Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WINE OF THE WEEK-ASTORIA "CARANTO" PINOT NOIR I.G.T.-$11

ASTORIA "CARANTO" PINOT NOIR ($11) A CROWD-PLEASER THAT WON'T BREAK THE BANK

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

ASTORIA "CARANTO" PINOT NOIR ($11) A WARM WEATHER CROWD PLEASER



Hand harvesting of Pinot Noir grapes

These last precious days of summer are perfect for getting together with family and friends. Whether a pool-side soiree or a traditional outdoor grill party, wine is always the element that brings it all together. With the expense of getting the kids ready for school and that just-completed family vacation, there's  a limit on what the budget will allow. Here's a mouth-watering red from the Veneto in North Eastern Italy near Venice that delivers on food-friendly flavor, but won't cost an arm and a leg.

Astoria "Caranto" Pinot Noir IGT ($11) is the perfect match for everything you'll serve at your summer soiree. Light-bodied and food friendly, the wine is bursting with the flavors of summer; ripe red raspberry and strawberry. Summer barbecues were made for this wine, that pairs with just about everything. Served lightly chilled, the flavors seem to get even brighter. The wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, and is one of the finest representations of this notoriously finicky grape. Grown at high altitude, the grapes are hand-picked at harvest. The wine is carefully fermented under very cool temperatures to preserve the delicate fruit flavor. It is then cleared and stabilized and allowed to age a couple of months in the bottle, giving it a nice rounded flavor and added character. There's a lot of quality packed into this wine for the price. It has a nice, deep ruby color to start with. When you open the bottle, you're greeted with an intense, but pleasant aroma of bright red fruit. The flavor is everything you would expect from a quality pinot noir. It's straightforward without a lot of fuss. Savor the fruit flavors and the hint of rosemary and white pepper as you reach for that second helping of succulent barbecue ribs and you'll wish that summer days and nights could linger just a little longer.

 The Grand Canal in Venice
 A view of the Bridge of Sighs
 Two views of St. Marks Square

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DONNAFUGATA SUR SUR AND SHERAZADE 2015 (BOTH $20) NEW AND SUMMER PERFECT

WINE(S) OF THE WEEK-DONNAFUGATA SURSUR AND SHERAZADE 2015 (BOTH $20)

STORY AND PHOTOS BY DWIGHT CASIMERE




PANTELLERIA, SICILY--The wines of Sicily are one of the great undiscovered regional varietals that represent wines with terrific flavor and tremendous value. They are bright, fruity and flavorful, so reminiscent of the beautiful sun-drenched countryside from which they come. Evidence the terrific new releases from Donnafugata, SurSur Grillo Sicilia and Sherazade Nero d'Avola Sicilia, both DOC 2015 and both costing $20. These wines are based on grapes that are native to Sicily, the white grape Grillo and, one and the most important red grape in Sicily, Nero d'Avola.   

SurSur is the white wine, which literally bursts with colorful flavors of summer. White peaches, pink grapefruit and pineapple flavors mingle with the lively aromas of wildflowers, fresh sage, rosemary and  oregano, recreate a summer garden in your mouth. I loved this wine with grilled white fish marinated in capers, garlic, olive oil and a bit of the wine, shrimp with fresh arugula and heirloom tomato salad, or a simple Cobb salad. 

Sherazade 2015 tells us why Nero d'Avola is the most important indigenous red grape in Sicily. Its intense ruby red color is a dead giveaway to what's inside the bottle; flavors of  ripe black cherries and blackberries abound with hints of vanilla, white pepper and a certain smoky aftertaste that makes it perfect for the afternoon barbecue. A nice reward at the end is a hint of spice; cinnamon and cardamom that make it a nice match for meats marinated in mediterranean spices, like butterflied lamb seared over hot coals and hickory or mesquite wood. Both wines can be served well chilled. Try mixing them with your favorite fruit liqueur, simple syrup, a sprig of mint and a splash of sparkling water or prosecco to create an innovative summer cocktail refresher.

