A TUSCAN ROMANCE, Part One
by Misha Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
A NEW PATH FOR SOME SOUTH AFRICAN WINERIES
by Geoff Kalish, M.D.
A TUSCAN ROMANCE
there is a finer place to fall in love than
Tuscany, it has so far escaped me. After visits to
three exquisite Tuscan hotels and one very special
moment in my life, there will never be another
week quite like the one I spent there this summer.
very moment that we began to climb the windy road
to get to Villa San Michele, it was as if we were
ascending to some celestial place, tucked into the
hillside town of Fiesole, overlooking all of
the town of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in the heart of
the Chianti wine region, Castello del Nero sits in
the ideal spot from which to explore Tuscany, only
25 minutes from the historic cities of Florence and
Siena. Guests often adventure out for the morning
and return back ‘home’ to the wonderful setting of
the hotel, its restaurant and its signature
destination spa, to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
sentiments have always been, if you’re going to do
something, do it right, and Hotel Lungarno
definitely follows the same motto. Hotel Lungarno is
a glorious 73-room (including 14 luxury suites)
hotel of historical significance protected by the
Italian Historical Committee. The property sits
right on the edge of the Arno River, no more than
200 feet from the Ponte Vecchio. Hotel Lungarno also
boasts a precious art collection, with works dating
back to the 900's while including 20th century
pieces by Picasso and Cocteau.
Part Two of this article will appear soon.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
West 56th Street (off Eighth Avenue)
In the movie "Ocean's 13,"
casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) boasts that "I
shook Sinatra's hand." If you go to Patsy's,
you'll meet owners Joe and Sal Scognamillo and Frank
DiCola, all of whom have not only shaken Sinatra's
hand, but hugged the guy and cooked for him countless
times. In fact, when Sinatra was across town one
night dining at the French restaurant La Côte
Basque, he called Joe and put him on the phone with
the chef, saying, "Tell this guy how to make a veal
cutlet the way I like it!"
open for lunch and dinner daily. Dinner
appetizers run $10-$19, pastas (full portions)
$21-$28, and main courses $28-$42.
Geoff Kalish, M.D.
PATH FOR SOME SOUTH
In terms of drawing an international audience, it seems that the South African wine industry got off on the wrong track. For a number of years it has promoted as its flagships wines two generally flawed varietals that poorly match with food-- the pinotage, usually a rather earthy, dark red product, often showing a whiff of unpleasant acetone, and a generally unbalanced, flabby, pale white chenin blanc. So, with very little well-organized group marketing or educational effort in the US, it’s not surprising that many shops provide so little shelf space for South African wines. A a growing group of vintners are, however, following a new path, with emphasis on chardonnay, syrah, pinot noir and Bordeaux-like blends. Based on extensive tastings during a 3-week visit to the country, I found that many bottles now produced in South Africa are well-priced gems. Discussed below are seven noteworthy producers who are following, or at least veering, towards this new path. Their wines can be found in the US, although some local hunting and special ordering may be necessary for particular bottles. Prices listed are typical US retail cost.
1975 by the
father of present-day owner, this winery is located in
the Hemel-en Arde
(Heaven and Earth) Valley on the southern coast of the
Western Cape. Here,
cool breezes from the Atlantic
Ocean allow for ideal ripening conditions for the
chardonnay and pinot noir
grapes grown on the 128-acre clay-rich soil estate.
Also, with production
limited to 15,000 cases annually (half chardonnay and
half pinot noir), great
attention can be paid to harvesting and vinification,
techniques put into practice, such
as maintaining delicacy and freshness in the
relatively low alcohol chardonnays
(around 12 percent) by aging a portion of the
fermented juice in specially made, large
clay amphorae rather than in oak barrels. Based on a
tasting of pinot noirs from 2009
through 2012 and chardonnays 2010 through 2012, I
found the the results are well worth the
effort, with first class Burgundian-like wines. For
example the 2009 Pinot Noir
was reminiscent of a Clos du Tart, with a bouquet and
taste of cherries and
2011 Pinot Noir
($30) was similar in style to a Volnay, with a
memorable taste of raspberries
and herbs. And the chardonnays, particularly the 2011
($21), could easily be
mistaken for Puligny-Montrachets, with a dry, crisp
taste and smooth, elegant
minerality in the finish – great to mate with the
likes of lobster, shrimp and
much of the South African cabernet sauvignons I’ve
tasted show a distinctively annoying metallic
aftertaste, not so with wines
made from this varietal produced at Jordan (left). For
example, the 2009 Cobler’s Hill, 58% cabernet
sauvignon, 42% merlot ($40), has a dry, well-balanced
flavor of cassis
and cherries with chocolate in the finish, and the 100
percent cabernet 2010
Jardin Range ($18) has a deep ruby color, with
a bouquet and taste of ripe blackberries
and a hint of vanilla.
NB: So as not to confuse the consumer between the Jordan winery in California and that in South Africa (and by mutual agreement by the producers), the Jordan South Africa wines are sold under the Jardin label in the US.
