Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardia is a region of rolling hills, medieval villages, majestic and vast stretches of vineyards earning it the moniker, the “Tuscany of the North.” Oltrepò means “beyond the Po,” a reference to the region’s location on the southern shore of the Po River in the province of Pavia. Oltrepò Pavese benefits from cool breeze from the north and a location on the 45th degree parallel, where some of the world’s great wines are produced. The appellations was granted DOCG status in 2007. Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir) is the key grape variety cultivated, and region is recognized for its outstanding Blanc de Noir sparkling wines.
Castello di Cigognola, a 12th century castle with landscaped gardens surrounded by vineyards, is one of the most stunning and historical properties in Oltrepò Pavese. Decorated by master architect, Renzo Mongiardino, Castello di Cigognola been designated an Italian National Trust World Heritage site.
Castello di Cigognola is owned by the renowned Moratti family. Gianmarco Moratti is a successful entrepreneur; his wife and Letizia Moratti, is a businesswoman who has served as the mayor of Milan. Their son, Gabriele Moratti oversees vineyard management with Gian Matteo Baldi, Castello di Cignonola’s CEO.
We visited with Gian Matteo Baldi to a record aSIPS podcastfor The Connected Table (stream it below) and taste three expressions of the Moratti metodo classico blanc de noir cuvées. We were impressed by how fresh and clean they tasted on our palates and the finesse of the bubbles. While we have had the chance to taste metodo classico sparkling wines from other well-known regions in northern Italy, notably Franciacorta and Trentodoc, we were struck by the exceptional character of these Oltrepò Pavese blanc de noir wines.
Here is what we tasted:
Moratti Blanc de Noir Pas Dosè. For no dosage sparkling wine lovers, this selection will delight. The wine remains 18 to 24 months on the lees and has a clean, crisp
Moratti Cuvée More Blanc de Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir with a touch of Pinot Meunier. The wine is aged 18 to 24 months on the lees, depending on the vintage
Moratti Cuvée Dell’Angelo 2012 was the only vintage sparkling wine in the trio we tasted. Grapes are sourced from select vineyard plots, and the wine remains 72 months on the lees. This is a gastronomic blanc de noir that we enjoyed with our salmon and roasted vegetables.
For anyone who aspires to build a brand that embraces the culinary lifestyle from all sides and seasons, look no further than Food52. The brainchild of journalists and authors, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Food52 has amassed a devoted community of culinary enthusiasts who engage and share recipes and appoint their kitchens with carefully curated products. And with the mission of “eating thoughtfully and living joyfully,” visualized in stunning photography and video shots, it’s no surprise that Food52 has hit two million followers on Instagram alone.
We first came to know Hesser when she worked as a reporter and food editor at The New York Times, where her The Essential New York Times Cookbook was a NYT bestseller. One of her “star” moments was playing herself in Nora Ephron’s movie, “Julie and Julia.” She’s also the author of Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes and The Cook and the Gardener, and several Food52 cookbooks, including her newest (with co-author, Merrill) A New Way to Dinner.
The story behind the creation of Food 52 in 2009 is a case study in a successful digital enterprise that took foresight and calculate risk. The co-founders parlayed a cookbook advance into a successful destination website which has grown substantially to become an experiential experience. Hesser has been named one of the 50 most influential women in food by Gourmet, created the Twitter app Plodt, and served on President Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships.
We recently spent a damp Sunday afternoon navigating wine tables and elbowing hipsters in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to taste a global sampling of natural, biodynamic, organic and other low intervention wines at RAW WINE New York. The event was conceived by Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, author of “Natural Wine,” and featured over 150 producers, with just over 50 seeking representation.
We’ve been curious about natural wines after attending a dinner at Rouge Tomate hosted by Wines of Georgia and led by Pascaline Lepeltier who was wine director there at the time. Recently on separate editions of The Connected Table LIVE!, organic wine producer, Phil LaRocca, LaRocca Vineyards, and Pascaline, discussed natural wines. Isabelle Legeron will join us December 13.
RAW WINE is like a Woodstock for wine with two days of peace, love and waxing poetic about going natural. Over vegan sandwiches and Roberta’s pizzas, we sat with some consumer attendees who swapped stories and spouted knowledge about natural wines with an intentisity of a seasoned and somewhat nerdy wine writer. One actually chuckled when I mentioned we wrote about wine. As if! Whatever! The producers we chatted with were proud to point out what wasn’t in their wines as much as what grapes they used to make it.
