Frères Grosjean: Message in a Valle d’Aosta Bottle

In an area that is one of Italy’s least productive wine zones, to improve margins with a few shortcuts could prove a seductive temptation.

grosjean-pinot-noir-07-valle-daosta-message-in-a-bottleBut, at the small, family-run wine estate of Frères Grosjean in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta, it is quality, tradition, authenticity and sustainability which prevail.


Perched in the higher altitudes of Italy’s extreme northwest nearby the villages of Quart and Saint Christophe, Frères Grosjean is located in the Valle Centrale region of Valle d’Aosta DOC. Before they began bottling their wines for sale, the family made wine and gathered chestnuts for more practical reasons: to help them through the long winters.

It was an exhibition of Valle d’Aosta wines in 1969 which prompted Dauphin Grosjean to bottle wines for presentation to others, an initiative that proved to be a cornerstone event of the business. With the help of five children, the Grosjean vineyards have grown over the years from 3,000 square meters to 7 hectares. Demonstrating a deep concern for the natural environment, the Grosjean have farmed since 1975 using environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques and using only organic fertilizers.

I recently enjoyed a bottle of Frères Grosjean’s Pinot Noir and one of Gamay, impressive as terroir-driven examples from a DOC too often overlooked. Each wine is 100% varietal grown in loose glacial moraine soil. Vineyards have a south / southwest exposure at an altitude of approximately 700m.

Both wines showed very perfumed floral characteristics and good concentration of fruit underscored by lively acidity and soft tannins. You’re likely to find the Gamay a bit lighter in style than the Pinot Noir and subtleties in each wine that will keep your interest.

Either of these wines will pair nicely with simple, earthy dishes such as pasta, soups, stews, cheeses, cured meats. Don’t miss pairing with a bit of Fontina d’Aosta cheese – sublime.


Noceto Michelotti Monferrato Rosso 2006

Noceto Michelotti Monferrato Rosso 2006, DOC

No matter about one’s artistic style, technique, or medium: the elements of balance, form, proportion, and perspective still apply and need to be made sense of.

Unfortunately, the techniques of modern winemaking can sometimes forget that lesson.

noceto-michelotti-monferrato-rosso-2006-6At Noceto Michelotti, however, a modern winery of some technological sophistication, it is a lesson well understood, as demonstrated by that producer’s excellent Monferrato Rosso.

Located in Italy’s Piedmont, Noceto Michelotti was established in 2002 by Graham and Margret Kresfelder who continue to personally manage the winery, along with general manager Giovanni Conte. Rounding out the team are agronomist Frederico Curtaz, oenologist Giuseppe Caviola and winemaker Giacomo Mariotti. The wines reflect a nice mix of Piedmont varietals and lean heavily on Barbera and Chardonnay from mature 35 and 20 year old vines, respectively.

At Noceto Michelotti, technology is applied with judicious good sense and attention to quality: for example, a unique mechanization is used to gently wash and dry the grapes, however, in the vineyard, harvest is performed by hand using small baskets, with grapes arriving at the cellar in less than three hours.

This classic Monferrato Rosso is a blend of Barbera and Freisa. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel vats, the wine is then aged in stainless steel for seven months, briefly in small French oak, and then for an additional four months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Pretty ruby red color, medium body, and a fresh, fruity incense of cherries, wild berries, and violets. Soft and balanced in the mouth with nicely matched tannins. The fresh berry character carries on nicely throughout the finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This wine will happily make the rounds with pasta and rice dishes, as well as red meats and medium ripe cheeses. A pairing with baked onions stuffed with veal and / or beef is especially nice. And if you’re looking for a good wine to pair with spicer foods, this Monferrato Rosso is a great candidate, perhaps Asian noodles with “sha cha” sauce or a mild lamb curry.


Prosecco and White Chocolate: Mad Love

Mad Love. Forever. That’s your likely reward for showing up on Valentine’s Day with Prosecco and white chocolate in hand.

prosecco-and-white-chocolateProsecco’s playful, mischievous character combined with the decadent attitude of white chocolate sets a mood that’s…uhmmm…appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

White chocolate truffles will up the pleasure ante: their round shape indulges sweet shared nibbling, lip to Prosecco-wet lip, while the smooth truffle filling is sheer bliss against Prosecco’s bubble.

Recommended pairings include:

Soft Music
Single red rose
Something from Victoria’s Secret

For those of you not familiar, Prosecco Conegliano – Valdobbiadene is an elegant, sparkling wine (there is a lesser known “still” version) with fine bubbly perlage, dry to lightly sweet, has a fruity / floral bouquet, and sometimes a hint of bread crust.

