The Pumpkin Assault Is On

The pumpkin assault is on.

Pumpkin flavored coffee. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin hummus, for God’s sake.

In other words, the autumn / winter holiday season is in full swing.

Time-honored wine wisdom gives guidance for breaking out the big reds during cold weather months.
But, that’s not the only way to roll, friends.

Sparkling wines, particularly Prosecco, bring elegance and food-pairing versatility to a wide variety of holiday meals.

And guess what? Prosecco’s profile of apple, pear, and citrus pairs wonderfully with the season’s ubiquitous pumpkin flavors.

So gather your tarts, pies, cookies and crisps, friends. Let the pumpkin flavor flow. The season’s pumpkin-y delectables deserve to be enjoyed with some good Prosecco.

Prosecco Brut is dry, light, refreshing, the more modern, international of the Prosecco styles. The fruit-forward quality of this style will balance out the richness of most pumpkin-based desserts. It is also exceptional with most savory holiday dishes.

Extra Brut (Extra Dry) is a good complement to the natural sweetness of pecan and apple which often accompany pumpkin. Not as dry as Brut, Extra Brut Prosecco can balance out the sweeter desserts (generally speaking, your wine should match the sweetness profile of the dessert). It also pairs well with cheeses, pasta, seafood and meat, especially poultry.

The Dry style of Prosecco is sweetest of all and your best ticket for hot and spicy holiday dishes.

It’s no wonder Prosecco has become an increasingly popular pairing partner year-round, not just for holidays or special celebrations.

Note: Pictured wines received as samples.

Getting to Know Prosecco Col Fondo

Although the bubbly libation from Italy’s Veneto known as Prosecco has been steadily rising in popularity among consumers, you may not yet have had occasion to meet Prosecco Col Fondo, a frizzante style of Prosecco that is winning fans of its own.

Prosecco Col Fondo stands apart from Prosecco wines produced using the more widely adopted Charmat method, as good as they are, not only for its unique flavor and aromatic profile, but also for its particular method of production.

Col fondo means ‘with sediment’ …. that is to say, Prosecco Col Fondo is bottled on its own yeasts, i.e., sur-lie, undergoing a second fermentation in bottle. Yeasts consume sugars, slowly creating carbon dioxide gas and … voilà… bubbles. Spent yeasts remain in bottle, a part of col fondo goodness. The result is an intense, complex Prosecco with a decidedly unique personality.

(Charmat method fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tank, leaving spent yeasts behind.)

It has been said that col fondo is a process likely discovered by chance as sugars from still-bottled Prosecco unexpectedly caused second fermentation while resting in the cellar. That may or may not be, but no matter. In any case, col fondo is reflective of an important piece of Prosecco tradition and culture, linked to a time before modern Charmat became the most popular method of production in the territory.

Prosecco Col Fondo

To be clear, Prosecco Col Fondo provides a different sensory experience than does Charmat produced Prosecco. If you’re used to the extreme clarity of the latter, don’t be surprised by the beautifully pale Prosecco Col Fondo, resulting from its retention of sediment in bottle.

Do expect from Prosecco Col Fondo complexity and exquisite texture, notes of bread crust, yeast, ripe fruit and bright acidity.

As is true of Prosecco in general, Prosecco Col Fondo is not just for celebratory quaffing. Speaking broadly, Proseccos are great food wines, cleaning the palate, leaving it refreshed and ready to fully taste next bites.

Prosecco Col Fondo

Food pairing … enjoy Prosecco Col Fondo with anything from gourmet burgers to pasta with prosciutto, peas and cream, to fish, to spicy Asian cuisine.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you transition from drinking DOCG Charmat produced Prosecco to Prosecco Col Fondo. Rather, I am pointing out that Prosecco Col Fondo is a style of Prosecco to be appreciated and enjoyed from time to time, one that can that can bring depth to the Prosecco experience.

