Category Archives: Port

My Favorite Restaurant In Rome

Every time Michele and I are in Rome we go to Checchino dal 1887 and have been doing this since 1983. This time we went with three friends on a Sunday afternoon.  The restaurant is owned by the Mariani family.

Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen and their sister Marina handles the accounting. Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world.

When we arrived and Francesco showed us to our table, he pointed to the table next to us and there was Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine and author of the Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019), his wife Marina Thompson, and Daniele’s mother and father–his father is 96 years old.

Francesco brought up me two magnums from the cellar.  I knew immediately which one I wanted, the 1975 Chianti Classico Villa Antinori Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori because I know it is a wine that can age. In 2016 I had the 1964 and it was fantastic. I asked Francesco to pour some wine for Daniele and was interested to see what he would say. I asked him about the wine. He said it was mostly Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo and a very small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. Antinori was just beginning to experiment with barriques and Daniele said a little of the wine was most likely aged in barriques.

The wine had great color and was drinking like traditional Chianti, with hints of red fruit, cherries, blueberries, leather and a touch of violets. We all agreed it was a wonderful wine!

I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense, that I cannot resist it.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is my favorite pasta dish and, as they say, “nobody does it better.” I always order it here.

Michele had the  rigatoni  with  oxtail  ragu.

Three of the best red wines in Italy are made around Rome.  They are Torre Ercolano, Fiorano and Colle Piccioni. The only one still on the list is the

Colle Piccioni Rosso 1983Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine was aged in large oak barrels. The wine has hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.

For my main course, I had Fegato di vitello ai ferri, thin slices of grilled veal liver with onions.  It was very flavorful and tender, and as a side dish.

I had an Artichoke alla Romana. 

Michele had,  at  Daniele’s  recommendation,  the  padelloto, a plate of assorted innards including kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, and so on, cooked with garlic, rosemary and a dash of vinegar.  It is the classic quinto quarto, fifth quarter of the calf that was eaten only by the poor people of Rome, though it is now considered a great delicacy.               

There was a cheese course  with  some  aged Fontina,  pecorino  Romano,  and goat  cheese.

Daniele sent over a bottle of port to go with the cheese

.Vintage Port 1970 Quinta da Roeda Corft.  The Quinta da Roêda is one of the great Porto vineyards. It is produced only in years of exceptional quality when a general Porto vintage is not declared. The grapes are trod by foot in granite lagares to minimize the release of harsh bitter compounds from skins and seeds. The wine spends two years aging in vats before bottling. It had hints of red berries, dark cherry, plum and spice and was a perfect combination with the cheese.

Checchino dal 1887 is the best restaurant in Rome for real Roman food. If you are in Rome this is the one restaurant you must go to. It is also Daniele’s favorite restaurant in Rome, and he is a native Roman.

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Filed under Antinori, Checchino dal 1887, Chianti Classico, Colle Picchioni, Port

An Extraordinary Wine Dinner

A wine collector friend decided to have a party in order to share some of his best wines so he arranged a dinner at Gramercy Tavern.  There were 16 of us in the private dining room.

The Wines

Champagne “ Grand Dame” 1990 Double Magnum Veuve Clicquot made with 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay from the estate’s 100 percent rated Grand Cru vineyards. This is refined, elegant champagne with a hint of brioche and a smooth silky finish.

All of the following wines are Magnums

Batard Montrachet 2004 Joseph Drouhin made from 100% Chardonnay purchased from regular supplies. Hand harvest and a very slow pressing. Juice from the last pressings is not used. The wine is decanted directly into barrels. The wine is aged in French oak, 25% new for 12 to 15 months. The wine has hints of honey, almond, ripe fruit and a touch of wood. It has a great feel in the mouth with a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.

Chambertin 1989 Domaine A Rousseau P&F Made from 100% Pinot Noir. The soil is limestone and clay and the vineyard is 5.3 acres making them the largest landowner in Chambertin. Following a cold maceration the must travels by gravity into barrels where it will stay for the entire vinification process lasting from 18 to 24 months. The wine is blended unfiltered. This is a structured, dense, powerful wine but it is not heavy and is a joy to drink. One on the two best Burgundies I have had the pleasure to enjoy. The other I also had with this same generous friend.

