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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Organic wine & food matching: Tres Sabores Porque No and pasta with giblets & mushrooms

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.

Julie Johnson, winemaker/proprietor of her own Tres Sabores estate, located at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains in the prestigious Rutherford Bench AVA of Napa Valley. Original co-founder of Women for Winesense. Former president of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers). One of Napa Valley’s pioneers of certified organic grape growing (going back 25 years to her former association with Frog’s Leap Vineyards).

What has Johnson not done? Frankly, I can’t say, as she’s already inspired a generation of women and men devoted, as she is, to producing wines that express the “voice” (i.e. terroir) of vineyards; but even more amazingly, without a drop of self-consciousness, and with a ton of levity.

Perfect example: Johnson’s 2006 Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? (about $20). The question, why not?, asked because, to Johnson and her cellar crew, it makes perfect sense to blend some of her certified organic estate grown Zinfandel (dominating this bottling) with invigorating if unconventional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, along with some peppery Petite Sirah, if indeed it all adds up to perfectly delicious, wild, juicy party juice: bursting at the seams with black cherry and purple plum aromas and flavors punctuated by cacao, resiny herb and green chile-like spices, with sticks of cinnamon and cardamom thrown in for good measure.

Yes, there’s more natural flavor stuffed into a finger of ¿Porqué No? than in a gallon of Prego; only, with big, thick, plump red wine (i.e. beneficial alcohol and resveratrol!) flavors, complete with round yet sturdy, viscously textured tannins. How does that song go? Makes me want to shout!

Well, maybe that’s the wine hollering, as I’ve just consumed a bottle along with a dish taken out of Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Café Cookbook: pasta with giblet-mushroom sauce, echoing the invigorating, chewy yet soft, multi-faceted taste of the ¿Porqué No?. An adaption of Rodgers’ recipe:

8 oz. chicken gizzards and hearts (duck or squab pieces also okay)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms (white buttons or a blend of wild)
¾ cup finely diced carrots
¾ cup finely diced celery
¾ cup finely diced yellow onions
1 oz. minced pancetta (or bacon, blanched for 4 minutes)
Salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes (drained to about half their juice)
1 bay leaf
1 dried chili (or few pinches of dried chili flakes)
½ cup full bodied red wine (like Zinfandel or Syrah)
A few leaves of fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
Sugar (optional)
1 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 lb. pasta (spaghetti or wide egg pasta)
Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)

Rinse gizzards and hearts, then press dry between towels. Remove silverskin from gizzards, chop finely along with hearts.

Warm ¼ cup olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add gizzards and cook, stirring continuously, until they turn a little golden at edges (about 5 minutes). Stir in mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and pancetta or bacon. Add few pinches of salt and enough additional oil to coat vegetables. When mixture starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low, cover, and stew for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, chili and red wine. Bring to bare simmer, cover, and cook until bits of giblet go from chewy to tender (another 45 minutes or so). Stir occasionally, scraping bottom with flat edged spatula, and adjust heat as necessary to maintain low simmer. Taste for salt.

Stir in parsley and another splash of olive oil. Uncover and simmer a little longer to concentrate brothy juices. Sauce should be shiny, rich, thick and sweet (if taste is tart or lean, add olive oil; if not slightly sweet, add pinch of sugar).

Cook pasta al dente, drain, and fold into giblet-mushroom sauce. Grate Parmigiano to taste.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Burgundy Road Show comes to Toronto

During the winter months, wine trade tastings become few and far between here in Toronto. I have always operated under the theory that the reasoning for this is because the organizers do not want to have to deal with a coat check as well but, needless to say, when an event invitation floats across our desks, it is always viewed as a nice change of pace from the dreary monotony of winter. Although March 17th is recognized around the world as St. Patrick’s Day, when I saw that the Burgundy Wine Show was coming to town, I knew it would make St Patrick’s Day very interesting. You see, my ancestry is Irish – through and through – so I wear a lot of green and only drink Irish coffee’s that day.

Understanding the French wine system can be very complicated. I still need to check reference books when I talk about it and I first encountered their labeling practices 25 plus years ago. You see, there is a very big difference between how North American wineries label their wines and how European (primarily France) label their wines. Instead of seeing the name of the grape on the label, you see names like “Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru, Abbaye de Morgeot, 2002” or “Beaune 1er Cru, les Epenottes, 2002”. As you can see, none of these names have an actual grape listed – there is no mention of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or Auxerrois. It can be incredibly confusing but it is the way the French label their wines so it is up to us to just try the wines and decide which ones we like.

