I have been absent very often from this blog and fear that the next few weeks will be much of the same as I travel around Chile, reading books by Bruce Chatwin and Isabel Allende, drinking Cabernet and other great Chilean wines. I’m super excited for the trip.
I have tried numerous wines over the past few weeks but only a few really stood out. One was La Segreta 2006 from Planeta. This Sicilian IGT is an easy drinking wine which works well with food without overpowering it.
I had brought a bottle of Cavas de Weinert Malbec 2000 home for the holiday meal but it was corked, alas alak. I had tasted it in Argentina last year and it was fabulous. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
That said, in addition to great wine and food, the holiday season means many things to me including the Holiday Train Show at the Bronx Botanical Gardens and Alvin Ailey, gospel music at Mount Moriah on 126th streeet in Manhattan and carols at St. John the Divine. A true New York holiday season. This one was particularly special.
I am always looking for a new wine bar, a new wine, a new experience but sometimes, I like to go back to places as well. This was my fifth time at Buceo 95, a wine and tapas bar located on 95th street between Amsterdam and Broadway in New York City. I have been to Buceo in all seasons and must say on a cold winter’s night, it was a warm refuge. The new sommelier is very nice and knowledgeable. He let us do a blind tasting of three wines and then had us choose which one we wanted. I, like most wine geeks, was too focused on whether I could pick the grape variety (I couldn’t) rather than just thinking about the pleasureable tasting experience. I wanted to use my new skills as a Certified Spanish Wine Educator. I definitely need to go on an extended trip to Spain and do more research.
I tried a number of wines which I enjoyed but the one that stood out was a 2007 Can Blau from Montsant made with carinena, syrah, and garnacha. Can Blau is the joint effort of Jorge Ordóñez and Ángel Gil of Bodegas Juan Gil. Montsant became a Denominacion de Origen (DO) in autumn 2001. It looks very beautiful with hills and olive groves. The area forms a horseshoe shape around the better known area of Priorato.
The area is garnering considerable attention. This Montsant wine was deep in color, full bodied with spicy notes from the syrah and black fruit. It also had a velvety mouthfeel and a long, persistent finish. A delicious find. It went perfectly with my skirt steak, also another good choice. Buceo 95 is definitely moving in a good direction with Pedro Ximenez and many sherries on the menu as well. I am excited for my next visit.
On another note, 95th Street made the news today as part of a story about the magic of the holiday season. Check out this New York Times piece.
Filed under Wine Bars, wines
I discovered a wine that I am wild about earlier this fall thanks to a colleague, Cantine Federciane’s Gragnano DOC. At first I was sure that I was drinking a Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna but this wine has much more body to my palate and different earthier aromas than I get from most Lambrusco. Gragnano is made from a blend of indigenous grapes from the Campania region of Italy. Piedirosso, Sciascinoso and Aglianico are blended to produce this delicious red wine from the Sorrento Penisola. The soils are volcanic and the winery’s website says that they see the perlage or bubbles in this wine as reflecting the eruptions of Vesuvius. The wine is made in stainless steel and ferments at a controlled temperature on selected yeasts. It undergoes a secondary fermentation in autoclave in order to create its characteristic foam.
I love the color of this wine, a deep ruby almost purple red. It is best when served cool and is refreshing with berry notes, a lovely body and rich texture. I like to have this wine at a local restaurant and wine bar Tarallucci e Vino but it is on the menu at numerous restaurants in New York City. I also discovered a widespread consensus on the web that this is the ideal wine for pizza. I like to have a glass all on its own as well. The wine is imported by Wine Emporium.
I am going on a long trip to Chile later this month. I am looking for any ideas about wineries to check out, people to contact or great Chilean wines that you have tasted. I am super excited for the trip and would love any good advice about wines to try. The first week is a boat trip in Patagonia and thereafter will be anyone’s guess. Any and all ideas are welcome. Thanks.
Recently I started posting a few recipes that my friends had given to me before I left Italy. This one is from Paola Cornelli, a dear friend and a fabulous skipper. I decided to pair it with a wine that I love, Confini 2005 IGT, from Friuli Producer Lis Neris. The wine is made from a blend of grapes with slight changes in the percentages on a yearly basis. The 2005 is a blend of 30% Pinot Grigio, 60% Gewurztraminer and 10% Riesling.
