Monthly Archives: January 2011

Il Giorno Della Memoria – Holocaust Remembrance Day

I know this a wine blog but Italy does something every January that really means a lot to me. Yes Vino 2011 means a lot to me of course but I’m not talking about wine.

Every January 27, Italy officially remembers the Holocaust. I remember it most days. I lost 80 relatives in the camps. I didn’t know them or their children but I certainly think of them often.

The Embassy of Italy observes the Holocaust Remembrance Day – “Giorno della Memoria” – with a series of events in Washington DC and throughout the United States. Instituted by the Italian Parliament in July 2000, it honors the victims of the Nazi and Fascist regimes, those who perished in the Holocaust, and the heroism of those who risked their lives to help the persecuted.

“Even in the darkest moments of European history – recalls Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata – brave and honest men, who perhaps mightn’t have been capable of extraordinary deeds in ordinary circumstances, were able to fight, were able to use the weapons of their strengths, their integrity and their intelligence to oppose what was wrong and inhuman.”

Remembrance Day events will be held in Italian Consulates and Cultural Institutes in major US cities. In New York, the Centro Primo Levi jointly with the Consulate General of Italy, the Italian Cultural Institute, and the Italian academic institutions in New York will observe Giorno della Memoria with programs held on January 27 and 30.

Today, between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm in front of the Consulate General of Italy at 688 Park Avenue (68th Street) they read the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the former Italian territories.

I love this fact. That Italian institutions, as people and governments, symbolically remember all the victims of the Holocaust and take a stand together against prejudice, intolerance, and genocide.

For articles about the day and the events, check out I-Italy.org, a fabulous resource for anyone following Italy in the United States.

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Vino 2011 – Italian Wine Week Is Here

Vino 2011 or Italian Wine Week is here and I am truly excited. I’ll be taking part in some of the initiatives but couldn’t get into some great seminars. Everything filled up so quickly. I guess that’s a testament to just how interested people continue to be in Italian wine. That’s no surprise to me because it is my main focus everyday but it’s still great to see. I will also get to see old friends and hopefully make some new ones. I know I did last year.

On Monday, I’ll be at the Nasdaq which is very exciting, to watch Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere, parent company of Vinitaly ring the closing bell together with two great women in wine, Marilisa Allegrini and Cristina Mariani-May of Banfi.

I’ve never been to the Nasdaq and I’m exited to participate and to get back to my three of my favorite subjects, Italy, Women in Wine and economics. As a former financial reporter, I like the symmetry of it all when related to my own life.

Later that evening I will be at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge facility where Vinitaly is holding a private wine tasting of Allegrini and Banfi wines to raise money for cancer research. I went to visit Hope Lodge recently and I was very impressed with the facility which hosts one caregiver and one patient from different countries while they undergo out patient care.

I look forward to both events and to Vino 2011 in general.

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Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, italy, Memorable Events, Women in Wine

Napa Vintners In New York – A Nice Change of Pace

Next week is Vino 2011, otherwise known as Italian Wine Week, and I will be completely and happily immersed in Italian wine once again. Before I go down that route, one that is very familiar to me and where I feel at home, I want to write about a land which feels very foreign to me – California.

I know that sounds pretentious and ridiculous but it’s the truth. I have had very little exposure to Californian wines during the 20 or so years that I have been drinking wine. First France captivated my heart and then Italy took over. The rest is history. This is why sometimes I go off on a tear about another country such as my recent Austrian fling or in the past my flirtation with Argentina, Spain or Chile.

One land that I have given short shrift to is surely California. I’ve been trying to change that since I moved back to the States five years ago but I think I have only written once or twice on my blog about Californian wines.

On Monday, the Society of Wine Educators held a one-day Symposium with the Napa Valley Vintners Association. I was only able to stay for the first part of the conference but I found it fascinating and left me wanting more. Yesterday they had a big tasting in the city with 70 producers.

Contrary to my own impressions of the Napa Valley, I discovered that it is actually one of the smallest winegrowing regions in the world with the most diverse soils. Only 4% of California’s wine grapes come from the Napa Valley and only 9% of the Napa Valley is planted to grapes. They also have half of the soil orders that exist within the world and 33 soil series with 100 soil variations.

What pre-tell does all this mean? In layman’s terms, a Chardonnay from the Southern part of the valley will taste completely different from the Northern part of the valley, not only because of winemaking choices but also because of differences in the soil, topography, elevation and micro-climates. There are currently 15 approved American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the Napa Valley.

Another fact that surprised me was that 95% of the Napa Valley’s wineries are family owned. I guess I need to spend more time in California.

At the conference, studies were discussed which were done about 7-8 years ago on the soils and climate, the terroir of the Napa Valley. This was the second time I attended a conference on this topic but perhaps it stuck with me more this time because I drank less wine…

I actually only tasted four Chardonnays. The first was the Grgich Hills Estate 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay

I thought it was well-integrated with rich tropical fruit, nice acidity and a long finish. The alcohol was a bit overdone to my palate but perhaps I am just not used to that much alcohol on the white wines that I drink.

The second wine was by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the 2008 Karia Napa Valley Chardonnay.

This one had more lees contact on the palate than the first wine that I tasted. It was a blend of grapes from different vineyards in the valley from the Oak Knoll District and vineyards in Carneros. Fruit from Carneros tends to have higher acidity thanks to the breezes which roll in from the from San Pablo Bay and protect and cool the grapes. In fact, the acidity on this wine was quite pronounced.

