Monday, May 22, 2017

Velenosi Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore is hit of spring wine dinner


As the wine teacher for the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School, it's been my pleasure to host a number of local wine pairing dinners in northern New Jersey. The spring 2017 dinner took place at Millburn's elegant La Pergola. The theme was Northern Italian, and there was clear winner of the night when it came to the wines:

Velenosi Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore .

As the evening began, the attendees were welcomed with a fresh sparkling wine from Franciacorta in northern Italy. It was a Saten - in other words, made from all white grapes and created in the traditional Champagne method. 

We moved on to white wine, and here attendees had the chance to try something new to all of them - Cesare Cento Filari 2015 Lugana.  It comes from Italy's northern region near Verona from a little known grape called Turbiana.  With notes of white stone fruit countered by a touch of bitter almond - it's a unique and delicious medium-bodied white.  This was enjoyed with fried calamari and zucchini. 



Moving on to the main course, the class was wowed by the Velenosi Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore 2010.  Hailing from Italy's Marche region, which lies in the east bordered by the Adriatic Sea, this wine had already developed nicely but could age further.  A blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes, the wine was intensely colored, concentrated with red and black fruits.  The lush fruit was balanced by good acidity and refined tannins. I discussed the idea of a wine's length with the class, in other words how long the flavor persisted after swallowing, and this was a good example of a wine with great length.  Served with La Pergola's succulent short ribs, the wine was a stunning match which impressed everyone at the table.  It's available in New Jersey at Laurenti Wines. 

We ended the lovely evening with something special - the Velenosi Querciantica Visciole.  It has juice of the anicient Marche Visciole cherry; therefore, it is not called wine but an aromatized drink. The cherry and cinammon notes made it an absolutely perfect match to the cinammon-dusted Tiramisu that was served for dessert. The Velenosi Querciantica Visciol is available in New Jersey at Jerry's Gourmet in Englewood. 



For news on future wine dinners, contact the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bulgaria wines reinvent themselves with international and indigenous varieties



Like other winegrowing countries that once existed behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria is flourishing with an influx of new energy and renewed interest in its winemaking past with an eye to improving what was good and expanding to add new directions. 

The initial success of these efforts was evident at a media tasting at the elegant Hunt and Fish Club in Manhattan, where a group of winery representatives presented some of the wines currently available in the United States. 

The event was hosted by Master Sommelier Marika Vida-Arnold, who enthused about the transformation in the country's wine as she educated the group about the most heralded grape-growing regions. 

But first, there was some history.  In the crusades, Bulgarian wine growing areas were spared because the wine was so good.  During the Communist era, many wineries in Eastern Europe ceased to progress.  Years after the Iron Curtain fell, the winemakers began to innovate again, and now there is a new spirit in the vineyards.

Some favorite wines from the event include: 

Yambol Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - With aromas and flavors of cherries and blackberries, this was a medium bodied cabernet with good balance of acidity and tannins and a lingering finish. 

Vina Merlot Special Reserve 2010 - Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bulgaria and this wine showed why.  The perky chocolate cherry nose was inviting and on the palate there were ample cherries as well. The wine had bright acidity and a nice finish.  Very drinkable on its own or with food. 

Asenovgrad "A" Mavrud Reserve 2013 - Mavrud is the calling card for indigenous Bulgarian grapes. Marika called it "brooding" and that gets at its depth.  This reserve level wine would still be able to age for years, as I found it a bit tight yet. It had a dried cherry and leather aroma and smoky savory flavors as well as cherry notes on the palate.  If you really want to taste a true Bulgarian wine, this is a good one.   

Miroglio Elenova Mavrud 2013 - This wine is made from one of the oldest grape varieties in the world.  It has thick skin that produces a lot of tannins.  Elenovo is a single vineyard, carefully tended with green pruning to reduce production and encourage concentrated flavor in the grapes.  The wine had nice grip with ripe cherry flavors and leather. I'd put this away a couple more years in order for the tannin to settle down and the oak to integrate a bit more. At $18 US it's a great introduction to a unique grape. 

