Category Archives: White wine

Down Argentina Way

“The best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle,”said Germán di Cesare the winemaker for Botega Trivento, the 3,185-acre estate in Mendoza Argentina,as I sat down to lunch with him. Germán is very personable and passionate about wine and an authority on traditional Argentine culture. He is also a skilled cook specializing in Argentinian cuisine.

German di Cesare

German di Cesare

Speaking about the climatic conditions in Mendoza, German told me that he pays close attention to location, soil and climate, and, at Trivento, the “Three Winds” that sweep through Mendoza and forge the identity of the terroir and are the true key to understanding the region. How to harness and work with these distinctive winds can be difficult, but German grew up here and instinctively knows what do.

He said that he is going back to older techniques, using concrete tanks and larger foudres for aging and pulling back on oak treatments. In his wine he is looking for freshness, fruit without heaviness, a wine that is both easy to understand and complex in flavor.

The WinesIMG_8652

Amado Sur Chardonnay, 2013, the production zone is Mendoza, Argentina. Made from Chardonnay with moderate amounts of Pinot Grigio and Viognier. The Chardonnay and Viognier come from the Finca Los Ponchos Vineyard, located in the Tupungato area of the Uco Valley, the highest altitude sub region of Mendoza. The Pinot Grigio comes from the Finca del Alto Vineyard in the prime Lujan de Cuyo region. The grapes are hand picked in the beginning of March and placed in small cases for protection. The 3 grape varieties undergo a period of cold skin contact after they are destemmed and crushed. The juices are fermented separately in stainless steel for 2-3 weeks, preserving the grapes’ rich aromatic flavor. The wines are blended and aged for 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of pear, pineapple and peach. $15IMG_8651

Torrontés Reserve 100% Torrontés 2014. Harvest takes place the first week of March. After crushing, a period of cold skin contact follows. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel at 55/60 degrees F for 20 days to preserve the grapes’ aromatics and flavor. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with notes of violets and tropical fruit. $18IMG_8650

Amando Sur Malbec Blend 2013 The soil is alluvial. The grapes are hand harvested in April and undergo cold maceration prior to separate fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Natural malolactic fermentation follows. The separate wines are aged for 8 months in French oak barrels. After assemblage the wine is aged for six months in stainless steel and then another 5 months in bottle before release. It has hints of cherry and strawberry with a touch of vanilla, and a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. $15IMG_8657

Malbec “Golden Reserva” 2013, 2012, 2011 100% Malbec Production zone Luján de Cuy, Mendoza. The grapes are harvested by hand in mid-April. Germán said that the grapes are hand sorted only by women because they have soft hands. The grapes are cold macerated prior to fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging takes place in French oak barrels of second and third passage for 12 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. The wines have hints of berries, plums and notes of coffee and tobacco with a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. The 2011 is drinking the best at this time. All three went very well with the steak.$22

After we finished lunch, Germán looking around the table, repeated what he had said at the start: the best measure of a wine’s worth is an empty bottle.

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Filed under Argentina, Germand Cesare, Malbec, Trivento Winery, White wine

Riesling and Small Bites

Cooking by the Book is a place that every wine and food lover should know about.  A cooking school, tasting center, team building and private party space, it is located in Tribeca.  Lately, CBTB has been hosting a series of wine and food tastings called Small Bites Big Sips featuring expert speakers, a wine, beer or spirits tasting, and tapas-style dishes to go with them.

When I attended an event recently, Raimund Prüm of the S. A. Prüm Estate, located in the Mosel region of Germany, was speaking about his Riesling wines from the area.  He said that grapes have been planted in this region for almost 2,000 years and his family roots in the area date back to 1156. The current estate is over a century old and is located in the village of Wehlen in the heart of the Mosel.  During his grandfather’s time, the property was divided so there are a few other producers with the same last name making wine, however, he said that he was the largest producer.

Raimund Prum

The region has steep slopes of mineral rich slate, rising almost from the banks of the Mosel River.  Layers of slate formed millions of years ago have become vertical folds in the mountains, enabling the vine roots to penetrate as much as 50 ft down into the soft rock. The Mosel River is very important because it facilitates optimal ripening for the grapes by reflecting the sun and adding humidity for warmth. The slate retains this heat and the result is almost perfect ripening conditions for the grapes.

All of the wines are 100% Riesling and the majority of the vines are 60/100 years old with original, ungrafted rootstocks which thrive in slate soil. Organic products are used for fertilizing and regenerating the soil.Prüm Blue Riesling Kabinett 2010 Pradikatswein, Kabinett.  Mr. Prüm said the wine is named for Bernksatel’s blue colored soil, which has a copper content, and gives the wine backbone and structure. Maceration on the skins for 12 hours followed by fermentation using only wild yeast for eight weeks in stainless steel vats, aged sur lies, and bottled with Stelvin closures (type of screw cap). He considers this wine to be between a dry and medium dry.

Wehlener Sonnenur “Old Vines” Dry Riesling 2007(Grosses Gewachs-Great Growth).  Mr. Prüm said that wines designated Grosses Gewächs must come from Erste lage (top vineyard site according to the VDP) vineyard sites, must meets specific yield limits, attain sugar content of at least Auslese level, undergo comparative taste-testing and vineyard inspections, and be fermented to dryness. The grapes are harvested in late October, destemmed before 6 to 8 hours of skin contact, then allowed a long, slow, cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for one year in 50 to 60 year old oak casks before bottling.  He went on to say that these 80 to 120 year old vines on original rootstock always express wine characteristics from Riesling grapes since they extract high minerality from the slate and transport it to the grapes. This is a dry, full bodied structured wine with depth, concentrated stone fruit and minerality. This is a great wine and was one of my three favorites of the tasting.

A Small Bite

Graacher Domprobst Grand Cru Riesling 2007 Mr. Prüm said that Graccher Dompropst Erste Lage vineyard is the steepest in Gracch. Its south to southeast exposure makes it hot and humid, giving the grapes perfect quality, minerality and ripeness, some of the vineyards still have the original rootstocks. The grapes are harvested the last two weeks in October and fermented in stainless steel. The wine rests sur lies with an additional ten months in old oak barrels before bottling. The wine has complex aromas, with slate and mineral notes, full bodied with good acidity.  This is was a dry wine leaning toward medium dry and it could age for 50 years.
Urziger Wurzgarten Kabinett Riesling, Pradikatswein, Kabinett 2009 Mr Prüm said that the Würzgarten, meaning spice garden, vineyard in the village of Ürgiz has iron rich slate soil, which gives the wine herbal notes and a spicy warm character. Selected grapes are hand harvested in the middle of October.  After 6 hours of skin contact, fermentation is for 4 to 5 weeks in stainless steel tanks. Bottled with the Stelvin closure. The wine can age for 20 to 30 years. Mr Prüm said that this was declassified Spätlese with aromas of ripe peaches and herbal notes with hints of spice and minerality on the palate.
Graacher Himmeireich Spatlese Riesling 2010 Mr. Prüm said that the Graacher Himmeireich Erste Lage vineyard has natural mineral springs, which add a singular character to the wines. The vines are 60 to 70 years old, ungrafted (original rootstock) and the roots are 50 feet deep. After extended maceration on the skins and a fermentation period of five weeks with wild yeast, the wine is refined in stainless steel tanks and bottled. He said the wine could last for 40 years.  It is fruit forward, full-bodied with hints of citrus fruit, rose petals and peaches. There are mineral and flinty notes and a very long finish. Mr. Prüm calls this a medium sweet wine.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2006, Prädikatswein, Auslese  The Prüm estate owns 13 of the 40 acres in the Wehlerner Sonnenuhr vineyard. The soil of this famous domain is composed of Devonian gray slate, with a high tin content, which imparts a distinctive, fresh minerality to the wine.  Mr.Prüm said that this is the best vineyard in the Mosel region with a southern exposure. The altitude is between 425-1110 ft. with a steep 60% slope. The mountain tree line, rising above the vineyard, blocks the cold wines from entering the valley.

