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Monday, October 31, 2011


It’s Halloween, probably my least favorite holiday of the year.  It’s not because there’s no festive dinner to enjoy wine with, or because I despise candy corn, or because I don’t care much for wearing a costume.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we meet people who change our lives - truly special people.  I was lucky to meet someone unique, in that considering his young age, he was very much loved and valued by so many people and touched a great many lives, on account of his being kind, considerate, fun, generous, and sincere, but to a degree unlike anyone else I know.  It’s near impossible to describe a person like him, simply because they’re so rare, and interestingly enough, he didn’t perceive himself as someone so different, because he was only doing what came naturally to him.  I was so fortunate to call him my friend for years, and when I finally began to set aside some of the fears and concerns as well as bad habits I’d picked up in the past, I was able to see him differently - something very different from an ordinary friendship.  It was something I had looked for in a guy for a long time, something indescribable that somehow made me feel very valued, very special - even though I was afraid to admit it - and that failure to really act on it is something I’ll probably regret forever.
Move ahead to Halloween morning, 2009 - I learn that this very special guy, someone I cared for immensely, was killed in an accident during the night, at age 27.  No more nights together, we’d never eat together, watch a game together, and laugh for hours, ever again.
It isn’t so much the holiday of Halloween that bothers me - it’s just that I’m not ready to celebrate that holiday yet.  Two years may seem like a long time, but when recounting that experience, it feels like only yesterday.
An open minded guy, he knew I loved wine and while he didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the topic, he still enjoyed it.  He liked going to the wineries out east here on Long Island, and he liked his Italian reds, which would be a perfect pairing with his excellent Italian cooking.  One day, years back on a special day for me, he brought a bottle of Ruffino Modus to the house (among other gifts).  It was before Modus got very popular and when I drink it now, instead of thinking of color, aromas, flavors, structure, and finish, I think of him.

And just a few weeks after he passed away, his mother took me into his apartment.  We touched his clothing, his bed, the things he used just hours before he died.  While she searched through the apartment to find things to give to me that were his, we came across a bottle of Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which my dad had just given him that week.  The bottle was only half finished.  And I was only half finished showing him just how special I knew he was, and how much I cared for him.  An angel on earth had been called home, and I do believe that angel still watches over me and over all those whose lives he touched.

Riposa in pace, Emilio.  Sempre tu rimani nel mio cuore.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Champagne and Sekt

I know it’s Global #ChampagneDay and there’s a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte ready for tonight.  And a few nights ago, Taittinger made an appearance - the non-vintage really is nice.  But after the Champagne was finished that evening, I decided to open a bottle of Deinhard Lila Riesling Sekt - German sparkling Riesling.  I had never tasted Sekt and had a difficult time finding a bottle but my parents found the Deinhard Lila for me while on a trip to Newport, RI.
The wine is a lot lighter in color than the Taittinger.  The aromas and flavors are similar to that of a regular dry Riesling - citrus, crisp apple, peach, apricot, white blossoms, and just a bit of honey - but the wine isn’t sweet.  It’s a fun sparkling wine and very food friendly.
The NV Taittinger Brut Reserve is more golden in color with characteristics of a bit of citrus, crisp green apple, baked bread but not a strong yeasty characteristic, and a long finish reflecting honey and rich caramel.  The texture is smooth but the bubbles are assertive, and the Champagne is really enjoyable.  I’m looking forward to trying the Nicolas Feuillatte tonight for #ChampagneDay!

Taittinger and Deinhard Lila

Monday, October 24, 2011


I’ve posted before about my love for Gewurztraminer and how it was my first real love in the wine world.  It was the beckoning aromas of tropical and orchard fruits, including lychee, peach, apricot, pineapple, and fresh flowers and spices, and its flavors including those tropical and orchard fruits as well as a touch of honey and spice, accompanied by bright acidity.
Recently, Argentinian Malbec has been leaving its mark on me with its lovely texture and dark characteristics of blueberry, chocolate, purple flowers, and others.  This weekend I enjoyed another Argentinian wine, but the Malbec is waiting until later on in the week - this time it was a Torrontes.  Torrontes makes for a fascinating wine, and often similar to Gewurztraminer - so it stands to reason that I’d enjoy Torrontes.  The wine was the 2010 Diseno Torrontes from Salta, Argentina, and it was paired with grilled Cajun salmon.  Straw colored and aromatic, and displaying characteristics of tropical and orchard fruit similar to Gewurztraminer, followed by some honey, flowers, gentle spices, and bright acidity with a bit of tangerine just before a lengthy and enjoyable finish, the wine was refreshing and lovely but fun.
Torrontes will not replace Gewurztraminer of course, but it’s a nice alternative and a good way to keep it fresh and exciting.

