Next on our agenda was to hopefully see Jean-Charles Abbatucci in the seaside city of Ajaccio.  (If one were to look at Corsica as a clock, Ajaccio would be located at roughly 8:30).  It is the capital of Corsica AND also happens to be the largest in population.  In short, Ajaccio is, well, a BIG city, especially by Corsican standards.  Our hotel was just 2 blocks off the port in a very congested part of the city, maybe 2 blocks from the old part of town.

Then why go to Ajaccio?

It had quite a concentration of small neighborhood eateries nearby to the hotel & therefore an opportunity to try some authentic Corsican food, especially in the old part of town, eventhough the parking was very challenging.  Plus, my cousin really wanted to see where Napoleon was born & raised (his one tourist-y stop on this trip).

Domaine Comte Abbatucci is a drive outside of Ajaccio city.  It wasn’t that easy to find, given the vineyard & winery really doesn’t have an address listed.

Our early attempts to schedule a visit with Domaine Comte Abbatucci were declined.  I was told Jean-Charles rarely sees visitors & especially at this time, since it was the end of harvest & heavy winemaking operations going on.  Yes, he is very hands on.  On Saturday, however, we received an email from them noting that he would be willing to see us on the coming Monday, but only for 30 minutes.  We were thrilled, as this was not only one of the very top vignerons of the island, but also a big proponent of rarely seen heirloom/heritage indigenous grape vines, which his father started searching out & collecting during his frequent travels into the mountains–fallow, dilapidated vineyards & many small, “peasant” farmers.  He is also a vehement champion of uber-biodynamic farming & a true master at grafting (to the point of almost appearing to be a bonsai master) indigenous vines to the old vine root system (which is used to the biodynamic regiment & less compacted, horse trodden soils).

The original 30 minute time limit actually ended up being more like 6 1/2 hours, as he passionately showed us vine after vine after vine of his masterful grafting techniques, which seemingly differed with each plant.  His goal was to be as minimally intrusive as he could be, so the vine would concentrate on producing supreme quality fruit, rather than on healing from the cuts & stress created by grafting.  Imagine at least 1 hour of looking & explanation……vine by vine!

He also proudly & patiently explained what he meant when he referred to his craft & several other of his peers as a vigneron.  In short, it was a definition of a code, an ethic, a passion, an honor, kind of similar in thought to the difference between a samurai & a swordsman.  He named only a few on his island who he considered true vignerons.  (Those that I was not familiar with, we then tried to add them to our list of visits or we bought the wines at stores or restaurants during our travels to sample).

So, I asked him, if you are not a vigneron, what are you?

In his broken English he referred to many as bricoleur.    I then asked, what is a bricoleur?  He smirkingly said, “He drives a BIG car.  He has nice shoes.” 

I later mentioned this to a wine friend from France, & he later emailed me this–“A Bricoleur does “Bricolage” which is defined as: Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available.  It was very often used by artisans when I was growing up in France when talking badly about some of their competitors not having great skills or performing shoddy / sloppy work”.

Got it.  Jean-Charles Abbatucci is definitely a vigneron.

Wine wise, Domaine Comte Abbatucci has three main, differentiating sub-labels–

Cuvée Faustine–(Blanc–produced from 40 year old vine Vermentino; Rosé–typically produced from 90% Sciaccarrellu, 10% Barbarossa; and Rouge–typically produced from 70% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu).  I would say, these are his core wines & the ones most restaurants & retail stores should concentrate on, especially when considering price points.

Vin de France–(wines grown &/or produced not withholding to the AOC laws)–Extra Brut “Empire”–100% Barbarossa, planted in 1960 & 1962–done method traditionelle…….Rosé “Gris Imperial–90% Sciaccarrellu, 10% Barbarossa……Rosé “Valle di Nero”–100% Carcajolu Neru–typically 250 cases production…..Rouge “Frais Imperial”–100% Sciaccarellu…….Rouge “Monte Bianco”–100% Sciaccarellu–typically 400 case production……..Rouge “Valle di Nero”100% Carcajolu Nero, typically 200 case production.  There is also a dessert style Aleatico “Dolce Rosso”–produced from a smattering of 20 year old vines, .21 hectares, fermented for 2 months in 300 liter barrels & then aged for 9 months in demi-muids.  (roughly 80 grams per liter residual sugar).

Cuvée Collection–are grown & produced from their oldest vines & is his homage to his long, long line of distinguished ancestors, using nearly forgotten, indigenous grape varieties such as Carcajolu Biancu, Paga Debbiti, Riminese, Rossola Brandica, Biancone & Vermentino for white wines; AND Carcajolu Neru (young vines, as it was only recently discovered & planted), Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, Montaneccia, Morescono, Morescola.  These wines are quite pricey as Corsican wines go, but are his “family’s crown jewels”–produced in the vineyard & winemaking at their highest level. 

