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Sipping Castello di Cigognola Blanc De Noir, Oltrepò Pavese

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 was once a feudal fortress. It is now an Italian World Heritage Site. www.castellodicigognola.it

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.

Gian Matteo Baldi, CEO, Castello di Cigognola
Gian Matteo Baldi, CEO, Castello di Cigognola www.castellodicigognola.it

We visited with Gian Matteo Baldi to a record a SIPS podcast for 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.

mORATTI
www.castellodicigognola.it 

Listen to our conversation with Gian Matteo Baldi on The Connected Table SIPS

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Sipping Hamilton Russell Oregon Pinot Noir

 

We have a soft spot for South Africa after a visit to the wine country and the bushlands in late 2006. So, it was a pleasure to visit with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, proprietors of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a producer of estate-grown wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the fishing village of Hermanus in Walker Bay. It’s one of the southernmost wine estates in Africa and benefits from a cooler maritime climate, ideal for producing their Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. (listen The Connected Table Sips)

Hamilton Russell Vineyards is one of the southernmost wineries in South Africa

Now, after producing 40 vintages in South Africa, the Hamilton Russells have spread their wings and have invested in making wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their first two releases, vintage 2018 deliver classic Pinot Noirs with opulent fruit and spice balanced with masterful restraint and purity. The wines are available through Vineyards Brands in the U.S.A.

The couple had looked into investing in Burgundy but decided the Willamette Valley offered a better opportunity to work with some of the region’s best AVAs, Eola-Amity Hills and Ribbon Ridge.

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in South Africa with Vineyard Manager Johan Montgomery and Winemaker Emul Ross

The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is recognized for its iron- rich volcanic soils formed by ancient lava flows combined with marine sediments and alluvial deposits. The maritime climate allows for a steady cooling sea breeze during the long, warm growing season Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Here, the soil is uniformly marine sediments with fine silt, sand, and mud.

“After sanctions (in South Africa) were lifted in 1992, we knew we wanted to expand long-term. We visited the U.S. often and saw an extraordinary opportunity in Oregon with Pinot Noir. While Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from South Africa exhibits a bit more austerity, the Oregon wines capture the more purity of fruit. Interestingly, the alcohol levels, acidity and PH balance are almost the same,” said Anthony Hamilton Russell.

Hamilton Russell Oregon wines, both 2018, are like fraternal twins. They share a similar DNA – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir -but exhibit different character, due to terroir. Olive Hamilton Russell has a culinary background and is a passionate forager. She shared some pairing tips for each wine.

 Zena Crown Oregon Pinot Noir 2018, Eola-Amity Hills is aged 14 months in French oak.  SRP $85.99. Olive says, “This wine has darker fruit and spice. It exhibits more austerity and fine tannin. I suggested pairing with a rack of lamb, slow roasted meats, or a mushroom risotto.”
Bramble Hill Pinot Noir 2018, Ribbon Ridge is aged 14 months in French oak. Bramble Hill Vineyard is recognized for producing grapes for some of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noirs. SRP $85.99. Olive says, “Here, the wine has more open red fruit and lively minerality. Consider pairing with turkey and cranberry sauce with Brussels sprouts and date syrup; cod and miso or duck with orange sauce.”

Listen to our podcast with Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell #TheConnectedTableSips (under 12 min.)

 

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AOC Cairanne: Discovering the Newest Côtes du Rhône Cru

Established in 2016, AOC Cairanne is the newest of the Côtes du Rhône’s 17 crus. Located on the left bank of the Rhône River thirty minutes from Avignon, the village of Cairanne is perched on a rocky outcrop, surrounded by vineyards. In the distance one can see the craggy peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Considered a gateway to the southern Rhône Valley, Cairanne’s climate is Mediterranean- dry and sunny with frequent gusts from the mistral winds which cool and purify the air, an ideal setting to cultivate healthy vines. Many vines in this region are more than 50 years old.

Cairanne Village-LAURENT PAMATO
The village of Cairanne is located in the Vaucluse department of the Rhône Valley. Photo: Vaucluse Tourism. Copyright: Laurent Pamato

Red wines make up 96 percent of Cairanne’s production. AOC guidelines require that the reds be a minimum of 40 percent Grenache, blended with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan, but no variety can exceed 30 percent of the total blend. The end result are red wines that display sultry spice, fresh red fruits, smooth tannins, and elegant finesse.

