Category Archives: Champagne

Not a Turkey Dinner

For a number of years, wine and food writers Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow have been our guests for Thanksgiving dinner. This year we did not return from Rome until a few days before Thanksgiving so Tom and Diane suggested we come to their home instead. It could not have turned out better.IMG_6384

To accompany the Champagne, there were buttery cheese wafers and taralli topped with a soft cheese and American caviar.

IMG_6385 2Champagne 2014 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils made from 100% Chardonnay from 20% Cramant Grand Cru, 38% Chouilly Grand Cru, 32% Cuts 1er and 10 % Vertus1er Cru. The soil is mostly chalk. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation takes place and the wine remains on the lees for 65 months. The wine was disgorged in September 2020. The wine has notes of tropical fruit, with hints of mint and orange peel.

IMG_6388Our first course was Foie Gras with fig jam and toasted slices of Diane’s homemade bread.

IMG_6390Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese 2005 Joh. Jos. Prūm made from 100% Riesling from the Mosel. The soil is Devonian shale with different layers and degree of erosion. The vines are 60 to 70 years old.  Grapes picked by hand and spontaneous fermentation takes place in stainless steel.   This is a delicious rich, smooth and elegant  wine with hints of white peach, pears, honey, dried apricot and good acidity that makes it go very well with food. It was perfect with the foie gras.

IMG_6392Brunello di Montalcino 1996 Casanova di Nevi made from 100% Sangiovese. The vineyard is located south of Montalcino at 275/320 meters and the soil is galestro with tuff and clay. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the plants are 25/30 years old. The raining system is spur-pruned cordon and the winery is organic but not certified. The wine is unfiltered and it is aged in 500-liter oak tonneau for 36 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full bodied wine with hints of blackberry, black cherry, plum and a touch of violets and a note spice.  The wine was showing very well with no sign of age and it was a pleasure to drink. This is a classic combination Brunello with wild boar and polenta.

IMG_6396Wild boar with polenta — The meat was long simmered with spices and red wine until it was fork-tender.  Polenta was the perfect complement.

IMG_6399Chateau les Ormes de Pez 2001 St.Estèphe made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine has hints of blueberry, blackberry, and cassis with a note of spice and a touch of cedar. This is an elegant and wonderful wine.

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Cheese — There were several interesting goat and sheep’s milk cheeses to finish off the wines.

IMG_6404Our Dessert was a Tarte Tatin made by Michele,

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We ended this wonderful meal with grappa. Tom loves his grappa and there is always a large selection to chose from. This time I had the Pojer e Sandri Pinot Nero. Crystal clear traditional grappa, just what I wanted.

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Filed under Bordeaux, Brunello, Casanova di Nevi, Champagne, Chateau les Ormes de Pez 2001, Joh. Jod. Prum Auslese, om and Diane, Pierre Gimonnet Champagne, Uncategorized

Celebrating My Birthday

Michele and I had plans for my birthday but things do not always work out as planned. We have been trying to have our apartment painted for months and a few days before my birthday the painter said he was ready to begin. We needed to find some place to stay.

So off we went to spend a week in NJ with our friend Ernie. We had invited Ernie to go out with us for my birthday but he said no. Instead, his son Jason and his wife Deb invited us to their home for my birthday dinner and I was very happy that they did.

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We started with Roses de Jeanne Champagne “Côte de Béchalin”–100% Pinot Noir from the 1.5-hectare lieu-dit of Val Vilaine. The production is very limited. Cedric Bouchard. This is a single-vineyard, single varietal, and single-vintage, zero dosage Champagne, organic farming, low yields and harvesting at the right moment. Only free run juice is used and fermentation is in stainless steel with indigenous yeast. There is no filtering, fining or cold stabilization. The wines are bottled with no dosage under less pressure. This is full-bodied Champagne with hints of fruit, spice, lively acidity, a touch of pear and ginger, a note of dried flowers and a long and lingering finish.

All the food was prepared by Jason and Debbie

IMG_5637Roasted Peppers Salad

IMG_5638Eggplant Mousse

IMG_5640Two different breads.  The seeded bread is made by Jason

IMG_5641Fiorano Bianco 1996 Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa made from 100% Malvasia Candia.  The Prince’s few acres of vines are planted along the Appian Way about 20 kilometers southwest of the center of Rome and very close to Roman’s second airport, Ciampino. This is the first time I had the 1996 and it was the last vintage the Prince produced before he died a few years later. There is a slight touch of oxidation with aromas of melon, honey and  wax.  It has  slight mineral notes with lots of flesh, good acidity and a medium long finish.

