Sunday, November 22, 2015
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Rutini's Mariano Di Paola, from Argentina, is one of "The Best 30 Winemakers in the World" by Philip S. Kampe
Its not too often when you share a meal with an unpretentious winemaker, who, according to Decanter, the British publication, is one of the World's Best Winemakers of the Century. Thanks to my new friend, Gabriela, I received an invite to join Mariano Di Paola and his lovely wife, for a luncheon to sample his legendary Rutini Apartado portfolio, consisting of 100% Argentinian Malbec grapes. The vertical tasting began with the Gran Malbec 2013 and ended with the iconic Gran Malbec 2008. The wine journey was a lesson on aging and how one vintage can rarely mimic another.
But, first, let me talk a little bit about the winemaker Mariano Di Paola.
Mariano is one of 15 children in his family. I am sure some of his wine making skills were instilled in him when he was growing up. Maybe its the survival of the fittest or just a stroke of genius in the man, but, whatever the reason, Mariano has the Midas touch when making wine. This belief was recently acknowledged by Decanter magazine, who, put, Marian Di Paola in a select group of the most prominent winemakers in the world.
According to Decanter, Mariano stands out due to his experience and innovation in the wine industry. Mr.Di Paola has headed the winemaking position with Rutini wines in Mendoza, Argentina, since 1994. His winemaking philosophy is based on permanent experimentation and his passion for grape growing and the wine making process.
During the past 21 years at Rutini, Mariano has played a key role in the modernization of Rutini's winemaking facilities. He travels the globe in order to conduct research to learn more about vineyard management. At the luncheon, Mr. Di Paola expressed that he wants to position Rutini as the most prestigious winery in Argentina.
He says, ' I put all my passion for wine in each tannin, each winemaking stage and finally, in each bottle of wine. An outstanding wine is made with great dedication and hard work. I strive to put my heart and soul into each detail of the winemaking process'.
And that is what he has done with the outstanding Rutini Apartado series. 'Apartado' comes from the Spanish verb 'apartar', which means 'that is set apart' or 'set aside' from the rest.
According to Mariano, the composition of the wine varies year to year. He said he chooses the best barrels of the harvest for the Apartado series, so, the wine can represent the true richness of the vineyards in the Uco Valley.
If you can find a bottle of Apartado, you will understand Mariano Di Paolo's conviction to winemaking and the end product. The Gran Malbec 2013 has just been released, according to Mariano. All of the other vintages have been sold out. Apartado wines are worthy of cellar aging( 5-15 years).
Philip S. Kampe
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Christine Hanna just fell into the wine business, due, to her fathers dedication and devotion to farming. Hanna Winery was founded in 1985 by her father, get this, a world renowned cardiac surgeon, who settled into this country from Syria.
His goal was to continue his family heritage of sustainable farming. He wanted to teach his children where the food they ate came from. He wanted his family to understand and know the land and the earth they live on. By living on a working farm, Dr. Elias Hanna believed his family would follow his footsteps from his youth in Syria to his new homeland, America.
In the 1970's, Dr. Elias Hanna's dream came true when he purchased twelve acres of land in the Russian River Valley of California. The land, which came with a dilapidated farmhouse, was their weekend getaway. They farmed the land, grew vegetables, had farm animals, grew grapes, made wine and created a sustainable, working regiment on the property.
As the years progressed, the knowledge of the land and the quality of the produce hit a plateau.
By 1985, the table wine that the family made had developed was now a quality wine that could and would be sold to outsiders. That is when the Hanna Winery story began.
I had the opportunity to spend the better part of an afternoon with Christine Hanna, president of Hanna Winery. We met at Blue Hill at Stone Barns near Tarrytown, New York, where Christine wanted to show me what a working, sustainable farm was all about.
Blue Hill has it all,vegetables, flowers, a farm store, chickens, sheep and a restaurant that serves mainly what grows on the property. The farm is sustainable and mimics the values that Christine's father, Dr. Elias Hanna taught his children.
Christine has prospered from her fathers philosophy and heads the Hanna Winery, which through the years has grown to 250 acres set aside for vineyards, from the 600 acre property. Sustainable farming exists on the properties owned by the winery in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains.
Hanna has evolved into an estate that blends the viticultural diversity of fruit collected from the various properties into one winery. The job to coordinate the grapes into the quality wine that Hanna produces is that of veteran winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe. Christine overseas the operation of the winery, which has grown since 1993,when she took over operations, from 1000 cases to 50,000 today.
