Tuesday, August 25, 2020






The hilltop town of Asti in Montferrat, Piedmont in northwest Italy, is among the most rustic and beautiful regions in all of Europe. Its wine history goes back to the time of the ancient Romans, when it was called ‘Apiana.’ The Medieval Ages is when the region came into full flower.


The Muscat grape, as it is called in France, Moscato in Italian, has its origins in the Mediterranean. It was the Romans who brought it north and introduced it to all of Europe.


 Ancient papers dating to the 14th Century refer to a frothy wine beverage called Moscato, so called for its musky, earthy aroma. It was the in the 16th century that the lightly fizzy (frizzante), low alcohol (usually 5%) wine we know as Muscato d’ Asti came into being. Giovan Battista Croce, a wealthy jewelry maker, who served the noble class of Savoy, created it. Croce owned a vineyard in the hills above Turin, where he experiment with methods of making a sweet wine that would serve as the local answer to Champagne. He wanted to create something that was light that local workers could drink to refresh themselves at the end of a long day. Thus came a local style that was unlike the method traditionnelle of the French. It did not involve bottle fermentation, but instead was fermented in large vessels that gave it a slight sparkle. In more modern times, the technique became known as the ‘Asti Method,’ in which the Muscat grapes were harvested quickly, destemmed and lightly pressed so as to preserve the delicate floral aromas, then filtered, chilled and fermented to yield a low alcohol was that is sweet, lightly sparkling and perfumed. Thus, Moscato d’Asti was born.


Of the 52 townships carrying the denomination Moscato DOCG, only 22 are included in the prestigious subzone of Cenelli. That is the birthplace of Moncalvina Moscato D’Asti from the winemaker Coppo. At $15.99, it is a moderately priced example of the ‘gold-in-the-glass tasty and generous wine of the region. Full and creamy, it delivers the nice sensation of fullness.  Sensations start with a mouthful of sweet citrus and notes of white peaches and Asian pears with overtones of honey and the smell of white flowers. The wine is couched in a foamy effervescence that gives it an irresistible finish.


The wine is terrific with spicy Asian, Indian or Caribbean dishes. It goes great with a Spicy Tuna Roll. Of course, it is the perfect match for the ‘Dolce’ (sweet), dessert course of endless cakes, cookies and soft goat cheese ( Robiola di Roccaverano) that is typical of the Piedmont.


There’s a terrific book writing by a friend of mine, Dr. Paul Balk, called the Piemonte Wine and Travel Atlas. It contains some beautiful photographs of the region and tells the beautiful story behind the wines of the Montferrato. It’s available on Amazon.com. You can also learn more about the great wines of Coppo at coppo.it. Ciao Bella!



Monday, August 17, 2020

Wine of the Week-Clos Du Val 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, only $52 and so complex



By Dwight Casimere


Clos Du Val 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($52) is a virtual showcase for Cabernet from Napa Valley’s famed Stag’s Leap District. At well under a hundred dollars a bottle, it is a steal by Napa Cabernet standards.


Located on the Napa’s storied Silverado Trail, the winery is nestled in one of the district’s most picturesque sites. Its Hirondelle House, named for the winery’s historic estate vineyard is much more than the focal point, it is what the owners consider its ‘home.’ It is designed to intentionally connect visitors to the estate vineyards in a very immediate way. As they sip the winery’s legendary wines, they also imbibe its history through the lush scenery.


Founded in 1972, by owner Olav Goelet, Clos Du Val is overseen by its President Jon-Mark Chappellet (another famous Napa Valley name), and its outstanding wines are shepherded by winemaker Ted Henry. All of the wines come from Clos Du Val’s own vineyards, Hirondelle-Stags Leap District AVA, State Lane Vineyard, and Riverbend Vineyard, both in Napa Valley’s Yountville AVA.


Clos Du Val and its legendary Cabernet burst onto the international stage in grand fashion at the famed Judgment of Paris in 1976. The rest, as they say, is history.


But, enough of the history lesson, let’s get into the wine. Clos Du Val 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a BIG wine that delivers far beyond its modest (by Napa Valley Cab standards) price tag. Only a wine expert can differentiate it from a wine costing three times its price.


Inviting aromas of nutmeg from aging in small French oak casks and succulent vanilla bean and clove accents give way to a mouth-filling array of ripe black berries, black cherries, plums and blueberries. There’s just a hint of caramelly Affy Taffle that sends your taste buds into a tailspin. Nicely rounded off with a touch of mocha, there’s a velvety finish as its glides down your throat with a final afterglow of smoky cedar ash.


