Category Archives: Wine Wednesday

Wine Wednesday: Domain Pushang Marselan, Ningxia (China)

Last summer I had the good fortune to attend a seminar on wines from Ningxia, China’s premier wine region. The seminar was taught by Houghton Lee and Tommy Lam, wine educators. They were fascinating, informative and prepared with a 60-slide presentation. Houghton is the Hong Kong Liaison for the Society of Wine Educators and Tommy has the same title for China. This was my first real foray into Chinese wines. Apparently Ningxia is a young and dynamic region. There are roughly 6.3 million people in the region which they compared to the state of Tennessee. They also mentioned the Hui minority group, a Muslim community as making up 1/3 of the area and that it is 25,000 square miles or about the size of West Virginia. They point out that Ningxia, like France and Italy is between the 30th and 50th parallels. China has begun producing a lot of wine but their drinking per capita has not changed all that much.

China is a very ancient wine producing country. In fact, the title of their seminar was “Old World or New World or Unique.” In 15BC, the Qin Dynasty emperor built an advanced irrigation network in the Helan Mountain foothills. During the years 620-900 AD, there were vineyards in the Tang dynasty. However, the first international varieties were brought to Ningxia’s Yuquanying Farm. In 2003, the first Geographical Indication Protection (GIP) status was approved for Helan Mountain East Foothills. There are five subregions in the GIP and one additional subregion in Ningxia for a total of 6 subregions.

David E Henderson began Dragon’s Hollow winery in Helan Mountain in 2003 and in 2011, the Jiabeilan Grand Reserve 2009 won the International Trophy for Red Bordeaux Varietals at Decanter World Wine Award. These two dates are pretty significant for the Chinese wine community and I heard the same facts this past week when attending another seminar on Chinese wines in New York City. There were 100 wineries operating last summer.

Apparently wine tourism is a huge business in China and chateaux are being created specifically to host tourists.

In terms of the topography in Ningxia, Houghton said that “the whole country is like steps going down from west to east and suggested looking at the direction of yellow river. The river flows North rather than South. The Helan Mountains are also a huge factor in the area as they block the harsh and cold winds. The highest peak in the mountain chain is 3556m (11,666ft) and the range extends for 200 km (138mi). Most of the vineyards in the area are located at very high altitudes, 3600ft-4260ft (1100-1300m). According to Houghton’s presentation, this puts the range somewhere between Valle d’Aosta and Rioja Alavesa in terms of altitude of vineyards. The climate is dry continental and the soils are alluvial fans or a gravel, sand and clay texture from the mountains. There are more stones as vineyards get closer to the mountains. Frost is an issue both early and late in the season. The area is very arid although they do have a short rainy or Monsoon season.

The Helan mountain range also has 30 or so passes and these allow currents of air to get through to the vineyards thereby created notable thermal excursion, hot desert air during the day and cooler temperatures at night.

In terms of the grapes, they have a host of international varieties planted as one might expect and also a couple of Chinese varieties: Bei Mei and Bei Hung which I had never heard of before. They are the local hybrid of Muscat Hamburg and Vitis Amurensis – both are cold-resistant. Interestingly, they grow also grow Marselan, a red French wine grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache created in the 1960s that you usually see in the Languedoc in France and in a few other places such as California and in Girona, Spain. I used to work with a producer who makes wines with Marselan. I am a fan and that is why today’s wine of the week is Marselan driven.

One of the most fascinating aspects of viticulture in this area is the practice of “banking” or burying the vines to protect them from the harsh cold. It can be -7oF (-22oC) in January. They bury the vines in October-November and unearth them in March-April. They also bury them to prevent dehydration. The practice of burying the vines also leads to different trellising techniques. They use something called a single Dragon backbone and a Chang system which looks like one of the Chinese characters or an inclined Cordon de Royat which is said to give growers flexibility in terms of height and canopy placement.

