Monday, January 12, 2015

Wine of the Week-NV (non-wintage) MezzaCorona Teroldego Rotaliano NOS-$15

Everyone knows the wines of Tuscany and are starting to get familiar with wines from nearby Umbria and those of Chianti and Piemonte. Its time to expand your Italian wine knowledge and appreciation to include the magnificent wines of the north, namely those of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region. Those that know anything about the region at all, normally associate it with a crisp, fruity white wine called Pinot Grigio,  or the exceptional sparkler, called Prosecco,  but few know that the region is also producing some terrific reds at exceptionally reasonable prices. One such wine is Teroldego Rotaliano, which is a racy food-friendly red that is priced at just $15. Go online and you might find it for even less, especially if you order it by the case.

Teroldego Rotaliano is a red wine-specific DOC of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region, in northern Italy. The wines are made from 100%Teroldego grapes grown on the Campo Rotaliano – a flat, roughly triangular plain of the Adige Valley in northern Trentino.

Teroldego is a dark-skinned variety which produces deeply pigmented wines with an intensely fruity character. It is grown almost nowhere in the world outside the Adige valley, and has become something of an icon for Trentino's wine industry. Although the wines are rarely 'fine' wines, they are soft-styled and need little age to make them palatable. It is hard to see why Teroldego is not more widely planted in the region; it is more flavorful than Schiava (the most common red variety here) and less earthily tannic than Lagrein.

The Campo Rotaliano sits at the junction between the Adige Valley and that of the smaller Noce river, a minor tributary. The communes here are Mezzolombardo, Mezzocorona and the village of Grumo, belonging to the San Michele all'Adige commune.

Fairly unknown outside of Trantino, the Teroldego grape is capable of creating some exceptional wines that combine intense ripe raspberry and blackberry flavors with some mouth-drying tannins and a touch of bitters and smoke that gives it an interesting layered taste. Its really delicious with spicy foods, vegetarian dishes, or ones made with garlic and tomato-based sauces. It can even go with a firm, fleshy fish like turbot, sea bass or sword fish. It certainly goes well with a steak. This is a young wine with a lot of heart and flavor to spare. Flavor wise, its less acidic than Chianti and a bit more rustic than the typical Beaujolais Cru. The price certainly puts it right in the range of affordable wines that are starting to make their way on the wine lists of wine bars and newer, chic ethnic restaurants that are just off the beaten path. Teroldego wines are just starting to appear on American shelves. It wouldn't be a bad idea to give them a fitting welcome by taking a bottle or two home for dinner, or just sipping, lightly chilled,  as an aperitif with your favorite munchies.




Friday, January 9, 2015

14th annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine February 19-22, the best of Miami and the U.S.

South Beach extravaganza presents Best of the Best

Fontainebleau, Miami Beach---Tony Montuano of the iconic  Chicago Gold Coast Italian restaurant Spiaggia was in an ebullient mood as he shaved mounds of fresh white truffles on a hand cut slice of his signature homemade pasta in the Grand Ballroom of Miami Beach's most luxurious resort for Wine Spectator's Best of the Best, one of the marquee events of the 14th  annual Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival,  presented by Food and Wine, which occurs February 19-22.

Chicago's Rick Bayless, popular television personality, Top Chef Masters winner and chef/owner of Frontera Grill, also in that city's Gold Coast, offered up his signature takes on authentic Mexican cuisine. West Randolph Street's Stephanie Izard of the Girl and the Goat dazzled with her skate wing croquettas, all to be washed down with sparkling wines, still wines and imaginatively mixed spirits that were rated 90 points and above by the Wine Spectator. 

There was no shortage of caviar, which was served in a variety of creations and lobster, most notably the tiny lobster souffles from the Fontainebleau's own kitchens. It was a night of total gastronomic excess that was only outdone by the fabulous setting.

Besides the Fountainebleau Miami Beach Wine Spctator's Best of the Best, his year's festival features a new opening event, an Italian Al Fresco Feast on the Beach hosted by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, presented by Ronzoni, celebrating its 100th anniversary, sponsored by MIAMI Magazine. Among the most popular events is the annual Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Schweld and Sons hosted by Rachel Ray, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Meatopia: The Q Revolution presented by Creekstone Farms hosted by Guy Fieri curated by Josh Ozersky. Marcus Samuelsson of Harlem's Red Rooster and JJ Johnson of Minton's present Harlem Shake at The Forge, Miami Beach, Friday, February 20.
 Chicago chefs Tony Montuano of Spiaggia (above) and Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill (below)
Stephanie Izard of Chicago's Girl and Goat




A classic Chicago Prime Dry Aged Long Bone Rib Eye Steak


Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival February 19-22, the best of Miami and the U.S.

