Friday, July 17, 2015

Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 $65

by Dwight Casimere

NAPA VALLEY,Ca--Treat yourself to something really special this summer. Grilled steaks on the open hardwood fire with fire roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus and corn-on-the-cob is the perfect meal to go with Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 ($65). If you like powerhouse Napa Valley Cabs, this is it. It combines power with elegance. The wine should be decanted when served so that it can open up and reveal all of its rich, luxurious flavor. It might seem a little tight at first, but after an hour or so, it really begins to become expressive. 
The deep purple, almost black color of the wine should give a hint as to what lives beneath the surface. The first thing to address you is the aroma redolent of crushed violets and red American Beauty roses. There are flavors of crushed ripened blackberries, dark cherries and dark 70% cocoa Godiva chocolate and licorice along with the bite of a touch of cassis and cracked black pepper. The wine has been aged in new French oak barrels, so there are plenty of toasty baking spices present both in the nose and on the palate. Try Tahitian cinnamon, a hint of nutmeg and allspice with a whiff of Maduro tobacco and hints of potpourri and cedar. Add a touch of garden fresh rosemary to the meat and a side of mushrooms and you have the makings of an outstanding meal that will live long on the palate and in memory. This wine can age ten years or more, but it's so delicious that drinking it now won't be a crime. This is a drop-dead gorgeous beauty of a wine designed to make your next al fresco meal one to remember.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Le Volte dell' Ornellaia 2013-Tuscany's Diversity in a Single Glass ($31)

By Dwight Casimere

The wines of Tuscany are among the most legendary and desired in all of Europe. The region is a destination of choice for eno-tourists and the preference for wine buyers selecting Italian wine from the shelf. Each of the wines has its own unique expression. Now comes a wine that expresses the whole of the best that Tuscany has to offer in a single bottle; Le Volte dell' Ornellaia 2013. ($31). A blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this IGT wine is one of the most popular and sought after from the region. Highly rated by both Wine Spectator, the 2009 vintage was awarded a Bronze from the International Wine Challenge and a Commendation from the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Before we get into the flavors of this amazing wine, we must delve into its pedigree, which is considerable. It's no accident that this is one of the most well-crafted and flavorful Tuscany wines that you will ever have. First of all, it comes from the Bolgheri region of Tuscany, one of the most storied of all time, and home to the renowned Sassicaia wines. Wholly owned by the Frescobaldi family, one of the oldest and most celebrated wine producing families in the region, Le Volte is a carefully crafted blend that brings together the best terrors of Tuscany. Its structure and complexity are the result of its Mediterranean expression of opulence and generosity. Cabernet gives it depth, Sangiovese, its lively personality and 'brightness," and Merlot mellows out the rich tannins to give it a soft, pleasing finish. This unique blend, reflects the integrity and style that inspire the philosophy behind the Ornellaia Estate. Ornellalia represents Bolgheri's fantastic predisposition for Bordeaux's blends that have made this area famous throughout the world.

The wine is redolent of ripe fruit and possesses all of the finesse and structure of  the area's most acclaimed Super Tuscans. The wine is crafted with the greatest care. Each of the different varietals is fermented separately in steel tanks, then aged for 10 months in small oak barrels and partly in cement tanks to obtain the perfect balance between tannic structure and expressions of fresh fruit. The result is a wine brimming with fresh fruit flavor and intense color that is smooth on the palate with vibrant acidity and a pleasurable and inviting aftertaste. There are pronounced flavors of ripe black berries, a touch of black pepper and the slight aftertaste of pomegranate and a hint of licorice. Slight touches of dried thyme and crushed violets and a whiff of allspice complete the merry-go-round of delightful flavor sensations. There's a lot going on with this wine. More than you'd expect from one costing just $31.

"Ornellaia is the quintessential expression of Bolgheri and its terroir," says the estate's agronomist and general manager Leonardo Raspini, who along with Alexandra Belson, Commercial Director, and Axel Heinz, Winemaker, comprise The Team, which guide the evolution and growth of Ornellaia.

