Recovering After Italian Wine Week

Boats in the sea off the coast of portovenere

I’d like to be on a boat overlooking Portovenere in Liguria today as I recover from an intense Italian Wine Week in New York. Slow Wine which took place last Wednesday feels like a year ago although it was only one week. I have seen so many people from the Italian wine world this week and tasted so many great wines that it needs to settle in my mind before I can begin to write about all the wonderful old and new experiences.

Today is Wine Wednesday though and I therefore have to write about one wine and it’s going to be the Primitivo from Gianfranco Fino that I tasted the other night at dinner. I had the pleasure of meeting Gianfranco Fino and Simona and tasting his wine L’Es for the first time at VinoVip in Cortina in 2013. I was lucky enough to see them again a few years ago at Operawine during Vinitaly. Apparently, L’Es is quite the cult wine in Italy. I found both Gianfranco and Simona very engaging but was dubious if I would like the wine that first time. Primitivo is a very powerful grape and often the wines produced with it knock my socks off, literally, so it isn’t a wine I order very often.

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Gianfranco’s wine though was very different than what I had imagined. Yes it was powerful and concentrated as most are but additionally, it had great minerality which I really appreciated. The wine is made from 100% Primitivo di Manduria (Taranto). It is made from very old vines, over 60 years on average, that are bushed trained and grow in red earth. The grapes are slightly dried on the vine and then picked. They undergo a long fermentation on the skins, three to four weeks, and are then aged in barriques for 10 months. The wine isn’t filtered or fined and ages in the bottle an additional six months before the wine is released into the market. It was a great wine to pair with a big roast or important cheese.

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with Simona Fino , thanks to my client, Angela Velenosi, and I had their wines. L’Es I paired with a tagliata di manzo, a nice cut of meat. Angela is the only producer I know who doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight and she nicely brought Simona along during a dinner with journalists. I can’t write about Angela’s wines because I represent them but luckily, many others do write about them so you can read what they think.

I also had the good fortune to try his passito of this wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale D.O.C.G, once again. I loved it. I am a huge fan of sweet wines. He only has made this wine twice since 2004. According to Fino, he only makes it in perfect years, 2008 and 2012. It also spends one year in barriques and one in the bottle before being released into the market. It was deep ruby red in color, and had a rich and sweet bouquet of floral notes, herbs, nuts and fruit. It also had the minerality and acidity I found in the Primitivo di Manduria D.O.C. The wine was balanced and harmonious, never over the top, and had a long beautiful finish of fine tannins and chocolate.

The winery is somewhat recent and was established in 2004. Fino bought an existing vineyard because of the 50 year old vines. He later bought another vineyard planted with 40 year old vines of Negroamaro, an indigenous grape I really like. Fino is very attentive to his agricultural and pruning practices. He’s had great critical acclaim in Italy for his products which I found interesting. I imagine the same will be true in the States in the near term. Tanto di cappello to you both! (hat’s off…)

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Happy Mardi Gras: The Muffaletta Calls

I wrote this post a couple of years ago but not too much has changed except that I went to New Orleans this past summer for a wine conference, my third trip to the city. I got to explore a couple of new restaurants, have beignets for breakfast and to see the river again in all its glory. I like NOLA with all of its particularities and it certainly is the place to be today. Maybe I will just wear some beads to celebrate here in frigid New York.

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Today is Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday.” It is the last day of the Carnival season and always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Not being religious, I think of Mardi Gras as a celebration in New Orleans.

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I have never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I am sure I am missing out on a lot, even though, I think today’s weather isn’t great down there. I like Nola and had a very interesting trip there in 2008 with the Society of Wine Educators conference.

At the time, I wrote this post on my blog which has been one of the most widely read posts in the six years I have been writing this blog. Who knew – the Muffaletta was such a big draw?

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So much wine, so little time

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Do you ever feel like the person in this picture? I know I do. When I’m at a big wine show, I am always taken with how many great wines there are to try. This was the case with the Slow Wine event this week. I basically only tried whites and two reds but I felt as if I only got to try a few of the wines that were available. Many were quite memorable. I loved one of the wines from Tabarrini, a producer from Umbria.

Most people associate Umbria with big red wines such as Sagrantino but this wine made from the Trebbiano Spoletino grape was a real eye opener for me the first time I tasted it. Tabarrini also makes Sagrantino.

Their winery is located just outside of Montefalco and they cultivate 22 hectares, 11 of which are dedicated to Sagrantino. The winery has been in the family for four generations but it is only in the last 15-20 years that they have begun to bottle their own grapes.

Giampaolo is the current owner of the winery and he runs it with a small team, which includes his partner in life and work – Federica. He was very casual and warm, a change of pace from what you usual see at these shows.