The focus of this wine tasting was the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region of France. When you look at a map of France, the region of Bourgogne can be located south and slightly east of Paris. It is a fairly spread out region in terms of area covered stretching from the town of Auxerre in the north almost all the way down to Lyon in the south of France. Between these two cities, you find the areas of Chablis and le Grand Auxerrois, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais and there are two wines in particular that the region is VERY well known for – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

For this particular day, they had a line up of twenty two different wines – half white, half red – which they felt represent the different areas and quality levels as set out by the government of France. After tasting all of these amazing and interesting wines, there were four whites and four reds which really stood out and it is those wines that I will discuss here:

WHITE WINES

Blasons de Bourgogne, Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchots, “la Chablisienne” 2005
**** (4 stars out of 5)

One of the first wines we tasted that day. It had an intense and interesting nose – slightly smoky, very powerful and the palate was silky smooth. Just a slight hint of butter indicated a small amount of oak influence but not overpoweringly so. Although the aromas and the flavours were not harmonious in this wine, it was very pleasant nonetheless. This wine was not currently available in Ontario but is available in other markets, including Vancouver, Montreal and stateside.

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Beaune 1er Cru, “Clos des Mouches”, 2005
**** (4 stars out of 5)

This was one of the few wines from the tasting that is generally available through a variety of outlets. You can pick it up at an LCBO in Ontario (check the Vintages section) or you can order it through the importers – Family Wine Merchants in Ontario, Pacific Wine & Spirits in British Columbia. As for the wine itself, have you ever had something to eat or drink that just tasted amazing but you could not explain why? Well, this wine definitely fits that description. There was a slightly smokiness to the aromas but past that, it was just impossible to say what made this wine great. This was just one of those wines you need to seek out and try.

Domain Loron & Fils, Pouilly Fuisse, “les Vieux Murs” 2005
**** ½ (4 ½ stars out of 5)

You know how when you enter a grocery store they have always positioned the fruits and vegetables right there where you enter. Well, imagine those heavenly smells in a glass and you have this wine. This was just a wonderful combination of melon, citrus and stone fruit pouring out of the glass. The flavours were a perfect balance of butter, fruit, cream and spice with just a hint of smoke. It was quite possibly one of the best white wines of the day (or a very close second).

Louis Tramier & Fils, Saint Veran, 2007
**** ¾ (4 ¾ stars out of 5)

I hinted in the above review that it was a very close second to the best wine of the day – this one, in my opinion, has top marks in my books. Keep in mind that this wine needs to be chilled to really shine (possibly slightly over chilled) but it is up front and lively with major citrus flavours, and just a hint of smoke and cream. I normally do not refer to white wines as “Knock You On Your Ass” wines but this is one white wine where you can easily say that.

RED WINES

Domain Charles Allexant & Fils, Beaunne Bressandes 1er Cru, 2006
**** (4 stars out of 5)

While there was this wonderfully delicate floral nose the palate was not at all what a lot of us expected. It was almost as if the tastes were ghosts of their true flavours because although you could detect fruit and earthy undertones they were extremely faint to the point where they almost disappeared. To say the least, this wine was a contradiction of itself and was very, very enjoyable.

Chanson Pere & Fils, Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, 2006
***** (5 stars out of 5)

2006 was a great year for wine from Burgundy and this wine epitomizes that completely. The rich purple colour was unlike anything I had seen all day and the floral and slightly vegetal aromas coming out of the glass were enough to transport you off to France itself. The flavours were fruity and floral and seemed to go on forever and ever. This was definitely one of those wines that you just can not put down and you feel the need to finish every last drop in the glass. It is definitely one of those pricier wines that are only opened for special occasions – in Ontario, it is around $185 a bottle – but if you have the means, it is worth it to have a bottle on hand when celebrating.

Bourgogne Parent, Beaune 1er Cru, “les Epenottes”, 2002
**** (4 stars out of 5)

Given that it is almost seven years since the grapes were picked, this wine is one of those that should be ready to drink now – and it is! A combination of smoke and fruit in both the aromas and the flavours, smooth tannins and a slightly lingering finish makes this one wine that would be great at your next meal.

