choose your destiny

martedì 30 novembre 2010

barn burner sale, last tasting at the market

Above, My friend Caitlin Harrison (wine director from Mission Bar and Tapas) hosted her last wine tasting at the market on North St. in Pittsfield tonight.  A barn burner wine sale and good ass beer sampling as well....
thanks for the good times!

domenica 28 novembre 2010

Saturday tastings, Petrus & Screaming Eagle

Château Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux 1990
Screaming Eagle, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993

Château Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux 1990 (100 pts by Robert Parker)
Now producing 100% Merlot wines, this 1990 is a 95% Merlot 5% Cabernet Franc blend.  At one point before the 1960's they would use as much as 20% Cabernet Franc.  This was a great effort ...Pure Pomerol terroir on the nose, fruit closed at first but after an hour opened up nicely.  Showing great elegant Merlot fruit, cocoa, caramel, balanced acidity and lasting long in the mouth.

Screaming Eagle, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993
Screaming Eagle hit the market in 1992 with a Cabernet Sauvignon that Robert Parker scored a 99.  After that it was all ''cult'', with unusually high prices on the wines.  This wine was showing beautiful fruits, cherry, plum, dark berries, strong with a bit too much alcohol noticeable, the acidity was nice but not perfectly balanced.

Next weeks tasting:
Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2ème Cru, Pauillac, Bordeaux 1982
Shafer Vineyards,” Hillside Select”, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley 1996

sabato 27 novembre 2010


A friend Alessandro from Alba captured this shot yesterday (11/25)...A view of Pratonevoso, a Ski resort 1480 M above sea level located in Piemonte (Cuneo).  I was there last year for the first snowfall of the season... what mythical times..

One thing that kept reminding me I was in Piemonte and not Vermont, was this fabulous advertisement on the ticket check gates for Capetta: Vini e Spumante D.O.C.
Another advantage of cruising the slopes of Piemonte is being able to stop for a quick caffè (theres espresso machines located in just about every lodge on the hill) or if your feeling freaky a Bombardino.  This drink is popular in Northern Italy during the winter and consists of VOV (an italian zabajone or egg and marsala liquor) Brandy and whipped cream on top.  Another version that is popular adds an espressso shot.  This is sure to get yo' body moving...
Vov is hard to locate in the U.S. but you can make it homemade if your inspired... Im for sure making some this Christmas.. I will post on that later..

domenica 21 novembre 2010

GAJA Barolo Sperss 1989

Another magical saturday tasting at the castle, in Lenox MA.  This week featuring:

Gaja, Barolo "Sperss" Piedmont, Italy 1989

Earlier in the week i emailed over to GAJA, and received some of the history of Sperss from Angelo Gaja himself....
Sperss 1989
''Avevamo acquistato la proprietà nel giugno 1988,  l’annata 1989 è stata la prima di coltivazione del vigneto condotta integralmente da noi.''
''We acquired the property of Sperss in June of 1988, and the 1989 Vintage was the first year of cultivation of the vineyards which was undergone entirely by us.''
As each of the GAJA single vineyard names have their own story behind them ''Sperss'' is from the Piemontese dialect meaning ''nostalgia''.
Why Nostalgia?
Angelo explains how is father Giovanni (1908-2002) from the ages of 18-20, went to harvest the grapes in the vineyard of Sperss in Serralunga.  He was given food, a place to sleep and even some money.  On the other hand when he was working in his families vineyards in Barbaresco, he wasn't compensated at all.  He imagined his whole life it would be incredible to acquire the Sperss property but the chance never came.  Until one day his son Angelo had the opportunity and his father was ''felicissimo''.  They named the vineyard and the wine ''Sperss'' for the nostalgia Giovanni held throughout a very long period of his life.

