Thursday, June 28, 2018



The famed Chianti Classico Trademark

 Eataly La Scuola on near Chicago's Magnificent Mile
 Sebastiano Capponi, Vice President of the Chianti Classico Consortium bestows honors upon the first Chianti Classico U.S. Ambassador Michael Klinger
 Chianti Classico Producers share their first hand knowledge with wine professionals at Eataly's La Scuola

Dwight The Wine Doctor with Chianti Classico Consorzio Director Carlotta Gori

by Dwight Casimere

The Chianti Classico Experience brought its Black Rooster symbol to Chicago's Eataly and to Formento's Italian Restaurant on the city's famed Randolph Street Restaurant Row. Intense, full-bodied and with pronounced fruit flavor and balanced structure and elegance, Chianti Classico wines command the attention of the most discriminating wine drinker. The wines are perfect with food and the pairing possibilities are endless.

The Chianti Classico Consortium (Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico) also presented the winner of the 2018 Chianti Classico Ambassador competition, the first of its kind in the US.  Michael Klinger was named Chianti Classico Ambassador 2018 upon the conclusion of an extensive competition, which involved a written exam, a blind tasting, and an interview before a panel of judges. 

The day began with a Master Class and Tasting at Eataly's La Scuola featuring some of the region's top producers, led by Wine Master and Educator Jeff Porter. Producers at the event included Castello di Gabbiano, Castello Vicchiomaggio, Villa Calcinala, Castello di Monsanto, Bibbano, Castello di Fonterutoli, Castello di Castagnoli. amd Tolaini. Each of the winery owners and producers presented their wines and spoke of its unique terroir and production methods. The intensive experience allowed the participants to compare the nuances of terroir and winemaking technique on the flavor and texture of the wines. A;though the wines are produced according to well-defined regulations and methodology, their nuanced variety displayed profound effects of soil type, elevation and climate conditions that vary from vineyard to vineyard. 

Chianti Classico is distinctly different from Chianti in that it is produced by an its own set of regulations and production standards that are strictly defined. Produced in the territory lying between the provinces provinces of Florence and Siena that covers the municipalities of Castellina and Gaiole in Chianti and Greve in Chianti e Radda.the wines must contain a minimum of 80% Sangiovese grapes, with only a maximum of 205 of other international or indigenous grapes permitted. The borders of the production area were first established in 1716 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It wasn't until 1924 that the Consortium for the protection of Chianti wine was created and the Black Rooster trademark was chosen as its Mark of Origin. In 1984, Chianti Classico obtained DOCG status, which stands for Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin, the highest recognition for premium Italian wines. 

Chianti and Chianti Classico are two separate and distinct DOCGs. The consortiums is designed to protect the product. Only this wine is entitled to be identified with the historic Black Rooster symbol.

Geographically, the land varies greatly from one area to the next, with clay schists called marl, layers of scaley clay alberese and limestone sandstone predominating. The dark brown soil tends to be shallow, with clay, sand and small stones interspersed. Steep elevations and salt laden winds impart further impact on the grapes, adding distinct character to the resulting wine. All of these factors were explored in depth by each of the winemakers present at the Eataly seminar. 

Chianti Classico is forever evolving. In 2013, the Consorzio members approved important changes to the production regulations leading to a reorganization of the Black Rooster DOCG and added another typology, Gran Selezione, in addition to the traditional two, Annata and Riserva.

Chianti Classico celebrated its 300th Anniversary. Concurrently, the territory also applied for candidacy as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Chianti Classico Producers presenting:

  • Castello di Gabbiano, San Casciano in Val di Pesa
  • Castello Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti
  • Villa Calcinaia, Greve in Chianti
  • Castello di Monsanto – Barberino Val d’Elsa
  • Bibbano, Castellina in Chianti
  • Castello di Fonterutoli, Castellina in Chianti
  • Castello di Monterinaldi, Radda in Chianti
  • Rocca di Castagnoli, Gaiole in Chianti
  • Tolaini, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Saturday, June 23, 2018



Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

 The Krewe of Cork at Royal Street Stroll

Revelers let the Good Times Roll! at the Royal Street Stroll

Dwight The Wine Doctor with Jennifer Wall-Winemaker at Barefoot Cellars

by Dwight Casimere

There's no question that the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is the undisputed start of the summer Wine and Food Festival scene. Beginning with the Royal Street Stroll on Opening Night, with the Krewe of Cork leading a Second Lin traditional New Orleans Jazz Band, marching lazily down Royal Street and snaking its way through the French Quarter, this is the start of perhaps the country's largest moveable feast.

