Friday
Apr022010

"Food and Wines of Sardegna" tasting at Pentimento Restaurant, April 19, 2010.

An exciting tasting coming up at Pentimento Restaurant, at the historic Stony Brook, NY village center on April 19, 2010. Their chef will offer a special Sardinian tasting menu, and Vinifera's Dominic Nocerino will present the Sardinian wines of Sardus Pater.

The wines to be presented will be Vermentino Riserva "Lugore" (Vermentino 100%) along with "Kanai" and "Arruga" (both are Carignano 100%).

Sardus Pater's Carignano del Sulcis vines are pre-Phylloxera (the insect that attacked globally + wiped out a myriad of vines back in the late-1800s). These wines are of grapes grown from 90-year old vines!

For more details, contact Pentimento here.

 

Tuesday
Mar302010

"The Price is Right," or Redefining 'Haute.' 

Yesterday I sat in on a taping of “The Price is Right, TV’s longest running game show, at CBS studios in West Hollywood. Anyone can get tickets, and as a member of the studio audience, anyone can be a winner. Mind you, I’ve lived within blocks of the place for five years of my life and never before felt compelled, but when my Boston-based, longtime-friend’s voice turned to wistful, I just couldn’t say no.

Cheering on the PIR on my part is a betrayal of my Mid-western roots, the more American part of my heritage that’s overshadowed by the genetic predispositions to Chianti and well-made shoes. I was raised on a steady diet of this show in my formative years, and now same as then, when you watch, the spirit of the ‘big win’ overtakes you: it is the American dream in action.

At the same time, the show’s ‘prizes’ are items that generally speaking, I would not extend an invite to when it comes to my own home: dumpy massage chairs, a central vacuum system for the garage I don’t have, a $195 hubcap-shaped Pizza wheel, to geometrically carve slices with an uncanny precision. Who wants or needs all this stuff?

And so, when I found myself craving to win the show’s Grand Prize, I was flabbergasted. Not: the giant table-hockey table, at home video-gaming system to simulate driving a car, the American-manufactured car, and the trip to Disneyland. That all was the second option, and as far as the show goes, pretty standard.

It was the first prize: an entire suite of Viking kitchen appliances, Trip to Napa Valley, Dinner/cooking lessons at French Laundry, a library of Spanish cookbooks, and a Trip to Spain. All items that ‘Casita Cristina’ would welcome with open arms.

 But really, what does it mean when Drew Carey announces to America that ‘French Laundry’ is it’s best restaurant, that Napa and wine tasting are better than a beer in one’s at-home massage chair? Haute cuisine has made it to the mainstream, and so it’s not enough just to be ‘haute’ anymore.

Of this there are implications, even when it comes to Vinifera and America’s higher-end Italian wine market. With our wines, we encourage you to trust your own palate in figuring out what you like and don’t like. It’s not enough to trust brand names alone, this is the consumerist behavior depended on by the Price is Right, making “Kate Spade” cutlery a ‘glamorous prize’ - and in our industry by larger-scaled distribution of wines + spirits. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Our wine is not Coca-Cola!” bellowed with a thick Italian accent.

In my estimation, redefining ‘haute’ is also a call to step away from the Disney-fication of wine that’s shifting Napa wines away from Napa-styled wines, as they get better + better. As Americans, the more Napa teaches us about wine, the more we can appreciate the wines that Vinifera has to offer. And to that, I say, “Come on down!”

Photo by Ellen Callaway.

Friday
Mar262010

Pelissero: the phases of wine production post-harvest; or, what exactly happens in 'cantina.'

A terrific video on You Tube, seen here.

As it is in Italian, I'm providing my translation below.  The timecode stamp marks the scene changes. As a it's a more literal translation, the English might read a bit stiff.

Cheers,

Cristina

_________

Giorgio Pelissero, wine producer, explains the wine production process, in successive phases at the time of harvest.

(00:00) I am Giorgio Pelissero, I am a wine producer. We are located in Treiso, one of the three communes of the production zones of Barbaresco, in the heart of the Langhe, in the south of Piedmont.

(00:21) I represent the third generation of my family, the first bottles made in our family were made by my Father in 1960, but we have always been a winery that is engaged in every phase of production, from the cultivation of the vines to it’s commercialization, as our wines are sold in nearly fifty countries of the world

(1:00) Ours is a story of Nebbiolo production. We have always and only used for the production of our wines varietals typical of our land/terroir. We use Nebiollo to make Barbaresco, we use Barbera, we use Dolcetto and small amounts of local varietals Freisa and Favorita.

