Archive for September, 2018

Sep
23

A duo from Quintarelli

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While I have been quite a fan of the Quintarelli wines for a while, as the prices rose, there were less opportunities for tastings them.  I also must admit that while I appreciate Amarone & the immense skill & effort needed to grow & produce one, I have not been so wow-ed by Amarone in general.  The wines were often too much about ripeness for me & less about terroir.

(Please understand, I once fortunately had a 25 plus year old Quintarelli Amarone & therefore understood that once the wine had a chance to resolve itself through considerable bottle age, the terroir would show itself once again, surrounded by harmony & real thoroughbred class).

Eventhough I was so impressed with the magnitude of Quintarelli Amarone (& Dal Forno Romano & I would also include Quintarelli Alzero), I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them because of the high price tag & more often than not, chose to instead spend my money on something else.

It was therefore quite thrilling to again sample a couple of of Quintarelli red wines that had some bottle age.  I was anxious when I first saw the bottles & most thankful to sample such wine treasures.  And, while they were not Amarone, they were standouts & very memorable in their own right.

2008 Quintarelli “Ca’ del Merlot”–just in case readers are not familiar with Quintarelli wines, this wine is NOT at all about Merlot, & as far as I know, has NO Merlot included in its blend.  This is a single vineyard (limestone, clay & basalt dominated soils), rising up to a hillside near & above the town of Negrar with the Veneto region of northeast Italy.  It took me a while to understand this bottling, as it is typically a blend–mainly of Corvina & Corvinone with a small percentage of Rondinella & a smattering of other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc, Nebbiolo, Croatina & Sangiovese.  The key word to describe this wine is “graceful”.  It is really graceful as it smoothly glides down the palate, yes, with more viscosity & density & I was really taken by it.  It is also much more than ripe fruit, opulence & a raisiny edge.  It was unique & memorable.  50% of the grapes are immediately pressed & initially made as one would a still red wine.  (The other 50% is dried for 2 months.)  This juice is then added to the Amarone lees which creates a secondary fermentation (ripasso).  Once that is complete, the wine is then racked into large Slavonian oak barrels for at least 7 years.  Yes, Quintarelli is world renown for his patience & great care when making his wines, which is mostly why his wines are so individual, highly revered, sought after & pricey.  We are quite the fans of this wine.

1990 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore”–I was actually initially given this wine blind.  I had NO idea what was in the glass & I was really quite taken with what I was smelling.  The wine had lots of class & vinosity, was VERY captivating & VERY harmonious.  When I was told what it was I just dove back in again & again.  The perfume really was very unique, compelling & virtually incomparable to anything I remember having before.  There was a delicate, sweet oak presence though very well integrated with dried fruit & a wonderful savoriness, lush, viscous texture, nuance after nuance & a very long finish.. Though obviously aged, it was quite surprisingly youthful in its core.  What a wine!  Not necessarily Grand Cru in its intent, but certainly a very intriguing, provocative, unique & a special bottle of wine.  Thank you Mike for sharing!

Both of these wine treasures reaffirmed the masterful talent of Quintarelli, that’s for sure.

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Sep
23

Food & Wine Pairing at VINO

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Here are some of the recent food specials we did at VINO, which we also had some fun pairing wines with.

Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobsterhome-made squid ink pasta & garlic, white wine sauce.  We included this dish to the menu because of a specific white wine–2016 Caravaglio Malvasia Secco “Salina” we wanted to share.  Salina is part of the Aeolian Islands off the coast of northern Sicily.  While it displays the wonderful, enticing perfume of the Malvasia grape variety, its core is a resounding stoniness buttressed with distinct salinity & lime blossoms.  Furthermore, this is not just a light wine, it has surprisingly viscosity, a firm, more masculine structure with a slight almond nut bitterness to the finish, hence the pairing with the rich, succulent lobster morsels & some butter to the sauce.  The wine’s high toned aromatics just seemed to heighten the whole dish & the lime blossom edge just helped keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.

