Monthly Archives: August 2017

Neapolitan Lunch at IL Gattopardo NYC

For my next to last birthday celebration this year, Michele and I went to Il Gattopardo.

Gianfranco Sorrentino

A meal there is like eating in southern Italy with the emphasis on Campania and Naples. Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner, is the perfect host.

Chef  Vito Gnazzo

Vito Gnazzo, the chef, always comes out to tell us the specials and give his recommendations.

It is also one of the most comfortable restaurants in the city and the service is always excellent.

We started with a bottle of Costa D’Amalfi DOC Tramonti Bianco 2015 from Giuseppe Apicella made from 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella. Exposure mainly southwest, and the pergola cultivation is at 300 to 500 meters. In the new vineyards there is guyot training and between 4,000 and 5,000 plants per hectare. Pergola there is 2,500 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place the second half of October and the grapes are hand picked. After a careful selection in the vineyard, the stalks are removed and the grapes macerate with the skins before they are pressed. The must is decanted by a static cold system and selected yeasts are injected into the must. It then ferments at a low temperature. Fermentation lasts for 20 to 30 days. The wine remains on the lees for 4 to 5 months. The wine was fruity and fresh with a good structure; it had hints of tropical fruit, honey and a touch of green apple, good acidity, a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

The restaurant sent out rice balls and escarole pie

After speaking to Vito, we ordered Buffalo Mozzarella in Carrozza with a light anchovy sauce. This is one of Michele’s favorites and she always orders it when we are in Naples. It is the ultimate toasted cheese sandwich made with sweet creamy buffalo mozzarella. The anchovy sauce is the perfect sharp counterpoint to the crisp toast and sweet cheese.

With the next two dishes we had the Brunello di Montalcino 1970 from Silvio Nardi made from 100% Sangiovese. The wine was showing its age and after 3/4 of the bottle was gone and became undrinkable.

Next we went with one of the specials Pappardelle with Rabbit and Mushroom Ragu, which was delicious.

For the main course, I had a dish I have never seen on a menu in a restaurant in Naples but is often made in people’s homes. Traditional Neapolitan meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. This is one of my favorites.

For desert we always order the same thing: La Pastiera, a traditional Neapolitian cheesecake. Vito’s version is light and delicate, and one of the best I have ever eaten.

Il Gattopardo 13-15 W. 54th St. NY, NY
212-246-0412

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From the Alto Adige: Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc and Schiava

 

Alto Adige, also know as Südtirol due to its deep-rooted bicultural heritage, is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.

Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The vineyards range from 600 to 3,300 feet and the soil is mainly porphyry, limestone and slate rock with glacial deposits of gravel, sand and clay. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tyrol and themselves Tyroleans. The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy. Ham is called speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.

The Wines

Sylvaner Alte Reben 2015 Valle Isarco DOC Pacher Hof 100% Sylvania. The winery is located on the slopes of Neustifit just above Brixen and the vineyards have been family property since 1142. The vineyards are at 620 to 700 meters with sandy and loamy soil. The microclimate makes it warm here and there is a big variation between night and day temperatures. Training system is guyot and the harvest is by hand the last week of October. There is a slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks and the wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks and barrels for 6months. The wine was bottled in April 2016. This is a wine with fresh aromas and hints of tropical fruit, pineapple and a touch of banana. The wine works well with speck and the difficult to match asparagus. $26

Lahn Sauvignon 2016 Alto Adige 2015 St. Michael Eppan, The 340 winemaking families that form the backbone of the winery joined forces in 1907 to create the St. Michael-Eppan Winery. Made from 100% Sauvignon from vines 10 to 25 years old in Eppan/Berg at 480 to 550 meters. The exposure is southeast , the soil is limestone gravel and the training system is guyot. Harvest at the end of September to early October by hand with a selection of grapes.
Fermentation and development of the lees is in stainless steel tanks until the end of February. This is a balanced wine with fresh fruit flavors, a hint of grapefruit, a touch of honey and good minerality. It matches well with light Asian cuisine such as sushi. $19

Missianer Vernatsch (Schiava) 2016 Sudtirol Alto Adige DOC St. Paul. The St. Paul’s Cooperative Winery was founded in 1907 by 36 wine growers from St. Paul, Missian, Berg and Unterrrain. Today there are over 141 members.
Vernatsch (Schiava) is a traditional South Tyrolean grape. The training system for these old vines is the Pergola. There is a slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel, then the wine is aged in large wooden barrels. This is a fruity wine with red and fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of blueberries. The wine goes well with speck, cold cuts and cheese. $19

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Three Pre- Birthday Celebrations with Wine and Food

The first celebration took place at the Oriental Gardens restaurant in New York Cities China Town

Soft Shell Crabs and they were fantastic!