IMG_5644 2Pasta with locally grown cherry tomatoes, garlic scapes and Parmigiano Reggiano.

IMG_5646Grilled marinated organic chicken breasts

IMG_5649Mixed Salad with fennel, oranges, pine nuts and radishes

IMG_5650The plate

IMG_5645Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1997 “Berardenga”Felsina made from 100% Sangiovese located in Castelnuovo Berardenga with mostly southern exposure between 320 and 420 meters (the soil here is rock quartz and calcareous alberese mixed with alluvial pebbles). The vineyards are on different slopes. There are about 5,400 vines per hectare. The training system is bilateral cordon and simple guyot with a maximum of 5 to 8 buds per vine. Harvest is staged due to different altitudes of the vineyards the first three weeks of October. The clusters are de-stemmed and pressed and the must is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Programmed punch downs and daily pumpovers take place. In March/April the wine goes into medium sized Slavonian oak barrels and French barriques of second and third passage. After 12/16 months of aging the final blend is assembled. The wine remains is glass for 2 to 6 months. The wine has notes of red and black berries with a touch of spice and mineral tones. It was drinking very nicely. I had this wine two weeks ago and it was just a wonderful then as it was now.

TIMG_5653Chocolate Layer Cake — Deb is a fantastic baker.

IMG_5655Cake with ice cream.  Moist and chocolatey, the cake brought back many fond memories of the cakes I enjoyed from the great Ebinger’s Bakery when I was growing up in Brooklyn.

This was a birthday to remember, thanks to good friends.

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Filed under Champagne, Chianti Classico, Felsina. Berardenga, Fiorano Bianco, Roses de Jeanne

Chinese Dinner Under the Fig Tree

When you are invited to someone’s home for dinner and they have prepared a  meal from the different provinces of China, this is something very special. When this meal is better then any you could have in the best Chinese restaurant in NYC, you are very lucky.3FD9736A-B00B-49E0-9469-F9A2CD96C392_1_105_c

The setting for the dinner was a back yard in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn with a fig tree planted in 1940.

The dinner was prepared by Roger Chen and all the descriptions of the food are his.

490C41F7-E9F0-4636-B4A2-B329E8A67418_1_105_cAppetizer — We started with some small appetizers including taramasalata with pita bread and breadsticks.

E8898921-E93B-421E-A5CA-11E3A469290B_1_105_cWith the appetizer we had Champagne Mangin Et Fils Brut Natural made from 100% Pinot Meunier from vineyards in Leuvrigny and Moussy with limestone, clay and marl soil. During the harvest the grapes are quickly brought to the press room. After the first fermentation the wines are bottled and stored in the cellars so the second fermentation occurs. The wine is aged in the cellars for several years before being riddled by hand and disgorged. There is no dosage. They remain in the cellar for a few more months before release. It has intense effervescence and hints of quince, grapefruit, dried flowers, hazelnuts and a touch of honey.

The wines for our dinner were chosen  by Tony Di Dio.

First course

E10510A3-AE80-4D0C-91B2-878445A21059_1_105_cXiao Cong Ban Doufu (scallion & tofu salad), from Shandong Province — A cool and refreshing salad with fresh tofu marinated with scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil.

3CC2028B-DC84-4514-A7E3-F515CF4F43D8_1_105_cLiang Ban Lian-ou (lotus root salad), from Northwestern China. Fried tofu with lotus root, red onions and edamame.  Roger said that this is typically made with red chili peppers but he substituted red onions.

334D53E4-390C-439F-8E95-EB1F0DD91133_1_105_cDan Dan Mian (dan-dan noodles), street food from Sichuan Province.  Fresh wheat noodles with ground pork, preserved vegetables, scallions and peanuts.  I must have eaten 3 helpings of this.

IMG_5421Brittan Vineyards Sparkling Wine 2017 Brut Method Champenoise Willamette Valley, Oregon, made from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. The soil is a mixture of glacial deposits and volcanic material with a predominant presence of broken basalt. This is a full-bodied sparkling wine with hints of citrus fruit, lemon, white flowers and baking spice.

