Archive for February, 2013
I distinctly remember visiting the Tuscan wine country back in the early 1980’s when Cabernet, Merlot or Franch barrique were not politically correct to talk about. Many vintners had them planted & made wines using all of the above…..they just did not talk about it so much publically. Fortunately for me…..on that particular trip…….our “tour guide”……..was superstar oenologist Vittorio Fiore, who gave us very practical, highly informative insight into this “quiet” wine revolution that was perculating down in the cellars underneath the otherwise peaceful, serene Tuscan countryside.
When the Cabernets & other Super Tuscans finally came out of the closet….too many were overdone, over oaked & too internationalized to say the least. While some proved to be hits…….the question became….”how many of these taste Italian?”
If that same question was asked today, it would be a very different answer. Yes, the pendulum has thankfully swung back in many cases.
1997 Montevertine “Le Pergole Torte”
Montevertine is undoubtedly one of the iconic wineries out of Tuscany. Located in Radda at roughly 1300 feet elevation, this beautiful estate was purchased by owner Sergio Manetti in 1967. Le Pergola Torte is a 2 hectare parcel planted in 1968, facing north by northeast….& only a selection of the best Sangioveto grapes is used to make this wine. It is then aged 12 months in Slavonian oak & then 12 months in barrique. I have been a HUGE fan after my first taste back in the 1980’s. Why? Because it smells & feels Italian…..with great class & sophistication…BUT definitely…Italian!!! Bravo
1997 Castello di Rampolla Vigna d’Alceo”
Here is another superstar Tuscan…this time from an estate located in Panzano & Conca d’Oro (& its calcareous-marl, rocky soils, with south to southeast exposure at 1140 feet elevation)). 1996 was the debut of this special wine, which was made under the watchful eye of superstar consultant Giacomo Tachis (of Sassicaia & Tignanello fame). The 1997 was 85% Cabernet Sauvignon & 15% Petite Verdot…..aged 12 months in barrique. If I were to taste this wine blind, I would have said it was Bordeaux….with the lead pencil/graphite smells of Pauillac…with deep, resounding, masculine character, great breed & sophistication. VERY impressive!!!
At our VINO restaurant we strive to serve good food….done with a Mediterranean edge. We also want the food to be very wine friendly at the same time.
One of the dishes VINO Chef Keith Endo features on the menu is a Braised Lamb Shank which is served with roasted fingerling potatoes, parsnip puree & root vegetables. This is a dish which works really well with rustic red wines, especially those from the Mediterranean basin.
1995 Domaine Tempier Bandol “Cabassaou”
Normally when we serve braised red meat dishes, our “knee jerk”, “go to” wine is a Bandol from the iconic Domaine Tempier. Their hearty, wildly rustic, soulful Mourvedre based red wines just work magic with foods like this.
When Lulu married Lucien Peyraud in 1936, her father gave them Domaine Tempier (which had been in the family since 1834). With the seaport of Bandol nearby, it makes sense that the soils are clay-limestone. The Cabassaou bottling (1987 being the first commercial release) used to be produced from the Old Vines of La Tourtine, but now is designated as the lower parcel below La Tourtine, which is much more protected from the gusting winds. It typically also has the largest chunk of Mourvedre in the blend & is therefore the most apparently ripe, powerful, gutsy & dense of the Tempier portfolio.
This 1995 was that…AND more. It had an unusual color–black as shoe polish…though not shiny. It had a real roasted quality to its nose, with ripe blackberries, wild underbrush, baked rocks & loads of gamey/rustic characteristics. On the palate is had a wonderful depth of fruit, full of life & vigor with great structure & long chained kind of tannins. It was great by itself….AND just melted in with the shank. Terrific pairing!!!!
2005 Renato Ratti Barolo “Marcenasco”
Another really good option with braised lamb shank is Italian Barolo. Here is a real standout from a highly revered producer which is back on track again.
Over the years, Renato Ratti was one of the true icons of the wine world. In 1980, he was selected as President of the Barolo Consortium & the General Director of the Asti Consortium. I was fortunate to taste with him on a judging panel of Italian wines for 4 days in the early 1980’s . What a truly awesome experience that was! Although he spoke only limited English, one can readily sense his passion & dedication to his wine region & its wines.
