Sunday, May 19, 2019


by Dwight Casimere

 Giovan Battista Basile (l), Vice President of the Montecucco Consortium, its Communications Manager Silvia Coppetti (r), and Laura Maniec Fiorvanti (c), Master Sommelier and owner of Corkbuzz.

 The tasting seminar at Corkbuzz Wine Studio
 Sangiovese wines from Montecucco

Grilled lamb chop in herbs with rapini and roasted potatoes were the perfect main course accompaniment

Montecucco is a very new denominatin in Italy and is Tuscany's best kept secret. Wines of the region are finally coming into their own, thinks to the high quality and distinctive character of these wines which are primarily made from Italy's most planted grape, Sangiovese. What makes Montecucco Sangiovese difference from all the others is its taste, brought about by its unique climate and soil conditions. Organic production is the norm rather than the exception, with 68% of its vines produced under organic conditions.

Montecucco is nestled in the south of Tuscany between two more famous neighbors, Morrellino di Scansano and the little town of Montalcino which produces t he regal Brunello di Montalcino.

Located inland from the coast of the Maremma, Montecucco is presided over by Mounte Amiata, an extinct volcano which lends its mineral rich soils to the grapes that grow on its slopes and in the valley below. The vines further benefit from the dry climate created by the Mount, which protects them from the storms brewing over the Tyrrhennian Sea.

Montecucco wines are beautifully structured wines with depth and excellent flavors of dark fruit and spice.The wines are terrific now, but they also have great potential for cellaring. They really come to life with food, and that's where the wines are most at home; on the dining table.

Cork buzz Wine Studio in Manhattan's Union Square was the setting for the U.S. preview of the new vintages of Montecucco wines. Presided over by Giovan Battista Basile, Vice President of the Montecucco Consortium and its Communications Manager Silvia Coppetti, the event was hosted by Laura Fiorvanti (formerly Laura Maniec), Master Sommelier and owner of Corkbuzz. 

Giovan Battista Basile, Vice President of the Montecucco Consortium, its Communications Manager Silvia Coppetti, and Laura Maniec Fiorvanti, Master Sommelier and owner of Corkbuzz.

The Montecucco Tasting Lunch featured 10 new releases, three of which are not yet imported to the United States. Each of the wines had a unique taste and characteristics, although they were all made from the Sangiovese grape. As explicated by Giovan Battista Basile and Silvia Coppetti, the wines also had their own unique stories to tell. When combined with the excellent cuisine prepared by the Corkbuzz culinary staff; Brown Butter Cauliflower with capers, garlic and lemon pecorino, Grilled Lamb Chop with rapini, roasted potatoes and tomato, and dessert of a Duet of Cheeses (Pecorino Toscano, Bianco Sardo), the wines literally exploded with flavor and came into their own. 

Below is a listing of the wines presented and their suggested retail prices:

Montenero Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG 2016 N/A
Peteglia Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG 2016 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG $25.00
Poggio Stenti "Tribulo" 2016 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG N/A
Amantis Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG 2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG $30.00
Maciarine Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva 2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva N/A
ColleMassari "Poggio Lombrone" 2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $69.99
Parmoleto Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva 2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $40.00
Basile "Ad Agio" 2013 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $49.00
Le Calle "Poggio D’Oro" Riserva 2013 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $38.00
Tenuta L'Impostino "Viandante" 2012 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $35.00

Here are some of the highlights from the luncheon seminar, based on my tasting notes:

The hands down favorite of the afternoon was the Peteglia Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG 2016 at a mere $25 a bottle. In addition to its tremendous value, the wine really delivered in the all-around flavor category. Besides its initial impression of ripe, delicious dark red fruit, the wine had a nice, soft finish. It was almost like something you'd find in a really nice Oregon Pinot Noir. There was one distinction, the volcanic soil of the region gave it a robustness that you would normally find in wines that were aged longer. Aged in large oak barrels, the wine has a nice relaxed feel about it and a roundness that comes from also allowing the wine to age in the bottle before release. Unless you're absolutely desperate to impress your guests with the price tag of the wine you're serving, you can't lose with this on your lunch or dinner table.

