Category Archives: Zinfandel


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

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

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

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

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

The Zinfandel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under Champagne, Uncategorized, Zinfandel

Sicilian Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving dinner is always held at our apartment with the same group of friends. It works out well because they are all involved with food and wine and all contribute something. It was a long fun evening beginning at 4:00PM and ending at 10:00 PM.

Michele likes to change the menu every year.  This year she decided to make a turkey recipe that she had tasted in Palermo, Sicily when she was leading culinary tours there.  She and her group dined at the home of a former caterer and chef, and though retired, the woman still enjoyed preparing meals in her home for visitors to her city.   When Michele visited, she made a roast turkey stuffed with pasta and it was delicious.

Michele asked her about it and was told that she had come up with the idea while experimenting with a similar recipe from the 19th century that was made with partridge.  Since she couldn’t get a partridge, she substituted turkey.  To make the the stuffing, the woman combined a Bolognese type ragu made with a minimal amount of tomato with Bechamel.   She cooked some ziti, tossed it with the sauce and grated cheese and used this as her stuffing.  Whatever could not go into the turkey, she baked in little timbales, one for each guest.

Michele made the turkey in much the same way, though she substituted some homemade turkey gravy for the Bechamel to lighten the sauce.  She made the gravy with turkey parts that she roasted a few days before Thanksgiving. 

Also, she made the Bolognese with ground turkey and pork, rather than the usual beef or veal.  For the pasta, Michele used imported mezze maniche, which are something like small rigatoni.  Additional brown turkey gravy was served to moisten the bird and stuffing.  With it, we had roasted sweet potatoes, fennel, rutabaga and buttered broccoli, as well as Michele’s fig and cranberry mostarda.

We started as always with Champagne

Billecart-Salmon (Magnum) Blanc de Blancs 1981 (Mareuil-Sur-Ay) made from 100% Chardonnay. The Champagne was showing its age but it was drinkable and enjoyable.

Fiano Di Avellino DOC 2000 made from 100% Fiano Selezione Erminia Di Meo. The late harvest grapes were selected from a particular family parcel. There is a prolonged maceration with the skins at a low temperature followed by soft pressing and controlled temperature fermentation. A year after the harvest the wine remains in stainless steel with the “fecce fin” for 13 more years before release. This is an exceptional Fiano. Even though it was a 2000, everyone believed it needed more time to open up.

Corton-Charlemagne 1986 made from 100% Chardonnay Louis LaTour. The soil is stony limestone and the vines are 30 years old. Harvest is manual. Traditional fermentation in oak barrels with complete malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 8 to 10 months in medium toast new oak barrels.The wine had a hints of honey, dried fruits and an herbal note.

Gevrey-Chambertin “En Pallud” 1985 (Magnum) Domaine Maume. Made from 100% Pinot Noir. The vineyard is .63 hectares and the vines are 70 years old, the soil is clay and limestone. The clusters are 100% destemmed. The wine is aged for 18 to 20 months in mostly older barrels and is bottled without fining or filtration. This for me was the wine of the evening and I was very happy it was a magnum!

Barolo “La Serra” 1978   Marcarini made from 100% Nebbiolo This wine was produced when the legendary Elvio Cogno was the wine maker. This is a classic Barolo with flavors and aromas of faded roses, licorice, tar, tobacco and a hint of cherry. 1978 was an excellent vintage for Barolo.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape  1978  Chateau de Beaucastel made from 30% Mourvédre, 30% Grenache ,10% Syrah, 10% Counoise and 20% other permitted varieties. The grapes are hand picked and only the best grapes are kept and vinified. After a total de-stemming, the wine is traditionally vinified in temperature controlled vats for 15 days an then aged in oak barrels. This is a full bodied mature wine with hints of blackberries, blueberries, violets and a touch of pepper.