We started with the Champagne Krug 1990  from the Krug Collection.

Then a fried sole with scallions.

Chablis Grand Cru just great

Puligny- Montrachet needs more time

1979 Chinon excellent

There was more food and wine but I got caught up in the eating and drinking.

 

Next on to La Pizza Fresca

We started with Krug NV

Then Chianti Classico 1971 Riserva Ducale from Ruffino

Pizza Margarita

Chateaueuf-du-Papes 1990 right on the money

Amarone 1967 Bertani

Pizza with Prosciutto

A young man waiting for his pizza

 

Next was Gastronomia Siciliana Norma

Buratta with arugula

Spaghetti with sea urchin (ricci di Mare) was fantastic

Chianti Classico 1996

Pizza with porchetta

Barolo 1989 – barolo at its best 1989 was a great vintage!

 

 

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Dinner with Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow

It is always a pleasure to be invited to Tom and Diane’s home for dinner. Both are excellent cooks. Tom writes a wine blog https://ubriaco.wordpress.com/ 
Diane has a food blog https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/
 Often I repost their articles on my own blog.

When Michele and I arrived, I saw that they were preparing one of my favorite dishes — stuffed fried zucchini flowers. In Rome I order them whenever I can.

. Tom was doing the frying and they were perfect. I ate them before I remembered to take a picture of them on my plate.

With the flowers Tom served a magnum of Fiano di Avellino 2000 “Erminia Di Meo Selection” 100% Fiano di Avellino

I tasted the 2003 with Roberto Di Meo when I was in Campania for the Campania Stories press trip and I was very impressed by the wine. Late harvest grapes were selected from a particular family parcel. There is a prolonged maceration with the skins at a low temperature followed by soft pressing and controlled temperature fermentation. A year after the harvest the wine remains in stainless steel with the “fecce fin” (lees) for 13 more years. It is an exceptional Fiano worth the long wait and proves that Fiano can age for many years. This is an elegant and complex wine with subtle hints of ripe citrus fruit and a touch of honey and smoke. It has a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.

They also served as an appetizer Mortadella filled with lightly pickled vegetables.

Next was a delicious fresh tomato and onion soup with pasta

With this we had a Chianti Classico 1970 from Ruffino. The wine was most likely made from Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Colorino and Ciliegiolo, and was produced by using the governo method. The governo method, once common in Tuscany, is a secondary fermentation created by the addition of 10-15% dried grapes, or the must of dried or concentrated grapes.  Colorino was usually the grape of choice to be dried.

This was my wine contribution and unfortunately it was showing its age. Tom and I drank some of it but Michele and Diane had more of the white wine and moved on to the next red wine.

Then there was a stew made with lamb and bell peppers.

With it we drank the Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 DOCG from Castello di Cacchiano made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo, Malvasia and Colorino. The vineyards are at 380 to 400 meters with a southern exposure. Soil is Alberese (a gray calcareous clay) of medium consistency with a substantial content of crushed limestone. The older vineyards have 3,300 vines per hectare and the newer between 5,000 and 9,260 and the training system is spurred horizontal cordon. Harvest is at the end of September and beginning of October. Maceration is on the skins for 3 weeks. Aging in small cask, tonneaux and barriques all made with French Allier oak.

This wine was drinking very well and showing no signs of age. It has hints of ripe red fruit and a touch of violet.

Tom and Diane always serve a cheese course with very interesting cheeses.

With the cheese we had the Barbaresco 1998 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo from Bruno Giacosa.

This was the red wine of the evening with hints of red and black fruits, spice and a touch of leather. The wine was a perfect combination with the cheese, even holding up to the Gorgonzola.