The whole area is a very complex and somewhat inhospitable so those who work that land seemed to have a pioneering attitude, sort of like the one from Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come…

My wine of the week, Domain Pushang Marselan 2014 is made from 90% Marselan and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It ages in oak, 30% American and 70% second use barrels for 12 months. They make 40,000 bottles and have 16 acres. Their first vintage was 2013. The winery is owned by a young couple and is in the subregion of Yinchuan The wife is the enologist. Surprisingly, at least to me, a lot of the winemakers were women at the wineries and at the winery I was introduced to last week as well. This was quite unexpected. I have in my notes that the wine had black and red fruit, pepper, juicy tannins, minerality and a rich, full finish.

I also liked another wine at the tasting from Kanaan winery Pretty Pony 2013 that was 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot with aging in French and Hungarian oak. That one had a lot of eucalyptus prazyne and oak notes.

The wine from Jiabeilan was also interesting and elegant. Made by another female winemaker, Helen Zhang, also made in the subregion of Yinchuan, it was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%). Black and red fruits, oak, pepper, dusty undertones and chocolate lifted off the palate. Acidity and alcohol were also nicely balanced.

Gaoyuan Silver Heights also had a female winemaker, Emma Gao. Also from the subregion of Yinchuan, it was a Cabernet/Merlot blend, 65%, 35%. It was the first of the wines to show a floral note

For longer and more complete tasting notes on all of the wines, please read these two posts I found while looking for the winery’s website: on Vintrinsic by Roger C. Bohmrich MW and by Dwight Furrow at Food and Wine Aesthetics. A real treat, I am happy to have revisited this tasting today.

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Filed under China, Society of Wine Educators Conference Seminars, Wine of the Week, Wine Wednesday, wines

Wine Wednesday: Falesia Chardonnay from D’Amico Winery

This week’s wine Wednesday is dedicated to one I tasted a while back but have not been able to forget. It’s the Falesia chardonnay from D’Amico Winery located at the confluence of Umbria/Lazio/Tuscany. I met the couple during a lunch in New York at Marea organized by the lovely Tony DiDio. I had never heard of the winery and was intrigued. The couple made their mark in other industries and started their winery out of a passion for the vine in 1985. The winemaker is quite young and french which was a further twist. Their winery is located in the Calenchi valley on volcanic soil which brings lots of minerality to the wines.


Vaiano, is a UNESCO protected area on the border between Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria.
It is said to be the birthplace of the Etruscan culture. The exciting and moonlike landscape is a result of water passing over tufa stone which led to these amazing cliffs.


I have never visited the property but it looks very interesting and the cellars apparently have been excavated underneath the vines and the hanging gardens, attempting to recreate an Etruscan cellar that was found on the property.

We tried a number of wines that day, both reds and whites. Like many others, I tend to be a little less enthusiastic when I try an international varietal from Italy rather than an indigenous one, of which they have so many,  but I decided to suspend my usual thinking and was richly rewarded throughout the tasting. I really enjoyed the Calanchi and Falesia Chardonnay wines. The latter particularly as it was made from 30 year old vines. I even got some petrol notes on the Falesia which were unexpected The wines also both spent time on their lees and this creamy texture came through on the palate as well. According to the winemaker, they have a regime of using a low level of sulfites. Lees can also do the job to protect the wines from oxygen, the winemaker said. Commenting on the high level of acidity, he noted that volcanic soil helps to maintain freshness and acidity in wines.

Vaiano, Private Property (, Italy

We also tried a wine called Noe which was a blend of Grechetto, Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano. It was very aromatic and fresh. I am sure on a hot day like today, more than one bottle would be poured at my table.

The Falesia which was my pick for today had a bit of everything I like, great minerality, white fruit notes of apple, pear and some herbaceous notes. as well as a creamy texture from the lees. It reminded me a lot of some of the Antinori chardonnay I have tasted from Italy. The volcanic soils also brought sapidity to all of these wines, another characteristic I favor.

The winery also makes a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc which we tasted and were inviting. I’m in love with Cabernet Franc as a grape so I will write about that one as well. The Cabernet Franc had just the right amount of pepper and spice and elegance that I look for with that grape together with great mineraity, something I love to find in a red wine. I hope to see more of these wines on various lists in the city. I know you can find them both at Marea and at the Lincoln. You can also find some of the wines in these places on wine-searcher. A winery to watch, I hope to visit on a future trip to Italy.