By the way, interesting tasting tips on enjoying Prosecco Col Fondo include this one, found on the company website of producer Malibràn:

Before the tasting ,the Sur-lie should rest for a few days, in a vertical position, so that yeasts can fall down to the bottle’s bottom; it should be poured into a decanter and we suggest pouring the remainings yeasts into a glass, so that you can have a taste of the prosecco’s heart, the heady refermentation scent and the memory of a past that still lives in the moderns sparkling’s making process technologies.”

Still other producers recommend gently turning bottle upside down and then right side up to disperse the sediment.

Perhaps there is a good opportunity here for a self-directed educational experience … buy two bottles and try it both ways.

A Few Notable Small Producers Offering Prosecco Col Fondo:

Bele Casel
Ca’ dei Zago

Viva Veneto: Wines of Great Excellence

Of the many great things at which Italians excel – design, craftsmanship, all things aesthetic, to name a few – most Italians will admit that cooperation is not among them.

But, that did not prevent a varied collection of Veneto wine producers and their respective consortiums from delivering a brilliant presentation demonstrating the depth and breadth of the region’s wine and food culture at United Wines of Veneto Food & Wine Master Class, December 2nd, in New York City.

Moderated by the inimitable Gloria Maroti Frazee, Director of Video and Education, Wine Spectator, the event was held under the auspices of Consorzio Vini Veneti, a sort consortium of consortiums, if you will. (Note: Italy’s wine consortiums protect and promote the quality of wine and wine production in their specific territories.)

Veneto Food and Wine Master Class

A land of ancient wine tradition, Veneto is also one of Italy’s foremost wine producing regions and home to some of Italy’s most important wines. You likely already recognize at least some of the Veneto wine brands such as Prosecco or Amarone. But, there are too, other perhaps lesser known brands that contribute to Veneto’s rich wine tradition. And, whether famous or less famous, the wines all have a unique story to tell:

Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.

You may have a bit of a challenge saying Conegliano Valdobbiadene … but I assure you that any effort will be worth the pleasure of tasting the elegant, fresh wines from the steep hillsides of this Prosecco Superiore denomination in Italy’s northeast.

(Tip: actually, you can just ask your retailer for Prosecco Superiore.)

For its production of high quality Prosecco, the hilly area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene 50km or so from Venice in the province of Treviso was awarded D.O.C.G. status in summer 2009, becoming a controlled and guaranteed appellation producing one of Italy’s premium class wines.

Prosecco Superiore is made from a minimum 85% of Glera grapes with a maximum 15% of other indigenous varietals such as Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera, Chardonnay, Pinot.

At table, the Prosecco Superiore wines proved especially wonderful, cleaning the palate with each sip, preparing the mouth to fully taste the next bite of food.

The trio of wines Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. wines were intensely aromatic with clear notes of fruit, scents of flowers, showed complexity along with fine, silky perlage and strong identity.

Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. Superiore Di Cartizze Brut Vigna La Rivetta (Villa Sandi)
Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore Millesimato (Mionetto USA)
Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry (Astoria)

Soave Classico D.O.C.

If ever there was a wine for the entire meal, Soave is likely it. From appetizer to dessert, Soave wines complimented every course.

The Soave Classico designation is restricted to Soave wines produced in the volcanic soils around the municipalities of Soave and Monteforte.

The main varietal used in production of Soave Classico is Garganega, minimum 80%, I believe, with allowable addition of Trebbiano di Soave. Garganega contributes structure and density and as Garganega is not overly acidic, the lively Trebbiano di Soave when added can bring a certain tangy verve to the blend.

While true that Soave wines can be cellar aged for ten or so years in good vintages, it was noted by Arturo Stocchetti, President of Consorzio Soave, that it is, in fact, youthful, ready to drink Soave wines that more represent the territory and Soave identity.