Though only four percent of total production, Cairanne whites, also follow stringent AOC guidelines, comprised mainly of Clairette, Grenache Blanc or Roussanne. Bourboulenc, Picpoul. Viognier or Marsanne may be used in smaller amounts. The whites are all aromatic with a bright balance of floral, fruit and spice.

Selection of Cairanne wines

Conservation is important in Cairanne where 26 percent of planted areas are organically farmed, and sulfites are kept to extremely low levels. Most of the vines are gobelet-trained to safeguard against the wind and to preserve the freshness of the fruit. Cairanne is divided into three growing areas. To the west near the Aygues River, vineyards are planted on steep terraces with extremely stony topsoil over calcareous clay. The hilly slopes just north of the village are alluvial clay and silt with limestone. In the flat southern region, the vegetation is shallow scrubland, known in the Rhône Valley as les garrigues. Each contribute to the consistent style and character of Cairanne wines which producers unanimously refer to as more “refreshing and elegant.”

Cairanne is a winemaking community consisting of 50 independent vignerons, 35 négociants and seven cooperatives. Locals talk about a youthful vitality in Cairanne; after all, it is the newest Cru in the Côtes du Rhône. The reference is also a nod to the region’s younger winemakers who are working together with an eye on preservation, sustainability, and recognition for AOC Cairanne in the global wine market.

With Jean-Etienne Alary , Domaine Alary, in the rocky vineyards
For more information visit: www.vins-rhone.com

Here are the producers we met and their U.S. importers:

Domaine Brusset. The Brusset family has been producing bottles wine since 1947 in Cairanne as well as in other appellations in the southern Rhône Valley. (Adrian Chalk Selections/MS Walker)

Domaine Alary. Jean-Etienne Alary is one of Cairanne’s young winemakers whose families have been producing wine in the region for many years. Domaine Alary has existed since 1692. Jean-Etienne represents the 11th generation. (Weygandt-Metzler Importing)

Domaine André Berthet-Rayne. André Berthet-Rayne’s great grandfather started with 15 acres; his father, Paul expanded it substantially. Today the winery is run by André with daughter, Alexandra, taking on winemaking duties. (Santa Armosa NY)

Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint- Martin. Brothers Frédéric and François Alary represent the 10th generation of this winemaking family whose winery dates back 300 years. (North Berkeley Imports)

Domaine Les Hautes Cances. This winery was acquired in June 2019 by the Amadieu family, négociants based in Gigondas. They also produce a second label in Cairanne named Pierre Amadieu. (Alain Bradley Imports)

Domaine Boisson. Sixth generation winemaker, Bruno Boisson, studied and worked in Burgundy for several years, which is why the wines have a Burgundian flare to them, notably the barrel-aged white, L’Exigence (Verity Wines)

Domaine Le Grand Bois. An estate founded in 1920 by Albert Farjon now run by his descendent, Mireille Farjon, and her husband, Marc Besnaudeau, who worked as a sommelier in Paris before joining his wife’s family business. (Weygandt-Metzler Importing)

Maison Brotte. The Brotte family are négociants with three estates in the Rhône Valley including Domaine Grosset in Cairanne (Monsieur Touton Selections)

Learn more about AOC Cairanne. Listen to The Connected Table SIPS. Each podcast is 12 minute.

Domaine brusset
With Laurent Brusset, Domaine Brusset
Domane Roche
With Romain Roche, Domaine Roche
Jean-Marie Amadieu, Pierre Amadieu, and Frédéric Alary, Domaine de l’Oratorio Saint Martin
At Domaine Berthet-Rayne with André Berthet-Rayne , daughter Alexandra, wife Marina and son-in-law, Axel
With Bruno Boisson, Domaine Boisson; Mireille Besnardeau, Domaine Grand Bois; and Thibault Brotte, Brotte

 

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Lirac – Stylish Wines from the Rhône Valley’s Right Bank

One of the Côtes du Rhône’s first cru appellations (established in 1947), AOC Lirac is a wine lover’s gem. The wines were prized among European nobility and the Avignon papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 18th century, local magistrates in Roquemaure started to authentic the origin of Lirac wines by branding the casks with “C.d.R.” Lirac wines were the first in the region to use the term “Côtes du Rhône.” Today, Lirac wines continue to draw a strong following among sommeliers and other wine aficionados.

