Monday, December 17, 2012



 Antonio Fattori proudly displays his terrific wines
Story and photos by Dwight Casimere 
VERONA, ITALY—The history of winemaking in the Venoto, outside Verona goes back centuries. Just a short visit to the wineries outside this historic walled city gives a glimpse of the rich traditions and glorious vineyard history that dates to antiquity.  The vineyards of Antonio Fattori are a case in point. The history of Fattori wines was first documented at the beginning of the last century when family patriarch Antonio Fattori first began to plant vines in the hills outside the village of Terrossa.  Phyloxera destroyed the vineyards and the sight of the depleted land greeted him when he returned from the First World War . True to his personality, he did not become dispirited, but vowed to retrench his efforts and forge ahead with his dream of making quality wines. He began by making sweet wines, which he filtered using old Dutch filters, then selling them by transporting them in barrels on horse-drawn carts to the trattorias, osterias and wine bars of old Verona and Vincenza. It was a humbling experience, but it did nothing to reduce the noble spirit of a man who had a vision for the future. In the words of his grandson, also named Antonio, who now runs the winery, “he was a generous and charitable man, as was my father. He was often too timid to take compliments, but he certainly was a noble man who left behind so many riches. He left more than the nucleus of the actual building which now houses our winery, but a rich legacy that includes a huge humanity.”
Antonio Fattori has been running the winery since 1970. Another in a long series of ‘Antionio’s,” he dedicated himself to the goal of making quality wines, first embarking on a program of winemaking study, then beginning a program of experimentation to bring modern, scientific winemaking techniques and methods that were combined with authentic and original traditions. New vineyards were added. Older ones were saved and restored. Combinations of cement, wood and stainless steel vats were employed in winemaking. Fermentation was achieved at lower temperatures to ensure quality and search the limits of productivity. Non-invasive techniques were employed to ensure both quality and environmental responsibility.
Everything at the winery is accomplished within the harmony of nature, according to Fattori. “The world of wine is formed by seasons, situations and conditions that are never the same,” he says. “No amount of experience is ever enough. The important thing is to search. To attempt with determination, humility and a little patience.”

Here is an overview of some of Antonio Fattori’s current wine releases:

Valparadiso-Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT. ($17)  The wine is made from handpicked grapes that are processed the same day that they are harvested. Made fropm 100% Pinot Grigio grapes, the wine is marked by an overwhelming perfume of ripe pear, a hint of raspberry, banana, apricot and green apples, with the blush of tropical pineapple and a background note of dried camomile flowers and green tea. This is a fruity, yet soft wine that is rich in refreshing taste. It goes great with shrimp and other seafood dishes. It is equally at home with fruit, cheese or salads. Consider this as a first course wine or one that will pair great with turkey at the holiday table.   It’s a terrific wine for under $20!

Roncha-Bianco del Veneto IGT- ($18) A blend of 50% Garganega (5% is dried for 5 to 6 months), 20% Pinot Grigio, 20% Trebbiano di Soave and 10% Durelia, a local grape varietal. The vineyards are located in the volcanic hills of Ronca, from which the name is derived. The grapes are also handpicked and processed the same day in both stainless steel vats and barrels.  The wine has a beautiful straw yellow color with flecks of green. The nose is pleasant with the smell of jasmine flowers, white peaches and orange blossoms. Complex, with a fresh, mineral taste and a persistent palate of ripe fruits and sweet Mediterranean spices. Again, this is a great accompaniment to turkey, sweet potatoes at the main course and fruits, nuts and cheeses at the start of the meal.  It’s my choice to have with Holiday Mac ‘n Cheese, a traditional treat at many Holiday tables!