Then there was dessert, roasted peaches stuffed with amaretti and cocoa, a classic from Piedmont.

As usually Tom made espresso and as always we finished with a grappa. I is always a great pleasure to be invited to their apartment for dinner

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Rosé Wine and a Tomato Tasting on the Terrace

We live on the 20th floor of a Manhattan apartment building. The terrace is very sunny and Michele grows blueberries, tomatoes, mint, basil, etc. A few years after we moved in, we noticed a couple in the apartment building right across the street from us who also were growing tomatoes and other vegetables.

One night, we noticed the couple was out on their terrace having dinner with some guests. Next day on Facebook, a friend posted pictures of her and her husband having dinner on that very terrace. We contacted our friend and asked if she was visiting the people across the street the night before and she said, yes she was. She offered to introduce us to them and we became friends.

Valerie and Mitch are passionate about vegetable gardening tomatoes and grow many different varieties of tomatoes, plus eggplants, peppers, carrots and so on. Every year they invite us to a tomato tasting dinner.

We started with baba ganoush with peppers from the garden for dipping.

Then we had Caprese salad with two kinds of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

A delicious gazpacho followed.

Last but not least was fresh fettuccine with carrot top pesto and cherry tomatoes. If you have never tried it, carrot top pesto, with a delicate parsley flavor, is a nice alternative to the usual basil variety.

It was a lovely evening as we sat on the terrace finishing the last of our rose wine.

Maison Belle Claire Rosé 2016 Cotes de Provence made from 35% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 30% Cinsault. The soil is clay and limestone. The grapes are destemmed and there is temperature controlled pneumatic pressing without maceration.The wine has a light salmon color very typical of the Rose from the Cotes de Provence. It has intense red fruit with hints of strawberries and raspberries, good acidity and a very pleasing finish and aftertaste $18.

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A Summer Taste of Provence in NYC

“A Summer Taste of Provence in NYC” with Chateau De Chausse was the theme of a recent event.

Mr. Franck Bailleul, the general manager of Château De Chausse, spoke about the estate. Château De Chausse is situated near St. Tropez in Frances’s Povence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azur Region. The estate is nine miles from the town of St. Tropez. It is a 135-acre property on which 37 acres are planted in vines. The estate was established in 1986 and was purchased last year by Charles S. Cohen, a frequent visitor to Provence, who dreamed of owning a winery and made his dream come true.

The climate is Mediterranean and is moderated by the proximity to the coast and the surrounding forests. The soil is sandy clay and schist. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino) are planted in the vineyard.

Both Mr. Bailleul and Ms. Laurence Berlemont, the consulting enologist spoke about the wine. Mr. Baileul said that the grapes are harvested by hand and are strictly selected.

Côtes de Provence AOP White, 2016 -100% Rolle (Vermentino) Vineyards are cultivated according to sustainable agriculture methods. The grapes are transferred by gravity into the press for a short maceration period before pressing. After pressing, the must is fermented in stainless steel thermo-regulated tanks. This is a fresh aromatic wine with hints of wild flowers, honey, pears and other yellow fruits. There is a touch of apricots in the finish and aftertaste. Mr. Bailleul said this wine would develop in the bottle for several years. $28

Côtes de Provence AOP Rose, 2016, 65% Cinsault and 35% Grenache. The wine is salmon pink in color with hints of strawberry, raspberries and white stone fruits. $29

Ms. Berlemont said Grenache grapes are big in size and full of juice.

Côtes de Provence AOP “Diamant” White 2016 100% Rolle (Vermentino) This wine was very different from the first wine made from the same grape variety. Direct pressing tales place. After settling of the must, fermentation takes place in 300L new oak casks and the wine remains on the fine lees for 9 months prior to bottling.

Ms. Berlemont said the oak aging gives the wine subtle notes of vanilla and brioche, with a touch of coconut. The wine has a long aging potential from 5 to 10 years and will evolve offering notes of grilled almonds and quince paste. $58.00

The Red Wines

Mr. Bailleul said the high quality of the red wines from Provence have yet to be discovered. 