Domain Taupenot-Merme, Mazoyeres Chambertin, 2006
**** (4 stars out of 5)

Like most of the other wines from this day, this wine had a powerful fruity nose with a slight hint of herbal. That carried through to the flavours where it is still showing signs of medium to strong tannins. Although I only gave this 4 out of 5, I do think that if you are patient two to three years, the tannins will mellow even more and make this a truly remarkable wine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Organic wine & food matching: Quivira Sauvignon Blancs & fresh herbed pastas

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.

“Trying to uncover what a vineyard is trying to say,” says Steven Canter, winemaker of Quivira Vineyards in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, “is like an archeologist brushing away the sand.”

Plucked by Quivira three years ago from the celebrated Torbreck Vintners in Barossa Valley, Australia, Canter is an American who had come to Sonoma in a roundabout way: first inspired by Kermit Lynch’s earthy, terroir driven imports from France, then wandering the world looking for the vinous meaning of life while picking up jobs as a cellarer in California, Oregon, Italy and South Africa.

The Quivira estate would make a particularly interesting Rubik’s Cube for any winemaker, as it sits on the gravelly, well drained yet fertile loam that has long made Dry Creek Valley a quintessential source of California style Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Planted and replanted over a course of fifty years, according to Canter, “we could see what people were doing in the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s, etc.,” and Canter feels that he is just continuing this evolutionary process.

Grape varieties lower in pyrazine (the molecules that contribute the green herbal notes of wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon) were retrained on heads to make a truer, umbrella-like goblet, establishing the dappled-sunlight combination of protection (from sunburn) and exposure Canter likes to see for grapes like Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache. Older sections were pulled out and replanted with three times more plant density. A whole half acre was removed to make room for 500 cubic yards of compost, and no less than 120 raised beds were installed for cover crop seeding, herbs going into Biodynamic® teas, and vegetables to supply a number of local restaurants.


Quivira, in fact, became certified by Demeter USA as a Biodynamic® vineyard in 2005, and as part of this holistic concept, you’ll also find large contingents of chickens and goats doing their part; gobbling up pests and mowing down weeds, around and between the rows of vines, carpeted by rye grass, Austrian winter peas, beans, purple vetch, and (in beautiful bloom during our visit in March) calendula. In respect to Biodynamic preparations, Canter has transitioned Quivira even further; to the point where all the herb and compost teas are produced on-premise (including preparations 500 and 501 – from manure and quartz stuffed cow horns, buried in autumn/winter and spring/summer respectively), as opposed to being purchased from the Josephine Porter Institute in Virginia.

Aside from Zinfandel, Quivira’s piece de resistance has always been one of the freshest, purest Sauvignon Blancs this side of France. In Canter’s hands, the Quivira Sauvignon Blanc has evolved into a slightly crisper, citrus fresh white, with more distinctive bottom notes of minerals and stones in harmony with floral perfumes (the softer quality of the Sémillon grape has been eliminated, as this was one of the first sections of the vineyard to go upon Canter’s arrival). In current release are two lots of Sauvignon Blanc:

2007 Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (about $18) – Fresh pear, green melony aromas tinged with fresh pea and wet stones; flinty dry on the palate, the melon and subtle pea-like flavors finishing with a citrusy snap in a medium sized (not light, not heavy) body.

2007 Quivira Barrel Complete Sauvignon Blanc (about $28) – From the same grapes going into the Fig Tree cuvée, only partially barrel fermented (40%) in new oak (half French white oak, and half Acacia; the latter from a French cooper, absent the strong vanillin flavor white oak contributes to wine); adding up to a moderately scaled dry white with a subtle creaminess and distinctively silkier texture enhancing the floral, melony, citrusy, minerally qualities found in the Fig Tree.

When it comes to food, Quivira Sauvignons make effortless matches in classic dry white contexts. But when I taste these pristinely fresh whites, I cannot help but think of fresh pasta drizzled with fruity green olive oil and a mix of leafy green herbs, emphasizing the organic qualities in the wines. Here’s an interesting concept I found in the archives of KitchenGardener Magazine: setting the table with plain linguine, and allowing guests to choose their garnishes (choices of chopped, Sauvignon Blanc-friendly chives, parsley and fennel, along with shaved Parmigiano).

