The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Thanksgiving Favorite Pairings to Make Your Food Sing!

Posted on | November 20, 2014 | Written by Crystal Edgar | No Comments

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want could do with some wine

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want could do with some wine

I’m a foodie, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the produce available in autumn and all the delectable dishes that are a result of its bountiful harvest! Having lived in Asia for the past 6 years I missed out on the holiday and festivities and this year I will be making up for lost time. In most American households the holiday incorporates food, football and family, mine included. As the wine person in the family, I am usually charged with the task of shopping for wine which allows my creative juices to run freely around the cellar. For those who have challenging family dynamics, the selection of wine and or spirits as social lubricant is of significant importance.

One way to make this task easy is to do down the shopping list of dishes that will be served and depending on the crowd, budget and level of sanity required for the gathering choices can be adjusted accordingly. Below are some of my favorites, but don’t let that limit you should you wish to explore further. Cheers

Cheese Ball Appetizer: This is a tough one, due to the richness and sweet flavors added to the cheese, I recommend going with a fruity sparkling wine (Fantinel Prosecco Brut Extra Dry NV) or a Kir Royale. Bubbles are always a good place to start in my book.

Turkey: classic roast turkey without cranberry sauce needs a beverage with body, minerality and fruit. I would go with a Verdicchio from Le Marche (Sartarelli Verdicchio Tralivio 2011), dry Riesling from Germany, Chardonnay from Italy (Aldo Conterno Bussiador) or a Gamay from France (Louis Jadot Morgon Cote Du Py 2010). However you could also do a cocktail concoction with gin, citrus and thyme or sage

Cranberry Sauce: Though technically a relish, this is a game-changer when deciding what goes well with turkey, depending on how much you dish up will depend on the level of sweetness needed in the wine. For wine, I recommend a Spaetlese Riesling from Germany, Pinot Noir from California or Australia or a fruity prosecco or sparlkling wine (Fantinel Prosecco Brut Extra Dry NV). If you wanted to do spirits, it’s nice to create a bridge and incorporate the cranberries into a cocktail or infused in vodka. Otherwise, create an Old Fashioned or Manhattan using cranberries soaked in brandy rather than cherries.

Green Bean Casserole: Due to the richness in this dish I reach for bubbles or something bright and refreshing to cleanse the palate. Continue on the sparkling wine train (Frecciarossa Riesling Frizzante NAI 2010) otherwise move to a Chardonnay from France (Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc 2011) or dry Riesling from Germany. On the spirit side, Tequila (blanco or reposado) may be the name of the game here, Margarita on the rocks, add cranberry if you want to be more festive.

Brussel Sprouts/Kale/Asparagus : Due to the unique acidity and tannins in these veggies, I recommend counterbalancing with something fruity with some weight. Falanghina from Italy (Raffaele Palma Puntacroce 2011) or for the more adventurous palate Orange Wine (Gravner Breg Anfora 2004, great with turkey and other fix-ins too!). Stay with the margarita or switch up for a Side Car, using orange rather than lemon in the drink.

Mashed Potatoes: If made simply, potatoes are neutral, so continue drinking your beverage of choice.

Mac & Cheese: This is a richer dish, so something bright and refreshing will cleanse the palate and encourage you to further indulge. Bubbles or bright whites with fruit (Domaine Barat Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourneaux VV 2011). And if you like the brown liquor, you’re in luck. Scotch on the rocks, add a bit of water or soda depending on how strong you prefer your drinks.

Sweet Potatoes & Marshmallows: This is a tricky dish—treat it as you would a dessert, especially if your grandmother’s recipe calls for generous amounts of brown sugar. Oloroso Sherry, Brachetto d’Acqui (Ca dei Mandorli Brachetto d’Acqui 2012) and Vin Santo are good bets. Bourbon is gold here, try a bourbon Manhattan or perhaps a Mint Julep.

Cornbread/Popovers: This should be another neutral dish, so drink of choice works here.

Apple Pie/Pumpkin Pie/Pecan Pie: With these flavors you can have some fun here; just remember the wine must be sweeter than the pie. Sauternes, Recioto della Valpolicella (Begali Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2010), Quarts de Chaumes or Tokaji all work for wine. And for spirits, pour some Bourbon or dark Rum cocktail or on the rocks, Amaretto on the rocks, Tia Maria, coffee with Frangelico and cream.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your food, your drink and your loved ones most of all!

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A Two-Minute Trip to Toscana (with Pictures!)

