. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: 2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

What Has Happened to the Journey?

A wise man once said that the greatest pleasure is not in the destination, but in the journey. In today's world, it seems we are way too focused on our destinations, so much so that we rush through our journeys, or we take the so-called shortcuts. Applied to wine, the journey is the time a vine needs to grow deep roots, or for a bottle to develop and reach its potential. When I try a new wine or a new vintage of something previously tried, I usually open it, pour a small amount in the glass, and try it right there to get an idea of the wine's initial condition. This helps me foresee how much time it needs to be ready to be drunk. A decanter will speed the process up, but sometimes it will speed it up too much, with the risk that the wine will die in your glass. Of course, you'll get the wine ready in a much shorter amount of time, but in doing so, you'll miss the journey, you'll miss years of the wine's life. To me, it's like giving birth to a kid that is already 21 years old and an adult, and I would hate to lose the experience of all of the years in between. I learned about the pleasure of the journey by riding motorcycles. I used to take long trips, and always chose the side roads over the highways, if only because they are much more beautiful to ride. I once went from Manhattan to Montreal, a ride that would have taken 8 hours on the highway. It took us 3 days, but it was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever taken. I was lucky enough to experience a wine after I saw, 5 years before, the vines right after they'd been planted. I saw them growing, until they were old enough to produce wine, and then tried the wine, and realize that it was better the day after it had been opened. The way I see it, waiting for a wine or the vines to be ready should be, romantically, part of the enjoyment. Seeing how it develops, like a baby taking its first steps, or saying its first words, is an irreplaceable experience.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nice evening at The Ten Bells

I was introduced to The Ten Bells a few months ago, when I went for the Dresners' after-tasting party. Since then, I've been back another 4 times and liked it more every time. This is probably because it took me some time to get over the fact that they are cash only, and they serve amazing wines, but in the smallest glasses imaginable. The Ten Bells is a very informal French Bistro with no menus or lists. Everything they serve is written on huge chalk boards on the walls, where the decor is proportionally inverse to the quality of the plates and wines served. The service is home style, but the staff has a good grip on their extended wine list. As you can see in the picture to your left, they use a Erlenmeryer flask as decanter, the silverware is available in water glasses, and the bar napkins can be found in good old-fashioned silver dispensers, a symbol of many diners around the world.
Last night I went there with Bobby, an old friend who had moved to Austin a year ago or so. He came to visit and I brought him to The Ten Bells for some wine and food. We chose an impressive bottle of Chinon 1989 from Olga Raffault, an organic producer, like all others present on their list. This was a Cabernet Franc from 50 year-old vines, facing south over the beautiful Loire Valley, in Savigny en Veron. Emily, our helpful and prepared wine-tender uncorked the bottle and poured some in the 500 ml "decanter" and a small amount into our tiny glasses. Contradictions are part of the charm of this place, and I have learned to love them. The wine was already open and still very vibrant in the nose, the palate, and the finish - it really didn't show 20 years of age. Herbal spices, red currant with hints of mushrooms and barnyard filled the nose, very elegant, with a complex simplicity typical of wines made by great "vignerole" that respect the vines more than favoring the cellar. While the wine was breathing we picked from the above-mentioned chalk board a spicy duck tartare, some delicate and lean lamb prosciutto, an octopus and potato salad, delicious, warm, seductive, and spicy that comfortably melted in my mouth, and finally, some trustworthy Cacciatorini. The Chinon was flowing and quickly opening (even too quickly), with persistent minerality and clearthinness. The wine was structured and ethereal and the texture built on the mature and yet still firm tannins. In the end, I'm not sure this bottle benifitted from decanting, as it had a fairly short window of vibrancy, and I had the sensation that the wine was descending by the last glass.

If you'd like to go there, I highly reccomend it - try to abide the unwritten house rules, and bring cash since no plastic is accepted.

The Ten Bells is located at 247 Broome St., between Ludlow and Orchard.

Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A volte capita...

...di svegliarsi non immaginando quel che si scoprira`, a volte capita di leggere una frase che cattura la tua attenzione non sapendone ancora il motivo, a volte capita di chiedere perche` "non ha senso" e di scoprire che un'amico di vecchia data se ne andato sbattendo addosso ad una macchina. La vita e anche questo purtroppo!!!
Ciao Riccardo Riposa In Pace

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sadly I have to announce...

...that my journey in the United States has come to an end.
I sold the store and I'll be moving to Australia where I was hired by Yellow Tail. I'll be their ambassador to enhance the perception of the high quality levels Yellow Tail wines had reached to the world population.
I'll be gone by the end of the month it was a pleasure talking with you all for so many years.