We ended the afternoon at his childhood friend’s seaside restaurant, enjoying his Extra Brut “Empire” & 2 different of his Cuvée Collection bottlings with Jean-Charles.  The sea breeze & aromas were wonderful, the seafood super fresh, the wine mesmerizing & the conversation intoxicating.  It was definitely a life long memory moment.  Oh yeah, we also got to try his brother’s (Jacques) lean, tasty Vaches Tigre beef–rare indigenous Corsican cows which roam freely on the 80 hectares of the estate which has no vine plantings.

Thank you Jean-Charles for a great & very insightful visit.

Nov
25

Corsican Wines–Part 2–Calvi

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Upon leaving St Florent, we then drove to Calvi, in the northwestern part of Corsica.  (If Corsica was a clock, Calvi would be at roughly 10:30 on the dial), roughly 1 1/2 hour drive through again a very mountainous, wild terrain on narrow, winding roads. 

Calvi is located right on the sea, a sleepy, surprisingly small town highlighted by a historic citadel overlooking the water.  We went there to visit Domaine Maestracci, a local winery, whose vineyards were roughly 1 1/4 hours outside of the city proper, because of their wines.

The domaine sits “on an ancient, sandy-clay moraine, located on the foothills of the Monte Grossu, surrounded on all 4 sides by high, granite mountains“.  The vineyard’s origins date back to 1893 & is now in a real groove, run by Camille-Anaïs Raoust, the one person our wine yoda Bruce Neyers insisted we just had to meet on our trip to Corsica.  She is a very integral part of the Island’s wine future.

Camille-Anais certainly lived up to Bruce’s billing.  It was really great to spend time with her & walk their vineyards.  It really solidified to us all what they stand for & we are honored to carry their wines at VINO.

Maestracci owns & farms roughly 30 hectares & mainly focus on their old vine Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu & Vermentino vines (roughly 25 to 60 years in age).  She has also more recently planted some Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre too.

I should also add that we had the opportunity to try other highly recommended wines from Calvi & even stopped by some.  We discovered that NOT all Calvi wines are created equal.  In short, Domaine Maestracci stood out.

We were definitely impressed with their wines, especially given how well priced they really are.  We currently carry their “E Prove” line–Vermentino, Rosé (these 2 by the glass) & the Rouge (soon be done by the glass) at our VINO Restaurant because of their quality, food friendliness & sensational value!

Thank you Camille-Anais for a wonderful, insightful visit.

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Nov
24

VINO–out of the box

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Someone recently commented that Italy had roughly 511 different grape varieties. Another said 1200. The point is—there are many. The most challenging aspect I have discovered during my travels to wine country is finding the really “good” examples, sifting through the lists of possible wines and wineries to find those that have something interesting, unique and memorable to offer. That is not as easy as one would think. Last trip, for instance, after two weeks, up and down Italy, we found none fitting the bill. Still, one has to keep trying, right? Here are four which recently came on to our radar screen and are really worth checking out, keeping in mind, each is totally out of most people’s comfort zone. 

2014 Castelluccio Sangiovese di Romagna “Le More”–Here is Sangiovese with a twist. This one is grown in the Modigliano hills, which until the 1930’s was referred to as “ancient Tuscany”, as it was still considered part of Tuscany. The soils have a layer of marl-limestone with elevations between 750 to 1500 feet. Not only is this quite a unique & special site, BUT also consider this project is overseen by legendary, superstar winemaker Vittorio Fiore.

Lambrusco, Ariola “Marcello Gran Cru”–At VINO, we have a real hankering for a glass of well chilled, wonderfully refreshing, uplifting Italian Lambrusco & are therefore always looking.  Here is one of the most acclaimed of the Lambrusco category.  Produced from 100% Lambrusco Maestri, this is a vividly fresh, fizzy, completely refreshing wine ideal served well chilled & with a selection of salumi & cheeses.  “Marcello impresses with its aromatic richness and for its softness. A Lambrusco that contains a rare amount of technique, passion and nature, thanks to its immediate pleasantness of the flavor. The cellar Ariola, founded in 1956, stands on the hills between Felino and Langhirano, in the heart of the Food Valley and Doc Colli di Parma”.  Undoubtedly a benchmark to measure others by in the future.