PommardLes Rugiens Bas” 1988 De’Montille made from 100% Pinot Noir from Les Rugiens Bas, a Premier Cru composed of 5.83 hectares. With 1.02 hectares, they are the largest owners. The soil is clay with the presence of iron. The wines are certified organic by Ecocert and they use biodynamic practices. This wine is balanced and elegant with nice fruit and will age for a number of years.

Ornellaia 1988 Marchese Lodovico Antinori made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon,16% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc.  The grapes are hand harvested. The grapes were de-stemmed and gently crushed and put into wooden fermenters and stainless steel tanks. Fermentation maceration lasted for 15 to 20 days. After fermentation the wine completed malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French barriques 40% new and 60% once used. The wine was aged for 16 months in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied wine with with hints of dark fruit, violets and a touch of vanilla.

Brunello di Montalcino “Montosoli” 1990 Altesino made from 100% Sangiovese. Traditional fermentation. The wine is aged for 4 years with a minimum of two years in barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, chocolate and tobacco with a touch of violets and vanilla.

Hermitage “La Chapelle” 1988 Paul Jaboulet Aine 100% Syrah planted in a diversity of terroir. The age of the vines is 40 to 60 years. The grapes come down from the slopes of l’Hermitage on small sledges and then are sorted manually and vinified traditionally in the cellars. The final assembly is made during aging in the cellars in wood for 15 to 18 months. During this time the wines are also racked. This is a complex and elegant wine with hints of black fruit, black cherries, spice and leather. It has a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste. A very impressive wine.

Chateauneuf –du- Pape Cuvee Reserve 1995 Pegau made from 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah 4% Mourvèdre and 10% other grape varieties allowed  by the AOP. There is a strict selection of carefully hand picked grapes. No de-stemming and the blend of 13 grape varieties are gently crushed before fermentation takes place for ten days in a cement vat. No added yeasts and no temperature control in this natural process. An absolute minimum amount of tartaric acid and sulphites are added. After pressing, the wine is aged for 2 years in select large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries, raspberries and plums with a touch of leather and spice.

Bordeaux 1983 Pomerol Chateau Lafleur made from almost equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is planted on 3 different soils: northwest there is sandy clay gravel, to the south and east clay gravel and in the heart of the vineyard gravelly sand. Vinification takes place in traditional cement vats. The vats go from 30 hl to 8o hl. The wine ages in French oak barrels and a portion of them are new where the wine remains for about 15 months. The wine has hints of cherry, blackberry, plum and spice. 1983 was a very good year for the Chateau and it is one of the best Pomerols.

Bordeaux 1983 St Julien Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are 10,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is in stainless steel vats of different sizes and malolactic fermentation takes place in concrete vats. Over 50% of the wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 18 to 20 months. The wine has hints of cherry and raspberry and a touch of tobacco and spice.

With dessert, we drank two 750’s.

Ruby Port 1963 Graham a fortified wine that is aged for 2 years in wood. 1963 was a memorable vintage for port. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of caramelized fruit, notes of plum, raspberry, blackberry and dried figs.

Madeira Verdelho 1966 D’Oliveira, a fortified wine made from the white Verdelho grape. It is drier then Bual but not as dry as Sercial. This is a lush and balanced wine with hints of roasted nuts and a very long finish and a lingering after taste.

 

In all, we enjoyed one double magnum of Champagne, one magnum of white wine, eight magnums of red wine, one 750 bottle of Port and another of Madeira.

 

 

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Filed under Bordeaux, Brunello, Burgundy, Champagne, Chateaneuf du Pape, Jabpulet Hermitage La Chappelle, Madeira, Port, Uncategorized

Tasting Port and Madeira

I have always enjoyed Port wine in its different forms as well as Madeira but until recently,  I have not had the opportunity to drink them.  Michele and I decided to go to Lisbon and I was looking forward to enjoying Port and Madeira there, but by coincidence, just before we left I attended a friend’s birthday dinner were they were served Then a few days after we returned, the Wine Media Guild held a tasting of Portuguese wine.

At a special dinner at Gramercy Tavern

D’ Oliveira Reserva Verdelho 1966 Madeira The grapes are harvested, crushed, pressed and then fermented in stainless steel or oak. With the Verdelho grapes the skins are removed to produce this dryer style of Madeira. The winemaking process involves heating the wine. Fermentation is stopped with brandy and the time of adding the brandy depends on the grape variety. Verdelho gets the brandy on the fourth day of fermentation. The wine is put into large wooden casks which stand in a heated room. The cellar master tries to keep the characteristic taste of the shipper when blending different wines together. The age given on the label indicates the youngest wine in the blend. Blended wine with the name of the grape on the label must contain at least 85% of this grape. The other 15% can be other varieties, usually Tinta Negra Mole.