2010 Diseno Torrontes

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Evening of Networking, Cake, and Wine

This week I took part in a networking reception for wedding professionals and vendors.  The event was hosted by my lovely friend Chef Marney White of Marneycakes Inc., and my goal for the night was to choose several wines to pair with cheeses and four of Marney’s cakes.  However, I had a couple of other goals - to learn a bit about the guests’ wine preferences, and then to encourage them to step out of their wine “comfort zones” and try something different.

The cheeses I selected were fresh goat cheese, brie, cheddar, and bleu cheese, and the wines for the cheese pairing were the 2010 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2009 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre, and 2008 Edge Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most people I know outside of the wine industry tend to lean toward Sauvignon Blanc as their white wine of choice, and I find it interesting how many of them shy away from Chardonnay.  So I decided on both a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay that I consider dependable and reasonably priced.
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, crisp white with both tropical fruit and herbal characteristics that we’d expect of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, was already a favorite of many of the guests.  But I explained that they’d like the Chardonnay because it’s an unoaked white that shows a lot of clean citrus, orchard fruit, and chalky notes and consequently is a bright, clean Chardonnay instead of having heavy, baked, overoaked characteristics that have turned them away from Chardonnay.  And sure enough, I poured more Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc.  I hope that the guests will reconsider Chardonnay when wine shopping or ordering a white wine in a restaurant after realizing that not all Chardonnays are the oaky kind - in fact many are not.
Several guests also told me they are not red wine drinkers.  I actually love when someone tells me a thing like that, because it gives me a chance to try and persuade the person to try a red.  And I did just that - for the regular red wine drinkers, there was no problem having them try both the d’Arenberg The Stump Jump (a last minute addition to the lineup and interestingly one of the favorites of the evening) and the Edge Cabernet.  But for the non-red drinkers, I asked them to taste the d’Arenberg, explaining that it’s a blend that’s not particularly heavy and has fascinating characteristics of red and dark fruit, spice, and earthiness - a good quality wine from a dependable producer at a very reasonable price (here in New York it’s about $12).  I was so happy to hear their reactions to the wine - “it’s not a harsh red,” “it’s a red I can drink,” “it’s only $12?”  I do hope these guests continue to find red wines that they enjoy.  As for the regular red drinkers, aside from enjoying the d’Arenberg, I was happy to introduce them to Edge Cabernet, as none of them had ever tried this Napa red before.  Big and bold with characteristics of dark fruit, spice, and vanilla oak, it’s one of my favorite California Cabernets around $25, and I was not at all surprised at how well it was received by guests.

Marney served her delicious cakes - the lighter cakes were a vanilla cake with blood orange liqueur, and a spice cake with pear brandy and cinnamon-vanilla filling, and the darker cakes were a chocolate cake with apricot and Grand Marnier, and a chocolate gluten-free cake with chocolate ganache.  For the lighter cakes, I chose the 2009 Dr. Hans Von Muller Auslese Mosel Riesling, with characteristics of peach, apricot, and pineapple, and I explained that while many of our guests are familiar with dry Rieslings, this Riesling was on the sweeter side as the grapes are picked later (and I’d say this wine was the favorite of the evening).  For the chocolate cakes, I chose the 2004 Pindar Vineyards Cabernet Port from right here on Long Island.  The wine is a smooth, fortified wine with characteristics of cooked fruit and berries, a hint of caramel, raisin, and a bit of earthiness, and paired perfectly with both the chocolate cakes, and the truffles provided by Afresh Approach.  Most of the guests were familiar with the wines from Long Island wineries, but few had tasted this dessert wine before, and it was very well received.
I was so happy to have an opportunity to pair wines with Marney’s amazing cakes, and I was also really pleased that the guests kept an open mind with all of the wines and enjoyed them as much as they did.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Wine - #eTaste with @TheVirtualTaste, Kevin Zraly at Bedell Cellars

This was a fun and exciting wine weekend, and I’m looking forward to even more wine excitement this week.

#eTaste with @TheVirtualTaste

Saturday (October 15) I participated in the first #eTaste hosted by North of 9 Fine Wines and @TheVirtualTaste on twitter.  If you’ve never checked out North of 9 Fine Wines, it’s a must - the posts are very informative and take a detailed approach to wine tasting.  The wine was the 2007 Masi Costasera Amarone Classico, which I enjoyed very much.  I made sure to decant the wine just over an hour before we began the online tasting, allowing the wine to open up quite a bit.  The wine is a deep ruby color, showing some clarity indicating that it’s approaching drinking time (although it has plenty of time to go, as indicated by the tannins), and the rim is pinkish but beginning to show traces of brick.  Characteristics include macerated blueberry, raspberry, and cherry, a bit of wild berry and bramble, chocolate, baking spices including cinnamon and clove, herbs, a hint of wood, and scorched earth.  The wine showed nice acidity but firm tannins that indicated the wine should age nicely for some time, and the finish is long and lovely and reflected the fruit and herb and spice notes.  I paired this wine with a marbled steak, gorgonzola, and walnuts.

