Archive for March, 2020

Today, we brought together a group of young wine professionals to share some of the wine discoveries we brought home with us from our October trip to Italy.

We pared down the tasting list to 12 wines, just to make it more manageable AND keep everyone’s attention.

The first trio of wines were from Dolceacqua in the western reaches of Liguria, Italy.  Hidden in the inner, mountainous territory away from the sea, Dolceacqua still seems stuck in time.  The town itself is quite small & like the surrounding villages of the area not so westernized yet.

The hillsides are steep, rocky, terraced & vertically remote.  The roads to the various nooks & crannies are narrow, wickedly winding & quite rugged.  If you want anything up in the vineyards, you have to take there by road.

It is therefore no wonder that the majority of what was once vineyards, today lay fallow.  The hills are filled with these ghost vineyards & they serve as a reminder how much passion driven, back breaking work it must take to farm, constantly repair & harvest them.

In addition, we were totally shocked to find out these vignerons lost at least 40% of their crop in 2019 to wild animals–such as deer, boars & badgers.

WINE #1   2015 TENUTA ANFOSSO Rossese di Dolceacqua

Upon my very first taste of their wines, I instantly knew I had to go for a visit.  What I didn’t realize then, however, was how small this winery is in production AND how breathtakingly steep their vineyards truly are.  (A real clue was from on our previous visit to Punta Crena & Paolo Ruffino showing us with his hand & arm how much steeper Dolceacqua vineyards really were in comparison to how steep, their own steep mountainous vineyards are).  I became even more fascinated.  The estate is today run by Alessandro Anfosso (the 6th generation of his family).  Anfosso owns & farms 5.5 hectares of vineyards—2.5 hectares Luvaira (planted in 1905), 2 hectares Poggio Pini (planted 1888) & 1 hectare Fulavin (planted in 1977 & 1998)–all mainly flysch soils.  This particular bottling is a blend of all 3.  50% de stemmed & fermented in stainless.  We love the undeniable savoriness which the Anfosso wines innately.  Rather than berries, dark cherries & fruit nuances, the Anfosso red wines have earthy, musky nuances with a roasted chestnut, fresh compost, slight wild sage core, which we find so compelling & provocative.  In this day & age of a growing availability of more “correct”, bordering “safe” wines, these thankfully instead represent a unique, indigenous grape variety (mostly old vine), grown in a very unique niche of the wine world (remote, steep, bordering unforgiving) with thankfully its own “voice”, ALL at more reasonable prices than offered by many of Italy’s trophy red wines.   

 

WINE #2  2018 PERRINO TESTALONGA Bianco

Our original intent in showing the Perrino Testalonga wines was to showcase VERY authentic, old school made wines from the Dolceacqua DOC. ( I would consider the Tenuta Anfosso wines authentic too, BUT Perrino Testalonga uses old barrels in their fermenting & raising of their wines (meaning NO stainless steel); foot stomping; NO temperature control & VERY limited use of SO2).  While that may be admirable in theory & print, the resulting wines are very wild, untamed, rustic & NOT scientifically perfect.  That is okay by me, as long as the wines are good!  Unfortunately their RED Dolceacqua wine we brought back was sadly corked.  We still, however, showcased their 2018 Bianco–100% Vermentino–from the lower terraces just above the winery.  It was wild yeast fermented in 6 to 7 year old 225 liter barrels, NO temperature control, fermented until there is no sugar left.  A small amount of SO2 November to June only to stabilize the wine.  The wine is aged in bottle for 1 & a half years.  In 2018, there were only 200 bottles produced.  (Please keep in mind they only own but 2 hectares).  As one can readily see by the color, the wine is on the orange side, BUT without the tannins & therefore bitterness in the finish.  Yes, it does have oxidative nuances & therefore not for everyone.  I liked the wine.  AND, it was a reminder of how small, artisan wines were made in the old days, pre-stainless steel.