Main Course:

8CC50950-1A15-4ED6-B081-C861FF7289B5_1_105_cYou Mian Jin Sai Rou (fried gluten puff stuffed with minced pork), from Shanghai.  This was a sort of meat filled dumpling in a brown sauce.

IMG_5426Qiezi Dun Tudou (eggplant braised with potato), from Northeastern China.  The eggplant and potatoes came together beautifully with a garnish of green peas.

91771F1A-FF4E-47AC-88CC-5BA6E3CBE518_1_105_cXihongshi Chao Jidan (tomato & scrambled eggs).  Roger said that this simple dish of scrambled eggs and tomatoes is probably made in every household in China.  The sauce was slightly sweet.  Michele promised to make this for me at home soon.

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With these we had Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos“ 2008 Joseph Drouhin Made from 100%  Chardonnay from vineyards located between Valmur on the left and Blanchot on the right. The soil is Kimmeridgian limestone with millions of embedded tiny marine fossils. The average age of the vines is 37 years. There are 8,000 vines per hectare and the training is double guyot. Biological cultivation. Harvesting is by hand. Aging is for 12 months in used barrels. The wine has hints of lemon and honey with a mineral character. This is a very impressive wine.

0C078A62-548F-4596-A684-9D4ECD3C84C2_1_105_cDessert was Figs from the tree in the garden with creme fraiche.

922D7223-00F6-4C71-AC71-2710819D8B37_1_105_cThe Fig Tree

7A01F43F-7B76-4264-B568-552AAEB29C56_1_105_cIce cream with chocolate covered orange rind was the final touch.

The rain held off and the evening was so perfect, none of us wanted it to end.  A big thank you to Chef Roger for this excellent dinner and sommelier Tony for the memorable wines.

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Pass the 1832 Madeira, My Dear

In December of 2019 our pizza group, know as the G6, was enjoying pizza and wine at Keste Vino and Pizza.  Ed Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, said he had an old Madeira from 1832 and that he would bring it to our next meeting. Little did we know that it would be 18 months before we could meet again.  Ed wanted to keep the number of guests to 6, and Michele offered to prepare a simple meal.

As always with Ed, we started with Champagne.

IMG_5172Amour de Deutz 2006 Brut Deutz Blanc de Blancs in magnum. Made from 100% Chardonnay from Les Menil-sur-Oger, Avize and Villers-Marmery. The wine has hints of strawberry, citrus and spice a touch of ginger and an undertone of brioche.

IMG_5170To accompany the Champagne, we had a Shrimp Pate with Chives

IMG_5188Champagne Comtes de Champagne Rose 1996 Taittinger made from 100% Grand Cru grapes and produced only in exceptional years. The Chardonnay grapes come from the Cotes des Blancs and the Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Riems. Only juice from the first pressing is used and 12% of the Pinot Noir is blended in as a still wine. The wine has hints of strawberries, cherry, black currants, almonds and licorice with a undertone of brioche

IMG_5177For a first course, we had Smoked Salmon Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Dressing and chopped egg, from Michele’s book, The Antipasto Table.

IMG_5187Brunello di Montalcino 1997 Conti Costanti made from 100% Sangiovese. The Consorzio gave 1997 a five star rating. The harvest was in mid September. The vineyards are at 310 to 4,400 meters and the age of the vines is from 6 to 25 years old. The soil is geologically galestro and there are 3,333 to 5,100 plants per hectare. Exposure is southwest. Fermentation takes place on the skins from 14 to 21 days depending on the vintage. The wine is aged in 30HL barrels for 3 to 5 years and in tonneaux. The wine has hints of berries, plums, violets and spice. This is a very impressive Brunello and will last for many more years.

IMG_5179 2Baked Polenta with Parmigiano-Reggiano

IMG_5178Chicken with Herbs and White Wine

IMG_5181 2The plate

IMG_5186Terrantez Madeira Special Reserve 1832 Oscar Acciaioly Medium Sweet made from the Terrantez grape. I do not have the words to describe this wine and all I can say is it is in a league all its own.  I have never tasted anything quite like it before and I will remember it always.

IMG_5182 2With it we had some hard cheese, nuts and dried fruit

IMG_5184Cookies made by Michele finished the meal.

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Filed under Amour de Deutz, Brunello, Champagne, Conti Costanti Brunello, Madeira, Taittinger Comtes Rose, Terrantez Madeira 1832

Celebrating with Champagne

Sometimes only Champagne will do. It was Michele’s birthday and friends invited us to their house to celebrate.

