Monthly Archives: July 2013

Wine of the Week: Graham Beck “The Game Reserve” Chenin Blanc, Franschhoek

The Society of Wine Educators held a dinner last night at Jiko – The Cooking Place. The theme was South African wines and African inspired dishes.


This dish was a delicious fusion of ingredients that included a revisited spanakopita with curry vinaigrette, a delicious “Mozambique-style” Tomato Salad and a crispy beef “Bobotie” Roll. The Chef explained the dish to us but I am a four-ingredient person and after the fourth ingredient get lost. Suffice it to say it was exquisite. This was paired with my wine of the week, Graham Beck’s “The Game Reserve” Chenin Blanc. The wine is nicely priced at $14, as well.

According to their website, “This 100% Chenin Blanc is from low yielding, 40 – 46 year old bush vines. The grapes were destalked, then mash cooled with 8-12 hours skin contact and cool fermentation. A small percentage (5-10%) of the Chenin Blanc was fermented in French Oak barrels to generate an added dimension of richness.”

In fact, I like the toasty, yeasty, lees note that I got on the palate. It also had the wonderful waxy, lanolin flavors of Chenin blanc and I thought stone fruits as well. A very refreshing wine, it paired well with the dish it was served with but I would have had it with the entire meal, including my interesting Cinnamon Couscous.

After dinner, I was told I could walk outside and see a giraffe. I didn’t quite believe them but instead, this being Florida and Disney, I went on blind faith. Lo and behold, this is what I saw…

Animal Kingdom

Quite a moment…

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Day 1: Society of Wine Educators Conference In Orlando, Florida

I’m in Orlando, Florida for my first leg of the marathon that is the Society of Wine Educators conference (SWE). I am a big fan of the SWE, their classes, approach and staff alike.

This is my fifth conference and at the gym this morning I already noted some familiar faces. I’m looking forward to all of the seminars and events that make up the conference. I always come away from the conference renewed and refreshed with new ideas about the industry and more knowledge about various parts of the wine world.

Today I am doing a Master Class on Burgundy which should be very enlightening and enjoyable. Usually the conference has a few “field trips” or winery visits that are part of the curriculum. Orlando isn’t known for its viticulture so they are offering this wonderful Master Class instead.

For the record, Orlando does have a brewery which is apparently quite popular and which gives classes on tasting and understanding beer.

I haven’t been to Orlando since I was in my freshman year of college so this is also a trip down memory lane.

I look forward to taking some great classes, meeting new people in the industry and saying hello to old friends. July was a very slow month on my blog and I hope to make August a more interesting one for readers.

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Filed under Burgundy, events, France, Memorable Events, Society of Wine Educators Conference, Travel

Wine of the Week: Leeuwin Estate Riesling 2006

Leewin Reisling

Finally back from a wonderful trip to Italy over the last two weeks, I am trying to settle into the New York scene. I was helped along by the discovery of a wonderful wine thanks to Tracy Ellen Kamens – friend and wine colleague – and her husband Jared. The wine in question was the Leeuvin Estate Riesling from the 2006 vintage.

I had never heard of this winery from the Margaret River area in Western Australia. I am sorry it has taken me so long to find out about the winery which was created thanks to the help of Robert Mondavi in the mid-1970s. According to their website, the particular micro climate on an isolated stretch of land and the soils in the vineyard are to be credited with creating these beautiful wines. Just six kilometers from the ocean, the vineyards tend to be parasite-free and well-ventilated as well as having the coveted gravelly soil so many winemakers look for to produce age-worthy wines.

I think this winery has certainly succeeded in its quest to produce wines with longevity. The wine had beautiful, floral notes with stone fruit aromas and flavors. There was also a very strong note of petrol which you get in good quality riesling from gravelly regions. I had no idea that Western Australia produced such great riesling or that at least one producer does. I visited Australia back in 1999 but never made it to the western part of the continent. I am excited to have a further reason to visit the Western part of the country. I found the wine at a variety of stores throughout the country, with different vintages selling for around $18, well worth it in my book.

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Blind Tasting Competition – VinoVipn2013

Today is a beautiful day in Cortina without a cloud in the sky. VinoVip 2013 has an interesting program of seminars and tastings. I opted for the blind tasting this morning and seminars in the afternoon. It will be interesting to see how I do in this competition.





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VinoVip 2013 – Cortina

I arrived in Cortina last night for the 9th edition of, an Italian wine event that takes place every two years in this gorgeous location in the Dolomites. The event is a three day extravagance with wine tastings at mountain “rifugi” at 2500 meters above sea level with Jancis Robinson, MW as keynote speaker. It should all be very exciting. I’m here with a dear friend from Milan and excited to see many wine friends and producers I know over the next three days and to try some incredible wines in this exquisite location.