The wines of Ornellaia are fact becoming among the most sought after in the world. Currently, they are distributed in 60 countries, 30% in Italy and 70% worldwide. Bottles are delivered directly to the most prestigious clients and major collectors. Demand, at present, outstrips availability. Ornellaia was, for 5 consecutive years, among the top vie Italian wines in the special classification obtained by summing the point scores of the major Italian wine guides.

The wine is great with food, especially a hearty steak, grilled ribs or lamb chops or a hearty beef stew. I prepared short ribs, cooked with fresh garlic, shallots, field onions, pearl onions and fresh garden rosemary and thyme, a rainbow of fresh carrots and multi-colored mini potatoes slow cooked in a sauce made from the wine. The results were heavenly. Save a bit of the wine and the stew for the next day.  They are both bound to intensify in flavor and give you an even more pleasurable dining experience. Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chateau Vartely of Moldova: Wine Rooted in History Tastes Fresh Today

  1. Chaterau Vartely 2012 Winemaker Selection Rare Neagra Merlot and Syrah $10.99



    by Dwight Casimere
    Chateau Vartely wines of Moldova, a small republic in the southwestern part of the East European Plain,which was once a former republic of the USSR, is set to make its mark as a wine rooted in history, but which offers a flavor profile that is quite appropriate for wine lovers today.  Bound by the Ukraine to the north, east and south and Romania to the west, it is located in the southwestern part of the East European Plain. 

    Located in an area considered to be the "heart of Eastern Europe," all roads lead to Moldova, as do the tributaries of history. It was here that Stefan the Great defended the region against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th Century. After the Battle of Vaslui, Pope Sixtus IV deemed him "Versus Christianae Fidei Athlete," the True Champion of Christian Faith."   As a display of his piety, he rebuilt a monastic community on the ruins of the ancient town, the minarets of which still remain today. He also established vineyards, bringing to the region the best varietal roots of all Europe, creating one of the first truly international vineyards in all of Europe. Fast forward to today, and the establishment of the current vineyards and winery at Chateau Vartely in 2007. Located on lands which have soil and climate very similar to the Bordeaux region of France, this is the first and only truly French-styled chateau in all of Moldova.  The wines produced are in a wide range of styles, and display a flavor and quality that far exceeds their modest price.

    I recently tasted the Chateau Vartely 2012 Winemaker Selection Rara Neagra, a blend of Merlot and Syrah which only sells for $10.99. I only learned the price recently and previously assumed that it cost $20 or more. The wine is rich and full-bodied, portraying a great deal of its rich soil content and mature vines. There are aromas of crushed red roses and the heady flavors of cassis, cranberries and pomegranate and a hint of black pepper. Slightly herbal notes of sage and lovage comprise the banknote, with a long finish dominated by dark roasted coffee. This is a wine that will go well with grilled lamb with a bit of Mediterranean spice. Think Harissa, the traditional Moroccan red pepper spice that has a touch of heat and an aftertaste of smoky sweetness. A bit of roasted corn, cut off the cob and fried with unsalted butter and green pepper, completes the flavor Shangri La. 

    This is a highly flavorful wine, perfect for a grilled summer meal. At just $10.99 a bottle, it's worth stocking up for the summer and having this one on standby for guests who are hungry for a bit of historical backstory as well as a great meal! 

     Chateau Vartely Rara Neagra with Mediterranean Grilled Lamb and fried corn

     Stefan the Great, the Founder and Protector of Moldova
     The vineyards and estate at Chateau Vartely of Moldova

     The ancient Church of Our Lady and the minarets of the Old City remain today

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Alto Adige Valle Isarco from Kerner-A Wine that makes Sushi Samba!!

Wine of the Week Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner ($19)

By Dwight Casimere

        VARNA, Italy--Along the steep slopes of the Italian Alps, about 2000 feet above sea level grows the Kerner grape, a modern German cross that produces beautiful white wines. It's named after Justinius Kerner, a physician and writer of drinking songs who reputedly recommended that his patients "drink a glass of wine as the best natural medicine." Invented in 1929, the grape produces a lovely Riesling-like wine.  Golden in color with a crisp, clean citrus flavor that brings to mind Golden    Delicious apples, Meyer lemon, ripened grapefruit and a hint of apricot and apricot. There's also a slight backnote of asparagus and thyme. For a white wine, it is surprisingly complex, with an opulence that makes it perfect with food. Sushi is the best possible pairing, with the kind of acidity that marries well with the oil inherent in salmon or my favorite, grilled freshwater eel (unagi). The acidity also cuts through the condiments of salty soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi (green Japanese horseradish).