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Filed under Grechetto, Italian regions, lazio, Tuscany, Umbria, Wine Wednesday, wines

Wine Wednesday: Primitivo di Gioia del Colle Muro Sant’Angelo-Contrada Barbatto 2013

My wine of the week for wine Wednesday is from Apulia, from Tenuta Chiaromonte. It is a Primitivo from Acquaviva delle Fonti in La Murgia which is near Bari in Apulia. The winery started in the 1800s with 3 hectares and now has 32 hectares. I tried this wine at the Gambero Rosso tasting earlier this year. It had won the award for best red wine of 2017 and the owner, Nicola Chiaromonte was happily pouring this big, bold wine. At 16.5% alcohol, it didn’t fit into what I consider my typical wine style. Moreover, I am always hard pressed when it comes to Primitivo to find one I really enjoy but this one won me over. It had all of the juicy red and black fruits, spice and pepper, and garigue or Macchia Mediterranea notes one would expect from a wine from Southern Italy. However it didn’t have the oak treatment that I have found to be very common in that part of Italy. What you got in that glass was pure primitivo made on Calcareous soils in Southern Italy. I found it offered in California on Wine-searcher but I believe they also have a New York importer, Masanois.

According to the winery website, Primitivo can also called Primativo or Primaticcio. This last because it is an early ripening grape. The Phoenicians were already selling Primitivo in their day. Apparently a priest from Gioia del Colle, Don Filippo Indellicati, started the first monocolture of this variety.

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Filed under Memorable Events, Puglia, Wine Wednesday

Wine Wednesday: Re Manfredi Aglianico del Vulture


This week’s wine Wednesday is dedicated to Re Manfredi’s Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata. The winery has 120 hectares and the vineyard that makes this wine is at 420 meters above sea level. I tasted it last at this year’s Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event. The woman who was showcasing the wine, Tiziana from GIV is a lovely person that I met in Italy many years ago. I tried the wine because I know her but also because I have a love affair with Basilicata as a region.

I have only visited a very small part of Basilicata, Matera, but it has been a crucial part of my Italian journey throughout the years. I always used to say I couldn’t leave Italy until I visited Basilicata. When I finally did, it still took me three more years to leave. The first time I heard about Aglianico del Vulture was in a wine class in Italy many years ago. Aglianico del Vulture is considered the most prestigious area for Aglianico in Basilicata. The Re Manfredi winery is located in Venosa, the birthplace of Horace, the Latin poet. Mount Vulture is an extinct volcano and the soils near it are particularly fertile with nitrogen, calcium and tufa. Wines made from volcanic soils all have mineral notes I find and a certain elegance and grace. This one was no different. Aglianico is a tough grape because of its powerful tannins yet those from this area are rounded and more refined than some others I have had. This wine ages in oak for 10-12 months. You can taste some oak and vanilla flavors but they are not overwhelming. The wine is a nice balance of fruit, earth and spicy aromas combined with tertiary notes from the oak. Really enjoyable, it made me want to eat a very large steak although I am no longer a huge meat eater. The wine retails for about $34 and is imported by Frederick Wildman.

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Filed under Basilicata, Italian regions, Wine Wednesday

Wine Wednesday: Si Mon Père Savait(Cotes du Roussillon)


This week’s wine Wednesday is about a wine from Bernard Magrez, Si Mon Père Savait. Made from a blend of 69% Syrah, 17% Carignan, and 14% Grenache, it screams Southern France and particularly Roussillon. Infact, it is from the Côtes du Roussillon. The vines are grown on schist soils. The grapes are vinified separately in inox and then blended in a second step. Half the wine ages in barrels and half in inox and then they are blended. The vines are on average 30 years old. The Grenache and the Carignan are bushed trained and the Syrah is on a royal cordon trellising system. It had that wonderful “garrigue, Mediterranean vegetal aroma” and really made me want to visit the south of France. Berries and bramble, earthy notes and black fruit made it a great pairing for my weekly Peruvian chicken. I found this page about it on This was the 2011 so the blend is a little different. Bernard Magrez is world famous for his big Bordeaux estates like Château Pape Clément. This is an  very affordable and delicious sample of what he can produce.

