Monthly Archives: August 2019

Another Celebration

My birthday this year fell on a Saturday and to celebrate I spent a long weekend in Montclair, NJ at the home of a good friend. It was a wonderful time of eating and drinking including a 1942 “Chianti.”

For my birthday dinner, Michele made Anchovy Twists for an appetizer, sticks of tender cream cheese pastry filled with anchovies.

With this we had

Champagne “Chardonnay” Brut 1982 Pol Roger & Co. 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 6°C 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 9°C 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 a touch of apple and a note of hazelnut. Produced in limited quantities, this cuvee has been aged for 7 years in the cellars before release. It was showing very well.

Melon Soup – A refreshing chilled soup made with cantaloupe, orange juice, honey and yogurt.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2002 Eduardo Valentini made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and biodynamic. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. This is a very complex, full-bodied wine with hints of citrus fruit, apple, mineral undertones, good acidity, a great finish and aftertaste, and that extra something that is difficult to describe. One of the guests called it the wine of the afternoon.

Puligny-Montrachet “Les Folatieres” 1982 Joseph Drouhin made from 100% Chardonnay in the central part of the Cotes de Beaune. There are 10,000 vines per hectare and the pruning system is guyot. There is a very slow pressing and the juice from the last pressing is not retained. No yeasts or enzymes are added. The wine goes directly into the barrel after decanting. It is aged in French oak barrels, 25% new. This is a complex, rich, velvety wine with hints of honey, honeysuckle, almond with dried fruit notes, with a very long aftertaste. It was wonderful.

Grilled Skewers  on the BBQ of Lamb, Bacon and Bread

served with Green Beans in Salsa Verde and a Tomato Salad was our main course.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru “Lavaux Saint-Jacques” 1982 Domaine Maume made from 100% Pinot Noir grown in a 28 hectare vineyard of clay and limestone soil. The vineyard is worked by horse and plow and is certified organic. The grapes are hand harvested and destemmed prior to fermentation on indigenous yeast. The wine is aged in 70% new French oak for a period of 18 months and then the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine has hints of black and red cherries with notes of violets and rose petals.

Barbaresco “Camp Gros Martinenga” 1982 Tenuta Cisa Asinari Dei Marchese Di Gresy made from 100% Nebbiolo (Magnum). This is a wine of elegance and structure with hints of tobacco and cherries, a touch of balsamic, well balanced and a long finish. There was almost half a bottle left and we drank it two days later and it was even better.

Cote-Rotie 1999 (Magnum) Jean Francois et Carmen Garon made from 100% Syrah. The Domaine is located in the municipality of Ampuis and it extends over 7 hectares in the extreme north of the Rhone Valley. This is a terroir- driven wine. It is a big, structured wine with flavors of red and black fruit and hints of cherry and blueberry. The wine needs more time and was drinking marketdly better two days later.

Brolio Rosso “Chianti Superiore” Castello di Brolio in Chianti, Siena, Casa Vinicola Barone Ricascoli Firenze 1942. The wine was made mostly of Sangiovese with the addition of Canaiolo, Malvasia and Colorino. I do not know if there was any Trebbiano in the blend or if the governo method was used. The wine was showing its age but still drinkable.

The dessert was a perfectly seasonal fresh peach cake which we ate with ice cream.

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Chateau Latour 1942 with Lunch

Michele and are going to Italy in November with friends and we invited them for lunch so we could make our plans. They knew my birthday was later in the week so they surprised me by bringing a Grand Vin Chateau La Tour 1942.

Michele made one of my favorite appetizers, which I always order when I am in Rome: deep fried zucchini flowers filled with mozzarella and anchovies.

I went to the Union Square Greenmarket early in the morning to make sure that they would have them and I bought an extra boxful just in case.

With the zucchini flowers we had Champagne:

J.L. Vergnon Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brute NV made from 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay from plots in le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Avize. There is 20% reserve wine aged for 3 months in oak barrels and 80% of the single year in steel tanks. The Champagne ages for 3 years in the cellars before disgorging. Dosage Brut 5g/L. The bubbles filed the glass of the fresh, complex and classic Champagne with hints of pear grapefruit and a touch of biscuit.

