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Posts Tagged ‘Dolcetto’

That’s right…your humble little blogger got an article in the June 2012 Issue of Wine Enthusiast! I’ve uploaded a picture for ya but if you’re so inclined, you should go get an issue and then write in to the editors to tell them how my piece was your favorite piece. Because, you know… you love me. The story is all about how there are some really cool winemakers in California using some interesting Italian Varieties. Of course, the story got significantly chopped and there are SO many great winemakers I interviewed and whose wines I sampled that didn’t make it into the piece. For them, I’ll be writing an in-depth roundup of the best of these new and interesting wines – so watch out for that in the next few days. Cheers!

 

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Ah, sweet mother of — well, you know. It feels good to be back in New York. Other than the rather unpleasant experience of going from the 80 degrees t-shirt weather in Los Angeles to the 13 degrees and shivering-in-my-boots reality of an east coast winter, I’m really quite happy to be back. Besides, too much exposure to unadulterated sunshine is not good for you these days, I hear.

Just some gratuitous photos of pretty Mexican food

The twelve days I spent in Los Angeles were a really and truly orgiastic indulgence in good food, excellent wine, old friends, and sunny days. Christmas, of course, being the main event, we went balls-to-the-walls this year with the food and drink component of the holiday. We were not kidding around this year. To start things out, my mom and I headed downtown to a very cool new(ish?) wine shop in Downtown Los Angeles called Buzz Wine Beer Shop. Sticking true to everything I hold dear and profess right here on this little blog, we committed to keeping all of our wine purchases under $25 – from the sparklers to the table wine. And boy, did we nail it. Seriously, if Christmas was an Olympic sport, we’d have gotten solid 10’s across the board- except for maybe an 8.5 from the Russian judge that needs to get laid.

Christmas Wine Damage (from left to right): Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider, Latitude 50N Rose Trocken Sekt, Parigot Blancs de Blanc Cremant de Bourgogne, Chateau de Raousset Fleurie, Valli Unite Diogene Dolcetto, Domaine le Capitaine Vouvray

To start things off, my mom insisted (and I was none to happy to oblige) on a sparkler and after taking a look around, we settled on a NV Parigot Blancs de Blanc Cremant de Bourgogne for $23. Made from 100% Burgundy-bred Chardonnay grapes, I thought this would be an excellent stand-in for the usual Domaine Chandon and boy oh boy did we hit a home run with this one! Imbued with that classic Chardonnay tang, this was an invariably refreshing and dry sparkler, with a streak of minerality and bright fruit to wake up the palate. Rather than pick up two bottles of the same sparkler, however, I wanted to indulge my new-found and swiftly growing love of sparkling Rosé. Combine that with my recent obsession with Austrian wines and there is no way I wasn’t going to go for the Latitude 50N Rose Sekt Trocken at $14.99 a pretty pink bottle. Made from a combination of Dornfelder, Portugeiser, and Pinot Noir this was a really lovely Rosé with a creamy bubble, notes of bright sweet strawberries and a musky hint of earthiness to balance it back out. I practically guzzled the stuff. Elegantly, of course.

For our dinner wines, no one should have been surprised to find a Dolcetto, a Fleurie, and a Vouvray on my table. My unswaying devotion to the former two varieties has been well documented on this blog – both for sipping pleasantly on their own and for their amazing versatility when it comes to food. The Dolcetto we selected, Valli Unite Dolcetto Diogene 2009 ($24.99), is imported by none other than the wonderful Savio Soares  and so I was lucky to have had the chance to taste this earthy, spicy, and dry Dolcetto when I attended their portfolio tasting in the fall. It was a favorite then, and was a hit at the table even with my dad who is a loyal and unwavering orderer of “big, full-bodied but smooth reds.” The Fleurie we selected, Chateau de Raousset Fleurie 2009 ($15.99) was lauded by all who had the chance to taste it before it was duly drained. Elegant and delicate, I delighted in informing our guests that this was the grown-up big sister of the Beaujolais Nouveau we had, in years, past, swilled. The fact that 2009 was a landmark year for Beaujolais, combined with my favorite of all the Beaujolais appelations, the oh-so-pretty Fleurie, and the excellent price point, made this lovely wine a home run.