Posted on | November 19, 2014 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments

The author in Montalcino

The author in Montalcino

Tuscany is one of the most beautiful corners of the world. There are few places on Earth that stimulate the senses the way that Tuscany does. Visiting the region, I found myself humbled by the millennia-old grasp of history, tradition, and culture and I found myself sideswept by the romanticism. You can’t really do it justice, but I wanted to give you a taste of the experience. Here is my two-minute guide through photographs.

Il Palazzone

Il Palazzone

Il Palazzone is an absolutely beautiful place where modern winemaking technique and tradition unite. This make lovely, traditional wines of elegance and power in an impossibly beautiful setting. I thank Laura Gray for graciously giving my wife and me a tour, even in the middle of harvest madness.

Aging room at Poggio di Sotto

Aging room at Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto is perched up high in Montalcino, both in elevation and in quality. Superbly crafted, these wines are of utmost grace, balance, and elegance.

 

The Valle d'Orcia from Poggio di Sotto

The Valle d’Orcia from Poggio di Sotto

Canalicchio di Sopra is run by the intelligent, hospitable Francesco Ripaccioli. His family’s philosophy is actualized in every vintage with incredibly delicious and traditional wines. He’s a great friend to IWM, and it’s hard not to love this estate’s traditional wines.

Panzano di Chianti

Panzano di Chianti

Panzano in Chianti is a gorgeous place. I highly recommend a visit to the Fontodi property. Giovanni Manetti is a gentleman from another time, leading a team that is an absolute class act.

Fontodi's aging room

Fontodi’s aging room

No trip to Panzano is complete without a visit to the non-stop party of a restaurant that is Antica Macelleria Cecchini. Using only the top quality Chianina breed of cattle pastured in the strictest of guidelines, Dario serves up delicious meals through a nose-to-tail approach, demonstrating ultimate respect for the animal.

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Expert Picks: Billecart-Salmon and…Billecart-Salmon!

Posted on | November 19, 2014 | Written by David Gwo | No Comments

Dave Gwo_8.6.14_300dpiEven if you only occasionally enjoy a glass of sparkling wine you’ve likely heard of Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and other big names. These large Champagne houses make your standard Non-Vintage (NV) cuvées all the way up to exceptional and age-worthy vintage Champagnes. What you may be shocked to discover is that there are many outstanding Champagne producers in the region that can’t compare in size, but can more than compete in quality.

Only sparkling wine from Champagne, France can be called “Champagne.” Everything else is sparkling wine. There are only three grapes used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. Now you may be saying to yourself, “I thought Pinot Noir was a red grape.” All grape juice is clear when pressed, and red wine gets its color through contact with the skins during fermentation (aka extraction). Champagne can have Pinot Noir and be white because there was no skin contact. Rosé is pink because the Pinot juice used to make the Champagne has been left in contact with the skin (or red wine is added during the second fermentation in bottle). If it helps, Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay, while Blanc de Noirs is 100% Pinot Noir.

As in Burgundy, Champagne vineyards are classified as Premier Cru or Grand Cru. However, unlike Burgundy, vineyards are graded on a 100-point scale to get their rankings: Village [80-89], Premier Cru [90-99], and Grand Cru [100]. Billecart-Salmon is an IWM favorite Champagne house, and while it’s not tiny, it is a bit more of an “in-the-know” Champagne. Billecart-Salmon owns Grand Cru vineyards from which they make outstanding Champagne from the regions top appellations. If you’ve never tasted the sparkling wines from this prestigious estate, there’s no time like the present. I’ve chosen two vintage wines, meaning all of the fruit used to make the Champagne came from that particular year (non-vintage Champagnes are blends from multiple years which provides consistency from year-to-year):

Billecart-Salmon Brut 2004 $79.99

2002 and 2004 were two great vintages for Champagne, and they account for the majority of vintage wine currently available. This wine can cruise in the cellar, but if you were tempted to get a sneak peek, you’ll find aromas of citrus fruit paired with a crisp, tight structure on the palate, finishing with a vein of minerality. This wine consists of mostly Grand Cru Pinot Noir. Billecart-Salmon is famous for Champagnes that demonstrate purity of fruit balanced with elegance and vibrancy, and this wine certainly reflects that profile in spades.

​Billecart-Salmon 1999 Brut Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart $119.00

This is one of Billecart-Salmon’s top bottlings, only released a few times a decade. Created in 1964 to commemorate the house’s founder, this cuvée is a blend of Grand Cru fruit from Côte des Blancs for Chardonnay and Montagne de Reims for Pinot Noir. These two vineyards are sources for the best Champagnes. Simply put, this Champagne is spectacular, and a great choice over many easier to find $100 Champagnes.