Ratti’s Marcenasco parcel is located in La Morra….southeast & southwest facing, at roughly 800 to 900 feet elevation on bluish marl soils.
Being quite the innovator, Renato looked to produce red wines of elegance, subtlety & longevity. To that end he shortened the fermentation & maceration time periods AND reduced the time spent in oak down to 2 years.
Here is their 2005…a real thoroughbred….which has incredible power, depth & complexity with a real regal presence……& for me one of the top Baroli of the vintage. I love the sandalwood/cherrywood, characteristics “tar & roses”/roasted chestnut, musk nuances, the amazing depth of fruit & formidable structure & long finish all of which worked well with the lamb shank.
Here is a VERY special gift from Isabella & Dino Zambon….who own & run the finest restaurant in Venice, Italy. Isabella, Dino & their kids (Jessica & Filippo) have become our dear friends over the years…..eventhough it is long distance.
The Serafini & Vidotto wines are the featured specialties for their restaurant Osteria Oliva Nera (which, by the way, is a MUST go if you happen to be in Venice).
This particular bottling is grown in the hills of Montello & Colli Asolani, northwest of Treviso in northeast Italy. The trio of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot seems to fair well in the dark reddish-brown, iron rich, clay soils of the area & result in very powerful, full flavored, classy, surprisingly approachable red wines. This one being 11 to 12 years old had a wonderful layering of complexities, seamless flow on the palate while still keeping a big, solid frame. Bravo to Isabella & Dino….& thank you for sharing!
1999 Domaine de la Grange des Peres
After studying/working with such winemaking icons as Jean Francois Coche in Meursault, Gerard Chave in Hermitage & Eloi Durrbach at Domaine Trevallon in Provence, the now iconic Laurent Vaille founded his own domaine in the L’Herault in 1989.
Because of the hard limestone & poor soils, Laurent essentially had to dynamite to clear the land of the rocks, boulders & glacerial scree…..which was way more so than his neighbor at Mas Daumas Gassac.
Laurent planted with Syrah, Roussanne & Marsanne which he got from Chave & Cabernet which he got from Trevallon.
Over the years, since the inaugural 1992 vintage, the blend of grape varieties seem to change. BUT, the style of Grange des Peres, which deftly combines power, depth, terroir with class, restraint, nuance & a surprising deliciousness appears through each vintages’ wine.
“Nature gave us a partition of land. It is up to us to interpret it.”
This 1999 is still a baby……in terms of its life….but is gorgeous nonetheless, with neverending depth, nuance upon nuance coming out of the closet with air time, wonderful texture & a long, long finish.
Isn’t it always a great feeling to see long time friends! here are 3 I ran across over the past few days.
I first met Tawfig back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Over the years he & his wife Richel would come to whatever restaurant I was at, to say hello, dine & share a bottle of wine. Being a wine collector, the wines they opened over the years & shared was amazing…the oldest dating as farback as an 1809 Madeira! Theyencouraged a young boy to “dream” …….much mahalo!!!!!!
Chef Jean Marie Josselin
It was a great jot to see Jean Marie today over on Kauai. Jean Marie was one of the 12 original Hawaii Regional Cuisine Chefs. He was & is one of the most colorful characters I have had the pleasure to know in the culinary world, in addition to being a VERY creative, amazingly talented chef. Today he owns & runs Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grille in the Kukui-ula Shopping center on Kauai.
It was quite a surprise when Giustino stopped by VINO tonight. his family owns & runs the house of Ruggeri, who produces very delicious, food friendly Prosecco near Venice in Italy’s Veneto region. Yes, there are more & more Italian Prosecco coming into our market, but it would be hard to find one which provides the deliciousness Ruggeri does.
As a consumer, it is so easy to get lost in the world of Burgundy wines. Unlike the Californian single vineyard model which most of today’s wine enthusiasts are more familar with, Burgundy can get quite confusing because of the extreme vineyard/parcel fragmentation over the centuries, mainly due to the country’s inheritance laws.
Even for the wine professional……..keeping track of who owns what….or who it is share cropped with/for (metayage)….or who the grapes were purchased from….is a daunting task. AND, with every generation of the family, this complex matrix inevitably changes.