The Gaja Sperss wine is 100% Nebbiolo through the vintage of 1995.
From 1996 on Sperss no longer caries the denominazione Barolo DOCG and is made up of 
94% Nebbiolo
6% Barbera

Perchè Barbera?
Angelo explains, ''Before the war and until 1965, there were numerous producers that traditionally were adding little quantities of Barbera to their Barolo and Barbaresco.
The Barbera, doesnt mask or obscure the personality of Nebbiolo, which is dominant.  But it contributes to balancing the acidity which with global warming has been reduced (in comparison to the past).  According to the interpretation of Guido Rivella (responsible for the Gaja cellars) the wine benefits from this integration. (with all due respect to the producers making Barolo with 100% Nebbiolo.)''
The extra long cork (63mm or 1½ inches) that Angelo Gaja introduced in 1982

1989 was an excellent year, but only in Piedmont.  In almost all the other Italian wine regions the late maturing of the grapes was hindered by bad weather.
In Piedmont, it threatened to rain for 15 days (it poured rain everywhere else) but then returned to nice weather and it was possible to harvest some grapes which were in great condition.  Because the 1989 vintage was only good in Piedmont (also a few places outside of Italy) it became obscured by the outstanding vintage of 1990 (which was a good vintage worldwide).  

Angelo recommended we open this bottle 1-1½ hrs before pouring, decanting and then immediately pouring back in the bottle and re-corking (double decanting). 
The '89 Sperss was showing nicely with a brick red colour, an enticing gamy nose, and classic ''old nebbiolo'' flavours.  Hints of rose petal, licorice, nice fruit and long fluidity on the palate.  delicious...

Heitz Cellars, "Martha's Vineyard," Napa Valley, California 1989
With all the excitement of tasting an old Gaja wine, I wasnt too stoked on the Heitz, it wasnt showing so hot.. although well rounded and spicy, just not much complexity and the fruit was lost a little.  Maybe past it's peak for '89 vintage....

Stay tuned for next week:
November 27th, 2010
Château Pétrus, Pommerol, Bordeaux 1990
Screaming Eagle, Napa Valley, California 1993

domenica 14 novembre 2010

Oddero by mail = early Xmas

Oddero Poderi e Cantine is unavailable in Massachusetts, and shipping alcohol is illegal.  That isnt enough to stop me..thankful for having an uncle living in Connecticut, thanks David!

venerdì 12 novembre 2010

Sassicaia winter wine dinner

Winter Tasting Supper
With Piero Incisa Della Rocchetta
Sunday, 5th December 2010
Lenox, Massachusetts

Commotion Movie

Commotion- The Movie from Commotion on Vimeo.

Commotion has arrived....
A snowboarding movie put together last year, and just released by my good friends
Cody Rosenthal, and Nick Russell.
Full of bone crushing, action packed madness on the snow...
as Nick says, ''Here it is, hate it or love it, it's free...''

lunedì 8 novembre 2010

scenes from a beaux frères dinner...

We served a flight of Beaux Frères pinot noirs last night starting with recent vintages (2008, 2007, 2006, 2005) and ending with a 2002 beaux freres ''upper terrace'' and 1992 beaux freres ''the vineyard'' (their first released vintage) to accompany a cheese plate.  I'm not a big fan of these style of wines... they were showing alright, everyone agreed on the 1992 being the star, well rounded and the most mature.  After being open for a few hours it started to die a little and developed some ''burnt'' aromas that werent so appealing. In the Kitchen Chef Christopher Brooks and Arnaud Cotar laid the smackdown with some ass kicking creations...

Krug arrival toast with canapes...
Chef, getting buck nasty, putting the finishing touches on the Sustainable Tuna, Cauliflower, Capers and Parsley.

Autumn Mushroom Tasting

Duo of La Belle Farms Duck, Orange, Watercress and Frisée

Boneless Lamb Rack, Parsnips, Sultana, Chickpea Croquette and Curry Jus

Cheese Selection
Devils Chocolate Cake
Sommelier, Luc Chevalier decanting a few of the beaux freres wines.
Beaux Freres wine maker Michael Etzel in the middle with Luc and Christelle

mercoledì 3 novembre 2010

timeless mouton...