And it just so happens that Prosecco Conegliano – Valdobbiadene represents one of the best value-to-quality ratios in today’s Italian wine market.

DOCG status, a governance that guarantees authenticity, was recently awarded to Prosecco of the Conegliano – Valdobbiadene production zone in Italy’s Veneto. Prosecco Conegliano – Valdobbiadene joins a category of elite Italian wines which include the likes of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino.

With food, Prosecco pairs well with lighter first courses, delicately flavored risotto or pasta dishes, sea food, baked fish, soups, white meat, and fresh, young cheeses.

Serve at 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Use chalice glasses if you have them – you’ll have a bit more fun with the bubble, but totally not necessary, regular wine glasses will do just fine.

Some producers to look for include: Bisol, Collalto, Mionetto, Zardetto

Best V-Day wishes…hearts and arrows.

VINO 2010 Italian Wine Week / Intersections

Walk. Standstill. Then go. That was the name of game making my way down Lexington Ave. and across 45th…46th…47th street traffic. Intersections can be the most interesting of places: cross-street realities of different people, shapes, deportments, attitudes, and opinions. You can learn a good deal there if you tune-in.

The largest Italian wine event outside of Italy’s borders – VINO 2010 Italian Wine Week, held recently in New York City – proved to be an intersection of a different kind with producers, importers, distributors, industry leaders, bloggers, writers, foodies and a host of others convening to make the world of Italian wine go round.

A collaboration of the Italian Trade Commission, Italy’s regional governments, Vinitaly and Buonitalia, the VINO 2010 program included wine events, discussion panels, seminars, and tastings. I attended a Meet n’ Greet the Vintners gathering, the Italian Masters Grand Tasting and the Italian Wine Exchange Grand Tasting.


The panoramic scale of the Italian Masters and Wine Exchange tastings was staggering and gave testimony to Italy’s oenological complexity. The Italian Masters Tasting, featuring Tuscany and Prosecco, was staged by the Consortia representing producers of Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. The Italian Wine Exchange Tasting featured producers and wines from all over Italy.


Meet n’ Greet the Vintners introduced attendees to Italian wines which have never before been imported in the US. The event was an excellent lens through which one could begin to comprehend just how many “undiscovered” wine producers of Italy stand ready to bring high quality, artisan wines into the US market. By the way, don’t form an impression of the undiscovered artisan winemaker as “newbie” for lack of a current import connection: I tasted some super wines from this group.

Between sips and hand-shakes flowed good discussion among many producers and attendees, with enthusiastic producers happily chatting away about wine, local tradition, history, terroir, people, etc., connections that reverberate an important, unique cultural message central to Italian wine.

There were a few characters whose interests seemed to orbit more around announcing their opinions of which wines they considered to be “the best”…or, more alarmingly, “the worst”. But, they were easy enough to spot and even easier to avoid 😉 Oh, well…at every intersection, there is always someone for whom it’s all just concrete and a light doing red, yellow, green.

Vaona Valpolicella Classico 2008

Vaona Valpolicella Classico 2008, DOC

I imagine setting down a bottle of Vaona Valpolicella Classico in front of a mirror and, in the reflection, here’s what I’d see:

family members cultivating grapes, dressing
vines, hands, pruning knives; doing
good work, living
tradition, pursuing quality
for its own sake.

vaona-valpolicella-classico-2008Yeah, this beautifully classic wine is that honest. Without trying to be overly complicated or up-market serious, this wine hits the target at which many Valpolicelle have aimed and missed.

The family run Vaona estate is located in the heart of Valpolicella Classico in Italy’s Veneto and consists of 10 or so hectares, eight of which are under vine. Using the natural force of gravity over machines and pumping equipment, Vaona winemaking processes reduce production violence, preserving the integrity of the juice.

Vaona Valpolicella Classico is made from Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Molinara 5%. Vineyards are at an altitude ranging from 250-300 meters with generally calcareous soil composition that includes an alluvial gravel component.

Fermentation is carried out over 8-10 days and, after some decanting, the wine is stored in steel containers (60%) and wood cask. After six or so months, the wine is then reassembled and bottled a month later.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A very alive, predominantly floral nose shows subtle hints of tobacco. Vivid tastes of cherry, recollections of earth and almond, ride on top of delicious acidity that just makes your mouth water for food. Lighter bodied with a nicely delineated structure.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This wine’s versatility makes pairing it with food pretty interesting: ANTIPASTI: savory pies, cured meats and cheeses, crostini; RISOTTO, PASTA, POLENTA: dressed with meat or mushroom sauces; MEATS / POULTRY: red meats and poultry – try roasted capon with grapes or a good burger with mushrooms and melted asiago cheese.