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Traci Lee
September 8, 2011 | Traci Lee

Contrasting Flavors: A Bright Italian Red with a Washed Rind Pecorino

I love the combination of two opposite flavors that are enjoyable alone, but taste better together.  Over the weekend, I found an incredible Italian pair: Pecorino Ginepro, a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese paired with Quattro Mani Barbera, a juicy red wine from Piedmont.

Quattro Mani Barbera Piemonte 2010 is a red wine from the Italian grape variety Barbera.  This grape is known for its deep color, low tannins and high acidity level and this bottle appropriately captures each traditional quality.  On the nose, this wine has an aroma of sweet plum and light spice, and is youthful, fruit-forward and extremely approachable on the palate with a bright acidity, plum, and blackberry flavors, and a soft finish.

The producer, Quattro Mani, translates to "four hands", and consists of a few celebrity-status Italian winemakers, each with a strong tie to the land and a comittment to substainable farming practices.  Collectively, they produce Barbera, Montepulciano, Tocai, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco.  Quattro Mani Barbera is produced by the skilled winemaker Danilo Droco who was described as "One of the Great Names of Piedmontese Winemaking" by Robert Parker earlier this year. 

Pecorino Ginepro, a truly beautiful cheese from the Italian province of Emilia-Romagna, is tangy and zippy, with a dark, woody rind.  It is a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese is aged 4-6 months and washed in balsamic vinegar and soaked with crushed juniper berries (ginepro is Italian for juniper).  The powerful rind on this cheese is delicious, which in itself, is a great compliment to the softer, salty heart of this Pecorino. 

Paired with Quattro Mani Barbera, the Balsamic flavor of the rind is intensified and the red fruit of the young wine partners with the cheese to soften the acidity, and together, the wine tastes as though it has experienced a few years in the bottle.  The salty cheese's juniper flavor is mouthwatering, and does not overbear the wine's best qualities, creating a very smooth flavor profile. Absolutely outstanding.

Time Posted: Sep 8, 2011 at 5:49 AM Permalink to Contrasting Flavors: A Bright Italian Red with a Washed Rind Pecorino Permalink Comments for Contrasting Flavors: A Bright Italian Red with a Washed Rind Pecorino Comments (1)
Eric Genau
May 27, 2011 | Eric Genau

Wine Record: 1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva

Thanks to the generosity of a good friend who always shares his best wine, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a stunning bottle of Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1961.  I thought it would be a nice opportunity to share some thoughts about the wine, and about old wine in general, and hopefully this will be the first of many posts around the idea of tasting history

There is something about tasting an old wine - the way it often develops in the glass, revealing new layers with the almost magical addition of air, can be stunning.  In my view, experiencing the alchemy of aged wine is the ultimate sensory experience for a wine lover. 

It is also like tasting history. Opening an old bottle is like waking something up from the dead and transporting it from another era into a new existence.  Likewise, it can take us back to another time.  I always like to think about a place in history when I drink an old wine, and suggest doing a bit of homework before you pop the cork, to get a sense of what was going on in the world when the grapes were actually harvested (probably by hand).  You don't need to dust off your 10th grade history book though.  Go to Wikipedia, type a year into the box, and you'll be amazed at what you can learn in just a few minutes.

Before opening the '61 Barolo, I learned that this was the year that Roger Maris hit 61 home runs for the Yankees, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season record set in 1927.  I was reminded that JFK was inaugurated, and shortly thereafter took responsibilty for a failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba.  Judy Garland performed a legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, and West Side Story was released on the silver screen.  In Italy, 15 people were killed at the F1 Italian Grand Prix after a Ferrari driver crashed into the stands.  JFK said we'd put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and Princess Diana and Wayne Gretzky were born.

Having some reference points before opening a bottle like this helps to put the wine in perspective, and regardless of what it tastes like, commands an appreciation for drinking something that has been corked up for that long.  On this occasion, the wine just happened to be incredible. 

1961 was an outstanding vintage in Italy, and is generally considered the vintage of that decade (with due respect to 1967).  It produced typically full-bodied and rich reds from both Piedmont and Tuscany, and the Barolo in particular can be very long-lived.  This Borgogno possessed all the hallmarks of the great vintage, showing a deep red and brown color, layers of dried red fruit and firm tannins.  It showed incredible balance, and had the fruit and acidity to last another couple of decades.  This was the best old Barolo I've ever had.  But regardless of the wine's character, it was a unique experience to taste and talk about a place in history as if we could connect with it in some way.  The next time you have an opportunity to open something from a different time, slow yourself down and try to take yourself there! 