IMG_4943The Champagne was Dom Perignon 2010 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. This is an elegant and complex Champagne with hints of melon, tropical fruit, and mandarin orange with a hint of jasmine and a touch of spice.

On other recent occasions with these same friends they also shared the 2008 and the 2009 Dom Perignon. The only difference was that the 2010 has not developed any of the “brioche” aromas but it was fresh and wonderful.

IMG_4940With the Champagne we had crostini with piquillo peppers and marinated white anchovies.

A few days later, Michele and I celebrated with:

IMG_4975Krug NV Grand Cuvée 168EEM Edition made from 45/55% Pinot Noir, 15/20 Pinot Meunier and 25/35 Chardonnay–the percentage depends upon the vintage. They blend about 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages and it is aged for at least 6 years in the cellars. All of their Champagnes are aged in used small oak barrels. They are all prestige cuvees made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages and are aged longer before release. The overall rating for the vineyards is 98% with Krug’s own vineyards rating 100%.  This is a Champagne with hints of dried citrus fruit, gingerbread, hazelnuts and almonds, a note of honey and a touch of brioche. It had a very long finish and a memorable aftertaste.

IMG_4968With it we had smoked salmon with creme fraiche.

IMG_4971Sauteed soft shell crab on the pan

IMG_4972on the plate

Michele was very happy as these were two of her favorite Champagnes.

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Filed under Champagne, Dom Perignon, Krug, Krug Champagne, Uncategorized

Dreaming Of Napoli

Over the last few years every time we were in Naples Michele wanted to have lunch at Mimi alla Ferrovia, a well known restaurant. On our last day in Naples in February of 2020, we finally got there.

The waiter recited the specials and I heard pasta with ricci di mare (sea urchins), I knew what I wanted.  It was excellent.

Recently we visited the friend that was with us on that trip and he suggested that we make pasta with ricci di mare.  We decided to make a lunch that was a tribute to Procida, the tiny island off Naples that Michele’s family comes from, which recently named Italy’s Capitol of Culture for the next year.

IMG_4578We started with crostini covered with homemade roasted red peppers and anchovies.

IMG_4576Champagne Empreintes 2012 Extra Brut Laherte Frere made from 50% Chardonnay from vines in Les Chemins d’Epernay which were planted in 1957 and 50% Pinot Noir from vines in Les Rouges  Maisons planted in 1983. Multiple parcels with varied exposure. Les Chemins d’Epernay has clay soil with a silt stratum in surface and a chalky subsoil. Rouges Maisons has a deep clay topsoil with flint, schist and a chalk subsoil. The vineyards are farmed organically, sometime by horse. Hand harvesting takes place when grapes are fully ripe. Traditional pressing. Natural alcoholic fermentation in barrels from Burgundy aged for a minimum of 10 years. There is no malolactic fermentation. Six months of barrel aging with regular stirring of the lees. Disgorged by hand 01/2018 with a 3 gr/l dosage. It has hints of yellow plums, citrus fruit, peaches, good minerality, a touch of pepper and a note of spice.

IMG_4581Here are the sea urchins, which we were able to purchase removed from their shells.

IMG_4585Spaghetti with sea urchin, garlic, tomatoes and parsley Procida-style. Ready to be served

IMG_4591The spaghetti on the plate, topped with more sea urchin.

IMG_4605Beneventano Falanghina 2018 Donnachiara made from 100% Falanghina. The vineyard is the Torre Cuso, the best location for Falanghina. The soil is volcanic, chalky clay, the vines are 16 years old, the training system is guyot and there are 2,500 vines per hectare. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed before pressing. Cold fermentation is in stainless steel and there is extended maceration. This is a crisp white wine with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, nice acidity and good minerality. It is one of my favorite white wines and my friend, who enjoys it too, always has some chilled and ready to drink. It was a perfect combination with the ricci di mare.

IMG_4562Broccoli rape on the stove

IMG_4598For our main course, we had Rabbit alla Cacciatore, Procida-style.  The tomato sauce was flavored with rosemary and garlic.

IMG_4600We ate the broccoli rabe with the rabbit.

