Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pairing Food and Wine on Snooth

With how busy this year has been, I just realized that I never introduced one of my newest projects with Snooth Media. As of the beginning of this year, I moved on from being a Snooth contributor, to now being a full fledge freelance writer with a regular column on food and wine pairings as well as inclusion in Snooth’s new digital magazine. It’s been a good run and it just keeps on getting better.

This has been a great opportunity for me, to both expand my contacts and have access to a lot more wine to taste. As a result, I’m able to bring my readers an expanded selection of reviews with each update. And there’s even more to come. With an entire year of assignments ahead of me, you can expect to see food and wine pairing articles on pairing Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Spanish and Portuguese wines and a big project on Northern Italian reds.

Below, I’ve listed a number of articles that have already been published this year. As for The V.I.P. Table, nothing has changed; you can expect me to continue delivering my take on the world of wine. If there’s anything you’d like to see or a way you think I can improve this site, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks again, and enjoy.

Pairing Riesling

I find it funny that Riesling is always hailed as one of the greatest (if the not the greatest) white wine varieties and yet so few people have it in their cellars or use it at the dinner table. Honestly, it’s a shame. The fact is, Riesling is one of the best food-combining wines. Not just because of its mouthwatering acidity or intense fruit, but because it comes in so many varying degrees of sweetness that you can almost always find a Riesling that will go with your meal... Click here to read more!

Pairing Rose

The wine world is suddenly catching on; there’s nothing wrong with drinking rosé. In my time, I’ve heard people talk down rosé more than any other style of wine. Why? Some will say it was the rise of White Zinfandel that forever left a mark on rosé. People looked at a pink, sparkling glass and thought of grandma’s sweet summer wine or the cheap headache-inducing stuff they were poured at a wedding. Honestly, I don’t think this is the only reason. I believe that in some regions (especially New World), rosé has been the red-headed stepchild of many winemakers. Recently, we are seeing a significant rise in quality across the board... Click here to read more!

Pairing Sauvignon Blanc

Spring is here with summer around the corner, and although I will miss the big, structured red wines that I love so much, this time of year has me longing for Sauvignon Blanc... Click here to read more!

Pairing with Grenache

I often think of Grenache as an easy pleaser. If I’m on the way out the door to go to a party or need to pull that bottle for a friend who has asked for something that’s sure to impress, I almost always go with Grenache. Why? Because the majority of Grenache is fun to drink and easy to understand... Click here to read more!

Pairing Meritage and Bordeaux style wines

For many people, wine appreciation, collecting and drinking begins and ends with Bordeaux. You may not even realize it, but it is primarily two grapes that make up the lion's share of the Bordeaux blend, namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with Cabernet Franc trailing as a close third. When dining at the average restaurant that serves wine by the glass, chances are there will always be a Cabernet Sauvignon, and there will likely be a Merlot on the list as well... Click here to read more!

Pairing White Rhone Wines With Food

When most people think of the Northern Rhône, they don't think of white wine. It's really no surprise that Viognier (one of the principal white grapes of the region) had nearly gone extinct only fifty years ago, with just eight acres planted across the entire region. Now, Viognier, as well as Marsanne and Roussanne, have spread across the world. Viognier, being the most popular of these varietals, has found success in South America, Australia, California and even Virginia. Frankly, we're lucky to have Viognier in our arsenal of food-friendly wines because its versatility allows it to pair well with some of the more difficult wine-pairing cuisines around the world... Click here to read more!

Sangiovese Food and Wine Pairings

Sangiovese is easily one of my favorite wines to pair with food. It’s versatile, with many different interpretations that open up numerous opportunities for pairings. I would place Sangiovese in my top five food-friendly wines, with many examples simply needing food to shine. I can’t tell you how many times the comment, “this needs food,” has been made when discussing Chianti, Brunello or Vino Nobile... Click here to read more!