Wine Score Maturity
Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1961 97 2011-2020

Note: Wine Record posts are Eric Genau's reflections and tasting notes on food, wine and conversation enjoyed with friends and family. This is the only place you will see Eric formally "score" a wine. As with all scores, they are meant as a guide to help readers discover new wines that suit their own palates. Readers may find they have a similar palate to Eric's, or not at all, but hopefully these notes and scores provide some valuable guidance in any event. Likewise, drinking windows are provided only as a guide, and based solely (unless otherwise indicated) on a single bottle and singular experience. 

Time Posted: May 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Wine Record: 1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva Permalink Comments for Wine Record: 1961 Borgogno Barolo Riserva Comments (3)
Traci Lee
January 4, 2011 | Traci Lee

Indulgent Prosecco pairing

Happy New Year! I put a lot of thought into the first cheese and wine pairing of the year by considering what I wanted from the duo before making my selection – an indulgent crowd-pleasing pair, which could be enjoyable any time of day.

After the wonderful task of tasting a few combinations, the first pairing of 2011 is Bisol Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Desiderio Jeio and La Tur. Both Italian favorites, this sparking wine, from the Veneto region, offers a fresh lemon tang that pairs deliciously with the 3-milk cheese. Produced in Piedmont, La Tur is a combination of cow, goat and sheep milk which is shaped into cupcake sized rounds and aged a few weeks to develop a cloud-like, bloomy rind that encloses the buttery, creamy middle. If you love ice cream, you will love this cheese!

The Prosecco has the perfect amount of fizz to compliment the rich creaminess of the cheese, without cutting too deeply through its decadent flavor. A perfect party-starter, this pair would be just as successful at brunch as it would an evening celebration. Serve along side a crusty baguette and mission figs. Cheers!

Time Posted: Jan 4, 2011 at 9:33 AM Permalink to Indulgent Prosecco pairing Permalink
Krista Giovacco
July 11, 2010 | Krista Giovacco


I received a bottle of 2008 Terredora Greco Di Tufo Loggia Della Serra recently. The producer is from Campania, one of my favorite wine regions and where the Italian side of my family originates from.

As I looked at the label I realized this was not my first encounter with Terredora. I’ve previously sampled the Terredora Aglianico Irpinia DOC Il Principio, a bottle I received from working the International Wine Challenge in London last year, and the Terredora Taurasi DOCG Fatica Contadina. The two reds are both made from 100% aglianico.

I recall enjoying both very much, due largely to their intense ruby red color with garnet and violet hues. There are notes of black cherry and blackberry and plum flavors on the nose and palate, as well as some spice. Both are well structured, and the Taurasi certainly has the ability to age for a bit.

Tonight’s Greco Di Tufo, come from the greco grapes that are harvested in the second two weeks of October. The must is settled and then fermented at cool temperatures using selected yeasts, the producer says. The wine is aged on its lees in stainless steel but sees no oak.

The color is pale-medium gold and the nose displays rich and powerfully aromatic notes including apricot, apple, peach and citrus fruits. On the palate it is full bodied, soft and well balanced with excellent acidity.

All of the Terredora wines have been delightful, and all are quite affordable. It’s a wine I’d recommend to friends, and that I’d seek out on wine lists and in liquor stores.

It’s rare to find a producer with such scope and that delivers consistently. Terredora certainly is one of those producers.

If only it were so simple to find people in our lives with such dimension, reliability and who can repeatedly deliver and please.

City Wine Merchant Selection: 2008 Terredora Greco Di Tufo Loggia Della Serra

A friend and consultant to City Wine Merchant, Krista is a financial journalist with a wine hobby. While covering the European debt markets in London, Krista received her accreditation at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Now back in New York City, Krista continues to cover the US markets while working part-time at the Italian Wine Merchants and maintaining a wine blog. Noble Rot combines Krista’s passion for writing and wine.

Time Posted: Jul 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM Permalink to Terredora Permalink
Eric Genau
January 11, 2010 | Eric Genau

Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2002: Why You Can't Generalize When Talking About Wine

Every month there is a wine at City Wine Merchant that I am most excited about. A wine that surprises me and exceeds expectations, and often changes what I think I "know" about wine. Over the past month, that wine is Le Macchiole's Paleo Rosso 2002. It is a wine from the "worst" vintage in Italy in at least more than a decade.

The wine world - for better or for worse (everyone has an opinion) - is dominated by big media. This can be good because wine consumers have unprecedented access to both wine from around the world, as well as wine information. It can be bad because that information is really largely controlled by a few big sources (Robert Parker and Wine Spectator are the biggest). We can debate that all day long, but I'd like to focus on one specific potential by-product of the media-centric wine industry. That is, the generalizing of vintages, regions and varietals.

