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.