Category Archives: Amaro

With A Little Help From My Friends

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center is located in Tuckahoe about a half hour by train from Grand Central. The center preserves, promotes and celebrates the rich heritage of classical and contemporary Italian culture by encouraging an appreciation of the Italian language, arts and letters, history, cuisine and commerce through educational programs, exhibits and events.  Patrizia Calce, the director of events for the center, asked me if I would do a wine and food tasting for members and their guests featuring Wines and Foods of Northern Italy.   IMG_2809 I was more than happy to do so but I explained to Patrizia that I would need a little help from my friends.  The first one I called was Gary Grunner of Grapes on the Go, a wine importing company.  Gary said he would donate the wines of Tenuta Santa Maria in Pieve in the Veneto and would also attend the event to say a few words about the winery.  Gary then asked Douglas Giachino of Vinvino wines if he would supply the wines of Andrea Oberto from La Morra in Piedmont.  Vinvino also distributes the wine of Tenuta Santa Maria della Pieve for Gary and Giachino agreed to help, too.

Last but not least I asked Louis Coluccio of A.L.C. Italian Grocery in Bay Ridge Brooklyn to supply the food.
Louis replied “Just tell me what you need.”  A.L.C. sells both top quality imported Italian food products and prepared foods to take away.  It is the closest I have come to an Italian food shopping experience in the New York area. IMG_2820
With so much cooperation and great wine and food lined up, the tasting at the WICC was a sure success.  Over 40 members and guests attended.

The Wines
Prosecco NV 100% Gela-formerly known as Prosecco, Luccio.  The grapes come from the rolling hills of the Veneto countryside just north of Venice and are harvested by hand. A soft pressing occurs and the juice is placed in stainless steel tanks. Before the primary fermentation process is concluded, the wine is run into a pressurized tank where a secondary fermentation takes place allowing it to become a sparkling wine.IMG_2812Soave “Lepia” 2010 IGT made from 100% Garganega Veronese. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve The soil is clay with calcareous-marly subsoil. The training system is the pergoletta, and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. The grapes are harvested in September at different times of ripening and crushed separately, with cold pre-fermentation skin contact. The grapes are gently pressed and fermented. The wine is blended in January and racked in stainless steel tanks with the thin lees. Then there is a short bottle refinement. The wine has flavors and aromas of pears and peaches with a hint of almonds and nice minerality. I like this Soave because it reflects the indigenous grape and the terroir. $22IMG_2813Gavi “IL Mandorlo”  2011 Tenuta San Pietro 100% Cortese.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. Soil is limestone-clayey with a good mineral content and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The grapes are hand harvested in the middle of September. Soft crushing is followed by fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using natural yeast from the cellar. This is a well-balanced wine with floral hints, fresh fruit aromas and flavors and good acidity.  $16IMG_2816
Dolcetto d’Alba 2010 Andrea Oberto-La Morra, Piedmont
There are 4,500 plants per hectare, the soil is clayey and calcareous and the exposure is southwest. The training system is Guyot with short trimming. There is manual harvesting of the slightly overripe grapes in 20-kg perforated crates through a careful selection of the bunches. The grapes are transferred into the cellar where they are crushed and destemmed within hours.
A short cryo-maceration and thermo-controlled fermentation takes place at around 30 °C, and soft pumpovers  are frequent. There is a short maceration of the marc, about 100 hours. Racking takes place in stainless steel vats, where the must is thermo-controlled. In the vats the alcoholic fermentation comes to an end and the natural malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged for 8 months in stainless steel vats. $18IMG_2815Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 DOC Andrea Oberto 100% Nebbiolo
There are 4,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is the same as above except that the juice is in contact with the skins for 200 hours. Aging is for six months part in stainless steel and part in wooden casks. $22IMG_2814
Barolo 2008 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Andrea Oberto Long maceration of the marc about 300 hours and racking in wood casks, where the natural malolactic fermentation takes place
Aging for 24 months in oak casks and 2 months in stainless steel vats and 6months in bottle before release. $45IMG_2818
Valpolicella Ripasso 2009 DOC made from 75% Corvina, !0% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve. The vineyards are located on clay hills with calcareous layers. The training system is the pergoletta, there are 5,600 vines per hectare and the harvest is by hand at the end of September. In the middle of October when the grapes have reached their optimal maturation and sugar level, they are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks for 25/30 days with daily pump over. The wine is later macerated and fermented a second time on the skins and raisins of the grapes used for Amarone, which are still rich in sugar.  This is followed by 24 months of aging in tonneaux and barriques where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for 6 months in bottle before release. $35
Gary said that a new law was passed that limited the production of the Ripasso wines. For every bottle of Amarone produced they are only allowed to produce two bottles of the Ripasso.