Danieli-DOC Soave—100% Garganega, some of which is late harvest. This is a highly floral wine with hints of jasmine and wisteria. It has a sensational taste of ripe peaches, pear, apricot and citrus fruit. A touch of sage on the nose and a hint of nuts on the finish makes this a terrific wine with food, including fresh whole fish, prepared with crab and shrimp stuffing, a Holiday favorites with Caribbean and African cultures and parts of southern Italy. It even goes well with “white” meats such as pork loin or veal, even a leg or rack of lamb and beef Carpaccio. Think “outside the box” on this wine and dare to venture into lighter roasted meats and, of course, the Holiday turkey or fresh Long Island Duck or game meats such as fresh rabbit. This is a wine that can last throughout the meal, even into a savory dessert such as Panatone, Crème Brulee (the late harvest grapes give it a slightly sweet aftertaste) or a cake or cookies flavored with lemon or almond.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just in time for the Holidays, the wines of Marche and Abruzzo, Italy

Italian wines of the Marche and Abruzzo: terrific wines, terrific values 

Story by Dwight Casimere

New York--It's not much of a stretch to say that Italy is one big vineyard. Flying into Milan recently on the eve of a Wine Education tour of the Piemonte, led by Paul Valke, author of the Piemonte Wine and Travel Atlas (available at Eataly, New York), I was struck by the vast expanse of well-manicured vineyards that covered the landscape as my place made the approach to Malepensa airport.

Italy produces some of the best wines in the world today, but little is known of the true depth and breadth of terrific Italian wines that are available outside of their country of origin. Everyone knows of the great wines of Tuscany and Umbria, but how many have explored undisocovered beauty of the wines of the Marche and Abruzzo,

Coined the "New Tuscany", the Marche Wine Region is one of Italy's last untouched wine regions. Le Marche, as it is lovingly called, is a beautiful wine region, with miles of untamed coastline, romantic fishing villages and Renaissance gems tucked away in its medieval hamlets and mountain villages. Le Marche is right next door to Tuscany and Umbria, but for some unknown region, has languished in the shadow of its more famous neighbors. 

Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno Piediprato ($14.99)-Located in the picturesque town of Spinetoli in Le Marche, this is a beautiful, medium-bodied red wine that best exemplifies the winemaking style of the Pilastri family. With a history that dates back to the year 1000, the Count Saladini Pilastri is a noble family from Ascoli Piceno. Agricultural activities at the Count's farm began three centuries ago. Located on a gently rolling hill that slopes down to the Adriactic Sea, the farm has always produced wines of exquisite character. The Rosso Piceno Piediprato is no exception.

Saladini Pilastri Falerio ($8.99)- This wine is one of the most significant values in terms of a white wine, that is currently on the market. With exceptional fruit-forward aroma and flavors of citrus and a hint of tropical fruit, it is a perfect accompaniment to seafood, Asian and Mediterranean-influenced dishes. A versatile wine as an aperitif or with first courses of salads, seafood and cheeses,this is a wine that carries easily through today's lighter cuisines. Perfect for the Holiday meal, particularly with poultry, this is an exceptional value worth getting by the case.

Fratelli BarbaColle Morino Montepulciano ($11.99)-The winery is located in 
the northern part of the central Italian region of Abruzzo, along the valley of the Vomano River and on the surrounding hills, in the towns of Cellino Attanasio, Atri, Pineto and Roseto. The Barba family has 68 hectares of the best vineyards in the area: Colle Morino, Casal Thaulero and Vignafranca, all of which fall within the areas designated Montepulciano DOC. This is one of the great red wine values out there! It lists for $11.99, but I've found it for $10 flat at Binny's in Chicago and other discount wine houses in Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its a really well-balanced red wine that goes with just about anything; turkey, roast beef, ham, pizza, hamburgers. Its got a medium dry, fruity taste with just a hint of the complex red and black fruit that make it interesting. If you see it at a good price, buy a case. You won't regret it. You'll get a lot of mileage out of it, especially if you entertain a lot over the holidays. The label design is nice and imaginative too, so it looks great on the table. How can you lose! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Dining elevated to new heights at Chicago's Benny's Chop House and Bistro Voltaire

 The elegant wine bar and entry area to Benny's Chop House
 A feast that pleases both the eye and the palate at Benny's Chop House
 Director of Operations Mitchell Schmieding of Benny's Chop House
Downtown Chicago Holiday Dining Extravaganzas!

