for a long period before release. It is located in Reims, France. This is a complex Champagne with hints of citrus fruit, lime blossom and a touch of grapefruit. Ed is a big fan of this Champagne house and of this wine. It was one on my favorites. $130img_2006

Champagne Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002. This was by far the most expensive Champagne at the tasting. The grapes come from the best vineyards and Ed had mixed emotions as to whether it was worth the money. He added it may be one of the best Blanc de Blancs made but it needed more time especially in an exceptional vintage like 2002. There was some controversy about this wine, Ed really liked it but I felt the bottle I tasted was off. $325img_2007

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires 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 Reims that have a magnificent, 2,000 year old Gallo-Roman cellar to age their wines. This is complex Champagne with aromas and flavors of dried and candied fruits, dates, and notes of hazelnuts and almonds.  $195

 

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Blanc de Blancs Champagne with “Champagne” Ed Mc Carthy

“Champagne Ed” Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, presented 18 Blanc de Blancs Champagnes for the Wine Media Guild’s tasting and lunch at The Leopard at des Artistes in NYC.

Ed said that Champagne Blanc de Blancs (white from white) could only be made from Chardonnay grapes.

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Ed McCarthy

Many Champagne houses believe in the traditional philosophy that blending is better and therefore do not make a Blanc de Blancs. About 5% of all Champagne made today is Blanc de Blancs. Even though most Blanc de Blancs are lighter in style than the traditional blended ones, they can age and are best from 8 to 10 years from the vintage date.

Fuller bodied Blanc de Blancs from the Grand Cru villages, such as Krug Clos du Mesnil, Salon and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, can age for 15 to 20 years or longer.

Champagne has a 300-year history but there was no Blanc de Blancs before 1920. It was Eugene-Aime Salon, founder of the house of Salon, that made his first vintage in 1921. Though popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Blanc de Blancs almost disappeared after Salon’s death in 1943. Taittinger in 1952 came out with the now famous Comtes de Champagne, a Blanc de Blancs, and the vintage appeared in 1957. Blancs de Blancs was here to stay.

The dosage for these lighter in style Blanc de Blancs is usually 5g/liter. It is the lightness and dryness that makes them perfect as an aperitif or with a first course like fish and seafood. Most Blanc de Blancs are more expensive than traditional Champagne because of the high price of the Chardonnay grapes.

Ed said that the great years for vintage Champagne are 1996, 2002 and 2008, which are on the market now.

The Champagne img_1986

Champagne Barons de Rothchilds NV in magnum. 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. $207img_1987

Champagne Collet NV most of the grapes come from the Cote des Blancs region and is made from 6 crus. It is aged for a minimum of five years in hundred-year-old chalk cellars, which is longer than the regulations require. The dosage is 7.5 grams per liter. It has floral notes, with citrus aromas and hints of grapefruit and wild flowers. $55 img_1988

Champagne Mumm de Cramant NV  There are almost 218 hectares of vineyards rated 98%, which are mainly on the eight most renowned Grand Crus: Aÿ, Biuzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Cramant, and Mailly-Champagne. 25% of the production comes from here, 75% is from independent growers. The grapes are picked between the end of September and mid October; about 100 days after the vines have flowered. As required by champagne appellation rules, picking is by hand. After pressing, the must is stored in vats for two weeks between 18°C and 20°C alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation always takes place but is not required by the appellation rules. In the cellars the liqueur de triage triggers a second alcoholic fermentation and the bubbles gradually form. As the bubbles form, the pressure inside the bottle increases, reaching as much as 6 bars.

Ed said that in this wine there was less pressure so the bubbles were not as forceful. It was one of the first Blanc de Blancs Champagnes introduced in1930. It is fresh, crisp, dry, light bodied with nice fruit aromas and flavors and a touch of white peach. $64img_1989

 Champagne Henriot NV  This is one of Ed’s favorite houses and one he feels does not get the attention it deserves. It is a blend of grapes from the Cote de Blancs and the villages of Mesnil- sur – Oger, Avize, Chouilly and others. The assembly consists of 30% reserve wine, the percentage can change depending on the vintage. This is wine with hints of orange blossom, honey, apricot and a touch of brioche. $55  Ed says that this Champagne House deserves to be better known.img_1990