Crispy Duck Confitwith crispy wild mushroom risotto “cake” & duck-rosemary jus.  After much thought, the wine we selected was the 2013 Domaine Vinci “Rafalot”.  Produced from 100 to 120 year old Carignane vines grown in the very remote hills of Roussillon, fermented using whole clusters, more gently crushed by foot, wild yeast fermented & aged for 18 months in old demi muids & 12 year old barrels with NO SO2 addition, this wine has a naked, totally wild & feral character, as wild as the countryside where it hails from & nuances from the lack of sulfur use in its winemaking.  Because this is Carignane, it has a very compact red fruited core-much more fresh & vibrant than one normally gets from other grapes from region……an old vine character…..all making it a worthy foil for the duck (its innate fattiness), the mushrooms, the jus & the rosemary.  By the way, the wine is a fabulous drink even without the food!  That is, if you don’t mind really rustic, wild, feral red wine.  Another really interesting & delicious pairing is the 2015 Neyers “Sage Canyon” cuvee .  The base of this red wine blend is 139 year old vine, own rooted Carignane, to which, winemaker Tadeo Bochardt blends in some heirloom Syrah, Grenache & sometimes Mourvedre, all foot stomped, wild yeast fermented with minimal if any sulfur added….ala Maxime Magnon down in Haut Corbières.   This absolutely delicious, juicy, intriguingly spiced red is exactly what the duck-tor ordered.  I would also recommend considering the 2015 Sucette Grenache to the list.  This is a superb, very savory, old vine (own rooted, planted in 1860 & 1880) Grenache from the Vine Vale enclave of Australia’s Barossa Valley, that is wonderfully transparent, savory, vinous, delicious & provocative red wine ideal for the dish.

Grilled Marinated Duroc Pork Tomahawk–with roasted fingerling potatoes, charred brussel sprouts, onions & pork jus.  This was an amazingly tasty, very satisfying dish.  The wine we chose was the 2015 Giovanni Montisci “Barrosu”, a crazy, wild, juicy old vine (60 years) Cannonau from the Island of Sardegna & its mountainous interior.  It was a fabulous & totally captivating pairing.  On another night, we did a VERY different approach to the pairing using instead a 1997 De Montille Volnay Premier Cru “Taillepieds”, which proved to be yet another memorable match.  You could certainly consider the 2015 Sucette Grenache for this dish too.

House Smoked Lamb Bellywith rustic cavatelli & peppercorn demi.  One could readily pair this dish with many, many different red wines, as long as the guts & mojo is high enough in the wine.  I would, however, prefer a red wine with a little more “flesh on the bone”, as we are looking at the more fatty belly after all.  AND with a little bit of bottle age, just so the edges are a little more rounded.  I immediately thought of the 2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol.  I love how it has an intoxicating coupling of rusticity & masculinity with a core of uplifting red fruit, spice & minerality, which would be interesting with this dish.  Plus, it certainly has the mojo & wild character to handle the lamb belly.  2 other wines which I found to also create some magic with the dish, are the 2007 Vietti Barbera d’Alba “Vigna Scarrone”, a superb, gorgeous single vineyard Barbera, which clearly shows what this grape variety has the potential to be.  The other wine, the 2015 Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Guardiola”, is a very savory, rustic, masculine, “mountain grown”, old vine Nerello Mascalese. worth checking out.  (We recommend, however, you add a splash of red wine, freshly cracked black pepper & a bit of rosemary to bay leaf to the dish for this one.)

15 day Dry Aged, “Nature’s Natural” Ribeyewith Bert’s smashed potatoes, swiss chard & haricot vert.  Normally for a dish like this, I immediately think of a slightly aged Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras from a ripe vintage like 2009.  Its wildly rustic edge works well with the more rustic edge of dry aged beef AND this wine has the stuffing, mojo & tannins to handle a very marbled cut like Ribeye.  We have however, already recommended a pairing along these lines in a previous post of the past.  So, in addition, one could certainly bust out something from their Barolo, Bordeaux, & Californian “trophy” stash & completely enjoy the interaction.  This is also a wonderful opportunity to try other hearty, robust, earth driven red wine studs, like those from Helen Keplinger (Keplinger), Any Erickson (Favia); Mike Officer (Carlisle), Morgan Twain Peterson (Bedrock); Mike Hirby (Relic); Les Behrens (Behrens Family); & a whole slew from Paso Robles–Saxum, Linne Calodo, Villa Creek, L’Aventure & Epoch, just to name a few.  For a unique & memorable experience, also consider the Vegas Sicilia “Unico”. Though pricey, it is a wine one should experience at least once in their life.

Categories : Food and Wine, General, Wine
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Sep
17

A Pink Wine Dinner @ VINO 09-16-18

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The category of rosé wine is thankfully totally happening and still growing. Along the Mediterranean basin, the cafes and bistros seemingly have carafes of pink wines on every table. They are refreshing, wonderfully food friendly and really add to the enjoyment of the moment, it’s a way of life. Our goal for this night was to create such a moment—good, homey foods (the kind one would cook for themselves at home), served with a trio of our favorite pink wines (each from a different indigenous grape variety (s), soil & region, each family own & operated just to show participants that not all pink wines are created equal)–pure enjoyment–on an early Sunday night, so one can go home and sleep early. Let’s get together and hang out.

