Friday, October 24, 2014

Bodegas Franco Espanolas is what Rioja Wines Are All About by Philip S. Kampe

                                     2012 Bodegas Franco Espanolas Royal White

                                  2005 Bodegas Franco Espanolas Gran Reserva
                                                     2010 Crianza Rioja

                                                        2008 Reserva

As fate would have it, I received an invitation to attend a ‘Wine Dinner’ at Chez Nous restaurant in Lee, Massachusetts (the Berkshires). The week night event was a welcome change of pace from New York’s hustle and bustle.

Until this fateful day, all, and I mean all, of my intimate wine luncheons or dinners took place in the New York City area. After two-hundred plus events, this was the first invitation I received from the Berkshires.

I was very excited.

Driving to the Berkshires in my old Subaru was as scenic as a New England drive could be. The foliage was peaking, the sun was shining and an evening of wine and food with a French-Spanish theme awaits me.

The wine dinner was sponsored by Bodegas Franco Espanolas, roughly translated into ‘French-Spanish Winery’. The winery dates back to the invasion of Rioja by a group of French wine producers who were looking for new sources for grapes to meet France’s demands. This was the late 1800’s, after phylloxera devastated the French vineyards.

The result of the search for sourcing new grapes ended in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat, a Bordeaux negociant, partnered with winegrowers and investors from Spain to found Bodegas Franco Espanolas. The partnership ended in 1922 when the Spanish owners bought out their French partners.

Today, the winery is owned by Rosa and Carlos Eguizabal. They have turned this company into a well-respected winery that caters to all price ranges.

After entering Chez Nous, I was seated at a large round table—the type that you could interact with all the occupants. At the table, directly across from me, Juan Carlos Llopart, director of Bodegas Franco-Espanoles, talked fondly of the wineries special visitors. Ernest Hemingway comes to mind.  He was a huge fan of our wines. The story goes, according to  Juan Carlos, that Hemingway actually mentioned one of the Bodegas wines, ‘Diamante’, in his book, A Moveable Feast. To me, said Llopart, that is true dedication.
Jim Nejaime, owner of Spirited, a local, popular wine shop in Lenox, Ma., and his wife, Heidi, sat next to me. This was my first visit to the restaurant. Jim explained that the restaurant is owned by two chefs, Franck Tessier, from Brittany and Pastry Chef, Rachel Portnoy. Both moved up the ranks rapidly in the industry, met in 1997, worked together shortly afterwards and the rest is history. They are married and what I was about to learn was that they are both accomplished chefs, who one day deserve a Michelin star.
                                          Part of our table  at Chez Nous
         Director Juan Carlos Llopart explaining Bodegas Franco Espanolas mission
After an introduction from Juan Carlos Llopart and his importer, Mark, from Vision Wines (NJ) about the history of Bodegas Franco Espanolas, the initial wine was served. It was a 2012 Rioja white, aptly named, ‘Royal’ ($13). The dry, appealing wine is made from the Viura grape, one of Spain’s numerous indigenous varieties. The wine was lush, crisp and could have been used not only as a pairing wine, but, as an aperitif, before or after a dinner. It paired perfectly with Patatas Bravas, garlic-roasted fingerling potatoes with aioli.
        Chez Nous and Bodegas Franco Espanolas can turn any event into a 'real party'

I could tell that Chef Tessier is an accomplished chef who instinctively knows how to pair food with wine. The rest of the meal was as perfect of a wine pairing meal as I have ever had. Courses ranged from Spanish seafood stew to paprika marinated organic chicken with saffron rice, peas, olives and thyme juice. 

The wines that went with these and several other dishes that were served during the evening at Chez Nous were big, earthy, rich in flavor, old world style wines with modern concentration levels.

Bruce Beckwith, who sells these wines through MS Walker, says the key element of Bodegas Franco Espanolas wines are balance, concentration and lushness. Bruce went on to say that ‘The wines have created universal appeal worldwide and are known as wonderful food pairing wines’. My first exposure to these wines was through Mr. Beckwith.  

