Italian Masters 2011, NYC: Memorable Tastings

Italian Masters 2011, NYC: Memorable Tastings

February 8th arrived to find me traveling by morning train across a very pastoral Connecticut quieted by fallen snow.

I’m returning to New York City for the Italian Wine Masters Grand Tasting, an event featuring producers of Conegliano-Valdobiaddene Prosecco Superiore, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.

vigne-doro-domenico-vazzolerAfter having tasted several unimaginative Prosecchi, I pause a moment: my mouth is now filled with deliciousness. I look up from my glass and see the face of a young producer, Domenico Vazzoler of Vigne Doro, coming into focus. If you love distinctive Prosecco, it is a name you’ll want to remember. The Prosecco wines of Vigne Doro show brilliantly restrained sugar and clarity of flavor. I found them massively drinkable.

Other Prosecchi that caught my attention and which I absolutely must mention here include those from Bellenda – their Prosecco Miraval and charmat method S.C. 1931 are stunningly good – as well as very enjoyable tastings from producers Giavi and Drusian.

crociani-susannaIMHO, Cantina Crociani shines as one of the brightest stars in the constellation that is Vino Nobile. I was happy to find Susanna Crociani seated behind Cantina Crociani’s tasting table today, pouring the estate’s Rosso di Montepulciano 2009, Vino Nobile 2007, Vino Nobile Riserva 2006 and Vin Santo 2003, brilliant, well-made wines that communicate balance, grace and depth. I found the Vin Santo 2003 especially lovely.

I also tasted superb Vino Nobile from producers Contucci, la Ciarliana, Casale. Applause applause !

It was tough work to find wines from Montalcino that impressed more than did Uccelliera’s Rosso di Montalcino 2009 and Brunello di Montalcino 2006. But, wines of Fattoria “la Lecciaia” stood out nonetheless – I loved their Rosso di Montalcino 2008, Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Manapetra 2006 – as did those of Tenuta Collosorbo, whose Rosso & Brunello di Montalcino were among the best I tasted. Also delicious was that producer’s Sant’Antimo Rosso.

Early during the Vintrospective timeline, I wrote about a wine that filled me with emotion: Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva 2001. I was happy to be able to taste Casa Emma’s new Riserva vintage on this trip, as well as the Chianti Classico normale: polished, soulful wines which benefit from wood treatment that never becomes overbearing.

Sometime ago, I tasted the Chianti Classico Riserva known as il Grigio San Felice and became an instant fan of Tenuta San Felice. On this day of Italian Masters, that estate’s Chianti Classico 2008, il Grigio San Felice Riserva 2007, and Poggio Rosso 2006 all impressed with elegant, lip-smacking flavor and depth.

I ended the day with Italian Masters in the Sommelier Room, an exclusive tasting opportunity of fine vintage wines from many of the event’s top producers. Highlights included Cantina Crociani Vino Nobile 1999 that was sacred in its clarity; Tenuta di Gracciano dell Seta Vino Nobile 1988 which I will describe in one word – glorious. Col d’Orcia Brunello Riserva 1980 displayed complexity beyond imagination. I thought the Sommelier Room tasting opportunity was a brilliant idea that really illuminated what the producers / wines could achieve over the long term.

Looking forward to Tre Bicchieri – back in NYC later this week…

Soon… Spring.

New Englanders are a hardy lot. We don’t complain much and we certainly know how to push through a tough winter. But, even the most hardy of New Englanders will tell you that this year…winter in New England has been…well, to use a local phrase, wicked BIG.

Kids have now had so many snow-days off from school that many schools are requiring kids to give up the spring school vacation. Roads, sidewalks, parking lots have all been so narrowed with plowed snow that getting out and about has been difficult. Roofs have collapsed under the weight of this year’s snowfall.

new-england-winter-outside-dining-table-3Writing this, I look out onto my terrace, colored in the off-whites and greys of winter’s monochromatic grip, and am reminded by the mounds of snow sitting in the chairs that we’ve still a long way to go until spring.