Mr. Prüm said there is a select picking of late harvest grapes, fully ripened, that have been touched by botrytis. Maceration on the skins and five weeks of fermentation is followed by a period of aging, first in stainless steel and then in old large oak barrels, 50 to 60 years old.  This is a complex, very aromatic wine, with aromas of cantaloupe and apricot. Like all of the wines it has hints of mineral and slate. Mr. Prüm called this a medium sweet wine bordering on the sweet and it could last for 30/50 years. He said because the grapes are late harvested natural yeast alone is not enough so they must
add yeast.

Graacher Himmerireich Eiswein Riesling 2004, Prädikatswein. Eiswein (ice wine) Mr. Prüm said that the highest part of the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard is cooler and dryer, and, in certain years, provides for ideal conditions for producing eiswein. The grape bunches are harvested while frozen in December/January. By law, grapes must have the ripeness level of at least a “BA” wine. The natural high concentrated levels of sugar and acidity are carefully preserved during the six-week fermentation process. The wine is aged in stainless steel and bottled under natural cork. He said this is a rare wine with aromas of peach, pineapple, mango and hints of citrus and lime and could age for 50 years.  Mr. Prüm said because the grapes are picked when frozen natural yeast is not enough for the fermentation process.  He said that this is a sweet wine but it was closer to medium sweet in my opinion and I liked it a lot.


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Filed under Cooking by the Book, Eiswein, German Wine, Ice Wine, Mosel, Riesling, S. A Prum Winery, White wine

Fiorenzo Dogliani and the Wines of Beni di Batasiolo

When I was the wine director at I Trulli Restauant, we carried a number of Batasiolo wines. They were very well made wines and very well priced.  But I had not tasted these wines in a few years so when I received an invitation for a tasting and lunch at Il Postino, I was happy to accept.

Mr. Fiorenzo Dogliani

My host was Mr. Fiorenzo Dogliani, a charming and knowledgeable man, not only about wine but also about everything in the Langhe.  During the lunch we spoke about Piedmontese wine in general, the food of the area and the restaurants. I really enjoyed speaking to him.

He related a little of the history of the winery.  Dogliani was the original name but it had to be changed in 1978. This was done, Mr. Dogliani said, to avoid confusion with a large co-operative, which produced Dolcetto in the Dogliani designation. He said that there were seven beni farmhouses with vineyards- when they brought the property in La Morra in the 1950’s. The name Beni di Batasiolo was chosen because it was in keeping with the tradition that identifies a real value with the term “bene”, here applied to the land, the vineyards and the farm. The winery now has nine “beni” covering a total of over 100 hectares, 60 of which are planted with Nebbiolo.  Mr. Dogliani said that they have a philosophy of the land, understanding the terroir and using mostly traditional grapes and methods.

The Wine

Gavi del Comune di Gavi DOCG 2010 100% Cortese The vineyards are at 100/200 meters and there are 3,500 vines per hectare. They use the Guyot system modified into small arches. There is soft pressing with static decanting, and the alcoholic fermentation is under strict temperature control. The wine is bottled after malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of white flowers with hints of white peaches, citrus and good acidity. $18.9

Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” DOC 2009 100% Barbera.  Mr Dogliani made the point that the vineyards are in Barolo and La Morra at 400/450 meters, facing south and southwest in the area that is usually reserved for Nebbiolo. It is calcareous soil rich in potassium and the vines are 55 years old. He feels this excellent position and the age of the vines along with the soil makes it a Barbera with unique qualities that can age.

The harvest takes place on Oct 2nd. Alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins is in stainless steel tanks for 10/12 days. In the spring the wine is transferred into oak barrels (second passage) where it matures for 12/15 months. After careful sampling the wine is assembled into the final product. The wine remains in bottle for 8/10 months before release.  This is a Barbera with good structure, tannin, fruit and acidity and it will age. $22.99

Barbaresco DOCG 2008 Made from 100% Nebbiolo. The area of production is the semi-circle of hills surrounding the three ancient villages of Barbaresco, Nieve and Treiso and part of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a tiny village overlooking the Tanaro River. Harvesting takes place from Oct 10 to 20.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place along with long maceration on the skins in stainless steel. The wine is aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. $36 

Barolo DOCG 2007 Made from 100% Nebbiolo, in its subvarities of Michet, Lampia and Rosé. Harvest takes place from the 10th of October to the first ten days of November. Traditional fermentation takes place in stainless steel with long maceration on the skins for 15/20 days.  Aging takes place in traditional Slavonion oak casks for 2 years and one year in bottle before release. The wine had flavors and aromas of dried fruit, spice and a touch of tobacco and leather. $40

Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2010 100% Moscato Bianco. The vines are grown in the hill terrain of Serralunga with a north, northwest exposure at 380- 410 meters. There are 3,500 vines per hectare and the vines are 15 years old. The soil is of calcareous and marl. Harvest takes place during the last 10 days of September. The grapes are hand picked and delivered to the winery in 20Kg containers, keeping the bunches intact as much as possible. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and a partial fermentation with abundant residual sugar. The juice is then cooled to zero C and stored in refrigerated vats. Fermentation begins a month before the first bottling, a very slow process reaching 5.5% alcohol by volume. It has aromas and flavors of pineapple; melon and a slight hint of oranges $16.99 

Moscato Spumante Rosè 2010 Made from Moscato Bianco and Moscato Rosa. Mr. Dogliani said that the Moscato Rosa came from the Trentino area. The grapes are harvested at the peak of ripeness.  After pressing the juice is then filtered in specially designed centrifuges. The liquid is stored in thermally insulated containers at extreme low temperatures. The secondary fermentation takes place in pressure tanks following the charmat method. This was a very easy wine to drink, with aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit $16.99 (the wine is not a Piemonte DOC because the Moscato Rosa came from Trentino.

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Filed under Asti, Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Beni di Batasiolo, Gavi, Italian Sparkling Wine, Moscato d'Asti, Piedmont, Sparkling wine, White wine

Put A Cork In It !

Sometimes I think that wine producers do not make the best wine they can but make the wine which is easiest to make and easiest to sell. It is easier to make Chianti if you add international grapes and put it in barriques.  In California, it is easier to make a wine with 15% alcohol.  Just before writing this article I read a very interesting post by Alice Feiring entitled Death of French Wine (as we know it)   The French are also a part of this and  Alice calls it a struggle between “real wine vs. fake wine.”

 Which brings me to the subject of this article, Cork versus Alternate Closures, in particular screw caps. Are screw caps used because they make the wine better or are they used because they are easier, less expensive, and do not allow the wine develop in the bottle so that it always tastes as if it has been just bottled?