South Beach extravaganza presents Best of the Best

Fontainebleau, Miami Beach---Tony Montuano of the iconic  Chicago Gold Coast Italian restaurant Spiaggia was in an ebullient mood as he shaved mounds of fresh white truffles on a hand cut slice of his signature homemade pasta in the Grand Ballroom of Miami Beach's most luxurious resort for Wine Spectator's Best of the Best, one of the marquee events of the annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival, which occurs once again in its 14th edition, February 19-22.

Chicago's Rick Bayless, popular television personality, Top Chef Masters winner and chef/owner of Frontera Grill, also in that city's Gold Coast, offered up his signature takes on authentic Mexican cuisine. West Randolph Street's Stephanie Izard of the Girl and the Goat dazzled with her skate wing croquettas, all to be washed down with sparkling wines, still wines and imaginatively mixed spirits that were rated 90 points and above by the Wine Spectator. 

There was no shortage of caviar, which was served in a variety of creations and lobster, most notably the tiny lobster souffles from the Fontainebleau's own kitchens. It was a night of total gastronomic excess that was only outdone by the fabulous setting.

Besides the Fountainebleau Miami Beach Wine Spctator's Best of the Best, his year's festival features a new opening event, an Italian Al Fresco Feast on the Beach hosted by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, presented by Ronzoni, celebrating its 100th anniversary, sponsored by MIAMI Magazine. Among the most popular events is the annual Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Schweld and Sons hosted by Rachel Ray, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Meatopia: The Q Revolution presented by Creekstone Farms hosted by Guy Fieri curated by Josh Ozersky. Marcus Samuelsson of Harlem's Red Rooster and JJ Johnson of Minton's present Harlem Shake at The Forge, Miami Beach, Friday, February 20.
 Chicago chefs Tony Montuano of Spiaggia (above) and Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill (below)
Stephanie Izard of Chicago's Girl and Goat




A classic Chicago Prime Dry Aged Long Bone Rib Eye Steak


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wine of the Week: Chateau Leboscq Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010-$22

Chateau Leboscq Medoc 2010-a real gem at just over $20

By Dwight Casimere

The Medoc, on Bordeaux's storied Left Bank of the Gironde estuary in France, is one of the prime locations in the world for lush, delicious red wines. Home to more than 1,500 vineyards, the wines from each chateau have their own distinctive character and flavor, owing to the varied and rich terroir of the region.

Situated close to the Atlantic Ocean, the region's mild climate and gravelly, well-drained soils make for grapes with extensive root systems that struggle and ripen to a superior intensity of flavor, in spite of the  area's notoriously heavy rainfall. The results are wines of distinction that have captured the imaginations and the palates of wine lovers everywhere.

Add to the growing list of real gems from the region the name of Chateau Leboscq and its 2010 Medoc Crus Bourgeois. A red Bordeaux blend of the highest calibre, it can be had for a mere average price of around $22. I've seen it in some shops for as low as $17 or $20. Ordering online by the case, will easily lock in the lowest price at any of your well-known wine buying sites.

 Chateau Leboscq is one of the classic estates of the Saint-Estephe appellation. Dating back to the conquest of the Medoc in 1749, when Thomas Barton, founder of one of France's premiere negotiant companys in the Bordeaux, took over the estate and dedicated himself to creating distinguished wines in all of France's myriad classifications. Barton turned the estate over to Jean Grazilhon, the dedicated caretaker of the estate, at the end of the 19th century. Grazilhon created the majestic residence which now overlooks the vineyards and the River Gironde estuary. His meticulous approach to wine making resulted in the estate being awarded Cru Bourgeois status in 1932.

This is an excellent example of what Cru Bourgeois is all about. The wine is very straight forward with the flavor of deep red currants dominating a flavor profile that includes pomegranate,  crushed rose hips, black pepper, light cinnamon and cardamom spice. There are hints of Jamican coffee and maduro tobacco on the back of the throat, however, the taste of ripe red fruit dominates and almost drips from the corners of your mouth. This is a perfect wine to serve with Rack of Lamb, Pheasant or a juicy Pork Tenderloin slathered with a rich, tangy, tomato-based,  barbecue sauce. At only $22 a bottle or less, you can afford to have it often at the dinner table. Present it whenever guests arrive. They'll not only delight in its luxuriant taste, but will be thrilled when you regale them with your knowledge of the wine's backstory and the rich history of the region, which I have so generously provided in this column. Bon Appetit!