The only thing I’d add to the pasta table would be the additional choice of Pecorino Romano, since this sheep milk grating cheese connects with dry whites like Quivira’s on two levels: the natural sharpness of the cheese balancing the crisp edge of Sauvignon Blanc, and the pungent earthiness of the cheese playing up the subtle, stony, leafy qualities of the wine the way Chuck Berry plays his guitar (like a’ ringing a bell).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

True or false? (#8)


yes, it's been a long time... but for those of you who are familiar with my "True or False?", this is the first one produced as a varietal... :) - I would love to hear from you.
Thanks, LA
"90 percent of the potential quality lies in the quality of the fruit in the first place. The winemaker’s task is merely to translate this into the finest possible wine. He will not be able to add quality. His role is not to screw it up." - True or False?


Friday, March 20, 2009

The Port Wine and Douro Valley


Hi folks, Oscar Quevedo here. I would like to make a short presentation about the Douro wine region in Portugal and its Port and table Wines.

The Douro valley is located in the northeast of Portugal. It is famous for being the homeland of the Port Wine and it was also the world's first wine region to have a formal demarcation, when in 1756 the royal Portuguese charter decided to protect the production and trade of this valuable product.

Since then, Port Wine production has been growing slowly due to the controlled limit of production to keep high standards of quality. But it has maintained the loyalty of its traditional markets, such as United Kingdom, Holland, Belgium and France and more recently the US. The UK is definitively the most important, not only by the volume acquired, but also by the culture and knowledge British have about Port Wine.

Until some decades ago the dry table wines from Douro were practically unknown, not just abroad but also for the domestic consumers. Portuguese used to prefer wines from Alentejo, Bairrada or Ribatejo. When some producers from Douro came up with really interesting and well made wines, people realized how great wine could be made from the same vines that use to grow grapes for Port. Some small producers left the Port aside and dedicated to the production of dry wine. Very good wines have been made, helping to increase the recognition of the Douro as an interesting region for the production of dry wines.

Thus, while the old and noble Port Wine still delight elders and conquering younger, the Douro table wines are gaining recognition and authority to establish themselves as the bright future of the Douro.

In case you want to know more about the Douro Valley, take a look at Queved0's blog, where we give an inside out view of a Port and Douro Wine producer.

Oscar Quevedo

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Southern Oregon Is the Real Deal

A number of Willamette Valley's most prestigious winemakers -- like Ken Wright (pictured below), Lynn Penner-Ash (left), and Laurent Montalieu -- have been crafting Southern Oregon sourced wines for years.

You may think this has been just for "fun," but au contraire: these vignerons are dead serious about their belief that Southern Oregon is one of the greatest wine regions in the world... especially for Syrah.

To quote Pinot wine god, Ken Wright: Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley Syrah is "more Old World than New World, a delineated Syrah -- graphite, cedar, blueberries, raspberries, and very balanced, never over the top..."

Southern Oregon, in fact, is the real deal. For more details on the terroir and notes on current outstanding releases (Syrahs and Pinot Noirs) from this underrated region, please see this story penned by yours truly for the March 2009 issue of Sommelier Journal, and everything shall be revealed!

WBW #55 - North vs. South: Windsor Oaks and West Cape Howe Unoaked Chardonnays


Our first ever All White Wine Blogging Wednesday and BrixChicks Liza and Janesta pitted the North, represented by '07 Windsor Oaks Unoaked Chardonnay (which I purchased on site at Windsor Oaks) against the '07 West Cape Howe Unwooded Chardonnay .

How did it go? Well, first, we delighted in the easy open (screw top! whoo hoo!) of the Australian offering. First blood drawn goes easily to the Aussies. Once the tops were popped, we took a long look at color. Subjective. The Northern offering was a clear, bright citrine, while the South had a hint more butter in its straw yellow cast. Draw. Yellow is yellow after all and the fragrance in the air bespoke wine that needed drinking! Onto to Aromas. The West Cape Howe was decidedly fruity. We debated on the savoury tropical fruits that best matched the delicious perfumes we fully inhaled. The Russian River Valley was sort of slacking here. Old apples? Green apples? Cellar floor? Whatev. The lure of the Aussie perfume was hard to resist. See? Check. Sniff? Check. Sip? Ha! The good part! Swirling the offerings in the glasses, we thought this would be a slam dunk for the South. Beautiful aromas. Lovely color. What more could we ask for?
Then the taste test: Russian River Valley In The House!!! Flavors of stone fruit and apples and a delightful acidity I knew would excel at the "Pairing with Food" test yet to come. While the Australian offering had lovely fragrance and was a fine sipping wine, the Windsor Oaks flipped the afterburner switch with its food friendly flavors. With salad of romaine lettuce, sugar plum tomatoes, and Maytag Blue cheese dressed with grapeseed-fig balsamic mix, RRV took the prize. With Brussels Sprouts cooked in lardons, both wines did well, but RRV, again, had the needed acidic backbone to pair well. Even the easy-to -pair Polenta-and-parmeggiano went much better with the cooler climate Unoaked Chardo. Don't get us wrong. The West Cape Howe had strong QPR coming in at $17.99 compared to the delicious Windsor Oaks at $29 winery direct. However in the ultimate test, which bottle was emptied first, the Windsor Oaks handily won. We were wringing out the bottle of the Windsor Oaks with two glasses to go on the West Cape Howe. Still, we ended the evening with two empty bottles and a better appreciation for Aussie Chardonnay, our tummies packed with the delicious Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay from Windsor Oaks. North prevails!

