Monthly Archives: November 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Reflections On Pairing Choices

I write this post as I am trying to emerge from my post-Thanksgiving food coma. I know I am not alone in having eaten and imbibed more than my fair share on this most American of holidays. This Thanksgiving I was particularly interested in pairing wines with different parts of the meal rather than finding the perfect wine to drink throughout. I also was reminded, as always, how lucky I am that today pairing wines was paramount on my mind rather than something more serious such as how to feed those I love and that so many people are without. On that note, remember that Tuesday is #GivingTuesday, support your favorite cause. Among the charities and non-profits I support are ones that work on hunger both abroad and in America, access to clean water, caring for the elderly and protecting animals. I firmly believe that all of those in the wine industry should be sensitive to the plight of those without even the basic staples of life, especially food which is so primary to our main industry – wine.


In terms of my pairing skills, I think I was 70% successful. As a friend mentioned when we were discussing his pairings, the meal is so long that the timing is often off in terms of what you are drinking and how many wines to serve when. A big wine will need time to open and you may already finish the meal before getting to it or the bottles will be empty when there is too much time between hors d’oeuvres and dessert and people are at different points in their drinking.

Sorelle Branca

We started our family meal with a Prosecco from the Sorelle Branca winery, a Prosecco DOCG wine from Conegliano and Valdobbiadne. We had the Extra Dry Prosecco which has 13g of residual sugar. This hint of sweetness was a perfect foil for our cheese and small hotdogs (pigs in blankets), a family favorite – so 1970s. I love the fact that the winery is run by two sisters and one of their daughters. As most know, women in wine and specifically Italian women in wine are a big interest for me.

Coda di Volpe

As dinner progressed my uncle was looking for a red and my sister a white that wasn’t too heavy. For the white, we had a Coda di Volpe from Terredora. I was thrilled to have an indigenous grape grace our table. Coda di Volpe is a well known grape in Campagna but is often blended rather than made into a mono-varietal wine. Italian indigenous varieties are another of my favorite topics. Coda di Volpe is a light to medium bodied wine with fresh fruit and floral notes. It was a nice match for the turkey and its contained alcohol level worked well with the sides too.

Mas De Boislauzon

We also ended up drinking a Chateauneuf-du-Pape which I thought was a tad too much for the Turkey. Had we also been having ham as we have in other years, it might have carried the day but nonetheless, the bottle was happily consumed. It was made from a a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre from old vines. The wine aged in concrete and older wooden barrels. Lots of spice, earth, herbs and pepper. I would love to try this with a steak.

Il Botolo

Perhaps the easiest pairing of the day however was the Moscato d’Asti we had for dessert. A delicious example of Moscato from the Botolo winery. It was light and refreshing while retaining much of the pleasure of Moscato it wasn’t cloying or overdone.

I still believe however that on Thanskgiving, it’s all about the food and the wines while complementing the food, definitely took second chair for me on this American holdiday.

Macy's Day Parade

I had been thinking about what to serve for a few days and reading and asking others what they were drinking. Friends in the trade noted that they were having Burgundy and Australian Shiraz. I never drink Shiraz but that did give me some ideas for the future. Others were doing the classic Pinot Noir or Beaujolais pairings while still others are drinking structured whites. I had hedged bets and offered a variety.

Here are some articles by a couple of wine friends that I read prior to this Thanksgiving meal. Dave Buchanan from Colorado chimed in with this post, Meg Houston Maker with this one and David Ransom with this hardy list.

What a wonderful tradition Thanksgiving is and I do love the feast my Mother prepares. So lucky to be able to share this joy with family these years since moving home from Italy.

Lisa + Lukas

When I lived there, I did celebrate Thanksgiving with friends every year but it just wasn’t the same. While they were and are people I love, it wasn’t sitting at my parents table with my sister, my niece and nephew, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. While there are many things I love about Italy, spending Thanksgiving far away from the family was not among them.

With Lukas

This article by Pamela Druckerman about living as an expat brought a smile to my face and I think Thanksgiving above all is the holiday that is difficult to spend in another land, although heaps of pumpkin ravioli instead of pie helped me through those years:).

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Wine of the Week: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico from Sartori


With Thanksgiving upon us, I am thinking of all the wines I have paired with Turkey in the past and what I am going to choose for tomorrow. One of the wines I often consider is Amarone. I think it is a little heavy for the Turkey but it is my Dad’s favorite wine and so this week, the wine of the week is an Amarone della Valpolicella from Casa Vinicola Sartori.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Sartori and his wine maker Franco Bernabei on a number of occasions, most recently at the last Vinitaly show in April of this year.