My favorite wines from Bodegas Franco-Espanolas include:
2012 Bodegas Franco-Espanoles Royal Red Rioja ($13)
2009 Crianza Rioja($17)
2008 Reserva Rioja($19)
2005 Gran Reserva Rioja($29)

All in all, it was an interesting and educational evening for all that attended. If you haven’t had a chance to try any of these wines, isn’t it?

Philip S. Kampe

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forget Limoncello in your freezer, Hello Black Fig Vodka by Philip S. Kampe

Growing up in New Orleans has made me a lifelong fan of figs. My parents had several fig trees in the backyard and my task as the only child, was to pick the figs early in the morning, before someone else did.. The reason I picked the figs early was simple, if I didn't the blackbirds would.

Figs ooze a little syrup early in the morning. The fig syrup is a magnet for hungry blackbirds, who survey the neighborhood for fig trees.

Since those early years of my life, figs have played an important role. When I traveled Europe for several years in a VW camper, part of the trip was traveling to the southern parts of Europe and Turkey to find figs. Some were fresh, many were dried. I remember the south of Italy, Sicily, Spain, Yugoslavia (at the time)  and Turkey were fig meccas for me. Dried figs last a lot longer than fresh figs. My preference changed through the years for dried figs.

Upon returning to America, I opened several nut and candy shops--akways carrying dried figs in bulk. There were Turkish figs and California figs. Both sold well.

Today, at wine tasting events, dried figs exist, usually as part of a cheese plate.

My wife's family is from the Isle of Capri. I took a fancy to Limoncello during a visit twenty years ago and have been stocking my freezer with Limoncello ever since. Capri and Sorrento are famous for Limoncello. The reason is that the lemons are football size and taste like no other lemons in the world.

At a recent trade tasting, a gentleman from the Boston area was pouring Fig Vodka next to a guy pouring Limoncello.

I chose to try the Fig Vodka instead of the Limoncello, since it was a new product for me. The fig vodka was aptly named 'Black Fig' vodka. As the glass approached my lips, the aromatics of the figs took over. For a split second I felt like I was eating dried figs. I then sipped the fig vodka and knew that this was the drink for me.

Shortly after leaving the tasting, I went into a local wine shop and bought my first bottle of Black Fig Vodka. I paid a little under forty dollars. When I returned home, I took the Limoncello out of the freezer and inserted the bottle of Black fig Vodka.

It's been two weeks since the purchase of the first bottle. I am ready for bottle number two. For whatever reason, I feel healthy drinking this vodka. Maybe because it is made with calimyrna figs and wheat grain.

At 30% alcohol, I have found my match.

There will always be room for Black Fig Vodka in my freezer.
And hopefully yours?


Philip S. Kampe

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Loveblock' Wines puts Founder Erica Crawford and New Zealand Organics on the Map by Philip S. Kampe

                                                The 'Prudence' has been a working steamboat since 1911

When the invitation arrived, I was certainly intrigued.
We will pick you up with a car service and deliver you to a waiting boat, docked in Greenwich, Ct. The boat is the oldest working steamboat in America.

Shortly afterwards, we will rendezvous with another boat, an oyster harvester and sample freshly caught oysters with the skipper and Erica Crawford, founder of Loveblock wines.

Afterwards, the car service will bring you home.

Having driven or taken subways and buses most of my life made this invitation look more curious than it would to those who live n Manhattan and own no vehicle.

They are used to being chauffeured about.

It wasn't hard to accept the offer.

The big day arrived.

Somehow my journalist, wine and theater critic wife and photographer received an invite, as well.
We joined forces, together, in the backseat, a big, black Mercedes. The driver was wearing a skippers hat.

Maybe its me, but, sitting in the back of a big car with a chauffeur makes me feel any conversation would be heard by not only my wife, but, the driver as well.

I remained quiet during the hour plus ride.