Pairing Syrah From Around The World

Whether it is classic reds from the Northern-Rhône, rich and powerful Aussie Shiraz or the dark and sultry Californian expression of the Rhone Rangers, Syrah is the underdog that slowly continues to gain ground. The interesting Syrah identity crisis is the only thing holding it back from worldwide renown. For example, the average person doesn’t know that Syrah is the grape behind Crozes Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie and the alias “Shiraz” has become more synonymous with Australia than an actual grape varietal... Click here to read more!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1999 Barolo and Barbaresco: Right on Track

One of the most common discussions among Barolo drinkers are which vintages from the 1995 through 2001 vintage streak will rise to the top. It’s a debate that has been going on for years, and for quite some time, ’99 seemed to be a big question mark--until recently.

A recent experience with a '99 Aldo
Conterno Colonnello, truly peaked
my interest in revisiting these wines.
This time last year, I would have worried about opening a ’99 Barolo. It was a fear that it would be too broad yet too tannic and far from maturity. I’d say you should be drinking ’95, most ‘97’s, and some ’98’s. I would have gone on to say that ’96 was more structured but classic with fruit that would last the test of time. Then I’d explain that ’01 was still a baby in need of more time, but that it appeared to be a great vintage in the making. But with ’99, I had feared that it wouldn’t come around while the fruit was still intact. However, Barolo has a way of surprising you, and ’99 has done just that.

1999 had a great start, being a year that saw favorable conditions throughout the entire region. A warm summer with cool nights lent the grapes that much needed push and pull of heat to ripen, and a break at night retained balance and added aromatics. Maybe I was at a disadvantage, having never tasted these upon release. For me, most of these bottles were at least seven or eight years old before my first taste and may have been in a dormant stage. However, after this tasting, I can see that they are right on track.

Most of these wines are just entering their drinking window. I wouldn’t put them in the same league as ’96 for ageability, yet I would say there’s at least a decade of improvement in store for the majority of wines we tasted. What was troubling was the number of bottles that appeared to be suffering from unusually high amounts of volatile acidity. Lastly, there was the revelation that our wine of the night wasn’t a Barolo—It was a Barbaresco.

In my opinion, ’99 is a vintage to sample over the coming years--and buy, if the price and provenance is right.

On to the notes:

La Morra and Barolo

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate / Le Coste – The nose was highly expressive with black cherry and raspberry fruits, followed by soil, slate dust and earthy minerals with a hint of V.A. On the palate, it was silky with a full body, showing rich red fruits, sweet spice and saline minerals. It’s structure seemed to creep in with the second sip as drying tannin coated the palate, yet still managed to close with flavors of cherry and wild herbs. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio – On the nose, I found cherry fruit with oak influences of sawdust, cinnamon with an odd note of raw beef. On the palate, it was soft and juicy with sweet red fruits, coffee notes and spice. The finish was staying with red fruit, cinnamon spice, inner floral notes and cheek-puckering tannin. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Brezza Barolo Cannubi – The ’99 Brezza Cannubi was a gorgeous Barolo with crushed red berries, roses, mineral dust, and tobacco on the nose. On the palate, it was elegant and finessed with ripe cherry fruit and minerals, which turned darker and more dramatic over time to reveal sweet balsamic notes. The finish showed red berries made tart by cheek-puckering tannin. This wine was youthful, with many years of development ahead of it. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