IMG_4573Bramaterra Riserva 1996 Tenuta Monolo. Bramaterra is in the Alto Piemonte well north of Barolo. Made from 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 20% Vesoplin10% and 10% Uva Rara. The vines were planted in 1970. There are 0.75 hectares of vineyards and the farming was organic. Exposure is northeast/southeast; there are 3,200 vines/hectare at 290 meters. The training system is guyot. The soil is deep and light, copper sands, with a high level of acidity with potassium, iron and manganese. Harvest is manual. Fermentation was in large wooden barrels (botti) with native yeast The wine is aged in botti for two years. The wine is classic Bramaterra. The wine has hints of cherry, spice, cinnamon, a touch of dried fruit and a note of nutmeg. The last vintage was in 2004. The wines can still be found on line going back to 1982

IMG_4601For dessert, we ventured to Sicily for some Cannoli from a nearby bakery.

IMG_4604Dessert wine Zibibbo Sicilia IGT Vino Liquoroso made from the Zibibbo grape Carlo Pellegrino. This bottle was given to my friend a number of years ago. I believe they still make the wine but the label is different and I am not sure it is now vinified in the same way.  The  wine was golden in color with subtle hints of citrus fruits, orange blossoms, peaches, a touch of honey and brioche. It was a pleasure to drink and a great way to end a wonderful lunch.

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Filed under Bramaterra, Champagne, Falanghina, Laherte Freres Champagne 2012

Twelve Champagnes

Most years in December, I would attend the Wine Media Guild’s holiday Champagne tasting with Ed “Champagne” McCarthy, the author of Champagne for Dummies, as the speaker. The theme varied from year to year.  It could be Prestige Cuvèes, Vintage, Blanc des Blancs, Rose, or a combination, but it was always a truly great sparkling event. Since that event won’t be happening this year, I am reporting on 12 wines that I have drunk over the last few months.  Hope Ed approves of all of them.

Laherte Fieres “Les Grandes Crayères” made from 100% Chardonnay. The vines are on a Chavot mid slope with campanian chalk soil. The exposure is west. The grapes are picked by hand when fully ripened. Traditional pressing. Alcoholic fermentation is in barrels and malolactic fermentation does not take place. There is aging on the lees for 6 months. Disgorgement is by hand and the dosage is 3 to 4 gr/l. This is an elegant Champagne with hints of citrus fruit, apples and a touch of brioche. This producer is becoming one of my favorites.

IMG_3734Veuve Clicquot Brut NV made from 56% Pinot Noir, 16% Pinot Meunier and 28% Chardonnay. This is easy drinking Champagne, toasty with black fruit aromas and flavors.

IMG_3638Gosset Champagne Brut Excellence made from 24% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Meunier from Ay-Chapmpagne, Chigny-les-Roses, Courmas, Cumieres, Avize, Cuis and Trepail. There is 100% malolactic fermentation. The wine spends 30 months in the cellar before it is disgorged. Dosage for the Brut is11g/L. It has hints of apricots, peaches, dried fruit and a touch of brioche.

IMG_3278Champagne Boizel 2007 made from 40% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier.  3% of the wines were aged in oak casks. The wines were aged for 7 years on the lees. This is elegant Champagne with hints of apricot, biscuits, flowers, almonds and a touch of licorice. 

IMG_3447 2Champagne Dom Pérignon 2008 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. This is a very impressive champagne with great balance, elegance and complex aromas and flavors.

IMG_3528Champagne Marguet “Shaman 14” Grand Cru NV made from 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Chardonnay. The wine was bottled July 2016, and the disgorgement date was March 2018. There are no added sulfites and the dosage is 0. It has flavors of honeysuckle, lemon, apple and a touch of stone fruit.

IMG_3575Selosse Substance Avize is the essence in a single vintage from two parcels without regard to vintage variation. Always made from the same Chardonnay vineyards in Avize. A south facing slope and an east hill base. Made from a solera started in 1987. Each year 22% is taken from the solera. Dosage 0-4g/l.  It has hints of apricots, pears, loads of wet stone minerality, white flowers, pumpkin pie spice, mulled cider and the signature oxidation. It may be the most unusual champagne I have ever tasted.

IMG_3092Alfred Gratien Brut Rosè NV made from 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier and 15% . The Pinot Noir is added as a still wine. After 6 months of cellaring in 228 liter oak casks, the must is transformed into wine. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The cuvee is bottled with sugar and yeast to allow for a secondary fermentation in the bottle and it remains in the cellar for 36 months. Then the disgorging takes place where the lees and sediment are removed from the bottle which is topped up with more wine and some sugar and left to rest for a few more months in the cellar.  It has good red fruit with hints of raspberry and strawberries and touch of roses.

