Thursday
Sep202012

Tinned Mackerel Curry 

One of my all time favorite dishes growing up was tinned mackerel curry. My parents and grandparents were born and raised in the Fiji Islands where tinned mackerel (or tinned fish as we called it) is an island staple. It comes fully cooked similar to canned tuna or sardines. You can eat it as is but it's really good simply sauteed with onions, garlic and cumin powder for a quick and easy meal. I could always tell my mother was pressed for time or had an especially harrowing day when we had this version of tinned mackerel and rice for dinner. A more elaborate preparation is curried with potatoes as featured in this recipe. When I'm feeling homesick or when I miss my family, I'll whip up a pot of mackerel curry and I'm immediately transported back to my childhood dinner table. This is truly my definition of comfort food. Tinned mackerel is not the easiest thing to find but you can sometimes get it at Asian grocery stores in the canned fish aisle (my sources are Fresh Farms and the Super H Mart in Niles). Mackerel is packed by companies in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries but my favorite brand is 777 or Fiji Ocean from the Fiji Islands. You can find it in California where there are large populations of Fijian-Indians such as the Bay Area, Artesia or Monterey. My mother sends me boxes of tinned mackerel because she knows how much I love it. What can I say? Some people get socks or candy in their care packages, I get canned fish and I couldn't be happier.


1 Tinned Mackerel packed in natural oil (don't get the kind in tomato sauce)
1 cup sliced onions
2 Russet Potatoes (peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes)
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 - 3 inch piece of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 medium tomato (chopped)
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 jalapeno or 2 Serrano chili peppers (or less to suit your taste)
4 tablespoons curry powder (you can make your own)
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (toast & grind whole seeds for best flavor)
Chopped Cilantro for garnish

Place garlic, ginger, salt & chili peppers into a food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Pulse or pound until smooth. Add the curry powder, tumeric, cumin powder and a splash of water and mix into a paste.

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Lower heat to medium and add onions and cook until slightly translucent, approx. 5-7 minutes. Add curry paste and sautee for 1 minute. Add potatoes and chopped tomato and and toss until all coated with the curry paste and cook over medium-high heat for 8 minutes (add small amounts of water if it starts to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan). Lower the heat to medium, add enough water to cover the potatoes and simmer with the lid slightly ajar. In the meantime, drain and clean the mackerel, remove the bones but you can keep the skin. When the potatoes are cooked half way through, add the mackerel to the pot and incorporate into the mixture taking care not to break up the pieces of the fish (this would drive my mother crazy when I did this). Cook potato and fish mixture over low-medium heat without the lid until the liquid has reduced by half (you want a thick sauce and not soup) and potatoes are fully cooked and soft. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over basmati rice or with roti.

Monday
Aug272012

To the Top with Tenzing 

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room

Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon

Where we together weathered many a storm

Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn

By the old wooden stove

Where our hats was hung

Our words were told, our

Songs were sung

Where we longed for nothin’

And were quite satisfied

Talkin’ and a-jokin about the

World outside

                                                                     ~  Dream by Bob Dylan

I had passed the blind tasting and service on my first attempt of the Advanced Level of the Master Sommelier exam, but not the theory. I was proud of what I had accomplished, but sad as well. My friend and fellow candidate Brian Cronin, was still in the ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in San Francisco waiting for his results. Moments later, he appeared, beaming, full of happiness. He had passed everything, as did Ken Fredrickson, with whom he walked, and to whom he introduced me. Understandably, Ken was in the mood to celebrate and suggested dinner at Moose’s, where Master Sommelier William Sherer was in charge of the wine program. Upon arriving, Ken promptly ordered Champagne -- a magnum -- and a few dozen oysters. I sat next to him that evening and learned he worked for Andre Rochat in Las Vegas but grew up in a small town in Idaho riding horses and fishing. He fell in love with food and wine while working with his mentor Steven Geddes at Charlie Trotter both in Chicago and Las Vegas. I liked him right away. We had a lot more in common than just wine and the MS exam. He was the kind of wine professional I’d always strived to be - passionate, dynamic and always wanting to discover more. That evening, some fifteen years ago, was the spark of a lifelong friendship. We kept our promises to stay in touch and have followed each other's accomplishments throughout the years. Ken would go on to work for Wolfgang Puck, open restaurants in Wyoming and Denver, start a winery in Argentina and a distributorship in Nevada. We would both go on to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier exam, I eventually moved to Chicago, Ken following a handful of years later. Forever the entrepreneur with the spirit of an explorer, Ken began a distributor and import company two years ago in Chicago. He named it Tenzing after Tenzing Norgay, the guide who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary to the top of Mt. Everest.

Tenzing is also the Nepali word for balance and equilibrium. Ken’s two partners and our fellow Master Sommeliers, Douglas Marello and Fernando Beteta exemplify these qualities. Fernando Beteta is of Guatemalan descent, speaks five languages, rides a Vespa and is fitted with a clever wit, graceful charm and a certain gravitas typically reserved for the leading men in classic films. I first met Douglas as an examiner during the service portion of his Advanced Exam. He was working at Spring at the time but for some reason, our paths had never crossed until that morning. I knew very little about him but he flashed a smile that lit up the room and I knew I was not only in the presence of a future Master Sommelier but a sincere and genuine soul who would eventually become one of my closest friends.

In weathering the pressures, frustrations, and challenges in our numerous attempts to pass the Master Sommelier exams, we developed a lasting bond. Together we celebrate life and each other’s successes. We rally around each other through the setbacks. I know Ken, Douglas, and Fernando as my band of brothers, my guides to the top. It is because of them that I very much consider the entire crew at Tenzing as part of my family.

Tasting at the Tenzing headquarters

I joined the trio along with Rob Mosher at the Tenzing offices recently for a tasting of wines from their portfolio. Rob has an encyclopedic knowledge of the wines represented by Tenzing and I enjoyed tasting alongside him as he shared interesting details about each of the wines we tasted.

NV Domaine Specht Brut, Cremant d’Alsace, France -- Domaine Specht is a small family estate based in Mittelwihr, a small village of just 1,000 inhabitants. The estate was founded by Alfred Specht in 1955 with 22 acres of vinyeards divided over 40 plots. Pale straw color, notes of fresh green apples, lemon-zest and lime. Moderate+ acidity with a soft mousse. Blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois.

2009 Jean-Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis, France -- David McMillan, owner of Joe Beef in Montreal, calls Brocard his favorite pre-wine wine. Jean-Marc Brocard settled in a village located just to the south-west of Chablis in 1973, shortly after marrying a vigneron’s daughter from St-Bris. Brocard and his assistant wine maker, Oenologist Patrick Piuze pay close attention to the different characteristics of the various vineyards within the estate. The domaine has a mix of their own property and long-term farming contracts, covering 200 hectares. The majority of the production from their own vineyards is labeled under the name of Domaine Sainte-Claire. The vineyards are farmed according to biodynamic principles and different cuvées of Chablis are labeled to the astrological sign at the time of bottling. Jean-Marc’s son Julien (who handles day-to-day operations along with his brother-in-law Frederic Gaugen) was instrumental in adopting biodynamic principles. Pale gold color. Clean nose with notes of chalky minerals, fresh lemon juice and nutty oatmeal. Light-bodied on the palate with moderate+acid, additional mineral notes with flavors of lime zest.

2010 Pascal Janvier Jasnieres, Loire Valley -- Pascal Janvier never planned on becoming a vigneron and instead, he went to school to learn butchery. However, Pascal made a sudden about-face at the age of thirty and decided to study winemaking.  He is now focused on the revival of the small appellation of Jasnières. Pascal, with the help of his wife Dominique, is doing his part to remind everyone what Jasnières is capable of producing some of the best dry Chenin Blanc (Pineau de la Loire) in the world, along with an ability to age. Pale gold color. Classic Chenin aromas of wet straw, yellow apple skin, lanolin and white flowers. Moderate+ acidity on the palate with notes of lemon curd, tart yellow apples, dried honey and a distinct wet stone finish.