Two vintages of Abbazia di Novacella Kerner wine ($19)

The Kerner grape

 Sushi is the perfect  accompaniment

An aerial view of the Italian Alps

La Nuit en Rose' Fetes Rose Lovers in Star Spangled Style

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--The Statue of Liberty loomed on the horizon on a brilliantly sunny day as the Hornblower Infinity Yacht plied the Hudson River  with the largest-ever gathering of rose' wine producers and rose' wine lovers in the world; La Nuit en Rose'.

More than 150 rose' wines from around the world were available for tasting from 120 wineries from 9 different countries. The festivities were spiced up with live flamenco musical stylings from VieVite', a line-up of stellar chefs prepared a variety of sumptuous small plates to complement the wines, including hand-made truffle-covered pizza and freshly made truffle Risotto from world famous Urbani Truffles, a selection of international gourmet cheeses from Artisinal, charcuterie by D'Artagnan, salads by Vin Sur Vigt and an Italian pasta and olive oil tasting by Gourmet Cooking and Living.

Wines seemed to absorb the bright sunlight outside the ship and refract it out into the room like sunbeams reflecting on pink diamonds. Among the stellar offerings, the wines of Famille Sumiere of Provence, poured by Annabelle and Olivier Sumeire. Their Chateau Maupague Saeinte-Victoire  Rose' 2014 ($24), a blend of 70% Grenache, 24% Cinsault and 5% Syrah. This is a true jewel of a wine with lots of pedigree in the early going. Wine Enthusiast gave it 90 points for its current vintage and it won a Silver Medal at Vinalies Internationales 2014. This is a wine that goes down real easy. It has a lot of bright fruit with lovely rose petals thrown in on the nose, but there's just enough acid to give you that nice drawn effect on your cheeks that makes it great with food. Sainte-Victoire is known for producing some of the greatest Rose' wines in the Provence and this is a real benchmark for quality. Don't let the modest price fool you. This wine has a lot of regal presence. While quite traditional in execution, it has just enough concentration and depth to make it interesting. I wound up coming back for more, even after tasting a sea of other lovely rose's on board ship. The Duck Confit bruschetta was a perfect match.

Palmer Pink POP NV ($20) in the bright pink little split bottle was the absolute hit of the party. If you're one who hits the velvet rope club scene, this is the favorite of the super chic party crowd and deservedly so. A blend of 33.3% Pinot Noir with equal parts Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay added for complexity. This is the one you drink out of a straw, which makes it especially adaptable to summertime parties or trolling the perimeters of the dance floor. Extra Dry by category, it ends surprisingly smooth and soft. You can't beat the concept of a pocket-sized bottle of champagne. It's pure genius and works great with Urbani truffle or Margherita pizza.

Lejay Spirits did an interesting take on cocktails. The created a drink with their Lejay Casis ($34) which combined an ounce of Lerjay Cassis, 2 1/2 oz of Sparkling Water and 2 1/2 oz of Champagne over ice with an orange peel, sort of a variation on the Aperol spritzer, but with a little more oomph.

The House of Burgundy dazzled with its selection of moderately priced Rose's. Two were exceptional. Bleu de Mer ($14). Made from 100% Cinsault and from the Languedoc Rousillon, From the cellars of Bernard Magrez, the wine opens with aromas of watermelon and cherries, perfect for summer! The flavors of cherries and berries continues right through to the finish, which its crisp and mouthwatering. The Crooque Monsieur (French grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with B├ęchamel sauce) from The Regency Bar and Grill was a match made in heaven!

