I know I’m on to something good when a wine stands out among nearly 45,000 wines at a monstrous wine fair. That’s what happened at VinItaly this year when I tasted at the booth of the Chianti Rufina producer, Selvapiana, with Frederico Masseti, the managing director of the estate. The single vineyard Bucerchiale Riserva got my immediate attention. Everything about the wine wowed me, but then, every wine Mr. Masseti showed that day was a winner – including the 1968 Chianti Riserva. This 45 year old Chianti produced from 100% Sangiovese grown on schist, limestone and clay at high altitude was unbelievably vigorous for its age. It was light in color, but still had beautiful aromas of dried berries and spice, with a memorable finish. It was a real homage to the Bucerchiale vineyard that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and completely giving the resulting wine complexity and nuance rarely accomplished in this sub-zone. Recent vintages of Bucerchiale have been extraordinary primarily due to the privileged vineyard site, but also because most of the vines are now approaching 50 years in age. Old vines, limestone, clay, schist and high altitude come together in a way that sets the Bucerchiale apart – it truly stands out in a crowd! Believe me, it will stand out for you too.
2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva …Red plum, redcurrant, tobacco, forest floor and potpourri spices on the sexy, very complex nose. …multilayered flavors of blueberry, tobacco leaf and loam. …lingering ripe red cherry and spice flavors…. 95 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar | GPS: 95
One of the immense pleasures I get from working at B-21 is that I’m surrounded by world class Champagne and sparkling wines. Our selection is the best in Florida and is as good as you will find anywhere in the U.S. I drink it every chance I get, and find that it is one of the most food-friendly of all wines. So, why do so many just buy it for special occasions, or to use as a gift? Here are three reasons to drink more Champagne and sparkling wines:
It’s very food friendly. I can’t think of anything better with Asian food, batter-fried fish, calamari, salty foods, spicy dishes or sushi than a dry sparkling wine. For you pizza hounds, give the Lambrusco a try – it’s a better match than you think!
It’s refreshing – especially in the dog days of summer. Most sparkling wines are also a bit lower in alcohol than many table wines, making them easier to drink, and less heavy on the palate. They make near perfect aperitifs because they stimulate the taste buds and appetite.
Having lived in New Jersey and close to New York City for 30+ years, I’m spoiled when it comes to exceptionally well made Italian food. I’m talkin authentic Italian, not the checkered tablecloth, too much red sauce stuff. So, I was thrilled to discover (after much searching) two terrific Italian restaurants (well, one restaurant and one mom and pop pizza joint) in my neighborhood. For those of you in the Sarasota/Bradenton/Venice/Lakewood Ranch area, these are “worth a detour” as they say.
Chianti Ristorante Italiano: This is the real deal, owned and managed by Eduardo (Ed) and Josephine (Josie) who “retired” to Sarasota in 2012 from having been in the Italian restaurant business in San Francisco for the last 30 years. Unable to find suitable Italian cuisine in Sarasota, they opened Chianti Ristorante in the summer of 2012, and there has been a line out the door every night since. Homemade pastas, bread to die for, properly cooked and seasoned vegetables, meat sauces and fresh fish are just the beginning. Every dish is carefully prepared, and no two dishes are the same. Desserts are made on premise. The wine list is suitable, and priced to sell, but I bring my own and pay a $15 corkage fee. If Ed likes my wine enough (and I always offer him a glass), he waves the corkage! Open every day, but reservations a MUST. Located at 3900 Clark Road, Sarasota.
Village Idiot Pizzeria: This mom (Amanda) and pop (Joseph) pizzeria in a strip mall on the fringe of the historical fishing village of Cortez, is a knock out pizza joint. They only serve salads and pizzas, but my-oh-my what pizzas and salads. Everything made from scratch, including the pizza dough that is made from “OO” flour imported directly from Italy. All pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven, and they are to die for. Thin crusts, fresh, top-quality ingredients… these are pizzas to fly across the country to eat, but I can walk to the place. Salads are the best I’ve eaten anywhere in FL. Take your own wine, as they haven’t figured that out yet. Located at 11904 Cortez Road West in Cortez, and open Tuesday through Saturday 4-9 PM.