In Christines spare time, she has written an essential cookbook, published by Chronicle Books, titled, "The Winemaker Cooks".
Christine explores cooking using locally grown ingredients. The impressive book, with Christine's photo on the cover, exemplifies the philosophy of her father.
One of my favorite and overly simple recipes from Christine Hanna's "The Winemaker Cooks" is her tasty and fun to make "Grilled Eggplant Salad".
1 1/2pounds small eggplants, preferably Japanese, sliced one inch thick
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces baby arugula (4 packed cups)
4 ounces of Feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Light a grill. (I used a grill pan on top of my stove) Brush the eggplant with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the slices over the heat until softened and lightly charred in spots, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into bite size pieces.
In a large bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, arugula, feta cheese and mint; toss gently and serve.
Christine suggested that the perfect pairing for this dish is the Hanna Winery 2014 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($19), a cool climate wine that is crisp, tropical and has the grapefruit-melon surge on your palate. Obviously stainless steel fermentation gives this wine the competitive edge. Sauvignon Blanc counts for half of Hanna's wine sales.
On the other end of the white spectrum is the 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($22). The grapes, like the Sauvignon Blanc, are harvested at night and are delivered to the press in the wee hours of the morning. The result from the cool grapes is a well balanced, wine whose presence contains just the right weight of fruit, acidity and oak. Its rich and creamy flavors favor apple and pear.
Hanna Winery produces one of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon's from the Alexander Valley. The 2013 is a perfect example. At $42 a bottle, the 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec and 5% Merlot blend outshines the competition with its ripeness of dark fruit, specifically, plums, currants, dates and blackcurrants. This wine has happy tannins and will, in time, become silky and velvety at its peak.
The 2013 Bismark Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($44) grapes are grown at the highest vineyard in Sonoma, according to Christine, the views are unmatched, as is the wine. It is made from 76% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes; 19% Malbec, 4% Petitie Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The wine is is overly intense. Dark fruit tattoo their imprint on your palate with inky jam, leather and cocoa.
Hanna wines are distributed through the Terlato Wine Group, whose philosophy is simple,"put quality first". And that is what the Hanna Winery is all about, "quality first through sustainability".
Dr. Elias Hanna taught his daughter well....
Philip S. Kampe
Monday, November 2, 2015
The beautiful Pays d'Oc region of France wraps around the Mediterranean Sea like a glove. The climate and windswept soils create ideal growing conditions for the 56 grape varieties that thrive in this region. Diversity exists. 50% of the wines are red, 30%, rose and 20% white. Known varietals are used, which make the understanding of varietals on labels an easy task.
Pays d'Oc pleases #Winelovers in numerous ways. Mainly, price and quality and a guarantee of the trace-ability of its wines. The winemakers offer their wines under recognized European quality standards, known as PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). This standard recognizes the relationship between the land and the aromatic quality of the grape varieties.
In fact, 100% of Pays d'Oc IGP wines are tasted by a committee of wine experts, in order to be certified.
The international varietals used in the wines are easily identifiable.
Red grapes used consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre and Pinot Noir.
Roses are made from Cinsault, Syrah Rose and Grenache. More roses are produced in Pays d'Oc than Provence.
The white varieties used are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat Sec and Vermentino.
The winemakers in Pays d'Oc have close to total freedom to make wine as they wish. That is quite unique in a country that has deep rooted rules in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Reims. Unlike those regions, which focus on specific requirements, such as barrel aging, percentage of grapes used in blends, amount of time in bottles, etc., these winemakers from Pays d'Oc IGP. master creativity in wine making on their own.
That is what makes Pays d'Oc unique. Add diversity, variety, quality and price to the formula and you have a region that makes wines specifically in the winemakers style.
The U.S.market is relatively new for the wines of Pays d'Oc, hence this 'Pays d'Oc IGP Wine Week promotion. It is a way to sample what Pays d'Oc IGP has to offer.
Twenty-five restaurants are participating in this event and each restaurant will carry a variety of wines from the region. The promotion takes place from November 2nd, through Sunday, November 8th.
For a complete list of restaurants, with contact information, visit: wwwpaysdocigpwineweek.com
The restaurants, by name are:
A.O.C. Laile ou la Cuisse
Bread and Tulips
Eugene and Company--Brooklyn
Peque Vino y Tapas
Provence en Boite--Brooklyn
VBar St. Marks
VBar & Cafe
Remember, Pays d'Oc creates wines that break the French tradition because the IGP wines offer a new generation of winemakers who focus on diversity of varietals at accessible prices. The wines are food wines that have an endless appeal to your palate, whether it is an aperitif, a food pairing or just a wine to drink on its own.