Miroglio EM Brut 2011 - I didn't expect a sparkling wine and this one was delightful.  Rich and yeasty from 36 months lees aging, this sparkler offered citrusy lemon lime flavors as well.  I drank this tart, fizzy pour right up.  

Look for Bulgarian wines to provide good quality at an affordable price and keep an eye out for those interesting native varietal wines as well. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spicy, fruity Navarra wines warm up chilly spring nights


Spring in the northeast has wavered been warm days and brisk nights, but one of the up sides to the temperature dips is the opportunity to extend the full-bodied red wine drinking season.  The wine region of Navarra in northern Spain offers some bold wines that are perfect for roasts and stews to warm us up despite the calendar's date.

I recently sampled several Navarra red wines that were perfect to ward off the unseasonable chill in the air:

Castillo Monjardin Crianza 2013 Coupage Seleccion - This was a medium body wine - but with lots of character.  It had an appealing nose of black and red fruit, with a hint of strawberries, vanilla, and tar.  The wine had good acidity and levels of flavor with more strawberries as well as spicy black pepper. Wines of Castillo Monjardin are widely available in the USA.

Inurrieta Puro Vicio 2013 Syrah - On the nose, there was blackberry jam, with a fresh violet note and an earthy minerality, an almost soil-like note.  Despite the jamminess of the nose, on the palate, the wine had a tension; there was a drama with three major characters: acidity, tannin, and fruit.  It wasn't plush - it was more angular.  Here the fruit had a spiciness with it, black pepper and clover mixed with the blackberries.  The finish was long.  This is a satisfying wine that would add nicely to a mix of softer wines on a buffet table, or enjoyed with hard cheeses, or with a dinner of roasted pork.

Marco Real 2012 Syrah - The wine had a deep ruby  color and an intense, fresh nose with deep black fruit aromas reminiscent of Cassis.  The Cassis notes continued on the palate. In addition, baking spices of cinnamon and cloves added a savory flavors.  The wine had ample acid and firm tannins - a well-structured wine of complex flavor and a long finish.

Wines from Navarra are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., and often at affordable prices. Look for them at your favorite wine shop and enjoy their warmth until the warm weather finally decides to stay for the next few months.








Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Wines of Ancient Thrace in Chicago, Illinois and Houston, Texas, USA after the big success in Shanghai, China and Hong Kong

The recent success of the Bulgarian Wine Export Association in Shanghai, China and Hong Kong and the kind words of many wine buyers and wine specialists from these promising markets show the right direction of the quality of the presented wines of New Wines of Ancient Thrace and the possibilities for penetration on the American market.
Two important events are in the schedule of Bulgarian Wine Export Association (BWEA) – beginning of May the wineries will attend the World Wine Meeting Chicago and then in June they will return to Houston for the second time participating in Wine & Food Week.
New Wines of Ancient Thrace is a promotional campaign of the Bulgarian Wine Export Association (BWEA), established in 2012 with the main objective to actively introduce high-quality European wines to new markets. The main activities of the Association include: wine promotion, organization of conferences, workshops and seminars with promotional and informative purposes, support for the increase of wine export through the creation and management of projects, financed by EU funds, to penetrate to some of the most important world wine markets, to show the new modern face of the old Thracian wines.
“We are thrilled to return in the States with many more activities this year!” says Galina Niforou, BWEA chairwoman. “The quality of our wines was never so high, we have all the necessary elements for competing in this important wine market – good quality, good price/quality ratio, interesting new local varieties, great packaging and highly motivated winemakers to do their best for making even better wines year after year. I’m sure that all the wineries, participating in this project will find the right distributor and will start selling their wines in the US market. Have you ever tried Mavrud? Or Melnik, Rubin and Gamza? You will be amazed! Our wines are really the well kept secret from the land of Spartacus!”
Thrace is one of the oldest wine producing areas in the world with evidence of wine production dating back to 4 000 BC. The Thracians were numerous tribes who worshipped wine as a divine drink. Thracian wine was even mentioned in Homer’s The Illiadas the finest wine there was.
It is believed that the world’s first documented wine appellation was designated in nowadays in this land when in II century AD emperor Antonius Pius proclaimed the vineyards in Lower Mizia (part of Thrace) as protected.