For some reason, Dolcetto gets no respect. I’m confounded by this as it’s a wine that I always have on hand, and drink every chance I get. I think one of the problems with it is that many Americans think it’s a sweet wine, owing perhaps to its unfortunate name. In Italian, Dolcetto means “little sweet one,” but the wine is not sweet at all. It is a dry, fruity, darkly colored, low tannin, low acid wine that is absolutely delicious with sliced salamis and the hard cheeses common to the Piedmont area of Italy where Dolcetto is made. Another aspect that is especially appealing is that winemakers have not messed with it. Almost none of it is aged in oak, and no one is crazy enough to experiment with new French oak for Dolcetto like so many have done with its sibling, Barbera. It’s a wine that you definitely need to try – particularly if you want a relatively inexpensive wine for weeknight enjoyment. We have nine different ones currently in stock, beginning at just $11.99 per bottle. Once you taste it, you’ll add it to your list of regular wines.
Legend has it that Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, descended from heaven one day, and looking tired and scruffy in his human form, he was offered sustenance by Falernus, an old farmer in the area. As a gift of thanks for the kindness, Bacchus turned the farmer’s fields into beautiful vineyards. The area became known as Falernum (now Falerno), and produced the preferred wines of Roman Emperors.
By the late 1800s, phylloxera had virtually destroyed the vineyards in this area of Campania, and the area remained fallow until the 1960s when Villa Matilde founder Francesco Paolo Avallone set out to bring the area’s original vines back to life. It took 10 years of work by a team of plant biologists at Naples University to find the best surviving vines and graft them onto new rootstock. Today, twenty original clones of Aglianico, Piedirosso and Falanghina, are trademarked as Villa Matilde. The estate’s soil and microclimate are truly privileged. The combination of ancient, mineral-rich volcanic ash hillsides facing the Mediterranean Sun provides ideal amounts of nutrients and sunlight with perfect diurnal temperature ranges. Villa Matilde produces extraordinary wines, with the reds showing rich plummy fruit with silky textures and earthy nuances from the volcanic soil. This area is wine grape heaven – as only Bacchus could have provided!
…stunning value. It bursts onto the palate with masses of dark fruit, smoke, incense and tar. A bold, exotic red, the Falerno del Massico impresses for its sheer harmony and a warm, radiant personality….
If you love Brunello di Montalcino as much as I do, but are gun-shy of spending outrageous sums on wines that fail to live up to expectation – lean in, and listen closely: Today’s offer is a trifecta of old school Brunello perfection at unbelievable prices, all from the exceptional 2007 vintage. The three Brunello producers listed below are quality-focused traditionalists that remain true to the vision Clemente Santi, the founder of Brunello, set forth back in the 1860s. Namely, that Brunello should be a wine with an unmistakable sense of place and terroir that tastes nothing like other wines. Its character comes from the earth, not the person who made it. You will want a mixed case of 4 bottles each.
Costanti – Renowned for elegance, drinkability, and floral, spicy bouquets, Costanti keeps yields very low and ages in large botti. Demand always outstrips supply.
Fuligni – Their vineyards are in the “heart of the zone” where Brunello was born. Produced only in the best vintages (none in 2002 for example) and made using traditional methods: steel vat fermentation followed by aging in Slavonian casks. Fuligni Brunello is known for their vibrant aromas, supple tannins, succulent cherry flavors and minerality.
Lisini – Lisini makes quintessential Brunello that has attained cult status with extraordinary demand here in the U.S. Some of the vines hail from the mid-nineteenth century! Fermentation is done in glass-lined cement tanks with aging in large Slavonian botti. Extraordinary Brunello.
..very beautiful… Sweet dark cherries, flowers, mint and licorice take shape as the wine opens up… finessed, seamless finish laced with sweet hints of tobacco and wild flowers rounds things out in style….
…Sweet red berries, flowers, mint, spices and anise are woven together beautifully in this large-scaled, generous wine. The wine gains volume and depth in the glass as the flavors built to a huge crescendo….
…Sweet floral notes lead to hints of tobacco, wild herbs and spices on the refined finish. Layers of fruit flesh out beautifully in a radiant, expressive wine that captures the essence of the vintage….