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

CHICAGO--Holidays present a myriad of opportunities for festive dinners and parties show appreciation to family and friends alike. Attempting to full-fill the hospitality obligations on your own, however, can be challenging, especially in today's time-strapped environment. That's when Benny's Chop House, near Chicago's elegant Trump Tower, and Bistro Voltaire in River North come to the rescue with imaginative and mouth-watering menus for Christmas and New Year's Eve dining and, in the case of Benny's Chop House, unending entertainment options!
With special hours of operations and dining options, Chicagoans have easy access to Holiday Feasting at its best.

Benny's Chop House 
444 N. Wabash

Benny's Christmas Hours
Benny's Chop House Christmas Eve - Open 12-9 pm
Full dinner menu, plus Chef's Feast of the Seven Fishes menu items, AND holiday

Closed Christmas Day

Benny's New Year's Eve Hours
Open 4pm - 1am
Closed New Years Day

Live Entertainment / Non-stop Music from 5pm-1am Full Dinner Menu, plus Chef's
Specials, AND holiday beverages! Guests who dine with us later in the evening
enjoy a champagne toast at midnight.
Benny's Chop House
Full Dinner Menu and Chef's New Year's Eve Specials:

Chestnut & Brandy Bisque with Candied Porcini Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Kale "Caesar Salad" with Crab Fritters and Osetra Caviar
Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Ricotta Gnocchi 
and California Fig-Port Wine Reduction
Black Truffle Studded USDA Prime Beef Tenderloin 
with Celery Root-Turnip Pave, Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms and Perigold Truffle Jus

Bistro Voltaire
226 W. Chicago Ave.

Bistro Voltaire 
Christmas Eve Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., three course menu special ($69) and regular
Closed  Christmas Day

Bistro Voltaire New Year's Eve Hours: Two seatings - 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Closed New Year's Day

Bistro Voltaire is having a special New Year's Eve Menu available at a prix fixe
price of $69 per person plus tax and tip. The regular full menu will not be
available. Guests also will receive a complimentary glass of champagne.
Bistro Voltaire New Year's Eve Menu:
Hors D' Oeuvres (Chef's Choice)
First Course (Choice Of)
Salade De Canard Confit
Duck Confit Salad, Toasted Pistachios, Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Vols Au Vent Au Champignons
Baked Puff Pastry, Wild Mushrooms Ragout
Mouclade De Moules
Steamed Mussels in a Creamy Saffron Sauce, Leeks, Garlic, Crouton and Fresh Herbs
Second Course (Choice Of)
Filet Mignon
Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Gratin Dauphinois, Baby Vegetables, Bordelaise Sauce
Coquilles St Jacques Nantua
Seared Sea Scallops, Crawfish Foam, Pearl Vegetables
Magret De Canard
Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Truffle Parsnip Puree, Glazed Brussel Sprouts Port Reduction
Desserts (Choice Of)
Fondant Au Chocolat
Warm Chocolate Cake, Fresh Berries
Tarte Aux Poires
Pear Tart with Hazelnut Frangipane, Crème Anglaise





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nolet's Silver shows the Floral side of Dry Gin

 Dwight The Wine Doctor with Carl Nolet  Jr., Executive Vice President, Nolet Spirits U.S.A.
                                                          NOLET'S SILVER DRY GIN
                                          A toast with the CLEAN BREAK Nolet's cocktail
    BOKA was the chic setting for the pairing dinner with journalists, sommeliers and beverage industry leaders

                    Nolet's U.S.A. President Bill Eldien (r) with Carl Nolet Jr.

Aromatics are similar to qualities found in wine

By Dwight Casimere
Photos by Peter Wagner for NOLET SPIRITS, U.S.A.

CHICAGO---BOKA, the chic wine-focused restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, across from Steppenwolf Theatre was the scene of a significant culinary event, the unveiling of NOLET’s Silver Dry Gin. The event featured a rare visit by Carl H.J. Nolet Jr., Executive Vice President, Nolet Spirits, U.S.A. who hosted a dinner pairing NOLET’S Silver Dry Gin with Boka’s unique cuisine.