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Filed under Cotes du Roussillon, France, Wine of the Week, Wine Wednesday, wines

Wine Wednesday: Petite Arvine from Ottin (Valle d’Aosta)

Ottin Petite Arvine

This week’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 tradition in Italy that I miss.

This week’s wine of the week for wine wednesday is about Petite Arvine from Ottin. It was very clear and crisp with nice minerality and acidity. A straight-forward wine, “franco” the Italians wood say.

This is a fresh and friendly white wine which is a perfect drink on the mountains after a tough day on the slopes or after a hike in that beautiful countryside. I’ve always had it with mountain cheese such as Fontina DOP, charcuterie such as Jambon de Bosses DOP, Lard d’Arnad or alone as an aperitif.

I wish I had great pictures from the Valle d’Aosta. It is such a marvelous and special place. I have been skiing there a number of times (Monte Cervino, Monte Bianco, La Thuile) in my years in Italy and each time came back with a renewed respect for the mountains, the land and the wines. I have not spent much time there during the summer but I am sure the hiking rivals the skiing.

Each year they have an exposition for their wines in September. The association is called the Associazione Viticulteurs Encaveurs. In Italian, the term “viticultura eroica” means that those harvesting the wines are basically “heros” because it is so difficult in terms of the slope of the terraces.

In terms of wine production, there are a number of cooperatives as well as many individual producers. I also learned that some 40% of the members of the cooperatives are women, a fact I found quite interesting.

I spent a long time with a sommelier from the Valle d’Aosta at VInitaly one year. He was so incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable that I felt I had taken a trip through the region and through the vineyards with him. In fact, I highly suggest going to the sommelier booths at Vinitaly in years to come. You learn a lot and can taste many wines. I went on the last day of the fair at 900 AM and was alone with him for about one hour. I realize not everyone has that luxury. I felt very lucky that I did. It was one of my favorite tastings at the fair and among the most instructive.

For now, just an invitation and a suggestion – visit the Valle d’Aosta on your next holiday, winter or summer and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Valle d'Aosta, Wine of the Week, Wine of the Week, Wine Schools, Wine Wednesday, wines

Wine Wednesday: Quinta Monte Sao Sebastião


This week’s Wine Wednesday post is all about Quinta Monte São Sebastião from the Douro Valley. The quinta’s history started in 1950. They have 4 hectares devoted to wine and three to olive growing near the town of Murca out of a property of 50 hectares. Pinhao is the largest city near the winery. We arrived there after a long day and had perhaps the best meal of the week that I was in the Douro Valley. The fantastic homemade meal was a moment to also try their wines with food.


They also have guest rooms where one can stay while visiting the Douro. The quinta is located in the Cimo Corgo Sub-region, that runs  from the junction of the Corgo river
and the Temilobos stream to Cachão da Valeira. They grow mostly only indigenous varieties such as white grapes Códegado Larinho, Gouveio and Rabigato and red varieties Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. The white varieties grow on granite at an average altitude of 500 meters in order to preserve their natural freshness, while the red grapes are grown at lower altitudes.

Unlike most of the other farms we visited in the Douro, they also make sparkling wine such as the one seen in the picture above. They make three types of these wines and are doing quite well with it, we were told. This was not at all typical of the area. Pedro Guedes is their winemaker who we nicknamed winegyver because he apparently was quite inventive with his use of random tools to make fermentation tanks and the like such as a washing machine drum and a fish tank tube…

I also really liked their white wine, which was a blend of Rabigato, Gouveio and Codegado Larinho. It was an easy drinking wine with bright acidity. Apparently that comes from the Rabigato while the Codegado grape brings aromatics.


They also made a red that was interesting using Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It went through a cold soak for 48 hours. It was ripe and full bodied with juicy, silky tannins.

I thought the owner and his father were truly lovely and welcoming. We didn’t get too spend much time visiting the winery but it’s definitely a place to watch and somewhere I would return if and when I get back to the Douro valley.


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Filed under Cima Corgo, Douro Valley, Douro Valley, Portugal, Wine Wednesday, wines