Monthly Archives: September 2012

This Land Is Your Land..This Land Is My Land From California…

I’m in California for the second leg of the Morellino di Scansano 2012 Tour on Monday, October 1 at David Lynch’s place, St Vincent’s.. I’m very excited for the event but I am also interested in the developing scene around me.

While out here, I found such an amazing diversity of people from all walks of life and nations that I am having an Emma Lazarus moment:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
—Emma Lazarus, 1883

I have had involved conversations with people from Nigeria, Eritrea, Iraq, and Russia just by taking taxis, heard their stories, listened to their struggles and really learned an inordinate amount about the world around me. I was very impressed with all of them and their hard work here in America.

I missed seeing Nobel Peace Laureate and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who received an honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco this weekend. I have followed her story with great interest for years since taking a class on Myanmar in college.

I’m here for work though so my mind never strays that far from the wine world and its evolution in other cities and other communities. I’ve also been trying my fare share of beer, food and other local delicacies while away.

I am amazed at how much wine is consumed throughout the States now and how it is sold in local groceries next to food in California as well as in big package stories. I had a relatively inexpensive Chardonnay yesterday from Benzigers while at Scoma’s restaurant with clam chowder and seafood salad with shrimp and crab meat.

The waiter, Tim, got my number in a heart beat, gave me a wink and said the Benziger’s wasn’t too oaky and that I might want to give it a try. He was right. The by the glass price was also just what I was looking for, under $10.

I’ve marveled at the amount of wine that is available and am ever more conscious of how difficult it is for a new winery to break into the market and how they need to see with their own eyes the reality that is the US wine market today.

What’s also great to see is how much people from all walks of life know about wine and how interested they are to learn more. We had a great class on Wednesday at the Texas Wine School with James King. I found the class very engaged, ready with thoughtful questions and eager to learn more about regions and wines. This bodes very well for America and of course for that area in Tuscany that means so much to me, Maremma with its Morellino di Scansano DOCG.

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Filed under events, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy

Lesser Known Italian DOPs – Carmignano DOP From Tuscany Beckons For More Attention

Carmignano. I just like to say that word. It sounds sexy to me and sensuous. Kind of like the wine in my opinion. It’s hard to pronounce and I remember when I first discovered it 20 years ago I was proud to be able to say it correctly. The wines are made close to the city of Prato, more  widely-known for its textile industry.The difficulty in pronouncing the name and locating the area on a map haven’t helped make Carmignano a household name  but those in the know drive northwest of Florence to seek out the wineries that have been making Carmignano for centuries, yes centuries not decades.

In fact, wine was grown in this area since Roman times. It was in 1716, that Cosimo III de’ Medici declared, in an edict, that there were four areas of Tuscany producing the highest quality wine. Carmignano was one of these areas along with three other sites in Tuscany: Chianti, Pomino and the upper Valdarno.

The wine is often a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc. This isn’t a modern choice but has always been the case. In fact, there is evidence to support the idea that Cabernet has been growing in the region for 500 years. The wine must be 50% Sangiovese while between 10-20% of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc is permitted. Canaiolo Nero can make up another 0-20% of the wine. White grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia) can also make up another small percentage of the wine but the trend is to use up to 10% Merlot or Syrah.

Whenever I find an international grape variety growing in Italy for such an extended period of time, I always ask producers whether they could consider it an indigenous variety. I asked the same question yesterday of the winemaker, Fabrizio Pratesi, of Pratesi

He said that international varieties had been growing in the region for over 150 years and that it could be considered an indigenous grape of sorts. I’ve had the same discussion with the Frescobaldi family about their wines made in Pomino, another area that Cosimo III had designated as a special wine growing area in Tuscany. 

While one can argue this point back and forth, what I do think is interesting is that international varieties were in these areas long before the “Super-Tuscans” came along in the 1970s. In fact, the Super-Tuscans had to use the vino da tavola designation and weren’t given a doc. Carmignano may be the same blend as many Super-Tuscans but it has long been regulated by the DOC rules and then DOCG ones.

The area of Carmignano has a very particular micro-climate which makes these wines a bit different from many of their Tuscan brothers and sisters. The climate is influenced by the Appennines which run along the Tuscany – Emilia-Romagna border. The mountains protect the vineyards from the elements while also creating considerable thermal temperature excursions between the day and the night, allowing the grapes to rest. Often, the grapes are harvested a few weeks earlier in this area than in other parts of Tuscany.

The blends have to be at least 50% sangiovese. While famous in the Middle Ages, Carmignano went through a period in which it lost its brand identity and became known as Chianti Montalbano in the 1930s. Eventually thanks to the efforts of certain historical producers, the denomination of “Carmignano” was made into a DOC in 1975, although the harvests back through 1969 were also included retroactively.The wine was made a DOCG in 1990, retroactive to the 1988 harvest. I discovered this wine during that period of time.  The DOC version spends two years aging, at least one in oak while to be called a riserva, it must spend three years aging, at least two in oak. A younger version of Carmignano with less aging is also sold called Barco Reale. 

With all this history, you would think it would be easier to find this wine on wine lists in the States. This has not been my experience and I’m not sure why. The winery most people are familiar with is Capezzana.  I have only ordered Carmignano on a wine list once this year, at ‘Cesca at a recent dinner with old friends from camp. We loved it. It went perfectly with our different dishes, meats and pastas.