VINO Ahi Niçoise Salad– roasted fingerling potatoes, Kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes & red wine vinaigrette 

wine: Eric Chevaler Grolleau Rosé–What a fabulous discovery this has been for us! VERY mineral driven, light, ethereal and zippy–produced from a nearly forgotten grape variety and a lesser known appellation of France. Yes, we needed something light, very minerally & zippy like this to keep the palate refreshed between bites.

 

Grilled Vegetable Pizza–fennel, peppers, garlic, olives, tomatoes and kale 

wine: Chateau des Deux Rocs Rosé a dry, very savory, masculine styled Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah rosé , grown in deep schist soils at 1000 feet in elevation within a remote, secluded valley down in southern France.  This is the handiwork of Jean-Claude Zabalia, a name you certainly will hear more & more about.  We purposely chose pizza as many people do cook pizzas at home, & therefore why not sip on a much more savory pink like this on such occasions.  Makes total sense.

 

Herb Roasted Organic Chickensmoked ham hock stew & penne 

wine: Maestracci Corse Calvi Rosé “E Prove”I have dreamed of going to Corsica for well over thirty years. Yes, it is about the culture, its unique, remote setting, but mainly for the authentic foods and wines like this. I am enamored with the savoriness of its core and how it works magic with savory foods like this.

 

Peach & Blueberry Cobblercinnamon streusel

Categories : Wine
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Sep
14

Pictures from Way Back When

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A picture someone sent to me. OMG!!! Look how young we were back then.

 

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Wayne Belding, Richard Dean, Emanuel Kemiji, Ronn Wiegand

Front row–left to right–CF; Ed Osterland; Evan Goldstein; Barrie Larvin; Brian Julyan; Larry Stone & Nunzio Alioto.

Wow!

 

Then, how about this one?

Back row–left to right–Fred Dame, Steve Morey, Nunzio Alioto, CF, Richard Dean, Steve Geddes

Second Row–left to right–Scott Carney, Bob Bath, Wayne Belding, Ira Harmon, Angelo Tavernaro

Front Row–left to right–Barrie Larvin, Brian Julyan, Sally Mohr, Madeline Triffon, Evan Goldstein

 

Finally, how about this one?  Taken at the Sardine factory in Monterey, the day Fran & I passed!

Left to right–Fred Dame, Brian Julyan, Fran Kysela, Barrie Larvin & CF

 

 

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Here are FOUR wines from islands within the Mediterranean realm—Sardegna, Sicily & Corsica. Each are interesting, tasty and very unique.. These islands are definitely on my bucket list, not only because of the wines, but the countryside, foods, the smells, the people, culture and the list goes on. All 5 somehow seem tainted by the western world. These wines remind us of that.  I can’t wait to trek on down & visit each & experience their magic first hand.

2016 Vigne Rada Vermentino di Sardegna “Stria”  

This is a dry, minerally, vivacious, uplifting, completely refreshing white wine from Alghero on the northwest coast of Sardegna, an area “surrounded by stunning beaches and breathtaking limestone cliffs on either side. Conditions here are ideal for growing high-quality grapes: fresh maritime breezes, while the poor, rocky soils are perfectly suited to the production of balanced, characterful wines. Farming is sustainable, by hand, with help from the whole family. Vigne Rada’s Vermentino is reminiscent of wildflowers and Mediterranean herbs, with a mouth-coating texture and clean, saline finish”.

2016 Vignetti Vecchio Etna Rosso “Sciave Vive” 

The adventuresome sommeliers throughout the U.S. are sniffing/searching around Etna, down in Sicily for the next “discovery” to be found.  It is a very hot topic nowadays–Nerello Mascalese grown in high altitude volcanic soils–, although I would say, finding really good ones are hard to come by.  “Husband, Carmelo Vecchio and wife, Rosa La Guzza are true locals to the Island of Sicily. Their “Sciare Vive” Rosso—comes from 1.5 hectares (1600 to 2000 feet in elevation) and innately captures the rustic character of the wild countryside it is grown in and definitely the most interesting of the Sicilian red wines we have had to date. 90% Nerello Mascalese, 10% mostly white indigenous varieties (Minnella, Inzolia, Carricante, Grecanico, Catarratto, Malvasia) for aromatics, refinement and texture.