In summary, the '07 West Cape Howe had nice fragrance of fruit. The flavors were like dried papayas without the sweetness. Very dry, it had a round, rich mouthfeel and fruity nose. It also had low acidity , which contributed to its being a better sipping wine on its own rather than a food pairing wine. The '07 Windsor Oaks had less overt fruit and better acidic structure which let it make magic with the food pairing. In short, just what you might expect pairing hot climate Australian where blasting heat gave us languid deliciousness and the Northern climes of Sonoma gave us a bright focused wine with pleasant acidity. WINNER: North!

However we felt like we were all winners for getting to try such great offerings. More about the Windsor Oaks here: 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay... You will be hard pressed to find as lovely a spot. And the West Cape Howe here Unwooded Chardonnay. An easy drinking delight.
Janesta and I had a great time comparing these two wines against each other. Thanks for another fun Wine Blogging Wednesday!
Nick Stacy, the representative for West Cape Howe will be at the Jug Shop pouring on 3/21 and Janesta and I plan to be there! See you there! Click here for more details

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cellared in Canada wine - a follow up

About a month and a half ago I created a blog entry (see "Enough is Enough") about the deplorable and unforgivable situation the Government of Canada and the LCBO has created for our 160 wineries currently operating within the borders of Ontario. Just to refresh everyone's memories, here is a definition of Cellared in Canada wine and the issues surrounding this that affect our wineries.

"Cellared in Canada is a term used to designate Canadian wine which is produced with varying quantities of Canadian and foreign bulk wine. Other allowed terms are "Product of Canada" and "Vinted in Canada". In British Columbia, Cellared in Canada wine is produced from 100 percent foreign content (although industry websites make no mention of the practice, which is not regulated by the British Columbia Wine Authority). In Ontario, Cellared in Canada wine is allowed to be produced from a blend of no more than 70 percent foreign-sourced content and a minority percentage of Ontario wine. The only indication of origin is found on the back of the bottle."

The Issues:

1. Only the larger wineries in the province can afford to purchase wines from foreign countries so there is an incredible power differential at play here.

2. The LCBO actively puts Cellared in Canada wine on THE EXACT SAME SHELVES as VQA Ontario wines in the local stores. This creates confusion because when the general public purchases a bottle of wine, they are looking at the price, looking at the name above the shelf and are assuming that the wine is all from Ontario. As the definition indicates above, "the only indication of origin is found on the back of the bottle".

3. Education - This encompasses both the general public and the staff in the local LCBO stores. The average employee in a LCBO store is operating under a major misconception - either "Cellared in Canada" equates to the same thing as VQA Ontario wine (which is required to be made from 100% Ontario grapes) or "Cellared in Canada" wines means the wines contain 70% Ontario grapes, which is actually the amount of maximum foreign content allowed.

So, where do we stand now with this issue? Well, if you do a Google Search for "Cellared in Canada", the second entry in the results is a link to the Boycott "Cellared in Canada" wines group on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119899540133#/group.php?gid=119899540133) and from there you will find over 600 people - with the numbers growing daily - who want to learn more about the issue and who are passionate about the issue. The links section to the group is growing on a weekly basis with links to news articles and websites who are writing about this article. Here is a short list of the current link entries:

St. Catharines Standard
http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1469322

Ottawa Citizen
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/food/When%20Ontario%20wine%20Ontario%20wine/1353504/story.html


Sudbury Star
http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1455062

Jancis Robinson
http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/winenews050928.html


Ottawa Sun
http://www.ottawasun.com/Lifestyle/2008/11/19/7458436-sun.html

So, what can you do to help? A lot of this is about education - when you buy wine, and you are wanting a wine from Ontario, are you actually buying something that was made in Ontario? As I mentioned, the only way to find a "Cellared in Canada" wine is to look at the origin on the back label of a bottle. When you are in an LCBO store, flip the bottle around to the back so that you educate yourself as to where this wine was actually made.