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Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Chionetti 2010 Dolcetto di Dogliani San Luigi

Posted on | November 18, 2014 | Written by Jessica Catelli | No Comments

RD8577-2It’s no secret that when the winter weather starts to get colder many of us reach for richer reds. If you are like me, I get chilly when the wind blows and I daydream about what I am cooking for dinner that evening and what nice bottle I can pair with my recipe of choice. While browsing the showroom looking for a wine that was versatile and easy drinking but also something new to me, I was pointed in the direction of the Chionetti 2010 Dolcetto di Dogliani San Luigi. Holding the bottle in my hand, I had a good feeling about the wine.

While Dolcetto has the reputation of being a fairly simple wine that’s best drunk early, Quinto Chionetti, has devoted itself to making delicious, serious single-vineyard offerings. At 86 years of age, he is still going strong, continuing to produce some of the most impressive and reasonably priced Dolcetto out there. The name “Dolcetto” means “little sweet one” in Italian, and though this dry wine is anything but little, it’s definitely a gem. On the nose it is aromatic earthy and cherry driven. On the palate it is balanced smooth and gives great notes of dark cherry, sweet plum and spice. That evening I enjoyed this Dolcetto with a fresh batch of my family’s traditional pasta fagioli, and it was a great pairing. Enjoying this Dolcetto with homemade soup and a warm baguette made the the first cold day of winter somehow enjoyable. Priced under $28 and very food friendly, this Dolcetto makes a great holiday selection.

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Expert Picks: Domaine de la Jaufrette and Jaboulet

Posted on | November 18, 2014 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

Robin_B_8.6.14_72dpiThe Rhône Valley is one of the most diversified regions of France. Known for its bold, powerful and yet drinkable reds, savory whites, and fresh and delicious rosé wines. The second largest AOC after Bordeaux, the region comprises 27 appellations with 27 red and white grape varieties being grown. There are 16 Crus of the Côtes du Rhône, two Vins Doux Naturels (Natural sweet wines), 18 Côtes du Rhône named Villages. The Côtes du Rhône production area consists of 171 communes and 6 different counties, with 5,000 wine growers producing the great diversity of Rhône Valley AOC Wines, although the Rhône Valley is predominately a red wine growing area with 79% of the production dedicated to red, 15% rosé and 6% white.

The Rhône has a rich history with the Greeks colonizing the southern Rhône area and planting grapes around Marseille in the 4th century B.C. Wine growing in the northern Rhône was developed in the century AD by the Romans. In the 13th century, the Louis VIII granted the Comtat Venaissin to Pope Gregory X, and in the 14th century, the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, and the popes, great lovers of the local wines, planted extensive vineyards around the city. Clearly, this region has a long, illustrious history, worthy of much study. Today I have chosen two outstanding picks from the Rhône: Domaine de la Jaufrette Vacqueyras 2004 and Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2005.

Domaine de la Jaufrette Vacqueyras 2004 $27.75

Proprietor Frédéric Chastan owns three historical vineyards in the southern Rhône: Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Domaine de la Jaufrette Vacqueyras was classified as a Côtes-du-Rhône in 1937, and Vacqueyras became a growth in 1990 (Gigondas was classified in 1971, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1936). This ten-year-old beauty is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault. This wine is at its peak performance, offering power, complexity so much flavor and grace. Food friendly and under $30, it’s a perfect wine for your Thanksgiving table.

Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2005 $149.00

One of the great red wines produced anywhere in the world, the Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle sets the gold standard for Hermitage and the glorious potential of the Syrah grape. Located in the northern Rhône on the most magnificent steep slopes of the revered appellation of Hermitage, this wine’s name, Hermitage La Chapelle, is associated to the Saint-Christophe chapel that overlooks the terraced vineyards along the Rhône. The Syrah vines are planted in diverse terroirs (les Bessards, les Greffieux, le Méal and les Rocoules), and this diversity contributes to the complexity and concentration of the wine, as does the fact that the vines are 40 to 60 years old. At almost ten years of age, this wine’s color is dark, deep and brooding. On the nose it has a deep-rooted developing bouquet with dark black fruits, spice, leather, bacon fat and a cascade of fresh and dry herbs. On the palate, it’s powerful with distinguishing notes of black fruits, spice, and bacon, and full-throttle tannins with elements of silkiness. Showing immense density and precision, this ’05 offers a very long and extensive finish.

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