Late Harvest Zinfandel “Paso Robles” 1978 made from 100% Zinfandel from the Dusi vineyard. Ridge. The Benito Dusi Ranch is the only Ridge vineyard source south of the San Francisco Bay area. The vineyard was first planted in 1923 and was only planted with Zinfandel. Ridge started using this vineyard to make wine in 1967. Destemmed and fully crushed grapes vinified on native yeasts are sent to tanks for submerged cap fermentation for 11 days. This is followed by full malolactic on the natural occurring bacteria; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur. There is pad filtering at bottling. This is a wine with fruity aromas, with hints of black cherry and other black and red fruits with a touch of prune and spice.

Back in the 1980’s I brought a case of this wine in this vintage. If I knew it was going to last this long I would have brought more. It was showing almost no sign of age and it was like I remember the wine from 30 years ago.

We had it with the cheese.

Grappa con Erbe Serafino Levi – this was a special treat because grappa made by Romano Levi is my favorite and I only had the Grappa con Erbe once before. Even more so since he passed away several years ago, grappa made by him is difficult to find. He was known as “The Angelic Grappa maker” and was a legend in his own time. The perfect way to end a wonderful evening!



Filed under Barolo, Billecart- Salmon, Chateaneuf du Pape, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cogno- Marcarini, Corton Charlemagne, Di Meo winery, Gevery-Chambertin-Eu Pallud-Maume, Grappa, Ridge, Romano Levi, Thanksgiving 2018, Zinfandel

Finding Fu Run

Finding Fu Run

Just as we exited the Main Street Flushing #7 train station, the skies opened up and the rain began to pour down.  Carrying two bottles of wine, two wine glasses, and our umbrellas, we threaded our way through the crowded streets to Fu Run, a restaurant we had never tried before, wondering all the while if it would be worth the trip.

 Normally, when Michele and I go for Chinese food we prefer to drink tea. But it is always interesting to go to a Chinese restaurant with friends, in this case members of The Wine Media Guild, to see what wines they will bring, and to eat, drink, talk  about the wine and the food.

 Fu Run features the the food of Northeast China.  Today it is called Donghei but it was once known as Manchuria. The food began to appear soon after we arrived. 

In all, there were 17 dishes and they came so fast and were eaten so quickly that I am not sure what they all were.

 Here are a few that I did remember:

 -Muslim lamb chops– lamb ribs marinated and braised with a crispy coating of cumin seeds and hot pepper.  The meat was so tender, it fell right off the bone.

Egg Pancake

-Three different types of pork dumplings, one with celery, another with leeks and the third with cabbage.  I couldn’t stop eating them. 

-Egg pancake with leeks and pickled vegetables which was the special of the day.

Jelly Fish Salad

-Jelly fish salad–a light soy and scallion dressing made it very refreshing.  A first for me, the jelly fish didn’t seem to have any flavor, just a crunchy texture.  

-Shredded pork with green peppers

-Tender little pork meatballs in a rich broth

-Noodles with mixed vegetables

     -Sauteed water spinach

Each of the 9 guests brought a bottle of wine.  The whites were:

  Schloss Gruner Veltliner 2009 Gobelsburg Steinsetz 100% Gruner Veltiner (Austria) The vineyards are located on an elevated plain. The soil is based upon alpine pebbles transported here by the Danube River and covered by black and loamy soil, loess and gravel. The average age of the vines is 25 years. The wine is racked no more than 3 times before it is bottled, unfined and unfiltered. Maturation takes place in Austrian oak casks of 25hl. No new oak is used. The wine is released 30 to 36 months after the harvest. This wine worked with most of the dishes because no new wood was used and it had a mineral character with hints of pepper and spice and good acidity.

Campo Martino Ruttaris IGT 2000(Friuli Venezia Giulia) Jermann The wine is mostly Tocai Friulano, with a small percentage of Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana and Picolit. The wine is fermented and aged in 750 liter barrels of Slavonian oak for 12-16 months, and released two years after the harvest.  Capo Martino is the name of a hill in the heart of the Collio zone. The wine was very golden in color and looked like it might be to too old.