The group of Soave Classico D.O.C. wines were all well-structured with ripe, focused fruit, delicate floral / almond scents, and mineral notes. Supple in the mouth, the wines showed finesse and were wildly pleasant to drink, bringing pleasure to each food course.

Soave Classico D.O.C. “Monte De Toni” 2014 (I Stefanini)
Soave Classico D.O.C. “Pressoni” 2013 (Cantina Del Castello)
Soave Classico D.O.C. “Casette Foscarin” 2012 (Monte Tondo)

Gloria Maroti Frazee, Veneto Food and Wine Master Class

Lugana D.O.C.

Lugana production territory is to be found in the southern part of Lake Garda, a plain area with clay based, limestone rich soil. Director of Consorzio Lugana, Carlo Veronese, notes that the more the clay, the better the Lugana wine.

It is Turbiana that is the principal varietal in Lugana wines, not less than 90% being required. The remaining 10% allows additions of Trebbiano di Lugana, Garganega, or Chardonnay, however, many producers opt to use 100% Turbiana. Direttore Veronese explained that Turbiana, in fact, “…is twin brother to Verdicchio from the Marche.” Apparently, the scientific testing has proven DNA is the same.

Immensely aromatic, Lugana wines are meant to be enjoyed young and fresh. The wines typically have a big presence in the mouth although the alcohol is relatively low at ~ 13%.

The threesome of Lugana D.O.C. wines were delicately scented with alluring notes of spice, showed lip-smacking freshness with excellent balance of acidity and sweetness. The wines were great companions to the day’s food courses.

Lugana D.O.C. 2014 (Ca’ Lojera)
Lugana Riserva D.O.C. “Le Coete” 2014 (Otella)
Lugana D.O.C. “Mandolara” 2014 (Le Morette)

Bardolino D.O.C.

If you’re old enough to remember the Bardolino of 15 or even 10 years ago, you are in for a pleasant surprise: Bardolino has a new personality, one that is lighter, more elegant, more closely resembling Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Village in style and weight. Franco Christoforreti, Consorzio Bardolino President, notes that the new style Chiaretto debuted in 2014 is closer to what one might find in France, and not at all like a Cerasuolo from south Italy.

Bardolino’s production area can be found along the Verona side southern quadrant of Lake Garda. The territory’s glacial soil is high in sodium conferring a certain salinity to the wines. I’m told that Bardolino summers are not too hot, neither is winter too hard. In fact, says Mr. Christoforreti, so unique is the area’s northern Italian micro climate that lemon trees are notably grown in the region.

Grape varietals used in the production of Bardolino wines are prominently Corvino, Corvinone, with allowable additions of Rondinella and Monlinara, although I understand from Mr. Christoforetti that Molinara is rather disappearing from use.

The Chiaretto offers a really different perspective as the wine is not a white nor a red, and different still from Valpolicella wines, showing a great counterpoint to Amarone, as was pointed out by Mr. Christoforetti.

Generally speaking, Bardolino wines can be consumed from one year after production up to perhaps five or six years.

Worth mentioning, too, is that the super fresh bouquet of Chiaretto can, in a good way, be closer to that of a white wine than a red.

The Bardolino D.O.C. wines were vibrant with freshness, fruity, with notes of spice, and a rather typical pleasant bitter note, showing impeccable balance.

Bardolino Chiaretto Classico D.O.C. 2014 (Delibori)
Bardolino Chiaretto Classico D.O.C. “Vigne Alte” 2014 (Zeni)
Bardolino Classico D.O.C.”Vigne Morlongo” 2013 (Villabella)

Glasses, Veneto Food and Wine Master Class

Valpolicella D.O.C.

Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone, wines generally recognized as styles of Valpolicella, are produced in the Veneto on land located on the northern side of Verona.

The speaker for Valpolicella, one Mr. Vicenzi, I believe, explained that the contour of the land is one of “…several hills, like a hand, and in between fingers, some valleys.” An apropos description of the region’s fan shaped territory formed by a series of valleys and hills that originate in Verona and develop northward.