Some of the wines were kind of funky, like that guy or gal you know who doesn’t wear deodorant or shower every day. Some were fizzy, cloudy, barnyardy and earthy and, of course, there were orange and apricot-tinged wines. And there were many standouts, like Italy’s Gravner and 1701 Franciacorta, Anderson Valley’s Donkey & Goat, Georgia’s Gotsa Wines and Spain’s Clos Mogader and Mas Martinet.
RAW opened our eyes to the range of styles and possibilities ahead for this niche of the industry. If the size and scope of the enthusiast attendees at this sold-out two day event is an indicator, RAW has a hot future.
Suggested reading about Natural Wines:
Our radio show with Pascaline Lepeltier:
Our radio show with organic winemaker Phil LaRocca, LaRocca Vineyards, California:
A trip to Turkey while studying in Paris at La Varenne Cooking School as a young girl inspired Chef & Restaurateur Ana Sortun to specialize in the foods of Turkey and the Middle East in her three restaurants, Oleana, Sofra Bakery & Cafe and Sarma, all located in the greater Boston area. Ana is author of two cookbooks, “Spice,” and “Soframiz” (with Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick). LINK to show on iHeart.
In this edition of The Connected Table LIVE! Ana discussed her career, the business of being a restaurateur with multiple units, her passion for the flavors and culture of Turkey, and her love of farms. Her husband, Chris Kurth, is owner of Siena Farms, named after their daughter, which supplies all of Ana’s restaurants with fresh organic produce.
Ana Sortun’s food capures the spicy, sensuous colors and flavors of Turkey and the Middle East
Ben Branson must be on to something. It seems like he’s popping up everywhere including a recent Food52 profile and last week’s Wall Street Journal feature story on “sophisticated mocktails.” It’s not just a great public relations blitz. He really is on to something. Not drinking alcohol is now as fashionable as drinking it. Everyone, from chefs and bartenders to the consumers they serve seems to be seeking a balanced lifestyle of happy health and hedonistic pleasure.
Ben grew up on a farm in Lincolnshire, England. As the story goes, “He stumbled upon a 1651 edition of ‘The Art of Distillation’ and became intrigued with medicinal elixirs.” He created a botanical beverage called Seedlip which can be mixed in cocktails, spruces up seltzers and you can enjoy on the rocks with a splash or two of water. It’s free of sugar, gluten and alcohol, and both versions taste good. Seedlip Garden 108 is distilled with peas, hay, rosemary and thyme. Seedlip Spice 94 is distilled with cardamom, oak, lemon and grapefruit. It’s so much better than the sugary shots and juices masquerading as healthy that we’ve been tasting. It’s something to drink when we are not drinking besides water, tea and kombucha.
We live in apple country in the Hudson Valley. The trees have blossomed and are now heavy with fruit. You can smell the scent of apples in the air. Last week we attended a farm-to-table dinner at Angry Orchard in nearby Walden. It’s a 60-acre farm dating back to the 1700s that today makes both classic and modern styles of hard cider.
Cider making dates back to colonial times. Now days it’s had a resurgence, growing 400% since 2010. We’ve tasted a good amount of hard ciders here in New York, one of the best regions for cider making and the second largest state for apple production in the U.S.A.
Ryan Burk grew up in New York’s apple country and started making cider at an early age. He’s now Head Cider Maker at Angry Orchard and he serves on the boards of the United States Association of Cider Makers and Cider Institute of North America. Recently named one of Wine Enthusiast‘s “40 Under 40,” Ryan takes time out from production to join us August 30th. 2pmEST.
Herbalist Brittany Nickerson teaches people about the health attributes of herbs and how to use them in cooking in her workshops at Thyme Herbal. She also offers a three-year Herbal Apprentice Program, teaches at the University of Massachusetts and is author of The Everyday Living Series for your home. We’re all about trying to simplify and create a healthier home.
In “The Herbalist’s Kitchen,” Brittany explains kitchen medicine and categorizes herbs by sweet, salty, sour, pungent and bitter and their health benefits. The book’s recipes are separated into seasons, and there are also some easy recipes to make your own lavender skin scrub and rosemary hair rinse.
What is the recipe for becoming a successful food entrepreneur, and in what direction is food innovation heading? We discuss August 23 with Sarah Masoni, who manages the Product & Process Development Team working at the Food Innovation Center at Oregon State University,
I met Sarah at this summer’s Fancy Food Show in New York presented by the Specialty Food Association. I was intrigued by her EXCITE talk on innovation and what makes a food entrepreneur and checked out the products from OSU entrepreneurs displayed at the show’s “LevelUP” Future of Food exhibit.