 

WINE #3  2018 Giovanni Montisci “Modestu”   

Leave it to my cousin Mike to bring some kind of thought provoking wine to the tasting to share & create more conversations.  Well, this is just not any wine.  The visit to Giovanni Montisci was the highlight to our trek to Sardegna a couple of years ago.  While they are most world renown their Cannonau de Sardegna red wines, their Modestu (dry Moscato) is their most startling & explosive.  It is so exotically aromatic–a combustible mix of the very outgoing exotic lime blossom/ star fruit/ tropical fruit/ slightly honeyed nuances of the Moscato grape variety with the stone/mineral core from the 60 year old vines, planted in the sandy-granite-clay in the vertically remote (2100 feet elevation) of their 2 hectare (only .7–Moscato).  In addition this wine has a very thick, bordering oily unctuality which is both quite unique & very compelling.  This wine is dry with lots of swag & a somewhat piquant finish.  How does Mike get these wines that is the final question?  Thank you sir for always sharing.

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Mar
18

A Quartet of Spanish “Country” wines

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We continue our search for interesting good wines from different wine growing regions, especially those countries serving Mediterranean inspired foods. This night, we take a look at four very unique and interesting, “country” styled wines from Spain. Come on be adventuresome. These wines are worth checking out.

2014 Jose Antonio Garica Bierzo “Unculin”–here is a wine from one of the New Age winemakers ushering his appellation into the modern era of wines. The wine is delicious, & has wonderful fruit-stone nuances with unassumingly vinosity & an intriguing, underlying earthy-savory-dry herbal pungency.   “Located in Bierzo, within Castilla y León, his vineyards provide an unspoiled genetic window to another era before modern clones were selected for higher yields.  From Jose’s organically-grown, family-owned vineyards in the village of Valtuille de Abajo at 1600 to 2000 feet elevation in clay, sand littered with stones & is  planted with 60 to 100-year-old traditional mencía bush vines from an ancient genetic ancestry. Some of these vines are more than 200 years old. Grapes are hand-picked, leaving stems on 30% of the bunches. Unculín undergoes a spontaneous fermentation by natural, indigenous yeast in large, neutral, French foudres with a 30-day maceration post-fermentation. Four months of aging on the fine-lees and malolactic fermentation in stainless steel without topping up. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal intervention.“.

Unculín is a fresh, vin de soif style Bierzo (the appellation) Mencía (the grape variety) which offers an antidote to over-blown, internationally-styled wines previously made in the region. Jose’s mineral Unculín echoes the forgotten traditions of the Bierzo region while pushing the envelope”.

 

2018 Amerztoi Getariako Txakolina–On our last trip to San Sebastián, Spain, we were in awe of the sheer plentitude of regional tapas available. There were so many to choose from and each small eatery had their own specialties. What even made it more memorable was washing down the morsels with glasses of well chilled Txakoli, a fizzy, lively, remarkably light and completely refreshing local Basque specialty produced mainly from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape variety. Here is one for you to better understand how Txakoli adds to the pure enjoyment of the whole dining scene there.  “Ameztoi is a renowned producer in Getariako Txakolina & owns twenty hectares of estate vineyards located in the most privileged position in the region, facing the Bay of Biscay.  High in the vineyards, planted on the dramatic sea-side cliffs of the ancient fishing village of Getaria, one can see the town of San Sebastian, which lies just twenty minutes away along a serpentine highway.  Ignacio Ameztoi is the fifth generation of his family to carry on the tradition of making txakolina in the province of Getaria & has been a driving force in the txakolina discipline.  Ameztoi Txakolina is traditionally built with high acidity and low alcohol, utilizing only native varieties hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza. The wine is fermented in refrigerated stainless steel tanks utilizing indigenous yeasts from the vineyard. The tanks are closed to preserve natural carbonation from fermentation, which is the preferred style of Getaria. The tanks are kept chilled to near 32 degrees Fahrenheit before bottling, which preserves the wine’s delicate, effervescent character and signature mousse.”

 

2015 Botani Moscatel Old Vines”–This is old vine (planted in 1946, 1968 and 1975) Moscatel de Alejandría grown on the very steep, rocky (slate & quartz soiled) hillsides of Sierra de Málaga. Yes, yet another dry, aromatic (high toned lime blossoms) white wine, done with a more masculine, virile touch.  “Botani Moscatel was chosen in 2016 by Robert Parker as one of the three best wines of the world with best value for money”.  This wine defies the odds with not only wine drinkers but where it is produced as well.  It comes from the Sierras de Malaga.  This is a mountanous region near the Southern Tip of Spain.  It is actually very close in proximity to where most Sherry is produced. It is extremely hot and typically white wines do not do well here.  Leave it to the genius that it is Jorge Ordonez to figure out that a beautiful Moscatel can be made here.  Jorge takes chances and it almost always pays off. 