 Donnafugata's Jose Rallo in the vineyards high above Marsala
 Below: Dwight Casimere at the Marsala vineyards
 The vineyards at Pantellaria


 Indigenous grapes at Donnafugata's vineyards

 Sunset over Pantelleria



Thursday, August 4, 2016

WINE(S)  OF THE WEEK NOBILO 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC REGIONAL COLLECTION ($13)-NOBILO ICON 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC($22)-PURE NEW ZEALAND

by Dwight Casimere



MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND--NOBILO PURE NEW ZEALAND wines of Marlborough make you forget everything you formerly knew about New Zealand wines. The wines were first put on the international wine map in the 1980s as a fruit forward mouthful of bright, zesty citrus fruit and pronounced minerals that offered a pure expression of New Zealand's clean green land.

Some wine aficionados, however, were turned off by the preponderance of "green" flavors and aromas of prairie grass and chalk. Enter Nobilo's master winemaker Dave Edmonds and the winery's subregion collection of vineyards  that offer an amazing variety of microclimates and terroir, from windswept plains to rolling, sun-basked hillsides that offer a full repertoire  of luscious, flavorful grapes that produce beautifully finished wines.

Nobilo 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection ($13) and Nobilo Icon 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($22) are this week's Wine of the Week selections because of their outstanding character and flavor and the exemplary artisan winemaking of Dave Edmonds and his team at Nobilo.

The wines are not only stand-alone favorites, but are perfect with a number of summertime favorites. They are best enjoyed al fresco on the patio, an outdoor cafe,  a romantic day or evening on the beach or in an elaborate picnic basket at an outdoor concert. Seafood salads, garnished with shrimp, lobster or scallops, seafood pastas, or a mouthwatering platter of sushi or sashimi are the other choices for a perfect wine and food pairing.

The aroma alone is enticing. Take the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection. The smell of fresh cut grass, so typical of summer and which everyone loves, is the first thing to greet you. Follow that up with aromas of fresh limes and tastes of succulent melons and hints of mild peppers and garden herbs, and its easy to understand why this wine just invites good summertime eating. Its perfect as an aperitif, served well chilled as a prelude to the meal, on through the meal as an able accompaniment and then, an applause-worthy finishing act.

For the adventurous, try using the wine as the main ingredient in a summertime cocktail. This writer used it as a substitute for rum in an otherwise traditional Mojito, with copious amounts of fresh lime juice muddled with sugar and shaken with two ounces of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc and served in a glass rimmed with Turbinado sugar. Top it with a splash of sparkling water, or, for the bold and beautiful, a healthy dollop of Champagne, Prosecco or other sparkling wine for a delightful kick!

NOBILO ICON

Nobilo Icon 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($22)  is the flagship of Nobilo wines. Established by the Nobilo family in 1943, after the family fled impending war in Croatia in the 1930s, the winery gave expression to a 300 year old winemaking tradition in a country that had no previous wine culture. After several years of struggle, which saw the family building their own winemaking tools, the first commercial vineyards were planted in 1943. By the 1970s, the family established themselves as successful winemakers, and transformed New Zealand's wine industry by shifting from hybrid grapes to the single varietals Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The rest, as they say, is winemaking history, with Nobilo continuing  to craft delicious wines with distinctive regional character.

Nobilo Icon is made predominantly from grapes from the renowned Castle Cliffs vineyard of Marlborough's Awatere Valley. Artisan winemaking accounts for its distinctive character. Hand harvested and  fermented in separate small tanks for a prolonged period under cool temperatures to preserve the bright, fruit character, the resulting wine has a complex array of sumptuous, mouthwatering flavors of citrus, wet stones and delicate white flowers. Flavors of lemon and white peaches combine with a juicy acidity and a bright minerality that gives the wine a long, lingering finish, which is unique to this white wine. This is an unusually sophisticated white wine that should be saved for that special meal or occasion. Consider that new seafood darling of the culinary realm,  pan-seared Branizino or Monkfish in garlic and olive oil,  sprinkled with rosemary or thyme, fresh capers and finished with a splash of the wine and a few gobs of softened butter to create a quick pan sauce. Pour over Orzo, jasmine rice or angel hair pasta and serve with a side of steamed or lightly grilled asparagus or grilled Romaine spears for a perfect meal on the patio or in the garden.

