Champagne And Amarone

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This past Saturday afternoon I decided to treat myself to a wine tasting. I attended an event held at the Italian Wine Merchants wine shop at 108 E 16th Street in Union Square. I’ve attended a few events at this venue and I know they throw a good tasting. The theme that afternoon was “Champagne and Amarone” which is probably at both ends of the spectrum you can go to with wine. It was a sit-down event with the usual excellent cheeses, prosciutto and bread served to nibble on. We tasted five sparklers and four Amarone. We started with the sparklers:

2010 Raventos i Blanc Conca del Riu Anoia Brut Rose de Nit NV (Spain). A Cava, Salmon in color with a nose of crushed strawberries and dried mushroom with nice acidity and balanced fruit. Very drinkable.

Andre Clouet “Silver Brut” NV (France). Light gold in color with notes of bread dough and green apple and pear on the nose nice and crisp with some slate notes on the finish.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV (France). Salmon in color with a perfume of crushed strawberries and light with good acidity at the end. Another very drinkable glass.

1999 Billecart-Salmon Brut Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart. (France). Dark gold in color with a pronounced nose of earth, barnyard and ginger with good crisp acidity upfront followed with bread dough notes on the finish.

2008 Venturini Amarone (Italy). Dark red in color  with crushed berries, violet and slate on the nose and was chunky and chewy with black licorice fruit and bitter almonds on the finish.

2008 Begali Amarone Monte Ca Bianca (Italy). Dark red to black with a big sweet nose of fresh rosemary and crushed black fruit and was concentrated and velvety with notes of bitter herbs on the finish and was balanced with great structure. My favorite red of the day.

2007 Nicolis Amarone (Italy). Dark purple to black, nose was a little closed but I was getting stone flavors and was dusty and velvety with firm tannins and acids at the end.

2005 Nicolis Amarone “Ambrosan” (Italy). Black in color some cigar-box on the closed nose and was concentrated with notes of crushed stone and herbs on the fruit and had big tonque coating tannin at the end. Some unbalance at the finish.

2012 Ca dei Mandorli Brachetti d’Acqui (Italy). We finished the tasting with this sparkler, medium red with a nose of crushed, sweet berries and was sweet with bluberry notes on the fruit.

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Clark Smith Symposium

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On Sunday I attended a symposium presented by Clark Smith, a California wine maker and author of “Postmodern Wine-making.”  He also founded the world’s largest wine technology provider Vinovation, that pioneered wine quality enhancement techniques and he founded WineSmith winery to explore a range of California terroirs.

The event took place at the Ace Hotel at 20 West 29 Street. It was a small, casual, sit-down event with about twenty five people in attendance including wine makers from Jamesport and Mattebella wineries from Long Island. They poured some of their wines in addition to wines from WineSmith. There was also someone from a winery in South Jersey and a home wine maker from Vermont that brought his blueberry wine to the event.

The central theme of the discussion was “manipulation” which is a dirty word in the wine world but Mr. Smith made the case that manipulation is a part of the wine-making process. He stated that even a drop of water in the glass changed the composition of the wine so every table was given a bottle of liquid with 13% alcohol to rinse the glasses with.

The first tasting was to compare the same wines with different levels of alcohol. Two bottles of Mr. Smith’s 2003 WineSmith Chardonnay (Napa Valley) with different alcohol levels were poured. The first was bottled at 14.8% while the second at 12.9%.

The Chardonnay with the 14.8% alcohol was dark gold with honey and botrytis on the nose with and hints of lime on the moderate fruit with a stinging finish. You could definitely feel the alcohol heat on the finish.

The Chardonnay with the 12.9% alcohol was gold in color with dried mushroom and slate on the nose with the lime and dried mushroom on the fruit with big viscosity and mouth-feel on the finish. The lower alcohol made for a rounder wine.

The discussion turned to red wines and Mr. Smith made a point that the growth Brettanomyces in wine is influenced by organisms in the wine. A couple of his reds were poured next:

2005 WineSmith Cabernet Sauvignon “Crucible” (Napa Valley). Dark red with crushed blueberries and mint on the nose and was tight and velvety with flavors of black licorice on the finish.

2006 WineSmith “Planet Pluto” Meritage (California). Dark red with a vegetal nose and dark berries and was tight with very crisp acids on the finish.

As a comparison a third wine was poured blind and it was the 2008 Windward Pinot Noir (Paso Robles). Medium red with red cherry and crushed rock notes on the nose and was very juicy with bitter almond on the finish.

The wine maker from Jamesport Vineyard in Long Island was present and he poured a couple of his wines.

2007 Jamesport Cabernet Franc (North Fork, L. I.). Medium red with a ripe nose of bubblegum and smoke with notes of black licorice and coconut milk on the fruit.

2007 Jamesport Petit Verdot (North Fork, L. I.). Dark red to black in color with roasted nuts and black berries on the nose and was concentrated and silky with black fruit flavors and was nicely balanced. Nice wine.

The owner of Mattebella Vineyards in Long Island was present as well and he brought several of his wines which were poured.

Mattebella Vineyards “Famiglia” Red Blend NV (North Fork, L. I.). Non-vintage, it was medium red with roasted nuts and mint on the nose and was juicy and velvety with good balance, not bad for their everyday glass.

The Old World Blend is a Bordeaux blend of red grapes and they poured five vintages.

2005 Mattebella Vineyards “Old World Blend” (North Fork, L. I.) . Dark red to black in color, with notes of slate and crushed rocks on the nose. concentrated and velvety with black licorice on the balanced fruit.