We had already dumped an over-the-hill Meursault and a Pouilly-Fuisse. The Capo Martino turned out to be just fine.  A complex wine with ripe fruit aromas, a hint of tropical fruits and a touch of almonds in the finish, this worked less well with the food than the first two whites. It was fuller and richer and seemed to have lost some of its acidity. I liked the wine but not that much with this type of food.

 Pinot Gris Personal Reserve 2001 100% Pinot Gris Trimbach (Alsace). Vineyards are Grand Cru Osterberg with a South/Southeast exposure. The average age of the vines is 25 years and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are handpicked when they are at their richest and pressed very gently in a pneumatic press. The juice runs into the cellar by gravity and clarifies naturally prior to fermentation. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel at controlled temperatures for 2 to 3 weeks. Fermentation stops naturally and there is a very small amount of residual sugar to go along with the ripe acidity. The wine is not oak aged. Bottling is early to preserve the freshness and bottled aged before leaving the winery. This was the wine of the evening; it has rich and fragrant with ripe fruit aromas of apricot, pear and mango and may be a touch of botrytis.  It is full bodied with a creamy texture and well balanced with a great finish and aftertaste. It went very well with all of the food, even the Muslim lamb chops.

Red Wines

 D’OH 2010 Piemonte Dolcetto DOC 100% Dolcetto Clavesana.   Fermentation and a short aging in stainless steel and it is a wine to be drunk young. The name Dolcetto means sweet little one but the wine is dry with a lot of fresh fruit flavors and aromas with a hint of cherry. It has a deep ruby red color. The wine worked with most of the dishes because it was light, fruity and lacking in tannin.

 Gigonodas 2005 Domaine du Gour de Chaule (Southern Rhone) The average age of the vines is 50 years. There is a 3 week cuvaison.  A small amount of pressed juice is added back to the cuvee. Malolatic fermentation takes place in cuve, and after the malolatic fermentation is completed the wine is racked into large oak foudres where it stays for 18 months. The wine is racked no more than three times before it is bottled unfined and unfiltered 30 to 36 months after the harvest. This was a big wine with full fruit flavors and hints of spice and pepper. It went very well with most of the food especially the Muslim lamb chops where it blended in with the flavors of the lamb.

 Montgarnatx DOC Priorat 2003 Francesc Bas (Spain) The wine is made from 75% Grenache and 25% Carignan.  Stony soil composed of slate and quartz.  They must have used too much new oak and overextracted the wine because all I could taste were jammy, oaky and vanilla flavors.  It did not go with any of the food.

 Zinfandel Old Hill Vineyard 2006 Ravenswood (Sonoma) 76% Zinfandel and 24% mixed blacks. This is the oldest vineyard of the Ravenswood vineyards and dates from around 1880. The soil is clay loam and the climate is what Joel Peterson of Ravenswood called “the banana belt of Sonoma Country”. The vineyard is at sea level with a slightly eastern exposure. They use native yeasts, open-top fermentation and punch down by hand. Skin contact is 10 to15 days, French oak aging for 20 months in new and one year old barrels. This is a big wine but seems to be more balanced than the 2007 I had over a year ago. There were flavors and aromas of blackberry, blueberry, coffee and a touch of smoke with a long finish and aftertaste. This is a big wine and I felt that it worked with some of the food but not the dumplings and the sea food dishes.

 Fu Run Restaurant is located at 40-09 Prince St Flushing, NY 11354.  The phone number is 718-32 -1363.  As they say in the reviews, “It’s worth the trip!”

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Filed under Dolcetto, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Pinot Gris, Zinfandel

Speaking with Joel Peterson Founding Winemaker at Ravenswood about Zinfandel


Recently, I was invited to meet Joel Peterson, founding winemaker of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. I knew Mr. Peterson by reputation and was looking forward to speaking with him and of course tasting his wines which are primarily zinfandels.  I had lost interest in Zinfandel over the past few years. I found them to be too high in alcohol with too much extraction and so concentrated that I could not drink them. Most of the top rated Zinfandels seemed over the top.