NOLET’S Silver features a unique combination of botanicals never before used in gin. These botanicals are individually distilled and macerated to give the gin its distinctive floral and fruit-forward flavor and aroma. The distilled beverage can almost be compared to wine, in terms of its flavor complexity and aroma. Premier among the botanicals used is the rare Turkish Rose, also known as the Damask rose, which gives the gin its distinct flavor profile and aroma. Turkish Rose flowers are harvested for rose oil, which is used in perfumery. It has a delicate flavor and a fine fragrance that makes NOLET’S Silver an exquisite drinking experience.

The Boka dinner pairing featured a selection of specially prepared cocktails, featuring NOLET’S Silver Dry. The evening began with the CLEAN BREAK, which featured NOLET’S Silver Dry Gin with Pimm’s Cup No. 1`, Cucumber and Grapefruit Oil with a delicious serving of Black Cod, prepared with pickled cucumber, Sunchoke and Yuka Sauce, with Hericort Vert Cous Cous.

The centerpiece and main course was Juniper Marinated Venison Loin with Temper of the Times cocktail, made with NOLET’S Silver Dry, Orange Blossom water, Blackberry, Mint Syrup and Lime.

The final course and piece de’ resistance was Grapefruit Gin Sorbet, consisting of Rosemary Cake, Burnt Grapefruit Caramel and Summer into Spring cocktail featuring NOLET’S Silver Dry Gin with Raspberry Syrup, Sous Vide Apricot, Lemon and Egg White. The frothy confection served as both a palette cleanser and a fitting sweet finale to a delightful evening of gustatory pleasure!

The affable Carl Nolet gave a brief history of NOLET’S, which is distilled and bottled at Nolet Distillery in Schiedam, Holland. This eleventh generation son, in collaboration with his brother Bob, and father, created the recipe for NOLET’S Silver Carolus St, the tenth generation distillery owner. The recipe for Carolus Sr. The distillation of NOLERT’S Finest Gins also perfected NOKLET’S Reserve for 40 years is a proprietary process that blends tradition with innovation. The closely guarded secret recipes achieve a precise balance that is unique in the world of distilled spirits.

Over the course of the last 321 years, members of the Nolet family have played integral roles in the history of spirits distillation, most famously the introduction of Ketel One ® Vodka to America in 1983. It was a privilege to be in such esteemed company for an evening of rare culinary delight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Journey to Historic Bersano in the Monferrato of Piedmont, Italy

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

ENIZZA MONFERRATO (ASTI), ITALY—“If you want to drink well, get yourself a vineyard.” Those were the words of Arturo Bersano when he took up the family business of making wine in the 1950’s. Founded by his uncle, Guiseppe Bersano in 1907, the history of Bersano winery is rooted in the early years of the last last century in the Nizza Monferrato Piedmont, in the heart of Barbera d’Asti district, at the dawn of the Industrial Age.
 The territory and vineyards reflect the soul of the grape. Beauty and enchantment surround the estate. Tradition and passion are its bellwethers. One can see tangible evidence of the tradition in the ancient farmer’s tools, including the first farmer’s carts used in the Barbaresco and its first railway locomotive engine and winemaking equipment and  documents dating to the time of Napoleon and beyond. Passion is evident in the marvelous collection of old wine labels, bottles and 19th century Menus, vineyard maps, poster art, publicity materials, paintings and engravings that are on display at the Bersano Museum. Among the masterpieces of the museum is the “Pomona Book,” which is the first complete collection of Italian grape varieties written by Giorgio Gallesio in 1817. It is recognized as the first database of Italian wine.

Erika Abate is the Export Manager for Bersano and its chief ambassador. “Our vineyards are in a land strongly linked to the production of quality wines that are unique and with a strong personality.” Acclaimed winemaker Roberto Morosinotto is the man at the helm of a team of talented winemakers and agronomists whose abilities exemplify the best of human effort to produce bright, approachable classic wines done in the traditional style.