IMG_2892Suenen Champagne Oiry Blancs De Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut made from 100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru village of Cramant. The soil is chalk. The vins clairs (clear wines) are fermented partially in barrel and spend 9 months on the lees. The dosage is 2g/L. This is a delicate dry wine with floral aromatics, hints of green apple, a note of yellow plums and a touch of lemon with high acidity.

IMG_2581Larmandier-Bernier “Latitude” Extra Brut Blanc De Blancs NV. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes which come from the same Latitude in the southern part of Vertus. There is 40% reserve wine in the blend and the dosage is 4g/l. The wine has hints of peach, white flowers, toast and a touch of almonds.

Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils “Fleuron” Brut 2009 made from 100% Chardonnay from premier cru Villages mostly in the Cöte de Blancs. Fermentation is in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine remains on the lees for 84 months. The wine has hints of apple, floral notes, a touch of lemon, with good minerality and balanced acidity.

IMG_2322Champagne Krug Grande Cuvèe 167EME EDITION This is a blend of 191 wines from 13 different years, the youngest is from 2011 and the oldest goes back to 1995. The final blend is 47% Pinot Noir 36% Chardonnay and17% Meunier. It is aged for about 7 years before it is released. The Champagne has hints of dried and citrus fruit, a touch of gingerbread, hints of hazelnuts, and brioche. It is Michele’s favorite Champagne.

Looking forward to a better 2021 and tasting again with Ed for the Wine Media Guild.

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Filed under Alfred Gratien, Boizel, Champagne, Dom Perignon, Gosset, Jacques Selosse - Susbstance, Krug, Laherte Fieres Champagne, Larmandier-Bernier Champagne, Pierre Gimonnet Champagne, Shaman 14 Marguet, Suenen Champagne, Uncategorized, Veuve Clicquot

TASTING OLDER ZINFANDEL

Ed Mc Carthy had wanted to do a tasting of older Zinfandel back in December of last year. We could not agree on a date so we put it off until March and you know where that left us. Last week Ed was able to make agreements to have the event in the smaller back garden at i-trulli in NYC. There were 6 of us .

Ed and his wife Mary Ewing Mulligan MW also at the tasting wrote the very popular ‘Wine for Dummies” books

Ed brought 6 of the wines and another guest brought the two oldest.IMG_3609

As usual we started with Champagne: The Laherte Fieres made from 100% Chardonnay. The vines are on a Chavot mid slope with campanian chalk soil. The exposure is west. The grapes are picked by hand when fully ripened. Traditional pressing. Alcoholic fermentation is in barrels and malolactic fermentation does not take place. There is aging on the lees for 6 months. Disgorgment is by hand and the dosage is 3 to 4 gr/l

This Champagne impressed everyone and it was the perfect way to get our palates ready for the Zinfandel.

The Zinfandel

Ravenswood 1984 Old Hill Vineyards, Sonoma Valley made from 76% Zinfandel and 24% mixed black grapes. This is the oldest of the Ravenswood vineyards and dates from around 1880. The wine has a touch of blackberries, a hint of smoke and an undertone of coffee.IMG_3600

Rosenblum 1991 Mt. Veeder, Brandlin Ranch, Napa made from 100% Zinfandel. The wine has hits of coffee, licorice, with a touch of blackberries and a peanut skin undertone in the aftertaste.

IMG_3603Ridge Vineyards 1991 Geyserville Vineyard, Sonoma. made from 50% Zinfandel, 30% Carignon and 20% Petite Sirah. This is an intense wine with hints of blackberries, blueberries, plum, cedar and an undertone of raisins. Ridge has made the Geyserville as a single-site Zinfandel since 1966.

IMG_3601A. Rafanelli 1994 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma made from 87% Zinfandel and 13% Petite Sirah. The wine had hints of plum with a touch of blackberries.

Ravenswood 1991 Old Hill Vineyards, Sonoma Valley. This had the same profile as the1984 but had a little more fruit.

IMG_3604William Selyem 2000 Bacigalupi Vd, Russian River Valley, Sonoma made from 100% Zinfandel. They buy the grapes from the Bacigalupi Vineyards. The wine has hints of blackberries, plum, boysenberry and a touch of mushrooms. It was a little jammy.IMG_3605

Dehlinger Winery 1978 Sonoma Country made from 87% Zinfandel and 13% Petite Syrah. I believe they no longer make a Zinfandel. This wine was showing some age but still very drinkable.