Every once in a while I taste a wine that is a game-changer, and recently I had such an experience. Normally, I’m not a huge Prosecco fan as I find them either too sweet, or a bit lacking in any real flavor interest. But, that has changed – big time! The Cantina Soligo Prosecco Brut NV is in a whole different league from what I’m used to tasting. To give you an idea of how impressive this wine is, I tasted with Bob, and after his first sip, he looks at me and says, “This is almost too good!” Wines of this quality in this price range just don’t come along often. It presents a mélange of aromas and flavors ranging from zesty citrus and peach to lychee and strawberry. There is a slightly saline quality intensifying the overall flavor profile, and the fizz has a creamy quality making the wine dance on the palate with a delicacy that is pure pleasure. A glass goes down so easily, you want to drink it by the bottle – and maybe a second one! This will make a perfect springtime aperitif or to drink with sushi, shellfish or nearly any light fare. I can’t say enough about this delightful surprise. It’s a wine to purchase by the case!
Not only is I Pentri’s 2010 Falanghina Flora Robert Parker’s highest rated wine of its kind – ever, it’s also under $20. The Falanghina grape may not be familiar to many of you, but it is Campania’s signature white grape, thriving in the volcanic ash soils found just outside of Naples. When yields are controlled, and the winemaking is precise, as it is at I Pentri, Falanghina can produce a world class white wine. Intoxicatingly aromatic, it expresses flavors of stone fruits such as white peach and apricot, with floral and nutty notes of honeysuckle and almond. Serve it to your guests blind, and ask them to describe the flavors. You’ll get as many different answers as there are tasters! Wines of this rarity and charm are scarce, especially at this ridiculous price!
Produced in only the best vintages, the single-vineyard Barbarescos of Produttori del Barbaresco are must have wines for lovers of refined, classically styled Barbaresco. And, they are always unbelievably good values; here’s why: Produttori del Barbaresco is a cooperative of quality-minded producers with just a single wine-making facility. The money derived from the sale of their grapes to the cooperative is plowed back into vineyard management, state-of-the-art equipment, organic farming methods and the like. The cooperative, directed by the highly respected enologist, Aldo Vacca, puts all its resources into producing the best single-vineyard Barbaresco possible – but, only in the very best vintages, and with only the best grapes from each producer making the cut. The results are impressive, critics rave and savvy buyers snap up the small production soon after release. There are nine single-vineyard labels in the Produttori portfolio, each distinctive and representative of its individual terroir. The best vineyards in Barbaresco are represented in the Produttori collection, and I have selected five I believe make an excellent tasting overview of Barbaresco. You simply cannot buy better Barbaresco at this price. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that they would be good values at one and a half times what I’m offering. Grab a few bottles of each.
All of us are guilty of continually drinking wines that are familiar. You know the ones: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the ever-present Pinot Grigio. Today, I want to recommend that you break out of your habits and try a few wines made from grapes that you probably have never heard of, let alone tasted, but will thrill you.
Refosco: This red grape grown in northeast Italy (Friuli), Slovenia and Croatia produces a darkly colored wine with flavors of plum, black cherry, juniper and it often has a pine-scented aroma. It ripens late and is resistant to autumn rains and rot, so it ripens completely even in difficult climates. It will appeal to those of you who prefer big, masculine reds, but this is not a massive varietal. It produces wines of elegance and harmony. Try the one from Moschioni in our Italian section.
Pecorino: Spelled exactly like the cheese of the same name, this Italian white is a wine you’re going to want to drink all summer long. It comes from the Marche region on the Adriatic coast, and is a more sophisticated version of Trebbiano. Crisp, lip-smacking flavors of white peach and lemon drop supported by the perfect amount of acidity – no wood! Bob and I found one from Tenuta di Tavignano at VinItaly, and we have a bunch of it arriving very soon. Call me to discuss – it will be your summertime go-to white.