I almost never go to the mountains in the summer and certainly am not often in the Dolomites these days. When I lived in Italy I did hike on the Marmolada glacier one July with friends and I have been skiing here but wow it am amazed at the beauty of thes mountains this am. Jet lag is great because you get an early start on your day. 🙂




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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Centesimino Nero from Emilia Romagna

I had never heard of this grape before Vinitaly this year. Within Vinitaly there was a special section of “natural” wines called Vivit. Many of the producers in that section seemed to be from Tuscany, Trentino or more familiar regions but I did happen upon one from Emilia Romagna called Fondo San Giuseppe which made a host of funky wines that I really enjoyed.

Among them was one called Collanima, a blend of two indigenous varieties from the region: Albana Nera and Centesimino. A beautiful ruby red wine with interesting and intense flavors with great acidity for a red wine, apparently a characteristic of this variety. The tannins were also quite firm and grippy and wines made from Centesimino are capable of aging.

The grapes are picked together in a sort of field blend as Centesimino grows interspersed within rows of Albana. The grapes remain on the skins for up to three weeks, only wild yeast is used and the wine is fermented and ages in cement for 10 months before bottling. I was excited to find this new variety and I loved the wine. In fact, I liked all of the wines from this winery.

The winery is owned by Stefano Bariani. This is how he describes his farm:

“My farming company is at Brisighella, 400 metres above sea level. The soil is clay and limestone mud with stony marl, and is rich in organic substances. I decided to buy the farm in 2008, to satisfy a need that had become very strong for me. After working for ten years in other vineyards, I wanted to express my own sentiment and my own vision, as a producer and a vintner.
I chose Brisighella because I find it to be a town set in a valley that is still unspoilt and where nature has remained intact, with its river, hills and olive groves, and its many woods. Philosophically I feel close to the natural wines movement, and personally I see wine as a spontaneous fruit of the land, influenced as little as possible by the technical operations of men.

My company is an organic farm, certified by the ICEA Environmental and Ethical Certification Institute. For me, organic farming is a belief, and not something done just for convenience. I was already convinced of the effectiveness of this method twenty years ago, while I was still an agricultural student and began to understand the destructive impact of chemicals on the environment and on the healthiness of agricultural produce. The farm has four and a half hectares of vineyards, one hectare of pastureland and eleven hectares of woodland. The woodland is indispensable for the well being of the agricultural and environmental system.”

In addition to this great wine from Centesimino, he also makes a wonderful Trebbiano and other wines using the following grape varieties: Albana, Trebbiano, White Riesling, Chardonnay, Marsanne, Red Albana and Centesimino. The wines are certified organic by ICEA, a Consortium that controls and certifies companies that carry out their activities in respect of people and nature, defending workers dignity and rights of consumers.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian wineries, Organic, Organic Wines, wines

Wine of the Week: Pinot Grigio from Cantina La-Vis

La Vis Pinot Grigio 2011

I have been very lucky to work on an exceptional project with 20 great Italian producers these past six weeks as the show has been touring US cities. Tomorrow, they will be in Chicago and last week some of the wines were shown during the Fancy Food show. Among the producers, was the winery Cantina La-Vis from Trentino. I had first heard of the winery because it is part of a larger grouping of wineries which also owns Poggio Morino, a Morellino di Scansano producer, among others. La-Vis was also part of the week long show on wines from Trentino but somehow I had missed the chance to taste their great wines.

About 90% of the wines produced in the Trentino region are denominazione d’origine controllata (DOC) wines, among the highest levels in all of Italy. Trentino at one time was the leading supplier of grapes to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The La-Vis winery was first founded in 1850 and became a cooperative in 1948. Some 1,300 growers contribute a percentage of their grapes to the winery. The soils are silty and fertile where this Pinot Grigio is grown. The grape was first planted in Trentino in 1875 but was called Rutlander at the time. Apparently vis means forza (strength) in Latin.

I loved this Pinot Grigio which spent 6-8 months aging on its lees in stainless steel tanks. It was fruity and floral with just the right amount of acidity and depth on the palate. The wine is made using whole cluster pressing.

I also like the fact that this line of wines uses paintings by well-known Italian artists on their labels. This beautiful painting is by Giovanni Segantini whose work I have always liked but about whom I knew very little.

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Filed under Art, Indigeous varieties, Italian DOC Wines, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Travel, trentino, Wine of the Week, wines