 Lady Liberty gives a Star Spangled Salute to the Hornblower on the Hudson

 Aurelie Vix, Regional Sales Manager, Vranken Pommery with the Pommery POP

 Olivier (l) and Annabelle Sumeire of Famille Sumeire
 Coq Monsieur sandwich
 Urbani truffle Risotto

 (Below) A bevy of beauties on board

 Jeannette Corvino (l) and benoit Roussillon of Vintage Epicure
 Saint AIX, Vin du Provence
 The Manhattan Skyline

The World Trade Center

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Wine Stars from the Veneto Region Shine Brightly in U.S. Debut

Top wines from the Veneto Region of northern Italy conquer new ground outside Europe

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--The names of the wines and their producers may already be familiar to some wine lovers, but never before have the wine producers of the Veneto region of northern Italy embarked on such an ambitious tour to showcase the full depth and breadth of the wines offered by the region.
The Vignaiolo Venetic Wine Producer's Cooperative is currently on its first tour of the United States, following a world tour that started in the United Arab Emirates in December 2014, then moving on to South East Asia before coming to to the USA, stopping over in New York during the annual Fancy Food Show.

Speaking to an intimate gathering of journalists and wine bloggers in a private luncheon at the elegant Lincoln restaurant in Lincoln Center, Giulio Liut, Director of Vignaioli Veneti, emphasized that the primary mission of the cooperative is to promote their best-known brands in foreign markets. Speaking in Italian, with interpretation by Susannah Gold of Vignetto Communications, organizer of the event,  Director Liut went on to say that the great strength of the Cooperative is their ability to work together as a network to promote a territory by uniting producers who represent an entire range of Veneto products, including all of the major wine types, from the celebrated reds such as Amarone and Ripasso, as well as Valpolicella and Bardolino, right through to the whites, such as Lugana, Custoza, Soave and Prosecco. The luncheon gathering explored ten diverse wines from the cooperative, paired with the outstanding interpretations of modern Italian cuisine as presented by the chef and culinary staff at Lincoln Ristorante.

The presentation began with a brief introduction accompanied by an excellent Prosecco Superiore from Ca' Di Rajo of Treviso, the 2013 Valdobbiadene Millesima Extra Dry ($13.98). As an aperitif, this sparkling wine with its bright straw color, delicate and persistent prologue and intense flavors of ripe green apples, citrus and the aroma of Acacia flowers is a perfect prelude to an elegant meal, particularly one paired with such noteworthy wines.

The restaurant offered a choice of Antipasti and Secondi (entrees), including  first course offerings of Whole Grilled Salmon with Green Almonds and Peppers, Spaghettoni with Cherry Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata and Linguine with Poached Tuna, Olive Oil and Fennel with Orange and Chili.

A flight of five white wines were offered for pairing with the first course; Pieropan Calvarino 2013 ($22) from the Soave Classico DOC, Pieropan La Rocca ($30), also from the Soave Classico, Le Creete Lugana 2013 ($23),  made of 100% indigenous Trebbiano of Lugana grapes and described by our hosts as "the new Pinot Grigio," Molceo Lugana Superiore 2012 ($30), also made from Trebbiano di Lugana grapes, and, my absolute favorite of the flight, Ca' Di Rajo Sauvignon 2013 ($8), an estate grown Sauvignon IGT wine of unbelievable complexity and persistence relative to its price. Several of us at my table took turns sampling each other's plates and trying them with the wines. Of my favorites, the grilled tuna was fabulous with both the Ca' Di Rajo Sauvignon with its clear notes of pineapple, yellow pepper and a slight bitterness as you'd find in tomato leaves. There's just a hint of wood, although I believe the wine is aged in large, Slovenian type barrels, which impart little wood, if any, flavor. The smoky aftertaste may owe more to gravely soil and old vines more than anything. This is a beautifully structure wine, with nice acid astringency that draws the cheeks and a nice long aftertaste with dancing flavor notes on the palate. Likewise, the  Pieropan Calvarino 2013 ($22), the "Little Calvary," so named because of its rich, dense volcanic soil and steep hillside attitude which makes for a tortuous climb for harvesters. A blend of 70% local Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave grapes, this is the second most highly rates wine of the Soave Classico region and consistently ranks as among the top 10 wines of the region. The hints of elder flower, lemon and cherry made it a perfect match with the Linguine with Poached Tuna.