I know I’m on to something good when a wine stands out among nearly 45,000 wines at a monstrous wine fair. That’s just what happened last week at VinItaly when I tasted at the booth of the Chianti Rufina producer, Selvapiana, with Frederico Masseti, the managing director of the estate. The single vineyard Bucerchiale Riserva got my immediate attention. Everything about the wine wowed me, but then, every wine Mr. Masseti showed that day was a winner – including the 1968 Chianti Riserva. This 45 year old Chianti produced from 100% Sangiovese grown on schist, limestone and clay at high altitude was unbelievably vigorous for its age. It was light in color, but still had beautiful aromas of dried berries and spice, with a memorable finish. It was a real homage to the Bucerchiale vineyard that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and completely giving the resulting wine complexity and nuance rarely accomplished in this sub-zone. Recent vintages of Bucerchiale have been extraordinary primarily due to the privileged vineyard site, but also because most of the vines are now approaching 50 years in age. Old vines, limestone, clay, schist and high altitude come together in a way that sets the Bucerchiale apart – it truly stands out in a crowd! Believe me, it will stand out for you too.
…Red plum, redcurrant, tobacco, forest floor and potpourri spices on the sexy, very complex nose. …insidious intensity to the multilayered flavors of blueberry, tobacco leaf and loam. Wonderfully silky and sweet…
The name Vino Nobile di Montepulciano may not roll out of the mouth easily, but the wines coming from that area of Tuscany are certainly mouth-watering. Fattoria del Cerro’s 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is easy to fall in love with. By the way, Vino Nobile and Brunello and Montepulciano (the grape, not the town) are all synonyms for the Sangiovese grape. Lying southeast of Siena, the vineyards of Montepulciano produce wines on the style spectrum somewhere between the accessible, lighter-bodied Chiantis and the more full-bodied Brunello di Montalcino. Cerro has long been my go-to Vino Nobile, and the 2009 vintage is one of the best in the last decade. It is an absolute pleasure to drink now, and will pair perfectly with tomato-based pasta sauces, pizza, chicken and delicately braised beef or pork dishes. I guarantee you’ll love this wine.
Vintage charts have gained a lot of importance, particularly in the American market. Wine critics publish their yearly assessment of the vintages all over the globe, some even assigning numeric scores to each vintage. But how important are individual vintages, and how can vintage ratings be used as a guide to purchasing wine? I, for one, use them as a general guide to evaluating wines for the store, but not as an absolute guide. In reality, I have learned over the years that vineyard location, age of vines, and winemaker’s skill account for as much or more than vintage in determining how well, or how poor, an individual wine may turn out to be. For instance, hail is a persistent problem in the Piedmont regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. Hail in the spring can damage vines, knock flowers off of the vine or even damage young grapes if they have formed. But, hail can occur in one vineyard, and not even touch an adjoining vineyard. Similarly, old vines with deep roots will not be nearly as affected by a drought year as younger vines with shallow roots. Clay soils retain more water than sandy or limestone soils do, so excessive rains can cause dilution in vines located on clay-dominated soils. So, generalities in assigning specific numerical scores to vintages are loaded with problems. Going back to Barolo, the 2002 vintage for example, was generally regarded as a disaster. It was cool and rainy during the summer and the weather did not improve much just before the harvest. Many, in fact most of the better Barolo producers sold off their entire production to negociants. But, Roberto Conterno at the estate of Giacomo Conterno produced one of the best Monfortino Barolos in the winery’s history – go figure. My point is this: use vintages ratings as a general guideline, but not as your sole decision criteria. Better yet, choose a good wine merchant – such as B-21 – whose wine consultants scour the globe and taste thousands of wines a year to figure out which ones are the best examples.
Last week, Bob and I attended VinItaly, the annual wine fair that takes place in Verona. This year’s fair was the first one I had been to since 2005, and I was taken by how much it had grown and changed since my last visit. There were nearly 4,300 exhibitors and while attendance has not been finally reported yet, in 2012 there were 140,655 attendees. Needless to say, it’s a crazy place, but one that is absolutely necessary if we are to find the hidden gems that we need to fill our shelves. Here are some random observations: The wines of Italy have never been better, and from my perspective, there seems to be a trend away from overly oaked wines; the purity of the fruit is being allowed to take center stage. The southern areas of Puglia and Sicily are making rapid improvements in their wines, especially the reds. Sparkling wine, particularly the wines of Asti and Franciacorta, drew huge crowds to the tasting areas. One winery we visited in Franciacorta produces 1.5 million bottles of wine a year, and that is only one winery. Piedmont and Tuscany still dominate in terms of overall quality, but I tasted some wines from the Veneto, Marche and Lombardia that really rocked. Stay tuned, I will be reporting on specific wines and making offers through our daily emails as we get our new treasures into the store.