Lirac is rare among the 17 Rhône crus for its range of red, white, and smaller amounts of rosé wines. AOC guidelines require all to be blends, mainly using indigenous varieties. Red wines, which comprise 85 percent of Lirac’s production, must contain a minimum of 40 percent Grenache. The remaining amounts are usually Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre or Cinsault (the latter is popular for rosés). Around 10 percent of production is white. Clairette is the superstar white variety in Lirac followed by Bourboulenc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and, to a smaller degree, Picpoul and Ugni Blanc. The white wines lean toward aromatic with balanced acidity. While overshadowed by the reds in the global market, Lirac’s whites are well worth seeking out.

A windy day among the vineyards in Lirac. In this vineyard vines date back 140 years.

During our visit in early March 2020 (thankfully before the travel shutdown), a robust mistral blew in, practically knocking us over. The locals are used to the mistral wind which average 180 days of the year. Lirac’s climate in the southern Rhône Valley is Mediterranean, but a mistral can have you reaching for scarves and jackets even under a brilliant sunny sky.

These winds, unique to this part of France, combined with more than 220 days of sunshine, play a key role in shaping Lirac’s terroir. They help purify the air to keep humidity low, chase away pests and nurture healthy vines.

The round river rocks in Lirac’s vineyards are called “galet roules”

Another key factor are Lirac’s three soils. Alluvial river soils scattered with large round stones, known as galets roulés, produce intense red wines with dark fruit and savory spices, offering long aging potential. Limestone soils deliver minerality and aromatics, a hallmark of the whites which are fruit and floral with balanced acidity. Sandy soils produce fresh lighter wines, low in tannins, ideal for Lirac’s fruitier style of rosés

Sunday at the covered market in Avignon

Avignon serves as a great base to visit both Lirac and Tavel, its next -door neighbor which only produces rosé wines. If you stay in Avignon, a visit to the Palais du Papes (the Popes’ Palace) is a must, and allow plenty of time (advanced reservations are suggested.). We had the chance to spend a Sunday in Avignon where locals and tourists gather at the covered market for casual Sunday dining or to pick up provisions. It’s great people watching!

bottles Lirac wines
A selection of Lirac wines we discussed on The Connected Table Sips

We visited with several Lirac producers during our trip. When asked how they would define “Lirac style,” they all underscored “freshness and lush” as a backbone of the wines and what they refer to as “the Rhône Valley’s “right bank style.” In contrast, left bank wines, such as those in Chateauneuf-du-Pape just across the river were described as “concentrated and more intense.” A number of producers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, have invested in vineyards in Lirac.

Melanie and David in the vineyards
In the vineyards at Chateau de Montfaucon with owner, Rodolphe du Pins
With Fabien de Chaunac, Château de Ségriès
Map showing Lirac
For more information visit www.vins-rhone.com

Lirac is home to many independent wineries; many are family-run Here are the producers we met and their U.S. importers.

Château de Ségriès. This historic winery is one of the first in the appellation. by Count Henri de Régis de Gatimel inherited Château de Ségriès in 1940 and was one of the first to replant vines in the region. The Count was the first to petition that Lirac be awarded AOC status, which occurred in 1947. (U.S. importer: Kysela Pere & Fils).

Château de Montfaucon.  The center piece of this estate is a lovingly restored fortress dating to the 12th century owned by a noble family. Proprietor Rodolphe du Pins showed us a pre-phylloxera vineyard dating back 140 years. (Winebow)

Domaine Maby. Owned by the Maby family for generations, the estate’s sixty acres covers Lirac, Tavel and Côtes du Rhône. (DB Wine Selections)

Domaine La Lôyane. Started by a family of growers dating back four generations, the winery is run by  Romain Dubois and his wife, Laure.  Organically run, this winery is home to five vineyards including one whose Grenache vines are 150 years-old!  (Elixir Wine Group)

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine  The Lafond family has been making wine in the Rhône Valley since 1780. “Roc-Epine” was established in 1970 and started to bottle wine in 1978. The name commemorates “Roquepine,” a famous horse race.  (Skurnik Wines)

Château Mont-Redon. The original name, “Mourredon,” dates to 1344, when the property was part of the Pope’s land; it was recognized as a vineyard in the 18th century. Today this winery, is owned by the largest landowner in Chateauneuf-du-Pape who saw the potential in making wine in Lirac.  (F. Wildman)