The flight of red wines was served with a flourish. The wine stewards moved about the tables like the corps de ballet of  American Ballet Theatre-ABT,  at the neighboring Metropolitan Opera House. The first wine in the glass was La Fontana Valpolicella DOC which bears the designation Vino Biologica, which means Organic Wine ($15). The grapes are hand-picked and part of the grapes undergo a 15-20 day drying period, which gives the wine added richness. The next was La Fontanina Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG, also Vino Biologica, or Organic ($54). The grapes are handpicked and only the ripest make the cut. They rest for 5-6 months in small wood crates before they are crushed and even then, they spend at least another month macerating on the skins. After fermenting in stainless steel tanks, the wine is then aged in small wooden barrels for 3-4 years. The result is a rich Ruby red wine with high alcohol content of 17%. This is a wine to serve with pheasant or venison and aged Gorgonzola It is also intended for aging for another year or two after purchase, but I can't imagine anyone bothering to do that. It's perfect now.  Arusnatico Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2013 ($17) is a highly rated wine, with a relatively low price tag. Past vintages have earned the Decanter World Wine Awards, and while not as widely known as other wines from the region, has earned high scores from both Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Spectator. The grand finale was Morar Amazon della Valpolicella Classico 2007 ($58), a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Corvinone and 5% Rondinella, all indigenous grapes that are late harvested in late September and early October and which go through a laborious hand-selection process in which only the best parts of the bunch are selected for drying for 90 days. The wines are left on the skins for 40 days before fermentation. The wine is then aged for a year in large Slovenian oak casks and then in small French oak barriques for another 18 months. After that, it is aged for another 6 months in the bottle. I can't tell you how rich and aromatic this wine is. You will have to experience it for yourself. a Prime Aged Steak or Venison steak come to mind, but I'd actually prefer it with an Obama-blessed Cuban cigar, preferably a Maduro!

The Secondi, or main courses included Pekin Duck Breast with a Confit of Duck Leg, Baked Peach, Mustard Greens, Green Peppercorn and a Cardamom glaze. This was, by far, the most successful pairing with these strong, aromatic wines. No one at my table ordered the Grilled American Wagyu Top Sirloin with Parsnip Puree and Spring Onion with an aged Balsamic glaze. I'm sure you can find a recipe online and do this one yourself at home. It might make for an interesting gourmet grilled dinner this summer. Eggplant Parmigiana with Bufala (water buffalo) Mozzarella was the hands-down winner. The nutty flavors of the eggplant melded perfectly with the wine and the dense tomato and earthy cheese coating only served to enhance the richness of the wine. Bravissimo!

Dolci (desserts) were an assortment of aged cheeses with apricot, dates, olives and Millefiori Honey and Fig-Mirto Conserva as condiments. It was accompanied by  a magnificent Hazelnut Bread which I must confess that I took  home and had  with a Decaf Cappuccino while watching late-night Frasier on cable. It doesn't get much better than that.  Abbondanza!
 Lincoln Restaurant's view of the Henry Moore sculptures and reflecting pool at Lincoln Center
 The wines of Vignaioli Veneti
 More views of the Henry Moore sculptures and reflecting pond and (Below) Vignaioli Veneti Director Giulio Liut addresses the Private Luncheon presentation

 (l) Vignetto Communication's Susannah Gold interprets remarks by Director Giulio Liut
 Antipasti course of Whole Grilled Sardine with Ca' Di Rajo Sauvignon
 The almost balletic wine and food service at Lincoln Restaurant

 Wine bloggers and journalists at the private luncheon (Below) scenes from the Private Luncheon

 Vignaioli Veneti Director Giulio Liut
 Special Guest Daniele Salvagno of La Fontanina
 Dwight Casimere with Daniele Salvagno  and (Below)  Salvagno with Wanda Mann, Black Dress Traveler blog

 Lincoln restaurant's private dining room
 Susannah Gold of Vignetto Communications with Vignaioli Veneti's Giulio Liut and Daniele Salvagno of La Fontanina

(Below)  Export  Manager Luca Ortoncelli in the vineyards at Ca' Di Rajo near Treviso
 Luca Ortoncelli with his new Epsilon Sparkling Wine, just arriving in the U.S.
 The vinedyards and (Below) 15th Century Church at Ca' Di Rajo

Dwight Casimere in the vineyards at Ca' Di Rajo in Treviso, Italy