 

2017 Bodegas del Palacios de Fefiñanes Albariño–Back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, I thought Albariño would undoubtedly be the next “it” grape variety.  It really hasn’t caught on as I imagined yet.  The problem I later discovered was that I made my assessment based upon tasting only TWO different renditions of Albariño.  Over the years since then, despite tasting many, many other renditions, my top two are still the same–Bodegas del Palacios de Fefiñanes still being one of them.  There is not a lot of marketing oriented backstory or romantic story telling to this, other than the wine is just plain good!   This is Spanish Albariño as I think it should taste—pure, captivating, minerally, wonderfully fresh, aromatic & full of vigor & hutzpah.  The 2017 is lovely & was rated 94 points by noted wine writer Jeb Dunnuck.

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Mar
13

A Spanish Inspired Supper

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We have created these special dinners for pure enjoyment AND because we want to always add a new dimension to learning a thing about wine. This is the next episode in our quest to shed light on what pairing wines and foods can be. The culinary world has greatly changed during my professional career and this is my opportunity to show another dimension to it all. Nothing fancy……..just plain good!

Although we explore the Mediterranean both on the food AND wine front, we don’t really play on the Spanish theme too often…this is THAT night! Spanish slanted foods and a trio of really tasty, interesting Spanish “country” wines paired.

Just as a reminder, “country” styled wines typically are those that are served at cafes/neighborhood eateries with their casual fare. They are so very different from the “trophy” wines that win all of the awards, high scores and accolades and need to spend years in the cellar before consuming. They are more for tastiness and enjoyment NOT for swirling, analyzing and taking notes. They unpretentiously and deliciously wash down the foods and freshen the palate between bites

The challenge is finding the “good” ones, as not all café styled wines are created equal. We will feature three very tasty, interesting and unique renditions for this evening. We have worked hard to get these wines because they are so different and each provides a glimpse of their respective region, their indigenous grape variety and each done in a VERY different style.

Chef Keith Endo created dishes for each and we hope the wines and the pairings will not only taste good, but will shed light on what can be.

 

FIRST COURSE

WINE: Tres Ojos Garnacha “Old Vines”–It was pure joy when we first ran across this wine back in the 1990’s. Its wonderfully delicious, charming profile brings such joy when taking a big gulp after an especially hard day’s work. Hard to believe old vine fruit grown in a sun baked, flat, semi arid, wild countryside of Calatayud can be so downright tasty & satisfying. AND, it is remarkably food friendly on top of that!

Spanish Styled Meatballsroasted red bell peppers and a savory, bay leaf and pepper red wine sauce

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SECOND COURSE

 

WINE: Fillaboa Albarino “Rias Baixas”–While the native Albarino grape variety is generally considered to be Spain’s most promising, interesting white wine grape, there are still far too many lackluster renditions being produced. The Fillaboa, instead, shows the true potential Albarino truly has. We love its vivacious, outgoing, “bright eyed & bushy tailed” personna and how delicious and wonderfully food friendly it innately is. We wanted to showcase a classic wine pairing with paella.

VINO PaellaChef Keith’s rendition of a Galician classic

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ENTREE

 

WINE: El Cortijillo La Mancha–La Mancha is located on a plateau right in the heart of the Iberian peninsula. Being one of the largest growing regions of Spain, the area is in general relatively flat with extreme temperatures in both directions. Yes, this is “country” wine and the reds, like this Tempranillo while quite delicious and gulpable, can still have intriguing rusticity, some mojo and grit. Ole.

Smoked Paprika Scented Porkmushrooms, onions, smoked ham-bean stew & OK Poultry egg

 

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DESSERT

 

 

This was some kind of interesting dinner!

featuring a very different slant on wine & food pairing.

 

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Mar
13

A Taste of Raúl Pérez Perreira

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Quite candidly I have been somewhat slow on looking into what’s currently happening with the wines of Spain.  This past few months, however, has certainly changed my view on that subject, especially after tasting the wines from Raúl Pérez Perreira, a true game changer out of the Bierzo DO in the northwest sector of Spain.  He is one of those winemakers who come along once in a generation and is leading a quiet revolution redefining what Spanish wines can be.  We love the authenticity, transparency and deft balance to his wines.  NO “fruit bombs here.”  We respect his devout reverence to capturing old vine, indigenous grape varieties in their sweet spot.  We love how he is questioning all aspects of growing & making his wines.  Yes, each wine really is an adventure. 

