Category Archives: Wine Tastings

Earth Day & Weekend Celebrations at the New York Botanical Garden, April 22-24

NYBG, springtime, Earth Day Weekend-April 22-24 2016

NYBG flowering trees beginning to blossom. Photo Carole Di Tosti

NYBG, Earth Day celebration April 22-24, 2016

Violets are blooming at the NYBG. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

It is dismal, cold, damp weather and Punxsutawney Phil has committed suicide because of his incorrect prognostications of an early Spring! So went a humorous Facebook post I saw yesterday with a picture of a dead groundhog with a gun lying across his chest. Well, Spring has come despite the rainy, chilly bleakness. But at the New York Botanical Garden nature is thrilled. The Garden is manifesting its beauty, despite the less than sunny conditions.

All through the Spring and summer months, the various sections of the Garden will be radiant in their finest of blooms: the rose garden, the lily ponds and more. Interspersed here and there to match the outdoor beauty, the conservatory exhibits will sport more magnificent floral theater centered around various themes. Throughout the year the Garden is always vibrant with the flavors, sights and sounds of natural horticultural beauty. Some feel the fall retains the most vibrant pageantry of all the seasons.

NYBG, Earth Day Celebration-April 22-24, 2016

Tulips at the NYBG. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

NYBG, Earth Day weekend April 22-24, 2016

Vibrant tulips at NYBG. Photo Carole Di Tosti

A celebration that represents something we all should lift up is recognition of the planet that nurtures us. Earth Day is upon us and the NYBG is commemorating with three days of activities. Perhaps the the finest, most reckoning event is on Earth Day (Friday, April 22nd). Earth Day, a national event with parades and festivals, is the underappreciated and understated day that is relevant to our lives and those of our posterity.

To recognize its importance, on Friday, the Garden will be screening Seeds of Time. Directed by Sandy McLeod, the film is a compelling documentary about global agriculture, the increasing difficulties facing the world’s food supply and the seeds that must be stored for future generations.

Daffodils, NYBG, Earth Day Celebrations, April 22-24, 2016

Daffodils are blooming at the NYBG. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Hopefully, these seeds will not be hybrids or Monsanto tweaked seeds, but will be heirloom seeds that can be planted for lifetimes.

If you stay after the screening, you will be able to enjoy a discussion and Q and A by CaryFowler, Senior Advisor of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Academy Award-nominated director of Seeds of Time, Sandy McLeod. Both will be discussing how agriculture, unless it is rethought and redirected will not be able to supply the world with food unless there are sustainable practices. Both will discuss the vital issues the filmmaker raises in the film.

Orange colored violets in containers at the NYBG. Celebrating Earth Day Events April 22-24, 2016. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Container plantings at the NYBG. April 22-24, 2016. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Barring inclement weather, Saturday and Sunday, April 23 & 24, the Botanical Garden is showing off her splendor in a panoply of spectacular spring blooms Along the paths and the beds throughout the Garden, the 150,000 daffodil bulbs planted in November 2015 will be bursting with joyful glory and unmistakable fragrance.

If you are familiar with William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” you will remember how Wordsworth, a romantic poet, uplifted nature to stave off the growing industrialization and mechanization of the factories which dehumanized, and brutalized city life. The romantics believed that through the spiritual aspects of nature man could be restored. The opening lines of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” begin:

daffodils, NYBG, Earth Day Celebrations April 22-24

Daffodils, some of the 150,000 bulbs planted last fall at the NYBG. Photo Carole Di Tosti

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance

Daffodils are a joyful harbinger of warmer weather and Wordsworth commented that their wealth of beauty lasted with him long after he left that location. All he had to do was remember in his mind’s eye their lovely happiness and he was spiritually refreshed.

Well, this weekend will offer not only spiritual rest and peace the Garden brings to rejuvenate one’s soul to face Monday, but there will be liquid refreshment, a wine tasting against the amazing backdrop of the Garden’s blooming trees and sprightly flowers.  New York State vintners will offer palate-pleasing local wines while experts on winemaking and viticulture will host demonstrations and presentations all weekend long.

For the full media alerts, go to:

Seeds of Time screening (Friday, April 22):
http://www.nybg.org/files/EarthDay2016MEDIAALERT.pdf

Daffodil Celebration & Wine Weekend (Saturday and Sunday, April 23 & 24):
http://www.nybg.org/files/pr/Daffodil_Wine_Weekend_2016_Media_Alert.pdf

The Earth Day weekend promises to be a memorable one. What better way to celebrate Spring, the 125 Anniversary of the NYBG and the sustenance and sustainability of our planet?

VINO 2016: The Story of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

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Producer at VINO 2016. Photo, Carole Di Tosti

The last day of VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9) I ran into Chris, a friend and wine connoiseur. This was in the grand ballroom where over 125 Italian wineries and their representatives were exhibiting their wonderful wines. During such amazing tastings, I try to feature one or two regions of Italy and concentrate on their wines. But I always know I am giving the other wineries short shrift. So many wines, so little time! It helps when a friend covers one area and I another and we swap notes.