New Wines of Ancient Thrace  proudly highlights  the facts that wine has been made in this land for 6 thousands years. Cult of the god of wine Dionysus actually originated from ancient Thrace. The Thracians drank their wine undiluted with water; this was the main difference from the ancient Greeks who poured 3 parts of water and one part of wine into their Phiale.

For the Thracians, wine was a sacred element of religious practice. The best-known pieces of gold and silver, which depict ritual wine drinking situations with the god Dionysus, are found in this land.

Actually Thrace is the oldest place of wine making in Europe. Its vineyards share some of the same soil characteristics and latitude of famous wine growing regions in Bordeaux, the South of France and Central Italy.
Its tradition along with the modern state of art wineries are giving the brilliant results of high quality wines produced from indigenous grape varieties like Mavrud, Melnik, Rubin, Gamza, Dimyat, Red Misket, etc.  
The international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc are also widely planted there and giving some word class examples.
The country is devided into 5 wine regions, each with its specific terroir and climate conditions, but all of them suitable for high quality winemaking.
Wine regions

This region includes the valley of the River Struma and is part of the historical Region of Macedonia. The climate typical of this region is Mediterranean with mild, rainy winter and hot summer. Typical grape varieties which are commonly cultivated in this region include Melnik, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.


Surrounded by the Black Sea, this region is characterized by mild autumn which makes it suitable for the cultivation of white wines with strong concentration of sugar. Dimyat, Muscat Ottoneli and Sauvignon Blanc are
among the most commonly cultivated vines in this region.


This region encompasses the south banks of the Danube river and is characterized by temperate continental climate, hot summer and sunny days. Typically cultivated vines in this region are Merlot, Pamid, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamza, as well as Muscat Ottonel.

This region is located south of the Balkan Mountains and produces dry wines (predominantly white ones). Among the most famous wines are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, as well as Red Misket.

This region includes the central part of the lowland, as well as parts of the Sakar Mountain. The area is characterized by a temperate continental climate and a favorable distribution of precipitation. Some of the most typical wines of this region include Mavrud, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pamid.

Discover the Wines & Sights
Wine, food, vineyards, mountains, cultural heritage sites, monasteries and churches characterize each and every wine region of this wonderful land. Whichever wine route you choose to explore, you’ll end up with a memorable experience of the best that Thrace can offer.


This post was sponsored by the Promotional project of wines PDO/ PGI/ Varietal wines in the United States, China, and Japan" of the Bulgarian Wine Export Association.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bright, fresh, modern - the surprising new face of Bulgarian wine

It's not the first country Americans think of when it comes to wine, but Bulgaria actually has thousands of years of wine-making history. In fact, the cult of Dionysus originated here - Bulgaria takes its grapes seriously! 

 Yet this country, located northeast of Greece, is not stuck in ancient times, There's a new spirit of innovation that's leading to modern wines created for today's palate.  

At a seminar presented by the World Wine Guys Mike DiSimone and Jeff Jenssen, an audience of beverage media and trade tasted a range of wines made from both international varieties and indigenous Bulgarian grapes. There were some terrific surprises in the lineup.  

My favorite wines of the tasting included: 

- Version Plaisir Di Vin  2013 Cabernet Franc - delicious, fresh, black pepper and dark fruit, this wine won a silver medal at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. 
-F2F Chardonnay 2015 - notes of lime and minerality and delightfully crisp. 
-Pixels Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Blackberries, blueberries, high acid, this Cabernet is a far lighter rendition than Napa - and that's not such a bad thing. 
-Version Plaisir Di Vin 2013 Mavrud - Here is Bulgaria's hearty indigenous grape, offering savory quality of smoked meats but also nice pomegranate fruit. 
-Edoardo Miroglio Bio Mavrud and Rubin - This organic wine combines two indigenous grapes. The nose says "Bulgaria" but it's a more approachable rendition than when, in old times, it was said you could carry the wine in your handkerchief it was so dense. This blend had strong flavors of blackberry with black pepper. I compare it to the weight and spice of a good Carmenere.  