Actually, I challenge you to take it one step further - if you want to buy Ontario wine, DO NOT buy it from the LCBO. Of the 160 wineries currently operating in the province of Ontario, only 31 wineries currently can be found on the shelves of LCBO stores. That equates to less than 20% representation of Ontario wines by the LCBO which means they are not promoting their own industry. This is despite a major marketing campaign entitled "Meet the Makers, Savour the Flavours" - talk about hypocritical.

So, how do you get your hands on Ontario wine without going to the LCBO? Are you aware that EVERY winery in the province is willing to ship wine directly to your front door - or your office? Better yet, spring is definitely right around the corner - we can feel it in the weather this week - so why not take a weekend road trip to the many wineries available throughout the province? If you are in the Greater Toronto Area this coming weekend (March 20th-22nd), why not stop by the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show and visit the booths of the Ontario wineries who will be there to pour their wines? That way, you have a chance to sample some great wines before actually buying a full bottle of it. I am positive that you will find at least one wine from Ontario - which is NOT a Cellared in Canada wine - that you love and will want more of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guided Tasting - Vino 2009 Miami - part 2


This is the second half of our report on the guided tasting experience at Vino 2009 Miami that took place on January 30. We have already talked about the wines we tasted from the regions of Lombardia and Abrusso. Now we will turn our attention to Calabria and Toscana.

Calabria is the region located in southern Italy, in the toe of the boot. Our first wine from the sunny south is Grayasusi 2007 IGT Val di Neto, produced by Ceraudo. Aged four months in barrique and in the bottle for six months, this deep rose colored wine is intensely fruity, with prominent strawberry and spice tones. Ceraudo has been an organic producer since 1992. All stages of wine making take place on the estate, which include stone buildings that have been painstakingly renovated and converted into comfortable apartments for tourists. They also have a restaurant called "Dattilo" - named after the Greek god in mythology. While enjoying lunch, I heard several people remark that this wine was a personal favorite. Next on our asting tray was Puntalice Rosato 2007 DOC Ciro', produced by Senatore Vini. Their vineyards are situated in four main areas of the DOC zone and include 25 hectares under vine. This wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes from Ciro' near Melissa. Puntalice Rosato is the color of rose petals and has a floral nose. Cantine Lavorata produces Rosato 2007 DOC Bivongi. It is a blend of Gaglioppo, Greco Nero and Calabrese grapes. Aged in stainless steel it is rose colored and tastes of strawberry and cherries. The winery was founded in 1958 by Vincenzo Lavorata and is located in Roccella Jonica in the southern part of the Ionian Coast. Our last wine from Calabria, Amanzio 2007,IGT Calabria is produced by Colacino Wines in Marzi. It is 100% Magliocco Canino, aged in stainless steel to bring out the flavors of the terroir. Amanzio has a light fragrance with flavors of fruit and vanilla.

On to Toscana, which is arguably Italy's most famous region and our final region to explore. We will begin with Agostino Petri Riserva 2005 DOCG Chianti Classico produced by Castello di Vicchiomaggio. This intensely ruby, red wine is aged for 24 months in barriques and 12 months in the bottle. You will find fruit and spice on the nose with mature fruit flavors, licorice, chocolate and eucalyptus, followed by a long finish. It is a mix of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Cabernet. Castello di Vicchiomaggio was established in the 5th century, has always produced wine and now boasts a castle, hotel and a winery on the estate. Il Bagatto Rosso 2004, IGT Toscana is produced by Scopone in Montalcino. It is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese and 10% Petit Verdot. This is a wine that showcases the terroir. It has a deep ruby, red color with purple reflections and an intense black berry fragrance. Carpineto produces Carpineto Riserva 2003, DOCG Vino Novile di Montepulciano. It is produced with a minimum 70% Sangiovese and with the balance being made up by Canaiolo and Merlot. Aged 24 months in large Slovanian oak barrels and 12 months in bottles, it has a ruby, red color, intense nose and balanced flavors. Carpineto was founded in 1976 by Giorgio Sacchet and Antonio Zaccheo. Their vineyards are spread over four estates. Our final wine is the venerable Brunello di Montalcino 2003, DOCG produced by Innocenti Livio. By law a wine labeled Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese. The color is a pleasing deep ruby, red with garnet reflections. It smells of wild berries and its naturally high acidity is balanced with tannins and minerality. The Livio estate consists of 5 hectares of vineyard plantings.