 Nobilo master winemaker Dave Edmonds
 The renowned castle Cliffs vineyards of Marlborough's Awatere Valley
 Shrimp and Loster Salads
 Below: Seafood pasta

 Assorted Sashimi trays







WINE(S)  OF THE WEEK NOBILO 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC REGIONAL COLLECTION ($13)-NOBILO ICON 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC($22)-PURE NEW ZEALAND



MARLBOROUGH, NEW ZEALAND--NOBILO PURE NEW ZEALAND wines of Marlborough make you forget everything you formerly knew about New Zealand wines. The wines were first put on the international wine map in the 1980s as a fruit forward mouthful of bright, zesty citrus and pronounced minerals that offered a pure expression of New Zealand's clean green land.

Some wine aficionados, however, were turned off by the preponderance of "green" flavors and aromas of prairie grass and chalk. Enter Nobilio's master winemaker Dave Edmonds and the winery's subregion collection of vineyards  that offer an amazing variety of microclimates and terroir, from windswept plains rolling sun-basked hillsides that offer a full repertoire of of luscious, flavorful grapes that produced beautifully finished wines.

Nobilio 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection ($13) and Nobilio Icon 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($22)are this week's Wine of the Week selections because of their outstanding character and flavor and the exemplary artisan winemaking of Dave Edmonds and his team at Nobilo.

The wines are not only stand-alone favorites, but are perfect with a number of summertime favorites, best enjoyed al fresco on the patio, an outdoor cafe of a romantic day or evening on the beach or in an elaborate picnic basket at an outdoor concert. Seafood salads, garnished with shrimp, lobster or scallops, seafood pastas, or a mouthwatering platter of sushi or sashimi are the other choices for a perfect wine and food pairing.

The aroma alone is enticing. Take the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection. The smell of fresh cut grass, so typical of summer and which everyone loves, is the first thing to greet you. Follow that up with aromas of fresh limes and tastes of succulent melons and hints of mild peppers and garden herbs, and its easy to understand why this wine just invites good summertime eating. Its perfect as an aperitif, served well chilled as a prelude to the meal, on through as an able accompaniment and an applause-worthy finishing act.

For the adventurous, try using the wine as the main ingredient for a summertime cocktail. This writer used it as a substitute for rum in an otherwise traditional Mojito, with copious amounts of fresh lime juice muddled with sugar and shaken with two ounces of Nobilo Savignon Blanc and served in a glass rimmed with Turbinado sugar. Top it with a splash of sparkling water, or, for the bold and beautiful, a healthy dollop of Champagne, Prosecco or other sparkling wine for a delightful kick!  

NOBILO ICON

Nobilo Icon 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($22)  is the flagship of Nobilo wines. Established by the Nobilo family in 1943, after the family fled impending war in Croatia in the 1930s, the winery gave expression to a 300 year old winemaking tradition in a country that had no previous wine culture. After several years of struggle, which saw the family building their own winemaking tools, the first commercial vineyards were planted in 1943. By the 1970s, the family established themselves as successful winemakers, and transformed New Zealand's wine industry by shifting from hybrid grapes to single varietals; sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The rest, as they say, is winemaking history, with Nobilo continuing  to craft delicious iwnes with distinctive regional character.

Nobilo Icon is made predominantly from grapes from the renowned Castle Cliffs vineyard of Marlborough's Awatere Valley. Artisan winemaking accounts for its distinctive character. Hand harvested and  fermented in separate small tanks for a prolonged period under cool temperatures to preserve the bright, fruit character, the resulting wine has a complex array of sumtuous, mouthwatering flavors of citrus, wet stones and delicate white flowers. Flavors of lemon and white peaches combine with a juicy acidity and a bright minerality that gives it a long, lingering finish, which is unusual for a white wine. This is an unusually sophisticated white wine that should be saved for that special meal of pan-seared Branizino or Monkfish in garlic and olive oil, then sprinkled with rosemary or thyme, fresh capers and finished with a splash of the wine and a few gobs of softened butter to create a quick pan sauce. Pour over Orzo, jade rice or angel hair pasta and serve with a side of steamed or lightly grilled asparagus or Romaine spears for a perfect meal on the patio or in the garden.