Varietal protagonists in use in Valpolicella, as in Bardolino, are Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.

Legend suggests that Valpolicella, one of Italy’s oldest wine regions, may derive its name from the Latin Vallis-polis-cellae …. meaning “land of many cellars”.

Valpolicella Ripasso has affectionately yet unfairly been compared at times to one of Italy’s most important wines, Amarone, being called “baby Amarone”. A wine with a strong identity of its own, Valpolicella Ripasso is today getting its due, as market popularity and recognition for this wine is on the upswing.

Food-wise, the Ripasso and Amarone wines suggest a pairing with more important dishes and work especially well with winter courses.

Valpolicella D.O.C. wines were lavish and rich on the nose, dark cherry, chocolate and warm spice, sensuously round, silky and warm in the mouth, generously long on the finish.

Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore Rocca Sveva 2011 (Cantina di Soave)
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. 2008 (Villabella)

All in all, United Wines of Veneto Food & Wine Master Class highlighted the remarkable diversity and quality of Veneto wines. No matter what one’s wine preferences may be, among the wines of Veneto there is, simply put, something for every wine lover. And while there exists a certain shared identity across the flight of wines, each D.O.C./G. presented wines of originality and great typicity. Veneto’s wines showed their prowess at table, too, being wines very much about food pairing, allowing food to remain center stage, and making clear the link between the region’s wine and culinary traditions.

To end without making note of Gloria Maroti Frazee’s excellent work in moderating the Food & Wine Master Class would be remiss. Additionally, applause for the Del Posto team … service and food courses were impeccable. Finally, at an event where a million things could have gone wrong, flawless execution from team IEEM made it a first class food and wine education affair.

Ciaoooo for now … 🙂

The Grandi Marchi Experience: Symphonic

The Grandi Marchi – visionary winemakers from across Italy – are here today at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City to lead attendees through a seminar and guided wine tasting of some of Italy’s best terroirs.

Like the Philharmonic minutes before a concert, the “orchestra” Grandi Marchi, is tuning up.

As Grandi Marchi members take their seats, tasting glasses clink and jangle, papers rustle, polite chatter and excuse me’s whispered one after another.

Audience iPhone camera shutters clllick away.


What follows is to be an immensely informative seminar, with each producer/representative speaking with subject matter expert authority about their respective regions, production methods, and unique terroirs.

I won’t kid you – the tasting segment is ridiculously pleasant. And massively instructive. The elegance, vigor, joy and pleasure of Grandi Marchi wines is remarkable.

But, for anyone who is familiar with the Grandi Marchi – member names that include the likes of Gaja, Masi, and Antinori – icons of fine Italian wine – that much is not unexpected.

What has so impressed me at this Grandi Marchi tasting – more so than any single wine or producer – is that, as a group, the wines braid together 13 different appellations and 15 wineries in a way that speaks so vividly, so sonorously, of Italy’s rich and diverse wine tradition.

To put it another way, perhaps in musical terms, the Italian wine tradition is composed not of a single tone, but from many different tones which, as in good music, allow us to experience the symphony.

There are no short cuts to understanding Italian wine. There are, however, some very good places to begin the Sassicaiajourney. Grandi Marchi wines represent a point of departure that grant you exposure to a highly relevant cross-section of Italy’s most important grape varietals and regions, act as model reference points for what wines ought to be like within their respective categories, and help to communicate the cultural values and traditions that unite them.

For more information about the Grandi Marchi, I recommend you to follow the link to Grandi Marchi Institute of Fine Italian Wines.

Fumanelli Valpolicella 2009

Fumanelli Valpolicella 2009

Dinner dishes are cleared, a half bottle of wine still to drink. Outside, massive oak limbs creak in the wind, sympathy for logs crackling in the wood stove.

He’s looks at the chess board, then back at me, raises an eyebrow.