Sanity check: a long way off till spring? Just a moment, allow me to refer to a chart of the seasons – no, actually, spring is not so far off! According to, spring in New England begins March 20, 7:21 P.M. EDT, 2011 – the spring equinox – when day and night are approximately 12 hours long and the Sun is at the midpoint of the sky, our north pole tilting towards the Sun.

Spring. Sun. What a lovely thoughts! I imagine the summer terrace: soon, we will gather round the outside dining table in the company of friends to share something from the grill, a glass of wine. Soon, we will sweat and swat flies and shoo mosquitoes. Tiki torches will flicker, citronella candles will burn. Dinners al fresco. Late summer evenings. Soon 🙂

#barbera2 ::: something extraordinary


barbera2-22Something…extraordinary…is happening.

Something that, IMHO, signals an enlightened cultural movement in wine, one with the potential to stimulate wine culture in the same way that the court of Medici stimulated the arts, inspiring the Renaissance.

And it’s called #barbera2.

Scheduled to take place May 14, 2011 in Italy’s Piemonte at Nizza Monferrato Asti, #barbera2 is a wine event that will call together an international group of wine producers, writers, appassionati and artists to experience 10 selected Barbera wines of different terroir: five from Italy’s Piemonte and five from the west coast of North America.

Open-mindedness, freedom of thought and civilized expression of opinion are to reign at the #barbera2 event – there are to be no scores, no winners, no losers.

#barbera2 participants will explore the unique, expressive beauty of the Barbera vine, seek to understand the specific terroirs, learn about each other’s wine culture, exchange ideas and points of view, and perhaps most importantly, enjoy the pleasure of one another’s company.

For me, #barbera2 points the way toward a future for wine that, hopefully, will be illuminated not by marketeers, but rather by how we – lovers and producers of wine – will choose with soul and intellect to learn and communicate about wine and wine culture.

Take a moment to learn more about #barbera2 here.

VINO 2011, NYC: Pure Language of Wine

Figuratively speaking, I close my eyes. My ears, too, switch off. I remain undistracted by oenological Babel, leaning out of quiet darkness toward the pure language of wine.

vino-2011-1During a tasting visit to the massive week long celebration of Italian wine known as Vino 2011 – held this year during January in NYC – I lean so exaggeratedly far toward that pure language of wine that I nearly fall out of my own skin 🙂

Responsible for me almost exiting my epidermis are several producers and wines I’d like to mention here:

I was totally slain by stunning wines from Lombardia producers Ca’ Lojera, Citari, Civielle, and Frezza whose Lugana whites should not be missed, nor the incredibly satisfying Chiaretto also from Citari.

Bonarda, a wonderful “whole meal” wine from producer Fiamberti, totally charmed my senses.

From Fratelli Berlucchi – whose Casa Delle Colonne 2001 was especially grand – and LaValle, I tasted exquisite bottlings of Franciacorta that reverberate in their poetry.

Screamingly delicious Prosecco from producer Rive Della Chiesa reminded me what Italians know and Americans need to remember – that Prosecco is to be drunk not only for celebration, but for every day enjoyment.

The enchanting Gavi wines of Piemonte producer Ernesto Piccolo spoke to me the fresh, pure truth of Cortese.

Elegantly smooth, totally harmonic Valpolicella and Amarone from Benedetti showed their fine pedigree as did the Susumaniello, Primitivo, Negromaro of Poderi Angelini.

The wines of Tuscan producer Montenidoli create a mosaic masterwork of “place”. Especially impressive were il Templar 1999 and Sono Montenidoli 2004.

vino-2011-2Other gems included dazzling, delicious Friulano from Stanig and La Tunella and from Giovanni Dri, a dessert wine called Ramandolo, a lightly sweet-tannic miracle of the Verduzzo grape.

Event organizers, too, hit a home run, providing gracious hospitality, thoughtful attention to detail and excellent organization – from platters of delicious food bringing sustenance to tired palates, to continuously emptied dump buckets, to incredibly efficient coat check – making the Vino 2011 experience convenient and pleasant.