Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vinitay 2011 brings "New Wave" of Italian wines to US

Photo Gallery: by Dwight Casimere

1. Monica Marcucci of Cantine Baroncini with Dwight The Wine Doctor

2. Mark Tucker, Marketing Director, Vision Wine & Spirits

3. Patrick S. Cappellini of Piera Martellozzo

4. Mine Ayberk-Sommelier/Wine Broker

5. Cardis Jones of Riondo USA

Some of the “beautiful people” at Vinitaly US Tour 2011

New York--A “New Wave” of scintillating Italian wines is poised to sweep across America in the coming weeks and months. They were introduced at New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion at the Vinitaly US Tour 2011. A total of 57 producers and importers held a Grand Tasting, guided tastings, wine business seminars and a Sommelier Master Class as part of the effort, which is in advance of Vinitaly 2012, to be held Sunday through Wednesday, March 25-28 in Verona, Italy. The 46th edition of Vinitaly will be the most important exhibition of wine and spirits in the world.

Robin Kelly O’Connor, Christie’s Head of Wines, Americas led an eye-opening seminar of wines from Tuscany’s Hidden Gem, Morellino Di Scansano, with a distinguished panel of producers from the region, which is located in the southern part of Tuscany.

The area has an ancient tradition of winemaking. Made primarily from the Sangiovese grape and often blended with local varieties, the wines have a fruit-forward character that give them an attractive fresh, enjoyable character.

“The message today is that these are wines of imminent drinkability and appeal,” O’ Connor told the seminar participants, who sniffed and sipped the fruit forward, juicy wines, many of them being tasted in the US for the first time. “They appeal to the ‘new wave’ of wine drinkers who are looking for wines that are versatile and will go with many kinds of food, especially the emerging wave of ethnic restaurants that seem to be popping up like mushrooms everywhere. The wines we will taste are not high in alcohol and tannin and they go equally well with either fish or meat. They can also go great with aged meat or with Boar. The greatest thing about them is that they’re lighter and more approachable and they’re also affordable. People will be saying “Finally, a wine that I can have more than two glasses! What we’re experiencing today is Italian wine directly from Heaven to Earth!”

From the first sip, it was evident that he was not exaggerating. The Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo blend, Baroncini Bruna Rinaldone Dell’ Orsa 2010 was just such a wine that O’Connor spoke of. With its silky tannins, brought about by “a lot of oak aging,” according to winemaker Monica Marcucci, “the wine goes great with meat or white pork (boar).

“It’s perfect for the American palette. It has no metallic taste at all in the background, which many Americans don’t find appealing. The wine is very fruit forward and appealing. In a few words, I’d say it is friendly, accessible and affordable. We think it will do well in the US market because it is so easy, both on the palette and on the purse. “

Rigardo Mantellassi, producer of Fattoria Mantellassi San Giuseppe 2009 was even more emphatic. “”Our goal, when you taste this wine, is to say “Momma Mia! This is Tuscany!” The classic style of his Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, with its bright, fruity nose really gets your attention from the first sniff. “”We like it when we see people drinking our wine and they don’t talk. They’re trying to empty the bottle. It means they don’t want to talk about wine. They want to drink it!”

The wines will all retail in the $12-$20 range. Look for them on the shelves of your local wine merchants beginning in late November. For more information on Vinitaly and the US Tour, visit

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Wines that make Vampires swoon

Wines for Halloween conjure up spirits of Vampires and goblins

By Dwight Casimere

7 Deadly Zins winemaker Adam Metler with Executive Chef Chuck Subra of La Cote Brasserie at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience last spring-Photo by Dwight Casimere

Adults have practically taken over Halloween and made it one of the top money-grossing holidays for the entertainment industry. A recent report showed that they spend an average of $50 on costumes alone. The take by barkeeps and saloon owners who sell special party packages for the holiday, which can stretch for a week or more is right up there with New Year’s Eve and St. Patty’s Day. So its no surprise that winemakers have jumped into the cauldron and come up with a slew of wines that cater to the theme. Surprisingly, many of the wines that fit into the category of Halloween wines are quite good and suitable for drinking all year long.