  The Wine Media Guild did a Cork vs. Alternate Closures tasting last month. A few years ago they did a similar tasting and one of our members, Jonathan Levine, had the foresight to take and save the unopened bottles so that we could do the tasting again. I missed it the first time as I was in Italy so I was looking forward to this one.

Michel Laroche

 The tasting sheet for the event had the wine with the cork first followed by the wine with the screw cap. The speaker, Michel Laroche of Domaine Laroche, said it should be the other way around so we changed the order; I will get back to the reason for this later.

 Domaine Laroche is a name very well known in Chablis. They are both a négociant house and an estate. Michel runs the family business and has been responsible for its development. He introduced the screw cap into Chablis and for a while in the US you could get his Chablis with a cork or a screw cap. Now I believe all of his Chablis that comes to the US has a screw cap. In France there is more resistance to the screw cap but he believes that they will come around, especially the restaurants.

 The big advantage to the screw cap is that the wine in the bottle will “never” be “corked” and have that wet newspaper and cardboard smell and taste that does not go away. This is caused by 2, 4, 6, Trichloroanisole, better known simply as TCA. Wine can be infected with TCA that is in the barrels and in the cellar including the walls and ceiling, but TCA in the cork seems to get all the blame.  It is a big problem and at least 10-15% of all wines are corked. The other advantages are that the screw cap is easier to open and the wine will not become oxidized.

 But what is given up in return is that every bottle tastes exactly the same as when it left the winery. Christian Moreau, a well known producer of Chablis, said at a recent Chablis seminar that I attended “… Chablis will taste different from vintage to vintage and even bottle to bottle”. This is true for vintage to vintage and for wines with a cork, but not those with a screw cap. With a screw cap, the bottles will all taste the same–too young and too fresh–just the way they left the winery.

  Is this what Mr. Laroche intended for his wines?  Wines that will not develop in the bottle and not have those nuances and character that give a wine its personality.

Does older wine with a cork become oxidized?  If you drink older wine that has a cork in it does it mean you must like oxidized wine? I do not think so.  All of the Chablis at the tasting were from the 2002 vintage and not one of them had even a hint of oxidation.  At a dinner some months ago I had the Rene & Vincent Dauvissat 1993 Chablis Les Clos and it was showing no signs of oxidation.

The wines of Domaine Laroche

 As I tasted through the wines in every case I liked the wine with the cork better- I even tried them blind and still liked the wines with the cork better. The difference was slight with the regular Chablis but became more pronounced in the premier cru and grand cru wines. There was a very big difference in the grand cru Les Blanchots screw cap and cork and the biggest difference in the grand cru Les Clos screw cap and cork. These two wines had developed into classic Chablis thanks to the cork.  One bottle of the les Blanchots was corked – I do not know if Mr. Laroche put it in to prove a point? (At the WMG we always have two bottles of each wine.)

  In fact when we voted for which wines we liked better screw cap or cork, even Mr. Laroche voted for the Les Clos with the cork. Mr. Laroche rightly changed the order of the wines because the screw cap would be lighter and fresher and less developed than the one with the cork. If the wine with the cork was tasted first, being more developed, it would overwhelm the screw cap bottle.

 I have tasted a number of wines with screw caps, synthetic corks, and with glass stoppers in the last few years. Mr. Laroche believes that a wine with the synthetic cork will pick up the odors from it if the wine is kept for a period of time. With a screw cap, you can have s similar problem, the wine coming into contact with a “metallic substance.”   Mr. Laroche said that if a “natural substance” is used between the cap and the wine, this problem will not occur.  As for a glass stopper I once asked an Italian winemaker why he stopped using them and he said that he was afraid the glass might crack and some might fall in the bottle. If TCA can be present in the barrels and in the cellar walls and ceiling, is it then possible to get a corked wine with a screw cap?

 My conclusion is that if a wine is meant to taste fresh and youthful just as it did when it was bottled then it might be alright to use another type of closure, the best of which I believe is a screw cap. This would leave the best cork for those wines that are meant to age and develop their character and personality in the bottle. Wine is a living thing and needs to develop in the bottle. Does anyone really what to drink a wine right off the bottling line?

Members of the WMG tasting the wines

 Here is how the WMG members voted on the wines.

 Wine Media Guild of NY                                                    October 5, 2011

Corkvs. Alternate Closures Part II

Speaker: Michel Laroche, Domaine Laroche



Number = number of preference votes in 2011

BOLD indicates the wine was the preferred bottle in 2007.

** indicates “strongly preferred” In 2007




14 Chandon Prestige Etoile Brut, MV Cork

5 Chandon Prestige Etoile Brut, MV   Crown Cap 

1 No preference

 I voted for the cork on all three of the Chardon sparkling wines.

9 Chandon Prestige Etoile Rose, MV  Cork

5 Chandon Prestige Etoile Rose, MV Crown Cap

2 No preference

 10 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2002  Cork  

12 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2002  Screw Cap ** 

1 No preference

 4 Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru les Vaudevey 2002  Cork  

17 Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru les Vaudevey 2002  Screw Cap **

1 No preference

 16 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru les Blanchots 2002 Cork   8 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru les Blanchots 2002 Screw Cap 

1 No preference

 16 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru les Clos 2002  Cork

5 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru les Clos 2002  Screw Cap 

1 No preference

 On the wines listed below I found only a very slight difference

4 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Chardonnay 2005  Cork 

9 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Chardonnay 2005  Screw Cap 

4 No preference

 4 Jean-Claude Boisset Hautes Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2005  Cork 

7 Jean-Claude Boisset Hautes Cotes de Nuits Blanc 2005  Screw Cap

4 No preference



9 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005  Cork **

2 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005  Screw Cap

3 No preference

 7 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Tri County 2002  Cork

7 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Tri County 2002 Diam Cork **

1 No preference


Filed under Chablis, Cork, French Wine, Screw Caps, White wine

The Perfect Combination: The Wines of Donnachiara at Gattopardo NYC

The Perfect Combination: The Wines of Donnachiara and the Food at Il Gattopardo NYC

Some things are perfect –such as a luncheon featuring a wine producer from Campania and a restaurant that specializes in the food of Campania and Southern Italy. This was one of the best events of this type that I have been to in a very long time.

Ilaria Petitto speaking about her wine

Ilaria Petitto is the daughter of Chiara for whom the Donnachiara Winery ( is named.  Ilaria said that the land has been in her family for generations but the winery began production in 2005.  It is located in Montefalcione, in the heart of the area where the three main Irpinian DOCG wines, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi are produced. She told us that they want to make wines that are true to the tradition of the area and therefore only produce wines made from traditional grapes.

Spumante Santé Brut IGT 100% Falanghina. The soil is chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest  takes place the first week of October. Fermentation takes place for 40 days. Illaria Petitto referred to the method used as the Martinotti method for sparkling wine. (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Frederico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s.)  Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it was fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It was the perfect wine for the appetizers of arancini di riso con piselli and mozzarella e sugo di vitello. It would be great as an aperitif and with fried foods. $ 20

Falanghina Beneventana IGT 100% Falanghina. The soil is chalky clay, there are 2,500 vines per hectare, the training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place the first week of October. Fermentation in stainless steel at controlled temperature for 40 days. The wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation and does not see any wood.