Louis Roederer Blanc De Blancs Brut 1997 made from 100% Chardonnay grown in calcareous soil in the heart of the Cote des Blancs in the Grand Crus of Mesnil-sur-Oger and Avize. The wine is matured on the lees for five years and left for a minimum of 6 months after disgorging to obtain perfect maturity. The Champagne has notes of white fruit and dried fruit with a creamy undertone and a touch of honeysuckle. For a wine over 20 years old it had a continuous train of bubbles and was very complex and elegant.

The main course was steak,

with green beans flavored with anchovies and pecorino,

a fresh, creamy corn pudding

and an heirloom tomato salad which we had with the red wine.

Grand Vin Chateau Latour 1942. Made from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Merlot. Its color and flavors made it seem like a much younger wine. It was perfect with the steak.

Barbera d’Alba 1978 Poderi Aldo Conterno “Conca Tre Pile” DOC Made from 100% Barbera from the Conca Tre Pile Vineyard in Bussia (Monforte d’Alba). Hand harvest the first week of October. There is skin contact inside stainless steel vats. The must stays in contact with the skins for about 8 to 10 days. The wine remains in stainless steel vats for a few months and then is put into oak casks where it remains for another few months. The wine was showing a little age but it still had hints of red fruit and a touch of hazelnuts.

With the cheese we had:

Recioto Valpolicella Valpantena Vino Spumante Naturale 1978 Bertaini made from Corvina and Rondinella and the grapes selected are those which have the most exposure to the sun. The grapes are dried for 3 months on bamboo racks. The wine is aged in cherry wood. This is a dense and velvety sparkling but not cloying wine which leaves the palate clean. It has concentrated cherry aromas and flavors. On the palate it has an aftertaste of walnuts. I do not believe Bertani makes this Spumante version any more.

 

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$20 and Under From All Over

 

Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc from estate vineyards in Tupungato, Alto Gualtallary, by the foothills of the Andes at 4,000 feet in Argentina. The soil is gravel and sand. Manual harvest takes place the first and second week of February. Cold maceration is at 8C for 24 hours to extract aromas and flavors. Fermentation is with selected yeasts at a maximum temperature of 15C for 15 days. This is a crisp white wine with hints of lime and apple with a touch of herbs and nice acidity. $12 

Pinot Grigio 2018 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Italy.  Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $18

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017  Made from 100% Pinot Gris hand harvested from select hillside vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon. The age of the vines is 4 to 32 years. Harvest was from mid-September to mid-October. Harvest sugars were 22.5 brix. They whole cluster press the grapes then the juice is fermented at a very cold temperature in small stainless steel tanks. The wine was bottled in Feb. 2018. This is a light to medium bodied wine with hints of pears, peaches, and apricots with refreshing acidity.  $18

Esporäo Private Selection Branco 2017 made from 95% Semillon and 5% field blend. Portugal.  The wine was created in 2001 to challenge the classic profile of the Alentejo wines.  The first planting was in 1993-1994. The soil is predominantly clay and the age of the vines is 22-26 years. The wine sees some time in oak. This wine qualifies as a garrafeira but is not bottled as one as  this variety is not recognized for garrafeira (wine that has been aged for at least 2 years in wood and another year in bottle). The wine has hints of citrus fruit with notes of white flowers and a touch of spice. $19

Nik Weis St. Urb-Hof Estate Dry Riesling 2018 QbA The production zone is the Mosel Valley, in Germany. The vines are 30 to 70 years old and organically farmed. After pressing the juice is left to clarify naturally for a day before transfer to stainless steel tanks for an ambient fermentation. 100% stainless steel for fermentation and aging. The wine is racked immediately after fermentation and stays on the lees for two to three month before it is bottled. This is a wine with hints green apple and flint with a nice minerality from the slate bedrock balanced by good acidity ($18)