So that's it. The end of our journey... or maybe it's just the beginning. Not all of these wines are yet available in the U.S., but most are, so I encourage you to seek them out and do a tasting of your own. Everyone's senses are custom made, so you may have a different impression of the fragrances and flavors of these wines. Let us know what you think by logging into our forum (Barrel Brew Blab) and writing your own tasting notes or review.

-L.W. from the Brew Crew
to view more article from the Brew Crew please go to Barrel and Brew or Barrel and Brew Archives

Monday, March 2, 2009

Organic wine & food matching: Pierre Morey Meursault & coq au vin blanc

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.

For Pierre Morey – the former (and legendary) winemaker of Domaine Leflaive, and proprietor of his own Domaine Pierre Morey in Burgundy, France – farming biodynamically (his vineyards Biodyvin certified since 1997) is a matter of stewardship: turning over vineyards from one generation to another at the peak of health and productivity.

Morey is particularly known for his white wines, with family holdings in Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, the original home, and center of the universe, as far as any producer of Chardonnay is concerned. But if you are drawing the conclusion that these white wines espouse enormous body, power and concentration of Chardonnay character, let me gently say: it is in the expression of the terroir, rather than grape, that the wines of Domaine Morey excel. As eloquently portrayed in this film, entitled Generations In Harmony:


Domaine Pierre Morey: Generations in Harmony from Wilson Daniels on Vimeo.

You may pay, for instance, about $94 (suggested retail) for a bottle of 2006 Pierre Morey Meursault, but what you get is not a wham-bam wine stuffed with “gobs” of sweet Chardonnay sensations, but rather a wine of uncommonly delicate, refined balance and texture; everything according to a moderately weighted scale to express fresh, honeyed apples, notes of mineral, slivers of toasted nuts, and a transparent, silken backdrop of mildly charred oak draped over a foundation of polished, stony dryness.

In other words, a taste of Meursault, not Chardonnay.

Coq au Vin Blanc

Which also happens to whet my appetite for this twist of the classic Burgundian dish – usually made with a red wine, but which we make with a white – that we call coq au vin blanc:

8 pieces chicken thighs (mostly) and legs (or one 5 lb. chicken, cut in serving pieces)
24-30 pearl onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 oz. bacon strips or slab, squared or cubed
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 bottle (750 ml.) white wine (inexpensive Chardonnay will do)
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth

Cut off root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with knife in its place. Bring 2-3 cups water to boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove onions from pot, allow to cool, and peel (onions should slide right out of skin). Set aside.

Blanch bacon briefly in boiling water; drain, and dice or cube. Fry to render fat; remove meat and set aside, and save fat for frying.

Sprinkle chicken pieces on all sides with salt and ground pepper. Place chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1-2 gallon) sealable plastic bag along with flour; shake to coat chicken completely. Remove chicken from bag, and fry in bacon fat, just until crust is crisp. Set chicken pieces aside.

In same pan, add pearl onions to fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, sautéing until lightly brown (approximately 8-10 minutes). Remove onions from pan and set aside. Transfer chicken into a 7-8 quart enameled cast (like Le Creuset) or cast iron Dutch oven.

Add mushrooms to the same 12 inch sauté pan, adding 1 tbsp. butter if needed, and sauté until liquid is released (approximately 5 minutes). Store onions, mushrooms and bacon in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pour off remaining fat and deglaze pan with approximately 1 cup of wine. Pour this into Dutch oven along with chicken stock, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Preheat oven to 325° F.

Place chicken in oven and cook for 2 to 2½ hours, or until chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.

Once chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place in oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a sieve and degrease (discard carrots, celery, thyme, garlic and bay leaf). Return the sauce to a pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3 (depending on how much liquid you began with, this should take 20-45 minutes).

When sauce has thickened, add pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon, and cook another 15 minutes or until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary; remove from heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve from Dutch oven with either long grained white rice or lightly buttered egg noodles; and of course, with a classic white Burgundy such as Meursault.
Note: if sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together, starting with 1 tbsp. each. Whisk this in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, and repeat if necessary.