ColleMassari "Poggio Lombrone" 2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva ($69.99) is a shining example of what this unique area of Tuscany is all about. The wine reveals layers of rich fruit flavor, combined with savory herbs, hints of licorice, coffee and shaved cedar, the kinds of complexity found in the finest red wines of Europe. Such elegance and authority would cost considerably more from someplace else, but consider this wine a bargain at well under a hundred dollars. For that special meal of roasted leg of lamb with fresh thyme or oregano, or a nicely grilled whole salmon stuffed with garlic and herbs, this is a wine that keeps delivering with every sip!

Le Calle "Poggio D’Oro" Riserva 2013 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva $38, was my third pick. This was a wine designed for contemplation and enjoyment with just some aged cheese or a fine aged steak and some savory Rosemary potatoes and a bit of broccolini tossed lightly in hot olive oil and garlic with a splash of lemon. The less you fuss around with making the food complicated, the more you'll enjoy this wine. It packs a lot of flavor in the bottle. Lean and simple is best as far as accompaniments. Better yet, crack open a bottle, let it breath for a half hour and sip it slowly as you listen to your favorite music. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019




by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK- Manhatta Restaurant, high above the towering skyscrapers of New York's Financial District was the intimate setting for the U.S. debut of the latest releases of wines from Ramon Bilbao of Rioja, Spain. Established in 1924, it is currently the fastest growing winery in the Spanish market and is recognized as one of the World's Most Admired Wine Brands for 2019 by DRINKS International.

Rodolfo Bastida, the company's affable winemaker since 1999 presented a dazzling array of vintages, dating back to 1999, with a selection of delectable cuisine specially prepared for the occasion by the culinary team at Manhatta. The presentation showcased the versatility of the wines, primarily comprised of the Tempranillo grape, Spain's flagship indigenous variety.

 Ramon Bilbao Lalomba Rose,  wine composed of 90% Garnacha and 10% Viura, was the introductory wine, served both as an aperitif and with the first course.

 Ramon Bilbao Winemaker Rodolfo Bastida with Dwight Casimere at Manhatta NYC
 The dramatic view of the East River and Financial District from Manhatta, 60th flr 28 Liberty

Paired with a variety of flavors; from Lemon Caesar Salad with Baby Gem Lettuce and Anchovy and Steelhead Trout Crudo with Fennel, Citrus and Puffed Grains, to the entrees of Seafood Risotto with Lobster, Shrimp and Cipollni Onions and Wagyu Beef Coulotte, with Turnips, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms, the wines displayed a remarkable flexibility.

 Steelhead Trout Crudo paired nicely with both red and white wines

Below: Wagyu Coulotte with Turnips, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

 Below: Seafood Risotto
Colangelo Partners Lydia Richards with Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva 2011

For example, Ramon Bilbao Mirto 2014, a 100% Tempranilo ($60), proved equally at home with both the seafood and the Wagyu Beef. The beauty of this wine is its depth. With the aroma of warm blackberry pie giving way to flavors of ripened berries and hints of shaved cinnamon and allspice brought about by fermentation in wooden vats and 19 months of aging in French oak, the wine is made in a luxurious classical style that makes it a perfectly elegant dinner wine.

Its deep, Garnet color literally dances with back-lighted flecks of Rubies in the glass. The long, satisfying finish makes you long for more.

The 1999 Vina Turzaballa, a 100% Tempranillo ($48), was the real show-stopper of the afternoon. Aged for 40 months in American Oak from Ohio and Missouri, the wine benefited from cold maceration on the skins for several days, which gave it exceptional backbone and complexity.

Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva 2011 ($35), with its blend of 90% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 4% Mazuelo is an excellent example of the true art of the winemaker. After two days of cold maceraton and a short fermentation, the juice is allowed to macerate on the skins for 9 days. It is then aged for 3 years in American Oak. The resulting wine is rich with layers of flavors ranging from blackberries and ripened plums, to an overlay of dark Bing cherries and bits of candied licorice and undertones of black pepper and currants.