The Vouvray, Domaine Le Capitaine ($14.99) was an attempt to replace the usual California Chardonnay that has been known to grace our holiday table, and was largely ignored in favor of the reds. However, I made a point of tasting it and was pleased by the gorgeous nose of figs, honey, and a light waft of ginger. On the palate, the taste of sun-ripened pears was followed by the tangy rush of minerality that makes Vouvray one of my favorite whites.

Add in my beyond-gorgeous salted caramel apple pie, the best damned turkey we’ve ever made, and the awesome wines to accompany all of this gorgeous food and I’d say we pretty much kicked Christmas’ ass this year.

Textbook, right?

On such a wine-fueled roll, I had momentum, baby. The next wine of note was a 1993 Bersano Barolo that my dad had been holding on to for, unfortunately, a few years too long. Although we definitely caught it on the way down, there was still that thrilling experience of opening an older bottle of wine – the nose of dried roses and sweet port, the brick-orange color shifting in the glass, the trail of sediment that slid down the belly of the bottle, and the soft but-still-alive flavor of a dying wine.  We followed up all that old wine with some Scotch I’d brought back from my stay in Edinburgh a few years ago, believing, rightly, that every gentleman (and my father being no exception) needs a bottle of nice scotch around. The bottle, Old Ballantruan The Peated Malt, Speyside Glenlivet was purchased when I knew even less than I know now about Scotch (I really botched that opportunity with a 20-year-old’s conviction in the belief that I didn’t like brown liqour. Idiot.) but I was pleasantly surprised by what I knew had to be some good stuff. It was rich, toasty, just a tad sweet, and delightfully smoky with a long and smooth finish.

Fast forward through the days of endless driving, sunshine, and Mexican food to New Years Eve. I was anxious for at least one glass of good stuff on this, the last eve of 2011 and so I insisted on heading to one of my favorite wine bars in the city – Bar Covell in Silverlake. Matthew Kaner is the proprietor of this wonderful little spot and his tastes in wine are impeccable so I knew he’d be pouring something exciting. Sure enough he was offering the usual suspects – from Cava and Prosecco to the real spendy stuff. But he was also offering a Cremant de Alsace and, most delightfully, a Cremant de Limoux Rose that I was eager to sip. But, he also informed me, he had a few bottles of NV Egly-Ouriet Brut “les Vignes de Vrigny” 1er Cru made from 100% Old Vine Pinot Meunier and he was super excited about it. It didn’t take much to convince me that this was what I wanted to sip as I said Sayonara to 2011. My beautiful New Years Eve date and dear friend, Paley, ordered the Cremant de Limoux upon my urging and I settled in with a glass of the Egly-Ouriet, warm and toasty with notes of spiced apple cider and an absurdly fine bubble.

Clockwise from Left: The Egley-Ouriet, my NYE date Paley, The 2008 Sea Smoke "Ten", lying on the cool cement in New Years Day's 80 degree weather, the view from said spot, and the first pairing of 2012

Ever since my dad finally got off the wait list for a yearly allocation of Sea Smoke that just happens to arrive right before the start of the Holiday season, we’ve made a habit of opening a bottle over the holidays – and usually on New Years Eve. This year, we had to postpone our yearly indulgence to New Years Day. That in itself is a reason to avoid a New Years’ Eve hangover, my friends. Combined with the glorious decision to order a bottle of Sea Smoke “Ten” 2008, the fact that we decided to order Chinese take out from my favorite Chinese restaurant in probably the entire world, and you can color me happy. Then factor in the crippling defeat my brother suffered at my hands in our first game of Battle Ship? Color me ecstatic. Oh? How was the wine? Beautiful, decadent, indulgent. I have yet to meet a day in 2012 to rival that very first one.

The 2010 Turley Wine Cellars California "Juvenile" Zinfandel

After only a couple more days of tooling around the city of Angels, it was time for our very last dinner – and the early celebration of my little brother’s 17th birthday.  A cool kid to the extreme, my little brother has a serious palate to boot. No mediocre restaurant would do – no, siree, he wanted some serious eats and so we headed to Tavern in Brentwood, owned and run by the amazing chef, Suzanne Goin. When it came to the wine I was faced with the difficult task of balancing my dad’s desire for a “big, full-bodied red” with my mom’s preference for lighter more delicate reds , a reasonable price tag, and my desire for one last hurrah on my parents’ dime, I was thrilled to see the Turley Wine Cellars’ California “Juvenile” 2010 Zinfandel for $55. Turley Wine Cellars’ Zins are beloved – for their restraint, elegance, and sheer deliciousness. This wine did not disappoint – it was a truly gorgeous wine with nicely restrained rich fruit, a tight but full body, and smooth finish. As pretty as a pearl necklace, it too perfectly puncuated the end of a great trip.