It has taken quite a long time to get some of the Raúl Pérez wines here to the islands.  As they slowly roll in, we are anxious to taste each of the offerings, so we can better understand the genius behind the myth.  On this night, we will actually be sampling 4 of his, but only writing about  

 

2017 Raul Perez Bierzo “Ultreia St Jacques”Mainly Mencia (vines planted in 1900 & 1940) from different soils in Valtuille and Villadecanes.  Partial whole clusters and aged in OLD oak vats for one year.  We love this wine’s wonderful transparency, texture & balance.  Its savoriness & all kinds of earth, spice & nuances done with a masterful, yet unpretentious touch.  Plus, the price is so terrific for what you get in the bottle.  I recommended this to a guest the other night with VINO’s Braised Spanish Octopus which served with a smoked ham hock stew.  Marvelous.

 

2016 La Vizcaina de Vino Bierzo Tinto “La Poulosa”Produced from Mencia & Trousseau vines planted in 1940, clay-sand-river stones–east facing at 1700 feet elevation.  80% whole cluster.  One year in 225 liter French oak.  This bottling ramps up the volume a notch–more savory notes, more mojo & more framing, while still wonderfully transparent, textural & very well balanced.

 

2017 Antoine Graillot & Raul Pérez, Bierzo “Encinas”–this is a joint venture between two winemaking icons, each from a different region–Antoine Graillot from Crozes Hermitage in France’s Rhone Valley &  Raúl Pérez Perreira from Bierzo, Spain.  3 sites in NW Bierzo in Rapolao vineyard in Valtuille de Abajo . Mainly old vine Mencia–done in cement fermenters, whole clusters, & then aged for 10 months in oak foudre.

 

2016 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Ultreia Godello–a very stony, masculine white wine with lots of swag, mojo & structure.  100% indigenous Godello grape variety–grown in 3 sites in the village of Valtuille de Abajo of Castilla y Leon 90% northfacing (cool)—20 to 42 year old vines in clay, sand & alluvial stones.  Fermented & aged in 300L & 2500: foudres.

 

2017 La Vizcaina de Vinos Bierzo “La Del Vivo”Yet another standout, this one is a blend of Godello and Dona Blanco planted in 1940 (clay) and 1926 (sand) respectfully.  80% of the juice is pressed, decanted and then fermented in 500 liter and 700 liter barrels.  The other 20% is on the skins in clay amphora.  BOTH, unmoved for one year.  This wine also has a rancio character to it too.

 

2016 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Ultreia La Claudina Blanco–a VERY different interpretation/style of what Godello can be.  The vines were planted in 1995 in sandy soils.  Wild yeast fermented & aged in 1500L foudre. A flor film is allowed & encouraged, which gives Sherry-like aromas combined with the stoniness & savoriness of the Godello in these soils.  Definitely “otherworldly“.

 

2013 Bodegas Y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, Albarin Rara Avis White–Here is yet another “otherworldly” take on white wine.  This one is produced from the Alvarin grape—cousin to Albarino, but different. 70 year old vines, fermented in wood with NO temperature control. 18 months in Fr oak foudre.  The wine is dry, masculine, resoundingly stony with vehement vinosity, solid structure, very unique aromatics & a long finish.  This is certainly something very unique & quite candidly, I don’t quite yet know what to fully make of this wine, but still would say it is definitely worth checking out nonetheless.

 

2018 Atalier by Raul Perez Albarino “A Cruz das Animas”A project in partnership with Rodi Mendez, which truly shows us all what Spanish Albarino can be!  Grown in Val do Salnes, one of the most revered subzones of Rias Baxias—its sandy soils and very coastal climate, one kilometer from the sea.  The grapes come from three vineyards, planted pre-phylloxera—meaning 150 to 160 year old vines, then fermented and aged in large, OLD oak foudres.  I loved this wine’s uplifting minerality, innate sense of salinity, its wonderful texture & balance.  While I have tasted quite a slew of Albarino previously, I can wholeheartedly say, BUT, nothing like this!   Wowza!