 Gavi di Gavi. The name of the appellation is almost poetic in its sound. So it is also in its execution. The grape varietal is Cortese, unique to the region. Gavi is both the name of the DOC as well as the name of the town. It is considered one of the premiere grapes and wine growing areas of the region. “Good wine starts with good care of the land.  That is the philosophy of Casa Vinicola  Bersano,” according to Abate.
1. GAVI del Comune di Gavi –This is a classic white wine made from the Cortese grape, one of the most important of the dry white wines produced in this area. The wine is rich, with a bright yellow straw color and a fragrant bouquet with hints of pineapple and white peaches and a touch of apricot on the palate. This wine has a long, fruity flavor that fills the mouth and leaves a persistent aftertaste. The wine is produced by cold maceration in stainless steel tanks.  Cortese is considered the most important white grape in the region and this wine is one of its most outstanding expression. Great with shellfish and firm white fish, it is also versatile as an aperitif and with salads and hors d’oeuvres. It’s perfect for a summer lunch or dinner al fresco. Besides its outstanding flavor, one of it’s most laudable attributes is that it sells for only $12-$15 a bottle!
2. “CREMOSINA” Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2010 100% Barbera . The bouquet is quite lovely and dominated by oak, Some say it is a perfect example of the “Rose” bouquet so typical of the area. It is very herbal. The primary characteristic of the grape is that it has very good maturation potential. According to winemaker Morosinotto, the vineyards lie between Langhe and Monferrato areas. “The winery creates original crus (blends) from selected grapes,” Morosinotto explained. “Our experience and our passion drive the winery toward the creation of these great wines,” he said confidently, as he proudly poured the wines. “We exalt the personality of the grapes with our passtion.”
3. RUCHE’ Di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG San Pietro. The grape variety is Ruche’, a Ruby-red gem with a brilliant violet hue. The wine is very intesnse with a fruity and aromatic bouquet. The flavorful with a pleasant and harmonious velvety flavor. It’s dry but very approachable. Excellent as an aperitif, it’s great with a light meal of appetizers, white meat and a classic local dish known as “bagna cauda.”(More on that later.)
4. Barbera D’Asti DOCG Costalunga-Costalunga (means ‘the long coast’) estate bottled classic Barbera aged in oak 8 mos. This is a special cuvee. The goal, according to winemaker Robrerto Morosinoptto, is "to be 100% independent and buy grapes only from special partnerships." Thus, the quality of the wine is preserved. 230  
5. BARBERA D’ASTI DOCG SUPERIORE “NIZZA” GENERALA- This is the maximum expression of Barbera. Nizza was created in 2000. 
6. "Our first Barolo," sys Export Manager Erika Abate-Nirvasco Barolo. It is made from the native Nebbiolo varietal. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, the aged 36 mos in large oak casks and then in the bottle. The wine has intense ruby red color with a fascinating bouquet and hints of spice and ripe fruit followed by licorice or anise aromatic notes.
7. Barolo Reserva 2005-"The wine is not produced in all vintages so this is a very special wine in very limited quantities," says winemaker Morosinotto. Once again, this is a wine from the  "long coast." The wine has a food friendly profile making it a perfect accompaniment with local   truffles and mushrooms. Its also great with any type of pasta and our local favorite, bana cauda (hot stew). "It's made with a combination of anchovies, Olive oil and garlic," Morosinotto explained. "You then dip some local vegetables into this ragu (stew). Then you smell for two days after you cook and eat it! This is a typical Sunday lunch or in supper the winter, when its served boiling." 

8. Langhe Bianco 2011---Well known in Liguria, it is the second indigenous white varietal in laguria. Historically produced in Barolo, the current name is just a fantasy name on the bottle now." Morosinotto explained. 
9. Manzone Rosserto Langhe Bianco 2010 -A speciality of the Manzani estate the rosso bianco grape is a varietal of the langhe region. "It was saved from extinction in 1880 and kept in one of the family’s old vineyards,." Abate explained. " Giovanni grafted the vines and has been making the wine with this varietal for 30 years. This wine is intriguing, structured and perfect for aging, which is unusual for a white wine. Only tiny parcels of this wine and the next one are produced. This is a rare tasting opportunity." 
10. Rivetto Langhe Nascetta 2010  “Matire’”
11. VERDUNO BASADONE 2011 estate bottled by Castello di Verduno  This is a light apperitif wine, perfect with quiche. It's very elegant. 
11a. Andaluccia-late harvest Gavi.
12. Valter Bosticardo  Gambadipernice…Tenuta dei Fiori Vino da Tavola Rosso bottled by Tenuta dei Fiori by Valter Bosticardo   HYPERLINK "" (talking wine)Calosso-Italia.