I return a steady gaze that says:
You want a piece of me? 😉

fumanelli-valpolicella-2009He hunches over the chess board, absent mindedly swirls a last sip of wine in his glass, pushes his Bishop forward. Really? Bishop’s opening? Popular back in the ‘60’s perhaps. Oh, he’s an old school boy, isn’t he? Classic chess, all the way.

Also showing some classic style tonight is a noteable, easy drinking Valpolicella from producer Marchesi Fumanelli who has been producing wines since 1470.

I had happened upon the Fumanelli bottle at a local shop awhile back. Although the producer wasn’t really on my radar at the time, I purchased a single bottle to give it a go. And glad I did. This Valpolicella brought timeless style to the table and continues to be distinguished company during these after dinner sporting moments.

The wine is produced from hand-picked grapes – Corvina Veronese ( 40%), Corvinone (40%), Rondinella (20%) – grown on the family’s Squarano estate (San Floriano) in the classic heart of Valpolicella. Fermented in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Fresh picked berries, violets, herbs and tobacco. Medium weight on the palate, cherry, notes of almond. Good balance all around, appetite-raising acidity and nice grippy tannins. Flavorful, easy drinking, classic style.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Pasta, risotto, veal and chicken dishes, burgers, pizza, hearty soups, cured meats, cheeses. I’d even do this wine with salmon.

Awakenend now from my Valpolicella reverie I find him peering over his spectacles at me.

“I’m sorry, did you say something”, I ask. “My move” ?

Strokes his beard, staring. “Checkmate”, he says.


Five Wines for a Tuesday Night

Five Wines for a Tuesday Night

The weekend is history now and you’re staring down the long end of a work week that is getting busier by the minute. You think it would sure be nice to wrap up Tuesday evening with something good to eat and a glass or two of wine. Sounds like a great idea with little need for convincing, except for one thing: the wines you like to drink aren’t inexpensive and while it’s easy to justify that on the weekend, they stand a bit pricey for a Tuesday night.


The first thing you should know is that the dilemma is not yours alone: it’s a problem shared by virtually every wine lover and wine professional I know. Not many can afford to drink unrestrained every night of every week. But, who would want to, really? To drink expensive wine every evening would mean missing out on so much that wine has to offer. Boring.

Do what most savvy wine drinkers do: zero in on interesting, well-made, satisfying budget wines for the weekdays and save your favorite bottles for weekends and special occasions. Here are five interesting and massively affordable wines sure to save you from boredom and financial ruin on any given Tuesday 😉 Generally speaking, one can find these wines selling for under $12.00 per bottle.

La Maialina Chianti 2008
From Italy’s Tuscany region, this wine offers tons of personality, vibrant fruit, dried flowers, earth, and tobacco. Dark-toned, rich palate with nicely balanced lightness / softness / intensity. Perhaps the best wine I’ve ever tasted in the under-$10 category.

Alain Corcia Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2010
This Pinot Noir from France charms with elegant, bright toned cherry fruit, hints of saddle leather, minerals and dusty cocoa underscored with bracing acidity. Medium bodied with a silky palate full of clean flavor. I am hard-pressed to turn up a better Pinot Noir deal anywhere.

Quinta dos Roques Quinta do Correio Tinto 2010
This red gem from Portugal just sings with lush scents of ripe berries, herbs and earth. A rich palate of raspberry jam finds harmony balanced by refreshing acidity followed by a generous finish. Lovers of Rhone wines will especially appreciate this one.

Monte del Fra Custoza 2011

Delicately aromatic and flavorful, this white from Italy’s Veneto gives generous licks of apple, pear, peach and nectarine. Well-structured, great balance, and lively acidity. Finishes with good length, remaining fragrant in the mouth. One of the best values in Italian wine today.

Mâcon-Lugny Eugène Blanc Cave de Lugny 2010
This classic white burgundy drinks easily offering tons of personality and charm. Subtle scents of apples, dried apricots, honey, citrus and flowers. Rich in the mouth with mineral undertones and lively, lemony-acidity.