The third wine was from the Mondavi family, I’M 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay. The wine is supposed to be represented of its namesake Isabel A. Mondavi. the wife of Michael Mondavi. It was very rich and intense, almost chewy with tropical fruit notes and a very long finish. The wine spends nine months aging on its lees and this was quite evident in the toasty notes that it showcased. It was a big full bodied wine but it was very well balanced and caught me by surprise. It distinguished itself from the first two in terms of the richness of the fruit and its mouth-feel.

The fourth and final Chardonnay was from the Antinori family’s vineyard called Antica. I guess I never get that far away from Italy at the end of the day…

This one was a bit different than the other Chardonnays and had more minerality. This is likely due to the fact that much of the fruit that goes into this wine is grown at higher elevations than the previous three examples.

What these wines showed me was that terroir is alive and well in America and that many in the Napa Valley have worked hard to discover the best expressions of their own jardin, taking Voltaire’s suggestion to “cultiver ton jardin” quite seriously. I’m intrigued and look forward to new discoveries.

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Austrian Voyage Continues: Gruner Veltliner Rediscovered

My Austrian immersion continued as I sampled my way through great whites and reds in St. Anton. The restaurant in this picture had a truly extensive wine list.

What was fascinating to me was the obsession that they are all obsessed with Italian wines, much less so with French wines. We sat down and the waitress suggested a glass of Ornellaia. Very strange. I asked for a glass of St. Laurent but was told they had none on the menu. Instead I had a glass or two of Gruner Veltliner.

The Gruner was from Kremstal DAC Kremser Sandgrube.

I’m sure there were much more prestigious Gruners to try but this one did the trick nicely. Gruner is a grape that has truly taken the United States by storm in the last few years. Maslow 6, the wine shop where I sometimes work has some lovely ones and they are always a hit with clients. I personally am not yet a fan but I think I may just need to try a few more. The waitress said Hirtzberger was the one to try. I haven’t had the pleasure yet but I am looking forward to it.

I thought I’d post some amazing pictures I took in the Alps in Austria. You can go to 2800 meters above sea level. Quite the view. For the faint of heart, this is not the place to go but for those who don’t suffer from fear of heights, I cannot recommend it more strongly.

It was the last day of my trip and I had hurt my knee so I couldn’t ski but I did get the chance to take the gondola up to the top.

I couldn’t believe how high up some of these peaks were and the trails leading down from them. I was reminded of the first time I saw the Jungfrau mountain in Switzerland. I was 15 and I couldn’t have been more excited. I had never skied in Europe at that point, only in Vermont, but it became a lifelong goal and passion.

These photos remind me of what you see as you fly into Milan. I always get excited of the view over the Alps. I’ve not spent as much time skiing in the Western US as I have in Italy for obvious reasons. These scenes brought back wonderful ski memories from my many years in Italy.

The food on the mountain certainly wasn’t as good but the jolly warm welcome with which skiers tend to great one another was in full view. It’s hard to not feel awed by these mountains.

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Posts of Interest, Wine of the Week: Umathum Blaufrankisch 2004

One of the things I find so hard these days is trying to stay on top of everyone’s writing. I get irritated when I can’t read the entire New York Times or never finish a New Yorker or my latest and favorite subscription to the Financial Times. I haven’t even gotten into the wine publications, blogs, websites, podcasts, etc. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. I’ve decided to start with the familiar, my own blog roll which I don’t read through as much as I should.

Today I spent a long while looking at Alice Feiring’s blog and thoroughly enjoyed her musings not just on wine but on Paris and an art exhibit she saw there. I don’t know Alice but she’s certainly a personaggio in the wine world and a friend of many people I know. I don’t always agree with her assessments on wine either but I do always appreciate her passion and point of view which is usually forcefully stated.

I also love blogs that bring in other subjects when talking about wine, Alfonso Cevola, is a master of this and his blog, On the Wine Trail in Italy is a favorite of mine. I love his writing, the pictures and his train of thought as well as that slight melancholy tone he sometimes takes.

Another site that I do appreciate and which gave me much joy today is Snooth. Gregory Dal Piaz’s post “Debunking Wine Myths” was a real change of pace and I very much enjoyed reading it for his wit and quick transmission of important themes.

Moving on to the second part of this blog post, my pick is Umathum Blaufrankisch 2004 which I drank at the Diploma dinner hosted by the International Wine Center in early December. A friend brought this amazing wine and I truly appreciated its depth,complexity and elegance. One of the best of this variety that I have ever tasted. I know, I’m getting away from Italy and am having an Austrian love affair but remember, the Sud Tirol used to be Austrian and some still think it is…

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Italian Restaurants: Ai Fiori

I have decided to expand the blog to include reviews of Italian restaurants. Here’s one that I wrote for the Alta Cucina Society website on Michael White’s Ai Fiori in the Setai on 5th Avenue and 37th Street.

White has created a mini empire in New York restaurants as the owner of Osteria Morini, Ai Fiori, Marea, Convivio and Alto with other partners. I have only been to two of the five and look forward to trying his other venues.

White’s creativity is exciting although some of his combinations are a bit much for my particular palate. People say they see the influence of his Italian mentor from San Domenico in Imola but I see none of that in his food. My memories from when I lived in Emilia, in Bologna specifically were of simpler fare but as I said, I think that’s just my palate.

Ai Fiori is a real destination spot and I look forward to going to have a drink at the lovely bar while I try more things on the menu.

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Drinking Austrian Riesling in St. Anton

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 with beautiful peach and apricot notes, perfume and floral notes, great acidity and minerality.

Austrian riesling tends to be a bit drier than German riesling with a tad less acidity. I find them very elegant and lovely as well as being food friendly with a variety of cuisines. Everytime I have a riesling I wonder whz I don’t drink them more often. That’s a good resolution for this New Year. Drink more riesling. I am off to a good start.

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