2010 Moncontour Sec, Vouvray, Loire Valley --  Moncontour is said to have been built by King Charles VII, on the ruins of a fortification belonging to Guillaume de St. Maure, in order to keep his mistress Agnes Sorel within easy reach. Even Balzac longed to own it, and in his novel ‘La femme de 30 ans” he immortalized Château Moncontour and its wines. Pale gold color, yellow apples, honey and minerals on the nose. Palate is slightly off-dry with moderate+ acidity.

2007 Maison Rijckaert “Les Sarres” Savagnin, Cotes du Jura, France -- The Jura region is located in eastern France between Burgundy and Switzerland. This steep, mountainous area is home to many ancient, indigenous varietals including Poulsard, Trousseau, and Savagnin, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Savagnin is mostly grown in the Jura and Savoie region. Jean Rijckaert is originally from Holland but joined Jean-Marie Guffens-Heynenn at Verget in 1990. He subsequently left to to make his wines, racy and lean styles from the Jura and Maconnais. Aged 22 months in older oak barrels on the lees without racking. Deep golden color, notes of honeysuckle, apricots, peaches and oxidative notes. Manages to remain lively and fresh on the palate.

2010 Jean Foillard Cuvee Corcellete Morgon, France -- Jean and Agnès Foillard took over his father’s domaine in 1980. The majority of these vineyards are planted on the Côte du Py. These granite and schist soils sit on an alluvial fan at the highest point above the town and impart great complexity. Jean along with three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton, soon joined the movement or returning to the old practices of viticulture and vinification and eschewing wines with the bubblegum and banana aromas of so many other Beaujolais available today. Foillard’s Morgons are deep, structured, and complex, with a velvety lushness that are on par with Burgundy. Dark cherry color with magenta rim. Aromas of black cherries, black pepper, violets and earth. Moderate + acid, moderate tannins, sour cherries with a firm and well structured finish.

2010 Domaine Abbatucci Rouge, Cuvee Faustine, Ajaccio, Corsica -- 100% Sciaccarello. General Jean-Charles Abbatucci from Ajaccio was a hero of the French Revolution and comrade in arms of another local hero, Napoleon Bonaparte. Step into a wine bar in Ajaccio and most likely, they’ll pour you a glass of Domaine Abbatucci. The domaine is run by Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a direct descendant of the General who has become a vinous hero in his own right. Jean-Charles employs biodynamic principles to the letter – no matter how far fetched or bizarre the practice. To keep his grapes happy, he’s been known to drive his tractor out to the vineyards and play traditional Corsican songs over loudspeakers for their benefit. Music is also played in the cellar as the wines ferment and age. Light cherry color. Grenache like notes of strawberries, raspberries and dried herbs. Moderate+ tannins on the palate with moderate to moderate + acid. Flavors of rose petals, sour cherries, slight smokiness and pepper. Elegant in style but showing firm tannins.

2009 Dupere Barrera En Caractere, Cotes du Provence Rouge, France -- 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 20% Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Ugni Blanc. There is nothing average about this husband-and-wife team of enologists: Emmanuelle Dupéré and Laurent Barrera did not start their careers in wine.  Emmanuelle was, and still is, a professional singer, and Laurent a geological engineer on the island of Réunion, near Madagascar. They employ organic and biodynamic principles in the vineyard and approach all aspects of winemaking with an intellectual and spiritual approach. Black plum color. Aromas of black plums, leather, animal, tobacco and cloves. Firm structure on the palate, flavors of black fruits, dried herbs and leather. Moderate + tannins, moderate acidity.

2010 Maxime Magnon “Campagnes” Corbieres Rouge, France –- Maxime Magnon relinquished his hereditary rights to vineyards in Burgundy and headed south to Corbieres instead. He farms nine parcels of old vines from abandoned plots and rents his cellar. Most of Maxime’s vineyards are planted on rough terrain with virtually no top soil – just pure rock and brush. His Corbieres Rozeta is particularly unique, from Carignan vineyards dispersed with numerous varietals of older vines that are all fermented together as a field blend. The Campagnes is a single-vineyard of the 100-year old Carignan and represents the most age-worthy wine in his line-up. Red cherry color, aromas of red pears, red apples and cloves. Suprisingly easy to drink with bright red fruit notes and moderate tannins and acidity. Would make for a great pairing for fall dishes.

2009 Peter-Jakob Kuhn, Quarzit, Riesling Trocken, Rheingau -- Peter Jakob represents the eleventh generation of winemakers in the family and quite possibly the best winemaker in the Rheingau. The Kühns organically cultivate 18 hectares of land spread throughout the town of Oestrich applying biodynamic methods. The vineyards are planted on natural south-facing slopes along the Right Bank of the Rhein at an altitude of 70 meters. A member of the VDP, an exclusive organization of the top 200 growers in Germany dedicated to quality production of indigenous variety, Peter Jakob Kühn is at the forefront of winemaking today in Germany. Pale gold color. Aromas of camphor, honey, green apples and minerals. Slight minty component on the palate with high acidity. Spatlese ripeness level, fermented dry.

2010 Robert Weil Tradition, Riesling, Rheingau -- Weingut Robert Weil was founded in 1875 by Dr. Robert Weil who purchased a small vineyard in Kiedrich shortly after leaving his professorial post at the Sorbonne due to the pending Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The estate was purchased by the Japanese drink giant Suntory in 1988. They infused the winery with much needed investment – renovating the historic estate house, modernizing the winery and expanding the vineyard holdings. They have also given director Wilhelm Weil – representing the fourth generation of the estate – the freedom and flexibility to continue Robert Weil’s rein as a leading producer in the Rheingau. Their extensive holdings in the historic Grafenberg vineyard allow Robert Weil to produce intense and age-worthy dessert wines bursting with flavors of honey and spices. Straw-gold color with green hues. Aromas of green apples, honey, peaches and stone fruits in general. Lively, brilliant and juicy on the palate with tangy acidity. Off-dry with moderate+ to high acid.

2011 Max Ferd Richter “Zeppelin” Mulheimer Sonnelay Riesling, Mosel -- The Richters produce a wide range of Rieslings from vineyard holdings in many of the top sites between Brauneberg and Traben-Tarbach. Their best wines come from Juffer and Juffer-Sonnenuhr in Brauneberg, Dompbrost and Himmelreich vineyards in Graach and Sonnenuhr located in Wehlen. Eiswein is produced most years from their Mulheimer Helenenkloster site. Dr. Richter prefers Mosel Rieslings with some natural sweetness but he has also invested in producing wines that are drier in style. Wines from Mülheim are still marketed with the Art Deco Zeppelin label, a reminder of the days when the Zeppelin crossed the Atlantic and passengers relaxed in its luxurious restaurant sipping wines from the Sonnenlay vineyard. The name Sonnenlay expresses the preconditions for successful Riesling viticulture in the Mosel valley: the sunshine (Sonnen) and slate (Lay is old Ger-man for slate). Pale straw color. Aromas of wet stone, peaches, green apples and honey. Slightly off-dry on the palate with quaffable juicy fruit notes.

2010 Maximin Grunhaus Riesling Superior, Abtsberg, Mosel -- Ruwer wines can have as much acidity as Saar wines but they marry it with a more expressive fruit, floral and herbal aromas. The Abtsberg of Maximin Grunhaus represents one of Ruwer’s top sites and is in the sole ownership of the von Schubert family, along with neighboring Herrenberg and Bruderberg sites. The history of the Grunhaus estate dates from 966 when the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I presented the house and vineyards to the Benedictine monastery of St Maximin in Trier. The wines of the Abtsberg were reserved for the Abbot and those of Herrenberg were for the monks while the uninitiated brothers drank wines from the lesser situated Bruderberg. The estate was secularized during the Napoleonic occupation, passing into the von Schubert family’s ownership in 1882. The Art Nouveau label has remained virtually unchanged since 1904. Their wines tend to feature a combination of powerful aromatic intensity and delicate crispness that represents what great German Riesling is all about. Pale straw color with slight green hue. Aromas of crisp green apples, ripe peaches, honey, green herbs, white flowers and minerals. Palate is off-dry, high acidity, light and juicy all at the same time. Sweet-sour tangerine fruit component. This is but a baby and should develop nicely for the next 20+years.