Others have written long and eloquent articles on both men such as this one by Charles Scicolone and this one by Andrew Chalk.

Arena di Verona

I wanted to mention a project that Sartori did this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s death. The Foundation of the Arena di Verona launched a red and a white wine that celebrated the local wines from the Consortium of Bardolino, Custoza, Soave and Valpolicella. It was the first time that some 4,900 producers and growers from the Verona area worked together to support one of the region’s most important cultural landmarks.

The white was a Garganega Verona IGT 2012 and the red was a Corvina Verona IGT 2011. Sartori is the official partner of the Arena Foundation and was behind much of the logistics and technical support for the project, including the packaging. Franco Bernabei was asked to create the wines together with the various Consorzi. The wines were offered and sold in local restaurants and wine shops, with part of the revenue given to the Arena Foundation for future initiatives.

Additionally Sartori launched a special edition of their Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 and has donated part of the sales from that wine to the Arena Foundation. The wine has been served at a number of events, including one last month in Hong Kong that also involved the Gino Strada’s non-profit Emergency. Large format numbered bottles signed by cultural icons, sports figures and singers were part of that event.

While I didn’t get to taste these wines at the Vinitaly event, I have had the pleasure of tasting their Amarone della Valpolicella. Made from a blend of grapes, 50% Corvina Veronese, 40% Rondinella and 10% Molinara, The grapes are grown in soil composed of clay and calcareous material.

A big juicy version of Amarone, I find it more approachable than a number of the others I know well. It has some spice and earthy notes that I also appreciate and that make it pair well with food.

In terms of Verdi operas, one is actually playing at the Metropolitan Opera this evening, Rigoletto. I love opera and I have been lucky enough to see Aida, Carmen and Il Trovatore at the Arena in Verona. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime. Even if you don’t like opera, there are plenty of occasions to attend a concert at Verdi. I saw Sting there some years ago as well, another incredible experience.

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New World Wines: Varied Bordeaux Blends From Virginia

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thinking about all of the American wines that I have tried over the past few years. Some stand out, others less so but all interest me in terms of the evolution of the wine industry in the USA.

This past year at the Society of Wine Educators conference, I attended a seminar about wines from Virginia entitled, “Virginia: the Bordeaux of North America?” A pretty big claim but I was willing to listen because the speaker was none other than Jay Youmans from the Capital Wine School. Jay is a wonderful speaker and a lovely person to boot, as well as being an incredibly knowledgeable member of the wine community.

We learned during the lesson that male settlers in Virginia in the 1600s were called to plant at least 10 grape vines. We also learned that Thomas Jefferson tried to grow grapes in Virginia for 30 years in the 1700s but failed to produce even a single bottle of wine. George Washington too apparently struggled at Mount Vernon to produce a wine but to no avail. In 1873, a Virginia wine was finally made from Norton. Eventually, in the 1900s a series of wineries were opened. In 1973, Chardonnay was grown successfully at the Waverly Estate while in 1976, Gianni Zonin established Barboursville Vineyard.

Today there are 230 wineries in Virginia and the state is the fifth largest wine producing state behind California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. Who knew?

So why did Jay compare Virginia to Bordeaux? Both have maritime climates, three principal rivers, and somewhat similar soils (clay, gravel, sand, among them). Additionally, they have similar rainfall and temperatures.

According to his presentation, Virginia and Bordeaux also share a “common struggle to attain phenolic ripeness in red grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc) while this is not a problem in other states in the US such as California, Washington and Oregon” although it most certainly is in New York State.

On to the wines, we tried 12 wines. I enjoyed a number of them but others had too much oak on them for my taste. I can see why they might do well in the US market though. Of the 12 wines that we tried, I was partial to the 2010 Cooper Vineyards – Petit Verdot Reserva made from 86% Petit Verdot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. This winery doesn’t own its own vineyards but buys fruit from around the State. I thought it was a well-balanced and harmonious wine that would have worked well with Steak or heavy fare. They also used new American oak from a Virginia cooperage which I think is interesting and I applaud the effort.

I favored the 2010 RdV Vineyards “Rendezvous” from Middleberg made from 44% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot which I thought was polished and elegant with juicy ripe tannins. It also showed a lot of oak.

I also liked the 2010 Sunset Hills Vineyard wine called “Mosaic” made from 37.5% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. I liked that they aged their wines in used American oak as well as new French and Hungarian barrels. This wine had more minerality than the others according to my notes and is the only one that doesn’t say oak next to my tasting note.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to taste so many Virginia wines together, a feat I would not be able to repeat on my own. On the whole, I think they are producing some very nice wines in that State and there is much to taste through. In the past, I had thought of Virginia as the home of Viognier in the USA. Now I know that it is also home to many good Bordeaux blends. I look forward to discovering more of what Virginia has to offer.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I try to “cultivate an attitude of gratitude” as my friend Jean Koerner says. So thank you Virginia and thank you Jay.