11 Minutes- Rosé Trevenezie IGT Pasqua. Italy. Made mostly from Corvina with Trebbiano Lugana, Syrah and Camenere. The wine is in contact with the skin for 11 minutes which gives the wine its name. Once the must is obtained, it is cooled and transferred to a steel tank where it remains for about 11 hours, the necessary time for the more solid parts to decant. The must is inculcated with select yeasts. During fermentation there is daily monitoring of the wine. Then the wine remains in contact with the lees for about 3 or 4 months. The wine is filtered and bottled in January. The wine has hints of raspberry and strawberry, with floral notes and a touch of spice. $16

Domaine de Bila-Haut ”Les Vignes” Pays d”Oc Rose 2018 made from 55% Grenach and 35% Syrah. Michel Chapoutier. Located in Cõtes du Roussillon, Languedoc. France.  In the hills of the Agly Valley the 40-year-old vines are carefully attended. The juice is fermented and aged in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, a delicate pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then carefully blended for bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and a touch of raspberry. $15

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence.  France.  Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with red berry aromas and flavors that is very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18

Renzo Masi Chianti 2018 made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino primary from the Rufina area of Tuscany.The producer is Fattoria di Basciano. Italy.  Classic red wine vinification takes place with alcohol fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. It has aromas and flavors of red berries with a touch of violets and good acidity. It is a wine to be drunk young but could age for a few years.  $12

Rosso di Toscano Renzo Masi Etra e China made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Tuscany, Italy.  The two grape varieties are fermented separately and malolactic fermentation is completed in stainless steel tanks. The juice is blended and transferred into barriques previously used to produce the “crus “ of Fattoria di Basciano. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of currants, cherry and a touch of vanilla. $16

Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 made from 100% Cabernet Sauvigmon from vineyards in Tupugato, Alto Gualtallary, at the foot of the Andes at 4,000 ft. Argentina. The soil is gravel and sand. Harvest takes place between the last week of March and the first week of April. Fermentation is with selected yeasts for 15 days. This is a medium bodied wine with red berry aromas and flavors. $14

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Norma: Sicilian Food at its Best

Norma Gastronomia Siciliana in Manhattan is a restaurant that I frequent because of the great food and warm atmosphere.

I have probably tried everything on the menu and friends often ask me to recommend my favorite dishes.  These are some, though not all, of the foods that I often enjoy.

Caponata con crostini e mandorle–Eggplant, celery, green olives, onions, tomato, sweet and savory seasoning, toasted almonds served with crostini.

I like to have the Caponata with the focaccia, hot from the pizza oven.

Panelle– Fried chickpea fritters with garlic and parsley aglio olio sauce.Arancini al Ragu –Saffron rice ball stuffed with Bolognese meat sauce, green peas and served over tomato sauce.

Rianata pizza — Sicilian style with garlic, tomatoes, herbs and anchovies.

Cabucci Porchetta — hot flatbread sandwich with roasted porchetta, arugula, provolone cheese, and herbs.

Timballo di melanzane alla parmigiana- Eggplant parmigiana timbale with mozzarella & parmigiana cheese, basil and tomato sauce.

Pasta Alla Norma — Imported durum paccheri from Gragnano, large tubular pasta with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, eggplant, basil and ricotta salata cheese.

Anelletti Alla Palermitana in Casseruola – Tiny ring shaped baked pasta baked in a casserole with beef & pork ragu, green peas, Italian ham, eggplant, primo sale and ricotta salata cheeses, and basil

 

Cannoli – House made cannoli filled with sheep milk ricotta and pistachios.

Almond Semifreddo with Chocolate  Sauce

Cassata — Sicilian cheesecake

The Wine

Champagne Egly Ouriet   1990 made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from 100% Grand Cru Ambonnay from 50 plus year old vines. Vinification in barrels 25% new. Aged for 8 years on the lees.

Champagne Henriot “Millésime 1988 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.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2003 DOC made from 100% Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini  very complex and full with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, melon, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe. The wine was not showing any sings of age.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2014 DOC made from 100% Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. With very nice fruit aromas and flavors, a note of strawberry and for a rose’, a great finish and aftertaste. There was some wine left in the bottle and I had it 3 days later.  The wine was still in perfect condition.