La Maison Ogier. In 800 A.D. with “Ogier the Dane” fought with Charlemagne’s soldiers and settled in the area. The family entered the wine business in 1859.  Ogier was founded in 1948. Today it is a leading negociant in the Rhône Valley. (Folio Fine Wine Partners)

More info: www.vins-rhone.com

With Lirac producers
With Laure Dubois,  Domaine la Lôyane, and Jean-Baptise La Fond, Lafond Roc-Epine at Restaurant la Louisa in Lirac.
At La Fourchette restaurant in Avignon with Pierre Fabre, Château Mont-Redon, and François Miquel, Ogier

 

With Richard Maby, Domaine Maby
With Richard Maby, Domaine Maby

Listen to The Connected Table Sips. Discover Lirac!

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Sipping J Vineyards Sparkling Cuvées

We're Sipping J Vineyards’ Sparkling Cuvées at Home

Everyone needs a versatile sparkling wine on hand to enjoy with home-cooked meals and to uncork for impromptu entertaining. J Vineyards & Winery is one of Sonoma’s top sparkling and varietal wine producers whose cuvées are made in the traditional method. The six vineyards are all located in the Russian River Valley, a cool climate setting that delivers wines of exceptional, fresh fruit crispness and balanced acidity.

Underscoring the popularity of these wines for casual entertaining, J Vineyards & Winery’s tasting room near Healdsburg offers special culinary experiences. A popular one is the J Bubble Room, a gastronomical experience led by Executive Chef Carl Shelton and Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, which includes both sparkling and varietal wines. Chef Shelton shared, “Many of our visitors come to taste the sparkling wines and leave with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.”

The Bubble Room at J Vineyards
The Bubble Room at J Vineyards where exceptional wine and food pairings take place.

What we tasted:

J Cuvée 20 Classic Brut. The winery’s twentieth anniversary is a blend of 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier with aging on lees to add complexity. It delivers notes of toasted almond and brioche toast, baked apple, white peach and Meyer lemon. Pair with creamy brie, seared cod, poached lobster, grouper and truffle pasta. SRP: $38

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé gets its soft salmon pink color and ripe red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors from Pinot Noir. The blending of 32 percent Chardonnay into this wine adds notes of slivered almond, kaffir, jasmine and lemon meringue. We recently enjoyed our J Rosé with a harissa spiced  shrimp over rice.  SRP: $45

Photo of J Cuvees

Both wines are available nationwide through many retail outlets, and you can order direct from the winery.  www.jwine.com

Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards & Winer
Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards &Winery

J Vineyards & Winery Executive Chef Carl Shelton joined us on The Connected Table Sips to share  pairing tips. Listen here (link) or click below:

 

y

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot! Japanese Whisky Market Soars

The rare whisky market continues to soar even during a global pandemic, On March 18 in London, Sotheby’s achieved a new auction record, selling a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) to a private collector in Asia, well exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £160,000-220,000.

 So, what makes fine Japanese whisky such a collectible spirit?

We asked Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Masa grew up in a family distilling business and launched dekantā in May 2015 with the goal of filling a gap in the retail market specializing in Japanese whiskies.

Makiyo Masa,, founder,dekanta

 

TCT: Makiyo, what sets Japanese whisky apart?

“Japanese whisky has its own sense of place, from water to earth. The Japanese tradition is to pursue the best with an idea for fine details. That is what makes Japanese whisky truly special.” There are many special small distillers that produce great whisky, not just the largest companies. We are always looking for and sourcing the best we can find.”

TCT: We understand that online retails sales for wine and spirits are brisk, even during this Spring global pandemic. How is dekantā holding up?

“At this time, we feel very grateful to have developed such a strong online platform with a network of international clients, who we refer to as the ‘dekanta family.’ We envisage little to no disruption to our online orders and deliveries, and as such we have not been impacted as heavily as other businesses who rely on trading in person. However, our hearts go out to all the bars and restaurants across the globe who are struggling through this pandemic.

“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and our staff. Our staff are working from home wherever possible, and we’re handling deliveries with additional measures with regards to hygiene. It has been a logistical challenge, but the team are communicating regularly from their remote working, to keep up morale, and to ensure as little disruption as possible to our regular operations.

TCT:  Sotheby’s Auction House in London sold a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) on March 18. What makes this whisky so special?