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Special Saturday Drinking Trends: Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco at Metropolitan Museum of Art , Prosecco at the Guggenheim

My first experience with Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara was relatively recent, at a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was excited to try a Lambrusco that I didn’t know. I see Lini Lambrusco everywhere which is great but sometimes I want to try something different. As I repeat often on this blog, I am a huge fan of bubbles be it “spumante” or in wines such as Lambrusco that are better defined as “frizzante.” The difference between the two is the amount and size of the bubbles which must come from the amount of pressure (atmospheres) in the bottles themselves. According to this note from Mary Gorman, a Master of Wine whom I trust completely to give correct information, the atmospheres are quite different, “Frizzante wines have between 2.5 and 3.5 bars of atmosphere/pressure while Spumante wines are usually between 5 and 6 bars.”

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss this Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco. Apparently the winery has been in existence since 1860 and hails from the city of Modena. Modena is a beautiful city to visit and a great place to have wonderful food from the region. Many people think of Modena only for its Balsamic vinegar but it is also home to great cuisine. Cleto Chiarli make a huge variety of Lambruscos from Sorbara and from Grasparossa di Castelvetro as well as other wines made from indigenous grapes such as Pignoletto and still others from blends of indigenous and international varieties. According to the company’s website they export half of their production throughout the world.

The wine itself is a light and somewhat fruity red sparkler with notes of cherries but also some undertones of earthiness that I really like. The acidity helps it to work perfectly with food. It is a relatively light drink so can stand on its own as an aperitif. I like Lambrusco with charcuterie, its perfect match and have also enjoyed Lambrusco with pizza on occasion.

I was excited to see a Lambrusco di Sorbara on the wine list at the Balcony Bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love the Museum and there is nothing more festive than having a drink at their bar and listening to the live classical music usually being played. It’s amazing to me the journey that Lambrusco has taken over the last 30 years. I have always been a fan but am happy to see there are so many of us that it is considered to be a good fit at the Museum bar. I was also recently at the Guggenheim and saw that they have a Prosecco at their small bar on the second floor, basically a coffee bar with three wines on the list. Again, excited to see Italian sparkling wines making the cut.

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Women In Wine Fridays: Adele Tolli-Capela From ValueVines On Portuguese Wines


Today’s post is part of my Women in Wine Fridays series. This week’s post is a question and answer with Adele Tolli-Capela from Value Vines. I met Adele on a recent trip to the Tejo region in Portugal. I was impressed with her spirit and knowledge of Portuguese wines so I asked if I could interview her and here is the conversation.

How did you get into the wine business?

Upon my youngest daughter’s getting ready to go to college, I began searching for something new to do. I was looking for something that would force me to travel internationally and might make use of my language skills. I had been taking wine classes and found the information so interesting and finally took the plunge, acquiring an importer’s permit. I subsequently met a very experienced wine importer who encouraged me to start with wines from Portugal.

What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

First off, lets not underestimate the difficulty of lifting a 12 bottle case. In all Scandinavian countries, if not bag in box, wine may only be packed in 6 bottle containers. Having worked in Finance and Real Estate previously, I was used to the usual male chauvinism and most of that rolls right off my back. At this point in my life, I actually find the younger somms and wine buyers great to deal with; I must remind them of some favorite old auntie.

What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

I think Americans are drinking more wine – not necessarily more expensive wine. Also, I think more young people are drinking wine on a regular basis. I also see those consumers in the big box stores loading up on oversized wine bottles and wonder if they are all having parties? I think there is a great thirst for wine info. Each time I work an event I am impressed at just how many people want to know about the wine in their glass.

What do you see happening in Portugal?

Hopefully Portugal will continue to promote itself as a tourist destination and also a wine tourism destination. Marketing of the Portuguese wines has historically been to the immigrant market and that has to change – although that is a very strong old boys network. Also, wine names an labels have to become more user friendly.I do see an increase in international varietals and I have mixed feelings about that.

What is happening in terms of varieties? International varietals?

Perfect segue – there is an increase in the planting of these. For better and for worse. The upside is it makes the wines a bit more user friendly but the down side is the loss of indigenous character. In a place like NYC a buyer may not want to see Chardonnay or Merlot from Tejo or Douro but in other parts of the country that is very different. I do not think wines with international varietals should be allowed to be Doc. That is what regional wine classification is for.

What wines are truly selling?