Here are some of the top picks for serving at your next gathering of witches, ghouls and goblins:

7 Deadly Zins 2009 ($16) Seven vineyards were chose by the Phillips brothers and winemaker Adam Metler, in California’s burgeoning Lodi region to create this distinctive blend. This is what I’d call one of the “new style” of Zinfandels, which the brothers came up with as the answer to their search for the perfect Zinfandel blend. They went for distinctive “Old Vine” plots similar to the sacramental wines created by the Catholic Monks of California’s storied past. The wines are rich in fruit and berry flavor, redolent of spice with a luscious floral nose and hints of black pepper, currant and cassis. It goes great with spicy “Deviled” wings and other flavorful Halloween treats. Try it with a Candied Apple. You’’ never go back to cider!

Incognito Red 2009 (also $16) is Lodi’s answer to a classic Rhone blend from France with 40% Syrah, 11% Cinsault (pronounced san-so, a French grape indigenous to the Languedoc region) 11% Carignan (said to be from Aragon, France), 11% Mourvedre (a classic Rhone varietal), 9% Petite Syrah, 2% Grenache and 2% Tannat (historically grown in the South West of France in


This wine as aged in French oak for 16 months, so it has some pedigree and finesse. Even though it’s priced to be an everyday drinking wine, I wouldn’t be hesitant to serve it with a nice lamb chop or grilled steak.

If you’ve got Barbeque in mind for smoky fall grill night, here’s the wine for you:

6th Sense Sense Syrah ($16) is a blend of Syrah with a tiny bit of Petite Syrah thrown in for complexity. It’s got a rich, full berry flavor with hints of plum for a long finish. It goes great with stewed meats such as a brisket for corned beef and pastrami. The perfect match, however, is meat grilled over hot coals and slathered in BBQ sauce!

Vampire Vineyards may sound like a Halloween-themed gimmick, but it’s actually a very respectably good wine out of the North and Central Coastal regions of California. Vampire Vineyards was founded by an entertainment attorney out of New York, who is currently headquartered in Beverly Hills (okay, there are some who say lawyers are but the distant cousins of vampires and other low-country creatures, but, I digress), with the idea of planting some high-quality rootstocks in the California hills, where the morning coastal fog and sun-kissed afternoons combine to create wines that are smooth and well-rounded with a nice, fruit-forward taste. Combine that with careful aging in aged French and new American Oak barrels and you have a wine that just dances on the taste buds. As the creators of Vampire wines like to say, “Sip the Blood of the Vine and enjoy!”

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.95) is an absolute bargain with tons of flavor and quality for the money. Sourced from small-berry clones from the North Coast of California, this is traditional Bordeaux varietal created from well-drained soils that are rich in maritime fossils, giving it a distinctive, complex flavor that combines a mineral undertone with immense quantities of dark fruit. Its created using Classic, small-lot fermentation followed by long aging in small French oak barrels, giving it a rich, ripe flavor that goes great with grilled steaks and chops and pasta dishes or pizzas covered in a rich, red tomato sauce (of course!) It’s just the wine to serve to any hungry Vampires who might show up at your Halloween party.

Dracula Pinot Noir 2007($17.99) This is a classic California Pinot Noir from Paso Robles, California, which is the wine made famous by the 2004 Fox Searchlight movie “Sideways.” You don’t have to be a descendant of Transylvania’s Favorite Son to enjoy this one. It’s 100% Pinot Noir with rich flavors of raspberry, black cherries and pomegranate thrown in for finesse. The grapes are harvested at night under the full moon (but, you already knew that!) in the Santa Maria Valley. The cuvee is then placed in French oak barrels and aged for 18 months before bottling. The concentrated, well rounded fruit flavors will have you howling at the Harvest Moon like a werewolf!