Chris recommended I stop at Valpeligna Vini and try the 2010 Montepulciano which he really favored along with meeting the two brothers Marco and Giuseppe Iacobucci who were representing the wine cooperative that produced the wines. When I stopped by to see if I agreed with Chris, I spoke to Roberto Polidoro who told me an interesting story and cleared up a few facts about the wines we associate with Montepulciano that for me, Frances Mayes made famous in her book Under the Tuscan Sun.

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Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Don Peppe 2010, Photo Carole Di Tosti

Did you know that Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a particular grape that evolved in Abruzzo (the province running from the Appinnines, East of Rome to the Adriatic coast), and it is not to be confused with the wine referred to as Montepulciano, actually Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine which is a meld of Sangiovese and other grapes? I did not. Italy has over 500 indigenous varietals that are found in the twenty regions of Italy. To give you some perspective, France has only 15 varietal grapes. So when one begins to learn about the great wines of Italy, you will learn amazing stories about the evolution of their many, many grapes and you will want to continue learning about them once you begin to get your “feet wet,” and try another grape varietal or blend which is at the heart of another superb Italian wine.

This is the interesting story about the Montepulciano grape varietal, which did NOT originate in Tuscany, even though it takes the name of the town of Montepulciano in the province of Siena. The grape that grew in Tuscany in the area of Montepulciano was the Prugnolo grape varietal. Prugnolo was cultivated around Montepulciano, Siena since the Renaissance. All the European Renaissance courts from Venice to Paris adored Prugnolo. However, it was around the XVIII century before the French Revolution in 1789 that the Mazzara Nobility had the Prugnolo grape transplanted in the Peligna Valley because of the appropriate climate, soil and other features. The farmers and vintners in the Peligna Valley liked the wines produced by the Prugnolo, but didn’t use that appellation; they used a short-cut to name it, like saying “that Montepulciano grape.”

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Don Peppe 2010, Valpeligna Vini Carole Di Tosti

It has been documented by travelers at the time (Michele Torcia) of 1792 that the grape referred to as “Montepulciano” was being grown everywhere in the Peligna Valley. The irony is that the nature of the micro-climate, the soil, the suns and winds and the cultivation techniques impacted the Prugnolo and actually changed the life blood of the grape’s morphology and thus evolved a completely different grape varietal which those of the then Abruzzo-Moliese (now Abruzzo because the two provinces split in 1963) region were growing. They referred to it as “Montepulciano.”

Thus, who would think that from the Prugnolo, a different grapevine evolved and it was the familiar named grape varietal, Montepulciano. After the split of the provinces in 1963, it became Montepulciano D’Abruzzo because the Peligna Valley and other areas in Abruzzo are where the Montepulciano grapes are grown.

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Giuseppe and Marco of Valpeligna Vini with the Don Peppe 2010. Photo Carole Di Tosti

The full-bodied, bold character of the “that Montepulciano grape” is best realized in the Peligna Valley where Marco and Giuseppe Iacobbuci and other vintners combine their efforts in their cooperative, Valpeligna Vini. And I must say the wine of the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo D.O.C. is sensational and very different from the Tuscan Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a blend.

I tried the Don Peppe 2010. Its color is dark, deep ruby red. There were lovely notes of black cherry melded with vanilla. It was complex and layered and had a long, strong finish. The tannins were not overwhelming but balanced. Such a wine is great with Grana Padano and other sharp cheeses, salumi, and of course, red meats, roasts and pasta.

Italian wines like the Italian people themselves have within them an amazing story to tell. If we remember that all of Italy’s peninsula is a phenomenal food and wine region (I like to say you can’t get a bad meal in Italy), with the evolution of grape growing morphed by nobles and peasants alike, by monks and clergy who were diligent vintners. The wine tradition goes even further back to the ancestors of today’s Italians, for example, Etruscans, Samnites, Greeks, Romans because often the wine which was fermented, was SAFER and more delicious to drink than water. Indeed, there are similarities to today and upon doing a bit of research, it is amazing what one discovers: the more recent Montepulciano D’Abruzzo grape varietal is a welcome, wonderful addition to Italy’s indigenous varietals.

For me the story of this grape represents the ingenuity of vintners and how they are constantly developing and enhancing their vineyards with improved techniques to tease out the finest most luscious quality wines. As an added note, this does not involve use chemicals (pesticides, herbicides) over a thousand of which are banned in the European Union. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is strictly the morphology of the terroir, the microclimate of the Peligna Valley, the sun, wind and rains of the region as it develops from year to year and enjoys its enriched life. These wines of Valpeligna Vini are all bio-dynamic. They are grown with the passion and tender care of the vintners whose vineyards are on the Maiella hillside in Abruzzo. For further information check: Valpeligna Vini.

#Slow Wine 2016, A Festival of Great Wines

Slow Wine 2016, Italian Wines, sustainability, bio-dynamic Italian wines

Slow Wine 2016 at the Highline Ballroom. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Slow Wine 2016 is in its 5th year touring the globe with stops in Asia, the USA and Europe. Traveling in the US, Slow Wine Guide’s editorial team and select winemakers went from west to east moving from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and New York before they will be heading over to Europe.

Many New Yorkers are proponents of the Slow Wine Guide. They have come to expect excellent wines based on the Slow Wine mantra of good, clean, virtuous wines whose winemakers employ sustainable agriculture, use little or no pesticides or herbicides and engage in traditional time worn techniques using centuries-old indigenous grapes from the various regions of Italy.