 Vina Turzaballa and (below) Gran Reserva 2011 followed by Mirto 2004

Grown in complex sandy and gravelly soils with limestone sediment. the wine has a backbone of minerals that gives it added structure. This is the perfect dinner wine. It is also perfect as a stand-alone for contemplation and enjoyment with a bit of dry-aged  cheese,  smoked meat or fish and assorted nuts. For the true connoisseur, a Fonseca cigar is the ideal match!

Save the Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva 2004 ($30) for last. This is a classic Rioja wine, with flavors of bright, red fruit, and hints of Heirloom tomatoes, dill and vanilla. The finish is long and persistent with plenty of berries and spices dancing abundantly on your tongue. A  smoky finish with hints of leather gives it a nice twist at the end. A Flan or  Chocolate Tarte will go nicely.

Thursday, May 2, 2019



by Dwight Casimere
Reviewed at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Miami Film Festival

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is perhaps the most recognizable personality on the planet. In fact, she was the first celebrity  to be known simply by her first name; Dr. Ruth. She's done everything but fly into outer space. She's been to the White House, spoken before the United Nation's, was sung to by Kermit The Frog on Sesame Street. She's even been parodied on Seinfeld.  But, for someone who is so ubiquitous, very little is known about her  life. Who is the real Dr. Ruth? She says it just as  bluntly as she discusses sex on the nation's airwaves in the unflinching documentar, Ask Dr. Ruth, now in theatres everywhere; "I am an orphan of the Holocaust, not a Holocaust survivor"

Documentary filmmaker Ryan White rolls back the covers to reveal the true, unvarnished story behind this diminutive dynamo. With her distinctive thick German accent and elf-like personage, Dr. Ruth has afixed herself for all time in the nation's bedrooms. Few who have heard her call-in radio show or seen her on syndicated TV know her real story. Ask Dr. Ruth lets her tell her own story, as only she can. Combined with White's unblinking camera, mixed with archival footage, TV and radio broadcasts, photos and brilliantly conceived animation, it is one of most wholly satisfying and thorough biographical films of its type.  

White's camera follows her in the days leading up to her 90th birthday. Born Karola Ruth Siegel in 1928 in  Weisenfeld, a tiny idyllic burg outside Frankfurt, Germany, she was sent to a safe-haven in Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport after her father was taken by the Nazis. She lived in and was schooled at a orphanage there, keeping in touch with her parents via letters. When the letters stopped coming in 1941, she feared the worst, but persevered. It was not until much later that she learned that her parents had been murdered in the Holocaust, possibly at Aushwitz.

One little unknown fact about Dr. Ruth is revealed in the film, the diminutive 92 year old was once a sniper! Having emigrated to British controlled Palestine after the War, she was recruited into the Haganah in Jerusalem, where she was trained as a scout and crack sniper. She was severely wounded in an explosion during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and had to learn to walk all over again. From there, she emigrated to France, where she studied and taught psychology at the University of Paris. Armed with a 1,500 dollar stipend from the World Bank earmarked for the Kindertransport high school graduates from the orphanage, Westheimer used the money to secure transport on a ship bound for New York. As the sight of the iconic Statue of Liberty came into view, an harmonic conversion of events were set in motion that created the nation's first pop sex therapist. 

It was after receiving a Master Degree at the New School and earning a Doctorate at Columbia's Teachers College, that lightning struck. She came under the tutelage of the famed  Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan, whose pioneering research virtually invented the discipline of sex therapy. The rest, as they say, is history. 

After giving a riveting lecture to New York educators on the need for sex education, she was offered a 15 minute radio show on public radio station WYNY after no one else on the faculty wanted to do it.The show, which ran after midnight on Sundays, became an overnight (literally)  hit. It wasn't long before she would move from a  local public radio station to national radio syndication which evolved into television. Thus, a national sex therapy institution was born.

Ask Dr. Ruth is a film that both informs and inspires. At 92 years old, Dr. Ruth is more recognizable than the Pope, published some 40 books with more on the way, and has a lecture and TV appearance schedule that would exhaust a person a third her age.  Its a film rich in visual texture and substantive message. Take the family. They may want to even sit through it more than once. Its that good.