The wine that I tried is an I.G.T. Bianco made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. The vineyard is at 350 meters above sea level, faces South-East and the vines are between 50-60 years of age. From what I read, the vines are planted on their own root stocks as well. There are 3000 vines per hectare. The wine spends about four months in stainless steel before being released. Some 3500 bottles are produced.

I thought the wine was beautiful with white fruit and floral notes, more citrus notes than tropical. It also had good minerality, acidity and some sapidity to it with a hint of an earthy character. In Italian you would say it brought forth the idea of the “macchia mediterranea.” Loosely translated that means the scrub bush you find in Italy around the coast that often smells of rosemary, thyme, linden trees, etc. I thought it was fairly complex for a Trebbiano albeit it was my first Trebbiano Spoletino. From some internet research, it appears that it is not genetically related to the more well-known Trebbiano Toscano.

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The Italians Are Coming, The Italians Are Coming

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During the next two weeks, New York City will host so many Italian wine-focused events that everyone in the area has an opportunity to try Italian wines from producers they know and those that they don’t. The week begins on Wednesday with the Slow Wine tour and continues next week with Vino 2016, Doctor Wine’s Book Launch and olive oil tasting and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri event. Seminars, masterclasses and the like are on offer. Many of these events are listed on Nicholas Palazzi’s great calendar at http://www.pmspirits.com and others on their own websites. I for one have lots of producers and clients coming to town so expect to be really busy but not too much to be able to meet and greet new ones. Salute and happy tasting. It looks like the weather is even going to be our friend. Check out Wine Openers interesting article on the role of Italians in US viticultural history and business.

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Ode to Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni

Yesterday was the anniversary of Austrian composer Mozart’s birth and I wanted to mark the day that created this genius. I looked far and wide for a winery named after my favorite opera – Don Giovanni – and of course found one, here in California. I have never tried their wines so I can’t vouch for them but I like the story and the name of course. I heard on the radio yesterday that half of Mozart’s works were composed between the ages of 9-19. Quite a legacy. I was forced to listen to Don Giovanni and other operas throughout my twenties by a boyfriend who was obsessed with those works. While the boyfriend didn’t last past that decade, my love of opera and Don Giovanni in particular did. I remember an amazing performance of it in Ferrara with Claudio Abbado performing, a once in a lifetime experience.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day – Il Giorno della Memoria

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Today I don’t want to write about wine but rather about family. All the families that lost people in the Shoah, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, children, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, friends, lovers, husbands, and wives. My family lost 80 people – all of my great grandfather’s brothers and sisters and all of their children, 11 siblings. I can’t stand it as I watch people being attacked the world over still just because they are Jewish. Two people survived from the family, in Poland, two. They made their way to the United States and appeared at the Seder at my grandmother’s house in the late 1940s. I was watching the stories of what went on in the train cars that brought people to the camps today.  I am overwhelmed with sadness at what people went through. Having a small son has made it even harder to bear as I imagine mothers saying goodbye to their babies.  All I want to do today is hug my happy baby and pray that we will never forget and will fight the rise of anti-semitism when it rears its ugly head, as is happening today.

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Drinking Austrian Riesling in St. Anton

It’s been five years since this trip to St. Anton, my ripped ACL and my last skiing experience. I didn’t grow up skiing but started at 15 with a friend’s family in Vermont. I loved to ski all through my teens, twenties and beyond. Then I started to get scared. I think that was around the time that snowboarding became everyone’s favorite sport. These days, with a very young child, I’m looking forward to getting back on the slopes. The small ones and starting over. This weekend’s blizzard has really made me miss ife on the slopes, all of it. I always remember the panini with speck and asiago cheese that I would eat when skiing in Italy and the desire to drink Vin Brule but the knowledge that too much of it would make me a worse skier. Hopefully, a settimana bianca will again be part of my life as Niccolo’ learns to ski and wants to go. It’s a great February tradition in Italy that I miss.

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I´m finally in St. Anton, a ski paradise in Austria. We had great weather yesterday as you can see from the color of the sky in this picture. New Year´s Eve in ski towns all over Europe are generally the same, fireworks everywhere, much revelry and prix fixe dinners.

I went to the Hotel Montana for dinner to celebrate and had an eight course meal which I must say was delicious. I had expected the food here to be basic fare but instead have had one great meal after another much to my surprise.

I also have been able to taste some great wines including the Weninger Blaufranckish that I mentioned on my last blog post.
Last night I tried some great Zweigelt and amazing riesling from Martin Donabaum from the Wachau. I had both the Federspiel and the Smaragd. They were both great but the Smaragd was beyond lovely…

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