Some beauty shots from my last morning's hike

After a morning hike in the Santa Monica Mountains perfumed by the heady scent of chapperal and wild sage and crowned with views of the glistening Pacific ocean, it was off to my ritual goodbye breakfast at 3Square Bakery and Cafe in Venice, where the Plum Tarts are enough to make me consider staying.

The plum tart at 3Square Cafe + Bakery in Venice. It's probably about 3,500 calories.

Nonetheless, here I am – back in the land of the Brooklyn Brogue and I couldn’t be happier. So here’s to what lays ahead: to a year of good wine, good writing, and good friends! Happy New Year, dear readers, and let’s have some fun.

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Summer is over and fall has begun to settle quietly in. As with all of you, I’m gearing up to hunker down and get back to business (too many prepositions?).

Fall is wonderful; the way the light shifts from the harsh bright sunshine of summer to the soft golden hue of autumn, the chill that creeps in slowly and settles with a pleasant crispness and the scent of dried leaves that whisks away the sour odor of New York’s summer streets.

In the beginning, it may get just as warm as a summer afternoon, but suddenly, a glass of Rosé, though rosy as it always was, isn’t quite as charming. The bright, crisp, and refreshing quaffs of summer, no less delicious, just don’t seem to pair as well with the slight coolness lingering on the edge of the breeze.

It’s a confusing time…you’re not quite ready for the big hearty reds of winter but you’re through flirting with summer’s tipples.  For me, fall belongs to the red wines of Piemonte in Northern Italy.

If you’ve ever heard of Barolo or Barbaresco, you’ve heard about the most famous wines of Piemonte, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know that that’s where they came from.

Barolo and Barbaresco  (made from the Nebbiolo grape) are the only two well known wines out of Italy that are identified by neither their place of origin (like Chianti, for example) nor their grape name (Montepulciano etc.).

Out of this same famed corner of Northern Italy come two less renowned grapes called Dolcetto and Barbera that produce wines by the same name (phew!).

Dolcetto is a grape that literally translates to “little sweet one.” Before you assume that I’m about to sell you on a sweet red wine (and you, like any self-respecting wine drinker, are thinking “Ew! Disgusting! Sweet wine?! Blagh!”) let me assure you that the grape’s name is entirely misleading.

Quite contrary to its name, this grape turns into an absolutely charming wine – dry, juicy, with good fruit and a fair amount of spice.

Dolcetto is the first vine to ripen in Piemonte and is often planted only on the least favorable sites in a vineyard. Many of the region’s most famed winemakers end up planting and producing Dolcetto out of sheer economy – they may have a site that’s unsuitable for Nebbiolo but instead of letting it go to waste, they’ll plant Dolcetto to sell as a simple table wine and offset profits. In the hands of the region’s star producers,  this humble little grape often ends up getting VIP treatment by default. The results have started to gain attention from wine drinkers here in the U.S – popping up in wine shops and on wine lists more and more as people realize the simple pleasures and particular food-friendliness of this little grape.

Barbera is Nebbiolo’s other ugly cousin – regarded with more esteem than poor little Dolcetto but still not as highly as Barbaresco or Barolo. Where Dolcetto is vigorous, Barbera is prodigious – capable of extremely high yields. Barbera also ripens after Dolcetto but still two weeks before Nebbiolo grapes and can thrive on sites still not ideal for Nebbiolo (a very picky grape).

Barbera, however, isn’t as charming straight off the vine as Dolcetto – with high levels of tannin and acidity that must be somehow softened. Until the 1970s this was done through blending with other varietals. Then, French winemakers suggested experimenting with aging the wine in small oak barrels. The oak barrels helped to oxygenate the wine, thus softening it, and also added richness and spice. These Barberas were suddenly structured, soft, and fruity wines that didn’t have to be blended at all! All of a sudden this grape, once only used for blending, became a good wine in its own right and quickly gained appreciation as such.