Judging from the turnout at the Highline Ballroom, February 3rd, distributors, wine educators, retailers, sommeliers and others in the industry were anxious to become acquainted with exceptional slow wines produced from every region of Italy. A number of the producers were present in NYC rounding out the last of the US tour. Most of the winemakers I spoke with appear in the Slow Wine Guide which was available for purchase during the incredible tasting of reds, whites, dessert wines, and sparkling astis. The Slow Wine Guide features the best Italian wines as determined by Slow Food editors. The guide is also an App and is available for download on the App Store for iPhone.  The App, like the guide hard copy, tells the story behind the producers, their vineyards, and Italy’s wine-producing regions.

Slow Wine 2016, Italian wines, sustainable wines, bio-cynamic wines

Slow Wine 2016 at the Highline Ballroom, 2/3. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

This walk around tasting featured many small-scale winemakers who are using traditional techniques. Following through on their ancestral history and the bio-dynamic changes that have been occurring over the decades since the concept of “Slow Food, Slow Wine” emerged and was implemented, the producers work with respect for the environment and terroir. They make sure to safeguard the incredible biodiversity of grape varieties that are part of Italy’s heritage.

Winemakers who embrace the Slow Wine Guide symbols and standards are truly coming into their own. I talked to a few sommeliers and educators associated with culinary institutes. They agreed with me that when the producers began to convert from the chemicalized agriculture to bio-dynamic and sustainable tenets, the wines they initially constructed were not very good. However, as winemakers shared information and worked to perfect their techniques over the last thirty years, today the wines they produce taste out of this world. For me of vital importance is the added assurance that the agriculture used to produce the taste is sustainable. Most of the wineries have US distribution.

Piedmont, italy, Italian winemaking region

The Piedmont region of Italy. Turin is the capital. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Some of the producers whose tables I visited were from the Piedmont region of Italy, with Turin as its capital, a place where some of my ancestors are from. In north western  Italy, the Piedmont is a region whose wines I was not familiar with. What I found particularly interesting is that the Langhe wine making zone in the Piedmont has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That added protection will hopefully maintain the flora and fauna of the area for decades and will protect the vineyards and producers from land raids by developers.

Cà ed Balos, Slow Wine 2016, bio-dynamic Italian wines, Italian wines sustainable wines

Exceptional wines from Cà ed Balos winery in Piedmont. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Some of the winemakers whose exceptional wines I tasted included wines from producer Renata Bonacina of the winery Cà ed Balos.  The dessert wine Moscato d’Asti  was particularly drinkable. Another winery from the Piedmont is Bruno Nada’s Fiorenzo Nada, whose son Danilo is following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps. Danilo introduced me to two delicious red wines. From Bruna Ferro’s winery Carussin, Luca introduced me to two lovely red wines. Representatives of the consortium of wines from PiedmOnTop introduced me to wines from four different vintners.

There were two other wine regions I sampled wines from: Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, both whose regional wines I tasted before this event, though I had not tasted wines from these producers which were just great. From  Modena in Emilia-Romagna is the winery Cantina Della Volta whose “prestigious cellar is old in origin but modern in conception” according to the Slow Wine Guide 2016. And from Tuscany was a type of wine that I drank years ago at family gatherings but I thought was boring: Chianti. Chianti has been revolutionized. It overshadows many of our West coast reds for drinkability and agricultural integrity. When I tasted the offerings of Badia a Coltibuono, I was impressed. Slow Wine states that the winery is “a paragon of good Italian viticulture and has been certified organic since 2000.” All of their efforts to work sustainably have produced some incredible Chiantis. After having turned up my nose at this type for years, Badia a Coltibuono as made me a convert to be on the lookout for more amazing Chiantis like those of this winery.

This year’s Slow Wine 2016 was an exceptional event. Because of the tenor of what it means to produce the fruit of the earth without harming the vines, the terroir and environment, I am persuaded that these wines are finally achieving a level of quality that conventional wines produced with chemicals will never attain. I am sorry that I couldn’t get to each vintner, but I do have the Slow Wine Guide to keep me apprised of the offerings of great Italian vintages that have been produced in a growing style that most wine lovers will come to expect over time because the wines are incomparable.

Continually, Europe has been way ahead of the United States with regard to sustainability, local food sourcing, the rejection of radiated foods and the labeling of GMOs. Unlike the US, Europe has banned over 1000 chemicals which appear on a blacklist as toxic for people and the environment. To have such chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers) used in the production of agriculture and husbandry (antibiotics, growth hormones, processed feed), is anathema to most countries in the European Union. Because Italians are assiduous keepers of clean food and wine, the quality of the food Italians experience daily has superb taste, nutrition and cleanness. To have wines which exemplify the same value and worth as their food makes complete sense and complements a daily lifestyle that shows an appreciation for life and beauty. Would that we were to follow the European and Italian Slow Food and Slow Wine example.

This article first appeared on Blogcritics.