                                  Photos of Erica Crawford, the Prudence, the Oysters and Loveblock wines.
                      Founder Erica Crawford of Loveblock. That's me on the right.
                         Erica Crawford explaining about organics and Loveblocks mission
                                      A 'Happy Wine Journalist'
                                  Crisp, cold, Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc
                        Aquaculturist Jardar Nygard shucking freshly caught oysters
                                A pairing 'Made in Heaven'...oysters and Sauvignon Blanc
                                           Loveblock ' wines
                                    Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2013

We finally arrived at the dock in Greenwich, Ct.. The boat we were meeting, named Prudence, was waiting for us..

We climbed aboard Prudence and was met by our friend who represents some of the best wine producers in the world.  A glass of Loveblock wine was put in our hand.

Our day was set.

Who could complain?

The invitation said, that all attendees will be on ‘An excursion to the oyster flats of Greenwich, Ct, in the waters of Long Island Sound to discover what makes a good oyster and what makes a good wine! Please join Loveblock wines founder, Erica Crawford and Aquaculturist Jardar Nygard for a wine and oyster pairing luncheon aboard the ‘Prudence’, one of only three original Maine Steamboats still on the water today and the oldest working ship in America. Watch first hand as local oysters are harvested and shucked by our expert, taste various kinds, and discover the significance of a vineyard ‘s Terroir and an oyster farms Merrior’.

 As the Prudence pulled away from shore, we learned some facts about oysters. Did you know oysters are sequential hermaphrodites? Newly spawned oysters only need microscopic bits of calcium to start growing their shell. Oysters in the wild attach to old oyster shells. Oysters can live up to 30 years. The lighter the oyster is, the younger it is. The best time to eat oysters is September and October.

Growing up in New Orleans has made me an oyster fan from a very young age.. Even the public schools served oyster po boys on Fridays.  At a young age, I remember my parents ate fresh oysters and drank Sauvignon Blanc.

Unfortunately, they did not live long enough to experience the best Sauvignon Blanc to pair oysters with, New Zealand style, specifically, Loveblock.

Founder of Loveblock, Erica Crawford, an ex-medical scientist  takes organics seriously.  Erica is the wife of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc guru, Kim Crawford.  Maybe it’s a woman’s touch, but, the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc that accompanied the luncheon was easily the best in the market.

It was the true New Zealand style, grapefruit, melons and acidity. What was different about Loveblock is the fact that the wine is fuller bodied and denser, lusher than others in the market.

Erica spoke to the lucky group of invitees on the boat emphasizing that at Loveblock, we have a deeply held belief that we are the custodians of the land. We farm the land and grow grapes in accordance with organic certification standards, sustainable wine growing principles and biodynamic practices .

Loveblock has several distinct vineyards. The ‘Hillside’ is a 180 acre vineyard perched on top of the hills overlooking the Awatere Valley. Erica says that the location is suitable because the wind keeps down the bug population, the northern exposure of the Hillside is the same as southern exposure in Europe. Finally Crawford stresses that the soil is not glacial, but, is made of redwood pass soil which helps with even ripening of the grapes. The huge vineyard primarily produces Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Many other varietals, including Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewurtzraminer, Pinot Blanc  and Tempranillo have been planted, harvested and experimented with.

The ‘Woolshed’ and the ‘Triangle’ are at the bottom of the hill. The soil is typical of the Awatere Valley—stilt over stone. The ‘Woolshed’ devotes its 27 acres to Sauvignon Blanc, while the ‘Triangle’s’ four acres are where the Pinot Gris is planted. Both areas were planted in 2003 and were converted to organics in 2012.

Pinot Noir, from Loveblock’s Central Otago vineyard is an example of a difficult grape that thrives when extra attention, care and patience are part of the scenario. The newly bottled Pinot Noir is a welcome addition to Loveblock’s portfolio, which includes, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurrztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.

Loveblock Vineyards and Erica Crawford have my vote of confidence !!