The wine was fresh with hints of citrus and floral aromas and flavors, good acidity and is a very pleasant wine to drink. $18. It was very interesting to taste both the sparkling and still Falanghina side by side. The sparkling tasted like Falanghina with bubbles, as it should!

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 100% Fiano. The soil is chalky clay; there are 4,400 plants per hectare, the training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 90 days. The wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation and does not see any wood. This is an elegant wine with good body, dries fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of tropical fruit.  Parmigiana di zucchine con provola e salsa al pomodoro (zucchini parmigiana with provola cheese and tomato sauce) had a wonderful aroma and was so light it almost melted in your mouth. Both wines went very well with the dish but I gave the nod to the Falanghina. $19

Aglianico IGT 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, training system is Guyot and there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the second week of November. This wine does not see any wood. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months. This is a very aromatic wine with wild berry aromas and flavors and hints of blueberries and cherries. $18

Irpinia Aglianico DOC 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, there are 4,000 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of November. The wine is aged for 4 to 6 months in 225 liter French barriques and 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. Ilaria said that the winemaker Angelo Valentino did not want the wood to be more important than the wine so he uses mostly second and third passage barriques. This is a more complex wine with hints of berries and prunes and a touch of spice. I could not tell the wine was aged in oak but as IIaria said the winemaker is very careful when it comes to oak. Paccheri alla “Genovese” Napoletana (pasta tubes with an onion sauce) accompanied it. Even though it has the name “Genovese”, it is a typical Neapolitan dish. Few restaurants serve it in NYC and none do it this good. $20


Taurasi DOCG 100% Aglianico, The soil is clay, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of November. The wine is aged in 225 liter French barriques for 12 months and for 24 months in bottle before release. This is a big complex wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and plum and a touch of cacao and coffee. This was the only wine where I could feel the oak. It was subtle and did not mask the character of the wine. Carre d’ agnello arrosto con patate e spinaci saltata (rack of roasted lamb with potatoes and sautéed spinach). 

The lamb knocked me over–I turned to Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner of Gattopardo, who was sitting opposite me, and said to him, I will give you the greatest compliment I can about your food and this lamb–it is as good or better than in Italy. $36

Greco di Tufo DOCG 100% Greco. The soil is tuffaceous, the training system is Guyot and there are 3,300 plants per hectare. Fermentation for about 90 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine had flavors and aromas of citrus, pear and a hint of pineapple. It was served with dessert, La Pastiera(a cheesecake made with orange and wheat berries.) This is the traditional Neapolitan dessert served at Easter and I have been told recently during Christmas. Michele makes it every Easter. $20


Filed under Aglianico, Donna Chiara Winery, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Taurasi, White wine

Drinking More Red, Rose and White in Provence

’’This year, we spent our vacation in Provence.  We rented a house in the tiny town of St. Romaine en Viennois, just a half hour or less from the villages of Gigondas, Beaumes-De Venise, and Chateauneuf du Pape.  The house overlooks a valley of vines and every morning I enjoyed walking among the vines and watching the farmers at work. We spent 10 days there and drank a lot of rosé, some whites, and a few reds.

Then we went to a friend’s home in Eze Village for two days. Here we drank mostly red wine.

 Red Beaumes-De-Venise “Les Trois Amours” 2008 Domaine Beauvalcinte, made from 50% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Carignan, 5% Counoise and 5% Cinsault. The grapes are destemmed and fermentation takes place in concrete tanks with natural yeast under controlled temperatures. Maceration lasts for 24 days. This was a very nice wine with red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of raspberry.

 The soil in Gigondas  is composed of limestone, clay and small stones which seemed to be everywhere. The vineyards are on the hills and the plateau and can be seen from the village above.

 Gigondas 2001 Domaine De La Jaufrette.  The wine is made from 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah.  It stays 2 to 3 years in vats and 6 to18 months in foudres according to the vintage and 6 to 8 months in bottle before release. The wine was showing very well with dark fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of spice and leather. There was some wine left in the bottle and I had it with lunch the next day.  It tasted even better.

 The territory of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is north of Avignon on the left bank of the Rhone. It covers the five communes between Orange and Avignon.  Clay and limestone “galettes,” large round stones, help the vines to withstand the dry Mediterranean climate and the mistral (strong winds).

 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel. The wine is made from 60% Grenache Blanc, 20% Clairette and 20% Bourboulance.   90% of the wine is aged  in stainless steel tanks and the rest in new oak barrels. The wine was dry with a mineral character and hints of grapefruit.  It worked very well with tapenade, olives and thumb size sausages that we had as an appetizer.

 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2000 Chateau La Nerthe made from 39% Roussanne, 27% Grenache Blanc,19% Clairette and 15% Bourboulence. I do not think the wines undergo malolatic fermentation and 38% of the wine is aged in wood and 62% in tanks. The wood might be barriques. This was the oldest blanc from here that I have had. The wine was showing its age with ripe fruit and a mineral character but it went very well with the smoked salmon we had with lunch.

  Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1989 Chateau Cabrieres made from 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah 20% Mourvedre and 10 Cinsault. The harvest is by hand and usually takes place in the middle of September.  There is a select sorting of the grapes. Fermentation lasts for 4 weeks and includes pumping over, delestage and later malolatic fermentation. The wines are assembled and undergo a light filtration and are aged in Allier oak for 6-12 months. It was drinking like a good older wine with hints of black fruit, prune and spice. It had a nice finish and aftertaste.

 The wines of Cassis

The fishing village and seashore resort of Cassis is situated in the western part of the Cote d’Azur not far from Marseille. The appelation is restricted to the commune of Cassis which covers only some 80 hectares. Here they produce white, rosé and red wine. They are known first for their whites, somewhat for their rosé, and least of all for their reds. At the house of a friend in Eze Village I was able to taste all three.

 Blanc de Blancs Cassis 2009 Domaine du Paternal made from Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne and Doucillon. I was very impressed with this wine. It was balanced, with good acidity, aromas and flavors of grapefruit, herbs, a touch of spice, good mineral character and a very nice finish and aftertaste. It was a delight to drink on the terrace looking at the village of Eze.

 Rosé Cassis 2009 Domaine Du Bagnol made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan. This is a fruity wine with a dry, full body with hints a strawberry and raspberry.

 Red Cassis 2008 Domaine du Paternal made from the same grapes as the Rosé. I had never had a red wine from Cassis before. The red was interesting but not as good as the white.

 Cornas, scorched earth. The production zone has a south/southwest exposure with a semicircle of hill which protect it from the winds and steep terraced hills. The soil contains granite.   It has a hot and dry Mediterranean climate.  Because of these factors, the grapes are the first to be harvested in the Northern Rhone. The area covers 115 hectares all planted with Syrah.

 Cornas Terre Brulee 2004 100% Syrah Domaine Lionnet, they only use organic farming methods and all of the work is done by hand. The only have 2.2 hectares and the vines are between 40-100 years old. All the farming is done by the lunar calendar when possible. The land is worked by a tractor or a horse. No additives are used in making the wine. Only natural yeast is used to have a real expression of the terroir. Grape bunches are placed in small open tanks and the maceration lasts for three weeks. The grapes are “walked on” several times a day during this time. The pulp and stems are shoveled by hand into a 19 century vertical press where a slow pressing takes place. The wine is temporarily placed in tanks so that malolatic fermentation can take place. After the wine is racked and separated from the lees it remains in barrels for two winters.  There is no filtration and no new oak is used. I was very impressed with this wine. It was a big wine with cooked black fruit aromas and flavors, hints of cassis, spice, licorice and a touch of violets.