I sell a lot of Vinho Verde, less expensive reds and some very hefty higher priced reds as well. My most difficult sells are higher priced whites.

What do you think about the level of wine education on Portuguese Wines in general in the US?

Almost non existent – getting better though. At least the wine professionals are learning.

Do you think we are still too France-Italy-Spain focused?

Absolutely, not to mention California and the southern hemisphere.

Who is the average wine drinker today?

Everyone – but especially those ages 25-65.

Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

Hopefully everywhere, more somms, more enologists, more importers, etc

Do you have any private label wines? If so, how are they performing? If not, why not?

No – not yet although I have an idea for a goddess based line of wines.

Gotta love her, right…

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Italian Indigenous Varieties: Moscato di Scanzo DOCG from Lombardy


I know that I am not going in order with this post but I thought I would use the occasion of a NYC-based event today on Bergamo to mention this wine. I first heard of it years ago on a trip to Vinitaly. I always start my Vinitaly days in the Lombardy pavilion and one day happened upon this wine when I was saying hello to friends at the Cantina Bergamasca.  

The city of Bergamo has been a favorite of mine since I first visited it in 1998. I wrote a long post about the city some years ago that you can read here.

Today’s post though is about Moscato di Scanzo, a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.) wine from Lombardy. I tasted two today that really tickled my fancy, spicy with hints of sweetness they were the perfect foil for cheese with herbs.

There is a Consortium of wine producers from this region that was created in 1993, following on the heels of a previous association of producers that was created in the 1970s. The wine got its D.O.C.G. status in April 2009. The wine is made from a very ancient grape variety, a red Moscato which appears to have its origins around the year 1000 ad. According to the Consortium’s website, Julius Caesar had a military command post in the area of Scanzo and Moscato di Scanzo was the first Italian wine to be listed on the London exchange. Apparently, the British Royal Family still has a link to one of the producers of this interesting wine.

The wine is made using late harvest techniques. The grapes are picked in October and are then left to raisin for 20-50 days on wooden crates in a temperature controlled environment.  After pressing, the wine is put into tanks and then bottled only after two years of aging.

The wine is deep, ruby red in color with delicious notes of cherries “sotto spirito/marinated with alcohol”and spice. I thought it was a very sexy wine and unique. I am partial to sweet wines but this wasn’t over the top and I liked that too. One of the wines I tried today was from Azienda Agricola FejoiaThis was also the first Moscato di Scanzo that I tried years ago at Vinitaly. It certainly won’t be the last.


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Wine of the Week: Cesarini Sforza Tridentum Trento DOC 2007

Cesarini Sforza

As the holiday season shifts into high gear, I am thinking of bubbles from all over the world to bring to a party, to serve at home, to have out at a dinner. The truth is, I love bubbles all year long and throughout an entire meal. If I had to give up all wines save one category, hands down I would keep sparkling wines in my corner. Not only are bubbles festive and celebratory, they are also wonderfully made and usually blended with care from different parcels, grape varieties and often vintages to achieve a certain house style.

This week’s wine of the week for Wine Wednesday is Tridentum Trento DOC from Cesarini Sforza. Trento D.O.C. wines are from the Trentino region of Italy. They are made using the classical method – secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. These wines are not as well known as Prosecco is nor as Franciacorta DOCG wines but are a very good example of an Italian sparkling wine that is both good and well-priced.

The wine is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from Masi di Pressano and from the Valle di Cembra. The soils in the Masi di Pressano area are clay mixed with calcareous materials and white pepples. They are good draining soils. Those in the
Valle di Cembra are more friable and are the remains of glacier-formed accumulation, often called moraines with some sand. The vineyards face West at 350-650 meters above sea level.

Some 85% of the grapes ferment in stainless steel while 15% in various wood containers. The must is subject to weekly battonage and the wine is matured on its lees for 36 to 48 months.

As I write these words I went to look at Franco Ziliani’s blog, Le Mille Bolle and found a very interesting post written by Franco and the Trentino Wine Blog by Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò about Mezzacorona’s ad campaign using “hippie” images to sell their wines. It is in Italian so I am not sure how many people can read it and sadly I don’t have time to translate it at the moment but the “succo” or the “juice/heart” of the matter is whether or not this is an appropriate campaign for these wines.

On the one hand, Trentino Wine Blog was overjoyed that they are opening up to these “social” themes on the other Ziliani, a self-professed “reactionary” was making more of a comment on wine quality and was less sanguine on the theme. To each his own but I kind of like it and was surprised. Anyway, Le Mille Bolle is a great source of information on sparkling wine while the Trentino blog is a resource for information on wines from that region. Whatever you read, think sparkling, it’s the holidays.

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