IMG_3611Ridge California Zinfandel 1971 Menodcino. I believe it was made from 95% Zinfandel and 5% Syrah. I do not think Ridge makes it anymore and that is really too bad because it was the wine of the tasting. It was the most balanced of the wines and the one that went the best with the food.

I drank a lot of Ridge Zinfandel from the 1970’s as well as their late harvest Zinfandel from Paso Robles and also their Essence of Zinfandel. It was my favorite wine with turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving. I continue to drink  Ridge Zinfandel because it has kept the same style of the years

Sometime in the 1980’s, some of the older  producers changed style and more recently some of the newer producers have been making some high alcohol fruit bombs.

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Selosse Fête du Champagne Zoom Tasting

Last week our friend Ernie told me that his son Jason was hosting a Zoom tasting of Jacques Selosse Champagne given by Anselm Selosse and his son Guillaume.  Would Michele and I like to join them?  I have never participated in a Zoom wine tasting where as part of the package they send you the wines to taste so this was an offer I could not refuse.

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The domain Jacques Selosse is located in the village of Avize, situated in the Cöte de Blancs. It is a family run operation with 8.3 hectares of vineyards in the crus of Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Ambonnay. There are 7.3 hectares of Chardonnay and one hectare of Pinot Noir. The soil is classic chalky marls. Harvest is by hand.

The first vintage was 1964 and Anselme Selosse took over the running of the winery from his parents in 1974. Anselme retired in 2018 turning the domain over to his son Guillaume. They were both on the Zoom podcast and it seemed that Anselme did most of the speaking.

Our host, Jason explained that some of the Zoom participants had paid only for the telecast but did not buy the wine to taste. We all agreed (we were seven) that the organizers were taking too long to get to the wine tasting so we began before them and then went back again and tasted the wines with them. We then tasted the wine with food.

Here are some of the remarks that Anselme and Guillaume made about their wine.

Anselme said it is important to visit other wine regions to see what they are doing. To make profound Champagne you must start with a great wine for your base. The relationship between healthy soil (terroir) and the wines that spring from it is critical. The position on the slope of the hill and the exposure is very important.

They use a selection of yeasts strains culled from their own vineyards for fermentation and minimize the use of SO2. The wine is fermented and raised in wood barrels, less than 20% new, and the wine remains on the fine lees for extended periods.

Malolactic fermentations are free to occur, or not, as each individual lot evolves.

There is a low dosage because they believe their wines with their purity of flavor, need no make up. They taste the wine to see if they should add dosage and how much.

They feel the use of barriques gives them great control over the role oxygen plays in the base wines.

Jason decided on the order in which to taste the wines.  The comments that follow are by Jason. I have a tremendous respect for his palate and he knows these wines better than I do. I will add my own comments also at the end of this blog. Next to the initials are the point rating of each person. I am CS.

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Selosse Versions Originale (V0) sourced from high on the Avize slope, it is 3 consecutive vintages that are aged for 42 months and bottled with little or no-dosage. It is typically released an average of 6 years after the most recent harvest in the blend. Dosage 1.5 g/l 

10/17/20 — 95 points.  (SLD, 96, DD 96, JM 96, CS 90, EJD 94, MS 95)  Now-2030+.  Served this first for the Selosse Fête du Champagne Zoom Tasting with Anselme and Guillaume Selosse.  Light-medium golden color.  The nose is dried pit fruits, white flowers, white peach, minerals, a subtle latex note (Debo), marzipan, honey, crushed almonds, quince and dried apricots.  A gorgeous nose.  On the palate this is dry with zippy acidity and a lovely, long and complex finish.  This wine is perfectly balanced.  Gorgeous juice. $280

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Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs–Anselme called this his classic Avize Brut.  Long aging in bottle before and after disgorgement. It is an assemblage of three successive vintages from lower slope sites. It is released an average of five years after the most recent harvest in the blend. The dosage is 5g/l.