Moldovan Wine Tasting at the Astor Center

Moldovan Wine Tasting at the Astor Center

Moldova.   Have you heard of this country?  Vaguely familiar with the tiny republic that is sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine and whose southernmost border is the Black Sea, I was surprised to discover that it is a huge wine producer. Most of its agricultural landscape is devoted to vines and vineyards and the country boasts ownership of one of the largest wine cellars in the world.

Christy Canterbury led the guided Moldovan wine tasting at the Astor Center. When she mentioned the salient facts about Moldova reds and whites and discussed the number of hectares of land used for wine production in her introduction, my ears perked up. I was anxious to begin tasting this historic (from 3000 BC) wine that the Russians had been enjoying for decades until a recent embargo banned the wine for large import into Russia. Why? Most probably geopolitical reasons. You see, Moldova was beginning to market to the EU.  The embargo may have backfired in that Moldova has risen to the occasion and is encouraging their country’s producers to expand their markets to Europe and the United States. Russia’s loss is our gain as we broaden our horizons and our palates becoming familiar with Moldova’s delicious wines which were predominately marketed to eastern block countries.

The Republic of Moldova is sandwiched between Romania and The Ukraine.

Here are a few interesting facts about Moldovan wines which include both reds and whites. One fun fact is that the country is shaped like a bunch of grapes. The Republic of Moldova has 112 thousand hectares of vineyard planted with over 30 types of technical varieties. There are 4 historical wine regions, three of which are designated for the production of wines with protected geographic indication. The largest plantings are the white varieties (Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Aligote to name a few.)  In the southern region 30% are red varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Saperavi, etc.). Aromatic varieties account for 36% of the vineyards.

Cricova 2007 Grand Vintage Brut Methode Traditionnelle

What makes Moldovan wines unique and authentic are the indigenous varieties which are 10% of the vineyards: Feteasca Alban, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra to name the dominant ones. These unique wines were prestigious at the Tsar’s residence in the early 1800s and in Europe. After an anti-alcohol campaign (set by Mikhail Gorbachev) in the 1980s in which production was curtailed, Moldovan wine production revived. After the country became a republic in 1991, the modernization of wine making began in earnest.

 

At the tasting there were 10 wineries, all looking for markets in the US:  Vinaria din Vale, PURCARI, Castel Mimi, Ampelos, Chateau Vartely, Albastrele WinesCricova, Lion-Gri, BOSTAVANASCONI, and the wines of the Moldovan Small Wine Producers Association. The strongest and most popular offerings of whites and reds were the tasting selections, 11 in all.

Golden Land 2013 Feteasca Neagra

Among my favorites and those of the tasters were the Cricova 2007  Grand Vintage Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, a White Brut Sparkling Wine whose suggested retail price was $50. The one we tasted was from a sparkling white classic collection of 5 years, made by Méthode Champenoise that includes a second fermentation in bottles with following cuvee maturation in a horizontal position for more than five years. What was interesting about this winery was that they hold wine collections of celebrities. If you want to store your collection there, this winery will oblige you. Indeed, there is a story that the Red Army confiscated Hermann Göring’s wine collection and it is stored at this winery. The price of the wine from the Göring collection goes for $25,000 a bottle.

There were two other whites that I enjoyed: the Château Vartely Traminer 2013 Sec Alb, a white dry wine from the Codru region that had a special flavor of rose-petals and moderate acidity, ideal for the summer. A white, Crescendo 2012 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Alb Sec is a barrel fermented white dry wine that has intense flavors. Its elegant and seductive wood notes, well integrated structure melds with the ripe fruit that has significant influences of citrus acidity.

Christy Canterbury led the guided wine tasting of Moldovan Wines at the Astor Center.

Of the five reds, I especially enjoyed two. One was Golden Land 2013 Feteasca Neagra. This is comprised of the Rara Neagra grape varietal which is in limited areas and is drought resistant and of a late harvest. The varietal produces a dark red color wine with a pronounced fruit taste coupled with spiciness. At $11.00 suggested retail, this was a particularly good value.  Another red I enjoyed was the Negru de Purcari from Vinaria Purcari 2010 vintage. It has a rich structure and generous bouquet. The legendary PURCARI winery is the oldest winery in Moldova, which in the early 1800s sent shipments of their reds to Queen Victoria. This particular red is a blend with 70% Cabernet comprising most of the grape varietal.

Pictures from the Walk Around Tasting

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Cricova

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Abestrele Wines

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Ampelos

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Asconi

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Chateau Vartely

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Castel Mimi

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Vinaria din Vale

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Purcari

Three vineyards are not pictured: 

1.BOSTOVAN,
2.LION-GRI
3.THE MOLDOVAN SMALL WINE PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION                                                                                
The tasting was an excellent opportunity for wine lovers to try wines they were unfamiliar with because of a glitch in geopolitical relations. As we continue to benefit from these events, US markets welcome the fine wines from this region devoted to its vineyards and its appreciation of great wine. After all, if it has the largest wine cellar in the world, it stands to reason that the value of delicious wine is not lost on this country.
This article first appeared on Blogcritics at this link.

Montefalco Sagrantino Wine Tasting at Eataly NYC

Montefalco Sagrantino wines I recently sampled at Eataly NYC.

Montefalco Sagrantino wines I recently sampled at Eataly NYC.

