Wine is always about discovery and there are so many producers around the world that we don’t know about. If we learn something new in the world each day, we can easily say that we learn ten new things each day in the world of wine; there is just so much and it’s so, so good. In Italy there are over 3,000 different types of grapes for winemaking—3,000, that’s incredible! You can imagine the quantity of Italian wines, and there are many that have not yet made it to the US. We love to find great wines from lesser-known producers, and today I want to start highlighting lesser-known winemakers. Here is you a little taste of what you can expect from future discoveries.
Talenti is a rock star producer, and its Brunello at $55 per bottle is easily one of the best deals in Montalcino. In the past few decades Ricardo and his father have brought this winery out into the known world. When I first started at IWM nearly seven years ago, we carried Talenti, and it was always a tremendous success at any wine event. But no one knew who this producer was nor had anyone ever heard of him. It took a few short years for Talenti’s talents to come to light, and soon enough this estate gained recognition of Brunello lovers. Today’s selection is an invitation to get to know Talenti’s wines via the estate’s Rosso. At less than $25, this bottle is a small investment for one of the best everyday wines you might drink this fall.
Pianpolvere 2004 Soprano Barolo $129.99
This wine comes from a producer that surely no one knows, and if you do, bravo! Pianpolvere’s Barolos always stick in my mind as round and delicious; they’re a little more modern and so more approachable for those who are looking to drink their Barolos young. You may have heard of Rocche dei Manzoni—Pianpolvere comes from the same group and the quality is stunning. An unknown label and just $130, this 2004 wine will rock your Barolo world. It’s juicy, round, balanced and perfect with a steak dinner; you’ll be hard pressed to get much of this vintage because we are at our last few bottles. I’m a big fan.
People often say that the winemakers and chateaux in Bordeaux are very formal and businesslike. In Burgundy, though, the vignerons aren’t businessmen as much as they are farmers; they’re folks who love their land and share a deep connection with it, and who are much more comfortable working with a shovel than with a spreadsheet. Perhaps none personify these qualities more than Dominique Gallois, a stringent traditionalist who makes gorgeous wines of stunning depth, elegance, typicity, and purity using wholly non-interventionist techniques at his domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin.
I was lucky enough to spend a full day with Dominique back in February when he presented his wines to sommeliers in some of NYC’s top restaurants. Their response to his classically styled, understated wines was overwhelmingly positive. As today’s American wine market is oversaturated with hefty wines of great power and concentration, Dominique’s wines are a breath of fresh air for those of us who appreciate elegance, subtlety and a distinct sense of place.
When you speak to Dominique, he makes it immediately clear that his vines and their terroir that hold the primary responsibility for the outstanding quality of his wines. He told me that after harvest and pressing, the only thing he does to the juice is once daily batonnage, or a brief stirring of the juice in barrel to circulate the lees (his miming of this motion is hilarious, by the way). Everything else is left to nature, and after tasting Dominique’s wines, you’d have a very hard time arguing with his process.
Dominique’s sleek and aromatic Bourgogne Rouge is an absolute steal priced under $30, while his old-vine Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Petite Cazetiers, and Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru are textbook representations of their illustrious terroirs, thrillingly complex yet subtle. However, his most sought-after wine is the prized Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Combe Aux Moins, a collector staple that is a fixture on several top NYC restaurant wine lists.
The 2013s are on the boat from France at this very moment and will be here very soon. When I tasted through Dominique’s 2013 barrel samples back in February, the wines were quite friendly and open-knit in their youth. I got a bevy of floral and herbal aromas on top of layers of gorgeous red fruits, with that telltale Gevrey sauvage persistent throughout the lineup. The Bourgogne Rouge should be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years; the Gevrey’s will be approachable when young; however, they will reward patience in the cellar and will continue to evolve over the next decade.
If you share my passion for beautiful, classically-styled Burgundy Pinot Noir, I urge you to try a few bottles and enjoy them knowing that you’re supporting a humble farmer and his family, and not an investment group’s bottom line.
Aspen Colorado is blessed with amazing music venues. The Benedict Music Tent at the Aspen Meadows is one of these beautiful spots. Most Friday and Sunday afternoons during the summer, the Aspen Music Festival holds a concert in this amazing structure, which is completely covered yet open to the air. Outside the tent, the rolling green lawn hosts picnickers clustered close to the tent, blanket spread and baskets open. A picnic in Aspen is a fantastic affair, full folded tables, mason jars holding flowers, locally sourced charcuterie and cheese, and, of course, wine.
This week I spent some time deciding bottle to take with me to my weekly picnic. We would be listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and I would be meeting a journalist friend, who would be laden with a selection of cheeses from across the US. We were planning on tasting and evaluating the cheese, paired with bread made that morning at a local shop. I wanted a wine that would not overpower the cheese, that would cleanse our palates between each bite, and that would enhance the picnic atmosphere. A dry, slightly sweet, bubbly wine sounded perfect.