Côtes de Provence AOP Red 2013 & 2012, 50% Syrah and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Long maceration at warm temperatures is followed by fermentation in thermo-regulated stainless steel tanks. 15% of the wine is aged in new and used oak barrels. The wine has hints of licorice, violets and black cherry. Wine can age for 4 to 8 years. The 2013 is $33.00.

Côtes de Provence AOP Red 2011, 60% Syrah and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mr. Bailleul said this wine is no longer available in the market. It is now a 50/50 blend.

Côtes de Provence AOP “Rubis” 2013 & 2010 Red Long maceration at warm temperatures is followed by fermentation in stainless steel thermo-tanks. The wine is aged for 15 months in French oak. The wine has hints of black fruit and mocha with a hint of leather. The 2010 is more developed but not showing any signs of age. The wine can last for 10 years or more. The 2013 is $112.00.

Ms. Berlemont said the grapes for “Rubis” are picked by hand and sorted in order to get rid of the little branches and any fruit which is not totally mature or with imperfections. The grapes are harvested quite mature at 14 to 15 % alcohol. This is done in order to obtain black fruit aromas such as blackberries.The wine is aged in 100% new barrels The wood aging differs from year to and depending on the vintage and the tasting of the wine as to oxygenate or fine and the aging time. At the moment only 1,200 bottles of “Rubis” are produced are produced.

There was reception at the end where we could taste the wine again with food. Mr. Cohen’s favorite band provided the entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow on Champagne, Prosecco and Food

A Sparkling Wine Tasting Dinner

 A few coincidences set the stage for a very interesting dinner at home this week.

  • Beloved Spouse, having decided to write a post for his wine blog on a comparison between prosecco and champagne, brought home a representative bottle of each, first for a formal tasting, then to test with dinner foods.
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  • I had just read Fatal Pursuit, a detective novel by Martin Walker that has Perigord police chief/gastronome Bruno Courrèges making blinis of an unusual kind to serve with local caviar – a kind I wanted to try to make.
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  • We had a little jar of American transmontanus caviar in the refrigerator.

Everyone who reads the Bruno books knows that their lavish descriptions of the hero’s cooking are virtually narrative recipes. I’ve written about re-creating some of his dishes here. The blinis in this story are not the traditional Russian ones in several ways. Bruno doesn’t use any buckwheat flour; he adds chopped chives to his batter of flour, milk, egg yolk, and melted butter; and – because he doesn’t have time to raise the blinis with yeast – he beats the egg white into peaks and folds it in. I did the same.
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I dropped the batter by tablespoonsful into very hot butter in a frying pan. (Bruno remarks that this is one of the few places he doesn’t use duck fat!) They cooked quickly and neatly, making 20 fluffy 2-inch pancakes.
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After we’d had the formal tasting of the sparkling wines alone, we opened our caviar and sat down to find out how the champagne and prosecco would go with our dinner dishes. The blinis themselves were fine – light and delicate, an excellent vehicle for the caviar. I think the leftovers, which I froze, may be just as good with smoked salmon or sturgeon.
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We did the same tasting of the two wines along with the dinner’s main course, which was sauteed soft-shell crabs on toast and a summer vegetable mélange of okra, corn, and tomatoes (which I’ve also written about here).
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I’ll leave the detailed results of the wine-wine and wine-food comparisons forTom’s blog post to report. What I’ll say is simply that Bruno’s blinis were a success, all the food was delicious, both the wines were delightful, and the entire evening sparkled like the wine.   dianecookbooks.wordpress.com

Prosecco and Champagne: Tasting Beyond the Bubbles

August 7, 2017

I have been enjoying both Champagne and Prosecco for many years now without ever thinking of making a direct comparison between them. I had, without a lot of thought about it, consigned them each to its own niche: Prosecco light and pleasing and sort of frivolous, Champagne a more serious wine for more important occasions. But I was brought up short recently by an innocent question from a wine civilian about what really was the difference between the two.