If you are a red wine drinker and like to try fine wines that have a robust flavor, then Sagrantino wines will list among your favorites. The Sagrantino grapes are small, finicky powerhouses, but despite their needing much care to properly cultivate in their indigenous Italian region, California, Australia and other areas of the world are jumping on the Sagrantino bandwagon. As they try their hand at producing the bold red wine which originated in Montefalco in the province of Umbria, Italy centuries ago, they will tease out its richness and unique characteristics.

Montefalco Sagrantino is a wine that is appropriate in every season. It is distinctive, flavorful, and vibrant and has an interesting finish on the palate. It pairs well with wintry fare of stews, roasts, short ribs, as well as summery grilled meats and chops. It is lovely with rustic and hearty vegetable and pasta-dish combinations. It also goes well with appetizers like cheeses and salumi and is a highly drinkable accompaniment to foods that are sweet or salted.

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Inalata di Farro, Cavoletti di Bruxelles & Pecorino (Farro, Brussels Sprouts, & Pecorino Salad) Chef Alicia Walter prepared the dish. The Perticaia went well with the salad. It has a freshness and lighter quality.

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Perticaia, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2009, now featured at Eataly NYC and Chicago. It’s Montefalco Sagrantino month.

This is Sagrantino month at Eataly NYC and Eataly Chicago.  Eataly is the extravaganza presenting the best of Italy in its restaurants, market and wine shop on 5th Avenue housed under one roof in an amazing and fun way. All month Eataly is offering Montefalco Sagrantino classes in its teaching school, La Scuola. It’s wine shop is hosting Montefalco Sagrantino tastings for free. Additionally, in its hugely popular La Piazza restaurant, one can pair up a glass of Montefalco Sagrantino with the cheese plates or salumi for a delicious treat or lunch.

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Casarecce con Lenticchie & Pere (Casarecce with Lentils & Pears.) Chef Alicia Walter.

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L to R: Scacciadiavoli, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2008 and Antonelli, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007

Five Monetfalco Sagrantino producers are being offered at the Friday tastings. I had the opportunity to try each at an event at Eataly’s La Scuola during which various producers were present. Rebecca Mills discussed the wines, the food pairings and the producers Marco Caprai of Arnaldo Caprai Vineyards and Filippo Antonelli from Antonelli San Marco filled in with salient facts about their wines.

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Agnello allo Scottadito con Zucca al Forno (Lamp Sottadito with Roasted Squash). Loosely translated, scottadito means “burnt Fingers.” The inference is that these little chops are so irresistible that you go for it before cooling. Even well done these are fabulous and they are perfect with Sagrantino.

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L to R: Arnaldo Caprai, Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiano DOCG 2007 and Tenuta di Castelbuono, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007. Both go well with roasted meats, short ribs and stews as well as grilled steaks and chops.

Alicia Walter chef from Eataly in New York City, created the dishes which paired beautifully with the wines. They were the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wines, 2007-2009 vintages from the five different producers in the Montefalco region of Umbria now being featured at Eataly in March.

The DOCG designation for each means that the wines must adhere to the highest production standards. The wines are produced from 100% Sagrantino grapes grown in Montefalco. The regulations include the specific months in the barrel, an October harvest, and the agriculture of the vines (number of vines per hectare).

You will be able to purchase these producers wines at Eataly NYC and at other fine wine shops in NYC, Chicago, San Francesco and Los Angelos. Their websites are above and you can place orders there. Better yet, travel to Umbria, visit these producers’ wineries. They will be happy to offer tastings and tours of their vineyards. However, if you aren’t planning a trip in the near future, drop in to sample the Montefalco Sagrantino at Eataly NYC or Chicago this month. As you open up your palate to these unique wines, you will note their different personalities, and you will probably walk away with a bottle of pure Montefalco Umbria. You will be glad you did.

Puglia and its Wines. Lovely tastings at GD Cucine and Vinitaly USA-New York

Master Class on Puglian wines: Consorzio Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia

#Vinitaly International Academy’s Master Class on Puglian wines: Consorzio Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia

Puglia Italy is a treasure. My cousins visited and  added to their travel adventures in this glorious Southern province of Italy that borders the Adriatic Sea and Mediterranean. I was jealous as I have yet to tour the province. However, I have taken a step in the right direction by sampling their delicious wines at a mega tasting event in New York City last week. The event was sponsored by Vinitaly International USA-New York whose spot on International Academy led by Scientific Director, Ian D’Agata, held master classes. One of these was in Puglian Wines; the presentation was by Daniele Cirsone. To further promote their wines and indulge in appetizers and dishes with which they paired well, there was also an event at GD Cucine Showroom held afterward. Both the Master Class held by Consorzio Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia: “Puglia Land of Opportunity” and the event at GD Cucine Showroom were exceptional.

At the GD Cucine Puglian Wine tasting event.

At the GD Cucine Puglian Wine tasting event.

The wines featured at the Master Class on Puglian wines included the following offerings.