2007 Mattebella ‘OWB”. Dark red with stinky, sea-air on the nose and was ripe and concentrated with firm tannins and barnyard on the finish.

2008 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red with a nose of toasted and crushed black berries and mint and was silky and concentrated with great balance. My favorite of the flight.

2009 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red to black in color, some stemminess on the nose, velvet, tight fruit and I thought it was a little unbalanced at the end.

2010 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red to black in color and had a big nose of fresh rosemary and red licorice with bright and dusty fruit with silky tannins.

A home wine maker from Vermont poured his blueberry wine which wasn’t too bad, a touch sweet but balanced.

Tap And Cork

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On Sunday afternoon I attended a wine and beer event presented by Tap & Cork. It was their “Winter Solstice” party and was a consumer event held at a club called Milk River located at 960 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on an industrial stretch of the avenue. It was an off the beaten path venue which made for an interesting event. They poured some interesting juice though we had to drink from a plastic cup which always takes some of the fun away from a wine tasting. There was also a “one ticket, one sip” policy but the price of a ticket gave you twenty stubs with the option to buy more which was more than enough for an afternoon of tasting. The event didn’t get very crowded and had a fun vibe to it and an enjoyable afternoon was had by all.

Some of the wines I liked;

2011 Domaine Felix & Fils St. Bris Sauvignon Blanc (Burgundy). Something unusual, a Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy from the only Burgundy appellation permitted to grow Sauvignon. Nice sipping wine with some grassiness and crisp.

2008 Marquis de Gelida Gra Reserva Cava  (Spain). Notes of bread dough on the fruit and was crisp with lemon notes on the finish.

2010 Mouton Noir “O.P.P.” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley). With hints of earth and strawberry on the nose, light with moderate fruit.

2011 Mouton Noir “Oregogne” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley). Medium red with barnyard on the nose with bing cherry on the silky fruit with crisp acids on the finish.

2010 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon XVI (Columbia Valley). Dark red with notes of dark berries on the nose with dusty, black cherry on the firm, balanced finish.

2011 Farina “Remo Farina” Valpolicella Ripasso (Veneto). Medium to dark red with notes of black cherry on the nose and was moderate chunky with hints of mint on the balanced finish.

2006 La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany). Medium red with notes of dark cherry and coffee on the nose with medium, tarry fruit.

2011 Pappillon Crozes-Hermitage (Rhone). 100% Syrah, dark red in color with a big nose of barnyard, barnyard floor and was rustic and chunky with crisp acids on the good finish.

2009 Domaine Mavette Gigondas (Rhone). Dark red with notes of black pepper and pencil shavings on the nose with roasted coffee flavors on the fruit with very firm tannin on the finish.

2010 Tour De L’Isle Chateaunuef du Pape (Rhone). Dark red with notes of roasted red fruit, dark berries and slate on the nose and was chewy with big tannin on the finish.

2005 Chateau Ramafort Medoc Cru Borgeois (Bordeaux). Equal parts Carbernet Sauvignon and Merlot and was dark red with a nose of minerals and pencil shavings with moderate, dusty fruit that dropped to firm tannins at the end.

2008 Crossroads RGF (New Zealand). A blend of six varieties, it was dark red  with notes of toasted coffee and nuts on the nose and was dense and tight with dark chocolate flavors on the finish.

Holiday Pairings At Vitners

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On Sunday evening I attended a wine tasting held at NY Vitners wine shop on 21 Warren Street. They have many, varied wine tasting events weekly with some of the tastings paired with food prepared from the kitchen they have on property. The theme of Sundays tasting was “Holiday Pairings” and they served a couple of courses of food to pair with them.

It was a sit-down tasting with approximately twenty-five people in attendance.

As we came in we were served a glass of sparking wine, Balivet Bugey-Cerdon“Methode Ancestrale” NV (France). Organic and made in the old way with the primary fermentation in the bottle instead of two (as in Champagne). Made from the Gamay grape, it was medium red with a grapey nose with hints of crushed strawberries with a touch of sweetness at the end.

We were served two whites to be paired with the starter dish which was an excellent cioppino.

2012 Mayu Sauvignon Blanc (Chile). Yellow with greenish tints and had a dusty nose of white flowers and baked bread and peaches with crisp acidity and notes of lime on the finish. The dustiness blew off with time in the glass and I thought it was the best white for the cioppino which brought out more of the Sauvignon Blanc grassy nuances.

2011 Fleuron Chardonnay (Sonoma &  Lake Counties). An organic wine, medium gold with notes of over-ripe vegetables on the nose with the same over ripeness carrying over onto the fruit with a funky finish. Not my favorite.

Three red wines were paired with a braised pork belly with mashed Hawaiian yams and glazed carrots. The yams were purple which made for a very dramatic presentation on the plate and the dish was excellent. Of the three reds my favorite and the one I thought went the best with the pork was the:

2001 Calabretta Etna Rosso (Sicily). Grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, it was medium to dark red in color with an amber robe with notes of cigar-box, red roses and dark red fruits on the nose and was dusty and chunky with some barnyard and nice acids on the finish. As the wine opened up in the glass I started getting notes of dark chocolate on the nose.

2012 Bodegas Los Bermejos Maceracion (Canary Islands). In a unique bottle and made through carbonic maceration, it was dark purple with a nose of red licorice and crushed red fruit and was juicy with notes of bitter almond on the finish. Interesting.

2010 Fleuron Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma). Mostly Cabernet with some Merlot thrown in, was dark red in color with a nose of funky shellfish and mint and was velvety with a tang of sea air with firm tannins on the finish.