The Wines in the House in Eze

The Wines in the House in St. Romaine en Viennois

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The Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame Annual Dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC

 As co-chair of the Wine Media Guild I look forward to this event every year. At this event the WMG  pays tribute to those wine writers who have made a great contribution with their writing to the world of wine.  The inductees into the Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame were Gerald D. Boyd, Steven Spurrier and Tom Stevenson. 

We also give scholarships to students at New York City College of Technology and Fairleigh Dickenson University for wine study. Wine Media Guild Scholarship awards for this year went to Stjepan Lukic of City Tech and Erin Rouderbush of FDU.

 Another reason I look forward to the event is because it is BYOB. Each person attending brings at least one bottle of wine. Because of the love of good wine by the members of the WMG and their invited guests, everyone wants to bring a wine that everyone else will want to taste. What makes it even more exciting is that members and guests are only too happy to share their wines with people at other tables. One of the members gave me a 1986 Chateau Figeac to taste and when another member saw this he brought over a 1949 of the same wine for me to taste!

 But I get ahead of myself.

 The dinner was held at the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. The reception was in the Grill Room and Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne 100% Chardonnay was served with a selection of hors d’oeuvres.  

 The first wine poured was a white wine Meursault 2007 100% Chardonnay from Pierre Morey.  It was very rich and full bodied with hints of tropical fruit.

The rest of the wines were all red.

 Gevery Chambertin Premier Cru La Combe Aux Monies Gallois 2002 100% Pinot Noir Domaine Dominique

The grapes are handpicked and sorted in the field and again on sorting tables in the winery. Cold fermentation is 2 to 5 days depending on the quality of the harvest. Fermentation takes place for 12-15 days depending on the year. Only natural yeasts are used. Temperature controlled mainly by remontage (crushing and pumping over) and piping.  Devatted and aged in Allier oak casks for 14 to 20 months depending on the year and appellation. This was a very good red to start with because it had typical Burgundy aromas and flavors.

Clos de Tart 2000 100% Pinot Noir Mommesson

This Grand Cru comes from18 acres of the very best slopes in the village of Saint Denis. The brown chalky soils contain a high proportion of clay particles, chalk for finesse and balance, small stones to help drainage and large flat rocks that heat up during the day and maintain a stable temperature at night. Low yield, old vines are harvested by hand and vinified in 6 separate lots. The wine is aged in new French Oak for 17 months. I did not taste the oak at all!  There is a mineral egg white fining and no filtering before the wine is bottled. This was a wine with a lot of character, with strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors and a hint of spice. It really developed in the glass. It is a wine that can be drunk now but I think it will be better with more age.

Barolo Riserva Monprivato CA’D’Morissio 1993 100% Nebbiolo Michet Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio

Monprivato vineyard is in the village of Castiglione Falletto. The harvest for the 1993 was most likely in the beginning of November. They use the traditional floating cap fermentation for 25 days. The wine is matured in medium Slovenian oak barrels for about 45 months. The wine is bottled six years after the vintage. In my opinion 1993 was an underrated year for Barolo. Most of the wines from this vintage are dinking very well right now and should last for a few more years. This is a complex, elegant wine with classic Barolo aromas and flavors: Faded rose, leather, tea, mature fruit and a hint of white truffles.

 Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 1993 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Edoardo Valentini

This is a dark full bodied wine, with deep aromas of  black and red fruit, cherry and a hint of spice. I would have never guessed that it was 18 years old. This wine has many years ahead of it.

Barolo Villero Riserva 1982 100% Nebbiolo Vietti

1982 was an excellent vintage in Barolo. It took some time for this wine to open up but once it did it had all the characteristics of a great Barolo from an excellent vintage. The wine went very well with the food.

Barbaresco 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

In my opinion 1952 was a very good vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco.  When wines are almost 60 years old, they have to show some signs of age. Both of these wines were still drinking very well. 

 Barolo 1952 100% Nebbiolo Francesco Rinaldi

 Chateau Figeac 1986

They use a completely different proportion of grape varieties than anyone else in Saint-Emilion because of the fine gravelly soil. The wine is made from 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and only 30% Merlot. Someone at the table said that it was the most Medoc of the Saint-Emilions.

 Chateau Figeac 1949

This is a great wine and one could only call it youthful.  It was one of the most balanced wines I have ever tasted. It has aromas of deep red fruit and mature Cabernet Sauvignon with a great finish and aftertaste. The 1986 was showing very well but the 1947 seemed younger.

Chateau Musar 1988 Gaston Hochar (Lebanon)

After fermentation, maceration is for 2/4 weeks and the wine is aged in Bordeaux type barrels of Nevers oak for 12/15months. At the end of the second year blending takes place with the proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault varying with each vintage, the only deciding factor being taste. It is blended in the third year before being bottled and is aged in the cellar for 3/4 years. The wine is released after seven years. The grapes are grown in gravely soil with a limestone base in the Bekaa Valley. The grapes are handpicked. The wine is not fined or filtered and there are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum dose of sulfur. In April I had the 1998 which was drinking very well with nice red fruit, leather and a hint of spice. The 1988 was very well balanced with mature red fruit, and red fruit and leather in the long finish and aftertaste.

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Filed under Abruzzo, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Valentini, Vietti, White wine

Sunday “Linner” with Friends

Sometimes we like to invite friends on a Sunday for a combination late lunch and early dinner.  We begin at 4PM so that we are able to take our time eating and drinking well into the night.  I don’t know why this type of meal hasn’t caught on the way brunch has.  Maybe it’s because “linner” sounds more like something from the dry cleaner than a meal. 

 The rule of thumb for wine service at any meal is one bottle of wine less than the number of guests, which I feel is the perfect fit.  Like all rules, this one is made to be broken and we often go to one bottle per person, not counting grappa, etc., depending on the guests. This time was no exception.  The food, the wine and the company could not have been better and we did eat and drink well into the night. There were six wines altogether and two very interesting “after dinner drinks” to end the meal.

 The Wines

 Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from three different years and the majority of the base wine is from the 2005 vintage. It had full fruit, clean with hints of citrus, flowers and slight mineral character.

 Ferrari Centanni 1902/2002- Millesimo 1995-Sboccatura 2002 Method Classico(Trento) The winery was founded in 1902 by Giulio Farrari. The wine is from the 1995 vintage and it was released in 2002. This bottle is, I believe, a replica of the one used in 1902.

The “punt” is not a push up but a push down so the bottle cannot stand and has to be on its side. This was a big rich and toasty wine with a great finish and aftertaste.

 Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru-Domaine Potinet Ampeau 1969 100% Chardonnay

There was some doubt that this wine might not show well but it did. It was showing its age but still had all the aromas and flavors of a wonderful white Burgundy.

 Chateau Musar 1998– Lebanon-after fermentation, maceration is for 2/4 weeks and the wine is aged in Bordeaux type barrels of Nevers oak for 12/15months. At the end of the second year blending takes place with the proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault varying with each vintage, the only deciding factor being taste. It is blended in the third year before being bottled and is aged in the cellar for 3/4 years. The wine is released after seven years. The grapes are grown in gravely soil with a limestone base in the Bekaa Valley. The grapes are hand picked. The wine is not fined or filtered and there are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum dose of sulfur.