Mottura Vini Del Salento /  Le Pitre Negroamaro – Salento IGP (2011)

Vigne & Vini Varvaglione / Papale Oro – Primitivo di Manduria DOP (2011)

Tenute Emera / Anima di Primitivo Primitivo di Manduria DOP  (2011)

Azienda Agr. Duca Carlo Guarini / Boemondo -Salento IGP (2010)

Castel Di Salve / Cento su Cento Negroamaro -Salento IGP (2010)

Carvinea / Sierma – Salento IGP (2009)

Rivera S.P.A. / Il Falcone – Castel del Monte DOP Riserva (2007)

The last of the bottle at the GD Cucine wine event.

The last of the bottle at the GD Cucine wine event. The wine is Tormaresca from the estate Bocca di Lupo at Minervino Murge.

The wines at the tasting at GD Cucine included wines from the wineries listed above and the following offerings below.

Albea Winery  Il Serlva Locorotondo doc 2012 SRP / Petrarosa Puglia Rosato igp 2012 / Petranera Puglia igp 2009 SRP

Apollonio  Salice Salentino Rosso DOC -SRP / Terragnolo Primitivo Salento igt – SRP

Leone de Castris 50 Vendemmia Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOC SRP

Masseria Altemura  Fiano Salento igt 2012 / Rosato Salento igt 2012 / Sasseo Salento Igt 2011

Palama  Metiusco Salento Rosso igp 2012 / Albarossa Salento Rosso Primitivo igp 2011

Taurino  Salice Salentino Riserva Rosso DOC 2009 / Notarpanaro Salento Rosso igp 2006

Tormaresca  Trentangeli Castel del Monte DOC 2009 – SRP / Roycello Salento Bianco igt 2011

Puglia’s Land and Wines Part II

Puglia, land of great wines and the "green gold." (olive oil)

Puglia, land of great wines and the “green gold.” (olive oil)

I am grateful to have received the information supplied by friends who live in Puglia as well as those who love and represent Puglian wines. The more I learn about Puglia, the more my appetite is whetted for a visit. When I do go, I will be prepared to enjoy the province’s delights and spend more than a few weeks there.

The Unique Wine Region

Over 800 kilometers of coastline define the geographic boundaries of the Puglia Region. It is long and narrow. Puglia is composed of Daunia and the High Murgia, Murge, Lower Murgia and Itria Valley, Messapia and Salento. These five territories are well-defined wine districts, strongly anchored to typical grapes that characterize the productions.

A wide ampelography collection makes the difference between Puglia and other Italian or Southern regions. Characterized by a marked mutability of its territory, Puglia can count on a wide variety of terroir that is expressed in a rich bouquet of aromas and flavors unique and unparalleled. It changes from Daunia mountain peaks to the sandy coast of Salento going through large and sunny hill areas.

There are the native grapes and also grown are the many varieties of national and international grapes now permanently inhabiting the region. The wines made here have a very distinctive and impressive structure. Thanks to the passion and experience of wine makers, Puglia’s wines are mostly red, with a strong character and identity.

Wines from Puglia are mostly red. Vinitaly International Academy Master Class on Puglian Wines.

Wines from Puglia are mostly red. Vinitaly International Academy Master Class on Puglian Wines.

Daunia and the High Murgia

Bordered by Molise, Campania and Basilicata Regions, this northernmost area of Puglia has a vast array of colors and flavors, and extends from the Sub-Appennine hills and the Gargano promontory right down into the heart of Frederick II’s territories. Wine-growing here is an ancient tradition, and the legend surrounding the origins of wine-growing here is that the king of Daunia invited the mythical Greek hero Diomedes to settle down; he had wandered around the Mediterranean after discovering that his wife was unfaithful and was seeking a new homeland. Diomedes planted the first vines, so that to this day, the vineyards are known as the “fields of Diomedes” and the typical Tremiti Island seagulls are also called “diomedee”, almost as if their sing-song calls tell the story of the hero’s wanderings.

Some vines which have found their ideal habitat in this corner of Puglia are Montepulciano, Bombino (bianco and nero) and the increasingly well-known and appreciated Nero di Troia – the powerful and unmistakable variety common to both Daunia and the Murgia.

Besides wine, olive oil is another symbol of this area of Puglia: the precious “green gold” is mostly identified with the cities of Andria and Corato, and some of the region’s most important olive oil-producing companies are in the surrounding countryside. Finally there is the delightful city of Trani, with its magnificent Cathedral, its Frederician Castle and its delightful sea-front. A glass of Trani’s delicious sweet wine – Moscato di Trani – is the perfect end to a wonderful tour.

At the GD Cucine wine tasting even. A bottle from the Rivera Winery.

At the GD Cucine wine tasting event. Trentangeli Castel del Monte DOC 2009 – SRP

Lower Murgia and Itria Valley

A tour of Bari Province’s authentic flavors takes you via Gravina in Puglia – near the border with neighboring Basilicata Region – down towards the Gulf of Taranto, passing through places well-known for their wines, their bread and pastries, and their excellent meats. Altamura is famous for its Dop bread. Santeramo in Colle produces wine and oil, and meat-lovers will be thrilled with its traditional grill-houses. Gioia del Colle has an imposing castle and is home to the Primitivo DOC wine.