Vintage Port 1963 Graham Declared by all major Port houses, 1963 was a monumental vintage against which others are now judged. This is a classic vintage port, which will still last for a number of years.

In Lisbon

Niepoort Vintage 1978 Vintage Port This was not a generally declared vintage but it was a year in which many Single Quinta Vintage Ports were produced. This was a great way to end a meal as the finish and aftertaste of the Port went on and on.

Quinta do Noval unfiltered single vineyard port 2012. Made exactly like a Vintage Port with only noble grapes from the Quinta. The grapes are crushed by foot and the wine is unfiltered. It is aged in casks for 4 or 5 years instead of the 2-year aging for Classic Vintage Port. The wine has nice flavors and aromas of black fruit and a touch of prune. It can be drunk now but will improve with age.

Dalav Colheita Port 1985 Port from a single year harvest. Instead of an indicator of age like blended tawny (10,20,30, 40…) the year is always on the label. It should not be mistaken for a Vintage Port because the Colheita must age for a minimum of seven years in oak casks. This is an elegant wine with a lot of aroma and flavor of dry fruit, spice, honey, nuts, cinnamon and a very pleasing finish and aftertaste. I really liked this wine and a brought back a few bottles. The wine does not develop significantly in the bottle.

Kopke 20 years Old Tawny Port matured in wood. Grapes are hand picked, destemmed and crushed and made into wine by a careful maceration to extract the color, tannins and aromas, enhanced by constant churning during fermentation. Fermentation takes place in vats (lagares) at a controlled temperature (29 to 30 C )until the right degree of sweetness (balumè) is achieved. Grape brandy is added to create the final fortified wine made by blending different vintage to achieve the typical characteristics of aged Tawny Port. The wine is then matured in casks.

Valriz Porto 20 years old Tawny Port made from Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Tounga Franca. Aged in large chestnut casks. The wine has hints dried fruits, almonds, hazelnuts and spice. We had the 10 year old and the 20 year old side by side.  The 20 year old was well worth the extra money.

Wine Media Guild tasting of Portuguese Winw

The speaker was David Ransom WMG member and co-host with his wife Melanie Young of the “Connected Table”

Quinta do Vallado 20 year Old Tawny This is a fortified wine made mainly from Touriga National, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cä from old vines plus 5 other indigenous grapes. The grapes are handpicked from the estate vineyards. Because port wines are intended to be sweet, fermentation is arrested half way through the process, before all the residual sugar has been fermented. Fermentation is halted through the addition of grape spirits, thus producing a fortified wine. The wine is aged in 600-liter old oak casks and other oak vats for years during which time the complex aromas and flavors can develop. It is a rich, nutty wine with aromas of dried fruit and a touch of smoke. The alcohol is 20%.

C.N. Kopke Porto Colheita 2007 (White Port) Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats where the grapes macerate and are churned with their skins on at temperature between 16 to 18 C. This produces a wine with color and structure that can sustain a prolonged aging in oak. The fermentation is halted by adding grape brand and thus creating a fortified wine. A Colheita wine matures in oak barrels for a period of time that can vary but never less than 7 years. It is bottled and sold according to the demands of the market. The wood aging is a perfect combination with the stone yellow fruit and the hints of citrus. There is mingling of the acidity and sweetness, which gives the wine an elegant and delicate finish. This was the first time I had a white Colheita Port and I will drink more.

Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas 1986 Single- quinta (single vineyard) vintage port is produced only in exceptional years in which a general vintage is not declared. Quinta de Vargellas has the highest percentage of old vines of any quinta in the Duro, with 60% over 75 years old. All of the grapes undergo the traditional foot treading method. Fermentation is halted by the addition of grape spirits before all the sugar has been fermented producing a sweet fortified wine. The wine is aged for two years in wood and then bottled unfiltered and will continue to age in the bottle for years. This is a wine with black fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of prune. 1986 was not a generally declared vintage.

Broadbent Boal Madeira 10 year old made from a white grape. The alcohol is 19%. This wine is about $30 and it was so smooth and velvet-like that it was almost too much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

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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