We love Tuscany, and the regions's signature Sangiovese is one of the most food-friendly grapes out there. Whether a wine is 100% Sangiovese or blended with another variety such as Merlot, great food pairing options are abundant. With hundreds of Tuscan producers and wines to choose from, Rosso di Montalcino is a good place to start to find something reliable and budget friendly. These wines are great options while waiting for Montalcino's flagship and age-worthy wines, Brunello di Montalcino, to be realized and ready to drink. Uccelliera is one of the most notable Montalcino producers, making some of the most age worthy and collectable wines in the region. It is located in the south of the Castelnuovo dell’Abate part of Montalcino, and all of their vineyard work is done by hand.
The limited Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino 2009 has the same flavor profile and structure as its older sibling, but it is simpler, fresh, and more immediately approachable. Medium red in color, this wine offers dark fruit aromas of black cherries and cassis intermingled with some smoke and tobacco, with a balanced finish and interlaced tannins. It's a great example of the style of wine coming from Southern Montalcino, and it complements meats especially, from salumi to steak to burgers.
Another great choice is Fattoria Rodano's Toscana Poggialupi 2010, a delicious blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, from Castellina in the heart of the Chianti Classico district. It's an outstanding value at only $11.89 with our feature discount.
For a great pairing with either wine (or both!), I have made Braised Chicken Thighs with a Rich Mushroom Roasting Sauce. It is delicious, simple, and uses only one pan.
- 4lbs bone-in Chicken Thighs
- 1lb sliced Mushrooms (i.e. Button, Crimini, Shiitake)
- 3 Minced Shallots
- 3 Cloves Smashed Garlic
- Half Bottle of Marsala or Perez Barquero Gran Barquero Fino Sherry (only $11.99 and tastes great)
- 2 Sprigs of Thyme
- 1 Sprig of Rosemary
- First pour yourself a glass of wine!
- Preheat oven 425 degrees F.
- Pat dry chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear skin side down in an oven proof skillet until golden and crispy. Remove from pan.
- Use the rendered fat to sauté mushroom until browned; if not enough fat add olive oil.
- Add the shallots and garlic and sauté together until the shallots are clear.
- Add thyme sprigs and wine.
- Place the chicken back in the pan skin side up and roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes.
Last night we partnered with O'Connells American Bistro for an outstanding seasonal Winter Wine Dinner, featuring five very creative courses, paired with hand-selected wines. Chef O'Connell's knock-out menu had a Southern, low-country theme and the wine pairings worked well with each dish.
The evening began with Montsarra Cava, a sparkling wine, produced from a careful blend of native grapes in Penedes, Spain, along with passed hors d'oeuvres, including Outerbanks Crab with spicy slaw and aioli, Braised Pork Shoulder with creamed corn, crispy onions and Crispy Fried Chicken, arugula, cowboy caviar (a tasty bed of beans). The bright, small-bubbled cava did a good job of refreshing the palate for the wide variety of flavors.
The atmosphere of O'Connells Bistro is warm and inviting, as well as stylish and sophisticated, which is also a great description for Chef O'Connell's menu - familiar foods with a twist. As we found our seats, the second course was served - "The Buffalo Fish Fry", paired with Chateau Musar Musar Jeune Blanc 2009. Let's start with the wine. This incredibly aromatic white wine from Lebanon is made of 40% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, and 30% Vermentino. Musar is legendary, one of the most written and talked about wine producers in the world today. The wine is greenish-yellow in color and has an intriguing nose of peach, apricot and pineapple. The palate is dry, but has a subtle hint of sweetness from the stone and tropical fruit flavor. Musar Jeune is a food wine, and its medium-body worked well with the Fish Fry - a tempura dipped wild salmon, over a butter poached lobster hash with smoked nova salmon tartar sauce. As I was eating this dish, I had a hard time deciding which I enjoyed better, the salmon or the lobster hash, because a new favorite flavor came out in every bite!
The third course, Southern Style Grilled Duck paired with Castell'In Villa Chianti Classico 2008, arrived on the table and Eric Genau, our Wine Director, described his recent visit to this estate in Tuscany. It is a village, not a winery, at the southern edge of the Chianti Classico zone, owned by Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. The estate has been in existence since the 13th century and much of her land is used primarily for hunting game and the region's famously delicious wild boar, which they serve in the village restaurant. The vines here are incredibly low yielding and Princess Coralia releases wines only when ready to drink, which is not common in the wine world today. The Chianti is big, with earthy flavors, which is a perfect match for Southern Style Grilled Duck, a sausage and roasted mushroom "stuffing", house sausage gravy & duck rinds. This dish is awesome. The seasoning and salt in the stuffing surround the duck, while bits of sausage jump out like flavor diamonds. The rustic, primative qualities of Castell'in Villa shine through this pairing, and I am magically transported back to Italy, tasting the local environment where this wine comes from.