The Itria Valley is renowned for its white wines, and no one should miss Alberobello with its world-famous trulli, and its two districts – Monti and Aia Piccola. The town was designated a national monument in 1910 and is a Unesco World Heritage site. The other jewel of the Itria Valley and the area’s wine-making center is Locorotondo. Historically, generations of small farmers have worked the soil. In modern times thousands of wine-growers combine traditional techniques with the new trends of the international wine scene.

Messapia and Salento

The people of the Salento are proud of their past, and at the same time they are very much orientated towards the future. This is the land of three important vines – Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera and Primitivo – which dominate the so-called Great Salento, from Taranto Province to Lecce Province, passing through Brindisi Province. This is the land of the great fortified farmsteads – the masserie – now top-class hotels and resorts which have made Puglia world-famous. This is also the land of wineries.   

The roads to the outlying villages are very scenic, like the green road linking Grottaglie to Manduria, the city of Primitivo wine; on every side of the road there are alberello vineyards and monumental olive groves.

On the road to Lecce, it is definitely worth stopping in Guagnano, Novoli, Carmiano and Arnesano, small towns in the Negroamaro Park. This is where some of the region’s important wine-growers are based, and they offer an excellent combination of hospitality and quality products.

 

Barolo’s Cannubi Master Class at #Vinitaly International Tour in NYC

Barolo Cannubis at the tasting.

Barolo Cannubis at the tasting.

Vinitaly International Tour has launched the Vinitaly International Academy which is an innovative educational initiative about Italian wines. Master Classes on various Italian wines are being presented so that members of the wine trade can deepen their knowledge of Italian wines for sale, promotion and enjoyment purposes. This initiative was successfully launched at Vinitaly International Tour’s largest wine event in the U.S. in NYC on February 3rd at the Metropolitan Pavilion. And the initiative will continue as Vinitaly International Tour goes around the world to mainland China, Hong Kong, Russia and back to Italy’s largest wine event in Verona, Italy on April 5th.

The first of the Master Classes was on Barolo’s Cannubi. These wines are Italy’s oldest and most famous Grand Cru. This designation taken from the French means great vintages from specific areas, terrains and vineyards. Ian D’Agata, Vinitaly’s Scientific Director of the VIA (Vinitaly International Academy) presented at the tasting of these Barolo Cannubi wines and highlighted which ones were upcoming and which were more established producers. The tastings and information were a great way to find new Italian wines to love and to ask for.

Ian D'Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy at the Barolo Cannubi presentation and tasting.

Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy at the Barolo Cannubi presentation and tasting.

Thsee wines are Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Piedmont and specifically the Barolo region. Some producers add other grapes like Muscatel or San Lorenzo. As for Barolo Cannubi? Cannubi is a long hill with a gradual slope lying in the heart of the Barolo area. The soils are rich in magnesium and maganese carbonate that are enhanced and weathered to richness by the air and unique microclimate. Surrounded by higher hills, Cannubi hill is protected from storms and extreme wind.  Soil and exceptional microclimate give Cannubi a completeness and balance melding perfectly the structure and aromas and very elegant tannins making it an imminently drinkable wine.

Many of the wines we tasted were absolutely lovely, full bodied and elegant. deep- some with hints of red cherry others with raspberry notes, others spice. Aged in wood barrels, the spice and wood notes blend beautifully.  Garnet-red in color, they cast ruby reflections. D’Agata asserted that the colors vary from a bright red that deepens with aging. The color is never inky black as some would want to claim. They offered a fine nose of penetrating clean scents: roses, vanilla, licorice, spices, toasted oak. Certainly a perfume of graceful power.

The Barolo Cannubi achieves maturity after 6 years from the harvest. As it ages well, it can be enjoyed throughout its life between 6 and 25 years. The prestige of the wines are site specific depending on the vintage and history of the vineyard. The bottles of Barolo Cannubbi can run $100 more at auction than a Barolo, again site specific with the reputation of the vineyard and vintage determining price.

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This is a list of the wines presented:

Brezza Giacomo E Figli  (Cannubbi)

Cascina Bruciata (Cannubi Muscatel)

Ceretto  (Cannubi San Lorenzo)

Chiara Boschis (Cannubi)

Damilano (Cannubi)

Michele Chiarlo (Cannubi)

Scavino Paolo (Cannubi)

Virna (Cannubi Boschis)

If you, like me, are in a  gastronomic paradise like New York City, San Francisco or Chicago and are always looking for lovely wines to go with fabulous cuisine, try one of these Cannubis. You can have them with cheeses  and with fine (preferably free ranged, humanely slaughtered and anti-biotic free) red meats,like braised short ribs, steak, veal, roasts, game dishes. If you are in the wine trade, then get the word out about Italy’s oldest and finest “Grand Cru.”

Amarone Wines, The Velvet Underground! #Vinitaly International

#Winitaly Tour NYC Master Class: "Amarone, the velvet underground: treasures to be shared"  Amarone flight,

#Winitaly Tour NYC Master Class: “Amarone, the velvet underground: treasures to be shared” Amarone flight,

Friends had introduced me to Amarone, but frankly it was a few years ago and I was not really informed about the wonderful Amarone wines. My friends were unfamiliar with it beyond being introduced to it at cursory tastings, one of the way wines are introduced but not really known.