There is NO easy, quick fix answer.
For me, I just try & focus on more estate grown programs & from there base my selections by taste.
Two estates who, over the past 6 or 7 years or so, have come onto my radar screen is Domaine Bizot & Domaine Follin-Arbelet.
Domaine Bizot works out of Vosne Romanee (their home town). Jean Yves Bizot is also a professor of viticulture & oenology in Beaune. His domaine’s portfolio include some very prized Old Vine parcels in Vosne Romanee, as well as some recent purchases further north near Dijon, as well as in Marsannay & Ladoix Serrigny. Bizot specializes in mainly Pinot Noir, which Jean Yves is a believer in whole cluster fermentation at cool temperatures in conical wooden vats, bottling by hand,…..bottle by bottle….barrel by barrel…..without filtration or fining & using no sulfur. The bottom line? His wines are like no other! They remind me of a champion black stallion—underlying power & strength, yet so graceful, classy, majestic & well balanced. Yes, these wines are pricey….BUT they are REAL good!
2007 Domaine Bizot Bourgogne “Les Violettes”
Jean Yves Bizot currently produces ONE white wine (at least as far as I know), which is simply labeled as Bourgogne Blanc. The selection massale vines (planted in 1940 & 1965) are grown in limestone-clay-marl-sand soils in the Vosne Romanee appellation along the wall of the bordering Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot. I was so impressed with the depth, surprising class, majestic sophistication, profound character & structure of this wine!!!! Certainly one to search out for!
Proprietor Franck Follin-Arbelet is producing some of my favorite red Burgundies today. They are stellar & unlike Bizot , fashioned more in the Old Style–use of wild yeast, open top fermentors in cool, humid conditions, bottled without filtration or fining…..& sees a LONG, cool elevage.
Francks’ wife, Christine, is from the iconic Latour family, AND her father Andre Masson, at one time was the regisseur at Hospices de Beaune. When Franck took over the domaine, it came with 1 village, 4 Premier Cru & 4 Grand Cru parcels in Aloxe Corton (their home town), Pernand Vergelesses & Vosne Romanee, which they farm sustainably without synthetic fertilizers or weed killers.
I find their Pinot Noirs have such great purity, class, soul & integrity…..wonderful intensity, well structured, impeccably balanced…..all done with just the right touch. After my first taste, this domaine jumped to the top end of my list of favorites. Well worth checking out!!!
One of my favorite sea critters to eat is octopus. It has good flavor & such an unusual character, which I much prefer to squid.
Octopus Terrine (red wine & Port) with eggplant caponata & Nalo Farms baby arugula
So, the question is, what kind of wine should we serve?
Salina is an Island which lies somewhere between Sicily & the southern tip of Italy. The grape varieties used to produce this “quietly” exotic/aromatic white wine is Insolia & Cataratto (although I strongly believe there is some Malvasia blended in too). I can also smell the wild shrub & baked rocks which must surround the vineyard. It is certainly part of the terroir. This wine is dry, wonderfully perfumed, light to medium bodied with a crisp, lemon-lime edge to it, which makes it ideal for this dish. The only thing I would do different the next time is to add something more to the dish, like a small side of chunked tomatoes tossed with olive oil & garlic, salt, pepper & a tiny bit of basil chiffonade. It would make the pairing more in tune, especially in the finish.
2011 Villa Sparina Gavi
The grape variety is Cortese….which in this case is grown on the rolling hills of southwest Piemonte as you head down towards Liguria. The calcareous-clay soils create a remarkable minerality/ ethereal-ness in the wine, as well as an amazing lightness & crispness on the palate which works very well with seafood dishes….in this case the octopus. ( It actually acts like a squeeze of lemon would….& heightens the food!) To make this pairng better the next time, I would drizzle some roasted garlic olive oil & sprinkle some fresh herb confetti (basil, thyme & Italian parsley).