Prephylloxera Etna Rosso 2006 DOC Township of Randazzo from the Don Peppino Vineyard. Made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Right in front and to the right of the cellar in the Calderara Sottana vineyard are two parcels in the midst of the larger vineyards that have survived phylloxera. They are over 130 years old and stand on their own rootstock. Exposure is northern and the soil is black volcanic pumice with some ash. There is spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux for 18 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo by Tom Maresca

In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo

Earlier this month, Lucio Caputo died at the age of 84. His passing didn’t attract a lot of attention outside the wine world, but within that micro-universe it reverberated enormously.

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From 1974 to 1982, Caputo was the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York, at that time a position of incredible importance for Italian products in the United States, and most especially for Italian wine. He left the Italian civil service in 1983 (declining a fat government pension) to stay on in New York to found the Italian Wine and Food Institute, an agency he successfully headed for the next 30 years. The IWFI did a tremendous job over that period of promoting the best of Italian wines and food products. Its annual tastings and awards dinners were always highlights of the season for wine professionals.

But for those of us who remember what the situation of Italian wine was in this country before Lucio Caputo, his greatest accomplishments came in his years as Italian Trade Commissioner.  Before then, Italian wine in America was largely “Soavebolla” – the popular portmanteau term for what was often pale, watery, nearly flavorless, overcropped, and overproduced plonk. After Caputo’s stint as trade commissioner, Italian wine in America had become a broad spectrum of many kinds of wine from many sorts of grapes from all over Italy. Caputo didn’t simply promote Italian wine – though he did, actively and passionately: But in terms of the American market, he could be said to have invented it.

Big claim, eh? But here are the stats: Before his campaign, Italy was exporting 362,000 hectoliters of wine a year to the United States. In 1983, the annual export reached 2,400,000 hectoliters, an almost sextupling in volume. Initially, as I recall, the big increase was in inexpensive wines, but as the ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s, higher-quality wines increasingly made their mark.

By the end of Caputo’s term as trade commissioner,  Italian wine imports to the US had surpassed French wines – the market leader for decades before – first in quantity and then in value.  These were the years when many now-famous Italian wines, then small-market cult wines even in Italy, began appearing on shelves in New York, Boston, and Washington; then in Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles. The great wines you now can get easily and regularly first showed up then.

This all came about because of Caputo’s tireless efforts. Wine journalist old-timers will remember as fondly as I do the regular tastings at Italian Trade Commission headquarters on Park Avenue. This was a spacious, stylish venue, sporting an extensive wine library and a museum-quality Di Chirico oil painting.
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The tastings, which occurred every week (and sometimes twice a week), were every bit as stylish and extensive. They were also thorough, informative, and often quite intensive. You could always sit and taste comfortably, often at your own pace, and you had ample space to take notes – luxuries not always available today to the assiduous taster.

The Trade Commission tastings might be of a wine type, or a region, or a grape variety. Whichever they were, you were sure to taste and learn about some grape varieties and wines that were new to the American market or still hoping to get there, because not just journalists attended these tastings: retailers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, distributors, and importers also came. Those sessions opened the door to this country for many of the wines we can now take for granted, and they were Lucio Caputo’s finest achievement.

In the past few years, we have lost a lot of the pioneers and masters of Italian wine. Lucio Caputo was not a great winemaker like Bruno Giacosa or Beppe Colla or Antonio Mastroberardino, but his contributions to Italian wine stand in the same range of importance. One more giant is no longer with us.

The article is from “Tom’s Wine Line”   www.ubriaco.wordpress.com

Lucio Caputo and Augusto Marchini the former Assistant Trade Commissioner

I  saw Lucio Caputo at the last IWFI event at Gattopardo Restaurant in NYC in March of 2019.

In fact I first met Tom Maresca at an Italian Trade Commission tasting where we had a long conversation about grappa.

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