Vinitaly International Tour has innovated a better way for wine aficionados to become familiar with lovely Italian wines. This innovation will not only increase familiarity with Italian wines which are gradually becoming known in America. The best benefit will be to further encourage our visits to wineries in Italy where we’ll be able to experience the wines on “their own turf” and spend more time savoring their flavors and understanding the terroir, production and their best years. With that knowledge, we can come back home and demand an increase in the wines’ availability.

The Vinitaly International Academy established this year provided an invaluable exposure to Amarone for those like myself who were familiar but not particularly knowledgeable about Amarone wines. Presented were the Amarone family of wines. Their quality and standards are exceptional because the association of producers has set the highest standards for their Amarone. Because of the popularity of Amarone, vintners have hopped on the train to cash in on the trend. The problem has been a diminution of the offerings and a lowering of quality. To ensure that this beloved and increasingly popular wine is not diminished or diluted in its power of enjoyment the association has adopted strict standards so the Amarone’s beautiful, riches are maintained. The association intends that Amarone’s history of greatness continue and that the wine NOT be treated like a commodity, but more as an appreciation of the art of fine wine making. Assembly line wines and lowered quality? These producers have an important point that few would argue with. What can I say? After the tasting, I was thrilled to add this wine to my list of favorites.

The Amarone wines we tasted during the Master Class on Amarone at the Vinitaly International Academy, #Vinitaly Tour.

The Amarone wines we tasted during the Master Class on Amarone at the Vinitaly International Academy, #Vinitaly Tour.

A bit about Amarone. Some is produced in the Valpolicella region which is near Verona. The finest grape growing region is in the hills which can be up to 700 metres high. The better vineyards are in the hilly region; the impoverished wines are in the alluvial plane which is not particularly advantageous to growing the grapes found in the traditional Amarone.

Amarone is composed principally of the Corvina grapes and Corvinone (bigger grape…and unrelated to Corvina). The Corvina grape is an ancient grape used by the Romans. To produce the wines, there is a meld of various percentages of Corvina or Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Oseleta grapes. Oseleta has fallen out of favor with vintners because it has a thick skin and little juice, though it is indigenous to the area. There is a much smaller percentage of Oseleta and Molinara, especially Oseleta simply because there is little juice yield. Usually an Amarone will have about 5% of either the Molinara or Oseleta.

#Vinitaly International NYC

#Vinitaly International NYC

Amarone is rich, smooth and depending upon percentages of grapes. there are spicy notes or black cherry savor on the tongue. Most of the wines we tasted had an interesting, memorable or lasting finish. A fine feature of Amarone is that it ages really well and actually benefits from aging.

The below list covers a few of the wines we sampled and my notes and Ian D’Agata’s informative Master Class, “Amarone, the Velvet Underground” are the first step to understanding this wonderful wine if you are not already familiar with it.

Begali / Amarone Classico 2008   The grapes are air dried. There was a subtle 17% alcohol content that was not readily noticeable. Notably rich tasting with 30% Rondinella and the rest of the main Corvina or Corvinone grapes and a small percentage of another grape (not Oseleta).

Brigaldara / Amarone Case Vecie 2008   This hadd a beautiful velvet mouth feel and lovely tannins.  Again the grapes are air dried. The vineyard is in the high hills and they are harvested late and dried into February.

Musella / Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2008  This wine held the usual blend with less rondinella. Interestingly the wine was balanced with a fresh taste. What I liked was that the grapes were organically certified.

Speri / Amarone Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano 2009  This wine from a famous vineyard  was delicious. It was composed of 75-80% Corvina and Covinone, 15% Rondinella and the rest from Molinara. It had a spiciness from the Molinara and nice finish. It ages well.

Tommasi Viticoltori / Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2010  This wine is a typical blend with 5% Oseleta. It is a deep, rich red color typical of Amarone. It is imminently drinkable, not opulent, a big red wine. It has an alcoholic strength that is subtle.

At a later date, I will feature the rest of the Amarone we tasted. Look for the article.

#Vinitaly International USA-NYC! Best of Italian Wines

#Winitaly Tour NYC

#Winitaly Tour NYC

Once again the international Vinitaly Tour graced NYC and the turn out despite the snow was huge. Vintners, producers, retailers, distributors, exhibitors wouldn’t miss the largest Italian wine event of the year. Present were key figures for Vinitaly, Stevie Kim, Managing Director at Vinitaly International and Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy. Both Stevie Kim and Ian D’Agata were present for a number of the Master Classes and Ian D’Agata’s expertise proved invaluable in relating the notable details about specific wines from the highlighted production regions.

The Master Classes provided by the Vinitaly International Academy are designed to familiarize patrons, American distributors and sommeliers with specific Italian wines. Particularly informative classes were on Barolo’s Cannubi flight presented by Ian D’Agata and his discussion at the tasting of the Amarone family of wines. “Amarone, the velvet underground: treasure to be shared” was a memorable session that garnered applause at the conclusion. Other exceptional Master Classes where on Franciacorta and wines from Puglia.

Ian D'Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy, #Vinitaly International Tour in NYC

Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy, #Vinitaly International Tour in NYC

Friends kept friends who were unable to make it connected via Social. Yangbo Du captured many great pix and snippets on Storify.  More stories to follow on this blog.

CIAO and remember to check out the great Italian wines coming your way.

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