2010 Dr. Loosen Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel -- The Dr. Loosen estate has been in the same family for over 200 years. When Ernst Loosen assumed ownership in 1988, he realized that with ungrafted vines averaging 60 years old in some of Germany’s best-rated vineyards, he had the raw materials to create stunningly intense, world-class wines. Dr. Loosen has recently become well known for its simple yet well-made Dr. L Riesling, labeled without a vineyard designation when in fact the estate’s best and most highly-prized wines are sourced from individual sites such as Urziger Wurzgarten, Bernkasteler Lay, Erdener Pralat & Treppchen, Graacher Himmelreich and Wehlener Sonnenhur, the latter of which has become synonymous with great Rieslings. The Sonnenuhr vineyard gets its name from a sundial that sits high along the rocky slope. It was constructed by Jadocus Prum in 1842. Pale straw color, green/silver hues. Intensely powerful aromas of peaches, mangos, passion fruit and honey. Lively and fresh on the palate with tart green apple acidity (high), off-dry tangy pineapple like sweetness with slately mineral finish. Charming and beautiful.

2010 Wimmer-Czerny Blanc de Noirs, Wagram -- 100% Pinot Noir. The Czerny family has been working this land, about 50 miles west of Vienna on the Danube River, and winery for over 250 years. Hans Czerny, who took over from his father Johann in 1987 and switched to organic production with the 2003 vintage as his first “certified organic” harvest, has embraced biodynamics, earning certification by the Demeter society. Pale gold color, slight nutty aroma (smoked hazelnuts). Crisp acidity, slight toasty finish.

2010 Brandl Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria -- Today, Kamptal is known for being one of Austria's most recognized wine areas with Heiligenstein and Kogelberg as two of its most important sites. The Brandl winery is at the base of the Heiligenstein in Zöbing with Gunther Brandl at the helm. Straw color, slight silver cast. Aromas of white pepper, green apples, lime zest and minerals. Fresh, simple, straightforward and clean on the palate with a slight spritziness.

2009 Leth Riesling Reserve, Felser Weinberge, Wagram -- This family winery is located in Fels, directly on the terraces of the Wagram River. The deep löss soils are excellently suited for Grüner Veltliner, and it is no coincidence that half of the area under vine is planted with this variety. Today, Franz Leth Jr. has reinvented the winery through modernization, dense planting, and a pledge to employ sustainable viticulture. Straw color, silver cast. Aromas of mango skin, tropical fruits and green herbs. Juicy, dry and fresh on the palate with moderate+ acidity, green apples and additional clean tropical fruit notes.

2010 Lagler Neuburger Smaragd, 1000 Eimerberg, Wachau -- The Lagler family has lived on this beautiful estate at Rote Torgasse since 1789. Yet, it was only in the late 1970s that the Laglers decided to go from grape-growing to winemaking. Instead of selling his grapes, Karl Lagler began producing first class, fruit-driven wines. The winery is centered around its 180 year-old cellar which is accompanied by a small hotel, a great starting point for wine travel in the Wachau. Neuburger is a cross between Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner. Pale gold color, aromas of mango nectar, green apples and a slight spicy note. Light bodied but fairly textured with bright juicy spiced mango notes. Big fan of Neuburger!

2008 Movia Ribolla, Brda -- The Movia estate dates back to 1700, passing into the hands of the Kristančič family with a wedding in 1820. The estate extends over 22 hectares of land, about half of which lie on the Italian side of the Goriška Brda (Collio). The estate is currently under the stewardship of Ales Kristancic, who grew up working alongside his father in the vineyards. It is largely under his father's guidance that the winery moved first to organic production and then to full biodynamic production, which they have maintained for nearly 20 years. Ales pursues a historically minded but radical approach to winemaking that includes aging of the whites in 600-liter Slavonian oak casks or traditional Slavonian barriques, leaving them on the lees without stirring for more than two years. Ribolla is one of the oldest indigenous grape varieties in the Friuli region of Italy. The name stems from "ribollire", meaning to re-boil. The Bora wind cooled the cellars before the wine must rich in sugars was able to fully ferment, stopping fermentation, only for the wine to then "re-boil" in the spring. Yellow gold color. Aromas of savory pastry, herbs, hay, honey and dried yellow fruits. Moderate+ acidity, flavors of menthol, nuts and an umami like savoriness.

2004 Movia Veliko Rosso, Brda -- The Veliko Rosso (Rdece in Slovenian) translates to "Big Red" and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Nero. Dark ruby color. Aromas of grilled meat, smoke, bacon and cherry liqueur. Moderate acidity, moderate + grippy tannins with flavors of dried herbs, mushrooms and black cherries.

NV Emilio Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla Sherry, Sanlucar de Barrameda -- Emilio Lustau S.A. was founded in 1896 by Don José Ruiz-Berdejo. In 1940, his son-in-law Don Emilio Lustau Ortega moved the bodega to the Santiago district, in the old quarter of Jerez. The secret of Sherry lies in its aging and combination. It consists of many different wines taken from a variety of barrels, which contain wines of diverse ages. Like Fino, it is a very pale, light and dry style of wine that is heavily influenced by Flor yeast. The Papirusa was aged in American oak casks, in the humid and salty environment of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a small town located on the estuary of the river Guadalquivir. It is bone dry light and fresh, very tangy, clean and crisp with just a hint of saltiness. Tastes like liquefied almonds.

2010 Vina Nora Peitan Albarino, Rias Baixas -- Josephine Perry, an eonologist from Australia, makes Nora from the native Albariño grape using modern wine making technology. The grapes for this wine come from 48 acres of 20-year-old vineyards located in the sub region of Condado Do Tea on the banks of the Miño River. Pale gold color. Aromas of jasmine, green tea, lime zest. Fresh and clean on the palate with moderate + acidity and flavors of tart green apples.

2010 Bodegas Naia, Ducado de Altan Verdejo, Rueda -- Eulogio Calleja, an experienced oenologist with extensive knowledge of the region, is the man in charge of operations here. The grapes for this wine come from 98.8 acres of vineyards, of which 94 acres are 26 years old and 4.8 acres are ungrafted 90-year-old Verdejo vines. All the vineyards are located in the town of La Seca, which is considered by the locals to be the “grand cru” village of Rueda. Pale straw color. Aromas of peppery arugula, sweet purple asparagus, tart green apples and lime zest. Palate is light bodied, high in acid with flavors of lime zest and citrus oil.

2009 Floral de Uncastellum, Ribera del Gallego-Cinco Villas -- Blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha. Black cherry color. Aromas of leather, game, black pepper. Medium bodied, moderate tannins. Ripe black cherry fruit flavors.

2008 Aletta Veraz Garnacha, Campo de Borja -- produced from vines more than 60 years old. Black cherry color. Aromas of black pepper, cherry kirsch liqueur and raspberries. Fleshy, juicy and extracted on the palate. Phenomenal value.

2009 Vinas del Cenit, Venta Mazarron, Tempranillo, Tierra del Vino del Zamorra -- This project is directed by Amy Hopkinson, an enologist from New Zealand. Made from ungrafted Tinta de Toro old vines. Black plum color. Aromas of smoke and bbq. Medium bodied on the palate with snappy sour cherry acidity. Fleshy on the finish.

2008 Venus La Universal, Dido, Montsant -- Venus La Universal is the creation of young and super-talented enologist Sara Pérez. Sara’s father Luis was, along with René Barbier, the driving force behind the emergence of Priorato twenty years ago. Today Sara has joined forces with her husband René Barbier Jr. to form an unbeatable duo with talent and experience, to bring their parents work full circle. The Dido is a blend of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Black plum color. Aromas of ripe black fruits, tobacco, thyme and pepper. Silky and concentrated on the palate with flavors of purple fruits. Fleshy yet juicy texture.