“This is a truly spectacular bottle, and it is very exciting to see this new bottle breaking a record previously held by the Yamazaki 50- Year Old. We have seen huge demand from our most ardent collectors for rare and old bottles of Karuizawa whisky. The Karuizawa distillery produced liquid with a notably rich and sherry flavor before it was forced to close its doors in 2000. The remaining casks were sold to private individuals, who have been bottling the liquid independently as spectacular limited editions in recent years. As a result, the distillery has developed something of a cult status among Japanese whisky aficionados.”

TCT: Has dekantā sold a similar bottle?

“It’s highly likely that we will have sold one of these bottles to a client through our concierge service, by which we source the most rare and highly sought after bottles of Japanese whisky. The most expensive bottle set that dekantā has ever sold to a single client is a collection of rare Karuizawa bottles totaling over one million dollars. It is an extensive collection of over 270 bottles, with distillation dates ranging from throughout the distillery’s brief history.”

TCT: Well, we feel very lucky since you brought us a bottle of Karuizawa Spirit of Asama Single Malt to try. Tell us about it.

 “The Karuizara Spirit of Asama s a very rare and delicious single malt whisky with a lower proof, just 48 percent. It is very hard to find on the market today anice, as I noted, this legendary distillery closed in 2000. Only 400 casks were left.”  - Suggested retail price: $2,400m /70 cl bottle. Info and to purchase

TCT: The other single malt your brough is from Chichibu, a small distillery of only nine employees.

“Mizunara Heads 2011 is a higher proof single malt whisky named from the type of porous wood  from the Mizunara tree used to make the casks, a process that can take 200 years . “ – Suggested retail price: $2399 Info and purchase

 

Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Makiyo Masa, dekantā, on Japanese Whisky

Japanese master distillers are known for their pursuit of perfection. Rare bottles of whisky can command thousands of dollars at auction. But buying a bottle for home or gifting is easy thanks to dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, explains what makes Japanese whisky special and why you should consider a bottle on your spirits shelf. www.dekanta.com

Link to podcast

 

 

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Sipping Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin

India has a rich heritage in craft spirits and is the birthplace of the gin & tonic. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Radico Khaitan is India’s oldest and largest distillery. Two of its prestige brands include: Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, made with 11 indigenous botanicals and triple distilled in copper pots, and Rampur Single Malt Double Cask Whisky, aged in American Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks. Info: www.radicokhaitan.com

What we tasted: Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin

At first sip of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, we tasted the distinct flavors of coriander and orange peel with a touch of caraway, pepper and anise on the back palate. We’d chill this over ice and add just a slash of tonic or soda.

Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin’s name is inspired from the historic city of Jaisalmer, home to the Golden Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “gold” comes from the building’s construction of sandstone that casts a golden hue at sunset.

 

Sipping with Company President Sanjeev Banga

Company President Sanjeev Banga explains how India’s biodiversity helps define its styles of spirits and discusses both Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Rampur Indian Single Malt Double Cask Whisky in this edition of The Connected Table SIPS. Here is the link http://bit.ly/TCTSipsRadicoKhaitan 

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Tasting Bordeaux Wines and Chocolate

An invitation to a guided tasting of Bordeaux wines with artisanal chocolates from one of France’s top chocolatiers is a welcome treat. And that’s what led us downtown to Danny Meyer’s Manhatta restaurant on November 7.

chocolates

The tasting and discussion was one of the daylong activities hosted by the the Bordeaux Wine School. Founded in 1989 (yes, celebrating 30 years!) the Bordeaux Wine school educates more than 85,000 people each year through its global network of over 250 accredited instructors. Classes are taught both at the school’s center in Bordeaux City and online around the world, offering courses in multiple languages. There is also a mobile app.

Master of Wine Mary Gorman McAdams, an accredited Bordeaux Wine School instructor, teamed up with Pierre -Antoine Bollet of Maison du Chocolat. The duo had conducted rigorous tastings beforehand to select the wines and chocolates for the session which started with an historical overview and a discussion about the commonalities of both Bordeaux wines and chocolates.

Grapes and Cacao Beans: Similarities

Just as wine is made from varieties of grapes, chocolate is made from different types of cacao beans grown. Terroir plays an important role in cultivating both grapevines and cacao trees. Cacao flourishes in tropical climates; over 70 percent is grown in Africa and 16 percent in Latin America.