13. Prunent Vino Rosse from Cantine Garrone.  Intense perfume and fragrance dominate the nose. It is very persistent with a deep ruby color.
                                               Hills and vineyards in the Monferrato
                           Trying my hand at winemaking "Old World" style. Move over Lucy!
                                                Bersano Export Manager Erika Abate
                       The original Land Grant for Bersano, signed by Napoleon Bonaparte, himself!
                                         Arturio Versano, The Founder of Bersano Vineyards
            Erika Abate with winemaker Roberto Morosionotto at a private press tasting led by wine expert                        and author Paul Balke (top right)

                          The first locomotive engine to transport grapes and wine from the vineyards

14. The last wine is UCELINE Cascinacastlet….Monferrato Vendemmia 2011. Only one hectare was produced making this wine extremely rare. It’s a very tannic wine that represents the culimation of the winemaking tradition of the family generations, whose pictures are represented on the label. It is very tannic and extremely dry. This is not a commercial wine by any means. It is the most interesting grape in the entire tasting session. It’s extremely chewy with a pronounced varietal “edge”. It is a rustic Barollo designed for the connoisseur. The variety is the Uvalino grape. This is a very old grape and they are the only ones who produce it. It was made first in 1990 and there is only one hectare produced. I am one of the fortunate few in the world to taste it!
15. Bersano Monteolivo Moscato d’Asti (the mount of olives) 2011. Acacia with notes of pear and lemon. It has an intense character, aroma and freshness with a light effervescence. It is perfect with a wide range of light foods from fish to desserts. There are creamy undertones and a light toast and fresh fruit on the palate. Almond cookies are great with this wine that is called “happy juice” by its creators! Pastas and fresh fruit are also on the short list for this bright, crisp beauty. 
16. Brachetto Passito from the tiny village. It is an exceptional sweet red wine. The passito brachetto is a very rare wine made with rare grapes. It is bottled by Forteto della Luja, Loazzolo, Italia. This concludes our tour of historic Barsano.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Holiday Time Is Time for Morellino Di Scansano

by Dwight Casimere

NEWYORK—Corkbuzz Wine Studio in New York’s famed Union Square was the scene of the Second U.S. tour of Consorzio Tutela Morellino di Scansano D.O.C.G., “Tuscany In A Glass.”
Corkbuzz is the epicenter of wine appreciation and education.  Owned and operated by Master Sommelier Laura Maniec with menu pairings by Executive Chef Hayan Yi, Corkbuzz is a great place to hang out, enjoy a glass of wine and share a bowl of pasta or sample hamachi crudo in a living room setting. With over 50 wines by the glass and 200 bottles covering the gamut of regions and styles, it’s the perfect place to learn about wine in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere.

Morellino is one of the great “undiscovered” regions of Tuscany. It is one of Italy’s hidden gems in one of the most charming regions of Tuscany. Somewhat unknown to most wine drinkers in America, the history of Morellino dates back to antiquity. Its distinguished reds, made from the pre-eminent Sangiovese grape is among the most distinguished wines produced in the hilly area around the medieval village of Scansano. 

Morellino is the local name for the grape varietal. Although the origin of the name is today unknown, scholars believe it refers to the word morello, which means “the little dark one,” referring to the color of the horses unique to the coastal district of Maremma where the DOCG is located. Its unique microclimate, altitude and volcanic soil produce grapes and wines of distinction.

Scansano underwent massive development in the 1500s and became one of the most important territories in the hills of Maremma. By the 1800s, it became renowned as a grape-growing and winemaking region, thanks to the groundbreaking work of two agronomists, the Vannuccini brothers.

The Consorzio Tutela Vino Morellino di Scansano was created in 1992 to regulate and product the production of quality wines in the region and educate producers and consumers. Their point was made with stunning clarity at the Corkbuzz event, with a presentation by wine educator and Master Sommelier Charlie Arturaola and a small plates walk-around tasting featuring producers from the region who poured their wines on at the event.