2014 Livon Pignolo “Eldoro”— I became intrigued with the Pignolo grape variety back in the early to mid 1990’s, because of one bottling–that from then named producer Zamó  & Palazzolo, from the Colli Orientale subzone of Friuli, Italy.  Those early renditions, had a very dark pigmentation, very strikingly blue/purple hued, (rather than black) showed that this grape variety had a strong core, ample tannins & firm structure.  I then was further intrigued with the Pignolo from Walter Filiputti & vintages in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, when we were opening VINO over on Maui.  Filiputti also worked with vines near & around the Abbey at Rosazzo, just as Zamó had.  This certainly seemed to be a sweet spot for growing this rather challenging grape variety.  I didn’t know what to expect from this Livon rendition, as it was a gift.  It’s core, mojo & presence was a shadow of what I had had before.  I wouldn’t say I was wow-ed by any means, but it was interesting nonetheless.

2010 La Viarte Schiopettino del Prepotto–100% Schiopettino.  La Viarte’s estate vineyards are located in the Colli Orientale region of Friuli.  Insiders say this red grape variety grew in popularity because it was much easier to grow & with more consistent yields than indigenous Friulian vines such as Pignolo.  Still, we continually look for more & more red wines like this which offer real savoriness from beginning to end in the wine without any sense of heaviness & richness. We believe wines like this can offer a completely different dimension to food & wine pairings.

2011 Petro Nera Sforzato di Valtellina–a completely different and unforgettable take on what Nebbiolo can be. Valtellina is one of the northernmost grape growing areas of Italy. The entire DOCG is but 282 hectares in size, the best sites—high in elevation, dizzyingly steep and therefore terraced This the home to Nebbiolo, locally known as Chiavennasco.   Sforzato di Valtellina takes a slightly different approach, using the passito method–the grapes are harvested late when the bunches are partly raisined. And then they undergo further drying in aerated crates. It is quite unusual to do so with Nebbiolo,” says Stefano, “But it really enhances the wine in color, aroma and flavour.”

 

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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I truly believe we as an industry need to continually work at getting better at wine & food pairings.  The food scene is always changing, with all kinds of new, really dynamic food preparations & whirlwind combinations of ethnic ingredients & cooking techniques.  And, each require very different thoughts on what wine to pair. 

With this thought in mind, I moderated a wine & food workshop recently held at the prestigious Halekulani Hotel, which was one of the many events held here in the islands for the 2018 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.  Conceptualized & put together by Warren Shon of SGWS, this workshop was a most memorable collaborative effort featuring foods created & presented by superstar chef Masaharu Morimoto, 3 sets of world class German wines from 3 truly iconic producers–Johannes Hasselbach (Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany); Johannes Haart (Weingut Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Germany) & Andrea Wirsching (Weingut Hans Wirsching, Franconia, Germany) AND 2 color commentators–Richard Betts MS & Joseph Spellman MS.  What an epic lineup of talent!!!

MENU 

MIZUHIKI SASHIMI SALAD with white soy-onion dressing

WINES:  The wines for this course came from the iconic Weingut Hans Wirsching of Franconia, Germany.  Andrea Wirsching represents the 14th generation to run this large, privately owned estate.  (Unfortunately she was not able to actually come, because of family emergency).   The wines tasted were the–2016 Silvaner “Estate”; 2015 Silvaner Erste Lage “Iphöfer Kalb; 2015 Scheurebe Kabinett Trocken “Iphöfer” & the 2014 Scheurebe Kabinett Trocken “Iphöfer”.  Chef Morimoto really showed much thought & execution with his food considering these style of these wines! 

SLOW COOKED PORK SPARE RIB with hoisin-tamarind glaze 

WINES: The wines for this course came from Weingut Gunderloch of the Rheinhessen, Germany, whose estate dates back to 1890.  All 4 wines presented on this day came from their finest holding—Nackenheimer Rothenberg–a highly revered red slate vineyard rising from the Rhein River & owner/winemaker Johannes Hasselbach, a New Age winemaking phenom, who I have been working with for many years.  the wines tasted were the 2016 Riesling Kabinett “Jean Baptiste”; 2016 Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”;  2012 Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg” & the 2011 Auslese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”.  What a wonderful exercise with the sweet-salty, ever so slightly spicy, savory spare ribs!

FRIED FILLET OF BRANZINO with sweet, spicy chili sauce   

WINES:  Theo Haart was selected as “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & deservedly so.  His Piesporter Goldtröpfchen wines were true Riesling thoroughbreds–combining purity, filigree, power & grace….so effortlessly.  We have witnessed the same genius & masterfully skill from his son–Johannes Haart–who came to share their 2015 Riesling Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen: 2014 Riesling Spätlese”Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”; 2007 Riesling Spätlese “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” & the 2016 Riesling Auslese “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”.

Thank you to all who came & were part of this incredible learning opportunity.

Also thank you to Kevin Toyama, wine cellarmaster of the Halekulani Hotel & his team of sommeliers for the complex & intricate execution.  Wow!

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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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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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