Next up, Grilled Beef Tenderloin paired with White Rock Vineyards Napa Valley Claret 2007. Certified grass fed, hormone free, Montana range beef, bacon, green chili, dry cheddar grits, creamed greens and aioli, paired with a highly-rated wine from a small family estate located in the southern foothills of the Stag's Leap Range rising above the Napa Valley. Wow. White Rock's Claret has a distinct Bordeaux-like personality, which is not surprising since this is a classic left-bank Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The wine is smooth, sophisticated and approachable. It is a big, powerhouse wine, but it is really well-made and balanced. The well-intergrated tannins melt into the Beef Tenderloin and the earthy flavor marries the bacon, cheddar grits and greens elegantly.
Just when I thought I reached my limit, the All American Cupcake changed my mind - double sweetgrass valley chocolate and bacon cupcakes, with a peanut butter and maple mousse filling, and creamed peanut butter frosting. I expected the cupcake to be very dense and extremely rich, but it was actually quite light, with just the right amount of sweetness. We paired this decadent treat with Ferreira Tawny Porto, from the largest (and most popular) producer in Portugal. This tawny Port resembles a Ruby more than Tawny, offering a nice balance of fruit, oak and spice. Absolutely delicious.
If you joined us at the dinner, please comment on your favorite dish, wine or pairing! And if you missed this event, we hope to see you at another soon. For the most up to date schedule, check out our Monthly Events Calendar.
Vias is one of the most renowned Italian wine importers in the US, and on Friday we were joined by our old friend, Maurizio Clemente to taste and talk about some great wines and producers from the Vias portfolio. I was particularly excited about this tasting because it gave me a chance to revisit and share some of the most memorable wines I tasted during my trip to Montalcino and Montepulciano in September. It also gave us an intimate setting to check-in on a couple great wines from the 2004 vintage - Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino and Damilano Barolo Cannubi. I was especially impressed with these wines and am even more convinced that wines from 2004 (both from Piedmont and Tuscany) will provide great pleasure over the next 5 to 10 years.
If you weren't able to join us, here are my tasting notes and a bit of information about the wines that we opened.
Damilano Arneis Langhe 2010
We have carried a few vintages of this wine, and it was the perfect wine to kick-off a great evening. Winemaking by the Damilano family dates back to 1890 when Joseph Borgogno, great grandfather of current owners, began to cultivate grapes and make wine on their beautiful beautiful countryside property in the town of Piedmont Vezza Alba. This wine is 100% Arneis grape, which is often referred to as the "white Barolo" because of its richness and growing area around some of the most famous areas of Barolo. This was fresh and vibrant with tons of peach and passionfruit, balanced acidity and a really interesting almond hint on the finish. I've always liked how this wine manages to be both crisp and rich at the same time, and it definitely showed that way on this night. This is such a great value.
Tenuta Santa Tresa Rina Ianca Grillo Viognier 2009
I only recently discovered this wine and immediately found it to be one of the most enjoyable seafood matches I've had in a long time. The Feudo di Santa Tresa estate lies along the Mediterranean Sea, where the vineyards benefit from cool sea breezes and the fruit is perfectly ripened under the Sicilian sun. Rina Ianca is a unique blend of Viognier and Grillo and the name translates to "white sand" in the local language. This refreshing wine has a bouquet of pineapple and mango, and a beautiful straw yellow color. This is a great match for seafood, salads and pastas because of its perfect balance of citrus and tropical fruit flavors and bright acidity. Following the Arneis, this showed slightly more richness and texture, but the two wines complemented each other nicely.
Fattoria del Cerro Manero Rosso di Toscana 2009
This was the best value red I tasted during my time in Montepulciano in September. Cerro is one of the most beautiful properties in this region, and Manero is the estate's first wine from revered oenologist Riccardo Cotarella. A blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot, it has very concentrated and intense aromas of wild berries, spices and a hint of truffle. The flavors here are well-rounded and decisive, and this delivers a big punch for this price point. What I like most about this wine is that you can really pull out the varietal characteristics of both the Sangiovese and Merlot, and this wine tastes Tuscan. Manero pairs well with roasted red meats and stews and aged cheeses, especially the many varieties of Pecorino produced in this area. This wine impresses me every time.
Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2006
I love this wine! This is one of Cerro's flagship wines, and one of my top 10 favorite wines tasted during my recent trip to Tuscany. The estate boasts 93 hectares of beautiful Vino Nobile vineyards, and the Riserva uses fruit from the best plots. This shows intense and concentrated wild black cherry, violet and spice aromas. Its flavor is full and persistent, with powerful, yet elegant and integrated tannins. This has really great structure, and should drink extremely well for the next 5-8 years. I had a chance to also taste the 2007 Riserva in Italy, and that is a similar, outstanding wine.
Colpetrone Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007
This is very well-priced blockbuster Sagrantino. Colpetrone is one of the most important wine producers in the Montefalco DOCG area and the tannin-rich Sagrantino grape is one of the most ancient varieties in Italy. This is strong and concentrated with an almost impenetrable ruby color, and an intense, ample perfume of wild berries and espresso. Red and black fruit, spices and vanilla really explode on the palate here, but it is the big, broad tannins that stand out most; this wine begs to be paired with food. It's a steak wine. This is just so big and structured, it should drink well for the next decade or more if the fruit can hold on. Even if it doesn't, this will be a treat over the next few years. It has both a rustic charm and a big modern forward character.
Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino 2004
Fossacolle is a little family run estate owned by Sergio Marchetti. Along with this family, they take care of all the viticultural tasks throughout the tiny five acre vineyards and Marchetti's son-in-law, Adriano Bambagioni, is the winemaker. They literally consider the vineyard just an extension of their family garden! The small estate sits in a little Village called Tavernelle, in the south of Montalcino, where the vines are influenced by the sun and breezes from the Maremma coast to the west. This was the first real experiment of the night, because I hadn't tasted too much 2004 Brunello over the past year, opting to let this vintage evolve a bit more in bottle, and instead enjoy the more pretty and approachable wines from 2005 and 2006 After about two hours in a decanter, this wine started singing. Fine tannins were present but starting to give way to flavors of cherry and cranberry fruit and wild mushroom. This is a very focused and polished wine, especially considering its young age, and is both powerful and elegant. This wine was aged for a year each in large oak casks, smaller barrique and concrete tank, and I think the balanced method has created a wine that is very well integrated and put together. This seems to be entering a sweet spot, and it should stay in it and continue to get better over the next 5 to 10 years. The tannins are already very fine and polished. It may turn out to be one of the best surprises of the vintage.
Damilano Barolo Cannubi 2004
It has often been said that if Piedmont had a Grand Cru classification similar to Burgundy, the Cannubi vineyard – which covers a total of 15 hectares in the municipality of Barolo – would surely be considered one of the few true Grand Cru vineyards in Barolo. The Cannubi cru is one of the oldest in Italy, and the oldest known bottle in existence with Cannubi on the label is dated 1752. This 2004 edition continues a long line of delicious wines I've tasted from the vineyard. Damilano now makes more than 60% of the Barolo from this vineyard, so it makes sense to use this wine as the real measuring stick for all wines from Cannubi. We had this in the decanter for an hour and then back into the bottle for another hour before tasting. It had a really pretty medium red color, and pretty aromas of blackberry, mineral and licorice. The licorice turned more menthol as I swirled this in the glass. It is a beautiful wine to smell! On the palate, the tannins were fine grained and a bit dominating, but not so much that the fruit couldn't leap out of the glass. This has some great cherry pit and plum flavors. It is long and polished, and it should fully come together over the next year or two. Overall, this is a Barolo of medium body and good structure. There is a lot to like here, and it should remain a beautiful wine for the next 7-10 years.
|2010||Damilano Arneis Langhe||89||2012-2014|
|2009||Tenuta Santa Tresa Rina Ianca Grillo Viognier||90||2012-2014|
|2009||Fattoria del Cerro Manero Rosso di Toscana||90||2012-2014|
|2006||Fattoria Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva||93||2012-2020|
|2007||Colpetrone Sagrantino di Montefalco||92||2012-2016|
|2004||Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino||92||2012-2020|
|2004||Damilano Barolo Cannubi||91||2012-2020|
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.
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!
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.