Friday
Aug102012

At the end of the Winebow 

Quite often, it’s the little things that people do that make the biggest impression. Freddy Brown ends his emails with “Peace”. It’s a small gesture yet it represents so much about him. I recently told Freddy that I could never see him working with a wine company if he didn’t truly appreciate and love the selections in his portfolio. For Freddy, it’s not just about selling but rather, he enjoys sharing the stories of the people and history behind the wines. When you enjoy what you do, you’re at peace and it’s only natural for you to want to pay that sentiment forward.

Freddy represents the wines from Winebow, Inc., an importer of premium Italian wines in the United States, and a major importer and distributor of wines, spirits and sake from around the world.

We went through a few selections from the portfolio and here are my notes. It was a very hot afternoon so we focused solely on sparkling and white wines.

NV Zardetto Rose, Veneto, Italy -- Located in the heart of the famous Prosecco territory between Conegliano and Valdobiadene, Zardetto has been making sparkling wines for more than 40 years. Raboso is a red grape variety grown in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. The name is thought to derive from the Italian rabbioso, or angry, presumably in reference to the taster’s reaction to the high acidity and rough tannins that characterize the grape. Light pink in color with  flavors of strawberries. Sweet and cotton candy like on the palate.

NV Meyer Fonne Cremant d'Alsace Brut Extra -- Félix Meyer is the third generation in his family to make wine since his grandfather founded the domaine in the late 19th century. He is considered a rising star in Alsace. Even though he has modernized the winemaking process, Felix still believes in the old way of doing things. He ages his wines on the lees in large, older foudres, as is the customary tradition in Alsace. Blend of 60% Pinot Auxerrois 20% Chardonnay 15% Pinot Blanc
5% Pinot Noir.  Pale green color. Aromas of crisp green apples, lime zest, citrus notes. High percentage of Chardonnay in the blend. Tart and tangy on the palate. Would be good with crispy chicken.

NV Spiropoulos Ode Panos Brut Organic, Mantineia, Greece -- According to Apostolos Spiropoulos, “Mantineia should easily be the Champagne region of Greece. It’s not surprising that the other great sparkling wine, Domaine Tselepos’ Amalia Brut is also a Mantineia [moschofilero].” Made from 100% Moschofilero. Pale straw color. Muscat like floralness in the nose. Cotton candy like quality with sweetness on the finish.

NV Szigeti Gruner Veltliner Brut, Austria -- Modern day Szigeti (pronounced ZIG-it-ee) was born when brothers Norbert and Peter Szigeti returned to their hometown of Gols in 1990 to take over the family business. They make sparkling wines using the traditional method. Aromas of green apple, soft petillant like quality to the mousse, citrus zest and earthy notes.

NV Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut Champagne -- Philipponnat is owned by the Boizel Chanoine Champagne group, run by influential Champagne businessman Bruno Paillard, which also controls the Lanson and Besserat de Bellefon brands. After Paillard acquired the property from French spirits company Marie Brizard, Charles Philipponnat and his family were able to restore control of the house, whose most revered asset is the steeply sloped Clos des Goisses, a south-facing riverbank parcel in Mareuil-sur-Ay that produces some of Champagne’s most boldly structured and longest lived wines. The Royale Reserve is Philipponnat’s entry level NV Brut. Pale gold color. Aromas of toast, roasted nuts, dried caramel and brioche. Palate shows a more oxidative style with flavors of buttery brioche.

NV Fleury Carte Rouge, Champagne -- Fleury was founded by Jean-Sebastien’s great-grandfather in 1895 and is located in the Côtes de Bar, in the south of the Champagne region. In 1929, during the depression, grape prices were so low that Robert Fleury decided to take the then unusual step of bottling his own Champagne. Champagne Fleury’s conversion to biodynamics in 1989 was at the hands of Jean-Sébastien’s father, Jean-Pierre. They were the first in the region to do so. 100% Pinot Noir. Aromas of marzipan and toasted almonds. Nutty but fresh on the palate with a distinct earthiness on the finish. Vibrant acidity.

2010 Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley -- Gerard and Daniel Vinet run the well-known estate of Quilla in the village of La Haie Fouassiere. Domaine de la Quilla is made from an assemblage from their entire property. They also produce a single vineyard Clos de la Houssaie. Pale straw color. Fresh green apple aromas with almonds, honeysuckle and crushed minerals in the nose. Light but softly layered on the palate with notes of almonds and fresh melons. Aged sur lie for 8 months.

2011 Chateau Les Arromans Entre-deux-Mers, France
-– Jean Duffau founded this estate in 1965.  Made from a blend of 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw color with green hues. Aromas of green bell pepper, fresh herbs and lime zest. Fresh, simple and clean on the palate.

2010 FX Barc Complices de Loire Touraine Sauvignon Pointe D'Agrumes, Loire Valley -- Francois-Xavier Barc partnered with winemakers who share his philosophy and passion for wine to create Complices de Loire and to highlight Loire Valley appellations such as Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil, Bourgeuil, Chinon, Saumur-Champigny and Touraine. Pale straw color with green hue. Aromas remind me of NZ Sauvignon Blanc with notes of passion fruit and grapefruit. Fresh, bright and clean on the palate with flavors of lime zest, green herbs and minerals. Moderate+acidity.

2010 Domaine de Reuilly Reuilly, Pierres Plates, Loire Valley
–- When tasting the wines of Denis Jamain, it is clear that the appellation of Reuilly, in the eastern Loire, is experiencing a renaissance, moving far beyond its former status as the “poor man’s Sancerre.” Reuilly is an ancient winemaking village that today has only about 300 acres in vines.  The Pierres Plates is from a specific vineyard with Chablis-like soil full of chalk, fossils and sea shells. This Sauvignon Blanc based wines shows aromas of mango skin, tropical fruit notes with green apples. High acidity with limestone minerality – would be delicious with ceviche or shellfish platters.

2010 Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Titulus, Le Marche Italy -– comes packaged in an emerald green, amphora-shaped bottle. Titulus meaning very simply "title" in Latin remains Fazi Battaglia's most popular wine. This 100% Verdicchio is crafted from fruit grown in a large estate vineyard that is subdivided into 12 distinct parcels based on their elevations and expositions. Pale straw color with green hues. Fairly neutral in the nose but fresh, clean and vibrant on the palate. Quaffable and clean with moderate + acidity.

2011 Gai’A Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini –- Having had an opportunity to visit this winery a few years ago, a soft spot remains in my heart for the wines of Gai’A.  Gai’A is well known for their stunning Assyrtikos. The Gai’A’s Assyrtiko Wild Ferment uses strictly wild yeast that lives naturally on the skin of the grapes and in the vineyard. Once fermentation takes its course, 20% of the wine is aged in a blend of wood (oak, acacia, etc…) and then blended with 80% stainless steel fermented Assyrtiko. Pale gold color. Aromas remind me of Burgundy – yellow apples, hazelnuts, caramel, crushed rocks and vanilla. Slight nuttiness on the palate but still very lively and vibrant with moderate acidity.

2010 Le Pupille Poggio Argentato Maremma IGT, Itay -- Fattoria Le Pupille, located in the Tuscany region of Italy, is a small estate owned by Elisabetta Geppetti. This wine takes its name from the exposure of the vineyards, which face the Argentario promontory. Once an island in the past, it is now connected to the Tuscan coast and forms a rocky, but scenic peninsula that serves as a symbol of the Maremma. Made from a blend of Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw color. Aromas of ruby red grapefruit, mandarin oranges and citrus oil. Slight pithy, bitter quality on the palate with additional grapefruit flavors. Moderate+acidity, crisp and light bodied.

2010 Mastroberardino Sannio Falanghina, Campania, Italy -- Established in the 1750s by winemaker Pietro di Mastro Berardino, Mastroberardino is Campania’s most renowned winery. Located in the town of Altripalda, the Mastroberardino family’s holdings are spread across several parts of Irpinia. Pale gold color. Aromas of banana skin, smoke and yellow apples. Crushed minerals on the palate with moderate+acidity. Would be excellent with a charred crusted pizza and calamari. Distinct smokiness.