For fall, there’s nothing better than a glass of Dolcetto or Barbera – so how about a glass of both? Just the other day I was sent a sample of Cascina Degli Ulivi Bellotti Rosso 2010 – a blend of equal parts Dolcetto and Barbera – from my favorite online wine store, Plonk Wine Merchants.


Etty Lewensztain is the girl-crush lady-genius behind Plonk dedicated to bringing delicious, interesting, and affordable wine to anyone with an internet connection. She was just named one of Wine & Spirit Magazine’s 30-under-30 and she is the reason I have tried such weird wines as Plavac (Croatian) and Montsant (Spanish).

Cascina Degli Ulivi Bellotti Rosso 2010 ($18) is from a biodynamic and crazy natural winery in the heart of Piemonte. I swear, I usually don’t pay very much attention to a wine’s color but as I poured this one into my glass the color struck me – it was a gorgeous clear rose-tinted purple.

The nose was all wet leaves and hay and the first sip literally danced on my tongue. Maybe it was bottle shock – and I should have let the wine sit for a day or two longer, but the wine was lightly effervescent! Dark cherries and juicy tannins that sucked more at the tip of my tongue than the back of my mouth rounded out the first taste.

On her website, Etty suggests pairing this particular wine with a Soppressata and Wild Arugula Pizza; Rigatoni with roasted eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and ricotta salata; or Roasted veal chops with gremolata.

I suggest pairing it with these first few days of fall.

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Pinot Noir is a tricky little grape – and to write about the wine, I’d need to have an entire blog solely devoted to it. Pinot Noir is one of those wines that attracts uneasy wine drinkers and connoiseurs alike. For the former it’s a “lighter” red wine that is infinitely more drinkable than a challenging glass of Cabernet or Syrah and for the latter, a good glass of Pinot can be a revelation. However, this blog is for the former, and after so many glasses of Pinot Noir, enough is enough.

Its true that Pinot falls on the lighter end of the spectrum. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have complexity and character – it wouldn’t be one of the most sought-after wines in the world if it didn’t have both of those qualities. Pinot Noirs come in as many styles as there are places it is grown – from California to South Africa and lots of unexpected places in between. Pinot Noir can be a fruit bomb in a glass – an explosion of ripe red fruit that will knock you off your bar stool. It can be delicately floral or funky with hints of mushrooms and earth on the nose. A bad glass of Pinot is either syrupy sweet or so light it goes down like water with just as much of a finish.

All that having been aired out, if you find yourself confronting the fact that maybe just maybe you don’t actually love Pinot Noir as much as you think you’re supposed to the good news is that you have options. There are plenty of wines out there that are still “lighter wines” and easy to drink without all the politics behind Pinot Noir.

Mencia: Spanish

Grown mostly in the northern region of Spain known as “green Spain”, this is a semi-obscure grape that makes a truly delightful little red wine. It’s similar to some Pinot Noir’s in its flavor profile of rich red fruits and nice acidity. These wines, like the best Pinots also have a nice long finish that’s easy-going and smooth.

Try: Benaza Mencia  2009 at $9 a bottle at The Wine Buyer

Plavac: Croatia

Plavac is an ancient grape that is grown widely in Croatia and is rumored to be a distant cousin of the Zinfandel grape. Plavac is a grape that can pack some nice spice and tight structure that holds up a bouquet of strawberries and raspberries. It’s got more grip than your average Pinot but its still firmly in the lighter column. Not to mention its from Croatia which gives it a little bit of that Eastern European romance and intrigue…

Try: Dingac Plavac 2007 at $13 a bottle at Plonk

Dolcetto : Italian

Ah, Dolcetto. This was one of the first wines that I ever drank and thought was simply delicious. It’s the table wine of Piedmont, one of Italy’s most revered wine making regions that also produces Barolo and Barbera. Although the name implies sweetness, Dolcetto is a light and spicy little grape with ripe fruit, silky tannins, Moand a juicy quality that makes it especially amenable to accompanying a meal.

Try: Cascina Degli Ulivi Monferrato Dolcetto “Nibio” 2006 at Astor Wines

* Also, see my post on Beaujolais!




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