Whether it’s food made from sea byproducts, sourced from the ground, or re-purposed from food waste, Sarah and her team help nurture entrepreneurs and drive innovation. What may be coming out of Oregon could be hitting the food shelves and our plates down the road.
Listen to Sarah Masoni on The Connected Table LIVE! on iHeart.com here:
When it comes to passion, the Italians are brimming with it. Oh, the French are incredibly romantic, and the Greeks will tell you they created passion (as well as comedy, tragedy and democracy). But Italian passione just seems to overflow with abbondanza.
So, it’s been a pleasure to indulge our passion for Italian wine which has been flowing steadily since January starting with Benvenuto Brunello and continuing this week with VINO2017 and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri. David heads to Tuscany for the annual Anteprima while I spend Valentine’s Day solo with perhaps a plate of pasta with parmigiano, a little red wine and my Maltese dog Sazerac.
We’re passionate about Italian white truffles, creamy burrata with fresh tomatoes, nutty parmigiano on anything and especially shaved over roasted Italian vegetables served with branzino poached in olive oil and lemon. David loves pici. I like gnocchi. We both love the diversity of wines and never cease to stop exploring and trying regions and producers we are less familiar with. Most recently is was Le Marche with this interview with Emiliano Bernardi of Colonnara Winery on The Connected Table SIPS.
Continuing the Italian wine trail, our February 15 will begin with Virginia Saverys of Avignonesi Winery and continue with a guest from Anteprima.
David talks about his career in wine and his passion for Italian wine on The Connected Table LIVE! February 8.
“Vino Italiano”, co-authored by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch, is one of our go- to reference books for Italian wines. We’ve known David for years, from his days as Senior Editor for Wine & Spirits Magazine to his incarnation as a sought after sommelier at restaurants like Babbo in New York City and Quince in San Francisco. We’ve enjoyed reading his articles in magazines like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and GQ. We didn’t have the chance to check out his wine tavern, St. Vincent, and were excited to read recently that he’s become editorial director at the e-commerce site, SommSelect.
On February 6, David moderated a panel at VINO 2017 on Trends and Opportunities in the US Market for Italian Wines. Some of the information revealed from a survey of wine consumers under age 40 on why they choose wine was not terribly surprising. More reinforcing. This infographic depicts what comes to mind when this group achaten-suisse.com thinks of Italian wine.
Recently we met with Pat Henderson, Chief Winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards in Sonoma to taste through some vintages of the Artist Series, the winery’s portfolio of carefully blended Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the very best vineyards in Sonoma County. Every picture tells a story as does the vintage in the bottle. Pat shared anecdotes and aging information with equal finesse as we sipped.
A veteran of more than 30 vintages, Pat worked at five wineries including a summer with Kenwood Vineyards as enologist in 1983. After earning his degree in viticulture and enology, he worked in both the Napa and Sonoma valleys before taking his first position as head winemaker in Washington State. Pat rejoined the Kenwood team in 2003 where under the mentorship of Mike Lee, the original Kenwood winemaker, he learned the art of small-lot winemaking. In 2015 Pat became chief winemaker.
In 1989 I left my corporate agency job and went on a solo “walkabout” of sorts to Australia. It took 30,000 frequent flyer miles and 30 hours to land in Sydney where I stayed at a friend of a friend’s apartment near Bondi Beach. I spent the next six weeks hopscotching Australia on a cheap “kangaroo fare.”
I learned how to play a didgeridoo in Alice Springs, hitched a ride on a prop plane with the Outback mailman to deliver parcels, climbed Ayers Rock in the wrong footwear, took my first hot air balloon ride over some dusty dunes sprinkled with cheap sparkling wine, slept in a tent on a cattle station, snorkeled The Great Barrier Reef, sailed on an old brigantine through the Whitsunday Islands, gazed at the Southern Cross camping out on the deck of the boat and drank a lot of beer with assorted Aussie cowboys and sailors. My last stop was a drive to the Hunter Valley wine region where I tasted my first Australian Shiraz. I remember thinking, “This is what the earth must taste like if I licked the dirt.” It was a new sensation for someone who was brought up drinking Bordeaux and Chateauneuf- du-Pape thanks to my father, Chattanooga’s “Wine Professor.”
I never made it to Western Australia or the south which will be our next trip with a focus on wine and beach combing. And, despite over 30 years working in wine and food, my tasting experiences with Australian wines have been pretty limited, and some of the wines I have tasted were challenging to my palate.