Wine consumers and enthusiasts are remarkably influenced by the likes of Parker and Spectator, whether we like it or not. We love wine, and so we immerse ourselves in what others (the "experts") write and think. Why? Because we simply cannot taste all the wine that they do! And so, when one of the experts goes to Tuscany to report on a vintage, we pay attention.

In the case of 2002, we were told that it was the weakest vintage for reds in Italy since at least 1994. Some producers in Piedmont did not release any Dolcetto, Barbera or Barolo. Even fewer producers released "cru" Barolo, and what was released was immediately met with scores not fit for such wines. In Tuscany, 2002 was actually a mixed bag as compared with Piedmont, but production was also down an average of 30-40%, and producers generally declassified to at least improve the quality of the basic wines. In short, the average consumer in the U.S. was told that 2002 Italian reds weren't worth our time and money, and we all pretty much moved on to 2003 (or even better, revisited 2001).

I was among those wine consumers. Very few 2002 Italian reds made it onto store shelves, and I can't remember a single memorable bottle from that vintage until now. I'm not shocked that this 2002 Paleo excites me. Le Macchiole has serious pedigree, and is long recognized as one of the pioneers of the Bolgheri area of Tuscany, along with the likes of Sassicaia and Ornellaia. These wines created the Super-Tuscan category. But this wine definitely was like a splash of cold water to the face, reminding me that we can't generalize things in the wine world.  In fairness, International Wine Cellar did recognize the Paleo Rosso as "one of the most successful wines of Italy's 2002 vintage."  But who was paying attention?

Good wine is all about people and places, and every wine is different.  When we generalize about a macro-region (Tuscany), we may miss something very unique to a specific vineyard in Tuscany, for instance.  When we talk about weather in a macro sense (2002 was "cold and wet"), we ignore the possibility that certain vineyards or varietals fared better than others, and that certain producers handled harvesting more successfully.  We are all guilty of generalizations in the wine world, maybe because it helps make us all sound like we "know" something.  I thought I knew that 2002 reds from Tuscany weren't worth my time.  And yet, here I am surrounded by wines from dozens of vintages and regions around the world, and I am super-excited about a 2002 Tuscan throw-away.  It's a delicious, layered wine with aromatics that force me to hold the glass to my nose for minutes at a time.  It is one of the most enjoyable expressions of Cabernet Franc I've ever had.  I'm glad I took my own journey and traveled down this unlikely road.

And so, as I enjoy the last few bottles of this beauty, I will try to remind myself to always taste and buy wine with an open mind.  Try to throw away the conventional wisdom once in a while.  Maybe, just maybe, something will surprise you.  One reward for those who think out of the box a little?  In a "good" vintage, you could expect to pay $80-$100 for this wine.  You can enjoy this 2002 for less than half the price!

Time Posted: Jan 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM Permalink to Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2002: Why You Can't Generalize When Talking About Wine Permalink Comments for Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso 2002: Why You Can't Generalize When Talking About Wine Comments (1)
Eric Genau
December 31, 2009 | Eric Genau

Wine Resolutions for the New Year

As I look back on an amazing first 5 months and a great 2009, I have a real sense of excitement for 2010.  City Wine Merchant is still a new business, and there are so many things I'd like to do in the new year!  It is our goal to make wine fun for our customers, and to continue to impact the way our customers buy and enjoy wine.  I promise that will continue, and we will do our part to bring exciting wines to you at great prices.  It has been incredible to meet so many great people over the past few months, and I look forward to seeing all of you in 2010!

Here are a few other suggestions for the new year to help us all continue our wine journey and hopefully discover something new in 2010:

1.  Drink Local!  Discover or continue to enjoy the fantastic wines produced in the Niagara Escarpment (USA).  I will be the first to admit that local wines were barely on my radar screen when I opened CWM.  Sure, I've had a great Finger Lakes Riesling here and there, but little did I know that a wine renaissance was happening right in our backyard.  The Niagara Escarpment is home to numerous innovative winemakers, producing top quality wines (red and white) at great prices.  Don't believe us?  Take home Arrowhead Spring's full lineup of Red Meritage, Chardonnay, Semi-Dry Riesling, Port-style dessert wine, and Icewine -- and I challenge you to find a weak-link in the group!