I decided that out of all the bottles in my cellar, the Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry would fit the best. This is a lively, dry and fruity sparkling wine made with Prosecco grapes grown in lush Fantinel vineyards that lie in the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) areas of Collio Goriziano, Grave del Friuli and Colli Orientali del Friuli in the famed Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region of northern Italy. As with most Prosecco, Fantinel makes its in the Charmat or tank method secondary fermentation in bucket tanks and bottled under pressure. The Fantinel Prosécco is a pale straw color with light aromas of fruit and honeysuckle followed by crisp flavors of citrus, pears, and peaches.
Sitting on our blanket listening to beautifully played classical notes, my friend and I both agreed that I made the right choice. The crisp, dry bubbles stripped the fat from the cheese from our palates and allowed each bite to feel fresh and delicious. We enjoyed soft cheese from New England, fig wrapped and whiskey dipped hard cheese from Tennessee, and a blue from somewhere in the middle—everything went perfectly with the Fantinel Prosecco! In Aspen, this wine retails for $20, and this Prosecco makes a perfectly delicious, perfect picnic wine.
My very first wine trip was to the Rhône Valley, one I will never forget. This marked the turning point in my studies to become a chef, taking me on quite the detour to follow my love affair with wine. The Rhône is France‘s second largest wine growing area, a region that offers great diversity of vines and wines. Covering around 150 miles and just under 6,000 estates, it’s demarcated between the long and narrow north region and expansive southern region. Today we are traveling to the south to explore the “castle of the pope” otherwise known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Clos des Papes is a traditional estate firmly established as one of the finest in the region run by father and son team, Paul and Vincent Avril. Although thirteen grape varieties are allowed in the blend (Grenache Rouge and Blanc, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picpoul, Picardan, Terret Noir), Clos de Papes focuses primarily on Grenache with a bit of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cunoise making up the rest of the blend. The wines from the Avril family perfect the balancing act of power and finesse, and this estate crafts wines that can age for decades while maintaining an impressive level of elegance and floral elements that dances across the palate. You will find pinch of spice and sturdy backbone in these wines due to the higher portion of Mourvèdre, which allows the wines to stand out among others. If you enjoy traditional wines from the southern Rhône, you will love these!
Clos des Papes 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1.5L $250.00
Captivating all around, this lovely 2008 is rich and graceful with aromas of violets, black currant, plum, kissed with hints of game and earth and a hint of anise on the finish. With seven years of maturity, this wine has started to soften and is approachable now, but it has the ability to cellar another few decades.
Velvety and decadent, this gorgeous 2012 is like silk on the palate offering flavors of cherry, black currants on the nose with a rich palate of black fruit with hints of mesquite, pepper and game. Approachable now, this wine has a good decade to go in the cellar, should you have the patience.
Tomatoes are a simple delight. Their taut skins straining under the pressure of their flesh, their seeds held captive in that singular tomato gel, their meaty husks strangely satisfying, you know, for a fruit—tomatoes make it look easy, especially right around now, late August, when in a good year we are knee-deep in tomatoes’ lambent hues. And, make no mistake: this year in the Northeast is a very good year for tomatoes.
In the best of all possible worlds, we eat them warm off the vine, as thoughtlessly as we eat berries or apples, depending on the size of the tomato. One step down from that, we find them ripe to almost bursting, and we slice them (serrated bread knives are the secret to cutting tomatoes without tearing their thin skins), plate them, drizzle them with olive oil and dust them with salt. You can go for baroque and add fresh mozzarella, ricotta or burrata, if you like. Sometimes the lily enjoys a little gilding.
My love affair with summer tomatoes began when I was a toddler. My great-grandfather tended a small garden at our family’s summer enclave on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I’d watch him garden, and I’d putter about the tomato stakes, taller than I, inhaling the tomato essence, that herbaceous acrid smell that fills your nostrils with its pointed scent. He raised beefsteak tomatoes, and we’d all eat them sliced on plates, their wet tomato guts oozing beautifully.
Like my great-grandfather, my mom grew tomatoes in her organic garden. She tried all manner of trellis, stake and tree to get the best results; at one point, she even let the vines grow upon one another, like long tendril puppies in a big pile. When we had bad harvests, which happened often in Vermont, she’d fill the larder with jars and jars of garlicky pickled tomatoes. Wrapped in newspaper and kept in the dark, a tomato will ripen slowly but perfectly—another tip for you.
Tomatoes, like berries, like peaches, like watermelon, are a fruit of summer. You can get them in the winter, but why bother? The waxy February representations of an August fruit is like eating a bad memory (on the other hand, canned and jarred tomatoes are things of lingering, useful beauty). The tomatoes of summer shout a cacophony of carpe diem. Seize the tomato and enjoy it. Chop it, mix it with extra virgin organic olive oil and salt, and spread it across garlic-rubbed bruschetta, and serve with an orange wine from Paolo Bea. Slice it, drizzle it with olive oil and balsamic glaze, and serve it with watermelon and feta, and put a nice, steely Amalfi Coast rosato on the side. Take a handful of the tiny tomatoes, cut them in half and swirl them with pasta, brie and olive oil, and serve with Cornarea Roero Arneis. Or just eat them from your palm, a saltshaker in your other, as my great-grandfather did. Nothing that good ever goes out of style.
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