I brought the wine to my tasting group and they had a hard time placing it. The Gewurztraminer’s floral and lychee notes shine through and are well integrated with the minerality and wet stone tones from the Riesling. The wine is truly a celebration on your palate and is rich and full bodied without being overdone. The late harvest aromas and flavors are what makes the wine confusing in a blind tasting I think. Alvaro manually late harvests the wines from 10-25 year old vines. The wine ferments and matures on its fine lees (dead yeast cells) for 10 months in 500 liter French oak barrels. It is in the end, elegant and slightly restrained, much like Alvaro Pecorari, the winemaker.
This is a photo of Alvaro and his daughter Federica at Vinitaly this past year. I sometimes do work with Alvaro’s importer in the United States and have been to his winery in San Lorenzo, a town right on the border (confine) with Slovenia and very close to the Isonzo river. Alvaro has 50 hecatares of vineyards which are planted on gravelly soil that was dragged down from the Alps. I can’t say enough good things about Alvaro and his wines. They are hands down my favorite white wines coming out of Italy. He is a very meticulous wine maker and his wines speak for themselves.
Salmone al Cartoccio (Parchment or Aluminum foil) (for 6 people)
1 large Salmon fillet
Light the over to 356 F, place the fillet in a plate covered with oven paper and sprinkle it with pepper and salt and lemon slices (rub the lemon on the skin so that it doesn’t get too dry while cooking).
Close the oven paper around the salmon on both sides, leaving a slight space for air to circulate inside. Cook for about 30 minutes. Open the parchment paper (let it cool a bit) and remove the skin and fish bones.
Serve it hot and accompanied by these two sauces
1 cup of yogurt
2 cups of mayonnaise
2 spoonfuls of Italian mustard
Ground white pepper
Freshly chopped dill
Cherry tomatoes cut into very small pieces
Dried red pepper
I have been absent from my blog for about a week and have made a number of changes to both my blog and to my website Vigneto Communications. I’ve added a little winter touch for the holiday season. I hope it isn’t annoying…I am pleased with the changes, a tad easier on the eyes. Tomorrow I will be back to posting about wine. I have tasted many interesting wines during the past week. I look forward to sharing my thoughts.
Today as we all know is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Ever mindful of historical significance, our President-elect nominated his choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs today. Watching the press conference, I was moved thinking how far we had all come from that fateful day. My great uncle Murray was one of the few survivors of Pearl Harbor and his military service was one of the most important aspects of his life. His license plate underscored this and read Pearl Harbor Survivor. Murray is no longer with us but I wanted to raise a glass to him today with a wine from the United States. I was looking for a wine from Hawaii but instead was fortunate to try a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon made on Staten Island by Robert Rispoli. This Russian River Cabernet was pretty good for a homemade wine. Much better than my latest vintages of I Due Gatti. Rispoli has a wine school, Vino Divino, where you can take classes and make your own wine.
I met Rispoli at a beautiful event, Winter in Tuscany, at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island. Staten Island has the largest percentage of residents of Italian ancestry of any county in the United States, according to the 2006 US Census. The center is very active in promoting Italian initiatives together with its cultural sponsor the Fitzgerald Foundation of Florence. Earlier this year they held a film series and are now opening a Tuscan garden and villa modeled after a famous Florentine garden – the Villa Gamberaia. The garden will also house a one-acre vineyard and will host numerous cultural events and festivals.
Tonight’s party was a fun event with a Pinocchio theme. I went to Collodi to see the Pinocchio park early in my Italian life. It was beautiful and magical even as an adult.
On my way back home, I stopped by the holiday party for the Three Parks Dems, a group on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for whom I volunteered earlier this fall. The event ended with a rousing gospel version of America the Beautiful and me feeling warm, fuzzy and patriotic.