While a number of South African producers only make wine from estate-grown varietals, this vintner’s philosophy is to make a wide range of sensibly-priced, fruit-driven wines by primarily using purchased grapes, And based on the spectrum of top-notch wines tasted here, this approach is working quite well. An excellent 2012 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc (a bargain at $12) had a classic bouquet of newly mown hay and a taste of citrus, gooseberries and herbs with a touch of sweetness in the finish – a perfect wine to go with boiled or broiled shrimp or raw oysters and mussels. A 2011 Neil Ellis Chardonnay showed a bouquet of apples and pineapple and a rich, lemony flavor with hints of butterscotch ($18), ideal to mate with grilled swordfish or tuna. The easy drinking 2010 Grenache ($28) had a complex bouquet and taste of ripe cherries, raspberries and chocolate, and the 2010 Syrah ($13) showed a bouquet and taste of blackberries and ripe plums with a long slightly tannic finish – an excellent wine to accompany beef, lamb and mild cheeses.
While this property produces some excellent wine, much of what seems to be available in the US is the lower end “Petit” brand (chenin blanc, pinotage and merlot), which, even at $11 a bottle, leaves a lot to be desired in bouquet and taste. And while the Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc ($13), aged in oak barrels for nine months, is a bit more aesthetically pleasing, with a bouquet and taste or ripe peaches and melons, I found the finish somewhat bitter. However, if you can find them, go for one of the two excellent blends of grenache and syrah--the 2007 Renegade ($18) that shows a bouquet and taste of ripe plums and herbs or the 2009 Gypsy ($55) that has a complex bouquet and taste of ripe fruit and spice with hints of anise in the finish, ideal to match with lamb and beef.
known in the US, this
winery (its name meaning “rest and peace”), annually
produces 10,000 to 15,000
cases of top-notch wine from estate-grown grapes. The
2009 Estate ($36), a
blend of 60% rich, ripe cabernet sauvignon, toned down
by 20% syrah and 10%
merlot shows a cassis nose, very fruity flavors of
blackberries and cherries
and a long lasting finish. It pairs particularly
well with lamb and game. And
based on tasting the 1996 Estate, expect this wine to
become richer and
smoother with a few years of bottle age. Also needing
a few years of bottle age
is the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), with a bouquet
and taste of cedar,
chocolate and ripe blackberries and
a bit of tannin in the finish.
Not for the faint-of-wallet, the 1694
Classification ($110) is blend of syrah (57%) and
cabernet sauvignon (43%) grown in deep red,
and aged in French and American oak barrels for 18
months. The result is an
elegant wine with a memorable bouquet of raspberries,
crushed violets and anise
and multiple layers of fruit and spice flavor and a
long smooth finish that
would harmonize well with fare ranging from pasta to poached salmon to blue-veined
Try to get over pronouncing the name (boo-ken-hotes-kloof) and the rather contrived meaning of its name (the cliff where the Cape beech trees once grew), because they make a number of sensibly-priced, spectacular wines here. For example, there’s the 2011 Chocolate Block ($30), mainly a blend of syrah, grenache and cabernet sauvignon with smaller amounts of cinsault and viognier, that has a bouquet of ripe raspberries, with a long lasting taste of plums, blackberries and earthy spice that enhances the flavor of fare ranging from hamburgers and pizza to steak and lamb. Another winner is the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50), reminiscent of top-rated boutique California cabs, like those from the Grace Family and Screaming Eagle – with a bouquet and mouth-filling taste of black currants and undertones of butterscotch and exotic spice that go perfectly with rich beef dishes, like braised short ribs. Even the whites, like the light, fruity Wolftrap, a blend of viognier, chenin blanc and grenache blanc ($10) and the elegant, refreshing 2011 Semillon ($30) are heads and heels above the seemingly endless array of homogenous, characterless semillons, especially those from South Africa, on many shop shelves.
Winemaking started in the 17th century in the Constantia region as part of the commercial effort to re-supply the ships stopping at the Cape of Good Hope on their journey between Europe and the Far East. And Klein Constantia (meaning “small Constantia”) was part of the original wine estate developed in the area. While this locale has become somewhat overshadowed by Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, some excellent wine is made here especially the legendary sweet, honeyed Vin di Constantia.. A favorite of Napoleon, known to have had this wine sent to him while he was in exile in St. Helena and who is said to have requested a glass on his deathbed, Constantia is still produced from vine-dried Muscat de Frontignan grapes (right). The 2007 version ($40) has a deep amber color, with a bouquet and sweet memorable taste of honeyed oranges and apricots with a touch of acidity in its finish that makes it a fine match-up with goat's cheeses or desserts like chocolate mousse and apple pie.
AND FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T EVEN THINK OF
ASKING THE NEXT TABLE OVER TO PASS THE SALT!
Two design/branding agencies in
have opened a pop-up restaurant called Eenmaal
intended to "break the taboo that surrounds
eating alone in public" by only having tables for
one person. "Where you might usually go out to eat
with company, at Eenmaal you are your own
company," said creator Marina van Goo. "It is the
perfect place to dine in pleasant solitude; an
exciting experiment for those who never go out for
dinner alone." The menu is a four-course prix fixe
vegetarian prix fixe
THE ONE FOR RHODE ISLAND IS ONE SQUARE INCH
is trying to raise $45,000 to produce a line
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