1999 Produttori del Barbaresco “Torre” – The ’99 Barbaresco “Torre” from Produttorri del Barbaresco makes a serious case for the quality of their normale. The nose showed cherry fruit, dried roses and earth tones of soil, a bit of green stem and raw chestnut. On the palate, a rush of intense red berry fruit was followed by earth and mushroom with a chewy texture that gave way to tannin. The finish showed dried red berries with gruff tannin that was fine on this night but may one day overpower the fruit in this wine. (90 points) Find in on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Produttori del Barbaresco Moccagatta Riserva – The Produttori Moccagatta was classic in every way, and having tasted it blind, was easily confused for being a Barolo. The nose started out muted, but with a short time in the glass, a bouquet of dried cherry, potpourri, menthol and dark, dark chocolate filled the senses. On the palate, intense tart cherry washed across the senses with notes of cedar but was quickly subdued by fine tannin. Penetrating red fruits stayed through the finish in good balance against this wine’s tense structure. The Moccagatta was dark, mysterious and truly seductive on the nose with a truly classic feel on the palate. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – The nose showed spiced red fruits, cherry pipe smoke and notes of acetone. On the palate, it showed an abundance of aggressive acidity with ripe red berries that coated the palate yet seemed to drop off in the middle. The finish was drying with penetrating red fruits. It would appear that this bottle was flawed. (NR) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Monforte d’Alba (Important to note that the ’99 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello was tasted separatly but with similar treatment before tasting.)

1999 Attilio Ghisolfi Barolo Bricco Visette – The nose was unexpectedly advanced, showing damp soil with cherry, herbs, floral rose and minerals. On the palate, it was soft with ripe cherry and hints of iron like minerals. Stern tannins showed through on the finish with notes of cherry and cedar staying through the close. (87 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello – The nose was dark and seductive with cherry tobacco, plum, dusty potpourri a hint of musk and medicinal herbs. On the palate, it was velvety and perfectly balanced with masses of fruit. Sour cherry sauce and a hint of cedar filled the senses and warded off the silky tannins that were still present but not out front. On the finish, the fruit turned dry yet still intense with hints of sweet spices. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! 

Castiglione Falletto

1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed sweet dark cherries and roses with spice and licorice. On the palate it was balanced and feminine with ripe cherry and spices, all driven by juicy acidity that brightened up the palate and nearly masked its underlying structure. The finish was fresh and juicy with inner floral notes lingering throughout. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


1999 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva – The nose was restrained, yet found its center with time in the glass, showing a bouquet of bright spiced cherry, tobacco, sandy soil and saline minerals. On the palate, it was lean in body, showing notes of dried cherry, earth and mushroom with teaming acidity and a broad structure that took control and lasted throughout the finish. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Schiavenza Barolo Riserva – The nose showed intense cherry but was followed by sweet acetone and plastic notes. On the palate, it showed tart cherry, minerals and rust with drying tannin that dominated the finish. This wine was marked by V.A. (NR) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Defense of Orange Wine

Orange Wines. Some call them retro, allowing a perfectly fine bunch of white wine grapes to be crushed and fermented, even aged, on the skins. Some go as far as aging them in clay amphorae (large oval-shaped concreate vats), which are buried in the ground where the wine completes its maturation; a throwback to aceint Roman times. Most are organic and some are bio-dynamic. In the end, they are different from what most people preceive wine to be, and maybe that’s the problem.

A friend recently told me a story about how he went into a wine store and asked for an orange wine. To which the clerk replied, “We only sell wines made from grapes.”

Clay Amphorae 
It's sad to think that such an interesting category of wine, which has gained footing in regions well outside its home of Italy, is often forgotten or simply unknown. I recall one of my own experiences, while looking for a new orange wine, In which I went to a wine shop that I consider to be on the cutting edge, and with a respectable selection of Italian wine, only to find that the salespeople had never heard of orange style wines. Drat, foiled again…

It was with this in mind that I thought it was time that I address the topic of orange wine, and so a tasting was planned and e-mails were sent to the usual cronies--but no one was interested. How could this be? Yet I refused to be stopped, and so I bypassed all the rest of my usual lists of wine collectors, lovers and drinkers (the who's who of wine dining in N.Y.C.). Instead, I decided to pick and choose, inviting people who I thought were open-minded enough and eager to explore. It took some doing, but the result was one of the most enjoyable tastings that I have ever hosted. It was a mix of people from tastings going back years, and it was glorious.