All of these wines are available at your local wine shop, or you can just go online and order them directly. The prices will be about the same and you’ll have them in time for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

25 Years of an iconic wine: Mormoreto wines of Frescobaldi

Leonardo Frescobaldi at A Voce restaurant, New York; a memorable evening of Mormoreto wines

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1. Leonardo Frescobaldi, President, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi with Dwight The Wine Doctor

2. Bistecca-grilled strip steak, lardo and figs from Chef Missy Robbins, A Voce, with a flight of Mormoreto wines, 2004-2007

3. Alessandro Lunardi-Director of the Frescobaldi U.S. Market

4. Mormoreto wines served at the Historical Vertical of Mormoreto dinner

5. Leonardo Frescobaldi proudly presents his 1985 vintage Mormoreto wine

New York—It was a thrilling surprise and a pleasure to meet Leonard Frescobaldi, President of Marchesi de Frescobaldi wines of Tuscany at a dinner pairing 12 of his Mormoreto wine vintages with the cuisine of Chef Missy Robbins at A Voce restaurant in the Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle near Central Park.

Considered among the best of all Tuscan wines, this was a rare opportunity to sample the wines of Tuscany’s most important and largest producer in an absolutely exquisite setting.

Frescobaldi is a name that dates back to antiquity. The family has been an integral part of the growth and development of the Tuscan region since the Renaissance. “We still have the original estate, Castello di Nipozzano,” Frescobaldi said.

Besides their strong ties to tradition, the family has always believed in new technology and innovation. “That is the energy that drives us in everything we do—both tradition and innovation.” Leonardo Frescobaldi said as he guided a tasting and dinner that paired 12 Mormoreto vintages from 1985 to 2007.

“Our first wine was produced in 1983,” he said. “Frescobaldi di Nipozzano is remembered as one of the best Tuscan wines ever made. Our 1983 Mormoreto was produced from the vineyard of the same name in 1976. The wine is composed primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A small amount of Petit Verdot was planted and added to the blend later. Unfortunately, there is no more of the 1983 to be had, so we will start our retrospective with the Mormoreto 1985 ($65).”

((Editor’s note: Prices reflect average prices of readily available vintages. Check your local wine merchant for availability and price.))

Mormoreto is the Frescobaldi estate’s iconic wine. Its imprint is distinctive and indicative of its unique terroir. Complex and bold with extraordinary depth and elegance, it paired wonderfully with the first course of Chanterelle mushrooms, cippollini (wild onions which are actually the spring flowering bulbs of grape hyacinth), cavalo nero (black leaf kale) and Tuscan bread. For comparison, a flight of 1988 ($119), 1990 ($51) and 1994 ($55) were proffered, each varying in depth and expression.

Mormoreto is a single vineyard cru produced at the flagship estate, Castello di Nipozzano, which has been in the Frescobaldi family for over 150 years. “It is named for the sound of the wine in the tree lives in the valley,” explained Alessandro Lunardi, Director of the Frescobaldi U.S. Market. “The Tuscan wind and its unique terroir inform the wines and make them among the most prized of connoisseurs.” What a privilege it was to taste them with great Italian cuisine in the company of their creator.

Wild boar with rosemary and young pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese was accompaniment to a flight of Mormoreto 1997 ($63), 1999 ($46), 2001 ($52) and 2003 ($52). “There is no Sangiovese in any of these wines,” Frescobaldi noted. “What you are tasting is the difference in the harvest. The 1997 harvest in particular was notable for the high quality of the fruit. A spring freeze greatly reduced the size of the crop, but the fruit that was left was highly concentrated with a great saturation of fruit flavor.”

This is a great wine to pair with duck, pheasant or game meat and strong cheeses. The hints of nutmeg and clove make one think of the fall season and the approaching Holidays.

The centerpiece of the evening’s dining experience was the Bistecca-grilled strip steak with lardo (a type of Italian charcuterie made with fatback cured in a mixture of rosemary, herbs and spices) and figs, which provided a lovely flavor contrast to the mineral quality of the aged meat. No steak knife was needed. It was literally fork tender! The waiter came by with a bottle of Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($49) pressed from olives grown on the Frescobaldi estate and poured a generous amount over the steak. “This is how we serve our steaks in Italy,” Frescobaldi explained. The olive oil added further to the depth of the dish.