I hadn’t been thinking about any of this before yesterday’s Winebow tasting. As always, there are so many wines in the room you have to make a selection. Mine was rather easy, I went to the first table in the Italian section and stayed in that area the entire time I was at the show. 

I tried Pratesi’s Locorosso IGP 2010, 100% Sangiovese, a surprisingly smooth, fruit filled, minerally wine made only in steel tanks. It was quite full bodied so I was surprised to learn that there was no oak treatment. Pratesi said he works a lot with extraction and grows his fruit at very high density planting, 9000 plants/ha for Sangiovese and 10,500 plants/ha for the international varieties. I noted an interesting blueberry note which I didn’t expect in the wine but which I enjoyed.

I then tried the Carmignano DOP 2009, a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Meatier, richer and more layered, this wine reminded me of why I like Carmignano, saying it and drinking it. A sexy, sensuous wine it was indeed. 20 years later but it gave me that same feeling and a desire to jump on a plane today to go to Tuscany. I had a real visceral reaction when drinking this wine. The one where it sends you back to a place in a heartbeat or just a little sip. I’ll take that feeling and that wine any day of the week.




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Filed under Italian regions, Meet the Winemaker, Tuscany, Wine Tasting, wines

Jewish New York With Kosher Chianti From Terra di Seta

With wine tasting season here and harvest underway around the world, there is so much to write about. First though, it is time to take stock, look at the year gone by and note with pleasure all that has taken place in the past year.

I am not a religious person but I do like to celebrate holidays of all kinds as a way of making markers throughout the year and remembering how sweet life can be.

This year, one of my most read posts was, as always, that about a winery called Terra di Seta in Chianti. It is the only kosher winery in Italy run by a lovely couple whom I met a few years ago at a tasting in New York and have since met with a few times at Vinitaly. Their Chianti seemed an appropriate choice for this New Year.

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Wine of the Week: Ballestero del Maestre Malbec 2009

The year has started with a bang for me and for many others. To make the start of the year a little easier, I have been sipping, yes sipping some wines that has taken me on a long viaje…this time to Argentina.

I haven’t been back to Argentina since 2007. I wrote this post about that trip. That said, Argentina has always remained a country that has me “encantada.” I’m never sure if it is the people and their “Italianized” Spanish, the country, the food, the wine or the tango. Yes, I’ve gone back to tango after many years of sitting on the sidelines.

To toast my recent foray back into the dance, I bought this bottle of Malbec at one of my favorite wine stores, Maslow 6 in Tribeca, NYC, from one of my favorite wine guys, Ken Abel. Ken and I study Spanish together as well so it seemed quite fitting indeed.

This Malbec, nicely priced at under $17, really held its own against a nice steak I made. The tannins were soft and juicy without feeling as if I had put a 2×4 in my mouth While that doesn’t sound very elegant, I am sure you all know exactly what I mean.

The wine was made by Roberto de la Mota, according to my research on the wine. A man to be admired for his wines no doubt and for his resilience.

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In Memoriam

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Wine Tasting Season Off To A Banner Start

I guess the year has really begun. As I sit in my office and worry about who will come to my event at Puro Chile tomorrow with the great winemaker, German Lyon, from Perez Cruz winery, I am missing out on at least four great tastings today.

We are really lucky in NYC to have all of these great wines to taste almost any day of the year. I sometimes take that for granted but a mere look at Nicolas Palazzi’s wines & spirits calendar will give any wine writer pause for thought about which event they should go to.

I also wanted to bring up another topic that is on my mind. I have been criticized by a few wine writers about holding the tasting on September 11. I fully understand their feelings and tried to change the date but for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t able to change it. I’m a third generation New Yorker at the end of day, born and bred, so I am very sensitive to what effects our great city.

That said, speaking with a British friend yesterday, he reminded me that there are many ways to commemorate 9/11. He said, and I agree, we should be celebrating life on this sad day so that is how I am going think about it as well. I hope to see you tomorrow but if not, I hope you celebrate life wherever you are.

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Wines of the Week: Rocca dei Mori Line (Apollonio) From Puglia For End of Summer

Summer has ended. I know I am feeling it and I am sure you are as well. I just returned from a lovely trip to Cape Cod. While there, I drank lots of fun summer wines including some wine from Puglia from Apollonio.

The wines that I chose for this week are from the Rocca dei Mori line, the Only Bianco and the Only Rosso. The former is made with 100% Garganega and the latter with 100% Negroamaro. Both were easy to drink fresh and fruity wines that made me happy on a summer day.

I’ve met the brothers who run this winery many times and have visited them at their winery in Puglia as well, in 2010. They are located in an exquisite part of Puglia, the Salento.

I love Puglia, the people, the food, the wines. I spent a week in the Salento in 2002 and it was truly memorable. I felt as if I was swimming in an emerald. I have never seen such green water in my life despite sailing in many parts of the Mediterranean, including Greece and Turkey.

My last trip in 2010 was more wine focused, visiting among other wines, Apollonio. I find that many of the best wines from Puglia don’t make it to the USA and those that do, at times have too much oak. Some of the Apollonio wines from their other line are heavily oaked but the wines from Rocca dei Mori, less so.

It’s all about your personal palate at the end of the day and mine tends to try to stay away from oaky wines, especially if I am having light fare or I am at the beach. As you can see from these pictures with my nephew and my niece, these wines did bring a happy glow to my face. Despite their smiles, I swear I did not give them any wine…

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Puglia, Travel, Wine of the Week, wines