More that 50 wineries from across the globe and 60 restaurants from every nook and cranny of New Orleans, strutted their stuff before more than 7,000 gourmands and wine enthusiasts who traveled from hither and yon for the experience. Brennan's, Broussards, and the Court of Two Sisters were among the New Orleans legends who sent their best chefs to prepare exquisite gourmet dishes for participants at both the Stroll and the Grand Tasting events, held over two days at the Morial Convention Center. Emerald Lagasse, celebrity chef and television personality and proprietor of his landmark namesake restaurant in the Garden District, was awarded this year's Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.

Some of the finest wines to be had on the planet were poured at both The Stroll and the Grand Tastings; Barefoot Cellars, with winemaker Jen Wall on the sidelines, celebrating a birthday, Stella Wines, Constellation Brands, Grand Cru Selections, Jordan Winery, Dry Creek Vineyards, just to name a few of the more than 50 winery groups represented.

Immersive experiences included opportunities to blend your own wine cuvee, learn the proper methods of aging and preparing prime aged steaks from a Master Chef, Sausage Making from a James Beard Award-winning chef and a Cellar Stroll through the French Quarter's most famous restaurant wine calls, The Experience also included  a dazzling selection of wine pairing dinners at some of the city's top restaurants, such as R'evolution at the Royal Sonesta, with star-chef Rick Tramanto coming in all the way from Chicago to preside over a multi-course pairing meal with the wines of Ancient Oaks Cellars and Bistreaux at the Maison Dupuy with Executive Chef Matt Regan and Selby Winery.

Here are some scenes from highlights of the NOWFE weekend.

 Tom Roby Executive Cvhef Kingfish prepares Short Rib Sliders

 Chef de Cuisine Bryony Hensel with Soft Shell Crab and Shrimp Kabobs-Lafitte's Den-Old Absinthe House

 Sands Kelly Owner Saundus Sauce Slidell, LA
 Jonathan Emerson-Dir. Food and Beverage

 Scott Maki-Chef/Owner ChewRouge Arabi,LA
 Joe Howell-Sous Chef Windsor Court
 Heritage Pig Tacos

 Casey McClelland Winemaker/Owner Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, WA

Corey Jenkins, Banquet Chef (l) Executive Chef Jeff Mattia (c)

 Lena Prima, daughter of the great jazz singer and composer Luis Prima at The Carousel Bar

Rick Tramanto of Chicago-Co-founder R'evolution Restaurant

 Melissa Moholt-Siebert-Owner-Ancient Oak Cellars Sonoma (2nd from l) Greg LaFollette-winemaker (far r) with her parents at the R'evolution Wine Dinner on Bourbon Street
 Melissa Moholt-Siebert and Greg LaFollette preside over the multi-course Wine Dinner
 Maison Dupuy Executive Chef Matt Regan at Bistreaux Restaurant
 Dwight The Wine Doctor at the Grand Tasting

Friday, June 22, 2018


Martin Scott Wines NYC Presents Broadbent Selections South African Chenin Blanc

by Dwight Casimere

  Martin Scott Sr. VP Scott Gerber with Dwight CasImere
 A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2016 and (below) vineyards in South Africa

One of the distinct culinary  pleasures of my early days as a young travel writer, was the discovery of Chenin Blanc wine. My first exposure was at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf where I dove into a steamy bowl of freshly cracked Dungeness Crab and quaffed a well-chilled glass of California Chenin Blanc. The flavor combination of the briny crab and the zesty lemon of the wine left a lasting flavor impression that has never been duplicated. My second exposure was at a seaside cafe in the South of France, sipping Vouvray while slurping my way through a literal cornucopia of local raw shellfish listed on the menu as Fruit de Mer. Again, it was an unparalleled experience. The third exposure of note was at Martin Scott Wines/The Winebow Group in New York City, a fine wine and craft spirits distributor covering the most dynamic markets in the world, with its presentation of South African Chenin Blanc from that country's single-vineyard and small-batch producers. The tasting offered a dazzling array of styles, flavors and textures that showcased the versatility of this lovely, but largely overlooked grape varietal. 

Chenin Blanc has been mostly known as a workhorse grape that was primarily used in this country in the production of cheap white wine blends or as a stand-alone grape for restaurant house wines. In this country, only a few labels produced Chenin Blancs of note and the variety largely gave way to Chardonnay, Fume Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc as the white wine of choice. As the public's collective palate became more sophisticated, it receded further into the background. Only the imported versions, from Chenin Blanc's birthplace in the Loire Valley and appellations like Vouvray, Savennieres and Quarts de Chaume garnered the type of attention granted to top shelf wines and remained in vogue.