2010 Chateau Grand Traverse Whole Cluster Riesling, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan -- Chateau Grand Traverse is a Michigan winery located in the Old Mission Peninsula AVA around Traverse City. The winery was founded by Edward O’Keefe Jr. and is notable for having the first large-scale planting of vitis vinifera in Michigan. Chateau Grand Traverse's primary focus is Riesling grapes, with many of the winemakers in the winery's history descending from prominent German wine-producing families in the Mosel and Pfalz regions. Pale gold color. Petrol in the nose, off-dry on the palate with a light bodied texture. Additional flavors of crisp green apples and limes.

2009 Prager Riesling Federspiel Steinriegl, Wachau, Austria -– Franz Prager, now retired, was a co-founder of the Vinea Wachau association in 1983. His son-in-law, Toni Bodenstein, ushered in a sweeping change at the Prager winery. Bodenstein, a biologist, geologist, historian and, at the time, aspiring winemaker, took an analytical approach and began to identify the effects of different soils and climate conditions on vines. As a result of his work, Prager vinifies Riesling from 8 different vineyards and Gruner from 7. The soil in the Steinriegl vineyard is white silicate marble. Pale gold color. Powerful aromas of tropical fruits, slight flintiness, smoke, bergamot and white flowers. Dry on the palate with moderate+to high acidity, mango skin, honey, green apples and flint.

2011 Rudi Pichler Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, Wachau, Austria –- The Pichler Family has been making wine in the village of Wosendorf since at least the late 19th Century. In the early days, Rudi Pichler was often confused for or overshadowed by the other Pichlers in the area but he has steadily built a reputation for his big powerful wines with concentrated fruit and solid structure. Sourced from selected vineyards in the valley and hillsides throughout the Wachau.  Pale straw color, green hue. Aromas of honey, white pepper, asparagus and lime zest. Dry on the palate with moderate+to high acidity. Lean and racy with limey citrus flavors, crushed minerals and white pepper.

2010 Wieninger Herrenholz Gruner Veltliner, Vienna, Austria -– The Wieninger winery was founded as part of the traditional Viennese heurigen (wine bar) system established in the 18th century. The current owner, Fritz Wieninger, works with classic as well as international varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir). More recently, he has led the revival of varietal field blends (Wiener Gemischter Satz). Fritz is also particularly well known for his red wines. Pale straw color. The sandy vineyard site, Herrenholz is named after the surrounding forest. The soil has a high content of sand and limestone, amounting to low grape yields and slow growth for these thirty year old vines.Aromas of mango skin, flint, citrus oil and peaches. Dry on the palate with notes of spices, white pepper, citrus and moderate+to high acidity.

2011 Wieninger Gemischter Satz, Vienna, Austria –- Gemischter Satz can be made from as many as 13 different varieties at one time, yet here the most significant contributions are made by Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Welschriesling, and Chardonnay.  Hints of spice and floral aromas derive from the small contributions of many other traditional grape varieties in the blend -- Riesling, Rotgipfler, Zierfandler, Sylvaner, Traminer, Neuberger and others. Pale straw color. Aromas of pineapples, vanilla, tropical fruits and peaches. Dry on the palate with juicy vibrant acidity. Flavors of apricots, peaches and white pepper.

2011 Mas des Bressades Blanc, Vin de Pays du Gard, France -- Mas des Bressades is considered by many as the top estate in Costières de Nîmes, located 35 miles southwest of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, on the western side of the Rhône. It is run by Cyril Marès and his lovely wife Natalie Blanc, who owns the adjacent estate, Mas Carlot. This wine is made from roughly 55% Viognier and 45% Roussanne which is aged completely in barrel; 80% new oak and 20% 1 year old. Pale gold color. Aromas of candied ginger, pineapple and nutmeg. Moderate acidity on the palate with brown spices, quince, baked apples, ginger and pears. Would be excellent with roasted root vegetables or Asian dishes.

2010 Clos La Roquete Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, France -- In September 1986, René Laugier wanted to retire but had no successors to take over La Roquette so he sold the domaine to Daniel and Frédéric Brunier of Vieux Telegraphe. The Brunier brothers farm the La Crau plateau, which boasts some of the most challenging vineyard terrain and most pedigreed soils of Châteauneuf. La Roquète’s three largest vineyards are all situated on prime real estate along the Piélong plateau. This is a blend of 35% Clairette
, 30% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 10% Bourboulenc. Pale gold color. Aromas of yellow apple skins, white flowers, lemon curd, toasted chestnut and brioche. Moderate acidity on the palate with a richly layered texture and flavors of crushed minerals. Lots of savory umami flavors.  

2009 Laurent Kraft Vouvray, Loire Valley -- Domaine des Lauriers has belonged to the Kraft family for 7 generations now. Laurent Kraft took over the 3.5-hectare estate in 1992, and now owns 19 hectares, planted on the banks of the Loire River, where Laurent practices sustainable agriculture. 90% of the vines are between 30 and 90 years of age. Pale gold color. Aromas of lime zest, honeysuckle, green apples and straw. Moderate + acidity, dry on the palate with flavors of yellow and green apples.

Thursday
Aug092012

An Afternoon with Novovino 

Prior to starting Novovino Wine Company, Robert was a wine consultant at one of the finest wine shops in Munich, Germany named Feinkost Kafer. He built the original wine program at Park Hyatt's Nomi Restaurant, here in Chicago, which is where I first met him. I remember when he told me he was leaving the floor to start his own distribution company and I was absolutely thrilled for him. The beauty of Robert’s portfolio is that it reads like a wine list and his selections very much reflect a sommelier’s perspective: wines that you’ve discovered and can’t wait to share with your customers. Robert often visits wine regions to seek out what’s new and interesting. He has somehow developed a knack for sweet talking wineries with already precious case productions into allocating a few cases for him to bring to the Chicago market. Needless to say there’s a sommelier camaraderie at work here and I look forward to featuring Robert’s selections at The Boarding House.

I recently visited Robert and his associate, Jillian Dowd, at their offices where we tasted through an extensive array of wines, including an interesting assortment from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.  Here are my notes:

NV La Maison du Cremant Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy -- More than a century of knowledge and experience has made La Maison du Cremant one of the leading producers of Cremant de Bourgogne. Vincent Sauvestre (Chartron et Trebuchet and Domaine Vincent Sauvestre) took over running of the company in 2003. Made from a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Pale gold color. Crisp and clean on the palate with notes of honeysuckle and toast, good value. Moderate + acidity.

NV La Maison du Cremant Cremant de Bourgogne Rose, Burgundy – 100% Pinot Noir. Pale rose pink.  Aromas and flavors of raspberries, strawberries and slight earthiness comes through. Touch of orange rind, brioche and cassis.

2005 Louis Barthelemy Saphir Champagne -- Founded in 1923 as Baudry Lebrun by Russian Princess Baudry, this Epernay hosue was purchased in 2002 by the Chancel Family (owners of Chateau Val Joanis in the Rhone Valley). The names was changed to Louis Barthelemy. The family produces five different cuvees, each named after a precious stone. 96% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Noir. Saphir means “Most gorgeous thing” in ancient Greek. Very youthful style, notes of jasmine, stone fruits and toffee. Moderate + acidity, tart green apple and lemon zest, very fresh and youthful.

NV Louis Barthelemy Rubis Brut Rose Champagne – Blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir (sourced from Grand Cru vineyards in Bouzy). Aged on the lees for 3 years. Brilliant rose color. Aromas of strawberry, watermelon and juicy red fruits. Fresh and vibrant on the palate with flavors of tart red apples.

NV R.H. Coutier Tradition Grand Cru Champagne – Champagne R.H. Coutier has been in the grand cru village of Ambonnay since 1619. In 1946, Rene Coutier’s father became the first to plant Chardonnay in a village that has become well know for its Pinot Noir. Blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  iPale straw color. Aromas of lemon & lime, crisp green apple, slight toast. Crisp and lemony on the palate with laser crisp acidity & toasty richness.