One of the parts of Italian life I miss most is the concept of “ponti” or long weekends where you go on a “gita fuori porta” meaning you take a brief but exciting trip to another city or country. At the beginning of the year, everyone begins counting how many long “ponti” there are in a year. This weekend is a special one for Milan, my adopted city for 10 years, la festa of their Patron Saint- Saint Ambrogio which translates into Sant’Ambroeus in the Milanese dialect.
The famous cafes in New York on Madison Avenue, in the West Village and in South Hampton are named for this very saint. Sant’Ambroes is December 7 and December 8 is also a holiday, the Immaculate Conception. December 7 is generally also the opening day of the Opera Season at La Scala in Milan. This year’s opening night will have a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Don Carlo. If you aren’t going to be in Milan anytime soon, you can always learn about opera in New York from a true expert – Fred Plotkin. I met Fred last year at the Tre Bicchieri tasting and have discovered that he is quite an expert not only in Italian food and wine but in opera as well. He will be speaking about Opera at New York University on December 16.
Each city in Italy has a patron saint and the saint’s day is always celebrated. I would invariably leave Milan during these many “ponti” and travel around Italy or to a nearby country. Some of my most memorable “ponti” were spent skiing at a friend’s house in Chatel, France in the Haute-Savoie region.
We would ski all day and then make fondue and drink the local wines at night. There was also an incredible thermal bath area in nearby Switzerland called Lavey-Les-Bains where I once sat in a heated pool during a beautiful slow snow storm. Truly a memorable experience. While I doubt I will have the Alps in the background while sitting in an amazing thermal bath complex in New York City, I have found wines from the more remote regions of France at a wine bar I like in the East Village called Solex. Owned by Frederick Twomey of Bar Carrera and Bar Veloce fame, this chic bar has a great wine list and wonderful food. I tried a lovely Cremant de Jura made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It was buttery and yeasty with hints of almonds. I then tasted a Roussette de Savoie 2006 made with the indigenous grape Altesse. It had a lovely nose of apples, burnt pear and was quite minerally on the palate. I also tried a Savagnin, another indigenous grape from the Jura. This is the grape that is used in the Vin Jaune or yellow wines from the Jura. This particular Savagnin showed a considerable amount of skin contact which I generally favor. It had an interesting bouquet of apple, butter and nuts on the nose and a lovely enveloping mouth feel with similar flavors on the palate.
For the Vin Jaune, the grapes are picked in November when they are fully ripe and have reached a sugar level which can translates into a high alcohol wine of 13%-15%. This wine ferments like many others but then spends some time in old oak barrels and undergoes an oxidation process similar to a fino sherry. While Sherry sees the addition of fortified wine, Vin Jaune does not. A layer of flor called voile grows and covers the wine creating oxidized, sherry flavors. The voile takes time to grow. The wine is ready after six years and three months. If you like sherry, I think you will love this wine. I love a good sherry and really enjoyed this distinctive wine. I was very pleased with all the wines that I tried at Solex. I was a francofile before I fell under Italy’s spell. Solex piqued my earlier curiosity. Intrigued with the wine and the food, I definitely plan on a second visit.
I have been tasting a number of Chilean wines over the past few days in order to prepare for the Certified Wine Educator test given by the Society of Wine Educators and perhaps an impending trip. One portion of the exam is a blind tasting in which you are given a sheet with a list of wines and then numbered samples and you must cross match the samples with the names on the sheet. I am tasting a variety of wines that I would not necessarily chose to drink. Thus far I have tasted a number of Cabernet Sauvignons and many wines made with the signature grape – Carmenere. I have not yet found one that impresses me. Chile is a fascinating country and I am hoping to have a better result from tastings in situ. Any suggestions would be welcome. I am tasting in the $10-$20 range and just haven’t found any that send chills down my spine or warmth up from my feet. I’m not in love, insomma…I have noticed a minty note to all of the Cabernets and the Carmenere seems very similar to a number of Syrah-based wines that I have tasted.