IMG_2817Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2007 made from 75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve  The training system is the pergoletta and there are 5,600 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in wooden trays inside rooms with well-circulated air for 4/5 months. In the middle of January after reaching their desired sugar content and losing 25%/30% of their weight, the almost raisin like grapes are pressed and fermented for 25/30 days at controlled temperatures with daily pumping over. After a period of decantation and refining in French barriques and Italian oak tonneaux, malolactic fermentation takes place. After 48 months the wine is bottled and remains for 6 months before release. It is a complex and elegant wine with hints of dried cherries, prunes and spice. The finish is very long and there is a lingering aftertaste. $90

Contact the Vinvino Wine Company- 212-463-7880 to find the retail store near you that sells these wines.

Leave a comment

Filed under A.L.C. Italian Grocery, Amaro, Amarone, Andrea Oberto winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Grapes on the GO, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Ripasso, Soave, Tenuta San Pietro, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve, Vinvino Wines, Westchester Italian Cultural Center

The Perfect Lunch

Prior to our lunch at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, a friend, who dines there regularly, selected the menu.  He selected each of the courses to go with one of the wines we would be drinking. The seven diners were supposed to bring one wine each.  Somehow we wound up with nine. It was one of those rare occasions were everything worked out perfectly – – the wine, the food and the company.

We started as we always do with Champagne:  IMG_2440
Blanc de Blanc “Roses Jeanne” 2006
Cédric Bouchard. I have never tasted any Champagne from this producer and was very impressed by this one. I believe he only produces single vintage, single vineyard wines and that they are fermented and aged in stainless steel.  The winemaker interferes in the process as little as possible.  It was also different from other Champagnes. The bubbles were very small and it had a crisp, fresh taste with subtle citrus fruit flavors that would make it go very well with food.  He also makes a Champagne from 100% Pinot Blanc!IMG_2443
Sauternes 1997 Château d’ Yquem made from 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Harvesting is by hand.  Successive waves of pickers are sent into the vineyard and the grapes are picked one at a time. This is to ensure that only the grapes with the “noble rot” Botrytis are selected. The grapes are pressed three times and then aged in oak barrels for 3 years. 1997 is considered a great vintage. Château d’Yquem will not produce a 2012. We had this with the Foie Gras with Poached Quince, Walnuts and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Wonderful!IMG_2445
Montrachet “Côte de Beaune” 2005 Louis Jadot made from 100% Chardonnay. 2005 was a very good vintage with almost perfect conditions. The wine is fermented in wooden barrels and aged for 18 to 20 months in wooden barrels before it is bottled. This is a big rich wine and will last for a number of years.IMG_2447
Meursault 1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils I00% Chardonnay
This is a wine that I have drunk a number of times and always enjoyed. I believe it is at its peak now but should hold for a few more years.  These two white wines were served with Striped Bass with Leeks Beacon and Brussels Sprouts.IMG_2448
Gevry Chambertin  Corbeaux 1985 Domaine Leroy 100% Pinot Noir This is a great Burgundy from one of the top producers and it was exceptional. IMG_2451
Barolo 1971 Serralunga d’Alba Pira 100 % Nebbiolo. Sheldon Wasserman in his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines says that “Luigi Pira was… the single finest producer in Barolo” Pira was a traditionalists and the crushing of the grapes was by feet. The grapes were brought into the cellar, the bunches were put into tini, large upright oak vats’ and the men crushed them with their bare feet and the wine was fermented. Luigi Pira died in 1980 and the tradition of pigiatura a peidi died with him. Wasserman gives the vintage and the wine four stars, his highest rating. Some 32 years after Wasserman tasted the wine I would have to agree with him. We had these two wines with Duck Breast with Lentils, Parsnips, Hazelnuts and Trumpet Mushrooms.IMG_2454
Bordeaux Château Montrose 1983 Saint-Estêphe made from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine was at its peak and I think it will remain there for a few years. In my opinion 1983 was a very good vintage in Bordeaux but it was overshadowed by the 1982’s. The 1983’s are a good buy if you can find them. The wine was drinking very well, soft, with hints of dark fruit, spice and just a touch of leather.

Amarone 1964 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese; 30% Rondinella- this is the present blend.IMG_2456

Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the “Guyot “ method with 5.000 vines/ha. Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.

Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1964, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it is racked twice annually prior to bottling.

Aromas of freshly picked cherries mingled with notes of sour cherries, and an agreeable trace of spicinessDry, full-bodied, amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice with a finish that recalls walnuts and hazelnuts. 1964 was a legendary vintage for Amarone and this wine lived up to it. We enjoyed these two wines withIMG_2453

Roasted & Braised Lamb with Broccoli and Ruby Crescent Potatoes.

Vintage Port Fonseca 1970IMG_2457
Here is the vintage report:  Winter rainfall from October to March was 40cm, which was slightly above average. A very dry spring followed by rain in May and June. From July to October almost no rain fell and the vintage was made under ideal conditions.
Picking started on the 21st September and bunches were in perfect condition and completely free from disease. Sunny days and cool nights resulted in musts with tremendous depth of color. Yields were high. 1970 was an excellent vintage.
This is a 42-year-old port that will still last for a number of years. It has aromas of red fruit, ripe raisins, caramel and a hint of spice among others. The wine has great depth but also very subtle, balanced with a long full finish and after taste. We had the port with a selection of farmstead cheeses.