NV Agrapart Blanc de Blancs Les Crus 7 – Located in Avize, Agrapart was founded in 1894 by Arthur Agrapart. The fourth generation of Agraparts – Pascal and his brother Fabrice – took over in 1984 and now control every aspect of their 10-hectare estate by emphasizing natural viticulture and the expression of terroir. The Agraparts’ vineyards are spread over 62 parcels, the majority of which lie in the grand cru villages of Avize, Cramant, Oiry and Oger. The 7 Crus is made from a blend of vineyards in Avize, Oger, Oiry, Cramant, Avenay Val d’Or, Bergeres les Vertus and Mardeuil, which translates int0 70% Grand Cru and 30% Premier Cru fruit. Straw gold color. Notes of green apples, lemon zest, roasted hazelnuts and minerals. On the palate, the flavors are somewhat like charcuterie (mortadella & salumi) with a salty mineral component. Refreshing green apple acidity.

2011 St Urbans-Hof Urban Riesling -- St. Urbans-Hof is named after the patron saint of German winemakers, St. Urban, and Hof (the German word for estate). Located on a hill in Leiwen, it was founded in 1947 by Nik Weis’ grandfather. Fruit was purchased from growers in Mehring where Weis is now a landholder through his wife’s family. Pale straw color with green hues. Off-dry on the palate, green apple, honeysuckle & tropical fruits. Quaffable and juicy with high acidity.

2011 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling QbA – pale straw color with green hues. Roasted pineapples, citrus oil, and smoke. Fresh and well balanced with off-dry sweetenss and additional flavors of apricots and wet stone.

2011 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett – 9.5% alcohol and much richer than you would expect from a Kabinett. 38% Residual sugar. Straw color. Powerful aromas of peach, ripe apple, cream, spice and an underlying toasted caramel note. Sweet on the palate with moderate+acidity, rich and lush texture with notes of smoked peaches.

2011 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Spatlese – Pale gold color. High toned aromas of white flowers, petrol, green apple, lime and peaches. Richly lextured and luscious on the palate. Sweet with moderate+acidity.

2011 St. Urbans-Hof Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Spatlese – Pale gold color. Tropical fruit bomb in the nose with pineapples, mangoes and passion fruit. Rich & luscious on the palate with vibrant acidity, unctuous and sweet but still juicy.

2009 Cave Spring Cellars Chenin Blanc, VQA Niagra Peninsula
-- I visited this winery a couple of years ago on a trip to the Niagra wine region and I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of wines from them, especially the Rieslings. More than three decased ago, the Pennachetti family helped to pioneer the cultivation of noble European varietals on the Niagara Peninsula with the planting of their first Riesling and Chardonnay vines at the Cave Spring Vineyard. Overlooking Lake Ontario, the Beamsville Bench has proven ideal for cool-climate viticulture. The Chenin Blanc originates from a single 1 ha block of 7 year old vines at Cave Spring Vineyard. Pale gold color. Aromas of  mango nectar, passion fruit, crushed minerals and pineapple juice. Off-dry on the palate with a limey mineral component. Excellent pairing for Asian dishes – especially with sweet/sour components.

2011 Brunn Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal -- Weingut Brunn is a small family owned and run winery in the Kamptal region, situated north of the Danube. This is packaged in 1 liters. Pale straw color with green hues. Notes of green apples, white pepper, stone fruits and minerals. Varietally correct Gruner Veltliner in terms of flavor. Light-bodied, crisp with moderate + acidity.

2011 Anne Amie Cuvee A Amrita Oregon
-- Anne Amie is the baby of Robert Pamplin, Philanthropist, Author, Minister, Environmentalist, Educator, and much more. He purchased Chateau Benoit in 1999 in Willamette Valley and hired winemaker Thomas Houseman. They kept one vineyard with Muller Thurgau, and pretty much replanted, grafted and generally changed everything else. Anne Amie would, appropriately, focus on the 3 Pinots. L.I.V.E. and Salmon Safe practices were instituted, and Anne Amie was eventually certified. The Amrita is made from a melanges of white grapes (Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Roussanne, Marsanne, Pinot Auxerrois and Vermentino). Straw color.  Aromas of juicy fruit gum, peaches and apricots. Light bodied and crisp on the palate but finishes dry. Another good match for Asian food.

2011 Kozlovic Malvazija Istra, Croatia -- Istra is the most northern and the largest peninsula on the Croatian Adriatic, bordering Friuli region of Italy. Kozlović family has been making wine in Istra since 1904 and currently has 17 hectares of vineyards, planted 60% with Malvazija grape, 20% Muškat and the rest is Teran, Pinot Noir and few other varietals. Most of the vines are over 40 years old and sustainable viticulture is practiced in their vineyards. Pale gold color. Aromas of tropical fruits, pineapples, white flowers. Crisp, fresh, dry on the palate and easy to drink with pear fruit notes.

2010 Crna Posip, Korkula-Croati
a -- Pošip is a white wine grape that is primarily grown in the Dalmatian region of Croatia on the island of Korčula. The island of Korcula is Dalmatia’s most populous island and is the historic birthplace of the explorer Marco Polo. Pale gold color. Aromas of yellow apple skin, pineapples and spinach. There’s an interesting green, leafy quality to the flavor. Moderate plus acidity.

2010 Pullus Pinot Grigio, Slovenia -- The producer of Pullus, Ptujska Klet is the oldest winery in Slovenia, its underground cellars dating back to 1239. Since Slovenian independence in 1991, the winery has adapted modern practices of international winemaking and now produces premium wines from grapes that are harvested from the terraced vineyards around Ptuj. This Pinot Grigio underwent ML, lees aging and 10% barrique maturation. Deep Sauternes like gold color. Very ripe in the nose with aromas of peaches, apricots, honey and white flowers. Dry, crisp and vibrant on the palate with a medium rich texture that reminds on more of Friulian Pinot Grigio from across the border. 

2008 Pullus Traminer G, Slovenia – Gold color. Fully aromatic tropical nose of pineapples, apricots and honey. Crisp yellow apples on the palate with a fresh and vibrant finish.

2011 Szőke Mátyás, Irsai Oliver, Matra, Hungary -- The Matra wine region, marked by the Matra mountain range, is located approximately 80 km from Budapest and is next to the famous Eger wine region. Mátra is Hungary's second largest wine region and the country's largest exporter of Hungarian wine with approximately 40% of total exports. Szoke Matyas set up his family-owned winery in 1990 in Gyongyostarjan about five kilometers northwest of Gyongyos. The former machinery designer researched market trends and has built his name on fruit forward style reds and whites. In Budapest alone, his wines are served in over 100 restaurants. Irsai Oliver is a Eastern European cross of Pozsony and Pearl of Csaba and is strongly reminiscent of Muscat. It was originally developed as a table grape. Aromas of eucalyptus, geraniums, orange rind and white flowers – like drinking a dry muscat.

2011 Coca I Fito, Jaspi Blanc, Terra Alta, Spain -- The Coca i Fitó brothers (Toni and Miquel) come from a family of farmers from the Alt Penedès, literally growing up in vineyards. They started creating their own singular wines in 2006. Terra Alta – Spanish for “high land” – is the highest DO wine zones in the Spanish Catalonia. As in Tarragona to the east, winemakers are paying serious attention to the formerly maligned Garnacha Blanca grapes. The Jaspi Blanc is made from a blend of 70% Garnacha Blanc and 30% Macabeo. Pale straw color, aromas of white flowers, crushed minerals, green apples and savory herbs. Moderate + acidity, crisp green apples, lemony and vibrant.