 Views of the Chateau Lreboscq estate at harvest time







Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Taste Vibrant Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs from the Alsace-$16


WINE OF THE WEEK-WILLM CREMANT D'ALSACE BLANC DE BLANCS-$16


Great sparkling wines don't only come from Champagne and they are not just for special occassions. They can be found in regions around the world and can be enjoyed all year long. One companion to carry with you into the New Year is vibrant Cremant  from the Alsace. 

A shining example of this easy-to-drink and affordable sparkling wine is Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs.  It is a vivacious sparkling wine that is good just by itself, with tantalizing appetizers, or  with a light meal. The best part is that it only costs $16.

Alsace is one of the oldest wine producing regions in France. At one time,  Its wines ranked among the country's most expensive. However, wars, economic upheavals and legal entanglements due to archaic laws plummeted the Alsatian wine industry to the depths. It wasn't until after World War I that things started to turn around. Unfortunately, Prohibition in this country derailed the region's popularity here and caused its wines to become  virtually non-existent on U.S. shelves. 

A twist of fate later turned a severe deficit into an asset. Before 1900, Alsace was a part of the German Empire. Some Champagne winemakers like Hommel and Drier moved to the Alsace in order to skirt strict customs laws toward exporting sparkling wine into Germany. After World War I, when Alsace was returned to France, the region had already become famous for its excellent, relatively inexpensive sparkling wines. Thus, a new industry was born and the thirst for Alsace's excellent sparkling wines quickly spread around the world.  Forbidden to use the term "champagne," the obsolete term "cremant" was resurrected in 1975, and thus, Cremant was born. In 1976, Cremant d'Alsace was officially defined by decree.

Emile Willm has been making wine since 1896 in Barr, just south of Strsbourg. Known for producing some of the greatest Gewurztraminers in the world, the estate was the first to import wine from Alsace to the United States when Prohibition was lifted in the 1930s. 

Already known for its superior red and white wines, consumer attention quickly turned to Willm's vibrant sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Blanc grapes. Made using the "methode traditionalle," in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, followed by a year of maturation, the wine had a flavor profile much like its more famous cousin, champagne. The result is a lean, lively sparkling wine that flows easily on the palate with flavors of bright lemon zest, a hint of creamy white pear juice and a touch of white flowers and orange blossoms on the nose. Paired with light cheeses, and assorted sushi, it is a perfect appetizer.  Seared scallops, skate or Dover Sole sauteed in brown butter and lemon or a delightful dish of clams linguine with a drizzle of lemon butter sauce gives Willm Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs an opportunity to shine as a dinner companion. Save a bit for enjoying with dessert, such as classic Creme Brulee' or a scoop of lemon sorbet with assorted cookies left over from the Holidays. Bon Apetit! 


 Scenes from the Alsace


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wine of the Week: Cambria Pinot Noir 2012-Julia's Vineyard-$25

Cambria Pinot Noir 2012-Julia's Vineyard- Santa Maria Valley-$25
Perfect Pinot Noir that goes with everything on the Holiday Table

By Dwight Casimere

Santa Barbara, CA--Santa Maria Valley is fast becoming recognized as the Santa Barbara Valley's prime growing region for premium pinot noir grapes. There's no more shining example than Cambria Pinot Noir 2012 from Julia's Vineyard, a steal at $25. It's a good value that's even better than pinots charging double the price.

This Kendall-Jackson property is located along the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail and is ideally situated on 1,400 acres on benchland located between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Sisquoc River, just 17 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 400-800 feet above sea level. The long growing season created by the cool climate and well-moderated maritime influences results in wines of great intensity and complexity. Their popularity has largely fueled the rise of Santa Maria Valley wines.

Named after one of owner Barbara Banke's and her now-deceased husband, Jess Jackson's two daughters,  Julia's Vineyard is one of three which supply 90% of the grapes to the winery. The attractive mix of clonal diversity has created a Pinot Noir that has become the standardpbearer for Central Coast Pinot Noir.