I have several favorites from the region. If the restaurant you visit offers any of the following wines, make sure that you try them, or just buy them on your own.
Gris Blanc 2014 Gerard Bertrand
La Mazet Blanc 2014 Domaine de Nizas
B&G Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Barton & Guestier
La Rousse Malbec 2014 Pierrick Harang
Figure Libre Cabernet Franc 2011 Domaine Gayda
Blanc de Brau 2014 Domaine de Brau
Villa Blanche Syrah 2014 Calmel & Joseph
Philip S. Kampe
Sunday, November 1, 2015
I must confess that during the past month that I had and still have a problem loading recent photos of the events I capture online. So, for awhile, a rather long time, I have laid off the blogging aspect of my life and followed the Twitter and Facebook side, with hopes of fixing the no new photo problem. Plus, I thought I had a medical issue,which eventually turned out to be nothing.
A friend of mine, a plastic surgeon, talked to me at music concert (Arlo Guthrie) and noted that there was something strange on my face and I better go to an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist to get it checked out. She thought it was a salivary gland tumor. Since my palate is my life, I thought I better get it checked out immediately. I did.
The ENT specialist from NYU (New York University) examined me and disagreed with the plastic surgeons prognosis, but said, to make your friend happy, why not get an MRI with contrast.
The following week, I had my MRI, only to discover that it was just a false scare.
That brings me to this week, where I had the honor, again, of judging the Sommelier Slam competition at the International Chefs Congress, which took place at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Only one of the ten entrants of the Sommelier Slam competition will be crowned as the winner. Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer,was the master of ceremonies and the go-to guy at the sixth annual Sommelier Slam.
There were ten contestants who qualified for the finals.
Andrea Morris of Jean George, New York City
Ashley Broshious of Arkenstone Vineyards on Howell Mountain, Napa,Ca.
Nicholas Daddona of Boston Harbor Hotel, Boston, Ma.
Michael Dolinski of Junoon Restaurant of New York City
Todd Lippman of Bistro du Midi of Boston, Ma.
Jordan Egan of The NoMad of New York City
Steven McDonald of Pappas Brothers Steakhouse of Houston, Texas
Winn Robertson of Bourbon Steak of Washington, D.C.
Michael Duffy of Bowery Meat Company, New York City
Daniel Toral of 50 Eggs, Miami, Fl.
The competition kicked off with sommeliers answering rapid fire questions from Fred Dexheimer, MS. The somm with the first correct answer received two points, while the other somms with correct answers received one point. Those who didn't get correct answers, of course, received no score. The competition consisted of fifteen obscure, nerdy-type questions. Sommelier Sara Moll kept tabs of the scores in round one. The idea was to find out the wine knowledge of the contestants. After a brief break, round two of day one began
Part two of Day 1 began as Chef Evan Hennessey of Stages at One Washington (New Hampshire) prepares a dish for the sommeliers to pair. In this case, the dish had oysters in it, a sorta stew that was buttery and quite out of the ordinary. The goal was for the somms to pair a wine, sparkling wine, beer or cider that goes with the dish and then sell the judges, mostly all sommeliers, on the pairing. The five judges that displayed the ability to sell and scored well in the wine knowledge exam advanced to round two, day two of the competition.
Those who advanced were Andrea Morris, Nicholas Daddona, Micharl Dolinski, Michael Duffy and Daniel Toral.
The competition began with four contestants, as Michael Dolinski was a no-show. Rather than reduce the field to three contestants after the first round of day 2, it was agreed that all four somms would battle it out to the end of the competition. The remaining four somms were given a blind tasting and were asked random wine trivia. Scores were tallied on the results as Chef Joseph Duenconsejo of Wassail, NYC, prepared veggie only dishes for the contestants to pair and then sell to the audience. Competition was fierce for bragging rights as Somm Slam winner.
After all of the votes were tallied, Daniel Toral emerged victorious and winner of New Yorks 6th Sommelier Slam. Besides bragging rights, Daniel won an IPad courtesy of Uptown Networks, an LX GE undercounter glasswasher, courtesy of Hobart and a Nespresso coffee machine courtesy of Nespresso.
As for next year and the 7th Sommelier Slam, the competition is open to wine professionals including sommeliers and beverage directors. Selection is determined by StarChefs and will be based on work experience, pairing philosophy and examples of specific wine pairings.
Philip S. Kampe