 Barbaresco “Pora” 1978 Produttori del Barbaresco 100 % Nebbiolo

The clay soil is rich in limestone with sandy veins. The Pora vineyard is at 300 meters with a south to south east exposure. The grapes are handpicked and placed into small baskets. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats for 2/3 weeks. Maceration is 18/20 days and then the wine is aged for 36 months in 20/50 hl oak barrels. It remains in bottle for another 8 months before it is released. 1978 was a great year in Barbaresco. This is classic Barbaresco, more rustic than elegant with hints of cherry, leather, tea and spice. It was drinking very well. This is one of the oldest cooperatives in Italy and it may be the best.  The name of the grape growers is written on the back label.

 Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques 1969 Remoissenet Pere & Fils 100% Pinot Noir.

This was classic red Burgundy at its best, very mellow and not showing its age.

 The red wines were complemented perfectly by the Lamb Shanks Osso Buco Style that Michele had prepared in the slow cooker. 

 Armagnac Vaghi 1942

The year 1942 was not a good year for wine or for the world as it was the middle of WWII. However it was a great year for Armagnac. This was the last bottle and I doubt if I will be buying any more as the price has gone over $600 a bottle.

 There was only a little of the Armagnac left so I brought out my last bottle of Levi Grappa. The last bottle for two reasons, it is the last bottle that I have and it was one of the last made by the “Angel of Grappa”, Romano Levi, before he died a few years ago.


Filed under Barbaresco, Burgundy, Champagne, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, White wine

Georgetta Dune and the Big House Wine Company

 Georgetta Dune and her husband Corneliu are from Romania.  He is a winemaker and Georgetta has a masters’ degree in food science.  Together they started their own wine making business.  One night, at a dinner party with a group of friends, they applied on a whim for the U.S. green card lottery. The odds were 30,000 to one on winning.  Luck was with them and on the day they were baptizing their daughter the news came that they had won.  The only person they knew in America was in Monterey California so that is where they went. Luck was still with them as Kendall Jackson was building a new winery.  Corneliu got a job as a cellar rat and Georgetta as a lab technician. Within a year Corneliu became the enologist. In 2006 Georgetta became the wine maker or as she likes to say the “warden” of the Big House wine company.

 Big House is located near the Soledad prison and the company was started by Randall  Grahm.  I guess he could not resist naming the winery Big House.

Georgetta and Her Wine at SD 26

 Georgetta said that when she came to Big House they were crushing 42 different varieties of grapes and she brought order by making the 42 varieties into individual lots. She said that she thinks of herself as a winemaker as if she were a perfume maker – that is, making a base wine and adding “the essential oils” to make it work, adding the different grapes to the base wine until she gets the right blend. She pointed to the Big House white as an example. When she first tasted the wine, she believed it was over the top. It reminded her of cheap perfume and it was made from three aromatic grapes: Malvasia Bianca, Muscat and Viognier.  After trying a number of different grape varieties, she added Pinot Grigio and Gruner Veltliner for the middle note and to add some depth. The top note was Gewurztaminer for rose petals. Now she had the aroma and taste that she wanted.

 She likes to think of Big House as the original unconventional winery and said that “We try to make wines which are a departure from the styles common in California.”

 We met for dinner at SD 26 to talk and to taste her wines. I found her very interesting and knowledgeable. She was also very honest in explaining how she made her wine. Sometimes wine makers will not disclose certain methods that they use or will tell you what they think you want to hear.

 Georgetta’s Wines

 Big House White 2001  It is a blend of many different grapes: 22% Malvasia Bianca, 15.9% Gruner Veltliner, 15.7% Sauvignon Blanc, 9.2% Gewurtraminer.7.9% Riesling, 7.3% Chenin Blanc, 6% Muscato Canelli,5’2% Viogner,4.5% Verdelho,4.4% Albarino and 1.1% Pinot Grigio.  Brix at harvest 21.0-24.0, the grapes are picked at night and cold fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and the wine does not undergo malolatic fermentation. Georgetta explained that this maximized the fresh fruit flavors and lets the wine retain a crisp acidity. The wine was aromatic, easy to drink with fresh fruit aromas and flavors and hints of white peaches and a touch of tropical fruit. I was surprised by the long finish. The wine does not remain on the lees because the grapes used would produce a bitter wine.

 Unchained “Naked” Chardonnay 2010 100% Chardonnay– the grapes are picked at night or early in the morning.  Harvested at 22.0-24.0Brix. Cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks and as Georgetta put it, the wine is free from the common secondary malolatic fermentation which is a frequent “sentence” for California Chardonnay. Gerogetta loves the term “naked” because it allows her to create a Chardonnay free from the confines of oak barrels.  It is a fresh and bright unoaked Chardonnay that is more like an aromatic white than a California Chardonnay. It is very crisp with hints of green apple and pear.

 Big House Red 2009 is a blend of 27% Petite Sirah, 14.5% Syrah, 8.6% Barbera, 6.4% nero d’Avola, 6.1% Tempranillo, 3.3% Malbec, 2.4% Aglianico, 2.4% Souzao, 2.3% Charbono, 2.2% Petite Verdot, 2.1% Cabernet Franc, 2% Tannat, 12.5% other Esoteric Reds.  Harvested at 23.0-28.0 Brix. The grapes were cold soaked for a few days and were fermented at 60-65 degrees. Part of the bled underwent malolatic fermentation. The wine was aged for a time mostly in French and American neutral oak. Georgetta said that they were barriques but were three years old or older and she does not want her wine to taste like wood. The wine was fruity with hints of cherry and spice and a touch of vanilla, perhaps a touch too much for me.

 The Usual Suspect 2009 100% Cabernet Sauvignon  90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Grenache.  Harvested at 24.0-26.0 Brix. Gerogetta said that she tried a number of different grapes to blend with the Cabernet but none seemed as good a match as the Grenache. Georgetta said that this wine was made and aged the same as the other red wines but I did not find that touch of vanilla. It was an easy drinking wine with good body and the addition of Grenache made it more aromatic. This was a perfect combination with the roast goat and potatoes that I had ordered.

 Cardinal Zin 2009 80% Zinfandel, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah. The grapes were harvested at 26 Brix and higher. Georgetta said that in order to bring down the alcohol level she added water to the wine which is legal in California. The tiny grapes were cold soaked and fermented in cool stainless steel tanks and then malolatic fermentation took place. It was aged the same way as the other red wines. There were hints of blackberries, spice and a lightness that is unusual in a Zinfandel. I enjoyed it with the rest or the goat.

 All the wines have screw caps and all sell for $10.  They are also available in a box and Georgetta said that it is the same wine that is in the bottle.

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Soave II The Wineries and the Wines

Bruno Trentini general manager of Cantina di Soave handed me an envelope and said, as a joke, that it did not contain soldi (money).   “But take it anyway because it is something you will enjoy.”   I assumed (which is always a mistake) that the other journalists in our group had received the same letter and when I went up to my room I put it away and forgot about it.

Very Medieval

On Sunday we were going to the Castello Scaligero in Soave to attend a ceremony and induction into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia, a worldwide women’s organization that praises “il Vino Bianco Soave”.  The members are persons who love good wine and good food.  When we arrived, we found a band of costumed musicians playing medieval music and a coordinated flag throwing demonstration.  Many attendees also wore  Medieval attire.