Here is a sampling of the wines tasted and their flavor profiles from this year and from last year’s tastings. It is interesting to see how they have evolved with a little age on them:

Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano 2010 DOCG $18

A blend of 90% Sangiovese with 10% Malvasia Nera, this is a beautifully rich, complex and full-bodied red wine.  It’s a terrific food wine that will match perfectly with savory Holiday foods such as Sage-roasted Turkey, Standing Rib Roast and rich, dark chocolate desserts.

Terre di Fiori Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2010 $15.99

A straightforward 100% Sangiovese. I would put this superior wine up against any of the better known Chianti Classico wines. The difference is that, because of its virtually unknown presence in the U.S.  market, it’s a fraction of the price. A big, robust wine, great with Prime Rib, game meats, such as a Christmas Goose or heavy Sage-dressed Turkey.

La Selva Morellino di Scansano 2011 DOCG $19.99

This 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot varietal is well integrated and complex. It is also the only one of the wines that is certified organic. A true expression of the terroir, this one is a also a great choice for the holidays.

Azienda Bruni Riserva Laire 2008 DOCG $30

This 85% Sangiovese and 15% Syrah wine was a real knockout. Richer and more layered than the other wines, it can be paired with both rich and roasted meats but also with dessert. An interesting play on Morellino, it would appeal to a number of hearty red drinkers.

Fattoria Mantellassi
Morellino di Scansano
San Guiseppe DOCG 2009  $13.99

A blend of 85% Sangiovese with 15% Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a rich, complex and full-bodied red wine. Mantellassi was the first family to bottle the Morellino in 1977. They also produce fresh, crisp white wines that reflect the volcanic mineral terroir of the region from the native white grape variety Vermentino, another terrific and versatile Holiday choicer. The wines are an exceptional value.

Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini
Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2009  $18

A straightforward 100% Sangiovese and is aged for a year in the barrel, this wine has plenty of sweet spice on the nose and a fruity dominance that makes it pleasant to drink. Full and powerful with plenty of integrated wood and fruit, it makes for a terrific mouth filling experience at the Holiday table. Not a lot of this wine was produced so, if you find it at your local shop, grab a case for now for the family “tribe” at the Holiday table and save a few bottles for later for personal enjoyment!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Journey to Piemonte, Italy: Mango, the home of the noble Moscato grape and it's famous derivative, Asti Spumante


Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

MANGO, ITALY—If you want to taste the great wines of the Moscato, such as Asti Spumante, this is the place.
The Moscato grape, is one of the most famous  and widely produced of the region. Moscato takes many different forms and contours. It can be sparkling, like champagne, lightly sparkling, something they call “frizzanti”, or it can be made into a still wine.

 The word “Spumante” literally means ‘sparkling.’ That is the most popular incarnation of the Moscato grape and the one which is having a tremendous resurgence, taking the wine-drinking public, particularly in the U.S., by storm.

 Here in the hallowed confines of a 13th Century Castle, that is the headquarters of Enoteca Regionale Di Mango, one of 12 regional wine public information centers  in the heart of the Piemonte, the president of the Enoteca Regionale di Mango, Valter Bera is holding court in the vaulted ceilinged main hall, introducing a panel of young, talented wine producers and  conducting a tasting of their unique and, in some cases, rare offerings.  Here are the highlights of this historic tasting, the first of its kind conducted  for the benefit of an assemblage of a half dozen of the world’s top wine writers on an exclusive Wine Education tour of Piemonte, organized by noted wine author and expert Paul Balke, whose excellent treatise, "Piemonte Wine and Travel Atlas (with Valle d'Aosta and Liguria available at Eataly, New York))  served as the resource and authoritative reference for this comprehensive journey.