A flight of Mormoreto 2004 ($54.99) through 2007 ($58) accompanied this lavish main course. Of the wines, the 2006 ($49.99) was most memorable for its elegance and long finish. It melded beautifully with the flavor of the meat and the slight sweetness of the fig brought out its deep, red berry flavors. It was harmonious and well balanced with a superb structure.

As a treat with the dessert of roasted apples and honey gelato covered in almond tuile (a light, crispy cookie made with shaved almonds and typically served with gelato) and white pepper, Vinsanto di Pomino ($39.95) was served. This wine has ancient roots, steeped in Tuscan tradition. Dating back to the 19th century, it combines Trebbiano, Malvasia and other local varieties that are part of the traditional Tuscan landscape. This wine is a great aperitif or dessert wine. Here, it was the perfect finale to a spectacular display of the art of winemaking.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wine is centerpiece for Celebrity Chef creations at Food Network 2011 New York City Wine & Food Festival



Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1. Pat and Gina Neely with Dwight The Wine Doctor

2. Lee Schrager © NYC Wine & Food Festival Founder with Whoopi Goldberg ®, Bobby Flay and La Frieda President and Event Sponsor Pat LaFrieda at The Burger Bash

3. Iron Chef’s Alton Brown hams it up in the Kohls Rooftop Hospitality Lounge

4. Delta Airlines Sommelier Andrea Robinson with Dwight The Wine Doctor at the Grand Tasting

5. Celebrity Chef legend Jacques Pepin with Dwight Casimere at the Kohl Hospitality Lounge

6. Chopped Judge Marc Murphy with Dwight The Wine Doctor at the Grand Tasting

NEW YORK---“It’s New York ‘WINE’ and food festival” a member of the PR team corrected a young freelance writer who had incorrectly labeled the title in an article on the 2011 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival held all over New York’s meatpacking district in lower Manhattan. The exchange in the Festival Rooftop Hospitality sponsored by Kohl’s underscored the preeminence of wine in the four day event that brought together a record crowd of foodies and wine enthusiasts to taste, learn and mingle with Food Network Chefs and program hosts with 100% of the net proceeds benefiting the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength ®.

All of the great wine producers of America and the world were present, pouring in tandem with mouth-watering cuisine prepared on site by scores of New York’s and the nation’s greatest chefs. Exclusive provider of Wine & Spirits to the Festival is Southern Wine & Spirits of America, whose Vice President, Corporate Communications and National Events, Lee Brian Schrager, is the Founder of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.

Celebrity chef sightings were as plentiful as foie gras at festival events. With minutes of my arrival at the Kohl’s Hospitality Suite, I ran into Pat and Gina Neely, popular hosts of Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys. The two are also co-owners of Neely’s Bar-B-Que in Memphis and have just opened Neely’s BBQ Parlor on the Upper East Side. Their family style Jazz Brunch was the official unveiling of the new establishment at 62nd Street & 1st Avenue with The Neely’s Brunch presented by Tropicana, one of the featured events at the festival. “Our event is completely sold out,” Pat told me over a steaming Lily cappuccino. “I don’t even think I can get some of my family members in, who came along with me to the festival.” The overwhelming response should not be any surprise. The show, filmed in their Memphis home, surrounded by family and friends, airs multiple times throughout the week on Food Network and their first cookbook, “Down Home with the Neelys (Knopf, 2009), quickly earned them a place on the New York Times best-seller list. Their second book, “The Neelys Celebration Cookbook: Down Home Meals for Every Occasion, (also Knopf), is due out in November.