Three Italian women were being inducted into the organization when Jonathan, the organizer of the trip, whispered in my ear to ask, “Can you make a short thank you speech in Italian?”  Before I could ask him what for, I heard my name being announced  and very nice things being said about me. As I made my way toward the stage I realized that the Society was inducting me as “Capitano Spadarino”, protector of the Women  of the Castle and for my contributions to Italian wine and food and Soave in particular.  They presented me with a spadarino, or short sword on an embroidered sash. That was what the letter in the envelope would have explained if I had taken the time to read it.  Yes, I did thank them in Italian and it is all on tape!

A Member of the I’Imperial Castellania Di Suavia and Capitano Spadarino

One of the highlights of my visit to Soave was a tasting in a vineyard arranged by Giovanni Ponchia, the enologist from the Soave consortium and our guide. We tasted 20 wines while looking at the vines growing on the Pergola Veronese. The wines were Soave Classico and Soave Classico Superiore and all single vineyards. The first 14 were Soave between tuff (a type of rock made from volcanic ash or dust) and basalt (volcanic rock, fine-grained that is usually black in color) and the last 6 Soave in black soil and white soil. We had detailed maps which showed where the vineyards for each wine were located and aerial photos of each site.  They really are into terroir and how it affects the wine. I was very impressed by the high quality of the wines.

Tasting in the Vineyard

These are the ones I liked the most:

Soave Superiore Classico “Foscarin Slavinus” 2007 Monte Tonde– 100% Garganega. Soft pressing and maceration on the skins for 24 hours- fermentation with the skins for 36 hours-fermentation in 50hl casks- aged in stainless steel tanks for one year and in bottle for 6 months months. $30

Soave Classico DOC “Casette Foscarin” 2007 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. The vineyards are in the North of the Soave Classico zone in calcareous soil of volcanic origin. The grapes most exposed to the sun are chosen and harvested at different times according to ripeness. The wine is soft pressed and aged in barriques and 5hl tonnellerie for about 6 months. $22

Soave Superiore Classico “Capitel Al Pigno” 2006 Bixio Produttori – 100% Garganega- The wine is aged 3 months in large casks and 4 months in bottle.

 Soave Classico “Corte Menini” 2009 La Mandolare  – 100% Garganega- traditional vinification without the skins, on the lees for 4 months in stainless steel tanks.

Soave Classico “Vigneto Senglialta” 2008 Balestri Valda Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The wine is aged in 20hl Slavonian oak.

Soave Classico “Frosca” 2008  100% Garganega. Gini Hillside vineyard with soil that is part calcareous and part tufaceous.  The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in both stainless steel and wood. It remains on the lees in stainless steel and wood and is then ages in small oak barrels.

Soave Classico “Salvarenza” 2007- 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano Soave. Grapes are from 90 year old vines from a part of the Frosca vineyard called Salvarenza. The grapes are harvested at the end of October which makes them almost late harvest. Fermented entirely on the lees in barriques of which 20% are new.  The wine remains in wood for 9 months.

What made visiting the wineries so interesting was that each one had something unique to show, tell or to taste. I also noticed that some of the wineries had olive or cherry trees planted near the vines depending where the winery was located. Almost all of them had spontaneous cover crops and grass cover between the rows of vines.

Trees and Grass Covering Between the Rows of Vines

 Cantina di Monteforte is a large cooperative that produces a wide range of wines including “wine in the box”. They gave us three wines to taste blind and then wanted us to rank them. I tasted the wines and said they could be the same, but no one answered me. After we voted we were told it was the same wine only the closure was different, cork, glass and synthetic cork. I could not tell much difference between the three wines. The wine closed with cork did come in #I. I like the glass closure but some producers were reluctant to use it because they were afraid it might crack and the glass would go in the bottle.

The wine I liked the best was the Clivus Soave Classico made from Garganica and Trebbiano di Soave from volcanic soil in the hilly area of the Monteforte d’Alpone district. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented in stainless steel.

 Ca’Rugate This is a family owned and operated winery. The Tessari family has owned vineyards in this area for four generations and opened this winery in1986. We were given a tour of the winey and the “Enomuseum” by Federica Bon. The museum is very interesting and worth a visit. The setting is a farm house of the late 1940’s and there are over 150 instruments and tools used by the Tessari family over the last 100 years for winemaking from the time the grapes enter the barnyard to the aging and bottling.

Federica then led us in a tasting of the wines and I was impressed with all of them:

Tasting Wine at Ca’Rugate

Soave Classico “San Michele” 2009- 100% Garganega $20 Next year they will add Trebbiano di Soave so that it will be different from their Soave Classico “Monte Fiorentine” which is also 100% Garganega. $30. Both vinified and aged in stainless steel.

Soave Classico “Monte Alto” 100% Garganega $39 The wine is vinified in stainless steel and the fermentation takes place in barriques (225 liter oak barrels) where it remains on the lees between 6-8 months.

Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega. The grapes are dried in plastic boxes in special “drying rooms” were the grapes become very concentrated. The spring following the harvest the grapes are crushed and fermented in oak barrels and aged in these barrels for 10-12 months.

Once again in order to demonstrate the importance of terroir, at Azienda Agricola i Stefanini, we tasted three wines.  Next to each was a container of the soil in which the vines were planted.  Francesco Tessari, the owner of the winery, and Giovanni Ponchia explained the soil and its relationship to the wine.

Francesco Tessari Pouring the Wine and Giovanni Ponchia Holding the Soil

IL Selese Soave DOC the wine is usually 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonay but the 2009 is 100% Garganega. The soil is alluvial clay, the vines are trained in the Espalier system and the vineyard is in the flat lowlands. This was from the part of the valley with  red soil, “Terra Rosa”. Fermentation takes place on the lees until March in stainless steel, and under goes partial malolatic.  It is kept in stainless steel until bottling.

Soave Classico DOC Monte di Toni  2008 100% Garganega, the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa, the average age of the vines is 25 years and they are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. It is fermented and aged on the lees until March in stainless steel and under goes complete malolatic fermentation.

Soave Superiore Classico DOCG “Monte di Fice” 2006 100% Garganega the vineyards are in the volcanic hills behind the winery. The soil is volcanic tufa. The wines are an average of 25 years old and are trained on the Pergola Veronese. It is fermented on the lees until March and under goes partial malolatic fermentation. Even though the two vineyards are a few meters apart, the Toni had more calcareous uplift stratum and the Fice is more ferrous volcanic soil.

Az. Ag Monte Tondo. This is a family owned winery.  The proprietor is Gino Magnabosco along with his wife and daughter Marta, who conducted the tasting, run the winery.

Soave Classico Superiore DOCG “Foscarin Slavinus “ We did a vertical of this wine from 2003-2009.  Monte Foscarino is basaltic origin and the slopes are very steep. The wines were all very good but the one that caught my attention was the 2004.  I asked if I could buy some to take back with me but was told it was not for sale.


Recioto di Soave DOCG 100% Garganega This is a selection of the best grapes with the highest sugar content. The grapes are handpicked and left to semi-dry in small crates and in well ventilated rooms called fruttai.  At the end of January the grapes are pressed and left to age for 18 months in small oak barrels.