 Now comes South Africa with an exceptional line of zippy, crisp,acidic Chenin Blanc wines that are finely crafted and versatile enough to pair with any cuisine.
The breadth and depth were put on display at a recent tasting at Martin Scott wines, where the winemakers and reps from a handful of outstanding producers of limited production, hand-crafted wines with multiple styles and from various appellations within the country, showed their wares to a select group of wine journalists and professionals.

 Alheit winemaker Chris "Butch" Alheit shows off his Radio Lazarus and Homeland Vine Garden "pet projects" for 2016

Chenin Blanc’s  birthplace is the Loire Valley. South Africa is the other country that is leading the charge to a revived interest in Chenin Blanc. South Africa's unique terroir and its ideal growing climate and varied soil conditions make for some outstanding Chenin Blancs. Unoaked wines possess so much character, acidity and structure, they literally blossom after a year or two of bottle aging after their release. Those that are aged in oak become quite expressive after 5 or 6 years of cellar aging and reveal intense flavors of citrus peel and ripe melon with a hint of sage and almond. Some wines will even withstand 15 years of cellar aging and begin to show the depth of their opulence. 

There are also some incredible examples of Old Vine wines from historic vineyards dating back 100 years. There is also a broad spectrum of wines that reflects the multi-colored palette of South African soil types and climate conditions. Here are just a few of my favorites from the tasting.

A.A. BANDENHORSTS 2015-$37.97-This is by far the must exuberant and textured of all of the wines presented. Weighing in at a whopping 14%, this wine has a hefty feel for a white wine. In fact, it can stand up to game meats like Venison or Heritage Pork, Duck or Quail with Rosemary and Garlic and just about anything you can throw on a grill. Spicy foods, like Crab, Shrimp and Crawfish Gumbo, Indian food, Spicy Chipotle anything and rich fatty seafoods, like Salmon, Tuna or Grouper. I've got a killer recipe for Pineapple upside down cake, one of those retro desserts that is making a comeback, that will go perfectly with this big, luscious wine. A complex blend of nine grapes; Grenache blanc, Chardonnay, Semillion, Viognier, Roussanne, Colombard, Verdelho, Grenache Gri and, of course, Chenin Blanc, its dripping with ripe peach, lemon and grapefruit flavors, with a hint of candied fruit to give it a zing. The blend changes every year depending on grape and climate conditions and the mood of the winemaker. This is one of the best examples of the wines coming out of the Swartland.

ALHEIT RADIO LAZARUS Chenin Blanc 2016-$32- Chris and Suzaan Alheit have created one of the most spectacular Chenin Blancs on the planet. Created from two separate blocks from the extreme ends of the cape dominated by old bush vines,and a complex soil composition of shale and granite, the wine has gorgeous aromas of orchard fruit and white peaches, with layers of lemon zest, honeysuckle, aromatic white blossoms and a hint of the salt sea air that bathes the vineyards morning and night. This is an impressive wine with textured richness. Well balanced with a lively acidity, serve it with Roast Duck or Wild Boar or a long-smoked Pork Loin covered in fresh Sage. This is a wine that can age for years, that is if you can resist the temptation to drink it all immediately.

HEMELRAND VINE GARDEN 2016-$29. This is a single vineyard wine that was originally intended for only the local consumption in South African, but Broadbent Selections has wisely chosen to include it in its U.S. portfolio. Look for it on the wine list of a fine restaurant near you. Limited production, with only 5000 bottles made, this is a maiden voyage for winemaker Chris "Butch" Albeit, the creator of the previously reviewed  All-Star wine. Inspired by the great Mediterranean white wines of the South of France, the Homeland Vine Garden is produced from grapes planted directly behind the Homeland wine cellars on hillside vineyards high above the valley. A blend of 48% Roussanne, 27% Chenin Blanc, 22% Chardonnay and 3% Verdelho, this wine is a pale pineapple yellow with grapefruit zest and hints of wet chalk, limestone and bits of salty lemon. This is an opulent wine with complex fruit and acidity that just shines through. Perfect to drink now, but aging 2 or 3 years will bring out all of its magical intensity.

This wine was intended for everyday drinking and is a perfect example of the seamless craftsmanship of Chris Alheit.

 The wine tasting at Martin Scott wines

 Martin Scott Sr. VP Scott Gerber with Sales Consultant Janine Lettieri