Filed under Amaro, Barolo, Bertani, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cedric Bouchard, Champagne, Fonseca, French Red, French White Wine, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Pira, Port, Vintage Port

Discovering Domodimonti Natural Wines from the Marche at Eataly NYC

Often, when I hear of a new winery or one that has just renovated its facility, I become a bit suspect. In most cases these wineries are going to make wines that are international in style and not to my taste.

So when I was invited to taste the wines of Domodimonte at Eataly I noted that the winery was started in 2003 and built a new facility in 2010. Was I going to be wasting my time tasting wine that I did not like and could not write about?  Curiosity got the better on me and I accepted the invitation.   As it turned out, I was very glad that I did.

Not only did I like the wines but found the tasting interesting and informative.

The speaker was Niccolo Salvadori, the general manager of the Eataly wine store.  He said that the winery was located at Montefiore dell’Aso in the Marche.  Marco Scapagnini, sales and marketing manger from the winery, assisted him.

Mr. Scapagnini making a point

Mr. Scapagnini began by saying that they were not a certified organic winery but a “natural” wineey. What makes it  “natural” is that the grapes are sustainable-grown using organic matter, low–yielding vineyards and the grapes are hand picked.   No sugar is added to the wine.  There is a strict selection of yeast and there are no additives made for color, acidity, mouth-feel, etc.   The addition of sulfites is kept to a minimum and they use of state-of-the-art technology.

The new winery built in 2010 was designed to generate the least amount of visual and ecological impact on the land.   He added that they exceed the rules and regulations of organic farming.

Mr. Salvadori led us in a tasting of the wines:

Offida Passerina “Déja” DOC 2010 100% Passerina  the vineyards are at 200 meters and have a southern exposure. There are 3,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordon with spur pruning. 80% of the grapes are picked at the beginning of September and 20% are picked a little later.

The wine is fermented and aged in temperature-controlled vats with an external insulation jackets. It undergoes malolatic fermentation and remains on the lees for a period of time.  This white wine was grassy and fruity at the same time. Malolatic fermentation and the late harvesting of a percentage of the grapes and the nature of the Passerina grape added roundness and a slight sweetness to the wine. There were hints of baked apples and pears. It had a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. It went very well with the first course, a fish crudo seasoned with sea salt and olive oil. $13

In answer to a question about sulfites in their wines Mr. Scapagnini responded that their entire wine making process is performed under nitrogen and they use cryomaceration, a process with very low temperatures, 2-5 degrees C to ensure protection against oxidation. 

Offida Pecorino “Li Coste” DOC 2009 100% Pecorino  the vineyards are at 200 meters. They have a southern exposure and there are 4000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place in early September. The wine is fermented in stainless steel. It is aged in barriques made from acacia wood. Mr. Salvadori mentioned that he only knew of one other winemaker that used acacia barriques and he produces a Gavi.  Mr. Scapagnini said that they only use new barriques because acacia wood barriques can only be used once. Only 10% of the wine is aged for two to three months in this way.  The other 90% is aged in stainless steel vats. It had nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of white peaches, orange peel, hazelnuts and a touch of pepper. $16 

Marche Sangiovese “ Monte Fiore” IGT 2010 100% Sangiovese The vineyards are at 200 meters with a southern exposure. They use Cordon training with spur pruning. The soil is mainly clay. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the beginning of September. The wine is aged in stainless steel.  This is a very easy wine to drink, with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of strawberries and red plums. $13

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT 2006 The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months.

There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Marche Rosso “IL Messia” IGT 2007 60%Montepulicano and 40% Merlot.   The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil is mostly clay. These vineyards have a southern exposure, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the end of September and the beginning of October. The Montepulicano is aged in French barriques, which are 3 years old. The Merlot is aged in special troncoconic vats. This type of vat is tapered on the top and smaller in size than the bottom. It allows for the increase in contact between the juice and the skins during fermentation and maceration, which results in the extraction of softer and sweeter tannins.

This was the most modern in style of the wines that we tasted but it was well balanced. It is a full-bodied wine with deep black fruity aromas and flavors with hints of blackberry, vanilla and oak. $35

I should have remembered an old saying that I often use, “do not judge a winery until you taste their wines!”  I enjoyed tasting the wines very much and look forward to drinking them.  In addition, the wines were priced very well.

Orietta Maria Varnelli

After the wine tasting there was a presentation by the Varnelli Distilleria from the Marche of their amari and other spirits. Varnelli is a family run business (run by four women) and Orietta Maria Varnelli, C.E.O. and export manger was the speaker and told us about their line of spirits. She said they were most famous for their L’ Anice Secco Speciale.

We tasted the Amaro Sibilla on the rocks with Lurisia Gazzosa, a fizzy lemon drink made from Amalfi lemons and a slice of orange. It has aromas of bitter herbs and dried fruit with hints of coffee and honey. On the palate it is bitter and tannic with touches of chestnut, honey and coffee. It is a perfect amaro to have after a meal.  I like it neat! The ingredients are of course a family secret.


Filed under Amaro, Distilleria Varnelli, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Marche, Natural Wines