So how were the wines? They were spellbinding with wild aromas and verve that are seldom found elsewhere. Each one teetered on the edge of what wine is now compared to what it may have been centuries ago. With each sniff you encounter a set of seductive aromas that would challenge the senses and incite wild fascination. What's more, they each opened up a world of exciting food pairings and combinations that I had never thought possible. Imagine a Pinot Grigio with the body and tannin to handle a steak, and you've just crossed a bridge that you never thought existed, and what if that Pinot Grigio was worth the price of admission on the aromatics alone? That's orange wine.

As for the top wines of the night, northern Italy (orange wine’s place of origin) came out on top, yet nearly all the bottles performed well, and as I tried to place them into order of my favorites, it became very difficult to choose which wine was better than the one before.

On to the notes:

2006 Cotar Malvazija – The nose showed dried apricot and peaches with sweet spice, brown sugar and dried flowers. On the palate, it was medium-bodied and balanced with more dried apricot and inner floral notes that lasted well into the finish joined by saline minerals. Although this wine changed the least with time in the glass, it was enjoyable from start to finish. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2009 Chardakhi Chinuri (Iago’s Wine) – The nose reminded me of sunshine on a summer day with yellow spring florals, peppermint and stems. On the palate, it was gruff and continued the peppermint theme along with flower petals and young pit fruit. The finish was short yet clean and fresh. (87 points)

2011 Channing Daughter’s Ramato – The nose was intoxicating and ever-changing, like a floral perfume that draws you in with aromas of peach, ginger preserves, danylion, brown sugar, honey and herbal tea leaves. On the palate, it showed brisk acidity with inner floral notes, minerals and dried apricot, yet it lost some of its momentum toward the close and finished clean and weightless. (88 points) The Channing Daughter's website!

2006 San Fereolo Coste di Riavolo – The nose showed sweet peach tarlet and a hint of lime pith yet with a savory note of minerals and veloute sauce. On the palate, it was full and juicy with zesty acidity, showing dried pineapple and sweet spices. There was a lush character to this wine that gave it an elegant feel, which was likely the result of excellent balance contrasting its higher-than-average alcohol. (88 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2007 La Stoppa Ageno Emilia – The nose showed lush ripe apricot, spicy florals and potpourri with a dark and soothing character that drew me in. On the palate, it showed an initial burst of acidity and almost fizante style, yet it settled with time in the glass and revealed a juciy mix of bitter citrus pith, dried orange, and inner floral notes that lasted through the long finish. My first few sips of this wine decieved me, with time it blossomed to show it’s hidden beauty. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2005 Vodopivec Vitoska Classica – The nose was dark and inviting, showing pate sucree (sweet dough) and whole butter, but not from oak, followed by peach preserves and a dusting of confectioners sugar. On the palate, it was smooth as silk and balanced with flavors of nectarine, dried pit fruits and minerals. The finish was long and lush, as dried fruits and inner floral notes slowly faded from the palate. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2004 Gravner Anfora Ribbola Gialla – After three hours in decanter, the nose remained muted yet gave hints of what might lurk below. For a moment I would get nectarine, and the next second it was gone. Dried flowers and honey graham cracker were sometimes present but never for long. On the palate, it was beautifully balanced and rich, yet again, backward with dried fruits and sweet spice, but nothing stuck out The finish was long with saline minerals and roasted nuts, or as I began to call it, hard grating cheeses. Some say it needed more time, and that may be so, so I will reserve judgement until I can taste it again. (N/R) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2005 Radikon Jakot – The nose was enticing and with each sniff, seemed to change and evolve as sweet exotic spices, roasted nuts and dried apricot filled the senses. On the palate, it was full-bodied yet lively with zesty acidity ushering in flavors of tart pit fruits, orange preserves, flower petals and earthy minerals. The finish was long, clinging to the palate. I absolutly loved this wine and wish I had hours to spend admiring its evolution as it unfurled in the glass. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!