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Mar
02

White Wine & Meat 10-20-19

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We have created these special dinners for pure enjoyment AND because we want to always add a new dimension to learning a thing about wine. This is the next episode in our quest to shed light on what pairing wines and foods can be. The culinary world has greatly changed during my professional career and this is my opportunity to show another dimension to it all. Nothing fancy……..just plain good!

Wine experts often say, white wine with seafood, red wine with meats. While that may be true in many instances, it is not always true. There is never just one answer to such a topic. So, for this night’s dinner, we will pair three white wines with meat, just for the fun of it all. Once you experience these pairings, I bet you will also try them at home somewhere down the line. That is part of the goal here.

We also wanted to remind attendees about “country” styled wines which typically are those that are served at cafes/neighborhood eateries with their casual fare. They are so very different from the “trophy” wines that win all of the awards, high scores and accolades and need to spend years in the cellar before consuming.   They are more for tastiness and enjoyment NOT for swirling, analyzing and taking notes. They unpretentiously and deliciously wash down the foods and freshen the palate between bites

The challenge is finding the “good” ones, as not all café styled wines are created equal. We will feature three very tasty, interesting and unique renditions for this evening. We have worked hard to get these wines because they are so different and each provides a glimpse of their respective region, their indigenous grape variety and each done in a VERY different style.

Chef Keith Endo created dishes for each and we hope the wines and the pairings will not only taste good, but will shed light on what can be.

 

FIRST COURSE

WINE: Elvio Tintero Bianco (Italy)–an off dry to dry, remarkably light, mineral driven, crisp, FIZZY & completely refreshing Italian “country” styled white wine.  “Located in Piemonte in Italy’s northwest, this family has been growing & making their wines since 1900. I was say, they have a pretty good handle on their craft. This is the very style, however they would serve at their lunch & dinner table to gulp down the foods with wine. Produced mainly from three indigenous grape varieties—Favorita, Arneis & Moscato, we were so happy when this wine finally arrived to us. It took way too long!”  The bresaola itself is air cured with a salty edge.  The shaved pecorino also has a salty edge.  The salad itself is baby arugula (slightly bitter), grape tomatoes (earthy & high acidity), thinly sliced crimini musrooms (earthy, higher in acidity), herbs (high in aromatics) & freshly squeezed lemon (acidity).  This “country” styled white has delicate perfume (a smidgeon of Moscato), mineral driven, slightly fizzy & crisp, all ideal for the dish & washing the food down the gullet.

Bresaola Saladair-dried cured beef with baby arugula, grape tomatoes, pecorino cheese, crimini mushrooms, fresh herbs, fresh cracked pepper & lemon

 

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SECOND COURSE

WINE: Domaine Skouras Moschofilero (Greece)–Moschofilero is one of Greece’s top indigenous white wine grape varieties. We love its aromatics—white flower/honeysuckle with wildly tropical nuances and a very lemon-lime finish. Because it is a colored grape, it has to been grown and vinified with nurturing and care, to minimize bitterness and alcohol levels.  “This rendition is grown in Martinia of southern Greece at 2400 feet in elevation & very sandy soils. The vines are now at least 35 years in age. To produce a tasty, seamless, well balanced white wine like this, Giorgio Skouras uses free run juice for over half of the wine. No wonder it is good!”  This wine’s aromatics works wonders with the dried herbs used in the dish with just enough viscosity for the pork & enough crispness to keep up with the fresh squeeze of lemon.

Grilled Marinated Pork Bellylinguine, pork jus, red onions and haricot vert

 

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ENTREE

WINE: Meulenhof Riesling Kabinett “Erdener Treppchen” (Germany)–This is an ever so slightly sweet German Riesling from the Mosel region. We were looking for its slate driven minerality, its lightness on its feet & its uplifting, vibrant acidity to refreshen the palate, like freshly cut apples would, between bites of this rich, savory dish.  “The Treppchen vineyard of Erden is widely regarded as one of Germany’s finest single vineyard. Its steepness and remarkable rockiness is awe inspiring, but it really is about the innate pedigree that separates this vineyard from any other” What a wine!.”

 

Braised Pork Cheekmashed potatoes, roasted carrots, mustard aioli & cilantro pesto

 

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DESSERT

Caramel Panna Cottawarm caramel sauce & vanilla ice crem

 

 

a completely different slant on wine & food pairing.

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