2010 Weingut Garlider Sylvaner, Sudtirol, Italy -- Azienda Agricola Garlider is a husband & wife organic farmstead located in a tiny alpine village nestled in the northerly reaches of the Isarco valley, in the bilingual Alto-Adige / South-Tyrol region of Italy. Christian and his father Alois had been selling the estate-grown grapes to the local cooperative cellar for many years before making the decision to vinify the crop on their own in the year 2000.  Pale straw color. Fresh and clean in the nose with aromas of green herbs, lime zest and minerals. Vibrant and crisp on the palate with additional bright lemon notes. Would be a nice pairing for a savory turnover.

2011 Peirson Meyer Sauvignon Blanc Ryan's Vineyard, Napa Valley – From the creators of L’Angevin comes this companion label. Winemaker spent five vintages at Peter Michael Winery as well as two vintages as winemaker for Lewis Cellars. For 20 years, Alan Peirson was designing, building and managing what is now the Peter Michael Winery Estate. Aged in Chardonnay barrels. Aromas of Pina Colada with a nutty pineapple, coconut component. Moderate acidity, creamy lush texture.

2009 Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa – Ataraxia was founded in 2004 by husband and wife team Kevin and Hanli, in parternship with a few friends. The winery is named after the Greek word for a tranquil state of mind, free from worry or preoccupations.  Pale straw color. Aromas of fresh cut grass, green bell peppers, green herbs. Herbaceous, vegetal component with bright moderate+ acidity and a crisp aand clean finish.

2009 Ataraxia Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa – Pale gold color. Reminds me of white Burgundy in the nose. Roasted quince, hazelnuts, crushed minerals and lemon curd. Well-balanced oak on the palate with flavors of vanilla and more lemons and crushed minerals. Moderate+acidity.

2010 Eric Kent “Sangiacomo Green Acres Hill” Chardonnay, Sonoma – Kent Humphrey, his wife Coleen and sister Renee are behind this boutique operation. The feature emerging artists’ work on their labels. This wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, which 40% were new. Pale gold color. Aromas of buttered popcorn, baked apples, baking spices and caramel. Ripe apple fruit notes on the palate with moderate acidity along with additional notes of toast and vanilla.

2011 Chateau Routas Rouviere Rose, Provence
-– Founded in 1992 by Philippe Bieler, the estate was purchased in 2005 by Scottish entrepreneur Sir David Murray, former Chairman of the Glasgow Rangers Football Club.  Day-to-day operations are handled by former Domaine Ott enologist Jean-Louis Bavay and Vineyard Manager Philippe Saraciva. The rose is made from a blend of 55% Cinsault, 23% Syrah, 14% Grenahce and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pale pink color. Juicy and vibrant on the palate with flavors of red berries. Delicious rose with some texture to it.

2009 Routas “Wild Boar” Cabernet Sauvignon, Provence – Named for the boars that roam the forests of the Routas Estate. Black cherry color. Aromas of green bell peppers, black olives and cassis. Distinct herbaceous note on the palate with moderate tannins and moderate acidity.

2011 Rosa del Golfo Rosato, Salento, Italy -- The Calo Estates were founded two centuries ago in Salento area, where Leopoldo Calo owned a small farm producing grapes and olives. In 1963, Rosa del Golfo developed a rose wine from Salento, which soon established such a high reputation it inspired to the company its name accordingly in 1988. Mino Calo was one of the first producers in the Salento, the ’heel’ of Italy’s boot, to believe in the quality potential of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, and his wines were already showing well in the 1980’s. 90%  Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera. Vibrant pink color. Aromas of Frango mint, strawberries and other red berries.

2009 Rosa del Golfo Scaliere, Salento -– In the Salento dialect, Scaliere refers to the person who made the first furrow in a new vineyard. 90% Negroamaro and 10% Aglianico del Vulture. Black plum color with garnet edge. Aromas of raisins, figs, dark plums and animal. Additional funky leathery notes on the palate.

2009 Ayoub Brittan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills -- After a long and careful search to find the best site possible to plant Pinot Noir, Mohamad “Mo” Ayoub found the land he dreamt about nestled in the Dundee Hills. The volcanic jory soils, south-facing slopes and fertile land made it an easy decision to plant four prized acres of vines in 2001. The Ayoub wines were an absolute revelation for me. Stunning, gorgeous and magnificently delicious Pinot Noir! Black cherry color. Mix of exotic spices in the nose along with lavender and roasted beets. Complexity continues on the moderately concentrated palate with more spices, black cherry liqueur and fresh turned earth. Very well balanced structure with so much going on.

2009 Ayoub Estate Pinot Noir –- Not as concentrated as the Brittan Vineyard and more elegant in nature. Flavor spectrum includes cloves, allspice, licorice, red cherries and vanilla. Beautiful wines!

2008 Demetria Cuvee Constantine, Santa Ynez Valley
-– This is the old Andrew Murray property that was purchased by John Zahoudanis in 2005. Blend of 67% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre and 6% Syrah. Black plum color with garnet edge. Aromas of black plums, dried herbs and black pepper. Surprising amount of tannins on the finish as the wine is juicy and silky upfront.

2009 Lindstrom Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District
-– Each year, Lindstrom produces a single, estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon from their four acre, hilltop Nicali Vineyard. Celia Welch (Scarecrow, Corra, D.R. Stephens and Staglin Family Vineyard) is the winemaker. Blackberry color. Aromas of dark berries, cassis, violets, spice and vanilla. Well structured on the palate with blueberry fruit flavors. Dense, rich and chewy with moderate+tannins. Reminds me of Shafer Vineyards.

2008 Culler La Palette, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – After graduating from UC Davis in 1984, Karen Culler started a 6 month internship at Robert Mondavi Winery in their Research Department which turned into two years when Robert Mondavi purchased Vichon Winery. Karen decided to move up the Oakville Grade to Vichon as Assistant Winemaker in 1986 and in 1989, she became Winemaker.  Karen decided to keep her roots in Napa Valley started her own label, Culler Wines, with the harvest of 1997.  She also consults as winemaker to various other wineries in Napa Valley, such as Wolf Family Vineyards, Ladera, Renteria and Rivera. I am a huge fan of Karen Culler’s wines and have been selling her them since 1995. For me, she can do now wrong. La Palette is her Bordeaux inspired blend. Black plum color. Aromas of black cherries, blueberries, cocoa and vanilla. Additional blue fruits on the palate with cassis, firmly structured but soft and elegant. Simply delicious!

Saturday
Aug042012

Eric Solomon Selections 

Selections from European Cellars

As an importer, Eric Solomon is a champion of indigenous varieties and lesser-known appellations with a knack for discovering seriously delicious wines – including many selections where Grenache plays a major role. Eric continues to seek out “the next big thing” and uncover the many treasures that lay hidden in the European landscape. His portfolio of wines is distributed by Maverick here in Chicago and I had an opportunity to taste through a few selections from his book with Mark Lindzy of European Cellars. Founded in 1989, European Cellars is an importer of wines from France, Spain, and Portugal.

2008 Gramona Gran Cuvee Cava -- San Sadurní d’Anoia, the birthplace of Cava, lies in the Alt-Penedès. Jose Raventós of Codorníu introduced método tradicional sparkling winemaking to Spain in 1872. Cava wines require less time on the lees than Champagne: nine months for basic bottlings, fifteen months for reserva, and thirty months for gran reserva.  Bottles of Cava can always be spotted by the mark of a four-pointed star imprinted on the cork. The Batlle Family has been making wines since 1881. Gramona ages all their Cavas for a minimum of 18 months, and an average of 4 years. The Gran Cuvee is Gramona’s entry-level wine and is made from equal parts Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Chardonnay and aged between 24 and 30 months. Pale straw color. Aromas of caramel, green apple, lightly toasted brioche. Moderate+acidity on the palate with tangy green apple, lemon curd and buttered biscuits. High quality for the price and it’s vintage dated.

2010 Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin Chablis Villages
– Benoit is the 14th generation of Droins, whose history as winemakers goes back to at least 1620. Benoit’s father put the domaine on the map but Benoit runs a more sophisticated operation from a large modern winery. In the cellar, Benoit moved away from his father’s preference for new oak and wines such as the village level Chablis are fermented and matured in tank. Benoit may employ the use of oak in select premier and grand cru wines. Pale gold color. Aromas of yellow apples, tangy lemon curd, limestone and oatmeal, fresh and clean on the palate with moderate+acidity and a crushed mineral finish. Perfect wine for a clambake!