Related posts:
La Maialina Chianti 2008
Monte del Fra Custoza 2011

Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico 2010

Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico 2010

I wish I could report to you that my sit at the majestic mountain perch you see just below inspires me to deep and reflective thinking. But, such beauty stirs my appetite: I think only of a piping hot serving of canederli allo speck and a glass of Valpolicella Classico.

Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico has long been one of my favorite Veneto wines. Recalling how sensational was the 2007 bottling of that producer’s Valpolicella Classico, I drift off to daydream, forgetting not only the mountains’ majesty, but the canederli too. Unforgivable on both counts. Only the abrupt encountering of my Glühwein cup’s empty bottom shakes me back to the present.

Feeling now especially empty-headed and shallow from this confession, I shall offer excuses in the form of tasting notes which you will find below 😉

brigaldara-valpolicella-classico-2010One can find the Brigaldara winery located in Italy’s northeast, sitting just outside the village of San Floriano. I understand it rests upon a slope in the Marano Valley, part of the traditional “Classico” zone. The estate holds 50 hectares of land including property, vineyards and olive groves.

Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico is produced from Corvina 40% / Corvinone 20% / Rondinella, Molinara Sangiovese 40%. Grapes are grown at ~ 150-200m and hand harvested during the second half of October.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

She is a full-figured girl, this Valpolicella, filling the mouth with ample, sensuous body. Dark cherry, plum, shavings of “edelbitter” chocolate, almond, lashings of bacon and spice. Wonderfully balanced all round by delicious acidity. Ripe, satiny tannins lead to a satisfying, clean finish.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Delicate pasta dishes like tortellini stuffed with spinach and ricotta; fresh egg noodles with butter and matchstick pieces of prosciutto San Daniele. Certainly consider the canederli (dumplings) with speck. Charcuterie, medium-young cheeses. Roasted poultry. Pumpkin risotto with bits of bacon. But, it’s Tuesday night, you say, and you’re feeling lazy? Try Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico with a panino of toasted, buttered bread, thin slices of mortadella and melted asiago cheese. That’ll put you right 🙂 .


Monte del Fra Custoza 2011

Monte del Fra Custoza 2011

A wedge of light cuts through the kitchen darkness as we open the refrigerator door to look inside: I declare my love for a still irresistible piece of wild caught salmon resting on a plate; she advises that she will be inconsolable without familiar Chinese comfort food.

I surrender the salmon and leave her to transform it and little else into a nostalgically ethnic dinner dish that, for her, summons cozy memories from earlier years in China.

Meanwhile, I should tell you about the wine:

monte-del-fra-custoza-2011Monte del Fra Custoza is a complex, carefully crafted blend of 40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Tocai Friulano, 20% Cortese, 10% Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia, hailing from the southeast side of Lake Garda in Italy’s Veneto. Grown in glacial soil of limestone, clay, gravel and sand, after individually timed harvests, grapes are separated and soft-pressed in temperature controlled stainless steel.

Despite the empty refrigerator, we dine well. The wine is sensational alongside an elegant Chinese rice porridge with bits of wild caught salmon, diced carrots, celery, mustard greens and leek, flavored with a generous amount of finely sliced ginger, white pepper, sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce.

Tasting Notes:

Delicately aromatic and flavorful, licks of apple, pear, peach and nectarine. Well-structured, great balance, lively acidity. Finishes with good length, remaining fragrant in the mouth. If pressed, I could write a one-word tasting note: Delicious. To experience one of the best values in Italian wine, entrust yourself immediately to a bottle of Monte del Fra Custoza 2011.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Appetizers, refined first courses of pasta or rice, fish, shellfish, complex salads, delicate poultry dishes, eggs benedict, eggs & and shaved morels on buttered toast, poached eggs with mussels on buttered toast, quiche.