2.  Discover Oregon and Washington.  These two states are producing some of the most exciting wines in the country, plain and simple.  If you haven't fully explored Oregon's Pinot Noir and Washington's Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends, then you are truly missing out on something historic.  These wines are some of the best in the world, and they may change the way you think about these varietals.  While some of you may ultimately prefer generally bigger and more-modern-styled wines from California, you may just find that Washington Cabernet and Oregon Pinot Noir are more to your liking.  Some of our favorite producers from Oregon are Patricia Green, Penner-Ash, Bergstrom, Panther Creek, and A to Z.  From Washington, try something from L'Ecole 41, Pepperbridge, Charles Smith, and Januik. 

3.  Drink wine with food.  We at City Wine Merchant believe that wine is meant to compliment a great meal (and vice-versa).  While wine continues to enjoy unprecedented growth in the United States, it has been our experience that many people still overlook the benefit of pairing wine with food.  That's a shame.  There is a saying that "drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life's most civilized pleasures."  Make it a point to experience that in 2010 by putting a little thought into how you can heighten your enjoyment of wine by pairing it with food.  You just may find that it also heightens your enjoyment of food!  Organize or attend wine dinner, or perhaps try picking a wine first and then try to find a good recipe to match it with!  A suggestion or two?  Try seafood with Vermentino from Sardinia, Italy or Lamb with Malbec from Cahors, France. 

4.  Put that bottle away.  While it is impossible to drink aged-wine every day or every week, there is something magical about a wine that has the benefit of time in a bottle.  Flavors and aromas come together and layers are revealed.  In a world where high alcohol content and big fruit-bombs are a-plenty, we often enjoy wines that hit us over the head like a hammer with flavor.  But we also, more often than not, drink wines too young.  When reading about wines, pay attention to suggested drinking windows, and put a bottle or two down in the cellar to see how it changes and evolves over a couple years or more.  Don't have the patience for that?  Good wine shops always stock past-vintages of wines that are cellar-worthy.  Instead of buying that highly-rated 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, ask your wine merchant for something with a little age on it (2003-2006 were all excellent vintages - try Beaurenard CDP 2004 or Ferrand's 2006 CDP).  You may find a better experience and a better value.  Some of our other suggestions for great values and wines that are becoming ready to drink: 2004 Bordeaux and Burgundy, and 2001 and 2003 vintages from Tuscany and Piedmont, Italy. 

5.  Open that bottle!  Didn't I just say that we should put more bottles away to enjoy them down the road?  Yes, but even more important is to not forget that wine is meant to be enjoyed and shared.  Don't let great bottles sit for years or decades because you can't seem to find the right occasion to open them.  Have a 1986 Lafite still sitting around?  Invite a few great friends over, put some steaks on the grill and pop that cork!  Sometimes organizing a fun night around a special wine is the perfect reason to open that bottle.  Better yet, encourage everyone to do the same, and have everyone say a few words about why that wine is special to them.  This is exactly what Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal had in mind when they started touting an "Open That Bottle Night" on the last Saturday in February every year.  I have been celebrating OTBN for a few years, and some of the most memorable wines I've ever had were opened on this night.  Why the arbitrary date?  That's the point.  The wine you open doesn't have to be the most expensive or the highest rated.  Rather, pick that bottle that was special enough, for whatever reason, to make you hold onto while trying to find that perfect night to finally pop the cork.  Now you've found that night!

Time Posted: Dec 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM Permalink to Wine Resolutions for the New Year Permalink Comments for Wine Resolutions for the New Year Comments (3)
Eric Genau
July 26, 2009 | Eric Genau

Do Something You Love

There are a lot of things I love in life.  Among them, and in no particular order, are my wife, my dog, and wine.  Thanks to my parents and an early start, it seems as though wine has been a part of just about every significant memory in my life.  Family dinners at home, traveling, parties, birthdays...and my wedding (rumor has it that we went through a few bottles of Champagne).  I became a dad for the first time on July 4th, and I'm already thinking of a fun bottle to put away for his 21st birthday.  Or maybe the 18th?  If I'm anything like my parents, my kid will be tasting wine early and often. 

Wine creates beautiful experiences and enhances others – a long, winding journey up a Tuscan mountain in search of a vineyard restaurant on a warm, early fall day that ended with the most perfectly layered and drinkable bottle of Chianti Classico (now that's a romantic lunch); a Prosecco cocktail and a Pinot Noir on the first night of our honeymoon; the bottle that we forgot we had that rounded out a perfect meal at home (remember that Malbec from Cahors that went perfectly with that lamb)?

I have been given a lot of advice in my life, but perhaps none more important than "do something you love."  And so I am.  I look forward to sharing it with people I know and people I will know.  Together we will create more great life experiences.

Time Posted: Jul 26, 2009 at 9:58 PM Permalink to Do Something You Love Permalink Comments for Do Something You Love Comments (6)