Walking through the Chelsea Market during Thursday night’s event, Bank of American presents Chelsea Market After Dark, I heard a familiar exclamation, “BAM!!” among the din of the techno-rock music emanating from the Macy’s Lounge. It was Emeril Lagasse, in his first appearance at the Festival. Chelsea Market, home to the Food Network, stays open late night in order to serve samplings of the delicacies from its 30 shops and a heady selection of the finest wines & spirits. Working out of his own storefront, Super Nova Chef Emeril, whose new series, The Originals w/Emeril, airs on Thursdays at 10:30pm on Cooking Channel hosted his own Signature Lounge featuring delicious bites and seasonal goodies right out of the pages of his new book “Sizzling Skillets and other one-pot wonders, which he signed for fans.

After tasting delicacies from 30 purveyors at the Chelsea Market, including Bowery Kitchens, The Lobster Place, which had the best clam chowder and lobster bisque I’d ever had and Jacques Torres Chocolates, where I almost o.d.’d on white chocolate overload, and an afternoon of wine tasting at the Beverage Media Trade Tasting at the Grand Tasting Pavilion, plus the heady experience of mingling with some of Food Network and Cooking Channel’s top celebrity chefs, that my appetites were thoroughly satiated.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

KOBRAND Tour d'Italia: Tenuta Sette Ponti; the wines behind the Mona Lisa's famous smile

Part Two: KOBRAND Tour d’Italia 2011

Tenuta Sette Ponti; the wines behind the Mona Lisa smile

Dwight The Wine Doctor

Story and photo by Dwight Casimere

Giovanna Moretti-owner, Tenuta Sette Ponti Estate of Tuscany

New York—The Setta Ponti estate is located in a picturesque setting in Tuscany. Famed for its seven bridges, it is pictured in the background of Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting, which hangs in the Louvre.

Sette Ponti lies in the heart of the Chianti zone, near the city of Arezzo. Via dei Sette Ponti leads into the beautiful hidden valley in which the estate is nestled. Sette Ponti means “Seven Bridges” in Italian. The bridges cross the Arno River on the road from Arezzo to Florence. They go back to the 13th Century and provide a romantic backdrop for creation of some of the greatest Super Tuscan wines to be had anywhere. Purchased in 1957 as a hunting retreat for architect Alberto Moretti, it is now the family property of his son, Antonio, who also raises racehorses, breeds native Tuscan Chiana cattle and has created a reserve for a rare breed of wild local pig, known as the Cinta Senese. They roam wild in fields of sunflowers and maize. You could not ask for a more idyllic setting.

Its vineyards are as varied and colorful as its history, just ask Giovanni Moretti, whose gracious manner and bubbly smile were her calling cards at a recent unveiling of her new releases as part of KOBRAND Tour d’Italia, held on the last day of summer at The Bowery Hotel in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Her presentation was stellar lineup of select Italian producers of finely crafted wines, which toured ten American cities, which included appearances in New York and Chicago.

“The primary grape we use to produce our wines is Sangiovese. This is a very aromatic grape with a very pronounced perfume and a rich, ripe flavor of fresh, dark berries. Our most prominent wine is the Crognolo, (Toscana IGT, $35.99). Our other important wine is Oreno, (also Toscana IGT, $110.99).

“In 2008, we changed the blend. In 2007, we used a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, but for our new vintage, we replaced the Sangiovese with Petit Verdot. This is a very important wine. It’s a Super Tuscan. This is a dinner wine with a lot of intense character. It’s very expressive with notes of blackberry and toasted oak. The vines are 15-20 years old, so they deliver a very rich flavor with a long finish.

“In Sicily, we have another estate and there we produce Nero d’Avola ($20.48). “

This is a big, juicy wine, with a lot of character. Hey. It’s Sicilian! Its impressive, with lush fruit and a lot of refreshing fruit taste. I loved it with Prosciutto and a healthy slice of aged Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese. You need something to go with this wine, its just too big and fruity to have on its own, but don’t bother with a big meal, you don’t want anything to get in the way of enjoying the intense aroma and flavor of this rich, beautiful wine. For just about 20 bucks, I don’t think you can have anything more enjoyable for the price. Most of Tenuta Sette Ponti wines are available now at your local retailer. I’d hurry out to get them and make a side visit to your local gourmet food shop to obtain all the goodies that will enhance the experience of drinking them.