 Nobilo master winemaker Dave Edmonds
 The renowned castle Cliffs vineyards of Marlborough's Awatere Valley
 Shrimp and Loster Salads
 Below: Seafood pasta

 Assorted Sashimi trays







Monday, July 25, 2016

WINE OF THE WEEK-LUNELLI ZIGGURAT MONTEFALCO ROSSO D.O.C.-$19.00



Lunelli Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso 2010-$19

BY DWIGHT CASIMERE

The summer grilling season is in full swing, with the coals burning almost non-stop from now through Labor Day Weekend. Italy's beautiful Umbria region, known for its lush hillsides and ancient history, is also home to one of the most versatile summer time wines, newly released just in time for the summer barbeque season;  Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso D.O.C. 2010 ($19), from the Lunelli family of Treviso.  The wine literally speaks of sun-kissed beaches, pool parties and sumptuous barbecues. A luscious red blend of native Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, the wine is strikingly elegant with aromas of ripe dark cherries and cloves. The wine is just packed with fruit and heady herbal flavors. Besides the almost jam-like plum flavors, there's a healthy sprinkling of rosemary, thyme, fennel and a hint of licorice on the palate. This is a great wine with meat and veggies hot off the grill. For a versatile twist, serve the wine lightly chilled. It makes for a refreshing pairing.  Skirt steak marinated in a bit of the wine overnight along with crushed garlic, fresh thyme or oregano from the garden and a generous coating of olive oil and grilled 2-3 minutes on each side over the hot coals then set on the side of the grill to smoke to preferred doneness is the way to go with this lean, flavorful cut. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing on the diagonal against the grain. Serve with grilled summer squash, fennel, corn on the husk and potatoes seared over the coals and swathed in garlic butter or aioli (garlic and olive oil) for the ultimate summer time feast. 




 The hills surrounding Umbria 


The ancient city of Perugia

 

WINE OF THE WEEK-MARQUES DE RISCAL RIOJA ROSADO 2015-$9.99

Marques De Riscal Rioja Rosado 2015-$9.99

The dramatic Frank Gehry designed entry to Marques de Riscal


BRIGHT RED RASPBERRY AND STRAWBERRY FRUIT ARE PERFECT FOR SUMMER

by Dwight Casimere

This rose defies everything you might think about rose's. Marques De Riscal Rioja Rosado 2015 is an incredibly delicate and smooth wine, bursting with fruit flavors of intense raspberries and ripe strawberries and hints of lilac flowers, yet it only costs about ten dollars. Marques de Riscal has been making rose wines since the '60s.  The wine is made from grapes picked from young local tempranillo and garnacha vines that are less than 15 years old. The result is a bright, bracing rose wine that is fresh and well balanced with a nice mouth-feel that produces a pleasant fruit filled sensation at the finish. The rose is produced from a method known as 'bleeding; which is part of a classically refined concept that extrudes the wine's beautiful, bright pink color while also retaining the lively fruit flavor of the wine. I personally love a piece of grilled salmon with this wine. Besides the matching coral color, the flavors of the wine and the fish go perfectly together, especially if the salmon is drizzled with a bit of lemon or lime juice, brushed with some fresh sage or fennel and a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking to the grill. Grill quickly over the hot coals, so that the flesh springs back just a bit to the touch of your finger, be4ing careful not to overcook it. Serve with a side of grilled asparagus drizzled with olive oil and garlic powder and you have an instant al fresco lunch. 

Marques de Riscal is an historical family producer that has revolutionized the art of Spanish winemaking. Their Rioja Rosado is a shining example of their ability to raise the act of winemaking to the level of art. Their also able to do it for under $10, which is also commendable.  One of Spain's oldest Rioja wineries, Marques de Riscal was created in 1858. Within five years, the accolades came roaring in. In 1862, the first wines were bottled. In 1895, it became the first non-french winery to win the Diploma of Honour at the Bordeaux Exhibition. 