Buona Bevuta a Tutti and Happy April's Fool

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wine in grocery stores?

... Well, why not? I actually never understood why there are so many (seemingly) idiotic rules regarding alcohol in this country. After the Prohibition Act was repealed, each state retained the right to regulate for itself most matters pertaining to alcohol. The irony is that today the country that invented the free trade market and promoted the World Trade Organization does not have free trading within its own borders. Here's a great example: if I ship a bottle of wine to Massachusetts I can be incarcerated for a class A felony.

What needs to change in order to have a fair competition between small stores and supermarkets? The first couple of issues I can see are the multiple locations - in NYS you are not allowed to participate in any way under more than one retail license. Does that apply to the new license for the grocery stores, or they will have the same rules they have now to sell beer? In that case, they will be allowed to have multiple licenses and if the current laws do not change, the retail stores certainly will not do it of their own accord. Second - are the retailers allowed to sell products other than alcohol and accessories? Current laws prohibit this, creating another huge disparity between the retail and liquor licenses. And finally, the hours of operation have to be reconsidered; stores are currently allowed to sell alcohol from 9 am to 12 pm Monday thru Saturday, and 12 Pm to 9 Pm on Sundays; grocery stores can sell beer until 3 am every day.

So far there are no answers on how these issues will be handled. Obviously the supermarket lobbies are pushing to leave the things as they are, so they'll have an overwhelming advantage, and of course, retailers associations are raising numerous questions that have thus far gone unanswered.

Personally I'm not scared of those changes. I'm actually in favor of free trading, where it's really free, and no one is ostracized because of economic reasons. I would like to have clearer (and fewer) rules, so that we all play under the same commandments. I doubt that will happen any time soon, considering the revenues that are connected to this trade. Some states act like private businesses, operating in total absence of competition, resulting in higher prices and lack of choices for the final consumer, and big revenues in the order of billions of dollars every year for the state. So now I'm curious to see what new changes will occur, knowing that there is a reason why stores like mine exist - I hope the powers that be will keep that in mind when it's time to decide what game to play.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


That is the main job of a "vignerole"; making choices!
A while ago during a conversation with Roberto Cipresso, the subject of choices came up. That's when he told me that he wasn't so good technically speaking but he is good in making the right decisions. He also talked about intuition and sensibility.
Those 2 words are actually closely related to each other, without sensibility you can't hear your intuitive side. Roberto's sensibility allows him to "feel" the ripeness of the grape, "feel" the weather and then pick then right day to begin the harvest. One more piece to the puzzle is that, with some exceptions, there is no right or wrong decisions made during the wine-making process, the result is a difference in the wine. The different styles, philosophies and beliefs in making wine are neither right or wrong but they are just different paths to achieve different results. Let's take as an example a modern producer versus a traditional one with similar quality standards; both makers make very different decision. The traditionalist will try to express the terroir; where the modernist will try to enhance the bouquet and the structure and correcting the genetic faults of the grape itself. In the case of Sangiovese a modernist will produce wines that are approachable while young with silkier texture and a round palate. Whereas, the traditionalist's wine will result in a more tannic, closed and austere version. Now personally, I tend to like more challenging wines so I'm more of an old world guy. But, that does not mean that the modernist have it all wrong. Actually, they just have a different vision of what wine should be; I obviously am not talking about adulterated wines, that in my opinion, are at the same level as the worst processed food. These kind of wines follow a different path and the objective is to create a flavor based on marketing studies and chemical formulas. There is a certain path that wine drinkers walk throughout their life. Most begin with sweeter, fruit forward and jammy wines and progress to seaking out tannins, acid and dry ones. Similar to what happens with food as a kid; starting with sweets and candy and moving toward craving salt. In wine-making this path is filled with crossroads; that require many choices. When Roberto was talking about his intuition he meant that that skill helps him to make a choice from a different prospective. It's a hard concept to explain, but, with experience and much repitition, it is possible to reach a deeper level of understanding about the grapes and the process. Meaning that you'll decipher more information that helps in making those challenging decisions. When I walk the vineyards with any winemaker, the ritual of touching, looking and tasting, by eating some grains was common. Now, although I could get a sense of the maturation from eating the grapes, they were able to get information about past, present and possibly future problems they have, had or will have. All this information will help to then make decisions; like when to pick, how long should the wine be left to macerate with the skins, should the the temperature be controlled during the fermentation, were it should be aged; stainless steel vats or wood barrel, what size and for how long...