Other interests and digressions: an article about Italian journalism and politics caught my eye today. The Rome correspondent for the New York Times wrote an article about lawsuits against journalists, Italians and non-Italians alike, whenever they write something politicians or businessmen don’t like. Berlusconi has been doing this since he first entered politics (e’ sceso in campo) in 1994. I was in grad school in Bologna at the time and it was truly a shocking moment. The current lawsuit was brought by Fedele Confalonieri – head of Mediaset, Berlusconi’s media empire – not Berlusconi. The proximate cause for the article was a recent suit against Alexander Stille, a writer and a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University for remarks Stille made in a 2006 book entitled The Sack of Rome. I take issue with one comment the journalist makes about Italian journalists though – that they “often play fast and loose with the facts.” Italian journalism is very different from the Anglo Saxon tradition most certainly but I think this statement is a tad exaggerated and casts unjustified aspersions on an entire category. I love reading the Italian news and think that the differences between our traditions are more nuanced. Italian papers all belong to a particular political movement or tradition and journalists often reflect that or editorialize in their pieces. I also don’t think of the comedian Sabina Guzzanti as their Tina Fey or Beppe Grillo as their Michael Moore but I guess this is inside baseball. In any event, it is worth a read to get a flavor of some local personalities. The NYT correspondent arrived in Rome in September and has been writing about many interesting subjects including a recent piece about a courageous female journalist who writes about organized crime in Naples – the Camorra – for Il Mattino, Naples’ daily paper. The piece was truly informative and entirely underscores my point about Italian journalists not always playing fast and loose but instead doing serious and dangerous investigative reporting while putting themselves in harm’s way. The journalist in question now has a 24 protection (e’ sotto scorta) because she has received death threats for her work…
Second digression – Odetta died today. She was a famous folk and civil rights singer active in the 1950s and 1960s. Her songs are those of the Civil Rights movement and have been a running theme in my life because she has long been a favorite singer of my parents since they were 16 and dating… I was saddened to hear of her death but pleased to think she was here to witness this historical election.
Over the weekend, I had the occasion to go into a few wine stores and wine bars. One that impressed me was Vino Vino in Tribeca. The owner was extremely knowledgeable and very down to earth. He had some interesting items including a Dornfelder from Germany which apparently sold very well for the Thanksgiving holiday. Dornfelder is a red varietal which can be dry or semi sweet and has luscious red fruit notes. It was created in 1955 by August Herold in Weinsberg, part of the Württemberg region. The grape is a cross between the Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe grape varieties. These two are also crosses made by Herold earlier in the century. Helfensteiner is a cross between Frühburgunder and Trollinger while Heroldrebe is a cross between Blauer Portugieser and Lemberger by Herold. For more information on Dornfelder, Appellation America is very helpful. The wine in question is called Latitude 50 2006 by Nektar and has a small but intense following in New York it seems from internet searches. I would not have thought of that pairing necessarily. The store has mostly small production wines from single vineyards. A nice range of Italian, French, German, Austrian and American wines were available. While not inexpensive, the store seemed in line with most of the other wine shops I have been to this year in NYC. One lovely aspect of Vino Vino is that there is a wine bar next door where you can have small plates and try out some of the wines before investing in a full bottle. A pretty nice opportunity and a rare one.
Monday is recipe day on my blog. Here’s one from Jean Louis Douzamy, a French friend in Milan. Like many Frenchmen, Jean is extremely precise and enamored of all things that are healthy. This recipe seemed appropriate as a follow up to the heavy Thanksgiving Feast. Enjoy.
75 grams ofi semolina for cous cous (if you can find Bourghoul, that’s even better)
3 or 4 scallions or small onions
3 or 4 large tomatoes (about two kilos)
300 grams of parsley (don’t get the frozen kind)
Fresh mint (a bunch-once again, do not get the frozen kind)
3 or 4 lemons (not the kind in the plastic bottle)
Olive oil ( 6 or 7 tablespoons of the good kind)
Wash the cous cous (just a thin film of water, less than 1/2 a glass…)
Finely chop all of the ingredients (especially mint and parseley, not the tomatoes) mix everything with cous cous, add oil and lemon juice (if you want to be chic, grate a touch of the lemon rind into the mix)
Add salt and pepper
Leave in the refrigerator for one hour or more
Present the dish with a lettuce leaf or a white cabbage leaf on top.