I had started giving the stock answer about the different grapes that each is made from, when I realized that in fact I had never drunk them side by side so as to be able to give the answer that my civilian friend was really seeking – the differences in how they taste and how that affects what one ought to drink them with. Not a glaring omission, you might think, except that that kind of side-by-side comparison is exactly what my first book, Mastering Wine, is based on and is what I have always believed is the best basic method of learning about wines. Color me embarrassed.
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To make up for that slip, and with Long-Suffering Spouse as a willing collaborator, I put together a tasting of a representative Prosecco and a representative Champagne designed to explore the two thoroughly: first, tasting alone in the classic clinical way; then with two stages of a dinner – first as apéritif alongside caviar, then alongside a main course of sautéed soft-shell crabs. (No one says a wine tasting can’t be a little self-indulgent.) It would be understatement to say the experiment was very interesting. You can read Diane’s account of the foods here.
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To keep the playing field as level as possible, I wanted to use readily available wines. Ideally, I would have liked them to be similar in price, but that proved impossible. No Prosecco in my local markets came anywhere near the price of most Champagnes, so I availed myself of an Astor Wines sale on sparklers to buy Nino Franco’s Rustico at about $15 and Pol Roger’s Brut NV at about $38. That’s close to standard price for the Prosecco and a very reasonable price for the Champagne. Rustico is a DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene, which is one the best zones for Prosecco, but it’s Nino Franco’s basic bottling. (The firm makes others, including a brilliant vintage bottling that is capable of great aging, but none was available locally.)  The Brut NV is Pol Roger’s most basic Champagne, so in that respect there was no tilt in the playing field, but I’m afraid the difference in price between the two wines definitely provided one.

So what did the tasting show me? Visually, there’s not much difference between them, both a pale gold, the Champagne a shade darker. Both had lovely fine and persistent perlage, despite the fact that the Rustico was made by the Charmat method and the Pol Roger had the benefit of the full méthode champenoise (not topics that I can go into here).
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The aromas showed more differences. The Rustico was yeasty smelling, hinting of fresh bread, while the Pol Roger was a tad more intensely bready, hinting of toast. Both were pleasing and inviting.

In the mouth, the Rustico tasted light and fresh, with floral and fruity notes, and specific suggestions of apple, while the Pol Roger showed more wheat and less fruit (though hints of pear popped up), by comparison seeming even a little austere on the palate and in the finish. The Rustico finished long, with a touch of elegance polishing its freshness.

This direct comparison was very instructive. Of the two wines, the Prosecco seemed the more direct and – I considered two words here – simple or honest. It was more obviously fruity, though we’re talking about nuanced fruit here, not in-your-face jam. It struck me as more immediately enjoyable, less demanding of attention or analysis. The Champagne seemed less direct or accessible – more intellectual, so to speak. It seemed weightier, more imposing. (The Prosecco had 11 degrees of alcohol, the Champagne 12.5.)

I deliberately used white wine glasses, not flutes, because I wanted to taste the wines and not just the effervescence. As the two wines sat for a while in the glasses and their sparkle faded, the fruit of the Prosecco showed better, while in the Champagne the winemaking came to the fore.

I would say that with neither of these wines is fruit the point. It’s an attraction, of course, but sparkling wines are a contrivance, and the point of the contrivance – at least in my opinion – is lightness and pleasure first and everything else after. Obviously there are outer limits of how much lightness and how much or little of anything else is desirable, and every winemaker and every drinker has to decide what those are for themselves.

Nothing I tasted in this match-up pushed me to prefer one wine over the other. Both offered high levels of pleasure of slightly different kinds, but in fact the two wines surprised me by how similar they were. And those similarities persisted with different foods, both wines tasting equally satisfactory in their own ways with caviar and blini and soft-shell crabs on toast.
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Each dish called up the Prosecco’s light, fresh fruit and the Champagne’s relatively greater weight and depth (the latter, I am certain, the result of being vinified from a blend of grape varieties rather than a single one). So there were no knock-outs or TKOs, just two excellent contenders of very slightly different weight classes, each performing in character in a variety of circumstances. As old carnival barkers used to say, ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice.

I could certainly have gotten more dramatically different results by choosing different wines – Nino Franco’s impressive vintage Primo, for instance, or Pol Roger’s always wonderful Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill – but I wanted to get as near parity in my selections as I could. Likewise, other palates making the same comparisons might come to different conclusions or perceive greater differences than I did. All I can tell you is what I tasted, and urge you, if you’re curious, to make the comparison for yourself.

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