Is an intense job especially during the harvest time being that the wrong decision during that particular period could end up in the loss of a valuable section if not the entire crop. A typical example is when you are a few days away from a perfect balance, with an even maturation of the different components of the grape. Then rain is predicted within a day or two, now if you wait and it does not rain you win, losing will have disastrous effect on the grapes. Do you want an example on how disastrous the wrong weather at the wrong time could be? Think of 1996 in Tuscany, one of the worst years; now up to mid August 1996 was considered a perfect year, balanced with the right amount of sun and rain up until mid August then the weather turned and started to rain for weeks lowering significally the quality of the crop. Hopefully this helped you understand what is behind a bottle of wine, and also to demostrate how complex of a matter wine making is and where the grape is just one of the many factor that have to come together to produce the God's nectar. So complex that it's impossible to identify the best wine or the favorite ones. Like a winemaker you should have options more then a set favorite.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

3 Bicchieri In Los Angeles Breaking News

It looks like this year in the Los Angeles Gambero Rosso kermesse the 3 Bicchieri are going to be sadly empty due to a snow storm that held the wines somewhere in the USA...anonymous sources stated that the wine will eventually show up by 4:30 Pm Pacific Time...more breaking news and maybe some picture from the West Coast to follow...

... the wines finally arrived at 7 Pm only problem they were in very bad shape being that after a trip a wine should rest for few days...What a disaster!!!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sorry for the silence

It's not because I'm lazy or I'm drinking less, but lately I am having a hard time finding a subject. Is this whats called writers block? Most likely yes!!! So what should I talk about during a bad case of writer block??? What about a nice dinner...
Last week it was my sister's birthday and I decided to get some Joe's Stone Crab shipped from Miami, I've already talked about those fabulous claws in the past, but I like to reiterate the fact that I love the next day delivery of fresh crab to my door.
Along with those succulent claws we had 3 different kinds of oysters that my sister picked at Citarella. So far, the best venue I found, along with Dean and Deluca for fresh oysters. But, I'm open to suggestions as well if you have any? We also enjoyed some Scottish smoked salmon from Russ and Daughters. It wasn't a real party, Piers and his girlfriend were part of it and Danilo joined us a little later, but it was more an excuse, to enjoy some great seafood, wine and company. One way to think less about your personal problems become inebriated with life. I was in charge of cracking the claws and shucking the oysters. Piers tried a couple with mixed results. So I put him in charge of opening the wines...yes right the wines. Ok! Let me just say that we might have gone overboard a little with the quantity. But sometimes it is better to have more then to run out, right? Going back to the God's nectar, I brought home a Magnum of Quintarelli Bianco Secco Ca del Merlo 2005 and a bottle of Villa Rinaldi Dolce di Creme` 1998, we loved it so much at the last dinner that I proposed an encore.
Piers participate with a bottle each of Percarlo 1998 and 1999 and we had to open a great bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose Non Vintage. Needless to say there is nothing better to put you in a great mood then some pink bubbles. The Billecart always surprises me for the elegance and intensity of the acidity, as soon as we popped the cork there were flavors that indicated a little age, so we looked and that bottle was disgorged in 2001, amazing!!! While sipping Champagne, shucking oyster and cracking stone crab claws I thought that life does not get much better than this! Maybe it could, but this is pretty damn good...after getting everything ready on the table we decided not to follow a particular order so I set 2 glasses one for the Quintarelli and the other for the Percarlo, it was interesting to see how going back and forth from red to white will work with the food. The Quintarelli had an evolution that surprises all of us; it started with elegance and a balanced acidity with flowers and a little citrus flavor. After a few hours it almost tasted like a Burgundy Grand Cru filled with tropical fruit, citrus and minerality. The wine was so impressive that Piers, a fervid believer that Italians can't make white wines, changed his opinion. It was an experience to be replayed having a small vertical of Percarlo, 1998 was rated by critics as slightly worse then 1999. Well we didn't have that impression; both Piers and I agreed on the fact the 1998 was drinking much better, it tasted much more traditional than the '99, it had more length and more depth, the '99 oak still hadn't integrated with the wine and was still a bit predominant. In favor of the 1999 I must say that the wine opened up with more time and knowing how much time the Percarlo needs to come around I'm curious to try it again in a year from now. After honoring the food and the wine it was time for dessert, I don't really have a sweet tooth, but I love the Lady M's mille crepes, a highly addictive and dangerous cake, a truly decadent sweet treat that I paired with the Villa Rinaldi Dolce di Creme, a sparkling desert wine made of Garganega grape, that was the perfect match with the dessert. Another great evening was about to end, and the empty "corpses" left on the table was a clear sign of it. We had finished everything on the table and went to sleep happy, satisfied and fairly inebriated by the events...

Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In Vino...

Usually that phrase ends with veritas and is Latin for 'in wine there is the truth.' The Romans who coined those words, used to use the god's nectar like a truth serum.
As human beings, even after a couple thousand years, we still rely on a glass of wine for several healing reasons. Scientifically proven to be good for your health, in moderation, wine has also an effect on the soul. If you believe in the existence of it. The Romans already realized that one of the effects of the fermented must was to lower the inhibitions of an individual and put them in a state of relaxation. Thus, leading to being comfortable and speaking truthfully. So to connect to my previous post, I will say that probably in a period like this people will naturally seek some comfort in a bottle of wine more frequently. Recently I had quite a few bottles of really good wine, my friends and I are opening good vintages, Champagne is flowing in glasses and some of those special bottles hidden in the back of the cellar were popped. Other than the physical pleasure of tasting the flavors, I had emotions!!! I felt joy, love, excitement and shared moments. I traveled trough time and space and I lived the moment. Being inebriated, which I believe is different than being drunk, has lead to inspiration for many writers and artist for thousand years. Virgil loved his wine, sipped under the tree, while asking his muse for an idea, and the same emotions is what I long for in a bottle of wine. Now I don't think all wine is capable of that, I believe good wine is capable to inspire an emotions, that is actually one of the parameters that need to be satisfied when I judge a wine. For example, I opened up a bottle of Colin Delenger Santennay Ville Vignes 2002 with Edoardo, an old friend that is getting the wine collector virus, it was perfect, great spice, in the nose the ethereal notes of violet and roses where dancing in the nostril, filling the brain with magnificent images, the red liquid almost massaged the spine while descending the esophagus like a small electric charge passing through the discs. Not many wines give that kind of emotion and definitely not always the same one, it depends on the situation, the state of mind, the weather and every external factor that interacts with our life. In a way that's the beauty of wine, every bottle, even from the same wine same year from the same case has a different story to tell you and you are a different listener as well. You have to admit that is a level of complexity that not many recreational drinks have. Emotion, inspiration, soul soothing that's what wine should be about; as it has been in our history as human being.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, January 23, 2009

The State of NY feels I can close the business for a few days

That is the answer I got from the Juror office this morning when I called to see what option a sole proprietor and single worker of a business has!!!
When I said to the gentleman on the other side of the phone that closing for few days will actually put the business in jeopardy considering the economic slump. I couldn't believe his answer when his suggestion was; "well if you feel that the state of the economy is so bad why don't you just quit now?"

I felt like I had been slapped in the face! I am left speechless with declining sales and increasing expenses. My property taxes raised by more then 50% from last year like every other expense related to the business. So, I would like to know why exactly the State of New York feels that I can close my shop for few days!

Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Do People Drink More During a Recession?

I have heard it many time in the past few months and to tell the truth I don't know if it is an urban myth or there is some truth to it. In my experience people in general have been spending less for wine. However, I have been selling more or less the same amount of bottles as prior years. The big spenders are more rare and my private clientèle is a bit shyer. The axiom bad financial times and more drinking does not convince me completely. The only benefit for the wine retailers is that probably now the trend is to save money; so the first thing people cut is eating out in restaurants. Thus, the retailer's of wine and food, sales should go up. I did see that happening to a certain extend but that benefit has been leveled by the drop of the average bottle price. The so called 'big spenders' probably are not acquiring as many bottles as in past years, also because their cellars are most likely filled. So in such a time they are drinking what they have put away. This is what I find myself doing as well, drinking wines from my cellar, the weird part is that I am opening more great bottles than in the past. It's almost like Nero fiddling while Rome was burning down. I'm drinking Grand Crus while the world financially melts down. Maybe this is because in times like this, the trust in the future is kind of low, so that quote 'life is to short' is more valuable. Or is it just a reaction of a very bad economic slump, drinking good bottles is somewhat a reassurance that life is not that bad? Among my friends I see that happening, Piers is taking out of the cellar the good stuff, Michael is drinking vintage Brunello like there is no tomorrow and I'm sharing more great bottles like I never have before with my love. Are we just reacting in a foolish way to a critical period? Who knows but I would like to hear your opinions on this, so for now and now more then ever...
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!!