Clocking in under $20, these Bulgarian wines will expand your vinous world at an affordable price.  




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Chateau de La Dauphine delivers delicious value in right bank Bordeaux

It is the game many a Bordeaux-lover knows well.  If you love a certain appellation but can't afford it, look to the neighbors.

The highly esteemed wines of Pomerol are out of the reach of many a pocketbook, but there are other right bank Bordeaux appellations close by that deliver similar Merlot-based plushness at a fraction of the cost.

I had the opportunity to try some of the wines of Chateau de La Dauphine at a recent media lunch at Gramercy Tavern and was duly impressed by these rich red wines.

Chateau de La Dauphine is a historic property, so named because the Princess Maria-Josepha of Saxony (mother of Louis XVI) stayed several days at the chateau soon after it was built.  The chateau is situated in the Libourne region which comprises Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac.

With such esteemed neighbors, it's no surprise that the wines of Fronsac can be excellent, but often at a fraction of the cost of Pomerol or St. Emilion.

According to Marion Merker from the chateau, "The goal of Chateau de La Dauphine is to show the quality  of clay and limestone soil in a complex wine with character and elegance."  These wines are affordable, selling in the $18-$35 range, which Marion feels is correct, because, according to her, "Wine is to share, to enjoy, to taste."  In other words - we more often want wine that we can pull out today rather than cellar for decades.

Chateau de La Dauphine has made strides in its viticulture and today its vineyards are certified organic.  In addition, great care is show in the winemaking process.  Starting with the 2012 vintage, Michel Roland has been brought in as oenologist.

The vintages we sampled at lunch were all rich, smooth, and fully of red fruit, including:

Chateau de La Dauphine 2009 - With flavors of caramel and cherry this was rich, round, and plush - a great wine.

 Chateau de La Dauphine 2010 - A wine of good structure with greater acidity, drying tannins. This wine will be delicious in 3-5 years although can be drunk now.

Chateau de La Dauphine 2012 - A great vintage with more complexity. It will evolve well, but can be drunk now.  There are notes of licorice, caramel, vanilla, and ripe cherries.

The wines of Chateau de La Dauphine are available in the U.S. now.  For visitors in the Bordeaux region especially traveling to St. Emilion, Chateau de La Dauphine makes a wonderful visit, and it has garnered the Best of Wine Tourism award in 2016 from Great Wine Capitals.


Tis the season for Brunello, and La Mannella is ready to shine





When the temperature drops and holidays are here, it's the season for rich, red wines. And for memorable wines, too: This is when we pull something special from our cellars to make the evening unforgettable.

I met Tommaso Cortonesi earlier this year at a special tasting in New York when I was impressed with the quality vintages I tasted. His vineyards are located in some of the most highly prized sites both north and southeast from Montalcino, Italy.

I was thinking of his fantastic La Mannella wines recently when I came up on this article from The Times News which called the La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 "sublime and elegant."

La Mannella makes a range of wines starting with their satisfying entry level La Manella Rosso, now available in the 2013 vintage.

But it is the Brunellos that bring the winery the most accolades.  This winery ages these highly prized wines for five years before release.  I sampled the following Brunellos:

-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino 2010 and 2011
-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino Riserva 2010 Cortonesi
-  La Mannella Brunello di Montalicino  il Poggiarelli 2010 and 2011

These are all delicious wines of the highest quality, offering potpourri on the nose and redolent of dried cherries, spice, and earthiness on the palate.

As Christmas carols take over the airways, hasten to your nearest fine wine shop to stock up on some of these gems for your holiday meals. And remember, Brunellos often benefit from at least an hour in the decanter before serving.