Great with game meats, like pheasant, venison or herb-infused quail, its also terrific with a prime aged steak. I grilled a grass-fed New York Strip marinated overnight in a blend of Rainbow peppercorns, smoked Hungarian Paprika and, SURPRISE, rich Jamaican coffee. That’s right, coffee. You’d be amazed how the nutty, rustic flavors of a good coffee brings out the mineral qualities in a steak and adds greatly to the enjoyment of an earthy, complex wine like this luscious Cab.


Fresh quail, which I found at the local Korean market, also benefits greatly from an intimate association with this wine. Stuffed with fresh Sage, Lemon Sage and Oregano from the garden, then dusted with Sea Salt, a hint of Cajun pepper spice (I use either Gumbo Shop Five-Pepper blend (see their website for direct shipping), or any of Emeril’s spice blends. Sprinkle some olive oil over the skin for a crispy finish and gently pour a half-cup of the wine in the baking dish and tent it with aluminum foil. Bake for about 45 minutes at 425 and, voila, dinner is served.  I like to add a side of steamed baby potatoes topped with sea salt and soft Danish or Irish butter to complete the culinary picture. Some sliced heirloom or multi-colored cherry tomatoes add a sweet/salty flavor contrast.


Try it with your own favorite red wine and food pairings. Clos Du Val 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is sure to delight in almost any food setting. Be sure to save a glass for savoring after the meal by the backyard fire pit as you watch the sunset on these beautiful late summer evenings. For more information, visit closduval.com.



Wine of the Week-Quinta De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59



By Dwight Casimere


Fresh flowers. Hints of jasmine and orange blossoms, with flavors of fresh Asian pears and a faint touch of mint, Quinta De Santiago Alvarinho Reserva 2018 ($17.59), is the elegant, rich, and full-bodied white wine you’ve been waiting for.  From Portugal’s Vinhos Verde region, and specifically, the Sub-region of Moncao and Melgaco, its the wine you want to have with your favorite dish of Pad Thai, Shrimp Kung Pao, Korean “Candy” Chicken, or Mongolian Ramen.


Made from 100% Alvarinho grapes, this is the go-to wine for the waning days of summer. With its rich fruit flavor and bright minerality, it goes with a variety of summertime dishes, even lending itself to heartier fare, like a whole salmon roasted on the grill and stuffed with hot and sweet peppers and an abundance of oregano and sage. Because of its close affinity to spicy Asian dishes, I decided to take a cultural leap and try one of the New Orleans favorites that I grew up with, Seafood Gumbo. When you think about it, what goes into an Asian stir-fry and a gumbo isn’t all that different. With the exception of building the ‘Roux’, or rich spicy gravy made with the pan drippings, making a Gumbo isn’t that different from building a stir-fry. The blend of sweet and spicy peppers, fresh garden oregano, sage and garlic and onion and a heady seafood broth derived from fresh Gulf Shrimp and Blue Crab from Galveston and, of course, a splash of Alvarinho, made for a dance party in the mouth. Instead of the usual fluffy white rice, I used wild rice, which gave the dish an added nutty flavor that melded just perfectly with the Alvarinho.


This is a finely crafted wine, using both old world and modern techniques to create a truly unique expression of Alvarinho. The wine is harvested by hand and the grapes are pressed gently to extract the concentrated juice. A short pre-fermentation maceration and the juice is off to temperature controlled cold fermentation before being aged in French oak barrels (70%), and stainless steel tanks (30%). The wine is allowed to remain on the lees until bottling. The distinctively shaped green bottle caresses the golden colored wine with flecks of spring green, a hint of the elegance therein.


For a white wine, Santiago Alvarinho Reserva has a lot of backbone. It’s imbued with 14% alcohol, which gives it substantial legs and a hefty mouth feel that is unique for a white wine. The freshness and mineral character and pronounced aromatics derives from its unique micro-terroir along the Minho River. Protected from marine influences of the Atlantic, the wine stands out from others in the region, giving it a distinct expression of the Alvarinho grape. Versatile with all kinds of seafood, chicken, veal, or just a plate of cheese and some nice sausages and cured meats, this is a wine for every mood. If you’re still on self-imposed lockdown with the pandemic, you couldn’t ask for a more pliable companion. Quinta De Santiago, Alvarinho Reserva 2018-$17.59. From Portugal with Love! Visit quintadesantiago.pt for more details.