Dark chocolate must be made with 43 percent minimum cacao, and milk chocolate is a minimum of 30 percent cacao. White chocolate has no cocoa powder (a heated form of cacao) and is 20% cacao butter and 14% milk. Technically, it is not chocolate. Cru chocolates, like wine, are sourced from single estates.

Both wine and chocolate contain tannins and (red wine) are rich in resveratrol, flavonoids and polyphenols. Both can be good for heart health when enjoyed in moderation. Chocolate contains caffeine, so be careful consuming large quantities at night.

Mary Gorman McAdams and Pierre -Antoine Bollet at Manhatta

 

Bordeaux & Chocolate: Three Key Elements to Consider

Gorman McAdams and Bollet explained that fruit flavored chocolate brings out acidity, and wines usually pair best with bittersweet and dark chocolate (with a higher percentage of cacao). They underscored three key elements to consider when pairing wine and chocolate:

Structure

  • Acidity, sweetness, astringency
  • Bitterness (phenols/tannins),
  • Alcohol, sourness

Texture

  • Light / delicate
  • Rich / dense

Flavor

  • Fruity, herbal, smoky, nutty, earthy,
  • Spicy

The pairing included one wine with two types of chocolate. The first misconception that went out the door was thinking it’s all about pairing red wine and chocolate. One of the best pairings was a Clos Floridene, Graves 2016 with a dark chocolate ganache with lemon cream and zest (“Andalousie”) from the South of France.

The experience was palate opening and generated an enthusiastic response among attendees.  Second helpings, anyone?

What we tasted

Clos Floridiene Graves

Clos Floridene, Graves, 2016

  • Andalousie: dark chocolate ganache with lemon cream and zest from South of France
  • Akosombo: Chocolate Bar with 68% cacao

Comment: The Graves with the ganache with lemon cream left us ready  to try more white wines with chocolate.

 Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol, 2015

  • Extreme Chocolat: dark chocolate ganache, perfect balance between the acidulous character and bitterness of pure cocoa
  • Salvador: dark chocolate ganache with raspberry pulp

Comment: The consensus in the room was mixed as to which paired better. We were partial to the dark chocolate ganache with raspberry with the plushness and deep tannins of this wine.

 

Château Fonbadet, Pauillac, 2016

  • Noir de Cassis: dark chocolate ganache with cassis
  • Quito: bittersweet dark chocolate ganache
  • Coro: Chocolate Bar with 100% cacao

Comment: Hands down the winning pairing was the Noir de Cassis, proving how well tannic wines can balance out creamy ganache.

 

Château de Cérons, Cérons, 2009

  • Maracuja: dark chocolate ganache with passionfruit pulp and juice

Comment: We initially thought this pairing would be overly sweet, but to the contrary, it was a nice balance.

 For more information on the Bordeaux Wine School, visit: https://www.bordeaux.com/us/

Listen and learn more:

Mary Gorman McAdams, MWIn this episode of The Connected Table SIPS, Mary Gorman McAdams, MW discusses The World’s Best Bordeaux Wine School

Bordeaux is one of the world’s most renowned wine appellations with more than 6000 producers. For 30 years, the Bordeaux Wine School has been the premier education source for learning about Bordeaux. Located in Bordeaux City and online, the school educates more than 85,000 people annually through its global network of over 250 accredited tutors. Master of Wine Mary Gorman McAdams discusses the Bordeaux Wine School’s curriculum for both wine professionals and consumers. www.bordeaux.com

Link to show is here: The Connected Table SIPS

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Sipping with Stefano Chiarlo, Michele Chiarlo Wines

Home to some of the world’s most sought after wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, and Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont is regarded as one of Italy’s great wine regions.  Michele Chiarlo Wines, founded by Michele Chiarlo and now run with the help of his sons Alberto and Stefano, has been a leader in the region since 1956.

Alberto, Michele and Stefano Chiarlo

Always family owned and operated, Michele Chiarlo owns vineyards in three of Piedmont’s most important growing regions: Langhe, Montferrato, and Gavi, and focuses exclusively on making single vineyard wines. Their vineyard in Cerequio, in the heart of Barolo, is considered one of the finest plantings of Nebbiolo in the region and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. The same is true for La Court, the Chiarlo Vineyard in Barbera, which also caries the UNESCO moniker.