Great strides were made in the following century. In 1972, the first white wines were produced in Rueda. In 1980, the winery became a force behind creation of the Denominacion de Origen (DO) Rueda. In 1986, Baron de Chirel, the winery's first "signature wine" was launched and in 1995, Marques de Riscal introduced the first grape sorting table to the Rioja appellation.

 The winery in its founding days and (below) the historic wine caves



Friday, July 15, 2016

CHRISTMAS IN JULY-CHAMPAGNE TAITTINGER PRESENTS THE ART OF CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS

VITALIE TAITTINGER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF CHAMPAGNE TAITTINGER FLIES DIRECTLY FROM REIMS, FRANCE TO HOST EXCLUSIVE EVENT IN TAITTINGER STYLE

by Dwight Casimere

 The Empire State Building looms over the Eventi Suite and South Veranda,  the setting for the release of Taittinger's Nocturne Rose and the house's new line of large format bottles
 Vitalie Taittinger, Artistic Director of Champagne Taittinger with Dwight Casimere
 Taittinger's new line of large format bottles is poured at the specially designed decanting station.
The Magnum is poured here
 The famous Taittinger Champagne Tower adorns the Eventi Suite
 Chef Jacques Torres of Jacques Torres Chocolates presides over his signature Dessert Bar (below) and the festive Croquembouche Macaron Wedding Tower-a Holiday favorite (in the shape of a Taittinger Champagne bottle, of course!)

Below:An authentic Parisian Raw Bar, perfect for Holiday entertaining

 The Manhattan skyline is the backdrop for Champagne Taittinger's exquisite portfolio


 Two views of "Manhattanhenge" when the sunset aligns with the city street grid, a rare event


NEW YORK--Vitalie Taittiinger, Artistic Director of Champagne Taittinger arrived in a stunning designer summer party dress to preside over the grand marquee Champagne houses' "The Art of Celebrating The Holidays" for the 2016 season. The event was held at the Eventi Suite and South Veranda, a Kimpton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

An harmonic convergence of celestial events formed the backdrop to this stellar event. A bright half moon hung in the sky over the Eventi Veranda, which was framed by a dramatic midtown Manhattan skyline as the rare "Manhattanhenge" sunset, seen only a few times each year, descended outside.

An authentic Parisian Raw Bar, with oysters, clams, giant shrimp and steamed lobsters greeted guests, along with the famed chocolatier Chef Jacques Torres and his exquisite Dessert Bar featuring his signature chocolates, macarons and the famous Croquembouche Macaron Wedding Tower, a traditional French Holiday favorite, presented in the shape of a Champagne Taittinger bottle.

A side conference room also featured a Caviar and Champagne Seminar led by Chantelle Pabros, top NYC Sommelier and John Knierim, of Calvisius Caviar.

The Holidays can be overwhelming with so many personal tastes, palettes and preferences to cater to among family and friends. Champagne Taittinger offers a myriad of unique concepts to introduce creative and beautiful concepts to make for a memorable occasion.

For example, Caviar and Champagne make an elegant pairing for the Holiday Season. Served alone or as an element to add an elegant tone to holiday dishes, caviar is a simple, but effective grace note that elevates even the simplest fare.

The High-Low Snack Bar, which pairs Champagne with a dazzling array of guilty pleasures; Fried Chicken with Rosemary Honey and Sea Salt, Potato Crisps with Mascarpone Creme Fraiche, Brie and Pomegranate Crostini with Balsamic Crema, are all unexpected Champagne pairings that will leave your guests clamoring for more.

Top off the night with an elegant display of mouth-watering desserts, including the Champagne Taittinger Macaron, and you've added a layer of sparkle to your celebration.

Champagne Taittinger is one of the last family-owned and operated grand marquee Champagne houses in the world. For more holiday entertaining suggestions visit www.taittinger.com.