Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NJ Native Danny Marcus Brings His Italian Wine Dream Home

Danny Marcus moved to Italy for romance, but soon had a second love in Bella Italia – the country’s wine. With years of effort, he now has his own wine label and he’s seeking distribution in the United States.

The whimsical name, Mood, conveys Danny’s idea that wine tasting notes aren’t that useful to the average consumer. Instead, being able to tell imbibers that this wine is great for this mood is what Danny’s wine vision is all about.

The first wine under the label is “Sweet on You” – and, no, it’s not a sweet wine at all. The name is meant to evoke a little romance, which Danny believes is a good pairing for it.  It’s actually a
blend of Sangiovese and Syrah.  Danny works with winemakers in Emilia Romagna to develop the blend of his wine, is looking to create a white wine next. For now, he’s focusing on spreading the gospel of wine that evokes a certain feeling. Best of luck to this Jersey native as he lives his Italian wine dream!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Aia Vecchia offers luxury for everyday from land of super Tuscans

 Aia Vecchia's Elia Pelligrini, who was a former soccer star and now is the fourth generation in his family's wine business, visited New York City recently to show his wines.


The family owned vineyards are in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany, close to the Tyrrhenian coast - an area known for legendary super Tuscan wines including Ornellaia. Yet Aia Vecchia offers high quality wines at an affordable price point.

Unlike areas of Tuscany further inland, the vineyards here receive, "double sun" according to Elia. Grapes ripen more fully as the sun shines on the vines and also reflects off the water. The coastal site also gives vines an ample breeze, which helps keeps the plants naturally healthy and free from pests.

The dinner at A Voce began with the Vermentino, which Elia said is a "coastal grape."  The lemon and white flower nose was inviting and this was a wine that was terrific and showed the extra body of its aging on lees.  The Solidio Rosato is a Sangiovese dominant rose that was refreshing with savory strawberries and spice.


Advancing to reds, the Lagone Toscana is their calling card wine.  Elia said it is "a luxury for everyday."  This rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc offered dense dark fruit flavors and had a plum and leather nose - delicious and satisfying for a terrific $15 price.

The premier offering is Sor Ugo Bolgheri Superiore 2014. This wine has been aged for two years before its release, as required by the DOC.  With a super Tuscan mix of grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a bit of Petiti Verdot), this is a wine made with the precision expected from this area known for greatness. After a month of temperature controlled fermentation with manual punch-down, the wine is aged in barrique and then rests in bottle.  This showed greater complexity than the Lagone, with ample black fruit and spice and firm tannins.  I would continue to age this bottle.

The wines of Aia Vecchia are widely available in the states - look for them for a taste of the Bolgheri and a price within reach.

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.