The blend of eight different clones is anchored by one of the oldest commercial plantings of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County, dating back to 1974. Until recently, the wine was only sold primarily in the tasting room at the winery and to wine club members. Fortunately, this year's release has found its way to the general market place and is available at a wine shop near you. Whole Foods, in particular, has a ready availability at its stores nationwide. It's already garnering praise as "the best Pinot Noir at this price ($25) on the market."

Winemaker Denis Shurtleff, a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obsiopo, formerly of Corbett Canyon winery, has been creating this wine since her appointment in 2002. This is a shining example of her work.

The wine is deep purple in color and very complex. It has flavors of ripe, red fruit and dark berry aromas and flavors that cascade on the tongue. Seven months aging in 100% French Oak barrels gives it a rich complexity and well-balanced tanins that give the wine a long finish. Alcohol content of nearly 14% gives the wine a firm spine and terrific cellar aging potential (2015-2017)
. But whose kidding whom, with this much flavor, it won't make it any further than the Christmas dinner table where its a perfect accompaniment to sage and rosemary scented turkey, honey and clove-covered ham, tradtional sage dressing and the companion cranberry sauce and yams covered with cinnamon and nutmeg baking spices. It also pairs nicely with rack of lamb, encrusted with garlic and rosemary or a Prime Age Steak smothered in black, pink and white peppercorns in a sauce made with Shitake or Morel mushrooms. Save a little for dessert, because this rich Pinot Noir is great with chocolate!


Below: Two stunning views of the Santa Maria Valley




Highberry Sauvignon Blanc=$18: A South African Newcomer Belongs on the Holiday Table


By Dwight Casimere


South Africa has been making great inroads in the American wine coinsumer market. Two factors are at play: the wines are superb, with a juicy, fruit-forward taste profile and the wines are highly affordable, usually weighing in at well under $20. 
For those not in the know, South Africa is home to one of the most ecologically diverse regions on the planet. The Cape area, which is where most of the countries vineyards are located, is also the site of the Cape Floral Kingdom, famous for having more species of plants than anywhere else in the world. Strictly protected under the world's most stringent conservation laws, 70% of the plant varietals in South Africa are only found within its borders. Suffice to say that sustainable farming practices are the rule for preserving this fragile biodiversity. Vineyard practices are no exception. Stellenbosch is South Africa's best-know wine region. A wide variety of wines are made there, totaling more than 20% of the country's total wine production. With its proximity to Capetown, it is the Cape's most famous wine district because of its high mountainous, granite soil and the cooling breezes of False Bay. 

South African wines were virtually non-existent on American shelves due to the trade sanctions against the country during apartheid. With the end of apatheid in 1993/94, the wine industry experienced a renaissance, with dramatically increased production and foreign investment. Rapidly increasing foreign demand for South African wine and the adoption of modern production technologies have brought hundreds of label into production resulting in a real benefit to consumers. There are a myriad of excellent South African wines available at really fantastic prices.

Among the newly created wineries in the Stellenbosch region is Highberry, the creation of financial investment guru Andre Parker, who has purchased a substantial portion of the celebrated Mount Rozier estate in Stellenbosch.  Mouont Rozier has some of the finest soil in the Schaapenberg terroir of the Western Cape. Rich in minerals, it combines the best elements of the region. The winery's proximity to the coast and its south-facing vineyards makes for the "perfect storm" of factors to create quality grapes and premium wines.

Highberry Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Stellenbosch is the newest entry to the United States in the growing number of South African labels to be found on the shelves of discriminating wine shops. Selling ar around $14, the wine is perfectly suited to the Holiday Table and beyond. With a fruit-forward flavor of bright citrus; Meyer lemon, a hint of ripe, white peaches and a touch of tropical fruit, mango and pineapple come to mind, this is the perfect accompaniment to turkey or pineapple-glazed ham. The wine, with its slight hint of minerality, derived from the shale soil and tinges of sea air, from its location at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, has a sturdy spine that allows it to stand up to a variety of dishes. Served well-chilled, this is a wine that can carry through from a before-dinner aperitic, right through the main course and even a dessert of peach cobbler, lemon crunch pound cake or lemon meringue pie. It makles my mouth water just thinking about it!
Highberry Sauvignon Blanc is new to the U.S., so you might have to ask your local wine merchant to order it, if it is not readily available on the shelf. At just  about $18 a bottle, it's worth ordering a case or two. Have a few with friends over the Holidays and save a few for next Easter.








Views of the Stellenbosch wine region