2007 Masi Costasera Amarone Classico

Each month, @TheVirtualTaste will host an online tasting via twitter with the hashtag #eTaste.  For more information and to join us, visit North of 9 Fine Wines, which can be found right here on my blog page.
On Sunday (October 16), I visited Bedell Cellars for Kevin Zraly’s discussion and book signing.  I was so excited to hear him speak as I love his book and have learned a great deal from his writing.  His discussion was both informative and entertaining - and after meeting him and speaking with him for a few minutes, I decided that I will take his Windows on the World Wine School course, and I plan to enroll over the winter.  In addition, I got to taste Bedell Cellars Gallery and Musee, but since I will be visiting the winery again in a few weeks, I will include my tasting notes in that post.

Kevin Zraly at Bedell Cellars

Friday, October 14, 2011

Drink Local Week

In the spirit of Drink Local week, for my regular “Wine Wednesday” selection I went with a local wine from a winery with which I have no experience - but that’s about to change soon, as I really enjoyed the wine.
Living as close as I do to the Long Island wine region, particularly the North Fork, I feel kind of spoiled and lucky to have access to some awesome wines of great variety.  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay are among the most dependable grape types here on Long Island, but winemakers are working with so many different grapes and finding some very good results.  This past summer I reviewed a lot of Long Island wines before switching to some lesser known Old World and South American wines, and soon I’ll be reviewing more Long Island wines.
It’s no secret that there’s an economic recession going on.  A year ago I made a promise to myself that I would try to buy and drink more domestic wines, and my 2011 New Year’s resolution was to support smaller wineries.  Sure, one could make the argument that one person cannot make much of a difference in the economy.  However, it all begins with one person, and in fact there are many of us currently making an effort to support our local economies - shopping at small local stores, giving our business to local establishments, buying produce at local farms, and - yes - buying our wine from the local wineries.  It’s important to channel money back into our local economies, and it’s also a good way to connect with locals who should not be strangers, but rather friends and neighbors.  And it’s exciting to watch local businesses develop; it’s especially exciting to watch a wine region mature and find its own identity.  Here on Long Island, the wine region has been doing just that, and the result has been some excellent quality wines that are expressive of the region’s identity and character.

2005 Sherwood House Merlot

Some of my favorites are the wines produced by Bedell, Macari, Shinn, Raphael, and a few from Pindar.  But this time, for Drink Local week, I decided to try a wine from a winery whose wines I’ve never tasted before (but fully intend to change that after my most recent experience) - Sherwood House.  Lately I’ve only been hearing good things about their wines from local wine enthusiasts, and I chose the 2005 Merlot.  I paired it with my dinner of veal cutlets in a sage and Merlot sauce and portobello mushrooms and the pairing was excellent.  The wine is an almost dark cranberry red with a brickish rim indicating its age, and showing characteristics of cherry, both fresh and stewed berries, just a hint of green pepper, gentle spices and herbs, earth, and just a touch of wood and a hint of smoke.  The structure is lovely and the wine is elegant and mature, with bright acidity making it particularly food friendly, and soft tannins, with a long finish reflecting the fruit and herb notes.  I really enjoyed this wine and I look forward to more from Sherwood House.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Time for Reds

Every year I hate coming to terms with the fact that summer is over.  I love summer - baseball season, beach, listening to Jimmy Buffett, being outdoors all the time, and of course cool, crisp white wines.  And it seems it’s time to make the official transition away from summer this year, at least here in New York that’s the case.
I don’t look forward to the cooler months - I’ve never gone skiing before and I’ve never been to an NFL game (I do realize that needs to change and I’d be happy to do both), I just prefer all things pertaining to summer.  I suppose the cooler months have their perks though; it’s an excuse to drink more red wines and of course it means the return of hockey.  And I do love an exhilarating hockey game and few things agree with me more than a big Cabernet or Nebbiolo.
This past summer I got some great deals on big, bold reds from well-known producers and several of those bottles are waiting to be opened during these upcoming cooler months.  Being so spoiled by the warm weather and lovely crisp whites, perhaps I’ve forgotten just how much I love some of those warm, expressive, complex reds.  It’s also a good opportunity to continue experimenting with fascinating reds from lesser known regions.
So as the cooler months approach and I’m by the fireplace watching a hockey game or spending time playing my piano, I’ll have a chance to sip a dependable Cabernet, Nebbiolo, or dare I say it - Zinfandel - or an intriguing Tannat or Negrette.  And hopefully I’ll have made plenty of new wine discoveries by the time spring arrives again.