2015 Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Guardiola” 

With all of the hoopla amongst the sommelier community across the country for Etna wines, we ran across this one.  It has the masculinity of the Nerello Mascalese as its core–intriguing, savory, dark characters–smoke, espresso, musky, slightly singed sandalwood, with a very savory charm & presence.  Guardiola is a 1.6 hectare parcel, mostly pre-phylloxera vines, located between 800 to 1000 meters in elevation.  This is certainly is a wine to pay attention to.

2017 Marquiliani Rosé Gris

I am a huge fan of this wine & this winery.  Finally, the 2017 has arrived, all the way from Corsica. We sadly did not get much of it this year, so here is your opportunity to try it . As importer Kermit Lynch once said—“this wine is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it.  Nothing is left on the palate but perfume”. This is much more than a romantic notion. It is captured in the bottle.  “The Amalric family has farmed Domaine de Marquiliani since the 1950s. The village of Aghione is not far from the old Roman capitol of Corsica on the eastern coast of the island, poetically known as the Costa Serena. Flanked against the Corsican Mountains where the flats begin to rise into the hills, this small village of 235 inhabitants is just as celebrated today for its sulfur springs, olive groves, and vineyards as it was thousands of years ago. The enduring legacy is no coincidence—cool nights, high altitude, and the soil help the grapes retain their freshness and allow for a slow, even ripening. The terraced land of Aghione is a mix of schist and granite gravel with silt that has descended from the mountains over the last ten thousand years.”

2016 Giovanni Montisci “Modestu” 

This is a VERY unique white wine to say the least.  Other worldly, I would say…..as I haven’t had anything quite like it.  One can tell this is Moscato, just from smelling it–fragrant, lime blossoms, star fruit with a thickness/viscous mouthfeel, surprisingly done with lots of charm, freshness, intriguing stoniness AND vinosity.   Yes, this wine really blindsided me on how interesting it really is to savor, taste after taste.  What??????   Giovanni started with only 2 hectares in Mamoiada, located in the more remote, mountainous inland–60 year old vine Moscato, grown in sandy, granite, clay soils, wild yeast fermented in 1000 liter stainless, NO ML, then aged for 6 months in OLD barrique.   A VERY interesting drink….& somewhat pricey, which makes sense given what it takes to grown & produce such a wine!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Yes, at VINO, we really work hard to find and feature wines from the Mediterranean basin, especially those based on indigenous grape varieties. I recently read that one person said there were 511 different grape vairieties in Italy alone and another said there were under 2000. The point is—there are many. They somehow work well with our style of cooking. I would say their innate savory nuances has at least something to do with it. In this tasting, we look to feature wines from four different islands. Yes, in these cases it does make a difference in the resulting wines. Indigenous grape varieties grown on islands……..how often do opportunities to taste such a line up like this come around?

 

 

 

 

2014 Portelli Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily)–A 5TH generation of this family is now running the domaine. Their home is in southern Sicily where they toil in vineyards comprised of mainly clay and limestone. This bottling is 70% Calabrese and 30% Frappato —“a joyful drink—luscious & charming with firm structure—country wrapped in suede.”

.2014 Giacometti Patrimonio “Cru des Agriate” (Corsica)–A wine grown in a very remote (4 ½ hours of rugged 4 wheeling to get there), wild “countryside on the northern end of the Island of Corsica. 97% Niellucciu, 3% Grenache, we love its real & distinct savoriness and while very masculine in character, it thankfully has mesmerizing transparency & an even kiel.

2017 Sigalas Assyrtiko (Santorini)–Paris Sigalas is the iconic winemaking superstar of Greece. His home turf is in Oia, on the island of Santorini. This is a very unique winegrowing niche—flat, mercilessly sun baked vineyards with light weighted pumice soils, lack of much rainfall and gusting, often pounding coastal winds (certainly very warm during the day). The island has, in response to these severe conditions, developed a unique koulara style of training their vines to protect the grapes. This wine is all about mesmerizing minerality with a touch of salinity, a very masculine personality & a slight piquant bitterness to the finish.

2016 Caravaglio Salina Bianco (Salina)–The Caravaglio family have worked their land in the Aeolian Islands, off the coast of Sicily for over 500 years. Their family is in fact credited for first planting the Malvasia, Corinto Nero and other local grapes on both the Lipari and Salina islands. This 2016 combines a wonderful, exotic, perfume with strong minerality, structure and a touch of salinity.

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