“I want to prove to the world that Gavi is a serious white wine… fresh, precise, and beautiful.” Stefano Moccagatta, owner
2011 Domaine de la Cadette Bourgogne Blanc”Vezelay”
My wife, Cheryle, rarely asks me for anything. When she first tasted this light, ethereal, minerally, airy 2011, she had NO problem asking if we could get some for home use. Vezelay is up in the Chablis area in northern part of Burgundy, where it is cooler than even Chablis normally is. Yes, there are pockets of limestone & marine fossiled soils, but there are also lots of different clays–from blue/gray to red. I don’t think I mentioned Chardonnay yet….but this is 100% Chardonnay….although I believe most wine drinkers would never guess it as such. WHY? Because this wine is really about the soil…..one can smell it….taste it…..pure transparent, riveting…..AND the 2011 is delicious, mesmerizing & incredibly food friendly…..especially with seafood. To make this a better pairing, the next time, I would toss the octopus in a little bit of beurre blanc & garnish with finely diced onion chives.
I was recently asked by a wine publication my thoughts on Bordeaux wines & their viability in restaurants today, given the high prices of the top chateaux.
There will always be a market for Bordeaux wines. The top producers have done a stellar job on marketing themselves over the centuries from Thomas Jefferson to the 1855 Classification to Robert Parker’s landmark reviews on the 1982 vintage (& the ensuing stronger American following) to today & the demand created by the Orient (Japan, Korea & China). The demand is still high…and the prices are too.
One of the challenges with being top end is…..”out of sight, out of mind”. Napa Valley has experienced some of that & we are now seeing the development of “Super Seconds” from the top echelon Cabernet producers such as Araujo, Harlan, & even Screaming Eagle, where each is developing a quality wine. more affordable & therefore more attainable, which will help keep their brand visible to the wine professionals & the general public.
Yes, Bordeaux has done that too….a LONG time ago…..& those wines are seeing a renaissance in recognition & demand.
Another viable option for the sommelier working on the restaurant floor, especially in the U.S., is searching out & finding “boutique” chateaux which can offer their clientele a taste of true Bordeaux, without the grandeur, formality AND price of the Classified Growths.
Here is a such a “boutique”, artisan Bordeaux producer, which has been owned by a family for so long, they can’t even recall how long. This Chateau is located in the heart of the Pomerol plateau on the Right Bank. The soil consists of glacerial gravel deposits with underlying clay. The vineyard is organically farmed with NO chemical or synthetic fertilizers, etc used. The 1996, pictured here is a blend of 85% Merlot % 15% Cabernet Franc, which was fermented in concrete & stainless steel & then aged in Allier oak, 50% of which was new.
The 1996 is still quite a baby….hard & unyielding….but has a distinct stony character with red currants, cedar, sandalwood nuances, rich, well structured, AND with lots of finesse, refinement & grace. NO fruit bomb here!
VINO Chef Keith Endo has been getting some really good “NO growth hormone…NO antibiotic” chicken lately. Because it is so good, it is now hard for me to eat & appreciate other chicken. Tonight, Keith seared the dark meat first, then braised it with celery, red & green bell peppers, onions & chicken stock. till tender.
So…..what kind of wine did we serve with it?
2007 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo”
Here is a really good Chianti. As terrific as this wine is by itself, it works magic with foods like this because it is so rustic in character AND also has enough stuffing to handle the “melting pot” of flavors created by the long cooking time of this dish.
2006 Melini Chianti Classico Riserva “Vignetti La Selvanella”
As many wine aficionados well know, it is NOT easy to get Fontodi wines….Classico, Riserva or Flaccianello. As a viable alternative then, here is one from the 2006 vintage & a producer named Melini. Like the Fontodi, this has an inner strength, structure, core of vitality & enough character to handle this chicken dish.
Whenever I see a braised meat…..especially when done with roasted bell peppers (& the like)…my “knee jerk” wine selection is Domaine Tempier Bandol. Yes, it is probably because I really try to find any excuse to open a bottle of this wildly rustic, soulful Provencal red wine….young or old. In this case, though, the dish did NOT need one of Tempier’s single parcel bottlings. They would have been too much. Furthermore their Classique bottling has much more appeal at a younger age & a wider window of foods it can work with, especially in a vintage like 2006.