2011 Pazo Senorans Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain -- Records indicate the Pazo de Senorans dates back to the 16th century. Now converted into a winery, the mansion is a magnificent example of those ancestral Galician houses built in the countryside.  Marisol Bueno and Javier Mareque bought this estate in 1979, which already had vineyards planted with the Albariño grape variety. Marisol Bueno is the true pioneer and force of this young appellation. Through her work, the DO was created in 1988, quality thresholds were introduced, and the region began to receive wider worldwide recognition. Three production areas make up the Rias Baixas and the largest is the Val do Salnes sub-zone which is where the Albarino grapes for this wine are grown. Located northwest of Pontevedra, this is where the newer styles of Albarino were pioneered. Pure Albarino wines bear the name of the grape and wine designated as Val do Salnes must be a minimum of 70% Albarino. Pale straw color. Aromas of white flowers, peaches, apricots and grapefruit. Moderate+acidity, fresh yellow apple flavors with a slight pithy bitter finish. It would be excellent with a grapefruit and radicchio salad or a shellfish platter.

2010 Rafael Palacios "Louro do Bolo" Valeorras, Spain -- Rafael Palacios began his wine project in Valdeorras in 2004, purchasing mature vineyards of the indigenous Godello variety from older local growers. His previous experience in the area as a consultant had motivated him to try and recuperate the unique sub-zone of the Bibei Valley in the Municipality of O Bolo. Valdeorras (Golden Valley) is the furthest inland of Galicia’s DO Zones and is the most continental in terms of climate – hot summers, longer autumns and colder winters. The nature of the Godello grape has shown itself to be a good performer under these circumstances. This predominately Godello-based wine was named “Louro do Bolo” after the vineyard district that the grapes were sourced from. Pale gold color. Aromas of grilled pineapple, vanilla, nutmeg, lees and menthol. Five months of barrel aging imparts the wine with a Meursault like nuttiness, moderate+acidity on the palate, slight mintiness with a bright, fresh but rich texture. 

2011 Bodegas Mustiguillo "Mestis" Blanco VdT, El Terrerazo, Spain -- This small, charming winery was built on the site of a former stable and has become the star of the Utiel-Requena.  In September of 2010, Bodegas Mustiguillo became Valencia's first winery with the 'Vino de Pago' designation - and one of only eleven in the entire country. Mustiguillo is unique in its quest to “rescue” the indigenous Bobal variety, a grape known primarily for rose production, but when handled carefully, can produce reds of remarkable quality. Now the quest is to rescue another one of the indigenous grapes, Merseguera. Merseguera is planted in Valencia and is a mainstay of the Levant. The best examples have pleasant fruit with a little herbiness on the nose. This is a blend of 70% Merseguera, 25% Malvasia and 5% Viognier. Pale straw color. The Malvasia component really comes through with aromas of geraniums, mix of tropical fruits and interesting floral notes. Moderate+acidity, it’s fresh and clean on the palate.

2011 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc, France
-- On the southern edge of the Rhone Valley near the ancient city of Nimes, the legendary mistral winds of Provence sweep over the vines and out to the Mediterranean Sea. The Latin name for these north-northwest winds is CERCIUS – the defining feature and raison d’etre for partners Michel Gassier, Philippe Cambie and Eric Solomon to launch this new project. Made from a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc from 25 old vines. Pale straw color. Aromas of green apples, yellow apple skin and honey. Moderate + acidity, slight bitterness on palate. Sauvignon Blanc qualities define the overall fresh structure and flavor. Region is very close to the sea and seafood would be an ideal pairing.

2010 Domaine Roche Cotes du Rhone Cairanne
-- Romain Roche (around 30 years old) has inherited the historic 15 ha domaine of his parents. Like many young emerging growers his parents sold all the grapes to the famous negoce. 2009 is his first vintage bottled for his domaine under the watchful tutelage of Philippe Cambie. The vineyards are between 40 and 105 years old with an average age of 60 years. 70%Grenache, 30% Syrah from 60+yr old vines. Red plum color, pink rim. Aromas of black fruits, white pepper and dried Provencale herbs. Clean, fleshy and juicy on the palate. Moderate plus grippy tannins and moderate acidity. Lots of blue fruits on the palate. Cairanne is one of the best Cotes-du-Rhone Villages.

2010 Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras
-- Domaine La Garrigue takes its name from the wild herbe de Provence and ground cover of Provence called Garrigue, a familiar scent often captured in their bottlings.. 80% Grenache 10% Syrah 5% Mourvedre 5% Cinsault from 70+ year old vines. Black plum color, pink rim. Aromas of animal, leather, black fruits and dried herbs. Juicy on the palate with additional notes of animal, game leather, dried herbs and sweaty saddle.

2008 Jimenez-Landi Pielago Mentrida -- José Benavides Jiménez-Landi and Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi were raised among concrete tanks and old press machines. At the age of 27 they both decided to dedicate their lives exclusively to wine, and in 2004 they restored the old winery introducing new technologies and machinery with the single target of producing maximum possible quality, based in respect to environment and tradition. Mentrida is located south west of Madrid in the Castilla La Mancha. Over-strength and tired wines destined for the bulk blending market were traditional in the region but newer winemakers such as Benavides and Landi are helping to turn this image around. 100% Garnacha (Biodynamic). Dark port color. Aromas of black cherries, figs, raisins and ripasso from Italy. Shockingly high in acid on the palate with moderate+grippy tannins, black fruits, cocoa, raspberry liqueur and chocolate covered cherries. This is a very intense and intriguing wine.

2010 Casa Castillo Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain
-- In 1941, Mr. Jose Sanchez-Cerezo acquired the “Propiedad Viticola Casa Castillo” for development of rosemary. In the property was a winery built in 1870 by the French when phylloxera forced them out of their vineyards in France (Jumilla is one of the few places in Spain that successfully resisted the infestation of phylloxera, hence making it an ideal place for this new winery). In 1985, the second generation of the family revived the property with the reconstruction of the vineyard and with the introduction of new varieties. The first wine was launched to the market in 1993. Red plum color, pink rim. Slight funkiness in the nose with aromas of juicy red fruits and spiced figs. Refreshing acidity on the palate, juicy fruit, easy to drink.

2009 Capcanes Costers del Gravet, Montsant -- The name Costers del Gravet translates to “slopes of Gravet,” referring to the sloped vineyards located in Gravet that were selected for this wine. Blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Garnacha, 10% Carinena from 30-60 year old vines. Black plum color, ruby rim. Aromas of mint, menthol, tangy red fruits and crushed minerals. Flavors of red plums, slight leather component, animal and licorice. Moderate acidity, moderate+ grippy tannins. Montsant is located in Tarragona and is often sold as “baby Priorat” since it surrounds that region, producing wines from many of the same grapes and styles. These wines have less pedigree and are considerably more affordable than Priorat.

2007 Izadi Rioja Reserva -- Located in Rioja Alavesa, Izadi aims to produce wines that express the character of the local varieties. The Anton Family founded Izadi in 1987 after years of running vineyards in Villabuena de Alaba. The Antons also own a one star Michelin Restaurant (Zaldiaran) in the hamlet of Vitoria. The word Izadi means Nature. Made from 100% Tempranillo. Red plum color with garnet rim. Aromas of black cherries toasted coconut, dried herbs and American cheese. Moderate acidity on the palate, moderate+tannins, flavors of juicy red fruits.

2011 Gramona Gessami Penedes
-- made from a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc 35% Muscat d’Frontignan 15% Muscat d’Alexandria and 10% Gewürztraminer. Pale straw color. Aromas Juicy Fruit gum, green apples and white flowers. Bone dry on the palate, mango iced tea, moderate+acidity. Very fresh and floral.