Recioto Soave Spumante DOCG “Round Mountain” 2008 100% Garganega from the Soave Classical area. I do not think I have ever tasted this type of wine before. It is only made in small quantities. The grapes used are those most exposed to the sun with the highest sugar content. They are handpicked into small crates and dried in rooms called fruttai.  The wine is stored in stainless steel for 90 days after undergoing the Charmat Method to obtain a sparkling wine. This was a very interesting wine.

Of all the wineries that we visited perhaps the most interesting was Cantina di Soave in the town of Soave in a very lovely setting where there Borgo Rocca Sveva facility is located. This large cooperative makes Borgo Rocca Sveva, their top of the line brand right, down to Duca their wine in a box, and everything in between. The Company was founded in 1898 and today has over 2,200 members which make it one of Europe’s major wine producing companies. They give excellent winery tours open to the public and have a large retail store where you can buy wine and other products.

We went to visit the vineyards with the agronomist from Cantina di Soave and he explained how the coop works with the growers, the control they have over how the grapes are grown and, of course, all about the terroir and the different training systems for the vines.  They use all the latest modern methods in the vineyards, “Sistema Alta Selezione”, and are able to register the origin, health, quality level and variety for every batch of grapes delivered to the winery.  We were given aerial photos of the section of the vineyards we visited.  There were many olive trees planted near the vineyard and we were told that it was customary in this area.  Everyone connected with the winery was very helpful and gave us information not only about the winery but about Soave and the Veneto in general.

Capitano Spadarino Explaining the Pergola Veronese

Soave Classico DOC 2008 Borgo Rocca Sveva – 100% Garganega. The vines are planted in loose, medium-gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin. The wines are trained for the Pergola Veronese system. The grapes are soft pressed and fermented and aged in stainless steel.  $14.99

The Cantina di Soave  wine in the box, Duca del Frassino, was the best one I tasted.

Cantina del Castello – It is in heart of Soave just below the Scaligero Castle. While they have been making wines since the 1960’s it was not until Arturo Stocchetti took over 20 years ago that the winery reached its true potential. Arturo is very charming and has a passion for wine that you can feel when he speaks.  He always wants to produce typical wines that express the terroir in which the vines are planted. Arturo is also the president of the Consorzio Tutela di Soave.  He is very well known for his sweet wines and is a Recioto specialist. He makes two Recioto di Soave- Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Cortepittora” – 100% Garganega from the Pressoni vineyard of clayey basaltic soil of volcanic origin in the Monteforte d’Alpone zone. The grapes are hand harvested and dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb then undergo soft pressing and fermentation in Allier oak barrels, medium toast, 4 to 5 years old. It is aged in the same barrels for one year then aged in bottle for 1 to 2 years before it is released.

Our group with Arturo Stecchetti( In Middle) of Cantina del Castello

Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG “Ardens” 100% Garganega. Training system is the pergola Veronese semplice and short espalier.  Manual harvesting into small crates in a single layer. Dried in well ventilated rooms until Jan/Feb, very soft pressing with a 35% must yield. Fermentation is stainless steel for 30 to 40 days. The wine is “cleaned” by decanting which is the traditional method. The wine is bottled in May/June after a mild filtration that allows a natural refermentation “sur lie” in the bottle-the wine is on the lees until it is consumed. The wine spends 7to 8 months in the bottle before it is released. I understand why Arturo is a Recioto specialist now that I have tasted his wines.

Antonio Fattori Pouring Wine

Fattori winery Soave Classico “Danieli” the owner Antonio Fattori said that this was a family nickname. 100% Garganega from hillside vineyards of volcanic soil. Maceration for 36 hours, gently pressed with a pneumatic press. The wine is left for 24 hours and after static decantation the wine is fermented in stainless steel.

 Soave Classico “Runcaris” 100% Garganega. The average age of the vineyard is 25 years, in volcanic soil and the vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system. Vinification and fermentation in stainless steel. Signore Fattori said that it was traditional to use 10% of late harvested grapes. He also said that they use nitrogen to control the fermentation process but do add a small amount of sulfites during the static decantation and bottling.

Soave DOC “Motto Piane” 100% Garganega. This wine borders on desert with a residual sugar content of 6.5 gl. The average age of the vines is 30 years. Guyot trained. Harvesting begins the second week of September and the grapes are handpicked. They are dried on straw mats for about a month. Maceration is for 24 hours. The must is fermented in stainless steel until alcohol reaches 2%. It is then put in large casks, tonneaux, and stainless steel to age. The wine remains on its lees until February and is bottled the following spring.

Reciotto di Soave DOCG “Motto Piane”(Flat Hill) 2008 100% Garganega. Vines planted on hill of volcanic origin and cordon speronato trained. The grapes are dried until the following March. They lose 50% of their weight and the sugar content is 33%, then the grapes are macerated for 72 hours. The must is decanted naturally and yeast is added. Stainless steel tanks are only used when the fermentation process is under way. It then goes into barriques until the alcohol level reaches 14 to 14.5. The wine contains 9 grams of sugar per liter which Signor Fattori believes is perfect. The wine is reracked stopping the fermentation process. Then it goes back into the same barriques for 14 to 15 months.

Az. Ag. PRA Graziano We had a tour of the winery and a tasting conducted by Laura Meile followed by a lovely lunch overlooking the vineyards. Giovanni Ponchia once again went into the vineyard, this time we could watch from our seats at the table, as he   talked about the soil, the Pergola Veronese, and the other training systems. All he had to do was point to what he was explaining.

Soave Classico 2008 100% Garganega Monteforte d’Alpone area and the vineyards are 25-30 years old. Vines are trained in the Pergola Veronese system and the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. $18.

Az.Ag Agostino Vicentini Agostino Vicentini This winery was in an area called the valley of the cherries because there were so many cherry trees planted here. Agostino is very passionate about his vines and his wines. He took us out into the vineyard and spoke about the vines. He liked the Pergola Veronese because it protected the grapes from getting to much sun and “burning”. However wind can be a problem because it can break some of the canes and he showed us some examples of broken ones which he removed. Agostino believed that grapes trained by Pergola Veronese were best for Recioto di Soave but felt that Guyot was best for his other wines. All of his white wines are in stainless steel.  Since he wants to let the wines reflect the terroir, there is as little interference by the winemaker as possible.

Agostino Vicentini with his Vines

Soave Superiore DOCG “IL Casale” 100%  Zone of production Colognola ai Colli. Guyot vineyard system and the grapes are picked when they are very ripe.

Recioto di Soave DOCG Zone of production Colognola ai Colli, localita S. Zeno. Grapes are selected and picked by hand at 32-35 brix and put in boxes and left to dry until March. The wine contains about 110 grams of sugar


Az. AG.Gini  Sandro Gini gave us a tour of the winery and a tasting of a wines from a number of different vintages going back to a good 1993 and a sensational 1990. As I said before I was very impressed with these wines especially the La Frosca 1990,  2001,2004,2007 and 2008 and the “Salvarenza” 2001 and 2007.  Sandro said that these wines need at least 3/4 years before they begin to be ready to drink.

This was one of the most informative and interesting wine trips that I have been on and I look forward to returning next year.  There is a real desire in this area to make wines that reflect the terroir without relying on oak.  Very few producers used new barriques, and if they did it is a small percentage. Some producers are using barriques that are 7 years old. Others only use stainless steel but the majority seems to use a mix a stainless steel, barriques, tonneaux and botti. I did not find more than one or two wines that I could say were over-oaked.


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