(1:28) The grapes are harvested; clearly our small hills do not allow for mechanical harvest so all the work is done by hand, and once the grapes arrive in cantina, the separation of the clusters, the green part of the grapes, and the grapes, right when crushed, linked by this steel pipe, enters into the fermentation tank.

(2:06) These tanks are completely automatic, we have the ability to control temperature, to control the phases of contact between the skins and the juice, work that happens in a time frame that varies from 5 to 20 days.

(2:30) From the fermentation to the maturation, once this is  completed the juice separates from the skins, pips, etc, and the solids are sent for the production of Grappa in the distillery, and meanwhile the juice is placed in these containers, where a first decantation takes place. From here follows the moment most important for the construction of a product, the moment of refinement in wood.

(3:05) A part of the wine undergoes the process in stainless steel, as I’ve shown you, and another enters in these cement containers, that are historic to our winery, that are those with which I first began to produce wine.

(3:28) After the first decantation, at times still in fermentation, at times with the fermentation complete, the wine, that has by now almost become wine, is placed in these wood containers. They are the ‘botte’ barrels, of a high quality as considered ‘botte,’ at 500 hectoliters, that serve in the refinement of the product. For the wines that we make, we use two different types of wood barrels. There are these, which lend specific properties to the wine, adapted for determined terrains, and there are others that I will show you now, that are the smaller barrels, that are used in the constitution of different products.

(4:26) For the refinement, as I was telling you earlier, we use barrels of 500 hectoliters, and also these small barrels of 250 liters. Both sizes are made of durmast oak, but each gives the wine different olfactory and gustative qualities. We uses these two different type of containers because our vineyards all have different characteristics, and each terrain brings something different to the wine. We have to be careful not to ruin that which the vines produce, and try to complement the grape’s original characteristics, maintaining them to the final glass. And so, we use the techniques/instruments that permit us to arrive at the glass with the best territorial expression possible.

(5:37) This is the most beautiful phase of production, because you are able to taste, to sense, to understand what the potentials of the product are. When the product will be released, how it is transforming, what it’s prospects are after having worked so hard in the vineyards for many months, and after the hard work in cantina, in bringing out the best of it’s potential. Here is where the refinement, the evolution takes place, and here one begins to really understand what the bottle will bring the table.

(6:11) Another important phase is the phase successive to the wood refinement, the refinement in bottle. The bottles are saved, stacked, for a period of time that varies, from 6 to 12 months, to allow for the characteristics, the components of the wine to amalgamate, integrate, and at the moment where all formats - from small to large - are released to market, they are ready for consumption.

(7:02) And in this process, we present the final product, to arrive at the bottle, and to arrive with the bottle on the table internationally. These are our wines, these are what we make, as I was telling you, Dolcetto, as a local varietal, used always in these hills to throughout the meal, from start to finish; Barbera, another varietal, a little more structured, rich, complex; Nebbiolo, the basis of Barbaresco; A wine made with the two varietals representative of our territory, Barbera/Nebbiolo, and to conclude with our most important wines, the three Barbarescos that represent in the world, the wines of our company.

*Link courtesy of Maurizio Farro.

Wednesday
Mar242010

Fontodi wine dinner - Assaggi Osteria, VA

At Vinifera, I like to think we are known for our wine tasting dinners - even if it may be with a relatively smaller set, those who been lucky enough to be in the right time + place for the merging of terrific food and wine, as these tasting dinners invariably are, across all markets.

These pics are a perfect example of such an event - a Fontodi tasting dinner that took place at Assagi, a great osteria out in McLean, VA.

Chef/Owner of Assagi Domenico Cornacchia with Dominic Nocerino

An entire suite of Fontodi wines, right down to the Fontodi olive oil.

 

Monday
Mar222010

James Beard Awards 2010

The full list of nominees, as announced today: http://www.jbfawards.com/nominees.html

We extend our congratulations to Babbo and Daniel, nominees for the Outstanding Restaurant award, and to Locanda Verde and Marea, nominees for Best New Restaurant.

Congratulations also to A16 + wine director Shelley Lindgren in SF, nominee for the Outstanding Wine Service Award, and Paul Greico of Hearth Restaurant in NY, nominee for Outstanding Wine Professional.

We salute our Vinifera customers!