10/17/20 — 93 points.  (DJD 95, SLD 94, JM 94, EJD 92, CS 89, MS 90)  Now-2032.  Served this second for the Selosse Fête du Champagne Zoom Tasting with Anselme and Guillaume Selosse.  Medium yellow-golden color.  Lovely, rich nose of melons, marzipan, dried pit fruits and white flowers on the nose.  More flamboyant than the V.O. that preceded it.  On the palate this is a touch creamier, more oxidative and yet less complex than the V.O. was on this day. $260

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Selosse Millesime 2009. The Methode Selosse was originally a blanc de blancs made from two plots in Avize and it used to express the character of a single year.  Beginning with the 2000 vintage, it is assembled from all the estate’s plots, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Dosage 0-4g/l

10/17/20 — 92 points.  (SLD 92, EJD 96, JM 90, DJD 93, CS 93, MS 94)  Now-2028.  Served this third for the Selosse Fête du Champagne Zoom Tasting with Anselme and Guillaume Selosse.  Deep golden color.  The nose here is tremendously rich with deep notes of fading wildflowers, melon, dried pit fruits, tropical fruits (papaya) and orange marmalade.  On the palate this is full bodied, but actually a tad ponderous, and, dare I say, “flabby?”  I felt it was quite low in acidity — at least initially, although revisiting about 30 minutes later, perhaps I am being unfairly harsh as this seemed to have tightened up and gained complexity and “zip” with some air. $430

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Selosse Substance Avize is the essence in a single vintage from two parcels without regard to vintage variation. Always made from the same Chardonnay vineyards in Avize. A south facing slope and an east hill base. Made from a solera started in 1987. Each year 22% is taken from the solera. Dosage 0-4g/l

10/17/20 — 98+ points.  (SLD 99, DJD 98, JM 99, EJD 99, MS 99.9, CS 98)  Now-2035.  Served this last (fourth) for the Selosse Fête du Champagne Zoom Tasting with Anselme and Guillaume Selosse.  Medium plus golden color.  This is at a whole other level than everything that came before.  This at once both the most mineral laden and grippy AND the most oxidative of the four wines.  This has the least CO2 as well.  Appricots, pears, loads of wet stone minerality, white flowers, pumpkin pie spice, mulled cider.  This is just a stunningly gorgeous, complex wine that is a real privilege to drink. $566

My thoughts:  These were the most unusual Champagnes I have ever tasted. You can pick up the oxidation in the wines. It was not a problem because it added an extra layer of character to the wines.

The Substance was in a class by itself. I really do not know of any other Champagne to compare to it.

I gave all of the wines the lowest scores of the group and I have to say I liked them much better when I had them with food.

So what did we eat with these champagnes?

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Michele made a dip with smoked salmon, cream cheese topped with salmon caviar which we ate with potato chips.

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She also made anchovy twists, cream cheese pastry sticks filled with anchovies. 

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Risotto and a Surprise Dessert Wine

Everyone at our friend’s house in the country was in the mood for seafood. A big discussion ensued. Whole fish, fish steaks, or shellfish? Finally we reached a decision — Risotto with Shrimp.

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First the shrimp were shelled and cut into small pieces. The cooks simmered the reserved shells with aromatic vegetables, wine and water to make a flavorful broth for the rice. Then the shrimp were sauteed with garlic and parsley and set aside.

Next, the rice was simmered and stirred with the prepared broth until tender and creamy. When it was almost ready, the cooked shrimp were added with some small peas and a final swirl of butter.

A whole shrimp garnished each serving.

With the risotto, we drank Champagne Marguet “Shaman 14” Grand Cru NV made from 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Chardonnay. The wine was bottled July 2016, and the disgorgement date was March 2018. There are no added sulfites and the dosage is 0. It has flavors of honeysuckle, lemon, apple and a touch of stone fruit.

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Michele made a quick dessert, the Crunchy Walnut Cake from her book 1,000 Italian Recipes. It has only 5 ingredients and we all enjoyed the nutty caramel flavor.

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A spiced apple confit was a tasty complement to the cake.

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The cake and apples on the plate with ice cream was a delicious fall dessert.

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Our host knew we had had a big anniversary this year so to go with the dessert he opened a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1970. It was fantastic! Made from 80% Semillion and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Harvesting is by hand and the grapes are picked one at a time over a period of time. There is a gentle pressing of the grapes and the wine is aged in oak barrels. 1970 is considered a great vintage. There was no Yquem produced in 2012. This is a complex, balanced and rich wine with hints of dried apricot, almond marzipan and a touch of tropical fruit.

I finished with espresso in a cup from one of my favorite Roman caffes, and a red wine and anise ciambellina cookie.

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