Joel Peterson and a Vine

Joel Peterson and a Vine

We spoke about a number of different topics including: Phylloxera- problems past and present, St. George rootstock, UC Davis, how zinfandel came to California, zinfandel’s relationship to primitivo, experimental primitive plantings in California today, and how his winery got its name.

I asked him what style of zinfandel he made. His reply was an interesting one. He said that he had a European sensibility when it came to making wine and he felt that his wine fell somewhere between Chianti and Barolo. He uses Old World winemaking techniques such as native yeasts, open-top fermenters, punching down by hand, and French oak aging. Mr. Peterson feels that each one of his vineyards is unique.  The elevation of the vineyards is anywhere from sea level to 700 feet.  The terroir varies so much that he trains the vines in different ways. For example, one vineyard might call for the Guyot, while another for Bush vines. Since most of his zinfandel vineyards are old they all have St. George root stock.  All this from a winemaker who has been making zinfandel at the same winery in California for over 30 years.

All the wines we tasted were labeled “Single Vineyard Designate” and I asked what made them special. He said that the vineyard must be in a precise location and ideally suited for the variety planted there. It must have its own flavor characteristics and profile and the vines must be old with very low yields. The vineyard must be farmed by meticulous and experienced growers.

All of his zinfandels spend 20 months in 100% French oak with a slight difference between new and one year old barrels. Mr Peterson did a very good job of integrating the wood with the wine. All of them were very well balanced and are very good food wines. His zinfandels were closer in style to European wines then to most California wines.

Ravenswood Zinfandel

Ravenswood Zinfandel

The first wine we tasted was the Dickerson, Zinfandel 2007.  The grapes come from vines grown in St Helena in the Napa Valley that date back to 1930.  Made from 100% zinfandel grapes grown at sea level.  ($35)

Big River Zinfandel 2007 -from the Alexander Valley from 100% zinfandel grown at 500 feet  ($35)

Belloni Zinfandel 2007 – Made from 78% zinfandel and 22% blend of carignane, alicante bouschet, and petite sirah.  Some of the vines are over 90 years old Russian River grapes grown at sea level. ($35)

Barricia Zinfandel 2007 –  The vineyard was first planted in 1892, Sonoma Valley. Made from 76% zinfandel and 24% petite sirah grown at sea level ($35) This was one of my favorites: very well balanced, with hints of blackberries and raspberries, this is a wine to be drunk with food.

Teldeschi  Zinfandel 2007 Zinfandel 2007. Old mixed vineyard.  The wine is made from 76% zinfandel, 22% petite sirah, and 2% carignane. Dry Creek. grown at sea level.

Vineyard dates from 1913-197 This was my other favorite:  It tasted like an Old World Wine with cherry aromas and flavors and undertones of black pepper, tar and smoke it is a great food wine ($35)

Old Hill Zinfandel 2007   Ravenswood (Sonoma) 76% Zinfandel and 24% mixed blacks. This is the oldest vineyard of the Ravenswood vineyards and dates from around 1880. The soil is clay loam and the climate is what Joel Peterson of Ravenswood called “the banana belt of Sonoma Country”. The vineyard is at sea level with a slightly eastern exposure. They use native yeasts, open-top fermentation and punch down by hand. Skin contact is 10 to15 days, French oak aging for 20 months in new and one year old barrels. There were flavors and aromas of blackberry, blueberry, coffee and a touch of smoke with a long finish and aftertaste.($60).

Peterson also makes the Icon Mixed Blacks 2007 36% carignane, 27% petite sirah, 25% zinfandel and 12% mixed blacks (some alicante bouschet) ( $75 )

And the Pickberry 2006. Made from 74% merlot and 26% cabernet sauvignon.grown at 700ft.  ($50)

If anyone could make me change my mind about zinfandel, it would be Joel Peterson of Ravenswood.

Michele and I will be teaching a class on Italian food and wine for the holiday season at De Gustibus at Macy’s on Thursday Dec 3 2009.Information & tickets 212-239-1652 or


Filed under Joel Peterson, Ravenswood winery, Zinfandel