Chiaror Sul Masso($26)-This wine has an immediate strongly mineral presence. It is a stunning example of a truly a unique white varietal. The vineyards are located in the lush hills Colli Tortonesi, situated in Alessandria province.  According to the winemaker,  it is the first sparkling Timorasso made. The winery is strategically located  between four regions, each of them lending a distinct and beneficial characteristic. The vines get the sea air from Liguria in the south of Piemonte. The hills with their rich mixture of soils, provide it's minerality, which is further amplified by rich thermal waters running underground. The winemaker cited as a unique feature, the fact that there is a  huge bay laurel tree on the property that serves as  a local landmark and symbol of the superior attributes of the soil, which is special to everything that grows in it.  Every detail is paid attention to and nurtured to fruition by the winemaker. He designed the labels for each of his wines  himself and named each of the wines with an eye toward poetry and ties to music.  This is a light sparkling wine with crisp notes of white peaches and apricots and a long, clean finish. This wine is great as an aperitif or an accompaniment to light salads and soft cheeses.
Rugiada del Mattino –“morning dew”2009 ($29) This is an unfiltered wine produced by the company "I Carpini." The wine is a blend of strictly local grapes; Favorita, Cortese (and Timorasso. The wine is a complete expression of these local grapes with a bright, fresh profile that reflects its name, “morning dew.”  The winemaker and owner, Paolo Ghislandi prepares this wine with the utmost care and is the creator of its dazzling flavor profile and design. The name of the wine, "morning dew," is also of his creation. It could not have been more aptly named. The taste is like that of ripe fruit with a distinct undertone expressing the fact that there are lots of minerals in there.  Each of the bottles are numbered, reflecting the care that goes into the winemaking process. The grapes are a combination of local vines that express the unique territory of the vine stock. Because the grapes are grown on a a hill, with varying exposures to sun and wind, winemaker had to carefully plan ahead of time  so that grapes could ripen at the same time to create the blend. He worked out a plan of action by observing how fast the grass grew on various parts of the hill so that he could plan the ripening process. "It was like being the conductor of an orchestra in the planning and planting of the grapes," Paolo shared. From the taste of the wine, with its floral notes of aromatic persistence and soft, savory tastes of lemons and wild sage, this is a warm, embracing wine that marks Paolo Ghislandi as a true Maestro!
Brezza d’Estate "summer breeze" 2007 ($32) This is a fresh, white wine that has the capability of being aged up to 15 years. A well-structured wine made from 100% timorasso grape, it is a masterpiece that belies the fact that winemaker Paolo Ghislandi started winemaking as a hobby. He explained that he just recently left his normal day job as an IT engineer and is now following his heart  and passion for winemaking. Paolo Ghislandi represents a ‘new breed’ of winemaker in the region. Unilke many, who are following in the footsteps of their forebears as the third or fourth generation of a winemaking dynasty, Paolo’s ‘ ‘day job’ was as a computer professional with a sideline passion for wine that has now consumed his entire attention.

Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Dertona 2009 ($26) Winemaker  Claudio Marriotto  was unfortunately obliged to be in his cellar due to a problem with bottling. His well-nurtured  wines are also from the rich Tortona hills of the Piemonte. His technique is meticulous, involving daily contact with the vines and exercising great care in every step of the winemaking process. His wines are considered among the best from the Tortona hills and are prized by connoisseurs. The names of the whites include Coccalino, made from the local Cortese grape ($32), Orange Blossom ($29), but it is his reds that best represent the rare flavor profile and structure to be derived from grapes grown on the 'red hill.' Only the best grapes are used in his outstanding Derthona. The wine is made from the Timorasso grape. The exceptional balance and firm structure make this a wine that can be enjoyed now, or it can be aged to reveal its true depth and character. Claudio Mariotto's wines were delicious. It is a pity he was not present to offer a full tasting of his red wines, which are touted by many, including his fellow winemakers, throughout the region.
Claudio Mariotto Pitasso 2004 ($39) This is a  nicely aged dry white wine with hazelnut notes. Underlying minerality gives it a firm structure. Perfect for aging, it has a high alcohol content of 14-14.5% . This is a great after dinner wine that strikes a delicate balance between sweetness and acidity. A great cigar wine or one to go with strong, pungent cheeses. If you like a surprise in your mouth, this is the one. It's nice and chewy!
The tasting at Enoteca Regionale di Mango reflected both the ancient tradition of winemaking in the Mango region, and the fresh outlook of a group of young, innovative and inspired winemakers.