Philip S. Kampe
photos by Maria Reveley

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spanish Wines Older than Me...1928 to 1982..from Spanish-Wine-Exclusives by Philip S. Kampe

Often words are hard to come by when you have the privilege to sample icon Spanish wines that date back to 1928. Thanks to the generosity of Justin Berlin at Spanish-Wine-Exclusives (, I had the rare opportunity to sample these 'ageless' beauties.

Yes, many of the wines were wines that were considered average when released, but, as time ages the wines, a major transformation takes place, making average wines taste like historic wines.

                                           Justin Berlin pouring a rare old vintage

   The classic line-up, starting with 1928 on the left and ending with 1982 on the right

Words are hard to come by when explaining each,in this rare case, I will not bore you with explanations of each wine. Just think raisins, dates and figs and you will get the picture.


                                               1982 Alfares Rioja Reserve Red

                                        1981 Marquis de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Red

                                         1981 Marques de Caceres Rioja Gran Reserva

                                       1970 Royal Tete de Cuvee Rioja Gran Reserva

                       1964 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva (also, 1970 was poured)

                                    (far left) 1928 Paternina Rioja Gran Reserva   

Philip S. Kampe

Monday, October 6, 2014

SPIRITED--My hometown wine shop, Lenox,Ma., knows what the wine business is about by Philip S. Kampe

We all know that the personality of a wine shop has a lot to do with how you think about and purchase wine. Fortunately, less than five minutes from our house in the beautiful Berkshires lies Spirited, a shop run by wine guru, Jim Nejaime. Jim has a flair for knowing what the customer wants. His staff follows suit.

I have spent hours sampling wines at the weekly complimentary wine tastings (normally on Saturdays) and have brought numerous new clients to the shop to experience what I have experienced. Add a staff that specializes in cheese, salami. local bread and all that goes with wine, beer and spirits to the scenario and you have a shop that is a magnet for those who want to learn about wine.

Vendors from the various distributors show their wares and in fact, teach you about each wine that you sample.

Spirited is like going to wine school, once a week.
As we all know, there is so much to learn and so little time.

If the Berkshires are your destination, visiting Spirited, should be your Saturday afternoon ritual.

There are several other wine shops in the area where one can learn extensively about wine, beer and spirits. Some of my favorites include Kelly's Package Store of Dalton and Nejaime's in both  Lenox and Stockbridge. All three stores have Saturday afternoon tastings, mostly year-round.

I can't wait for Thursday to arrive. There is a weekly complimentary 5-6pm wine and cheese tasting on the mansion patio at Cranwell ( Lenox) through the end of October. Host, Bruce Beckwith, from MS Walker, brings weekly imaginative wines from his extensive portfolio.

The Berkshires is a happening area for wine.

Today's spotlight was  Spirited, located at 444 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, Ma. More local wine shops to follow.
Visit Spirited at:
(413) 448-2274

"I am attending the Wednesday, October 8th wine dinner at Chez Nous in Lee, Ma. Hope to see you there!

Rioja Wine Dinner  
●Oct. 8th,Wednesday Eve, Chez Nous(6pm start) 
 "Chef Franck has crafted a exquisite menu to pair with the exceptional wines from Bodegas Franco Espanolas, including their highly sought after Reserva & Gran Reserva Rioja with special guest speaker Juan Carlos Llopart, Director for Bodegas Franco Espanolas."
Annual OKTOBERFEST Tent Event
 ●Oct. 11th, Saturday (1-4pm)-
- 12 tables Under the Tent featuring the Best Craft Beer, Ciders & Seasonal specialties, with brats, pulled pork & pork cracklings from Red Apple Butchers.

Terlato: Chimney Rock Tasting & Winemaker Dinner
●Oct. 18th, Saturday (In-store
 event,12-4pm) ( Evening Wine Dinner )
In-store tasting of highly acclaimed Napa Valley Cabernets & other great wines presented by Doug Fletcher, VP of Winemaking at Terlato Family Vyds.  (plus Wine Dinner menu details to follow)

Special Pre-Arrival Cellar Tasting featuring
Robert Kacher Selections 
 Oct. 25th, Saturday(3-5pm)-  wines from the Rhone Valley, Chateauneuf du Pape & Burgundy regions in France.