Champagne Ruinart NV Chardonnay is the very soul of the winery with grapes coming mainly from the Cote des Blancs, and Montagne de Reims terroirs. In the cool of the underground chalk tunnels, the wine slowly matures in the bottle. In 1768 Ruinart acquired former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries (the Crayères), hollowed out under the city of Reims to a depth of 38 meters. The site extends over three levels with eight kilometers of galleries. There is a constant temperature of 11°C with no vibrations and a perfect humidity level. This is Champagne with nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of apple and apricot. $72img_1991

Champagne Gosset Grand Blanc 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. $77img_2018

Extra Brut NV. Philippe Gonet, 3210, NV  Cuvee. The numbers stand for 3 years on the lees, 2 vineyard sources (50% Le Mesnil and 50% Montgueux.  Montgueux is chalky and is considered a non-classified GC of the south. The fruit is fuller but also has minerality from the chalk.  Le Mesnil gives tension, freshness and salinity on the mouth.  1 is for 1 cepage and 0 is for zero dosage. It is marked extra brut but there is no sugar added.  50% of the cuvee is reserve wine from a solara started 10 years ago. The wine has floral notes, a touch of toast and hints of apricot, peach and lime. It has a fresh and lingering finish.  $75.
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 Champagne Andre Jacquart Mesnil Brut Nature NV Malolactic fermentation does not take place, a minimum of 5 years on the lees before disgorgement and zero dosage. 70% of the wine is aged in old Burgundy barrels. Ed said that the grapes come from the best villages in Champagne. This is elegant champagne with hints of pear and peach with a long and fruity finish. Ed was very impressed with this champagne and it is a bargain at $70. Ed said this was the NV Champagnes with the most body, which is typical of their style.

 

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Wine Books, Food Books and a Whiskey Book for Holiday Gifts

 

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017img_1561

Daniele Cernilli (aka Dr. Wine) is one of the foremost experts on Italian wine and has been a wine critic for many years. He was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso and for 24 years was the editor of the Gambero Rosso-Slow Food Wine Guide. Daniele was the inventor of the now famous Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) classification. Currently, he has is own web magazine called “Doctor Wine” www.doctorwine.it.

Daniele’s book is divided by region and wines are rated in a 100 point system. There is a red wine of the year, a white wine of the year, sparkling wine of the year, etc. There are 1,000 wineries profiled and an average of 2.5 wines per winery. But it is the expertise of the author and his staff that sets this guide above all the others.

The Wines and Food of Piemonteimg_2025

by Tom Hyland

Tom is a wine writer and wine teacher that I have know for a number of years. I have travelled with Tom to Piedmont on press trips and have tasted wine with him.

In his book, Tom does a thorough job of covering the wines of Piedmont, not only the well known ones such as Barolo and Barbaresco, but also less well known ones like Pelaverga, Ruche, Timorasso and Nascetta. Tom is a true lover of the wine, food and people of Piedmont and conveys that feeling in this book.img_2023

Italian Wine and Cheese Made Simple (2ND Edition)

Italian Wine Notes

by Gary Grunner & Bob Lipinski

I first met Gary Grunner when I was the wine director for I-Trulli Restaurant in NYC. Gary has worked in the wine and food industry for many years and in 2009 was awarded The Italian Trade Commission’s Distinguished Service Award.

Bob Lipinski is a Certified Sommelier. He has written eight books and more than 500 articles on wine and spirits. The list of his accomplishments goes on and on. In this book he has teamed up with Gary Grunner to create a handy guide to Italian wine and cheese.img_2022

Italian Wine Notes

by Gary Grunner and Bob Lipinski

Gary and Bob make it easy for anyone to understand   Italian wines. The book covers all the basic topics about Italian wine and gives food suggestions, too. This is the perfect gift for someone looking to understand Italian wine.img_2024

101: Everything You Need to Know about Whiskey

Bon Lipinski

The title of this book says it all!! This is a comprehensive guide that belongs on every bookshelf.its

The Italian Slower Cooker

by Michele Scicolone

Easy recipes to make in a slow cooker, written by my wife, best selling author Michele Scicolone. Her recipes are based on the idea that good ingredients and simple techniques can produce outstanding dishes with little effort in a slow cooker or “crockpot”. She has also written The French Slow Cooker and The Mediterranean Slow Cooker.

The Italian Vegetable Cookbookthe-italian-vegetable-cover

by Michele Scicolone

Michele’s latest book. Learn to cook vegetables the Italian way. Simple, healthy, delicious food for every day and special occasions.

1,000 Italian Recipesitalian-slow

by Michele Scicolone

Yes, there really are 1,000 recipes and yes, she tested them all on me! In this book, Michele covers everything from Italian appetizers to desserts. The only book you will ever need on Italian cooking.

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