Lettie Teague wrote an article on the resurgence of Australian wines in the January 25th edition of the Wall Street Journal saying “Wines regularly slip in and out of fashion, but few have fallen as far as the wines of Australia did over the past decade. Once among the world’s most sought-after bottles, they are now some of the hardest to sell. Recently, however, there have been signs of a small but steady recovery, thanks to some intrepid retailers, sommeliers, importers and, of course, the winemakers themselves.
Here is a link: WSJ
It was a treat to meet Sparky Marquis, founder of Mollydooker Wines, at Wine Spectator‘s New York Wine Experience last Fall. Sparky’s story is one of love, loss, recovery, reconnecting with what brings you joy and, ultimately, some very high scores. Mollydooker wines have some interesting (Aussie) rules like the Mollydooker Fruit Weight and the trademarked Mollydooker Shake. We read up, shook it up and tasted through the wines at a dinner party on Saturday. When Sparky’s brochures says they want to make wines with a WOW Factor he meant it! I had a week’s serving of fruit in one evening. And truly click here amazing fruit it was!
Sparky and Sarah met in wine college, fell in love and now run the iconic Mollydooker Wines. The word “mollydooker” means left-handed in Australia which both Sparky and Sarah are. All of Mollydooker’s wine labels tell a story. The Boxer is actually and throwback (throwdown?) to Southern Wine & Spirits’ Mel Dick. The Violinist was named after Sarah, who was a young. Gigglepot was named after daughter, Holly, and Blue Eyed Boy named after son, Luke. As for the multi-award winning Carnival of Love…well, figure it out! And the top tier wine, Velvet Glove…well, it’s a knockout!
Nearby Adelaide Hills may seem geographically close but it is a world apart in terms of terroir with a more cool climate focus. Bird in Hand Wineryis named after the old Bird in Hand goldmine situated on Bird in Hand road. This region was littered with gold mines that were in operation through the 1800’s but nearly all were closed down by the early 1900s. Within 10 kilometres of property the gold mines ‘Two in the Bush’ and ‘Nest Egg’ were also in operation.
Kym Milne, MW, Bird in Hand Winery,was named Winemaker of the Year by Winestate Magazine in 2014, and the second Australian to pass the Master of Wine test. An Australian native, Kym worked at Villa Maria Winery in New Zealand and overseas in Europe before joining Bird in Hand as Chief Winemaker.
The wines are the antithesis of traditional Australian fruit bombs, elegant and austere in an appropriate minimalist style. Kym uses French varietal clones and French oak. Tasting the Bird inHand Chardonnay and its luxury level Nest Egg Chardonnay, we could have been tasting a fine French Burgundy with out eyes closed. The Shiraz was more silky satin than deep velvet. What we learned from tasting both Mollydooker’s and Bird in Hand’s wines is that wine making in Australia should never be typecast to one style, and luxury labels deliver an exceptional tasting experience. Bird in Hand Wines were recently introduced to the United States by HP Selections.
Listen to our February 1st show with Sparky Marquis, Mollydooker Wines, and Kym Milne, Bird in Hand Winery, anytime, anywhere at this iHeart.com link. Click image to listen and share.
“The way I see it,” says Melba Wilson, “Soul food is the foundation of American comfort food.”
She’d know. For Melba, a Harlem native, or as she likes to say “I am Harlem born, bred, and buttered,” owns one of most influential soul food restaurants in New York City’s most exciting dining neighborhood, aptly named Melba’s.
Like many children, she grew up watching her mother and grandomother cook and learned to love food, and soul food, in the process. But, Melba actually went into marketing and sales after school, anything from cosmetics to limo driving, finally entering the restaurant business on a lark when the great Sylvia Woods, Harlem’s Queen of Soul Food and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s, called and asked Melba to spearhead the 25th anniversary of the restaurant.
Melba did such a good job that Sylvia offered her a postion at the restaurant, starting her love affair with the hospitality business and eventually leading to her opening her own place.
Opened in 2005, Melba’s was an almost overnight success, with a family style menu that as Melba likes to say, “blends my Carolina heritage (her family is from South Carolina), with a dash of extra spice, a little urban edge, a taste of the melting pot, and a few ‘dee-lish’ twists.” It’s also been covered regularly in foodie magazines, and Melba even “Beat Bobby Flay” with her fried chicken recipe, now renamed Throwdown Chicken in honor of that accomplishment.