Mark Your Calendars, the House is Open 
 ●Saturdays -November  8th, 15th, 22nd & 29th  (12-4pm) 
In addition to our Spectacular Nov. Wine Sale, we'll host extensive FREE themed tastings with guest pourers highlighting fantastic new wines, artisinal brews & specialty foods for the season.

Holiday Wine Dinner at Alta Restaurant, Lenox 
  December 3rd (Evening) Menu details to follow with wine pairings. 

Champagne & Holiday Tasting
December 6th (12-3pm) Celebrations, gatherings, parties...we'll be sampling sparklers, great wines, spirits & specialty foods to enhance all these occasions.
Vine Connections Cellar Tasting Event
 December 6th (3-5pm) Experience some of the best Argentian & Chilean wine gems imported to the U.S. 

Philip S. Kampe


Sunday, October 5, 2014

CANTI Prosecco D.O.C.and Gianni Martini create 'The Italian Wine Style' by Philip S. Kampe & Maria Reveley

                     Gianni Martini--founder of Canti Prosecco, Italian style in a bottle

Maria Reveley and I had the good fortune to dine with Gianni Martini, President of Frotelli Martini Secondo Luigi S.p.A. (that’s a mouthful) at the trendy and chic Robert De Niro owned Tribeca restaurant, Locanda Verde.

If you don’t know about Gianni Martini, now is the time to learn. Mr. Martini is a charismatic entrepreneur whose ambition and passion strives for wine innovation and penetration of world markets.

Since 2002, Gianni Martini has methodically  expanded his prosecco business.

Canti Prosecco is now sold in over 50 countries worldwide.

Guess where his next target for expansion is? Yes, you are correct. The U.S. of A.

Gianni challenged me as we spoke. He said that, ‘The only beverage that we will drink during our eight course meal will be my Canti Prosecco D.O.C. You will see that it will satisfy each course that you will be served’.

I was up for the challenge.

The menu consisted of sliced prosciutto, salami, mozzarella martinato, arugula, fennel, asiago cheese, marcona almonds, basil pesto, olives, pine nuts, Sunday night ragu with provolone picante, grilled wild brassino with yukon roasted potatoes, escarole, tomatoes, onions, eggplant and prosecco infused strawberry sorbetto.

Each course paired perfectly with Canti  Prosecco.
Mr. Martini won the challenge.

He said ‘We are in the decade of Prosecco. Canti Prosecco has been embraced around the world and we are privileged to now introduce the Italian Wine Style to America in celebration of a deep passion for quality wine, unparalleled taste and beautiful style’. 

The packaging and the design of the elegant Canti box, with its iconic hand-wrapped orange cellophane, conveys the Italian style and image Gianni Martini wants to portray. Once opened and poured, Canti Prosecco, with its small, elegant bubbles represents the Italian spirit of style.

Each mouthful of Canti, made in the Veneto region, exclusively with the Glera grape is full-flavored with hints of apples, pears and vanilla that linger on your palate.  The wine is alive and crisp, and is pleasantly dry with a hint of sweetness. It is well made with the customers palate in mind. The lovely bouquet consists of lemons, stone fruit and pears, creating an intoxicating aroma.

By all standards, it looks like Gianni Martini and his newly released Canti Prosecco D.O.C. will be a big hit in America.
You can have the Italian style that Gianni Martini is known for at a price that is ridiculously low, $13.99 a bottle is the suggested retail price.

It is a small price to pay for elegance, quality and style.

To follow Gianni Martini and Canti, visit their website at:

Philip S. Kampe
Maria Reveley

Ignore the Name and Try this Wine: “B I T C H,” the Wine by Philip S. Kampe

You can’t help noticing the bottle on the shelf. With a pink neck and bold black label emphasizing  the word, “BITCH,” it’s had to ...