Baron Philippe de Rothschild in the Grand Chai about 1980, savoring the new wine in a glass held by the maitre de chai Raoul Blandin, photo pg. 123 mouton rothschild paintings for the labels.

above, the timeless photograph of the legendary Baron Philippe, who at the early age of 22 in 1924, came up with the outlandish idea to bottle the entire vintage at the chateau.  This led to the mise en bouteilles au chateau, which was soon adopted by the Premier Crus.  To draw attention to this new concept Baron commissioned poster designer Jean Carlu to create an original label for that year, 1924.
Baron Philippe, lived the life of a wealthy playboy at an early age, frequenting paris night clubs, and hitting it off with actresses.  Besides being one of the most successful wine growers in all of time, he also was a grand prix race-car driver (under the name of Georges Philippe), screen writer, playwright, theatrical producer, film producer, and poet.

''Premier je suis, Second je fus, Mouton ne change.''
 "First, I am. Second, I used to be. But Mouton does not change."

Carlu's label for the 1924 label

martedì 2 novembre 2010

La cucina sonninese (parte 3)

above, my cousins welcomed me to Sonnino, with homemade Fettuccine all' ouvo in a light tomato sauce cooked with erba pepe (the little herb found all over Sonnino, you can see it on the fork).  Ciacaprete is another type of pasta popular in the small town.

Above is a jug of vino Sonninese sitting at the table, and you will notice how bizarre this wine looks by the colour.  There is no elegance here just a rugged ass house wine... But delicious! I'm not exactly sure of the wine making techniques used, but they are definitely minimal.  The beautiful orange colour shows some skin contact during the maceration. There is very little alcohol present in the wine and it tastes of tea and old grape juice.  When I tasted the Coenobium ''Rusticum'' (also coming from Lazio) I realized how similar the two wines were... It is amazingly light slightly tannic and refreshing in the summer heat, very unique nonetheless.

There is a site online of La Cucina Sonninese, which also has for sale the book ''La Cucina delle Nonne Sonninesi''.  The goods you find at a table in Sonnino are always very simple, fresh, delicious and local, whether theres a sauce cooked with goat meat, a pizza bianca con fichi freschi for breakfast, or minestra con ciammaruche (lumache italian, snails english).

above, Cousins (Nonno Antonio & Nonna Rosa Contenta) practicing a typical style of cooking spaghetti in the summer... in a big ass pot of boiling water over an open fire!

above, making traditional pizza sonninese, in a cast iron pan..

If you descend, and go to the very bottom of Sonnino, you will find a magnificent cheese shop, with some impressive cacciocavallo & mozzarella di bufala...

 above, nearby grape vines, la vite sonninese...

above, harvesting the freshest of fichi...

above, fresh figs, drying in the sun......

Il dialetto sonninese (parte 2)

One of my most prized possessions, includes this book ''Vento Lassa Caccosa'' written by Gaspare Ventre.  It includes poems written in Sonninese, and a dictionary.  It also explains Sonnino culture and the things that take place there.  The name for this blog is from the sonninese dialect.  '' 'na cica de vino '' meaning ''a bit of wine''.  One of the most important words in Sonninese is jone, which is hard to define, but it is used in many ways like at the begining of an exclamatory sentence.  Below are some poems...

 The book also includes a small Sonninese/Italian dictionary in the back, with Sonninese on the left, here is an example of how different some of the words are...

Sonnino (parte 1)

I recently stumbled upon a Sonnino blog, which inspired me to post on all things sonnineseSonnino is where my grandfather Americo Contenta was born, and then around 1928 his family immigrated to the states.  It is located in Lazio in the province of Latina.  There is a population of about 7,000 people, and like most places in Italy is unique in having its own dialect, cooking, wine, olive oil and so on.... It is also known for the birthplace of Italian national football player Alessandro Altobelli.  The best time to go is in the end of August and September, when you can pick endless amounts of fresh figs from the trees
above, a shot of my sister Ashley, looking out into the view from the main piazza.  From the last trip in August, 2009.
above, the basket maker.  A neighbor of my cousins farm house in Sonnino, still hand makes baskets...
the neighbors chickens....
above, pants drying in the sun...
Sonnino is a magical place.  I have eaten some of the most tasty food here.  My cousins produce their own olive oil, wine, soap, make their own pasta on a regular basis, and wash their clothes by hand.  I stayed here for a few days in the summer of '09 and it is truly like living in the 1800's.  I even showered in the garden with a hose next to where their grapes grow...

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