Just to show one is NOT limited to Mediterranean-esque wines for Mediterranean styled chicken dishes like this…..here is another way to approach a potential pairing. First is the realization to think “out of box”….they, after all, serve chicken in a lot of regions throughout France. So,….because this dish featured dark meat, our list included Bourgueil, a Cabernet Franc red wine from France’s Loire Valley. Loire Valley is regarded as a “cool” growing region, with lots of meager soiled (limestone, sand, sandstone, schist) pockets……which PRE-global warming had a hard time ripening & producing RED wine. So….therefore….in many cases the red wines are much lighter in body, weight & umpff than the Cabernet based red wines from other parts of the world.
In the region, they say young Bourgueil (fresh, vibrant, lively & exuberant) works well with white meat…& ….dark meat works well with aged renditions (darker more inriguing character). So…here is the Breton’s prized 1 hectare, hillside parcel–Les Perrieres & its character from the silaceous clay/limestone soils the vines grow in. The bottle age (1997) brings out a dark, sinister, autumn leaves/compost character… the whiff of wet stones……& the taste of ethereal minerality….which creates a remarkable buoyancy in the wine…especially in the middle & the finish. A VERY “out of the box” kind of pairing.
We are continuously searching to find tasty, interesting, food friendly wines produced from indigenous grape varieties to Italy & the Mediterranean basin for our VINO restaurant. We have discovered…….easier said than done. Recently. however, we have found TWO….& are absolutely thrilled not only with what’s in the bottle, but also how much quality they deliver, given the price.
2011 Nanfro Frappato
Organically grown at roughly 1300 feet elevation in Sicily amongst sandy/clay soils, this is a wonderfully perfumed, delicious, juicy, lightly colored & incredibly food friendly Italian country wine which has finally arrived!!!!! There are a surprisingly number of this grape variety now coming into the states, but nothing this good!
2008 Riofavara “Sciave”
Riofavara is located in the Noto Valley, in the remote & rugged southern tip of Sicily. Although this family has been farming here for over a century, they only started bottling their own wine in 1993, eliciting vivacious, mineral Nero d’Avola reds from the zone’s extreme, rocky limestone & marl, organically farmed terrains. I have not tasted a Nero d’Avola anywhere close to this in quality, typicity & soul. What a discovery!!!!!!!
Ever since I started in the wine industry I have been enamored with the wines from Fontodi. From my very first glass, I have thought their wines to be the benchmark of what Chianti could be, especially under the direction (at least in the early days) of superstar consultant Franco Bernabei.
The 130 acre estate (70 planted) is located just south of the town of Panzano, right in the heart of the Classico region with calcareous-clay-schist soils at higher elevation & today organically farmed.
It has taken over 30 years to finally get some of their wine (at least legally) to Hawaii.
2009 Chianti Classico
While the current website simply states the grape mix to be Sangiovese, I remember in the old days there was also some Canaiolo Nera & Colorino included. Regardless of what the grape mix actually is, this is a gorgeous, classy Chianti Classico, with dried cherries, autumn leaves, sandalwood nuances, a plentitude of Sangiovese fruit, a solid, stoic frame & wonderful perfume.
2009 Chianti Classico Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo”
In the past I have found many Chianti Riserva wines to be too dried out for my taste. That has changed over the years, but quite candidly too many still don’t really catch my fancy, especially for the price tag. I am one of those crazy people who thinks one of the most enjoyable characteristics of the Sangiovese grape variety is how wonderfully food friendly it can be. So, here is a wine which delivers on both levels……a fascinating, innately complex red, with an inner core of gorgeous, lively fruit, layering & structure (90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from a hilltop vineyard) which still is very food friendly. ( I, in fact, find this is a wonderful companion with the roast chicken with Tuscan beans we serve in VINO).
Produced from 100% Sangiovese from their best cuvees of the vintage, here is Fontodi’s flagship wine & one of Tuscany’s most prestigious Super-Tuscans, since the category emerged onto the world stage. It has taken me some time to really warm up to the Super-Tuscan schtick. Especially in the beginning, I found many of the wines to be overdone, often too pricey for what was actually in the bottle & in many cases quite UN-Italian. I, however, greatly applauded the supreme effort of trying to raise the over all quality in Tuscanywith this category spearheading the way. Judging by tasting the ’09, 07 & 06 Flaccianello on this day, let’s just say the wines are fabulous….elegant, refined, classy, sophisticated & thankfully still VERY Italian. Bravo!