Cerequo vineyards

Purists at heart, the Chiarlo family creates their wines exclusively from indigenous grape varieties including Barbera, Cortese, Nebbiolo, and Moscato, and over the years has helped lead Piedmont’s quality revolution in both winemaking and farming practices in through leadership, innovation, and dedication to their craft. “Preserving this land for the future is vey important to us,” says Stefano Chiarlo, who oversees wine production, “therefore we helped establish standards of quality for the DOC winemaking laws in Piedmont, and spearheaded green harvest practices, for all of Italy, in 1984.”

Never comfortable to rest on their laurels, The Chiarlo family is constantly working to find the next big wine and as such has heavily invested in the region’s new Nizza DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Italy’s highest level of quality for wine), in order to build that new winemaking appelation’s reputation for quality in the marketplace.

Michele Chiarlo Barolo Vineyards

 

The following selection of Michele Chiarlo wines are a good way to get to know this iconic brand, which is imported into the United States by Kobrand Wine & Spirits.

Le Marne Gavi DOCG: Made in the Gavi region, and area known for its white wine production from the Cortese grape variety, Le Marne shows citrus and mineral notes and jumps on the palate with lively acidity. A perfect white to pair with food.  SRP: $19.99

Cipressi Barbera Nizza DOCG: Grown at Le Court, the Chiarlo estate in Barbera, this 100% Barbera wine is shows classic notes of ripe cherry and red fruit through a lush, yet elegant palate. A perfect wine for lighter meats and pasta dishes. SRP: $29.99

Tortoniano Barolo DOCG: 100% Nebbiolo from Piedmont’s pre-eminent wine region, the Tortoniano Barolo spends 2 years in barrel and one year in bottle prior to release. A highly structured wine, yet also quite approachable at an early age, this wine is a wonderful food wine perfect for pairing with meats, pastas, and aged cheeses. SRP: $59.99

 

Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Stefano Chiarlo. Click this image and stream:

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Botas De Barro- The Story of the “Muddy Boots”

Nicola Thornton grew up in the U.K. but fell in love with Spain after attending university there. She moved and entered the wine industry. We first met Thornton when she was working for a well-known producer in Toro.  We’ve stayed in touch over the years and were delighted to spotlight Thornton in two podcasts for The Connected Table SIPS.

 

 

The first podcast discussed the expert set up called Spanish Palate. Thornton says she looks for independent producers that are “magical little gems with great stories,” giving them a voice and introducing them to international markets. Working with a largely female team, Thornton has helped over 100 wine producers from 20 different regions in Spain find their place in over 40 countries, al in under three years.  www.spanishpalate.es Facebook/ Instagram: spanishpalate

 

But that’s just the start of Thornton’s efforts. While working the business she said she became acquainted with local grape growers and aware of the hardships they faced.  She created Botas de Barro (named after the farmers´muddy boots) to help give them renewed hope and support, encouraging them to continue to nurture their low-yield, ancient vineyards, many over 100 years old. Grapes are sourced from small independent grape growers throughout Spain to produce its portfolio of wines. www.botasdebarro.com. Facebook: botasdebarro

 

Nicola Thornton with one of Spain’s many old vines

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This podcast is part of our special series recognizing women in wine and spirits. A donation has been made to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization to supporting women in the fine food and beverage industry through education and advocacy www.ldei.org . For information on featuring a dynamic women for this series, contact melanie@theconnectedtable.com.

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Sipping with Eileen Crane, CEO, Domaine Carneros

For anyone who’s ever visited California wine country, one of the of the most popular places to stop and taste is Domaine Carneros Winery, which is recognized for its méthode traditionelle sparkling wines, estate vineyards and breathtakingly beautiful château. Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Claude Taittinger of the Champagne Taittinger family. Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, between Napa and Sonoma, Domaine Carneros comprises six vineyards on 400 acres. The château is inspired by the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie, the Taittinger family residence in the Champagne region.

Domaine Carneros sits majestically on a hill overlooking the vineyards/

To oversee management and production of its first méthode champenoise wines in the U.S.A. Taittinger tapped sparkling wine specialist Eileen Crane to be CEO and Founding Winemaker. Crane, who holds a degree in enology and viticulture from University of California Davis, as well as a master’s degree in Nutrition from University of Connecticut, had been working as winemaker and vice president at Gloria Ferrer since 1983, and prior to that at Domaine Chandon.

Eileen Crane has been called “The Doyenne of American Sparkling Wines.”

We visited with Crane on The Connected Table SIPS to discuss her approach to making sparkling wines in cool-climate Carneros, as well as what the visitors can expect when they visit the winery. Crane underscored that Domaine Carneros is all about delivering an exceptional tasting experience and offers a selection of wine and food pairings and settings to enjoy them.

Caviar tasting at Domaine Carneros

We’ve had the pleasure of tasting wines at Domaine Carneros when we visited in 2017 and most recently with Crane for our SIPS podcast. Here’s what we tasted:

Domaine Carneros 2015 Brut Cuvée – Made from Chardonnay 51%, Pinot Noir 47% and Pinot Gris 2%, an elegant wine with notes of key lime, honeycomb and lemon curd on the nose and baked pear, lime blossom and lemon meringue on the palate for a creamy, long finish.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour – This sparkling rosé is named for Madame la Pompadour, paramour to French King Louis XV, who reportedly said, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.” Made from 100% Pinot Noir using the rose de saignée method, allowing the grape must and skins to macerate for a several days, after which a small amount of Pinot Noir wine is added to enhance the color, which is a deep salmon. Pair with roasted salmon or duck or even fresh berries for dessert.

Domaine Carneros 2012 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – Made from 100% Chardonnay, this tête de cuvée represents Claude Taittinger’s dream (rêve in French) to make one of America’s finest sparking wines, which it has been frequently named. La Rêve has notes of white flowers, Meyer lemon, poached pear and a touch of grilled grapefruit and a fresh, long palate that opens to honeysuckle and crème brûlée. Pair with delicate seafood dishes such as poached scallops, cracked crab or Dover sole, or with double or triple crème cheeses.

All photos courtesy of Domaine Carneros Info: www.domainecarneros.com

Hear more from Eileen Crane. Listen to this edition of The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart.com. Click image below:

This podcast is part of our special series recognizing women in wine and spirits. A donation has been made to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization to supporting women in the fine food and beverage industry through education and advocacy www.ldei.org . For information on featuring a dynamic women for this series, contact melanie@theconnectedtable.com.

 

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Peter Lehmann: The Man Who Saved Barossa’s Grape Growers

Peter Lehmann could be considered the man who rescued the Barossa Valley. His reputation and name are legendary through the region and Australian winemaking history.

In 1977 the Barossa Valley was hit with a severe grape surplus. At the time Lehmann was working as a winemaker/manager for a large multinational wine company. Just before Christmas his employer decided to stop buying grapes and asked Lehmann to notify the growers. Lehmann, a fifth-generation member of one of the Barossa’s pioneering wine families, knew this decision could wipe out the livelihoods of the 140 family growers he’d worked with for more than twenty years.

Founder Peter Lehmann and wines. Photo credit: www.peterlehmannwines.com

In a bold move to support his community of growers, Lehmann refinanced his house, took out a loan, assembled equipment and launched a small winery, initially as a side business to his day job. He called the project Masterson, a nod to the famous gambler, Skye Masterson. Lehmann also took a gamble with a “pay now and we’ll deliver in two years” approach to selling his wines. It worked. When the money started coming in, Lehmann made sure to pay his growers first. The first vintage was 1980.

Renamed Peter Lehmann Wines, the winery is a leading producer in Barossa Valley, working with the same 140 family growers, says Chief Winemaker Nigel Westblade. Recently we had the chance to sit down with Westblade to taste some of the wines in the Peter Lehman range and discuss the winery’s namesake and the different subregions of Barossa Valley.

Photo credit: www.peterlehmannwines.com

Here’s what we tasted:

Peter Lehmann Clancy’s 2015 – A soft blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. Westblade calls this rich full-bodied wine “your everyday pizza wine.” SRP: $10

Peter Lehmann Barossa Portrait 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit is taken from four different points of the Barossa, reflecting some of the 14 different microclimates in this vast area. A perfect match for steak, lamb or burgers. SRP: $15

Peter Lehmann Barossa Portrait 2015 Shiraz Westblade culls grapes from parcels throughout the Barossa to make this 100% Shiraz. Spicy and elegant without being heavy on the palate. Barbecue and smoked meats, please! SRP: $15

The Barossan 2015 Shiraz. A more contemporary-style Shiraz with silky tannins and generous dark fruits with a hint of spice. Aged in American oak seasoned for three years. Roasted meats and savory stews. SRP: $20

www.peterlehmannwines.com   www.deutschfamily.com

 

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Winemaker Nigel Westblade here:

 

With Nigel Westblade
(October 2018)